Simplicity: 3 Compelling Reasons to Embrace It, Now

If I weren’t already a fan of simplicity, this past week would have put me on the fast track. Last Sunday, we took everything out of our attic to make way for the installation of two new air conditioning units. Then, we moved to my mom’s house for the week, because we’re also addressing a few things at home that are affecting our son’s health, and our kitchen is temporarily out of commission. (Say no more, you may be thinking.)

I am not one to hoard. I try to let go of things when we’re finished using them, whether we offer them to family members, take them to resale, or our preference, give them to charity. And I make serious efforts not to buy items we don’t either love or truly need. Nevertheless, what I thought was a modest pile of storage bins and boxes up in the attic added up to A LOT. Not to mention all of the clutter in the kids’ rooms and in other pockets around our home.

And staying at my mom’s house has truly pushed me over the edge. Like many people (maybe even some of you, God love your hearts), Mom is not one to let go of anything. There is something around every corner here that boggles my mind, be it boxes of old rewards, disposable kitchenware (which is never disposed), or an endless array of knick knacks. I find myself wanting to return to our home and give away ALL of our possessions. I am DONE with STUFF!!!

My love affair with simplicity

Sure, when we’re back home in a matter of days, it will be harder for me to practice my righteous war on clutter, because the things we own can work their way into our hearts, especially when they are attached to special memories or people. But whatever blossoming love affair I’ve had with simplicity over the past 15-20 years just got serious, friends. I am on a mission.

In my early professional years, I was commissioned to write a worship service on the topic of Consumerism. (See Consumerism: Worship Service, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University in 2003.) I bought several books on the topic, including one on simplicity, and I was truly captured by this alternative outlook to our excess-driven culture. From that time forward, though it may not be apparent to the average onlooker, I have tried to practice simplicity in my daily life and routines.

Simplicity: Life-Changing Magic

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For me, simplicity has much in common with de-cluttering, organization, and tidying, all of which get me a little excited on the inside. I have read Marie Kondo’s fabulous little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, twice. If I lived by myself, I would have carried out the process in its entirety, no doubt. But I have what’s known as children. And a husband. And a dog. I have a blog to write. And hopes and dreams. You understand. You have these things, too. Sometimes it feels completely overwhelming.

And this is where I get stuck. Life is so complicated. How will I ever find the time to simplify? But maybe the better question is this: What is it costing me NOT to simplify?

The answers are many, and they are profound. But for the sake of simplicity, I’ll narrow it down to three. (See what I did there?)

Not simplifying is costing me…

  1. The peaceful home I so desire. Seriously, this is the number one thing on my list of wants. I know it would change my life. And I know it’s within reach. It will take time and commitment. But it is possible. And moms, we all know it’s true: if it is to be, it is up to me.
  2. Mindful attention to work, hobbies, and leisure. Having stuff all around us, even if it’s organized into neat stacks (guilty), keeps us distracted and agitated, our attention divided. I may be working on one project only to be distracted by another, or playing with my kids only to find myself organizing their toys instead (guilty again).
  3. A legacy I want to give to my children. Just like grownups, when kids are surrounded by “stuff,” they can’t focus. Not long ago, I read an illustrative story about a child whose grandmother noticed that he loved playing with one particular car. She then bought him ten more cars, just like the one he loved. And he stopped playing with the cars altogether. Too much of a good thing is still too much. I want to teach my children to value what they have and to understand what it means to be content.

Simplicity: living with intention

I don’t know about you, but for me, these three reasons to simplify are very compelling, because they touch my life every day. With these simple things in mind–creating a more peaceful home, where I can give mindful attention to my work and play, and pass that beautiful legacy on to my children–I will be digging in over the next several weeks and bringing my family along with me.

I’ve already asked my children the question, “If you could only keep three toys, what would they be?” (“Cars” and “American Girl Dolls” count as everything in that category. I’m not crazy.) And we very well may keep more than three, but I want them to come along on this journey with me to a more intentional way of living.

I will do my best to chart my progress and share lessons learned, and I might even include some pictures! In the meantime, be sure to check out my Pinterest boards, “Simplicity: Quotes and Tips” and “De-cluttering: Home and Mind.” And if simplicity is your jam or you find yourself inspired by this post, please comment below with your pointers and stories!

Your Best Is Enough

I’m not sure what brought you to this post, whether you need this message for yourself, for your children, or for people you meet on the street, but here it is: Your best is enough.

I know there are rotten people in the world, who spit gum on the ground, double park their cars, and truly don’t care about others. But I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you.

You wake up early every day to make your child’s lunch. You drive all over creation to get your kids to school, yourself to work, your errands run, and activities attended. Many of your days, you end exhausted, wondering if your efforts make any difference at all.

And then there are seasons like this one, with more trials than usual. With so much out of your control, you feel completely overwhelmed.

Hear these words: You are doing your best. And your best is enough.

This is true of kids, too. Many of them. Sure, they can be patoots now and then, but most of the time, they are doing their best with the skills they have. Sometimes, kids are doing their best even when they’re melting down. And they might need us to recognize it for them.

One of the best stories I’ve heard recently was from another mom of a special needs child at Isaac’s school. She was out with her teenage son, a boy on the autism spectrum, and he was struggling. When a store clerk met him with an unforgiving response, the mom said simply, “He is doing the best he can. I hope you are, too.”

I might not have the wherewithal to say what she did in that moment, though I admire her for it. But sometimes I need that reminder myself. My child is doing his best, and his best is enough.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (Click here for quote attribution.) And it’s true. I am. You are. Our kids are. That store clerk probably is, too.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But I may be reminding you of something you needed to hear again. So be kind, friends. To people you meet. To your kids. And even to yourself. Your best is enough.

Pass it on.

Take Control of Your Health (And Your Skin) in 10 Days

So many New Year’s Resolutions come down to one thing: how to take control of your health. Whether it’s a commitment to eating better or exercising more or exercising at all, I would venture to say that most of us include something about health and fitness in our yearly goals.

We all know the statistics about how quickly New Year’s Resolutions become judgments of our failure. We set out with aspirations to become a new person only to find ourselves returning to the same habits we’ve always had. The old maxim rings true: Wherever I go (or whatever I resolve), there I am.

A personal success

A couple of weeks ago, when Todd and I were discussing our New Year’s Resolutions for 2020, he said something that surprised me: “You don’t have to put exercise on your list of New Year’s Resolutions, because you’re already doing it.” And he was right. I made it a habit last May, and I’ve been exercising almost daily for eight months now. At the same time, I’ve been eating nutritious, healthful food, and significantly reducing the amount of meals I eat out.

Take control of your health, health and fitness, acne, gut-brain-skin axis,  clear skin, healthy eating, The 10-Day Detox Diet, Mark Hyman, gut health

I didn’t even set out to lose weight. I set out to clear chronic cystic acne and to improve my overall health. In the process, however, I lost 17 pounds (7 in the first 10 days), and at last count, something like 7+ inches. I’m happy to report that my skin is better, too. And not that I can guarantee this kind of outcome for everyone, but I’ve also tapered off antidepressants for the first time since the birth of my second child and terminal diagnosis of my beloved dad, eight years ago. So how did I do it?

A second education in food

The long story is that our winding path with Isaac’s challenges has lead us to explore some things over the years that we may not have otherwise tried (or even heard of, for that matter). When there is no set roadmap for helping your child, you become more open, more curious, more involved in addressing your child’s health than you might be if his or her development were more typical.

While this is not a path we chose to be on (and not one we would wish on others, as it’s hard on both the heart and the pocketbook), there is no doubt we have built a storehouse of knowledge about health along the way. And it’s become a huge part of who we are as a family and the day to day choices we make.

Take control of your health, health and fitness, acne, gut-brain-skin axis,  clear skin, healthy eating, The 10-Day Detox Diet, Mark Hyman, gut health
Photo by Trang Doan from Pexels

I’ll save our adventures in dieting for another post (I’ve learned to cater my cooking to gluten-free, GAPS, Paleo, dairy free, and anti-candida, some for short stretches, some long). But here’s one of the most important principles we’ve learned in our second education in food: believe it or not, 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut. That means that if something in our body is ailing or out of whack, there’s a high chance something is wrong in our diet. And when we remove foods that are inflammatory and replace them with more healthful, nutrient dense foods, we may see symptoms of disease disappear entirely.

More than skin deep

So in February or March of last year, when my complexion started to crash, the first thing I thought about was what in my diet might be disrupting my immune system. Isaac was starting to have acne, too, and while I knew we shared the same genes, I also knew that we share the same food.

We removed gluten from our diet long ago in hopes of changing Isaac’s behavior for the better, a path many families of children with special needs explore. What we didn’t anticipate was that six months or so into eating Paleo (which is entirely grain free, thus also gluten free), Isaac would barely be having symptoms of asthma anymore. At all. Food literally is medicine.

take control of your health, healthy eating, exercise, fitness, health and fitness, gut-brain-skin axis, acne, gut health, The 10-Day Detox Diet

When I was young, I’d had terrible trouble with my skin. It took three rounds of Accutane to set it right and an occasional treatment of Spironalactone afterward for adult acne. I had truly battled troubled skin in my youth and early adulthood, and I was not willing to welcome this problem back into my life. Despite making dramatic changes several years ago, I’d become complacent about my diet more recently and was relying too heavily on convenience foods and eating out, which is an easy pattern to fall back into, given the world we live in. I couldn’t pinpoint what was causing the flare ups, but I wanted it to STOP.

I knew I would have to play hardball, with food.

Take control of your health – my starting point

Because of prior experience, I felt confident that I could effect change, both for Isaac and for me, by changing what we ate. I’d recently learned of Mark Hyman, MD, an internationally recognized leader in functional medicine, and decided to see if he’d written anything about treating acne. What I found was the article below, which Dr. Hyman notes is his most-clicked blog post ever (so clearly, I’m not the only person who has faced this battle):

10 Simple Strategies to Eliminate Acne

This article was my starting point. I’d already eliminated gluten. I would follow Dr. Hyman’s guidelines and eliminate sugar (again) and dairy next. And I decided to order his book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, and follow it as closely as possible. By this point, it was May of 2019, and I was ready for change. It’s time, I told myself, to take control of your health.

The 10-Day Detox Diet

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Take control of your health, health and fitness, acne, gut-brain-skin axis,  clear skin, healthy eating, The 10-Day Detox Diet, Mark Hyman, gut health
Photo by Trang Doan from Pexels

Everything above is the long story. The short story is this: on May 6 of last year, I started following the program outlined in Mark Hyman’s book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which includes a thorough examination of food along with a holistic plan to “reset” your health through a combination of diet, exercise, and stress management. If you follow the program, you WILL experience change, enough so that you may adopt some of the habits for good. That’s what happened to me.

In The 10-Day Detox Diet, Dr. Hyman encourages readers to take a retreat-like approach to the 10 days, prioritizing our health over everything else. Most of us can’t take a true 10-day retreat. I certainly couldn’t. But we can commit to reordering our priorities for 10 days, focusing on our health above all else…and still keep our life (job, kids, household, sanity) afloat. I know we can, because I did it. If your health is out of control, you owe it to yourself to do it, too!

10 days to take control of your health? Totally worth it.

A holistic approach to health

The 10-Day Detox Diet is more than just an eating plan, though it is that, too. It is a holistic approach to health, including food, exercise, sleep, and reducing stress.

Food and exercise

In addition to an enlightening exploration of food and food culture , The 10-Day Detox Diet offers a wealth of delicious recipes, from simple to complex, some of which stayed on my weekly rotation long after my 10 days passed. It also includes a journal, where you answer questions around your food habits and hangups, to help you change not only your eating but the way you think about food.

Take control of your health, health and fitness, acne, gut-brain-skin axis,  clear skin, healthy eating, The 10-Day Detox Diet, Mark Hyman, gut health
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

The “diet,” which you know by now is far more than a diet, also requires that you exercise for 30 minutes every day, preferably in the morning. As someone whose yoga pants had never been to yoga, who hadn’t worked out since the months before my wedding almost 15 years prior, this was truly daunting for me.

I settled on walking as my exercise of choice, and even then, I didn’t know if I could get up in the morning for 10 days in a row to check this box off my list. And I certainly didn’t think I’d keep doing it after the program ended. But here I am, eight months later, still walking nearly every morning. It’s like a gift I give myself to start the day. (See post, My Morning Walk, with Robin.)

Sleep and stress reduction

And finally, two of my favorite requirements of the “diet,” prioritizing sleep and reducing stress.

The minimum requirement is to sleep seven hours per night, with eight being even better. In my case, this had less to do with waking up earlier and more to do with turning off the phone, the television, and my racing mind in time to get in bed, be still, and truly let down.

The stress-reduction requirement is to take a 20-minute “detox bath” every night, with a mixture of Epsom salts, essential oils, and baking soda. It felt almost odd to give myself such a luxury, but it revealed to me in clear contrast how very little I typically do to help myself relax and let go of the stresses of everyday life (something every mom must do!). And as a bonus, the bath helped me decompress enough that I fell asleep more readily and more quickly.

The keys to my success

Each of these realms–food, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction–is important when it comes to our health, but giving weight to all of them, together, for a 10 day period, is powerful. It truly changed the trajectory of my health, and it can do the same for you.

The program outlined in The 10-Day Detox Diet isn’t easy. Quite the contrary. But I succeeded with it for two primary reasons.

1) I already believed in food as medicine. I had confidence that I would see results if I followed the protocols. And I did.

2) I had a deep-seated motivation. Your motivation to take control of your health might be different from mine, but you must have one. Mine was getting rid of acne, which had already plagued me as a youth. I WAS NOT GOING BACK! What is yours?

Take control of your health, health and fitness, acne, gut-brain-skin axis,  clear skin, healthy eating, The 10-Day Detox Diet, Mark Hyman, gut health, motivation, what pulls you

It’s one thing to push ourselves to achieve a goal and something very different for a goal to pull us in the direction of success. Over this 10 day program and for many months to follow, my motivation to clear my skin literally pulled me out of bed in the morning to walk off stressors, prepare nutritious meals for the day, and make my health the priority it should be.

What pulls you?

And what about you? What motivator is so powerful that it could literally pull you out of bed in the morning to take control of your health? Identify that, and you are far more likely to succeed at this or any program you undertake.

I am in a very different headspace since following The 10-Day Detox Diet. And I’m thrilled by the changes I’ve made. I hope for the same success for you. I’m sharing my story for anyone who may feel stuck or complacent or in downright crisis to let you know that it is possible to take control of your health. You can do this. You are so worth it!

Cheers to YOU in 2020!

New Year’s Brunch at Home

New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who prefer New Year’s Eve and those who prefer New Year’s Day. Todd and I are New Year’s Day kind of people. We have a tradition of celebrating the start of a new year over a nice, indulgent brunch, where we reflect on the previous year and talk about our goals and resolutions for the new one. We’ve been doing it since before our kids were born, and the tradition continues with Isaac now 11 and Gillian eight.

We always do a little something to celebrate New Year’s Eve, too, even if we don’t stay up until midnight. Last night’s festivities were especially hilarious, even if unintentionally so. More on that in a minute.

Continue reading New Year’s Brunch at Home

All Kids Want For Christmas…

Ok, maybe it’s not all kids want for Christmas. I know from my own children’s notes to Santa that my son wants a sleeping bag for camping and my daughter wants an electric scooter (just like Taylor’s, please). There are a handful of toys and clothing items they’ve asked for, too. But I know what they want most, on Christmas and every day. What they really want…is me.

That’s right, all kids want for Christmas is you.

Childhood is for connecting

That scooter wouldn’t be nearly as fun if no one was there to celebrate her riding it. And a camping trip without Mom or Dad (or Grandma, etc.)? Forget about it. What kids are truly hungry for is connection, maybe moreso in this generation than any other.

Continue reading All Kids Want For Christmas…

Reframing Beauty