What Would Shonda Do?

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It started a few weeks ago when I was at my mommy group. One of the ladies had brought scones as a snack. I don’t know which woman brought them so I can’t say for sure, but judging by the Pyrex pan they came in the scones were homemade. As I ate my petite blueberry scone, I was completely in awe of the woman who made them. I mean seriously, who can make scones? No one I know makes scones; in all the pictures on Facebook and Instagram, I never see any of my friends baking scones. Scones are made by professionals, the bakers and pastry chefs, not the average person. 

I came home that day and had to tell Nick about the amazing woman, whoever she is, who can bake scones. I was so overwhelmed by her talent, I considered it newsworthy. He seemed less impressed. His only response was, “I’ve heard they’re not that hard to make.”

What?! This couldn’t be true. If scones weren’t that hard to make, more people would be making them. Needing to know if this was true or not, I went on Pinterest to investigate. 

I love to cook and bake, but I would never call myself an expert. At best, I consider my skills to be adequate. But as I scoured recipes, I couldn’t find anything difficult about making scones. It really did seem easy enough. 

So three days later, I made my first batch of scones. It was unbelievably easy! Literally, I can’t believe how easy it was. In less than an hour they were ready to eat (and that’s including having Milo “help”). 

  
It seems like such a silly thing, to conquer baking scones, but the experience really got to me. I couldn’t help but wonder what else in life I’m missing out on because I’ve written it off or judged it as hard or impossible. 

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes“, but I’ve read enough interviews to know the premise and realize I was having a Shonda Rhimes moment. What would happen if I had my own year of yes? What if when faced with something new or impossible I asked myself, “what would Shonda do?”

That’s my plan. To throw caution and assumptions to the wind and take on new challenges. I want to step outside my comfort zone and be willing to fail. Not every experience will have a happy ending like my scone experience, but I want to find that out for myself. 

What does a year of yes look like for me?

Well for starters, I signed up for an adult ballet class. I have NO experience with ballet and I hate dancing. But I need to be in a learning environment and there’s something about my 29 year old self learning ballet that I find amusing. 

  
I want to learn more crochet stitches. I’ve made dozens of blankets using only two different stitches because it’s all I knew how to do. Long ago I told myself I couldn’t learn more, but dang it I’m going to. 

I’m going to watch YouTube tutorials and finally learn how to apply makeup. I have little faith in this one, but I have to say yes to trying. 

And if I can work up enough courage, I just might give Zumba a try. But friends, that will take a lot of courage. We’ll see come December if I’m ready to tackle the beast that is Zumba.

I’m already having regrets about this. Sure my scones turned out great and my first ballet class was more fun then I could imagine, but not every experience will have such a happy ending. I’m going to run into failure and frustration. There will be things I try and truly dislike in the end. But my hope is to learn more about myself. To be known as the person who will try anything, even if it’s dancing. The best skill I may walk away with is the ability to laugh at myself in spite of my mishaps. But even that sounds like an entertaining year. 

A Year is Not a Moment

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I found out on Christmas Day I wasn’t pregnant. It felt cruel to receive that kind of blow on Christmas. A day earlier or a day later would have hurt, but not like that. Not the way it feels to have your heart broken on “the most wonderful day of the year.”

I felt the initial wave of grief for another failed month. But that grief became compounded when I realized here we were in the last week of 2015. The year had come and gone, but there was no child and no hope for one in the near future.

My year suddenly had a shadow cast over it. I felt the loss of the child that was never mine and the time that had gone by too quickly. In that moment, all I could see was what I didn’t have. And I allowed that to define my year and, to an extent, me. 

I sat in this grief for several days. We were with family, but I cried every stolen moment to myself. I felt so empty and overwhelmed with disappointment. But after a while, I felt desperate to feel better. The crying, the pity party, the agony wasn’t working for me. I knew I was only visiting this pain, but I didn’t know how to move on.

And then God spoke and the word He gave me was: stability. I reflected on my year in the lense of stability and realized what a gift God had given me. In 2015, we didn’t move or change jobs. There were no life altering events. Day after day, we settled into what life-as-usual looks like for our family. 

I needed that. I needed for things to stop moving so quickly. In less than 3 years time, I had gone from single to dating to married. From newlywed to new mom. From the place I had called home my entire adult life to a new, small town. From traditional work to stay-at-home-mom. These were huge transitions, and they made it hard for me to navigate at times.

Having another child is the deepest desire of my heart, but I think God knew better. I think He knew I needed a break from the big changes of life. I needed to find a comfortable place to plant my feet before the ground shook again. 

When I take off the despair, and the grief, and look at my year through the lense of stability, it was an amazing year. 

For the first time, I felt confident as a mom and especially as a stay-at-home-mom.

  
I developed such an incredible bond with Milo. He’s just so much fun; I feel lucky to spend my days with him. 

  
I’ve adjusted to being a pastor’s wife. I didn’t feel the same resentment when things like hospital visits and funerals popped up. 

I had an uninterrupted year of running. And it paid off…big. I came within seconds of beating several PRs and placed at every race I entered.

  
I learned to garden. And learned that I loved to garden. That was a big deal to me. I had never kept so much as a houseplant alive. But my garden thrived and I was so proud of being able to feed my family from it. 

   
 And there were so many more moments. Weddings, vacations, projects that added value to my year. I almost dismissed them all because I allowed my grief to cloud my judgment. My year was good. My life is good. 

  
Here’s to all the moments 2016 has to offer. 

Waiting

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I’ve started and restarted this post 3 times and still can’t find the right words. I know what I want to say, but it just doesn’t come out right. So I’m just going to say it. 


We have been trying to have another child for almost 10 months with no success. 

I’m worried that something is wrong and that I’ll never be able to have another child. 

I’m terrified that it will actually work and I’ll have to be pregnant.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am both scared that I can’t get pregnant and terrified that I will. 

For 10 months, I woke up afraid that it would be another day I would end up in the ER getting fluids. At night, I would lie awake in bed feeling whatever was left in my stomach creeping up my throat, ready to pour out if I so much as turned to the other side. 

Pregnancy did not agree with me and I’d be perfectly happy going on with my life never repeating it. But I have a little boy and I long for him to have a sibling. 

I have 2 sisters and they play such important roles in my life. The same goes for Nick and his 3 siblings. We both put such a high value on those relationships; I just want the same for my son. 

I want to try grocery shopping with 2 cranky kids. 

I want to referee their bickering. 

I want to feel suffocated as we all snuggle on the couch. 

I want to have children

I just don’t want to be pregnant. And I’m afraid God is listening to that fear more than anything else. 

And so I struggle between my desire for Milo to have a sibling and my yearnings to keep my body to myself. At the end of the day, Milo always wins. No reason can trump a sibling for him, so we keep trying. But every month I face the brutal truth that it’s just not working. 

And it’s hard. I wonder what’s wrong with me. I wonder why it was so easy the first time and seemingly impossible now. And every so often I sigh with relief, only because it softens the blow. 

Why was it so important to say all of this? Why invite you into this knowledge? Because I’m not alone. There are others out there struggling with the same fears, doubting if pregnancy is right for them, or unable to conceive. And while your story may be worse, countless miscarriages and years of trying, I think we can still grieve together. Because this is a vulnerable issue and it hurts at every level. 

But also because I’m selfish. I need support. Because one of these days I’ll get the news that it’s positive and the joy will soon give way to fear. And I don’t want to be scared. So maybe if we can be collectively happy when it happens, I’ll forget about the fears lurking in the shadows of my mind. 

One Year Here

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We have officially lived in Bartonville for one year. It’s crazy to even say that; it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. In fact, it’s probably been our slowest year given we didn’t have a baby, move, or make a job change in that year. A change in pace that I readily welcome. 

I love Bartonville. In many ways, it reminds me of growing up in Monticello. Kids play outside unsupervised and ride their bikes up and down the streets. Neighbors go door-to-door with extra produce from their gardens that their families can’t eat before it spoils. On brisk fall days when I have the windows open, I can hear the marching band rehearsing. I love it. 

My house is just the right size and I feel like I’m finally making it my own. Sure I’d love to have another room or two, but that’s not out of necessity, just the desire to buy more furniture. We also have the most amazing back yard. It’s big enough for a sizable garden and still lots of room for Milo to play. 

Yes, I love it here. I’m getting to know my neighbors (we even shared an hour in our basement with one neighbor as tornadoes blew past). In many ways, I have a sense of belonging to Bartonville. 

Except in our church. It’s been a really hard year for me in terms of life in the church. It’s not because I’m the pastor’s wife; many people assume our congregation would expect me to help on every committee and be a regular member of the United Methodist’s Women’s group, but they don’t. They give me a pass in all responsibility because of Milo. I’m the only mom (with a toddler) in our church. And that’s what makes life so difficult. 

They didn’t know what to do with or for Milo and me when we first arrived. For almost a year, I did my best to keep him occupied during the service. But as he grew more mobile and independent, it became a meaningless attempt. We would inevitably end up in another room, isolated. That made wanting to come to church incredibly difficult. I spend most of my days alone with Milo at home, there was no need for me to come to church to spend the hour in the same way. 

So for about a month I quit going to church. All I could say to Nick was that I needed a break. I needed to not going through the routine for a little while so that maybe I could return with some sort of renewed strength. In my absence, Nick put together a sign up sheet for nursery volunteers. The response was less than overwhelming, but we did get a couple of volunteers. 

I returned to church and started dropping Milo off in the nursery. He loved it; every Sunday has tears as I try to get him to leave the room and toys. I was hoping this would be the solution, that my desire for church would return, but it didn’t. I couldn’t even fake it; Nick commented on it the second Sunday of Milo being in the nursery. 

The truth of the matter is I just don’t belong. I’m the only female under 50. But I also just don’t like the service. Sigh.  I said it. I don’t like going to my husband’s church. 

I have felt so much shame over this. I want to be the wife who lifts her husband up, who supports him, who wants to worship with him. But if I came to this church once on my own, I wouldn’t come back. I don’t like the traditional prayers and response times, I don’t like having an organ as the only instrument, I miss the sound of others passionately worshipping next to me. I miss the contemporary church. 

But I couldn’t admit it for fear of failing as my husband’s wife, for fear that it meant I was really cut out for him. I couldn’t admit it for fear of what it might say about Nick as a pastor that his own wife doesn’t want to come to church. And I couldn’t admit it for fear that it made me a weak Christian. Isn’t the devoted one able to worship under any circumstance?

I felt so ashamed, I did nothing about the situation. I thought that it would be like exercising, the more I showed up the stronger I would get. Only I didn’t get stronger, I just became resentful. 

Nick suggested that I find a church that better fit my needs and demographic profile, but my ego was too large for that. I couldn’t admit defeat, but also what if I left and then God’s plan for Bartonville wasn’t fulfilled? I had believed that I was part of our calling to this place, so by abandoning it was I not admitting I wasn’t necessary?

But it got to be too much to bear. I felt separated from God and longed to be brought back into the fold. I missed singing a song in church that stuck with me for days. I missed the flooding sounds of instruments that washed over me in worship to God. And I won’t get that at Bartonville. 

So this past week we tried out a compromise; we attended a Saturday night service at a Peoria area Christian Church. It was exactly what my heart had been longing for. And it wasn’t just for me, this gave Nick an opportunity to worship where the spotlight and responsibilities weren’t on him. It gave us an opportunity to worship together. It also gave Milo an hour to play with kids his own age, something we can’t get enough of. 

So that’s the plan. Saturday nights as a family at a different church. I still come to church on Sunday mornings, mostly as a symbol of support for Nick. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that God doesn’t need me to do big and amazing things in our community.

It’s important to me to acknowledge that, even though I couldn’t find my fit at Bartonville United Methodist, I dearly love the people there. They have been kind and generous to me and my family. I love seeing them on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights at our house for small group. Since Nick took over as pastor, there has been a revival in many of the people and the church as a whole. I felt a void that BArtonville couldn’t fill, but that is by no means a judgement on the church itself. 

My Garage of Good Intentions: Milo’s Chair

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Last fall I completed two projects from my garage: the hutch and the dresser. As winter rolled in, I said good bye to the idea of getting anything else done. I spent the colder months snuggling on my couch with a warm beverage and dreaming about what I would do when it finally warmed up again. That time is now upon us. 

I knew I wanted my first project of the year to be Milo’s chair. I’ve been storing this since about August. My mom and sister had come to visit our new house and I took them to the Habitat Restore. I can’t remember if I was looking for anything specific, but we had just moved from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 3 bedroom house. I’m pretty sure I wanted anything to fill my newly acquired space. 

That weekend they had 50% off all furniture. Now The Restore has great prices anyways, but when furniture is 50% off you better believe I’m not leaving without buying something. I’m sure what I wanted at the time was a couch. I got something better: a chair for Milo. 

  
It’s not the most beautiful piece of furniture. In fact, it was the Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree of merchandise. They didn’t have it with the rest of the sofas and chairs, it was tucked away in a corner. So unloved they were practically giving it away with a price tag of $10. Yes, $10 and that was before the weekend discount. 

I saw so much opportunity with this chair. I mean, I didn’t want that chair in my house. But that chair with new upholstery could be amazing. I had seen tutorials on Pinterest figured it would be easy to tear the thing down to bare bones and give it new life. 

My mom insisted on buying it for Milo. Even if it had been the full $10 I’m sure she would have bought it. But at $5, we pretty much robbed them. 

I put the chair on the backburner because there were easier and more urgent projects to complete. At the time, Milo was 7 months old and not even crawling. He didn’t need the chair any time soon. I’m glad that I was patient because it gave me a chance to show my mother-in-law the chair. Now many of you don’t know my MIL, but she knows everything related to interior design. When I told her about my plans, her response was “I recently read how you can paint upholstery. I can send you the link if you’d like.” So she sent me the link and I watched the video. I was definitely intrigued, especially because it would require a much smaller skill set. I made my mind up that painting was the way I would go, and just needed spring to come so I could get started. 

The plan was for the chair to go in Milo’s room. It would be his own special place to sit and read. I would have bought either a dark brown or black paint, something neutral that would go with anything. But I had to ask myself, “What would Nick do?” He would buy something bright and colorful, so I settled on a blue. 

Now I’ll be honest, I went with a cheap Walmart paint. I’m aware of the Annie Sloan paint and that I probably good have gotten even better results with it, but I wasn’t willing to pay Annie Sloan prices on my first project. Especially one for a toddler who is going to stain this thing like crazy. 

I won’t go into a tutorial, you can learn from the masters at Better Homes and Gardens if you’re interested. But I will give some pointers: when they say wet the fabric, they mean get the darn thing wet. Chalk paint is thick and it doesn’t spread easily without water. The idea of watering my canvas was so foreign, I was really shy on the water the first coat. I learned the second time around. 

Another thing I thought was crazy: sanding the fabric between coats. Again, the first time I was so timid. I’m not sure if the sandpaper actually touched the chair. But sanding actually makes the fabric smooth, so put your elbow into and don’t be afraid. 

  
I had pictured this perfectly blue chair. But between buying a really light color to paint with and not using proper technique, I got a chair with a little more character. I still couldn’t be happier. I think it looks eclectic, which is totally my style. 

Along the way, I also had a change of heart about where it would go when it was finished. The first time Milo saw the chair, he got this big grin and climbed right up in it. I realized how important it his to give him his own space, something to claim as his own. So even though it throws off the rest of the room, Milo’s chair is in the living room. For the first time when we’re all hanging out, Milo has his own place to sit. Although, Milo doesn’t actually sit very often. So he has his own chair to climb on and hang off of. 

  
This project was really good for me. I had to admit to myself that I’m just a beginner and wouldn’t get perfect results. I made some mistakes, but nothing you wouldn’t expect when trying something new. I’ll get better at it, I just need more practice. 

Enjoying the Change

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I’ve gone through one complete training cycle since deciding to not run marathons for the near future. I’ll admit I was anxious, and a bit skeptical, about the change. But with a few months under my belt, I’m a believer and am actually enjoying myself. I wanted to transition away from marathons in order to get faster and be able to spend more time with my family. So far, I’m accomplishing both.

For one thing, this spring has been crazy for us. Milo had 3 double ear infections in a row, which resulted in him needing surgery to have tubes put in. In just 1 week, Nick had 4 funerals. 4 funerals in just 7 days! It was madness. I don’t know how we kept our heads above water, much less if I had needed to go out for a 20 mile run. I definitely felt like I had better home/running balance only training for a half marathon.

But I say only training for a half marathon as if it were easy. Joe kept my workouts challenging and sometimes exhausting. What I had been running in high mileage, Joe was making up for with high intensity. The result: I’ve had 3 really great races so far this year. I’ve been really proud of all 3 races (a 5k, 10k, and half marathon) and not just because I showed up, but because I was fast. Like who-I-used-to-be fast. I feel like I’ve made more progress in the first couple months of this year than I did of all last year.

  
And I still have plenty of time to be wife and mom to my family. I’m not spending as much time running, and I also don’t feel as spent from running. My recovery each day has been better than that of my previous marathons. Which means I still have plenty of energy to chase my son around the yard all day, which is important because he wants to be chased all day.

I’m also finding my mentality is changing. I used to run so aggressively every time I laced up my shoes; there was always an expectation or pace to meet. (It’s important to say that these expectations were false notions in my head, Joe has been trying to reign me in for a long time.) I’m finally slowing down and enjoying my recovery runs. I have days each week where I get to run for running’s sake and not to beat the clock. For the first time, I put together my jogging stroller and took Milo out running. We loved it! It was a moment of motherhood I finally got to see realized. And Milo loves any excuse to be outside. I would strap him into his seat and give him one of his balls (we don’t go anywhere without a ball), then I’d take off. The only peeps he’d make were to talk to the dogs barking at us. He never whined, never cried, never implied we needed to go home.

  
I feel like for the first time in years, I’m getting to have my cake and eat it too. There’s balance and recovery built into each week, but also progress. So I’m going to stay in the half marathon camp a little longer, but I’ll be ready when it’s time to step back into the marathon

A Weight has been Lifted

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For the first time in years, I look in the mirror and feel confident about what I see. It’s easier to pick out clothes because I’m not worried about concealing my extra weight. It’s gone and so are the feelings I shame I carried for so long.

I can’t blame my weight issues on being pregnant; I had gained it all long before Milo. You can see it in my engagement picture and how round my face was:

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Sure that was before the baby, but I had just had two foot surgeries and was unable to run or workout for several months. It was to be expected that I would have put on weight after all that. Except here I am several months before the foot surgeries and in the midst of marathon training:

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This feels so humiliating. I am a runner. I train for marathons. I was a personal trainer, my job was to help people lose weight and all the while I couldn’t control my own. These pictures make me want to cry. I should have never looked like that. Not when this was me just years before:

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Whatever. That is in the past. I’m healthy again. I’m confident again. I’m running fast again. The old me is gone, never to return.

And she won’t. Because there are lessons I’ve learned. Mistakes I’ve made that I won’t repeat.

My life was unstable. I had no idea where my life was going or what I was doing. The gym where I was working was sucking the life out of me, but I had no idea what to do. So I drifted, I worked at 4 different places in 2 years. That was so much stress on me mentally and emotionally.

I dieted. I feel like there should be a slogan “friends don’t let friends diet.” Honestly, diets are the worst. When I was running my best, I ate some form of grain at every meal. Every meal. Then came the hatred on grains. I hadn’t even started putting on weight yet, but so many voices were saying grains would make you fat and so I cut them out. That was one of the biggest mistakes I made. When the weight did start creeping on, I panicked and tried everything out there. I did the protein shakes, I did the detox, I did the elimination diets. And the only thing that accomplished was adding more pounds. I wasn’t giving my body what it needed (fuel) and so it waged war against me. The more weight I put on, the more I told myself I couldn’t have certain things, and the more often I binged.

I made myself workout more. If I would have stuck to the plan my coach made for me, I would have had time to rest and recover. But I equated resting with getting fat. So I added in extra strength training sessions. I spent my lunch breaks on the elliptical. I tried to keep moving as much as possible because what I was doing wasn’t enough. But just like when you don’t give your body fuel it causes weight gain, when you don’t give your body a break it can lead to weight gain as well. The body uses fat as protection, so when I was giving my body an all out assault and not properly eating, it tried to protect itself with a nice layer of fat.

My pregnancy was actually the best thing that could happen to me in terms of losing that weight and regaining a healthy relationship with food. For one thing, I had to let go of my restrictions on what is acceptable and unacceptable to eat. There were times I was so sick, the only thing that mattered was what I could keep down. So if French fries would stay down, they were the healthiest thing I could eat. And eat them I did.

And of course nothing kickstarts weight loss like breastfeeding. Because breastfeeding is powered by fat, I easily lost all of baby weight and then some in the first couple of months (thank you, Milo).

But now I’m far removed from my pregnancy and the initial postpartum stage. At this point, my body is a reflection of me; of what I put in my body, of how hard I train, and of how well I rest and recover. I can tell you, I eat chocolate on a daily basis. I love a good pub burger and fries. And I eat an average of 3 bowls of cereal a day (for real, I love cereal). And I look great. Food isn’t my enemy, I don’t have to work hard all the time, and my mental and emotional state is so much more stable.

I still can’t look at pictures of myself without feeling awful about what I did to myself. But I’m trying not to dwell on it. Instead I look at this, my present self who is kicking ass and looking great:

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