You are Enough

You are enough. Three simple, yet powerful words. Three words that need to be used more than they are. By me. And by YOU.

You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone – profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are. ~ Danielle LaPorte

Be unapologetically YOU.

My first name, Amanda, means “lovable; worthy of love,” yet I’ve struggled hard with feeling worthy and there have been so many days where I think I’m difficult to love. I’m not sharing any of this to fish for compliments or to be pitied, but rather to paint a picture of how society sets us up to dislike ourselves. That we need to fit within a certain box, otherwise we’re not worthy. This past year has been a game changer for me – tested me, pushed me, and opened my eyes to the heart of the matter. I want to share all of this with you because while I have felt a shift in my thinking, I know many still struggle.
I’m here to tell you that what you really need is to find peace within. To recognize that you are worthy at this very moment. You are ENOUGH. If you follow me on Instagram, you most likely saw the post I shared on my birthday along with this amazing poem:

“Never trust a mirror,

For a mirror always lies,

It makes you think that all your worth,

Can be seen on the outside,

Never trust a mirror.

It only shows you what’s skin deep,

You can’t see how your eyelids flutter,

When you’re drifting off to sleep,

It doesn’t show you what the world sees,

When you’re only being you,

Or how your eyes light up,

When you’re loving what you do,

It doesn’t capture when you’re smiling,

When no one else can see,

And your reflection cannot tell you,

Everything you mean to me,

Never trust a mirror,

For it only shows your skin,

And if you think that dictates your worth,

It’s time you looked within.”

~ Erin Hanson

Social media is a blessing and a curse. I have a love-hate relationship with it but lately it’s been getting better with adjusting my mindset. I have to frequently check myself and step away for my personal sanity, but I have watched it destroy others – to the point where they completely lost themselves or their self-worth hit an all-time low. 

My battle with self-love dates back to high school and got harder along the way with toxic relationships. I heard it all (from men and women):

“not skinny enough”

“fat face”

“big-boned”

“breast implants could help”

“not pretty enough”

“eyes are too big”

“too sensitive”

“needs a backbone”

I could go on, but it’s kind of depressing…and in the past. Disordered eating and body dysmorphia became a part of my life. Rather than looking within, I became obsessed with the reflection in the mirror and food…and not in a healthy way. It took a lot of hard work, time, and weeding out who I allowed in my life to get where I am today. Perfectly imperfect.


Going back to when I said social media is a blessing and a curse. When I talk about social media, I’m referring to Instagram (IG) because I left Facebook a few years ago as it wasn’t healthy for me. Instagram has connected me with so many amazing, inspiring, empowering people – some of them I consider my dearest friends, most of them I haven’t even met in person. And some of them are people I’ve known personally for years (former co-workers, school friends, family) – it’s a blessing to have an app to keep us in the loop of one another’s lives. To connect us. It feels good to be supported – to get a virtual hug, high-five, and the occasional “I’ve been there, mama” or “me too!”

Now the curse. The overly filtered, heavily edited, perfectly staged, selectively chosen pictures that are posted. Combined with the competitiveness and elitist attitude from some of the people…it can be a pretty toxic space…if you’re not careful. Did you know that I have received a quite few messages about how my photos could use some work or how to improve my blog or how to gain more followers? You probably didn’t. And while I try not to let that sort of stuff get to me, catch me on a bad day and I will over analyze everything and shut down. I’m not looking to grow my page or blog. To me, Instagram is my life in photos. Family, nature, food, and anything in between…I guess I consider myself a lifestyle page and to me, it’s kind of like a digital diary, an account of the delicious recipes I’ve tried, beautiful hiking spots, and my world…Willow. I post things that genuinely excite me or make me happy – I never post something as a way to impress someone or gain anything. Same goes for my blog – it’s more of a hobby for me. Something I genuinely enjoy because I write for me and if anyone happens to read my rambles, it’s just an added bonus. I don’t take the time to use a photo editor app or perfectly stage my food…nothing against those who do, for me, I just want to eat my food and I’ll occasionally snap a quick, in-the-moment pic, but that’s because I want to enjoy my food while it’s still hot or devour it before it melts. I can absolutely appreciate those gorgeous photos and even if I don’t photograph my food, I still make it pretty…does that make sense? But I need to digress because this rant is not where I intended this to go!

Back to curse. Not everyone on social media is genuine or compassionate. Just like in real life. It can be a selfish world and by that I mean, there are people who are only on there to benefit themselves, even if it means hurting others along the way. For example, there are accounts on IG who spend time commenting on random posts using fake compliments. Sometimes they’ll even go so far as to “follow” you and say, “I love your page” or “I love what you’re doing here.” All of this just to get your attention so that you’ll check out their page or follow them back. Ninety-nine percent of the time they’ll unfollow you once you’re following them. All they care about is growing their numbers. What’s sad is that I know a few people whom this has happened to and due to already low self-worth, it set them over the edge. They took it so personal, as an insult, that they became so depressed. If only people took others feelings into consideration before acting.


It is SO easy to get caught up in the comparison trap – those “perfect” photos can be intimidating and for some, they can be toxic. Here’s my message to you (and a reminder to myself):

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You can’t compare a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother to a twenty something college student. While age doesn’t matter, getting older changes things. Bodies are different, lifestyles alter, priorities shift. I remember being in college. I remember working two jobs while taking a full course load. I remember my body being totally different. I remember having more time to myself. BUT, remember, pregnancy and birthing a child is no joke. I look at my cesarean scar and stretch marks as gifts and while I may never have a toned, flat stomach again, I am damn proud of my body. I am enough.

I’ve even been bad about comparing myself to other moms – I’d see “perfect” posts and think, ‘I need to workout more,’ or ‘I don’t do enough when it comes to homeschooling,’ or a general blanket statement…’I need to do more.’ Heck, there are some days when getting dressed is about all we do and guess what? That’s enough. When I take a step back and look at my life, what I’ve accomplished, my goals – I’m proud and I think I am enough. 

Don’t let those perfectly clean, organized house photos fool you. I have to laugh because I’ll joke and say that I need to snap a photo as evidence that it’s possible to have a clean house. Truth is, our house looks like a tornado ripped through it…95% of the time. Dishes piled HIGH, mail strewn about all over the counter, Willow drawings scattered on the floor, markers missing caps, crumbs EVERYWHERE, and blankets + couch cushions thrown about. We have an almost five-year old child and three fur babies. Our home is cozy, lived in, and messy. When Josh comes home from work, he’s able to follow the trail of the events by looking at the house. So, mamas, look at it this way. A messy house is a sign of having fun. A sign of living. It’s a sign that you’re feeding your family well. It’s a sign that you’ve found more important things to do than scrub the floors or dust the shelves…you’re being a present parent! Just because your house isn’t clean and organized like those posts on IG, doesn’t make you any less of a human being. Remember…YOU ARE ENOUGH. I am enough. (P.S. – also consider the fact that those so-called perfectly clean, organized homes were probably in disarray moments before or after they shared a pic).

What you can’t see in the photo below is our kitchen! Ha!! And to be honest, this is considered pretty clean…


Do not compare a blogger’s food photos to your own. Most bloggers have really nice cameras and props. Some have special lighting equipment. Most make a living off of creating recipes and taking stunningly beautiful photos. It’s their “job” and passion. More than anything, those bloggers put in hard work and effort to create a beautiful shot. It’s really easy for me to get caught up in this specific comparison trap. Being a SAHM I’m forever multi-tasking. Trying to snap a “perfect” photo is next to impossible because either (A) Willow is pulling on my legs or arms asking me to come look at something , (B) Willow is begging to eat what I’m photographing, or (C) I don’t have a really nice camera (just an inexpensive point-and-shoot Nikon or my iPhone), nor do I have any props. Once again, NOTHING against those who have all of this. I am simply stating why my photos aren’t much to look at. I AM a foodie though. I love the kitchen, I love creating, and I love trying new recipes created by others. Will my photos do them justice? Maybe not. But like I said, my posts are like an account of what I’ve made and enjoyed. I personally struggle sometimes to even post food pics because I think to myself, “these aren’t good enough” or “this looks nothing like so-and-so’s photos.” Stop that. Stop that right now. I’m talking to myself and YOU. Because remember…YOU ARE ENOUGH! So post those photos if they make you happy!

I intended on snapping a before photo, but she couldn’t wait to dive in and honestly, this photo makes me waaaaaay happier than a bowl of banana ice cream…


Do not compare someone else’s journey with your own. – Whether its spiritual, health, healing, diet, lifestyle, etc…DO NOT compare the path you are on to another person’s. Do not minimize your progress or success to someone else’s. Keep the focus within. What we all need to remember is that each one of us is different. Bodies. Mindsets. Priorities. Resources. Finances. All of it differs from person to person. Family to family. I do feel that it’s nice to have something to aspire to and occasionally it’s healthy to use someone else’s story for inspiration BUT not as an end all. Not as an “I need this in order to be happy, healthy, or beautiful.” Keep checking in with yourself. Are you happy? If so, you’re on the right path. And remember, no matter the case, YOU ARE ENOUGH.

– I struggled for a while with my own spiritual journey. I’d be bombarded by posts from others sharing what I needed in order to be truly spiritual. I began to feel that I wasn’t meditating enough, praying enough, unplugging enough, reading enough, minimalist enough. In a nutshell, I didn’t feel like I was enough, that while I thought of myself as spiritual, I began doubting that I actually was. That I constantly needed more. Truth is, after taking a deeper look within, I began to see that I was enough and that what I held dear to my journey – to my spiritual practice – worked for me. I began to phase out what others were throwing at me and focused more on what worked for me. Once I stopped comparing my journey with others, I was more at peace. I am a constant work in progress; forever learning how to be the best version of myself without the influence of others.

– In line with this thought, everyone’s idea of veganism (or diet in general) is different and for us to belittle one another over minor details is silly. What I consider healthy for me, won’t line up with the next person. What’s important is that we do what’s right for our own body and mind. Realizing that it’s enough – you’re not less healthy or less of a person because you consume more fat or carbs than someone else. 

Holy bright!!!! I swear this photo is unedited! I attempted to capture Willow being super silly,  but just as I snapped the pic, she ducked down in her car seat…but I managed to capture how truly happy I was…


I have to share an excerpt from Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (seriously read her books, I’ve loved them all). The last paragraph on the page below is so perfect…


Do it for YOU. The second you start posting for someone else’s attention or approval or writing what you think people want to hear, you’ve lost yourself. You’ve forgotten what it’s all about. YOU are important and what you have to share IS important. So don’t post something because you think it will get a lot of “likes” or “followers” – post from the heart. Post what makes YOU happy. Post what sings to your soul. When you do that, the right people will be aligned with your path.When you get caught up in what others like or what the “trend” is, you stop being yourself. What YOU have to offer is ENOUGH. For me this also means taking frequent breaks or unplugging for a few days – I’ve learned to be OK with not replying to comments the day they’re left or catching up on everyone’s page. Those who matter will still be there when I return. I choose to take care of myself (and family) before anything else.

If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value. ~ Unknown


Do not compare numbers; in fact, ignore them. Just because you have less followers than someone else, does not make you any less important or valuable. Just because you only got 30 likes on a post doesn’t mean your photo wasn’t beautiful or meaningful. Know deep down that numbers mean nothing. Some of my absolute favorite pages/people have small followings and I adore them because their captions speak to me and their photos are  real, in-the-moment accounts of life. I enjoy interacting, engaging with other people and often times, the bigger pages just can’t keep up with comments or questions, which sadly, makes me less inclined to reach out to them. I love the pages that share unapologetically and a little bit of everything: food, personal, nature, quotes, motherhood…you name it. As long as they’re posting from the heart, that’s all that matters. So whether you have 20 followers or 100k followers, you need to remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH. Your worth is not determined by numbers. As long as you’re doing what YOU love, it is enough.


If you’re unhappy with who you are, what you look like, or where you are, I highly recommend digging down deep within and figuring out why. I say this because trying to change who you are or what you look like doesn’t always bring happiness, in fact, chances are, your feelings will remain the same. So choose to be happy now, not “when I lose 10 pounds,” or “when I get that promotion.” Embrace who YOU are and recognize your unique self and remember…

You are not your wrinkles, age spots, acne scars.

You are not the number on a scale.

You are not your pant size.

You are not your grades in school or your degree.

You are not your job title.

You are not your mistakes or shortcomings.

Your worth is NOT determined by the amount of followers you have or the number of likes you get on a post.

You aren’t less worthy if you “fail.” Choosing to put yourself out there and be who you are is a brave action. Vulnerability is not weakness.

The most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognise your own worth. ~ Maxwell Maltz

I had an epiphany a couple of days before my birthday (which is what sparked this blog post) and it was literally as if someone finally turned a bright light on after being in the dark for years. I felt a sense of freedom that was indescribable. Rather than living in a state of fear or walking on eggshells, I am now able to approach social media with a new mindset. New eyes. New confidence. I used to fear what others would think so I would hold back (filter) what I share. This last year was a whirlwind of emotions and struggles with health, creativity, relationships, love, loss, and change. I learned to follow my heart, my gut, and listen to my body…and ignored what others said was the “right” way. Through this journey, I have lost a few friends (real and online) because they didn’t agree with my path. And that’s OK. Hundreds unfollowed me on social media in a week’s span and while it stung at first, I count it as a blessing. I’m being aligned with those who truly matter; those who accept me for who I am…all of me. I learned the difference between true friends and those who only “liked” me when I was either making their recipes – only “supported” me when it was convenient or only talked with me when my life was positive (when I kept my struggles to myself)…a handful of those people unfollowed me on social media and while I’m grateful for what I learned from them while we were “friends” I am also grateful to not have artificial friendships in my life. I have grown because of them. I have learned that I AM ENOUGH no matter what. If I’m in a creativity slump…I AM STILL ENOUGH. I believe in supporting my friends wholeheartedly, even if their path doesn’t align with my own. Even if I am unable to make their recipes or buy their products, I support them with my words and energy. Realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH and if for any reason you doubt your stance with someone, it is time to let go and recognize that you should not have to fight to be heard by a “friend.”

I’ll share one last bit before I end this loooong ramble 😉

Becoming a mother opened my eyes in more ways than one. I’ve grown more than ever during these almost five years and have come to really recognize my strength. During these years, I have also been criticized more than ever – whether by random strangers on social media or family. Everything from diet, choice to not vaccinate, homeschooling, and me being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I’ve been told that I need to do research, or I’m depriving my child, I need to listen to doctors, or get a part-time job. Yep. That last one really irks me. Get a job?? I may not punch in my hours on a time clock or receive a paycheck, but I hold many “job” titles and work 24/7. As with everything else, I’ve come to grow from the criticism or negativity. Why? Because I realize that my worth does not depend on what others think of me. And as far as being a mom, sure I have my bad days and moments of doubt, but I know deep down that I’m doing a pretty damn good job.


I think we all need to remember that we’re human. We might make mistakes, fall down, fail, do things we’re not proud of, but we are ALL WORTHY.

To anyone and everyone reading this, I’m sending you LOTS OF BIG hugs. Thank you for taking the time to read this to the end.

 

There’s More to Health than What You Eat…

I debated long and hard about writing this post, probably lots of overthinking, but when I realized that sharing my journey is not only what this blog is all about, there’s also a chance it could help someone else. I had a big wake-up call this summer and knowing that all of it could have been prevented is what pushed me to share this with all of you.

So grab a cup of tea, a snack, and get comfortable as I’m about to share a rather lengthy personal journey…


If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been absent almost all summer. I’ve been known to take a break here and there, but never for more than a few weeks. It all started when I met a friend for tea back in June and we got to talking about social media. She one day decided to completely delete her IG account to be more present in real life. We talked about our frustrations with the lack of authenticity, how everything appears to be perfectly staged, and how time consuming social media is. After we parted ways that day, I decided I really needed some time away from all of it. I noticed how I would get anxious about even opening the  app because that meant having to respond to all of the comments and catch up on everyone else’s pages. It felt overwhelming and I was struggling with balance. I also struggled with the behavior and energy received while on IG. The whole “follow for follow,” “like for like,” “comment for comment,” was unappealing, not to mention being a smaller page and blog, I allowed myself to feel unworthy. Unimportant.

But please know that IG was just a small portion of my stress.

In July, I started to notice that I wasn’t feeling or acting like my usual self. Everything felt off and I hated it, so rather than pushing down all of the feelings, I reached out to our naturopath. When I met with her the first time (mid-August), I rattled off my symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Poor digestion (bloating, pain, inflammation)
  • Irritability
  • High anxiety and stress
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in usual things

She took a small blood sample and we looked at it under the microscope together. It showed heart, adrenal, and colon stress. Wow. She had a pretty good idea as to what was going on, but ordered a full blood work up to get an accurate reading. What I found out shocked me and took several days to process it. Here’s what the results showed:

  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Chronic viral infection
  • Signs of hyperthyroid
  • Low stomach acid
  • Malabsorption of Vitamin D, zinc, and protein

What? How can that be?! I’ll tell you why….

STRESS.

All of the stress had caused adrenal fatigue and since my adrenals were so overworked, my thyroid stepped up in an attempt to balance everything. This just goes to show how amazing our bodies are – they work very hard to protect us. My gut also needs some serious love and with low stomach acid, it’s causing quite a bit of discomfort with a lot of foods.

I’m not going to go into detail about how I allowed the stress of several situations get the better of me and to be quite honest, after discussing all of it with my naturopath, this could go back years. Factor in the key element of me being an empath, I’ve endured many, many years of stress and being affected by others emotions and energies.

So what now? How do I heal?

My naturopath put me on a supplement schedule since my body isn’t absorbing it from whole foods and I have been going back to check in with her – we’ll do another blood work up in a couple of months. Along with supplements, I was told to take time for ME. That has meant asking for help – with Willow and things around the house. My Mom is helping out one day a week with watching Willow so that I can do something for me…and that does NOT mean running errands or cleaning. This means anything that will help my well-being: yoga without Willow climbing all over me or calling for me, writing, reading, or even taking a nap. I have learned that the healing process for adrenal fatigue could take up to a year (depending on the person and lifestyle changes made).

I struggled so much to share this with anyone because I thought I was healthy because I ate healthy. When I received the results, I instantly felt like I had failed, like I was a fraud. Here’s the thing, there is SO much more to health than what we eat. Outside factors can greatly impact our health – lack of sleep, pushing yourself too hard, working too much, lack of quiet/down time, toxic relationships, etc. Yes, diet plays a huge role in health, but if you are stressed, you run the risk of very serious issues.

Did you know that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide)? And that 75-90 percent of doctor’s visits are stress related? That just goes to show not only how serious stress is, but also how prevalent it is. I feel incredibly grateful to be in tune with my body and recognize early signs, as opposed to running my body completely down and facing a far more serious diagnosis.

For me, my battle is feeling like I have to do it all. What I’m learning is that I can’t and that our bodies aren’t designed to undergo that kind of thinking. I kept getting myself in that trap by seeing posts on IG of other moms who appear to be doing it all (exercise, work, household chores, parenting, etc.) when in reality I need (and YOU) to remember that you only get a snapshot on social media…you don’t get the full picture and often times things are edited or just not shared. So we need to stop comparing what we think others are doing and just BE. Do what feels right to you and if that means moving at a slower pace, taking a break, or posting “imperfect” photos, do it.

 

Just like each individual is different,  each one of us will react and handle stress in different ways. One person’s method may not work for the next person. Life would be so much easier if there was a universal way, a way that fit everyone. The key is finding ways to help YOU. It may take some time, lots of patience, and testing out various methods to fine tune your personal way(s) of coping.

There's More to Health than What You EatThere's More to Health than What You Eat
Here are some tips & methods that have been working for me and also for those close to me…

TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS:

  • Quit the caffeine (coffee, soda, caffeinated tea). I loved drinking coffee, but cut it out of my diet back in March and never looked back. I drink a cup or two of herbal tea a day as it relaxes me and contains beneficial ingredients. Coffee actually promotes stress hormones – It may be difficult to let go of, but your body will thank you.
  • Meditate. I have gotten back into the habit of daily meditation and it has done wonders for my health and well-being. If you find you’re one to be easily distracted and can’t sit still, there are wonderful apps and podcasts that have guided meditations. I use Headspace and Calm – both are free to download via iTunes and offer sessions as short as 10 minutes!
  • Breathe. An obvious one, but sometimes when you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, you tense up and either hold your breath or breathing becomes erratic. Take a few really deep breaths and try to focus on just that. *PLEASE do not ever tell a stressed out person to just breathe or calm down…trust me, it makes matters worse.*
  • Get in the habit of journaling and doing free-writing. Take a moment out of your day to sit and write – don’t think about it too much and just let the pen take off. Write about whatever comes to mind. I like to do this just before bed (usually before meditating) so that I can go to bed with a clear head, I’ve emptied my thoughts and can hit the pillow completely relaxed.
  • Sleep. Sounds silly, but how many hours of sleep are you getting a night? If we’re being honest here, I was only getting 4-5 hours a night because I would be catching up on Instagram after Willow fell asleep and then try and read before finally going to bed around 1-2am. Now, most nights I’m not far behind Willow – I fall asleep between 9:30-10:30 and get a full nights sleep (unless Willow wakes up in the middle of the night). They actually recommend for anyone with adrenal fatigue to go to bed no later than 10:30pm.
  • Get outside! Go for a walk, a hike, a run, or meditate in the grass. The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders. Not to mention getting some vitamin D!
  • Yoga. There are several YouTube channels for yoga or head over to Amazon to purchase some DVDs.  Doing yoga and stretching helps to keep you in the present moment while releasing any tension in the body. Below are the videos I enjoy (I’ve been using the Kundalini yoga dvd for several years and love it)…Willow and I occasionally do yoga together and her DVDs are a huge stress reliever as they’re silly and fun!

There's More to Health than What You Eat

  • Exercise. If you have adrenal fatigue, ignore this tip. I was told to stick with yoga, but for the typical person, exercise (running, cardio, etc.) can be a wonderful way to release stress.
  • Limit your screen time (TV, computer) and gadget/technology time (phone, iPad, Kindle, etc.) – especially before bed. In her recent post, Heather of Yum Universe suggested charging your phone in the kitchen and leaving it there…don’t bring it upstairs with you when you go to bed. I have drastically reduced the time I spend on my phone and I stop using it at least an hour before going to bed. If this is a struggle for you, I recommend putting your phone on airplane mode or turning off notifications at night. This helps to resist the urge to check it.
  • Find activities that create a sense of peace and calming within. For me, that is coloring, doing zentangles, reading, and listening to music. When Willow wants to color, I grab my coloring books and join her – it’s actually become quite the family activity these days.

  • Clean house. Both literally and figuratively. Declutter your home and let go of anything that no longer serves a purpose in your life – let go of the things that no longer bring you joy. This is not easy to do and sometimes this could include toxic relationships – those who either don’t support you, criticize, or hold you back from being happy.
  • Ask for help. If you’re like me, this is easier said than done, BUT absolutely necessary. Recognize those who support you and do not hesitate to lean on them during times of imbalance.
  • Talk about it! Reach out to your good friends and family – be open about your struggles – more often than not, you’re going to find out that you are NOT alone. Everyone is struggling with something and talking about it is therapeutic. In talking about it with those close to me, I found out that two other people happen to be in very similar situations health wise…all due to stress as well.
  • Know your limits and learn how to say no. Remember that you are human, one human, and can’t do it all. Only take on as much as you feel comfortable with. I think it’s great to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, but if you are susceptible to stress or anxiety, know your body’s capacity and DO NOT allow yourself to reach a breaking point.
  • Let go of the idea that everything needs to be checked off your to-do list before bed. Do you make to-do lists? Mentally or physically on paper? I do. I’m kind of obsessed with lists because it helps my mama brain keep track of things – even little things like sweeping the floor. I’ve learned that lists are great, but they don’t need to be done in a day. My house might be a bit messier, but my stress level is down…and I’m learning to be OK with that.
  • Let go of the past and don’t worry about the future…put your focus on being present. I know how difficult this can be and that is why meditation is key. Being mindful of the here and now is what truly matters.
  • Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Have faith.

I can already hear some of you saying, “I don’t have time to…” And here’s the reality: We ALL HAVE TIME. We just choose to spend it differently. You will have to make adjustments in your life or put other things on the back burner and that’s OK! Pick up the phone and actually talk with a friend – not a rushed text. If you haven’t read a book in forever, start reading a chapter or two of a book that’s been on your list – instead of spending time doing things you think need to be done. I think you get the idea 🙂

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So what does this mean for me? This blog? Social media?


I’m taking things day by day and putting sleep + rest as a priority. I’m making meditation a daily habit and surrounding myself with all the good energy I can. I’ve realized that with Josh’s work schedule, I absolutely NEED to ask my Mom for help more…being a full-time, stay-at-home mom can be challenging, especially since I’ve also taken on the role as homeschooler.

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As for the blog…I am very passionate about this blog and while I know it lacks good photography, it is my therapeutic outlet…even if only a handful of people read a post. I enjoy it and the people I connect with here. I am a casual “blogger” in that I get posts up when I feel like and it’s more of a hobby than a career – so I’ve also stopped comparing my little blog with others. I do what I can and I’m at peace with that.

Since I’m also playing around with my diet and making some adjustments, there might be either a lack of recipes here or recipes out of the norm…but always vegan! I will absolutely NOT stray away from being plant-based. I’ve been nut-free for a week now and feel better than I’ve felt in months – I’m also experimenting with AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) – which means no grains, nightshades, beans, nuts + seeds, and certain spices….which is super hard, but if it means healing, I’m all about it. Thank goodness for my cousin (she introduced me to AIP) and all of the crafty people out there creating recipes to fit that diet! My energy is at an all time high and my mood has drastically changed…not to mention my gut loves me!

A sneak peek of what’s coming to the blog soon…


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Hmmm. As for social media, I haven’t really decided. I deeply miss many of the people on Instagram, but I’m also enjoying being more present and building stronger connections with those close to me. During this absence, I’ve had several reach out to me via email and/or text with the very same complaints about social media – that it’s a comparison trap and feels like a competition. I truly LOVE the connections that I have made there and if I do return, I will be limiting my time on there during this healing process. To some of you all of this might sound over dramatic or way off base and that might be because you’ve got your stress under control or you stand confidently in your place – for that I genuinely applaud you.

I am a work in progress. I am forever learning and growing. I am healing.

To those reading this, if you’re struggling, please know that you are NOT alone. You are worthy of love and healing. We all are. Please reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Do not put your health on the back burner like I did.

If you’re reading this and you know someone who is struggling, offer help or an ear. Never minimize their struggles or tell them that they’re overreacting because in their mind, it’s a huge deal. Be supportive and patient.
Thank you so much to all who took the time to read my rambles here.

Love and light.

❤️

REVIEW: January Favorites

We had a few highlights during January – a good bit of snow early in the month, took Willow to use her snowshoes for the first time AND we got our fireplace running! Which meant we were finally able to keep our house heated above 60°! Not even kidding, our house was freezing – I’m talking wearing a winter hat, layers of clothes and a few blankets to bed. For those who aren’t familiar with cadet heaters…they stink and put your electric bill through the roof! So, we’re all happy, cozy and able to enjoy a smoothie without shivering all day. And our cats are in heaven.

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JANUARY FAVORITES:

OREGON BRINEWORKS HOT SAUCE >> Supporting anything Oregon made (and organic) makes my heart super happy. We’re big hot sauce fans – just a couple drops adds such a great flavor to some of my favorite dishes. This is one of the best hot sauces I’ve had as it tastes fresh AND the ingredient list is pretty fantastic (raw and fermented). We found this in the refrigerated area at Natural Grocers.

REVIEW: January Favorites

ZENBUNNI BIODYNAMIC CHOCOLATE {Rainbow Box} >> A very dear friend sent me a wonderful package of goodies this holiday season and this was in there. They were meant to be for Josh, but thank goodness he shared! The three of us shared each bar so we could get a little sample. Talk about the best chocolate I’ve ever had. Here is the list of flavors included in the box:

REVIEW: January Favorites

My personal favorites were the Kathmandu Chai and Maui Turmeric Ginger. Willow LOVED each one, but we didn’t allow her to try the Mucha Mocha or Frida Azteca (had a pretty good spicy kick). I really loved how the little box came with a quartz crystal, too! All of their ingredients are organic and contain zero soy, gluten or refined sugar. While on the pricier side, it forces you to really savor each bite and not devour the box in one sitting…although I fully admit we wanted to!

FLYING BIRD BOTANICALS >> Peace of Mind herbal tea >> Another gift (from the same friend) and I shared it with Willow. I really love finding teas that require no added sweetener – such a mild floral, comforting flavor with a touch of mint. The packaging is beautiful! From the label on the canister, to the actual tea bag itself. I look forward to trying other teas from this company as they seem to be a very passionate, people-driven (and organic) group.

REVIEW: January Favorites

MAY LINDSTROM SKIN >> THE YOUTH DEW >> Yet another gift from that package and she seriously spoiled me with this one. I’ll be real honest, I have been eyeing up this product, but just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money. You guys, this stuff is liquid gold. The smell is intoxicating, soaks right in without a greasy feeling and leaves my face feeling moisturized. A little goes a long way and from what I’ve read, this bottle should last me quite a while. I have to say, I don’t think I can go back to anything else after using this…it’s pure magic and seeing as I am getting older (soon to be 37!), if I can prevent or decrease some of the aging in my face, it’s a huge bonus. 

REVIEW: January Favorites

GT’s KOMBUCHA with TURMERIC, CARROT & GINGER >> I will admit that I was first drawn to the label and then the flavor. I LOVE turmeric and I LOVE kombucha so obviously this was delicious! I purchased this specific flavor at Natural Grocers.

REVIEW: January Favorites

RECIPES WE TRIED AND LOVED:

LAZY DAY VEGAN TOMATO BISQUE >> THE VEGAN 8 >> I’ve been loving our Soup Saturdays and this soup from Brandi’s blog did not disappoint. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but we didn’t have any leftovers…it was that good. Incredibly creamy, thanks to the homemade cashew butter and jam packed with flavor and veggies….my kind of meal! Willow is super picky when it comes to tomato soup and she gave it a thumbs up – just more proof that it’s amazing! So, my only recommendation would be to double the recipe!

REVIEW: January Favorites

TURMERIC CHICKPEA FRITTERS >> MINIMALIST BAKER >> We typically don’t make recipes that require pan frying since we limit our oil intake, but we made an exception for these…and boy am I glad we did! Surprisingly enough, they weren’t as greasy as I expected. Simple to make, but the process is a bit messy…but SO worth it! We made these to go with our tacos one night and they made an excellent filling. Instead of panko bread crumbs, I used Sophia’s crispy topping from her mac n cheese recipe (I’m kind of hooked on that), but I omitted the oregano and added garlic. For the vegan parm, I took some raw cashews, raw hemp seeds, unfortified nutritional yeast, a little salt and whirled them through our nut/seed grinder. These little fritters were heavenly! No photo because, (1) the lighting was awful and (2) they got devoured too fast! Willow even ate one…little victories!

EASY VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES >> FEASTING ON FRUIT >> I still haven’t mustered up the courage to try oats again, but I had to make these for my family. Well, Willow asked and I can’t say no when that little voice asks to bake with me. A little side note…Willow is obsessed with Natalie’s YouTube channel. No joke, she will ask if she can watch a specific video and then 30-45 minutes later she’s moved on to several other videos of hers. She has portions of them memorized and while watching them with her, she will tell me what’s going to happen next! Haha! Anytime Natalie makes a new video, Willow and I watch it together…almost instantly, she requested that we make these cookies. So, the verdict? Thumbs up! I made these into mini cookies (my cookie scoop is small) and pressed a few extra mini chips on top. I struggled a bit to get these cookies flattened, as they are sticky, but Natalie suggested that next time I wet my fingers to help with that. I can attest that the paste that holds these cookies together is fantastic…I did indeed lick the blender. Don’t judge. For you oat loving, date fans – make these!

REVIEW: January Favorites

And Willow asked to take her own photo of these cookies…

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SUPER CREAMY VEGAN STOVETOP MAC & “CHEESE” >> KITCHEN TREATY >>  I told you that I am a sucker for those homemade vegan cheese sauces…and the photos of this specific recipe lured me in. Super creamy is right! Whoa. Seriously, go click on the link…you’ll be drooling and licking the screen. C’mon, you know you’ve done it. I made a couple minor adjustments to this recipe: used Coconut Aminos in place of soy sauce, used veggie broth to saute up the onions/garlic instead of oil and added a one tablespoon of unfortified nutritional yeast. I really liked that this recipe uses coconut milk instead of cashews…it’s nice to change it up and it’s cheaper than cashews without sacrificing the creaminess factor. Again, no photos to accompany this review since the lighting was bad…but we all loved this! Willow included!

CREAMY CARROT GINGER BISQUE with CASHEW CREAM >>  FOOD 52 >> Hubby subscribes to VegNews emails and this recipe caught his eye. Holy carrots! Haha! This recipe calls for a whopping 1 1/4 pounds of them. I absolutely LOVED how simple this soup was and the curry powder brought about a lovely flavor. Despite the beautiful color and creamy texture, Willow refused to try it. Just meant more for us!

REVIEW: January Favorites

VEGAN BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP {gluten-free, oil-free} >> VEGAN DOES IT >> When I saw Natalie’s IG post featuring this soup and then Audrey made it, I absolutely had to try it for myself! Hubby whipped this up one evening while I did some work for my Etsy shop and this was amazing! So thick, creamy and comforting. Insanely cheesy thanks to the nutritional yeast and the potatoes, but no cashews were used! I would have shared a photo on IG, but the color of our soup looked a bit different compared to Melissa’s…we ran out of orange carrots! Ha! So, we used some of our rainbow carrots (purple and white) which made for a bit of a darker color. But it didn’t compromise the taste one bit! We enjoyed it with potato wedges and later we used leftovers on top of a baked potato…I know, potatoes on top of potatoes! 😉 I know many of you are nut-free and the great thing about this recipe is that you can easily swap out the almond milk for a nut-free option. Oh, and it’s toddler approved, too!

REVIEW: January Favorites

HAZELNUT ESPRESSO CHOCOLATE CHIA PUDDING >> UNCONVENTIONAL TREATS >> I absolutely LOVE all of Audrey’s recipes and this was no exception. I finally ordered some espresso powder so I could give this treat a try and holy moly! This was amazing! Decadent, chocolate-y, rich, not overly sweet and simply delicious. I highly recommend checking out her eBook or her blog because it’s filled with wonderful recipes that are all gluten-free, soy-free, vegan and always a hit!

REVIEW: January Favorites

RED VELVET SMOOTHIE >> PEANUT BUTTER & VEGAN >> My friend, Hunter (@hnoflecopter) asked if I could test a recipe for her to see if it was kid-friendly. I was so excited and honored to! The ingredient list is amazing and the final blended outcome is gorgeous. Bright, bold pink and literally tastes like cake, but in a creamy smoothie form. So, what did Willow think?! LOVED it! We’ve made it a few times since then and each time we’re just blown away by the color and taste. The recipe can be found on her blog, please click on the link above and give it a try!

REVIEW: January Favorites

BOOKS I’M READING:

MEET YOUR SOUL: A Powerful Guide to Connect with Your Most Sacred Self >> by Elisa Romeo

If you follow me on Instagram, I shared that every month I read at least one self-help/spirituality book. I truly believe we are forever a work in progress, always learning, always growing. Being open to improvement and learning how to get in touch better with your inner being is important to me. I’ve been struggling lately with some bumps in the road and feelings of doubt…which is why I sought out this book. It’s not a book you read in one sitting, but rather you should take your time and work through the journal prompts and guided meditations. It’s a journey of discovery and growth that will leave you feeling alive and empowered. I am about halfway through this book and I’m learning to be more kind to myself and to trust my inner voice. Along with this book, I recommend checking out her site: http://www.elisaromeo.com/

REVIEW: January Favorites

 

THE MOONLIT GARDEN >> by CORINA BOMANN  

I chose this as my Kindle First (free read) for the month of January and so far it has my interest. Lilly (the main character) runs an antique shop and one day a man brings in an old violin, saying it belongs to her, but the man leaves without explaining anything else. We go on a journey in search of answers in this mystery novel – it is a work of fiction. Look for my review/rating in either next month’s post or on Goodreads.

As always, I’d love to hear what your latest favorites are! Books, products, recipes, shows, etc.!

Thanks for stopping by!

Vegan Anniversary!

Happy Vegan Anniversary, to ME! It’s amazing how much things have changed for me over these last NINE years. I’m in a constant state of learning, healing and growing – and I owe it all to making the switch from vegetarian to vegan. Twenty four years ago (just before I started high school) I made the decision to cut all meat products out of my diet after viewing a segment about slaughterhouses. I could no longer look at another animal without thinking about their feelings. There was no adjustment period for me and no cravings because I had the truth about what really goes on tattooed in my brain.

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I didn’t initially go vegan for the animals, but I can definitely say that I will be vegan for life because of the animals. Nine years ago, I was a chronic migraine sufferer and it took one that lasted for three months straight to make me see that something needed to change. After being in and out of the hospital, numerous scans, blood tests, a spinal tap – not one doctor could tell me what was going on. They did tell me that I would have to be on a migraine medication for the rest of my life. One that came with many side effects, but because I put so much faith in doctors at the time, I truly believed that that was my fate.

Vegan Anniversary!

A while later (that persistent migraine still there) a friend took me to a holistic practitioner and guess what his first question was? “Have you ever had an allergy test done?” This question was in regards to food. He was the first person to connect diet to health issues – that listening to your body can heal you. Rather than masking symptoms with pills, get down to the root of the problem, what’s causing the symptoms and stop them! The test results were shocking. The lengthy list revealed foods I had been eating all my life and no joke, when I eliminated every single one, that persistent migraine vanished. That is when I became vegan. I stopped eating dairy and eggs – at first because I was allergic, but a year later, I continued on this path for ethical reasons. I learned that just because they’re not killing the animal to produce milk, cheese or eggs, the cruelty was still there. I began to feel good inside and out AND felt a sense of peace that came with no longer supporting the dairy and egg industries.

Vegan Anniversary

Even after eliminating all animal products, I still battled the occasional migraine and digestion issues. I even had a colonoscopy done due to severe pains and bleeding. There I had learned that the medications (prescribed and OTC) I was taking had done a number on my colon AND I had colitis. Not only was I furious for not taking charge of my own health, but I was mad at the doctors. I made a promise to myself that day to do MY OWN research from there on out and focus on healing my body. Good news is that I’ve been off all medications for the last six years and after doing my own research, I also eliminated all forms of soy. Guess what? Not a single migraine and I’m happy to report that I’ve completely healed every single one of my health issues. Knowing what I know today is the very reason why we made the decision to raise Willow on a plant-based, gluten-free, soy-free “diet” – I want her to feel the very best she can while doing her part to improve our planet. Not only am I proof that food is medicine, but Willow is, too. Not only has she managed to avoid the common cold, ear infections and various other sicknesses, but she’s also thriving!

Vegan Anniversary!

Why am I sharing all of this with you? For two reasons:

(1) “Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.” ~ Kevin Trudeau

(2) You ARE in control and have the POWER to make a change…not only for yourself, but the planet.

So, stop dieting, turning to pills and thinking that how you’re feeling now is as good as it’s going to get. I’m not saying you have to stop immediately, but vow to make some changes…baby steps even. Read some books or watch a documentary – learning about others transformations, how they healed was a huge eye opener for me. It was all proof that food truly is medicine.

If you’re on the fence about a plant-based diet or would like to learn how our every day choices impact the animals, your health and our planet, I urge you to check out one or a few of these documentaries. I’ve included links and/or trailers, but you can view a lot of these in full via Netflix.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Love and light

FRIDAY FEATURE: Interview with AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness

Happy Friday, everyone!! Today we’re getting to know AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness – a hardworking, strong, inspiring mama of two. I honestly think of her as a warrior – someone who has fought hard to get where she is today – she is truly admirable. She has two Instagram pages, one that shares her fitness journey & vegan food and the other one is filled with beautiful photography (including adorable pics of her family). So, be sure to check them both out!

INTERVIEW WITH ALISAMARIE:

FRIDAY FEATURE: Interview with AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am the mother of two boys. I like yoga, working out, taking photos and getting tattooed. 

When did you go vegan? What was your “Aha” moment?

My first “aha” moment to go vegetarian came after watching Food Inc. Levi was almost the age that we were going to start introducing solid foods and I really wanted to be educated on what we fed him. I don’t know why but it just hit me. It was the first time I ever really stopped to think about meat and what I was eating. I had just eaten McDonald’s right before watching it. And that was the last meal including meat that I ever ate (5.5 years ago).

Going vegan took more time. I went vegan about 6-8 months after going vegetarian and then ate some dairy and eggs when I got pregnant with my second son (everyone convinced me I needed it) but soon after I realized it was making me MORE sick. And I watched Forks Over Knives and learned about how addictive dairy is and the fact that I was so addicted and felt like I “NEEDED” it freaked me out. I remember sitting in bed thinking about it and I hated that feeling. So I made the decision to cut it out for good.

What is the hardest part about being vegan?

At first the hardest thing for me was cutting out cheese. Especially since cheese alternatives just don’t taste the same. I had to quit trying to replace cheese. I didn’t eat ANY vegan cheeses for a while and then when I tried some again (Daiya) I didn’t look at it like a cheese replacement, just as a yummy addition to my food. That helped.

Honestly, nothing else is that hard about it. Going gluten-free (in addition to being vegan) was MUCH harder.

What does natural health mean to you?

Natural health, to me, is to be observant about the health of your body and mind and to avoid medical interventions as much as possible. I believe there is a time and place for western medicine. But first, I will do everything I can do go the natural route first. I want to fuel my body (and mind) with whole foods and positivity (which includes no dead animals).

Tell us about your blog!

I have had a few different blogs over the years. But I’m not currently keeping up on it. However, I do have my favorite recipes over at www.alisamariefitness.com

What is your favorite cruelty-free product (cleaning, beauty, etc.) and why?

Manic Panic hair dye 🙂 Because we love dying our hair fun colors and Manic Panic is easy and 100% vegan.

Who or what inspires you?

My kids inspire me to be the best I can. I felt guilt for living the life I did before going vegan and being more natural minded. But I had to remember “when you know better, you do better”. So now that is what inspires me. I think its important for us to be educated and act on that.

A kitchen gadget you cannot live without?

Hands down, Vitamix. We use it at least 3x a day.

What is your favorite meal?

This is tough. Right now I’m really loving avocado wraps with the Wrawp (raw wraps) and smoothie bowls.

Some of our family’s favorites are Cashew Mac and Cheese, Quinoa Chili (my FIRST vegan recipe that I came up with) and the greatest GF/V Waffles EVER (from Babycakes)

Three of your favorite cooking ingredients.

I like Raw Coconut Aminos, nutrition yeast and garlic for extra flavor in my cooking. Pretty much every cooked meal I eat includes one of those. But I have been trying to eat more raw so in that case, I LOVE using dates in my raw desserts.

Favorite resources regarding a plant-based lifestyle?

Documentaries: Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, Meet Your Meat, Vegucated, Fat sick & Nearly Dead.

Books: Skinny Bitch.

Cookbooks: BabyCakes, Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar (not gluten-free), Oh She Glows

Any tips or words of advice to anyone considering a plant-based lifestyle?

You CAN do it. I know its easy to believe “oh I could NEVER give up meat or dairy”. I know because I used to say it. I used to mock vegans. Do your research. It’s important to know what you are eating (and especially what you’re feeding your children).

There are vegan alternatives to almost everything and they are healthier and animals werent harmed in the process. There are tons of books and blogs out there so you have support.

Favorite quote.

“To continue to climb mountains, one must continually descend back into the valleys.”

“Be brave with your life”.

“The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.”

Three words to describe you.

Passionate, straightforward, complicated 😉

I asked Levi and he said “great, cute, good”

Where can we find you via social media? IG, FB, blog address, etc.

@alisamariefitness

@alisaonanadventure

Love, Strength and Learning

On the night you were born,

the moon smiled with such wonder

that the stars peeked in to see you

and the night wind whispered,

“Life will never be the same.”

Because there had never been anyone like you…

ever in the world.

{{On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman}}

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

These last few years have been nothing short of amazing – they’ve also been filled with unexpected growth and strength. Becoming a mom is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have always wanted to be a mom and dreamed of the day I would have a child of my own – sometimes it still feels surreal. Today is my daughter’s THIRD birthday. Three. I remember the day of her birth so vividly – like it happened yesterday. The very first time I looked into her eyes, I instantly knew that this little being was going to change everything for the better. Three years later, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Our sweet Willow Rayne came earthside on April 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM measuring at a healthy 8lbs 3oz and 21 inches long.

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Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

The days leading up to Willow’s birthday have been emotional, for so many reasons. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating her first birthday and now she’s this little independent being who has developed quite the personality. I look at her and I no longer see my baby girl, but rather a child with determination and strength. How did we get to three so fast? Sometimes I miss the baby stage – the constant cuddling her in my arms and being able to fully protect her. But you know what? I love the toddler stage! Good grief, it’s filled with anxiety and stress as they discover new fun ways to get into trouble, but it is by far my favorite stage yet. I still get to cuddle her every day and night, but now she’s the one to initiate. Out of the blue she will run over for a hug and it is the best feeling in the world. I will take all the hugs and kisses from this kid while I can. Hearing her talk, watching her run and witnessing her thirst for knowledge brings so much joy.

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We have watched her develop, not only physically, but in personality, too. She has gained confidence through finding her voice and is not afraid to use it. Being able to tell us what she does and doesn’t want, asking for help and saying, “I love you.” Words that I patiently waited to hear for a very long time.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Willow on her First Birthday!

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Future vegan chef?

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Shortly after her Second Birthday! Our little fashionista.

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Never a dull moment.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

She hates anything in her hair, but here is a rare moment full of hair clips!

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I’ve learned a lot over these last few years and grown so much more than I ever imagined. Like anyone else, I’ve had my fair share of challenges, tears and disappointment, but I’m a better person because of it all. I won’t bore you with all the details of what I’ve learned over these last three years, but I will share some of it.

What I’ve learned:

  • The importance of patience.

Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions not retribution.

~ L.R. Knost

Age two was a true test. Countless meltdowns, screaming, declaring her independence and finding her voice. As many of you already know, we believe in gentle parenting – being engaged, empathetic, respectful, listen, supportive, respectful and loving. There’s no harsh punishment in our house, just gentle discipline – rather than reacting in an angry way to an outburst and sending her to her room, we choose to talk it out – let her feel the emotions that she’s feeling and always end with a hug. When you scold a child for being upset, you’re teaching them that they “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. I certainly wouldn’t want someone telling me not to cry when I’m sad or upset. Kids are learning to express themselves; they’re learning to communicate. Crying, tantrums and meltdowns are their way of communicating. It’s certainly not always easy, but we take a breath, stay calm and patient and work with her to figure out what’s going on. Just like adults feel stress, anxiety, sadness and anger, children do, too. By adopting a more patient, gentle approach, we’re providing her with a sense of security and it paves the way to effective communication and problem solving. We followed our hearts to this approach and reading The Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost sealed the deal. I realize that this way of parenting doesn’t work for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend visiting her website: http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Fresh air + a long hike = nap time

  • Love. Unconditional LOVE.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

I thought I knew love, but becoming a parent brings about a whole new meaning. Never in a million years would I have imagined a bond or the ability to feel a love so deeply. This little girl has my heart – she makes the days brighter and everything worth it. I have also learned the importance of showing love, not just saying, “I love you.” I truly believe that all of the love this kid receives (not just from me) has taught her, not only how to be a loving, caring and kind human being, but also confidence in herself. Kids learn by example. She knows that she is loved through all of the hugs, kisses, cuddles and verbal affection. No matter how upset I may feel, my love for this child is ever-present. Unconditional.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

LOVE

  • No one is perfect.

We learn through trial and error. You can read a million books about how to parent, but the best way to learn is through experience. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes…we all do, but we learn from those mistakes and move on. We also all have our bad days and probably could have handled a situation differently, but make a mental note and move on. Ignore those on social media who post “perfect” photos – a spotless house, a gourmet meal, clean/presentable kids, well dressed and hair combed…truth is, there are times when I don’t get a shower for a couple of days or we ate frozen veggie burgers for dinner. My time is better spent playing with my daughter and enjoying every moment of our time together rather than fussing over a clean and organized house. If you are so busy striving to be the “perfect” parent, you’re going to miss out on what’s right in front of you.

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  •  Embrace differences.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since becoming a mom, is that everyone grows & develops at different rates and that there is not some magical one way to parent. Milestones happen in due time. Never compare your child with another. Willow may have been “late” to crawl, walk and talk, but she is a happy, healthy and smart little girl. The world would be very boring if we all looked, talked, and acted the same. Differences are what makes us all unique and special. Rather than wishing to be like everyone else, be proud of who you are. Don’t compare yourself as a mother – we’re all doing the best we can.

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  • Self love.

I’m an imperfect human raising an imperfect human in an imperfect world, and that’s perfectly okay! ~ L.R. Knost

Oh, this has been such a battle for me since I was a teenager. Shortly after I published my story of her birth, I felt the need to reach out and get support from other like-minded moms and connect with women who had been through similar experiences. At the time I felt very alone and was still, in a sense, grieving. That sounds silly to some because we had (and have) a perfectly healthy baby girl, but I struggled for quite some time regaining love and acceptance of the body that I felt let me down. After years of battling body image issues and anorexia, not being able to have a “natural” birth caused quite a bit of inner conflict. I grew to hate my body – not for the size, but for being unable to function as it should. I found a few groups through Facebook during the first year – natural parenting, natural birth, vegan mom groups. When I say “natural” I’m referring to a more holistic, gentle approach. I remember being excited and even connected with a few women who brought a sense of normalcy back. Unfortunately, not everyone in those groups were as open-minded and respectful as I had hoped. I was ridiculed, shamed and criticized for having a cesarean and not being able to breastfeed. I heard everything from “all cesareans are unnecessary” to “you just didn’t try hard enough.” Obviously, I left all of those groups and deleted Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I got up enough courage to finally watch a video about a cesarean delivery. Having skipped over all the chapters in the books I read, I was clueless as to what was involved. I never thought it would apply to me. While looking through the “explore” or “search” page of Instagram, I stumbled upon a photo discussing cesarean and the comments were beautiful – women lifting each other up and others expressing an overwhelming sense of emotions after watching a video. I knew right then that I needed to see it for myself and it was exactly what I needed. Watching the process, what the body endures and the beautiful baby that comes from that major surgery. I used to look at that five-inch scar where the incision was made and cry – not because I wanted it gone, but because I was reminded of the sadness of not having the birth I envisioned. Today, I run my fingers along the scar and smile. That video left me feeling strong and empowered. I may not have pushed a baby out the “natural” way, but my scar is a reminder of survival, strength and love. I no longer look at my body in disappointment, but instead I am proud. My body was a home, a warm place that provided nourishment to a healthy baby. I’m wearing this scar proudly now. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses that acted quickly and delivered my sweet Willow. My daughter is a constant reminder of strength. I look at my daughter and want her to grow up with a healthy body image and self-esteem. I don’t want her to go through the battle I did, so I made a change within to love myself – to appreciate my body and what it is capable of.

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So, today we celebrate love, strength and learning. Happy Birthday to our Willow Rayne – our bookworm, dinosaur obsessed, Lego building, car loving kid! Here’s to the little girl who has brought about endless smiles, joy and laughter. You will forever be my baby girl. I’m looking forward to what’s in store.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

TRUTH: Kindness Matters

Hello, friends! Let me first preface this post by saying this is purely my opinion and not everyone is going to agree with what I’ve written here. Within the last few months I’ve seen a dramatic increase of snarky comments and stabs at people on Instagram as well as a few blogs that I follow. It’s bad enough that sometimes the vegan “label” gets a bad rap, but now it’s being taken to a whole new level. When I first made the leap to veganism, eight years ago, I only knew of one kind of vegan and it meant being kind to all creatures (humans and four-legged friends) and living as cruelty-free as possible. Today there are, what seems to be, a million different varieties. The health-conscious, ethical, high carb, low-fat, junk food/”fat” vegan, raw, raw till 4, whole food plant-based, oil-free….you get the idea; the list could go on. Now, the comments I’ve been seeing aren’t necessarily coming from just meat eaters – there are nasty comments from those against the vegan lifestyle, but I’m talking about the ones coming from fellow vegans. It’s as if the different “kinds” of vegans are competing with one another as to whose lifestyle is best. A few weeks ago, I actually had someone comment on one of my posts telling me how fattening peanut butter and nut butters are and that HCLF (high carb low-fat) is the best diet – she even went so far as to say that I needed to watch my consumption.  Apparently this person had it in her head that I live off the stuff. Needless to say, I deleted her comment because I don’t like to have negativity littering my page. That is just one example. I’ve seen awful comments and opinions being thrown about – everything to attacking the brand of bananas someone bought to using a carton of non-dairy milk as opposed to homemade. Wow. What if the person you’re “attacking” just had the worst day and that bowl of ice cream made things a little better…that is, until a cruel comment ruins it all. What if that person is a mom who is barely holding on – sleep deprived, mentally and emotionally drained and using store bought is what gets her by? Which, by the way, we use our fair share of store bought products. We personally have a child who requires our undivided attention most days (which I actually LOVE) and I’ll be honest, I’m lucky if I can use the bathroom by myself, let alone cook a fully homemade, everything from scratch, meal. My husband works 50+ hours a week and works as late as 11pm, so sometimes our meals are a quick bowl of noodles and sauce. I shed some light on this matter in a recent Instagram post, but I would really like to elaborate more here.

TRUTH: Kindness Matters // Be Sol-Ful

Now unless you’re actually living with the person or see them on a pretty regular basis, you DON’T really know the people you’re following on Instagram. Posts on IG show a snippet of what they’ve eaten or how they live. ONE photo does not determine how they eat all the time. Here’s a comparison for you – when you go to the doctor, he/she spends all of maybe five minutes with you, yet seems to think they can conclude what you must be like. Nothing irritates me more than people making snap judgments based off of a single visit or in the case of IG, a single photo. I’ve had family members comment or criticize the way we eat….the most recent one being that we eat too many carbs. Those who have made comments are the ones who DO NOT see us on a regular basis – maybe every few months. Aaaaaahhhh, gotta love people who feel the need to comment, while they’re not perfect – NO ONE IS.

Here is what I have to say about diet and lifestyle – What it comes down to is listening to YOUR body and what feels right to YOU. This goes for everyone, not just the vegans out there. Get all the opinions of others out of your head and go with your heart. The reason why there are so many different diets and lifestyles is because one specific lifestyle is not designed to work for everyone. I’ve tried several (fully raw, raw till 4, low-fat, oil-free) and coming from someone who once struggled with anorexia, I have found that when I’m not consumed by the amount of calories and fat, I do better. I feel better. My life used to be all about the numbers and I feared carbs and fat. Letting go of fears and focusing on health and happiness is what matters to me. After reading The Starch Solution (which is amazing, by the way), we drastically reduced our use of oil in our diet. I even went so far as to eliminating it for several weeks, but restricting myself like that brought back the fears I had during my eating disorder days. I began to literally fear oil, fear the fat. I immediately knew that I could no longer follow a 100% oil-free diet – for my own health and sanity. Sadly, I have seen many IG users criticizing one another for using oil and just like with any dietary choice, I say, “listen to YOUR body.” I have personally found the path that works best for ME and it does not involve following one specific “diet” or method. I simply listen to my body each day and within reason, I allow myself to follow the cravings and I no longer feel deprived or afraid. During the colder months, I just can’t drink smoothies first thing in the morning every day and according to my Ayurvedic body type, I should be eating more warming foods. When I actually stick with that, I find that my body actually thrives. I’ll never forget when I posted a bowl of oats as opposed to a raw smoothie and not only did I lose a bunch of followers on IG, but someone even commented, saying that they thought I was raw till 4, so she had to “unfollow.”  If my body is calling for fat, I’ll grab a small handful of raw almonds or cashews…I’ve also been known to eat a spoonful of peanut butter and be satisfied. There are days when my body craves nothing but raw fruits and veggies – being in tune with my body has created a sense of peace and also a healthy system.

TRUTH: Kindness Matters // Be Sol-Ful

I have to also mention that I have several friends, even best friends, who do not follow a plant-based vegan lifestyle. I follow more than just vegans on Instagram – oh, the horror 😉 They do their thing and I do mine – our friendships are built on mutual respect and love…we can look past our dietary choices. I believe in the gentle approach and never preach or pressure someone to follow my lifestyle. If they ask for my thoughts, I share them – I never throw out unwanted “advice” and I certainly do not criticize. Do I wish that we all could be vegan? Of course! But I also believe that we all need to come to conclusions or decisions on our own – we need to do what feels right in our hearts and minds. Never do something because someone told you to. I have noticed that by taking the gentle route, people are more inclined to want to learn more – they see how you’ve benefited from a healthy lifestyle and they may begin to look deeper within and see that the ailments they’re struggling with could possibly be healed by some changes. Lead by example, not by shoving opinions in the face of someone who might be different from you.

Rather than coming off as an elitist, just accept that not everyone can or desires to follow in your footsteps. We all were once in the “dark” and might have eaten poorly or lived an unhealthy lifestyle. With time, patience, education and an open mind comes new perspectives. I was once clueless on the organic* way of life (just like I was with what it meant to be vegan), but doing my own research and learning the dangers of eating certain conventional foods, I quickly changed my ways. It saddens me when I see people commenting on posts in regards to an organic and/or vegan lifestyle – saying, “must be nice to have all that money” or “I can’t believe you didn’t buy that organic.” Yes, our way of life might cost more than some, but we’re saving in medical bills and putting the money towards prevention. We are a one income family who chooses to spend money on healthier food options as opposed to materialistic things, such as name brand clothes or a new car. This does not mean that I judge those who lead a conventional lifestyle because, like I said, I used to be that person. Before you leave a comment on someone’s post, keep in mind that maybe they’re doing the best they can with what they have. Some people are on a fixed income or maybe they don’t have the resources like you might have.

*Click HERE for EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (clean/dirty lists)

TRUTH: Kindness Matters // Be Sol-Ful

Speaking of elitist, I have also been “accused” of being just that. I have received personal messages and/or comments on posts about my gluten-free and soy-free diet. This goes back to people making snap judgments. For those who may not know my full story, or if you’re new to my blog, I am gluten-free and soy-free because I have to be. I was so sick with a long list of ailments and through allergy testing, along with my own research, I learned that everything was linked to gluten and soy. I admit, I did read The Whole Soy Story** (about six years ago) to help me with the soy conclusion and would honestly avoid soy even if I didn’t have issues with it, BUT I DO NOT judge those who do consume it. I do not think that I am better than those who have soy in their diet. Heck, I ate tofu, tempeh, soy yogurt and various other soy products very regularly – it was my protein of choice at the time. My dietary choices work for ME.

**Click HERE for The Whole Soy Story website

I realize that I may have rambled on a good bit, but I’m just shocked at how people have been treating one another. Being kind is more important than being right. What I’ve been seeing lately is pretty much bullying. We never know a person’s full story – why they are the way they are. Choose your words wisely and if you feel the need to “call someone out” either send them a personal message or phrase your thoughts in a way that isn’t attacking or hurtful. An even better approach is if you don’t agree or like what you’ve seen, scroll past or unfollow the person. We are all human beings with feelings, so please remember that. Sometimes all we need is a little support and encouragement.

Also, do YOUR OWN research, play around with different foods and then decide what works best for YOU. Most importantly, listen to YOUR body – if you’re struggling with headaches, bloating, heartburn, constipation, chronic fatigue, stomach pains, constant colds, and even some cases of depression, please know that you do not have to live like that. Your body is telling you something. It’s telling you to make some changes.

TRUTH: Kindness Matters // Be Sol-Ful

Be kind