2021 Year-In Review

Hello my lovely readers!

How have you been these last several months? I hope all is well for you this year, and I apologize for losing touch with you. It has been a trying year for me and my creativity and desire to write suffered greatly. I listened to my body and took the break I was needing, but it took me a lot longer than anticipated to feel ready to go again.

Continue reading “2021 Year-In Review”

Getting Outdoors for Gut Health – How it Impacts Us Physically and Mentally

What absolutely beautiful weather we’ve been having here in the Midwest! After that deep freeze in mid-February, it’s been a dream to see sunshine and daytime highs in the 50’s and 60’s – even pushing 70 a couple of times! The return of warmer weather brings with it two of my favorite things – gardening season, and walking outdoors. This time of year does wonders for both physical and mental health.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot for both! I decided to redo my garden this year to make an L-shaped raised bed and add a second greenhouse cover, so I’ve been hard at work setting that up. Concrete blocks, eight 42-lb-bags of garden soil, and shoveling lots of existing soil into its new home has proven quite the workout – my biceps are screaming as proof! When given the option between doing yard/garden work, and doing an “official” workout, I’m choosing the yard work every time!

However, I’ve also made a return to my outdoor lunchtime walks. At 12:30 on every sunny and warm day, I lace up my walking shoes and hit the pavement for a 20-minute one mile walk from my house, to a paved foot and bike trail a few blocks away. I’ve been doing my walks indoors since it’s been cold, but there is simply no comparison between indoors and out. Body movement is an undeniably important part of a healthy lifestyle, but exposure to the outdoors is significant for not only physical health, but mental health as well.

While reading Fiber Fueled by Gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, I learned something new about the significance of getting outdoors. The book is all about gut health, and it turns out that our gut bugs absolutely thrive with exposure to nature. We have trillions of microorganisms in and on our bodies, the majority of those living in our gut microbiome. Each one of us has a unique makeup of these bugs. In fact, our gut microbiome is just as unique and individualized as our fingerprints. Even those of us living together in the same home, eating primarily the same meals and going to many of the same places, have vast differences in our microbiome.

The significance of the outdoors is that many of the gut bugs living in our microbiome come from nature. Just a simple walk outdoors can expose us to numerous bacteria that end up in our guts, which in turn contribute to our overall health in ways you’d never suspect. Now imagine what it would mean for our microbiome by doing something hands-on, like gardening, or kayaking, or rock climbing. The bacteria in our guts are among the oldest living organisms on the planet, and they’re living inside of us. The complexities of the microbiome are vast, and your gut is arguably the most important health factor deserving of your focus. These bacteria are involved in every function of our bodies from digestion, to detoxification, to our moods, and even cancer fighting! Each and every organ and system inside your body is affected by your gut, including (pretty significantly) your mental health.

The gut is actually known commonly as the second brain, because it is in constant communication with your brain. We think of the brain as the epicenter of emotions, hormones, stress…but each of these are actually triggered in the gut as well. In fact, over 90% of the body’s serotonin, the “happy hormone” that combats stress, is produced in the gut. A happy gut makes for a happy life – quite literally. So getting outdoors and exposing yourself to nature does so much more for your body than just keep you in physical shape.

Sun exposure is another important factor in mood and mental health. In parts of the world where it is often cloudy, rainy, snowy, or dark because of its proximity to the poles, Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur. This is a depressive state that is caused primarily by lack of exposure to sunlight, and is actually treated by use of artificial sun lamps. Even those of us who do not live in places where the sun is frequently hidden may feel some effects of SAD during the winter months when we are spending much of our time indoors.

One of my favorite feelings is what Thumper described on Bambi as “twitterpated”. When the air warms and the birds return and start to sing their songs at dawn – I feel downright giddy and want to spend every second I can outside soaking it all in. Nature is the most natural mood lifter there is, and the benefits to our physical and mental health are indisputable. If you haven’t already, work in some time this weekend, or in your evenings after work, to get outside. Go for a walk, hit a hiking trail, clean up your yard, take your yoga mat to the patio, plant some bulbs or seeds – anything to get you outdoors.

Start working some outdoor time into your routine, just as you would healthy meals and workouts. Your body, your gut, and your mind will thank you!

In Closing — Recounting Another Year and the Ending of a Decade

Dear Friends,

Somehow we find ourselves here, propelled to the end of a year that still feels in so many ways to be just beginning. It is December; a month of celebration, gratitude, and reflection. It is a little special this year because not only is it the ending of a year, but the ending of another decade — a decade in which so many things have changed.

How do I cover so much in such a short span? 10 years ago was December of 2009. I was newly single, divorced in February of 2009 (divorce finalized in April). In November I began a new job in banking, at which I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary on November 16th of this year. 2009 was a major life-shifting year for me, and I began the new decade on January 1, 2010 with nothing but the unknown ahead of me.

Over these last 10 years I have done so much that I never dreamed I would do. When I was growing up I always thought that I would get married, have kids, live the traditional life with the bread-winning husband and fill a role as mother, wife and care-taker. I never really knew there was another option for me as a woman. It was not until this last decade that I navigated the realities of life and shifted my perspective. I am a mom, but I learned that “mom” is not my identity. It is something I do; the most important thing that I do. But it is only one piece of who I am. My identity does not come from being a mom, or from being a wife/girlfriend, etc. It comes from being true to who I am and living for myself just as much as for those I love.

I learned that I should have stuck to my original dream of becoming a writer, as I am now, finally, nearing the end of my degree in journalism. I have become a freelance writer and had pieces published in a local newspaper and local magazine, I’ve built this blog to both fulfill my longing to write and share my passion for diet and health, and even started writing a book. But the journey to get here was long.

I got an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education because I got pregnant right as I was starting college and was completely lost on the direction I wanted my life to go. So I chose Early Childhood Education because I thought it would help me become a better mother, and because I greatly value education and literacy. But a teacher I am not; after teaching at the preschool level for a couple of years I knew that it was not the career for me. As a single mother, spending all of my days surrounded always by small children left me feeling stressed rather than fulfilled.

So I left teaching and went into banking. It was supposed to be a temporary move until I figured out what I wanted to do. And it turned out — I really liked my new job! I enjoy (nerd alert) economics, especially macro economics, and my new job related very much to that. So I decided to seek a business degree for my bachelor’s. What I learned in the process is that the only part of business I actually like is economics! The rest of my classes I hated, and as soon as I started business stats, I knew it wasn’t for me. I am not a mathematical person, I am a linguistic and artistic person. It was like trying to force my right foot into a left shoe; it just didn’t fit.

In my job, I work processing SBA (Small Business Administration) loans, which means I get to help small business owners make their dreams come true — without having to spread financials. A lender has to do that, and I get to do the work of preparing documents for closing, booking and maintenancing loans, submitting reports to SBA, and constantly keeping up-to-date on new and changing SBA mandates and government regulations. And I love it!

I also worked my way into this position, which requires either a 4-year-degree or the equivalent experience in banking, with my only completed degree being in Early Childhood Education. I am here, in a job that requires a bachelor’s degree in some sort of business or finance, without the degree in business or finance. Which means I am free to get my degree in whatever I want. And a couple of years ago that is exactly what I decided to do. Right before I started this blog I was accepted at UMass Amherst University Without Walls, and have been studying there part-time ever since. As of the end of this semester, I have four classes left to complete my degree!

It took about eight years to get from being lost about my future, to knowing exactly what I wanted for myself and taking the steps to make it happen. And I didn’t get there by accident.

What I mean by that is, in order to reach the point of focusing on my writing and studying journalism, I first had to find myself. Yeah, I know, “find myself”. What a cliché. But oh, how real that is. I married my high school sweetheart and had my first child at 19, and my second at 21. I grew up in a family where not one single person in my immediate family, on either my dad’s or mom’s side, had been college educated. Plenty of them were smart enough to — my dad and my maternal grandfather both are incredibly intelligent and talented in so many ways, they could have moved mountains had they lived through different times, grown up in a different family, or lived in a different place.

In fact, my father never even finished high school. And yet he is himself now a small business owner and has done very well for himself in life, and I am proud of him for that. I am also extraordinarily proud of my grandfather for managing to build a future for himself and his family on a high school diploma and a career in a coal mine, where he dedicated countless hours and worked his way through to a financial security that I hope and pray to repeat after him in my own life endeavors.

Now here I am, the first on either side of the family to have a college degree, and soon to be the first to have a bachelor’s degree. This journey has taught me so much more than I ever knew possible, and has given me deep respect for education. It is about so much more than just learning math, science and literature. It is about exposure to the unknown, and embracing the unexpected. It is about gaining knowledge in areas that are not our expertise, and allowing that knowledge and that experience to shape and change us.

I have discovered countless things that I never received from my upbringing, diet and a healthy lifestyle being only a part of it. All of those things have changed my views and perspectives, and have allowed me to learn on a much deeper level, who I really am. Not all of that discovery, however, came from education. A great deal of it came from facing my demons.

My parents separated when I was 11 and divorced when I was 12; right as I was hitting adolescence and learning the skills that would carry me into adulthood. Neither of my parents knew the “right” way to handle things, and for that I most definitely forgive them. But it took a very long time to reach that point. I spent the remainder of my childhood essentially raising myself. My mom moved away, and I was left with my dad who was never much of a touchy-feely type and became focused on new girlfriends and finding his way in a new life he hadn’t expected to be living.

gma gpaI had my maternal grandparents, who I had always been close to but had quickly become my rock and still hold that role to this day. They will always be my guideposts for everything that I do, and as I round out this decade they remain one of the things for which I will always be most grateful.

Due to a disagreement with my father’s relationship choices, I left my hometown to live with my mom when I was a sophomore in high school. I was back with my mom, stepdad, and brand new sister who had just turned a year old. I had fallen off the educational wagon during junior high, but by the time I made the move to my mom’s, I had gotten myself back to being an honor student and remained there for the rest of high school. It is something that I can proudly take credit for myself, and also give credit to my grandparents for since they drilled the value of education into my head constantly from the moment I was old enough to speak.

In spite of improving my grades and giving myself a chance for a future, I still carried a great deal of anger, hurt, and animosity toward my parents and the way they handled things with me following their divorce. I felt that after they divorced, they forgot about me. They each turned to their new lives and left me to fend for myself. I carried that with me for many years, until 2015.

In 2015, I finally faced those demons. I had been very lost, and also had become very good at hiding what was going on inside, for a long time. I always thought “I know what is wrong with me, I can fix this by myself”. But I was wrong. I finally reached a point where I was tired of feeling lost, broken, insecure, undeserving of love, and like I wasn’t enough. I was exhausted from trying to win the battle on my own, and I finally sought out someone to help me navigate it all. Her name is Brenda, and she is a licensed counselor in my hometown. It might have been my choice to seek her out, but it is she who deserves the credit for where I am today.

img_0773Working with her changed me. Just 10 minutes into my first session she pinpointed the reason for everything that I felt, everything I had done in my life up until that point, even the reason I ended up repeatedly in the same type of unhealthy romantic relationships. We spent the remaining few sessions working through that reason, which was a combination of my parents divorce and my relationship with my mom.

I am happy to report that my mom and I have a good relationship. I have no more anger or resentment towards her or my dad, and all of us are now in places in our lives where we are happy and thriving. The three of us made missteps in the aftermath of their divorce that we have healed from. And my healing came solely because I chose to cast aside the stigma of “needing therapy”, and I got that damn therapy! I needed it, and I am a die-hard believer in it because I’ve seen the power behind it. So if you are still reading this far in — please, I urge you to remove any stigma you might see in this. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. It will be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

img_0777As a quick side-note before moving on, I made another transformation in 2015, about a week after my first counseling session at the end of October. My whole life I always wanted to be a redhead, but I was afraid to make the change because it would be hard to undo if it didn’t turn out right. But I took the plunge and have never regretted it!

2016 was a new year, and a new start, for me. I had reached a place where I finally felt like I could stop dreaming of who I wanted to be, and start actually being that person. I stopped looking ahead to the future, hoping and waiting for things to be better sometime down the road, and started really living. I began a journey of self-discovery, trying new things, travelling to new places, taking on every new experience I could find. In the process I learned who I am, I learned what I love, I gained confidence and lost my depression and uncertainty. I finally knew that I was enough, and for the first time in my life, I loved myself.

img_0778Since that time my life has blossomed so much. I took the boys on a trip to a favorite place of mine, Wilmington NC, in October 2016 and came home ready for a change. I had the opportunity to relocate to a larger town 30 miles south and work with the rest of my SBA team from the Southeast Market, and it was a welcome move. I had always wanted to get out of my small hometown and get somewhere that had more to offer. I thought this would be on hold until my boys graduated from high school, but the chance came sooner than expected.

Much to my surprise, both boys were excited for the change as well. I was thrilled to know I was raising children who are not afraid of change, but actually embrace it and look forward to it…because like it or not change is a guarantee in life and it’s so much easier when we flow with it rather than resisting it. With the three of us all on board, I listed my house and started shopping for homes in Cape Girardeau. It took just a couple of short months to get my house under contract, and get an offer in on our new home in Cape.

img_0205During the few weeks between going under contract and closing on the new home, a fluke winter tornado struck my hometown on February 28, 2017. It ripped right through the heart of my grandparents neighborhood and what I had come to know as my childhood home since I spent as much time there as my own house growing up, and left my grandparents homeless, but alive. The place of our family’s roots and foundation was gone, taken away in a mere 20 seconds and left scattered for miles across field, forest and river.

img_0780Two weeks later I closed on the sale of my Perryville home and then on the purchase of my new house in Cape. It was the second home I had bought all on my own in my adult life (the first was in 2014), and it was the home that I knew was more than just a starter home. It was a home I could stay in for a lifetime. It’s the home I knew could become for my boys what my grandparents’ home had been for me.


We moved in, painted, redid the kitchen cabinets and counter tops, and made the place our own. The boys left St. Vincent, the private Catholic school where they’d spent their elementary years after I was confirmed into the Catholic church and joined the choir in 2012, and started school at Cape Central. They loved their new school, we loved our new home, and I loved my new working location. As time went on I developed and strengthened friendships, so even though I was 30+ miles from my nearest family I still had a tribe. I had a new family all of my own making, and I am still so incredibly blessed to be a part of that circle.

Perhaps my biggest struggle in the last decade has been dating. So much of this was due to my unwillingness to really deal with the underlying things that kept me from finding a healthy relationship. Once I reached out for help and tackled my demons in 2015, things changed dramatically in that arena as well. I finally knew my worth, and I knew to stop settling. When I saw red flags, I stopped ignoring them. When I knew that something wasn’t going to work, or knew that my needs from a romantic partner were not going to be met, regardless of how interested I may be or how I may have felt about that person, I cut it off. Time had become valuable to me and I didn’t want to waste anymore.

In fact, when I made the decision to move to Cape, I was a couple of months off the end of a brief dating experience, and I made the decision to stop dating altogether. I had so many changes going on in my life that dating was not a priority. I was also admittedly fed up — very fed up — with the disappointments and feeling that no single men out there shared my same values: commitment, closeness, connection, family; something deeper than just a fling. I was tired of the disappointment and the back-and-forth, so I stopped dating. And I didn’t start again until the summer of 2018.

What I got out of that dating experience was more disappointment, more aggravation, and the realization that no matter how kind and sincere someone seems, they can most definitely be dishonest and deceitful. He and I were never meant to be, because his heart was elsewhere. My only wish is that he had been honest with me about it and not pursued me, rather than pursuing me anyway while secretly carrying on with his ex behind my back. Finding out that truth was a bitter pill to swallow.

As much as I can fault him for his dishonesty, I must also credit him with this: he pulled me out of my place of hiding and contentment, and pushed me forward. He opened my eyes to the one thing I did not yet have, that I hoped I would someday find — a partner. A real partner that I could trust and depend on, who would be there for me through everything and not always have one foot out the door (as most men I’d come across always seemed to). A partner who shared my faith, my values, and my idea of a relationship.

Being lied to sucks. Having someone choose someone else over you sucks even more. But in the aftermath I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let that discourage me, and I would not go back into hiding. I was officially back in the dating world, and that’s where I was going to stay. I may not have been actively searching, but I was open. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I wouldn’t accept, and armed with that knowledge I let myself be present to whatever should come.

And that brings me to 2019; the final chapter of the decade. I entered 2019 with a full life and a happy heart, open to possibility. I didn’t expect to find that partnership I dreamed of anytime soon, and maybe not even at all, but I was equally open to it and satisfied without it. As fate would have it, what I was hoping for came so much sooner and more suddenly than I ever could have guessed. It came on April 4th, 2019, when a tall man with a short beard and a red pullover sat down beside me on a couch at an event at my friends’ workplace. I said, “well hi there,” and a conversation began that would never have an end.

Now, eight months later to the day, that man is my partner. We have the same values, we have the same faith, we have the same idea of what commitment means, and we have the same dedication to the relationship and the future that we are building. We communicate, we share, we compromise, and are kind to each other. It is the type of relationship neither of us has ever had. One thing that he and I agree on is that neither of us, both divorced single parents, knew what we were missing before we found each other. We didn’t even know that a relationship could be like this, and now that we know we never stop being grateful for each other.

While I am blessed to have Michael, and for my grandparents to still be here after a tornado, there has also been loss and hardship over the last 10 years. A cousin was killed in a motorcycle accident. My grandmother was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (which is responsible for my road to discovery in diet and health). My uncle passed away from kidney cancer. My boyfriend was diagnosed with Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (incurable, but with treatment and monitoring he is expected to have normal life expectancy). And another uncle, brother to the uncle with kidney cancer and father to the cousin who died in a motorcycle accident, just passed away suddenly this past Friday and was laid to rest yesterday.

If you ask people what they want in life, the most common answer is “to be happy”. Reality is, happiness isn’t permanent. Life is filled with ebbs and flows; ups and downs. They say that happiness is a state of mind, and I sincerely believe that is true. It isn’t possible to stop hard things from coming. Everyone will experience tough times; that much is inescapable. I think the greatest mindset I’ve developed over this decade is that it isn’t what happens to us that determines our happiness; it’s how we respond. There will always be a silver lining. There will always be something to be grateful for. In order to achieve the blissful days, we must also endure the difficult moments. Life is a blend of both.

With that, what I’ve learned in this last decade is this:

Time is an illusion. We think we have plenty of it to waste; we don’t.

When we hide from our problems, we only prolong the ability to resolve them and find inner peace.

There is more strength in reaching out for help, than in dealing with things on our own. Most people refuse counseling because of the fear of how they’ll be perceived by others, and this fear unnecessarily prolongs the struggle.

The key to happiness is to disregard the opinions of others, and instead be honest with ourselves about who we are and what brings us joy. Try as we might we can never please everyone. But we always have the ability to please ourselves if we are true to ourselves first.

Being healthy is about so much more than what we put into our mouths. Diet is only the start of health. The rest is a state of mind, and that can be much harder to get in tune with than changing what we eat.

We should never stop learning. No matter how much we know, there is always a lot more that we don’t know, and the opportunities to learn something new are endless.

Open-mindedness is everything.

My original intent for this post was to do both a year and decade recap, and talk about my goals for the next year and decade. But 3500 words later I realize that there was so much to talk about (and to be honest I’ve only hit the bullet points) regarding these last 10 years, that my goals for the next year and decade need their own post. I will have that coming up later this month, including an assessment of how I faired with the goals I set for myself at the end of last year.

I hope this finds you well, and I wish you and yours a very blessed holiday season and year-end. I will see you back here again soon ❤








Overbooked and Under-rested? It’s Okay to Say No!

Hello again, and Happy Friday! This evening I have a wedding rehearsal to attend with Michael, and the whole day tomorrow will be dedicated to his sister’s wedding. This means one thing for us – BUSY! Busy has been the trend for both of us — but especially for Michael — for the last six weeks. The good news is, we have a light at the end of our tunnel. After tomorrow we finally get some downtime with nothing scheduled.

If you noticed that I missed my Mediterranean Monday post — well there’s a reason for that! I had a recipe chosen and everything, but my camera battery died on October 2nd while taking pictures at Hunter’s confirmation and I have yet to charge it! I also have yet to edit any of those photos, which is why more than a week later none have been shared on my social media pages. No camera battery = no photos of my dish for Mediterranean Monday. And so…I just skipped it!

I’ve done that a lot this past week, because I needed to. I had been so overwhelmed with obligations and responsibilities that this week, I just needed some down time, and so I took it. The main focus of this blog is health, and while diet is my number one priority where health is concerned, our mental and emotional health is another very big part of that equation.

In today’s world, stress is everywhere. There are always more obligations and scheduled events than there are hours in a day, or so it seems. We have a world that is more plagued with anxiety and depression than it has ever been, which means the need to unplug and recharge is greater than it’s ever been. Even if you are not going through, or healing from, some traumatic event, you may very well be stressed to the point of anxiety just from your day-to-day life.

This is where I tell you, “it is okay to just say no.” If you’re like me, you love your friends and family, and maybe you really love feeling wanted, needed, and/or helpful. So when something comes up you say YES!! without hesitation. And then afterwards you start to feel the pull of the obligation you just committed yourself to. You start to look at your calendar and realize you have no time to yourself. You don’t have a chance any time in your near future to take some “me” time to recharge. And as you navigate your way through the events on your calendar you start to feel drained, anxious, and even cranky from taking on too much.

And that, my friends, is why it’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s HEALTHY to say no, and to know your limits. By now you’ve surely heard the saying “you have to take care of yourself first before you can give yourself to others”. By saying no, you are taking care of yourself. You are giving yourself time to reset and recharge. You are easing your stress and anxiety, and filling your energy tank back up to the top.

When I say it’s okay to say no, I mean…saying no to invites for dinner, saying no to un-required work events, saying no to optional meetings and appointments, saying no to requests for help from family, even saying no to your house work and laundry! Sometimes, everything that is an obligation or a responsibility (except your kids, of course, if you’re a parent, or your job) needs to move to the back burner for your peace of mind.

And when you say no to those things, there is no need to feel guilty for it! People who care about you will understand. And if they don’t understand? Well, then, simply put…they’ll get over it. I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, but there are times when you need to cut off your habit of caring too much about the opinions of others to focus instead on your own needs.

For me personally (and Michael), we’ve been going nonstop since our Chicago trip on September 6-8. We’ve had kid weekends filled with camping, zoo trips and movie outings. Michael had a work trip, plus his son had twice-a-week soccer games the entire month of September. Logan started up SRE again in September as well and has that every Wednesday night. I’ve had interviews for school assignments, shopping and putting together outfits for all of us for the wedding, plus hair appointments and Hunter’s confirmation practice followed by confirmation, and then Hunter’s first high school homecoming a couple of days after that, and then Michael had a “diapers for dad” party for his brother-in-law.

This week has finally been calmer for me, except for parent teacher conferences last night. And of course all the wedding stuff tonight and tomorrow. Michael and I both decided that, after tomorrow, we are saying no to everything. Sunday night Gabe goes to his mom’s for the week and we get to have a date night. Then next weekend my boys go to their dad’s and we will have our very first completely kid-free weekend since September 7th. Already things have come up for that weekend. I have two friends plus a sister with birthdays that weekend and the birthday invites have rolled in, along with a gender reveal party invitation and a work party invitation a couple days after that. I love my friends and family, but…

We promised each other there would be no obligating ourselves to anything that weekend long before these events started pouring in, and we’re keeping our word. It’s a weekend for the two of us to spend however we want it, without any plans, responsibilities, or obligations. If the time comes and we feel like going to a birthday dinner or a house party, then we’ll go. And if we’re not in the mood, we won’t. And the people we love will just have to celebrate without us, because it’s been too much and we need a break.

That is what I mean by saying no. And if you feel you need an excuse to turn down an invitation, then you have one… “I’m sorry, but I have other plans.” The truth is, you do have other plans. You have plans with yourself. For next weekend, I actually put on the calendar “Us time! Everyone else is SOL :)”. Anything else that comes up during that time is a schedule conflict with our free time! I chose to do this, because sometimes you need to schedule “me time” simply to make sure that you actually get it.

Just because you have a day on the calendar with nothing scheduled, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to fill it up if something arises. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed and anxious, and you find a block of time in your schedule where you can take time for yourself, then schedule that time for yourself and consider anything else that comes up during that time to be a conflict with previous plans. Repeat after me — “sorry, I already have plans”…because you do have plans. With yourself.

Now then…I’m off to get ready for my evening plans. I’m showered and my hair is washed, but I still have clothes to iron, makeup to apply, hair to style, and a dress to put on. Wish me luck for this final 32-hour stretch of crazy before my obligation-free time can commence!

say no






When Life Takes a Toll on Your Mindset, This Will Help

Dear Friends,

I’ve been feeling off lately. The one constant in life is that things always change. Things can be going wonderfully for a while, but sooner or later a banana peel is going to land in your path. Normally I handle challenges well. I’m a doer; a fixer; a problem-solver. So if I can tackle something head on and conquer it, I come away feeling accomplished and steam right on ahead.

Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and can’t be handled with a “dive in and knock this out” approach. That is where I’ve been for the last couple of weeks, and when I reflect back on it I realize just how much havoc that wreaked on my peace of mind. I’m doing pretty well now and feel mostly back to normal, but for about 10 days that was not the case.

I made mention of this in one of my last blog posts where I shared a blueberry muffin recipe, but I will tell the story here of what I did. I was at Michael’s house on the night of July 3rd. My hometown does fireworks that night so the rotary club members can enjoy their 4th with their families without all of the work of putting on a show. I took Ruby, my Cocker Spaniel, with me because it was too hot for her to be outside all day at home and I was 30 miles away so I couldn’t be there to let her out. That night we went straight to Michael’s house, so Ruby went there with me for the first time.

In the morning I got up to let her out. He has a screened in deck with a doggie door for his dog, but Ruby has never used one and didn’t know what it was. So I opened the door for her to get out into the yard and called her, but she was being nervous and sniffing around a deck that was new to her and wouldn’t come. So I went over and grabbed hold of her collar to pull her to the door. The deck right in front of the door has screen above it and it had rained the night before, so it was wet. I was crouched over, and when my feet hit the rain water they went out from under me and I landed hard on my tailbone.

I landed so hard that I got sick and threw up. I made it to the bed and laid down, and then I started seeing the familiar flashing lights of a migraine. My usual dose of ibuprofen that cures a migraine didn’t work this time. In short – it was a bad fall. It was the kind of fall that you can’t just walk off like I’m accustomed to doing when I hurt myself. I couldn’t sit, and I couldn’t stand for more than about 10 minutes at a time. All I could do was lay down with ice on it for a couple of days.

By the weekend I was finally able to be up and mobile for about 15-30 minutes before having to lay back down again. Saturday is my normal cleaning day, and I was able to do absolutely nothing. I normally get up and tackle it…I get my laundry folded and caught up, my floors clean, my counters and bathrooms all scrubbed, and sometimes even the yard mowed by 9am.

That Saturday, all I accomplished was making blueberry muffins for breakfast. 15 minutes to make them before laying down. Take them out of the oven to cool and lay back down while typing up a recipe post for them. 15 minutes to snap some photos of them, then lay back down to edit and finish the post. That was how my entire weekend went, and while initially I was making jokes about it, by a few days in it was taking a toll on my mood.

I was frustrated. I was disappointed. I felt useless, and I felt like I was missing out. My sister and her boyfriend came to visit and we initially were going to spend the day out at a local beach. Instead they took my boys to the water park while I laid on the couch. After they were done I took them downtown for ice cream, where I had to stand the whole time because all the chairs were hard and I couldn’t sit on them, and by the time we left I was sore from standing and aggravated.

I tried to keep in good spirits, but as the days went on with some pretty tough limits on what I could accomplish, my mood tanked. I am miss independent, and I’m not good at being restricted. I’m even worse at accepting help. Or maybe not so much at accepting help as letting someone help me while I sit back and do nothing. I’m more of a teamwork kind of person — I’ll gladly accept help as long as we’re working together, but I don’t like having someone just do it for me.

So there were several factors that went into my deteriorating mindset. Not being able to physically do things I needed to do. Not being able to get my workouts in. Having to let people do things for me. Not being able to go out and socialize with my friends. To add insult to injury, something else came up that triggered my anxiety during that time as well. I don’t think I realized how much it was affecting me until I finally reached a point this week where I could function close to normal again, and I realized that in spite of having most of my abilities back, my mood has still been a little cranky and I’ve been easily bothered by things.

Back in January, I did the Mindset Reset program by Mel Robbins that was free on YouTube. I recalled that program in the midst of all the chaos. I’ve gone back through some of the videos, and it occurred to me that I’ve become complacent. Several months have gone by since I did Mindset Reset, and my mindset has been so strong and positive since then that I fell into a new default and forgot a lot of the tools I learned, and I wasn’t paying attention to the signs that my mindset was falling into a crappy place.

So 1,000 words later, let me get to the meat and potatoes of this post: peace of mind is a forever job. As Mel Robbins herself says so many times — it’s a process, not an event. It isn’t a one-and-done. That is so undeniably true! I’d been in a great mindset for so long that I forgot, and when the anxiety came up I didn’t deal with it right away. In fact I did exactly what I know I shouldn’t do because it makes anxiety worse for me — I swallowed what I was feeling to help someone else. I buried it because I didn’t want it to be a burden that added to someone else’s struggles.

(Watch Mel’s video here on how to stop screwing yourself over — this was how I discovered her and I loved this Ted Talk!)

For me, one of the biggest ways to ease my anxiety is to speak up. If something is bothering me, I have to say something and get it out. The reason for that is one of the underlying causes of my anxiety was being in situations throughout my life where I couldn’t speak up and say what I thought or felt because I would be attacked for it. That created a fear of speaking up, and that fear created feelings of anxiety that still get triggered — and always will, because that is how anxiety works — when I’m in a situation where I need to speak up and don’t.

One of the other triggers for my anxiety is security. Or more specifically, feeling like I’m losing my security. And there was a situation that subconsciously triggered that in me (which was totally irrational, by the way, but that’s what anxiety does). I felt the anxiety come on through that lump in my stomach and muscle tension in my ribs. It lingered with me for a few days before I finally sat down and did the work to figure it out. That is another trick I learned about anxiety. Step 1 was figuring out what happened in my past to cause my anxiety (which I did previously with the help of a counselor). Step 2 is figuring out what event in the present triggered it. Then from there I break it down by asking — how did that event make me feel? Why did it make me feel that way? Finally, based on what I know causes my anxiety, why did it really make me feel that way?

I’m able to go through that process to break it down as far as I can get it, and once I understand where it’s coming from I can enact the tools to combat it. One of the biggest tools I use, I learned from Mel Robbins in her Mindset Reset program. Anchor Thoughts. Basically I disrupt the thought process that’s going on in my mind with a helpful and positive anchor thought that cuts off the garbage and places me back on a productive path. It interrupts the bad thought patterns that you’ve trained yourself to have during shitty life experiences, and it reprograms your mind to have new, healthy default thinking patterns. It works incredibly well, and I’m grateful to have learned those tools from Mel, as well as from my counselor.

If you struggle with anxiety, complaining, procrastination, negative thought patterns or ruminating, feeling agitated and getting easily worked up over things, or just aren’t happy with who you are or where you’re at in your life — first of all know that you’re normal. We all have things we struggle with in one way or another. No one has had a perfect life free of struggles and conflicts. Mel’s Mindset Reset program was life-changing for me, and that is why I wanted to share it with you. It’s something that I learned so much from, and I can see now that I will continue going back to it forever.

I stopped a small bout of anxiety in its tracks this week, and then I used her 5-Second Rule, or “do it anyway” mindset tool, to get myself back on track. After being down and bumming for a week and a half, it’s been a bit of a struggle to get motivated again. At first I was frustrated because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. Then my mood dropped to the point that I was feeling lethargic and sloth-like and kind of just said screw it, I don’t even want to now. There have been several times this past week where I had to catch myself making excuses for why I wouldn’t, and say you know what — do it anyway.

I hadn’t been able to exercise and was beating myself up for falling behind. When Monday came and went without much physical restriction, I decided it was time to try some yoga again to figure what poses I can do and what I can’t. It took me until Thursday to actually do it, because I just didn’t want to. I was feeling that way about a lot of things this week. Maybe from the injury, maybe from the stress of dealing with anxiety, maybe from my crappy mood that was a culmination of all the circumstances combined. But I just didn’t want to.

Thursday after work, when I had planned to do some yoga and thought “screw it, I’m just going to get over to Michael’s house”, I stopped myself. I said nope, you’re going to do it. And I grabbed my yoga mat on my way out the door and did my yoga at Michael’s house while he mowed his grass. I discovered I can’t bend forward to touch my toes or put my hands on the ground, and I can’t do downward facing dog. But everything else I can do, and now I can work yoga back into my life. And you know what? It feels so good to know that I can do it again!

Mindset is something that can trip us up so easily, and we don’t even notice or realize it. But in all honesty, if we can master our mindset, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. So if this is something you struggle with, I hope that you will check out Mindset Reset, and that it will help you too. I’m definitely going to be using the tools over the next several days to get back to being myself, so you will probably be hearing about it again.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful weekend! I have a gardening post in the works for you, as well as a new Mediterranean Monday coming up first thing next week. So until next week….