Eating oranges

When company’s coming, I normally tidy up the house hurriedly, clearing up clutter quickly. Everything must find its home–James’ smelly socks sitting in the middle of the mudroom floor, Maggie’s tiny pile of clean laundry atop the dining table outside her room, the four coffee cups on the kitchen counter. Even if I don’t have time to scrub each surface with bleach or mop the floor with wood oil soap, I can’t relax until the clutter isn’t visible and the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher.

12801343_605792375922_8706710045606079300_nAfter the mad dash through the house, I typically glance down at myself in horror and jump in the shower. Even if I don’t have time to apply makeup or shave my legs, bathing myself and brushing my teeth are essential.

This Sunday, after caring for a very sick little girl by myself for three days, I found myself staring at the clock in anticipation of my friend Erin’s visit. I looked around me; thankfully, since James had been out of town for three days, the house was already clean. I looked at myself; if I’d had an ounce more sleep, I might have cried after catching a glimpse of my hair in the mirror. However, I’d reached the point of subsisting solely on coffee fumes, and brushing my teeth and pulling my bangs away from my face was the best effort I could muster.

When Erin arrived, I laughed. She looked similarly smocked and just as exhausted. We consumed even more caffeine while halfheartedly entertaining Maggie and catching up on life. She came bearing gifts of a toy puppy, a teeny tiny watermelon from her garden, cranberry cookies, and s’mores dip. We consumed sugar and watched leaves fall while Maggie chased chickens.

That night, I explained to my mentor that I wasn’t sure what lesson I was supposed to be learning, but every time James left town, one of us was really sick. I often reached out to people asking for babysitting assistance or inviting them to visit, but by and large, I couldn’t reach people or found that people had other plans. What was the lesson I was supposed to be learning here? Could I just learn it, please, and stop dealing with this?

While scrolling through Pinterest, I came across a post about oranges.

“The smell of an orange relieves stress. Smelling an orange or eating one can reduce stress by 70%” (

Is this true? Is it legitimate? Is it scientific? It’s on PINTEREST, for crying out loud. But I know this—when I peel clementines for my little Maggie (which is rather tedious and a bit time-consuming), I love the scent and seem fully present and engaged. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care. I stopped caring about why things work a long time ago. I just do what works.

As I reflected on three long, stressful, sleepless days and nights of caring for a sick little girl (cuddly, but sick), I recognized that I may have done a great job of caring for her, but I was sucking in the self-care department.

Ah. So that’s what I was supposed to be learning here. The age-old adage about putting on my own oxygen mask. How do you do that when your child is hacking up mucus? How do you do that on three hours of sleep? It wasn’t just about meeting my physical needs. I could handle that part and did so most of the time while taking care of Maggie. But was I mindful of my own well-being, mindful enough to stop to meet my needs even if it meant altering our daily routine and plans? When was the last time I did something frivolous and fun for myself—not related to work, an organization, or my family? Do I care for myself with as much love as I care for my daughter?


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I decided I’ll start by peeling an orange every day. I’ll peel it for myself. I will enjoy the way it smells and then eat it myself instead of giving it away, which is what happens 89.5% of the time I attempt to eat one.

I think someday, when Maggie is old enough to understand the importance of loving herself—and not laying herself down on the altar of taking care of other people, or losing who she is in the name of trying to save someone else—she will thank me for eating one small clementine every day.

Veggie story

Thanks, Henry Petty, for serving as today’s guest writer!

This week marks the one year anniversary of the movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” being released to Netflix, and I wanted to share my gratitude to Joe Cross, creator of the documentary that has changed so many lives and the impact the movie has had on my own life.

Up until early 2011, I had gained massive weight by sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day.  I had the worst eating habits.  My breakfast, lunch, and dinner all consisted of meat, meat, meat, mashed potatoes laced with lard, and more meat.  My gut was hanging over my belt in my size 46 pants; I was depressed, had no energy, and suffered from sleep apnea among other conditions.  The skinny people in my life and who I spent time with only made me feel fatter than one could imagine and made me even more self-conscious and unworthy of love from anybody.

My “come to Jesus” moment happened after a routine health screening showed I was in the red (bad) margin of bad health 7 out of 8 health categories.  I was borderline diabetic from what the Dr. told me, and having a history of diabetes coming down from both sides of my family didn’t help my chances of escaping.  Quite frankly, I was surprised I didn’t have diabetes already.  The embarrassment grew worse as I saw the scales tip to 310 pounds.

The Indian doctor, bless her heart, told me bluntly, “This is not good.  You need to change.”  She recommended I limit my beef intake to 2 times a week.

Then, in July 2011, I watched a movie, “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead,” which changed my life.  I highly recommend you Netflix it;  it’s about a man’s decision to juice for 90 days straight. He cured his ailments as well as lost massive weight.

I began the juice fast for all of 2 days, because my girlfriend feared I wasn’t taking in enough.  The downfall to juicing is it’s very expensive, and I was taking in half of the ingredients I should have.  The “reboot” program costs up to $30 daily.

Then, I made a decision to give up all meats and go strictly veggie & fruits.  I’m not vegan like Tess by any means, but I eat a vegetarian diet peppered with seafood (technically, I’m a pescatarian, but I tell everyone I’m vegetarian to avoid the blank stares followed up with endless questions).

And then 4th of July happened.  Like I have so many times before, I failed on my lifestyle change and was really hungry.  In a frantic state of mind, I threw burgers, hot dogs, cole slaw & bratwurst on my plate, nuked them in the microwave, and away I ate.  Momentarily, I felt great and fulfilled.  Afterwards, I felt like crap.  I screamed to myself, “This is IT; this is the LAST TIME I allow myself to fail.  Never Again!”  I quickly made myself a veggie juice to cleanse myself, and never looked back.

I never was addicted to hamburgers, though they are my favorite food that I now substitute with a veggie patty or portabella mushroom.  The reason I ate meat mostly is because of how I was raised.  I was raised around burgers, fried chicken, and Coca-Cola.  Never was I addicted to these foods–it was just a way of life.

Currently, I don’t follow any specific diet, though I’ve read some great books like “The Engine Diet,” “Eating Well for Optimum Health,” and many other books to guide me through.  I do P90X workouts frequently, and I try to stay active.  I’ve lost 30 pounds since I began my journey and have never been happier.  I’m more confident in myself, my clothes fit me better, and my blood pressure is now at a happy medium.

But it all started with Joe’s movie, and for that I am dearly grateful.

For more of Henry’s thoughts, check out his blog.