hangups and bangups

“Grace has cellulite,” she said with a tone of disgust.
I have cellulite,” I countered.
“Well yeah, and you don’t workout, do you?”
Like a slap in the face.

And so, as a nineteen year old college student, I decided that I would never exercise for the sake of exercise. It was a petty, vain way to spend your time and I was going to be above that, obstinate beast that I am.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a crazy metabolism. College and post college left me with a diet of cheese fries, countless cups of coffee and half a pack of Camel lights a day. Go to bed at 2am, get up at 6:30am, nanny from 9-5, coffee shop from 6-midnight. How was I still standing? I stopped wearing a bra in effort to be edgy and natural. I stayed (dangerously) skinny and straightened my hair and wore lots of eye liner. I looked bitchin’.

Alex and I quit smoking when we got married and by then I settled into a single job with more regular hours. I cut out caffeine in effort to combat my addiction to it and read a book that convinced me that we needed to be vegan. Well, kind of vegan – girl ain’t gonna give up goat cheese or salmon. Working at a tiny natural food store in Chicago made me take more of an interest of what I was introducing to my body. We started eating more organics and since Alex had introduced me to biking, that was our main mode of transportation. 20 miles of biking while running errands was an average day. With Alex in school, we got poor. Newlywed, college student poor. I quit wearing makeup (which I was never any good at anyway) and started making some of my own hair product in an effort to save money. After battling acne for years, why had no one ever just suggested drinking more water and wearing less makeup? Turn out, that was the trick.

But apparently when you have babies your world gets turned upside down. Like, all of it.

Miraculously, I had escaped high school and college without body image issues. I thought I was too badass for all of that. But when my first baby emerged into the world, she decided to leave a lot of extra weight behind, particularly in my middle and thighs. It’s cool, baby. We’ve all got baggage; except now I have yours and mine. I turned into a person who puts on weight. A person who needs to go out of her way to get exercise in order to maintain a healthy body. But those ugly words from college came back to haunt me and I didn’t want to join the ranks of vain and petty.

More and more I am trying to embrace the new me. Not accept an unhealthy body, but to learn how my body now looks in a healthy state (had I ever even seen my body healthy before?). I’m still much heavier than in my hipster-cigarette-smoking days. But I am strong. I exercise regularly and, dare I say it, have learned to enjoy it. I am trying to not battle who my body wants to naturally be, but to embrace it and take it to the strongest level. I have learned that so many women in the world have cellulite that it’s actually just considered a secondary sex characteristic, not a badge of laziness. And I am trying so hard to let go of the stick-skinny image of myself that I harbor in my mind, and relish in the curvy, battle-worn body that I have earned.

the everyday things

“The problem with climate change is that it is global… yet, it is not one vast, impersonal challenge, but rather billions of tiny, personal ones. It is our coffee pot in the morning, our daily drive to work, our weekly supermarket shop, and our annual holiday. It is a thousand things we do without thinking: everyday behavior that we assume, quite wrongly, is a normal part of life and therefore sustainable.” -Nick Spencer, Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living

I tend to get overwhelmed if I think about, well… anything too much. Issues like human trafficking, global climate change, LGBT rights, or even just the slow food movement tend to make my palms sweaty and give me a choking feeling in my chest. It’s not that I don’t want to be bothered by thinking about heavy things, it’s just that sometimes they feel so heavy that they might crush me. I have a hard time finding the balance between apathy and overwhelmed.

Because I could run around in circles for days, attending rallies, planting gardens, researching the origins of every single thing that I buy and it would never be enough. I can never do enough. No matter how much I do, it will always just be a drop in the bucket. Too easily that line of thinking makes me want to curl up in bed and just watch old seasons of Parks and Rec for days, and then I REALLY start to feel bad about myself and my inadequacies.

Apparently today was “National Preach-in on Climate Change Sunday” at church. You learn about these things when you go to a tiny, hippy Mennonite church in Boise, ID. I love my church dearly. And I love the thinking that it makes me do, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. At the beginning of the sermon our pastor asked us about what small things we have each done in our own lives that are good for the environment but that also bring us joy. He encouraged us to really consider this because there would be time to share our tiny joys at the end of the sermon.

Picking up trash on a hike. Solar panels on a roof. Willingness to lend out a pickup truck. Planting a tiny garden. Wearing handmade clothes. Hearing everyone else’s joys made my heart happy. And it reminded me that even though I am only one person, one drop in the bucket, I’m in a pretty good bucket, surrounded by a lot of other beautiful drops.

I decided to raise my hand a share an odd joy: cloth diapers. We used them for 2+ years with both kids and they gave me joy. I loved the colors and how they made my babies’ bums look so chubby and sweet. I loved saving money and knowing that I wasn’t contributing to the landfill. And honestly, I loved the smug satisfaction of knowing that I was doing something counter cultural. Dealing with poop? Doesn’t phase me.

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It got me thinking about other tiny, personal decisions that I have made. And I realized that I will never do enough, but I can always try to do the next right thing.

you can only complain once

I have this philosophy that a person should only be allowed to complain about one season of the year. If you complain that summer is just too hot, you better be prepared to be happy about the change that winter will bring.

I allow myself to complain about winter. Because, well, it is the worst.

It’s taken me several years to even pinpoint that I didn’t like winter. Classically, I fall into that horrible seasonal funk that grabs so many of us and I don’t even realize how heavy I’ve been feeling until the first sunny day in March rolls around. And oh, that is a glorious day! 

I moved to the suburbs of Phoenix when I was in sixth grade and lived in warmer climes for the next six years, throughout all of junior and senior high school. I never learned how to drive in the snow. I never owned a winter coat. I never tried skiing or snowboarding or any of those insane winter sports that some people claim to enjoy. When I moved to Chicago for college, winter became something to be avoided. I dashed from my apartment to the train. From the train to my job. From work to a warm and cozy bar to meet up with friends. If I had to wait for a bus for too long in the frigid January chill I would hail a cab. No one enjoys winter in Chicago because it’s dirty and ugly, brown slush spattering on your jeans when a car drives past the bus stop. But I survived it.

Then we moved to Minneapolis and I thought I might die. We moved there in October and immediately the heavens opened up, dumping a suffocating blanket of snow on our heads that aimed to keep us pinned in one place for the next seven months. I tried to walk my dog only to have her and I comically slip and fall repeatedly on the unbelievably icy sidewalks. Public transportation required standing in place, stamping your feet to stay warm for thirty minutes or so until the next bus decided to show up. Why would anyone choose to live like this? We moved away.

Boise has been better. The winter is shorter and there is less snow. But this season still weighs so heavily on me. The people who seem to enjoy winter enjoy the activities that it brings. But these things are so expensive. They require gear. Skill. Effort. I have none.

Yesterday our yard was covered with several inches of fresh snow. A friend emailed to say that she was bringing her kids sledding at the neighborhood park and did I want to come? In my mind I know I should try to get my kids (and myself) outside in the winter, but it’s so easy to talk myself out of it. I don’t own proper snow gear and when it comes to spending money, that’s never a priority for me. Plus, why would I want to go and roll around in something that will only get me cold and wet? It doesn’t help that both of my kids hate the snow as well. I can’t blame the baby for not liking it. He can’t walk yet and I know that I would be miserable, stuffed into an uncomfortable snowsuit and left to just sit in this bizarre shaved ice.

All this to say: SUMMER! COME QUICKLY! I’ve been dreaming of shorts and sundresses. Walking through the neighborhood and playing at the park. Going camping and eating dinner in the yard at the picnic table. A glorious string of months where if I want to spend time outside, I can simply step into our yard, no need to struggle on an uncomfortable amount of layers and try to not slip and crack my head open on our treacherous back porch.

Summer: seriously, come quickly. Or I am likely to lose it.

throwing in the towel

Lately parenting has been feeling more and more like a series of failures than anything else. I suppose that has a lot to do with the expectations that you set for yourself and I tend set some pretty high expectations. I need to be one of those people who are happy make do, go with the flow.

As I think about my (nearly) three-year-old who has no interest in using the potty, the baby that I want to wean so desperately, and every morning that I wake up with both of them in my bed despite resolving the night before to have them sleep in their own beds, I feel exhausted.

When do I get to throw in the towel? Or did I already do that?

In her book Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Melton discusses how maybe when you acknowledge that parenting is hard it means that you are doing something right. I guess I wish I weren’t so damn right all the time.