How to Reduce Stress and Lose Weight- Not Even Kidding.

And it’s hard to write about being happy
‘Cause all that I get
I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject

– Florence + The Machine, No Choir


My days have settled into a new kind of clockwork, a healthy rhythm that feels calm. In fact, what follows may be boring to those conditioned to conflict and drama, or at least tension in writing. I’ve had to save that for my fiction writing and my therapist because otherwise, things feel very balanced. If you want to skip the happy part and go straight to the challenges, scroll to the end. But you’ll be missing part of the point.

A typical day on OptaVia 5+1: 

When I wake up in the morning, earlier and without an alarm clock now, I chew my thyroid pill and drink my first glass of water. I check my phone until my body feels like standing up. I use the bathroom and brush my teeth. I stand on the scale and smile– every day it’s less or the same but never higher. From there I go to the kitchen, start the kettle and add coffee to the press. I stare outside the window and watch for otters and turtles to break the surface of the water in the lake behind my house. When the kettle boils, I pour the hot water into the press and almond milk into my mug, then press the coffee. I pour it into my mug and enjoy the scent. I am awake and not groggy. I feel rested.

I walk to my studio and sit on the sofa. If it’s the first part of the week, I work on the Sunday paper. If it’s the second half, I read from whatever book I have in progress. Most recently this was The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits, a memoir I found centering, and a comforting reminder to focus on days being my unit of time– not months or years. Somewhere in those words I feel hungry so I walk to my OptaVia box and choose a fueling. This is usually a bar. I have it with my coffee and sometimes pour a little more. When I am done, I go to my meditation table. I think about my day ahead. I pray. I stretch and go through some yoga cycles. The dog licks my face.

My husband is awake now. I greet him and we talk about the day. Sometimes I sit at the table with him while he eats. We make the bed. I start laundry or sweep the floor or load the dishwasher but only do a little of whatever it is. He goes to work. I put on a little make up and do my hair, even if I’m not going out. This is part of self care now, not letting myself feel a hag just because I work from home. I get dressed. I return to the studio.

If it’s Monday, we have a staff call, a meeting that is unfailingly edifying and encouraging because of who I work for and with. On the other days, I check email and social media and my project list. In a little bit, it’s time for another fueling and I choose one from the box, most often this is a shake and then I drink more water. I work some more or learn something– I’m currently exploring some new training. My desk is full of merged initiatives that often blend into each other– I homeschool and work for a homeschool writing company, I write and am working on a novel, I schedule appointments and pay bills and work some more to make all that happen.

Sometimes I go to lunch. If I do, this will be my “lean and green” meal for the day but more often than not, I fuel from the box. This is because I prefer to have my lean and green for dinner with the family and I’m trying to maximize time out with girlfriends longer than a working lunch. I usually eat at my desk; this is often a flavor of the savory sticks and sometimes, some sparkling water with it.

The afternoon is a version of the same, except now my sons are both awake. They come and chat, ask for things, have ideas– and in between I work. A new school year approaches and there’s planning to do, hockey starts soon and there’s equipment to buy, our scout group is on hiatus and I can wait to buy new gear. Some days there are appointments or odd errands to run. It storms. I have another fueling: another yummy bar. I drink more water. The dogs wrestle. Someone asks me what’s for dinner.

I’m less interested in cooking than I used to be. In fact, on Facebook this week I quipped that while 10 years ago I made three meals a day from scratch, even their gosh danged ketchup, these days the cooktop is where the take out is set. I guess I cook 3 nights out of seven, we order in 2, one of them is a date, and the others my husband grills. I have my lean and green and they have a starch. I drink more water.

After dinner there’s a debate as to who’s turn it is to clean. The laundry gets cycled. All the things the dogs chewed today are swept up. The floors are vacuumed. For 45 minutes I walk and sometimes run and lift as well. I shower. Our house shuts down for the night at 9, when the boys go to their rooms and we go to ours. I make an OptaVia brownie first and sometimes spread it with cream cheese. I drink more water. We watch one show and then we fall asleep. This never takes us long.

These days rinse and repeat.

I miss wine and bourbon. I miss big bowls of buttery salty popcorn most.

I sometimes feel fat and sometimes feel svelte and both of these are sometimes true.

There is still plenty of drama and upset to deal with– just not when it comes to inexplicable health problems and stress. I feel equipped. My therapist still has a job.

I’m a great groove with work, a great groove with writing, and I’m adjusting to my older children having moved. I’m not spending half of my day in a fog. I’ve learned to make space for rest and this means when my tank is half-empty. No more running on fumes.

I get warm a lot. It feels like I have an oven burning within because, oh yeah, I do. It’s called an active metabolism.

I’m completing my third week with OptaVia and have ordered my new box. I loaded up on the chocolate cherry chia bars. I’m down 8 home pounds, 10 at the doctor’s.

If this all sounds too good to be true, don’t be a cynic. It is what it is and what it is is better. I’m better right now than I’ve been in five years, better than I was when I turned 40 and I’ll take my dose of boredom with gratitude. It means I have life points to do other things.

P.S– if you want to give this a try, contact me in the comments or on social media and I’ll connect you to my coach. And if you want to read what led me to this point, click that.

On Making: Ancestral Creativity

My grandparents in the 50’s, near the start of their adventure of living an ordinary, hard working, creative life.

Heading out my front door as a child I had great choices.  I could turn towards the right through the yard and maze of rose bushes, to the tree house, back fields, or tiger lilies. If I went straight ahead I could climb the pines, skip down the gravel drive, or jump the fence to the horse. And if I turned left I’d pass or enter the barn… the scent of woody of lumber in my dad’s shop and mill and also the concrete cavern of my uncle’s metal shop. If I passed by the barn it would be because he was running the saw (never come up behind a craftsman when the saw is running!) so I was headed for the windbreak, the sawdust pile (a small mountain bigger than the barn) or the dump hidden in the woods of the back pasture. Staying inside meant I’d likely hear either the whirr of my mother’s sewing machine or of her baking in the kitchen.

I come from a family of makers.

I remember pencils behind ears, clipboards on the side tables, the click of my Grandmother’s needles, and rows of triangle eyes on the faces of Raggedy-Ann dolls lined up for sale. I remember meals and clothes made, not bought, the scratch of someone sketching, the rhythmic sound of scissors… harack-harack-harack on the table when she cut out a new pattern. I remember finding my mother’s poems printed out and placed in scrapbooks, her heavy SLR camera, and hours hiding behind bolts of fabric in the store while she shopped.

Every day of my childhood I knew where to find wood scraps, fabric and metal scraps, sewing notions, paint, crayons, glue, paper, hammers, nails, work space, and help. I knew that if you needed something, it’s best to see if you can make it first. I knew that when you have a really good idea for something that people need, they will pay you to make it. If you have an excellent idea that a lot of people will want, you start a business and maybe even get a patent. But also, that most ideas won’t result in profit and that’s not the only reason to pursue them. I learned that work weeks have seven days and that it more than okay for the shop lights to be on after dark. Whatever it took to get the job done. This also included a sacred set of minutes we referred to as, “break time.” I learned that ideas are endless; if one doesn’t pan out, another one will. Just keep going. Yagottawanna.

Making requires space, supplies, time, and ideas.

Making things is a lifestyle, a philosophy, and it’s embedded into my family’s DNA code. I’m not surprised when my sailor-son tells me he wants both an education in higher math and to take over the wood shop. I’m not surprised when my daughter sets out to sew the perfect bra. Yesterday, another son started shopping for welding supplies and the youngest changed his art major. I began a new screenplay, continued work on a pastel and learned a filmmaking trick for work. Pick a minute and I can promise my mom and sister are probably quilting, my dad is probably building, and all of us are juggling more ideas than there is time to explore.

Side note: maybe the reason why we also all have genetically bad necks is because our brains are developed too far to the right. Hmmm….

When my daughter moved out a few weeks ago, I got her room. This space is the first dedicated creative space I’ve had since I started having babies; our houses were always too small and the babies too many for a Room of My Own. But seasons change and in here I now write, draw, paint, dance, research, work, film, edit, dream, think, and plan. Every morning when I come inside, I feel I’m coming home.

It’s nice to no longer vie for space at the kitchen table or to have to pack up mid-project to make room for something else, although that’s better than not making at all. I did, after all, make 5 humans and raise them; motherhood requires creative energy unlike anything else in the world. Those babies were my tribe and I miss our little adventures. Even as demanding as those years were, a creative mind never really stops. Ideas would wend their way through my mind only to be left on scattered scraps of paper, the fallen leaves of thoughts never fully brought into fruition soon composting down into the soil,  becoming food for the next fertile moment I could sneak into the years of responsibility.

I can feel the fertility of ideas in this emptying-nest time.

When I think back on how I was raised, I don’t remember lots of words. I don’t remember lectures, team practices, schedules, screens or even silence. I remember the sounds of industry. I remember shared ideas. I call back to play that looked like work and work that felt like play. I hope I’ve passed it onto my kids…even though as millennials they will remember lectures, schedules, screens and silence. Those great-grands who came for the railroad, who built houses and everything that went inside, those people are in our bones and blood.