A Day of Rest

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Across from me sat a precious couple who was pulled in a hundred directions. The tension, even though it was from the outside world, was taking it’s toll on their marriage. Both of them woke up every day giving the best they had to their children, their ministries and their families. Neither of them could remember the last time they had a day to themselves, to play, to nap, to go slow enough to follow a toddler’s lead.

Everything was scheduled and all of the best things in their life were being pushed out by the good things.

Listening to them was like a traveling back in time for me. My husband and I were in that very same space of life almost 18 years ago. I ached to tell this couple to honor the time they have with each other and with their little ones. I wanted to tell them that nothing is worth the rush, the ambition of getting to the next thing and missing what is right here today.

I gave them one assignment: one day a week with nothing scheduled for any member of their family. When they were asked to pull out their calendar and commit to anyone for any reason, I suggested that they pretend that one day was not even on the page. It would be like living in a world with only six days a week.

It occurred to me as we were collaborating on this cutting edge intervention for family stress, how much all of my clients would have benefited if this is where we started. Obviously, this idea did not originate in my office. Sabbath is an ancient and holy practice and it might be the cure to our cultural insanity.

Maybe we are depressed because we are overly-scheduled and exhausted.

Maybe we are anxious and distracted because we are always revving in such a high gear.

Maybe we are fighting with our spouse and our kids are fighting with each other because no one has had a break in a really long time.

We take breaks or we break.

And, friends, we are breaking.

Relationships are slow. Human development cannot be rushed. Time is our greatest commodity and we are giving it away for nothing in return. When we move quickly, we don’t remember. Even the sweet rituals of playing with our kids, driving or eating together as a family, will not be stored as memories if we are rushing through them.

Fight or flight was meant to be a useful tool for survival. When everything in our life is scheduled, we look to the clock as if it’s a ticking time bomb, we must hurry, hurry, hurry. We can’t slow down to see why our son is crying or take five or ten or sixty minutes to help our daughter learn how to tie her shoes.

While I have regrets about much of my early years of parenting, one of the things I am proud of is our decision to take back our Saturdays. Until my kids started school, my husband worked a job where he was away most weekends. When the children were 3 and 5 years old, he started a new job and finally we had weekends together. Guess where we spent all of those Saturdays? Standing with adults we did not know and could not get to know, watching our kids go crazy with twenty other children, longing for another piece of dry birthday cake as our reward for suffering through yet another stranger’s birthday parties.

We were miserable. We made a decision to make no commitments on Saturdays. It was our day. Our day to drink coffee while the kids watched cartoons for hours. Our day to spend at the park or in the backyard. Our day for the kids to learn how to ride their bikes. Our day to visit with our neighbors and play board games with our family.

I will never regret one of those Saturdays. Even if we fought. Even if there was complaining that we missed this event or that one. Even if we didn’t have much fun that particular day.

We honored the Sabbath by accident. Now that our kids have lives of their own we have to be much more flexible and inventive in finding ways to create Sabbath.

In this day and time one of the simplest solutions is having a technology Sabbath. From sundown on one day to sundown the next, no screens.

It’s amazing what we have discovered in the space of unscheduled time with no technology to fill it. Some of the things we suddenly find in our Sabbath space: books we’ve been meaning to read, those fabulous zen coloring books, conversations we’ve been meaning to have, a walk through our neighborhood, an afternoon nap, ingredients to make cookies, taking time to really pet and talk to our dog, learning a new song on the piano or drums, writing another chapter in that novel, actually watching the sunrise and the sunset.

Being a human is not easy. We walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders and it’s not just adults that feel this weight. Children and teenagers are also burdened with overwhelming pressures and expectations.

Sabbath is an invitation to sit back and be a part of creation.

It is a time when we can receive the gifts that this day has to give us and take a break from believing that our world only spins on the axis of our own efforts.

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A Minimalist Grocery List

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Must buy fresh:

Apples (or favorite seasonal fruit)

Almond butter (fresh ground from Fresh Market)

Eggs

Quinoa Bread (Fresh Market Bakery)

Salad Mixes/Pre-chopped vegetables

Lemon

Kale

Avocado

 

Always in my pantry/freezer:

Butter (organic, unsalted)

Salt

Fruit Spread (Smuckers all-fruit, Strawberry and Blackberry)

Almonds/Pecans/Walnuts/Sunflower seeds

Chicken Tenders (Bell&Evans, Gluten-free)

Rice

Garlic (love the little frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s)

 

{Now I know what to buy in bulk which always been tricky because I hate wasting anything. That leaves me eight ingredients that are always on my list. I can buy eight things even when I am hungry, distracted and overwhelmed-which are common symptoms I experience while grocery shopping.}

 

 

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The Art of Eating: Dinner

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This is my cheap and easy dinner.

It’s simple and delicious.

Garlic Chicken Tenders+Rice+Roasted Kale with Lemon=my favorite meal

We eat this so often it’s embarrassing. We almost always have the ingredients and it takes between 20-30 minutes to put it all together.

The other night I bought a nice pizza for the rest of the gang and cooked this up for myself. I figured since we had eaten it the night before no one else would want it. Both my son and my husband ate their pizza and then ate the chicken and rice that was still on the stove for their second dinner. My daughter is not always eating meat but her favorite version of this meal is rice+avocado+soy sauce.

This meal always tastes good, always sounds appetizing and it doesn’t get old.

I get the rice started in my little rice cooker after rincing it a bit, pour the kale on a cookie sheet, drizzle it with olive oil and put in the oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, heat up olive oil and crushed garlic in a skillet and cook the chicken (from frozen) 5 minutes on each side. For extra crunch and extra garlic yum, sauté the kale in the skillet with the tenders for that last few minutes.

Serve in one bowl, rice on the bottom, chicken and kale on top with lemon and salt sprinkled on top.


My Dinner Essentials

frozen chicken tenders (Bell&Evans*)

jasmine rice

kale (pre-chopped and washed)

garlic

olive oil

lemon

sea salt

avocado (for my girl)

*Special note about the chicken: These tenders are yummy and worth the extra cost, not just any tenders will do. It is because they are so delicious that we are happy to eat them night after night. https://www.bellandevans.com/frozen/breaded-chicken-breast-tenders

 

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The Art of Eating: Lunch

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After Thanksgiving (and four days of eating leftovers), I was ready for some healthy food. With all of the many opportunities to eat delicious treats over the holidays, Winter is the perfect time to eat clean and healthy in all the meals between.

For a while now I have been on the lookout for a good fall/winter idea for my seasonal lunch. While scrolling through Pinterest, I found this crunchy salad at The Harvest Kitchen and then I remembered about my favorite creamy coconut soup from The Gluten-Free Goddess and this old standby from a few years ago compliments of a Cup a Cup a.

Both the Harvest Salad and the Green Soup have “detox” in their title. While that word is not appetizing to me at all, I do love that both of these meals include ingredients like ginger, apple cider vinegar, lemon and garlic known for their cleansing properties.

If I am recommending a recipe it is because it is, in my opinion, both GOOD and GOOD FOR ME. I do not have a powerful appetite so deliciousness (even if it is plain or simple) is essential. No choking down anything just because it is on some list of super foods.

I want to want to eat.

In order to keep this process simple, I buy the ingredients for/make only one of these recipes a week. For me, three recipes on rotation is enough variety.

It helps if I make the meal the same day as I buy the ingredients. Once I put all of these vegetables in their spots in the fridge they tend to get comfortable there. The thought of pulling them out can feel overwhelming but when they are already out it almost seems just as easy to make the food as it would be to put it all away.

If you are reading this blog, I am going to assume you are not judging me for feeling overwhelmed by putting away or taking out groceries.

It seems petty, doesn’t it?

But, in my study of rest, I have learned there are some very tiny things that overwhelm me. I spent many a years trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t be overwhelmed by certain things. Now, I try to work around them.

Skipping over the small step (but giant leap for jenny-kind) of putting away/taking out ingredients gives me twice as much energy to put toward actually creating my colorful salad or creamy soup.

In my dream world, I cook on Sunday or Monday so that I have a large container full of tasty food waiting for to get hungry in the middle of the day. It is also easy to pack in my bag when I know I will be out most of the day.

If you do not want to spend any time chopping or cooking, you can combine several packages of salads (coleslaw mix, broccoli carrot slaw, diced cauliflower, baby spinach and kale or whatever is on sale) with sunflower seeds and roasted almonds (or whatever nuts you like). Toss it all in a dressing of olive oil, lemon, apple cider vinegar and ginger. There you go-lunch for the week. I prefer to add the nuts right with each serving it so they stay crunchy but it is still yummy if they are already mixed in.


My Lunch Essentials

Ingredients for this week’s meal:

olive oil
garlic
onion
ginger
broccoli
spinach, kale
parsley, cilantro, and mint
coconut milk

*large container with lid to store in fridge

*serving size containers for lunch on the go


 

What about you?

Do you have a usual lunch?

Do you pack a lunch?

Do you ever forget to eat in the middle of the day?

What are your strategies for eating food that is good and good for you?

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The Art of Eating: Breakfast

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I have a brilliant idea. Well, it is brilliant for me. If you have my brain, my life, my appetite, my particular issues and idiosyncraticites.

Think capsule wardrobe for food.

In case you are not familiar with the term, a capsul wardrobe is a about thoughtfully choosing and purchasing articles of clothes that can work in several ways with each other. Here is my favorite blog about this: http://www.Un-fancy.com.

Some people find the idea of a minimal waredrobe to be boring. Not me. As far as I am concerned, boring is the new novelty.

The genius of the capsule wardrobe for me is dreictly related to decision fatigue. I wrote about this in Day 1 of 30 Days of Rest:

“Because of technology, we have the option to do hundreds of things at any given moment. All of us are suffering from decision fatigue. This means that we are exhausted before we even get started on doing whatever it is we eventually choose. You might consider using these 30 days to let your mind focus on one thing at a time, to set up some new boundaries for yourself in how you use technology. Enjoy phone free hours. Drive with your phone powered off. Take a social media sabbath once a week.”

My closet was where I began this process of simplifying everything. But the truth is that I eat way more often than I get dressed. You know what I mean by that, I don’t get for real dressed in real outfits. I live in workout clothes and pajamas 70% of the time.

But I eat every single day.

Several times a day.

Deciding what to eat and when to eat is exhausting.

Yesterday I had the idea to use what has been so helpful for me about Un-fancy and apply those same principles to my food.

I thought long and hard about what almost always sounds good to me+what fits into my eating plan. Research shows that we are creatures of habit regardless of how much variety we want in our lives, so I wonder if you might be more like me than I think.

Let’s start with breakfast. With no appetite in the morning, I was struggling to figure out what I could stomach. Usually this meant that I would eventually forget to eat or eat something that was not good for me. This fed into me being too hungry and impatient to figure out what I would eat for the next meal so often, I would get some take-out and continue the cycle throughout the day.

In case you are wondering, my eating plan is Paleo+wine+occasional bread+special sweets. Mostly good stuff a little of the not so good but so delicious stuff.

In the mornings, my breakfast plan is a protein+fruit+fat. I love hard boiled eggs served warm with butter and sea salt (thanks to my egg cooker). I love honey crisp apples and fresh ground almond butter. This is my seasonal breakfast. It is what I plan to have every single morning.

If I am especially hungry, have a big workout planned or am in need of comfort food, I replace the apple with a banana or sprouted quinoa bread (from Fresh Market) which I slather with almond butter and all-fruit blackberry spread.

Yum. Yum. And Yum.

I haven’t missed breakfast since I started this strategy and even more impressive than that, I look forward to eating breakfast. I thought I would change up my meal once the season changed but I am still enjoying it because the apples are just getting better. But I really like the idea of using my favorite fresh fruit as it is in season: strawberries in the summer, apples in the fall, citrus in the winter.

 

My Breakfast Essentials:

🍎 Apples (or favorite seasonal fruit)

Almond Butter

🍳 Organic Eggs

Organic Butter

🍞  Sprouted Quinoa Bread

Sea Salt

All-fruit spread

 

What about you?

 

Do you reach for the same things when you open the fridge?

 

Do you order the same things when you go out to eat?

 

Does your grocery list include mostly the same items each week?

 

Do you buy all of the stuff you know you should eat and then it rots in your house while you go out to eat and order fancy drinks, stuff your face with all that fresh bread and spend too much money at restaurants?

 

Was that too much self-disclosure 😳?

 

Next Post: The Art of Eating: Lunch

 

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The Art of Planning

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I am in love.

This tiny, simple, minimalistic yet comprehensive planner is making the process of scheduling, planning and looking ahead such a pleasure.

You would think I spent hours assessing my needs and comparing all of the planners in the world before choosing this perfect one, but all I did was see a beautiful display in Target. I was night shopping with my daughter and her friend. (Did you know this is a thing? Its wonderful. Calm, no lines, I am a fan.) Anyway, I flipped through about three versions and quickly chose this Cambridge Edition No. twenty seventeen.

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Last year I wanted a big planner with plenty of space to brainstorm, take notes, journal and reflect.

The Passion Planner was ideal for 2016. But this year, I wanted the physical space where I kept my schedule to be as realistic and manageable as possible. I wanted it to be able to fit into my smaller purse so that I could always have it with me and I wanted to have a concrete experience of how much time I actually have to plan. When I have planners where there is one page available per day the lists I can make and the expectations I can set seem endless.

And believe it or not, I am finite. I run out of room, time, energy and money.

This planner gets me.

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Let’s start with the monthly page.

Before the January tab there is a page laid out for November and December of 2016. Which means, I get to start using this planner NOW. And it’s perfect.

Instead of looking at the holidays as individual days that I get/have to do this or that, I will only be planning in the context of the entire month. THIS is my new secret weapon for enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe this is obvious to other people but I have a terrible habit of planning because we have an available day instead of understanding how each of those individual plans fits into our bigger picture. One of the reasons the holidays are hard for me because I love being with people and I need a lot of downtime. Once Thanksgiving hits it is possible for me to not have a minute to myself until the kids go back to school in January.

Last year, gratitude was my strategy for survival and it was immensely helpful. My focus shifted from focusing on materialism and gluttony to the kindness, generosity and community that was all around me. This Grinch’s heart got bigger and I was able to see and celebrate and enjoy the glad tidings but I didn’t yet understand that the constant stimulation of holiday wears me down to an ugly nub regardless of my perspective.

The first gift of Christmas 🎄 is this calendar giving me one page per month. This is the gift that keeps on giving because this idea has challenged me to change the way I schedule the rest of my year. Here is the idea: I will attempt to schedule/plan on my monthly calendars. I am going to experiment with not filling out my weekly calendar pages until I get to that week. The monthly pages will represent my plan, a look at the big picture, context of commitment as well as the ability I have to choose how to spend my time. (A woman charts her course…)

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Each week I will turn to these fresh, clean, un-scribbled and un-scratched out pages and fill them in with the true happens of the week (…and God directs her path). These pages don’t start for me until the day after Christmas which matches our schedule perfectly.

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For the whole year, we have 2017 on two pages. This is for the big stuff: birthdays, graduations, vacations, business trips and crazy things like my kid’s first day of college. I have never used a page like this before, I am a take it a week at a time girl so this is going to stretch me.

It’s an amazing thing to get to know yourself and come to terms with your reality. My appreciation of systems has often overshadowed my actual ability to fit inside of them. It feels really good to chose a system based on how I think, how I best function and choose my plan knowing how and where I need the most support.

What have you learned about yourself that affects the way you plan?

Do you use a planner?

A calendar?

What drives your day? A schedule? A list? A plan? Whatever comes up?

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Friday: Margin

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I used to live in an imaginary world.

It was a world where appointments could be scheduled back to back, where a meeting on the other side of town was possible in the middle of the day. Showers, getting dressed into real clothes and eating were somehow going to magically happen even though I had no plan or time allotted for them. I didn’t even have room for essentials, much less the inevitable problems or possible opportunities that might present themselves. I was scheduled to the brim.

On Fridays, my kids get out of school early. This used to be one more slot I thought I could schedule but now I keep it open specifically for margin. If my week works as I plan it, then Fridays are for fun, for errands, for a spontaneous coffee date. This week did not work as I planned. Several really neat opportunities opened up to me and I jumped in with both feet–I am so happy I did. Because of this, I got behind on some writing and the laundry. It was wonderful to know that I had this morning available just for this kind of make-up work.

As I mentioned during the 30 Days of Rest, as best I can, I do plan for and schedule my essentials (what I know I need). Now, I actually have time set aside to prepare food, blow dry my hair and clean the house. This is such a discipline for me. One of my personality’s primary weaknesses (according to the enneagram) is pride. It is not pride in the “I am better than you” kind of way, it is pride because my default is to opperate from a belief that I don’t need as much as everyone else does and I have more to give than everyone else does. Of course, this awareness also lines up with entering my 40’s–an age when my body, mind and heart are gently asking me to slow down, to let me fill up before I pour out.

Margin is intentional empty space on my calendar waiting to be filled with the unexpected. Unexpected things that have entered this space this week include a porch visit with my neighbor, a little visit with my parents, an important conversation with one of my coffee moms, a trip to the bank and the grocery store, a television shoot, a dinner party with friends, attending a student performance, helping my kids with their school work, making Thanksgiving plans, getting Christmas lists organized…

So much of the juice of life is in the unexpected. I love having time in my life for my life, making room for the chaos that is intrinsic to having a family while still having a structure in place to get things done. Who knows what any of this will look like through the holidays? Maybe I need a holiday schedule.

It makes me happy to think of approaching the holidays with this appreciation of margin: celebratory space waiting to be filled with the unexpected.

May you curate margin in your day and enjoy the subtle shift of anticipating the unexpected.