Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Reality of Christmas

I love Christmas.  I love Christmastime.  I love December and winter and snow and traditions and celebrating the birth of our Savior.  I love everything about it.  So much so that every year I have the most perfect vision of what Christmas will be for me and my family.  And every year, without fail, that vision isn't realized.  And it hurts.  A lot.  Just once I want that Christmas that I have in my head.  The ones like in the movies and on every blasted news feed on my phone.

Social media has ruined Christmas for me.  In a way that has me thinking "bah humbug" with every scroll of my finger.  Every picture of every perfectly decorated Christmas tree and every perfectly executed tradition and every perfectly coordinated outfit for every perfect Christmas card photo has me becoming more bitter and heartbroken at the reality that is my Christmas, which is this:

Decorations are hauled down from the attic at best by December 3rd or 4th, but more realistically, the 5th or 6th.  By the time we actually pull said decorations out of their dusty bins and put them up around the house, a week has gone by and seven pockets on our advent will never be used.  The adorable advent that hangs on the wall with 25 pockets that, on the first year we had it, were each filled with a slip of paper that had a Christmas related activity that we would do that day: bake cookies, make Christmas cards, go see Christmas lights, etc.  That first year we diligently partook in every activity, no matter the strain on our time or bank account.  The second year, that advent gave me anxiety to look at but I had started a tradition and traditions can't be broken, right?  We did our best.  The third year (last year) I almost didn't take it out of the bin altogether.  I actually don't remember what we even put in the pockets.  This year I'm deciding between telling the kids it was eaten by mice or that some poor family needed it much more than we did.  

I used to spend days preparing handmade Christmas card (and hundreds of dollars, when all was said and done) with our latest family picture attached to send out to family and friends.  Over the years I simplified the card more and more until finally resorting to the ever classic Costco pre-made photo Christmas card, and even that died a painful death over two years ago.  Sending out Christmas cards of any kind are but a distant memory in this house.  Family picture with coordinating outfits? Ain't nobody got time for that!

Every year I have bold aspirations of wrapping as I buy.  Yet every Christmas Eve I am up till the wee hours of the morning watching the only Christmas movies I will watch that year as I wrap like an elf on crack.  Which means my tree skirt sits barren below my Christmas tree until literally Christmas morning.  My poor children make comments about how other families have their Christmas presents under their trees already and I snap back with some obnoxious comment about how only the kids who will actually never have any presents under their tree to open Christmas morning have the right to complain, while secretly feeling plagued with guilt at yet another Christmas failure on my part.

Oh, and the wrapping? In my head it's always going to look like this:

But in reality, it's always more like this:

We have no Christmas traditions, really, other than watching The Polar Express on Christmas Eve while drinking hot chocolate (and by we I mean the three of us that stay awake *coughbill*).  No new Christmas pajamas to unwrap, no caroling or traipsing up into the snow-covered mountains to cut down a fresh pine tree and go sledding...thank goodness the Elf on the Shelf came out after my kids were too old for it, or I would lie awake every night haunted by all the clever antics our little non-existent elf wasn't up to.

Please don't get me wrong.  I am in no way critiquing or making fun of or judging anyone who does any or all of these things or who has the perfect Christmas I dream of every year.  I'm just jealous, suffering from a hearty dose of good old fashioned, unadulterated envy.  I try and live vicariously through those who do have the picture perfect Christmas, to be happy that someone, somewhere, has it all together in the month of December.  But mostly I feel like this.

I won't give up.  Maybe, just maybe, one day my Christmas will look like my Pinterest board.  In the meantime, I make myself feel better by remembering that Christmas has nothing to do with decorations and traditions and positionable elves with questionable behavior.

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 

It has only to do with this.

And nothing more. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Confessions of a Hypocrite

So...remember this?

Remember this comment I made in reference to above post?:

Yeah, so it turns out, I'm wrong. Well, there's a pretty good chance I am, anyway.  I was definitely taught a lesson in forming an opinion based on a few things I'd read and heard before learning all the facts. 

So here's my shameful secret that only a few people know: Within days of sharing that link on Facebook, I went gluten-free.

I know what you're thinking: What?! Hypocrite much?! Why yes, yes I am.  And I've never been happier to be proven wrong.  So here's the story:

The above-referenced post led to a heated debate (which I knew it would) and friends and family were quick to argue with me and tell why going GF had changed their lives.  One friend in particular, who is very passionate about this topic, ended up messaging me privately to apologize for her heated comment (which was completely unnecessary, but appreciated) and it started a discussion about GF.  I asked some questions, told more of my skepticism, and for days we went back and forth about the subject, with her sending me links and enlightening me more and more.  (She has done a TON of research on the topic so the girl definitely knows what she's talking about.) I looked up the links, read up on it, did my research (which is what I should have done before sharing the link above).  Normally I wouldn't have spent the time to do so, except for one thing: As I stated in one of my comments in that thread, I actually tested positive for Celiac Disease several years ago.  The blood test said I had it, the biopsy and endoscopy said I did not.  Well, here's the thing: I now know, through my research, that one must have gluten in their diet for the endoscopy to show the damage the gluten is causing to their stomach (if they do indeed have Celiac) and my doctor, who will remain nameless, told me to go off of gluten for a month and then have the endoscopy done.  The gastroenterologist who did my endoscopy knew I had been off gluten for a month and didn't say anything about it.  Long story short, I now know the test results were screwed up and I am not about to pay the money to go through it all again.

So my friend suggested going off of gluten one more time.  This would be my third time in about six years.  The first time was per my doctor's questionable orders, the second time was a year and a half ago when I was having crazy digestive issues.  Each time was for a month, and each time I didn't notice a difference.  My friend said a month wasn't enough, and I probably wasn't being careful enough with making sure everything I was eating was, in fact, gluten free.  Which was probably true.  So I decided to try it one last time, for at least three months, being super diligent about checking labels and not cheating, and see once and for all if gluten was causing my lifelong headaches and more recent digestive issues, which were worse than they'd ever been. 

It's been a month now, and I feel amazing.  My headaches have almost completely disappeared and my digestive issues are GONE.  But, I still wasn't convinced it was for sure the gluten.  After all, I was eating healthier and avoiding sugar for the most part.  (But not completely.) After a while I started feeling deprived as I watched everyone around me eat hamburgers and cake and all kinds of gluten-laden goodness so I started eating sugar if there was no gluten in it; you know, to make up for what I was missing out on.  (Hello, milkshakes.)  And I still felt great, so I knew it wasn't the sugar.  I was eating plenty of dairy, so I knew it wasn't that, either.  Still, I was not going to know for sure until my 3 months were up and I introduced gluten back into my diet.

And then last night happened.  I was sleeping restlessly so I got up to have some milk, which always helps, but I can't just drink plain milk without anything with it, because...gross.  And sitting in my fridge, staring back at me, screaming at me to eat them, were these amazing looking gourmet cupcakes the devil my friend had brought us.  Don't do it, Alicia, the voice in my head said.  Don't throw away the last month, you've worked too hard.  You'll regret it.  But then another voice said CUPCAKE and before I knew it I was sinking my teeth into the most delicious caramel, peanut butter-filled cupcake with caramel frosting.  Oh. My. Gosh, it was a-MAZING.  As I ate it, I knew one of two things would happen: nothing, which would make me question the no gluten thing but not give up on it since I've felt so good, or something, which would prove to me that my body hates it. 

I went back to bed and fell asleep.  Four hours later I woke up with what felt like a butcher knife in the side of my head.  I have not had that kind of headache in, well, a month.  Especially waking me up in the middle of the night.  And I knew there was no way it could be a coincidence.  And I knew it couldn't be the sugar, or any other ingredient in the cupcake, because the only thing in that cupcake that my body has not had in a month was gluten.  So there you have it.  My answer.  Which is incredibly bittersweet because on the one hand, I FINALLY know, after all these years, what has been causing my headaches and stomach issues.  But on the other hand....NO GLUTEN!!!! No cupcakes, donuts, cake, cookies, bread, pasta, and a million bajillion other things that have made up my diet my entire life and make me oh so happy.  It will be hard, I'm not gonna lie.  But it will be worth it.  I finally feel like a normal, healthy person.

So the reason I say there's a pretty good chance I'm wrong about my previous opinion, and not a definite one, is because there's still a chance I actually do have Celiac Disease, which would mean my self-discovery about gluten wouldn't prove anything about people who don't have Celiac responding to a GF diet.  But oh well.  Who cares?  Not me.  If all those people have found something that makes them feel better, then I'm happy for them, and who the heck am I to say anything about it?? 

So, add me to the list of "annoying" people asking "what's in that?" and requesting the allergy menu at restaurants.  I'm proud to join the club.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Sometimes in my life there are things that I have a really hard time staying silent about.  I feel things so strongly, so passionately, that often I feel like if I can't get my feelings out there I'll explode.  Lately it seems like there are so many hot button topics flying around that have me feeling this way, and they all revolve around one thing: my religion.

I am Mormon.  I have been since the day I was born, but I like to think I was even before that.  I have never not been Mormon, and I know that because of this people think I am biased and unable to see outside of my little cushioned Mormon bubble.  And maybe this is true to some extent.  Obviously I only know what my life experiences have given me and allowed me to see and learn, including the things I have been taught every Sunday for 35 years, and every day in between those Sundays in my home.

But I am not an easy person to convince.  I am not a mindless, impressionable creature that just does something because I am told.  Sometimes I wish I was, because it would show great faith.  But I have always needed to know why, and how, and what will happen if I do, or don't.  I have always questioned everything, my entire life, and I don't just mean my religion.  When I was very young my mom was ironing clothes.  She told me not to touch the iron because it was hot and I would burn my finger.  I had absolutely no reason not to take her word for it, but a few minutes later the doorbell rang and my mom went to answer it.  The minute she was out of sight, I couldn't reach my little hand out fast enough to touch that iron.  I couldn't just take her word for it, I had to learn for myself.  And she was right.  It was hot.  And I burned my finger.

In high school some of my best friends were Catholic and we'd get into (mostly) friendly religious debates.  During one of these debates one friend I was particularly close to accused me and my Mormon friends of only believing what we believed because we'd been brainwashed our entire lives.  As I argued with him and demanded to know how it was any different with him and his religion, his words echoed in my brain, and stuck with me for a long time after, even now that he is no longer with us.  And I've never stopped pondering it.  It really got to me.  Was there truth to his words?  Do we all only believe what we believe because we've been told it by our parents and the people closest to us our entire lives?  If I'd been born into a Catholic family would I have been on the other side of those classroom arguments, calling out the Mormon kids on their "bizarre" beliefs?  I couldn't handle the thought.  I needed to believe I believe what I believe because I believe it, not just because I've never been told different.

My point is, I've always stepped back and taken a look at my beliefs from the outside.  I know how they appear to the world, now more than ever, with the Mormon religion under the microscope getting rotten tomatoes thrown at it day after day, so to speak.  Do you know how it feels to be a part of something that so much of the world hates?  Something that is so much a part of you you feel that you wouldn't be you without it?  Something you hold so dear to your heart that every time someone speaks ill of it you feel like a tiny part of your soul dies?  Well I do.  And for someone who cares so very, very much what people think of her, it's not easy, let me tell you.  So often I ask myself, "Can you do this?  When people start really, truly hating you for being who you are and believing what you do, can you stick it out?  Do you believe enough to stand by your church and not go running for the hills when the angry pitchfork-wielding mob comes?"  I want to believe I can, and I do, and I will.  Because I'm not stupid.  I know that day will come.  I know the day will come that even my belief in God will condemn me, and I want to be ready for that.

But mostly, I just want to be heard.  I want my weak little Mormon voice to be heard among all these other voices that are screaming and shouting and being heard 'round the world.  Because all anyone is hearing right now are those voices, Mormon and non-Mormon alike.  All they're hearing is "Mormon church is kicking out their own for wanting equal rights for women" and "Mormon church opposes gay marriage so obviously they hate gay people and don't want them to be happy" and every other possible negative thing that can be said about the Mormon church.  But what about what we have to say?  The scale is being tipped so far in the other direction, I think it's only fair that we be allowed to add a little weight to the side that's hanging high in the air.  Because what no one seems to be seeing is the inequality that is coming to pass in this fight for equality.  Am I really the only one who sees it?  Sometimes I feel like I am.

I got used to being in the minority for my beliefs a long time ago.  I've watched as the world shifted from accepting and loving of those with different lifestyles (a good thing) to taking it a step further and despising, judging, and condemning those of us who don't agree with certain aspects of those lifestyles (not a good thing).  I've watched as anger, hatred, and disgust became the common feeling amongst those fighting for equal rights, all in the the name of...love.  Seem backwards to you?  Because it sure does to me.  Fight for equal rights, sure.  Fight for everyone to be happy and loved and not judged.  I want all those things too, whether you believe me or not.  But please, please don't become a hypocrite by treating a group of people differently for their beliefs.  Because it won't be long (I promise you this) before we--those of us fighting for what we believe in, no matter how unpopular it is--will be the ones being treated as lesser people who don't deserve to be happy.  We will be the ones fighting for OUR rights to be equal.  And who will stand for us then?  Who will fight for OUR group that is being condemned for OUR beliefs?  It's a very thin line between fighting against someone for quote unquote "not loving" and becoming that person.  In the very, very near future, that line will no longer exist.  It's already beginning to disappear.

The bottom line is, I love my religion deeply.  Not just because it's all I've ever known, or because it's what my parents taught me or what I've been brainwashed to believe.  Because I look around at what else is out there, or I think about just not having it in my life at all, about what would happen if I walked away, and I feel sick.  I can't imagine the emptiness I would feel inside.  The happiness that would undoubtedly be sucked from my life, the uncertainty that would plague my very soul about so many things.  My religion is part of my chemical makeup, part of what makes me who I am.  I couldn't walk away from it any more than I could walk away from my heart, or my brain.  And the more people judge me, and push me, and argue with me for my beliefs, the harder my body wants to fight back.  Because that's what I do when something I love is attacked.  I fight back.  I defend.  I am fiercely loyal to the things in this life that I love.  And that will never change.

So now you've heard it, one little voice against a whole lot of big ones.  Maybe it will be heard, maybe it won't.  But at least I've said it.  And to answer the question of a recent attacker of my beliefs, THAT is how I sleep at night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Transformation In A Move Theater

WARNING: It's about to get all sappy up in herrr.  Also, spoilers.

Today I went with some friends to see The Fault in Our Stars, a movie made from an amazing book about two teens dying of cancer who fall in love.  I know, sounds horribly depressing, but it's really not.  Sad, yes.  But the good kind of sad, where you sigh at the end and walk away feeling good because you truly felt.

But here's the thing: halfway through the movie I had a weird sort of revelation.  About myself.  You see, I am a self-proclaimed romantiholic.  A romance junkie.  I fiend for a good love story.  I always have, and I hope I always will.  I am a romantic through and through and nothing gets my heart pounding and my insides all crazy like a good love story.  Which is exactly what happened when I read The Fault in Our Stars.  I was all about Hazel Grace's and Augustus Waters's relationship.  I couldn't get enough of them falling in love, their ironic wit and cheese-less romance.  I pined through the entire thing and was all warm and fuzzy by the end.  Romantically fulfilled in every way.  And *SPOILER ALERT* when Gus dies, my heart broke because I was reading through Hazel's eyes; that was me reading his eulogy, knowing I'd lost the love of my life.

The movie was different.  Well, actually, the movie was pretty much exactly the same as the book, they mercifully stayed incredibly true to it which is so rare and so fantastic.  But it was different for me to watch it than to read it.  Why?  Because of Hazel's parents.  The book portrayed them as loving parents trying to cope with the inevitable death of their only child while simultaneously trying to take the best possible care of her while still encouraging her to get out there and life life while she still can.  They were good parents who obviously loved their daughter.

But in the movie, her parents (played by Laura Dern of Jurassic Park fame and some guy I'd never seen before who looked to be at least 10 years younger) were, well, amazing.  What didn't come across on page came across powerfully on screen and I ached for them.  I could feel every single emotion they felt dealing with this horrible, emotional roller coaster ride that could come crashing to an halt at any time.  As I watched them stand over their not-so-little girl anymore, trying to hide their tears but obviously falling apart on the inside, I found myself completely overcome with emotion, fighting back tears and swallowing a serious lump in my throat.  And that's when it hit me: I have transformed.  I didn't get choked up when Gus died, or when he told Hazel he loved her, or when they cried together after he told her he was dying.  No, I got choked up when Hazel's mom couldn't handle the fact that she couldn't afford to give her daughter her one dying wish.  When her dad carried her like a baby in his arms into the ER one night when she couldn't breathe and felt like her head was going to explode.  When it flashed back to a 13 year old Hazel in the hospital taking what they thought were her last breaths and they stood over her sobbing, telling her it was okay to let go.  I almost couldn't handle it, because I was them, and that 13 year old girl could have been my own sweet, precious, amazing 13 year old girl.

And that realization, that suddenly I was relating to the parents of the teen instead of the teen in love was kind of shocking.  When did that happen??  I'm not gonna lie, it was a little disconcerting.  Am I like, grown up now?  Or just...a parent of a teenager?  It's so bizarre, I still don't know what to make of it.  But it was eye-opening.  And so, so powerful.  And weird.

Anyway, my point is...I don't really know what my point is.  I guess one is that there are certain things that just cannot be portrayed on page like they can onscreen.  Another is that the actors were amazing and the filmmakers did a bang-up job of transforming the book to film.  And a third is that self-realization can hit you anywhere, even in a dark theater surrounded by your friends who are all crying except for you.  Because that, at least, is something about me that will probably never change.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Story of My Journey to a Healthier Me, Part 2

Lately I've been kind of obsessing about food, and not in the usual way.  I guess the juice fast really got me thinking for the first time about what I put into my body and how it affects me.  What I've always known to be true (you eat junk, you feel like junk, and you get more junk in your trunk) is manifesting itself to me now more than ever.  It seems like every single thing I eat affects me almost instantly, which is probably the main reason it's always on my mind.

I am, by nature, a junk food addict.  I grew up on delicious homemade baked goods, white bread, Cheetos, pop, cookies, etc.  I honestly never thought about what I ate, and I never needed to. I was a skinny ninny.  It wasn't until middle school that a well-intended, health-conscious friend began pointing out the evils of my diet.  However, I didn't care.  Why should I, when I felt and looked great (besides the occasional headache)?  If anything, I wanted to be less skinny.  I was always self-conscious of my small frame, feeling like a little girl as other girls my age were sprouting upward and outward and getting curves I would just never have (until much later).  High school brought a new dynamic to my unhealthy diet, with off-campus lunches, a car, and money in my wallet.  I discovered fast food and a passionate love affair began. Still, though, I was skinny, and I was getting curves in the right places so I was beginning to love my body.  Why shouldn't I eat whatever I wanted?  My mom and sisters would walk in on me eating a second lunch after school each day, usually consisting of a corn dog, chips, and Fudge Stripe cookies and say, "One day that's gonna catch up with you." And I would obnoxiously take a bite of my cookie and say, "Then that's the day I'll worry about it." Despite my figure, I was growing increasingly tired each day and my headaches were occurring more frequently.  I attributed this to puberty and newly prescribed antidepressants.

It wasn't until after I graduated from high school that I began to gain weight.  I finally hit 100 pounds and gained the typical "Freshman 15," even though I was still living at home.  I lived on fast food.  And even though I was beginning to get stretch marks in places and some rolls in my stomach that I really wasn't happy about, I was still a size 4 and wasn't complaining much, other than wanting to sleep literally all. day. long. 

And then I got married and pregnant, and pregnancy + a diet of strictly deep fried foods and sugar don't mix well.  I gained 50 pounds, lost some of it after having my daughter, then got pregnant again and gained 80 more.  EIGHTY.  That was 10 years ago and I still have not lost it all. In fact, I've gained back all that I lost over the years and I'm the closest I've ever been to that second pregnancy weight than I ever have been since having my son.  And that is a terrifying, depressing thought. The weight, though, as much as I hate it, has become secondary to my health when it comes to the physical effects of my horrible diet.

Over the past 10 years my headaches have increased by an alarming amount.  After a solid year of unexplained nausea, I was tested for Celiac.  The blood test came back positive.  My doctor had me go off of gluten for a month before having an endoscopy scope of my insides done, which I now know was stupid for 2 reasons: 1) You need gluten in your system for the scope to see it and 2) a month probably wouldn't do anything anyway.  Needless to say, the scope and biopsy found no signs of Celiac, but showed definite signs of GERD (acid reflux), which would explain the chronic heartburn, nausea, and stomach pains, which were sometimes so severe I was doubled over in the fetal position, crying. When I was diagnosed, the gastroenterologist told me it could be diet controlled.  I went to my regular doctor and got a prescription for Prilosec.  Such an easier fix. When that wasn't enough, I had her add another one.  Now I could still eat whatever I wanted without the pain and heartburn.  But the nausea still came sometimes, and my headaches persisted.

Fast forward to now.  I have begun seeing an almost instant physical reaction after eating, whether it's a headache, nausea, or other digestive issues I will spare you the details of.  For a long time I attributed this to sugar, and the harder I tried to stay away from it, the more addicted I felt, the more helpless I felt in abstaining.  But then I began to realize it wasn't just the sugar.  It was all the garbage I was putting into my body, and all the good stuff I wasn't putting in.  Since then I have been educating myself on diet and health and what my body needs to function at its peak capacity.  I want to feel good.  I honestly don't remember what that feels like.  Of course I want to lose the weight and be skinny and look good in clothes and not cringe every summer when the pools open up, but that will come.  Right now I want to wake up with no headache.  I want to come home from work and not want to crash in bed.  I want to go a week without random nausea.  I want to be an example to my kids, who are already showing my propensity to eat all things that taste good but are not.  I fear for them.  And I fear for me.

And so I am determined to change.  I have resolved to change the way not only I eat, but my family as well.  I am going to get healthy.  How will I do this?  I will tell you eventually, in a third installment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Smart People Can Be So Stupid

I kind of pride myself in being an easy-going person. I don't get worked up about a lot of things, I'm almost impossible to offend, and it takes a lot to really make me mad. I attribute this to many years of anxiety and depression. When you've spent most of your life fighting to feel good and normal, once you finally do, all the little irritations in life just don't really matter anymore. 

Don't get me wrong--I get road rage like nobody's business (Hey, you. Yeah, you. That stick next to your steering wheel? That's a blinker. You should try it sometime.)  Pushy salespeople make me want to karate chop them to the throat, and brand new purchased items that don't work the way they're supposed to bring out a special kind of crazy in me. To name a few. 

But the little every day interactions between people where someone says something in passing that rubs the other one the wrong way or even thoroughly ticks them off? Not so much for this gal. 

Until yesterday. 

There is someone I see on a daily basis who is not of my same religion (I'm a Mormon). We'll call her Jane. Jane is somewhat knowledgeable about said religion as she is surrounded by Mormons every day. She has often expressed her opinions to me on various points of doctrine and beliefs held by us, usually in a respectful, objective way, which I appreciate. Yesterday Jane struck up a conversation with me about a "friend" she has on Facebook who is LDS. This "friend," from Jane's description, sounds fairly obnoxious and not like someone I would get along with at all. She happens to be liberal, this "friend," and makes unintelligent comments on Facebook that do not reflect her in a positive light. The conversation about this "friend" ended with Jane saying, "It's people like her who give your religion a bad name."

Cue record needle scratching across surface of record as the music comes to a halt. Say what? My usually lukewarm blood began to boil almost instantly and I had to physically walk away. But in my head the conversation continued, one-sided: "I'm sorry," I said sarcastically. "Your obnoxious, self-centered 'friend' on Facebook gives my entire religion a bad name because she happens to belong to it?" None of the stuff this "friend" was ranting about online had anything whatsoever to do with being Mormon. Had it been, I could maybe, maybe see some tiny hint of justification in condemning an entire religion based on the actions of one stupid person. (But not really.) But to say that this person's idiotic and totally secular posts on Facebook reflected badly on her religion is the equivalent of me saying that Mel Gibson gives Australians a bad name for making anti-Semitic comments, or Tiger Woods gives golfers a bad name for cheating on his wife. Ridiculous? Yes! Because the two are. totally. unrelated. 

And it didn't end there. Jane picked it up today right where she'd left off, only now I'd had 24 hours to think about her ignorant statement, to stew over it, convince myself more and more how stupid of a statement it was for someone fairly intelligent to make. So when the subject was approached again, I was ready. In my most (forced) casual, non-argumentative tone, I said "You're going to find stupid people everywhere. It doesn't matter what religion they are." Then I proceeded to tell her that we Mormons have an unfair disadvantage. Because some parts of our beliefs are so well known throughout the world and very black and white, we've been dubbed as "supposed to be perfect." Then, when we're HUMAN and make a mistake, or even just do something completely normal that an outsider has decided "real" Mormons shouldn't do, then we're not "good" Mormons and we're disgracing our whole religion. Now, more than ever, the Mormon church is under a microscope. It's hard enough trying to live each day in a way that would never give anyone a reason to question our faith. But on top of that, now we're to be judged by our intelligence level, tact (or lack thereof), and overall persona portrayed on social networking sites? I'm calling it: Not Fair. Not Fair at all. 

The next time Jane says something stupid (and she will), I'm going to say, "It's people like you who give people who wear glasses a bad name." Bam. 

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crime Don't Pay (Unless You're a Glass Company)

So Friday morning I stayed home from work, sick.  I slept all morning and woke up at around 10:30 to the sound of glass shattering. Very LOUD glass shattering.  Like, literally, it sounded like someone took every drinking glass out of my cupboard and threw them on my kitchen floor.  I jumped out of bed and ran through my house, trying to find the source of the noise, thinking maybe our light fixture above our kitchen table had suddenly and inexplicably dropped out of the ceiling.  It was intact.  I ran to the bathroom, because clearly a shattering of that magnitude would only happen on hard floor.  No glass there.  I turned to Payson's room, suddenly fearful for Rusty's life.  Although Payson's room has carpet, his tortoise's tank is definitely enough glass to make a loud crash.  Nope, Rusty was safe inside his shell inside his log inside his tank. I turned to Macy's room and saw a neighbor lady peering in the window on her cell phone.  My first thought: "She knows what the crash was.  She knows what's going on." My second thought: "Put some clothes on!!" I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around myself while running to my front door.  But it wouldn't open.  I checked the deadbolt.  It was unlocked.  I checked the doorknob, locking and unlocking it.  It wouldn't turn.  "Somebody's done something to my doorknob so I can't get out!!" I thought in a panic.  I ran back to Macy's window and opened it, asking the neighbor lady what was going on.  She was standing with another neighbor guy.  They told me they had just called 911 after hearing the glass shatter and seeing a kid on a bike tear out of our backyard like a "bat out of hell," looking terrified.  It wasn't until THAT point that I finally put together what happened.  I ran to my backyard and saw Payson's window had been smashed in.

 And our garden rake directly below it.

The pictures don't do it justice at all, there was glass EVERYWHERE.  I ran back inside, threw on some clothes, and grabbed my phone to call Bill.  I ran back outside to my neighbors where they filled me in more.  As they did, I called Bill to COME HOME NOW.  At this point the cop showed up and asked questions, interviewed the neighbors who knew way more than I did, got a pretty detailed description of the dirty little delinquent, and took pictures.  He thought it was more likely that the kid used a rock to smash in the window, pointing to our play area filled with rocks smaller than ping pong balls.  I was skeptical as I eyed the rake laying below the window.  But, I'm not the cop, so I followed him in to Payson's room to "help him look for a rock" and that's when I saw the glass.  Everywhere.  All over both his bunk beds, clear across the room to his closet.  How had I missed it before?? In my bare feet?? As we looked (and found nothing), I told him how the creep had done something to our front door knob so it wouldn't work anymore.  As I said the words, it occurred to me that in my panic I may have been locking it when I thought I was unlocking it.  It would have already been unlocked since I had never left for the day.  I went to check it.  It was locked.  I had locked it trying to get out instead of unlocking it.  I felt a little sheepish.  Luckily he was a nice cop and said something about the crazy things we all do when we're in shock mode.  Thank you, nice cop man. 

Then Bill showed up and told us the kid must have used the rake because it had been over on our patio before (I KNEW it!).  The cop was on his walkie talkie the whole time and told us they'd found the bike in some yard a few streets over, abandoned, which was good for the people he'd stolen it from (we found out later he'd stolen it) and also good for the dogs they were about to send out to track him now that they had his scent and he was on foot.  Alas, they didn't find him, but they did find a woman living in a shed with multiple warrants, so that was a bonus.  (I really love my neighborhood, can I just tell you?) They told me she was unrelated but now I'm hearing that maybe she wasn't so much.  Anyway, after everything calmed down and the cop left, the neighbors left, and Bill reluctantly went back to work, I had a pretty decent headache from the stress and excitement of it all, not to mention the fact that I was already not feeling well (remember the reason I was home in the first place?).  I lay down on my couch and within minutes of Bill leaving, started hearing noises and booked it out of there, ran down three houses to my friend's house--pajamas, glasses and all.  (Turns out it was just the wind through Payson's busted window rattling his door that I'd forgotten Bill had closed.)

Later that afternoon Bill cleaned up the mess and boarded up the window really well.  Payson's room is as dark as a tomb, and will be till the glass people can repair it this next week.  But he's handling it fairly well, considering.  This is the child I've had to have multiple conversations with convincing him the chances of us ever getting broken into were slim to none.  And whose room does the would-be-burglar pick to break into, of all the windows in the house?  Payson's.  Thank you, you little delinquent punk.

Now that the excitement is over, we're just trying to feel safe in our house again.  It's not an easy thing to do when you feel so violated.  Payson's room is like this black crime scene, a constant reminder of what went down.  The scariest part for me, the part I try and fail not to think about all day long, is what would have happened if the guy hadn't been scared off.  If he'd been in Payson's room when I wandered in there trying to find the source of the noise.  Which leads me to tomorrow's post...till then...

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Story of My Journey To a Healthier Me, Part 1

I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning.  A few weeks ago my sister Amy and her husband John watched a documentary called Hungry For Change on Netflix.  They were so inspired by it that they did an instant overhaul of the way they ate.  Even their kids took a second look at what they were putting into their bodies.  Soon after, they watched another documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  They convinced our parents to watch them as well, and soon both of them and my mom were all on a juice fast.  When they first told me about it I wasn't interested.  Good for them, but I could never do it.  Obviously they aren't as addicted to food as I am, I thought.  10 days of drinking their meals? They won't make it past the third day, I predicted.  But I was wrong.  They made it past the third day, all the way to the 10th, and then some.  When I heard their success stories, how good they felt, how much weight they'd lost and how not completely impossible it was, I started to think that maybe I could do it.  If they could, surely I could.  We are so similar in our physical and mental make-up.  My mom, my sisters and I have all struggled with the same dietary weaknesses, addictions, feelings of complete lack of self-control.  Reading success stories in magazines and online is one thing but to see my family actually do it is another.  I was ready to check this whole juice fast thing out. 

I don't have Netflix so I signed up for the month-long free trial just to watch the movies.  I knew watching them would make the difference.  I am one that likes to arm myself with information.  If I know the facts, I am more likely to stick to something.  I don't want to hear that I should do it, I need to know why I should do it.  And Hungry For Change answered that question for me, tenfold.  To be fair, it wasn't much of anything I didn't already know.  I've known for years that sugar is a "drug" comparable to cocaine, hence the sugar addiction.  I've known that our bodies store fat because they were designed to do so back in the caveman days when we had no food for winter.  I've known how horrible processed, manufactured foods are for our bodies.  But I needed the reminder, and it was definitely an eye-opener.  Then I moved on to Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  (I definitely recommend watching the movies, and in the order I did.) This was a much different movie from Hungry For Change, not so much an informative documentary as a video journal of one man's (Joe Cross) quest to get healthy.  He chooses to do this by juice fasting, and he takes it to the extreme by doing it for 60 days while traveling across America.  It's fascinating and incredibly inspiring and it completely convinced me to to the 10 day juice fast.

Now, I had several things working for me when I started.  I was about a week behind my other family members who had finished their fast and transitioned into the "maintenance" part.  I had witnessed firsthand their success, and that made me know I could do it.  I give SERIOUS props to my sister and brother-in-law for doing it with no one to follow, but I guess doing it together probably helped them.  I couldn't have done it.  I don't think so, anyway.  Also, I did one really smart thing that came with an unintentional side-effect: I put it on Facebook.  I didn't do this for the purpose of holding myself accountable, but that's exactly what it did.  On Day 8 I was ready to be done but there was no way I was going to give up 2 days early with everyone cheering me on! Also, I had an incredibly supportive husband who, although he thought I was a little crazy and had zero interest in the fast himself, did everything he could to help me succeed.  Yay for supportive husbands!

And so I hit up Costco and bought a week's worth of fruits and vegetables.  (I was told this was the best deal, but now that I'm not juicing every single meal I buy smaller amounts at Winco or Walmart so the produce doesn't go bad before I can eat it.  This is recommended in Joe Cross's book.) And on Thursday, May 1st, I began my juice fast, or my "reboot" as Joe calls it.  It's not a diet.  It's a detox, a way to give your body a jump start to a healthier lifestyle.  It releases the toxins from inside you and gives your digestive system a break from having to break down all the crap you've been putting in it by giving it only raw, plant-based food in liquid form.  For 10 days (or however long you do the fast) your body is only getting the nutrients and vitamins it needs and none of the garbage.  To people like me who had only been giving my body garbage, it was a bit of a shock to my system.  Day 1 and Day 2 were pretty rough, with mild nausea, dizziness, and a pretty decent headache.  But they went away quickly and it wasn't long before I felt amazing.  My mind felt clear, I had energy during the day (unless I was overdue for a juice, then I got pretty sluggish), my desire for daily naps lessened significantly, my headaches disappeared completely, and most importantly, I felt better about myself than I ever had before.  I was finally treating my body the way it deserved and NEEDED to be treated. 

Don't get me wrong, it was never easy.  I felt hungry a lot of the time, but I got used to it.  I learned that not always feeling full isn't a bad thing.  It's okay to feel hungry.  When I began to feel too hungry (gnawing pains in my stomach, lightheaded) was when I knew it was time for a juice (I probably waited a little too long most times).  And once I drank one, I felt instantly full and satisfied and content.  For once I wasn't eating food as a hobby or obsession or addiction, for recreation or entertainment or a quick high.  I was eating purely to keep myself alive, but I wasn't starving.  I was giving my body just what it needed and nothing more.  And it got easier and easier the longer I went.  I missed food like crazy, but the anger and frustration at not getting to eat what I wanted was overwhelmingly trumped by all the positive things I was feeling, both physically and mentally.  And when I stepped on the scale on Day 10 and saw a ten pound loss, I almost thought about going longer.  Almost.

So for those of you who have asked, here are the specifics of my fast: I juiced three meals a day, and by "juiced" I mean I put raw fruits and vegetables into a juicer (this is totally different than a smoothie in a blender, the difference being the blender gives you every part of the food you put in, and I'm guessing is a bit more of a strain on your body to digest than just the juice.  Joe discusses this in his book but I haven't read much about the difference yet.) and drank just the juice that comes out.  I drank a large (roughly 25 oz) glass for every meal.  Now, Joe says to drink 4-7 a day, but you can really have as much as you want.  I could never seem to get more than 3 in.  Although they were good juices, they were still the same thing day in and day out and I like variety.  So I was happy with 3, and I wasn't starving on just 3.  My sister needed more, and that's just fine.  It's whatever works for you.  Joe recommends 80% veggies to 20% fruit.  This is where I failed, and I'm okay with that.  After making his Mean Green juice for my first few juices, I just couldn't do it anymore.  It wasn't horrible, but if I was going to get past those first few days, I needed to be enticed to make and drink the juice.  So I eliminated some of the greens and added more colorful vegetables (which he also recommends--"drink the rainbow") and fruits until the juices tasted like fruit juice to me.  I know I didn't do enough greens, but that's okay.  If I had I never would have made it 10 days.  I ended up doing this recipe more or less each day:

1 apple
1/3 cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 "coin" ginger root
1 or 2 handfuls of Power Mix (kale, spinach and chard, found at Costco)
1/2-1 orange, depending on how sweet I wanted it
1/2 lemon
1 carrot
From there the fruits I added varied, depending on what I had.  A few handfuls of blueberries, grapes, a pear, a few slices of mango, pineapple, etc.  Anything you want, that's the beauty of it.  I found one I liked and stuck with it, but there are tons of different recipes on his website.  

And that's what I had, every day, for 10 days.  That's the juice fast.  It doesn't have to be 10 days, it's whatever you want.  I did 10 because that's what my family members had done and I'm not sure where they got that number, but it was a good number.  Joe recommends anywhere from a week to 15 days, or however long you can make it if you can't do that long.

Now I am transitioning out of my juice fast and back into food, which I will talk about tomorrow, as this is already a long post.  Hope this answers the questions of those who have asked! Let me know if you have more, I am more than happy to help!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mona Lisa Selfies

I've been waiting for something that struck me as worthy of writing another blog post and tonight I found it.  My cousin Michelle linked to this on Facebook.

I had so many emotions as I watched it that I could barely finish it.

You see, I am 100% guilty of this.  I've known it for a long time but I wasn't brave enough to do anything about it.

I am a Selective Selfie Taker.  I am that girl that takes ten selfies at ten different angles until I find The One that I am happy with the world seeing.  The one that in no way portrays what I actually look like in real life on a daily basis.  I'm the girl that crops the picture in close to hide my double chin and wide face.  I'm the girl that doesn't smile with my teeth showing in pictures because it seems to double the size of my face.  Also, my open-mouthed smile is crooked, something I never noticed until recent years.  And I think it looks like I've recently had dental work and am waiting for the numbness to wear off.  And I hate it.  And that's really sad, because I smile with my teeth showing, all day long, every day.  Nothing held back, just a big ol' grin to whoever makes me smile.  I'm a very smiley person.  And I don't think about my face looking distorted then. 

  Non-Selective Selfie, 
no filter

Only when I see it staring back at me in a picture do I hurriedly delete it in disgust and try again, this time with my mouth closed, a la Mona Lisa, which changes me from happy-go-lucky Alicia to I'm-a-little-too-cool-for-all-this Alicia.  And I'm not too cool for anything.  Except having a lopsided smile, apparently.

  Mona Lisa Smile,

Mona Lisa Smile

Mona Lisa Smile,

Do you think anyone has ever looked at Mona Lisa and said, "Man, she looks like she was one happy chick."?  I'd wager not.  Based on these pictures, you'd think I was miserable, or at the very least, apathetic.  And I am neither.

Do you know how many pictures I've taken with family members with the intent of posting to Instagram and Facebook that never made it past my phone?

This one
(no makeup) 

This one
(no makeup)

And the most painful of all to reveal, this one.

I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be the girl that hides her true self and only shows the world what she wants them to see.  But in a world that demands perfection and defines beauty as something that is, for 90% of the human population, unattainable, it's dang hard to not be that girl.  And the worst part? The worse part is that I have a twelve year old daughter who already has to approve any picture I take of her before it can go on Instagram.  As painful as this is for me to see happening, how could I fault her for it when I do exactly the same thing?  I get it.  Believe me, I get it.

But have I taught her this somehow?  Did she learn this from me?  The thought never occurred to me until watching the video above.  Have I inadvertently taught her that she is anything but beautiful inside and out in every way, shape, and form?  Looking back, I probably have, and I can't bear the thought.

So I vow to no longer be a Selective Selfie Taker.  I vow to not be that girl anymore.  I vow to portray myself exactly as I am, fat-faced, crooked-smiled, no makeup, and....beautiful.  I will use less filters.  I will take one picture of myself and post that picture, no matter what it looks like.  I invite you to do the same.  I will teach my daughter that beauty doesn't come in a filter and a carefully posed shot.  That it comes in all her imperfections and distinct characteristics; her laughter, and her smile.  Especially her smile.  Because Mona Lisa ain't got nothing on her smile.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why I Wear Dresses To Church

I've had this nagging urge to speak the things that consume my daily thoughts lately. I have so many, you see, and so often I feel like I might explode if I don't get them out. I've got a lot of thoughts and opinions and consequently, a lot to say. And then I remembered I have this thing called a blog. This tiny little corner of the internet that's just for me to say whatever the heck I want. So here goes. 

I've been thinking about pants. Why? Because people keep talking about them. Specifically women. Mormon women. Wearing them to church. They blog about it. They have strong opinions about it. They speak their mind about it. Well I have opinions about it too--strong ones--so I'm gonna speak my mind about it. 

I wear a dress to church, every week, for three hours. Sometimes I wear a skirt. I'm uncomfortable and insecure because said dresses and skirts don't hide the rolls like my jeans and sweaters do. They cut into my waist (or lack thereof) and require me to shave my legs so as not to emotionally scar those around me. I rotate through three dress/skirt ensembles, the only three that fit me, and I constantly pray no one will notice I'm wearing the same one. Again. And when I get home after those three hours I peel those suckers off faster than you can say "breathe again."

And yet, I love it. There are almost zero occasions in my life outside of church that call for dress clothes. At no other time am I compelled to shave my legs, wear dressy boots or heels, maybe throw on some extra makeup and jewelry, and even sometimes curl my hair. I feel special on Sunday. Fancy. Beautiful. Classy. Which puts me in a different frame of mind. That I am special, and I'm going somewhere special that deserves something more, something better than the jeans I wore the day before, or even the slacks I wore to work the day before that. 

Does God care what I wear to church? Probably not. Does He appreciate that I'm showing Him respect and reverence and acknowledging that I am in a sacred, holy place by wearing special attire separate from the worldly garb I don every day? I believe He does. Would He be appalled and disgusted if I walked into Sacrament Meeting next Sunday in pants? No. But I believe He would be disappointed. Not about my attire, but about the message I'd be sending Him: that His house was not worthy of the best I had to offer. Is it about clothes? No. Is it about showing respect? Absolutely. 

Guess what else it's not about. Feminism. Ugh, I hate that word. Do you want to know a secret? I belong to a church where the president is always a man and where men hold a power and authority that women cannot. And you know what? There is nothing on this earth that has ever made me feel more special, more revered, more empowered as a woman, than that church. 

Do I need to wear pants to church to prove to myself and the world that I'm just as good as a man? Heck no. The only One I have anything to prove something to is my Heavenly Father, and I want Him to see me in my very best. Because He deserves nothing less. 

And THAT'S why I wear a dress to church.