I’m Back! Miss me?

I’m so sorry I’ve been so lax on posting this past month! I certainly didn’t mean to slack, but I’ve had a lot going on!

The Distractions

First, my husband has been on his summer vacation for these past six weeks. Since medical school normally monopolizes all of his time, I had to make the most of this break! We had a blast hiking and relaxing by the pool over the summer. It was glorious! But, all good things must eventually end. He’s back in school, and I’m back to work.

Second, I really needed to get a computer as my writing business has exploded. I found that typing on my iPad just wasn’t cutting it. But, since we aren’t exactly rollin’ in the dough, I needed to write to earn enough money to be able to afford a computer to invest in my new career. I’ve written for several websites and even ghost wrote an eBook. I also took on odd jobs around the island pet sitting. Between that and being a crazy keyboard cowgirl, I was able to afford my first Mac. We’ve named her Mindy, the girlfriend to my hubby’s computer, Mork. It’s pure orchard love!

Third, I’ve been trying to build back up to train for my upcoming race calendar. I plan to race a marathon by March 2014 and a full Ironman by August 2014. I have allowed myself to get horribly out of shape (not many calories are burned sunbathing), so I’ve been paying the piper in the gym. I’m seeing results … slowly.

My pool-side office!

My pool-side office!

The Awesome Sites Who Gave Me a Shot

I just began writing for hire in May, and I’m so excited by the wonderful support of the writing community. My journalism degree was a bit dusty after working in sales all these years, but some awesome entrepreneurs took a chance on me and allowed me to represent their sites. Their faith helped show me that maybe I can make a living at this writing thing. I’ve got a few more websites cooking, but for now, here are some of the awesome people who gave me a shot.

LifeHack:

A huge site with over 90,000 followers providing plenty of great hacks to improve your life.

Frugality Check:

This is an amazing start-up finance site on how to improve your budget while promoting a better marriage. What’s not to love!

Florida for Boomers:

This is a fun place to keep up with all the happenings of Florida, where I lived for seven years. They make me homesick!

The New Sites I’ve Created

While I plan to keep this blog as a catch all for the goings on in faith, finance, family, and fitness, I wanted more targeted sites to reach certain demographics. I have created two new webpages that I hope I can springboard from in the future with some new ventures I have cooking. I’d be honored if you checked them out! Feel free to follow along if they seem to interest you!

Broken Rearview Mirror

I created this site to reach out to those people who struggle with pain from their past impacting their future. I recently went through a period of deep depression for several years. I’m finally safely on the other side of this and able to reach out to help others feel mentally free again. I had some great counseling and help during this time, and this site is my way to pay it forward.

FitNFaster

I’ve been trying to break into the fitness industry, since I have a passion for triathlons and am training for my first full Ironman next year. I enjoyed ghost writing a fitness eBook, and have written a few fitness articles for others. It’s time to write about my own venture. This site will chronicle my 12-month journey to one of my biggest life goals, becoming an Ironman. I will also incorporate practical tips to help others find their fitness sweet spot and motive the most dedicated couch potato to reach their dreams. Join in if you dare!

I’m so excited to finally be following my writing career while wrapping it up in my desire to help others reach their highest potential mentally and physically. Thanks for your patience with me as I’m striving to get there!

Life is good, my friends! Life is good!

What about you? Are you finding fun new ways to pursue your goals? Are you celebrating some successes? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Tell me your summer fun adventures in the comments below!

More Connected, Yet Out of Touch

Connection…

It’s what people crave. Yet more and more, people are going to on-line sources to bond on the bandwidth. Generation Z, the millennial generation, seem to be born with a smartphone in hand.

While connecting online isn’t necessarily a bad thing, are people spending so much time under the alluring glow of a computer screen that they are ignoring those closest to them?

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People often find that internet has taken over their lives and do Facebook Fasts or No-Screen weekends. People crave connection, but are often buried in their phone sitting right next to the one they love the most. There is something about looking into someone’s eyes while they are talking that tells them that they matter. To give people your full attention, as opposed to half hearing them over the drone of the T.V. or the typing of the keyboard while conversing with the universe, is a rarity. And it shouldn’t be…

So, in the spirit of reconnecting without the help of the virtual world, here are some ideas to reduce screen time.

1) Limit internet and T.V. time to when actual conversation isn’t an option.
Make it a goal to be attentive, not just present, when loved ones are around.
If you have kids and a busy schedule, this may mean eating dinner together at the table and talking about about your day instead of breaking out the T.V. trays and reaching for the remote. A great conversation table starter, “What was the best part of your day?” Your family will be closer for it and you just might learn a few things.

2) Get outside and interact with others!
We don’t have a data package on our smart phones. So, when I leave the house, the only thing I can do with my phone is call someone or take pictures. I know, shocking! I like it this way. When I’m out of my house, I don’t want to have my nose buried in a smart phone. I want to interact in the real world with the amazing people and beautiful scenery surrounding me. You never know if the next stranger you smile at could become your dearest friend. Not having internet while I’m out also saves money. And, not checking my email till I get back home has yet to cause me any bodily harm.

3) Connect with outdoor hobbies, exercise groups, or sports with your kids.
Excessive on-line connection facilitates a sedentary lifestyle. Not only will you be healthier, but you will connect with real people who share your passions. I love training for triathlons with fellow athletes. It’s really hard to mess with your smart phone while sweating up a storm, burning away the stress and calories, and having fun with others.

4) Have a specific family day that you protect.
My husband and I have one day each week that we set aside to be together. We may just relax at home and read a book to each other, go for a hike, hit the beach, or go out with friends. We are building memories every time and strengthening our marriage.

While you may not be able to do this weekly, schedule time on the calendar to do something as a family sans computer or T.V. Your options are endless! You can go hiking, take up rock climbing, go on a picnic, learn a new skill, or play fun outdoor family games.

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5) Put thought into others.
Anyone can rush out and buy a gift last minute. When it’s your loved one’s special day, like a birthday or anniversary or just because, cut out a bit of time to show them that you really put effort into making their day. For example, you can plan a day away just for them doing all the things that they love to do, and cut the internet cord in the process so they don’t have to compete with the web.

6) Turn off the notifications on your internet devices.
If you are trying to keep your focus on your family and friends, you don’t want your smartphone or computer chirping in the background. It will tempt you to check it. Turn off the notifications. That email or text can wait until your done talking to the person right in front of you.

7) Volunteer and give back.
One of the best ways to connect is to help others. You may find that you feel better too! There are many ways to do this. One site I like is http://www.volunteermatch.org/

From becoming a big brother or big sister, to helping the elderly, or walking dogs at the humane society, you will be make a big difference to people in your circle of influence.

8) Get a pet.
If you volunteer at the humane society, beware of those big brown eyes. Don’t adopt unless you can be a responsible pet parent, but if you can commit, pets are a great way to pull you away from the screen and meet other life forms. Dogs want to be walked and don’t care about who just sent you a message. They are great conversation starters around others. People gravitate to them. I even trained my dog in therapy work and visited sick kids in the hospital. Pets are great to break down barriers and build connections with others.

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9) For far-away friends, pick up the phone and call instead of text.
It’s often less time-consuming to send a text these days, and that’s my point. There is something so much more personal about taking the time to hear someone’s voice. Now, I will give you permission to use your computer to do video calls. But, don’t just text when you can have a deeper face-to-face connection.

10) Learn a new skill with others.
Once we leave school, many people get into a rut and forget to learn new things. Join a cooking class, take a course on a foreign language so you can travel somewhere new and talk to the locals, or try your hand at pottery. The possibilities for learning and interacting are endless.

Socrates said it best, “Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” Unfortunately, when it comes to screen time, this is hard to follow. While the internet isn’t bad, it does poise a problem when you miss out on the lives of those closest to you. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. No deathbed musings contain, “I wish I had watched one more episode of the Bachelor or wrote one more email.” Instead, the main regret is lost time with those we love the most. Let’s limit our regrets and give our loved ones time now, while we still have the chance.

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My Fearful Adventure: Leaving the Cage to Fly

Fear – the cage that encloses our soul. Though we want to fly, we hit the steel bars, unable to break away from prison. Fear takes many forms. For me, ironically, I was afraid of losing freedom and falling flat on my face. And, because of my fear of a cage, I became enslaved.

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Let me explain. I had my Gone-With-the-Wind moment when I was a newlywed. You romantics know the defining tick of time in that epic movie… where Scarlet O’Hara digs the root out of the dirt, eats it, falls a bit too dramatically, and then stands up with exasperation and swears, “I’ll never be hungry again!” Well, that was me when first married. I had my pride, and we were struggling. We barely had enough to cover our basic needs. I saw poverty as a type of slavery and dependence that didn’t sit well with me. So, I swore to myself that I would never go back to my dirt-eating Scarlet moment.

Instead, I climbed up the corporate ladder as most good Americans do. I joined the rat race with gusto! After all, the more money I made, the more “freedom” I could have to insulate my fears. With a fatter bank account, I would never need to ask anyone for help. I could travel to exotic places. I could reach all my dreams rolling in my bubble-wrapped world.

But, it turned out the rodent route took place in a huge running wheel called Corporate Security that had me running faster each day, but going nowhere. I loved the cushy life I had created, but it came with a price. My time was not my own. Once I got into the higher-salary jobs, I worked over sixty-hour weeks in a career that didn’t capture my imagination for the next seven years. When I wasn’t working, I was recovering from working. I didn’t have time to enjoy life or pursue my own dreams. I was just one more puzzle piece doing my part for a corporation to meet sales goals and give glowing reports to investors.

My mental and physical health suffered. I developed a chronic, long-term illnesses. I became depressed. While I was successful in my job, I was unsuccessful in my personal life, in fulfilling my own dreams, and in cultivating healthy relationships. I wasn’t living; I was existing. The more I analyzed this, the more I realized I needed to make a change. However, I wasn’t brave enough to do everything at once. I needed to take baby steps on the diving board before jumping off the deep end.

The first fearful leap I made was changing careers and leaving the top blue-chip company in my industry. It was very scary leaving the security of a company I was with for over seven years, but removing the intensity and stress of this job improved my health immensely. My new smaller company was still the industry leader, but the work environment was considerably less stressful.

It was during this time that I focused on my second fearful life change. I set the goal to run a marathon in six months. I was chronically ill and overweight when I decided to do this. It terrified me, but I persevered, paid the race entry fee, and, after six months of blood, sweat, and tears, accomplished this goal. You can read the full story of my journey here: http://sarahfaithhansen.com/2013/05/01/from-fat-and-sick-to-fit-and-quick-how-diet-and-exercise-changed-my-life/

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After the diet and lifestyle changes, I began to see a silver lining. Getting out of the mental fog of illness really helped me put things in perspective. While my physical health was revolutionized, my mental health was still in survival mode. I always dreamed of doing three things: helping people while living an adventure, writing for a living and inspiring others to make positive personal changes with my word-weaving skills, and finishing an Ironman triathlon. My current path still wasn’t crashing into my deepest longings. I was restless and didn’t feel like my life was causing the dent that I wanted on the world.

But, even these dreams paled compared to my biggest heart cry. My final dream was to have a strong marriage. It may not seem like a big dream to some, but a long-lasting, dynamic, healthy marriage is one of the rarest things in the world. Over the last nine years, my marriage was looking as rough and haggard as my rusty mental cage. I had chosen my career over my husband, and he had done the same. He left our home to pursue a career outside of the US for a few years on a tropical island. The rational thing to do was for me to keep my sleek salary and hold the mortgage on our beautiful golf-course home, which unfortunately had lost half of its value when the Florida housing market crashed, while he finished his training. We thought our marriage was strong enough to handle the separation. It wasn’t. After a year apart, we both felt estranged and unfulfilled in the shackles of expectations.

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This is where I hit the bars of my cage. This is where the hurt happened and fear met me in my safe place. If I stayed in my secure prison, I would lose myself, my marriage, and my dreams. But, I would continue to exist unchallenged. While I didn’t necessarily like my life, I knew the course well. If I followed my heart, I would have to give up everything I knew for the Bermuda Triangle of the unknown.

The journey was calling me. It made no sense. It scared me to death. But, I couldn’t continue to just exist anymore. So, I did the stupidest thing by most judgements, but the best thing for my rebirth. I left the cushy corporate job. I let the perfectly-planned house go into short sale. I sold our new car. I practically gave away all the furniture and housewares I had so lovingly picked out years ago. I sold my salt-water aquarium – my pride and joy. I sold our hot tub. I packed my bags. I boarded a plane with our three crazy dogs bound for Grenada, West Indies. And, I went to an unknown country to face an uncertain marriage after both ruining my career and losing my home. It was an all or nothing move. There was no turning back if my brilliant plan failed.

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Even with all of my shortcomings, God worked in amazing ways in my life. While our marriage went through the hardest time we have ever experienced, we were able to move past the pain, evaluate reality vs. denial, lose our love of the unimportant, and work toward a plan. As my relationship with my husband healed, I was able to focus on training for my first Ironman triathlon race. I now have time to train, and I have my sights set on my first full Ironman in August 2014. I also am able to help others through different outreach ministries on this adventurous island in the middle of paradise. I finally feel like I’m making a difference. Also, once I went through the mental and relational healing needed, I started a full-time career as a writer. And, I’m starting to make a living at it, which is always encouraging.

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The iron bars have finally crashed to the ground. I’m free. I’m living the adventure of a lifetime and pursuing every passion. Yes, we are poor, but it doesn’t bother me now. I now see selling everything that makes you free for the security bars of a salary as much more enslaving than continuously eating beans and rice and living in a tiny apartment. Are riches bad? Of course not! I hope to see them again one day. But, my passions are no longer for sale. I won’t pursue someone else’s dreams at the expense of my own. I jumped from the bars that were holding me up and holding me back, and embraced what I was most afraid of – falling. But, just as gravity opened its gaping jaws, winds of hopeful awakenings suddenly pushed me back to new heights I could never have imagined.

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Once you have learned to fly, there is no longer room in your life for fear’s cage. If you focus on the fear, you become your own jailer and construct the prison brick by brick and bar by bar yourself. Life is just too short. Why not be fantastically free?


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press

"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams." Nomadicmatt.com

"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail

Find out more…


Peace on the Street – Stopping Harassment

If I were to tell you that there is a population group where 99% of the people in America have suffered harassment in some form, what comes to mind? A smaller minority group? A certain religious organization? A particular sexual orientation? All fair guesses!

But the answer? Women. That’s right. Women in all countries suffer from street harassment – a form of sexual harassment. I just happen to cite a study from the US, but I’m sure the results will play across other countries similarly.

Street harassment is a very under-researched topic, but according to a 2008 study by Stop Street Harassment of 811 women, 99% said they had experienced street harassment in some form upon taking the survey. The breakdown: 25% experienced it by age 12, 90% by age 19, and 99% by the time these women took the survey (only 3 said they never experienced it).

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What is street harassment?

Street harassment is any unwanted and unsolicited sexual conversation, gesture, or advancement motivated by gender that invades a person’s emotional or physical space. It includes whistling, leering, honking, vulgar gestures, sexually explicit comments, blocking a person’s path, kissing noises, following, target of public masturbation or flashing, touching, and assault. It is a form of social injustice, as it limits women the same freedoms to enjoy public places with the same peace of mind as their male counterparts.

Now, I realize that men also experience street harassment. I’m not trying to minimize this at all. Women can be guilty of this too. But the frequency of occurrence is stacked more strongly against the men as the aggressors. As a woman, and since this is my blog, I’m going to focus on the women’s perspective and go off of personal experience. (Sorry guys. Feel free to write a blog on the other side of things!)

I also want to state that I don’t put myself under the labels of feminism, and I don’t support misandry. I realize most men don’t condone harassment of women and many step up to defend us from it. I am married and have many great guy friends in my life. Most are just as frustrated with this as I am. When I am speaking to the men in this article, it is to those who either participate in harassment or justify those who do. So, don’t feel that I’m picking on you, guys. You have been my shining knights on several occasions.

What’s the big deal?

Street harassment is probably the most under-reported crime. It is socially accepted in many places. If a woman stands up for herself, she is deemed by others to be too sensitive, not able to take a joke, etc. Women feel societal pressure to keep quiet about something that is clearly uncomfortable to them.

I have experienced sexual harassment all my life in both the street and workplace. It knows no demographic or social class. As a sales rep, I had an instance with a doctor sexually harassing me. I left immediately and reported it to my supervisor, but nothing was done except that I was told I didn’t have to call on him again. As a runner, I have experienced multiple forms of street harassment.

And that’s the problem. We grow up with it. We are taught that, while it isn’t the type of behavior for guys to brag about to mom, it also isn’t a big deal. I will admit, most of my life I have shrugged it off, tried not to listen, and ignored it along with the rest of the world.

However, I had more forceful assaults as I grew older. Experiences that have gone past simple words and led to actions. There is something very haunting about staring into the eyes of someone you know wants to rape you. I have had it happen twice. Once, a guy saw me from the road while I was outside my house from his car, leered at me, drove up my driveway while I retreated into the house, and followed me to my front door. If my 100-pound German Shepherd, who is usually very friendly, had not gotten between us and scared him off, I’m not sure what the outcome would have been as I was home alone in the country. The other time, a man jumped in my car, tried to kiss me, and tried to get me to drive him down a lonely road while he sexually propositioned me. When I refused to drive where he wanted to go and told him to get out of my car, he resisted until I told him we were driving to my husband and he would make sure he got out. We were in a public place with many people walking by, so when he realized I wasn’t going to be an idiot and drive to a secluded location, and that the only driving I would be doing was straight to my husband, he retreated from my car and kept asking for my phone number as I drove away. I have had a man hang on to my car window as I’m driving trying to get me to stop, had men join me as I’m jogging or swimming to try to talk to me (thankfully they were in horrible shape and I soon left them behind), had men grope me in crowded areas where I couldn’t get away, had men drive beside me hanging out their car window, and had all manner of sexual comments come my way when I was walking, running, or biking.

Before the more scary incidents happened, I treated sexual harassment as a mere annoyance. Now that I’ve seen how fragile the line is between men saying things to me and men trying to do things to me, I am even more uncomfortable with unwanted advances. I can’t imagine how women feel who have actually experienced rape and other traumatic assaults.

To sum it up, the big deal is that when women are sexually harassed, they are made to feel like they are a peace of meat parading around for that man’s pleasure. They often feel threatened, demoralized, and objectified. To make it even worse, some men laugh it off as if it’s no big deal, and make anyone who stands up against it feel like they are wrong to feel the way they do. Instead of targeting the real issue – the guys who do this – women are made to feel guilty for expressing any outrage that they are being hollered at like a pole dancer at a strip club. What are we supposed to say, “Thank you?”

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Common Excuses I Hear

I’m just giving her a compliment.

Nope, sorry. While some of the things I have heard, in other social situations among friends may be deemed a compliment, a stranger yelling them at me from across the street would not qualify. Other comments I have heard would make a sailor blush. It just makes women uncomfortable when strangers tell them things they should only hear from their lover in the privacy of their home. Now, I realize there are some women who may enjoy the occasional whistle, but for those of us who have seen the uglier side of things going to far, even that causes our stomach to turn. Since you don’t know what a woman’s experiences have been, if you want to make introductions, see if she is receptive to a normal “Good Morning” first before pushing your luck. You guys are smart. You can tell if a women is flirting. When you lead with “Hey Baby,” when you haven’t gotten any signal that she’s remotely interested, most of the time she will be creeped out. And, if she’s in the middle of her workout, she is probably not in the mindset to interact with you anyway. She is used to men yelling at her and the second you open your mouth, she is already on the defensive. Most men who do this know that women don’t like it. Most women, at the very least, give looks of disgust. That very fact should be a clue to even the most socially inept guy to stop the behavior.

It’s cultural.

I have traveled a lot. This excuse is used in other countries, as well as in the US to describe certain demographics or regions. While bad behavior may be more tolerated, and therefore more prevalent in certain areas or countries, it most certainly isn’t cultural if you believe your culture should interact in civilized society. When I go a bit deeper into the issue and start talking to the local women, I find they don’t like it any more than women anywhere else do. They have just been told to be quiet and let certain men sexually objectify them. They have no where to turn for help, and so they just learn to survive and adapt to bad behavior. Some even follow men’s lead and minimize it due to societal pressure.

She dresses like she’s asking for it. She’s out late, so she must like it.

The way a women dresses or the time of day she decides to go out is her business. She is never asking for it. I realize men are visual, but have some self control. You can’t blame anyone else’s clothing choices or the time of day they are outside for your bad behavior. You make the choice to engage someone, so take responsibility for your own actions vs. blaming the victim of your harassment. I have seen a man walking fully exposed down the side of the road. I had no desire to do anything else but turn away. I realize I’m not a guy, but you certainly won’t have me believe you are so controlled by animalistic instincts where you can’t just keep quiet.

We were just having fun! It’s no big deal! Lighten up!

I’m all for having fun. But the last time I checked, doing so at someone else’s expense was a form of social injustice. There are many instances where people had a great time harassing others: slavery, bullying, hate crimes, etc. Some of these examples, while much more severe, were socially accepted in the past. They may have been deemed normal by the majority of people of that time period, but they were still wrong. Sure, harassment is really fun for the people perpetuating the crime. Having fun isn’t proper justification for suppressing other’s rights to be in a public place in peace. And remember, many women have had traumatic experiences. Once you cross the line of harassment, they don’t know where you will stop. To constantly be on guard or worried for your safety is exhausting and limits a woman’s freedom to go places without fear.

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So what can we do about it?

Educate!

If you are sexually harassed, and can do so without putting yourself in danger, let your feelings be known. Tell them it is not something that is o.k. The more women who speak up, the less tolerated this will become. The more men who stop their peers from thinking that it is normal, the faster it gets resolved.

Speak first and be strong.

This is not a foolproof method, but I found I got much worse harassment when I completely ignored the men. In my personal experience and from talking with other women, this targets the main reason guys do it – to be noticed or interact. If I am already getting the full-body stare and I know the guy is about to say something, I try to initiate contact first with a greeting. When this happens, I notice them before any harassment is needed to get my attention, and the guy is more likely to fall into a more polite social exchange. This doesn’t always eliminate the harassment, but it does make it more tolerable. I am usually just given a more forward compliment or asked for my number, but the more disturbing comments stay locked behind his cranium and away from my ears. When I ignore him, the comments are usually much worse.

Walk or run in groups.

This is where I have messed up in the past. When I get slower or out of shape, I tend to run alone as I don’t like to hold others up and feel embarrassed about my slower pacing. However, running alone means I am more of a target for sexual harassment. I’ve learned I need to put aside my pride and find people in my target pacing group. When I am with other women, the comments are much less frequent, and when there is a guy in the group, they are all but eliminated. Plus, I get to make new friends! There is always strength in numbers!

If possible, change your route.

While this doesn’t always work, it can help in certain places. When in the US, I love to run in retirement golf communities, public parks, or on nature trails. If I run through downtown with more foot traffic, my chance of harassment goes up. However, be careful. Deserted roads, while they may offer less sexual harassment, have their own dangers. If you come across the wrong guy and help is far away, sexual harassment will be the least of your worries.

Be mindful of what you wear.

While what you wear is NEVER a justification for men’s poor behavior, you have to understand that they may not know that. You will get more unwanted attention with more revealing clothing. While it’s not fair, it’s just a fact of life.

Change the time you go out.

I have found that running very early in the morning has greatly reduced the amount of call outs I get. The less people that are out, the less chance you have to come across the type of guy to do this.

Some other suggestions I have gotten, but haven’t felt the need to implement, are to cut my hair short and dye it a different color. The above tips have greatly reduced the street harassment I get, so I haven’t decided to go more drastic and change my appearance. It is sad we have to deal with this at all, but I would rather make a few changes to minimize unpleasant interactions than be subjected to them constantly.

The Take Away

The main point I want you to take away from this article is that when you minimize the issue of street and sexual harassment, you further empower the people engaging in this form of social injustice and you devalue the victims of it. I realize part of the reason it is still so accepted is that the entertainment industry is guilty of making light of it and perpetuating the myth that all women like it. This issue won’t change unless enough people step up and speak up. Here is a great site with a list of companies that trivialize street harassment. Feel free to contact them if you agree it is wrong of them to do so.

http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/resources/listofcompanies/

And men, if you are about to say something to a strange woman, run it through this filter for me, please. If you have a daughter, girlfriend, or wife, would you want some stranger to say it to them? If you’re not at that life stage yet, would you still be able to say it if the woman’s father or boyfriend were there without upsetting them? If the answer is “No, or I’m not sure,” then don’t say it. And, if a woman is trying to work out, don’t yell at her. Let her run in peace. Running is that time of my day that I want to relax. I promise you, anything you yell at me is an intrusion.

Now, I want to hear from you! Please, ladies or men who have helped women through this, feel free to give me your ideas on what you have found to stop street harassment. I’m always learning new ways to handle this! I would love to hear your ideas, but I would ask that you refrain from generalizing certain demographics, countries, people groups, or regions. Keep the locations of where this occurred to yourself, as I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes. Any comments containing references like this will be edited or not approved at all.

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This is a problem everywhere, but solutions can also be found when everyone comes together to stand against this most accepted form of social injustice. Everyone deserves the right to be able to go anywhere they want without fear of devaluing comments or actions. Let’s all do our part to make this dream a reality.

From a Motherless Non-Mother on Mother’s Day

I struggle with some holidays more than others. Mother’s Day is one of the tougher ones. It reminds me of what I’ve lost or have yet to gain.

Tickle fights were always kid approved!

Tickle fights were always kid approved!

What I’ve Lost

You see, I lost my mother nineteen years ago. I was barely a teenager, just getting into that phase of life where I could interact with my mom on a more adult level. Seeing people still fortunate enough to spend today with their moms reminds me that I no longer can. It brings the spotlight on the last nineteen years I haven’t been able to call her, make memories with her, touch her. I am so very happy for all those who still have their moms. But, for me, the loss is felt more sharply on this day.

With every tough experience, I try to think what I can learn and apply to my life today. Pain shouldn’t be wasted. It should be a catalyst for change.

Christmas morning was always a special time. Mom and I made popcorn and cranberry garland (seen on the tree) every year.

Christmas morning was always a special time. Mom and I made popcorn and cranberry garland (seen on the tree) every year.

What I’ve Learned

1) Live every day, to the best of your ability, like it’s your last.

Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Don’t live life in fear, but do live it purposefully. In my life, one of the ways I apply this is that I always let my family and friends know how much I love them. You never know the moment you say goodbye for the last time. I don’t want my loved ones to have any doubt in their minds about how I feel about them.

2) Put away pride and pursue peace.

Let go of your need to be right. If you argue, apologize first. Have a servant’s heart and give to others. Don’t let the little things bother you. Does this mean people may take advantage? Yes, probably sometimes. And, I’m not saying to stay in toxic relationships. However, many people rank their predetermined rights or thoughts of fairness over other’s feelings. You may win the argument. You may be right. But, so what? Is it worth hurting your relationships to prove it? Is your fairness campaign worth your family and friends? Humility in relationships goes a long way.

3) Let go of grudges.

There is nothing more ridiculous than keeping people out of your life because of something that happened in the past. Forgive people, even if they don’t ask for it. You are only robbing yourself by carrying that toxic bitterness inside you. Mark Twain said it best, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which is it stored, than to anything upon which it is poured.”

4) Get your priorities right while you still have time.

So many of us feel the strong need to achieve something, even at the cost of relationships we believe will always be there. We want to get that promotion, climb the ladder, get noticed, make it big. We think that once we do that, we can then go back and fix the messed up relationships of those pleading for our time now. You can always achieve big things, and you should. However, when it comes at the cost of your closest relationships, you have to determine if it’s worth it. I believe one of the few things that last is the love between people. We need healthy interactions with our loved ones more than faster cars or bigger mansions. In your pursuit of the world, you may lose those who have your heart. Money and success can’t buy back the lost time or erase the pain of rejection.

5) Spend your time wisely.

I wasted so much time when my mom was alive. I took it for granted that I would always have her. I would give anything to go back in time and physically drag my teenage butt away from the television, or off the phone with random boys that I now no longer keep up with, or from hanging out with my friends to spend time with my mom. I have some great memories, but I could have made so many more. So, from me to you – give your time to those you love while you still have them! Pick up the phone and plan something. Please! Don’t take it for granted that they will always be there. Regrets are horrible weights to carry.

She patiently let me ride every plastic animal in town.

She patiently let me ride every plastic animal in town.

What I’ve Yet to Gain

Mother’s Day also reminds me that I am not a mother. Not because I can’t be… we just haven’t yet been in a place in our lives where we are prepared to nurture a child. I don’t want to bring kids into the world when I know that I’m not ready just because everyone around me has done so, or because I need to follow a certain societal timeline. Having a child is a huge responsibility. It’s introducing a new person to this world to shape, nurture, and invest in.

Life has been very unstable these last 11 years of our marriage. I’m honestly very glad that we haven’t had a child as an additional stress in our lives. But, I’m not made of steel; I also feel the heart tugs to have children. Mother’s Day further opens that ache. Hopefully, life will settle down in these next few years and I will discover we can offer the right kind of home environment.

People tell me, “If you wait until you’re ready, you will never have kids.” I know that’s true to a point, but I’m pretty firm on being in a place in where at least one parent can really devote time to a child. I would rather not have children, than have them and be unable to give them the level of nurturing I feel they need. That wasn’t a possibility until recently. Our lives were on very shaky ground. Even now, while things are better, they are not guaranteed and I’m just not quite ready to get into the adventure of motherhood until life is more settled – much to the future grandparent’s dismay.

So, for those lucky ladies who are already mothers, my thought for you is to remember to enjoy the experience and know how special you are. I have enough mother friends that I often hear about how you just want to poop in peace, are tired of wiping rear ends, dream of sleeping in, and feel constantly covered in spit up. If I’m lucky enough to join your ranks someday, I’m sure I will feel the same way. But, also realize how fortunate you are to have those amazing kids in your lives. Not everyone has the chance to be a mother. It is a gift – even on the hard days.

My mom was the single most influential person in my life, and she was only with me my first 15 years. She was a stay-at-home mom. Her family was her focus. For those moms who feel like your work isn’t important, I want to help you realize just how amazing you are. Since I am someone who knows what life is like without a mother, I am even more convinced of the importance of a mother. There is no paycheck, except crayon pictures and play-dough snakes. There is no promotion, except those moments when you realize they have gained another level of independence based on your investments and coaching. There is no tangible award or medal, except wet marks from snotty kisses and clover necklaces. But, I promise you, there is also no higher calling …

Happy Mother’s Day!

One of my last pictures with my mom, just before she started chemo.

One of my last pictures with my mom, just before she started chemo.

Tasting Tomorrow Today

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist; that is all.” Oscar Wilde

Are you a future thinker? Do you constantly dream about your life in that pink puffy place in the distance where all dreams come true? Is happiness so elusive that you constantly tell yourself you will find it just around the next bend? Until then, you just exist – like a dog chasing his tail… round and round.

I’ve been guilty of this so many times. When I was in high school, I thought happiness would happen when I was on my own. When I was in college, I thought happiness would happen when I had a successful career. When I was single, I thought happiness would happen when I found my true love. There was always some bigger goal that I was pushing for that held my eternal “happily ever after.” I am an optimist, but life has given me my fair share of lemons. Instead of making the golden, sugary liquid now, I save all my lemons for a huge swimming pool of lemonade later. I am a future thinker. I have big dreams… had big dreams.

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You see, my five and ten-year plans didn’t work out. Life happened. Someday I hope to tell the tale. But, to sum it up for now, despite all the hard work and planning in the world, I had those dream-crushing life events that change everything.

So, in the setbacks, I lived in a constant state of expectancy. I yearned for that amazing time when I would find happiness. Surely once I got done with this, once I was able to buy that, once I was this weight – then I would be happy. If you have ever lived this way, then you know… it’s exhausting.

Maybe I live on a faster time clock because, in the back of my mind, I’ve always felt I had less time. You see, I lost my mom when I was a 15-year-old girl to cancer. That childhood trauma stays with you. She was only alive for 43 years. I have her genetics. Will I make it to 50?

Now rationality kicks in and says I’m being completely unscientific. Just because she died at 43 of cancer doesn’t mean that I will. But, subconsciously it’s still there… driving me. Do I have enough time to matter, to make a difference on this planet? When I hit setbacks, I hear the clock behind me… tick… tock.

I’ve learned that this is a horrible place to exist. You don’t really live in today, you just keep trying to taste tomorrow. It’s right there, on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t quite reach it. Like a coiled spring, ready to release, you tremble trying to hold back the yearnings for more. You believe you deserve a different life – a better life. This story you’re in now can’t be right!

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Yet, happiness doesn’t have to be held captive by tomorrow. Happiness is a choice – one you make every time you wake up. Instead of being constantly captivated by the shrouded future, think about today. You will never get this day back. What if it’s your last? Would you spend your last day simply existing and wishing for tomorrow? I would hope not! No one would sign up for that, but do you realize, if you’re like I was, you are doing just that every single day?

Even with this epiphany comes the challenge to not fall back into the way of thinking that has enslaved me. Old habits die hard. You see, my husband is going through his hardest term in medical school right now. He is often gone the entire day from 8 a.m. to after 11 p.m. Sometimes, he makes it home for an hour for dinner before going back to the school to study with his group. Other times, he doesn’t, and I pack both lunch and dinner for him in the morning as I say goodbye.

Now, I have two choices. The first one is to wallow in self pity, missing him and feeling alone while dreaming of the day when he is finished with all of this and I have my best friend back. I think, “Once he’s done with medical school, he will have time for me again and I will be happy.” If I choose this direction, to allow tomorrow to have my happiness, misery and depression will be my constant companions. But there is a better choice. In this scenario, I proactively build a life that brings me happiness now. I embrace every day. I find friends that share similar interests, like triathlons, and train with them. I swim among silver swirls of fish in the Caribbean Sea. I run up mountain tops and take in the most breathtaking sunsets on earth. I touch sea turtles. I run through herds of goats. I teach others to swim. I foster new relationships. I pick wildflowers. I race with pot hounds barefoot in the waves. I lay on grassy meadows and watch sail boats glide across the deepest blue waters. I explore underwater reefs, pick up starfish, dive among shipwrecks, and play with puffer fish. I explore the secrets of this amazing island that I only have a short time to experience. I allow myself big dreams to inspire, but I do not hang my happiness upon completing them. I volunteer my time to those less fortunate and love on kids that need a friend. I give my time to missions. I write things that inspire others, and gain joy from hearing their feedback and stories. When my husband again has time for me as his studies slow down, I can bring a sane and fulfilled person to the moments we share, not a clingy, bitter soul starved for love. This is my choice. This is how I would spend my last day. No regrets!

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I can honestly say that I am happy. I still have my moments where I miss my husband as I fall asleep alone, but I’m usually too tired from my amazing adventures to miss him for long. I know he’s studying hard to bring his dreams to fruition. I know he’s doing his best and that he misses me just as much as I miss him. Meanwhile, I’m living my dreams today.

No matter your circumstances, I would challenge you to embrace this life with each breath you take. Find the joy right now, not in the distant future. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. Live your life! Don’t just exist! Life is not a waiting room! As the sand slips through your hourglass, cherish every golden grain. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Tell people you love them. Forgive old grudges. Find beauty in your surroundings. Foster new friendships. Give back to those less fortunate. Be brave enough to let go of what holds you back. That’s when you find out that your happiness was there all along, just waiting for you to discover it. With each beat of your heart, taste every moment of your todays! Then, you will join the few in this world who have truly learned to live.

Tasting Life’s Rainbow – One Juice at a Time!

Life. It’s an amazing gift! Why not squeeze every drop of juice out of it that you can? One way to best experience life’s juice is to… quite literally… juice.

There are many benefits to juicing, whether it is just supplementing fresh juice into a healthy diet or going on a juice fast. When you drink fresh-squeezed juice from whole, raw foods, you flood the body with fresh, concentrated, living nutrients. You give your system nutrients in a more concentrated form than you could ever consume if you ate the entire vegetable. For once, your system doesn’t have to deal with tartrazine (food color), ethyl para hydroxybenzonate (preservative), or castoreum (labeled as natural flavorings but from the anal gland of a beaver). Your body instead recognizes tomato juice, cucumber juice, kale juice – living juice. Instead of engaging protection mode to try and filter out all the processed junk we cram into our systems daily, your body embraces concentrated nutrients it can use to cleanse and heal itself.

I would hardly consider myself an expert on juicing (my longest fast was only 14 days), but I have done several different juice fasts and helped other people on their journey. So, I will throw what little experience I possess out there with the masses.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on actual juice fasts. After all, you can take all of this knowledge and also apply it to simply supplementing the diet with one or two glasses of juice per day. Redundancy does not a ready reader make!

My Breville juicer working hard!

My Breville juicer working hard!

First, to avoid unnecessary carnage, let me tell you what NOT to do.

  1. If you are under the supervision of a doctor, obtain permission before going on a juice fast. Juicing is not a magical cure for all things.
  2. Do NOT drop medications without the permission of your doctor. Your body has adapted to those meds and they are prescribed for a reason. Think about the reaction most people have when dropping caffeine vs. weeding off it slowly. Option #1 equals massive headaches and withdrawal symptoms. Option #2 offers only a mild reaction, if any. Even if medications aren’t healthy, you need to slowly weed off of them with the help of your doctor to give your body time to adjust.
  3. Do not expect people to understand what you are doing. Do not expect others to still count you among the planet’s sane populace. Do not expect this to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is…

If you’re still reading, I haven’t scared you off yet. That’s good – least I be accused of overselling this. Like a true realist, I wanted to get the tough stuff out of the way first and weed out the crowd. Now, all my brave finalists, to the benefits!

What’s In It For Me?

The benefits of juice fasts are numerous, but also individual. Every person reacts differently. Because of this, I am going to stick with the benefits that I have personally experienced. You can google the rest, but I can’t speak for those people.

  1. Weight Loss: I cannot think of a faster, healthier way to lose weight than juicing. I find I lose the most weight the first week, about two pounds average per day, and then it tapers off to about one pound per day as my body and metabolism adjust to the limited calories. However, I have worked with men with faster metabolisms and have seen them drop three pounds per day consecutively. I will make no promises as to the rate of your weight loss, but if you just stick to fresh juices, you will lose weight in some form.
  2. Increased Energy: This usually happens for me after day three. There is a tougher period that happens before this which we will get into later. However, after the third day, I notice more energy and vitality.
  3. Mental and Spiritual Clarity: There is a good reason fasting is in all major religions. It helps move our focus away from food and physical needs and centers us on God. I often fast when I need to clear my mind and body of distractions or when I’m struggling with something. It also helps me think clearer and faster in general.
  4. Increased Senses: I noticed both my sense of smell and my dreaming increase during longer fasts. My dreams are more insanely entertaining than usual (think rainbow hair and T-rex battles). Also, I can smell individual ingredients in my husband’s fajitas from three rooms away.
  5. Positive Emotions: I can’t explain it, but towards the end of my 14-day fast, I started feeling peaceful and joyful. I saw beauty in everything. During a time when I was struggling with depression (due to outside circumstances), I felt unexplainably happy in the second week.
  6. Increased Healing: This one has been better documented by others, because I really wasn’t sick when I started my fasts. However, I did have a few chronic annoyances (phlegm in my throat and an ear that popped occasionally from an old scuba-diving injury) that disappeared during the two-week fast. The ear seems to be completely healed as the popping hasn’t returned for over a year. The throat thing comes and goes depending on how healthy I eat.
  7. Clearer Skin: It’s a given. If you eat all those concentrated raw fruits and vegetables, you will experience a more youthful clear skin tone. While some people see acne outbreaks early in the fasting, it clears up after this. If you continue to juice and keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your life long-term, you will probably age more gracefully as well.

What to Expect

Fresh living foods ready to go into the juicer.

Fresh living foods ready to go into the juicer.

When you first start a juice fast, you will go through a time where you actually feel worse – called the detox period by many juicers. Your body throws a tantrum! Depending on how bad your diet was prior to juicing, you may have a range of symptoms and severity as you wean your body off of food and caffeine. For me, coming off a vegan diet packed full of fresh fruits and veggies, I only experienced mild hunger pain, a coated tongue, bad breath, and slight tiredness the first three days. I felt slightly colder over the entire fast, but it was easily fixed with adding an extra layer of clothing. I was able to go about my schedule and even run light 5ks, swim, and bike for my triathlon training. However, for someone who regularly drinks four shots of expresso in their morning mocha while downing a hot cake and sausage biscuit from the Golden Arches, be prepared to go in your cave for a bit as this is going to be rough. I have heard you can lessen the symptoms of coming off a poor diet by eating lots of raw fruits and veggies a few days before going on a juice fast, but have not experienced this personally.

There are different theories on the detox experience. Pro juicing people say your body finally has the necessary nutrients to dump the toxins stored. It’s kind of like when you finally have the energy to clear out your basement. You have to get messy before you can clean up. In the same way, your body, armed with increased nutrients and extra energy normally used in digesting food, releases toxins it has stored in fat into your blood stream to have them filtered out by your kidneys to clean house. However, many scientists claim that “detox” diets are the newest gimmick out there to sell snake oils to the unsuspecting public. I do not doubt that many of them are. Without reviewing actual studies, I’m not sold on either side. But, whether the body is just adjusting to the change in glucose levels and lack of stimulants or detoxing, you will feel bad the first few days. Plan for it, and start your fasts over a weekend or during a stress-free time so you can rest.

You will go through a LOT of produce. You cannot do a successful juice diet with store-bought juice. Don’t even try. It’s like trying to fill up your car’s tank with dirty water vs. gas because they are both liquid and brown. Even if it’s 100% juice with no added sugar (which few are), it has been pasteurized. This means in processing it was heated to a level to kill most nutrients found in living foods. You will only get a fraction of the nutrients needed in juice from the store. To be successful, you will have to make your own juice with a juicer. I personally love the Breville juicer, but there are other great choices. You just want one that is easy to clean and juices vegetables and leafy greens.

Tasting nature's rainbow!

Tasting nature’s rainbow!

Juice On!

Got all of that? Good! Now you’re ready to juice! Just because I love giving you lists, here’s ten more things to remember.

  1. Do try lots of different recipes for variety. You want as many colors of fruits and veggies as possible. Taste the rainbow! There are great sites with amazing recipes. Some surprising things that worked well in my juicer were sweet potatoes. Some things that didn’t – avocados. Take it from me, it was an epic and messy fail!
  2. Get creative and salty! Try to do the more fruit-intensive juices in the morning. Focus the rest of the day on more vegetable-heavy juices with minimal fruit added to sweeten it up. Your veggie juices are where you get the most health benefits. Also, don’t be afraid to add sea salt to your veggie juice. You are not getting sodium in your diet. If you are sweating or exercising, you still need electrolytes found in salts as you lose those in your sweat. While most people try to limit sodium, you don’t need to be concerned with this as much during a juice fast. Hyponatremia, or sodium depletion, is nothing to mess around with.
  3. Expect the first three days to be tough. You will miss eating and may feel hungry and sorry for yourself watching everyone else enjoy food. This will pass. At the end, I felt empowered that I had conquered my appetite. It gave me more willpower later on in my daily eating habits.
  4. Drink as much fresh juice as you want. Whenever you are hungry – juice! I usually drank 16 ounces three times per day, but some people like to do 8 ounces six times per day. I have also helped some guys juice that drink over double this amount to feel full. Make sure to increase your water consumption during this time, just in case your body really is purging toxins. You will only drink three things: fresh juice, lots of fresh water, and green or herbal teas during this fast. Just reserve the bathroom in your name… you will spend a lot of time in there.
  5. You can store juices if you can’t get home to make fresh juice for lunch or dinner. My father is a busy attorney. He did a nine-day fast with me while we were home over Christmas. I would juice his breakfast and lunch for him every morning and would store his lunch in glass mason canning jars. He would keep them in the refrigerator and drink his lunch in the office or outside the court room. However, I never stored juices for longer than 12 hours as I noticed they lost their taste after this. I know some people store them longer, but I didn’t have success after this time period even when I got all the oxygen out of the jar.
  6. While you shouldn’t stop medications prescribed by your doctor, you should stop taking any other pills if at all possible. You don’t need to take vitamins during this time. You are getting plenty from your food. Many pills are made to take with food, and it can irritate your GI track if you take them while juicing. The one exception to this is vitamin B12. I would urge you to continue to supplement with a daily B12 sublingual (to avoid irritating the GI with pills) throughout your fast.
  7. If you are hooked on caffeine, decided if you want to get off it during this time. If not, you can drink green tea to prevent caffeine-withdrawal headaches and symptoms. I don’t drink caffeine, but I will drink hot herbal teas before going to bed to prevent hunger. The hot liquid is a great trick to make you feel full.
  8. Don’t expect as much from your body. You are on a limited-calorie diet. While it is packed with nutrients, you are not getting as much fuel, so be kind to yourself. For example, I noticed that my running times slowed considerably and I couldn’t go as long. I didn’t push myself and kept my exercise lighter than normal. Do not try to do a juice fast while ramping up an intense training schedule. You will set yourself up for failure. However, even if your fitness is non-existent, try to at least take relaxing walks outside to get your mind off food and on the beauty and peace of nature. Don’t abandon exercise, just intensity.
  9. Organic vs. non-organic: For me, if you have the money to do so, go organic! It is so much better for you and you don’t have to worry about the pesticides, chemicals, and GMO produce. However, depending on your suppliers, it could cost a bit more. I wouldn’t want someone to not experience the benefits of juicing just because they feel they can’t afford it. Just make sure to wash all produce well. Wal-Mart has also started to carry organic produce for a decent price, so you can do a mixture of the two if you need to watch your budget.
  10. Expect that one temptation to come! The one temptation that almost breaks you. For me, it was during the 14-day juice fast. I was about halfway through my fast, and I threw a birthday party for my husband. I had been cooking dinners for him every evening (which was hard enough), but for his birthday I made him an Oreo cheesecake and a red velvet birthday cake. I also made a huge spaghetti dinner with bread, a side salad, soda, and chips. I had to make all of this food unsupervised in the house while he was at school studying. I literally had to go to social media (as no one was juicing with me locally), tell people of my struggles, and ask them to keep me accountable to my pledge. I knew if I just took one taste, I would dive into that yumminess like an entire pack of rabid hyenas. The smell was intoxicating. But, my support group came through and I never tasted any of it. We had about 20 med and vet students over to our house eating all that amazing food to celebrate. I just made myself a big juice for dinner and joined in the fun at the party while silently grateful for the support.
I use raw fruit smoothies to transition off juice fasts.

I use raw fruit smoothies to transition off juice fasts.

How Long to Fast?

That’s up to you! Just decide before you start the fast how long you would like to try it. I would recommend longer than three days so the entire experience isn’t negative, as you really don’t feel better until after day three. However, if this is your first time, I wouldn’t go much longer until you know how your body will react to the experience. My first fast was five days.

When you decide to come off the fast, you must break it slowly. You will be tempted to drive to the closest all-you-can-eat buffet bar and chow down. If you do this, you will be sick – trust me. Instead, you need to slowly introduce food back to your system. The first day or two after a fast, depending on how long it has been since I have eaten, I only eat raw fruits and vegetables. I then slowly introduce cooked foods back into my diet around the third day. Eat slowly and enjoy your food experience. You earned it!

Please realize, I have only done a top-line post of my experience with juice fasts. I recommend you do your own research on the topic to decide if it is right for you. Again, when I was introduced to juicing, I was already very healthy so I didn’t have drastic wellness improvements. But, juicing (in both longer fasts and as a supplement to my diet) is a tool I use to continue to keep my health at its peak. If you would like to watch an inspiring free documentary of how juicing reversed some debilitating autoimmune issues in several people, use the below link to witness other stories more powerful than my own. You will be inspired!

http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/

If you need additional inspiration, here is a recipe site I frequent often.

http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/juicing/

So, with a leaner body, increased mental clarity and energy, athletic improvements, and the many healing properties of juicing, is it any wonder why you can’t quite squeeze every drop of juice out of life without it? Want to give it a try? Contact me or others who have some experience with juicing to support you on your journey! I will help in any way I can. After all, others helped me once! All I ask is that someday you pay it forward too!

Enjoy the adventure, my friends! Raise your juice glasses with me! Let’s have a toast to your health, for that is where you always find your true wealth!