Dec 1, 2017

The Biggest Holiday Surprise...

Well Kids, it's that time again--Season's Greetings.

Today I want to talk about what is probably the biggest surprise realization of my adult life, or at least my parenting one. Providing food, clothes, shelter, and love/belonging, blah blah blah...that stuff is important for sure, but the responsibility for another person's life wasn't as much a shock to my system as this little point:

Being the parent means I am now responsible for providing the Christmas magic. I am the Magic Maker.

It's kind of funny to admit that this is a recent discovery for me. I mean, for almost 20 years now the Cat Daddy and I have been negotiating decorations, trees, the amount and intensity of family gatherings and tree lighting (we agree on white lights, Amen and Amen), and how we "do" the holidays. That part is reasonable. Mostly.

The part I've been wrestling with is that magical feeling I remember as a kid, and how it became very elusive when my own kids came along. I started feeling vaguely blah toward the holidays. The Joyous Season deteriorated into piles of stuff I had to buy and do, and I felt a little bit like Charlie Brown amid the mess of pink Christmas Trees, exhausted and confused by the magic that didn't feel very magical (or meaningful).

After years of stabbing in the dark at various traditions, and way too often hiding in a corner emotionally, waiting for stuff to fall into place, I realized that I wasn't feeling the magic because I wasn't making the magic, and as the Magic Maker that is precisely my holiday privilege and pleasure.

I wasn't sure where to start, so I looked at the Magical families around me. Not necessarily the most cheerful or decorated, or really the most anything. I looked at families where they all seemed to be enjoying each other and having a meaningful time together, and where the mom wasn't over in a corner offering an exhausted, passive-aggressive accompaniment to the occasion (who, me???). My main sources of info were Facebook and past in-person memories, so throw in all the caveats and grains of salt with that, but it was enough to get an overall impression.

The main thing I noticed was that everyone was truly different. Some families held big annual events, and celebrated every special holiday touch, and summoned gentle snow showers on command because they were that Magical. Some families were pretty darn plain on the holiday spectrum, and mostly stayed home and sat around the tree, and were quite content to do so. And then of course most of the families fell somewhere in between. So I thought about what I wanted our Christmases to feel like.

As chief Magic Maker, the first thing I decided was that Grumpy Mom was not very magical, so I took a good, long look at my life. I had tried on enough traditions throughout the years to decide which ones were keepers and which were making me Grumpy. I just had to make note of them; to remind myself.

This was the beginning of my Happy Xmas List.

It's Happy 'Xmas' and not Happy 'Christmas' precisely because it's all about the trappings and prep, and only peripherally about the Baby Jesus (Baby Jesus is another post). A minor point which I'm not sure makes any difference at all, except it's slightly quicker to write, and saving time keeps me from getting Grumpy.

It started as a piece of scrap paper a year or two ago. I wrote down holiday stuff that makes me happy. I wrote and thought, and crossed out and wrote, and thought and wrote a little more, until I was (reasonably) happy with it. I ended up with 3 main items that I then migrated to my Bullet Journal so I no longer had to worry about misplacing my Happy Xmas scrap paper (losing key info makes me Grumpy). It goes as follows:

Item 1: Timeline. Every year around October I know to start thinking about stuff. I've always vaguely known "Oh I should starting thinking about that," but now I've chosen dates that MAKE me think about stuff in a timely fashion. Grumpy Mom thinks it is ridiculous to start planning in early-fall, but Practical Mom knows I will be much less grumpy when I'm not tying up loose ends at the last minute or feeling ashamed for being late with gifts.

I don't actually have to DO anything until after Thanksgiving; just kind of mentally prepare thru November. It gives me a game plan and gets my head in the right place to remember the extra efforts I want to make toward providing the magic, so I don't forget when I'm tired.

Item 2: Table. With 3 columns. First are the Must-Do's: the things that absolutely MUST occur for it to feel like Christmas to me or someone in my family. Then there are the Nice-to-Do's, which are exactly that, but if they don't happen it won't feel like something is missing. And indeed, letting some of those slip off the list leaves behind more mental space for the Must-Do's. I'd rather up the magic quotient on fewer things, because weak-sauce magic makes me Grumpy. And finally, there are the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals--the BHAG's. These are ideas I LOVE, and I want them on my list so I don't forget to do them someday, but for various reasons I don't have the capacity to pull them off YET. Like summoning gentle snow showers on command.

Item 3: Names. Just the family members we give gifts to each year. So we don't forget the major players.

That's it. Just enough structure so I don't feel like I'm awash in tradition, but plenty of room for improvisation and revision.

Last year I focused on sticking only to the list. I still wasn't great about getting all the gifts out on time, but just the same it was a HUGE sanity-saver. Something would pop into my head "You should do this..." and I was all "Nope, don't need it. I'm good with what we have." Or someONE would say "You should do this..." and I would say "I have zero capacity to handle that, but I give you my 100% blessing to make it happen."

This year somehow I have the capacity to think about decorations (Nice-to-Do), and I realized except for some meaningful pieces from family and friends, we just had a hodgepodge of random things accumulated over the years. So I'm donating the stuff no one cares about (sorry random stuff, but it's true), and hopefully it will go to a more appreciative home and get more use. And now we are talking about what we'd like to see around the house to make it feel festive.

And do you know what I'm noticing? It's much more fun for everyone this way. I'm not (as) Grumpy anymore, and my Magic is contagious. Granted, my kids still want every single thing they see on TV and at friends' houses, but what they really get excited about is when Mom & Dad share their excitement. And when I'm focused on doing fewer things well, it leaves space for my own excitement, and also to pick up on subtle cues that are specific to my kids. You guys, this year I bought a Paw Patrol Advent calendar. It is kind of ridiculous, but Paw Patrol is a favorite in our house, and they love that I surprised them with it (suck it, Inner Critic!!).

In conclusion, I tend to be a late-bloomer so I wouldn't be surprised if you have worked out many of these details for yourself already. I'm happy to join your ranks, and I wish you a great time this month, being the Magic Maker for those you love. Go make your own Magic.

PS--you may notice I didn't go too much into specifics. That was on purpose, because specifics are so...specific. If you'd like some ideas, Tsh over at the Art of Simple did a helpful podcast on the topic of holiday prep. I listened AFTER I wrote my list, and it was reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed by ALL the choices.

Nov 13, 2017

One Cup Sugar and One Cup Ambivalence...

You guys.  We have to have a talk. A quick one, because kids and school and all that other stuff, but I need to put something out there. Sugar.

Sugar is what I have to put out there. I've mentioned in a couple of posts about my ongoing nutritional odyssey, and how I've realized that sugar does not have my best interests at heart, and all that. Well, I've been sort of motoring along until the last couple weeks, when I started a short-term regimen that, among other things, includes zero sugar. None.

I started it the day after Halloween, which was painful but I think it was the best I could do given the time of year. I didn't want to start it before Halloween because I was uncertain of my ability to stay away from any candy completely. I think that part was a smart move. I spent the evening eating ALL the candy, and savoring all the tastes, and observing that American candy really isn't that good, but those shiny wrappers and the combined smells really do a number on my brain, convincing me that I must. eat. it. ALL.

The rest of the week was rough with a capital R. I mean, changing habits is hard to begin with, but changing habits with a sugar hangover is double-tough. Triple tough when you are the only one in your family changing habits, and there are still two bowls of devil-sugar taunting you because your children took their pillowcases out for trick-or-treating, and you get zero sugar.

As the week went on though, I felt my brain clearing. I mean, still full of the myriad thoughts I have dancing around up there, but somehow a little more orderly and less shouty and depressive. And I thought "well, crud," because this means that while feeling better is great, it is yet another data point in a pattern showing me that I really, REALLY need to consider sugar's role in my life, and that likely means drawing some sharp lines about where it is and is not allowed.

I'm telling you all of this because I think maybe this is close to the epitome of ambivalence. It is a great and tragic irony that something so sweet and pleasant as sugar should cause so much trouble for many of us. I've always prided myself on not having addiction issues, but really the truth is that my addiction issues are socially acceptable, and even encouraged, but still very, very present.

Maybe it's not sugar for you, but maybe I'm not alone in this. I wonder if we all have something in our lives that isn't bad, per se, but is causing us more trouble and grief than we realize. And I know that last sentence sounds kind of heavy for such a light topic as delightfully sweet confections, but that's kind of how I feel about the whole thing. It's kind of hilarious, and also bigger than that.

These are the things I'm thinking about lately. And so I bid you a wonderful oncoming week, and a happy and good day.


Oct 11, 2017

Why I Wore Jeans to Work Today...

Parents in the civilized world are familiar with the sort of day I’m having today. It’s not a bad or good day (yet). It’s not even a particularly frenetic day. But it is a FULL day.

Wednesdays are great because they are my short day at work. For some reason, I tend to have a lot of meetings on Wednesdays, but that works alright because I can have meetings all morning and then cut and run for school dismissal, because our district has half days every Wednesday. So Wednesdays are the day I allow for things to get started and talked about, but not necessarily done, at least at work.

Home is a different story though. Since we are off early, Wednesdays are when we DO stuff. Wednesdays are for the library, talking about and tackling interesting projects at home, and other things that the regular school day doesn’t usually allow for. We have a lot of appointments on Wednesdays.

Today we will go straight from school to a follow up with the pediatric GI specialist, who is helping some of us make great strides with feeling well and all systems functioning, and being glad to start the day, or at least not hating it so much. Since it’ll be a quick turn, and since half-day Wednesday also means no lunch at school, we will eat apple slices and leftover pizza on the way to the pediatric GI specialist, where we will also meet with a nutritionist, who will hopefully convince some of us that more fruits and vegetables are a GREAT idea for feeling well and helping all systems function, because WE DON’T BELIEVE OUR MOTHER.

After that we will have a little time at home to gather karate uniforms and get our heads on straight. I MAY have time for my daily collagen mug cake treat (please, dear Lord, amen), and the boys will do their dog-walking gig, and then most of us will head off to karate, except His Highness, who will stay behind because he has a scout meeting.

I have things on my list to accomplish while I gaze proudly upon my little grasshoppers learning their katas and life lessons. The thing I like about karate is that there are only so many things I can do, sitting in the parent area, so karate is also becoming my time to read paper books. I finished Quiet by Susan Cain a couple weeks ago, and I’m still figuring out which one in my pile to start next. Of course, there’s also Secret Society on my phone…

The unfortunate thing about Wednesday karate is that it runs straight over and through my normal dinner cooking time, so tonght we will eat out. I may pick up McD’s on the way home, but I’m still mulling that one over. The Cat Daddy is usually more than willing to cook dinner on karate nights, but the thing about tonight is that I have a district roundtable meeting for scouts, and I don’t want to do dishes. I want to wipe down the counters and organize the kitchen, but that will become extremely more difficult to achieve if I also have dishes to clean. So take-out it is.

After that I will go to said meeting, while the Cat Daddy holds down the fort and wrestles the cherubs into their beds, which in our house is a bigger challenge than I feel it should be. I mean, I LOVE going to bed, but my people don’t share my love of bedtime. Which to me is crazy, because they don’t even have to worry about back exercises and foam rolling and all of that, but all I can say is they don’t comprehend what delights await when they learn to appreciate sleep.

Thinking about all of that this morning, as I looked into my closet and felt the weight of the day. I wanted to look presentable, but given the time constraints I needed something that would last the day, going to all these different things, and sitting in these different spaces, and juggling all these different roles. Business-casual-be-darned, I needed to feel as comfortable and bada$$ in my own skin as possible, standing there doing my power pose.

That is why I wore jeans to work today.

Sep 28, 2017

Things I'm Stoked About...

There are lots of things I'm excited about lately. Some of them will resonate more than others...

--His Highness is running cross country on his middle school team this year. He is having a GREAT start, and he is hitting times at 10.5 years old that I never hit at my fastest in high school. At least part of it is that he is tall for his age and has legs for miles (<-----see what I did there??), and other than that he just really likes to run, and is learning from his coaches how to run stronger and smarter. Boy do I love watching him go...

--Fat tea. Seriously. My go-to treat drink is a Venti Iced White Tea with cream from that one coffee place. No sweetener necessary, as the white tea is milder than regular black tea. When I'm home I do my iced hay-barn tea and add an unsweetened coconut/almond milk blend. It turns out if you give me an icy-cold drink with a dash of some sort of fat and put a straw in it, I'm as happy as I would've been 10 years ago with an icy-cold Mexican Coke in my hand. And don't even get me started on Matcha Frappuccinos...

--Speaking of all this unsweetened nonsense, it seems to be a side-effect of my continuing nutritional odyssey. As I get better at making AWESOME foods, and my body keeps adjusting accordingly (PANTS GOALS), I'm not craving or tolerating sweetness nearly as much as when I started this whole thing. I mean, I like a little sweetness, but a few weeks ago we made these crazy jello-encrusted marshmallow things. We did them in all the colors, and put them on skewers, and called them Unicorn Kabobs, and they looked and smelled AMAZING. But when I took a bite I nearly fell into a coma from the overwhelming shot of sugar. A small part of me is sad, but it's kind of like one door closing and another opening in that I'm finding so many new tastes I didn't know before. It's a little hard to explain, and I feel like it's starting to sound a little ridiculous, so moving on...

--My village of helpers. I turned 40 a week or so ago, although I feel more like a super-wise 28. It turns out when you crack me open, waiting inside is a person who can be quite delightful sometimes, but also can be a lot of work, and needs a lot of help to maximize awesomeness. My continuing back-saga? Extremely boring (in a good way) as of late, as long as I'm regular about my chiro visits and PT maintenance. Running? Always learning and improving, with the help of my coach and online community. Nerd work? Pretty sure I have no idea what I'm doing...just like most everyone...and therefore leaning heavily on stuff like asking questions and doing sanity checks and interacting with co-workers, and just sitting down and working. Avoiding the Pits of Despair? That's what friends are for. And so many other things. At my default I often wish I could be an island, but you guys, I can't even make my hair look good without help from my hairdresser, who taught me how to Respect the Curl. The wisdom of 40 is knowing just how much I need other people...

--Bedtime. I get so excited about it every day. I LOVE sleep; it's my favorite thing. I'm still figuring out if I have a healthy-ish perspective about it or if I maybe love it a little too much, but more help in that area is pending...

--Hard work and growth. I've said it several times recently, but it's where I'm at, folks. Every week there are new challenges. About 50% of the time I wonder if they're the wrong kind of challenges because I'm not always having fun like some of those inspirational podcasts promise, but I'm practicing 'leaning in,' (hate that term; using it anyway), doing what I can when I can, and setting boundaries (mostly with myself)...and life seems to be going on. Bedtime comes quickly most days which, given my sentiments above, I'm counting as a WIN...

--Lots of other things. But it is past bedtime now, and my bed is calling sweetly to me, so I'd best be off. I'm sure you understand that this is WINNING...

Sep 21, 2017

Brain Crowding...

Is anyone else's brain full to the point of overflowing? Is it just me?

I don't think it's just me. In fact, I KNOW it's not just me. The bulk of discussions at school last year were about how His Highness clearly has so much going on up in his big, bright brain, and how we all could help him learn to focus a little, and how some of the teachers felt they would be exhausted to be in his head for a day.

I nodded and said, "Well, he comes by it honestly."  So there are at least one or several people who have whatever this is as well. There is just SO MUCH. On good days I marvel at the promise of all there is to think about and do. On bad days, well, the opposite of that happens--I'm certain I will fall over under the weight of it all.

I'd love to tell you the steps I'm taking to stem the tide a little, organize my thoughts and tasks, and whatnot, but I'm not even there yet. Just when I decide on a course of action, some other shiny thing pops up, going "Think about MEEEEEEE! You need to learn more Spanish NOW! You need a side-hustle! You need to cultivate your work wardrobe more! You need to go watch on YouTube about the Spitfire Sisters of the UK!" Not even kidding--that's all within the last hour.

All that said, I'm aware of what is going on, of the crowding of thoughts at the expense of my doing and being, so that is progress.

And it's lunchtime, so that's all I have to say for now...

Aug 16, 2017

Camp Wisdom...

We went to family camp a couple weeks ago. Last year we had such a good time that we re-booked before we even came home, and THIS year we did the same thing. Family camp is becoming our summer thing.

The reason it is so great is that at family camp we can truly relax. Several families from church attend the same week, so there are friends for ALL of us to play with. The kids revert to a semi-feral state, and we say Yes a LOT more than usual. We see them at meals, and when they aren't off gallivanting in nature with friends. We eat in the dining hall so the cooking is done for us. I bring a Scrubba for emergencies (e.g. POO), but otherwise let the laundry pile up in a spectacularly overstuffed laundry bag until we are back home to throw it all into the humongous washer.

There is wifi, but it is spotty enough so as to encourage only sporadic plugging in. And somehow--I don't know if it is the change of scenery, or lack of chores or what--the pull toward my electronic distractions lessens. I care way less what folks are eating for lunch (nothing personal) or even that the kids are all starting school (sorrynotsorry), because I have activities to do.

I go on a giant, inflatable water slide with the kids. I take kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes out on the water with various folks. I drink a bunch of water, and make deliberate junk-food decisions which I know might hurt a little bit, but it is vacation, after all.

I also have friends to catch up with, a lake to look at, a chair that reclines, trees to gaze upon, and white space to be in. It is soul-restoring, sitting in that space.

I also brought along a couple of books. I have tons of books at home, but the difference at family camp is I take the time to sit and read them. I'm in the middle of a fun one called Whose Panties Are These, which I chose on Paperback Swap based almost solely on the title, and am enjoying one short essay at a time.

The other one, the one currently getting inside my brain and making me think all the time, is called The Road Back to You, about the Enneagram. It would take me 3 posts and too many words to describe the Enneagram except to say that it is a sort of ancient personality typing system, it was developed manymanymanymanymany years ago by ancient spiritual fathers, people make entire careers out of studying and teaching it, and it can be hard to pinpoint your own personal Enneagram number (1 thru 9) until you dig in a little bit (i.e. the online quizzes are not always reliable--they weren't in my case).

Long story short, the online quiz told me I was a 6: The Loyalist, but after reading the book I'm about 97% sure I'm a 9: The Peacemaker.

Like I said, people make entire careers out of studying and teaching the Enneagram, so to give even a fairly basic explanation here would make your eyes go crossed, but I can tell you a few things. As a Peacemaker I am really good at relating to lots of different points of view, but I can also have a tendency to numb out to anything that is less-than-nice in life. And the numbing-out thing can manifest itself as a struggle with focus and a tendency toward generalism and breadth, rather than depth and engagement. Get out of my head, Enneagram.

This correlates nicely with some of the current personal growth trends I've been following, such as living a simpler life, saying no to good things in order to say yes to better things, and taking some cues from introverts. Which is great, because the BIG theme I've been watching in myself is a FULL and wonderful life that, unchecked, will overwhelm and knock me over.

All to say, it fits with my prior claim that I'm in a season of work and growth.

One of the great things about the Enneagram is that once you've identified which box you fit into, you're not forever confined to that particular space. I don't think people change numbers very much, BUT they can definitely grow and mature into the healthy strengths of their number. And by now we know I'm a big fan of becoming healthy and more mature. If I'm going to be in the midst of the hard work, I'm glad I have something fun and new (to me) to learn that might also be helpful in said hard work.

In conclusion, I'm also still working on what that whole tropical, jet-set lifestyle arrangement might look like, but for now some healthy habits--such as the foam roller and early bedtime--will have to suffice...

Jul 15, 2017

Long Run Wisdom...

I tend to think I have about 25% more thoughts than average, floating around in my mind. So I love my long runs, because they give me a lot of time to sift through some of the stuff that gets built up in there.

This week I was thinking about where I am at work, and home, and in life. That is, generally a season of high joy and life, but also a season of work and growth. One of my favorite things right now is listening to a few favorite podcasts about purposeful living, leadership development, and those sorts of things. I listen to people who have a need to be building or creating things. They find inspiration sometimes in the most unusual places, and if they go without a task or project for too long they get all twitchy and have to find some sort of job to do. Their default is 'action.' 

Sometimes this makes me a little nervous because I think my default might be 'iPhone games.' To be clear: not creating games for iPhones, but sitting on any empty surface and playing Secret Society on my phone (it's really fun if you like hidden pictures and puzzles; you should try it).

Playing games doesn't really accomplish much work, but it challenges my brain in a fun way, and gives a bit of very pretty distraction from the things that overwhelm me. I love learning for learning's sake, but when it comes time to implement what I'm learning, it feels a little overwhelming.  Hard work is hard, yo. So I get nervous about finding my own purposeful living and leadership development, and I worry unreasonably about stunting myself with games instead of doing hard work, and learning and growing.

Therefore, while I ran I talked myself down from the ledges of unreason. First off, I thought about how this July has been particularly busy, with shuttling kids to and from camp, and everyday life stuff, and forgetting to carve out a little breathing space. My friend Elizabeth's family always seems to have a crazy May, and I didn't think our July looked particularly packed, except on this end of things it is. And busy-ness, at least for me, tends to skew my perspective.

Second, I remembered this is not a new pattern for me. I have a history of a) loving learning SO MUCH that I just keep letting new information into my brain, and maybe forget to leave a little space for processing info I need to turn into something else, like actions or recommendations, or work, or what have you, and b) getting to a place where I'm just challenged enough that I get a little bit freaked out and want to drop it all and move to some place tropical. Also c) forgetting to carve out a little breathing space.

The thing I love about thinking on my runs is that things become much clearer. Going back, I noticed all the things I mentioned above are not new problems, and they're also not big problems that need sweeping solutions. They're little challenges to be met, a little at a time. 

Here is the wisdom I gleaned from my long run this week:

1) This next week is CHOCK FULL of commitments, and it will be difficult. It will probably hurt a little bit, but it will be done in a week. And it will be worth it, as I told myself when I made said commitments, especially if I really go for it instead of backing away or half-a$$ing it in fear.

2) As a result of ALL the commitments this next week, there will also be pockets of by-myself time that aren't usually there, which I can use to chip away at some of the lingering ticky-tack tasks I want to get out of the way. 

3) I don't have to be the most brilliant or most anything. I just have to show up and do my best with what I've been assigned. 

4) The things I'm doing now are preparing me for what is next. I have no idea which things are preparing me for what, in what ways, or what they will even look like. All I know is that if I can be a good steward of my awesomeness now, it will grow by some measure. And growing in awesomeness is my goal (by God's grace). 

5) I really do need to keep trying to carve out some breathing space, if nothing else to catch up on Doctor Who

When I get stressed and want to move someplace tropical, I start thinking about how I would afford to eat and live. Things I could do on remote or by some jet-set arrangement. I don't know what it would look like, but I do know that it probably won't involve playing phone games. So I'd better get to this other stuff so I can work on that...

May 27, 2017

Naked Food...

You guys, there's no pretending I'm posting for any reason other than to tell you that I had the chance to do a guest post over at Ellie's blog. YES I jumped for joy at the opportunity, and MAYBE I was so excited I piddled a little. Or maybe not; you'll never know for sure. Ellie is doing a series on Breaking the Cycle of Blah, and I got to discuss my experiences with unpackaged carbs as part of rebooting my eating habits, including the fact that I'm not hoarding quesadillas in dark corners anymore. You can read the whole thing by clicking here.

But while I'm at it, you might as well hear about the other parts of our exciting week here at the Skerrib house, which mostly consist of Shop Vac-ing water out of our old, dead washing machine and procuring a spankin' new washer and dryer. I persisted as long as possible, but the 18-year-old one was finally broken enough that it made more sense to put it out to pasture and make room for the new.

Big enough to fit a kid or three: Check.
As for the details, we went with an LG set. I insisted on a top-loader, but caved a little to the fancy light-up buttons. It sings to me when I push the power button, and when it's done with a load. Capacities have gone up FOR SURE, and I loaded like half the house into that first load. Which was necessary, after 6 days' worth of Mt Laundry growth.

This week was also the first run of the Instant Pot on the pressure setting. My grandma had a pressure cooker when I was growing up, but otherwise I had no pressure-cooking experience. And holy country ribs, pressure cooking is like magic!! Science is the BEST, and this country rib recipe is reeeeeaaaallllly yummy on potatoes.

To cap off such a banner week, this weekend is filled to the brim with the more glamorous tasks of family life, such as haircuts, grocery shopping and, of course, laundry. So go forth, eat delicious food, and do your own glamorous things...

Apr 27, 2017

Runaway Thoughts...

Yesterday we had a day, and by the evening I had some bite marks on my arm and a whole lotta fatigue, so I ran away for 90 minutes. I ran some errands, and had my own dang dinner all by myself, and I forgot my phone so I was alone with my thoughts and my bullet journal, so I put some thoughts down in my bullet journal. The final one was my favorite, I think:

"Sometimes I think my kids are [rat finks], and then I feel bad 'cuz they're so young, and just learning how to be human. But they really are [rat finks] sometimes...and so am I. And really, we're all just learning how to be human. So I guess it's good to do so together."

That was a good thought to end on. I think I might let them live...

Apr 5, 2017


There's lots more to write on this later (when it's not 6:30 AM and time to get ready for the day), but I want to share right now the good feeling of a plan well-executed.

The last (almost) year since starting heart rate training has taught me a lot about what running success can look like. Our coach hammers into us that, for the most part, pace truly doesn't matter in heart-rate training. It's more about execution of the plan. As someone with a history of digging in and gutting it out, and giving it ALL, it has been a pretty big mind shift to step back a little and focus on giving the RIGHT amount at the RIGHT times, and not emptying the tank every. single. time.

So today I went out on time and executed the plan. I didn't overdo it, as that would put my delicate core and glutes at risk. They're getting stronger, but I really do need to watch it a little. I did intervals, but they're not the all-out kind I did when I was 15. They're controlled, sustainable, and just right for the day. And I DID them. And then I settled back down for a controlled cool-down, where I wanted to stop and walk, but I kept going to keep the mental toughness. The parts that had a heart-rate range, I kept within the range. The parts that had a pace goal, I kept the pace goal. I nailed that workout.

It's not that the plan is that spectacular, or difficult, or anything. It's more that it is growth for me to be able to follow it well. I was not fast, but that wasn't the goal today anyway. I was solid and strong, and it felt great.

In conclusion, you may be well-versed in making a plan and executing it, and I applaud you. You may be more like me where plans can be hit-or-miss, or you might be anti-plan. That's cool, you do you.

But I hope you find something today where you feel like you NAILED it, because that's a great feeling...

Mar 27, 2017

Skerrib's Health(ier) Eating Update...

Well kids, here we are and it is late March already. The equinox was a week ago, but since New England tends to be a late bloomer we had a snowstorm instead of, like, leaf buds on trees or something equally spring-ish in nature.

I've been keeping up with my new healthier eating habits, and working with Ellie, so I figured it was time for an update (in bullet form):

-The gluten/corn/uncultured dairy experiment ended with little fanfare. I made the torte, and it turns out I make a killer torte. If you are into the dark, rich, chocolatey things in life, I can wholeheartedly recommend this recipe. My family is not so much into those things. On one hand--more torte for meeeee!!! On the other hand, it also turns out I am capable of consuming SEVERAL pieces of rich, chocolatey torte, and that is why I now have three quarters of half a torte living in my freezer. 

-I didn't have a protocol for reintroducing the above items into my diet, and--surprisingly--for the most part I didn't feel an extreme need to do so. I have noticed no ill effects if I'm out with the family and decide to have some pizza, or a burger complete with bun. But if I decide to have ALL the pizza AND a burger complete with bun, I do feel vaguely cruddy and notice some extra fatigue for a day or two. Is it a real thing, or psychosomatic? No idea, but it seems like a nice little parameter to help me stay in moderation.

-Corn is dead to me.

-I told Ellie she's ruined a few of my guilty pleasures for me, in that my tastes have changed and some of the things I used to LOVE are now so-so or even kind of gross. Her exact reply was "SorryNotSorry." And I have to say I'm not really sorry either. Anything I really, really miss...I can eat. But for the first time ever (and I do mean EVER), my cravings are greatly reduced from the usual, and I kind of don't want to mess with that, because they were getting to some crazy places, those cravings.

-Speaking of cravings, a word (or two) on sugar. If I had a propensity toward alcohol as I do sugar, I'd have hit rock bottom long ago. It's tricky, because while I knew I needed to be eating WAY less sugar, I was also afraid of having to cut it out completely. Yes--afraid. So I knew going in that I could not tame that beast on my own. The key factor has been having a plan with a positive emphasis, by which I mean instead of the negative-sounding "don't eat the sugar," it's a more positive "when you have the cravings, eat such-and-such." This is where the super-dark chocolate and mug cake come into play. It would be inaccurate to say that I don't have cravings. Every afternoon I look forward to my treat, and to be honest I am a little mean about it if people are sticking their fingers in my cake and whatnot.

-But the interesting part is that now when I want something sweet, there are WAY fewer foods that sound appetizing, and it takes WAY less for me to feel like I've had enough. That sounds really virtuous of me, as if I suddenly developed moderation, but the truth is I've had a couple of run-ins with sweets (e.g. too much of the above torte) that left me feeling cruddy, which led to the epiphany that, for all its uses as a pantry ingredient, sugar does not have my best interests at heart. So while I have not cut it out completely, I will always need to be very careful with it. Very careful.

-Pants goals are coming along nicely, and I am seeing a general (and gradual) downward trend in my weight. NOT THAT I'M KEEPING TRACK OF NUMBERS, ELLIE.

-My skin is clearing, and at my haircut a week ago, my person (stylist? cosmetologist? hair-cutter?) commented on how much my hair had grown since my last appt. Collagen, baby!

-I'm starting to have weird, random, healthy thoughts, like the other day when I was making some eggs and threw some spinach in on a whim. Because a) I actually had some on hand, and b) I've had enough practice now that I knew how to make it taste really good. This was not true of me even 3 months ago.

-I don't mean that corn is necessarily dead to me forever, just that I'm currently neither eating nor craving it. I'll probably have a few ears' worth this summer, and maybe allow some cornstarch for thickening sauces. And you know, powdered sugar for...stuff. I have a little soul searching to do in this area.

-I said the last time that I wasn't keeping a food journal. I've decided that I want to start, because I want to keep track of the times I deviate from the plan and any effects I notice. I've gotten as far as printing off the journal templates, which I will begin promptly. Tomorrow.

-I make really tasty food, and when you can make healthy food really tasty, it is much more pleasant to consume. The biggest challenge I'm running into right now is time; I mean, to me it is worth the time it takes to make delicious healthy food, but in the long-term I'm going to have to find some shortcuts and greater overall efficiency, because it is still a lot of work and I'm not sure how sustainable that level of work is. To be fair, some of it is that I'm trying all sorts of new recipes so really it's me throwing myself a learning curve there. So it's an ongoing process, trying new things but remembering to double-back to the familiar in the interest of speed and not being in the kitchen ALL the time. All to say, it's something I'm keeping an eye on...kind of like the sugar.

In conclusion, things are going very well, and are still very much a work-in-progress. Also, my bedtime alarm just rang so I need to close and get my beauty rest so I can maximize all these amazing nutritional benefits.

Also-also, I am past the point in the evening where I can solidly trust my thoughts, so best for us all if I quit while I'm ahead.

You're welcome...

Feb 9, 2017

Skerrib's Guide to Health(ier) Eating...

OK kids, big things going on here at the Skerrib house. Yuuuge things. New Years resolution-type things. Really fantastic.

I've been working with a dietitian for a couple weeks now. I know a good amount about healthy eating, and I've made some gradual changes over the last year, and I have a good sense of our family philosophy on food, but I needed some guidance on implementing things and handling my particular quirks and insatiable need for treats. So it was time, because I've got goals. Really good, amazing goals. Speed goals. Getting-older goals. Skin goals. Pants goals.

Well, it turns out Ellie has all sorts of advice to match people's quirks and issues. Seriously, you could play "Try to Stump Ellie," and I bet she'd have at least a little familiarity with whatever challenge you throw at her. I first heard her on a podcast thru my online running community, so I was fairly prepared for what I'd be getting into. Not that it's easy and automatic; nay, I dare say it's even a little bit of hard work. But I knew it was coming, so it hasn't been too much of a shock to my delicate sensibilities (and no, she hasn't turned me into a raging vegan, Mom).

Based on our first Skype session, I have a daily plan and I'm supposed to be keeping a food journal, but I haven't done that. I mean, I'm following the plan pretty darn closely, but the only things I'm logging are observations and questions to ask at the next appointment. And so far most of the observations are in my head, so I am presenting them here for posterity and the betterment of all humanity--

1) I have cut out gluten, corn, and uncultured dairy for 3 weeks as a trial to sleuth out food sensitivities. This definitely requires a little more pre-planning on snacks and meals, but it's not as tragic as I thought it would be. I don't know what's next in the process, but at least for now it's temporary, and temporary things can be endured.

2) The kids are intrigued and very supportive of my food elimination experiments. The Cat Daddy is nervous--I think he is hearing "This Family Is Going Gluten-Free!" because he keeps concernedly proclaiming "Our Family Is Not Going Gluten Free!!" WE are not going gluten-free...but I am finding some seriously delicious-looking recipes for chocolate tortes (when dairy is back in...when dairy is back in...).

3) Speaking of tortes, the upside of all these food elimination trends is that there are heaps and heaps of recipes and suggestions out there (hello, Pinterest). In overhead-camera-video format, to make you think they take two seconds. But as long as I remember about editing, and real-life cooking time, I can keep it in perspective.

4) 85% dark chocolate tasted like the bitter rants of curmudgeons at first but now, a week or two in, I think it's growing on me.

4b) I need to pay attention to the time of day when I consume 85% dark chocolate, lest it affect my sleep.

5) Every new recipe I've tried has been doable, but has needed at least a little bit of tweaking first.

6) I'm really on the fence about chickpea cookies. I mean, after a couple tries and some tweaks I think I do like them, but never will they ever be passed off as a suitable substitute for classic chocolate chip cookies made with wheat flour.

7) Nettle tea smells like a hay barn. After a week or two, I have found I kind of like drinking a hay barn.

8) Collagen does best dissolved in warm/hot water. Collagen dissolved in cold water makes me think of drinking sheep hooves. It's not even made from sheep hooves--at least I don't think it is--but that's what I think of.

9) Coconut water kefir makes me think of drinking sea monkeys. Sea monkeys in my belly, populating my gut with more good sea monkeys than I have cells in my entire body.

10) I don't even know what to make of ginseng with royal jelly, but the teeny little straw and teeny little bottle are so cute it doesn't bother me.

11) I'm a decent home cook of delicious, whole, nourishing foods. Seriously, I make some killer rice bowls and chopped salads these days. The downside is that it does take time to do this. Not a ridiculous amount of time, mind you. But enough that I notice the investment of effort and time it takes, mostly in the planning and weekend-prep.

12) The goal is that I cook the same stuff for the whole family. The reality is that with some meals I serve MOST of the same stuff to everyone and change up a couple things for myself. But very few of my meals have been something completely different from everyone else's. I can live with this.

13) I might have accused Ellie of sorcery because as I told her, I'm already noticing some improvements. Not ALL the improvements; I mean, it would be dangerous to do all that in a week's time. But enough that I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining things.

14) As with much in life, the difficulty is less about specific foods and more about changing habits and mindset. Except for the vegetables. Ellie swears a boatload of vegetables is key, and snap peas keep me awake in meetings, so I'm on board with that.

15) Gluten-free chocolate mug cake FOR THE WIN.

15b) Chocolate mug cake must also be consumed before 5 pm for sleep reasons.

In conclusion, you cannot make me turn cauliflower into mashed potatoes or pizza crust, but I'm well on my way with the vegetable train and occasional visits to Whole Paycheck.

Now if you will excuse me, it's time for my mug cake and cup of hay barn tea...