Friday, May 24, 2013


There is no beauty in tragedy.

But there can be beauty from tragedy.

On Monday evening I received a phone call that changed my life. One of my closest friends called in in hysterics, telling me her 2 year-old had fallen in the family pool. They thought she was already gone, but the ambulance was there and they were working on her. She needed my husband to go pick up her sons (6 & 4) so she could go with her husband and the baby (27 days old) to the hospital. After we hung up, the helicopter arrived to take little "N" to the children's hospital.

She told me to pray, to get everyone praying. I made calls, sent emails and texts, and rallied the troops on Facebook. The people I contacted made calls, sent emails and texts, and gathered pray-ers on Facebook. Within an hour, I would guess there were at least 300 people praying. By the next morning, I think it's safe to say there were 1000 or more people praying, all around the world. Family, friends, strangers, NET teams, the Cursillo community, priests in Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Italy. Catholic churches, Pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches. People who don't pray were thinking of them and wishing the best for this family.

I don't know all the details of the time line after that.

All I know is that shortly after 3am I received a text message that rocked me to my core.

She was gone. That beautiful, beautiful little girl had lost her fight for life. Her parents were numbed at that point, which I believe was merciful. They were able to sleep a little. That's when I slept a little, too.

It's standard practice for the police to conduct an investigation after an accident like this, so my dear friends were questioned and barred from their home (which was still surrounded by police barrier tape). Their boys, unaware of what happened at the hospital, were running around my house with my own three children, laughing and playing like they always do when they're here.

Except this time, I could only hear five voices, not six.

It felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. N was only 1 week older than my little Baby Belle. They were buddies. Our six children have always had a remarkable relationship, and our two families have spent countless hours together since we met, only late last summer. N's mother has quickly become one of my best friends. Francis and I are godparents to their new four week-old baby. They are like family to us. Little N was like a niece to us.

And now she's gone and there is such a hole in so many lives and in our community.

My friend has spent these last few days not only grieving, but being expected to make decisions about her baby girl's funeral. Which casket did they prefer? What did they want her to wear? Which burial plot would they like to purchase? Decisions a parent should never, ever have to make.

Tomorrow is her funeral. If you're the praying kind, please lift this family up in this time of grief. If you're not the praying kind, send them whatever strength and love you can. And pray for all who mourn with them, including my own family. My children are struggling to understand. All they really know is that their friend and playmate is gone. I'm fine while I'm busy, but I can't be left alone with my thoughts for too long...

I believe in Heaven. I believe in the Resurrection of the dead. I believe that while there was no "reason" for this senseless tragedy (God help the first person who says, "There's a reason for everything" to me!), God can and will find ways to bring even more beauty into the world through this. He wouldn't let a beauty like N leave us without finding ways to comfort us.

Jesus, I trust in you.
Jesus, I trust in you.
Jesus, I trust in you.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chugging Along - a Random Post

Not much to report. Day 12 of Whole30. It's going really well. Old pants are fitting better again. Frustrated by size differences from store to store. (Size 4 from one store barely do up, size 2 from another store are definitely wearable.) Learning to really enjoy eating meat for breakfast instead of eggs. I do miss those eggs, though. Really hoping this healing protocol helps me recover enough that I can go back to eating them without pain!

Doing a "yoga" workout a couple of times a week. I hesitate to call it yoga, since the trainer mostly just uses yoga postures as inspiration for her own workout. She even says, "Who's your daddy?!" at one point. Not very yoga-ish, but suits me better! I'm not much into the zen bit... I've also added in a strength-training workout a couple times a week. I've been using this one for a while, and I just change the cardio intervals to something that won't drive my heart rate up too high. Doctor's orders.

I was chatting with a friend the other day about my prowess when it comes to thrift store shopping. Behold:
These are just the shoes that I have acquired second-hand, mostly thrifted but a couple of hand-me-downs. The most expensive pair were the purple pumps, and they were $14.99. The red ones are from Naturalizer (if that means anything to you) and are extraordinarily comfortable for heels. They were $5. The light brown boots are vintage Fryes.

Tonight was scheduled to be our date night, but with this crazy freezing rain/ice pellets/snowy weather we're having right now, we're not sure our sitters (my in-laws) will be able to make the 30 minute drive to our house. Rain date (snow date?) is tomorrow though. Whenever it happens, we're heading out for burgers.

Have I told you lately how much I adore my children?

Racing in the driveway - the best way to spend that last crazy hour until supper is ready. Have I also told you lately how much I love that my husband is home before 4:30 every day? Mama gets to cook in peace, which is especially important on those days when I'm cooking two suppers.*

Went to a meeting last night for a committee I'm part of which oversees the budding youth ministry at our church. Having been a youth minister (many, many) years ago, so much of what we talked about just made me itchy to get back to doing some kind of ministry. I'm thinking of starting a Theology of the Body ministry at our parish in the fall. Likely one specifically for teens (since our youth minister is working with a younger age group right now and there isn't anything for the older teens), but perhaps one for the whole parish. We'll see where God leads me on this one.

Finally, a totally random question - for those of you who are stay-at-home-moms, how do you answer that small talk classic, "So what do you do?" I got asked that the other day for the first time in a couple of years, and I think my jaw just went slack for a minute before I was able to express that I stay at home to raise my kids full-time. The poor young man (seminarian) was baffled. It was awkward.

*No, I don't make separate meals for picky kids. But I do make things for Francis and the kids that I can't eat, like gluten-free pizza or frittatas. So on those days I make something quick and simple for myself.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where to Begin?

I guess I'll begin about a month ago. I was due for a hair cut, and made a last-minute appointment to see a hairdresser in town. I ended up seeing the same woman who gave me my first post-shave, mullet-removal hair cut back in October. After washing my hair, before picking up her scissors, she said, "I should ask - are they sore?" "Um, are what sore?" She said, "The bald patches."

Um, WHAT?! What bald patches?!

She counted five. Four on the back of my head, and one right on top, near the back. No wonder I didn't know they were there - I can barely see one, and have no chance of seeing the others!

Finally fed up with this (not just the hair loss but the knowledge that the cause of it goes much deeper than follicles), I decided to book an appointment with my friend's osteopath.

An informative (if not weird) appointment for sure. He uses a technique called applied kinesiology to diagnose conditions and food sensitivities. I'll spare you the description, but it seemed pretty unbelievable to me - except that he was right.

I'll make a long story short and cut to the good part:
He diagnosed me with leaky gut syndrome, low adrenal function, low thyroid function, whole-body inflammation and autoimmune issues.
He went on to test me for food sensitivities, particularly ones that would affect my thyroid and Alopecia. He didn't test everything, but the list was long enough: gluten, corn, dairy, soy, eggs, and a bacteria that lives on the outside of fruit and sweet vegetables. (That means I can only eat fruits that I can peel, and I need to peel vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.) The reason I react to so many foods is related to the leaky gut syndrome. The theory, then, is heal the gut and cure the sensitivities (at least somewhat).

Eggs?! *sigh* I was eating at least 14 eggs a week. I love eggs for breakfast! And yet, after a crazy 3-day detox after my appointment, I got up and realized the lower back pain that has plagued me for years was 100% gone. So gluten makes my joints hurt, and eggs make my back hurt. Bummer.

So now I need to embark on a mission to heal my gut - and learn to live without eggs, at least for the time being. Basically the plan is to eat the way I've been eating for the last year, strictly avoiding those foods on the list, and including some of the principles from the GAPS diet. Lots of broth, natural fermented foods, etc.

Yesterday I started a Whole30 as a way to get back on track in a hurry. I ate a lot of things I shouldn't have over the Easter long weekend. After the 30 days my plan is to add back a few things - like honey! - that I should be able to tolerate, won't set my progress back, and will allow for a few more treats. I refuse to live a treat-free life, but I also want to be able to reclaim my health and not be a slave to food intolerances forever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

And After That Last Post...


Here we go, friends: full disclosure time.

Even after that last post about why I quit Weight Watchers, can you guess what I did?

Yup. Funny right? I think it was actually writing that post that made me reflect more on my experience with WW. While I still don't think it's a long-term solution for me, I realized that right now I just need immediate help with getting my eating habits back on track. So I signed up for a six-month package with WW.

And you know what? The morning after I registered, as soon as I started tracking my points, I felt relief. I knew I no longer had to guess at how much to eat, and I knew that as long as I work the program properly, I'll lose the weight I need to lose.

(Can I just remind everyone that right now, losing weight isn't just about vanity for me? I've regained so much weight over the past 10-11 months that almost nothing I own still fits. It's either lose the weight, or buy a new wardrobe. Makes sense to go with the option that will ALSO make me feel better about myself.)

To be clear, even though I'm doing a "conventional" diet, I'm following WW with a grain-free, legume-free, mostly-dairy-free, mostly-sugar-free approach. (But there is still some sugar in dark chocolate!) Since Weight Watchers counts most fruits and vegetables as zero points, I'm basically just having to be accountable to my protein and fat serving sizes.

Last night was a great illustration of my need for accountability. I had tossed some drumsticks and boneless, skinless chicken thighs in taco seasoning and then broiled them. I weighed two chicken thighs and tracked them. Then I topped each one with a measured tablespoon of guacamole and tracked that, too. I loaded up my plate with steamed green beans (tossed in butter) and asparagus broiled with EVOO and sea salt, and accounted for the butter and oil. My meal was delicious and satisfying, and once my plate was empty I was definitely no longer hungry. But that chicken! It was so good! I wanted to go get just one more piece, with just one more scoop of guacamole, just to continue to enjoy that flavour. But I really didn't need it, so I just sat and waited, trying to decide if it was worth the extra points. The longer I sat, the more I realized that I really wasn't hungry anymore. Eating past the point of being satisfied is often my problem.

I'm really hoping over the next six months I can hit my goal and spend some time at maintenance, so I get a better idea of what portion sizes my body really needs. I don't want to be reliant on this forever, but I'm grateful for the peace of mind (and hopefully, effective weight-loss) that I'm enjoying right now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Quit Weight Watchers

First, let me say this:
I loved Weight Watchers. And I still recommend it to people who are looking for a straight-forward way to keep track of their food and help them lose weight. I lost about 35 pounds on WW after Baby Belle was born.

But the issue was this:
I got really frigging sick and tired of tracking every single bite. For a while it was fine. Fun, even. Something to keep me focused. I had measuring cups, measuring spoons and a digital scale. It was a project to work on, and I worked hard. And I did well.

But then I just got tired of it. Perhaps that says more about my personality than the program itself, but I just got to a point where I didn't want to obsess over every bite, worrying when I was eating at someone else's house and couldn't figure out exactly how many points I was eating, etc. It was fatiguing, but also stressful.

My motto for a long time has been, "I refuse to lose weight by any means I'm not willing to continue in order to maintain that loss". I came to that conclusion after trying a bunch of fad diets that involved shakes, cleansing juices, food combination theories, and extreme caloric restriction. I'm just not willing to do any of those things long-term, so it doesn't make sense to make my body dependent on any of them for weight-loss and weight-maintenance. When I first started doing WW, I thought, "This is great! I could easily continue to do this for maintenance!" When that feeling changed, I knew it wasn't for me.

Why am I talking about this? Consider this the forward to my next post about restriction and deprivation. I've been thinking a lot about it since Alexis posted this, and in even more detail since she elaborated here. Food is fuel for our bodies, yes - but it's also intensely personal, and I'll be sharing my thoughts on that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bullet Points

- "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Or: the farther you get into a 21-day detox, the worse it sucks when you crash and burn.
- Day 18 did me in. My period started, and it was a very painful reminder that I'm not pregnant any more. I ate rice cakes with peanut butter and jam. Remembered right away what I'd learned earlier: that eating very dense carb sources makes me feel awful very quickly. My head starts spinning, I feel slightly nauseated and very cranky.
- I mostly enjoyed the detox. Or, rather, I enjoyed what I learned from it. I don't think I'd do it again, though. I think I'll stick to Whole30s when I need a reset.
- Princess turned five on Saturday. I am still reeling! It's that weird contrast between "it feels like just yesterday!" and "hasn't she always been part of our lives?" If you're a parent, you know exactly what I mean.
- Preparations for her party involved sewing 16 bags and 16 aprons, making 16 decorated hairbands, baking 36 cupcakes (some of which had to be dairy-, gluten- and soy-free), making (dairy- and soy-free) icing, decorating the kitchen AND the basement, making a strawberry bouquet (some plain, some chocolate-dipped), making a pin-the-horn-on-the-unicorn game, and various other tasks.
The kitchen
The basement - see the cute little bare legs behind the easel? :)
The unicorn 
- Hosting the party involved nine of her friends, three of their mothers, and (surprisingly) Music Man and Baby Belle wanted to stick around and get in on the action. They're normally not overly social in large groups.
Music Man wanted an umbrella like the girls, but also wanted his sippy cup. Masking tape solved the dilemma!
A sleepy-looking, post-nap Baby Belle sporting one of the pom-pommed hairbands I made for the guests.
- Now that the party is over, I'm doing a whole lot of nothing. And for the most part I intend to continue to do a lot of nothing until the end of February.
- Princess' big day was apparently pretty taxing on her little body. She started feeling sick around supper time on Saturday, and is just starting to get back to normal. I was happy to have a reason to keep her home from school on Monday, then a snow day yesterday and a PD day today are giving her lots of recovery time.
- Since my mother is staying with us, Francis and I will actually got to go out on a date last night. We went to a Texas-style BBQ restaurant near us which was recently featured on The Food Network. We shared some smoked spicy apple wings as an appetizer then split a meat sampler plate. It had beef ribs, pork ribs, brisket and pulled pork (with two sides). I enjoyed my first taste of Texas BBQ. I did not enjoy my second taste of Texas BBQ five hours later.
- I finally got a cell phone. That has nothing to do with anything, but it's interesting to me.
- Working on another post to collect some of my thoughts on deprivation and restriction, inspired by Alexis' post. (I know you're totally on the edge of your seat, now.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Planning Ahead

Looking to the future, once this detox is over, I'm trying to make a plan for what's coming up next. And what's next is all about self-care.

I know, that sounds like a dinky pop-psychology term that's been tossed around too much. What does that even mean, "self-care"? I was first introduced to the concept while working as a youth minister. There is a tendency among people who spend most of their time caring for others to end up spending almost all their time caring for others, and they end up burning out.

So February will be all about taking care of myself. Here's the 10-point plan of what that will look like
1. Continue eating as closely as possible to the 21DSD guidelines, but with more fruit - being certain to eat my fruit with some sort of protein to avoid spiking my blood sugar too much.
2. Drink a lot more water.
3. Take my supplements diligently every day.
4. Going to bed no later than 9pm at least 5 nights a week.
5. Exercising daily. Not the crazy stuff I love the best, but the less crazy stuff that I love almost as much.
6. Minimal commitments outside the home. I'm co-hosting the hospitality time after church on February 10th, and I'm just in charge of baking the gluten-free goodies and helping to serve coffee. Mid-month we'll attend a birthday party for my second oldest nephew. Later in the month I'll have a birthday dinner for Baby Belle's second birthday. And that's about it!
7. Lots more prayer time.
8. Lots more quiet time with my husband.
9. Indulging in hobbies just for the sake of their hobby-ness. Sewing for fun - not mass-producing 14 aprons.
10. Consciously speaking positively to myself daily. Not daily-affirmations-in-the-mirror kind of stuff, but mentally patting myself on the back for getting something (anything!) done, and catching myself when I start to get overly critical of myself.

Now for today's eats:
Breakfast - Can you guess?! Two eggs scrambled with half a sausage and some sauteed onion, served over cherry tomatoes. Two cups of (mostly decaf) coffee.
Lunch - A big salad with mixed greens, chopped pecans, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette. Three slices of deli roast beef with mustard.
Supper - Roasted pork loin (rubbed with olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper) with roasted asparagus.
Snacks - A handful of pecans. A green apple and a handful of almonds.

I was handed a sample of a Lindt 70% chocolate bar at Costco - I looked at it for about three seconds then decided to eat it. I got the same head-rush, dizzy spells about 10-15 minutes later. Weird.