Paleo AIP and Me: The Entrees (Part 2)

PART 2

In my last post, I wrote about how I learned about Paleo AIP and what it’s done for me. I wanted to share that for others that may be struggling with autoimmune disorders, and it’s gotten to a point where they’re willing to make a big change so they can heal. Changing your life in this drastic fashion is hard. But when you see results like I did, no psoriasis and no cycle pain, well, it’s hard to go back. Plus, I feel amazing now that I’m eating healthy. A week before my surgery, my husband and I fell, well jumped really, off the wagon. After two days, he says to me, “When can we start eating paleo again? I feel horrible.” We felt truly awful. And some of the food we had, we didn’t even like! Our tastes have changed, so low quality fast food just doesn’t do it anymore.

In this post, I wanted to share the recipes I’ve accumulated. And, because I’m no skilled chef, you can be assured that if you find a recipe here it’s doable. I must admit, I spend a lot more time cooking than I used to. So if you have other commitments that take up a lot of your time, going paleo will be difficult and you may have to search for sites that teach you how to cook in bulk or make use of a crock pot more often.

Without further adieu, here are my personal favorites. Some recipes are AIP, some are not but can easily be adjusted. Most were created by some very talented person that is not me. A few are my own creations that have helped us get by. All of the recipes have helped with healing.

Any recipe in peach text means I’ve made it before, but am not currently due to where I’m at regarding reintroductions. 

 

The Entree Recipes

Herb Chicken Nuggets

FoodCodes AllThis recipe is one of our absolute favorites. Throw in a veggie and some mashed cauliflower, and you have the makings of guiltless comfort food. And this AIP version of ketchup is the perfect dipping sauce for these nuggets. The only downside is that frying these guys up takes quite a while.

*notes: I usually double this recipe so we have leftovers, and I fry the nuggets in bacon fat

Italian Sausage Flatbread (AIP Pizza!)

FoodCodes All

Oh my goodness–WE. LOVE. THIS. The first time I made this, the smell was so good I had kept telling myself, “Rachel, calm down. This is AIP so don’t get your hopes up.” Then we ate it and were so happy! This is so good! Even my husband agrees. He’s demanded a weekly pizza night.

notes: I cook the ground pork and veggie toppings in bacon fat, I make 2 crusts at once so I can use all the toppings and then we each get our own pizza

Beef Layer Casserole

FoodCodes AllThe first time I made this I thought to myself, “I could make this for anyone–this is just good food!” Not only does this taste great, but our family of two has leftovers for several days and it’s nice to have meat, veggies and a carb all combined into one dish.

*notes: using brown mushrooms is a must: skipping them or using white results in a dish with a lot less flavor; omit the black pepper for Paleo AIP

Magic “Chili”

FoodCodes AllSo, this isn’t really anything close to chili except that it’s made in a big pot and has ground beef. Sometimes the names of these dishes get your tastebuds going in the wrong direction. Regardless, this is still very good. It’s especially good during the winter time, and the bone broth gives you a big nutritional boost that you can actually feel.

*notes: feel free to throw in additional veggies on this one (I throw in sweet potato so it’s more filling and to help make sure I’m getting enough carbs); you could use store-bought broth but in the end you’ll lose a lot of flavor and nutrition

Hawaiian Salmon

FoodCodes AllWhen sockeye salmon is on sale, I get at least a pound and then it takes about 15 minutes to prep this meal…depending on the number of pin bones I have to pull out, but I digress. I get the salmon into the oven, and then empty a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies into some bacon fat, along with garlic, riced cauliflower, coconut aminos and some salt. Serve the salmon on top of the veggie mixture and it’s a full meal.

notes: check the salmon while it’s in the oven–I’ve overcooked it by just going strictly with the recipe

Julia Child’s Classic Roast Chicken (AIP Makeover)

FoodCodes AllMy husband just loves roasted chicken. So it’s nice to make 2 at once so we have plenty of leftovers. For AIP, omit any black pepper and replace the ghee with olive oil. I rub both chickens with a mix of turmeric, garlic powder and salt, and then with olive oil. I stuff the inside with lemons and onions (I rarely have fresh thyme on hand). That’s it! Just put them in the oven. I add carrots, onions and sweet potatoes coated in olive oil and some salt for the vegetables you add in later.

notes: remember the linked recipe is not AIP–see my notes above for the changes

Paleo Orange Chicken

FoodCodes Paleo+AllPretty easy recipe, but you’ll want to double or triple it. I served over cauliflower rice once before, and found myself wishing there was more sauce. Next time I may also consider adding stir-fry veggies as well. 

notes: the chili garlic or sriracha is not AIP compliant; not sure how omitting would affect flavor


Paleo Chili

FoodCodes Paleo+AllThis is the closest I’ve had to real chili since on this diet, and it’s pretty good. The recipe makes a very large amount, and getting to use the crockpot saves you time in the evening. Adding in a Paleo version of bread makes it feel more like the real thing.

 

 

Salmon Bacon Burgers

FoodCodes AllWith this recipe, I only make the salmon patty part (I decided the relish wasn’t worth my time) and it’s really good. It’s a great way to eat salmon, and of course bacon makes everything better.

*notes: I’ve subbed onions for leeks in a pinch and it works just fine; although fresh salmon results in patties that hold together real well, I’ve used a good quality canned salmon too

 

My Basic Burger Patty

FoodCodes AllThis is my own creation. Burger patties are really easy and quick to throw together, so we usually make this once a week because it means less time in the kitchen for me. Just add a couple sides, and you’ve got a full meal.

Mix two pounds ground beef with some coconut aminos, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Divide into at least eight patties and cook using your desired method.

notes: these are really good with the paleo AIP version of ketchup we use

 

Creamy Crockpot Lemon Chicken Kale Soup

FoodCodes AllI have to admit, this isn’t one of my favorites. I like it because you can prep it in the morning and then let the crockpot do the work. The flavor is good, although I’ve never been able to achieve the “creaminess” that the creator of the recipe seems to get when she makes it. But pour it over cauliflower rice and you’ve got a meal.

*notes: even if your kale is already cut up (we buy ours in a bag), you still want to cut it smaller so you can eat this without it being a mess

 

Creamy Coconut Green Chile Chicken Soup

FoodCodes Paleo+AllI actually prefer this recipe over the Lemon Chicken Kale Soup above. If you can have green chiles or peppers, then this is tasty soup. Pour over cauliflower rice to make a complete meal.

 

 

 

Bacon Cabbage Chuck Beef Stew

FoodCodes AllAnother crockpot meal! I love these things. This takes about 10 minutes of prep, and then it’s good to go. It’s really tasty, especially if you use homemade bone broth. I feel like this would be a great meal for non-paleo eaters as well. They could add in some buttered bread with this for some real comfort food.

*notes: I’ve made this with homemade bone broth and then with store-bought broth, and the homemade makes a huge difference with flavor

 

Paleo Fried Rice

FoodCodes Paleo-EFAnother one of my favorites here. This one takes a bit more time in the kitchen, but after a few times of making it I’ve become more efficient. It really is a great substitute for real fried rice.

 

 

 

Pulled Pork

FoodCodes Paleo+AllSo this is crazy easy to make, and you get quite a large portion. I’ve made this for non-paleo eaters and they love it as well. What I’ve found personally is that non-paleo eaters have the luxury of enjoying this pulled pork on bread or a tortilla, whereas I have had yet to find a suitable “carrier” for it. The pulled pork alone is pretty heavy, so I’d like to come up with a better way to consume it…maybe in a salad? If you have any ideas I’m all ears.

 

Eggless Hash

FoodCodes AllThis recipe is a great way to get kale and sweet potato into a meal for me (I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes). I haven’t been able to find any breakfast sausage that meets the Paleo AIP criteria, but you can make your own by buying ground pork and adding some spices.

 

 

Tuna Salad

FoodCodes AllSo, this is pretty much a weekly staple at our house. We buy good quality tuna (have you read the ingredients list for a typical can of tuna? yikes!) and then pretty much throw everything else in the food processor to save time on chopping. Serve with 3-ingredient Naan and you’ve got a pretty tasty lunch.

*notes: using the food processor does save time on chopping, but I’ve also found the end product isn’t near as pretty and lacks some flavor

 

Part 3: The Sides

 

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Paleo AIP and Me: Part 1

PART 1

As many already know, I’ve been on some form of a restrictive diet for a few years now. I wanted to write a post that explains how this all came about; to share why I’m doing this to myself, how it’s helped, and what it’s been like for me. Sometimes I feel like people don’t understand, so I figured a blog post would be the perfect opportunity to share my story. And a note, when I use the word diet, it doesn’t mean I’m restricting calories to lose weight. In this case, the word diet means simply what I eat.

How it All Started

I had been on the “endo diet” for nearly two years, and was pretty frustrated overall. Two years of not eating dairy, wheat, red meat, pork…the list goes on…and yet, no improvements.

At a friend’s birthday party, I met a woman who would become a good friend. She found out about my autoimmune disorders (psoriasis and endometriosis) and told me about this diet. All my husband heard was “bacon” so we had pretty much jumped on board before we even made it home that night.

The Diet

It’s Paleo but with an auto-immune protocol (Paleo AIP). I was willing to try anything; it’s not like upending my life with a change in diet was new to me.

Paleo AIP

Paleo AIP

A friend sent me this meme when I first jumped on board, and it’s pretty much accurate. Paleo AIP consists of good quality meat, lots of fruits and veggies, and good carbs. After an elimination phase, you reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time so you can figure out what foods are causing issues. A good reference for what you can and can’t eat during the elimination phase is this chart from Autoimmune Paleo.

Fortunately, my husband was going through boxing training at the time I wanted to start this, so I had his full support during the 28-day elimination phase. Plus, after not eating red meat for most of two years, eating Paleo was like a dream. Everything tasted so good!

The Results

It took two cycles before I saw any results, but two months after going Paleo AIP my psoriasis subsided and I had no PMS-associated pain. None. After 21 years of horrible pain at the beginning of every cycle, I now had no pain. It was like a miracle. I didn’t even care about the dreaded CD1 (cycle day one when you find out you’re not pregnant)–I was freakin’ ecstatic to not feel like I was run over by Mack truck the day my cycle started.

Eventually, my psoriasis ended up going away all together. I’ve had psoriasis in some form since 2003; tried topical treatments over the years and ended up learning how to tolerate it and keep it under control. But no more! Now I can wash my hands at a public facility and not deal with the soap irritating my wrists or wear a black shirt with confidence. It’s awesome.

How It’s Been Going

A few months after starting this elimination diet, I did some traveling and that really undid all my hard work. I was in Keystone, Colorado for a few days, and then after that I was in Mexico City for a week. I tried my hardest to keep eating the right foods for me, but sacrifices were made. Not to mention, I rushed the reintroduction process so I’m not a 100% that some of the foods I now eat are things I should be eating. Although my psoriasis stayed away, the pain at the beginning of my cycles came back.

In May 2015 I had surgery to remove endometriosis, and I am hopeful that the procedure, combined with my new eating habits, will result in pain-free cycles from now on.

In August 2015, I restarted the 28-day elimination phase of Paleo AIP. The chart below details my progress regarding reintroduction.

How to Support Me

You might not know it, but this has all been very hard on me. Food is the center of most social situations and gatherings, and to have this taken away has often left me feeling rather alone.

On top of that, sometimes people think I’m being ridiculous or that what I’m doing isn’t necessary. That ends up leaving me feeling even more alone. Just know this: There’s no way I would ever take such drastic measures if it wasn’t necessary.

Plus, the last thing I want in social situations is to have all the attention focused on me. And when you go out to eat or are invited to someone’s house for dinner with as many eating restrictions as I have, it’s next to impossible to not have everyone concerned with me. My number one goal in social situations is to meet the needs of everyone else and not actually have any needs of my own. Now, to be fair, that’s not exactly healthy. And, so, maybe all this has been a blessing. I’ve certainly had to learn how to tell others what my needs are, and then actually let them meet those needs.

And finally, the most difficult thing about the diet, is that it’s a constant reminder that Kelsey and I have been unable to conceive. There’s a connection between food, autoimmune disorders and fertility. Every time I can’t have a bowl of cereal, enjoy some chips and salsa, have an ice cream cone or just eat something where I don’t know all of the ingredients, not only am I sad not to take part in the enjoyment that is eating with others, I’m also sad because I can’t have children in addition to the eating restrictions. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere because of the infertility, and then the eating restrictions just pile right on top of that, leaving me feeling like even more of an outsider.

So, how can you support me? Well, first of all, just know that we love to hang out with friends. All I need is friends who are okay with me possibly not eating at a restaurant or bringing my own meal to dinner at their house. If you can put aside your good manners and desire to cater to me as your guest, and I know that’s difficult, then I still get to feel like I’m a part of the world instead of a hermit 24/7.

Part 2 of this post will be a collection of recipes that I gathered from every corner of the internet and actually use at home. The post will be a good way for me to keep track of the recipes all in one place, not to mention if anyone else is interested in what this diet looks like in practice, they can take a look and get a good idea.

Part 2: The Entrees 

National Infertility Awareness Week 2015: A Catholic Perspective

blog graphic One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past (regardless of the outcome) but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

 This week, April 19 – 25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our small families, whether childless (primary infertility) or with fewer children than we hoped for (secondary infertility), make us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Some will experience infertility with a complete lack of cycles. Some couples won’t even get to experience the benefit of being able to really try to conceive because of this harsh reality, which is a constant reminder of brokenness for those experiencing it. The pain and anxiety that comes from a lack of reproductive health can be crippling.

And yet others, despite hormonal dysfunction and health issues, will experience the cyclical nature of infertility through conception itself (or recurring conception). These couples go on to lose their children (early, full term, or shortly after birth, and anywhere in between) either once or many times. If you know that we’ve experienced a loss (something we may or may not have the courage to share), know that we are grieving. It wasn’t “just” a pregnancy or “just another” pregnancy that was lost; it was our living baby that died. And we are more likely to be traumatized by the cyclical nature of our infertility because of our losses. We do not get to choose that our cycles will mimic our losses. We are at the mercy of hope.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass every year will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.

Please…

* Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.

* Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.

* Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.

* Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a separate calling and should be discerned by every married couple irrespective of their ability to conceive biological children. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.

* Do not assume that if we try to adopt that the process will be successful. Many adoption attempts fail and don’t result in a couple receiving a child placement (temporarily or permanently). Some couples are flat out rejected from attempting to adopt by different agencies and governments. Just like adoption is an incredibly intrusive and emotionally charged issue that is part of a separate calling in the journey to “parenthood”, it isn’t always a possibility for infertile parents. Do not assume we can. And be gentle if we are trying. It’s extra painful to be infertile and not be able to adopt. And we are likely so hurt that we can’t bear to share the details with everyone.

* Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.

* Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercessions on our behalf.

* Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.

* Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.

* Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.

*Do not exclude us from your life because you think we may be uncomfortable. It is actually more painful to be left out because of the cross we’re carrying, and we know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to our families and friends. We will excuse ourselves from events or situations if we must, and please let us do so gracefully if the circumstance arises.

* Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).

* Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.

* Do grieve with us if you know that we’ve experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death (or many). You may not know what to say to comfort us, and that’s ok. Let us grieve at our own pace and on our own schedule without guilt or explanations, even if we have living children. Do not offer platitudes for why you think it happened, how you think it’s part of God’s plan for us to suffer, or any number of things you think might have been wrong with the child. It was our living baby that died. Let us grieve, pray for us, and if you can, let us know you care by being there for us in our grief. Let us know that you remember that our baby lived, no matter how short of a life.

* Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.

* Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.


Because this topic is so difficult for so many women and men, the best thing our friends and family can do (and indeed strangers we encounter who may be aware of our struggles) is pray for us. We are grateful for those who offer their prayers and support in a gentle way. Your support is invaluable to us.

Lastly, remember that compassion means “to suffer with”. We didn’t sign up for this to happen. We can’t control whether we overcome this. And we’re doing our best to navigate the murky waters and maintain our sanity and our faith and our relationships with our family and friends through it all. We truly need your support and love to accomplish that. Please, please suffer with us and be Christ to us. No other understanding of our cross will be more merciful or more loving than if you put yourself in a situation to sympathize or empathize with us. The pain of infertility is exacerbated by the fact that it draws us into ourselves. We need your help to remind us in the most difficult moments that we aren’t alone, God didn’t forget us, and that we have something precious to offer through the fruitfulness of our marriage even when it isn’t manifesting in the children we so desperately want to hold. Together, we can offer up our shared suffering for Christ. It’s a powerful witness to both of our faiths to travel this road together and we’ll manage it better with your help than if we have to travel it all alone.



This post was made possible through the collaboration of 430 members of a “secret” facebook group of women and men struggling with the pains of infertility in all of its forms that accepts the Catholic teaching on moral law. Together we are stronger. And in having the conversation, we are breaking the silence.

If you are experiencing the pains of infertility and would like to join a “secret” facebook support group, please let me know and I will happily add you to our discussion.

Infertility Awareness 2015

Through being part of a large group on Facebook dedicated to those struggling with infertility who follow the moral law as defined by the Catholic Church, I have learned that April 19-25 is Infertility Awareness Week.

To help in spreading awareness I decided to create graphics that focus on infertility. I got a lot help from members of the group with the content, and then used photoshop to put everything together.

Humor.  It’s how I deal with most everything.  Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s bad; but I’m a work in progress.  Some of the graphics below might rub you the wrong way, especially if you haven’t dealt with infertility yourself. My apologies in advance if they do.  My intent is to provide an avenue for others to put themselves in my shoes.  Some days I am sad, some days I am stricken with deep sorrow, and other days I might be jealous, angry or even full of acceptance for my current situation.  It’s all a part of the journey.

These graphics are free to share.

Joy, Pain & Friendship

IMG_3074My husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage on April 2nd.

That milestone brought with it various emotions and contemplations, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about those yearning for marriage but have yet to find that special person, or a past experience with marriage has wounded them deeply.

I know what it’s like to be bombarded daily, sometimes even hourly, with situations and images of something I desire deeply, and yet don’t have, all the while wondering if it might be something I will never have. My husband and I have knowingly struggled with infertility for eight years.  Something as mundane as a parent holding a child in their arms while they go up for communion at Mass can trigger a whole array of emotions for either or both of us.

But last Thursday my heart was with those going through a different struggle: Those who grew up imagining themselves as a husband or wife one day, but now they’re wondering if that will ever happen.  What once was a happy occasion, a friend’s engagement announcement, is like a knife to the heart. What once was a time to celebrate, a friend’s wedding, is a long ordeal of trying to hold back tears. What once was just a cute photo, a friend’s anniversary selfie, is a cause for jealousy and pain.

As time marches on your isolation continues to grow.  You love your friends, but going out with couples makes you feel like your singleness is on display with a spotlight.  And if there’s time to hang out with your friends without their spouses, well, the conversation usually focuses on the daily happenings of married life.  All you can say in response to try and relate is, “Yeah, my parents went through that in their marriage.” And the excruciating awkwardness if you’re at an event where you’ll be meeting strangers is nearly unbearable. The “So, are you married?” has to be followed by a painful and deafening “No.”

And it’s not that you want to take away anyone else’s joy. Knowing the pain of wanting to be happily married, and yet not, you would never wish this on anyone else.  But unfortunately all your good will doesn’t erase the pain that photos, anniversaries and conversations can cause.

For my friends who desire to be married with every fiber of their being, I in some small way can empathize, because I have felt all these things, but just with a different struggle.  And I know that in no way am I aware of all the pain felt by you. I only share what I have come up with by trying to imagine myself in your shoes.

So, when my Facebook page is full of photos from our anniversary date, or of our wedding from long ago, I know that you have a whole mix of feelings, some of them very dark. But here’s the thing I want you know: I don’t judge you for those feelings. I won’t tell you that you don’t have the right to your feelings, or that somehow I’m entitled to my joy and you should keep your feelings to yourself. No. Our lives here on earth are about community, and I welcome all of you. And not just the you that is perfectly at peace with what life has brought your way; no, I welcome you exactly where you’re at.

A Review: Premier Boxing Champions on NBC

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On the evening of Saturday, March 7th, those sitting in front of the television were treated to something that hasn’t happened in decades: boxing in primetime on network television.

The Overview

Al Haymon, a manager/advisor in the sport of boxing, bought airtime on NBC to showcase fighters in what has been titled Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). Together, Haymon and NBC put together a slick production featuring celebrity commentators, a big social media campaign and plenty of advertising to help build up the fights. In the main event, we saw Keith Thurman handily win over Robert Guerrero, and the undercard featured Adrien Broner easily taking a decision over John Molina Jr.

What This Could Mean for Boxing

As a real boxing fan, as opposed to a fair weather fan, I have a lot to say about this event. I’m familiar with all there is to love about boxing, and unfortunately all there is to despise. But after sleeping on it, and several long discussions with my husband, I’ve come away a little excited for one of the many possible futures for boxing.

CONTINUE READING over at The Sweet Science

A Movie Review: Chappie

The critic reviews are in, and they don’t like Chappie.  At least in general.  Right now it’s sitting at 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, and for those that don’t know, that’s rotten.

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I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I saw the previews during this year’s Super Bowl.  I was taken in by the way it was filmed–something about the filter they use gives the movie a certain look I just love.  Then there’s that it was a new story.  I can only take so much of reboots, sequels and remakes.  Sure, there’s been other movies about Artificial Intelligence, but this one was different.

If you haven’t seen District 9, well, you should.  That movie blew my mind.  In District 9 you were introduced to alien creatures; creatures that you didn’t like.  They were grotesque and made you feel uncomfortable.  Then, like a hammer on a nail, you’re hit with the realization that as the person in the audience, you’re at fault for devaluing these creatures based on superficial qualities.

We like to put ourselves on pedestals, thinking about others who are ignorant and how we’re not like that.  But the fact is, we all fall prey to ignorance.  It’s our pride of thinking how we’re not like that that blinds us to the reality of when we are.

Chappie takes the audience on a similar journey, but it’s much more subtle.  And brilliantly, we’re able to see the connections because the main character is a robot instead of a fellow human being, much like District 9 that used aliens to drive home its point.


Children

Children are delicate creatures.  They come into this world completely ignorant, and through their spot on this planet is how they develop their own worldview.

Deon, a computer programmer and engineer from what I gathered, creates an artificial intelligence program and installs it in a robot that is scheduled to be destroyed.  The robot, who we can now call Chappie, comes to “life” as an infant.  Fortunately, for the sake of us in the audience, it doesn’t take Chappie as long to go through the various stages of personhood as a human.  We get to see Chappie mature from an infant, to a toddler, a young child and then by the end of the movie, what I saw as an older adolescent.  Whether Chappie ever matures to adulthood is uncertain given his upbringing.

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What was fascinating here, and the point driven home, was how the environment of a child determines the worldview they develop.  Due to unfortunate circumstances, Chappie is left in his infant stage with three people involved in a world of crime.  Their goal is to use Chappie to help them successfully pull off a heist, and so two members of the crew began teaching Chappie how to act “gangsta”.  You see how frightened Chappie is at first; you even get to see through the eyes of a toddler Chappie.  He hides as he focuses on friendly faces, mean faces, guns, etc.  You’re taken into what it must be like for a children in situations like these: to instinctively know what’s safe and what’s dangerous and yet not be able to do anything about it.

To highlight this point even further, was the man at the theater who brought his young son with him.  It was fascinating to see Chappie dealing with surviving an abusive situation, and at the same time see a young child a few rows in front of me watching this grotesquely violent movie, taking in scenes he can’t possibly understand or process.  What we do to children in our culture due to our own selfishness is appalling.

People of the Street

The audience is taken through this whole narrative with an unlikely group of people.  This element of the movie reminded me of a book I read by John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat.  If you haven’t read this book, you should–it’s short and very enlightening.  The unlikely group of people in the movie are two men and one woman who live on the streets and live a life of crime.  These people could have been used just to simply move the story forward, but rather we’re taken into their world.  Whereas at first we feel inclined to just write them off (yeah, yeah…some people who steal and sell drugs), the story has us really get to know them.  And not in a way that pulls at the heart strings.  Rather, we get to know them as human beings with all their faults, weaknesses, strengths and feelings.  By the end of the movie, our lead criminal becomes a hero of sorts while a supporting character who has a legitimate job, speaks well and looks the part of a hero, becomes the villain.

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Here is where I felt the sting of my own shortcomings.  I was ready to reduce these people to what I saw on the outside: drugs, guns, excessive tattoos, crazy hairstyles, poor speaking skills.  But people who engage in criminal activity are also human beings.  Recognizing this doesn’t mean their life of crime is justified.  But it does mean objectifying them is not okay. Seeing people as only heroes and villains, objectifies them.  Loving people, as we’re all called to do, requires us acknowledge the WHOLE person.  Anything less than that is objectification.

The Ending (SPOILER)

There’s a lot more to discuss about this movie, and people smarter than me can do that.  There’s elements of playing God, the relationship between the Creator and the created, when is someone a person, etc.  But due to my inability to take on these big issues, I’m going to discuss the end of the movie now.

It left much to be desired.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie, and then the end came along and I was like “Whaaat?”. As an audience member you were left with way too many questions: What?, How does that work?, Um, so they’re just…?.  I would have preferred an ending where Chappie learns what death is and then how to deal with that.  Rather we’re given this idea of earthly immortality, and we’re all supposed to just go with that. Not to mention it completely devalues the important of our bodies.  Our souls and bodies were created by God.  Our bodies aren’t something to just be thrown away.

So my advice is to suspend your reasoning and logic, which we totally do for all the superhero movies anyway, and focus on the first 105 minutes of the movie.  See Chappie because it will make you think.  See Chappie because it’s different.  See Chappie for Ninja and Yo-landi.  (I knew not of this duo before seeing Chappie, and now that I do I don’t know what to do.)