Thursday, January 31, 2013

Career Path

After many years of going back and forth between the beauty industry, a college degree, a corporate career, or an MBA, I finally settled on a career path: Therapist.

When I realized I wanted to become a therapist, it was an emotional moment for me. I was visiting my naturopath who also does acupuncture, and she left me on the table with tiny needles along my back. She asked me to really visualize why I was here. She asked me to consider how my body and mind want to be treated. At first I drifted off and thought about work, other stresses in my life. It took a few minutes of being alone on that table for me to realize and finally admit, "This is my career path; regardless of how hard it is going to be."

For the past several years, there have been many, many blockages, bumps in the road, and other issues preventing me (or so it seemed) from achieving what I wanted in a career. Knowing what I know now, and what I've gone through, I think I will actually make a better therapist now than if I had gone to school right out of high school and graduated at 25. I've thought for years that I just hate working; I've wondered if I was cut out to be a housewife (nothing against housewives - I'm just not cut out to be a homemaker.)

Lewis & Clark College has a great program for LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counseling) with a specialty in addictive behavior. Statistically, a majority of those who come to a counselor at any point in their lives are facing some form of addiction. And because I would especially like to counsel young women and girls, I plan to get a minor in gender studies while studying for my BA.

I just thought I'd share this, because it's a big step for me. Those who know me the most know I am really hard on myself, at that at times, I've considered a "way out" of my own suffering. Often times in life we don't give ourselves enough credit or we have a million excuses about why we can't do a, b, or c. Right now I don't have a car, and I found myself recently thinking, I can't go to school without a car. I shouldn't even try. I think it was Yoda who said, "There is no try. Do, or do not." If there is a will, there is a way.

What prompted me to become a therapist? Well, growing up in a family where it was a common theme in our house to say "I'm depressed." My dad, although I do not see him often, suffers from manic depression and suicidal behavior. I never thought twice about it when I was younger, until I realized that most people don't get depressed as often as my family did. On the other side of my family, there have been huge struggles with addiction and codependency. Not to give away all the personal details of my life, but this is part of my inspiration. And also - there is a stigma in American culture about mental health, that it should all stay hush hush. That's complete and utter bullshit.

Another part of my inspiration to become a therapist stemmed from a very abusive relationship I stayed in for 5 years, on and off. I was 15 when it began and 21 when it ended - maybe even 22. I was probably drawn to this guy in the first place because of his "troubled past", but it wasn't long into our relationship that he started to become controlling and physically abusive. He kept me from seeing friends first, and not long after began the fist fights, broken windows, personal belongings smashed to pieces, even being thrown from a moving vehicle. I lived and breathed how difficult it was to regain enough self esteem to get out of that situation, I really feel it is my calling to help codependent women (and men) see their self worth and explore why they feel the way they do; on the other side of that, I truly want to help those who feel the need to become abusive people.

Anyone who has read this post: Please stop shying away from mental health issues. If your loved ones are crying out for help, be there for them. You never know when someone's last day on earth will be. Be there for your friends, encourage them through hard times. Don't assume that because someone is feeling negative or sad that they are just "a screwed up person" or "they'll get through it". Learn to share in their pain and extend compassion to them (and yourself.)


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Self-Care Routine

In recent weeks, both my husband and I have been under immense amounts of stress. We got married and decided to move to a brand new city that we had always loved visiting. Throughout the moving process I think I romanticized the whole idea of moving a little (a lot) which I tend to do with any changes in general (romanticize them). In reality, constant changes can be very unsettling.

To combat some of the feelings I've experienced as a result of the jolt and shock of being away from friends, family, and familiarity, I realized that throughout all the changes, I truly forgot how to take care of myself. Although I've dealt with some major stressors over the past 3 years (and much farther back as well) and got through them successfully, it hasn't made it any less difficult to remember to take care of myself.

For me, this realization that I forgot how to love myself came about only recently, after I moved away from a majority of the stressors and triggers that were distracting me from the self-care I needed so badly. Although if I could do the move all over again I would do it entirely different, I still feel there was good that came from it - it's given me the space and time to realize some very basic things about life. Growing up has a way of doing that.

Do you ever have days where you feel fat or ugly or pathetic? Lethargic; too tired to get up? Do you have days where you can barely get out of bed? Have you ever had thoughts cross your mind like "What's the point of getting up" or "Who cares if I go to work today?" When you struggle with depression and self-esteem issues such as these, self-care is such a pivotal piece of the puzzle to reconnecting with who you really are and what you truly want out of life. When you start to take care of yourself again, people suddenly become attracted to you - and I don't just mean physically - I mean spiritually, emotionally, mentally. Others can sense the pride within you and they start to look up to you. You begin to, knowingly or unknowingly, attract people like you. You attract others who also love themselves, and suddenly you begin to wake up happier and look forward to life.

Below are just some of the strategies of self-care that I've learned (and forgotten...and re-learned) over the years. As part of a resolution to myself, these are steps I am taking each day to reunite with who I want to be.

1) Create a daily schedule for yourself

Creating a schedule for myself is one of the only ways that I can get through my day without feeling completely scatterbrained. I also do this at work, whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or disorganized. For most people living in modern society, we are bombarded with information all day - deadlines at work, multiple projects, children's needs, our personal goals, preconceived notions of how we should be living, and the despair of never being able to achieve it all. One goal you can set for yourself that you can always achieve is to make a schedule for yourself. Mine looks like this:

     5:30 - 5:45: Shower & Complete Morning Routine (listed below)
     5:50 - 6:30: Makeup & Hair / Get Dressed
     6:30 - 6:40: Commute to work (I'm lucky to have a short commute)
     7:00 - 4:30: Work
     4:30 - 4:50: Matt pick's me up, we commute home
     5:00 - 6:00: Exercise - Go to the gym, attend a group exercise class, or take the dog for a walk
     6:30 - 7:00: Have a post-workout snack, drive home
     7:00 - 10:00: FREE TIME. I use this time to prepare dinner, pack lunches for the next day, and do something I love.
     7:30 - 8:00: LAST CALL for snacks and/or drinks other than water or herbal teas (stop eating three hours before sleeping to promote better sleep and fat burning. Try this for a week and you'll feel a difference)
     10:00 - 10:30: Bedtime Routine (listed below)
     10:30 - 11:00: Fall asleep
     11:00 - 5:30: Sleep (ideally this would be 7 hours, but sometimes I am sleepier than other nights so it all     depends on the day I've had. On weekends I catch up on sleep and sleep 9-10 hours Friday and Saturday nights.)

2) Create a consistent morning routine (that you can stick to)
3) Create a consistent bedtime routine (and make time for yourself every night!)

4) Make a list of things you love to do.
    Some things that I love to do in my spare time include writing (blogging mainly), talking to my friends from back home via Skype, chat, or on the phone, being crafty, listening to my favorite music, watching my favorite YouTube vlogs, checking out other blogs for inspiration, shopping, putting on makeup, trying a new hair product or making goals, taking naps, or any other things that make me happy.

5) Take pride in sensory material comforts
     As adults, we seldom remember the sensory, material comforts we experienced as children. When we are kids, we are totally uncensored, until we "learn" through experiences that we should or shouldn't feel certain things - or we should or shouldn't be excited about certain things (like Santa being real, for example.) When I say sensory things, what I mean is wrapping yourself in a beautiful, warm, fluffy blanket or throw and making a delicious homemade hot chocolate. Do things that feel good physically.

6) Do something you love every day
     Do you love making jewelry? Reading books? Writing poetry? Listening to oldies? Listening to 80's? Cuddling up in a blanket and watching your favorite shows? Do something you love every day.

7) Get enough sleep - or as much as you can
    Getting 7-8 hours of sleep as opposed to 5 or 6 has a profound effect on your health as well as your entire next day - your ability to concentrate, your hunger level, and obviously, your energy levels. In my experience, exercising helps you sleep deeper and more soundly than not exercising - another amazing and beneficial reason to include exercise in your daily life.

8) Make exercise a non-negotiable task
     Like eating, drinking, or feeding your pets - you wouldn't neglect those things, would you? Of course not - because your body needs food to stay alive! Your body also needs exercise to stay alive. Treat it like any other daily task and reward your body with the gift of exercise.

9) Learn to say no (and say yes to yourself) 
     This is probably one of the hardest but most necessary things you can do for yourself (and for others.) If you find it extraordinarily difficult to say no to others, you may have low self-esteem or be experiencing some type of codependence (feeling the need to take care of others before yourself). If you think you may have issues with codependence beyond your control, seek the help of a qualified therapist. Never be afraid to ask for help!

10) Be kind to yourself and most of all, give yourself a break when you fall off the wagon.
     It's not about all or nothing - you can achieve 60%, but don't get hung up on the 40% you didn't manage. Life gets in the way. Learning to love and care for yourself only makes life that much more manageable.

I hope you find these life tips useful throughout your own days, weeks, and years to come. I am slowly coming back to a routine that will enable me to live and feel better each day.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Homemade Turkey Chili

Hi loves!!

Last night I made this delicious chili to help get my husband and I through the week on our grocery budget. All in all, this recipe cost about $10 for the ingredients and makes about 10 servings. That's pretty good considering most lunches cost upwards of $5-10 bucks a pop!! That's not including your morning Starbucks run...!

Since our wedding, Matt and I have actively been trying to get back on the financial band wagon- a feat not so easily achieved. We've found that (obvious to most people already...) when we stopped eating out we lost weight and saved money - together.

When I go grocery shopping, I sort my list by order of where the items can be found in the store (hence the recipe in this order):

2 Lbs ground turkey*, or meat of your choice

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 15 oz cans mixed beans
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can plain diced tomatoes
1 12 oz can gluten free or regular beer

2 jalapeño peppers*, seeded and chopped
1 habanero pepper*, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
2-3 cloves or teaspoons garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Chili powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Cayenne pepper
Fresh ground pepper

The way I prepare this recipe gives it the most flavor. I have tried it the way the original recipe calls for, and it isn't as tasty. I've noticed that when I don't flavor the meat while its cooking, it comes out tasting very bland. Who wants to bite into a delicious chili only to find bland chunks of turkey??

In a large stovetop pan, heat olive oil on medium. While olive oil heats (but make sure it's not so hot that it smokes), chop all your veggies. Once the onion and peppers are chopped, add them to the pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent and peppers have softened a bit. Do not add the garlic yet, as garlic burns and becomes bitter very quickly when applied to heat.

Now, leaving the large pan burner on medium high, transfer your sautéed veggies to a large pot. (Don't turn on the heat for the large pot just yet.) Add ONE pound of the turkey back into the sauté pan and start browning your meat. Once the turkey starts to sizzle (should be right away), start adding your seasoning. You can also add garlic at this point to help further season your turkey.

The reason I don't include seasoning amounts for this recipe is because unlike baking, cooking and flavoring are really up to the chef. Whoever is doing the cooking gets to decide how it tastes! I use a liberal amount of chili powder, cumin, onion, and garlic powders. Once you've added the spices, keep cooking and breaking apart the turkey to ensure it is coated and dredged in the spices. Remember to hold back on salt - add a small amount to start, but remember that you can't remove salt once it's added - you can always add more if there isn't enough.

Once the first pound of turkey is done, move the contents to the large pot along with the veggies. Brown the second pound of turkey in the large sauté pan using spices again (trust me, it requires a lot of seasoning). Just make sure your spices do not have salt added to them, or your chili will come out far too salty.

Once the second pound of turkey is done, move the turkey to the large pan and add all of your canned ingredients - including the bottle of beer! The alcohol in the chili cooks off, so this is still safe for children to eat. Be weary of the habanero pepper if your children or family members are sensitive to spice. You'll find though that as long as the seeds are removed from your chilies, the heat will be removed with them. Spiciness comes from the seeds inside chilies!

The last part is easy. Add everything to the large pot and bring to a slight boil, being careful not to burn the contents in the bottom of the pot. Once boiling, turn it down to a bubbling simmer - usually somewhere between low and medium.

This whole process took about $10 worth of ingredients, about 30 minutes of prep time, and about 5 or 6 dishes being dirty. Chili is such a delicious alternative to soup on cold, blustery winter days. Using turkey instead of beef, the recipe is also far healthier than canned alternatives which are packed with sodium, saturated fats and preservatives.

If you can tolerate dairy, add some sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions to the top of your chili and serve with tortilla chips. If you are vegan, try using veggie crumbles in place of turkey and replace toppings with vegan alternatives, such as Tofutti Sour Cream or Soy Cheese.

I personally love this chili plain and it's flavor develops even more over the next few days. Keep leftovers and take to lunch for the whole week! Leftovers should be good for 3-5 days as long as they are kept in an airtight container.

Enjoy!! If you try it be sure to share what you thought of the recipe!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Life at Home

I love this picture of my Mom and I from my wedding day.

When anyone says anything negative about me, and I'm sure they do, I can at least say with certainty that I am loved - and that I have a lot of love to give.

Unfortunately, a lot of times, that love is masked by a lot of pain or regret or disappointment or resentments. The past year (and many years prior) have almost seemed like a test. As if I were navigating a video game of my own life, seeing myself through the eyes of Mario - finding coins, losing coins, losing chances (lives, in the game), then suddenly I am hopping over clouds, grabbing fireballs, throwing them at anyone who stands in my way, and leaping to the end of the level, on my way to fight even bigger bosses. (The only thing I can say with certainty that I skipped out on is the mushrooms.) I'm sorry and you're welcome for the terribly relatable Mario metaphor, but you 70's and 80's kids will totally get it.

Anyway, my point is that my life has not been easy. But we all make mistakes because we are human. We are humans dealing with - or ignoring - our own emotions. We are so afraid, in fact, of our own emotions that we mask uncomfortable feelings with material comforts. Food, alcohol, painkillers, eating disorders, video games, or any other excessive compulsion that becomes a lifeblood to escape discomfort. If there is one thing i have learned in my 26.9 years on this earth, it's that pain is inescapable. The pain of not having enough, not being enough, not living up to others' standards of us. Most of the time, this is what causes our own pain, and we don't know why. We can't pinpoint why we are feeling upset about something we "should be grateful for"; we can't figure out why someone else's unhappiness is bothering us so much; we can't help but want happiness for those we care for, but at the expense of what? All this worry causes us more pain. But because we are human, which has yet to be fully and completely 100% understood or explained, we still feel pain. It's a natural part of life, much like happiness. But because pain hurts, we don't accept it into our lives: we avoid it. Think of the last time you were angry - there is most definitely pain behind that anger. There is pain behind every mechanism of defense. There is also generally a positive intention behind those mechanisms. Think of negative people you've known - those people are in a lot of pain.

I don't really know what made me think of this. I have been struggling with a lot of pain throughout the years and have learned the best ways to cope and understand it. For me, understanding is key. If I don't understand how things work, I don't embrace them. So i have taught myself about pain, emotions, feelings. I have done some damn hard work on myself! I think about my parents a lot and I miss them. I worry about losing them eventually. The pain of loss is of course inescapable, but it doesn't have to be avoided. At one point or another we are all faced with a "gun to our head" moment where we are forced to do something that burdens others but that makes us - ourselves - feel good. It empowers us. It enables us to move past discomfort we have toward our own emotion because that pivotal moment requires us to make a life altering decision.

For some people, though, they get stuck in normality and material comforts. Yet, they are in pain, but it had been so internalized that they become unaware of its existence. And suddenly their job is gone. Or their house. Or a loved one decides to leave. Not to say any of that isn't devastating - just saying that it is easy to be swept up in our comfortable lives, if they are comfortable. Its easy to avoid pain and discomfort. Because as long as we avoid it, we are free from the burden of pain. We are also free from the joys of life, because without pain, there can be no joy. It's easy to overlook what's important to us (and whom) because acquiring what makes us happy takes an extraordinary amount of work - physical, emotional, and mental work.

When my parents pass onto the next life, it will be a pivotal moment for me. It will no doubt change my life. I will look back and regret the fights we had or the regrets of not doing or being enough. I will most likely at that time reevaluate my surroundings to see if I am living the life I really want to be living. But why do we need those moments to move up and make changes? Most likely because those moments involve immense amounts of pain and suffering - and it is only through feeling and experiencing pain that we can move forward and become better people.

I challenge you to cherish the people you love, forgive the people you hate - (or at least say a prayer or have hope that they one day can be as smart as you are) and take this moment to reevaluate your life. Are you living the way you want to be? If you're not, what's holding you back?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

DIY: Blog Updates

Hey everyone!

With the help of Google, I've made some pretty cool and fairly easy updates to my blog to enhance the look and overall feel of the blog. Here are some great resources I found along the way:

Free Online Photo Editor - this photo editor is great for beginners, especially if you don't own (or know how to use) Photoshop. It has beginner, intermediate, and advanced editing options. Resize your photos, add text, or use one of the many

Primp Your Blog - stumbled across this gem while I was Googling "how to add social networking badges to blogger". (What would anyone do without Google? We would all be literally and figuratively lost.) Kira will walk you through basic html coding and non-judgmentally help you with all of your tech questions. I love her style! Girly, crafty, and tech savvy is a triple threat! (Saying "tech-savvy" makes me sound 50 years old, I know.)

PicMonkey - Create your own collage or banner for your website, Facebook, or YouTube page. Let's you create a collage style or just one photo. Not many editing options other than that but it's far better than using Paint on your laptop. (Like I have... Many times.)

I love the new look of the blog, and I'm feeling rejuvenated and ready to cook up something new. Literally, actually - I am going to bake tonight and share what I make! What are you guys cooking these days?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homemade Smoothies, Almond Flour Fish Sticks & Sweet Potato Fries

Matt and I have been on the Elimination Diet for about 8 days now - actually, today being the 8th day. So far I've lost about 5 pounds and he has lost 4 or 5 also!! (In case you're wondering what the diet entails, here is a link to a similar diet.) Yesterday we had indian red curry with chicken, and the day before, I made Thai Green Curry with chicken and basmati rice.

When you start eating this way, you don't remember why you haven't ALWAYS eaten this way! My energy has literally been through the roof, and I have felt emotionally lighter and happier. I locked my keys out of my car this morning and had a stressful morning, but I didn't let that dictate the rest of my day. I've found that throughout this elimination diet, it's been so much more than a diet. The amount of time I have because I am not vegging out on the couch or sitting around all night is changing every aspect of my life.

Here are some of the delicious and creative recipes we came up with tonight!

I was inspired to make this smoothie by a local juice bar called Prasad.
It's the exact recipe of their Superberry smoothie with strawberries, marionberries,
goji berries, chia seed, almond milk, Greener Grasses powder, and a little agave on top.

This is what your ketchup should have in it: tomato paste, vinegar, and flavors.
Sugar does not belong in ketchup... and this one is really tasty.

Okay, it's not restaurant presentation, but these almond flour coated fresh cod fish sticks
were incredibly filling and delicious. You can't tell the difference between using
almond flour and white (wheat) flour, except you still have energy and you feel great
after eating these, as opposed to being ready for bed. 

Enough to make more fresh ones tomorrow night!

These sweet potato fries were easy and fast. Although, that recipe says 400 degrees,
and I had to turn my oven up to 500 to get them nice and crispy.
Matt made them, and he did an amazing job with them!

Hey, this isn't Food Network, ok? But it was worth blogging about!

Greener grasses is crack for raw vegans or any other health nut out there
looking for a natural source of lasting energy. 
Greener Grasses is packed full of nutrients - think wheat grass juice shot without the bitter aftertaste.

15 calories for one tablespoon.
One tablespoon added to a smoothie is as good as a shot of coffee!

Enough for tomorrow's lunch.

If you haven't tried Goji Berries before, these crunchy little berries have a flavor profile similar to dates, but crunch like no other dried fruit I've ever tried. I added them to a smoothie and the cold temperature of the smoothie turned them into little pops of candy!