Your Journey Is Perfect and I’m Sorry

Religion and Faith.  What a tricky conversation.  In my lifetime, I have been a preacher’s kid, a missionary, a church employee, a bible reader, quasi-cult member, medical mission operator, a religious non-profit founder, a reformer, a fanatic, a harsh critic, and finally a questioner. Questioning saved my life and connection to faith, even though it has been hard for some people I love. I understand, though, because I’ve been there and it was hard for me to understand, too.  


This weekend, I was faced with a reflection of myself 15 years ago.

I was fervent. I was committed. I was totally drinking my own kool-aide. I had zero grace, understanding or compassion for people who did not hold the exact belief set I did.

I was a complete asshole.

I am so sorry.

It doesn’t matter that it came from a good place in me. I didn’t believe you when you said you felt great about your (very liberal) relationship with God. I didn’t believe that you were okay in your complete unbelief, or anything inbetween. I could not fathom how you could claim Mohammed or Buddha as your deity. I lost sleep over your belief system, or lack thereof.

My heart genuinely broke for you and in that brokenness, I BROKE YOU. Not irreparably, and it wasn’t a new break. But I broke you more. With my zealous beliefs and narrow, judgmental rhetoric, I tore the scab off your healing wound and (lovingly) kicked you in the teeth.

I am so sorry.

Your spiritual journey is yours. You invited me to walk beside you as you carved your path, and instead I handed you the map for my journey and demanded that you make it yours.

I am so sorry.

You and your journey are exactly right and can be trusted, even if I don’t understand it.

If there was ever a moment you believed that I loved you but I came at you with a misguided sense of righteous anger instead of connecting to the deep love I hold in my heart for you, I am so sorry.

You showed me grace, and in a few instances, rightfully showed me the door. Being the hands and feet of God never meant being the voice.

I didn’t understand. I didn’t get it. I get it now. It was never my job to change you. There as never anything wrong with you to begin with. You just echoed the fears and doubts in my own heart.

To all of my friends, regardless of belief, thank you for being here. Shutting you up/down/out only serves to show you how broken and scared I am, too. Thank you for staying even when I’m intolerable and self-righteous and just flat-out wrong.  I want to change that because you deserve love without conditions.

I am so sorry. I’m here now. I love you.


7 Speedy Self-Care Hacks for Busy People

I loathe the term “self-care”.  I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but now as a mother, I super dislike it.  I support it. In theory.  Taking breaks to rejuvenate and come back to life as a better person? Sign me up. A massage? Sign me up twice. A long hike in a forest? I’ll get my boots! A getaway with my husband?  TELL ME MORE.

The ideal setting for the best self-care ever of all time.

But here’s the thing with self-care.  It doesn’t always look like a massage or pedicure or magical trek through the woods alone with only your (greatly neglected) journal and a Lara Bar to keep you company. And it almost never looks like a relaxing, kid-free trip somewhere else with my husband because it’s expensive and takes many elements of planning and, uh…it’s expensive.  It could happen, but the reality of securing childcare, paying said childcare, going on the trip, taking time off of work, paying for lodging and food and travel?  It’s pricey and time consuming.

The bottom line is this: Self-care can sometimes feel like a privilege instead of a necessity for mental and emotional health.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a committed relationship, a single person, a parent, a single parent, a grandparent, a circus performer, totally bankrupt, rolling in Kanye amounts of cash, worked to the bone, a teenager or college student, whatever.  YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  Instead of carving out an hour, a day, a weekend, or any other difficult amount of time, focus on small things.  It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or spendy.  Taking care of yourself can be simple, free, and take 30 seconds or less.

  1. Pee first. Whatever you have to do, it can wait 30 seconds while you pee.  Screaming kid?  I get it.  Pee first.  You have to start dinner right this minute? Pee first.  You need to take a call? Send it to voicemail and call right back after you pee first.  Because peeing is important to your well-being.
  2. Slip off your shoes and feel the grass.  When was the last time you slipped off your shoes during your lunch break and stood in the grass?  Never?  Well, start now.   Let your kids play at the park or in your yard and sip your coffee with your shoes off for a minute. Enjoy the way the grass feels between your toes and the soft earth beneath you.
  3. Breathe on purpose.  Just take a deep breath, okay?  Not because you “need” it, but because it feels freaking wonderful to expand those lungs and breathe in deep, then exhale fully. (10 points if you take a deep breath while you pee barefoot. -10 points if you do that in a public restroom.)
  4. Massage your hands. Before bed, when you need a minute to refocus, or just because you like soft hands.  Grab your favorite oil or lotion, and be sure to gently pinch the soft spot between your thumb and pointer finger for extra relaxation.
  5. Add fruit to your water. Your toddler didn’t finish his apple slices?  Toss a few into your water bottle or pitcher.  Slice up a lime or orange while you’re at it and toss those in, too.  If you’re feeling super fancy and have it on hand, add a mint leaf or two.  Stimulating your taste buds can help keep your mind clear and connected to your body.
  6. Quote it. Find a short quote or poem. Read it. Twice. Return to it when you need to fuel your spirit.
  7. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Or sunbutter. Or almond butter.  Or Nutella.  You probably need the protein or chocolate fix. Go ahead and do that now.

If all else fails, drink that extra cup of coffee, or turn up your favorite music and dance. Or hide.  Yep, sometimes straight up hiding can be self-care.

Oh, and if anyone has any ideas about how we can abolish the term “self-care” and replace it with something more fantastically fun, go for it.  Let me know.  We will sprinkle that phrase like glitter from a unicorn.

Take good care,


Supporting Simon: Empathy for Autism

Friends, meet Jessica.  We met over 15 years ago as teenagers, bent on changing the world for the better.  Over the years, we have remained dear friends and are happy to have sons just a year apart.  Last year, Jessica’s youngest son, Simon, underwent a long process of therapy and testing which finally culminated in an autism diagnosis.  I asked her to share Simon’s story here.  She graciously complied. In a conversation last week she said, “Could you imagine someone telling us all we would encounter now, 15 years ago? We wouldn’t want to even open our eyes to the future. Yet here we are and we are thriving!” And that is why I wanted her to share.  Life keeps going.  We are stronger and braver  and bigger than our diagnosis, disease, and dysfunction. We have access to hope and healing, even if we have no cure (yet). I’m proud to call this woman a friend.
        Its been close to four months now since D-Day: the day we received the package. A package full of the numbers, paragraphs and codes. The package that labeled my dear son Simon as a boy who was autistic.
Simon and Jessica
        I was expecting this, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotion that followed, seeing it all in black and white on crisp smelling paper.  The heavy blue folder filled with advice on teeth brushing, sensory processing, oh and a list of lawyers to contact should our school district not be cooperative.
        What is NOT in the big blue folder is how to handle your relationships. How to talk to people you know as well as strangers about your sons neurological differences. Nor was there a guide titled “Emotionally Processing Your child’s Diagnosis and Letting Others Know How They Can Be There For You”.
        One can find a million articles on autism and plenty of them start with the “37 Things You Should Never Say to a Parent of an Autistic Chilld”. I struggle with these articles, not because the content isn’t true, because it leaves people feeling paralyzed and fearing they will say the ‘wrong’ thing. So, they either avoid the topic all together in order to avoid saying anything hurtful or, perhaps, say nothing at all.
        After doing a bit of self care in the last few weeks, I was truly blown away by some of the truths in Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability and especially, how Empathy helps propel us into relationship and away from shame.
        With much of this truth, in addition to realizing how I personally process grief, I can look back and tell you exactly what I needed in this time. I needed a cozy, safe space where nothing I said, or felt, was perceived as wrong and held against me. A space where I could scream, freak out, ask “why”, followed by more crying. In this space, the nights would feel long and dark and alone. This space is grief. It is real and evolves each and every day. Some days laughter comes back for a moment only to be followed by more tears. Eventually, the tears flow less and less frequently.
“To every person walking through a major life-changing situation, you need to allow this space in your life to exist.”
        To everyone else who is watching from the outside looking in, you need to simply choose to sit in that space with that family for a moment. There is no need to fill up this space with empty works. Simply let them know that they are never alone. It can be liberating to acknowledge that nothing you can say verbally will change the grief and trauma they are experiencing. Instead of filling space with words, YOU simply hold the space and share it with them.
        On our way home from the Cleveland Clinic with that big blue folder on my lap, my husband and I cried and remained quiet without any music playing as we drove. We let the silence and sound of our tears be our song. We pulled into the driveway to find our fantastic neighbors in the driveway.  They knew the diagnosis was possibly coming that day, and not even a minute out of the car they were there with open arms and tears to match ours. They listened to the few words I could utter and instead of filling the air with ‘I’m sure it will be fine….or my nephew is autistic and doing great…’  They chose to inhabit the space with us and be in it too.
        An hour or so later, we’re trying to just get back to our day and a friend had told me she wanted to bring something by. Truth be told, I wasn’t up for any visitors but something in me also really wanted her there. I knew she was coming clear across town and she pulled in the driveway and when our eyes met, it was like she understood what we had just underwent.  Her hug was compassionate and gracious. She also did not fill the air with ‘Gods got it under control….everything will be OK…’ because she wasn’t actually certain of anything in that moment.  What she DID do was hand me a six pack of beer for Joel…fruit snacks for my kids and flowers for me. She also handed me a card and it wasn’t filled with words of empty flattery or ‘Only special Moms get special kids…’ – what it was filled with was ‘You are not alone. We love you.’ She joined me in my space. She brought a little light in.
        I could go on about the beautiful conversations, hugs and acts of kindness sent our way upon, during and before Simon’s diagnosis. What I am most grateful for is those who chose to sit with us, look us in the eye, wipe our tears and cry a few of their own. If you’re unsure on how to be there for a friend who is going through something you do not fully understand, just go and be with them or practically love on them.  It is as simple and dropping off a coffee or a little bouquet of flowers and a hug.  Never under estimate the power of a hug.
Miller Fam
Jessica and Family
        In four months, we may have a gained a diagnosis that will likely effect Simon forever. We have also gained a support system of Grandparents, teachers, therapists, and a new found surge of power within my husband and myself. This gives us courage on hard days and helps us see the progress. Even progress many would regard as trivial, is a big deal for Simon. Simon is growing, learning, and understanding more of his world every day. Ultimately we are so grateful to all who have helped us and are still helping us process this new way of life.
Proud Mother of three fantastic sons and one exceptional Simon,

Feeding Echo and Finding Purpose – Our Life with FPIES


A few weeks ago, our local news station asked our family to do a news segment on FPIES.  We talk about FPIES almost weekly here in an effort to raise awareness around food allergies, and I’m all about raising awareness wherever and whenever I can. So, of course we said yes.

{Watch our story here.}

Our awesome story teller, Kerry Tomlinson.
Our wonderful story teller, Kerry Tomlinson.

I love the story, I love how well they captured the sweetness of my boy, his gentle, joyful spirit, and most of all his interaction with his dad. The news got about 85% of the story right, and I’m grateful for that.  But they missed a few details, and one major detail that I want to express:

Echo’s illness changed everything.

From the ashes of that first year, a new life was born.  I don’t mean a human life, (although we were terrified of losing our baby for the first 18 months of his life).  But this.  This work, this site, this whole idea was formed from the grief.

Echo, two days old and fighting for his life after a stroke.

In the summer of 2014, my long-time friend, Jessica, asked me to write our story for The Leaky Boob.  I was in the middle of dealing with massive PTSD, chronic mastitis from exclusively pumping milk from boobs that just wanted to quit, a crumbling marriage, and figuring out a way to keep our son alive and thriving in the midst of an illness nobody, even specialists, know much about. He had three “safe” foods at the time: TED breastmilk (wherein I was limited to 12 foods at one point in time), coconut oil, and spinach. Nightmares of feeding tubes and bankruptcy and divorce tormented my sleep, while emotional paralysis, physical pain, and extreme anxiety plagued me during the day.

Echo's second FPIES vomit-to-shock reaction.
Echo’s second FPIES vomit-to-shock reaction when he was 8 months old.

I said yes to telling our story.  Beyond the fear and the trauma, I knew other families were dealing with the same issues.  They were dealing with the despair, discouragement, and constant barely-subdued terror that their child might not make it.  And what if their kid does make it?  What kind of life and wounds will this struggle indelibly imprint their little bodies and spirits with? I started three drafts, scrapped them all, and then Echo had a vomit reaction to green beans in the middle of it all.  And that was it.  The impetus I needed to get it all out in real time.

This season. Trying to keep it all together and almost losing our marriage in the process.
This season. Trying to keep it all together and almost losing each other in the process.

Our story isn’t just for FPIES families, though.  It is for every family who has faced unimaginable obstacles and trauma.  Maybe it looks like FPIES, maybe it looks like unknown illness, maybe it looks like a brain tumor or infant hearing loss.  Maybe it looks like a massive struggle with self-care or divorce or being a terrible friend for a season.

Echo eating for the first time at a chain restaurant.

Telling our story gave me access to the power I needed to find my way through, even though I never quite knew the next step until I took it.  It gave me just enough Brave to inch ahead of my Scared, and continues to fuel the heart of this little corner of the Internet where I believe Everyone deserves a seat at this table.

Thank you for being a part of this community.

Thank you for continuing to give us, and other families, a voice.

Thank you for sharing posts that are relevant to you with people you love.

Thank you for enjoying the food and laughter and tears and gathering here to have a human experience. This doesn’t happen without you.

Thank you.

Carrie, Lance, and Echo


“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They come together and they fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

― Pema Chödrön

Creamy Polenta Ragu {Vegan and Gluten-Free}

Polenta RaguI have these neighbors. We will call them Wilfredo and Valentina, because those are their actual names. Cool, right? Well, they ARE cool and totally live up to those epic names. They moved in downstairs about eight months ago from New Jersey and we have become close friends. So close, in fact, that my two year old son, E, feels totally comfortable opening their front door and walking right in to say hello at any hour of the day.  (Yeah, we’re working on the whole concept of knocking.)

Wilfredo and Valentina are both avid athletes. It’s not uncommon to see them sprinting up and down the steep hill in front of our building, or doing interval training in the parking lot at dawn. And rain or shine, Wilfredo is running his heart out, getting ready to run UltraMarathon races,  and Valentina is probably completing a 50 mile bike ride as part of her triathlon training before heading off to work.  They have a serious love for activity, the outdoors, and competition.

They’re also VEGAN.

Now, we eat many animal products in our house. We eat plenty of veggies and fruits, too. But we are decidedly not vegan.

Our tribe here has expanded to enfold Wilfredo and Valentina into our hearts. We want to fully integrate them into our little community and become a safe place for these New Jersey transplants.

But here’s the thing: I love them. I love them BIG. They love my kid fiercely and he loves them fiercely right back. My love language is food. So, in order to share our table with them, I’ve been experimenting with dishes outside of my normal food repertoire.

But here’s another thing: Every single person in our tribe has special food things. E takes the (gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, carrot-free) cake because of his FPIES, but he certainly is not the only one who needs special food. But nobody has excluded animal products entirely from their diets.

Until now.

So, when the tribe decided to do a vegan brunch a few weeks ago, I accepted this challenge with great excitement.  Because even though you will never see me sprinting up and down the hill for funsies, I do love a good challenge.  And if the challenge translates to a little food love, then even better.

Everyone can technically eat corn, including E. I typically try to avoid it, but it doesn’t make me feel like wheat does. I also wanted to do a homestyle dish that was still healthy and everyone could enjoy.  I began to dream about casseroles, baked dishes, and rich, flavorful sauces.

Creamy, hot polenta dishes started filling my mind. It’s easy to veganize polenta. So, I scoured the internet looking for recipe ideas. I hit a wall when I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for and started getting frustrated.

Then I remembered that I can cook. DUH.

I started extracting favorite elements from dishes that looked great. Easy enough. Then I got to work.

I discovered that making the polenta first and baking it for a bit gave it the perfect texture. Scoring it, and then topping it with a simple tomato and veggie mixture and putting it in the oven to bake longer made mouth magic.

I brought my finished polenta dish before our tribe. I know I can count on them to give me their honest feedback. They tasted. They went back for seconds. They lamented when it was over, especially Wilfredo and Valentina. Luckily, I made an extra dish of it just for them, and walked it downstairs after brunch was done. They were stoked.

This dish is the classic, simple-food-done-right, love-in-a-Pyrex pan taste of comfort every person needs in their life. Probably right now.

You can make your own variations by using what you have on hand. THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE VEGAN. But then again, you can’t share it with your awesome vegan neighbors if it’s not. So, prepare wisely.

Ingredients for Polenta:

  • 2 cups dry polenta
  • 4 cups unsweetened, unflavored hemp milk (or regular milk)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ½ cup Nutiva Shortening, or butter
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt

Ingredients for Ragu:

  • 1 jar crushed tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch spinach or chard, chopped
  • 1-2 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 4 leaves fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions for Polenta:

  1. Cook polenta according to instructions on package, subbing water for milk. Add additional water to thin it out. It should be a smooth, creamy texture, and easy to stir.
  2. Pour polenta into a large, greased casserole dish. Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven, and score with a sharp knife into 1-2 inch squares, but do not remove from the dish.

Instructions for Ragu:

(Note: This is great to start while the polenta bakes in the oven.)

  1. Saute onion and garlic in oil, then add herbs, tomatoes, zucchini and sauce. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir in spinach or chard.
  3. Pour over polenta, and bake for 30 additional minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.
  4. Serve and eat immediately, or store for leftovers.

This freezes okay, but stays good in the refrigerator for a week. But the thing is, I don’t think it will last that long. This is comfort food at it’s very best.

Hug a vegan,

Are you interested in learning more about vegan eating and running?  Visit Wilfredo’s blog over at Eat, Run and Done.