Monday, August 7, 2017

The Art of Self-Care

I've been on a mission to take better care of myself-- my word for this year was bloom, and I've done my best to make sure that I am blooming this year.  There's so many elements of self-care that are specific to each individual, but it's so important to figure out what serves you well in caring for yourself.  I used to think self-care was for people who weren't as busy (LOL) as me, or people who couldn't handle their lives and needed time outs.  Well, it turns out that self-care is important to everyone.  It's essential for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  All of us need time outs in the midst of busy lives.  Here's some ways that I've channeled the art of self-care and relaxation in the midst of busy-ness.

1. Drinking more water.  Maybe you're rolling your eyes at this one because you already drink so much water-- but I am not someone who has always selected water as my beverage of choice.  I read recently that instead of just aiming for 64 ounces of water per day, you should really aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  I'm heavier than I once way and require more than 64 ounces a day to stay well-hydrated.  My hack to drinking more water was choosing a water bottle that I loved and carrying it everywhere with me.  I also write down my water goal at the beginning of each day and mark my progress in a journal that I keep.  Here's the water bottle I love the most.

2. Taking bubble baths.  I have mastered the art of the bubble bath pretty well, and have a myriad of bubble bath supplies that are necessary for a great bubble bath.  From true bubbles to bath salts or bath bombs, I know all the good stuff to use.  It reminds me of an episode of Friends when Chandler walks in on Monica taking a bubble bath and suddenly starts taking them himself-- learning to set the mood, light candles, use the right temperature/bubble combination.  My favorite bath bomb was gifted to me from a friend for my birthday this year but can also be found at Target (see below).  I don't take bubble baths every day but try to take one on my first day off after working a string of long hospital days.  I always do it when my husband isn't home because it's just so much more relaxing when the house is quiet.

Source: Target
The reason I love this so much is because it smells like 
home and the ocean and makes the water turn blue!

3. Journaling.  I wouldn't say I journal like I used to, but I have started a form of bullet journaling that I am really coming to enjoy.  I was inspired by my friend Angela who uses the Panda journal, but there are the essential elements to my journal each day. 
  • A quote for the day (this is the most fun part to me!)
  • Gratitude (expressing gratitude about my life)
  • A sentence about how much water I am going to drink that day
  • A sentence about the exercise I will do that day
  • Three to four items that I MUST accomplish
  • Progress regarding a habit I am working on
  • A list of optional items to do if I get through my MUST list.  
I also try to practice my hand lettering as I write out each thing so that I can work towards being a better calligrapher or handletterer (?).

4. Washing my face.  I try to make it a point to wash my face every day, but I do an even deeper clean of my face using a face mask whenever I take my bubble baths.  My favorite face mask so far is from Lush and stays on for about 15 minutes while I'm soaking and reading a good book.  

Source: Lush

5. Spending time outside.   There's tons of research about how spending time in nature recharges and re-energizes you.  I was never one who loved the outdoors very much, unless you considered lying on the beach to be an outdoor activity.  However, when I started dating my husband, I took an interest in doing the outdoor activities he loves.  I now find comfort and joy in spending time outside and try to go hiking with my husband and dog at least 2-3 times per week.  We have a nearby park with trails that are so beautiful and allow for my anxious dog to run fast and far, and I find that it's soothing for both of us.  

There's so many other things I'm doing for self-care, like writing, reading, disconnecting from social media, decluttering,  waking up earlier, going to bed earlier, eating more vegetables, gardening.  It's so important to take good good care of your mind and body, and I'm learning that it's worth the "time out" from other events on your calendar to do so.  

Hope you're having a good week and finding ways to take care of yourself!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Morning Pages

One of the authors I love produced a small e-book a few years ago that discussed Julia Cameron's idea of morning pages.  I don't hold true to the real practice of morning pages, but I do enjoy my own little practice of them.  Morning pages is the idea that you wake up early every morning and write, in a stream-of-conscious way, the first 2-3 pages of thoughts you have.  I've been up since 6AM today (praise Jesus-- the past few days I've woken up at 3-4AM--see below on this), so these aren't my first thoughts.  But as I sat down to do homework I felt incredibly antsy and like I needed to write first, so here are my little quips of life lately.

Today is the first day since my wisdom teeth extraction last week when I feel 98% normal.  I thought I was doing pretty well over the weekend but couldn't really eat much.  The past three days I had been having terrible pain that radiated to my ear and head, and I feared that I was developing dry socket.  I tried to "tough it out" but gave in and went to Scott's office yesterday to be seen.  Turns out I was brewing an infection in one of my sockets.  As soon as he cleaned it out, I felt immense relief from the pain.  I'm now irrigating the site with a medicated solution and taking antibiotics for the next few days.  I had been waking up at 3-4AM from pain but was able to "sleep in" until 6 today! Hooray!
I have approximately 1 week left of class for the summer and am looking forward to a two week break from school before things get really crazy for the fall.  Looking at my fall schedule gives me palpitations, and I won't even start stressing about spring yet, but I've heard spring is worse.  But at the end of it all, we will be Greece-bound to de-stress and check out a new part of the world we haven't seen. Can not wait.
Doc is being super anxious today because he was by himself a lot yesterday and hasn't been on a hike in a while (due to previously discussed dental pain).  I'm planning on walking or hiking with him at some point today but in meantime and playing this video for him, which keeps him entertained.
I rode into work with Scott yesterday (~45 minutes from our house) and spent the day at his office after I got evaluated.  I just love his practice and the people there, and I super love the other dentist's wife/office manager.  It is just such a wonderful blessing that he found a great place to work as a dentist. It's also the most fun thing to see the man I've loved since I was 16 doing something he LOVES.  I remember when we met, he actually didn't want a girlfriend because he wanted to focus on getting into dental school.  Fast forward 11 years and he's a real-live dentist and thankfully decided to take me along for the ride.  What a joy it is to see him doing so well and chasing those dreams.
I've been working to lay aside some feelings I have about some missed opportunities for the coming year and am instead trying to focus my efforts on other opportunities ahead. It's tough though, and I'm all kinds of jealous and ugly about certain situations.  I'm working to surrender this, but that's easier said than done sometimes.  Hence, my social media fast.  I wasn't handling anything well while I was pressed against the computer screen looking at what everyone else had going on in their lives.
I miss reading.  I fear that for the next year, my reading will mostly be academic.  I'm so determined to do my best this year and don't think I will have much down time for reading unless it's over holiday breaks, but send your best reading suggestions this way for when I finally find time to read again.
I am anxiously awaiting my favorite season but fear that it will be busier than usual this year.  My one fall joy that I'm looking forward to completely enjoying sans schoolwork is the Kendallville Apple Festival that we attend every year in northern Indiana.  I was scheduled to work that weekend and thankfully found someone to trade weekends with me, so it's something I am SUPER looking forward to.  We also committed a while ago to spending two weekend down in Columbus where Scott works to do some things down there/get to know the town better, so I'm looking forward to that as well.  Columbus is very close to Brown County, and Brown County is my FAVE state park in the fall.  So gorgeous.  It's the essence of fall.

That's all for now, friends.  Thanks for letting me get my antsy writer's energy out in these pseudo-morning pages.  Doc is crying and I must go turn on the "bird videos for cats" for him so I can get some schoolwork done.

Hope you have a great rest of your week!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On living the life in front of you

Positano, Italy

"I think about how valuable it is to live the life in front of you, regardless of how tempting it is to press your face to the glass of other people's lives online, even though doing that is so much safer and so entirely addictive." -Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

If you've known me any amount of time, you likely know that one of my greatest struggles is comparison.  This quote from Shauna Niequist feels like something she is speaking directly to me.  I struggle with living the life in front of me because I am so worried about how it holds up to what everyone around me is doing, what their lives look like.  Social media eats away at me in that way.  Posts about traveling the world, pregnancy, new babies, big houses, new jobs all run together and speak lies to me about how my life isn't valuable.

I have a deep fear that everyone else is moving along at just the right pace and that I am incredibly behind.  And what I'm left with is a shell of a person who can't enjoy the present because she's so worried that her life isn't what it should be.

I'm blessed to be married to a man who doesn't really care what others think of him or his life.  He lives in a bold way, blazing a path ahead of him and making decisions based on what is important to him, rather than what is important to other people or what others will think of his decisions.  I envy him for this, at times.  And I admire him even more for it.  When I first met him, I remember him telling me that one of his favorite quotes was from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."  He embodies that saying in his everyday life in so many wonderful ways.

I, on the other hand, have trouble living the life in front of me.  I think about our student loan debt and wonder how many decades it will be before we climb out of it and can start doing other things with our money.  I look at friends my age with multiple small children and wonder, "When? If? Will we ever be able to afford little children?" I look at our fixer upper of a house compared to the beautiful, Southern Living worthy homes of friends and think, "Should we just burn this whole thing down and sleep in a tent?"

On my worst days, that's where I live.  And on my best days, I am joyous and happy for those around me.  But man, can social media really bring me to a bad place.  A place where I am pressing my face against the glass of other people's beautiful lives, wishing mine were half as Instagram-worthy. I miss my own beautiful life right in front of me-- my snuggly dog, my small but lovely home, my handsome husband.  I'm a tangible, hands-on kind of girl-- I love the smells and feels and sights of all the beauty around me.  Yet I fear that I'm totally missing all of that tangible goodness in my own life because I'm so focused on the 2D filtered images of someone else's.

So I battle this lack of contentment with my own life day in and day out and wonder about the solution.  It's simple, really.  Besides praying for God to change my heart and my attitude, I have to let go of things not meant for me.  I don't think social media is healthy for me.  Instagram doesn't wreak havoc on my inner peace as much as Facebook, but I still feel the pull of wanting what others have in that space some days.  I deleted the Facebook app from my phone forever ago when I noticed what an ugly person Facebook made me.  Yet, I found a way around that-- using Safari to log into Facebook. I deleted Instagram from my phone during a past season of Lent and fasted from that for a good 40 days.  I've started making myself log out of Facebook on my computer because I so mindlessly type "F" into the web address box and click on the first link that pops up-- Facebook-- multiple times an HOUR just to see what else other people are doing.

I need a social media fast, but I'm terrified of missing out on important news or events in someone's life.  How will I know when it's someone's birthday? How will I know that my coworker is pregnant? How will I know that someone got engaged?  How will I find out about overtime needs at work without the Facebook forum? The truth is, the people who really matter in my life will tell me those things face to face.  Or via a phone call, since I live so far from many of my village people.  The people who do life with me day in and day out will reach me through means other than social media.  Social media makes me a really shallow, insecure person.  I need to find contentment and joy in who I am and the life I'm living again.  I need to find peace in Christ and who He made me to be-- living the life He called me to. And I need to stop pressing my face against the glass of other people's lives through social media.

So I'm setting off on an adventure of living without social media for a while.  And I need you to hold me accountable.  Because I am prone to wander and prone to fall back into my old ways.  And I'm prone to get caught right back up in the ugly, self-focused, jealous person I become when I spend too much time on social media.  I need help living the life in front of me.

How do you keep yourself free from the temptation of comparison in your life? What boundaries do you have to set so that you can live the life in front of you? How do you accomplish a healthy relationship with social media?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.  I'll do my best to keep posting in this space through the next schoolyear but won't be as great about posting new blog posts on Facebook.  Feel free to follow along on here with how things are going.  And thanks for understanding this act of self-care as I chase after the beautiful life right in front of me.

Lots of love,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Desiring Less

School and life have totally flipped me upside down and shaken everything out of my pockets these last few weeks, hence my lack of writing in this space.  I'm in a place of wanting to simplify, of wanting have less of all the things and more of time with people I love, doing things that I love.  More than anything right now, I miss the water.  I miss the salt air and the sand between my toes and the smell of Ocean Potion.

I've been recovering this weekend from having my wisdom teeth extracted, and it was the least filled up weekend we've had in a while.  Somehow on Friday I was able to work through the numbness and swelling on my face to clean the house and cook a meal for friends that stayed the night with us, and Saturday I had some energy to do gardening and walk to breakfast where I ate cheesy grits and pancakes soaked in syrup.  Soft foods are totally my jam right now, and though this may be hard to believe, I'm getting so sick of carbs! I can't wait to eat something of substance again.  I forced myself to rest some, even though there was laundry to do and homework to think about.  And Scott and I both agreed that the rhythm of the weekend was just slow and steady.  We got things done in the house that we needed to but didn't feel like we spent all weekend working.  We watched silly movies (Alice in Wonderful & Through the Looking Glass, Beauty and the Beast, etc.) and laid around in our PJs.  We snuggled with dogs and ate when we felt like it.  We don't have many weekends like that anymore.  Most weekends are crammed with activities, projects, homework, and chores.  Or we're traveling and exploring new places-- which we always enjoy, but there's something nice about being home too.

We've recently been on a mission to declutter (one of my main goals for 2017 has been to live with less, and I've been decluttering and sending items to Goodwill since January).  We've now made it through most of our possessions in the main part of our house and will move to the basement for decluttering next.  I'm finding that it's making me so much less attached to my possessions and making me feel lighter to have less things in our home.  It also feels good to give items that someone else might appreciate a new home where they are loved and used more than they are in our home.  We still have a long way to go with living with less, but we both agree that it feels so good to be on this mission.  We did some cleaning on Friday and realized that there's so much less to clean where you have less things in your house.  Our house feels light and airy for the first time since we've moved in.  The unfinished house projects just don't irritate me as much when there's less clutter taking up space here.

I'm finding that I just want less and less of material things and more and more time with people I love in places I love.  I'm coming to appreciate being outside, breathing in fresh air, and seeing God's beautiful creation more than I ever have before.

In 10 9 (!!) months I'll be walking across a stage after completing my Master's degree to pursue a field of advanced practice nursing that I adore.  The months until then will be long, but I can't wait for all to come when it's completed.  It'll mean way less time doing schoolwork and studying and so much more time with my people.  Until then, you'll be hearing a lot less from me, but know I'm still chasing dreams, and there's still words in my heart that I can't wait to write.

Lots of love,

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Small Joys: volume 28

Photo credit: Ian Barnard

Good morning (or evening, or afternoon, depending on when you're reading), dear friend!  I write to you this morning as I sit in my sunny kitchen with fresh flowers on the table and jazz music playing in the background.  I don't know if it's a result of being sick or having changed time zones so many times in the past week, but I've been waking up pretty early since we came home from Italy.  We arrived in Indy at 2AM on Saturday morning and woke up at 7, unable to sleep any longer.  Two nights ago, we took a nap at 5:15pm, woke up at 9:30pm, and just continued to sleep until 4:30 yesterday morning, when we woke up to make pancakes and coffee.  And today, thinking I would sleep for hours, I woke up at 6 and headed to the kitchen for another pancake breakfast.  I'm caught between unpacking from our trip, de-escalating from my husband's graduation from dental school, and beginning a summer semester for my last year of grad school.  So let's see what's bringing joy in the midst of the chaos this week!

No. 1: Fresh flowers. Yesterday, after dropping Scott off at the airport for a much-needed trip home, I drove to the northside to pick up some needed groceries from Trader Joe's.  I always crave their roasted red pepper & tomato soup when I'm sick, so I picked up gobs of it.  I am preparing for my wisdom teeth extraction next week as well, so I figured this soup would be an easy go-to when I'm on my liquid diet.  Anyways, I picked up two bouquets of flowers-- one for myself and one for a friend. When my friend came over last night, she had a giant bouquet of flowers for me, and I just laughed at how ironic it was that we both got flowers for each other.  This is why female friendships are so important-- women just get each other.  Now I have these gorgeous blooms on my kitchen table to look at as I clean and write today.

No. 2: Warmed goat cheese salads (and other summer salads). Ever since returning from Italy, I've been craving TONS of veggies.  I tend to crave veggies when summer rolls around, but I think the high intake of bread/carbs/pasta in Italy made this craving even more severe.  Last night I tried a warmed goat cheese salad that involved pecan crusted goat cheese that I baked for about 10 minutes and then placed atop a bed of fresh greens, apples, onions, and dates.  It was DELICIOUS and I will eat this every day forever.  Other salads I tend to make a lot of at this time of year include fruit salad and tomato/onion/feta/cucumber salad.  That last one is one I could eat a whole container of in one sitting. It's just divine.

No. 3: Amalfi Coast views. Our vacation this year was intended to be a true vacation-- one where we rested, relaxed, enjoyed beautiful views, ate delicious food.  And we actually did that.  We didn't zip around to the point of exhaustion like we normally do, or cram in EVERY sight to see in Italy.  We just did what we could and enjoyed each moment instead of rushing off to the do the next checklisted, itineraried item.  It was lovely.  The Amalfi Coast was beautiful, and I will definitely go back someday.  But I will wait until my legs recover from all the stair climbing, to be certain.

No. 4: A slower summer semester.  I only have one class this summer, which I am so thankful for.  This past semester wrung me dry, and I wondered how I would survive another year of grad school.  Supposedly next spring is the semester where my professor claims most students end up on antidepressants and struggle with a lot of anxiety and sleeplessness, so I'm enjoying the slow pace of the summer and allowing fun books to stack up on my nightstand.

No. 5: Bread and Wine. One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, just released her new podcast last week.  I listened to both episodes yesterday, and while listening, was reminded of how much I adore her writing in her book Bread and Wine.  So I picked it up again last night and added it to my nightly reading on my nightstand.

No. 6: Freshly mowed grass. There's something I love about mowing the lawn; I know, roll your eyes.  We'll say it's because we have such a tiny lawn that it's just a 15 minute endeavor to take on the lawn mowing experience.  Yesterday I saw the jungle in our yard that popped up while we are on vacation and set out to tame it just a bit. I love the satisfaction that comes with seeing those pretty lines in the grass.  I also love the smell of grass when it's been freshly mowed-- it smells like spring and summer and gardening to me.

No. 7: Bath bombs. For the past two years I have received bath bombs as birthday gifts, and I have to say that these are just THE BEST gift you could give someone.  It's an invitation to have a relaxing, indulgent treat in the middle of the otherwise mundane.  Thank you to Mary and Angela for gifting these bath bombs to me for the past two years!  Target's Earth Bomb is my current favorite.

No. 8: Clean sheets.  Every Sunday I put clean sheets on our bed, and sometimes I even wash our comforter and put a newly cleaned bedspread on our bed.  It's another treat that I look forward to every Sunday.  I missed it this week, so I'm doing a mid-week sheet cleaning to treat myself after vacation and being sick.  Speaking of being sick, I FINALLY feel like I'm emerging on the other side of my Italian virus that I picked up.  I know that viruses take 7-10 days to move on, but I ALWAYS think I'm dying until I reach that point in time, partly because my asthma spirals out of control and I'm a wheezy mess for a few days.

No. 9: Desiring less.  In my last Small Joys, I mentioned decluttering as a joy in my life.  This is still true-- I am still on a massive purging/decluttering spree and am feeling lighter each time I take another bag of goodies to Goodwill.  I find myself bringing less into our home, too, which is really a nice change.  I'm a work in progress for now, but God has given me a desire for more of the important stuff and less of the frivolous, material stuff, and for that, I am grateful.

That's all for now friends.  I'm off to clean house and get rid of more unneeded items.  Lots of love to you and hope your week is going well so far!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

On What Works Well for You

Do you ever try to live life on someone's terms other than your own? Or try to do things the way someone else says you should?  I've done that most of my life.  I've listened to advice from other people, or done things the way that works for someone else.  But I've rarely thought about something and said, "I don't think that really works for me."

Until now.  Recently, I've started to reclaim who I am and what works well for me.

Comparison is the thief of joy.  This quote has defined so much of who I am and who I am not.  It has helped me to clarify who I want to be versus who I actually am.

This is who I am not:
I am not someone who can keep a house tidy for more than 24 hours.
I am not "neat."
I am not put together.
I am not (always) professional.
I am not calm.
I am not confident.
I am not an extrovert.
I am not organized.
I am not good at following recipes.
I am not detail-oriented.
I am not good at remembering things.
I am not a natural lover of healthy things.
I am not athletic.
I am not thin.
I am not coordinated (hello bruises all over my legs from our footboard on our bed).
I am not good at talking or speaking.
I am not perfect.

And this is who I am:
I am messy.
I am a throw-everything-in (even the kitchen sink) kind of cook.
I am good at seeing the big picture.
I am a get-your-hands-dirty person.
I am a daughter of God.
I am a wife.
I am a voracious reader.
I am a writer.
I am a nurse.
I am a lover of pretty things.
I am a beach girl.
I am a runner.
I am hard-working.
I am a baker.
I am a growing gardener.
I am the owner of a messy, loving puppy.
I am an emotional, crying mess.
I am cluttered.
I am an introvert.
I am imperfect.
I am present.
I am grounded.
I am clumsy.
I am curvy.
I am a gatherer.

I have reconciled the things that I am and the things that I am not.  I have come to terms with who I was created to be and who I was not created to be.  Some of my friends are REALLY good housekeepers.  They have little bins and containers for things and they have homes for their pencils (special shoutout to my former roommate, Chancey-- you know what this is in reference to), and everything goes in its place.  I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and did the whole process and said thank you to my belongings that no longer served me, and my house is still a cluttered wreck.  Some of my friends are really good at completing projects in great detail and with great care to the nitty gritty.  I am not.  I am really good at painting a whole kitchen and then realizing that I missed a corner.  I'm really good at sanding down the furniture and leaving a little sawdust behind.

And in this year of life, I'm learning that things that work for some people don't work for me, and that's ok.  My house will never be featured in my favorite magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, unless, of course, I have my sister-in-law or mother-in-law come to decorate and paint for me.  My yard will never be mowed in perfect little lines (I LOVE mowing the lawn and Scott is gracious to afford me this little joy despite my imperfections in this task).  My handwriting will never be perfectly neat, and my sink will never be completely empty of dishes (hello, leaning tower of dishes.  Chancey gets two shout outs in this blog-- my college leaning tower of dishes days continue, in case you wondered!).

So I'm giving myself grace and allowing myself to be me instead of being some other version of me or someone who looks like me but strives to be someone else.  Today, I'm choosing things that work for me.  You know what I threw out today that wasn't working for me anymore? My dish rack.  My kitchen counter was a cluttered mess and I was piling dishes higher and higher as if I was pursuing a world record for the tallest stack of clean dishes.  And my dish rack wasn't serving me anymore.  You know what is serving me? A nice little dish drying mat that makes my counter look less cluttered and makes me want to actually put my dishes away.

Do you know what else isn't working for me? My gym regimen.  I'm a lover of the sun and the breeze and being outside.  So my indoor gym doesn't serve me well when I want to work out.  I work out based on the season and the weather outside.  On beautiful days, I could run for hours.  I could bike to the grocery store (like I did yesterday-- hooray!).  I could plant things and play with my dog, and I could be moving outside all day long.  On cloudy days, I'll do the same.  On rainy days, I'm inside with a cup of coffee or tea, and I'm lucky if I squeeze in some yoga or lifting weights.  Running outside works for me, and running on a treadmill feels listless and makes me feel trapped, and it doesn't work for me.

Scott cleans dishes as he cooks.  It works well for him and makes him feel less stressed.  You know what works well for me in the kitchen? Making a GIANT mess with sauce dripping from the ceiling and pots ALL OVER the counters and stove, and then sitting down to eat in the midst of the mess.  I can't clean as I go-- it's like I need mess to create.  They say that creative people aren't meant to be neat, and I think this is quite true of me.  I live and love in the midst of mess, and I thrive in it.

Choose things today that work well for you.  Who cares if it doesn't work for your neighbor?  Or your mom? Or your friend? Choose things that serve you and that work for you instead of trying to live life by someone else's rules.  You'll be so much happier and find so much more joy in that.  Whether you are working your job, or raising your kids, or decorating your house, or loving Jesus, or training for a marathon -- do it in a way that works for you.  Don't let others steal your joy because a different way works for them.


PS: Another thing that is really working well for me is this Nutella latte from Neidhammer Coffee Co., and if you are healthier-than-thou and can't live to hear of such richness and deliciousness just scroll back up and pretend this post ended with my signature.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thoughts on Healthy Living

Entering my 28th year (thanks for all the birthday love, by the way!), I've been reflecting a lot more on health and wellness and just kind of checking in on where I am with that.  I'm currently the heaviest I've ever been in my life.  Now, I know that there's a big push to not define yourself by your dress size or the scale, and to love your curves, but I unfortunately do not personally believe in loving my own curves when they are the direct result of overindulging in things that are not inherently good for me.  I can jump on board the ship that proclaims that we shouldn't body shame and shouldn't make others feel bad who aren't thin, but for myself, I know where my curves come from and I know what pushes me up a dress size.  It's a direct result of what I put into my body and how I move (or don't move) from day to day.

I wanted to ring in my birthday yesterday doing something active-- Scott has been wanting to try hot yoga (as have I), but I didn't feel hydrated enough yesterday and didn't want to have a terrible first experience that prevented me from ever trying again.  So instead, we went on a 30 minute bike ride on the Monon Trail.  It was by no means the longest or most vigorous ride, but I was craving movement.  This weekend involved a lot of movement, actually.  With my siblings in town, I started running again, went on long walks on the Monon, and chose walking over driving to several places.  Spring weather helps with that, too, creating a desire in me to be outside and to be in the sunlight.

Even though we were active yesterday, I still ate a pretty carb-loaded lunch, "treating" myself to a Dr. Pepper (which made me feel so bloated and sick afterwards), and indulged in both cake AND a cupcake.  All that to celebrate another year of life--all that to cause me to wonder, as I celebrate, am I actually celebrating with things that may shorten my life?

A friend from work recently went on a trip to Ikaria to study one of the Blue Zones of the world and introduced me to what the Blue Zones are.  Since then, I am fascinated and have ordered two books (one of which is a cookbook) and researched multiple articles about the Blue Zones.  The Blue Zones are regions of the world where there are a high population of individuals who live statistically longer lives than the rest of the world.  The current identified Blue Zones include Loma Linda, CA; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nikoya, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan.  What kinds of things are characteristic of those who live in Blue Zones? Plant-based diets, naturally active lives, large focus on family, avoiding smoking, engagement in faith life and social life, and stress reduction/lack of focus on time and planning.  Doesn't that sound wonderful?  It sounds so easy, yet when I think about my typical American lifestlye, I participate in very few of those activities.  I eat meat, carbs, and sugar.  I stress-eat every single day (even if it's something healthy). I spend most days sitting, doing homework, being still, and perhaps spend 30-60 minutes per day moving.  I have a moderate faith life-- I could always do better with this.  My family is far from me but when I am near them I love being around them.  And my attention to the clock, planning things out, and feeling an overall feeling of anxiety about how I spend my days is pretty alarming.  I am aware of it but don't know how to change it.

I always thought that Scott and I would be carnivores for life.  Scott's family has always been involved in animal agriculture (is this a real term? Not sure), and he's always a huge meat-lover.  But we've been talking about the Blue Zones and a lot of health-related evidence lately, and the other day he mentioned testing the waters of vegetarianism.  I raised my eyebrows and pounced on the opportunity to commit to this.  We're still processing what this will look like-- we may lean more towards pescatarian than vegetarian, but we plan to have meat occasionally when we go out or when we're at the houses of family members.  We're just going to try to ease into this and see how it goes.  Because I don't want to keep eating the way I eat, feeling the way I feel, and wondering if I could be doing more for my health.  I'm also very much wanting to move more.  I don't want to allow grad school to keep me pinned to my desk chair or couch every day.  I want to run, walk, bike, and move.

And as I pursue a degree as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner and specialize in aging well, I want to be a role model for those I work with.  And I want to learn from them, too.  Learn how they live healthy lifestyles or how they have aged well.

How do you pursue a healthy lifestyle?  What things help you stay motivated?  What struggles do you have?  I would love to hear from friends who are thinking about this.