Motherhood is what you make it.

Shortly after I had my first baby I was at a family event where I overheard my aunt (I have a million so this doesn't call her out) talking about motherhood with a fellow veteran mom. Both women had raised large families. "These new young moms these days really need to quit complaining and just get to work. Yes, motherhood is hard work, but you do it and you survive."

At the time I rolled eyes and considered her part of the problem. When I became a mom it was NOTHING how I expected it to be, or how people portrayed it. I felt almost victimized and definitely alone. Why didn't anyone tell me this gig was so hard/exhausting/thankless? How was I not warned that I might not feel fulfilled and full of bliss as I spend my days caring for the tiny people I made? Why did all the mothers out there not send their condolences when I joined this new club and began my complete identity crisis? I concluded that I must be the only person feeling this way. Everyone else loved motherhood and everything that came with it, I was just broken.

Then came the rise of social media. As I remember it, at first it made me feel even worse. So many beautiful mommy bloggers with perfect bodies and perfect hair and perfect children and perfect homes and perfect style. It should be noted that I saw them in this personally threatening way because I viewed them through my scope of complete insecurity. So here I was hating myself and my life, barely scraping by, and these women were building empires, raising children, and looking magazine level perfect while doing it. Again, I must be broken.

As it turns out, I wasn't broken, and I definitely wasn't alone. Quickly social media started to fill with different views on motherhood. It became trendy to be "real." Messages of no sleep, no praise, and complete loss of self to motherhood began to be shared. They ranged from comical "kids are the worst" and "mombie" jokes, to more serious discussions about motherhood truly feeling impossible to survive. I took heart in these new themes. They get me. Solidarity. Somehow just knowing moms around the world were also locking themselves in their bathrooms to hide gave me strength to carry on. But now I fear, like most internet movements, it has gone too far.

We have painted this picture of a mother as a worn out, exhausted, anxiety ridden, maxed out, shell of a woman who hates her job. Sure we toss in how important and beautiful it is occasionally, but mostly we complain and discuss the oh-so-many struggles we face. I say we because I was first in line to lead this movement. MOTHERHOOD IS HARD, WHERE IS MY TROPHY!? We don't get weekends, we don't get vacations, we don't get hot food, we don't get sleep, we don't get a lunch break, we don't get to shower in peace, we don't get a paycheck! Where can I march in my protest? There are two main problems with this.

First, it leads us to believe that living in a constant state of being at your breaking point is normal. It isn't. Even for moms. Moms definitely have to go into "survival mode" more often than others perhaps, but life should feel manageable. If you are hiding out daily, exhausted to the point of crying for months on end (we all have our days, that's normal), and regularly feeling like you just can't handle your deserve to get the help you need. Periods of insanity happen in life, regardless of your parental status, and sometimes you just have to fight through it one moment at a time, but being a personal disaster and labeling it simply as "motherhood" is not ok. Sometimes it feels as though if we aren't barely scraping by, we aren't doing enough. "You feel at peace and stable? You must not be a very invested mom or ambitious enough in life. Sign up as room mom and start your own business or do something to push you to your max!" We need to stop this competition of who can do more and sleep less.

Second, it makes us focus on all the wrong parts of motherhood. Reading a funny meme about how it takes your kids twelve years to get their shoes on can definitely bring some much needed comic relief and solidarity to your day, but scrolling through post after post of people complaining about their lack of sleep or never ending to do list or their kid's latest tantrum can really bring you down. As I like to say, where are you holding the magnifying glass? Does motherhood have some bummers? Yep. Please, show me a job that doesn't. If I complained about the parts of my job I hate the way I complain about motherhood I can assure you I would be fired. Above that, the more I complain the more I am focusing on those negative parts to the point where the negative is all I can see.

I think there is a balance we can find. It is important to share the struggles of motherhood. Through connecting with others going through similar things we can lift each other up, and understand we are never alone. When we cross that line and go beyond constructive sharing and enter into constant whining and complaining however,  it not only ceases to be productive, it destroys our motherhood.

Let's all just calm down. Motherhood is important, yes, but it really isn't about us. We have managed to turn motherhood into a self obsessed job, when really it was never intended to be about us. I realized recently I have spent years trying to figure out MY place in motherhood, how it made ME feel, how I struggled with it, to the point that I had completely forgotten that it has nothing to do with me. Motherhood doesn't owe me anything- not fulfillment, not joy-nothing. It is however, my responsibility. I chose it. I sat on the couch after a particularly dark day surrounded by my children. I had been stressed with things like money, my work, my success, and how I was being perceived all day. As I sat there I looked at the little faces of pure innocence. They know only kindness and acceptance. The know only love. All the worries of the day immediately washed away and I was consumed with gratitude that my motherhood allows me to be surrounded with literal perfection around the clock. This isn't about me. So maybe my aunt was right, I just need to do the hard work of motherhood.

I realized my motherhood can be my burden, the thing that keeps me from my dreams, or it can be my gift, my light. The choice is entirely up to me.

The Problem With the Pizza Tee

You know the ones I'm talking about right? Pizza is Life, Pizza is Bae, or There's No We In Pizza, put on a trendy top. So cute/funny/amazing right?! Sure, unless you're fat.

All the size 2's parading around proudly singing their junk food obsession are welcomed by society as adorable and funny. Put that same top on someone overweight, and suddenly it's awkward, and they should probably get some help.

Because you see, eating whatever you want is totally on trend, as long as your body doesn't show it.

I see it all the time, especially on social media. Skinny, beautiful people advertising their soda addictions, and passion for everything from burgers, to pizza, to sweets while everyone laughs along and tells them to carry on. Meanwhile, when an overweight person does the exact same thing they get labeled as unhealthy, lazy, and lacking self-control. The SAME behavior!

The truth is eating pizza is just as unhealthy for the skinny person as it is for the fat one. If you are truly, sincerely concerned about health issues only, then slap the pizza out of both their hands. They could both use a veggie in its place. But it isn't really about that, is it?

As long as we keep promoting the fallacy that you can eat whatever you want as long as you stay skinny, the more we push people into eating disorders, food obsession, over-exercising, and self- loathing. We've got to take the focus off skinny, and put it on healthy.

Momiform Must Have

Let's take a little breather from feeling all the feelings and talk about something frivolous how about. I'm no fashion blogger (I bow down to those who are) but I do enjoy styling outfits for my kids and I the best I can. I've got expensive taste and a Wal-Mart budget, but I try to make it work. As much as I love to look at all the high end stuff, my reality is mom life. I need my clothes comfy, and to not cost so much I cry when they get stained. I am a bargain hunter, deal seeker, and clearance rack guru. My style is really basic and simple, because that fits my life.

Recently I splurged on some sneakers. I found them here, and it took weeks to convince myself they were worth the investment (I'm cheap. Like really). Anyways I knew if I was going to take the plunge I needed them to be worth it. They needed to be a staple. It helps me if I can envision the item styled several ways, in different scenarios, so that I really know I will get the use out of them I want. Nothing makes me more crazy than hating something I buy ten minutes after I bring it home and leaving it to die in the back of my closet. SO. I bought the shoes, and they have exceeded all my expectations! I wear them every single day, and my feet are in heaven.

Here you have it, one pair of shoes four different ways. This is a very small sampling of the outfits I have paired them with. They have been my happiest purchase in a long time so why not share? It should also be noted all these pics were taken by my five year old while we went about our normal week's activities. It should also be noted that I definitely feel silly and self-absorbed posing at the park and making my child photograph me. Taking pictures of your mom is the millennial(is that what generation our kids are now?) version of the old, take out the trash chore perhaps?

Well, there's my first shot at fashion blogging ish. I guess the takeaway here is to invest in the pieces that you will get the most wear out of. It is worth a little more money to get something that will last and become a staple. The even bigger takeaway... wear sneakers every day because comfort.

My husband is a lucky man.

I am a public supporter of top knots and mumus. Without fail every time I make a public push for women to embrace mumu life and messy hair, I get the "your husband is a lucky man" and "wow your husband must love that" comments practically dripping with sarcasm. I might respond with a laugh and move on, but inside every comment throws another log on the fire of rage inside. I mean, let me get this straight... my appearance in pajamas is so awful that you literally feel sorry my husband has to see me that way? Or is it that as a wife, dressing in a sexually stimulating manner and being perfectly groomed at all times is somewhere in the fine print of my job description that I failed to read? And please tell me why men are not held to this same, "must look hot for your spouse" standard? Do you feel bad for me when my husband wears basketball shorts and a stained tshirt around the house?

 There have been times I have felt sorry for my husband for having to be married to me. Times full of darkness, depression, and emotional withdrawal. I felt unworthy of his love and commitment. I felt like a complete burden he had to carry. In these times I really felt like the lucky one. Things have changed now, and though I still think I married up, I feel like I do my best each day to be the partner my husband deserves. Not a single day in my life however, have I felt my worth as a partner depends on my appearance.

Let's see. Every day my husband heads out to a job he loves knowing that his children will be loved and taken care of while he's gone, and it won't cost him a dime. Being a stay at home mom has caused some serious resentment issues for me (another post, another day), but we came to this decision together. For now, for this season, it is what works for our family. Even so, the luxury of freely working to be successful at work while having a thriving family at home because your spouse is there taking care of it cannot be discounted.

When he comes home from work it is common to find me sporting a mumu and messy hair. it is also common to find a nutritious meal on the table, happy kids full of stories about their day, and a wife comfortable enough with herself to rock that mumu without a thought about the fact maybe she doesn't look sexy in it.  It is common to find laundry done, the pantry stocked, and kids who have had adventures that day. It is common to find me happy to see him,

My husband has a wife who likes herself. A wife who obviously wants to be found attractive, but respects him enough to know attraction goes deeper than the mumu she is wearing. He has a wife who takes care of herself in ways a mumu might not reflect, but her peaceful, happy attitude does. He has a wife who is working hard to be well. He has a wife who when all dressed up, does it for herself rather than to impress him or others. He has a wife confident with herself and her opinions, creating a strong partnership in their marriage. He has a wife who is content. He knows the mumu means nothing other than that she likes to feel comfortable.

So yeah, my husband is a lucky man, thanks for noticing.

Toddlers are all of us.

There is no toddler problem that isn't intensely amplified by hunger or fatigue. There is no toddler problem that is too small to warrant a full blown melt down. Toddlers have limits, and fall apart when asked to go beyond them. The thing is, when we are completely honest and self aware, I believe we are all toddlers.

We live in a world where the more you do the better you are. The glorification of busy, as they say, runs the world. Hustle. Work harder. Say yes. Do more. But at what cost? The necessity of regular food, rest, and down time is not unique for toddlers. There is no magic age where we suddenly become super human, no longer requiring proper, basic, care. The problem is we are all internal toddlers trying to function in a world that has no respect for boundaries or limits. 

So many of us become the worst versions of ourselves when we are tired, hungry and overwhelmed. So why do we do it? Why do we over schedule ourselves, take on too much, and never slow down? Why do we push ourselves to our breaking point before realizing maybe something needs to change? I believe it is from the pressure of a fast paced world. It feels necessary for success. But what success really matters if you are a miserable human barely scraping by? 

Taking naps, saying no, and making meal times a priority are seen as weak or even selfish, but only because you're an adult. You should be able to handle it. This whole mentality is false. We cater to toddler schedules and needs because we know they need it to be able to function. This need is NO different in adults. The only difference is that you aren't allowed to fall into a sobbing heap when you're hungry as an adult, so it comes out in different ways. The need is the same, so when it is not met the impact is spilling out somewhere else. Adults have tantrums, fits and meltdowns of their own kind. The craziest part of all of this is that a lot of the miserable people in the world could drastically improve their quality of life by basic self care. By knowing their limits, and respecting them. 

We are human. We require food regularly and adequate sleep. Circumstances make these basic needs hard to meet sometimes, but too often we use life as an excuse to not take proper care of ourselves. You need a nutritious lunch just as badly as your toddler, so find a way to eat one. Changing these seemingly insignificant things and making the most basic self care a priority will change your life. it has been a big part in fixing mine.

Food Prep Day Schedule

I always get fired up for my big monthly food prep day. I love keeping all the work and all the mess confined into one day, and then being able to enjoy healthy food with very little effort for weeks. Here is a general schedule of what my food prep day looks like.

I always do all my grocery shopping a day or two before the day I prep. Doing shopping and prepping in one day is possible I guess, but sounds exhausting to me, I prefer to break it up. I also like to clear my schedule as much as I can, stay in sweats, and just bust it out. My kids get to watch a movie on food prep day, which is really exciting to them, and I also try to have play dough and stuff ready to keep them busy. AND I actually include them in a lot of the cooking. Teaching kids how to prepare REAL food is a good, good thing. My last tip is to always cook the best smelling thing last, so it leaves your house smelling great instead of blegh.

 I jump up and get the first thing going before I even eat breakfast, then typically by lunch I am almost done. While one thing is in the oven you prep the next thing so that there is always something in the oven. Make use of your crockpot, dutch oven, oven, and pot at the same time.

  1. I always get the salmon and tilapia soaking in lemon juice first.
  2. Get the pork shoulder going in the crock pot.
  3. Get salmon in the oven.
  4. Prep chicken thighs to be oven ready.
  5. Get tilapia in the oven,
  6. Get a soup going in the dutch oven. If doing two different soups get one started in another pot as well.
  7. Get chicken in the oven.
  8. Finish soups and allow to cool.
  9. Cook the ground turkey on the stove top.
  10. While everything is cooling assemble any other freezer meals you are doing (enchiladas etc.)
  11. Portion and prep everything for the freezer.
  12. DISHES
  13. End with granola.banana bread,muffins etc.
  14. While the yummy smelling stuff cooks I do all the washing and chopping of produce.
  15. DISHES
I like to do all the meat prep and then start a load of dishes and really disinfect all my surfaces. Then I move on to the baking/chopping type prep. Generally I run the dishwasher three times on food prep day. I also generally always have pork should for dinner on food prep day because it takes until dinner time to cook. We eat it, then I portion out and freeze the leftovers.

I can't even explain how this process as simplified my life, changed the habits of my entire family, and set me up for success in healthy eating. Trying to serve some complex, exciting healthy recipe every night caused quick burn out. "What's for dinner?" is no longer the stress inducing question it once was. I could go on and on. I hope these posts have been helpful. It has taken months for this to come easy and fit in my life naturally, so don't get discouraged if it feels hard at the beginning. You will find what works for you. Happy prepping!

Cooked veggies and grains

I cook my veggies and grains almost exclusively in my rice cooker with the steamer tray. You can get one for yourself here.


This is a good time to remind you that I keep things simple. There are a million ways to make vegies more exciting and delicious, but I have found how I like to eat them while keeping it simple. On food prep day I wash and chop a lot of this stuff so the day of I can just toss it in the steamer/oven. Cooked veggies stay good for 2-3 days in the fridge so its only every few days I have to even cook them.

Broccoli/Cauliflower/Carrots: I simply fill the veggie steamer tray of my rice cooker with chopped veggies and let it do the work for me. I used to prefer baked, but I have found I can eat more if it is steamed. Plus I HATE the smell of baked broccoli.

Summer squash/butternut squash/brussel sprouts: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop squash and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

Spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stab squash with a fork a few times and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for one hour. Remove squash and allow to cool a bit.Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Using a fork, pull out all the strands of squash and place in a skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Saute over high heat for a few minutes until the squash begins to dry out and get a little crispy. Baking it first makes it so much easier to cut in half then tackling the hard raw thing.

Mushrooms: I always buy whole mushrooms and chop them myself because you get more for your money. Simply saute chopped shrooms over medium heat to your desired softness. They cook down quite a bit, so cook more than you think you need. They also create a lot of their own oil, so no need to prep the pan with oil.


Quinoa, rice, potatoes and oatmeal. My tips here are to buy a rice cooker, add an extra cup of water to make it more tender, and to use jasmine rice if you want better leftovers. Oh, and I use instant oatmeal and a microwave every morning. Fancy. I also just microwave my potatoes/sweet potatoes. Stab them with a fork, cook four minutes, flip, another four minutes and you're all set.

The rice cooker is SO nice because in two seconds you have your grain and veggies cooking themselves without even having to check on them.

Salad, fruit, and smoothies OH MY!


Who doesn't love a salad bar? Having everything washed, chopped, and prepped will make choosing a salad an easy choice.

Lettuce: I buy the big pack of romaine hearts from Costco, The key for me is to finely chop the lettuce so the pieces are small. This makes it way easier to eat. Wash and chop the whole pack and place in gallon sized ziplocks.

Veggies: This really varies according to your tastes, but I always keep cucumbers and carrots on hand. I chop them small and store them in containers in the fridge. I will add other seasonal veggies but these are the musts,

Other toppings: I like to keep hard boiled eggs, shredded cheese, craisins, corn(open the can and dump it in a container for easy access), nuts, and croutons (my kids will eat anything if croutons are involved) on hand. Keep everything in easy access containers so that tossing it together is as easy as opening a bag of chips.


This is sort of an obvious one, but I love keeping a variety of fruit on hand. The key here is to have stuff washed and chopped so its super easy to choose over other snacks. I can't tell you how many pineapples have gone bad in my life simply because cutting it felt like too much work. Getting it all done at once is way easier than cutting it in the moment you want it. We eat a lot of berries, pineapple, apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes. We eat it plain, but my whole family also loves tossing it together with some Greek yogurt and granola. My favorite "clean" granola recipe can be found here.


Smoothies are my favorite way to get my kids to eat a lot of good stuff. This green smoothie is an afternoon snack go to around here. I shared the recipe over here a bit ago.

Protein Prep: Salmon, Tilapia and Eggs

FISH! There is so much good stuff in it. Put it in your rotation!

You will notice I don't use any oil or butter. I like it without so I see no need to add the complexity to it.

Salmon filet- I get the big fresh one from Costco
Lemon juice
Lemon pepper seasoning (I love Trader Joe's)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place whol
e filet in a bowl and cover in lemon juice. Let is soak for 10-20 minutes. I find this helps cut that "fishy" flavor. Place filet on a cookie sheet lined with foil and coat generously in seasoning. Place in oven and immediately lower the temp to 225 degrees. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Cook time will vary depending on filet size. The fish will easily flake/pull apart at the grain when done.

Allow fish to cool then place individual portions in sandwich size ziplock bags to freeze.


8 tilapia fillets
Lemon juice
Lemon pepper seasoning
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fillets in bowl and cover in lemon juice. Let soak for 10-20 minutes. Place fillets on a foil covered cookie sheet lined with foil and coat generously in seasoning. Cook for 30 minutes.

Allow fish to cool then place individual portions in sandwich size ziplock bags to freeze.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Place desired amount of eggs in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Place a lid on and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils turn off the heat but leave the covered pot on the burner. Allow to cool, strain water, and store eggs in fridge.

Protein Prep: chicken, turkey, and pork

I have protein three times a day. It isn't always in the form of meat, but having a freezer stocked with cooked, portioned meat drastically simplifies day to day meal prep.

Chicken Thighs

Thighs have more fat than breasts, which not only makes them taste better to me, but I feel they also retain flavor and moisture better when frozen. I buy boneless, skinless thighs at Costco. They cost more than breasts, but the drastic difference in taste is worth the money for me. I have also prepped breasts this same way and it works just fine, I just don't love the taste. 

8 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste (I also love Trader Joe's Every Day Seasoning when I remember to have it on hand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare cookie sheet by lining with foil and placing a cooling rack on top of the foil. Lay out the thighs on the rack. Generously coat with salt and pepper.

Place in oven for 20 minutes. 

Take out, flip the thighs, season the other side.

Cook for 20 more minutes.

Allow thighs to cool, then portion them out how you like. Place individual potions in sandwich sized ziplock bags and place in freezer.

It really is that easy.

Ground Turkey

Basically everything that calls for ground beef I substitute ground turkey. It is cheaper, and helps if you are watching your red meat intake. I most often season mine like taco meat, but I also love it with curry powder. I eat mine plain with my veggies and grain, but it could also make a great salad topping.

2 lbs ground turkey
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Mix all the seasonings together in a small bowl. Brown the turkey on the stove top then drain the juices. Dump in 1/2 c water along with the seasoning mixture and simmer until water is absorbed, stirring regularly.

Allow turkey to cool, then portion it out how you like. Place individual potions in sandwich sized ziplock bags and place in freezer.

I admit this isn't my favorite of the meats I prep, but it is cheap and adds variety.

Pork Shoulder

Hands down the easiest, cheapest and most versatile meat. I eat mine prepped as I will list below, but I often add BBQ sauce to my family's to change things up. We also make carnitas with this meat, which I will share another time. I buy the large pork shoulder cut from Costco then cut the big hunk into 5 smaller portions, wrap them in plastic wrap and place each one in a gallon sized ziplock. I prep one of the 5 smaller chunks on food prep day then stick the others in the freezer to grab and cook individually throughout the month when I need it. 

2 lbs pork shoulder (this is a rough estimate, but exactness isn't necessary)
salt and pepper
2 onions, quartered
2 tbsp minced garlic
water (you can also use broth but water is free and always on hand)

Place pork in crock pot and coat generously with salt and pepper. Place onions around pork. Add garlic. Slowly add enough water to almost cover the meat. Think ice berg, with only a small portion of the meat above the water level. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-5. It can remain slightly pink when done, but will easily pull apart with a for when done.

Use tongs to remove all the pork from the liquid. Allow pork to cool, then portion it out how you like. Place individual potions in sandwich sized ziplock bags and place in freezer.

To Use:
Every night I grab the portions I need for the next day and move them from the freezer to the fridge. They thaw over night and you simply microwave as normal to reheat them when the time comes. Mission protein accomplished! Tomorrow is salmon and tilapia! See you then!

Simple food, simple life: FOOD PREP INTRO

Let me start by explaining my philosophy behind food prep. If you are looking for the most delicious recipe for the best meal you have ever had, this is not for you. If you are looking for simple tips to get healthy food on your plate three times a day, you are in the right place. I love fancy food blogs with complex yet delicious recipes, but I just can't maintain that level of effort. I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and throw in the towel. I don't love to cook, and complex menu planning is really just setting myself up for failure.  Clean eating burn out is REAL. Our world is all about pleasure seeking and the food we eat is no exception. The fallacy that every meal you eat needs to be the best you've ever had needs to be put in check. The bottom line is that you need food to live. Food is fuel. Don't get me wrong, I like my food to taste good, and I sincerely feel that it does. But in order for me to feed myself and my family healthy food consistently long term, it has to be easy. Here is my guide to successfully stocking a fridge/freezer well enough that healthy options are always readily available, with little effort on your part. I will share what I keep on hand and how I prep it. There is definitely a learning curve but I can honestly say now prepping this way feels effortless. Food is ready when I need it and I don't live in the kitchen.

Food List: What I prep and keep on hand.

  • hard boiled eggs
  • string cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • plain greek yogurt 
  • washed and chopped fruit (berries, pineapple, melon etc.)
  • salad bar supplies (washed and chopped lettuce and veggies ready to grab)
  • granola
  • chicken thighs
  • pork shoulder
  • ground turkey
  • tilapia
  • salmon
  • potatoes/sweet potatoes
  • jasmine rice
  • assorted veggies to steam/bake

Getting Started: Supplies

Aside from groceries there are some tools I really rely on. My kitchen is tiny and not well equipped, but that's another perk of simplifying, Keeping food close to its natural form and preparing it in basic ways doesn't require a lot of fancy stuff. 
  • Gallon sized, quart sized, and sandwich sized ziplock baggies.
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • foil
  • cooling rack
  • Various sizes of containers. I like this set. I use containers for fruit and veggie prep, not for prepackaging whole meals for a week, I like my food to feel fresh.
  • Rice cooker with veggie rack. This one is my FAVORITE. Being able to prep a grain (quinoa/rice) while steaming veggies by the flip of one switch is a huge time saver. You don't have to watch over it like on the stove top, freeing you for other things. Like life. #teamstayoutofthekitchen
  • Stove top dutch oven. I bought this one for Ryan years ago and it continues to be my FAVORITE kitchen item I own. There is no end to what I use it for. Carnitas anyone? I also love it for soups, frying, and literally anything I can think of to cook on the stove. Seriously I'm obsessed with it.
  • Crock pot. Nothing fancy,
  • Knives. You can spend a lot of money here, and maybe someday I will get to... but for now this set is serving me very well. I chop a lot folks.

Procedure: How I do
  • I prep all my meat in one day, then portion it out into individual servings. I put each serving in a sandwich sized ziplock bag and stick it in the freezer. Every night before bed I pull out what I plan to eat the next day and allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge, then I simply microwave it to warm it up when I am ready to eat it. I have found chicken thighs, pork shoulder, salmon, ground turkey and tilapia all freeze quite well. They taste fresh and great when reheated. 
  • I wash and chop lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers and put it all in containers and ziplocks so that making a salad is as simple as dumping stuff in a bowl. 
  • I wash and chop fruit for easy snacking, or to use with yogurt or granola. Again, making it as easy to grab something healthy as it would be to bust open a bag of chips.
  • I wash and chop veggies in preparation for baking/steaming. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, all breeds of squash, and mushrooms I am only willing to eat a day or two old. This means I am having to cook them regularly, but by having them chopped and ready all I have to do is toss them in the oven or steamer and I am set. 
  • I also usually make a few pans of enchiladas and a few soups to have on hand for my family. I freeze these and pull them out the night before to reheat the day of. 

Stay tuned this whole week for all the specific recipes and details for each category of prep. Here is the line up:

  • Chicken, pork and turkey
  • Salmon and tilapia
  • Salad bar in your fridge, fruit and granola parfaits, and green smoothies
  • Cooked veggies and grains
  • Food prep day schedule

The disease of more.

*A lecture to myself, so when I say "you", I am actually talking to myself.

I put a full plate in front of my two year old for lunch. She glanced at it and before she had even taken a bite she yelled, "more please!" It stopped me for a moment and I had to ask myself, how often do I yell for more when I have a full plate right in front of me? I have struggled learning to find sincere gratitude for what I have, and to not allow what I lack to destroy my happiness. I also know my tendency to always want more of anything good. If it makes me feel good, I want more. As the wise Britney Spears sang to me in junior high, "I can't get no satisfaction." (calm down, I know The Rolling Stones sang it first, but my loyalties remain with Brit.) Always wanting more destroys your ability to develop gratitude, and in turn kills all potential for lasting peace.

When you always want more, you don't see what you have. Focusing on the deficits in your life creates such a vacuum of negativity. You literally become blinded to all good, because you manage to turn it into bad. Sure it's fine, but it could be better. No thing, person, or experience is ever enough. Cue the downward spiral of relationships. People thrive from feeling like they are enough, like they are truly accepted. You aren't able to give them that approval when you only want more. 

When you always want more, you procrastinate happiness waiting for something that will never come. You might think you will be happy when you get a house, make more money, lose more weight, get to take a vacation, have a better wardrobe, or get more naps, but you won't. You could be handed your every desire on a silver platter and guess what? It wouldn't be enough, you'd still. want. more. (I highly encourage napping at every chance though.) This is the biggest issue. Convincing yourself you will be happier when a circumstance changes is simply a lie you tell yourself to justify ungrateful behavior.

When you always want more you get yourself in trouble. The advertising industry thrives from people like you. They play to your areas of dissatisfaction, and tell you they have a way to fix it. You buy it. The craziest part is that you can actually fully convince yourself that you need x,y, or z to be happy instead of looking inward to see peace and satisfaction are intrinsic traits that can never be achieved through circumstances. There aren't enough donuts in the world to change your happiness. There is no vacation long enough to bring you peace. Nothing will ever be enough for you.

When you always want more, happiness is fleeting, So you finally get what you want, and you were right! It feels amazing. For a minute. Then you quickly find a reason why is just isn't enough. You move on through your list, wanting the next thing, or sometimes just the bigger, better version of what you just got. For some reason you can't see the pattern of wanting, getting, and still not feeling happy or satisfied. The moments of fleeting happiness convince you that getting what you want IS what you need. It DOES make you feel better. When that feeling quickly fades you blame it on needing more, rather than recognizing you simply can't acknowledge the full plate in front of you.

When you stop wanting more, even an empty plate somehow becomes enough. You start to see everything differently. The world looks different, life looks better, but reality hasn't changed. You have. The people around you suddenly become inspirational and amazing rather than lacking and unreliable. You start to feel sincere, authentic gratitude for what you have, and you quit entertaining thoughts of what you are without. You set goals and work for them from a place of positivity. You still hope for houses, vacations, and naps, but your happiness doesn't depend on them. You take responsibility for your behavior and your happiness. You no longer allow life to control you. You find a place of unwavering peace. You learn to turn what you have into enough, whether it actually is or not. 

xoxo Julie

How to love yourself.

I haven't always hated myself. I have vivid memories from my childhood of thinking I was about as cool as it got. Somewhere through the years those feelings slipped away and were replaced by intense feelings of self hatred. Hating myself really became my normal for a lot of years, and became magnified and intensified when my depression hit. For a while I associated all my self hate with my appearance. Then one day a little over a year ago the realization came to me that I could be handed my ideal body, and I would still hate myself just as much. This was a big wake up call for me. It is what lead to me starting to fight for myself.  Today I like myself. It didn't happen overnight and requires daily action to maintain. Like most things worth having in life, self love isn't something you can kick back and wait for (except for Kanye maybe, seems to just flow with him). It takes work, and it takes action.

  1. Acceptance. Accepting yourself today, right now, as you are, is the first step. You don't have to like it (yet) but you do have to accept it. Accepting your reality will give you a strong base to build upon. This means throwing out all the "I will be happy when..." and,"I would like myself if..." kind of talk. No conditions, no procrastinating. For me this was hard. I didn't want to see things as they were, because my reality was ugly. Acceptance doesn't mean you are deciding to live this reality forever, it only means that today you can see things as they are, for better or for worse.
  2. Stop the negative self talk. Right. Now. There are many tactics to help with this. Old habits die hard, and this is a tough one to break. It takes conscious effort and a lot of practice. Anytime an abusive comment pops in my head now I combat it with something I like about myself. I do the same when I look in the mirror. Then each night I make a little list of the things I liked about myself that day. Sometimes it is a short list of seemingly insignificant things, but it keeps me consciously working on changing my thinking. Searching for the good to silence the bad. 
  3. Separate your behavior from your identity. You are going to do things you aren't happy with, and you are going to make mistakes. You can be unhappy, disappointed or upset about your behavior, but that doesn't mean you have to hate yourself. Sure, our actions make up our identity, but we all do the wrong thing sometimes. If you pin all of your feelings about yourself on your behavior, you will be upset with yourself almost constantly. When I lose my patience with my kids that doesn't mean me, my identity, my life, and my whole personality suck. It means I made a mistake. Keeping these separate allows you to identify and correct your behavior without slipping to self obsession over it. Hating yourself over shortcomings, failures, or bad choices will only throw you deeper in the pit and strengthen the cycle of bad behavior and self hate. When you can see them separately, you will be in a place to generate change. It is also key to remember that hating yourself in essentially just a form of self obsession. (You and Kanye are seeming alarmingly similar now right?)
  4. Take positive action. Like I said, you can't sit around and wait to love yourself. When you have accepted yourself, decided to stop verbally abusing yourself, and can see yourself separate from your behavior, you will be in a place that fosters self improvement. You will be able to identify the things that need a little work and take action to fix them without ever having to slip into hating yourself over it. You can work on becoming the best version of yourself. The difference is you will be doing it from a positive place. A place where you are already good with yourself, but can see ways to improve. You will have more clarity and self awareness. You will encourage yourself and celebrate successes rather than dwelling on your failures. This in when self love fully blooms and you start to become the person you always wanted to be. The problem is had you waited to love yourself until getting here, you never would have made it. It takes loving yourself to become a person you want to love.  
  5. Remember that relapse isn't failure. Self love and self improvement are life long journeys. You are going to relapse into your old ways every now and then possibly for the rest of your life. But the frequency and intensity will lessen with time, and it doesn't have to break you. One bad day doesn't rob you of your progress. Give yourself a pass, allow yourself to be a human. 
I never wanted to have daughters because I felt incapable of teaching them to love themselves when I hated myself so intensely. You might think you are the only one who suffers from your self abuse, but the ugly truth is that everyone around you feels it. Loving yourself releases your mind from thinking about yourself constantly and in turn allows you to learn more, love more, and deepen your relationships with everyone. Loving yourself is how your dreams will come true. I wouldn't go to that level of cheesiness if I didn't believe it SO MUCH. 

xoxo Julie

Please stop telling me to love my stretch marks.

I like myself. I'm new to liking myself honestly. But the truth is that I do. I don't always love my behavior, but I do always love myself. I also love my body. It is nothing short of a miracle. It enables me to do so many amazing things and really, gives me life. I have never loved my body more than in the process of delivering my kids. For the first time I saw by body as a miraculous tool with a divine purpose rather than a vessel to hold all my imperfections and insecurities. That feeling has always stuck with me and reminded me to respect my body in times when I could only see its flaws. I love my body, I respect my body. I love my body, but that doesn't mean I adore everything about it.

Comparison is always a deadly game, but especially when it comes to bodies. Even more so when you take it to the postpartum body level. The truth is that pregnancy just doesn't impact everyone's body the same. We all gain different weight in different places, stretch out in different ways, and are left with varying levels of destruction afterward. As someone who was once told by my doctor that I had one of the worst cases of stretch marks he had ever seen, it felt a little more than unfair to see women with smooth, tight torso skin post baby. If stretch marks must be a thing, they should be a thing for everyone. Misery loves company I guess. 

I know I am not alone in struggling to accept my post baby body. In reality, I was never good at accepting my pre-baby body so it really isn't shocking. I started noticing articles popping up all over telling me to embrace my new body, and to wear my stretch marks with pride. Telling me I should focus on the gratitude for what these scars represented. No shame, only love and celebration. I get it, but for some reason I felt like they were missing something. 

This is my body. I only get one. This is me. Suddenly I am looking in the mirror at something completely foreign to me. Experiencing such rapid weight gain accompanied my permanent scarring is rough. In that moment, I didn't need to hear that I should be grateful. I needed to mourn. I needed to mourn the loss of my body as it was. I needed time to accept  what had happened to me. Give me a minute to process this change. A permanent change to your body is a big old deal. 

I realize weight gain and stretch marks seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. I know how blessed I am to have a healthy, strong body. I obviously feel my kids were worth it all. But please allow me to adapt to getting comfortable in my skin. I have come a long way. I hardly notice my stomach now, mostly because I have simply been able to accept it as part of me, as part of my story. I have a respect for it almost. I would be lying though if I claimed to wear them with pride or as a badge of honor. I don't. They aren't my favorite. I still get jealous of those who "bounce back" beautifully post baby. But they do not define my body, and they surely do not define me. I love my body, and I accept it as it is now. I had the right to mourn my loss, and the right to take my time processing and accepting the new normal. It isn't something you can force. Understanding that loving my body didn't require me to love every detail, but rather to accept and respect it as it is has brought me to a place of peace with it. 

xoxo Julie

Maybe it has nothing to do with you.

This morning as I endured a rather fierce attack from my two year old, I started thinking. She has been rough on me lately. She says mean things, refuses to talk to me, and is always quick to choose anyone else over me. She hasn't always been this way, and honestly, it hurts. I know she is two. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but in the moments of the meltdowns and hearing "I not want to talk to you" for the millionth time that day, it feels personal. Naturally I started evaluating my behavior. What had I done to make her act this way, and how could I fix it? Then a memory hit me. High school. My mom and I were in a particularly bad rough patch. She picked me up from some rehearsal or something and I got in the car and immediately assumed jerk mode. She started crying and asked, "What did I to to make you treat me like this? What can I do to fix it?"... I looked at her and said, "Did you ever think that maybe it has nothing to do with you?"

That was the truth. It had nothing to do with her. I was going through a thousand hard things that were tearing apart my teenage self. I didn't know what to do with any of it, so I took it out on her. The problem was with me, she was just the unfortunate recipient of my venting. In all honesty, I acted that way because I knew she was a safe place. I knew she loved me, I knew she would always be there for me. With her I was safe. In hard times, I think it is common to unload wherever you feel most safe. I stayed true to this pattern in my marriage. I started to fall apart individually, so I took it all out on the person who made me feel the safest, my husband.

It isn't right, and it certainly isn't fair to take your own issues out on those who love you most, but it does happen. Often. This is an important thing to understand not just for yourself, but as a parent/spouse/friend of someone suffering. It is important because you must remember at all times, that in most cases, this has nothing to do with you. Obviously there are cases where this is untrue, but more often than not I believe this is the truth.

To be able to really help someone suffering, you have to be able to remove yourself from the situation. If you stay so caught up in the role you play in the issue, you will miss the root of the problem. You will overlook the real cause of their suffering, thus rendering you helpless. My toddler doesn't hate me. She might be tired, or hungry, or stressed, and I am the closest, safest place to unload. I didn't hate my mom in high school, I was scared, stressed, and struggling and she was the closest, safest place to unload. I didn't hate my husband. I hated myself, I was depressed, and I was sick, and he was the closest, safest place to unload. The sooner we can detach ourselves from the situation, the faster we will be able to identify the problem and send aid in the most effective way possible.

When you take on responsibility for others behavior you are harming yourself and them. You are putting a huge pressure on them in saying that they control your happiness in life. They can't let you down. They have to act a certain way. That kind of pressure can crush a person, and with surely destroy a relationship. You also hurt yourself by believing everything is about you. It just isn't. You can't take on the burdens of your loved ones. You can care, but you can't control them. The more attached you are to believing their suffering always has to do with you, the faster your own peace and stability goes down in flames.

Don't take everything so personally. More often than not, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Just keep loving, just keep being that safe place, and remember to keep your own serenity in check before worrying about anyone else's.

xoxo Julie

Finding contentment.

Not attaching your happiness to circumstances is really the key to lasting peace in life. A huge part of this is simply learning to be content with where you are. I say simply, but it isn’t simple at all. I struggle so much with staying present, enjoying the now, being grateful for what I have and being content. I always want more, or different. Most recently my struggle has been with finding peace with being a stay at home mom. I recently began staying home full time and it has not come easy. It isn’t my forever situation, but it is my now. I have been thinking about ways I have been learning to cope honestly. I realized the things I have been learning apply across the board. Regardless of what your current situation is, you can find peace and contentment in it. Here are a few things that help me.
  1. Don't force gratitude. You know, the whole "someone always has it worse" mentality. It doesn't work. Sure people have it worse, but comparison of any kind will never serve you. Trying to force gratitude this way only leads to still feeling ungrateful while now adding guilt to the situation. Two things to never feel guilty over: food, and not feeling grateful. It is plain unproductive. Instead, try and create authentic gratitude. In any situation there are things you can sincerely feel gratitude for. Feelings of gratitude might not flow naturally, but deciding to choose to find something you really are grateful for is a positive action that will start to invite more gratitude in your life. Being grateful is a learned behavior.
  2. Don't rely on outside validation. We all want to be validated. Praise feels good. It is ok to like it, but you can't depend on it. There is not enough praise in the world to make you happy with yourself if you aren't happy with yourself. You will waste a lot of time, and lose sight of the most important things in life chasing validation from the world. That chase will rob you of ever feeling content with the present.
  3.  Be confident in your choices. This goes along with the danger of endlessly seeking outside validation. I spent a lot of time giving everyone I met my resume. I needed them to know I wasn't just a mom, I wasn't just a hairstylist, that I wasn't just a college student. I was so insecure in every part of my life I used every angle to try and convince everyone I was accomplished. Now when I meet people I give them myself as I am that day. Whatever role I am playing, that's it. No one else needs to agree with what you do with your life. That's entirely up to you, and the sooner you stop caring what other people think of it the sooner you will fully accept your life as it is and find contentment in that.
  4. Don't play the martyr. Please stop! There is no nobility in killing yourself off in "service" of others. When you aren't well emotionally or physically, you have nothing to give. Making proper, meaningful self care a priority will save you and the people who depend on you. You've already read my thoughts on self-care here, but I can't stress the power in it enough. You have to be well to be content.
  5. Beware of resentments, My biggest problem that arises from being discontent is that I go to a place of resentment in the blink of an eye. If I am unhappy, it has to be someone's fault. Naturally I take it out on my husband and kids, which is so crazy unfair. I have to take responsibility for my reality. Going through the motions of life begrudgingly and unhappily creates a reality I don't want to live in. 
I have a long way to go, but these things have brought me a ways from where I began. These aren't one time things, but rather things I have to apply to my life a hundred times a day. Slowly, I like my now a little more than I used to. I have good days and bad, but overall I see progress. 

An apology to the depressed.

My depression came to me in the form of postpartum depression. Before that, I had never experienced anything close to it. In fact, I had spent many years thinking of mental illness as a myth only the weak fell for and used to justify poor life behavior. People who claimed to be depressed actually just needed to step it up and decide to get better. Depression was simply a label slapped on people who lacked drive, focus, discipline and self-control.

Then suddenly, I found myself in a thick, all consuming cloud of darkness. A darkness I didn’t expect, didn’t understand, and for the life of me could not overcome. I couldn’t even fight it. It was the most overwhelming feeling of helplessness I have ever experienced. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to make it go away. I wanted to change my mind and overcome it. At the very least I wanted to understand what this huge darkness was that had consumed me. What was this paralyzing force fighting against me? This was depression.

My misconception and prejudice against mental illness was boiling up and staring me straight in the face. I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. All at once the shame of my years spent in superiority hit me. Depression was real. As real as the new baby I held in my arms as I pondered my newfound suffering. It had always been real, and I hadn’t been willing to see that.

The prejudice I carried against depression amplified my suffering. I was not only in the thick of the illness, I felt worthless for having it. After all, this was an issue saved for the weak. I made a vow to myself to never tell anyone how I felt. No matter how bad things got, I promised to never let anyone know I was broken. I was better than this, I had to be.

Eventually I came to understand depression had nothing to do with me, or with anyone else it haunted. My judgment turned to understanding, my prejudice softened into empathy, and my superiority changed to respect. Now, in the purest humility I have ever experienced, I apologize. I apologize for rolling my eyes, for telling you to try harder, and for all the times I silently judged you for struggling. I’m sorry for thinking of myself as better than you. I am so sorry for not trusting you enough to believe your struggle. I am sorry for not caring enough to reach out. I am sorry for my ignorance.

xoxo Julie

*I share my story to try to help others understand the reality of mental illness. It is too often ignored, downplayed, and misunderstood. The face of depression is misrepresented. I am the face of depression. Without a doubt someone you know personally is the face of depression. Fostering beliefs that mental illness is not real inhibits progress in saving the lives of those who suffer.

Quit keeping score.

Successful marriages are made by equal partnerships. However, I believe the term “equal” to be subjective. I have tried applying it literally and ended up discontent and so self-centered. From day one of married life I wanted things to be fair. If I did yesterday’s laundry than my husband better do today’s. I did these dishes, you do those ones. When it really became a problem was when we added kids to the mix.

I became obsessive about what I perceived to be inequality in my marriage. I wasn’t angry that I had to get up with a baby, I was mad that my husband didn’t. I wasn’t angry that I had to clean up the house, I was mad that I did it more than he did. I wasn’t angry I cut my work hours down to be with our baby more, I was mad that his career didn’t take a hit. When I would leave I would honestly hope the baby was super hard for him, so he would experience how much harder my life was than his. His life was so easy. He got to come and go as he pleased, chase his dreams and still have a family life at home. I was so angry all of the time. Life wasn’t fair.

In reality my husband often got up with our baby while I slept, and never harbored any resentment toward me for it. He also more than carried the load at home while I worked and went on to finish my degree, a goal I had always had. He made a lot of sacrifices to make sure I was getting what I needed at home and in my career goals. He has always been my strongest supporter and my biggest fan. He carried an unfair share of our life for years, but didn’t feel sorry for himself over it. He wasn’t even keeping track. This isn’t what I saw. No matter the reality, I was busy keeping score and counting all the ways I always came up short.

I was full of self-pity, resentment and anger. I wanted equality. I wanted everything fair, literally. Turns out, that just isn’t reality. Equality in marriage is vital, but it doesn’t always mean splitting tasks down the center. It means showing up in the part of life you are responsible for. Don’t play the martyr while secretly resenting your spouse for not doing more. There is no nobility in that.

Most of all ask yourself, “do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” You can’t always have both. Life is full of little things that simply have to get done. Running a house, keeping a family alive, and just plain living are going to require plenty of mundane responsibilities. Marriage is a partnership. Communicate about what equality means for your relationship, because it is unique to each relationship Sometimes your load might feel heavier than that of your spouse, but that is what being a true partner is. Find the gratitude for the times they have carried you through, and step up to do the same. Live each day in gratitude and service and above all, quit keeping score.

xoxo Julie

What I learned from leaving home.

To be fair it should be known I moved away from friends and family a short five months ago. So I am sure the lessons will just keep coming, but I already feel like I have learned a lot and you can’t discard your knowledge now based on the potential of learning more in the future. The first day of September 2015 we packed up all our stuff in a U-Haul and started our journey from Utah, our home, to Ohio. I had made one other cross country move in my life and it was both hard and the best thing possible. This time has been about the same, except rather than being a tween full of angst, I’m the mom. So far, here is what I have learned.
1.       I took family and friends for granted. I love my family, but I could be found majorly complaining about having to attend yet another family event. Didn’t we just get together? Don’t they know we are busy with our own stuff? Now we would give anything to pop into the crazy, chaos filled Sunday family dinner. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone! Stop whining and appreciate every minute you get with supportive family and friends.
2.       I was too passive in my relationships. Building upon number one, I wasted a lot of time not building sincere relationships with the people around me. Because I saw them so regularly I just sort of tuned out and struggled to be present. I wish I had engaged in more conversation and taken the time to really invest in the lives and interests of the people close to me. I have learned that being geographically close in no way guarantees you a close relationship. I am actually closer to certain friends and family now that I’ve been away but chosen to invest time in reaching out to them and chatting regularly. You can see someone every single day and really not know them at all. Make your people a priority.
3.       I should have said no more often. Living with such a huge social/family circle close by can be really overwhelming. I was often overbooked just trying to do things with everyone and make people happy. My life was full of all good things, but too many good things. Spending a few months in a city where no one knows you can be therapeutic. The slower pace of life really suits me, and my small children. It’s ok to say no thanks to a day at the zoo for no reason other than needing a rest day. Slow down!
4.       I need to open up more. I was so isolated and closed off to new relationships. I had my family and friends already, I didn’t need anyone else. How many amazing people did I miss out on!? Since we have moved I have been so grateful to all the MANY people who have opened their lives and their homes to us. It has made me realize how little I reached out to the people around me based on my own insecurities. I missed so many opportunities to learn and grow and love new people. Make new friends!
5.       I am tougher than I think. I can handle loneliness, and I am brave enough to explore the unknown with three kids by my side. I don’t need people around me all the time. I don’t need babysitting help all the time (though I do miss it, and it does complicate things) but I can handle it. This season in life for me isn’t about child free vacations and career aspirations. These small people need me, and like it or not I have to handle it. There were a lot of things I considered necessities that really ended up being nonessential conveniences.
6.       Don’t compare your new home to your old one. There are pros and cons to every city in the world. There is plenty I miss about Utah living, but this is Ohio. I choose to embrace Ohio. There are endless things to love about being here so why waste this experience by dwelling on how Utah was.
7.       Home is where you make it. It has been a new sensation for me to miss a place yet have no desire to go back to living there. I think it is mostly because it isn’t my home anymore. My home is here, with my husband and kids. This is where I want to be.  Going back for a visit sounds great, but I really have no longing to return permanently for now. I know I am where I am supposed to be. I think to really thrive in a place you have to be all in. This is easier to do however because of the strong base of people I have who love and support me. My Utah friendships are lifelong ones, and I often rely on them to be able to move forward here.
8.       I’m finding me. I think it took stepping back and starting fresh for me to really start to know myself. When you live in one place a long time it is almost difficult to change because so many people around you unknowingly hold you to what you once were.  It is hard to evolve when your world is sitting still.
9.       Less is more. We got rid of so much stuff when we moved. I can’t explain the bliss that having less has brought into my life. Less mess, less stress, less complicated. We have what we need, and have forgotten the rest. Even if you don’t move, consider purging your life of all the excess.

10.   You, not your circumstances, make you happy. My favorite tangent of all, not allowing circumstances to control your happiness. You can be happy anywhere or you can be miserable anywhere and it has zero to do with location or proximity to family and friends. I came to Ohio determined to love it, and that is exactly what has happened. 

       Like any experience worth having in life moving has been hard and wonderful and mostly I am so grateful for the ride.

Marry a Hero: Depression and Marriage

So much in life comes down to attitude. We can’t always control what happens to us each day, but we can control how we react to it. I am a big believer in self-fulfilling prophecies, especially in marriage. Our spouses can play the villain or the hero, it all depends on which role we assign to them. When you search for the good in people you find it, you magnify it. When you search for the bad, bad is all you find.

It is easy to channel anger and resentment toward our spouse. It just is. I was miserable and angry and someone needed to be responsible for it, so the blame went on my husband. He didn’t make enough money, he didn’t help me enough around the house, he didn’t take interest in my hobbies enough, and he was apparently incapable of closing the cupboards after getting something out. This was my line of thinking and he just kept proving me right. He kept falling into this pattern perfectly making me more and more convinced I was justified in being so angry at him all the time. He was clearly the worst.

Now fast forward a bit. I now have the greatest husband. He works hard and sacrifices a lot to put my comfort a top priority, he is super hands on with the kids and always does his part in his role as a parent, he not only takes interest in what I like but does it so enthusiastically I become convinced they are his interests too, and he is quick to reply “you bet!” anytime I ask for help with anything. He just keeps getting better. Most days I find myself wondering how I managed to marry up so dramatically.

So what changed? Not my husband. His behavior has been consistent. The only thing that has changed is how I see him. I spent years setting him up to fail. Nothing he did would ever be enough, because it had absolutely nothing to do with him. Sure, he fit into the pattern of failure I set out because I forced him into it. No matter how much he did right, I could always find something he did wrong. The other problem, which is lethal to any relationship, was how silent I was. I demanded he read my mind and when he couldn’t I would put another check in the “fail” column.

I don’t mean to paint an overly perfect picture of our reality now. I still get mad. He still doesn’t close cupboards. But it is different. I set him up for success with me now. I communicate my needs, and my frustrations instead of storming away in a fit of rage. I want to see him as the hero. I want him to be great. I want him to succeed. I want us to succeed. That is the pattern I force him into now. Whatever it is you search for in a person, they will prove you right. Search for the good. Good grows on good and your relationship will only keep getting better. Show up, take responsibility for you. How you treat others is a direct reflection on how you feel about yourself, though that is a post for another day.

When you walk in to find the sink still full of dishes, and your husband wrestling with the kids in fits of laughter, you choose which one to focus on. You choose which one to see. The best way to be married to the perfect person is to start seeing them that way. 

xoxo Julie

Life on plan Z.

My life, like most people’s I think, has not gone as I planned. For a season I spent so much time obsessed with the fact that things hadn’t gone my way, I was blind to the amazing life I had been given. I was so dissatisfied with everything. The loving husband, amazing kids, and comfortable lifestyle just didn’t suit me. It wasn’t what I wanted. The truth was, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted, but I knew I was completely miserable, so certainly my life circumstances were to blame. 

I spent a lot of time considering hypothetical situations in which my happiness would come. More money, more stuff, more trips, a bigger career…I spent even more time misdirecting the anger I had on my family. I blamed my income, my marriage, and my motherhood for my unhappiness. What I didn’t understand was that I was the only problem, and there wasn’t a single change in circumstance that could have ended my misery.

Accepting my life as it is has been my only way out. Frankly it doesn’t really matter if my life is what I wanted, it is what I have. My reality is actually sort of beautiful. I am grateful I am able to see that now. When I was able to replace self pity with gratitude an entire new world opened up to me. I began to feel present in my life. I like today. I like now. Tomorrow doesn’t matter so much.

Being content with today is perhaps the most powerful thing I have learned in my journey. Life is today, right now. Some tomorrow’s never come, and the ones that do are often not how we pictured them. If you wait for something to make you happy, you’ll grow old in your discontented disconnect. 

Every single day is full of a million tiny things that can take us up and throw us down. If our peace is dependent on these ever changing circumstances we end up unstable, out of control, and never at peace.

I have hopes for the future certainly. I get excited about new opportunities. I feel disappointed about plenty. I feel the stress of our tight finances, I struggle to figure out how to fit in my own life, I get sad, mad, and happy. Those are feelings. Feelings pass. Peace remains. I might go up or down, but my baseline of contentment holds strong.

If you can’t be happy regardless of your circumstances, you just can’t be happy.  For me, happiness is being able to experience a full range of emotions, accept each day as it is, and maintain that sturdy base of gratitude and peace. On paper my life is “harder” than it has been in a long time, but somehow I am the most content I have ever been. That’s the power of gratitude. 

xoxo Julie

On depression and marriage.

I like to think there isn’t much I am not willing to talk about, but there is definitely a missing piece to all my depression talk. I talk a lot about how it impacts me and my kids, but rarely do I mention my marriage. Part of this is because my marriage isn’t only mine, so out of respect to my husband I don’t go shouting things he might not like shared. The other part is plain pride. I don’t want to admit to anyone that marriage is a challenge.  This is hilarious to me now. Duh. Marriage is hard. Throw mental illness and a few kids at a marriage and you might as well stand back and watch it burn… unless you are prepared to fight for it. Thankfully, not always to my own credit, we fought.

I don’t plan on getting too personal on this topic because again, it isn’t only mine to share. However in my story I am the villain and my husband is the hero. I owe our success to his unconditional love, dedication, and support of me. Always. I thank God every day for helping him find the patience to wait for me. My husband has carried a heavy weight for most of our marriage, a weight I put on him. Our relationship now is the best it has been and because of that we are able to communicate our struggles of the past and the now. Through my healing and our talking, I have identified what I think are the three main struggles when dealing with depression in a marriage. Rather, the three things that pack the biggest punch.
1.      Isolation. I cut myself off from my own marriage. I kept things inside, and rather than ever really talking about the problem I would run away from it. This is so destructive because it builds up a wall and destroys trust. How can you trust someone who never talks to you openly or honestly? It creates a silent rift that grows bigger and bigger until you can wonder if you are even on the same side anymore. This one is interesting because it is more what you don’t do. It is the lack of openness and communication that can become the silent killer.
2.      Anger. I had two emotions. I was either numb, or I was angry. I was so angry all of the time. I was angry at all sorts of things, many of which were completely irrational but I channeled all that anger toward my husband. He could do nothing right, I made sure of it. Bad day at work? I was mad at him. Rough day with the kids? Took it out on him. I convinced myself it was justified, and he was the root of all things going bad in my life when in reality he was the only thing going right. Have you ever lived with someone who is angry all of the time? Hell. I sucked the joy out of our home, made my husband feel small, while I felt nothing.
3.       Helplessness. If you have read my other writings you have gathered that in my opinion, only you can fight your depression. My husband could have been perfect in every way, it wouldn’t have helped. He never once retaliated when I cut him down, pushed him away and hid from dealing with us. He wanted to help me more than anyone else in the world. He wanted to save me. He wanted to make me happy. He never stopped trying. But the hard truth was, he was completely powerless over my darkness. Watching someone you love suffer so greatly and not being able to do a thing about it is perhaps the biggest weapon depression has in its power. 

When I started to climb out of my hole, the realization of what my husband had endured broke my heart into a million pieces. For the first time in years I am able to feel the love he has been offering all along, and I can even reciprocate it. When I’m at my breaking point now I literally say “I’m so angry and I want to run away but I don’t want to feel this way, help me” and we talk about it. I believe in the coexistence of depression and a happy marriage, but only when you are willing to work. I have learned to apologize sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but I am learning. I have learned to let him be on my side. I have learned to take responsibility for my life and never place angry blame on other people, especially not my husband. I have learned that when I hurt others, it is only because there is no peace inside me. He would have been justified in walking away from me a million times, but I am grateful every second that he stuck with me and now, we get to work together to create the life we want.

depression feeds depression

Do not allow how you feel to dictate how you act. This idea has become one of the most important tools in digging out of my darkness. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t cry if you feel sad, or take the time to identify and process real feelings. I mean, that when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, you have to do it anyway. When you don’t feel like responding to someone in a loving way, you do it anyway. Why is this so vital? Because depression feeds depression.

Depression told me to isolate. Depression told me to hide. Depression told me to eat my feelings. Depression told me to zone out. Depression told me to sleep. Depression made me angry. Depression made me lie to everyone. Depression turned me into the person I never wanted to be. The problem is, I listened, and all of these things only created a deeper plunge into the problem. After I gave depression what it wanted, I listened to it as it told me I was worthless, lazy, hopeless, and lacked self control. Every time I handed control over to the depression, it got stronger. I believed all the lies. I believed that I deserved to hide, sleep, eat, and run away because I was depressed. I was stuck in the endless and viscous cycle that is depression.

I can’t afford to listen to that voice anymore. Depression might always be a part of me, but it will also always be my worst enemy. It doesn’t quit. It is a battle I fight every minute of every day. BUT. It is already getting a little easier most days. Fighting it is starting to come more naturally. Occasionally, the right thing to do and what I feel like doing even line up! This is a miracle. Every time I can recognize that depression is talking to me and I choose to fight it, that is a miracle. The progress is so slow, and can seem unrecognizable if you don’t take the time to identify it. Feeling the progress is the best way to reinforce new behavior. It is hard. It is exhausting. It is not what I want to do, but it is slowly giving me the life I always wanted. That’s a pretty good pay off.

xoxo Julie

Sometimes, you need to change.

I am a believer in loving yourself right now, as you are. However I think the key is to use that love to generate self improvement. The truth is, sometimes things are your fault. Sometimes you do need to change something. Sometimes you can do better. The key is to be able to accept this without going into self loathing over it. Don’t waste time beating yourself up, just take action for change.

I was in a mess for five hundred reasons, but none of them were my fault. I blamed all sorts of things for why I was the way I was and never found any peace. I never changed. My revolution started when I took responsibility for my behavior. I could blame depression, how I was raised, pressure to live a certain way, and a million other things for the way I was living, but that blame, even when justified, didn’t generate progress. The fact is it doesn’t always matter why you act the way you do, what matters is that you take responsibility for your behavior, regardless of anything else. How you behave is something no one can control. Your reaction to life is yours.

When I was finally willing to admit it, I realized I had a good life. The problem wasn’t my kids, my husband, my job, or my depression, the problem was me. I was the wrecking ball in my own life. I was so full of self destructive habits and I didn’t even realize it because I was so busy blaming other things and then getting buried alive in my own self-pity over it. I was the only one who could dig myself out.

The weight of realizing all of this really was my fault could have crushed me. But instead of diving deeper into the hole of self hate, I was able to accept it. I was humbled by it. Most of all, I took it easy on myself. I had been doing the very best I could. In that time, in those moments, that was all I had to give. It was messy, it was ugly, and it got dark, but it was my very best. But now my best is better. I know better. I can work harder, I can treat myself better, and I can take action for change.

I have a very long road ahead, and I can hardly make it through an hour without slipping into my old behavior in one way or another, but I never allow that to defeat me. I accept it. I remind myself of my journey, and I resolve to try again. I get discouraged, but I never give into the selfish vacuum of self hate. I might not be where I want just yet, but there is only one way to get closer, and that is to try again. Try again, and again, and again, and slowly, there is progress.

Don’t mistake accepting and loving yourself for justifying destructive habits. Love and acceptance are positive words of action, and should be applied as such.

xoxo Julie

*I realize the vague nature of my references to my behaviors. I kept it simple in the interest of time, but plan of diving into deeper detail in future posts. I have nothing hide, but I do have limited writing time.

The problem with hating yourself.

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped liking myself. I remember as a child thinking I was about the coolest kid around. Somewhere between strutting into second grade flaunting my stirrup pants with pride and entering fifth grade insecure and trying to just copy the cool kids something in me was lost. It was the beginning of the end. The older I got the more I struggled to like myself. Mine is a common story. Insecurities grew into heavy self loathing in adulthood. It is only now that I have hit rock bottom and started my climb back out that I can fully see the magnitude of the wreckage my years of self hate created.

The problem with not loving myself was that I cut everyone is my life off from loving me too. I have been surrounded by kind and loving people, but I couldn’t accept their love. I couldn’t really feel it. Who could love me? Anyone who showed me love was probably doing so out of pity anyways. I was convinced I was completely unlovable (me and Bachelor Ben Higgins).  Acts of love went unaccepted simply because I was too sick to feel them. This created HUGE problems in my relationships. I put walls up, stopped trusting anyone and convinced myself no one loved me.

The problem with hating me was that I used it as justification to sink deeper in my hole. Of course I just yelled at my kids again, it’s because I’m a terrible mom. Why even try anymore? Of course I failed at that diet, I have no self control. So why continue trying? Why keep fighting to be the person I actually want to be when I will obviously fail because I’m the worst. As long as I hated myself, this was my thinking. It created an endless cycle of poor behavior compounded by enough self hate to convince myself to just give up and stay in the hell I had created.

When I spent time hating myself, I was being selfish. Self pity is one of the most toxic forms of self obsession. Every moment spent obsessing over insecurity is a moment spent thinking about ME. When I spent that kind of time thinking about myself, I had nothing to give anyone around me. I had nothing to offer because I was too enveloped in worrying about myself. Of course I didn’t see it this way then. This one is a biggy because it makes healthy relationships impossible. I couldn’t be a contributing half in a loving relationship when I hated myself. This applies to marriage, friendships, and motherhood.

The problem with hating myself was that it left me hopeless. I felt trapped. I was miserable, isolated, and felt like I was falling short in every aspect of my life, which only confirmed what I already knew: that I was awful. I was a difficult person to be around. I was impossible to love. I hung my hopes on all sort of conditions. I would love myself if I lost weight, if I finished college, if I was successful in my career. The bottom line is that none of that mattered. When I hated myself, no circumstantial life change or accomplishment could fix my brain. No one could fix it for me, I had to dig myself out.

Understanding my poor relationship with myself was the root of much of my suffering and was also killing the people around me was a big wake up call. I can’t always control the first thought that pops into my head but I can control what I do with it. Talking to myself lovingly and always encouraging myself rather than attacking myself constantly has helped. Not allowing myself to slip into self pity when I make a mistake has helped. Making true self care a priority has helped.

When I started to heal my relationship with myself my whole world changed. I am suddenly becoming the person I always hoped I could be. I am more motivated than ever to work on my flaws and achieve self improvement. I learn from my mistakes rather than punishing myself with them. I feel love from people around me, and am able to love them back. My head is a happy, inventive place rather than a torture chamber. I have learned this is a battle I will have to fight every day of my life.  Some days I just don’t want to. I want to lay in my bed and become consumed by the darkness, but I know that isn’t the way to the person I want to be. 

Learning to love myself gave me the power to change myself, but it has only been successful because I learned to love myself as I was. If you pin your self-love on potential circumstances of the future, it will never come. If you don’t love you now, you won’t love the skinnier, richer, more accomplished you either. Most importantly, learning to love myself gave me the capacity to stop the self obsession and love the people around me.