Friday, August 16, 2019

Put your big girl pants on.

I’m learning a life lesson I never thought I’d have to learn. Stick it out. I didn’t think I’d have to learn this because I’m a responsible human being and DUH, I finish what I start.

Except when I don’t, which, as it turns out, is often. Commitment, apparently, doesn’t come naturally and easily to me. I’ve always been a beginner of projects... not a finisher of them. I grow so frustrated with myself- “can’t you just finish something?” I hear the accuser roar of the things I haven’t done, and I know them well- and a thousand more... When the initial excitement wears off and the tedium sets in, the project finds its way into the basement. I don’t ever throw it away. I just focus on something new. 

I worried this would happen with my barbell and plates, if I’m being honest. I worried that they’d eventually become just a heavy reminder of “that time I was into lifting.” For the past two weeks, since testing my max, I haven’t touched my equipment. I’ve been playing Insanity videos in the kitchen (pausing them for a break way too many times). I’ve hardly gone into the basement at all. I went back and read my recap of testing my 1RM: “You spend so much time on something and it ends abruptly, without the outcome you expected. That’s life.”

Why does it have to end, Maegan? Why throw in the towel when the fight has hardly begun?

Can I be entirely vulnerable? As you see, I’m a serial starter. And having a fresh realization of this fact has made me question everything I thought I was. It’s one thing to find myself unable to finish the intricate needlepoint caribou Christmas stocking; its entirely another to find myself mentally withdrawing from my role as a wife and mother because it feels so unmanageable. A few months ago, I read this verse: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9.) I’ve always loved this verse; I sing it with the kids, I’ve taped it on my wall, I’ve texted it to Brian. But when I read it recently, it drove a blade of fear. I knew then that I was weary, and I realized that some give up. And I wondered, am I going to give up?

You see, I don’t stop my projects because I grow bored of them, or because I don’t want them anymore. I stop because they’re not coming out perfectly, or because I run into a difficulty I’m not sure how to surmount. Because I suddenly realize, I’m not up to this task. Why did I decide to do this? 

Hoo, boy. This was supposed to be a post about powerlifting.

Stick it out, Maegan. 

First, lean into the hard. Don’t give up, or change course yet. Find a new approach, maybe, but embrace that this will not come easily, and adjust your expectations. Nothing that is worth having comes easily. 

(At this point, I laugh that I’m spouting trite motivational quotes. It’s funny how these simple phrases can really speak to you in your moment of need.)

Second, believe that you can change. You can learn to accept less than perfect- to be comfortable with being less than perfect. (Have I ever been perfect? Oh no, but I’ll settle for looking that way.) Your marriage, your children, your relationships, your home, your body, your holidays, your traditions, your projects and endeavors- none of them will be perfect- and at some point, they won’t even look perfect from the outside anymore. Even if you took on one project- just one- it wouldn’t turn out perfectly. So stop berating yourself for every decision along the way. It’s not perfect. Do it anyway. Own it anyway. 

Finally, take a minute. Take a month. Be still. For years, you’ve been waiting for the moment- striving frantically for the moment- when everything is finally right (read: “perfect”) and you can enjoy all you have. But the harder you push yourself, the more “perfect” seems to be slipping away. And you look around yourself in frustration and disillusionment and you wonder, honestly, how much more can I push myself? For a while, that question is an open door for suggestions for changing approaches, new routines, finding new drive. But then it changes, and that question becomes an admission of defeat. I can’t push myself any harder, and it’s not helping anyway. 

I’ve had a sticker planted on my coffee maker for years: “The best never rest.” It’s been reapplied to new coffee makers after their predecessors have bit the dust. At first it served as a silent rallying cheer as I drank a cup of coffee at 9PM before heading down to the basement for a late-night workout in those post-new-baby-Mac months. Recently, it’s become an ironic reminder that the less I’ve rested, the less “best” I’ve actually become. 

Back to powerlifting. Let’s use this as a pattern for life’s bigger issues. 
I love powerlifting. I don’t want to quit.
I am resolved to not give up. 
I am not the strongest person in the room by far, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
I think, with time, I’ll become stronger. 
It’s going to take hard work- but I’m okay with that, because I plan to give myself more grace along with the work. 
There’s nothing wrong with a new approach. A new approach is a thousand times better than quitting. 
I may never attain my goals. They’re lofty goals, and they seem impossible right now. But someone recently reminded me that setting “unreachable” goals allows us to make remarkable strides in their pursuit. I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do, but look at what I have done. 

It’s okay to be proud of what you’ve done. Silence the nagging voice that constantly, painfully reminds you of everything you lack. That voice sometimes grows so loud, I find myself desperate for anything to disprove it, to make it leave me alone. 

I think I am finding that anything. Slowly but surely, after many empty, exhausting detours, I am learning to silence that voice. Or rather, to let that voice be silenced. 

Be still, and know that I am God. 
My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 
Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:31-39

Monday, August 12, 2019

Blood drive

July 18 was one of those days- a day when you frantically claw for any distraction- and I certainly was doing that. I was listening to one of a string of podcasts when I heard an advertisement for the American Red Cross, issuing a call for blood donors. I immediately paused the podcast and made an appointment to donate blood. I don’t have a rare blood type. Do it anyway, I told myself. 

The following weeks dropped in like a load of gravel, one rock at a time, until August 5, when I hauled all four children to the blood drive at 1 PM. I set the kids up in the waiting area with tablets and suckers and sat down for my little preliminary interview and fingerstick. 

Do you know that this takes an hour? Well, yes. Because they can’t come back with you. 

(I immediately grow very concerned that Mac won’t sit happily in his stroller, unattended, for a full hour.)

Have you eaten a good meal today? Umm, well, no- actually, I haven’t. You’re supposed to eat first. Didn’t you know that?

Your iron level is too low. You should be taking an iron supplement two weeks before your donation. I didn’t know. Well, we can’t take your blood today. 

We’re in Oxford often, so take some iron and make another appointment. Leave the kids home, though. 

I left in embarrassment. I berated myself: “You just totally wasted their time and your time.” 

The next day, I totally forgot Luke’s first birthday. And didn’t remember for six days. 

You think of all the things you’re not doing, but as it is, you’re too depleted to even do the things you do

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


When Moses arrived in the desert, he was fleeing the law, yes- but he had promise. He was a statesman, an educated orator, a leader of soldiers, and a bearer of a dream- a would-be deliverer of his people.

But he spent forty years in that desert. And when God finally called him back to Egypt, he had become a stuttering shepherd. That didn’t matter to God, we all know- that stuttering shepherd was made “a god to Pharoah," and with his staff commanded the greatest wonders of the Bible.

The greatest heroes must first have their time in the desert. Can you think of even one - Biblical, mythological, historical - who broke directly from the starting line and made a constant blaze of glory, without experiencing a premature end?

A desert might feel like stagnation, but it doesn't have to be. A butterfly spends a significant portion of its life wrapped in its chrysalis. A seed puts down many roots before its leaves ever emerge into the sunlight. An outside observer doesn't see the growth happening within, beneath. "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)

The desert can feel dark and isolating, a place of death. It can also be a hiding place. A refuge. 

A desert feels aimless. Your pace is slow, your destination unclear. The time isn't right for "hustling" and "makin' it happen." This is the time when questions and doubts abound. You feel lost. Your dreams and goals feel ambiguous and unreachable. You settle for daily goals. You make hash marks in the sand. You recognize that this is the time and place to build character - but you don't see that growth; you must be content to merely hope it's happening... despite what feels like copious evidence of the opposite. 

It feels lonely. No one else around you seems to be there with you. Everyone else seems to know where they're going. Of course, that cannot possibly be true. We all walk through many deserts at many different times. I wish that those of us in the metaphorical desert could, in reality, simply look at each other and recognize that we're in this together. I feel lost. You want to be lost with me? There is, after all, so much beauty to enjoy here.

And there is hope. There is always hope. Hope is a beautiful, precious thing. Hope whispers, "It won't always be this way." Hope reminds you that God knows- and is there in- the desert. Hope enables you to believe that, when you are called out of the desert, you will be ready for the journey.

"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

PSMF/Weight Cut Week Review

Day 1 (July 29) Weight: 136
PSMF. Easy peasy today. Bloat from the weekend has set in, as well as irritated skin (my body doesn’t react well to sugar), but so has energy from all that food. My afternoon lifting was GREAT; I decided to redo a session from last week in which I’d had fallen quite short, and today I hit all the lifts pretty easily. Broke my fast at dinner with 12 oz. grilled venison steak and a final cup of black iced coffee with some Jordan’s Skinny Syrup. The two keys to fasting are 1. adequate sleep, and 2. stay busy!

Five days until I test my 1RM!

Day 2 (July 30) Weight: 133.6
PSMF. Harder today. Did Insanity Max30 first thing in the morning, which was a good idea, considering my energy lagged as the day went on. A poor previous night’s sleep and a challenging overall day in general, combined with an afternoon-onset headache, led to me sipping some black coffee after dinner, while staring longingly at the bowl of cold watermelon on the table. Now that dinner is over, I’m looking forward to an early bedtime. (Broke my fast at dinner with 3.5 oz. leftover venison, 5.4 oz chicken breast, and 18g collagen in my final cup of coffee.) The third key to fasting: COFFEE.

(It’s usually the second day that the devil on my shoulder starts prodding: why are you doing this? On Day 2, temptations loom everywhere, vacation bloat is still present, energy is lacking, and honestly, there hasn’t been enough “fasting time under my belt” to dissuade me from saying, forget it. Once dinner is over and the day draws to a close, however, there’s never any regret in sticking to the plan.)

Day 3 (July 31) Weight: 129.2
PSMF... ish. Skin has cleared, bloating down. Broke my fast at dinner with 11 oz. braised venison shank and a plain can of tuna, as well as collagen and Jordan’s in my dinner coffee. (Then... half a serving of sweet potato chips and a peach. I justified those carbs by this morning’s unexpected scale dip.) Overall, I felt good today. Fantastic workout (no missed lifts), few tears, and no headache. 

Day 4 (August 1) Weight: 128.6
Reverse Day 1 (1200 cal goal). This was a great day- a day for focusing on things more important than nutrition. It was also, however, an untracked day. I’m pretty sure I went over 1200, but not by too much. Brian and I had a couple afternoon appointments to take care of, so my wonderful mom took a workday to babysit. When we finally made it home (unexpectedly late) at 6:30, I broke my fast with an entire watermelon. (Well, almost.) Insanity Max30 in the AM. I’m solidly within my 60kg weight class again, and very excited to test my 1RM on Saturday. My personal powerlifting meet. 

Day 5 (August 2) Weight: 129.2
Reverse Day 2 (1500 cal goal). Honestly, another untracked day. Broke my fast at dinner with… dinner (chicken parm casserole). I’ve been trying to get used to Lifesum for tracking macros. It’s not a bad app, and I think I’ll get used to it after a while, but MFP was like breathing, and dozens of my recipes were stored there. But if I really had a meet tomorrow, weigh-in would have been this morning, and I would’ve nailed it, and I would’ve been going heavier on the carbs tonight anyway. No workout today, just resting for tomorrow. 

I’m looking forward to crushing some numbers tomorrow. I definitely think I’ve made progress in bench. In May, my form was dismal and I couldn’t get comfortable with getting full-body tension until Brian showed me a different way to position my feet and... yes! My squat progress... meh. I’ll be happy if I can hit the same number I could in May. As I’ve leaned out, my squat seems to have suffered most. But as for my deadlift, I’m really hoping for an increase. I’ve worked hard for it. 

Day 6 (August 3) One-rep max test day!

Wow. Talk about disappointing.

Here were my numbers in May (~138 lb bodyweight):
Squat: 225 lb. 
Bench: 150 lb. 
Deadlift: 265 lb. 

Here were my numbers today, after another 9-week prep block (~130 lb bodyweight):
Squat: 225 lb. (failed 230)
Bench: 150 lb. (failed 155)
Deadlift: Attempted 265 and then 255. I could barely get either of them off the floor an inch. 

So... stayed the same, except for my best lift, which got weaker. 

Oh, gosh. When I struggled with that last 255, I felt like crying. Which would be stupid. I did not cry. But I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. Here are my random thoughts. Am I too old to gain strength? I’ll be 32 this September. Maybe I’ve peaked. If so, I certainly haven’t peaked at a competitive spot. So there won’t be any meet in my future. Still, I can’t say this was wasted effort. It was hard work; it did something. Maybe it kept muscle mass while I leaned out. It wasn’t wasted. Was this week’s PSMF too depleting? I certainly felt good during my workouts. I hardly slept on Thursday night- Will couldn’t sleep and kept panicking, so I laid next to him as he talked to me all night- maybe that caught up with me today (Saturday). I’ve been all over the map emotionally lately; maybe this wasn’t a good time to go for new strength goals. Maybe, maybe, maybe. 

You spend so much time on something and it ends abruptly, without the outcome you expected. That’s life.

I’m going to have to reassess my goals; I don’t want to lose sight of more important things. Fitness should enhance my life, not make me feel like a failure. This wasn’t failure - it was feedback. That’s all. 

Friday, August 2, 2019


We’re pulling slowly out of the library parking lot, and Barrett laments,  “Ohhh, I wish I could look at one of our new library books, but they’re on the floor by my feet.” 

I say, “Go ahead and get them, buddy; I’m not on the road yet.”

“You mean,” he asks incredulously, “to uncklebuck my seatbelt?!”

Later, on the way home from the grocery store, I cheerfully remind them that when we get home, it’s time for haircuts. “Oh mom,” he begs sincerely, “can I please have a beard? Can you please give me a beard?” 

Completely caught off guard, I fumble a bit. Meanwhile, Will is yelling, “You already HAVE a beard!” Barrett’s face is naturally a bit hairy (we call him “our little Esau” behind his back, occasionally), but I don’t want to say something that may inadvertently wound him. 

“Barrett,” I reply, “kids can’t grow beards.” 

“Yes they can!” he retorts. “I saw a kid with a beard, once!”

“Are you sure it was a real beard, and not a costume?” I ask.

“Well I don’t know, maybe it was a costume,” he says. “But Mom, please can I have a beard? I really want one.” 

“Barrett, I can’t give you a beard. Plus... you already kind of have a little bit of a beard, on your sideburns.”

“Yeah I know,” he replies quickly and happily, “but I want it to grow over my nose, like dad’s.”

Lately, the past two mornings, Barrett has been helping Mac out of his crib and bringing him into his own bed to “sleep.” Then he dresses Mac (over his dirty nighttime diaper) in Barrett’s own clothes. Mac has come downstairs in giant clothes, with a matching giant, proud smile. This warms my heart unspeakably, because Barrett LOVES to sleep in, and hates to be bothered in the morning in any way. I certainly  haven’t asked him to get Mac ready in the morning. At all other times of the day, he almost always looks after Mac- he’s done this on his own since Mac was mobile- and the fact that he’s taking on this caretaker role even in the morning, setting aside his own desire to sleep undisturbed, and doing it of his own volition, delights me.