A More Nourishing Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

grunge image of a field

Fun news for the New Year!  I had the honor of writing a post about a more “nourishing approach” to New Year’s Resolutions for Fox News this week.

Here’s the link to the article below (and a re-print of the blogpost as well), which echoes one of the themes throughout our new book, Nourished, which releases in just  5 more days!

AND … you have just 3 more days to get a great 2-fer deal– if you pre-order Nourished, you get a free ebook of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.  Just click on the photo below for more details

Pre-Order Nourished by January 4, 2015 and get We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook FREE

Now here’s the re-blog of the Fox News piece I wrote this week, in case you missed it! 

Forget New Year’s Resolutions, Try Nourishing Compromises Instead! 

By Becky Johnson

It is that time of year. Having fudged or forgotten our New Year’s Resolutions from the previous year, we open up our spiffy new planners and list the same idealistic goals all over again.

It’s amazing how we Americans spend our lives making new goals each January (with the enthusiasm of a child in a Superman cape), but tend to lose interest in actually keeping those goals by somewhere around Groundhog Day.

In our new book, “Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full-Night’s Sleep,” my daughter Rachel and I spent a year contemplating, researching and trying to live more nourished lives.

What I love most about Nourishing Compromises vs. New Year Resolutions is that once you get the hang of it, you never have to put happiness on hold until some future goal is accomplished.

We began by looking at the top 10 everyday stressors that put a kink in our joy and a drag in our step. To our surprise, the real challenge was not figuring out what changes we needed to make to live happier, healthier lives. The problem was how to motivate ourselves to actually implement those changes and make them stick.

Enter something we came to call Nourishing Compromises.

Rachel and I found that some of the most instantly freeing changes we made had nothing to do with a physical plan of action. Instead, they were decisions to simply shift our perspective, reframe a frustrating situation, or mentally minimize the impact some toxic person had on our life.

It involved nothing more than transforming our thoughts.

In fact, once we got our heads in a better place, we often discovered that nothing more was needed.

Maybe you don’t need a new job, but a fresh attitude.

Maybe you don’t need to lose 20 pounds, you just need to love the body you are in and see it as sexy and gorgeous AS IS.

It wasn’t long before we realized we emphasized our Outer Bucket List—the ones that eat away at time we don’t have—over our Inner Bucket List much too often. A miracle shift in perspective can often bring instant inner peace without changing another thing.

Most of the time, however, nourishing change involves a compromise of both: a little shift in perspective and a little action. A change of attitude can keep you happy at your current job while still searching for a career that is a better, more enjoyable fit.

Love and embrace your body as is, see it as womanly and beautiful, curvy or voluptuous. Then treat it with healthy food and enjoyable exercise and maybe lose three or four pounds—and that could be all you need to feel happy in your own skin.

Rather than getting up an hour early to pray, perhaps you could turn your commute into time to commune with God.

Imagine two good friends, one named Loving Acceptance and one named Take Action, walking toward each other, meeting half way between their two homes for a friendly cup of coffee and conversation.

This middle place is where most of the magic takes place. Where we cut ourselves a little mental slack, even as we work toward a doable goal. We meet ourselves in the middle, adjusting our attitude some, making some realistic tweaks.

What I love most about Nourishing Compromises vs. New Year Resolutions is that once you get the hang of it, you never have to put happiness on hold until some future goal is accomplished.

It’s time to rethink resolutions. Why not make a list of Nourishing Compromises this year instead? Not only do they lead to a more nourished life, but you’ll be much happier with yourself—both within and without—come January 2015.

Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph are co-authors of the new book, “Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep.” (Zondervan, January 6, 2015). They blog, respectively, at www.laughcrycook.com and www.thenourishedmama.com.


3rd Alternative to Getting Hurt or Angry: Or When Mother Teresa Meets Tina Fey

becky zen meme

Nourished Living 

(Becky, the Mama) 

Because I am one of those ultra sensitive souls, I am typically “porous” for negative emotions bouncing around me (or worse, toward me). But I experienced something fascinating a few months ago when I was caught in a small room with people who had an abundance of off-kilter logic, controlling “name it and claim it” spirituality and barely disguised contempt for a couple of us who were obviously not in their rah-rah camp.  With pasted-on-smiles they dished out holier-than-thou belittling, with a few passive-aggressive jabs thrown in for good measure. The exact situation that would have, in the past, triggered waves of uncontrollable shaking in me.  This would could be followed by automatic fight or flight response that might hold me an emotional hostage for hours, or days.  PTSD is such a joy.

Because I was in a situation where I could not leave, I sat in this tiny room, with this negative nuttiness bouncing around me for several hours. But here’s where the miracle came, where I saw that the six months of therapy with my brilliant counselor had paid off:  Instead of absorbing it or going into my typical “deer in headlights” response, or worse, a full-blown meltdown, I sort of floated above the scene in my mind.  And when I looked down on it, in a truly detached way… I experienced what have only been able to describe as ….benevolent amusement. I found myself actually smiling and nodding kindly, feeling as though I’d morphed into an odd combination of Mother Teresa and Tina Fey.

I saw so clearly that these folks chose their mode of thinking and behaving, and intense (aggressive?) spirituality as a desperate attempt to 1) control the uncontrollable and 2) make them feel okay about themselves. In short, they were avoiding the painful emotions of shame, fear or depression by their beliefs and behavior. And I saw this because, I too, have been there, done that. Maybe I still do. Maybe we all do this at some level. Denial is a good band-aid until genuine self-acceptance and grace take its place.

What blew me away about this experience was that I left those hours in that small room with quirky, self-righteous personalities … and not only did I leave it personally unscathed, but I left it feeling this wonderful melding of compassion and amusement. I felt as though I’d finally stumbled upon a key to something hugely important. That Benevolent Amusement is a 3rd and more healthy stance than 1) absorbing negativity and getting triggered,hurt or wounded; 2) getting flooded with toxic anger and striking back.

Later, reflecting over the scene, I thought, “Wow. This must be what people call  ‘rising above’ .. ”

And, interestingly,  it felt a lot like relaxed peace.  

mona lisa

Mona Lisa & Her Smile of Benevolent Amusement


What’s Rachel Been Doing?

Well, maybe only our most loyal readers will realize it, but I haven’t been around much! After my last post way back in the Spring, I started working on a new blog, The Nourished Mama, a place where I can talk all things motherhood…which is pretty much where my life is fully entrenched for the foreseeable future.

I’ll still be doing food blogs over there and hopefully will still pop over here occasionally. But don’t worry, my mom Becky, who lets face it, did 75% of the blogs here anyway, will be holding down the fort at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find at The Nourished Mama. Check it out and be sure to subscribe, if this is your cuppa tea, so you won’t miss a post.

First_Blog_Selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Standards Are Low and Grace is High — My first post

 

Our Family Dinner Rule

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Family Dinner Rule That Keeps Our Toddler at the Table

 

Little Boy in Yellow Goggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Boy in the Yellow Goggles — Jackson, 3 1/2, is so funny these days and providing me with more material than I can churn out right now!

 

Chickpea Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad — My summer sandwich obsession

 

Nourished Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zondervan Announces New Book Nourished in an Official Press Release

 

View More: http://whitleydaniellephotography.pass.us/randolph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Coffee Shop Tab is Going Up by a Cup — My latest post! 🙂

I love you loyal Laugh, Cry, Cookers! You’ve launched my writing career, cheered me on through my first three years of motherhood, made me laugh, brought me to grateful tears, and inspired me to be a better, more authentic version of me. Thank you!


Without Autumn, Spring Can’t Come: Lessons in Letting Go

Room with an Autumn View

Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long, not even pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”
― May Sarton

Nourish Your Soul 

(Becky, the Mama)

If I had to sum up what this past year has taught me it is that life is like leaves on a tree. Something buds and is born, then it blossoms, flourishes, changes form and color. Then at some point, begins to fade. The hard part comes where we have no choice but to let go of “what was” — trust the wind and the soil to do “the thing they do” to the leaves given up to their care. This is followed by a time of lying dormant, fallow, at rest, no visible sign of productivity — but much is taking place within the quiet huddle of wintry hibernation.

spring patio snowstarbust snow

And then, in due season, new buds, verdant green, pink blossoms … Spring. That feeling of something beginning, growing again. Bearing fruit, sharing the bounty and shade of your presence with others.

view from porch swing

The greatest lesson in all this, for me, is that without a Letting Go, there is no room for the New Thing that wants to be born. We must not cling too tightly to yesterday least we miss what God is doing today, and the good surprises waiting for us, around the bend, in our tomorrows.

Cannon Beach 011

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.” Isaiah 43: 19-20 The Message

Where are you in the emotional/spiritual cycle of seasons?


Shrimp in Alfredo Sauce over Crispy Polenta with Greens

DSC_0030(Becky, the Mama.)

I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment.  This is one such meal.

Last night I  put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results?  Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly.  As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”.  Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.

In place of  the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes.  I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store.  It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic.  That is because, well, it is.   It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise.   They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.

tj polenta

 

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polenta skilletI made a quick n’ easy, creamy Alfredo sauce for the shrimp and paired it side dish of greens–  a mixture of kale and some wonderful fresh greens, a gift from our neighbor’s garden.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.

Bon appetito, Ya’ll!

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Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens

Serve’s 2

Ingredients

For Polenta:

½ log of pre-made polenta

1 T. butter

1T. olive oil

Dash salt and pepper

 

For Shrimp and Alfredo:

20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed

1 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cream

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Dash salt

 

For Greens:

1 T. Olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced,

½ red onion, diced fine

2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine

4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped  kale and/or other greens,  thick stems mostly removed

½ cup water

1 t. smoked paprika

1 T. vinegar, your favorite

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste

Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner.  In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce.  (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)

In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds.  Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry.  When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side.  Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.

Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp.  Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides.  (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.)  Add cream and parmesan cheese.  Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through.  Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.

Put about 5 or 6  rounds of polenta on each plate.  Pile with shrimp and sauce.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika.  Serve with a side of the greens.


Wanted: F-d Up People to Heal the World

george and jackson white

Nourish Your Soul 

(Becky, the mama.)

I enjoyed the most fabulous dinner last night with dear friends. The kind of conversation that lasted five hours, but the time flew so that you never noticed the ticking clock. We’ve shared our deepest wounds and struggles and, thus, our bond is deep. As Heather Kopp noted so perfectly in her book Sober Mercies, “people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do shared beliefs.”

I shared Heather’s quote in a small group of folks the other night. One young man, about age thirty said, “That is so true. I just can’t bond with people who are perfect or have their act together. I bond with really f-d up people.” Pause. Then he pointed my way and said, “Like Becky!”

I shrugged, did a Vanna White-style gesture of myself, and say, “Let it be duly noted that I am Exhibit A under ‘F’d- Up People’.” He just kept on talking, earnestly, as my husband Greg and I exchanged glances and struggled not to laugh. Both of us knew this guy really, sincerely meant it as a compliment. Which I am going to cherish always.

It is in this theme, the “bonding of brokenness” that I am getting a hint at why some of our troubles are not instantly healed. Many of us have long-carried a chronic ache — whether it is physical, relational, emotional or spiritual. Whether it is a depressed mood or a bad back, a lost dream or a lost child, we’ve not been able to pray or positive-think this trouble away, though Lord knows we’ve given it our all.

Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Angel Who Troubled the Waters,” is based on the biblical story of the angel who troubled the waters at the pool of Bethesda. Wilder imagines a surprising twist, however, on the familiar scene. As the original story goes, whoever gets to the water first, after the angel stirs it, gets healed.  A  physician who has suffered for years with a “flaw of the heart,” has been waiting for years for his chance at healing, and he finally sees and ceases the opportunity to be first in the  pool!

angelwater

But an angel appears to him before he can touch the water and says, “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and says, “But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

It is strangely true that “in Love’s service” it often takes one broken person to reach another broken person. And perhaps this sheds some light on why we are not all instantly healed of our messy lives, our messy minds, our messy bodies, our messy hearts.

God can only use Wounded Soldiers in some of the most difficult missions on earth.

When we look at our life that has held its share of grief, pain, failures, struggles and wounds, it helps to know that our pain can serve a purpose; that our troubles equip us for the mission of bonding with and binding up other broken, hurting, f-d up people.

You aren’t cursed; you are called.. . to love and to comfort ever more deeply.

RT 1

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:18

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Cor 1:4


How We Came to Write Books Together: Growing Up in a Nest of Women Writers

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A little painting I made for my daughter Rachel to celebrate the two books we’ve been privileged to write together. (Nourished comes out Jan. 2015.)

 

(Becky, the Mama)

I love this picture, below, of three generations of four of the  female writers in our family tree.

gabe wed 4 arnold girls

The Chicks in My Family Writing Nest: My mother, Ruthie; me; my daughter Rachel; my sister, Rachel (for whom I named my daughter)

 

The first writer in the family tree was actually my Aunt Etta, who turns 90 this year (still sharp, witty and active) .  She was featured in an article below, in 2001, that describes her thus:

Lynch worked outside the home also for 21 years as a beautician, but began writing professionally in 1963. Etta Lynch, 77, a college student who has a 4-point average in courses at St. Edwards University, is living a life of freedom after spending most of her adult years as a care-giver for others. She works also as a writer and teacher.

“With faith, prayer and determination, any obstacle can be overcome,” she said in explaining why she is enrolled as a college student at 77.

“His name was Jimmy,” she said, remembering her late husband. “Cancer spread to his shoulder and his lung, and the doctors said two months, maybe six months. The man lived 33 years. He’s Chapter 2 in my book, ‘Help is Only a Prayer Away.’ I just really believe that prayer saved him.”

A-J Photo / Ray Westbrook

Many years after I watched her sign her first book, Help is Only a Prayer Away (Revell), as a 12 year old girl in 1972,  Etta would host a book-signing party for  Real Magnolias, a book that included a story about Etta and her influence on me.

Here’s more musings on growing up in a next of women writers, excerpted from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook:

laughcrycook

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In addition to baking the best pies I’ve ever tasted,  Aunt Etta was the first writer in the family. I’ll never forget the pride I felt as a thirteen-year-old girl, watching her sign copies of her book, Help is Only a Prayer Away, at a library book party in Sweetwater, Texas. Aunt Etta noted my mother’s talent for writing and encouraged her efforts as well. Before long my mom was pounding at the typewriter, publishing articles and collaborating on books.

Over the years, my mother passed the humor-cooking-writing torch on to me and my younger sister.  Cooking and serving alongside Mother  gave me the skills needed to start a part-time catering business that helped pay the bills in lean times. The writing lessons and appreciation for humor she gave me would launch what would be a full decade of speaking, entertaining and writing.

The first book I wrote with my mother, Ruthie, some 20 years ago now!

The first book I wrote with my mother, Ruthie, some 20 years ago now! I remarried in 2004, and thus, the name change:)

 

My sister, too, for whom my daughter is named, has written and published three books of humor and inspiration.  

It is interesting to me how many of my writing friends, and great writers, also love to cook and have an appreciation for fine food.  Ann Morrow Lindbergh once wrote, “When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.” Perhaps there’s some mysterious link between the writing and cooking gene.

Now I am warmed to see my daughter pick up the legacy of laughter, love of cooking, and ability to tell and write a good story with the best of the women in our family tree. In truth, I have known that Rachel had The Gift since she was a teenager. I just didn’t know when she would be ready to see it, embrace it and share it.

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The apostle Paul told his apprentice Timothy about the importance of “fanning into flame” the  gift of God within him, emphasizing that this gift was passed down from his grandmother and his mother. The word picture that leaps my mind when I read these words is my Nonny putting her arm around my Aunt Etta and my mother; my mother putting her arms around me and my sister, and now, me putting my arm around my daughter to pass along whatever we have to give one another so that each individual woman may use these gifts, in her own unique way, to better enjoy and bless the world.

(Excerpted from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook by Becky Johnson & Rachel Randolph.  Zondervan 2013.  Pages 21-22)

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Can you tell I learned how to make Memes today? Thought you might enjoy this quote, above, too. Please feel free to pin, post or tweet! God bless you today with the comfort and joy that books bring to our lives.