Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Oatmeal now served with a dash of Roundup.

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” – Chief Seattle

I used to ferociously pump “he who should not be named” (aka Roundup or Voldemort) all over the yard of my first house because I was working long hours like my neighbors and that’s what we did to get rid of weeds. It has been advertised as a miracle product just like the heroine cough syrup produced by Bayer Laboratories in the 1890’s and I thought it was all gravy. Did you know that Roundup, developed by Monsanto, was recently acquired by Bayer?
 “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffett
I’m now a dog walker and my furry friends and I stroll past a lot of yards. There are some days when I come home with bloodshot eyes and a headache from the fumes radiating off the lawns. I started to question and research what has become commonplace for yard maintenance. The research didn’t give me the warm and fuzzies’ and I have learned to vehemently veer away from any of those tiny plastic signs proclaiming with pride that this yard was just treated by the “Mosquito Man!” or “Lawn and Order” (names fabricated for the purpose of this story).
I found there are whole books devoted to this topic! Check out Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gilliam published just in 2017. One could say, as a result, I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to using chemicals in an attempt to constrain nature.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and is used world-wide as a herbicide (RIP herbs). Now when I say world-wide I don’t mean third world countries where like don’t give a sh*t if there is a dandelion in their yard and they would likely make a delicious tea out of it.
Monsanto/Bayer offers genetically modified seeds resistant to glyphosate called “Roundup Ready crops”. Farmers can spray the chemical like a bottle of champagne on New Year’s Eve all over their genetically modified crops and the crops will live on while the weeds can’t stay awake to see the ball drop at midnight. How’s that for a business model?
You know how our gut health and microbiome is all the rage in wellness nowadays? Glyphosate prevents plants from making certain proteins that are needed for plant growth and targets an enzyme found in plants and microorganisms. There is current research being done on the impact of glyphosate use on a whole slew of things including, but not limited to, the decline of the honey bee population, the lingering effects of glyphosate in the soil, and human gut bacteria health.
“Some day we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?” – Jane Goodall
In a 2015 investigation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), they labeled glyphosate as Group 2A probablycarcinogenic. This is smack dab in the middle of Group 1 carcinogenic and Group 2B possibly carcinogenic. May the odds be ever in your favor. Many countries didn’t like these odds and have banned or restricted the use of the glyphosate.
In a conference call on glyphosate litigation in August of 2018, Bayer states, “Farmers and growers have been using glyphosate safely and effectively for more than 40 years.” Bayer goes on to mention all of the historical studies done supporting this claim…studies that have controversy around them. Bayer shared there are over 8,000 plaintiffs—thousands of lawsuits against Roundup from people that have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other forms of cancer and claim Monsanto knowingly hid the cancer danger. It may be time to look at glyphosates with fresh eyes eh?
On August 10, 2018, the Superior Court of San Francisco found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit by a school groundskeeper that alleged the herbicides Roundup and Ranger Pro containing glyphosate caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Bayer’s response is, “This verdict is inconsistent with the robust science-based conclusions of regulators and health authorities worldwide, and we believe it is wrong.” Did I mention in 2017 Monsanto made over $14 billion in sales on the chemical and corresponding glyphosate resistant seeds? Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, response to the verdict was “Monsanto made Roundup the OxyContin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost.” You gotta’ love good metaphor use.
On August 15, 2018, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report finding elevated levels above what they would consider safe of glyphosate in 31 of the 45 popular breakfast foods made from oats grown in fields sprayed with the herbicide.  Now that’s a breakfast of champions. Who needs a shot of wheat grass when we can have weed killer! Oh those yummy Quaker oatmeal squares? Those had the highest levels. The levels were within regulatory limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
September 27, 2018, the EWG, Ben and Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, and other food giants petitioned the EPA to limit glyphosate residues allowed on oats and prohibit its use as a pre-harvest drying agent. Band together brothers!
Now I’m not in the big agriculture game and don’t know enough about large scale farming and feeding the masses to chime in…although I hear there’s this old school thing called “crop rotation” and ploughing that worked well for hundreds of years without chemicals, but I digress. While I don’t have a direct say in how the food is produced, I do have a choice in what food I choose to support with my dolla’ dolla’ billz’ and I choose to eat non-GMO when possible—the same kind of food my ancestors scarfed down.
I received an email from our neighborhood’s home owner association (HOA) this fall with their tips to get our lawns looking Stepford Wife status. Tip number one was, “Start in mid-August and start killing the invasive weeds. Use Roundup for Bermuda grass (2 applications, 2 weeks apart), or broadleaf weed killer for other noxious weeds.” I had visions of homeowners and golf courses all over the country receiving this same popular tip and streams of chemicals trickling down, making their way into the lake we swim in with our dogs.
We are in the suburban yard game. I can control is what I put in our own patch of grass and this year we retired our controversial Roundup chemical and took strides to try it all natural with aeration, organic mushroom compost to fertilize, grass seed, and good old fashioned weed pulling.
Is this more time intensive? Yes, but we’re ok spending a few more hours outside grounding and enjoying the fresh, chemical free air and burning calories pulling weeds and not our eyes.
Is there indubitably more clover in our yard than yards watched over by Voldemort’s dementors? Yes, but clover is f*cking adorable. How else does one search for four leaf clovers if they’ve all been wiped out by acrid chemicals? And dandelions and the “he loves me, he loves me not” game are a childhood staple, let’s bring them back in style.
Let’s not wait for all of the 8,000 plus litigation cases to pan out years from now to see the writing on the wall, or in this case the topping on our oatmeal.

Many thanks, your neighborhood dog walker and novice gardener.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Lobstah Chronicles

I hadn't vacationed in over six months and I was raring to go. Every cell in my body was itching to travel. I consciously vowed not to work like a madwoman up to the last minute, pack until two in the morning, and return home to a tornado. This time, I slowed down my schedule leading up to our departure. I cleaned the house, fooling our dog walker into thinking we don't live in a sea of fur. The night before we left we had a home cooked meal and took a long bath to unwind and kick-start our vacation.

Off to Portland (of the Maine variety) we went! We started our phone detox with a vow not to check email, Facebook, or Instagram and just scan text messages and phone calls a few times a day for anything urgent (see dog walker above). Ping! Others on our plane were very clearly not on a phone detox. Ping! I guess vibrate mode is no longer hip. Ping!

After a relaxing flight of me draping myself over Troy to nap, we drove to Old Orchard Beach just outside of Portland for our first East Coast meal. We landed on Joseph's by the Sea, which had a rooftop patio with a view of the ocean and had been around for fifty years.

The smell and feel of the sea air, albeit a tad more fishy than usual, wafted by. We bundled up in our jackets while the locals waltzed around in shorts and tank tops during their "heat wave." We had our first lobstah' roll, mayo based, and bowl of chowdah'. The lobster was surprisingly soft and dissolved in my mouth. These rolls became fabled for a reason.

We took a stroll on the beach and noticed a lot of white dots in the water. As we came closer to the shoreline we discovered dozens of dead fish...and very plump seagulls. You couldn't walk more than a few feet before seeing another. We then noticed the red algae swirling in the water. I had no idea the toxic red tide impacted that far up the coast. I felt dismayed. No one was playing in the water during this alleged heat wave.

We walked away from the shoreline and sat on a bench, letting the sound of the waves relax us.

We started the beautiful drive (based on Troy's account...I was keeping my pro napper status) to Sunapee, New Hampshire. It looked an awful lot like North Carolina with the green trees surrounding the roadway. Sunapee is straight out of a Hallmark movie, it is so quaint and adorable. My cousin and his soon to be wife had a welcome dinner on the MV restaurant ship.

We ate from a wicked salad bar and southern entrees while cruising Lake Sunapee. It was great to catch up and story tell with my sisters, their significant others, and cousins.

The next morning we searched yelp and google for local breakfast establishments to no avail. Despite the abundance of maple syrup, breakfast was no where to be found. Wherever does all the syrup go? Quite confusing really.

Chomping on our granola bars from our wedding welcome bags, we hit the road to check out the Fells historic estate and gardens. The Fells was built by John Hays, Abe Lincoln's right hand man. I was taken aback by how beautiful the gardens were and I loved all the the little stone benches. Who knew stone could be so dang charming!

We took a hike through the virgin timber forest on the John Hays Ecological trail. The bright green moss was dazzling. We stepped over large boulders (well, some of us tripped cough Troy cough), saw lots of ferns, and dying white birch trees. Upon research these trees have short life spans and are shade intolerant so as the forest grows they die off. I was in my happy place, migraine auras clearing. That forest aroma just makes you feel good all over.

We met up with the family at Bubba's for lunch. We shared our picture of a moose and had everyone fooled into thinking we spotted one...we had but it was from a sculpture exhibit.

We had a hot buttered lobstah' roll and it was succulent, the mayo version seeming unimpressive. More chowdah. I could eat chowdah' all day, but alas we had a wedding to get ready for.

To get to the wedding ceremony we got to ride the ski life up the summit of Mount Sunapee. This was the longest lift I've ever been on and the view! It looked like a watercolor painting in the backdrop with overlapping pastel mountain ridges.

I loved watching the emotions during the beautiful ceremony. My favorite part is when the minister said the wind is the spirits of the ones that are no longer with us and to take a moment of silence to honor them and feel the breeze and the breeze picked up at that exact moment!

On to celebrate! Cocktail hour did not disappoint. Have you ever had green onions dipped in artichoke dip? You should. The speeches, Troy's favorite part of weddings, were on point; a balance of humor, reflection, and love. Despite my desire not to delay dinner, I was inspired and felt compelled to speak, sharing the story of my cousin sending me a letter years ago that ended with, "P.S. I'm going to ask Caroline to marry me." I tore the house apart trying to find that bloody letter to frame for them to no avail!

On to dancing, my favorite part of weddings, and the bouquet toss. I was a shoo in given my wingspan. Luckily the bouquet split in two and I didn't have to take it from the flower girls...we each got our own. Despite my excitement over my fate, it was very anti-climatic. Troy was in the bathroom at the time and my entire family was out on the patio. No one seemed to care that I was now surely going to soon be engaged to be married. I was happy to hear a guy saw Troy exiting the bathroom and exclaimed, "She caught it!" I'm not sure if he said it apologetically or excitedly.

We ended with pie, such a unique and lovely touch, in honor of the bride's mom. She believed if you always brought a homemade pie to a get together you'd always be invited back! I am a huge fan of pie and happily savored the raspberry delight.

Heading back to Portland the next morning we were in luck, the East Coast does believe in Sunday Brunch! We stopped at the Breakfast Club in Manchester. I felt the need to get an item that required maple syrup and chose the french toast. I have never had a bad piece of french toast and this was no exception.

After another nap er drive back to Portland we wandered around the cobbled town checking out the shops.

We stopped at the Liquid Riot Brewery. We landed prime time seats on the back patio overlooking the water and began our seagull observation.

The Tropical Storm sour beer was good, but not quite as tart as I prefer. Troy gave their IPAs two thumbs up.

On to Sebago Brewing Company. Super excited to try the cranberry sour "Bog So Hard", I was a little let down by the lack of tartness as well. There was a faint flavor of cranberry if you knew what you were expecting. The chowdah wasn't homemade so we passed. The IPAs didn't pass the Troy Test. Womp Womp.

We walked through DiMillo's floating restaurant, but it seemed too cruise ship and I started having flashbacks and we proceeded on to Scales. The entrance is tucked away down the wharf.

We were shocked to hear it would be a three hour wait, but consoled when the bar wait was thirty minutes. As we waited in the convenient lounge area we met two people in the restaurant business there to eat and felt confident in our dinner selection. I wasn't overly impressed with the fried cauliflower, it was a little bland, but every other bite I wanted to imprint in my brain. The heirloom tomato salad was fresh with hints of basil. The cloverleaf rolls with garlic butter were like eating a cloud. I had to refrain from ordering more. We decided we had to try lobster outside of a roll and ordered one steamed. I watched on in mild astonishment as the local to the left of Troy grabbed a lobster leg right off Troy's plate, manhandled it, and showed him the proper way to eat it.

I splurged on a hotel room with a balcony and view of the water and Old Port. I love when I can get to fresh air which is rare in a hotel. We were so excited to discover we could hear the live outdoor music perfectly from our balcony, grabbed the complimentary throw blanket, and bundled up on the balcony chairs with the dreamiest view.

We slept for ten tranquil hours! We debated going to a local yoga class and decided we weren't ready to leave the view from our hotel room just yet. I laid out the throw blanket for a mat and settled in for a "home" practice, feeling more and more human with each minute as I found my breath and released travel tension. Feeling like a new woman, we headed to our last stop, Holy Donut. The line was halfway down the block, but moving quickly so we jumped in.

Half an hour later we left with half a dozen donuts and Maine blueberry coffee. Our donuts in order of favoritism; lemon, pomegranate, maple, Maine blueberry, vanilla glazed dark chocolate, vanilla glazed.

The only regrets from the trip were not having enough time to get more hiking in and Troy wanted to get out on the water to fish or crab.

I love traveling, and I especially love doing it with Troy, he is an amazing travel partner. I always feel at ease and relaxed and he supports my pro-napper ways. We include activities we each want to do and take it all in.

We didn't pick up the East coach accent, but did gain a greater appreciation for Lobstah...and breakfast.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

I Get By With a Little Help from My Chair

Chair yoga home practice. 2017.

This piece originally appeared on the iShine Yoga Blog, here
I went through a long bout with chronic migraines and fatigue last year. It was near the end of yoga teacher training and I was low energy. As part of our training we tried various types of yoga classes and we were introduced to a glorious yoga prop---the chair.

The old friend instantly engulfed me in a steady hug filled with quiet strength. Long-time friends are comfortable, supportive, and OK to lean on from time to time.
It’s not natural for me to ask for help, to rest. I want to do it all on my own, not having to rely on others.
"You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on." 
~Bill Withers
 I overheard a student telling another teacher the last class was really hard. The teacher replied, “But how did you feel at the end of practice?”

The chair practice was grounding and peaceful. With the support of a chair I was able to relax and drop into my breath, my body awareness heightened. I’m 6’3” and the “right” way to do a yoga asana (pose) is not always the same for me as someone who is 5’3”, our body structures and flexibility are all different. I explored warrior asanas more deeply than I’d ever been. I could hold the poses longer and build strength. My alignment felt on point.

Like an unspoken glance between sisters, the chair understood exactly what my body needed in a pose. I stopped thinking about what my body couldn’t do and instead noticed what my body was able to do in the moment and how strong I was.

You don’t have to be on a mat or standing or have Gumby flexibility to do yoga; you just have to breathe.

I regularly interact with people intimidated by yoga classes in studio due to injuries, lost flexibility and balance, or low stamina from a recent injury or illness. I want yoga to be accessible to every body so we can all experience the endless benefits of yoga. I thought back to my friend that brought steadiness and ease to my practice, the chair.

Mandatory chair yoga with family. Thanksgiving 2017.
I hope fellow yogis and yoginis like the one below will come and take a seat with me.
"Three years ago I fell and had to overcome some difficult injuries. After a long rehab I couldn’t bring myself to start exercising. Several months ago I developed sciatica. After it resolved I decided to try yoga in an attempt to ward off a recurrence.
This is one of the best decisions I have made. While my strength and balance are lacking, I see improvements in my flexibility and overall feeling of wellness. When Amber told me about her class on chair yoga I knew it would be perfect for my needs. I hope to gain strength and improve my balance. This will enhance my yoga practice. I feel like a new person in mind, body and soul since starting yoga. I am looking forward to beginning the chair yoga class!"
~ Anne Beasley
Asking for help reveals strength, not weakness. Sometimes you just need a friend to help you on your way.

B.K.S. Iyengar defines a yoga prop as, “any object that helps stretch, strengthen, relax, or improve the alignment of the body.”

Over time we may rely on our chair friend less and less, but will know it is always there if we need it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Last Second Anniversary at the Outer Banks

My love, Troy, told me he wants to take me to the Outer Banks for our two year anniversary. I was ecstatic; it’s on my bucket list and everything wild and remote about it intrigues me. We planned to go in October, the start of offseason, to avoid the crowds. The next day he curiously asked me if it’s ok if he takes three hours of kite surfing lessons every day on our “anniversary” trip. My initial reaction was not pleasant, I wanted undivided anniversary attention. Then I paused for a moment. Three hours a day... Naps, reading, meditation, beach walks, yoga galore! Game on. I replied, “Sure babe! Please do, I know how much you’ve been wanting to do those.” Cough.

We had a 1:00 pm target departure time on a Thursday. Actual departure: 2:30 pm. Someone (cough Troy cough) needed to squeeze in four errands. I meditated patiently in our chair hammock with visions of the beach until Troy was ready to pack up the car. I made my way to the garage and suspiciously peered in the car. I asked, “Babe, why did you pack fishing rods, a cast net, a fish net, and a tackle box for our, “anniversary” trip?”  Troy logically responds, “In case there is no wind when I’m supposed to go kite surfing.” Sigh.

We hit the road, alternating who napped. I proclaimed that this is our first vacation together just the two of us. We started our phone detox, turning off our ringers. I began asking Troy all the questions from the Ungame, a learning/communication game of conversation that claims to foster listening skills as well as self-expression. I randomly received this game alongside an essential oil diffuser in the mail, addressed to me, three years ago. The sender remains unknown. I’m not sure who could possibly think I need to listen or express myself better… as Troy turned to me and exclaimed, “You aren’t answering any of the questions, and I’m answering all of them.” We agree to go away together just the two of us once a quarter for quality one on one time, perhaps without the Ungame.

The food options leading up to the outer banks are not plentiful. Word of advice; eat before you get to the two hours remaining countdown. We settled for shrimp pineapple fajitas and guacamole from a Mexican restaurant.

After seven hours of joyful self-expression and pineapple delight, we arrived at our treehouse room in Buxton, NC. It was charming with light catchers in the windows, eclectic artwork, and trinkets like sea glass in every nook. On the second floor alongside the trees, you could hear birds chirping and the breeze enveloped the room. Fifteen feet away from the treehouse was the boat of Ty Luckett, owner of Kitehatteras.net. Troy was originally going to take lessons from Ty, but unfortunately his mother passed.

Day one of the Outer Banks, I dropped Troy off for kite surfing camp with the gentlemen from Outer Banks Kiting. Troy was so excited and cute, wrapped up in his wet suit.

Phone detox day two. I found myself opening my phone and catching myself about to scan emails or Facebook, a mindless habit. I forced myself to put the phone down.

I made my way to the back porch of the treehouse, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, no responsibilities, with all the time in the world (three hours to be exact) to just be. It was drizzling, but not enough to leave my peaceful back porch oasis. Just being and not doing is hard. I had to release all the guilt that came up from not being productive. I mused that all the drama that seemed so monumental back home and at work really didn’t matter at all as I was tucked away in the sound in another part of the world.

I started yoga on the back porch, letting my body flow into whatever asanas (poses) called to me. Afterwards I jotted down a new class sequence to teach when I got back home. I journaled. I wrote. The three hours passed quickly and it was time to pick up my big kid.

Troy was ecstatic about his day, bouncing around excitedly. He drove his SUV onto the beach and we stopped to leisurely walk along, picking up sea shells. 

To think these all these shells grew from a tiny particle. I started to toss the broken shells back and paused. I looked hard at those pieces, really looked, and saw something different. I developed a protective fury for the seashell population. Everyone throws back the shells that are chipped and cracked, the broken pieces, only keeping and cherishing the seemingly perfect crustaceans. Just because you aren’t the same as you started, doesn’t mean you aren’t beautiful. How do you define whole anyways? Who wants perfect ridges like manicured lawns or vacuum strokes on a carpet? I developed a fondness for the wild and irregular shell pieces. There were 50 broken shells to one whole everywhere I looked. Rounded edges smooth from the sea water battering---holding strong despite the continuous beatings. Sharp edges still fresh from a break that will smooth over many years. Beautiful colors, the purple called to me. Troy just looked at me with a bemused expression and held his hands out to hold pieces for me as I raged on about the shell injustice.

When we went to leave the beach, Troy had to dig sand out from behind the tires. Letting air out of the tires to ride on the beach is legit.

We stopped at a muffin joint and picked up fresh baked pecan butterscotch scones and fresh squeezed orange juice. Ahh vacation. We proceeded back to the treehouse and gave each other deep tissue massages (well, mine was really more Swedish, let’s be real) and fell into the most wonderful nap. That night we went to the Watermen’s Bar & Grill at REAL Watersports for grub, live music, and views of kite surfers. We had the guactail filled with crab meat, shrimp, and guac. It was humongous. Topped off with a seafood plater of Mahi, crab cake, shrimp, black beans, and cole slaw I grew sleepy.

Outer banks day two. I woke up and went to write about my dream in my dream journal. I turned to a new page and found a note from my love saying I am his dream come true. This guy, swoon. He said he wrote it months ago for me to find. I guess I need to dream more.

After picking up our scones and fresh OJ, I dropped off Troy at his adult camp and went to a local yoga class. I loved how we didn’t always flow, we would turn our feet to the back of the mat and do the sequence on the other side. I went to the back porch and wrote another yoga class sequence for when I returned home. I picked up Troy and we grabbed a quinoa burger and ahi tuna from Bro’s.

We stopped to see the famous lighthouse and pick up our beach driving permit before proceeding onward to the Ocracoke island ferry. 

After the ferry ride, we ventured to the Hammock Hills Nature Trail in the Maritime forest. The mosquitoes were no joke, they went through my yoga pants with a bug spray cover. Troy attacked me with the DEET mosquito repellent, not satisfied with my all natural essential oil spray. We saw the coolest tree roots intertwined. I have a tree root fetish, I am fascinated in how the trees communicate and help each other out underground. 

Troy then took me to see the wild ponies, but they had 800 layers of fence in between me and the horses so I couldn’t love on them. Is a horse nuzzle too much to ask for around these parts? 

I went on to read in my OBX guide that every time a human approaches, feeds, or touches a wild horse, they have to take the horse out of the wild for the protection of the horse and others. They are actually quite dangerous as they aren’t tame or trained and can bite and kick and they can become deathly ill if they eat anything off their mild and native diet of sea grass and oats, acorns, and persimmons. A horse recently died from eating watermelon rind a vacationer fed it!

We at dinner at Dajio and it was so bloody good. They use local ingredients from scratch and had a straw-less summer poster up. We feasted on oysters and spotted sea trout, root vegetable medley, succotash, clam chowder with mushrooms, and jalapeno corn bread. Days like that are why I call myself a semi-vegan/pescatarian. We stopped at 1718, Ocracoke Island’s first brewery. They had only been open for six days. 

Bellies full, we made our way back to the ferry and fell into a deep slumber.

Outer Banks day three we slept in and awoke to a beautiful day. The sun was out! The sun was out! We picked up our scones and mango smoothies and headed to Ace Hardware to buy a tire pressure gauge capable of reading below 20 pounds, a tow strap, and a shovel. The cashier asked us if we had a board. We looked at him questioningly. He replied, “Sir, did you even read your permit?” We bought a board. 

We met the coolest guy at Ace Hardware. He was shouting from the rooftops about celebrating the 62nd anniversary of escaping the Vietnam War prison he was held captive in for a year! a wave of gratitude flowed over me. I wanted to envelope him in a hug.

We ventured to Shelly “island”. It’s, well, shelly. There were so many seashells. It was astounding. 

I had to force myself to stop picking up seashells because every footstep I found so many beautiful ones. We pumped up our paddleboards and ventured into the ocean. 

It was such a blast having waves come unexpectedly from behind and surfing. After paddling and surfing the gentle waves for a while, I had a migraine aura visitor and laid down on my board. I sleepily lifted my head to ask Troy what he was doing. His eyes frantically darted from side to side and he replied, “Have you ever heard of the term, “Apex Predator?” This area is known to be the most shark infested area of the Outer Banks. Remember the guy that didn’t want to come paddle-boarding with us here because he said he didn’t want to be part of the big fish eats the little fish game?” I chuckled and laid my head back down on the board. We eventually made our way back to the beach and headed out.

We had fresh caught red drum for lunch and it was decadent. I was a little disappointed that all of the restaurants at the Outer Banks had so many disposables; plates, cups, ughhhh. Even when dining in, we’d get our scone on a disposable plastic plate. I expected them to be more eco and earth conscious being remote. Eating semi-vegan/pescatarian was a little challenging. Cheese wasn’t always listed, but it came on everything. But most places had salads, vegetables, and fruits so I was golden.

I went with Troy to the last day of his adult camp to watch him kite surf into the sunset and take pics. It was impressive to say the least, so many variables.  He got some really long runs ins, at one time almost disappearing into the horizon. He was a shredding handsome fool (Troy made me type that).

On recommendation from multiple locals, we went to Ketch 55 for our anniversary dinner. I talked about all the sea shells we found excitedly to the folks at the bar. James, one of the kite surfing trainers, said he never took seashells because a local in Hawaii told him it was bad luck not to leave things as you found them. Well drat. I thought regrettably back to the huge bucket of shells in our car and sighed.

A local at the bar exclaimed, “You will never have another second anniversary” and his comment really stuck with me. We had the most decadent pesto-crusted grouper and sweet pea cous cous. Best food we had on the entire trip. The kite surfing trainers from Outer Banks Kiting and locals at the bar had an apple pie turnover sent to our table and the entire restaurant sang us happy anniversary. It was so warm, unexpected, and memorable. Those are the kind of memories I want to create for others. We joined Jay (the owner of Outer Banks Kiting), Larry (local fisherman), Danny (owner of Dizzy’s ice cream trucks), and the bartender Joni to one up each other with tall tales (mine clearly the tallest).

The next morning we packed up the car, walked the Avon Pier, and then took one last beach stroll. I left most of the shells there. We (ok I) skipped and danced in the wild winds on the beach, twirling around exuberantly, all 6’3’’ of me.

Until next time OBX, until next time.

Friday, May 12, 2017

11 Time Savers that are Hurting Us.

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here

Did you ever have one of those deciding moments, a sinking realization that you’ve learned too much and there’s no going back to how you were living prior to that knowledge?

During my apprenticeship with elephant journal, one thing kept standing out to me—what is popular is not always what is the most important.

Like great journalists, I need to doggedly search for the truth and facts and not take anything at face value. This caused me to start questioning my daily way of life. I agreed to a challenge of not using any disposable cups for several months. Sounds easy, right?

One day, I forgot my stainless-steel tumbler, and I purposely didn’t get carryout at a local restaurant to avoid the waste. But it was to no avail. They brought me water in a plastic cup to my dine-in table, and I cringed when they proceeded to bring my food on a paper plate, as well. I stared on in horror as the server threw my disdainful cup away and grabbed a new plastic cup to leach chemicals into my refill.

That weekend we attended a charity dinner, and I watched in dismay as 250 hard plastic plates that could pass for fine china in my own cabinet were thrown into large trash bins after the meal.

Now that I was mindful of it and paying attention, it was incredulousness how much waste I created every time we went outside of our home for a meal or social outing. I am just one person, but when I started envisioning how many disposable items are used in just one hour across the world, I started to feel ill.

I don’t want to challenge the way it’s always been done; I want to challenge the way we’ve done it for the past 50 years or so and how it’s impacting ourselves, our communities, and our Earth.

Red flags for me are hearing the words popular, convenient, easy, or free.

A lot of truth and research is staring us in the face, but we have been blindly turning away.

We work so hard to afford the finer things in life and maintain them, but are those the very things that are hurting us? When I sat down and really thought about how we’re living, I came up with 11 ways of life I’m working to make the exception instead of the norm, saving some money along the way. We can survive without all of these things, but with them, the Earth won’t:

1. Processed, frozen, packaged, and fast foods. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. I don’t want to eat anything with 25 ingredients on the label that I can’t even pronounce. I like to call this faux food. Let’s bring cooking locally-grown whole foods back.

2. Microwaves. With an increase in the consumption of frozen and processed foods comes an increase in microwave use. Microwaves change the chemical structure of food, and that sh*t just isn’t natural. Microwaves damage the nutritional value of food; steaming is much better. I am also a huge advocate of the toaster oven or a rice cooker.

You can plan ahead to defrost and it only takes just a few more minutes to heat up food. I store dish towels in our spotless microwave, but if you can’t quit it, at least stand in a different room when it’s running so you don’t absorb as many electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) linked to cancer and other health issues—we get enough of those EMFs from our cell phones and Wi-Fi!

3. Coffee and energy drinks. I am down with coffee in moderation for a jump start in the morning, but when multiple cups are required, I have to re-evaluate why I’m so tired in the first place. We’ve known since we were little tykes that we need eight hours of sleep a night. My personal average is six. Long-term consequences of insufficient sleep are not good. I don’t need obesity and cardiovascular disease in my life.

4. Medication. The body heals itself during sleep, and food nourishes the body. We’ve all listened to the 80 side-effects rattled off when medications are advertised and shook our heads. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for medication. Other times, it may just take a few more days to let the body heal itself rather than popping a pill.

5. Disposable plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery. One party with a few dozen people creates bags of garbage. The amount of garbage daily collected from amusement parks, concerts, and sporting events is astounding. Think of all the bridal showers, baby showers, and birthday parties going on at any given moment.

We use an old silverware set for parties and just throw them in the dishwasher after. I’m bringing cloth napkins back in 2017. We make our coffee and tea at home and save some serious change and to-go cups. That $4 a day for a coffee quickly adds up to $120 a month.

6. To-go boxes. A new socially awkward thing I’m going to start doing is keeping a glass Pyrex bowl in my satchel when I go out to eat for the leftovers. I would rather look at the bemused expressions on my friends’ faces than yet another carryout box that will end up in an overflowing landfill.

7. We put produce in plastic bags.  Whatever did people do prior to 1960? I want to avoid the risk of the migration of any chemicals from the plastic into the food. I put my fruits and veggies right into my reusable bags and for the little and loose guys like okra I put those in mesh bags oranges come in. I always kick myself when I forget my bags at home, and I’ve been known to leave my full cart at the checkout line to run out to my car and grab them.

8. Bottled drinks. Plastic chemicals can seep into what we drink. I now try my best to plan for my day and bring my own water. I carry a stainless steel, glass, or porcelain cup with me. Plastic is off the chain, don’t get me wrong. It was originally invented to create a material that would replace elephant ivory so the beautiful creatures would stop being poached. But there is too much of a good thing when we go to extremes. There are humongous garbage patches filled with plastic in our oceans and plastic pieces end up in the wildlife’s stomachs. The animals can’t take their kids to the doctor to get X-rayed to see they swallowed a G.I. Joe figurine or a bottle cap.

9. Social media for our primary news source. We are relying on a haphazard scroll through a newsfeed to know what’s going on in the world. You are what you eat, how you cook it, and what you read! Let’s bring the Sunday paper back full of independent journalism that is working to protect the interest of the public. I need to be mindful of not just settling for what’s going viral on the web, but seeking out solid reporters to stay informed like they have at The New York Times or The Washington Post. I want to ensure I’m drawing my opinions from facts. And let’s be real, we all miss the Sunday Comics.

10. Online shopping with direct shipping. That one-click purchase and two-day free shipping is enticing; the struggle is real for me on this one. I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into a local store this week and got a free tote bag with my in-store purchase, and I met a cool chick in line and struck up a conversation about the meaning of her tattoo that became my mantra for the day. Shopping local is eco-friendly and strengthens the economy of your community. Support your neighbors.

11. Weed killers and pesticides. While these quickly kill weeds and insects in the short term, what are we slowly poisoning long term? Let’s check out crop rotations from days of old and natural remedies for weeds like boiling water, vinegar, or some elbow grease.

We seem to have this need for speed and insist on intervening. New inventions have come out over the years that were touted to be time savers, and we excitedly adopted them because they were convenient (for us). Study after study comes out about how bad processed foods are for us, how we need more sleep, and how plastic and chemicals are bad. As new information came out on their effects, it was too late—we were hooked. It’s like we would be inconveniencing ourselves to do what’s healthy and ignored the research.

Despite all of the new technology to go faster, when’s the last time we said to ourselves, “Dang, I have so much time and money.” If you ask someone how they are doing, most will respond, “I’m so busy.” Let’s rethink this whole alleged convenience thing. Perhaps having to wash a few plates instead of throwing away a paper plate isn’t the problem.

If we don’t need to buy all of these convenient and disposable items, maybe we won’t have to work quite so hard and will have more time in the long run. And I’ll wager we’ll be sick less and have more energy if we cook more at home with local produce and get more sleep.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Medicating Migraines With No Relief? Try This.

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.

I am now a firm believer that our body is trying to tell us something when we have distressing physical symptoms—and it is in our best interest to find out what that something is.

Not listening has significant consequences.

I have had a few bouts with my old foe—chronic migraines—but the most recent was debilitating. The migraines were constant for six months and I experienced auras with scattered spots the majority of the day.

Every morning I woke up, hopeful, searching my eyes to see if the dreaded spots were still there. I took naps in my car in the parking garage at work, because I felt feverish and my eyelids were so heavy with fatigue. I felt helpless and didn’t see any options.

When I reached a breaking point, my doctor suggested I go on leave from my demanding corporate job to focus on my health. I felt shameful for letting everyone down at the time, but it’s the best decision I could have made. Some surprising things happened to not just my health, but my life along the way. I realize now that you can’t help anyone else until you fix yourself.

I wasn’t doing anyone any good by being a shell of myself.

I had already tried all of the natural remedies I could find in an attempt to eliminate any possible migraine triggers. I exercised, slept like a bear in hibernation, had weekly acupuncture, chiropractic care, deep-tissue massages—and ate a whole food diet of organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wild caught fish.

Hasta la vista processed foods and alcohol. I quit the juice (coffee) and even my delightful green tea. Thank heaven for herbal teas. I stopped eating lunchmeat—RIP turkey sandwiches. I dramatically cut back on chocolate. We replaced every fluorescent bulb in the house.

I wanted the migraines gone and as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t willing to medicate. I tried medication in the past and it didn’t help keep my migraines at bay long-term. I now don’t believe in hiding symptoms without addressing the root cause.

I underwent a series of tests with a doctor that practiced integrative medicine. We uncovered that I was deficient in Vitamin D and my Epstein-Barr (EPV) virus was active. I invested in Vitamin D and zinc whole food supplements. We added in some riboflavin and magnesium—common antidotes for migraines—for good measure. By using whole food supplements, it could take four to six weeks before I would see results. In the meantime, I continued on my quest for the root cause.

A few things happened that pointed to stress as the primary trigger for my migraines. My integrative doctor informed me that I was constantly in a state of fight or flight mode. My pupils were dilated. My lip or nose twitched regularly. My monkey mind was out of control, playing out ridiculous scenario after scenario.

After acupuncture, my entire body felt relieved. My migraine aura would often clear when doing yoga—and then quickly return. When I went on leave, a good friend bought me three sessions with a psychotherapist and made me promise I would try them before I decided whether I would return to my corporate job or quit.

We focused my treatment plan on yoga, meditation, and therapy to develop coping mechanisms for stress. By addressing the stress, I could decrease my anxiety, calm down my nervous system, increase my serotonin and dopamine counts, decrease my fatigue, and improve my concentration.

When I was tired, I slept. My body ruled the roost.

Life doesn’t stop and you go on living despite (or in spite of) the migraines. I started a dog walking company that allowed me flexibility in my day should a migraine hit. This was a low-stress venture. I still got to meet new people and had the perk of getting to be outside and playing with dogs.

The migraines spurred an entirely different path for me.

My career decisions were made out of practicality and for financial reasons. I clambered up the corporate ladder. I had stopped dreaming somewhere along the way. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my migraines were like a flashing light (literally and figuratively), letting me know it was time to leave the sensible job and move toward my purpose. That sensible job was making me sick—it wasn’t right for me.

My migraines gave me the push I needed to pursue my passions and not a dollar sign.

As my leave was coming to a close and it was decision time, my decision was made for me. The company I worked for let everyone on leave go, along with hundreds of other employees. I now had a severance package that seemed like a gift to start me on my way. A thank you for working yourself to the bone. We are going to use it to travel and start a SUP yoga company. At the same time, a friend was opening a yoga studio and needed a studio manager.

The universe always seems to provide, if we just get out of the way.

I redefined success for myself and it was no longer climbing the corporate ladder. I now was focused on my health and passion to help others—human and animal.

I now meditate every morning to calm myself at the start of the day. I do yoga. I’ll teach yoga in a few months when I’m certified—to help others manage stress. I write. I cook. I walk dogs. I hike in nature. I’ve slowed down and listen to my intuition. I spend time with friends and family. I set boundaries so I can remain healthy. I realize I always have choices. And I’m happy.

It took my body six months to heal. Most things in nature heal themselves, if we give them enough time.

Initially—I didn’t pay attention to the signs of chronic stress so that I could increase self-care or address the underlying causes of the stress. If you get migraines, you may not have the same causes I did, but don’t give up finding yours. We are not our migraines; we are people overcoming our migraines.

The next time my body talks to me, I will listen. I won’t wait until a breaking point.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher