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.  

I was Selfish & I’m sorry

The face 1
Over the past month, since sharing my weight loss & fitness story with everyone I’ve realized something.  I was completely blown away to realize it and I’ve spent the last week or so trying to think about what I can do to fix it.

I need to apologize: to my family, my friends and to a lot of you.  I was being completely selfish and I am truly sorry.

As I have talked to a great many of you (THANK YOU for all the support!), heard your own stories, goals, struggles and plans, I’ve discovered something.  Keeping my journey, the things that changed my life, the way I manage my days, the health & fitness world that I adore a secret was completely, 100% selfish on my part.

I didn’t want to be annoying.  I didn’t want to be that person who overshares and everyone is like “SHUT UP”.  I didn’t want to sound like a “know it all” or make someone else feel less than because they weren’t working out, or eating clean too.  I was (and let’s be honest, I still am) terrified of pushing away people I love, people I respect, people I’ve yet to know by putting the real me out there.

Instead, I’d mention it from time to time but otherwise I kept it close lipped.  Truly believing I was making a good choice, the best choice for everyone.

Man, was I wrong!!!!!

There have been so many people, 4 very special ones in particular who have said to me, “Man, we all were watching what was happening.  We saw you changing, we wish we had known SOONER what you were doing so we could do it too

The first time I heard that my stomach dropped to the floor.  Had I really been that evasive and secretive about how I was taking care of myself, and what I was doing to change my body?

Ya.  I was.

Many people assumed I’d lost the weight because of my corn allergy.  Which definitely plays a part in the foods I choose to put into my body, but let’s be clear.  There are plenty of things I could bake and eat, chocolate bars that are “safe” for me and excuses I could make to not workout that have nothing to do with my allergy.

Others, who didn’t know me when I was younger.  Those who weren’t around for my heavier days, assumed I’d always been fit like I am and when I’d mention that I hadn’t been, they’d scoff.  More than once, when I would offer empathy to a friend struggling to lose weight, I’d hear “Ya. as if you know what it’s like.  I can’t imagine you like that, it was probably never that hard for you”  It would sting, but I’d move on.

The thing is, it WAS that hard.  I lost 78lbs through a lot of hard work, careful choices and sweat.  Seriously you guys, a lot, A LOT of sweat!  

What I thought was being private was actually me selfishly hiding what I was doing, so that I wouldn’t be judged.

Never in a million years did I think that instead of facing judgement, I’d have been given support, shown grace and most importantly had the opportunity to help other people find their way to a healthier body too!!

If you were someone who wished I’d have shared sooner, I’m sorry I didn’t ever mean to hurt you.  Being secretive ends today.

So what does that mean?

It means from today forward I’m going to be sharing what I’m doing.  The workouts I’m loving, the ones that are kicking my butt, the meals I’m eating, my struggles, my successes, my discoveries and most of all, I’m going to be inviting you to join me. 

The thing about being successful at things, really truly successful in life is that it really doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t share it with someone.  I’m learning that and I want to change it.

I’ll be sharing here what’s happening in our lives, because I’m not the only Stone making life changes.  Corey has joined the workout train and is killing his program right now.  And my girls, are my forever cheerleaders, Audrey is a “JR. Coach in training” and Bethany is excitedly getting ready to launch their “Fit Kids Challenge Group” at the end of the month (stay tuned for more info!).

It won’t all be health & fitness, but a lot of it will be.  You can still count on me for recipes, for rants (because I HAVE to let the words out), reviews and for updates on how we are, on Audrey’s health journey (side note: We have appointments at cardiology, hematology & rheumatology all within 3 weeks at Children’s in June.  We’d love the prayers and hopefully will have answers by the end of them).  I just also want you to know that you can also count on me for support, for encouragement and for authenticity. 

So, here it is.  Me taking a REALLY big leap, putting myself out there, and extending to you the first real invitation from my heart and our lives to YOU.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I’ve managed to lose the weight and get fit.  Or if you need someone to just support you on your own journey to health & fitness PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  There is little else that would make me happier than being able to come along side of you and see you succeed!

 Leave a comment here, or on Facebook or send an email to ashleystonefitness@gmail.com and I would sincerely love to be able to hear your story too!

Telling My Weight Loss Story & Sharing My Future Helping Others!

Losing 78lbs

When you look at that picture, what do you see?  78lbs, confidence, strength, mountains, dumbbells, and joy.  That’s what I see.   I see a woman who has walked a long road, worked hard and discovered things inside herself she’d never imagined were there.

I remember the day that photo on the left was taken.  It was a few months after Bethany was born, we were at a co-ed bridal shower and we were taking pictures with out of town family.

That morning, I’d tried to put my pre-pregnancy jeans back on and I couldn’t even get them past my knees.  It had been nearly 6 months since Bethany was born, and while I’d lost maybe a few pounds, the weight that everyone had promised would melt off, hadn’t.  I had sailed past the 200lb mark during my pregnancy & 6 months later, I still hadn’t dropped below it.

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt like the “bigger girl”.  Standing at 5’8″ I was taller than many of my classmates, and a little “thicker” too.  Faced with numerous health struggles throughout my childhood I was often sitting on the side lines unable to participate in the activities.  I was in general inactive, and overall unfit.  

If I’m being honest, I leaned into those struggles too.  They were real challenges, painful at times but also, really good “reasons” to not push myself.  Somewhere along the way, probably about the time I got my driver’s license I became an “Excuse Girl” who soothed her poor self-esteem with slurpees & McDonald’s.

Those poor habits were only magnified as I moved away from home.  Now, being alone I could survive on perogies, sour candies and drive thrus without anyone being any the wiser.

Until I met Sonia.  She was a radiant mother of 3 who ate well, hiked, hit the gym, ran and rode her bike to work.  She’d often pester me to join her for a hike and most times, I’d find an excuse not to go, until one day I couldn’t.

We weren’t more than 15 minutes into our “hike” (ok, walk) when I pulled out the inhaler I’d been prescribed for my “exercise induced asthma”.  She waited while I used it, surveying the situation and we carried on.  A few minutes later she turned to me and said, “Ashley, you don’t have asthma, your lungs are unconditioned and you are unhealthy.  What are YOU going to do about it?”

I was floored.  NOBODY had ever said that to me before, but when the inital shock & indignation wore off I realized – she was right.  She encouraged me to join a gym and take start taking better care of myself and I did.

Sort of.

did go to the gym sometimes and I was changing my eating habits kind of but it wasn’t enough.  You see, I was in a very abusive relationship with a man (10 years my senior) who did everything in his power to keep me under his thumb.  My confidence was at an all time low and though I had lost a little bit of weight, I’d truly never felt worse. 

Fast forward through the intense drama of that relationship (one day, maybe I’ll have the courage to tell that story) to the day of the bridal shower.  I had a husband who did (and does) adore me, a beautiful little girl and family who loved me.  I had every reason to be happy, yet I wasn’t. 

I was still an “excuse girl”, pouring all of my time and energy into taking care of everyone else, so that I wouldn’t have to face taking care of me.  Focusing on them meant I didn’t have to face the parts of me that were broken.  Not just the physical weight  but the emotional weight destroying myself esteem.

We left the party that day and I decided I needed to start making changes.  Not just for me but for my daughter(s) as well.  I wanted to become someone my children could be proud of. 

The changes were small at first, kicking out the junk food and addressing my consumption of Coke but the weight started to come off.  Then I started walking, putting my girl in her stroller and getting outside, more came off.  

Just after Bethany’s 1st birthday I was back at my (still overweight) pre-pregnancy weight and I was pumped.  2 months later I was pregnant with Audrey and thus it began again.

I didn’t gain as much weight that time, but still at the end of it all I was overweight and needing a change.  I’d worked through a lot of my emotional baggage by that time and when we hit Audrey’s 6 month mark I began what has become my greatest transformation to date.

Not only did I changed my eating habits but I discovered exercise made my weight lose easier, AND it made me HAPPIER!

I started in baby steps, working out 15 minutes at a time a few days a week but before long I began increasing my time, pushing my limits and challenging myself in new ways.  I used free programs, streaming websites, DVD’s to start but as the time went on, I progress to more comprehensive programs & challenging workouts. 

That was just over 6 years ago and MAN has life CHANGED!

The “excuse girl” who once hid from exercise and considered chocolate bars & chips a quality lunch has disappeared.  She’s been replaced with a woman who happily gets up at 5am because she loves her mornings & she needs her workouts.

Now, I sweat it out with the likes of Chalene Johnson (TurboFire, PiYo & ChaLEAN Extreme), Shaun T (um, HELLO… Insanity Max 30, T25 & CIZE!!) and of course, my girl Autumn Calebrese (21 Day Fix!).  I have NEVER seen my body change like it has since I started with some of these programs.  I’m getting muscle definition, increased strength and my “life exercise” stamina has gone through the roof.   Hikes are easier and chasing my girls around the yard isn’t painful, it’s fun!

I can’t say that losing 78lbs doesn’t make me happy, it does!  I’m proud of how hard I worked to lose that weight, the changes I’ve made and the effort it still takes every day to maintain it.  My body is stronger than it’s ever been and I love pushing my limits every day to see what I can do.

But that weight isn’t the best part for me.  The emotional change is the part that I’m most thankful for.  Though I still have moments of struggling with my self esteem, gone are the days of feeling worthless.  I no longer feel guilty when I squeeze in my “me time” exercise or feel unworthy of even making eye contact with people. 

Instead I relish that time.  I’m pumped when my girls come join in with my routines and even have to laugh as they correct my form or push me to “get your knees UP on the next tuck jump, Mama!”.  

I am in love with health & fitness and I am passionate beyond measure to share it with others.  Learning to eat healthier, exercise and take time for me changed my life.  It changed the lives of my family and more than anything I want to help other people change their lives too!

And so my friends, I am SOOOO excited to share with you that, that is exactly what I’m doing! I am officially a health & fitness coach working with Beachbody (the company behind the programs that truly transformed my body) and have the wheels in motion to also be getting a certification in Holistic nutrition and my personal training certification!  I’ll be creating meal plans, designing personalized fitness routines and who knows, maybe one day you’ll even find me teaching a class at your local gym.

 

Discovering the freedom in eating well & being active has given me a life I never knew I could have.  I believe whole heartedly that God gave me the gift of that life change, so that I could take the true joy I find inside being Fit & healthy and share it with others – with you!

I don’t know where you are in your life’s journey.  What your struggles are.  Your dreams, your values, your fitness level or your health, but I’d like to.  

Please leave me a comment, send me a FB message, an email or text to tell me YOUR story!  I would love to hear it and I’m confident that together we can find a way to help you achieve your goals!

So I’ll ask you about your life, what Sonia asked me about mine – “What are YOU going to do about it?”

Your Children Are Only Young Once: Your Dishes Can’t Wait & Your Clothes Are Starting To Smell

Dishes can't wait

“The dishes will wait, your children are only young once”, “Leave the housework until later & play with your kids, they grow up so fast”, “There will always be work, your kids won’t always be at home”.

Whether you’re having tea with a mother who’s children are all grown, or scrolling through Facebook – these platitudes are everywhere.  They’re based in good intentions, said by those who miss the “yesteryear” and shared by those who’s children are asleep after a day of terrorizing their home (you know, when they look so sweet & peaceful that you feel like your heart is going to explode with love.  It’s the opposite feeling to when your brain is going to explode from hearing “But MOOOOOM, SHE….” and “You are the WORST mother EVVVVER!”).

Regardless of who shares it, I believe they all have the best of intentions – to encourage parents in busy, fast paced world to prioritize their children.  In an effort to make them feel special, loved & important & to avoid regrets later in life. 

I get it, we DO need to pour into our kids.  We need to put down the devices, close the laptops & look into their eyes when they’re speaking.  We need to soak up the snuggles, read stories, have “yes kids” days (we plan those days where they throw out suggestions and I do my best to say yes to all of them) and be present with them.  

There are times it’s OK to do a puzzle instead of the dishes & dress Barbies rather than fold yesterday’s laundry.  We all want to LOVE them and doing those things sometimes will absolutely make them feel just that, valued & loved.

Which is great, but we also have a job to do.  Those platitudes & the behaviour they promote are threatening the successful product of that task.  

Our #1 job as parents is to raise upstanding, responsible, compassionate, confident people, who not only have the wings but the skills to take flight when the adult years come.  No matter how much we love them, no matter how much we’ll miss them, they won’t stay at home forever and when the time comes for them to leave – WE need to be confident that they’re prepared to succeed.

And that, my friends is where I call BS on the whole “it will wait” movement.

Now, more than ever we are living in a destructive, self centered, selfish world.  The statistics coming in show that children & the young adults coming up through the ranks are the most narcissistic, entitled generations we’ve ever seen – and that scares me.

These brilliant young people lack social skills, struggle to maintain a job because they don’t have good work ethic, & they seem sad, missing the self worth that comes from a job well done. They also feel very strongly that the world owes them something.  

Um, HELLOOOOO – NOBODY OWES YOU ANYTHING.  If you want it, WORK for it!

I can’t help but think that our desperate need to full fill our kids, paired with the fact that we’re so bloody worried about not hurting their feeling is one of the major contributing factors to why we’re looking at such a social mess. 

Maybe if our kids had to wait a little more, maybe if they had to self entertain (without the aid of technology), maybe if they had to pitch in a help & even have to re-do a job 3 times over until it’s done right – they wouldn’t grow up feeling like victims.  Maybe they’d grow up feeling like warriors, capable of doing anything, being anything & achieving it all through hard work.

Dishes done

As the mother of a 9 and 7 year old, I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on parenting, then again I don’t really think anyone can.  I am however, the product of parents who invested in us while still managing to do the laundry & provide home cooked meals served on clean dishes.  I’m walking proof that this theory doesn’t damage the heart of your children, I always did & still do feel overwhelmingly loved & important to my parents.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t EVER put aside your chores and focus on your kids.  I’m just saying you shouldn’t ALWAYS make your kids the most important thing in the room.

I believe whole heartedly, that it’s OK to make them wait until you’ve finished a conversation to speak to you.  Just like it’s OK to do the dishes and ask them to help, do laundry instead of playing Lego and pass out consequences when there is attitude dripping off their words (even in public).

I Want my Children to Know I Believe in Them!

Desperately I want our children to know I believe in them.  By giving them jobs, I’m teaching them I believe they can do it.   By making them wait, I’m showing them I believe they have good manners.  By doing the dishes instead of playing with them, I show them I believe they are capable of creating their own fun.

No matter how much time we give to our kids, I think those regrets will still come.  Not because we didn’t do enough, but because we will miss them.  Sadly, no matter how many hours we do or do not invest, nothing will stop that growing up from happening.  It’s the inevitable part of life, like grey hair & acne (at the same FREAKIN’ time over here?!!).  

I don’t know about you but if I can’t slow down the growing up process, I’d rather spend my years building into our girls in a well rounded way.  I’m going to guess, since you’re here and you’ve made it this far, that you feel the same way too.

So, I want to encourage you today!  Go ahead, wash those clothes so you don’t stink and grab your kids to help put away those dishes.  

Then when the jobs are all done, gather them up, curl up on the couch (with leftover Easter chocolate) and “fill their buckets”.  You can tell them what a great job they did, how proud you are of them and you’ll all feel accomplished loved.

Lessons from 10 Years: Your Marriage Isn’t as Strong as You Think

Marriage Prayer

Today we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and it’s hard to believe.  How did we get here, two kids & grown up life our daily reality?  It seems like only yesterday we were getting our hair done & praying we wouldn’t puke our way down the aisle.

Depending on where you sit in your own relationship journey, 10 years may sound like a long time or merely a drop in the bucket.  It isn’t forever, but I believe that God designed us to be together and that forever IS His plan for us.

We got married pretty quickly, you know.  7 months and 7 days after our first date I walked down a church aisle and said “I do.”  2 weeks after that first date, we decided we were going to get married and a little more than a month after, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his – for always.

Not everyone was sure we were making the best choice.  Oh heck, let’s be honest – there were people who thought it wouldn’t last.  It didn’t matter to us, we knew that God had planned for us to be together and we walked in to it with faith.  Blind, naive faith.

Since that time, we’ve learned some things, a lot of things.  Some of them I think you might like, maybe they’ll save you some of the struggles we faced to learn them or maybe you can relate because you’ve learned them too.

Either way, I wanted to share them.  After all, what good are lessons learned if all we do is keep it to ourselves.  I’ve broken them up into a few blog posts because, well, I have a lot of words.  Instead of writing a novel of a blog post or stifling my inner voice to keep it short, let’s just spread them out instead.  

1. Your Marriage Isn’t as Strong as you Think

Before Corey and I got married, we attended some pre-marital counselling at our church.  As part of that program we each filled out the LONGEST survey ever.  We answered questions about our views on marriage, on children, on our relationship together and a myriad of other different topics.  It was a way to give our pastor a clearer insight into where we might find struggles in our future.

A week later we sat in his office, and discussed our results.  I wasn’t worried, we were perfect together, we knew God had ordained us to be and we’d never had an argument (not much time for those in, at that time 5 months), what could some silly survey have shown other than the fact that we were PERFECT?!

Overall, that’s exactly what it showed.  Our views on raising children, faith, family life etc where very much in line.  There were no glaring places for obvious conflict and in general, we had answered our questions the same.

Hearing that, I leaned back in my chair and smiled, feeling quite smug.  Hadn’t we just told him that we were getting married because God had told us to?  Geeeeez.  

Then he said, “I’m concerned.  The fact that your results are SO good might actually be the thing that drives your marriage apart”

My stomach hit the floor and my brain started to race.  What was he talking about?  Did he hear himself?  He just told us we’re nearly 100% compatible, why would we worry?  Are we wasting our time with a complete quack?!

“Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that these things are saying that your marriage is doomed to fail.  It’s just that you’re looking at life through rose colored glasses right now and I want to warn you.  To encourage you to think about life & the reality of those best laid plans.”  He continued on.

“Your plans for your future sound good right now.  They’re reasonable and they’re pretty clear but what will you do when the unexpected happens?”

“OH! We’ve talked about that.  We know that marriages have arguments and conflict, I’ve seen my parents go through them and come out still together on the other side.  Divorce isn’t an option” I interjected.  Certain that he was talking about the over used “D” word.

He smiled and continued, “I see that.  Both of your are prepared for the conflicts that inevitably come when two people live together, but that’s not what I’m talking about”

“I’m talking about what happens if one of your loses your job?  If a family member dies? “If you face a child who becomes seriously ill?   You think those things will bring you closer together but in truth, they are often the thing that drive you apart.  Believe me I know.”

He carried on to share with us his story.  How a severe accident that permanently injured one of their children almost destroyed his marriage.  Not because they didn’t love each other but because the stress and strain of caring for that child, the inevitable blame that comes along with wanting answers for awful things happening and the financial stress was almost too hard, too heavy for them to bare.  

“I can’t prepare you for those things, you guys.  You can’t prepared yourselves for those things, but you can talk about them.  You can decide now that you’re going to work through it, that you’re going to get help when you need it.  You can commit right now to each other that no matter what you face, you’re going to take it to God.  Not just individually but together, as a couple, as the team He’s built you to be”

We did talk about it some that night, and a few days later.  Then the topic dropped and it didn’t come up again.

Until nearly 6 years ago, when Corey and I sat in yet another emergency room with our sweet little girl and heard the doctor say, “Her hemoglobin is dangerously low, she must be bleeding internally, you’re not going home.”

As I paced her hospital room, fixing magazines over and over, begging God for her life I heard the words of our pastor whispering back at me.  “What happens if you face an ill child?….Commit right now to each other that no matter what you face, you’re going to take it to God”  

He hadn’t know what our future would hold in that moment, but God had.  He knew what was coming for us, the road we’d walk and He knew that we’d need that gentle reminder when things got really hard.

I turned my face into Corey’s shoulder that night, tears soaking through his shirt and listened to the husky timber of his voice as he prayed, pleading with God to heal our baby girl.  My words echoed his as we asked the Lord for wisdom for our medical team, for answers and for strength.  Not just as a mother, but as a wife and for our marriage.

It didn’t fix everything in that moment.  She wasn’t healed instantly (though they didn’t ever have to do the blood transfusion they’d planned on.  On the last test before her transfusion was to begin her bone marrow kicked back in, just enough to prove her body would fight this), this road hasn’t been easy and this journey is far from over.   

It didn’t make things easier, but it did make us stronger.  The decision to do this together, to search for answers rather than point fingers, to take our children, both of them to the feet of Jesus, to take each other to that same place started something incredible in our marriage.

Marriages start out as weddings, a declaration of love in front of your family & friends.  They’re an excuse to buy a pretty dress, have an awesome party & are sealed with a simple piece of white paper.  Weddings are the things that fairy tales are made from, but they play no part in building a strong, life long bond.

Those weddings create marriages, and what they become is entirely up to you.

We’ve learned that a strong marriage is an investment, a job, at times a sacrifice and a choice.  The strength comes from the moments when you could walk away but you choose to stay instead.   From the times when the weight of life’s hards threatens to divide you and you choose to turn into each other instead of away.  And it is solidified by the time you spend together, in laughter, in frustration, in fear and in prayer.

You see, our marriage wasn’t as strong as we thought it would be, but it’s getting there.  Every struggle, every tear, every day, we’re finding the strength in God, in life, and in each other.

I’d love to hear YOUR marriage story.  How you came together?  The hard times you’ve worked through, the lessons you’ve learned.  Please feel free to share them in the comments or send me an email.

When You (the husband) Say Nothing At All

First Dance

The other night, while Corey & I were watching TV together the topic of “our song” came up.  

On the show, the wife heard a song on the radio, got all lovey eyed and looked at her husband.  It was obvious that it was “their song” and she was feeling rather romantic, he on the other hand was completely oblivious.  Song?  What song?  We had a song?  

Turning to the love of my life, I smile and ask, “Do you remember our song?”  

I love this man I get to call my husband with all my heart and because of that I know what I can, and can not expect.  Remembering what song we danced to at our wedding is not something I expect him to remember. Now, attending our wedding & the fact that I fainted during said dance, that I do expect a memory of.  (Between you and me if he can’t remember what was playing in the background I’m really not that worried.)  

I didn’t tell him that though.  At least not at first.  Instead, with a small smirk on my face I patiently waited as he squirmed, trying with all his might to remember the song.

Giving him a little grace (and to speed up the process) I gave him a little hint, and by hint I mean I smuggly told him what it was…

“It was “When You Say Nothing At All” by Alison Krauss” I said, and then I burst out laughing.  A good, solid belly laugh.  Boy had I sealed my fate when I chose that as our song.

You see, in our marriage there are very few things that Corey and I actually argue about.  We have our moments, our tiffs, our attitudes (ok, so maybe that’s more like my attitudes) and things we don’t agree on but on the whole, full blown arguments aren’t a common occurrence.  

There’s no secret sauce to that, it’s just how our relationship works and for that I’m very thankful.  Arguing is exhausting and stressful and emotional and let’s be honest, nobody really likes it.

That being said, there have been those moments.  There are those topics or situations that do, from time to time bring us beyond the point of “heated discussion” right into the epicenter of a full blow argument.  

Now, let me set this up for you:  

Something will happen (we’re going to keep the real “something” private), one of our hot button issues will arise and we’ll begin discussing it.

 I will talk, pause, wait a moment, hear nothing and keep going.  

I’ll talk a little more, this time adding in some open ended questions, trying to drive home my point or searching for some help, pause and wait some more.  

There may be a grunt, or a few worded sentence from Corey and then silence.  

Me, being well, me can’t handle the silence and I hardly feel like my point as been made and I’ll start talking once again.  Depending on the topic, and the level of my frustration this talking may begin picking up speed, and my tone will begin to change.

His turn will arrive and by now, I’m generally rather agitated and again, it will be few words or sentences and silence.

Now, the conversation hits Mach 3 and takes a turn.  We are no longer now discussing whatever “something” was and we’re talking about about talking.  Or rather, I’m talking about how HE’S NOT TALKING!

For 10 years, this has been our thing.  You see, I’m a talker (which you’d never guess from my 900 word blog posts) and my handsome husband, is not.

It’s why we work.  Corey is a selective hearing, man type listener.  He’s content to take in people’s information, enjoys the sound of other people’s voices and doesn’t mind silence, when listening is finished.

99% of the time this works out well for us.  I can say what I need to say, rant and ramble (remind me to tell you later what I’m learning about that!!!) for a while, he listens, pops in his two bits every now and again and everyone is happy.

The other 1% of the time it’s the above mentioned arguments and his listening skills drive me absolutely batty.  Kick you in the shins, shake you till something comes out, crazy!  JUST SAY SOMETHING!

It wasn’t all that long ago that we’d faced one of these one sided arguments and it’s reality was fresh on our minds.  So when we realized what song we had danced to nearly 10 years ago when we began this marriage it was impossible not to laugh at it’s irony.

There I was a young bride, choosing a 1st dance song that so beautifully described the man I was hopelessly in love completely blind to what that very sentiment would mean over the years.  

Believe it or not, that realization did wonders not just for the laugh we needed that night but for our marriage & its future.  

In that silence Corey manages to make me feel beautiful with a look, feel safe in his arms and melt my heart with a smile.  In that silence, I can speak and feel heard, validated & refreshed as all that weighs on my heart can pour out uninterrupted.  In that silence, he chooses his words carefully and because of that my heart has been protected.

I know this, because in my lack of carefully chosen words, sometimes his has been wounded.

Our marriage isn’t perfect, neither are we.  And while our arguments may be few and far between, they are a valuable part of our marriage and to be honest, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  It’s in the moments we completely let our guard down with each other that we face the issues, work through them and grow stronger as a team.

However, in saying that I’d like to pass on a word of advice to all the future brides & grooms out there.  Choose your wedding song wisely, you never know when it’s truth will come back to haunt you in your future 😉

Audrey Update: In His Hands

Sooke - In his hands 2-1

The last 8 days have been an intense whirlwind of doctors, tests and tension for our family, our Audrey.  It’s been just SO much, so much everything.

Since October when Audrey landed in hospital with that super intense fever again, things have been on a downward turn for her.  She’s been struggling with serious fatigue, to the point of being difficult to wake some days, and leaving her in tears many afternoons out of shear exhaustion.  

There are days she doesn’t want to participate in activities she loves, other days when we’ve gone for a short walk or she’s played outside and she’s too tired to even get up off the floor.  Then you get the days when she’s rebounding off the walls, a crazy kid and you’d never know there was something going on.  

Lately we’ve had many more days of tired than we do of energy.

She’s also been battling intermittent fevers.  They come without warning, are more mild that the hospital stay ones and then disappear a few days later.  There are no other symptoms other than a headache & that fatigue.  They don’t respond to medicine and we’re generally forced to just ride their wave.

Finally, and most concerning her blood work has continued to come back abnormal.  Her hemoglobin is still low & slowly getting lower.  Not to the super scary we need to transfuse place it once was, but not good either. 

She also had another test come back low, not super low but enough that it sent spinning into motion the events of the last week.

Audrey’s symptoms and previous tests have had our pediatrician consulting with another, specialized pediatrician in Abbotsford for a while now.  After last week’s appointment with Dr.H, she decided it would be wise to refer us over to him for an endocrine perspective.  The referral went on a Thursday afternoon and by Monday, we had a Wednesday appointment to see him.  (Now if you know pediatricians & specialized ones at that you know that appointments coming that quickly simply doesn’t happen.  You generally have to wait…a long time)

Wednesday’s visit had him talking to us for a few minutes, he spent 2 minutes examining Audrey, read the labs again and started phoning the Abbotsford hospital calling in favors to have some very special tests done on Audrey the next day.  He was concerned and didn’t want to wait.

We left his office, my head spinning & Audrey on edge.  She’s come to the place in life where she not only understands that something isn’t right with her body, but where she hears and partially understands the doctor speak.  That can be intimidating for any adult let alone a child.

Thursday came, and we arrived on the very familiar Pediatric unit at ARH.  We walked into the Day Unit and I felt relief wash over me.   Standing there waiting for us was Nurse J.  The nurse who registered Audrey on our first stay in Abbotsford when she was 10 months old (nearly 7 years ago) and who’s taken care of my girl on each of our other 5 stays there.  She recognized us and AJ recognized her – both those things made me breath deeper.

Tests

They settled us in, did a bunch of pre-test checking, wrapped her in warm blankets and then started an IV.  It went smoothly and I was so glad.  After the horrific experience AJ had with her last IV here at CGH in October that resulted in both arms being bruised and her hand being so swollen she couldn’t close her fingers because it was so badly botched, we were thankful.

They gave her meds, they took many, many viles of blood, we watched movies and it was over.  She picked a prize (a stuffed Red Panda to be exact.  They are a thing and apparently I’m the ONLY adult in the world who’d never heard of them), we spent 25 minutes in the gift shop and we were off.

The test was over, but the fear wasn’t.  The diseases they were looking for weren’t life threatening but they were life altering.  They were also re-checking her hemoglobin and I was as apprehensive of that as I was the other stuff.

This afternoon, I received a phone call from the other doctor.  The endocrine based tests all came back 100% normal.  Hallelujah! 

Unfortunately her hemoglobin is still low.  He’s made more suggestions of specialists we need to see, he believes we need to keep pursuing what’s happening but is returning us to the care of our Dr. H.

We have referrals to 2 other new departments at Children’s hospital that we’re waiting on appointments for.  We have one set appointment at the end of March and after this week’s test results they may be adding one more clinic/department to the referral list.  

We don’t have any answers, we don’t have any solutions and we do have a kid who’s still really physically struggling.  

We ALSO have another thing checked off.  Another large group of diseases we don’t have to face.  And some amazing people who love and care for us.

Tonight I’m happy.  I’m frustrated.  I’m relieved.  I’m worried.  I’m thankful.  I’m tired.  And I’m determined.

I’m determined we’re going to get to the bottom of this.  I’m determined to keep fighting for Audrey, to keep asking questions, searching for answers & doing my damnedest to make life normal for both of my girls.

 I’m determined to see today these past few days as a blessing, a deep & beautiful blessing.  From familiar nurse faces, to fast acting physicians, our girl & our family have been placed into great hands.  

We’ve been placed directly into the strong, warm, loving hands of our heavenly Father & that my friends, is a blessing.

Perfectly Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles Recipe

Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles #1

Mmmm, butter.  Well, waffles & butter.  Except butter.

Homemade waffles were the first thing I accidentally “glutened” Audrey with.  Sunday morning waffles were a favourite for our girls & I wanted to keep life “normal” for them. Oh the recipe was OK, though not as incredible as the one I’m sharing today.  It was my first attempt…they’re rarely ever a success first time out of the gate.  

Anyways, the problem was that I didn’t realize that the gluten was so tiny & stuck into the creases of my waffle iron.  Once something with so many tiny crevices and spaces has been used for gluten cooking it’s forever contaminated.  

I had been trying so hard to do something great for her, to prove that Gluten Free living was no big deal (which it’s NOT) and instead I made her sick.  It was horrible and I gave up making waffles.

For 11 months I didn’t make waffles.  Not gluten free waffles, not wheat waffles, none of them.  I bought gluten free, organic toaster waffles for them as a treat sometimes but that was all.  It was sad.  It was smelly (some of them smell weird) and I hated it.

Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles #2

Then, I bought another waffle iron.  It was a Christmas gift for our family and it is now 100% gluten free.  Then I got to experiment.

A few recipes, even more breakfasts and I’ve got it.  The very, very, VERY best, fool proof waffles EVER. Notice I didn’t say gluten free?  These bad boys can be made gluten free, which is how I’m sharing the recipe but they also convert seamlessly into wheat waffles by changing the flour.

They are light, they are fluffy, they smell like heaven and the freeze fantastic.

Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles #3

Do you SEE how fluffy these are?  A feet not easily achieved in gluten free baking.

You need this recipe in your life.  Try it.  Bookmark it.  Share it with your friends.  And PLEASE when you make it (I know you will) and you love it (because you will) snap a photo and share it on social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – however you want to show me, please show me.  Use the hashtag #OFSBakes or tag me (@ourfamilystone).  I love seeing what you’re making!

Perfectly Fluffy Gluten Free Waffles
Serves 4
A fluffy, moist, delicious gluten free waffle perfect for Sunday brunch. This recipe easily converts to a wheat recipe by exchanging the gluten free flour for all purpose flour in equal proportions. This recipe easily doubles. Make for a larger crowd or freeze the leftovers (with wax paper between each piece to prevent them from sticking) for up to 2 months in an airtight container/bag.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 Cups of Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (see notes for flour recommendations)
  2. 2 Tbsp of Granulated Sugar
  3. 1 Tbsp of Corn & Wheat Free Baking Powder
  4. 1/2 Tsp of Salt
  5. 1/4 Cup of Melted & cooled butter
  6. 1 1/2 Cups of Milk (We generally use coconut milk, but dairy, almond, soy will still work)
  7. 2 Large Eggs (if your eggs are small use 2 whole eggs + 1 egg white for GF)
  8. 1/2 Tsp of Vanilla (omit if your milk has vanilla flavor)
Instructions
  1. *You MUST sift the ingredients together. GF flours tend to clump & stick together, sifting will prevent problems with the finished product!*
  2. Wait until your batter has come together to preheat your waffle iron. The couple of minutes the batter rests is good for it and will product a better end product
  3. In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, milk, eggs & vanilla
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients & stir to combine. Note that this takes a little bit of elbow grease. You want as few lumps as possible, it may not be 100% smooth, but you want it as smooth as you can. I use a hand mixer if I've doubled the batch to speed up the process.
  6. Pre-Heat your waffle iron to manufacturer's instructions and grease liberally.
  7. Make waffles as per usual.
  8. Eat and enjoy or place on a wire rack until completely cool. Place waxed paper in between each waffle and freeze in an airtight container/bag for up to 2 months.
Gluten Free Flours
  1. While we do make our own gluten free flour blend (you can find the recipe HERE
  2. Reply) I do prefer using store bought All Purpose Gluten Free Flours. Their blends have been perfected and they are faster than making my own sometimes.
  3. However, not all flours are created equal. Personally we DO NOT use any Bob's Red Mill flours as I don't like the products they make, nor do I like the Pamela's flours. Below are my 3 favourite Gluten Free Flours. All 3 of them work WONDERFUL in most of my recipes and none of them produce the "grainy" or "gummy" texture that often comes with GF baking.
  4. - PC Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (best price)
  5. - Better Batter Gluten Free Flour (best versatility & quality)
  6. - Namaste Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (great flour,
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/

I want to “Be the Change” but I don’t know how

Be the

Ok friends, I need your help.  I have a conundrum, a problem if you will and I want to do something about it.  However, I don’t have a blasted idea on how to go about making that happen.

You hear everywhere that we are supposed to “Be the change” we want to see in the world.  And while that’s all pretty & nice and everything, it’s kind of an empty platitude if just simply living said change, doesn’t do a bloody thing to help anyone else.  Or worse yet, if that change won’t happen just simply by behaving differently in your own life.

I want to change a law.  More specifically, I want to have a law put in place that requires drug companies to be transparent about their ingredient and list (at minimum) the top allergens in their medication.

Currently drug companies aren’t required to divulge if their medications (both OTC and RX) contain gluten, soy, etc.  There are no “Contains” labels or even “May Contain” ones on medications.  They don’t have to tell us if there is a chance that the medicines we need to gain health, to control symptoms to relieve pain could cause us physical damage, more pain and in some cases, life threatening results.  

They basically have to tell us diddly squat about what’s in the “magic pills” we take to make ourselves better.  Sure the labels list the ingredients but some of those things are derived from all sorts of sources, including those of high allergen base.  It’s also hard to research the source of those ingredients online because we often don’t know their supplier.   And to top it off, while you can call the manufacturer, it can take sometimes days to get an answer back as to a medications ingredients/safety, leaving the affected person in a really bad place – take them & hope they’re safe, or wait & risk getting more ill.

It scares me.  Not just for Audrey with her Celiac but for the kids we know who have severe food allergies, and selfishly for me with my corn allergy (see sidebar).

Side Bar: So corn is NOT on the top allergen list, but I’m holding out hope that one day it will be.  I have yet to find a pill form of antibiotic that I can take and it’s scary.  I either take it orally and suffer to the point of almost not being able to stand up straight or I go for IV medications.  Neither of which are useful and/or viable options.  

I’m willing to do something to change it, I just don’t know what.

How does one go about lobbying for this kind of change?  Where do you start?  Who can help?  How much money does it cost?  What else do I need to know?

I realize it’s not a cut and dry sort of situation, and I certainly don’t have all the details ironed out of what we even need, but I do believe we NEED a change.  I do my best to live authentically and to tell people exactly what’s in the food I make.  Which is all good but my own personal transparency isn’t going to do a thing for this cause.

So…I’m reaching out to you.  To the internet.  To my friends.  To your friends.  To the world and asking for help – how do we make a change?   More importantly, who wants to make the change with me!

Please comment below if you have any suggestions or feel free to comment on our Facebook page or email me at admin@ourfamilystone.org.   If you’re so inclined I’d also appreciate a share of this post.  You never know, who knows whom and what banding together can do!

We do need to Be the Change we want to see in the world, even if that “being” means, being persistent enough to fight for what is right!

Thankful for Celiac Disease

Audrey 2015

February 10 2015 is a day I will never forget.  That phone call a permanent recording in my memory bank.  I cried harder that day than I have cried in my life.  My body physically hurt from the sobs, my stomach turned with nausea and my mind spun with all of the “couldn’t eat, couldn’t do, never will again”‘s.  It was the day that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

It was a pivotal day for not only Audrey & our family but for me and my faith.

For the first time in my life I felt like God had let me down.  I knew that He had answered my prayers, and I knew that He cared, but in the days that followed, I struggled to understand.  I couldn’t understand how He could have answered my desperate prayers with Celiac disease.  Selfishly, how had He let Celiac disease happen to me, as a mother.

I wish I could go back and wrap my arms around that me.  I’d tell that broken mama what I’ve learned about Celiac disease, about Audrey and about God’s true faithfulness.

Believe it or not, the diagnosis of Celiac disease was not the worst thing to happen to our Audrey girl or our family.  Oh, I still have moments where it leaves me frustrated, where I wish it were gone (don’t get me wrong, if I could make ALL of her health struggles disappear I would..but no matter how hard I try, I can’t), where I want to rip my hair out because people are ignorant and don’t understand.   I also have many more moments of something else… 

Perspective and clarity.   They have shown me that inside a diagnosis of Celiac disease are many hidden blessings:

  • Above all else, I’ve learned how strong our Audrey is.  She has handled this diagnosis with grace, courage and determination, owning this part of her life.  She asks questions, makes good choices (she could sneak things if she wanted to, but she doesn’t) and won’t eat anything unless I’ve OK’d it first.  The strong willed nature that God gave her might be making my hair go grey but it’s also the thing that will allow her to flourish in life.
  • We no longer find Audrey curled up on the floor in pain, or hear daily complaints of tummy aches. 
  • Removing gluten from her diet has given us yet another door to teaching our children about label reading, processed food and making healthy choices (with or without gluten).  Conversations that will benefit them greatly as they become adults.
  • The massive, over the top, exhausting mood swings vanished in a matter of a week.  From mid August 2014 (when they guesstimate her Celiac “kicked in”) Audrey had the most bizarre, physically exhausting, emotionally trying mood swings we’ve ever seen.  They left us afraid that we’d never survive raising her, that she’d never survive being raised by us!  Changing her diet was like getting a new, firey, sweet, stubborn little creature and believe it or not ALL of those traits were a welcome exchange for who she’d been.
  • We are SO lucky that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2015, when gluten free is “trendy”.  Many restaurants are learning quickly how to prepare celiac safe meals and stores carry gluten free options for almost anything.
  • Cooking & baking gluten free is NOT the bland, horrible, daunting task everyone made me think it would be.  I’ve been able to replicate most of our favourite baked treats and let’s be honest – when you’re eating clean & healthy (which we do 85% of the time) you don’t have to worry a lot about gluten.  Fruits, veggies, real meat, rice, quinoa etc are all naturally gluten free.

We are in a rough spot with Audrey again.  She’s been facing other (non-tummy) health issues again and at times has really been physically struggling.  We have test results once again coming back not good and are in a position very similar to the one we were in last year at this time.  We are waiting on more results to come back, have referrals to 3 new departments at Children’s hospital and are currently awaiting those appointment dates.  The fevers have returned and I touch her often with trepidation, that my touch will be met with heat.

It’s easy to let the fear creep back in, and while I really have my moments of panic this time is different.  This time I have the perspective of a diagnosis I thought would destroy our world and instead it’s given Audrey a piece of her life back.

God answers our prayers always.  Sometimes those answers are the ones we want, sometimes they’re the ones we dread and other times the answer is simply to just wait. I’ve spent the last 6 years thinking we were in the “wait” zone, but that’s not true.

Our prayers have been continually answered, in the number of diseases that have been ruled out, the number of times they looked for cancer and found none, in the fact that she’s going to be 7 years old – in a diagnosis of Celiac disease.  

BEST

Remembering that gives me confidence that He will continue to do as He promises in Jeremiah 29:11-13, it gives me the strength to face each day with joy and it gives me the courage to say, I am thankful for Celiac disease and all of the blessings it brings.