Bread and Wine

Last night I finished Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread and Wine. I loved every page of it. photo

She tells stories of her life–truthful and raw. And just about every chapter ends with a recipe that relates to the story she told. She proposes that hospitality should not be stressful or formal, but that it should be authentic and relaxed. She says life centers around the table. That food is…

“…the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.”

I love food. I always have. I’m one of those people who goes to bed thinking about what they will have for breakfast and wakes up thinking about dinner plans. I love heating up leftovers for lunch and I never skip a meal. For exercise, food gives me power–the fuel for my machine. I eat well, healthy–but I’m not a calorie-counter and I don’t obsess.

I believe there’s freedom to be found in life, including with food. Food is a necessity, but it’s also a blessing. It should be enjoyed, preferably with family or good friends and good music around a large table.

As a child, I was taught to eat everything on my plate. My family and I are notoriously fast eaters; gobbling up every bite (except for the peas I pushed underneath my mashed potatoes). Maybe this is because we’re also doers…busy and active. Going and moving all the time. Chad, my brother, could hardly sit still. Sometimes he’d actually circle the table between bites, not without chastisement from my mom or a stinging pinch from my dad.

Finn loves to "eat, eat!"

Finn loves to “eat, eat!”

I’m a health professional, a fitness fanatic. But I’ve honestly, HONESTLY never dieted. Never. I owe this to my mom entirely. She never complained about her body or her weight. She was health-conscious and active; the opposite of lazy. She was always working to achieve the best body God gave her, but she never created that tension that some women do when they’re obviously not happy with themselves. That feeling of…

she doesn’t like herself, so maybe I shouldn’t like myself.

I’ve since learned of my mom’s inner struggle with identity and body-image, but THANK YOU, MOM, for not projecting that on me as a child.

This is dangerous, moms. This is life-altering for girls.

Food should not be abused. Either in excess or deficiency. This is, of course, more difficult than it sounds. Most of my clients either binge or starve. They punish themselves for the bad meal(s) they ate the day before with starvation or exercise abuse the next day. They eat icecream in the middle of the night and workout for three hours the next morning. They will either drink four sodas a day or none at all, ever. Diets. Extremes. Enslavement.

Health is found somewhere between. With moderation and freedom.

My life-verse: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

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Tragedy in OK

I’m typing and tears are falling.

My state and the city I work in, Moore, Oklahoma, is grieving. Quivering in the wake of yesterday’s storm.

Surely you’re aware an F5 tornado, “the worst devastation this state has ever seen,” hit Moore yesterday afternoon at 3:15pm. I left my personal training studio, two blocks south of the tornado’s path, at 2:45pm. I had a 3:00 client, but we both decided it was prudent to reschedule.

I climbed in my car as huge raindrops plopped onto my dashboard. I turned on the radio. A frantic weatherman said he saw a funnel pulling down from the clouds near Newcastle. Now, a barrel! It came so fast. I raced down the highway to pick up Finn from daycare in Norman and to meet Joey to take cover. We watched the news in horror as this monster tore its way through a very populated area of Moore and dangerously close to demolishing my workplace. We went to bed last night thankful, but oh-so-sad; especially for the parents of the seven children killed in Plaza Towers elementary school. Our close friend is a member of the Moore Police Dept. and he was one of the heroes there recovering the children.

The parking lot of my studio is being used for relief, so I am currently out of work. But today I got to do something a little more fulfilling than riding a spin bike. I pillaged my home for donations. I was debating whether or not to give away my Marmot Precip rain jacket–an expensive purchase that just takes up closet space–while the reporter on television featured a little girl who donated her piggy bank, full and heavy with coins. Needless to say, I received God’s message of extravagant giving and the jacket made its way into the trunk of my car.

Then I headed to Target to shop for more relief essentials.

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Financial support

I decided the volunteers may need a little “pick me up,” so I ordered 4 extra coffees from Starbucks. When the barista asked what I wanted in them, I said, “I don’t know, I’m giving them away.” She asked if Starbucks could donate them instead.

Emotional support

Emotional support

It seems futile, but we’re all doing our part. Steaming hot coffee or humming generators, the human spirit longs to give.

Joey and some other pastors took church vans to the “war zone” to provide transportation for displaced people and volunteers. They patrolled up and down “neighborhood” streets and picked up people who needed transportation. The National Guard wouldn’t allow people to return to their homes (or what was left of them) in their cars. Joey also met up with some Red Cross volunteers and they were able to provide transportation to hand out food.IMG_4520Some of what Joey encountered today:

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My friend, Pascha, and I headed to a local church to help volunteer. photo-6The organization and abundance there was remarkable.photo-7 photo-5 photo-4

As I slathered Miracle Whip between thousands of slices of white bread, I prayed for the medical personnel, volunteers, firefighters, National Guardsmen or victims who might eat it. That their hearts would be nourished as well as their bellies. That God would be near to them despite this confusion and chaos.photo-3 photo-2

Please continue to pray for the people of Moore, Oklahoma. And donate to the Red Cross if you can. It will be a long recovery, and life will never be the same for many of these people, particularly the parents who lost their little ones just days before school was out for the summer. More storms in the forecast later this week.

Stuck in the Mud

Of late, the Armstrongs have been muddy.

Joey and I joined my personal training studio and some dear friends for the Dirty Thirty, a 5K mud run with 20 obstacles, this past Saturday morning. We had a blast!

The Next Level Fitness Team (and friends)

The Next Level Fitness Team (and friends)

The start

The start

IMG_1736Some of the obstacles:

Rope climb over a wall

Rope climb over a wall

Ice bath...frigid misery!

Ice bath…frigid misery!

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Took. My. Breath. Away.

Took. My. Breath. Away.

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DSC02910DSC02924We weren’t there to compete, just to finish and have fun with our buds on a gorgeous spring day. The weather was perfect and we all came out covered in Oklahoma red dirt with a medal around our filthy necks.IMG_1798

IMG_1801DSC02930Finn’s been “stuck” too. It feels as though we’re trudging through the mud but just can’t progress. At every stage before walking, Finn has been slow to reach the milestone–and it hasn’t looked the way a “normal kid” would do it–but he’s gotten there eventually.

Now we’re wondering if his chubby little legs have accomplished all they can in terms of muscle innervation. As a trainer, I know how to strengthen a muscle. But if the muscle doesn’t have nerve function, that’s it. We talked with our Sooner Start therapist today about options for transitioning to a wheel chair. They have these cute but cumbersome kid cars and tiny wheelchairs and contraptions for babies like Finn. I’m not ready to acquiesce to this equipment. I guess I knew it was coming, but…I was hoping for healing.

Scooting in the standing frame

Scooting in the standing frame

It’s frustrating to watch him struggle. He balls his hands into fists, drops his head and cries. He’s stubborn (not sure where he got that trait 😉 ) and is easily thwarted when his body fails him. I’ve had this anxious, unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach for the past couple of months. Like I want to yawn, need to yawn, but my mouth just won’t form the “ahhh.” God made 15 month olds to be able to walk. Toddle. Crawl on all fours. Sit up from lying down. But not my 15 month old.photo-1

I know; same story…but it’s our story and I’m not liking this chapter. Feels like we’re stuck and he’s all muddy; like I want him to take a bath and make it all better.

Ode to the Mom

I’ve said it before: mommy-ing is hard work. Under-appreciated, misunderstood, unglamorous, exhausting, stomach-churning, handfuls of hair in toddler’s hands–painful work.

But it’s a blessing. One job not all women get to add to their resume.

So today I want to honor all those mommas who feel inadequate; who, like me, watch another mom “do it better” and feel like a complete failure.

To women who became moms all too soon or those who patiently waited years.

Finn and me at 4 months

Finn and me at 4 months

Moms who co-sleep or enforce “crying it out.”

Moms with messy, crumby counter-tops or those with white-glove approval.

Finn and Kenton

Finn and Kenton

Selfless moms to foster or adopted children or moms who birthed their own, white-knuckled and sweating.

Breast-feeders and formula-scoopers.

Nana Deb and Finn at Thanksgiving

Nana Deb and Finn at Thanksgiving

Stay-at-home momsmand full-time working moms.

Single supermoms and fierce grandmas.

Grandma Mary and Finn at New Years

Moms who cook homemade Pinterest meals and those who pick up take-out.

Mini-van drivers and jogging-stroller pushers.

Nana Bec and Finn at Christmas

Nana Bec and Finn at Christmas

NICU warrior moms and healthy baby moms.

Homeschoolers and PTA leaders.

Moms who spank and moms who don’t.

My first Mother's Day gift from Finn.

My first Mother’s Day gift from Finn.

Moms who’ve lost unborn babies and moms who’ve lost grown children.

And, of course, to my own mom: my biggest fan; who taught me that life isn’t fair, but that I am valuable to God and to my family. I am worthy of love and respect; and I’m capable of just about anything.

Isn't she pretty?!

Isn’t she pretty?! (We need an updated pic, Mom!)

I know all these kinds of moms. I respect you and admire you.

Exhale deeply…we’re all trying our best. Let’s build a kinder, more creative, healthier breed of children together. I need you and maybe you need me.

Cooped Up

Sometimes I just feel claustrophobic. Like I need to GET OUT. Usually this means I’ve spent too much time indoors.

I blame this on my parents. Every vacation growing up was outdoors. Hiking, rafting, fishing, hunting, kayaking, swimming, water skiing, camping. We even stayed at Camp Mickey when we had a family reunion at Disney World. My parents honeymooned in a cabin in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. I used to think we were kind of dorks–staying in a tent or pop up camper for our vacations while all my friends stayed in nice hotels and beach resorts. But then I realized my friends’ moms couldn’t start a campfire or take a fish off a hook and their dads didn’t teach them how to spot an eagle on a far off tree branch or count the points on a buck in the forest.

Now I appreciate all those adventurous outdoor vacations. We plan to replicate them. Sorry it took me so long, mom and dad.

This weekend I finally made it out. We drove down to the Wichita Mountains for a hike. photo-4

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Jersey was the perfect guide, leading us energetically and with perfect directional sense. She had a blast, and Finn did too.

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Girl loves to swim

It was way too windy, but Oklahoma weather has been a bit schizophrenic lately, so you have to take what you can get.

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Made it to the top of Elk Mnt. Picnic!

That evening we went to a fun birthday party for our friends, Gabe and Olive. It was at a farm. We roasted hotdogs around a bonfire while the kids rode a train and trotted on ponies. I was thinking this actually may be a birthday party Finn could participate in someday. It was a beautiful, chilly night. I purposefully didn’t take a shower so I could smell the campfire in my hair just one day longer. I know; gross.

Twinsies in our plaid and shades.

Twinsies in our plaid and shades.

Sometimes don’t you just feel cooped up? Stuck under piles of laundry and opened envelopes on the counter, smashed between groceries that need to be put away, folded under sheets that need to be changed, lost under scattered puzzle pieces. I felt tired of being a parent this weekend. I just wanted to go back to the days under my parents’ roof. When life was simpler and my questions for God weren’t so big and unanswerable.

Usually this means I haven’t been in the Word.

So I took some time to read my Bible alone on Saturday morning, talk through life with Joey, and shed some cathartic tears for Finn during my “nap.” Feeling better.

Matthew penned it best:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). 

Soapbox

Did you know May is National Fitness Month? When I first became a trainer, my mantra was, “You should be able to live life fully, doing everything a human should do–like run, jump, push, pull and get up off the floor.”

Then I had Finn, who can’t do any of these things by himself, and he’s not obese. Just disabled.photo

So I’m changing my mantra:

If you can move, you should.

If our generous God gave you the ability to walk, run, climb and stand, PLEASE don’t waste that ability. Not everyone was afforded such extravagance.

As I watch Finn struggle to move, I am saddened by those who can, but don’t.

Kneeling practice with Sooner Start therapy

Kneeling practice with Sooner Start therapy

Obesity is a 100% preventable disease, friends. It is a choice…lots and lots of little choices. Difficult ones? YES. But so worth it. Fight for your health. Fight for the life you were intended.

Stepping down off my soapbox now. (Bow) Thank you.

Family bike ride

Family bike ride