Friday, November 13, 2015

New Website

I've bumped my blog over to, so please hop over to to follow along. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Food Anxiety

God of Paleo eating, forgive me for I have sinned.

About four years ago, Brandon and I embarked on a month of Whole 30 eating in an effort to figure out what was destroying his digestive system. The Whole 30 cuts all added sugar, alcohol, grains, beans and legumes, soy, and dairy products for 30 days. For 30 days, you eat only fruits, vegetables, seeds, tree nuts, oils, and meat. After just a few days, we noticed amazing results - we lost weight, sinus issues disappeared, complexion cleared up, snoring ended, acid reflux disappeared, indigestion gone, major digestive issues for Brandon disappeared, afternoon lethargy disappeared, and we both were sleeping like rocks. We felt amazing.

After we finished the Whole 30 Challenge, we said good riddance to soy and grains. Adios, sandwiches! Goodbye, pasta! You get the idea. It has been our goal in the weeks and months and years since that first Whole 30 to stick as close to that strict diet as possible - all whole foods, no processed or pre-packaged junk. When we slide back into eating pizza and ice cream on a habitual basis, we all notice the difference. When we consciously cut those things that we know will make us sick out of our diets again, we feel better again.

For the most part this has worked really well for us. Cutting out all of the pre-packaged and processed stuff has made for significant changes in how we feel. Participating in the Whole 30 was a powerful, eye opening experience to how much diet affects the way our bodies operate.

But Brandon's digestive issues continue to spike, and so we try to cut out other parts of our diets that might be culprits. Chickens who are fed soy, for instance. Chickens who are fed soy that lay soy-fed eggs. Nitrates. Red meat.

The general progression of our dietary habits has looked something like this:
  • We tried the Whole 30 in 2012 and felt overwhelmed, but figured it out.
  • We switched to Paleo eating and felt overwhelmed, but figured it out.
  • We watched Forks Over Knives and felt overwhelmed.
  • We heard about Grain Brain and reinforced our anti-grain sentiments.
  • We launched Whole 30 challenges again in 2013 and 2014 and made A Case For and Against Detox
  • We learned how too much protein in your diet can affect your kidney health and started to cut back on meat.
  • We learned from the World Health Organization that red meat is a carcinogen.
  • I signed up for a plant-based diet wellness class at work taught by the Esselstyns of Reverse and Prevent Heart Disease fame who say, no animal anything, no dairy, no oils, no added sugars, just fruits, vegetables (lots of leafy greens especially), whole grains, beans and legumes, and today I'm beginning a seven-day plant-based diet challenge.
I am afraid to buy bread. And pasta. And rice. And cereal. The other day I bought a package of whole wheat spaghetti and felt a surge of shame.

I believe I suffer from FAD - Food Anxiety Disorder. I don't think it's a real thing but I bet it will become one soon, because of this:


There are plenty of recommended, modified, reduced, reorganized, This Is The Way diets I could reference. These are the two that are front of mind for us right now.

Eat meat.

Don't eat meat.

Don't eat grains.

Eat grains.

Don't eat beans and legumes.

Eat as many beans and legumes as you want.


I should not feel anxiety about buying a food product that most of the world subsists on, right? I want to live the healthiest, most joyful life I can and provide strong guidelines for lifelong health for my kids. The world is against me in this mission. School wants a sweet treat, a salty treat, a juice drink, a goodie bag, and a healthy snack for the Halloween party. Church hosts a donut hour every Sunday and dessert at every cheese- and meat-based potluck. Restaurants offer three vegetarian, cheese-smothered entrees and four salads, one without meat, with cheese. Butter, cheese, white bread, and meat, everywhere!

I wouldn't care about any of this if I hadn't done that Whole 30 Challenge four years ago, stripping away the staples of the American diet, cutting my addiction to sugar cold turkey, and discovering all of the benefits of eating for health, not eating to satisfy my desires. We have evangelized for Paleo eating and now I find myself eyeing another model, another option, wanting the very best for my body and my family's bodies for the long haul, wondering about all of that meat we've been eating and what it might be doing to our kidneys, our cells, our overall health.

And so I bought a bag of whole wheat pasta and a can of pasta sauce. I stirred in some spinach. My kids sung the praises of noodles over dinner and we Googled how much sugar is in one box of raisins (25 grams) and how much the average adult woman should eat each day (25 grams). We talked about eating well, about maybe even eating sandwiches again (SINNERS!!!!).

I wish I didn't care about any of this because it's just plain exhausting pushing against our cultural norms of cheese cheese cheese and meat meat meat. Countries all over the world and families in our own nation are malnourished and starving, anxious about where they are going to get their next meal and their next meal and their next meal. Here in the Fifty Nifty United States, we are anxious about consuming too much food and the wrong types of food. We eat junk and pay for it now and later. It's a money-making industry of diet plans and pharmaceuticals.

Last night at dinner, Brandon and I scanned the menu and tried to decide what to eat.

"You're making me freak out about meat," Brandon said as we looked in vain for a non-meat, non-cheese dish.

"Don't freak out," I said, "Order whatever you want. I don't want to be a slave to our diets, but I also want to feel good and be healthy." I took my own advice and ordered sea scallops (They are of the animalia kingdom, folks. I was secretly hoping they could be considered plants.)

That's the bottom line. Anxiety about food is not feeling good. It is not healthy. I need to remember that food is not an idol. Learning more about what foods are good for you and what foods may have negative impacts on your long-term health is good education and an important framework for making healthy decisions. I feel better when I don't eat added sugars. I feel better when I don't eat dairy. I feel better when I eat healthy grains. I feel better when I don't eat red meat.

I especially feel better when I remember that I have to eat for the rest of my life, and life is a journey of successes and failures, of gaining more knowledge and growing in wisdom and discernment. I can choose into health or I can choose to indulge, and both choices are mine to make, consequences on either side.

Those sea scallops were delicious. I don't regret them.

Monday, November 2, 2015


We spent the evening with friends of ours discussing the aches and opportunities of the church we're attending, and while our kids ran around their living room and up the stairs, and I scratched the ears of one of their pups, I said the thing I keep saying about this church community: I laugh every time I think about where we're at and how it doesn't make any sense, but here we are, filled with peace and joy for this place in spite of what would make more sense. Something has bound us here for the time being, for such a time as this, and that mystery and misty hope keeps me coming back, excited to see what's next.

The opposite is true for me with my mom and her health right now: wrapped up in that is fear and anxiety, worry and stress, uncertainty about what the holidays hold, what next year holds, what the future holds. It feels dangerous to plan for the future, even as God says he knows the plans he has for us, plans to give a hope and a future. It is much harder for me to trust that mystery in the face of the realities of disease - dis-ease - it is much harder to hang on to hope.

But that is what we have, isn't it, what we must have, what we say we have when we say we love Jesus and God loves us, we say we have hope. Joy. Peace.

Even on this rock life finds a way to keep on living.
Tonight I am warm, held in the majesty of love and communion with my family and with my friends. My husband is strumming his guitar. I spent 30 minutes holding my daughter, talking about sex and marriage and belly button lint and how the Earth was made and how babies are made. She asked whether Grandma Rose is feeling better and we talked about cancer and upcoming doctor's appointments and God's love, and Lydia said, even if she dies (oh God, oh God, oh God) it will be okay because we will see her in heaven again with Great Pop and Pop-O.

We are all made of dust, made of the stuff of Earth, all of which was made by the hands of God. We are held. We are held in this warmth and love, and it is this love--capital-L Love--that delivers joy. Peace. Hope.

I will say I love you and you are loved a thousand times in as many ways as I possibly can to every person I come in contact with every day because it is the only thing proven to conquer death and fear of death. It is the only thing that carries me over this chasm of fear and anxiety. It is holding my daughter who is holding me and it holds my mom, even now, even in her anxiety and my anxiety, in her worry and my worry, in all of the unknowns about tomorrow that are always there but strikingly clear now. What a gift to be reminded that today is all we know for certain? So, love.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Neither death nor life. Neither death nor life. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Love, love, love. I wish to stay right here, replicate tonight in its hope and vision for the future, extend that faith and hope and love out for all my days. No more fear. No more anxiety. Just peace and love and being held.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

You Should Read This, and This, and This

I'm now working from home two days a week--which is fabulous--but it is impeding the pace at which I get through my audiobooks. Cry me a river. The things I have to give up for work-life balance, I tell you what.

The balance of being in the office three days a week and out two is just about perfect for this introverted managing editor writer person. I swear traffic is getting worse headed into downtown Cleveland. People, stop living in the suburbs and taking jobs in the city! That's only for me to do. The rest of you should relocate to one of those swanky lakefront apartments and clear up I-77 between 7 and 8:30 every morning.

My hour and fifteen in the car every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday morning still gives me plenty of time to get through almost an audiobook a week, depending on the length and reading style of the author/narrator. I just finished Let's Discuss Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, which was hilarious. You should read it. Before that, I listened to Eve by Wm. Paul Young, the guy who wrote The Shack. It was a fascinating, magical, fanciful interpretation of the Creation story and the Fall. I wasn't as impressed with the writing as I was the imagination in this book. It was delightful and heartbreaking. You should read it.

Another book you should read is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which opens up the doorway for people to be creative. Creativity isn't just for the pros or the degreed or the academics, it's for everyone! Boom! So go read this for a little inspiration to get out there and be creative with your bad self.

I mentioned Love Wins by Rob Bell last time, but I'm bringing it up again because, you should read it.

And before that, I read Origins: 14 Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and you should only read it if you are okay not really understanding 2/3 of what is being said or you are an astrophysicist, in which case you won't have any trouble.

Before that, I read Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan, because he's also super funny, and sometimes you need to laugh the entire way to work. You should read it.

You should also read Lila by Marilynne Robinson and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Also Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski. And Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.

Oh, heck, just read the books. Expand your world and read the books. Look up and out and in and through and read the books. Read the books you would never read. Read the books that might challenge the way you think. Read the books that will help you see yourself new. Read the books that will make you more whole. Read the books that will make you laugh. Read the books that will kick you in the pants. You will be a better person. You will be a changed person. You will understand other people better. You will have more compassion. You will love more, feel more, think more, dream more. Read the books, people. Read all the books.

Off The Page Update

I just started a new series of four posts for Off the Page last week. They all have something to do with faith and doubt, two things that belong together but aren't usually talked about together. You can catch my first post, Becoming a 7-Day Creation Biblical Literalist, and follow along the next three Thursdays.

Previously on OTP, I thought a lot about prayer's role in the face of sickness and disease, specifically my dear friend, Marilyn's battle with breast cancer, in With Wordless Groans. I should read this one over and over again daily. Lately it feels like sorrow and grief are on every corner. The only way I can battle back the sadness is through prayer, and even then it's begging for comfort and joy, comfort and joy, comfort and joy. Sad is okay. It is necessary. But Lord, bring peace swiftly.

I also thought about how we measure our worth and the contradictions we face when wrestling with ambition, humility, confidence, jobs, and more, in How Much Am I Worth?

I hope you'll follow along with the series on doubt. I'm excited about what God and I discussed together as I worked through the writing process. I grew from it, and for that I am grateful.
Lake Michigan, Writers Retreat

Speaking and Teaching, WUT?
October proved to be a month for kickstarting the writing and teaching side of myself. I filled in for a friend at the Cleveland Museum of Art to teach a workshop on ekphrastic poetry at the beginning of the month. I traveled to beautiful coastal Michigan a couple weekends ago to spend some delicious time with writer friends and get some work done on a new poetry manuscript. I also started a writers' group at work, and we had our first meeting two weeks ago. I'm excited for the possibilities of camaraderie and encouragement there. And next weekend, I'm off to the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference to talk about Vulnerability in Writing. If you aren't going around scaring people for Halloween, perhaps you want to join me in Indiana Oct. 30 and 31? Li-Young Lee and my pal Scott Russell Sanders along with a whole host of poet friends are going to be hanging out together. It'll be totes amazing. Wut? (I don't know either.)

In Hindsight...
2014: Breaking the Workaholic
2013: Bad People Go to Hell and Other Parental Panic Moments
2012: The Elliptical and Tonight's Work of Writing
2011: Creativity in Worship
2010: Twelve Apples and a Blog
2009: That Crazy Thang Called "Plans"
2008: Baked Apples, Green Ogres, and Snuggles

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stretch, bend, snap and bind: like-mindedness and marriage and a few other meandering thoughts

My husband is playing the guitar on the other side of the room, and I keep opening and closing browser tabs trying to decide what I have to say here right now or whether I have anything to say at all, or whether to close the whole thing down and play Candy Crush. I've almost done that twice now.

But as satisfying as passing level 216 of Candy Crush would be, nothing beats jotting down a few words. It's the thing that wakes me up, even when I'm cross-eyed tired.

Last light. Hang on, green. Things are about to get crazy in your world.
Two days ago, Brandon and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. He's playing "True Companion" by Marc Cohn right now, the song we danced to on our wedding night to launch us into the years that have done (and will likely continue to do) their "irreparable harm." Gratefully, "I can see us slowly walking arm in arm" my husband and Marc Cohn continue, "just like that couple on the corner do. Girl, I will always be in love with you." This weekend, I get to tag along to Columbia, SC, and while he works, I will also work--on essays and poems and blog posts for Off the Page--and the kids will stay back and destroy the house for us while we're gone. I'm really excited about going away with him for the weekend, because, as predicted last time, I've already found myself sobbing on the couch with my laptop and wine several nights this season waiting waiting waiting for my husband to come home.

It's hard, marriage.

So, Columbia will be glorious. Even if it is supposed to rain all weekend.

Tonight I started listening to Love Wins by Rob Bell and had one of those fluttery heartbeat feelings. This guy gets it, I kept thinking. I walked into the house after my commute still buzzing and blubbering a bit about Rob Bell and heaven and how YOU HAVE TO READ THIS ROB BELL BOOK IT'S FREAKING AWESOME.

I love finding those people whose spirits align with mine, like we're really all in this expansive universe together. When Brandon and I met, we were at that perfect place where ideologies and hopes for the future aligned. Somehow, over the last 13 years, we have stretched and bent and sometimes snapped, moved ahead of each other or lagged behind the other on our respective journeys. We have warned each other about giving the devil a foothold. We have gone door to door together and separately for varying causes and political campaigns. These days, our conversations about faith and politics, peace and love find more common ground than not, and I love this space between us. I love that we are like-minded. I love that right now, in our relationship, we are partners in this space. It makes the times when circumstances of life grind a little more tolerable.

It's really touchy-feely and I apologize for that but man, I just love it. Love it love it love it. I've felt that way a lot lately about people and places where I've landed, connected to like-minded people, united in common causes, gathering in a "sharing everything in common" Acts 2:42 way. Richard Rohr and Rob Bell don't know it, but we're totally breaking bread together. Same with Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown and Cheryl Strayed and and and makes me feel like we can all take on the trouble and pain of the world and deliver light. Together.

Don't forget to pack your crazy eyes!
Last week, I was depressed about the husband-on-the-road. I think it was one of those deadly swings of hormones and circumstances spiraling like they do for me, and when I get in that haze, I lose sight of hope. The world narrows and all I see is want. Grief. Loneliness.

How is it that one week later the world is light and life and heaven-on-earth? Is it because of Rob Bell? Is it because Brandon is home and I'm going on the road with him next week? Is it circumstantial only, and if so why am I so short-sighted, blinded by this fog? When will it descend again? Will it?

I don't know, but the surge of energy, the need to engage with the rest of humanity, the drive to do the thing that I was made to do, whatever that looks like, blossomed out of the chaos again. Maybe it's coincidence. Maybe it's hormonal. Maybe it's human touch. Maybe it's that recognition of a common vision. Maybe it's hope.

Anyway, here I am. Writing a wandering blog post, anticipating the weekend and the good work ahead. Grateful. It only seems right to end my blathering blog post tonight with what has become a mantra for me these last few years:

Sow your seeds in the morning, and at night let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. - Ecclesiastes 11:6

Back When:
2014: The In-Between
2013: Most Memorable Moment: Ten Years Later
2012: That Isn't on My 30th Year Goal List
2011: Anniversary
2010: I'm Going Pro-Joy
2009: Posting Poems
2008: You Can't Have It All

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Next Thing and the Next Thing

Summer is coming to a close, which means the children go back to school, Henry starts preschool three days a week, and football season begins. Now that we're done with this thing, onto the next thing. The clouds are racing and changing across the sky, moving the weather and the seasons along, and now it's almost fall. Would ya look at that.

Who am I kidding? I'll be whining all fall
about this guy being on the road.
This might be the first year I am not overcome by anxiety about Brandon's travel each weekend. Maybe it's because nobody in our family is playing soccer, so I don't have any Saturday morning, standing in the cold and rain, cranky spectator obligations. Maybe it's because the kids are getting older and more manageable on my own. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and able to occasionally recognize the lonely Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights without Brandon around after the kids go to bed for what they are, or can be: my weekly writer's retreat, my silence, my repose. Maybe I'm just at a really steady and secure place, not overwhelmed by job decisions or graduate school or babies, just... here.

Don't hold your breath, though; I will probably find myself sitting in our living room a night not too far in the future, alone with my laptop, pouring tears and capital letters into this blog, waiting waiting waiting for my husband to come home.

Voted "Most Powerful" for the Ashland University
MFA Class of 2015
Keeping in the spirit of weekly writer's retreats, though, I am very excited about this fall. I finished my MFA at Ashland University this summer, and I spent the last few weeks reorganizing and writing a few additional pages towards my manuscript, American Honey. I am really pleased with this final draft... or at least this I-think-I'm-ready-to-send-to-agents-and-editors draft, and my plan this fall is to send it out into the world of agents and editors. If you are by some magical coincidence an agent or editor reading this now who sees the need for a collection of memoiristic essays about the first decade of marriage, temptation, desire, and love, well, ahem, I'm available by email, phone, or post. I can even access a fax machine.

One of the essays in the manuscript was just published online by the litmag Full Grown People, "Careful Intimacies." To me, it captures the spirit and tension throughout this collection. That essay I linked to above about soccer, "The Worst Soccer Mom," is also included.

I'm also continuing as a regular contributor to Off the Page, a ministry of Our Daily Bread, and I'm loving that monthly exercise. I write twice a month for them. It's where I've been going to hash out the things I think about on the way to work, listening to audiobooks, the matters of faith that matter most to me right now. Here are a few of my most recent posts:

Today: Sabbath Afternoon - "If you haven’t done so lately, it’s time to grab a picnic blanket before the warm days slip away and the evening sun skitters over the horizon in the hurry of new autumn notebooks..."

August 5: Know Thyself - "One of the things I love about this world (and there are many of them) is the synchronous connections that happen throughout the whole body of knowledge. I was reminded of this again recently..."

July 22: At Least Ten Best Things about Girl Friends - "Greeting Cards We are called to encourage each other, and so we buy and send and give them on a whim. Thinking of you! we say. Hang in there! we say. You and me, we’re..."

July 8: Gas Station Evangelism - "An older woman pulled up behind me the other morning as I was pumping gas. She got out, walked straight over with her Bible in her hand, and said she had a verse for..."

This Day in History:
2013 - Just Call Me Sarah "All Heart" Wells (oh Lord, what a day at church this was.)
2011 - Soccer Mom Fail (the origins of "The Worst Soccer Mom" essay)
2008 - Seconds from Shaken Baby (the good ol' days... ugh)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Basement After-Dinner Theater

Our kids have taken to putting on shows for us in our basement. They take turns choosing the plot, often involving a pirate queen, the Incredible Hulk, and either a cowboy or sheriff or good pirate or Star Wars character (take your pick). There is always some battle involved and there is always some mid-scene break from character during which one of my children will protest or give another child their next line. 

Lydia is loud and uses a gravelly pirate voice to announce each character, including herself. Elvis is the director and producer. Beware taking any liberties with his script; he has in mind exactly what is supposed to happen next. Henry generally just wants to smash and tackle things. Take a guess which character he is.

Last night, they introduced commercial breaks between scenes, which were solo performances by Lydia, singing along to a band called One Girl Nation. We hear her yell-singing the lyrics in the basement through the floorboards throughout the day.

"Okay, commercial time!" Lydia shouted, in her gravelly pirate voice. The boys skittered off to change costumes. Lydia pressed play on her CD player and stood on her mini-trampoline, pigtails in her hair, hairbrush microphone in hand.
You heard me say my first words
Watched me crawl before I walked
I grinned and wept, of course.

"Bahhh, bahhh, bahhh, bahhh," Elvis and Henry chanted.

Lydia turned to them in exasperation and tried to keep singing.
People say I have your eyes
But I've always wanted to have your heart
"Bahhh, bahhh, bahhh, bahhh," the boys continued. To be fair, it was right to the beat.

"Guys, stop," I pleaded.

"We're singing along!" Elvis giggled.

"You're ruining it!" Lydia cried, near tears, turning off the CD player.

Sigh. On to the next scene.

It takes so long to learn how to love each other well, doesn't it? How to cooperate, to lead, to follow, to serve, to take direction, to give over the spotlight, to discover our roles and how they work with everyone else's, to take turns on the stage, to make space for each other in your basement theater. I know my role down there: I am the audience. I throw my bouquets of bravos, my kisses, my applause, and cheer my three actors on in their beautiful roles. Become who you are made to become, darlings.

Me, I couldn't handle much more of One Girl Nation's song, "Daddy's Girl," sung with such sincerity and passion by my sweet daughter. My cup overfloweth, and with all this rain we've been getting lately, I don't think our basement sump pump could handle all of the overfloweth coming from my cup.

My three thespians