Veggies for thought

Forming new healthful habits is difficult for a number of reasons: defeating old habits, maintaining willpower, finding the time to exercise and cut up all those veggies. But the reason that I am finding most maddening is also the most surprising for me: staying healthy requires money.

Fruits and veggies

Adding extra veggies, fish, and a multivitamin to my grocery trip this week cost me a small fortune and a gym membership is out of the question; meanwhile, ramen noodles are $0.30, a McDonald’s McDouble is $1, and sitting on my butt for hours is virtually free.

Sure, there are more frugal ways to be healthy. Start a vegetable garden. Clip coupons. Go running outside. But for those already stretched for time and resources, maintaining good habits with any kind of regularity may be a fruitless (pardon the pun) task.  It’s no wonder so many people abandon New Year’s resolutions by January 2, when real life takes the place of our good intentions, and the majority of us are carrying extra pounds and filled with convenience foods.

I’m now working part-time from home and am more fortunate than many because we don’t rely on my income to make ends meet. However, we certainly don’t have the wiggle room in the budget for a bunch of wild-caught fish or organic apples. Plus, after trying to squeeze some kind of  activity into the vast majority of my day, the cheap and easy gratification of a fast food burger is so much more appealing than another hour of cleaning, cutting, and preparing a slew of vegetables.

Of course, I could buy the veggies pre-cleaned and sliced, but I will pay a pretty penny for them. Or I could buy them in a can, but what about BPA? Carrots are easy, but no one in my house will eat them. Screw it–I’m going to the drive-through! Preparing healthful, tasty, inexpensive, and quick meals is so complex it’s almost contradictory. Something’s gotta give.

OK, so nothing groundbreaking here. Life is a constant balance between time and money, healthful choices for long-term gain or quick and easy methods for short-term satisfaction. It just never hit me before how much our culture and lifestyle mangles the message by extolling, and even guilting us with the benefits of health and wellness as a way of life, then encouraging the quick, easy, cheap foods and lazy life choices.

For me and many others, eating better and getting in shape will always be difficult because my human nature seeks the path of least resistance to nourishment. However, the ease and perpetual allure of cheap, quick, low-nutrient consumer foods makes it even more difficult.

And least I know the challenges I’m up against when creating a healthier life are not entirely internal. In order to improve my health,  I will need to battle the culture that sets unrealistic expectations for our eating and exercise habits, then offers a plethora of easy ways around those expectations. And the first step in any fight is to know your enemy.

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Mourning the loss of childhood innocence

I woke up this morning to the sight of my little boy sleeping peacefully. The terrible events that unfolded last Friday gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for his safety, but also the recognition that I will never be able to protect him from all the bad in life. Terrible, unspeakable things happen on rough city streets and in sleepy, picturesque towns. And there is nothing I can do to guard him from experiencing bad things in life. One day, he will face the troubling realization that life is full of uncertainty, unfairness, and loss.

For the most part, our society recognizes childhood innocence as something sacred—something to be protected lest it be disturbed too soon. We understand that childhood innocence is fleeting and the rest of life exposes us to a host of sad, scary, serious things.

Although I can’t wait to share the amazing and beautiful parts of the world with my son as he grows, I am sad that the good things of life must go hand-in-hand with the hard parts: fear, disappointment, temptation, evil. I know my job as a mom is not to shield him from these things, but to prepare him to face the tough stuff when the time comes. And somehow I already know that it will be more difficult for me to witness his pain than it is for me to experience it myself. Such is the condition of parenthood, I’m learning.

Being a parent has allowed me to experience the deepest and most profound love I could ever imagine. But it has also made me more vulnerable than I have ever been before. Truly, my own heart now exists outside of my body.

It is through this new lens of parenthood that I viewed the recent tragedy, and why it is even more earth-shattering for me to think about. I can’t imagine the kind of pain those families and that community is grappling with. My thoughts and prayers, however insignificant they may be, are sent the way of all those suffering from this trauma.

My hope is that our children whose innocence has been shattered by this and other awful events in life will also be fortunate enough to perceive the good that coexists with the bad. That they will remember the fear and the loss, but also the courage of those they loved, the strength of their community, and the sense of commonality that tragedy brings out among us.

Writing like no one is watching

Right along the lines of perfectionism and procrastination is the terrible, awful, crippling habit of avoidance. Avoidance is different than procrastination in that I try my darndest, not to delay a task, but to avoid ever doing the task I dread.

This habit most definitely stems from perfectionism—if I feel as though I have failed in some way, it is so disturbing to me that I seek to somehow never face up to whatever it was that made me feel like a failure again. Ever. Even if I have to alphabetize the bookshelf, re-wrap the lights on the Christmas tree, or write snail mail letters to avoid my email, I take avoidance seriously. And it is driving me crazy.

One of the things I am ashamed to say I am avoiding is writing a new post for this blog. Two years ago, when I started blogging, I was pretty certain no one would ever read my posts. And I was OK with that—my inner thoughts were just out there, floating. It provided some creative release without revealing anything to anyone.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always wanted to be an active blogger. I was just a little scared of what people would think of what I thought, or that I don’t have anything all that interesting to say.

Then I was freshly pressed. I realize how very fortunate that is, and I am very grateful. I was truly humbled and inspired by the response to my previous post “Having it all, or losing my mind?” The response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, and I am so thankful for each person who took the time to read and comment.

So I should be relieved, right? Unfortunately, not quite.

I began to think about the list of ideas I had for future posts. Suddenly, they all seemed terrible. People may actually be watching and reading now. I had to raise the bar! Cue the avoidance.

I don’t want this to come off as though I have no confidence in my writing. It’s just, in typical “me” fashion; I have analyzed and avoided the situation to the point of paralysis.

However, like so many of the other challenges I’ve faced, the only way for me to feel better about the situation is to write about it. In order to un-avoid the situation is to write it out as honestly as possible—as if no one is reading.

Of course, if you are reading—thank you. I really will get better about this!

Having it all, or losing my mind?

The other day I did something I thought I would never do—I took a phone interview for a job I really wanted with a 4-month-old strapped to my chest.

Before you resign to thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I recently quit my marketing job in hopes of truly having it all—staying home to raise my new baby while securing satisfying (not scammy) at-home employment, getting back my bikini body, and having homemade dinner on the table every night.

In hindsight, go ahead and think it. I AM crazy. In the first couple of weeks since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to take calls and speak with potential employers or clients at precisely the same moment my little bundle of joy starts to scream his head off. His crying may or may not be detected the person on the other end of the line, but for me it is slowly tearing away at my heart strings (and sanity) with each passing second and each labored wail.

“My baby needs me,” I think to myself desperately while not quite halfway engaging in the conversation. I lose track of what I’m saying, what they’re saying, and needless to say, I haven’t landed work from these fruitless and painful conversations. Luckily, he has remained asleep for enough of my work time that I’ve been able to get through a few successful calls and land a few jobs. But each call I wait with baited breath for the screaming to begin, and I can therefore never fully devote my thoughts to the matter at hand.

After all, as much as I want to be gainfully employed at the same time I stay home to raise my child, I always know in my heart that I’m a mom first. And it’s why his yells for me are so heart-wrenching—I feel just as I did when I was working a traditional 40 hours in an office—like I have to choose to put work before my son.

So that brings me to the baby carrier phone call debacle. My interview was at one, and like all my “phone call” days, I carefully planned his feeding and nap schedule to perfectly coincide with my phone call. But as anyone who has ever had a 4-month-old knows, they like to eat perfectly planned schedules for breakfast and throw them up all over your sweater.

Not me–this is a lovely model using the fabulous (and sanity-saving) Moby wrap

As the time drew nearer, I heard him begin to stir in his crib. I couldn’t bear the thought of enduring the entire (important) conversation with him progressively screaming louder and louder. I knew I would be useless. I needed a plan B.

As I frantically paced the house thinking of ways to make him happy for one full hour while I took the call, it came to me. The only time he is (usually) completely satisfied and calm is when he is tucked in his little Moby baby wrap: attached to my chest. I thought it was risky, but it just might work.
Initially, all was well. I could concentrate on the call because I knew my most precious job was taken care of. Baby was happy. Until he wasn’t.

About 25 minutes into the call, I notice the telltale signs of an impending tantrum. I panicked. What do I do if he starts to scream? What is my explanation? Here I am trying to convince this organization that I can easily balance remote work and maintain a professional demeanor, and I have an infant about to lose his mind directly into the phone.

Fortunately, the job to which I was applying involved mostly non-phone work and writing, so I thought it may be OK. And when the crying started, I dealt with it as graciously as humanly possible. He settled soon after I wrangled the binkie into his mouth and my interviewer seemed to accept my hasty apology.

I don’t know if I got the job, but at this point it’s not looking good. And that’s OK. I am continuing to learn how insanely tough and rewarding it is to be a mom, and how my strong motherly instinct continues to surprise me. As naturally ambitious as I am, I am far more passionate about being a mom than advancing my career.

Having it all may be tough, or it may be downright impossible. All I know is I am on a journey to find out.

Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

I have many big plans. I am going to read all the classics. I am going to write a blog post every day. I am going to start a vegetable garden, and teach my son sign language, and start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

But for all my planning, I have don’t have much going on. I am, it seems, overwhelmed by possibility and unable to see what I should do first. Combine that with past starts-and-stops that have ended in failure, and I have a recipe for stagnation.

One of the most paralyzing symptoms of perfectionism (and my tendency for over-analysis) is that thinking about things is great, but actually starting things is nearly impossible. For a recovering perfectionist, the entire process of a project must be perfect—I must be an expert and get everything right along the way. I struggle with the idea of learning as I go.

I have a pretty vivid memory of the burgeoning of my perfectionist tendencies when I was five years old and about to start first grade. I remember telling my mother that I was scared to go to school. I couldn’t go to school. In school, the children knew how to read and write and add numbers, and I didn’t know how to do any of that. “You don’t go to school already knowing those things,” she insisted, “you go to school to learn.”

I guess it is natural to be scared of what we don’t know. We derive confidence from knowing what to do and expect, but these things absolutely must come from experience. From mistakes. From sounding like an idiot from time to time.
My whole life I have felt like I need to do everything perfectly or else not at all. Which, as I mentioned, has a chilling and paralyzing effect on me. I shun criticism and rejection more than most people. I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

What I’m getting at is this: to this point, I have deprived myself of some great experiences due to my oppressive perfectionism and fear. And I need to stop this very moment. And I may fail, go back to my ways, and get frustrated with my failure. But I have to try again. Do something. Be humble. But be Interesting.

Mommy Wars

This blog may be collecting dust, but I have made yet another promise to myself to get back on here and write about my journey (Hey, there is something to be said for continuing to make an effort after failure, right?)

That aside, I have some pretty big news: My husband and I are expecting a baby! This blog has been so neglected, that I am only writing about it now, 3 weeks from the little one’s due date.

And for all my musings about work and getting back to nature and what it is all for, there is nothing like the impending arrival of a child to turn all that philosophizing on its head. In fact, during this pregnancy, a lot of my old worries have been deemed completely self-indulgent/not important considering. Which is good. For now.

I have also discovered the mommy wars, and man (or woman) is it tough out there. There are so many opinions on the best way and the right way and the oh-no-dear-God-she-didn’t way. I would be easier to not let all the hoopla get to me if this wasn’t such a big deal.

To work or stay at home?
Natural birth or medication? Midwife or OB?
Breast or formula?
Glass or plastic?
Attachment parenting? Cry it out?
Cloth or disposable diapers?

It makes my head spin. And while I’ve manage to make my decisions on many of the looming questions. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and sad that modern parenting has been reduced to warfare of what is “right” and “wrong,” with staunch defenders on all sides of each and every tiny issue.

I feel disapproving eyes each time I make a trip to Starbucks. “It’s decaf!” I want to scream, even though my midwife told me caffeine is fine in moderation. I feel judged each time I walk into a store without my wedding rings because my fingers are swollen beyond recognition, and yet I am annoyed at my sensitivity since we live in the 21st century, and it is no one’s damn business if I am married or not. Nothing like the precious and vulnerable life of a child to bring out the most judgmental part of society (and self-consciousness in me.)

All I know right now is I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Nevertheless, I am beyond joyful for this new journey in my life, and will approach it with open arms and and open mind.