Sometimes it’s all Random and Stuff

So, I’ve been a little (a lot) MIA as of late.  Life is happening.  A lot of life is happening and if I’m being honest, getting to my blog just hasn’t happened.  Oh the things I have to say…they abound.  However, taking the time to stop and write a post has just fallen to the wayside.  

My brain is full of posts I’d like to write, maybe I’ll get to them one day, maybe I should start a YouTube channel, or experiment with Snap Chat and then I can just put them out there when they happen.  hmmm….

Life happening has revolved a lot around my health and the fact that it’s not exactly awesome at the moment.  Well, it’s not that my health isn’t awesome, my body is being an A-Hole with a capital A and Hole (apparently).  I’ll go in to detail, probably, later but in short it’s taking a large amount of my energy to function.

I’m seeing different modalities of physical therapy each week.  Being stuck with needles.  Shipped to Vancouver (3x in a week) to specialists and for testing.  I’m still working out (because it’s my sanity, my love & my “happy drug”) and caring for my body, but I’ve definitely had to modify things.  I’m so thankful I know how to do that.

It’s good, it’s Ok, we’re making progress though we have yet to figure out the root cause of my problem.  I’m learning to cope with it.  I’m learning that some of this might be my new normal, and that change happens whether we want it to or not.

On top of that we’re dealing with Audrey’s little body and it’s continued problems.  Again, not something I’m doing to delve into at the moment but what I will say is that this kid is an inspiration and an example of how to keep going.

With life, and therapies and work and kids and all of the everything – you can see how this has slipped a little.  I’m sorry everyone.  I needed to focus inward a little, so I did.  So I am.

Coaching is coming a long.  Have I mentioned I LOVE health & fitness?  Have I mentioned that THIS was my purpose?  Not just helping people with programs, in fact that’s the smallest part of my purpose.  

It’s the helping them find HAPPY inside of healthy, working on creating meal plans for them.  Getting into the nitty gritty of their health struggles, seeing them lose tons of weight and find that they CAN do it and it WILL last because we’re working on new habits.

Man, if you were sitting here the sound of my fingers flying over the keys those last few paragraphs would probably annoy you.  (Anyone else find typing an annoying sound?)  I’m excited about it, passionate, and in love with it!

The trouble?!

I want to help more people.  I NEED to help more people and I’m struggling on 2 levels.  

Sometimes reaching out feels hard.  Not because I don’t want to help, but because I don’t want to offer help to someone who didn’t want it and then offend them.  I’m working on it, and a lot of people don’t even know that I’m coaching.  They have NO idea what I can do to help them.  I need to put myself out there more.

The other problem?  

Well, when you want to change the world.  Help families (not just one member of them) get healthy, it’s a big job.  I need help!  I need other people who want to learn about getting healthy.  People who are works in progress who want to help others they love become works in progress.  

I need a team.  An army.  A FAMILY! of people who want to coach along side me.

Is that you?!!  If it is please, please, please let me know!  Reach out if you want help getting healthy, if you want to learn about coaching, if you just wanna chat about the fact that sometimes watching YouTube videos about bacon cheeseburgers feels good.  Whatever, I wanna chat! 

Wow, this post is disjointed and has gone in 100 different directions.  But if I’m being honest, that’s kind of how my life feels.  No, not kinda, it IS how my life feels.

As God and I are working through all that is happening.  All that is changing I need to learn balance. I need to learn to be still (I suck at sitting) and I need to learn to put myself out there more.

So, my friends I am here.  I’ll always be here.  Sometimes I’ll be quiet but I’m here whenever you need me.  I’m here!

What do you think should I start a YouTube channel and spew forth all that’s in my brain?  What would you like to hear more from me about?  Life? Fitness? Nutrition? Healthy families? Recipes?

Help a girl out and let me know what you’d like to hear/see and I’ll do my best to oblige!

 

Gluten Free Gingersnap Cookie Recipe (aka. You’re Welcome)

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Nothing says Christmas to me quite like the smell of cookies baking.  Very specific cookies in fact – Gingersnap cookies & Shortbread.

I remember being a little girl sneaking into the freezer and sneaking out the frozen shortbread cookies and just letting them melt in my mouth.  Looking back, my Mom knew they were being taken (she’s not dumb, despite what I thought when I was 14) but gave me grace and didn’t comment on it.  

As I grew older, I developed my own love for being in the kitchen and my passion for baking began.  Gingersnaps quickly became my favourite Christmas cookie to bake and over the years, as the recipe has evolved, they’ve become the most requested Christmas cookie I bake.

They’re Audrey’s favourite cookie this time of year and I knew, when Celiac disease arrived that I was going to need to find a way to continue making her gingersnaps.

2 years and a lot of experiments later I have finally arrived at a recipe that I think is near perfect.  In fact, the way my girls ate them and the comments (or rather noises) coming from them have christened these cookies, near to cookie heaven.

Rich & molasses-y, sweet, crisp edges and soft centers, these are lovely.  They are also standing up quite well to time.  They’re not drying out nor are they getting moldy – which if you’re living the gluten free life you’ll know is a HUGE win!  They also freeze super well.

So, in true recipe success fashion, here we are to share!  Please note that at the BOTTOM of the recipe, I will have the adjustments you can make to turn this recipe into a wheat version for your family & friends.  

Give these guys a try and then comment to let me know what you think!  And don’t forget if you decide to take a photo and post them in social media to tag me & to use the hashtag #ofsbakes

Gluten Free Gingersnap Recipe
Gingersnaps perfect for Christmas (or any time!). Crispy edges with warm, chewy centers.
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 Cup of Butter, room temperature!
  2. 1 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  3. 2 Eggs
  4. 1/2 Cup of Molasses
  5. 2 1/2 Cups of Gluten Free Flour (see note)
  6. 2 tsp of Baking Soda
  7. 2 tsp of Ground Ginger
  8. 1 HEAPING tsp of Cinnamon (don't skimp on cinnamon)
  9. 1 tsp of Salt
  10. Additional Granulated Sugar for rolling
Instructions
  1. Pre-Heat Oven to 350°F & line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. Cream together butter & first granulated sugar
  3. Whip in both eggs and cream until light & fluffy
  4. Add molasses, mix well
  5. SIFT together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon & salt in a separate bowl (a MUST do)
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture to your wet ingredients and blend well
  7. Cookie dough will be sticky - that's OK! Gluten free flour is thirsty flour, it will thicken as it stands
  8. Place the entire bowl in the fridge for 1/2 an hour or the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up dough
  9. Place additional sugar on a large dinner plate (start with 2 tbsp add more if needed)
  10. Wet hands SLIGHTLY, scoop 1 tbsp of dough into hands, roll into a ball & roll that in sugar
  11. Place sugared dough onto cookie sheet leaving space for them to expand
  12. Gently press a SMALL finger imprint into the top of each dough ball & sprinkle on additional pinch of sugar
  13. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cookies have crackled & edges appear firm.
  14. These cookies sometimes appear a little "damp" even when they're done. The crackles are your sign they're ready to come out (or nearly ready)
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack
Notes
  1. We love the President's Choice gluten free all purpose flour or Better Batter GF Flour for these cookies. OR we whip up the Mock Better Batter flour from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-flour-blends-what-you-need-to-know/)
  2. If your flour blend does not contain xanthan gum, make sure to add in 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to this recipe. You NEED the binder
  3. WHEAT VERSION: Reduce to 1 Large egg or 1 medium egg + 1 egg white & increase flour to 2 1/2 Cups plus 2 TBSP of flour
  4. Save left over sugar from rolling cookies to add to oatmeal. It makes a yummy gingery, holiday topping to a bowl of hot cereal.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/

Stretching our definition of Beautiful

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With great nervousness and trepidation I shared this photo on social media the other day after a conversation I had with one of our girls.  It took all the courage I could muster to take it, to look at it and then to click “post”.

Here’s the story I wrote to go with it:

“Last week one of the girls walked into the bathroom while I was getting ready for the day.

As I stood there putting on my make up, in my underwear she was quiet. I could see her studying me in the mirror and her “wheels turning”.

After a few minutes had past she stood up and traced her fingers over my hips “Are those veins Mama? The ones that shine a little?”

“No lovie. Those are my grow marks from when I was younger. Some people call them stretch marks but they just tell the story that I once was small and then grew up” Taking a breath, I waited for the critique that can come from an outspoken, honest child.

She was quiet again for a moment and then said softly, “You know what Mama? I think they’re beautiful!”

Then she jumped up, kissed my arm and ran off to play while I just simply stood there – stunned

As I looked in the mirror at a part of my body I’ve hated for 20 years I realized something… She’s right. They are.

They are a beautiful, shiny reminder that I grew up. That I’m alive, that I work hard, that I exercise, that I once was unhealthy and now I am not.

This photo wasn’t easy to take and it certainly wasn’t easy to share but now that it’s out there it’s my accountability. My reminder for me and for you to look at our grow marks, through the eyes of a child & see them for what they are. A beautiful story of who we are, where we were and where we’re going.”

It’s a sweet story right?  Something endearing and encouraging from the heart of one of my little loves.  So why?  Why on earth was it so hard to share?

Because I had to be vulnerable.  Because I have spent the better part of 20 years trying to hide those stretch marks.  Because the world says that “beautiful” is perfection.  She’s got long lean legs, perky “pecs covers” (aka boobs), shiny hair and blemish free, smooth skin.  There are no stretch marks or bruises, you can’t see her veins and she doesn’t have freckles.  Then, when you meet that criteria and only then, the world looks you straight in the eye and says, “Hang on.  Let me grab my airbrush and I’ll fix you.  Just a little here, and some there.  Ahhhh yes, now.  Now you are beautiful…”

And my friends, I am none of those things.  While my legs are long, lean they are not (strong they are!), I’ve got some perky pecs but sadly they have no covers and my hair is only shiny when I forget to wash it for 4 days.  And even then, the shine kinda smells a little.

I’ve had acne since I was 11, stretch marks since I was 13 and the fact that ALL the furniture in the universe jumps out and smacks me, means that bruises are kind of like my “thing”.  Freckles litter my nose, arms and chest and I’m pretty sure if I had an airbrush I’d end up accidentally removing one of my limbs or something.

In the eyes of the world I lack beauty, which translates to unworthy and with that comes the belief that I shouldn’t share my story.  Posting that photo shows the world my “ugly” and that was scary.

Except – I’m not who the world keeps trying to tell my I am and I’m not who it keeps trying to tell me I should be.   Instead, I’m flawed, I’m faulted, at times I’m even broken and you know, I’m OK with that.

It’s taken me years to get to the place where I can say that but I am because I am exactly who God created me to be.  He placed the freckles on my nose, gave me life to grow & stretch marks to prove it and for whatever reason turned the furniture against me.  He also filled this body with a heart that loves people, that desires deeply to serve Him and that would sacrifice all that I have for the children who are mine.

In the eyes of those beautiful babes, I am beautiful – flaws and all.  And if that doesn’t make you feel worthy, I don’t know what will.

So, I took the photo.  I wrote the story and I clicked “post” because I need to do more than tell myself I am worthy – I need to tell you that YOU are worthy too.

Look at the thing you try hardest to hide and see what He sees, what my girl saw.  A beautiful woman, living inside a strong body – worth being thankful for, worth taking care of and worth being loved.

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bars Recipe (Gluten Free)

You know what isn’t my favourite?  Buying things I can make.  You know what else isn’t my favourite?  Trying to buy things for my family and discovering that all the things I’m trying to buy contain crap.  You know crap right?  It’s Chemical. Riddled. Alarming. Products (acronyms make me happy).  And finally, when I do find something that is safe (ish) I then don’t love the $4 million dollar price tag that’s attached to a box of 4. 

I mean really – does it cost you that much to eliminate all the garbage?!  I mean, how many people do you have to pay to NOT put CRAP into our food?!

Anyways *sigh*, with it being back to school season and the continuation of packing lunches I’ve been on the hunt for new things to add for the girls.  We pack lunches year round because in the summer the girls come with me to work, but something about the back to school season makes me want to kick up my game a notch.

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bar (Gluten Free)

Today, after a really long trip to the grocery store I came home with bags of ingredients and a mission.  If they can’t provide it, I’m gonna make it – it’s how I generally roll.  

With all that’s going on right now, the convenience of just buying it done would be nice but I just can’t put garbage into my kids, not without feeling like a failure anyways.

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So, out came the mixing bowls, the ingredients and a recipe.  Which I read, rolled my eyes at and put away.  I’d just make it up as I went along, like I usually do.  I have a base idea of what to put in it, so…here we go.

Audrey decided to help and within minutes we had food all over my clean floor** some delicious granola bars hitting the oven and a Banana Apple Oat Bread waiting its turn (Leave a COMMENT if you want that recipe too!).

The result was a beautiful pan of Chia Honey Oat Granola bars that smell delicious.  They’re crunchy and reminiscent of the Nature’s Path Granola bars I loved as a kid.

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I even put a very thin (we’re talking a nearly see through smear) of melted dark/milk chocolate on top of some of the bars.  This instantly turns them into a “treat” for the girls.

School lunch conundrum solved for another week.  Now, to start thinking about next week…this planners gotta plan!

What healthy/treat type snacks do YOU put in your kids lunches?

Chia Honey Oat Granola Bar (Gluten Free)
Yields 12
A delicious homemade granola bar for school lunches or snacks. Can be topped with a TINY bit of chocolate to up the yummy anti!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Cup Rolled Oats, gluten free (if needed)
  2. 1/2 Cup Quick Oats, gluten free (if needed)
  3. 1/2 Cup Brown rice Crisps Cereal, gluten free (if needed)
  4. 3 TBSP Ground Golden Flax seed (can sub regular ground flax)
  5. 3 tsp of Chia Seeds
  6. 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  7. 1/8 tsp Salt
  8. 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  9. 1/4 Cup of Honey
  10. 2 TBSP Coconut Oil (can sub butter or Rice Bran Oil but these do NOT hold together as well with other oils)
  11. 1/4 Cup of chocolate chips
  12. 3 tsp of Brown Sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line an 8x8 cake pan with parchment paper
  3. In a medium bowl combine oats, rice krispies, ground flax, chia seeds, baking soda and salt
  4. In a microwave safe bowl combine honey, brown sugar and coconut oil, microwave for 1 minute or until mixture bubbles
  5. Add vanilla to hot liquid mixture & combine with dry ingredients
  6. Pour mixture into baking sheet and press down firmly!!! I place a piece of wax paper on top and use a heavy mug to press these down
  7. Bake for 15-22 minutes or until dark golden brown on top
  8. Remove from oven and immediately press down again - BE CAREFUL IT'S HOT (use same method as above
  9. Let cool 20 minutes then remove from pan and cut into 12 pieces
CHOCOLATE OPTION
  1. Once completely cool, melt chocolate in microwave and spread thinly on top of your bars.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/
** It is not wise to invite a child into the kitchen to help you bake AFTER you’ve just cleaned your floors. Within 2 minutes my floor was covered with ground nuts and coconut because her container went flying. It was an accident but oh man…the mess!**

Audrey & Bethany NEED your help meeting a need!

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Every year at Christmas, one of the company I work for (my parent’s company) has a “Food for Friends” drive that pivots around our company open house. Suppliers, trades, customers, friends and even, at times strangers make donations to our local food bank and each year blow our minds with their generosity. It’s overwhelming to stand, at the back of my Mom’s Honda Pilot, looking at the mass amounts of food, diapers and supplies given out of the goodness of people’s hearts.

For Bethany & Audrey, it’s one of their favourite parts of the Christmas season. They love having the privilege of helping us deliver the food to the local Salvation Army and eagerly help load food hampers with us for families in need in out community.

When we had kids, Corey and I set out to raise women who have “Jesus’ heart”, who are kind, generous and loving. Little did we know that HE gave us girls with so much more than we could ever teach them. Their love for helping – whether it’s me in the kitchen or kid who’s sad is such a beautiful thing. They were born with the desire to serve and we try, as often as we can to give them avenues in which they can do it.

Recently, a need in our community came to our attention and its direct connection to our lives & our hearts resulted in all of us feeling like we HAD to do something…and so we are! (secret: We’re inviting YOU to help too!)
Most of you know that a year and a half ago Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The means that for the safety of her body she can’t eat anything that contains gluten! It will harm her, both in immediate physical symptoms and long term permanent damage to her little body. It was a hard diagnosis to swallow, but one we have grown to appreciate and embrace. It changed her life and it has made us so much more aware of a different kind of need.

Someone with Celiac disease needs to eat “Gluten Free” foods (certified) for their body to function properly and be safe. That means it can’t contain wheat, rye, barley or triticale (among other things), nothing that contains gluten. In general, we have found this to be not so difficult. Fresh fruits, vegetables & meats are all naturally gluten free, as are non-gluten grains (rice, millet, sorghum) etc. Where you run into the cost, and potential problem in this diet is when it comes to bread, dairy products, pasta, cured meats, crackers and canned goods. Many things, MANY of them that you would think are gluten free – like a can of mushroom soup, are not. They are filled with gluten – and there for seriously dangerous to a Celiac.

The items that are gluten free are significantly more expensive than their wheat counterparts and this diagnosis can take a real toll on your grocery bill. For those living on meager means, or needing assistance, this can feel or even be nearly impossible.

See where I’m going with this?

Last week we learned that our local food bank and food banks around Canada have very little in regards to gluten free foods. In fact, the lady I spoke to said there are times they have almost no gluten free foods to offer to a family in need who are facing Celiac disease, or wheat allergy. She said there are times they come and look through the canned foods available and can’t find almost anything safe for them. Unfortunately, the majority of what gets donated to a food bank, the things they are able to keep in stock for families in need are things that are packaged & canned. These are the very things that people like our Audrey can’t have.

When we learned this our hearts broke and the girls were filled with questions – “How did we not know this was happening?”, “WHY is it happening?” and more importantly “How can we fix it?”

The answers are simple – we didn’t know it was happening because we didn’t think to ask. The reason it’s happening is because NOBODY else knows there’s a need either, and what we can do about it why I’m writing this blog post!

Audrey & bethany's

From August 15 – 18 2016 Audrey and Bethany are holding their first ever GLUTEN FREE FOOD DRIVE! And as an added bonus they’re raffling off 2 Chilliwack Chiefs Kids Jerseys (you earn an entry when you donate)
We will be collecting Gluten Free donations for our local food bank, doing our best to not only fill their shelves with foods safe for everyone but also to create awareness in our community, and communities around Canada about a need that needs meeting! This is a problem we CAN fix – if you’re willing to help us.
Here’s how you can help:

  1. If you live in the Chilliwack/Fraser Valley area purchase some gluten free food and contact me. We will have a collection location for you to drop off your food
  2. Tell your friends about Audrey & Bethany’s Gluten Free Food Drive and invite them to participate
  3. If you live ANYWHERE else in Canada purchase a few gluten free items & donate them to your local food bank.
  4. Consider running your own Gluten Free Food drive and help your local food banks
  5. Share this blog post/Facebook event and help spread awareness to a growing need
  6. Leave a comment and share with us how YOU would like to help

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Helping someone else isn’t a chore friends, it’s a choice. Today we care daring you to make a choice to acknowledge a need and do what you can to meet it!

When it all comes Crashing In

-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.-Isaiah 41-10
This past month has been one of the hardest months I have faced in my life. Not because of my family, or my friends or my job but because of me. The water I’ve been treading has felt dark & deep, and I’ve barely been keeping my head above water.
 
June was an intense month for us. 3 trips to Children’s hospital for Audrey, end of school & some other emotionally heavy pieces weighed life down. I kept going, smiling, telling myself I was good, we were good – it was FINE because I felt I had no choice. If I wasn’t fine, then someone else might see the hard or my girls might feel it.
 
Then July 2nd came, the final appointment had passed, school was over and all of a sudden it all came CRASH in on me. My body literally had a complete spaz attack and I began to feel pain and discomfort like I’ve never felt. I couldn’t exercise how I’m used to, I couldn’t move how I like to and it was a chore getting through each day.
 
But it wasn’t just the pain, it was the flood of emotions, uncontrollable emotions that took me over. I cried, sobbed for days. My parents were gone on holidays, I hid from my friends terrified if they saw me they’d see through my smile. I wasn’t even sure I could smile, and I was afraid they’d see me crumbling, they’d think I was weak – they’d know I was failing.
 
I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move and for the first time in my adult life I actually thought maybe I was dying. That this was the end.
 
Never in my life have I been so afraid, so desperate for the love and comfort of the Holy Spirit, so completely and utterly helpless.
 
The good news is that some of that has passed. Some of the emotions that overwhelmed are being worked through. Though I’m pretty sure a hormone imbalance is adding to the problem.
 
The physical pain has lessened too. It’s not nearly as bad as it was, but there have been ultrasounds, there are specialists appointments and plans for some IV therapy treatments.
 
I even saw a Chiropractor with plans to also see physio & massage. You guys – I was SO at the point of desperation that I actually let someone TOUCH ME. I HATE to be touched so this step blew the minds of my family.
 
And slowly I am working on talking to and seeing the women I love so very much.
 
When I climbed that mountain the other day – I stared into the eyes of all that hurt, all the fear, and all that I believed would destroy me. We didn’t plan to finish, I wasn’t sure my body would let me, but my beautiful friends were patient. They stopped, they waited, we laughed and around each (steep) switch back, I’d look up and think “It still so far” then I’d turn around and look back and think “But look how far I’ve come, I can go a little more”.
 
And then all of a sudden we were there. Looking out at God’s great creation, the overwhelm hit my soul – I did it. I made it through the hard and now, NOW I had my reward.
 
I wish I could say it’s over and I’m 100% fine but I’m not. I’m far from “normal” again, but at least I see that light. I have hope, I have a plan and the tears have dried.
 
The part of this story I love the most?  It’s that in the moments when I thought all was lost.  When I was scared, hiding, alone – Jesus met me.  Verses from Sunday school days past poured over my heart, worship songs soothe my soul and His gentle whisper of love lifted me up and has carried me through.
 
My struggles haven’t made me weak, they made me humble and inside that humility I found the thing I long for in this life the most – a closer relationship with my heavenly father and for that I can’t possibly be anything but thankful.  

He likes Big Butts and He Should have Lied…

Corey and Ashley Sept 2005This is us, with in a day or two of the story below.

We’d been together about 2 months, when Corey looked at me with love in his eyes, sighed and said “This song reminds me of you…”  his face full of dopey, dreamy new love.

 I couldn’t see my face at that moment, but I could feel it and based on the fire beginning to burn inside of me I’m going to hazard a guess in saying it wasn’t exactly pretty.

Before you start thinking I’m a calloused, cold hearted woman who didn’t appreciate the fact that her fiance was being so romantic, let’s just discuss the song that reminded Corey of me…

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” (the link takes you to the video.  I really don’t want it embedded here)

Now, let’s just talk about the lyrics to that song:

“They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean— gross. Look!
She’s just so… black!

[Sir Mix-a-Lot]
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But that butt you got makes me so…”

Let’s just stop right there.  This IS a family site after all.

I stood there in disbelief, my brain spinning a mile a minute, as the song played and the lyrics painted a picture in my head of what I looked like to my future husband – 

a prostitute who has to stuff her “round thing” into her jeans, that all his friends warned him about.  Oh and did I forget to mention her BUTT IS BIG?! 

Horrified doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.  Mortified might be a better word, devastated that the bum I knew wasn’t small (hello I had to find jeans to house it dontcha know) was actually considered BIG!  All my insecurities poured themselves right into that moment and I stood there feeling defeated, wondering why he wanted to marry me?  I mean, why on earth would he want someone with a butt capable of knocking over an entire china display or taking out a small village with one grand sway of the hips?!

Corey on the other hand stood there bewildered and confused.  Had he said something wrong?  Was I not completely impressed by his romantic abilities?  Why wasn’t I falling all over him with desire?

I’ll tell you why – I was afraid of causing him physical harm that’s why.  I mean, one wrong move and I might give him a black eye with that BIG BUTT of mine.

And then I spoke.  It’s one of the shortest sentences I’ve ever uttered and its simplicity told of the dangerous waters he was in:

“Really? This song?”

Still slightly confused but feeling the pressure & temperature of the room begin to rise he began to speak, in rapid fire.

“Yes this song.  It makes me think of you.  I love you.  This song is one of my favourites and when I used to think about who I wanted to marry it was this girl and now I found her.  And, well, so, umm….you’re pretty?”

That’s not a typo friends – that last part was said as a question.  As though, the questionable complement would maybe, sort of fix the look of hurt and fury on my face.

“So, you think my butt is big?”

“Well, ya.  I mean, you know it’s not BIG, big, but it’s not small.  And that’s a good thing because….”

Honestly I can’t tell you what words came after that because I was focusing on “it’s not small” and wondering how much pain I could inflict with the running shoe sitting on the shelf beside me.

Needless to say, that evening didn’t turn out to be one of our better evenings.  Though we did talk it out, I did a lot of crying, he did a lot of ice cream eating, tea drinking and head nodding (when I’m upset I talk.  A lot.  When Corey is, well, when Corey is breathing he eats ice cream).  

We discussed my insecurities for the first and certainly not the last time.  We discussed his ability to use tact and to think ahead of my reaction, again not for the last time.  We discussed and we discussed and we discussed (because “beating a dead horse” is my strong suit).

Ultimately we came to 2 conclusions: I shouldn’t take everything Corey says literally and when a song reminds Corey of me, he should probably keep that information to himself.  

(ps. Corey knows I shared this story tonight.  It’s something we both laugh about – now)

The Other Side of Abuse

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I remember that night with a clarity I wish would fade.  It was 12:30 AM and I was locked behind the safety of the bathroom door, in an old, cigarette smoke filled house.  The door had light blue paint that was peeling off in one corner, and the bath mat on the floor was tattered in one corner.  The ceiling was nicotine stained and the faucet dripped.  It always dripped, no matter what you did, it dripped.

I wasn’t in there to use the toilet.  I wasn’t even there to fix my hair.  Though I flushed the toilet, just for effect, it really wasn’t why I was there.  I was in there to hide.

I could hear him on the other side of the door.  The sound of his voice slurred by the multiple bottles and cans of beer he’d consumed in the past few hours.  The rage in his tone, the reason I’d said I had to pee in the first place. 

He was angry, and nobody could miss who he was angry at…me.

We’d been out that night at a local pub.  There was live music and it had been packed.  We’d gone out for dinner with a group of his construction friends and then to the pub for the show. 

I’d driven.  I always drove.  That’s what you do when you’re the girl who never drank, you drove.  So I drove.

It had started out to be a fun night.  Most of his friends were good guys.  A few even had some pretty great girlfriends, the others didn’t have girlfriends but they were friendly enough, I didn’t mind hanging out with them.  They didn’t mind hanging out with me either, I was just his girl, and I knew how to talk hockey and the difference between a skill saw and a reciprocating saw.  I was also a good “girl gauge” giving the “go for it” or the “get out of it” signal as they checked out the women in the room.

That’s what I was doing when it all began to unravel.  His one buddy, a guy who’d become my friend.  A guy who’d warned me that was the one who needed help many times, leaned over and asked about a girl.  It was loud that night, so he couldn’t hear me say go for it.  I tried to say it louder but still he couldn’t hear, so I stood up on my tip toes, leaned in and said, “Go for it!  She seems great”.

He saw me and his blood began to boil.  

Not more than 5 minutes later it was announced we HAD to go.  It was time to go and that was that. I knew better than to argue, so I grabbed my purse, said goodbye and we headed for the car.  

The minute the doors were shut and the engine running, the shouting began. 

I was a “whore”, a “nasty, dirty b***”, “fat, ugly”, worthless”, a “cheater”, a “useless piece of…*, the ranting went on as I drove, silent, knowing better than to try to defend myself.

We reached his home (his mother’s home actually he just rented a room in the tiny old house) and it continued.  We walked through the door and still he raged.  Drunk beyond words, he stumbled in and slammed things around.  His shouts got louder that night, more aggressive, more cutting and with each word I got smaller, less confident and ready to admit defeat.

Needing a break from the sound, and a place to feel safe, if even only for a moment I went to the washroom.  That’s where the nightmares always start, from that moment in the bathroom.

I knew I couldn’t take too long or he’d try to come in.  I knew he was listening so after a few minutes I flushed the toilet and turned the knob on that drippy faucet.  And then, I wasn’t sure what I would do.  

I wasn’t sure where I would go, how I’d have the courage to open that door.  I never knew what would happen when he was like that, and I wasn’t sure I had the strength that night to face it yet again.

Then I heard a different voice.  Not the voice of his mother mind you, she was home.  She was always home but she just left me when he was like this.  I don’t know why she did, but she did and I knew I was on my own.

No, the voice I heard was another male.  His brother, and it was close, really close to where I was. 

Cautiously, I opened the door and I saw the back of a short, stalky man standing in my way.  

He’d happened to need something (in the middle of the night) from his Mom’s house and he’d come home.  He’d heard the raging from outside, and when he came, realized I was locked in the bathroom.  He put himself between us that night, standing his ground telling his big brother that he was drunk and to sleep it off.  Refusing to move until his brother, my boyfriend had moved to his room and slammed his door.

Then he turned to me.  Looked at my tear filled eyes (I didn’t cry there.  I couldn’t cry there.  If I did, he’d know.  He’d know he’d won and while I was broken, damaged & defeated, I refused to let him see he’d won.  I was too stubborn for that.) and asked quietly, “Are you Ok?”

All I could do was nod.  I didn’t have words and to this day I can’t remember if I thanked him.  But in those quiet moments, he grabbed my backpack, and my purse, walked me to the door and asked if I had the strength to drive the 25 minutes back to my own home.

I did.  I got in my car, opened the windows and then as I drove, I cried.  Hot, broken, pain filled tears poured down my face as I drove.

Even though I knew he was wrong.  I knew I had done nothing wrong, his words stung and somewhere, deep inside I’d gotten so used to hearing them, I was starting to believe them.  

That was 11 years ago about now.  That girl was broken, damaged and convinced she deserved all that she got.  Certain that she wasn’t worth anything more and nobody else would want her, could ever love her. 

When life gets tense like it is right now, that nightmare starts to creep back to haunt me.  Though I no longer try to physically run away in my sleep like I did the first few years we were married. I still wake up in a cold sweat, desperate to get away, barricaded in that bathroom, terrified of the pain that would come when the door opened.  Shaking, overwhelmed and panicked.

Then I see him.  Corey, my husband, the man who is the polar opposite of that boyfriend and my heart rate begins to slow.  The shaking begins to subside and as I take a few deep breaths, and curl myself into his warm back the fear begins to ease.

There aren’t words for how grateful I am for the husband I have.  How safe I feel in his arms.  How secure I am in his love.  How I cherish his quiet voice, tender ways and peace making heart.  Even now, all these years later, not a day goes by where I take for granted the man who rescued this broken girl and for the love he pours over me.

That girl back then had nothing, her insides felt dead and she truly believed she wasn’t worth anything.  Her self-esteem didn’t exist, and confident wasn’t a word anyone would have used to describe her.

That girl has changed so much over the last 11 years.  I have changed in the last 11 years and that change has come at the great mercy of a God who loves me and a man He gave me, who’s love has healed my hurt.

I believe with my whole heart that God allowed (not caused) that to happen to me for a greater purpose.  He allowed me to live in abuse for 2 years, to face pain, to choose to stay when I should have left – to bring me to this place, to where I am now.

Here, where I am now is a place of gratitude.  Abundant, unending gratitude for the man I am married to.  If I hadn’t lived the other life, I’d have taken him for granted, I know I would of because I wouldn’t have know how bad it could be.

When those dreams come though, I remember deeply how bad it can be.  It takes me a minute to remember, I’m not there any more.

 I am here, now.  On the other side of abuse and I am eternally grateful for the light & love that has come after dark nights of pain.

 

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3 Things That Aren’t Helping in the Wake of a Mass Shooting

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1. Throwing Racial Slurs/blaming actions on race (actually, this NEVER helps anyone. With anything).  From what I can tell the only choice the color of one’s skin effects is their lipstick choices, everything else comes from the condition of their heart.
 
2. Starting a debate about gun laws, it’s not going to help anyone!  I’m not looking for one here, we all have our opinions – arguing about them won’t change anything.
(For example: there’s a law for legal drinking age & another about drunk driving – yet we still have drunk minors driving on our roads…apparently laws don’t always stop people)
 
3. Pointing the finger at ANYONE other than the person holding the gun.
 
The only person responsible for our actions is us. The end. It is not the fault of the parents, the teacher, the sister, the gun manufacturer, the guy at Starbucks or the person dancing in the club that one very sick and disgusting individual decided to act in such a horrific way. It is HIS fault, and his alone.
 
Today my heart hurts for the people who’ve lost someone they love and for the hearts of the ones who’s loved one did such a horrible thing.  It’s not their fault either (even if they were a sucky parent) but today their lives are forever tainted – first with loss & then with the judgment, shame and pain of knowing that someone they love did something so hateful.
Love people my friends.  Just how they are, without judgement and with all that you have.  You never know when the love you choose to show the unlovable is the difference between a destroyed heart and one that’s saved.  None of us know what the next moment will hold.  

Confessions: Buyers Remorse (and why nudists have the right idea)

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Confession: I, am a TERRIBLE shopper.  Well, let me re-phrase that, I’m a terrible shopper when it comes to purchasing things for me.  I’m so bad at it in fact, I basically don’t do it.  Which is why, at the moment I have a problem.

In general, I like to think of myself as a good shopper.  I’m frugal, check flyers, use coupons, purchase things on sale and can make a dollar stretch pretty well.  I work hard to be careful with how we spend our money, and I try not to take for granted the fact that we are unbelievably blessed compared to the majority of the rest of the world.  

I love shopping for our girls.  They are in a fun stage right now of trying clothes on and really deciding what their “style” is.  I love and loath it.  I love seeing WHO they are and I loath waiting while they check themselves out at every. single. angle – twice.  (We have conversations of vanity and modesty often, because those things have a fine line). 

Anyways, when it comes to life’s general necessities I’ve got it covered.  I can get it done and I’m find doing it.

However, when it comes to me (deodorant aside) I have a massive issue making a purchase.  And often times when I do, I return it less than 24 hours later.  I think it boils down to a few deep seeded insecurities…

First, I really don’t know what looks good.  I’m terrified of looking inappropriate, like I’m squished into clothes that are too small or that my body shouldn’t wear.  I don’t want to embarrass my children or my husband, I don’t want to look frumpy but I also don’t want to look flashy (no metallic shirts for this girl).  I don’t know how to dress my body and in general I’m just worried I’ll do it wrong.

Second, I always, ALWAYS feel like there are better things I could put the money towards.  I can’t necessarily list them off, but I feel like there MUST be better things.  This has nothing to do with our budget either, I have 1.5 years worth of birthday and Christmas money sitting put aside that I’m struggling to spend.  It’s just that in my brain, I wonder – what if I need it for something else?

Third, who the frickety, frack has time to go shopping?!!  Between taking care of my home, feeding the people who sleep here, school, gymnastics, work, groceries, laundry and the necessary sleep, I’m not sure how one is to fit it in?

Just to be clear none of these issues involve Corey!  Well, they do involve him because he’s often heard telling me I NEED to purchase clothes and I SHOULD make time for me – and “Those pants look good, WHY ARE YOU TAKING THEM BACK?!”  But he’s never, not ever said or done anything to make me feel any of these things.

Here’s what happens – I’ll carve out a little bit (read 15 minutes) of time on one of my 2 days off (which are NOT days off they are the 2 days I have to get everything else done that I can’t do when I’m working) to try on a few clothes.  I’ll find something I think is OK, put it on 8 times in the change room.  If it’s pants I’ll bend over and check for underwear (nobody want’s a peek-a-boo-panties moment), do my best to quiet my own negative self talk and decide to buy them.

I pay the cashier, get in the car and already decide nobody’s really going to like them, I should probably take them back.  But my pride won’t let me do that and neither will my time schedule so I keep them.  I get home, I “model” them for my family, they like (or if you’re short and disapprove of everything your Mama buys that you don’t have one that matches dislike) them, say keep them.  I look in the mirror 15 more times, think about the price and then return them because “I really don’t like them anyways”.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So, where did it come from?  What’s the problem?

I think it came from years of feeling ugly.  Of hating my body.  Of wishing I could hide and not be seen.  Of the words I heard from girls in high school, boyfriends later and the joy of being a female in a a “you’re not good enough” world.  

I work hard to ignore those voices, to fight them, to turn them off.  Most times I can do pretty good at it.  I’m proud of who I am and where I’ve been, and when I do finally buy and KEEP clothing, I generally feel good in it.  It’s just getting to the buying and keeping part that’s hard.

I need clothes now.  Badly I need clothes, predominantly I need more workout gear (that I LOVE, it’s my favourite.  Though I still suck at buying it) and stuff I can wear this summer.  Oh and bras that don’t come undone mid conversations resulting in armpit boobs.  

The other thing I need – a personal shopper or at the very least, someone(s) to take me shopping, be my eyes and help me make keeper purchases!

Anyone else struggle with shopping?  Anybody loath the process?  Anyone willing to shop for me?  Or better yet, dress me daily?  Sometimes I wonder, if maybe those nudists have it all figured out…

 

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