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What happened when I went vegan for a week

March 14, 2019

Never in a million years did I think I’d go vegan. While I love vegetables and all the nutrition that comes with them, I also believe that animal protein and some animal fats are a highly nutritious and bioavailable form of nutrients for many people. Furthermore, I believe in bioindividuality, in that everyone is different due to their genetics, lifestyle and environment. While a vegan lifestyle may help one person thrive, it may not be ideal for another. So when my naturopathic doctor recommended I do a liver cleanse that included one week eating completely vegan, I welcomed it as a learning opportunity.

My week as a vegan had some additional restrictions and rules as part of the liver cleanse. In addition to animal products, I had to avoid soy, wheat/gluten, corn, peanuts, tomatoes, grapefruit, caffeine and alcohol, so I couldn’t just swap my meat out for soy-based meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or faux chicken. Furthermore, since I am genetically more prone to Type II Diabetes, I tend to keep my carbohydrates pretty low so I can maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This presented a unique challenge for me, since most soy-free vegan protein sources tend to also have high carbohydrate content. Some of this was managed with a supplemental plant-based protein shake as part of the cleanse protocol, so I wasn’t 100% dependent on my meals for protein.

I spent a couple weeks leading up to this week researching vegan recipes that I thought looked delicious or provided a unique spin on foods that would keep things interesting for me. I ended up incorporating a few different legumes: black beans, lentils, and chickpeas, which I don’t normally eat a lot of because they make me bloated and gassy, which is no fun for anyone! I also used quinoa and a lot of mushrooms, especially portobellos, which became a favorite for me! Finally, I got a bag of hemp hearts to sprinkle on salads, which are high in protein and fat.

My breakfasts were either a smoothie using the plant-based protein powder supplement with almond or coconut milk, almond yogurt, cashew butter and chia seeds, or I made overnight oatmeal with chia seeds and some blueberries or banana slices. This was not a big change for me, as I often do smoothies for breakfast if I’m not eating leftovers.

I ate salads with mushrooms, cashews, and chickpeas sprinkled with hemp hearts for lunch, or leftovers from whatever vegan dinner I had the night before. Avocados were key to a satisfying salad – they provided the umami flavor I’m used to from meat (as did the sauteed or grilled mushrooms) and helped fill me up with the fat content.

portobello mushroom salad

Dinners included cauliflower-based “alfredo” over zucchini noodles, sweet potato lentil curry, portobello “burger,” vegetable stir-fry with quinoa, some random combinations of veggies and leftovers with sauteed mushrooms and pan-fried spicy chickpeas.

vegan stirfry with mushrooms and broccoli

I enjoyed most of what I ate and was able to get full most meals, but definitely felt something lacking. The first couple days I had a constant headache. I had quit caffeine a week prior to this and had not had a headache so I knew it wasn’t due to that. I also had numerous twitches and some charlie horse muscle cramps, so I know the change impacted my mineral and electrolyte balance. I made sure to salt my food generously, which seemed to help. The bloating and gas was serious, folks! I was so uncomfortable after almost every meal. I think the combination of bananas, grains and beans was too much for my particular intestinal ecosystem. I don’t know if it would have improved with more time, but it’s not something I really feel like experimenting with anytime soon! Finally, I was so darn tired. I felt like all I wanted to do was sleep.

vegan black bean brownies
These vegan black bean brownies were legit though! Will definitely make again!

The worst symptom of all was abnormally high irritability. I felt angry at everyone all the time, and this week did not coincide with my usual PMS week where irritability can be a common symptom. I do believe this was actually a result of the high dose of B-vitamins I was getting through the shake supplement, as I have learned from previous experiences taking high dose B vitamins and through digging deeper into my 23 and Me genetic data that I have a couple genetic mutations that combine to cause issues with the assimilation of B vitamins, even from the more bioavailable methylated form. As soon as I made that connection, I discontinued the shake and went back to my regular multivitamin that has a moderate amount of B vitamins that I tolerate just fine. That helped tremendously with the irritability, but it was hard to ensure I had enough protein. There were only a couple days left of this vegan phase so I just rode it out and didn’t do any intense exercise. I also added back some collagen (not vegan) to my morning tea, and threw in the towel on the last day with some chicken bone broth and a piece of tilapia at dinner. I was over it and just ready to get back to an omnivorous base of nutrients!

One thing that somewhat surprised me was that I did not lose a single pound during my week as a vegan. I lost maybe two pounds the week prior, which allowed chicken and fish, and I’ve since lost another couple pounds the week after with chicken and fish. Part of the point of this liver cleanse was to allow my liver to clean out and reset, since the liver is so crucial in fat metabolism and hormone balance. I suspect that in my case, due to my tendency toward blood sugar issues, that the vegan week was too high in carbs and low in protein to provide the right macronutrient ratio for my metabolism. I wish I would’ve thought to monitor my blood sugar with my glucose meter after meals that week, but it just didn’t occur to me and I was already a bit overwhelmed!

Other than how I felt physically, I want to address the emotional aspect of eating or not eating meat as it relates to ethics and animal welfare. I have thought a lot about this over the years and especially during my vegan week. I definitely don’t love the idea of killing another living thing in order to eat. But I also know we are the only species of meat-eaters that gives that a second thought. I believe we are part of a greater ecosystem and that, as cheesy as it sounds, in the whole circle of life we all feed each other in life and in death. When we die and are buried, our bodies feed the microorganisms that aid in the decomposition process, and then we become food for the plants and grasses that grow above us. These plants in turn feed animals and humans and thus we are all connected in this natural energy exchange.

I haven’t yet wrapped my brain around why it’s acceptable to eat some animals and not others. We consider pets to have souls and are beloved members of our family, but what about cows and pigs? I know that for now, I try to purchase most of our beef from places where cattle are pastured and raised in a natural environment where they are free to roam until their final day. We are on a budget so I don’t always buy all of our meat from the best sources, and for now I choose to accept that and not beat myself up for it. And since Ronnie has taken up bow hunting, I am much more comfortable eating the wild game he brings home, knowing those animals lived a life of freedom. But it is something I give a lot of thought to, and I’ve learned from my vegan week that I can probably thrive with less meat than I did previously, so I feel good about moving forward with an even greater plant-based diet than before.

All in all, it’s not something I plan to try again anytime soon, but I’m really proud of myself for doing it and allowing myself to learn whatever came out of it. And I have so much respect for vegans, as I know that it is not an easy way to live and takes a lot of strategy and preparation to do it in a healthful way. Oreos might technically be vegan but that is no way to go about it and actually feel good! I think it’s important for people to break out of their comfort zones in any part of life and try new ways of being, whether that be nutrition or lifestyle, in order to learn more about themselves and gain empathy for others. Without personal growth, it’s too easy to become stagnant and narrow-minded in the way we approach the world.

Have you ever gone vegan or vegetarian for a period of time or would you consider it? If so, what did you learn? I would love to hear from you in the comments.


The best avocado chicken tomatillo soup ever

March 1, 2019
chicken tomatillo avocado soup

I am not much of a recipe creator. Not because I’m not a decent cook, but I just don’t have the patience or time to try things that aren’t proven. Mostly I start with a recipe but take the liberty to customize it to my liking, so I can’t really take the credit. But now and then I come up with something that’s different enough from whatever recipe inspired it that I can call it my own.

Enter this healthy chicken, tomatillo and avocado soup that I’ve been making for several years now. This is a creamy, savory, incredibly filling low carb soup that’s high in protein and healthy plant-based fats. This is one of my favorite healthy soups and there are plenty of ways to prepare it depending on how much time and effort you want to take!

This version is the easiest since it’s a crockpot soup recipe, so you can throw most of the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and then add the creamy avocado mixture when you get home, and it’s ready to go!

Chicken Tomatillo Avocado Soup

Yield: 8

Chicken Tomatillo Avocado Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 11 oz cans tomatillos
  • 2 - 3 lbs boneless chicken breast/thighs
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 3 avocados
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (do not use a carton of coconut beverage. Not the same!)
  • 1 jalapeno (keep or remove seeds depending how how you want the soup)
  • 2 - 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro - as much as you like or none at all. I know cilantro can be a divisive topic!

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken and lay it in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add the chopped onions, celery, garlic, green and poblano peppers, tomatillos and broth over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 5 - 6 hours.
  4. Shred the chicken with two forks when it's done.
  5. In a blender, mix avocados, coconut milk, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Pour into soup and mix well.
  6. Optional toppings: bacon pieces, sour cream, hot sauce, crispy fried chickpeas
https://beautifulmessmama.com/2019/03/01/best-avocado-chicken-tomatillo-soup/

Alternative preparations involve just boiling the soup base in a stockpot while cooking the chicken separately via boiling, or roasting, or bringing home a rotisserie chicken. Before adding the chicken to the soup, use an immersion blender to puree the soup veggies and the creamy avocado mixture together. This makes a smooth, thick and creamy soup, and is also a way to sneak veggies into picky eater’s mouths when they like to avoid every individual vegetable in their bowl!

Let me know if you make this and how you liked it in the comments!

Biohacking with the Oura Ring fitness tracker

February 26, 2019

What could be more exciting to a data nerd and health geek like me than a device that gives you data about your own health on a daily basis? There have been lots of fitness trackers in the market the last several years but none have piqued my interest like the Oura Ring and accompanying fitness tracker app. The Oura Ring tracks your activity, sleep, temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability, and combines the data points to provide daily “readiness” scores and health tips so you can optimize your overall health.

In the first two months I’ve had the fitness tracker ring  (Ronnie got it for me for Christmas!), there have been so many ways this has given me insights into what’s going on in my body that I might not have realized the impact of before. I’ve also had it long enough to gather enough data to provide some good long term trends that I can use to gauge and adjust what I’ve been doing, and share with you in this fitness tracker review.

Body Temperature

Oura Ring body temperature report

My daily body temperature readings from the Oura Ring app

I wasn’t particularly excited about the Oura Ring’s nightly body temperature monitoring, since I’m not planning on having any more children and Ronnie took care of that on his end, but it would be very useful for women trying to track their ovulation schedule for family planning. However, it provided me some peace of mind when a recent tummy bug made its way through our house. It alerted me that my body temperature was above average for a few days after Layla had been puking, and recommended I take it easy in case I was fighting something. I backed off exercise and focused on sleep, and never ended up catching the nasty that the rest of the family caught. I also made the assumption that once my temp went down, the bug had passed me by and I wasn’t living in fear that it had yet to hit me. Ronnie was the last one sick over a week ago, so I hope that this means I am officially in the clear!

Heart Rate Variability and Resting Heart Rate

Oura Ring HRV trend

Improvement in my weekly HRV average over the last 2 months

Since I’ve dealt with a lot of stress over the years and trying to heal from adrenal fatigue , learning that I could use the Oura Ring fitness tracker to monitor my nervous system was the driving factor behind my desire for this particular wearable fitness device. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of the distance between two heartbeats, whereas heart rate is just the average number of beats in one minute. When HRV is high, or there is a lot of variation in distance between beats, it’s a signal that we are relaxed and healthy. When we are stressed, our HRV lowers as the nervous system powers up for fight or flight mode. By measuring HRV consistently at night during sleep, the Oura Ring provides average nightly HRV and maximum HRV, which are then used to monitor how well your body is recovering from the stresses of life, whether that be intense workouts, inflammatory foods, a rough workday or bad night of sleep. Since I’ve been using the Oura Ring along with cutting out anti-inflammatory foods, prioritizing sleep, cutting down on alcohol, and practicing breathwork, I’ve seen my own HRV average improve significantly in just over 2 months.

The most dramatic impact to my own HRV I’ve seen is when I have alcohol. Not that I didn’t know that tasty adult beverages aren’t exactly health promoting, it’s still something I love to indulge in, especially on a Friday night after a long week. While I know that wine calms my racing thoughts and helps me mentally break away from work stress, when I saw what happens to my HRV and resting heart rate after a glass or three of wine at night, it has made me much more thoughtful about how badly I need that glass of wine. And it’s been much more rewarding when I skip it, get a quality night sleep, and have high readiness/recovery scores in the morning! A glass or two of wine significantly diminishes my HRV, increases my resting heart rate, and decreases the amount of deep sleep I get. The below images show first a normal, healthy night’s resting heart rate and HRV, followed by a night after I’ve had alcohol.

normal resting heart rate

My normal resting heart rate throughout the night

 

elevated heart rate after alcohol

After a few drinks of alcohol, my heart rate was elevated until about 3 am, and never reached my normal low

And here is the HRV impact:

healthy heart rate variability

This is what my HRV looks like on a good night. I must’ve done some breathwork right before bed.

And here is HRV after alcohol…

low heart rate variability after alcohol

You can visibly see the lack of variation while my body is stressed trying to metabolize the alcohol.

Can you see why I’m geeking out about this? I’m my own living science experiment!

Sleep cycles

alcohol's affect on deep sleep

Not enough restorative deep sleep due to alcohol before bed

This might be the most mysterious thing of all for a device that simply sits on your finger all the time, but the Oura Ring has an amazingly accurate sleep tracker as well. It shows how I cycle in and out of sleep stages each night, as well as the amount of total time I spend in each sleep stage. It also calculates total time in bed and actual time sleeping. How it knows this is beyond me, but it works! The sleep tracker is also an area that I see alcohol have a significant impact, because usually my deep sleep will suffer and I will notice more awake/light cycles throughout the night.

Readiness Score

Oura ring app homepage

My readiness score on the Oura Ring app homepage

The Oura Ring fitness tracker also tracks daily calorie expenditure (basal metabolic rate + calories burned from activity), how many steps you get in a day and exercise duration and intensity. You can also manually input these measures if you remove the ring to do barbell activities or something where you don’t want it to get damaged. It will estimate calorie expenditure based on what you input, using your personal attributes like age, gender, height and weight from the settings. But the magic happens when it takes all the factors listed above and combines them to provide a Readiness Score, along with a quick tip of advice based on your score that day. If the readiness score is declining, it will warn you and call out which aspect of your health might be causing that. This is where I learned I might be running a low grade fever after spending a night cleaning up puke from my kiddo. On the flip side, it tells you when you are rested and recovered so you can be confident kicking butt that day. Additionally it gives you a calorie burn goal based on your readiness to help you moderate your activity level and workouts.

Outside of the totally nerdy and amazing features I’ve listed above that help me biohack my way to better health, the Oura Ring has solid battery life and doesn’t need recharged for 4 to 5 days. I just set it on the charger once or twice a week when I’m getting ready in the morning as it only takes about an hour to charge up. It’s also water proof up to some ridiculous water depth that I will never be swimming so I can wear it in the shower, washing dishes, at the lake if Summer ever gets here, etc. And it easily pairs with your phone and the free fitness tracker app that comes with it. It isn’t cheap, with prices starting at around $300, but they run occasional sales and  it’s a one-time fee. I think in the long run, my health is a worthy investment and the information this fitness tracker provides could help keep me out of the doctor’s office with illness or injury, and help me achieve the balance needed to live a long, active, and full life. Now if I can just keep the 3-year-old from stealing it off the charger and losing it…

How I’m healing from adrenal fatigue

February 22, 2019

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will make a commission off your purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in. If you purchase through one of these links, I truly thank you for your support!

When I look back over the last several years (that I haven’t been blogging, ah-hem), I see a blur. I see some darkness and a lot of colors and light. I see the ups and downs and a whole lot of in between. I see massive transformation in Ronnie and me and of course our family. Life is nothing like I thought it would be as I round the corner to the big 4-0.

family

But when I quantify the last few years compared to the rest of my life, it’s like looking at a boa constrictor that ate an alligator – like how can all that possibly fit? From job changes, to nutritional therapy school, to the lawsuit at the gym, to marriage troubles to another baby born with a broken heart, and a couple moves of home and business in there, life somehow managed to feed us an alligator (we chose some of those things, but maybe we bit off more than we could chew). There have been times of bitterness about it all, and thinking “life’s not fair” and shaking my fist at God. But I’m far enough removed from the heavy stuff to see the blessings that have unfolded. As Winston Churchill said “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival,” and I truly believe we are better for it.

However, those years have aged me. My body feels like that of a completely different person than 5 years ago, and it feels more like what I would expect closing in on 50 to feel like, and not the last of my thirties. I learned about this in my nutrition training, and I knew it was happening all along, but when you are just trying to survive, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. When I finally got with a naturopathic doctor a little over a year ago, she agreed that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, which was also impacting my hormone balance and likely the cause of my lack of energy, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and skin issues.

My naturopath was able to use my standard bloodwork, a salivary cortisol test, and in-depth interview to develop protocols for me to follow that included the below dietary and lifestyle changes as a treatment for adrenal fatigue:

  • Prioritize sleep: This wasn’t hard to do since I was so exhausted, but I was having trouble staying asleep for the whole night and feeling rested. I use a high dose of magnesium citrate/glycinate before bed, and if I woke up, chewed 1 or 2 tablets of GABA . It didn’t take long for me to sleep through the night, and my mornings became much more tolerable! I still chew GABA before bed on occasion if I’m particularly wound up, but it’s a rare occasion at this point, so, progress!
  • Moderate workouts: Not that I had much energy for exercise, my doctor recommended I tone it down for awhile till my body feels “safe” again. Intense or excessive exercise can stress the adrenals more and prolong the healing process. She recommended, walking, moderate weightlifting, yoga, and high intensity interval training for a max of 20 minutes. Since I’ve got goals to summit more fourteeners this summer, I’m going to need to step things up, but I’m working with my doctor to figure out that training plan. In the meantime, it’s nice to have the “permission” to not feel like I have to go all out in my workouts and be okay with that.
  • Nutrition:  I’ve been eating a diet low in inflammatory foods for several months now, limiting sugar, dairy, gluten, eggs, coffee, and alcohol. Limiting these foods has decreased the stress on my gut and immune system which has done wonders for my gut and mental health. Additionally, I tend to eat lower carb, but my doctor recommended I read the Adrenal Reset Diet book, which provided guidelines on how to time when I eat my carbohydrates to best work with my ideal cortisol rhythms. And, now that we are passed the holidays, I’ve begun a gut health/liver cleanse that involves 3 weeks of a strict elimination diet along with a supplemental shake and extra nutrients to assist my liver. The shake tastes like ass, but by day 3 I had figured out some acceptable mix-ins to make it tolerable.
  • Supplements: I’ve been cycling a lot of different supplements, and adjusting types and dosage each time I follow up with my doctor (about every two months). I’m not going to go into detail here since it’s super customized to me and how I feel, but I’ll list of few of the things I’ve been taking through this process, not necessarily all at the same time: Vitamin C and D, phospatidylserine, licorice root, methionine, DIM, maca, various mushrooms and herbal adaptogen blends/teas.
  • Breathwork/meditation: I read a great book on meditation that simplified it and took all the woo-woo out of the process to make it much more practical. It’s such a basic concept that just does wonders for my mental clarity, especially since I love to overthink and overanalyze. In addition, I’ve started doing simple breathwork, almost daily on my commute (both ways) and before going to sleep. I use the simple cadence of 4-6-7 (4 second inhale, 6 second hold, 7 second exhale) and try to repeat that for at least 5 minutes. What’s amazing is I could see an immediate impact on my heart rate variability tracked in my Oura Ring when I started doing this before bed.
  • Oura Ring: This wearable fitness tracker was a Christmas gift from Ronnie and I am obsessed. My doctor hadn’t heard of it as it’s fairly new to market, but I heard about it on several podcasts and felt it was the perfect tool to help me figure out sleep/activity balance to get a better handle on my nervous system as I try to restore adrenal health. Check out my Oura Ring review for more info on how I’ve been using it as part of my health journey.

All of the tactics listed above were prioritized by my doctor and have been slowly layered into my life as I gained energy and formed new habits. There was no way I could’ve taken on all that with the way I felt when I first began working on my adrenal fatigue. Even though I knew about this condition and had some ideas how to go about dealing with it, I was so exhausted I didn’t even know where to start. Working with a naturopath has been an investment since insurance doesn’t cover the treatment, but it has been the best decision I have made and money well spent. It also helps keep me accountable when I have to follow-up with someone that I am paying! I would love to know what other energy hacks or stress management techniques you’ve used or are using to help you through this crazy life. Let me know in the comments below!

Spring fever

February 18, 2019

It’s Saturday night and I’m already feeling a mixture of cabin fever, exhaustion, and just plain irritability about everything in sight. I’ve worked from home too many times to count this year with both girls (and sometimes Ronnie) stuck at home with me due to sicknesses and weather. As grateful as I am that’s it’s an option for me and I don’t have to use precious vacation time when things like that come up, I’m frankly just sick of it at this point!

It’s next to impossible to focus on work when Layla is asking for a snack every 30 minutes. And in between her snacks she needs me to turn on a new DVR show. And if I don’t get her a snack she helps herself, which means finding her in the kitchen digging at a jar of almond butter with a knife. I can’t play with her since I’m trying to get work done on my computer, so she keeps herself busy, but not in necessarily safe or appropriate ways.

  • I have found her in the bathroom using every single wet wipe and half a bottle of foaming hand soap proudly saying “I’m cleaning Momma!”
  • We spotted oily spray marks up the wall next to the stairway and on her bedroom walls, only to discover the empty can of olive oil nonstick spray on the floor in her room.
  • Most of the walls, doors and trim in our house (that haven’t been chewed by our dogs) have original artwork by Layla on them, via whatever medium she could get her hands on.

She’s ruined my makeup brushes, emptied the entire contents of her dresser drawers immediately after I put all her clean laundry away, and almost lost my Oura Ring only a month after I got it. For every bit of adorable, hilarious spunk, she’s got equal parts curious, nonstop tornado.

I know that if I was present with her more I could focus that energy into fun activities. She loves jigsaw puzzles and in the evenings we do a lot of them together. She also loves to count things and read books and practice her letters. When we engage with her she’s not constantly asking for snacks, but when I’m working from home, I am stuck between trying to keep her out of my hair but also safely not making a boatload of mess for me to clean up later. The other day I was on a conference call while sweeping the kitchen floor. It’s like a no-win situation that just makes me feel like I’m failing at both parenting and my job at the same time!

Working from home with the kids here also means that we are making all the messes that go along with living here, but I don’t have the leisurely time to pick up after everyone each meal or stay on top of all the puzzles and random toys that get strewn about. So by the end of the day, the house is a total disaster and I’m overwhelmed with it and just want to run away screaming.

This past week has been extra draining due to the tummy bugs going around (Ronnie now has it), and the liver cleanse/detox I’ve started, which also means no caffeine or wine to help me cope. I’ve been so tired and irritable that dealing with the cluster of our mess this week has been too much to keep up with and I’m stumbling around, angrily kicking people’s shoes across the kitchen floor (since of course shoes belong in the kitchen), and grumbling about how the dishes don’t do themselves and the living room is not a dirty laundry basket and NO, sippy cups are not toys so you can’t use a half dozen of them as bottles for your stuffed animals!

I hate to say it, but I’m kinda already looking forward to Monday so I can get out of the house, back to work, and in a place I am only supposed to focus on what I’m being paid to do. It’s so much easier than being a mom and managing a household. I dream of having the energy to work full time while also keeping things balanced at home, but right now I feel like home is just a giant juggling act with flaming knives. And somewhere in between catching and dodging knives I’m trying to fit in things that I love to do so I don’t go completely insane!

The only hope I cling to is remembering when Skyler was this age and that in a matter of years she became a much more self sufficient, tidy person that can do her own laundry and clean the bathrooms. She can have friends over and mostly entertain herself, get her own snacks and wipe her own butt. I do miss her sometimes, and feel like I spend an unfair amount of time with Layla, but I think it’s par for the course as she finds her independence.

I should caveat all this with the fact that I’m writing this on day 6 of my 21 day liver cleanse and sometimes during a detox, things can feel worse before they feel better. Life is the same as it has been for awhile, but despite being on point with my nutrition, I’m just not handling it as gracefully as I have in recent months. I’m hoping that I can just vent about this here, let the detox run its course, and soon I will be back to more contentedly juggling my beautiful mess. In the meantime, if I could get a quick beach vacation and a cleaning fairy to stop by, that would sure help!

Coffee: Devil or Savior?

February 15, 2019

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will make a commission off your purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in. If you purchase through one of these links, I truly thank you for your support!

It’s been a weird week, with stomach bugs and a lack of caffeine since I started this liver cleanse. Even though I quit drinking coffee on a daily basis last September, I didn’t realize how much I was still relying on the caffeine in the teas I was drinking. It’s not as much caffeine as coffee, but man, I’m definitely missing it this week! I don’t have trouble waking up in the mornings like I used to, but have just felt a general sense of tiredness all day. I’m sure it didn’t help that I’ve had two nights of being up in the middle of the night cleaning up puke, but I’m really hoping my energy levels back up soon, because I was feeling really good!

herbal-tea-turmeric-latte

Now, I’m not one to hate on coffee, especially because I love it. BUT, it is something that can be a problem if you are struggling with any of the following:

  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Lack of energy, especially upon waking and after lunch
  • Irritable Bowl Syndrome

While coffee does have some beneficial antioxidant properties, the caffeine content is what can get our systems out of balance. Caffeine can raise cortisol, our main stress hormone. Temporary cortisol increases are beneficial and necessary to deal with emergencies, but prolonged high cortisol levels mean your body is stuck in “fight or flight” mode rather than “rest and digest” mode, and this can wreak havoc on your hormones, digestion, and immune system.

If you think coffee could be an issue for you but are overwhelmed at the thought of quitting, I highly recommend switching to hot tea (black or green) or matcha tea. Tea is also high in antioxidants, but is much gentler in your gut (some even promotes healing) and contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that has a calming affect. I’ve been enjoying this matcha since it also contains other beneficial herbs and mushrooms to help with energy balance. Since teas tend to have less caffeine than coffee, you can taper and lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

If it’s the coffee taste you can’t live without, start blending your favorite java half and half with a high quality caffeine free coffee, that way you can maintain the flavor with less of a caffeine hit. Additionally, there are some new mushroom-based coffees out that blend one or more beneficial mushrooms with coffee. Mushrooms have long been considered superfoods by ancient cultures, and are gaining popularity in the west for their mood-boosting properties. They are less acidic and earthier than regular coffee, and other than the price tag, I find them very enjoyable. I like to have it as a treat, so a couple more weeks of this caffeine-free liver cleanse diet and I’ll be reaching for one!

Ultimately coffee can be almost like a religion for many people, and I get it. I still fantasize about it. But if it is like a religion and the thought of not having it sparks a deep, passionate outrage in your soul, and you’re struggling with sleep and energy and stress in your daily life, then you might need to distance yourself from it more than you know. There is a freedom in being able to wake up refreshed and able to function without that warm, tasty cup. And it’s empowering to not be dependent on a chemical to get your day started. I’m not all the way on the other side of it, but I’ve already experienced significant changes in my sleep, anxiety, and morning energy level just from reducing the caffeine intake, so I can’t wait to see what a few weeks cold turkey will do!

When I grow up

January 21, 2019

I can count the number of times I wrote in 2018 on one hand, and that is not okay. The need to create is in me (it’s in all of us actually), and it’s not something I get often enough at work to bring fulfillment. And at home I’m living in mostly maintenance mode just trying to keep everyone alive. My house is not decorated, nor would it matter because it’s mostly messy all the time and the dogs have destroyed nearly every piece of trim and baseboard on the main floor because OMG THEY HAVE LEFT US AND WE MISS THEM SO MUCH THAT WE MUST EAT THE HOUSE!!!!!!

We do cook a lot which could provide some creativity but so much of the time it’s rushed and stressful because it’s after work and Layla (now a threenager) is yelling at me or the dogs and demanding something or other. Also I don’t like our kitchen – it’s just small and awkward so doesn’t lend itself to much of a flow state.

Last year I setup an art/play room but in no time it was just the room of mess and chaos and gives me anxiety to step into so ain’t no creating happening in there (from me – the others have definitely created something in there!). I should give credit where credit is due because Skyler recently took it on herself to clean up that room and organize a bit, but I don’t have the enthusiasm I once did to go back in there and get out my art supplies. It only really works when no one else is around and that literally never happens in my life unless I stay up past 9 and that is definitely not happening these days. Mama TIRED!

And I have this blog, which I’ve barely kept alive for almost 12 years (including the babysite that started it all when I was pregnant with Skyler). I’ve covered a lot of ground here through various phases of life, but it’s been harder and harder to keep up. It’s not that I don’t want to write – I love writing and have so many thoughts and ideas I need to release. It’s just the lack of uninterrupted time right now and that ever-present desire for sleep. Or just to be present with the family since there is always always always something I should be doing. I think I’ve also found some minor release in Instagram – I share a lot of our life @lorikelley66 , and it is not nearly the time commitment as writing here, plus I really enjoy the photography aspect. I recent got an iPhone 10 which has a dual lens camera that produces some pretty amazing photos for a phone. Better than my old digital SLR Canon that’s been collecting dust in the closet for a few years. The artist in me feels some guilt about this but hey – no need to make life harder than it is for the sake of the craft, right? Sorry purists.

I’ve been conflicted the last several years in my career. I haven’t been doing my passion but then does it really matter since I’m providing for my family? I know working your passion is not a right, but when you’ve been in the corporate world 9 – 5 Monday through Friday for nearly half your life, it gets draining. Sometimes I sadly reminisce that I once had an art scholarship and almost went to school for an art degree. I think had I chosen a school with a better art program things might have been different, but instead I burned out real quick and changed my tune to business. It was safe and not so demanding. But it wasn’t a mistake because college was where I met Ronnie and I can’t imagine how different things would be had I never gone there.

It’s been nagging me how short life is and how much I think I have to give and share that I’m just not doing in my current career track. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty happy with my job and definitely love the company and people I work for and I’m proud of what we do. But I’ve got a whole lot more to offer in the areas of art, writing, nutrition, psychology, and wellness. In the back of my mind the gears are always turning and trying to figure out what to do with all of it.

helpAs the new year turned over and I was reinvigorated to get back to clean eating and cooking after some gluttonous holiday transgressions, I had a random thought of starting a new Intagram account that was all about food (@stuffinfridge). I know there are a ton but I think (and hope) that there is room for one more and I can bring my own unique spin and knowledge to that space. It will allow me to get more creative with what we are cooking, play with photography, and write (albeit briefly for Instagram), while sharing my knowledge of health through nutrition and lifestyle. I have pipe dreams of gaining enough followers someday to produce some advertising revenue and maybe really turn it into something bigger full time, but for now it’s a way to play and help others. Even inspiring a single person to make healthier choices or find easier ways to stay on track with their nutrition is fulfilling for me, so every follower matters! So if you are reading this and are on Instagram looking for inspiration in the kitchen, please consider following my little experiment @stuffinfridge or sharing it with someone you know might be into it! My goal is to keep it real and my 2019 resolution is to commit to this for the full year and see where it goes. At a minimum, it’s a creative outlet for me, that might help other people, and an opportunity for bigger things if my energy and the universe can collaborate!

But where do I start?

December 4, 2018

I’ve been dreaming of writing again – often. I haven’t had much creative outlet lately and though I crave it, the day is filled with too many other “shoulds” that by the time my usual bedtime rolls around, I’m too tired to try and make any sense with my thoughts. I often jot down blog topics throughout the day and make promises to myself to just stay up late and do it, purely for myself and my own fulfillment, but then I think about my bed and my pillow and the amazing escape that is sleep, and I put it off yet another night/week/month. And then here we are.

It’s hard to start writing again, especially after so many potential blog topics have come and gone. The words that once swirled in my head, sometimes keeping me up at night (why didn’t I just get up and write if I wasn’t sleeping anyway?), are buried in the back of my brain somewhere; less relevant to today’s concerns but maybe just waiting quietly to wander out and tag along someday when the thoughts are flowing. But it’s hard to go back and retrieve them at will. Sometimes I look at my potential writing topics and the passion just isn’t there as it was when I couldn’t stop thinking about each thing on the list.

So then I think maybe I will just start with a life update – I mean that’s basically how this whole blog started, over 11 years ago when I decided to document my pregnancy journey publicly. I used to write at least weekly about the adventures of pregnancy and then motherhood, work, and life. But then life got nuts, and then Layla got here and life got more nuts, and I don’t think my sleep has every recovered. Don’t get me wrong – I sleep pretty darn well. It’s just taken awhile to recover from a couple crazy years so my body craves sleep like nothing else. And that’s when I used to blog so regularly – once everyone else had gone to sleep. I would stay up for a couple hours and write the evening away. Oh to be young and able to survive on 6 hours of sleep again!

So here I am; everyone has gone to sleep and it’s 9:34 pm. Life is really good these days. Far from easy or perfect, but our problems are first world problems: water seepage in the basement, ruining the carpet and drywall with mold and mildew (once we got into it, looked like it had been going on far before we moved in). My car is a bit of a lemon but we just have to deal with it as there’s no room in the budget to add a car payment till Layla is out of daycare. The dogs have a chewing problem and might just eat our whole house, and also eat holes through the fence in the backyard, running the neighborhood about once a week. We tried an invisible electric fence once for about a week but they each got shocked once and then refused to leave the back patio, thus deciding the dining room floor was the safest place to do their business.

But our girls! Our girls are the most amazing two humans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I gaze at them often, especially if they are playing well together, and think how could there be two more perfect, beautiful souls? At 11, Skyler is on the verge of being a teenager, caught in this weird place in time where one day she’s seeing “Let it Go” while watching Frozen with her sister, and another day I am helping her try on training bras at Target. She loves school and has started running around with the neighborhood kids afterward. And she’s taught herself gymnastics via YouTube and practicing on her trampoline and I can’t even believe all the stuff she can do. I must get her into a real gymnastics class after the holidays! She’s bright and creative and thoughtful (but moody these days, as preteen girls are!), and while her independence is easy, I find myself missing her. She’s either with friends or up in her room chatting with friends on her phone or watching YouTube gymnastics videos or rearranging her room or painting something. Now and then I make her hangout with us in the living room, but I also like to just let her be. I know I enjoyed my solitude at her age. I just can’t hardly believe we’re here with middle school on the horizon.

And then there is Layla – the hot mess little firecracker of a three-year-old. She’s currently obsessed with Frozen, and sings and performs “Let it Go” with every gesture and twirl that Elsa does in the movie, exactly like her sister used to do. Moana is a close second favorite and we still have Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on DVR that fills in the gaps. Those shows are my babysitter on mornings when I’m still finishing up getting ready and after work when I need to get dinner going. But in addition to her shows, she has every commercial jingle from whatever TV we are watching memorized. She’s soaking up everything she hears, with vocabulary (both good and bad words) expanding rapidly. Lately she tells me “it’s none of your bidness!” when she doesn’t like what I am asking of her, and she likes to have fake yelling arguments with her dad about nothing – they both yell nonsense at each other and fake punch and kick the air back and forth. I’m sure that’s probably going to get her in trouble at school one of these days but it’s currently hilarious in our house. She’s really a spunky, funny kid who is pretty much happy all the time and just loves to be around people and having fun. Life is her playground and unless she’s hurt or doesn’t feel good, she’s the life of the party.

Ronnie’s still waking up at 5 o’clock every morning to go run the gym, but when he’s not coaching, he’s hunting or learning about hunting or thinking about hunting. He just got his third buck with his bow last week, and this time is processing the whole thing himself. I was not a fan of that idea since we have a tiny kitchen and I just kind of imagine I’ll be finding random blood drops in nooks and crannies from here on out, but otherwise I like the concept of harvesting a natural meat source and handling it all the way to the dinner plate. I think so many people are so out of touch with the food they put in their body, it brings a whole new perspective to nutrition and food source and appreciating the gifts of the earth when you are an active part of that process. But that’s a whole other topic I actually might write about someday, so I’ll just shut up about that now. Anyway, while I do get resentful of the time he spends hunting (and learning about hunting and thinking about hunting), I am also impressed with his intensity to start something new and become an expert at it. He doesn’t half ass anything he does, which is a good thing because if he didn’t consistently put meat in the freezer, I’d have to question the time investment. I’m always happy when I don’t have to buy pricey grass-fed beef for a few months! There could be much less productive and unhealthy hobbies, so I try not to complain too much.

And then there’s me – just over here trying to figure out the meaning of life all while it flies by frantically around me. Work is good – it continues to challenge me, but I feel like I’m contributing and I like the core of what we do, connecting people. I do often wonder what I’ll end up doing for the next 20+ years of my career, and if I’ll ever find my way to something a little more creative. There’s a group of artists at work that meet regularly for a noon sketch group, which I think is open to anyone. I’ve thought many times about crashing it, but not seriously enough to remember to bring my sketchbook and pencils, and I’m already so busy I barely take a lunch anymore, so it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s a nagging thought, just like writing more frequently here. Maybe, maybe I will take a chance and commit to more writing here or popping into the noon sketch group once to see what it’s like. I cannot imagine that I would regret either one or both!

 

Body talk

March 27, 2018

How would your life be different if you weren’t worried about how your body looked? What would you do, what would you wear, and how would you feel? How would you talk to yourself if there were no mirrors or cameras, or you and everyone else were blind?

I recently listened to a couple episodes from The Liturgists Podcast about “embodiment” and “body image,” and one of the hosts, counseling psychologist and PhD student Hillary McBride asked the above question to the other hosts. It was almost impossible to answer (I tried it myself), because it’s so unrealistic in our modern world. The media we consume, our relationships with others, even our healthcare system all place high emphasis on the value of looking a certain way. One of the major indicators of health, fitness, and beauty is how we look. But what are those standards we compare to, and who set them? Are they based on actual health? And when considering “embodiment” and that our bodies are a vessel for our soul, that without one the other doesn’t exist, does the standard physical representation of health and fitness also represent mental/emotional/spiritual health?

I’ve struggled with my own body image for most of my life. My first recollections of comparing my body to others was in elementary school. I remember noticing my legs and how they were thicker than most other girls – my calves were rounder, my thighs were bigger, and I remember noticing my knees weren’t pointy when bent – just rounded. In 5th or 6th grade I vaguely remember a boy commenting on my “big” thighs when I was wearing some brightly colored floral pants that I was really excited about wearing, and then I never wanted to wear those pants again. Ever since I can remember, my parents wanted to lose weight and they tried various diets along the way. They were always open about whatever diet they were doing and I frequently picked up their diet books left out on the table and read through the methodology. I guess I’ve always had some interest in human physiology, maybe inspired by those books. My parents certainly never said anything degrading about my body, but they did say things like “you’ve got your grandma’s wide shoulders and your dad’s short, muscular legs.” So no matter how negative or benign the comments, my physical body was being compared and commented on by myself and others for most of my conscious life. I catch myself commenting on my own daughter’s bodies – both of which I think are beautiful in their own different ways. But I don’t want them to feel labeled or less or more than others based on the shape of their bodies.

We do focus on healthy eating and activity in our household. Skyler knows I went to nutrition school and that healthy, nutritious food is important for many reasons. She knows that exercise of all kinds helps our bodies stay healthy. Even when I’m buckling down on my own nutrition and workout routine to lose some weight, I’m careful to explain to her that I’m trying to be healthier. But that is the problem. I AM HEALTHY. Other than Vitamin D levels that are chronically on the low end of normal (thanks genetics and northern hemisphere living), my blood work is always perfect. I exercise 5 – 6 days a week, a mix of heavy weightlifting, lighter resistance training, cardio intervals, and low impact activities like yoga, walking/hiking and bike-riding. I choose high quality protein, fat and veggies for most of my meals, consume very little dairy, grains and sugar. I limit my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee per day, and opt for herbal teas or bone broth or just plain water the rest of the time. I drink kombucha, take probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, and a few targeted liver support supplements (based on things I’ve learned from my genetic data regarding my liver). I splurge for one or two “cheat meals” (though I disagree with that term), usually on the weekends, that often involve a couple alcoholic drinks. That’s probably my one unhealthy habit – but it’s not daily and I rarely overdo it. Sleep is a priority to me – I attempt 7-8 hours during the week and don’t set my alarm on the weekends. Thankfully my girls are good sleepers and rarely wake me up. I’m very self-aware and in tune with my body and I make adjustments in all of the above if something doesn’t feel right. Over the longterm – I’ve run a marathon and a couple half marathons. I’ve birthed two children with uncomplicated labors. I’ve summited a 14,000 foot peak in the Rockies. I can lift a decent amount of weight, more than the average person, multiple ways (squats, bench press, dead lift and olympic lifts). I have no mobility issues other than residual soreness or mildly achy joints from a hard workout.

So somebody please tell my why I think I need to lose 15 lbs? Because the way I looked 15 lbs lighter than now is actually healthier? Is it? Or because the way I looked 15 lbs lighter than now was more in line with what others think looks healthy? It makes no logical sense. Why do I get grumpy that I can’t fit in older, smaller clothing? Why do I get dressed and look in the mirror and critique the size of my arms and legs – these strong arms and legs that have carried and lifted so much throughout this life? So I have a little extra layer of insulation over everything – if a catastrophe were to happen and we found ourselves without accessible food, I would be far better off than everyone else with a lower body fat percentage than mine. I am strong and fit and would survive on my own fuel source longer than they would.

I would be lying if I said the above logic is enough to set me free from my own body image issues. I would be lying if I said old pictures of myself when I was thinner didn’t make me feel motivated to go exercise harder. I would be lying if I said I don’t “feel fat” most of the time. I would be lying if I said I don’t judge other people’s health/fitness by the way their body looks. It’s an absolutely ridiculous sickness that I hope and wish I can heal.

Circling back to the “embodiment” concept, this is one area of my health that I know I still need work, and I think it’s an aspect of health that is rarely recognized in our modern world. This mind-body-spirit connection is profound. Imbalances in our physical bodies can lead to mental and emotional problems, and vice versa. Emotional trauma and spiritual issues can seriously impact our physical health. I have found as I age and have experienced various stressful events, I struggle with more and more anxiety and mild depression, and I am not good at releasing these feelings from my body. Though those feelings are “all in my head,” I physically feel them in my body. Anxiety causes a heaviness and dull pain in my chest, a choking feeling around my throat. Depression feels like extreme exhaustion – heavy, achy limbs,  and a desperate craving for sleep. And when I hold these feelings inside and don’t talk about them, I feel a constant knot in my gut and my heart. I’ve heard about the health benefits of crying. I have heard references that some kinds of cancer are thought to be caused by emotional trauma and that there might be a psychological component to “spontaneous remission” in some cancer patients. And it is now commonly accepted that stress has a negative impact on our immune system, so we must do a better job of connecting emotional health to physical health. Considering these things, I have recently theorized that perhaps my extra 15 lbs I’m carrying these days could in fact be emotional baggage from burying my negative emotions instead of releasing them. All things considered, it’s not that far-fetched, but that theory doesn’t necessarily free me from unrealistic expectations of what a positive body image should be. It’s still me finding another reason why I don’t look healthy “enough.”

So I guess what I am getting at, is that obviously society’s definition of what a healthy body looks like is bogus. I am living proof. While I am not a perfect specimen since I still have some emotional health issues to deal with, I think one could make a case that healthy/fit has a much broader physical embodiment than what we have been conditioned to believe. However, I think we have this knee jerk problem on the other end of the spectrum telling overweight folks to love themselves and not worry about how they look and to have a healthy body image even if it’s different than what society says. And people who are naturally “healthy-looking” don’t take care of themselves because they’ve never “needed” to. I don’t think any of this kind of self love works if you aren’t actually healthy or taking steps to be healthy. Obesity is a serious issue. Malnourishment affects all shapes and sizes. Lack of exercise causes health problems, no matter how big or small you are. And mental illness knows know body weight limits. We have to be actively engaged in our own health – mind, body, soul, in order to be healthy. So if we are choosing nutritious foods, engaging in healthy physical activities, fostering healthy thoughts and relationships, and doing those things as an act of love for our whole self, the resulting physical embodiment of our being should be balanced and beautiful, no matter what the inches or pounds say. With that, I’m off to go lift some weights.

Playing God

January 18, 2018

I’m currently listening to a fascinating lecture series on “the psychological significance of the Biblical stories” by clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Jordan B Peterson and it is making for a very eye-opening commute to and from work! If you are a person with any interest in psychology, theology, philosophy, evolutionary theories, history, mythology, or just plain humanity, this is a wonderfully rich and detailed analysis by a super smart dude. It’s fairly mind-blowing, though, so fair warning that it’s hard to take lightly. If you listen on your commute like I do, be sure to wear your seat belt.

One of the themes he’s developed thus far is the innate and uniquely human need to make order out of chaos (the foundational idea of God and story of Creation). This was covered in great detail and is very complex so I’m not even going to try and summarize from his analysis (it’s seriously fascinating so if you are feeling geeky give this stuff a listen!), BUT what I am going to do is make it personal here. And I’m not even going to go into the spiritual aspect of this, but that’s probably an even bigger deal but much tougher to wrap my thoughts around. Anyway, his main takeaway from this theme was that humans are at their best, or maybe “in the zone” when they are riding that line between chaos/unknown and order/known. We know what we know and are functioning within those boundaries, but continuously stretching those boundaries and experiencing the unknown and bringing it to order. This is our potential, our groove, our “best-self”. This is balance, and the times when we are living this way intentionally, we are happiest, and there’s a bunch of biochemical reasons why that is the result. This concept hit home in several ways for me that brought clarity to a lot of things I do that I’ve wondered why I do them and why they bring me joy. So here goes.

Overthinking – I’ve often considered this a fault of mine as it tends to cause more stress, but I can now recognize this as perhaps a highly developed evolutionary trait that just needs a little coaching, rather than an annoying habit where I attempt to make order out of way more things than I need to make order out of at any given moment. It is actually a useful talent that helps me get around this world, and as long as it’s not interfering with other things in life, I actually enjoy it.

Art – Whether it’s drawing or writing, the act of doing these things is making something known out of the unknown. Whatever thought fragments have been swimming incoherently in my mind are often turned into sensible, meaningful words through the simple process of writing, whether on this blog or in a journal. And I’m dabbling in the visual arts again – challenging myself to draw, paint, and try other techniques. The things that I make did not exist before I brought them forth in whatever medium I chose, but there is a mystical satisfaction I get once I’ve begun a new sketch or project, even if it’s a meaningless still life sketch that lives in my sketchbook. Creating is crazy addicting and I feel so much positive energy with the whole process. I get an idea and I can’t stop thinking about it until I get going on it, and when I’m done I feel a rush but also a sense of peaceful relief. When I’m in my creative mindset I see everything differently – I notice the shine on chrome objects and patterns of lines on window blinds and everything plain and simple just has new significance. I think without really thinking could I recreate the essence of that object and make it look interesting with graphite or paint? It sounds dumb but it’s a much more fun way to walk through the world.

Exercise – Huh? What does exercise have to do with chaos and order and creating and joy? Well this is something I’m figuring out right now but now it’s just like DUH! There are a few different layers to this. At the most very basic, weightlifting (my preferred method of exercise) is the process of tearing down muscle fibers and rebuilding them and creating new ones in the process to make muscles stronger. There we go creating again! On another level similar to that one, there is the concept of creating the physique that I desire, and if you want to go deeper on that level, the desired physique is obtained by shedding the extra fat that creeped in due to the chaos of life over the last couple years when I struggled for any sense of balance. There is a lot to be said about healthy body image, which is not the intent of this post but an important tangent for me is that I’ve realized the shape of my body and how I feel in my own skin follows the pattern of the amount of balance or chaos in my life. So it isn’t a superficial goal for me but more a symbolic and tangible effect of being able to find some balance in the chaos of life. There’s also the physical feeling of stress relief – if I’ve been overthinking something and having some anxiety, a good sweat session expends that energy and calms my brain (more chaos into order). And finally the last and most fun layer of this little analysis is that with weightlifting, when I am doing it to gain strength (and not just “get toned”), I am consistently facing the unknown. Can I lift this amount of weight that I’ve never lifted before? How many times can I do that? How much more can I lift a month from now? Weightlifting with goals to improve is a fun and healthy way to continually press into the unknown and expand the boundaries. And it’s crazy satisfying when it happens!

Hiking – The whole concept is exploring the unknown, and while I hike a lot of the same trails locally so they are becoming familiar, there is still a feeling of awe and uncertainty when I step away from civilization even a few hundred yards and surround myself in the mystique of nature. It’s also a place for my mind to race freely and without interruption as I try to make sense of whatever is going on in life at the moment. Then, on the extreme side of this, I see that challenge of summiting Quandary Peak last September as another clear example of the desire and resulting joy in venturing into the unknown – it was unknown terrain, unknown physical exertion/stamina/oxygen capacity, and an unknown perspective of the world. And once at the top, I KNEW it, and it was exhilarating.

I’ll close with this beautiful quote from Rene Daumal that just sums all this up perfectly:

“What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.”