July 2013 archive

The Love of my Life

photo (2)I’m here to share a very exciting part of my life with all of you. An over-the-moon part of my life, really. I’ve fallen in love. Head over heels, dance in the kitchen, sing into hairbrushes, madly in love. I don’t ever recall being more in love, nor can I imagine a feeling greater than the one I’ve been swimming in for the past week. It’s like the Earth is spinning just for the two of us, and I’m so grateful to have been given the gift of real, true, beautiful love.

You guys. I bought a rice cooker.


Let’s start with the rice. Sure. It makes rice. But seriously. It doesn’t just make rice. It makes the most delicious, fluffy, perfect-consistency rice you’ve ever poked with a fork. No more water leftover in the bottom of the pot or, my personal signature, rice burned to the bottom so scorched that you can’t even get it off with a stainless steel scouring pad. So scorched that it reminds you of your past failures every time you take the pan out to, once again, incorrectly cook rice.

Hmm. Maybe no one else has this much trouble with rice. Maybe you’re like, “Erin. It’s a simple ratio. 1:1 or 1:1.5. Just read the directions and for God’s sake, leave the lid on and walk away.” Well, I can’t do that. I can’t. I need to know what’s going on in there.
Who asked you, anyway?

Ok, so it cooks rice. But did you know it also steams stuff? IT STEAMS STUFF. You put your rice in, and then before your rice is finished, you put in your vegetables or work shirts or whatever you want steamed and it steams it! So much healthier than frying or even sautéing! STEAMING! Push a button, it knows how long to steam, and you just walk around the house looking at all of the things you’re probably not going to do today but who cares?! Dinner is steaming!

And I’m not finished! Are you aware that you can cook your perfect-consistency rice in something other than water and get a WHOLE NEW FLAVOR? Yesterday I added ginger and lemon, today I added soy sauce and freshly squeezed orange. I’m not kidding you, flavored rices will blow your ever-loving mind. Rice a Roni can’t hold a candle to how good this freaking rice is with all my delicious spices. It’s magical.

I’m thinking about naming my rice cooker. Barbara, maybe. Or Robert? I’m not sure if it’s male or female yet, so I’ll have to think on it and let you know. But prepare yourself for rice cooker recipes. They’re coming. (Maybe Mindy?) And everyone is going to run out and buy one and rice cooker-making companies all over the world are going to owe me royalties.

(So, if there was every any question about the state of my life right now, does this answer it?)

Dear Kelly Ripa

Forum.NS4W.ORG - Celebity Candids , Photoshoots, Scans and More.Dear Kelly Ripa,

First, let me say, you look great. You’re a beautiful woman with a classy style and we all appreciate your bubbly personality most of the time. Sometimes we want you to be quiet, but sometimes people want me to be quiet, so it’s cool.

You said something the other day. Someone mentioned you being in a bikini on a family vacation, and you responded, “Oh no. Not me. There’s too much to explain here,” and you pointed at your body. In fact, it’s the second time I heard you respond to someone mentioning you in a bikini that way. Eyes squinty, acting ashamed, you repeatedly blew off compliments and shook your head.

And then EVERY woman in America felt badly about herself.

If Kelly Ripa thinks she has something to hide, or needs to explain her body, then good Lord I’m in trouble.

That’s what we’re all thinking.

It’s obvious you work out. You work hard on being healthy and looking/feeling great. That’s so awesome. And, in fairness, it’s part of your job, too. Most of us moms would love to have a trainer or time devoted everyday to taking care of our bodies. And because you do have that time, and you do have the body to show for it, why would you poo-poo it in front of millions of women who are already so fragile?! I mean, really Kelly Ripa? Why wouldn’t you BE the opportunity for women to see that hard work doesn’t just pay off with a hard body, but also with self-confidence, self-worth, a wonderful reason to toot your own horn. Instead, we’re reminded by you that no matter how awesome we look by anyone’s standards, we should downplay it. We should never like the way we look too much because, come on, even Kelly Ripa thinks she needs to joke on her body.

I’m still like a salmon swimming against the current trying to love my body. I’m constantly working on my body, but it’s only recently that I started looking at it in the mirror and loving it. And on the days I don’t love it, I admit it and then move on. I feel like I’m walking uphill during a sandstorm in the Sahara when someone compliments some physical aspect of me. I have to eek out a “Thank you” without shaking my head or dismissing it. Hearing a woman who looks like you say anything other than loving words towards herself only perpetuates our bad feelings about the way we look.

Now, if you let your light shine, smiling and graciously accepting compliments about the physique you work so hard for, you would give us permission to love our bodies. Suddenly, we would all be encouraged that liking yourself and the way you look is ok. It doesn’t mean you’re cocky or snooty full of yourself. It means you love you. And that’s awesome. Go ahead. Try it.

And if you’re too scared to do so, or in case someone else is reading this letter, then hear this: I love me. There are parts of my body I wish would’ve snapped back from pregnancy, or would have been altogether different, just like everyone does. But I am really, truly grateful for my body, and I love it. I’m proud of it. Especially my arms and shoulders. They’re awesome. Start loving yours.


E. Cohen

Meditation and Grocery Lists

image002Everything I’ve been reading and listening to lately has been telling me I need to meditate. Everybody who’s anybody does it, and they love it. They throw-a-party, drink-a-pint, wake-up-with-an-extra-$30-in-their-pocket love it. I’ve tried meditating many times in the past.

I do not love it.

It is boring. I sit and close my eyes but then they drift back open so I have to squeeze them closed. My hands rest on my knees until I have a scratch and then I fight with myself about scratching it because Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t scratch, not even when she was being attacked by mosquitos while meditating. I concentrate on breathing until I forget to because I breathe automatically, I don’t have to concentrate on it to keep doing it. It just happens. I’d rather concentrate on the new Vampire Weekend album or organizational strategies for Abe’s toy room.

But, I decided I needed to give it a fair shot. Thirty days. (Because the longest stretch I’ve ever made it prior to this was 3 days, and I think on day 3 I just gave up and started making a grocery list with nearby pen and paper.) I downloaded a meditation album by Wayne Dyer and listened to the first track. Wayne told me to relax, to concentrate on my breath, and to repeat to myself, “I am that, I am.” Wayne said I could replace “that” with anything I want. I think his suggestions were things like, “I am living in abundance, I am,” or, “I am consumed with health, I am.” Basically just saying the things that you want to focus on being. I considered, “I am at happy hour, I am.”

No, I didn’t do that one. Relax.

The meditation tracks are 22 minutes of music played at a specific vibration that God can hear, or something like that. So morning one, my alarm went off at 6:30am and I put in my earbuds and turned on meditation track 2. I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, and repeated my, “I am” message. And here’s what happened…

I am living in abundance, I am.
I am living in abundance, I am.
I am living in abundance, I am.
I am living in abundance, I am.
Abundance means wealth, right?
Not that I need money. I shouldn’t be meditating for more money.
I just want enough that I don’t have to worry about anything. 
But, I mean, I guess I don’t have anything to worry about now.
So, maybe I should choose a different “I am” message. 
Aww, crap, I’m already so far off the path. New “I am” message. Refocus.
I am living in peace, I am.
I am living in peace, I am.
I am living in peace, I am.
I am living in peace, I am.
I am almost out of deodorant. I am.
Wait. Did I just make that into an “I am” message?
Oh, that’s so wrong.
I am living in peace, I am.
I am living in peace, I am. 
I forgot to prop up the tomato plant. It’s going to die.
I am living in peace, I am.
Look. I’m getting better at this!
I am living in peace, I am.
I am living in peace, I am.
I wonder if I should try having coffee before I meditate next time.
It’s just easier to roll over and try it to do it. 
It would be great to…
Waaaait a minute. I’m doing it again. Refocus.
I am living in peace, I am. 
I think I’m going to get my period tomorrow.
I am living in peace, I am.
Remember when Marybeth and I laughed so hard on her living room floor that we thought our guts would bust?
Oh man, that was a great night.
I wonder if I’ve laughed that hard since then.
I probably have, I’m just not remembering.
I love laughing that hard.
I am living in peace, I am…

And then another 21 minutes of that.

Today was day 6 and I can’t really say that I’ve gotten any better. I still spend about 4 minutes quietly concentrating on my breath and repeating my “I am” message, and about 18 minutes planning my day or remembering something that happened one time. They say it’s a “practice” and that I’ll get better at it if I keep doing it, so I’m going to keep trying. But if by day 30 I am still spending this much time trying to remember a guy’s name I met at a work function 2 years ago in case I run into him again and want to introduce him to someone, I might just go back to coffee and Good Morning America.


Pray for Micah

1075280_542687075767002_1807221742_nI met Micah when he was about 8 or 9 years old. He was one of my students, as I was a children’s theatre director in what feels like a former life. One big smile bounding around the room and even usually paying attention, that’s Micah. Always happy to see his mom when she arrived to pick him up. Always accepting of others’ ideas, ways, and personalities. Just a really freaking special kid.

Last year, a small group of parents flew me to Iowa to watch my students graduate from high school because I couldn’t at the time afford the plane ticket. I walked in to their favorite coffee house and surprised them, their little (well, now big) bodies bounding towards me was both the scariest and most exhilarating feeling. And as the little crowd cleared, there stood Micah, a huge cheeky grin. “Do you remember me?”

I grabbed his arms. “How does anyone not remember you?” A bear hug like you give your best friend lasted a few short seconds until it was time to order lunch and reminisce about camp and all the funny things we used to do together.

I watched him walk to get his diploma the next day, the entire gymnasium, a proper, almost professional level of participation with clapping and controlled cheering and Pomp and Circumstance playing at an appropriate volume was interrupted when Micah screamed at the top of his lungs, “LOOK DAD! I DID IT! I DID IT! I TOLD YOU I’D DO IT!” The gymnasium roared with laughter, those who knew him chuckled and rolled their eyes. He beamed, pleased with himself that he’d broken the status quo.

On July 22, in the middle of a 8,000 mile motorcycle trip with no one but his dad, Micah’s motorcycle did not make the curve. We’re not sure why exactly, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. He and his bike went over the embankment, and his dad had to do what any parent dreads most: try to figure out how to save his son’s life.
He did save his son’s life with some helpful passersby, and Micah was later life-flighted to a hospital in Vancouver for a surgery that would hopefully spare his spinal cord, his lungs, his ribs, his collar bone, and his brain, and give him a chance to ride again. He came through the first surgery, the first of many I’m sure, as his family beams pride and trust all over him, knowing if anyone could turn this experience into a world-bettering mission, he could.

A beautiful letter, written by his mama, was published in the Ottumwa Evening Post this evening, more eloquent and personal than I could ever hope to be in her situation. It starts, “The boy who was born on the couch…wouldn’t drink milk while growing up…broke his collar bone for the third time on July 22, 2013.” It’s really one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

If you pray, please pray for him. If you don’t, please think about him with loving thoughts. And if you’re so moved, donate to the family’s medical bills.

And then consider living your life the way Micah does, filling everyday with unadulterated, unfiltered, forget-to-wash-your-hair-because-you’re-so-damn-happy joy. If you’re living your life any other way, let Micah be the tap on your shoulder. 


Micah Leaverton’s Donation Account
c/o Ottumwa Publishing
107 S. Court Street Ste. 1
Ottumwa, IA 52501

Feel free to send Micah get-well cards, too!
Easter Seal House
3981 Oak Street, Rm. 208
Vancouver, BC, CANADA V6H 4H5
*Letters would require international postage.


How to Take your Two-Year-Old to Lunch in Public (in 37 easy steps)

How to Take your Two-Year-Old to Lunch in Public
(in 37 easy steps)

Time: 2 hours

What You’ll Need:
Extra underoos and shorts
$20 Cash
An iPhone
A credit card
Water bottle
Veggie Chips
(a toy helicopter)

Step 1: Prepare to leave the house by packing extra underoos, shorts, $20 cash, an iPhone, a credit card, a water bottle, veggie chips, goldfish, and bourbon. Inform your 2-year-old you will be leaving for lunch in 10 minutes. Help your child peepee in the potty one last time before leaving.
Step 2: Help your 2-year-old into his/her carseat. Begin searching for the helicopter he/she must have in order to drive anywhere. Move your search inside while your child is strapped into the carseat. Upon finding the helicopter, pack the rest of the supplies you packed in Step 1 and get in the car.
Step 3: Begin driving.
Step 4: Stop driving halfway to lunch when your 2-year-old informs you he/she has to peepee again. Find the nearest Starbucks.
Step 5. Begin driving again.
Step 6: Reach your destination. Confirm with your 2-year-old that you are going out to lunch. Review lunch rules: stay in your seat, eat your food, drink your water, be polite. Laugh when you remember you’re saying this to a 2-year-old.
Step 7: Stop at the kiddie train ride as you walk through the parking lot and agree with your 2-year-old that you can ride it. Wait 20 minutes in the blazing hot sun for your turn. Pay all of the cash you have in order to ride the damn thing for 10 minutes. Offer your child the water bottle to fight initial signs of dehydration.
Step 8: Continue walking towards the restaurant, holding your 2-year-old’s hand until he/she goes completely boneless in protest of holding your hand. Then proceed to drag him/her the rest of the way.
Step 9: Enter the restaurant.
Step 10: Consider exiting the restaurant.
Step 11: Decide to stay and be seated in a booth.
Step 12: Immediately order food for the 2-year-old before ordering drinks, your own food, or even greeting the server. It doesn’t matter what you order. Order something. Now.
Step 13: Remove everything from the table including plates, salt, pepper, silverware, napkins, and any sauces the restaurant offers.

All of the pictures will look like this.

All of the pictures will look like this.

Place them somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Step 14: Offer veggie chips to your 2-year-old. Remind them to sit down. Offer to look at pictures on your iPhone with your 2-year-old. Allow him/her to take 3-400 pictures of him/herself.
Step 15: Order your own food. It doesn’t matter what it is.
Step 16: Your 2-year-old’s food is arriving. Do your best to convince them it’s not poison. Offer to let them eat it with a fork, spoon, chopsticks, their bare hands, or their feet. Consider offering to let them eat it like a dog.
Step 17: Enjoy 5 minutes of peace while your 2-year-old eats. This will be the last 5 minutes of peace.
Step 18: Remind your 2-year-old to sit down. Apologize to the table full of people next to you.
Step 19: Clean up the spilled water.
Step 20: Offer your iPhone to the 2-year-old again. Show him/her the age-appropriate applications. Request he/she only plays with those applications.
Step 21: Your food arrives. Offer your child goldfish snacks. Remind your child to sit down and stop jumping.
Step 22: Re-request he/she only plays with age-appropriate applications. Shortly thereafter, stop caring.
Step 23: Remind your two-year-old to sit down.
Step 24: Apologize to the server.
Step 25: Remind your two-year-old to sit down.
Step 26: Agree to take your two-year-old to the bathroom to peepee again. Smile at the cute bartender and consider getting a drink.
Step 27: Return to the table and realize that at some point you ate your entire lunch. You do not remember eating it or what it was.
Step 28: Pay the bill with your credit card because you spent all your cash on the damn train. Remind your two-year-old to sit down and stop yelling.
Step 29: Apologize to the new table full of people next to you.
Step 30: Make a mental note that you will never do this again (knowing full well you will forget this mental note within 12 minutes.)
Step 31: Inform your 2-year-old it’s time to leave the restaurant. Take a deep breath. It’s almost over.
Step 32: Remind your two-year-old he/she must hold your hand through the parking lot. Do everything in your power to hold on to him/her until he/she finally gets free and you break into a full-fledged sprint, eventually catching him/her by pushing him/her into a bush.
Step 33: Remove your 2-year-old from the bush.
Step 34: Carry your 2-year-old the rest of the way to the car.
Step 35: Strap your 2-year-old in the car and begin driving home. Try to tune out the whining and imagine naptime just around the corner.
Step 36: Arrive home and immediately carry your 2-year-old to his/her room. Dodge and weave his flailing arms and legs as he/she completely melts down. Put him/her in bed with favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Leave the room.
Step 37: Drink bourbon.

Don’t Take My Shoes

In case you’re curious, all of this “listening to interviews” I’ve been doing lately started with The Daily Love Extravaganza. It was a special event, an INCREDIBLE week of super cool people speaking their truths.

So when Kris Evans started her interview, I was confused. She was not a yogi, not a lifecoach, not a guru, none of it.

She’s a stylist.

And I was all: Lady. We’re talking about inner enlightenment and peace. Not denim wash options. Move along.

But I listened because maybe she had some good style advice and lord knows if anyone needs style advice, it’s me. And, as you might imagine, I was totally blown away by what she had to say. She wasn’t talking about the latest trends on the runway or make-up secrets. She was talking about how style is a personal choice demonstrating our own authentic power. Do you buy a pair of shoes because you saw them in a magazine or because you LOVE them. Do you LOVE them because you’ll get noticed in them or because they make you feel like YOU? Style just means representing your insides on your outsides. And you can’t trust someone else’s opinion about that.

Of course, then I started thinking: How much crap is in my closet right now because it was in style or I thought I should wear it? Like maybe I should wear more red so I buy something red? Or maybe I should own skinny jeans, so I buy some and then hate them?!

You can guess what happened next.

Trash bag #1

Trash bag #1


I went on a tear through my closet. The first pass I pulled out things I know I don’t wear, like my freaking maternity tank tops or the trouser pants that haven’t fit since I had a kid. That was easy. Then I started getting anxiety.

Well, I might want to wear this someday if I go to a luau-themed ball. And this would be great for a redneck themed BBQ.
Because those are situations for which I always need to be prepared.
During my second pass I didn’t let myself tell a story about any of the clothes I was looking through. If I started writing a far-fetched scene in some far-off land about when I would wear that blazer or that skirt, I tossed it. I tossed and tossed and tossed. And the more I tossed, the easier it got. And the more I tossed, the more I could SEE that I didn’t want. And then I tossed some more. It turned out it was the anticipation of letting clothes go that was harder than actually letting them go.

Trash bag #2.

Trash bag #2.

My third pass was a free-for-all. I only bought this shirt because someone told me I wore too much black. Well. I like black. And I don’t like these colors. Goodbye. I probably got rid of another 8 or 10 pieces of clothing that I knew looked good on me, but that I didn’t really like.
I got rid of pants, shirts, sweaters, cardigans, bras, socks, dresses, and bathing suits.



Then came shoes.

Ummm. Yes. Right. Shoes.

So, I’ll admit it. I didn’t get rid of a single pair of shoes except for some old slippers. I’m not totally enlightened yet when it comes to getting rid of my shoes. My precious shoes. Please don’t take them. I neeeeeed them.


photo 3

That was last week and I look at my closet now and see even MORE things I could get rid of. The refreshing part is walking in to my closet in the morning and not having to sift through junk. I actually like everything that’s in there right now, so picking out what I’m going to wear is simple. Instead of giving up and running for the sweatpants, I can now pick out actual clothes!

And Uggs. Because I realize that people stopped wearing them publicly in 2005, but I love them. And they’re me. And I love them. (So much.)

Smack Down: Choice

Here are some things I hear a lot:

  • I should exercise.
  • I need to quit smoking.
  • I oughtta sleep more.
  • I’m going to clean up my diet. 
  • I want to start meditating.

I listened to an interview this week in which the woman said this:

“There’s no such thing as willpower. There’s just choice. If you don’t want to smoke cigarettes anymore, do not put a cigarette to your mouth. Then you won’t smoke one. It’s your choice.” 

Of course, I gave it a little thought and realized that this is actually just annoyingly accurate. Incredibly. Annoyingly. Accurate.

52902fc9b6762c33ebab9f2a1404cb82At first this is annoying because if you’ve ever been a smoker you would argue points like “addictive” and “oral fixation” and “stress.” But the truth is that everytime you want a cigarette, you crave a cigarette, you see a cigarette, if you choose then in that moment not to smoke one, then you won’t smoke.

Because if you think you should exercise, then you can make the choice to. You can argue points like “time” and “money” and “ability”, but really, it’s just a choice. Do you choose to exercise, or do you choose to open Facebook?
If you want to sleep more, you should sleep more. You should figure out what’s keeping you up late and then stop doing that thing and then go to sleep.
If you want to clean up your diet, you should go to the pantry and throw away all of the things that aren’t “clean” and then go to the store and buy things that are “clean” and then eat those things.
If you want to start meditating, then you should find a book or a CD or a podcast and learn how to do it, just the way you would learn how to do anything else you decided that you wanted to do.

Discipline really is just another word for choice. You choose to shower everyday (or you don’t). You choose to drink coffee first thing, or drive to work, or come home at the end of the day. You choose to blowdry your hair or tie your shoes. You choose to wear underwear, for heaven’s sake. You say, “Sure, Erin. Yeah. I choose to wear underwear. Not really the same thing as choosing to quit smoking.” I can see why you’d think that. But at some point someone told you to wear underwear and you decided to do it. Everyday. The reason I know you decided to do it is because some people decide NOT to do it. And commando’s a fine choice, too, if that works for you.

You see, you get to make all of the choices. If you can’t get to sleep at a reasonable hour because you have too much work to do, then why don’t you reexamine your job and what you might try doing in its place so that you can get some good rest your body needs? If your response to that is that you need the money from your job to pay for your house, you could consider living in a less expensive location so that you can take a job with fewer hours so you can get more good rest. If you think your family would never go for that, you should ask them. Because, they just might.

And if you don’t try any of that, then you don’t really want to get more sleep than you’re currently getting. Truth.

So this week when I thought about what I wanted to get done and figured there was no way I could accomplish it all, I thought about my choice, my discipline. I chose to create an hour-by-hour schedule each day, dedicating time to each thing I wanted to do. I even added time for myself, and that was obviously the hardest damn choice. I didn’t get everything done. But I got remarkably more done that I would have if I’d just thought about all the crap I wanted to get done and then started meandering around hoping my car and the returns counter at Target had some sort of magnetic pull or that birds would fly in and start dancing with the laundry like a scene out of Enchanted.

My therapist said this today: “Comfort is wonderful, serenity is divine, complacency is dangerous.” Consider the habits you want to change just your complacencies. If you really want to change them, then make the choice. And if you don’t, then you automatically lose the right to complain about them.


Last night I went to a Dave Matthews concert. I learned a few things:

photo (3)1. When a band has been around for 20 years, and you’ve been listening to them for a majority of those 20 years, you’re suddenly older than you thought.

2. Spilling an $11 beer is WAY worse than losing $11 on the ground.

3. Reckless, joyful dancing around a bunch of people you don’t know and will never see again is pretty healing.

4. It’s now been officially and scientifically proven that it’s impossible for an 18-year-old to appropriately appreciate DMB. (I suppose this is comparable to my apathy for Bobby Lewis or Freddy Mercury.)

5. “I will go in this way, and I’ll find my own way out.” Listening to the same music on a blanket in the grass that I listened to when I very first started going to see live music, when I started dating, breaking up, and falling in love, again when I was solidly planted in my adult life with a plan and a bright future, and then again when I got completely lost and unsure of the next step, from being a friend, to being a married person, to being a mom…well, it can help remind you of who you are. Those lyrics will always be relevant to me.

6. All the songs I thought were my special, favorite songs are also the special, favorite songs of everyone else at a Dave Matthews Concert. Anywhere.

7. If you don’t get Taco Bell on the way home from a DMB concert, consuming at least one burrito and one churro (and it’s bonus points if you’re falling asleep while eating it), then you’re not doing it right.

8. When someone gets to rock out and live their passion for the entirety of their adult life, it kinda makes you wonder why you’re making any choice at all in your life that doesn’t make you feel like a rock star.


What do you Want? (Pasta)

34cb1580be549180694b375407527dd7I just finished reading Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth (because that’s the kind of thing I do). While you can replace “food” in the title with just about anything else (shopping, sex, relationships, work…), food is the one thing we all have in common which is why Geneen focuses on it. It’s the great equalizer. We all have to eat. And because we have to eat, the way in which we eat is always a direct reflection of where we are in our life. (Always.) Simply put, and as demonstrated through extremes, if I’m eating an entire bag of potato chips, you can pretty much assume my boyfriend just broke up with me. If I’m eating fresh vegetables dipped in cold-pressed olive oil, it’s likely that things are going well.

Reasons for your eating habits can range from deep-seated issues to simply not scheduling enough time to eat during the day (otherwise known as not scheduling enough time for yourself). Geneen breaks all of us up into two kinds of eaters: The Restrictors and The Permitters.
The Restrictors control everything they eat (and thus their feelings), chide themselves for bad choices, and rarely allow themselves to eat the foods they want to eat. To a Restrictor, suffering = “I’m okay.”
The Permitters numb feelings with food, eating anything and everything with reckless abandon in an attempt to not feel. A Permitter would eat an old tire to avoid sadness. To a Permitter, numbing = “I’m okay.”
The two are interchangeable at any given time. Think of the strict diet you tried to stick to for 3 weeks until you finally gave in and ate an entire cheesecake followed by a package of bacon. Restrictor turned Permitter.

I’m a Restrictor. I have adopted every style of eating there is in an effort to control. I’ve gone no meat. All meat. No dairy. All of the dairy. Fat free, full fat. Low carbs, no carbs, and then eventually, all carbs. Anything that controls my environment, my surroundings, and “I’m okay.” Until I hit a rough patch and eat spaghetti for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Because, as a rule, my days are divided into two categories: the days I want to eat pasta and the days I do eat pasta.


My most recent work on myself revolves around giving myself a damn break. If I want the cake, I eat the cake. If I want to skip a workout, I do. If I want pasta for breakfast, then I effing eat it.

All day, I’m asking, “What do you want?”

Whether it’s food or the route I take to get home, I’m trying to completely focus on doing what I want without beating myself up overmy choices. Sounds very simple to someone who isn’t a Restrictor. But with a degree in perfection, minor in self-loathing, and an emphasis on suffering, it’s a daily struggle for me.

What do you want? If you get really quiet, completely occupy your body from head to toe to earth with three deep breaths, and ask yourself, “What do you want in this moment?”, what’s the answer? Do you want to clean the kitchen, or do you want to read a book? Do you want to swing on the swingset, or do you want to take a shower? Don’t judge your answers. You don’t even have to follow-through on your answers. For example, if your answer is that you want to go hang-gliding but today you have to go to work, it doesn’t mean you skip work. Just acknowledging what it is that you want in any given moment without judgment is an amazing gift to yourself. Because once it’s been acknowledged, the universe has no choice but to spring into action. (It’s woo-woo, but it’s true.)


Keeping it Warm

The last day of camp every summer is a very important day: Adventure Race Day. Think of The Amazing Race on TV, but only 4 hours and in one big forest. There are 10-15 markers along a map, and when you and your partner find them, you stamp your map before moving on to the next marker. Collect all 15, run to the finish line, drink a celebratory beer.

Now, I never participate in the Adventure Race. First of all, it always includes water. I don’t care for water unless it’s to skinny dip at the end of a very long and hot hike or if I’m listening to an ocean while laying on the warm sand. Second, it’s a competition. And I’m not competitive, in that I don’t compete because I get so freaking competitive that my camp friends become arch enemies and I will break any and all rules in order to win. And I also get mean.

So this year, when one of my camp friends asked if I was running the race and I said no, she said, “Oh. Why? You afraid you’re gonna lose?”
Keeping my ego in check. “No, no. I just don’t like kayaks.”
“You mean you don’t like losing in a kayak race?”
Again. I can keep a handle on this. “I just don’t like the water. And I’m not competitive.”
Another camp friend jumped in. He said, “Oh. You’re not doing it because you know you can’t win.”
Swallowing another gulp of ego. “I do like to win. But I don’t think I would win this race.”
“Oh I think you could win it. I just don’t think you will,” another person baited.
“I don’t have a partner,” David interrupted. “If you want to run it, I’ll run it with you.”
“Don’t worry,” camp friend #2 said. “I’ll keep the finish line nice and warm for you.”

Aaaand I signed up for the race 5 minutes later.

The morning of the race, we stood at the starting line psyching each other out.
“Pants, huh? It’s gonna be hot.”
“Not bringing any water? Hope you don’t get thirsty.”
“CamelBak? That’s gonna get heavy around mile 4.”
We all got to look at the map for about 3 minutes before taking off. I studied the map while inching closer to the starting line. I watched a few other people out of the group of 25 teams begin to do the same. And as soon as our guide shouted, “3-2-1…” we took off.

So, maps (unless they’re topographical, and this wasn’t) don’t really show uphill versus downhill. Well, the first mile was uphill. Running. I ran uphill for a mile. Within about 6 minutes, I already thought I was going to die and all my friends passed me. “See you later!” they shouted.
I forced myself to continue running, despite feeling as though the imaginary screws that hold my body together were beginning to come loose. Up and over that first hill, we stamped our map twice. David immediately took off while I began talking to myself like a crazy person. “Your body is made to move. Running will not hurt you. My body is a machine. I am strong. I can do this.”
After another mile, I’d caught up with a few of the groups, some who’d missed a stamp in the woods and some who were getting tired. I tried to psych them out, but with barely enough breath to run, I didn’t have many juicy insults. I think at one point I shouted, “I hate England!” at my new british friend.
His response? “I’m getting awfully tired of straining to hear what you’re saying so far behind me…”

We came upon a section of the map that offered two routes to the next stamp: a direct route through the woods or a less direct route taking an old, paved carriage road. We decided to take the carriage road, as everyone else was pouncing into the woods. It was a bold move, and one that paid off. We quickly moved from 6th place to 2nd place.
Of course, the next mile required nothing but straight running, so we were back to 3rd and nearly 4th place by the time we made it to the kayaks.

I became a beast in the kayak. I shouted out orders and insisted Dave row as hard and as fast as he could without ever stopping to take a break. “I just need to look at the map, Erin…”
“No, Dave. ROW. ROW. ROW.” I never stopped rowing, either. Then, of course, I broke out into a beautiful version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
In order to get the next stamp, I had to jump out of the kayak and into woods. Some teams took off their shoes, which proved to be a really bad choice as the stamp was hidden deep in the woods off the path. I, on the other hand, donned pants and shoes. Totally safe and scratch-free by the time I got back to the kayak.
Also, completely soaking wet.

By the time we rowed to our stopping point, I realized I had 3 more miles to run in lake-soaked shoes. I began slogging along behind Dave, trying to keep our second place status after the kayaks. As we jogged another mile, uphill, other teams, teams with actual running experience, began to catch up. Pass us. Smack my bottom. It was humiliating.

We retrieved our second to last stamp, the one before the finish line, and we were in a group with about 5 other teams. As we began following the other teams, David stopped me. “Wait. What if we skipped this part of the trail and just ran down the embankment to the road?”
“My body is strong. My body is a machine. I can do this…”
“What do you think?”
“My body is strong. My body is a machine. I can do this…”
“Ok. Fine. Follow me.” He took off.

We scaled down the embankment, sliding and running into trees until we popped out on the road. We must have looked very lost to the traffic passing by. We began to run and, shortly thereafter, another team popped out from the woods. Someone else had our same idea. It was now a foot race to the end, and in case you hadn’t gotten this yet, I don’t run. So, I knew our chances at coming in first were gone. But, I knew we could possibly still be ahead of all of our other friends, maybe even the first boy/girl team to make it to the finish. That last quarter mile was the longest mile I’d ever run in my entire life. And as we came up over the last hill to see about 20 kids cheering us on, creating a tunnel with their bodies, high-fiving us all the way in. I scanned, looking for other finishers, and I didn’t see any right away.
“Are we first?” I panted.
“No,” Dave panted back.

“Third,” he smiled.

We raised our arms and ran through the kids, high-fived the two teams who made it before we did, and realized we’d beaten all of our friends. We did it. I did it. I couldn’t believe it. I ran almost 7 miles. And I survived. And came in third place.

Several minutes later our friends began coming up over the hill. First one couple, then another, then another. We cheered and high-fived them all the way in. We laughed and shouted and fell on the ground in exhaustion. It turned out to be my favorite thing I did during my entire week at camp.

As we dusted ourselves off and headed to the jacuzzi for a celebratory beer, I pulled my friend’s arm and stopped him.
“Hey. Congrats. I hope I kept the finish line warm enough for you…”

Nope. I was wrong. Saying THAT was my favorite thing I did during my entire week at camp.


1 2