Monday, April 21, 2014

All Around the World: Indonesia (AKA that time I looked like a drug dealer, lost my luggage, and climbed a mountain in the dark)

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
SARA DRAKE
Ever since the day I got to the "Love" section of Elizabeth Gilbert's best seller Eat, Pray, Love, I have been planning my trip to Indonesia. I just never knew I'd have so much of an adventure in one trip.

I booked a nine day holiday with Intrepid travel, a company I've used once prior for a trip to Peru. The itinerary had everything I wanted, plus a little more. It focused around Ubud, where I wanted to spend most of my time, and took me to Bedugal to see a temple I've been dreaming of visiting for a while. In between all of that, I was pretty much game for anything.

First things first, though. When going to any foreign country, it's important to figure out the currency used and how much you need. Since I was traveling alone, and thinking I wouldn't necessarily be around a lot of currency conversion places based on the itinerary, I ordered what cash I thought I would need. Normally, I get large bills, but this time I decided to get small bills because, clearly, I'm a genius and I had really thought this out.

Upon arriving at the bank and announcing I was there to pick up my money, groups of tellers gathered around me. Peculiar, yes, but maybe it was just training day. Maybe they had never seen foreign currency (FX) before. Maybe they too were Bali fans. Maybe.

Normally, FX is shipped in little FedEx bags or envelope holders. So when they brought out a box (I repeat, a BOX) of money, I knew something was wrong. Apparently, I had ordered something like 6.5 million rupiah, roughly $600 US dollars...in ones. I'm pretty sure I wiped the entire bank clean of Indonesian currency for just my trip alone. I say this because I tried to exchange it, but uh, they told me they'd sent me everything they had available. I had no choice but to take my box full of money home and figure out how to pack it.
Just some of the money, since it wouldn't all fit in my purse. 
Turns out, a red duffel bag was the answer. Literally, a bag full of money and, just for the hell of looking normal, some snacks for the plane ride. I thought for sure I was going to get questioned and probably arrested, so I had my bank on standby to explain the situation. I mean really, people, I took a bag full of cash onto a plane, Hollywood style. Never before have I felt or looked so much like a drug dealer. You better believe I slept with one eye open that whole plane ride.

Upon arriving in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia I went to get the bag I'd packed and checked and get to the meeting point for the group. The entire trip, AZ to Indonesia, I had this very bad feeling about my luggage getting lost. Bad to the point where I checked with each airport to make sure my bag was safely en route. Turns out, it wasn't. This was the first time I'd ever lost my baggage and, normally, I wouldn't freak out too much, but we were leaving the next night to go to a different town and I was pretty sure there would be nowhere for me to find shoes for the mountain hike, let alone any regular-ish clothes. I was right. After shopping for exactly 12 minutes, the only time I had until my group left for their first stop that night at the local Gianyar night market, I had secured some square sandals, really funky yoga pants, a mumu dress thing to sleep in, and three pairs of underwear that turned out to be very much the wrong size. I was screwed. Not all the rupiah in the world could get me what I needed that night, and I had plenty.

But my Guardian Angel of Traveling had my back, because the group I was placed with was amazing. The kindest, funnest group of strangers turned friends ever. One in particular, A, who was my roommate for a good half of the trip, saved my butt big time when I had no luggage. She loaned me her hairbrush, bug spray, and even told me I didn't look that bad in my mumu. That's a real friend for you.

For reference, in case you disregard this story and decide to still get small currency for your trip to Bali, I also tried to exchange my currency for larger bills when I arrived, but they could only take 1 million rupiah in total at the airport because they had no way to handle exchanging more. To say that jaws dropped would be an understatement. Over the course of this trip, I became a self-serve bank for anyone who needed small bills, as small currency isn't that common. My lovely tour guide told all her Bali Facebook friends about me because, let's be honest, this type of thing never happens. Except to me.

The good news, and also for reference for any of you that may lose your luggage here…I got it back right before we had to leave for the next stop. The airport there did a really nice job helping me out and delivered the bag to my doorstep, a full hour's drive away. Really, really great customer service on their end.

See the red bag off to the left side? That was full of my money and some gluten free granola bars.
I missed you so much, suitcase. SO MUCH!
While on our first stop in Ubud, we went for one of the nicest walks I've ever gone on in my life. This path, which I believe is called the Trekking Campuhan Ridge, was one of my very favorite things that I've ever done on any trip. It feels like you're walking a path between worlds. I've never felt so free before. We passed gorgeous rice fields and even stopped at a little cafe to have a drink right from a coconut!
Lead Me On
Melia Metikos Society6
The art of Indonesia was breathtaking. Everything, down to the frames the pictures were held in, was so detailed and delicate. I'm a sucker for art work from other countries!



Indonesia
One of the stops on the tour was Sideman. There, we went on a bike tour, my favorite thing to do on any and all vacations. A bike tour is not only good for you after sitting on a plane for hours on end, but gets you to places you would never discover on a bus tour or even on your own walking. For example, while we were bike riding we came across a very rare cremation ceremony. I can't remember the exact details, but these special ceremonies only take place every few years, and here we were, witnessing it just because our bike path had lead us through it.

We also  went on a hike through the forest and rice fields you see in the picture above, and came upon a deserted luxury resort in the middle of nowhere. Several years back there was a safety scare to tourists visiting thanks to a terrorist bombing in one of the night clubs. This once rather awesome spa getaway, which was solely supported by tourists staying here, is now nothing but a beautiful abandoned building, ever since tourism took a nose dive. If any of you are wealthy and you'd like to own this resort, it's for sale. It is a secret paradise, and with some work, could be absolutely amazing again.
After the hike, we stopped by a waterfall and ate lunch. The food is pretty kick-ass and very gluten-free friendly.
We continued on our way to our next destination. Here I was told this lovely mountain you see on the left was the one we'd be climbing. In the dark. At 4am. And maybe, just maybe we'd be lucky enough to see a sunrise. I guess when I read about this climbing a mountain thing, I pictured a smaller mountain. More hill like, than mountain like. I also didn't realize we'd be climbing it in the dark and that people have, you know, fallen off the mountain and died and all that jazz. Obviously, I read through my itinerary in great detail.

On the Mt. Batur hike, also known as the "climb-a-mountain-in-pitch-blackness-with-a-flashlight-and-not-die" day, we hiked for almost 2 hours to see this. A bunch of fog. That's the railing on the ledge to keep us safe and sound, by the way.

However, the Bali gods must have heard our collective sigh of despair, because just as we were about to give up on seeing anything at all, voila- the sun.

As you can see, it was worth it. We also got an up close and personal view of monkeys who, by the way, will steal from you if you're not careful. Someone lost a passport. Someone else lost some chapstick. Watch out for the monkeys, all of them, especially the ones in Ubud, and especially for adorable little baby monkey hugs, like below.
Sunrise at Mt. Batur
Melia Metikos Society6

After climbing up the mountain we, of course, had to go back down. I thought up was hard until I realized down was slippery. This would also be known as the time every single person in my group fell on their butts, repeatedly. My only recommendation if you want to climb the mountain is to bring real, legit mountain hiking books. Sandals, tennis shoes - none of that will cut it. Hiking boots and one of those helmets with a flashlight on it should do you good.

Our slipping and sliding paid off, because at the end of the mountain we went to one of the most amazing hot springs I've ever been to. Also, the first one I've ever been to, but I digress. Toya Devasya resort and spa, to be exact, gave us the rest of the day full of ahhh-mazing relaxation. All the aches and pains of the early potion of the day melted while we all relaxed in this tropical paradise.

Next up, the little town of Lovina. It was small, but oh-so fulfilling. A and I took a day off from the planned activities to have some serious spa time. And by serious I mean multiple massages, reflex sessions, facials…everything on the menu. I did this creme hair treatment thing that left my hair feeling like pure silk. Ohmygoodness, friends. Seriously. If you go to Lovina, get yourself the hair treatment at the Earth Bound spa and boutique. And did I mention it was only like $7 US dollars for an hour long massage? So we had roughly 9 spa treatments over the course of our trip. I'm not exaggerating either. On this day in particular, along with the massages, we wandered the black sand beach, shopped at every little store we could find (there aren't many) and had a great lunch. Did I mention the awesome graffiti we saw? Amazing!
I Paint My Love in Pictures
The next day was the sunrise dolphin watching extravaganza, which was honestly a little terrifying for the dolphins, if you ask me.


After we concluded our time in Lovina, we headed off to Bedugal, home of the Ulun Danu temple. You've probably seen pictures of this before. If you Google "Bali" this temple will pop up 9 out of 10 times. Like I said, I've wanted to see this temple in person for years. It did not disappoint. While we were there we stayed at the amazing Strawberry Hill hotel. If you go to Bedugal, I HIGHLY recommend this place. It's luxurious and adorable, all in one.
After the temple, we went on a lovely garden tour at the Bali Botanical Gardens. It was fantastic. I mean really, have you ever seen tree stumps this beautiful before? I'm thinking no.

Coming to the end of our trip, we headed back to Ubud.
A religious ceremony
A and I crammed in as much sight-seeing and shopping as possible before we had to go back to our respective homes, on opposite ends of the world. I miss my dear friend, but we're in the midst of trying to figure out when we can meet up again.

So the question is: Should you go to Bali? Simply answered, hellz yes!

I loved the entire trip, all the good and bad combined. The people are fantastic, the sights - oh the sights! The shopping, the food, the culture…go now. Go immediately. And go alone.

Going on a group tour by yourself might sound daunting, but those are some of my favorite. You end up making such great friends. Would I ever have met these people or spent quality time with them if I'd gone with my family? Probably not. And that would have been a horrible loss.
Ubud will always have my heart and I would love to go back and spend a whole week there, just wandering the streets. There is so much to do, see, and experience in all of Bali, and I've only recounted just a bit of what I saw.

In case anyone is planning a trip there soon, here are some of the other places I shopped at, ate at, stayed at, and visited on my trip:

Last, but never least, if you're interested in supporting a great cause, look into these two foundations in Bali. Heath care for mothers and babies is sparse and Bali has incredibly high rates of infant mortality. We visited the Bumi Sehat Foundation, which strives to make midwife services, general health care, and maternal care a priority. This great group of people is making a difference in the future of Indonesia and can use your support. There are also a lot of dogs roaming the streets of Bali that need medical attention (and love) and this local service, the Bali Dog Adoption Rehabilitation Centre, works to take care of our beloved four-legged friends. 

All photos credit of Melia Metikos

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Mantra: The Doomsday Mind

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: I will find the middle of All or Nothing
Bye Bye Apocalypse
Society 6
For my whole life, for as long as I can remember, I have been an All or Nothing person. It's either all good or it's all bad, it's either all going to work out or it's all going to crumble, it's either all perfect or it's all a disaster.

This, I realize, is not true to reality. It's just the way my brain is programmed. The in-between, the gray area, is what I am always and forever trying to reach.

I call this my Doomsday Mind - when you live in a place where it's All or Nothing and you leave no room for chance, no room for possibility. That means if one little things goes wrong or doesn't work out the way you want, everything will fall apart. Everything will be in ruin.

I've been tired of this way of thinking even before I was aware that I thought this way. Every time I have a relapse, shall we say, into the All or Nothing-ness of how I think, I'm swiftly reminded by my exhaustion that I've put way more energy into it than I would have if I could've just seen the middle place where everything is fine, everything is balanced, everything is just as it should be.

That there is no actual All because Nothing - no person, no idea, no plan - is perfect. Perfect does not exist.

What's meant to be will be, regardless of what we think or wish will happen. This is the middle ground. This is the way to destroy a Doomsday Mind.


Monday, April 7, 2014

In The World of Wellness: Oil Pulling and Tongue Health

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.


In the World of Wellness: Oil Pulling - It's just as weird as it sounds.
Your tongue and how it relates to your body
BreakingMuscle.com
By now, I'm certain you've all heard of oil pulling. I say this because my Office BFF reached out to me about it, and when he asks me about anything health related, that means it's a big thing and everyone is doing it.

So what is oil pulling then? A lot of very fun to read and well written articles (like this one) have already been posted about it, so I won't go into all of the details, but to sum it up, it's a not so quick or easy method of pulling bacteria from your mouth while cleaning your teeth by swishing coconut, olive, or sesame oil around in your mouth. For 20 solid minutes. Without swallowing it.

Doesn't sound worth it, right? It is. Keep reading.

Let's start with the recommended steps, along with some side notes on what I've learned to do and not to do:

1.  Put 1-2 teaspoons of coconut, sesame, or olive oil in your mouth
Side note:  First of all, use no more than 1 tsp of oil. The more you swish the more volume, shall we say, is added to the oil and it makes it harder to do when you have a bunch of oil already in your mouth. Simple is better, I repeat, simple is better. Second, if you're going to use coconut oil, make damn sure it's in the liquid form and not solid. Just trust me on this. 

2. Swish around in your mouth for 20 minutes
Side note:  If you can do this for 20 minutes, great. It not, aim for at least 15. Set a timer and keep yourself busy so you don't think about the time. It will help tremendously. I'm doing it right now, actually. However, ladies, DO NOT put mascara on while doing this. You know how your jaw automatically drops open when you're trying to put mascara on? Well, you get the picture. Just trust me on this, OK.

3. Do not swallow the oil.
Side note: Definitely DO NOT swallow the oil. Ohmygoodness, don't do it! Don't. Do. It. Why? The oil is pulling the toxins, the build up, the gunk from your mouth and your teeth. You do not want to ingest it. If you really, truly have to swallow, spit the oil out and skip right to brushing your teeth. You did your best, be proud. 

4.  Do not spit the oil into the sink. Grab some paper towels and have them ready to spit into when the time is up. 

5. Rinse your mouth out with clean water and then brush, brush, brush!

What should you expect? More than you bargained for, which is why this 20 minutes of oil pulling a day is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

First of all, your teeth will feel and look cleaner and whiter. Your whole mouth will feel cleaner. Additionally, if you suffer from allergies this is a great way to help with that. My allergies (to all plants on the entire earth) are 20x better when I do oil pulling vs. when I don't. That alone is worth it if you suffer from allergies.

And last, but not least, the reason I wanted to write about this: Your tongue. You may be wondering, "What the heck, why is she so concerned with my tongue?" 

Well, let's do this real quick...

Step away from your computer for a minute, go stick your tongue out at yourself in the mirror, and observe it very closely. Is your entire tongue a pink, healthy color? Or is there gray, yellow, black, weird colors anywhere on it? If you answered anything but pink, your tongue (and your digestive system) are trying to tell you something.

The variety of colors outside of pink that you might see are signs of either illness or that what you're eating isn't agreeing with you. Some of the colors you see are from dead food particles, dead cells, and gunk (truly, gunk) stuck on your tongue. You can get a tongue scraper to get these things off, but that's just putting a band aid on the problem. The bigger situation is how well you're taking care of yourself.

Most commonly, an unhealthy tongue means you're probably eating too much sugar or starchy foods and your body can't digest it properly. You have to drink more water, eat healthier foods, and even up your oral hygiene to truly combat these unhealthy colors. And oh, by the way, these colors lead to bad breath. The type of bad breath that brushing will not solve. Oil pulling can help with all of this. I highly recommend using this method, while working on a better, more balanced diet, to get not only your teeth, but your whole body back in top shape. Your tongue can help tell you how well you're doing with that, so keep checking it.

If you want more on tongue health, check out this article. It's good, solid information you can rely on to help navigate you through things to look for.


Update: In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts on allergy testing, specifically for gluten, and how that can help with other diseases such as M.S.  I met with my ND (Naturopathic doctor) who's a genius, by the way, and talked all of this over with her. She gave me a couple helpful things I wanted to share with you. 

First, it is very beneficial to get tested for food allergies for a wide range of reasons, all of which tie back to immune system health. In this case, with M.S., it is imperative to know what food allergies you have so that you can avoid those foods and give your immune system a good, solid chance at fighting off the illness. A weakened immune system is one of the key signs in M.S. 

Also, take your vitamins - vitamin D, specifically. She said that a deficiency in vitamin D is one of the leading thoughts of cause of M.S. This too, my friends, is something you can and should get tested for (on an annual basis). Why? Well, get this. Two years ago my vitamin D levels were 80 out of 100. That is amazingly good, for the record. I skipped testing my levels last year and this year, guess what. My vitamin D level is 20...20 out of 100. I don't even know why, because I still take the supplements and I live in the sunniest state ever, but it dropped. She suggested D-Mulsion 1000 (Seroyal Genestra) liquid vitamin D3. The liquid is twice as effective as the capsules. Also, if you want to do your own vitamin D testing it's very easy. Check out Grassroots Health and follow the steps to order a test. I've used them several times and can personally recommend them. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spaghetti Spaghetti

Hi y'all. I'm short on time this weekend, but I didn't want to leave you hanging. Here's a new, healthy, and light take on traditional spaghetti and meatballs. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Spaghetti
Ingredients for the spaghetti
1 package of gluten free spaghetti (I used the Viviana brand)
1 spaghetti squash 
Sea salt and pepper for seasoning
Olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice spaghetti squash in half. Place spaghetti squash, face up, in cooking pan with 1/2 inch of water. Use enough olive oil to cover both inside halves of the spaghetti squash and sprinkle a little sea salt on it. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Prepare the spaghetti pasta as instructed on the box. Note: I waited until the squash was about half way done to cook the meatballs and make the spaghetti, that way everything was nice and warm together.

Ingredients for meatballs / Recipe taken from The Garden of Eating by Chef Rachel
This recipe might look familiar from this post a few years back. Chef Rachel and her books are some of my favorite to cook from!

¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats aka oatmeal
¼ cup almond, soy, cow or goat milk
1 medium to large egg
1 ½ teaspoons dried herbs or 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs ( Italian blend, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil or combo)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground chipotle or black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
½  to 1 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt or 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
½ cup minced onion
1 to 1 ¼ pounds of 90-96% lean ground beef, turkey or lamb

In a medium bowl combine oats and milk, eggs, herbs, cumin, red/black pepper, garlic, parsley, salt or tamari sauce, and onion.

Crumble meat into bowl with these ingredients. Mix with hands, pulling mixture apart rather than squeezing and packing to evenly distribute seasoning. Bake meatballs on parchment lined baking sheet, or baking sheet lightly coated with coconut oil, in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 mins. Shake pan occasionally until done.

When everything is done cooking, combine spaghetti and spaghetti squash in a large bowl (this should serve 6, so a bowl big enough for that). Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper. Stir. Add the meatballs on top and voila! Delicious dinner is served. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Mantra: Polishing Dark Spots in My Soul

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: I love my life


It's in my nature to be pessimistic and introverted more than outgoing and positive. This, I do not consider a bad thing. A thing, however, to pay attention to.

While I don't necessarily think one way - introvert or extrovert, pessimist or optimist, dark or light - is better than the other, I do often have to remind myself that these darker parts of me help balance the lighter parts, and that all of them equally need time, understanding, and patience.

That all parts of me, you, everyone - dark or light - need love.

I'm reminded of this every time I doubt myself, question myself, beat myself up for anything and everything.

I was reminded of this when I recently watched the Life in a Day documentary that had been sitting in my Netflix queue. At about 10 minutes in, I see a father caring for a son in a very messy house, to say the least. As I watched this man care for his son, I kept noticing large blown up pictures of a woman displayed in random places, all over the house. On the floor in the hallway, outside the bathroom door, propped up on tables and books and anywhere a picture could be placed. At the end of this small piece of the film, I realized just what has happened. Why the house was so messy, why the pictures were there. The  wife of the man, the mother of the boy, is gone. She has passed away and this is now their life.

It struck me so hard I re-watched just that piece three times, while bawling my face off. It was almost painfully obvious, how much he missed her, how he was barely coping, yet how important to him it was to make sure his son remembered her.

It's moments like that, when I see that other people, too, have darkness, sadness, and that they try and fail, when I have to remember to love my own life.

My new mantra in those moments of doubt, darkness, or judgement is this: I love my life.

I love my life.

It is perfect. It is exactly the way it is supposed to be for me. It is mine and I will cherish all parts of it, good and bad.
_

Follow Up: Something Inside

Recently, I posted about changing myself, doing something to make some kind of a difference with people who need it. My first step was to put together a Homeless Kit that could be carried around in my car at all times, ready whenever it was needed. It had blankets, food, anything that would be beneficial.

One week after I put the kit together, I had an opportunity to use it. Never having done anything like this before, I was a little nervous and awkward as I walked my box of items over to the homeless gentleman, who thanked me as I placed the box in his hands.

When I turned to walk back to my car, a new vehicle had pulled off the side of the road. In it I saw a man who was trying to get my attention. He rolled his window down and made it a point to thank me for what I had just done. He told me what a nice thing that was and how now, he too, was going to do the same thing. 

My nervousness and awkwardness left me after that moment and I knew this was something I had to keep doing. 

I guess this is what Paying It Forward looks and feels like, when you do one small thing and others join in too. It's how one act of kindness can be rewarded with a thank you, and how that thank you can suddenly be the most priceless item you possess.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.


In the World of Wellness: Allergy testing saves lives. I might just be proof of that.
For more on M.S. click here
Two weeks of wellness? Well, yes. Because I read an article that hit home pretty hard and I wanted to share it with all of you. Wellness is important, after all.

A couple of weeks ago I read this article - Gluten Brain: Wheat Cuts Off Blood Flow to Frontal Cortex - and immediately started thinking of how that implied to me. All the ways I felt, all the things I thought, when I was eating gluten yet not aware of my allergy. Or even when I was aware but in a huge state of denial and still eating gluten. Fool, I know. Anyway, this article talks about research being done to show how the effects of gluten on the brain…are you ready for this…lead to schizophrenia. Or, by avoiding it, help overcome the disease.

Wow, right?

Gluten. One tiny thing that can do so many wrong things to me, you, everyone affected.

Then I read an article in my favorite gluten free magazine, Delight, the March-April edition, on the ties to celiac disease (a much more severe reaction to gluten) and Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.), the disease my dad died from, and I had a panic attack. Of course, I had to Google my little heart out and found that there is a ton of research linking these two diseases together, yet I had never heard this before. Never. This shocks me based on the fact that this information could actually save my life. And yours. And the lives of people you love.

At some point in my very young life, after my father had passed away, my mom took me to our family doctor in an attempt to get answers that didn't exist at that time. It wasn't hard to notice the panic in her voice as she attempted to calmly ask our doctor if there was any chance I could get M.S. If there was any possibility it could be passed down to me genetically. If I was in danger of dying from it.

I remember everything the doctor said because I also understood what all of that could mean for me. What it could do to me. How limited my life could be if I had anything as severe as my dad did.

It's funny how that feels equally like a lifetime ago and yet just as clear as if it had happened today. I guess this is how everyone feels when they get news of this nature.

Our longtime family doctor said no. While they didn't know what caused it, they were pretty sure it was not a genetic thing. Even though I thought it was odd that they were so certain I was somehow safe, I did feel a great sense of relief, no matter how misguided. Now it's the opposite. Now they say I have a much better chance of having it because I am a first generation family member, regardless of the gluten.

However, I think it's important to note that to have celiac disease, in particular, you must carry one of two specific genes. This doesn't mean you will get it, it just means that, genetically, you have the potential to. This is just me pondering, but it does raise the question that if by carrying one of those genes for celiac does it somehow increase your chances of having M.S. because, as they now think, it can be passed genetically? (Note: While I think a tie to celiac/gluten and M.S. makes sense, based on on-going studies of the disease there are still other possibilities as to why people get M.S.) All of that being said, I am beyond glad I was tested for the gluten allergy and able to combat it sooner rather than later. Who knows what later would have held for me if my body had continued declining in health.

M.S. is a very, very, very difficult disease to have, to live with, to help someone with who suffers from it. Regardless of the gluten ties, there is still a lot of research to be done and many unknowns still exists, but knowing how horrible I feel when I eat gluten and how wonderful I feel when I don't, I can't help but wonder how close those ties really are.

The immune system is a powerful yet fragile thing. When you have an allergy like gluten and are unaware, you continue consuming the foods that contain it and you cause inflammation internally. After doing this for too long, your immune system can begin to attack your own body. With M.S. your immune system responds abnormally and also attacks you. See the similarities in just that alone?

That's a hard thing to realize. It's a hard thing to sit here and think my dad's life could have possibly been saved if more information had been known about celiac disease and that by avoiding certain foods he could still be here today.

Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about wellness. Maybe that's why I'm always talking about how food affects you and how important it is to understand what the foods you're eating are doing to your body. This is one very good example of why. Of why you need to understand that what you eat can and will harm you. That it is up to you to do research on yourself if you feel like something is wrong and to ask for tests, to demand results, to never give up until you know what exactly is causing your illness. And how, in more cases that we want to admit, most of our problems begin with, and can therefore end with, food.

Before I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, I was only vaguely aware of what it was. All I knew was that my hair was falling out (eyebrows and eyelashes included) and my hands would ache like I had arthritis or feel swollen for no reason at all. Not to mention all the tummy troubles I'd had my entire life. After I was diagnosed, I didn't really know what to think. Only 5 small years ago it was hard to be gluten free. For myself and everyone else out there who suffers from a gluten allergy or the more severe celiac disease, I think I speak for us all when I say how thankful we are that being "gluten free" has become mainstream. Let's keep it that way. Please.

For us, and for more and more people with more and more diseases being linked to it, being "gluten free" is not a trend. It is not a cool thing to do. It is how we have to live just so we don't hurt, so we don't die.

It's not a choice. It's our only option.

So what the heck am I trying to say from all of this? Get tested for gluten intolerance.

There are so many different ways your body could be demonstrating an allergy to this (hair loss, intestinal issues, fatigue, migraines, depression…the list goes on) and by having one little test done you could fix everything. One little test.

Plus, it's no longer hard to go gluten free. It's a piece of (gluten free) cake!

Go get yourself tested. It could change your life.


P.S. I want to apologize to everyone who is having issues with my site because it keeps taking you to some crazy-ass phishing scam page. I've contacted Blogger 3x and will continue to until they get this doggone thing off of here. DO NOT click on anything it takes you to. Hit the back button until the page stops reloading. Seriously, I want to punch whoever put this thing on here. 

P.P.S Sadly, no one played along with my Pay It Forward initiative (except my work husband and he was just being supportive) so I have no winners to announce. I  might be tearing up, y'all. Alas, I hope everyone is paying it forward in their own way. Go out there and do good deeds!

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Update: In the World of Wellness: M.S. and Celiac Disease
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my thoughts on allergy testing, specifically for gluten, and how that can help with other diseases such as M.S.  I met with my ND (Naturopathic doctor) who's a genius, by the way, and talked all of this over with her. She gave me a couple helpful things I wanted to share with you. 

First, it is very beneficial to get tested for food allergies for a wide range of reasons, all of which tie back to immune system health. In this case, with M.S., it is imperative to know what food allergies you have so that you can avoid those foods and give your immune system a good, solid chance at fighting off the illness. A weakened immune system is one of the key signs in M.S. 

Also, take your vitamins - vitamin D, specifically. She said that a deficiency in vitamin D is one of the leading thoughts of cause of M.S. This too, my friends, is something you can and should get tested for (on an annual basis). Why? Well, get this. Two years ago my vitamin D levels were 80 out of 100. That is amazingly good, for the record. I skipped testing my levels last year and this year, guess what. My vitamin D level is 20...20 out of 100. I don't even know why, because I still take the supplements and I live in the sunniest state ever, but it dropped. She suggested D-Mulsion 1000 (Seroyal Genestra) liquid vitamin D3. The liquid is twice as effective as the capsules. Also, if you want to do your own vitamin D testing it's very easy. Check out Grassroots Health and follow the steps to order a test. I've used them several times and can personally recommend them. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday Mantra: Something Inside

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: Something inside of me needs to change


Lately, I've been thinking about people less fortunate than I. People that are homeless, starving, need help in some way, somehow. My heart feels heavy with the thought that I haven't done enough of anything for them. 

I donate money monthly to organizations I know are solid, reliable, that use the money the right way, but I need to do something more.

I know that thoughts on this vary, as to when to help, why to help, why not to, but for me it's something I need to do. 

I've decided to put together a kit in my car. Blankets, matches, food…things I can easily carry around and give out whenever the opportunity arises. It's a first step. 

I hope it's a good step.

I've also decided that I need to apply this same thought to animals and my fist idea is to help out at an animal shelter at least once a month. I can't handle seeing one more image of some poor, broken animal without doing something about it. 

I want the burden inside of me lifted. I want to help lift their burdens.

I hope you as well can find a way, whatever way that works for you, to help the less fortunate.

Image via Pinterest

Monday, March 3, 2014

In the World of Wellness: The Sacrifice of Having It All

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.


In the World of Wellness: How best do we model what Having It all means?

I recently read a couple of articles that resonated with me:  this article on Daily Worth about these great women who have found happiness in their dream jobs, their family life, and their daily activities but at an obvious cost of sleep, and 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Work Too Hard, which talks about the lack of work/life balance in America.

Reading these made me think about one thing in particular that didn't get mentioned in either article; how these behaviors that we model have an impact on our families, our children, our coworkers, and our employees. How we show them, through our actions, how they should work to achieve this goal of Having It All.

On one hand we know that hard work is vital to success. It's an important step in learning about responsibility. Depending on your personal situation, having more than one job or working long hours day in and day out may be necessary. To those of you that fall in this category, I know that you are doing everything you have to do right now and I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. On the other hand, there are those of us who do too much just because we wrongly think we have to and we make sacrifices chasing after the American Dream. There is such as thing as trying to Have It All and risking your own health and time with loved ones when it's completely unnecessary.

The question is then this: At what cost do we work towards Having It All? The women in the article from Daily Worth (who are amazing, dedicated, and deserve the utmost respect for all they do) sacrifice sleep. From the countless studies done on sleep deprivation (you need at least 7 hours a night) we know that without adequate rest our bodies are negatively impacted. Everything from brain function to emotional stability to metabolic function. And these are important things that you need just to survive day after day.

We don't just sacrifice sleep, though. We sacrifice our home lives, our friendships, and our health. We think the company will fall apart if we don't do X, Y, and Z - but it won't.

We shouldn't sacrifice the important things in life. Time with our families, time to rest and recharge, time for ourselves. If Having It All means we're making sacrifices to these things, then we don't truly have anything. 

We also have to consider how, by doing these things, we're teaching people to treat us as well as teaching our children or our employees how to act. In many cases, we are the models that they mirror. If we show our children the only way to accomplish everything is to deny ourselves adequate time to rest, we've simply taught them that they have to be exhausted to make it in this world.

If we show our peers or our employees that by only working a gazillion hours a week can anything be accomplished, we've taught them that the key to success is putting your family, your health, and your well-being last on the list of important things.

We've taught them how to fail at the some of the most important things they should be successful at in life. 

If you are someone who does any of these things, I'm not trying to beat you up. I've been you. I know what it's like. I simply want you to realize the true value of your sacrifices and the behavior you model to others. Demonstrating the behaviors of a workaholic is no different than demonstrating the behaviors of someone who suffers from an eating disorder to achieve the all illusive perfect size. It's the same thing. You're establishing for others who may look up to you, through your actions and demonstrations, the cost of what one must have in life to Have It All.

So how do we change this? First, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.

Am I someone who models these behaviors? What do I want the people around me to see and absorb? What is my healthiest vision for them? What is my healthiest vision for me?

Then, it's time to make changes toward a healthier balance in life.

It's time for you to decide when it's okay to say I'm going to do this and this and this, but I'm going to get realistic with the time I have in one day. I'm going to take care of myself first so I can take care of everyone and everything else appropriately without running myself into the ground. This means finding a balance between what you must do, what you love to do, and what you need to do for your own health.

At the end of all of it, when you look back, I want you to have no regrets about the truly important things in life.

Take care of yourself. It's the only way you can take care of everything else.


Image via Pinterest