September 25, 2015

five friday favorites #18: week of sept. 25, 2015

Four months. That's how long it's been since I've done a Friday Favorites! But I'm back, people, and I hope to not take so long of a break again. So let's dive into the things that are making me happy this week...

1. Chuck
I swear to you, I am half in love with Chuck Bartowski. Or Zachary Levi. Or a combination of the two. Whatever.
When my sister was home a few weeks ago, she suggested that our mom start watching Chuck. So we watched the pilot and the next couple episodes (because Netflix). Then I went home and watched another. And another. I probably shouldn't tell you where I am in the series right now because that would reveal just how much time I've spent on Chuck in the last couple weeks.

Here's what I love about Chuck: It's absolutely hilarious, it's full of pop culture references from when I was still fully in tune with pop culture, and it often features the Casey (Adam Baldwin) & Morgan (Joshua Gomez) show--those two are comedy gold, I tell you! I don't think I've watched an episode yet where I didn't laugh out loud at some point. Really, John Casey is one of the funniest TV characters I've ever seen—credit to both the writers and Baldwin for that! Just last night I was watching an episode ("Chuck vs. the Couch Lock") where he makes a crack about the Clintons that had me dying. The whole episode was Casey comedy perfection.

If you weren't already convinced to watch Chuck, check out the supporting actors. It's like an 80's-90's child's dream: Rachel from Saved by the Bell: The New Class is Chuck's sister. Dr. Sam Beckett is Chuck's dad. Sarah Connor is Chuck's mom. Cory Matthews and Carl Winslow are guest stars. And I'm sure I'm forgetting others!

If you haven't watched Chuck before, or if you just want to revisit it, you should definitely check it out on Netflix!

2. Satsuma Street
Remember For the Love? (Of course you do; goodness knows I've talked about it enough!) Well, even though the book is launched, our Facebook group is still going strong. Recently, one of the girls asked if any of us cross-stitched and linked to her favorite cross-stitch designer, Jody at Satsuma Street.

I used to cross-stitch--like that one time I spent half my life cross-stitching a sampler for my cousin's first baby. (You can see a picture of it at the bottom of this post.) Said baby is now almost seven, and I haven't done much cross-stitching since then.

I couldn't resist checking out the designs on Satsuma Street, and I fell completely in love. By the end of the day, I'd purchased two patterns: Joy and Autumn Bird. I decided to stitch Joy first because maybe I can get it done by the time I decorate for Christmas.

So I'm redeeming some of the many, many hours spent watching Chuck by cross-stitching while I watch! I've stitched three nights so far, and I'm, well, not very far along ... but I'm having fun! I can't wait until I get to the part where I can use more colors.

3. AIP cookies
I am just over two weeks into my AIP journey. (I talked about the diet here.) Honestly, it feels like I've been doing this way longer than 16 days! Really, one thing is getting me through: cookies. Namely, these AIP Chewy "Chocolate" Chunk Cookies from Flame to Fork. The first time around, I followed the recipe exactly, except I subbed coconut oil for the palm shortening. They were tasty, if a bit "spready."
I'm not a huge fan of carob, though it does work when you can't have chocolate. Still, I thought I would enjoy the cookies more without the carob, so for my next batch, I decided to make snickerdoodles. I just left out the carob chunks and rolled the dough in coconut sugar and cinnamon that I ground up in my Magic Bullet. These are SOOOO good! And, I'm sure they're largely responsible for my lack of weight loss since beginning the diet.
Tonight, I decided to take the basic dough and make it into ginger cookies. This may be my favorite variation yet! Once I get it perfected, I'll share the recipe ... and I can tell that I'm really going to enjoy the trial and error process!

4. Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey
I wouldn't be aware of  half of the podcasts I listen to without my sister Val's recommendations. I don't even check out the podcasts first anymore--if Val says to listen, then I subscribe. Her latest recommendation, Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, just might be her best yet. Each week, Jamie interviews a woman she knows, and they talk about such a wide variety of topics, but everything is interesting. This has become my new "listen to while getting ready" podcast, and I'm totally loving it.

5. The Lost Garden
Because I haven't done a Friday Favorites in months, I have lots of books to choose from for my recommendation, but this one was easily one of my favorite reads over the summer. Here's an excerpt from my review:
The Lost Garden is not a particularly fast read—it's not one of those novels that moves at breakneck pace or is full of passionate romance. But it is a beautiful novel—one that you read slowly so as to savor the experience as the story unfolds. 
The Lost Garden is a beautiful, unique read, and I highly recommend it! See the rest of my review on my book review blog.

Those are my favorites. What things are you enjoying this week?

September 3, 2015

let's get real for a minute

You may have recently seen me posting about Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love. (I say that tongue in cheek, as if you're my Facebook friend, you know For the Love and Jen are just about all I've been posting about recently!) I posted my review a couple weeks ago, and I'd love it if you'd go check it out.

If you've been following me very long, you know that I have an autoimmune disease: Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

Note: Those two paragraphs are connected. I promise. Just keep reading. 

I've been fairly open on the blog about my struggles with the disease, but usually I've been writing from a place of hope: I'm doing x, and I hope it will help. I've been feeling better, and I'm thankful.

But today's post is all about realism: This is where I am, this is how I feel, and this is why I'm frustrated.

One of my friends recently shared this article on Facebook. (Please, if you haven't read it, go do so now. I'll wait.) The author has Lupus, but it really could apply to anyone who struggles with a chronic condition. My sister texted me to tell me that she had read the article, and it helped her to understand what I'm going through. "And you definitely don't have the spoons to mow your lawn." So true, sister ... yet I also don't have the funds to hire someone to mow my lawn, so I do it anyway--and sometimes I pay the price later. (If you don't know what she means by "spoons," then go back and read that article I just linked to.)

Here's one small example to give you a glimpse at how Hashimoto's affects my life. For the last seven or so years, I've been attending a church in a town 20 miles away. It takes me exactly 30 minutes to travel from my house to my church. At first, I was involved in several things--choir, women's Bible study, an English-language tutoring program. Depending on the time of year, I made the drive to church between two and four times per week. But as Hashimoto's has reared its ugly head, the extra things have dropped off, and I now struggle just to make it to church on a Sunday morning.

I know that part of this, rightly or wrongly, is because I don't have to go to church. I have to go to work. I have to go to Saturday speech meets. But, as much as I love seeing my friends, as much as I'm challenged by my pastor's sermons, I don't have to go to church. And when I'm struggling with fatigue and just generally not feeling well, sometimes I don't possess the energy for that 30 minute drive.

I've made diet and lifestyle changes that have me feeling better than I did a year ago. But I still have bad days--days where I close the door to my office and lay on the floor for 20 minutes. Days where I can barely muster the energy to scramble some eggs for supper. Days where I hit the couch as soon as I get home from work and barely move until it's time for bed.

I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of a simple thing like walking across campus making me exhausted one day and energized the next. I'm tired of never knowing from one hour to the next how I'm going to feel. I'm tired of missing out on things because they happen at the end of the day when I have no spoons left. And I'm tired of the extra limitations I have because I'm doing this alone.

When I was growing up, I never would have believed you if you'd told me I'd still be single at age 34. Honestly, though, I generally don't mind being single. Would I like to be married? Yes. But singleness isn't something I dwell on ... most of the time. I find that I'm least content with my singleness on the days when I'm physically feeling the worst. Here's my train of thought on those days: If I had a husband, he could drive us to church--I wouldn't have to expend precious energy on driving. He could mow the lawn, or at least do the push mowing part that so wears me out. He could do the yardwork that I don't know if I will ever have the energy to do. Pretty selfish reasons for wanting a man, but I'm being real here!

I don't want you to think I'm an invalid: I'm not. I have a full time job. I take walks with my mom. I sing in a community choir. I get together with friends. I help coach a high school speech team (for now!). Some days, I feel pretty good, and I can do lots of things--it's just that I often need ample recovery time afterwards. That may mean that I skip out on an event or I take a day off work or I don't even attempt to get ready for church.

The really frustrating part, though? I can never tell when I'm going to have a good or bad day. Overall, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how I feel. (I mean, if I've stayed up late the night before or eaten total junk or been incredibly stressed, I can predict that I won't feel great. But often, when I feel bad, it's for no apparent reason. Same for when I feel good.)

The other frustrating part is that I don't look sick. In fact, with my 43-pound-and-counting weight loss, I look better than I've ever looked. So if you ran into me on the street or even know me casually, you'd have no idea there's anything wrong. Really, you'd only have a clue if you read my blog or are one of my close friends...because it's not something I like talking about.

Now, this is where Jen Hatmaker and For the Love come in. I've dealt with a decent amount of guilt over my illness. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense at first, but look at it this way: I am constantly missing out on things. I have a friend who faithfully invites me to a monthly Ladies' Night at her house, and I have yet to make it because by the time the weekend rolls around, I'm done. Church choir friends ask me when I'm going to rejoin the choir, and I put them off. Someone asks me how church was, and I have to admit I didn't go. Just a few hours ago, I made the decision to skip tonight's Newsboys concert at the State Fair, where I was planning to meet up with a friend I haven't seen in two years. I feel guilty about all those things.

I also feel guilty about the state of my lawn.

In For the Love, Jen talks about how women try to balance a zillion things--often things they don't need to be doing, be it for a season or forever. She talks about how we shouldn't look at other women to decide what we should be doing. I found that to be so freeing! At this particular stage, getting healthy is what needs to be "on the beam." I chucked church choir off the beam a year ago, and I don't see it ever returning! And I shouldn't feel guilty about that. I'm not shirking my duty to God or my church by prioritizing my health.

Graphic: Jenny Garwood
In an effort to keep fighting for health, I'm preparing myself to begin the Autoimmune Paleo Diet right after Labor Day. This is an incredibly restrictive diet for the first 30-60 days, and my hope is that following this diet will allow my gut to heal and will help me learn which foods I should avoid. I mean, it can't hurt, and I'm at the point now where I'm ready to try.

I don't know if this diet is the magic pill I'm looking for, and if it's not, I'll keep looking. I may wish that Hashimoto's wasn't part of my journey, but it is, and I think part of coming to terms with it and, eventually, healing, is being real about my struggles. In fact, I was feeling pretty down about everything when I started writing, and now, after putting everything out there, I'm feeling hopeful again, so we're already making progress!

I tell you all this not to make you feel sorry for me but to help you understand where I'm coming from. And can I ask you a favor? If you are healthy, don't take your health for granted. Live your life to the fullest, and thank God every day for the health He's given you.

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