This article originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green January 20, 2014.
At times, growing up as an only child was hard for me. I used to get so bored playing all by myself. I'd gather my stuffed animals and play pretend school or I'd make mud pies outside. As I got a bit older, I decided I'd definitely have three kids so they'd always have a playmate.
In 2002, I had my daughter and then went through a divorce shortly afterward. Being a single mom with only one kid was definitely easier than having three, but it still brought up my childhood feelings of always longing for a sibling. I felt I had failed my daughter by being a single mom with her so young. The last thing I needed, or wanted, at that point was another child.
So I embraced the fact that my three-kid dreams were over and that I'd be absolutely content with just this one awesome daughter. Here are some tips that have made life fun for her:
1. Always have friends over.
Since my daughter was little, I always had my friends over (and, as she grew older, her friends). I set up playdates frequently so she could enjoy board games with someone besides me. (One mom can only take so many games of Candy Land before she wants to set it on fire!) Now that she's in middle school, we have kids in and out of the house all day, every day. They bring so much life into our world and it’s a great way for me to know my daughter on a deeper level.
2. Be fully present with your child.
The worst thing you can do is turn on the TV as a baby-sitter. While this works great sometimes, it’s not a good daily solution. Go get frozen yogurt or window-shop at the mall. Turn off your phone and just be with your child. You'll find this leads to deeper conversations as they get older and you'll cherish these times together.
3. Keep busy in the community.
I always check the newspaper for local events such as farmer’s markets, craft fairs, dinosaur exhibits at the park, etc. Anything that was free (or cheap), we'd make a day of it. Staying home was sure to cause us tension and boredom.
4. Hang out with other families.
Since my parents died, we were left short in the grandparent department, and we'd do Thanksgiving and Christmas with my friends and their families. Luckily, I have some amazing friends who took us in as their own.
5. Let the child help you as much as possible.
I'd get home from work exhausted, but found if I let my daughter “help” with dinner, she loved it. I got her a stool so she could reach the sink and even wash dishes.
6. Have a movie night in your adult bed and let them sleep with you.
We'd make quiet Friday nights fun by having popcorn while watching Dumbo for the 20th time. My daughter loved it and it was something special we shared together.
7. Pick an activity and sign up your child.
It helps to try one at a time so you don’t run yourself ragged trying to keep up with everything! For my daughter, we started with dance then moved onto gymnastics. Then she tried tennis and golf. When she was 8, I signed her up for volleyball at our local rec center. After the first season, she knew without a doubt that she wanted to continue and loved it more than anything else she had tried. She's now 12 and has made some amazing friends through the sport.
8. Bring one or two of her friends with us when we go out to do fun things.
I love hearing the kids sing in the backseat of the car and this is a great way to keep up with what's going on in their lives. Having a friend is sometimes more fun than just mom, especially when we're going places like a water park. It lets me relax a bit while the kids have a blast.
These are all things that have worked for me in raising a healthy, happy and well-rounded pre-teen. While I wish I could have had more kids, for us, our little family is filled with amazing friends and lots of laughter.
I know there are so many people that truly want to get healthy
but don’t know where to start. Then there are those that know what is good for them and what isn’t, but they still choose the unhealthy route. I see it in my health coaching practice.
Someone pays for my services because they want to feel their best. We start by making small changes that will last over time. It is truly a blessing when I see real results. But it is frustrating when others complain about not being healthy, eating and drinking too much and not taking time for themselves to actually accomplish anything.
To these people, I say “get out of your own way!”
Here are 8 steps to guide you on your path to health, IF you are truly ready:
1. Put yourself first. Your health should be one of your top priorities. If your car runs low on gas, you fill it up. You put air in the tires and change the oil every three months. Some people actually take better care of their vehicles than themselves. It is time to put yourself first and make the effort to gain better health. No one is going to do this for you.
2. Stop making excuses. We can make enough excuses to talk ourselves out of almost anything. Trust me, I did this for years thinking "oh I will start eating better tomorrow..." If you eat bad in the morning, that doesn't mean you have to eat bad the rest of the day. I know how it is when you are hungry and there is a drive-thru on the corner. But we all know that is the worst choice when it comes to food. Instead of driving thru a fast food restaurant, find somewhere that you can get a healthy salad with grilled chicken instead. I hear people say they don’t have the time for eating healthy, exercising or anything else that is good for them. But they do! You just have to stop making excuses and get real with yourself as to why you are choosing unhealthy options. Once you admit this, then you can figure out how to make room for health in your life.
3. Use what you have paid for. I know people that purchase great, healthy recipe books and never look past the cover. Dust it off and seek out something new. How many exercise DVD’s have you purchased that never made it out of the plastic wrapper? I personally just donated a pregnancy DVD (brand new) and my daughter is almost 12. I had high hopes of using it, but just never scheduled the time. And how many people have their purses and coats hung over the treadmill bars? Clean it up and jump on!
What about the gym membership you signed up for last January and went a few times? If you have already invested the money, put it to use.
4. Grocery shop. This is one simple thing you can do but is very hard for some people. I used to get intimidated and flustered at the store trying to figure out what to buy. It took a few trips with a list and now I can get in and out in less than 30 minutes. I personally go at least twice a week so I always have fresh fruits and vegetables. Making the time to shop for healthy food means when you are hungry, you have good options already at the house. There is no need to go out for dinner.
5. Plan your menu. When you first start your path to eating healthy, planning out your meals is essential to being
successful. You will only do this for a few weeks until you figure out what you like and what you will actually cook and eat. Then it becomes so easy to grocery shop as you already know how to feed your family since you planned it out and stuck to it for a few weeks.
6. Don’t say, “Oh I could never live without…” This could be bread, milk, beef, nuts… the list goes on to what I have heard. Be open to trying new foods and making healthier substitutions. You really can survive without macaroni and cheese from a box, I promise! By saying you could never live without a certain food automatically shuts your brain off to being open to new and delicious alternatives.
7. Schedule exercise or movement into your week. We schedule conference calls, meetings, dentist appointments and the list goes on. But most people don’t actually schedule exercise into their life. This means you are less likely to get active. Block out 30 minutes of your day and take a walk. Or check
the schedule at your gym and put a yoga class into your planner. By doing this in advance, you are more likely to stick to a routine. Find something that you like and that motivates you to get moving. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just get out there and get your heart rate up!
8. Get creative. Do you have a stack of journals that you haven’t opened or art supplies that haven’t been touched? Get them out and get your creative juices flowing. This is something that is great for your health. It is calming and relaxing while allowing your brain to focus on something besides work, chores, kids, etc. And if you think you aren’t creative, that just isn’t true. We all have creativity inside of us that just hasn’t had the opportunity to come out.
Often, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to our health
We know we should do things differently, but just don’t make it a priority. Get out of your own way, stop making excuses and schedule health into your life. If you find there are obstacles, identify them and work to overcome them. Start with small changes if you want to see lasting results. If you change everything in one day, you will most likely set yourself up for failure. Take it one step at a time…your body will thank you for it.
If you need help making changes in your life, please check out my Winter Clean Eating Program HERE!
If you have been following me for a while, you may already know that both my parents died at the age of 61 (six years apart) from cancer. Being an only child and a single mom with an infant was pretty difficult, to say the least. After my dad died in 2003, my mom kept his ashes in her closet. It was something we would joke about from time to time. “Oh, dad’s in the closet.” Or, “When should we take him out of the closet?” But I was serious…I mean, what was she going to do with him? It had been several years and she had made no plans. So one day I finally asked her and she looked me in the face and said, “Not my problem. When I die, you can put them together and figure it out.” And she was totally serious. She had NO plans on spreading his ashes. Ever. That was now my “problem.” And it was a huge one. How do you determine someone’s final resting place, let alone both of them? And for someone like me that tends to over-analyze situations, this was just almost too much for me to handle by myself.
After my mom died in 2009, I then found myself with two boxes of ashes in MY closet. At first I thought I needed to do something quick. I thought I would throw them out of a boat near Galveston which was near
where I grew up. But that didn’t feel right. The water there isn’t the prettiest. Then I thought I could travel to blue water and do it, but I worried about the ashes getting lost on the plane. If you have ever had
to go to a funeral home to pick up ashes, you know they are actually pretty heavy. So I thought I could carry them on the plane in a rolling suitcase…but they are heavy and I had no idea how I would get them into the overhead bin. I would have to ask for help... "Excuse me, can you help get these ashes up here for me?" Anyways, as you can see, I was struggling to come up with the best resting place for them. And it was driving me absolutely crazy. I finally decided to give myself some time so I wouldn’t end up just throwing them in my back yard out of sheer desperation. Yes, that did cross my mind!
In 2010 I started dating Justin, who is now my awesome husband. When he moved in, I gave him my closet and moved my stuff to the second closet. But I had to warn him…if he was going to live with me and take that closet, he had to be okay with Larry & Phyllis in there with him. He said that would be fine. Whew…they were finally out of MY closet! He even talked to them sometimes which I thought was great given that he never got to meet them. How lucky to find a great guy that didn’t think I was nuts for keeping these ashes all these years. And he's just as nutty as me talking to them. Perfect match!
Right before the holidays in 2011 I decided that it was time to
let my parents go free. My decision was to spread the ashes over Bear Lake in southern Colorado which is where they spent many afternoons fishing. It was going to be perfect, so I told myself in my head. So literally a few days after I made this huge decision, we jumped in the car and drove from Texas to Colorado. We rented a room at the Cuchara Inn and were the only guests in the entire hotel. The owner gave us his home phone number in case we needed anything. It was a little like the movie The Shining…having an entire hotel to yourself in the dead of winter. And that is where the problem came in: it was winter which meant that Bear Lake was frozen and the roads to get to it were closed off. How the heck did I not think of this before we drove 2 states over? Why didn’t I have a plan B? I always have a plan B. I was devastated and my anxiety kicked in full force. We decided to sleep on it (in our empty hotel) and figure things out the next morning.
We woke up early and headed out toward the house my parent’s built that they planned to spend retirement in. Sadly, they barely lived there a year before the cancer hit. As we were
driving up the steep road to their house, I was flooded with memories and sadness that they didn’t ever get to enjoy what they had worked so hard to obtain. We pulled in front of the
house and it was covered in at least 5 feet of snow all the way up to the front door. The new owners apparently don’t spend the winters there or it would have been plowed. We hiked up to the house and peeked in the windows and I could picture them in there, enjoying retirement.
Justin and I eventually found the perfect spot to spread their ashes which I cannot share here because Colorado has some pretty specific laws about this sort of thing. I was hoping that the spot we picked would be okay for them. As soon as we were done, we headed back to town to get something warm to
drink. When I got in the car, I felt this absolute feeling of peace come over me. I cannot explain it fully as it was just like the weight of years had been lifted off me. Something I had dreaded and stressed over for years was finally done.
We found this cute little café/coffee shop in LaVeta and went
inside. We were freezing cold as we live in Texas and didn't quite prepare for December in Colorado. Everyone could tell we were not local so we found ourselves trying to explain what brought us to this part of the state, in this tiny town, in the middle of winter. Justin was talking with the owner behind
the counter when I turned and saw this beautiful flower on a stand against the wall. I have no idea why, but I was SO drawn to this flower. I am not even into flowers or anything of the such so it was weird that I was obsessed with it. Well, I did take Horticulture in college at Texas A&M and grew a few unidentified plants on my apartment stove... Anyways, I interrupted
their conversation and asked the lady what kind of flower was it, where do you get it, why is it blooming in winter, etc. She said it was a White Paper Narcissus. I had never heard of this flower, but for some reason, I pulled out my iPhone and wrote the name down. (I didn't even spell it right!) I didn’t snap a picture of the flower as I knew I would remember the beauty of it, but I did know I would forget the name. This was at 10:08am mountain time which would have been 11:08 in Texas. This detail is important.
Justin and I then thanked the owner for their hospitality and she even sent us on our way with a bag of free baked goodies. We then began the drive back to Texas.
We got to our house late the following night and I walked in through the kitchen and turned on the light. I seriously almost fell over when I saw a White Paper Narcissus sitting beautifully on my kitchen table with a note from my best friend Jennifer. It was almost too much for me to handle. I had to grab onto the kitchen counter to keep from keeling over. I immediately called her and demanded to know what day and time that she purchased this flower. She told me it was around 11am the previous morning. The exact same time I was looking at one in a tiny cafe in Colorado. She was out shopping, saw it, and was drawn to it for some unexplained reason as well. She was drawn to it enough to buy it and leave it on my table for me when I came home. And I might mention, I didn't talk to her while I was gone as there was literally no cell reception for most of our trip. I get tears in my eyes just writing about this. I mean, how can you explain this? It wasn’t like Jenn came to my house all the time and left me flowers. This could only mean one thing to me: it was a sign and a gift from my parents, through Jenn. What else could it mean? At the exact time I was drawn to the flower in Colorado, minutes after spreading my parents’ ashes, Jenn was drawn to the same flower in Texas and had to get it for me. This is what I know to be true. It was a sign that I could finally be at peace and know that they were at peace. It was a sign that they were happy with the place we chose to spread their ashes. It was a sign to tell me all was going to be okay.
My 40th birthday was two weeks ago and my incredible mother-in-law sent my husband home with a White Paper Narcissus for my birthday. When he walked in, I just thought how incredibly sweet and thoughtful of her to remember the significance around this flower for me. When I talked to her on the phone she said she called every florist in town and no one had one. So she had given up the plan to get one for me. But later that day she was at her local grocery store shopping and they had one!
Even though people leave our lives, there are still signs of them all around us. Sometimes it has to hit you over the head to realize it, but they are there and they are with us. Is the sign always going to be something as huge as this was? Probably not, but don’t be surprised if it is. I find comfort in knowing that my parents are watching over me each and every day. I don’t have all the answers to heaven and what really happens, but I do believe they are my angels.
One final note: If you tell your family you want to be cremated, do them a favor and give them some ideas on where you would like your ashes to be spread. You don’t have to give specific coordinates on a map, but at least a general idea of what you would prefer. No one should have to go through what I did to make such a decision with no direction. I can laugh about it now because it is done, but darn my mom for leaving me with such a task and no guidance!
Growing up, we spent the holidays with at least one set of my
grandparents, if not both. On my mom’s side of the family, I was the only grandchild so it was me and all the adults. That was fine, being an only child I learned at an early age to be independent and entertain myself. I never had to worry about
Christmas plans as it was already established. Then my dad died in 2003 which changed everything. My mom and I, along
with my daughter who was one at the time, did our best to go through the motions for my daughter’s sake. Then
after my mom died in 2009, I really had no where to go for the holidays. The first year I did spend it with my best friends’ family which was great, but sad all at the same time. Since then, I have spent many Christmas’ alone. Being divorced, my daughter is only with me every other Christmas.
I remember how alone and sorry I felt for myself during those times. But you know what? I made it through. I didn’t check Facebook so I wasn’t reminded about how perfect everyone else’s life was while mine had been completely turned upside down. I would usually go to a drive thru Mexican chain (this was before I knew how to eat healthy!) and get my dinner as they were the only place open. I spent the time relaxing, watching TV and reading. It wasn’t all that bad. I didn’t have to worry about cooking, entertaining, buying stacks of presents and all the stress that comes with a packed holiday season. That was kind of nice actually.
But now I have my very awesome husband and I know I won’t ever spend a holiday alone again. We
both have to work all this week, except for tomorrow, so we are going to cherish our one day off. We have everything we need to throw in the crock pot for a delicious meal and will enjoy the quiet time together. And for that, I am truly blessed.
This is the time of year that I really focus on the good in the world and for all that I am blessed to have in my life. I have a husband that loves me, my daughter, our dog Bingo and a handful of close friends. Without them, my life would not be complete. I miss my parents terribly, but know they are watching over me and proud of me for not giving up hope that I would be okay after they left.
So during this holiday season, think of those that don’t have family to spend time with. Maybe even invite them over but don’t be upset if they don’t take you up on the offer. I know I was invited to many holidays with other families but I just couldn’t bring myself to go. It was just a huge reminder of what I no longer had. And if you are alone this Christmas, use the time to take care of yourself, eat a decent meal
and even take a nap! Cherish the quiet time and know that there are many more years to come that could very well be filled with new friends and family. Life is hard but you must keep going. Have the pity party, like I did, and then get out there and start a new life for yourself.
I hope everyone has an amazing holiday filled with what makes you happy! And here's to an amazing 2014, full of health, hope and love!
I love this time of year when I get holiday cards from friends
that include letters about the fantastic year they have had.
They mention all the milestones their children have reached and the
amazing trips they took. I have had years like that before…but not this past one. Which is exactly why I didn’t send out a letter about my Very Bad Year. No one wants to hear all that. They just want to know the good, not the ugly. And that is totally understandable.
Instead, I figured I would share my letter (if I were to do it, which I am not) here with all of you!
I can officially call the year 2013 the "Year of Michelle’s Breakdown." It really started around the holidays last year. I just felt off…I couldn’t really put my finger on anything specific other than I didn’t feel right. Once January hit and school started back for my daughter, I began to have stomach aches and nausea pretty regularly. It started when I went out of the house. Then it happened at home and did not stop.
You know that feeling when you are driving and you almost get hit by another car? Well, I pretty much
had that feeling for three months. It got to the point where I literally could not leave my house. The only time I did leave was when my husband would drive me to the doctor or the ER because I knew I was dying. I just didn’t know why. I lost too much weight as I literally couldn’t eat a bite of anything. I had every possible test run and every doctor came back telling me I was perfectly fine and healthy. BUT I WASN’T!
I was at my lowest point, just lying in bed crying and wishing it would all go away. And it did… once I
checked myself in to a psychiatric hospital. You can read about that here.
How could I end up with a diagnosis of extreme anxiety and major depression? Well, for starters, if
you have extreme anxiety, you are most likely depressed about it as it limits your life completely. Anxiety is a nasty problem to have and can literally ruin your life. I went to one counselor who had been working in the business for over 20 years and she told me, in front of my husband, that I had the worst case she had ever seen. Well, I do strive to be #1 most of the time, but this wasn’t a trophy I wanted to display on the mantle.
At the hospital I was put on pharmaceutical medications. I fought it for so long and knew this was the only way out at the time. I tried every single holistic method I could and absolutely nothing worked. But the medications allowed me to get my life back, sort of. The biggest problem was that they left me feeling completely sleepy all day, every day. I also feel like I went through the last 9 months like a zombie, no real highs or lows….just mediums.
I researched every possible article on anxiety that I could find on the internet. And I was shocked at how many people actually experience it. Not many get to the point where I did, thankfully. But it is common and it is sad that more people don’t discuss it. I felt completely alone and knew there was no way I could explain any of this to someone that had never experienced it. Even my poor husband was at a loss at trying to understand. I can remember begging him one day to take me to the ER and he didn’t want to
because he knew what would happen: they would run tests and nothing would show up wrong. I went so many times that I will be paying off these medical bills for the next few years, lucky me.
So what I found was that there HAD to be something wrong in my head (literally!). I found a Functional Medicine doctor and went to see her about 6 weeks ago. She ran a bunch of tests and discovered I have a parasite and candida. I wasn’t expecting those two as I eat really clean and haven’t taken antibiotics in years. But the best news I got was from a blood test she performed which measured my organic acids, amino acids and minerals, among a few more. This test revealed I was low in EVERY SINGLE CATEGORY. So normally that would be bad news, but it is great news because now I have found the source of this horrific anxiety. My body basically isn’t absorbing the amino acids and vitamins most likely due to the parasite. This for me was proof that I am NOT crazy! There are medical reasons behind my issues that eating all the healthy food in the world wouldn’t fix until I found the root problem. And for that, I am so thankful.
I am now treating the parasite, then will follow up with a candida treatment and am supplementing the amino acids in the meantime. I am not fully healed yet but, for the first time all year, there is light at the end of this tunnel!
So really, this anxiety tore through me and my family for the better part of 2013. How do you write that in a letter to all your friends and family? Well, you don’t!
So now that I have shared all this, I can tell you that this year has been life changing for me in so many great ways. I have learned to appreciate the little things and I work daily to not sweat the small stuff. I have learned to put myself first and make sure that I am whole and healthy. I am calmer and more in touch with my feelings than ever before. I literally hadn’t cried once since my mom’s funeral 4 years ago but this year I have given myself permission to shed tears if I need to.
And it wouldn’t be a proper letter if I didn’t mention that my awesome 6th grade daughter played club volleyball in the spring and is already practicing for the season starting in January. She barely weighs 80 pounds but has mastered her jump serve and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I am thankful that she weathered the storm of this year with me and came out just fine.
I am thankful for my incredible husband that supported and loved me every single day of this year, through all the hard times. I cannot even imagine what he felt the night he left me at the psychiatric hospital. I know it was hard for him as well. But through it, we became even closer and stronger. And that, at the end of the day, is what really matters.
So 2013 was a rough year, but we made it through. I am anticipating a much better holiday letter next year! So stay tuned!
Note: I am sharing this very personal story publicly in hopes that it can help others who have been in my shoes to know you are not alone. Mental health issues, when not treated, can lead to so many devastating things, including suicide. My feeling is that there needs to be more help out there for people that need it. I went through probably 20 doctors that basically dismissed me and offered no help. It's not their fault, they just probably weren't trained to identify issues like this when all my physical tests came back negative. True change starts by having these open conversations and when we let go of the shame behind it.
The holiday season seemed to creep up too fast on me this year. I guess you could say I am not really ready for it. I am, however, ready for a new year to start fresh, but getting the tree out, decorating the house and singing carols just doesn’t seem to fit right now. Generally I already have the tree up with all the trimmings by this time, but not this year.
I have been focusing a lot of attention on myself the past 6 months and worked really hard to put my own needs at the top of my list. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so rewarding. Before I started this focus, I was the last one in line for getting my needs met. I was always putting everyone else before me and realized that if I did not take care of myself, then I was no good to everyone around me, no matter how hard I tried.
This holiday will be a bit different as well.My daughter and step-children will not be here to celebrate. Without having the kids, it just doesn’t seem the same. We are past the age of Santa (thank goodness) so I don’t feel obligated to spend an entire day decorating, only to take it all down a few weeks later.
However, it does make me happy to have the house decorated, but I don't have the energy this year.
In addition, my birthday is on the 13th so it always seemed like the holidays stole my thunder for the month! I can’t even count how many times I received Christmas ornaments as birthday presents as a kid. I generally do not make a big deal out of my birthday, but this year I am turning 40 and I am doing things my way. I have let go of my feelings of needing to be perfect. Because I now know, this just sets me up for failure every single time. I am also letting go of my worries about what my neighbors will think. They all spent hours putting lights outside their houses and I have always felt the need to compete, or at least make an effort. Not this year though. I am okay with what they choose to think about our lack of lights and decorations. That is not what really matters and it is so empowering to let go of what other’s may think of you.
This may seem like I have lost my spirit for the season, but that isn’t the case. I am more grateful and more thankful than any years in the past. This is what I feel like the holidays are about. And it’s not something that we should just celebrate once a year, we should be loving, kind and thankful all year long.
I recently did a collage where I took pictures of the ordinary day-to-day things in my life that bring me happiness. This was an assignment in one of Brene’ Brown’s courses. It was so eye opening! I found myself snapping a picture of my daughter getting ready for school even though she was grumpy, the fresh flowers my husband brought me for no reason and one too many pictures of my adorable dog. Then I started seeing things in a different light. For example, every morning I open the refrigerator and my smoothie is waiting for me. My husband makes it for me before he goes to work each morning at 6:30. It is a small thing, but one that I appreciate every single day. So, I snapped a picture of my smoothie as this is something meaningful in my life. The next night I left him a note by the blender telling him how much I appreciated this every morning. And he called me later and told me that it made his day.
So I am giving myself permission to not go through the motions of decking our halls this year and instead, I am focusing on truly being grateful and thankful for all the blessings in my life. This, to me, is time well spent.
This article originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green Saturday November 2, 2013: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11462/why-im-excited-to-turn-40.html
In a little over a month, I will officially hit the big 4-0! So many people
dread these major birthdays, but I am actually looking forward to what the next decade holds for me. There are so many reasons why I am embracing this new chapter in my life and actually looking forward to my 40’s.
1. I am more confident in myself.
When I was younger, I had confidence in my abilities, but it was lost somewhere around the time I had my daughter at the age of 28. My career path was amazing and I had so much potential to really be successful. Then I had my
daughter and it seemed I could barely stay awake at work and she was sick all the time. I lost my focus and my confidence at that point. Now that I'm turning 40, I feel I have it back and I can tackle the world with my four decades of
2. I am more financially responsible.
I am actually saving for retirement and feel more secure in the money department than I have in the past. I don’t spend frivolously and am working to pay down my credit card debt. As you get older, you actually see the light at the end of the tunnel and I want to make sure I am financially able to retire by the age of 60.
3. I found the right partner that I know will be by my side the rest of my life.
I got married at the early age of 23 and didn’t really know what I wanted out of life, much less a marriage. That lasted only five years and I have held out for Mr. Right and finally found him after nine years of looking. It's so exciting and comforting to know that I get to have my best friend with me through all of life’s ups and downs. With this kind of support and love, I know we can make it through whatever life throws our way.
4. I am finally getting enough sleep.
My daughter is now in 6th grade and sleeps all night long without having to get up for feedings and diaper changes. She is old enough to make her own breakfast and get ready for school by herself and I no longer have to lug around car seats and diaper bags. Now I can enjoy spending time with her and have real conversations. I truly enjoy having her friends over and still feel young enough to hang out with them but old enough to offer advice on how to manage being a pre-teen.
I can still remember my own slumber parties, discovering boys, school dances and everything else that comes with that age. I love getting to guide my daughter through this stage in her life.
5. I am old enough to finally get that tattoo that I never could decide on.
In my earlier years, I wasn’t passionate about anything enough to permanently ink something on my body. I am so glad I waited and didn’t make a bad decision that required months of laser removal. Two weeks ago I finally allowed myself permission to get my first tattoo and I love it! I got the words “Just Breathe” on my right foot so when I am in yoga class it's there as a constant reminder. I know this is something that I won’t regret a few years down the road.
6. I feel healthier than ever before. In college and as a new mom, I ate like crap.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but now, I know I was eating horrible foods that were just making me feel worse. Now I know how to prepare a healthy meal for my family and am learning to eat and experiment with new foods all the time. I am so happy to enter my 40s with the knowledge of what foods make me look and feel the best.
7. I decided last year to go back to school to study nutrition.
Going to college at 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or my career. I would have majored in General Studies because I was so undecided, but alas, they wouldn’t let me. I finally chose to major in Journalism which I am now thankful for. I'll never regret getting a college education, but going back to school at the age of 40 is completely different. I
get excited to learn more each week and don’t stress about the tests. I can finally focus on topics that I am passionate about.
8. I don’t feel the need to go to bars in order to have a social life.
I can spend my time and money on things that are much healthier for me than drinking until 2am. I used to feel like I was missing out if I didn’t go to every happy hour with friends from work. Now, I know I am much more content spending time with my family in healthier ways. I enjoy every day by waking up early instead of sleeping off a hang-over until noon on the weekends.
9. I finally feel like I have my life in order.
I have hopes and dreams and can see a future. I have great things to look forward to. Prior to this stage, I was just making it through one day at a time. Now I'm actually planning a few years down the road, which has never happened before.
10. I am truly blessed to have amazing friends from my childhood that are all entering this new decade along with me.
When we get together, we definitely don’t act 40. We laugh and joke like we did as kids. It’s as though nothing has changed in the past 20 years, and for that, I am entirely grateful.
Anyone else about to hit a major birthday? I recommend looking at the blessings you have, the experience you have gained and moving into the next years with hope and happiness!
This article as originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green November 1, 2013.
By now we all know that October was National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This means that for a month, everyone wears pink and buys “pink” products to support awareness. But aren’t we already aware of breast cancer? I don’t need pink products thrown in my face all month to make me more “aware.” If anything, it really bothers me. What infuriates me is seeing what companies do to market their products, all in the name of "awareness."
This was blatantly obvious recently as I paid for a salad at my local café. There was a basket full of brown cookies with pink things in them.
“What kind of cookie is that?” I said.
The lady told me that they were chocolate cookies with pink M&M’s to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Really? Are you kidding me? Since when did a cookie serve as awareness for anything besides Type II diabetes?
She asked if I wanted to buy one and I politely declined. Why would I buy a cookie just to add to their bottom line? There was no note saying where the proceeds would go and she had no idea. So in reality, this was just a way
to sell more cookies.
There is actually a term for this kind of marketing: Pinkwashing. Wikipedia describes pinkwashing as “the promotion of consumer goods and services using the pink ribbon that represents support for breast cancer-related charities.”
Sure, this sounds great in theory, but how many of these goods and services are actually sending their money to any charity? That’s really the question and there's no real way to know the answer when it comes to smaller companies.
When researching, I found that the Susan G. Komen foundation receives over $55 million, (YES MILLION), a year from corporate partnerships that sell their products and make a donation. The real issue here is that some of these
products are harmful for anyone who is healthy, much less someone going through any kind of cancer treatment. If you're buying beauty products or perfumes, you can bet that they most likely contain cancer-causing ingredients. If the product contains “fragrance” then it’s a sure bet it is not safe. If it has ingredients that you cannot pronounce, it most likely is harmful to use.
Does anyone remember KFC and their “Buckets for a Cure?” They sold their chicken in pink buckets and the proceeds went to Komen. This marketing strategy actually made $4.2 million for Komen, which is the largest single contribution in the organization's history.
Has anyone looked into what is in that bucket of chicken? It's filled with harmful ingredients known to cause obesity, which plays a role in inflammation, diabetes and cancer, among other diseases. I am sad for all the families who ate that bucket of chicken thinking they were doing something good for “the cure.”
It seems like every product in the store this month has a “pink” version. This is great if the money is actually going somewhere useful. But how do you know? Some reputable stores will give you full details. Some won’t. My advice?
Just be cautious buying something that you don’t need only because it's pink.
Many larger companies claim that they will donate a certain percentage of sales to a specific charity. However, many of these companies put a cap on their donations and don’t mention it. So if the cap is lower, the majority of the sales go right back to that company instead of any reputable charity that is actually helping those battling breast cancer.
Perhaps my dislike of this month is for more personal reasons. My mom died in 2009 at the age of 61 of breast cancer. It was devastating for me. Prior to that, we participated in the Walk for the Cure and I remember her proudly standing with a huge smile on her face in the “Survivor Photo” as well as receiving a pink rose at the finish line of the walk. Those are great memories and I am thankful to the Komen group for organizing. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do any kind of walk like that since she passed away. It's just too emotional for me.
So let’s focus on prevention and helping those who are already diagnosed. Let’s see what can be done to help the families as they go through this horrendous disease. But please don’t ask me to buy junk food to raise awareness. I’m already aware.
Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, moisturizers, shampoos and even toothpaste. Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. These preservatives allow skin care products to survive for months or even years in your medicine cabinet without going rancid. The problem with this is that they are absorbed by your skin when you use products containing parabens. According to Mercola.com, the body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year. That number is astounding! We all know that eating healthy is good for us, but many people forget or don’t even realize that what we put on our skin is just as important. Parabens can mimic hormones in the body and disrupt functions of the endocrine system. What does this mean to you? In tests, parabens have been shown to slightly mimic estrogen which is known to play a role in breast cancer. There are also studies showing that parabens could be related to the increasing prevalence of early puberty in girls.
”The World Health Organization and United Nations this year concluded : “Exposure to E.D.C.’s (endocrine disruptors) during fetal development and puberty plays a role in the increased incidences of reproductive diseases, endocrine-related cancers, behavioral and learning problems, including A.D.H.D., infections, asthma, and perhaps obesity and diabetes in humans.” See source & article here.
So why do companies make and sell products with known endocrine disruptors?
Well, because it is cheap. They are efficient at preserving the life of the products at a low cost. The health of the consumer is not taken into concern with many companies; it is more about their bottom line.
There are studies out there showing that parabens might be safe, and others stating that they are not. I would rather purchase products that do not contain this preservative just to err on the side of caution. My mom died of breast cancer at the age of 61 which led me to research all I could about different products that we put on our bodies. I don’t want to wait another 10 years for studies to come out saying that parabens are definitely playing a role in the increasing rate of breast cancer. And for my daughter, I want her to grow up as toxin-free as possible.
I urge you to read the labels of all your personal care products and see what is really inside. If there are ingredients you cannot pronounce, chances are, they aren’t good for you.
The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an excellent website where you can go and check the toxicity level of your products. I encourage you to go online to be aware of what you are putting on your body, which ultimately gets absorbed into your system. SKIN DEEP DATABASE EWG is constantly working to make sure we all know what is in our products. They have made great strides in making companies clean up their products which is a huge benefit to all of us.
Currently, you can join their petition to clean up the ingredients in both L’Oreal and Revlon products. “Many companies are reformulating their products to remove DMDM Hydantoin, which releases cancer-causing formaldehyde, and four parabens linked to endocrine disruption. But Revlon and L'Oreal are sticking with their formulations and leaving customers at risk.”
If you are looking for a place to start, check your deodorant. This is something you use every day and that goes right under your arm around lymph nodes. You will be shocked by what you find in these that are known endocrine disruptors, toxins and tied to cancer. For my family, we use Ava Anderson’s deodorant that is free of all toxins and actually works. For more information, see my website here. The top 5 harmful chemicals you want to avoid in deodorant are: Aluminum, Parabens, Propylene glycol, Phthalates and Triclosan. If you see any of these listed, don’t use it!
It happens to almost everyone... the middle of the afternoon and you get hungry for a snack. Since I work from home most of the time, there is no vending machine for me to secretly stash a dollar into and pop out a Butterfinger. This is a good thing, really!
I had a light lunch today so was looking for something a little more filling to tide me over until dinner. So I made Sweet Potato Chips and they were delicious! They are really simple to make:
Heat oven to 425 degrees
1-2 sweet potatoes, sliced thinly (I used my new spiral slicer!)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
Yep, that's it! Cut up your potato and put on an oven-safe pan. Drizzle olive or coconut oil lightly over the top. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper and pop in the oven for around 15 minutes. You have to check it often so you don't burn these tasty little chips. You can really spice it up however you wish. Often I sprinkle with cinnamon as well. This recipe is 11 year old approved as well!
My mission as a Certified Health Coach is to make the world a happier, healthier place, one person, one meal at a time, with love and gratitude. I work to inspire others to live a life of prevention and overall wellness!