“We inhabit ourselves without valuing ourselves,
unable to see that here, now,
this very moment is sacred;
but once it’s gone –
its value is incontestable.”
–Joyce Carol Oates
Snow day #3 today in schools across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and I am making time on my day off to write. Blogging is a delicate activity of knowing what exactly to put-out-there. It is a confessional business – especially when one of the reasons that I started this blog was to stay accountable to my healthy goals. Sure I could just post recipes, but it goes much deeper than that for me. Writing helps me think out loud and my posts become a time capsule that I can look back on and ruminate where I have come from and where I am going. Reading what I have written helps make my thoughts tangible.
Reflecting on events of the past year I am blown away by the lifestyle changes I have made. A new marriage and motherhood being the most significant. Over the past year I have been told by numerous people that being a stepmother is one of the hardest and most thankless jobs in the world and that I really had my work cut out for me. I smiled politely and felt my stomach lurch. Unfortunately, in many ways, I have learned that all of those people were right. Yet, I am learning important lessons on this journey that make me a better mother, wife, teacher, and human being. It reconfirms my belief that I need to focus my energy on the positive things and that it is truly the simple things that make our lives rich. When I feel frustrated I need to remember that when my stepson saw the calendar on the refrigerator that I created to help us navigate the custody schedule, he thought that the F (for Father) meant Family. I have to remember that my stepdaughter loves to shop for clothes together so that we can match. I have to find joy in the fact that they both want me to tuck them in each night and kiss me before they get on the bus each morning. I need to let love lead the way and hope and pray. I will delight in the fact that I am a role model to two beautiful individuals. I will try to forgive people who will never say thank you or I am sorry. I will continue to bestow my love. I will trust. I will believe. I will remember to breathe.
So all about this breathing business. Have you ever felt like you have been holding your breath for months? (I imagine my friends and family who are parents – will get quite a chuckle out of this. After all, I was the one who in the past could escape into the luxury of naps and hot baths to unwind. I could leave the house whenever I chose and grocery shop without little ones tossing things in the cart or misbehaving in public. I could prepare meals with exotic ingredients and never worry about fussy taste buds.) Well, things have changed in my world. Not only am I newly married, a stepmom, and a full-time high school teacher, but I am also trying to tackle an Education Specialist degree at Northern Michigan University (a precursor to a EdD program at Central Michigan University). *sigh*
The past year has been a slippery slope for all my healthy goals. My fastidious meal prep routine has been nearly abandoned and my family is less than thrilled about the abundance of fruit and vegetables and absence of refined sugar that I believe is the healthiest. Yes, we have roasted vegetables with our dinners and I try to get them to eat as much as fruit as possible. Yet, the fact remains that a lot of processed food and junk has found its way into my shopping cart because I am tired of being frustrated when they will not eat what I prepare. In addition, I would rather spend time with the kids painting, doing crafts, and cuddling on the weekends instead of cooking/prepping the week’s meals for hours. But there is a price to pay and I am ashamed to say that I have consumed more boxed macaroni and cheese, tater tots, and processed veggie burgers in the last few months than I care to admit.
Another decision that has impacted my healthy goals was giving up my role as a Weight Watchers coach. We live thirty miles away from the WW center and my husband, who is a police officer, works weekends (though his schedule changes next month 🙂 ) It was a heartbreaking decision but it made more sense for me to spend time with Avalon and Lukas instead of finding childcare. While I do not regret this decision at all, I do miss my WW friends and the accountability that we give each other. (My plan in the next couple months is to start attending meetings, even if it is just on a monthly basis at first.)
To make this post extra whiny – I am feeling the February blues and hormones that come chasing after women in their 40s. My energy levels are depleted, my skin looks dull, and my pants are tight. This Thanksgiving I got sick for the first time in over seven years. Sick. Stay in bed for three days sick. Something that I know would not have happened if I would be taking better care of myself.
At what point do we tell ourselves enough is enough? For me it was the other day in my classroom. Since the kids take a bus from their elementary school to the high school I teach at, I keep a stash of snacks for them in my cabinet. Without even thinking of what I was doing I ate a small bag of Cheese Its and a Rice Crispy treat. Instead of snacking on fresh fruit or raw vegetables and hummus (which would have normally been in my classroom mini-frig) I was resorting to food void of nutrition. I also have noticed that I am turning to caffeine by grabbing a *gasp* Diet Coke in the afternoon and making myself a cup of coffee at the end of the school day. Last week I have +150 new likes on my Facebook page and I feel like a fraud. I have over a hundred healthy recipes on this blog and I share the photos and recipes every day – but I am not making them at home like I should be.
My husband John is an incredible man and he gives me many pep talks. He tells me endlessly that I am beautiful that I look amazing for forty-four. He loves my curves and makes me feel beautiful. Yet, I do not feel like myself and the way I am feeling reaches far beyond vanity – I want to be healthy! I had a long talk with John about how I need to make changes and I received his support 100%. While I will still buy my family the indulgences that they enjoy, the kids and I will try to make more sweets from scratch (instead of buying those with processed ingredients). I will encourage them to try more of a variety of fruit and vegetables (I have found when they cook with me they are more apt to eat what we make) and I will expand our menu to include some new foods that they have never tried.
This weekend when I shop I am going to fill my cart with fresh produce and John and I are going to start drinking green smoothies again (our goal is at least five times a week). I am going to commit to drinking more water and prepping Mason jar salads for my work week lunches along with prepping fruit and vegetables to keep in our refrigerator for convenient and healthy snacks. I will make sure that I have homemade veggie burger patties in the freezer and I will work more exercise into my schedule (there is nothing stopping me from strapping on snowshoes and taking advantage of the gorgeous views on our property (I promise to share photos).
Friends, thank you for taking the time to read my confession. While some may disagree with me putting it all out there – my guess is that there are others struggling too. We owe it to ourselves (and our families) to put our health first. I know that I will be a better wife, stepmom, teacher, and student when my energy levels increase and I feel great in my own skin. Please join me and post your confessional we will keep each other accountable. Feel free to post a comment here, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a post or message at my Facebook page. It feels liberating to be honest and I cannot wait to implement these changes. Thank you for joining me on this journey to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables – imagine how productive we will be!