Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I'm doing it...

Maybe it has never even occurred to you guys to wonder why I suddenly decided to change my life. 
Maybe you're all healthy people who have always eaten well and exercised consistently. And so maybe the fact that this whole journey has been so significant for me is completely baffling to you.

But maybe not.

I've always maintained that my ability to make healthy choices is controlled by a (metaphorical) light switch. When it's flipped on, I've got more self control than I know what to do with. And my willingness to make one good decision motivates me to make another, and another, until it eventually becomes a habit, and the decision isn't even really a decision anymore.

 photo 49912986-E5FD-43D7-B5F4-B1F330CD8FCA.jpgAnd when it's flipped off? Well, I have zero self control or motivation. I eat what I want, when I want. I crave sugary and salty things like it's my job, and I tell myself that it's okay to have them in whatever quantities I desire. Five donuts? Sure! A whole package of Girl Scouts Samoa cookies? Awesome! Exercise isn't even a blip on my radar.

So the question for me—and maybe for you—becomes this: how can I turn the light switch on again? What will motivate me to be better?

I wish I could answer that question for you. I obviously can't. You and you alone know what will compel you to make a real change.

But I can tell you what did it for me. I can tell you what made me put It Starts with Food in my Amazon basket and click "Place Your Order."

I had an unhealthy relationship with food.
Plain and simple. I loved it too much. I still do, to some extent. I don't have that thing that makes me want to put something delicious down because I am feeling satiated. If a little is good, more is even better. I needed to find a way to reset my brain in a healthy way. To help me learn to crave the things that are good for me and to break the ridiculous sugar cycle I was on.

I like a challenge.
I'm not really the kind of girl that is continually pushing myself to be better, though I wish I was. But I do occasionally like to put myself to the test. I wanted to see what I was capable of with respect to my health. Turns out, I'm capable of a lot more than I thought.

I want to live longer.
The way I was eating would have absolutely led to health problems for me down the road. I was already morbidly obese, tired all the time, and ridiculously out of shape. Who knows what might have happened if I had continued on that path.

My husband is really, really, ridiculously good looking.
I don't mean this the way it sounds. Micah has been the most supportive, incredible husband no matter what size I've been. But I have eyes and a mirror. And I have also heard, "Oh my gosh! Your husband is HOT!" more times than I can even count. It's definitely the truth, and I always love hearing it. But what I'd really love is for him to hear, "Oh my gosh! Your wife is HOT!" for once. Not for my sake (although it would be pretty fabulous to hear), but for his.

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I'd like to make it to one dress size and stay there.
It's expensive re-stocking my closet every time I lose/gain weight.

I've got to fit into my wedding dress by next August.

I want to set a good example for my daughter.
This was probably the most motivating thing for me. I want her to see her mom as healthy and strong and active. And I can't manufacture that impression; it has to come from her own observation. So digging in and becoming the real deal was the only real option.

I want to look good naked.
I know you feel me on this one.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

A day in the life of a working mom...

5:30 a.m.  The alarm goes off. I press snooze, of course.

5:39 a.m.  The alarm goes off again.  

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I lament the fact that I am not, in fact, heading to New York and remind myself to change the title of my alarm so as to avoid this disappointment in the future. I check emails and scroll through Instagram because I fell asleep at 8:30 last night and feel so off the grid. I hate and love technology.

5:55 a.m.  I crawl out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, throw my hair in a ponytail, and grab a work-appropriate maxi dress because I'm not in the mood for pants today. Micah tells me all about the most ridiculous dream he had the night before and I laugh at how creative he must subconsciously be (because he's definitely an engineer on the outside).

6:15 a.m.  I gather everything I need for breakfast and lunch and decide to make a smoothie because it sounds delicious.

I also get Grace's stuff together, including more diapers for daycare and an extra outfit because she used what was in her cubby yesterday after a blowout. I kiss Micah as he heads out the door with Grace's things in hand so he can put them in my car for me.

I make Grace a cup of milk and quietly open her door. As I'm digging through her drawers to find some shorts for her to wear today, she starts to stir. We sit and snuggle and drink milk and read books for a little while. She screams bloody murder when we have to stop and get dressed. I force her unruly hair into a half-pony and add a bow. And a kiss for good measure.

7:05 a.m.  We get loaded up in the car and head to school. 

Traffic sucks, so I get into the HOV lane to save some time. I sip my smoothie and throw on my makeup at stoplights.

7:50 a.m.  We pull up to Grace's daycare and I can't resist snapping a picture because she looks like such a big girl today. 

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I walk her into her classroom, sign her in, and try to set her down so I can leave.  Not happening at all.  We read a book together, but she's still not ready for me to go.  Her teacher sweetly picks her up so I can sneak away.  She catches me and pouts as I walk out, but I hide outside the doorway for a few seconds, and she giggles as I finally let myself walk away.  She will be all smiles when Micah picks her up this afternoon.

8:05 a.m.  I pull into the parking garage at work and remember that it's my secretary's birthday.  I'm so bad at things like this, so I walk straight to the ATM, withdraw some cash, and purchase a card at my building's only store.  

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I'll order her some cookies and ice cream from Tiff's Treats when I get to my desk.

8:15 a.m.  I throw my stuff on my desk, slice my hard-boiled eggs, cover them with Louisiana Hot Sauce (which I store in my desk because I'm obsessed), and eat the rest of my breakfast while I check emails and order Jan's cookies.  I'm really running behind today, so I finish quickly and get to work.

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12:15 p.m.  It's definitely time for lunch. A co-worker and I head to our favorite lunch spot in town. She orders nachos, and I dutifully order the shrimp salad (which is fabulous). I sneak in two chips.

1:25 p.m.  Back to work. I'm writing a quick brief today, and it's taking every ounce of willpower I have to stay focused long enough to write it. I'm so ridiculously scatterbrained.

4:45 p.m.  The brief's almost done, when I hear one of my work friends coming down the hall. She has been out of town, so we haven't gotten to process together the fact that our other good friend is leaving the firm. It has been a hard couple of days for both of us, but it's so good to be reminded of the wonderful relationships I have with the people I work with. It truly is a blessing, and we will greatly miss our musketeer.

5:15 p.m.  I grab my laptop and head out the door. On the way home, I call a girl who has been recommended as a replacement for our cleaning lady (who just up and moved to Waco without even telling me). We arrange to meet tomorrow to discuss logistics and details.

5:50 p.m.  I walk through the door and hear music playing.  Micah and Grace are having a dance party, and it's adorable. Micah already fed Grace her dinner, so I start pulling out the things I need to make what's on the menu tonight: shrimp salad. Ha. I grab the shrimp I cooked the night before, plus the dressing I made earlier in the week. I chop the tomatoes and avocado, throw it all together in the bowl, and tell Micah that dinner is served.

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For the first time in awhile, we eat dinner on the couch while Grace plays with her toys on the rug in front of us.

Grace and I all walk out and grab the mail, and then we come inside and read for a little while.

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I truly have no idea why she's wearing two bows.

6:50 p.m.  It's bath time! I run the water and wrestle Grace's clothes and shoes off. I plop her in the water and Micah comes in, and we both spend this time with our sweet girl.

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We try and do most things with her together because she prefers it that way. And so do we.

After bath time is over, we wrap her up in a fluffy towel and attempt to get her diaper and PJs on. We have to bribe her with a book.

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It's time to start winding down for bed. Micah brings in her milk, and I smile because I know it's my night to put her to sleep. We usually fight over who gets to do this part because it's so sweet.

We crawl into her rocker, and she drinks her milk. Then she wants to wrap her arms around me and snuggle.

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She points out my eyes and ears and nose and mouth. She talks and giggles, and I have to tell her several times to lay back down so that she'll snuggle up close again.

7:30 p.m.  I see her eyes getting heavy, so I pick her up and lay her down in her crib. I cover her with her favorite blanket (the one my mom made her) and rub her back for a minute. As she begins to close her eyes, I tiptoe out of the room.

I walk into the kitchen and see that Micah has finished picking up dinner and the debris from the tornado Grace created during their dance party. He's such a wonderful man, and I'm so thankful he's so willing to pick up my slack when work gets crazy on days like today.

I throw six eggs in a pot and start them to boil for breakfast the next couple of days. I start my computer up, just as Micah does the same. We don't usually have to work in the evenings, but tonight we're both in for another hour or so of clicking away at our computers. I finish my brief and send it to the partner I'm working with, while Micah does something water- or soil-related. When we finish, we finally get to sit together for a minute and talk about the day. Mine was hard. So was his.

8:50 p.m.  The bathtub beckons. So I run the water and grab the Pottery Barn catalog that has been sitting on the counter for the last few days. It was probably driving Micah crazy.

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I relish these moments. Being alone for just a little while, washing away the day. Micah comes in after a little while, and we laugh about the funny things Grace did that day. She's so hilarious. And dramatic.

9:30 p.m.  After I'm sufficiently relaxed and sleepy, I dry off, slip on an old t-shirt, comb out my hair, and go through my skincare routine. Micah's already in bed because we're old. I plug in my phone in. Then I crawl into bed, kiss Micah goodnight, and shut my eyes.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A life update...

I've got a wicked case of writer's block, friends.  My inability to formulate any coherent thoughts might have something to do with the fact that I've spent the last three weeks pouring every shred of brilliance mediocrity I can muster into a brief for work.

But that's done now, and I'm still incapable of writing anything significant.  So how about a little life update, instead?

Gracie is still adorable (as you may have surmised). 

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She is getting the funniest little personality, too. She's this amazing combination of happy, sweet, silly, sensitive, and self-assured. She knows her own mind, but she is definitely a pleaser.  She's obsessed with shoes. She'll dance to just about anything. She's saying new words every day.

She still adores the occasional nap with Mommy.

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This age is just incredible.

Micah and I are doing great, too.

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I'm a full-fledged Paleo convert now, and I'm still really loving it. I strive to eat clean about 85% of the time and definitely still allow myself the occasional "cheats." But the amazing thing is that it doesn't feel like cheating anymore.  It's just... normal, regular, everyday life. I eat what I want, when I want. And because what I normally want to eat is clean, I feel ZERO guilt when what I want to eat are the chips and queso from my favorite Mexican restaurant or a cupcake (or three) on my birthday.

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The weight is still coming off, albeit more slowly than when I was doing the Whole30 (which is a much more strict version of the Paleo diet, and I HIGHLY recommend it as an intro to the Paleo lifestyle).  I'm down 20 pounds since June 22nd. And more than that, I'm feeling really good. Healthier than I've been in a really long time, and more energy than I know what to do with.

But I won't keep beating you guys over the head with this.  Just know that if you're looking to make a change, I'll be happy to be a cheerleader for you.  I really mean it.

Let's see... what else?

We're still hoping to make it to the Outer Banks, North Carolina sometime this fall, but my work schedule is making trip planning difficult.

We've been spending lots of time with family lately, which is my favorite.

Oh! And I'm working with a ridiculously talented blog designer on a new look for this space. I can't wait for you all to see what she's working on...

So that's what we've been up to: making the most of the end of summer and getting excited for what's to come.  What have you been up to?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Stuff and things...

First thing's first.

Stop everything you're doing right this second, go to my Instagram (@mrshargrave), and watch the video I posted of Grace last night.  It's the cutest thing you'll see all day, I promise.  (And if it's not, you're maybe a little dead inside.)

We spent this past weekend driving down to Houston (well, the Woodlands, really) for my friend's sweet boy's first birthday party.  It was our first road trip with Grace, and it went about as well as could have been expected.

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She slept a good chunk of the way there and back, and she dropped her paci and screamed bloody murder a few times.  And of course we had to stop to change a dirty diaper.

But it was a fun, little getaway, and it was so wonderful to see Jennifer and celebrate Niko's special day.

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Also, I accidentally opened a birthday present from Micah.  (I turn 29 tomorrow.  What a strange, sort of nothing age it seems to be.  Not yet thirty, but squarely outside the realm of my mid-twenties.  Weird.)  I had seen these mugs on Pinterest and emailed the link to him awhile back as a joke (he does not share my love for all things HP), and lo and behold, the man bought them for me!

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I guess it's official.  I'm a keeper.

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After bath time last night, we all snuggled up in Grace's room and read books until it was just absolutely time for bed.  These days, I can't get enough of these two.  Grace is at this stage where every freaking thing she does is adorable (except when she's screaming about something... not so adorable).  And Micah is as wonderful as ever.

And, look, I realize that I sound like I'm shooting unicorns and rainbows out of my rear all the time.  Believe me, there are hard days.  Days when I want to pull my hair out, days when bedtime can't come fast enough, days when I ache for the chance to sleep in -- even if only until 7:30.  But those very same days are still filled to the brim with happy.  With the most incredible, exquisite, heart-filling happy I've ever experienced.  And for me, that tends to overshadow the struggles.  I focus on the joy because I think life's just better that way.  That has always been who I am at my core.

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So understand that I'd never attempt to paint you a picture that isn't the truth.  You're just seeing my own perspective reflected back here, with the blessings spotlighted... just as they are in my heart.

If you've got stuff and/or things you'd like to share today, you should absolutely link up with Kristin.  She's the

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All the stuff...

Most of the time, I buy a bunch of stuff that I love and then forget to share it with you guys.  But sometimes, I remember that I'm a blogger and that I should share the love.

These are some of the things I'm loving recently.

2014 08 12 Loving Lately

Coola Organic Classic Sunscreen. Maybe you guys aren't getting old yet, but I am.  I've got fine lines creeping up on me, and I'm more aware than ever that I'm not 18 anymore (hallelujah! but also boo!).  So I'm all about the sun protection, and this stuff is amazing.  It doesn't break me out or make my makeup look ridiculous, and it smells delicious.

Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer.  I've shared before about how I highlight and contour my makeup, and I had been using a cheap Maybelline concealer to highlight that provided nice illumination but zero coverage (still a great option if you don't want to break the bank).  The lady at the makeup counter at Ulta talked me into this concealer from IT Cosmetics, and I adore it.  It's got quite a bit of coverage, which is good for highlighting, and it stays put.  It's pretty pricey, but you don't need much at all (I use, like, half a pea size amount to highlight my whole face), so it lasts forever.

Clark's Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream.  I've probably already told you guys about this stuff.  It's stupidly expensive and has a distinctly marine smell, but I use it as my nighttime moisturizer every other day, and it does wonders for my skin.  It's a great splurge.

Dolce by Dolce & Gabana.  Delectable.  That is all.

Suave Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo.  Y'all.  Dry shampoo is the bomb diggity.  If you're not using it to either (1) extend days between shampoos or (2) pump up the volume, you're really missing out.  I used the Ojon Full Detox forever, but the smell is lame, and it's expensive.  Cara recommended the Suave version, and I can't get enough.  It's the cheapest stuff I can find, and it works just as well as anything else I've tried.  Plus, it smells amazing.

Vinylux Weekly Top Coat.  I'm really hard on nail polish, but this stuff keeps my at-home manis lasting longer than most other top coats I've tried.  Also, it gives a nice sheen.

Julep Lip Gloss.  I got, like, four tubes of this stuff when I was a Julep Maven for a split second.  (I cancelled because I'm pretty picky about beauty products, and I like to switch up brands quite a bit.)  I really like it because it's pretty glossy, lasts awhile, and doesn't taste offensive.  To the extent you come across this stuff somewhere, give it a shot.

Laugh with Me LeeLee.  A sweet friend at work keeps a bottle of this on her desk, and I've been in love with the smell for a couple of years now.  I finally broke down and bought a bottle to keep at mine.  Ain't no shame in it.

So that's what I'm digging on lately.  What are you guys loving?

*None of the links in this post are sponsored or are affiliate links.  I am completely and totally unimportant to these companies.  Just wanted to share about some products that I really like.  Over and out.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The beginning of it all...

Because it's Friday, and because I'm feeling extraordinarily reminiscent today, I wanted to share one of my very favorite posts from when I first started blogging.  It's a letter I wrote to Micah about the night we first met.  If you haven't been reading here very long, you may not know that I met my husband in seventh grade. This post is the first chapter of our love story.  I'll share the rest next week!

"I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you. You had me mesmerized."
- Brad Paisley, Then

Micah Lee,

Do you know how often I think back to the night I first met you? The images come to my mind like a photograph. It was 1998, and I was standing in the sanctuary at the First Baptist Church of Josephine. I still went to Wylie schools, but my parents were moving us out to the country and thought going to church in Josephine would help me get to know everyone. I had no idea I'd end up meeting my future husband there in that small church.

It was the last night of vacation bible school, and I was too old to participate. So I sat with Lauren, the only person I knew there, in the sanctuary, just watching the bible schoolers sing and dance. You were standing there on stage... holding a puppet and singing along with everyone else. You were SO cute. I'm pretty sure you stole a small piece of my heart there in that moment. I leaned over and asked Lauren who you were. She told me you were just a sixth grader, and I was a little disappointed that you were younger than me.

But the crush developed anyway. How could I help myself? Your blue eyes truly were mesmerizing, and I loved how quiet and shy you were. I loved how you stood up on that stage and captivated me. You and that puppet.

I couldn't know in that moment that you would stand on that same stage, ten years later, and captivate me once again. That I would walk down the aisle in a white dress, holding my Daddy's hand, and see nothing but your face. Our wedding day is such a blur to me, but I will always remember that moment, seeing your face as I walked down the aisle. I'll remember looking at you and wondering how I got so lucky, wondering why in the world the adorable boy with the puppet picked me.


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stuff and things...

I've been meaning to link up with Kristin for her awesome "Stuff and Things" Thursday link-up for awhile and figured today was the perfect day to start.

I was having a conversation with my aunt yesterday about eyebrows, and it reminded me that I have been intending to do a whole post about how I fill mine in to make them look fuller and frame my face.  But in the interest of not boring you all to death, I figured I'd just show you why I do it via selfie.  And why you probably should too.

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My right eyebrow (that's left to you) was filled in with an Anastasia Brow Wiz pencil (in soft brown), while the left eyebrow (right to you) was left naked.  Ooh la la!

Now that I've started filling my brows in, I feel like I look so unfinished when I don't.  It's certainly something that can be taken overboard, but I love that it seems to frame my face and allows me to create a more refined arch.  Anyway, that's my PSA for filling in your eyebrows.  Try it sometime!

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Micah and I are contemplating taking a trip somewhere on the east coast in October-ish.  I'm hoping to find a place with a secluded beach (preferably rocky AND sandy) where I can read, Micah can fish, and we can eat delicious seafood.  I've got my eye on Maine, the Carolinas, and possibly even Florida if I could find somewhere that wasn't super touristy.  

Do you guys have any favorite coastal towns we should look into?

Also, I hosted a small baby girl shoe sale a couple of nights ago on Instagram.  There are still a few pairs of really adorable shoes left (mostly in the 4-5 range) that Grace never wore because her feet are too darned chubby.  So in case you weren't already inundated with the pictures in your Instagram feed (so sorry!), go check them out. (You can find me @mrshargrave).

Lastly, this is what I came home to the other night as Micah was supposed to be feeding Grace dinner.

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Happy Thursday, friends!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Confessional Friday...

One.  I confess that the flight I thought I booked for Monday to Rochester, New York was in fact headed to Rochester, Minnesota.

. . . 

I don't even know, y'all.

I didn't discover my idiocy until we were halfway there on a layover in Chicago, so I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with American Airlines' customer service (even though I was in the airport... so bizarre) trying to get the reservation adjusted.  The worst part about it was that a co-worker was with me, and she had just booked her flights to match mine, so I screwed her up, too.  (And the bag she checked that went to Minnesota and then New York and finally back home to Dallas.  Yeesh.)

Needless to say, we carved out some time during our four-hour layover in Chicago to get chair massages.

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Two.  I confess that my breakfast this morning consisted of two bowls of Special K, 3 pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, 5 peanut butter M&M's and, like, 3 pieces of licorice.

Ha.  Just kidding.  (Please tell me I'm not the only person who can still recite nearly every line of Clueless.)

I really had two hard-boiled eggs with Louisiana Hot Sauce on top, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a bowl full of kale with olive oil and lemon dressing, and a handful of cherries.  And I liked it.  I don't even know who I am anymore.

Three.  Speaking of who I am anymore, I took a bathroom selfie at work today.

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Awkward as always.  But as I was going back to try and find "before" pictures for this post and having the hardest time doing so, it struck me that I need to be better about capturing myself as I am.  Because although I still feel so far from where I'd like to be, this process isn't just about the destination or the end result -- it's about the journey.

And I love myself for who I am today, not for who I hope to become in the future.

The girl I am today still has flabby arms, thick legs, a post-c-section tummy that will never ever look good in a bikini, and more junk in the trunk than I know what to do with.  But I love her just as I loved the girl who could barely button a pair of size 22 jeans, and just as I will love the girl who (hopefully!) slips into her old wedding dress with ease come next August.

Plus, I am incontrovertibly beautiful in His eyes no matter what size I am.

Four.  You know who else is beautiful?

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// onesie // bows //

This kid.  She brightens my world in the most spectacular way.

Five.  I confess that I finished my friend Joey's book, Yeah Maybe in one night because I just couldn't put it down.  It was a very fun read, and I'm more proud than I can say of Joey, as I know how hard she's worked and how much of herself she poured into this labor of love.  You did great, friend.  So very, very great.

Got a burning secret to confess?  Come link up with A Blonde Ambition and spill!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Whole30 Review...

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Guess what day it is?

It's day THIRTY ONE of the Whole30.  Which means I survived thirty days of no sugar (natural or artificial), no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no soy, and no legumes (beans).  It's a freaking miracle, y'all.

I'm betting you guys have questions, so I've done my best to answer them, but if there's something I missed, feel free to comment or email.  I'll be glad to tell you anything you want to know about this crazy adventure I've embarked on.

Q:  What is the Whole30?
A:  Go here.  It'll tell you everything you need to know.

Q:  If you can't eat sugar, dairy, grains, soy, or legumes, what did you eat?
A:  Lots and lots of protein and vegetables.  And fruit.  Spinach and I became fast friends, and I constantly had slow-cooked chicken in the fridge for nights when I didn't feel like cooking.  I fell in love with roasted vegetables and got downright giddy when I saw Greek salads with shrimp on the menu at restaurants (minus the feta, of course).

Q:  Did you lose weight?
A:  Yes, I definitely lost weight.  I did break one huge rule of the Whole30 by weighing myself daily, but I made a promise not to let any fluctuations on the scale deter me from the course.  And there were definitely days where it was hard to keep that promise.  But my total weight loss over thirty days made up for it.

I lost 15 pounds.

Which puts my total pounds lost since the day I delivered Grace right at 85 pounds.  Insane.

I'm the worst blogger in the world, so I forgot to take before pictures, but here are a few full-body shots from before I started the cleanse.

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And here I am today.

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And lest we forget where I started from, here I was the day after I gave birth to Grace.

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I am absolutely a work in progress, but I'm proud of how far I've already come.

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Q:  Tell the truth.  How hard was it really?
A:  Truthfully, the self-control thing wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.  But that's probably because I'm a rule-follower.  If I was the kind of person who could be okay with moderate amounts of cheating (i.e., BALANCE), I wouldn't even need a program like Whole30.  But I'm not there yet (though I hope to be someday).

That's not to say there weren't days like this one where I literally had to sit on my hands to keep myself from reaching for the biscuits and gravy.  And the banana cake.  But that's because they were staring me in the face.  After the first week or so on the program, the sugar and carb cravings really did disappear, so I didn't even really remember what I was missing unless it was in front of me.  And because I knew that all the bad stuff was off-limits, it just got easier and easier to say no to it.

It was trying to find compliant foods at restaurants that was the true challenge.  You feel like a high-maintenance jerk asking for your food to be prepared in a special way, and it's embarrassing to have to explain to every person you dine with why you're not eating the chips and queso (especially now when our firm is filled with summer intern such that I'm eating out most days).  But I found a few places where I knew I could find something, and I frequented those quite often.  (If you're in the Dallas area, check out HG Sply (a paleo-inspired restaurant that is INCREDIBLE), Kozy, and, of course, Mr. Mesero.)

Q:  Did you ever cheat?
A:  I accidentally had soybean oil at Chipotle and organic coconut nectar without knowing it, and once I literally only had one option for protein at a plated, two-hour luncheon where I was starving.  It was a small scoop of chicken salad (with some sort of mayonnaise I have to assume wasn't homemade), and I ate it.  Technically, I should have started over.  There was no way in heck I was starting over.  Other than that, I made my very best effort to be completely faithful to the plan.

Q:  What were your go-to meals?
A:  For breakfasts, I usually scrambled 2-3 eggs with a few handfuls of spinach and added some hot sauce (like Frank's Red or Chalula) or mango salsa on top.  One week, I made up a huge batch of Nikki's sweet potato hash, but I noticed that my weight loss seemed less consistent that week, so from now on, I will probably only eat it 2-3 days a week, max.  It's still my favorite Whole30 recipe, though.

For lunch, I usually did some version of a salad with chicken or shrimp and an olive oil vinaigrette.  One of my favorite restaurants has an amazing salad with bibb lettuce, hearts of palm, avocado, shrimp, and a lemon vinaigrette.  I ate that quite a bit.  I also made up a chicken salad with homemade olive oil mayo and avocado and herbs which was fantastic on top of spinach with some fruit mixed in.

For dinner, we did many of the recipes in It Starts with Food, including the curry bowls and stir fry.  I wasn't a huge fan of the ground beef scrambles.  I also tried this coconut chicken recipe that was atrocious, but I think it's because I put the limes in with the peel still on (per the instructions), so the whole thing was bitter.  I want to try it again with squeezed lime juice instead.  We also loved turkey burgers with various things on top.  My favorite was probably my last turkey burger with fresh mango salsa and avocado on top on top of a bed of spinach with cherry tomatoes and plain ole' cherries.  So, so delicious.

You're not really supposed to snack, but sometimes I had to have a little something to get me through to the next meal.  I usually went with fruit, but in a pinch, the Apple Pie/Banana Bread/Coconut Cream Pie Larabars were fantastic.  After the chicken salad fiasco, I always keep an emergency bar in my purse in case I get stuck somewhere with no healthy food options.

Q:  Where will you go from here?
A:  This week, I'm reintroducing all of the foods that I eliminated last month one at a time so that I can evaluate whether they make me feel yucky or not.  Today was dairy, so I added some shredded cheese to my eggs this morning, a creamy masala sauce to my Indian chicken and salad at lunch, and spicy queso to my shrimp and veggies at dinner (and for the record, I'm feeling like crap tonight).  I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy it or that I'm not really looking forward to trying grains in a few days.  But once I finish with that, I plan on continuing to eat clean for as long as I possibly can.  I won't schedule in any cheat meals, but if I stumble across something delicious that feels worth cheating with, I will absolutely indulge every once in awhile.  Because life's just too dang short not to.

And I'm sure I'll venture off the path after some period of time, but the beauty of the Whole30 is that you can always do another one if you feel like you need to hit the reset button.

So there you have it.  Way more than you ever wanted to know about my eating habits for the last thirty days.  But maybe some of you have been sitting on the fence about your health.  Maybe you're like I was and have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Maybe you want to be more intentional about what you put in your body. Or maybe you just want to kick those sugar cravings and afternoon energy crashes to the curb for good.  If so, this post was for you.  If you're ready to make a change, I say give the Whole30 a shot, and I pinky-promise to be a cheerleader for you if you need one.  See if it will change your life the way it changed mine.  You'll never know what you're capable of unless you try.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I am enough...

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Some days I feel a heap of pressure to go and do and experience.  I make to-do lists of activities for my daughter that rarely get accomplished because of work and dinner and baths and bedtime.  And then the working mom guilt wraps me up tight because I don't have sensory bins created from scratch and scheduled play dates.

I constantly wonder if what I am is enough.  If what I have to offer my daughter is enough.

Because try as I may, I know I'll never be the kind of mom who relishes in scheduling our lives out in thirty-minute increments.  I'll never find joy in a full calendar.  I'll always be a fly by the seat of my pants kind of parent.

And sometimes I believe the lie that the things I do with Grace are more important than the simple act of being with her.

But then I take a minute to reflect as I watch her kneeling down in the grass to run her fingers through the earth. And I catch a glimpse at her face as her Daddy scoops her up and spins her around like a princess. 

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And I remind myself that we're doing okay in our own way.

These lazy afternoons that we spend together aren't significant to anyone but us.  No one's going to rush to pin or re-gram or share any of these moments with three hundred of their closest acquaintances.  But these memories are etched in my heart along with the giggles and smiles and kisses that created them.

And these ordinary moments are what make my life extraordinary.  

So I suppose they are enough after all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shine, Jesus, Shine...

I've been typing and backspacing this sentence for the last ten minutes, trying to say it in a way that's different from me just coming out and telling you all that my uncle Clay has cancer.

But there you have it.

He was diagnosed a little over a month ago, and he put week two of chemo in the books yesterday.  

This cancer stuff is heavy, friends, and my heart keeps breaking for my sweet aunt and uncle.  These two have been a huge part of my life since I was a little girl, begging them to let me come stay the night so we could cook stir fry in their wok.  They've both always gone above and beyond to make an impact in my life and in the lives of everyone around them, and watching them have their world flipped upside down this way has been excruciating.  

But God is already working big things in the midst of their struggle.  The cancer is very treatable, and the prognosis is much better today than it was when they first found the mass that is compressing his aorta and doing damage to his kidney.  

They've both been so faithful and steadfast and so quick to give Him whatever glory can be found in this storm.  Uncle Clay has made "shine, Jesus, shine" his mantra, and he is making himself less so that God can be more -- a true feat given that my uncle is a very tall man. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to solicit your prayers for my sweet family once again.  You are always so faithful in your encouragement, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

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Alright, Jesus.  Our eyes are on You.  Come on and shine.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New York: Day Three

Remember that time I went to New York with my mom and blogged about the first two days but completely forgot to post about the last one?  Yeah, me either. ;)

In case you've forgotten where we've been so far, go here to read about Day One (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and the High Line) and here to read about Day Two (9/11 memorial, the financial district, Little Italy/Chinatown, tea at the Plaza, WICKED!).

{Day Three: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center} 

The only thing my mom felt really strongly about doing in New York was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Art is her thing (though it is definitely not mine), and I wanted to be sure we'd have plenty of time to see everything she wanted to see.  So on our last full day in New York, we got up and had more bagels, and then headed straight to the museum.  I adored the stroll through the upper east side -- the buildings were beautiful (as to be expected), and everything was bright and cheery.

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When we got to the steps at the entrance to the Met, I had to stop and snap a touristy picture of Mom.

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... and then I did the same thing once we got to the Monet water lily paintings, which were her favorite.

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Since I'm not super artsy, most of what we saw was completely lost on me. But I did really love the Van Goghs...

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... and the Faberge...

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... and the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass.

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For lunch, Mom grabbed a hot dog and I got a gyro from the street vendors at the Met entrance, and we ate on the steps like true tourists.  There was a live band playing for tips, and we had such a great time soaking up the sunshine and listening to the music.

After lunch, it was time to head to Central Park.  If you're new around here, you probably wouldn't know that strolling through Central Park (again) is the very first item on my 30 Before 30 list.

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Crossing it off was so wonderful, as Central Park is one of my favorite places on the planet.  I can't explain why, but it just feels magical to me.  So we spent a lot of time there and covered a lot of ground.

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(Belvedere Castle)

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Our next stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral, which I had been dreaming of seeing again since my first trip to NYC.  Unfortunately, the entire thing, outside and in, was covered in scaffolding for restoration.  It was such a letdown, especially I had been telling my mom how beautiful it was.  But we saw it, scaffolding and all, and it worked out perfectly because our roundabout trek there ended up taking us through some fun, little, quiet places.

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(Grand Central Station)

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(Taking a much needed Starbucks break)

Plus, as we were headed back down 5th Avenue, we spotted the signs directing tourists to the Observation Deck at the top of Rockefeller Center.  This was something I had put on our "hope we can do while we're in NY" list, and we had the time, so we decided to go up.

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I'm not sure why I envisioned that we'd just hop on an elevator at our leisure and head straight to the top of one of the tallest buildings in New York without a hitch, but I highly underestimated what a tourist trap the whole thing was.  First, we waited in line to buy tickets (for a certain time, which meant we had to sit around and kill time for 20 minutes).  Then, we waited in line to go up a couple of floors to the real line, where we sat for about 45 minutes, zigzagging through various videos about NBC and Rockefeller Center.  Then, just as we got to the front of the line to head up the elevator to the top, two guides came out and told us that they'd be issuing refunds for everyone because the visibility from the top was down to nothing because of the rain but that we could still go up anyway if we wanted to.


Since we were leaving the next morning, I told my mom that I wanted to go ahead and go up.  Because why not?

So we did.

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And it was totally worth it.

Granted, we had to elbow our way to a window so we could get a peek (the majority of the "deck" was enclosed, and the rain made going outside unpleasant (although I did it!).  But whatever.  It was amazing to see the city from this perspective.  (My mom probably doesn't agree since she's afraid of heights, but she was such a good sport about it anyway.)

After the Rockefeller Center debacle, we were seriously spent.  We headed back to the hotel for a final afternoon nap (glorious, by the way).  For dinner, I had hoped we could score a last-minute reservation somewhere delicious, so I surveyed my Facebook friends for a recommendation.  Unfortunately, everything that was suggested was booked, so we ended up at a casual (but LOUD) Thai place by our hotel.  It was good, but not great.  But the fabulous company made up for the mediocre food. :)

After the utter failure at Times Square the night before, we had planned on going back so that my Mom could see it all a little better.  But she looked at me during dinner and just said, "I wouldn't be sad if we just went back to the hotel and had a quiet night in, but I'll go back if you want to!"  I had never heard more beautiful words in my life, so we packed it up, hightailed it back to the hotel, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

As we were getting all of our stuff gathered to head to the airport the next morning, I started feeling all sappy about what a blessing it was to have been able to spend so much uninterrupted time with my sweet mom.  It had been a long time since we had traveled together, and I had forgotten how much fun we have.

I love you so much, Mom, and this trip meant the world to me.  Thanks so much for coming along and for making such incredible memories with me.  I can't wait to go back in ten years with Gracie and show her the magic of our New York.
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