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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How I Learned About Ramadan

A few weeks ago, the counselor asked me out on a date.
I love when my husband asks me out on a date! 
He said, “Hey, do you want to go on a date with me?” 
I hesitated, just to flirt. 
This is really good for marriages, to still play a little hard to get.
“Ok,” I said, batting my eyelashes.  “Were do you want to go?”

Let me flashback for a moment.
When we were in Anaheim, California last December, we found the most amazing Middle Eastern restaurant and we ate there every day four days in a row.  The food, with the falafel, hummus, purple onion, olives, tabouli . . . Oh My Gosh!!!! We were in Anaheim to take the kids to Disneyland, but we walked out of the park every day to go to this amazing restaurant.  Let’s just say we’ve both been craving this delicious food every since. 

So, for our date, the counselor suggested we find the best Middle Eastern food in Phoenix.  And, he’d done his research.  When this man sets his mind to something, he follows through. 

Tempe, AZ has a restaurant called Princess Market and we were on our way.  We arrived around 6:45pm for dinner and found the restaurant quiet.  We walked up to the counter and the hostess suggested the buffet.  She escorted us to a wall of the most exquisite food; salad with feta and tomatoes, beautiful rice, meats, hummus, kabobs, roasted peppers and onions, tahini, and more.  The only caveat?  Dinner would not be served until sundown, around 7:30pm.  “Find a seat while you can,” she said. “It’s sure to be packed tonight.” 

The counselor and I looked around and besides the hostess and a few waiters, there was not another soul in sight.  Still, we found our seats, grabbed Canyon a high chair and sat back and waited. I’d been fasting for the day and although I was hungry, I felt a bit out of my element.  I wasn’t about to tell the hostess I’d been fasting and wanted to eat at this very moment. I’ve developed some self-control around food and have learned hunger does not mean starving.  I assumed the buffet was not ready because the chef had not brought out all the prepared food, but I was mistaken.  Something else was going on.  The counselor and I watched over the next 30 minutes as the restaurant filled up with families, couples and friend, all of Middle Eastern descent.  Many were wearing traditional Muslim apparel and I realized the counselor and I were the only couple not dressed as such.  All sat quietly until, not even the children spoke when at one defining moment, everyone got up, grabbed a plate and hustled to the buffet. 

The line was long and somebody bumped into me, spilling a warm orange soup down my leg, but whatever.  It reached in-between the toes of my sandals and I was walking in a squishy mess, but I wanted to eat. I have a baby so I'm used to eating in a somewhat turbulent environment, so it wasn’t something I don’t experience on a daily basis and let me tell you, the food was so worth the wait.  I sat down with a plate of food and that first bite was full of flavor and goodness.  The food was so good, we just made sounds like “eemmmm” and “yummmmm.”  We didn’t even speak.  I went back for seconds.  Canyon’s little hand continued to scoop up food I placed in front of him.  It was the most silent atmosphere I’ve ever eaten in, but just like the other customers, the counselor and I barely came up for air.  This primal environment was unusual, so when the waiter walked by, I had to ask “What’s going on here?” 

“It’s the month of Ramadan,” he said.  “Everybody has been fasting all day.”
Wait, what?  Fasting!!

“As part of our religions, we fast for 30 days from sun up to sun down,” he said and I could barely believe what I was hearing.  Fasting, religious fasting, a practice God told me to do for 30-days (although I’ve continued to do it now for over 6 months), an experience that has completely changed my life, that has made me more aware of the poor and those who go without, practice more self-control, be more grateful for what I have – all these beautiful people were experiencing the same thing.  Everybody was fasting!  I wanted to hug every single one of them.  I’ve never felt more validated.  Wow!  Fasting is awesome and these people get it. 

To learn more about Ramadan, click here.

When my belly was nice and full, I did a lot of people watching.  I watched as a mother helped her child, a couple sit in silence sipping tea, young men eating plate after plate of warm chicken and hummus and I was grateful and still quite shocked that I had the opportunity to observe and understand the beauty of this month-long religious holiday. 

My brother Sam recently went with Lifting Hands International to Greece and took food and supplies to the Syrian refugees.  

He too, had dinner with wonderful Muslim people and came home with more appreciation for who they are and what they are going through.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Opportunity to Pray

Last week I was in Flagstaff and we had a wonderful time.

While at the hotel, I saw the front page of the USA TODAY newspaper.  It read 20 Veterans a Day Commit Suicide.  

I looked at that headline and just gasped. I put my hand to my mouth and felt the tears form in my eyes.  I know many military families and couldn’t image the hardship they go through, but suicide?  Contemplating a veteran’s life experiences, I considered the loneliness, the violence, the inability to see family for long periods of time, the fear, the unexpected, the tough decisions, etc.  My heart swelled with sorrow and wished there was a way I could help.  In the same breath, I thought of the courage and had immense gratitude for those who keep this country safe, for America’s freedom is not free.  I immediately considered my daily 16-hour intermittent fast, and as soon as I had a moment to myself, dropped to my knees and asked God to bless those who currently serve and those who have served in the past.

Fasting has changed me.  Before, I would have felt sad and maybe, if I remembered I would have said a pray for the veterans before falling to sleep, but most likely I would have moved on with taking care of my children; to kissing stubbed toes or combing hair after bath time.  Going without food is such a gentle reminder that I have a specific purpose that day to find someone or something to pray for.  

I spent the day, remembering and praying for our veterans when within 24 hours the story of our five fallen police officers hit the news.  
I couldn’t believe the side-to-side tragedies.  I wasn’t even finished with the veterans.  I wanted another day to ponder my love and appreciation for them when I had another cause to pray and fast for.  Heartbroken, I dropped to my knees again, so deeply saddened with the violence and fear of the society in which we live, almost overcome with a feeling of hopelessness, I mean really, what can a prayer do, when I opened my mouth and spoke out loud to God.  As I asked God to protect the lives of police officers and those of Black Lives Matter, to help those how have lost loved ones, to change the hearts of those looking to inflict violence, to bless those hoping to help, to bring peace to those hurting I felt my heart swell with grace.  I knew God was aware of all those involved and His hand would mend and heal, encourage and teach, comfort and provide, and somehow God would make something good out of this.  That my beautiful black brothers and sisters and those who put their lives on the line every day will grow and heal and find answers that only God can provide. 

My first thirty days of fasting, I would pick one person a day to fast for.  First, my six children, my husband, my 8 siblings and their families, my parents, my neighbors, church leaders and those in my church in need.  Finally, I reached out to fasting for Barack Obama and others in leadership positions in our country.  I fasted for my home (literally for the walls, plumbing, electrical, structure, etc.), for those on facebook who popped on my feed, sometimes for strangers, sometimes for the husband of a friend of a friend, my neighbor’s mom battling cancer, my old college roommate who’s son has a brain tumor, the recent ex-husband of my friend and my friend who did not expect to wear the badge of widow so early in life.  I pray for unwed mothers, unplanned pregnancies and abortion doctors.  I pray for starving children, heartbroken parents and directors of orphanages.  I pray for those who are living and those who have died.  There’s no shortage of people to fast and pray for and I find it absolutely breathtaking.  I don’t know if it’s blessing them, if it’s changing them, but it’s changing me.  Some days I cry.  I just cry because I love that God grants me the privilege to speak with Him.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Making History at the first ever Prolife Women's Conference

Why did I attend the first ever prolife women’s conference in Dallas, TX this last weekend? 

(Abby Johson flashes a selfie!  We love her.)

My love for my baby(ies) and for all babies carried me there. My love for those who have suffered sexual abuse brought me there. For anyone who’s been broken, fallen, felt worthless or without hope, I went for you.  At times, these feelings have governed my world, so in that respect, I went for me.

I met so many amazing people, people from all over the country who support a better world.  
(Serrin M. Foster, President of Feminists for Life, shared so many things about abortion I'd never even considered.)

I met my hero’s, not celebrities or singers from today’s pop culture, but those who whole-heartedly believe women deserve better than abortion.  I met women who regret their abortions and are looking not only to heal, but to heal others, adoption advocates, birth mothers, those who have been adopted, abortion survivors, rape survivors, those born out of rape, single moms, secular women who support humanity, gay women, politicians on both sides of the aisle, volunteers, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, abortion workers who have seen terrible injustices on women and children and who are standing up and speaking out, doctors, lawyers, civil right leaders, clergy, atheists all in support of nonviolence, choices and the very best for women. 

A woman with gray hair in a modest dress had a pin secured onto her sweater.  She passed by me and when I read the words she boldly wore on her lapel, I had to speak to her.  I regret my abortion, it said and I thought I might cry.  In my eyes, she was a woman whose conviction was born out of pain and I immediately loved her.  She was there representing her unborn child and my respect for her felt like a trophy.  21% of pregnancies end in abortion. 

I talked with a woman about her adoption that had happened 16 years earlier.  Her baby, a son, was placed with a loving family and had recently connected with her.  As she spoke, I could see her core was made up of pain, courage, love and understanding.  What a mighty force a birth mother is and I could think of no more selfless act.  Small wrinkle lines had made their way around her eyes.  To me, they represented the time she’d spent in deep thought, moments of heartache, wonder and than redemption.  Half her heart was her son and she would spend her life praying he was happy and loved.  On the contrary, abortion had never been an option for her.  Thru adoption, she could give her son life and pure unconditional love.  Although this woman felt small, I saw her as a woman of great bravery; a hero with light shining from her eyes and words.  Adoption made this fragile woman unbreakable.

A beautiful woman from New Mexico opened up to me about her older brother, a boy her mom had aborted almost 40 years earlier.  Thru tears, she spoke of her love for him, how she feels him near and knows his name.  There is a movement of others just like her; family members looking to heal from the loss of a sibling.  Abortion is a secret that can only heal through truth.  The reality this boy existed, that he had a purpose on earth and loved his family still holds true.  Thru gentle whispers and tender relationships, he still has a voice.  Because of God, his mother and sister can have peace and know someday, they will see him again.

I met a woman who’d volunteered for over thirty years at a pregnancy center.  Before, I may not have noticed such a quiet, unassuming force of nature.  It’s not easy to put yourself out there, especially in this sort of controversial arena.  I wondered how many lives she’d impacted, how many woman and children she saved.  Why would a person take so much time from his or her life to reach out to pregnant woman?  “Love,” she said.  “Because of love.” 

I met Abby Johnson, a former director from Planned Parenthood who for 8 years, thought she was doing the best thing for woman, but after seeing an ultrasound guided abortion learned the horrors of abortion.  She left the industry and has been sharing her story ever since – that abortion is a product Planned Parenthood sells and they make millions upon millions of dollars from, that abortion clinics are strategically placed in the poorest minority communities, that more black babies are aborted every year then born, that abortion patients are most often coerced by abusive boyfriends and even Planned Parenthood staff into having abortions, that the abortion industry is built on lies, violence and corruption.  Abortion is population control and eugenics.  If you can convince an entire population of women to destroy their offspring, you don't have to start a war.  You don't need to build up an army because the women will silently and many on their own dime, pay for their unborn to be destroyed.  If politicians can convince women abortion is an empowering choice, then money wins, a sick social agenda wins and women lose.  

A met a bad-a*#, tattoo-covered, pink-haired, bi-sexual woman who rocks.  She is an in your face, out-spoken New Yorker who doesn’t care what you think of her.  She stands for all injustice on woman and breaking away from prolife stereotypes, will say through secular words, historical studies and philosophical argument that abortion hurts woman.  She won’t say God and faith.  She’s not a mother.  She doesn’t read the Bible, but instead quotes deep thinkers, artists and scholars who have something to say about woman’s liberation.  It’s fascinating and the name of her organization is Feminists For Life.  You have been warned!!
A pregnant wonder woman.  I love it.

A brave woman opened up to me about her two abortions and how through dreams, she sees her little children playing on a swing underneath a giant tree.  They are safe and in the care of Jesus Christ.  When she cried, her tears sprang out like droplets of hope and I cried with her.  For those who have had an abortion or multiple abortions, do not for a minute think you are not loved.  You are so loved.  I love you.  Pray.  Talk with God.  God’s got this.  There is nothing we can do that He doesn’t already know about and have covered.  If you haven’t prayed in a while, take a moment alone and open your mind to a conversation about what you’ve been through.  In every abortion, there are two victims.  You deserve healing too.  You are beautiful.   

I was impacted by woman after woman and wished I could ask everyone in attendance their story and why they made the journey.  Most, like me, had traveled across the country at their own expense to show their support to a cause bursting at the seams.  We are done with the abortion narrative, that a woman’s choice is the end of the discussion.  Woman deserve better than abortion.  A pregnant woman should be loved and protected.  Our societal norms regarding unplanned pregnancy are not prowoman.  Violence has never been embraced by the feminist movement until abortion.  Men have a huge part in this change.  Respect for womanhood, her body and the unborn child must become a man’s issue or we will never change. 

It’s been 42 years since abortion became legal.  56 million babies later, what does the research show?  The truth is not easy to find, but these are the questions we need to ask.  Is abortion a woman's right, or a wrong inflicted on women? Is it a mark of liberation, or a sign that women are not yet free?  Women are speaking out on abortion, not for political reasons but out of concern for women’s emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health.  Abortion is not political, but at the heartstrings of every woman who has experienced it and every child who has lost his or her life.  My thesis is I believe more abortions than we realize are born out of the injustice of sexual abuse, how it makes a girl feel like trash and how 1 out of 3 girls will suffer sexual abuse.  It will take years, even a lifetime to heal.  One of the greatest tools for manipulative unjust men is abortion.  If he can convince a woman she is worthless, so will she view her baby.    

So, why was I at the prolife women's conference?  If we could sit down, I’d tell you through tear-stained eyes, but most importantly I was there because I have a one-year old son named Canyon Samuel Lofgreen who came at a difficult time in my life.  This unplanned life event was born out of debilitating morning sickness, doubt, uncertainty, emotional turmoil, physical exhaustion and . . . faith.  Faith was what I held onto when my world felt out of control and in return for my small 9-month sacrifice I received a baby.  
A baby!!  

When everything else fell away and I could see through the eyes of love, I knew my baby was worth it.  His presence alone is enough, but the physical warmth of his body next to mine makes every cell of my body sing.  In finding him, I lost myself and away went all the rationality that having a baby would be too difficult.  I’m stronger than I knew and my complaining only made me weak.  When in frustration I voiced out I wasn’t strong enough to care for another baby, something said back to me “Become stronger,” and I knew it was the voice of God.  I had that choice, to be stronger than the negativity, the societal pressure and uncertainty.  I want my son to know I stand for him and I want woman to know people like my son deserve a chance, that we don’t want to just wipe out such charisma and beauty before they even have a chance.  How many babies just like Canyon are aborted before their mother gets to know how amazing they are.   

In the words of Abby Johnson, “We believe that abortion strips women of their dignity. We believe that motherhood is empowering. We believe that not conforming and giving into societal pressures when it comes to femininity is empowering. We believe that this justice applies to every single human being on this earth. We believe in redefining the pro-life movement to include everyone, every age, race, gender, religion and every job.”

Because of the people I met, I know I’m not alone.  

People who support life have the winning ticket.  
(A supporter for Democrats for Life.)

WE chose life over death.  

We chose a baby over shame.  

We chose woman over corruption.  We chose to give our time, money and prayers to pregnancy centers and adoption agencies instead of Planned Parenthood.  

I’m so thankful for Abby Johnson had the tenacity and vision (and can survive off of so little sleep) that should could put the first ever Prolife Women’s conference on the map.  I believe we made history and what an honor it was to be there.  For my son, for my children, out of my love for others I will do my part, even for the one—especially for the one. 

If you do not agree with me, that's alright.  I appreciate your willlingness to read about my experience.  I love all women and feel the political divide projected on us by the media and politicians is harmful.  I love you.

I’m working on a book called WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE? and have extended the deadline for you to submit your story.

WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE? is a collection of stories about girls who faced an unplanned pregnancy and what they decided to do about it. Some may have kept the baby while others may have placed their baby up for adoption or terminated their pregnancy through abortion. Because many aspects of unplanned pregnancy aren’t talked about, I’m hoping these stories will open the door and help someone in the same situation.
If you want to help, here’s what you can do:
Write your story. This can be done the same way you would write a journal or diary entry. Write about how you felt and how your story progressed. Share what ever you feel. There is no judgment here. Remember, your story may be just what someone else needs to read.
Stories can be submitted anonymously or you can request names be changed. You can email stories to Please submit your story as soon as possible. By submitting your story, I reserve the right to have your story in WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE?

Also, if you know someone who has had an unplanned pregnancy, please pass this information on to them. Feel free to contact me is you have any questions. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Intermittent fasting – 5 months later

I wrote my memoir Starving Girl – my 30-day experience with the miracle of intermittent fasting in 30 days. 

Every day, I took time to journal how I felt about what I was doing, the challenges, rewards and impressions.  I wrote about hunger, body image and overcoming negative self-talk.  I was in uncharted territories, I mean me, the girl who loved eating and had been overweight most of her life was going without food for 16 hours a day and writing about it.  I was no expert on fasting, prayer or weight-loss.  All I knew about fasting was what I’d been taught by my Christian parents as a child: on the first Sunday of every month our family skipped two consecutive meals.  The money saved from not eating the two meals was given to the poor.  We were intentional about our fast, praying for those in our family or community in need of help.  With this concept, I was going to fast for 30 days, meaning skipping two meals a day.  I skipped breakfast and lunch and would eat from 4:00pm to bedtime.  Before bed, I’d kneel in prayer and start my fast for the next day.  Why?  This may be difficult to believe, but it was because God told me to.  I fasted on Sunday January 3, 2016, my typical best-effort once-a-month fast when I felt impressed to fast for 30 days.  I was told it would change my life and my life needed a lot of changing. 

At first, I tried to talk myself out of it.  Why would I feel impressed to do such a thing?  Was fasting for 30 days even healthy?  My once-a month attempts at fasting were pretty pathetic and usually resulted in either sneaking something to eat or having a bad attitude and complaining about how difficult it was.  Truth was I didn’t want to fast for 30-days, but throughout my life, through miracle after miracle and blessing after blessing, I’d learned to recognize God’s voice.  I couldn’t deny the inspiration to fast for 30 days came from Him.  He’s the boss.  I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t follow through with what I’d been instructed to do. Even on the most difficult days, even when hunger made me nauseous or when there was chocolate chip cookie dough right in front of me, I carried on. With God right by my side, quitting was never an option.

While fasting, I learned things about myself I didn’t know before like:

I learned I had a food addiction. 
I realized I had a negative body image and talked down to myself because I felt fat.
Although I thought I was grateful for food, I learned most of the time I resented food and blamed it for most of my problems.
I’d exaggerated my relationship with food.  When I thought I was starving, I learned there were people in the world who were truly hungry; even starving.
I didn’t realize how much food I had wasted throughout my life until I went without food. 
I lived in a constant state of either procrastination or rush and was never settled with myself.

Even with God at my side, fasting for 30 days was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding.

The rewards were the following:

I was able to stop the negative self-talk in my mind.
I overcame my food addiction.
I developed a habit of praying every day, even multiple times a day for those in need.
I turned to the sweetness of the scriptures when I craved sweets.
I stopped wasting food.
I learned hunger was not something to fear or despise, but to turn to gratitude.
I became aware of my ancestors, those who’d lived before me who had gone hungry and was incredibly grateful for them.
I developed true empathy for the poor and prayed for them throughout the day.
I was able to give the money I saved while fasting to the poor.
I developed a relationship with God that literally brought me to tears.
I learned I am a child of God and I believe it whole-heartedly.
I learned to live in the moment.

Oh, I almost forgot because it’s not as significant as the other rewards - I lost 12 pounds.

After my 30-day experience, I continued fasting because not only had I learned to love it, but I discovered a term called intermittent fasting.  Believe it or not, what I was doing was healthy and promoted by many doctors and researchers.  Intermittent fasting concludes there is a pattern to eating and the body runs more efficiently when it consumes its daily calories in an 8-hour eating window.  I believe it is not promoted like it should be because nobody makes any money off it.  Intermittent fasting is free.

I continued editing my memoir; adding additional insights, stories and impressions.  It is now in the hands of a very talented miracle-working editor.

I just finished my fifth month of fasting.  My memoir is done and hopefully will be up on Amazon in the next month.  I’ll have a book launch on my blog soon, but I’ve learned so much more about fasting then what you’ll find in the first book.  The rewards keep on coming, as does the weight-loss so I’ve decided to start book 2 of Starving Girl.  Because I plan on practicing intermittent fasting for a year, I may also write a book 3 of Starving Girl

For many people, the most interesting part of intermittent fasting is the weight-loss.  Dieting is a billion dollar industry and people are desperate to get those unwanted pounds off.  I get this because dieting was the focus of my life every since I was a teenager.  That’s right, for 30 years I’ve fought this demon.  I will share my numbers, although I do this with one caveat:  fasting has changed my life because of the spiritual and emotional benefits, not because of the number on the scale.  I weight myself at my doctor’s office, as I do not keep a scale in my home.  I will not give the glory to the scale, but to my Heavenly Father.

 Before intermittent fasting:

After five-months of intermittent fasting:

I’ve lost 30 pounds, dropped two dress sizes and am running 2 miles a day.  I’ve incorporated a lot more exercise into my life because I love it and my body is lighter and stronger.  If it wasn’t for the spiritual growth, awareness and empathy I’ve developed, I don’t know if I would have ever learned to commit to a healthy eating plan, but this is it for me.  Intermittent fasting is amazing and now, it’s pretty easy.  I rarely feel hungry while fasting.  Prayer is essential, as is scripture study and giving to the poor.

I started a conversation on facebook about intermittent fasting and there were some haters.  Out of maybe 100 positive comments, 3 people voiced negative concerns.  I was told I was anorexic (yea, right!), needed therapy and should not be promoting intermittent fasting because I’m not a doctor or dietician.  Several people involved in the discussion defended intermittent fasting and voiced they had been advised by their doctor to practice the same thing.  Despite my insecurities, I combated the negativity pretty well and only wallowed for about a month.  I wondered if I should I keep my journey private, but when I was told to fast for 30 days, I was also told to write about my experience so I’ll share my story with the greatest of hopes to help others who struggle with the same issues.  You should talk to your doctor if you're considering trying it.  I'm ever so thankful for God's law of the fast.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Beach Vacation to Remember

Last week, our trip to California could have easily been called: Every good reason to stay out of the water.

It was almost like a curse with gray skies, hundreds of thousands of dead red crabs, riptide warnings, cold water and a great white shark attack on a swimmer at a nearby beach.  We could have proclaimed “This one’s for the history books, kids,” as we packed up and left, but with boundless energy and cousins joining us, we made it into one of our most favorite trips ever.

Last year while in Newport, I had a three-week old baby and was primarily on mom duty.  

You mom’s out there know how beach trips are – cooking, cleaning, packing, unpacking, loading the car, unloading the car, folding strollers, unfolding strollers, keeping sand out of the baby’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth, etc. Last year I had a hernia, neuropathy in my feet, back pain and let’s not forget a mound of belly fat so protruding, it left me unable to bend to tie my own tennis shoes.  I can blame most of these physical problems on my pregnancy (especially the belly fat) and I was in pretty poor health.  I remember one particular day trying to body surf and when I felt the pull of my hernia, I quickly realized my days of playing in the ocean were done.

This year, I went to Newport Beach with a completely different outlook on life and a new appreciation for my health.  Because of my five-month commitment to intermittent fasting, I could play, jump, body surf, even run up and down the cliff stairs over and over again (yes, I did this for fun) because I felt so good.  My belly fat?  It's almost gone.  It's like saying goodbye to an old friend you never want to see again, except that old friend was never a friend, but a big old jerk who eats all your nachos.  Yep, that's how I feel about belly fat (I'm telling you, intermittent fasting zaps belly fat), it was a big old nacho jerk.

This was the trip salsa was made of?  Did I mean to say dreams?  No, I meant salsa.  I made it every day with loads of avocado, feta cheese and cilantro.  Eden and I made a conscious choice to not comb our hair.

Canyon made a conscious decision to take only three-minute daily naps.  

Because his nickname is “Perfect” and he is the happiest baby I’ve ever been around, it all worked out because he was still happy and perfect.  The boys made permanent residence at the resort basketball court 

and only came up for food, sleep and when it was time to go to the beach. 

Because the counselor and I are both self-employed, it can be a challenge leaving work for play.  We both love, I mean LOVE our work.  If I don’t physically leave my house, I find it difficult to let go of my writing and furniture projects, but this year it was different.  Because of intermittent fasting, I feel so very present. I don’t feel rushed, nor do I feel the pressure of regret.  I don’t worry about what should have been done and what needs to be done.  I no longer feel hungry while fasting.  If anything, I don’t even feel like I put a ton of effort into it anymore.  I am intentional with prayer and purpose and have spent the last two weeks fasting for my dear friend Bill Mellyn and his family.  Bill passed away after being hit while riding his bike and my heart has been broken.  Fasting has played a critical role as I’ve worried, pondered and trusted in God.  Because of Bill’s passing, I have been very aware of my blessings, how precious life is and the beauty of the earth.  I had some necessary internal conversations with God about the meaning of life, the type of mother and wife I want to be and the things I hope to accomplish with my limited time here.

I spent so much time kissing the top of Eden and Canyon’s heads; they probably both have some permanent indentations.  Eden said her favorite part of the trip was coloring.  I watched as she colored The Little Mermaid and leaping dolphins with rainbows in the background.  I marveled as Canyon learned to walk, taking in each precious pitter-patter step as evidence of the absolute miracle it is to have a baby. 

Canyon loved when I turned on the noise maker to ocean waves.  It sounded just like the beach.

I watched with awe as the counselor, well, did anything and everything because he is just so loving and precious I find I must pinch myself.  

Yeah, he’s that great.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

As I watch my daughter dance

 Eden’s shy.  She rarely leaves me, even to go to a friend’s house to play.  All her friends graciously oblige to playing at our house. 

Eden has many reflections of me in her little life; we both have a love of art, babies and Jesus.  Her room is a Barbie shrine and yes, she inherited that from me too.  When I watch Eden play or interact with her brothers, I marvel at her beautiful personality.  Like a little angel, she’s gentle, soft spoken and smart.  When I was a little girl, I was self-conscious and didn’t feel like I fit in, but Eden seems to have so much figured out.  She did not inherit that from me.

Eden is shy, but she is not without opinion.  Most days, as long as she’s within earshot distance from me, she gets along just fine, but then she started dance.

When dance class is called Princess Camp, you think your girlie-girl daughter who literally sleeps on a sheet of Disney princesses will love it, right?  Nope.  On the first day of class she wrapped herself around me and in a ball of tears, we politely excused ourselves.

I’m not sure what changed since that Princess Camp debacle, but with a little encouragement Eden decided to give dance another try.  I think her decision had something to do with make up, glitter and twirls.

As I walked her backstage the day of her first recital, again her tears came for a visit, but she was able to push aside her shyness and smile on stage.  Her determination came alive and a little star was born.

This year, she was like a pro.  “I’m alright, Mom,” she said when I dropped her off backstage.  She was with her friends and having fun coloring before their big number.

It’s not that I miss my little shy girl (although I do), and believe me, there’s still plenty of moments I wonder if she’ll come out of her shell, but I hope I nurtured her through that phase.  I hope she knows its ok to be shy.  I know it’s a fine line between pushing my daughter to take dance or taking her out instead for frozen yogurt with all the toppings, but luckily, we have enough time for both.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My appetite had been exploited

Many of you who have followed my path with intermittent fasting know it’s healing my negative body image and food addiction issues. 
What have I learned?  Somewhere on my path of life, my appetite grew too big.  I know this isn’t rocket science, but I had to ask myself why?    I’m not exactly sure, but I think in an attempt to protect myself from pain; any pain be it emotional or physical, hunger became a feeling I would fill with food before it took hold of me.  There was already too much pain in my life.  I wasn’t going to let anymore enter, especially if I could suppress it with chocolate chip cookie dough. 
Intermittent fasting helped me realize when I’m hungry, I don’t have to turn to food.  My appetite had taken its toll on me and would hold me prisoner as long as I tolerated it.  Obesity had instigated my foot neuropathy, back pain and insomnia.  In other words, I had to understand my relationship with food and hunger or I would spend the rest of my life a victim to it.   

In my previous decades full of attempts to lose weight, I’d quit when hunger entered.  Hunger didn’t feel natural.  Food had a much stronger pull than my own will-power and like a rivaled opponent, I’d give into hunger before it took hold.  If I was truly hungry, that would be fine, but I’d adapted to a place where emotionally I was hungry all the time.  I wanted food to feel and fill all the voids in my life.  Intermittent fasting taught me a simple truth; sometimes, I needed to feel hungry.
Don’t get me wrong.  My primitive relationship with hunger didn’t change overnight, but after a few weeks of intermittent fasting I recognized hunger came at very meaningful times.  Hunger came when I emotionally wanted to slouch or weaken my posture, but if I allowed it, hunger could be a gentle teacher.  Hunger humbled my physical body and awoke my mind to become more alert and creative.  When every impulse and craving of my body was not satisfied, my confidence became stronger and I became more present in life.  Food was no longer a dysfunctional tool, but something to be grateful for.  When I was hungry, I was teachable.  My appetite was no longer destructive and my love for self has grown.

Mayer with his poetry award.
Once I understood my indulgent lifestyle of food created a world of ingratitude, obesity and procrastination, I could look hunger in the eye and not blame it anymore for my problems.  My appetite needed to change.  Intermittent fasting was an open invitation to hunger.  Surprisingly, hunger brought me the best gifts, but only by remembering those who do not celebrate it.  In most instances, hunger does not come by invitation like I had allowed it, but by famine, poverty or war.  It is reserved for the desolate and hopeless, sprinkled with fatigue and fear.  I had to remember those who truly suffered with hunger.  In a house full of food, I was not starving during my intermittent fast; I was practicing self-control.  Hunger became a teacher of reality holding me to a high standard of reverence and awareness.  I increased my financial donations to the poor and prayed for them throughout the day.  I learned food is a gift, not an indulgence.   

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Tribe - Teaching Kids to Write

Writing in my journal – a favorite past time for me since I was a kid.  My mom, the gifted writer that she is, gave me my first journal when I was five and I’ve been writing in it ever since.

Eden on Mother's day

While practicing intermittent fasting, I’ve become more present in my life; more aware of beautiful tiny things especially in my children.  Because I no longer live in a state of rush or procrastination, time has presented itself a bit more accommodating.  I kept a detailed journal the first 30 days of my intermittent fast, so I wondered “Why have I not taught my kids to keep a journal of their own?”  I knew the answer – I never had enough time.

On a quest to help my children learn to listen better to each other (and their parents), I came to the realization they first needed to learn how to listen to themselves.  Hence, journaling – the ultimate experience to understanding and listening to your own needs, feelings and emotions. 

I’ve been working with my kids on journaling now for several months and have seen huge breakthroughs in how they feel about themselves and treat each other.  Not only do we have scheduled one-on-one time, but I’ve learned more about them than if I just kissed them goodnight and tucked them into bed.  My boys aren’t big talkers to begin with, so at first I asked questions and they answered.  Of course, Eden was all into it from day one and it was almost impossible to turn her ideas off.  
Eden with Canyon on his 1st birthday

Anyway, with the boys we worked on gratitude, goals and funny experiences they had.  It didn’t take long before they decided the things they wanted to talk about and write.  Now, it’s almost a necessary bedtime routine.  With me as his scribe, my 8 year-old loves telling me funny stories while I write them down.  Mayer likes to write poetry and play on words.  He entered a writing contest at school and his poem won.  He now identifies with himself as a writer and I think this made me more emotional than anything.

Each of my children is a gifted writer, but more importantly they know I’m making them a priority in this time-starved world.  As their mother, this was a skill I needed to manage better and somehow, fasting helped me to it. 

I was asked to teach creative writing at a charter school here in Mesa for 2nd and 3rd graders.  Of course, I was thrilled.  I did some research to develop a curriculum, when I decided to use some of the techniques I’d stumbled upon while teaching my boys to journal. 

Let me tell you, I love working with kids.  After the first day, I was hooked.  They are the most loving, beautiful, talented little people.  

Our writing experiences open the door for them to put into words their ideas and feelings, their dreams and hopes.  They have so much to say and they say it so creatively.  

I tell you, my kids and these kids are my tribe.  This little audience is precious.