I am grateful for choices

Image

I am grateful for choices.

As adults, we all get to make choices everyday from how to spend the next 30 minutes to what to where we want to live. We aren’t always cognizant of our choices but they are there and sometimes, as Americans, choice becomes overwhelming. Sometimes it would be easier if someone else could make choices for us once in awhile.

I just read The Hunger Games Trilogy. It is not an easy story to forget. Katniss Everdeen has been in my head for the past several weeks. I even read several books of essays so I could keep thinking about why I can’t get her out of my thoughts… The people from the Capital had traded their ability to make important choices in their lives for a life of plenty; plenty of food and plenty of entertainment. Katniss and the people of Panem, however, did not have the luxury of not choosing. They had to choose every single day to keep going or stop, to put one foot in front of the other or not, to live or to die.

Katniss’ only real choice was to keep going regardless of what other people’s agendas might be. I don’t believe that she was a puppet for the Capital, Snow or Coin. She was in charge of her choices, it was just that she didn’t have many. Katniss simply continued to do what she had been doing in the Seam which was to choose to keep going, to survive. Before Mockingjay was written, there was a lot of publicity on whether she would ‘choose’ Gale or Peeta. However it was never really a choice. Katniss chose to keep going, to survive and after everything she had been through she needed to choose a life of peace represented by Peeta. She had to choose to heal after the lifetime of trauma that she experienced in 6 years. Katniss couldn’t make any more choices and instead let the universe allow her to rest. It was the best ending possible.

When I was a child and then a teenager, I did not have many choices either. My family was always in the midst of caous. I could choose to wallow in misery or not, to keep going or not, to thrive in spite of it all or not. I went on to college despite being told in would be a waste of time, had a career in sales and marketing, went to graduate school and now have a wonderful family and friends to boot. All of which required a million choices every single day. It is funny though because I never had the perception of choice but instead a very clear path from here (not so great) to there (the promised land). I kept walking, running and sometimes crawling through every open door. Maybe the choices were so far apart that it made it no choice at all.

Today, I know that I have lots of choices and I am so, so thankful. I get to choose what I want to learn (or write) about, how I want to raise my children (along with my husband of course), where they will go to school, where we want to go on vacation or live, who my friends are, how I respond to others and on and on. What a blessing life is. We must be careful, however, to never stop making the tough choices. In America, like the Capital, it would be easy to narrow those choices down to meaninglessness without even realizing it. Choices can be a blessing and a curse depending on how we look at it. We need to choose wisely everyday as even the smallest choices today can become the roads we travel upon tomorrow.

I am thankful for my choices in life.

I am grateful for my dad

Image

I am grateful for my dad.

This weekend my girls and I saw the Disneynature movie Chimpanzee. It is a documentary on the beginnings of a baby chimpanzee named Oscar, deep in the tropical rain forests of Africa. The story starts out as Oscar begins chimpanzee “preschool” with his mom learning how to find food, use tools and bond with other chimpanzees through grooming. Towards the middle of the movie Oscar’s mother is killed and he is left bewildered on what happened to her. He searches for her, tries to find food, tries to remember what she has taught him but he begins to lose weight and lose grasp of his happy life that he once had among his tribe of chimpanzees. The other mothers and young were hostile towards him now that he didn’t have a mother to protect him. It looked bleak for Oscar. There was one last chimpazee that Oscar hadn’t asked for help and that was the alpha male and head of the tribe. The most unlikely chimpanzee as he had never paid any attention to the young, his job was to protect the territory and his members. He was good at it. Oscar started to follow him around and copy everything he did from opening nuts to scanning his fur for bugs. The alpha male took notice and started to give him food and allow him to snuggle close. By the end of the movie little Oscar rode atop of this giant alpha male’s back just as he had with his mother. Oscar was going to be fine.

My mother left us when I was four and my brother just one year old. There were several stepmothers who should have taken me under their wing to show me how the world worked, how to make friends, bond with others and how to be in a family but somehow couldn’t. I can remember following my dad everywhere, watching his every move. He was very young himself, only 25 years old at the time but seemed to be far more adept at caring and bonding with his children than our mother ever could have.

My dad was dependable, consistent, and resourceful. He was not perfect but he showed up. Everyday. Like Oscar, I didn’t get the millions of moments of love that only a mother can fulfill BUT I did fully experience all the millions of moments that only dads can give. Luckily, I have a very keen ability to watch and learn as well as an innate curiosity of life. I have filled many of those cracks that were started when my mother left by watching others, reading, experiencing life, relationships with family and friends and most importantly by being a mom to my three girls. God has filled my life with a wonderful husband, three beautiful girls and a dad. I am going to be fine.

I am very grateful for my dad.

I am grateful for health

Image

I am grateful that I have learned how to be healthy.

Three and a half years ago my family cut out gluten, dairy, citrus and soy after taking food sensitivity tests through my naturopath. The changes in my three girls were miraculous. The changes in me were life changing. I started living life instead of simply getting through each day. It didn’t happen over night and it was very stressful to change three kids’ diets with the snap of my fingers. I think I had my first panic attack when I went to the grocery store searching for foods that my kids could eat AND like. Maybe they could survive on grapes, strawberries and rice milk??

My girls were ages 2, 4 and 6. They liked fish crackers, pretzels, chocolate milk, tortellini pasta, pizza, orange juice, toasted cheese sandwiches, and of course chicken nuggets. These were the typical foods you would see on a children’s menu or for snacks at school, church or playdate. All of the foods they liked were now out. One of the pediatricians scolded me for restricting my 2 year old’s diet so early in life. I was on a mission though. The lab reports gave me the conviction that eating a donut was akin to running with scissors. It was as dangerous as swimming in a shark tank – which is how I felt at the time. Suddenly there was danger everywhere we went and other moms looked at me like I had lost my mind – and I probably had.

Meanwhile I was reading The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman among about 50 other books on the topic including Detoxify or Die… I always go a little overboard when something suddenly hits my consciousness like a ton of bricks. Mark Hyman’s book has questionnaires for you to identify areas of deficiencies and I had a lot of them. His book was a paradigm shift in me that became borderline obsessive.

I grew up with my dad who had been a cook in the navy. When he cooked it was things that he liked – t-bone steak one night and Hamburger Helper the next followed by several days of Godfather’s Pizza, McDonalds, or Skippers. Lunches were Wonder Bread with Velveeta Cheese and bologna sandwich combined with a ding-dong or hostess cupcake. Super healthy… So many things make so much sense now. As a young teen I just stopped eating and took dexatrim (when it was essentially speed) so I could stay thin. By college I had traded diet pills for a short stint with an eating disorder and then became obsessed with not eating any fat. The no-fat diet was in every magazine and in every book store. I was very good at it. I also did step aerobics for 2 hours a day. I thought I was in really good shape after all I looked great but little did I know that eating no fat was ruining my ability to detoxify, make needed hormones and traded high quality protein needed by the body for so many things for a low quality bagel or rice or pasta – essentially sugar.

So fast forward into my twenties where I did calm down a bit and was a healthy weight without being obsessive. I had 3 children in 4 1/2 years, every one of them I was sick 24/7 and had been working for pharmaceutical company to which I adopted the mentality of taking a pill for every ailment not to mention living 10 miles from Ground Zero in New York. I was CRUSHED. I had chronic migraines, ADD, memory problems, I would get a stomach bug just by looking into a preschool and generally grumpy most of the time. I literally had all I could do to just make it though the day without incident.  My children were either crying or bouncing off the walls and were sick so much that year that it became traumatic. I was on a crash course to the asylum.

I still didn’t understand the idea of ‘putting your own mask on first’ and started looking for help for my kids. My girls had about 12 ear infections that year between the three of them and my 1-year-old had just gotten tubes inserted. The pediatrician was of no help beyond “waiting it out” and I was beginning to learn about the connection between food and health. I found my naturopath (who I credit with saving my family’s life) and made appointments for them and myself. WOW! After reading Mark Hyman’s book and all the tests that I took through my naturopath it was no wonder I wasn’t dead. Although now that I think about it, I was practically dead just still moving…barely.

Within a couple of months of eating healthy, natural and organic foods and taking a few supplements, the changes were unbelievable. I had a moment when my husband was gone where I was quietly cooking dinner and all three girls were occupied with coloring or a game. It was peaceful. It was heaven. I felt clear and in control and my girls were the same. Amazing. Even my husband who had many doubts during all my changes was blown away by our girls and how they were able able to be their true, peaceful, fun-loving selves. The ear infections went from 12 the year before to 1 that year. I was able to have a complete thought, I could remember more and my migraines had been reduced from about 15-20 days to maybe 1-5 days. Real results through changing my families food and adding a few vitamins. Truly a blessing.

I am so thankful to have learned how to keep myself and my family healthy.

I am grateful to be a stay-at-home mom

I am grateful that I get to be a stay-at-home mom.

In eighth grade I told my friend that when I grew up I would be a lawyer and would not have children until I could afford a nanny for them. I would not become a stay at home mom as I had witnessed the cartoon in my house: a step-mother vacuuming during the day with her zip-up bathrobe, curlers in her hair, cigarette hanging out of her mouth, talking to her girlfriend on the phone (cigarette precariously about to fall to the ground) while the kids were banished from view. Quite lovely huh?!

No, that would not be me (and it isn’t for the record). I saw education as the ladder out of  this world into the world where women dressed up for work, kissed her husband and children good bye and went off to do something important in the world. I would never be dependent on anyone for anything. I can do it myself, thank you very much. I went on to college with the drive of a herd of elephants. No time for fun. No time for new friendships. I graduated with a job at a time where there were no jobs, worked for 5 years and went to graduate school in business (just as I had planned). Upon finishing graduate school, I was pregnant with my first daughter. There was a move to North Jersey, promotions, a wedding, etc. in there too.

After 9/11 my husband and I needed to get out of the Tri-State area for obvious reasons and managed to get back to Washington State by way of a job change for my husband right after my daughter was born.

Now I have worked my tail off since I was about 10 and now I am 32 suddenly transported from NY to suburbia with my extremely colicky baby, no friends, no job, no purpose and my husband was traveling quite often. AAAAAHHHHHHH! Talk about scary…

I began to devour child development books in order to wrap my brain around this new world I was suddenly flung into (with bad visuals about what could happen to a person) and found that WOW there is a lot going on in a tiny person’s brain from the ages of 0-5 – not just sleeping… “I cannot leave her with anyone!”, I thought. For the first time it was not about me anymore. How could I go back to work which was about my survival, my needs and leave her, when her needs were far more important? Her needs were about building her brain at breakneck speed and it would be permanent. This realization has a lot to do with how I was mothered or more importantly un-mothered as my own left when I was 4 years old. It was devote all of me to my job or devote all of me to my daughter. There was no in between for me. There was no choice for me.

How thankful I am for that lack of choice. For two years I would fret about never getting a job again, how will I get a job again, how will I ever be marketable again… Then something happened. I started to find myself, my true self. I found a new path to take that was previously so hidden that I didn’t even know it existed. I have taken side roads; started a business, worked part time, consulted and done volunteer work but all these diversions have taken me back to the path that I started on when Ellie was born. This path has gotten wider, brighter and more lush the deeper I have traveled.

So thankful to be a stay-at-home mom, thankful to my husband for taking on the extra pressure of providing for our family, thankful that God has allowed me to trust that things will work out if you follow your true path.