Self-Care & Mindfulness During Quarantine.

Unless you are Jared Leto back from an extensive meditation retreat in the desert then you are familiar with the Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID19. This pandemic has caused a good portion of the world to be confined to their living-quarters indefinitely. My city is no exception. Due to the nature of my work I have been forced to work from my home as well as self-quarantine. Per government orders, bars and restaurants, state parks, schools, and most businesses are closed. They even recently shut down the beach! Even if I wanted to go somewhere there is no where to go. When I drive downtown to the grocery store, the barren streets remind me of something described in a dystopian novel.

As an introvert, the first few weeks of being forced to stay home were amazing. I realize I am very privileged to be able to work from home and still be able to make money unlike a lot of my fellow Americans. For me, staying home in my sweatpants with my dog being able to read and practice yoga was a dream. Into the third week the novelty began to wear off and I started to experience “cabin-fever.”

In order to keep me (and my partner) sane I started to create a stay-at-home routine of things I never believed I had time for and now that I am home all the time I can do. With that being said, my caveat is that I am fully aware we are in a crisis and that just surviving right now is enough. This is not a vacation and I realize people are stuck at home working and/or taking care of kids, and can have numerous other concerns such as being jobless, homeless, in toxic relationships, and/or dealing with illness (mental or physical), etc. People may not have access to things I have listed and I understand that. The list I created is made up of things that worked for me to focus mindfulness and to get through this indefinite quarantine period without going batshit crazy.

  1. Read. Now is the time to dust off the books on your shelf that you had every intention of reading when you “found the time.” The time is now! Support local bookstores who do pickup or drop-off and purchase your favorite books or download ebooks from the Library. Reading is a beautiful form of escape from this uncertain time and a great way to learn something new.
  2. Listen to empowering podcasts. The best podcasts to listen to during this time are podcasts that inspire you or debunk COVID19 myths, teach you something, or ones that provide an escape from the terrible current reality. My current favorites are: Foodpsych, Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness, Food Heaven, Where Should We Begin?, By the Book, Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, and Fuck It Diet Podcast. I have been researching Intuitive Eating so most of my podcasts are related to that (more to come about IE in later posts).
  3. Unsubscribe from influencers or things that make you feel bad about yourself or do not align with your values. Again, I have been trying to heal my relationship with food and eschew diet culture so I block or unfollow influencers that promote weight loss or unhealthy supplements and those who post fat phobic content. This lately has also included blocking media outlets that sensationalizes the inaccurate COVID19 information. On the flip side, follow good news social media accounts or people who inspire you and make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Complete a puzzle, crossword, or brain teaser. Pull out that dusty puzzle sitting in the closet or borrow one from grandma and get to work. This is a great way to exercise the mind and take a break from social media and the news for a few minutes. Beware, one of my friends got tendinitis in her elbow from too much puzzling.
  5. YouTube a skill or new language. If you listen to episode 153 of Getting Curious an economist named Bradley M. Gold discusses tips on how to survive this pandemic and prepare ourselves for any future disasters or pandemics. One of the main tips is to learn a trade that you can use to barter with such as sewing, cooking, woodwork, etc. Another great way to keep from getting bored is to learn a new language that you can hopefully put to use once the travel bans are lifted.
  6. Gentle Movement. You do not need to start pumping iron or start running a marathon just because there is more time to do so and people keep posting push-up challenges on social media. However, one way to nourish yourself and to stave off anxiety is to move your body in a way that feels good. Support online fitness instructors like yoga teachers and do live videos or archived classes or just get outside and take the dog for a walk (if you are able to go outside and have the space to walk while social distancing). Fresh air is the best way to ward off “cabin fever.”
  7. Research something you’ve always wanted to learn. As I have mentioned I have been examining research related to health and intuitive eating. Have you wanted to learn the geography of the world or want to learn how to sew a button? Youtube is a great resource. Doing extra trainings to help for my job has also been helpful.
  8. Write letters or send thoughtful texts to loved ones. Being separated from the ones we love is the hardest part about self-isolating. Take the time to write the ones you love a letter expressing how grateful you are to have them in your life. If you do not have the stationary or stamps send them a meaningful text. Reaching out is the best way to feel connected and less alone.
  9. Volunteer. There is a limit to what we can do while self-isolating but The Red Cross and Meals on Wheels are two companies that are not shut down and are desperate for volunteers. Blood donations and drivers to deliver meals are much needed, especially now. You can look up the closest ones to your area to volunteer. There are so many ways you can reach out to your community. In my town, they had volunteers sewing mask kits for the hospital. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled for opportunities. Volunteering helps others, but also boosts our own satisfaction.
  10. Meditate/Pray. Taking just a few minutes to sit in silence in our uncomfortableness and focus on breathing has scientifically been proven to lift our moods. There are tons of online guided meditations and apps. It is amazing what kind of things come up when we just are and let things be. There are even meditations specifically for COVID relief.
  11. Journal/Write Gratitude Lists. Meditation can bring up a lot of emotions as well as living during a pandemic. The best way to deal with these emotions is getting them out and a great way to do that is to journal. The media and all the second-hand information we receive related to the pandemic makes it difficult to focus on the positive. There may be many reasons to feel despondent and stressed. However, in the midst of the uncertainty there are so many things to be grateful for. Every day I write just a few of those things and it helps keep perspective.
  12. Watch. My four year-old niece has named viewing television or movies “watch” and always asks to do so. If you are a parent do not feel guilty about letting kids watch more tv than you usually would allow, again these are not normal times! TV is also a great escape from reality and I enjoy watching old romantic comedies when I am feeling anxious. Give yourself permission during this time to watch TV or play video games if that helps with the uncertainty.
  13. FaceTime, Zoom, Call, or MarcoPolo with loved ones. It is lonely being isolated. I luckily have my partner and our pets, but it can be especially isolating for those who live alone. The best I have felt is when I did a Zoom date with my girlfriends and we all watched the dumpster trash show “Love is Blind” while drinking wine. It felt almost like we were together in person enjoying Happy Hour.
  14. House Projects/Declutter. Now is also the time to do those home projects you have been putting off or yard work that needs done. Youtube is full of great DIY tips! Decluttering, which for me is essential for minimalism, is a great distraction and way to perform self-care during Quarantine. Start going through your closets, junk drawers, garage, under the bed, etc. and ask yourself if the items add value to your life or are even necessary. Start piling up the items and once you have the okay-go-ahead donate or sell those items you’ve decided to part with to a local thrift shop or charity.
  15. Beauty Care. Face-masks, clipping and painting nails, foot scrubs, baths, etc. are all great self-care tools and distractions. I made myself a lip scrub and have painted my nails rainbow to please my niece. This may seem superficial, but anything we can do to take care of ourselves is worth a go. However, leave the haircutting to professionals! There are too many funny memes of people ending up with haircuts like Joe Exotic.
  16. Take a break from the news and social media. Delete apps, turn off the TV, and for the-love-of-God take a break from the news!! There is an abundance of information coming at us like a Tsunami and not all of it is accurate. Follow a few sources you trust, remember the media sensationalizes everything and take breaks from it throughout the day. What also helps me is following good news social media like @TanksGoodNews on Instagram. Good things are happening, even during a pandemic.
  17. Partake in online therapy. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, have an eating disorder, or would just like someone to talk to there are a lot of online resources with licensed therapists that you can do from your home either online or on the phone. A common online resource is TalkSpace. No one should have to deal with negative emotions alone! Therapy is best thing I have ever done for myself.
  18. Bake. The grocery stores are missing toilet paper as well as most baking ingredients every time I go. In times of stress my go-to is baking and I turn into The Barefoot Contessa in the kitchen. For me, self-care is baking cookies and breads and doing porch deliveries to my friends and family. I have also taken the opportunity to make a plethora of freezer meals for the future. Try something new or make something comforting, but whatever you do please do not feel you need to diet or restrict food intake. This is a damn pandemic and snacking more or wanting more comforting foods is totally reasonable!
  19. Rest. There are workout videos and diet shaming on any social media platform you log into. Again, this is not a vacation, this is a pandemic! You are allowed to rest (if you can) and not do push-up challenges or meal prep or DIY your whole home. The future is uncertain and scary so just resting on the couch, in bed, on your balcony or whatever feels good to you is acceptable. Productivity does not equal your worth, especially now.
  20. Just Breathe. We got this! The rain does not last forever and while times are so uncertain and scary our ancestors have made it through so much and we can too! Take a few moments to take a couple deep breaths and just do what you can to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you!

Things I Stopped Buying to Live Within My Means.

I am sure the words “live within your means” is not an unfamiliar quote to most. However, what does “means” actually mean? Living within ones means is essentially spending less than or at least equal to the amount of money brought in. Simple, right? If you make $3,000 a month then you should not spend more than $3,000 a month. If only it were that easy. Advertisements, influencers, co-workers, friends, “The Joneses”, and social media in general make it difficult to not spend more than we make. Watching others and comparing ourselves to them and what they have makes it difficult to not want more. It has also become the norm to work 80-100 hours a week in order to afford a more “luxurious” lifestyle.

My husband, Paul is currently volunteering to gain medical hours and working less paying hours. So we are bringing in less money than we had been previously. This means we had to sit down and hash out a budget. A budget can feel restricting and to put it bluntly, it sucks sometimes. Watching our friends eat out most nights, buy things without worry, and travel multiple times a year can be hard. However, I have learned over the past few months of budgeting how liberating and powerful budgeting can be.

When I am on a budget I am forced to parse out what is important to me and what is not. I have to choose what things to spend my precious few dollars on versus saying yes to everything. This has helped me learn what I value most. I say yes to yoga classes, friend dates, snowboarding lift tickets, and items that I need. I say no to fast food, going to the movies, and every single item I like that I pass in a store or online. As someone who loves clothes, budgeting has helped me decide what items I really love/need and which ones I can go without. Budgeting reveals what I value. Budgeting also lifts the burden of debt from my shoulders. Paul and I may be making less money, but with a budget we are still able to nearly pay off our car loan and should be done earlier than expected. It is such a relief to pay down debt and a greater high than any shopping experience can bring.

In order to cut costs, I have created a list of (some of the) items I no longer buy in order to save money, stick to my budget, and ultimately live within my means. This list is not a be-all, end-all and is not a one-size-fits-all model. Like I said, everyone values different things and the list does not apply to everyone. This is what works for me.

Things I No Longer Buy to Save Money:

1. Take-out Coffee. 
I love going to coffee shops and I love getting fancy coffee beverages. However, I save it for very rare occasions like a date with a friend. Most people in the office I work with get takeout coffee (ie Starbucks) every single morning. If a person gets a $5 coffee 5x a week, that is $25 a week, $100 a month, and $1,200 a year! Even if you get just plain black coffee 5x a week for $2.50 a cup, that is $600 a year. I started buying bags of coffee for $9.99 (fair-trade and organic, so no skimping on quality) and brewing it at home. A 2 lb bag makes approximately 164, 9 ounce cups of coffee (about 17 cents a cup). I usually drink about 2 cups of coffee, so it ends up costing 34 cents a day. If I drink 2 cups a day, 7 days a week for a month, then the cost is approximately $9.52, and approximately $114.52 a year. This ends up saving $485.48 a year compared to black coffee at a shop.

2. Lunches out. 
Along with getting coffee everyday, a lot of people in the workforce eat lunch out daily. While it is tempting to just go run and grab something to eat instead of packing a lunch it saves money to make your own. Even if you are going the cheap route and eating lunch for $5 a day, it adds up to $100 a month. According to USA Today, the average person in 2017 paid approximately $11 to eat out lunch on working days. This adds up to $220 a month, which is over half as much as my monthly grocery bill feeding me and Paul. Bringing my lunch to work can sometimes be a pain to plan, but the food I am eating is more nutrient dense, makes me feel good, and saves money.

3. Books.
I love reading. I do it every single day, but yet I own very little books. Books are expensive, they take up a lot of space, and most books I only read once (Harry Potter excluded). This is why I go to the library and checkout books for free. I have found that I actually read more when I do not buy the books. When books have a due date, I am forced to read them instead of just leaving them to sit on my bookshelf collecting dust.

4. Manicures/pedicures. 
I love nothing more than a good spa day, however nail maintenance is a luxury I save for special occasions. The average cost in my area for a manicure and a spa pedicure is about $65 which if done monthly, adds up to $780 a year. There are other things I would rather spend my money on then something of little importance to me. A good clip and clear polish works well for me. Having nail care be a treat makes it even more special, especially with friends.

5. Excess bath-care products.
I think most of us have been guilty of buying too much make-up, shower gel, colognes, shampoos, lotions, and potions. Ads sell us items to make us look younger, tanner, sexier, thinner. Do we really need an elixir for our left elbow? At 30 years old I know what items work for me and which do not. I have a skincare routine that includes soap, witch hazel and argan oil- that’s it! I also use coconut oil to remove my eye make-up. I use my make-up until it is gone and then if I want something new, like a new color of lipstick, I research it and get something else and use it until it is gone. I do not feel the need to spend money on duplicate items and I try to stay away from marketed items that make users feel they are not enough in order to sell the product.

6. Gym membership. 
If you use the gym regularly and love it that is fantastic! I however, do not. I do yoga via classes or videos online and do my own at-home workouts or run outside. When I had a gym membership it was overall a waste for me. Doing workouts at home for free has been more beneficial for me and a great way to save money.

7. Subscription boxes. 
If you listen to a Podcast or click on any website you will likely see ads for subscription boxes. Boxes for skincare and make-up products, boxes for clothes, boxes for your beard, and even boxes for your dog. For example, FabFitFun costs $49.99 for a one-time subscription or $179.99 for an annual membership. So for $50 you are advertised to get a bunch of high-end products (which you do get) but most of the items are not needed or wanted. People I know who have done subscription boxes end up giving most of the stuff away or attempting to resell some of the items. Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace is full of items from subscription boxes.

8. Home decor. 
I am not going to lie, I enjoy wandering the home decor aisles at any store. I love nothing more than throw pillows and fuzzy blankets. I could spend hours sniffing candles and pretend redecorating my home. The problem is most of the items in the home decor section are not needed and honestly are overpriced. I have plenty of throw pillows, blankets, and candles. More than enough. While it can be tempting to want to make my home look like a Pinterest one, I keep away from the decor aisles in order to keep from mindlessly spending money on mass produced junk I do not need.

9. Fast fashion. 
This may be the hardest one for me. I have always and still love clothes. I love looking at people’s clothes, putting outfits together and when I was little my favorite thing to do was to put on fashion shows with my Barbies. The best way for me to save money is to not shop for clothes, especially new clothes or clothes made cheaply. I have started being really selective about when and where I buy clothes. When I do need something I try thrift it or shop Poshmark. I no longer buy clothing because it is on sale which saves money too. I am also in the process of creating a capsule wardrobe, which means I only shop for specific items I need. I have finally figured out my style and what works for me and what does not. I am able to appreciate trendy outfits without having to buy them for myself.

10. Alcohol. 
Brunch is one of my favorite outings, especially if mimosas are involved. I also enjoy grabbing a drink with a friend after work. The problem with mimosas and drinks after work (even if it is “happy hour”) is they start to add up. According to the Huffington Post, if someone only drinks on weekends, two drinks per day, it ends up costing about $2,500 a year. This does not include tips, Uber/Lyfts, or the 2 AM Taco Bell runs. You can also visit the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website to see just how much alcohol is not only costing you, but the economy too. I stick with my soda water or once in awhile I have a Kombucha, saving the alcohol for very special occasions. This not only saves my wallet, but my health too.

11. Movie tickets. 
The last time I went to the movies was with my niece to see Frozen II as part of her Christmas gift, otherwise I rarely go. Movies in my area cost $10-$13 and that is not including the $10 for popcorn. I honestly prefer to be able to watch movies in my own home and pause it so I can get up to pee or grab more snacks. I can get a couple months of unlimited Netflix shows and movies for the cost of me and Paul to go to one movie at the theater together.

12. Fast food. 
Like I said in the Alcohol summary, those Taco Bell runs add up. The last time I had fast food, the items were a McFlurry and he got a Big Mac with the total being $13. For $13 we could have bought a gallon of ice cream and most of the fixings for a burger (depending on the quality…). I do believe there can be a time and a place for fast food, but it should be far and few between. When I eat at home I save money and I feel so much better health-wise (aka: not feeling like I swallowed a brick).

13. Expensive/excessive gifts.
For Christmas, my family did a game exchange each person brought a board game and we did a “white elephant” game. All of us enjoy hosting game nights so a board game exchange ended up being perfect. As for my four year old niece and nephews, their favorite gift was a “toilet light” that lights up the toilet bowl different colors so you can see it at night. They saw the one at my house and loved it. My friends and I did not buy each other Christmas gifts (we never do) and neither did my husband and I. My husband and I prefer to put money we would usually spend on gifts towards a trip. Have you ever received gifts you did not want? I can guarantee you have. According to Fastcompany.com approximately $100 billion worth of products are expected to be returned from Thanksgiving through the New Year and an estimated 5 billion tons of returns end up annually in landfills. Buying (and receiving) gifts not wanted or needed is bad for the wallet and the planet.

14. Single use items.
This is items like paper towels, plastic bottles and paper napkins as well as kitchen gadgets that only serve one function. The only exception is my garlic press as 90% of my recipes call for minced garlic and it is a nightmare to have to do. As for single use items, I try to use reusable rags instead of paper towels and a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones, etc. It not only saves money, but it helps our earth mother as well.

15. Media.
Media for me means Blu-Rays, CDs, Magazines, in app purchases, speakers, tech gadgets, or unneeded smartphone upgrades. I prefer to use Netflix (and steal my sister’s Hulu account) and Spotify for television and music. I personally do not need the latest and greatest gadgets, even though I love my Google home mini (which I got for free). I upgrade my phone when it has reached its functional limit. Magazines I can also borrow from the library or read when I do got to the spa. I am still using my Macbook Pro from college, 7 years ago and it is holding up just fine.

16. “Just in case items.” 
These are items that are bought for a non-specific reason or date and may or may not ever be used. My mother-in-law comes to mind when I think of “just-in-case” items. She has an extra coffee maker and an extra Keurig “just in case” the two she has break. Not to mention she is a single woman and is the only user of both coffee machines. However, I think most of us can relate to “just-in-case” items. These items can be furniture for a house we may someday move into or clothes we buy in case we lose the weight we have been wanting to lose or buying a guitar in case when we retire we will want to play it.
The only just-in-case items I think are worth collecting is an emergency kit in case of a natural disaster. Apparently Oregon is well overdue for a massive earthquake, so having a “just in case” emergency kit is really a “just for when” kit.

17. Experiences I do not want to do.
When I turned 30 I told myself I was no longer go to do things I did not want to do. Now I know there will always be things I do not want to do like *cough* work *cough* cough* or doing the dishes. What I mean is I am a very agreeable person, to a fault. I will compromise a lot of the time and spend my precious extra time (and money) doing experiences I do not want to do just because I do not want to “let anyone down”. For example, a few friends invited me to see a play and I really was not that into it. I knew I would have a good time just because my friends were there, but I honestly did not feel like spending the money seeing a play I was not into. Not to mention I had plans to spend the weekend with my friends the next week. So instead of just forking over the money and seeing the play I declined the invitation. And you know what? The world did not end and my friends still like me. I also saved some money so I can enjoy a better experience with them at another time.

18. Individually packaged items. 
I have started buying the majority of my foods in bulk, which has saved me a lot of money. I get that a lot of states and towns do not offer bulk sections, which means this may not apply to everyone. Oregon has a lot of Farmer’s Markets and most grocery stores have bulk selections, which is really fortunate. Individually packaged or even precut items tend to cost way more than items bought in bulk or uncut fruits/veggies. Sometimes it is a pain to shop bulk or to chop items myself, but overall it saves money (and the oceans) and I get an excuse to watch The Golden Girls on Hulu while chopping.

This list is just some ways in which I save money, but there are many other ways I strive to live within my means. However, I am not perfect and I do not pretend to be. There are times when I buy a candle I don’t need or buy a zucchini wrapped in plastic from Trader Joe’s. I am called “the bad minimalist” after all. I still go and get my hair cut and colored by a professional because I am not ready for the grays to stay and I suck at doing my own hair. I am trying my best and I hope this post will inspire you to try yours. What items do you skip buying in order to save a few bucks? I would love more ideas and tips.

30 Days of No Sugar, No Grain.

Pizza, ice cream, and tacos are life’s joys. I love them all so much, but unfortunately they do not love me back. I have been struggling for months, even years with negative body symptoms, which I could not exactly pinpoint the cause. The symptoms are pretty vague and include: bloating, heartburn, gas, joint pain, headaches, phlegm, stomach pain, rosacea, fatigue, and a mix of constipation and diarrhea, etc. The list of sexy symptoms goes on.

I knew my diet could be better, but I just did not know where to start for elimination. In September, I did 30 days without dairy and my symptoms did not seem to relent. So for October, after watching the documentary Fat, both my husband, Paul and I decided to experiment by cutting added and refined sugar (including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) and grains (including corn, quinoa, rice, wheat, beer, etc.) from our diets for 30 days to see if we experienced positive results.

It sounds so simple to cut two things out of your diet, but the problem is sugar and grains are in nearly EVERYTHING. Sugar and grains are in drinks, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pre-packaged meals, etc. The list is overwhelming. Trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate these two restrictions was nearly impossible so instead we ate our meals at home. While our grocery bill may have went up, our savings did too because we were not spending money eating and drinking out.

The first few days were rough. This was not only due to craving sugar and the self discipline it took to refuse homemade cupcakes my coworker brought in, but because my body started to “withdrawal” from grains and sugar. The symptoms included stomach cramping, constipation, fatigue and irritability. So basically, nothing I was not already suffering from, but on a more intense scale. The one side effect I was not expecting was a random period. I have not had a period for years due to my Intrauterine Device (IUD) birth control, but switching to a high fat diet can cause a disruption with leptin and luteinizing hormones associated with periods. All the symptoms lasted only a few days for me.

The rest of the month I saw only benefits.

Cutting out grains and sugar was difficult the first two weeks but then it was like second nature. There were a couple instances of temptation. One was at a friends’ party where they made barbecue and multiple desserts and another was at a friend’s book launch where multiple hor d’oeuvres and wine were served. At the first party we were aware in advance and brought our no sugar, no grain sides and sadly avoided dessert. At the book launch, there was hummus and veggies brought out so I snacked on those while pining for the mini cupcakes. Overall, it was not as horrible as I prepared myself for. Paul and I did indulge ourselves for one day when a friend came to visit from Seattle. Oregon is known for its wine so we went wine tasting at a local vineyard. The tastings added up to about a glass. For food, we split a charcuterie board and ate the meats, cheeses, and olives; leaving the crackers behind. I felt deprived the first week, but for the other three I felt myself feeling content.

Staying home was the easiest way to avoid temptation. We only bought compliant foods and did not have to witness the copious amount of options outside of our house. We also made a point to tell our friends ahead of time in case any of them wanted to make dinner plans. After a yoga class when a friend of mine and I went out to eat, we were able to find a restaurant ahead of time that honored my food restrictions. 

On our day of freedom, October 31st (aka: Halloween), we went to my sister’s house which had bowls piled with brightly wrapped chocolates and other sugar filled treats. Paul and I were originally excited to be free from our limitations on Halloween because then we could indulge in the tradition of treats. Paul had a couple beers and I had: nothing. Not even a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I am never one to turn down chocolate (especially with peanut butter) but after 30 days without sugar I did not feel the need for artificially flavored candies. I wanted to save my splurge for something amazing, and I did days later (Danish strawberries and cream cake).

After the 30 days, Paul and I went out for our first NSNG meal with my sister and brother-in-law, who also eliminated sugar and grains for the month. We treated ourselves to pizza. The holy havoc the pizza wreaked on my stomach was unbearable. I laid in bed after dinner, crouched in the fetal position with a heating pad on my stomach for the rest of the night. I have had a few other gluten items since the 30 days without them, and for the first time in my life I experienced acid reflux and still do every time I eat it. Other symptoms I noticed were the achy joints, bloating, including swollen hands. The symptoms from gluten still have yet to abate.

I now know gluten is the main culprit of my symptoms. When I choose to eat it I have to decide if what I am about to eat is worth the symptoms that will follow. This mindset allows me to prioritize and only choose the treats worth the aggravation and skip the crappy items like store-bought cookies or crackers (things I would never normally skip) in favor of something delicious. Like minimalism, I get to choose the important things and filter out the rest. I keep the things worth having (aka: eating gluten for special occasions) and avoid the things not worth my time (aka: pie. Not my thing). Just like minimalism, diets and sensitivities are different person to person. Only you can choose what works for you and only you can choose what to avoid.

Beach, Please.

My friend invited me and a few of his friends to go surfings three weekends ago on the Oregon Coast. Oregon is not known for its warm beaches and is not people’s first choice for surfing. While there definitely are surfers in Oregon, they are not like the kind featured in my favorite teen surfer movie Blue Crush- with board shorts and tribal tattoos. In fact, when Oregonians brave the waters they wear 3mm thick wetsuits, masks, hoods, booties, and gloves. That is because Oregon coast waters are polar and the beaches are rainy with winds blasting sand so hard in your face it feels like being stabbed with needles. I am not being overly dramatic, honestly.

The weekend turned out to be unseasonably warm- as if God purposely wanted a clear view to watch me drown as I attempted to surf. I pulled on my wetsuit (which smelled like old urine) and it squealed in protest as I tried to pull it up my thighs. We all made our way down the narrow steps to the beach and that is when I saw what I thought was piles of multicolored pebbles washed up on shore. As we got closer, I realized it was not pebbles, it was plastic. Little pieces of blue, red, black, yellow, and white plastic. There were chunks of styrofoam, shreds of bottles, and even plastic bands of watches littering the whole entire beach. The photo above is just a section of what the whole beach looked like.

Oregon is my home. Arguably, one of the most beautiful states in U.S. with mountains dusted with snow, evergreens sprinkling the whole state, and of course, the frigid but beautiful beaches. Almost everywhere you drive looks like a postcard. It is the perfect place to raise kids, or in my case, my 95 pound puppy. One can only imagine how it felt seeing my Oregon beaches resembling a dumpster.

I am one (fairly average and insignificant) person. I claim to “care” about the environment, but let’s be honest, I do do more harm than good. As a human I create waste; we all do it. By just being born we impact the environment. If you were born in a hospital just think of all the disposable medical equipment (gloves, for example) it took to deliver you safely (and hygienically) into this world.

As the wise Helen Keller once stated, ““I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everythingbut still I can do somethingand because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Here is what I can do: I can mindfully choose more environmentally friendly options when going about my life. There are people more dedicated to an environmental friendly lifestyle (looking at you people who use “washable toilet paper”. Yes it is real, you can buy it on Etsy or make your own……). I am not quite there as far as dedication. I am going the route of baby steps, per my usual M.O. I meet goals one wobbly step at a time. Once I meet one small one I titrate up to more. For the next 30 days, I am going to do five things to reduce my waste:

  1. Less disposable coffee cups. According to Earrthday.org 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside of the cup and then there are the plastic lids on top, so they are non recyclable nor compostable. I have a great coffee Hydro Flask (not sponsored, I wish..) and I will be using that anytime I get coffee to go. A lot of coffee shops give a discount if you bring in your own cup. This includes Starbucks, which gives 10 cents off in America.
  2. Less plastic grocery bags. According to Earth Policy Institute,  a trillion (!!!!) single-use plastic bags are used each year, which is nearly 2 million each minute. Plastic bags are one of the top polluters of our oceans. I do not know about you, but I have reusable bags coming out my eyeballs from events and God-only-knows where, so I will be using those not just to grocery shop but for any type of in-store purchases. I even got a bag that folds up tiny and can fit in my purse for emergency shopping trips.
  3. Less Styrofoam. Styrofoam is basically “the devil” (as Bobby Boucher’s mom from The Waterboy would say….) There was tons of it on the Oregon coast and it definitely does not biodegrade. According to Green Dining Alliance, the world produces more than 14 million US tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) each year. It also notes that just Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year. The culprit for me is takeout containers. I love leftovers, but I notice that when I ask for a box I am usually brought a styrofoam one. For this, I intend to bring my own container for leftovers and leave one in my car and if need be, put it in my purse. This way I can say “boy, bye” to styrofoam hopefully forever.
  4. Less food waste. Guilty. The biggest thing for me to work on will be wasting less food. I have a habit of buying or making things and then forgetting about them in the black hole that is the back of my fridge and leaving them to rot. Just the other day I bought a yellow squash and forgot about it and then found it too late. According to the USDA, in the United States, food waste is estimated between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds of food and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. Fuuuuuck! There are people starving all over the world and here we are wasting 133 billion pounds of food. I am sure the number has only gone up since 2010….
  5. Less new clothes. According to PBS, Americans throw away 13 million tons of textiles — about 85 percent of their clothes — each year, accounting for 9 percent of total non-recycled waste. Not only do we throw away clothes which creates waste, but then our clothes come in non recyclable packaging. According to Sciencemag.org over half of the world’s plastic thrown out in 2015 was plastic packaging. That’s over 141 million metric tons! I know packaging also includes food and other packaging, but still. Let us also not get into the unfair labor and fossil fuels it takes to make our clothes…. With websites like Poshmark and Ebay where you can buy and sell gently used clothing online and of course, brick and mortar thrift stores, there is no need for me to buy new clothes for the next 30 days. Not to mention it is better for my budget to buy used than new.

I know there are way more ways to improve the planet and maybe even better ones, but these are the ones I believe I can attain for the next 30 days and then hopefully I can add more and work my way up to living in my own self-sustaining treehouse community. Still not going to do the “family roll” (the formal name for reusable toilet paper) thing, though. Sorry, not sorry.


30 Days of Yoga.

The goal for living a life with more meaning in 2019 is to complete different goals for 30 days at a time. The month of January was for yoga. My intention was to do yoga every single day for 30 days and to see if it added any value to my life. For the past 30 days I have stuck to that goal and practiced on my mat each day.

I did not go into January thinking that yoga would alter my life significantly. I had done it previously and knew it was a great way to unwind and a decent workout. I was not expecting the immense change that took place in just four weeks. What changed was gradual, sneaking up on me like a predator to its prey. There were days in this challenge when I REALLY did not want to do it. I had days when I had so many other things going on that it was hard to find time. Yet, I made the time. Even if it was 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I was planning. I promised myself that I would stick through something for 30 days and I kept it.

At the end of my 30 days, after completing one of my yoga videos, another video started playing (typical YouTube) and it was about the science of yoga. Almost instantly, I became enthralled in the video and watched it until it cut out and told me I needed to sign up on their website to get the rest of the video….(not very yogi in my opinion, but whatever). The 20 minute clip solidified what I felt had changed in my body, mind, and spirit. I felt lighter, happier, and (let’s be real) like less of a bitch. After the challenge was over, I had time to reflect on what things had changed:

  1. Less Anxiety. By the second week in, I noticed I was less anxious. My feelings of panic hit me like a freight train, usually at night, and it can keep me from being able to come back down. I start having shortness of breath, I lose focus, and terrible thoughts consume me. Throughout my yoga practice, I noticed I was having less panicky thoughts. I felt calm and able to relax both during the day and at night and took things as they came instead of instantly freaking out if something felt out of my control.
  2. Better Mood. Prior to yoga, I felt like it took very little to set me off. I could feel perfectly chill and then something inconsequential would happen and I would lash out in rage. I felt despondent; all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. Little tasks or work was enough to send me to tears. While I did cry one time at work during the 30 days, I know that it would have been more frequent without yoga. At week three I could feel myself waking up happier, a sense of calm over me as I tackled the day. A sense of peace washed over me on my way to work that felt foreign and it has continued with me since.
  3. More Self-Esteem. I have not always felt good about my body or my abilities. There are times when I feel so fat or ugly that I want to stay home and times when I feel so incompetent and out of my element that I break down. I am very hard on myself. I still have those insecurities, but yoga helped lessen them. The more I practiced, the more I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility. I noticed my body could do things it was not able to previously and I felt a sense of strength. The more I spent time connecting my breath to my movement, the more I reflected on how lucky I am to have a body that can move the way mine could and I started looking in the mirror and seeing a strong body instead of a flawed one.
  4. Improved Flexibility and Strength. I sit on my butt for the majority of the day at work. This causes my legs and hips to be extremely tight. I have also been told I have the strength of a nine month old baby by my husband because I cannot open jars on my own. No joke. With each day I practiced, I felt my hamstrings, hips, and quads loosen up and I was able to touch my toes by the end of 30 days without pain. When I was young and did ballet, I could go into splits no problem. By the end of the 30 days I was back to being able to do it. I may still have trouble opening jars, but I noticed improvement in my arm strength (and legs) with the 30 days and started to even see definition in both.
  5. Improved Sleep. Not to be Garfield the cat or anything, but I hate mornings. I have never been an early riser and I could not remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed. It may have to do with my problem looking at memes on my phone all through the night, but also I felt burned out with work and life, which made getting up hard to do. Just 30 minutes of yoga a day improved the way I slept. I went to bed feeling relaxed, was able to fall asleep and stay asleep, and after week three I was waking up at 6:30 on the dot awake and ready. This did not mean I did not lounge in bed until after 6:30, but still, I felt awake.

Yoga is not the cure all for all of life’s problems. It was not the sole cure for really any of my problems. It is an outlet for me to connect my mind, body, and spirit; to nourish them. For me it is time set aside specifically to stay in the present, to connect with God, to strengthen my body, and to calm my breathing. These are all ingredients that in combination help improve my outlook and attitude and sticking with something for 30 days even when I did not feel like it made me stronger. If you are willing to give yoga a try, please ease into it and stick with it because the rewards are so worth it.

New Year, Who Dis?

Year 2019 has began, meaning that 2018 is a fading memory. The new year brings with it hope and resolutions for the future. Vows to get in shape, travel, volunteer, change careers, meet someone or leave someone, learn a new skill, etc. are made as promises to ourselves that this is the year will be different and we will become our best selves.

I try not to make any sweeping declarations of what I intend to change for the upcoming year. Usually when I do, I end up failing halfway through the first day of January. Example is telling myself I am going to stop eating junk food and workout, but then end up spending the day on the couch, nursing a hangover with a burrito the size of an infant.

In this moment it feels as though nothing in my life has changed the past year, but when I pause and really think about where I was January 1st, 2018 I realize so much has. I quit my dead-end job and opted for one that is pushing (and sometimes shoving) me out of my comfort zone. I nourished relationships with acquaintances this past year and those people are now some of my closest friends. I have also started being more honest and setting boundaries, telling people if/when they hurt me and separating myself from those who do not care that they do. I have also challenged myself to try new things and have stuck with those challenges and pressed on, even if it was hard (ahem, hiking to Everest base camp for example).

In 2018 I chose to forgo social media for 30 days. In this short span I noticed changes in my attitude and mental health stemming from cutting the excess that was making me feel inadequate. After discussing what I learned with a friend over brunch, she encouraged me to try to add or eliminate more things from my life for 30 days at a time. She even agreed to join me on the journey. So this year, I will do multiple challenges for 30 days at a time to either introduce things into my life that will add value or take away things that weigh it down. These challenges are meant to be (baby) steps into creating habits that will enhance my well-being and aid in curating the life I want.

The month of January I will be doing yoga every day for 30 days straight. There is a Youtube channel I subscribe to that does “Yoganuary” for the past two years in January. The instructor releases a new video every day for the month of January with yoga power, flow, or even just meditation sessions.. This allows me to do yoga in my living room where only my dog can judge me. There will also be some classes in my community that I will join throughout the month so I can experience yoga with live instructors and other humans. I just completed today’s Youtube session in my living room and am looking forward to the next 29 days of yoga. For this month I can honestly tell people that I do yoga instead of just pretending I do yoga but really just wearing yoga pants while watching Netflix on my couch.

So cheers to the new year and all the victories (and spectacular failures) it will hold. May you be taking steps, big or small, towards curating a more meaningful life this year. Please follow me as I stumble and fall flat on my bum, attempting to live this year with purpose. There are bound to be many incidents, but nevertheless I (and I hope you as well) will get back up and keep moving forward. Cheers to 2019!

Gratitude.

Advertisements use trendy words to help market things that will supposedly improve our lives. Some of the words are: “minimalism”, “mindfulness”, “happiness”, “wanderlust”. Not that this is a bad thing-hello, the title of my blog is one of those words. What I mean is that the intention of the word gets diluted and is used as a marketing ploy. How many advertisements have I seen with the word “minimalist” to describe their product or design. How many apps and classes are marketed to help people become more mindful? Answer: Too many to choose from.

One word that I do not usually see advertised is: Gratitude. Being grateful for what we have and not buying stuff we do not need is the opposite of what advertisers want someone to choose. How will they make money if people appreciate what they have and stop buying what they do not need?

For me, being mindful and being grateful for what I already have takes effort. I have to force myself to pause and be in the present and to stop and think about what I have already before buying something that will make me “happy”. As embarrassing as it is, advertisements have a way of persuading me that I need more “stuff” to feel fulfilled. It is funny that I find myself trying to justify buying things to make me more of a minimalist or tell myself that I will start being grateful and will not need anything more if I just get that one item.

If you grew up in a Christian household in the 90’s-early 00’s then you may be familiar with the Veggie Tales movies. If you grew up in a household that allowed you to watch other videos that did not include singing vegetables, then you may have no idea what I am referring to. Veggie Tales were a series of 30-minute movies that had talking vegetables (and some fruits) that sang songs, quoted bible verses, and every story taught a moral lesson.

In one movie, there was a blueberry that lived in a tree house (why she lived in a tree house is beyond me-as blueberries grow on bushes, but whatever) and she tried to buy happiness with stuff. She bought so much stuff that it started to weigh her tree house down and the tree finally bent over and ended up dumping all her stuff into the river and then ruining her house. Before her house incident, she walked by a little green bean who was poor and only had a piece of apple pie (which is basically a form of cannibalism, but whatever) and was singing a song about how grateful she was for her apple pie (still after 20 years I remember that damn song. You can listen for yourself: here). Madame Blueberry (the blueberry’s name) realized after her house was destroyed that she had a lot to be grateful for without all the stuff and joined the little girl in singing the song.

Why did I just ramble on about a materialistic blueberry? Because like the blueberry, I get obsessed with buying happiness that I forget to be grateful for what I have. I get so focused on the future-wanting an immaculately decorated Hygge-like condo instead of the house I have, not realizing that some people are wishing right now that they have a house like I already do. Unfortunately, being grateful does not come easy, especially when we are groomed by society to want more, bigger, better.

Sometimes I do not have a grateful heart. A lot of the time I get something I want and then almost immediately upon receiving it I move on to pining over the next thing I want. I get on the hamster wheel of chasing my wants instead of stopping to appreciate my privileged life. I was born middle-class, white, American, and into a loving family. Right there I started the race of life with more of a leg up than most people in the world. Yet, I still catch my thoughts telling me that I need more.

This holiday season I did not ask for gifts, but I still received one from a very thoughtful friend: a gratitude journal. While I do not recommend going out and buying something to help you be more grateful (oh, the irony), I have found so much value in taking the time each day to write down the things that I am grateful for. This journal has helped me spend a part of the day reflecting on the wonderful things in my life instead of focusing on what is lacking in it. Instead of buying a journal, just writing down on a notepad three things a day that you are grateful for will have the same effect.

With the new year approaching, I intend to keep journaling and focusing on the positive and daily working towards giving the advertisers that say I do not have and am not enough the middle finger. Enough is enough and I definitely have more than enough.