A Healthy New World: Becoming a Vegetarian and a Whole Foods Eater

“You Are What You Eat” whoever said it was right (there is confusion as to who said it first but really it doesn’t matter, it is still true).

My question is why? Why wasn’t I enlightened earlier in my life? Well, there are many reasons why: the way I was raised, my lack of knowledge in the nutrition field, or maybe thinking that what I knew was sufficient since I wasn’t too much of a “fast food” or “junk food” eater, maybe the fact that I exercise regularly, or the fact that I didn’t really care to know until now because I was enjoying my favorite “bad” foods too much.

I remember raising my eyebrows (as to say “you’re weird”) when my brother announced many years ago that he became vegetarian. Who knows why I didn’t caught on earlier? The important thing is that now I know what I dind’t know before, I keep on learning more everyday and I am grateful for these treasures of knowledge which affect my life for the better.

I must say that watching the documentaries, “Forks Over Knives”, “Food Inc.”, “Food Matters”, “Fresh”, ” Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” plus listening to the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell REALLY opened my eyes to some nutritional facts unknown to me. I also read many testimonials of people who had changed their diet to a vegetarian or a vegan diet after they had been diagnosed with some kind of chronic disease, cancer, heart failure, etc. And their illenesses were reversed because of it. I learned how we can easily avoid many diseases, age more gracefully, be generally healthier, etc. by closely watching what enters our body. Yes some diseases are genetic and not much can be done about it but you’d be surprised (if you don’t already know) how much is in our power to do to avoid chronic diseases just by changing the way we eat.

In today’s mainstream Western food choice standard, I would say that I was above average healthy when it came to the kind of foods you would find in my kitchen. Fruits and vegetables have always been standard foods in my home. However, when it came to healthy grains, aside from whole grains bread (simply because I liked it better) everything else was white and refined (flour, pasta, rice, sugar, …). There was a bunch of grains full of great vitamins and nutrients that I had heard of but that you would have never found in my house until recently which have now become staples (i.e. quinoah, bulgur, sunflower seeds, pumkin seeds plus all sorts of other grains, nuts and beans).

Many people have asked me why I made this decision to become a vegetarian and a whole foods eater and not just for me but for our entire family as well (with the support of my husband who is gearing towards veganism). Some people find it quite “scarry” that I would keep my children from eating MEAT. You don’t eat NO MEAT?? (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) What about iron, protein and Vitamin B12? They ask: “Aren’t you afraid that your children aren’t going to grow properly?”

I am not going to enter into scientific details to show that iron and protein can easily be found in non-meat products such as spinach, baked beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. and vitamin B12 (which daily requirement is very small) can easily be found in whole grains fortified cereal, nutritional yeast, fortified soy milk, etc. You can do your own research and find out all these things.

Research has also shown that people from nations (or parts of the world within different nations) who tend to live the longest eat very little to no meat–that is as a group. I know there are centenarians who eat meat on a daily basis out there but they are not part of a “group” in a certain place (read article below).

What I would like to share with you is how becoming a vegetarian and a whole foods eater has changed the way I physically feel, the way I think about what enters my body, my eating and shopping habits for the better.

Major physical improvements

I started the experiment of being a vegetarian and a whole foods eater saying that I would do it for thirty days, see how I would feel and then make a decision to continue or not. The results were:

I felt good after every meal (I never felt overly full, bloated, tired in midday because of uneasy digestion, etc.)

Increased energy

Decreased mood swings/ depression feelings

No more (3 days) monthly migraines!!!

Better sleep at night

healthy steady weight loss

No guilt no matter what I ate

Being “regular” and feeling clean inside.

All of the above made me a happier person overall

These are just a few of the physical benefits I found but they were sufficient for me to decide to stick to this new lifestyle.

So how do I shop for food?

When I go grocery shopping now, I totally skip all meat sections including lunch meat (whatever “meat” that is). That alone is awesome, I don’t even have to think about what dead animal we are going to eat? I don’t solely think about what is reasonable in price, fast and easy to cook for our meals anymore. Instead I think: “What nutritional value and health benefits will this food bring to our family? It is amazing the changes that occur when you grocery shop that way–what gets in the basket and what stays out. It is also easier than it may sound: Just stick to a variety of fresh foods, whole grains and non-processed foods. It really narrows it down quite a bit. Rather than thinking what are we going to eat with the chicken, the beef, the salmon,… (the way I was raised), I think: “how can I make the spinach, the beans, the asperagus, the peppers, the lettuce, the corn, the brown rice, the quinoah, more interesting? What healthy ingredients can I add to make it healthy, tasty and diverse?”

Actively thinking about healthy eating automatically makes you walk away from processed, too fat and too sweet unhealthy foods. It is almost like two oposite forces resisting each other. Before I would buy real butter every week for eating, baking, etc. Now my butter has lasted a whole month because it is very seldom used. I still have left over “white” foods in my pantry so, whenever possible, I mix it up with the whole grain or whole food version and have slowly transitioned that way.

I did not want the change to be too drastic for the children so it has been a gradual transition (changing from white rice to brown rice, from white flour to whole grain, from white sugar to cane and Agave, etc.). However, meat and 95% of the processed food I used to buy were a “cold turkey” quit.

Don’t I crave the old food?

It is very easy to be vegetarian and still eat unhealthy (patato chips, lots of cheese, dairy, white and processed foods, etc.) that is why I added whole foods as well in the title.

There is an adjustment period but It won’t be long after you begin this healthy eating lifestyle that you will crave only fresh foods. Something happens inside your mind when you decide to consciensciously eat only what is good for the body (and not just for weight loss reasons–It has to be more than that). For one, you feel good because you know that what enters your body is good for you. You will crave fresh and healthy foods that makes your body healthy. You will see it and you will feel it. One way of staying strong in the new decision is to continually inform yourself about healthy eating and the nutritional benefits different foods have on your body.

Personally, I have not missed meat at all. I was not a big meat eater before so it is no problem for me. My children don’t ask to eat meat at home but occasionally when we are eating out they will ask to eat something with chicken (they don’t care for red meat) and it is okay!! I don’t forbid them to eat meat. I just don’t cook it at home anymore they will make their own decision when they grow up as what they do or do not want to eat.

Keeping only healthy snacks around also helps on not wanting to revert back to old “bad” foods habit.

Now once the habit is established, it is okay to occasionally have an “old” treat. I am Belgian (and I live in Switzerland) therefore I will not entirely deny an occasional piece of good cheese, some French fries or a piece of good creamy chocolate… It is all in high moderation though and most likely out of the house.

What’s happening in the kitchen?

My cooking is much more interesting and exciting, I discover new foods and new recipes every day. I love to see the dozens of colorful fruits and vegetables in our kitchen and on our plates at all times. I actively research power foods such as spirulina, Goji berries,… to add to our diet.

I love having to worry less about salmonella, no blood on the counters, not having to cook meat anymore, It’s great!

Have I lost any weight?

Yes I have lost about 15 lbs in two and a half months and kept it off (I am just a few pounds away from my target weight). Keep in mind that I am not doing this primarily for weight loss reasons but eating healthy does keep the pounds off once you’ve lost them. Eating right and exercising, as you well know, work hand in hand.

Some challenges with becoming a vegetarian and a whole foods eater

You may need to get acustomed to more grainy texture, to food in its real taste and form. Doing a sugar fast( for a week or two) and trying to add just the necessary amount of salt helps to re-adjust your taste buds to a more natural flavor.

Sometimes it does require more time to prepare the meals, lots of chopping veggies, longer cooking time (beans, brown rice,…) but not all vegetarian dishes require long preparation time.

Planning meals in advance is important at the beginning because it is a new way of eating and cooking.

Not all creations are good but that is no different from non-vegetarian cooking

We all take vitamins supplement regularly to ensure that we get enough of all the necessary vitamins in our system (that is no different than prior to becoming a vegetarian family). These vitamins do not replace the vitamins found in the fresh foods we eat.

Conclusion

I am very excited about the “healthy new world” our family has chosen to live in. There is no going back to the old ways of eating. I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I made these changes and my husband would testify in the same way. My children are young and somewhat oblivious, they’ll just eat what is in front of them so I am glad we are showing them a great way to eat.

I feel like we are truly living a higher law. For Mormons it would simply be called living “The Word of Wisdom“.

Eating healthy not only nourishes your body, it nourishes your soul. If you feel good about what you eat, you will feel good about yourself and that is why “You Are What You Eat.”

Additional info:

Coming up next, a follow up article on: “Vegetarian Meals my Kids Like”

The China Study, T. Colin Campbell

The towns where people live the longest

Forks Over Knives

Food Matters

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Food Inc.

Finding Ultra, Rich Roll

Skinny Bitch, Rory Freedman, Kim Barnouin

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Fitness Motivation

Since I don’t have any current and personal inspirational  fitness stories to tell (because I have been partially hybernating during the winter months…), I asked my sister-in-law if I could share a recent email she sent to the family which totally motivated me to get back on track again. The original challenge to loose weight had been launched by my brother-in-law three months prior to  my sister- in-law’s email.

I am planning on running another half marathon in  September but September seems so far away, so I have not started training yet… I think I am waiting for the sun to shine more consistantly but that may take a while–given the fact that  it snowed today! After we replaced the winter tires with the Summer ones, after I have put all the kids snowsuits and our winter coats away… Maybe I deeply believed that by putting all the winter gears away winter would go away?!?

Anyways, back to my sister in law’s email, here it is:

“You may remember this email Jon sent out in December. His sentiments rang true for me, although instead of approaching 30, I was approaching 35 and nearly 40lbs overweight. I suppose Jon’s email gave me the wake-up call I had been needing and shook me into reality. Not only had my poor health choices been effecting me, but I had 5 kids looking at me for guidance as to the type of lifestyle our family would live.

Since January I have been working out 4-5 days per week. I have been doing biking, walking, cross fit, aerobics, weights, situps (like a million), and pushups. My diet has changed from what I called “comfort foods” to healthier choices. Some of the changes are listed below:

– I have completely cut out carbonation

– I no longer eat dairy products (they started causing stomach upset)

– Refined sugars and starches are rarely consumed

– I get my fiber from veggies, fruits, and complex carbs

– I juice often to increase my veggie intake

– For meat I consume fish or chicken with an occassional piece of red meat

– Vegetarian meals are frequent

After nearly 3 months I am pleased to report that I have lost 26 lbs, my endurance has increased, and I no longer feel like I am on the verge of a heart attack when I go upstairs. I am still 15 lbs from my target weight, but I am getting back into clothes that had been tucked into the dark corners of my closet and I generally feel better about my health and appearance.

Any way, if I can make these changes while going to law school, volunteering at the childrens’ schools, job searching, creating a Cinderella set, adjusting to preteen parenting,multiple dr. appt. each week for various medical issues with the children, taking care of a household of 7 and simply being a parent to 5 kids, then you can make the changes too.

I guess I soap boxed it for a minute, but the positive results have really helped me feel better about myself and I want each of you to feel that as well.

Live long and prosper,”

Because this email inspired me to “shape up” I thought it would be good to share.

The Love Lab Experiment

by Julienna Viegas-Haws

“Wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike”  Moroni 8:17

After listening to “The Five Love languages of Children” by Gary Chapman I thought: “Thank goodness my kids are still young enough and not too damaged yet by my semi-bad parenting. Of course there is sarcasm in this statement, I do think that I am a better mother than most but not as good as some–that is how I view myself generally too “better than most not as good as some” it boosts my self- esteem.

Reading this book was such an eye and mind opener for me. Not that I had never come across the concepts talked about in the book but the way the author explains and structures these concepts is the clearest I have seen so far. For those reading this article who are not familiar with the “Five Love Languages” concept: Basically, they are five major “love languages” and we all respond to at least one more than the others and that is our major love language.

Here is a summary of the 5 love languages and their brief explanation (taken from the 5 Love Languages Website):

Words of affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful

Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

After reading these, you should know which one is your “primary” love language. If you are not sure you can always take this TEST and find out.

One who reads this book can never be the same parent again. Of course it takes time to master all the good parenting principles taught but it is never too late to start bettering ourselves as parents.

After listening to the book I decided that I would follow the counsel the author makes at the end to make a short list of requirements to be a better parent. So here is my list (pretty much the same as the author):

1. Keep my children and husband emotional tanks full by speaking the five love languages with them. I also make sure to make my children laugh everyday and tell them that I love them every day, several times a day. My kids love to know and hear that they are the “favorite” child. So I tell my oldest son “You are my favorite big boy”; I tell my only daughter: “You are my favorite daughter” and I tell my youngest boy: “You are my favorite little boy.” And in the end each one is my favorite.

2. Use the most positive ways I can to control my children’s behavior. I very seldom physically discipline my children but they’ll tell you that occasionally they get their ear flicked to get their attention if I have to repeat something too many times and they can’t settle down… I’m working on that… They do spend time in the corner to “think about” better ways to behave when they go out of line…

3. Lovingly discipline my children (ask myself what does this child need and then go about it logically): It’s good to step back and think deeper (at the moment not later) about why the child is acting this way. Not always easy to apply when you are in a hurry…

4. Do my best to manage my own anger appropriately and not dump it on my children. Be pleasant but firm: This is very important because how many times as parents do we over or under-discipline a child according to how we feel at that particular moment? Being objective and consistent is difficult but crucial.

5. Do my best to train my children to manage their anger maturely: It definitely takes being able to manage your own anger before properly teaching a child how to manage theirs.

So this is what I call the “Love Lab Experiment” that I am testing in my home and it  is pretty much a life time experiment. I feel blessed to have a husband who agrees with the experiment. He was actually the one who introduced me to the 5 Love Languages concept. We have now practiced this for about a week or so and the results are truly amazing. Not that we were unloving parents before but there is a huge difference when we speak the love language that speaks loudest to the particular child. Of course all 5 love languages should be used with each member of the family but amazing behavioral changes happen when we know which of the love languages is the most effective for each child.

Joy

by Julienna Viegas-Haws

I felt like sharing this poem with you because I had a pretty bad day… I have learned something very powerful while serving a full time mission for my church, about 12 years ago, one of the best things you can do when you have a horrible feeling is concentrate on its exact opposite.

JOY

is a Prayer

JOY

is Strength

JOY

is Love

JOY

is a net of LOVE by which you can catch souls.

She gives most who gives with JOY

The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with JOY.

A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with LOVE.

We all long for heaven where God is but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him right now–to be happy with Him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means:

Loving as He loves,

Helping as He helps,

Giving as He gives,

Serving as He serves,

Rescuing as He rescues,

Being with Him for all the twenty-four hours,

Touching Him in his distressing disguise.

Mother Teresa

Are You a Hidden Leader?

by Julienna Viegas-Haws

The reason why I am bringing up this topic is because I am tired of all these puppet leaders out there. Whether you look at the political realm, the business world, the entertainment and sports world, even some “religious” leaders out there are just plain scandalous in every way.  These false leaders deceive their followers by presenting an image they are not or one that should not be followed. They are taking advantage of the people following them for their own glory rather than the benefit of all. There is no use in me starting to point out fingers and throw names. If you don’t believe me just turn on your television (as far as I am concerned I avoid it).

First let me give you my preferred summarized definition of leadership, there are many variations out there, this one is from Professor Peter G.Northouse[i]:

“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”

The false leader is not working towards achieving a common goal. The false leader is working towards  achieving his/her own selfish goal and couldn’t care less about what happens to the followers.

“Good leaders are made not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience.” (Jago,1982)

The world is screaming for great leadership. There are just too many bad “leaders” out there.  In my opinion, there are too many dormant great leaders who just won’t answer to the call: “Great Leaders Needed”.

I truly think that when my favorite leader told his followers that they should be the “salt of the earth[ii]” he meant: with everything I taught you, with everything you know, with the promises you have made, you ought to be an example to those around you and share what you have received because it is for everyone.

Not everyone will lead a nation, a state, an organization or a community. However, anyone can be a good leader in their home, be a positive influence in their community and to everyone they come in contact with. Yes, that is called caring for others.

Caring for others comes with a responsibility. I believe that what most potential great leaders are trying to avoid is the responsibility that comes with leadership.

Here are 5 common reasons why people decline leadership:

(“I just don’t want to” is not a valid answer because there is a “why” underneath):

  1. Don’t want the responsibility
  2. Don’t want to deal with other people’s problem
  3. Don’t feel they have the “right” type of personality
  4. Don’t want to deal with people in general
  5. Feel like they already have too much going on in their own life

The bottom line is, if you don’t step up in the leadership role, someone else will and you may not always like what is happening.

I recently attended a communication skills workshop and found out how people easily hide behind their personality traits in order not to be “noticed” and therefore they cannot reach their full potential and fulfill their true mission in this life. Don’t worry, I have been there too. If you are familiar with the Personality Color Code test (very abridged: Red=bossy-leader; Blue=emotional-giver; White=peaceful- introvert; Yellow=fun-carefree). If you want more details you can go take the test here. Of course we all have a little bit of everything but there is a predominant “color” in our personality. They all have their positive and negative sides. The key is to learn how to transform the weakness into strength and develop the positive attributes of the other colors (for my Christian friends basically follow the admonition: “…ye should be perfect even as I[iii]…”). I am predominantly red, raised by a “red” and married to a “red” this means lots of sparks… Thanks to my faith which helped me develop more humility, I have been able to eliminate a lot of the bad “red” attributes and develop the good ones (work in progress).

My point is that it helps knowing what personality type you are because then you can more clearly see your strength and continue to develop them and you can better see your weaknesses and work on them as well. When you also recognize what type of personality the people around you have, you can learn to communicate in the right way with them. 90% of the problems we have with others (in and out of our home) are due to miscommunication. Therefore learning to communicate effectively with the four major types of personalities can alleviate a lot of pain and save a lot of time. There is a lot more to be said about this but it will be for another post.

People respond to a variety of different leaders, some can really reach you and others don’t. That is why your personality is perfect for those who respond well to you.

To end I want to share one of my all time favorite quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”



[i]  Concepts of Leadership

Walk with my 4 year old daughter

I was taking a walk  with my 4 year old daughter when she picked up an
object on the ground and was about to put it in her mouth,
I quickly took it from her and told her not to do that again.

“Why?”  She asked.

“Because it was on the floor and we don’t know who had it before. It is
dirty and probably full of germs” I replied.

My daughter looked at me with admiration and asked:
“Mom, how do you know all this? You’re so smart …”

I immediately replied:
“All mothers know this, it’s part of the exam to become a mother.
We have to  know all these things, otherwise we can’t become a mother. ”

We walked in silence for a few minutes and when she was done assessing the
received information she said:

“Ah, I see. If you miss the exam, you become a daddy!”

“Exactly,” I replied with a smile.

Translated form the French version puplished by “Virgule

We love you daddy ;-).

Mothers and Depression: Facing the Facts

“Mothers are at a high risk of becoming depressed. Why? Because they’re often overworked and overextended. Sometimes they feel trapped because they don’t have the support of an involved partner.”

Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D. Child Psychologist

I am bringing the subject of depression because I know very few people, including many mothers, who haven’t dealt at some point or another with depression (including myself). And it’s okay to talk about it, it is actually good to talk about it, it is the first step to healing. Choose awareness instead of denial which gets you nowhere or to a bad place.

I know that the triggers of depression vary from one person to another. We all have a variety of family situations. From stable two parent homes to single struggling parent homes. The stresses in the later maybe greater but it does not mean that a mother in a stable two parent home is immune to depression.

I know that for me (identify yours) the top 6 most common triggers of depression are:

1. Extreme accumulated fatigue

2. Poor diet/No exercise

3. Being overwhelmed with the endless “to do” list

4. Looking around my house and feeling like I will never get on top of things

5. Feeling little support from my spouse (only occasional in my case)

6. Feeling like I can’t reach my goals because everything and everyone gets in the way/ Feeling like I am not accomplishing anything significant.

You may be struggling because you have special need children under your care, you support extended family members, you have constant crisis in your home, you or your partner lost a job, you have an abusive spouse, you deal with addictions in your home and the list goes on. You need to identify what triggers your depression in order to tackle the problem.

So what do we do about it?

First of all if you feel like a failure and you wish your life could end now. Please open your phone book or, since you have a computer, research a depression therapist near you and don’t delay to get help. If you go to church, please talk to one of your trusted ecclesiastic leaders. Also read the articles I have attached below. I personally know people who have died from depression–it is not something to take lightly.

If you are like me, your depression comes and goes, you are still able to wake up in the morning and function well the majority of the time–sometimes pushing through it—No one can really tell you are struggling with it, then here are my obvious but not so obvious remedies:

1. Fatigue issues:

Make sleeping at a decent hour a priority (I struggle with that one but I am aware). If you can, take a short nap or meditate (empty your mind) during the day. I have three kids (5, 4, and 18 months). The two oldest only have half day school every day and my baby hangs out with me all day. After school and lunch, my kids have a mandatory quiet time, my baby takes a couple hour nap, my oldest watch one movie and/or color, do puzzles, etc. That is for two hours. I clean up lunch then I rest for about 45 minutes. I may not always deep sleep (I can’t do that if my children are awake) but I allow my body to rest. Normal activity resume once youngest is awake from his nap. When I used to work outside of the home, I would cut my one hour lunch time in two and take half an hour to rest or meditate. When I did I wasn’t dragging so much the rest of the day. It’s a great way to re-focus your mind when you have too much going on.

Exercising is a big one for me too. It boosts my energy. When I don’t exercise, fatigue hits me even harder. Figure out what works out for you even if it is just a couple of times a week, it’s a good start. Don’t take it lightly, it’s your health we’re talking about. If that is gone everything else is too.

2. Poor diet:

I eat pretty healthy foods generally and that helps. My biggest problem is that I don’t drink enough water during the day. Simply because I forget, I am too busy and I forget to drink water.  If you know your diet has too much fat, sugar, and carbs and not enough fruits, vegetables and fibers, you know what to do… Just have the good stuff out on your kitchen counter and you’ll be more likely to munch on that. Don’t finish up your kids plates! Keep it for THEM for their later snack.

3. Being overwhelmed with the endless “to do” list:

Well, I now have a post-it note on my bathroom mirror that says:

“What are my top 5’s today? Just Do It! No Excuses!

When I think about just 5 things to do instead of 20 for that day, I could do, it makes me smile and I don’t stress about it. If I manage to do more than the 5 on the list great, if not oh well!

4. Looking around my house and feeling like I will never get on top of things:

Well, after three kids (and I’ll say even after the first), one should just relax and accept that parenting is the “messy season” of life.  Do what you can and worry about the rest when you can. Aaaah, it feels good just saying that. Now this comes from someone who used to vacuum and mop every day, could not go to bed (no matter how late at night) with a house unclean and disorganized (it stopped shortly after child #2), for the sake of keeping my sanity, I stopped being so OC about it. I still have my weekly crisis but at least it’s not every day…

5. Feeling little support from my spouse (only occasional in my case):

If you have a spouse, you need to find your happy middle. The situation is different in every household but one shouldn’t feel like he/she is carrying the family load all alone. If you are a single parent, build good relationships, get to know people around you, especially nearby and ask for help (i.e: Can my kid have a playdate with yours for a couple of hours so I can get some things done around my house?). I love to help my single parent friends whenever I can (and I know most mothers out there don’t mind helping when asked). I will ask help in return because to me that is what friendship is all about–we have fun together, we help each other in times of need and it goes both ways.

6. Feeling like I can’t reach my goals because everything and everyone gets in the way/ Feeling like I am not accomplishing anything significant:

That is one of my biggest struggles because I have a “driven, want to save the world now, must be doing something useful and significant every second of the day” mentality. And yes, when you become a parent, some days you are going to look back on the day and see that all you have done is change dirty diapers every time you needed to leave the house, you were late everywhere or didn’t show up, you cleaned up puke, cleaned up mess, you’ve been a kindergartner (or older kids) referee and you’ve just been pulled and stretched to the maximum and your house is still a mess at the end of the day. Then you try to remember: “What exactly have I done today?” And looking around the house it looks like… Nothing!

First of all, just laugh at it, yep that’s right you can imagine that you had been on a reality show all day and you’ll find that it was a pretty funny one. So detach yourself from the situation and laugh. Then remember this:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”  (quoted in: “Children” by Niel L. Andersen)

That puts things in perspective. If all I do is take care of my children all day, it is okay and I didn’t “waste” the day and yes that includes all the “unpleasant” things that go along with having children. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that simple truth.

Surround yourself with people with positive energy.

And last but not least tip to fight against depression – married people out there: Increase intimacy with your partner! It works.

by Julienna Viegas-Haws

Related articles and other resources

Mothers’ Depression Can Go Well Beyond Children’s Infancy

Mothers and Depression

Deborah Dushku Gardner

Leilani from new Zealand

Sad Moms, Short kids

Working Moms Multitask, And Stress, More Than Dads

Combating Depression With Meditation, Diet

Fear Of Antidepressants Leads People To Shun Treatment

Stanford’s Sapolsky On Depression in U.S. (Full Lecture)

Count Your Blessings

I have to make up for the somewhat negative intro of my last post… So I want everyone to know that I am extremely grateful for my life, my husband, my children, my family, my friends and all the many good things I have been given in life.

And “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”

Luke 12:48

One of the reasons I am most grateful is that although I was born and grew up in Belgium, my origins are from the Congo and Angola. I have not yet stepped on the African continent, one day I will. When I go there though, I don’t want to just be a tourist and just enjoy the good things and disregard the not so good. When I go there it will be to help out those in need. There are people in need all over the world and we can do what we can where we are. I do feel an obligation to go help out my people from my ancestors’ continent at some point – They are suffering because of wars, famine, sicknesses, lack of education, and the list goes on. Yes they are those to blame for it but in the meantime there are countless innocents who are suffering and dying.

Here is a story that was published in one of the magazines from my church a while ago. This story shook me to the core and still does every time I read it. The reason being, it could have been me. I read her story in the New Era magazine a few years ago.  She served in my mission a few months after I left. So sad I missed being around her for a while. This beautiful African woman is always smiling and happy, she just beams. Today she has impacted millions with her incredible life story. She is one more reason why I love the Church I belong to, gospel in action. Her name is Mariama Kallon and this is her story:

Amid the horrors of a civil war, I found hope in a book and a plastic bag

Sierra Leone was a sad place during my teenage years, but it was my home. For much of my life, my small West African country was torn by a civil war. The war affected everything. My family and I were constantly on the run, trying to escape the rebel soldiers. It was terrifying every time the rebels came through a city. Someone would see their torches approaching in the night, warn the others, and we would all run for the bush, grabbing whatever we could along the way.

About seven years after the war began, the rebels came to our city. My whole family was running to escape, but my parents, who were just a few steps behind me, were shot and killed. I was so sad to lose them, but I had to keep moving.

My brother, sister, and I moved to a safer place, and for a short while we were all right, but the rebels eventually hit that town, too. This time we didn’t have time to run away. My brother was taken and later killed. My sister and I were lined up outside with all the other women. The rebel soldiers were chopping limbs off of all the women in the line. We were all so frightened. Everyone was crying and praying—even people who had never believed in God before. I was not a member of the Church at the time, but I believed in God and prayed that His will would be done and hoped that He would find a way to save me.

My dear sister, who was several places ahead of me in line, had both of her legs cut off. But as the rebels reached the woman in front of me, our army came rushing in and the rebels ran away. I know that I was not better than the people who were in front of me or behind me, but I thanked God that I had been spared and prayed that I might understand His plan for me.

I moved to another village to live with a friend. As I was telling my story to my friend and some of her neighbors, one neighbor said, “Mariama, we don’t have anything to offer you except an invitation to church tomorrow. That’s where we find safety. That’s where we find hope.” I loved God already and needed comfort in my life, so I decided to go.

My first Sunday in that LDS branch is a day I will never forget. I learned of hope. You could just see that there was hope in those people, and I was drawn to them. I was given the Book of Mormon and started reading right away. I remember hearing in church about how families could be together again after death and then reading in Alma 11 where Alma teaches about how our bodies will be made perfect again in the Resurrection. I felt the Spirit so strong as I thought of my family. I knew that the Church was true and that we could be together forever—each of us well and whole.

There were no missionaries in Sierra Leone at that time, so I took the lessons from my branch president and was baptized soon after. We were blessed in our town, because the Church sent food and humanitarian kits for the members of the Church and others. The food kept us all alive. Everyone was so grateful even to receive a small bag of rice or beans. I received a blanket and a hygiene kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, a comb, and a washcloth.

Not long after, the rebels hit again. They burned down the house I was living in, and as I was running to escape the flames, I took time to save only two things—my scriptures and my hygiene kit. We had to live on the run for a while after that, and I used my hygiene kit to help those around me. I would squeeze out one pinch of toothpaste for each person, or we would go to the river and carefully pass my bar of soap from person to person. The kit was so precious to us. The blanket, too, was invaluable. It sheltered us for many days until I used it to wrap an old woman who had died and had nothing to be buried in.

Eventually, I went back to my town and my branch. It was then that I decided I wanted to serve a mission. This was a difficult decision for me, because I had nothing and would be leaving behind people I loved. As I was trying to decide, I read D&C 84:81 and 88, which say, “Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed … for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” I knew the Lord would care for me, so I turned in my mission papers and was called to the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.

I arrived in Utah with practically nothing, but I insisted on bringing my hygiene kit, because it meant so much to me. One day, my companion and I were taking a tour of the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake, and I recognized a blanket that had the Relief Society logo embroidered on it, just like the one I’d had in Sierra Leone. I looked around and saw hygiene kits like mine and familiar bags of beans and rice, and I began cry.

“This is where they came from!” I thought to myself. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered what these things sitting in stacks in the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake meant to my friends and to me in Sierra Leone. I was so grateful to the Lord for preserving me, for bringing the gospel into my life, and for allowing me to serve a mission. I knew that His angels truly had been round about me, to bear me up.

[photo] Mariama Kallon (right), dressed in her traditional African clothing, holds one of her most precious possessions—a hygiene kit. (Photographs by Riley M. Lorimer.)

[photo] When I received my humanitarian kit, my stepsister received a school kit. She was the only child in her school who had paper. Carefully, she tore out one piece for each of her friends and broke her three pencils in half, giving one half to each friend. Every day, the children would write down their lessons and then gently erase everything each night so that they could use the sheet of paper again the next day. They were so grateful for the tools to learn. (Paper and pencils by Emily Leishman.)

Story taken from the New Era, November 2006.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx3sSZTuOyA

It’s all about perspective

Today was one of those days where the kids drove me craaazy all day. Reflecting back on the day I was reminded of an old favorite short story of mine from an unknown author. I have shared it many times in the past. I dugged in my old files and found the story so here it is:

God’s Embroidery

When I was a little boy my mother used to embroider a great deal.  I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering.

As from the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.

She would smile at me, look down and gently say, “Son, you go about your playing for a while, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side.”

I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother’s voice say, “Son, come and sit on my knee.” This I did only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. I could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.

Then Mother would say to me, “My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing.”

Many times through the years I have looked up to my Heavenly Father and said, “Father, what are You doing?” He has answered, “I am embroidering your life.” I say, “But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can’t they all be bright?” The  Father seems to tell me, “‘My child, you go about your business of doing  My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side.”

Author Unknown