Friday, January 30, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: I Wonder

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Something to consider next time you're scared - scared away from doing something great, taking a risk, changing your life.

Society 6

I Wonder
My fears are weary and astounded,
I wonder if they are unfounded.

Monday, January 26, 2015

In The World of Wellness: Food Allergies 101

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" in those ways and also 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: To eat, or not to eat, that is the question

If a zombie apocalypse were to happen I would most certainly die. Not right away and not for the reasons that would be the most obvious. In the end, the thing that would get me would be food.

We all know the End of the World scenarios always lead to minimal food supply. There would be food available...kind of. Pre-packaged, canned varieties of all kinds that hadn't yet expired. But there would be no fresh fruit, no veggies, no grass fed beef.

Thus, my death.


Because of my food allergies.

Because of my doggone, stupid, can't-eat-anything-and-it's-not-even-a-zombie-apocalypse food allergies.

As of three days ago, I am subsiding on a very scaled down food diet. As of three days ago, I am allergic to 24 foods. As of three days, some of my very favorite foods hate me.

In 2009, I had my first ever food allergy test. I knew something was wrong with me, prompting the doctor visit. My hair (including eyebrows and eyelashes) was falling out. My hands hurt in an arthritis kind of way, but in a whole different kind of way, too. My stomach was never happy.

A single test showed that - at the time - I was allergic to 27 foods. It was one of the most challenging things I ever had to go through, mostly because at that time I was in a lot of denial about it and I didn't handle the news well. It took me years, truly, to grasp what that all meant. It complexly changed how I ate, too.

First, I went through a version of all five stages of DABDA. You know - denial and depression (eating a gluten filled chocolate chip cookie and crying), anger (yelling at the cookie), bargaining ("If I eat one cookie, then a giant spinach salad, the gluten will get cancelled out, right? RIGHT?!"), and finally acceptance. Once I got through those I healed my gut, I healed myself, and at the end of it all, I overcame most of the food allergies.

That's right - and that's the good news, my friends. Some food allergies can be conquered. Others, like gluten or a severe peanut allergy, cannot. Why? Because there are food allergies and there are food intolerance's, two totally different things. Two very perplexing things that can still be hard to differentiate depending on symptoms.

This time around the ones I expected to come back (and have been avoiding anyway) did, like gluten, wheat, and coffee, but then a bunch of new, incredibly annoying ones also popped up. Like bananas, coconut, and spinach. Sad, right? So sad. However, this time I'm dealing with it just fine. Once you've survived your first food allergy battle, everything thereafter is a little bit easier.

So...What do you need to know about food allergies? 

First, don't let my massive amount of food allergies scare you off. I am an unusual case. Why my intestines are weak and pathetic beats me. I'm sure much of it has to do with what you're going to read below. I've just always suffered from allergies, my whole doggone life, in one form or another. If anything, let me be a weird, food allergy survivor beacon of light for you. If I can get through this many food allergies and still have a wonderful life and travel and be able to eat in foreign countries without getting sick, so can you.

Why do we have food allergies? 

We know what happens when we develop an allergy to a food, but unfortunately, there is no one answer here, rather thoughts on various reasons they occur, such as genetics (if your parents are allergic to something, you have a 60% chance of being allergic to it too). Two leading thoughts that tend to be steadfast in the allergy world are length of breast feeding and age of child before starchy food introduction, all things that happen when a child is very young. By the time we're adults it's far too late for us to kick this at the root cause. Kinda sucks, doesn't it?

Here's the deal - Breast feeding, prior to the manufacturing of baby formula, was typically done for the first two years of a child's life. This was critical in the development of the child from a nutrient and growth perspective. However, the nutrients that get passed to the child depend on the health of the mom. If the mom is living off of Big Mac's, she's not going to be passing along anything beneficial to the kids. Sad, but true. Now, if the mom is very healthy herself and breast feeds, but only for say 9 months, that can also be a problem. The length of breast feeding is key.

The second thing is when you, as a child, are first given starchy foods like cereals or crackers. This comes from the idea that until a child is one year of age they haven't developed the enzymes needed to digest those foods. By eating them, they can actually damage the intestines leading to all kinds of leaky gut/food allergy problems as they get older. From then on, the immune system malfunctions when it reacts to food being digested.

What does all of this mean? Moms have to be basically perfect - in what they eat and in how long they breast feed. And mom and dads have to never, ever give starchy foods to kids prior to that one year age mark. No pressure, Every Parent In The World. Just be perfect. That's all.

Piece of gluten free cake, right? Pfft.

That's hard to hear, hard to do, and hard in general. But it also might be the two critical things to focus on to help avoid food allergies.

Why do food allergies change and/or come back?

Simply put, no one knows. I've been told multiple things...environmental factors, certain food particles getting stuck in your intestines making your immune system think the food is a virus it needs to fight off, and that it's due to lack of variety in what you eat. The bottom line here is if you're susceptible to food allergies, there's a good chance they'll change and morph over the course of your life. Some of them, anyway. That's why testing is important.

Now, let's say you suspect you have food allergies and have no time machine to transport you back to when you were first born to try and tell your mom and dad this critical information. What do you do now?

First, Get Tested.

Food allergies reflect in a variety of symptoms. Runny nose, stomach discomfort, gas, headaches, puffy eyes, anaphylaxis, fatigue, name it, it's on the list. That's why food allergies also get so ignored. They either get misdiagnosed as some other condition or we get used to the milder symptoms and assume they're just "normal" for us. They're not. Your body is an incredible machine. It is sending you messages every single moment. We're just not all that good at interpreting them until something is really wrong with us. Why? Because if you continually eat a food you're allergic to, your body remains inflamed. Inflammation leads to dis-ease in the body which leads to diseases of all kinds.

The best (possibly also scariest, at first) thing you can do is get tested. I highly recommend doing allergy tests once every 5 years, or sooner if you notice something going on in your body that seems off. While these are not 100% covered by insurance, they are a critical step on the wellness path of life. The goal here is to avoid inflammation of the body. The only way to do that is to become knowledgeable of how your body reacts to food.

Second, Avoid the Foods. 

Your doctor will give you an exact timeline, but you want to avoid all the foods you have a reaction to for two to four months. This allows your immune system to calm the heck down and stabilize, thus reducing the inflammation.

Seriously, do not cheat in this phase. I know, it's really tempting. I'm right there with you. I have 7 bottles of coconut water at my house that I'm trying to pretend don't exist.

Your doctor will also put you on some kind of plan to rebuild your intestines/fix your leaky gut, as it's called. This could include a medication to fix the yeast overgrowth in your body (if they suspect this) and taking something specific to intestine health such as Intestamine or G.I. Benefits.

Finally, Try One New Food a Week and Watch VERY CLOSELY for Symptoms.

This is going to be critical to understanding what you can and cannot eat going forward. Pay incredibly close attention to your body. Suddenly feel tired? Feel unhappy for no reason? Those are signs that you need to cross that food item off your list for good. If you have no reaction - nada - you can go ahead and eat that food again like normal - woo hoo!

You'll be okay. You're not alone. There's something like 90 million people with food allergies. We have options, thankfully. We'll all be fine as long as the zombie apocalypse (or any other apocalypse) doesn't happen.

If you're a parent and you need a fun, helpful, hilarious support group, check out this site. A laugh a day keeps the food allergy away. Or something like that... Food Allergy Fun

On a similar but different subject, I want to share this article I came across on how new studies show that depression is actually an allergic reaction to inflammation in the body. Whoa, what?! Did you catch that? This means, more than ever, it is critical to understand your body and the foods you're putting in it. If you suffer from depression, you may want to get an extensive food allergy panel done and then work on the three steps above.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: I Know How it Feels to Scream

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Being a person is one of the hardest things to do in life.

Far too often we feel like prisoners in our own minds, bodies, entire beings. We struggle with love - from others, from ourselves. We struggle with who we want to be and who we actually are. We struggle with simply living our lives. We get so caught up in the bad that we forget the good, the tomorrows, the wonderful things that will happen in their own time.

We forget that everything we've ever done in life has been a struggle and we deem this moment, this bad thing, as the worst of them all. We forget that we had to learn how to crawl, how to walk, how to eat and think and be in a time where it was considered only learning lessons and growing, not struggling, not suffering.

We forget that we're human.

That like any true work of art, time, effort, and fortitude is what sculpts stone into statue. Canvas into painting. Acorn into oak tree.

Do not give up your right to these things, no matter how dark and dreary they seem. Do not forfeit the hard work of growing and learning and molding yourself into a magnificent, breathtaking, glorious work of art.

Breaking the Boundaries I
Society 6
I Know How It Feels To Scream

I know how it feels to scream,
Yet silently be suffering,
To all the world, appear unseen-
I know how it feels to scream.

I remember darker days,
A colder me that lost my way,
When shadows hung on everyday-
I remember darker days.

I recall my rusted wheel,
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t heal,
I very often couldn’t feel-
I recall my rusted wheel.

I’ve been in the gap of life,
When I no longer cared to fight,
When giving up was pure delight-
I’ve been in the gap of life.

I thought all I knew was fake,
So every time I tried, I’d break,
With every crack, I dug my grave-
I thought all I knew was fake.

I prayed for light and brighter days,
I asked for shelter from my pain,
I asked for lessons, and they came-
I prayed for light and brighter days.

I broke free from being lost,
I suffered for a selfish cause,
When asked for more, I paid the cost-
But I broke free from being lost.

I know what I see is real,
The things I cant explain, I feel,
The things I cannot change will heal-
I know what I see is real.

I’m still waiting for my heart
To grow and beat and mend it’s part,
To once again know where it starts-
I’m still waiting for my heart.

I’m not giving up my fight,
I’m stronger after each dark night,
I’ve found my reason, know it’s right-
I’m not giving up my fight.

Monday, January 19, 2015

In the World of Wellness: 2015 - 12 Opportunities to Enhance Your Well-Being

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" in those ways and also 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: Change your life, one month at a time

Every time the calendar flips over from December 31 to January 1, millions of people all over the world set out on new goals they've set for themselves to accomplish in the near year. This can feel overwhelming, though. Just because the day has changed, doesn't mean you suddenly have extra time in your schedule or extra energy to tackle all 474 things you want to work on. So, let's try a new approach.

One new thing every month.


Just one. 

We all know it takes roughly 30 days to form a habit. Giving yourself one full month to work on one thing in a dedicated fashion - every single day - will help you achieve your goals. By the time the month is over you will have either A) Made this new thing second nature in your schedule or B) Found out you don't really care about doing it any more. Either way, now you know yourself better and you tried something you've wanted to work on. Win-win.

Here are some suggestions to focus on over the course of the year, one month at a time. Remember, wellness is about taking care of yourself. Approach these with kindness toward yourself and compassion in those moments when you fall short of your goal. Remember that it's OK if you aren't perfect at these. Perfect isn't real. You are.

Get Sleep 

We may be halfway through the month, but that doesn't mean it's too late to work on something that is always, always, always important - sleep. For the rest of the month, go to bed 1 hour earlier each night. Forget the laundry, the dishes, the TV shows - Go. To. Bed.

Rest. Dream. Give your mind and your body a chance to recharge themselves. If you have a hard time remembering to do this, set an alarm on your phone. Help yourself fall asleep faster by dimming the lights in your house and turning off electronics at least a half hour before bed. This helps your body realize it's time to sleep. Maybe even consider keeping a sleep diary to track how you feel over the course of the time you do this. You can track your mental thoughts, how your body actually feels (more energy/less, tired, rested, yucky, good, etc.), and even how your skin looks. That's right - beauty sleep is a real thing. Try it out, my sleeping beauties and beasts.

Get Kind 

If you are a fan of Breaking Bad, then you're probably a fan of Aaron Paul, and you should also definitely be a fan of his wife, Lauren. She is the co-founder of the Kind Campaign. A non-profit that works against bullying and focuses on being kind. You can check out their website on how to get active in this movement or work on getting kind in your own way. Maybe you start waving at your neighbors, or complimenting strangers, or heck, complimenting yourself! This is the month you get kind with everyone, every day.

There are a million ways to approach this, but some of my favorites are ones that I'd never have thought of myself. One idea would be to buy someone else's lunch when you're dining out. Make it a surprise for them so when their meal is over it's all taken care of. I guarantee you this will make their day. I also recently heard a story about someone who worked at a Godiva store. A woman came in, browsed around, and asked this person what their favorite chocolate was. They proceed to tell her and the customer buys it. After she'd paid for it, she handed it to the store employee and wished them a Merry Christmas. This store employee had been thinking of committing suicide. This stranger saved them with this one act of kindness.

Be the kindness in the world. Find your own ways of giving kindness this month.

Get Cooking

Have you wanted to improve your cooking skills? Want to lose a little weight or be healthier in general when it comes to eating? Now's your chance. Take this month to find new recipes, try them out, and eat your meals at home. That's right, friends- March is all about cooking and eating at home.

We all know eating out can sabotage your healthiest-health plans. It's hard to know the exact ingredients and just how much salt/sugar/strangeness goes into your food. Even at the healthiest places, you're probably still ingesting more calories and more stuff than you would with a home cooked meal. Time to address that.

Give yourself a couple of hours to search the Internet for recipes you'd love making and eating. Then make a list for the month, week by week, of groceries you'll need to buy and days that you'll make each item. Then, get to cooking. Personally, I like planning my meals and shopping on Sunday. It makes me feel like I'm kicking my week off right.

Now, I know eating at home every single day will be a challenge, but it will be worth it. You save money, you expand your food/cooking/health knowledge, and you may even discover that you're a pretty awesome cook. Or not...but hey, you have to try before you really, really know. So try. Give it your best. Get to cooking!

Get Active

This is your month to move. Every. Single. Day.

Many of us sit on our behinds all day long at work. Take this month to correct all that sitting. Go for a walk, a bike ride, a hike. Hit up a yoga class, a weight class, the gym. Go jump on a trampoline, hula-hoop, roller skate. Try things you've been wanting to try. Be adventurous!

I know trying to exercise every single day can seem overwhelming. But think of it like this - maybe one morning you way up and do some stretches for 15 minutes. Done. You've gotten active in a way you probably don't always do. The next day, maybe you go to the gym. The next, maybe you take your dog on a long walk. There are ways to be active every day when you think about all the options of how you can be active.

The key is planning.

Every Thursday I have a calendar reminder set that reminds me to "Plan Hours for the Following Week." For me, this is the time I set aside to look over the upcoming weeks schedule and truly break it down day by day. I figure out what each day will look like, when I'll walk the dogs, what workouts I'll do, etc. It's one of my favorite tasks to complete because it leaves me feeling prepared in advance for everything. Give this a shot when you plan your active-ities and get yo'self moving.

Get Organized

Yes, May is for spring cleaning, but you have to clean all the time anyway. Take this month to get organized. Seriously, deeply organized.

Those thousands of pictures you have stored on your computer? Go through them! Your overflowing closet? Clean it out! Garage overfilled with boxes? Sort through them!

There are a ton of ways you can get yourself organized. I suggest finding 4 main things you want to work on and tackle one new one each week. Closet - Week 1, Files - Week on and so forth. You will feel like you've conquered the world when this month if over. The key is doing a little every day. Remember, you form habits when you repeat them daily. These few things you tackle will set you up with the successful habit of focusing on organization, which will aid you greatly in all things to come.

Get Rejuvenated

This month is All. About. You.

If you take no other month seriously, please do so with this one. There is nothing more important than your own wellness.

Every day, find a new way to do something for yourself. Maybe one day you take a nap on your lunch break. Maybe the next, you take a bath. Maybe you make tea and read a good book for 15 minutes or set a lunch date with a friend or go to a yoga class or sit outside admiring the beautiful summer weather. Whatever your "you thing" is, make it a priority. DO NOT be derailed by everything else in your life. Give yourself this gift. Give yourself time to do things that are good for your soul.

Get Grateful

We generally focus on being grateful in November far more than any other month. Let's try being grateful all the time, shall we? Or at least every day in July.

Every night before bed, think of 5 things you're grateful for. Yes, every single night. You might think you'll run out of things, but you won't. You'll find that you're grateful for things you've probably been taking for granted. Like dishwashers that wash the dishes for you - how awesome is it that we have something that does that for us?!

See what I mean? You'll find so many things you're grateful for that (and I guarantee this) you will become a far happier, mentally and emotionally healthier, and kinder person.

Get Mindful

This month I challenge you to put awareness into everything you do, every day. Do you feel angry, sad, happy? OK, why? Are you rushing through things, being lazy, avoiding a situation...why? Approach your life, your own thoughts, your own actions with mindfulness. Ask yourself the hard questions. Work toward fulling understanding why you think/feel/do the things you think/feel/do. This won't be easy, so let's lay that out on the table now. But it will be worth it. Who better to understand you than yourself?

Get Educated

This month I challenge you to learn something new. Maybe you sign up for a class at the local community college. Maybe you join the choir at your church and learn some new singing skills. Maybe you take a Zumba class or read French cooking book or learn Spanish using the Duolingo app on your phone. Whatever you choose, make it something you're really, genuinely curious about. That curiosity will help drive you the rest of the month...and maybe even beyond. Who knows? You might be fluent in a new language by this time next year or find a new interest that leads to a new career. Give yourself this chance to explore, to be informed, to get educated.

Get Brave

This is it, friends. Time to tackle those fears.

No, you don't have to adopt a pet spider if you're afraid of them. I could never do that and I would never ask that of you.

But you can find a braveness inside of yourself that you previously lacked. For example, maybe you join the Human Rights Campaign and support the very important work being done there. Maybe the next time someone makes a racial slur, instead of letting it slide you say something. Maybe you stand up for a friend/co-worker/family member when they're unable to stand up for themselves.

Being brave doesn't necessarily mean facing your fears of goblins and ghosts. It means finding strength inside yourself to do something you've never done before. Bravery comes in many forms and shows it's strength in many places.

For you, this may even be something like leaving a bad relationship or bad job. Maybe even dealing with anxiety that holds you down every day.

This one can be challenging to do every day. Start first by building bravery in your mind. Think of a scenario (real or imagined) in which you wish you had the courage to do something different. Then work through doing whatever it is you want to do in that scenario, in your mind. Do this over and over, every day. Do this until you genuinely feel that bravery, all way in to your bones.

If, and only if, the opportunity presents itself, act on that bravery. Maybe it doesn't happen this month. That's OK. This can be the month you build that internal courage, that internal strength, to make it happen in the future.

You can do it. You can and you will. Believe in yourself.

Get Slow

I like to think of November as Slowvember...the air is crisp, the leaves are changing, everything is settling down for the cold and moving a little slower, a little softer.

Except us crazy, turkey wielding, Black Friday shopping humans.

We rush-rush-rush around trying to buy the Christmas presents and cook the food and get ready for the company and get the best deals and...

I'm tired just writing this.

Stop the insanity.

Start this month by reading this other post I wrote, which has an incredibly amazing article in it about all the benefits of going slow. Then put slowness to work for you. Find your inner snail. Embrace the tortoise who, we already know, still wins the race. Find calm in the tornado of chaos that surrounds you. Find slow. Be slow. Go slow.

Get Prepared

Oh, December. You cold, beautiful, busy thing, you.

This month, take time every day to look back on your year and plan for the year to come. Look at the wonderful/bad/good/sad things of 2015. What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently/the same/never again? What do you wish you'd done more of/less of?

Now, write all of this down in a little journal. Stay with me, friends, I'm not asking you to write a novel.

 Every day write:
 - 1 lesson learned
 - 1 thing you want to try in 2016
 - 1 thing you never want to do again

Then, when you begin to make your plans for the year to come, look back on these and plan accordingly. Give yourself this gift of well thought out plans. No rushing to decide your resolutions. No rushing your life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: Ode to my Dog

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

One of the happiest moments of my life was adopting my little furry baby, Samson. He is, undoubtedly, one of the best and most important parts of me. These are a little silly, but this little guy has my whole heart.

Ode To My Dog

He’s my beanie,
He’s my little German brown-eyed kiss of love.

Sambean -
He’s my main thing.
He’s my sun, my moon, and all the stars above.

He is my wean.
He is my teeny, tiny, mini loving machine.

He is my passion,
He is the compass to my heart and all I love.


Pulse, pulse, pulse
Of my
Heart, heart, heart
With your pitter and your patter
And your bark, bark, bark...
With your kisses, tail swishes -
What I cook you think’s delicious!
Little feet, feet, feet...
Samson bean, bean, bean.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Mantra: Things That Matter

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: The connections you make with people matter the most

The Boyfriend's grandmother (who I've been blessed to adopt as my grandmother) emailed me this most inspiring email. It was so good, I had to share.

The Charles Schulz Philosophy

The  following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the  creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip.
You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them.

Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point. 

1. Name  the five wealthiest people in the  world. 

2. Name  the last five Prime Ministers

3. Name  the last five winners of the Miss America pageant. 

4  Name  ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 

5. Name  the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress. 

6. Name  the last decade's worth of World Series or Stanley Cup winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. 

These are no second-rate achievers. 

They are the best in their fields. 

But the applause dies...

Awards tarnish...

Achievements are forgotten. 

Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. 

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

The lesson: 

The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the
most credentials
the most money...or the most awards. 

They simply are the ones who care the most.