Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Energy? Are you here to stay?

You guys. Over the past two weeks, I've only napped three times.

That's like some sort of world record, isn't it?

Since Christmas, I've made some lifestyle changes that I suspect have made a big difference in my overall well-being. It started out with a 3-week Beach Body Challenge initiated by my gorgeous cousin Lorette, and culminated in an 8-week Wellness Challenge at my workplace. I'm not gonna lie: my primary motivation for most of the changes I made was the thought that I'd made a $15 investment into the prize pot and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to get that cash back. I would ask myself, "Do you want to skip this workout or do you want $100? Do you want a cookie or do you want $100?" And I would totally do the workout or eschew the cookie.

But, far beyond the cash prize that I'm planning to claim soon, this health revolution has worked out incredibly well for me.

Here are some of the changes I've made that have helped beat back The Tired:

DAILY Exercise 
For years, I've been a devoted three-times-a-week exerciser. I didn't think it was even possible for me to exercise every day. That seemed like something only crazy people would do. But I decided to give it a try. And, by golly, it WAS possible. Not only possible, but even a little addicting. I'm currently rotating through Jillian Michaels' Ripped in 30 and 30 Day Shred (7 different workouts) for my morning exercise fix. I sometimes hate these workouts while I'm doing them, but I NEVER regret doing them. And I've grown awesomely strong over these past two months.

My legs have always twitched a lot while I 'm sleeping, and I've recently been suspecting that I have a disorder called PLMD, which can be exacerbated by SSRI medications  (anti-anxiety/depression meds), which I've been taking for over a decade. The daily exercise gave me the courage to try tapering off my medication. I've been med-free for two months. So far, I've felt better than ever. And guess what? Abe reports that I haven't been twitching as much at night.

I've been in bed by 10 and up by 6 almost every single day for the past 8 weeks. They say a consistent sleep schedule is best. They might just be right.

Fruits and Veggies 
Our company's wellness goal was to eat three servings of fruits or veggies a day. That sounds weak-saucey, right? But it turns out I wasn't doing that consistently. Once I got into the habit of three-a-day, it wasn't hard at all to bump it up to at least 5-a-day.

Now I generally start my day with zucchini scrambled with eggs, served with a stalk of celery  and peanut butter. Lunch is often a yam, plus a fruit, vegetable, and some sort of protein. My afternoon gets a boost with a green smoothie with a sprinkling of chia seeds for protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. And at dinner I just eat whatever with the family, though I always include at least one fruit or veggie with the meal.

I've made a rule that I won't eat anything I don't love just because "it's good for me," so I've been exploring salad and soup recipes that make it actually enjoyable to work all that produce into my diet.

Daily Centering Time
Every morning I spend at least 20 minutes with A Course in Miracles. This incredible book is divided into"text" and "workbook" sections. The book's teachings have really helped me address and cope with many of my anxieties. I have also felt closer to God than I ever have in my entire life. I actually find myself WANTING to pray. (This has not been a normal state of affairs for me.)  

On this wellness challenge, we were avoiding sugar-based goodies, but we were allowed one "free" day each week. This was a perfect balance for me because it got me out of the habit of eating every sugary treat that happened to cross my path, but also left me feeling like I wasn't trapped in a dark world without sugar-spun happiness. I COULD have a treat, if I really wanted it. So every time I encountered a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream or a bunch of raw cookie dough, I'd ask myself: Did I want THIS treat to be The One? Usually the answer was no, but sometimes it was yes, and that has worked out great for me.

I was always a pretty big water drinker, but I've made a more conscientious effort to drink at least 3 liters of water per day, per the Beach Body challenge group I participated in earlier. It's easy for me to drink two water bottles before work, two during work, two after work, and then a little more water with dinner.

So what's next? 

For the next eight weeks, I'm going to be focusing on continuing with the above habits and add the following two:

After-Work Routine
I get home from work at about the same time the kiddos get home from school. Traditionally, this has been a time for me to eat a ton of cereal, force my eyelids open while I made the kids do chores, and then crash while they had their "hour" of screen time. (Not gonna lie: I'd let often extend that time in exchange for more sleep. I will seriously sell my soul for more sleep when I'm that tired.)

These past two weeks, however, I've come home, done a little yoga, and made myself a big fat green smoothie as an afternoon snack. I have felt so much better and am excited to see how I feel after doing it for eight more weeks.

5-Minute Gratitude Journal
Every night before bed I'll spend five minutes writing about as many blessings as I can remember from the day. I've done this off and on over the years and love getting into the habit of looking for things to celebrate each day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reading Journal

Here are my most recent reads:

Murder at the Abattoir by F.S. Barrow
I actually edited this book, which was written by a friend of ours. This is the first in a series of novels that follow the adventures of Phillip Strickland, a retired FBI agent-turned-private detective. In one of his earliest cases as a PI, Phil finds himself investigating the disappearances of several young women, only to discover the very disturbing truth about where they've gone. As its editor, I'm rather attached to the book, so it's hard to be unbiased, but I thought it was a fun read. I really like Phil, the main character, and am currently editing the second book about him.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This was an intriguing read. I loved the first third of the book, which I read mostly outside, stretched out on the porch swing in the warmth of summertime dusk. The author's writing style is very cheerful, descriptive, and endearing, and I loved the character that he created in Pi, a sweet, young Indian boy with a deep love for all things religious. The second third of the book, in which Pi's fortunes take an unfortunate turn, leaving him floating with a tiger on a life raft in the Atlantic ocean, was not as charming, but still interesting. The final third of the book wandered off into the realms of the absurd and I stopped liking the book altogether at that point. I'd still recommend it, though. The writing is too good to miss.

The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I love any novel that includes Detective Aloysius Pendergast. Sometimes I'll just start missing him, like an old friend, and find myself checking out one of his books just to spend some time together. Preston and Child didn't disappoint with this one. I love their combined vocabularies and senses of humor and novel structuring and, of course, their characters, who, while they don't seem exactly real, are lovable inhabitants of the world of fiction.

1984 by George Orwell
This is classic, intriguing look at a totalitarian society carried to its logical extreme. I hadn't read this since I was 15, and it was an entirely different book from my adult perspective. Much more sex than I'd ever noticed before, for one, but I was also interested in Orwell's ideas about how power is gained and maintained over other human beings.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh my goodness. This book is truly a work of art. It is hundreds of pages of powerful poetry-like prose*, in which you stand as a compassionate witness of the lives of his characters during the second world war. This book helped open my heart more to the experiences of German soldiers conscripted unwillingly into the war, and it also reminded me of the ways in which the people of Europe suffered during this time. It is a story about love and loss and courage and resilience and innocence and loss of innocence. Read this.

(*I'll admit, at first the prose felt a little over-the-top, but once I settled into the rhythm, I loved it.)

The Negotiator by Dee Henderson
I ran into an old college friend at the local library and complained to her about the lack of selection. She quickly ran to the Christian fiction section, pulled this one from the shelf, and told me that I HAD to read it. So I did. It was okay. It was fairly predictable and super cheesy, but it wasn't an unpleasant read. If you're into light, adventure-filled, Christian fiction peopled with two-dimensional characters, this book is for you.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney
I read this at Soren's recommendation. (How fun is it that I have a kid who can recommend books to me???) It was actually pretty hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud frequently. I also read one of its sequels, Rodrick Rules, and didn't like it as much, but Soren assures me that it's not one of the better ones. He says I should read Cabin Fever next. I shall!

A Brief History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I LOVED this book. With his characteristically personable and humorous personality, Bryson is the PERFECT person to research and write about science for the average person. He covers everything from atoms to evolution and does so in an extraordinarily engaging way. I particularly enjoyed his insightful history of science, which is packed with some hilariously quirky human beings. I was also surprised to learn how dogmatic science can be, and how difficult it is to introduce new models and theories into the mainstream.

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
It took me a while to get into this book, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I learned a lot about life on board a British ship in the late 18th century and a little about precolonial Tahitian culture. Mutiny on the Bounty was not a quick read, but it was ultimately a very satisfying one.

Timeline by Michael Crichton
The book is MUCH better than the movie, if you were ever unfortunate enough to see the movie. It was a fun and interesting book, twining together quantum physics and medieval history.

Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
This is an adoption story, because I don't read enough of those at work.

Lauren is a gifted storyteller, someone you connect with quickly and easily. She honestly describes her journey from being a stripper and heroin addict to being a wife and a mother of a very challenging child. Her journey takes you on the road with her husband's rock band, through the trials of infertility treatments, into the heart of Ethiopia (where they adopt their son), and back into suburban LA, where they struggle through their first several happy but difficult years of parenting. I very much enjoyed this book and plan to read her first memoir, Some Girls.

It has been a very good six months of reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stuff I Forgot to Include in All Those Catch-up Posts

On the way home from Physical Therapy. For some reason, Soren wanted to be REALLY close to his brother, so they're sharing a seatbelt here. As I recall, Liam eventually got annoyed with the breech of his personal bubble and a fight ensued. For for a little while, it was pretty darn adorable. 

Liam acquired some superhero goggles at a fast food restaurant run with Grandpa. He also found a tiny plastic squirt gun. The two combined for hours of fun and repose. 

 Stack of lovies. 

More shots from Liam's birthday.  

Occasionally the boys still like to be wrapped up like burritos.  

This was taken while we were moving into our new house. The kids had found some stuffing and were making themselves comfortable in the new place by making a mess in their new room.  

Soren loves his baby cousin Rebecca.

My parents gave us a new porch swing as a house warming gift. 
(Oh, right, maybe I haven't mentioned this? In April we moved into a new home in a neighboring town. We love the home and the town and the porch swing whole bunch.) 
Anyway, we've spent many a happy hour on the swing (Liam calls it "the outside chair,") including doing some serious reading. Can you guess what book this is from this illustration? 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lies I Have Lived

I've never been a big fan of lying. I could barely watch Aladdin as a kid because the title character's compulsive dishonesty threw me into paroxysms of vicarious guilt and shame. "Just tell her the truth!" I would scream at him. "The truth is so much easier!"

I was right, of course. The truth is so much easier. Even if it's more painful up front, I've found that the day-by-day toxic IV drip of prolonged deception is much worse than the ripped-off-Band-aid sting of bald truth.

Which is why I'm not sure what possessed me when, as a 19-year-old, I told a boy I was dating that I loved classic rock artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.

Well, that's not entirely true. I know what possessed me. I was trying to look cool.

He had asked me what kind of music I liked. At the time, it seemed to me that all the sexy boys were into oldish weirdish counterculturish hippyish music, and I figured I could score points by showing that I, too, enjoyed deep music, not all that shallow contemporary crap. In my mind, liking Tom Petty was similar to knowing how to skateboard or being a registered Democrat. It was edgy and attractive.

The truth was, I could not have named you a single Bob Dylan or Tom Petty song. Not a one.

"Oh yeah? Bob Dylan?" was the boy's amused response. "You would get along really well with my dad. He loves Bob Dylan."

Curses. No points scored for coolness there.

"Me?" he went on. "I'm more into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette."

Double curses.  I was into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette. But there was no turning back now. I had committed to my love of Tom Petty Bob Dylan Music, whatever the heck genre that was.

"Hmm," I sniffed, trying to come off as smugly tolerant. "Interesting. That stuff's okay too, I guess. We can listen to some if you want."

My vain foray into untruth was something I could have gotten away with, had this ended up being a quick fling, a few dates and then nothing. But of course, we got serious.

The first time I met this boy's dad, he was very excited. "I hear you like Bob Dylan!" he exclaimed.

"Oh man, do I ever," I said, my stomach breaking out in an acid sweat. I was worried he was going to want to start talking shop. Fortunately for me, the conversation moved in other directions. I was safe--at least for the time being. But I knew my luck wouldn't hold forever.

The very next day, I dropped fifteen bucks on a Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits CD. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. It wasn't bad. Dude had some harmonica skills, for sure. And interesting lyrics. "Subterranean Sunset Blues" was pure poetry.

I kept the album in my car and listened to it on continuous repeat for weeks. When I had analyzed all the words and memorized a few pieces completely, I started to believe that I really was a Bob Dylan fan. Yep, that was me: a regular hip music aficionado.

I now felt more confident crossing the threshold of my boyfriend's parents house. We could now safely discuss Bob Dylan. I even passed a happy evening watching a videotaped Jethro Tull concert with his dad. (Who knew that the flute could be a rock instrument? And so artfully played by a fellow standing on one foot?)

Eventually, things with that boyfriend went sour. As the months passed, I started to sense that he hadn't been honest with me. Not intentionally dishonest, but I could start to see, in my limited 19-year-old way, that he had bent and squeezed and contorted himself into the shape of the guy he thought I wanted him to be. And as a result, in the end, neither of us knew who he really was.

When we parted ways, my Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album went back to its home within the plastic sleeves of my CD binder. I don't think I've listened to it since.  

Stake Pioneer Day Picnic

Our stake put on a Pioneer Day Picnic and it was truly a good time. At one point Liam completely disappeared. Soren and I ran around desperately trying to find him, only to eventually realize that he had hopped a train. I should have known.

Here's my child, riding around in a toy train with complete strangers. 

At first, Soren was too cool for the train ride, but he finally gave in and went for a few circles around the park.

The boys in their new jackets. The Captain America jacket is proof that happiness can be bought. It's available in Target stores everywhere for just $18.99. I love to tease Liam about actually being Captain America, because he takes it very seriously. He will take off his hood and unzip his jacket to show me that he's actually just Liam. Soren also enjoys his Minecraft-themed "Creeper" jacket (never thought I'd have a kid who willingly referred to himself as a creeper). 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To: Me From: Exhaustion

Dear Rachel,

The Tired here. I read what you wrote about me earlier. It's cute that you think I'm here as a teacher and a friend. Sad for you, I will only ever be your tormentor and arch nemesis. Bwahahahahahahaha! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I kid.

I'm actually glad to hear that you've decided to welcome me into your life. I realize I'm not your favorite, but I'm not going anywhere for a while, and it's for your own good. I do have a few things I want you to learn. And since I'm aware that you spend your days editing internet articles, I'll put this into a format I know you'll be comfortable with. Ahem.

7 Things I Am Trying To Teach You By Keeping You Insanely Tired All The Time

1. Your worth is not dependent on your accomplishments. 
For too many years, you have judged your worth as a human being by the number of items you've been able to check off your to-do list by the end of the day. You must learn that it is who you are, not what you do, that gives you value, that makes you precious and irreplaceable.

2. Identify your priorities. 
I have taken away all but a few of your precious hours each day. I've done this so that you can understand that there are many ways for you to spend your time, but just a few that will feed your soul and make the world a better place. Figure out what (more importantly, who) is most important to you, and strip life down to those essentials.

3. Be grateful.
Appreciate the feeling of the earth beneath your feet. Relish the sound of your husband's voice as he reads Matilda aloud to your son. Enjoy the antics of your coworkers. Appreciate little hands tucked into yours. Marvel at a sunset. Savor a life lived without pain, without hunger, in freedom, in sunlight. Focus on what you have, not on what you don't.

4. Take it one day at a time. 
Don't think about all the things you need to do in a week, a month, a year. Write down the things you want to accomplish and focus on what you need to do today, just today, to meet those goals. It is true that "through small and simple are great things brought to pass."

5. Know that you can do hard things.
You are strong. You are a warrior. Even when life is hard, you can do it. Even when dreams are hard, you can chase them. Find a way. If a paraplegic can complete an Iron Man, you can write a novel.

6. Nurture yourself.
Give yourself permission to nap when you need to. Feed yourself good food, even when I tell you it would be so much easier to just eat cereal. Sit and read sometimes. Listen to NPR while you cook dinner. Dance with the kids. Allow music and poetry to percolate in your soul. Sit. Breathe.

7. Fear is not your friend. 
Fear is wrapped up in all of the above, in one form or another, but I will tell you now: fear has nothing to offer you. It will only ever hurt you, strip you of hope, leave you alone, and suck away your strength. Put it down. Walk away. Don't look back.

And that, my friend, pretty much summarizes the lessons I'm currently planning on teaching you. I'm excited for us to spend time together exploring these essentials. And who knows? Maybe more lessons will emerge in the process. But I promise you this: When we're done here, you will be glad I came. Because I will have made it possible for you to live a fuller, richer, deeper life.

You're welcome.

Your Friend,

The Tired

Beating the Heat

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm So Tired of Being Tired.

For the past three years, I have been tired. Really tired. Unnaturally tired.

Before I experienced this, if someone had told me that they were having a hard time because they were "always tired," I would have given them a cynical look and said, "Right. Always tired. Welcome to adulthood."

But it's different, this Tired that I have. The Normal Adult Tired, it's something you can live with. You know you'd sure appreciate a nap, but you've got all these things to do, and a little tiredness isn't going to stop you.

My Tired is different. I know, because I've experienced both. This Tired is like having weights tied to your arms and legs, like having a brick in  your chest, like trekking through mud while a giant cosmic hand presses down on you from above. You can power through it for a while, but eventually your spirit starts to tremble and all you can think about is collapsing on the spot. And you do.

Little things, like checking your voice mail or mailing a check to pay a bill, loom large like mountains. Big things, like painting the kitchen table or turning apples into applesauce, seem nearly impossible. You cry every time you see your son's scouting book, the symbol of one more responsibility that you just. can't. handle.   I watch in envious silence as women around me hustle and bustle and do all the things I wish I could do.

I have done everything I can think of to shake off this relentless exhaustion. I've seen doctors and had numerous blood tests run. (Everything looks fine.) I've tried eating a freakishly healthy diet. I've kept a gratitude journal. I've tried positive affirmations. I've begged God for healing. I've exercised consistently. I've taken supplements. I've switched from one antidepressant medication to another to another.

So far, nothing has helped.

In fact, it seems to be getting worse. It's becoming almost all-consuming. I hate it. I've wept and cried and screamed at how frustratingly difficult and overwhelming everyday life has become. I used to be a productive and active person. Now I do the bare minimum to get by. I'm too young to be so tired, I insist angrily to the universe. The universe stands quietly by. My kids need a mom who has vigor and vim, I shout. My voice echoes off the vast emptiness. I want to foster children. I want to give them a home, security, consistency--but I need energy to do that, I plead. Silence.

This Exhaustion seems hell-bent on staying in my life. For whatever reason, God has decided to leave it here.

So I've decided to change tactics.

I've decided to open my arms and accept The Tired into my life. As a teacher. As a blessing in disguise. As an opportunity for growth. As a way to build strength and courage. The wind, it can be cold and miserable, but it can also fill the sails of a ship and take you where you want to go.

I've decided to unfurl my sails and use this wind to take me to new and beautiful places.

I would tell you more about my new strategy, but I'm about spent for now. I'm going to take a nap. More later.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Camping Trip 2015

We took a little family camping trip this last June to Swan Valley. It was a short little trip (just one night), but successful, in that we all had fun and the children actually slept the entire night. (Well, they did wake up in the middle of the night to whisper-fight over their shared blankets, but they didn't even try to involve me or Abe, so I call that a win.) 

Activities included: 

A water fight between Abe and the children,

Sword fighting in a park in Swan Valley (after square ice cream was consumed, of course),

and a wrestling match in the tent (you can see evidence of our previous marshmallow roasting on Soren's shirt):

Besides all of this aggressive testosterone-letting, we also did a little walking, a little creek wading, and a little reading. 'Twas pleasant. Maybe next year we'll go for two nights. 


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