When You Least Expect It

I stopped writing for a little bit. I have pondered just stopping completely. Just walk away. Reasons? I don’t have anything positive to say. No sense in dragging people down with my negativity. I have a lot of stress in my life that is tied into other people and their stories, and I have no freedom to share their stories and so I can’t talk about and explore all the reasons their stories are stressing me out. And probably the most honest, I feel myself in a deep dark place of depression and why would I want to share that with the world? 

Depression is a weird thing. I can stand back and be analytical. Yeah, the times that I get depressed are when I am emotionally stretched too thin. Too much on my plate. I’m overwhelmed. But then, there have been plenty of times that I have been in that position and not fallen into deep depression. So what’s the difference? How do I stop it from descending on me? I’ve tried hard to practice Self-care. I’ve tried very hard to keep my load at a bearable weight. I’ve tried very hard to be proactive about keeping depression at bay. And then there is a “Last Straw” moment and I feel myself sliding down into a pit. 

Today I sat in my chair in my room, opened the curtains so the sun would shine straight in my face. I sat there with my eyes closed and thought about Hope. 

Hope is such an elusive thing. I don’t know how to summon it up when I am at my lowest. But somehow, it has a way of wafting past my face when I am least expecting it. Today, as my eyes saw bright spots against my eyelids and the light warmed me up, I felt a stirring of hope. I realized that all my thoughts about God and his love for me and my inability to accept that on some fundamental level, all of that angst was not something I had to solve today. Today I could just focus on being thankful and praising God and that was enough for now. 

I decided to cancel my membership with the personal trainer app I’ve been using the past year. Not because they weren’t awesome and super helpful to me, but because I realized I needed to move forward with something different to fit where I am now, a year later. And instead of failure, it felt hopeful to start looking for something new.

Today I have decided that all the other myriad problems that are weighing me down can get fixed another day. Or never at all. Just deal with the problems that are right in front of me at this very moment. Cliche. But still true. Story of my life, trying to remember that and walk in it. 

Hope showed up with some sunshine today. I don’t know why. But I’ll take it. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll take what I can get. And on the days when hope doesn’t show up, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Seek out the light. Trust that it will show up when I least expect it.  

Moving Forward

Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s going well for you so far. 

I have been fighting a lot of stress and some depression as I’ve moved forward into January. Lots of reasons. 

First of all, let’s just acknowledge the parents/caregivers who take the lead in making Christmas and holidays happen. Kids really are oblivious to the amount of behind-the-scenes work it takes to make a holiday feel special. By the time New Years came and went, I was pretty wiped out. It was a great holiday season: cozy, fun, special. But it took a lot of energy. And after every high, there is usually a low. 

Second, we have a court date set for February concerning our foster daughter. Some things have changed and so this upcoming court date is churning up a lot of stress in my life. A lot. 

And lastly, I am finding it hard to get excited about this new year we are in. My goals have diminished down to “Let’s just survive.” Ok, that’s not exactly true. I have set some new exercise and weight loss goals, and they feel achievable. I am really focusing on getting my whole family into a healthier eating lifestyle. But aside from that, I feel like I am playing defense. Let’s just handle each challenge/catastrophe as it comes. 

Recognizing that I’m in a place of stress, I’ve been working a lot on making my home a cozy, relaxing place to be. I bought some more candles, acquired a new plant, made a new centerpiece on my dining room table. Got most of the Christmas stuff put away, but kept a couple things out like some angel figurines on my mantel. I’ve tried to make my world a little smaller. Keep my focus simply on family and housework. Try to get my mind out of the future and just be in today. (I’m not doing real well with that one, so far, but I’m trying.)

Through it all, I have felt God’s presence with me in a new way I’ve never felt before. Where my thoughts used to wander to anything and everything, I find my thoughts moving back to Jesus over and over again. It feels like grace sitting heavily on me. And while my mind has always equated grace with happy peace and rest, lack of troubles; it’s an interesting experience to be in the midst of troubles and stress and still have peace. I wouldn’t call it happy peace though. It’s more solemn. And more solid. And I am clinging hard to it and moving forward into this new year, one day at a time. 

Fat Fridays: Tis’ the Season

Good morning everyone. Hope you all are well today. 

I am busily cleaning my house, listening to Pentatonix’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful. (Ok, I had to stop writing there for a second so I could sing along. Ok. Focus on writing.) 

I was up all night thinking about all the things I need to do in the next couple days. My son has a Christmas program at school tonight, and we have family coming to watch. We’re having our annual Christmas Open House on Sunday which involves a lot of cleaning, cooking, and planning. And on top of all that, this week I pulled a muscle in my back and spent a whole day just sitting in a chair. Yesterday I was able to move around, but slowly and carefully. Today I am stiff, but able to move.  But, that put me two days behind on all the Christmas preparation I was planning on doing. And then last night the PTO from the elementary school said we are selling popcorn tomorrow, can you come help? And I said yes, while my eye started twitching. 

I am pretty sure that I pulled a muscle this week because I have been walking around in a physical state of stress. I love Christmas time. I love doing things for other people, making things special for my kids, all the extra Christmas activities. But, it can be stressful. I like my life slow paced. And the whole month of December is not slow paced. At all. And there are a lot of social interactions. And I am an introvert who has discovered over time that I thrive on a lot of alone-quiet time. And I haven’t been getting a lot of that. Last night I went to my son’s basketball game with one of my daughters. We watched both the boys and girls games. Another mom from the team was sitting next to me so we engaged in polite social chitchat. It was noisy. I spent a lot of time talking to my daughter. When we got home I gathered the family together so we could do our nightly Advent devotions that we do in the month of December. We finished Advent and then I gave my husband “The Look”. The look that says, I am done. I need to disappear. PLEASE TAKE OVER!! And my husband, who stayed home with all the other kids, fed them supper, helped them with homework, goes, “What??” All you’ve done is go to a basketball game! But, going to a basketball game takes a lot of energy! 

So, we tag teamed and made it through bedtime, crashed into bed, and then I dreamed about cleaning my house, preparing for parties, and kept waking up wondering if it was time to start the next busy day. 

So, for this blog, the question is, how do you maintain diet, exercise, and self-care during the holidays? 

I think the best I can come up with is Be Realistic. 

The next three days I am not going to have much time, but I plan to get up early tomorrow morning so I can squeeze in a workout. I don’t think I will get to one today though, too many things to do. But, I know that next week I will have more time, so I just have to accept that sometimes you can’t do everything. And as far as self-care, I think I just have to keep reminding myself that none of this is life and death. If I don’t get everything done, it’s ok. All of these things I’m doing are because I want everything a certain way. And if it ends up not being the exact way I want, Who cares? No one else does. Just me. So, I have to keep reminding myself that the level of importance I’m putting on all these plans is very flexible. And diet? Well, there is always January. Though I am going to try and come up with some quick, healthy meals we can just heat up for the next couple days without needing a lot of prep. 

So, I’m off to do more cleaning and then go sell popcorn and then cook and clean some more. And maybe try to remember that this is fun and I love the holidays. 

Updates and Manga

I wanted to give you all an update on our meeting that we had last week concerning our foster child. The meeting went really well and we were able to come up with a timeline that is long enough to enable a slow, hopefully smooth transition, with a lot of safety measures in place. It was definitely an answer to prayer and I am feeling a lot more peace about the upcoming changes. 

The meeting was Friday afternoon. On Saturday morning my husband went running with me (a sign of true husbandly devotion) and then I came home and ended up doing almost nothing, all day long. I was wiped out from stress. But I have felt God’s mercy on me as the last couple days have been worry-free, slow, and peaceful. 

In other news, this past weekend, I started reading one of my daughter’s manga. Basically, comic books. It’s a romance manga that my daughter really liked, and we used to tease her about it. Then for her birthday, we bought the anime series and all watched it with her, and it was so wonderfully sweet and fluffy that me and all the little kids fell in love with it. In a culture where “romance” is often just another word for pornography, it was very nice to see a version of romance where handholding is about the raciest thing that happens. 

My kids have been laughing about me reading this, but I have to explain a bit why this has grabbed my fancy. I have always had a fascination with how people interact with each other. The role of power and submission, friendship, protectors, the heroes, the villains. How it all plays out. And I have so many questions. Why are we drawn to these kinds of characters? Why do we think that this kind of interaction is “sweet”. It was really interesting to see drawn out pictures, cartoons,  of all these tropes that appear in every kind of literature I’ve ever read. My interest is not so much in the story, but rather the stereotypes that they are representing and trying to understand why these stereotypes show up so often. 

I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about the nature of Jesus. Our perceptions of him. How we interact with him. The connections between the literature we love, and our inner desires for a relationship with God. Because I do see a lot of connections. I look at this cartoon in this silly manga, and I find something inside of me is stirred, and I have to ask, what inner longings do I have that draw me to this caricature? And I find myself setting the book down and asking God about it. These stories that captivate us only do so because they are a shadow of what God originally designed for us in the Garden of Eden. So what is this desire and how do I find the real version of it in God? And it’s actually been a rather nice time of talking to God. I don’t feel like I’m getting all the answers, but I really feel like he is listening to me. 

The verses that he has put in my mind this morning are ones like Jeremiah 29:13:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

And Matthew 7:7:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

I just feel like God is saying, No you don’t understand it fully right now, but keep asking questions. Keep looking. You’re looking for me, and I want to be found. 

And I feel encouraged. God can be found in the craziest places, even in an anime cartoon. 

Fat Fridays: In Search of New Strategies

Well, it’s Friday, and I’m still fat…Guess I don’t have much else to say. 

Just kidding.

I’ve been “training” for my 5k. Which sounds really pretentious. But, I don’t know how else to put it. Last Saturday I ran 5k in 37 mins and 28 secs. Which was an improvement over the 40 mins it took me the time before. I think I’ll be trying it again tomorrow. Today I’m supposed to run 5 mins at a moderate pace, 5 mins at a fast pace and 3 mins ALL OUT. I am not a fast pace or ALL OUT pace kind of person. So, this will be interesting. Ok, so here is a question. How do you keep track of these times when you are running? I have a fitbit and I have a cellphone. Running with a cellphone in my hand is awkward. Trying to press the button on the side of my fitbit to light up the screen while I am running is also awkward. And sometimes I accidentally bump the screen and it pauses my workout and then I’m frantically trying to make it start again, while still running. It does not make for a smooth running experience. And I can just see myself today, trying to go ALL OUT for a whole 3 minutes and I’ll keep having to stop and look at my watch. Not an ideal situation. So how does everyone else do it? 

The other thing is I run in my neighborhood and there are awkward breaks where I have to cross a big road and so I’m trying to figure out how to map my route so that when I’m going fast and ALL OUT, I don’t have to pause and wait for traffic. RIght now I’m thinking it might be easier to just do the same half mile stretch several times because I know approximately how much time it takes me to run that and I’ll at least have some clues as to when to look at my watch. 

We’ll see. It’s cold outside. I’m not going to go out till it warms up a little bit more. 

Diet is going horrible. I find myself thinking, maybe I just need to try to maintain this weight until January when I can get all hyped up about healthy eating again. Why does January always seem like a good time to diet? Looking at the upcoming holiday season, it does not feel like a great time to be eating healthy. And this is my old, unhealthy thought patterns having full control right now. My memories of past holidays where I ate carefully are that I felt great from not over-indulging. 

Right now my brain is in high-stress mode and it’s really hard to practice self-care when your brain is in this mode. Really hard. I’ve been able to keep exercising and make that happen. I just don’t know how to keep the healthy eating happening. 

We have an important meeting today which I’m hoping the outcome is that I will be less stressed afterwards. We’ll see. The problem is that we can’t wait for the stress to go away before we try to be healthy. My experience of the past two years is that the stress is not going anywhere. It appears to have moved in to stay. And my main strategy has always been to wait for stress to pack it’s bags and leave. So now I need a new strategy. And actually, writing about this has been helpful. I don’t think I’ve put that reality into words before. The problem at least feels a little more simple. I need a new strategy for handling stress because I need to accept that the stress is here to stay so waiting for it to leave is no longer an option. 

Well, I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day pondering that. I’ll see you all next week. 

Fat Fridays: Big Changes, New Goals

It’s Friday. Thank God. This has been a very long week. Very long. Today is going to be one of my busiest days. I think I will be able to start relaxing somewhere around 5:30 tonight. I’m counting down the hours. 

I received news this week about our foster daughter who has been with us for two years,  possibly starting the reunification process with her family in the very near future. It was unexpected news. I’ve been a bit out of it the last several days as I try to process how I feel about this. 

Last weekend I decided to sign up for a 5k race on December 18th. I’ve never done a 5k before or any kind of race since I was in elementary school. I felt like I was needing some motivation to keep on exercising. A goal to work towards. I’m pretty excited about it. At least, I’m excited about it until I’m actually out running. And then I find myself wondering why on earth am I choosing to do this? This is hard. I’m not feeling great joy. And then I finish running and all the good feelings come back. Yay! I’m going to do this! 

I talked to my trainer and asked her to give me workouts that will help me get ready. I think she’s planning on having me run four days a week. I have very modest goals. 

Goal #1 Run the whole race without having to stop and walk.

Goal #2 Try to finish in 36 minutes. 

And that’s it. And even if it takes a couple minutes longer, I don’t really care. Just running the whole thing without stopping will be a big accomplishment for me. 

I am glad that I set this goal. It’s been helpful this week as I’ve been dealing with crazy emotions. Here, I’m going to take all this nervous anxiety and go run it off. I’ll let you all know how the training goes. 

See you next week.

Fat Fridays: The Juggler

Fat Fridays. The day we talk about diet and exercise and triumphs and failures. 

I did not write last week because I was neck-deep in failure and I had nothing to say. The last couple weeks have been rough. And the hardest part is that I haven’t been sure why eating healthy and exercising suddenly became so hard again. 

I think I finally got some insight today. 

As a mom with eleven kids, I’m keeping track of a lot of things. I have made the comparison before of being a juggler who is trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. I’m juggling away, getting into the swing of it. Yeah. I got this. And then someone offstage suddenly starts pelting me with a bunch more balls. You’re keeping ten balls in the air? Here, take five more. And then I start dropping balls all over the place, everything gets out of sync, and I end up picking the most vital balls (how about let’s keep everyone fed and alive) and tossing them in the air while I regroup and try to start getting everything back up in the air and going in rhythm again, with five new balls added. 

I think that is what has happened this month. Extracurricular activities starting up for the kids, several home repair crises that we’ve been putting off for as long as possible, and now they can’t be ignored anymore. All of our vehicles suddenly having problems and needing various parts and repairs. And as all these new things got thrown my way, the first ball I dropped was diet. I kept exercising, but even with that, this week I ended up missing two days in a row. 

This morning I woke up at four am and lay in bed stressing over all the things I needed to do. I finally fell asleep maybe a half hour before my alarm went off. I did not wake up in a good mood. I was grumping at my husband and he blessed me by not responding with an equally grumpy mood. Instead he helped me sort out all the things I was stressed about for the day and helped me figure out some solutions. Then later in the day, one thing got cancelled, and that made it possible for me to do three other things on my list with a lot less stress. And as I realized how much my mood improved just from one cancellation, I started cluing in to how our newly busy schedule was throwing me off kilter in all areas of my life. 

When I reach a certain level of stress, I start grasping at anything to make me feel better and I tend to fall back into my unhealthy coping patterns. Which includes using food for comfort. 

Do I have a solution for this? Not really. But at least I know a lot more what I’m up against. And for me, understanding my behavior always has to be the first step before I can change it. 

Fat Fridays: Stress and Weight Loss are Incompatible

Today has been my first glimmer of hope that I can have a peaceful semester with my children in school. Today, the last of the sick kids went back to school (we are in our second week back, first week back, one child brought two different childhood viruses home). My preschooler went for another staggered day of preschool today (first two weeks he only goes part time, full time starts next week). My homeschooler finally had his first day of homeschooling co-op this week where he got assignments for the next week in all his core subjects. And this morning he diligently sat down for four hours straight and got all his work done without a murmur of complaint. 

I went to an appointment, had a quiet breakfast, did my exercise for the day, cleaned the house, washed the dishes, made some phone calls. I picked up the preschooler from his half day and then we read books together. I’ve got homemade blueberry muffins in the oven for after school snacks for all the kids. I’ve got supper prepped and ready to start slow cooking for the rest of the afternoon. This, right now, is the moment I have been waiting for. A peaceful day where everything is getting done in a non-frantic way. And here I am, writing my blog hafl a day early. Woohoo!

So, let’s talk stress. I did a cursory internet search which gave me all kinds of articles explaining how stress makes you gain weight. Last month, when I was on vacation, I did not stick to my diet. I exercised. I didn’t go crazy. But I was eating donuts. I still managed to lose two pounds. That made me kind of scratch my head in bewilderment, but whatever, I’ll take it. But, now, I am pretty sure that weight loss was connected to how little stress I was under. Yeah, there was wilderness adventure stress, but that was short term, and still not a lot. 

Since I’ve gotten home from vacation, my stress level has been off the charts. The last two weeks my heart has been randomly racing, kicking up my anxiety. Just because. (And yes, I talked to my doctor about it, she said it definitely sounded stress related.) I’ve decided that I’m not going to try and lose weight this month. Just keep exercising (it helps with stress!) and not gain any weight. I know that as we get more and more settled into our new routine, this stress is going to ease up. Lord willing. Or at least get to more manageable levels. Like today. It has been idyllic. I know when the kids come home, the activity will ramp up, but it helps to counterbalance it with a more peaceful morning. 

I am seventeen pounds away from my end of the year goal! Argh! It seems so far away and so hard to do. But I also have a daily goal of staying sane and helpful to the people around me. So, I’m not going to focus on pounds this week. I’m going to keep trying to make good food decisions, but I’m not counting calories right now. 

To any other parent out there who is looking at starting your kids in school soon, while still dealing with pandemic life…

Fat Fridays: Success with Low-Carb

Good morning everyone. I hope your week has gone well. I’ve had a super-busy, super-stressful week. But here I am. It’s Friday. I have survived. 

Despite the craziness of this week, (or maybe because?) I managed to lose FIVE pounds since last Friday. I don’t know if I’ve ever lost that much in one week. Which is great because I had stalled out. I had seventeen days where the scale didn’t budge. Of course, during those seventeen days I went on vacation and ate vacation food and then I went on a retreat and ate retreat food and in general I was eating more processed foods. Last Saturday I decided I was going to take a break from grain and sugar (the two things I crave the most) and see if I could get this weight loss moving again. And apparently, it worked. 

I’ve been trying to be really low-key about it. I keep telling myself I’m just going to do this for a week. This is not forever. I have a tendency to go into binge mode whenever I feel like I’m being deprived. So I’ve been trying to be gentle with whatever it is inside of me that reacts that way. Soothing. It’s Ok! You can do this! You can eat that bag of popcorn next week! (I think the bag of BOOM CHICKA POP sweet and salty kettle corn that is in my cupboard has been the only thing that has offered real temptation.) I haven’t missed rice or gluten-free stuff at all. 

I bought this giant box of SPRING MIX mixed greens and that is quickly becoming a main staple. I also found this stuff called SKINNY GIRL salad dressing that has no fat or sugar and actually tastes really good. Only 10 calories per serving. Yay! Cause I can eat all kinds of salad if I have salad dressing. So, my go-to this week has been a big pile of mixed greens with some tomatoes and then some beans and either some grilled meat or some vegan sausages. Add a sprinkle of cheese and the Skinny Girl Honey Dijon dressing and it’s yummy and filling. I’ve also been eating lots of blueberries. 

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep up the NO GRAIN, NO SUGAR. Losing five pounds is pretty motivating though. I’ll definitely do it again this week and see how things go. 

By the way, this weight loss now puts me at a grand total of FORTY-ONE pounds lost! Woohoo. It’s been 6 months and a week since I started this journey. 

Besides changing my diet, I’ve also been exercising more. Or more intensely. I’ve been getting my 10,000 steps most days and I’ve been jogging three times this week. Plus some yoga and weights and swimming. I am finding that an intense workout really helps with all the stress I’ve been going through. I am feeling strong and fit. Which is a brand new sensation for me. 

Well, I’m off for another week of Low-Carb and exercise. I’ll let you know how it’s going next week!

Fat Fridays: Fatigue

I do not like being tired. I hate it. It feels like I have to do a task that requires 10 units, but I’ve only been given 4 units. And then what do you do? 

Fatigue is one of the leading reasons I started pursuing a better diet and exercise. I needed energy. Really bad. My poor diet messed with my blood sugar. I would eat too many carbs and then my blood sugar would spike and I would feel like I was about to pass out and I would have to lie down. My lack of exercise made climbing the stairs at my house a major event. I felt like I was dragging myself through each day. 

So, I changed my diet, I started really keeping tabs on my carbs, trying to not go over 30grams per meal or snack. I started exercising and felt my endurance growing by leaps and bounds. I now started running up the steps at my house. I stopped taking naps every day. I started averaging about seven hours of sleep, instead of needing eight-plus. I started taking a handful of supplements, like B vitamins and Vitamin D.  And while I will never be accused of being the Energizer Bunny, I felt fine getting through my day. 

And then this past couple weeks happened. Last week I was on a stress-high from the recent gun-violence in my kids’ highschool and our community. Then this week that stress turned into depression. I have barely been able to get out of bed in time in the mornings. I do all my early morning stuff of getting kids off to school, getting young kids fed and settled in, and then I crash mid morning. Fall asleep. And though I don’t sleep too long, it takes me several hours afterwards to get myself up and functioning again. 

I’ve been rolling with it. Been sitting on the couch reading to my little boys instead of trying to tackle grammar and math lessons (I homeschool my six year old). I haven’t attempted to fold the six baskets of laundry, just made sure the kids grab something clean out every night for the next day. I haven’t tried to do any heavy-duty cleaning, just the basic daily tidy-up. My personal trainer is still sending me daily workouts, but twice I’ve traded in a tough workout for a long walk instead. And I’ve just been trying to be patient with myself. Depression is something I’ve fought before and I know it will pass. 

But, I have to say, I’ve been a bit surprised at the fatigue. I think, in the back of my mind, I always presumed that all my fatigue came directly from lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. I never thought a lot about stress and depression being a significant factor as well. But, I think it is. 

The big reminder I’ve had to give myself is, even though my diet and exercise aren’t giving me energy right now, it would be a hundred times worse if I went back to my old lifestyle. I am still nourishing my body in the way it needs, moving it the way it needs. Fatigue is not an excuse to stop. It’s a motivation to keep going. No reason to make this any worse than it already is.