Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Fighting An Eating Disorder

I'm in recovery, but that doesn't mean I don't have bad days.
I have nights where I sit in the shower and stare at the drain actively fighting the voices telling me that if I make myself sick I'll feel better, my stress level will decrease, I'll finally feel beautiful, and that all my problems will just melt away. I haven't given in to those lies for the last 2 and a half years. I've wanted to so badly some nights lately as my stress level climbed higher and higher, and as I watch my hopes for the next year came crashing down. I know the reprieve from whatever I'm feeling will only be temporary if I make myself sick, and that I'll actually feel worse after purging because I'll have the added pain and guilt that comes with it. Even just thinking about purging brings feelings guilt some days. So I sit, I stare, and I fight with everything I've got. I think of all the reasons I need to and want to stay in recovery, I repeat Psalm 46:5 to myself over and over again, I think of how far I've come, I think of all the things I want to do, and I find a way to get to my feet to stay in recovery one more day.

There are days where it takes everything I have not to give in, and there are days where I barely even think about it. It's hard to explain sometimes how I can have a great day on the ED front one day, and the next I'm fighting not to purge after every meal. This battle is an active one, the voices in my head are never silent, they're just a quiet murmur some days. They're always there though in the back of my mind ready to take hold the minute my guard goes down and I weaken.

I've found it's easiest to take this battle one day at a time, and to not focus on the bad days because there will be bad days. Most of the time I have good days where I don't think about it, I don't notice the voices, but a bad day could be just around the corner so I can't let my guard down. Coming back from a bad day isn't always easy either. It can take days to get back to a good place when a bad day comes. My focus has to shift, and I have to work on getting back to a good mental place. I have to make it to yoga no matter what, I have to make sure I'm eating clean and snacking smart, I have to turn on music and feel the lyrics, I have to journal, and I have to forgive and love myself.

My demons are patient, but I am stronger than their patience. I am more than my ED, I am more than the image reflected in the mirror, I am more than my scars; I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I will find a way to make this struggle worth it, even if it's just making someone feel less alone in their battle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Girl With Tattoos

Tattoo 4 is coming in the next couple months, so that means the next tattoo(s) are already in the works.
I've been looking at arrow tattoos as a possibility for awhile and found a couple I liked, but nothing that I loved. So I ended up doodling my own one day, or at least attempting to draw my own (I can't seem to get the size right) that will become tattoo number 5. I used the NEDA  (National Eating Disorder Awareness) logo and I turned into an arrow. An arrow must be drawn back before it can be released forward. That means all these things that I deal with, the battles I fight, my life experiences, they're all preparing me for what's ahead, and what's ahead will be wonderful. 

Right now I'm thinking about putting "Hopeless Wanderer" underneath. It's my favorite Mumford and Sons song, and I've always loved the quote "Not all those who wander are lost." I love wandering, I may not always know exactly where I am sometimes, but I know how to get back home and I've found myself in my wanderings. I haven't decided if it will go on the inside of my right bicep or if I'll stick it somewhere else. That may play into the size of the tattoo too, but this is the first one I've put pen to paper with an original design.

I've also been playing with the idea of getting the tri-star from the Tennessee flag as a tattoo. My trip to Nashville in 2015 has majorly stuck with me, and I'm dying to go back. I can't really explain what that trip meant, how the city made me feel, or how it's changed me but I don't feel like the same person I was when I left for vacation. At the same time Maryland is very much so home to me, so I'm thinking get the Tennessee tri stars with the Maryland flag pattern on them. I don't know where to put this one yet, but I'm very excited about it even though I'm not sure if it will end up happening at this point.

If you were counting that will make a total of (at least) 6 tattoos, and I have a feeling I'll end up with more than that as I continue to live life and add memories and reminders to my body. I know some of you are reading this and thinking that 3 tattoos is 3 tattoos too many, but each of my tattoos has a special meaning to me. My love of dance and all that God taught me through serious ankle injuries that prevented me from pursuing a dream is a permanent reminder on my ankle, my love of music and lyrics and everything music has gotten me through is a permanent reminder behind my ear, my faith and a reminder that God and his angel armies are always there by my side is on my rib cage, soon to be on my left wrist a verse that has gotten my through the bad times, an arrow that reminds me my daily battle can be won and that everything is ahead, and a tattoo that will remind me of my physical home and my heart home because both places ground me. My tattoos are a window into who I am, I've met people who can't see past them and I feel sorry for them because they're going to miss out on so many people's experiences. My body is a journal of sorts; each bruise, each scar, each piercing (all ear piercings for the record), and each tattoo is a reminder of who I am and what I've gone through in this life. These things make me who I am, and I wouldn't change any of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Showing Up For Life

Life has literally beat the crap out of me over the last few months. We had a major audit at work over the summer which meant extra hours, packing 10 hours of work into a 9 hour day so I had time in my day for me, not really taking breaks (except to get caffeine and sugar in our systems), a stress level that rose to a height it hadn't been at in years, a level of tired/exhausted that I'm still working my way back from, and the realization that it's time to move on in my career which means making the time to polish my resume, write a better cover letter, try to find the right opportunity, and tears over the whole process.

I used to handle high stress for a prolonged period of time really well, or at least I thought I handled it really well. I entered a stretch of years where my stress level was relatively low, and I realized I had not handled a prolonged high stress level well at all. In fact, I needed to relearn how to handle it because my method of go-go-go and avoidance was not at all healthy, was not working, and was causing severe debilitating headaches. I still get the headaches at times, but over all I've gotten much better at handling my stress level.

I love taking care of people, mostly through making enough food to feed a small army (thank you Grandma Zack for that trait). The problem was, I was constantly putting the needs of other people before my own and I took care of everyone else's problems when I should have been a little more selfish and dealt with some of my problems first. It was also setting a terrible precedence for those friendships too. I didn't see the problems with that though until I started making changes. Pretty much none of those friendships have survived my growth period over the last couple years as I've learned to balance taking care of myself while helping and being there for others.
If I'm completely honest, part of me didn't want to get into my stuff, and, if I'm being honest, I still don't want to get into it at times. I will hold off on journaling about my feelings or something that happened because if I put the words on paper it makes it real, and sometimes I don't want to deal with it. Helping other people means I can avoid my emotions and my feelings with the guise that I'm putting other people first, like your supposed to. I really thought I could outrun my demons to get rid of them. When I finally slowed down and my stress level dropped everything I had been avoiding hit me at full speed. I had two options, 1) start running again or 2) start dealing with those things. I didn't emotionally have it in me to start running again, I was just too tired and I knew that if I didn't start dealing with my thoughts and feelings they would just keep chasing me. I had to face them, especially if I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level and develop better and deeper relationships.

Among the many things I have worked on tackling in the last few years,
-My trust issues: Ask anyone who knows me well. I don't trust easily and once you break that trust I have a really hard time finding a way to trust you again. I've gotten better with this on a letting people in basis, but I still don't let just anyone in my life. This makes it kind of tough when it comes to making friends because I can be slow to share. I've been stabbed in the back one too many times to not be cautious with what I share with others.
-Learning to be vulnerable: I spent 2015 focusing on this, and I'm still learning the finer points of it (like asking for help). I'm so much better than I used to be, but I still find myself raving deeper relationships and I know that means I have even further to go with this and it won't be comfortable.
-Learning to say no, and be ok with not giving an explanation for my no: I hate letting people down, but I know now that there are times I have to deal with my issue before I can be helpful to someone else. I also had to learn to be ok with no being my only answer. I don't need to go into all the details or excuses, I just needed to say no and let it go.
-I had to learn to value myself and learn that it was ok to be selfish, especially to put my needs first at times. In valuing myself I've learned more about who I am, what I want, and how to unwind from the chaos that life brings.
-I had to learn to let go of relationships that had become toxic. This has been really tough since it meant letting go of "friendships" that had gone on almost a decade, but it's been worth it to have the time to grow other existing relationships, rekindle old friendships, and create new ones. I've become far more picky about who I spend my time with because who I spend my time with influences how I spend my time and how far I'll get with my dreams.
-I got to figure out how to live and love life as a single woman. Some of figuring this out came from just living it, and figuring it out on my own so I could teach other people how to live it. I've also found myself explaining to people who don't understand my life. Sometimes this ticks me off, but I've come to realize some people really don't know or understand being single.
-Most importantly, I'm learning how to take care of myself, and listen to my body. I had no clue how to do this at 22, learning took some trial and error as I figured out what worked for me and what didn't. Now I'm learning that there are times when I have to force that time for myself, or take any 5 minute stretch I can get.

So many of these things I wish I had learned younger, or seen sooner. I can't live my life wishing I had though, I wouldn't be who I am if I had learned these lessons sooner. I'm taking them to heart now, and I'm showing up for life as best I can every day. Some days I stay home where I can hide from the world, others I open my home to someone else as an escape, and then there are days where I go out in the world and say "Bring it on." I'm living my life the only way I know how, I'm showing up for it.

I found this quote a couple months back, and it's stuck with my as life has continued to beat me up. Each bruise, each scar, it's a lesson and adds to the story that makes me who I am. I feel like I get a little stronger every day even if I don't always see it in the moment, so I'll keep showing up knowing I'll get bruised and hurt along the way. I know I'll be stronger for it, I'll find people to live life with, some who will walk in to my life only to walk out again, and others who will walk with me through it all. You can choose to avoid the bruises, but you're going to miss out on so much life.

We were never promised that life wouldn't be crappy, but we were promised we wouldn't have to walk it alone.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Cook (Sausage and Lentil Stew)

Fall weather is finally upon us, and I couldn't be happier! This is my favorite time of year; a time when everything begins again, sweater weather is a thing, and fire pit evenings abound. Most of my favorite recipes to make are more suited to colder weather, and most of them are soup recipes. This sausage and lentil stew is one of my go to recipes, and it doesn't require very much attention once it's going. It's filling, tastes great, the spice level can easily be altered, and it freezes beautifully!

First some notes on the variations I've tried,
  • I've made this soup without rendering bacon fat, I used about 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil instead, and, while it was still delicious, it wasn't the same. The bacon fat adds something special, so I just tell myself that all the veggies balance out the bacon fat.
  • I've used additional carrots, celery, and onion to get more vegetables in ( the recipe below), it turned out just fine (and my brother, who  believes vegetables  still ate it).
  • In case you haven't cooked with Bay Leaves before, do not eat them! I count how I put in, and I take them out as I find them when serving and packaging leftovers to make sure I don't forget about them or miss any.
  • All 3 types of sausage listed below have been tested, and they all work equally well. Andouille produces the spiciest version of the soup, then hot Italian sausage, and sweet Italian sausage is the most mild.
  • Kale can easily be substituted for another green you like, I've used Baby Kale and Spinach. (Baby Kale is very similar to spinach in look and flavor). Kale doesn't wilt as much as baby kale or spinach do, so I use an extra cup of greens if I'm using something other than kale.

Sausage and Lentil Stew
Adapted from Katie Lee’s, "The Comfort Table"
Yield: 6-8 servings
·      3 Slices Thick-cut Bacon- Diced
·      1 Large Yellow Onion- Diced
·      3 Large Carrots- Diced
·      3 Celery Stalks- Diced
·      2 Bay Leaves
·      8 ounces French Lentils
·      1 pound Andouille Sausage ( or Sweet Italian or Hot Italian Sausage ) casing removed and cut into bite size chunks
·      2 cups Kale (or 3 cups of Baby Kale or Spinach)
·      One 28 ounce can Diced Tomatoes with juice
·      6 cups Chicken Broth (I recommend low sodium so you can control the salt)
·      2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
·      ½ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
·      Grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese (for topping)

1.     In a large pot (I love using my 6 quart Lodge cast iron pot), cook bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp (about 7 minutes).  Remove the bacon, drain, and set it aside to garnish the finished product (and snack on).
2.     Add the onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaves to the bacon fat. Turn the heat to medium low and cook until tender (about 15 minutes).
3.     Stir in lentils, sausage, and diced tomatoes, give it a good stir and add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture has reached a boil reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour until the lentils are tender and fully cooked.  About 30 minutes in add the kale (or substitute of your choice).
4.     Serve (taking the bay leaves out as you find them) and top with as much cheese and reserved bacon as your heart desires. (Though it is also delicious with out them). I like to serve it with some crusty bread on the side too.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Single Woman

The experiment that was eHarmony ended back in May, and I was so very happy to see it end. I learned a great deal through the process about myself, who I am, who I'm looking for, and how truly great this period of my life is. (I also learned that dating in your mid/late 20s is a completely different game than dating in college or right after college, but I'll get into that another time).
If I'm honest, I stopped caring around December 2015 and stopped putting any real effort in at that point. It got to be so tedious having to check every day and figure out from a bunch of words on a profile if I was interested or not. You pick up on what's between the lines, you get a feel for who the more sane ones are after a little while, but that doesn't mean one or two won't get through the screening process you come up with. I got tired of having the same conversation over and over and over again, and the game I was trying to avoid was still there just in a different form. I tried Coffee Meets Bagel for a couple months until work got crazy. It worked a little better for me, but I still hated it. I won't be giving online dating another try in the near future. I had been thinking about giving a different site a try, but the whole process is tiring and I like my life as it is now so, at this point in my life, I'm done with online dating. I do not enjoy it and it does not work for me, so I'm going to enjoy this phase of my life that I'm in. I'm not swearing off dating, just the online part of it for now. I enjoy getting to know people, finding out what makes them tick, and developing friendships without any pressure.
I guess this means you can bring on the set ups (and if anyone wants to give speed dating a go, I'm in)!

I feel like people expect me to be seeing someone, recently I've been getting a lot more of the "I thought you had a boyfriend?" comments. I don't know if it's my age, how long I've been single, or what that's prompting them. I get asked on occasion if I've tried online dating... I just smile (laugh to myself) and say I've tried it and it didn't work for me. Usually this is shocking and unheard of news because it worked so well for so-and-so. Which usually leads to them telling the story of so-and-so and how well online dating worked for them and how happy that couple is. I'm just standing there thinking to myself, "That's so awesome for so-and-so, I'm glad it worked work for them. It's just so not my thing.", or (if I'm in a really bad mood) "So you want me to be with someone for the sake of not being single at my age?" The conversation often ends with something along the lines of "When I stopped looking..." which brings me to the heart of this post.

I know I've touched on this before, but please stop with the "stop looking" cliche. I don't think I know anyone who has found that advice helpful, and I know all you're trying to do is help. When you tell me about how you found love when you "stopped looking for it" all you're doing is giving me a chance to practice my eye roll, and, quite honestly, I stop listening to anything said after that. When you use that cliche it sounds like you're saying because I'm "looking", going on dates, putting myself out there, or being hopeful about finding someone that I won't find what I'm hoping for. It almost sounds like you're telling me there's a punishment for looking and I'm wrong to be putting myself out there. I love my life as it is, and yes it would it be fantastic to share it with someone. Until I meet the person that makes me feel like being in a relationship had more pros than being single does I'll keep living my life as it is, and that includes dates. I've actually done the whole "stop looking" thing, all it did was make me feel hopeless and miserable, or the relationship that came from me "not looking" wasn't so great.

Really, let's all avoid all the cliche dating/relationship advice that's out there. It's impersonal and (for me) it makes me feel like you aren't actually listening to what I'm saying, that there isn't an attempt to understand how I'm feeling, and that you just want me to stop talking about it. Instead of the cliches, let's listen to each other. If you don't understand what someone who is single is feeling, that's ok; just say that you don't understand and do your best to empathize. When you say you don't understand it says to me that you aren't discounting my feelings, you also open the door for clarification and better communication. Try to put yourself in the position of having a relationship status of single, and ask whatever questions you need to in an attempt to understand. The questions and attempting to understand is far less frustrating than the cliches are.

Single folks, I've noticed most of the people who use the cliches as dating advice have never experienced being single for a prolonged period of time. They don't know what to say or how to react, so the clichés are an attempt to help. They haven't been there, they haven't experienced it, so they don't know what it's like. They don't understand the depth of loneliness that comes with knowing there's no one to hold you while you cry after yet another crappy day at work, no one to pop open a bottle of your favorite wine and celebrate with you, no one to explore a new city with, etc. Yes, we all have friends who do these things with us, and we understand how it's just not the same but they may not. We have to be patient, listen, and find the right words to explain.

Maybe what it comes down to is better communication, better listening, and building a community of people that want to understand and are there for you even if they don't get it.
Maybe it's about getting vulnerable and being honest about how you're feeling at whatever stage of life you're in, and learning to reach out when you need help.

I can't help but think sometimes if we all learned to be vulnerable, listened to understand rather than respond, and showed grace to others (and ourselves) conversations and relationships would be different for the better.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... Getting Fit

Getting fit isn't just about the physical aspects of getting to the gym, workouts (strength and cardio), and eating healthy. Getting fit is a whole body thing, it's also mental and emotional. My workout regime and diet had to change (physical), my attitude towards food and life had to change (mental), and I also had to start taking better care of myself (emotional). The mental and emotional part has been the hardest part for me to change. It's been easy to make changes for my physical health through incorporating working out as a part of my week and cleaning my diet up, but taking care of my mental and emotional health has been my challenge.

This fitness path is not easy... You can feel great one day and like crap the next, you can miss a workout and it ruins your day, you can have every intention of taking an hour to spend on yourself but then traffic throws everything off, etc. I love that those I look up to and who motivate me are honest about their fitness set backs, it was nice to know I wasn't alone over the last few months.

I had a couple high stress months where I did not follow my usual fitness regime fully, and I could feel it, especially towards the end of that timeframe. The worst of it being I missed a few weeks of yoga because I was just too tired (in bed, asleep at 9pm tired), so now my hamstrings want to die and my mental and emotional health took a hit from that lack of me time and reflection. My diet was not what it should have been (way too much sugar and crap was consumed, I was not sleeping well (still not sleeping great), and my mental abilities were depleted. All of this meant I couldn't handle being around people, I napped when I got home from work only to go to bed early, and my body took a beating in every way possible (the more tired I am the more of a klutz I am). I got through it though, and I'm doing everything necessary to take care of my body so I can get back to my "normal" life. I'm working on getting my diet back on track, I've started planning workouts during the week, autumn is coming which means long walks, I'm trying to get back in the habit of journaling/writing, and I'm resting when I need to with no guilt.

I'm almost back to where I was, but there's still a long way to do. I'm adding some new tools to help me keep going on this path.

I got a new yoga app for my phone and tried it for the first time this past week. I skipped my usual yoga class, I had a case of the "blahs" and didn't feel like leaving the house so I tested out the app instead. Since my hamstrings hate me I went with a 30 minute beginner practice rather than a 60 minute intermediate that might make my hamstrings feel like they're on fire. As the 30 minutes came to an end I realized I needed more time to clear my mind, and I tried guided meditation for the first time. I LOVED it! It was all the things I love about shavasana (the final resting pose in my yoga practice, also known as corpse pose), but so much more. My head was fully clear, my body was fully relaxed, and I can only imagine how much more amazing it will be once I get another diffuser so I can defuse some lavender, add some candles, and get a different color paint on the wall to make the space even more welcoming and relaxing.

Yoga has done wonders for my fitness journey, as has writing. Finding new ways to mix up my workouts has been great, but I think the real trick has been finding what worked for me and sticking to it.
1) Proper Hydration- I drink water, lots of water. Water out of the tap can get boring when you're drinking multiple water bottles of it each day, so I jazz it up with some fruit, citrus and/or herbs. A handful of frozen or fresh cherries or strawberries and the juice from one lemon is my favorite! I've done lemon and cucumber, lemon and mint, cherry and lime juice, and so many more I don't even remember. I make a big jug for the week and pour it over ice. Herbal teas are great too. When I'm hydrated I feel less sluggish, less grumpy, and less blah
2) Do what you have to do to stay on track- I stopped keeping junk food in the house and started keeping healthy snack options around instead (nuts, fruit, veggies, etc.). I started leaving one of my yoga mats out as a reminder to practice, and I've decided to create a more welcoming yoga space in my house that will help me want to practice more. I stick to my Saturday morning trainings too, sleeping in would be nice, but if it wasn't for the gym I would probably never get out of bed on Saturday.
3) Find what works for you- I have to mix up my workouts, or I get bored and I don't do them. I can't run on pavement, my ankles and knees can't handle the impact. I can get to the gym for strength training and a short jog on the treadmill. Zumba, definitely not my thing. Ballet/barre/belly dance workouts, yes please! I'm still figuring out what works best for me mentally and emotionally, I do know lavender bubble bath is amazing, and coloring helps me distress. There's something about creating art that calms my mind...
4) Schedule your workouts and time for yourself, and DON'T SKIP IT- I used to put workouts in my calendar ahead of time so when I looked at my schedule for the day I would remember. I stopped doing that and I stopped working out... I need to start doing that again. I also schedule me time, whether I use that time to go to Old EC (pre-flood) and grab a latte while I wandered, curled up with a cup of tea or a glass of wine while reading a book, napped, took a bubble bath, or tried to catch up on the ever growing list of movies and tv shows I'm trying to get caught up on. If I don't take care of myself I can't take care of the people I care about.
5) Forgive yourself- If you miss a workout, that's ok. If you go for the burger and fries rather than the salad, that's ok. Forgive the person you were yesterday, forgive the person you were last year, forgive your teenage self who didn't know. If you are going to love yourself as you are you have to forgive the person that you were. Commit to trying to do better the next day even if it's just one small thing you do better. This has been the hardest thing for me to learn to do, I'm very hard on myself and I push myself harder than I probably need to. Learning to say it's ok, I'll try again tomorrow has made a difference to my mental health. It's changed my attitude towards work, and lessened the stress I feel from it on a daily basis.

I've still got a long way to go with all of this, but I'm better than I was last year. That means I've made progress, and as long as I've got forward motion I'll take it and keep on working to get better and more fit.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Day In The Life Of... A Cook (Jalapeño Cheddar Grits with Poached Eggs)

I love grits, especially cheese grits, and I love spicy food, so when I stumbled upon this recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar Grits with Poached Eggs on The Little Spice Jar it went to the top of my list of things to make. It's officially in the menu rotation now!

I didn't do much differently with this recipe. The biggest change was using quick grits rather than following the recipe since that's what I had on hand in my pantry. They worked just as well, and were faster. To make this change I added the milk after adding the grits to the boiling water, and swapped the heat to low to keep them warm once fully cooked.

Before I start I prep as many of the ingredients as I can, I chop onions, cut up veggies, prep meat, etc. and I line them up in the order I'll need them. It makes things easier for me when I'm trying a new recipe and want to read the directions as I go.

For this one start by melting the butter. Once melted and heated add the shallot and garlic and sauté until translucent. (It made my house smell lovely).

Once the shallot is translucent the jalapeño goes in. (I cleaned out all the seeds and membrane from the jalapeños I used, so the grits weren't spicy at all this time. Each jalapeño is different, so taste before you add the full amount and adjust according to your taste preferences).

While everything sautéed I prepped for my very first attempt at poaching eggs, slotted spoon, cracked eggs, and plate for finished eggs. (DO NOT use a paper towel like I did, your egg will stick to it badly and make a mess).

Once the grits are cooked whisk in the cheese. (I got busy poaching eggs and forgot to stir my quick cook grits. This meant my cooked grits clumped on the bottom of the pan. If this happens to you, it's fixable! Just carefully whisk them and they'll be great). Cover and set the burner to low to keep them warm while you poach eggs.

Egg poaching was not as difficult a task as I anticipated it would be. I went with the water swirling method since my eggs weren't fresh (I did not need the pan that full of water). All you do is get the water swirling really good, and plop the egg right in the middle. The idea is the egg whites fold over the yolk. (Fun fact, I watched about a dozen different  Youtube videos before I actually attempted this).

It took a little practice, but my final one was perfect! (Bottom right corner). To keep my eggs warm I placed the plate in the microwave between eggs (I DID NOT turn it on, just put the plate in and close the door).

If you don't like runny yolks, feel free to fry an egg or two, cut up hard boiled eggs, or any other prepare your eggs any style you like!

The end product is yummy, and with practice I have a feeling this will be a quick meal!