Monday, October 27, 2014

Whispered Words

The problem with my blog is that people read it.

It's taken me a little while to figure out what exactly my deal is and why I've suffered from such a terrible case of writer's block every time I've tried to write something in the last few weeks.  Sure, I pulled out a zinger about how working at a church is making me fat, but I've really struggled to write my heart lately. After shoving three mini sausage biscuits in my face this morning at a fantastic event where the whole staff got to hear the incredible stories of how God is at work in missions across the globe, we wrapped things up the best way we know how - with a buffet.

As I snarfed down the jambalaya and eyeballed the cheese tortellini on my neighbor's place with a look that said, "Are you gonna eat that?" I got into a conversation with a co-worker who I really don't interact with very often. She works in student ministry so our paths don't cross much. Despite that fact, we somehow got to talking about me and my writing. This gal was just gushing about my writing talent and how awesome of a writer I am and how she just loves reading what I'm writing and I'm all like.....Whaaaatttt???

That's when it hit me.

They are reading it. All of it.

All the way back to 2008 when I was even more of a mess than I am now.
The posts where I vented about how my toddler was perfecting his audition for the role of Satan's spawn in the upcoming Wes Craven film.
My words of anger, depression, sadness, loneliness.
The seasons of severe struggle and the times when I was so self-centered and screwed up.
The posts from just last month when I was so self-centered and screwed up.

It's all there. Out there for the whole world and all my colleagues at church to see.

In the beginning I didn't care.  Blogging started off as a way for me to share with my family what was going on with the kids - diaper blow-outs, new teeth, first steps, joys and struggles, tears and laughter. It evolved into a way for me to express myself and I developed into a writer.

I didn't become a writer by sticking to stories about baby food, nap schedules, and the super-fun clothes I get delivered to me every so often. I became a writer by describing how I was seriously going to sell my kid to the circus if he didn't get this whole "nap time is for sleeping not ripping all the pages out of your books" thing down. I became a writer when I stopped whispering and started shouting on the page. I became a writer by pounding the keys as the tears came hot down my cheeks as I felt like I had to defend myself against hateful words. I became a writer when I wrote honestly, uncensored, freely and without fear.

I've lost that.

Can I be honest with you now?  Truly honest?

I'm a total fraud.

I do not have my act together.
I am not the kind of person you should look up to.
I am so deeply broken and messed up.
I am incredibly ordinary.

My mistakes make me cringe. My actions and inaction has hurt family deeply and somehow I still find a way to place the blame somewhere other than on my own head. As much as I try to resist the urge to gossip, it is a habit far too easy for me to slip into. I do a terrible job of representing my precious Savior in this world. The words of my mouth are rarely pleasing to Him. The meditations of my heart are even worse.

I used to write about these things and let the clicking of the keys be therapeutic. But now I've become so scared of the reactions to my words that my words have gone silent.

It never used to matter that my blog was public because it never really came back to me. Now I feel very exposed and vulnerable, afraid that anything I publish will be read by my office-mates, the lady at the reception desk with the super-cute scarf, my Operations Director, my Senior Pastor.  To be clear, I'm a huge fan of accountability and I firmly believe that it is a crucial element of effective discipleship, but I would argue that it is most effective, powerful and appropriate within the confines of a small group or friendship where trust has been built and nourished, where grace is allowed to flourish.

If there's one thing I've learned in my years of blogging, it's that grace is often scarce on the Internet.

There are also amazing, supportive communities that shower you with grace (I'm looking at you, Thrive Moms and She Reads Truth), but I think we can all agree that the comments from the notorious Anonymous can be incredibly dangerous and hurtful. I once came very close to deleting my blog because someone told me I should give my kids up for adoption because I was a terrible mother and they'd be better off with someone else.

I am not ashamed of my brokenness and failures. In fact, I have come to the place where I actually boast about them because it makes the gospel that much more personal and powerful. But am I really ready to get back to a place where I am clicking "Publish" every time I put the struggles of my heart into words?

Maybe I don't want to risk the sideways glances, the concerned emails, the seemingly harmless conversations that begin with, "So....I read your blog...."

It's a lot of pressure. That kind of pressure is turning something that used to be an escape into something that looks more like a snare. I don't want to just pick and choose and only blog the pretty things because I don't think that's authentic and it's just not the kind of blogger I am.

Successful bloggers are concerned with followers, affiliate numbers, traffic, sponsors, advertisers and networking. There are so many bloggers that I admire, that are amazing writers, that have the kind of blog that makes me wonder why I can't be more like that. I've tried and tried for six years to become that person and I just can't do it.

So maybe I just need to not be a blogger anymore.

Maybe I need to just cast off this fear once and for all and just become a WRITER. 

Whatever that looks like.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day Three

Last day of the SNAP Challenge and I went into today just hoping to not skip meals and not try to substitute snacks for meals. It has been much, much harder than I expected to be able to eat a complete diet on such a low food budget for the day. It really would be a heck of a lot easier to just microwave some EasyMac and call it a day, but I'm pretty sure that stuff gives you Ebola.

Too soon for Ebola jokes?  Noted.

Ahem.'s how things went on the last day of the challenge! (Please don't write me nasty comments for my poor taste in humor. I'm well aware that I'm not all that funny and sometimes horribly inappropriate.)

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Avocado, English Muffin: $0.75
  • 2 scrambled eggs: 0.25
  • 1/2 avocado: 0.25
  • spoonful of salsa: 0.05
  • Whole wheat English muffin: 0.20 

This breakfast was delicious. I chopped up the other 1/2 of the avocado from Day 2 and paired it with a low-cal wheat English muffin.  Of course, I had to eat it cold because Day 3 happened to fall on a school morning when I was trying to get all three kids' lunches packed, pants on, shoes tied, backpacks stuffed, breakfasts eaten, syrup scrubbed off faces, and coats zipped. I'm not sure if I actually remember tasting any of my breakfast, but at least I remembered to take a photo of it! 

Lunch: Honey Crisp Apple with peanut butter: 0.80

  • Apple: 0.50
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 0.30

Not a huge lunch, I realize. But I got in some protein, so I'm going to call it good!

Dinner: Turkey Leftovers Sandwich: $1.25

  • Deli Turkey: 0.40
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper: 0.25
  • 1/2 avocado: 0.25
  • Baby Spinach: 0.15
  • 2 sliced wheat bread: 0.20

I used the leftover roasted red bell pepper from last night's chicken sandwich and the rest of the avocado from breakfast to make a really delicious grilled sandwich for dinner. I used the lean turkey I bought on my little grocery shopping trip along with the fresh baby spinach and used the mashed avocado as the glue to hold it all together. I grilled it in a skillet on the stove-top and I was really pleased with the result. 

Snacks and Beverages: $0.30

Since I came in a full $1 under budget after my meals, I splurged a bit and helped myself to a can of Diet Pepsi and a little air popped popcorn with sea salt for a snack. That added about another $0.30 to my total because the last time we bought soda we scored a sweet deal at Target of four 12-packs for $9.  

Total for Day 3: $3.10

Thus ends the SNAP Challenge. What have we learned? More than anything, I found out the hard way that it was practically impossible to eat full MEALS and stay under budget. I really had to stick to small plates, sandwiches, and snacks in order to pull it off. It was especially hard to incorporate filling proteins like chicken breast and I didn't even attempt to use fish - way too expensive!

I can't even imagine how tough it would have been to try to do this for my entire family.

Big thank you to Abby for encouraging me to give this a try and to blog about the process. It was definitely eye-opening and even a little bit of fun. Not gonna lie though, I was really excited to splurge on coffee and ice cream the following day!

Monday, October 13, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day Two

Even after a budget victory on Day One, this day had me nervous. I was shocked at how close I had cut it even with the little bit of food I ate, so I knew this day would probably be a bit harder. Also, I didn't want to just default to the same things I had made on the first day, so I had to get a little creative.

 Breakfast - Oatmeal w/ Apples: $0.51

  • 1/2 cup Quaker Oatmeal quick-cooking oats: $0.30
  • 1/4 diced Macintosh Apple: $0.05
  • A few dried cranberries: $0.10
  • sprinkle of Pumpkin Pie spice: maybe $0.01 if I'm generous
  • splash of milk: $.05

My friend Abby, the coordinator of this little experiment, recommended to me that I incorporate oatmeal into my diet for the challenge because it's filling, healthy, and CHEAP. This breakfast was on the money. And seasonal too! To jazz up the typical oatmeal, I added apples, pumpkin pie spice, and cranberries. Extra fruit and flavor without ruining it. It was excellent. I have a feeling I will be repeating this meal a lot over the fall.

Lunch: Ummmm.....nothing.

I blew it. I totally meant to pack a lunch to bring to work this day, but then the morning got nuts and it completely skipped my mind. By the time noon rolled around, I just stayed at my desk and just carried on.

Dinner: Chicken Sandwich w/ Red Bell Pepper and Avocado & Broccoli: $2.18
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: 0.95
  • Roasted red bell pepper: 0.34
  • Avocado: 0.25
  • Healthy Life whole wheat bun: 0.39
  • Broccoli: 0.25

I found a great deal on these frozen chicken breasts a while back and I seasoned it with a little salt & pepper and cooked it up on the stove stop and finished it off in the oven while I roasted up a red bell pepper and steamed the broccoli. I peeled the skin off the bell pepper and cut it in half, saving one half for another day. Half an avocado made this sandwich DELICIOUS! I was really happy with how this meal turned out and it was surprisingly affordable.

Total: $2.69

In all fairness, I skipped lunch so it made it a little easier to stay under budget. I think I did a better job of eating more balanced meals on this day though. My breakfast was packed with fiber and fruit and my dinner had lean proteins and a lot of vegetables. I saved the other half of the avocado and the roasted red bell pepper to reuse tomorrow at lunch so we'll see what I can come up with.

I'm getting a much better idea of how much I actually spend on food on a regular day during this challenge. It's been really hard to stay under $4! When I eat "normally," I'm guessing that I would spend somewhere around $7 or maybe even more, especially if I didn't eat out at all.

One day to go! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day One

Let's review the rules of this little game. The whole goal is to get people to recognize how hard it is to a nutritious, balanced diet on the limited budge provided by the foodshare benefits of my county.  You can find more information about the SNAP Challenge here, but let's talk about how I did on my first day. I'm listing my meals and my best attempt at figuring out the cost of each.

Breakfast: Green Smoothie - $2.00

  • Spinach - .20
  • Banana - .20
  • Greek Yogurt - .75
  • Honey - .75
  • Milk - .10

Ignore the random Pumpkin Pie Spice in the photo. I had it out on the counter for something else and then I just absentmindedly left it there when I assembled this photo. If you'd like proof that I hadn't had any coffee yet, there ya go. I'll admit that I didn't really measure these ingredients so this really is a guestimate. I tossed in a small handful of spinach from the groceries I bought the other day plus a whole banana. I have a tub of Vanilla fat free Greek yogurt in my fridge so I threw in a large spoonful of that, squeezed in about a tablespoon or so of honey and a splash of milk before finishing with a few ice cubes and blending. It made more than enough for a satisfying breakfast and I felt pretty good about the protein, potassium and other vitamins present. For $2, I thought it was a pretty good start.

Until I remembered that I only had a TOTAL of $3.89 to spend for the ENTIRE DAY.


Lunch:  Chili - $0.80

My husband made a ginormous batch of chili the other day that made for a perfect re-heat. He used a pound a half of lean ground beef, black beans, red kidney beans, tomato juice, spices, and a few noodles just for fun. To be honest, it was practically impossible to figure out how much this would cost so he helped me come up with a decent attempt. The beef is about $4 per pound, so that means the meat was $6. The beans are each about .50 per can so that adds up to $2. Tomato juice? Approximately $2. Pasta? Maybe .50. All together, he estimated that the total batch of chili probably ran about $16 and yields at least 20 Sarah-sized servings. Since my man got himself a math minor at college, that was good enough for me. 

Dinner:Yogurt and Granola - $0.90

So, that left me with $1.89 to spend on dinner. Not great. Thankfully, I ate a late lunch so that chili was still satisfying me pretty well when dinner time rolled around so I really didn't need very much at all. I had a container of raspberry Greek yogurt with a little sprinkle of granola on top and that's it. My favorite 4-packs of this yogurt run about $3.19, so that come out to $0.79. Add in the granola, and my mini-meal only cost me about $0.90.  

Snacks & Beverages: Zero!

I didn't count the coffee I had in the morning because it's the coffee from the staff area of my office that is provided for us, so I hope that wasn't breaking the rules. Other than that, I just had water.

Day One total - $3.70

I stayed under budget on my first day, but I will confess that at about 10 o'clock at night when we were sitting there watching TV, my tummy started to growl at me a bit. Apparently my yogurt cup was a poor excuse for a meal and my belly was letting me hear about it. Honestly, I have no idea how I would have actually made myself a legitimate meal and still stayed under budget because even with the meager food I ate, I still barely made it. Day Two could be a real challenge indeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Weight Loss Battle - The Dreaded Rebound

When we first moved here, I was kind of crazy. Don't get me wrong, I'm still quite crazy, but I find that I'm crazy in a completely different way. Don't you just love it when bloggers start posts that make absolutely no sense?

In 2012, I lost 75 pounds. I started in January and by September I was weighing in at the lowest weight I had been since my first year of high school. For the first time in a long time, I felt confident in my own skin and comfortable wearing fun clothes. I actually felt pretty.

At my lowest weight

I also obsessed over every bit of food I ate and felt like I had to run an extra two miles or spend another hour at the gym if I ate a single cookie. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for healthy eating and exercise but looking back on it now I think I was a little too concerned with the number on the scale and not nearly interested enough in learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long haul.

Right after I reached my goal weight, we moved to a new city and I found it was difficult to keep up the old routines that had worked so well for my weight loss.  I used to go for a run after putting the boys to bed because I lived in a village of 700 people. I rarely even saw a car go by, let along run into someone else. Now I live in a city of 70,000 and I'm afraid to run at night because I don't want to get hit by a car or encounter some sort of crazy person who bashes me over the head with a rock and throws my body in the river. Back then, I only worked two nights a week. Now I work two jobs that add up to about 55+ hours each week. By the time I finally get home at night, I'm too exhausted to even lace up running shoes, let alone work out. And the mornings? Forget about it. I've tried. It's already an uphill battle trying to get me out of bed in enough time to get everyone ready for school and work and I find it impossible to wake up earlier.

It sounds like such a cop-out to give the old excuse of "I'm too busy" to exercise, but that is where I find myself. In addition, I've lost my grip on the diet that was so effective and returned to my old ways.

Where has this left me? Without pants that fit and a bad attitude, that's where. I've only rebounded by about 10 pounds, but that still makes me mad. On top of it, I've lost all the muscle tone I developed when I was doing Crossfit workouts like a boss.

Where I'm at now - about 10 pounds over my ideal weight

I'm sick of it and I want to do something about it, but I feel stuck. Maybe I need to go back in the blog archives and read my own advice. Maybe I need to just suck it up and get up early or stay up late, but I'm already so tired that I don't want to risk getting even less sleep.

Just remembered that I need to be on the lookout for coupons to get cheap Halloween candy for trick-or-treating. See? I have problems.

I know people doing this clean eating thing, the Shakeology thing, the Beachbody coach thing, the PX90 thing, the Insanity thing, all the things. I've seen all the things. Heck, I did one of The Things. Maybe I just need to jump back on the WW train and get back after it. If it worked once, it would likely work again. As for figuring out how to get my butt back in gear and exercising? Now that's a struggle I really have no idea how to remedy. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

SNAP Challenge Shopping

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I wasn't able to get to the grocery store when I would have liked to this week. This led to my children eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner about three nights in a row and to me received a text from my friend Abby asking me if I had dropped off the planet or if I was still doing this whole SNAP challenge thing.

It would drive me crazy to deal with people like me sometimes.

But I finally made it to the grocery store and I was ready to so my shopping specifically for this challenge. The whole challenge is to try to keep the cost of your food to under $3.89 daily. I figured that I would just multiply that by three and that would be my budget at the grocery store.

Armed with my $11.67 budget, I grabbed my cart and got to work.

Basically I tried to choose items that I knew I would eat, that were at least somewhat nutritious, that I could stretch out to last a couple days, that were cheap. As I shopped, I snapped photos of each item I was buying so I could keep track of my total.

Of course, I forgot a very important detail. I'm terrible at math.

So much for staying under budget! I bought everything anyway because I realized I likely wouldn't be eating ALL of this food in three days and that I would also be using some resources that I already had on hand in my kitchen. Hopefully I didn't lose points right out of the gate.

It wasn't until I got home and started unloading things that I realized that I hadn't really planned for actual MEALS. Looking at the small collection of items on the counter, I started to worry that I was going to be really hungry and that I'd missed the point of all this entirely.

Thankfully, my husband was making a huge batch of chili which is very cost-effective and could easily be used in this challenge. Score.

Plan for Day One:
Breakfast - maybe scrambled eggs with avocado? Oatmeal?
Lunch - reheated chili
Dinner - pasta? Something involving the chicken thighs I got for super-cheap last week?

There's going to be so much more math involved in this thing than I realized. Wish me luck!

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