Saturday, September 10, 2016

August Adventuring: Our Summer Vacation

In early August, Jason and I packed up our trusty Subaru, and spent 9 days in pursuit of adventure in 3 National Parks (a bucket list trip for me!). We explored Jackson Hole, WY / Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the sweet college town of Bozeman, MT, and Glacier National Park. It is difficult to put into words the beauty we found, so I will instead let these photos do the talking.

The hike to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park
The majestic Tetons
Jenny Lake in the Tetons
The Tetons viewed from the top of Signal Mountain
The Prismatic Hot Springs in Yellowstone.
Wild bison in Yellowstone. 
Hiking Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone.
We stayed at a series of lodges, and ended up loving them all! If you are planning a similar trip, here are my recommendations.
  • Alpine House in Jackson Hole, WY (near entrance to Grand Teton National Park)
  • Bar 'N Ranch in West Yellowstone, WY (near Yellowstone National Park's West entrance)
  • Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish, MT (near entrance to Glacier National Park)
Another trip highlight was the scenic Snake River float trip we did in Grand Teton National Park. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and the views along the river were nothing short of breathtaking. 

And seemingly overnight, fall has come to Colorado! While summer's end brings a twinge of sadness, the shortening and cooling of days feels cozy to me. The mornings and evenings have turned crisp and the pressure to be outside making optimal use of every minute of the day has ceded to permission: permission to curl up on the couch with an anticipated fall read, permission to stay in and watch movies on a Friday night, permission to sleep with the windows open and wake in the morning to birdsong and stillness.

In the next few months, I will celebrate my birthday and, with only one quarter left in the calendar year, focus on the goals and intentions I set for myself back in January. I also hope to spend more time writing, both here and in my journal, so look for more posts soon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Cravings

Hello! I'm just stopping by to share a few of the things on my "currently craving" list.

I started listing them all out and then realized they fell into just a few main categories.

All the spring greens: 
I make an effort to eat seasonally and always delight in the abundance of fresh produce that heralds spring's arrival: mint from the garden, fat stalks of asparagus, garlicky ramps, freshly shelled peas, crisp radishes, and all manner of herbs and lettuces. To me, these months are all about eating green, literally, as illustrated by these nourishing dishes.

Revitalizing Salad

Spring Gratitude Bowls

Chopped Green Goddess Salad

Pea Shoots with Burrata, Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seeds

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus Salad with Fried Capers and 7-Minute Eggs

Spring Harvest Buddha Bowl with Dill Shallot Vinaigrette

Swiss Chard Stem & Ramp Spring Rolls with Miso Green Goddess Dipping Sauce

Healthful, High-Protein Snacks:
As someone who tends toward a paleo/primal/grain-free way of eating, protein is a mainstay of my meals. Recently, as I've increased the intensity of my workouts, I've become even more conscious of incorporating protein into my snacks for muscle recovery and appetite satiety. Here are a few on my to-try list.

Protein Power Snack with Chocolate and Cashew

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread

Flourless Chocolate Chunk Coconut Blondies

Superfood Chocolate Quinoa Bark

Coconut Matcha Energy Bars

Raw Banana Bread Shakes

Simple Seasonal Pleasures:
Some cravings don't fit neatly into a category. Here are a few of the "odds and ends" I'm loving right now.

Moodling around the house with the windows open

Early evening hikes in the foothills, enjoying the blooming wildflowers

A good book to read on the patio (what are you reading right now?)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Resurrecting Ourselves

It feels like dark times, when, inconceivably, one of our major political parties seems poised to choose a hateful bigot as their presidential nominee, when a state's government passes legislation that enables discrimination, when mass shootings and terrorist attacks have become near-daily news. When cometh the morning that we awake from this nightmare?

I'm currently reading, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, which posits that we all possess, within us, the ability to shift from unconscious to conscious ways of leading and being. Unconscious leaders operate within a paradigm of scarcity and attempt to motivate through fear, guilt, and shame, whereas conscious leaders operates within a paradigm of love and therefore inspire others through their integrity and commitment to personal growth.

The book's authors assert that these shifts bring a leader from below the line to above the line and that the choice to shift is available to all of us, all of the time (as is, by the way, the willingness to be and act as a leader).

It's the choice we're making when we experience our feelings rather than react to them; when we seek to understand another's point of view rather than defend our position; when we acknowledge and learn actively from our missteps no matter the collateral damage to our egos.

It is a crossing of the threshold from dark to light, from despair to hope, and from fear to love. It is choosing grace even – and especially – when we're in pain.

It is, in other words, our soul's awakening from the nightmare that swirls around us.

Though lapsed churchgoer that I am, my memories of Easter Sunday at Zion Lutheran Church in my Iowan hometown remain vividly clear. I still see Pastor Roy Nilsen walking to the lectern, adjusting his glasses with just the right measure of dramatic flair, and announcing in his booming baritone:

"Christ. Is. Risen."

He is risen indeed, we the congregation would exclaim in reply.

"Alleluia!" the pastor's pronouncement continued.

Alleluia! we would practically shout (or, rather, state loudly and with glee, which is the Lutheran equivalent of rioting in the streets).

The call and response would repeat twice more, the jubilation in our voices rising each time (my own, in retrospect, owing more to the novelty of "talking back" during the sermon than an informed understanding of Scripture, but nonetheless).

Though, as a young child, I struggled to make literal sense of a man dying and coming back to life – even Jesus himself, who I knew had magical powers – the optimism of those Easter mornings required no leap of understanding. From the uplifting harmonies of the hymns to the organist's animated accompaniment to the slight bounce in Pastor Nilsen's steps as he led the post-benediction procession down the aisle following the service, the contrast between the previous weeks' mood of Lenten mourning and this one was stark. It was abundantly clear that the occasion was one of utter joy and relief.

I understood we had journeyed through several months of darkness, in search of light, and had made it.

Our despairs had been quieted, our fears quelled, our hopes rewarded. Our shadows had been illuminated by the twin high beams of faith and love. Alleluia indeed.

I wonder, now, if that Easter Sunday enthusiasm was born partially from the reminder that the ascent from darkness to light was possible on a personal level, that the proclamation of Christ's rising was also an invitation to look around at the earth in full Spring bloom and remember that our own rebirth is constantly available: that our ability to choose it is, in fact, the great prize of being alive.

And choose it we must, as individuals and a society as a whole. The current political environment requires that we set aside our beliefs about how best to solve our problems to answer the greater question at hand. Do we think so little of ourselves that we would consent to a culture of fear, guilt, and shame? The imperative is that we awake on a massive scale to proclaim it: that we will not allow ourselves to live or be led from below the line. Life in the shadows will not suffice. We are worthy of so much more.

Will we resurrect ourselves? I'm optimistic. Not because I'm naive, but because faith in people's good-heartedness is the antidote to the fear that breeds hatred in the first place.

The choice to shift is ours personally and collectively. We can rise above. What joy, what relief.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia, indeed.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

When Things Are Changing

“I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.” 

Last month, my yoga teacher, whose class I've been attending for about 5 months, said to me after savasana: "I can tell everything's changing for you." The words were firm, with a surety that required no elaboration, so I simply nodded my head in agreement. Yes.

Driving home from that yoga class, I realized through my misted view of the Flatirons that my eyes were filled with happy tears. Someone saw. Alhough my yoga teacher may not have known exactly what was happening in my life, he recognized the shift. 

Was it in the rhythm of my breath? The shape of my forward fold? Had my chi transformed in some subtle way? (Yoga teachers pick up on these things, you know.)

I don't know what it was that he'd noticed, but I do know things are changing for me.

Things are changing in my relationship to my body. I am listening to, instead of ignoring, the strange pain in my left hip. I'm edging closer to it, befriending it, and coaxing it to share its deepest wishes with me (which, thus far, seem to include lots of requests for turmeric and regular sessions with the foam roller).

My relationship with my body is changing in other ways too, most notably with my newfound love of strength training. For a long time I had this irrational fear of lifting weights. What if you look dumb? What if you mess up? What if you drop a weight on someone's foot? It's insane, really, the kinds of ridiculous fears we allow to hold us back. I started lifting weights at the gym last fall and – more recently – discovered the magic that is Orange Theory. I don't know quite how to explain it, but I just feel so much delight at watching myself get stronger and stronger. It's like my muscles are saying "Finally! This is what we've been meant to do all along."

Things are changing in my relationship with food. For awhile, I'd been operating on a sort of grain-free/Paleo-ish auto-pilot, but since completing the Whole30, I have developed a better awareness of my body's preference for certain types of fuel. Instead of reaching for the protein bar just because it's labeled "paleo," I'm reaching for grass-fed Greek yogurt with almond butter because I know it gives me just the right amount of protein for optimal energy. This is not a knock on protein bars–I think they're great! The point is I am eating things that make me feel good, rather than things that fall into a certain category.

Things are changing in my relationship with my finances. After spending several years not paying a whole lot of attention to the topic of money, I felt the desire to look at this part of my life to see whether my financial behaviors were aligned with my values and goals. So, one of my goals for 2016 was to re-engage with my finances by taking inventory of my assets as well as my spending and saving habits. Each week since January 1st, I have set aside 1-2 hours on the weekend to spend effort on my "financial future." How I spend the time varies, but so far I've done a review of my various savings and investment accounts (and whether they're being maximized fully); set up my Health Savings Account; transferred an old 401k balance; canceled an old credit card and opened a new one with better rewards; and completed other various "projects." I've gotten curious about what a values-centered budget would look like and begun playing with some different formats and ideas. I've also begun reading The Soul of Money and re-examining my attitudes around abundance and prosperity. It feels wonderfully empowering and refreshing to be re-engaged with my finances in this way.

Things are changing for me at work. I'm reading The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, and wow, it is rocking my perspective in a really big way. As someone who thinks of herself as generally conscious at work, I am learning how much room for opportunity I still have, particularly in my ability (or, sometimes lack thereof) to feel my emotions, rather than react to them. I am also inspired by the book's portraits of conscious workplaces and thinking a lot about how I, an HR professional, have an opportunity to create that environment for myself and others. The book talks about asking yourself: "What is life's highest idea of itself that wants to express itself in and through me?"...a question that has been calling forth some really interesting (and surprising!) ideas and images for me.

So, yes, things are changing. These things, and other things not detailed here. Maybe not everything in a literal sense, but a lot of things. A lot of big things.

I have experienced periods of rapid personal change and growth in the past. Typically, one area of my life will begin shifting in order to meet some external challenge (whether professional or personal), and that resulting growth will impact all the other areas in similar ways. These periods of intense change are exhilarating, but also necessarily painful. By adopting new ways of being we are forced to leave old ways, old selves really, behind. It can feel a little like waving goodbye to a friend, someone we know like the back of your hand, but whose interests are no longer aligned with our own. So long, buddy. It's been real.

Change is hard. It can be heart-breaking, even, at that moment we realize our well-loved and familiar patterns and habits just don't do it for us anymore. What now? we ask ourselves.

The writer Henry Cloud says we change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.

I suppose it's a matter of which pain we prefer then. The tedious comfort of reading the same page over and over again? Or the thrill of turning the page, unsure of what we'll find?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Winter 2016 Necessities

Though winters in Colorado tend to be sunny with swaths of unseasonably warm days, it is, nonetheless, around this time of year that I begin to tire of the season. For that reason, I've been making an even more conscious effort than usual to care for myself. Here are a few of the things and indulgences I'm finding necessary right now.
  1. A good book. I love browsing my Goodreads "To Read" list then sending several samples to my Kindle to read in the bathtub later. The only hard part is choosing which book to actually buy! I recently finished What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan, which was a perfectly suspenseful page-turner, ideal for curling up with on a chilly winter evening.
  2. And speaking of reading in the tub, a selection of bath salts is definitely a winter necessity. I rotate through different brands, but lately have been loving Soaptopia's Lavender Lullaby, Aura Cacia's Recover, and The Seaweed Bath Co.'s Eucalyptus & Peppermint. I also light a candle or two, and–if I'm feeling especially fancy–I'll make myself some spa water (i.e. tap water with mint and cucumber slices) to sip while I soak.
  3. My down jacket. I was due for a new jacket this year, so I did my research and decided to invest in Kuhl's Spyfire Down Parka (scored on major sale at REI). As I mentioned, we're lucky that it doesn't usually get too cold here in sunny Colorado, but on those chilly days, I sure am grateful for that 800-fill down.
  4. A slow cooker. There's something so cozy about having a delicious-smelling meal in the slow cooker on a wintry day, and it was a lifesaver during our Whole30. We made a big batch of bison chili recently (topped with chopped radish, scallion, cilantro, and plenty of avocado) and it was sooo nice having several nourishing servings ready to eat throughout the week.
  5. All of the moisturizing products. John Masters' Lavender and Avocado Intensive Moisturizer. Dr. Bronner's Lip Balm. Korres' Black Pine Serum at night. And Acure's Moroccan Argan Oil forever.
  6. Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. We don't have cable and try to limit TV in general, but enjoy watching certain series, especially during the winter when it's too dark or cold to be outside.
  7. My yoga studio and gym memberships. I absolutely love hiking and trail running during the Spring, Summer, and Fall, however I've accepted that I'm not going to be one of those die-hard people lacing up my sneakers at 6:00am when it's pitch-black and below freezing outside. I know it's super crucial for my mood to maintain a vigorous exercise routine during Winter, so to the gym I go, about 5x/week. Yes, running three miles on a treadmill is a bit of a grind, but I know, for me, it keeps the winter blues at bay. Lately, I've also been lifting weights and getting more into strength training, which has been really gratifying. I mix it up with a hatha or vinyasa class about 1x/week.
  8. Really good coffee. That first cup gets me out of bed on those cold, dark mornings! (Yes, my husband literally sets a mug of it on the nightstand to wake me up.) We alternate between using beans from local roasters Ozo, Novo, Corvus, and Doma.
  9. Vitamin D, both in the form of supplements and actual sunshine. Weather permitting, I try to step outside over my lunch break or take a few minutes in the afternoon to walk around the block. Sometimes, I'll grab a coffee or tea and sit on a bench facing the sun; even 15 minutes completely transformative to my mood.
What are your winter necessities?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Whole30 Check-In

Lettuce-wrapped burger with cucumber, sprouts, and avocado, with sweet potato fries and garlic aioli.
Hooray for Paleo-friendly restaurants!

As you may know if you follow me on Instagram, I decided to kick off 2016 with a Whole30. There were three main reasons behind my decision.
  1. In the past few years, I have begun consciously choosing to do the hard thing. (Not that giving up certain food groups is necessarily "hard" compared to other hardships in life, but it's definitely not easy.) Doing the hard thing is not the same thing as being hard on myself; rather, it's recognizing the areas where I might be tempted to do what feels easy/familiar and consciously choosing to do the opposite, trusting that the challenge of it will result in growth. I knew the sense of doing something difficult and succeeding at it would make me feel even more confident and empowered in other areas of my life.
  2. Speaking of other areas of my life, I have big plans for 2016. I have a vision and set of goals that are aligned with how I want to feel. And pursuing those vision and goals takes energy: the kind that comes from taking radically good care of oneself. There are as many different and valid modes of self-care as there are people on earth, but I know for myself, personally, I feel unstoppable–like the absolute most badass version of myself–when I fuel my body with tons of vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and clean proteins and simultaneously avoid grains, sugar, and alcohol.
  3. Two of my Core Desired Feelings are "luminous" and "nourished." I feel both of these things when I'm eating paleo, working out regularly, and getting lots of sleep. So, why not kick those feelings into overdrive with a Whole30 for structure and motivation?
But enough about that. Let's talk about what's important–the food! I thought I'd share a round-up of some of the meals we've been enjoying. (Yes, "we." My husband agreed to do it with me this time!) 

These have been some of our favorites:

Pork Carnitas (in a lettuce bowl with various garnishes like avocado, chopped radishes, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno)
Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken (skipped the honey to make it Whole30-compliant, served with Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad, minus the agave in the dressing)
Lamb Sliders (wrapped in butter lettuce leaves and served with a Greek salad of cucumber, red onion, olives, cherry tomatoes, and pepperoncini)
Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde (topped the avocado, scallions, and cilantro)

Breakfasts have generally been some variation on eggs and greens or eggs and sweet potato hash, sometimes with avocado or smoked salmon on the side for healthy fats. Lunches have been mainly leftovers from the previous night's dinner or cold cuts wrapped with lettuce, cucumber, onion, and Tessemae's lemon garlic dressing or mayo. We are spoiled with health-conscious Paleo-friendly restaurants here in Boulder, so we've even managed to eat out a few times. As you can tell, there's been no shortage of delicious food! 

The biggest challenge I've faced so far was traveling for work this past week. I was a little nervous about sticking to the Whole30 guidelines while on the road, but it ended up not being a big deal. I contacted the conference organizer in advance and she happily accommodated my requests for the catered lunches (I got a salad with grilled chicken both days). I was able to get an awesome spinach-packed frittata at the hotel's bistro both mornings and I dined on yummy sashimi and salad at the hibachi restaurant where I went with my colleagues one of the nights. I was super thankful that I'd packed a stash of Epic bars and almond butter when my flight out of Denver was canceled and I had to wait 5 hours at the airport to catch another one. I will say traveling for work while doing the Whole30 wasn't ideal (there's nothing like explaining to a group of cocktail-swilling co-workers why you're only drinking green tea), but I stuck to it and it all worked out fine. One of my co-workers even told me that I'd inspired her to eat more healthily after I explained the program to her.

Physically, I've been feeling really great. Luminous, nourished...and yeah, pretty badass. I'm planning to write another post about the overall physical experience and the meal-planning strategy I used, but I'll wait until I've actually completed the 30 days for that.

Have you done a Whole30? If so, what were your reasons for doing it? What was the toughest part? And how good did that glass of Cabernet taste after 30 days? Asking for a friend.