I never thought of myself as a single-issue voter. I’ve lived in equally liberal and conservative parts of the country with opportunity to develop a greater context for some of the hot button issues. Yet, this election, it centralized on one issue for me: respect and value for people. If we can’t value someone as more than an opportunity for advancement or pleasure, how can we solve any of the issues around healthcare, education, and equality? My bottom line frustration with Donald Trump (aside from many other concerns): his gleeful practice of sexual harassment as sport. While I certainly found inspiration in the idea of a female president, Hillary Clinton’s calculated silence on her own spouse’s sexual semantics compromised her presence in the conversation on sex and power – to me.

Born into white middle class suburbia, my resources in terms of education, healthcare, etc. were privileged. My vigilant mother frequently identified the opportunities sexual predators utilized for their benefit – like the manager of our neighborhood pool. My mother recognized his dismissive attitude towards regularly present parents and hugging nearly naked kids in swimsuits or holding their hands when their parents were nowhere to be found. He lived across the street from an elementary school, taught at the middle school, and ran a Sunday School class. Once I became a lifeguard, she told me to never be alone with him. A few years later, his arrest for sexually molesting dozens of children rocked our small, tight-knit community.

Somehow, one relief created from the current executive office consists of emerging dialogue on the very tangible concern of sexual aggression. Perhaps, the uncovering of Harvey Weinstein’s career-long sexual perversion and domination became a more legitimate, believable part of the conversation clearly revealing that sex abuse occurs at numerous positions of power. The bravery of our colleagues in the entertainment and media industries detailing years of trauma showed that sexual abuse doesn’t detour at privilege.

Sexual harassment ranges from subtle slights and micro-aggressions to aggressive physical contact. Subtle slights include the many times I entered a room, gas station, coffee shop, or meeting to find myself visually appraised from head to toe. Or, a male colleague shaking the hands of other men at a conference with intellectual platitudes, before turning to me, remarking how he loved to kiss a pretty lady goodbye. A faculty member greeted the other members of the panel with a handshake but kissed me on the forehead instead.

More aggressive actions include drivers tooting their horns, yelling their enjoyment of my backside as I jog. When this first started happening to me in high school, it was explained that “I should wear less appealing clothes” and to “not advertise what isn’t for sale.” As a grocery store cashier in high school and college some male managers would press against me as they cashed out my drawer in the very small kiosk rather than allow me to step out before they stepped inside. A lesbian coworker looked up my shorts every time I climbed up the lifeguard stand.

In a previous neighborhood, I increasingly appreciated passing a major police station on the way home. When men followed me for multiple blocks, detailing all the things they’d like to “do to me”, they disappeared once I hit the police station’s block. On the subway, men tried to sweet talk me into who knows what. As an experiment, I said, “no, thank you, please leave me alone.” When they wouldn’t let up, I said, “my boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate your speaking to me,” and most backed off instantly. They respected an invisible, imaginary boyfriend but not the person standing in front of them just trying to go to work, the gym, or the movies. Several NYC bartenders I knew constantly ran interference on men refusing to accept “no” from women.

When the above video came out, none of my female friends found it that remarkable. Just another day, trying to mind one’s business. I considered the video pretty conservative in my experience. I don’t fully endorse Amber Rose’s process of promoting female equality, but we concur on the basic message: no means no, women are not responsible for a man’s inappropriate behavior. In an interview with Rose, Rev Run countered, “you should dress how you want to be addressed,” putting the responsibility of the perpetrator’s behavior on their target. For the record, I’ve been hit on/harassed wearing baggy sweatpants, a full-length puffer coat, and a power suit. Catering one’s clothing or behavior to avoid harassment doesn’t solve the issue. Rather, one takes responsibility for another’s issue; the offending behavior unchecked.

Probably the most frightening experience occurred as a junior in college. My then-boyfriend and I enjoyed a day in New Orleans. We went to mass, hung out in a music store, ate a po’ boy, and walked through the French Quarter. The PG version: a large pickup truck with several men inside pulled up, followed us for a few blocks, purring about what a catch they’d found, that they would all take turns with me, and they’d even let my boyfriend watch! We suddenly realized we didn’t really know where we were, and, as we picked up our pace in the dusky light, debated how to get out of range. We took off running and turned left. Thankfully, that ended it. My deeply shaken boyfriend – a six foot four proud member of the NRA with a hidden gun compartment in his car – designated a safe word for either of us to use whenever we felt we were in a bad situation. He decided that if either one of us invoked the safe word, I would run for help and he would “take on” the instigator.

I traveled to Italy post-graduation with a theater cohort. In a little seaside town, locals at the roller rink/club announced that “the girls had already been divvied up.” I spent most of the trip’s remainder holding hands with a fellow male student when in public, just so men would leave me alone. Because, again, they respected another man’s “girl” but not the girl herself.

When I was mugged a few steps from my apartment several years ago, it was deemed lucky the incident didn’t become overly physical. So lucky. When I asked my landlord about installing a light at the entryway (at the suggestion of the attending police officer noting our building was not well lit), she snapped “it isn’t my fault you were attacked. You shouldn’t be out so late.”

I spent a couple years in an office with a very handsy colleague; in case you didn’t know, sexual orientation is not a factor in sexual harassment. One day the receptionist pulled me aside, warning me to keep my distance from a certain board member because, “he liked pretty girls.” I tried to adhere to my mother’s advice to always keep myself between the door and someone I didn’t know/trust. I shared about said colleague and company on LinkedIn – which received nearly 500 hits – and received this apology note: “I’m not sure if this post is referring to me…I hope you can forgive me. I have no excuse, and I will not even try to explain the reasoning behind my behavior.”

In Lupita Nyong’o’s Op-Ed, she described how Weinstein normalized sexual harassment. For young women entering the industry, he set their expectations on how to be treated. I think this is why many women, including myself, don’t think of ourselves as victims.

This behavior was/is normal, often    common knowledge, occurred casually   and regularly.

 In a raise negotiation, a director told me I wasn’t “done paying my dues and that there were a hundred other people who would willingly do my job for less compensation.” This negotiation came after working six days a week, nights and weekends; sharing an office with inappropriate colleagues regaling anyone within earshot of their recent sexual exploits; some taking every opportunity to touch me. In my mind, I thought, “hhmm, these ‘other people’ must be trust fund kids with a sugar daddy/mama because I can barely pay my rent or afford a gym membership.” It seemed to me that I’d been paying my dues. There were other human resources issues at this particular company; the expectation set for me was that I should just grit my teeth, do my job, ignore the chaos, my hard work rewarded with ridicule. It was so bad I took another job with a significant pay cut. The relief of staff meetings without someone caressing my back or stroking my hair temporarily neutralized the lost compensation.

I state all this as information; not as an angry rant about the wrongs done to me. Unfortunately, the statistics are much worse for women of color and lower economic/education levels. They say we have to hear something between three to seven times for the brain to comprehend the information. So, I’m saying it, and encouraging those with similar experiences to do the same. This is not a complete account of every harassment endured, but I think you get the idea.

For all this, I’d like to counter with times people looked out for me. Like the guy who caught me as I slipped on the stairs at Penn Station, “I hope it’s okay I grabbed you, I just didn’t want you to get trampled.” Yes, it is okay that you caught me by my backpack before I took out the morning commuters. Or the summer I worked as a lifeguard in Colorado and coworkers alternated picking me up so I wouldn’t have to walk through the woods alone in the dark. Or the bartender pushing the dude away kissing me without my consent. The landlord offering to come over, reset the locks, whatever was necessary, when a really aggressive ex-boyfriend made me feel uncomfortable staying there by myself. With the racial tension in Tallahassee, the Florida A & M student walking me to my car after a joint FSU/FAMU dance project rehearsal on the FAMU campus because, in his words, “white girls aren’t received well here.”

I heard a pastor say once that “when we choose to open the door to sin (make decisions we know are wrong), we may think we’re opening the door only a little to judgment (what some might call karma) but in fact we don’t get to control what comes through that door of bad decisions.” You can’t sexually harass or assault someone just a little; all those little indiscretions add up. Ask Harvey Weinstein. Sometimes privilege is more of a hindrance:

Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. ~Matthew 19:24

 

Ugh, right? Icebreakers. They’re often awkward parts of professional development or mandatory staff gatherings. We mutter under our breath about them, but we keep doing them. And, usually by the end, we’ve all had a laugh about something. Or, found a way to get into heated political discourse.

Today was one of those days: icebreakers at a quarterly staff meeting. These are people I see infrequently. People have been hired or fired in between some of these meetings. At a large institution, it can take months to figure that out. I am scheduled to run the icebreaker for the next meeting, so I sized up the room today while my coworker charged bravely forward leading the exercise.

It involved asking and answering questions, shuffling of prompt cards, and negotiating question options. The structure isn’t really the point. One of my prompts asked, “What would you do differently/more of if you weren’t afraid of being judged?”

Bam. I feel judged all the time.

Plus, this question came after my partner told me a beautiful story about her father. Whenever she finds herself really missing him or “talking” to him about a problem, sometimes a red cardinal will appear. Cardinals hold great significance in her family history. She takes comfort in their timely appearance in her life. Her prompt asked, “What is something/someone you really miss?”

Bam, bam. I miss NYC, I miss my friends, I miss feeling healthy, I miss having a tan, I miss so many things all the time. It is exhausting to actively miss something or someone.

I told my partner I would ask more questions if I didn’t feel concerned about being judged. Where do we keep office supplies? Why do you like me? Why don’t you like me? What do you want from me? Do you think I’m smart enough to do this? Do you think I’ll ever figure my life out? Will people stop asking me why I’m not married yet? Would you help me understand this problem? Would you listen to me? What brings you joy? What is making you a better person?

So, later today, I realized I needed to ask my boss for help. I hate asking for help because, a) I like the challenge of figuring things out, and b) I don’t want people to think I’m dumb or incapable. Guess what? Never asking for help can mean that you never figure out some of the “things” and some people think you’re arrogant.

So, I asked for help. But, I couched it with all these reasons about why I needed help. I felt the need to justify how I could need a little help. Never mind that I hosted two artist residencies within a week, five performances took place in multiple venues last week, and I traveled for a professional obligation in the middle of all of it. I needed a little help; or maybe an assistant for the day.

A little help made life so much better in about five minutes. Of course, my boss helped me out with a minimal issue.

We hate icebreakers because it is work that is sometimes painful. But we have to keep chipping away to find who we are deep down inside.

I’ve been thinking about investments. This election brought up a lot of questions and concerns about our identity as a country. The implications of that are huge and overwhelming for me, so I scale those questions to the micro-level as they manifest in my immediate sphere.

A recently heard definition of integrity keeps coming to mind: integrity is making and keeping promises to myself. The promises I’ve faithfully kept have been some of the best investments I’ve ever made in myself, my relationships, and my experiences. Some promises have been surprisingly hard – like trying to stop drinking coffee. Took me a whole year, folks.

My grandmother turned 95 this year. I made a timeline for her, capturing 3-4 significant events from each year of her life. She lived through a lot! Presidents, world wars, medical advancements and disasters, social and civic sea changes…this doesn’t even include her own personal life journey. She came of age during World War II; she is a mother, grandmother, wife, sister, daughter. Contemplating all she witnessed during her life, I am impressed by the commitments she had to make to various people or institutions not knowing what would come next. Some of her investments paid off early, some cost her dearly, and some turned out better than she could ever imagine. If your grandparents are still living, take a moment to flip through a photo album with them. You might even find a telegram from your grandfather to your grandmother that “he’ll be home on Saturday.”

The thing with investing is that we just don’t know how it will turn out. Wherever or however we invest our resources is simply a marker of how far we will stretch ourselves. We have to believe in the cause or idea, more than we believe in what we will get from it. We have to consider what kind of promise we can or can’t, will or won’t make to something or someone.

In my current work, I observe students in their early twenties promising their time, energy and creativity. I’m fascinated by those choices; and highly reflective of the choices/promises I made at their age. Moral of the story: embrace learning.

As I completed my thera-band exercises this week, I was reminded that resistance builds strength. Resistance to the promises we make can appear as road-blocks, when in reality, resistance may be the opportunity to strengthen us to maintain that commitment. In daily navigating the sometimes murky, cluttered waters of a large university structure, I’m seeing that success comes not from fighting resistance but positioning it as a catalyst for achieving the long-term goal/investment.

What are the promises, investments we can make in our homes, workplaces, and communities that will unfold positively in healthcare, education, and the environment? What are the investments I need to make now, regardless of how long they take, or whether I immediately (or ever) benefit from them?

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~Matthew 16:25-26

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
~recorded by Nat King Cole in 1965, composed by Bert Kaempfert, lyrics by Milt Gabler.

Last year in my annual New Year’s post, I was still settling into a considerable life change.

A year later, I am still settling. I think about houses or wine maturing with age; one doesn’t settle into a new place or way of existence in a day, a month, six months. For whatever reason, I tend to think that I’m exempt from nature’s timeline. Because that has been my life experience – step-in and step-up whatever the cost. Begin ballet training about six years too late but start managing a studio and company by age 19. Finish high school a year early. Take the GRE’s without studying. Move to New York City with 7 days notice. Start dating someone within a week of moving to Pennsylvania. Run a 5k without having run at all in the previous six months. By giving a little extra effort, I think I can bypass everyone else. Well, bypassing isn’t really an option. Maybe I am able to separate myself mentally from uncomfortable experiences, but when I do that I pass on a lot of good things, too.

I love the rush of achievement, of betting on myself…hence the adrenal fatigue I wrote about last New Year’s. One doctor even termed it “cortisol (adrenaline) addiction/abuse”. All of these challenges/pseudo accomplishments serve as a distraction from my knowing myself and those around me. None of these accomplishments required commitment or endurance. I just went for it. You can call it boldness or ignorance, or a mix of both. It makes a tasty cocktail with gin. I have not built any muscle (mental, financial, physical, or spiritual) strength or memory for long-term relationships or goals.

Like many people, it wasn’t until a health issue manifested that I really considered my lifestyle management. Like many people, I discovered a long, tangled mess of roots in identifying the source of the issue. It has been a complicated year, folks.

I, of course, made substantial dietary changes which helped a lot. But it didn’t change everything.

In the middle of a relationship crisis, it suddenly became clear to me: I treat love as an obligatory transaction. That realization was very hard to acknowledge and necessitated a lot of apologies. But, I saw how clearly my life experiences primed me to view love as something to go without. Love gets in the way of things. Love requires you to slow down, pause, look farther down the road, consider things beyond your immediate circumstances. For a lot of reasons, I never felt like the option(s) were available to me to do that.

In reading and listening to resources from Shiloh Place Ministries, I heard a phrase I’d never encountered before: submitting to love. Yes, love is a choice. We choose to surrender to letting people into our lives. We choose to let people (and God) see us for who we really are. We choose to let others bless us. We choose to accommodate abuse. We choose to enable addictive behaviors.

This is what I’ve struggled with my whole life ever since a family member’s year-long health crisis when I was four years old: needing others and being needed. Throw in a couple incidents of gun violence in my teens and early twenties and you get the picture. I sought escape, which the rush of achievement temporarily provided. Since I lacked the capacity to maintain boundaries within relationships and needs, I chose to mostly bypass relationships (and love). I survived on the support of family and two or three external relationships which I’m sure has been draining for those very loyal people.

My life feels so small compared to previously; I now feel I’m seeing myself under a microscope and it is uncomfortable. It is also liberating and exciting. There is joyful hope. After some very hard conversations, there is peace.

2017: love for myself, others, my body.

photo taken at Grounds Central Station in Old Town Manassas during holiday travels.

It’s a little later than usual for my annual post on the Hokie Nation.

As we approach nearly a decade since that heartbreaking day, there have been and will continue to be twists and turns in the healing process.

You see, last year, I had a break through. I thought, maybe, finally, I was there. “There” as in tears wouldn’t fill my eyes every time I caught the clock at 4:16 or saw a headline about gun violence. Last year, I chose to celebrate the love and healing power from that time rather than the sorrow. I wanted “We are Virginia Tech” to no longer be a jarring phrase I pretended not to hear or see.

This anniversary, I found myself remembering (or re-remembering) odd details. I thought I had remembered and relived everything that could have been part of that day. Personally, a memory resurfaced of a girl I barely knew contacting me about her friend, an alum of my current employer. His life is honored with a plaque on campus.   Professionally, I’m participating in programming conversations about theater pieces focused on gun violence, with Virginia Tech as its focus. It is hard to be on a committee talking about this work, listening to reactions to it, acting as an anonymous agent. I wonder if I will actually be able to sit through the work without crying, without resenting the mercy of theatrical abstraction of such a visceral memory.

This year, I found myself on a college campus again. I’ve been watching and working with students about to graduate. They are sad to leave a place that played a formative role in who they are and who they will become. They are sad to leave their friends and favorite hangouts. They are gleefully enjoying senior privileges and rites of passage. They are planning parties, and all the “last” places to eat, things to do, people to see, photo ops, and trying to be everywhere all at once.

I don’t remember that part of my senior year. It didn’t really happen. I was desperate to leave, relieved for it be over.

I watch these students and am struck by their innocence. Certainly many of them have encountered hardships along the way but seemingly not to the extent that it halts their celebrations.

I wasn’t ready to be a part of a happy campus this April 16th. It made me angry and resentful all over again. The thought of tailgating at the spring game made me feel guilty, frivolous. How could thousands of people be celebrating on a day that marks something so sad for humanity?

I hightailed it home because I didn’t know what to do.

My parents and I walked to the drill field to take in the Remembrance run and community picnic. As we stood at the chapel looking out on the beautiful spring day, I realized I didn’t really belong there, either. I was surrounded by new students, relaxing from their exertion, laughing with their friends and considering the origins of the 3.2 for 32 run. I felt really grateful, blessed that they chose to acknowledge and take part in that day. I felt relieved, like someone else was sharing and carrying that burden. I’m not the only one who cares, who remembers. It makes sense for them to do that, because they are students, they are Virginia Tech.

But they won’t always be at its nucleus. They’ll become accountants and engineers and architects, travel the world, have families of their own.

And neither am I. That experience is part of me, part of Virginia Tech but it is certainly not the whole story. That story is still being written.

fasting tipsI keep trying to simplify my diet and body care practices.  Sometimes, they get simplified for me.

Every January, my church participates in a fast (with many options to accommodate lifestyles and health needs).  The idea of a fast, is not about going without something so much as making as much room as possible for something that is important.  It is also the practice of discipline.  I am aware there are a lot of opinions and experiences about fasting (disclaimer: educate yourself and include a healthcare professional in the conversation about your body).  When I choose to eliminate a meal, a favorite TV show, etc. it is to use the time and energy I would have spent on that activity in prayer and meditation on the next season of my life.
My experience with fasting is limited since my blood sugar is not always very cooperative.  Around the beginning of the fast, my blood sugar became the topic of focus during a visit to my doctor.  Concerned about my blood sugar, thyroid, and kidney health, he had me eliminate gluten, caffeine, most dairy, alcohol, and processed sugar for two weeks.  Pretty much everything except protein, veggies, and fruit.  Caffeine and gluten (okay, and alcohol) were the doozies for me to give up, or “fast”.

That was really hard for me to hear.  I already feel like the “health” freak everywhere I go.  It was humbling to accept that I needed someone else’s input on my nutrition when I have worked so hard already.

The first two days without caffeine were really rough.  Except that I slept really well.  And still am!  Also, without caffeine, my trips to the restroom decreased significantly.  The late afternoon jitters and/or emotional meltdown (i.e. blood sugar crash) significantly decreased.  I’ve started recognizing my mind-body cues differently; when the feeling of impending doom starts coming my way around 3:30pm I don’t give into it.  I exercise my options to eat something, move around the office, hydrate, etc.  If the “dark feeling” still persists, I consider what conflict I may be avoiding…more on that later.  I’ve kept the caffeine, gluten, and processed sugar out since they seemed to be the biggest problem for me.

In another area of minimizing, a friend introduced me to the Diva Cup.  Bye bye expensive, wasteful tampons!  Getting comfortable using it took a few tries, and I’ve kept a few emergency tampons on hand but it certainly streamlined the process of menstruation.  I’m not totally comfortable yet using it during rigorous exercise but I’m getting there.  Check out this multi-brand review, here.

My church offers a lot of financial planning seminars, so another part of the fast for me included not using credit cards.  Turns out I spend a lot less when I have to give up my pretty little cash instead of swiping plastic.

For me, fasting is the difference between thinking about making a change and actually doing it.  The de-cluttering of things and practices, creates more room in my life for the things that are important to me.  Imagine if politicians “fasted” from name-calling and adhering to party lines; what room could be created in our society for education, healthcare, and the environment, to name a few?

Rather than setting resolutions, last year I identified a couple ideas or themes to explore in my life.

For 2015, I identified a personal and physical concept. Personally, I sought to deeply focus on relationships. Physically, I investigated circulation.

Relationships.

I’ve had some great friendships, significant others, and wonderful times with family.

I’ve had some really terrible friendships, encounters with significant others, and trying times with family.

I think we all have.

How I manage the growing pains of relationships, when to be loyal or when to let go, proves most challenging to me.

Circulation.

Whatever stress I experience manifests physically, immediately in my body. Check out The Fear Cure for more on that.

I can’t eliminate stress. But I can change how I process and interpret information about my life.

As a former dancer, my body worked hard for me. I expect a lot from my body. As stress goes unmanaged, my body’s ability to respond to my demands declined.

I spent the last four years in the greatest city on earth, working at a great place, doing some great things.

But I was miserable a lot of the time.  And broke.  And exhausted.  And lonely.

I felt disappointing to and disappointed by everything around me.

As I stepped out of the shower one day, I caught a glimpse in the mirror of a ragged woman with blotchy skin, pallid complexion, and stiff joints.

She scared me.  I worried for her.

My dream life became a nightmare.

That’s when I heard God say, “the right thing for you is to be happy and healthy.”

My attempt at age 30 to consider my own health and happiness was bumpy but joyful.

I took a lower-paying job with less hours that gave me time for freelance teaching and writing projects I really cared about.

I embraced the nature of being friends. Previously, most of my relationships were not ones I deliberately sought out. For me, relationships just kind of happened (usually centered around work) and while mostly enjoyable they lacked purpose.

I asked for help and the input of others I trusted and respected. My godmother recently said, “I don’t care what it is that you’re doing. I care about how you’re doing. Are you happy?”

I prioritized with whom I spent my time, which meant limiting space for negative influences and making space for people living inspired, generous lives. I wrapped up a final chapter with a former boyfriend.

I investigated essential oils to activate deeper breathing. Along the way, it cleared up my skin and helped me sleep better. I also upped my Pilates practice.

I began foam-rolling and dry brushing to rejuvenate sensory responses.

In using “happy and healthy” as qualifiers for making choices, there were some terrifying moments. How to pay bills on a freelancing salary. How to graciously respond to questions about my professional choices. How to embrace solitude and quiet.

Finding gratitude helped me navigate this process. To be clear, it wasn’t smooth sailing – not even close. I offended and disappointed people along the way. When it was in my power to fix that, I made my best effort to do so and when it wasn’t, I chose to be thankful for what I’d learned and moved on.

Once tasked to consider my own well-being in my life choices, I found greater freedom and possibilities for my life.

I’m no longer living in that dreamare. When I focused on the things and quality of life that were necessary for me to be a happy, healthy person it turned into working at a university in central Pennsylvania. My current job is all about relationships as I act as a liaison and advocate for arts education. Freelancing also gave me a stark reality of the necessity for quality relationships. It was a short chapter in my life but a rich one.

I’m still embracing what my life looks like now, but it is a peaceful resolution.

As the hours wind down on 2015, I’m still measuring my choices. This afternoon, I just said no to something that while exciting certainly would have upended my life and yes to something that will involve a lot of trust but brings great hope.

2015.  When dreamstorming began.

2016.  Communication and Creative Practice.IMG_4723

Fall.

Pumpkin Spice lattes. Pumpkin cheesecake. Butternut Squash bisque.

Halloween.

Candy. Candy. Candy.

I’ve not been one to flip out over “seasonal” foods because I don’t really enjoy them.  My body definitely does not enjoy processing them.  I began more fully appreciating fall once I began eating more seasonally, with the help of food co-ops like Farmigo.  The commitment to eating locally and seasonally creates a definite excitement (with an occasional quandary) for menu planning.  For instance, who knew how yummy parsnips can be?  I didn’t even really know what they were until a bundle of them arrived in my weekly share.

Halloween, however, presented a challenge.  I’m not the health freak always pointing out calories and nutrition facts to my friends.  I’m the person trying to have fun with everycandy-corn-social-726x960one else during festive times of the year – in a way that works for me.

So, I was delighted when I found this Candy Corn smoothie recipe.  I looked forward to my Saturday morning to whip it up for some fall fun.

Disclaimer: staying on point with recipes is a challenge for me.

For my version:

  1. I added some coconut milk – a treat!
  2. I also used some water with the carrot and then strained the pulp out – but that affected my layering abilities as the carrot juice went straight to the bottom.  Which is probably why the recipe suggested using frozen ingredientsIMG_5270 (1) so each layer would have enough substance to support itself – the trick!
  3. Also, my apple wasn’t peeled so the skin added what look liked pink sprinkles.
  4. Cut the apple before you freeze it – trick.
  5. I didn’t rinse the blender between my carrot and mango layers (yes, I substituted mango for pineapple) so I ended up with varying shades of orange rather than orange and yellow.
  6. I didn’t have camu camu on hand so I added a couple drops of lemon essential oil but am definitely curious to test out camu camu.
  7. Delicious though! A dreamsicle treat.

Also, candy corn is a nostalgic topic for me.

When my now-deceased Great Aunt was going through some health issues, we knew she was on the mend temporarily as she still kept track of the seasons by her sweet tooth. She couldn’t remember to call it “candy corn” and simply demanded “I want some corn” one day.  That’s how we knew her therapy was working; she got her sass and seasonal orientation back.

I don’t have her genes and didn’t inherit my love of wellness from her since her entire apartment was always filled with cookies, cakes, and candy.  She was a little doll of a lady, about 4’10” and about 100 lbs. dripping wet.  She wore pencil skirts, blouses, stockings and heels for just about every occasion.  Her last meal on earth inadvertently was a bowl of vanilla ice cream.  A nurse begrudgingly gave it to her after a litany of complaints (perhaps better read as “threats to sue the hospital”).  But as one family member pointed out, “You know if you’ve survived the Great Depression, lost a fiance to undiagnosed PTSD, and lived to 93 years old you can eat ice cream whenever you want.”

In the last two years, I’ve been exploring a life without processed foods, specifically sugar.  The journey began by doing a 30 day Green Smoothie challenge – one smoothie a day.  I found GreenSmoothieGirl but there are many green smoothie advocates out there.  After those thirty days, I found a new enjoyment of greens…spinach, swiss chard, kale, bok choy…

The 30 day smoothie challenge became a daily habit but I had some other areas I wanted to enhance in my life.  I found my usually calm skin irritated in the winter months which makes sense with the lack of Vitamin D.  I found a simple recipe geared to combat skin irritation: lightly sauteed greens, olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and ginger.  Sometimes I top it with an egg.  You don’t always know what your body needs so it’s good to keep trying new things until you hit pay dirt.  Once I made this warm salad (comforting in cold weather, too) I couldn’t stop eating it.  My body roared in response, “finally you’re feeding me!”

I began this green journey for my skin but the major, most noticeable benefit from “going green”? A cleaner mouth.  At my next six month check up after continuing green smoothies, the hygienist and dentist kept exclaiming how clean, polished, and plaque-free my mouth appeared.  This was of interest to me since I already have a pretty strong dental record – one cavity in my life. The fact that my mouth seemed so much healthier and cleaner from what was usually a good report anyway was pretty significant.

Listening to my body became an important choice to continue making; I started this journey for one particular outcome but it opened up areas of healing for my body in other areas.  I chose to be open to that.

In terms of skin wellness, the major factor seems to be sleep.  Or my lack of it. More on that journey later.

The effort to add green to my life also came with the benefit of minimally processed ingredients (olive oil and a little salt being the baseline processed com
ponent).  I didn’t deliberately cut out carbs, but my body became a lot less interested in processed ones.

The elimination of processed carbs also reduced my sugar intake.  Fructose and its hidden sisters have certainly been under suspicion recently.  I certainly had no idea how much processed sugar I consumed, especially through KIND and Kashi products – which are supposed to be super healthy.  Major food manufacturers and the FDA are currently debating whether “added sugars” should be listed on packaging so consumers can actually know what they’re consuming.  Hmmm.

Did I mention swapping sugar for greens helped level off my hormones and blood sugar?  Markedly fewer afternoon meltdowns or PMS roller coaster rides? Right, that, too.  Apparently those were also my body crying for relief from the sugar fixes.

Join me as I continue becoming my own body-whisperer…