Confession of the week

I have a confession to make.

I ate meat every day this past week. Chicken x three meals, then ham and potato soup, and the worst was the most delicious chili burger I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. God it was so good that just thinking about it makes me salivate.

But at the same time it’s been really awful too. My stomach certainly took a beating especially since I’ve primarily stuck to a vegetarian diet over the last six months and my general level of energy has been a bit off keel. It always amazes me to see how my diet impacts my mood and general well-being.

Sunday was the perfect opportunity to get back on the bandwagon though. In general, I haven’t felt like cooking and the very thought of taking a trip to the store just wasn’t appealing (hence the reason I raided my freezer where obviously most of what’s in there are the fixings for meat-based dishes). The biggest challenge I face with a vegetarian diet is the time it takes to prep and plan for dishes throughout the week but on Sunday I decided to man up and in the end I’m really happy with the baked lentil and spinach stuffed shells I made.

This meal was the perfect excuse to use up the rest of my lentils and homemade marinara sauce. The recipe calls for canned lentils but I’ve always had trouble finding those in the store and it’s really not that much more of a hassle to cook your own. I’m also no fan of reduced-fat cheese of anything so I ended up using regular ricotta. Other than that I didn’t really make any additional modifications to the recipe. Big deal, I know.

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It’s certainly a meal high in fiber and an added bonus is the combination of my love for cheese and carbs. Plus, it makes for pretty great leftovers! 

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How to deal with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty isn’t my strong suit. In fact, I’m a compulsive worrier so an ambiguous future tends to leave me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I like stability, or at least knowing the general direction my life is headed in. For the last several months, though, I’ve been operating in complete tandem to that notion. And then yesterday, I finally just realized the chaos isn’t going away. It is what it is…until it isn’t anymore. So for now, I have to learn to deal with uncertainty the best way I know how.

1) Embrace the chaos

I’ve quickly realized my downward spiral of emotions is typically because of my temptation to dwell on my current situation and then to become obsessive about what the future holds. Living in a constant state of uncertainty the last couple of months means I’ve literally imagined every doomsday scenario imaginable. I wonder about the unknown, I set goals for where I want to be in the future, and then when I’m not sure I’ll get there all hell breaks loose. I blame myself. I obsess. I ask, “Why me?” And in the end I feel more helpless and anxious than ever before. When I asked my intuitive reader what I can change about myself to make my life richer, she promptly told me to stop over analyzing and obsessing about everything. Be present and enjoy the moment. Life never goes the way we planned for it to go anyways. Take comfort in the fact that when things get really shitty, it often opens up new doors and opportunities. Hard times – the uncertain times – are humbling experiences that test our willpower and certainly present challenges. BUT with every challenge also comes opportunity. So, embrace the chaos and uncertainty. I promise you something positive will come out of your situation, even if you don’t believe it right now. On that note, though…

2) Make peace with time

…opportunities don’t always present themselves in a nicely wrapped gift box and they don’t always come when we want them to. I realize that anxious feelings are temporary and fleeting, that every moment of panic comes to an end and that I’m still okay in the end – whether it works in my favor or not.  I continue to remind myself to take deep breaths, that everything happens (or doesn’t happen) for a reason, and that my future goals aren’t a matter of “if” but when. It’s really hard not to be disheartened when things don’t go your way but you have to keep moving forward. I remind myself to be thankful for the little steps I’ve made along the way and for the opportunities that continue to present themselves, albeit in their own sweet time. Keep going, keep moving forward, and keep living (my third point!).

3) Don’t let limbo keep you from living your life

For the last two weeks, I’ve thrown a one-woman pity party. I really hadn’t done much of anything until a friend of mine drug me out of the house and took me on my first ever Fear Fest experience. And guess what? I had the greatest time. I decided amongst the zombies and scary creatures chasing me in the Forgotten Forest that instead of fretting about what may be ahead, I need to do something that makes me happy. Screaming bloody murder and nearly peeing my pants made me happy. And it made me laugh uncontrollably. So this week, amidst the uncertainty, I’ll still be living and doing all the things I love: cooking, reading, writing, playing with my dog, shaking my ass at Zumba, and doing downward dogs at hot yoga. Yes – uncertainty remains, but life goes on. And I have a really great life.

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List and destroy

A brief encounter with an old friend last week ended with an off-handed remark that it seemed to her I was behind in life. I guess in her mind the fact that I’m not dating anyone or married or engaged or popping out babies like it’s my full-time job is a little weird. While I tend to not let myself get bogged down by comments like that (I can think of a million other awesome things to be doing besides getting married), I can’t deny that a lot of non-useful thoughts have been stuck in my head. Not only are these thoughts distracting but they seem to be soaking up my time, energy, and general happy disposition so when I read this article about a three-step approach to simplifying your life and getting past the trivial things that seem to bother us, I decided to give it a try.  

I wasn’t in a particularly philosophical mindset at the time I read the article so I took the route that gave me some semblance of control. I started by writing out a list of all the things that were bothering me. I even included the petty, stupid stuff so that my list included not just the things I needed or wanted to get done but also things people said or people I don’t like (I’m sure we can all guess who made the list). Once my list was complete, I went through each item and pinpointed some immediate, tangible step I could take to address the issue. Even if I knew I couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there I could at least pinpoint an immediate step I could take to make progress towards the end goal. Just like larger school or work projects, breaking down overwhelming feelings into smaller tidbits has been helpful in alleviating stress. Plus, I’ve found that this process has been a good way of recognizing that while some things are petty and not so important in the larger realm of life, my feelings are still valid and little things do matter (as much as we try not to let them).

Since writing my list of things bothering me, I’ve destroyed more than half of the action steps listed (and all in one night at that). The list ranges from menial stuff like “the fact I have a food baby –> do 15 situps” to more serious things like “Forbes says I should have 3 professional mentoring relationships and I have none –> email Eric already!” and “Not being present in the moment –> buy a new gratitude journal and write down all the things you’re loving today.” Overall, I’ve found the process to be really helpful in changing my disposition. And call me anal, but I love that it makes me feel more in control about the trivial (and not-so trivial) aspects of life.

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As an aside, for all those people out there who are engaged or getting married or dating someone or popping out babies … I am genuinely happy for you because your life is fuller and richer in so many different ways than mine. Someday that will be me but right now I’m perfectly okay with being right where I am. ❤

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Life as I know it

The title may sound poetic but I promise you it’s not. Life has just been busy so I figure the best way to get everyone up to speed is to recap the last month and a half of my life in one full swoop.

Really exciting, I crossed two things off my 30 before 30 list:
1. Set up a retirement account. I feel very grown up having a financial advisor who does everything and anything I need him to. We’ve decided to be “aggressive” in the market and while he warned me I may not like him some months I warned him I would probably never even notice.
2. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. Surprisingly, going vegetarian was really easy. The only difficult aspect was having to plan my meals so far in advance and ensure there were vegetarian options available when I was on the road traveling for work. In fact, now that my 30 days are up I’ve actually decided to stick to the new diet. It’s now been six weeks, which is also the amount of time you need to build – or break – habits.

Going vegetarian has meant spending a lot of time in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I honestly can’t think of a meal I made and didn’t like these past six weeks but here are a few recipes I tried and absolutely loved:
1. Spring rolls – I didn’t follow this recipe at all but it was what I started with. I ended up using a basic cole slaw mix and instead of eating it raw with the rice paper, I sautéed the mixture in various seasonings. A very easy recipe albeit a bit time-consuming but they were oh so yummy!
2. Hummus spinach bake – I actually didn’t use a recipe for this. I happened to be using one of those input the ingredients you have into a computer generator and it lists different dishes you can make. Out of that came a plate of hummus and sautéed spinach topped with shredded cheese. I put it in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes. It was nice and bubbly and paired well with the pita chips and carrots I already had on hand.
3. Zucchini pizza boats – They don’t make for great leftovers since zucchini contains so much extra water but they were fantastic straight out of the oven. Plus there are a ton of variations for toppings. Variety is nice!
4. Stuffed peppers – I love peppers and anything that goes in them. Quinoa is my new favorite super food and these are perfect for grilling out with friends. I have found that Mexican is the easiest vegetarian go-to dish for me.

I had a few other health related goals for the month. One goal was to complete all of my outstanding health exams and another was to beef up the exercise routine. A few things worth mentioning:
1. $500 later it turns out I am, in fact, still healthy. Go me!
2. I tried two new fitness classes: a hip hop dance class and Krav Maga. Not only can I booty bump with the best of em’ but I also found a socially acceptable way of releasing my inner rage. If Krav Maga didn’t cost $150/month I would definitely get a membership.

So you don’t think I’m two-dimensional talking about health and fitness, I did have a few fun things going on this past month and a half. At the top of my list:
1. A few friends and I spent a weekend in the Old Cabin at Blue Jay Farms, which we all know is my favorite Missouri get-away spot! Of course Miley dog joined us. I love make your stomach hurt bouts of laughing and I have plenty of those moments with my home girl Lizard. See below. We made an oriental themed dinner, played a new card game, swam, read, hiked to a waterfall, and picked blueberries. I love that place!

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2. I hadn’t seen my Mom since Christmas so I’ve been missing some quality mother-daughter time. Over the 4th of July weekend my parents decided to come down and visit for about a week. We spent time boating at the lake, visiting family and friends, watching movies, snuggling, and dancing/drinking our butts off at the winery. It was a fabulous time and I’m missing them already!

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3. Oh yeah, Dad finally sent me the pictures of our trip to El Salvador. I’ll aim to get those up at some point once I sift through the 2,000+ photos but here are a few teasers.

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And of course I wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a little bit of self-introspection thrown in the mix. A few self-revelations:
1. Attitude up! I wish I could coin this phrase but I actually learned it at a sexual harassment training I went to for work. I say it all the time now. It serves as a good reminder that we all have the power to change our dispositions. When you’re stressed, feeling overwhelmed, and just consumed or surrounded by negativity it helps to keep things in perspective and to remember that you have the power to keep a positive attitude and mind. It’s sort of like Gretchen Rubin’s think happy, be happy motto.
2. How to live a life of well-being. Martin Seligman proposed a scientific model of happiness and well-being called PERMA. Essentially it states that in order for one to live a flourishing life, there are five basic motivations behind any decision or action made: positive emotion, engagement, relationship building, meaning, and achievement. People do their best work and are happiest when these five elements are being met. I could dedicate an entire blog post to this particular concept as I’ve become enthralled with the scientific model so much that I’ve begun incorporating it into my work culture and everyday life. My poor colleagues have been subjected to team building exercises this past week but I actually think they enjoyed them. If anything I can tell it brought us all closer together (R and M – meaningful relationships). Anyways, I’ll save you the rambling – go check it out!

While this post certainly doesn’t capture everything that went on the past month and a half, I feel a little less overwhelmed jumping back into the blogging world. I keep waiting for my time to free up and devote to writing again but the truth is I just need to make it a priority again (more on that later).

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Going vegetarian: the motivating factor (for me)

One of my goals for the month is to go vegetarian. Since I announced this particular feat on my 30 before 30 list I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why this is a goal of mine. Usually the questions come from my judgey, meatatarian friends and family (whom I love and adore) making statements like, “But, it’s grilling season, what are you thinking!?” and, “We are visiting in a month, we want to eat meat!”

While most everyone’s first inclination is to think going vegetarian is about animal rights and environmental benefits, for me it’s really only about the health benefits and the opportunity to discover new flavors/experiment in the kitchen. Research shows a diet filled with veggies, fruits, grains and nuts tends to be lower in saturated fat than a meat-based diet and higher in fiber and antioxidants as well. In fact, the American Dietetic Association released a position paper that said appropriately planned vegetarian diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” I think there are a lot of different motivations for going vegetarian (all of them valid points) but the motivating factor varies depending on the individual. For me, it’s the holistic nutrition element that piques my interest.

There are quite a few different kinds of vegetarian diets out there. I am erring on the less extreme side and opting to only cut meat, poultry, and fish from my diet. That means I still plan on eating dairy products and eggs to ensure I don’t miss out on essential nutrients. The official name is a lacto-ovo vegetarian and I think the majority of people who are vegetarian fall into this category.

Armed with a list of good sources of nutrients from a plant-based diet, a vegetarian cookbook (I can still participate in grilling season!), and new cooking utensils I’m ready to get started. Who knows, it could be a complete lifestyle change for me as well but I’ll be sure to chronicle my adventures (and perhaps misadventures) on going vegetarian here.

 

 

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June: Health

While May was a whirlwind, exciting month I feel like my overall health took a beating. Really, I blame Sonic’s half-price milk shakes (which I am obsessed with) and my lack of control for the downward spiral but hey, you only live once! It’s a new month now and that means it’s time to regroup and refocus my efforts on health.

After a blah health regimen for the past two months, my mind and body are begging for some much-needed attention. I can feel the constant lethargy, lack of motivation, and poor digestion on a daily basis now which is especially disappointing after treating those ailments through diet (and ultimately succeeding). If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s that health and fitness are hard  and falling back into old routines happens often if you don’t make the relationship with your body a priority. But it does get easier and I’m especially looking forward to my June goals to get my butt back in gear!

Go vegetarian for the month. This particular goal is on my 30 before 30 list. Since I’ve mentioned it, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I’m choosing to go vegetarian. For the sake of brevity in this particular post though, I’ll just say my decision is purely based on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and not about the mistreatment of animals. Although, if you’re interested in the latter part, the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer is what first inspired me to try vegetarianism when I was 18. Disclaimer: it’s kind of graphic.

Keep a food journal. I’ve always been a firm believer that what you eat directly affects how you feel. With my interest in holistic nutrition, I wanted to keep a food journal to document my bodies reactions to various foods. I got the idea after returning from my trip to El Salvador. While there, I didn’t eat any dairy products yet when I returned home, my body reacted adversely. I think especially with going vegetarian for the month, I’ll be trying a host of new foods and spices so the journal will come in handy in building that relationship with my body and understanding what works for me and what doesn’t. Instead of having another hand-written journal I decided to use the MyFitnessPal app. While its intention is to track calories for weight loss, I plan to use it more for recording foods, my bodily reactions, and to track exercise routines. Counting calories is not a priority for me and really, I get kind of bothered that the app counts calories for fruit and veggies. I don’t care how many calories an apple has – EAT IT! I’ll get off my soap box though.

Schedule and complete all of my outstanding health exams. For being health conscious, I tend to always put off my yearly health exams in part because I don’t have dental or vision insurance and in part because health care (even when you have health insurance) is just plain expensive. While I originally planned to use the small amount of money left over from my student loans to travel I am instead choosing to be responsible. In addition to getting my teeth cleaned and eyes checked, I also need to get my ear canals cleaned (I’m prone to ear infections) and schedule my last follow-up exam to a colposcopy I had a year and a half ago (my biopsies came back normal the last two visits, so one more and I’m a free bird!!!).

Set up my retirement account. Financial health is equally important to my overall well-being so I’m reaching out to a local financial advisor to set up my retirement account, a goal which also happens to be on my 30 before 30 list. It’s really not all that exciting, but a task I need to stop putting off!

Beef up the exercise routine. I still maintain at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day (and then some) but my regimen isn’t all that exciting anymore. I used to have a healthy balance between running, walking, Zumba, and hot yoga but for the past couple of months, I’ve stuck mainly to brisk one hour walks a day with Miley or trail hiking. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my walks/hikes (that won’t go away) but I could use a little more excitement so it’s not so monotonous. This month, I’m aiming to take a hip hop Latin dance class, ride my bike more, and get back into Zumba and hot yoga classes.

I could come up with a hundred more health goals, but these are my top priorities for the month as I try to defeat my impending sluggish-ness. Bring it on, June!

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A free spirit with a five year plan: my 30 before 30 project

Sometimes, monthly goal setting can seem like just another task on an ever growing to-do list that you lose sight of the end goal – the process of self discovery. When I hit a wall of exhaustion at the end of April, I realized I needed a break. In sum, I really just needed a moment to breathe, appreciate my life, and be carefree, adventurous Lindsay sans every day obligations. At the time, it was hard for me to pinpoint what exactly my theme for May should be but now that the month is nearly over I can look back and say it was rather quite simple: to live and be present in the moment. And I did just that – from dinner parties to birthday extravaganzas to hiking to backpacking in El Salvador (and everything in between) it’s been a whirlwind, exciting month. Letting go never felt so great although (let’s be realistic here) my compulsion to plan didn’t really go away.

Helping Liz brainstorm and then reading her final 30 before 30 list inspired me to make and conquer my own so that my journey to the often dreaded 3-0 is one epic, memorable adventure. After spending the better part of a month brainstorming, adding to, and deleting from my own list, I’m finally ready to unveil the final product (see below!). I guess you could say I’m a free spirit with a five-year plan!

Travel
1. See one of the seven wonders of the world.
2. Visit every county in the state I live in.
3. Travel to every country in Central America.
4. Do a home exchange vacation.
5. Experience WOOFing.
6. Hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
7. Migrate to a state/city of choice.

Health
1. Train for and complete a half-marathon.
2. Take the 30 day Bikram yoga challenge.
3. Be a vegetarian for 30 days.
4. Attend a meditation retreat.
5. Start and maintain a garden.
6. Can my own foods.

Career
1. Volunteer with a new non-profit organization.
2. Write and finish a book.
3. Complete my Master’s program.
4. Find/be a mentor.
5. Attend a non-work related conference (like a blogging or writing conference).
6. Become certified in an area of interest (holistic nutrition, dance, yoga, etc.).
7. Complete a grant application/professional research project.

Be Responsible
1. Pay off my student loans and car.
2. Open a retirement account.
3. Successfully take care of a houseplant (I’ve killed a bamboo plant before…).
4. Train Miley.
5. Get my car detailed and keep it clean for 30 days.

Everyday Adventures
1. Get my fortune told by a psychic.
2. Take swimming lessons.
3. Take a community education class.
4. Master the Spanish language.
5. Participate in a book club.

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