Thursday, November 18, 2010

The truth is

The truth is that I've gained all 75 lbs. back.  I lost 75 lbs. and I gained them all back. Again.  This is the third time I've lost around 80 lbs. and gained it all back.

This has me terribly ashamed.  I feel humiliated.

So, here it is -

1) My weight is none of my business, so let's keep it out of your realm of concerns too - unless I bring it to you, unless I ask for your advice, help, opinion.  (If you are reading this blog then I am asking for your help!)
2) Weight loss is hard when we're losing 5 lbs or 30 lbs.  There is something more sinister, more insurmountable when the amount to be shed is 130 or more.
3) If your stomach turns when you see my cottage cheesy wings/arms, then don't look.  I try to keep them covered, and thank Heavens I'm not the chorister.
4) If you're thinking about my weight, then there is something in your own life that you are trying to avoid looking at - that's my rule of thumb: when I'm obsessing over someone else's problem, and I do this a lot (!), then I'm actively avoiding improving my own life.

And maybe there will be more things to include on this list, but for now, I am feeling defensive, ashamed, humiliated and immoral.  I am feeling angry - furious even, because I've failed AGAIN!  How dumb am I?  Am I really incapable of being honest as it says in the Big Book?  This is the "incomprehensible demoralization" that they write about.

In my 12-step program we talk about overeating being a disease.  For the last 7 years I have resisted that label as being too dramatic.  But here is what I am realizing today, at the height of my bankruptcy with weight control.  Today I see that there is something different between me and people who are normal eaters.  That thing looks like this: normal eaters get full or get bored and leave the table or kitchen or plate.  They eat for fuel.  I am not a normal eater.  I get full, sometimes.  But if there is something delicious or comforting or, truthfully, in front of me, then I eat it.  Or I feel compelled to eat it.  My friend has something in her brain that tells her not to eat any more.  I do not.  (Fish don't have this either - fish will literally eat until they die).  Leftovers of non-broccoli?  I'll take care of that.  Feeling angry?  sad? tired? lonely?  Food will fix that.  Have a cold? the flu? hangnail? Food fixes that too.

There have been many mornings when I made the decision to have scrambled eggs and toast with butter and it was so good that I got up and made it again.  And then I got up and made it again.  And once I did it five times in a row.  Then it was lunch time.  I don't stop, I'm telling you, that it takes an act of desperation or God - or brutal self-talk to stop eating.  12-Step people call this a disease.  I think I need to be a 12-step person and call it a disease too.

Because if it is a disease, I know what medicine to take.  I can learn the symptoms of my disease.  I can learn to recognize remission vs. a "flare-up" vs. what is truly needed.  2 large snickers bars will not repair my flat tire.

I'll deal with the shame later.  That's a Kristen issue.  Today I'm going to deal with the food issue.  I know what to eat today, so I'm going to eat it.  And when my brain says, "that's not enough" and "you should have some cookies with that" I can recognize that my brain will ALWAYS say that, that sometimes, most times, it can't be trusted.  I need an outside source to tell me what to eat and when and to guarantee that it is enough for my physical needs.

That's where I am today.  God willing I'll eat what I planned to eat and it will be enough.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Boxers or Briefs?

Last Thursday, my birthday, was such a great day at school!  Here is my favorite story of the day:

Sometimes teachers release students from computer lab according to certain criteria, for example, "If your birthday is in February, you are released to go to lunch." or "If you rode your bike to school today, you may go to lunch."  On this particular day the teacher was having some fun and got a little caught up in the moment--she said, "If you have a ponytail, you may go to lunch," and then said, "If you're wearing boxers you may go to lunch."  Well, all of the girls in the room were stricken!  You would have loved the looks on their faces...some were positively aghast!  I was also feigning disgust and whining about TMI!  But it was hilarious!  What was interesting was that a dozen or so boys made a beeline for the door, but three remained behind.  The teacher realized that her criteria might have been just slightly across the line, so she said, "If you're a boy or a girl, you may go."  There was general chuckling as the students filed out.

One boy, a tender child who, when he was in second grade, once saw me crying and gave me a big hug.  And then in third grade said he would say a prayer for me (probably asking God to make me less of an ogre!), well, this boy comes up, puts his elbows on my desk, his chin on his palms, leans in and whispers, "I'm not even wearing underwear today."

What a birthday!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Best Birthday!

Clarke made me a cake.  It bears repeating: Clarke baked me a cake for my birthday.  This is new.  It is a first.  Normally I do the birthday cake baking...but not this time!  It was deeeelicious!

When I arrived at work on Thursday I received greeting after greeting from friends and students and parents.  How did they all know it was my birthday?  Well, my dear friend Carol (retired last year) went to school and hung a Happy Birthday banner, sprinkled very large Happy Birthday confetti all over my "porch", wrapped up the railing with some sparkly wire, and left her crown tied to my door knob.  With the crown was a note saying, " you may BORROW this for one day." 

Then the 6th graders sang Happy Birthday to me.  Then the 2nd graders.  Then the 4th see a pattern here, don't you?!  They are so good to me.

A friend bought a Porto's cake with magic sauce (official ingredient title) for me.  We had Chipotle for lunch (although they forgot 4 orders of chips...ack!).  And I got to meet with my therapist to report on how my parenting is improving (I got 2 gold stars--out of one--!!).  Then Todd and I went to the temple.  We had a fantastic chapel session where I learned a great deal.  And I also had many insights into the material presented in the ceremony.  It was such a lovely night.  (no, I wasn't thrilled about going to the temple at first)

I have to tell you a story about one of the 4th graders...but I'll have to come back to that tomorrow.

Let me also say that I decided to post a PayPal widget to help me raise funds to get an iPad (I thought I would be getting one yesterday...)  But, I DID get a GPS for my car!  Todd  is very good to me.  And we had a great dinner at Houston's to round out the day.

I must also tell you about the cards Clarke & Jason gave me.  More tomorrow.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I am not an expert on daughters. But I can't remember the last time "not being an expert" kept me from sharing my opinion!

Yesterday Clarke says to me, "I don't want to have daughters, I want to have sons." I did not tell her that was once my wish too. I told her that having a daughter is awesome. And she said, "girls are too hard, boys are easy."

Oh yes, my dear daughter! From your lips to God's ears...

I said, "Boys are easier, but girls are better because girls are yours forever. You will carry them in your heart."

And the truth is that I carry all of my children in my heart, but there is something special? unique? different? ineffable (for sure) about being a girl and being a mom to a girl. For example: ee cummings. He wrote this poem (he wasn't big on titles, spaces, nor capital letters):

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings

This is how I feel about my daughter. (And yes, I know this was not written to, for or about a daughter.)

Sometimes, in my mom's heart, all I want to do is sit on the couch and pull my babies on to my lap and hold them. And they are all much taller than I am, and there legs would splay, and it would be uncomfortable, and I wouldn't be able to hold them for long because my legs would fall asleep. But I follow that daydream/heart dream all the way to the end. And I am holding them on my lap and snuggling in their hair and stroking their cheeps and loving them with my whole soul.

I am holding you, Jason.

I am holding you, Clarke.

I am holding you, Brandon.

I am holding you now.

Wall Street Journal Article: Families With a Missing Piece

Todd left this article on my dresser yesterday. I had such a powerful reaction to it. So, I went online to print it out for teachers at our school and found a comment section. You know me and my propensity for sharing an opinion--so I did. This is what I wrote on the WSJ website, and when I look at it I see that it is longer than the other comments and more like an independent article. I'll be removing it in a few minutes (once Todd tells me it is inappropriate--notice I can't decide to self-edit, but will let him do it for me!) Anyway, I spent some time and thought on this, so here's the comment from the WSJ website:

My mother was killed in a car accident when I was 11 months old. Throughout my life, which included a stepmother by the time I was 2 years old, I have felt like the "only one." My father and step-mother had seven blonde and blue-eyed children and I, with my brown eyes, managed to feel even more isolated in a room full of people.

When I read this article, I was shocked at how the tears flowed. I felt understood and even "normal" given the circumstances. Because the article focused on individuals who lost both parents (vs. one), and on those who experienced loss around the age of 13, I still feel a little too unique. Even with the permission that the article granted me I could hear the voice that has been telling me for the last four decades, "you never even knew her, why do you mourn her?"

It was poignant to see the photos of families with their missing piece, or of parents with children and so much love on their faces. I have only one photo of my mother, father, and me, and it is formal. However, I am so thankful that my young mother wrote a journal article about my birth...her last entry. Many of her possessions were redistributed by step-mother, but this journal remains in my possession.

My 20-year old daughter happened to be home and still in bed (!) at 7:30am when I finished the article. I had such an overwhelming urge to run into her room, climb into her bed and hold her. And that's just what I did. I cried, I mourned, I whined, I let it all out, and while I had intended to follow the article's advice and cherish my sweet child, instead I was held by her. I have been cared for by so many women in my life that I began espousing the idea put forth by P.D. Eastman in his book, Are You My Mother. I have made a practice of learning a little something about living, learning, mothering, being a girl, and more, from every woman with whom I've ever interacted--including my own daughter. Still, I have felt a profound emptiness at not having a mother to call my own.

This article opened a door in my heart. It held up a mirror to behaviors I've engaged in, such as planning not to have children until after I'd lived past the age my mother was when she died (24). I gasped with grief when I read these lines: " Kids who get through by being stoic and behaving like adults often 'pay a fierce price—namely their childhoods,' says Ms. Hughes. They focus on trying to keep their surviving parent happy or on stepping up to handle the responsibilities of their deceased parent. "

As an educator I am aware of a handful of children at our school who have lost parents in the last few years. I look at these children and they seem happy, normal, playful, one boy returning to school within the week of his father's death. I am recommending this article to our staff so that we can better understand and support children with this kind of loss.

This article helped me to understand that my feelings of deep loss and loneliness are legitimate! More importantly it opened my eyes to the notion that I may be uniquely qualified to add my voice and volunteer my time to help grieving children feel less alone. I am looking forward to the release of the data and findings. Thank you WSJ, New York Life Foundation and Comfort Zone Camp.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will cannot be quenched against its will. -Dante Alighieri

Just this morning I was in my prayer pod (aka car) on the way to work and I was saying, "You may already know that I am struggling with food right now. I'd really like that to be changed. I know I've said I'd like the weight to just fall off. I know I've said I'd like to eat like Robin J. and look like her too. I know I've communicated quite clearly that I'd like to eat all I want and have none of the consequences...but today I'm ready for You, dear God, to give me willingness to eat what I'm supposed to eat, to exercise the way I'm supposed to eat, to work they way I must work."

And then I asked for the grace to accept the reality of my personality. I will always want to turn to food for comfort, to assuage boredom, to entertain, to console... I have wanted to pretend that I could eat well and behave well for a period of time (22 months once) and then I'd be "cured." Well, not so much. I prayed for acceptance of my compulsion so that I can learn to live with it instead of trying to pretend that I can actually purge it.

Suddenly I feel overwhelmed. Is that Faith leaving the building? Come back Faith! I need you!


I feel really good about this analogy that I used in my Mother's Day talk at church. So here it is:

I'm going to say a word, and you can close your eyes and just focus on whatever reaction you have to that word. The word is cat.

Some people hear that word and think of a dear pet, of affection, warmth, love, softness. Others feel anxiety because they are allergic to cats. Some feel stress because of that one night on the dark road...I tried to swerve! Still others feel apathy at the word, some feel envy, some feel resentment that they had to relinquish their pet when moving to a different apartment. And some of us feel fear. My good friend Jim is terribly frightened by cats. He has been attacked three times that I know of, and he has nightmares about cats.

The word "mother" is a lot like the word cat in that people react differently to it. The vast majority of us have a positive, loving reaction. A few feel loss, envy, sadness, anxiety, failure, resentment...and still fewer of us hear that word and feel fear. Whatever feelings we have as individuals on a day like Mother's Day, they tend to be powerful. It is important to realize that this is not a day of cookie cutter feelings and niceties. It is an important day for honoring women who have taught us and loved us, but it may also be a day of mourning for some of us.


I think it's a pretty good metaphor! I then went on to talk about the book by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? and related the little bird's experience of learning from all whom he encounters. I shared several many I might be able to write a book! about mothers in my life. Cathy Davis taught me to sew and became my mother of sewing. She had 3 sons and I think I, as an interested girl, gave her the gift of motherhood via that teaching moment.

I talked about Mary Siegrist who was my mother of cooking because she explained why my egg whites would never form peaks and turn glossy. I mentioned Jeanine Bentz who has modeled so many aspects of motherhood for me, the most poignant being the incident in the car when her daughter called repeatedly for reassurance and instruction regarding her first day of college. After the 3rd phone call in 40 minutes Jeanine hung up the phone and said, "fly birdie, fly." What a powerful lesson and introduction into the phase of parenthood I was just beginning to face.

I mentioned my friend Carol Wawrychuk whose prayer and meditation practice inspires me and heals me. Growing up, I learned to pray, and the mother in my home spent a great deal of time on her knees behind closed doors. I felt like Martha whining to God about needing some help with the laundry and in the kitchen and with the children, and so I had some wounds. Carol helps me to see that even Marthas can make time for spiritual nurturing. Carol is my mother of spirituality and healing.

I talked about my friend Michelle Taylor who says, "I can't tonight, I'm spending the evening with my family." And although I don't like being her second choice, I love hearing that her family is a priority. That too has been healing to me.

Recently Michelle's daughter Grace said to me, "I wish my mom could cook like you, all she knows how to make is pasta!" Oh Grace, I've felt that way too! But let me and others be your mother of cooking and don't give up on your mother...she is my mother of optimism and striving for growth and improvement.

There's so much more...

Happy Mother's Day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The trip to Vegas is always so much fun. I love the totally relaxed-no one to worry about but me atmosphere of the trip.

This year we stayed at the super plush Encore with beds like warm, fluffy clouds and remote controls on the bedside table to control the curtains, sheers, lights, privacy indicator on the door, TV and radio. That, by the way, is what I have been talking about.

One of the things that Mormons do in Vegas is eat. I have two favorite spots, one is The Buffet at the Wynn and the other is Postrio (Wolfgang Puck) at the Venetian. While having our late lunch we got to talking about food. One of my friends said she feels protective around food, meaning that she doesn't want to share it, and if it's delicious she will order more to be sure that she gets enough of it.

Thinking about this I realize that I don't usually approach food this way. When I go out to McDonald's or food of equal caliber, I tend to not want to share and I like to over-order. But when I go out to a place where I know the quality is superior and the dishes creative, I like to share and get little tastes of everything. I feel like I'm doing delicious research. I feel like my findings should be shared so that our whole group is edified, and I feel sad when I don't have anyone to share these foods with.

I have no idea what this means!

However, as I was processing this information over the next day or so it occurred to me that I am all-or-nothing with my food, just as I am all-or-nothing with my play, work, relationships...I am shocked by my black or white nature and my lack of resilience when it comes to rules for myself (I tend to be very accommodating of most others, but intolerant of myself.) As the caboose to this thought I realized that if I made sure that my day was balanced between work and play, delicious and nutritious, rest and activity, that I would be less likely to get burned out.

Of course, I feel almost retarded for just now seeing this. I believe my sponsor, therapist and friends have been trying to tell me this for quite some time!

Here's a specific: I was rock solid boot camp and perfect eating girl for about 9 months. Nine months seems to be the outer edge of my ability to be perfect (I lasted 9 months without diet coke, but 2 years without sugar...strange tangent, sorry). Now, I've been about 6 months with zero interest in boot camp and eating right. I've been "recovering," or swinging back into balance if I couch this in terms of my realization. What if I did a little swing toward to perfection and a little swing towards progress every day? For example: what if I ate nutritious and delicious food and planned a treat into my calories every day, or even every meal? What if I exercised every day and planned some down time with television and/or a book (or Pet Society -- THE SHAME!) each day? It almost makes sense, right?

I've been processing the realization that I tend to take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The net is progress of 1 step, but I feel so bad about myself for being "inconsistent." Would it be possible to keep myself rigidly "good" (oh, how I hate that label) and confidently relaxed on a daily basis...taking my two steps and one step on a daily basis rather than making an annual cycle? The biggest benefit I see is the opportunity to embrace the notion of balance, to see myself as making daily progress, and to hold a heart full of forgiveness and acceptance rather than judgment and negativity.

Oh my!

Am I brave enough? Are you? How do you do it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last night I sat in Brandon's room watching some DVR and playing Pet Society on Facebook while Brandon had some of his priest quorum friends over for game night in the living room. (See x-box reference in previous post.)

I looked over at his closet doors which are mirrored and I gasped. I have gained back 30 of the 75 lbs I lost last year and there they were. I started pushing on my stomach to make it disappear. It didn't. When B came in to ask if I'd like a beverage and a slice of pizza I said, "am I really fat again? how come you didn't tell me?" And he ignored me and went on counting change for the pizza delivery guy. I said, "you need to tell me I'm not that fat." And, he did...but it was insincere and forced. (I forced him to be insincere and forced!)

The self-reproach/punishment started. Somehow I still believe, after years of evidence stacked to the rafters, that punishing myself will make me into a better person. It never works, but I am like a dog going back to its vomit. I found myself humming cruel songs (Breaking Dishes, I'm getting nothing for Christmas) and telling myself, "How could you let this happen again?" I told myself, "You don't deserve to go to Las Vegas and have fun, you're too fat! You won't even fit in the airplane seats!" Then I heard, "you have no one to blame it on but yourself, you let your friends down, and they stuck with you when you didn't deserve it."

This morning as I was grooming for the day I told myself I didn't deserve to do my hair...let it be greasy and stringy it would match your stomach! I tried to convince myself not to wear makeup or jewelry and to wear some muumuu that I don't even own any more. And then something (finally) snapped. I envisioned myself on this trip. I saw myself asking my girlfriends to assure me that I wasn't fat, just the way I'd manipulated Brandon into telling me what I wanted to hear last night. I saw myself feeling sorry for myself and dragging down everyone else's fun time. And it occurred to me that I've been at this heavier weight for a few weeks and I've been still dressing as well as I can and wearing make up and jewelery. I even bought myself a few new necklaces a week or two ago. So, how was I able to be cute and happy when I was fat? And, if I could do it then, couldn't I still do it now? And the answer is yes. I can be really fat and I can be happy and fun. I still have the same personality. I don't need to weigh others down with my self0deprication and loathing. I can be totally present in what we're doing. I can have fun. And I'm going to do just that.

As I paused for my morning prayer this morning I admitted that I resent my subjugation to food. I hate that I have to count calories and exercise. I loathe how hard I have to work to look good and how confused I get when my mind is fat--even if my body is thin. It occurred to me that my friend Michelle works just as hard as I do (should) so that she can have her body. And her body is smokin'. The difference is not the amount of work we do, it's our attitude about the work. She accepts that it takes the work to have what she wants. And I am not willing to sacrifice the food and comfort/pleasure cookies bring in exchange for the healthy and hot body that can go to Vegas and have fun, and that has to work to get the stomach to the thighs in yoga (this is a very natural condition to me and the instructor makes it sound like laying your stomach on your thighs is difficult!). Michelle accepts and I reject and resent the need to watch what I eat.

I am a slave to my appetite (emotional and physical) and the only way I an be freed from this slavery is to exchange it for a different master. I have to be enslaved to something else. God. I have to trade masters. This hit me profoundly this morning and I was filled with anger! Why do I have to be a slave to anything??? I want to be my own master!

Here's where acceptance comes in. I can accept my dependence on a substance to get through my life and when I do that substance will shield me from all others. Food shields me from God, forcing me to live in misery and self-loathing, finding only patches of life between meals...while God could and has and will shield me from food giving me another way to cope with life, relief from self-hate, and a bounty of love for myself and others.

I pray for the humility and wisdom to make the right choice.

Molly the Owl

The last few days the owlets have been on their own. Molly has not been "home" during the day. I feel angry with Molly and worried about the owlets.

Since February 15th Molly has sat on those eggs every day and night, barely sleeping, unable to leave for more than 10 minutes. She didn't get enough food, she didn't get enough rest, she was a slave to their every cry until this week. So, for a full 8 weeks, maybe longer, she did her duty.

The life span of a barn owl is 2 years. She devoted 8-9 weeks of her life to this group of babies. If she has another nest next year, she will do the same, but so far she's given 8% of her life to her children. (I did the math.) (I did the math using a calculator.) I am 44 years old. I have 3 children. I gave them all of my attention, food from my own body, diaper duty, vomit cleansing...with breaks only to take care of my own personal needs for about 6 months of their lives--give or take. It's a total of less than 2 years or 4% of my life so far...

Someone on the website said, "Where's Molly?? Do you think she's gone to Vegas for a girl's weekend?" Ouch!

My flight leaves this afternoon around 2. I'll be in Vegas with girlfriends until Saturday night.

What's the moral? the lesson? I don't know. I'm still pondering it.

It seems important that even the paragon of instinctual motherhood (Molly) has to separate from her children. In fact, my children separate and come back, fly on their own and come back to the nest, if you will. I don't have to give them baths any more, but I am still responsible for teaching them how to fly. And I like feeding them, doing their laundry (they don't let me any more, but I feel so motherly when I fold their clothes for some reason), and giving them some sort of direction. I'm not a fantastic mother. I'm not really even a very good mother. But I am deeply in love with my children. They are the most beautiful people I know. They are more beautiful than my siblings, my husband, my parents. They are miraculous in every single breath they take and I adore them. My heart rejoices when they are happy--it literally vibrates with contentment when they are content. And I mourn when they are sad, or frustrated, or having growing pains.

My whole parenting experience has centered around what I thought was the biological imperative to rescue my children from harm, to anticipate their needs and move into action before they even finish speaking their sentences...this reminds me of a story. Have you heard it? Once there was a boy who wouldn't talk. His parents assumed he was mute. Then one day, when he was 14 he said these words, "Mom, you burnt my toast." Mom was aghast, thrilled, confused, relieved...flooded with emotions. She said, "you can speak!! It's a miracle! Why haven't you ever spoken before?" And he replied, "you've never burned my toast before."

Have I created children who can't do for themselves because I've done too much for them? I don't know...yes, maybe, on some level. No, for sure on others. I gave them enough safety to bravely face the world. Heavens knows the Prince and Princess have traveled a great deal, made their own choices, friends... The Little Prince may be less likely to explore than the older two because he has an x-box and little need to move except to the kitchen for more chemically questionable energy drinks, and the bathroom to eliminate said drinks... Bottom line is that I did the best I could. I do hate that sentence. It feels like a lie. I didn't do my best. I really didn't. I was way too selfish and short-sighted. But, I do think that it might have been the best I could do. If I was just now having my children I may be able to do it differently. However, someone would still have to be the proverbial guinea pig that I experiment on in order to get it right.

So, the upshot (at last) is that I am gratefully in love with my 3 guinea pigs. I am grateful there are no more guinea pigs on the horizon for me. Although I do think I might be a good grandma. And I am really grateful for Molly who shows me that even what I have deemed "perfect" mothers need to get to Vegas with the girlfriends every once in awhile.

I'll see you at Thunder from Down Under.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


In February I called an entry The Nest...and here I am with the same metaphor again. I have always ascribed to the belief that when I come back to the same thing time and again, or if different friends suggest the same book/thought/solution, then it's God communicating with me. To be completely honest and fair, I used to believe that if something awful happened--the kids developing a chronic illness, a car accident, the death of a pet--that it was God's way of punishing me. More on punishment later. Right now I am asserting that God communicates with us, often, via other people, not via tragedies and disasters. Perhaps the tragedies & disasters God is a remnant from my southern roots--or perhaps it just feels the most comfortable to me as a religious person, a Mormon person, or as an adult survivor of dysfunction. But I am straying from my topic, which today, is not punishment.

Today it is about nesting. My friend Sherise sent me this link on Tuesday: I have been mesmerized ever since. I showed the video to every class that visited the lab this week. I pointed out specific details to the 6th graders (many are dissecting owl pellets right now), and I surprised myself by watching it at home. I have teared up several times, I have shaken my head in amazement and wonder, I have told numerous friends about this miracle. And now I am wondering why I am so profoundly moved by this owl mother and her nest and her 4 owlets (it looks like the 5th one won't hatch, which is devastating and yet totally natural).

Take at look at the site and you will see that the eggs were laid on February 15th and the oldest chick is 12 days old today. You will see how tired the momma is and how hard she works to make sure her chicks are fed. She leaves the nest once a day for a flight, and last night, right before she appeared, I heard the most incredible sound of wind. It turned out to be the sound of her wings--her powerful and surprisingly large wings--bringing her home to her nest. You will be amazed that she does all that she does without hands, fingers or opposable thumbs. She does it all without a word, and with barely a break. She does it all day long while the dad bird is resting. And she does it all night long, alone. She is, in my opinion, in the trenches of motherhood. What drives her? What on earth makes her think, "I will now take care of babies. I will make sure they have enough to eat before I eat. I will make sure they are safe and warm before I get some exercise." ?

There's more in here. And when I scratch and peck and dig at it, I find that very soon, just a few weeks from now, her babies will be grown. They will be crowding her out of her own nest. They will be learning how to fly, and then they will. As Jeanine once said, "fly birdie, fly." And that's it. That's where all my hopes and prayers and energies are perched right now. The birdies need to fly. What will this momma teach her babies in less than a month that they will have to rely upon for the rest of their lives? What on earth will this momma do when her babies are gone and the nest is empty?

I am learning a lot from Molly the owl. I am learning, feeling, struggling and praying. I know this will not be my last nesting post. As long as Molly is being filmed I will be watching her to learn what to do now. Just as I watch all women to find out what to do next. Which dance step? Which behavior? Which duty? I am looking at mother's for mothering. And I am looking at birdies and praying they will fly.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I have been trying for almost a week to compose this blog entry and it is just not coming. I am still processing...and I'm frustrated that processing doesn't happen more quickly!

Last week my friend Lisa made an observation that has stuck with me. We have a mutual friend who talks about how her mom always berates her for having a messy house, being overweight, etc. and Lisa said, "maybe her mom nags her because she feels like she hasn't taught her well."


My emptying nest is giving me a new perspective right now. I have been wracked with feeling such regret lately. Did I hug my children enough? Did I listen enough? Did I look at them in the eyes and hold their gaze? Did I teach them what they will need to know about life? Or, more accurately, how could I have taught them enough about life when I'm still learning so much myself? Did I smile at them? Or did I just look aggravated all the time?

Dear friends have given me perspective. Brenda, who lived next door for 5 important years, says my home always felt warm and loving. Michelle says I can do things differently going forward; I can apologize. My therapist reminds me that my role as a parent is not over, it is just changing. My children still need me, just differently. I can figure this out.

Let me just pause here and say that they are getting a lot more snuggles and hugs from this point on.

This topic is not exhausted, but I am!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I have a reader! I have a confession!

Thanks for the facebook encouragement Ann, I'm on it. :)

Recently I have been feeling anxiety and agitation. In fact, most of my emotions start with an "a" these days...and the underlying contributor is usually fear. Lately, however, I've been led to the realization that I am extremely hard on myself for having feelings other than "calm" and "happy."

You probably are too.

When my friend died I started having feelings that were big and messy and confusing. I had no control, no calm, little understanding and just about zero patience for the process. Instead of throwing myself into exercise and writing, I threw myself into secret leprechaun activities at school. These activities gave me good and consistent access to m&ms, andes mints and skittles (trademarked all). Do you hear the reproach? I should have exercised more and written through the pain. I didn't, so I'm bad. SCREW THAT! I didn't because I just didn't. I don't even want to think about what I'll do "right" next time. But I will put it out there, that someday, in my deepest hope, I want to handle crazy feelings and fear and anxiety and agitation and anger and sadness with writing; without inviting additional distractions or eliminating activities I love including exercise and friends. In the future I want to handle feelings while still maintaining my healthy and loving routine.

Is that even possible?

Why is life so hard? Why am I telling myself to stop whining and deal? How about a kind voice that says, "oh, sweet Kristen, it is hard, but there are lots of people who love you and you love lots of people too. God is in charge and you are doing your best. And, Kristen, your best is getting better. You weren't meant to be S.H. so-and-so. Stop comparing yourself to others and just be YOU."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dutch Uncle

Apparently a Dutch uncle is someone who is painfully honest.

Here's an example:

Several years ago a mother at my school pulled me aside and told me that it was obvious I hated children and she suggested that I find another job. I think a Dutch Uncle would have been far more loving in communicating the truth, but they would have taken to task the expression of a difficult truth.

At the time I was furious with Mrs. So-and-so. But I also felt informed. Now, 5 years later, I am extremely grateful for her honesty because it made me pause and look at myself. Did I like children? No, not really. Did I want to be a teacher? Hell no. So...I had to wonder why I was teaching. And I had to decide whether or not to quit.

I decided to keep doing it. I found the fun. I found that I really do like children, but that I have an anger problem. WHAT? Yes, I HAVE AN ANGER PROBLEM. I haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet, but I am working hard to discover what pushes me over the edge and how to avoid it.

Thank you for your honesty Mrs. SandS.

And thank you, friend, for yours.

I'm supposed to write

This weekend I decided to finish my taxes instead of write about my feelings over a friend's death. I haven't ever submitted my taxes to the accountant in February, or in March for that matter.

My friend Jenn Bayles died from GIST (a cancer) last Thursday. I was very surprised at my reaction which was flat and apathetic. In therapy Thursday afternoon I described my feelings. Ever watchful, suspicious and wise, my therapist asked some probing questions. I admitted I was angry that Jenn hadn't handled her death the way I thought she should have. I admitted that I have absolutely no right to have an opinion on her death either.

More questions followed. Lots more. I realized that I am feeling very concerned about her boys. It came out that in my mind she was a terrific mother, and it makes me angry that she didn't get to stay and see her children grow into men. I feel sorry for the children who didn't get much time with her, and I envy them for the time they did have as it is ten times the amount I had with my own mother.

And that is, I'm ashamed to say, the focus of this whole It's always me. I pray every day to be relieved of the bondage of myself, and yet every day, this is whose skin I'm in. Jenn never seemed self-obsessed, she was generous and always serving or thinking of others. I don't know how she did it, obviously, or I'd be emulating her more readily.

Here's another fun fact, I don't feel apathetic at all. I feel ashamed of my true feelings, so I am suppressing them. You may be able to tell by looking at my body that I am a master of suppressing my feelings. It takes a lot of work and a lot of food to keep these feelings from surfacing, but I am an old pro. In fact, these days it's an automatic response to just flatten every emotion out into something acceptable.

Therapy helps me to see that not having feelings was essential to my success and survival as a child. I saw my role as "Cinderella" and therefore vital to family happiness. I saw it as critical that I stay quiet and hard-working. I believed I would get in trouble for having big feelings and so flattened out my emotions while simultaneously building huge resentments towards a sister who got to throw tantrums and be rotten (aka "normal"). I also created a myth of me being the good one. This was a lie, but it was comforting to have a fairy tale in which I was the heroine. It seemed so important to have a role and a responsibility. Now it just seems embarrassing. Now I am ashamed of all the drama I held inside or only released in small bursts of cruelty to myself and others. My myth was comforting, but it really was a big lie.

I feel icky right now. icky.

I am very sad that my friend died at the age of 42. I feel sad that I wasn't the perfect friend to her. I feel angry too. I am angry that she died. I miss her. Yesterday I was texting a friend (Jenny) and came across Jenn's name in my phone. I won't need that going forward and that makes me sad too. Death is always a time to reflect on life. Going forward I hope that mine continues on a trajectory of improvement.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


All that is human must retrograde, if it do not advance. -Edward Gibbon

So how do I get myself to advance? How do I foster growth instead of attrition and loss? How do I keep the forward momentum instead of backsliding?

The meditation I read this morning suggests that, "Growth begins with acceptance of myself as I am." This feels like a powerful statement to me. It demands honesty. Yesterday a friend was describing her self-talk as she stepped on the scale. She used the phrase, "who am I kidding?" when she was wanting to eat an unhealthy/unplanned treat. That's such a terrific question: Who am I kidding? And yet, it's one thing to be brave enough to ask the question and another beast entirely to ready myself to answer it.

Today I am able to see a lot of the ugly parts of myself--I can list them, but will spare you. Fortunately, today I am also able to see a way out of "the uglies." I can see how helpful it is to say to myself, yes, Kristen, you are afraid and worried, but you can ask God to change that fear into faith. I say, yes, Kristen, you owe money, but you have a plan and you are working it, and your debt is evaporating. Today I said, yes, Kristen, you have a lot of weight to lose, but you are up and exercising and working and changing, and you are seeing the results of your work--4 dress sizes down in a year is so great. And guess what, Kristen, it doesn't matter how long this takes you, it just matters that you're honest and that you face it.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where is the Fun?

We are always getting ready to live, but never living. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here's one thing I know for certain: life does not happen between diets. It happens all the time. I have a friend who is always telling me, "I'll wear the cute shoes when I've lost a few pounds." "I'll stop wearing ugly clothes when I'm down to my goal weight." What I hear is that she doesn't think she's worthy to have fun or be cute unless she's at her perfect weight. This makes me very sad.

I just want you to know that you look super cute right now. You look adorable when you smile! You look wonderful when your heart is happy and your soul is at ease.

And I think it is important to point out that there is not a single outfit darling enough to hide when we are self-hating, self-loathing, self-effacing, or unhappy.

So I've decided to get happy. I've decided to put on the cute clothes and buy the awesome shoes (although I recently found a beautiful pair of shoes that I literally could not walk in because my center of balance was off--a side-effect of being overweight), put on the great jewelery and the sparkly eye-shadow. And if you just don't feel comfortable being as fabulous as possible, then it's time to work on the insides.

Here's what I do for my insides--and the recipe has to be repeated daily:
1) exercise until I sweat (except on Sundays where I practically fall into a coma),
2) read something uplifting...a quote, some scriptures, a book...
3) pray/talk to my Heavenly Father for 5 to 15 minutes (I always feel better after I do this--it helps me see myself how He sees me).
4) meditate or pause for quiet time of 1 minute or more,
5) make a gratitude list of any length,
6) do something kind or thoughtful for someone else, preferably without pointing it out to anyone!
7) write.
8) review my day asking if I need to apologize or make any amends, and then quickly make the amends
9) identify any feelings that I can't put a name on.
10) report to someone (God, a friend, spouse, letter) about my "state" of being.

It seems like a lot, but it is worth it, because I love cute shoes and bags and I especially love sparkly eye-shadow.

Let's stop planning and just ENJOY!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Nest

I'm trying to live in the moment. However, on Friday my youngest child will turn 18. In June he graduates from high school, and in August or September he will move into the working or college phase of his life (TBD, and not by me).

I realized that this is bothering me. Not in the sense that I don't want him to grow up and experience the world, but in the sense that my time as a mother the way I've defined it so far, is ending. I will always be a mother, but I don't know how to do this next piece.

Here's how I've been dealing with it so far. Jason graduated from high school in 2006 and Clarke in 2008. I've been a mother to flying birdies for almost 4 years now. I rely on friends as examples of what to do with and for their adult children. I discuss it with a therapist. I discuss it with friends whose children are married and becoming parents themselves. I talk about it with friends whose children are still at home. I am sending care packages to Jason and Clarke all the time. I always wanted to be the kind of mom who sent letters and gifts in the mail, so this is really enjoyable for me. I am liking my husband more than I thought I would. I am thinking of "adopting" a family or two at church to sit by them and help with their children. I am trying really hard not to freak out.

The people who sit without children at church are old. I don't think of myself as old yet. Of course, as a Mormon, there are people far older than I who will be sitting with their children far longer than I, so the data are skewed. I really am young compared to the group of people whose children have all left the nest.

Todd is starting to freak out too, but in a different way. My take on it is that he and I are both runners. We run from problems as quickly as we can. His version of running is to sell the house, rent a smaller house or buy an RV and live in it, get rid of the dog and the cat and everything that ties us down. I am definitely not in favor of this. I thought I was, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I want to keep my roots as deep as possible as the saplings go off to start their own forests.

These feelings have me pausing and crying periodically. I don't want to break down in front of Brandon or his siblings, because this is such an important and brave thing that they are doing. It is critical! Even I did it! This is where my faith is being tested, and I do trust God to take care of them, as He always has. I am not eating over these feelings today (or yesterday or Tuesday!), and that is my way of allowing God to take care of me too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This morning I was a zombie when the alarm went off at 5:04. Zombie, as in, living dead. I woke up, I fumbled in the dark for the workout clothes (set out the night before), I made it to the bathroom, and somehow I drove myself to boot camp where Adrian tried to kill me with the "run 40 steps and do 20 push-ups," then round 2, "run 40 steps and do 40 rows with your weights." Followed by 10 iterations of running and using my arm muscles in some way. I told friends I felt like I was running through jello...emphasis on the preposition, because sometimes I feel like I am running with jello affixed to my lower abdomen and upper arms. What is it about being 44? My sight is also starting to peter out/aggravate me...but that's a topic for a different day.

On the near-comatose drive to boot camp I thought, "I will take the day off of work today." Then I remembered that at least 3 of my fellow campers are moms at my school. What if word gets out that I'm able to exercise, but not go to work?

After boot camp I came home and debated getting back into bed. Decided I'd make that decision after taking a shower. Decided to wash my hair...I should have known then that I would be going to work. I dragged myself to the closet, found some clean clothes, and dressed. I even wore a necklace. It seems I was destined to go to work, even with some congestion *cough cough*

So here I am, and I even taught Excel today!

As I drove to work this morning, and dragged my carcass out of the car, I heard the parrots. I love these birds! Last year there were about 9 of them and their bodies were about 6 inches not including wings or tails. This year there are 7 of them and they grew 2 inches! Their heads are red, their wings are bright green until they fly and then there is a brilliant patch of red. They positively glow in the sun with their near neon green and red. And I thought, wow. This is the reward for bringing myself to work. For doing all the things--the good things that are becoming good habits--that I whined about not wanting to do yesterday, I am rewarded with a rare glimpse of these gorgeous birds who live in a colony and love each other, talk to each other and look out for each other.

I have a colony too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Last week I when I described my feelings of agitation and aggravation, frustration, anger, etc. to my therapist she told me that it might have something to do with "the pull." She described "the pull" as an almost magnetic force that wants us to slide back into the old life and old habits.

I like this idea. Rather, I like the way she described it to me, but not the event itself. The gravitational pull I feel is akin to hiking up a steep mountainside and hitting a patch of loose gravel. I am sliding and scared, and don't see any way to brace myself or stop my free fall. It is frightening to think of all the progress I've made as I slide past it on the way back to what I fear may be my starting point. It seems I need to be rescued by a solid patch of ground, by some hope that I won't slip all the way back down, by some perspective that I've really only lost a little ground relative to the journey.

Part of me desperately wants to move forward and change physically, lose more weight, become a faster runner, a stronger athlete, a happier and more grounded person. Part of me is afraid. This is where I am learning to pray that my fear be replaced with faith and hope, that my self-pity be changed to self-acceptance, and that my self-obsession will morph into caring for others.

Here's a quote I found yesterday: "To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death." - Jean Anouilh

Doesn't that "hands into life up to the elbows" sound like reaching into gore and helping someone give birth? It does to me. Giving birth was the hardest thing I've done besides being born. And every day, according to this French playwright, I have the opportunity to say yes. Today it strikes me that saying yes frees me from negativity and all of its anchors (fear, self-pity, shame, guilt). Saying yes to myself, to improving myself, to eating well and exercising, to just getting out of bed in the morning (this morning for example), that's not what comes naturally to me. But I'll confess a secret, it is becoming second nature. I am moving toward doing things like eating well because I WANT to eat well. I am in the gloriously fabulous habit of waking up at 5am and working out! The good habits are here and growing stronger.

A dear friend's nephew died last week. He was 19 years old. The circumstances break my heart, this boy was so loved. Just by breathing in and out I am using up whatever amount of time on earth is allotted to me, I want to make it the best life.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's the food

Apparently I'm supposed to eat right to lose weight. Here are the frustrations:

1) eating out for dinner...order a salad and it's 1300 calories, minimum, what should I have instead? I only eat out once a week these days, shall I cut it out altogether? I guess I could...but then eating healthfully starts to feel like a punishment.
2) chocolate chips, macadamia nuts and the combination of both in an oatmeal cookie. Should I stop making these? (Uh, yes...duh)
3) 3:30pm. Sometimes this time is no biggie, sometimes this is the open the door and plough through time. How can I be more consistent here? (Write...I could write about how I'm feeling or use this time to update my blog...hmmm.)
4) hormones. can't live with 'em...
5) mystery and magic

I hope YOU are finding inspiration and strength. If you have some suggestions or insight, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I had to buy a larger size of skinny jeans, but they are fitting as of today, without a muffin top. So color me fabulous!

The end of last year was one of those ebb times, and with the new year and a new bodybugg, courtesy of my husband's thoughtful Christmas gift giving, I am motivated and already down more than 5 lbs. I'm back at boot camp 5 mornings a week, plus at least one extra hour of cardio per week, and the food is looking very clean.

I must admit that I am an emotional eater! I knew it, you knew it, but now I am ready to shout it from the rooftops. At a meeting this weekend a woman said, "I'm powerless over my food AND my MOOD." How that resonates for me...this week I've had a deep funk of a mood (Pam assures me that Picasso's blue period should be my inspiration because it is still very popular) and my food has been good but not picture perfect. And for a black or white gal like me, not picture perfect is damnable. Might as well board the Titanic.

But I am learning new things including the notion that perfection is an ideal toward which I'll aim.

Getting tired of exercising in the rain, gotta be honest. But I love seeing my calorie burn after the workout, so it is totally worth it!