Tag Archives: family

The Most Interesting Man I Know (Besides My Dad)

You never know who you might be sitting next to in an English class in High School.

I have a friend who tells stories. That’s not all he does, but his story telling is what has him on my mind this month. As you know, I have been writing and talking a LOT about telling the truth. Not just telling the truth about who left the apartment building door ajar, but telling YOUR truth. Your stories. Your experiences.

Matt Holdaway has always marched to the beat of his own drum. I can still see him loping down the halls of our high school in Rexburg, Idaho, dressed in black. He wore black before black was cool. He was a “New Waver” in a town of cowboys. He was cheerful in a school full of overly serious teens. His easy laugh, which borders on a giggle, was infectious.

Fast forward 20 years and it is Matt Holdaway who makes the greatest effort to keep all us misfit toys from Rexburg together. He flies through Salt Lake on his way to visit his dad and makes sure we all get together. I know he does the same once he reaches that Idaho burg of frozen windswept wasteland.

Matt holds a special place in my teenage heart. He took a picture of me playing the flute in Temple Square, 1990, which, to this day, I believe is the prettiest photo ever taken of me. It captures exactly who I was and how I felt — innocent and sad. He is also one of the few friends I have who ever got to meet my Grandmother Bates. I love her so much, for some reason its comforting he met her.

After high school, most of us misfits from Idaho relocated to the “big city,” AKA, Salt Lake City. Matt started a magazine. It was really more of a booklet of photocopies stapled together. He would print stories, artwork, songs and more that his friends had created. He printed a couple of my songs. The rags were called, “A Multitude of Voices.” As far as I know, he still produces them.

He would also organize huge events he called “A Night of Voices.” The lineup for the evenings would include everything from pantomime to poetry. Looking back, it was a hell of thing to pull off for a kid from Rexburg, newly transplanted in Salt Lake. He was my artistic conscience a lot of the time. I know I was more aware of being truthful in my songwriting when I knew he’d be listening.

Eventually Matt moved to the Bay Area. We haven’t been the kind of friends who check in on each other weekly, monthly or even yearly, but we are true friends. And here is why he is the Most Interesting Man I Know:

  1. Matt tells stories. He doesn’t simply relate an anecdote. He spins a good yarn. When Matt tells a story, everyone within earshot is caught up in it. He is HILARIOUS.
  2. Matt loves people. He loves to find interesting people and introduce them to each other. He has found the ultimate vehicle for this with his weekly radio show, “Radio Voices” which is broadcasted at 104.1 fm on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. You can also tune in via the web.
  3. Matt lives and works in a digital world, but his brain is analog. To that end, his life is indexed and annotated manually. He has the most elaborate, yet simple, method of keeping track of his wild machinations. I fear revealing the specifics of his secret will leave him vulnerable to attack, though, so I will refrain.
  4. Matt is a super hero. (Hence my reticence to divulge his method of organization) He is Storm Shadow of the California Cobras. Watch closely, or you’ll miss him. That’s how ninja-like he is:
  5. Matt does all this AND holds down a real-life, actual, career-type, job-job.
  6. Matt has invented his own genre of music. It’s called “Story Rock.” And it rules. His band is called, Matt Holdaway’s Army. You can download some of his stuff through iTunes. You can find him on Rhapsody. And on ReverbNation. And seriously, how much does Matt kick ass?:

So, yeah, Matt’s pretty f***ing cool. But what do I REALLY love about Matt? What is the thing that makes him the Most Interesting Man I Know? He tells the truth. Always. To everyone. He’s not afraid of what the truth will do to anyone. And he does it with a pure heart. Maybe mischievous. Sometimes salacious. but never malicious.

I have been preoccupied, as of late, with what to do next. This 101 day project is coming to a close, for better or for worse, in just 13 days. (Look for big updates!) With all I’ve been ruminating on truth, excess, healthy habits and letting go, I’ve been at a loss as to which of my interests will bare the closest scrutiny. What “voice” of mine is the loudest?  As of today, I have finally decided.

At the end of this 101 day project I will close this site and leave it as a standalone reminder of a journey I took to remember who I really was. The blog I will begin, on the first day of spring, will be about The Truth. I will tell my truth. I will ask others to tell theirs. I will talk about what “truth” means. I hope to discuss with everyone the truth about control, habits, possessions and love. I hope this can be done largely through stories. I’m going to need help, but I’m excited.

So THANK YOU, Matt Holdaway, for being such a good friend, for always telling the truth and for helping me find the next step on my path. You rule. Gooooooooooooo, Bobcats!

Still want more? Subscribe to Matt’s YouTube Channel.

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My Mother’s Turquoise Ring

Plinky Prompt: What Is Your Most Prized Possession?
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I have a gorgeous turquoise ring my mother gave me. Her mother gave it to her. She used to wear it almost every Sunday. Every time I look at my right hand, I see her hand wearing the familiar ring. I remember sitting in church next to her on most Sundays, holding her always warm, soft hands. I would pet the back of her hand, marveling at how smooth her skin was. I liked the way I could push wrinkles across her hand and smooth them back out.

Now that my hands are nearly 40, and my skin is now smooth and getting thinner, my hands feel and look exactly like hers did back then. I often sit alone with my thoughts pushing wrinkles across the back of my hand, like I used to in church with mom. In a very real way I feel like I am right back there with her, leaning against her arm and holding her hand.

It is a gift that her ring and my own hands connect me to her so easily. Today I am aware, though, I need to do more than imagine holding her hand. Its coming on past the time for a sojourn to Texas so I can hold her hand, live and in person. Soon.

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A Poem About My Car

My car is the hugest mess.
coffee filters
cracker crumbs
underwear and old dingdongs
cigarettes and soda cans
a feather bed
a chinese fan
cotton candy
a pair of socks
the three bears, and
Goldilocks
mashed up french fries
a broken fish
an old cd
my neighbor’s dish

You’d think some day I’d clean it up.
You’d think some day I’d be enough.
Enough of me to work.
to write.
Then some left over
to change that light.
Enough of me to sing to you.
To do your hair,
Then do mine too.
to wash our clothes
and still have time
to read to you some nursery rhymes.

–written 8/24/1998

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We Only Get To Do This One Time…

Take A Risk

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about every tiny move I make. It seems as if the effort to find focus and direction in life has left me a little keyed up. I have been second-guessing my instincts. I have been letting worry get the best of me. I have found myself afraid to ask for the things I want most.

Fear is not an emotion I have a lot of trouble with, usually. Okay, yeah, sure, I have that thing about the dark. But other than that, I usually make a decision, for better or for worse, and I don’t let fear stop me from going after it. Sometimes I have gone after the wrong things. Sometimes my lack of restraint has pushed the thing I wanted further away. But wisdom and restraint don’t seem to be the issues I’m grappling with today.

Today I have been feeling afraid.

When I was a little younger and someone asked me if I thought they should, or should not, try this or that, I would ask, “If you do this, is anyone going to starve to death?” That may be a simplistic litmus test, but you get the point. We often censor ourselves, or keep from taking risks because of how we think other people are going to react, or how we think our actions will affect those around us. But really, most things aren’t life or death. 99.9% of the time, everything works out just fine in the end. You’ll live. I’ll live. They’ll live.

This train of thought reminded me of an essay I read, many moons ago, that inspired me to take up the “no one’s going to starve to death” attitude…

If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

–Nadine Stair

I have no doubt that I will find the balance between planning and discipline and spontaneity and risk-taking. And when I find it, I promise to share.

For more wisdom from the elderly, Check out this blog.

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How to Tell the Truth About Tricky Things

Dad and Me

I love my Dad!

Over the last 72 days of this 101 day project, I have had a lot of opportunity to reflect on what it means to tell the truth. A big part of this Excess Emancipation project is the letting go of old baggage that no longer serves me. The biggest step I have made in that direction has been deciding to say, out loud, what is true for me. About everything.

I was taught, as I am sure you were too, that we should keep some things to ourselves in order to spare others’ feelings. While I think there is merit in that for some cases, I also think that in most situations, it is not helpful.

Let’s look at one of my stories. When I was 17, I had an argument with my dad that escalated into a full blown screaming match and ended with me standing on a chair, in the middle of the office, crying.

That statement is just a statement of fact. The argument happened. It escalated. I ended up standing on a chair in the middle of the office, crying.

What I do next with that fact is where it gets tricky. My experience was, that in that particular incident, I was standing up for what was right and got ridiculed for it. Who knows if that is actually what happened? Who cares? That is what I experienced, and only by telling the truth about our experiences can we move past them.

But how can I say that out loud? I have no desire to cause him any pain. How can I say what was true for me without hurting my sweet father’s feelings? Maybe I can’t. Would my dad feel bad if he read the paragraphs above? Perhaps. Would he agree with what happened? Maybe. Maybe not. Would he think I was just being a silly girl? Probably. But maybe not. Does any of that matter? I assert that no, it does not. NOT if I am simply telling the truth about what I experienced.

And this is why:

My dad is a grown man. He raised 10 kids. He is a great man who has helped many people. He loves his kids no matter what sticky situation we manage to get ourselves into. I promise, he has weathered far greater storms than me saying we got in a fight once. He knows I love him. I know he loves me. Do either of us have any illusions that the other is perfect? Absolutely not. I have enough faith in our relationship that I can tell the truth about it. And I have enough faith in him that he can handle it. After all, I am simply stating my experience, and that is the key.

If I had claimed that, “My dad provoked me because he hated it when I wore blue,” then that would not be my truth. That would be a wild guess about him. We have to be careful not to try to state “truths” about other people. We have no idea what they are. We can say what our perspective was, what we know our experience was, but anything more than that is conjecture.

I assert that if we freely state what is true for us, if we speak our truth, without name calling or judgements, it will, indeed, set us free. I have found that no matter how difficult the topic, if I stick to how life has affected me, the people I care about have not only accepted it, but have been very supportive.

Having said all that, I am lucky. I do not suggest anyone go around boldly speaking their truth directly to people who are emotionally, mentally or physically abusive. They will not hear it. No good can come from it. You put yourself in danger and are “casting pearls before swine.” Take care of yourself first. Make sure you are safe. Then, find your voice and shout from the rooftops.

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God Would Let Me Live In His Poolhouse

I feel like God's pool house will have a very Frank Lloyd Wright vibe to it.

I have spent a lot of time, over the last 20 years, ruminating on my reasons for leaving the Mormon church. I had many. Some were big. Others, admittedly petty. But the main reason was because I grew up feeling like shit. There was always a part of me that knew I was going to hell and tried hard to convince the rest of me that I was a monster. At the same time, the bigger part of me was constantly trying to calm down. I would whisper things to myself during particularly offensive sermons things like, “don’t panic,” and, “this guy can’t possibly be right.”

I should add that I DO think that a lot of the “crazy” I was exposed to was because of the radicalism in the tiny town I lived in, and not actually a part of the larger Mormon church.

My leaving the church was based entirely on my gut. For many years, I wouldn’t let myself read any of the many well-documented, historical accounts of Joseph Smith’s time that clearly dispute everything I was taught. Reading of any facts that are not church-sanctioned is forbidden. I was still so indoctrinated that I hadn’t yet realized that no one should shy away from any truth. I don’t just choose not to learn about any other subject out of fear it might change my mind. So, the fact-finding phase eventually came. In the end, it made no difference to me. I knew what I knew. It did, however, spark a fair amount of rage that I was ever subjected to such crazy-making. I wish I had no anger, but there it is. I am, for the most part, over it.

It was my daughter who helped me get over the “hump” about being okay with my choice to leave the church. I would look at my daughter and think, “There is nothing she could ever do, or not do, that would make me withhold my love.” I knew, from the second she was born, that even if she turned out to be a carnival madame, I would never stop loving her or wanting her with me. I knew, that as long as I lived, she would always find shelter in my home.

Knowing this truth led me to the greatest breakthrough I would ever have. I realized it was simply illogical to believe that a supreme being, like the Mormon God (who is said to be all-powerful, all-knowing and who loves us more than a parent loves a child. In fact, he is referred to as our “Heavenly Father” almost exclusively) would have sent down a list of requirements which, upon failing to follow, would result in our not being able to live in his neighborhood. As I watched my sweet daughter sleeping one night I realized that not only was the aforementioned completely irrational, so is the idea that in order to remain in our family units in heaven that there are a bunch of other “to do’s” on God’s list for us.

I used to play out the scenario of me dying, in my mind, and going to God for judgement. I would hear Him saying to me, “Now Rebecca, I told you that if you didn’t get married in the temple to a nice Mormon boy that you couldn’t live up here in our section of heaven and furthermore, you are now stripped of your family.” The whole idea, to me, is completely, totally and utterly preposterous.

I do not base my love or support or affection or shelter or help or anything on a sliding scale of Hannah’s obedience to me. It would be crazy to do so. And if it would be so ridiculous for me to do that, then why does it seem rational that God would do that? It just doesn’t jive. (As an aside, I know there are a bunch of you saying to yourselves, “You just don’t understand the nature of God,” I must interject that, no, I do not, but neither do you. And for those of you who are now adding in, “It is not ours to understand, all will be revealed,” I have to say, I totally agree.)

Nowadays I see others like me everywhere. They shuffle listlessly around Salt Lake area malls with blank faces and bags bursting with RC Willey bric-a-brac. They are good people. They don’t know why they are so depressed. They feel trapped. They double-down on the depression by seeing their sadness as further evidence of their failure to be the perfect mormon. They believe that “living the gospel” perfectly is the ONLY way they will ever feel peace. They are people who are wracked with guilt and who carry the heavy burden of knowing they haven’t gotten God’s To-do list done. It breaks my heart to see their needless suffering. And make no mistake, they are suffering, and it is needless.

Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE MORMONS. Maybe not the dogma, but the people, in general, I like. They are my people, after all. I do not doubt my Mother’s sincere love and belief in the mormon church. I do not judge her faith. It is a pure and beautiful thing. For her, I actually hope it is ALL true. She deserves a house right next to God’s in the hereafter. I am happy for the thousands of mormons out there who find their happiness through the church. I am grateful for their generally positive belief system. I know that one of the reasons I love it in SLC is because a large percentage of the population has taken 2 years out of their lives and given it to the service of humanity across the globe. I think “the church” is, mostly, a force for good — no matter what it’s based on.

But, for those of you who have read this missive and thought, “How sad for her that she missed the message,” or, “She must have read some anti-mormon literature,” or, “God loves us, he just hates certain behaviors,” or, “Women can’t hold the priesthood because they already have the gift of childbearing,” or any other common platitude, let me bear you my testimony:

I know that there is truth in all things, but no one thing can contain all truth. Just as you know, with all your “heart, might, mind and strength” that the mormon church is the only “true” church, I know with equal vigor that, if there is a great white God who sits on high, he and I are good. He loves me. In fact, He loves everything about me. He thinks I am earnest, hilarious, sweet and sincere. He cracks up at my hijinks and cries about my many failures. And if, when I die, I meet Him on the other side, I know He would let me live in his pool house if I wanted to. He would find all my family who had gone before and they’d throw me a party. He would just be glad to see me again. Period.

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I Have Had [Food] Issues

When I was 5-years-old I was acutely aware that my stomach “went straight down,” (translation: that I was thin) and that if I wanted it to stay that way, I couldn’t eat too much. I have one memory, in particular, where I can almost hear my voice say to my sister, “My stomach goes straight down.” I didn’t have a grasp of the proper nomenclature, yet, but looking back, that was the beginning of a very painful journey for me.

Growing up, I was aware that some of us were “skinny” and some of us weren’t. I am number 7 out of 10 kids. There are 8 girls and 2 boys. I have always thought I was “lucky number 7,” because I have not had to deal with many of the health-related issues my siblings have. I have perfect eyesight. I do not have diabetes. I have very low blood pressure. I do not have celiac disease. I have a healthy gall bladder. I am not allergic to anything but black mold and sometimes pollen. Until a few years ago, I had never broken a bone. Nor had I ever gotten stitches. I am not afraid of people or social situations. I do not have asthma. And I have almost always been within a normal weight range.

(That doesn’t mean I’m not a hot mess in many other ways.)

I still believe I simply lucked out when they were doling out alleles. Because I grew up in a family that struggles with weight, I know, for sure, that there is something biologically different about me. I was spared the battle with obesity, but I had my own dragons to slay.

My Mother is the most intelligent, sophisticated, creative and pure soul I have ever met. There is not a single ounce of meanness inside her. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t afraid. She was afraid. She gave birth to, and raised, more kids than her body probably wanted to. I think she started to gain weight after I was born, but by the time I was of cognitive thought, I knew my mother thought she was fat. And she hated it. She hoped to help all her kids escape the same fate. But fear has a way of seeping through the cracks, and it rubbed off on me.

Mormon Culture is largely centered around food. I suppose one might argue that American Culture is centered around food, but Mormons take it to new levels. Mormons don’t go to coffee shops. They generally don’t meet for tea and nosh on cucumber sandwiches. They don’t sip aperitifs and they don’t skimp on the fat. They even have their own cuisine! “Funeral Potatoes” are very popular as well as assorted jellos and mayonnaise-themed salads. When Mormons get together there is ALWAYS food. It is customary, in every situation, to prepare and bring large amounts of food with you to most events to share. Family gatherings center around food. Church meetings almost always have refreshments afterward.

They are also obsessed with sex. I promise I am not picking on Mormons! I love Mormons. I had an idyllic childhood, full of adventure and unconditional love from my family. But I am also determined to speak what is the truth for me. Growing up in Mormon Idaho was a little like growing up at a special camp where every day you are reminded of sex and not ever to have it. I didn’t have any idea what it was, and I felt guilty about it at 8 years old. On Sundays, we were regaled by stories of girls who had, or had not, remained morally “clean.” My young mind heard that my worth was completely tied to how chaste I was. I was told repeatedly that my worth was only valid in relation to a man. In fact, I didn’t have to make any decisions at all! My husband would be held accountable for our actions and be wholly responsible for my passage to heaven.

An onslaught of lessons were delivered on: not having sex; not dressing in a way that might “turn on” a boy; using disgusting associative imagery to discourage masturbation; terrible consequences of small indiscretions; and (it bears repeating) our worth, as women, being tied directly to our chastity. Psychologists have known for many years that the BEST way to encourage someone to think about something, is to tell them not to think about it. By CONSTANTLY telling us not to think about sex, we all thought about it constantly. I was a spectacularly good kid, and I felt more shame and guilt, on a daily basis, than any kid should have to bear.

(Again, this is only my experience. I am positive there are many women out there who had very different experiences.) For me, growing up in that context, a repressive and anti-feminist community, and within a family who was gripped by the fear of food and gaining weight was… tricky.

I know my sweet mother felt shame about her weight, which transferred to feeling shame every time she ate anything. And I could see it in some of my sister’s eyes as well. This shame felt like the same shame I felt when I had any thoughts of a sexual nature. This tied food, sex, weight and shame all together in a neat little bow for me.

Most of my life I didn’t really have to worry too much about weight. Besides the luck of the draw, there is one other reason for this, and that reason is named, Nan. My sister, Nanette was 7 years my senior, and without a doubt, my hero. I remember vividly that day in 1978 when she brought me in to the parlor to teach me how to do a cartwheel. I was 5-years-old. By then I had already decided that Nan pretty much ruled. She was only ever nice to me. I can not remember one single incident where she brushed me off, or made me feel sad. One time, she decided she was running away. I think she was 11-years old, so I would’ve been 2 or almost 3. She packed a suitcase for herself and one for me, and we set off to make our way.

I remember that day so clearly. I was a little confused as to why we didn’t have sticks with bandanas tied to them carrying our loot (like the hobos in cartoons) but I knew she had probably thought that through. We walked to the end of the lane that stretched from our house, past the big oak tree, the corral and the horses and sat down on some hay bales lying near the main haystack. I wasn’t even tired. I felt like we should keep walking. Imagine my bewilderment when it started to get dark and we returned home. In my mind, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea to run away. Nan and I, off to see the world.

So when she showed me the magical wonders of a cartwheel, I was hooked. I went directly outside and said to myself, “I am not going back inside until I do this cartwheel perfectly.” It took a long time that night, as I recall, but I did it. Thus began a mutual obsession that, for the next 10 years, would provide 75% of our entertainment. We lived and breathed gymnastics. We played “add-on” constantly. For the uninitiated, add-on is an awesome game that requires its players to remember and perform a growing number of “tricks,” in the order they were introduced. When done so accurately, that player then “adds-on” a “trick” (which could be anything from a handstand to a dance move) and it’s the next player’s job to remember and replicate the series.

We did cartwheels down the hall, tumbling runs in the living room, back handsprings in parades and layouts on the trampoline. Constantly.

By the time I was a sophomore in high school, she was married and we moved away. I basically stopped doing gymnastics. I came back to Idaho to go to finish high school and we hung out all the time, but then during my junior year she moved to Oklahoma City. I was so sad about it that I blocked her from my mind for a time. About that same time, I started to gain weight. I was gaining it fast. I had always weighed around 105 pounds, but suddenly I was 125.

I started throwing up. I had hoped that by getting rid of the food I’d eaten, I’d get rid of the weight and shame I had. The throwing up reinforced the shame, however, and on top of that, I was a TEENAGER and wanted to make-out with boys constantly. More shame.

I starved myself that summer and returned to school back at 105 pounds. I would constantly vacillate between starving and/or binging and purging. I would run for miles and miles. I did EVERYTHING I could to keep from having sex with the boys I went out with. I was SUCH a good girl, but despite my efforts, I was still pretty sure I was going to hell. I knew I wasn’t being good enough. I would confess every tiny transgression to my bishop. He finally told me to quit coming to see him. In hindsight, I can see that he was a smart guy who knew I was a good kid and wanted me to relax. I, of course, just thought I had tricked him into thinking I was a good kid. Ridiculous!

There was a community dust-up at the end of my senior year that knocked us all off balance and by that summer I had decided that trying to be all the things my church leaders said I should be was literally killing me. I moved in with some friends and we proceeded to rabble rouse. We drank beer, dated sailors and swore openly! When ALL of your morals are tied to a religion, and the religion betrays you, the danger is that the proverbial baby gets chucked out with the bathwater. It was a big time of sifting for answers to questions like, why black people couldn’t hold the priesthood before 1979; why the church is so anti-feminist; why the church had lied to us about J. Smith being 14 years old when he went into the sacred grove, etc. etc. etc… these discrepancies fueled our disillusionment and we just tried our best to help each other get through it.

I felt like I was just getting my footing when a friend of ours from Ricks College stopped by. An hour later, my virginity taken from me, all the shame I had been breaking away from came flooding back, triple-fold. I was totally unprepared and felt wholly responsible. I ramped up the throwing up to every time I had a single bit of food and I quit eating altogether about 8 months after that. By Christmas, 1992, I was down to only 87 pounds. I hated food. I was scared of men.

I hated to talk about food, think about food or listen to people eat food. I felt the EXACT SAME WAY about food as I felt about sex. It was dirty, bad, gross and to be avoided at all times. This crossover of disgust and shame about food and sex carried over to my young marriage and was probably, ultimately, it’s demise.

Enter Jenny. My sister Jenny is about 9 or 10 years older than me. She was enough older than me, that I don’t have a lot of memories of her from when I was little. I also think she hid out in her room with her guitar, trying to find some peace! But after Nan moved away (my junior year) Jenny really stepped in to be my surrogate mama. She was putting herself through college, as a single mom, and was poor. It was a trial for her to find the gas money to come up from Pocatello to Rexburg and support me in my plays and concerts. I spent vacation time with her in her tiny one-bedroom apartment and we had a great time. Jenny has such a calming affect on me. I usually fall asleep within an hour of walking into her house. It’s one of the few places in the world I feel completely safe in. My sister, Sarah, also tried her best to include me in on her life as well as my brother, Dave. My sister, Melinda, was there when she could be. She was at BYU being exceptionally brilliant.

But it was Jenny that first saw signs of an eating disorder. And it was Jenny who lit the fire inside the family that led them to finally getting me some help. My mother drove me twice a week, an hour each way, for individual and group therapy for about two solid years. It helped. A ton. Having Hannah helped me the most. But my war had only just begun.

Over the last 20 years my struggle to rid myself of the crushing shame I have always felt surrounding all things sex has been more successful than my fight to accept food as something other than my enemy and my body, no matter what size, as my ally. I have waffled between 100 lbs and 149 lbs over and over again. My answer to the scale reaching the 140s? Starve. Quit eating. Quick. The initial disgust reaction I have had to food makes it relatively easy for me to do so. But when I feel sad, or lonely, I just want to eat. I haven’t made myself throw up in years, but I do still have periods of binging and over-eating. After my second divorce, I just wanted to numb out and food provided that outlet for me.

The divorce-induced dining and drinking resulted in the aforementioned 149 lbs. I stepped on the scale and saw that number (the same number I saw the day I gave birth!) and knew I had to change. I also knew I had to change in a better way than I used to. I knew I had destroyed my metabolism and that my body couldn’t take another starvation year. So I meditated. I meditated my way into a miracle.

Every day for 4 or 5 months I mediated for hours in a state of gratitude. Specifically gratitude that I had a body with such a spectacular metabolism that I could eat anything and not gain weight. I made myself believe that I always maintained a perfect, healthy weight. And suddenly, I was thin again. You can ask Hannah. Seemingly overnight, I let go of the weight and felt free.

Unfortunately, this liberation coincided with the market crashing and me no longer being able to support myself through the foundation I had started. The fear started to seep in and by the time the end of 2009 came around, I was in a state of terror again about food. I lived off of diet soda and pretzels. I was tired, worn out and week.

The year I spent as an insurance agent harkened in another saga into a less dramatic, but very real, emotional eating period. And then the next year, when I found out my sweet daughter had tried on being a smoker, I thought to myself, “Well. You’ve already fucked it all up.” I started smoking again (after many years of abstaining) and the emotional eating got worse, as well as an obsession with the TV. I was in the business of keeping it together. I studied, spent time with Hannah and put one step in front of the other. (We also managed to fit in a lot of fun.)

And then Hannah and I went to Outlook Development’s Power of Choice Seminar. My friend, Doug, gave a presentation on falling in love with our bodies. I silently groaned. I thought the word, “gross” in my mind and prepared myself for what I was sure to be another icky display of someone telling me to love my body. But he said some things that triggered the dam and somewhere in the middle of his presentation I just started sobbing.

I realized, suddenly, what an ungrateful BRAT I have been for the last 30 years. My body is awesome. It is my greatest ally. It has allowed me to dip my toes into 7 seas, climb through jungles, play the guitar, sing, dance, skydive, play the piano, smell the spices of Morocco, run, do backflips, feel the heat of Costa Rica, sweat my ass off in Indonesia, basque in the sun in Turkey and more. I have climbed tall mountains with this body. I have truly loved a man (or two). I have given BIRTH to my beautiful daughter. I have played roller derby, taken up kick boxing, died my hair a million times and performed in front of hundreds of people. I have over 200,000 road trip miles under my belt and many more to come.

My body has done all this for me, and I have treated it like shit. I walked out of that meeting determined to change my ways and haven’t touched a cigarette since. I never will again.

The next week I watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” It was so inspiring. It motivated me to add a 10-day juice fast in to the project I had developed for the ongoing Outlook Development program Hannah and I were planning to do. The “Excess Emancipation” project, at that point, was just to get rid of 50% of my shit. It has become so much more. As I prepared to do the juice fast, I started thinking about other times in my life when I have successfully stuck to a healthier way of eating. The time I went vegan came to mind. I got SO SICK of bean burritos. I was beginning to think the juice fast would be enough of change when I started researching raw food diets.

The accounts from devotees about their entire outlook changing along with their overall health were amazing to me. I decided I’d commit to a 90% all raw-food diet until March 21st.

It was a difficult transition. Really difficult. I went through a listless period with NO energy. But about two weeks after beginning, I was on cloud 9. The benefits of going all raw were already showing. I began to have more energy and mental clarity than I ever have before. I realized at about week 3 that I was enjoying myself in the kitchen. That was astonishing. Then I noticed I was willing to talk about the food I was preparing. And then I realized I was savoring each bite. I have been anti-savoring my whole life, it felt dirty and gross to discuss it, let alone do it. And then last week I had the biggest breakthrough, yet.

I started an all-green smoothies 10-day plan on Dec 27. After that I moved into an all raw foods diet. The day of the great epiphany was January 27. Exactly one month after beginning this 101 day journey. I was at Omar’s Rawtopia in Sugarhouse. I was doing a little writing and musing over all the changes in my life. I was laughing about how earlier that day I caught myself chatting up the dude in the raw food isle of Whole Foods.

My first food picture!

And then. And then the waitress brought me my dessert. It looked so pretty. It was a cashew, lemon and raspberry “cheese”cake. I took a bite and laughed out loud! It was so good! And it was pretty. And suddenly I had the overwhelming urge to take a picture of it! I can not tell you what a crazy move that was for me. I would liken it to me wanting to walk around the house naked… unfathomable. And yet, here it is.

I have a theory that because I now KNOW that the things I am eating are good for me, there is no way for my mind to twist it into something ugly. In my life, I had expected to get over the old “sex is dirty” script. I wasn’t even all that surprised when I realized that I DO love my body (thanks, pal!). But me getting excited about shopping for food, researching recipes, chatting with strangers about flax seeds and getting so excited about a dessert that I take its picture has been, by far, the greatest present of this 101 day journey thus far.

Thank you, Doug Phillips. Thank you Hannah!

And to my sisters in food and body loathing: Get ready, suit up, it’s going to get all foodie up in here!

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Filed under 101 Day Project, Freeing the Fat, Going Raw, Moving On