Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Belize It

B and I were married on a little island off the coast of Belize on May 25, 2013. When we first returned to San Francisco, I had this idea that I would give myself a little time to process before memorializing our wedding week with some fabulous multi-installment blog. It’s been over 5 months.

I’ve never liked endings or goodbyes - I prefer to move, and think, ahead. I still hate closing the back cover on a book I love; I wish I could work the characters off the page and into my life. I used to cry every single time we left cousins, aunts, uncles, old family friends. Even the ones I didn’t like that much. I guess coming home and writing about my wedding immediately after would have forced a kind of closure I've never been very good at. I didn’t want to acknowledge it was over. Much like during childhood, I didn’t want to feel the dissonance between a week bright with familiar faces and laughter and a reality absent of family and friends' company.  Talk about a come-down far worse than the post-Christmas blues. So, instead of writing about Belize, I eased back into San Francisco and floated through a few weeks with my new husband, high on all that positive post-nuptial energy. And when scrolling through new images uploaded to our group album while waiting in the salad line started to bring that familiar ache for friends and family, I moved on. I focused on the next big thing.  

I grew up very far from our extended family. I moved away from home when I was 18. I left Boston after college and have lived in San Francisco, far from my sisters and parents, for 8 years now. I’ve moved on a lot. But I carry the people that raised me, shaped me, loved me, taught me in my heart everywhere I go.  The past few years have been hard. My family, health, support system and future life with my husband now resemble nothing close to what I envisioned 3 years ago. With each new piece of bad news, I closed my eyes and wished I had my sisters to hold me up or the Boston girls to make me forget or my Farmington girls to remind me how to be tough. When my parents ended their marriage, I wanted to eat cupcakes with Beth. I remember waking up in the hospital after surgery and thinking that I just wanted to have tea with my Dad. When they told me I can’t have kids, I just wanted my own mom to baby me a little. Every time I felt broken or lost, I just I wanted my people. But I knew that wasn't an option, so I just kept moving on.

And then I got off a little puddle jumper in Belize and took a boat to our hotel and tiny Emmie ran up the dock beaming and waving her camera in one hand, clutching the hat that was about to fly off her head in the other. From that moment on, all the people I longed for over the past 3 years- the people who make me strong, make me laugh, make me who I am- arrived one by one on that tiny caye off the coast of that beautiful country. It was as if they each carried a piece of me with them; and together with my sweet, gentle soul of a husband, they put me back together again.

Belize will always be paradise, but for that week, with my heart as full as it will ever be, it was my paradise. I’ve never felt happier, luckier, more at ease, more loved, more in love. I have never felt whole in the way that I did when we were there. No wonder it’s taken me 5 months to even begin to admit it’s over.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Contrary To Popular Belief

You're not alone. You know the stuff that you keep to yourself? The complicated emotions you haven't quite worked through, the deplorable actions you're sure you'd be judged for? You know the thoughts you occasionally have about your kids or your husband that you're sure deem you unfit or undeserving so you don't ever vocalize them? Guess what? You're not alone. Far from it. I know plenty of mothers who daydream on occasion about what a kid-free life would have been like. I've met more wives than I can count that question their life choices more than they care to admit at a dinner party. And career women who've grown tired of selling their soul and dream about throwing in the towel? Dime a dozen. Next time you chastise yourself for thinking what you consider the "unthinkable," remember that no one and no life perfect. Just because your friends aren't chatting about their near nervous breakdowns over lattes, doesn't mean they aren't having them. At any given moment, someone you know is freaking out on her kids, giving up on her miserable job, exploding on her husband or  just plain wishing she could disappear. Let's be honest. We're all screaming a little inside at one point or another. Hopefully you're fortunate enough to find friends that let a squeak of honesty out here and there. It's important to remember you're not alone.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Comfort" Smoothie and Product Recommendations

I am without a doubt an emotional eater. Always have been. Given the fact that I have a vagina, there's a good chance I always will be. With increased awareness around my tendency to bury emotions I can't handle in a pint of ice cream I can't digest, I've spent some time seeking out healthier "comfort foods."

Once in a while I create something that seems to yield an equal amount of instant gratification/comfort/release to Peanut M&Ms or Suzie Cake's Celebration Cake. I perfected this smoothie recipe over a particularly stressful 2 weeks this past summer, and the result was without a doubt, comfort on the tip of my tongue. (It also happens to have vegan protein, fiber, healthy fats and a super food!)

4 Oz Coconut water*
4 Oz Unsweetened plain almond milk*
1/2 Very ripe banana (peeled - I let a few bananas get really ripe then peel, half, individually wrap and freeze to make smoothie making as fast as possible!)
1Tbsp Jem Maca Almond Butter * (This stuff is like crack. It's worth finding or ordering online.)
1 Tbsp Frontier Naturals Alcohol Free Vanilla*
Dash Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Hemp protein*
1 Tbsp Pea protein*
1 Tbsp Chia seeds
Optional: 4 Drops alcohol free stevia* (this makes it pretty sweet)
Optional: Toss in a handful or 2 of spinach. You can't really taste spinach in smoothies, so why not!?

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more vanilla or stevia to taste, although you shouldn't need either if your banana is nice and ripe.

*PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS: Through a great deal of trial and error, sticker shock and nutrition label lament, I've found the healthiest, cleanest versions of the below ingredients. Keep in mind, home made or "whole" is always best, but let's be honest, we've got to do the best we can with the time we have!
  • Where to Source: I've become obsessed with They ALWAYS undercut Whole Foods (not that hard,) Real Foods (San Francisco chain, so not that hard either) and often Amazon (I find that impressive!) on dried herbs and spices, prepared foods, supplements, extracts, teas and pretty much all non-perishable crunchy specialty goods.
  • Almond Milk: I highly recommend finding a no-sugar-added almond milk with as short an ingredient list as possible. Engine 2 is my favorite brand, and 365 Organics is a close second. There's a terrifying amount of added sugar and funky fillers in a lot of the other brands out there so read your labels to avoid excess sugar and additives.
  • Vanilla Extract: Laugh if you will, but I believe a good vanilla extract makes or breaks a lot of smoothies. Without high temperatures to cook off alcohol, using a regular extract can make your smoothies taste bitter, or worse, boozey. Go for an alcohol-free version for raw foods and smoothies, in my opinion Frontier Naturals is by far the best. Snag the 16 Oz. size on - trust me, you'll need all 16 ounces once you discover how yummy it is.
  • Stevia: There are a lot of stevia products on the market now and they are not all created equal. You want to be sure you purchase pure stevia root extract that isn't cut with other sweeteners. Again, I prefer alcohol free in raw foods and smoothies to avoid the bitter/boozey taste of the alcohol-based extracts. NuNaturals is my favorite brand for stevia.
  • Vegan Proteins (when you aren't cleansing): My favorite "pure protein" powders are Navitas Naturals Hemp Protein (I find this is the least "chalky" of the plant based proteins out there) and Pea Protein (a little chalky, but relatively mild). They are both very low calorie and have few/no additives. 
  • Vegan Proteins: (with added supplements for cleansing periods or to use in meal replacement shakes): Plant Fusion (Original) or Vega Chocolate Sport (I don't like Vega Vanilla - too artificial tasting)
  • Coconut Water: This really is based on personal preference, (I prefer Zico,) but whatever you select, make sure there's no sugar or other fruit juice added)
  • Almond Butter: For most of my smoothies, I love Once Again Crunchy or I'll settle for 365 Brand as a back-up. For "comfort smoothies" or sometimes as a treat on brown rice bread, I go for the Jem Maca Almond Butter. I can't begin to tell you how amazing this stuff is, you've got to try it yourself. Try to ignore the price in anticipation of raw food bliss. Even if its just one time ;)