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.

 

 

 

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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! 🙂

 

 


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!


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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The Language of Letting Go