Breakfast of Champions: What I Eat Before a Marathon

I am running my first ultramarathon on Sunday. (!) I am channeling my pre-race nerves into making food. I’ve been researching the best foods to eat to get my body ready to run, and this blog post from Eat2Run convinced me to give carb-loading a try. Yippee! Carbs!

I have been mostly a lowish-carb eater for the past few years, so carb-loading has me both totally giddy with excitement and also freaking out a little. I have really demonized carbs it turns out. It feels a little wrong seeking these foods out. But I really don’t want to crash and burn during my race, so I’m building up my glycogen stores with some yummy carbs.

These last few days before the race, I’m trying to add in carbs like fruit and oatmeal and bread and potatoes!

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We will be staying in a hotel room the night before the race, so it will be difficult to do my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal. I’ll need to eat at 4:30 am to be ready to run at 7 am. I’m doubting that the hotel restaurant will be open for business then. So, I tweaked this yummy baked oatmeal recipe that my friend Lori shared with me (originally from Back to the Cutting Board).

I decided to add tart cherries to the oatmeal because they are supposed to be a great food for runners. Tart cherries have tons of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that contain anti-inflammatory properties and soothe aching muscles. Plus the cherries in this baked oatmeal make it reminiscent of cherry pie, which is an added bonus!

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Chia seeds were not a thing when I was growing up on oreos and diet cokes, but these days most people know that chia seeds are absolutely busting at the seams with fabulous things like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants and minerals. They especially help with hydration as they are able to absorb 9-10 times their weight in water.

So, I tossed a good amount of chia seeds into the baked oatmeal to make it super oatmeal. So good!

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Tart Cherry and Chia Baked Oatmeal

 

My race-day plan is to eat the baked oatmeal with a boiled egg and pre-cooked bacon and coffee at around 4:30 am. Then at 6 am I’ll drink a serving of Generation UCAN, a slow-acting carbohydrate drink that gives me a nice slow-burn of energy without the blood sugar highs and lows of sugary gels. I tend towards being hypoglycemic, so the typical gels and goos that a lot of endurance athletes reach for during races can really mess me up. I get a burst of energy and then a huge crash and burn once I metabolize all that sugar.

I’ll carry another Generation UCAN drink and a few UCAN bars in my hydration pack and plan to drink/eat those every hour of the race. I’ll also bring another bottle with water and electrolytes to sip on throughout the race. This combo of slow, steady carbs and electrolytes is the key to a successful race. I have learned from experience that you cannot mess around and wing it with your fuel once you are running a marathon or longer. You have to plan ahead for what you’ll need and eat/drink when you are not necessarily hungry/thirsty. It is make or break.

I love geeking out on this stuff, so I find it super interesting to research and play around with what works best for me. It’s so interesting the stuff your body craves/needs when you run for a really long time.

I did a 20-mile training run recently and when I got home all I could think about were pickles, chips and mustard. I made a turkey sandwich and ate my weight in pickles. I made the perfect bite of a chip with mustard on it and a pickle on top. It was transcendent. I have more of a sweet tooth and don’t normally crave these foods, so I googled around to see why I had such an intense craving after my run.

It turns out all three of those foods contain stuff that helps with recovery. It is actually a thing for runners to carry mustard packets with them on long runs. I had already heard about pickle juice as a recovery drink, but never mustard. So crazy! And gross! It turns out the vinegar in mustard and pickles helps your muscles relax. The turmeric in mustard is also good for inflammation. And the salt in the chips and pickles replaces all the salt you lose when you exercise for an extended period of time.

So, I am also planning to carry a little ziplock bag of Doug’s Dills Sweet Hots (shout out to my father-in-law Doug who makes the best pickles you’ll ever taste!) and some salt and vinegar chips. I am hoping animals don’t start chasing me on this run! But maybe that would make me run faster?

Okay, enough with the food talk…Time to get some other race prep/packing done. I can’t wait to share how the race went. See you on the other side of 50k!

 Here’s my recipe for Tart Cherry and Chia Baked Oatmeal

Fruity Baked Oats

adapted from Back to the Cutting Board

Breakfast | Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 40 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of frozen tart cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 in. square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of the melted butter into the bottom of the pan. Place all the fruit into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, chia seeds, and cinnamon.
  4. Make a well in center and add in milk, melted butter, honey and egg. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Pour into the pan over the fruit and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges start to darken and the top is golden brown. Let cool in pan for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 


Step in a Puddle Early

country lane field meadow puddles

Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

“My one piece of advice? Step in a puddle early,” I overheard a seasoned-looking trail runner say to a fellow racer. It had flash-flooded the day before the race and we were at the starting line, about to embark on 30 kilometers of slippery mud and flooded trails.

I’m not a step-in-the-puddle kind of girl. And we weren’t talking about little puddles that get the bottoms of your shoes wet. This was standing, murky water that went up past your ankles. And it was in the mid-40s outside. So it was cold, standing, murky water. Under any other circumstances, I would be like, no thank you, no puddles for me. I’ll be tiptoeing around those for the whole race.

But because I am not a seasoned trail runner, I was very open to any advice anyone might be able to give me that cold December morning. So, once the race started, the first puddle I saw, I closed my eyes, felt my body brace for the cold, and stepped right in it. I might have let out a little gasp from how cold it was, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact it was a little thrilling. My feet were wet, but other than that I was totally fine. I could now cross puddles off my list of things to worry about. Check.

A few minutes later I hit my first muddy climb. It was a ridiculous, comical, impossible slog through heavy, slippery mud going uphill and then an out-of-control sloppy slide downhill. Repeat over and over again for 30k. After a while, I rejoiced when I saw a puddle because it meant I could rinse off some of the caked on mud that was making my legs feel like they weighed 200 pounds each.

Throughout the race I kept thinking about the advice of stepping in a puddle early and my natural inclination toward doing just the opposite–in life and in running. Stepping in a puddle feels like a mistake, like something to be avoided. It reminds me of that scene in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray steps off the curb into a big slushy puddle over and over again until finally, because he is living the same day on repeat, he learns how to avoid it.

I am a puddle avoider. For me, puddles equal discomfort and fear of the unknown. They make me anxious. What if that puddle causes me to have blisters? What if it makes my toes cold? Then what will happen? It could be terrible. It could lead to failure. I might not be able to finish the race, and I will be humiliated and embarrassed and have wasted $90.

Therefore, my brain does a quick calculation and says, “avoid all puddles. I repeat, no stepping in puddles at any cost.”

But I was in such a vulnerable place at the start of that race–a trail running newbie open to any and all suggestions for how to tackle this impossible, gross task that lay before me. I was so open to ideas at that point that I would listen to a stranger telling me to submerge half my leg in freezing water at the beginning of a race. Not even telling me, telling another stranger. I was just eavesdropping, soaking up any tips anyone might be throwing out there.

That race was the hardest race I’ve ever run. It felt lonely and scary and it hurt. Each muddy step felt like an obstacle to overcome. I was so happy when it was over. But I’m also so happy I ran it because I’m still drawing on the experience of it, the lessons it taught me. That little race in the woods was one of my proudest and most favorite achievements because I pushed past my comfort zone, way past. And that, in my experience, is where the really good stuff happens (unfortunately).

Last night I read this passage in Born to Run and thought of my muddy race and the next even longer, even scarier 50k that I have coming up this weekend.

“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.”  -William James

That quote sums up perfectly why I love long-distance running. It’s not that I am a masochist and just want to torture myself. It’s that I know from experience that the discomfort you feel is not a wall, it’s a door that you can choose to go through. And what’s on the other side of that door is pretty awesome.

I love this description of running a 62-mile race in Haruki Murakami’s running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

“While I was enduring all this, around the forty-seventh mile I felt like I’d passed through something. That’s what it felt like. Passed through is the only way I can express it. Like my body had passed clean through a stone wall. At what exact point I felt like I’d made it through, I can’t recall, but suddenly I noticed I was already on the other side. I was convinced I’d made it through. I don’t know about the logic, or the process, or the method involved–I was simply convinced of the reality that I’d passed through. After that I didn’t have to think anymore. Or, more precisely, there wasn’t the need to try to consciously think about not thinking. All I had to do was go with the flow and I’d get there automatically. If I gave myself up to it, some sort of power would naturally push me forward.”

Marukami goes on to describe how during the last portion of his race he is basically able to turn off his brain and pretend like he is a running machine. Once he can separate his anxious mind from his body, he’s able to keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it to the finish line.

As someone who lets their anxious mind dictate much of the decision-making, I enjoy the way long-distance races force me to turn off those thoughts. They force me to be brave. Races force me to run through puddles, to push past what I think I am capable of, and they force me to ignore that little voice in my head that wants me to avoid making a mistake or being uncomfortable.

This blog forces me to do that too. It is very uncomfortable sharing thoughts I probably would not share with people in normal conversation. It makes me feel exposed and vulnerable in a way that I deeply try to avoid in real life. Feeling exposed and vulnerable is like a giant puddle that I do my best to tiptoe around. But on the other side of that vulnerability there is the awesome feeling of being known. When someone tells me they’ve read my blog, it makes me blush and want to hide under a chair, but then after that feeling subsides, it makes me feel wonderfully known and understood. That feeling is so good, that I’m willing to risk writing again.

What would happen if we decided to stop avoiding puddles and chose to go right through them? What wall are you up against that might actually be a door? I am all about the metaphors today, but I’m not really talking about puddles and doors in case you’re confused. I’m talking about the areas of your life that feel like barriers, keeping you safely and securely in your cozy status quo. What are the places in your life that feel like they could never possibly be different, so you avoid challenging them, stepping into the mess of them? Did you ever imagine that maybe there was something on the other side?

I love the saying “We can do hard things.” A naysayer might say, but why do hard things? Hard things are hard and might expose our weaknesses or make us look bad. Let’s stick to easy things! Easy things make us look like we know what we’re doing. Maybe that’s true to a degree. But I’m guessing the stories that you are proudest of, your defining moments, the times you felt like you were on top of the world were not easy accomplishments. And there were likely some puddles you stepped in along the way to get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

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