Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dear Skinny-Obsessed Me,

I know I've ignored you, wishing you'd eventually give up and leave. I've also blamed you and fought you, but today I want you to know, I finally understand.

I understand you grew up in the 80s when women were celebrated if they were skinny, tall and had legs for miles. Virginia Slims had the goal right in their name. Worse than that was hearing some of your favorite, most important people boil someone down to their weight. They judged it and insinuated things your little soul couldn't grasp, but you knew from their tone, it was bad. While you remember only a few of these comments, there were probably a hundred more you took to heart. 

All this created a web of beliefs that are amazingly strong. Fat people are out of control. They can't get their shit together. They're lazy. They've given up. They can't find happiness. They aren't attractive. They won't stay in love. They won't enjoy being respected by others. On the flip side, if you're skinny, the world is your oyster. All good things will come, including respect and belonging, admiration and love. 

I know you've seen exceptions - people who happen to be big living rich, happy lives. Over time, you've decided this is possible for some people, but you understand you're not one of them. You start in a deficit. You aren't on an equal playing field and for you, the only way to get there, is to be skinny. If you want a chance at love and a happy life, square one is being skinny. It's not life or death, but if it's happy life or hopeless life, the desperation feels about the same. 

So you hustle and try and feel guilty about unhealthy food choices and proud of healthy ones (when you know which are which). You feel good on days when you work out hard and bad on days when you don't or work out with less intensity. You feel angry when diet and exercise don't equal lost pounds and crazy when your weight goes up randomly. You feel disgusted when you see photographic evidence of the "extra." 

But then there are the wondrous days when the weight decides to come off. Seeing my smaller reflection in the mirror feels like you were handed a golden ticket. Today will be great, I think. I can hardly go wrong. After all, I'm so small. And you see the problem. There's no end to wanting to see a smaller reflection. You get it. That's dangerous. But it feels like heaven.

So recently, when I gave myself breaks from my healing diet, you hoped it would be okay. But it wasn't, was it? The weight came and you felt desperate. You panicked, thinking the disciplinarian needed to come back out to get us on track. I understand. You thought everything - literally everything hung in the balance. 

But it doesn't. I know why you thought that. I do. But...

Amazing, beautiful things happen in this world. Things beyond what we look like and it's what matters: love and wonder and life. All this greatness is happening and we are part of it simply because we were born. We can't demote ourselves and we can't disqualify ourselves no matter how much weight we gain. I am here and my whole purpose is to interact with the Divine and be part of all this greatness. 



So sweet little part of me, who is skinny-obsessed. I love you for trying to make me better and protect me from a terrible existence. But I want you to know we're going a different direction now. There will never again be a day, when we have no choice but to get the disciplinarian out or say mean things to our self or believe all the painful lies we've been told about what being fat means. There will never be a day when punishment by salad or boot camp will be the answer. We will walk in love and acceptance and let our body, our one precious body, know it's okay. 

We love it big.

We love it small.

We love it. 

How big will it get in the process? I don't know and it scares me too, but we are still going this way. If we find ourselves in a clearing that's skinny, but it's not love or acceptance, we will turn tale and run.

And we won't stop til we're home. 



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Main Bathroom After

So here's what our bathroom looks like now. I apologize for the photo quality, as it's a very small room and tricky to photograph for an amateur like me. I'm making up for it in quantity, so get ready...




We kept the vanity, faucet, toilet and tub. It was really the walls and floors we changed. The gray is the same because I love it so...but added the surprise of a pink ceiling.



We had hoped to remodel this bathroom three summers before it was actually a possibility, so I had lots of time to acquire the perfect accessories. The piece of art below, came from the decor consignment shop where I used to work. The towels and towel hooks came from World Market. They no longer have the hooks or towels, but I highly recommend them as a towel option that has the beauty of Anthropologie towels without being so pricey. In fact, I'd love to have a set of these to switch out from time to time! You can see all their pretty towels here






These lights are my favorite. They were second hand as well, and offered the brass I craved, but they were just naked candles. I found frosted cylinders to make them a little more modern and now their light is nicely diffused. The link is not to the site where I got mine, but they came broken three times because of poor packing. 


This toilet paper holder was from CB2 and while they don't have the exact one available they have this one that's wonderful. I love the touches of brass, but also love that I didn't have to replace everything. My faucet is still brushed nickel and it looks great. So if you're in love with the brass trend, but nervous about making a total switch (or can't afford to), try some pieces mixed in. The mix of metals can give you a relaxed vibe. The overall effect is more organic and less perfect, which I love. 




I found this mirror second hand as well! I love having a mirror tall enough that Brian and I can see in it at the same time! Our medicine cabinet mirror had been too small to share. It also doesn't cast shadows like the medicine cabinet one did. 



Here's how Brian put tile around our shower, eliminating the need for curtains all the way around the tub. 


We also had nowhere to store anything, so we had a hanging pocket organizer that held our shampoos etc. I didn't take a picture of it, but by the time we took it down, the mesh fabric was orange with hard water stains. Needless to say, I love my new shelf. The only sad thing is the tile color wasn't what I'd hoped for. I wanted a punchier pink, but all I could find was blush or salmon. Blush is still pretty, but not being tile experts, we didn't realize you have to use a different thin-set with glass tile. The dark stuff we used shows through in places. It's unfortunate, but I have a shelf!


There's the ceiling. I'd love to find a pearlized finish to put on it, so if you know of something, I'd love to hear about it. 


At long last, we had everything finished and I took my inaugural shower. I was rejoicing until I opened the shower curtain and saw water pouring out of the ceiling vent. We had to open the ceiling and fix a plumbing problem and now it all works. We just have a drywall patch that's taped and waiting til we can hire someone to finish it for us. Again. 


So it did not go smoothly and it cost (gulp) $2,000 in the end. But it is done and I am glad and enjoy it every single day. 




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Main Bathroom Process


I'm not going to burden you with a running dialogue but this photo tour will give you some idea what it was like to live in our house while we were renovating. It was pretty dusty. 





We got the floor tile set and felt encouraged. Until two tiles started rocking. We got those fixed and another two rocked. It was maddening. This is when we cursed the fact that we are not professionals. Or rather that we are professionals in other areas. It would not be the last time.




While the window was out, this cat decided to hop out and have a wild adventure. We had no idea when we brought him inside, we were also bringing a whole family of fleas. Then a box of bathroom items we'd stashed in our bedroom jumped out at me while I made my way to the bathroom in the dark. It broke my toe. 



But it did get done. I finally painted. And here's a sneaky peaky at the final product:



And that's not even the best part. So many more pictures for you soon!



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Main Bathroom Before

Well, my friends. After months of it being finished, I finally photographed my new bathroom. A little walk-through seemed in order after all the bleating you heard about how hard the process was. And for the sake of perspective, I'd like to show you how it was before our first renovation in 2009. 


You can see how it was since 2009 over here. And while it looked pretty nice in photos, there were things that were hard to live with. My biggest gripe was how impossible it felt to clean it. Imagine trying to clean around and behind this radiator (below) - particularly when it was hot! Not to mention all the wasted space. We couldn't put our trash can or scale anywhere on that side of the sink. 


The radiator needed to be taken out and stripped because it had been painted with paint that was not heat resistant. In the end, we decided to take the radiator out completely, since it's a small bathroom and stays warm without its own heat source. 


The plaster walls didn't appreciate the steam our showers created. The paint was happy to peel off in chunks that fell into the tub with us. 


Above you can see why it felt impossible to clean. I had almost given up at this point, knowing it would be gutted soon. It hurts a wee bit just showing you these photos, but I'm determined to keep it real. A lot of renovations I see on blogs feel out of reach. The budgets are big and the finish is amazing. Well, this will not be that post. 


Our floor was another problem. The original wood floors were all we could afford when we first renovated, but the toilet had problems in the years since. Brian repaired it several times and finally replaced it when the tank cracked, but the floor would never be the same. 



I know...gross. I had clearly given up. We decided to replace this window, since I didn't have the energy or ambition to try to get to the bottom of all that paint. 



The tub hardware was original and there was no mixer in the faucet. I didn't know what a mixer did, but it helps you get the right temperature of water. So this is why I would turn the knob for hotter, hotter, hotter and suddenly it would get cooler. 

So those were our major beefs with the bathroom. Sorry for all the grossness! 

It was bad enough we decided to work on it even though we had only about $300 to put toward it. It is miles better now and I'm so glad we did it. It cost much more than we expected in money (not that we thought our $300 would get us far) and boy did it cause trouble in ways we'd never imagined, but it is done and I'm looking forward to the summer of 2017 simply because there is no renovating to do! 

I promise to be back with pretty pictures soon! 







Thursday, March 2, 2017

Power for Good

Today let's try to lay aside our idea that everyone's flawed and no one can be trusted completely because of the bad lurking in their corners. We live fully aware that those we love have weaknesses and those weaknesses, acted on, become our pain. We’ve seen evidence of this in every close relationship we’ve ever had and even more evidence in relationships we observe around us. No one's completely unselfish; no one's struggle-free.

This makes it freakin' hard to believe God is pure goodness. Within the world we see, we have no examples of a completely good essence. Besides the written record of Jesus’ life, we won't witness such a person. So it’s a leap to believe outside our environment (a world with evil), this is a reality. Not only is it a reality – it’s the norm.

I’ve been braced for years, waiting for God’s Achilles heel to strike, but what if today I finally said, “Hey, I can’t see anything that looks like that around here, but I’m going to take the leap and believe it could be different elsewhere. I’m going to believe God is good, all the way through.” The Bible says he’s love, he’s light – not even a shadow in him. Sometimes I just have to try truth on to see how it feels. It doesn't always feel true at first, but when it begins to dovetail with the truthiest truths I know, it migrates from a profession of faith to an experience.  

And boy, do I want an experience. I want to feel ultimately safe and I want it to vibrate all the way to my root chakra. No more feeling threatened all the time. I want to feel like Jesus did when he slept through the storm and Peter - sleeping away the night before his execution. When you sustain a lot of hurt, especially the traumatic type (which is a much wider range than you may imagine), something in your gut shifts. Deep in the place where you know that you know what you know, you suddenly feel exposed, doomed, and frantic. Whatever safety you enjoyed previously in life is ripped away and now you wait, running to and fro, trying to avoid the pain that rains down.

But that sense of safety, which some of us can barely remember having, was truer than what the trauma teaches. That's probably the entire strategy behind trauma - to make us believe the safety God offers is a shabby excuse for it. But what wrapped Jesus in enough security to sleep through the storm? What quieted Peter's heart so he could sleep in prison? God must've restored Peter's sense of safety and because of it, his hope gleamed so brightly, he didn't need anything else. 

Hope for what? Hope his life had significance and value. Hope his soul was safe in Jesus. Hope in Christ's ultimate power and ability to 

work

it

out.

If our faith grabs onto the hope that God's good, we can also grasp his power as our hope. Power's scary if it's corrupted. In fear he's not all that good, I've discounted his power. I didn't want to deal with the idea there's an all-powerful entity who would likely hurt me if he had a bad day. So you almost can't abide the truth of God's power without accepting that his power is always, always, always love.

When I see him that way, I find my mouth hanging open. He's a freakin' warrior and he's fighting for me. Veins bulging, arms swinging, tearing through anything that separates us. He holds nothing back, there's nowhere he won't go and no limit to what he's risked for me. His fierceness isn't ominous because it's coming to my rescue.

And I need rescued. Rescued from self-hate and a purposeless existence and terror.

He is good.

He is powerful.

And he's coming for me.  







Monday, February 20, 2017

When It's Not Comeback Time

This undefeated stuff is hard. The last couple weeks have felt like a perfect storm, and I’m not sure I’m in the clear yet. I tend to write when I’m in the learning place, where lots of exciting connections are happening and ideas are bubbling up and life seems to be in an upward spiral. It’s like three quarters of the way through a movie - when music plays and you watch the person exercising and doing hobbies they always wished to do and just getting better. I LOVE that part. It goes fast and you can see improvement. I love it in my life too.

I’m less in love with the rest of life. The slow part. The part where you do what you thought was good, but it backfires. The part where you do the good and it doesn’t stack up to any obvious results. Or the part where you just can’t do the good you want to for whatever reason. For me that looks like my kids’ school friends talking about my napping, and a panic attack after trying a new work out, and reading a book to get out of my head and then being so engrossed in it, I’d rather my family didn’t bother me. Oh, and also, my sweet husband trying to make vegan mac ‘n cheese for me to eat at a Super Bowl party, only to not finish it in time and leave the kitchen a food-processing disaster.

Last week the shame gremlins (Brene Brown’s words) crowded around me. Why couldn’t I just be present and happy? Why didn’t I care what my daughter was trying to tell me? Why do I take naps when the rest of the world is working their butts off? If this is so hard, then change something! Just fix it!

It makes it hard to breathe deeply even now.

I fought those shame gremlins. I did. I told myself it was okay to be embarrassed and frustrated and even feel a little defeated. It was a S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E and it went on and on. It doesn’t feel like I won, even now when I’m pretty sure the clouds are going to break soonish.

The point of all this is, I judge times like this. I mark them, “BAD,” and want to hand them off. If it can’t be easy or at least rewarding, like a Hollywood comeback, you can keep it. At best, they seem like worthless space between the good times, necessary to endure. But guess what?

Cadence and I had a conversation one evening last week. Brian and Chandler were somewhere else, so it was just her and me in the living room. She talked and I listened and asked questions. It felt like time stood still. When I think back to last week, it stands out as a shining moment, like my greatest accomplishment and my greatest treasure. I’m a little shocked that something so brilliant could happen during that week. The one I’d written off as bad. The one I thought I was doing so poorly.

It makes me want to trust more. Trust in the mystery of good weeks and bad weeks and the way they change on a dime. I want to trust good gifts to come, even in hard times. Mostly, I want to trust that God and I are okay - that my struggle is not a barometer of the love between us. 

I hope you're week is off to a wonderful start. I hope you feel like you're kicking ass and taking names, but if not, it's not a waste. 

That's a lie. 

I'm not gonna say we can enjoy it all, but none of it's wasted. 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Undefeated

Elizabeth Gilbert tells about her efforts toward becoming a published writer. Each time she received a rejection letter, she would mail her work to another publisher. She calls it an attitude of stubborn gladness. It seems there are people who take set-backs very seriously, and those who take them less seriously. I’ve tended towards the former, feeling set-backs are meaningful (See? You weren’t cut out for this.) and foreshadowing (This dream will not pan out.) They seemed like hard, cold facts. Evidence even.
But then there’s Liz and other optimists. If they can respond so differently to obstacles, and sometimes find fulfillment, then perhaps it isn’t evidence at all. Perhaps it’s just the road to giving up verses the road to a chance for success. The first approach boasts, “I’ll outsmart fate by not dreaming or trusting the odds. I can avoid disappointment entirely.” The problem is, you’re disappointed from the start. We're built for dreaming and seeing dreams come true, so by cutting that possibility out of our lives, we’re already gutted.
So what’s the alternative? Trust the odds. Or not just the odds, trust the universe, the larger plan, your purpose, God. Believe there’s more to life than what people esteem and more to our purpose than what our cohorts consider purposeful. Gilbert decided from the beginning never to expect her writing to support her. She promised to support it. She also knew she would write til the day she died even if she was never published. She believed her writing/her creativity had existential value and she did it for love of it. Unconditional love of it.
When rejection letters arrived, one after the other, they didn’t stand a chance of dashing Liz's hopes. They couldn’t convince her she was wasting her time. They were, on some level, superfluous to what she was doing. So while her track record could have been 0 in 300, she was undefeated.
Stubbornly optimistic.
Stubborn gladness.

This concept has ridden into my life like a hero on a white horse. I needed this anyway, but so much more with the mood of our country now. I hesitate to go on social media because I feel wiped after three minutes. How do I stay aware and ready to act without feeling sucked under? How do I enjoy life's blessings while others go without? I guess this has always been the case, but right now it feels the only acceptable response is grief, anger, disillusionment and shame for the security we enjoy. But here's the problem.

In yoga, there's talk about vibrations (low verses high). This all sounds pretty hokey and unscientific to the average westerner, but think about it. Anger and fear are low vibration, while joy is high. When you're in a place of low vibration (or low energy), you can't think up brilliant ideas or problem solve. When I get overwhelmed, even simple solutions elude me. We just aren't much help to anyone when we go there. 

However, high vibration or joy, is a place of strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. How likely are you to fall off the wagon if the wagon is the most fun you've ever had? When we're in joy, we can stand strong and do good. Big good.

So I'm flexing my muscles. I'm painting paintings and listening to music and yoga-ing my heart out. It may look irreverent, but I'm keeping my vibration high so I will be ready. 

Ready to love my neighbor if it becomes illegal.

Ready to play the trickster to anything or anyone targeting people in the margins.


Stubborn gladness. 

When it seems impossible or even inappropriate, maybe that's when it's needed most. Tuesday, Brian and I sat in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant eating amazing food. People came and went: a man with a man-bun, a new mamma, an academic and a businessman. Different cultures, different genders, different orientations and certainly different world views. All of us together, peaceful and happy, appreciating the presence of the other.

I thought, "Look at us. We're doing this." It's so freakin' beautiful. I wanted to memorize it, appreciate it more deeply for the realization that it's fragile. If one thing's good about this moment, it's that many of us have decided to be guardians of good in a more conscious way than we ever have before.


Let's do so with stubborn gladness and we'll not be defeated.