Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day Eleven – That’s Legit!

{Photo taken by Julie Heuing}
On our wedding day, my husband and I set out a book for our guests to write their most useful marriage advice.  Besides being absolutely hilarious to read, there were a few good tips to take away.

One particular comment has stuck with me so far.  It was an anonymous scribble in barely distinguishable font.

It reads, “Being tired, hungry, and dirty cause 90% of the fights, so eat, sleep, and take a shower before making a big decision.”

I can attest that this statement is undoubtedly true.  Can you relate?

I think this advice is great because it speaks about meeting your legitimate needs.

Legitimate needs can be divided into four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.  Matthew Kelly speaks about these legitimate needs in his book, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy”.[1]  He makes the point, if our legitimate physical needs are not met, we suffer.  But, if our other legitimate needs (emotional, intellectual, and spiritual) are not met, we do not directly see the consequences, however, they are just as “real and devastating”.  The key to a wonderful life is being aware of your needs.  Kelly writes,

“Even people in highly functioning intimate relationships need solitude.  And very often we need silence and solitude to uncover our legitimate needs in each of the four areas.  More likely than not, you will not discover your deeper needs in the midst of your busy, noisy life; real reflection is required.  Silence and solitude are the perfect conditions for such reflection.”

This quote makes me think about the unfortunate nature of the modern Holiday season.  People are ten times busier, more stressed, and financially burdened.  During the Holidays, we neglect our needs in honor of the spirit of Christmas.  Now, I am not naïve enough to think that everyday will be perfect.  But not meeting your legitimate needs should be the exception, not the norm.  And you should never feel guilty for taking care of yourself.  It might seem impossible to get some quiet time especially during Christmas.  But what if I told you it would juristically improve your quality of life?  Would you do it, or just keep putting it off?

Why do you think people ignore their needs?  It seems like a no-brainer to take care of yourself.  But it’s often the first thing to go when things get busy and overwhelming.  I think of the comedian, Brian Regan, and his observation about getting glasses.  He talks about how people put off going to the eye doctor for months and months.  He jokes, “Why isn’t instantly improving vision at the top of your to-do list?”  I don’t know, Brian, I just don’t know.  It is a funny line because it’s true.  We all sacrifice our needs and justify doing so.  Why isn’t having a better quality of life at the top of your list?

One reason we don’t take care of ourselves is because our legitimate needs get mixed up with our illegitimate wants.  Kelly writes, “…our wants can seem much more exciting and alluring.”  He also writes, “The reality is you simply never can get enough of what you don’t really need.  But we chase our illegitimate wants with reckless abandon nonetheless.”

What we see on TV, the internet, and in magazines, is that Christmas is exploding with illegitimate wants, things we can’t get enough of.  Do you want stuff to be the heart and soul of your Christmas experience?

What are the most important things on the top of your Christmas to-do list?  Make some time during this Holiday season to rediscover your needs in silence and solitude.

[1] Matthew Kelly The Seven Levels of Intimacy, The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved (New York: Beacon Publishing, 2005), 216-223.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day Ten – Blah Blah Blah

{oil painting via}
Don’t eat carbs but carrots are okay to eat, take vitamins A thru Zinc but only in their natural state, olive oil is good for your heart but don’t heat it above 100 degrees, eat broccoli for iron but don’t eat it raw and don’t boil it in water because it will lose all it’s nutrients, eggs are a good breakfast but don’t use a non-stick pan and don’t eat more than six a week, blueberries are good because of the anti-oxidants but be careful because they are carbs, look out for MSG but it’s not always on the label, eat non-processed foods but only organic if you do, wash your fruits and vegetables to rinse off the chemicals but don’t use store bought soap, look out for sodium and cholesterol but you need some so your brain can function, only eat a certain amount of calories a day but eat more if you use more energy, don’t eat… STOP!!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of it.

My counselor challenged me to go into a grocery store and find an item that didn’t have something negative about it.

Apple – peal is covered in wax
Diet Soda – it has Aspartame
Organic carrots – just because it says organic doesn’t mean they didn’t use chemicals to clean it
Milk – you are most likely allergic to the protein in dairy
Dried Fruit – the bag was not recyclable and it has preservatives in it
Chicken – the lady behind the counter was not wearing a hair net

Have I made my point?

To make a long story short, everything I picked up, I could make up some reason it was bad…or at least arguably so.

I then heard this old Middle Eastern proverb and thought it was appropriate.

“Once there was a man who worked in the fields all day.  At night, the man went to his tent to rest and recuperate for the next day’s work.  He lit a candle, sat on the floor, and took out a bowl of figs to eat.  He took the first fruit and opened it only to find a worm.  He discarded that piece outside and opened the next one.  It too had a worm inside.  Each piece of fig he opened had worm.  When the bowl was over half gone, the man had a thought.  He blew out the candle and finished the bowl.”

Sometimes it’s better to just not know.  We are all fortunate enough not to have to worry about worms in our food.  But there are lists and lists of other things to make us worry about what we are eating.  If we paid attention to all of them, we would die of starvation.

Sometimes you just have to say, “Oh well!”, and turn off the lights of your overactive brain.

I don’t know about you, but going into a grocery store during the Holidays is overwhelming as it is.  You definitely don’t need a bunch of negative thoughts on top of all the overstimulation.
I know a lady who lived to be 90 years old and ate a donut and drank coffee with creamer every morning.  She had no major health problems and was always in good spirits because of an incredible prayer life.  I am sure she had her days, but she definitely didn't waste her time on earth worrying about heart healthy whole grains.
The honest truth; we are all going to die someday. The sooner you make peace with that fact, the sooner you will experience peace. The goal is not to live forever on this planet, but to live forever in Heaven.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day Nine – Says Who?

{Photo taken by Me:)}
Ever since I was little, I’ve created rules for myself.
Some of these rules are good.
Some are not-so-good.

Recently, I’ve started to question those rules.

Are they really necessary?
When did I start living that way?
Why do I feel the need to have so many rules?

Some of my rules are:
When reading a book, you have to finish a chapter before you can take a break.
Thou shall not leave clothes on the floor.
You have to finish your cup of coffee, no matter how cold it is.
Every food item you buy has to have a purpose in a recipe.
You are never allowed to sleep in.
You are not allowed to take a shower unless you exercise first.

Of those rules above, not a single one has major consequences.

Yet, I find I’m living by many guidelines like those that have nothing to do the real meaning of life.

During the course of a day, if I broke too many rules, I would subconsciously feel like a failure.  But, once I started to recognize that this is absolutely ridiculous, I started to feel much better about myself.

The rules that matter the most are the rules that are God given.  If I can’t find the rule in the Catechism, then it is not important enough to make me feel bad if I break it.

Do you live by any unnecessary rules?  How old were you when you made that rule?  What is the real reason you created it?

Rule: You must have turkey on Christmas Day.
Reality: Says who?  Eating turkey will not give you a “get-into-Heaven-free pass”.

Rule: You have to buy all your loved ones a gift for Christmas.
Reality: Says who?  It is way more important that they know you love them.  So say it.  Say “I love you” to the ones you love.

If you find that you are getting stressed because you are trying to live by many rules, take a deep breath, think about whether or not you really need to fulfill those expectations, and take another deep breath.

Christmas Peace will not come from cooking a picture perfect meal.  Christmas Joy will not come from dressing your family like a picture on a magazine cover.  True peace and joy are gifts from God.  We can only receive those gifts by giving up the control and completely giving ourselves up as a supreme gift to God.  (My Christmas interpretation of #24 of the Encyclical, Gaudium et Spes, "This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.")

I needed rules in the past because I needed to know that I was doing the right thing.  If I could control it, then I could relax.  But that is such a lie.  God already has the control and I was trying to take something that wasn't mine to take.  What I really need to do is to trust God.  I need to let go and give it all up to Him.  These other rules are distracting me from God.  It is a smoke and mirror show that is drawing my attention away from what is really happening.  My rules were superficial and taking me away from what was really important.

Challenge:  This Holiday Season, figure out the rules you live by and determine if they are really important or not.  You will be amazed at how much more  peace and joy you will experience by throwing out the rule book.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day Eight – Rehearsed all the lines

(This is a beautiful song, but it also makes a great poem.)

There's a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered
And the shame she can't hide

She says, "How did I get here?
I'm not who I once was.
And I'm crippled by the fear
That I've fallen too far to love"

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.


Well she tries to believe it
That she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling
That it's not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she's rehearsed all the lines
And so she'll try to do better
But then she's too weak to try

But don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.
This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

“You Are More”, by Tenth Avenue North

Lyrics courtesy of

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day Seven – Food, Part 3

Give yourself permission to eat...unconditional permission.

You do NOT have to earn the right to eat food.  It doesn’t matter that yesterday was Thanksgiving.  That was yesterday.  Today is today.  It doesn’t matter if you ate a lot more than you are used to.  It doesn’t matter if you ate “bad” foods or not.  Are you hungry?  What are you hungry for?  No conditional penance eating either.  Example: while you are eating that left-over pie, don’t think it’s okay that you are eating pie now because tomorrow you diet.  No.  We don’t need no stinking diets.

Believe it or not, food is more than just food.

Food can intellectually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our minds by sitting around the table and talking to people.  We get a chance to share stories and hear about the lives of other people.  We use our brains to cook and bake yummy things.  Eating gives you brain power.  If you skip a meal, you skip more than just the energy needed to move your body; you skip out on intellectually stimulating your mind and your social skills.

Food can spiritually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our souls.  We pray before we eat.  We thank God for the gift of food.  Meals are really very spiritual and scripture based.  There are incredible teachings centered on food and meals in the Bible if you stop and think about it.  For example, the Passover, Manna from Heaven, the Last Supper, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Eucharist, just to name a few.  If you skip a meal, you miss important spiritual nourishment.  Chew on that the next time you are in adoration.

Food can emotionally nourish:
(Emotional eating is not good – I am not talking about that.)  But eating IS a very emotional experience.  Everyone remembers their favorite things to eat as a kid.  Lasagna is so nostalgic for me that eating it can bring me back years and years.  Food can be associated with traditions.  Can you say, “Birthday cake”?  Root beer floats, Friday night treat night, bike rides to the tasty freeze, and “slapping” cheese.  I won’t explain why all those foods have meaning to me beyond just nutrition.  I would run the risk of overloading the inside jokes to poisonous levels.   And I am sure ya’ll have your own stories about childhood and food.
{Photo courtesy of}
This Holiday Season, you can change the way you view the abundance of food.  Start by asking yourself what you are really hungry for or what you are really craving.  Allow yourself the permission to eat unconditionally.  Remind yourself that if you don’t eat all your favorite foods today, you will still be able to eat them tomorrow.  Eat slowly.  Don’t make food choices because of what other people are eating, what you think is healthier, or what you think you “should” eat.  Trust yourself.  Your body is not a Tasmanian devil waiting to be released.  Remember, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This might take some time.  So don’t get too discouraged if you find yourself reverting back to your old ways or feeling the old guilt trip after eating “sinfully delicious” desserts.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a break.  And remember, food is not intrinsically evil.  Food cannot be “sinful”.  This concept is a fabrication of the modern media via commercials and women’s magazines.  Okay, I’ve stepped off my soap box, finally.

Uber-Hard-Challenge-of-the-Year:  Give up commercials, and women’s magazines, and diets, and that stupid Pintrest crap about looking a certain way.  This is a hard challenge, I understand that.

Maybe somewhere to start would be to become more aware of how body image affects your life.  A more realistic goal, or first step, would be to take note of how often you encounter a negative body image during your day and how often it affects your actions.  Just being aware of your environment will help you make better choices in the future.

When you die are you really going to think, “Gee, I am so glad I spent all that time trying to be thin”.  I doubt it.  Think about your ultimate goal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day Six – Food, Part 2

Disclaimer for my Disclaimer Alerts: I have a lot of disclaimers, so bear with me.

Disclaimer Alert: For the record, I don’t want to discredit healthy eating.  I am pro-healthy eating.

I am also pro-pancakes, pro-ice cream, and pro-pizza.  It is good to nourish yourself with healthy foods.  However, do it because it makes you feel better.  Do it because you actually like the taste.  Do it because you love and respect your body.  DON'T do it because you “should”.

Disclaimer Alert: I understand that I am more sensitive to the topic of food than most people.  So, you might think my perspective is too dramatic.

{Photo courtesy of here.}
Nevertheless, as a society, you have to admit that we’ve got to stop the “fat talk".  “Fat talk” is so common in our conversations that most people don’t even notice they are speaking it.  This kind of talk is negative, self-degrading, accusatory, and unhealthy.  For example, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”  “These chips are going to go right to my thighs.”  Often our “fat talk” is more subtle.  We are good at camouflaging this talk under the guise of a compliment.  For example, “Your legs are so skinny!  I wish my legs were that skinny.”  Or, “You look fabulous in that dress!  I could never wear something like that.”
Disclaimer Alert: I don’t mean to offend anyone with the phrase, “fat talk”.  I adopted this phrase from Tri Delta.  You can read about them here.
“Fat talk” does so much damage to our self-worth.  Every time we speak it, we are prioritizing our appearance over our dignity as a human person.   “Fat talk” also does so much damage to the young people who are watching our every move.  Every time we speak it, we are subconsciously training our children how to think about themselves.
Disclaimer Alert: I do not have any children yet, but I have spiritual children, God-children, nephews, nieces, etc.  Are you sick of my disclaimers yet?
There is a wonderful blog that I follow called, “Weightless” by Margarita Tartakovsky.  She recently published a post on this epidemic of Body-bashing.  You can read her masterpiece here.

Tartakovsky brings up some very key points.  I highly encourage you to read it if you find that you are struggling with keeping a positive body image.  Reading her blog was a key component in my personal recovery.

Disclaimer Alert: I give Tartakovsky all the credit for all the ideas I think about and all the things I write about.  In my book, she deserves the Noble Peace Prize.

Soooooo, how do I stop the “fat talk”?  I am glad you asked.

A few tricks to use this Thanksgiving:

Recognize the “fat talk” in your vocab.  Become aware of your it in conversations with your friends, co-workers, relatives…and…yourself…yup…with yourself when you are in front of the mirror in the Kohl’s dressing room.
Disclaimer Alert: Um....never mind.

Think about other topics to talk about besides appearance before you start a conversation.  If you know that your monthly luncheon with the girls at the local coffee shop always turns into gab on the latest fab diet, write down some topic changers before you go.  And if the conversation still tends that way, make it a point to compliment your friends and say something positive about yourself.  Discuss “fat talk” with your friends if you can.
Disclaimer Alert: Just kidding!

Cultivate a healthy body image.  Something we can do to change the culture of self-hate is to love our own bodies the way they are now.  God created us and loves us the way we are, right now, hands down, no questions asked.  To God, you are a beautiful creation, more beautiful than the most beautiful work of art.  Once we can see ourselves the way God sees us, we can love our bodies and be thankful (and happy!) in our own skin.  And we won’t feel so much pressure to change.

Since this post is just bursting with Challenges throughout, see above for the daily dose.  I put them in bold in case you were having a hard time finding them.  Thank you.  You’re welcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day Five - Food, Part 1

{Photo courtesy of here}

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I purposely used the word “nourishing” in the title of this blog for very specific reasons. It is a word commonly used to describe how the body relates to food. However, it is also a verb used to describe other functions of the human person such as, nourishing the soul, nourishing the mind, etc. When you nourish yourself, you do more than feed it, you improve your quality of life in the process.

You can nourish yourself in many ways; eating real food, praying, receiving the sacraments, engaging in intellectual conversations, reading inspiring books, learning to relate to others, and so on. I think it is important to nourish yourself regularly. "Am I going MAD, or did the word 'think' escape your lips?"

In the past, the word “nourishing” had no place in my life. I treated my body as a machine to be manipulated. You can’t “nourish” a car. Therefore, I could not “nourish”myself because I viewed by body as a thing to be conquered, controlled, driven, pushed to the limit, and used.

At the root of this disordered thinking was my desire to be separated from my body. I didn’t like it and I wanted to change it because it wasn’t good enough for me…bottom line…I wasn’t good enough or, at least, I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I believed that my body was bad and, left to it’s own devices, would run amok and ruin my outcome worse than life in the "Fire Swamp".

A huge turning point for me was the realization that I am not against my body. My body is a very necessary part of me. And I must listen to it, rather than control it. I have to work with my body if I want to achieve God’s unique plan for my life.

During the holidays, we can be more susceptible to negative body image. Seeing people you haven’t seen in a while might lead you to compare yourself to them. Also, you might be tempted to compare yourself to what you were like last year. The environmental changes along with a slew of other triggers can set you off on the wrong path and lead you to the "Pit of Despair".

Look at yourself in the mirror and, instead of picking out a flaw, look at your beauty and praise God for creating you. If you find yourself starting to body bash, stop, and think about why you are doing it. Maybe you are feeling down about something else entirely. Recognizing what that might be will help you deal with the real issue and, hopefully, help you avoid unjustly degrading your body. This will take practice, "You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."

Challenge of the day: Listen to your body. Remember that you and your body are on the same side - you are working together. Praise your body for allowing you to do some pretty amazing things like, giving a hug, reading a book, talking on the phone, watching a movie. Without our bodies, we couldn’t do any of those things! So, say “thank you” to your body!
Inigo: "You know, Fessik, you finally did something right."
Fessik: "Don't worry, I won't let it go to my head."
{Priness Bride quotes courtesy of here.}

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day Four – Budgets and Lists

“There is a great deal of human nature in people.”
~ Mark Twain

Thanksgiving is such a rare holiday.  It only comes around once a year!  Christmas is even more surprising.  No one ever knows it’s coming and then, “BAM”, it’s here.  Your neighbor is hanging up lights.  Christmas music is playing on the radio.  Christmas is so sneaky, ya know?  It’s not like it’s been the same day for two thousand and twelve years or anything.

{Photo courtesy of the Travis Family, Christmas 2011}
One of the coolest things you can do to prepare for Christmas is to budget for it.  The Bureau of American Households* declared that, in the year 2012, money will be spent on Christmas gifts.  How shocking!  And every year the average American puts most of their purchases on credit cards.  Life changing advice: Make and budget and stick to it.  I don’t want to write about money, but I had to share that bit of advice because it is so important.  If you want more info, look up Dave Ramsey (my siblings are rolling their eyes right now).

“But Christmas is here now!!!” you say?  If you’ve already been surprised by Christmas this year, here are some things you can do now:  Budget for next year, budget for next year, and budget for next year.  I have never heard anyone say that it is too late to start changing your life.  You can do it!

Besides money, the other thing that gets me every year is how I always set myself up for failure.

I like routine.  The word “like” is a severe understatement.  Yet, even if you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantaloons-kinda-guy, in some way or another (even if it is a small way), every person likes routine.

Every year, I expect myself to enjoy the holidays when my schedule is completely disrupted.  I am eating different things (Stay tunned! I will write more about this next time!), traveling different places, seeing different people, and so on.  Spontaneity is fun, don’t get me wrong.  I have found, however, that if I incorporate some parts of my routine in those special spontaneous days of “holi” then the results lead to a much better experience.

Some things I do to stay sane:
Lower the bar.  This Christmas is not an episode of "The Best Christmas Ever".

I don’t like dressing up, so I dress in something comfortable, still somewhat nice, but still me.

I try to sit in a comfy spot  or in a comfy chair when I am talking to people.

I drink coffee every morning, so I remember to bring some with me or drink some before I leave.

I also like to exercise.  Even if it is a brief walk around the block, it is helpful.  (You can also use that time to converse with a relative you want to catch up with.  It is a proven fact that people have more meaningful conversations while walking.  Because your body is using energy to walk, your brain automatically prompts you to speak in a more direct and efficient way.)

I also keep a cheat sheet in my pocket or purse.  When I get panicky, my brain shuts down and I no longer remember basic things.  My list includes: Breathe, Sit down, Chew a piece of gum.  You laugh, but it works.  Eventually, I won’t need my list so much.  I just need to form new habits.  But until then, I’ve got my tool box handy.  One more thing... If you don't have kids, hold a baby.  If you have kids, give your baby to someone to hold.  With your arms fully of an innocent little one, you can't help but smile.  And if you need to give your arms a break, mama, then let me hold 'em.

Challenge of the day: Think about your holiday plans and write down a few ways that you can incorporate part of your routine into the day.

*The Bureau of American Households is a made up government department for the sake of proving my point.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day Three – Anxiety vs. Anticipation

Why are birthday parties for animals dumb?*  Part of it is because the pet in question has no idea what is going on.  I guess if you want to have a party for yourself for your pet, that’s cool, I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing.

*Official disclaimer, “I don’t mean to offend any animal lovers.” (P.S. Truthfully, I just wanted to use the footnoted *star*)

The point I am trying to make is that anticipation is half the fun.  Looking forward to exciting things in the future is a great part of life.  More than that, it is actually a unique gift of being a human.  Animals cannot anticipate their upcoming birthday party.  Only human persons can anticipate.  Research it if you don’t believe me.  (I am not talking about an animal’s ability to instinctively react to situations or environments.) “Squirrel!”  I digress.

{Photo courtesy of}
God intended each person to have the ability to anticipate and hope for things to come.  Whether it is looking forward to a trip abroad, taking a nap, or, ultimately, eternal life.  God puts hope in our heart to remind us of the journey’s end.  The anticipation of earthly things reflect, in a small way, the anticpation of Eternal Life.  He also gives us hope to keep us going.  It is a great motivating factor in our day to day lives if we stop and think about it.

Since, unfortunately, we have a fallen human nature, anticipation can sometimes get twisted up in our brains.  It stops being fun when the anticipation turns into anxiety.  Anticipation is motivating, anxiety is debilitating.  If we’ve found that looking toward the future no longer gives us joy, but makes it hard to get out of bed, then we’ve got to take a step back.

Anxiety surfaces when your self-worth is attached to the outcome.  Lucy, let me ‘splain.  I am really looking forward to seeing my brothers and sisters on Thanksgiving Day.  I am anxious because I want them to affirm me and I want their approval…still…after all these grown up years.  I just want to be loved.  Here’s the ticket:  I AM ALREADY LOVED.  Even if no one else in this world loves me, God loves me no matter what.  And, I think, my brothers and sisters love me too.  At least they pretend to love me when I’m aroundJ.  Here’s my two cents: You are worthy.  And you will still be worthy at your family get-togethers.  Know you are loved, truly loved, for who you are.  Take that wonderful deep breath of peace and joy.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!

We are tempted to start controlling more and more when we are inflicted with anxiety.  What is more beneficial, however, is to let go of control and offer it up to God.  The more you control, the more anxiety you will experience.  We cannot do everything all on our own.  We can do nothing without God.  He is God, after all.  That’s, like, so much, like, better than, like, a human, ya know, like, ya know?

(A-Not-so-)Cliché challenge of the day: Purposely think of “worst case scenarios”.  What?  Yes, you read it correctly.  When anxiety rears it’s ugly head, think about your worst fears.  Think about how you are knotting up your self-worth with future events.  Then think about the things you are most afraid of happening.  My worst case scenario would be if I made a fool of myself and nobody liked me anymore.  Realistically, that’s ridiculous, but it’s my legit fear.  The next step is to think, “SO WHAT!”  So what if no one likes me anymore, that’s their problem.  So what if I make a fool of myself…maybe it will be funny.  At least my husband isn’t going anywhere.  He is stuck with me for lifeJ.  But seriously, the power of “so what” is tremendous.  Forget throwing in the love and instead throw in some “so what” with your cranberry sauce and stuffing.  Taste the best Thanksgiving meal of your life!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day Two – Achieving Inner Peace

Prayer to Achieve Inner Peace, from Catholic Book of Prayers

Slow me down, Lord.  Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.  Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.  Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.  Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in memory.

Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.  Teach me the art of taking minute vacations – of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.

Slow me down, Lord.  Amen.

Did you like this prayer?  Or did this prayer cause a little snort of laughter?  Does it seem naïve or ignorant or unrealistic?


We live in a fast paced world.  We live in a world where the right to instant gratification and high speed internet is more important than the right to life or liberty.

This is the norm, unfortunately.  Everybody is doing it.  But just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  I think we know deep down in our hearts that something isn’t right about this way of life.  But how can you change?  How can you slow down?  You feel guilty if you aren’t hustling around busying yourself with the affairs of your life.  It’s expected.

I think this is why I started smoking.  I wanted a legit excuse to take some deep breaths, but I wasn’t allowed to do that unless I needed a smoke break.  Don’t worry, I’ve quit.  I now take Centering Breaks.  These are breaks that I use to get my focus back on the things that matter most to me…like, God, my husband, my family, eternity…

The holidays can be a very busy time of year.  The to-do-lists add additional stress to already stressed-out people.  Everyone around you is going at turbo speed and it is contagious.  You might not even realize that you put it into overdrive.  If you “NASCAR” people as you are walking down the street, I am talking to you.

We have to constantly remind ourselves to slow down.  There is so much we miss at top speed.  And I promise you it is more peaceful and enjoyable when you slow down.  You are allowed to slow down.  You are allowed to take some deep breaths.  You are allowed to sit and enjoy people watching at the mall.  And you are allowed to move at a pace that is comfortable for you, even if it is 10 speeds lower than the populous.  Just try it.  Don’t have the time?  Yeah, I’m talking to you too.

Are you worried about what people will think of you?  Are you worried that they will judge you?  Guess what?  Everyone else in the world is only concerned about one thing – themselves.  Their lives are too centered on “me” to care about what anyone else is doing.  And if someone says something to you in a harsh judgmental way, it only says more about them than it does about you.  Trust me, most people will actually be jealous of your peace and calm if you choose to slow it down.

Cliché challenge of the day: Stop and smell the roses.

Be okay to sit in silence.  Be okay to sit in contemplation.  Be okay with doing nothing.  Even if you can only spare a few moments, it will be good for your heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day One – Letting go of unrealistic expectations

So, how does one begin to have a “nourishing” holiday season?

I think a good place to start is with expectations.

I used to be a part of a cult that only let me live by standards from a very strict set of guidelines.  It was really hard fulfilling all of my obligations.  Most people would have thought it was crazy if they knew what I was doing.  Who made these regulations?  Me.  What was the cult?  My unrealistic expectations.  I expected myself to eat a certain way, say certain things, laugh at appropriate jokes, wear appropriate clothes, and so on.  This lifestyle called for constant vigilance!  There was no room for failures, and there was definitely no room for me.

{Photo courtesy of Craig Borchers}
Often times, we don’t know why we are so stressed out or why we are so overwhelmed.  Taking some time to think about the things that are getting you in a funk can be really revealing.  Most of the time, we are stressed out because of some “expectation” we “have” to fulfill.  Most of the time, your boss is yourself.  You put the chains around your ankles and you are the one who has the key to unlock the chains and set you free.  Letting go of an expectation that is causing you stress can be very liberating.  If you are having a hard time letting loose, try seeing yourself through your friend’s eyes.  Would you expect your friend, or someone you love dearly, to live up to your own expectations?  If my friend’s pumpkin pie didn’t turn out like the picture, would I scorn her and shun her from my life?  NO!  I wouldn’t think anything about it.  I am happy to be in her company.  Even if my friend showed up to my house with un-brushed hair and un-matching socks, I would love her all the more!

Love yourself as you love your friends.  Be kind to yourself as you would be kind to your friends.

Cliché challenge of the day:  Embrace yourself, embrace your strengths AND your weaknesses.  As the popular (yet perseveringly applicable) saying goes, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.”

Take some time today, 5-10 minutes, and think about the main things that stress you out over the holidays.  Write the top three things down in a journal.  Also, write down why these things are so stressful to you.  Then go down the list one by one and decide if it is an expectation you’ve created for yourself.  If it is, cross it off your list!  Comments accepted and highly encouraged!

40 Days of Holiday Encouragement

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Even with all the excitement of the holidays, did reading those salutations give you a little twinge of anxiety?  Useless anxiety?  The kind that sucks the joy from the “Joy to the World”?

If you are a human, an American, live someplace in the U.S., and have family members, then you can probably relate.

For years and years, Thanksgiving and Christmas have been decaying into something rotten, stinky, and almost unrecognizable.

The 40-50 days of the Holiday Season (from Thanksgiving to January 1) have always been more torturous for me than the 40 days of Lent.  Why, you may ask?  I mean, seriously, what is there not to love about frigid cold, bulky clothes, crowded stores, baking and baking and baking, spending lots of money on unappreciated gifts, eating and eating and eating, and then eating some more, having to be “merry” all the time, forced conversation with family members, and I could go on and on.  What’s that you say?  The Grinch?  Bah Humbug!  If you don’t understand me so far, you don’t have to read this term paper.  But before you go, yes, yes, Billy, there is a Santa Claus.

IF……….If, however, you think that your holidays could use a bit of a makeover, then *knuckle pound* we gonna git down to it!

This year, I am planning on making changes that will, hopefully, improve my experience (and your experience, if you so choose to accept this challenge).  I am going to offer helpful tips, meditations, and different perspectives.  I do not think that I am the only person who struggles with “Tis-the-season-syndrome”.  Come on now, admitting it is the first step!  Don’t worry, I am NOT going to ask you to sell the house, your belongings, and your first-born, and have you go Christian missionary to Africa.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”  But, there has got to be a way to have a nourishing holiday right here, right now.  Spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally nourishing.  Nourishing is not a word I would have associated with the holidays in the past.  I cannot expect things to change if I keep doing the same things over and over again.  I believe that you don’t have to make huge changes, but making small changes here and there will go a long way.

Alright class, a few topics we will cover:
How to deal with the abundance of food
When to say “no” to the rule book
How to get rid of unrealistic expectations
How to stop comparing yourself to others
How to slow down in a fast paced environment
Dealing with insecurities and not-so-fun emotions
and much, much more!

I don’t really know how to do this without teaching a course on Sarcasm 101.  I feel like a teacher/fruit-spray/televangelist/Swan’s-man/me.  So, I’m just going to start.  Now.  Okay, now.