How to Roast Vegetables

(Many of you have requested this post, so here it is, but please don’t judge. I’m FAR from a foodie blogger or photographer…but I have some friends who are great at that if you’re interested!)

As a kid, I hid my green peas under my mashed potatoes like the rest of you. But early in our marriage, Joey and I found a way to LOVE vegetables…roasted. Here’s how we do them:

  1. Preheat a smokin’ hot oven…like 450-500 degrees.
  2. Wash (duh) your veggies and cut them all about the same size so they cook evenly. This is important, people. You can’t have a long stem of asparagus with diced zucchini or some large potatoes with some cubed.

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    SHARP knives are safer!

  3. Create a “medley” of veggies of about the same texture. Some examples:
    1. Sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, carrots
    2. Zucchini, onions, zucchini squash, peppers
    3. Asparagus, artichokes, French green beans
    4. Broccoli, cauliflower
    5. Brussels sprouts and green onions…or add sliced red grapes for sweetness

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      This is honestly not the best example because they aren’t all the same size…but it was what was left in our fridge before Christmas. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Chopped onions and minced garlic go well with all veggies. We love red onions, sweet yellow and green onions the best. White are gross. Ew.
  5. Drizzle the veggies with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). My mom actually pronounces this “ee-voo.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ You could also use coconut oil. img_6008
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt if you want to be fancy. We don’t do black pepper but you could.
  7. Roast on the top rack for as long as it takes for them to get soft, caramelized and golden brown. Usually this is 15-25 minutes…potatoes take the longest. img_6009
  8. DIVE IN! In our house, veggies take up at least half our plate at dinner. img_6010
  9. If your kids are picky, call them “chips.” We eat “green bean chips” and “kale chips” and “edamame chips.” Make them crispy.
  10. The prettier (more colorful) the vegetables, the richer they are in nutrient content and the more fun your kids will have with them. fullsizerender-67

Why Do You Keep Coming?

I was at a women’s church event once and the leader was demonstrating how to make this adorable craft. I remember thinking, “Who has time for this?! I don’t have time for this.” But then I realized many people probably feel that way about working out.

We make time for what is important to us.

Monday morning, my clients and I were discussing why we work out–regularly; okay, even religiously. Here are some of our responses:

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“I figure if we have hamstrings, they should probably be used for something. If we want things to function properly, they must be used.”

“I’m in a better mood after a good workout.”

“My kids are proud of me. They think I’m strong and it makes me feel good that they know I’m stronger and fitter than other moms.”

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“It keeps me sane and allows me to release frustration or anxiety.”

“I no longer struggle with depression.”

“I want to look and feel my best.”

“I realize not everyone has the ability to move the way I can, so I shouldn’t waste it.”

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“I hurt less–in my body.”

“I like the way it feels to fit into my clothes.”

“Everything is easier now. Lifting groceries or kids, doing household chores.”

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“My kids do the weekend workouts with us and they have fun. I like that we’re setting a good example of being active.”

“I like a challenge, especially when I’m challenged by the other girls in the group.”

“It’s cheaper and more effective than therapy.”

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“I’m a better mother, wife and friend when I’ve worked out consistently.”

“It makes me feel confident.”

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Why do YOU workout?

Or maybe, WHY DON’T you?! If you’re struggling, I’d love to help. Click on my Online Training tab if you live 30 minutes from Tulsa, or come see me at Sky Fitness & Wellbeing, south location.

What Are You Waiting For?

I struggle with impatience; always have.

When I was five, I wished I were 25. As a teenager, my mom gave me this little Willow Tree figurine of a girl with her arms folded across her knees, waiting. I set it on my nightstand, asking God for patience until we had Paisley and now it sits on hers.

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Thankful for cozy winter nights with Joey

I’m a doer. I like action, movement, change. Procrastination is silliness to me. In my arrogance, I think my timing is best, and God is usually a little late. He is never in a hurry like I am.

I hate waiting because it feels like time is wasted, and time is something I value highly. But if I believe each breath is a gift, each day an expression of God’s mercy, then it holds true that with God, time spent waiting is never wasted.

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College Roomie Christmas brunch…our 8 little loves, minus one!

In fact, I believe the waiting period is perhaps what it’s all about. I teach my clients to focus on the process, not the end (“I will exercise 5x this week.” Not, “I will lose 5 pounds.”). The interim is where we find out what we’re made of, and our attitude matters. When we are waiting–on a person, a prayer, our big break, the light in the darkness, forgiveness, love, healing, a job, whatever–our character is being forged and time is not wasted.

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Christmas Train at Dry Gulch!

When I was pregnant with Finn, we knew he would be born different, but we didn’t know exactly how or to what extent. Some days I was terrified of what could be. Some days I was hopeful. There were months that Joey and I both cried ourselves to sleep. There were moments of clarity and intimacy with God like I’d never experienced before. Although those several months were some of the darkest of my life, I know without a doubt, that time was not wasted.

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Finn and Pais helped me decorate the bottom 1/3 of the tree

I like to imagine Mary, Mother of Jesus, felt something similar as she waited for her son to arrive. She was told He would be no ordinary boy. He was the long-awaited Messiah. How overwhelming for a young mother!

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.” Ps. 27:14

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“It is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

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Nana and Papa Rosell visited!

If you’re waiting, settle down. Take a deep breath. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments. In this season of Advent, I await the arrival of Jesus, the Savior of my soul, and I don’t want to waste it.

Here We Are

So it’s been too long, and I’m sorry.

I’ve been longing to write to you; I’m teeming with ideas to share, but honestly, the things I’m learning about life and business and family right now, I’m not sure you want to hear, so I’ve kept quiet. In short, I’m learning about how to be a better, more courageous leader and Christ-follower. A consistent, patient entrepreneur. An understanding and supportive friend. An irrationally generous giver. I’m making exchanges (not sacrifices) in my life right now that do not afford me time for Project Runway reruns, crafting or margin to blog.

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But it’s been TOO LONG, and we had some stellar family photos taken, so here I am. It’s post-church naptime for the kids and my To Do list can wait.

We are The Armstrongs.

We work hard. We are kind. We do difficult things on purpose. We have fun. We choose to be brave. We forgive freely. We love each other. We follow Jesus.

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Finn is loving PreK. We love Mrs. Brown–she makes learning fun. He is great with spelling and language. He’s a terrible writer/artist and I think it’s hilarious. His aide told Joey one day, “The first thing I noticed about Finn is that he has a lot of friends.” P E O P L E!!!! You’ve been praying for friends for Finn! THANK YOU! He has friends, praise Jesus. Another aide told us “Finn is the best part of my day,” –and her job is to wipe his butt. ๐Ÿ˜‰

His wheel got stuck in the grass and he fell over in his chair a couple weeks ago. No teachers were around, but his buddy Thomas ran to get the teacher. Finn was freaked out and had a bump on his head, but he’s fine. This wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last. I get asked a million questions about Finn each day when I pick him up. “Why can’t he walk?” “Is he a baby? Why is he wearing diapers?” “What’s that thing on his back?” “When will he get better?” “What’s wrong with him?” They are asking honest, innocent questions I don’t always have the answers to. I don’t mind answering these questions, but I hate that it’s in front of Finn. And if I get all these questions in 5 minutes, I wonder how many he gets throughout the day? My heart hurts for him, but God gave Finn such a resilient spirit. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He is a good, kind Father.

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Paisley is so spunky. Okay, and naughty. Her sense of humor is subtle and smart. She observes people before she’ll befriend them. She loves ‘nastics and jumping and climbing and being upside down. She is full of life and extremely independent. “Gummy” (gum) is her favorite and she loves to pack her Paw Patrol lunchbox with all kinds of random items for “school” so she can be like Finn. She likes to sing and dance. I can’t get over how beautiful she is. I’m so grateful she has a daddy who will protect her fiercely.

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This morning on the way to church, Finn said that he “want[s] to marry Paisley, and I’ll blow her a kiss.” Paisley told me yesterday that Bubba (Finn) was her best friend. She helps him pop over bumps in the sidewalk, rides his back like a “horsie” and races him with her baby stroller. Their friendship is a gift from above.

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Joey and I have had a tough few months. I blame Dave Ramsey. We’re doing Financial Peace University with another couple from Life.Church, and though these are conversations we obviously needed to have and there is always room for improvement when it comes to spending and saving, I am TIRED of talking about money. The conversations are unsexy, exhausting and difficult to trudge through. We’ve learned a lot about our personalities and fighting fair during this process though, and in a few hours, we’ll meet the Gates for pizza and to discuss our last FPU session to celebrate. Praise. Jesus.

Joey is so good to me. He’s fun. He’s my best friend and lover. He unloads the dishwasher like a ninja. And I love to watch him “dad.” I’m truly a better human being because of his influence in my every day life.

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Thanks to Maylee Hill for taking such fantastic photos of our family! She is super talented and captured our personalities so well. I love the color in these shots. We took these photos on the Eastside of Tulsa near the Blue Dome District. Check out her website!

As the holiday season approaches, I pray you’ll run (or wheel) like a little child toward Jesus’ transforming love, your families, your dreams, and better overall health. Go now; don’t wait.

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Thank you for praying big prayers for our family and specifically for Finn, for following our journey, and for being true friends. We are not perfect, but we are following hard after our perfect Savior, THANKFUL for His goodness and grace in our lives.

We are The Armstrongs. Roar.

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Pre-K

We sent him off to his teacher’s bench early Tuesday morning. It was his first full day of Pre-K, the first of many days of public school.

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This day was one I feared since the NICU, watching Finn’s tiny pink lips breathe in and out, closed around his feeding tube.

Sure, he’s been in daycare since infancy, but this was different somehow. I was sending my heart off between two wheels, trusting the world to treat him fairly, give him a chance, open doors, be kind.

He popped a wheelie, yelled, “Wahoo!” when he saw cute little Mrs. Brown, and zoomed off.

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I turned around, my eyes stinging with tears. Then Paisley almost ran off the curb into a line of cars and I forgot to cry. A busy day at work kept my mind distracted.

He won’t really tell us anything about his days…nothing true, anyway. He said he played in the dirt all day and that his new friend’s name was Booty. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Mrs. Brown tells me he always asks when nap time is and even fell asleep sitting upright in his chair.

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Thank you, Jesus, for Mrs. Brown.

He’s adjusting well and is excited to go to school each morning, a blessing for sure.

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When asked by kids in his class why he’s in a wheelchair and “what’s wrong with him,” Mrs. Brown says he responds that “his legs aren’t very strong and he uses his wheelchair to move.” I’ve never heard him respond to anyone about his disability before; probably because we answer for him. This is pretty close to what we’d say, except I don’t want him to believe he isn’t strong…just stronger in some ways than others.

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I’m so proud of you, Finn. You are teaching us all that it’s okay to be different. And what’s more, that it’s okay to LIKE being different! Your joy humbles me. You don’t make excuses for the things you “can’t do;” you simply find a way. I am so grateful for the confidence God gives you.

Here’s to 14 years of childhood education–Whew, that sounds daunting!–a rich education mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

Will you pray with us for one or two really good, loyal friends for Finn? Friends that would see his differences as a blessing, not a burden. We all need a couple friends like that, don’t we?

 

A Perfectly Boring Marriage

June 30th, 2006 Joey and I were married in San Antonio, Texas.

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It was hot, but a coastal storm rolled in that evening and knocked the flower arrangements off my reception tables, cooling off our happy guests.

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Yes, I let Joey and his groomsmen wear those ridiculous sweat bands at the reception.

Joey’s dad performed the ceremony and it was personal yet powerful.

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Our sacred vows were witnessed by 350 of the most influential people in our lives. I didn’t sleep much the night before from excitement and my eyes felt puffy. There was no real drama, catastrophe or anxiety that day. I was marrying my best friend, someone who felt like “home” to me.

Now, a decade later, our love is standing taller, battered by a few storms and it’s maturing like a good wine. We’re friends; we like each other most of the time, and more importantly, we choose each other. Every. Single. Day.

We’ve been asked many times how we’ve maintained a healthy marriage. “What’s the secret to staying happily married for 10 years and beyond?” The answer is nothing fashionable, shocking or dramatic. In fact, you may find it boring.

Daily, (seemingly) insignificant good choices. Today. Tomorrow. The next day…

“…They [successful people] achieve these dramatic results in their lives through making choices that are the very antithesis of drama–mundane, simple, seemingly insignificant choices.” -Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

I apply this principle to my personal training career, my own physical fitness, parenting, my Arbonne business, my spiritual life and marriage.

*Before I go any further, I must say, our marriage is far from perfect. In fact, this past year has probably been the hardest of our ten. But we are working on it, praying through it, and fighting for it.*

In the moment, these good choices seem inconsequential, but compounded over time, they yield massive results. (I’m obsessed with books, The Compound Effect, The Slight Edge, The Power of Habit these days.) The trouble is that these small, simple choices are just as easy not to do as they are to do. Kissing each other goodbye in the mornings won’t save or ruin your marriage that day—but done (or not done) for hundreds of days over time just might. Daily bad choices (or perhaps the absence of good choices) have the same effect over time: destruction, divorce, obesity, bankruptcy.

Some simple choices Joey and I have made, by the grace of God:

We go to bed at the same time every night. This causes us to be on the same schedule. One person is not more tired than the other, we pray/talk a little together in bed, and it allows for physical intimacy. No kids in bed either, unless it’s May in Oklahoma and they are afraid of the storms.

We are a team. This is tough when you feel like you’re playing a different game altogether, not seeing eye-to-eye. But like any sport, we practice and we get better. IMG_5778.JPG

We go out on dates regularly. With no kids around, we can give each other our undivided attention, we can listen and get to know each other, we can flirt, try new restaurants, hold hands. IMG_6259

We put the kids to bed early. No brainer: more time for us. Structure and sleep for them. High five.

We put toothpaste on each others’ toothbrushes at night. Silly, but sweet.

We don’t make close friendships with people of the opposite sex. This is just smart; he is the only man I should be “emotional” with.

We work out together on Fridays. He rarely lets me train him, but I love including him in something that is so important to me–physical fitness. We think it’s important to stay fit (aka: HOT) for each other. ๐Ÿ™‚

We appreciate delicious, healthy food and black coffee. Oftentimes, we cook together. Chemex pour-over coffee every morning. IMG_6615

We play together and we play with our kids. Dance party every night; Justin Timberlake on repeat. Our kids remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.ย IMG_2874

We travel together (minus kids) at least once a year. It’s a true break in routine, scenery and responsibility. We invest in each other this way and create memories to think back to when “normal life” gets tough. IMG_1350If anyone has an excuse NOT to travel, it’s us. Two full-ish time jobs, I actually lose money when I go on vacation, two kids–one of which is disabled and has a potentially life-threatening condition. But it’s THAT important to us. Albeit, we have incredible parents that we trust to watch our kids.

We speak highly of each other. We chose early on not to make fun of marriage or put each other down, even in jest. We respect marriage and each other too much.IMG_4085

We apologize and try to fight fair. Even when we don’t feel like it. Ugh; this one’s hard.

We kiss each other every morning.ย 

We value friendship outside of one another. Life is more fun with friends. I think this is partly why our marriage has been hard this year–we’re lacking consistent friendships with other couples. DSC_2511

We take turns doing household chores and getting up with the kids. As a working mom, this is such a blessing to me. Joey is so helpful (acts of service is my love language).

We make time and energy for sex.ย I’m blushing just typing that…we are really private about our sex life. It’s the part of us that’s just for us.

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6 months pregnant with Finn

We share our calendars. This means less surprises for me.

We support each others’ careers by asking questions and allowing time for personal growth and study. Joey pushes me to achieve my goals and I’m so grateful. IMG_1922

Joint bank account.ย 

We read. Less screen time is my struggle, but I’m working on it. Currently reading The Slight Edge by Olson and up next are Niequist’s new Present Over Perfect, Maxwell’s 12 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, and the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

And finally…We individually seek to know Jesus more and work on improving ourselves. This is, without question, the most important element. The secret sauce. Because without Him, our love for each other is incomplete, shallow and self-serving.

I believe God made marriage a sacred covenant, binding unto death, because He knew that at some point, we’d want to get out.

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

It seems easier at times just to give up, do our own thing, or try someone new. But I said “I do,” to Joey on June 30th. Then again on July 1st. And July 2nd…And I’m saying “I do” today.

A healthy marriage isn’t fancy and it doesn’t make you famous. There’s no one event that changes everything. It’s the boring, mundane, good choices over time that lead to renewed vows when you’re 75 and wrinkled.

To the singles: are you the person that the person you’re looking for would want to marry?

To the married and healthy: thank you for your example! We’re watching and inspired.

To the married and struggling: dig in your heels and fight for your family. It takes two to make it work, yes. But pray for your marriage like it’s your full-time job. Go to counseling. And work on you. Let God work on them.

To the married and abused or neglected: Get help. In some cases, get out.

To the divorced: there is redemption. I’ve seen it and it’s beautiful.

To Joey: thank you for choosing me then and choosing me now. Happy TEN YEARS, my Love.

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Creating Space

My client of 5 years, John, drives to Tulsa to train with me from Norman once a week.

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He attended my indoor cycling classes at least twice a week in 2011 but was shocked to learn his nagging back pain was caused by blockage in his heart. He underwent a quadruple bypass shortly after. John faced life differently after that. He stood taller, but more humble; grateful for each breath. He does not back down from a challenge. He changed his nutrition drastically, stopped drinking, and he’s active more hours of the day than not. John has lost about 80 pounds, maybe more…I lost track and he doesn’t let me weigh him anymore.

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It wasn’t uncommon for him to ride his bike from downtown Norman to yoga on the west-side about 10 miles away, then up to Moore another 10 miles to train with me at Next Level, then back home. I told him I wouldn’t train him anymore until he bought a helmet. John watched me struggle through my pregnancy with Finn from the back row of my spin class, where I was oftentimes wiping tears along with my sweat. He’s one of Finn’s biggest fans and created a website for brave, imperfect people to share their stories: Courage Endures.

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Courage Endures dudes: Eddie and John. They live bravely.

He and I had a conversation this morning about creating space in our lives for creative thought, spiritual inspiration, revelation, and meditation. We decided it was repetition that provides enough rote, automatic, flowing movement to allow the mind to wander and dream.

Activities like yoga, cycling, swimming, painting, crocheting, running, playing an instrument and fishing are repetitive in the most therapeutic ways.

When we busy our minds with television, radio news or surf social media, there’s too much “noise” to give our minds rest. We’re thinking, sure. But maybe we’re overthinking. [What’s she doing these days…Who is that with her?…What makeup does she use?…I didn’t know she…We’ve got mutual friends…She has more friends than me by like 500…He’s got a new job…I wonder what happened… ] My mind becomes mush with too much unimportant information.

I love the books, The Power of Habit and The Compound Effect. They are life-changing for me because they’ve changed my mindset. Simple habits, repeated over time create massive waves in the sea of our lives. Our days are made up of a collection of habits and the seemingly small, mundane routines are its foundation. Collect the right habits…create the right life.

Kissing Joey goodbye as we head off to work.

Praying over my kids, singing songs before bed.

Exercising–sweating–daily.

Reading Bible plans, devotionals, the Word.

Putting lotion on after I shower.

Brushing my teeth.

Making coffee e v e r yย  m o r n i n g.

Thanking God for the day as Finn and I turn left out of our neighborhood.

Roasting vegetables in a hot oven.

Washing dishes.

Watering plants.

Buckling seat belts.

Folding laundry.

Wiping butts.

These are the stuff of our lives. Although I appreciate spontaneity and I’m a sucker for change, repetition and routine have great value.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“…Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10

I think monks would argue (okay, monks probably don’t argue) that ritual may be one of the best opportunities for spiritual enlightenment.

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Go do something boring, repetitive, and let your mind free.