Friday, December 2, 2016

Define Your Own Unique and Genuine Success

It's official. I'm an adult now. I've been looking at college savings plans for my kids and this week I voluntarily went to a meeting about my 401k. It's time to make decisions about how to invest my money for RETIREMENT? Seriously, I'm not that old, but I have to worry about that now? UGH!

Fuck being an adult. I feel like I'm just now realizing that I'm all grown up. At this point in life, we're expected to already be well established in our chosen career, be making lots of money, buying a house, buying multiple new cars, investing wisely, getting married, having kids, taking expensive vacations, the American Dream baby! This is it, we're all there right?! Yeah me neither. You know why? Because the American Dream is bullshit. Because success isn't something defined by society or anyone but yourself. Success is what you decide it should be.

And success for me? You guessed it. It has NOTHING to do with money. Yes I have a good career. But I don't own a home. We only own 1 used car. At the moment, I have 0 dollars invested in anything. I don't own designer clothes or purses or anything like that. I shop at Goodwill. No joke. I don't give a single fuck about financial position or social status or any of that crap. Success in my mind is defined by how I feel about my life. What am I accomplishing? What progress have I made with my own issues? What am I giving back to the world? These define my success.

So do I feel successful? Eh, sometimes. Not like I've completed my life's goals or anything. I have lots of goals about lots of things and it will take my whole lifetime to complete them all, I'm sure. But I feel good about the progress I've made, the things I have accomplished, and where I'm at. Sometimes I don't, sometimes I'm downright depressed if I focus too much on what's ahead. But you know what helps me get over that? My children.

From the American Dream's standpoint, I'm nothing special. But when I look at my children, I think wow, I'm not a waste of space at all. Look at these kids! They are beautiful, intelligent, mostly polite, little human beings with good hearts! They talk to people. They care about people. They want to be friends with everyone. They aren't afraid to dance and sing. They aren't afraid to be goofy and laugh inappropriately loud at fart jokes. They give us hugs and kisses and say awww when they see a puppy or a baby. They say "I love you" to us everyday.

I'm not taking credit for all of their wonderful qualities. Who can say how much of these things are just their own personality and how much is what we taught them? No one knows. But I know that they came from me and Brian. I know that Brian is unique in his dad skills. And while he won't admit it, he works really hard and does an amazing job at raising these crazy little kids. I know that I try my hardest to do the best I can for them. And when they kiss me on the cheek and Sebastian asks me how my day was or Oscar gets excited to see me and yells "Mommy!" my heart sings. And I experience true happiness in those moments because I know that I am a successful human being. Even if I do nothing else worthwhile in my life, at least I helped create these amazing people.

That is not my intention of course, I intend to continue doing my best so that they continue learning all they can from me. But they are still my reminder to define my own success. To not get wrapped up in what the world is trying to tell me I need to do to be successful. Because that is what I want them to do for themselves. The best way to help our kids achieve their dreams would be to give them an example of how that's possible. What better example then their own parents?

Success should be a personal thing. It should be unique to your dreams and goals. It should be raw, real, genuine. It takes a lot of effort to come up with our own definition of success, create goals for ourselves, figure out our dreams, and plans for accomplishing them. Following along with society's definition is the easy way out. Anyone can put on a suit and go kiss some corporate ass if they want to achieve the stereotypical definition of success. But there's nothing genuine about that. And would you really be happy even if you had all that? Sounds like a life lived on the surface to me. I want to dive into the deep end of life and find all the hidden treasures. I'm not interested in staying in the shallow end.

So I'm going to keep defining my own success. Living life on my own terms. Setting goals that are MINE and no one else's. Figure out my dreams and how to achieve them. It won't be easy but at least it will be real.

What about you? How do you define success?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fuck Labels

These are all labels I have been called, by myself or others, in my lifetime. Do you ever think about the different words that have been used to label you in your life? There are so many. I'm sure if I thought about it longer I would remember many more, too. It's interesting to write them down and think about what each means. And how one person could be all these things. Well I'm not still called all these today, but I am definitely still many of them.

We LOVE labels in this country. We use them for everything, good and bad. To educate, diagnose, and inspire on one end and persuade, cheat, and manipulate on the other. But more often than not, people use them as insults. Society uses them to box people into groups and ideals. This is most obvious in high school I would say, with all the cliques. At that age it seems everyone uses labels to decide if you're cool or not, worthy of notice, or easy to ignore. They start to define your identity.

As many teenagers do, I spent a lot of time wrestling with my identity. I was called so many different things in those years, I couldn't be all of them. And how many of them were true? How many were just used because of people I hung out with? Because of things I was taught and repeated, without knowing if I believed it? By the time I was done with high school, I remember hating labels and the people who loved to use them to insult. I didn't like being told I was something, whether it was true or not was irrelevant. It was the idea that someone could describe me in one simple word.

I don't think I know anyone I could accurately and completely describe in one word. Except for the word "human". We are all humans. We all have basic human needs and rights that should be met, but being labeled is not one of them. I don't need society's opinion of where I sit in the great chart of cliques. As if life will always be a high school cafeteria, where no one ever changes. You think eventually everyone around you will grow up and it will quit mattering. And if you find good people to surround yourself with, it usually does. But then you'll be around someone who will say another one. I always cringe when I hear it happen. When will it end? Life should be about a lot more than that.

So grow up. Stop it with the negative labels. Whether you mean to or not, it is often insulting to slap a label on someone. It makes you sound like you think you're better than that person. Because why, they're different than you? You're not better than anyone. And no one is better than you. We are all equal. We're all human beings with differing opinions and beliefs that change as often as we do, which is daily! Today I sound like a pissed off crazy person, but last post I was an idealistic dreamer. That's just how it goes.

So society, fuck your labels. I don't need anyone to tell me who I am. I don't need you to try and define me. A label comes with a set of rules. I don't need someone else's rules. We all have our own rules (well most of us) that we live by. They are a personal thing and nobody fits 100% into just one label. Our true "label" is as unique as we are, every person's is different. No two people on the planet are exactly the same. And for that I am very thankful. Imagine how incredibly dull the world would be if we were all like that? I'll take this often chaotic but eclectic group of human beings over a world of easily labeled drones any day!

Keep finding the things that make you unique. Keep being different. Keep being "weird". Keep being you.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Protest Hate

On Friday night, Brian and I went on a date. We headed to a restaurant in downtown. When we got there, the waiter mentioned that it was dead that night because everyone was avoiding downtown. I had completely forgotten about the protests when I chose the restaurant. Nothing crazy had happened on the block we were on, so we enjoyed our meal and didn't think much of it. Except that I could see the traffic on the road from my seat, and continued to notice more and more police cars driving by. Clearly something was still going on.

After we finished, we started to walk back to our car and heard the protestors nearby. We hung around, curious to see if the protests were indeed "riots" as everyone had been calling them. We saw no criminal activity, just people marching, some with signs, some with various noise-makers, some chanting, some just walking. My first thought was, the media has blown this way out of proportion. Big surprise.

At about 9 o'clock, multiple SWAT cars rolled into the neighborhood. The police got on a megaphone and started telling everyone they needed to clear the street or force would be used. Of course they didn't listen. We started to wander away because tear gas doesn't sound like fun or something an asthmatic should inhale. But then the crowd got much louder. Suddenly several incredibly loud bangs were fired off. I thought for sure someone got shot, but the flashes of light accompanying each shot told us they were flash bombs. The police were firing them, and followed them up with tear gas. And not long after, shooting rubber bullets. People were running down the streets to get away, but many would just circle the block and take the abuse again.

It was interesting (and disturbing) to see that what appeared to be a peaceful protest didn't turn into a riot until the police came. It was also eye-opening to realize that the whole group was basically being punished because of vandalism that had happened on previous nights. Regardless, all I could feel was everyone's anger, rage, and hatred. It was overwhelming and scared me. I just wanted to leave. Below are a few clips I got on my phone.

What I witnessed was anger and violence meets more anger and violence. The result being, no one won. Isn't anyone else but me tired of this division in our country? Each side is hating the other side equally, each just as guilty, but all the while blaming the other guys for the problems of the world. But guess what? The worst problems in the world spawn from everyone's hatred, prejudice, anger, envy, and fear. As long as we all continue to have these negative and destructive feelings about each other, nothing will ever really get better. The answer to our problems isn't in politics, in democrat or republican, activist or police officer, socialism or fascism. The answer is in how we treat each other. The answer is in love.

In my mind, the number one thing we should all be protesting is hate. Tragic events that happen from hate are worth our protest. Things like war and famine, those are worth protesting. But our protest should not include more violence and hate. Otherwise we just perpetuate the cycle and the hatred never ends. If we could learn how to forgive and move on, and even how to love each other instead of hating each other... how do you think that would look? Can you imagine a world where people loved each other equal to the current amount of hate in this world?

Yeah I know... I'm an idealistic dreamer. That's okay. I just hope someday we have enough dreamers in this world to make this a reality.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Believe in the Power of Your Choices

Politics is not something I have ever written about. It's a forbidden topic you know, like religion. But since I don't write to be popular, I'm going to embark on this forbidden topic. Yesterday's events have left me with so many emotions I feel I must get them out. Even if you are enjoying the results of the election, I implore you to stay and listen to my rant anyways, because it is for everybody.

Depending on how well and long you've known me, it may surprise you to learn that I have voted for people of almost every party. Republicans, Democrats, and many of the independent parties. I spent most of my adult life registered non-partisan, but this year I finally registered as a Democrat, just so I could vote for Bernie Sanders. I bet if he had won the primary I wouldn't be here writing this today! After he lost, I quit following any news about the election as I did not like the options I was left with. Yes of course I want a woman to be president, but Hillary wasn't it for me. No this year, I voted for Jill Stein.

Before you tell me I "wasted my vote", let me tell you why I voted for her. You see, I am sick to DEATH of this whole "choose the lesser of two evils" bullshit we have been taught to do when voting. I will not do it. If I don't like any of my options, I won't vote. Period. You tell me it's my civic duty to vote? It's also my civic duty to NOT vote if I can't sleep at night with my choice! And guess what ladies and gentlemen? I slept last night, even knowing that Trump was probably winning. Because I voted for someone that I agreed with on pretty much every issue. I voted for someone who was not already a corrupt and power-hungry politician. I voted for someone who appears to be a decent human being. And when I think about what I really want in a president, it's not being a member of a specific party. And it's definitely not who is less evil than the next candidate. It's if they are a decent human being! That shouldn't be such a tall order, but in our broken system, it sure is.

You see I like "3rd parties" as we like to call them (you know there's actually A LOT of different parties now, so technically it's more than 3, but whatever). They are full of REAL human beings. Ones that haven't been corrupted by power and money yet. Ones that are fighting hard, and without much support, for what they believe in. People that want to make an actual difference. That's what I want in a president. Someone who is truly looking to help, not some pompous, arrogant criminal. Not someone who's cheated in every aspect of life. Not someone who only cares about power. Not someone who's blatantly breaking the law, getting caught, but still somehow allowed to run for office?! Not someone who's trading favors with all of the largest corporations in the world. Not someone who's going to continue to wage war on anyone in the world who pisses them off a little. 

Yes I know you probably think I'm a silly, peace-loving, environmentalist, socialist hippy. That's okay. Those words don't offend me. I'd rather be foolishly optimistic about this country than to give up hope. Especially right now, when so many of us are feeling oh so very hopeless. Right now is the best time to fight. To use your anger, rage, annoyance, complete disappointment, and stand the fuck up for what you want. You realize that there are over 300 million people in this country? Not very many of them are politicians. They are totally outnumbered and yet we let them push us around. Stop feeling so hopeless and start realizing how much power we actually have to change things. We just have to work together instead of fighting over every damn thing. We all have the ability to love each other. It's time we start using it.

There are a lot of things we can do to help, things we might not even think about. Mindless, every day things. Things like what food we choose to eat. We can choose to eat good, healthy, local produce that's supporting local farms, or we can choose to eat junk food that's manufactured by large corporations, adding to the destruction of our environment and corruption of our government. We choose what kinds of products to buy. Nice, shiny, brand new crap that will end up in the dump? Or we could try reused or recycled first. We can floor it past that guy on the side of the street with a sign that we assume is a con-artist who needs to "get a fucking job already." Or we could have a damn heart and hand him whatever food or change we have on us. We can waste our money on materialistic shit we don't need, or we could help someone in need. We can drive our gas guzzling SUVs, by ourselves, on a long commute every day. Or we can move closer to work, ride our bikes or walk, take public transportation, buy a more economical car, or at the very least carpool.

We all have so many opportunities to make better choices. Choices that actually WILL create change. You think it doesn't matter if one person does things like that? You're absolutely right. But it would make a hell of a difference if the majority of us did these things. No change ever happened by sitting around and bitching. And definitely not by waiting for politicians to change it for us. No, if we want change, WE have to make it happen.

I don't care if you vote or who you voted for. I care that you realize that you can make a difference. What would happen if all of the people in our country that think they can't help, woke up tomorrow and realized that they could? Just imagine how things could change.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How to Survive an Elimination Diet: Part 4

Eating out when you're on a typical diet isn't such a big deal. You just take a "cheat" day or whatever and enjoy yourself. When you're on an elimination diet, it's not quite as easy to take a cheat day. If you do have food intolerances, then a cheat day often comes with uncomfortable consequences. You can of course take digestive enzymes, which I do take any time I eat something I think might hurt my stomach. But I don't want to take them all the time because 1) they're expensive, and 2) they mask the symptoms so I don't really know what my body's true reaction would've been.

So how do you eat out on an elimination diet? Here's a few tips I've learned this past uh...almost a year?!

Tip #1: Listen to your body
I LOVE going out to eat. We have a ridiculous amount of delicious food in the Portland area and it is near impossible to not want to eat it all! But when my symptoms flared up big time and made me very ill after trying to reintroduce, I went a long time without eating out at all. It sucked to be making myself food on a Friday night while the boys were eating pizza, again, ugh. But it was worth it to not make myself sicker. I had to learn to really listen to my body and honor what it was telling me to eat or not to eat. Just more self-love practice. :)

Tip #2: Set Limits
Never eating out is really hard. Aside from just not wanting to cook every day, there's work lunch meetings, traveling, visiting friends and family, date nights, etc. So what I've done this past year, is set limits for eating out when I'm not forced to. Friday nights are usually the only time I do, depending on how I feel. Can I just tell you not only how much healthier I feel from eating out less but how much money I've saved?! It's crazy shit dude. Add up your take-out bill one month and you'll be like WTF?!

Tip #3: Choose the Restaurant Wisely
Since you're not going to be eating out as much, you should be pickier about which restaurants you eat at. Don't waste it on places that are just okay or that you know only have food that will cause you pain. For me, that meant there are several types of restaurants I just don't eat at anymore. It's just not worth feeling sick. Thankfully my taste buds have changed significantly so now I can just sneak a bite of Brian's and it's all I need now. By the second bite, I'm already saying, that doesn't taste that good anymore. Instead I stick to restaurants that have healthy food, or food I’m pretty sure fits into my diet.

Tip #4: Know How to Order
Don't be afraid to ask questions. It was hard for me to ask questions like "does that have any eggs in it? Or diary? Or soy?" At first I felt stupid and snobby, but then I realized a few things. First, it's my body and I have the right to know what I'm putting in it. Second, it's much better to ask before you order it then to get the food and realize you can't eat it. Or worse, eat it and get sick. And lastly, at least here in Portland, they've already heard all these questions and none of it surprises them. Plus I’m not an asshole and I’m always polite to people in food service, as I remember what it was like to work in that industry. (In case you haven’t, it fucking blows when people are jerks.) To save myself some headaches (literally haha), I first researched many of the foods I liked to order to find out what they typically contain. Then at least I had an idea of what foods might just fit into my diet to begin with.

Tip #5: Try New Things
I love Indian food. It's one of my favorite foods. Before this diet, I would always order the same thing, a vegetarian dish that contains cream. But there are lots of vegan and dairy-free foods in Indian cuisine, so I had plenty of options. I have discovered so many other dishes I like now so I actually eat a better variety of foods then I used to. Don't be afraid to try new foods and new places. There are even some allergy-friendly restaurants out there, you just have to ask around.

Depending on where you live and what kind of lifestyle you're used to, eating out less might be a real challenge. But if you're suffering a lot of symptoms, it's best to just make whatever you want at home, where you can control the ingredients. Don't be afraid to get creative and experiment. I've discovered a lot of new recipes this past year from doing this. Which has just added to the reasons why this is all worth it.

Read more about what I've learned on my elimination diet journey at the links below:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Unexpected Benefits From Loving Yourself

One of the big parts of this journey for self-love has been figuring out what's truly important. You know, setting some real priorities. Doing this requires ridding yourself of all the things you discover are just not important. This is wonderfully liberating and often has unexpected benefits that only add to your happiness. Below are a few of those benefits that I personally have experienced over the years during my journey of self-love.

Avoiding Destructive Media
Like many teenagers, I got into reading magazines and watching trashy TV. But my enjoyment of it all was thankfully cut short when my recovery started. I realized very quickly how destructive these things were for my mind. Beauty magazines and cable TV bombard you with non-stop advertisements, trying to make you feel like shit about yourself so you'll spend money on crap you don't need. And trashy TV shows are no better. Watching a bunch of girls be anorexic, stupid, or slutty on purpose for money? Maybe some people can handle that, but my recovering mind could not. I decided to steer away from anything that made me feel dumber for watching. I was surprised at how much better it made me feel to have less daily doses of bullshit.

Healthy Living
Exercising and eating healthier, which I think always come up on a journey of self-love. These have the very happy consequence of less illness. And also less side affects from a poor diet, like brain fog, skin problems, headaches, etc. Exercise increases endorphins and usually makes you feel better about yourself. If you wonder why people who adopt a healthier lifestyle are sometimes annoyingly happy about it? It's because of all of that. When you feel better physically and mentally, it's a lot easier to feel happy.

Positive Friends
Being positive attracts positive people. Constantly being around negative people is draining, but sometimes unavoidable. Having positive people in your life will balance that out and help immensely on your journey to loving yourself. I don't know how far I'd actually be on my journey if I hadn't had the help of Brian and several awesome friends in my life that were also trying to be positive and treat themselves better.

The wonderful idea of having less. Most of us, at least in America, have TOO MUCH FUCKING STUFF! The majority of which is unnecessary and just adding clutter to our lives. I'm constantly trying to rid myself of the things I'm not using and don't need, a never-ending (but worthwhile) project. Once you realize what's important in life, the first thing you know is that the majority of stuff just isn't even close to making the list of requirements for happiness.

I first started learning mindfulness over 10 years ago in my first yoga class. At the time, I didn't realize how important this would be to my recovery. You also hear the term in regards to mindful eating, which has also been an important piece in my recovery. Being mindful of my diet and movements is just the beginning. Once I started this process it spread to the rest of my life and I started to be more mindful of all my thoughts and actions. Now I have begun to see my true impact, and potential impact, in the world. And it's bigger than I ever imagined.

These are just a few of the good things that have changed unexpectedly in my life since I started this journey many years ago. I still have a long way to go with all of them and everything else that goes along with loving myself. But I find it helpful to stop along the way and appreciate how far I've come and the happy surprises in my life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Week of Pathetic Self-Pity

Last week at 5am on Monday morning, Sebastian shuffled into our room with a little sniffle. He comes to my side of the bed and says, "Mom, I threw up in my bed."

Uuuugggghhh! Brian went to assess the damage and Sebastian crawled in bed with me, which means I didn't sleep much after that. I had to be to work on time (early in my world) for a big project so I was dragging. Off to work I went to face 10+ hour days for the next 4 days. By Thursday night I was beat. Brian left to play music with his friend and I attempted to have a quiet evening with the boys. Ha! 

By then Sebastian was getting better, but now Oscar had a stuffy nose and what I thought was a cough. After dinner that cough turned into gagging and he threw up on the living room rug. I got him to the bathroom for the rest, but ya know how good a 2 year old is at aiming? After I got it mostly cleaned up, I got the boys in the bath so we could hopefully get to bed early. Bedtime consisted of me following Oscar around with a bowl trying to catch all of his throw up. Ginger kept coming upstairs and staring at me funny but I just told her to lay down. I didn't have time for her in the midst of vomit duty! 

Boys in bed, I headed downstairs to clean some more. I put away leftovers, fed Ginger, cleaned up toys, and then finally saw what Ginger was acting funny about. Poop all over the living room. WTF?! (And how the fuck did I not see it immediately when I came downstairs?!) I had let her out right before we went upstairs so she had no excuse. It wasn't Iike she was sick either so I was a bit pissed to say the least.

A bit later, I came inside from throwing away all the poop to see Oscar at the top of the stairs.

"Mommy, I threw up in my bed."


The view from my office that Monday...a foggy omen of the week to come

My kids get sick like all kids do, but usually it's colds. They don't throw up much thankfully. Ginger doesn't normally poop in the house. I don't normally work 10+ hour days. But all of these things happened in the same week.

Between working late and fighting off their bug, I didn't have the energy to exercise. I didn't eat the greatest either, not enough vegetables and one night I had way too much wine. By the end of the week, all my joints hurt. My face broke out. I had a headache that wouldn't go away. Many more physical symptoms of too much stress flared up. Forget about blogging as that requires more time in front of a computer which I just can't stomach after working that much. I was angry and irritable and just wanted to be alone.

I am very fortunate. My life is good, blessed, lucky, whatever word you want to use. I have it easy. When I have a rough week I get to spend the weekend recuperating (which I did). My idea of a rough week is many people's normal, and for many more people in the world, a dream week. I have NOTHING to complain about. That's why I was so irritated. Mad at myself for being such a whiner. Mad that I can't handle a little stress without becoming physically and mentally ill. Mad that I allowed shit (literally haha) that isn't important to bring me down. Mad because this wasn't just last week, but is always my response to stress.

The road to self-worth and love is long, windy, rough, and lonely. Nobody but me can pull myself out of my own pathetic self-pity. I know exactly how to do it too, since I've done it a million times before. Get enough sleep, eat extra healthy, exercise, lay off the wine, cut back on caffeine, spend time with my family, spend time alone. Write. Write. Write. I was the only person in my way.

Part of seeking happiness is admitting that we cannot always be happy. It's ridiculous to expect otherwise. There are many worthy reasons to feel down and depressed. Part of recovery is learning to recognize when you're depressed for a good reason versus a bad reason, or no reason at all. This week...all bad reasons. That means suck it up and move on. When I have the knowledge, tools, and skills to pull myself out of a slump, then I know, no excuses. Just fucking do it.

Thankfully I took my own advice, and am feeling much better now. Which means, I've got a lot of half written posts waiting patiently for me to finish in the next week or two, so I hope you're ready to read. 😆