Let’s Talk: Dates!

I may have had my favorite date night ever last night. And it was so simple!

Brance and I started out the date by walking to a coffee shop near our home and chatting over iced drinks. We have had a heat wave lately, for Boston, so it felt pretty amazing to sit in some central air, too :). Plus there is nothing quite like sitting across from your man with no distractions. It’s the best, right!?

Next we wandered over to a favorite restraurant and ordered our meals to go. We grabbed our car and camp chairs and headed to a beloved park. The park is large (for the city) and gorgeous and so few people hang there (I think because most people in the neighborhood prefer to be on the beach). It has big, old trees and lovely bay views where you can see sail boats. And there are large colorful Victorian homes, with widow watches, facing one side. It felt wonderful to sit there and soak up summer with Brance. As the sun set, we ended our time there with a stroll around the park near the water and talked about life.

And then like the parents we are, we ran to the store ALONE to pick up some things we needed before heading home.You see. It was nothing special, but it felt nice to be alone together talking and laughing and relaxing. Even shopping.

Back when Brance and I were dating and engaged we spent many date nights cooking together. We had a lot of fun looking for recipes and shopping for the ingredients. We would turn music up while we cooked and would dance whenever the recipe allowed. We still love cooking together.

What are you favorite kinds of dates? Is there a certain place you eat out or do you prefer to cook at home? Do you like to do something adventurous? Do dates involve the movies or a concert or shopping?  Maybe you love doing something outside. Let’s talk!!

Let’s Talk

I am not much of an orator.

In fact, I often stumble over my words or get things mixed up in translation. (Just ask someone who knows me in real life). Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy writing.

There is no one actively engaged and waiting for my immediate response. So, no reason to feel shy or nervous.

Writing seems to flow better for me, because it’s slower and my brain is able to keep up.

I can easily edit—adjust or move thoughts around. I can delete them entirely.

It’s not that I don’t want to become a better speaker: as an orator and in general conversation. I really do. But writing and I are a comfortable pair. I can express my thoughts and feelings, imperfect as they are (both my thoughts and the expression), easier.

After experiencing a huge transformation in my wellness (physically, mentally, and emotionally), I wanted to share that with as many people as possible. In case it might help them too. Writing seemed a natural way for me to do that and that is how this blog was born.

Perhaps one day I will feel comfortable sharing all of this in other ways. For now, though, I keep writing!

Which is easier for you? Talking to other people about your thoughts and ideas in person or writing them down? Let’s “talk”. I’d love to know!!

Boundaries

I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine waltzed into my bedroom after dinner and pulled everything out of my closet. To my further shock and dismay, while our husbands continued to talk in the other room, she proceeded to sort my clothes into piles and tell me what I should and shouldn’t wear! To look more fashionable, I suppose.

I wasn’t a teenager or in college. I was married with two kids. Oh my! The experience was totally uncomfortable and embarrassing. It felt rude and invasive. Yet, because I didn’t know how to set healthy boundaries then, there I was being told which skirt and shirt I should pair and to “never, ever wear those pants”. Yikes.

I can only imagine how this person would have reacted if the situation was reversed! Thankfully, she has since ended our friendship. Even though it was super painful, I was going through a rough season, I now see it was for the best—providence at work.

Just today, I received a manipulative message. It was from someone trying to persuade me to join their team for some business (I won’t say which one). I only say manipulative because this person doesn’t know me in the least—we have one mutual friend on social media—yet they called me friendly and outgoing in the note. I am actually rather shy. They said I was “totally gorgeous” (uhm…) and immediately followed it with a “by-the-way” pitch for a great business opportunity. I am not against an online business approach, but I am against being manipulated.

Thankfully between the clothing incident and the pushy “business opportunity” I have learned to set boundaries. I have learned say “no thanks”—NO explanation and NO excuses necessary. And if my polite “no” isn’t accepted or respected, then a firmer, more blunt “no” is given. Sometimes, like with the manipulative message I received today, I simply hit delete.

(Although, I am the world’s worst when it comes to email. So forgive me, if I have failed to respond to a message!  Please feel free to send a reminder message or reach out in the comments.)

I have discovered that if you are not intentional about setting boundaries, these kinds of events become the norm. And we find ourselves over-committed and doing things we would rather not do.

Thankfully, most incidents are not as bizarre as my clothing incident. But, certain people will—well-meaning or not—inevitably pull you in directions you aren’t comfortable or meant to go. They will make decisions for you that you should make for yourself. They may even take you for granted. Or even worse, take advantage of or mistreat you.

Do you set healthy boundaries? Or, do you let others walk all over you, manipulate you, and pull you in directions you would rather not go? Perhaps you find yourself hiding from or lying to certain people? Let’s talk!!

P.S. I don’t claim to do this perfectly. I am learning too! In fact, I can think of a time or two where I set a boundary and later regretted it. And there certainly still are times where I feel a desire to unnecessarily explain myself or hide from certain people.

Having kids helped me to learn to set boundaries. I’ll have to share my scary airport story sometime, because it all started there!

The life-rule that makes all the difference

We can all think of a person/or people in our life who are just plain difficult. They might include a neighbor or a co-worker or an acquaintance or even a family member.

They may be self-absorbed or thoughtless or just flat-out mean. They’re real stinkers and more often than not they don’t even know it. (My experience has been that these people often think quite highly of themselves—ironically considering themselves the most wonderful person around! It’s so odd.)

And, frankly, our natural inclination is to run and hide or become confrontational when dealing with them. Or, at the least, secretly hope they pay for their selfish misdeeds with a life that falls apart or gossip about them with our friends.

But what if there was another way of dealing with these kinds of people? One that would free us and potentially repair the broken relationship? One that would stop poison from being injected into our OWN hearts and the hearts of others.

What if, instead of allowing the actions of these people push all of our buttons and drain us emotionally, we responded in a healthier way— with LOVE?

What if we decided to treat other people the way we want to be treated—regardless? Stinkers included.

Regardless of how they treat us.
Regardless of how they respond to us.
Regardless, regardless, regardless.

It is called the Golden Rule by some and has been around for centuries (check out Matthew 7:12).

It is one of the most important rules I was taught as a child by my parents who have modeled it beautifully for me through the years. And while I don’t practice it perfectly, the times I do it has literally transformed my heart and life.

There really is nothing quite so freeing as truly believing, embracing, and practicing the Golden Rule. Where we release those expectations of others and focus solely on your own actions— choosing love by treating others the want we want to be treated.

And regardless of how others receive or respond to that love, in the end, you win. Because embracing this rule really does set YOUR heart free!!

With love for you all (stinkers included ;),
Lauren

Children—a gift

Standing in line at Home Depot last week, I heard something that caught my attention.

There was a group in front of me with two moms and a couple of kids. One of the moms was handing the clerk paint, wood, and tools for some project. The other mom was managing the chaos that comes with precious littles. They were doing a fine job. Especially considering there was at least one baby and a 2-year-old in the group!

As they finished up and headed out the door, the clerk, who was probably also in his 30’s, turned to me and said with disgust, “THAT is exactly why I don’t have kids.” He motioned to the families as they walked out the door and continued to talk about his dislike for children as he rang up my items. (I happened to not have my children with me, so I can only assume he thought I would sympathize with him.)

I was so taken back by the words that poured out of his mouth (especially as I glanced down and noticed he was wearing a wedding band) and his disdainful attitude towards children, I didn’t know what to say. I just kind of stared confused and dumbly at him.

I left the store feeling sorry for this guy. He didn’t have a clue about what he was missing!

Although parenting requires sacrifice and hard work at times (ok, a lot of the time), the blessings you gain in return are innumerable . Being mom to my two precious daughters is one of the most amazing privileges I have experienced in this life. With it comes an abundance of love and joy and just plain fun that I would have missed out on otherwise.

Sure, without kids, perhaps I would have more vacation photo albums and stamps in my passport. Brance and I would likely have gotten more sleep and our house would have stayed cleaner and our laundry baskets less full. But none of that holds a drop in the bucket to what we have gained as parents. For the overwhelming love and gratitude we feel for these two little souls we’ve been blessed to raise.

After Homeschool today, for some reason the girls and I started looking through family pictures and videos from when they were smaller. Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched them totting, and dancing, and talking to their mama behind the camera. Oh man. THIS is important—these years with my children—THIS is what beautiful memories are made of. Not the nice restaurants or new clothes. Not trips or new vehicles, or even a clean house and peace and quiet.

Seeing those pictures and videos reminded me that when I think back to all the meaningful things I have experienced in this life, the things that fill my heart to overflowing, my children (and people I love) are what come to mind.

Regardless of what others or culture may tell us, children truly are a gift from God.

P.S. As I wrote this, my heart went out to those who for whatever reason have not been able to have children despite their desire. Please don’t feel I am saying here that you can’t have a meaningful life. I also believe there are ways for you to still experience the gift of children—whether it’s nieces and nephews or at church etc.

Cure Ulcerative Colitis

Cure Ulcerative Colitis
While technically you can not Cure Ulcerative Colitis, it IS possible to experience remission and to live symptom-free with little to no medication—for many of us. (When I say cure, this is what I am referring to! We’ll call it cure with a little “c”.)

I can say how wonderful it feels to no longer struggle with UC!  Getting here has been a big, big blessing for me and my little family of four.

I know what it is like to be in the bathroom over a dozen times a day, completely embarrassed to leave home. I know what it is like to suffer from autoimmune related fevers and aches and swelling and joint pain. AND I know what it is like to feel like my normal, healthy self again NOT constantly having to scope out the nearest bathroom. Oh man, there is nothing like it!

For me, it had everything to do with food, despite my gastroenterologist’s claim at diagnosis to the contrary. Thankfully I was skeptical and began experimenting with my diet almost immediately. What did I have to lose?

Desperate to feel better, I have tried all kinds of diets from gluten- free to paleo to the specific carbohydrate diet, with varying results. But NONE of them has worked nearly as well as what I have settled on. Which is SO simple by comparison and super effective. My doctor is very pleased at how well I am doing (I am currently on little medication and in remission to boot!).

Not only did those other diets NOT stop all of my symptoms, they made me feel all kinds of awful in the process… low blood sugar, exhausted, foggy-headed and dizzy, etc. Plus I am thankful to have discovered something that works and allows me to live a relatively normal life. Some of the diets I tried were so extreme I had to carry my food with me everywhere in a cooler—I could never eat out or pick up something quickly at the store or even have dinner at a friend’s house. It was very complicated and NO fun!

In case these may help you too, here are the 5 simple things that I have done with my diet that have helped me cure Ulcetative Colitis (with a little “c”)…

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Sweet Marriage

I’m a total romantic but it is my husband who loves poetry.

It was one of the things I was surprised to learn after we married. There are so many things you discover about the other person in marriage and not all of them pleasant (well, at least where I am concerned). But this was one of those sweet little surprises.

Right now Brance is combing through a used bookstore with the girls while I wait in the glorious outdoors. I never last as long as he does in a bookstore. He’s certain to have found his way to the poetry section by now. After browsing for an old copy of Pilgrim’s Progress first, of course.

For me, this is one of the beautiful things about marriage, about growing old together—learning all the facets of another human being. Discovering that your martial arts and Star Wars watching fellow finds joy in crafty meter and beautiful rhyme and soaring language.

Don’t get me wrong. Marriage is work. It’s flat out hard sometimes. But most everything good in this life involves work or sacrifice of some sort. And being on this journey together and growing together through the shared experiences of marriage—for years—well, there really is nothing like it.

Yeah, so I just wanted to say that marriage is a sweet, sweet gift full of surprises. That’s it, you guys. Have a wonderful weekend!

You before me

I called my mom, a little over a month after Haddie was born.

In a sleep-deprived and perhaps tearfully hormonal voice, I told her how thankful I was for ALL that she had done for me. For all the beautiful sacrifices she had made over the years, that frankly, I had no clue about before becoming a mom myself. And for all the ones that I had yet to experience.

She laughed humbly and graciously accepted my gratitude. I have a wonderful mom!

Ah… the life of a mom. Words can not fully describe how it changes a woman and brings to light both the oh-so-wonderful and the not-so-good bound up in one person. There really is nothing like it.

And in my humble opinion, few connections in this life have the capacity to display love better than that of mother to child. The real kind of nitty-gritty LOVE that puts another person first– the “you before me” kind that seems so rare these days.

It’s a love that sacrifices on a daily basis. That sets aside its own desires to read another book aloud or change a dirty bed or clean up a spill. Love that even delays its own needs for another– I am talking showers, and meals, and sleep (for years folks!) and so much more. That willingly takes on every hurt and sadness and joy and success of the child.

It reminds me of the biblical love Christians are told to have for one another in 1 Corinthians 13. One that is patient and kind and self-controlled. One that is never rude or irritable or resentful. It’s a “you before me” kind of love.

In other scriptures we are told love shows concern and care for even one’s enemies! And of course Christ was the greatest example of this when he laid down his very LIFE—for those of us like me who counted Him as their enemy.

What an honor that as a mother we get to reflect this beautiful, sacrificial kind of love. Love that looks to the needs of others before ourself. And leads us to teach our children to do the same and hopefully make a difference in this world.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, both physical and spiritual! Your job is SO very important.

With love for you all,

Lauren

P.S. You may be interested in this post on love. Or this Mother’s Day post.

8 important nutrients for fighting depression

Did you know that there is a BIG connection between mental health and nutrition? That nutrients and depression are often intertwined?

And that if you are someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, there is a good chance that your symptoms would improve if you addressed nutritional deficiencies. Maybe even drastically so as it has for me!!

The crazy thing is that you may feel like you are eating well. Really well. Or maybe you’re not. Either way, it’s easy to accidentally miss a piece or more of the nutritional puzzle and suffer when it comes to your mental and emotional well-being.

I used to constantly struggle with depression, anxiety, brain fog, exhaustion etc. It was miserable. One of the reasons I started this little blog was to share the amazing transformation I have experienced as I have made changes to my diet and lifestyle. I feel soooo much better, I just had to sing it from the “blogosphere” in case it could help another soul.

Here is a list of 8 important nutrients that research has shown can affect the mental health of those deficient.

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From obsession to a sustainable life

I just read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for a book club I am part of.

At the close of this thrilling tale, Victor, the creator of the “monster”, warns a sea-captain who is on a risky expedition to the North Pole to “avoid ambition”.  You see, Victor’s misled obsession in the story came at a terrible price— moral failure, fear, exile (as he pursues the monster), the death of those most dear to him, and ultimately his own premature death.

While Frankenstein is a piece of fiction, I believe the author hits upon a universal truth. The truth that obsession comes at a terrible price. While it probably will not kill us and those we love, thank goodness, obsessive ambition (any obsession, really) leaves us unbalanced and has the potential to wreck our lives.

Brance and I were chatting yesterday about Netflix’s CEO’s recent comment that their main competition is not Hulu or Amazon Prime or any other streaming service, but rather SLEEP (this is my paraphrase).  I kid you not. In other words, they are building their business on the back of obsessive behavior that causes us to opt to bing-watch rather than sleep.

And I think we all have fallen prey to their ploy to get us to skip sleep to watch the NEXT episode!  Oh man, it’s a chore to get one of these streaming services to STOP playing and NOT load the next one. While binging on too much tv really might pose a problem for some people, for most of us it is a funny example of where an obsessive, weak moment can lead us ocassionally— a  bing-watching hangover.

In all seriousness, I really do think Netflix’s CEO, like Shelley, has tapped into something big here. And that is our tendency to Continue reading