one week of whole30

Today marks one week of Whole30.  The first two days pretty much sucked, as I anticipated, but living through the suckage was painful.  It wasn’t so much that the food was bad; it was that I missed certain things and didn’t know what to do in their place.  Scrambled eggs without cheese?  What’s the point of that?

Without being able to put honey in my tea, I went without caffeine and had a raging headache on both Days 1 and 2.  (I’m not sure if it was lack of caffeine or sugar that was causing it, but it was bad.)  I tried some black coffee on Day 2 and wanted to die after tasting it and realizing I wouldn’t be able to stomach drinking the very thing that might make my monster of a headache go away.  Day 2 also happened to be the day that the boys had a field trip to the aquarium, and we’d planned to make a family day of it.  It was a disaster, for various reasons, that ended up with Roy’s dragging our screaming 2-year-old out of the aquarium and down the street to the car while I followed quite a ways behind with the boys.  I still have no idea why Daphne was screaming, but I do know that we were half a block behind Roy and Daphne and I could hear her.  So if you were at the aquarium and/or Cannery Row on Monday, February 2, my apologies.

For the rest of the day, Roy and I took turns staying in bed.  (I had more turns.)

I was shocked to wake up on Day 3 and discover that I felt great.  I expected the period of really tough withdrawals to last at least a few days longer, but once I was out of it, I stayed out.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still getting adjusted, but no more headache and resulting crankiness.

I can already feel how Whole30 is affecting my body.  I feel much less bloated, more clear-headed, and more energetic.  Yesterday I was able to fit back into the jeans that I’d puffed out of back in November.  My stomach seems to have shrunk a bit so now I only look a few months pregnant instead of six.  This is good.

Know what else is good?  The food.  I’ve actually eaten Brussels sprouts and enjoyed them.  We made Paleo Pad Thai that is even more delicious than regular Pad Thai.  I made a salad out of mostly cabbage that is to die for, and I hate cabbage.  I’m loving how eating Paleo has really pushed me to try new things, as I’m not the most adventurous eater.

I do get bored sometimes, though.  I want to be able to go into the kitchen and shove a cookie in my mouth.  I want to eat chips and salsa.  I miss the honey in my morning tea, and I can’t stand to eat scrambled eggs right now because they’re so boring without cheese.  Since I can do none of these things, I find other things to do, other things to eat.  I’ve learned that much of this process so far is about patience.  About waiting it out.  About taking deep breaths.  About realizing that discomfort isn’t something to run from because it’s okay to be uncomfortable.  It will pass, as all things do, whether I eat cookies or not.  Since I made a commitment to not eat cookies for at least 30 days, that’s what I’m doing, Girl Scout cookies be damned.

(But seriously, I really want some Girl Scout cookies.)

the night before whole30

I’m resurrecting this blog.  And the impetus behind this resurrection comes from a very unlikely source (for me): FOOD.  I’m not really into food.  I mean, I like eating it, but I’m not a foodie, and I’m not really into cooking.  However, I kind of want to be.  Or rather, I just want to be a healthy eater (and a more creative cook).

My husband and I are undertaking the Whole30 challenge.  If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, I’ll just tell you that it’s basically eating the Paleo diet for 30 days as a means to reset your system and figure out your food sensitivities.  That means that for 30 days, there’s no dairy, gluten, soy, alcohol, added sugars, MSG, and so on and so forth – and plenty of all types of meat, eggs, veggies, fruit, and healthy fats.  For many people this has been life changing, and well, I want in on that action.  I need some changes in my life.

I have an unhealthy relationship with food.  You can’t really tell by looking at me.  I’m not overweight, though I do have my beloved mommy tummy that grew three babies – however, that tummy is getting larger and I have my fair share of flab.  And that’s okay, I really don’t need to be perfect.  This isn’t really about how I look, though it’d be nice to shed that extra ten pounds that showed up in November and made me go up a size in jeans.  It’s more about how I feel, which is tired and fluffy and bloated and gross most of the time.  Did I mention tired?  I’m exhausted, and I feel confident that not all of that has to do with parenting-related sleep deprivation.  I’ve been breaking out on a regular basis since the fall, and that’s not really something that I’ve ever really had a problem with.  And I have issues with pain, because I have scoliosis that has gotten worse as I’ve added years (and kids) to my life.  I won’t say that my quality of life sucks – it doesn’t – but I want it to be better.  I want to be healthier.

I want to stop turning to cookies and cake and candy and soda and processed food to make me feel better or because I’m bored or for whatever other reason.  My addiction to crappy food is real and it’s overwhelming, and I have made small positive changes in the past few years that have made this clear to me.  But as we all know, when you need something to change, eventually you have to take a big leap.  This is my big leap.  It’s for me, and it’s for my family.

My middle child is a sugaraholic.  I’m not proud of this fact, and it reflects on my parenting.  Am I a bad mom?  No, but I’ve made some bad choices and he’s learning from me.  He’s only 4 so it’s not like his dietary habits are carved in stone.  I feel strongly that we can turn this trend around, but of course it’s going to have to start with the big people in the house.  You know, we’re going to have to actually be adults and exercise some self-control instead of hiding in a corner to eat a piece of candy, which does happen on the daily.  We’re going to have to face our feelings head on instead of eating them.

Almost eight years ago, I quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey after a decade of habitual smoking.  It is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and those I love.  I keep returning to that feeling of triumph when I think about how hard Whole30 is going to be.  I want to be able to say, “I quit shitty food.”

So here goes.  It’s the night before Whole30.  I just finished drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating chips and queso.  A last meal of sorts.  I hope to blog regularly throughout this journey, but I imagine some days it will be difficult enough just to get through to bedtime.  The only promise I’m making is to myself: to commit to these 30 days and see where they take me.

past tense

This year has been strange.  I’ve had three babies now and the first year is always somewhat otherworldly, tinged with grief and depression and anxiety, fraught with tears of awe and the most tender sadness.  With each birth comes the knowledge that something has been lost and yet another thing has been found.  Life is forever altered.

As our daughter has grown from a blob to a chubby joyful baby and we’ve watched her begin to smile, laugh, babble, move with intention – as we’ve watched her fully move towards her life and her self, the gap between me and my dad continues to widen, moment by moment.  As he continues to die, over and over, and I begin to understand it a little at a time, so she learns to live.

There are two sets of milestones this year.  On the calendar in our kitchen I note down Daphne’s milestones.  In my headspace I note down my grief milestones.  Today is ten months exactly since my dad’s death.  It’s finally starting to feel like a real thing that’s happened.  He’s gone.  He’s not coming back.  Every day I face this reality.  It feels strange.  It’s starting to feel familiar.

Just two days ago I had the first conversation ever with a person that referenced my dad and not his death.  All this year the two have been linked; I haven’t been able to discuss one without the other.  I referred to my dad in the past tense, sharing a little tidbit about him, and I was aware I was talking about him in the past tense and I was thinking, “I’m talking about my dad in the past tense.”

And then, “Of course I’m talking about my dad in the past tense.  He’s gone.  He’s not coming back.”

The conversation ended and I thought nothing of it, until yesterday when I was driving and I realized what had happened.  I’d experienced a milestone and it wasn’t huge and groundbreaking the way it is when a baby achieves something.  No cheering.  No “good job!”  Just silence, a reckoning with grief, a head nod to the slow process we call moving on.

july 4th

We all met up in the parking lot of the furniture warehouse to watch fireworks each 4th of July.  Often it’d been a whole year since our families had seen each other, and I always shrank back a bit, morphing into a more shy version of myself.  I was the only girl among four or more boys and I was separate in my girlishness.  The loud booms scared me and the colors thrilled me, and all of our faces were raptured as we stared up into the summer sky.

My mind turned to all of those Independence Days this morning, how my dad is gone now and how their dad is gone now – both having passed away in the past year, and how those days are done but how they still feel as real as the thick Texas humidity.  I still struggle with wanting to find my dad somewhere and not knowing where to go, I found myself googling “how to contact the dead” before writing this.  I am aware of my quiet desperation, it’s just that I want to sit next to him again and watch the fireworks and witness the colors shining in his dark eyes.

father’s day

It is my first Father’s Day without my father.

It is not my first Father’s Day without my father.


This morning I read this, by David Whyte:

The death of anyone close to us is always a form of salutation, a simultaneous good-bye to their physical presence and a deep hello to a more intimate imaginal relationship now beginning to form in their absence…

Immediate intrigue.  I am no stranger to the idea of a relationship forming and/or deepening with a person after his death, but it is nearly impossible to scale the wall of permanence that death leaves behind.  In the six months since my dad’s death, I have felt often like we are forever separated and I have spent countless hours wondering where he is.  Heaven?  An urn buried at the foot of his mother’s grave in South Texas?  In all the molecules of everything living on the planet?  Somewhere else?

Or, the most frightening – nowhere?

The thing about a living person is that you know where to find that person.  When my dad was alive, I could fly to Texas, drive to Waco, and then go see him in the nursing home.  He was not all there, for lack of a better phrase, but he was alive.  I knew where to go if I wanted to hold his hand or tell him I loved him – I couldn’t always be there when I wanted to be, but that’s beside the point.  Now there is no hand to hold and when I tell him I love him, I say it in my head or on the page, and that’s pretty much it.

No one ever told me that when someone close to you dies, you continue to love them.  It is such a perfect unrequited love, to love someone after they’re gone.


I have been grieving for much of my entire life.  My dad’s illness and the toll it took on my family and myself is a wound that has opened and healed and reopened and scarred through the years.  When I saw Father of the Bride as a preteen, I grieved heavily, because I knew it would never be like that for us.  When my dad didn’t show up to my school activities, I grieved heavily, because I wanted him to care.  When I moved away from Texas to California, I grieved heavily, because I didn’t want to leave him and yet I couldn’t stand the thought of staying another second.

Grief has been a constant companion of mine and that hasn’t changed with my dad’s death.  Father’s Day has always been tinged with a deep sadness – it doesn’t define the day, but it is undeniably there.  Due to the distance between us and my dad’s inability to communicate, we would go months without seeing each other, or even talking to each other.  The last six months have been remarkably similar to the rest of life before his death.

He could still be alive, for all I know.  Because I can’t stand the thought of him being nowhere.  I can’t stand the thought of never being able to find him again.

Denial is a powerful thing.


is an underestimated state of being. Denial is an ever present and even splendid thing when seen in the light of its merciful and elemental powers to cradle and hold an identity until it is ready to move on. Faced with the depth of loss and disappearance in the average life, a measure of denial is creative, necessary and self-compassionate: children are not meant to know they will one day die and older adults are never meant to tell them. Refusing to face what we are not yet ripe and ready to face can help us to live in the present. Denial fully experienced, also enables us to understand the full measure of our reluctance thus becoming a way of both paying attention to and appreciating what is asking to be seen. Denial is a beautiful transitional state every human being inhabits before they are emancipated into the next larger context and orphaned, often against their will, from their old home. 

Denial is ever present and unavoidable in a human life, even in the most accomplished guru; even in the Dalai Lama; it is a necessary dynamic so that the overpowering elements of a waiting, terrifying, universe can be held for now, over the horizon; denial belongs to us all. Denial can be a prison if inhabited in too concrete and unmoving a way, but denial is also a necessary stepping-stone and a compassionate foundation for viewing others who are not able to take the next courageous step. Denial can be a beautiful skin shed, left to be seen, or even to beautify and beatify others as they follow, wearing our former clothes. To understand the true nature of our reluctance through observing and then inhabiting our denial is to see directly into the soul’s wish to participate.

Excerpt from the essay “Denial” 
From the Up Coming Reader’s Circle II series
© David Whyte 2013


It is and is not my first Father’s Day without my father.

I am not ready to let go yet.

And I don’t even know if such a thing is possible.

Happy Father’s Day, wherever you are.


tiny beautiful things

I’ve spent a lot of time at Starbucks lately.  It’s not the refreshing beverages I’m after; it’s time and space in which to put words on the page.  I go to Starbucks to write.  My entire life I’ve just written when I’ve felt like it – which, to be fair, has been often – but things are different now.  I made a promise that things would be different now, and then I made a plan.  

The plan: Go to Starbucks (or wherever) to write on my days off.  That means I have three days a week with time especially carved out to do my thing.  No excuses.  No saying, “Oh, I want to go hang out with such-and-such, I can write another day.”  No saying, “I’m tired and want to go to sleep.”  Nope.  If I’m going to make alternate plans, I will have to figure out how to make up for missing that day of writing.  Even if I’m writing nothing important.  Because as far as I’m concerned, it’s all important.

I’m tired of apologizing for myself.  I have a college degree, I never finished graduate school, I wait tables, my house is a mess, I sometimes yell at my kids, I take medication for depression, I’ve slept through the night maybe 10 times in the last 4.5 years, I’m a writer.  I will turn 34 on Friday and my writing dream is as alive as it was 20 years ago.

Some things never die, no matter how hard you may try to kill them.

The writer in me deserves to be honored and taken seriously.  That means I show up and I do the work.  I plow through the blocks and try to get at the sweet spot underneath.  It’s awkward most of the time.  I feel frustrated.  Just earlier today I was driving and the words in my head were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, and then I got here to Starbucks and I wrote the most mundane and unremarkable crap I’ve ever written.

Thankfully my computer has a delete button.  


This weekend I went to a writing workshop led by none other than Cheryl Strayed.  I bought myself a ticket almost immediately after the workshop was announced at the beginning of this year.  I figured that my beloved Sugar probably had a thing or seven to teach me, and I was not disappointed.  

Here’s a summary of what I found remarkable about what Sugar said:

Writing is about total surrender.  You have to surrender to mediocrity and realize that it’s not up to you to decide if your book is brilliant or horrible or mediocre.  But it is up to you to do your best.  

You won’t become Faulkner by sitting around waiting to write your book.  It won’t materialize out of thin air.

Keep your eye on the ball.  Writing is the ball.  Publication is not the ball.

Write about what it means to be human.

People will love you the way they’re able to.  It’s up to you what to do with that love.  (This was a huge one.  It actually brought me very close to tears.)

If you haven’t written something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably haven’t told the whole story.

“And nothing was ever the same again” should be the invisible last line of everything you write as opposed to “And they lived happily ever after.”

Write into the grey areas, not the absolutes.

What is the question at the core of your work?  Your job as a writer is to answer that question.

Writing is about revelation.  Writing itself is an act of revelation.

In writing, there is no bottom.  Or perhaps it’s just that there’s no top.

Take the ugly stuff and make it beautiful.

She signed my book:
And she even smiled at me:
And then I drove the two hours home, fighting to stay awake, because I’d gotten home at 1 AM after The Worst Shift Ever, during which I got stiffed for cutting off The Most Annoying Drunk Customer Ever, and I walked into my messy house just in time to kiss my kids goodnight, and afterwards I immediately collapsed on the couch, and right before I fell asleep my last thought was that nothing would ever be the same again.

final echo

My dad is almost six months gone and I can’t bear it.  I can’t understand how life has managed to continue, I am struck by the cruelty of this as well as the necessity and the beauty.  I can’t stand in that same place I found myself the morning of December 9, 2012.  I had to go on and that’s all there is to it.  

The last few months I’ve been confused, my grief has been shoved to the very back of my life, there is no room for it.  I am consumed by the needs of others, my job, exhaustion, and I repeat to myself daily, when the thought of him swims into my mind, “Daddy is dead.”  I tell myself this because if I don’t, I may just start to believe that this is another one of those long periods of time when we aren’t seeing each other.  (Part of me still believes this.  I can’t bear to think that I will never take another trip to Texas to see him in that sad little nursing home, that I will never grip his skeletal hand in mine again.)  

What does it mean when someone dies?  I have been obsessing over the moment of death since he passed away.  I wonder about pain, about sorrow, was there a moment where everything became illuminated and he became enlightened?  What were his last words and did he think of me?  Was it like falling asleep?  What happens when we die and where do we go after?  

I have no answers.  And for years I wished for closure and even in his death, there still is none.

Yesterday we drove up to San Francisco and spent a couple of hours in Golden Gate Park with one of my dear friends and her husband.  Charlie and Simon found a tunnel that went under the street and led to the amphitheater, and they kept running through it, yelling and listening to the echoes of their voices.  Oh, to be so young and so in awe of the world.  To let loose something into the world and to watch as it’s returned.  To have utter faith that it will be returned.  I can’t bear to think of the ways in which life will break their hearts.  I can’t bear to think of my dad as a little boy, and I can’t bear to think of how we get from that purity to this brokenness.  

I sat with my friend and we talked in the mist while passing Daphne back and forth between us, a young man was playing his cello nearby and I gave him a dollar.  Golden Gate Park stretched in front of us in all its majesty as I let my heart break a little bit while we talked.  We talked about grief and how it looks the same no matter what or how you’re grieving, and then we talked about letting go, and the fear that letting go means that what you’re grieving never meant that much to you to begin with.  

I fear that someday there will be a final echo of my father, and then just silence.

(i write these words

hundreds of miles 

from where you

are resting peacefully,

you are so close to me,

in me,

part of me, 

my DNA tied to your ashes, 

bits of bone,

pieces of bone,

you are so far from me,

I don’t know how

to go on without you.)