Magnify Your View on Wellness: Take a Closer Look

Health is a relationship between you and your body.
-Unknown

Path

Today, the focus on health and wellness is everywhere.  There is no loss of trends in diets.  The Keto Diet, Paleo diet, Alkaline diet, Whole 30, Intermittent diet, Carb Cycling,  and more.  How the heck are you to comprehend which program is best for you?

Women’s Health Magazine lists 20 the top fitness trends that include everything from Yoga, to Functional Fitness Training, and Postrehabilitation Classes. Whew….that’s a lot.  If you are confused, I am not surprised.

I am asking you to set all of the above aside and instead to think about the many components of your daily life.  It is your routine and habits, which you do not consider that gives you a zing for life or provide a framework for health issues and a decline in your quality of life.

Contemplate the following:

Transportation
If you work outside of the home, how is your commute to work? Do you drive or use public transportation?  If you use public transportation, is it safe?  Are the wait areas enclosed and well lit? Are you exposed to second-hand smoke or other unhealthy carcinogens? Are the crosswalks safe or dangerous?

Do you drive a car to work? Do you carpool? How long is your commute?  Is your drive one hour or longer?  If so, take a moment and calculate the total amount of hours spent commuting per day, per week, per month, and annually.

Think about the commute.  Is it an easy-breezy ride or does your ride consist of high-volume traffic, horns, middle fingers, f-bombs, and weaving in and out of traffic?  How do you feel when you arrive at work and home? Over an extended period of time, this type of commute can negate the quality of your life. Yes, I know. The job may pay well. But ask yourself, what is the trade-off?

Workplace Environment
Where is your company located?  How many hours per week do you work?  Is the number greater than 50?  Been there done that, rolling my eyes.  Does your day include a lunch break? Where do you take your break?  Can you walk on your break? Does your company provide ergonomically designed chairs and workstations?  Is your workstation quiet or loud?

How is the air quality? Is the building well ventilated and are the filters cleaned regularly to prevent dust mold, and other pollutants?  What types of relationships do you have with your colleagues?  Does your company promote healthy living?

Are you required to lift heavy objects?  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), back injuries account for nearly 20% of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace and cost the nation an estimated 20 to 50 billion dollars per year. If so, does your company provide or encourage the use of safety belts?

Do you drive a vehicle for a living?  If so, how many hours do you spend on the road daily?  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours a driver can drive. The restrictions protect everyone on the road.  Driving sleepy or fatigued is estimated to cause up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year (CDC).

Is your job stressful? My point is that a stressful lifestyle may lead to unhealthy behaviors and adversely impact your overall health.  Inadequate coping skills and a lack of leisure time may lead to excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and/or drug usage.

Healthcare
Do you have health insurance?  Is it affordable? What does it include?  Can you afford it and do you seek annual doctor visits for the dentist, Obgyn (females), mammograms, colonoscopy (over age 40), and general practitioners?  Does your insurance include coverage for mental health counseling?  What is your attitude and what are your beliefs regarding you and your family’s health?

Neighborhood
Does your neighborhood provide sidewalks, clean and safe parks, playgrounds, lighted streets, and bike paths? What are your grocery stores like?  Do they sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables?
Facts:

  • The United States disproportionately spends less on social services and on health care.
  • Despite healthcare expenditures are projected to exceed 3 trillion dollars, health outcomes in the United States continue to fall behind other developed countries.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that long-term stress can harm your health. For more information, click here.

Emotional Hygiene (EH)
Most of us have childhood memories of injuries from trips and falls. While playing outside, we scraped a knee, suffered a broken arm, or cut a finger.  We cried a bit, moved on, and allowed our wounds to heal.  Somehow as adults, we unlearned the art of healing.  The consequence is baggage that we carry with us everyplace. The baggage is stuffed with fear, resentment, anger, hostility, guilt, and more.

The truth is we never learned how to care for our minds.  We do nothing until we have mental breakdowns and even then, the antidote is a prescription for medication. Barring severe psychological issues, the script is a pretty band-aid that covers the wound. The fact is, we need to probe deeper; we need to treat the mental infection. When this occurs, seeking professional help is a good starting point. Want to learn more? Listen to this TED Talk by Psychologist Dr. Guy Winch.


I have posted many questions because I want to help you to expand your thinking regarding what a healthy lifestyle means to you.  You can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise but other factors in your life may contribute to your health.  The determinants in your environment will impact your well-being.

So now what?

Is there something you want to change?  I hope that after reading this post, you’ve identified at least one area of your life to improve.  If everything is hunky-dory, congrats!  Still, save this post, because life is filled with peaks and valleys.

What can you do?

  1. Assess your current situation.
  2. Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you.
  3. Think baby steps.
  4. Schedule the doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off
  5. If the change is a new job, assess your skills. If you know what you want to do but lack the skills, determine where you can acquire additional knowledge.  In addition to your local college, most colleges offer online courses.  What are the costs and does your company offer tuition reimbursement? Explore if you can acquire new skills by volunteering.
  6. What are your current untapped skills and resources?  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  7. Maybe you’re not sure about your next career move but you are ready for a change.  MyNextMove.org is a great site to learn about careers. You can also take an assessment to help you to decide what field may be right for you.
  8. If it’s a lifestyle change, what are the specifics? Do you seek a relationship change, location change, or something else?
  9. Schedule an appointment with a therapist so you can work through your struggles.

My point here is to expand your thinking.  First to include yourself but then to add your family to the mix.  Our children observe us and learn from everything we do, just as we did from our parents.

I urge you to broaden your concept and understanding of health and wellness and take steps to improve your life.

Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy, and spirit you possess or takes away from it.
Ann Wigmore

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A Change in Location: A Change in Mind

I have lived in Georgia for a little over a year now and have visited more parks than I did in my entire life in the Garden State for over 50 years.  How does that happen? A friend said it best,

“A Change in location can equal a change in mind.” -NCH

Never did I believe that breathing the fresh outdoor warm summer air while walking miles and observing the beauty in a wooded park would spark so many delightful thoughts.

This post is inspired by a trail in Tribble Park. When your mind is quiet, static, and at peace to wander, you will view the world around you differently.

Walking through the park, my intentions were to get a few miles in while taking in the natural beauty of the parkland. What took place surprised me. As I strolled along the trail, objects like the shapes of the trees, the colors of the leaves, and the brokenness of tree branches, triggered random but inspiring thoughts.

New Paths and Journey’s

Reflections: We set personal and professional goals. In spite of well thought out plans (or so we think), we truly don’t know where the path will lead us. Some paths are more familiar than others. The roads are narrow, wide, straight, covered with debris, and even lead to dead ends. We think we know precisely where we are going. But amiss, we end up in a new place.

At times, the surprising destination is wonderful. On the other hand, the landing-place is unanticipated. At that moment, we have a choice to give up and to end the journey or chose receive and accept God’s lesson and beget further growth.

What is important is that, on our journey, we pay attention to all of the elements. On this walk, I observed many beautiful components of nature, such as this magnificent and variegated leaf.

The vivid spotted decaying leaf was the brightest leaf in a pile. If I were daydreaming and not focusing on the details along the path, I would have missed it. Squatting and eyeballing the leaf,  four ladies walked up. “What did you find? A snake?” Now that’s funny and boy did I laugh. I told them I don’t photograph snakes, I run from them. I pointed out the leaf to the women. They stopped to look and were also stunned by its beauty. Think about it. I walked over four miles in an extraordinarily wooded park and was able to find this beauty.

Here’s a closer look!

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The leaf is beautiful right? The image is also a reminder of the beauty in so-called defects and of the charm in aging.

Obstacles

Underneath this oversized tree with split roots is a pathway for water to flow through. The day I took this picture, the area was dry; however, once it rains, water freely flows through the park along to this tree and under its thick and twisted roots.

Reflections: In life, we must learn when to plow forward, under or around, and when to break off in a different direction. The canal is natural. Created by nature… and by God. The tree made a bridge for which the water runs under. Allowing ourselves quiet moments to reflect on any given situation, will help us to make the best choices.

Trash

Reflections: Get rid of the baggage! Learn and unlearn. Not all learned behavior is good; even if you learned the behavior as a child and from an adult. It’s like money. Not all money is good money. Recognize what helps you. Recognize what harms your mental health and well-being. Then do something about it. Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Don’t be afraid to remove trappings, and people from your life and do so without all the fanfare. If someone in your life doesn’t support your goals, or perhaps they bring negative energy to your life, eliminate them from your life.  There’s no need to call a soon-to-be former friend to make a formal declaration, just stop calling and responding. Eventually, they may call to ask why you stop calling. Be honest but not mean and tell them why but don’t negotiate.

The same goes for bad habits. Smoking, alcohol or substance abuse and, if needed, seek professional help. National Helpline Hotline (free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days-a-year treatment referral and information service, in English & Spanish, for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance abuse disorders).

Failure

Reflection: The dried pieces of tree trunks look like they have been precisely cut. Probably to protect park guests from falling dead trees. The stump remains. The stump can represent a distinct period in our life that may resonate feelings of failure, pain, anger, or joy and happiness. The stub within us is there for us to do what we choose. We can live with resentment, regret, remorse, hate, compassion, love, happiness, peace, faith, or with forgiveness in our hearts; we determine the method of reconciliation. 

I read from termite-control.com, that termites in trees can create real hazards. Since termites eat wood from the inside, they can make a tree so unstable that it cannot support itself. If that happens, the tree dies. We are no different.  Allowing emotions to internally harbor and fester is no different and can cause damage to our bodies, including our mental health. 

According to the World Health Organization, poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health, and human rights violations.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Perspective & Attitude

Reflections: Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is your glass-half-empty or half-full?  Like most, I can focus on what wrong and what I don’t like. However, I have so much more to be grateful for and so do you.  I make a conscious decision to look up–not down, and to thank God every day for the tremendous volume of greatness in my life.

Whatever your situation, if you need to cry, pout, or complain, do that then come to grips with the fact that your situation could be worse. Someone else’s life is ALWAYS worse off than yours.  See the good in your present spot and assess how you can make it better.

Fear

Reflections: Them damn fears! Ugh! This bridge right here is about overcoming fears and transcending to the other side. I fear heights. Even with my feet being just a tiny bit off the ground sends my heart into a triple beat. This unexplainable and horrible feeling creeps up my calves and travels to hamstrings into my rear gluts. I feel sick and jittery.

You know where you need to get to. An obstacle (fear) confronts you. Maybe you plan to obtain your GED, start or complete college, audition for a part, read your work at a Spoken Word event, or something else. Do you give up or confront your fear?  I’ve confronted some of mine but I still have a few more to tackle. Since first sprinting across this bridge, I can now walk slower and alone. Each time I cross the bridge, it gets a little easier for me. Don’t give up!

Your Village

Reflections:  The base of this tree is one solid trunk. But as the tree grew, seven strong limbs sprouted. The cluster of limbs remind me of the ancient proverb that I heard often growing up, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a child that means, everyone in the community, family, and non takes interest in the child.  The strength of the village reinforced the values taught in the home. When you were caught in the streets doing good, your neighbor reported it to your parents. When you were seen behaving inappropriately, whoever witnessed your transgression, corrected you and told your parents. Ultimately, you were disciplined at home too.

NJ Senator, Cory Book said,

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Strength lies in numbers. While working on my Bachelors of Arts Degree in English, I worked a full-time job and had the responsibility of a young child, managing home life, including my relationship with my husband. I had my village of supporters and without their advice, wisdom, child-care services, love, and patience, I would have never had the opportunity to walk across the stage at Rowan University. Don’t go it alone; find your supportive network or your village and ask for help.

Downtime

Reflections: Tribble Mill Park is a 700-acre park that has two lakes and one large meadow. The park has nearly 3 1/2 miles of paved and unpaved trails. When I first set out on the trail, I was unfamiliar with the path and, at times, felt uncertain.  Since then, I have walked both the paved and un-paved surfaced trails. The non-paved was more challenging and it was easy to wander off the trail and to get lost. What I did notice on the trails were the benches.

The benches are a reminder to stop and to take a break. How often do you take breaks from your weekly routine of obligations? Unless you are literally running a marathon, you must set aside time to catch your breath and fully divert your attention away from your project. Find a quiet place that brings you solitude. Doing so will de-clutter your mind. You will think clearer and you will find solutions to some of your dilemmas.

Below are a few more of my favorite pictures from my walk.  Since this writing, my husband and I have returned to the park only to discover new paths and I love it!

My son deep in his thoughts.

..undisturbed and unbothered by people.

Other cool pics. 🙂

 

I love how this tree is bent and ends atop the paved trail.  But notice a few branches growing from the top of it.

Never grow too old to swing!

Pausing…. taking in the beauty.

The above video is unedited. The fantastic sparkles that you see are from the sun rays hitting the lake. The beauty of this video is also a reminder to sparkle to stay alive, to live intentionally, and to sparkle through as many days as possible.

 

 

 


Confessions From A Vegan

There once was a time when I was relentless in my pursuit of perfection. A sparkling and stain free stove, a crumbless kitchen counter, clean bathroom mirrors, and bare floors that left no dust or particles on the foots’ bottom.

Impeccability on this level was too much to maintain, but it took me years to learn what and who was really important. The approach was stupid, and I am still trying to determine why “perfection” was such a priority for me.

I have felt for many years that in high school, I underachieved at everything I did.  I was an okay teenager but never really pushed myself hard at anything.  For most of my life, I blamed the adults (teachers, coaches, and advisors) for not seeing something in me that I did not see in myself. They should have pushed me, but they did not. I blended in a predominately white school with only two black teachers, neither of which I had as a teacher.

My guidance counselor never hid her lack of interest in my academic progress or achievement. I’m confident that Mrs. C.  had distorted views about the potential of most of the students who looked like me. How do I know? We talked. Like an over-copied handout, the sentiments were regularly used, and the similarities in stories align perfectly.

My parents got a free pass. Mother, one of 13 was dirt poor. She and other siblings quit school to work. During my high school years, she returned to school to obtain her GED. Watching her study was motivating. She encouraged me to do my best and to finish school.

“Get your diploma because you won’t be able to get a decent job without it.”

My dad came here on a boat from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although he never earned his diploma, he was a teacher of hard work. “Doing my best” was excellent advice but I needed a more detailed narrative on what it looked like and how to do this…especially when my teachers had little expectations from me.

In my early 20’s when I thought that immediately after high school, I should have gone to college and believed that I should be further along in my career. When I was overlooked for a promotion because I did not have a college degree, I felt inadequate.

Perhaps the idea of perfection as an adult offset my underperformance as a teenager.  Every task that I completed would be perfect or as close to perfection as possible. I was always the model employee. I was the front desk clerk who never had a drawer shortage. The VIP Agent who never messed up a customers’ accommodations. At home, the linen was correctly folded and stacked. The list goes on.

Today, I’m the happy imperfect vegan.

Yesterday (Sunday) we celebrated a milestone birthday of my cousin. We enjoyed brunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Hmm mmm.

The night before brunch, my final thoughts before going to sleep was The Cheesecake Factory’s menu!!  Now ain’t that some ish? I didn’t toss and turn. I wasn’t stressing or anything. Ahem… I was planning!

Well, peeps, all the planning didn’t make a difference.

I read through the menu. I contemplated an old favorite.

I even thought about this blog, my Instagram, Twitter, and my Facebook pages. What am I gonna say? The truth! I am human! That I decided to do me.

Without guilt or shame, I ordered a Cajun Shrimp and pasta dish. It was delicious!!!

I came to terms with ordering and eating the fantastic dish with this thinking:

I am not a perfect Vegan.

Life is short, don’t deny myself of a dish that I really want.

This is my second cheat and the world has not stopped revolving.

I am a human being.

We falter.

Why does eating shrimp & pasta have to be a falter?

Change takes time.

I am a Vegan student.

Only eight months have passed.

I need the protein.

Looking at the plate made me grin. My face should’ve cracked! I was doing the right thing.

I live authentically.

My experience may help others.

The study of health behavior includes research on numerous behavioral change theories. Some of the contributing factors to successful changes in our behavior include our environment, community, family, work, knowledge, support, and finances.

Even if you have all the factors aligned, change occurs in stages, and it takes time. Change is hard, but you should keep trying.

Your goal may be to quit smoking, to learn to meditate, lose weight, start exercising or like me become Vegan, regardless the change in our behavior will not happen overnight. Having an understanding of this process can alleviate some of the stress. James Prochaska’s Readiness for Change Model is used widely in the field of wellness. His concept may help you to achieve goals related to modifying your behavior.  Below are the stages:

Six Readiness for Change Stages.

  1. Pre-contemplation – Lack of awareness; unconcerned; a person has no thought of changing. Ex: A cigarette smokes who has no desire to quit.
  2. Contemplation – The Person, begins to consider change; ambivalence. Ex: Cigarette smoker thinks about quitting but has not taken any action.
  3. Preparation – Person begins to explore change possibilities. We get ready for a change by gathering information about the subject and gathering resources. Ex: Cigarette smoker talks to their doctor about methods to quit smoking, talks and seeks support from family and friends or obtains medical assistance such as a patch.
  4. Action – Person takes action. Ex: The day the person chooses not to smoke a cigarette
  5. Maintenance – Person works at maintaining change. This is me. Lapse and relapse occur at this stage. Ex: Smoker experiences a relapse and takes a few puffs or smokes an entire cigarette.
  6. Termination – The new behavior is now part of your life. My goal! We engage in the new practice with little effort and without much thought. In other words, the new behavior occurs naturally.

If you are in the process of some type of behavioral change, can you identify which stage you are in? Being aware of your current stage may help you to understand your actions.  Working with a wellness coach will help you to move through and complete the steps.

My point here is to support you in the change(s) you are trying to make in your life. I relapsed and wanted to share this with you.  You might also relapse, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up about it.

Continue to surround yourself with people who encourage you; that’s why I’m here. Stay on your wellness train, it may be hard but please don’t give up.  If you’d like to talk, email me at tanyafcain@gmail.com

Happy Day!


12 Steps to Replace Fast Track Promises

Promises, promises, and more promises. Assurances that you will become a better you are the claims made by companies who shall remain nameless. But you know who they are.

Pay us “X” amount of dollars monthly and we’ll do the work for you!

I read three different plans on one company’s site.

  • Basic daily plan of $10.18 per day… that’s $3,715.70 annually
  • Core daily program of $11.07 per day… that’s $4,040.55 yearly
  • Uniquely yours daily plan of $ 12.50… that’s 4, 562.50 per year

I searched another business. If you join “today,” the one-time enrollment fee is slashed from $99 to $49. You then pay a $19 monthly meal plan. After that, you’re hooked for about $20 per day, which amounts to “around” $7,300 annually! Get the heck out of here!

From a monetary standpoint, my question to you is, are you financially stable enough to afford the fees for the rest of your life? Does the diet plan align with your financial goals?

I get it. It’s tempting because it appears to be more straightforward than the “other” route.

The lure to unpack the product of a poor diet, lack of physical exercise or the side effects of medication or a physical condition is tantalizing. You want it off and off now.

Marketers play on your frustration and eagerness to find results with catchphrases:

“Rapid weight loss.”

“Fast track to weight loss.”

I decided to write this piece because, in addition to seeing a family member’s kitchen full of this stuff, I’ve also had several people ask my opinion about these type of programs. Taking photos of the packaged food was something I could not resist doing.

Can you imagine buying these products for the rest of your life? You’d probably get tired of eating this stuff anyway. The person who was on this particular plan lost 25 pounds in six months. Eventually, she went off the plan and attempted to maintain on her own. She was unsuccessful, gained the 25 pounds back and then some. She is not alone. I am not saying it’s the same for everyone but what I am getting at is that if you don’t do the work, no program is going to work or last.

 

Marketers know you want it badly. The truth is NOTHING fast, quick or rapid will sustain you for a healthy lifestyle.

My problem with these programs is that, as long as you buy the meal plans, you lose weight. But when you discontinue the plan and try to do it on your own, you fall short.

You fall short because you relied on someone else to do work for you that you needed to do for yourself.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Sure, you see big-name celebrities with deep behind pockets endorsing the brand, but with each ad, their pockets get deeper. Cha-Ching! $$$$$. Most celebs can afford the long-term financial commitment. Can you? I’m just sayin’… Evening setting the money spent aside, how healthy is pre-packaged food? Perhaps you might supplement with fruit, but it’s still packaged. IJS.

I encourage you to invest your time and your money into educating yourself on how to adopt a restorative life by making informed decisions that improve your overall health and wellness.

  1. Gauge your physical health. Make your annual doctor appointments (Dentist, General Practioner, OBGYN, etc..) and discuss your blood work and exam results. What’s right and what’s pressing that needs your immediate attention?
  2. Assess your mental health. Problems such as Depression, Anxiety & Panic Attacks, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychosis, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, etc..) can keep you from living your best life. Your mental health deserves the same attention as your physical health.  Don’t be afraid of seeking help.
  3. Size up your support network. Who are the people in your life? Do they encourage you? Who puts you down or laughs at your ideas? Commit to making the necessary changes by letting go of the toxic people in your life.
  4. Set goals. (SMART) – Not a new concept nor is it my idea, but it works.
    1. S – Specific
    2. M – Measurable
    3. A – Attainable (Action-Oriented)
    4. R – Relevant or Rewarding
    5. T – Time-Bound or Trackable.
  5. Learn how to read food labels. The internet has endless resources. How many servings are in that bag of chips or cookies you enjoy?
  6. Research the ingredients in your food. Again, hop on the net. Educate yourself and understand more about the food (or chemicals) you eat.
  7. SLOWLY modify your diet. Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats (if you eat meat). SLOWLY reduce your sugar intake. Drink more water and fewer sodas, juices, and alcohol. Purchase less processed foods and eat cleaner. If you want apple pie, bake your own, and you control the ingredients instead of buying processed food full of preservatives, sugar and other chemicals.
  8. Evaluate your physical fitness regiment. Do you exercise? If so, what do you do and how frequently? Are you getting the results you desire? Why or why not? If you do not exercise, why not? How can you change this? What are your fitness goals? Whatever you do, add strength training/weight training to your program. With a solid nutrition plan and a consistent strength training program, you will get maximum results.
  9. Engage in self-care. Do something for YOU such as a massage, a short or long getaway, skydiving, Floatation Therapy, or something else you’ve been dying to try.
  10. Survey your finances. If you’re overwhelmed with debt, seek financial counseling. The problem won’t go away on its own. Take action to stop nagging phone calls from bill collectors.
  11. If you have a significant other, take a measure of your relationship. Are you happy? If so, fantastic! If not, it’s time to explore why. Ask yourself the difficult questions. Be honest with yourself and your partner. Is counseling the answer? Get the ball rolling.
  12. Explore your career. Are you happy or satisfied? If so, awesome! If not, set fear aside. Consider your interests and explore your options.

The idea is to unmask the root of your issue(s). Quite often, the problem isn’t what we think it is. If you take a 360 approach to your life and visit all aspects, you will uncover underlying issues that have kept you bogged down and going in circles.

This post is longer than planned but it is also an excellent roadmap to jump-start you on your road to wholeness. There is NEVER a quick fix to ANYTHING.

Consider high performing athletes. They don’t arrive at the top of their game overnight. Years of training, overcoming injuries, self-doubt, and naysayers pass before they reach the top of their game.

Our journey is no different.


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!


Thanksgiving Shenanigans: 31 And Counting!

I sustain myself with the love of family.
– Maya Angelou

Some relationships in families are complicated. We’d like to handpick our family members, but we cannot. But even if we could choose our peeps, we probably wouldn’t get it right anyway.  Think about it.  Over your lifetime, how many of your friendships have come and gone?   Some were short-lived and a few continued for decades.

Thanksgiving is less than one week away.  And let us remember that the holiday is a celebration of unity and gratitude.  If you have a warm place to sleep, food on the table, and are alive, stop and give thanks.  You are blessed. Churches, community centers, food banks, and other generous souls cook, deliver, and serve thousands of meals for less fortunate and homeless individuals. Those of us who have options and do not have to rely on others for the holiday feast need to recognize and not take it for granted.

That said, I ask you to consider your Thanksgiving plans. How so?  If you are prosperous enough to enjoy a meal, then think about a family member who you have not spoken to for some time. Maybe it’s time for you to reconnect. Perhaps it is time to bury the hatchet. You don’t have to become best friends with them.  Enjoy a meal together while giving thanks for being alive and for the opportunity to make amends. Or, at the least, pick up your phone and start a conversation with them.

Each year, I look forward to hosting our family holiday dinner, but 2017 is, generating, even more, excitement for me.

For the first time in my life, I am celebrating
AND hosting Thanksgiving dinner in a new home, outside of NJ….
In Georgia!

As soon as we settled on our home and prepared for our move, we told the  family, “We are still hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so start making travel plans!”

For the last 20+ years, we’ve hosted holiday dinners at our home and although 700+ miles away, I didn’t want that to change.

I wasn’t sure how many would make the trip, but hubby and I put it out there.

Whelp!  As of this writing, there will be 31 of us!!!

Six generations coming together! Oooomygooooodness!  How cool is that?

Our peeps are coming from New Jersey, Washington, DC, Tennessee, Michigan, and from other parts of Georgia.  How friggin awesome!!

Now, with that said. Chile… like most families, we have an assortment of temperaments and personalities!  We are a loving family and, like most, folks butt heads, have conflicts, kiss, and makeup.

However…sadly some folks hold on to grudges have issues and carry their baggage around like it has value and be cashed in for dollars!  So, on Thanksgiving, a few folks with strained relationships are dining under one roof.  The forgiveness conversation with my mom is an ongoing project; however, I remind her, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  She is a tough cookie, but that’s the rule in our home.

Sibling conflicts, parental conflicts and more. But you know what, I’m determined to make the occasion positive and memorable and encourage you to do the same.  All relatives deal with conflicts and fallouts, and typically the issue is over dumb sh**.

The pitfall is that some folks cannot get past their pride, their anger, their hurt, and the resentment they feel toward the other person.  Like an Olympic torch, they pass the burden on from one generation to the next. In my family, I continue to do what I can to stop this foolishness.  I’m not having generations of cousins, nieces, nephews disliking each other for nonsense.

Memories lapse, stories change,
but the animosity continues.

If we are to achieve optimum wellness,
we must open our hearts to forgiveness.

By not forgiving others, we are weighed down with trappings that grow heavier by the year.  The baggage inhibits our ability to experience complete joy and happiness.

Consider trying an exercise in writing a forgiveness letter.  Write the letter to the person who hurt and whom you have not forgiven.  Do not give it to them.  Address precisely what they did to you but also why you forgive them.  Set grammar and sentence structure aside, the point is to put your raw feelings on paper.  Pour our your emotions.  Cry if necessary.  Read what you wrote every day for a week.

Forgiving does not right a wrong.  To forgive someone allows you to move on to a place where the anger eventually vanishes. It grants the opportunity for growth and for more positive energy to flow through you.  If you cannot surpass the tension, seek counseling to help you work through it.

Mentally I am prepping harder than usual for Thanksgiving because this is my first Vegan Thanksgiving!  We have always had vegan family members for holiday dinners, but I was eating meat then.

This is the fifth week that I’ve sustained life without chicken, turkey, dairy, or seafood.  I’m singing and dancing around the house to Cool & The Gang’s, Celebration!

Lately, I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth.  I’m not sure why that is, but I fixed the craving with some bruised apples in a bag.

I washed and peeled six apples.  Add them to a pot with a little water (about a half-cup) and added cinnamon and nutmeg.  NO SUGAR!  I cooked them on low until they softened.  The result is intoxicating!!  If I hadn’t prepared them myself, I would swear that the cook added sugar.  Restraint was in full effect.  I wanted to eat the whole pot in one sitting.

One morning, I had to eat on-the-road, so I went to Starbucks for Oats. They came with nuts and dried fruit. For protein, I added nuts but passed on the dry fruit with 22 grams of sugar.

After eating the darn oats, I realized they probably had dairy in them.  Ugh!! The thought didn’t occur to me to ask for coconut or almond milk and until the cup was empty.  Lol!
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One of my favorite meals of the week is this bowl of red quinoa, black-eyed peas, sautéed mushrooms, and onions.

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Each week my strategy is to cook one to two cups of quinoa, a crock pot of legumes or beans, bunches of kale, and to try something new. This week, I was just too busy preparing for Thanksgiving to do that, but still did just fine.   Later in the week, I can always add additional roasted veggies, which will add a variation to my meals.

I’m working on ideas for next week… hoping to make a few savory vegan dishes so I won’t be tempted by the baked mac & cheese and deep fried turkey.

Since taking on the Vegan challenged, I’ve noticed a few changes.

  1. I feel lighter.  Not like I have lost a bunch of weight but somehow brighter.  Putting into words is hard.
  2. Late afternoon, I no longer feel sluggish and crave power naps. It’s odd because I am not getting any more or less sleep but I have more energy.
  3. I haven’t felt the need for my afternoon cup of java.
  4. Although I’ve been working out intensely pretty much five days a week, in the past week I lost 5 pounds!
  5. I’m feeling a bit more energized.  This is funny because I’m already high energy….when I’m supposed to be resting between sets at the gym, I’m pacing around looking for some cardio sh** to do!  Hubby thinks I’m nuts and can’t figure it out.

This post is longer than planned but, the bottom line is that any change takes times. 

Diet, mindset, attitude— any change in behavior involve a process.  Neither occurs overnight, but YOU must want to make the transition.  You can’t do it for anyone but yourself.  I suggest merely starting today.  Then try again tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that…   Eventually, you will achieve what you seek.

“Everything is hard before it is easy.”

-Goethe J.W

In preparing for the holiday, the upcoming week is going to be hectic… traveling, cooking, making plans for house guests, squeezing in gym time, writing, and more.  But with that said, my goal is not to stress about any of my plans and worry about everything being perfect but to remain mindful, present, and to enjoy the process and the time with my family.  I hope you do the same! I can’t wait to share pics!!

We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable.
It would be wise to use that time adoring our families,
cherishing our friendships, and living our lives.

– Maya Angelou

 

Forgiveness Support

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