Newsflash: You’re an adult.

Can we get real here for a minute? You are an adult. (Really. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.) Part of being a grown up human being with a body is taking care of said body.

“I don’t like exercise.”

“Working out is boring.”

“I don’t have time to cook.”

“I don’t like the gym.”

“Meal planning? Ugh. I hate grocery shopping. I hate prepping food.”

“I don’t like water. Unless it’s coffee flavored.”

Ha. ha. ha.

Grow up. Do you find brushing your teeth exciting? Probably not. But you do it, right? It’s called hygiene. It’s taking care of your body. (My dentist says that you only have to floss the teeth you wish to keep.) Who wants to kiss you with your nasty horrid breath? So, as human beings with a body, we bathe, we brush our teeth, we wash our hair, etc. You wouldn’t drive a car without maintenance, right? No oil changes, no new tires, no washing, no tune ups – no problem, right?

Wrong.

Take care of a vehicle, it takes you where you need to go.

Guess what? Eating nutritious foods and moving around and lifting heavy things is part of maintaining a body. It’s REQUIRED if we want it to operate as desired and for a long time.

I get it. Crap like this gives many undo anxiety and just feels overwhelming. (Unless you are super nerdy and love food prep. Yes, there are a few):

If you hate cooking, hate food prep, etc. – these kinds of posts and pictures do nothing for you but make you feel inadequate, uninspired, and like you can’t adult. It becomes a big ‘ole shame fest. But that doesn’t give you a pass on taking care of your body. You don’t have to be a polished food prep pro. If your goal is to eat healthfully, develop a strategy. It doesn’t need to be uber complicated.

It does require being an adult and making choices that benefit you long term.

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Now that you have your big girl or boy pants on, here’s a couple of my weekly adulting food tasks that take zero time. (Okay, not zero time, but definitely not as much time as the crazies with 52 containers of Tupperware that are simultaneously cooking 7 different meals.)

Make a big salad for the week

It’s not that hard. Grab some lettuces you like. Romaine is nice and crunchy, green and red leaf are great, too. Don’t like kale? Don’t eat it. It’s fine. Just because some one wrote an article claiming the wonders of a food doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find what you do like. Super lazy and have some extra cash? They have prewashed and trimmed spring mix, spinach, and every other lettuce you can think of. Get over boring iceberg and change it up! Add some shredded carrot and some cabbage, throw it in a big bowl with a lid and you’ve got a greens base to be used through the week. Taco salad, sandwich/wrap ingredient, Buddha bowl – grab your greens and go!

Tip: If you buy the plastic containers of pre-washed greens, take them out of the container to extend shelf life. They get pretty slimy in the original container. Conversely, if you buy actual heads of lettuces and bunches of greens and chop and rinse yourself, you not only save money, but the produce lasts longer.

Portion out food as you go, rough meal planning

I don’t portion/prep and spend hours on a Sunday mapping out every breakfast lunch and dinner. I just don’t. (If that is your thing – cool. Do you.) Instead, I have a rough idea of what meals we’re going to eat that week, and shop for those ingredients. If we don’t feel like tacos on Tuesday, that’s cool. Just switch it around and have them on Friday because all ingredients needed are there.

For things like mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions etc. that will be used each week for more than one dish, prep those. Being able to quickly grab that diced onion for a recipe makes cooking time go much easier. Younger kids can pack their own lunches with ease when all they have to do is open a container and grab some slices of bell peppers or carrot sticks. Older kids? Cool – make them your food prep labor force! Why we do not teach our kids to cook and properly feed themselves is crazy to me. Life skills, people. Teach them how to take care of their bodies by modeling it yourself.

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Make fruit ‘grab and go’ ready

When buying apples, pears, peaches, grapes, etc., I throw them all in the sink with some water and a 1/2 cup or so of vinegar. Let them soak while prepping a big bowl o’ greens. It makes packing lunches that much easier in the morning, and only takes a few minutes.

Grocery plastic produce bags

Grocery shopping done, check. Produce purchased, check. Turning over a new leaf, check. Proud of yourself for avoiding the junk food aisle, check. Flash forward a week and you’ve got a veggie drawer filled with slimy, rotting veggies in individual plastic produce bags. Sound familiar? Ditch those thin plastic sacks pronto. Like as soon as you get home from the store. (Better yet, try these reusable drawstring bags for produce! No, I don’t get paid for that link, but I DO love and use them every tine I shop!) Those plastic sacks from the store will make your produce wilt faster. Unwrap and unband any fruits and veg and place them in drawers or in prepped in reusable containers.

You don’t have to be a neurotic food freak to be healthy. Feeding yourself and your loved ones doesn’t need to be meltdown-inducing. You do have to make a choice. Drink water. Move your body. Eat fruits and vegetables. Ditch the junk. Lift heavy things. Make the decisions that get you to your goals…or don’t.

It’s entirely up to you.

You’re an adult.

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Scary Things and Happy Tears

Do things that scare you.

Such a great idea – in theory. But things that really scare you? Um….but….it’s scary!

A scary thing to me is anything car engine related. Eric has done a TON of work on this beater, whom we lovingly named Bertha. I grew up in the midst of many cars in various states of completion. I remember playing in the body of a Pontiac pretending to drive. The thing had no wheels or engine, but it drove me all over my imagination! Playing in cars and actually trying to get them running, however, are two very different things.

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We’ve been driving a little Honda Civic for a while now, but it’s tiny. My minions have long legs, we have 3 dogs. I eat my knees while I drive. It’s a bit ridiculous.

We limped her down to have a friend take a look and narrow down what may be the issue. When I turned around to see why Hannah was just standing by the open door, I noticed she was crying.

“What’s wrong??” I thought maybe she’d slammed her finger in the door or something.

“They’re h-h-h-a-p-p-y tears,” she said, sobbing. “I’ve missed Big Bertha so much!!” She climbed in and started petting her seat. (Can’t imagine where she might get her flair for the dramatic and emotional.)

After being told it was likely the alternator (draining the battery and giving us issues dying), I looked in and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if I could do it myself.” It would have been convenient to have a mechanic just do it, pay for labor, the parts etc., but where’s the fun in that? Plus, paying for an alternator is cheaper than buying a new car! I called around and got a remanufactured alternator, got my military discount, and brought it home.

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I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?

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Cover and air intake manifold off. DUDE. I know what an air intake manifold is. Also, ratchet, sockets, torque, drive belt, tensioning rod are all terms I am now VERY familiar with!

Huge thanks to the FaceTime interview with my dad, emails with Eric, the YouTube how-to video, and for the Facebook conversations narrowing things down and tips given! Helped me keep my sense of humor for sure!

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Who knew this dang connector would give me such fits!? It was a beast to get out, but I finally did it. Fighting with this thing is what took the most time. That and walking back and forth to hubby’s toolbox a bazillion times to get the right sized sockets and wrenches. Side note: all bolts in cars should be a standard size. Seriously. Why must they be 498 different sized items?

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Not ashamed to say it – I totally sang The Lion King “ahhhh savanya!!” when I got that alternator out!

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Hannah came out to “help” but played on my phone while I put the new shiny alternator in and put all the puzzle pieces back together.

Only one misshap: I lost a nut during reassembly. (Hate it when I lose my nuts!) It’s in the depths where I can see, but cannot reach. I even tried a magnet, but it was too far down in there. This is the point at which I thank my dear husband for being a pack rat with tools and parts. I was able to easily locate a replacement nut and get it done.

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The tensioner was the part the freaked me out the most. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. You just have to pull on it to loosen that belt and voila! Came right off.

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Put back together good as new! (Well still dusty, but back together!)

Finally I grabbed the keys and because I didn’t want to jinx myself, I refrained from putting away all the tools. I would have hated to have had to drag them all back out again should it not start. I called my parents and said, ” Okay, moment of truth,” and turned the key.

It started.

Annnnd, I cried. (Seriously, I have NO idea where my daughter gets it.)

It runs much better than it did. Going to grab some fuel injector cleaner next, (because I now know what that is) and get my core charge back (I know what that is now, too!)

Welcome back to life Bertha! We’ve missed you!

Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️

Go Big or Go Home

I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to write about lately. Much of that comes from just being too busy, tired, in the midst of deployment, blah, whatever – to put forth the energy to make coherent sentences. I often identify with Solomon in Ecclesiastes…”there is nothing new under the sun” Ecc. 1:4-11 when it comes to writing, but just when I think ‘why should I bother, it’s all been written before anyway’ – I’m quickly reminded that I don’t write necessarily for others. If someone benefits from my experiences, that’s wonderful. I’m grateful to be a conduit of a message needed, but I don’t write for anyone but myself. It’s a release, a creativity, a hobby, a sorting of my thoughts, and a clarity-giver. Sometimes I just don’t know how I feel until it escapes my fingertips, flying across the keyboard faster than my mind can form the paragraph. While we’ve been getting through the blah days and the good days, walking the dogs, I’ve been reading and thinking. My niece wrote this post about her wellness journey, and all that it entails and it got my mind churning again. I’m also celebrating a milestone.

I have been sober for 6 months.

The thought of a glass of wine sometimes sounds so good. The delicious swirl flicking across my tongue, the warm flush as the alcohol enters my system. I daydream about it sometimes. Not often, but when I do, it’s vivid. I have become hyper-aware of both the overt and subtle marketing of alcohol to women. Across social media, you can easily see either a movie featuring a female lead drinking, or a funny meme with ‘mommy juice’ as the topic, and even fitness-themed posts such as beer-yoga and lifting the barbell, with a convenient bottle taped securely, one rep = one swig. Isn’t fitness grand?! A wry smile crosses my face, but I really don’t find them funny. I find them to be… normalizing. Normalizing behavior that really isn’t healthy, but I admit the marketing strategy is effective. Smoking was mainstream and normal once, too. They were and are marketing geniuses.

At the beginning of this sobriety path, I started taking selfies and little mini-check in videos. Not as a vanity measure, but as some evidence of the beginning of change, where my head was at on a given day, and/or any physical changes due to the change over to a whole-food plant based way of eating. Watching the initial video, I was startled at how puffy I was, and how tired I looked. In hindsight, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, there too.

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Day 1, still shot taken from a video.

The last 6-7 months have encompassed many changes – giving up alcohol as well as switching to a whole-food plant based way of eating. I decided to stop coloring my hair almost a year ago, and actually wanted to go super short then – but couldn’t get my stylist on board. Embracing authenticity in many areas, it has been a season of shedding the superfluous – including hair that for as long as I can remember has almost had an identity of it’s own.  No, I didn’t have a Brittney-style meltdown, but simply feeling the need for some outward expression of inward changes.

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I probably won’t keep it short forever, but I love the idea of a fresh clean break. A starting over and a reboot. It’s freeing in a way I didn’t anticipate. As I picked up the kids from school sporting the new ‘do, I felt lighter, bolder, and honestly – pretty badass. I always thought women who go pixie or bald were so brave. I remember staring in awe as Demi Moore shaved her head in G.I. Jane. “If only I had the guts to do that,” I thought. “I could never….”

Turns out, I have the guts to do a lot of things I didn’t think I could.

I don’t miss the hair. I don’t miss the upkeep of highlights. I don’t miss meat. I don’t miss cheese or bacon, surprisingly. I don’t miss alcohol or the fuzzy way it blots out life. I don’t miss numbing out, because alcohol can’t mute the crap without muting the wonderful.

The crap is definitely worth wading through to get to the wonderful.

Thank God For Google

It never fails. Crap always (ALWAYS) happens when the spouse is deployed. Washers break down, kids get sick, the ice maker stops working. It may have worked just fine 2 days ago when they were still home, but the minute they head out, deployment gremlins move in.

This time around the gremlins have seized our cars. A couple of days ago after dropping off the kids at school, I come back to the car to sit, look at my phone, and sip some coffee while the drop off traffic tapered down. This time as I sat idling, the engine was running funky. It felt like it wasn’t getting enough gas. With the kids’ school on the opposite side of town, I said a silent prayer that I could limp her home.

I got to the corner and she died.

Can I just say, that while I’m pretty industrious and don’t mind manual labor, car problems make me freak out exponentially. Mostly because the minute you step into a car shop as a female, the bill is instantly doubled or tripled…or at least it seems.

Taking a deep breath, I started the car again, revving the engine to make sure it was getting enough gas….and I limped home. It died twice and then the other stop signs and lights, I maneuvered my heel on the gas with my toe on the brake, never really letting it come down to a complete idle.

For two days, I’ve been fortunate enough to have hubby’s car here, so no big deal. I’ll just drive the little car (gets better gas mileage anyway). We’ll fix the big car once we can have a friend come take a look at it and diagnose her before I decide how to proceed.

I wake up this morning (my dear son’s birthday, no less) and have a million things planned (HA!) and we get in the car, every one has their lunch? Check! Turn the key, and ….

zilch.

Nada.

Nothing happening.

Kids may have left the dome light on all night….I don’t know because nothing is working now. Crap. We grab all of our stuff and pile over into the big car. The one that just a few days ago was dying on me.

“Please, please, just get the kids to school and me back home so I can jump the little car and all will be well,” I quickly muttered a prayer as I turned the key. She started right up, and I wasn’t seeing anymore of the indicator lights (idiot lights) on as they had been the other day. “Okay….”

I’ve never in 9 years had my kids be so quiet in the car. All of us silently straining to hear any indication of trouble with the engine noise. We made it to school. I made it back home. No big deal, I’ll jump the blue car and we’ll be in great shape. I’ve got this. I am woman hear me roar, right?!

Hooking up the jumper cables, this is what I see….

Perhaps it wasn’t just a drain on the battery from a light being left on. I do what any industrious lady does when confronted with an issue: I googled it. “What is the blue gunk on my car’s battery?” I typed in and got my answer and solution. Mixing up the baking soda and water and spooning it on, all the corrosion acid came right off. Yay science! Easy peasy. Hook up the jumper cables (after a quick refresher on the order, thanks again Google!)

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I get my little car to start. I idle them both and let the battery charge up. Mentally patting myself on the back for handling life, I assume it’s probably been long enough and I unhood the cables, stop the big car and start putting stuff away. I turn off the little car, and then decide, I better restart it just to make sure I’m good to go.

Nothing. No click, no trying to start, not a peep.

It is at this point my inner brat rears her ugly head. My inner brat is a 5-year-old who really likes stuff. New stuff in particular. She wants to go to the Honda dealer and pick out a shiny something that will give her no mechanical trouble. (Although a hefty car payment would be seriously headache inducing. I tell her to sit down and shut up.

Time to go to Walmart for a new battery! I can do this! To the kids’ school to drop off cupcakes for dear son’s birthday. (Thank you to dear daughter’s teacher for help with timing so I didn’t have to make another trip across town!!) Home with new battery I set out to install the thing myself! Yes, I googled that, too! Wore gloves to protect my skin from any corrosion, used proper tools (metric wrenches for imports, standard for domestic!) and got the job done.

Deep breath, please start, please start, please start….

She turned right over and purred like a kitten! YAY new battery! Yay for Google! And yay for a running car!

Is it time for bed yet? I’m exhausted….

From the Nope Files

My hilarious friend (from Halcyon Hive) regularly posts on Facebook what she refers to as the “Nope files…” and showcases all kinds of awful insects and bugs from her part of the country. I crack up every time. For example:

This little Nope is also known as the Arrow Spider. Bonus resentment towards it because I had to image search “yellow abdomen spiders” for identification and NOPE. Small, but with red daggers growing out of its abdomen, this monster get points for extra nope-ness. #nope

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See what I mean?! Hilarity to deal with intense loathing of fearsome creatures? Yes please!

We are plugging away into the school year, managing deployment ups and downs and kids are doing as well as can be expected. We are continuing on our vegetarian exploration.  Eating meatless has been an adventure and in many respects easier than I thought it would be. There have been many foods that would fit that same sort of “NOPE” file, but instead of cringe-worthy creatures, it would be frighteningly awful franken-foods.

For example, the bean burger fiasco. OYVEY. Why?! Why would I ever think that smooshed up beans would be tasty on a bun? And carrot dogs? Nope with a capital N! Do not get me started on nutritional yeast trying to masquerade as cheese. IT’S NOT CHEESE. It’s yeasty and gross.

What people choose to eat is really not of any earth-shattering importance or interest, but if you are leaning toward a more plant-based nutrition plan, let me save you a bit of money on some of the freak fake foods we’ve sampled (and promptly stuffed into the garbage!)

  • Bean burgers. We’ve tried the homemade version and one made by Beyond Meat. There are plenty of meat substitute companies, but this brand had rave reviews. Mealy and blah, even with condiments, that’s a big NOPE from Hannah and I. She prefers the Boca Chik’n patty and I like the Spicy Chick’n. Boca’s veggie burger is also a good one.

 

  • Cauliflower tots.i-just-didgosh-now-gimme-your-tots.jpgI love tots. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m typically not a fan of making cauliflower into something it’s not, but the riced veggies from Green Giant were pretty good. The tots? Not so much. It tasted like it had paper bits in it and had a mealy gross texture. the seasoning was overdone to compensate for the fact that it is cauliflower, not a tater. NOPE.Unknown.jpegUnknown-1.jpeg

 

  • Cashews as sauce. Cashews as cheesecake. Cashews as anything other than cashews or cashew butter. Cashews are nuts. They are awesome. But not mixed with water and nutritional yeast and trying to be Alfredo. Just NOPE.

 

  • Vegan Butter Not a fan. Oils and other yuck. Some people swear by it as an alternative to dairy. I would rather just go without and eat the food plain. Big non-buttery NOPE.Unknown-2.jpeg
  • Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. Lightly seasoned, Beyond Meat was beyond gross!Unknown-3.jpegLet’s put it this way; if burned skin and body odor had a taste, it would come in this package. Stinky NOPE. (Just do tofu. At least it’s not pretending to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Tofu just soaks up the flavors of whatever it’s paired with.)

 

  • My son gives all plant based milks a big NOPE. I disagree. We don’t care for soy milks, but Hannah and I really like almond milk. He keeps trying new brands and flavors so time will tell on that one. A friend recommended Ripple milk, made from peas. That’s a NOPE all the Stoffers agree on. Pea milk. We giggle every time we say it out loud. Because we are 12.

 

  • Red Robin French Fries. In the freezer section, I was surprised to see Red Robin fries. Since we don’t have a Red Robin in town, I was excited to have a taste of the seasoned deliciousness. I should have not been excited. They were over seasoned and tasted NOTHING like Red Robin. Big Red Bird NOPE!

 

  • Tempeh Okay, so Tempeh. Fermented tofu. Not technically a franked-food, but it gets a giant fermented Nope from me. I’ve tried it, more than once, and more than once it’s ended up in the garbage.

 

I keep experimenting, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion; foods morphed and masquerading as something they are not = NOPE. They don’t taste the same and usually end up in disappointment.

What never disappoints? What we eat on a regular basis: veggie soups, grown up ramen, stir frys, bean burrito bowls and salads, tacos, veggie sandwiches, whole grain pastas, fresh yummy fruits – just as they are!

 

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Interest

Be the Good

Feeling antsy and not knowing what to do, I have been glued to news outlets following the coverage of Hurricane Harvey. Many of us have been lucky in Corpus Christi with minor damage. Our neighbors to the north, and of course Houston, have been devastated. Inland flooding in small communities that the news will likely never mention have been destroyed. A friend of mine, who was in the middle of a move, will likely lose all of her household goods as they were sitting on a truck in Houston. There are countless others facing complete losses.

Two things keep popping up for me personally. One is the saying, “Be the change you wish to see.” The other is a verse from the Bible.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

Give where you can. Do what you can. Giving blood, donations, prayer, food, toiletries, basic necessities – they are all needed. If you are finding you are far removed from the area, but are heartbroken by the images you’ve seen of the gulf coast, please consider donating. Here are some great local – and national –  organizations that could really use your help!

Together Rising 

The Diaper Bank

Driscoll Children’s Hospital

The SPCA of Texas for animal Relief

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Victoria Food Bank

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank

Salvation Army Relief

Samaritan’s Purse

Thank you for your prayers and donations.