Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How To Be Here

There's a song by one of my throwback singer/songwriter favs, Sara Groves, that goes a little something like this:

"I've been painting pictures of Egypt
and leaving out all it lacks
the future feels so hard
and I wanna go back
but the places that used to fit me
will never hold the things I've learned
those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned."

Oh, gee golly, I'll just let her sing it to you...

And I've been thinking a lot about this song lately.

About the things that I've been holding onto.
About the things I've been glamorizing about the past.
About the things that are keeping me from moving forward.
And now.

We spent two years in Korea. And they were good years, but also hard years. Not everything was perfect or rosy or comfortable. Homesickness is a thing that only magnifies when you're 12 time zones away from your own zipcode. And we've been back in the States for six months now.
And there's this startling phenomenon I've noticed:
from this vantage point, I tend to focus on the 
best of past moments 
the worst of the present moment. 


Lately, Korea has been nothing but exciting cultural lessons.
Great food.
Wonderful travel.
And fun times playing Ultimate Frisbee with people from all over the world.

But I know--because I wrote about it for the past two years--Korea was kinda lonely.
And hard.
And at times isolating.
And confusing.
And frankly, I didn't love most of the food.
And we didn't travel, like, every weekend.
We went to work.
We paid our bills.
And I woke up most mornings thinking about home.
Wishing I were somewhere else.

About a month ago, Jeremy and I had the awesome opportunity to be part of a small, day-long workshop of sorts with Rob Bell. He's that guy that wrote that book that asked a lot of interesting questions that made a lot of evangelicals cranky. And as a result he gained a whole following of interesting and curious people who find themselves somewhere in-between the super-religious church-going world and truth-seeking atheists. The work he's doing lately completely fascinates me. So, I didn't want to miss this opportunity to sit with about 100 other people and listen and ask questions.

Rob presented on his most recent book, called How To Be Here. And if there was a more fitting message I needed to hear at THIS moment in our lives, I haven't found it. I took four pages of notes.

He talks about how our lives are like that blinking line at the beginning of a Word document.
It's either pushing us to do something awesome.
Or scaring us into doing nothing at all.
But it's always there blinking.
Reminding us that life is happening with or without us.

And the most interesting people are those that are doing the work that's in front of them whether that's  selling insurance or driving for Uber. They make it their craft. As much as we like to think that only "lucky folks" get to do the work they love, we fail to realize what there is to love about this moment. This job. This place in time. And so we long for some other place because only then will we be happy. Only then will we be fulfilled. And then, we hope and hope and one day, we die. Never having been happy with a life that was always right. in. front. of. us.

He talks about cultivating a grateful awareness that
we are alive
and we are here
and we get to do this.

I haven't felt much of that grateful awareness lately, but I'm working on it. And I think it begins with being here. With focusing on the goodness that's right in front of me. Now.

And so, right now...
I get to live in America.
I get to live in a place that has friendly northern neighbors.
I get to be in public without being a spectacle.
I get to see my parents every day.
I get to live on a farm.
I get to see the Rocky-freaking-mountains from my window.
I get to drive a car.
I get to see my one year-old niece on the weekends.
I get to communicate in English everywhere I go.
I get to call or text my friends any time, no longer setting up Skype dates once a month.
I get to be a barista.
I get to apply to graduate school.
I get to be a "native" instead of a "foreigner."
I get to go to the grocery store and buy anything I need.
I get to be alive.

I get to be here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ten Years

Ten years ago, I adopted anorexia as my own.

Ten. Years.

That means that ten years ago in March, I started the eating disorder behaviors.

And that six years ago in March, I ended the eating disorder behaviors. 

And those two sentences can seem so small and insignificant, even to me when I'm not careful. When I get so caught up in the here and now, I can forget where I've come from. It can sound like such a small thing to stop eating and then start again, especially on this side of recovery. But all I can tell you is that the space between the "stopping" and the "starting" is where my life truly began.

Because anorexia has very little to do with food.
It has so much to do with:

And bulimia has very little to do with binging and purging.
It has so much to do with:

An eating disorder isn't about being a narcissist who diets too much.
An eating disorder is a spiritual disease. 
Because when you're in it, you feel hopeless.
And when you lack hope, there is a plethora of despair.
And despair disconnects you from life.
And the living of it.

And so the journey between March 2006 and March 2010--onset and recovery--was a journey that saved my life. Because it lead me to:
-writing a book
and most importantly: hope

And I don't think I would have gotten there any other way.


Anne Lamott wrote in her book Traveling Mercies about her own recovery. And she put into words something I couldn't have said better myself:

“It is, finally, so wonderful to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I’m not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, ‘Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement,’ but to that I say Listen! You must not have heard me right; I couldn’t feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here from there. Something happened that I had despaired would ever happen. It was like being a woman who has despaired of ever getting to be a mother but who now cradles a baby. So it was either a miracle- Picasso said, “Everything is a miracle; it’s a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar”- or maybe it was more of a gift, one that required some assembly. But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live- and deciding to live; and it is one of the most radical things I’ve ever done."


I started this blog in 2007 (18 months into my eating disorder) and just as I was leaving for a year abroad in Cambodia. If you want to read any of the older blogs from my recovery journey the past ten years, select the topic labeled "Healing" on the sidebar to the right.

Here are a few you can start with:
-The First Blog I Ever Wrote About the ED
-Thoughts On The Daily Struggles
-How I Might Be Contributing to Another's Eating Disorder
-Stupid Things People Say About Eating Disorders

If you have an eating disorder (or are just interested in the subject of greater self-love and body acceptance), start here:

Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too by Jenni Schaefer

Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders by Aimee Liu

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter

Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

If you have recovered from an eating disorder, read these (but please don't read them any sooner, because they are not easy stories to hear and definitely wouldn't help in your current battle):

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi

Thursday, March 3, 2016

That Time I Was Kind Of, Sort Of a Bigot

"I can spot a Republican a mile away."

This is a thought I've really had.
It's a thing I've never said "outloud" until this very moment.
And there it is.
I said it.

And so when I went to do my civic caucusing duty on Super Tuesday this week, I was pretty positive what I'd find there:
-mostly white people with white hair
-several cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans
-and a few Latinos and Democrats squished into a corner representing a teeny-tiny portion of Weld county, a historically conservative area.

So, when Jeremy and I walked into the middle-school cafeteria where caucusing was taking place, I saw all of the typical people and characteristics that I expected to find there based on how "I can spot Republicans," you know? And then I found "my people": the Democrats, scattered around the room.

We were directed to sit at our district table with other people who lived near to us. It was nice to finally meet some of our neighbors from local farms, because you don't exactly bump into each other when your houses are at least a half-mile apart.

We made small talk. We introduced ourselves. And at one point, I asked, "So why are we all seated at different tables? Are we separated by our favorite candidates or by political party?"

The leader of our group chuckled and said, "Oh, we're all Democrats!"

"So, this table is Democrats, but the other tables are Republicans?"

Again, I could see the surprise in his eyes, when he said, "No, like this whole room is Democrats. The caucusing is separated by party. The Republican caucus is down the street at the high school."

Long pause.

The room grows blurry.

Shame sweeps into my bones like a warm wash.

I've been so terribly wrong.

Now, if you understand anything about the voting process, you might've known already that caucuses are separated by party. But I did not a single ounce of research before showing up, so I came fully-loaded with my assumptions and defenses. It was not my finest moment. And I'm still feeling pretty bad about it.

Because what I really meant when I thought that I could "spot" a Republican, was that I knew who I disagreed with based solely on their appearance. And I had all kinds of ideas about how farmers and country-folk and country music fans must feel and must vote. And that assumption and that idea is basically bigotry.

To be fair to myself, I am not "intolerant" to the views of conservatives.
I have family and friends who vote the exact opposite that I do.
We talk. We engage.
I legitimately want to understand what leads them to their perspectives.
But I can still be real judgey.
And I can put people in a box when I don't know them at all.
But I assume how they would vote.
And that's certainly leading me toward intolerance.

And this is not a fun thing to talk about.
I'd rather not be confessing to my own biases.
But I write this anyway, because I know I'm not alone.

We're doing a lot of arguing right now, aren't we?

I know I'm not the only one who makes assumptions about the other side, regardless of which side you're standing on. Which doesn't create harmony or good conversation, it just makes it easy to write others off. It creates a separation. It builds a wall. It does the very thing that I am most repelled by Donald Trump for doing.

And I've done it.
And I'm sorry.

As the meeting was called to order, we all stood, faced that vibrant red and blue flag, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And as we did, I thought about the other good group of folks down at the high school, standing and saluting their flag and the values of the country they love.

It's kind of a beautiful thing, isn't it? People raising their hands in public support of the issues they care most about. Yeah. I think so.

The conversation at the table went on without me. When I started listening again, I heard people having a kind and civil discussion about their favorite candidates and wanting to understand the views of the other. I listened as people shared family stories from when their great-grandparents first homesteaded outside of Greeley. I talked to a jolly, old farmer across the table: "Did your grandfather ever tell you about the time I sold him that mean bull? I felt so bad about that," and we laughed.

That evening, I talked to a wide range of teachers and pastors and Christians and non-Christians  and moms and dads and Bernie-fans and Hillary-fans and a lot of people who look nothing like me.

But when its all said and done.
You can't tell us apart. 
Because while we are not the same, we are one.

Bless us. Everyone.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Food Experiment (a.k.a. Whole30)

If you've ever reached for a cookie when you were 
stressed or bored or angry
(but not hungry)
you can understand emotional eating.

Very few of us are immune to it. We want comfort from stress and often we eat to fill a void. This doesn't have to equate to a full-blown eating disorder or anything. It doesn't mean you are definitely overweight or in-crisis. It just means that, for many of us, eating is not just about hunger and nourishment.

Since the start of 2016, I've thought and learned a lot about myself when it comes to eating, emotions, and what it takes to fuel my body. This--in big thanks--because of the Whole30 challenge.

For the past two months, our family (Mom, Dad, Jeremy, and I) have been on a "food experiment." I highlight that word intentionally because I am a person who is absolutely opposed to diets. I don't believe in them. They don't work long-term And I grow so weary of the endless cycle of diets I see people (particularly women) going on and going off, going on and going off.

So for the month of January we took the Whole30 challenge.

According to the website: "Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system." So for 30 days we did not eat any sugar, dairy, legumes, or grains. But we have eaten fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and meat. It may sound impossible to go without milk, cheese, bread, or pasta for a month, but according to a few thousand people (and myself), it's obviously not.

We each had specific health concerns that we suspected might be attributed to food sensitivities we didn't really know we had (a.k.a. Mom and I had health concerns, the boys just kindly came along for the ride).

Here is all of the food that went down to the basement, because it was not Whole30 approved!

So, I cleaned out the cupboards and started cooking. And this challenge really tested my go-to cooking routines. Here are some new things I learned how to make this month that took me out of my cooking comfort zone:

-I made almond milk
-I roasted a freaking turkey!
-For the first time, I cooked sirloin steak.
-I roasted cornish hens. Don't ask me what they are, but I ate them.
-Bison? Yeah, I fried up some bison and ate it for breakfast.
-Didn't know what kielbasa was, but I made a delicious hash out of it with apples and bay leaves.
-I learned what ghee is and how to make it at home.
-I made zucchini noodles.
-I cooked with plantains and used them to make "nachos"
-Capers? Yeah, no big deal.
-I used a helluva lotta avocados. We didn't have those in Korea.
-And herbs! I cooked with fresh herbs, like, mint, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and parsley.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I am every homemaker's new kitchen guru.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from the month:
-spaghetti squash with meat sauce
-chocolate chili
-chimchurri sauce

salmon with spiralized carrot and zucchini slaw

chicken curry, roasted vegetables, and cauliflower rice

roasted sirloin steak

roasted veggies, steak, mashed potatoes

pad thai with spaghetti squash

plantain nachos with spicy ground beef

roasted spaghetti squash and ground beef

Them there are cornish hens...

I am happy to say that the four of us went THIRTY freaking days eating only fruit, veggies, nuts, and meat. We were VICTORIOUS!

After the thirty days are over, you've reset your system from common allergenic foods (like dairy, wheat, and soy), so now you need to test which ones might be better to limit/avoid. Because if on day 31 you just go back to your normal eating and feel icky, you won't know which food is the culprit.

So for us, we re-introduced foods this way:
Day 31: dairy
Day 32-33: regular Whole30
Day 34: legumes
Day 35-36: regular Whole30
Day 37: soy
Day 38-39: regular Whole30
Day 40: gluten-free grains
Day 41-42: regular Whole30
Day 43: corn
Day 44-45: regular Whole30
Day 46: wheat grains
Day 47-48: regular Whole30

You get the gist?

Here are some things I've learned:

My needs and wants are very different
After spending thirty days without toast or cereal or rice or desserts, you begin to realize that the foods you rely on because you think you need them are really just wants like nearly everything else. I don't need rice with my curry, I just want it. Since this experiment, I've realized that grains make me a bit constipated. And I feel better when I limit them. So that doesn't mean grains are evil or that I can never eat them again, but when I do, I'm not going to waste it on rice or croutons or something. You better believe it's gonna be a cinnamon roll, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or macaroni and cheese. Every damn time.

I've gotten trapped in a cooking rut
This food experiment made me look outside the box for new foods that were Whole30 approved. Like fish or spaghetti squash or sweet potatoes or beets or unsweetened coconut flakes. It's broadened my ingredient list and added a lot of color (by way of more veggies) to my diet.

Sugar is everywhere and we are all over doing it
We spent 30 (well, more like 58) days without any added sugars. No sugar, no coconut sugar, date sugar, palm sugar, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, or Stevia. That meant plain coffee and tea. That meant no ketchup from the store. That meant most marinara sauces. Most chicken broths. Most of...a lot of things you wouldn't suspect have sugar added to them. Like, chicken breast anyone? Yeah, that's just silly. But beyond added sugars, nearly all starches and grains end up being digested as carbohydrates and inevitably sugar. That's why all of our "comfort foods" usually have bread or noodles in them. It's dang satisfying and terribly addictive. I'm not determined to live a sugar-free life, but just a less-sugared life.

The Whole30 really made me ask a lot of questions about
-What is the purpose of food?
-Do I need a cookie right now or a hug?
-If I can eat this way for thirty days, what's stopping me from eating this way for longer?

Have you done the Whole30?
What was your experience?