you’re beautiful, you’re enough, you’re free

As graduation and wedding season are upon us I've been reflecting a lot on where I was 13 years ago and what I thought was ahead of me. Sometimes I still feel like the 19 year old bride with everything figured out and more and more I feel like a timeless

Some of you might know that I did the ‪Whole30‬ about a month ago and, as chronicled on this blog over the years, I’ve struggled with my body image/self acceptance/weight/food and have an autoimmune disease (type 1 diabetes) thrown into the mix. Which means, unfortunately, I’m always aware of the food I eat and where my body is on the scale of what’s considered “healthy” and “unhealthy”. And my doctors appointments remind me regularly if I forget.

A couple weeks ago I was walking downtown and passed a couple of elderly women on a walk. I would guess late 70’s, maybe early 80’s. I overheard their conversation – one said to the other “I’m doing everything they’re telling me, avoiding all the right foods and I still can’t lose weight!” and in the middle of the sidewalk, just past these lovely women, I started laughing out loud. All to myself. It was such a gift to hear this. By my own standards these ladies were lovely, healthy, fit. They were walking, their bodies were clearly able. And still at 75 or 80 they focused on, are struggling with and constantly debating their weight. They’re still keeping track.

I’ve done so much reading in this area about the metaphysical effects of our emotions, the spiritual impact of ailments and sicknesses, and expectantly waiting to get better through the food I eat, the miles I can walk, and the punishments I can dole out to my physical self. I keep waiting to get to the age where all of a sudden I’m comfortable with my skin, comfortable IN my skin, and each passing year I achieve this more and more. However, in the back of my head I’m still chasing a healthier, thinner, faster, leaner, more flexible me.

I do not have this figured out but I’ve also tried, um, everything out there. Fad diets, cleanses, boot camps, etc. They all have one thing in common: me.

And through my exhaustive research, I’m fairly certain the only allowable food all of these plans, diets, formulas have in common is Mustard. You can eat mustard, if nothing else, for the rest of your life and fall into each and every category of “diet” and be A-Ok. (You’re welcome.)

Here’s where I’m going with this because I have to remind myself of this daily, if not hourly, as I work towards the kind of self love and acceptance I want my own daughter to experience by virtue of learning from me: it doesn’t matter.

Or, sadly, it always will.

My mom just celebrated her 60th birthday and I shared this story with her and asked her for some wisdom as a matriarch in my life. What has she learned that she can pass to me? She also works with the elderly at a local rest home – she’s the activities coordinator for the home so she gets to play and listen and love on the people we so often discard as used, broken, old, even useless. Here’s what she shared with me … her residents might have dementia but the impactful hurts of their life they’ll always remember. They might not know where they live but they remember what their mother in law said to them 60 years ago, and it’s become a piece of who they are.

I’m afraid I’m holding on to words from loved ones, hurts from regrets, what if’s of my past, and the dangerous loop hole of never being enough. It could be that watching my mom turn 60, which my dad never reached, has been an impactful experience this past week. Thinking through life, what matters, what should have weight and what shouldn’t, coupled with my personal struggle to listen to my body, help it and support it is all I needed to get to a place where I can say to my reflection:

You are exactly who you’re supposed to be,
dressed exactly as was meant to be.
Say goodbye to the former me,
come and rest in peace and see:

you’re beautiful,
you’re enough,
you’re free.

The salad my kids actually eat.

Kale Caesar

This is our go-to salad; it’s a crowd pleaser and kid approved. Oliver has turned into our picky eater (although he’ll eat an entire platter of sushi without blinking). Give him suspicious looking bread or chicken (meaning ANY bread or ANY chicken) and he will act like he’s dissecting a frog for dinner. He won’t eat sandwiches, he’s particular about the cheese he likes, cold cuts are a bipolar decision depending on where the moon is in orbit and if we’re in the year of the Boar or Sheep. Peanut butter and jelly? Insulting. Nutella? The answer is always yes.

So when I find something with kale in it and a dressing I love that both my kids devour and ask for more of … I make the living daylights out of these greens and pound my chest triumphantly when no one is looking.

Kale Caesar

I’ve adapted this recipe to a memorizable combo of whatever I have on hand.

Ingredients

1 Anchovy filet – I’ve resorted to keeping anchovy paste in the house
2 (or more) cloves Garlic
1/2 Lemon, juice of (I often don’t have this so I just omit, I might up the red wine vinegar a bit to balance it out)
2 bunches Tuscan kale … we happen to call it DinosROAR Kale.
1 to 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Sriracha
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin
1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain (and if I don’t have this, I just up the mayo to accommodate the ratio)

I throw everything, without chopping, into my immersion blender cup and blend. It’s that easy and it keeps in the fridge – one recipe of dressing usually serves us well for 2 salads, or smaller individual salads throughout the week.

You can shred some parm and add croutons. But you don’t have to. Sometimes I add veggies to the salad, my fav is avocado.

Kale Caesar

Last night we had this salad with some grilled pork chops and strawberries. It’s not often that a meal for the 4 of us is equally received as something edible and delicious. I try very hard but some nights I know that Jessica isn’t going to love it, or Oliver will be a fight to the finish line. I need a win once in a while, whether it be in a smoothie or a salad or figuring out the one cut of chicken Oliver will actually eat that isn’t a Costco rotisserie beast.

And this Kale Caesar is my back pocket win. My tricky little side-kick. My hail-Mary, I have to feed them, if I have to see another picked at plate with food shoved in all corners I will literally combust, winner of a salad.

It’s that good.

Welcome to my home

Kitchen After

I’ve shown you around a bit over the years. We bought our house in 2012 (April 21, actually: HBD house!) and this past fall we completed our last over haul of a space inside. First we finished our basement and added a functional bathroom down there. Next we lived in the basement while the main floor was brought to the studs and rebuilt (save for the kitchen), lastly … we finished the kitchen and added a mudroom (which was originally a 3 season porch).

This is what I saw the first time I walked into our house when it was listed:
first showing

I loved it. There was counter space and for the age of the home – there was a lot of space. Sure there was carpet in what was supposed to be the dining room, and paneling every where. We had cedar shingles in. our. kitchen. And a hole in the roof that was once a skylight. And carpet on the walls, and no shower upstairs and, later we discovered that our master bedroom was the previous owners laundry room at one point … it had it’s quirks.

This is that same view from above.
Kitchen After
Kitchen After

It still has it’s quirks. We have plywood floors and an exposed beam in the middle of our house.

Kitchen After

Anyway – here’s some of the before and after shots of our main floor. Specifically our kitchen/living/dining area.

BEFORE: Entrance off the 3 season porch, built-in hutch, breakfast nook, this is what was supposed to be a dining room (we think) under the light fixture.

progress shots of house May 2012

AFTER: Entrance off the (now) mudroom, behind those hanging doors (painted with chalk paint) is our pantry and hidden toaster oven, our island with storage. We removed a large wall in the middle of this big room where our tiny little fridge was built in, otherwise it was closet space … makes the whole space feel more open.

Kitchen After

BEFORE: Looking in FROM the entrance off the 3 season porch into the living room. A fireplace, skylight, lots of paneling and carpet and a wall dividing spaces.

progress shots of house May 2012

AFTER: Looking in FROM the entrance off the (now) mudroom into the living room. We replaced the fireplace with french doors leading out to a new deck off the house. Wall is gone, more open concept space. No more hole in the ceiling!

Kitchen After

BEFORE: Looking into the kitchen you can see the breakfast nook, our fridge built into the wall and a hallway with lots of openings – looking towards our front door and the front room.

progress shots of house May 2012

AFTER: Looking into the kitchen, wall is gone and fridge is now next to the stove (we swapped the stove and dishwasher when we remodeled), no more little corridors as a hallway. We reconfigured the bathroom in size and a bit in location to make room for a closet in our master bedroom. We also exposed the chimney and made a doorway off of the “front room” (now office) to our bedroom. By doing this we eliminated wasted square footage that was just a labyrinth of walls and doors and passage ways.

Kitchen After

BEFORE: Looking into what WAS a second bedroom on the main floor in the original blueprints of the house (previous owners did an addition on the home and eliminated this bedroom as a part of that … it’s now part of our bathroom and part of our dining area) you see built-ins! So many, you guys. More doors and little hallways, and that wall we removed. Also, all the carpet.

progress shots of house May 2012

AFTER: Our dining area with a wine cabinet built-in with some shelves, no more wall! And less little doorways and hallways.

Kitchen After

Small pivot, same room:
Kitchen After

Different angle:
Kitchen After

And looking opposite into the space: You can see the french doors here.
Kitchen After

BEFORE: Looking into the wall that we removed.

Main floor living room

AFTER: Looking into the rest of the house once the wall was removed.

Kitchen After

BEFORE: Here’s a fun shot of after we painted the original cabinets and took the cedar shingles off the bulkhead. Baby-steps towards our finale. Looking from all those little doorway/hallways into the kitchen/would-be dining space and breakfast nook. Built-ins and all the carpet.

Kitchen

AFTER: Looking into the kitchen, hidden pantry behind chalkboard barn doors, and the island.

Kitchen After

This side of the island is exposed for cookbook and glassware/platter storage. I store props for photography here now but they double as usable items in my kitchen. This entire island is a constant work in progress as a storage solution.
Kitchen After

I think we covered all the major views of the kitchen, here’s a few detail shots and different angles of the space. We love it, I mean it’s a house and a kitchen but we live life around the table in community with each other and others so this space is our most used. It feels good to come home, just like it felt good to have one four years ago. I’m constantly thankful for the way this turned out. For the patience it took, for the planning and waiting.

Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After
Kitchen After

Keepsakes, this ones for her.

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer …

Watermelon!
Watermelon!
Watermelon!
Watermelon!
Watermelon!

I took the kids to the store after school today to pick out a snack. This watermelon fell into my basket, too. While Oliver was outside playing with his neighborhood friends, Jessica and I got to work on cutting this beauty up. She likes the rinds and I love the therapy of chopping. Once we were done and I saw the discarded pile of scraps as we were both eagerly digging in to the fruit – I had to capture the color, the light, her little hand sneaking pieces.

I wasn’t very good at keeping baby books for my kids and I’m even worse at printing photos for keepsakes for them. But I remember each little flower, dandelion, weed she brings to me. And today she didn’t bring me anything but she has no idea that she gave me everything.

Our table is a sacred space for our family, as is our evenings – we are very protective over how we spend time away from the table. Because she’s 11. He’s almost eight. And when I wake up every morning the first image I see is of their 20 month old smiles waiting for me behind crib slats. That nano second before you’re lucid when you’re laying there, she giggles and asks for Daddy while he flirts and smiles and reaches for me.

It goes so fast, heartbreakingly fast. And today was the first watermelon of a beautiful new season.

Red light, Green light

I have .7345 minutes to get this out of my head and onto paper. So this will be quick.

Lately I feel as though all the anxiety I could experience about any given situation has woken up. As in, HI. I HAVE COME BACK, REMEMBER ME? The stuff of crippling ineptitude to move in any direction. I can’t even slenk backwards, I’m paralyzed with indecision so I stand still. And it’s not an active stop, where waiting is the active searching for the next step – it’s literally the halt.

Right there.

In your tracks.

No moving.

Freeze!

I find it interesting that this is where I am, no longer looking for certain purpose in my work or my time but instead divided by how to use my time WITH my purpose. I’m aware of distractions and oftentimes I’m trying to either quiet them or dislodge them so I can stay focused except for now. Right now. Now I can’t decide.

Have you ever felt this way? It’s not even a crossroads – it’s inevitable. Change, movement – it’s all coming. It is going to happen and I am aware of the shift but I can’t keep my feet on both sides of the fault line. I have to step firmly into the unknown. I have to let go of the comfort, embrace the out of control, and often awkwardness of the search within the journey, and I have to feel like an adolescent who hasn’t grown into their limbs just yet. Proof that I will one day be able to use them to their full potential.

It’s just the in-between of learning how to run while clumsily shuffling through the hallways seems to be the only way to cross said line. And I keep looking down to make sure my shoes are tied so I won’t trip.

Learning to tie.

But I keep falling anyways.