a bounty of lessons to absorb

My huge mistake became evident when Mister G unwrapped the package of paper towels and put the first roll on the counter near me. I confess, I may have had a tiny tantrum, which may or may not have started with an expletive or two (#itdid), followed by some masterful blame shifting, “WHY DID YOU OPEN THE PACKAGE???? DIDN'T YOU SEE THEY WERE PRINTED????” Yes, I see what I did here. But clearly my screw up needed to be someone else's fault. #sigh

His response: “It’s okay! So we’ll get to look at printed paper towels for awhile. Maybe it’ll be GOOD for us. Haha.” The nerve.
Does he actually understand that the package I bought contains 12 select-a-size rolls and we are a tiny family of 2 who tries to limit our use (#savingtheplanet)??? This could go on for awhile and I don’t see how staring at these goofy printed paper towels that totally disrupt the carefully curated vibe of my pretty kitchen is going to HELP me. What's wrong with him?

Ok. So, is this really about the paper towels? I mean, seriously, it’s a $15 mistake. Give the stupid things to someone who doesn’t care what they look like and move the heck on with your life. But as I obsess reflect on this over the next couple of days, I realize there's probably a bigger issue behind the issue here. Ya think? What was up with the mini tantrum? They’re. Just. Paper. Towels. One thing I know from experience is that when my response to something is out of proportion to what actually happened, then it's probably time to do a little excavating. #bringouttheshovel

I got curious about the subject of blame shifting, took my search to the world wide web and learned a few things. My biggest takeaway was in the discovery that we sometimes blame shift when we ourselves don’t measure up to our own standards. I realized as I was leaving the Costco parking lot that I forgot the ONE most important item on my 5-item list (frozen mangos), which then cost me another 25 minutes of hassle by the time I went back and got them. So when I came home and discovered I had made yet another mistake, my angry outburst directed toward my G was really about my own irritation with myself. I mean, a 5-item grocery list ain't exactly rocket science.  Two trips to the store and I still couldn't get it right put me in perfect position for some warped thinking. Let's take a ride on the crazy train of self-loathing.

So it's a self-esteem issue, right? Well, yes.  And, no. I mean, I'm all in favor of positive self-affirmations (#iAMsomebody) and encouragement from others about how great I am (#yougogirl) but for me, that good news has to originate from a firmer foundation to resonate deeply and really stick. Like, for example, coming right from the God of the Universe, the center of my gravity, my very reason for being, the One who created me with His own imprint, who loves me with a love that transcends anything I can understand, and forgives me over and over and over. Yes, even when I buy stupid printed paper towels. Man, if I had a firm grip on that, I'd never feel like I need to blame anyone else for my mistakes because I am completely loved and accepted and nothing, no-thing, can separate me from it! Damn straight!!! (Did you know that's kind of another way of saying "amen?")

I haven't decided if I'll keep those paper towels just to see if I learn something from staring at them every day for, like, ever. Perhaps if I stare long enough, then look up at the ceiling and blink a few times I'll see the face of Jesus and he'll be saying, "Remember how much I love you." I think that only happens in stories I see on Facebook, though, so maybe I'll just pass them off to someone else and move on from this whole thing so I can free up this space in my mind to obsess reflect on other such matters of great significance. I'll tell you what, though. If I do stick with the uglies, I'm pretty sure I'll need to buy a single roll of whites. You know, for when company comes. #hidetheprintedtowels And oh, don't you know there's an issue behind that too but I've already put my shovel away for the night. 


get naked.

The after effects of winter, with all of it's holiday partying and dismal dark comfort-food-indulgent days has left us feeling thick and sluggish. I had one of those "enough is enough" moments so Saturday we decided to take on Round 2 of the Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset since we had such a great result last May when we gave it a go for the first time. 

First, I’ll let you read an excerpt from the “official” summary of the book, written by the people whose job it is to sell them. And then I’ll give you my 2 cents. Just for the record, I don’t stand to make a penny on what I say so there's no reason for me to overrate our experience. A number of people have asked me about it so I thought I’d get it all out here. One and done.

"You won’t lose weight or improve your health cutting calories and carbs or relying on longer and harder workouts. Those old school approaches are actually detrimental to your health. You’ve got to reset and optimize your metabolism.
In The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset, fitness expert and co-founder of Stark fitness Brad Davidson shares his exclusive two-tiered program to help you feel great and perform at consistent peak level—with boundless energy that lasts.
Davidson begins by showing you how to repair your metabolism by reducing common stressors and removing food sensitivities and toxins that cause inflammation, weight gain and burn out. He then teaches you how to optimize your metabolism by safely reintroducing the right foods for you and learning how to carb cycle, a method of eating carbohydrates that enhances performance without health risks. Designed to withstand the hectic demands of modern life, The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Resetincludes step-by-step meal plans and easy to follow recipes, without using any expensive, hard to find foods or complicated calculations. This is THE ultimate program for the high achiever on the go.
Get the results you’ve always wanted but never thought possible—The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset is the lifestyle plan to help you take control of your health and fitness forever."

So here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that there is a “one size fits all” way to eat, though I believe there are certain agreed-upon commonalities. Everyone's going to tell you to eat more of the “good” vegetables and reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine and sugar. After that, it’s a head-spinning free-for-all of one eating plan after another. For that reason, this may not be the silver bullet for you that it has been for us. But I would venture to say that anyone who tries it and sticks to it faithfully for the entire 21 days will emerge feeling different and better. And if you can stay on the maintenance program (the harder part), you’re golden. That’s the rub for most everyone, hence the need to repeat the reset once a year to get ourselves back on the wagon.

What can you expect? Not gonna lie, the first 3-5 days are pretty brutal. Caffeine withdrawal causes dizziness and headaches and the absence of sugar is guaranteed to make you hangry. Cravings are the WORST. And the brain fog is ridiculous so I wouldn’t recommend starting the week of that big career altering presentation….😳. Weight starts to shed immediately (from the dreaded jellyroll area) and for me, since I’m not overweight to begin with, it levels off after a week or so. But if you need to lose weight, it will continue for the entire 21 days. Cravings begin to die down after about 5 days and energy starts to pick up by the end of the first week. Supposedly, you’ll experience better sleep, which hasn’t really been the case for me (#sleepresistent) but there are other benefits that will keep you super motivated to keep on keeping on. 

Without going into every specific detail, your day will look like this: Hot water with lemon as soon as you get up, followed by a smoothie (lots of greens, some fruit and a fat) for breakfast. He provides a number of recipes for these in the book and they’re all quite tasty. We’ve settled on our 2-3 favorites keep repeating because it’s easy. After breakfast you sip on 1/4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice mixed with about 20 oz. of water until you finish that by lunch. It’s SUPER tart and takes some getting used to, but this is key. Lunch is protein and vegetables and a small amount of fat (quantities vary for men and women). Afternoon snack is about 20 oz. of green tea. Again, critical for getting you through from one meal to the next.  Dinner is protein/loads of vegetables and (insert angel voices) this is where you get approved carbs, such as rice, yukon potatoes, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and a fat. Again, quantities are different for men and women, but sometimes it's actually difficult to eat it all. He has some restrictions on several foods that aren’t “bad,” but they’re foods we tend to eat a lot and he thinks it’s valuable to take a break from them for these 21 days (blueberries, broccoli, beef, almonds, bananas, and a few others). There’s a required bedtime snack of either 1/2 cup full fat cottage cheese plus a fruit OR a handful of cashews and a piece of fruit. This is a must and, though I always think I hate cottage cheese, it has actually become my favorite part of the day. Hmmmm…..How many hours until bedtime????

With regard to exercise, he highly recommends ONLY very light workouts during the 21 days which, after the first “week from hell,” is difficult if you have a regular intense exercise routine. Last year we were able to hang in there but this time it seems a little harder to stay away from the gym so we may sneak in a workout here and there but just keep it less intense. As with everything else, there’s a method to his madness here and you just have to trust that he knows what he’s talking about. Super hard workouts are also stress inducing to the body (the old “being chased by a lion” illustration) and his main point is to settle down those adrenals and give your liver a rest. And as the saying goes, “If your liver ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That’s how I remember it anyway…😏.

I suggest dropping the $12 on his book for a fuller explanation if you're intrigued. It’s a bit chatty (hey, I resemble that remark) so I read some sections in great detail and skimmed quickly over others. The full 21-day reset plan is included, which you will need, with lots of recipe suggestions so it’s worth it just for that. Other than this, there are no special products or supplements necessary, which is yet another reason I like this program (#eatrealfood). We have found it easier to take some of the meals we normally eat and tweak them to fit the plan if they don’t fit already, mostly because we’re so out of it the first week that the thought of cooking something for the first time is beyond the realm of possibility. If you’re planning to do this and would like some of our suggestions for super easy and tasty meals, I’d be happy to share some ideas with you.

If you decide to do it, go for it with gusto and DO NOT CHEAT. This is super critical and has been my downfall with other reset plans (Whole 30, for example). I've always put my own spin on them (I'll do everything but this one or two or three things). This plan is super specific about what to eat and when to eat it, which for me has been the kicker. And...it's ONLY 21 days. Seriously, you have nothing to lose but a few lbs. And they're always waiting in the wings right there just within sight #stageright if you want them back....

Cheers to good health!


all creation sings | part 1: beauty and the beards

I've been meaning to start blogging again for a long time. Kind of like I’ve been meaning to set up weekly meal plans or clean out the shed (wait, that one’s not my job). I don’t read enough to be great writer nor do I have anything to say that hasn't already been said by writers infinitely more gifted than I. But somehow when I am able to capture my ruminating thoughts and put them into written words, it feels as if I’m harnessing one of my own natural resources and turning it into power. In other words, it’s a way for me to preach the gospel to myself. And perhaps one or two others of you will be encouraged by what you read. So consider this the first installment of a series I’ve been meaning to start for awhile. Lord only knows if there will ever be a second, but I’ve got some great material swirling around in my wind-tunnel-of-a-brain.

The irises are in full bloom here in Charlotte. Have you noticed? Just a few steps into my run this morning I saw a dozen glorious yellow blooms draped across the front of a tiny brick house around the corner. They were absolutely aglow in the morning sunlight and I was immediately taken by their beauty. Five seconds later (insert needle scratch) I noticed the overgrown yard situated between my eyeballs and the irises, way taller than what the city allows. Trust me, I know these things. My joy was quickly overtaken by irritation. Okay, anger. I started running again, vowing to report this travesty of a yard to the city as soon as I finished my workout.

But here’s where the story took a twist. As I thought about it more, I realized that the typical order of my thoughts had been reversed. In my usual pattern of thinking, I would have noticed the situation with the yard first, moved directly to anger and perhaps action (311 on the mobile device is super easy, people). Then, maybe I would have seen the irises. Or not.

This felt like a monumental shift had taken place inside of me. Instead of fixating on the ugliness of that yard for the rest of my run and all the thoughts that normally may have followed, I began to notice irises in bloom everywhere! I stopped to take in their beauty up close, sticking my nose in to inhale the sweet aroma, examining the shading of their beards, admiring the delicate draping of petals as they gently fluttered in the breeze. When my mind wanted me to believe this was an incredible waste of time and the day's "to do" list beckoned, I allowed those thoughts to simply float on by, reminding myself that I am a human being, not a human doing.

I realized the irises in most of the yards had been there for many years, decades perhaps, first planted by someone who is likely long departed from this earth. Maybe even forgotten by all who knew and loved them. I tried to imagine what their lives may have looked like, making up stories to entertain myself. I thought of my husband's Grandma Mary. I never met her but I’ve heard many stories about her love for her garden, which lived on through her daughter, Willie Jean.  My husband grasped this appreciation and over our 35 years of life together, my own appreciation and passion for nature has flourished in part because of his influence. You see how this gift just keeps on giving?

So thank you to all the whoever-you-are's for planting and nurturing your own little piece of creation all those many years ago. Today, they have pointed me to God's glory, simply by living into who they were created to be, which is their true purpose.

Where have you noticed beauty lately? It’s so choice, like pure oxygen driving out the pollution that clutters our soul. I highly recommend it.

(It’s 5:30pm. I still have no idea what’s for dinner. And, I don’t care.)

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Psalm 24:1


don't let the bastards get you down.

So lately, that famous Biblical character named David has been the hot topic of discussion in and around my circles of community. You know, the kid who took out a giant mean dude with a single rock to the forehead. That kid later became a great King who did lots of great things but also became distracted enough to mess around with someone else’s wife, produce a baby from that screw up and then have the woman’s husband killed in battle just to make sure it never came back to bite him. And yet, this is the same guy that God Himself, the great I AM, Alpha and Omega, Author and Finisher of our faith (you get the point) made a point to call “a man after my own heart.” Huh?

It’s complicated.

Yesterday, the topic at hand was revenge and Wes used another illustration from David’s life. This time, David (pre-King) was on the lam, running from a bad King Saul who was trying to kill him and keep him from taking the throne. In one moment, David had the perfect opportunity to off Saul but in this instance David chose mercy over revenge. It’s an awesome story. Wes went on to make some great points about revenge and why it’s never a good idea. (Listen here.)

To take it a bit further, I’d like to suggest that revenge is even more insidious than we imagine and that even the most peace-loving self-awarest (I know, not a real word) among us still struggles with it because our culture is one that often celebrates a subtle form of revenge masked as “success.” Stay with me. It’s super sticky (or slippery) because subtlety is, by it’s very nature, a bit dodgy and we must examine closely to understand. The lines are blurry and faint, easily escaping the eyes of our soul. It takes excruciating self-dissection so we usually opt for quippy motivational one-liners to help us settle our scores and stop the bleeding. According to Brené Brown, research proves that the mind seeks clarity over ambiguity and whatever it takes to get us past the hump of uncomfortability (before anyone else notices), is welcome relief with minimal effort required.

So, when a close friend (cough) shared recently that she’d been hurt by a decision someone had made that totally rained on her parade, she had no idea her feet were firmly planted on either side of that fuzzy line of revenge/mercy. Her natural response was to summon the internal cheerleader that would keep from sliding straight down the rabbit hole of depression and resentment, taking all of her demons with her. “You go, girl!” Don’t let the bastards get you down, girl! Hey, the best revenge is S-U-C-C-E-S-S!”

Needle scratch.

What if the bastards weren’t really out to get me?
What if the bastards weren’t really bastards at all?
What if the success I desire was never meant to be mine?
What if I there was a real gift in this failure/setback?
What if the thing I was meant to have is already mine?
How can I see the greater good in this deviation from my original plan?

Hear me now and believe me later: Never would I suggest that that the courageous pursuit of a dream is wrong. Achieving a goal through perseverance can be a great triumph of the human spirit, and the joy of such an accomplishment can be a true gift. But if you choose to see that as the highest gift and believe that anything or anyone who keeps you from it is hurting you, then let me rain on your parade. In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero suggests that one real marker of spiritual transformation is living with a greater detachment to all the “things” we possess (including people). We are to love and enjoy them with gratitude, but also with the awareness that they are not our lives. And it’s often not until they are removed by God that we realize how attached we are to them. I can tell you from vast experience, that’s always a real sucker-punch moment. Buzz kill, at it's finest.

Back to revenge. I’m convinced that mercy trumps it. If we are able to let go willingly, we do less damage to ourselves (and the thing) because we are holding it loosely. We’ve left it intact if we ever get it back and if we never see it again, we don’t mind. It’s in this process that a greater gift is always given, as layers of our false self are shed, and that true self that is Christ in us and through us, begins to emerge.

Mercy begets mercy. And if you happen to run into my friend, please share this story with her. I think she needs it. Wink.


let the heck GO, already....

Have you ever accidentally super-glued your fingers together? Of course. Who hasn't? It hurts like a muh-tha when you pry them apart, right? 

I have this lifelong habit of holding things that are important to me with a freakishly strong grip. While that may not always seem wrong because, after all, lots of GOOD things are worth holding onto, it does makes for a really miserable experience when someone or something reaches in and yanks "my precious" from me.  It hurts like a muh-tha for a really long time. 

Some 30-ish years ago, a pastor shared his grandpa's advice to "wear everything like a loose garment," easy to put on and (sigh) take off, if necessary. People who have learned how to do that know how to fully embrace and enjoy whatever they have, yet they understand it is not a part of their identity, so it slides on and off with ease. And when there is an understanding that the Giver is GOOD, there's also a certainty that they will not be left standing naked and alone. Whatever was removed is sure to be replaced with something that fits better and, perhaps, is more stylish and current than last season's model. At least, that's the way I like to think of it...;-)

So here we are today, nearing the end of an eventful year full of unexpected illness, and the kind of loss that comes with it. My husband's "textbook" appendectomy in late May dragged on through the summer with one complication after another and the grand finale in September was major surgery to remove a MRSA-filled abscess the size of two softballs from his chest cavity. What the what? Yeah, don't ask. We don't know either. But we DO know we have a new appreciation for the precious gift of life.

Had 2013 gone "according to plan," we would be two months into the construction of our modern dream home right now. Instead, we are taking what may feel like a diversion, and we're moving forward with integrity (calling on Henry Cloud's definition "the courage to face your reality) by coming to grips with the new reality that is ours. We are choosing to lay the dream aside while we get our bearings.

We still own our land and we still have our plans. But today we also hold the keys to a different gift: a little 2-bedroom 50s ranch in a modest Charlotte neighborhood. You see, after two years of renting we realize we're homeowners at heart. Having the ability to put our mark on the place where we live is "ensouling" for both of us and we have missed it. So we embrace fully (but not tightly!) what has been placed into our open hands at this moment, still trusting that the original dream will come to fruition, but choosing to enjoy each moment of the journey. Right here, right now. 

your life is not about "you."
It is a part of a much larger stream called God.
...faith might be precisely that ability to trust the River,
to trust the Flow
and the Lover.

That takes immense confidence in God,
especially when we're hurting...
we can want to make things right quickly.
We lose our ability to be present
and go into our head and start obsessing....
become goal-oriented,
trying to push or even create the River--

the River that is already flowing through me.
FAITH does not need to push the river
precisely because it is able to trust that THERE IS A RIVER.
The River is flowing;
we are in it.
The River is God's providential love-
so do not be afraid.
We have been given the Spirit.

-Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs


squash the winter blues

In my quest to make peace with winter, I have become a lover of it's squash: butternut, acorn, pumpkin and spaghetti being my favorites. Winter squash is actually grown in the summer and harvested in September and October and happens to be one of the most nutritious crops you can grow. It's a low-calorie and a good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid). It's also a source of iron and beta carotene.

With any of these squashes, you can simply bake it by cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds and placing it cut side down into a baking dish with about 1/2" of water. Bake at 350 for 45ish minutes (until it feels soft and can be scooped out with a spoon). Oh, and if you're really ambitious (I do this about 1/2 of the time), you can get all the seeds out, coat them with a little olive oil and salt, or any seasoning that you like, and toast them. They're an awesome snack!

Acorn squash is especially good as a simple side dish and, if you're feeling decadent, add in some butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and maybe just the tiniest bit of pure maple syrup.

You can do the same with butternut squash but my favorite way to prepare it is to make it into a tasty soup. Here are a couple of fun recipes to get you started:


And then we have spaghetti squash, which makes an excellent thin noodle substitute for most any recipe, from Asian to Italian. I have grown especially fond of this squash, as it allows me to enjoy many of my favorite dishes again that I used to prepare before I went gluten free/grain free(ish).

So experiment with your own favorites or try this new one that's become a staple at our house:


And here's my final tip (shhhhh....it's a secret!): Trader Joe's sells winter squash for $1.99-$2.49 EACH (not per lb.) between now and Thanksgiving so I stock up while the gettin' is good. Every week I buy, bake and freeze (vacuum packed with my Food Saver) 3 or 4 of them, in addition to what we eat right away, so we can enjoy them all year round without paying through the nose when they're out of season.


good art won't match your sofa

Meeting Rothko at the MOMA.

  "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." - Thomas Merton

When I walk into someone's home for the first time, I am often most drawn to what is on the walls. As much as I love beautiful furnishings and home decor, it's the art that can tell us a deeper story, giving the "outsider" a glimpse into something personal that may never have been revealed through words. Truly, art is the heart and soul of a home.

I didn't grown up with this value but I do remember filling the walls of my bedroom with posters and memorabilia that was pleasing and meaningful to my youthful eyes. And now that I think of it, anyone who peeked into that room would have also peered into what was going on inside my teenage mind, getting a greater understanding of who I was and what mattered most to me. Things like Jesus, music and cats.("Hang in there, baby." Sheesh.....) Looking back, I believe there was a certain awareness, albeit a subconscious one, that this type of self-expression was quite important to me. 

Early in our marriage, my love of home decorating blossomed but somehow I lost this early inkling that those blank vertical spaces were places of real potential to showcase something special. I was busy filling up our walls with whatever I could find that was cheap and matched our chosen palette of country 80s decor. And I can count on one hand (okay, maybe one finger) the number of items from my home that made it into this century. Perhaps they're on someone else's wall somewhere but I guarantee they're not on mine.
Enter our friend Hal. Through his influence, the earlier awareness that was birthed back in my little bedroom resurfaced and grew into an appreciation for original art. Specifically, with the notion that "normal" people like us could, or SHOULD, have our own personal collection. Hal, a true connoisseur, began purchasing original art for his home way back when the rest of us were doing what I described above. Sure, he was a guy who loved the "finer" things in life and we gave him plenty of grief for his uppity ways. But what I began to grasp was the intensely personal nature of the art he collected and the deep meaning behind them. Over the last 20+ years, Hal and his wife Gayle have shifted their home styles from 1920s Tudor to 1970s modern and everything in between. Throw pillows, wall colors and some of the furniture has come and gone but I guarantee those beautiful works of art still have a place on a wall somewhere beside others that have since been purchased. And they still tell the part of what is now a bigger story.

If this is new to you, have no fear. Collecting anything is a journey, right? It happens over time but it can start any time. Original art can be expensive, but it doesn't have to break the bank. Some of the pieces we have collected were costly investments to us but others were simply interesting and unusual finds at flea markets or local shops on travels around the world. Or gifts from generous friends. Or wonderful works by young, still "starving" artists. Or original pieces made from our own hands. The common thread that runs through them all is the revelation that unfolds as they "tell" us their story while we live and move among them.

Left to right: Husband's vacation photo of garage door graffiti from Haight-Ashbury in San Fransisco. 1950s nude drawing from a page of artist's sketch book I purchased at a local antique show. Mixed-media piece by moi. Bunny by amazing local artist Charlotte Foust. Original collage work by my husband, made for me before we were married...love. Another drawing from same sketch book (behind arrangement). Our first original piece by Charlotte Foust when she was a young starving artist.
Center: Original painting by the ever-talented Mark Durham of our sweet kitty Harriet was a gift to me from some amazing girlfriends. Lower left, another Harriet portrait by Charlotte Foust. Unbeknownst to Charlotte, Harriet passed away while she was working on this piece. Notice the "angel wings?" A serendipitous touch. Above left: "Catbird" folk art piece I purchased at a local antiques show. Top: Harriet's favorite toy she loved to carry around in her mouth.
This piece caught our attention at a local gallery when the husband and I were visiting friends in Tulsa, back in the day when we used to actually take road trips! We wrapped him up in what appeared to be a body bag and strapped it to the top of the Volvo, carrying him 1,000 miles to his new home on our wall in Charlotte!
Our best vacation souvenir to date from a most memorable trip to South Africa 4 years ago. She wins the "furthest journey" award from Cape Town to Charlotte.
Center: An original sculpture by a Colombian artist, is a treasured gift from hubby's former boss. Left/right: 2 pieces in our growing collection of world famous Orient and Flume art glass from hubby's hometown of Chico.
Beautiful work of calligraphy from our friend Roxanne serves as a constant source of encouragement to us.