Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Marathon Prep for Beginners

So I mentioned briefly in my last post that I am training for an October marathon.  Frankly, that idea was not in my plans for the year at all.  In fact, I really wasn't 100% sure that I ever wanted to run marathon, period.  But the desire crept up on me, and I was thinking that New Orleans in February (you know, seven months away...) would be a good idea.  But my girlfriend Lindsey (who is running the Cowbell) convinced me that long run training during the winter in the snow would be no fun.  I looked at the dates and messed with a few training plans, and decided to try it.  My mileage base was not at all where it should be to run a marathon in 8 weeks, but with a few tweaks, I made a plan that seems do-able.  I have just enough time left to get in all my long runs including 20 miles, have two dropback weeks, and still taper.  My long run was 14 last week, and I am still feeling strong.  Not ideal by any means, but hopefully do-able.  (And I am a slooowww runner anyway, so finishing would have been my number one goal for a first marathon, no matter how long I had to train!)

All that being true, here are some things I am doing to try to keep myself healthy and strong during the abbreviated training cycle:

1.  Follow a Training Plan

Being very Type-A, it never even occurred to me that some people wing marathon training.  I am all about plans and checklists.  While I do have an abbreviated timeline for training, I make sure to stick to a well-tested plan.  I don't skip runs, and I don't add mileage to runs.  I am trying to slowly increase my weekly mileage in order to get myself to the starting line healthy!

2.  Increase my calcium

During my last training cycle (for a half), I had plenty of time, but the quick increase in mileage still led to a stress fracture.  I was lucky to catch it early and it was resolved with a few weeks of rest, but I don't have time to take 4 weeks off this time around.  Gotta make sure those bones are strong!

3.  Increase my magnesium

A huge majority of the general population is deficient in magnesium, and athletes are even more deficient.  Magnesium helps improve strength, stabilize blood pressure, balance hormones, aids sleep, decreases anxiety, and speeds up recovery.  I use a magnesium oil spray twice a day-magnesium can be absorbed through the skin very quickly and doesn't cause the stomach irritation that oral supplements can.

4.  Increase my collagen intake

(Can you see a theme here?) Collagen improves muscle recovery and joint health, both of which are essential when you increase your weekly mileage.  Studies even show it can increase energy and strength.  (And total disclosure time: I am totally hoping for amazing hair and nails too!)

5.  Fuel carefully

Proper fueling means very different things to different people.  I follow a very clean eating lifestyle, but when I started strongly increasing my weekly mileage, I found that I needed to take further steps to make sure I have the energy and fuel to make it through my long runs.  Because of my hypoglycemia, I usually don't eat any sugar at all, and I keep my diet very low carb.  Well, neither of those things work with marathon training.  Most athletic fuel like Gu, Shotbloks, Gatorade, and many other products are pretty much straight sugar (as they should be!  Your body needs the glucose as you burn through it).  And of course, complex carbohydrates are important to sustain your energy on longer runs.  I tried a few weeks of not fueling at all and keeping my diet at it's current very low carbohydrate level....and I was bonking out pretty hard.  As soon as I added in Preworkout, Complete Hydration, and After Workout, and made sure to get in some quality carbohydrates the day before my long runs, I started feeling 100% better (and my pace on long runs improved by 3 minutes/ one week.  Hmm).  The best part for me is....all Arbonne Phytosport athletic nutrition are low-sugar, so it doesn't knock me into dangerous sugar spikes and dips.

6.  On the Wagon

Speaking of clean eating, I made the decision to give up alcohol until after the marathon too.  While I know that many people do long runs solely to be able to indulge in a few cocktails immediately afterwards, it seemed prudent for me to skip it for the time being.  I am asking my poor old body to do enough without gambling that it can process all that alcohol too :)  (And seriously, I feel great!  I can *almost* see giving it up for good.  Almost).

7.  New Gear

I may do an entire post on this soon, but when I increased my mileage so much, I also picked up a few new favorites.  A friend mentioned that compression socks were hugely helpful for her, so I have been using those on/after long runs (and I think she is right!).  The trail I often run on doesn't have any water, and I had been carrying my water bottle.  It felt like it was messing with my form, so I picked up a Camelback Dart - best purchase ever!  I can barely tell I am wearing it, and it allows me to hydrate on my own schedule.  I would call this an essential for summer training if you are in a similar situation.  Also grabbed another pair of Yurbuds (my favorite earbuds for running), two new pairs of running shoes to work into my rotation, a Flipbelt for my phone (I only use this when I am not wearing the Camelback) and yes, even more Lululemon.  (Sorry not sorry Seth!)  I wear more running gear than real clothes these days, so we're gonna call that a necessary purchase.  :)

Considering that they say only 1% of the population has completed a marathon, I seem to know an unusually high number of people who have, and they have been SO kind to give me excellent tips and advice.

So, what about you-what are your best marathon training tips for beginners?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What I'm Into, July 2016 Edition

We are just coming back from such a fun trip and my brain is stretched to its max with laundry, kids' camp, fall schedules, Arbonne trainings, and all the other minutiae of running a life.  So let's ease back into the blog with chatting about what we were into, in July, shall we?  (Was that already two weeks ago?  Indeed).

1.  Instant Pot

I have never had a pressure cooker, and no real interest in acquiring one, but SO many of my friends were raving about their Instant Pot.  When it came up for a great price on Amazon Prime Day, I threw it in the cart.  Well.  This thing is life-changing.  I have gone from frozen chicken breasts to shredded ready to eat chicken in less than an hour.  I have made dozens of hard boiled eggs where the shell slips right off, instead of the hellish amount of time it normally takes.  I am back to making my own yogurt again because it is all in one pot, instead of all the pots and bowls it was taking me before with the crockpot method.  And last night I made a huge roast and rice to go with it all in one pot, in less than an hour.  Basically, it is saving my kitchen life.

2.  Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Even though I was camping in the woods with no cellular service at Yellowstone, I managed to get three separate NSale orders in as soon as the sale was open.  It is THAT good.  I am no fashion blogger, so this is not going to be a big mess of affiliate links, but the special thing about the Anniversary Sale is that it is all NEW fall line products, not older stuff on clearance.  It is also a great time to pick up certain pricey items for way less.  Here is what I usually look out for and stock up on:

  • Patagonia Down Jackets for kids
  • Patagonia Better Sweaters for adults
  • Bog chore boots
  • Frye boots (last year, riding boots.  This year, booties)
  • Hue leggings
  • Zella workout wear
  • Hanky Pankies
  • Natori bras
  • Paige Jeans
  • Splendid PJs
  • Barefoot Dreams cardigans
  • Any investment bags or shoes that make the sale
  • Thorlo running socks
  • Little Giraffe blankets for baby gifts
  • Any other designer tops or dresses that have caught my eye (but I didn't fall in love with anything)
  • Kendra Scott jewelry (but I didn't love this year's choices)
  • Any beauty tools I may need (Beauty Blender, curling irons, etc)

3.  Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Lake McConaughy

Oh my gosh, we saw so many beautiful places on this trip.  I want to go back to them all.  We only spent one night in Jackson Hole, and we are already planning a couples' trip back in the winter.  If you have not done the typical grand tour out west, I highly suggest it.  (Full post about Yellowstone and first-time RVing later).

4.  Supper Club

At the end of last year, we started a supper club-basically, a book club with no books, just food.  We asked about ten other couples to join us once a month for a themed dinner.  And it has been SO MUCH FUN.  We concentrated on people who own a business in our area, and while we don't ever talk about anything formally, it has been inspiring to support each other and have great conversations about how to help our community thrive.  If you feel like your life is full of too much "must do" and not enough "get to do", I highly suggest starting something like it.  We are pretty much guaranteed at least one fun date night per month now, and I am loving it!

5. Marathon Prep

If you follow me on FB or IG, you might have seen that I (suddenly) registered for my first marathon, in October.  I had been tossing around the idea of doing the New Orleans in February when my friend asked me to try for October with her instead.  The reminder that I would have to train in the snow or on treadmill for a winter race was enough to convince me to make the leap.  I am less than 8 weeks out and training is pretty much taking over my life.  It's all I think about.  It dictates how I eat.  I even gave up cocktails for the duration.  Obviously, this is getting serious (Why does blogger not have emojis?!  Am I missing something?) More on how I am preparing for a too-close-in-dates marathon, in another post, soon.

6.  NYC

Seth and I will be there for a super quick getaway next month.  Both of us have been there before, and neither one of us want to do any of the usual touristy stops.  We want to eat excellent food, stroll around and enjoy the city, and relax.  We might do a self-guided food tour of alllll the delicious food that we can't get here.  We already have lunch reservations at Del Posto, and dinner at Gramercy Tavern.  What would you make sure to do?  Highline?  Restaurants?  Give me all your favs.  We are excited to get away for a few days alone!

(Yogurt update: my kids ate the entire gallon in less than 12 hours.  Not sure this is a sustainable proposition.)

So tell me, what are you into right now?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Dress for Vegas If You Are in Your 30's and Up

So you're about to take a fun trip, and you want to look your best.  How do you walk the line between your normal home look, and not looking like you think you're still 21?  While it does depend on your travel destination, here are some tips to look sophisticated and fun anywhere (all ridiculous phone pictures from a recent trip to Vegas).

1. Assess your current wardrobe:

What could you use that you already own?  Which dress has been languishing in the back of your closet because it is too *something* for home?  Which trendy piece do you own that is a little bit out of your comfort zone?  What pieces could you mix and match in a new way?  Vacation is a perfect time to pull those out and push your limits a little bit.

Night 4 (too tired to push any limits.  Comfy FTW), all previously owned
Top: Halogen via Trunk Club, Linen Pants: Pilcro for Anthropologie, Earrings: Stella and Dot
Travel Day, all previously owned
Shorts: Loft, Sweater: Halogen via Trunk Club, Sandals: Dolce Vita via Trunk Club

2.  Fill in with a few new pieces

If there was ever a time for a shopping trip, a vacation is it!  Don't allow yourself to buy any boring basics here-now is the time for statement pieces.  A new dress, a fun pair of non-jean pants, or a beautiful piece of jewelry will help you feel fresh and special on your trip.  (Or, if you're a shopper-maybe one of each!)

Night 1
Dress: Adelynn Rae via Trunk Club, Shoes: Steve Madden via Trunk Club, Earrings: Kate Spade

3. Take a picture

Not sure if an outfit is working?  Take mirror selfies while you are packing.  Yes, if you are over 30, this will make you feel awkward.  But it is SO valuable to see where a dress you really love is not working anymore, or that a new shirt you worry is too revealing is actually on the right side of sexy.  Which leads me to point #4-If you can't decide for yourself, why don't you...

4.  Get some help

Do you struggle with buying the same basics over and over?  Are you unsure of what looks best on your "right now" body?  Do you feel uncertain if a piece is trendy or just ridiculous?  Get some advice!  Maybe you could call your sister aka "your stylist", or you can get free styling at a high end department store like Nordstrom, or use a service like Trunk Club (I know I keep suggesting it, but that's because I genuinely find it so helpful!).  Before my recent girlfriends' trip to Vegas, I had my Trunk Club stylist Whitney send me a box full of fun ideas.  And you know what?  She did send me things that I would have never even tried on at the store.  I was definitely pushed a little out of my comfort zone.  But once I had them on, I LOVED them (and the things I didn't love went right back in that prepaid box.  Phew!).  It is SO valuable to get someone else's help to freshen up a vacation wardrobe.  If you aren't ready to take the plunge with a professional stylist, send your sister or your closest friends a text with those selfies you just took and ask their advice.  Make sure you pick someone who can be honest with you.  (I personally use Trunk Club AND send pictures to my girlfriends to double check my instincts).

Night 2 (this dress is one I would have NEVER picked on my own!  Pushed my boundaries, for sure.  It won't get much wear here on the farm, but it was fun to have for Vegas)
Dress: Felicity & Coco via Trunk Club, Shoes: Steve Madden via Trunk Club

Tell me, do you have any fun vacations coming up?  We are leaving for a family RV trip out West soon.  Considering that I have never been inside an RV, this should be a real adventure.  Or a total disaster.  Pray for us!  :)

Happy travels my friends!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What I'm Into, June 2016 Edition

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for the first time today to talk about what we were into this June.

1.  Coldbrew

We live an hour from the nearest Starbucks, so I don't get there nearly as often as I'd like. #firstworldproblems

But I have been traveling so much lately that I have gotten to stop in many, many times this summer, and one of the things Starbucks kept pushing is the Coldbrew.  I drink iced coffee everyday during the summer, so I was intrigued - how exactly is cold brew so different?  Turns out, cold brewed coffee is pretty similar to how I was making my iced coffee from this recipe.  You use cold water and coffee grounds steeped for 24 hours to make a coffee that is smoother and less acidic.  And as a bonus, it has double the caffeine of coffee brewed the traditional way.  Win-win 😂

2.  Keto Starbucks

On a similar note, for those of us who need to eat a ketogenic diet or low carb high fat, I have been totally obsessed with the following at Starbucks: Iced Passionfruit tea, Sugar-free vanilla sweetener, heavy cream.  Almost like a milkshake, if you don't pay too much attention.  (Moon Cheese is great low carb snack option, if you are stuck in the car or airport too!)  Not clean eating, for sure, but a fun treat.

3. Complete Hydration

Between my recent trip to Vegas, where it was solidly 115 degrees everyday, stepping up my half marathon training, and just general summer debauchery, rehydrating myself with more than just plain water has become a necessity.  But Gatorade, with its 34 grams of sugar, is not in line with my health goals at all.  And I hate giving all that sugar and artificial color to my kids too.  I have been relying on  Arbonne Complete Hydration instead.  With 3g of sugar, it isn't perfect, but it works exceptionally well.  (And for those of you who tend to overindulge a little in the summer: Complete Hydration is a hangover miracle worker).

4.  Ann Leary

You guys know I am totally infatuated with books.  For better or worse, I am also a very fast reader, which means I can go through several fiction books PER WEEK.  (This is really helpful for getting books read, but it also means that I am always looking for new things to read, which gets frustrating and expensive sometimes).  After (what felt like) exhausting Amazon's book lists, I stumbled upon The Good House, by Ann Leary.  It was so well-written that I buzzed through her entire catalog, including her new book The Children.  It was only afterwards that I realized she is the actor Denis Leary's wife.  I'm glad I didn't realize it before I picked her up, because I am so anti-celebrity authors that I probably would not have given her a chance.  Not great literature by any means, but solid, absorbing stories with well-developed characters.

5.  La Chic Boutique

I almost want to keep this one all for myself, but I really love you guys, so here it is:  A friend of mine told me about this resale shop that posts/sells their finds on IG.  I have bought SO many great high-quality pieces (Nordstrom, Free People, Lululemon, Athletic, Trina Turk, etc) from this shop!  Thrift store and consignment shopping out here on the farm can be very hit and miss, so it has been amazing to be able to easily pick up some of my favorite brands gently used for great prices.  Follow them on IG (@lachicboutiquesandpoint) to shop for yourself.  I even direct messaged her my sizes, and she sends me pictures of everything she has in shop.  (I have nothing to do with this business, and this is not an affiliate link....I just love it)

6.  Hummingbird Glass Straws

I knew I wanted to replace our plastic straws, (which are in rough shape and that I worry harbor toxins), with something safer.  I feel like drinking out of stainless steel straws makes water taste odd, so when I stumbled upon these glass straws, I was delighted.  I was even happier to read all the 5 star reviews from Amazon.  I bought a four pack of the bent straws, and I have been using them obsessively.  I even travel with them, and bring them to Starbucks and restaurants.  Seriously, everything tastes better out of these.  I am never going back to plastic or disposable straws.  As a bonus, the customer service is extraordinarily friendly.  I tagged them in a post on IG, and their customer service not only interacted extensively with my friends in the comments, they direct messaged me to say thank you for tagging them.

7.  Cello Whisps from Costco

A "chip" made entirely from Parmesan cheese.  We can't stop eating them.  These are the perfect chip replacement for low carb eaters, and every time I bring them to a party, people go nuts.  Delicious.  I just wish I could get them on Amazon for a better price, since we live so far from the nearest Costco.

8.  West Wing Weekly Podcast

I adored the show The West Wing when it was on TV.  My girlfriends and I (who mostly thought we were going to run the world one day) used to park ourselves in the basement of my sorority house and watch every week (remember when we had to watch TV in real time?!  Best of times, worst of times, eh?)

Listening to this podcast (led by Josh Malina, who played Will Bailey), has been so much fun.  Each episode recaps and revisits one episode of the TV show, with guests ranging from West Wing actors and crew to current senators.  Great listening for long run training.

9.  She Reads Truth Studies

I really want to be consistent about spending time in the Word everyday, but if I don't have a plan laid out for me, I struggle to focus.  I have been using the She Reads Truth app and purchasing their studies for about 6 months, and I really enjoy it.  They have tons of studies available, as well as one "live" currently running study (at this moment, Acts).  The studies combine verses that are relevant to a subject or book into a daily reading plan, short explanation and devotional, and room for discussion with other users.  Both the app and the paper version of their studies are beautifully done.  If you are looking for some direction for your Bible time, this is a great resource.  (So far, the Proverbs study has been my favorite).

10.  Small Town Races

In the past two weeks, I have run two different races here in NW Illinois - the Pretzel City 5K with my girls and the Stockton 4th of July 10K on my own.  While I enjoy big city races too, these small town races have had the best and most encouraging spectators!  Both were exceptionally well-organized, and it was SO awesome to see how many runners stuck around after their finish to cheer on those still running.  My 9-year old even placed in her age group.  Thank you to everyone who lined each course with funny signs, set up sprinklers and boom boxes in their yards along the route, and worked so hard to make these races a great experience for every level of runner.

So tell me, what about you?  What are you into right now?

Friday, June 24, 2016

#OneSwap: 6 Summer Skincare Switch-Ups

Summer is finally here...hurray!  

With climbing temperatures, many of us need to change up our skincare. Here are the switches I make to my routine for summer:

1) Swap Re9 Day Cream for FC5 Oil-Absorbing Day Cream.

Many of us should switch to a lighter moisturizer in the heat to keep our skin looking fresh, and to protect ourselves from clogged pores.  The FC5 Day cream absorbs any shininess that may occur in the summer, and it contains SPF to protect your skin from the sun.  (In fact, I noticed last week after too much sun, my face was significantly paler than my poor chest and shoulders, where I had not applied any sunscreen.  Frankly, that is more effective than I would expect from a day cream!)  When I have been in the sun too often and feel dry, I add three drops of Nourishing Facial Oil to the day cream and mix in my hand, to ramp up the hydration.

(Are you leary of facial oils?  I was too, but they are such a popular trend that I knew I had to try one out.  When Arbonne released ours last April, I dove in, and I am IN LOVE.  A high-quality facial oil can be used on all skin types, even oily skin.  Arbonne's oil is a sheer dry oil, so it doesn't leave you feeling greasy.  But it does help your skin absorb moisturizer and treatment products more effectively, and I have noticed a serious improvement in my skin's radiance.  That glow is your best summer accessory!)

2) Loose powder for FC5 Mattifying Powder

While I love loose powder for the rest of year, it tends to cake up in the heat.  The Mattifying Powder is silky and helps keep makeup matte all day.  If you have extra oily skin, use this powder underneath your makeup and on top, for fresh makeup all day.

3) Primers and Setting Sprays

Makeup primer is an everyday essential for me all year round.  If you have never used makeup primer before, it a silky face product that allows your skin to stay matte, and it keeps your makeup in place during the heat.  Arbonne's Primer even has opti-light technology, which helps diffuse light off your face, giving you a flawless finish.

I also find eyeshadow primer to be more imperative during the hot temps.  During the summer, eye makeup tends to crease and slide.  Similar to facial primer, eye primer helps keep your eye makeup in place.  I use mine both above my eyes, and under as well.  It will help keep your undereye concealer from creasing too!

When I need my makeup to look perfect all day long for an important event, I bring out the serious equipment: makeup setting spray.  My current favorite is Urban Decay All-Night Setting Spray.  You spray it on after you finish your makeup, and it is pretty much like shellac for your face.  UD claims it will even keep your makeup waterproof while swimming, although I'm not sure I'd believe it that far. It IS hard to scrub off.  Still, if you are going to be a bridesmaid this season, or have a long day in the sun, it is a great summer product.  All that being true, it just can't be good for your skin to waterproof it everyday.  I save this one for special occasions.

4) Stock Up on Renewing Body Gelee, Awaken Salt Scrub, Suncreen, and Awaken Spray

Body Gelee for sunburn, razor irritation, rashes, and taking the itch out of bug bites.  This is truly a summer essential, and it smells incredible.

Salt Scrub for exfoliation, peeling skin from the sun, sunless tanner prep, and everyday shaving.  Exfoliated skin means a closer, less irritated shave, and a longer-lasting sunless tan.  (My tan esthetician always comments on how well-prepped my skin is, and my sunless tans last almost 14 days now!)

Awaken Spray to be used as a safe-for-any-age bug repellent.

Sunscreen. For obvious reasons.

5) Switch Up Lip Gloss, Foundation Color, and Eyeshadows

Despite sunscreen use, most of us tend to become a shade or two darker in summer, which calls for a change in makeup colors.  I switch my foundation shade from Buff to Honey Beige.  I also start playing with lighter and more metallic eye colors, and pinker lip shades.  My summer eyeshadow favorites are Mist, Opal, and Solar.  My go-to summer lip shades are Hibiscus for lipstick, and Larkspur for gloss.

6) Switch to Lighter Body Lotion

Just like your facial moisturizer, your favorite body lotion may start to feel too heavy in the summer.  I can usually get away with the oils left from using the salt scrub, but when I need a little extra boost of hydration, I use a light gel, like the Body Gelee, or the FC5 Conditioning Moisturizer.

If there were #OneSwap I could encourage you to make for the summer months, it would be to make certain that your daytime face lotion has a high enough SPF to protect you!  I know too many people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer lately.  It is SO easy to ensure you have sunscreen on everyday if it is in your day cream!

So, tell me, what summer #OneSwap will or do you try to help your skin beat the heat?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Blame: There is No 'Us' & 'Them'

It's months like this that make it clear how absolutely short-sighted the idea of having five children really was.  

Between the awful news from Orlando, both Pulse and that precious two year old at Disney, a young death in our church family, the Stanford rape news cycle, and unsettling health news on my Arbonne team, the obvious truth that we prefer to hide from has been pushed in our faces, again and again: life is fragile.  You most likely will lose someone who feels essential to your existence.  (And if you're like me, you silently plead "anything but my children.")  Because it suddenly seems impossible that I will get to keep all five.  I know I am not alone in this well-worn path of anxiety.

And so we pretend that we can bargain with the universe-that if we just find the thing that victim or that parent did wrong, we can protect our families from that kind of pain.  We can give ourselves safety.  We can control the situation.  We can know that it will never happen to us.

And it is natural to try to find the fault, the blame.  

To pretend this bargain is real and not an illusion is the only way many of us can remain upright and functional in the face of so much obvious danger.  Because if I spend even a tiny bit if time thinking about what it would be like if it were my baby in that pond, that club, that courtroom, my heart cracks wide open and I am paralyzed by fear.  The world is too dangerous.  Having five children who I now cannot live without was so immensely stupid that I cannot fathom my own naivety and lack of foresight.

And so we blame the victim, the victim's family, because it is the only way we can carry on in the face of our fear.  It is natural, for our brains to do this.  Of course, it is a false promise, a liar's bargain we are making with the universe.

Finding the fault will not protect us.  

But still...

However: the first time you open your mouth and share that false pretense with anyone else, including the Internet, you have made yourself, for that family, part of the very pain you want to protect yourself from.  Why?  Why speak that aloud?  Five minutes before whatever horror happened, I guarantee you those parents were building a life on that same false promise.  If I/Then we are safe. They are just normal parents, probably good, probably not bad, making the best decisions they could with the information they had, just like we all do.  The only difference between you and them is that they are being forced to live the truth that we are not in full control.  They have lost forever the ability to build their lives on that bargain with the universe, because it has become shockingly obvious to them that it was a lie the entire time.  The world is not a safe place.  And they have to keep going anyway.  And all of us, we are witnesses to their "before-this/after-this" dividing line moment.

I know some of you are irritatedly thinking "there is something different between me and them!  They did blah blah blah.  I would never blah blah blah".  Perhaps.  That could be true.  But more likely, you have just been lucky.  Trust me when I tell you, if you have not had your "almost lost something essential to you" moment yet, you will.  If your children are babies, you might not be able to picture a time when something you do will put them in danger, but it will.

When my Amelia was two, she fell into a winterized, above ground pool at a BBQ.  She went up a big tall slide and went right into the water, surrounded by probably 15 adults.  No one saw her.  She yelled when she hit the water, because it was cold, and I looked around to see why she was crying, not particularly worried.  And only by the grace of God did I see her tiny little head sinking in the pool.  I had infant Charlotte strapped to me in the sling, and I was yelling for Seth as I struggled to put her down.  No one was moving, until one of the guys from the farm threw his huge arm down and hauled her up.  Was it his fire department training that made him so much faster than the rest of us?  I don't know.  She was, thank God, absolutely fine.  But I was not, and I am not. To this day, I cannot tell that story without crying.  Because I know I just got lucky.  I did nothing to deserve the mercy we got that day.  It's not because I am a better parent.  If people wanted to dissect my parenting that day in an Internet comment box, after the fact, they would point out:

  1. My age.  I was probably too young to have children.  (I wasn't)
  2. I have too many children.  "See, she can't take care of them all!"
  3. Both Seth and I had a beer in our hands.  Drinkers.
  4. It was during dinner, and I was sitting eating, and obviously I didn't know where my two year old was. Selfish. (We all thought someone else had her.)
  5. I had taken my babies (all under five years old at this point) to a home with an unfenced pool. Irresponsible.
  6. When she did fall in, it wasn't me or my husband who were fast enough to save her.  Didn't try hard enough.

See how easy that is?  That is only me finding fault in my own parenting.  I am sure the public might be able to find ten more things that led to that accident.  And it feels good, doesn't it-To know why? To be able to connect the dots to fault?  To why it will never happen to you?

But don't allow yourself to do that.  You are making a bargain that life will not keep.

If you can, stand with your heart cracked wide open for those families.  Allow yourself to acknowledge their pain, not find their fault.  Sit with your own visceral fear.  Because it is very real. And all we can do is bear witness.  All we can do is keep them from standing alone.  That is the best any of us can do for each other, in the face of fear and pain.

Oh, of course, there are practical things we could be doing to take action, and we will find those things.  But mostly it is a silent true knowing "there by the grace of God go I".  And when we truly know that, and we acknowledge that fear for our own family has led us to blame, we can turn away from that false promise and drop our stones.  We can see it as the liar it is.

There is no US and THEM.  There is only US.

And how then shall we live?

We must learn to build a life in the tension between fear and function, where we know that any minute we could lose someone who is everything to us, and we must go out and live with joy anyway. We must be open and ready to stand with those do suffer a loss.  We must drop the stones of blame and embrace the great power of witness.

We have not forgotten.  We are not pretending.  We will not live in denial.  But we will dance anyway, while we can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#OneSwap: 5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

You guys, Father's Day is this Sunday.  Can you even believe that?  It feels like the summer has just barely started, and we are already hitting one of the big seasonal milestones.

With Dad on our mind, I thought we'd chat about ways to help the guys in our life be more healthy. Of course, they are grown adults in charge of their own health, but I have often found that guys need a little nudge towards making healthier choices. And isn't nice to spend a little time taking special care of them? Here are five ideas to help the guys in your life stay in top form.

5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

1.  Lead By Example

Really, the best way to encourage someone close to you to make a change is to do it with them! Every guy is different, but Seth tends to be pretty happy with the status quo (in terms of our health).  He doesn't usually come to me with big ideas about how we should reform.  However: if I say to him, "hey baby I really need to eat better and get into a good routine with exercising, would you do it with me because I need the support?", he is all in.  Even if I don't ask him to participate with me, I have noticed that when I am on track with my own health, Seth tends to take better care of his health as well.  That is gift of marriage, is it not?

2.  Do the Research

The guys in my life have no interest in spending hours researching ingredients in skincare. (In fact, I don't even think the fact that skincare HAS toxic ingredients is on their radar-their Facebook feeds aren't covered with all the "mom warning" articles that fill up mine.)   They don't spend a ton of time obsessively comparing and contrasting healthy living programs.  They pick what is easiest and most readily available, or whatever their friends use  (Your guys may be completely different-I have friends whose husbands are the ones who feel strongly about ingredient policies.)  If we can take all that research off their plates and boil it down to the most important essentials, they are much more likely to make the switch to a healthier choice.

3.  Upgrade Him

If he has no interest in choosing for himself, you can just start replacing his products with better ones! Seth was a very consistent head-to-toe generic bar soap guy until I just stopped buying that toxic junk and replaced it with Arbonne's Men's Face Wash and this bar soap (bonus: I have never met a woman who didn't love how it smells).  He would never eat breakfast until I started handing him protein shakes on his way out the door, and making hot lunches for the farm.  If your guy loves soda, fizz sticks will help him kick that habit.  Sometimes we can get them something that is very familiar feeling-like a bar of soap-that is actually a pretty serious upgrade to his routine!

4.  Make It Easy

Along those same lines, one way to take special care of our guys is to make it as easy as possible for him for make healthy choices!  What if you packed his lunch for him?  What if you could take five minutes and make that dentist appointment for him?  What if you quietly quit buying junk food for the house?  Could you fill his water bottles for the gym every morning before work?  Could you encourage him to sign up for a race with his buddies?  Could you stick a sunscreen in his bag (I need to do that for Seth soon!).  I would never tell my husband how to eat or exercise or take care of himself,  but I CAN make it easier for him to do those things.  The little kindnesses and acts of service we do can make a huge difference when he needs help starting a good habit!

5.  #OneSwap

This Father's Day, instead of buying the dads in your life a shirt or a tie or even great beer, what if you swapped out a gift that supports his health in some way?  If he is trying to lose weight, what if you offer to do a Clean Eating Challenge with him?  If he doesn't take care of his skin, what if you upgrade him to a safe anti-aging men's line?  If he needs to lace up those sneakers more often, maybe you could grab him a Garmin, or a new bike.  Help him make #OneSwap for health!  Isn't that the best gift we could give them?  I know I want my guys-Seth, my Daddy, and my Father-in-Law-to be around (and healthy!) for a long, long time yet.  All three are precious to me.

Have a great weekend celebrating the men in your life!