Tag Archives: real life

My Bible

Several years ago I attended a weekend Pine Cove camp with good friends. While there, it came out that I did not own a personal Bible. Days after we left the camp they presented me with an engraved study Bible. Inside, each friend had written a personal note and highlighted their favorite verse.

 

 

 

 

Now when I stumble upon the highlighted verses, I am reminded how important community is and how often I fight against it. My pride tells me that shouldering it alone means I am strong. And that is when things tend to go very poorly for me, because it is not about strong versus weak. God created us to be in community with one another.

 

 

 

 

A spiritual community, when authentic, provides a place to share joy, hold space, and carry each other’s burdens. It is where we can quietly learn or stand up and teach. It is a safe spot for imperfect people to mess up, regroup, and try again. It should be full of messy, unconditional love.

 

 

 

 

This Bible and every other Bible serves as a powerful reminder that we can experience God’s grace and message through others and that through community we have the opportunity to experience a bit of Kingdom living right here on earth.

 

 

Homemade Tortillas: A Magnificent Beat Down

Last week my plan to make tacos was thwarted when our pantry revealed that we existed in a house without tortillas, like a bunch of wild animals. And I thought, “You know, I always hear making tortillas is easy, healthier and better tasting.” When I found Masa mix in the cupboard  my fate was sealed. I would make my own tortillas. A decision that would elicit one of the most magnificent beat downs of my entire life.

I have a difficult time baking with a floury substance of any kind, which pretty much rules out…all baking. I follow every direction (that holds my attention) and the result can best described as “flour bread”. It is not delicious. The good news is that flour is not nutritionally sound, so my inability to cook with it is admirable and makes me a bit of an accidental health nut. I maintain my healthy low-flour lifestyle by purchasing our many bread items and only eating my friend’s tasty homemade stuff. But I do role model health to others by not cooking with flour. They’ll get it.

I mixed the masa, water and salt as instructed and of course it was too dry. So I added water. They suggested adding a teaspoon, but let’s be real. When you are thirsty does a teaspoon of water quench it? No. So why are we putting that expectation on dough? I gave it a blast from the faucet and moved on.

It was encouraging to see the tortilla instructions involved a simple five step process. Five steps = using one hand’s worth of fingers to keep track.

Although. This could explain a lot. A rather unfortunate door mishap took place when I was ten years old, leaving me to do life with 9 and ¾ fingers. Is it entirely possible that the compromised ring finger on my left hand cost me my tortillas? Yes. But, to quote every brilliant preschool teacher, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Can I play most instruments? No. But I can count to 9 and ¾ on my fingers, and that is something.

Divide the dough into 16-18 balls.

This kind of thing sends me straight into a tailspin. How can I be certain I am creating the kind of balls that will lead me to my 16-18 dough ball goal? What if I have to combine balls, or worse, separate some balls because I only made 10-12 balls? WHAT THEN? Do I go back and adjust all of them, or do I just change the last 6-8 balls? It’s too much for one person! Also: Balls.

Cover with a damp cloth to keep them soft.

This whole thing may have gone to crap, but I nailed this step. Nothing more to say. My balls were all tucked in, happily resting under a damp paper towel.
Using a tortilla press, place a ball between two sheets of plastic and clamp to form a tortilla 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Who brings diameters into an already intense and dicey situation!? Rude. Now my geometry PTSD was all a flurry.  I was suddenly flashing back to my 10th grade Geometry parent/teacher conference as relayed to me by my mother.

Mom: What is Amanda’s current grade in Geometry? She seems stressed. 

Mr. Imming: Um. I don’t know what to say about Amanda’s grade. All she does is take notes in class. She’s listening. No one tries harder. But, you both need to prepare yourselves because… it’s not good.

Now we know that my math skills were just skewed because I count on 9 ¾ fingers.

As my personal high school geometry trauma became my focus, I failed to absorb the instruction to place the ball between two sheets of plastic. If I am being honest, it is only now while typing out the directions that I did notice this tidbit of info.  

This step also included “tortilla clamping”, which sounded rather cathartic after everything I had been through.

I used up a great deal of time stressing about the 16-18 balls and looking up “diameter”, so I could not afford to dawdle on clamping. I made the decision that “use a tortilla press” was just a phrase, and that it was best to smush the dough like hell with my hand. I suppose they presumed a person lacking a tortilla press would at least think to use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough. Hindsight being 20/20, I feel like that may have been the way to go.

So I smushed like hell. As I looked at my work I thought…it’s so weird this jagged mess will become a perfect circle when I cook it in the pan. Spoiler alert: It did not.

Heat griddle or skillet to medium-high heat, cook the tortillas flipping them every 20-30 seconds.

What the…they need to be flipped every 20-30 seconds?

**Stage 5 Clinger Alert**

Talk about needy! Goodnight! I had hungry children, dogs circling my ankles, a husband stuck at the O’Hare airport, and zero time for dough that wanted me to treat it like a vulnerable snowflake. So, I flipped sometimes. And truly, I think their calculations are off because the flipping seemed to be the harbinger of the devastating crumbling that ensued. I can forgive and forget, I just hope going forward they alter their directions to adopt the line “Flip sometimes, but not really if they are crumbly.”   

The first two tortillas did not survive, but I just figured they were preparing the pan. I do not think “pan preparing” is an actual thing, but it brought me solace. I had eighteen tortilla dough balls, so I did not stress until 8 were completely ruined and only ten remained.

And then hard truths needed to be confronted. Even though I had created the perfect host environment for dough balls by preparing a pan, statistically these 10 were not likely to survive. Here is where I ordered pizza. But I also held on, open to receiving a tortilla miracle. I talked to myself about perseverance, bravery and how these tortillas may take my life, but they will never take my freedom. I was not giving up! Ever. So, I ruined one more and yelled, “I AM OUT!” I had pizza on the way and I was not going to obsess over clean eating at the cost of my self-esteem. They say self-esteem helps you more than clean eating. I don’t actually know if they say that, but neither do you.

My older daughter came down the stairs and found me covered in masa mix and brokenness and asked, “Mom, what is happening?” I told her, “I made homemade tortillas, so we are going to eat this pizza.” She has told that story to approximately 400 people.

I know you want a happy ending to this story. And there is one because we ate pizza.

Next time I’ll teach you how to make this meatloaf. My husband had a craving. Anything involving the word “loaf” is not okay, but the heart wants what it wants, so I made it for him.

Pro tip: Do not stress over timing. The meatloaf will let you know it is ready when black smoke pours out. Simply pop it out, and enjoy.
So good.

If you enjoyed my tortilla debacle, might I suggest my Pinterest Amnesia post?  Here you go….Pinterest Amnesia

How to Grow a Giant Dog On a Simple Diet of Socks, Shoes and Underwear

One day last week was National Puppy Day. We missed it because we have puppies. You can not take your eyes off them or they chew on your iPad. So, we will celebrate now with a puppy update. 

Remember how Amanda and I convinced our husbands that getting puppies was an excellent idea?  Well, per usual, WE WERE RIGHT!!! Our husbands are #blessed.

These little munchkins are now 4 ½ months old.  And also, they aren’t munchkin sized.  Millie packed on 10 pounds last month to bump up to 24 pounds, while Phoebe weighs in at a more petite 20 pounds.   Their vets keep saying scary things like..“Yikes. Did you know she would be such a large dog?” We can not remember anymore what we thought. And since we were told they’d most likely be under 60 pounds, I’m pretty sure this means one thing.  In my family, we grow super-sized dogs no matter the predicted weight.  We are the real life family version of Clifford the Big Red Dog times two.  It’s our special gift.

Our families and friends have been noting how much these dogs favor certain celebrities and fictional characters.

And so, without further adieu, here’s what we came up with.  This little sweet thing….

…she may have been born a canine but she sure resembles a certain ursine.

Hello little Muppet!  Phoebe Fozzie Bear Regas!

And Millie has been narrowed down to two doppleganger possibilities.  Please feel free to voice your thoughts on this riveting topic.

I’m glad her paws are little….I’m sure she’s done growing…
  1. Doc from Back to the Future 
  2. A Fraggle Rock

And one more thing, just to be open and honest.  When we said these puppies have been a great decision, they have.  But let’s not confuse this with meaning “easy and perfect.”  Dull moments don’t exist.  Our couch, along with any surface that’s above her eye level, is stacked with shoes, socks, underwear that she tends to nonchalantly walk by with in her mouth.

Some people have throw pillows on the couch, we have shoes we’d like to not be devoured by the pup.
Millie’s drywall snack

Oh, and Millie tends to get carsick.  I learned this when she puked three times in the car while going to pick up kids from carpool.  And then she threw up again in the car the next day.  But I’m not sure if that was due to the motion or if the sock she ate and vomited back up onto my lap was to blame.  That was a pleasant time.   And apparently, we have a spot on our wall that looks and tastes delicious….goodbye drywall.

Thanks Mills.  Our vet is under strict instruction to look for and locate her internal obedience button and push it when she gets spayed soon.  I’m just certain there has got to be an answer for her shenanigans that don’t include me having to be trained on getting her to obey.

And The Phoebes, well she is perfect. Except that these are the glasses Amanda’s husband used to wear when he wanted to see the world. He left himself vulnerable by allowing his body to sleep and you can’t let your guard down like that. It’s fine. Amanda talks a lot and can just describe things to him. Good practice for the elderly years.

Just as humans like salty and sweet together, Phoebe’s well-developed palate enjoys combining the crunch of glasses with the smoosh of soft socks.

And so, on this Monday, SFB wishes you a happy start to your week.  May your drywall stay intact, socks stay on feet, glasses be uncrunched, and underwear not have the crotch ripped out of them. God bless.

“Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”

I ordered the book “Nice Girls Don’t Change The World” last week thinking that I would add it to my stack of books I’d like to read someday.  It arrived the day before my husband and I were heading out of town for a weekend away.  And in typical fashion, I was throwing my airplane bag together approximately 16 seconds before walking out the door (note: when I’m 40, I’m so going to pack at least 1 hour before I leave….#grownupgoals).  When I realized the book’s petite size, it instantly found its way into the bag and it met all my requirements. The book was small.  The lines were double spaced.  And, there were pictures.  Folks, this was going to be a quick read and I love a quick read. Waiting on the tarmac, I opened it up and realized good things were in store for me. By the end of the first page it was clear Hybel was going to give me a glimpse into her life, personal thoughts and emotions. Cue Happy Katie in an airplane.

Hybel opens by describing herself as a nice girl for the first half of her life.  Her self description included being a people pleaser, a hard worker, a rule follower and someone always pressuring herself to be better.  This is when I checked the front cover to make sure I had not authored the book.

When Hybel turned 39, coincidentally the same age I am now, she ran out of steam.  Her internal and external selves were not in sync and she sought help.  She discovered:

The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.”  Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness.  It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood.

She began to recognize how God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibilities versus the false assumptions we make about God and unknowingly live out.  And she uncovered the force of fear and all its debilitating power.  Ultimately she saw through the muck of her actions and thoughts, finally getting to the core of her purpose.

As soon as I finished the book, I mentally added this to my list of books I’d like to pass on to my daughters someday.  First I love that it is written by a woman in a different stage of life than me.  She is able to reflect and offer wisdom through her own experiences.  Reading her story and seeing how God used her struggles gives hope.  Second, life is hard.  And sometimes our own struggles seem to dominate our thoughts.  Or worse, we believe the lie that we are the only people who might be suffering because the world likes us to think that perfection is attainable.  And perfection and suffering do not exist together.  Reading about another person’s troubles helps people connect on a genuine human level and inspires us to better ourselves and help those around us.  And third, Hybel is vulnerable enough to share that when she was in pain, she reached out for help.  And at some point in my children’s lives, chances are they will need support.  I have repeatedly talked with my girls about the importance of healthy relationships and how there are professionals able to help in times of distress.  Oftentimes, we humans react by keeping pain bottled up rather than reaching out for assistance which can provide relief and guidance.  Reading stories about others who have received help lessens the stigma associated with seeking professional assistance from mental pain.

I recommend adding this book to your reading list.  Or even better, purchasing it, reading it and then passing it along as a gift of inspiration to another woman you know that could use encouragement as she navigates life.  Plus, my favorite part of the book was towards the end.  Hybel does not end her story by being content with her knowledge of what comprises a good woman.  She takes this truth, mixes in some passion and energy and describes her transformation into a downright dangerous woman.  And this is the type of woman I hope to be someday and I that I wish for my girls too.

Here is the link to the book if you are interested!

https://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Dont-Change-World/dp/0310272319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423024101&sr=1-1&keywords=nice+girls+don%27t+change+the+world

 

Decluttering: A Post to Make You Feel Better About Your Home

This summer I will both turn 40 and celebrate a 15 year wedding anniversary. And I am finding this phase of life to be a pretty beautiful spot, although sometimes the minivan still smarts a bit. And with what is clearly a midlife crisis slapping me straight across the face these milestones hitting, I now feel a strong inclination to shed excess physical and mental clutter from my family’s life. And I have learned the mental and physical do overlap in numerous ways. During this next stretch in life, I want to place more focus on what’s valuable and essential, and less on any literal or mental junk standing in the way of achieving that goal. The mental clutter, let’s just say I am working on it. But today I will talk about the physical decluttering.  

As with most things, I considered easier alternatives. I stood in the doorway of cluttered rooms and prayed for the rapture. But I feared God might facepalm after glimpsing at this abundance of crap and say “OMG, Amanda.” As it turns out, decluttering is like any area of life in which you seek transformation. You have to do the work. It’s annoying.

Starting the process felt much less overwhelming after I began following the work of The Minimalists, who believe decluttering improves life on every level. I have tried, on a beginner’s level, to adopt a minimalistic approach for decluttering our home. In case you are wondering, minimalistic approach is fancy suburban lingo for “tossing junk out.” It challenges people to keep only what is needed and life-giving.  And additionally, minimalism encourages putting more thought into purchases with the goal of buying fewer, better things. Our parents just called this process “getting rid of stuff.” But we like All Of The Meaning.

Let me walk you through some of what I’ve experienced thus far. It will be fun. You can screenshot my pictures and send them to friends along with the screaming emoji in place of text because it will say everything that needs to be said. I like helping you with your friendships.

 

First of all, you learn interesting facts about yourself when you declutter. For instance, apparently, the part of my brain meant for organizing was being used to obsess over cinnamon.

I think we can now picture the trailer for my Hoarders episode…

The camera pans around a room littered with ground cinnamon spice bottles stacked straight up to the rafters (I don’t really know what rafters are). Finally, the camera comes to rest on me, sitting on a couch clutching cinnamon sticks. Then it will cut to a therapist reminding me that spices will never bring me love, but his words will be drowned out by the meows of all my cats named Cinnamon.

 

Tupperware has proven to be an integral part of my personal non-minimalistic hell. Nevertheless, I conquered my Goliath with grace and dignity. My husband, inspired by my “can do” attitude, captured this moment.

#ShutUpTupperwareIHateYouSoHard  

PS: I did not know we had a wok. That’s kind of fun

 

And here is the Regas family sock basket. It is the actual worst.

Fix it, Jesus.

One of our goals with this blog is to provide our daughters with something they can read in the future that will normalize their feelings since few people voice their personal truths due to their desire to appear perfect. So, eventually, they will read every word we write.  

I tell you this not to be deep, but so you understand why I can’t use all the freaking four letter words to talk about this sock basket and the pain it brings me. But just know in your heart, the swears I’ve invented because of these socks would make grown men flee from locker rooms. %&*$!

 

Children add unique challenges to organizing. And little girls seem particularly drawn towards collections of toys where each one is the size of a pinky nail.

Shopkins creator, you SOB. Whoops, forgot about our daughters already.

 

Remember Monica’s secret closet on Friends? Hi, this is mine.

Apparently, glue is hot on cinnamon’s tail in a race to my Hoarder’s episode.

 

My question is not just why did I hold onto these things…but how? I can not keep track of my children’s birth certificates. I lost my engagement ring. I know I had gerbils as a kid, but I am nervous because I don’t remember them dying. 

In all seriousness, having less stuff and more order has already brought an increased sense of peace and calm to my life. When I fix the clutter, it has such an impact on my mental state. This impact is a huge deal because inside my brain lives a pinball machine. Stuff shoots around and sets off other stuff that shoots around, and there are lots of flashing lights and music. Decluttering cuts the noise.

The process of purging has proven to be cathartic as letting go can be profound. We need to hold onto our past, but probably loosen the grip a little. Some of the physical stuff can go. Going through this process is certainly more intense than paring down your drinkware. But it helps you work through things, which is a gift.

My house remains full of junk that must go. Becoming Aminimalanda will always be a work in progress. My most recent efforts have included participating in the Black Shutters White House 40 Bags in 40 days declutter challenge. I was a little uncertain we would have enough stuff to fill bags for 40 days because I have been working on decluttering for a while. But I think as we reflect on the few pictures I have shared, you won’t be surprised to know I have found plenty more to purge.

So, check out the 40 Day Challenge, it’s a good place to start. I have not done it perfectly. I had to fill five bags today to make up for lost time. No one died. Maybe the gerbils if they were in there. And take a look at  Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things by The Minimalists.

And also, please watch this video by JP Sears. And then all of his others. We need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.

Being a Minimalist – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 55

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Over the next 40 days, our families will be participating in a decluttering project designed by our friends over at White House Black Shutters. The challenge begins March 1 and extends through April 15.  It coincides with the 40 days of Lent, which makes it extra meaningful for any Christian participants looking for a spiritual exercise to practice this Lenten season.

According to upperroom.org, the season of Lent is a time to return to God and refocus our lives to be more like Jesus.  It is 40 days where we can change our lifestyle and allow God to do a work in our heart as we prepare for Easter. We want to pare down excess and free our minds to focus on life as God intended. For these reasons, this Lent our families will be participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days DeCluttering Challenge.

The idea is to declutter an area in your house by filling up one bag per day. However, you can change that to meet individual family needs and goals. The website provides links to printables, ideas for decluttering both stuff and “non-stuff,” a Facebook page for support and a daily email course.

Click here for all the information and here to join the official group Facebook page.

We would love if you joined us in this challenge, whether you participate in Lent or not. Please let us know if you decide to partake. We will update the blog as we go. We expect there will be ups and downs. And by “ups and downs” we mean we are going to start out strong and then probably there will be some crying.

-Amanda and Katie

A Parenting Fail

Evie, my happy, charismatic fireball baby, moped into the house after kindergarten one day completely deflated. She walked in quietly next to Nora, who promptly launched into recounting how she prodded Evie the entire bus ride home because something was obviously wrong. Her dad and I mentally scrolled through possibilities…a fight with a friend, someone said something cruel, conflict on the bus. I was ready to throw down; not many people bring my Evelyn down.

I quickly learned the cause of her heartbreak. And it was the worst-case scenario for a mother. It was me. “Mom forgot to come to lunch with me today,” she said. And then she just melted down.

The truth is, we had talked about having lunch together the previous night. And I learned that she had excitedly taken a spot at the parent table, waiting for me. And after a few minutes went by, she described to me and G.R. how she finally stood up and decided to buy herself a hot lunch since I had not arrived. She’s six so that whole process, even her initial excitement, was more intense for her than it would have been for an older kid. During dinner that night, we did our usual routine of discussing the highs and lows of the day. Evie’s low was that though she fought it, she cried in front of everyone, and it was embarrassing.

One of the worst parts is that she was not dramatic. This was bona fide hurt. Her mom had utterly gutted her. I let down my kid.  Who does that? I don’t know. I guess I sometimes do.

Ironically, I had missed lunch with Evie because I was driving all over Texas looking for everything her heart desired for the next day’s 50’s theme school day and family Sock Hop dance. We had gone out as a family the previous night, but could not find Evie’s poodle skirt. I guess it goes to show they need time and not more stuff, but I swear sometimes you just can not win.

Giving my girls consistency, stability and the capability to trust are my driving forces as a parent. And it feels all the good I do in these areas can be erased by a single act that becomes lodged in their memory. They say you have to say a certain amount of positive words to a kid to make up for one negative one. My God, how many actions do you think it will take to make up for this one? And who are ‘they’? I hate them.

Anyone that knows me well describes me as being hard on myself. If I could tattoo “Cut yourself a freaking break, fool” onto my arm and just read it all the time, it would be a big timesaver for my friends. But this time I fought my tendency to shut down and be hard on myself and instead took pause, thinking about this moment for my girls. I could not change what I did, but I could change how the memory lived in their brains and impacted their thought processes. I want my girls to be kind to themselves. I want them to cut themselves the precious slack desperately needed in motherhood and marriage. I want them to understand they are human. Lord knows, they will experience some version of this scenario with their kids someday. And I can tell you that while they make me a little batty, they are both good people. But as missteps happen to all of us, this will, unfortunately, happen to them.

So, this situation gave me a shot at modeling how to make a mistake, be upset, talk about it and both ask for and receive forgiveness. This is very difficult for me. It involves a lot of intentional effort. Even though this “talking it out and not blaming myself” business does not come naturally nor easily to me, I am hoping, for my girls’ sake, I can fake it until I make it and then it will come more quickly to them.

In the end, I did not shut down and dwell. Instead, we did away with our regular schedule and made cupcakes. Evie handled the liners, Nora handled the ingredients. They both handled spilling everything everywhere, and the dogs handled hovering around us hoping I would screw up in a different and more exciting way for them. Evie and I talked, and she perked right up, because fortunately for all of us, kids are resilient. It’s just a matter of how many times we make them tap into that resilience. And as much as I want to create a life for them where they have to tap into it a lot less than I did, I will make mistakes.

I went out of town the day after the 2017 lunch debacle and was still aching some from the event.  But, Evie’s sweet dad surprised her with a milkshake and lunch in the cafeteria the next day. And Evie greeted him saying, “I had a feeling this might happen!”. And I received a picture of my girl beaming from ear to ear.

As I let myself off the hook from screwing up with my six-year-old, I am going to focus on the fact that she knew we would show up the next day.

As I tell my girls: try, try again.

-Amanda

Straight Pepper Diet

Sometimes you just crave a memoir about a recovering alcoholic/sex addict and former lawyer who has been disbarred for felony charges and is now a registered sex offender. When that happens, Joseph Naus has your back with Straight Pepper Diet.  

From his biography:

Joseph W. Naus was born in 1971. He graduated from Pepperdine Law and passed the Bar in 1997. As related in his harrowing yet hopeful memoir, Straight Pepper Diet, Joseph was raised by his mom, a heroin addict turned shut-in depressive, amidst crime and poverty.  At age 32, Joseph’s American Dream life became a nightmare when his addictions to sex and alcohol collided and exploded.

A plethora of things haunt me from the time I spent working in child welfare. Topping the list are my fears regarding what present day looks like for the children that I worked with, knowing full well that cycles and systems repeat themselves. When I exited their lives, society still accepted these children as innocent victims.  They were young enough for their troubled behavior issues, which stemmed from abuse and neglect, to be connected more to the adults in their lives rather than being the fault of these children.

Now, over a decade later, I am left wondering when society’s acceptance crashed to a halt. What day did my past clients “behaviors” become actions with consequences for which they were held personally accountable? It pains me to know that those kids likely became adults with significant issues with no one aware that they were once a vulnerable kid repeatedly moved from one foster home to the next. Way too often, these kids had the sum of their life’s possessions packed into a garbage bag. Each child had a story, some horrific. And I have a strange desire to have those stories be known. The frustrating and complicated truth is that actions, even when heinous and unforgivable, are often more comprehensible after knowing someone’s story. It makes the whole thing more tragic.

In Straight Pepper Diet, Naus offers a perfect example of how knowing someone’s backstory can take black and white and muddle it into gray.

Naus grew up in extreme poverty and violence, raised by a mother who struggled terribly and was drawn to abusive relationships. The seeds of his alcohol and sex addiction were planted early and grew until finally overtaking everything he had ever worked towards in his adult life. As he says “On Tuesday, I was a respected civil trial lawyer making six-figures. On Wednesday, I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed charged with attempted murder…and then it got worse.”

At first, I was cringing at the candid accounts of his lifestyle, thoughts and disturbing behavior. I could not fathom reading an entire book about this man.  By the end I wanted people to understand him, and I respected him completely for airing every bit of his dirty laundry. He painted a picture of the daily inner conflict and mental torture people afflicted with addiction face. Rock bottom is different for everyone but necessary for all. It was interesting to see how his intelligence, adaptability and drive allowed him to weather the first part of his life, while he survived the second part solely because he finally faced the parts of him created during the first.

Naus lays it bare in this memoir, hiding nothing. Straight Pepper Diet, a term used on page 69 in the Big Book of Alcoholics by Bill Wilson, is dark, funny, and many times straight up revolting. It is about humility and redemption. And as you read about Naus sorting out his demons, you will contemplate your own. And we all have them.

Audio book lovers be warned, this is not a book you can play whilst rolling in your swagger wagons.

When I like a book, I tend to Google podcasts about the author like a good little nerd. Here are some great ones about Naus’s story:

Rich Roll Podcast 213 How A Sex Addicted Lawyer Who Lost Everything Found Salvation

The Shair Podcast 072 With Joseph W. Naus

For more information visit straightpepperdietmemoir.com

-Amanda

Mammograms: Let’s Pretend They Are Fun

I know it is not October when everything, including the NFL, turns pink. But it is necessary to spread breast cancer awareness throughout the year. So, this year I documented the process of my recent mammogram in a light-hearted way, in hopes of making it a less ominous procedure, particularly for those who have not yet experienced the process. And when I say that I documented the process, I do not mean the actual event. Let’s all remain calm.

Men, this is about mammograms, so you might think you are off the hook with this post. But, no, you get to read too and encourage your wife to go. In fact, have you read our previous article about Day Dating? Here is what you do: Go with your wife to the appointment, have a handful of distracting, hilarious YouTube videos ready to pull out in the waiting room, and then take her on a day date. And let’s be honest, you can not swing a dead cat without hitting a Hooters in this country; that is how I know you are capable of reading about and discussing breast health.

If you have never had one, you should know mammograms are not physically painful. When women ask if they are painful, I imagine everything they have endured as a woman and want to ask if putting slight pressure on an area of their body hurts as much as childbirth, getting their tattoo, waxing or having chemical peels done on their face. I want to ask which takes more time and effort; the Beach Body diet plan they have stuck to for months, or a 10-minute mammogram. Because if this process promised to make us thinner or younger, it could hurt ten times more and we would all go 12 times a year.

The first step, you walk through the door.

Given my druthers, I would deliver a roundhouse kick to the door and enter Superwoman style, but knowing that would be terrifying for everyone else, I selflessly walk in the regular boring way.

Next, you will fill out paperwork.

Know what took the sting out of my paperwork? Being given the opportunity to complete it using this sweet Bic pen tricked out with ribbon tassels. Then they upped the good times by strapping an ID bracelet on my wrist proclaiming me a zebra. I excitedly told the check in lady that I had by chance worn a black and white patterned sweater that day, and she said, “Oh. It’s nice.” I like to think it sunk in 5 minutes after I walked away.

Paperwork complete, you can absorb the room’s decor. An appreciated distraction because waiting rooms tend to usher in unwelcome memories of sitting in oncology waiting rooms with my mom as a teenager. Luckily, offices oriented towards women are my favorite. Every ad features an absurdly happy woman playing tennis, while a beaming toddler, holding a kitten, rests on her hip. It sums up every day of my life, and when I am around these pictures, I finally feel understood. But today was extra special. Today, there was this lady:

You know this woman throws down hard in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble.  

And let me just say this to marketers everywhere. If you want people I know to attend a “women’s health event,” you need to use a picture depicting friends in the throes of an intense nerf gun war placed directly above an announcement that a 90’s gangsta rapper will be the headliner. And, if one of the ladies shown in the bottom row of headshots were rolling her eyes, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Furthermore, tacos. Because I am going to tell you right now, that free breakfast mentioned is going to be honeydew melon and cantaloupe, with an occasional grape kicker. I won’t stand for it.

Next, you will be beckoned to the changing room.

It’s pretty glam. It holds a hospital gown, a bench, a People magazine, and this sign:

“WOMEN ABOUT TO BE X-RAYED?” Why is there a question mark on this? It is reminiscent of my 11-year-old telling a story. “Today, at school? We were in the cafeteria? And my friend, Sam? Milk shot of his nose? And it was funny!”

And once again, I found myself wishing the seven years of Spanish classes I took had culminated in me understanding Spanish. I kind of wonder if the bottom half of the sign announced something fun, like an invitation to a fiesta celebrating the completion of my 2017 ¡mammogram! I can, however, safely rule out that the sign says,”I play the guitar while drinking beer in the shower,” because that sentence I do know.

This next move separates the amateurs from the professionals.

You must steal these deodorant wipes.

Deodorant and lotion during a mammogram are a big nope, so they supply these to accommodate after the exam. Any fool knows taking coffee and bottled water from a waiting area instantly knocks $2-3 off any appointment. Well, pilfering deodorant wipes will get you back on your feet financially after upgrading to the 3D mammogram that insurance will turn down even though it would be more prudent to pay for preventative care than treatment. And you know I took two extra because I am nobody’s fool.

Now, throw on your gown. Delight in your glory. And also, in the fact that you get to keep on your pants. You just feel emotionally attached to your pants now. Some places provide heated gowns. When this happens, you are experiencing life as royalty.

I did not want to post this picture. It gives me vulnerability hives. I took it to be funny and send to friends. But when I looked I saw the worry on my face, which makes it very real. Until I filtered the ever-loving hell out of it. But let’s focus on my very real worry, so you know I can relate to your feelings. #intouchwithmypeople

Next, head into the exam room. Be sensitive to the fact that the technician is vying for the weirdest patient of the day story and that you alone can help her achieve this dream. Make strange jokes about the mammography machine being a Transformer, and say things like “I am one bad mammo-jamma!” until uncomfortable silence floods the room.

Transformers, more than meets the eye.

Your exam is now complete, and you nailed it. Leave and immediately buy yourself a celebratory overpriced coffee. But not the Starbucks cold brew, because you will be awake until your next annual mammogram.

I realize that I’ve spent an entire blog post taking a lighthearted approach to a heavy topic.  On our blog, we tend to use humor as a defense mechanism.  And when it comes to the issue of breast cancer, Katie and I are very well aware of how hellish the disease is. A few hours after my appointment I got the glorious call saying everything looked fine, which afforded me the ability to write this in a playful manner. It also allowed me to let out my yearly exhale of relief. More than once, I have received THE call. The one where I’ve had to go back for further testing. It’s nerve wracking. And not just for women, but for our family members too.

I want you all to know that it is not easy for me to go. It involves reliving the past and taps into some of my deepest fears for the future. But it is so incredibly important to remember that getting a mammogram does not give you cancer. It will just reveal any sneaky stuff that has already been going on in your body.  My mom did not have her first mammogram until she had already found a lump. We live in a day and age where early detection gives us women a real advantage and I want to help protect the lives of women. Any reason you have for not getting a mammogram is just not sufficient. Thankfully, low-cost and free mammograms are available.

If you are scared of going, call a family member, or friend to go with you. If you are in need of distraction and grown adults that use inappropriate behavior and humor to muscle through awkwardness, call Katie or me. But, just go. We can do hard things together. But let’s have the upper hand by making those hard things a bit easier by taking advantage of early detection.

Click here to find mammography facilities near you.

FAQ about mammograms.

Call the Komen breast care specialist helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) to help find low-cost options in your area.

Pinterest Amnesia

I cannot craft. Everything about crafting trips me up. I bought a glue gun a few years ago and nearly lost an eye, and that doesn’t even make sense. Here is what I have to offer craft wise: I will make a batch of margaritas for your crafting party.

Even after eleventeen thousand disastrous crafting ventures, I keep trying. It reminds me of the phenomenon referred to as labor amnesia where one “forgets” the pain of labor. People believe this occurs so we can muster up enough courage to procreate again. I find this idea alarming. If we can forget that we have expelled an entire human out of our body, we probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping track of them afterward. However, I do believe in Pinterest amnesia. Pinterest amnesia is a very real (it’s not real) coping mechanism. One that allows us to bury the trauma associated with past Pinterest fails. The shame and regret experienced when Mod Podge ruins our projects and our lives are swallowed up, erased from memory. Allowing us to continue looking at our Pinterest boards with hope. 

Pinterest amnesia is how my  friend Lori can make something like this and still soldier on to pin another day:

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Her goal was to teach her children the symbolism behind candy canes. And yes, maybe she missed the mark. But if anyone ever needs to know what a tapeworm strangling some licorice looks like, Lori has provided a visual. Thank you, Lori.

Because I have The Pinterest Amnesia, I attempted these three crafts/recipes. Which, by the way, most of you could nail, and I highly recommend. Even though things went wrong during the process, they still ended up kind of cute. Except for that middle one. The way I flubbed that one was to completely forget about it until my 6-year old daughter asked where it was on Thanksgiving. She then teared up after I gave her the news. I gave her a dollar for her therapy jar and sent her on her way.

Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com

We started with the turkey place card holder made with pears. We hit our first glitch straightaway during the first step. I struggled to get the first pear to submit to me and stand up after being halved. After consulting the directions, it came to light that I had not yet read any of the directions. I was not supposed to cut the pear in half because a halved pear cannot balance. I sacrificed the pear for no reason. So we brought in a green apple to act as runner-up to the pear, who was unable to fulfill his role. But there is always a silver lining. We got to watch G.R. confront his texture issues whilst trying to eat a grainy pear.

Then, we faced a grim reality. None of the pears were capable of balancing. The author of the craft had warned of this dilemma and encouraged checking the pears balance potential before purchase, which tells me Walmart grocery pick up is not yet available in her area. I tend to live on the wild side of suburban life, so I let the grocery pick up associate choose my pears. And you know what? I am not even going to call Walmart to complain about the instability of the pears they sell because it is the holiday season. I choose grace. We are over-comers in this house, so we stoically jammed toothpicks up the pears hindquarters to prop them up.

Things went further south because I had gone rogue, deciding against purchasing candy eyes. We already had google eyes in our craft bin, so I decided to practice frugality and save the 98 cents. That left wiggle room to afford the $4,683 worth of fruit the crafts required. Unfortunately, I had failed to factor in the humongous size of the google eyes we owned.

Our turkeys look like they attended a riot just after being tested for glaucoma.

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Or maybe they are still reeling from taking a toothpick up the badonk. That seems fair.

But you know what? Making them was fun. We laughed. We spent time together. The kids tried the dried fruit and liked it, allowing me to give a moving soliloquy on the merits of just freaking trying things because you might freaking like them. Yes, my daughters bounced between 14 different emotions during the process, but that’s how everyone acts during the holidays, so I just found them to be festive. And I think crafts are nice during the holidays because they bring me to my knees, a convenient position in which to pray, and that keeps my focus on the actual reason for the season. It’s all beautifully connected.

Someday I will say to our girls, “Remember all the fun we had making those turkey pears? Let’s do that with your kids!” And hopefully, my daughters will look back on the experience fondly and agree wholeheartedly, only recalling when it is too late to turn back how our fingers transformed into bloody stumps from sliding dried fruit on sharp toothpicks. But it will be okay. Because they will be in charge and I am going to laugh at them.

The holidays can feel strikingly similar to navigating a Pinterest craft. A lot of emotional highs and lows. Continually jumping back and forth between having perspective and losing sight of it. Attempting perfection and then being humbled when it is not achieved. One day you might step outside and note that all your neighbor’s homes are lit up like a magical winter wonderland, and then turn and look at the Halloween pumpkins that still adorn your porch. That happened to my friend (me). Hopefully, in the end, we will carry the positive snippets away and forget the rest. We can call that holiday amnesia.

Stay tuned for Christmas crafts. I will make stuff like this fancy replica of a Christmas poke cake. Try to guess which one is mine.

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Happy holidays!