A couple years ago, I read Mo Gawdat's book Solve for Happy. One of the things he says that has helped him to be happy, even in times of immense loss, is a happiness list. His list is forever growing. When I started my list last week, it had things like coffee, the post run high, my kids' smiles. There's one BIG thing though. There's an experience (or 2 actually) that so fully flood my body with contentment when I think about it. It has happened twice to me but in two very different ways-- The moment when I finally met my babies. With Leif, the labor was painful and long. The labor itself was not peaceful but powerful, painful, and exhausting. The emotions that reached every corner of my body when I pushed him out were absolute Heaven.
Rein, was different. My labor was peaceful, even zenful. I enjoyed the waves of contractions that rang in my hips. I enjoyed working through each one. Then, as we know, the birth took a quick turn (literally, he turned transverse) and I ended up with a traumatic cesarean. I can still hear my own voice sometimes, the screaming-- "Why isn't he crying?!?!?!?!" Yesterday, while running, I remembered this. I felt my heart racing and tears pooling in my eyes. And then I said to myself, "He's alive. It's okay. He's okay." When they placed him on my chest, the experience was much different. It was relief. It was "Oh My God, we're both still alive..." It was "Welcome home, how was a I complete without you?"
When the world feels really dark, this is where I go. I go to those first moments of holding Leif and Rein. Their wrinkly bodies on my bare chest. My lips, between joyful cries, telling them how much I love them and kissing their heads over and over while midwives and doctors sew me back together (I needed to be sewn up after both births--just different places).
This is the feeling I pray ushers me into the afterlife when my time on earth is done. This is the sacred space where I will always feel at home.
Last week I have the pleasure of meeting with Christina from Milk Shakers. Like so many incredible products, Milk Shakers was born out of a mama's trouble shooting genius. Co-founder, Laura Malcom, enjoyed making yummy lactation treats with her toddler to support her milk supply for her new baby. She was using nutrient rich ingredients like flax, chia, brewers yeast, and fennel and having to source ingredients from multiple places. As most mamas of littles can attest, having to hunt down ingredients from multiple places with a toddler and baby in tow can be time consuming and frustrating. Laura enlisted Christina and together they created Milk Shakers!
Before I share this BOMB recipe with you, let me tell you what I love about Milk Shakers.
Chickpea Lactation Cookie Dough Balls
You can eat these straight up (so good) or they make an amazing topper for smoothie bowls/nicecream. Just pinch smaller balls off and top your favorite cold treat with them!
'In high school I was known for my negative splits in the 400 m dash. Okay, well, maybe I wasn't known for them but my coaches, teammates, and my dad thought it was awesome. If you're not familiar with track and field lingo, a negative split means that I ran the second half of the race faster than the first. This is challenging for the obvious reason that you are more tired in the second half. It's a fine line between starting too fast and hitting that dreaded wall or holding back too much and not being able to make up the distance in the second half. Boy did I piss a few components off chasing them down those last 200 meters while my dad screamed from the side lines "Get 'em Meliss!"
For the most part, I've carried that same ability into my adult years and have been able to dig deep in much longer running events such as marathon and ultra distances. Imma "come from behind" kinda of gal and damn does it feel good to cruise by folks at the end of a race (with a healthy dose of encouragement as I pass them of course).
Now, what does this have to do with November and December? It has everything to do with these last two months of the year. You see, by now, most people have "fallen off the wagon" so to speak in terms of those lofty New Years resolutions they set back in January. As we roll into the holidays, the popular attitude is "meh, I'll just eat and drink and be merry (okay, maybe not the merry part as eating and drinking too much for 2 straight months rarely leads to joy) until the end of the year and then hit reset in January."
I've fallen into this trap many a times. I've over done it in so many ways--be it sugar, alcohol, spending, commitments...I've been there. And you know what? It doesn't make me happier and it for sure doesn't make me healthier. As a matter of fact, I usually get sick right around Christmas and start the New Year off with a killer cold.
How am I doing it differently this year? I'm choosing to focus on mindful movement and mindful eating. I will absolutely enjoy a few holiday treats but I'll do so with mindfulness and gratitude. Instead of the "all or nothing" attitude, I'll slow down, realize that I can have that pumpkin pie... but I'm also going to drink that green smoothie and chomp on that hearty kale salad. It means that I'm going to make a strong effort to get enough sleep and drink enough water. It means that I'm going to lovingly move my body each day so that when January 1 rolls around, I feel good in my body and my mind is peaceful. It means I'm going to say "no" when it feels like too much. It means I'm going to help me kids understand that they don't NEED all the toys. It means loving myself enough to compassionately practice self care in a season that can be all together overwhelming and gluttonous.
Want to join me? My next round of Beet Camp Starts next Monday, November 25. It is the perfect way to finish the year with mindful movement, simple nutrition, and evidenced based stress management techniques. I'll help you establish sustainable morning and evening routines that you will carry into the New Year with ease.
Click here to sign up!
Let's Finish 2018 Strong, Friends!
I'll never forget that first Thanksgiving after I had spiraled into the dark hole of Bulimia. I was 17 years old and my family was hosting Thanksgiving for my large extended family. We had some out of town family members staying with us so my mom had brought home Costco muffins. Have you had Costco muffins before? They are ginormous and less like a muffin and more like cake. Seriously, they are so big and so cake like. For a 17 year old with an eating disorder, they were Satan himself to me.
I have never been crazy about pumpkin pie. I was always more of an apple pie gal...or pecan if we're being honest. Truly, I didn't like pumpkin pie...until I made this one. The filling is just the right amount of sweet and spicy, the crust, simple and satisfying.
We've made this pie twice already this fall. Once for Fall Equinox and the second time we made mini pies with my cute as pie homeschool cooking class. Check out an adorable video of my class over at The Tiny Chef Kitchen. The kids gobbled this one up and I didn't feel at all bad about feeding it to them. Full of healthy fats, nourishing pumpkin, warming spices, and a bit of maple syrup, we have been known to eat left overs for breakfast.
It is officially fall and I'm over here getting cozy with all the warm, grounding fall foods and spices my heart can dream of. From cinnamon in my coffee grounds and curry to my homemade pumpkin creamer to ease me from sleep to wake, it feels like a big ol' hug from Mother Nature herself.
Now, I know you can grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte from pretty much any coffee shop in town but my guess is that you don't want to be dumping that sugary processed stuff into your body every day. So, how can you have pumpkin spice coffee every day without breaking your health or your bank? Homemade pumpkin spice creamer, my friends. It's easy breezy to make and tastes just a little bit like heaven. You're welcome.
1 can full fat coconut milk
2 heaping spoonfuls pumpkin purée (Made fresh or from a can)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 splash vanilla
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
Blend it up! Store in a jar in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Your lymphatic symptom plays a huge role in detoxifying and clearing the body of toxins. As my body begins to kill off the mono infection, I have developed a rash all over my arms, chest, shoulders, and back. It isn't painful or itchy, but it is a signal that my lymphatic system is not doing its job. In addition to keeping my fluids up, I'm also focusing on foods and herbs that continue to fight off the virus while also tending to my lymphatic system to flush that junk OUT!
Here's a quick smoothie to support the lymphs, boost the immune system, and with the added bonus of some adrenal love.
Drain Them Lymphs Smoothie
Oh Life, how you have a way of keeping us constantly on our toes. A few weeks ago I was beginning my taper for Wild Woman 50k, my first ultra distance race since having babies. I felt ready. I was strong. I was so excited not only for the race but for the weekend away with friends, camping, yoga, laying in a field and staring at Mt. Adams.
It seems my body had other plans. The week before the race, I began feeling a bit fatigued and developed a sore throat. "It's okay," I thought, "I will just rest and nourish and be ready to go next week! I'm so thankful its this week and not next week that I feel sick!" Little did I know, it was the start of a multiple week struggle (that continues still). On Tuesday, the week of the race, I went to Urgent Care, praying it was Strep (yep, I wanted it to be Strep!). I figured we could kick it with antibiotics and I'd be good to go by Saturday. The strep was negative. They ran a mono blood test. Mono was negative. The doctor decided it was probably Fusobacterium necrophorum, a bacteria that can cause similar symptoms to strep and is actually more common than Strep but is difficult to diagnose. Because it can be quite dangerous and can spread to your organs, its recommended to treat with amoxicillin if symptoms point towards it. So, I went home with amoxicillin and some steroids to bring down the swelling in my throat so I could swallow...and some hope that I could still run the race on Saturday.
The steroids almost immediately made me feel better. I had a hurrah of energy...enough to get the kids packed up and get down to the beach house for the 4th of July. Once the steroid induced energy wore off, I was in rough shape. I stayed in bed most of the 4th. I'd wake up with chills in the night that were so intense my entire body was shaking, I could hardly stand up, and my face turned purple. They left my jaw sore. I'd put on extra clothes and wake up an hour later soaked in sweat.
By the 5th, I had the worst headache of my life, my neck was stiff, and I was sweating buckets. I laid with my head in my mom's lap while she rubbed my head and the boys climbed on me. After calling the nurse line, we decided I needed to be seen. At this point, I was actually really scared. I knew the race wasn't happening and I actually thought I might have meningitis. My mom drove me 90 minutes to the nearest Urgent Care that my insurance would cover. The doc thought I had too much mobility in my neck for it to be meningitis and said he was certain it was mono. Often times, mono blood tests will give a false negative because not enough antibodies have built up in the blood yet. He sent me home with Vicodin and some sympathy.
Mono is usually caused by the Epstein Barr Virus, which belongs to the herpes family. It is transmitted through saliva, that's why it is traditionally known as "the kissing disease." Many people are infected with the virus during childhood and never experience any symptoms. Once you have it, you'll always have it in your body. It can lay dormant your entire life. Usually, kids don't display symptoms and if they do, it often manifests as a simple cold. Teenagers and adults are more likely to develop mono from the virus. It is possible, thought not common, to have the virus lay dormant in your body and then cause issues later on (perhaps in times of high stress or lower immunity). Usually, teens and adults will show symptoms within 7 weeks of being exposed to the virus. There is also a correlation between mono and autoimmune disease. People who have had mono, are more likely to develop Lupus, for example. So, that's a little terrifying.
I slept at my parents beach house for the next 3 days. I moved from the bed, to the couch, to the bath tub, eating watermelon when I felt up to it and drinking kombucha.
I canceled all my classes for the following week, knowing I wouldn't be well enough to do much. Since then, my energy has improved, I mostly have my appetite back, and my throat is about 80% better. I still have swollen lymph nodes and tonsils and some other really unfortunate symptoms like a rash all over my arms, neck, chest, and shoulders, ulcers in my mouth, achy muscles, and get this, arthritis in my knees. Apparently, the Ebstein Barr virus can cause infectious arthritis. This is temporary, thankfully.
I've been sick before. I've had set backs before. When we lived in Korea, I was sick with walking pneumonia for what seemed like forever. I had odd symptoms that left me worried and miserable. I had welts on my butt that made it painful to sit. It wasn't fun. When I was pregnant with Leif, I had bronchitis for about 6 weeks. Also, very miserable. This feels different though. Maybe because I have kids and a home to take care of that makes it more daunting. Maybe its because when one symptoms goes away, another develops and I feel like I'm going to be sick forever. Whatever it is, I'm learning a ton.
First off, stress. I've always been a high stress person. I push myself hard and have high expectations for my self. I was a 4.0 student and an athlete. Now, I am a business owner, mama, and long distance runner. I can't stand a dirty house and I want my garden to be amazing. I tend to take on too much and also try to please people when perhaps I should listen to my own intuition and say "no". For a month or so leading up to my illness, I was thinking A LOT about how stress was the single biggest set back in my life. It was causing me to make poor food choices, not sleep well, be grumpy with my family, and just over all not feel my best. I knew something needed to change but I wasn't sure how. Then, mono. Mono gave me no choice. I had to stay in bed. I had to let others care for me. I had to reevaluate my schedule and where I was spending my energy.
It helped me to see that I was putting too much stressed out energy into my business. So, I'm restructuring so it feels less like a hustle. It helped me see I was placing too much emphasis on how many miles I covered each day at the cost of not listening to my bodies cry for more variety.
It also showed me the areas where I can grow my compassion. Despite minor injuries and my chronic struggle with my hip and pelvic floor, I am pretty dang healthy. I have never experienced chronic pain or illness in the way that many have. I have almost always had clear skin. Now, I find myself in pain, a lot of the day, and also trying to hide my rash (not easy when its hitting 90 degrees) because I don't want people to react to it.
Lastly, it has solidified my tribe. I have had so many people in my community reach out to offer help. Help with the kids, help with meals, help with my healing. I'm not sure how people, especially mamas, do this without a tribe to take care of them. So, Tribe, THANK YOU. Thank you for loving me so well. Thank you for sending me messages to see how I'm doing. Thank you for going grocery shopping for me. Thank you for making me meals, using your healing skills to help me get better, praying for me, helping with my boys, and just helping me to know that I'm not alone.
In the weeks to come, I know my body will continue to heal. I'll continue to send it positive thoughts, saying "yes" when people offer to help, resting, drinking loads of water, nourishing, taking all the herbs, and giving myself loads of grace. I'll also be planning. I'll be planning how life will look different, less stressful, in the months to come.
Have you had mono? What was your experience with it?
The last 2 years have been trying to say the least. When I found myself laying in the OR two years ago, watching as they sliced me open and pulled me apart, digging through my body in a struggle to get Rein out, I was already in crisis. I was coping with an emotional trauma that had began to unfold a month prior (although it was already present in my body for years). Those first 60 seconds of Rein's life when I thought he was dead or dying, became so tightly interwoven with the existing trauma that I couldn't separate them for months. I'd close my eyes at night and see myself being stabbed in the gut, blood spilling, me screaming as my children watched. It. Was. Horrifying.
In the months that followed, I began to heal little pieces of myself but I was trapped in cycles of anger, sadness, terror. As the election of our new president grew closer, it got much worse. The way he spoke about women and their bodies, the abusive behavior he exemplified put a fire in my gut that begged to breathe flames. When I'd see people defending or supporting him, the image of the knife tearing into me resurfaced. His misogyny excused as "locker room talk" left me feeling worthless-- their support of him felt like a big ol' "Fuck you, this is the way it has always been and this is the way it will always be. Boys will be boys. Men will be men. Now act like a lady and stop your crying..."
During this time, I went crying to my midwife-- "I NEED something. I need something to help me feel better." The running, self-care, and high quality nutrition were not cutting it. I did not like the person I was becoming in my home. I did not like the way I was losing my patience so easily with Leif. After trying a few different medications, I discovered that the side effects were too much and opted for herbal remedies and loads and loads of self care and running.
Running is where the magic happens for me. It's the part of my day that feels most in control. Its the time when my brain and my spirit are able to process pieces of the trauma. Recently, on an early morning run, I recalled the nurse who was with me during my labor. Her name was Sara. She was gentle, compassionate, and encouraging. When we discovered Rein had turned transverse, she was the one that prepped me for the OR. Her shift was over but she accompanied me to the OR. As the anesthesiologistinserted the needle into my spine, I wrapped my arms around her and she pressed her forehead into mine as tears streaked my face. My body was shaking. I was cold. I was terrified. She told me I was doing amazing and to keep my mind in the secret place I had entered during my labor. As she left and my mom and Josh entered, she said, "I'm sure we'll meet again..."
My brain jumped to when it was over. Rein had been placed on me and he searched for my breast. He nursed and I sighed heavy with relief that we were both alive. As they prepared to move us into the recovery room, the anesthesiologist leaned down and told me everything was okay-- Rein's lack of breath for that first minute was not uncommon in a c-section and that it wouldn't cause him any problems. In the flurry of chaos, no one had told me it was okay.
Helpers. There are so many helpers amongst the chaos.
Our nation is in chaos right now. Every day, we are barraged with a new national crisis. Our humanity is under attack. The darkness wants to wear us down. It wants us to become so overwhelmed that we sink into a hole and allow it to consume us. But we won't. I won't. This world is filled with helpers, with people who will stand by you. They'll hold you, a stranger, in your frightened vulnerability and they'll tell you you're worthy, you're strong. They'll whisper in your ear, "Everything is okay." They'll advocate for you. They'll fight for you and with you. They'll even put their body on the line to protect you.
This battle is not yet over-- for my own trauma or the trauma our nation is enduring. As we process and battle together, lets keep looking for the helpers. Let's be the helpers.
As I prepare for my first 50 K since becoming a mama, I'm revisiting last years marathon as a reminder that I can do hard things. Two Babies and two surgeries later (torn hip labrum and cesarean), this mama is back.
On Saturday I raced for the first time in a long time. I wasn't sure what to expect from my body as some of my chronic hip and hamstring pain returned about a month ago and I started an early taper, even taking a full week off completely from running. I was over trained. Depression set in a bit and I questioned whether or not I should even race. But, I'd paid for it and goodness knows I'd worked for it so I was going to do it.
I set my alarm clock for 5 AM. I woke at 4:40 in a little panic because it was already light outside. I laid back down and then... at 5:25 woke up and realized my alarm hadn't gone off. I pried my breast away from Rein and slipped downstairs to make the coffee, oatmeal, and dress for the race. I was out the door by 6-- plenty of time to drive up to Snoqaulmie pass, check in, and relax (aka, go to the toilet 1,001 times) before the marathon started.
As I drove along, I sang and got pumped up. About 10 miles out, I checked my email for parking directions. What came up was an email, from my spam folder, that declared the start time had been changed to 7 AM! WTF? It was 6:58 and I was still 10 minutes away. I cursed. I actually said out loud, "Well, I guess I'm not supposed to run today..." and thought about going back to North Bend to hike. With some encouragement from a friend, I decided to try. I whipped into the parking area at Hyak, jumped out of the car and peed in the parking lot, ripped off my sweats and fleece and asked the first person I saw where the start was... "Half mile down the road, jump in, I'll take you!" We jumped in his SUV and sped off. At the start, I ran up to the start line and asked if I could still run. The organizers were AMAZING! "What's your name!" a guy shouted from a van. 30 seconds later I was handed my race bib. I pinned it on and took off.
The first 5 miles was an out and back along an alpine lake. I was literally alone for the first couple of miles. I was laughing and enjoying myself. I cranked out a couple 7 minute miles and then started seeing other runners on their way back from the 2.5 mile turn around. I hit the turn around and headed back, chasing down each runner one by one. As I went back through the starting area, one of the race organizers cheered me from her car! "I knew it! I knew it! You're not alone!" she shouted. I laughed and ran on towards the tunnel.
As I approached the entrance of the tunnel, tiny little flashlight in hand, I passed a pacer and his lone passenger. The "passenger" felt is appropriate to call me "cutie". Ew. As I entered the tunnel, I began to feel disoriented, even nauseated. I slowed way down to get my barring. I must have said something out loud because the creeper said from behind, "Come run with us big guys, we'll protect you!" No thanks, I'll take my chances in this long dark tunnel.
With each step, my eyes began to adjust to the darkness. All I could see was what was directly in front of me. Every once in a while, I'd shine my light at the sides of the tunnel. The further in I went, the more I began to feel the things. I felt the darkness. Not just the darkness from being one mile in to a 2.5 mile long tunnel...but the darkness from the traumas of the last 7 years. The sudden loss of my sweet nephew, the loss of trust, and the trauma from Rein's birth. The song, "If you're going through hell, keep on going..." played through my head. "Keep going," I said to myself. I imagined the end, the light, and anticipated a feeling of "rebirth".... I felt like I was flying and as I flew, I let the pain and hurt exit me and soak into the darkness. Then, I could see the light. I saw people moving --they looked so small. At first I thought they were crouched down, then I realized just how big the tunnel was and how little we were. Like a butterfly, busting out of its cocoon, I slid into the light. Onward.
I ran on. Continuing to pass people. Admiring the clouds as they floated through the trees and mountain peeks. A hummingbird buzzed over me. I smiled. Hummingbirds. Small, fast, graceful, wise. Sometimes I get visits from these tiny creatures when I need them the most. The hummingbird represents wisdom. I thought, "What kind of wisdom do I need right now?" Do I need to slow down? Am I going to be able to hold this pace for another 15 miles? Sometimes wisdom might be interpreted as caution. Sometimes it might mean to GO and go fast. So I went.
I spent a lot of time alone in the forest during the race. I talked to myself, out loud. I smiled a lot. I groaned. I questioned. I hurt. I ran. I remembered why I was running. I pulled my core in. I focused. At mile 17, I passed an aide station and a very handsome, athletic looking man complimented my cadence... I felt all the feels and ran.
I crossed gorgeous bridges spanning over misty rivers. My feet hurt. My hip was aching. I told my hip (like actually said out loud), "Today's not your day..." and I ran.
Those last 6.2 miles. On man. If you've ran marathons before, you know. I reminded myself, "Its supposed to be uncomfortable..." and I ran. Mile 23, I knew I was going to do it. I knew I was going to go under 3:35 and finally qualify for Boston. I knew I could slow down if I wanted and still make it in plenty of time. I started to lose my focus and I felt my body stray and slow. Nope. I pulled my core in, shoulders back and I started laying shit down on the trail... "Payton, I really freaking miss you. Its bullshit you had to leave..." "Death, I really fucking hate you. Fuck you, death." "Oh, and Trump, You're a piece of shit. Fuck you and your misogyny. Fuck you and thinking that the female body is yours for the taking. Fuck you and your cronies making choices about my body, the bodies of millions... Fuck you for trying to destroy our mother..." I mean, I really said these things out loud alone in the woods. I said them with authority, people. I said them like they were the most true and powerful things that could ever be said... I even threw in some lions breathes.
Then, before I knew it, I hit mile 25. I looked at my watch and I realized I could walk if I wanted to and I'd still qualify and still PR. Not going to walk. I picked it up and went for it. Then I heard it. I heard the cowbells and the cheers and knew the finish line was near. I knew that a few more turns through the evergreens and I'd be digging it out across the finish line with a 20 minute PR and a Boston worthy marathon time. I heard myself shout, "GO!" and I went. I probably made some ugly faces as I went. As I came around the last turn, the announcer called out my number, "Number 79! She started 15 minutes late! She's pulling in around 3:20!"
All smiles and arms up as I sprinted across that line. By this time, it was raining. I'd tossed my long sleeve shirt along the way and hadn't checked any gear. I grabbed some bananas and ran straight to the shuttle bus to return to the car. And just like that, I was done. All those 5:30 AM wake up through the winter after all night nursing sessions were paid for. I left everything on the trail.
And to think I almost went hiking instead.
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"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing" ~ Jack Kerouac
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