Fat Fridays: Week 19 Why Am I Doing This?

Hello Everyone…How’s your week been? I hope it’s been a bit better than mine. We’ve been struggling with a horrible virus this week that’s really wiped out our little kids. But, there is hope. Our littlest guy seems to be feeling better this morning, and the older kids who got the virus seem to be getting over it quickly. I’m sitting in bed feeling kind of yucky myself, but hoping that this will be done and over with by tomorrow.

So, the past couple days I’ve been thinking about goals and dreams. I heard once, years ago, that if you really want something, have a big goal, you’ve got to think about it often, daydream about it, focus on it. The more thought life you give towards your dream, the more likely you will continue to pursue it and see it become reality. So, here’s my dream: to lose 110 pounds and go from a size 20 to a size 10. I think about it a lot. It’s helpful when I’m really stressed out and want to reach for something sugary and then I remember, size 10. You’re not going to get to a size 10 if you eat that stuff. Anyway, you get the idea.

This week as I’ve been reading the news, seeing reports of the terrorist attack on Christians in Sri Lanka, seeing how villages have been wiped out by a cyclone on the coast of Africa, see how activists are trying to fight against crazy man-made natural disasters, see how many problems there are with our foster care system…When I see all these things, and then I think about my goal, I feel rather shallow, and selfish. Here I am focusing all my energy on losing weight while out in the world people are facing Real Problems. Yeah, this is definitely a first-world problem I’m dealing with here.

So, I’ve been thinking about this, and I came to some conclusions. Why is it so important for me to lose weight? Right now my extra weight is keeping me from living a lot of life. My husband loves to bike and go hiking. I don’t go with him. I can’t keep up. And that makes both of us a bit sad. I want to lose weight so I can share experiences with my husband again. Skinnier me used to go out in the yard and play Capture the Flag with my children, and jump rope, and tag, and running games. I haven’t done that in a long time. I want to lose weight so I can play with my children again. My older children have gone on an inner-city missions trip to Buffalo, New York for three years in a row now. This summer one of my sons launched a campaign to get me to go on the mission trip too. I thought about how busy they are on their trip, how physically toiling it is. I know that right now, in my current shape, I would be exhausted and uncomfortable most of the time. I told him I couldn’t go this year. I want to lose weight so I can take part in mission trips, actually engage in some physically hard work in order to help people. My overweight me is looking at Type 2 Diabetes and too-high cholesterol. I want to lose weight so I don’t spend the rest of my life sick. I’ve been learning about how inflammation in the body can aggravate mental health issues, like depression. I want to stick to this diet so that I can hopefully lessen my episodes of depression. I want to lose this weight so I can be me again.

I guess my goal isn’t so bad after all. Kind of like the instructions: put the oxygen mask on first, then help those around you. First things first. Lose the weight. Then I can engage in life and all it’s challenges and problems with a lot more stamina and ability to help.

Onward with my goal.

This week, things that have gone well and not so well…I tried a couple new dishes. I found at Kroger a Coconut Curry Mix that had a big bag of fresh vegetables to stir fry and then a curry sauce to pour over it. It was only $5 for the bag which seemed like a good deal to me. Tasted pretty good too. I also bought a jar of Tikka Masala sauce at Aldi’s then poured it over a big pot of cooked potatoes/sweet potatoes and fresh green beans and a can of beans. That was really yummy too. My only problem is that everything I cook tends to look like a pile of mush. It doesn’t help anything when I offer my fare to the family, Here, it’s vegan, want to try some? They stare at the glop. No thanks mom. I also tried cooking a rice blend for the family that had brown rice, red rice, and wild rice. It was really good, but unfamiliar to my white-rice-loving family. They didn’t eat very much of it. Sigh.

Exercise didn’t happen. Dealing with a household of sick children severely limits your time. I’m not going to feel guilty about that.

Goals: recover from this virus. Yep. That’s about it. Since I started writing this blog today, my fever has spiked, I”m aching all over and feel like a truck ran over me. Good news, I don’t want to eat anything. At least I won’t be tempted to cheat.

See you all next week, hopefully in much better health.

 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 18 Progress and Dieting With Large Families

Hello Fat Friday Friends. (Kind of has a ring to it!) Hope all is well in your world today. I am feeling pretty positive today. I weighed myself and I’ve lost 20 pounds in 7 weeks. Yay! Measurable progress! Another bit of progress is my depression really does seem to be leaving me alone right now. (For those of you just tuning in, I started this vegan, grain-free diet in an attempt to lessen my depression). I am a naturally melancholic person. I like to sit and think about life and I tend to be pensive. But, there’s a difference between being low-key and being depressed. Depressed has me sitting in a chair, feeling paralyzed. Unable to do anything but the very basic tasks. I feel like a weight has lifted off of me. Where before, I felt like all of my emotions just kind of stayed flat, I feel like I’m starting to be able to swing over to “Happy” and “Excited”. This past Sunday, on Easter, I was downright happy. To the point that my husband was asking, “What’s up with you?” ummm. I’m happy! I guess that was a bit weird for my family. I was actually feeling bubbly. So, these are all good things.

Challenges. I am having a hard time being creative with vegan food. You remember I was trying to go grain-free for three months, well I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, and I have started adding grain back. Still trying to stay away from wheat as I have noticed in the past that my body doesn’t like wheat very much. I’ve added back brown rice and quinoa. Yum. It definitely helps me to not feel hungry all the time. This week I’ve been eating a packet of this stuff everyday (found it at Sam’s Club):

quinoi

Add a bag of frozen veggies cooked up and a can of beans, a bit of salt and salsa, and it’s very filling and tastes good.

riceandbeans

But, I’ve been eating it every day, because it’s fast and easy. I’m going to get tired of it really soon. I am in big need of sitting down and looking up interesting recipes. I just haven’t taken the time yet. I’m also still cooking meat for my family, and I’m finding it harder and harder to come up with any enthusiasm for cooking meat. It feels a bit gross and unappetizing. My kids are getting out of school in another month, and I am making long-term plans to shift the family more and more towards vegetables and fruit and minimal meat. I have found a surprising ally in this goal. My seventeen year old son just told me that he wanted to start eating like me. I patiently explained that I am actually mostly just eating vegetables. Yeah Mom, I know..Umm. You know that means that you would have to eat vegetables. Yeah Mom. Vegetables. Boy Mom, you’re not being very encouraging! I’m telling you that I want to eat vegetables and you’re just acting like it’s something I can’t do! Ok. Sorry. Yes son, you are welcome to eat what I eat. (I can be excused for being a bit skeptical as this is the child who serves himself about an eighth of a cup a veggies at supper and claims that’s enough vegetables for one day.)

Anyway, it’s time to tackle the family’s eating habits. Now that it’s feeling more natural for me, I feel like I can start focusing on them. I’m coming up with a plan, a strategy, and it involves going slow. One new thing at a time. This week I’m going to skip buying white bread and I’m going to load up on ranch dressing, hummus, and fresh veggies like cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and iceburg lettuce. For some reason, my kids really like those veggies, so I’m going to start trying to have a tray of veggies to munch on after school instead of toast or sandwiches. We already do fruit. My kids love apples and oranges. This is what feeding fruit to nine kids looks like (I have ten kids, but one lives at college):

fruitandveggies

Well, I’ll tell you how it goes. Having the family eat similar to me will make my life a lot easier.

Exercise update. I’ve been on the elliptical four days in a row this week! Yay me! Feeling a bit stiff and sore, but also feeling like it’s helping with increased energy.

Goals: Keep on keeping on. Start dragging my family down this path of health I’m on. Be happy.

See you next week!

 

🎶We All Need Somebody to Lean On!🎶

This Saturday I got to attend a movie with my 5th grade boy and a bunch of school children from across the county who are involved in Project Grad. We showed up at the school along with a handful of other moms and their children, got on the big yellow bus, drove downtown, and entered the movie theater through the back door. Other kids from other schools were arriving at the same time and we quickly grabbed our little tray of popcorn and a soda and went in to find a good seat. Some other families from our school were there, having used their own transportation. I asked my son where he wanted to sit. “Somewhere close to Ms.Partin!” Ms. Partin is his homeroom teacher who had the fortunate (unfortunate?) job of being one of the chaperones. I smiled. It made me happy to know that he liked his teacher so much that he would want to hang out with her even when they weren’t at school.  

We all found good seats and were hanging out, eating our popcorn, waiting for the movie to start, when suddenly someone walked into the theater that caused a big stir. Dr. Brace! It’s Dr. Brace! Kids started calling out from all over the theater, “Hi Dr. Brace!!!” It was like a celebrity had arrived. Let me explain. Dr. Brace is the principal of my kids’ elementary school. Yep. The Principal. So, why on earth would a bunch of school kids be so excited to see their Principal? Because it’s Dr. Brace. She is super-friendly, knows every single child in the school by name, and their parent’s names. She takes time out to talk and listen to the kids. She’s full of enthusiasm. In fact she went around the theater, greeting each child by name, high-fiving, checking in with parents. Then she had to go around again and get a picture of each child, and then one more time to say goodbye to everyone as she was just doing a walk-through to make sure that everything was going well for the outing. There is something about her that just makes you start smiling whenever you see her. I don’t know her personally, but I love this woman. I love the fact that she has helped to make our elementary school a safe place where kids feel loved. I love the fact that she makes parents feel welcome and feel like they can be involved and speak up about issues and concerns. I love the fact that my children count her on their list of friends.

The movie that we watched was an animated movie about a little girl who faces a crisis in her family and becomes withdrawn from her normal bubbly, creative personality. I noticed that in the movie, part of the problem was that as things got harder for her in life, she stopped turning to her family and friends. When she finally hit rock-bottom, what helped her to turn things around was remembering her mother’s words, her mother’s love for her. As things got better, she turned back to her community, and her community helped pull her through her hard situation.

Two years ago I was trying to homeschool my children while going through a very deep depression, a depression that lasted about two years. I finally hit rock bottom and had to accept the fact that homeschooling was not something I was capable of doing at the time. I put my kids in public school, a very hard decision for me. Putting my kids in school became something of a turning point. It lifted a burden that had me pinned to the floor, eased it enough that I could slowly start getting up. Slowly pull my feet back underneath me. The kids’ schools have become a community for my children and even for me and my husband as we have slowly learned how to let go and let others help us.

I love that song, “Lean on Me”. I remember singing it at the top of my lungs in the back of the car with my teenage friends as we drove home from summer camp. It’s fun. It’s a classic. Makes you feel good all over when you hear it. I think it’s all of those things though, because the words are so true. We were not made to do this life thing alone. We were made for community.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says:

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I am so thankful for the community we have found in our local schools. I am so thankful for the teachers and staff who work there, giving their best to my kids. I am so thankful that I don’t have to be everything to my children. That when God gave me ten children, it wasn’t with the intention that I would somehow become superwoman who can do everything all by herself, but that he had helpers lined up to help. Community to come alongside us and walk with us on this journey called life. I am thankful.

🎶“We all need somebody to lean on!” 🎶

 

P.S. I have really hesitated to post this as I don’t want my homeschooling friends to feel like I’m slamming homeschooling. That is not my intention. I just wanted to share what a blessing our schools have been to us.

A Little Bit of Hope

It’s Spring.  Winter is losing its hold on us and I feel this little thing budding up inside of me. Hope. This winter has been a struggle for me in my fight against depression. I feel like I fought well, kept picking myself back up and trying to find solutions again and again. Exercise. Try this diet. Write out my thoughts. Talk to people. Get involved. Get a Happy Light. But, no matter what I did, I kept finding myself in my chair, struggling to do the simplest chores.

Several weeks ago, in my Fat Fridays Post I said that if I could find a diet that would cure depression, I would go on it. Two days after posting that, I received two different emails from trusted sources telling me to watch an upcoming webinar by Jonathan Otto on Depression Anxiety and Dementia. It seemed like God was giving me a big nudge, so I went and watched some of it, read their free e-books. It talked about inflammation aggravating mental health issues. One of their first steps they recommended in their little book was to change your diet to fruit, vegetables and nuts. No grain, no animal products. I was desperate so I decided to give it a try. The first two weeks were really hard as my body was in shock from this drastic change. And then this Monday happened.

Monday morning, the first Monday back to school after Spring break, I woke up before my alarm went off, somewhere around 6 am. Wide awake. And happy. I got up with my little boy and fed him and dressed him and then went and got the other kids out of bed. Drove the kids to school, came home, and instead of collapsing on the couch, went and washed the dishes that had accumulated over the weekend. I then puttered around, getting the boys and I ready for our day at the homeschooling co-op where I’m teaching a couple piano lessons. Had a great day at Co-op, felt cheerful all day long. Then left co-op, went and picked up kids from school, came home and cleaned up the house, played games with my little girls, and read books to children until it was time to make supper. (Usually on Mondays co-op wears me out and by the time I get home I just want to hole up in my room with the door closed.) I felt almost giddy. Wow. This is what it feels like to have energy. hope

This morning I woke up with a pounding headache and was very tired. I’ve taken it easy today, but despite not feeling well, I haven’t felt dragged down in my mood. I’ve still managed to get chores done, spend time with my kids, and even practice the piano. And maybe this lightness of mood will become my new norm. hope

I’ve also stepped out in faith in a couple other areas. I’ve been lamenting lack of community, but at the same time not had the energy or drive to invite people over to my house. Well, we had some changes with our house church and Andy and I took the plunge and volunteered to host house church at our house, twice a month, Sundays after church. Bring enough food for your family and we’ll potluck lunch and then have a meeting. We’ve decided to take it a step further and tell everyone that our house is open every Sunday after church. Potluck and hang out. First steps to building community. I’m a little scared about making such a big commitment, but also feeling excited. hope “

My last big step of faith was to schedule a Musical Evening at my house, the beginning of May. Everyone is welcome. Just let me know you’re coming. The point of the evening is to make music accessible and fun for everyone, but especially children. I’m going to play a couple pieces, my kids are going to play music, maybe my husband will sing. Everyone who comes is invited to contribute to the music. We’ll all bring food to share too. Have a party. This is a step of faith for me, and a challenge because I’ve committed to playing music in front of people. Yikes. I haven’t done that in quite a while. I only have two children left who aren’t in school and I’ve started thinking about what I will do when all my kids are in school all day. My old dream of being a piano teacher with a bunch of students has slowly risen out of the ashes and I’ve started taking small steps towards that goal. For me, to be a serious piano teacher means I need to be getting back into music myself. So, this musical evening is a step towards my dream of teaching. hope

Aside from all these wonderful things, I have found my mind turning more and more to God. Being curious. Mindful. Wondering. Having Conversations. It feels like a hibernating part of my soul has woke up again. hope

It’s early spring yet. We still have cold mornings and plenty of drizzle-filled days in between the sunshine days. But, there is an unspoken promise in the air. The trees are putting out buds, the days are longer, there is a certain fresh smell of earth and plants when you step outside. We know that summer is just around the corner. And maybe good health, a sound mind, energy for life. Hope.

 

To anyone interested in my new diet, here’s the link:

 

www.depressionanxietyseries.com

Generation to Generation

I was in the kitchen this evening cooking supper. My phone chimed, I checked and my Mom had just texted me. I quickly responded and told her that I had received the “Happy Light” that she had sent me in the mail (since she knew I had been struggling with depression)  and I had used it. It had seemed to help me with my bad mood. She quickly texted me back to give me some quick tips on how to use it. I smiled to myself. Yes Mom. You already told me this. 🙂 Then my phone chimed, my daughter who is off at college was texting me. I had texted her about some mail she had received at our house, asking her whether she needed it or not. And suddenly I felt like I was in a time loop. My mom was texting me because she wanted to help me out, I was texting my daughter because I wanted to help her out, and I suddenly had this Great Understanding. Oh. I get it Mom. This is why you still try to give me advice. This is why you buy special little things for me. In your mind, I’m still your little girl.

I have this overwhelming desire to help my own grown-up daughter in whatever way I can and I am trying to learn as fast as I can how to give her the space she needs to be a grown-up and be her own person and learn how to be independent, but that desire to Mother her is always there. Sometimes I step over the line and I can tell by the tenseness in her face that I need to back down and shut up. But that desire never goes away. I still want her to be well-fed, well-rested, have enough clean clothes to wear, have some good Real friends, be getting satisfaction from her work, know that she is walking after God. I don’t think that desire ever goes away. She’s my little girl, even if she’s 18 years old. And I’m still my Mom’s little girl. Even if I’m 40.

Later this evening I was tucking my four year old son into bed. He was laying on his bunk bed, smiling at me in the lamplight, laughing and telling me a funny story. And I thought about generations again. This particular child looks uncannily like his father’s childhood photos. And I suddenly wondered, is this what my husband was like when he was little? That adorable face and shining eyes and mischievous smile? Was I getting a glimpse into the past? Is this what my mother-in-law saw every evening when she put my child-aged husband to bed every night? I suddenly felt like a door had swung open and given me a peek at my husband’s childhood.

It’s interesting that God created us in this way. Each generation raising up the next. It’s a strange cycle. As a child I remember the urgency, the longing to be a grownup. Why? So that I could marry and have kids of my own, and those kids have a longing to grow up and have kids of their own, and so we perpetuate the human race. Each generation doing whatever they can to help the next generation along.

I am thankful for my parents. Thankful that I still have them close by. Thankful that they still care about me and want to know that everything is going well for me. I am also thankful that I have children that I can carry on the tradition with. Children who I can text on the phone, You doing ok? Want to come home for the weekend? And I am hopeful, so hopeful that one day my children will have children of their own who they will be checking up on even when they are all grown.

This whole generations thing…It feels like the goodness of God. As I sit in my chair, late at night, writing on my computer, all my children are upstairs in their bedrooms, the younger ones fast asleep, the older ones puttering around, trying to not give in to sleepiness till the last moment possible. Soon I will go climb into bed, snuggled warm against my husband. This is life. The life God created and gave to us. A gift.

Psalm 145 vs 4 says,

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

So, I declare to my children who read this, to the younger generations that have come up after me… God is good. This life he has given us is good. Marrying, having children, raising families, it is good. Maybe this is why:

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100 vs 5

Fat Fridays: Week 11 The Semi-Reluctant Vegan

Last week I said that if I could find a diet that would help with depression I would go on it. Well, two days after I wrote that, I received an email from a health network I subscribe to whose subject line was “Depressed or Anxious?” Inside the email was a link to a guy who has done extensive study on depression, anxiety, and dementia. I went and checked it out. A couple hours later I received another email from the other health network I subscribe to. The subject line of the email was, “Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety.” I opened that email. It had a link to the exact same doctor. I went and checked out the link.

http://masteringdiabetes.acemlnb.com/lt.php?s=ad5907f39a14b9a2c2601e7db4c5f57c&i=2074A2087A2A37606

They are having free online video sessions this next week, but they also offered links to two free ebooks that explained the premise of their study. The final conclusion was to adopt a plant-based diet. The challenge they gave was to try and just eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts and then later reintroduce some healthy whole grains.

 

I am not unfamiliar with plant-based diets. Years ago my inlaws read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and adopted his diet plan. They had amazing results. They shared their journey with all their kids and I got the book and read it and even tried it for a while. But I was not sold enough to maintain it for very long. Then about a year ago my own father was struggling with Type 2 diabetes. I had read a study by a Dr. Neal Barnard that talked about reversing Type 2 diabetes by eating a low-fat, plant-based diet. My parents got his book, tried the diet and had amazing results, lowering my dad’s A1C from 6.4 to 5.7 in two months. I again half-heartedly tried the diet since I myself am prediabetic, but I wasn’t very dedicated and didn’t stick to it for very long.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be vegan. I want to eat meat. I want to enjoy cheese. Vanity, wanting to lose weight, was not a good enough incentive for me to totally change my lifestyle. But, if you are telling me that perhaps I can come out from under this persistent depression, well, that seems like a good enough incentive. If I lower my A1C and lose weight, that would be great too.

I am actually feeling hopeful. I feel like I’ve been being nudged towards this diet for several years now and I’ve just been dragging my feet. So, I’m going to try it. I’m thinking I’m going to probably need to give it a couple months before I can give an honest assessment as to how it’s going. I’ll keep you all updated.

Here’s the game plan. I’m going to make myself a giant pot of vegetable soup so I have something easy on hand.  I put in a good supply of fruit and vegetables today. The only thing I forgot to buy was nuts. I’ll have to pick those up later. Wish me luck!

 

Fat Fridays: Week 10 If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Here we are in week 10. I’ve had my first real setback this week. I haven’t exercised in two days, I came off of 9 days without sugar and blew it with pancakes and syrup yesterday and then donuts this morning. I’m finding that my setbacks are really tied to my bouts of depression. I hit a real low this week and I find that trying to keep myself moving and keep doing the right thing is really difficult when I’m feeling so low I don’t want to move.

Frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of this depression. A while back I went through about two years of deep depression. Now it’s every month I just have a couple days when it’s hard to cope. The problem is that while I’m in the midst of it, I feel like it’s all my fault. I am a horrible person. I’m a failure. I’m lazy. And then slowly the fog lifts and I get back to normal and I realize that I had been fighting off depression like it was a giant cloud that had settled around my body. This seems to be a cyclic thing. Some new, bizarre form of PMS? I don’t know. I think I’m going to start keeping a simple diary and see if I can track a pattern of which days I feel depressed, see if if there is any rhyme or reason to it.

I am at the point where I’m ready to start researching diets that lift depression. Right now if someone told me that eating a Keto diet (my personal version of hell) would take away my depression, I would be like, OK, sign me up.

So, here I am. I’ve been doing really well these past 10 weeks. Exercising, being more thoughtful about what I eat, trying to significantly reduce sugar. And then I fall off the wagon. This is where the real challenge lies. What am I going to do about it? Am I going to shrug my shoulders and think, Well, I’ve never been able to do anything long-term, might as well just give up and have a nice binge. Or am I going to accept the fact that this is how life works. It’s impossible to be “good” all the time. You mess up. Acknowledge it and then get back to work. Start exercising again. Cut back on the sugar again. Try to be mindful of what and why you are eating again.

I need to give myself this pep talk. You are not perfect Esther. No one expects you to be perfect all the time. One mistake does not make you a failure. You can do this. Have grace for yourself.  Don’t give up. Try again.

So, this is the plan for this week. Research diet and depression. Stop beating myself up for falling off the wagon. Climb back up onto the wagon. Keep going. And remember to be kind to myself.

Here’s to Trying Again.