Plan, Prep, Play

planHaving a plan is one of the most important things you can do to be successful during a Whole30. I would even argue that having a weekly plan for your eating, no matter what you choose to eat, can help you stay on track with your goals and keep you moving towards success.

Imagine coming home after work or running errands or however you spend your time and being hungry. You open the fridge and find…nothing. You start trying to find something to eat, and you really want to stick with your Paleo eating, but after a handful of carrots, you’re still hungry. And there isn’t anything that will really satisfy you.

Now imagine what happens under those same circumstances when you open the fridge and find carrots and guacamole, a few meatballs, and some roasted cauliflower. Suddenly you have a meal or snack that is delicious and that makes you feel cared for and strong. You eat well and feel healthy and ready to tackle anything else that your day holds.

The work on the front end is definitely more than just winging it, but truly it’s not that difficult either. It’s more about having a plan.

The Plan

I like to start my week with a few minutes and a pen and piece of paper. I also like to surround myself with cookbooks and ideas and anything that might inspire me. I will either consider what’s in the fridge and build a menu around that or, especially if the fridge is pretty empty, I simply go with what is seasonal and what looks good.

Then I make two lists: What am I cooking? And what do I need to purchase?

It’s important to consider all your meals because when doing a Whole30, you cook real food. A lot. If it comes from a box, it probably isn’t going to fit the plan. There are a few exceptions, and in fact more and more Paleo products are appearing on grocery shelves, but for simplicity, think fresh and whole.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all need to be considered. Don’t get overwhelmed, though. Consider the same breakfast for a week and then change it up the next week. For dinner, make more than you can imagine eating – then you have leftovers! They will save you from extreme hunger and can make the entire process easier. It’s time to love your leftovers.

The Prep

Once you have a plan, it’s time to get the prep taken care of. I’ll just touch on it briefly here because there are so many different ways to get yourself ready for the week. Here’s the thing – don’t let it make you crazy. I didn’t have a lot of time because today was a holiday and the whole weekend has been quite busy, but I took a few moments to do this:

  • Store: Cherries, berries, melon, canned tuna, eggs, salad, slaw mix, celery, giant pot roast
  • Cook: Hardboiled 8 eggs and peeled them, cut up melon, washed celery and stood it up in a container with water, cooked pot roast

There’s no great secret here. I bought and cooked whatever looked easy. It’s a busy week and I just need to eat right. So it’s not pot roast season, but it was on sale and I could put it in the oven while I was doing other things. Now there’s a couple pounds of meat that can be turned into any number of concoctions, from salads to omelets to snacks to stuffing for other veggies…all sorts of things.

Play

The idea is to get the job done without too much stress. It’s just food! This is easy, really. Hungry? Grab some beef, cook it briefly in a pan and add some chili powder and garlic and cumin, toss it with some slaw, add some bell pepper slices, tomatoes, and avocado. Splash on vinegar or olive oil or add in whatever veggies suit you. Have fun with it!

That goes for this whole journey. This isn’t a sentence to misery around food. Actually, I find that whenever I tighten things up, I usually end up feeling more engaged and energized in the kitchen. Something tasty comes out of it because I have to get creative. Just go with the flow and try new things and embrace the experience.

Eating the right things for your body is empowering so go after that feeling of radiant energy and enjoy!

 

To Feel Amazing

love life

Every once in a while, I feel the need to really clean up my eating habits and get a little more strict with my Paleo rules. I have, on a few occasions, completed a Whole30 and blogged about it on here for people to follow along. This time, however, I only have 10 days before I leave on a trip to CA. That’s not to say that I couldn’t complete the challenge despite my travels, I know that it is absolutely possible to do so, but over the years I think I have actually gotten better at balance in my life and this vacation will have some indulgences and some wine and a few other things…and I want it to. It’s not a falling off the wagon sort of thing, it’s about living my life to the fullest and experiencing the joy and pleasure that I get from sharing delicious food and wine with friends.

There are times when I’m feeling uncomfortable in my skin and I need to do a Whole30. There are times when I’m feeling out of control and I need to do a Whole30. There are times when people I care about, even total strangers, seem to need a Whole30 and so I do it then. All of these are good, valid reasons in my mind to do a Whole30. This time, though, the decision to do one was a little more subtle.

It’s true that I’m not all the way at my goal weight or as lean as I’d like to be and my eating isn’t as consistent as I want. I’ve probably had a few too many evenings where I was having a glass of wine because it was summertime. And Tuesday. Or Thursday. Or raining. I’m sure you get what I mean. But I don’t feel horrible about my choices or where I am in my life. I actually feel pretty good. Not perfect, mind you. Not by a long shot. But what is perfect anyway? One of my sisters reminded me once that she really doesn’t even like the word “perfect”. Nothing really is. Although I think sometimes everything is. Perfect in its very own existence. But that is a topic for another day.

I was thinking the other day about motivation and dreams and reaching goals, or maybe amending goals as life unfolds, and it just came to me. I feel pretty good…but I want to feel amazing! I have learned in the past three or four years that I feel amazing when I’m eating Paleo all the time, or very nearly all the time, and exercising in a variety of ways every day. My activity is pretty rock solid right now so I’m going to keep going with that, but I’d like to get a little closer to that feeling of amazing and that has to do with what I feed my body.

Strict Paleo gives me all day energy and an upbeat mood that is difficult to sway, regardless of what’s happening around me. I love it! The energy is clearly related to the food – nothing that hurts my stomach, no sugar to give me a headache, no alcohol to change my mind. Every single one of my cells loves it when I’m strict Paleo. My brain feels clearer, my body almost vibrates with all the energy, I don’t feel hungry or have any cravings. It seems easy.

So why ever eat any differently? Well…that’s life. It’s my life, anyway. I like living a little more freely and savoring different flavors and celebrating with friends in a familiar way. I’ve realized this past year that it’s fine for me to do that. I used to feel so much guilt around food choices and that piece of my puzzle is beginning to fade. I’m so glad. No more guilt around food. That is also a topic for another day.

Today is all about saying that I’m looking forward to Tuesday, excited even(!), when I will stick to my Paleo guns for 10 days so that the start of my trip has me feeling like my healthiest self. I’m sure that will also keep me making healthy choices a little more frequently while on the trip too. Maybe, just maybe, what was once a pendulum swinging like crazy for me will actually be more steady. More balanced. More me.

Excited also means that I’m in full-blown planning mode. If you’ve never done a Whole30, the one piece of advice I would give you is to get prepared. This journey is so much easier when there’s a bunch of fresh produce and cooked meat in the fridge. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s there and ready to eat. Don’t get caught out hungry with nothing to grab because that’s how we make careless choices and then are frustrated when we don’t feel successful.

All of my energy these next 10 days will be focused on giving my body, mind, and soul what it needs to feel wildly healthy. I don’t plan on thinking about something I might be missing (like wine…) but instead thinking all about what I will be getting, like bubbly water, fabulous iced teas, delicious food, constant energy, and an abundance of happy in my heart.

I hope you’ll join me on this quick little journey into health. If you have the opportunity to do all 30 days, go for it! If you make it 5 and need to start again, that’s fine too! If you’re just following along and thinking about it, that’s cool…but maybe consider just jumping on in. It’s totally worth it.

To be inspired


sparks
Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” –Golda Meir

Where does inspiration come from? I wish I knew. Sometimes I get so far off track that it feels like it will take super-human strength to get back to the life that I love, a wellness that shines, my wholeness. I stumbled across this quote the other night and it inspired me to write to you.

It was those few simple words: “…fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility…”

Tiny, inner sparks.

Do you feel those sometimes? Do you recognize them for the potential that they are? Lately I’ve been very sensitive to them, and unfortunately, I keep brushing them away or, sadly, stifling them and drowning them and destroying their potential.

I keep asking myself why I do this and the answer is, of course, so many layers deep and so personal that the vulnerability it would take to share it here in this blog is too much for me. But that’s okay, I think. What’s perhaps more important is recognizing the act and acknowledging the pain of limiting potential joy. And then sitting upright and knowing, deeply, that the sparks are still there. It’s not one and done, but a burst of sparks. A firework exploding inside and I may have missed one or one hundred different sparks, but I don’t have to miss the next one. The next spark can be the one that inspires me to more.

I think that throughout our lives we go through various periods of growth and retraction, creation and destruction. Energy shifts through the phases, but it is continuous, endless, infinitely present. Think of a seed, buried beneath the soil, waiting for spring. As the earth is warmed and moisture touches it, it begins to open and seek the sun. At that moment, when the seed splits – or the egg cracks or the heart opens – what once was is inevitably destroyed. There can not be growth and transformation without the destruction of what was.

The energy of light, of that tiny spark of inspiration, destroys the darkness that protected it. But from that destruction comes the creative process of becoming. And THAT is exciting.

Looking at this in the context of transforming oneself, I can understand better why I keep wanting to put out the spark. Destroying what I know, stepping away from the habits and patterns that have protected me for so long, is scary. A friend of mine once reminded me that the difference between scary and exciting is the breath. Panicked and shallow or full and ready – the good news is that we can control the breath and shift the energy away from fear and towards the thrill of new.

Two years ago I felt like I totally found my groove in terms of my health and lifestyle. It was a period of big growth and I felt really engaged and invigorated. Then splat. I hurt. I felt vulnerable. I retracted. I returned to patterns of protection that are really anything but that. The thing is, my most comfortable way of protecting myself, the faded jeans and cozy sweater of security for me, is food. I imagine there are others of you who recognize yourselves in this pattern too. We use food, unhealthy food that we might not even like (!), to fill a void, stifle a sensation, cover up our wounds, and hide. It’s dangerous stuff. In the end, no one is fooled – least of all, ourselves.

I have some work to do and I’m considering doing some of it here. It means I’m vulnerable, but I am beginning to realize that I can’t go BACK to the flow that I felt 2 years ago. Instead I need to go FORWARD with the knowledge that certain things make me feel great and others don’t. I can handle each moment as it comes and choose to be open or choose to hide. Hiding helped me at a different stage in my life but it no longer serves me and it’s time to let it go.

Expansion. Thinking about navigating each day in a more open and vulnerable way, with the possibility of failing or embarrassing myself, is still scary. Writing this is scary. So I’m breathing and trying to embrace that terrified feeling and turn it into one of anticipation for what might be out there.

I want to inspire. And be inspired. I want to be true to my nature and my energy and I want to find joy and delight in each step of the journey. Even the hard ones that require commitment and persistence and digging in…and an open heart. Inspiration is in every single day just waiting to be discovered and fanned into a flame. Believe. Breathe. Ignite the spark.

Whole30 – Transformation Plan

Whole30 2014For the next 30+ days, I will be eating meat, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits and nuts. I will not be eating processed food, sugar, dairy, grains or legumes, and I won’t be consuming any alcohol.

I’ve done a few Whole30 challenges before, but this time I’m looking for something a little different. I lost touch with my Paleo choices last year and I would like to reconnect with what it means to feel healthy, vibrant, and in tune with my whole self.

If you’re doing a Whole30 or other challenge, if you are living/exploring the Paleo lifestyle, or if you are simply looking for some tasty recipes to add to your repertoire, be sure to leave a comment to let me know you’re out there! I am so glad you stopped by!

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beginThere it is. I’m putting it out there that a new Whole30 will begin on January 2, 2016. I’m super excited because I know just how amazing it feels to be giving my body the fuel that it loves and craves and works best with. But I won’t lie, it’s also challenging. I have years of food addiction and deep rooted cravings for certain things, including filling emotional holes with food. But I feel ready to regain the strength and energy and well-being that comes with doing what my mind, body, and heart really need.

Because they do truly need to be fueled right. I can tell. When I think back to how I felt during previous challenges, but more specifically to when Paleo eating was engrained in my life outside of the challenge, THAT is when I felt like I could conquer anything. So I will return to the basics in order to move from there.

I am calling this challenge 2016 Transformation because I can just feel that something profound has the opportunity to manifest in me this year. Who knows? Maybe it won’t. But since I feel something bubbling inside of me, I’ve decided not to suppress it just because it might seem silly or it might not work. Instead I’ve decided to embrace it. That’s something I see myself doing more and more in 2016 so what better place than my health and eating to first embrace that change?

For anyone also considering a Whole30, here are a few things that I’m doing this week to get myself ready for success…

Food Shopping

Being prepared with food, dinners, snacks, easy eats, etc. is essential to a successful Whole30. A few things I will purchase include:

  1. Cans of tuna and chicken for lunches and snacks
  2. Greens to cook that I will wash and put in a tub
  3. Salad greens that will make up lunches and wraps
  4. Zucchini for breakfasts and zoodles
  5. Cauliflower for “rice”
  6. Celery for salads
  7. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers to snack on
  8. Eggs! for everything

Food Prep

If I have a few things already cooked and in the freezer, I won’t be caught out and frustrated. So in the fridge or freezer, I will have a few things:

  1. Hard boiled eggs
  2. Washed greens
  3. Meatballs – perfect dinner or snack
  4. These chicken thighs – dinner, salad addition, or snack!
  5. Lots of veggies all ready to eat
  6. Steamed broccoli – it’s bulky so it satisfies my need for quantity and it can make a dinner side or a snack. Just like that.
  7. “Riced” cauliflower, steamed and ready to become something delicious
  8. Baked sweet potatoes – I know I’ll be craving carbs early on so it’s best to have some on hand to mix with tuna, avocado, and a squeeze of lemon after a workout. One of my favorite snacks.

Mental Prep

I know what this is about and I’m ready to feel amazing. But that doesn’t mean that it will be easy, so I have decided to spend a minute or so each morning just breathing and believing in my success for the day. There is a tremendous amount of benefit in picturing yourself achieving success. I remember years ago having a motivational speaker at one of my sales meetings who talked about practicing golf in his mind while he was a prisoner of war. I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember his name, but I hope to honor him with my thoughts about the sacrifice he made and his subsequent impact on a total stranger. He practiced his swing, his approach to the hole, every aspect of golf…but he did it all in his mind. When he was finally released from years of confinement, his golf game had actually improved.

This left an indelible imprint on me and I have since always believed in the power of the mind. We can accomplish anything! Sometimes we need to realize that it begins in the mind where it can be visualized, reworked, retried, even reinvented – whatever you need to do to reach your own, very personal goal. I have decided to dedicate a few moments each day to visualizing what my healthiest version of myself looks like and feels like so that I can then live that image.

This is It

As the final days of 2014 come to a close, I’m a bit sad thinking about what might have been. Really. I love my Paleo lifestyle and can’t fathom why I would get out of synch with it. But sometimes I do. For no other reason than I’m human. I can have the most deeply held beliefs and still spend time in a space that isn’t in line with who I am, what I believe, or the goals I’ve laid out for myself. My sadness is not for the mistakes made or choices that were off-target, but it’s really for this thought that if I had followed my Paleo dreams, I would feel strong and amazing right now. Not like I need to detox. But then, I enjoyed the wine and cheese. So is it balance? I honestly don’t know. That’s why I think 2016 is quite important for me in my own journey. I believe that I have an opportunity to see these two different years juxtaposed with each other and then to do something different.

I’m intrigued by 2016 and this energy I feel around transformation. What does it look like? Where will it lead? The unknown can either be scary or exciting. In 2016, I choose exciting. And here’s just one more thought that I’ll leave you with, something that occurred to me not too long ago – Just because you aren’t sure you can succeed, doesn’t mean you don’t start. So start.

Start with me. Make a change. Live differently. Find your definition of health. Believe in YOU. Just start.

Whole30 Time!

dragonflyIt’s been a long time since I’ve done a Whole30 and I think it’s about time to take on the challenge again. I love the new year and I’ve already been making lists and goals and setting intentions like I do every year. I really love the exercise of looking back at where I’ve been and dreaming about where I’d like to go. There have been many years when I haven’t even come close to attaining all the things on my list, but for me, that’s not the point. It’s more about putting the intention out there and watching it evolve.

Let me give you an example. Two years ago, I kind of wanted to do a handstand push-up, so I put it on my list. I did a few things that year in line with that, like working on my shoulder strength and learning to do a yoga pose that approaches it. No handstand push-up, though. I didn’t get discouraged. Instead I looked at the goal and thought about it and decided that maybe just learning to do a handstand was a better start. That was this year. Still no handstand yet, but I did take a yoga seminar that spent an hour working on handstands. While I didn’t get into a free-standing one, I did one up against the wall and held it with assistance. I also learned a few strategies to work on. Did I fail for the second year in a row? I don’t think so. I haven’t decided if it will make the list this year or not, but what I do know is that I learned some things about handstands, and about myself, that I didn’t know before. I am not disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal, instead I’m pretty pleased that I did things I never thought I would.

That’s where the lists come in. I have to keep all the floating ideas and dreams somewhere so that I can look at them on New Year’s Eve and decide what I want to focus on. And who knows? I might wind up doing a handstand without it even making the list – because it’s already out there and you never know when it might all come together. I have three (or five, or maybe even more) different journals going right now. Reflections on past years are near the top of my mind as I start to envision the next year. I love it – this time is special to me. I relish the planning, the dreaming, the peace that comes with sitting in solitude and allowing visions to arise and take shape.

As I have been looking back on the past couple of years in terms of food, a few things come to mind. My Paleo life was exciting and solid and I felt great in 2014, but this entire last year has been out of balance in terms of eating for my health. And I’m not talking about weight here, although for me that is a big part of how I define myself. (Not that it’s the best way; I’m a work in progress.) I’ve been holding on, barely, to a body that still fits in my jeans, but it’s been far from perfect. What has struck me over and over this year, though, is how I feel. My energy and moods have varied far more than the year before, my love of cooking took a back seat as I went for the easy option of grabbing whatever was around, and my heart felt dissatisfied, reminding me that I wasn’t doing the right thing for me.

Change is so hard. Even when you know that you feel better, live better, think better, and play better. Change is still hard. But just because it’s hard, just because I might not have achieved the things that I wanted to last year, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that it isn’t worth tackling again. So I’m in!

Another Whole30 is on the calendar so that I can reset my health, my hormones, my sugar cravings, and my connection to myself. What I know from past experience is that I’ll learn something about what works for me, and I might even discover a new recipe or something that I’d like to share.

It starts on January 2 and I’ll be chronicling the journey in daily (I hope!) posts that will look at a few different parameters. I’ll keep track of how I feel about the food, what my mood is from day to day, how my sleep is, what my activity looks like, and then I’ll probably have a special focus each week to keep me engaged.

If you’d like to come along, I’d love to have the company and support. Let me know in the comments if you’re doing your own challenge and if you’ve ever done one before. Here’s to an amazing, healthy, happy, and fulfilling 2016!

 

 

Balance Holds You

Sonja's stacked stones in NorwaySometimes I hear something and it speaks right to my heart. I went to a Winter Solstice yoga workshop the other night and the instructor, Jessica, was a lovely lady with wisdom and humor and a gift for sharing. We were talking about muladhara, the root chakra, where it all begins. Balancing poses in yoga work with this chakra because you ground with one leg and lift through your spine from the stability of your foundation. Tree pose, for example.

If you’ve done Tree pose, then you know that some days you feel more balanced and others you sway and bend as a tree would on a windy day. I’ve always loved this representation of life, coming in and out of balance. It spoke to me enough to build my blog around it. But sometimes it feels extremely uncomfortable to be out of balance. If in a yoga pose, I want to hold it steady and “do it right”. If in life, I want to align all the little pieces properly so that it appears “balanced”.

And then Jessica said something. She said, “Balance is not for you to hold. You don’t have to hold it together. IT holds YOU. Sometimes it holds you for a decade. And sometimes, it holds you for a breath.”

Still days later, this brings tears to my eyes. I feel an almost overwhelming sense of relief wash over me every time I think of this. “Oh thank goodness,” my mind sighs, cries, yells. “Because I don’t have it all together. I’m trying really hard and some things are out of balance and I can’t figure out how to put them all back together again so they are perfectly aligned, one off-setting the other.”

Do you ever feel this way? Does your mind ever speak to you like this? Do you need to hear that balance is not for you to hold? That balance holds you.

I have not fully assimilated the teaching that this represents for me because there is still too much emotion tied to it. I can’t quite pull all the little strings apart that keep tugging at my heart in order to look at them and study them individually. A thought, an idea, bubbles to the surface and I can almost grasp it, but then another thought branches off and I follow it a little way until yet another comes to mind. It’s okay, I tell myself. You can still lay it down in your blog because it is not for you to give the answer. It is not for you to hold.

Photo courtesy of Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching from her epic Norseman/Ironman.

 

Believe

Believe stoneThere’s a saying I’m sure you’ve all heard – Believe it to achieve it. It’s cliché and trite, but I keep thinking about it because I also find it to be true. I see so often that the people I deeply wish could find their reason, their faith in themselves, and their success are wonderful people who, deep down inside, don’t believe they can reach their goals. This makes me sad. Perhaps even more so because far too often I am one of them too.

I wish that I could say I’d found the definitive solution or some secret mantra that would provide everyone with the self-confidence and knowledge that they have everything they need inside, right now, to achieve whatever they set their mind to. Unfortunately, this area is one that I continue to struggle with all the time. My dear friend over at Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching broached the topic the other day and it got me thinking about my own recent experience with it.

This time last year, I had been consistently eating 95% (or maybe even 98%) Paleo for several months. I was working out more regularly than ever before and was very focused on my health. I’ll admit that there was an element of wanting to look and feel good in my clothes, but once I got truly settled into eating the right food for my body, it became much more than that. I could really feel that my mind and body were working together towards the same goal and it was more than just the size of my jeans. There was a sense of rhythm to my energy – I ate when I needed fuel, I had zero desire to eat things that didn’t make me feel vibrant, I was in tune with what worked and what didn’t. It felt so good that when I look back from where I sit today, I wonder why I ever changed what I was doing.

I feel like I was better able to face life’s challenges when I was in that space, so why stop doing what was working? I guess life isn’t a straight line or a series of successes, though. At least it isn’t for me. It seems that it is more like a wave with ups and downs, over and over again. Sometimes I am riding on top with a clear line of site to wherever it is I’m headed, and then other times I’m at the bottom of the wave, just trying to figure my way out.

There was one other distinct difference, though. I also firmly believed that I could be successful. I didn’t doubt my choices, my reasons, my self. I just acted with clear intention – give my body what it needs to feel great. It seems so simple and easy when I look at it like that. But for me, for so many people that I know, doing what’s right for my body is utterly entangled with my past. My ability to make good choices in any particular moment seems hi-jacked by my emotional state, leaving me feeling helpless. This isn’t true; I am not helpless, of course. I always have a choice.

Lately, like for the past 6 months, I’ve been making a different choice. In some ways, it has definitely been a learning experience. I am still trying to figure out how to balance a love of all foods, the pleasure of enjoying a cocktail, and the slippery slope that indulgence is for me, with the strength and confidence that I derive from following a stricter Paleo lifestyle. It feels like it shouldn’t be difficult, but for me it still is. I thought I was handling it, and I’ve balanced it better than in the past, but here I am at the end of the summer wishing I had done things differently. That’s somewhere that I don’t want to spend much time. I would like to live my life with confidence, proud of my choices, happy with my days and nights. With that, it’s time to take a look at the old habits that have crept back in and do a bit of course correction.

A few friends and I have embarked on 21 days of squeaky-clean whatever. For me it’s Paleo, for others it is what makes them feel their best. We’re a few days in and doing it together so that we can support and motivate each other. Like I said in the beginning, though, believing in myself and what I want to achieve is fundamental to my success. What I want is to feel strong, confident, healthy, beautiful, energetic, and whole.

My friend at Rising Tide also said, “The brain knows the difference between lip service and your deepest feelings.” I guess that means I have some work to do to figure out where the obstacles to my success lie and what I need to do to overcome them. It also means I need to look a little more deeply to figure out what keeps me from believing that I deserve balance and ease and health. On to the next lesson…

Listening

swirling-clouds-above-the-ocean-beach-wallpaper-3111It’s funny how the Universe works. I have this idea, and I know I’m not alone in it, that if you want or need something or perhaps are seeking some truth or answer, and you put that idea energetically into the world, then the Universe will lift that up and begin to answer. The key, though, is that you have to listen. You have to be ready to say, “Yes,” when an opportunity or an idea comes along. You have to be open.

Sometimes the messages that are sent are quite apparent, but sometimes they are far more subtle and you need to find some silence and space to process what may be the tiniest of thoughts or yearnings that begin to surface in your mind and heart. A slight whisper that nudges you to take a risk, try something new, or just a moment shared with another person where something they say triggers something in you.

These moments are precious, but I find that the more I listen for them and to them, the more excited that I get because they often are the manifestation of something that is deep within me that might not have even been fully realized yet. In those moments, it seems the Universe takes over and urges me to try. To grow. To experience. To live.

As an example, yoga is an important part of my life. While I came to it fairly late, dabbling with videos for a few years and then finally discovering what it could be like to do yoga in a studio with an amazing instructor, it transformed me in more ways than I can count. Quite recently I stumbled upon an instructor certification that was attainable for me, and I decided to do it. I didn’t have any specific plans for how or when I would use it, but I went to the training and I was on fire with love and desire for the practice.

And that’s when the Universe stepped in. Suddenly, I received an email and had a conversation with someone about a local gym that was looking for an instructor. I decided to go for it, still feeling nervous but realizing that I was living one of those moments that I needed to listen to. Then, before I even began and quite surprisingly to many, that gym closed. I didn’t dwell on it too much and instead just figured the time wasn’t right. Within weeks, my own instructor, an amazing soul who is the very definition of yoga, asked me to sub for her class. I was deeply honored. Less than a week after that, I received a call from a different yoga studio looking for an instructor, willing to take however much time I could give. I don’t know whether this will work out, I only know that doors are opening so that I might try.

This doesn’t just apply to yoga, either. I see instances of this time and time again. Not only in my life, but also while listening to the experiences of others. Life is full of many unexpected twists and situations that we simply cannot predict, but I think that if we spend some time listening to our hearts and observing the opportunities that come before us, we might see that the Universe is always working for us, helping us to grow and evolve and learn. Sometimes we are learning very specific, factual data that can help us answer questions or complete a task, and that’s all well and good. But sometimes we are learning those things which change our hearts, fuel our passions, and transform us forever. Those are the moments that are really worth listening for.

Reach. Try. Change. Grow. Live.

No Regrets

dandelion 2014Back in November, a friend asked me what my favorite holiday was. I said Thanksgiving because I love the food, of course, but also the gathering and the gratitude. While I don’t always practice these as well or as often as I’d like, I aspire to and I sense that there is something for me to do there. I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, but I have been feeling a pull to somehow find a way to manifest these things in my life. So yes…I love Thanksgiving.

But as the days and weeks passed and the next round of holidays approached, I realized something. Actually, my favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. If you know me well, you know I make lists. Constantly. I make them to stay organized, to calm a scattered mind, to plan the food and shopping for the week, and sometimes just to plan my day. Many years ago my college roommate would tease me about including even shower on my list but I like the structure of knowing the steps necessary to accomplish something. I make them all year round and I’d be willing to bet that although my husband is gracious enough not to say, the many post-its, scraps of paper, white boards, notebooks and journals that are strategically placed (or some might say scattered) around the house can be a bit annoying. But I guess it’s my thing, and we all have a thing, don’t we?

Sometime after Thanksgiving, my lists start to evolve. I don’t know what prompts it – some internal clock, maybe, or gentle shift towards the future – but my lists begin to include dreams, wishes, hopes, goals and resolutions. One of my favorite things is to have a fire or candles, some music, wine or champagne, a journal and a few pens or pencils. Quiet, reflective time to look to the past and consider changes I might make and envision the future and how I’d like it to be. With this framework in place, I begin to fill in the steps one by one until I have a picture to live. Some years that picture has sharper edges, cleaner lines, things that are clearly attainable, even if it takes me some time to do them. Other years the picture is more like a water color, fluid and dream-like. What I like most about those more ethereal years is that they often have change and direction that I can’t quite express in words, it’s more of a sensation. Something I want to become or develop but I can’t quite describe. Maybe that sounds crazy. I don’t know. I’ve just learned that amidst all my lists and structured plans, sometimes the softer edges are where the deepest growth is found.

In a book I was reading the other night, the main character said this: “I’ve never regretted doing anything more than I regretted not doing something.” For some reason, that really struck me. It’s not a new concept or anything, in fact it’s something I’ve thought about many times in my life. Growing up overweight and insecure kept me from doing a lot of things with the passion and joy they deserved.  I was afraid to look or act or say something stupid. Some of that insecurity is still with me, but I’m working on it because I occasionally see it in my son too and I wish for him a different story.

2014 has been a year with several changes and experiences that I didn’t put in my resolutions, some I couldn’t have even begun to predict or imagine, and it wasn’t all bliss and daisies. But I’ve loved and laughed with passion, I’ve let myself feel with a depth that has frightened me at times, I’ve taken risks, and I have tried to predict outcomes only to be surprised. I’ve had one of those water-color years where the growth and change continue to be nebulous. I’ve written from time-to-time on this blog about my shifting balance and that continues to influence my outlook on the next year. I try to imagine how all the pieces of life work together best – and then when I pause in all of that planning, I have to laugh at myself and let go and just live.

So back to that quote – I don’t regret the doing or the trying. We don’t always get it right, but that’s a part of life. I’d rather kiss than not, I’d rather laugh uncontrollably or let the tears of sadness roll down my cheeks than be numb, and I’d rather keep reaching and seeking and living and loving. Even when it’s scary.

A Paleo Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2014Thanksgiving just might be my very favorite holiday. Over the years I’ve celebrated it in many different ways and that’s left me with a lot of fond memories. Growing up it always involved getting the family together and many dishes that were traditional to our table. There are also a few memories that involve under- and over-cooked turkeys, jokes about more wine and less lighting, and perhaps even some preventative antibiotics. Then slowly, as lives changed and different traditions developed, Thanksgiving began to evolve.

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived fairly far away from my parents and siblings and travelling on the holidays hasn’t been possible very often so Thanksgiving started to include friends. Frequently these friends were also displaced and looking for a way to share and celebrate the bounty of the season. There have been years when we’ve hosted friends at our house, a couple times with family who came out to visit, and some years we’ve had friends invite us to their Thanksgiving feasts. This year, actually, will be our quietest Thanksgiving – just the three of us. It’s a busy time of year for my husband at work, a few family possibilities didn’t come to fruition, so I’ve been thinking about different ways to mark this time of year.

There’s so much to love about Thanksgiving, I think. First of all, for a foodie, having a holiday with a huge emphasis on a bountiful table is fun. I love the idea of putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, and just cooking to my heart’s content. Plus, I really appreciate this holiday for its emphasis on gratitude and sharing. I realize consumerism has taken over and get frustrated when October rolls around and there are Christmas decorations/songs/toys/music/etc. in the stores, but for this one day, I really see and feel the beauty of grace and gratitude. Maybe it’s something about the crisp, cool weather, maybe it’s that the holiday lights and songs are finally in synch with the season, or maybe it’s just me. And food. And how cooking for others and sharing the gift of time in the kitchen is one way that I can give back to the people who fill my heart and mind and life.

So back to the food… Someone recently asked me about a Paleo Thanksgiving and truly this is one of the easiest holidays to celebrate if you are following a Paleo lifestyle. So many of the foods are delicious, whole foods that can be easily modified to fit whatever your food philosophy is. If you’re strict Paleo, you can totally do this, and if you are someone who allows a few blurry lines, you might be surprised at how easy it is. I’m posting a few links today to some recipes around the web that I have either tried on various holidays myself or that look amazing and worth trying. If you are a traditionalist that has to have the same recipes from year to year, consider branching out just a little bit! Until starting this blog which requires some recipe testing and repeat performances, my husband would often tease that it wasn’t really worth liking a recipe because I wasn’t going to make it again anyway. I am not one for repeating recipes, generally, because there are so many things out there to try and for some reason I think I need to be the one to try them. Either way, if you are a traditionalist or someone who loves a new rendition of an old favorite or someone who loves to spice up the table with a different dish every year, I hope you find this list helpful as you’re planning your holiday plate.

Turkey – I don’t really have a great recipe for Turkey. It’s Paleo by nature so I just go with that.

Stuffing – I admit that this is generally the hardest one for me on Thanksgiving. I LOVE stuffing. It’s my favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table and I love many different versions, none of which are Paleo. I have, however, found a recipe that looks intriguing so this is what I’m thinking for this year.

Cranberry Sauce – My favorite recipe from a friend and modified for Paleo.

Gravy – I made this last year and my son devoured it over everything. It’s definitely coming back!

Brussels Sprouts – We love Brussies in our house and our favorite way to have them is roasted with bacon and mushrooms. Since my son doesn’t like green beans, we usually opt for these instead.

Butternut Squash – Try this exotically spiced dish for a change from sugary-sweet casseroles.

Mashed “Potatoes” – Potatoes are considered Paleo so there are definitely ways to use regular potatoes and coconut milk, ghee, grass-fed dairy, or bone broth to make your mash Paleo. But if you’re looking to lighten the carb load of your Thanksgiving Day, try using cauliflower! There are many variations and this garlic-y version looks lovely.

Pumpkin Pie – Thanksgiving needs pie, right? Here’s a Paleo pumpkin pie recipe that looks spectacular!

One last thing before I go: There’s an incredible Paleo (Kindle) book sale going on over at Buck Books on Tuesday, November 25. It is for one day only and there are some truly cool books on the list for just $0.99 and a couple at $1.99. Really! I’m super-excited to see Gather on the list because what better time than the holidays to have a book focused on celebrating with friends around the table? The Ancestral Table has also been calling my name for a while and there are many others to check out.

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant
Beyond Bacon by Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry
The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant
Gather, The Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason
Everyday Paleo By Sarah Fragoso
Sexy by Nature by Stefani Ruper
Free the Animal by Richard Nikoley
The Paleo Girl by Leslie Klenke
The Paleo Sweet Tooth by Alison Russo
Decadent Paleo Desserts by Hannah Healy
The Modern No Nonsense Guide to Paleo by Alison Golden
The Everything Weeknight Paleo Cookbook by Michelle Fagone

So head on over to the site to sign up so you don’t miss the day.