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Design Your Own Happiness

I have some personal things I want to say. If you are going to hang in there with me on the blog, and read what I have to say, I want you to know where I am coming from and why I care so much about food in the first place. So (deep breath), here goes!


The year was 2004. I was 32 and my one and only baby girl was 4. She was attending preschool for the first time. I was a stay-at-home mama and in love with my life. For the first time, I had a group of adult women friends (and two men, equally qualified) who were smart, supportive and best of all, really funny. I lived in a small town, one I did not grow up in, so it felt beautiful and quaint, hugged in by tall generous trees. I walked everywhere. My daughter was an easy baby and an even easier toddler. Four seemed grown up and sophisticated, a person I could truly converse with. I couldn’t imagine loving anything more. 


I started getting sick right before Thanksgiving that year, running to the bathroom with stomach cramps. I figured I was out for the holiday with a flu bug, but would bounce back in a few days to host the kid’s party I was planning. Days turned into a week and the frequency of the bathroom trips increased to every 20-30 minutes around the clock until I was hospitalized from dehydration and thought I was literally going to die from diarrhea. I know this is a lot from a fun food blog. Stay with me.


I remained in this state for twelve weeks, undiagnosed, with doctors scratching their heads. Finally, a doctor friend of mine pressed to repeat one test in particular, and I was diagnosed with an aggressive intestinal bacteria, waging war on all of the good bacteria in my guts. My dad got in contact with an infectious disease doctor in Florida who had actually written the book on this type of thing and we began culturing probiotics in my home and sneaking them into the hospital. This is what saved my life. 


I remained in bed for the better part of two years, slowly replacing bad bacteria with good bacteria until there was balance. My baby girl very quickly learned to make her own breakfast, pick out her clothes and do everything to get herself ready for school. She never missed a beat. My ex-husband faithfully took care of the household chores and went to work. The house operated smoothly. 


One day after school, my daughter said she had a tummy ache. Within 24 hours, I knew deep down inside that she had gotten the bacteria. For two years, we had boiled and sanitized in a way that made Covid regulations look like a walk in the park. But, there she was, sick. I had test kits galore, so I tested her immediately. The hospital called with the results. She was positive. There was no way a tiny child could withstand the kind of abuse my body had gone through. I prayed for God to save her life. I prayed that if He wasn’t going to save her life to take her before she had to go through anything at all. I stopped believing in God. I begged for forgiveness for my unbelief. All of the spiritual growth and faith I thought I had gained whilst going through sickness myself went right out the window. I tried not to think at all.


My ex-husband and I knew what to do. We trusted in that and acted fast. We gave her probiotics using the same method we had learned for me, and it worked quickly. She was out of preschool for two months (just to be on the safe side) and suffered little more than what a bad stomach flu would feel like. I vividly remember the day that she returned to preschool and I was simultaneously well enough to pick her up. Waiting in line, I listened to Beck. It was sunny and felt exactly like heaven.    


Let’s do a bit of fast-forwarding. I didn’t feel “normal”and healthy until around 2008. My marriage did not come out of this period of time the same and we never recovered. We had been the very best of friends and we tried counseling for a few years and trial separations for a few more, but ultimately divorced in 2012. 


After looking forward to being single and promising myself I would remain so, forever, I met my soulmate. Nate was a force of nature so strong, fighting it would have been a joke. If you are one of the ones lucky enough to know Nate, you know what I mean. We got married in 2014 on the coldest day of the year. It felt exactly like heaven.


The year after we were married, I started having problems with my memory. Also, my hair was falling out. A lot. Joint pain and a number of other issues were occurring with a frequency outside of the range of normal. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, likely brought on from the trauma my body had been through. This came with pills. Pills for pain, pills for the disease. The pills made me feel worse than the symptoms. I was 43 with a brand new second marriage and a 15 year old daughter. I was still a stay-at-home mama. However, 15 year olds don’t require all day attention and my new husband hadn’t been in on the original stay-at-home agreement and was working crazy hours as a bartender. Meanwhile, I felt physically incapable of working or figuring out how to do much of anything beyond walking the dog and picking the kid up from school. My brain felt so dang fuzzy! 


One day, while reading a fiction novel by Tom Robbins (who is a rock star in my world), I decided to close myself in my room and write until I had answers. I had fought for my life and now what? I was going to live it feeling shitty and drugged? A half-assed version of it? This was unacceptable to me. I wanted my full life. I really, really wanted it. I knew I had the answers inside of me somewhere. What I wrote took two days and was mostly rambling, but it changed my life.   


I told all of it to Nate. He was onboard for anything, so we started making changes. We started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables because (as I wrote to myself), I knew that fruits and vegetables were healing and good and this was a starting point. Nate quit smoking. We cut out meat, except for fish. I stopped taking the medications. We sold the house. Nate went to school to be a neuromuscular therapist. Mesa moved out. We moved to Tucson. We opened our own business. Our dog passed away. I went back to school for nutrition. We stopped eating animals all together. We lost weight. We stopped drinking. We got a new dog. Nate started martial arts. I started yoga. Nate started yoga. And on and on it goes. 


We celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary this month. I am 51 and healthy. My daughter is 23 and lives on her own. Both our business and our marriage are fun and getting more fun all the time. But it required something of us. It required goals and reflection and consistent work, humility and the willingness to say, we can do better than this. 


I want you to know where I’m coming from because it was/is an evolution. There is plenty of fast flashy advice out there, making it seem like a perfect life can be yours if you just follow three easy steps. Maybe change can begin that way, but there’s a lot more to it. If you want change, you have to change. That’s the hardest part. Here’s the thing. Change happens anyway. You can be the boss of your change, or you can let change happen to you. We get older, times change, friends change, kids change, our bodies change. If we sit back and do nothing, things change anyway. Deciding how we want to change and how we react to change is empowering. It takes us out of the victim seat. It puts us in a position to design our own happiness. 


Food was the first powerful step for me. It cleared my mind and my body so that I could be free of strong medications and determine my next steps. My career choice, as a nutritionist, is the result of gratitude for what food did for me and continues to do for me on a daily basis. I had to pay it forward, simple as that. I am still in love with my life. I walk all the time, just like when I was young. At least once a day when I’m birding or cooking or just staring at the mountains, I get the feeling that this feels exactly like heaven.  


Thank you for reading and being willing to ponder new things with me. 

I am grateful.     



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Kristi, a very moving narration of your struggles and victories. Thank you for sharing! - Bob

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