Sugar Monster.

Day 5. I’m not sick of eggs yet, I think we’ve finally gotten over the Sugar-Monster-crabbiness, and the weird dreams have kicked in. Breakfasts all week have been our standard breakfast casserole with hashbrowns of some sort, pork sausage and eggs. Topped with Cholula – always. I somehow rarely get sick of that stuff too – probably because we switch it up each week so it’s not EXACTLY the same each time we make it. Lunches are full of leftovers from whatever we’ve eaten previously in the week. Dinners have been different each night – and actually prepared that night, instead of just shoved in the microwave and heated up. I attempted to cook spaghetti squash in the crockpot – not the best option when your squash is HUGE and the lid doesn’t even close on it. Normally I cook it in the microwave using this method, and it comes out steamy and soft and the “noodles” just melt into the sauce. This was definitely a lot more crunchy. Maybe that’s why I like the micro method more – because spaghetti squash is delicious and a little weird in texture for me?

Earlier in the week as I was getting ready for work, I came to the realization that there’s a few things I do during the #whole30 that I don’t normally do on a regular basis – and probably should. Or maybe I do them and just am not aware of it as much? Who knows. Like – for example: flossing. I know I know, you should floss every day, brush your teeth twice a day, wash you face twice a day, shower daily (but NOT wash your hair daily), etc.etc.etc. But normally – I do not. Gross? Probably a little. Things you learn about yourself during #whole30 can certainly be an eye opening experience, whether you like it or not. I also work out more regularly. Is it because I need to keep myself busy so I don’t dig through the cupboards trying to find a snack? Or because I have more energy? Or because I normally coincide #whole30 with a yoga challenge? Probably a little of each. I’m not partaking in the 20/30 challenge this year, but I am trying to make it to yoga at least once a week going forward. Like I said before, I want to mix it up this month.

I’ve also noticed that my kitchen tends to stay cleaner during this time – even with the massive amount of cooking that’s happening. Wash all the dishes before bed, put them away in the morning or before I start cooking again at night. I DEFINITELY run the dishwasher more (thank goodness for little miracle inventions that wash dishes for you!) so I don’t have to wash 4000 tupperware containers EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. because I bring my breakfast and lunch to work as well as some snacks. But this year I have upgraded to Pyrex glassware rather than my plain ol’ plastic Rubbermade. LIFE.CHANGER. They stay clean and nice even after you use them a million times, they never melt or get stains, there are a ton of different sizes so you can use them for basically anything. Dear Black Friday Sales, I love you. Love, me.

Week one recap though: I was CRABBY. All week. Basically until this morning. That Sugar Monster was a real biyatch this round. And both of us felt it. Both of us were snapping at each other, being rude for no reason, and even a lot more quick to get angry with the fur babies. Not cool, Sugar Monster, not cool. Week one is full of temper tantrums and no energy. But it’s picking up. And tonight I’m pumped for bison burgers and Greek potatoes. Greek food ALWAYS gets me in a great mood. (OPA! Sigh – wouldn’t mind some flaming cheese right about meow though…)

I’m currently working on the meal plan for next week… I know for Valentine’s Day we’ll be heading to the Iowa Beef Steakhouse, I think this is our 4th year we’ve done that? Because who doesn’t want to eat steak on the day of love? Plus that day, the pups have daycare so that means they will be completely exhausted all night long. And hopefully that will also mean that they will take adorable Valentine’s Day pictures to send us in their report cards because I will DIE from cuteness. (This paragraph got off topic real quick.)

Before I leave for the day I wanted to thank everyone for eating pizza and bagels for me yesterday. I’m sure it was extremely difficult for you to do – but I so appreciate it. #pizza4lyfe

Lastly, a little snippet about the week in a nutshell.

  • Favorite Meal: Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps (with homemade seasoning!), Mexican Cauliflower Rice, Avocado Mash, and Cholula
  • What I’m Reading: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (currently reading), Fat Girl Walking (just finished for book club – a week late)
  • Weekend Plans: staying OUTSIDE as often as possible since it’s February in Iowa, and also 50 degrees! Muddy dogs, here we come! Plus – a mindf*** solo movie trip!
  • Next Week’s Outlook: an outdoor run, yoga, new recipes (let’s break them down!) and a clear head from the detoxed Sugar Monster out of my system!

Happy Friday kids – enjoy the weekend and the spring weather in mid-February!

more love letters

You guys. I fell in love. Just this weekend. I mean I am already in love with someone – but this thing, these WORDS – I fell in love again.

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I’m talking about a book. About a month ago, I stumbled across something on Instagram and was immediately intrigued. It was a picture of the book If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. I’ll admit – I am absolutely one of those people who judges books by their cover – and this one got me. It looked handwritten on notebook paper, with swirly cursive and an explanation of her journey. I searched Amazon and Google to see what this was about – and then followed my search to her website – More Love Letters.

Do you ever get that feeling that you found something you were meant to do? Something you NEED to do? Something that makes you happy the minute you begin? That’s what I felt about this. More Love Letters is a site dedicated to writing love letters to strangers. Not anything like you see on Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” (although there’s a bit of the book dedicated to that) but more along the lines of “I see your struggle – it gets better. You matter. You are beautiful.” I was immediately sucked in. I bought the book, watched Hannah’s TED talk, and went to Target and bought as much stationary as I could find that said anything but “thank you.” I wanted to be a part of this movement.

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And so I started writing. I wrote love letters to strangers. I’ve written and mailed letters to people I’ve never met – and will probably never meet – because this movement, this IDEA, spoke to my soul. I haven’t had many things in my life speak so loudly to me as this did. I’ve left letters in library books, in lockers at the yoga studio, and in booths at coffee shops. I left a couple at the airport in Denver yesterday because sometimes it’s nice to spread your love outside your home zip code.

I brought the book with me while I traveled this weekend and told myself I wouldn’t read it all in one sitting – because this book made me “feel all the feels.” But for those of you who devour books as quickly and often as I do, sometimes find it hard to slow down and not read it all at once. This was one of those books. I’d read a couple chapters when I first got it, and then put it down to begin writing. After I sat down with it over the weekend, I put it down only to eat dinner, take notes and wipe my tears. I told a few people that night that I have never fallen so hard or SO FAST for a book in a long time. I’m talking probably years. Sometimes a book finds you at just the right time in your life – and the words speak to you so LOUDLY that you can’t stop until it has ripped into your heart and made you cry tears that you didn’t know you needed to shed.

These tears were happy tears – EXCRUCIATINGLY happy tears. After reading everything that Hannah went through to get where she was, I knew this was something I wanted to continue to spread. This also made me want to smile so hard at everyone I knew – and everyone I had yet to meet. Smiling at someone while walking down the street or through the mall or into a yoga class can literally make someone’s day. How easy is that. And then finding a note addressed to you – whoever YOU are – can make people want to pay it forward with a smile. Or a letter. Or a hug.

“Do small things. On repeat. And think about others.” 

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I can’t even tell you how much I want to reread this book already. I want to meet Hannah – shake her hand, give her a hug, and thank her for opening my eyes to this. For making me realize just how simple a smile or a hug or a note can be to a person’s day or week or LIFE. Hannah knew she wanted to change the world – and while she sat at a coffee shop, writing a letter to someone she didn’t know to give them hope for a better tomorrow, she did.

Words are a funny thing. They can make you happy, sad, angry, upset, emotional, knowledgeable. Words can hurt people, make them stronger, make them laugh or even cry. Your words – your written words – can make someone realize that their life will get better. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. Maybe not even next week or month – but it WILL get better.

“I want to believe it all comes down to truth. And if you’ve ever loved someone in a way where it seems the oxygen is rushing out of the room when they walk in, then you know certain truths. Certain unchangeable truths about love: You want to give them everything in your world. And you want to give them everything outside of your orbit. And if they need the morning to come, you want to be that morning for them. And if they need the stars, you want to be those fragments of light too.And you just want to sit by them. And you just want to know they’re doing well. And you just want to witness their greatness, the moment they’re finally shining out. You want to be right there next to them for that. And you want that honor of being in their life.”

I want to write more… but I keep rambling about just how much I love this book. I never want to stop talking about this book and how happy it made me. I want to go home after work and start reading it again so I can feel all the feels and smile and cry and feel my heart grow ten times its’ size – Grinch style. And if you get the chance, please check out Hannah’s website so you can feel all the feels with me. And maybe send out a note to someone who needs a little extra love in their life. Even if you don’t know them.

one breath. one movement.

Last week I went to yoga with the intention to breathe.

I mean obviously I would BREATHE, how else would I be alive? But I meant “breathe” as in to just concentrate on my breath. There are times when I go through a flow, just going through the motions without feeling how my body feels when I use my breath to get me through postures. It’s an awakening feeling to see how much deeper you’re able to get into certain poses if you breathe into them. So I was ready to breathe when I came to my mat – and as we got started, there was no music. The sound system wasn’t working, so rather than becoming flustered and trying to decide what to do so we had music available, my instructor went with it. We spent the next sixty moments, just breathing. It was quiet and odd at first, but as we got going the music and rhythm of my own breath opened my heart. She spoke of letting the silence take over, of being uncomfortable for a while and then to just go with it. How our minds are sometimes so loud, that we can’t even hear what is happening in our own hearts. My mind has never been so focused during a practice than when I had nothing but my breath to focus on. Silence and breath was what I most needed at that time – when I was able to clear my mind, and focus solely on myself. My movements. My breath.

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I came out of class with “yoga brain” – my most favorite feeling of all. It’s that feeling of clarity – when you don’t have a thousand things running through your mind, all at the same time, going a million miles an hour. What you forgot to do at work. What you’re going to eat for dinner. Who you need to call. What book you need to pick up from the library. What you looked like going for a run. Who rolled their eyes at you after something you said. None of that was there. I had a smile on my face, a calmness in my mind, and an awareness that where I am, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Saturday morning brought forth a different kind of insight for me. While earlier in the week I had focused on my breath and silence, on Saturday my focus was to be done without sight. Our topic of community was “why you go to yoga.” Personally, I go for many reasons. I go for the workout, the comfort, the calm. I go to yoga knowing that when I come out of savasana and recite “Namaste” with the rest of my class, I know that that is probably the best I will feel all day. I’ll have a perma-smile, yoga brain, and an upbeat attitude that will last me for a long time. So after this discussion, we came back to our mats and were told to close our eyes. Our intention today was to feel. To feel what our body was telling us – without having our eyes open. And so I did. I spent the next sixty moments (mostly) flowing with my eyes shut. The balance was difficult at times, but it took my focus off of what other people were doing, how their posture looked compared to mine, and made me FEEL how my body was in each posture. I’d kept my eyes closed in classes before, but not for the entire class. It felt nice to feel what my body was doing, rather than checking in the mirror or my fellow yogis to SEE what they were doing. It felt great – and again, I came out with yoga brain. And again, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be with myself.

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The idea of “black light yoga” was brought up to me a couple years ago during the roommate’s teacher training – how he would bring in black lights and highlighters and everyone would wear white, and we would flow. Though the idea never came to fruition with him, it has no sparked ideas throughout the community. Last night was my first experience of Glow with the Flow – a black light yoga class. We – along with 150 of our closest friends – met up at the Des Moines Social Club for the inaugural Glow with the Flow practice. We set our mats down and got in line to get painted. It was wonderful. And the group was so eclectic – there were faces I’d seen many times at PLY, many I’d seen around town, and so many others whom I’d never seen before. And this was the place of community. We started out sharing our good vibes with those around us – sharing hugs and introducing ourselves to our neighbors. Hugs from strangers are sometimes the best hug you’ll feel for months. (I, however, receive the best hugs on a daily basis. Because my roommate gives the best strong, heartfelt, loving hugs around. Maybe I’m biased… but maybe I’m not.) Nahko’s lyrics and Good Vibes brought us through these deliberate movements to open our hearts and our minds. More hugs from strangers, more flow, more smiles and good vibes. What a great way to close out the night.

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“Whatever you are doing – wherever you are… whether it’s good or bad… you are right where you are supposed to be.”  

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I’ve had very emotional reactions to my practices lately – I don’t know if it’s because I am more aware of what my body is doing, where my breath is going, or if my focus has simply altered. I am no longer focusing or looking at what others are doing – I am more in charge of myself. What my body is doing – where my breath is going. It’s not selfish – it’s mindful. I am being mindful of myself rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. What they do – doesn’t affect me. Their life isn’t going to make me a better person, so why spend time and energy on what others are doing? This time in my life should be focused on making ME – anything and everything that I can be. Not just this time of my life – every DAY of my life. Because this life is the only one I have, and I am the only one who can make it great.