In the moment after – SeaStar Farm

14333158_1039745379466761_2140918983132429788_nComing home has never felt so good. A bit worn and torn but also filled with hope, I pulled into our driveway in the wee hours of the 4th of July. It was pitch dark as I grabbed my briefcase and closed the car door quietly to not wake up our dog, Ruby. I used my phone to light the way up the moss covered pathway to our back door. Our farm was quiet and still, far from the exhausted energy that swirled within my mind and body. The darkness engulfed me and made me pause. It  felt as if I had never left South Berwick and taken part in this new adventure which had claimed the better part of me and my family since January. The girls were sleeping on the couches in the living room. The air had cooled and I brought the blankets up over their shoulders and made sure their toes were covered. I bent over and gently kissed their foreheads and hesitated over each just a moment to take in their sweet smell of innocence and youth. Their troubles in life are still easily smoothed out with love and listening. I turned off the t.v. and glanced at the clock, it was nearly 3:00 am. “Happy 4th of July”, I mused and tiptoed out of the room and made my way upstairs. Ruby jumped off the bed and waited behind the bedroom door as I opened it. The room was dark. The light from the hall fell upon Kyle as he asked, “Did you guys get it signed?” I nodded and whispered, “the Governor signed it. I’m home for awhile.” I dropped my things, changed and slid into bed as Ruby jumped up and claimed the space around my legs and feet. I sank into my pillow and felt as though the ride had come to a full stop and the park would be closing for the night.

I guess that’s how I can best describe the past seven months spent in Augusta. It was a ride filled with thrills, chills, moments of hesitation, courage, and times in between when we just waited. I rode the ride with new friends from all over Maine and quickly developed relationships I could lean on in times when I asked myself, “why and how?” As I moved through the highs and lows and  learned that creating and voting on policy would never garner everyone’s support, I fell back on a few important things I’ve learned along the way in school and life. You are never going to please everyone, so it’s best to not even try. Listen to all sides of the story and be open to a change of mind and heart when it’s deserved and right. Put your self in someone else’s shoes, maybe even take them for a walk, and when you’re done listening speak from your heart with an authentic voice. There were times when I voted for my district, my party, the other side of the aisle, small children, small business, and for some Mainers not supported by most. I received gratitude, disagreement, and even a voice of disgust at times, but looking back I know that I would not change a single vote I took. I learned that news shared in politics is always spun in a hundred ways and often what you hear or read is not the entire story.

It’s impossible to be able to form a true understanding of a bill or piece of policy from simply reading a headline, a shared post, or a sound bite. In fact they are often used to sway a vote, bring down opposition, or paint a light on a situation to favor one side or the other. To truly know what is a foot, one must be willing to read and grow their own understanding of all available information and form an opinion. When I found out that I had been elected and would be taking votes on behalf of my district and the entire state of Maine I went to my much older and wiser sister and asked her to share how she would approach voting.  She paused and said, “I would want to take my vote, press the button, before looking to see what anyone else did so I knew that I would be voting from a place that wasn’t impacted by another’s wants, expectations, or motivation.”  I smiled. She’s always been incredibly logical and pragmatic. She’s a programmer by profession and has built a career on well thought systems and finding the cleanest and  quickest path from point A to point B.

Policy like life, can be messy and chaotic, winding around testimony, facts, opinions, and passion. I quickly realized that working towards a unanimous committee vote can be exhilarating, frustrating, demanding, and hopefully in the end, rewarding. You hardly ever get everything you want and often take votes on policy that aren’t clear cut or clearly defined. If you are in your seat whether on committee or in the chamber than you must vote. I missed one vote this year at the beginning of session. I was needing a signature on my bill from a Senator and gauged I had time to run to the other end of the hall knowing the Senate had convened. Not knowing I couldn’t hear the bell from their chambers I missed my one and only vote.  I stood that day and stated if I had been in my seat I would have voted, yea. It was a lesson learned early and from that point forward I took every other one.

As the year ramped up and it became increasingly apparent that politics as I had experienced as an onlooker from the comfort of my home were indeed messy, I found myself engulfed by a world in which my words were taken out of context and my votes were misrepresented by omitted information or testimony. At the same time, I  found myself becoming resilient towards the negativity that rose up intent on knocking me down and out of my seat. There were definite times when my face became flushed and hives appeared as I imagined my family reading political rhetoric and frustrated posts directed at me and my votes by people that have never met me or reached out to me personally to ask about my positions or the decisions I made and why I came to the place I did. I also became incredibly hopeful as I continued to meet some of the most articulate, intelligent, and compassionate people on both sides of the aisle. Politicians often get a bad wrap and maybe rightly so but in Augusta, the legislators are people just like you and me who have families, businesses, careers, and are trying to do good for their communities.

We are individuals with our own unique experiences, ideals, passions, and dreams of what life in Maine should be and the very best policy is created somewhere in the middle with collaboration and compromise. So today, I sit here in the store on my first day back in over a week. There is a reassuring calm as I begin to write for the first time in such a long while. I’ve landed this morning perhaps a bit tried and tested but also with a knowledge that I am still able to stretch  and learn a bit about myself and others around me.



  • I stood in Boston and listened, and then I marched.

    Boston MarchAs my alarm went off, I pondered for a moment excusing myself and staying in bed just a little bit longer. My week had been busier than normal, three days at the State House in Augusta and three days at my normal job. My husband’s rhythmic breathing lulled me into justifying why I shouldn’t drive to Boston with friends, neighbors, acquaintances. My mind reasoned why my time would be better spent with my two girls bringing them to their activities and listening to all their rants and raves about school. Our dog stretched out at my feet and pushed her entire ninety pounds against me, nudging me out of bed. At least one of us seemed to be intent on me getting out of bed.

    People usually tilt their head to the right when I try to explain that I’m an introvert at heart. Doubt fills their face and their usual response is, “really?”.  Large groups, parties of more than just a hand few of friends have always been the most challenging for me, and I usually find a way out before it’s time to commit to joining in on the festivities.  When I had read that someone I knew was driving by herself to Boston, I quickly reached out to her and said I would be her wingman. Before I knew it she had opened up the invitation to Facebook and a group of eight of us were slated to march together in Boston, we would be referred to as Sobo Women.

    As I turned on the hot water in the shower, Ruby, our dog began barking excitedly. I quickly jumped in the shower as I heard a strange voice in the kitchen. I must have gotten the pick up time wrong. I lathered and rinsed as quickly as I could, leaving no time to opt out of this adventure. I pulled on some jeans and a sweater, grabbed my boots and swept my wet hair back into a knot. I raced down the stairs apologizing for not being ready. We had celebrated a friend’s birthday the night before and I missed a string of emails changing the time for departure. I gazed quickly around the kitchen, we had missed clean up the night before as well. More apologies flowed from a guilt ridden mouth as it kissed my husband quickly and called out last minute directions for drop offs and pick ups and I was off to March in Boston along with millions of others feeling the need to just do something.

    It’s now weeks after the march and life has refused to slow down. I’m traveling to Augusta Tuesday through Friday and continuing to work my full time job remotely. The kids have adjusted as best they can and my husband has quietly taken over our home with nothing but words of encouragement and little notes left to inspire me along the way. As the girls and I were in the kitchen tonight, making dinner, doing homework, and getting caught up on constituent emails, I received a message from a dear friend. She requested that I share why I marched in Boston and then email it to Senator Feinstein via Sean_Elsbernd@feinstein.senate.gov and Caitlin_Meyer@feinstein.senate.gov. So after reflecting a bit as I drove and picked up my daughter from Student Government this evening, I’ve finally settled in for the night and ready to share why I marched in Boston.

    When I was a little girl, I believed if I pulled my blankets up tight enough over my head that they could protect me from all the monsters in the world. I knew they couldn’t. Harm could come to anyone, at anytime. I learned what hate, rage, and violence could reap before I was even old enough to know how to read. I quickly lost my voice in favor of a quiet respite as I counted the days to the next upheaval. When I was a little girl, I believed that if you were good enough, and did everything that you were told to do that you would be safe from the harms that existed.

    When I was a teenager, covered in acne looming over my peers, I learned that names do hurt and cut through you like a sharp steel blade. I felt judgment’s eyes pierce my soul and make me wonder if I was good enough to speak up and ask for my share of the world.

    When I graduated from business school and began working in an environment where I stood out like a sore thumb, the only woman except for the CEO’s secretary, I would pretend that I was one of the guys on the sales team and would simply say “you’re so funny” when they would ask me to grab coffee, or make copies for them when I had sold just as much as they had if not more.

    When I was a mum for the first time, I remember people having more interest in whether my baby was Mexican or Italian, than him being able to walk before nine months old. I refused to believe that people couldn’t see past the color of his skin, I preferred to stay in a place of denial like I always had.

    There are so many things in life for so many of us that are simply just “unfair”.  Whether we like it or not, it’s just the way it has been and most likely will always be. So knowing this, accepting this, why did I decide to march in Boston? With everything that life has thrown at me, and believe me I have had my own fair share, I was always able to hold tight to the ideals of our nation as it was intended by our founding fathers and those who marched and fought for the advancement of civil liberties for all. I knew that as a nation we were not perfect but yet I always felt movement, progress forward in the ideal and realization that we were moving  towards equality.

    “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equally.” As I watched these truths that form the very architecture of our nation, the genetic make up of our citizens being chipped away at by hateful words,falsehoods supported by circular reasoning, and fear driven sensationalism, my heart began to ache. If I could no longer believe in a government that would strive to care for all people not just certain archetypes, then where and what would I stand for? Why would I stand instead of simply lying down and accepting that in the face of uncertainty I truly had no voice at all.

    I marched in Boston to be heard. I marched in Boston for the little girl inside who never felt quite safe enough. I marched in Boston for the teen who hated her own reflection because it brought nothing but torment and teasing her way. I marched in Boston for my bi-racial child who is as just as deserving as any child next door. I marched in Boston for my daughters so that they might not be asked to get coffee or run errands for their male equivalents in their work place. I marched in Boston so that I might finally hear my own voice proudly say that this is my body and you cannot choose or decide what will be done with  it.

    I marched in Boston because if I had stayed in bed and slept in that Saturday morning I would have been left with regret that I didn’t stand up for what I believe is each of our own god given rights to be heard and be justified in the pursuit of liberty and happiness.

    It’s late and I’m the last one up in our home. This has turned out to be much longer than I ever intended and messier in its presentation than I had hoped, but for what it’s worth, it is my story, my truth of why I marched in Boston.

     

     



  • A Little Bit Closer – A Little Lift

    767fc9cec4cd8961b7e037c1bb036812When I was a little girl, I used to look up at the stars and wonder. I would hold my hands up to my eyes cupped like binoculars trying to bring them closer so I might see their twinkle a little bit brighter. I would stand on my tippy toes and lean towards the moon to see if I could hear its whispers and read its thoughts. When I was satisfied with all that I learned I would lean back down upon my heals and smile, knowing that yes everything would eventually be okay.

    When I was a little girl I would jump in the cool dark waters of the lake and lay on my back so I could rest a moment and feel the earth move gently below my body. I would flip backwards into the water, blowing bubbles out my nose so that I could breathe deeply once again and know that I was just the same as everyone else. When I felt the air rush back into my lungs as my head popped up onto the surface, I knew that I was supposed to be me and you, you.

    When I was a little girl I would hold back the prickly pine limbs from scratching my face, smelling their sweet sap and step stronger determined to keep in sync with the others as they climbed higher and higher up the mountain. The spongey moss cushioned my feet as they worked double time across the bare rocks and over the roots and fallen branches. This was my mountain to climb just as much as it was theirs.

    When I was a little girl l was grounded and secure in my constant effort to be connected. Somehow the wonder of life was more than enough to fill and satisfy, I was wise beyond my years. As I grew and became more aware of the world around me, my innocence was shed and taken far away. The simple joys and beauties that used to lasso their arms around me and pull me close, no longer could be heard above the noise of keeping up, falling down, success, and failure. Somewhere along the way I forgot the simple pleasure that existed from just being in the moment, and aware of my surroundings. Some say the first step in waking up is to simply choose to do it. “It’s easy, just do it”.

    When I lay my head down on a strange pillow tonight, the whirlwinds of a new path swarming through my mind, I will close my eyes and try to find those stars, cool waters, and pine limbs buried deep beneath the years of striving to always do and be better no matter what life threw at me, no matter what my choices resulted in. When I feel my body starting to relax and my breath grow heavy I will breathe in deeply  knowing that when I was a little girl I simply had to look, feel, and smell and the world was mine.

     

     

     



  • No, I’m not dying…I’ve just felt like it.

    AnonymousEarly this Summer just after school had ended and the girls had begun getting adjusted to our new routine, I started getting a nagging feeling. At first it was just an occasional discomfort, a heaviness in my mid section and then as time wore on and we became busier and busier it evolved into being tired and worn down.  I pushed the feeling and symptoms down for all of June and into July.  Then unusual physical symptoms came that couldn’t be ignored and I began to add a quiet worry to my list. By the end of August I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open and I had started expressing my feelings out loud to my husband. He knew before the words left my lips, he’s always been able to read my face and know exactly where I am.

    It’s been months since I’ve chosen to write and share everyday, a large part of who I am has been missing. I’ve lost the piece that allows me to process life outside of myself and share with others, connecting sometimes to people privately through social media and developing channels of information exchange and a knowledge that we are never truly alone in any situation or experience.  When I was slowly waking up from surgery this afternoon the first thought that came to my mind was that I miss writing and sharing. I quietly promised myself that I would return to putting my thoughts, experiences, and emotions out into the world with no expectations or idea of what they may attract or detract. My only hope would be that positive connections with those having similar experiences would be made.

    After I woke fully they wheeled me back to the recovery room. The nurse dimmed the lights and placed a warm blanket over me. She leaned down and asked if I needed anything. I asked her for my husband. She smiled and quietly left. Through the grogginess, I felt better. The nagging feeling in my stomach was gone and I felt clean. That’s the only word I can think of to convey the physical sense I was having at that moment. Kyle came in and kissed me. I felt comforted and flush. The nurse explained that they had blasted the stones, removed them, and placed a stint for healing.  A trip to the ER, two ultra sounds, a cat scan, and a summer of discomfort and lack of energy finally shed light on my situation. In that moment I relaxed a little into the old me, knowing full well with strength and health that a lot of changes would be waiting for me.

    Pieces of mePieces similar to this kidney stone have been taking up residence in my kidneys for more than a year now. I had successfully passed one last year with lots of fluids and a trip to the ER. This Summer three of them found their way out of my kidney and blocked my bladder on one side wedging themselves in, unable to pass naturally. It has put a damper on what I’ve been able to do with the girls, having to call in sick to work a few times, and getting to everything in life that I had said yes to.  There was a lot of “letting go” on my part with the fear of disappointing not only myself and family but lots of others who I am connected to through work and volunteering. I’m still not sure which has made me more uncomfortable: all the pain or feeling as though I wasn’t living up to my full potential as a person.

    It’s always in these times that love finds you and brings the right words of encouragement and grace from people you know and strangers on the street. For those I confided in, I feel so incredibly blessed. They reminded me, no matter what, health comes first. Not something I have always prescribed to but now after spending so much time in bed this Summer while my children and husband waited patiently for me to return I am a believer. Self care, self love is not a selfish proposition it is a prerequisite to a full and healthy life. When you are strong and happy than you are able to be more and do more for others and yourself. This is the person I want to be. I was called a Martyr by a friend who prescribes to tough love this week. It pissed me off in the moment, but now I know that quietly pushing through the pain was senseless and useless in trying to make things better.

    Sometimes when your body shuts down temporarily, it’s asking you to slow down, take a break and reevaluate what you want and need in order to be the best version of yourself. The stones that got stuck and the many more still residing in my kidneys may be my reminder to regroup, refresh, and renew my leases on life.  Thank you for connecting with me again or if this is your first time finding yourself reading one of my posts, welcome! This world is much smaller than we all know and if we focus on giving each other little lifts along the way instead of bringing one another down for any reason, we all might just have a better ride!



  • A little found love – A Little Lift

    a found item in my pocket after our trip to Disney

    a found item in my pocket after our trip to Disney

    I pulled a cotton sun dress from my bureau drawer. It had been forecasted for more than a week that it was going to reach near 100 degrees today and would be incredibly humid. I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment and lined up a handful of client meetings for the afternoon. As I looked out the window and wondered how refreshing the pool would seem on a day like today, I dismissed the idea and focused on getting ready. I slipped on a tank and then the pinstripe dress. I pulled my hair back in a knot at the nape of my neck and reached my hands in my pockets to smooth them out. My fingers found a small metal object, a button or snap maybe. I hadn’t worn the dress since our family trip to Disney.

    As I pulled the small object from my pocket and closer to my face, a  smile appeared  and lightened my soul. My body was tired and my mind had exhausted itself in the past weeks.  In the smallest moments of time, in the most considerate of ways, he always finds a way to remind me of his love. Outside one of the many stops in a gift shop for the kids to trade pins, Kyle had taken my hand and gently opened it and placed a small metal object in the center. It was a little bit of Mickey Magic on a hot day in Florida. I squeezed it and placed it  in the bottom of my pocket. I never know what he’ll do next, or the words he’ll place by my bedside or on the kitchen island when he leaves for work before I wake, but they always have one thing in common…love. This was just another sweet reminder of no matter what else is going on in my life how incredibly fortunate I am to have him in it.



  • Do as I say…not as I do

    If there was one thing I remember hearing my father say over and over as I was growing up it had to be, “do as I say, not as I do.” Oh there were other sayings, plenty of them, but no matter what the moment of insanity we were enduring, that was the phrase he liked to use best. Furniture flew, words cut deep, and fear ran high year after year as he struggled to find the best version of himself. He was born just as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression landed upon our great nation. He grew up in a time of uncertainty in a family that was torn apart by loss and uncertainty. My grandfather had come to this country from Canada to start over, make a new life for himself. He left a young love behind and lost another almost as soon as he settled in New England. My father searched for this lost love for all of his life. I can only guess that he found a certain amount of peace in anger, distrust, and fear. He lashed out when he felt most vulnerable and he tore down those around him that reminded him of what he knew he wasn’t.  He fought his entire life, punching and kicking back at the very things that could have loved him most. He bared his pain with those who knew him best and saved his charm, wit, and uncanny ability to connect with strangers and people down the street. He was abused by life, swallowed up by a world too cold and jaded to pull him into its arms, and left to find his own way back to a place of peace and love. He just never seemed to find his way  and ultimately made the one choice that most find unforgiveable.  I believe that in choosing to take his own life he was choosing to end his own pain and may have also believed it would do the same for me, my siblings, and my mom. As I sat at his memorial service the phrase, “do as I say, and not as I do” rang loud and clear and filled my senses with regret, sorrow, and despair for not having found a way to love him enough, maybe even love him at all.

    pc: Anna Houghton

    pc: Anna Houghton

    I never cared much for animals growing up. I was never sure of how best to approach them or to let them know that I was safe, a friend to them.  I wanted to love them, I wanted to be able to run to them and smother them with unconditional love, I just didn’t know how. My first pet was a cat, its name was Sylvestor. It was black and white and very independent. It would curl up on my neck or my stomach when I laid on the couch and purr. It seemed foreign to me. He trusted me and I suppose loved me. I began to feel the peace and certainty that comes from having an animal. I began to feel a constant energy in my life amidst a whirlwind of loud noise and insecurity. As a teenager I quickly became lost in my own senses and lack of self worth. I withdrew from my family and friends and spent way too much time entirely in my own head, trying to reason out my own existence and a way out of a world I didn’t much like living in. On the outside, I portrayed a girl who was bright and eager to please, especially at school. I was doing as I was told and not what I witnessed in my every day life.

    I was a lost puppy and continued to be for most of my adult life. I scampered about life doing tricks for recognition and tidbits of affection and was eager to please teachers, bosses, friends, and family. My worth was the attention I gained when eagerly sought and the emptiness when I was alone without an audience. I yearned for something different, something more substantial, I just had no idea of what that might be. I tenaciously followed rules and upheld social expectations, I mapped out my entire life before I turned twenty assuring myself constantly that everything would be okay. From the outside looking in it mostly was. I worked my way through college, married my high school sweetheart, and had a very sweet baby boy exactly nine months after I said, “I do.”  And then just when I thought I had it all figured out, I answered the phone one afternoon and my life was turned upside down in an instant.

    A sheriff had found my father’s body in his house in Houlton, Maine. He had shot himself in the head. I held the phone tight and did not stir. A lack of emotion filled the silence and left me unsure of what to say or do next. Everything I had ever been running from simply dissipated in that moment and I was left standing with no place to go. Twenty years have passed and I still feel the same way. I wish that I felt differently, that I had a pain that won’t go away, but I don’t. I simply have a space that I have held in reserve with hope that one day it may be filled with something from my dad that I could wrap my arms around and treasure like all children wish they could do. My space is left standing knowing that it will remain empty without reconciliation or a simple rewrite of “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” So with the knowledge that somethings in life just can’t be  changed I have remembered perhaps the greatest lesson my father ever taught me, “to do as he said, and not as he did.”

    My father told me to always look people in their eyes as you shook their hand with a firm grasp. My father told me to always look up at the sky to see the birds in the trees and which way the leaves were blowing in the wind to see if a storm might be coming. My father told me that I should always say please, thank you, and you’re welcome and always to offer your share to others who have less. My father told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say than I shouldn’t say anything at all. My father told me to hold the door for people when I am out in public no matter if they are men or women or younger or older. My father told me to always listen to people when they spoke to me and to wait my turn in line and never to cut no matter how badly I wanted something. He told me to never use curse words or strike out at someone in anger or fear. My father told me to never sit idle when others beside me are working or struggling in their accomplishments. My father told me that we all deserve kindness and respect regardless of the color of our skin or the church of our religion. He told me to never touch his personal belongings or those of anyone else’s and my father told me to never be the first one to walk away from a chore…..these are the rules that I have tried to live my life by, during my greatest successes and darkest failures. These are his words that I remember and use to push out the moments I so desperately want to forget. These are the words that make me grateful that he was my father.

    But, perhaps the words that have meant the most to me for all of my life were those that he seemed to repeat over and over again….you’re not allowed to say I can’t. I was never allowed to say I couldn’t do a homework assignment or figure out how something worked or that I was too tired to finish a chore or a task. I was never allowed to say I couldn’t do something without repercussion. It seems ironic now coming from a man who just couldn’t hold on one more day to a life that seemed an endless disappointment and levy of pain and sorrow. It seems ironic now that the man who made me feel most vulnerable and fearful in life was without a doubt the same man who gave me the gumption and tenacity to keep pushing forward in life when I only wanted to give up. If I had never been taught to “do as I say and not as I do” I may not have had the courage and fortitude to persevere during times of uncertainty and fear in my life and even worse I may have settled into places of unhappiness and discord.

    But I didn’t, even when I wanted to. During the times in my life when I felt knocked down and dragged through the mud, I did what I was told and pulled myself up and changed courses, took a new direction in life hoping it would lead me to a better place of understanding and one in which I could find a way to loving myself. You know, forty four years later and I believe with all my heart that I am almost there. I have found a place in which I am peaceful and loving and on most days am a better version of myself. In an ironic twist I am surrounded not only by a loving family but also by a loving farm of animals that have each come to us by way of serendipity. I am living a life I once dreamed might be possible if I only pleased enough people. I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation if I had only realized sooner that living in joy comes from loving oneself, and knowing that we are all connected and never alone in our thoughts, actions, desires, and wishes for a better version of our selves. I find my most peaceful moments in life with our animals on our farm. What I once struggled so painfully to feel with animals comes so quick and natural now. I am loved unconditionally and I am able to love unconditionally… and if there was one thing that I could say to my children that they would hear me say it would be, “don’t do what I say or even what I do, but find your own loving path to being the best version of yourself so that you may allow yourself to be….whatever that may be….”

     



  • Goodbye Sugar Celebration – A Little Lift

    So two months off of sugar, gluten, and dairy and what are we doing on our first snow day in Maine? First the girls and I dug out from the huge dumps of snow we received today then we came inside, played Clue, and then decided to pull out the sugar, flour, powder sugar, and butter from our vast supply that had gone untouched since Christmas.  Anna said, “lets have a say goodbye to sugar celebration.” First she asked if we could make chocolate chip muffins, from there it turned into can we make a chocolate chip cake.  I wasn’t sure if there was such a thing so we did what we always do, we Googled it.choc chip cake recipe

    And there it was, just like everything else we searched for it on the internet. This would be my first time baking with sugar and such when I couldn’t taste or try any of it. Anna asked me if we shouldn’t be baking. I shook my head no and said, “this is how it is for me, you guys can still treat yourselves.” Inside I was really thinking, oh my god what I wouldn’t give to be able to lick the batter from the sides of the bowl. The girls got busy measuring, coating the baking pans, and cracking eggs. I stood back and mostly watched finding or grabbing ingredients when they couldn’t be found or reached.girlsbaking

    The kitchen busied itself with the sound of the KitchenAid and the heating up of the oven. Our woodstove crackled and pushed out heat into our cool New England farmhouse.  It had snowed more than six inches since we had come inside and played a game of Clue. Our yard and fields had transformed once again into a winter wonderland, insulating us from the slippery roads and wintery conditions. Time had finally paused allowing us all to inhale deeply and exhale the pressures and weariness of every day life. No one was worried about homework, quizzes, tests, regionals for track, or states for cheerleading. We were all just being home on a snow day doing things that seemed to be distant memories from long ago.goats

    The batter was finally ready to be poured into the stackable pans we had found months ago in a thrift store. The girls wanted to try to make a mock wedding cake.  Why not, if this was going to be a sugar funeral, why not go all out. Before I knew that I had done it, I had run my finger along the edge of the mixing bowl and slipped it quietly into my mouth. The sensation charged my senses and filled my taste buds with electricity. I stopped short and almost felt guilt at the realization I had fallen off the wagon and without even thinking said hello to my old friend. Anna looked up at me with concern. She raised her eyebrows as my mother would have, fourteen didn’t seem so young in that moment. I smiled quickly and with my eyes told her, “no harm done.” I silently told myself, “no more, that’s enough.”Libs

    As I write this post, the cakes are cooling on the counter waiting to be frosted with a vanilla mini chocolate chip icing. The smell has overtaken our downstairs and pulled me back to a time when I baked almost daily for my family and thought as long as everything was homemade than I was being a good mom, doing right by myself and my family. Life for me has  changed drastically since then and now being sugar, dairy, gluten free my priorities  and perspective have changed from being about what I put in my pantry, my mouth, and in my kids’ lives. Having a healthy “normal” childhood is so much more about making decisions that will affect their general well being today, tomorrow, and as they grow into adults. It’s not as much about creating the fantastical moments filled with sugar, gifts, and unexpected adventures, which don’t get me wrong makes any childhood magical. Parenting for me is becoming more about focusing on what gives them a stronger foundation physically, emotionally, and socially. This is all new to me and while I’ve always made sure they brushed their teeth, played outside, and did their homework, and heard me say “I love you” a hundred times a day, it seems like I’ve been given a deeper sense of knowing what they need from me. So if it’s a goodbye celebration to sugar, than its also a hello to a simpler, better way of being us.us



  • What’s eating you? – A Little Lift

    purple cabbageAs I move through the emotional highs and lows of relearning everything I ever knew about the foods I choose to eat and why, I’ve decided that it wasn’t always what I was eating. It was more about what was eating at me. I’ll be the first to admit that I was nothing more than an emotional eater. I would stuff sadness, fear, regret, anxiety, worry, and depression deep down into my soul with any sugar I could get my hands on. One of my earliest vices was Little Debbie, she came in a multitude of packaging, flavors, and varieties. My mom couldn’t keep her in the pantry long enough to make it into my school lunches. Getting my driver’s license made it easier for me to keep my horrendous eating habits in the closet and it wasn’t uncommon for me to drive through D&D more than one time a day for a sugar jelly stick, maple glazed, or blueberry muffin to go along with my French Vanilla coffee with cream and sugar. You can only imagine the rest of my story.

    I grew into a size twelve in junior high and stayed there pretty much throughout my adult life. During really trying times my weight would increase as much as twenty pounds and occasionally put me in a size fourteen.  I never thought of myself as overweight or as a heavy person. If anything I was often told that I was really tall and big boned when I questioned my weight with friends. So I continued indulging in all things sugar and as I became a better cook would often even sprinkle sugar into my chowders and sautés.  Then in 2010, I woke up one morning and everything I knew about my incredible endurance, ability to push through exhaustion to get life done came to a halt. It felt as though I had been hit by the flu, one that I couldn’t recover from, so after a week or two of suffering complete exhaustion and the inability to do pretty much anything I went to the clinic and discovered I was incredibly anemic. I’ve been anemic on and off  since then and it wasn’t until November 30th of last year that I was offered an explanation of why I continued to have such low blood levels.

    When you’re a mom or have loved ones and animals that depend on you, your health becomes more than just something you know about. When you aren’t able to do for your family and be the person you want to be for them, one of two things happen. You either give in to the feeling of unworthiness or you wake up and fight to make changes to get back to the place you once knew. For me, it’s been a combination of both, but fortunately on most days I can’t imagine the idea of not being there for my family and I push through with tears, fears, and a heavy heart. Sugar, processed sugar, has done a number on me and my digestive organs. Sugar has stressed my kidney, liver, and spleen for most of my life and with that stress it has burnt out my adrenal gland and rendered me helpless in a way I’ve never felt before. I’ve had to let go of a lot of things I used to believe I could control in our home, our barn, and our community. I’ve had to let Kyle do what he does best, love unconditionally. I’ve had to watch as he picks up so very much of what I used to contribute to our home and family, while I struggle to do what I can for my children.

    When I was told that my diet, what I was choosing and had chosen to eat for most of my life was creating my low blood levels and feelings of complete exhaustion, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle fatigue, heavy head, cold limbs, and state of anxiousness and wrought, I knew that I needed to choose differently. It was never a question of would I or could I. I wanted my old self back, I wanted my life with my children and family to resemble what it used to and I wanted my barn back. So as I was told that gluten, dairy, and sugar needed to go, I accepted it and quit cold turkey. That was just two months ago. The first thing to go was my heavy head, the next to go was my incessant craving of sugar, and little by little my symptoms got better on most days of the week even though I still usually find myself needing to recharge one or two days a week.

    Sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol have become part of my past. I still think of them often as I am challenged when eating out or at friends’ gatherings. But somehow in their place I have found a resiliency and strength that I never knew before. In saying goodbye to them, I have said hello to a way of eating and living that I had once thought was reserved for a special class of people. I had only heard of people choosing to eat whole, green, unprocessed foods. I had never imagined I of all people would be joining the ranks. I’m slowing becoming a new version of myself and as I feel the insides of my body flushing out toxins and years of built up residue, I watch as my scale continues to move down to a territory I’ve never explored.

    I’ve said hello and goodbye to three new sizes since I’ve changed my eating choices but somehow that’s not even remotely what I want to celebrate or relish in. As I become a new version of myself, the gratitude that I feel each and every day that I was given the opportunity to make the choice of eating whole, that it was mine to make and not one of life and death. Although I’m not convinced I’m totally in the clear yet,  I’m making my way towards it each and every day. As I  continue to find new foods that replace sugar, gluten, and dairy I become rooted more deeply in the knowledge that we weren’t ever designed to consume artificial flavorings, colors, or processed foods. As my body continues to respond in a positive way to the choices I make in what I eat, I find comfort in the knowledge that my family and friends are right here with me and have supported my changes in ways that I could have never imagined. So for now it’s not so much about what’s eating me, it’s more about what I’m choosing to eat.

    Thank you Deb for these incredible recipes that happened to be our Sunday dinner! Thank you Kyle for helping me cook them and thank you Mimi, Pop, & Mum for helping us eat them.

     

    Lemon Rosemary Chicken – Pecan & Bacon Cabbage Sautee – Rice

    lemon chickriceShopping List:

    We were able to purchase everything for our dinner at Market Basket in Somersorth, NH.

    Whole chicken, red & green cabbage, onion, lemons, fresh rosemary, bacon, pecans, sea salt, course pepper, coconut oil, and Old World Pilaff.

    Prepare your whole chicken by rinsing and taking out the gizzard bag and then resting on a bed of sliced onions and lemons. Stuff the chicken with two halves of a lemon and four sprigs of rosemary, season the breast with sea salt and pepper. Cook for 30 minutes at 450 and then at 350 until it pops or about 60-90 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

    Slice your cabbage into thin strips while you cook six slices of bacon in a skillet. Once it is crisp remove it and add the cabbage and 1/2 cup of pecan halves. Stir them occasionally for fifteen minutes and serve hot.

    Make the gluten free rice as directed on package, we added Turmeric and Cinnamon for seasoning as well as salt and pepper.  It was that simple with just two recipes and an incredible gluten free rice mix we had an incredibly healthy, delicious Sunday dinner!

     



  • I am what I eat – A Little Lift

    Apparently there are no good or bad foods, just ones that are better for each of us depending on how we are feeling.  Right now in my life that means no sugar, dairy, or gluten. I should eat all of my food warm and avoid raw and high in fiber vegetables. Honoring where I am today in my life, here is a little something I cooked up on this cold, raw, wet day in January.

    Beef Stew - the new improved me way of cooking!

    Beef Stew – the new improved me way of cooking!

    Beef Stew – Easy and is great to heat up for lunch or dinner during the week.

    Ingredients you may need to grab: Coconut oil, Almond or Sunflower butter, Gluten free flour, and Turnips.

    I use lean beef cuts and sauté them in a hot pan with coconut oil. I sprinkle gluten free flour on them with sea salt and pepper till they are cooked on both sides. I sprinkle mustard powder and cinnamon on the browned beef for a rich flavoring and then  I transfer them to a pot that has Beef stock slowly simmering in it.

    I dice up onions, celery, chives, carrots, potatoes, and turnips up and add to the pot. I stir in about four tablespoons of almond butter for a thickening and flavoring agent and then top off with a bit of tabasco sauce for a bit of kick. This is one of my new favorite fall back meals since I have begun my life of being gluten, dairy and sugar free. It’s quick simple and delicious.

    As I sat listening to what was going to be my new way of eating, shopping, cooking, and most importantly living, I felt overwhelmed and fell victim to getting stuck in my own head before I even left his office. It was Monday, November 30, 2015. I will never forget the day. In one hour, the way I looked at food would be turned inside out, upside down, and be changed from that point on. Imagine yourself being told that if you want to live a healthy normal life you would need to give up gluten, dairy, and worst of all sugar. I stumbled to reply at first. I finally found the clarity to form the question, how long. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “as long as you want to live a healthy strong life.” It’s funny how I immediately began playing any and every pharmaceutical commercial in my mind. There had to be some sort of magic pill that could erase the last six years as if they never existed, regardless of any fatal side effects that might be disclaimed at the very end.  I found myself nodding silently in response not knowing what else to do. Everything he said to me made perfectly logical sense.

    It’s been 41 days since I have revamped the way I look at food, cook it, eat it, and obsess about it. I went cold turkey with a lot of help from some very special individuals as I took out all gluten, dairy, and processed sugar from my diet. It didn’t stop there for me,  my new way of eating came with some very strict boundaries. My fruit is limited to blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapefruit. I am only supposed to eat food that is warm and hot and stay away from all raw vegetables and those high in fiber which make them harder to digest. For now natural sugar from raw organic honey and maple syrup is on the same do not ingest list as white processed sugar.  It hasn’t been easy but for the first time I have experienced some incredible turnarounds with the way I feel, act, look, and live. The most noticeable change for me is that for the last two weeks I have begun feeling like a normal person again.

    I’ve spent years chasing my tail trying to discover why I become dangerously anemic, chronically fatigued, plagued with muscle fatigue, fevers and chills, brain fog, dizziness, and dark urine and unpredictable movements. The longer I stay within the boundaries my doctor has given me for eating, the more each of these symptoms lesson and actually dissipate.  I peed clearly for the first time yesterday in as long as I can remember. I actually questioned myself if it was normal. I question myself everyday as I move forward wondering how simply deleting three items from my diet can make me feel better than I have in over ten years. It came without pharmaceuticals, vitamins & minerals, extensive testing, and numerous blood samples. It can’t be any worse for me than the crazy amounts of sugar I used to consume each and every day, but I guess only time will tell.

    As I struggle through the grocery stores searching for items that are sugar, dairy, and gluten free I couldn’t help but feel like there must be others doing the same thing as me and somehow if were able to connect and share discoveries, recipes, and successes than it would all seem so much more normal and less isolating. My husband has been incredible and dedicated to reading labels sourcing breads and recipes. A co worker who used to be a nutritionist has been a wealth of information and inspiration in letting me know that not only is this doable but it comes with incredible health rewards. My family has supported me in ways I never expected and some are joining me in changing the way we eat and consider food as something that enables our living not something we live for.  As I make my way forward I hope to share recipes, products, ways to order out when eating at restaurants that help others on this same path as me feel a little bit more normal.



  • Shareworthy

    With so much being posted, shared, and blogged it’s a wonder that we aren’t all on information overload. Being a contributor to posting photos, stories, thoughts, and quotes on various social networks, I rarely stop and ask myself if what I’m posting is “Shareworthy”. I often see or read something that ignites a spark inside of me and without hesitating my finger pushes down on the key sending the image or words out to the vast universe we call the internet having no idea where it will eventually land or who will read it.  I most likely know whose eyes will see what I forward on, write, and or share with the masses, maybe I’m not supposed to know. I’ve become addicted to the notion that if you find something that moves you whether just a few steps or thousands of miles ahead that it just might do the same for someone else.

    ded414e7dc8fb293d1444cc344a165f7We are all individuals having unique experiences, or are we? I remember being a teenager and often having the feeling that no one could possibly understand what I was going through and that I must continue going at it alone until everything worked its way out. As I became older and let my guard down, as I began sharing my thoughts and feelings out loud through conversation and writing, I realized that although we are individuals each of us all have something in common. None of us are truly going at it alone or nor will we ever be. We are all connected in this vast network of living called the human experience. There isn’t an emotion, struggle, or strife that someone else hasn’t or is experiencing in the very same moment you are feeling weighted by the world and all its opposing joys. Our burdens are the heaviest when we believe that we have to carry them on our own.

    If we are aware that there are others around us perhaps having a hard time getting things moving in their lives wouldn’t it make sense that we all feel inspired to pass along the Shareworthy items in life? If there is someone close to us that is having a hard time pushing forward from a place that we’ve been why wouldn’t we open ourselves up, let our guards down, and let them know that eventually their life will find a way of working itself out and the struggle and strife will weave itself into threads of a beautiful story. The most epic adventures told come from a place where the chips always seem to be down and trouble lurks around every corner. The only way to get past the troubles in life is to keep moving forward, taking the smallest steps at first till you have grown strong enough to leap from a place of uncertainty and doubt to one of strength and determination. With each small step you will grow stronger, wiser, and more loving to yourself and to others and that is where the magic of the journey begins to happen. It’s in loving yourself and others when life is at its most uncertain that you have the ability to grow the most, becoming who you were always meant to be.

    How do we know exactly what is Shareworthy these days and when it is okay to share and add to the endless swirl of information and images? If we won’t know who we are reaching and why then it requires an act of blind faith to listen to that little voice that guides your finger to push down on the key each and every time. For those of us who have been drawn to open up and share, we just need to remember that every season has a reason and we just happen to be one of them. To my new friend who seems to be parting a lot of Shareworthy information on me these days, thank you.