Losing My Mind and Finding it Again: This is Postpartum Anxiety/OCD

 Most people have heard of postpartum depression, but very few know about postpartum anxiety/OCD. I didn’t even realize it existed until I began searching for answers to why things were happening in my mind. I wrote this post to give you a glimpse into my struggle with it. Like a message in a bottle, I hope this makes its way to women who have found themselves in this unlucky situation. For spouses and friends of women suffering from PPAOCD, I hope that in reading, you might be able to understand better and help more effectively.

We were in our going home clothes.

Me, a nursing dress, Dubs his embroidered sleep sack, and The Professor, who, well, never got to wear any special clothes while we were in the hospital. I lay in the bed, Dubs snuggled in my arms, waiting for discharge papers, listening to music on my iPad. Then the song, “He’s Always Been Faithful,” by Sara Groves began playing.

Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

The song was an anthem in my college apartment as we prayed for the wonderful husbands God would eventually bless each of us with. I’ve heard the song a thousand times. But this time, the verse caught me by surprise. In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways. The tears began to flow. Slowly at first and then quiet sobs, oddly both at home and out of place of this peaceful moment.

A few hours before, our midwife came to check on us. It was the first time I had seen her since Dub’s birthday. She explained what they theorize caused our scary birth. The umbilical cord was wrapped multiple times around Dub’s body, so much that it held him in place. After 15 hours of labor and no progress, an epidural caused him to finally come down enough to break the waters. Once the waters were broken and he wasn’t floating, the cord was pinched and he was in distress. That’s when our peaceful hospital midwife birth became an emergency. That’s when the grace of God, an excellent medical team, and a bunch of seemingly unrelated circumstances converged to avoid a cord accident. 

Now two days later, I lay there on the bed with my perfect baby and I realized all the what if’s. All the near misses. I thought about our desire to labor at home as long as possible after my water broke. Heart racing, throat clenching, the logical conclusion of the what ifs played out in my mind. It was too much to think about. So I held my baby, and leaned against my husband, and I listened to my song, and through the quiet sobs, I said aloud “thank you,” over and over.

Manic Alertness

Postpartum depression and its cousin, postpartum anxiety/OCD can happen to any new parents. However, they are more common with traumatic births. Thinking back, my postpartum anxiety/OCD and PTSD symptoms began while we were still in the hospital.

It began with anxiety. I’m not talking about worry, but elephant-on-your-chest, full-bodied fear.

The best way I’ve heard it described is manic alertness.

I was at once infuriated that my mostly irrational fears weren’t shared by The Professor or my mom, and at the same time, I was too afraid to voice them. Warring within me was the understanding that my anxieties were irrational and a fear that if I said them out loud, they would come true.

It was little things at first. I was afraid to touch my phone and then touch the baby. I washed my hands about 10 times an hour. I was afraid to take off my wedding ring. I knew that if I did, something terrible would happen to The Professor. I wear an anchor necklace that reminds me of God’s faithfulness during our fertility treatment and early miscarriages. At the hospital, the thought of taking it off put me in a panic. Taking it off meant not remembering our lost babies. And if we didn’t remember our lost babies, how could we be trusted with this whole, perfect one? Taking it off meant something would happen to Dubs.

Once home, I was terrified of putting up our “please don’t ring the doorbell” sign. If we did, they’d know. Who was they? I have no clue. But they certainly would know that we had a perfect, vulnerable baby in the house, and they’d come take him in the night. The thought of The Professor leaving the house to go to the grocery store put me in a full-blown panic. 

I lay awake all night long and watched Dubs breathe. If I took my eyes off for a moment, he would stop. Six months in, and this one is still a struggle. It’s as though I feel like my hyper-vigilance is what is keeping everything safe.

A few days after we were home, my mom and I ventured to Walmart in search of underwear tall enough to go over my c-section incision instead of sitting right on it. I already hate Walmart with the passion of 1,000 yellow smiley faces, but Walmart seemed the logical choice for granny panties (it’s not, by the way – we ended up with expensive maternity undies that got the job done).

As we perused the aisles, I had to keep touching Dub’s hands to make sure he was breathing. About the tenth time, I had a realization. I had Walmart germs on my hands. I touched his hands. He puts his hands in his mouth. That’s when I had a real life, honest-to-God panic attack. At Walmart. New low, people. New low.

As fast as my post-cesarian body could handle, I booked it to the car, my mom trailing behind, still trying to figure out why her daughter was making a scene. There I found diaper wipes and wiped each of Dub’s hands with three wipes.

On the way home, at one point my mom quickly changed lanes – well she attempted and I still hold that it was a dumb move that could have easily caused a fender bender, but nothing more.  However, at that moment in my mental state, I lost it, bursting into big, ugly tears. She had put me and my little, helpless baby in perilous danger. Already, the people were going to come and steal him in the night. Horrible things would happen if I took off my jewelry, and now this.

It waxes and wanes with victories and defeats, but the anxiety is never far from me. I have to remind myself this manic alertness is a problem, not my very own super power that holds the world together and keeps everyone safe from a thousand spoken and unspoken dangers and fears. This anxiety, it is not my friend.

Intrusive Thoughts

The next day, was the start of one of the hallmarks of postpartum anxiety/OCD – intrusive thoughts. I picked up Dubs, and as newborns do, his head bobbed a bit for the millisecond between when I lifted him and when my fingers got in place to support his head. In that moment, I saw in my mind Dubs being shaken, his neck whipping back and forth. Was I the one shaking him? Was someone else? The momentary intrusive thought put me in a tailspin.

For a the whole day, I wondered. Would I hurt him?

Despite everything I tried, the thought replayed each time I picked him up and supported his neck. Soon there was another scary thought with its own trigger that replayed multiple times a day. They all left me reeling, scared for my baby, scared for me, and scared of me. Filled with fear and shame, it took me several days to even tell The Professor.

Thankfully after a late night feed, I messaged a friend in another state who is a psychologist. She agreed that these were more than just baby blues and that I see a local counselor. I already knew one, and we quickly started meeting. It was helpful to have someone to talk honestly to. To say the fears out loud and not be hushed when my mind wandered through the what if’s of our birth. To realize that once our fertility treatments and miscarriages began, I got on battle mode and never quite stepped off that treadmill. I learned steps to dial down my anxiety and a process for dealing with intrusive thoughts. Apart from medicine, there’s nothing really to do to stop intrusive thoughts. You just deal with them head on. Every time.

I acknowledge I had that scary thought. But I know it’s not real. It’s just my brain feeling a bit confused. That thought holds no power over me and I know I won’t act on it. I am a good mama.

Over the coming weeks, the intrusive thoughts intensified and multiplied. Now my mind played on repeat the worst things you can imagine. There were a dozen scary thoughts and each could rival any horror movie. Six months later and the neck one is the only one I can talk about because it’s the only one I still don’t occasionally struggle with.

Many of the thoughts revolved around things in the kitchen. That whole adage “if you start thinking about putting your baby in the oven, it’s more than the baby blues.” It’s true. The Professor would sometimes come home from work to find me hunkered on the sofa, surrounded by a nest of necessities for the day. I had barely eaten and hadn’t heated dinner, all because I was afraid of going into the kitchen. 

Isolation & Needs

Caring for a newborn is exhausting. Being alone with a baby all day is isolating. Add all of this junk to it, and I was spiraling downhill fast.

I would long for The Professor to return home for the day so I wouldn’t be alone, but I’d dread night – the time when my anxiety was (and still is) at its peak. Even though I was on maternity leave, I longed for the weekend – when my parents would come visit and The Professor would be home, and finally I wasn’t alone.

I began reaching out. It was no easy task. First, between not sleeping because of the new baby who eats every 45 minutes and not sleeping because of the massive anxiety, you have to be awake enough to carry on a conversation. Then you have to be vulnerable enough to tell a friend these bizarre struggles – a real difficulty when you’re pretty sure you’re losing your mind. Then you have to put forth the effort to actually call. Finally, and most difficult, you have to be brave enough to articulate the question, “Can you please come over and sit with me?”

Which, let’s be honest, feels pathetic to say out loud.

This wasn’t a quick phone call to see what’s up. It was a lifeline.  I began being a little more honest about my struggles. I began learning how to say that I needed help and that things were not a perfect, happy Baby Gap commercial at my house.

Some friends were amazing. They would appear out of no where and sit. They would come bearing tacos and cupcakes.

They would invite us for dinner every week so I could be out of the house. They would message me to check in.

Near or far, talking once a day or once every few weeks, these are the people who showed up. Who didn’t let go.

For some, I could tell I was a bother. Sometimes I think this was in my head, because that’s what happens when you are isolated, anxious, depressed and out of sorts. But many times, it wasn’t. I had become the needy annoyance, spoken to in patronizing tones.

I would remind myself – No! You moved to New Zealand by yourself. You are competent at work. You have been lost in far away cities without problem. You are not needy!

The truth was, at the moment, I wasn’t needy, but I sure did have a lot of needs. And that’s an important distinction, I think.

Others were brazen enough to tell me they knew I was struggling, but were purposefully staying away because I needed to learn how handle this on my own. Or that this was my fault – the result of excitedly preparing for an unmedicated childbirth that I should have known was unattainable.

People actually said those things – like out loud.

And by the way, I’m not saying these things because I want to shame or embarrass anyone. That’s not my heart. My heart is that someone finds this post who is or knows someone going through this little-known form of postpartum depression, and they have an idea what to say or do or not do or not say. That’s my heart. God knows I hold the record for the stupidest things said at the worst moments. So, there you go.

I found an amazing traumatic birth support group on Facebook, and I knitted together a group of friends who all had babies within a few weeks of each other. We are part 3 a.m. comedy club, part support group, part eager advice givers and takers.

By the end of my maternity leave, I knew who was there for me and who wasn’t, and I stayed cocooned in my little safe circle. And that was a very good thing.

Throughout it all, The Professor was amazing.

On days that were bad – which thankfully became less and less – he would come home and not say a word about having to make dinner, do all the dishes and clean all the mess.

He bought a few chunky necklaces from Charming Charlie, my favorite inexpensive accessories store. When he would come in to find me having a bad day, he’d go out to his car and come back with a necklace.

That man. He’s a keeper.

One day when I was crying about not finishing my thank you notes, he boxed them away and told me my priority was our baby and my mind, not thank you notes. 


Dealing with this, it’s big and it’s long and it’s hard. There’s no big conquering end to my story.

Going back to work was a huge help because I wasn’t sitting around, stewing in my own anxieties all day. It’s much better, but I still struggle significantly with anxiety. I know that part of that is standard new mom worry and part of it is a true struggle with anxiety rooted in a traumatic event. It all equally has to be given to the Lord every day.

One of the most helpful things was learning my triggers – the things that caused anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Isolation is a big one. Once I realized this, Dubs and I tried to get out of the house once a day. We wandered around Target or visited local shops. I also learned that reaching a certain level of exhaustion is probably the biggest trigger, so The Professor and I are very careful about me getting rest. As weird as it sounds, there are still foods I can’t cook because they are still triggers.

It’s difficult to explain the intensification of the anxiety/ocd symptoms while also looking at the day to day. Some days were great. Some days I had no anxiety and no intrusive thoughts. Some weeks even. But as they came, there was an escalation of the fear, and then slowly, a few months in, a deescalation as my hormones normalized, I learned to deal with intrusive thoughts, and I worked through my emotions.

Since I’ve been back to work, there have been two week-long stretches Dubs has been sick, and I’ve stayed home with him. While I love the extra cuddles, the exhaustion and isolation quickly start to take their toll, and the intrusive thoughts begin again. Once again, I start my multi-step process of dealing with them.

Overall, this experience, it changed me. 

I learned that I cannot invest my time and emotions in people who are going to be at best dismissive or at worst cruel. My close circle, it’s significantly closer and smaller than it used to be. And that’s okay.

At the same time, it’s showed me how to have better grace with others. We all are going through hard things. Seeing past the saccharine Facebook statuses – there’s nothing quite so valuable. 

I’ve also learned to have a lot of grace with myself. If you want proof, just come to my house and see how badly it needs vacuuming. 

I have family members who have dealt with chemical depression their whole lives. I don’t understand that struggle at all, however I now have a glimpse. I now understand what it’s like to not be in full control of your mind. I have my own sliver of understanding at how scary it is. I now understand the value of showing up and just sitting and watching Gilmore Girls in silence. 

I’ve learned to listen differently.  If I get a call from a friend going through a hard time who wants to get together, everything might be fine. She might just want an adult conversation or a pedicure buddy.

Or that phone call might be the loudest cry for help she can muster.

I’ve learned that when I bring dinner to a friend who just had a baby, I need to ask questions like, “How are you feeling emotionally?”

This year – fertility treatments, miscarriages, pregnancy, labor, scary birth, anxiety – I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought possible. But I’ve also learned that I’m weaker and more vulnerable than I knew. There’s beauty in this strength and fragility.

I’ve learned that, just like that song said, God is faithful. He’s faithful through the hardest of hard times. He’s good.

If your friend or wife is going through this, all I can say is this: Show up. Just be there. Be the one she can call. Be the one who doesn’t judge. Arrive to do dishes or watch the baby so she can go to counseling. Be her support, even though what that looks like might change from day to day or moment to moment.

The closer you stay, the better you’ll know what she needs.

I know this whole thing doesn’t seem rational. That’s because it isn’t.

If you’re going through postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety/OCD or PTSD, I wish I could come give you a hug. I wish we could sit in silence, together. I wish I could take your scary thoughts and throw them far away. Since I can’t, I’ll just say this: Go to counseling – don’t mess around with this. Get medicine if you need it. Release the guilt. Know that you can simultaneously hate what’s going on in your mind and fiercely love your baby. Find the friends and family who will truly support you, and don’t worry about the rest. Learn your triggers and avoid them like the plague.

And slowly, it will get better.

Dub’s Birth Story

This is our sweet boy’s birth story. It’s a story that I never want to forget because it’s a story of God’s faithfulness. There are other things that I don’t want to forget. There parts where I was really brave and stronger than I ever thought I could be. There were little moments The Professor and I shared that will be forever memories. We were loved so well by family and friends. There are some scary parts and some unexpected surprises, too. 


I had an awesome pregnancy. Amazing. After years of hormone problems, I really never felt better. Sure, I was tired and my hips hurt and even the mention of Thai food made me want to hurl, but I loved it.

We really wanted to have an unmedicated childbirth. {{BTW – I don’t think unmedicated is the only way to go. Have a baby however you want.}} The Professor and I decided on this for several reasons. First, I have really bad reaction to any anesthesia medicine. And frankly, childbirth sounded better than going through that again. We wanted only the interventions we needed because we saw that in some cases, an epidural was the start of an intervention snowball that resulted in a lot of problems that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. I’ve also heard of people who didn’t prepare for labor and then couldn’t have an epidural or it didn’t take, and they were unprepared.

Being the child of two nurses, however, we wanted to be in a hospital and were so thankful to get in with the midwife program associated with the top women’s and children’s research hospital in the state. Total best of both worlds. We would labor at the hospital with our midwife on the regular L&D floor with all the docs and nurses and medical equipment. In preparation for Dub’s birth, we took Bradley Method Classes and had a doula, my cousin Shelley.

Throughout the pregnancy, Dubs was posterior, aka sunny-side up. He never moved. I know this because I could feel the flutterings of fingertips in my lower abdomen, right where his shoulders should have been. This was a great concern to me. I guess because I’ve heard of a lot of women having unnecessary c-sections because of posterior babies. Unnecessary because most posterior babies turn at some point in labor and even if they don’t, many babies are born sunny side up without any problems. His head was big and wide and flat inside of me. For about the last month of my pregnancy, my hips basically stopped working.

As the weeks drew near, I did everything I could to get him to turn. I did accupressure with a chiropractor, a turning and labor inducing massage, researched foods to eat, exercises, positions to lay in. Basically, if it is on the internets, we tried it. Then something happened in the last week. Call it a premonition or the Holy Spirit, but suddenly I stopped it all. For some reason, I knew I shouldn’t try to make him turn.

It Begins

At my 40 weeks, three day appointment, we confirmed he was still posterior. We also learned that I developed really high blood pressure out of no where. It was still high the next day, so my midwife decided to induce while we still had options. She explained that the high BP would only get worse. 

On Friday evening, we got admitted and started Cervidil, a medicine to thin your cervix to help with the coming induction. As soon as I got checked in to my room and the Cirvidil started, my BP was perfect. Our midwife said it was a weird anomaly that happens sometimes, but it was too late to turn back. Also the high BP could return at any moment and I was already passed my due date. 

The next morning, I got induced and my body responded perfectly. I started with a foley bulb, a little balloon that helps you dilate. They expected it to take a few hours, but in just 30 minutes I’d dilated to four centimeters! Everyone was elated. My midwife holds the gold standard for best practices of induction at the hospital. She worked to make sure the Pitocin mimicked labor.

The labor part was really cool. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but if I ever wonder if I’m strong, I will always go back to those moments and remember. Yup. I’m strong.

I labored in bed, on peanut balls, in the tub, walking around. I was so thankful for the freedom of movement the hospital allowed, even while being induced. They had a portable fetal heart monitor I used while in the tub. The Professor was his usual amazing self. He sat on the little bench behind the tub and rubbed my back during contractions. He coached me through relaxation exercises. Our Bradley classes taught Kevin how to help me relax, and I knew I could trust him. That knowledge helped me relax as much as anything. During contractions, any voice besides his was grating. But his words calmed me and soothed me. Shelley told me it looked like we were having our fifth baby together.

birth story www.accidentalokie.com

Shelley jumped in whenever Kevin left. She encouraged me and helped us make medical decisions. When I kicked everyone out of the room to sob, I felt her soft hand on my arm, and I listened to her and The Professor encourage me.

My mom was there and my sister, too. It was neat to be surrounded by the women in my life as I did this hard thing. My dad was somewhere in the hospital. He came in, saw me in pain, and promptly left. 

I labored for 15 hrs with no epidural, and spent the last three hrs in the second part of first stage/transition, as far as emotional signposts go. For those three hours, the contractions were 45 seconds apart, 2 minutes long. Towards the end, I was starting to hyperventilate through them. Even though it was hard, I kept telling myself this is transition! The end is near! Then they checked me. In the 15 hours of labor, I had dilated 1 cm to be at a whopping 5 and was still at a -2 station, which basically means that he was still high up in me.

My midwife and I talked. He was still posterior. Despite doing our awesome relaxation exercises, and his position was so bad in my pelvis that I physically couldn’t relax enough for him to descend. She recommended that I do the epidural because it was the only way he would come out, purely because of his position. Sobbing, I said yes. I was ready.

I requested that an attending to the epidural. Everyone said that was overkill, but I didn’t want a young resident poking my spine. Soon the anesthesiologist came. He warned us that the epidural could cause a temporary drop in my BP because of a vasovagal response, and they know how to deal with it if it happens. Right after the epidural started to take effect, my water broke on its own. There was a little muconium staining. About that time, I became completely relaxed and happy. The room was quiet, just the anesthesiologist, his resident, the midwife, a nurse or two, and the Professor. I remember looking at the clock on the wall and getting very, very sleepy.

Everything Changes

From that moment, everything is a blur. I remember only things in flashes, not in any full, coherent memory.

I heard someone loudly saying my name. I opened my eyes to my midwife and a nurse over my face. She explained I had passed out. I looked around to a room of total chaos. The quiet, peaceful room was now full of about 15 doctors and nurses. People were turning me on all fours to get my blood pressure back up. I had no concept of time. I assumed I’d been out for a while, but The Professor said it was only a minute.

By getting me on all fours and giving me some medicine, my blood pressure was quickly back to normal. As I became more cognizant, I looked around the room and realized that less than half of the medical people in the room were working on me. The rest were crowded around the display of the fetal monitor having a hurried, concerned conversation.  I saw a med student plastered against the wall in shock and realized that whatever was happening wasn’t good.

The doctor turned to me, still on all fours, and said, “Sarah, your baby’s heart rate is falling. We got it back to 90, but fell again to 60. We have to do a c-section. Now.” 

Before, everything had been presented in options. You can do A or B. Now it was a statement. No options.

I turned to the other side of the bed and looked at Kevin. I needed him so badly. He nodded at me that this was the right decision and I nodded back. It was a moment that didn’t need words. 

Suddenly a nurse was asking if she could cut off my dress. Someone else was adjusting some IVs. A few others grabbed the bed. And then everyone ran. I remember being on the bed, still on all fours, trying to process what was happening. I heard someone screaming at people to get out of the hall so we could pass.

The anesthesiologist was behind me. He told me they were redoing the epidural for a c-section because there was no time for anything else. “I know what a spinal is,” I said.

“No,” he explained. “We’re turned your epidural into c-section anesthesia.” He did it while running down the hall.

Soon we were in the OR and was transferred to a new bed and finally on my back. Unlike the comfortable labor room, this was stark and white and cold. All business. The nurses and doctors did a quick verbal check to confirm what they were doing. They asked me if I could feel things. I still could. The epidural was cranked up more. Then we began. I could feel pressure and pulling, which scared me because I was worried it meant the epidural didn’t work, but the doctor assured me it was okay.

As the surgery started, I heard the anesthesiologist explain to his resident what he’d done. I took a moment in the chaos to feel totally vindicated for asking for an attending. If he hadn’t been there, I probably would have been intubated and put totally under because the resident had never seen this before.

My midwife was at one shoulder explaining what was happening and The Professor was at the other. The epidural kept spreading up. By the time the c-section was over, I was numb to my neck. It was a scary and an odd sensation.

Then my midwife said our boy was here. From the time I passed out until this moment, only five minutes or so had passed.

I heard a cry and saw a nurse walk Dubs quickly over to the awaiting NICU team. After just a few minutes, he was given an all-clear by the NICU team. The Professor wheeled him back to our room where my family was waiting. They loved on him while I couldn’t.

birth story www.accidentalokie.com

Shelley and my sister, Jackie.


birth story www.accidentalokie.com

Brand new grandmommy.

My mom knew how important immediate skin-to-skin time was to us, so she made sure that Dubs and The Professor had some special time together.

birth story www.accidentalokie.com

After Dubs was out, the room was much calmer. There was no longer an emergency. They sewed me up in layers so I’m a candidate for a VBAC. I’m told my suture looks amazing.

We learned later that Dubs had been posterior the whole pregnancy because his umbilical cord was wrapped around him so many times, it was holding him in place. Once the epidural helped me to relax, he finally descended some more. Once he descended, my waters broke. Once my waters broke, he was no longer in a floating environment. That’s when the cord started to hurt him. Also, in the process of all the contractions, he’d managed to turn a bit sideways. Basically, there was no circumstance in which he would have ever been born vaginally.


birth story www.accidentalokie.com

This is a horrible picture of me post-surgery, but I love it because it shows the care I had from my amazing midwife.

The next 24 hours are a blur. I remember not caring about Dubs. It was a combination of drugs and shock. It’s hard on me that I don’t remember meeting him for the first time or nursing him for the first time.

We were moved to a postpartum room and I started vomiting (the very reason I didn’t want an epidural). My reaction to the epidural was so bad that I couldn’t keep up with the vomit bags and eventually had to just start puking over the side of the bed. After a few attempts at a milder medicine, they had to give me the strongest nausea medicine that has the side effect of drowsiness. After that, I slept off and on for about 24 hours. I have a funny memory of teaching The Professor to change his first diaper. I couldn’t help because I couldn’t get up and my arms were still a bit numb from the massive epidural.

God has been faithful though to give us our own special memories. I remember some special time with just my dad, Dubs and I had in the room while The Professor called his parents. 

birth story www.accidentalokie.com

There were several times I awoke the next day in a drowsy stupor to see my mom and Shelley there. My mom was holding Dubs to me and Shelley was holding my breast, so they could get Dubs nurse when I couldn’t help him. It was a moment I’ll always remember.

Shelley spent the second night in the hospital so she could teach me how to nurse. She awoke every few hours and coached me through things. The next morning, my sister Jackie stayed with me. The Professor had been sent home to get a good sleep. My parents were there, too. They got the house ready for our homecoming. 

Thinking Back

A few weeks later, I had a follow-up appointment with my midwife. I told her that the experience was scary for me, but maybe it was just normal for them. She said, “No. That was more exciting than we would have liked.” She said there was an unseen hand guiding our delivery and that if things would have happened in a different order, everything could have turned out differently.

I am sometimes tempted to ask “what if.” But not, “What if it was better?” No. “What if it was worse.” Those moments lead me back to remembering all the ways God protected us.

If my water had broken at home, there’s a chance we could have lost him. He would have been in distress and we wouldn’t have known. Thankfully, my midwife explained that he probably could have never descended enough to break the waters because of his position and being held in place by the cord. That made me feel better. And then I remember again that we weren’t at home. We were at the hospital because I had sudden and mysterious high blood pressure. High blood pressure that disappeared as soon as I was checked in and it was too late to go home. I firmly believe that was the hand of God.

If I hadn’t asked for an attending to do the epidural, I would have probably ended up intubated.

I listened to my intuition about not turning him, and I asked for an attending anesthesiologist. I stuck to my guns while also being flexible. The Professor and I always said we just wanted to avoid unnecessary interventions. We did. It’s just I needed all the interventions. 

After Dub’s birth, I was diagnosed with PTSD and Postpartum Anxiety/OCD, both common with a traumatic birth. I sought counseling and joined a traumatic birth support group. There still are moments that are hard, but those are getting less and less. I’ve learned how to cling to the good moments and work through the difficult ones. I’ve told my story many times and each time, I process it more and it becomes less scary.

Dub’s name means “resolute protector.” He’s named after both my grandfathers. We thought it would be a name that would also honor the other men in his family who protected and led their families. Never did it cross my mind that it would be a banner over him – God has resolutely protected our sweet boy. Like I said, this is a story of God’s faithfulness, and there is so much to be thankful for.

birth story www.accidentalokie.com


The Time I Went Away

I went away for a year. I’ve decided I’m ready to tell you where I’ve been.

It’s been a year. I can say that in so many ways. It’s been a year since I blogged, a year since I shared my recipes and stories and silly things. It’s been a year. Like, it’s been the year of years. The highest highs. The lowest lows. The biggest leaps. The biggest yearnings to God from the deepest, rawest parts of my heart. The biggest answers. The biggest losses. And a gift like no other.

It’s been a year of very boring food. Sorry, folks, but that’s the truth. If you come here for gluten-free inspiration, you’ll be sad to know there was a disproportionate amount of gluten-free chicken fingers, little smokie sausages, and potatoes lazily baked in the microwave, dressed with a pathetic little dollop of butter and pre-shredded cheese. 

When I left you last, I was gloriously making camp-side gluten-free delicacies and tasty treats. I talked about the peaches and the meatloaf and the fun paper plates. I failed to mention the fertility medicine’s hot flashes that, coupled with the 100-plus heat of the day, almost caused me to pass out several times. Or that just weeks prior, I sat in a doctor’s office with The Professor and learned there was a five-percent chance of every having a baby without medical intervention.

By the time I was working on the camping posts, I’d been on the medicine a few weeks. It was a strong and nasty drug, as fertility meds are known to be. But hey, when you’re tricking your body to artificially perform every reproductive task it should do on its own, you deal with it. The meds became stronger and stronger with each dose – both the dosage was increased and they had a cumulative effect – and soon I was on survival mode, both mentally and physically. No more blogging. No more Swoon Designs projects. No more social life. No more creative dinners. But lots of crying. Poor Professor. He was a trooper.

Before, I would have felt like a failure. But I didn’t, honestly. I felt like a warrior, stealing herself for battle, fighting for something bigger than my blog posts. Like those new Disney princesses or something.

A few months later, I lay awake in bed, waiting, wondering and praying my heart out. During the month I endured the meds, the shots, the embarrassing doctor’s appointments that had somehow become routine. Now all there was to do was wait until the appointed moment to check to see if our efforts worked. Finally at 5 a.m., I tiptoed out of bed, slipped into the guest bathroom so I wouldn’t wake up the professor, and peed on a stick. And this happened.



It was a moment like no other. Like when your knees buckle under you, but because of something good, not something bad. An answer to so many prayers. I cried, I took pictures, and then walked softly into our bedroom and whispered into The Professor’s ear, “I’m pregnant.” He was asleep and he confusedly gave me a high five. The Professor has a history of inappropriate gestures at important moments (don’t get me started about our first kiss or on one of early dates where he shook my hand when he saw me), so I went with it and high-fived him back, and slipped into bed to snuggle. And everything was right with the world.

I called my doctor the next morning and they rushed me in, hugs all around, and on to the blood work to start monitoring the pregnancy. The Professor and I talked logistics – cancel his school trip over the summer. The baby will be here by that time. Should we tell our family in two-and-a-half months at Thanksgiving? 

A few days later, tears welling up in my eyes, I listened over the phone as my doctor explained that the blood work showed that I wouldn’t stay pregnant. As lovingly and gently as she could, she told me to wait for it to end.

It took a week. It wasn’t a normal period. I went from not bleeding to blood pouring out of me, puddling into my shoes. I cried in my office and then went home to shower. I curled in bed and put to sleep all the dreams I had for this child. 

There aren’t any nice ways to describe a miscarriage. It’s not sad. It’s not hard. It’s not unfortunate. Those don’t do it justice. It’s death. Death, plain and simple. Death inside of you. It’s not just your knees buckling, but your whole body buckling, unwilling, unable to hold you up. It was a death we grieved, me especially. 

This was a battle, and we knew what we signed up for. We lost the pregnancy so early, we were able to try again the next month. So we did. Another cycle. Another set of drugs. Another insemination. 

Four weeks later, it was 5 a.m. again. It was time to take the walk to the guest bathroom and pee on the stick. I did. The same thing happened. Excitement, hope, and another loss. Another death deep inside me. Another baby we’ll meet someday in heaven. Dreams unrealized, hope delayed.

It was worse now than the day we were told we’d only have a five percent chance of getting pregnant without medical help. Now we had medical help. I had a team of doctors and nurses and PAs who I saw sometimes three times a week. We knew each other. I could look at an ultrasound and actually know what I was seeing. I could eyeball follicle diameter. We had all the medical help, and what we learned is we could get pregnant, but we couldn’t stay pregnant. And that seemed hopeless.

We decided one more try and then we’d take a break for a little while. By now, our budget was stretched thin. My parents were coming up to visit a lot since I was too sick from the meds to do house work and cooking. They conveniently had groceries in tow each time they came.

This time, I’d done some research and asked to add progesterone to our cocktail of drugs. The internets say low progesterone can cause early miscarriages and it wouldn’t hurt anything. Four weeks later. 5 a.m. Another test. It was positive again. By this time, I was callous and cautious and maybe a bit bitter. No pictures of the positive test. I glanced at it, winced with the anticipation of another month of pain, and threw the test away.

But something happened. The first day’s blood work looked positive. Two days later even better. Two days after that, even better. Two weeks after that, the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. A heart beat. Two weeks after that, still a heart beat. If we could make it two more weeks, to 10 weeks, and there was still a heart beat, we would be out of the woods and back in the general population of risk. A 10 weeks, we heard it again. Eight weeks after that, “it” became a “he.” 

Eventually I looked like this – taken on my due date.

due date

Eight weeks ago, we welcomed our son into the world. He’s here. He’s beautiful and perfect and I love him with a fierce and beautiful intensity, so great that it took me by surprise.

Our journey to parenthood wasn’t nearly the journey that some endure, and for that we are so thankful. It still was the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. 

I’ve learned a lot of things. One of those is to have grace with myself. That extends to the blog. I’d like to do more blog posts, specifically about fertility treatment, infertility, childbirth. His birth was scary and ended in an emergency c-section.There are so many stories – both lighthearted and serious – to share. They’ll come slowly and irregularly. There are beautiful stories of how God sustained us, how friends loved us and how we made it through.

I just invented a new salad. That might appear someday. It had roasted pears and a whole-grain mustard vinegrette and bleu cheese and candied pecans. Maybe some posts on all the make-ahead meals I made and have since eaten. Maybe some more cat stories, although Charlie is an only cat. Pippa joined the circle of life. First by preferring to be outside at night to catch mice. Later by being eaten by an owl. 

But for now, I am here, listening to the sweet coos and cries and occasional screams of an answered prayer.

A Few Things

1. Duck Dynasty Season 3 comes out on DVD in a few days. The beards. The river. The camo. Be still my heart.

When I bought season 2 on its release day, the cashier asked me if it was for my husband. I thought about lying and saying yes, but I proudly said no. I love that show with my whole heart.

2. Getting my annual haircut on Thursday. Suggestions?

Warning, my hair easily becomes too short. And when that happens, I look like the lady in the Dilbert comics with triangle hair.

3. I’ve been killing it at the gym lately. Eight pounds g-o-n-e. Boom.

4. Speaking of healthy choices, in case you think I have it all together in the culinary world and every night we eat a home-cooked dinner with homemade salad dressing and freshly baked gluten-free confections, let me set you straight. Last night we had gluten-free frozen chicken fingers, gluten-free mac and cheese from a box (I cannot lie. I love me some squeeze cheese) and frozen sweet peas that I had to pour boiling water over because they had frozen together in one block after being partially defrosted several times when moonlighting as an ice pack.

5. It really has been a year since I got my hair cut, not counting bang trims. Maybe longer. I think I got bangs last April. So a year and a few months.

6. I’m growing out my bangs. I’ve decided that my will to have Zooey Deschanel bangs is not as strong as the willpower of my cowlicks. And every time I did my bangs, they looked great. But only in the mirror. Then I’d embark to the wide world and instantly my bangs would go all wonky. The pictures. Oh the pictures. Also, my buddy/bang trimmer quit to have a baby. The best part of my bang trim was gabbing for 15 minutes. What’s with that? Priorities, Kelly!

7. We started free-feeding Charlie instead of feeding him on a schedule. I guess he’s happy because he stopped pooping on the garage floor. He’s now eating a little more than before. Yes, I know. His weight will surely kill him. Even so, his life expectancy is now greatly extended from when he was pooping in the garage – if you know what I mean.

I explained this to the vet. She met the decision with disapproval until she listed off a dozen ideas to help him lose weight and I had tried every one of them and failed. We had already even attempted her suggestion of kitty cardio time chasing the laser pointer. We tried that. He chases it for about a minute and then lays on his back and follows the dot upside down with his eyes.

What can I say? Charlie, he’s consistent.

8. Next week is salad dressing week. Be looking for two great salad dressing recipes.

9. If you’re growing basil, you’re really going to like salad dressing week. If you’re not, you’re going to be stuck re-examining your priorities, your life decisions, your very soul.

10. Pippa and Charlie went to the vet last weekend. Charlie laid on the floor on his back and impressed the vet with his stellar personality. Pippa – ummm…she did her best impression of a feral cat. And I was like, “Pippa, you were not raised by wolves.” But that didn’t help. Then this happened.

Yes, I know I’m evil for stopping to take a picture in her hour of distress. Sorry Pippa.


 And when I say evil, I mean that I am probably the best cat parent ever.

Lemon Almond Blueberry Gluten-Free Pancakes

skillet logo tablecloth (1)It is the last week of the Great Gluten-Free Campout. It’s been such a fun series and you’re now equipped with a bunch of great recipes!

Make sure to check out all the other contributors of the Great Gluten-Free Campout!

Breakfast: Me!

Snacks and Sides: Macaroni Salad and Veggie Packets from Gluten Freedom and Loving It

On the Fire: Campfire Chicken Fajitas from Angela’s Kitchen

Dessert: S’Mores with Homemade Gluten-Free Graham Crackers from Better Batter

Lemon Almond Blueberry Gluten-Free Pancakes

 I’m hosting breakfast this week. And I won’t lie, this might be my favorite recipe of the entire series.

Whether you make these camping or on a lazy Saturday morning, these pancakes will not disappoint. Really, they are perfect. Take this recipe and substitute the flavors to make any kind of pancakes you want! I’m pairing lemon and blueberry flavorings because they’re my favorite.

gluten free pancakes 12 | Accidental OkieAre you ready? Here’s a peek of the final product. Is your mouth watering yet?

Please note that when I made this, I halved the recipe. So if you’re wondering why I’m telling you to use a lot more ingredients than the pictures show, that’s why. 

gluten free pancakes 2 | Accidental OkieAssemble your ingredients. Fresh blueberries are in season and inexpensive, so I used fresh. If they’re not in season and not inexpensive, frozen will work too.

gluten free pancakes 5 | Accidental OkieZest two regular-sized lemons. Yes, I brought a zester camping. Because I am that cool.

Zest is the very top layer of the fruit. A zester helps you extract it while keeping that bitter white rind far away from your perfect pancakes. 

gluten free pancakes 6 | Accidental OkieThe result is this bright zest full of essential oils that provide flavor like nothing else. Give the zest a few rough chops so the strips aren’t too unwieldy.

gluten free pancakes 7 | Accidental OkieSqueeze the juice of one lemon into about two cups of milk and let sit for a few minutes. This is going to make the most intense, lemony buttermilk. You never really know how much milk you’ll need when making pancakes – everything from the type of flour mix you use, the humidity, the position of Mars in relation to Jupiter. It all seems to matter. You might use all the milk, you might not. You might use a lot more. 

If you need more milk, don’t worry about making more buttermilk. Just use milk. The juice of one lemon is enough lemony goodness for one batch of pancakes.

gluten free pancakes 3 | Accidental OkieI love cutting flour with almond flour (also known as almond meal) in pancakes. Almond flour is simply blanched and ground almonds. Pancakes, no matter how little syrup I use, are always too sweet and leave me with a headache. Using half almond flour lowers the glycemic index because you’re using half protein-rich almonds. Paired with a great gluten-free flour like Better Batter still provides the lightness you want in pancakes. 

gluten free pancakes 4 | Accidental OkieAdd some baking powder and sugar and mix up the dry ingredients.

gluten free pancakes 1 | Accidental OkieNow it’s time to add eggs and milk. Add milk until it has a smooth, thin consistency. In any other recipe, I’d say, “Make it the consistency of pancake batter.” But if you don’t know the consistency of pancake batter, that wouldn’t exactly be helpful.

Make it easy to pour.

gluten free pancakes 8 | Accidental OkieNow fold in blueberries and slivered almonds and lemon zest.

gluten free pancakes 9 | Accidental OkiePour batter in 1/4 cup batches on a hot, greased griddle.

I like to use half oil and half butter – about a tablespoon of each. The butter gives a wonderful flavor and the oil’s high smoke temperature keeps the butter from burning.

gluten free pancakes 10 | Accidental OkieGluten-free pancakes and pancakes with almond flour don’t always bubble, which is usually the sign it’s time to flip. So take a peek after a minute or so and make sure they’re not burning.

gluten free pancakes 13 | Accidental OkieServe with syrup and butter and eat immediately. Enjoy the crunch of the almonds, the fresh zing of the lemon and the fruity blueberries!

Whether you’re in the woods or in your favorite PJ’s, these pancakes will get your day started right!

gluten free pancakes 14 | Accidental OkieAlso, just a public service announcement: when you’re making pancakes in a foreign environment with different heat sources, don’t expect the first few pancakes to come out perfectly. But soon, you’ll get the temperature figured out and they will be great!

This is okay though, because you can snack on these mess ups while you cook.

Lemon Almond Blueberry Pancakes
Serves 4
Pancakes with a low glycemic index that have a bite, a crunch and zing! What could be better?
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
  1. Zest of 2 lemons
  2. Juice of 1 lemon
  3. Milk - start with two cups
  4. 1 c. gluten-free flour like Better Batter with xantham gum (not pancake mix)
  5. 1 c. almond flour
  6. 2 tbsp sugar
  7. 2 tsp baking powder
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1.5 c. (or more if you want!) fresh blueberries
  10. 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  11. Butter and Canola oil
  1. Zest lemons
  2. Juice lemons into milk and let it sit for a few minutes
  3. Mix dry ingredients
  4. Mix eggs and part of the milk and stir. Add the additional milk until it has a thin consistency.
  5. Fold in the blueberries and almonds.
  6. Heat griddle with a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil and cook pancakes, flipping them over after they're golden on one side.
  7. Serve with butter and syrup or butter and lemon curd.
  1. Not gluten-free? No problem! Just use regular flour in place of the gluten-free flour mix. Expect that the pancakes still won't bubble when ready to flip because of the almond flour.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/



Shop ‘Til You Drop

sarah sproutsLast time I told you all about how I was one of two semi-finalists for a shopping spree at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. Although I didn’t win the big prize, I won a substantial gift card that paid for a lot of groceries for more than a month.

My original plan for the gift card was to supplement my normal grocery budget by only buying produce, meat, sale items and a few staples every week, in the hopes that I could use the gift card for six or seven months. Then life and a lot of unexpected bills happened, and I used the card for almost all my grocery shopping. What a blessing it was!

All too soon, there was only $100 left on the gift card. Sad, right? Even though I’d been using the card for weekly grocery shopping, I still wanted it to help our budget in the long term. That’s when I devised a plan of attack.  I would use that last bit of money to royally stock our pantry with staples and go-to items. It was the shopping trip dreams are made of.

After going through our pantry, I split my dream shopping trip items into three categories:

  • Expensive staples we’re always running out of – like extra virgin olive oil and gluten-free pretzels
  • Quick meals – like ingredients to make pasta
  • Splurges – I don’t need a few bars of chocolate…wait who am I kidding? Of course I do. Other splurges were things like a tube of high-quality tomato paste and a bottle of chipotle Tabasco sauce.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 1

And here it is…the bounty of my dream pantry-stocking shopping trip.  Oh, and it cost a little more like $150.

I’ve taken individual pictures of many of the items, but here is a quick rundown, left to right: Balsamic vinegar, raspberry balsamic vinegar, two bottles of extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, four packages of gluten-free pasta in various shapes, rice, coconut milk, whole-grain mustard, local honey, almond butter, dijon mustard, three bottles of chicken broth, chocolate, three bottles of high-quality marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, gluten-free pretzels, gluten-free crackers and cookies, bell peppers, Tabasco sauce, bulk almonds and bulk pinto beans.

Oh and wouldn’t it have been helpful if I’d closed the back door and moved those chairs before the picture?  

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 2

 I also got some meat, but I put that up as soon as I got home. Bacon, chicken thighs and ground beef. That ham hock’s for a big pot of beans.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 3

White and brown jasmine rice, how I love thee! I also grabbed several boxes of Schar pasta. It’s my favorite pasta brand, and Italy’s number one according to the box. I love their tagliatelle.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 4Here’s where it gets really exciting – local honey, pure maple syrup, dijon and whole grain mustard. These are things I use all the time in cooking, whether it be for pork rubs or salad dressings. It always hurts the budget on shopping trips I have to buy a new $10 bottle of maple syrup, so having it on hand is amazing. Also, thanks Sprouts for carrying local honey. Way to be awesome.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 5This is my favorite chick stock. Buy it. Use it. Heck, bathe in it if you want. Allow it to change your life.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 7I splurged and got some nice pasta sauce. Emergency pasta dinners are ready to go.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 8Glutino is probably my favorite gluten-free brand. Their bagel chips are as good as anything with gluten and our house is seldom without a bag of their pretzels. Then I got Schar shortbread cookies. You’ve seen the amazing things I do to those

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 9File this one under necessity. These are my two favorite chocolate bars.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 10Sprouts has such high-quality, inexpensive produce and their produce workers are so knowledgable. They had bell peppers on sale, so I obviously bought 20. I mean five.

Produce isn’t really a pantry staple, especially because I use it up fast. However, you can dice bell peppers and freeze them. And that totally counts as a staple.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 12

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 11

The last thing I used my gift card for was a very special Easter dinner. My dad came up because my sister and mom were en route to Massachusetts. I made a rack of lamb, roasted parsnips and carrots, roasted asparagus, marinated tomatoes and a Schar gluten-free sourdough baguette. My dad, who is not gluten-free, said the baguette was one of the best he’d ever had.

My gift card is now empty. I keep it in my wallet, though. It’s a reminder of a lot of things – of friends and community, of God’s provision, and of the time I got to stock my pantry full of staples for a busy day, a rainy day, or a day I just need some chocolate.

Who am I kidding. That chocolate is long gone.

Experts Series: How to Travel Alone…Even if You’re a Girl

accidental okie alex travel 6

It’s the next installment of my summer Experts Series featuring cooler, more interesting people than me.

This week, I’m excited for you to meet Alex. Alex and I are pretty close. You’d be pretty good friends with her too because she’s just that great. Among Alex’s many talents is her persistence in keeping in touch with me. Sometimes I fall into a cave of solitude and she comes and finds me and reminds me to interact with the rest of the world. In the rare moments I call her and don’t get a response for days, I inevitably hear these words when we do finally talk, “Sorry. I was out of the country.” To which I always reply, “Of course you were.”

Alex is a fearless world traveler with more stamps in her passport than most will get in a lifetime. All the pictures below are Alex’s. She loves to travel and is savvy about the whole operation, particularly about going at it alone.

I hope you enjoy Alex’s tips on how to travel, even if you’re a girl.

Ask people the one thing they really want to do, and most would agree it’s to travel.  There’s something about getting outside your everyday and exploring God’s amazing creation. I love my life, but I live for the next adventure.

This isn’t easy when you are a girl and don’t always have someone to join in your grand adventures. Over the years and after many trips and even a four month internship in Spain, I’ve learned that if you want to travel, you can’t always wait for the right timing or even the right partner in crime.

In my travels, I’ve been to: New Zealand, Austria, Virgin Islands, Switzerland, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Belize, Guatemala, St. Lucia, Germany, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, England, Canada, Kenya and a few others. This includes going to Chile, Portugal, Wales, and Spain all alone.

I can’t say it’s ideal to travel alone as a girl, but that should never stop anyone from living a dream or making a few memories.  All it takes to get started is picking a place and making a plan. It’s never going to be perfect or easy, but that’s what traveling is about…expecting the unexpected! 

As a girl who loves to travel, I want to share just a few of the tips that have helped me the most, especially when having to do it alone. 

accidental okie alex travel 4

Decide where to go

Is it national or international?  Don’t let the thought of having to get a passport or maybe even a visa stop you from crossing the border.  Maybe you worry about getting lost, not knowing the culture or more importantly not being able to communicate.  None of these things should ever stop you because no matter where you go, you are always going to encounter the unfamiliar.  You have to put yourself in the mindset that you are there to experience a country and not be an outside observer.  As long as you are prepared to engage and come with a plan, you will be fine. It’s all about the attitude.
accidental okie alex travel 5

Always be prepared

As a girl traveling alone, you can never be too prepared.  Do your research, ask questions, make a plan. One of my favorite resources is TripAdvisor.com because you get some great reviews from actual travelers and don’t have to rely on other sites that just want to sell you something.

Some other things to consider when traveling alone and to get together before you take off are:

  • What do you want to see?
  • Do you want adventure or relaxation?
  • Transportation Plan/Backup Plan
  • Get a guide book or get familiar with the safe areas of the place you are going
  • Leave your agenda with someone at home…let them know your schedule along the way.
  • Always carry some cash…not every place has an ATM.  Most of the time you should be able to pull out cash or use your credit card but they will probably have a fee.
  • Be aware that you may not have a ton of access to internet, but know that most foreign countries have great internet cafes…perfect to connect or even get some local recommendations.
  • Make a copy of all your documents front and back and email them to yourself and family member…passport, credit cards, driver’s license, debit card.
  • Don’t wear fancy jewelry…or anything that will draw extra attention to you.

One thing that I would definitely say has been a highlight of my solo trips has been joining up with some kind of tour group.  Even if you don’t like travel groups, most countries have free walking tours to join for a few hours to explore the city and get you familiar.  Plus, they are usually pretty inexpensive because they are supported by tips and not a set price.  Look up the tour before you go and reserve a spot.  I have joined several and have been impressed every time by the guides and also the fun people that you can meet.  

accidental okie alex travel 2

You are never alone

One of the most daunting things about traveling alone are the times where you don’t have anyone to talk to, to laugh with or maybe even freak out with.  I know the thought of exploring alone sounds scary, but it can actually be a bit of a blessing sometimes.  Not only do you get to do what you want to do, but it opens you up to meeting new people.  You’d be surprised how open people are to you when they see you traveling alone.  Take advantage of the opportunity to start a few conversations and maybe even make a new friend. 

accidental okie alex travel 7

Be Smart

As I mentioned before, you can definitely expect the unexpected.  It’s not always a bad thing, and truth be told, you are likely to get a pretty good laugh when looking back. 

Again, when you are alone do your best to blend in.  Stick around the areas with a lot of people, don’t wear anything flashy and be ready to be approached.  You would never imagine, but people are more likely to come up and talk to you while traveling.  I look back and think about the time in Greece where someone asked me to marry him in the middle of the metro station, the time in Spain where I was approached for the time and ended up in a conversation about the history of America, and even when I made a friend from Australia who I stayed in touch with for over a year. 

It’s a mixed bag of experiences…but don’t freak out…just take it all in.

I sure hope that someone reads this and sees what kind of possibilities are out there and maybe takes the next step in planning a fun get away…whether it be half way across the world or even just a short drive away.  Once you get started…you will never want to stop.  Next stop for me is Brazil and Argentina!

accidental okie alex travel 3

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget, if you work up the courage to go on a trip based on reading this article, and everything in the world goes wrong and you think you might be part of a Chevy Chase vacation movie, it’s not my fault. That stuff just happens sometimes. Be prepared, use common sense and listen to your intuition.

Rick’s Cowboy Meatloaf

skillet logo tablecloth (1)It is week three of the Great Gluten-Free Campout! I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far! From me, you’ve seen an advanced and beginner’s version of campout peach pie, and an amazingly easy loaded baked potato salad with a secret ingredient that might just blow your mind. Today, you get to see my main dish.

I hope you’ve also been visiting my partners in crime in this series to view their yummy creations.

Today’s recipe lineup is exciting!

Breakfast: Campfire Biscuits and Gravy from Better Batter

Side: List of Unrefrigerated Snacks from Angela’s Kitchen

On the Fire (Main): Meatloaf from me!

Dessert: Stuffed Bananas from Gluten Freedom and Loving It


 Rick’s Cowboy Meatloaf

Cowboy Meatloaf 9 Accidental OkieMeatloaf in a Dutch oven is a good thing. Unlike the time you decided to fend off mosquitoes with sheer will power, you will not regret this camping choice.

Cowboy Meatloaf 1 Accidental OkieStart by cubing four pieces of gluten-free bread. Any gluten-free bread will do.

You can also use breadcrumbs, but I prefer bread.

 Cowboy Meatloaf 3 Accidental OkieNext, if you’re using bread, soak it in about half a cup of milk. After a few minutes, it’ll be goopy and slop-like. That’s a good thing. Skip this step if you’re using breadcrumbs.

Cowboy Meatloaf 2 Accidental OkieWhile the milk and bread are doing their thang, do your thang. Chop and dice all the wonderful veggies. Start by dicing the garlic.

Cowboy Meatloaf 4 Accidental OkieAnd chopping two big, juicy tomatoes with their seeds. Summer tomatoes and camping – it’s a match made in heaven. Can I get an amen?

Cowboy Meatloaf 5 Accidental OkieAnd rough choping some red onions. When I say “rough chop,” I mean don’t worry about the pieces being super uniform or super small. They’ll cook down in the meatloaf and will provide a nice crunch and subtle flavor. This is a rustic dish, so we can be rustic.

Cowboy Meatloaf 6 Accidental OkieSometimes I forget to buy cilantro for dishes, and I think, “Oh, it’s just cilantro. Not a big deal.”

Now is not that moment. Cilantro is the star of this dish. It is mucho importante. You simply must add cilantro. Lots of it.

You see, this meatloaf doesn’t have a topping. Most toppings create flavor by playing harsh mustard, tangy ketchup and sweet sugar together. This meatloaf achieves that balance of flavors by pairing lots of cilantro with brown sugar. It is amazing.

Cowboy Meatloaf 7 Accidental OkieOops – Rick and I both forgot to bring a mixing bowl. This is a the dishwashing tub (thoroughly cleaned before and after this use).

Mix the meat and veggies, a few eggs, sugar and and soaked bread with two cups of sharp grated cheddar. Add a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce.

Cowboy Meatloaf 8 Accidental OkieAnd mix.

Place it in a foil-lined Dutch oven.

Accidental Okie Camping 6Now it’ll cook in the Dutch oven with about 20 coals on top and eight on bottom, which will achieve an internal oven temperature of about 400 degrees. Replace some of the top coals halfway through cooking.

Cowboy Meatloaf 9 Accidental OkieAnd here is the result.

Sorry for the bright and blurry picture. It was so bright when I took this that I couldn’t really see anything.

We were really camping outside for this recipe. It is legit. And sometimes there are super bright pictures to prove it.

Cowboy Meatloaf 10 Accidental OkieServe hot with your favorite camping sides!

Rick's Cowboy Meatloaf
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
  1. 1.5 c. breadcrumbs - OR - 4 slices g.f. bread soaked in about 1/2 c. milk
  2. 4 cloves garlic, diced
  3. 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  4. 2 small or one large red onion
  5. 1/2 c. cilantro, chopped - measured after it's chopped
  6. 2 lbs lean ground beef
  7. 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  8. 2 tsp. kosher salt
  9. 1 c. brown sugar
  10. 2 c. sharp cheddar, grated
  11. 3 eggs
  1. Tear apart bread and soak in milk.
  2. Chop vegetables.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together and place in a foil-lined Dutch oven.
  4. Cook on 400 for 1.5 hours.
  5. In a Dutch oven, 400 degrees is achieved by placing 20 coals on lid of the oven and 8 on bottom. Replace about half the top coals after an hour.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

The Time I Won A Shopping Spree

One day, I was closing up shop at work. I checked Facebook before shutting off my computer. That’s when I saw a call to enter an essay contest to be a part of a supermarket sweep at Sprouts Farmer’s Market for their grand opening in my town.

I figured what the heck and entered the 50-word essay contest about why I was Sprouts’ biggest fan. Because I’ve shopped at the Sprouts near my parents’ house in Dallas, I really am Sprouts’ biggest fan. So I wrote a funny little essay in five minutes about how thankful I was that Sprouts finally got my ESP messages to come to my town and how I was going to gorge myself on New Zealand lamb and giant bell peppers. Hey, I figured, that master’s degree in professional writing has to be worth something, right?

Then I pushed send and forgot all about it.

Until a few weeks later when I got an email that I’d won.

That was not expected.

I was one of two finalists picked to have two minutes in a store by myself to pick out groceries. That’s a lot of pressure.

I strategized for days, coming up with items that could fill our pantry. I was excited, thrilled. Winning came the month our finances went cray-cray with thousands…yes, THOUSANDS…of dollars in unexpected taxes, doctor’s bills and repairs on The Professor’s ancient SUV. And at that time, we were still blissfully unaware my tires would need to be replaced and this ball joint thingy holding my wheel to my car was about to break off. Oh, and that our house was being eaten by termites.

A supermarket sweep was a huge blessing, and I had my game face on.

On the day of the sweep, I went to Sprouts at the appointed time and found out  I was completely. utterly. wrong.

This was not me running through the store to get my supplies. This was a supermarket sweep like that game show I used to watch as a kid where people throw frozen turkeys into their carts.

This was me running through the store at the same time as a competitor, grabbing the most expensive items possible in two minutes with the goal of having the most expensive bill.

I wasn’t a winner. I was a semi-finalist. There would be a winner. And a loser.

I froze.

I hate competition. As a kid on my soccer team (go Orange Crush!), I’d never play because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In high school on the club swim team, I begged to not have to actually compete. All I wanted to do was go to practice and enjoy swimming. And don’t even get me started on kindergarten gymnastics.

The world was spinning and I was losing all ability to think. What would I do? How? And now that I looked, Sprouts’ prices were really low. 

My spiral of self-doubt was interrupted by a familiar voice calling my name from across the store. I looked up and saw four of my good friends who came to cheer me on.

I was saved!

One of these friends is my sister-in-law, Amber. Unlike my lackluster athletic career, Amber was an NCAA athlete. The stories of her competitiveness are the stuff of legend. Amber, Amy, Rebekah and Janet walked the store with me and helped me strategize. The vitamins and meat were off limits, so we settled on an expensive dog food and infant formula plan. All to soon, I was at the go position with my competitor and we were off!

Two minutes flew by. I loaded up on dog food, never thinking about putting bags at the bottom tray of the cart. Then I went to infant formula where my competitor had already been. I grabbed some other expensive infant items and then loaded up on pricey organic almond butter. They were $18 each, and two fell onto the ground into a giant glassy mess. I kept going and got to the checkout station early. I didn’t think to grab any pricey cashier items in my remaining seconds because I hated every second of this and wanted it to be over.

sarah sprouts

I look happy there, but on the inside I’m screaming, “Someone get me out of here! I just want to practice swimming, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and don’t even try to make me do the splits!” 

In the end, my competitor and I both managed to put more than $800 of merchandise into our carts in two minutes.  But I lost by about $15, or one jar of organic almond butter.

I was bummed and sad that I’d taken off work and had nothing to show for it. Thankfully the nice people at Sprouts had other plans. We both won substantial giftcards. Substantial as in more than a month’s worth of groceries. She just got $100 more than me. 

Afterwords, I found out that her essay was about how she was a single mom struggling to afford groceries, and I was glad that she won. Also, she was new to the area and there at the store all alone.

Looking back on that day and my cheering squad, I feel so blessed. To be sure, the giant gift card was a huge blessing that helped with groceries during the months when we didn’t know if we’d have enough to cover all our expenses (which we always miraculously did).

No, as I think about the blessings of that day, I think about my cheering squad, my community, the people who have helped make this red-dirt land home.

Stay tuned on Thursday for part two where I explain how I tried to use my gift card to be the biggest help in our grocery budget.

Experts Series: Paula’s Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese

PaulaPaula is one of my favorite people in the whole world. She was my host mum when I lived in New Zealand. And since that first day when I stumbled into her house, travel worn and exhausted and she cooked a big baked chicken, we’ve been buddies. Now she’s more like my big sister or cool aunt. Her family has become part of mine.

Every evening in New Zealand after the children went to bed, we would watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. We watched almost the entire series. And nothing bonds two people like witty banter from Lorelai and Rory.

We also share a love of cooking and I’m thrilled that Paula is going to share her expertise with all of us!

Paula is a nutritionist and before that, she was a food scientist. She’s adept at stretching her grocery budget while still using fresh ingredients. Her spaghetti Bolognese is especially amazing because she includes tons of vegetables into her mince (ground beef), to make it flavorful, healthy and dollar stretching.

Her son, Daniel, is a budding photographer. I hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe and beautiful pictures all the way from New Zealand!


Paula’s Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese

Paula's Healthy Mince 21 - Accidental Okie

Paula's Healthy Mince 2 - Accidental OkieStart by assembling your ingredients.

Paula's Healthy Mince 3 - Accidental OkieNext, finely chop two onions.

Paula's Healthy Mince 5 - Accidental OkieYou want a uniform, small chop.

Paula's Healthy Mince 8 - Accidental Okie

Now wash and peel the carrots and grate them. You can use either zucchini (courgettes) or spinach. If you’re going with zucchini, grate it now too.

Paula's Healthy Mince 6 - Accidental OkiePut the onions in a large dutch oven with some oil to start sautéing for about five minutes. Keep stirring so they don’t burn.

Paula's Healthy Mince 7 - Accidental OkieNow your house should smell of sautéed onions, which is one of the best smells God ever made. Add garlic that’s been mashed through a garlic press. Let the garlic cook for just a minute.

Paula's Healthy Mince 9 - Accidental OkieMove the onions to one side and add the mince (ground beef). Separate it with a wooden spoon so it breaks into big chunks.

Also, I have to say that I wish in America, we called it mince, not ground beef. It’s much less repulsive sounding. Let’s all start calling it mince.

Paula's Healthy Mince 10 - Accidental OkieAfter browning for a few minutes, it should look like this.

Paula's Healthy Mince 12 - Accidental OkieNow it’s time to add a can of diced tomatoes.

Paula's Healthy Mince 13 - Accidental OkieAdd tomato paste, ketchup and sugar.

Paula's Healthy Mince 17 - Accidental OkieAdd the beautiful carrots and spinach (or zucchini). At this stage, you can also add two sticks of chopped celery and a cup of chopped mushrooms. As you can see, this is a great recipe for vegetarians who can modify by eliminating the beef and upping the veggie content.

If you’re using dried herbs, add them now.

Paula's Healthy Mince 18 - Accidental OkieRed lentils are added after they’ve been rinsed and picked through to find lentil impostors, usually little stones.

Now add a touch of water and close the lid so there’s just a little gap for steam to escape. Let it cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Use this break to chop your fresh herbs, if you are using fresh herbs. Otherwise, go be productive. Or not.

Paula's Healthy Mince 19 - Accidental OkieAfter 30 minutes, this is what it looks like.  Add salt, pepper and herbs. Stir and cook for another five minutes. Taste once more and adjust as needed.

Paula's Healthy Mince 20 - Accidental OkieServe on pasta with a touch of parmesan cheese. 

It’s your choice – you can tell your guests (or kiddos) just how healthy this pasta sauce is, or it can be our little secret!

  1. Paula's Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese
    Serves 6
    Prep Time
    15 min
    Cook Time
    1 hr
    Prep Time
    15 min
    Cook Time
    1 hr
    1. 2 white onions
    2. 1 Tbs oil
    3. 3 cloves garlic
    4. 1 pound lean mince
    5. 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
    6. 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    7. 3 Tbs tomato paste
    8. 2 Tbs tomato sauce
    9. 1 tsp sugar
    10. 2 large carrots
    11. 2 courgettes (zucchini) or ½ bunch spinach
    12. ¼ cup red lentils
    13. ¼ cup water
    14. 1 ½ tsp salt
    15. 2 shakes of finely ground black pepper
    16. A bunch of fresh Thyme & Oregano
    17. A bunch of fresh Parsley if you have it
    18. ¾ packet of vermicelli pasta
    1. 1. Chop onions & fry in oil until soft (about 5 min).
    2. 2. Wash carrots & grate them. Peel the courgettes & grate them too. If you are using spinach, wash it well & then chop. Keep stirring the onions so they don’t burn.
    3. 3. Peel garlic & crush it in the garlic crusher. Add to onions & fry for about 1 minute – until you can smell that lovely garlic smell : )
    4. 4. Scoop the onions to the side of the pot, turn up the heat.
    5. 5. Add the mince & crush it with a wooden spoon to break up the lumps & brown it.
    6. 6. Add the can of tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce/ketchup, sugar, carrots & courgettes or spinach.
    7. 7. Wash the red lentils in a sieve & add to mince.
    8. 8. Add water & stir well. Put the lid on, but leave a little gap for steam to escape.
    9. 9. Wash fresh herbs well (soak in a bowl of water for a while), then chop, set aside for later. If you are using dried herbs, just throw them in now.
    10. 10. Cook mince for at least 30 minutes (can be up to 1 hour if you have the time), stirring often to make sure it does not burn on the bottom.
    11. 11. Add salt & black pepper to the mince.
    12. 12. Add chopped herbs to the mince. Stir mixture well & cook for another 5 minutes or so. Taste to check the seasoning is right and you’re all done!
    1. I sometimes add 2 sticks of chopped celery & or a cup of chopped mushrooms if I have them. I used frozen spinach in this recipe, but if I’m using fresh, I don’t pre-cook it, just wash it well, chop it up & toss it in with the other veggies.
    The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/