A Baby Story

It’s six o’clock in the morning, and I am sitting beside a hospital bed waiting for my daughter Quinn’s endoscopy procedure to start. Which seems like an apropos time to write about her birth story. Maybe it’s the smell of the surgery center, or the visual of the hospital bed, or the beeps and boops of the machinery in this place that reminded me of that experience. Maybe I’m just trying to take my mind off of my ladybird having to be here at all. Whatever the reason, this story is a good one, I think. Even though it as almost eight years ago and I’m sure that my brain has deteriorated considerably since that day, I still remember almost every detail.

Craig and I started working on getting pregnant a hot second after we got married. Which is significant because I suffered from a life-long and intense fear of giving birth. Something about the thought of passing a cantaloupe through my shmashmina was paralyzing to me. Still, we jumped right in on trying. I mean, our wedding song wasn’t “Let’s Get it On” for nothing!

My competitive spirit must be greater than my fear of giving birth, because my focus rested solely on getting pregnant. I will never forget the feeling of horror that washed over me, as I watched the drugstore pregnancy test turn positive. I honestly hadn’t even thought past getting pregnant, until that very moment. The only thing that saved me from my greatest fear was ultimately getting so big and so uncomfortable that I was practically begging to give birth. The universe has a funny way of turning fear into impatience, when it comes to the eviction stage of pregnancy.

I’m going to digress for a second and talk about my experience with pregnancy in general. Look, there are many women who really do radiate beauty, even through the third trimester. I was not one of those women. I did did not carry a perfectly shaped basketball in front of my tummy. At no time did someone mention that from behind they wouldn’t have known I was pregnant at all. I actually grew amazingly wide in every single direction possible. Near the end, my feet were so swollen, I couldn’t even wear Chuck Taylors. CHUCK TAYLORS, PEOPLE! I was a walking series of unfortunate events, which included an absolute abomination of a haircut that accidentally resulted in a bona-fide mullet.

Whoa, what happened to all that self love and Project Healthy Body stuff you’re always preaching, Holly? Listen, I really do love myself inside and out these days, but even looking back at photos now makes my eyes water – and I bet it will make yours water, too.

Quinn’s birth story began with an audible pop that woke both me and Craig out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night. We had recently purchased a new mattress, and I remember Craig joking with me that I had better not ruin it if my water broke while I was sleeping. In fact, Craig just reminded me that we put down puppy pads under the sheets, just in case. I’m not sure why “don’t ruin the mattress” was my knee-jerk reaction over “yay, we’re having a baby” but like I wrote above, nothing about the birthing process is even remotely similar to the Hollywood version. It was the new mattress that prompted me to triple-sow-cow my extremely pregnant carcass out of bed and into the bathroom, where I wouldn’t put any furniture at risk.  All of which, in hindsight, is perfectly laughable given how expressly familiar we have become with all matters of explosive bodily fluids since having kids. Other parents will agree, I’m sure, that family life is basically just a series of body eruptions from birth to age twelve.

About one nano second post-pop, I started my first real contractions. I still remember thinking that I would quickly hop into the shower and “freshen up” before heading to the hospital, when I was suddenly rocked with a wave of intense cramping that forced me to stabilize myself against the hallway wall while moaning. Moaning isn’t even the right word for the low-frequency bovine-like sound I was making. I had familiarized myself with what to expect by watching a couple of episodes of “a baby story” on TLC and can remember hearing the women on the show make that guttural labor sound and thinking, “Jesus, lady – get yourself together!” Yet here I was standing naked in my hallway at 3:30am and steadying myself against the wall to avoid collapsing while mooing with the other broads I’d unintentionally judged. As it turns out, payback isn’t a female dog; it’s a COW! 

By the time we arrived at the hospital, the contractions had become more bearable and we the feeling of shock had melted into anticipation. We couldn’t wait to meet this little host that I had been avoiding champagne for the better part of a year. Well, mostly avoiding.

Short, shameful confession: There were a couple of date nights in the third trimester where I thoroughly enjoyed half a glass of Schramsberg Brut Rose with ice so that it looked like a full glass. Ok, and one time when, at my wits end with work and, oh, I don’t know, MAKING A HUMAN, Craig walked past the bathroom and caught me lounging in a hot bubble bath chugging a cold Coors Light!

Almost immediately after checking in, a very nice nurse met with us to walk us through what to expect and ask a few questions – like whether I planned on having an epidural. Look, lady, I didn’t avoid manicures, pedicures, hair dye, or the occasional Guinness (for the iron, obvi) while I baked this baby – I sure as shit am not avoiding an epidural!  Next, the nurse asked whether we had any specific religious requirements, to which I exclaimed, “YES! We are going to need a live chicken!” Apparently, nothing brings out my sassy sense of humor like the anticipation of fuel injected narcotics!

It would be a lie to say that the rest of my labor and delivery was uneventful. After twelve hours of waiting (thanks to the epidural) three hours of pushing (without an epidural) and no baby, I ended up in an emergency caesarian section which was cold, terrifying, and absolutely necessary. It was not my favorite experience, but it had the happiest ending imaginable – and it was totally and completely worth it (the entire experience from start to finish).

I had to remain in the hospital for a few days after Quinn was born to finish a pretty heavy dose of antibiotics, and make sure my surgery was healing properly. Craig stayed with me the entire time, and those first few days were a mixture of complete shock, overwhelming love for each other and our daughter, and near constant interruptions form nurses and doctors. Unfortunately for all of us, my hospital bed was stuck in an upright position. Which is not the best situation for this side-sleeper. Between the interruptions and my bum bed, I had gotten exactly ZERO sleep in over forty-eight hours and was desperate for a few minutes of rest. Our hospital room was equipped with a club chair whose cushion could accordion fold out into a thin slice of padding on the floor so that partners can stay together before being discharged home. At this point, I was still very much a patient. I was recovering from surgery and hadn’t showered or slept in days – a real gem, to be sure! So when I asked Craig if he would switch beds with me so that I could get some sleep, I can understand why he was reluctant.

“You know I would do ANYTHING for you. But please don’t make me do this!”, he pleaded.

Of course, because Craig is the absolute love of my life and best partner I could ever dream of, he acquiesced and gave up his floor mat to me. I remember how hard we laughed thinking about the poor nurses and doctors who came in to check on me only to find my husband fast asleep and tucked into the grand hospital bed, while his wife who had been cut in half a few hours before lay awkwardly on the floor on the tightrope thin convertible seat cushion. What they must have thought of our household hierarchy!

Just about the only thing Hollywood got right about my first baby story was that it had all of the elements that make a blockbuster hit: it was a comedy, horror, drama, and love story, all in one. It was (and remains) the most life-altering, altruistic, shocking exhilarating, and hilarious experience of my life. It also taught me that once you face your greatest fear, you can basically do anything! It also taught me to always keep perspective, to look for the humor in big life events, and to be grateful for all of it. Except that mullet. That shit was reaaaalllllyyy tragic.


Big announcement!

Holly Bio pic2017 was a big year of changes for me, and 2018 is going to continue along that same trajectory. I am super excited to announce that I am officially joining the Project Healthy Body team by taking over the blog portion of the site. There, I will continue to share my adventures in weight-loss, as well as the stories of other Project Healthy Body alumni – and my archived posts can be found there, too.
 
Thank you to each and every one of you who have taken the time to read, comment on, or share my adventures. I cannot express how much the support has impacted my success. Discovering that I am not alone in my struggles has been the single greatest outcome of sharing my stories with you. I hope that you will continue to join me in that journey on the Project Healthy Body Facebook page and/or website.
 
Project Healthy Body Blog
 
Project Healthy Body Facebook Page
 
With gratitude,
 
Holly

Reality checks and balances

If I were to write a screenplay about my year long adventure toward health and self-love, it would stand a good chance of being a hit at the box-office. Not because of the quality of the writing, but because it would contain all of the elements of a good film: sudden twists, montages, epic failures, and heartwarming successes. When I published my first blog, I wondered how, if I am doing basically the same thing over and over, could I keep coming up with things to write about. The truth is that when it comes to weight-loss, there is no shortage of things to dig into, boast about, or shamefully admit. Because just when I think I am becoming predictable, life throws me a curve-ball like a five month plateau, or a nation-wide shortage of my thyroid medication that turns a five month plateau into a seven month plateau. Even an innocent observation from a curious and somewhat precocious six year old can still rattle me. Since there has obviously been no shortage of happenings that could derail me, why haven’t I been derailed? What is different about this time?

We spent Thanksgiving in Tahoe, this year – which ended up being one of my all-time favorite Thanksgivings. I disconnected from work and focused on having true quality time with my family. We reconnected with my sister and her husband, and enjoyed all of the benefits of their good company. layoutWe went on scavenger hunts and trampoline adventures. We floated around a warm outdoor pool in the afternoon, and glided around an outdoor ice rink in the evenings. Although we never did make it onto the ski hill due to lack of snow, we never let that stop us from making fun family memories.

Personally speaking, I have never felt or looked better. I purchased my very first pair of Wunder-unders from Lululemon and wore them everywhere from the village, to the mountain, to the Ritz-Carlton. Last year at this time, I wouldn’t have been able to get a pair on without serious external damage to their changing rooms – and serious internal damage from constricting and eventually cutting off the blood supply to my organs. The difference between last years Thanksgiving and this years Thanksgiving is astonishing!

One afternoon, as we were riding down the gondola, my six year old daughter Quinn asked if she could tell me something. I don’t know what I assumed she would say, but it probably had something to do with how pretty I looked, or how proud she was to be my daughter. Our conversation went almost exactly like this…

Quinn: Mummy, can I tell you something?

Me: Of course, lady-bird. You can always tell me anything.

Quinn: I am scared you will be mad, because it isn’t very nice.

Me: [expecting something not-so-nice about her sister or a stranger] You can always tell me anything, even if it isn’t very nice.

Quinn: You have a very fat butt. And also your arms, and your legs, and your tummy, and your boobs. But I love your makeup.

Me: [half deflated / half laughing at the amazing and hilarious honesty of a child]

The script trails off for a reason. I honestly don’t remember what I said. I think I had been feeling so good and so in the clouds with all that I have accomplished this past year, that I was temporarily paralyzed by the brutal honesty of her words. I remember Craig saying something supportive about how awesome I am doing, but it still took me some time to shake off the sting of being deflated.  It took me some time to process and remind myself to stay present in where I am actually at. And where I am actually at is actually 240lbs. When Craig reminded me how great I looked, I agreed that yes, I have come a long way – but that I still have a long way to go. He furrowed his brow, and I asked him, “aren’t there some linebackers who weigh 240lbs?” He laughed and said yes. In other words, he also got real with where I am at.

holly wrennThe physical differences between last year and today are considerable. But it is the differences that aren’t as obvious that make me the most joyous. After Quinn commented on my sizable posterior (among every single other body part except my mascara), I felt all of my feelings, and then let them pass through me. I didn’t stuff them behind my vodka soaked liver only to work them out later with medium sized pizza. And I didn’t hide them from my husband, like he somehow has no clue that his wife is overweight. I also didn’t shame my daughter for her honesty. What I quickly discovered, was that I really needed that reality check. Staying humble to this process, and staying honest with myself is key to my continued success. Acting complacent and/or satisfied at this weight would be a real misstep. I am proud of myself for all that I have worked through this year, but as they say at Facebook, this journey is 1% finished.  Ok, my weight-loss journey is more like 50% finished, but you get the idea.

This weight-loss and self love stuff is, at its core, thoroughly humbling. But it has been the most humbling moments that have served to strengthen my resolve – which is the exact opposite of the other countless times I have tried to get healthy in the past. For years, I repeated the same pattern of picking myself up, starting a diet, losing a little weight, and then getting completely thwarted at the first sign of a struggle. The difference between then and now isn’t that I no longer struggle, or that my struggles are vastly different. What has changed is my focus. Where I used to focus solely on the food and the things that I couldn’t have, I now focus on self-empowerment and all of the amazing things that I can have. I also focus on gratitude, meditating, writing, moving my body, reading more books, breathing, learning, and lots of other things that are equally important and absolutely essential for health and balance. In short, fixing all of the stuff off my plate, has magically fixed all of the stuff on my plate. Of course, the contents of my plate have also adapted to my healthy lifestyle – but the key for me has been to fold those non-food items into a more holistic way of tackling health and weight-loss.

I have also changed my beliefs and expectations. I used to start a healthy regime knowing somewhere in the back of my mind that I would fail. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that I self-fulfilled every single time. And every single time I lost my way, I would quit and gain the weight back (plus a few). I know that will have good days and bad. I know that failure is as much of a certainty as my progress. Even my definition of failure has changed. When I was stuck in the loop of the all-or-nothing diet mentality, one bad meal meant the end of my diet and the beginning of a binge. I might occasionally have a piece of pizza, or a hamburger, or a slice of banana cake from Icing on the Cake – but I don’t even consider those failures or poor choices anymore. I am living a joyful balanced life, which includes cake sometimes! I almost never mindlessly binge on unhealthy foods anymore – but if I do, I have compassion for myself and get right back to healthy living. The second I make that next meal a good one, I am back to practicing self love, and the shame melts away. I am not perfect, but I am making great progress. I still have a big fat butt, legs, arms, tummy, and boobs – but as of today, I am three feet closer toward my butt matching my pretty makeup. That is something to be truly thankful for.Before after ski

 

 

 

 

 


Holly and the amazing technicolor dream coats

One of the things that Jennifer (my health coach) encourages us to do is to get rid of any clothing items that no longer fit. Sell them, donate them, or give them to a friend – just get them out of your closet because they no longer represent you. And even more important, they won’t represent you in the future, either. This process of discarding any ill-fitting items has been an absolute joy for me. I have exactly ZERO attachment to the tents and mumus that used to drape over my limbs in an attempt to minimize my fatness. Girl, please! Minimizing strategies are such bologna anyway. No vertical strip could ever hide the fact that I was 300lbs. And the only thing that wearing Spanx accomplishes at that size is to push all the fat up in one direction, and push all the fat down in the other direction – resulting in the words most unsavory and blorping hour-glass shape imaginable. So, yeah, I am gleefully bagging up anything and everything that doesn’t fit, and then swiftly showing it the door. Bye, Felicia!

In contrast to tossing out my fat clothes, I have always kept a smattering of beloved items that either no-longer fit – or frankly, never fit (like, not even one time) but that I loved enough to drag from county-to-county and home-to-home for years and years. Two of my favorite items that have remained in my closet despite never ever being able to wear them, are brand new (with tags) Lululemon jackets. Brand new when I purchased them nine years ago, technically speaking. I remember buying them with my husband Craig. I tried them on in the store and they almost fit. We discussed how they could be my goal jackets (I just laughed out loud typing that). I must have been on some kind of diet or exercise regime that had resulted in dropping a few pounds, which gave me the confidence that I would indeed someday soon be wandering around the streets of Palo Alto in my fancy “goal” athleisure-wear. Although, in my defense, these jackets are pre-Luon debacle and of the highest quality.

Anyway, as you can guess, I never did reach my goal. Not even close. In the years that followed that trip to Lululemon, I gained close to 100 pounds. Every time I moved or reorganized my closet, I would find the two jackets and feel sad. Still, I kept them just in case I ever got my act together and lost the weight. And thank goodness I did, because last week, I was purging my closet of things that no longer fit and came across my two goal jackets. I lifted them up, holding them up against the light and wondered, “what if..” I must not have had much confidence in them fitting, because I didn’t even take the tags off as I slipped the first one over my head. LuluOMFG it fits, I thought. At least, I think it might fit. I went for the second opinion and asked my husband if he thought I could wear it out in public. “Absolutely!”, he shouted. It looks great, and you’re rocking it, he crooned. So I wore it to the kids soccer practice, and three separate moms asked me where I got it and if I thought there may be any left. Only if you have a time machine, ladies – this swag is thoroughly vintage. The next day, I wore the pink oxford striped jacket to work, and had the same reaction. Where did you get that, and how can I get one? It sounds so crazy to be dedicating an entire blog post to jackets, but this is honestly one of the most significant and profound happenings of my weightloss journey so far. These to jackets have meaning, and are representative of who I wanted to be for so long, but couldn’t get out of my own way to get there. Until now.

I am a good skier. I grew up spending most of my weekends on the mountains around Vancouver, Canada. It is one of two sports that I am truly confident participating in. I love golf too, but that has more to do with my husband stocking our cart with cocktails and teeing up my errant balls in the middle of the fairway, than actual skill. I love the feeling of gliding down a snow packed slope. The cold wind in my face, and the promise of a warm fire and a cold beer waiting for me at the bottom. Plus, it is one of two sports that am better at than Craig – and I remind him of that frequently (there aren’t many things that I can do better than my man). I love skiing, but I haven’t been on a slope for almost a decade. The first year or two of missing out likely had more to do with being in love and buying a house, and barely being able to afford the grilled cheese sandwiches that we lived on.  Still kind of a bummer, but totally excusable. And sure, there were two years when I was pregnant, but the rest of the years off were because I couldn’t zip my ski jacket up. Instead of buying a bigger jacket, I alternated between berated myself for allowing things to get so off track and using my ski jacket as a goal to reach. What is with my goals being tied to jackets? Needless to say, I never did make it back on the mountain. Even when we took trips to Tahoe, I offered to watch the kids so that others could go. Because, you know, nothing says fun like taking 8 kids to Build-A-Bear on a gorgeous bluebird winter day. Fact: Build-A-Bear is why they have cocktail stations on ever corner at Northstar. Also a fact: if you disguise your cocktails in coffee cups, the Build-A-Bear employees turn a blind eye. God bless the compassionate folks at the Northstar Build-A-Bear. Amen and pass the vodka.

Back in February of this year, I tried on my ski jacket for the first time in a very long time. I was getting real with where I was at, and my ski jacket represented both were I was, and where I wanted to be. I love my ski jacket. It is a black and somewhat puffy North Face jacket that I splurged on, a) because I loved it so much, and b) because it fit. Even though I weighed much less than 325 pounds (the absolute highest I ever got to), I still wasn’t the kind of broad who could just waltz into a J Crew and have a shopping spree. North Face was another brand that wasn’t exactly made for my body, so I jumped for joy when it fit (one decade ago). I pulled my arms through the sleeves and heaved it over my shoulders. The sleeves were above my wrists when I held my hands in front of my body, if that gives you an idea of how ill-fitting it was. I moved to zip it up. The sleeves were essentially a clown car! Deep breath. Now try zipping it up, I thought. I couldn’t get the two sides of the jacket to meet within 10 inches. TEN INCHES! I tried to laugh it off with my husband, hiding the shame. If getting honest about where I was in this process was the intention, this was like shock therapy. I don’t know how I had the balls to do it, but I asked Craig to take a photo of me. And then I went on with my life and forgot all about it.

Next week, the family and I are heading to Northstar for Thanksgiving. Naturally, I have been thinking about what we’ll need to bring with us, so while I was puttering around the house on Sunday doing chores, I noticed my ski jacket hanging in my closet. I brought it down and noticed the dust that had accumulated on the shoulders. I gave it a shake and held it up – yup, I still loved it as much as I ever did. The last time I tried it on, I knew there wasn’t any hope that it would fit me. The last time I tried it on, it was a joke. The last time I tried it on, I felt the hot sting of shame rise up in me.  The thought of “what if” entered my mind, just like it did when I tried on the two Lululemon jackets. I went for it. First, sliding my hands through the sleeves and holding them out in front of me. The clown car was gone. Next, I grabbed both sides of the jacket and pulled them together. They touched! Lastly, I held on to the two sides of the zipper. It slipped inside and zipped up almost effortlessly.  I stood in my bedroom and stared at myself in the mirror. Warm tears of surprise and redemption streaming down my face. I ran to show Craig. He was so proud of me. I was so proud of me. We recreated the same photo in the same spot, where I had last worn the jacket back in February. It still blows my mind to think that I am 10 or more inches narrower than I was at the beginning of this year. I feel so effing proud of myself. I am lighter in every way – and while I still have a long road ahead, I know that I am unstoppable. ski

Vodka sales in the village are going to take a dive next week. If you’re looking for me, try the slopes. I will be the one in the black puffy North Face jacket.

 


Resistance is futile

Hard is where the change is. I have heard Jennifer say this at least a dozen times. Every time she said those words, I agreed but thought it somehow didn’t apply to me. That it was probably someone else in my group who needed to heed that advice – because I was doing just fine. I had lost about 45lbs and could just keep doing what I was doing, because it was working for me. Never mind the fact that my weight-loss had slowed to a snails pace, with no signs of recovery. And never mind that I chose not to participate in the 30 day autoimmune protocol with most of the rest of my group, because it was “too hard” (see the first sentence of this paragraph). And certainly don’t take into account that I actually have two autoimmune disorders, and could almost guarantee results and really important information that could lead to increased vitality for me. Uncovering this blind spot, for me, has been one of the most eye-opening discoveries I have made through this journey.  Of course, it also highlights the idea that growth is a continuous process and that I should expect more of these “a-ha” type happenings in the future.

Hard is where the change is. This lifestyle is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a metamorphosis from living a pretty great life, to living my absolute best life. Considering that we have only got one shot on this rock, we owe it to ourselves to aim for our absolute best life. To go from point A to point B means a lot of change and a lot of hard. It also means a lot of pride, and a lot of self love.  Which is in stark contrast to the amount of pride and self love I was feeling last year at this time.

Last year around this time, I was spending a lot of time thinking about what I could wear that day to look skinnier. Last year around this time, I was catching my reflection in windows and berating myself for letting myself go. Last year around this time, I was planning my next meal – and it was going to be THE BEST MEAL EVER / or I was planning my next diet – and it was going to be THE BEST DIET EVER! But if you asked me back then, I would have told you that my life was a 10/10! And not because I was lying – I actually believed my own fantasy. rosewoodLast year around this time, I took a romantic overnight vacation with my husband and posted posted this photo of us. I posted it on Facebook because, at that time, it was the best that I could look. I put makeup on and tried to wear something “cute” on the golf course. I wanted my husband to be proud of me and the way that I looked – while at the same time I was pointing my fat finger in his direction over our dwindling sex life (full disclosure, that shit is still dwindling – but we are committed to getting our groove back).  When Craig sent me this photo last week, I was shocked. I felt both proud of how I look and feel today, and ashamed of how I looked and felt in this photo. But my life was a 10/10, right? I look at this photo and I see sickness. I see inflammation, and I see what Jennifer meant when she told me that I was “literally fighting for my life.”

Hard is where the change is, and I am putting that to the test. 20 days ago, Jennifer urged me to give AIP another shot. As soon as she typed the words, “I still think AIP” it was like a light bulb went off, and I was suddenly confronted with the ways that I was still lying to myself. Still telling myself “I cant.” Still blaming. Still accepting something less than my very best. I told Jennifer that I thought she was right, and that I wasn’t even afraid. Failure isn’t an option, when I am practicing self love. Resistance is futile, leaning into what’s hard is where growth is, and I was ready for the next phase of my healing journey. I published a blog about it, because I find that publicly sharing my story helps keep me accountable – and has also led to others reaching out and sharing their own similar struggles and successes. The day after I hit publish, Jennifer sent me the following letter. (Note: Felicia is the name I gave to the negative-talk person inside of me)

Dear Holly.

I am writing you this note because I want you to remember this date forever. October 18th, 2017…the day you stepped up to the plate and owned your bullshit. That’s a big day lady. I know…I still remember my day…February 23rd, 2015.

Here is the thing about this day, you can never ever go back. It’s not the day you decided to get healthy. It’s not the day you discover what it means to love yourself. It’s not any of the days you chose YOU over and over again. These are all good days, and they are all progress…but today, this was your day.

The day you step entirely off the cliff and trust that the net will appear is the day you quit lying to yourself. The day you own your imperfections and fears. Perfectionists manipulate and spin things to fit into the tidy picture we have created in our own minds. We tell our story when we have the happy ending and all the chapters play out as we planned them. In other words we attempt to exert our control over everything. We hold on tight because we are scared if we let go things will get messy.

Anne Lamott wrote, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It… is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

I spent years looking at my feet. I only did things I knew I could succeed at and if I did something and found I wasn’t succeeding I just told a new story so my actions matched up with the narrative.

Your “When to Protocol it Quits” post was the day you hit pause on your weight loss, and your journey to healthy. Why? Because it is the day you let Felicia sell your bullshit to the entire world and your authentic self…HOLLY handed over the keys to the journey.

You knew you weren’t being authentic…deep down inside you knew…but you had to explain why you were choosing to stop being compliant, stop being coachable, you saw an out with AIP and you took it. It was an escape hatch. You rebelled. The problem? You knew it, and that left two opposing forces at work right inside of you. This made more weight loss…impossible.

“The benefits of an autoimmune protocol are not lost on me. It is made for me.  I have two autoimmune disorders: hashimotos, and vitiligo. It is highly likely, if not an absolute certainty that I am reactive to nightshade vegetables and other common food sensitivities. Committing to discovering what exactly works best for my body can only improve my health. Moreover, many of the women in the group were getting amazing results, which I also wanted.  And yet….”

FUCKING FELICIA! That’s what I ended that paragraph with when I was reading this…sitting up in bed…my jaw dropped open! GAH!

The last few months are still a win. You maintained. You kept your new healthy lifestyle in check. You showed up for our calls. You do your homework. You didn’t quit. But you took a giant pause and in this space you realized you want this. So owning your bullshit in the group today makes this your day.

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life.” This is from Brene Brown and I could not agree more. You just unzipped your shield and stepped into the rest of your AMAZINGLY HUGE MESSY UNKNOWN FABULOUS LIFE!

Today you took the keys back….kicked Felicia out of the car “Bye Felicia!!!!” and you hit the gas!!! This highway doesn’t have a speed limit so hit it lady…I am up ahead, waiting for you…the sun is shining, there are bright beautiful beach cruisers everywhere and I even have a green drink on ice for you!

See you soon beautiful person!

I cried when I read it (and re-read it), and not because I was hoping for a vodka soda with lemon instead of a green drink. I cried because Jennifer’s support reaffirms that I am on the right track, and that I am not alone. I feel like this year has been broken into three separate phases. Each one necessary before advancing to the next. January through May was the ramp up phase. I spent a lot of time learning the basics of Jennifer’s program. I also dropped a significant amount of weight during this stage. May through October was a different kind of breakthrough. One where I learned that change isn’t always easy, and that if I wanted any more success, I would have to buckle down and lean into the discomfort. Most importantly, I learned that I can’t spin and manipulate my way out of this rut. Truly being my authentic self means letting go of the perfectionism that has plagued my past. I also learned that I am good at maintaining my weight, which will come in handy later.

Hard is where the change is. It has been 20 days since giving the AIP a second chance. It has been 20 days of confronting my own limiting bullshit head on. And it has been 20 days of feeling better than I have in a very long time. In 20 days I have lost 13 pounds. My skin looks better and more radiant. I have more energy. My joints don’t hurt. I am not constantly clearing my throat. And best of all, I am not even finding it challenging to stick to the restrictions. My perception of food has changed from “event-focused” to “fuel-focused.” Instead of asking myself, “what is the best and tastiest thing I can have?”, I am asking myself, “what will nourish and fuel my body?” Total TMI, but my poop is literally green – so you can imagine how much spinach I am consuming. Honestly, I should have dressed up as Popeye for Halloween today – alas, this stripped down Pink Lady photo will have to do.

Holly

Hard is where the change is. It is also where the greatest rewards are. Hard is where growth lives. Hard is where our best most authentic and successful selves are made. This past month has been a journey from food as comfort to food as fuel. It is also the next step to figuring out who I truly am, and what living as my authentic self means. It means answering important questions like, am I using my unique gifts to the best of my ability?  Perhaps that will be better answered in whatever the next phase of my transformation brings. What I know for sure is that I am changing, and that it is hard, but I couldn’t be more grateful


When to Protocol Yourself out on your own Limiting BS.

Note: I was three quarters through the “Hitting Save” blog post, when I was suddenly confronted by my own self-limiting BS / which led to this next entry following right on its heels. I finished the post, because there is good content in there that shows an important part of my journey: that there is never an end to the self discovery, or to learning more about myself and my health – or even to my own limiting mindsets that need to be crumbled and rebuilt.

In one of my last blog posts, here, I wrote all about excuses. Over the last 10 months, I have lost 50 pounds of fat from my body. That sounds pretty great, right? In the first 5 months, I lost 40 pounds; in the last 5 months, I have lost 10 pounds.  When I write it that way, it has less impact, but it does tell a story.  A story about an excuse that I conveniently left out of my last post. Something has gone a little sideways. And that something is my own limiting bullshit.

Back in June, I wrote this blog post about my experience trying (half-assing, is more like it) an autoimmune protocol. Looking back at that blog post now, I feel kind of embarrassed. While it felt genuine at the time, it now reads like an excuse. That protocol really marked the end of being completely engaged in my weight-loss.  Did I go off the rails, no.  I still move my body, fill my tummy with whole and organic foods, still sleep between 7-8 hours per night, and I am still generally kicking ass – if i was working to maintain my weight. The harsh reality is that I still have between 80-100 pounds to lose, and that is no joke. The good news is that now that I know better, I am doing better. I am engaged and excited about dropping the next 50 pounds.

So what happened?

I don’t think that any one thing contributed to the snails pace with which I have been losing weight, since May.  It is more of a combination of things. I realize now that I was, to some degree, still clinging to my old dieters mentality that to be successful, I needed it to be easy. Not to discount the first 40 pounds as completely effortless, but I don’t remember being particularly uncomfortable. Beginning a pretty restrictive protocol DEFINITELY made me uncomfortable. My pre-protocol mantra was, “I am a healthy person who can eat whatever I want – I just happen to mostly choose foods which support my health and vitality.” My protocol mantra was more like, “I am a healthy person who can hardly eat anything – I am miserable and I can’t do this.” I am actually cringing at my own bullshit, as I write this. How could I not see through my own self-imposed limitations?

I am Holly. I ran the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon. a fin conI have birthed two children out of a tiny incision in my abdomen. I once landed a job at Yahoo! while on a vacation, and then completely uprooted my life in Canada for a life in California one week later. I was one of a handful of people who got to attend Facebook’s IPO from the NASDAQ in New York City. Just a few weeks ago, I sat in front of over 350 people and interviewed sports legends Kristi Yamaguchi and Brandi Chastain for an hour, but an elimination diet can take me down?  I mean, come on Holly! I can accomplish all of this, but I can’t commit to eating veggies, fruit, and protein for 28 days?  It’s laughable! Only, not really.

So what happens now?

Well, just like I could never go back to my old bad habits, knowing what I know now – I can’t keep simply maintaining, now that I have been hit over the head with my own excuses. I need to up-level my game, re-engage, and start chipping away at the mountain ahead of me.

a mos burger

Dinner at Mo’s with the family – this AIP friendly meal did not suck.

In short, I need to shake things up again. In a text string with Jennifer this week, she wrote, “I still think AIP.” Quitting the original protocol was the first and only example of dissent against my coach since I started this journey back in January. Through Jennifer’s guidance, I got the first 50 lbs off – it only makes sense that the next 50 lbs will come off the same way. I don’t feel anxious about it this time.  I feel excited. Empowered. Unstoppable. It’s the same energy that carried me through the first five months of this marathon, and I am grateful that it’s back again.

a aip breakfast

An AIP breakfast that passes the sniff test.

It has been five days of AIP part deux, and I already can’t believe how much easier it is this time around. It really reinforces for me the notion that mindset is 90 percent of the battle. I can, I will, I am over I can’t, I won’t, I am not. Jennifer is always telling us to be mindful of how we can up-level our game. Like everything else that I have learned from her this year, it is a practice. It is layering good habits on top of each other. Progress, not perfection. Process, not perfection. It is falling down 8 times and getting up 9.  And the good news is that I am not even falling anymore. I may have been coasting, but my days of falling and failing are few and far between. And that, in and of itself, is a major win for me.

I am starting to place more weight (no pun intended) on how food makes my body feel, instead of how food falsely makes my mind feel. Food as fuel, instead of food as comfort. I am sure that getting older has something to do with it, having a family and wanting to be around for as long as possible also has something to do with it – but whatever the reason, vitality is suddenly important to me. It was not something I considered, before. I also believe that connecting more with fresh whole foods connects us more to nature in general. And when we are more connected to nature, we are a kinder, more gentler version of ourselves. We can see how we are a part of this ecosystem, and how the ecosystem is a part of us. Taking care of my body, doing the hard-but-good work of regaining self-love, and practicing gratitude for all that is good around me and in the world (even, and especially during these times of great tragedy and human/natural disasters) is what this journey is truly about – and I am thankful to be exactly where and who I am in this moment.

 


Hitting Save

When I first started working with Jennifer, the weight practically fell off of me.  It was effortless. Not to take away from the work that I was doing, or the commitment that I made, which was significant – but it just seemed to come off without much discomfort. Like I was in some unstoppable zone. My biggest fear back then was tied to my old dieters mentality of “how long will this last?”  I was, at least at some level, suspect of the process. There was a place inside of me that feared this would be like all of the other times I tried to lose weight. Because they all started off the same way, with an initial bump of weight-loss which would eventually taper off until I threw my hands up and said, “fuck it – let’s go to In n Out!”

Now the script has flipped, and I am fighting for every pound – but the fear of eventually giving up is completely gone.  Almost laughable! In the most humblest of ways, I am confident that I will never, ever, EVER go back to my old habits. I like who I am becoming. I feel good in my skin. Great, in fact. What I struggle with now is not getting discouraged when the weight-loss is slow, or seemingly non-existent. Or worse, when the numbers on the scale fluctuate a bit. It is during those times that I usually have some kind of off-scale breakthrough, or a “save.” a lift picSome of my past saves have been trying on old dresses that suddenly fit, or needing to order a new bra because I have run out of rungs to cinch them up. In some ways, it’s those moments that are the most profound reminders of how far I have come. Over the last few weeks, I have been pushing myself harder. I am extra mindful of what I am putting into my body, and leaning into the discomfort a little more. I am not snacking at night.  I am up-leveling my steps and my cycling classes While the scale isn’t responding as quickly as I had hoped, there have been a few notable differences.

a underwearFor example, the other morning, my hand to god, I thought to myself, “girl, you need some new underwear!” Now, I have thought this thought before. But it has been because of pregnancy, or weight-gain, or general unsightliness. Until the other day, I could count on NONE fingers the amount of times that I needed to procure new undergarments because of shrinkage!

And speaking of clothing, I have also vowed never to step foot in a plus sized store or department section again. Do you hear that, Encore section of Nordstrom?  We…are never, ever, ever, getting back together!  Like, ever! It has been a few months of clothing purchases in regular stores – and while I am not completely out of the woods yet (like, if I needed a pair of trousers, I would probably still need a size 18), I am going to make due without any help from those particular manufacturers. a dressTo celebrate, I tossed all of my 2X and 1X workout gear and did some bold online shopping at Lucy’s. Five pairs of XL sized pants arrive, and 5 pairs of XL sized pants are now in my rotation. I still had to fight that knee jerk reaction of avoiding disappointment by ordering the wrong size, but the fact is that the XL is what fits me now – and that makes me feel really proud of myself. While we’re on the subject of normal clothing, I also purchased and sort-of / kind of / partly zipped up a god damned designer Kate Spade dress, which is my goal dress for New Years Eve, this year. Even at my absolute skinniest, I never would have dared to bare my arms. But I am changing. Becoming more properly proportioned, perhaps.  Or maybe I’m just not looking at myself through poo-poo colored glasses any longer.

But the biggest, and definitely boldest revelation came during a recent business trip to Austin. While getting reading early one morning, I caught myself in the bathroom mirror – and for the first time (I don’t know, maybe ever) I thought I looked beautiful. a pic of meI have had other moments this year when I thought I looked really good – or I could clearly see the difference I am making in my health and in my body. But standing in front of a mirror in my undergarments has never been a particularly positive experience for me. As I stood there and studied my body, I thought about the two beautiful babies that it made.  I thought about how this body carried me down an aisle toward Craig, through 26.2 miles of marathon hell, across most of Europe with nothing but a friend and a backpack, and all of the most significant moments of my life. I noticed the stretch marks on my hip, and the white patches of skin with no pigment (vitiligo). I looked at all of this, and I felt grateful, and I felt beautiful. And I still do.  Of all that I have accomplished over the past eight months, being beautiful is easily the most rewarding.


Excuses, excuses, excuses…

The majority of my writing about my weight-loss is centered around physical changes and data points. For example, I have lost 52 pounds and over 24 inches since January. Of course, they are important and exciting metrics to share, but equally as important are the internal changes that I am making. From gaining self confidence to unpacking how I got here in the place, there is so much more going on than just the numbers. Digging into the non-metric related areas is key to long term success. Basically, if I don’t fix what’s in here…

brain

I will never fix what’s in here…

belly

In hindsight, I can’t help but feel feel compassion for Holly BPHB (before (Project Healthy Body). Any logical person can see through the utter bologna I would spread about why I was different and why the laws of physics didn’t apply to me. It is much easier to side-step responsibility than to get clear on where you are at. It means digging into the shame and embarrassment of being fat. It means working through the “why” of my fat. It means completely dismantling every unhealthy habit, and rebuilding new and healthy ones. It means toppling the self-righteous, know-it-all, not my fault wall that I had built around myself with food. It means humbling myself to the hard work of change, the hard work of facing fears, and the hard work of learning to love myself more.

Here is a smattering of some of the rubbish excuses that I used and wholeheartedly believed before getting really real with myself and with my fat.

Excuse: I have a thyroid condition.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had some blood-work come back with concerning results. I was sent swiftly to an endocrinologist who diagnosed me with Hashimotos, a type of hypothyroidism. Essentially, my immune system attacks my thyroid gland leading to reduced thyroid function. The symptoms include fatigue, weight-gain, thinning hair, and joint/muscle pain. It is a legitimate autoimmune disorder, to be sure – and I will have to take a synthetic thyroid replacement pill every day for the rest of my life.

For me, it was also the answer and the excuse that I had been searching for. Suddenly, I had something to blame for my fat. “Here I am, practically perfect in every way and doing absolutely everything I can do lose weight – but the cards are stacked against me”, I thought (and explained to anyone who challenged me). I read every book and saw a bunch of doctors. And if my doctor du jour didn’t agree with my medical opinion, I looked for someone who would.

The year before I contacted Jennifer at Project Healthy Body, I was running 3-4 miles every morning, and keeping a gluten free diet. Basically, doing just enough to completely recuse myself of any responsibility. I had built a cycle of victim-hood and outside blame that was bullet-proof. The running, which to be clear, had many benefits – meant a lot of calorie burning, but also an increased appetite. And my super duper healthy “gluten free” lifestyle was really just a pile of calorie dense “gluten free” breads and pasta with melted cheese. Two double-doubles “protein style” from In-N-Out, while mighty tasty, isn’t exactly going to grace the cover of any respectable health magazine.

While I did manage to lose 30 pounds that year, it was all in the beginning – and slowly but inevitably, my horse-shit plan caught up to me and I ended up gaining all of it back. It was the same self-fulfilling cycle of defeat I had been on for years, disguised in a legitimate autoimmune disorder. The truth is that yes…I have a medical condition – but that medical condition is not an excuse to be unhealthy, and it’s also not an excuse to believe that I cannot lose weight.

Excuse: entitlement

When I was a kid, my father used food as a reward. Win a game? Get a good grade? Reach a goal? How about a Slurpee? It was also a band-aid. Didn’t get invited to a birthday party? Scrape your knee? Lose your favorite toy? Let’s get a happy meal. I am not throwing shade in my fathers direction. He was, is, and will continue to be the most supportive, altruistic, loving father any kid could ask for. He was also, like me and most other parents, doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.

I used this concept of food entitlement throughout my life. And I took it to an extreme. When times were good, when times were bad, when I was feeling lonely, when I was feeling amazing, when I failed, when I succeeded, when I was with a friend, when I was by myself – every meal was the meal of my dreams! Food entitlement was an excuse not to face what was actually going on with me.

Excuse: I don’t have time

Poppycock!  I have exactly as much time for myself as I am willing to make. The problem was that as far as priorities go, I was perpetually putting myself last on the list and then wearing that like some kind of badge of honor. The laundry list of time-related excuses was huge. Here are just a few:

  • I have a long commute
  • I have a demanding job
  • I have two young children
  • I have to watch [insert Netflix/HBO/BRAVO series]
  • I have to Doordash dinner to my family every night
  • I have to finish all the vodka
  • I have to do the laundry, and the dishes, and the lunches, and the outfits, and Christ..did Quinn do her homework?

All of these excuses and more were the things that were eating up my time. Most of these things, but not all, STILL eat up some of my time. What has changed are my priorities – and priority number one, two, and three are me, myself, and I. And guess what? Not only has the world kept turning, but I find myself with more time than ever. Now that I find the time to take care of myself, I also find the time to sleep more, read more, exercise more, meet up with girlfriends more, and live a more balanced life.

Excuse: my life is a 10/10

Having an attitude of gratitude is essential to healthy living. Over-pivoting and using gratitude as an excuse, though, is just another way that I was hiding behind my fat. The very first sentence from the very first homework assignment that I wrote to Jennifer was, ” I am uncomfortable not announcing that my life is a 10/10.” If I believe that my life is a 10 out of 10, then what is there to solve?  Nothing, because [queue Lego movie characters singing] EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

Looking back, I see so clearly how I was using this as another excuse not to get real with where I am at. And boy, did Jennifer get real with me. She calculated my BMI and informed me that I was morbidly obese, and that I was literally fighting for my life. It was the first time that I truly considered that my unhealthy choices could cause me to die. I am a wife. Together, my husband and I built a love that is as true as love can be. We have two young children who are combinations of the very best in each of us. Life together is everything I ever hoped family life could be. In that moment with Jennifer, I suddenly understood the table stakes. It was as profound as any life event that has ever happened to me. I had to get my shit together this time, and I had to get it together today…NOW.  Not on Monday, when all diets start. And for good this time. For me, for Craig, and for my children.

Excuses, excuses, excuses…

Look, all of these reasons that kept me from gaining my health back have a kernel of truth to them.  Yes, I have a thyroid disease. Yes, I learned to have a bad relationship with food as a kid. Yes, I have a very full life with kids, commuting, and careering.  But none of these kernels of truth equal an inability to get healthy. They were, at best, a diversionary tactic. A way to keep my real problems conveniently veiled.

Thanks to Jennifer and Project Healthy Body revolution, the veil has been lifted. And while my life will never be a 10 out of 10 (because..spoiler alert: nobody’s life is), it is a life that I am truly grateful for – and a life that I am actively showing gratitude for by making healthy choices that support my vitality instead of playing Russian roulette with it.

Today, food is an expression of self love.

Today, I am a healthy person.

Today, I make time for myself and for my health.

Today, I am out of excuses.

 


Confessionals and Hail Mary Poppins

Forgive me followers, for I have sinned. It has been two months of summer fun since my last confession. In that time, I have…

  1. Abused alcohol while travelling through Ireland with my husband, such that the contents of my sweat and tears is STILL roughly 37% Guinness.
  2. Used sex within marriage, but with absolutely, positively, holy-shit, OMG NO intent of procreating life.
  3. Deliberately ingested impure foods such as pasta, cake, s’mores, and soda bread.
  4. Permitted a couple of impure thoughts about Chris Pratt, but only after they announced their separation – so at the very least, it wasn’t completely adulterous…right?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Now that school is back in session, vacation time is over, and summer will soon start to fade into fall, I am happily returning to the comfort and structure of routine. While I remained committed to my health goals throughout the summer, and even managed to drop a couple of pounds, I was more prone to gluttony and indulgence than usual. I consumed more alcohol, swapped spin class for floating around my best friends pool, let go of any pressure I felt to publish any blog entries, and generally stuck to spending quality time with family and friends. It was a fun and memorable summer, and now it is time to get back to work.

Even though I am looking good and feeling even better, I need to keep reminding myself that I still have a long journey ahead of me. I have to pause and work up the courage to type this, but I still have almost 100lbs to lose before I can afford to kick back and thoroughly enjoy my success. As the milestones of success pile up, and I start to feel better and better about myself and how I look, it only gets more challenging to buckle down. Not that I have been going off the rails. I am absolutely confident that my old lifestyle will remain just that…my old lifestyle. It isn’t difficult for me to maintain my weight now, but it IS difficult to keep dropping. I really have to work for each and every pound – which is a big change from the initial 40lbs that came off so easily. The last 10lbs have been much slower, and much harder fought for.

Fighting for those pounds is easier when I’m back in my regular routine. I’m highly susceptible, it turns out, to the lure of a warm summer evening cocktail on the patio, or three, or eight. And most of my exercise comes in the form of floating around weightless in a pool…with more cocktails. In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure how I managed to maintain my weight this summer, let alone drop a couple of pounds. Miracle pounds is what they were – and all the more reason to get slightly uncomfortable again, push harder, and work for the gift of better health.

Although the summer was definitely more relaxed, it wasn’t without some significant wins. For example, I flew overseas in economy, and it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about the seat-belt because those days are solidly behind me. I also buckled down and pushed myself to a record 130,000 steps Monday through Friday for one week in July (although I was proud of myself, I would not recommend this goal to other working moms with challenging commutes – while doable, there is precious little time for anything BUT walking). I had a few other small but significant wins while shopping in my own closet. Like my favorite white linen pants, I have always kept my absolute favorite items. I have packed them and unpacked them from place to place, which always made me a little sad – but it also must mean that I was holding onto hope that they would one day fit again. I am so glad that I did.  Here are some highlights…

Babe-n'suits

On the left: a size 22/24 bathing suit | On the right: a size 16 bathing suit

 

dresses 2

Both dresses that I haven’t been able to even get over my hips in 9 years, let alone zip up!

In addition to the highlights above, I also lost another couple of pounds and a few more inches, which was great but difficult to put into context. Or, difficult until my health coach helped put it into perspective for me.  Jennifer sent me txt that read, “23.5 inches total, from when you started tracking.” The “from when you started tracking part” was because, unfortunately, I didn’t measure myself at the beginning – even though Jennifer explicitly told me to. I must not have truly believed this lifestyle would work, or that I would be able to find success  Anyway, while it’s too bad that I didn’t believe in myself enough to grab the exact metrics, it absolutely guarantees that since January 2017, I have lost over two feet of inches from my body. I did that. Me and my roadmap from Jennifer did THAT! I just high-fived myself!  It’s 7am on Saturday morning, and I am alone in my living-room, and I looked a little unstable doing it, but I high-fived the S out of myself.

But far and away the very best part of the summer was my trip to Ireland. And I don’t mean the actual trip, which was absolutely wonderful; I mean the prep and packing of outfits! While I love a good wedding, or gala, or 3 Michelin star dinner, these types of events are also a great source of anxiety for me. I really care about what I look like. I love clothing and fashion and design – but I have never felt comfortable in my own body and have had serious limitations on where I can shop for clothing, so have never truly felt beautiful at an event, or at work, or on a date night. Ugh…that makes me so sad to think about how much time I have spent over the years worrying about how I am going to look, or what I am going to wear to a friends wedding, or my own wedding, or the holiday party, or a birthday party, or to target, or the bank, or the kitchen for a glass of water. When I was single, it was arguably worse.  At least now I’ve snared a man, I would think. When an event, like a wedding, was months away, I would start planning on how much weight I would lose beforehand, and how great I would look and feel if I could buckle down and just DO IT! Inevitably, though, the stress and pressure of trying to drop dress sizes before an event would only lead to gaining wait instead of losing it – followed by feelings of shame and self-loathing – and then finally ending up sweating over some outfit that wasn’t up to my expectations, shoes that I would have to take off 1/2 way through the event, and generally feeling uncomfortable in my own skin until I was sauced enough to leave it all on the dance floor and have a great time. What a waste! How I wish that I could have seen myself as the world sees me, and loved myself enough to take better care of the one vessel and one life that I’ve been gifted. At the same time, I am so grateful for Jennifer and the path that she has helped put me on.  A path that ensures that I will never ever go back to my old life again.

This time, it was different. While I was still a little anxious about what I would wear to my cousins wedding in Ireland, I was grounded in the fact that I had finally achieved what I could never manage before. I wasn’t just a couple of pounds down before this event, I was 24+ inches and 50 pounds down.  And more importantly, my insides were matching my outsides. It makes me tear up just typing that. Out of all of the wins that I have enjoyed this year, this was by far the best. My insides matched my outsides, and both were beautiful.

The wins started with the typically painful process of finding a dress to wear to the wedding. I have never been able to wear my best friends clothing. Like, not even once. So when we were at her pool one afternoon and she suggested that I go surfing through her closet to find something, I was immediately resigned to the fact that nothing would fit. We selected three dresses to try – none of which were particularly A-line, which is the only shape that has ever worked for me. Even as I was slipping each dress over my body, I was sure they wouldn’t zip up in the back. But not only did they zip up, they each looked great! So great that I couldn’t decide and took them all home to play fashion show for Craig. I ended up settling on a black wool (summer in Ireland is still Ireland) Calvin Klein dress in a fit and flare shape. You read that correctly – fit and FLARE!  The last thing I usually want my ass to do is flare! Fit and camouflage is more my speed. Anyway, the dress looked great, and I was happy.  And because I borrowed a dress, I figured that gave me license to procure a new pair of shoes – so off to Nordstrom I went.

Historically, shoes are the next hurdle, after the dress is found. I used to wear heels and wedges all the time. Then something happened post children where I gave up on them all together. Probably because I felt frumpy, and probably because wobbling around on anything but flats when you’re 300 pounds kinda frigging hurts! The last wedges I purchased were some kind of ‘high-comfort’ line, which….dear god….can someone make those cuter? They are the Nissan Leaf of the womens shoe industry. Sure, they’re practical – but they look like a nightmare! So when I walked into Nordstrom, and worked up the courage to tip toe into the designer shoe section, it was a big deal. I was fresh off of my dress win, but still fairly certain that the back patent Gucci loafers would be a bust. Even though the look I told Craig I was going for was naughty Irish nanny / Mischievous Mary Poppins, I was scared the loafers would make my feet look wide and my legs look to fat. Plus, I still wasn’t sure how to break it to Craig that I was hoping to spend THAT much on a pair of shoes. People…it was just like final scene in Cinderella – only my prince charming was a salesman, and my glass slipper was Gucci, yo! Like a glove, I tell ya! I brought them home and prepared a powerpoint presentation for Craig proving why these shoes were more important than the girls chances at a post secondary education. I put the entire outfit on and walked past my husband, who immediately agreed I should keep them. Not only did he agree that they were the naughty nanniest, when I asked for his opinion on black patent vs red patent, he told me that he couldn’t decide and that I should go back and get both. Lordy, did I burst into tears. I have longed for that feeling for tens of years, and it was even better than I thought it would be.

Of course, I did take Craig up on his offer and went back to Nordstrom the very next day. I didn’t end up buying the red ones, though. The red was too dark for me, and I didn’t want to completely overdo it and end up with buyers remorse – or worse, homeless. Instead, I decided to head upstairs to find the perfect super opaque black tights to go with my nanny costume. Now, it has been about 8 years since I last shopped for clothing in the normal section of Nordstrom.  I am usually a third floor shame section only kind of girl. You may or may not be familiar. If you are, then you know that flitty dance that you do, like you’re just there to look at kids shoes…and then you ghost yourself across the walkway into the “Encore” section – where the last thing the women shopping there are hoping for is an encore performance in the encore section. Believe me, we would much rather the Encore section be a one hit wonder section. But before I made it to the escalator, a top in the normal womens section caught my eye. Maybe it was because I was on such a roll that I decided to detour and sift through the pretty merch.  And I am SO glad that I did. Not only did I walk out with that pretty top, but three tank tops, one sweater, one suit jacket, a pair of boyfriend jeans, two adorable baby-doll tops, a pair of skinny jeans, and a FREE PEOPLE top! Their slogan should be “for free people; not fat people.”

I was over the moon. I have never been more excited for a trip! I folded and unfolded my new clothing. I paired things with stack-able bracelets, statement necklaces, and cocktail rings. I practiced rolling the sleeves of my suit jacket, and pairing it with a crisp white tank top, rolled up boyfriend jeans, and about a bajillion jewels (and, of course, my multi-purpose Gucci loafers). I didn’t dare take the tag off and wear anything before our trip. I wanted to unpack a fresh and fabulous outfit for every day I was travelling. And that’s exactly what I did. Starting with the big event. The wedding.

For me, the final woeful moments of any event has got to be the primping stage. I usually spend the day hoping, wishing, and praying that whatever mumu I brought will fit. I try in earnest to at least make my hair look great, in hopes that it will distract from what lies beneath my neck. I blow dry, and then I sweat from the heat, which frizzes up my hair.  And then I pull and wiggle and jump up and down to get my dress on, which makes me sweat again, and further frizzes up my hair. Then I tell whomever is within whining distance that I don’t even want to go to the ____ anyway. And then someone hands me a “dresser” martini, which is enough liquid courage to get me out the door and on my way to dancing queen-level intoxication.

I have never been so calm, so dry, and so blissful before an event. Not even 20mins under a blow-drier could shake my zen. My makeup was flawless. My hair conservative AF! My dress floated over my body. And my shoes. My god, my shoes. I pranced across cobble stones, gave a damned fine reading, glided across the dance floor, and generally stood in absolute merriment from 1:00pm-11:00pm.  An Irish wedding that ended at 11pm, you croon??? We are nothing, if not professional boozers. Gurl, pleaze, we ditched the car and the parents back at our vacation rental and hit the pubs until 4am. ireland

The rest of the trip was a repeat of new locations, new outfits, and completely doing my hair and makeup every single day. I felt proud to be on Craig’s arm everywhere we went. And I felt like Craig was proud, too. I felt so good that I even ditched the Lululemon for the 10 hour flight home, and instead opted for skinny jeans and my free people top. It didn’t stop there, either. Since being back, I have quaffed, rolled, jujed, painted, and bedazzled my way into each day (except for today, when we had two soccer games in a 100 degree field). And not in a fake-it till you make-it kind of way. I am making it, and it feels fabulous!

 


Theme: My Summer Vacation

Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes

Robert Louis Stevenson

Ahhh, summer. There is something about the extended sunlight, the extra outdoors time, and the smell of chlorine mixed with vodka that brings out the very best in us. We stay up a little later, we get out of town for a while, and we get a welcome influx of Canadian visitors popping in for a night or two on their way to Disneyland. We are sun kissed, well rested, slightly tipsy, and ready for F.U.N.

That’s how I remember it, anyway. For me, family vacations are a little like giving birth. The moments of physical pain, screaming, and crying seem to magically disappear – and all that is left are the warm memories of love and togetherness. I am sure we had to football carry one or both children out of a fancy restaurant at some point.  I am also fairly certain that a complete stranger approached our table to shame me because the kids were giggling too loudly in a lobby bathroom.  It is entirely possible that we sent the kids to bed early (and without dinner) for fighting the very same night we returned home. And I know for certain that I spent an uncomfortable 24hrs working through a stomach bug when we returned. But even that memory is lined with silver, because who wouldn’t enjoy, at least at some level, some effortless post-vacation weightloss (or, five the hard way, as it’s known under my roof)!

carmelWhat I do remember from our family trip to Carmel was our after-dinner walks to the 18th green, where we would let the dog and the children off their leashes to chase the wild turkeys across the fairway.  I remember the daily 1:00-5:00pm time at the adults-only pool with Craig, while the kids were at the resort “camp”. I remember the sticky sweetness of s’more’s around the fire pit at night, and I remember two young ladies approaching us at breakfast one morning to tell us that a) we were the most loving and adorable couple at the pool the day before, b) that we were their relationship goals, c) did Craig have any single brothers, and d) that they thought we were even more adorable, when they saw us with Walter and the kids at dinner.  I will never forget it; I felt so proud.

In some ways, summer can be a little stressful. The kids are out of school, and we are off of our regular routine. Also, the girls spend a lot more time together, which creates room for a lot more squabbling (like, a lot more). A couple of months ago, I was excited for the upcoming McGreggor / Mayweather fight – now I find I need such a break from the constant bickering that I can’t even sit down to enjoy Bachelors in Paradise, let alone a boxing match. The trade-off for summer fun definitely comes at the expense of our routine and good behavior. Yet, it is familiar enough for me to dismiss it as a phase, or at least somewhat normal. For me, the equity struggle between my kids is my own childhood with my sister staring back at me.  For Craig, an only child who is prone to hyperbole, the sky is falling: we have failed as parents, and we are raising thankless, lawless brats! Only until fall, I assure him. And by then, the memories of scratched backs, slamming doors, and my own yelling will fade with the extra sunlight.

GuinnessMy selective memory, it seems, is not just relegated to time with the kids. Craig and I managed to squeeze in a week long trip to Ireland (without our little martial artists). It was an unforgettable adventure which included quality time with my extended family and friends, gorgeous countryside, and the friendliest most lovely people in the entire world. I remember my cousins beautiful fairytale wedding, complete with a castle. I remember the night we spent in Tipperary reconnecting with good friends. And I still tear up when I think about the quality time spent with my mum and dad, the carriage ride through the streets of Dublin with Craig, and the incredibly talented father/daughters band that we heard in a tiny pub in the tiny village of Kinnity.

Forgotten are the stressful moments driving 100km down sidewalk sized streets on the other side of the road, no less. Moments made worse by my gripping door handle, heavy breathing, and pumping the invisible passenger-side brakes. The stress that I endured during those car rides was nothing compared to the piled on anxiety felt by my husband, the driver. The distilled version of the trip, for him, was time spent in the car = divorce / time spent in the pub = marriage.  You may be wondering why, if I am such a controlling hag in the car, didn’t I just drive? Because my brain is so fantastical that I simply could not grasp the concept of staying to the left. Every single time we pulled up to a corner, or a roundabout, or a highway on-ramp, I would simulate driving and pick my next move – and EVERY SINGLE TIME I failed and killed us all. So, we opted to teeter on the edge of divorce between villages and then erase any leftover tension at the local pub.

We arrived home from Ireland certain that the kids squabbling would signal the first and last time that a grandparent agreed to look after our barbarous, feral kittens for an entire week. Not that I would blame them. Age 4 and 6 is easier than age 3 and 5, but it is still far from being civilized. Especially during the very last week of constant togetherness before school starts. It wasn’t exactly an ideal setup, to say the least. We are, however, eternally grateful for the time away and fully recognize how hard it can be – particularly when you aren’t used to it.

The fighting didn’t magically disappear when we got home, either. In fact, I started to question my own theory about siblings, squabbling, and school being out. Shit, I thought to myself. Maybe Craig is right. Maybe we are raising violent, lawless kids! Then last night, just two days before school started back for both of them, we had huge win. ButterflyQuinn was in line to get her face painted at her friends birthday party. The artist was legit, and creating the most beautiful unicorn and butterfly designs. So of course all of the children wanted one.  I noticed Quinn waiting in line on and off, but was busy socializing with friends and didn’t pay much attention. It was just about time for us to head home, when Craig noticed Quinn sitting with the makeup artist getting her butterfly.  He walked over to snap a photo of her, when the woman asked if Quinn was his daughter?  Yes, he replied. She told Craig that Quinn waited 45mins for her turn, and that when she was about to sit down, Wrenn walked up and said she also wanted to get her face painted. Without missing a beat, Quinn asked the lady if her little sister could go in front of her? Sure, she said – but you will have to to the back of the line and wait again, since there are so many kids who have been patiently waiting.  That’s fine, Quinn told her, and ushered Wrenn into the chair before heading to the back of the line. Quinn waited another 30mins before her turn. The artist told Craig that in 7 years of doing kids parties, she had never seen anything like it. We joked with the lady about how we were at our wits end with the sibling rivalry that has plagued our house over the last month, and how her story helped restore our faith in our ability to help guide our children, and our children’s ability to listen and act in ways that mirror our expectations of them.

This morning, I told Craig that sometimes my blog posts write themselves. Yesterday, I didn’t know how I was going to tie all of this together – then Quinn pulled the sister of the year card and I had my happy ending! In some ways, I wish I had pulled out my laptop last night to wrap this one up.  In other ways, the photo below is a much better representation of the yin and yang of the family Fange.  This is Quinn’s bedroom door, which Craig just unhinged after she slammed it 4 times in a row at the end of an argument….with her mortal enemy…her sister.

DoorTonight, I am raising my pint glass of fireball to both kids starting back up at school full time tomorrow. Who’s with me??