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The Heart & 5 Fitness Philosophies to Help You Stick With It

“Shine like stars in the universe.” -Philippians 2

So, I’m sitting at my middle school son’s football game this week when I hear guttural, deep chested orders, like the cry of a drill sergeant from basic who gives himself rewards of extra time to iron his own uniform when he’s been gloriously harsh and made a recruit cry. Instead of the bark of, “You can’t handle the truth,” this commander’s voice growled across the field, “CRUSH them, Hawks,” and was actually a woman, an everyday mom who checked her femininity at the gate. You might chuckle and think, “Oh yes, there’s always one of those.” But, there wasn’t just one of them. Oh no! They were everywhere, a surrounding chorus of rough, raucous moms shouting, “KILL THEM” and worse, and laughing at each other the louder they got. In classic form, my mirth bubbled up inside of me and I had to smash it down, like a bubbles trying to pour out of a shaken soda bottle on to the floor.

I mean, I cheer, hoot, get worked up  and, even, holler but this was different. They were like a gang of moms with brass knuckles embossed with, “Mess with Timmy and I bust your chinny.” Goodnight!

Recently, my seventeen year old son told me I was a “bada$$” regarding fitness. Now, you might flip your lid, tell your son not to use such language, despair of where your kid’s heart is at…. but me? I smiled broadly and said, “Thank you. That’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.” Why? Because, the key thing I’ve learned in the teenage years is to not control every word but weigh the heart and my Herculian, defensive end son just told me how much he respected me for my dedication and results. My heart did somersaults, like a killer whale through red hoops in San Diego to a cheering crowd and a little girl with wide eyes who is so captivated that she allows a dollop of pink, bubblegum ice cream to land on her dress.

As I pondered those football-crazed moms, one message was loud and clear, they love their sons with ferocity! And, who can begrudge those moms, with their nape fur bristling on end and mouth opened in a terrifying bearing of teeth and slobber, their love for their sons? Oh, to be able to listen well in life and first hear the motivations of the heart, instead of feeling affronted so quickly.

5 Philosophies to Staying Committed to Fitness 

I was asked this week how I motivate my heart to stay committed to fitness for the long haul. While I’ve discussed this a little bit before in the blog entitled “How I Continue to Choose Fitness Every Day”, here are my five thoughts on how to keep going when everything within you just wants to swan dive into a pool filled with macaroni and cheese.

Philosophy #1: What is Moderation?

The idea of “everything in moderation” is a good one, except our idea of moderation is off. What do I mean? Sweets in moderation doesn’t mean a dessert every night or two. Once a week is plenty. Otherwise it’s a habit, not moderation. Most bodies cannot handle the regular sugar elevation. Moderation isn’t having a small portion of everything you want; it is seeing those things that are more processed, empty on nutrient rich calories or sugar filled as treats, not staples. This basic premise isn’t my original thought; I read it in an article this week but now can’t find it to give proper credit. Also, we have gotten ourselves used to an overly stuffed feeling (the kind that starches and large portions bring). It’s good to get used to being full without being stuffed.

Philosophy #2: Do what you love. 

Make workouts about what you love. Do you love to dance? Go to Zumba! Do you love the outdoors? Do trail runs. Do you love time with your spouse? Walk 4 miles together at a fast clip regularly.

Philosophy #3: Intentionality Changes the World. 

How often do you dust the high shelves in your home unless you set a time for it? Schedule and plan your workouts. Leave plenty of time and make sure you have everything you need. Showing up at the gym is most of the battle for me. I can only recall one time in the last couple years when I’ve arrived at the gym and walked out.

Philosophy #4: Small Steps on a Long Road. 

Fitness and health cannot be something you’re doing just for a month. It has to become a part of your life, just like brushing your teeth or cutting your grass. Begin to view it as a daily life discipline for your own well being.

Philosophy #5: Plan Your Fun. 

Eating is social and your commitments to health cannot make you feel left out or your won’t keep it up. Who wants to be the one never enjoying friends and fun?! So, you have to either 1. save your one weekly treat for that Friday fiesta or 2. plan treats for yourself that don’t affect your diet (like fat free greek yoghurt with cut up strawberries and a little Stevia).

As I considered what to write this week, I really felt that someone out there in the dark cosmos, someone somewhere under the midnight sky full of stars, like vanilla colored sand flung there by a heavenly hand, needs to hear this week… You have what it takes. You are dearly loved by God. Keep going. Not just in fitness but also in life. You are his treasure. 

Weight Room Tips for Newbies and Women & Facing Criticism Like a Boss

Above picture: Me at the gym doing Rectus Abdominis work (abs) using a weight between my feet.

“He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” – Psalm 18

Today around 6:00 p.m.,  I was happily driving through our high school parking lot to pick up my football players, when my daughter spotted an old friend, “Look, Mom, there’s Rick Dean.” Being about as energetic as the “Eveready Bunny” with greeting people, I stretched my arm in a friendly arc and waved vigorously. Rick looked absolutely vacant, about as empty as a jug of sweet tea in the south at a church potluck on the hottest day of Jul-Eye (yes, it has to be spelled that way in Miz-ippi). He must not have spotted me yet, so I tried again, this time with a full arm extension and an overjoyed smile. “Hi, Rick!” Yeah, nothing. Either Rick’s brain was taking a serious mental vacation, drifting off to the land of milk, honey and unicorns after a long day or………… WAIT, That wasn’t Rick! And, then the ocean of hilarity hit me. That man had looked at me with such absence and, yes, a strong hint of, “Who the heck is that zealous idiot?!” Oh my, I was doubled over in my Suburban seat, as wave after wave of the humor of the situation hit me. Ok, maybe you had to be there. But, the extreme contrast of my exuberance and his, “Who the heck is that,” tickled me.

Can I just say, when I get to that point, it just isn’t pretty, folks. I mean, tears pour down my face, my voice takes on a very high pitched, squeaky quality, strongly resembling a chipmunk on Helium, I jabber nonsensically, like little girls rapidly comparing glitter hair products and I get more revved up with each passing throttle of laughter, just as a bright yellow, happy convertible would at a car show full of old men who wear their jeans about five notches too high, belted and tucked, and talk about the good old days.

When I first started lifting weights, it was an awful lot like that gigantic, unreturned wave above – I was definitely a fish out of water. I waltzed into the weight room, my happy, girly self, only to realize, aside from the occasional older person using the machines to strengthen their weak knees, I had entered (drum roll) The World of Men. Not only that but also The World of Muscle Men. They are a unique, committed breed. People, people people, let me just say, there is a whole language that exists in the weight room. It comes out as grunts and nods but it is loud and absolutely culture- shaping. I’ve discovered a few tips to help out newbies and girls, as they enter the inner sanctum. The following is Laurie Letterman’s Top Ten Tips for the Weight Room:

1. Walk in like you’re the boss (even when you’re clueless). There’s a whole culture there of many people acting like they know everything when they don’t, so in regards to self confidence, join them. Lol.

2. When someone asks to work into your set, generously let them. BUT, don’t get intimidated; make sure they don’t take over but you insist on your turn.

3. Don’t create circuits (long chains of various workouts) unless the weight room is empty. You will just tick people off, as you hog multiple pieces of equipment at once.

4. Lift what you can handle. No matter what looks you’re given or the giant beast that is squatting a 1,000 pound bar next to you, like it’s a toothpick on the back of Goliath, lift what you can handle, while pushing yourself. If it’s a stretch for you, you will see results. And, that’s why you’re there after all!

5. And, on that subject, women get lots of looks in the weight room, ranging from, “What are you doing in here,” “That puny weight you’re lifting is hilarious”, “You’re hot, can I catch your eye” to normal/ healthy. Ignore it all. Go there to work and work hard!

Also, steer clear of the creepy guy with a cut off t-shirt and mullet, who groans loudly like he’s with his lover, as he strains the weight into position. Sorry, but someone had to say it; it happens! I crank my music higher and don’t lift anywhere near that one. Talk about dodging a 1980’s, bad hair decade bullet!

6. Eat a healthy carb option (an apple or handful of grapes, for example) before you go to the gym and some protein (a protein smoothy or non-fat greek yoghurt with a few cut up strawberries in it) afterwards. It will help with your energy and muscle building, respectively. I also take a quality amino acid combination supplement afterwards.

7. Do your research before you get there. If your problem area is arms, then research weight lifting options for arms on utube before you go. Plan on at least 3 (I do 3-5) different weight lifting options for each muscle group you are working. I tend to focus on two muscle groups at once, because I run every other day and need to squeeze it all in lifting wise. Personally, I have seen the greatest results when I do 4-5 exercises per focus area.

8. I usually can tell I’m working my muscles enough because they have a  “pumped up,” tight feeling. And, later, while being sore isn’t everything, that has also certainly been a strong indicator for me that I’ve worked enough to build muscle.

9. Get into a habit of “cooling down” with a mile run (start with less if you need to). Running just a little bit after your lift is great for your metabolism and fitness!

10. Form is more important that adding weight. You can hurt yourself if your form is incorrect. I have found squats difficult to get just right and have made my back sore trying. Also, there are body weight/ low weight exercises that yield great results.

I hope you find these tips helpful, as you navigate the testosterone filled world of the weight room. Remember: you belong there and most of them don’t know as much as they think they do.

This leads me to a topic that has been on my mind- facing criticism. I am a very tender hearted person. In the past, I let people’s harsh critiques cripple me, just like a balloon that crumples instantly when pierced with a needle point.  I’m not sure what has happened; all I can attribute it to is the goodness of God working in me but, nowadays, I have developed a stubborn tenacity to receive fair, truthful critique (even when it isn’t delivered perfectly) but to quickly let go and move on when a comment is just mean spirited, inaccurate (I have to be careful on this one to soberly weigh it) or unhelpful (nothing can be done now except a heartfelt apology). I think this change in me happened because 1. I grew fed up with not living fully as a result of that and made a deep decision within, 2. I pray every time I feel the slimy barnacles of a harsh word sticking to me and 3. I mentally choose to move forward and even say out loud, “No, I am moving on, that wasn’t fair.” Can I just say, men in general are better at this and I have learned so much from my husband, father and sons, as I listen to how they process hard words. Their mental clarity inspires me.

It is such a fine balance, like a new construction worker who precariously learns to walk on scaffolding, as he works. I want to be soft hearted, sober minded and receive what I need to hear but, also, shut out the words that shouldn’t have been said.

This morning as we drove to school, I was sharply correcting a kid who was late. My sons all calmly asked me to explain the problem gently, so they could work on it. They were absolutely right; I was feistier than a cat who’s been hosed down by the neighbor boy, stalking around with it’s hair on end.  I swallowed hard and forced my driven personality into submission to do what I knew was right. I quietly said, “You boys are right. I’m sorry for being so intense.” Oooo, baby, receiving the good stuff is just as hard as not taking on the unhelpful words. My prayer is that God himself will continue to teach me until I confidently maneuver the struts of the high rise of relationship with experience, kindness and humility.

Life Calling, Daily Eating Checklist & A Green Coffee Smoothy

The pictures above are some before and after shots. 

“Oh, Jo. Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? You’re ready to go out and – and find a good use for your talent. Tho’ I don’t know what I shall do without my Jo. Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it.” -Marmee from Little Women, 1994 

No joke, this week, I was driving along just minding my own business, humming away to You Don’t Think You’re Beautiful by One Direction. Yes, that’s a junior high girls’ dream boy band. Don’t judge. 😜 And, one of my lovely daughters, with gold strands of hair down her back, with a feminine way of pushing her hair gently behind her ear, and the one who always picks peach, turquoise, glitter and tulle, made the throaty noise of collection in the back of her mouth and spat out the car window, like she was a beast of a defensive end who just played a 2 hour game. I couldn’t believe it! My boy dominant family was creeping abruptly into my little girls’ inner world. I mean, it’s not attractive on a good day when it’s my defensive end son spitting out the window. But, my little girl!?!

So many hilarious things are said and done in our car. Just this week on our school drives, I have been heard saying,  “Acting like a monkey is not socially acceptable among humans.” Or, one day, my daughter said, “Do my eyebrows look even? I just tore one of them off, because it was itching.” 😳 Or, there was the time Joseph asked me if I was born on the 4th day of creation. Great, I am seen as 8,000 years old. Fantastic. In honor of my childhood in ancient times, I should just do a “no shave November” and pray to be the first woman to grow a beard that would give Moses a run for his money.

Along with the humor, some frustrating things are vocalized in the car too, such as the incessant sibling bickering, like a woodpecker on the wood siding of our home in April, drilling on and on. Or, when I had to say, “Joseph, please get off the roof of the car and wait on your seat for your brother to get out of the store. You aren’t Bo of the Dukes of Hazard.” There’s also the sound of one of my sons who says, “Trust me” to the sister he fights with every minute, as he grins, about as predictable as a crocodile telling someone, “Don’t worry, go ahead and take a nap.” Lol. Brothers! These are the happy sounds of mothering that go on daily. They make me laugh, sometimes cry, drop into bed at night exhausted and smile too, when I see them sleeping peacefully, sacking the quarterback of the opposing team or, suddenly and quite miraculously, expressing a kind word to a sister/brother.

I have all this energy, passion and drive bound up inside me that feels like it is on pause sometimes, because of my stage of life. On tough weeks with motherhood, I wrestle with that more. We all have a drive, placed inside us by God, to do something worthwhile, something bigger than ourselves. Often, along the way, our passions get waylaid, lost or, worse, transformed into something artificial that doesn’t matter much in the whole scope of human life, such as the desire to just make money and store it away around us. I mean, heck, I would love to do well financially too but money is one tool in the belt of a 7 am-7 pm construction worker, with cracked, rough hands and a t-shirt that says, “It CAN be done.” Money just for money’s sake, just for the Pottery Barn house, the lawn clipped to perfection, the bi-yearly trips to Maui and the kids without a hair out of place who always answer “Yes mother dearest” (Ok, creepy), wearing the latest from GAP Kids is just…….. well, vanilla and flat. Give me authenticity any day! Ok, I will take the trips to Maui. And, the Pottery Barn house. If you want to come make sure my kids are in tip top condition (good luck) and slip in the rest of it too, I will take it! LOL. I can be authentic AND have Maui, right? 🙂 To live purely for money is like saying, “I am living just to get a shiny, gold hammer that I frame.” It would sit on the wall and be purposeless! Money should be a well worn tool among many, generously used to help others. I mean, most of the above description is good and we should rejoice, share and enjoy every good gift but, the point is, I want to discover and live out that unique passion that God himself placed inside me. Don’t you?!?  🙂

This week, in addition to the intensity of parenting, I had a wave of frustration with my kitchen tile that is peeling up like shells coming off parboiled eggs, creating water damage, windows that cannot open because the cranks are all broken and have to be twisted painfully by hand and a floor that makes me blush when we have company because the previous owners put in a wall-to-wall cream carpet downstairs, which gets beaten to a pulp by the three teenage, football playing boys who live down there. I mean, let your imagination run wild on this one and you will probably be just about right. Think socks post-football, cleats trekking daily across, late night “Bourne marathons” with platters of food and the attitude of, “why should I clean when I will just mess it up later,” etc. I rarely venture into the belly of the house, because I would rather just be an ignorant but joyful Mom in regards to how boys live. Lol. I send down the big guns, instead, to make them clean – Dad numero uno.  🙂

One of my tools, my income, is going towards my children right now. I have many other tools at my disposal,  some are waiting in the green, tin roofed barn down by the woodshed and others are in my soul- my passions, giftings, time, love and words. I often feel I am waiting for some sort of monumental convergence- the point when I see these things come together in a holy, explosive moment and I, as the hippies of old used to say, “find myself.” But, while I certainly long and pray for my passions, giftings, callings and reality to come together, like a wild river that breaks the icy surface and then out of its boundaries on a spring morning in the mountains, creating new pathways, gullies and edges, pulling rocks and trees in with it’s force, it has occurred to me recently- what if all of life is smaller expressions of that moment. What if the toils and joys of motherhood aren’t just a season but a part of that calling, to be treasured and thoroughly enjoyed, not rushed or ever seen as something “I once did.” What if cleaning the house isn’t just a chore but a part of my calling? Ok, I am having a hard time getting my thick head around that one! 🙂 But, if I were to serve kings and generals with my writing, for example, would it matter more than the quiet expressions of love to my children, as I wipe out the refrigerator or make them beef vegetable stew? Which will matter more to me when my last breath comes? And, maybe all of these daily, small moments of faithfulness lead to the “big” things we do for generals and kings; maybe they cannot be untangled from one another, like siamese twins who, to survive, need to stay together and share their one heart.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much… If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Luke 16

You know, there was once a little boy who grew up in Virginia. His father tragically died when he was 11. He probably cried himself to sleep most bedtimes in the year that followed. His mother moved him around to different relatives’ homes to give him some time with men in the family to fill the gap in his heart. At 14, he longed to join the army, maybe out of a quest to be around men,  but his mother couldn’t bear the thought of parting with him to face such danger at such an early age. Dutifully, he obeyed and used the next two years to study math and learn to survey land. Without a father to guide him, his mother, certainly, often prayed and worried that he wouldn’t be successful or know how to be a man. This youth went on to be the commander-in-chief of all the continental armed forces and to be the first president; his name is General and President George Washington. He said of his mother, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”

Tonight, as I sit here exhausted from a long week and pondering, “what am I called to,” I feel full of purpose, knowing that this tedious, all day, 24-7, heart wrenching, mind taxing, physical workout called motherhood is the greatest thing I will ever do. And, it is contributing to all I will do down the road. I can still hope and look for my other callings but, also, rest and enjoy the present, with its daily, small, sometimes inconceivable steps that train and prepare me and, all on their own, matter most.

Making Eating Easy, Daily Checklists with Approximate Times & a Protein Smoothy Mix Recipe

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Always check with your doctor before following my plan. I am just telling you what worked for me, as an everyday, healthy mother who needed to lose a lot of weight. 

To get used to eating in a way that promotes weight loss, I have included a couple daily checklists below. You have to use a wide variety of interesting vegetables and fruits to stick with it because that is where the flavor comes from when you take out salt and sugar. Believe it or not, you will get used to simple, “from the earth” type foods!  There is more creativity than is listed below (I have many recipes on this blog under the Recipes tab) but this regimen will get you used to how to eat. If you are in decent health, this type of diet consistently leads to weight loss. The key is in being strict regarding the content of your food, eating small, regular amounts and drinking lots of water. You can do these in any order you wish but remember to save enough of the bigger meals for when you are most hungry; for me, that is dinnertime. When in doubt as to what to snack on, I default to a protein smoothy. You could also look at my list of healthy snack options on the post called, “Making Healthy Choices and 20 Healthy Snack Ideas,”  but keep in mind, don’t have more than one fruit a day and don’t have more than 15 raw nuts or 1 teaspoon of nut butter a day. Not all protein smoothy mixes are healthy and many have added sugar and fat. I either mix my own (Berry Green Protein Smoothy and Mango Smoothy are listed under the Recipes tab) or I use Garden of Life, Rawfit, Marley Coffee (recipe below).

One option:

8 a.m., Breakfast: Omelet w/ 5 Egg whites, 1 Morningstar sausage, Small handful of grape tomatoes, Handful of spinach _____

10:30 a.m. Snack: Protein smoothy _____

12:30 p.m., Lunch: Spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.1, 3-4 oz. piece of chicken breast (size of a computer mouse). Basalmic vinegar or lemon squeezed on top _____

3:00 p.m. Snack: One apple with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter on the slice) _____

5:30 p.m., Dinner: Cod fried in 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil with a no salt seasoning, lemon squeezed on top. Normandy veggies. 1/2 large sweet potato plain _____

Another option:

8 a.m., Breakfast: 2/3 Cup of oatmeal. A handful of blueberries added to it.  ______

10:30 a.m., Snack: Celery sticks with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter _____

12:30 p.m., Lunch: Cod with no salt seasoning and lemon squeezed on top. Spinach salad with creative veggie toppings- lemon or Balsamic on top _____

3:00 p.m. Snack: Protein smoothy _____

5:30 Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, green vegetables of your choice _____

Marley Coffee Protein Smoothy:

  • 2/3 cup of ice
  • 1 overflowing, huge handful of spinach
  • 1 scoop of Rawfit Marley Coffee, Garden of Life
  • 1 cup of unsweetened, non-Carageenan Almond Milk

Variations: I might add a teaspoon of peanut butter on a day when I haven’t had any nuts or nut butters or you could add a teaspoon of cocoa powder.

Storms, A Healthy Blended Cocktail and a Fall Eating Challenge 

Photo credit: Cynthia Miller 

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23

When I was 6 or 7 years old, our family took a vacation at the beach. We gathered our rainbow colored towels, red plastic Coleman cooler, our “been there, done that” t-shirts and coconut Jamaican Island sun block and started marching across the road near the beach, which waved like a golden welcoming hand in the heat. In my exuberance, because I have always loved the outdoors and get positively giddy when I see waves, I tore ahead of my family, across the empty blacktop towards the glorious cobalt water with the sound of waves rushing in my ears. The next thing I knew, my Dad’s voice bellowed out, authoritative and strong, “Stoooooop!” Without understanding why or having time to even process it, I screeched to an immediate halt and a motorcycle slammed from 45 to a stop at the same moment, maybe a foot from the end of my toes. My Dad, with his quirky sense of humor, jet black hair, brilliant mind and deep love…. had saved me. 

July 5th, 2015: Today, as we drive, heading out on summer vacation through the invigorating wilds of New Mexico (haha), where the dead dogs, stripped off rubber tires on the side of the road and Kachina Doll stands are as numerous as long faces on a Monday morning, I’m pondering what my first few blogs back post-summer should say.

You know, a friend of mine said to me recently that she often struggles to just do life, let alone exercise. It made me think, I possibly come off in this blog like this is all as easy for me as the sacrifice of being a pie judge at an Amish country fair. I do love life but it isn’t all unicorns and fairy lands, where birds mimic the melody I initiate. When I turned 40, like clockwork, I started having 1 day a month of feeling very low. I am actually grateful because I know it’s very limited and hormone related. Some dear people feel that way every day of their lives!

While I don’t struggle with depression, when I started running 1.5 years ago, I was in a very stormy, difficult season of life. It’s not unusual really; we often think storms are something bad that happens to us but, just like the dark, charcoal roll tide of clouds that deepens and threatens across the sky on a late summer afternoon, storms are just a part of life. I cannot tell you how loudly other lives called to me during that time, “Wouldn’t a small house on the beach be nice? What about the Amish countryside? A new life?” I had to fight for joy. What does that mean exactly? Well, I had to choose to get up, to keep going, to show up, to pray for help and joy, to continue to make memories with our kids even though I wanted to crawl into a hole, had to constantly speak truth over myself, we held each other each night without speaking and our knees were scuffed and scabbed from living on them, uttering highly articulate prayers, “help!”

And, I had to fight to run. Beyond the physical challenge of it all, due to 7 babies and a lifetime of very little in the way of workouts, I would literally drag myself to the gym, while the somber clouds filled my head. Here’s the dirty little secret those other lives don’t tell you, like liverwurst dipped in a shiny red, hard shell candy coating – every situation has something hard. I believe God himself gave me a compulsion to run. Three things about it rescued me out of my pit- the focus, the physical exertion lifted my stress and the time with him alone, where I was putting one foot in front of the other and praying my heartache away.

Nowadays, I am better because of that storm. I have fallen in love with the discipline of fitness. Actually, to be more accurate, I have found peace in God honoring life – disciplines in general. Don’t get me wrong, I had a day just this week when I didn’t feel like it and had to prod myself the whole run, like a stubborn oxen that doesn’t want to plow the field but would rather sit in the shade of a maple tree, working away on a salt lick all day. The second thing that happened through that storm is I’m at peace with who I am and where I am. Through that time, I’ve resolved many big questions, such as what I will do, be and stand for, that it’s not just a platitude but it just works better to choose to be faithful rather than fearful and that if I don’t live to please God first, I am compromising something that is core and essential inside of me for people. I am still on this journey but, certainly, God has done something enormous in me regarding where I look for identity and affirmation. And, finally, I’ve learned, in a new and deeper way, to copy the behavioral patterns of God, even if I don’t understand them, like a little boy who picks clothes to be just like his father, or a daughter who halts when her Dad shouts a protective, “Stop.”

Enough serious… On to some fun 🙂 I have had a couple summer drinks recently (as my weekly treats) that have left me feeling terrible because they are full of high fructose corn syrup. I decided to concoct a delicious summer drink that uses natural ingredients and alcohol, to keep it better for you, as you enjoy the last golden rays of summer. And, fellow Coloradans, we grasp at those, don’t we? 🙂

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Frozen Fresh Mango Margarita 

If you want to fill a margarita glass, you will need to at least double this recipe. Please excuse me; we are a bit hick around here. All I had available was a small wine glass. 🙂

  • 1 cup frozen organic mangos
  • 1 shot of tequila (clear is best in terms of calories), slowly add more to taste if you prefer stronger
  • The juice of one sweet orange
  • The juice of one regular sized lime
  • 2 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup (the real stuff)

Blend together until smooth. Serve with lime juice and salt on the rim (if you like it saltier) or without anything if you like it sweeter.

Fitness Challenge:

So, I’ve mentioned before that possibly as high as 85% of weight loss and good health happens in the kitchen. I know I’ve had more slips than normal lately, as I’ve enjoyed summertime foods an awful lot. 🙂 I have a challenge for you. Who wants to commit to eat well and strictly, starting this week and going through to Thanksgiving with me? Additionally, I’m challenging us to walk for 30 minutes a day at a decent clip. If you want to do more than walk, feel free!  My recommendation is if you’re doing nothing consistent at present, start by focusing on your eating and feeding your cells with living foods and lean meats. Who’s in? For daily “check ins,” follow me on Twitter, Laurie Rolfe @LaurieARolfe. Next week, I will include an easy, printable way to track the quality and amount of your calories. Are you in?

Note: Two reference blog posts regarding how I ate to lose and keep off 50 pounds are: How I Ate to Lose 50 Pounds and And Then There’s This Guy: Calorie Counting 101.

How to Bust Through A Diet and Exercise Resistant Weight Plateau & Heart Health

Photo credit: Juliette Rolfe

“Is not this the fast that I choose… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him…Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily…Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” -Isaiah 58

Important note: Thank you for being patient, as we worked out the kinks in this blog post. This is the second time I am posting it and it is greatly altered, hopefully for the better. 🙂 Before you do any cleanse or fast, whether you’re in perfect health or not, you absolutely need to consult a qualified and experienced doctor, as everyone is at different places with their health and what their bodies can handle. A doctor who has experience with nutrition and fasting would determine the suitability of this type of cleanse for you, measure your percent body fat as you progress, keep an eye on your health as you fast and recommend a high quality liver detox supplement. In general, short fasts are actually good for the healthy person and recommended 1-2 times a year. If you ever undertake any kind of fast, it is important to take a quality multivitamin and fiber, drink plenty of water, whenever you use a protein smoothy to help yourself along, make sure it contains Leucine to prevent yourself from burning lean muscle, and have your progress tracked by an experienced medical professional.

I’ve alluded to this story before but let me tell you the whole ordeal… One morning in June, after an intense workout and week, I came home and let the stress and muscle fatigue melt off in the heat and steamy humidity of my shower. There is nothing that cannot be solved with prayer, a blistering shower and time alone. I was in full rest mode and let the chatter of my kids drift away until there was just silence, so like the bare whisper of the breeze through the prairie grasses on a still day. “Ahhh, nobody needs anything for these 10 minutes,” I thought. I mean, I LOVE motherhood but anyone who doesn’t think it is full time is loco. Lol. Think about it, do mothers go to bed early, get plenty of rest and sit with their feet up during the Christmas present unwrapping frenzy or meal? I mean, what’s the rush on Christmas anyway? Is North America going to be blown off the map if we don’t open the gifts in 30 minutes flat and then deliver the unwrapped code to cancel the missile launch? Moms don’t even get the option of working Thanksgiving OR Christmas. 🙂 So, I was drifting into a happy place of steam, nothingness and quiet when, out of the clear blue sky, an enormous, garage size bucket of ice water appeared out of nowhere and doused my little slice of paradise into a wintery, subzero hell. Talk about the shock! I mean, I tell you about the bucket now but all I knew was I was in a Maui-esque place and was instantly transported to the Arctic circle without the proper attire or notice. As I gasped for air, I heard the raucous laugh of my Isaak, who makes the claim that he is “the happiest person on earth.” He is full of mirth, laughter, pranks and makes us all roll. But, this time, he went too far and I sputtered out, “Oh, just you wait! I am getting permission from your coaches to surprise you in front of the whole team with pink balloons that say, ‘Mommy loves you!’ Don’t think that I won’t!” 🙂 Anyway, that image describes exactly how a cleanse feels to me- jolting, knocking me out of my comfy normal, temporarily awful but overall good for my well being. (How was that ice bath good for me? Well, besides the fact that I have heard that polar plunges are good health wise, Isaak, with his warm laugh and joy is overall SO GOOD for my heart. Man I love that kid!)

Don’t y’all love that last ten pounds, usually belly fat, that tends to stick around the middle, with the tenacity of pine tree sap on skin? Oh, it is my personal favorite. Right up there with breathing in a fly or Uncle Roco who stays too long, puts his calloused feet on your coffee table, sucks air through his front two teeth and pronounces loudly in deep “hick,”  “I know I smell of garlic but it’s naturally antibactUral.”  🙂 Right around the 30 lbs. lost mark, I plateaued severely with my weight loss, like a black diamond downhill skier who suddenly finds himself doing the classic cross country stride for hours, flat, across glassy, untouched snow. My usual routine and eating habits suddenly stopped working and I definitely still had weight to lose! Now, usually when this happens, especially before you’re at the “last 10 lbs. mark,” it is because you are either eating more of the “danger” calories than you should or because you aren’t eating enough and your body has gone into starvation mode. If you have meticulously counted your calories (listed in blog post entitled And Then There’s This Guy…Counting Calories 101), you know you are following my regimen (listed in How I Ate to Lose 50 Pounds), you are feeling within site of your goal weight and your weight has stopped moving, then your body is probably desperately “holding on” to the last 10 or so pounds of fat (more than it held on to the first 10 lbs. you lost), to state the science simplistically. While there are other things that can help jumpstart weight loss along the way, thankfully, there is one big hitter that consistently budges that stubborn last 10 pounds.

I decided to take the advice of my chiropractor, Dr. Jeff Henry, and do a liver cleanse. Now, we hear all kinds of fad ideas in this day and age and one of the big ones is a liver cleanse. To say I was skeptical is an understatement! I tend to have a “prove it to me” attitude, while fully embracing a diet as close to nature as possible. I mean, for goodness sake, at one time people used to use the highly poisonous metal Mercury as a beauty and health supplement! God is the author of Science, so let’s use it wisely!

First of all, it helps me to know what these terms mean besides the hipster health hype. 🙂 Along with the lungs, spleen, kidney, skin and lymphatic system, the liver is one of the top cleansing organs of the body. The National Library of Medicine states that the liver, “converts the nutrients in our diets into substances that the body can use, stores these substances, and supplies cells with them when needed. It also takes up toxic substances and converts them into harmless substances or makes sure they are released from the body.” Essentially, when people do a cleanse, it is like changing the filter on their dish washer. My next question was… Can the liver really get gummed up, much like a mechanical filter does? There is a lot of debate about this among trained medical professionals. Some claim that the liver can easily cleanse itself unless disease/damage is present. Others believe that even if disease isn’t present yet, we can overload the liver with everyday toxins. Whatever the answer, a cleanse starts with some form of fasting. For thousands of years, people have found that fasts give their system a rest and clean out backed up garbage.

The next question that floated around my head, like a perfect, cumulus cloud around Mario and Luigi as they run, was, “How do we know that liver supplements actually cleanse the liver?” However, as Dr. Henry is a gifted doctor and has multiple degrees, I knew that anything he endorsed had solid science behind it. Additionally, the liver and other supplements he recommended are from highly reputable companies in the natural health care industry; the quality of the product absolutely matters, as there aren’t as many regulations regarding vitamins and natural supplements. In short, there is a lot of junk out there! Following Dr. Henry’s advice, I jump started my weight loss again. It allowed me to bust through and continue losing 20 more lbs! To me, the fact that I continued to lose, even after the fasting portion was complete, tells me that the cleanse, indeed, worked as he said it would. Also, I was able to drop my % body fat significantly and I felt phenomenal towards the second half of the month. Because of my hypoglycemia, I have never been able to fast longer than a day but the small amount of nutrition allowed in his cleanse, enabled me to follow through with it. It is essentially a monthlong commitment, which gets easier and easier after the first 2 weeks. Honestly, I was miserable the first week but it was so worth the results, like the gruff, bearded prospector who searches every day, dirt in the cracks of his worn fingers, and finally sees a glint of metal in his pan, reflecting a golden light through the rivulets of water.

You will also see huge spiritual and emotional benefits if you seek God very intentionally during your fast (I do better with a schedule, so I try to pray each time I feel hungry and at certain times of day). Whether I am doing a fast to draw closer to God or whether I am doing it to see health results, I always make prayer a cornerstone of the time. I don’t do this because I am amazing (far from it); rather, I do it to help me make it through and because I want God’s help in life. It isn’t a formula whatsoever but just like I move to help my children when they are obedient and want relationship with me, when we are hungry and, as a result, focus more on God/give him more time, he opens doors. It is a mysterious thing, like large, faceted jewels that we can just see the outlines of through a murky green pool in a cavern, but fasting is a spiritual accelerant. It isn’t just about the act of fasting or praying; it is about fasting and praying with a heart intent on hearing, drawing close to and obeying God, as well as honoring and deeply caring for other people. 

There are many good cleanses/ fasts available, which are variations on the simple ideas of 1. Giving the body a short rest from processing and cleansing, allowing it to detox, 2. Introducing a small amount of plant based foods and shakes which contain Leucine early on to prevent lean muscle loss, 3. taking quality supplements that are shown to contain enzymes, herbs, etc, that help clear out the liver and 4. slowly increasing those leafy greens, fruits and nuts to include lean meats as the cleanse continues. If you would like to obtain a specific cleanse for your level of health and fitness, make sure you go to an experienced doctor who is knowledgeable in nutrition. Dr. Jeff Henry is available at Alpine Chiropractic, #(719)-522-1219, to make an appointment if you’re interested. By the way, I don’t benefit from endorsing him whatsoever. I wish you all the best as you endeavor to reach your goal and obtain better health!

20 Years and Hot Pineapple Salsa

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” – Song of Songs 8:6

Wasn’t I in my teens just yesterday? Didn’t I style my hair with arcing, 5 inch bangs, wear the original skinny jeans with leg warmers, cheer, ” R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” for Broadrun Highschool and have a crush on the consumate Mullet Boy who sat behind me in Algebra 1 just yesterday? Except for those nights I drop into bed at night from parenting, I still feel 20! 🙂 Last week, Daniel and I celebrated 20 years of marriage! We are taking our big trip to celebrate in the spring; I am hoping for somewhere hot, beachy, with tropical hikes and killer Pina Coladas. In honor of 20 years together…

This little girl with a white fro from northern Indiana Amish country was born and her father, contrary to his Mennonite upbringing, joined the U.S. Air Force and traveled across the seas, far and wide.Fro

She became a young woman.

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At the same time (Give or take five years :-)), a robust, English farm boy was born…

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He grew strong and good hearted on a farm, tucked away in the English countryside, full of blowing, jade green heads of sugar beet, the tufty, fat backs of sheep, like scoops of clotted cream dropped from above, and dark soil, which held treasure (If you’re curious, look up The Mildenhall Treasure).

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Laurie and Daniel were married by two incredible men in England, where they met. One of these men, Tom Chipper, is now in heaven, but he tenderly influenced who they would become.

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IMG_0015_2Before they knew it, the years ticked by, and 1 kid became 7! Like mushroom soup that falls in a giant cylinder out of the can on a night when Mama is fried, that is the condensed version of our story. 🙂

Love my family

Photo: Cynthia Miller

As it turns out, the same “attraction- glue” that has held us together can be quite combustable, like Italian lovers arguing in the Piazza! Lol. How have we made this passionate, crazy, opposites in some big ways, identical in other big ways, very male, very female, beautiful story….. last?

I’m sure I could think of a more comprehensive list, but these are six basics that came to mind right away. And, as I list these, please know, we work at these; we haven’t mastered them.

1. We encourage each others interests and passions. The first picture below is us hiking in Estes Park.

Estes2. We cultivate passion (Yes, I just said that on a public blog, lol). We make a weekly date, “40 year old flirting,” letting each other know when the other looks good and staying in shape a priority.

3. We have a lot of fun being goofy and laughing together. While we certainly enjoy this, sometimes, when life feels heavy, we have to work at it. The next picture is us being crazy in a photo booth.

Bring Goofy4. We try to talk through needs and forgive each other quickly. Hooooo Baby! This one is NOT easy, because when I’m right….. Wellllllll, duh, I’m right! Lol.

5. We are moving the same direction/ have the same vision in life. This doesn’t always come naturally in how the details play out but we align our direction. Sometimes, this takes a lot of conversation.

6. And, most importantly, we have spent the last 20 years, often, on our knees.

Prayer

Hot Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple Salsa

This is good to do on a night when you are already using your charcoal grill for your dinner meat. Also, there is very low sugar in the sauce and so it is fine for Vibrant Life followers in this recipe.

My husband loves my salsa, he particularly likes all things pineapple and he’s hot. 🙂

So, this week, I decided to concoct a creative combo just for him.

  • 1 large pineapple (the huge ones are usually found at Costco or Sams)
  • 1 jar of Hak’s BBQ Sauce, Thai Chili Tamarind (Found at King Soopers which is a Kroger store)
  • 1 28 Oz. can of fire roasted, Muir Glen diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • Up to 3 jalapeños
  • 1 large bundle of Cilantro, rinsed
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt to taste
  1. On a charcoal grill, grill five very fat slices of pineapple, very lightly basted in the sauce. Go very easy on the sauce; it is hot! When they are soft and a deeper golden color, remove.
  2. In a quality blender (do this while the pineapple is grilling), mix together for 30 seconds: can of tomatoes, large onion, 1 jalapeño, whole bundle of cilantro and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Once that is pureed, add the five grilled slices of pineapple and blend again for 30 seconds. Taste test with chips.
  3. Add additional jalapeños, 1/2 of one at a time until it has the desired heat. Finally, add salt to taste.
  4. Serve this immediately, warm, with tortilla chips. For Vibrant Life Followers, use this salsa on your grilled chicken or with cut up veggies as a dip. When Daniel tried it, he declared, “This is the best salsa you have ever made!”

Summer Vignette #3: Vacation!

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At 4:30 a.m. we headed out on vacation! ⚡️🎉🎊💥 We are militant travelers, limiting our hydration, so we don’t have to stop much. 😳 Can you see where we were headed (below)? That’s right, the palm tree laiden land of the Arizonians, where pool cleaning is more lucrative than hobby lobby is in a female dominated populace of middle aged “cropping” suburbanites. 😜 Before you scream, “generalization,” please note… I am one of those. Lol.

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On the way, we wondered if my husband was being called to the backwoods.

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After 12 long hours- paradise found! Ok, ok. Scottsdale is hardly paradise but it is hot, has palm trees, a pool and is out of our norm. Besides, nobody in their right mind goes there in the peak of summer, so it was cheap! LOL. Here’s what it looks like.

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IMG_0005_2Many hours were spent by the pool.

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Do you remember me telling you about my youngest three doing water aerobics with the older crowd? Well, they wouldn’t miss it for the world!

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The first day, we hit up In and Out. That restaurant enjoys the same kind of wild, cult- following that Napolean Dynamite does, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see tons of comments about this one picture. 🙂

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The Rolfe Family ROCKED the resort Olympics, taking many medals in Ping Pong, football throw, name that tune and cake decorating. Can you guess which one I took silver in? No, it wasn’t for the biggest pool side couch potato! I do tend to crash by the pool with a magazine, my sunglasses and tropical drink in hand, half heartedly asking the kids if they’ve used enough sunscreen but secretly hoping they don’t need anything (except a little smooch on their cute cheeks) for hours. Lol.

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Vacation requires a good tropical drink find. Mmmmm… Pina Coloda!

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Have I mentioned we spent a lot of time at the pool? 😜

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We ran into some amazing friends and visited the local vintage icecream shop, The Sugar Bowl, which lived up to its name and gave me a sugar hang over. 😳

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A quick visit to Cabela’s resulted in this intimate moment between Isaak, our comedian, and a mammoth trout.

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I aimed to work out at least half as much as usual. This is me about to go to the fitness center for a run. It’s amazing how that ordinary treadmill in a lavish resort room with cranked up AC appeals when it is 107 outside (please ignore the dirty mirror- lol).

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One of our last nights, we enjoyed cheesecake; the slices were big enough to satisfy a rhino with an overactive thyroid.

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When we returned, my garden was going crazy! And, I had a little visitor sampling my veggies.

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To wrap up our vacation, we had some work to do on our property. Believe it or not, this little guy does our weed whacking. When I told him to show me his muscles to make sure he was up for the job, he told me in complete seriousness, “My muscles are as big as Joab’s now.” I think he isn’t lacking confidence; he might, however, be slightly out of touch with reality. 😜

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And, these two? white washing our fence all day long, Huck Finn Style.

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To wrap up our week, we took the kids out for a ride on the local Sky Ride and to Five Guys for some good old American burgers and fries.

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Summer Vignette #2: Yearly Cleanup and Happy 4th!

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Love getting my daily scriptures after I run; a little vitamin for my heart. 👍

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Daniel had SO much to do this week, staining our deck and a friend’s deck. So, we formed “Team Bless You” to surprise him. We cleaned the garage, the upstairs of the barn and the car. This is us right before we set to work- grrr, determined! 💪

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Lots of evening dinners around the fire after a week of house repair and organization for the year.

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Found these gluten free flour tortillas for Joab at Trader Joes. They were chewy but not bad.

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Add a little meat, fresh veg, black beans,  cheese, homemade salsa and Kapow!

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This is Isaak scoring in his end of season rugby game. 🎉

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I’m loving that “stone washed” is back in, apparently. 80s graduates unite! 🙌

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Grabbed a couple hours with one of my beloved sisters. We LOVE to laugh.

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My awesome 8 year old’s birthday dinner request: steak, mac and cheese, Caesar salad and berries with vanilla ice cream and strawberry whipped cream (never heard of that so mixed Cool Whip with some Strawberry Jello mix). Hey, birthdays are treat time! 🎈

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Random selfie that I was unaware of. 😜

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Blueberries are on sale!!! One of my all time favorite fruits! Love the color. 😍

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The grill is fired up, streamers are out and the raspberry punch is being made. Happy 4th to my fellow freedom loving Americans! ❤️

Summer Vignette Post #1, Camping, College and Blooming!

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD… He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green” – Jeremiah 17

For those of you who didn’t see last week’s blog post, I am taking a one month break from my usual format and just posting lots of pics of my family and what we are getting up to 🙂 It is finally hot in Colorado; can I get a rousing, “Amen!” The picture above is my big hearted Dad and I, in honor of Father’s Day.

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We took the family to Grand Junction this week to check out Mesa State College because my son is senior this year. I can’t tell you the exhilaration of driving 7.5 hours to find that our peaceful Palisade campsite was maybe 50 feet, on a hot, mirage-filled day, from Interstate 70! But, we decided to laugh it off with a little repetitive and quality family humor, “I am so happy to be up here in nature listening to the soft twittering of the wheels, as they patter along the blacktop and the deep throated ‘hoot hoot’ of the big rigs passing by.” Daniel and I love to do a certain pastime together; our kids affectionately and disgustedly call it, “40 year old flirting.” In the picture above, you will find us being goofy at our campsite.

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While it wasn’t the Colorado piney woodlands we were hoping for, the black top provided hours of entertainment for our little ones. So, it wasn’t all bad!

FullSizeRender-3We enjoyed a BIG breakfast out at the Pufferbelly Station Restaurant. Some of the kids had to be rolled out of there after their “all you can eat” pancake breakfast.

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This is the older boys with Daniel at the top of the National Monument, a rocky park that gives Petra a run for its money! I am refraining from sharing the pics of my boys taking a leak in the wild. Sorry for this harsh realization about me but it was hilarious and I couldn’t resist the photo op, especially since my boys are especially gifted at it and you can’t see a thing from behind. Those glorious pics will remain under lock and key until… Their wedding days 😉 If you are thinking to yourself, “That lady is mean to her poor, innocent boys, “ let me just fill you in on a recent activity which isn’t a solo act or unusual. I was happily taking a shower, enjoying the stress of the day melting off in the blistering hot water when, suddenly, I heard a crazed Isaak-esque laugh and, at the exact same moment, saw a cascade of ice cubes and water above my head. Oh, there will be paybacks for that one!

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Randomly, there was a $1 flip flop sale while we were in town. This creative chick loved all the colors!

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Isaak has developed a fantastic new skill of being able to hiss just like a raptor to make me jump 10 feet in the air on command 🙂 Oh, how I dearly love the humor-inspiration the desert climate provided. Lol.

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While the surrounding mountains are high desert and rocky, the area right around the river is lush and green, full of vineyards and orchards. In this picture you can see some of the contrast.

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We took the whole family on the “extended version” tour of Mesa State. All Joab really wanted to see was the weight room. 🙂 Big family bonus- every single one of us (8) received a free t-shirt. Joab felt a special affection for their “New Mavs” team, as I showed up at our home gym today and said, “Oh, LOOK, Joab, we are twinsies!” Oops, didn’t realize he was wearing the free shirt right out of the shoot like I was.

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When I got home, everything had started to bloom!

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And, overnight it seems, my lettuce is almost ready.

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I can start using fresh herbs in my cooking. Mmmmm. Cannot WAIT to use that Basil above to make Margarita Pizza for my family, maybe with a cauliflower crust.

Tell me what you are up to this summer. I would love to know.

God Loves His Creation and Gluten Free Baking

Oh, how I need a few things in life… laughter, sunshine, flowers, my family and God. Did I mention my insatiable love for blueberries/raspberries, writing, Spanish Flamenco guitar music, Turkish, Mexican and American bbq food, well written fiction, the beach, palm trees, Maui (have I made my point yet :-)), adventure, living abundantly, old friends, blue jeans, the late afternoon sun, hot showers, white curtains, politics/law, the outdoors, architecture, beauty, directness, peonies, distance shooting, farm country, 100% cotton, barns, minimalist landscape paintings, joy, Lily of the Valley, smokey quartz, horses, european countryside and interior design to name a few. And, that is some about the person called Laurie Anne, with all her complexities, quirks, joys and flaws. 🙂

Honestly, what God has been reminding me about this week is a little difficult to write. Randomly, some old memories have come to the surface, like sediment at the bottom of a lake that gets stirred up with a summer rain. I actually think God allows that at times, so he can speak to and teach us. I have felt an odd combination of overwhelming gratitude for all the ways God has directed my life, like a burly mountain father, who takes his little one on his lap and asks about her day and gives insights, and little bit of heartache still at the memories. Have you ever experienced condemnation? I mean, people who have aggressive, verbose and condemning opinions about you and the things you hold most dear? How do you respond to that externally and internally? My life-long quest in those situations (because they happen to us all) is to kindly say how I really feel in the moment. When I was younger, and occasionally to this day, I will feel worked up or, even, “walked on” but I will say to myself, “It isn’t a big deal. Let it go.” While there is certainly some truth to that, especially for people who say everything that crosses their minds, the older I get, the more I actually think that is dead wrong of me. If I don’t “talk straight,” that person hasn’t received my honest thoughts and I have to hold them inside, like week old oyster stew. Let me tell you, that does a number on your belly! I have slowly forced myself to say, “Actually, I’m sure you didn’t mean this but here is how what you just said came across or made me feel.” I have realized that I am more authentic and internally more at peace when I do.

Daniel and I planted seeds in April. All Coloradans will know that we have had torrential rains here for weeks and weeks. Even today, I am looking out at gray skies and the sound of a steady drizzle, pattering on the tin roof of our barn. Those waters washed away 9/10ths of the seeds we planted. Yep, there was just dry dirt when the rain subsided for a bit last week. Our babies were rinsed right down into the ditch and meandered across to a large ranch across the road. I won’t be surprised if we see random corn growing there in September, like long hairs the barber misses. I would ask the herd of black cattle if they have seen my seeds but they always just huddle together and look at me rather vacantly. 🙂 So, last week, we replanted some fast growing crops, like lettuce, kale, etc. Isn’t growth important? You know those people who are like 55 and still act like they are straight out of the Breakfast Club mentality of their teens? That is because they haven’t grown much. While our baby crop coming up through the ground is fresh and brilliant green, with soft, untouched leaves, if it stays there, it doesn’t bear fruit and it is just young and pretty, never fulfilling its purpose. God has been whispering this to me- I  love who I made you to be, so enjoy yourself and boldly go after the things that scare you the most. I believe that in grasping those words, I can become an orchard fat with tender and sweet peaches, with soft faces, just like my Great Grandma Haas’ cheeks felt when I kissed her to thank her for the gum each visit.

Gluten Free

At this very moment, my parents are in northern Indiana Amish country, visiting our extended family. Whenever I think of summers in Indiana, the memory rises up like a glowing, idyllic sanctum in my mind, the perfect town. It’s unrealistic but childhood wonder is like that, isn’t it? I, invariably, think of lines full of crisp cotton sheets blowing dry in the breeze, acres as far as the eye can see of corn, like an army of men in gold armor standing at attention, fireworks over the lake, riding with my grandfather in the back of his mayoral Cadillac during the summer parade, jean cutoffs and trips “uptown,” where there were quaint dime stores full of bubble gum cigarettes and monkey claw back scratchers, and a tiny cafe where everyone knew everyone and a waitress named Pearl, with a pink striped pinafore and diner hat who looked like she drove the stake in the ground to demark the original township, served us and ended every sentence with, “sure thing, honey.” It was a classic midwest small town.

Eating as close to nature as possible is best. If people don’t have weight to lose, that list should include steak and butter too (in moderation, of course). Often, I have dreamt of owning a farm surrounded by the amish, tumbling green deciduous trees and cornfields. There is something so bread and butter about that part of the country; they are wholesome, community oriented and spend more time recharging in nature.

While I don’t fully understand the science, the reason bread has become such an allergen as of late, is because we are doing something different. Whether it is the drastically genetically modified wheat (Spelt is still fairly untouched btw) or the pesticides, I am not sure. While I am no expert, the changes to how wheat is produced and harvested have to weigh into the increase we are seeing with wheat intolerances and allergies. To our great grandparents, wheat was a staple! And, I can tell you from first hand experience now that people aren’t just making up the whole Celiac thing. While I do not eat wheat, because I blow up weight-wise, like a puffer fish who finally sees his beloved school after a month away at sea, I do serve my family whole grain, high fructose corn-syrup-free bread, either store bought or homemade. A couple months ago, one of my sons started to literally throw up every time he ate bread! It was that direct of a reaction and it went on for a month. Finally, we visited our family practice and they determined, from his blood work, that his body was making antibodies to wheat. Since the next step to absolutely confirm Celiac requires a scope and that sounds about as much fun as landing on a male bike the wrong way, we decided to go with the obvious problem and take him off wheat. Immediately, he was better. Let me tell you, that has created a massive learning curve for me. He wants to be able to enjoy desert sometimes and garlic bread with his spaghetti, etc, so I am on a quest to locate the best tasting, healthy and gluten free options.

Cynthia Miller, my amazing photo and text editor, made these Gluten Free chocolate chip cookies, so I asked her to jump into the blog this week and share her results! Because our family has a couple of camping trips and then a vacation planned, my blogs for the next month are going to be shorter and contain more pictures about the things we are doing. Vibrant Life will be back in full swing by mid-July. Thanks for tuning in! 🙂

Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Thanks Laurie! Don’t you just love her style of writing, the way she intertwines the deep pondering of life with humor? I look forward to reading Laurie’s blog every week! Recently, I decided to try a Paleo Diet for my health and came across Danielle Walker’s website, Against All Grain. She has two cookbooks with amazing looking recipes so, knowing my love for Chocolate Chip Cookies, I tried it out. The results were pretty good  for a healthy cookie 🙂  (the above cookies were eaten shortly after being photographed)

Here’s her recipe for Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies along with a few thoughts below…

  • They taste fairly moist, and overall I liked the dough.
  • I increased the honey to 3 TBLS instead of 2
  • I used 100% chocolate! But it is bitter, so if you can’t stomach that you could use less than 100%. I didn’t have two kinds of chocolate. I think that would be also add depth to the flavor