Happy 2018 Friends!
So I just looked back in my archives to see how many times I posted last year. Any guesses? Anyone? 8 times. A whopping 8 blog posts in 2017. Is that the point where we start handing out awards for least likely to show up and bring it?!?
In all seriousness, when I look at that number it just reaffirms to me that 2017 was a busy year for yours truly. I feel like the last half of the year flew by and saw me running from one thing to the next, and I had to make decisions about where my priorities were going to lie. Most of the time that meant dealing with the thing right in front of me at the expense of others. If you think I’m exaggerating you should come see my 9 foot tall canna lilies that are taking over the side patio. I literally have not weeded or cut or trimmed anything in my garden in about 8 months. Isn’t that sad? Poor flowers.
The good thing about all of this is that, well, there were good things happening in the midst of the busy and I feel like it’s put me in a really good place going into 2018.
At this time last year I was working through a big funk, if you will, where I came to terms with the fact that emotionally I was struggling and that it had been building for several years. That led me to looking at changing diet in order to see if that helped my emotional health at all. The good news is that it helped a ton, and it led Chris and I to making some good decisions about food and health. We did Whole 30, which I would highly recommend. For me, it taught me that I could eliminate foods from my diet, comfort foods, and that I would be fine.
A year later and we’ve let things come back in, but the golden part of it is that I know I don’t need those things. I still don’t eat much sugar and I don’t have cravings like I used to. I know that too much gluten causes me to puff up and have more joint pain, and it can lead me to being more irritable if I don’t keep an eye on it. It’s also my slippery slope and the thing I have the hardest time not eating.
At the end of our summer break I bought and read Eat Right for Your Type, which focuses on eating foods that work with your blood type. A couple of people recommended it as a next step after Whole 30 and the reintroduction phase where you get to see how your body responds to different foods. While we were on vacation I was eating way more dairy and noticed I would feel really nauseous after certain things. I realized I was having a harder time digesting some foods while others left me feeling fine. I tested my blood, and Chris tested his. He’s an O+ and I’m A+. He should be eating exactly how Whole 30 was set up, or a paleo diet. He needs a diet high in animal protein to feel good. He needs high intensity exercise to burn stress, which is why he can jump on the treadmill and punch out 5 km in about 22 minutes and have tons of energy afterwards.
After doing Whole 30 I felt better in many ways. My inflammation issues were reduced and I had more energy without afternoon slumps. I didn’t lose more than about 5 lbs, and I noticed I was still feeling really tired after walking on the treadmill at a higher intensity a few times per week. It was like my body needed more recovery time, and I kept telling myself it was because I was overweight and would need to work up to it. But, I also knew that for years I had struggled with feeling like I wasn’t doing enough when I was exercising because I always felt more tired if I was doing the high intensity stuff. I could eat lots of fruit and veggies, plus protein, and lose some weight, but then not get past a certain point.
According to Eat Right I was eating all wrong :( My digestive system can’t process meat protein in the same way Chris can, so a paleo style diet was good in that it eliminated sugar and gluten, but my body was still struggling to digest certain things. I spent the fall trying to be more mindful of this and moving to a more vegetarian style diet. The book encourages you to go slow, especially if you’ve been eating a paleo style diet, so I gave myself the grace to try things, see how they felt, and permission to eat the things I wanted to, but to pay more attention to how I felt. I started to see that yes, when I ate red meat, it didn’t sit well. I would either feel really bloated and sluggish, or it would move through my system in lightening speed, causing it’s own issues. I saw how eating a bit of cheddar cheese caused my stomach to churn, but that yogurt and sour cream were fine. I came to enjoy, and actually prefer using soy milk over cows milk, and feeling much better because of it.
For exercise, my body doesn’t process stress well, so I need to focus on non-high intensity exercises like walking at a moderate pace, swimming, and yoga. I realized that doing yoga a few times each week not only left me feeling energized, but it was helping me process my stress better. I felt calmer. I would do it M-W-F and on Tuesdays and Thursdays go for a 20 minute walk on the treadmill where I set a comfortable pace with the absence of pushing myself to get more distance in a shorter period of time. I started feeling stronger and calmer.
The challenge for me with all of this was trying to make more changes in a really busy season of life. We went into September knowing that the last third of the year was going to see both of us traveling, the guest house getting finished, a training class on the schedule and family coming for about a month total starting at the end of November. Throw in a couple of kids and you have a special kind of crazy. But, because we don’t do anything easy or normal here, we threw in another special twist on things, that ended up being one of the best things we’ve done in a long time, but it required a lot of work from me.
Back in October I got contacted by Kim, a woman who had been in touch with me the year before about the possibility of coming to work with Clean Water for Haiti. At the time it just didn’t work for a few reasons, but we stayed in touch. When she reached out things were in a much different place for us. We were weeks away from having the guest house usable, which meant she would have a place to live, and we were in a great place in all other areas to take on a new staff member.
Chris and I had been talking for years, literally, about the fact that we needed someone who could serve as an assistant for me in many areas, but also take on things like grant writing, and general operations support for Chris and I. At the end of each conversation where I listed off what my ideal person would be able to do, I always finished it with, “But, finding someone who is and can do all of those things is impossible, so we’ll just have to take the best we can get and figure the rest out from there.” I had been feeling really tapped out for a long time, like I was constantly being pulled in different directions, and that I needed to clone myself in order to get everything done. I wasn’t just managing my work responsibilities here in Haiti, I was working with our Board of Directors and trying to manage a lot at that level and put things in place back in Canada and the US that were/are much needed.
Last summer we were finally able to hand my board responsibilities back to the Board after several years of transition, and it’s been amazing. We have a wonderful team of people supporting us from the US and Canada and slowly I’ve been able to delegate different things to different people and we’re seeing some great things happen. It’s done a lot to lighten my load. But there was still Haiti.
Kim came to visit and we all just clicked. We knew we just needed to take things one step at a time and all be praying through it for our own sakes, so that’s what we did. But man, it all came together fast! It was such a good reminder that when God has his best in store, it really can be easy to walk into it and just let him do the work. Within days of the visit Kim just knew she needed to make the move to CWH after 18 months of living in Haiti and working with other organizations. We knew without a doubt that we wanted her here. She gave her notice, and started making plans to move. She spent about 3 weeks back in the US to transition, and I spent that time madly getting her side of the guest house building finished and ready for her to move in. It was a good push, but it was also hard because I thought we’d have more time. It was just one of those situations that I/we had to push through, and the end benefit is that the building was done and ready for it’s first occupants sooner rather than later.
Two weeks after Kim arrived I flew to Canada for about three weeks to do a fundraising trip, which was a big success. My parents flew back with me and stayed for about a week, and then the week after they left we hosted a training class. A week after that Chris’ parents arrived and we wrapped up our work year, the kids finished school, his sister arrived and we all spent Christmas together. I missed a few days in there because I got a parasite for Christmas, but now I’m all healthy again and ready to jump into a new year.
I’ve learned so much in the past 365+ days and I’m excited to build on that. Did I lose a bunch of weight last year? No, but I did lose and keep off about 10 lbs, and that’s a start. What I learned through that is that my body has special needs that I wasn’t meeting. I was trying to fit it into an eating plan that doesn’t work for it. I’ve been doing the wrong kinds of exercise. I’ve spent some time thinking about what I want to focus on in 2018 in general, but also breaking that down into little pieces so I can actually feel like I’m making progress. This is where I want to put my attention:
- Continue learning how to eat to meet my body’s needs.
- Get into a consistent exercise routine, not because I have to, but because I feel so much better when I do.
- Read my Bible more regularly, because I want to, not because I feel like I should.
- Use my time to do things that make me feel more whole, rather than mindlessly letting days roll by.
- Be content.
So how does that play out in smaller ways? Well, I decided to set small goals for January, because it’s one month. After doing Whole 30 I know you can do anything for 30 days. I can do anything for 30 days. So, this month, these are some specific things I want to focus on.
Continue learning how to eat to meet my body’s needs. I want to focus on shifting more towards a vegetarian diet, because I know I feel better with that. I definitely felt overwhelmed with this in the fall because it was just SO MUCH to process, but now I’m seeing that I actually do prefer certain things, and I’m not craving other things like red meat. I ate a couple bites yesterday and it really did nothing for me. The type A plan allows for chicken and fish, which I’m thankful for because I know I need variety. I struggled with trying to figure out how to eat when it feels that we are limited with options in so many ways, so today and rewrote the list of recommended foods and foods to avoid in each category, but only included things that I know I have access to here in Haiti or would eat when we’re traveling. I’m going to print it and laminate it and keep it in my kitchen so I have a quick reference when I’m meal planning and shopping.
I already feel way less overwhelmed and it was exciting to see what options I DO have available here, rather than focusing on what I don’t have. It will also make it easier to plan when we have people coming in who want to know what they can bring, or we travel ourselves and have luggage space. It also makes me really thankful for a husband who has a desire to see things grow, because he’s planted all kinds of trees that are starting to bear fruit that are on my recommended foods list :)
I want to eliminate gluten and sugar this month starting on the 5th after Chris’ sister leaves and things settle down for our family and we get back into our normal routine. My plan is to do this until Chris and I travel at the end of the month. I will still try to focus on it while we’re traveling, but also recognize that airports and hotels and restaurants can make it difficult, so I want to be gracious with myself. Also, lifestyle change means allowing for exceptions along the way. That’s a realistic and healthy way to approach things.
Get into a consistent exercise routine, not because I have to, but because I feel so much better when I do. When I get really busy the first thing that seems to go is this. I want to focus on taking better care of myself this month and making sure that I’m scheduling my exercise in so I get that done, because I know it makes me feel better all around. Doing yoga a few times per week, and alternating that with walking, made a huge difference. After just a few weeks I was feeling stronger and noticing a difference in my flexibility, which was a big deal for some of my joint pain issues. I felt more energized, my stress level went down, and I just felt like I could manage more. I want to get back into my routine of yoga on M-W-F and treadmill on T-Th.
Read my Bible more regularly, because I want to, not because I “should”. Back in September I started trying to read through my Bible in 3 months, and I did really well for the first couple of weeks. Then Chris went away and I was managing everything here, working on the guest house, and single parenting and it was just too much. But, I miss it! I got a new Bible this summer in a new translation, which I’m loving. I love reading scripture through as a story, because you get things out of it that you don’t see when you read a passage here and a verse there. Things just got so busy, and this was one of those things that I tabled “until later”. I know that time wise it’s not feasible at this point to read through in three months, but I think I could do it in 6 and really get a lot out of it.
Doing things that make me feel more whole, rather than mindlessly letting my days roll by. Okay, let’s be honest here. How many hours a day do we all spend scrolling through social media, or sitting around watching some kind of show or entertainment. And how do we feel after hours of that? For me, I feel like a slug. I want to stop wasting so much time on Facebook, and other things like it, and instead use that time for things that make me feel more whole. I know I can be using that time better.
Doing things like planning meals and doing some basic food prep each week means we eat better and I feel less stressed in that area. Taking time to knit is something I love doing, and yet I don’t make it a priority, and I need to organize my knitting supplies. I want to learn more about using my essential oils well and in ways that will make a difference for me and our family. There are areas in our home that have accumulated stuff that I know we’re not using, so this month I want to start going through some of those areas and getting rid of that stuff so we have more breathing room. We moved and moved a bunch of stuff with us, and there are things we literally have not used since we put them on the shelf. It’s time for it to go. I need to spend time in my garden, because it looks like a weedy jungle and it stresses me out every time I look out the window. All I see is work that I haven’t done. I want to be able to enjoy our spaces, not feel overwhelmed by them. In that is recognizing that I need to change out some plants for things that are less high maintenance, so I don’t feel so burdened by it. I want to spend more time writing.
Thankfully, Kim is here and she’s amazing, and my work load is lightening up and I have the space to start focusing on areas that I’ve let slide for so long. I’m excited about this.
Be content. This is a big one for me. I spent years feeling like I wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t doing enough, and in the end I just feel crappy because I’m not meeting the mark. This past year was so good for me because I saw that taking small steps and making small changes actually made a difference. I could do it. I started seeing that I was feeling more content with life in general, that I didn’t need to try so hard. I felt more like myself.
A lot of people pick a word for the year, and last year my word was “salute!” – to your health. And I feel like I made good progress there. This year my word is content, because I really want to be content with where I’m at, with myself, and with life in general. That doesn’t mean I won’t want more or aim and strive for things. It means that I’ll be able to look around and see where the blessings are and rest in those. To be okay with the work and the in between stages of things. That I’ll be more gentle with myself, celebrate the small victories, and enjoy the process.
Welcome 2018, I’m ready for you!