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Grace, grit, and the Whole30

Monday, June 12th, 2017

In my most cliché move yet, I’m now on the Whole30.

If you aren’t familiar, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet that cuts out everything that makes me who I am: sugar, dairy, grains, and alcohol (also legumes and soy, although those mean less to me). It’s popular with girls on Instagram and your boss’s wife.

The Whole30 is reserved for the wealthy, since my first week’s grocery run ran me nearly five times my normal food budget. Granted, I have been known to subsist on Wheat Thins, popcorn, and cheese, which means that I typically budget $30/week for food (don’t judge, I hate myself enough for this already), but still. Look at me — I’m so rich, I can cut out entire food groups!

See you never, ice cream.

Here is what one can eat while on the Whole30: vegetables, meat, seafood, fruit, eggs, and healthy fats. The only processed food allowed is, say, a sweet potato that’s been shredded through the food processor. If it’s convenient or comes in a package, chances are very good that it’s very bad. Thou shalt make thine own condiments. And don’t even glance at that perfectly chilled glass of summer rosé — eyes up here, buddy.

Does it sound awful? It sort of does to me, which is why it’s taken me so long to try it. But I finally decided it was time. Here’s why.

ANNIE GOES TO THE HOSPITAL
Twelve days before I ran the Fargo Marathon, I landed myself in the ER.

During my training, I had basically become a human garbage dumpster, eating anything and everything in sight. It wasn’t really a problem from a caloric standpoint since I was burning it off, but it led to me feeling free to do things like order the pizza AND the tacos AND the potstickers — a United-Junk-Food-Nations. Nutrition mattered not; I was a human Hoover.

Until one night in May when I was hit with the worst crippling abdominal pain of my entire life. The pain was so severe that the adrenaline was causing my limbs to convulse; I honestly thought I was having a seizure. My next-door neighbor rushed me to the hospital, where I was given fluids for dehydration and a lecture for being bottomed out on nutrients.

Dumb? Avoidable? Probably. I would start a GoFundMe for the yet-to-be-received bill, except knowing me I would just ask for payment in wine. Which brings me to my next point.

ANNIE THE WINE-O
Here are the occasions in which I have been known to justify a glass of wine:

  • When I’m happy (hooray!)
  • When I’m sad (wallow wallow)
  • When I’m with friends (celebrate fun times!)
  • When I’m alone (I call this “vice-olation”)
  • When I have a great meal (wouldn’t be complete without it)
  • When I have a lame meal (you know what would make this sad popcorn taste better…?)
  • When I cook at all (Cabernet while I chop)
  • When I’m bored (a nice way to pass an evening)
  • When I’m stressed (gotta relax and unwiiiind)
  • When I go on a trip (special occasion)
  • When I get back from a trip (good to be home!)
  • When life just feels like a little too much (take that edge off, then sleep like crap and wake up thirsty)

Now, don’t fret — this has not been happening on a daily basis. But I was just starting to find that it was happening more often than it should. I have allowed alcohol to play a stronger role than it needs to in my life, and the collective effect has been me waking up with low-level shame. Gross.

Alcohol has often been the path of least resistance for me, but it doesn’t need to be. I don’t need to numb out, because life has already shown me that I can do hard things. Which leads me to…

GRACE AND GRIT
In my 20s, I was a real hard-ass, especially when it came to myself. I set huge goals and accomplished them. I got the jobs I applied for, and even ones that I didn’t. I restricted calories to be skinny. I boldly moved across the country multiple times. I manipulated to make myself look good on the Internet. I did impressive things so I could impress people and therefore be an impressive person.

But in my 30s, there was a shift. I got tired and my heart broke in two and I couldn’t keep up so I just decided to give myself grace.

I slowed down. I stopped striving. I bought clothes a size bigger. I sought contentment with the way things are instead of struggling toward the way I wished they would be. I stopped caring so much about what other people think, and decided instead to just be happy.

This all sounds great — and a lot of it is — but there’s been a shadow side.

All of those big goals I used to have? I started letting them slide. I would commit to something and then, in the name of grace, drop out. I would dream up something major, then abandon it before even starting because “You should go easy on yourself, Annie.” I let myself off the hook, over and over again — and before I knew it, it had been years since I’d accomplished much of anything.

And for a girl who at a very core level loves to knock it out of the park, that started to feel like a bummer.

So I ran a marathon. And now I’m doing the Whole30. Because grace and grit are not mutually exclusive, and I’m due for some good old-fashioned Annie-in-her-20s EMOTIONAL VICTORY.

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Don’t worry, I will not ceaselessly post my meals to Instagram. But if I see you and you’re eating Cheetos, you’re dead to me.

Matters of the Fox

Monday, August 17th, 2015

If you know me even a little bit, you know that Foxy is my favorite thing in this whole world. For as much as a dog can fill the role, she’s the love of my life.

So it breaks my heart to know that she is sad.

This transition has been rough on my pup. We were separated for a month before she made the cross-country move, and then we stayed at a friend’s house for a week before moving into our new house. Since I had been working from home in Colorado (thus around all day long), she’s having a tough time adjusting to me being gone at an office during work hours. For the first few days, she would be anxiously excited when I would get home – now, she won’t even come downstairs when I open the door.

She is mad at me.

Foxy_stairs

When we moved into the house two weeks ago, she went on a hunger strike; she didn’t eat a thing for over four days. Her food just sat there in the dish. I tried to tempt her by sprinkling it with cheddar cheese or chicken grease, but it made no difference. Eventually she cracked (of course she did), but this dog is sensitive, and she’s never had an issue proving her point – especially when it comes to eating.

Some dogs are motivated by food. Foxy is not. With the exception of rotisserie chicken skin and the occasional bite of cheese, she’s just not interested. Even if I give her a dog treat – supposedly a tasty little morsel of joy – I’ll usually find it later dropped in a corner. (As someone who wants all the food, all the time, I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.)

And when it comes to kibble, forget about it. I’ve tried a variety of well-known, grain free, highly recommended (and rather expensive) brands, and it’s always the same: Foxy Brains don’t care.

So when Solid Gold contacted me to see if Foxy would be interested in trying their products, I figured it was worth a try.

When I worked for LÄRABAR, it was always easy for me to evangelize the brand because of two things: the simplicity of the bars (2-9 ingredients, just fruits, nuts, and spices), and the taste (delicious). In a world of processed foods, it’s nice to find options made of recognizable ingredients that still taste good – and wouldn’t you know, for as much as one can find it in a kibble, that’s what I’ve found in Solid Gold.

From their website:
Our mission is to create the kind of nutrition that will change pets’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. That’s why, for over 40 years, we’ve scoured the earth looking for simple, natural ingredients that unleash the very best in your pet, which we call their “inner gold!” We are interested in much more than just a healthy, natural diet – we strive to provide a way of life that allows each pet to fulfill their destiny, while looking and feeling great! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your pet happy inside and out.

Happy inside and out – that’s all I want for my dog.

Foxy has been on Solid Gold’s Barking at the Moon formula for the past week – and the first time I scooped it into her dish, she walked over, sniffed it, and ate the entire bowl. I couldn’t believe it – this, from the dog that sees food as nothing but an expendable nuisance. In the days since, she has continued eating at least one meal a day – not up to the two meals that the vet recommends, but consistently more than she usually eats.

Barking at the Moon is grain free and gluten free, and made with beef, eggs, peas, carrots, pumpkin, apples, blueberries, cranberries, and other wholesome ingredients. And like all Solid Gold products, it’s made in the USA, with zero ingredients sourced from China.

barking_at_the_moon

I’m off work for the next two weeks, sticking around Minneapolis to work on some house projects and take care of all of those dumb life-change details like finding a dentist, filling out my 401K paperwork, and weeding my flowerbeds. Mostly, I just want to spend some time with my dog. Yesterday we went to the Minnehaha off-leash park, and Foxy ran along the Mississippi River and chased a German Shepherd named Molly in and out of the water. She ran like crazy and dug in the sand, and for an hour, I saw the happy dog I know and love resurface.

It’s too early to know if Solid Gold will make a major difference in her energy and mood – but right now, she’s eating. And that’s a great place to start. I’ll keep you posted.

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Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post, but I did receive a sample for my (and Foxy’s) review. I am not a scientist or a veterinarian. Opinions expressed here are my own.

Trail food

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

This is the week! I leave on Saturday to hoof it across this beautiful state on the Colorado Trail. I am wrapping up details at work, trying to get my roof repaired (this is cutting it very close), writing out instructions for those taking care of Foxy, and triple checking my packing list.

The most complicated piece of the planning has been one of two things: arranging for food drops, or planning the food itself. Neither thing is completely ironed out yet – but I’m getting close on the food plan. It’s been awhile since I talked at you, so I made a video.

Trail Food from Annie Parsons on Vimeo.

Steaking her claim

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Foxy and I spent the weekend in Steamboat Springs visiting some dear friends.

This is how I know they are dear friends.

On Saturday night, they made an incredible meal: steak, baked potatoes, salad, wine. We were laughing and enjoying conversation, when all of a sudden Amy yelled, “The dog has the steak!”

Sure enough, Foxy had gotten up on the counter and dragged an entire flank of delicious red meat down to the kitchen floor, where she was helping herself.

Absolutely mortified, I sprang into action, grabbing the puppy and swatting her nose – “Bad dog! Bad dog!” Then I lifted all 35 pounds of her and carried her upstairs where I forcefully locked her in her kennel. “Bad dog!” I scolded one last time, and then headed back down to join the dinner, embarrassed and disgraced – because it’s an odd thing to feel responsible for a living, breathing creature that you actually sometimes have no control over.

When I arrived back at the table spilling over with apology, PJ shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ehhh, we threw it back on the grill. Nothing that 500 degrees won’t kill.” And when he brought it back to the table, we ate it anyway.

THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.

And the next morning when we went for a hike, Foxy, still drunk on red-blooded protein, grabbed joy by the jugular and LIVED IT UP.

Foxy

Food, glorious food

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In the midst of this crazy season, I am trying hard to make healthy choices. I’m regularly meeting with my counselor, and she’s shepherding me through some precarious territory. I’m facing a lot of the ugly stuff head on, and praying – really praying – for the first time in years. I’m staying as active as I can, and sleeping as much as I can, and spending as much time with life-giving people as I can.

But my diet? It’s deplorable.

I mean, I’m good at breakfast – always have been. An egg on toast, a little bit of yogurt, two cups of coffee. And I always pack a lunch, so I don’t veer too far off course during the day. But dinner?

I’m so bad at dinner. Like, a-bag-of-croutons-and-a-glass-of-wine bad. Or, popcorn-and-a-popsicle bad. Or, nothing-bad. Given the amount of times my dinner is “nothing,” I should be Kiera Knightley-skinny. But I’m not – the Lord hath made my frame substantial – so yay, I’m just starving.

Sometimes I sit around dreaming about real dinners – meals that would actually taste like meals, and not just… Wheat Thins. I fantasize about what I want. But do I decide to fix myself these imaginary dream meals? Of course not.

I’m not sure why I just can’t get it together to make a proper dinner – it probably has to do with a lack of time, a lack of energy to plan, not wanting to stock my fridge when I’m out of town so often, and just living alone. Knowing how many of you cook on a regular basis – and then post gorgeous pictures of your food – it’s embarrassing to admit how bad I am at this. I’m the anti-ultimate woman.

But there HAVE to be options, right? Meals that EVEN I could make, without an abundance of time and/or effort?

If you have ideas for dinners that
a) are quick
b) are satisfying
c) are healthy
d) are simple to prepare and/or can be made in larger quantities and then eaten throughout the week…

… then please. I’m begging you. Share them. I’m so hungry.

“Written Together” by Shanna Mallon

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As is the case with so many people in Nashville, we had been sort of peripherally acquainted for a while. We had a lot of mutual friends, had been in the same room a few times, lurked around each other’s internet spaces – but I wouldn’t say that I really knew Tim Mallon.

So you can imagine my surprise back in 2010 when I had just finished running the Country Music Half-Marathon and looked up to see Tim – internet-acquainted but real-life-unfamiliar – making a beeline for me. Sweaty and disgusting is not the state in which you want to have your first real in-person interaction with anyone, man or woman, but Tim was unfazed: he gave me a hug and, after talking for a few minutes, we concluded that we should continue the conversation.

So a week later, I met Tim and his brother Nathan for coffee at Frothy Monkey. It was pouring rain that Saturday. The rain would continue for two days, and by Monday, Nashville would be under water – but we didn’t know that yet. We were just enjoying casual conversation, learning about each other’s families and each other’s work and why they had started drinking unpasteurized milk. Tim and Nathan are disarmingly genuine. I wish everyone could meet them.

Somewhere in the conversation, Tim mentioned Shanna. “We’re talking,” he said. And just as I always do when I hear about a crush, I got excited. “You’re talking?” I asked. “You’re talking to Shanna? Shannalee the blogger Shanna?”

He grinned. “Yeah! Shanna and I are talking.”

At the time, I was a new reader of Food Loves Writing – I don’t remember how I came across it, but once I found it, I was hooked. So much more than a foodie blog, Shanna weaves stories from her life into her experiences in the kitchen – her perspective is compelling, her heart absolutely beautiful. And the food that she makes – oh my word. The recipes send me into guilt spirals for standing in front of the fridge picking store-bought rotisserie chicken straight off the carcass and calling it “dinner.” Everything about her site is lovely and worthwhile. She’s one of my favorite voices on the internet.

And I couldn’t believe the coincidence: Tim Mallon, the Tim Mallon sitting right across from me, was talking to Shanna!

I’m going to spoil the ending: they kept talking. Shanna moved from Chicago to Nashville, and they got married. I met her in real life, too – a picnic lunch at Sevier Park, where we talked about struggles and faith and where this life might be leading each of us. She is every bit as wonderful in person as she is online.

And now, she has written a book – a book about that period in her life when she and Tim were talking, getting to know each other, falling in love. Written Together is a quick but gorgeous read, a story interspersed with recipes and details and hope. Last week, I put on my pajamas and crawled into bed, started reading and didn’t stop until I finished it. I loved it.

And I just wanted to tell you.

– – – – –

Written Together is available in both ebook and printed format. Shanna didn’t ask me to write about it – but if you want to support a couple who lives and loves in a way that is inspiring, I encourage you to get a copy or three.

Slow cooking

Monday, December 10th, 2012

My sister Becca is getting married next month (NEXT MONTH), so this weekend, my mom and sister Sarah came to town from Kansas City to help me throw her a bridal shower. The past three days were packed full of tasks and events and baking and set-up, and the house was packed full of friends and family, and my heart was packed full of the catch-22 that is this: I love people more than anything, and people exhaust me more than anything.

I’m afraid that this weekend, the exhaustion won.

After a weekend of non-stop action and interaction, I didn’t want to come home from work tonight and think about dinner. So before I left for work this morning, I pulled out the Crock-Pot, and threw in the makings for the easiest, most low-key, most delicious meal. I think I saw this on Pinterest at one point, although I have never had to go back and look at the recipe because it’s just that simple.

Throw the following into a slow cooker:
1 cup salsa
2 tbsp. fajita seasoning
2 tbsp. lime juice
3-4 chicken breasts, thawed and cut into 1” strips
3-4 bell peppers, cut into 1” strips
1 small onion, diced

Turn it on low for 7-8 hours. Do not worry about dinner all day long. Come home from work and find your house smelling like Mexican food heaven. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and sprinkle with some cheese. Eat. Let the dog lick the bowl when you’re finished.

There. No me gusta STRESS.

Have any favorite slow cooker recipes to share? I’m all about the Crock-Pot these days.

How to cut up a pineapple

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

I’ve known Roommate Hannah since childhood. In fact, here’s a picture of her and me from the days of yore.

That’s us at ages 10 and 15. This was around the time that Hannah thought that “Les Miserables” was, in fact, “Lame is Rob” – which is basically the best thing I have ever heard.

Anyway, Hannah is good at all sorts of things that I’m not good at – like sports and computers and wearing Nike shoes. She also knows how to cut up a pineapple – and yesterday, I made her teach me how.

Step 1: Cut off the top. Those leaves are spiky. Don’t bleed all over the fruit.

Step 2: Cut off the bottom. Now it should be shaped like a barrel. If it’s not shaped like a barrel, then you didn’t cut off the top and the bottom correctly and you probably don’t deserve to hold a knife.

Step 3: Cut the barrel in half, length-wise. Top to bottom. Longitudely, not latitudely.

Step 4: Cut the two halves in half again. Count up all of your halves – you should have four. Yes, four halves make a whole and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Step 5: It’s time to cut off the core. The only reason you would want to save the core is if you wanted to make a smoothie or if you are a giraffe. Otherwise, you are not allowed to keep it.

Step 6: Cut the four halves in half again. Now you will have eight, and fine, I’ll stop calling them “halves.”

I will call them “boats” instead.

Step 7: Take each boat and slice the flesh (HELLO, CLARICE) into… you know, slices. But don’t cut all the way through the rind, because look at Step 8.

Step 8: Cut off the rind.

Voila – now you have perfect little pineapple pieces – and, in my case, 15 years on the Annie that was pictured earlier in this post.  How has half a lifetime gone so quickly?

Maybe the better question is, how have almost 30 years passed without me ever having to cut up a pineapple?

In which I display a severe lack of cohesion (sorry)

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Some exciting news at work: new co-workers, new snacks.

Why is this cracking me up so much?

I’m flying to Kansas City tomorrow to 1) help my mom move into her new house, and 2) see him, him, and him.

I wish this was the appropriate place to talk about dating.  I might have to start a secret blog.

So many of my favorite clothes are wearing out – the staples.  The jeans.  The black pants.  The basic shirts.  I’m Raggedy Annie these days, threadbare and frayed.

I’ve decided to not be vegan (surprise, surprise).  It was a good experiment for a bit, but I think that the biggest take-away is just to eat more real food – which means cooking more – which is actually going to be great.

Tom Petty is coming to Denver?  WHO IS COMING WITH ME????!?

If this is true, let the record state that I predicted this long ago.  So cliché.

Lately

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, the world has not opened up and swallowed me whole.  Despite my silence in this space, I’ve been out and about, alive and kicking, moving and shaking, grabbing life by the horns (or whatever).

I’m not so delusional to think that my absence from the internet has ruined anyone’s life.  But my mom said that she misses my blog.  So I’m saying hello.

A few weeks ago, I completely paid off my credit card – and promptly cut it up into little pieces.  For me, a credit card has been a crutch to help me live beyond my means, and I just grew tired of having my money already spoken for whenever I would get a paycheck.  I can’t tell you how freeing it was when I got paid the other day to be able to choose where to put my money – which, for now, means throwing cash at paying off my car.  I’m not completely out of debt yet, but after years of feeling like I just couldn’t make any progress, in the last few months I’ve started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, of course, not having a credit card has some downfalls.  I can’t purchase anything that I don’t have the money for RIGHT NOW.  This means that I’ve had to say no to several travel opportunities, which is tough for me.  For the past two years, I’ve rarely stayed in the same place for more than 10 days at a time, and spent a lot of money flying to see the people who are important to me.  But for now, those days are over – and the only tickets I can buy are more of a “sacrifice” than a “given.”

But as you may recall, commitment means freedom, and in the past few months of generally staying put, I have been growing some friendships here in Denver.  I’ve been social – maybe even too social (for this introvert) – and am learning a new work/life balance.

When walking outside to my car this morning, it was 55 degrees and smelled like spring.  Supposedly, March is Denver’s snowiest month, so we’re not out of the woods yet, but… I can’t tell you how hopeful that scent of dry dirt was.

Dry dirt = hope.  Someday I will write poetry.

I’ve embraced a “sort of vegan” diet as an experiment for a month.  So far, I feel like hell and would wring a cow’s neck for a slice of cheese.  Initially, I gave up meat, dairy, and eggs, but have reclaimed eggs with a vengeance, so I am definitely not living a full-on vegan lifestyle.  I feel very scatterbrained and willy-nilly about this whole thing, and while I recognize that our food system is scarily screwed up, I think that there are a lot of ways to “vote with your dollar” and make better nutritional choices.  I’m not sure that I’ll stick with the whole “no meat, no dairy” thing – but I’m giving it a few more weeks to see how I feel.

I’m late to the party on this, but Whitney Houston died.  What a tragic, senseless ending to a life of a woman who, at one point, had everything stacked in her favor.  Didn’t we almost have it all, Whitney?  Ugh.  It’s just so cliché, and so sad.  I ran across this isolated track of her vocals on “How Will I Know.”  She was incredible.

If you’re wondering about how Toad is doing, you should know that she fearlessly and ferociously chased a raccoon off our front yard the other night. She is a champion.

For those of you who I’ve been out of touch with, I’m sorry. I probably owe 80% of my friends some kind of personal communication. Life is different these days, and I’m just trying to find my stride. In the meantime, know that I’m thinking of you (even if I’m not buying a plane ticket to see you), and wishing that everyone that I loved could live in the same place.