Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Whole30 Meal Plan AND recipe

We're doing another Whole30! Our last attempt was derailed by a nasty stomach bug, but we are currently on Day 4 and going strong!  It helps, I think, that we're doing it with friends this time.  Per yesterday's post, we're doing this because we have found that we feel better when we eat better.   

Since it is the first time our friends have done Whole30, I made a meal plan to share with them.  I planned two weeks worth of meals which we will alternate (i.e. Weeks 1 and 3 of Whole30 we will eat the same meals).  Included are links to most the recipes I list!  You can access the meal plan here.

A few notes:

1. Please do your own research about Whole30 before starting.  My meal list might be a great resource for you, but it doesn't take the place of knowing what the "rules" are of Whole30.  Additionally, if a recipe calls for something like mustard, I'm assuming that you'll check the back of yours to make sure it is Whole30 approved.

2.  I have tried to do a different protein each day of the week so that you aren't eating chicken for every meal.

3.  On the last page of the meal list I've listed several alternate meals in case you didn't like one, couldn't find the right ingredients, or just needed a fresh idea.  I've also listed some ideas for snacks and add-ons to meals.

4.  I have listed things you can eat at a few chain restaurants, but (as always) you should check with your local restaurant before ordering it.

5.  You can access my Pinterest board of Whole30 foods if you need more inspiration!  Also, here is an old blog post where I listed some favorite meals from our first Whole30.   

Speaking of meal inspiration, last night we had one of our favorite Whole30 meals! We like it so much that we eat it often when we're not even doing Whole30!  I love that it is simple to prepare and I can easily run to the store to pick up salmon, a lemon, squash, and zucchini and have a delicious and healthy meal in a short amount of time.  :)

I have said it before and I will say it again: I am not a photographer, not a *food* photographer, and not good at writing recipes, but this meal is easy enough to prepare that you shouldn't need too many instructions.  If you do have questions, however, leave a comment and I'll try to get you a clear answer!

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Place fresh salmon on a large sheet of aluminum foil (skin side down).  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add lemon slices on top.  Fold aluminum around salmon.  Bake for 20-35 minutes (depending on how thick your piece is).  Salmon should be light pink and flaky when it comes out.  Open packet and remove lemons.

Wash squash and zucchini and remove the ends.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into four pieces.  Toss in bowl with olive oil, a very generous tablespoon of garlic (or more if you're like me!), salt, and pepper.  Place in baking pan and cook for 20 minutes (turning the pieces a few times during the cooking time).

I usually prepare the salmon first and stick it in the oven to start cooking.  Then I quickly prepare the squash and zucchini and put them in the oven as well.  20ish minutes later, both are done cooking at the same time and the meal is ready to eat!

Let me know what you think if you try this!  And if you have any favorite paleo/Whole30 meals, I'd love to hear about them!

P.S. The blog is likely to be a bit quiet this week as we're sick and I'm working on another project! :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

When Numbers Define Us.

(photo source Chrisoph on Flickr via Creative Commons license)

Last year I had a startling revelation.  In the course of one week, I had casual conversations with seven different women and noticed that every single one of them mentioned wanting to lose weight.

It made me a bit sick.

This wasn't a unique week and those women weren't unique either.  These are the same words I have heard my entire life from all different women.  And they are the same words I have said many times.  I had simply started paying attention.

This is the narrative we know as women, isn't it?  If we follow the social script, we should always be talking about how we are trying to lose weight.

But I am tired of this narrative and I'm throwing away that script.

I am disgusted because we are doing this to ourselves and we are doing it to our children.  Our daughters are learning the patterns that they will repeat: to despise their bodies and focus on their numbers instead of their strengths.  Our sons are learning that women's bodies should always be smaller.  Smaller, smaller, and smaller.  They are learning that women should take up as little space as possible.  This is dangerous for all of us.

When we live focused on losing weight, we have already lost.

I want to make better lifestyle choices because of what I gain, not because of what I want to lose.

I want to make better food choices because it makes me feel better.  Because my body function best when it has the proper fuel.  And I want to exercise so that I will be stronger and more agile.

Instead of trying to shrink the number on the scale, I can focus on gaining energy and strength and a clear mind.

Is it just the number on the scale, though?  Or do I let other numbers define me?

Last week I watched several popular bloggers engage in a Twitter conversation.  They were discussing ways to get more followers and being more effective bloggers.

I was shocked.  Truly.

In my mind, these ladies had all "arrived."  They have written books and spoken at conferences.  They have had large companies as sponsors.  They have thousands of followers.  Their platforms are the type that no-name bloggers that me can only dream of.  And yet...they were all still looking for more readers and ways to be better bloggers.

I don't blame them for wanting more readers.  This is the truth of social media: It is all about the numbers.

As much as writers hate it, our platform matters.  It is all a game of how many followers and likes and page views and retweets we can get.

But when numbers are king, no one wins.

There is never a correct number.  Never, ever, ever.  You will always want more (or less).  You will always be focused on the next number.

I, too, fall into this trap and play this game.  But I know this to be supremely true: Humans cannot be quantified.

My worth has no correlation to the number on the scale or the number inside my waistband.  My value is not measured by the number of comments and page views I receive.

And so, my friends and my sisters, can we please stop with this game of numbers?  Can we rewrite the social scripts for our children?  Can we live in the freedom that numbers don't matter in life?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Day I Was Published. (And Why I Need to Get Thicker Skin)

Two weeks ago I had my very first article get published at RELEVANT.  It is such a tiny step in a lot of ways - there are so many wonderful writers in the world who get published all the time.  But this first time was special to me.  It was special, but it was also a bit crazy and scary.

It was a very normal day.  I did laundry.  I ran to Target.  I got a migraine.  I picked up the toddler's food off the floor.  I skipped writing to huddle in bed watching Sherlock and tried to get rid of the shakes that accompanied the migraine.

But at the same time I was watching the article and seeing as people read it and responded.  It absolutely astounded me to see my words valued and see that my story resonated with people.

Most amazing to me was the fact that men (PASTORS, even) shared my article.  I know it is silly since I'm both a feminist and an egalitarian, but it is still a surprise to me when Christian men think I have valuable thoughts and bring something to the table.  That's sad, right?  I so deeply want my (imaginary) daughter to grow up feeling valued and important in Church and to know that her words matter.

When the article went live, I knew, of course, that I would get negative comments.  What I didn't know is how much they would sting.  I didn't know that sharing my story gave people permission to comment on my marriage and my life and make assumptions based on what they read.  But that's what they did.

A few days after it was published, one of the negative comments was still bothering me.  Every time I thought about that comment, it was as if those words were being etched into my heart.  I cried in the car, feeling vastly misunderstood and mostly worrying about the negative words affecting my family.  My husband had read and approved the article before I submitted it because I knew that this story wasn't just about me.  But had I made the right choice in sharing our story?  

As I drove, I kept listening to Aubrey Assad's song "I Shall Not Want" and the line where she asks to be delivered "from the need to be understood."  It resonated with me that day as I just wished I could sit down with those negative commenters and tell them all the bits of the story that didn't fit in the article.  I was sure they would understand then.  I needed them to understand.

The image of the negative words being etched into my heart wouldn't leave my mind.  But then, in an uncharacteristic Charismatic moment, I felt God tell me something.  I was suddenly sure that those words weren't allowed to remain on my heart and burn their way into my life.   My identity is found in Christ and he has already told me what he thinks of me.

I know that the more I wrote, the more negative comments I will receive.  And I also know that I need to let them go.  Writing has connected me to God and has been a way for me to "work through my salvation with fear and with trembling."  Writing has connected me to people, both other writers and people who have resonated with my story.  And, truthfully, I've always been a writer in some form or another.  In the past it has just been in the form of journals.  I am healthy and happy when I write.  And that is the reason I continue to write.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

currently reading: Bittersweet

Try Grammarly's plagiarism checker free of charge because when your mother told you that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," she wasn't giving you a free pass to plagiarize! (Plus, she was quoting someone herself!)

My book review in fewer than 10 words: 


My book review in more than 10 words:

If you've read my review of Shauna Niequest's book Bread & Wine, it will probably come as no surprise that I loved this book as well.  Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way is Shauna's second book, which she wrote in between Cold Tangerines and Bread & Wine.  I am just now starting Cold Tangerines, which means that I have read her books exactly opposite as to how she wrote them.

As the title suggests, Bittersweet is written out of a season of loss and frustration in Shauna's life that will later yield good lessons.  This is a book that not everyone will understand.  But if you, too, have had a season where it feels like you are just bracing yourself for the next blow, for whatever disaster God or fate could send you next, this may be the book you need to read.

Bittersweet is a collection of essays that cover all sorts of things: the loss of a job and the loss of a baby.  Moving away from loved ones and making new ones.  Cooking and gatherings round tables.  Grace, grace, and more grace.  Friendships, families, motherhood and more.

In "Grace is the New Math," she writes of keeping a tally of the good and the bad of a person's life and calculating up their worth.  "Grace is smashing the calculator, and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic."

This book came at the perfect time in my life.  I am, just now, slowly, calling myself a writer.  I haven't been able to say it aloud to someone, but I'm working on that.  In "Love Song for the Fall" Shauna writes about writing.  She says, "...it's hard work, fraught with fear and self-consciousness..."  It is silly, of course, but I assume that fantastic writers sit down at the computer and the correct words flow out with no effort.  When I read that she had to force herself to sit down and work, suddenly writing was normalized for me.  This is difficult for everyone.  This is not always enjoyable.  This takes time.  This. is. difficult.

Multiple essays are on the subject of miscarriage.  Although I would never be bold enough to say that I understand miscarriage, her words gave me a window into what mothers must be feeling after the loss of a baby.  She writes of remembering the due date and thinking about "what might have been."  She tells readers to "say something" after a tragedy, even if it is awkward and you are not sure what to say.  I told my husband that if we know someone who miscarries, I'd like to buy them this book in addition to being there for them.  What I meant was that I wanted to give them words when they might not know how to express what they are feeling and, since I can't relate to that experience at this point in my life, I want to hand them a reminder that they are not alone.  

Earlier I said, "Go buy this book immediately!"  I was serious.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nebraskan Skies

 Some days I am pretty hard on Nebraska.

After all, we were supposed to be overseas right now.  And although we've built a lovely little life here, I can't help but remember our plans to live in Europe and spend the weekends exploring new cities.

The winters here are long and cold.  The wind is fierce.  The landscape turns grey.  Grey slush on the roads.  Grey dried-up lawns.  Grey skies.

Grey. Grey. Grey.

But then a day comes when you walk outside and gaze up, mesmerized.

The sky that has been grey for so long now seems impossibly blue.  The clouds perfectly white and fluffy move along at a snail's pace.  

I crink my neck to stare up at it.  I feel small in the most wonderful way possible.  It is as if the sky threw open her arms to reveal all that she has been hiding these dull, winter months.  She is tired of the complaints and the grumbles she has been getting so she is finally going to show off what she has.

"Fine, Nebraska!"  I yell at the heavens, "I'm sorry for saying so many horrible things about you!"

The sky is big.  I am small.

I take a deep breath.  It is as if I've been half-breathing all winter long and, just now, I'm actually able to inhale properly.

The calendar told me that spring arrived some days ago.  But today the sky is telling me with much more certainly than any calendar could have: spring is here!


p.s. all these images actually were taken in Nebraska.  I told you!  Mesmerizing!

Monday, April 7, 2014

30 by 30

I try to be intentional with my life.  I want to make it count and make the most of it.  One way I've been intentional lately is by setting goals, specifically, 30 goals to reach before I turn 30 years old!

I haven't compiled all 30 goals yet, but I thought I would share a few of the ones I have chosen so far.  Here there are:

1.  Have five articles published
2.  Write 10 entries in my journal for my son
     - entry completed Feb 2014
     - entry completed March 2014
3.  Complete a 5K with my husband and my son
4.  Spend time alone at a monastery or retreat center
5.  Pay for a stranger's meal
6.  Complete another Whole30
     - We're starting one next week!  If we finish it, this goal will be completed in May 2014
7.  Take a writing class
8.  Read 50 books
     - I Am Hutterite (March 2014)
     - Cold Tangerines (April 2014)
9.  Write five guest posts for other bloggers
10. Learn to make my friend's amazing tostadas
11. Travel overseas as a family
12. Travel to two new states 

I have a few years to complete all these goals (and to finalize the rest of the list)!  You can see that I have a variety of goals - some health related, others personal, and others focused on writing.  I've also tried to quantify them as much as possible (e.g. 'Read 50 books' instead of 'Read more often').  

Would you ever consider doing 30 by 30?  Do you even make goals?  I'd love to hear which ones you've set (and ones you have reached!).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pets and Military Life

My toddler son adores dogs.  He is absolutely head-over-heels in love with any dog he meets.

My husband never had a dog growing up, but since we met he has told me how he always wanted a dog named Spot.  (I was completely annoyed that he wanted to name his dog Spot because I thought it was completely unoriginal.  I still hold to that argument.)

We thought about getting a puppy.

But...we're a military family!  We want to live overseas and know that it can be a big hassle to get pets overseas as they need special shots and (depending on where you go) they have to be quarantined for several weeks.  I know that when my husband deploys I want to be free to travel to see family without having an extra living being to worry about.  The bottom line was that we knew we wanted to be 100% committed to a dog before we added one to the family and we aren't sure that it is the right time for us.  Still I knew how happy dogs made my son and I wanted to capitalize on his excitement.

We found a compromise.  We fostered a darling puppy for a couple weeks.  He was, of course, dubbed Spot.  A couple of weeks of fostering was just long enough to remind me that I am absolutely NOT ready to commit to a dog longterm this year.  Whew.  Between the puppy and the toddler I used an inordinate amount of paper towels those two weeks.

Spot has since found a forever home (and we've gone back to sleeping through the night).  But our experience has made me wonder about pets and military life.  Is it a good idea for military families to have pets?

A week or so before Spot arrived we acquired a Beta fish from a family PCSing overseas, which is just another example of pets and military life not being the best fit.  Still, I would hate to tell my children that they could never have pets because of their dad's career choice.  And having a pet may be comfort and constant in their lives that will routinely be "interrupted" by PCS and deployments.

So now I'm asking you: What have you decided about pets and military life?  Do you have any advice for us??

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