The Harsh Reality For One Teen

 

IMG_2084An upright small black suitcase on wheels stands on the curb. Next to it are two large and nearly filled plastic bags with orange shoe boxes inside.  Easily identifiable is the Nike brand logo. A tethered book bag and a few other loose items perched on the blacktop.

Young, athletic looking, lean, and flawless nearly onyx colored skin, Jay moves from the rays of Georgia’s blazing summer’s heat and into the shade under a large crape myrtle.

He’s been sitting curbside for a few hours. Jokingly my daughter says, invite him in to stay over, but that’s not an option.  Seriously my cup runneth over with a house of five multi-generational people, but still, my heart is never full.

I saw Jay at the end of my five-mile morning walk.  After showering, polishing my toenails, moisturizing my locs, and snacking, he still lingered in the parking lot in front of the community clubhouse.

Now my heart softens for him. Without even talking to Jay, I figured out what most likely happened.  He had “the look.”

The look of a bewildered teen who thought he knew but begins to realize he isn’t nearly as smart as he thought.

The look of a dejected youth attempting to pilot unknown territory.

The look of a juvenile who is facing the harsh reality of his consequences.

The look of an astonished adolescent who can’t believe his parents put him out.

The look of fear and not knowing what to do next.

Since the temperature was well over 90 degrees outside, I decided to offer him a bottle of cold water.  Hubby walked over with me. I told Jay that I noticed he’d been sitting in front of the clubhouse for a few hours and asked if he wanted the water.

Graciously he thanked me and accepted the water. After a few minutes, hubby left us, and we talked. He was comfortable talking to me. I asked, “So, what’s the story? Why are you out here?”

The day before was Jay’s 19th birthday. To protect his privacy, I call him Jay. He decided to stay out all night. It seems, Jay’s decision was the final straw for his parents. This morning, when he arrived home, as expected, all hell broke loose.

“He wants to see me fail,” is what, Jay said. The 19-year-old lives at home with his mom, dad, and younger sibling. He says his dad could have waited until Thursday to kick him out, but he did it today. Thursday is payday. Thursday would have been more convenient. Jay is learning that bad things typically occur at the most inconvenient time. I also sensed the tension was between Jay and his father.  All of Jay’s comments were preferenced by “he.”  No comments referenced his mother.

There are no perfect words but having been on both sides of the fence, I understood.  I listened to Jay’s story and gave him my perspective.

I told him that without ever meeting or talking to his parents, I suspected the situation was a culmination of events. He shrugged his head in agreement, smiled just enough to show his pretty white teeth, and began to tell me more.

I tried to encourage him, as well as, give him realistic advice and without a preachy tone.  I told him my story of being kicked out of my mom’s house many years ago. To provide him with hope, I explained that my mother now lives with me.  The look on his face was priceless!  I also wanted him to know that his situation is temporary and that it is possible for him to improve his relationship with his parents.

I suggested that when he speaks to his parents, that he show up humble. Apologize with sincerity.  Avoid making excuses. Own his choices and mistakes. Only listen and don’t talk back. His body language and the slight shake of head told me that he wasn’t ready for that type of conversation. I hope he gets there…sooner than later.

He planned to stay the night at a hotel and would figure things out later. I hope that 24 hours later, his perspective changes. I told Jay I would pray for him and his family; he gave me a fist pump and thanked me.

Jay’s story isn’t unique. His situation is a reminder of the ongoing impediments we face raising children. But also the challenges and pressures teens face.  No two stories are the same, but every family faces some challenges.

Reflecting on Jay’s situation, my thoughts are:

  • Kindness is free and so is caring, we must practice as often as possible.
  • When we become so immersed in our own lives, we often fail to notice the people, places, and objects around us. We miss seeing the sad colleague, the depressed child, the ill parent, or someone else who is down and out.
  • We must consciously see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. When we fully engage all five senses, we are cognizant of our surroundings and are more inclined to notice unusual circumstances.
  • To judge others is often instinctive.  However, when we see a situation that is seemingly odd, instead of judging the person or thinking of oneself, offer a listening ear, a kind gesture, or at least acknowledge the persons struggle.  I am not naive and understand the concern for safety. I remember a story from my amazing and generous bestie.  While driving alone on the busy Garden State Parkway, she noticed a car with a woman, whom she did not know, in distress on the shoulder of the road. Many cars passed the lady, but my friend empathized with the stranger and stopped to help her. 🙂

A few days have passed since I met Jay. I haven’t seen him and hope and pray that his situation has improved.

I share this story to emphasize what conscious living looks like but also to encourage you to stay present.  It takes work.

There was a time in my life when I would not have noticed Jay.  Even worse I am ashamed to say; there was a period in my life when I would have seen Jay and jumped to all kinds of false and unfavorable conclusions about him. Lack of exposure, fear, and an idiosyncratic attitude can hold you hostage to impaired thinking.

The current climate in this country of divisiveness, name calling, hatred, and lack of acceptance of people who are different or have opposing views, is disturbing. That’s why it is critical that we live moment-to-moment (mindfully) and engage in kindness and compassionate toward one another.  We cannot achieve complete wellness without consideration for others.

Love and kindness are never wasted.
They always make a difference.
They bless the one who receives them,
and they bless you, the giver.

-Barbara De Angelis

Thanks for visiting! 🙂

 

 

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Environmental Wellness: How Fit Is Your Home?

img_8951The recent purchase of a gorgeous fern got me to thinking about the environmental wellness in my home.

Environmental wellness (EW) supports and promotes healthy living. It is the quality of the habitat at home, school, the community, and pretty much every space you encounter.

The way you interact with nature and the personal environment can either create harmony with the earth and the environment or do harm to both.

Consider the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food and the beverages you consume. Environmental Wellness bolsters wellness by striving to limit our exposure to hazards that are physical, chemical, and biological in our environment.

Your home is sacred. If you have children in your home, studies and research show that your child’s development can be impacted by daily exposure to harmful elements.  Adults and children exposed to lead-based, which was banned in the U.S. in 1978 (but is still around), can result in lead poisoning. However,  it’s not limited to paint.  Lead sometimes can also be found in:

Soil. Lead particles from leaded gasoline or paint settle on soil and can last years. Lead-contaminated soil is still a major problem around highways and in some urban settings. Some soil close to walls of older houses contains lead.

Household dust. Household dust can contain lead from lead paint chips or from contaminated soil brought in from outside.

Pottery. Glazes found on some ceramics, china and porcelain can contain lead that can leach into food served or stored in the pottery.

Toys. Lead is sometimes found in toys and other products produced abroad.
Cosmetics. Tiro, an eye cosmetic from Nigeria, has been linked to lead poisoning.

Herbal or folk remedies. Lead poisoning has been linked to greta and azarcon, traditional Hispanic medicines, as well as some from India, China and other countries.

Mexican candy. Tamarind, an ingredient used in some candies made in Mexico, might contain lead.

Lead bullets. Time spent at firing ranges can lead to exposure.

Occupations. People are exposed to lead and can bring it home on their clothes when they work in auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting, construction and certain other fields.

Source:  Mayo Clinic

You can eat organic food, do yoga, practice meditation, manage your stress, exercise, get plenty of sleep, drink water, complete all your annual doctor visits, but the environment in your home or even work can still damage you and your family’s health.

I am not paranoid and don’t want to get you there either. I’m merely pointing out factors that you may not have considered in your home that can impact your well-being.

So.  With that said, other common environmental contaminants that can railroad your health and wellness in your home are:

*Invisible Killers!  They are tasteless, colorless, and odorless.

What’s the takeaway?

As you would do maintenance on your body, you should do the same for your home.  Here are few ideas:

  • Wood burning fireplaces – Two words: 1. wood quality 2. cleaning  Here’s a link with excellent tips. 
  • With regards to Bedbugs, personally, I NEVER sit on my bed or bedroom furniture with street clothes, but here’s an official list from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on how to protect your home from those nasty critters.
  • Invest in a carbon monoxide detector(s).  If it operates on batteries, make sure you replace the batteries yearly, as with your smoke detectors.
  • To minimize the concentration of VOC’s, try to use non-toxic products for your home such as the 27 recipes on this list.
  • Replace the air filters in your home.  Depending on variables such as pets, home location (city vs. suburban), the number of residents, smokers, non-smokers, primary home versus vacation home, etc… the vents may need to be changed more frequently.
  • Take note of where your fresh produce is coming from.  Try to buy produce grown in the U.S. To combat costs, try to tailor your use to seasonal fruit and vegetables.  You can also start your own garden, which is a great way to prevent ingesting pesticides. If space is limited, check out vertical gardens; they are very cool. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas too!
  • I once was heavily into burning incense and candles but, for the past 5 years or so, I’ve fallen in love using essential oils with a diffuser. The quality of incense varies, and the dust from them got on my nerves.  Also forgetting to blow out candles was dangerous.
    • The diffuser is cleaner (if you clean them) and is ideal for meditation, sleeping, the office, and even older kids’ rooms.  No flame. No smoke. No dust. I enjoy the flexibility of combining oils to help to relieve congestion and to relax at bedtimes.

When I purchased this fern, I was awed by its beauty and was undecided about where to place it, but I knew I wanted it.  My initial plan was to try out the fern in different areas.  The first test was the entryway foyer, where the plant sat overnight.

The next morning when I walked downstairs, I was tired and sleepy eyed but the vibrant beauty of the plant breathed life, joy, and love into my heart and soul, which brings me to the final point of this post.  Protect your wellness at home by giving thoughtful consideration to what you value.  Instead of filling your home with a lot of meaningless clutter, find a select few objects that absolutely warm your heart.

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Peace and light!

🙂

 

 

 


I Underrated Anonymity

By now, most of you know that I moved from up north to down south.   For the first time in my 52-year life, I surged from familiar to unfamiliar.  From safe to vulnerable. Wase and mapquest are my new besties!

The constant noise of nearly everyone knowing me (and my family) and visa Versa has stopped. Before, I could walk out of the house with a bag on my head, and someone would inevitably recognize my heavy voice, my quick stride, my child or my car. As outgoing as I am, at times it was bothersome.

The constant and sporadic early morning, late night and occasional holiday phone calls for hubby’s excellent handyman skills have stopped. He is the kind guy who is often taken advantage of.

Then there were the desperate calls for emergency financial relief, sometimes for thousands of dollars. We didn’t know that we were Bank of America!

Our home, nicknamed “The Resort” by friends was also viewed by a few folks as a hotel. We had ongoing requests for live-ins. We needed a “No Vacancy” sign on the mailbox.

We started out as teenagers with nothing. We worked hard and have accomplished much more than we envisioned for ourselves at age 17 and 19.  Some people felt entitled to our prosperity. I cannot imagine what celebs have to contend with. We are caring and generous people but at some point, have to say no and people must find solutions to their problems from within and not from others.

The pleasure and relief I’m experiencing from the shenanigans may come across as selfish, but it is refreshing. I completely underrated anonymity.

The distance between what was home and what is home confirms the integrity or the lack of in many of my relationships.

Unreturned calls and messages, unresponsive and shorter text messages also bring further clarity, and it’s okay.

I am not referring to the frequency in which I talk to friends and family but more about the quality of our conversations. My best friend of 39 years has lived all over the world. The infrequency of our discussions never negated the quality of our relationship. We did then and still, today can pick up right where we left off and, regardless of distance, we’re always there for one another. Another bestie and I chat nearly every day.

With any big move from one space to another, we go through the process of decluttering and purging. In packing, we sift and sort through furniture, clothing, books, cookware, etc.., and chose to rid of select items. With relationships, the process occurs autonomously over time–some sooner others later, but the course is a natural occurrence in human behavior.

Greater solitude has emerged in my new environment. Every morning, nearby church bells ring precisely at 9. Some mornings, I awaken to familiar church hymns from childhood. It’s pleasant. I smile. When I sit on my front porch neighbors who drive by and whom I don’t know smile and wave.

The noise has stopped and I think better.

I can focus more on what really matters.

New goals. Yearly. Monthly. Weekly. Daily.

Quality over quantity.

In a good way, I am experiencing a great deal of discomfort in many new settings. Everything about my environment is unique. Pumping gas. Finding my favorite produce in new grocery stores. Locating the best physicians. Exploring the plethora of malls in Georgia.  Navigating traffic from hell and–rediscovering shortcuts.  Stepping onto high school grounds that are more like SJ college campuses with populations exceeding 3,000 students per school.  These experiences are forcing me to live more consciously. My visual and auditory senses are heightened daily like never before.

In no way am I suggesting that you move to a new state, but I am encouraging you to break free from your comfy circle.  Leap into a new and uncomfortable sphere and do that one thing that you’ve been afraid to act on.

Maybe it’s a career change you desire.  Perhaps it’s going back to school.  It might be making a big move. Don’t be afraid.  Lean into the “it.”

If moving happens to be that thing, don’t be afraid.  If you have a particular state in mind, visit and explore the area. If you’re uncertain about where you want to move, visit the cities or states that interest you. Do your research. Look at the economics, the climate, the job market, the schools (if applicable), housing, crime rate, and any activities that encompass your interests. Develop a strategic and well thought out plan to make it happen. I wish we had done it sooner, but I think the move occurred when it was supposed to.

In SJ, I was busy all of the time. Running here. Racing there. Over-committing. Just doing way too much. We sometimes confuse busyness with productivity. They are not the same.

When I slowed down, I realized I needed to make changes in my life. The clarity I’ve gained from our move inspired and helped me to adopt the vegan lifestyle. A few years ago, I tried Veganism but was unsuccessful. Now in five months, I’ve pulled myself away from chicken, turkey, seafood, and dairy.

I haven’t perfected the lifestyle and have caved into seafood on two or three occasions, but I am moving steadfastly forward. I felt great before, but I feel even better now. Vegetables have always been a part of my lifestyle, but I’m eating even more plants now, and it agrees with my body.

So what does all of this have to do with wellness?

Everything!

I’m reading, believe Bigger by Marshawn Evans Daniels. One of her quotes particularly resonated with me.

“Entering your purpose will first require an exit.”

I believe in the notion that everyone has a purpose for living. Furthermore, I see a connection between living with a purpose and experiencing wellness as a way of life. On our journey, both are present; one cannot exist without the other. We travel similar processes to uncovering purpose and to seek wellness.

In her book, Daniels talks a lot about God purposefully disrupting our lives. When you think of the word disrupt, you probably think of a force stopping or interrupting you while in the process of doing something.

Daniels suggests that the disruptions are “divine intervention” which can ultimately force us to leave a phase or place in our lives and enter another.

She writes, that disruptions:

  • Interrupt belief patterns
  • Recalibrate our faith
  • Detach us from the part of ourselves that is incapable of entering a bigger future
  • Create split-rock moments are catalyst to awaken us (Read the book!)
  • Help us to do away with an out dated self image, to retire an antiquated outlook
  • Realign us, elevate us and propel us to become a strong version of ourselves.

Y’all, her book is loaded with gems! Get a copy.

Since moving–and even with having an organized plan–I have experienced disruptions, but I did not recognize them or label them as such.

Rather than resist and react to the disruptions, I am learning to accept them (even previous ones) for what they are and to receive God’s wisdom to enter my purpose. You see, I had this plan regarding my next career move all mapped out, but I left God out of the equation, so Devine intervention is triggering changes.

My heart is open, and I am even more excited about the future. I no longer expect certain things and have embraced expectancy. Thanks to one of my favorite Podcasts, How Does She Do It, I know the difference. If you want to understand this, listen to the brilliant episode!

My purpose here is to encourage you to be fearless and to embrace change in your life.

The worse won’t happen, something better will. 

Change is part of your wellness journey. Wellness is not a destination and there is no finish line.

Stay encouraged.


In The Name of Wellness: Why Your Words Matter

The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word and behavior affects our greater health and well-being.  And we, in turn are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.  -Greg Anderson

While ironing a shirt for work (do people still iron?) you mentally drift. The tip of the iron touches your left hand. Ouch! It burned your skin. There is strong possibility that the burn will leave a permanent mark. Years later, you can recount the story of your injury.

Words leave scars too. >>>>>>>>

While visiting my bestie in Texas, I bought an authentic pair of cowboy boots. I wore them for the first time today. As I slid them on, I was reminded why I purchased them–good quality leather, comfort, and stylish. Looking in the mirror, I thought, Damn girl, you’ve got big feet. ‘Dem boots look big as hell!

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Sipping on a green smoothie and reflecting on the boots.

Mentally, I traveled back to my awkward and gawky pre-teen years when my lanky arms and boney legs were disproportioned. My family would remind me daily that I had BIG feet. Mom would make me wear specific shoes that were orthopedically sound but ugly as hell.

Double time to today. My mom’s words have clung to the inner parts of my psyche, resurfacing without solicitation at the opportune time and trying to steal my joy.

Yup, the red boots look super-sized! I could have got them in black. Black looks smaller. Women with big feet probably shouldn’t wear bright colors…right? The truth is, does anyone really give a damn? Even if they do care, what does it matter?  My personality is vibrant, and so are my color choices in clothes, sometimes shoes, and everything else. I bought the red because they are me and I loved them. I adore them just as much today.

When I wear the boots today, someone might glance at my feet and think, damn, she’s got some big ass feet!! And if they do believe that, what changes? Nothing! The world continues to evolve. I look the same….fabulous! I feel the same…marvelous! Worse case scenario, someone thinks I have big feet, and it’s true. Hehe!

The truth; the reality is that someone will always have an opinion about you.  You do not have power over the thoughts of others.

You do, however; have the POWER to govern your own thoughts and it is YOUR thoughts that matter most.  Incessant chatter is the term Michael A. Singer uses in, the untethered soul. You have the choice to become crippled by your thoughts, but you also have the option to acknowledge the notions and to move on.   Once you are paralyzed, you start to miss out on the abundance of pleasures life has to offer you.

If I had listened to the inimical chatter in my head this morning, I wouldn’t have worn my boots.  I would have missed out on the joy of high stepping with my eclectic Jersey swag through the streets of Gwinnett County. Although I wasn’t dressed up, I felt special wearing my Ariat cowboy boots.

I don’t know if anyone took note of my boots, but if they did, it might have been because it seems stilettos are more popular than cowboy boots in Georgia or merely because they thought my footwear was cool.

Anyways, I have to points here. First, to remind you that words matter. When speaking to children, know that everything you say is heard by them. Repeated messages hang around and take up mental space and can influence the child’s behavior well into adulthood.

And second, to encourage you to try something that you’ve wanted to but are afraid to do. It can be something small like wearing a brighter color nail polish, applying for the next promotion at work, taking a dance class, getting your first tattoo, or something else.  Just do it!

 

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I couldn’t resist jumping around in my boots. 🙂

Wellness is more than exercising and eating well.  If you search wellness, you will find many definitions.  My favorite definition of wellness is:

…the experience of living life with  high levels of awareness, conscious choice, self-acceptance, interconnectedness, love, meaning, and purpose… living consciously in ways that improve your health and well-being.    – Michael Arloski

Make each day count!

Smooches!


Gaining Clarity In A Vegan Life

You could easily argue that I picked the worse time of year to partake in a Vegan Challenge.  Strangely I never considered the approaching holidays.  I had already been thinking about eliminating meat and seafood from my diet.  The dairy thing was a last minute bonus.

I am an athlete.  Athletes are competitive spirits.  We like to win. Success is our addiction. The natural progression was to make the choice to take the personal challenge myself.  I went back to read more about plant-based living, and dove in.

Update.

In three days, December 14, 2017, I will celebrate two months of a plant-based diet!! Yay!!  It has not been a struggle. Since the challenge, (and one slip up in early November), I have dined out at several wonderful restaurants. Hubby and our dinner dates devoured meat but I was cool and passed on it.

Lately, my hands roam the spice rack with a strong desire to add a punch to ordinary food. My latest infatuation is turmeric in my veggies! Below is a delightful dish of turmeric cauliflower. Eat them as a snack while watching a movie or a good game of football (as I did when the Eagles won) or add them to your dinner plate.

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My infatuation with turmeric leads me to a new discovery… I bought two heads of cabbage and, in a pan,  layered most of the cabbage with sweet onions and other seasons. All of the cabbage did not fit in the pan. Creativity kicked in and, before I knew it, my hand was on the turmeric. I hesitated. Maybe curry. No. Turmeric. I ran out of onions. But added one jalapeño pepper, freshly minced garlic, season salt, and olive oil….covered and cooked on low.

Dang or Yay!! I’m laughing out loud because I added too much turmeric and needed a starch to absorb some of the spice. What’s a cook to do? I added some leftover brown rice to the pot, a little more garlic powder, (God forbid it’s bland), and stirred well. The pan was drying out so I poured a little (about a half cup) of low sodium vegetable broth.

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The dish looked pretty but lacked protein. Garbanzo beans would make a perfect addition but I was out of them. I did have one can of organic black beans. So I rinsed them well and added them to the rice and cabbage.

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This was delicious!!!

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img_6484While rummaging through the fridge, I found two large sweet potatoes. Since the oven was on, I quickly peeled them, cut the potatoes into large chunks, melted coconut oil, sprinkled a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and stirred them well. I placed them in the glass dish and baked uncovered at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Folks!! Chile!! Peeps! The coconut oil enhanced the flavor of the sweet potatoes and they were unbelievable!!! Even hubby liked them. 🙂

Last night’s dinner was a hodgepodge of freshly cooked and leftovers, which brings me to an important point. If you’re going to attempt a plant-based diet or any new diet plan, you must have extra food on hand. And when I say extra I mean the type of food that’s in your new plan.  If you don’t have food prepared, at some point, you’re going to get jammed up and will end up with a setback. Even if you have a setback, they are normal… Don’t look back–look forward!!

Above is my post-leg workout meal from yesterday morning. Steel oats, coconut almond milk, blueberries, and plant-based protein. A side of zucchini bread and homemade cooked apples.   I finally decided on a plant-based protein.  It’s much lighter than the whey protein. The vanilla flavor is milder than what I previously used.  The biggest difference is I’m used to buying a 5 lb. tub for $47.  This one was $37 and is just over a pound and half.  Yikes!

 

Overall I continue to feel well. As a result of the Vegan diet, I have not noticed a change in my performance at the gym and wasn’t expecting a change, but only time will tell.  As far as my physique is concerned, in the past week, I have lost inches not pounds.  I am paying close attention to muscle development.  Why?  I want to participate in another figure competition.  It has been a few years and although I am older, my body remains conditioned–I am confident that I can do well in another competition.

I know that I am not getting enough calories but that has nothing to do with a vegan diet.  Moving to a new state and not working outside of the home has me feeling discombobulated. I am used to a busy and jammed-packed schedule. But now, I don’t have that.  The free and unstructured time is negating meal-prep and my routine of eating every three hours. Perhaps I needed the six-month downtime because it has been one hell of a year.  Selling one home, buying a new home, moving south with hubby, our son, and my mom.

As a result of my vegan diet, in a previous post, I wrote about having more clarity.  I realize that for the first time in my life, I can do anything I want–I mean, I don’t have all the restrictions of a 9-5, my son’s football scheduled, or hubby’s work schedule.  I’ve also figured out that to accomplish my personal and professional goals, I must add structure and discipline to my new lifestyle.

Now I can easily do some of the things I have always wanted to do– I wouldn’t be honest with you if I didn’t tell you that chartering unfamiliar territory (again) is still scary.  But so was walking on a stage in 5-inch stilettos, wearing an itty bitty suit and years ago, quitting a job without another one and vacationing in Disney, but I did it well and landed on my feet.

I am living as I encourage you and everyone around me, and this is to live mindfully.  It may sound like a fad or a cliche but I assure you it is not and takes focus and practice.  Doing so will heighten your hedonic capacity–your ability to experience positive feelings.  In less than one month, people will be absorbed by the hype of celebrating the New Year.  My New Year already started, I couldn’t wait until January 1, 2018.

We are hosting Christmas dinner at our home but are expecting fewer than the 31 family members who filled our home for Thanksgiving but we’ll still have a house full. 🙂  Meanwhile, I am scouting out both vegan recipes and dishes for the carnivores (without judgment).

Making it through Thanksgiving was relatively simple; I don’t foresee a challenge during the remaining weeks of the year. While I’ve given up meat, seafood, and dairy, I continue to indulge in my favorites… 337 , Darkhorse and a few others.

Until my next post…  Smooches!


Thanksgiving Day: From The Inside Out

“Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present. Then, as you move around, try new things, and meet new people, you carry that sense of inner peace with you. It’s absolutely true that, “Wherever you go, there you are.” 

-Richard Carlson

To prepare for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to…

Stop trying to make everything perfect!!

Hubby and I have been hosting holiday dinners for over 20 years.  I use to stress and beat myself up over making sure that every little detail was perfect.

Crisp table linen, a visually pleasing spread of desserts, a spotless home, plenty of food, a beautifully set dining table, and then some.

Although I’ve always adored decorating my home for each occasion, cooking ridiculous amounts of food, and having the over-night house guests, sometimes I stressed and fussed over details that no one even noticed… stuff that didn’t matter.  So I did what I could and focused on what mattered most; the meal.

From the time I got up on Thanksgiving Day, I reminded myself to stay present. To be aware of every moment…  my invigorating morning shower… the warm water clashing on my back…. the scent of lavender…Mmm.. a reflection of the sun and the odd-shaped shadow on the bathroom wall.

Being mindful and present supports a lifestyle of wellness. When we exert energy anticipating possibilities that we cannot control, we miss out on the daily pleasures of interacting with people around us. Our loved ones smile, kind gestures, affection, or a call for help.

Routinely focusing on the present takes practice and mental muscle. The more we practice, the better we become at it.  One way to focus is to try to concentrate and engage one or more of your five senses:

  1. What do you smell?
  2. What can you taste?
  3. What do you hear? What kinds of sounds (i.e., leaves crackling under your feet, the sound of running water, a child’s laughter, the distant echoing of an ambulance siren, or in silence the sound of your breath).
  4. What do you see?  Notice the details of colors, shapes, the sky, or a person’s eyes.
  5. What can you feel?  Textures that are hot, cold, soft, hard, etc..

Being comfortable with doing my best, accepting my best and staying current allowed me to make the most of my day with my family. I think I listened more than usual and captured more intimate moments throughout the day.

Our home was packed! Bodies were everywhere.  I concerned myself less with crumbs on the floors and coasters on the table and more on getting to know my little cousins and catching up with the adults I haven’t seen in years.  The noise from the 11 kids running through the house shooting nerf guns, screaming and laughing personified quality family time. I laughed all day.

Vegan Challenge Update

This was my first Vegan Thanksgiving.  Except for four family members, everyone came from at least four or more hours away.  Which meant I did most of the cooking.

The day was undoubtedly a mental test for me. Was I ready to bypass the 5 pounds of baked mac & cheese and the two deep fried turkeys?  My plan to cook additional vegetables for myself and five other Vegans worked well. My two favorite veggies were prepared by my cousin’s husband; roasted brussels sprouts with sweet onions and olive oil and roasted cauliflower and carrots with olive oil, Vidalia onions, and turmeric!!

In addition to the above tasty vegetables, Thanksgiving dinner included, two-deep fried turkeys, honey-ham, baked chicken, broiled salmon, shrimp cocktail, kale/collards with smoked turkey, vegan kale/collards, hot stuffing, mild stuffing, potato salad, baked mac & cheese, black-eyed peas, roasted butternut squash, spaghetti squash, traditional candied sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes (with cinnamon & nutmeg only) , and plain white sweet potatoes with coconut oil.   The list of desserts is too long, but there were plenty.

Here’s my plate!!  Everyone was surprised that I did not cave into the mac & cheese, but I was cool with not eating it and consciously enjoyed every bite of the food on my plate.  It really is amazing what we can do when we set our mind to something.

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It has been over one month since I started my Vegan challenge.  My major hiccup occurred last Saturday on a quick visit to Jersey.  We ate at a fantastic seafood restaurant, Doc’s Oyster House in Atlantic City.  Majority of the menu options is seafood.  The offerings for a salad were of little interest to me… probably because I was beyond starving and I’ve eaten at Doc’s before.  This would probably be the last time I visit this restaurant in a long time, so I ordered the special, which scallops.  The servings are large portions, and I could only eat half my dish.  I took the other half home, and my girlfriend ended up eating it. Although the food was delicious, the entire time, I kept thinking, “I’m eating seafood.”

I did, however, learn a valuable lesson.  Before dining out at specialty restaurants, I should carefully read the menu online and make my selection beforehand.  While writing this post, I went to their website and re-read the menu.  I saw options that I missed when I was in the restaurant.  I don’t know if I missed the items because of the ambiance and the dimmed light or because I got caught up in the moment or I just wasn’t paying attention.  Either case, I know that mistakes happen and I learned from the error so, all is good.

Below are some photos with brief captions from Thanksgiving Day.

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Quiche… pre-Thanksgiving Breakfast from the best bakery,  Sweet Brown Suga!

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These two beauties are my cousins.  They are also Vegan.

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Thanksgiving morning… help from my cousin in the kitchen.

Aunt Miriam & Aunt Clara

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Breakfast and school work.

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Even my little cousins enjoy a variety of fruit.

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An early text from another cousin.  He deep fried two 15 pound turkeys.

Holiday punch in the making…  designated bartender.

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Thank God for relatives who like to cook. She was a big help.

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Every woman can appreciate a man who can cook (healthy) in the kitchen.

Seconds, please!!

Loc inspiration from my favorite cuz! He’s also the Deep Fried Turkey expert.

The buffet line.

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Dining room. Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

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Dining room Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

Punch without the punch (alcohol). Photographer:  Ess.n.cee

Cousins!!  Some met for the first time.

Trying to get everyone to pose was a bit challenging.

This munchkin  Loved my mom’s doll baby and wasn’t trying to give her back.  

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Runway ready!

One of many attempts to get a good pic!  Lol!

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Seriously focused!

LOVE!

Two car fanatics!

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Love, Love, Love!  My daughter and our 84-year-old aunt haven’t seen each other in over 15 years!

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My nephew, his son, and auntie!

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Delivery of the ham and two turkeys in style!

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A toast to family, friendship, and a splendid day!

I hope that you found gratitude in your Thanksgiving Day!

Smooches!