A Solo Trip to North Carolina

Late last night I arrived back home after six wonderful days in North Carolina. I was apprehensive about this trip from the beginning – was it too self indulgent to go on a second major solo vacation this year, after my trip to Book Bonanza in Dallas in August, plus also having already been on two major family/couple vacations earlier in the year to Florida and Colorado? Was it selfish to insist on doing another thing that only benefited me and made life a lot trickier for everyone else in my family? And in the most recent months, was it worth risking my wavering mental health to go to a conference that could very well just end up making me feel worse about myself by not spending more time on this thing I supposedly love so much? Between just LIFE stuff, being so behind on Heartstring Annie, and now all the uncertainty with my liver and needing to completely upheave my entire lifestyle…the CONFERENCE aspect of this trip felt overwhelming. But I couldn’t exactly back out of it at that point, so I decided to trust that I made the right decision way back last spring when I told Greg that I needed to make this investment in myself. And honestly? I think this might have been one of the best things I have ever done for myself and I don’t regret a minute of it.

I’d like to write more about what I learned at the conference after I’ve had a few more days to collect my thoughts and process all of the encouragement and new ideas I was given. Tonight I’ll just tell you a little bit about the trip itself!

I had a pretty early flight on Thursday morning – but out of Madison! I never fly out of Madison! So the boys slept over at Grandma’s and Greg dropped me off at the airport bright and early. Well, technically it was still dark, so not bright. And the roads to Madison were sheer ice after yet another snowstorm the day before. WHY is it snowing so much and already so cold in early November?! Anyway, I made my way to Charlotte without any issues until I picked my rental “car” that was supposed to be in the same class/size as the cars I own and am used to driving. I was instead given a Jeep Compass. Which I guess compared to other vehicles, is really not THAT big. But it was a whole lot bigger than what I’m used to driving. Plus, MY car is 17 years old. I am so not used to driving newer vehicles with all their bells and whistles. It was a pretty stressful start, especially because I could not for the life of me figure out how to connect the GPS from my phone to the vehicle, or find any kind of navigation system on the vehicle alone. Trying to drive a huge vehicle in heavy traffic while also holding my oversized phone in one hand in a city I’ve never been to before – it was rough. My phone wasn’t even verbally giving me any of the directions and at one point when getting on a highway it fell under the seat! Fun times, you guys.

Alas, I made it to my first destination! Superica – the restaurant owned by the author of Tex Mex, my all time favorite cookbook that came out earlier this year. I realized after eating there that I should have asked how they pronounce the name of the place. All this time I’ve been calling it in my head “super-ICA,” and realized later it’s probably supposed to be more like “soup-erica”, like “America.” It just seems like I should maybe know how to properly pronounce the name of the restaurant I was most excited about eating at! Anyway, the place was huge and really fun! They gave me a ton of chips with two salsas – the smoky verde was delicious. (I believe the recipe is in the cookbook!) I ordered a combo from the lunch menu of chicken tortilla soup and chicken suiza enchilada. Oh, and the seasonal aqua fresca – pineapple/banana/mango/ginger. It was a ton of food! But very delicious.

I had a long list of unique shops and areas that I wanted to hit up on the trip. But after the stress of just getting from the airport to the first restaurant, I knew very quickly I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself. So I looked up the one place that sounded most intriguing – a gift store called Paper Skyscraper – and realized it was only a few blocks away, so I put more money in the meter and booked it over there. The store was so amazing! One of the best gift shops I’ve ever been to. I purchased a rainbow heart mug (based off of a graffiti mural of the same thing that I didn’t find out about until days later and was SO ANNOYED to learn was actually just on the other side of the block from Superica!), a really cute Christmas mug, and a Christmas in Carolina candle. All of which were added to the very large box of things I bought on the trip and shipped back home to myself and will hopefully arrive in one piece!! I probably could have stayed for hours in that store, but I didn’t give myself a ton of time (ran out of change! forgot how slow I walk!) and needed to get back.

My next stop was my hotel where I was thankfully able to check in an hour early and take a short nap. I had planned on getting a quick dinner or coffee before the conference started at six, but chose the extra time to rest instead. Then I headed out to register and find my seat at the conference! The whole thing took place at a large church and there were 450 attendees, though it honestly didn’t feel like that many. We jumped right in with a short performance by Arielle Estoria and then our first session on the six writing stages Hope*Writers has come up with. It was a great start to my learning!

Afterward I was pretty keyed up – and hungry – so I found a Cava. I love Cava so much. I get it every time I go to DC. I wish they’d come to the midwest! I just get a pita with harissa, chicken, diced cucumber, and lemon dill tahini, but it’s just so dang good. I haven’t been able to replicate it at home with the same quality. It was a great treat after the long day. I also stopped at a grocery store before driving back to the hotel in the pitch black pouring rain (that was fun). I LOVE hitting up grocery stores when I visit new areas of the country. Normally I’m on the lookout for unique flavors of chips and cool snacks, though now I’m mostly interested in local products and coffee.

Friday was a full conference day. It was a bit overwhelming, but so awesome.

At the lunch break I went to a place called Emmet’s Social Table, one of the founder’s favorite restaurants. It was cute, but I was hit with my new constant predicament of what can I eat? All this liver stuff I have going on right now is very confusing. I have a general idea of what I should be avoiding, but I’m not so clear on what exact substitutions I should be making. Normally eating out is my favorite part of every vacation, but was really just a huge source of stress this time around. My meals were sporadic and not the most enjoyable. I figured at this lunch I could have a “splurge meal” and immediately regretted the decision. It was my first time (okay, so I did have a pita the night before) in weeks eating white bread and potatoes and fried items. It was all good, but also just made me feel like crap. And made me really, really wish I liked salads. I was trying to make BETTER choices at every place I went, but choosing the BEST options was never really on the table for me (yet). It’s too depressing.

The afternoon portion of the conference was really great as well, but I was so tired and just overloaded with information by the end. There was an optional/encouraged night out at The Nester’s barn with food trucks and a bonfire and fellowship with other hope writers. But it was also a 45 minute drive each way, in the country, in the dark. I wasn’t comfortable yet with my Jeep, was not super interested in having more awkward conversations with strangers no matter how nice they might be, and just needed to rest my brain for a bit. So I didn’t go to that part and really don’t have any regrets. Before going back to the hotel, though, I stopped at a place called Viva Chicken and had a Peruvian Tacu Bowl. The photo is before I loaded it up with an amazing spicy sauce. It was very tasty. (But I shouldn’t have been eating the rice.)

Three food photos in a row! That’s really all I took pictures of on the trip… Saturday morning I was back at the conference for the final day. I went to a place called Sabor Latin Street Grill for lunch and had two chicken authentic tacos with chips and a bunch of salsas from their salsa bar. It was my cheapest and simplest meal, but it was really delicious.

I forgot to mention that on Friday night I made the leap and JOINED Hope*Writers. The conference was open to anyone, but the majority of attendees were actually already hope writers. I am proud to say I am now one too! I’ll have opportunities to learn every week with fresh teachings, plus access to all the archives. I can also connect in smaller hope circles with other members to spur each other on and achieve our goals together. I haven’t had a chance to do much besides just sign up yet, but it’s one of my top priorities in the next few weeks. Another investment in myself that I hope will also be the right decision.

The conference ended around three and then I booked it out of there because I had to get to my next hotel in Wrightsville Beach, almost four hours away. I was really hoping to get there by sunset – just to drive in the light and also see the beach before it got dark. Unfortunately, the sun sets really early! I didn’t make it. And then I was very confused by my hotel and couldn’t figure out how to get to the beach. And I was irritated by all the bored valet drivers that kept watching me whenever I went in and out of the building. The parking lot was also quite confusing and I didn’t want to leave again worried I wouldn’t have a spot when I got back, even though I also really wanted some dinner after only having that one meal the entire day. (Breakfasts – too much work!) I spent a ridiculously long amount of time trying to figure out how and where I could order food, but nothing was really sounding good. Well, real problem – everything was loaded with carbs and/or fried. So I decided to just go out and walk, despite how dark and terrifying it was, until I finally came across a tiny ice cream shop and decided to just have a chocolate peanut butter malt for dinner and call it a day. I was kind of a wreck by that point. Despite being on this trip by myself and technically having a lot of time in the evenings, I only got about five hours of sleep each night I was there, no naps other than the first day, and so much stressful time driving. Plus the mental exertion of learning so many new things! I was just at my breaking point by Saturday night.

Sunday was my one totally free and open day. I took my time getting ready in the morning and then finally found the beach! I got my workout in, squatting in the sand for an hour picking up the prettiest shell fragments. It was really fun! The weather was about as perfect as it could be too. Fallish temperatures (45-65) and lots of sunlight. All the natives kept apologizing for the cold weather when they found out I wasn’t from around there. I just laughed every time.

I wanted to spend my day finding cool shopping areas – it felt more feasible than in the busier Charlotte areas. I ended up parking in Wilmington and walking all around the downtown area. There were a couple of buildings that had multiple shops inside of them, which was fun. I finally found my first local coffee shop – after four days! I didn’t really like it, but felt obligated to drink it. I believe the only thing I bought in that area of town was another North Carolina scented candle. I smelled every single one of the shop’s about one hundred scents and liked the very last one the most. Again – hope it gets back to me in one piece tomorrow!

My boring lunch at Front Street Grill before rushing back to my car right when my time ran out. I mostly just ate the chicken salad plain and the bowl of fruit. That was a depressing meal when the rest of the menu items that I would have picked out at any other occasion before my liver stuff came up, sounded SO much more delicious.

I spent the next portion of my day hitting up my favorites – TJMaxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods. You better believe I find those branches of stores in every single city I visit on every vacation I ever take! You never know what you’re going to find! It’s such a treasure hunt! I don’t even feel dumb about it (I did last year in Minnesota when I probably visited at least 20 versions of the same store because literally every single city has all three of the branches). They’re my favorite place to dig around and I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I also went to a bookstore and another grocery store. I finished my night having dinner at a place called Flamin’ Amy’s Burritos. It was a rush menu decision at the counter so I picked a Jerk Chicken burrito and didn’t take a picture because how boring is a picture of a burrito? I don’t even like burritos. I don’t like flour tortillas. So it was another disappointment. I just ate the filling with some chips. I was pretty fed up with eating in general at this point. I did have some snacks with me, but no matter how good those snacks seem when packing for a trip, they fall VERY flat when it’s the only thing you’re filling yourself up with.

I stayed up really late back at the hotel on Sunday night. I shouldn’t have, but I was still having a hard time shutting my brain down and needed to force myself to just chill out. I also set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss the sunrise on the beach – since I had missed both sunsets. I actually got to the beach about an hour before it officially rose and took about a million photos, but cell phones just don’t really do it justice. I was the only one on the entire span of beach that I could see, and it was a really beneficial time for me. I wish I had an outdoor space like that around home where I could watch a sunrise or sunset. I’m generally not a beach person because I hate being hot and in the sun. But at this time of year, it was incredible.

After making one more stop at Marshall’s and a local fresh/healthy foods only grocery store, I began my long trip back to Charlotte. I wasn’t in the mood to keep hunting around for new things to do, so I chose a large antique mall near the airport and spent about two hours just wandering around. During that time I was getting texts about every five minutes saying my flight was delayed another half hour. My flight was already later than I would have liked, so this wasn’t helping! By the time I left the antique mall, however, it was suddenly back on time! I didn’t know airlines could go back and forth like that. But it was a relief!

I wanted to get some food before I got to the airport – it was already 3:30 at that point and I hadn’t eaten at all. So I picked something close by – a Caribbean restaurant with a ton of great google reviews. I ordered the jerk chicken. Let me just ask – does that look like chicken to you?? The third piece in the background was definitely a leg. But the two pieces in front? The shape of them – those were bones. What kind of CHICKEN has bones like that?! There was also a goat curry on the menu, and I think they maybe gave me that. Which kind of makes me want to cry. Sorry, I do NOT want to eat a sweet cute goat. There was hardly any meat on any of the pieces – it was just skin and bones. The SAUCE was delicious. But it was a pretty disappointing meal.

The rest of my night was very uneventful! I got to the airport about four hours before my flight because I was so tired and needed to just be done. I spent most of that time walking around every terminal because I was so tired and didn’t know how else to stay awake. I got a Starbucks coffee and it gave me a stomachache. I read a whole (short) book. And then we finally took off, flew across country with no issues, and landed to fresh snow and ice and 7 degree temperatures. Oh, Wisconsin.

And that was my trip! I feel like I should go back and re-title this post to “All the food I couldn’t eat in North Carolina.” Sorry about that. I know nobody likes to hear about food restrictions and limitations. It’s just so high on my mind right now, with my liver biopsy happening TOMORROW. For that reason alone, it was not a good time to go on a trip. But I’m so glad I went and I really had the most fantastic time. I will write more about the depth of things I learned (and not just what I ate and where I shopped!) at another time!

November 2019 Goals

I was struggling to come up with a list of goals again this month because October was such an epic disaster. I’m still just in survival mode right now and can’t handle adding anything extra on top of the things I’m doing just to get through my days. So – I’ll stick with those! I think November is going to fly by so quickly. I’m going on a five day trip, which will immediately launch me to the middle of the month, even though the month just started. Then I’m hosting a big sign painting party which feels like it’ll basically consume a whole week of my time to prepare for. And then it’s pretty much Thanksgiving, which also means it’s basically Christmas! I am not AT ALL prepared for Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sales and have no clue how I’m going to get even close to making enough dolls to feel worth it. But….I don’t want to lose my mind to stress and being overwhelmed this month. I just want to focus on those couple of things that matter above all else and the rest will hopefully just fall into place. Or be good enough. And I’ll have to be okay with it.

1. Focus on health above all else.

THIS is what’s important right now. While my official diagnosis is up in the air and who knows if I’ll even figure it out this month, I NEED to start taking the steps to be a healthier person. Not a diet to lose weight (though hopefully that’ll be an outcome), but realistic lifestyle changes that I can manage for the rest of my life. I have three main things I want to focus on this month to kick things off.

  • Use the treadmill every day until it becomes a habit. No goals for specific times or distances yet, I just want to GET ON IT every single day. Well, every day except the five days I’m out of town this month. I started a notebook to log all of my walks, so hopefully I’ll feel a nice sense of accomplishment every time I add another one to the list. Caden also started a log so he can see how much he beats me every time…
  • Cut out almost all white flour and processed foods. I don’t want to be insane about this, or be super annoying to people who have to eat with me in the coming months. But I do want to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible. Especially when I’m home alone and most prone to mindless snacking. But I don’t plan on being super strict with myself when I’m on vacation, or a date night, or like Thanksgiving day. But MOST of the time, I am going to learn how to just say no and find a better option. I’ve been working on this for two weeks now and it’s gotten easier, for the most part. I did have noodles at HuHot last week and pizza at my brother’s birthday party last night. I did try the lemon cake I made my friends on Friday. But I’ve been doing pretty good at all the times in between. As long as I have other options available, it’s going okay.
  • Avoid fast and fried foods. I think some of my biggest food related downfalls are when I’m running a lot of errands and extremely hungry and tempted by all the surrounding restaurants and just desperate to get something delicious and fast in my stomach. I actually don’t eat that much fried food to begin with, but fast food chains are definitely an evil temptation on my busy days. I’m nervous about feeding myself three meals a day for five days a week when I go on my trip later this week. I know it’s going to be challenging not to overindulge. But if I stick with the plan to avoid fast food and fried food, it’s a good starting point for picking healthier – and probably much tastier! – options.

2. Go to my Hope*Writers conference with an open heart and mind.

When I bought my ticket to this conference last spring I was SO excited about it. It felt like the best possible investment I could make in myself and the future I’d truly like to have as A WRITER. And then life, like always, got in the way. I still struggle a lot with what I’m really meant to be doing with my time and my life. I love doll making, I do, but it’s not essential to my happiness the way it was a few years ago. It’s definitely more a job now, and one that I’ve really been slacking on. In theory, I would love to be a writer, but I have some serious self doubt and just aren’t sure I could, or would even want to, make a full time career out of it. But I still want TO WRITE, whether it’s only on this blog or even just journal entries that nobody will read except myself. The majority of my writing comes out in emails to a friend – the truest story of my life for the last fifteen or so years. I would really like to direct that writing desire to other things and I’m hoping this conference will help give me hope again. Pour some optimism into my heart that I’ve lost along the way. I’m definitely nervous about the entire thing, but I know it’ll be good for me. I leave super early Thursday morning, have a few hours to explore Charlotte, and the conference begins that night and goes through late Saturday afternoon. Then I’m heading three hours east to the coast for two nights in a waterfront hotel just for the fun of it. For the last few weeks it’s felt like this conference couldn’t come at a worse time. But now – I’m ready for it. I’m excited for a break from my everyday life and maybe a chance to get some perspective on everything. I’m going to trust that no matter what, I am meant to be at that conference at this time in my life.

3. Buy/Craft/Plan at least 1/2 of all Christmas presents!

I really, really love gift giving. But I also get super swept up in the excitement of it all and go way overboard every year with impulse purchases that feel too good to pass up. This year I need A PLAN. A focused direction for every gift I give, trying to cut back on spending, be more creative (if I have time!!), and just generally be a whole lot more organized. I’m also trying to work up a treat plan – something to gift neighbors and friends that is maybe something different than cookies and candies. Baking was one of my first loves and continuing to bake without being able to freely eat the fruits of my labor…I think it’s going to be too hard. And I know so many other people are always trying to eat healthier too. Something I never have been that great about respecting. But now I get it and I want to only gift things that will truly be appreciated and used. It’s a lot to think about! But I’m hoping if I spend more time in November working on gifts, I can spend more time in December actually sewing for my customers. Most years I take the bulk of December off because I can’t handle everything happening at once. This year I’d like to be more accomodating. But only if I’m prepared with all the other gift stuff ahead of time!

October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

October has shaped up to be one of the busiest and hardest months I’ve ever had. It’s been filled with a lot of great pockets of time connecting with friends and family. But it’s been alternated with so much stress and anxiety and emotional overwhelm. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of so many things go at once that are important to me in order to just survive my day to day life. I stopped filling out my bullet journal and organizing my tasks and giving myself a solid plan of what to work on every day. I stopped writing even the weekly blog posts that tend to ground and guide my weeks, and haven’t even considered writing anything beyond the occasional journal entry. I stopped listening to most podcasts in favor of soaking up the very rare silence or just listening to music instead. I slowed down so much on doll making, going up to a week at a time without even picking it up. And I’ve stopped reading. Not entirely. But this has been the slowest book month I’ve ever had. Lack of actual time is a big reason why, but I’ve definitely picked mindless phone scrolling over reading way too often.

There have been plenty of good things that have been filling my time that I definitely don’t regret. A group of my friends threw me a little birthday lunch, which was really awesome. It meant a lot to me that they cared about celebrating with me in the midst of their own crazy busy lives. I’ve also had two morning coffees at my house this month – with another one happening on Friday. I had a lunch date with another friend. And I have a lunch date with a friend this week as well. It’s been great reconnecting with everyone after what felt like an incredibly long dry spell. Female friendships are so important and we should all fight to keep them alive and thriving.

I’ve been dipping into some Cricut projects – really the main reason I wasn’t sewing for awhile there. These are the first three projects I did, using free files I found online. I was most impressed with how the mug turned out and might just focus on making more of those for gifts on upcoming holidays. I designed one myself to make for my friend Julie’s birthday and it turned out really nice. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed using my graphic design skills. But it also feels like starting completely from scratch – forget all those college classes and degree from a million years ago! So it’s very time consuming, requires a ton of research and searching for free things to work with before I can entirely design my own, and – I’m not that great at some of it. The main reason I wanted a Cricut was to make stencils and wooden signs. I’ve done a couple of stencils on canvas so far and they haven’t turned out at all. I’m hoping it’s just because of the canvas. I bought some wooden planks a few weeks ago to start practicing for real, but we haven’t found a time yet for Greg to help me use the rotary saw. That thing scares me.

Last weekend we got to spend a lot of time with Hudson, Timmy, and Brittany. The boys and I joined my mom in babysitting him on Saturday night and on Sunday we celebrated Brittany’s birthday. He was so much fun to hang out with! He’s talking so much and giggling and laughing about everything. His favorite thing was wrestling with the boys. He liked joining in on all their random snacking too.

It’s hard to go so many months in between seeing him, but it’s fun to see how much he’s changed in those time periods. He’s such a little cutie.

This last Thursday night we finally had some free time, so we carved pumpkins. Except that I was SO tired – it’s been a pretty sucky week, but more on that in a minute. Shepard had just cut his thumb playing gaga ball and didn’t want to get it full of pumpkin juice. And Caden was just not wanting to participate because he never wants to participate in ANYTHING. So Greg did all the scooping, we drew the faces, he did the carving. And he did it all in record time!

I worked on cleaning and making our pumpkin seeds. We always do one batch of salt, one dill and salt, and one chex mix flavors.

On Friday night we walked to the annual town bonfire. I always think it’s just a really nice memorable thing to participate in each year. It wasn’t quite as fun as last year because there was no DJ and Caden had zero interest in playing with his friends. I don’t know what’s been going on with him lately, but he’s having a rough time. Or he’s making choices that are making him feel like he’s having a rough time because he refuses to even try to be friendly with people anymore. But Shepard had a blast.

In a single day I actually made six little boy dolls from start to finish. It’s the first time I’ve made boys in almost two years. It’s the first time I’ve made dolls this small in probably at least six months. Dresses and long hair are what take the longest, so boys are very speedy! They all sold instantly. I started a second batch right away. I’ve needed a break from fall and Halloween dolls. Seasonal dolls kind of drag me down. It’s hard to feel super inspired when I feel like I have to make them. I don’t like being told what to do! So it was fun to throw in something different.

Last night we had our annual Halloween party with the grandparents and the city trick or treating. I wasn’t feeling super inspired this year, so I just made my annual pizza snake and a few snack mixes. Cindy brought caramel, apples, veggies and dip and sparking caramel apple cider. My mom brought a ham and cheese mummy and two desserts. It was a nice evening! Caden was being especially moody, but he perked up a bit as we were trick or treating. He was dressed as a dabbing taco. Shepard was his favorite youtuber, Unspeakable. Only one person recognized him and most people probably wondered why he wasn’t wearing a costume.

Annie was a rainbow and received A LOT of attention. The boys lasted longer than years past, but Shepard was still antsy to get back home and help hand out with Greg. Caden went back out for a few more houses.

Later in the evening there was a flashlight pumpkin hunt set up for older kids. I had signed Caden up thinking it would be something really fun to do, and extra special since only he was old enough. But he DID NOT want to go. But we were already planning to take Willow with us and I was sure he’d cheer up once he got there, so we went. It ended up being inside because it was raining by then, but we had to stand around for 40 minutes waiting for it to begin and he was moping and scowling and begging me to go home the entire time. Once the whistle blew he seemed to kind of enjoy himself, but it definitely wasn’t the fun memory I was expecting to make.

I just don’t know what to do with that kid. He’s always been like this – never wanting to do anything outside of the house. But it seems to be getting even worse. It’s infuriating trying to find this balance of encouraging things that might surprise him, while also realizing he is VERY much like me emotionally and not wanting to push him into more than he can handle. It’s hard to make him do things when I’m also in this season of life where new things are being thrown at me and added to the calendar every single day and I feel like I’m absolutely drowning, no matter how much fun those events might be. Despite the fact that he was super excited about the idea months ago, we didn’t force him into joining basketball this winter – a 3-4 night weekly commitment that he was flat out refusing to do. The deadline was this week and I just let it slide, even though Greg wanted to make him do it. I felt like that was just going to guarantee three months of all of us being miserable. I DID, however, make him sign up for chess club again. He loved it in spring, but wanted nothing to do with it this fall. They included a few younger grades this year, so Shepard actually joined too, which is probably the only reason he was convinced to go (he wasn’t “missing out” on game time if Shepard was with him at school). I’m trying so hard to help him with a balance, but he doesn’t make it easy. Ever.

So I had my annual doctor’s exam a few weeks ago. Which is more intensive than it used to be since I started having blood pressure and liver problems last year. All my female parts are in good working order and my blood pressure is under control with my meds. But my liver – it’s not good. I had to go back a second time since I hadn’t fasted the first time to get my labs done. I got the results the next day and my cholesterol is high and my liver values have doubled since February. NOT good. I won’t try to interpret the numbers on my own just yet, but I’ve been referred to a GI doctor and will see her this Wednesday. I obviously don’t know what she’ll say and what next steps might be, but this was the wake up call I guess I really needed to start genuinely changing my life around. And I’ve been going through all the shame and depression and mourning that comes with a self-induced disease that I have to somehow buck up and change entirely on my own if I want to stay alive. It sucks.

Changing my diet is basically the hardest thing in the entire world I can imagine doing. Last year when I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with mild fatty liver, I was upset, but also motivated to start losing weight. I joined Noom, I started tracking food, and then I did really well for about four months when life took over and I gave up. This year, I don’t want to focus on losing weight. Because that feels temporary. Something to strive for, achieve, and then fall back into old habits. This time around, I NEED to change. I need to change basically everything. And I’m so, so overwhelmed by it. And honestly….just really sad. Refined carbs are the biggest contributor to fatty liver. And…I live on refined carbs. Hence my self induced disease and dealing with the shame that this is all my fault. I did this to myself. And I’m maybe doing it to my kids by allowing them to eat the same way I’ve eaten my whole life. So now not only do I have the pressure of changing my own diet, I’m also responsible for the three other people in my family and trying to change their diets too – which is SURELY going to be met with so many riots and anger and additional stress. I really don’t know if I can handle it.

I’m still waiting to see what the GI doctor specifically tells me I need to do, but I’ve started this week by eliminating almost all my usual carbs, trying out some keto recipes, adding green tea to my day, finding ways to add bone broth to many meals, and avoiding as many bad fats and sugar as possible. I’ve found some good ideas and worked on looking for substitutions to my favorite things to try and not make it feel like I’m suddenly doomed to a life of deprivation. But I’m also really struggling with how I’m going to live with this long term. I don’t like soup, unless it’s loaded with cheese and chips or crackers. I don’t like salad unless it’s covered in ranch and croutons. I have no idea what to eat for breakfast that will fill me up and not have carbs in it. I’ve been having yogurt with granola and bananas every day this week and while it is filling, it’s not really what I crave. It’s too sweet, mainly – I never like to eat sweet things in the morning because I get headaches from it. I honestly think I’d be okay giving up most desserts and sugary things, but I don’t know how to give up the salty things I basically live for. English muffins, chips, sandwiches, peanut butter toast, tacos, rice bowls. This whole week I’ve been cycling through feeling hopeful about some new ideas and absolute depression at how many things I have to let go of forever. I can’t encourage bad behavior by thinking I can eat most things in moderation. I know I can’t. I have to say give them up or this is never going to work.

Anyway, this whole process is just beginning and it’s been hard. But I honestly can already tell the difference in how I feel. Yesterday I was going up and down stairs over and over again and realized hey – my legs don’t hurt as much as they usually do. I’ve had some extra energy and have been taking Annie on two walks every day. And I haven’t given carbs up completely – I did still have grilled cheese and some amazing tomato soup twice this week, and I had a few small pieces of the pizza snake last night. But just not having anything refined for breakfast or lunch is already starting to help. And I want to hold on to those positive changes I can already see after such a short period of time and start craving more of that instead of only thinking about how much I’m losing. I have a long road ahead of me.

Well, usually when I write these monthly recap posts, I just address how I’ve come along on my goals for the month. And I’ll just sum it up quickly by saying I’ve been an utter failure this month! I couldn’t handle it. I did read SOME of my seasonal book stack. I have been taking a lot of walks, but haven’t done any yoga videos or enforced the idea of doing it first thing in the morning because so many mornings have held appointments or important errands. My daily writing practice has only come in the occasional early morning journal entry. And I did go to the theater – Greg and I saw Downton Abbey for my birthday date. I was still hoping to go on my own at some point, but there hasn’t been anything worth seeing.

I think that’s it! I’m finishing October off with a Culver’s fundraiser with Shepard tomorrow night, lunch with my friend Laura on Tuesday, the doctor on Wednesday, and a coffee morning on Friday. My trip to North Carolina is in just a week and a half, so I’m also trying to prepare for that. There’s been a whole lot of anxiety and doubt about that trip as well. It’s hard to feel excited about a writing conference when I haven’t been making writing a priority in a long time. But I have to trust that how I felt when I signed up was true and this WILL be a good thing. But now I also have the added stress of trying to find restaurant options ahead of time that will support these new dietary needs without getting there and having a ton of anxiety every time I need to eat. There’s just so much going on. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in January??

Self Care Practices

I am a big believer in self care. I know that if I don’t do something for myself on a daily basis, everything in my life starts to go downhill fast. When I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or sad, I try to actually stop and think about what I need in that moment to lift me back up. Or if I can’t stop what I’m doing, I plan out something maybe more elaborate or time consuming that I can do for myself as soon as possible.

I define self care as doing anything that brings your soul joy. It doesn’t have to have any purpose other than it makes you happy. I feel like sometimes self care is seen as being overly indulgent or selfish or something that only spoiled people can have. And that’s just not true. Self care is loving yourself so you have love to give to others. Self care is giving yourself treats and pockets of time with no agenda other than to boost you up with joy and happiness. Self care is living your best life so that you have a longer life to live. It is vitally important and worthy of your time. YOU are worth taking care of.

The activities you choose to take care of yourself are different for each person. But I have a list of things that work for me that I thought I’d share today.

READ

Reading is always my go to because it can happen anywhere at any time and is virtually free. It’s the reason I wanted a huge cozy reading chair so badly for most of my adult life. I created a small oasis with the sole purpose of providing me a comfortable spot to relax and read. I also have books in just about every room of my house, started and bookmarked, just waiting for me to pick back up. Reading is an amazing escape and with the right genre at the right time, it can be the best pick me up. YA and romance are my favorites when I need a real mood booster.

WRITE

I know it’s not for everyone, but I can’t go a day without writing. Generally it’s in the form of an email (or two) to my best friend, but I’m trying to start shifting more of that energy into something more creative. When I’m extremely stressed out or irritated, nothing will cool me down faster than to sit down and just brain dump on the page. Writing is incredibly cathartic when I’m down and energizing when I need a lift. If you feel like you have a lot to say and nobody really to say it to – just write it down! It helps, I promise.

TV OR MOVIE AT A SPECIAL TIME

Nothing feels more special and indulgent than going to the movie theater in the middle of the day or sitting down to watch your favorite tv show at a time you wouldn’t normally watch it. I LOVE going to the theater by myself on a random Tuesday morning. It feels like such an escape from reality. Ideally I’d like to work this into my schedule once a month just because it’s such a treat. I also love saving my absolute favorite show (The Resident) to watch while I eat lunch – with NO sewing in front of me. This is pretty rare because it’s soooo hard to justify watching tv without multitasking. But when I do, it feels amazing. I also adore having a special movie night to myself, but Greg is only gone at night like two times a year, so that’s extremely rare for me. But I definitely make it happen on those super rare occasions I have the living room to myself in an evening!

BE CREATIVE

Since my entire life revolves around creative pursuits right now, I don’t turn to this option often. But it’s out there! It’s fun to try a new craft project, start something special for yourself or as a gift, or do a project you’ve been wanting to work on forever and never seem to find the time for. It’s so affirming to make something by hand from start to finish.

GO FOR A WALK

After breaking my ankle and not being able to walk for three months and then having four more really tough walking months, it’s been hard for me to shift my thinking and see this as a way of self care. But I’m really getting there. I’m slightly in panic mode about it because I know once the snow and ice come, there is no way I’m walking outside any more than I absolutely have to – I never, ever want to break a bone again. But at the moment, I’m trying to go on extra walks with Annie in the evenings just because I genuinely want to. It’s a good stress reliever after which is oftentimes a stressful dinner hour with super whiny kids.

GO TO THE DOG PARK

Get the fresh air, without needing to do the exercise (unless you want to) – plus be surrounded by cute dogs! Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get myself over there, but I never regret it. I love seeing Annie’s joy when she has freedom to just run and run. I love when there are other dogs she can play with. And I love when it’s just the two of us and we can soak in the fresh air and silence and beautiful scenery. It never fails to lift me up.

PLAN A SPECIAL SHOPPING TRIP

If you enjoy shopping. 🙂 I LOVE shopping, too much. I run almost all my errands out of town every week so I can go to more of the places I like with the best prices. Which is fun, but necessary. The real joy comes from planning and going on more niche shopping trips. For me, that’s maybe a few hours at the antique mall looking for new doll supplies. Or checking out the area thrift stores every few months. Or like this week, going to multiple stores that are releasing all of their Christmas inventory. Even if I don’t buy anything, it’s so fun to get out and see something different. Though who are we kidding, I’m usually going to buy something. But that’s how I find the best gifts for people and unique house decorations – something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy.

GO ON A DATE

I don’t know about other people, but I think it’s incredibly hard to stay connected to Greg when we don’t have any time away from our kids, our house, our neverending list of responsibilities. We’re fortunate enough that we usually have a weekly at home date night when the boys go to Grandma’s house, but I think it’s even more effective when we actually leave the house. I have something to look forward to, I have something to dress up a bit for, I don’t have to do any cooking or cleaning, and it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll feel closer to my husband afterward.

SEE YOUR FRIENDS

Friend time is so important. I always struggle to write about this because I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone that might read this. I wish friend time was a bigger part of my life because it’s almost always life-giving. It’s a chance to connect with someone outside your family, it’s time to vent and get things off your chest, and it’s usually a whole lot of fun!

MAKE A MEAL YOU WANT TO EAT

I’d say about 90% of the time, I want breakfast and dinner to be easy and fast. It’s stressful making food that everybody likes. It’s never fun trying to put together a meal when the whole family is hungry and cranky. But every once in awhile, when I know I might have some extra free time in the afternoon, I like to sit down with a beloved cookbook and pick out a meal that I truly want to eat. If I know the kids won’t eat it, then they can just deal with some chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly. I think it’s totally worth it to give yourself the freedom in the kitchen to actually create a delicious and incredible meal every once in awhile. For me, since I work at home, I’ve been trying to do this more often at lunchtime as well. If I have some amazing chicken tacos prepped and ready for my lunch, I’m a lot less likely to snack on crap all day long.

BAKE SOMETHING

This used to be my ultimate self care. I’ve loved baking my entire life. It’s kind of fallen to the wayside in the last few years because my family has very strong opinions on what they do and don’t like, and most people are watching their weight and just don’t want baked goods as a temptation. Which is kind of a bummer! But if there’s some sort of occasion (or create an occasion!) that might require a fancy dessert, go for it! Or just bake a loaf of bread! The reward of making something so simple can be such a delight.

RESEARCH SOMETHING

For me, it’s new books. I already have more books on my kindle than I’ll probably ever read. Same with books on my shelves. But you better believe that doesn’t stop me from my standing date with my computer every Tuesday to check out the new releases! I’m constantly looking at book blogs, listening to book podcasts, and grabbing book fliers from the library and bookstores about upcoming books. It’s my favorite hobby – besides actually reading. It’s free, it can be done anytime, and it makes me so happy. I also occasionally like to research things like future vacations, presents for people, or clothing I might want.

GO ON A TRIP

I know this isn’t always a feasible option, but if you can make it happen, it is SO WORTH IT. Solo vacations are kind of amazing. Greg always encourages me to go when something pops up (Colleen Hoover’s book signing in MN last August, The Popcast live show in Chicago, my trip to DC, my Book Bonanza trip to Texas next summer). But occasionally I try to get a night or two away with absolutely no agenda, like when I went to Door County last fall. It’s definitely an indulgence to justify a hotel and travel expenses and food just for a vacation by yourself. But it’s so refreshing and amazing, I totally think it’s worth it – at least once a year.

CREATE AMBIANCE

This is another super easy practice that can really give you a personal boost. I love having spaces around the house that are carved out for relaxing. While most of the house is filled with clutter and kid or technology related things, there are a few spots that I try really hard to always keep clutter free and clean. In fall and winter I love having scented candles lit in every room to add a huge cozy element to the house. Recently I added a candle to my desktop which I light every time I’m going to be at my computer for a longer stretch of time. It makes me ridiculously happy. I also like to do things like play soft worship music in the morning when we’re getting ready, use linen sprays on my bed and furniture, buy the softest pajamas I can find, have multiple blankets available on every couch and chair, and spray my favorite perfume on whenever the mood strikes. There are so many tiny little things you can give yourself every day to amplify the joy in your life.

This is far from an exclusive list of self care ideas, but these are my favorites and what work for me. Hopefully the list might prompt you to take charge of your life and start giving you a few options for your own self care plan!

More Than a Number

This is only the second time in my life I have actively been trying to lose weight. I don’t like diets, I hate feeling deprived. I have been of the mindset for the last many, many years that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and that generally includes making and eating delicious food. I want to accept who I am, no matter what I look like on the outside, as long as I’m doing my best to be kind and happy and joyful on the inside. I want to believe that I will be loved by my husband and my kids, whether I’m overweight or not. And if I love me and they love me, then does it really matter?

Well, when it starts to negatively affect your health, then yes, I think it matters. As much as I am loathe to admit it. Getting the high pressure blood medication two months ago was quite a wake up call to me. Having a liver ultrasound that could have potentially given me some very bad news was definitely the jolt that pushed me over the line and made me say that yes, I DO need to lose weight. I need to be healthier. I need to live longer. I need to set a better example to my kids so they can in turn be healthier and live longer and set good examples to their own children.

I have started making some pretty major changes in the last two weeks. I refuse to say that I’m on a diet, because I don’t want this to be a temporary thing. I am working really hard to genuinely change the way I think about food and what I decide to put into my body. I don’t want to live like I am denying myself. Which is definitely how it felt that first week. The second week has been easier. I still catch myself a little bit desperate to sneak into the pantry at the slightest hunger pang. It’s been taking an arsenal of tips and tricks to avoid the things that are bad for me. I’m not entirely confident I can stay on this path for the rest of my life. But I’ve also been seeing so many changes in just two weeks – changes beyond just the number on the scale – that I’m feeling much more confident about this journey than I was even a couple of days ago.

On the Noom program, they require you to weigh yourself every single morning. I believe on Weight Watchers, at least when I did it six years ago, you are supposed to weigh in once a week. I was strongly against doing it every day, until almost every morning when I see the scale drop a little bit more. That’s about the best motivation ever. But I also know there will be days it’ll go back up. Like the other night when I had my late night peanut butter toast and a Kit Kat bar after hating what I made for dinner and feeling extremely hungry. I knew the scale would go back up and it did. But today, even after eating out for lunch yesterday and sitting in a car for almost the entire day, it went back down. I love the encouragement of it going down, but live in terror of it going up. I don’t want to live like this either. I don’t want my entire life to be structured around food and calories and beating myself up over making mistakes or refusing to let myself indulge in special circumstances. I want to be more than that number and it scares me how much that number has affected my thoughts all day long in the last week and a half.

My goal as I continue on this journey to better health and happiness is to focus on all the changes beyond the number on the scale. I’m quickly realizing there are so many benefits to eating healthier besides my actual weight dropping. I love that to coincide with thinking about this, my Noom article this morning had a huge list of potential changes. I’m going to list a lot of them now (almost word for word from Noom), so I can remember them in the future. These are the things I want to focus on as I pick an orange from the fridge instead of pretzels from the pantry. As I skip that third taco and eat a small salad instead. As I avoid the aisles in the grocery stores that I know hold my biggest temptations. As I go for an evening walk instead of eating a dessert for the fifth night in a row. These are the changes I want to see and celebrate and take with me as solid encouragement that it is worth a little upheaval to be a healthier human being.

Physical Changes

  • Weight loss
  • Inches lost
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clothes fitting better (please, yes!)
  • Working out longer and with more intensity
  • Less aches and pains

Psychological Changes

  • More confidence in my skin
  • Less anxiety in uncomfortable situations
  • Limiting myself to one dessert
  • Conquering a trigger
  • Eating a mindful meal
  • Feeling empowered to make the healthier choice
  • Feeling pretty great about life

Social Changes

  • Being more social
  • Being complimented by others
  • Choosing healthier choices at a restaurant
  • Resisting temptations at the grocery store
  • Turning down treats I don’t actually want
  • Getting my family turned on to healthier food

Other Progress

  • Meal prepping for the week (yes! all three meals!)
  • Cooking new recipes
  • Bringing lunch with me on long errand days
  • Trying new healthy foods
  • Developing a distaste for unhealthy food
  • Cooking at home more often than eating out
  • Taking the stairs or the long route more often
  • Reaching step goals every day

For me, I really just want to feel better. Physically and mentally. I don’t want to feel bloated and slow and heavy anymore. I want to have a lot more energy to just be a better person overall. I’d like to think that despite a few temporary setbacks when knowing something I really want has too many calories, I’ve been happier this last week and a half. My brain has felt so much more clear and focused. I would LOVE to see the scale keep dropping and I’d love for my clothes to fit better and to feel more confident in my skin. But just plain FEELING better has been a pretty great motivator. I hope I can keep it up. 🙂