Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Whole30 Must Haves

My snack pack for attending a football game when I knew I couldn't eat anything in the stadium.
 I tend to approach Whole30 fairly simply for a couple of reasons. First, I am feeding not only myself, but also my husband, who does not do Whole30 with me. So I'm typically making something that accommodates both of our eating preferences. I also don't want to break the bank buying a whole bunch of specialty foods or ingredients that are only used for Whole30 recipes.

But there are some foods that I found to be totally worth it, that make life more delicious and stress-free. Some of these are things that make life easier, and others are things that feel like treats, which makes Whole30 feel a lot less restrictive.

1. Ghee/clarified butter - so glad that I found this. You can make your own, but that just sounded like a lot of work when I can find it at Trader Joe's. There are just certain foods that could use that buttery flavor, and so this was totally worth it.

2. Guacamole - watch the ingredients on store-bought guacamole, but know that guac got me through two Whole30 rounds for a reason. Your body needs healthy fats to feel full, and these are perfect for that. Costco has the huge packs of Wholly Guacamole singles, but I've also purchased single-serve guacamole from Aldi, Target, and other places too. One of my on-the-go breakfast items (almost every day) was dipping carrots in guacamole.

Whole Foods Gua-kale-mole is really good stuff.
3. Coconut Aminos - If you like to cook different meat and veggie stir frys, this is a great substitute for soy sauce. And one of my easy peasy meals during Whole30 is creating lettuce wraps with ground chicken or turkey cooked with garlic, ginger, and coconut aminos. Limited ingredient, super quick meals are totally my thing.

4. Chomps Snack Sticks - Okay, you might be able to live without beef sticks. Not me. I ate a lot of beef sticks prior to Whole30 (my coworkers can attest), and so I was very excited to find compliant ones. For days that I needed to pack some emergency snacks, these came in handy.

5. Almond butter - Almond butter became a little bit too much of a comfort food for me during the first Whole30 (I went through more than one jar...). There were times that I would get home from work and need a quick spoonful to give me a little boost before making dinner. This time I was much more mindful, and ate a lot less of it, but it was another great thing to keep on hand for those days that I needed a quick snack. Plus it's tasty with celery sticks or apple slices.

6. LaCroix - LaCroix has helped me kick my soda habit a few different times. It's become such a part of my daily routine that I'm known to show up at friend's houses with a LaCroix in hand. My alcohol-free version of BYOB, I guess?

7. Peppermint Tea - At our house we have developed sort of a nightly ritual where we drink a cup of peppermint tea after dinner while watching tv. It's become such a comforting ritual that I look forward to each night.

8. Fancy olives - One of my favorite splurges has been going to the Whole Foods olive bar and making a small container of mixed olives and roasted tomatoes. Total treat. And amazing salad topping that eliminates the need for a dressing!

Mmm. Briny and delicious.

9. Macadamia nuts - The splurge of nuts, but boy do I love them. Definitely in the treat category.

10. Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning - One of my favorite discoveries this time around was that my favorite cajun seasoning is Whole30 compliant. Since that moment, I've been putting it on everything - chicken, broccoli, potatoes.

Everyone has their own things that help them to make the program fit for them. My must haves may be totally different than yours, and have also varied some between my two Whole30s. For some folks it's Larabars, which unfortunately I can't eat. For others it's specific fruits or veggies - I ate a whole lot of kale salad and roasted broccoli this time around.

Have you done a Whole30? Do you have any must haves?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Second Whole30

Or rather, Whole 29. That's right. Full disclosure: I totally cheated on the second to last day.

It was stupid. I got through all of the crazy busy weeks, and thought I was doing so well that it wouldn't be a big deal to bake some dairy-filled, sugar-filled, grain-filled dessert treats for the students. And my willpower was just not as strong as I thought it was. I totally ate one of the frosted almond bars. And I felt sad. And mad. And disappointed. Mainly that I was going back to my all-or-nothing way of doing things, and that I wasn't going to be able to find a happy medium. Dreading that a week later, I'd be eating a daily Jack's pizza and feeling horrible.

But a good friend reminded me of a few things. First, to recognize the many accomplishments that I had made in 29 days. Also, that I had already done this once before, and proven that I could do it. Perhaps I didn't have to do a full 30 days again if I was able to retain the concepts. Okay, perhaps scarfing down an almond bar wasn't a win. But I had really worked on some good habits that have the potential to stick for awhile.

Then, I read these three posts (1, 2, and 3) in a series about what the creator of Whole30 eats, and how she incorporates the concepts into her daily life, but also where she gives herself room to eat non-compliant stuff. And I realized there is a way to do this that fits for my life, that may mean incorporating some foods back in that I'm missing and that are okay for my body, while still being healthy and feeling good.

This may be Whole30 compliant in ingredients, but holy giant omelet! This lasted 3 meals!
And so rather than dwelling on my mistake and going into a food-shame spiral (which I think we tend to do to ourselves), I want to highlight some of the major wins from this experience and some of the things that I learned about myself.

I can do this, even during my busiest time. Despite cravings and temptations, I stuck with this through the busiest times of my job where I was working many nights and weekends. There were days that I packed all three meals. I made it work. Which shows that with good planning and preparation, there is really no reason or excuse to not eat healthy. I tend to give in and eat lots of junk food during those times and use it as an excuse, but really that's when I need to have good healthy practices the most!

I got to make some delicious meals with my husband, family, and friends. For both rounds of Whole30, my husband and I had so many more family dinners together. And there were a bunch of times that we made meals as a team, whether grilling or making a pot of chili. Or doing a potluck with friends. And that's an amazing non-scale victory (NSV) to me!

Grilled bison steaks with chimichurri and lots of veggies that we made together
I feel amazing. After so many months of stomach issues, I feel great! I have so much more energy than I did before and my skin is brighter and clearer. And I managed to power through the cold that I got from being rundown with my schedule in just a few days, which I attribute to eating and drinking my way through it, with very limited meds.

I hit a number on the scale that I haven't seen since high school. I want to be clear that weight loss wasn't my primary goal for doing this. But it was very motivating to see that I could impact positive changes to my body through making more nutritious choices. And that boost in confidence is nice!

I still can go out to eat and be social. There are a number of menu items that I could work with to have a night out of the house. Which is awesome, because one of the challenges of Whole30 is the sheer amount of time spent cooking and cleaning. And breaks from that are necessary. I love spending less money on eating out, but it is nice to do every once in awhile. Especially with friends and family.

I didn't feel limited. Others assume Whole30 sucks. And they say "Ugh, that's why I don't diet." Or share "I couldn't do this because I couldn't give up X." And I probably would have said something similar too. But once I got past the first few days of not having half and half in my coffee, I didn't really think about it that way as I was making meals. For me, it doesn't feel like a diet. And once my thinking was reframed, there were a lot of things that felt like treats that were 100 percent compliant. Hello red grapes! So delicious. And while doing it, I also didn't think often, "oh my gosh, I can't wait to eat X again." 

I benefited from having lots of fresh veggies through our CSA and made a point to use almost all of them. I think that doing a Whole30 during the summer/fall is SO much easier than winter. Access and cost of fresh produce makes such a difference to having more variety of food items and keeping the budget in check. And I threw away a lot less of my CSA veggies than before. And now I need a plan for maintaining a supply of vegetables through the winter.

Making homemade veggie stock with leftover scraps from CSA veggies
I need to focus on the reintroduction phase. I totally skipped on this the first time around. I intended to do it better this time. And then I didn't. I jumped right into eating a few things that combined dairy and grain, making it hard to tell what made me feel like yuck. And that's the whole point of the process if you want to get better knowledge of how and which foods are affecting you. So that's my biggest goal post-Whole30. I'm not going to start all over, at least not right now. But I have been doing days of full-on Whole30, and then a Whole30 + dairy, Whole 30 + beans, etc. I think this will better help me pinpoint what I can reintroduce more regularly and know my body's reactions better.

I want to celebrate living a better life, with the occasional indulgences. I've been listening to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft, and one of their "Try This at Home" tips for greater happiness is to Choose the Bigger Life when making decisions. As I think about what this means for me and food, I know that my life is happier when it's focused on homemade meals with friends and family. Eating dinner at the kitchen table with good conversation with my husband (and usually some lingering cats). Making recipes with tasty ingredients and mindful eating. And I think there is totally room to eat other things. But I'd rather make the decision to eat an amazing pastry from the french bakery down the street on a delightful walk on a fall day with Chris, than mindlessly eat half a box of Cheez-Its because I'm procrastinating making dinner. Or to have one of the klejner that we make each Christmas as our family tradition rather than beating myself up about it, when it's something that is so special to me. 

If there is one thing I'm taking from this experience, it's that it's a work in progress. Change happens over time. 

I still have more reflecting to do. Stay tuned for more Whole30 thoughts. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Goals

How did summer completely pass by? It's gone. I didn't even write summer goals, I just did summer.

The last month was honestly a blur. I had just under 20 events over the first month of school. This past two weekends were the first that I could enjoy and I am happy to report that I did absolutely no work! Which also has me focused on making the most of these beautiful fall days that we have left. Fall is absolutely my favorite season, and I want to take full advantage before that winter coat comes back out of the closet. I also want to get back into a regular routine for school, work and fun.

Eat: The last post about goals that I wrote was in the spring after I had just finished a Whole30. And now I just finished one again. After stomach issues all spring/summer, I'm feeling the best that I've ever felt. And so I think I'm going to try to keep up with my mostly meat/eggs/veggies/fruit/nuts/seeds diet, with the much less frequent piece of pizza or donut thrown in. Because health. I ate an english muffin on Sunday and thought I might die. More on that later. Plus I need to continue eating through the abundance that is our CSA. If I could do it during my busiest time of year, why not keep it up?  

Drink: Pumpkin Spice coffee from Trader Joe's. TJs has pumpkin everything right now. Most of it didn't fit with Whole30 (although I was totally tempted by the pumpkin spice cookie butter). This was a great find. And Chris bought me a pour-over so that I can drink one cup at a time, since he will stick to regular coffee and thinks this stuff sounds totally gross. More for me. Totally fills my pumpkin spice latte craving without the sugar or milk.

Read: More books! I slacked off a bit on my reading challenge, but have been picking it back up lately. I've finished 24 of the 52 for this year in the Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge, most recently re-reading Eat, Pray, Love. Right now I am reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Totally a family favorite movie - I'm excited to read the book. I am also reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown and can't wait to purchase Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Watch: Scandal! So excited it's back. It's the only show that I try to keep up with from week to week. I binged on a lot of different shows over the summer, including all five seasons of Game of Thrones in a very short time period. And The Newsroom, which I loved and am sad to hear is done. After all of the binge watching, I'm actually really excited to go back to watching something on a weekly basis - I enjoy the suspense and cliff hangers, rather than jumping right in to the next episode. Also - who else is excited about The Muppets being back on tv?!

Listen: To a few different podcasts. Right now my two go-to podcasts that I listen to while washing dishes are "Happier" with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft and "Magic Lessons" with Elizabeth Gilbert. That's right - I do a lot of soul searching while washing dishes.

Wear: All of my fall clothes. It's my favorite wardrobe! Scarves. Sweatshirts. Jeans. Boots. It's the best that my closet has to offer and I'm singing about it! "All the fall things.."

Finish: Dissertation interviews! That's right. I'm in full swing on the research. Round one of interviews are wrapping up this week. I'll get all of my transcription and coding underway, and then proceed with Round Two before the end of the semester. Momentum is a great thing.

Purchase: Some serious winter boots. I've had my current pair for over five years. It's time for a new pair before the snow falls.

Stop: And snuggle kitties. Because kitties.

Go: To Boulder! I am SO excited to get to spend a long weekend with three of my favorite people in the whole world. They give me life. And we see each other far too infrequently. So we are going to live it up in the mountains, do nature-y things, and enjoy every minute together.

Focus: On friends and family. : )

What are your fall goals?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Best Gadgets for Whole30

I am currently on Day 5 of another Whole 30 and feeling great!

I did my first Whole30 back in the winter, and felt the best I had ever felt. I vowed to keep up the healthy eating, but definitely got back into some of my bad habits and decided it was time for a reset again. And what a better time to do it, than when there is tons of fresh, seasonal produce available? 

I have had a lot of friends asking me about my Whole30 experience and any tips that may make it easier. One of the biggest adjustments that I found with Whole30 was meal planning and prep. I definitely have to map out my meals for the week. And when you can't eat processed foods or eat out many places, it's a lot of cooking and dishwashing. Anything that makes it a little easier, is a plus. And having been through this once, I feel much more prepared for a second round. 

Here are the Top 3 gadgets that I recommend: 

1. A Salad Spinner

I know a lot of folks who have one and don't use it, but mine gets a ton of use. Especially with our CSA greens. I have found that if I prep greens right away, I am much more likely to eat time. We got this one as a wedding gift.

2. A Spiralizer

This thing is awesome! I asked for one for my birthday last year, just as I was finishing my first Whole30. I was gifted this bad boy, and have found it super easy to use and clean. Although watch out because those blades are sharp! Spiraled beets are some of my favorite, but there are so many things that you can spiralize. And it just makes things fun.

3. Poach Pods

My mom got these for me as a gift awhile back, and I initially thought they were totally weird. But I love to make poached eggs and they keep the eggs nice and contained while cooking, making clean up much easier. No more floaty egg white to sift out of the water. During Whole30, I tend to eat eggs pretty much every day, so these are getting a ton of use right now.

Do you have any favorite kitchen gadgets?

Friday, July 31, 2015

PhDs and Perfectionism

Encouragement from Dr. Brown is gonna get me through this!
Something big happened this past semester. I made a commitment to taking the next step with my degree, and completed my oral exams. I am officially a PhD candidate and have been approved to move forward with my research. If you know me, this is pretty momentous.

I've been sitting on this egg for awhile. So long, in fact, that I learned through the process of setting up my exams that I actually ran out of time to work on my degree two summers ago. I am currently waiting to hear back on my appeal for an extension. As I wrote the letter explaining my need for more time and outlining my steps to complete my degree in a timely fashion from here, it was an opportunity to reflect on this journey to PhD. Where I have been. Where I am at. Where I need to go.

I feel like a totally different person now than the person I was when I started back in January 2008. That woman was a brand new student affairs professional who somewhat reluctantly agreed to take a class with some colleagues who just wanted to "try it out." All three of us then found ourselves enrolling in a program. I didn't know what it felt like to not be in the classroom. My entire identity had revolved around being a student for 24 years.

When I look at who I am now, it is just so different. Since starting PhD program, I have moved back to my hometown, changed jobs, changed my research topic, changed my advisor, got married, and am now looking to what is ahead for me and my newly-formed family. As I wrote about life changes in my appeal letter, part of me really wanted to write: "What I most look forward to is being done and not being a student any more. That's my assurance to you that I will work to achieve my new deadline. I've got other sh*t to do and dreams to achieve. I am finally ready to check this one off the list. P.S. No one is more annoyed than me that I've taken so long."

I also couldn't bring myself to write that one of my delays is because I have had more than one moment of feeling like "who the heck am I to be doing this?" I have written about that before. It took me two years to get to a place of confidence to have someone else look at the proposal I had written and give feedback, and another 9 months before I was ready to send it to my advisor for the first time. I was so nervous about her feedback, that I wouldn't open her e-mail and notes for months after that. I was afraid her edits would question the worthiness of my proposed study,

It's not that I've ever forgotten that I'm a student. It is that it is easier to push that identity aside rather than spend time dealing with why this has been so hard. To fill my life with other distractions like reading books for fun and kitty snuggles. I am not lazy - in many of those moments of kitten snuggles, I was up in my own head, thinking about my work. I was not procrastinating for the heck of it. It is the perfectionist in me that pushed aside my work and thought that it wasn't good enough to share. That if I passed it on to my advisor, she would tear it apart or deem that the topic for which I am incredibly passionate and that I was ready to invest my time into researching further wasn't a worthwhile study. After I finally opened them, I kicked myself because there wasn't even that much I needed to change. I could have completed my oral exams months earlier and already have been well into my research.

This is my constant struggle. I wish that I could guarantee that the self doubt is gone. I am sure it isn't. But I just have to push past it and chug along. Passing my exams gave me that first big push. And now IRB has given me approval to proceed, participant recruitment is underway, and I've set my finish date as May 2016. I couldn't be more excited to actually be able to start collecting data and learning from the participants' experiences.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I am back for round two with a CSA, and surrounded by all things green! I love it.

Back in summer 2012, my mom, sister, and I shared a weekly CSA. I think the best word to describe that experience would definitely be overwhelming. I don't think we were prepared for some of the logistical challenges or the sheer abundance that we encountered with each weekly delivery.

Fast forward to 2015, and my sister and I decided to give it another go. She had done a winter CSA, and with my Whole30 experience, I think we both went into this feeling much more prepared.

We signed up with LOTFOTL Community Farm (Living Off the Fat of the Land), and are very excited about a few things they do:
  • They offer a smaller share option, which they encourage for CSA beginners. It's a reasonable amount to split between two people, and has some adventurous items, but not quite as many as their larger box. 
  • They have a swap box! We love to open and see what's in the swap box. We have taken good advantage of the swap box if we find there is something we would more likely eat. 
  • They have an awesome newsletter with great recipes and tips. Very helpful when familiarizing yourself with garlic scapes or celtuce for the first time. Plus, knowing what is coming helps for better meal planning. 
 My main goal for this CSA experience is to keep up with it. So far, so good.

My other Top Five Strategies:

1. Clean all of the greens right away and store them in the salad spinner. Seriously, this contraption is magic.

2. Cook and eat some of the veggies right away. This might seem obvious, but because we pick up our new veggies on Thursday, it's easy to skip on cooking through the weekend, and then I'm not even touching our produce until Sunday/Monday. At which point, I'm freaking out because there's another delivery on it's way in just a few days. When I commit using some of the veggies right away during our Thursday dinner, I feel a lot more committed to eating them through the weekend, even if we do eat out.

3. When in doubt, roast or grill it. Roasted radishes? Who knew! My sister taught me that life is easier if you just toss stuff in olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and then just keep it in the fridge for salad toppings.

4. Save scraps for stock. I have been making overnight chicken stock in my crock pot for awhile, but have recently started making vegetable stock too. It's a great way to use up the odds and ends. You can't use everything, but most things find their way into a plastic bag in the freezer for future use.

5. Keep  track of what you have. I put a list on the fridge of all of the veggies in the crisper drawer, so that it's not "out of sight, out of mind."

Have you done a CSA? What are some of your best recipes for your surprise veggies?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography

There is a photo from our wedding that I think about often. Almost a year later, the moment sticks with me. A bride ugly crying while her mom holds her and cries with her too. Beautiful and ugly at the same time.

It was captured in a moment where, amidst all of the happiness and joy of the day, I was deeply sad. I knew that our wedding day had the potential to be particularly hard, but I had no idea how it would hit me in that moment, watching Chris and his mom dance. That the ever present hole that is there would open up just a little bit wider in that moment and release all the feels right in the middle of something beautiful. Sadness. Embarrassment. Jealousy. Guilt. Shame.

Today marks 9 years since we said goodbye to my dad. I don't feel the loss in days. I feel it in moments.  I am still learning how to miss someone this much.

The tears can be tough. But they can also be healing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring Goals

It feels dangerous to even say the word...Spring.

Living in Wisconsin, I realize that we could still see some chilly weather ahead. Yet with some warm temps right now and the snow melting away, I can't help but get excited for fresh air and a change of season. Which also means it's a great time for new goals!

Looking back at my winter goals, my focus was definitely on finding focus. Focus in what I'm eating, focus on productivity and work. It all felt very serious. Which has definitely been great and I've done well. In mid-February, I completed my first Whole 30, and am continuing to carry a lot of the concepts forward. We have also done very well with grocery shopping, meal planning, and eating at home more. It has been great. And now, along with the fresh and air sunshine, I'd like to bring in more fun for spring!

In honor of the first day of Spring Break, here are my spring goals:

Eat: Pie! On Pi Day of course! This year is the most-Pi Day of all Pi Days, as it will be 3/14/15. So in celebration with my fellow nerds across the world, I'll be eating some pie at 9:26 am tomorrow.

Drink: Some Guinness for St. Patty's Day. It brings me back to our awesome honeymoon in Ireland, and I love celebrating our Irish heritage. Responsibly, of course. No need for a green beer, give me the good stuff (although, it definitely does taste better in Ireland, in case you were curious). I am also excited to check out the St. Patty's parade here in Milwaukee tomorrow.

Read: More books! I've finished 12 of the 52 for this year already in the Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge. Right now I am reading Looking for Alaska by John Green, to check off "A popular author's first book." I would love suggestions for the following categories if you have them:
  • A book written by someone under 30
  • A funny book
  • A book of short stories
  • A book with antonyms in the title
  • A book with bad reviews (?)
  • A graphic novel
  • A book by an author with my initials...KD...anyone?
Watch: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Have you seen it? It's totally spunky and upbeat - the perfect show for Ellie Kemper. After binge watching House of Cards Season Three in one season, it's also the exact opposite kind of show. Which is great for restoring my hope in the world.

Listen: To audio books! I've been mixing in audio books with my podcasts, which is part of how I've been able to get through books more quickly. Why not listen to a book while doing dishes or folding laundry? It's great! And I love a good funny book, like Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler, Bossypants by Tina Fey, or Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling.

Wear: Clothes from my new slimmed down closet. One of my decluttering tasks over the winter was to pare down to the basics in my closet. Those items that I really love and/or wear all the time. It's amazing how many things I pulled out that either still had tags on them, or were just not in great shape to keep wearing. Or those items that I don't feel my best in when I wear them. Right now all of the items that came out are in a temporary storage location (laundry basket). If I pull them out to wear over the next few months, they are in consideration to make a return to the closet. Otherwise, they'll go.

Finish: Decluttering. Right now it's still in progress, which also means our house is a bit messy. So I need to wrap this up so we can do a thorough spring clean.

Plan: For our garage sale! We have now been in our place for over three years, and we've definitely accumulated stuff along the way that could do well to find a new home. Plus there is all that stuff that we moved in and put directly in our basement and haven't looked at in years. Once the snow melts, it will be time to put out our junk for others to find and love.

Create: An inviting space in our dining room that isn't a dining room. A sitting room, perhaps? Previously, it has been a room primarily functioning as a drop space for clutter. We took out the desk - the biggest drop zone we have, and are in the process of cleaning and re-imagining the space. I think it could be a great place for reading books. Stay tuned!

Find: Calm through Yoga and Meditation. I know that many folks find yoga to be an important part of their wellness routine. The first few times I tried it didn't go very well, and so I have always resisted going back. And then, I finally decided to just give it a shot again and signed up through a class at work. It is on Fridays over the lunch hour, and the first class was great. I'm excited to go back. And I'm doing another meditation cycle with the Deepak and Oprah 21-day meditation experience on Manifesting True Success which starts on Monday.

Stop: Making excuses and start running again. I really do miss running. Hoping to train for a fall half marathon again and also add some fun runs into my summer. I know it won't be fun to get started again after so much sitting on my butt, but it's worth the tough part to get back into shape.

Go: To Boston! We are so excited to make a spring trip out East. We will get to see family, go to a few Red Sox games, and explore the city a bit. I'm taking any suggestions folks have of must-sees and must-eats in Beantown. Send 'em my way!

Celebrate: One year of marriage to the best person in the whole world! I can't wait for our first anniversary in May.

What are your spring goals?!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


One of the first unspoken expectations that I think most folks hear and internalize when they go into Student Affairs is that your time is not your own. I don't think we are outright told this, but it is made pretty clear in most job descriptions that student affairs means working nights and weekends. It makes sense - student life doesn't happen in the 9 to 5. Some jobs are more regular business hours than others, but you can usually find folks still on campus in some office after the official work day has ended. And often, how our time is spent often feels established by the students with whom we work.

My entry into student affairs involved a graduate assistantship where I was regularly working over the 20 hours I was paid for. I'm not alone, I have found that is true for most grads. Eager for experience and opportunities to learn, they cram it all in and say yes to everything, just like I did. A snarky twentysomething at the time, I once turned in my actual hours for the week on my timesheet. It was somewhere around 55, and I don't know that it was even a week with a giant program. That was quickly met with an e-mail reminding me "We can only pay you for twenty hours, so you can only put twenty on the timesheet. Please redo this." Message received. I knew what I was doing and that it would get sent back, but I also wanted to make sure there was an awareness of how my time was being spent. I didn't repeat it, but I did continue to track for myself.

When I jumped into my first job, eager to build relationships with students and be a "good advisor," I made sure to be at every single meeting and event. It was important to me to show my students that I was investing in them, and that I cared about them being successful as leaders and in their organizations. I was living in a new city where I didn't know too many folks, minus colleagues from work who became friends, and the two grad school friends who had also moved to the same city. We all had crazy hours, and throwing ourselves into work was just what we all did. When we weren't working, we were together, commiserating about all of the hours we worked. I distinctly remember a moment where a coworker and I asked our boss if we could move into one of the student apartments on campus so that we didn't have to worry about the time it would take to get home to our own places and sleep in our own beds. Our office had a couch that more than one of us napped on. If it had a shower, we would have been set and moved right in. Thankfully, once we got some sleep in us, we realized that was probably a terrible idea.

Things took a turn when a new supervisor set the policy that, no matter how late we worked the night before, we were expected to be in the office from 8:30-5 pm everyday. We were a business, and there would be no such thing as flexing our hours. For those of us averaging more than a few nights leaving campus at 11 pm or later due to student meetings/events and late night programs, it became clear that the value wasn't necessarily on our health and well being as individuals. It was also made quite clear that if we didn't want to do it any more, another fresh graduate of a students affairs program would gladly take our entry-level student affairs job. As this message was delivered, I watched a colleague crumble inside. She would regularly work a 24-hour day when she'd be leading students through concert production. And she was told that didn't matter. Because our supervisor lived to work, so should we. I imagine that this is sadly also a shared experience for some others in the field, although I hope less and less so.

A former supervisor, who had experienced major health issues after basically wearing herself out trying to keep up, told us to be careful and not make the same mistakes that she did. At that point, many of us chose to move on, because it simply wouldn't be sustainable any longer and we weren't feeling valued. The quality of experience we were creating didn't matter as much as being present in the office did. Although I left that position then, I will admit that it has taken me almost four years to realize how much that experience has impacted how I have viewed and valued myself as a student affairs professional. While it should have said more about her, I took it for what it said about me - that I couldn't hack it any more and that I was easily replaceable.

When I started my current position, I didn't actually have many night and weekend commitments. My position was brand new, and I had the opportunity to define much of what I'd be doing. Exactly the type of position I love. But one that can be dangerous for someone like me. I found the standard hours to be boring and missing the excitement of student meetings and events. Over the past four years, my position has grown around me as we have built new things. I started out advising one group, and now advise seven. I have given the opportunity to help plan campus traditions. Every new meeting or event has been something connected to my personal philosophy of student affairs and the mission of our program and department. And most of them are things that I considered highly important. It wasn't until this past December that I realized I hadn't seen much of my husband since our October honeymoon had ended. Our glorious honeymoon where I had time to relax, explore, and eat. Between both of our work commitments, our schedules were out of sync. And we needed another one already for some quality time together.

The thing is, most of the time, the time commitment was and is honestly really fun. I got into the field because my passion is helping students to develop their passions - and I actually get to do it, everyday. Some of my favorite memories are from spending spring break on service trips to Appalachia with fraternity & sorority leaders, bonding over gummi bears and cheese balls while on a retreat, or traveling to a conference. Why would I say no to this? The night and weekend events are some of the best parts of my job. And when the students you advise ask you to come to a program or event that they've planned, or actually enjoy you sitting in on their meetings, you don't question it. You just do.

But the whole thing goes back to sustainability. Burnout is huge in our field, which I don't think is a surprise. So many student affairs professionals invest all that they have into their jobs until they don't have anything to give anymore. I am not there yet, but I was definitely feeling drained as the fall semester closed. And I began to realize that my ability to keep doing what I have been doing is running out.  If Chris and I had a family tomorrow, we wouldn't be able to handle our current schedule. It's not happening tomorrow, but it's a possibility that I want to be able to consider without being completely overwhelmed.

So I consciously made an ask to my supervisor. "My goal for next semester is to work less nights and weekends." I asked for permission to try to get students to move some of their meetings to business hours. Or to at least help me stack them so that I might stay one or two nights a week. He not only said "of course," he also encouraged me to set my boundaries and stick to them. He values my personal wellness, and that sometimes simply not being at work is important.

Although I was nervous to do it, I simply put out the ask to the students with whom I work.

"Hey, one of the things I'm trying to work on is better work/life integration. I know that scheduling meetings across a bunch of folks is hard, but could we possibly look at meetings either during the work day, or right at 5 pm? I'm hoping to avoid nights where I'm here later as I'm feeling stretched. If later works better, I'd like to limit to no more than two nights a week"

The responses I got were awesome. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but not a single person questioned what I was asking. Y'all, Students Get It.

I will repeat for fellow Student Affairs Pros who need to hear it again: Students Get It.

At one meeting, a student said "I totally respect that" when I admitted that I was trying to have more time with family.

Another sent out the e-mail asking fellow members to share their availability and that we were looking for late afternoon or early evening hours, without even mentioning that it was to accommodate me.

When one meeting was scheduled for 8:30 pm on Thursdays because that was the only time that worked for members, I asked if I could call into the meeting from home, rather than coming back to campus. The students agreed that was totally reasonable and that we would do what we needed to do to make it work. My commute is fairly short, but calling in while sitting on my couch in sweatpants makes a huge psychological difference, especially if I have already gone home.

It's amazing how many meetings we were able to make work at 3 or 4 pm. It is doable. And it doesn't make me a bad student affairs professional. I like to think I'm modeling better choices. I will still be on campus some nights for evening programs and events, but it will be on a more reasonable schedule. And it will mean more dinners at home.

I have come to the conclusion that time is all that we really have. Things don't really matter. How we spend our time and the experiences that we create with that time do. Even the ones that are seemingly mundane. Sometimes the greatest joy I get is from throwing a glitter ball for my overweight cat and watching her eyes get big as she wiggles her butt, ready to chase. Or sharing in the shoveling responsibilities with my husband, on snowy days like today. Or taking the time to make a dinner with delicious ingredients, and then sitting down to enjoy. Jack's Pizza is great (don't argue me on that), but I enjoy not eating it three nights a week because I'm cooking dinner at 7 or 8 pm and I know that it takes exactly 13 minutes at 425 degrees. Time spent meal planning, cleaning my apartment, and preparing for the week ahead is time well spent.

I wrote this tonight because I know how many others share parts of this story. I am thankful to know friends and colleagues who have made choices to focus on different parts of their lives and to message that it's okay to reflect, reevaluate, and make changes. At the end of the day, I am still achieving my goal of helping students find their passions. I am still getting my work done. And most of the time, when I feel that sense of urgency on something, it's usually coming from me, and only me. That's a tough reminder with all going on in the State of Wisconsin around higher education right now. It's easy to feel undervalued. I think many folks do. But I can choose to continue to do good in my work and to stay student-centered.

For me, 2015 is about taking the opportunity to rewrite my story. I do not have to be stressed and overwhelmed. I can be healthy in what I am eating, how and with whom I am spending my time, and what I am telling myself about my value.  I am choosing joy.    

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

All About the Veggies - A Whole30 Update

Tonight's Salsa Chicken
You may have seen in my winter goals post that I'm currently doing Whole30. Today marks Day Sixteen. Past the halfway mark and I'm feeling great!

If you haven't heard of Whole30, it's basically a 30-day nutritional reset. You take out all processed foods, as well as sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains, with the plan to get rid of your cravings and get your digestive and immune systems back to a better place. It's also used by folks to figure out if they might have food allergies or sensitivities that are contributing to them feeling icky. It's not a diet, exactly. You don't count calories. Yes, most folks lose weight. But that isn't the purpose, and you aren't supposed to weigh yourself while participating. Some folks just do it for thirty days. Others adopt the principles as a lifestyle change.

Basically, for thirty days I am focused on eating fruits, veggies, eggs, meat, and some nuts and seeds.

For me, signing up for this was about a few things:
  • Noticing and hopefully changing some of my bad habits. I eat a ton of snacks, none of them good for me. And I'm not good about eating them in moderation. If there is a box of Cheeze-Its in our house, they never last very long. Lots of salty processed snacks and a whole lot of sugar - that needs to go.
  • Introducing more fruits and veggies into my diet. I buy them. But they typically go to the crisper drawer to die. I am much more likely to be eating convenience food, and making meal time decisions at meal time, rather than planning ahead and ensuring a healthy balance of nutrients. On Whole30, I am eating a huge portion of veggies at every meal, even breakfast. It's an adjustment, but a positive one. 
  • Eating real food. I tend to take advantage of a lot of convenience food. Mainly due to lack of planning and/or laziness. There isn't room for that here!
  • I'm also hoping for the benefits of: better sleep, clearer skin, and more energy. Especially during winter, I'm super lethargic. And while the weather and hours of darkness are a key part of that, I'd imagine some of what I'm eating is a contributing factor.
So how is it going so far? Well, Day One and Two were pretty hard. I think that was mainly because I wasn't super excited about what I was eating those days. I actually woke up with a migraine on Day One, and so my day was pretty thrown off eating wise. I still followed the plan, but I didn't eat anything until almost 2:30 in the afternoon because I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it down (gross, I know). When I'm sick all I want is ginger ale and crackers, but I made it work and didn't cheat. But an unexpected Day One also meant that I didn't get to the grocery store, and so I was pretty limited for options for Day Two. I never had any headaches from taking out the soda and grains, like some folks have, but I was certainly a little crabby/hungry most of the day. I also spent a lot of time thinking about what I couldn't have on those days. I was craving anything and everything, even stuff I wouldn't usually want, like pudding. All I was thinking about was food.

But Days Three-Fifteen have been great! I've been excited about my meals and have found that I look forward to different things than I would have in the past. And little things like including fresh herbs on a salad or grabbing a handful of olives for a little something extra with my meal make a huge difference. I am also usually feeling full and satisfied. I've had several meals where I couldn't finish the whole lunch I packed. No hunger.    

Some of the things I've noticed:

I'm spending a lot more time cooking and doing dishes. That shouldn't have been a huge surprise, as I've cut out a lot of the convenience food. But I have to think beyond just my next meal to three meals a day throughout the week. This means that sometimes I'm not just cooking our dinner, but also chopping veggies for my lunch the next day, while simultaneously hard-boiling eggs so that I'll have them for breakfast for the rest of the week. Lots of dirty dishes at our house.

Our grocery bill is a little bit higher. I'm doing my best to find good meat and produce deals and to not overbuy, but with the much high quantities of meat and veggies being consumed, it's definitely a change. But...

We are eating out a lot less. This includes our "we're too lazy to cook tonight" trips for fast food and those mid-day trips down to get a snack or a coffee. So I would imagine our grocery bill will even out with the other food we usually buy.

Planning is huge. To make sure that we aren't wasting leftovers or throwing away rotten produce, I have to make a plan for the week, shop accordingly, defrost things on time, and stay on track. No last minute "what do I want to have decisions.

Finding meals that work for both of us is important. Chris isn't doing Whole30 with me, but it is important to me that we are eating mostly the same thing. Sometimes it means that eat spaghetti squash and sauce while Chris has spaghetti. Or my taco meat is on a salad, while his is in a shell. There are a lot of more adventurous recipes online look delicious, but may not work for the two of us. But you can totally do this with the basics, like grilled meat and veggies, without it getting too boring.

While there are foods that I miss, I don't crave them in the same way. Sure, I have a pang of jealousy when someone walks past with french fries, and going to the movies and not getting popcorn is hard, but I don't feel the urge to instantly go get every food that I think of. When I already have a plan for what I am eating, I am so much less likely to deviate with a piece of pizza or a burger. My hope is that those would become an every once in awhile treat, rather than a regular part of my week. And I do have some foods that feel like a treat....almond butter!

We have also found some great new recipes. Some of the things I've eaten this month:
  • Taco salad bowls
  • Crockpot beef stew
  • Turkey burger sliders with sweet potato buns
  • Eggs, eggs, and more eggs! Not sick of em yet. 
  • Mini-meatloafs
  • Baked citrus chicken
  • Pork chops with apples and onions
  • Thai red curry with chicken and veggies, plus cauliflower rice
  • Healing chicken soup
  • Crockpot salsa chicken
Here's to a bunch of other great meals during the second half!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dinner for Two

It started with a couch.

When we got back from our honeymoon, we bought a couch that we'd been eyeing for some time. This beauty. A couch that led to an adventure to/from the Chicago suburbs twice in one day, and couch assembly beginning around 11:30 pm. Long story.

Our old couch told the story of cat snuggles and more than one food spill that didn't quite come out. We were determined to keep from staining this one, at least anytime soon.

But the thing is, we eat most of our meals at our couch. Or at least we did. It's a habit that we both got into while living alone that sort of carried over when we began living together. Not out of any bad intention, just something that happened. My guess is that eating in front of the tv surrounded by devices is pretty normal for most single folks - there's some comfort in the noise. We have a kitchen table that was used more for drying clean dishes (no dishwasher), storing our yet-to-be-used wedding presents, and as a work station for my dissertation research.

So we set out to make our kitchen a bit more organized, and to eat our dinners at the table. Together. At  dinner time. It might seem like a silly goal, but as there are many nights and weekends that one of us is working or volunteering, it was a habit that we would have to build.

We've been eating dinner in our little kitchen nook regularly for a month now. It's nice. It is a built-in time to catch up with each other without being distracted or semi-present because of a show on tv or something on our phones. And we eat more real food. Side salads almost every night - what?! Feels so grown up. It has also kept me focused on having a plan for meals and not just throwing in a Jack's pizza at the last minute because nothing is defrosted or we don't have the right ingredients. I get excited about picking out what we are going to have and cooking and dishes don't quite seem so tedious.

I think it also is keeping me focused on prioritizing family. I want to be home for dinner every night that I can. Because it's special. And it's our time together.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Goals

My first Winter project!
The holiday season is over, and it's safe to say that it's officially winter. With the dumping of snow we got over the weekend, followed by some chilly temps, we just can't deny it any more.

I decided to set some Winter Goals to create some motivation to push me through the lack of sunshine.

Eat: Good, healthy, non-processed foods. Because for the next month, I'm doing Whole30 with a friend. It's time for a bit of a reset after the holidays. It's not so much about weight loss, but rather getting rid of some of my bad habits. We start next week!

Drink: Tea. Delicious tea. Warms me right up on a cold evening, and goes great with the latest book or knitting project.

Read: 52 books this year! I've already finished the first two. To keep it interesting, I'm working on the Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge. So far I have crossed out: A book with a number in the title, and a book originally written in a different language. I'm working on a book that was made into a movie.

Watch: We started binge-watching Friends over the break and are now on season three. One of my goals is to supplement that with some of the different documentaries on there. Mix in some learning with the fun. I am also hoping to get to the movies a few more times - The Imitation Game, American Sniper, Wild, and Into the Woods are all on my list.

Listen: To the Overdue podcast. It's two guys talking about books. I love books! I just found this recently, and have been listening to the episodes of the books that I've read while I'm cooking or doing the dishes. Then I'm planning to go back and listen to the episodes of the books I haven't read, to get some inspiration for new stuff to add to my reading list.

Wear: After wearing my jammies pretty much all break, it's back to dressing for work again. And this winter, I'm mixing in all of the awesome scarves I have!

Make: A vision board for 2015.

Start: Decluttering. I have a few different organization tasks that I hope to tackle during these weeks when the students are still away. Time to pitch, donate, and refocus on experiences instead of things. Step one is to take down our Christmas decorations.

Finish: My dissertation proposal edits. Still chugging right along, but hoping to focus a bit more.

Stop: Playing games on my phone. It's such a time suck, and keeps me from spending quality time with my husband. I'm working on other ways to decompress at the end of the day, like reading, listening to podcasts, and knitting again.

Go: On walks. Yes, this might sound crazy with how cold it is and the fact that I'm clumsy to begin with let alone when there is ice on the ground. However, I think that getting out into the fresh air for 20 minutes or so every day, will help me to keep from hibernating on my couch all winter long and becoming a grouchy pants.

Find: Time for cooking and meal planning. After the holidays, I'm ready to get back into a regular schedule and eat more meals together at our kitchen table. With Whole30, I have to do a lot of planning to make sure that I'm prepared and don't end up cheating and/or starving. But, I also have a lot more fun with cooking and try new recipes when I put time into our monthly meal plans. It's where I've found some of our favorite things to eat.   

Focus: On being productive. During the Winterim on campus, it can seem like we have all of the time in the world for planning. It really goes by fast though, and I want to make sure I make good progress on my projects.

What are your winter goals?
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