Choose your own adventure in 2019!

selective focus photography of person holding the adventure begins mug

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

A few years ago I stopped doing New Year’s resolutions and started setting a one-word intention for the year. Last year my word was “time.” For the first time since becoming a parent, I wasn’t working and all three of my kids were in school. I found myself with unprecedented amounts of glorious, unstructured time to work on my own writing. It felt like I had won the time lottery and I needed to figure out how to not blow it on stupid stuff like reading about other people’s lives on Facebook.

I feel like I used my time pretty well last year. I started this blog. I wrote about three-fourths of a novel manuscript. I trained for my first ultra marathon. I invested in friendships with some really awesome people who make me laugh, help me grow and help me be a better mom, writer, and person. It was a good year with lots to be proud of. I still wasted plenty of time. I didn’t finish my novel like I had hoped to (more on that in a second). But I was conscious of time as a non-renewable resource, and that guided a lot of my decision making.

Something I learned this year: Time is not like money. You can’t hoard it and save it for later. The time will get spent one way or the other, but you get to choose how you spend it.

This year my word is “finish.” I am really good at starting things and am perfectly content being in the middle of a project, but I avoid finishing stuff. My theory has always been that I’m a perfectionist, and that avoiding finishing is my way of avoiding screwing up. You can’t officially fail if you don’t finish, right?

Reading the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck has given me new insight into why I don’t finish things, particularly writing projects. When it comes to writing, I have a “fixed” mindset, meaning I operate from a belief that my success as a writer is something I have no control over and my success or failure as a writer defines me. Eek, right?

In other words I have believed that being a good writer is a God-given talent that you either have or you don’t. Writing a “successful” book (which according to my fixed mindset outlook is a book that is published by a publishing house and is well-received by lots of people) is something I have very little control over. An agent has to want to represent it. An editor has to believe in it and pitch it to her fellow editors. The publisher has to get behind the book and spend money promoting it. I can’t control any of that stuff.

I get hung up on all the pieces of this process that I have no control over, and I basically give up when the writing doesn’t flow easily. I tell myself that if I were a better writer, the kind of writer that writes a “successful” book, then this would all be effortless. If it’s hard then I must not be very good at it, and if I’m not very good then my book will never get published. I imagine an editor trying to pitch my book to colleagues in a New York City office, snowflakes gently swirling outside the skyscraper window. I imagine everyone in the meeting giving a big thumbs down. That’s when it becomes very likely I will close my laptop and turn to another more appealing project like cleaning the toilet.

sabotage

This could be the cover of my book about my writing process. Here’s to less self-sabotage in 2019!

I have a fixed mindset about writing, and that mindset is what is standing in the way of finishing my novel. And finishing lots of other cool stuff too. The good news is that I can do something about this. Mindsets, like hairstyles, are changeable.

A fixed mindset defines success as proof that you are talented or intelligent. And failure is evidence that you are not talented or intelligent enough. Sorry, thanks for playing, but you had your chance and you blew it, is what the fixed mindset tells you when you fail. Or if things go well, the fixed mindset tells you that of course you did well because you are talented and that’s what talented people do. Talent, not effort, is the reason for success in the fixed mindset framework. Performance is everything.

Have you ever praised your child for being “smart” when they do well on a test? I think probably every parent has done this. That’s fixed mindset right there. Of course you did well on that test, you are naturally gifted with intelligence. Hard work has nothing to do with it, is the unintended message.

A growth mindset is characterized by the belief that you can develop yourself, that you can learn from mistakes, bad grades, and rejections. Challenges are to be expected because you are stretching yourself to do something difficult. Those setbacks aren’t the end of the story, they are valuable feedback that help you improve. Learning is valuable in its own right.

I underlined and put an asterisk next to the following passage from Mindset:

“You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re something in your mind, and you can change your mind…think about where you’d like to go and which mindset will take you there.”

I imagine sitting down with Dr. Phil and telling him about my fixed mindset approach to writing and him responding with, “how’s that working for you?”

Well, I have zero novels published, Dr. Phil, so not very well I guess.

So here’s my new growth mindset approach to writing:

  • A successful novel is a finished novel that I am happy with.
  • Writing a successful novel is in my control and no one else’s.
  • Writing a successful novel will require me to work hard, get feedback and use that feedback to revise. “Feedback” may come in the form of rejections. No, feedback will come in the form of rejections. Those rejections are helpful to me because they will make my novel better.
  • Writing a novel is difficult, but I am up to the challenge. I do hard things all the time. In fact, I kind of enjoy doing hard things, which is why I do crazy stuff like training to run an ultra marathon.
  • Publishing is in my control. I will try to get my novel published in the traditional way, but if that doesn’t work out, I can still publish it myself.
  • Don’t worry about the outcome, just write the story you want to tell as honestly as you can write it.

I am using writing as an example, but you could apply the growth mindset to so many things. Whether your 2019 goal is to lose weight, organize your house, or start a new business, the growth mindset is your friend. Realizing you can change the filter on how you see the world and your potential is pretty amazing and so encouraging. It doesn’t mean success will come more easily, but your mindset may be what keeps you going when the going gets tough.

Are you wondering if you are more of a fixed or growth mindset person? Here’s a little quiz from the book. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions.

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
  5. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
  6. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
  7. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.
  8. You can always change the basic things about the kind of person you are.

Did you answer “yes” to questions 1, 2, 5, and 7? You are seeing the world through a fixed mindset filter.

If you answered “yes” to questions 3,4, 6, and 8, then you see the world through a growth mindset filter.

How do you view mistakes? Being wrong? Do you feel like you always have to prove yourself?

If you said that you hate making mistakes, get really defensive if someone accuses you of being wrong, and feel like the world is one big final exam, then I am right there with you.

What if we didn’t see the world this way?

Here’s an illustration from the book: Imagine you have signed up to learn a new language. A few sessions into the class you have been called to the front of the room to answer questions. Do you feel anxious? Worried your lack of knowledge will be revealed to a group of people that is evaluating you? Or do you see yourself as a novice, at the beginning of something new with lots to learn. And this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for?

This feels like a choose your own adventure story. I know which option sounds better to me…

What is the thing you’ve been scared to try? Or scared to finish? Do you make resolutions or intentions for the year? I’d love to hear!


Where Do I Begin?

The best way to get things done image

This quote is on the cover of a journal I just bought. It sounds great and super motivating in theory, but in my experience beginning is not as easy as it sounds.

Because how do you begin? What exactly is the first step?

Right now I’m doing a few hard things that force me to begin when I don’t want to begin. I’m training for my first 50k ultra marathon. Come January 20th I’ll need to be able to run 50 kilometers (that’s about 31 miles) in the hilly desert of Big Bend State Park in west Texas. I’ve run three marathons, but this distance and type of race are new to me. I’m a tiny bit scared, but mostly really excited to push myself and run in some beautiful scenery.

I wanted to try an ultra because I love long distance running, and I love having a new challenge. Without a race scaring me a little, I am terribly undisciplined and will gladly sit on the couch eating chips and watching Food Network shows. That is my natural state of being. Races force me to run, and running always makes me very happy. But I forget this every single time I am faced with the choice of sitting on the couch vs. going for a run. The truth is I dread doing my runs and put them off as much as possible. And then I do them, and I feel amazing. So races are good for me because they are the catalyst for getting off the couch and feeling good.

This month I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month. The traditional challenge during NaNo is to write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel) in 30 days. I’m adapting this challenge to suit my personal goal of finishing my already-in-progress novel. I’m trying to get in 50,000 words, but I may fall a little short. My main goal is to write everyday and finish my novel. If that adds up to less than 50k words, I’m okay with that. Writing, like running, makes me feel so good, but it also holds about as much appeal to me as flossing my teeth. I tend to avoid writing even though it makes me feel happy and centered and whole, so I have to trick myself into doing it, just like running.

So back to my original question, how do you begin to do a big, hard project like writing a novel or training for a long race? It’s easy to keep putting off beginning because big goals like these aren’t accomplished quickly; they take many days of consistently doing little things that eventually add up to achieving something big.

This one day isn’t going to make or break my success, I often say to myself—so I’ll wait to get started until I get the perfect not hot, not cold, not rainy, not tired, not busy day. That’s when I’ll get my work done.

But life doesn’t give us many of those perfect days. So you have to start with the conditions that you’re given. You have to make them work somehow. And then you have to start all over again every day until you have met your goal.

So here’s how to make yourself do the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like doing it:

  1. Stick to a ritual.

Do the same thing at the same time in the same place each time. Take as many decisions and choices out of the process as possible. Here’s what this looks like for me with writing: I go to the same coffee shop, order the same drink, sit in the same spot (or as close to it as possible), open my novel on my computer, close my eyes and try to see one thing from my story. I really try to see it as clearly as though I’m watching a movie. Yesterday, my one thing was a character using a pick ax to dig up a garden.

I write my one thing just as I see it. I don’t question it. I am just reporting what I see. There is no choice about where to begin, which character to focus on. When I close my eyes, whatever part of the story pops into the viewfinder in my brain is what I write. And that’s what gets me started. Once I’m started, I can often sit and write for a good hour or two. I just need that little push over the speed bump.

Even when I can’t get to the coffee shop, closing my eyes and seeing my one thing still helps me get a little work done wherever I may be.

But the coffee shop is like my office. It’s where I go when I’m serious about getting some real work done. When I don’t want to start, I tell myself, all you have to do is drive to the coffee shop. That’s easy. You can do that. Then all you have to do is park. Done! Then order your coffee, sit down, open Word…now close your eyes. These are all very easy tasks that I know I can do no matter how tired I am or how uninspired I feel. Ordering coffee does not require inspiration. Neither does closing your eyes.

Once my eyes are closed, all I have to do is report what I see. What does the ground look like? What is the weather like? How does the pick ax feel in the character’s hands? What is he thinking about as he swings the tool over his head and plunges the blade into the earth? Before I know it, I am immersed in the world of my story and I’m doing the work that will get me to my goal.

2. Make it fun.

I go to the coffee shop to write because it’s fun. I like the music they play. I like that other people are there typing on their computers too. It makes me feel not so much like Cinderella, toiling away on my work at home while everyone else is at the ball. I also really love coffee and love when other people make it for me. So going to the coffee shop is not a hard sell for me. This sounds super obvious, but when you pick your ritual, make it something you ENJOY. Life is short. If you are going to be doing something over and over again, you should like it!

The way I make running more fun is by listening to podcasts and books on Audible. Or I schedule a running date with a friend, and the miles melt away as we talk to each other. I love connecting with friends or going deep into a subject or story by listening to it while I run. It feeds my body and soul in a way that chips and Food Network do not!

3. Log your progress.

I don’t know about you but I love a bullet journal. And I find a deep sense of fulfillment from coloring in the little boxes next to “write” and “run” in my “habit tracker” in my journal. It is profoundly nerdy that I do this, but I see it as giving myself a report card. I can look back at the end of the week and see how much I actually did the things I said wanted to do that week. And drawing the chart and coloring it in is a little bit crafty, which is probably what will be written on my tombstone.

Even if you aren’t a little bit crafty, I would like to suggest you try some sort of system for tracking your progress towards your goal. It is positively motivating. I mean that both as “quite motivating” and that it motivates you in a positive way. #wordsaremylife

If you don’t want to break out a ruler and colored pencils (I have a hard time understanding why you would feel this way, but to each her own), you could try Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method.  Seinfeld marks an X on the calendar for each day that he writes. His goal is just not to break his streak. He loves seeing a calendar full of X’s. I mean, who doesn’t?

Similarly, Jessica Lahey and KJ Dell’Antonia of the #amwriting podcast are always talking about how they give themselves a sticker when they get their writing work done. They simply text each other the word “sticker” and that is code for I did it, I sat my butt down and wrote today.

Whether you use X’s or stickers, do something to acknowledge the fact that you did something hard and good that day. You could have watched another rerun of Pioneer Woman, but instead you chose to move the needle a little closer to your goal.

Getting things done begins with you choosing to begin. Don’t wait for the perfect day, or permission or to feel like doing it. Just take the first step. And then the next one, and the next one. Each step isn’t much on its own, but when you put them all together, they add up to something you can be really proud of.

Okay, time for me to go running!

I’d love to hear how you get your stuff done. And if there are any fellow nano friends out there, please let me know how it’s going!

I’ll leave you with a running mantra that I love: “relentless forward motion.” That’s all it takes! Just one step after another. Keep going until you get to the finish line!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Letter to My Eighth Grade Self

I saw the movie Eighth Grade for the second time a few nights ago. The first time I saw it with a group of girlfriends at the the theater. The second time I watched it at home with my daughter who just started 9th grade. The movie is hard to watch, kind of like 8th grade itself. It is full of awkward, cringy moments that make you want to turn your head and say, “no, no, no.”

It was so helpful to see the movie with my daughter because it enabled me to empathize with where she is in life in a way that I honestly don’t do very well. I tend to look at my two teenagers (I also have a 7th grade son) and measure them against my adult expectations. I expect them to know what I know, to have figured out the complicated, complex structure of friendships, crushes, popularity, carving out your own identity that’s separate from your parents’, and surviving gym class. And kids today have to do this on the very public stage of the internet, which raises the stakes significantly and makes everything that much more fraught with risk and drama. It’s a lot.

Since re-watching Eighth Grade, I have been trying to remember back to how I felt at that time in my life, who I was in the eighth grade. Ugh, talk about cringy. Adult me would have a field day correcting, nagging, over-analyzing and fretting over 8th grade me. My kids are ten times more mature and together than 8th-grade me was. Sorry, mom!

So, here is my letter to my 8th grade self…. By the way, if you’ve never written a letter to your former self, I highly recommend it. People spend a lot of money for this kind of stuff in therapy! I know I have!

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fullsizeoutput_50c1Dear 8th-grade Elizabeth,

Here’s the hard truth. I’m 43 and I still don’t know everything. I still feel like I’m back in 8th grade a lot of the time. But I have gathered a few little nuggets of wisdom along the way. Not because I was necessarily searching for them, more like they hit me on the head like acorns when I was walking by.

Here’s what I know now that I wish I knew then:

  1. No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about you. At first this sounds depressing because, really? They aren’t? But ultimately, it is incredibly freeing because you can stop worrying so much about pleasing everyone all the time.
  2. Typing class will be one of the most important classes you ever take. Seriously. You have no idea how much you will type later in life.
  3. Don’t worry about being popular, worry about what kind of friend you are to the people you care about most. Are you kind? Do you sit with friends when they are hurting? Do you celebrate their victories like they are your own? Do you tell them how much they mean to you? Sadly, adult you has screwed this up a bunch. But I have had some really great friends teach me how to do this better.
  4. It’s okay to be friends with all kinds of people. You don’t need to think so much about what group they are in and whether that group is one that you fit into. People are more complicated than you realize. Cheerleaders are funny. Theater people can be quiet. Orchestra kids like to get crazy sometimes. Even adults are guilty of dismissing entire groups of people. Adult you goes to church every Sunday, tends to vote democratic, secretly loves going to Hobby Lobby and has a mix of hardcore rap and worship songs on her running mix. People are not just one thing so don’t put them in a box.
  5. Don’t worry about whether you are good enough or smart enough or popular enough or pretty enough. You are enough. You don’t have to prove your worth.  But you do have to believe in it.
  6. I know sometimes you are nervous to look people in the eye and say hi first, but you should try it every now and then. People like getting a smile and a hello from you. And everyone’s a little nervous to say hi first. Not just you.
  7. Go outside and exercise a little bit everyday. Grown-up you figured this out way later in life. You tend to get sad and hopeless when you don’t move your body. It is amazing how much better a little fresh air and exercise make you feel. Even better than eating Oreos and watching Carol Burnett reruns after school. Well, a different kind of better.
  8. You have grown A LOT in the last few years. You went from wearing kids’ clothes to women’s clothes practically over night. That would make anyone feel awkward and like they barely recognize themselves. You will get used to this new body of yours. And then just when you are used to it, it will change again. And again. And then you will have children and it will really change. The only constant with bodies is that they are always changing. This is a good thing though. Our bodies are just an outer shell, like a little cocoon. We spend our whole lives inside of our body cocoons trying to become butterflies. When that happens, we won’t need them anymore.
  9. You will try to wear your hair in bangs at different times throughout your life. Here’s the thing. Feel free to try, but it never works out.
  10. As you get older you will try on different personas–pep squad captain, angsty teen, girlfriend, artsy young adult, over-protective new mom, working mom, PTA mom. These are just a few that spring to mind; there are many more identities you will try out. But remember this: no matter how you dress or what your life is currently focused on, always remember you are a child of God who is loved and valued for simply being you. You don’t have to try to BE something in particular. The goal is just to be who you are. That’s when your light can really shine.
  11. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. No matter what anyone tells you or YOU tell you, you are a writer. A real one. Words hover around you like little hummingbirds that flit here and there looking for nectar. You can’t see them, but they are there. Your job is to sit your butt down in a chair and be very still so that the words will come to you. You never know when they are going to come, so you have to be in the chair with your hands and heart open as much as you possibly can. Promise me you’ll do this? Pinky promise?

 

 


A Big Bowl of Self Care

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Wait, are those brussels sprouts in that picture?

You read the words “self care” and probably thought I was going to suggest you grab a big bowl of ice cream, right?

I’m certainly no stranger to dishing out a bowl of Bluebell after a hard day, but lately I’m thinking about self care a little differently. I’m looking at how I can put good stuff in my body, so that my body works at its best…which makes me feel happy and want to go  around spreading good vibes everywhere I go. I think of it as trickle down self care. I treat myself well so that I have the energy, joy, and stamina to treat others well.

So, how do we get more good stuff into our bodies? By eating more plants, that’s how. Even though we know we are supposed to eat our veggies, chances are you aren’t getting the recommended five servings every day. I know on most days I don’t unless I really try.

I have started tracking the days I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables in my bullet journal. If I eat my veggies I get to color in a little box in my habit tracker. It’s amazing the power that coloring in that box has over me. It totally changes my eating choices. If I’m making scrambled eggs for breakfast, I’ll throw in some leftover roasted broccoli from the night before just to get in a serving of vegetables right off the bat. Add a handful of blueberries as a side and I get to count that as a serving of fruit. Boom! I’ve had two out of five of my servings before I’ve even gotten dressed. #killingit

Left to my own devices, I will mindlessly choose to eat nothing but baked goods and proteins all day long. I mean, yum, right? But now that I’m tracking my fruits and veggies, I’m making sure to squeeze some plants into every meal.

So, here’s how you get massive amounts of plants in your body and have fun doing it.

SELF-CARE VEGGIE BOWL

Crank your oven up to 425 degrees.

You take a sheet pan, preferably it is really beat up and crusty from all the other times you have roasted veggies on it.

Then you chop up:

  • a shallot or any onion you have on hand
  • butternut squash (I cheated and bought an already-chopped up butternut squash because hacking my way through a rock-hard gourd and dealing with squash guts at lunchtime is a deal-breaker.)
  • And brussels sprouts (which do have an “s” on the end of “brussel.” I googled it so that we can all just relax and keep reading.)

Next you grab your olive oil and you drizzle a few good glugs of oil all over the veggies, which at this point are on your cruddy old sheet pan as shown in picture below. Glug, glug, glug goes the olive oil all over the veggies. Add some salt and pepper, give it a little toss with your hands, and you are good to put it in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Every 10 minutes, give the veggies a little stir so that they get evenly caramelized. You can even talk to them while you are in there stirring, and say little encouraging words about how good they are looking. That’s what I like to do.

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Meanwhile…on top of the oven…make your balsamic drizzle. Balsamic drizzle sounds super fancy and foodie-like, but it is very simple to make. All you do is take 1/4 of a cup of balsamic vinegar and put it in a small sauce pan, add a tablespoon of honey to the vinegar and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture for about ten minutes so that it can reduce to a nice syrupy consistency.

If you like watching things boil like I do, check out my video below!

 

 

Feel free to share that video on all the social media.

Then, it’s just a hop, skip and a few parmesan shavings to turn your veggies and drizzle into a delicious feast for the senses. I combined my vegetables with Israeli couscous, toasted pumpkin seeds, Craisins, and parmesan shavings and then added a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Then I ate it in front of my computer, which wasn’t very self-care-y of me, but this stuff doesn’t blog itself.

You could also combine your veggies with quinoa, farro, spelt, nothing, you make the rules here.

The Israeli couscous, craisin, pumpkin seed, parmesan shavings combo was delicious. And I feel super after eating it. Specifically, I feel satisfied, energized, just the right amount of full, and clear-headed. These are the signs that tell me what I’m eating is treating me right and giving my body what it needs to be happy. When I feel better after I eat something, I know it is good food for me. I mean, forget following a special diet that you read about in a book. Just pay attention to how food makes you feel. Eat the things that make you feel good! Easy. Your body knows what it needs.

So much of what I eat (pizza, cookies, hamburgers), is good as I’m tasting it, but then I feel terrible after I eat it. This bowl was delicious and made me feel like a million bucks.

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So next time you are having a rough day or a good day, or just a normal day, treat yo’ self to good food. Give yourself a big old plant-based hug and give your body what it needs to thrive. Then let all that those good feelings spill over to the people around you. Because your bowl runneth over.

Love,

E


The Velveteen Van: How My Minivan Became Real

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

-From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

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The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my all-time favorite books when I was a kid. As a devoted stuffed animal lover, I totally related to the message that love takes a toll on the beloved. Balding fur, eyeballs hanging on by a thread, and deflated stuffing are simply signs of how much something has meant to you.

As an adult, this passage from The Velveteen Rabbit still rings true. Now when I read these words I nod my head in agreement, wipe a tear from my eye, and think of…

My minivan.

My minivan has been puked on. And not in a contained way. Puke has found its way into the crevice between the seats that fold down for extra storage, and into the seatbelt buckle. There is that space where you insert the metal part of the seatbelt so that it makes that satisfying clicking sound. There has been puke in that thing.

My kids are older now, but my minivan had car seats strapped into it for so many years that there are lines in the seats that can never be erased. Those lines are like lines on a map, charting my kids’ journeys from babyhood to adolescence.

Before we moved back to our hometown of Austin, our van used to carry the five of us across the country twice a year so that we could visit family. During those epic drives our van was like a little house on wheels where we would watch movies, eat meals, sleep, yell at each other, change diapers, and where I would unsuccessfully try to nurse babies who were strapped into a car seat. Those of you who can do that are my heroes.

Now our minivan carries us back and forth to muddy soccer games, tennis lessons, basketball games, high school carpool, camping trips, garden workdays, and sweaty workouts. On a good day our dog gets to come along for the ride.

Feed a wet dog a bunch of chocolate ice cream, then when he pukes it up, bake everything in the 108-degree Texas heat and you get the idea of what our minivan smells like. I try to do something about the smell sometimes. I stuck an almost-used-up volcano candle in the floor storage compartment to try to trick people into thinking our minivan was actually Anthropologie.

There are layers of smells in there is what I am trying to say. And maybe I’m also complain bragging a little about my floor storage compartment. Sorry. But it is pretty cool.

We have shared countless meals in the van, dropped sippy cups of milk that rolled under the seat to be found six months later. There are lights that come unhinged when I open the back, dangling there like dead bodies.

Recently we considered trading in our van for something a little snazzier. I couldn’t bear the thought of buying yet another minivan as I have been driving a van for 10 years now. I didn’t want to drive a huge SUV because I think it would just make me feel like I was in a drug cartel or the secret service. Also because the environment. When you have three kids who like to go places with their friends, that pretty much requires that you need either a minivan or a giant SUV or one of those shuttles you take to the remote parking lot in the airport.

Thinking about trading in my car for a new, shinier thing sounded like a dream come true at first, but ultimately I decided that, while others might not get it, I love my minivan. It will be paid off soon. All those memories and smells, I’ll be driving those around for free.

We can take that money we save on a car payment and put it toward college, which is coming in less than four years. I have a feeling the closer college gets, the less I will mind my stinky, well-worn ride, which is becoming less minivan and more time-capsule as the years pile up.

minivan 2

Maybe there’s still a sippy cup trapped somewhere in that thing. If I’m lucky.


Like a Mother

When I had my first child, I remember it hitting me for the first time that everyone had come into the world a helpless, adorable baby. And that everyone had a mama who went through nine months of body-morphing, magical weirdness and the pain of childbirth in order to bring that person into the world. I know it’s sad that it took having a baby of my own for this to dawn on me, but I can be slow and a little self-absorbed.

After my daughter was born, I couldn’t pass a homeless person without thinking about that person as a baby–a baby with a mama who had probably loved him or her dearly and fiercely at one point.

I couldn’t stand in line at Starbucks without seeing the baby-ness in everyone. Once you start seeing people this way, those crazy specific drink orders seem less annoying in their toddler-like pickiness, and become more endearing.

Everyone becomes more endearing if you search for their baby-ness—that fragile infant inside of them who is scared and needy and so hungry for food and love and acceptance…and could probably use a nap.

When I went back to work after nine years of being at home with my kids, my boss figured out what made me tick pretty quickly. I was overwhelmed by the job I had been tasked with, which required that I project manage the publishing of twenty-something online educational modules. Each module was in a different stage of development and there were a million details to remember. It felt like I was solely responsible for remembering each and every one. I must have looked at my boss with big eyes one day. Sensing my anxiety, she told me something that has always stayed with me. She said that I needed to think about those modules as my babies. Each one was on a different schedule and each one needed different things at different times, but she knew that I could handle it. She knew I would be okay because I knew how to be a mama. All I needed to do was be a mama to those modules.

I know that sounds weird, but for someone who felt insecure in the workplace, but totally confident in my ability to be a mom, that advice really resonated. I mommed those modules so hard. I got on top of that job and convinced our agency that we needed another person to help because the amount of work it took to be a good mama to those modules was not a part-time job by any stretch. Those modules needed two mamas. So we hired another person and together we took very good care of our module babies.

Mamas are heroic. Mamas get their hands dirty. They get up before everyone and are wiping down counters and prepping for tomorrow when everyone else is done for the day. They drive forgotten lunches to school. They know when someone hasn’t really washed their hands in the bathroom. They can sense when someone has had a bad day the minute they walk off the bus. Mamas can’t sleep if one of their babies is hurting or sick. They have a Spidey sense that jolts them awake the second a baby cries out in the night.

We are able to do all this stuff not because we are superhuman, but because we care so much. The heroic things we do to care for our families are just a by-product of the intense love we feel. We can’t help it.

My challenge for myself and anyone reading this (whether you are a mama or not) is to apply those mama superpowers to everything–everyone you encounter and the work you do in the world. Care so much that you can’t look the other way when someone is hurting. Care so much that you simply have to stop what you are doing and help someone in need. Care so much that you can’t not march at that rally, cheer at your friend’s race, volunteer to help kids learn to read, teach that Sunday School class, bring someone a meal. Do it because you love the world too much not to.

Be a mama to everything. Be a mama to yourself. Have you eaten any vegetables today? Do you need to get some rest? Are you hustling too much to please others and forgetting to fill your own cup? There is a baby inside of you too and that baby needs rest and food and a little tucking in. Caring for others when you are not caring for yourself is like taking a tired, hungry toddler to Target—you could do it, but it probably won’t go well.

Are you anxious? Stressed? Stretched too thin? Worried? Feeling shame about that thing you said or didn’t say, or that thing you ate or didn’t eat? Try to imagine what you would say to your own baby girl if she felt those things. You are okay. You are more than okay, you are amazing! Look at all the things you do so well. You are so much more than this thing you are focusing on. You are valuable and worthy of all the love and kindness in the world. Stop beating yourself up, baby girl. Now, say those things to yourself.

Our world is a mess. It needs us to love on it and clean it up. Our world needs one of those crazy cleaning sessions you do when company is coming in an hour and you are suddenly a force of cleaning wizardry. It needs us to smile at strangers and look at them with light and joy in our eyes, to let that person with his blinker on merge. For the love of God, let the people merge! It needs us to pay for the coffee of the person in line behind us, to feed someone who is hungry, to walk with someone who is hurting, to listen to someone who needs to talk.

Be a mama to everything. And let others be a mama to you. See how it changes you and filters everything you see through a curtain of gauzy love that brings you to tears with how much goodness there is in the world, how much kindness and humor and joy.

In some ways the world is a place only a mother could love. So let’s go love it. Like a mother.


But First Tacos

but first tacos

Photo credit: 5thandGraceCo

 

You know how they say put the oxygen mask on yourself first? Well, the same is true for tacos. You can’t be a good you on an empty tummy. But it’s hard to find time to feed yourself in the midst of the tornado that is getting everyone out the door each morning.

Well I have a solution for all you hangry mamas out there!

This is going to sound like a pretty obvious tip, but it took me a while to figure this out and since I have started doing this one thing, I save a good 30 minutes making and cleaning up breakfast everyday. That’s like a good 3 and a half hours a week!

Are you ready for me to reveal my tip?

You sure?

Okay. Here it is. All I do is make a bunch of bacon and scrambled eggs at one time and then reheat them throughout the week to have an easy, delicious breakfast ready in seconds. I know, not exactly earth shattering in its originality, but I have been making breakfast for a long, long time and it just recently occurred to me to do this. So it made me think maybe others have not discovered this little nugget of efficiency.

I like to put my eggs and bacon on a corn tortilla and plop a little salsa or guacamole on top. One time I had leftover pork chops (the ones from my 30-day meal plan), and so I sliced up one of those bad boys and put it on top of my eggs instead of bacon. Whoa. It was good. You could also make a big batch of frozen hash browns and add those to the mix. I am happy with just simple bacon and eggs, but sometimes I add a little grated cheese if I am feeling fancy.

Here’s how I make bacon the super easy, no muss, no fuss way. 

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  1. Cover a large sheet pan with heavy duty foil.
  2. Set an oven-safe cooling rack on top of it.
  3. Line your bacon up on the cooling rack so that the grease can drip down onto the foil-lined pan.
  4. Bake at 420 for 10-20 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon. I like mine crispy, so I leave it in there longer. *Confession: I have a tendency to burn bacon. It’s my one flaw.
  5. Let things cool down before trying to dispose of the foil. Letting the grease cool down and solidify a little makes clean up less likely to give you a third degree burn.

 

 

While the bacon’s cooking, make your eggs:

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  1. Crack however many eggs you think you’ll need into a bowl. I usually do six at a time.
  2. Over low heat, melt a tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan. I also give the pan a little spritz of cooking spray for good measure.
  3. While the butter is melting, whisk your eggs until they are all mixed together and are basically one solid color.

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I mean, look at that action shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour eggs into the pan and gently start to lift and fold them gently with a rubber spatula. Lift and fold. Lift and fold.

The goal is to not let any eggs stay in one spot too long and get brown.

Brown scrambled eggs=gross scrambled eggs.

Don’t forget to add a little salt and pepper. I think it’s easier to season the eggs once they’re in the pan. You can get a better idea of how much salt and pepper you really need when they’re all spread out as opposed to when they’re in a bowl.

Keep cooking on low heat until they are as done as you like em. The big thing to remember is slow and low is the key to cooking eggs. Slow and low…that is the tempo. You want to lovingly coax them into luscious scrambledness. This cannot be rushed.

Let your eggs cool and pack them up for easy living all week.

Once you’ve got your eggs and bacon at the ready, you can have a quick, yummy, filling breakfast in minutes with no mess to clean up. Like I said, I like to make a taco by microwaving a tortilla with a little cheese topped with eggs and bacon. I microwave it for about 45 seconds and then I eat it standing up over my kitchen sink like an animal.

You could also toast an english muffin, microwave the eggs and bacon separately and then build a little breakfast sandwich. Yum. Or just eat them as eggs and bacon with a little toast. Feel free to mix it up. Add some veggies. Slice up some avocado. Once you have your base of eggs and bacon, you can do with them as you choose and it really doesn’t add much time to the equation.

Side note: Supposedly the way you like your eggs says something about your personality.

So, if you could only eat eggs one way forever, which way would you choose?

Did you say scrambled, like me? Here’s what that means, according to the internet: 

You’re a loyal friend to the end! Conservative, but always friendly and inclusive of others –– not the life of the party, but always at the party. Sometimes really bland, but whatever — people still like you so who cares.

Yay.

I don’t care if I’m a little boring. You over-easy people can have your wild parties and mucousy eggs. I’m scrambled eggs for life.

So sometimes, you will find yourself in the position I was in today. My bacon and egg stash had run dry, and I didn’t have time to make more. What could I eat…what could I eat….

Well, necessity really is the mother of invention because today I invented what I believe to be the next big thing…

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Yep, that’s a waffle taco. And it was delicious. And there was fruit, y’all, so it was healthy.

All you do to make this amazing handful of self care is toast a blueberry waffle. Swipe on a scant amount of Nutella. Just the tiniest amount. Like, so little, it doesn’t even register on My Fitness Pal. It’s like you basically didn’t even eat any Nutella at all. Pile on some blueberries and fold it in half. Voila! You have made an entirely different, but equally yummy breakfast taco.

So, what do y’all like to eat for breakfast? I would love to hear if you can top my waffle taco. It gets a ten out of ten for both easiness and deliciousness, but it needs a better name. Maybe we should call it… Wacco? Taffle? I need your thoughts on this.

Love,

Elizabeth