Join Me: One Month Gluten Free Challenge

Exactly one month ago, I wrote about the tipping point in my life with my health that got me to start eating gluten free. It also caused me to make a major pivot in my career. As I have written about here, I became an entrepreneur this year. Like many, that opened a flood gate of creativity in my brain. I have so many ideas for new businesses.

Like a river running through my subconscious, all of my ideas have an underlying theme – community. I like to connect with people. I like to help people.

So, where better to start than with eating gluten free? If you are interested in knowing more, come on over to my blog at Gluten Vrije Vrouw. Don’t be scared by the Dutch name. I am blogging in English. Or find me on Facebook at the same name. I am trying my hand at videos so it gets pretty interesting on my Facebook page.

My first endeavour is to launch a One Month Gluten Free Challenge for The Netherlands. I will provide all you need – recipes, meal plans and even do all of the shopping for you to try eating gluten free for one month. And that’s not all. We will have a private Facebook page and weekly video calls with special guest experts joining in to answer your questions.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Gluten Free 30 Opt in

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Why Do I Love to Shop?

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Why Do I Love to Shop? Morethananexpat

Red,  white & blue sweatsuit. Phone books. Reward. Annual Shopping Trips. $100 Budget. Coupons.

I have been taking one question with me to the yoga mat for each of my Bikram yoga classes. It is the closest I get to meditation these days. My monkey mind focuses on one question. These are the words that rose to the surface in my mind’s eye.

Red,  white & blue sweatsuit. Phone books. Reward. Annual Shopping Trip. $100 Budget. Coupons.

Red, white & blue sweatsuit. I don’t know how old I was. It was before junior high so I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. It was a surely a boy’s sweatsuit. It has red, white and blue color block horizontal stripes across the sweatshirt. I probably thought it looked fancy because of the white collar with three buttons. It looked like one of those rugby shirts that were so popular in the 80’s. I had matching red sweatpants with pockets. Pockets made them fancy. Pockets made them day wear. My European husband will laugh out loud when he reads this.

“I looked like Alvin, from “Alvin & The Chipmunks”, with a perm.”

And I had essentially a mullet perm hairdo with pink tortoise-shell round glasses perched atop chubby cheeks and buck teeth. I looked like Alvin, from “Alvin & The Chipmunks”, with a perm.

I loved it. I wore it with turquoise high top Chuck Taylor Converse that flipped down at the top to reveal a yellow lining. I loved those shoes.

I know this was before junior high because I vividly remember the playground and four square. Recess was basically the only time we were allowed to socialize at school. I was so proud of that outfit. Oh, my classmates let me have it. Playing four square, I remember the other players and other standing around laughing at me and my outfit.

That perm, those thick horizontal stripes, baggy pockets, circular eyeglasses. They did not help my chubby little body one bit. Oh, I was comfortable wearing them, but after my classmates got done with me at recess, my skin felt like it was on fire. I’m sure I cried. Which is like gasoline on a fire for tween girls’ laughter. It is a wonder I made it out of those years.

Phone Books. My twin sister and I used to deliver phone books. This was before the term “Side Hustle”. I think we spent one or two weekends delivering phone books in the biggest town in our area. Thank God we were not doing this in our hometown. The shame could have consumed me. We delivered phone books to earn money to spend on school clothes. It taught us the value of money. What it also taught me was to hate phone books. There were stack after stack of these things shrink wrapped and sitting in our garage. That plastic smell. The ink turning my finger tips black. The paper cuts. The value of money.

My mother made it work. She found a means to an end. I associate those phone books with shame and with being too poor to just buy school clothes like everyone else, but she was actually the first entrepreneur in my life. I tell myself I don’t know how to be an entrepreneur, but the seeds are all right there. I have been telling myself the wrong stories.

Reward. I associate shopping with a reward. I see shopping as a reward. Small wonder. Delivering these phone books was rewarded with a trip to the Chicago suburbs to go shopping for next fall’s school clothes. It was a big deal. The Chicago suburbs might as well have been the runways of Paris or Milan compared to my small town options. There was no internet shopping. There was no internet period. Sears catalog. Phone books, people.

Now I know why I snuck out of the office all those times to go shopping. In London when I worked 14 hour days, in Amsterdam when everyone hated bankers, in Wisconsin when I felt alone, on business trips when I felt so stressed, I went shopping. Whether it was stopping into an outlet mall in Wisconsin or meandering through Liverpool Street Station or buying too many souvenirs at a market in Istanbul or nipping into Marks & Spencer’s. It was all a reward. And if there was a sale, oh, there was no stopping me.

Annual Shopping Trip. My mother turned Fall School Shopping into a destination vacation. We stayed in a mid-range hotel (which seemed very posh to me). We ate out for dinner (at a place with cloth napkins). Sometimes we got to bring a friend along. We went to shopping malls with a population probably as large as our town. It was a cultural event.

We went for clothes, but it was an entire experience. Maybe that is what I crave when I walk into a store. I crave that excitement and experience. Maybe I miss my mother and my sisters.

And how I felt so cool walking into school in clothes I knew no one else had. This back fired big time. See red, white and blue sweatsuit above. Yep, that was definitely before high school. Blending in was crucial to my high school experience. I think that is a question for another yoga class, though.

$100 Budget. For some reason, I think we each had a budget of $100. That seems like a lot of money back then. We came back with a pile of clothes and shoes. I remember meticulously tallying the receipts. Being even is crucial for twins. Down to the cent, we had to be even. We definitely knew how much each of our pieces of clothing cost. If not immediately, it definitely now instilled a value of taking care of my belongings. I know this because I find myself saying it to my daughters and husbands.

Coupons. What is it with the American culture and coupons? Dutch people ask me this especially now that TLC starting running “Extreme Couponing” in The Netherlands. Scarcity. Marketing 101. It is ingrained in the American culture. Get it while it is cheaper. If you wait, you will have to pay more. Full price is for suckers. That is why coupons have expiration dates.

These shopping trips taught me to never pay full price for anything. It is a great lesson on the surface. Somehow, being on sale made something more valuable. How backward is that? Why doesn’t ‘being on sale’ mean “It is ugly and no one wants it”?

Coupons should have taught me to game the system. They should have taught me a bigger lesson that there is a system and it can be gamed. It taught me to how to consume the most possible. It also eventually made me realize that there is a huge margin built into most sticker prices.

I still find myself compulsively confessing to people that I bought something on sale or second-hand. Why do I do that? Another question for another yoga session. So many questions…

Birthdays & Grief

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Today is my youngest daughter’s second birthday. She is a beautiful, clever and funny little thing. I am so glad that she is a part of our family. And yet, I feel ambivalent at best about this milestone.

Some people reflect on the past year at New Year’s Eve. I reflect on the year on my two daughters’ birthdays. I can vividly see and remember their births and each subsequent birthday. I reflect on just how far they have come – how far we both have come in the past year. And then I think about my father.

I think about all he has missed since his death over two and a half years ago. He died within days of my oldest daughter’s second birthday and while I was just weeks pregnant with my second child. I grieve all over again for what he missed this past year. I grieve for my children not knowing their grandpa.

And then I get this dropping sensation and visceral tightening in my stomach. I am angry. I am resentful. His sudden death somehow seems avoidable. I resent him for not taking better care of himself. I am angry that his death overshadows my daughters’ birthdays.

I used to love planning birthday parties for my daughters. They were epic. Ridiculous, but great. For my oldest daughter’s second birthday, I had put so much effort and detail into planning the party. A few days prior, my father suddenly died. The party suddenly seemed so pointless and stupid.

I am not pissed at my dead father for ruining my party planning for my daughter’s second birthday. I am not that shallow. I am saying his death put a black smudge on one of my simple pleasures.

And, every year, it takes my focus off of celebrating the great little human I am so happy is part of my life. A child’s birthday should be a day all about them. They are a gift in my life. Seeing the delight in their eyes about a party with all of their favorite things is my way of showing them “Today, you are the center of the universe. Your every wish shall be granted.” It is a day to count blessings not to drudge up grief.

I need to find a way to celebrate his life as a gift – to count my memories of him as blessings and share them with my girls.

Creedence

They sang a Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) song tonight on The Voice. (We can watch it here in The Netherlands, but it is on a delay.) For me, CCR (and John Fogerty) is synonymous with my Dad. It doesn’t really matter which song. When one plays, I am right back there in the cab of my dad’s pick up truck. I am sitting in the passenger’s seat as he drives. Or I am cutting across farm fields driving on country roads. Or my twin sister and I are belting out a song while heading to our softball game. Then I am huddled in a chair next to his open casket begging for this nightmare to end and cursing my father for taking my kids’ grandfather from them. All the while, CCR plays in the background.

Then I have this thought that Dad is looking down from wherever he is and feeling like he isn’t missing much. Yes, he is missing out on memories with his family, but outside of that little circle, I bet he doesn’t feel like he is missing much. I wonder if he felt that while he was still alive. Do we all feel like that at a certain point? Do we eventually feel like we have seen all we want to see? We have hit all the milestones there will be. We have felt the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows and nothing else will ever push us to those extremes. Do we reach a jaded, ragged, easy assurance or peaceful resignation? Is that the goal?

(Photo by Piano Piano! from Flickr)



So Damn Lucky

Look at this face. She is gorgeous. Her smile just lights me up from the inside. She has that effect on everyone. Wiglet is eight and a half months old and sitting up. She just goes for it. In her quiet, happy way, she sets her sights on something and wiggles her way over. Her crawl looks more like the worm at this point. And she love, love, loves her big sister E. She squeals with delight when E tries to make her laugh. Wiglet laughs so hard she gets the hiccups. Their relationship right now is such a gift to watch.

Izzy is our little trooper for sure. I think she had a stomach bug for two days, but I could not be for sure because she was so happy through it. Everything that went in came right back up. She gave the meaning to the words ‘throwing up’. She would fuss, pause, chuck her guts across the room, look at me and start gurgling and smile again. No crying, no fever, no sleepless nights – what an angel. And beautiful on top of that. How did we get so lucky?





Update: Dropping a Ball – Food

I picked up our second batch of meals today. I found a nice woman that makes great food. Once a month, she makes us a batch of seven meals. It is so nice to try new food, to not cook and to not grocery shop. Tonight’s meal was a bit of a miss, though. Goat stew. It was well made, but, well… And then there are these buns. Wow! Yum! They are filled with beef or curried chicken. So great! I could wolf down five of these.





My First Week

I started my new job this week. That is why you haven’t heard from me. I will not go into it much, but I am working for a software company. Sweet lord, is it fast paced. It feels like I jumped ship from the Titanic and onto a speeding train. I think it will be great.

So, here we go again. And I am trying hard to keep that mythical word “balance” in mind. It is right there – in the back of my mind – laughing at me. There is no such thing as balance right now.

Our home repairs took a giant step forward this week. On Wednesday, my day off with both girls (sigh), our new floor was installed in our bedroom. It is beautiful, but the stain it was treated with stinks to high heaven. So it took a few more days of airing out the room before we could sleep in it again. This week, our built-in closets get re-installed in our bedroom and the sliding glass doors to our deck get measured for replacement. All of this is thanks to our frenemy, water. 

Then we get to cram all of our clothes & linens back into our closet just in time for my mom to arrive for a month visit. As always, I am really looking forward to her visit, but I am still crossing my fingers that all will go as planned and she will have both a bed to sleep in and a place to put her stuff. 

Here are pictures of the new floor and hole in our bedroom where a closet will hopefully be by the end of the week.