The Halloween of Feminist Bastions

A couple months ago, Claire and I watched Suffragette for a little girls' night while Tom worked. It helped jolt me into remembering just how much so many women gave for the right to be heard. I decided it would be fun to be suffragettes for Halloween-- that is, until I realized how much would have to go into the costumes. In my search for ideas, I found a site with a few female-power costumes for little girls. It was then that Claire's fate was sealed: she'd be the Notorious RBG and I'd go as Rosie the Riveter. 


Music City, USA

In the five years Tom and I have been married, we have made exactly zero trips to go see any of my siblings. While my brother was going to school in Boston, we swore we would make a fall break trip out there to see the leaves. But we didn't. Sensing a hint of hurt at our continued broken promises, we made good on one. We went to see my brother's family in their new (gorgeous) home in Nashville.


Bali, Baby

Being not only my father's child, but also his protege in all things travel, Tom and I have been sitting on a surplus of frequent flier miles. Since our five-year anniversary was coming up, we tossed a few ideas for a trip around until we landed on the one: Bali. We started planning at the very beginning of the year when my dad was sick but not yet hospitalized. He had already made a complete itinerary for Bali and I can still hear his voice telling us he was jealous. 


New home, new life

So we're in. We're settled. The new paint has dried and dust has settled. 

It has been great to have more space, but at the same time, it feels like too much. There is more to clean, and more ways to be isolated. My sister-in-law recently told me about how when their family moved from the two-bedroom extended stay place they were in to their new home, all of a sudden she was wondering where everyone was. 


Family update

Things have been a little crazy the past few months. My mom wanted us closer by, and we felt like that was the right thing to do SO we put our house on the market and it was sold just like that. 

I'm having a hard time saying goodbye to this neighborhood that we've loved for the past five years. I love that we're only a five-minute walk away from two grocery stores (one being Sprouts, my fave) and a hidden gem of a park that's a magical little slice of wilderness, complete with a duck pond, horses, and foxes. I'm sad to leave our good neighbors, our good neighborhood, and the good memories we've made here.

But I am excited for many good changes we'll find at Daybreak. We'll have a neat little park practically in our front yard. Our kitchen is probably three times bigger than ours now. We'll be close to my mom when we both need it most. 

Change is inevitable, and it keeps things exciting. I just need to remind myself of that. 

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


Silencing Social Media

I remember my childhood best friend, who I’d moved away from 7 years before, telling me about this new website called Facebook that could help us stay in touch. I checked it out, thought it looked like a bore, but I joined and found a couple people to friend anyway.

And so it began.

I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded how huge and how fast Facebook began creeping into our lives like morning glory on a trellis. Then people started saying things like, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” and “Tag me!” and “Add me!” 

It was so exciting to feel like I was hanging out with all the people I’d met in my 18 years of life in the comfort of pajamas and not leaving my bedroom. 

But pretty soon it was pretty terrible and decidedly unpretty. I had to find out on Facebook that my boyfriend cheated on me (by a relationship status update!). I began learning many of my *friends* unflattering sides, where they spew vitriol through their keyboard. With others, I only saw their perfect sides with carefully curated image crafting. Was I guilty of both of these? Of course I was! How else could I keep up?

Between the two, I found myself feeling worse off for having looked at Facebook almost every single time. Haughty, because I was so much more enlightened on that topic of their uneducated— and grammatically abysmal—rant. Unworthy, because they have got their life all figured out while I was looking a mess. 

I honestly am not sure what social media would be like in a perfect world. I’d say that people should be authentic, and show the highs and lows of life without trying to fish for a comment, but people openly admit they don’t want to see how boring your life usually is and people also don’t want to see only the beautiful and exciting in your life either, at least they don't on a subliminal level. How to win? Don’t ask me because I quit the game.

I put it off for so long because I adored staying in touch and easily being able to connect with those I loved. But I became unnerved with the feeling of voyeurism I couldn’t shake. I was tired of feeling embarrassed if my update or photo didn’t get many likes. 

So I quit Facebook, and threw myself into Instagram.

That was quite nice for awhile, because my group was much smaller, and I felt it was a much more positive place than Facebook, because you don’t really find many rants or political opinions being bandied about. It was a refreshing change of pace, until those same feelings of being ‘less than’ crept back in. 

I was not going enough exciting places! I was not eating enough enough exciting food! I was not doing enough exciting things! That picture didn’t get enough likes! It wasn’t pretty/witty/interesting enough! I am not enough!

I noticed myself planning things that would make a good post. Admitting that makes me cringe, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t taking pleasure out of experiencing life. Instead, I was anxious until I could try to capture it, but only if it was staged well enough. 

So while on a heavily-documented vacation, I decided one day as I sat on the beach that I would give it all up. I mostly just wanted to see what would happen. Can I tell you something? It was beautiful. I honestly felt more alive, because I was no longer trying to squeeze life into pixels. I could blow out the candles, eat the food while it was hot, and kiss my baby while she was laughing, all without worrying that the moment would pass before I could get my phone out. I just lived it. 

I also found that I really did miss getting the scoop from the people I care about, so it forced me to actually talk to them directly, to meet for lunch or schedule a FaceTime. The quality of these back-to-basics interactions makes my social cup runneth o’er. 

I have no feelings of ‘my way or the highway’ on this issue. You do you. But for me, I needed to find my way and my worth in the world away from ever pervasive social media platforms. 

You won’t find me saying “Pics or it didn’t happen!” or hash tagging anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find you fascinating. 

So please, send me a text. I want to hear more about your baby/boyfriend/bagel. 

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


Compassion Obsession

Lately I’ve been focused, bordering on obsessed, on compassion. I’ve been reading all of Brene Brown’s books while handling my dad’s illness and death, and the combination has left me with an unshaken resolve to have compassion coursing through every cell of me. 

I’ve come to realize the great divide that separates someone who is sorry for you and someone who is sorry with you. The first is pity, and it’s shown only at a distance safe enough that the hurt won’t touch them there. The second, empathy, and it’s a rare gift indeed. It’s the friend who returns to the place where they were hurting just as badly, or the person who is willing to imagine just how frightening and alone your grief must be. Both are brave and beautiful, and that is exactly what I want my life to be.

My resolution has left me wondering how I can find everyone who is hurting, because so many people are drowning in their lives of quiet desperation. It has left me stopping myself short of anger or even annoyance to remember that people are doing the best they can with what they have. It’s halting and humbling. 

It is brave to admit you’re hurting, and I would love more than anything to hurt with you. So contact me, and we can cry or talk or go on a walk or eat chocolates or whatever you need. I mean it!

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


Opposites and opposition

I always been fascinated by the ways opposites sometimes complement and explain each other. Not so much Yogi Berra style, but more of an illustration that life is not black and white. It’s bittersweet in a million degrees. 

Because of my obsession with finding poetic irony, I wasn’t so surprised that my dad died on the first day of spring. I’ve always looked forward to that day each year when we can officially shake off that nasty label ‘winter’ and have the hope of color, warmth, light and life that spring brings. I dread the first day of winter for the opposite. So, when my daughter was born on the winter solstice, it changed me. What had always reminded me of death and dreary, lightless days evolved into a celebration of new life. Spring this year brought death of one kind, but the beginning of another life.

This thought had been swirling through my thoughts all week as I went to my dad’s viewing. As Elder Oaks came by, he smiled at Claire, shook her little hand and said, “This is what mortality is all about: comings and goings.” 

I hate to admit, but my mind bursted out singing ‘The Circle of Life’ at that moment. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s so easy to get caught up in bad hair days and rush hour and forget that we are all a part of something much larger, something that’s been happening for a long time before us, and God willing will continue on much after. 

The day of his funeral, my sister-in-law asked her son what his favorite memory of Grandpa was and he said, “My happiest memory of him is when he taught me how to slide. My saddest memory is when Grandpa took his body off.” 

I can tell you those words landed on a soul that was hurting incredibly and as soon as they were said, they began healing. Sometimes it takes a three-year-old to jar you into remembering that death is simply taking off your body as you would a burdensome, binding, and restricting outfit as soon as you make it safely home. By taking off your body, you are who you really are. There’s nothing to hide behind; there’s nothing to set you back. 

I miss him intensely. I don’t expect that to change any time soon, but I love to think that he is happier in his new skin.

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


Thank you for saving me


It's been a very hard time for me lately. Your grandpa, my dad, only has a matter of a few days left on this earth. Although he's been sick for a couple months, the knowledge that his time was coming arrived all at once in a sickening slap of reality. It's hard to imagine life without him. We were very close, and called each other almost every day for one thing or another. He loved you and you loved him most. You would always run to him as soon as you were set down. That's one of the hardest parts for me, that you could have such a sweet bond with someone who you'll undoubtedly one day say you never knew. 

I wanted to tell you that you've saved me. Grief has coursed through me in many guises: adrenaline, nausea, anxiety, and consuming, tangible loss. I find that I'm mourning not only what I had, but the robbery of the memories I never got to make. 

I hope you don't feel too sad reading this. I only wanted to let you know that this is how I feel, and then you're there, and all of a sudden my perspective is forced to change. I look at Grandpa and I see how tragic life is; I look at you and I see how beautiful life is. I hold you and I hold a life that's just beginning, so forgive me for squeezing you a little too hard lately. You are hope, disguised as a little girl. I'm glad every day that you're mine.

I love you. Thank you for saving me.


 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


I recently started reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and this quote pierced me. Do you ever wish you could just have courage, the compassion, the faith, the strength, the whatever you need? I guess I always knew there was no free ride, but this at least gives me a road map. 

I will have courage by couraging.

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


The longest year on record

I don’t know about you, but this has been the longest year already-- even before leap day!

January, always my least favorite month, was particularly unpleasant this go around. My dad was diagnosed with cancer, and the next day was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery as his body was going septic. Since then, there has been a lot of one step forward, two steps back news. Tom and I kept saying how we couldn’t wait for January to finally be over. 

Then February 1st, Tom’s sweet grandmother passed away. It wasn’t necessarily unexpected, and she’d lived a long life, but it was still sad, not to mention a cruel trick to play on a couple run down people just wanting February to be kinder. We drove down to St. George and back in one day to attend her funeral—quite the whirlwind!

But throughout all of this, I’ve been so inspired and touched by the kindness of others. Honestly, if you pray for angels you will find them in the people around you. It’s humbling to see the way friends and neighbors rally around you when you’re feeling defeated. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie Inside Out and, spoiler alert, the realization at the end that sadness exists so people know you need help. I have been trying to be brave and understand that I’m not the only one who has ever been in this situation, but also not disguise the fact that I’m scared, and sad, and overwhelmed at times. And the result is that I’ve been strengthened repeatedly by some very beautiful, kind people. 

While I live in a world where cancer takes too many people too young, I’m also glad I live in the same world where people take care of each other.

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg


Sugar: Not So Sweet

This is a modified version of an article I wrote for work. Have a read, and let me know what you think!

Have you ever noticed how as soon as January hits, detoxes abound? It's not really a secret that the feeling people are trying to shed is related to how much sugar and junk is typically consumed around the holidays. 

That’s because sugar—as well as other sweeteners such as honey, syrup, and agave—trigger insulin spikes and other nasty byproducts, and cause us to become addicted. Learn all about sugar’s not so sweet truth below. 

The History of Sugar
Around 30 years ago, many health organizations in the US recommended lowering our fat consumption from 40% of total calories to 30%. By lowering fat content, things started to taste, well, not so great. To combat this, sugar started being added to more and more products. So, while people were eating less fat, as a whole, people got fatter. How come? Fructose may be a large part of the problem.

Table sugar is half glucose, a necessary form of energy for the body, and half fructose. Natural fructose consumption is about 15 grams per day. Prior to WWII, when sugar became a little more available, consumption rose to 16-24 g/day. Between 1977 and 1988, shortly after high fructose corn syrup was introduced, it jumped to 37 g/day. By 1994 it was 54.7 g/day. Today’s adolescents are consuming 72.8 grams per day, while one in four young people is obese.[i]

Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?
Many people hear that a calorie is just a calorie. Eat less and exercise more and you’re guaranteed to lose weight. If following that advice didn’t show results, this bit of science may help explain why.

If you take in 120 calories of glucose, the main form of energy found in complex carbohydrates, 96 of those calories will be used to fuel the body, while 24 will be stored in the liver. At the end of the digestion process, only a half calorie will turn into fat.

When it comes to sucrose, or what we know as table sugar, 60 calories come from glucose and 60 come from fructose. All 60 calories of fructose are sent to the liver. With such a heavy load coming in to the liver, many nasty byproducts are formed including uric acid and free fatty acids. These lead to problems such as gout, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. High levels of insulin in the blood block the brain’s ability to read leptin, a hormone that promotes satiety. Without that satiety, your brain will want to eat more and more and may also become addicted to that sugar rush.

Fructose’s Relationship to Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of at least three of five of the following medical conditions: abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
High consumption of fructose has been linked to:
·       Hypertension
·       Heart disease
·       Fatty liver syndrome
·       Insulin resistance
·       Diabetes
·       Insatiable appetite
·       Obesity
·       Tooth decay

While many factors play a role in metabolic syndrome, fructose is a dangerous add into the mix. The adult population suffering from metabolic syndrome is estimated to be at 34%.

The Upside of Fructose
Fructose isn’t all bad, however. It’s found in fruits! What’s also found along with that fructose is fiber, which not only promotes satiety but also stabilizes blood sugar. Fruit also provides many essential vitamins and minerals. This is why eating an orange is much better on your body than drinking a glass of orange juice.

What to Do
Be aware of the sugar both hidden and in plain sight in the things you eat. Even one sweetened beverage per week increases the likelihood of developing diabetes as does the use of artificial sweeteners.  And seemingly innocuous sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or agave are metabolized the same as table sugar.

A recent study by the University of California San Francisco found that restricting sugar consumption without lowering calories in children between the ages of 9 and 18 had amazing results within just 10 days. The result was 4.3% lower blood pressure, 12.5% lower LDL cholesterol, 46% lower triglycerides, and a staggering 53% lower fasting insulin. By taking fructose out of your diet, your numbers can show results—fast.

For more information on sugar’s—in particular fructose’s—effect on the body, watch Dr. Robert Lustig’s presentation, Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

Did you watch the presentation? Do you think your eating habits will change as a result?

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg
Claire Bear just turned one, a day that felt like a warm up Christmas and at the same time like a funeral for a year that gave me the thrill of an expanded life along with the ache and exhaustion of many days spent forging ahead into strong headwinds. In any case, it was a wonderful day, and Claire didn't cry AT ALL. Not once.

Here are a couple pics from her big day. 

The cake (sugar-free banana coconut cream cheese)

The presents

The smash
 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg

Catch up

My life has been in quite the upheaval the past couple months, in a great way. I think it started about the time I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Fitting title, wouldn’t you say, for someone whose life has changed? I absolutely was taken by the book’s voodoo, a sort of quasi spiritual way of viewing the items in my home. Here’s how it literally changed my life:

  • I don’t have a desire to buy clothes.
  • I got rid of almost every article of clothing or pair of shoes I own, and feel richer because of it.
  • I donated, sold, and threw away a dozen bags of things. Although my house doesn’t look much emptier, it feels lighter.
  • I’m more relaxed.

That’s just the start. Around this same time, I also read The Year of No Sugar as well as watched the presentation that inspired it, and another book called Sweet Poison. Tom was skeptical, but after watching the video, we knew we had to cut sugar and fructose out of our lives. Again, I pulled out the garbage bin and threw or gave away anything with added sweetener in it. Read the run down on why sugar kinda sucks here.

Yeah. ME. I gave up sugar! Aren’t you shocked? Are you scandalized? Growing up as the child of someone who would become known as “Candy Nana,” I never expected to find no longer eating sugar so painless. We make a few exceptions, for special occasions. I like to call it Keeping Sugar Special. This means that we’ll eat it maybe once a week, if that. 

I’ve had fun trying out new recipes like flavored applesauces which I turn part of into apple butters that we can spread on our pancakes. I bake our bread and make our tortillas, which is fun and easy and delicious. Hot cocoa, a weakness, is made with a tablespoon of cocoa powder mixed in with my vanilla protein powder. 

The greatest part about giving up sugar is that I’ve lost 10 pounds, in a month, every bit of it painlessly. After giving fructose the finger, I almost never felt hungry anymore. When I did, I ate, and ate whatever I wanted without counting calories or measuring out ingredients. WHAT. I can’t believe I’ve spent so much of my life hungry.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

 photo annsig2_zps8c22bb5f.jpg