Adapting To A Diagnosis

Over the last month I’ve been picked and prodded at during various doctors appointments. I’ve had my kidney and liver function checked, bladder and thyroid function. I’ve had a fasting blood glucose test, a regular ultra sound and a vaginal ultra sound before I finally got an answer.

When the gynecologist walked into the office she immediately handed me a brochure for ovarian cysts. An ovarian cyst is a solid or fluid filled sac that is on that ovary. They are actually pretty common in women and only cause concern when they grow or create a significant amount of pain.

“So, I have a cyst?” I asked a little shocked.

“Yes, you have two,” she said pulling out a sheet with the size and location of each cyst. She explained the cyst on the right ovary as being a larger, functional cyst and most likely benign. The other, a smaller cyst on my left ovary, could possibly be a dermoid cyst which may need to be removed, possibly taking my ovary along with it.

The next step for me is to get an MRI to see exactly what kind of cyst it is in order to make a plan of action. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself in case I don’t need my ovary removed but I was a little scared after hearing this. When I asked about alternatives to surgery like lifestyle changes she said that surgery would be her recommended option and reassured me that living life with one ovary would be fine. Also, I could opt for a more invasive surgery and on the up side, keep my ovary. She didn’t have any recommendations for lifestyle changes and told me to speak with an acupuncturist.

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Berry stuffed into a kite hill yogurt container. I’m trying to find more ways to get berries into my diet. 

It was the quickest doctor appointment that I’ve had yet and certainly the heaviest. When I left the office I sat in my car stunned. I was seconds away from either bursting into tears or running to the store to buy all the fruit that I could to remedy my situation. I decided to call Mando and let him know. I was calm as I told him the first details but then broke down when I mentioned the possibility of surgery. He didn’t really understand all the lingo at first but was very positive from the start. He reminded me of my own knowledge I had on the subject and that just because conventional medicine didn’t offer it, there were other solutions.

I was a little surprised at how upset I was at the news. I mean, I ‘d been studying and reading about this stuff for the past few years and figured I was ahead of the game in this department-that if I ever had a client as a health coach who had cysts, I would know to stay positive for them and feel that it was a natural thing to do. I also naively thought that I could cure nearly anything through holistic health. Maybe that’s why the whole thing stunned me so much. I’m healthy! I thought. Why, then, had this happened to me? How was it possible that I ended up with this condition?

I left the hospital parking lot and headed for the grocery store not really wanting to go anywhere else. I didn’t have my Mom to call and cry to about this but when I thought about it further I realized that I was glad. I wouldn’t want to worry her with yet another thing. I knew what she would say and in a way, can feel her strength more now. I’ve realized she feels closer to me in moments like this.

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I bought myself these flowers at Berryvale Grocery to feel better and more positive about my cyst diagnosis. 

I thought of all of this as I speedily searched the small aisles of Berryvale Grocery in Mt. Shasta for…I don’t know what. Berries, maybe, the only thing I could remember off the top of my head Medical Medium recommending for cysts. But I paused-I didn’t want to come home with, especially since it’s not my home, bundles full of berries. I wanted to think first and make a good plan.

But when I got home and searched for the foods that helped with ovarian cysts, I regretted not getting the berries and cherries that I had wanted to at the store and made plans in my mind to go back. Once home I jumped online to google terms, phrases and my favorite female doctor Christianne Northrup’s recommendations for ovarian cysts, immediately closing my WordPress tab with a long un-posted blog thinking it wasn’t as important.

It was no coincidence that I had taken a break from reading Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and that my bookmark was wedged in between pages with the topic marked Ovarian Cysts. The irony didn’t go unnoticed especially as I did more research on the emotional reasons that women develop cysts.

What I found was that cysts represent blocks in creativity and the lack thereof. I thought back to clicking out of my blog tab, to all of the un-posted blogs I’m sitting on. To the book that I’ve written that sits unedited. To all of my stuck creativity. The creativity that now wasn’t just stuck between my ears but onto each one of my ovaries.

I also checked online for Dr. Northrup’s recommendations on healing cysts and came across a video that I found inspiring and helpful along with the comments left by women who suffer from cysts and Dr. Northrup’s responses to those comments. If anyone reading has ovarian cysts, fibroids, trouble with infertility or any other female issues under the sun, I highly recommend her books, listed below.

Depending on what you read and who you talk to, the causes of cysts can range widely. Below are reasons given to me by doctors and found in the research I’ve done and what I’ve learned from school.

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal imbalances (specifically too much estrogen)
  • Diet, Lifestyle
  • Toxins from cosmetics, household cleaners, plastics, pesticides
  • Emotional reasons-carrying on something from my maternal lineage (more on this later), stuck creatively in life

These are the symptoms I had that led to my diagnosis-

  • aching in ovaries and hips, especially on left side
  • heavy, painful periods
  • frequent urination
  • back pain
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • mood swings

My ‘Do’s’-

  1. Get the MRI-I will go from there and remain positive until then 🙂
  2. Eat foods that can help- Blackberries, strawberries, figs, raspberries, blueberries, wild blueberries (if I can get my hands of them again), cherries, asparagus & avocado. All of these recommendations come from Medical Medium specifically for ovarian cysts and or ovarian cancer. Many are also good for general vaginal health. The following recommendations come from Woman Code and this article by Alisa Vitti, the author of Woman Code cruciferous vegetables; brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collards. broccoli & cauliflower to balance out estrogen because the overabundance of estrogen may be the cause of cysts. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles are also known to help with cysts. Fiber-filled foods such as pears and flax seeds are also listed in the above article.
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It hasn’t been easy to stick to a particular way of eating especially while eating out. We were out bowling and I just wanted deep fried anything bad but decided to hold out. We went to the HiLo in Weed after and there is a salad bar so I made it work. Mando had a slice of pie and had a stomach ache afterward. I felt great after eating! 😉

  1. Supplement with Red Root-More on the benefits of red root against ovarian cysts can be found here.
  2. Be creative-I would have to agree when I read about stagnant creativity, I understood what it meant. The truth is, I have been really stuck. and other creative endeavors I’ve been too scared or lazy to unveil or really sink my teeth into. But not just writing I want to paint and find other ways to tap into my creative spirit.
  3. Relax-Not so much physically as mentally. I would to implement more self care in order to stay calm and positive about my health.
  4. Affirmations-There are a few that are specific to women’s health issues such as cysts and other female issues. One I love and I have used before is, “I love being a woman. I love my body and I enjoy being female.” Another is, “I dissolve old angers,” and “I am balanced in my creative flow.” A powerful one that resonates with me is, “The movies of my mind are beautiful because i choose to make them so. I love me.” These are can all be found in the book You Can Heal Your Life by the late Louise Hay.
  5. Use my resources such as…the new hormone health class I’m taking through IIN the timing couldn’t be better! I can also use my curriculum and referrals and recommendations from my previous health course with IIN. I will also absolutely continue to speak with my Dr. about her recommendations and not take conventional medicine for granted. Even if I don’t agree, it’s important to look into options on both sides. Follow the Woman Code protocol which can be found online here as well as the book which is what I’m using. I also downloaded the ‘Flo’ application on my phone for $1.99. This will help me track my menstruation, list symptoms and get recommendations.
  6. Acupuncture-It can alleviate symptoms of cysts such as throbbing and aching. It’s also been proven to make them smaller in some women. I will also take my acupuncturists recommendations.
  7. Possibly see a functional medicine doctor. This type of doctor may better be able to get to the issues of my cysts as well as any other health concerns. They have the time to be more thorough and use techniques and treatments that are of Eastern medicine which is preferable for me as I prefer natural remedies.
  8. Use Medicinal Marijuana-Although I prefer not to get a prescription for medications from my gyno for cramps, pot helps with cramping pain and now the pain that my cysts cause. Indica helps with the pain but I would only recommend this in a combination with other recommendations listed above and not solely rely on this for easing pain as it can’t do that alone. I want to also get to the root cause of my cysts and not just cover up the pain.

My ‘Don’ts’

1.Caffeine-I wasn’t surprised to find out that caffeine isn’t good for cysts because any time I have too much, I’m achy. Mostly in the form of coffee but I’m going to lessen my intake of caffeine in all forms in hopes to help with my pain. This won’t be easy. I’ve enjoyed coffee on and off, sometimes on it hard like five cups a day and sometimes off like haven’t had a cup in months. I’m not sure it’s knowing that I can’t have it that makes it worse or not. All I know is that I need to listen to my body regardless of what my brain wants. I’ll be busy making drink concoctions that are good for me and don’t leave me feeling like I can’t participate in all the beverage fun so stay tuned! 🙂

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I brought my own caffeine-free tea to sushi date night. The staff were really nice about bringing me refills of hot water 🙂

2. Alcohol -Unfortunately, another one added to the list of bummers courtesy of my cysts. Alcohol, in any form, exacerbates the symptoms of cysts. This won’t be easy for me because I love to go beer tasting and have recently gotten more into kombucha as well which has naturally occurring alcohol. I’m choosing to consume less alcohol because I’ve physically noticed that my cysts ache more when I drink.

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Fresh water Mando got for us from the headwaters at Mt. Shasta City Park. Check out the fancy lid 😉 Drinking a lot of water, especially with lemon, helps ease cramping. 

3. Worry-It’s usually my favorite thing to do, not really I just do it too often. I’m going to try a combination of things to help myself worry less and still enjoy life. My therapist helps as well as continuing as much as possible with my favorite activities; hiking, traveling, trying new places for food, searching thrift for good music tapes and clothes, watching old movies, dates with Mando, catching up with friends, writing, painting again, cooking and planning meals, playing with dogs that aren’t mind but I’m lucky to have in my life and more I’m excited to explore.

It hasn’t be an easy road to easing the symptoms of my cysts but I truly believe that I can get rid of them with a combination of eastern and western medicine.

Mando said something since this all began a week ago that has stuck with me and helped motivate me to stay positive. What he said was that it couldn’t have happened to a better person because of my strength and all of my resources. He was positive that I would be able to remain positive as well and decide what would be right for me.

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I stopped my car and got out to watch the sun go down over the hill. It was beautiful and uplifting. 

One last thing…..All of you women out there- our menstrual health tells us everything else we need to know about our health and bodies! If you have any symptoms like the ones I’ve shared, go to the doctor and get checked out. Don’t ignore your pain like I did! 

If any of you have ovarian cysts and want to share your experience or have recommendations to share please do!!! I don’t know it all when it comes to ovarian cysts and different things work for different women and I love to learn 🙂

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Adapting To Minimalism

Really this story goes way back, back to my early teens when frustrated with my situation, I went to my Mom for a solution to my messy room. Back then I’d never heard of anything like minimalism, the idea of living with less, but certainly heard more on the subject of organizing your junk. So that’s what my Mom and I tried to do. It was a start in the right direction but without truly understanding the concept behind why we had some much stuff, we were doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Looking back I recall watching my Mom spend a lifetime rearranging, organizing, downsizing but never really truly minimizing. The desire was there and I’m so glad it was because it lead me to be able to accomplish what I never thought I would have the strength to do-minimize my Mom’s belongings without her.

Flash-forward a few years from the first time my Mom and I embarked on organizing and I’m back to being a complete mess in my room and have also began to hoard things, movie ticket stubs, old mail, old toys, stained clothes or clothes that didn’t fit just in case it did again some day. I’d cry if my Mom threatened to give something away. If I saw anything from childhood in the garage I’d find a way to sneak it back into the house. Eventually, my Mom wouldn’t even let me go in there for fear I’d stuff the whole house with the past.

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I put together two zip-lock bags for my Sister and I to separate photos and momentos between the both of us. This prior organization helped me to quickly find a place for things as opposed to putting them back where they were or not having a place for them.

Oddly enough, just this year, a couple of months before my Mom died, knowing that I would be moving out of San Francisco and also fresh from watching Minimalism the documentary, I decided to get ride of some stuff.

When it comes to action for me, I tend to do things to the extreme so after a glass of wine and fueled by an intense desire to start fresh, I purged. I even went as far as to, unknowingly, through out my college diploma. I also, knowingly, throughout a cardboard frame for my college photo that my Mom and other people at my graduation party had signed. It was difficult to do but I kept asking myself, Do I really need this? Where will I put it while I’m gone? Will I put it up someday in my home? It was a tough decision but I knew if I waffled like this on every tiny thing, I wouldn’t really be accomplishing much. And I didn’t need that cardboard signature of my Mom’s when I had her just across the bay.

Today, and a few days after throwing out that signed frame I have felt regretful. But when I stop to think about it, I realize that I’m just sad to lose my Mom. It made me think back to my attachment to things like movie ticket stubs and tickets from baseball games. Was it really the faded and bent cardboard paper that I wanted and needed to keep close to my heart and pinned and covered in dust on a cork board above my desk? Or was it the people I went to those movies and games with? Was it the experience I waned to hold? Of course the answer was yes, that was easy.

The harder part was deciding how to hold those memories without holding things as place markers for those memories. What can we do and why is it easier to hold on to a thing as a reminder instead of saying to the person you experienced it with, “I love you! I had a wonderful time. I’ll never forget it. Please, let’s do it again. ”

In the book The More of Less, the author discusses a few different items that people tend to have a lot of. My Mom and I are no different in this department. Although, it may have been easier for me to give away things of hers as I don’t have as much of a sentimental attachment. Or is it? I may now have a sentimental attachment to meaningless things of hers because she’s gone and I want to have something of hers to remember her by. But sitting on her bedroom floor surrounded by her things I realize that the memories are so much better.

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A letter to Santa from my Sister and I. When I came across things like this that I wanted to remember but not keep, I made sure to take a photo of it before letting it go.

Here are some of the items listed people seem to have a lot of:

  • Papers-And boy does my Mom have them. I can’t talk, I do too. I threw out a stretched out envelope full of receipts from who knows when for purchasing I don’t know what. Further proof that things don’t always stick around…
  • Books-It was easier for me to donate my Mom’s books than mine. I’ve done several ’rounds’ of donations as I like to call them because sometimes you aren’t ready to give something away the first time around. It’s also easier these days because there are nooks and other electronic reading devices to store stories on.
  • Clothes-My Mom did have a lot of clothes but more like several pairs of one thing she liked that she liked to wear like long-sleeved T-shirts, cotton shirts, beautiful vests, earth-toned tops and brightly colored and white T-shirts. We’re pretty similar in this department. I still can’t bring myself to give away one of my brown Banana Republic sweaters even though I have four and barely wear one. But some people actually need a certain amount of clothes for work and other lifestyle reasons. Still, I think most people have too much in their closet. Check out project 333 to see what people learn from wearing just 33 items for three months.
  • Momentos-This includes anything that conjure up a memory-a baseball ticket, my Mom had plenty of those, letters, cards, notes and post cards from Spain.
  • Photos-My Mom had so many courtesy of me and other family members as well, that I couldn’t even get to them. When I do, I know I’ll have a good system; if there are repeat photos or photos of people we don’t know, they get tossed. If we adore them, we pick a frame album, or scan them and toss them.

So how did my Mom and I end up with so much stuff anyway? I believe my Mom was a good person with good intentions- and so am I. It just goes to show that anyone can end up with too much stuff. When I think back on my life and my relationship with my Mom I realize something about my her specifically and things- as a single mother she always wanted to make sure that my Sister and I had enough. I think in an effort to do this she ended up with a lot of things. Extras of things, just in case.

Don’t get me wrong, if you knew my Mom she wasn’t what you would call materialistic. I think this is important to note because most people think of those who have a lot of stuff as people who flaunt things and make extraordinary purchases. She never really did that, that wasn’t the Mom I knew. But I did know the Mom that had hundreds of pens and post-it notes, mints, pairs of reading glasses and a box full of old magnets my sister and I had gifted her from over the years.

 

She also spoiled my Sister and I buying us whatever was on our Christmas and birthday lists and then some. So it’s not just her stuff. And that’s OK. Everyone has their ‘stuff.’ What I’m trying to accomplish is to see the similarities in myself in order to learn and improve my life and to share this with others in the hopes of improving theirs.

Purging my Mom’s stuff felt weirdly good. As hard as it was to do, I knew is was an important part of my healing process. It feels good to know her stuff will be used by others and my sister and I. It made me realize that it’s all just stuff-meaningless. Time spent is better, so much better, than stuff. What’s the point of working to the bone just to acquire stuff? 

Theres a sense of freedom that comes from letting go. Maybe because letting go of the old and unused is a weight lifted making more room for the new to come in. Shedding old things is like shedding old habits and behavior and the realization that stuff isn’t what really matters because it doesn’t fill my heart makes me appreciate and love the things I do have so much more. This realization was fitting for the time as I was embarking on going through my Mom’s lifelong belongings.

Something else I noticed while doing my own minimizing over the last couple of months was just how much money I must have spent on all of this stuff. Relating this to my financial stress that I’ve had on and off throughout my life I can see where it’s a total win-win to not only reduce your amount of stuff but to keep it this way. AKA, not buy more stuff. Therein lies the difficulty for some. Because it’s all well and good to empty out your nest but not if you’re just going to run out and refill it. Aside from something you put good money into that is a quality products which you use daily and it brings joy to your life. Refer to The More of Less to make decisions about what to keep and use my tips below.

Tips for minimizing-

  1. Always give from a place of love-This is a great way to look at donating your things when you’re finding it hard to let go. Always remember that someone else will be using your item which would otherwise go unused in your home. It’s really a gift that you are sharing it with the world.
  2. Take pics if it really means that much to you and is hard to let go like with my signed frame. You can do with letters, cards even clothes so you’ll always have a reminder although a pic of you in clothes might be even better. You can also scan things and upload them to iCloud, Google docs or an online photo album service like Shutterfly.
  3. Reconnect with friends & family by writing a letter if you are feeling that it’s really hard to let go. Sometimes, and most of the time, it’s not even the stuff that you are wanting to hold on to, it’s the memories and the people with whom you shared those memories that you don’t want to let go. Try reconnecting with these people and work on nurturing these relationships as opposed to hanging on to old items that remind you of them. The reality is always better than the place marker.
  4. Try Project 33-I mentioned this project earlier that challenges you to pick 33 times in your wardrobe to wear for 3 months to see what you really wear and love.
  5. Turn your hanger over-Try turning all your clothes one way. When you wear an item and return it, turn the hanger indicating that it’s been worn. At the end of the month see what wasn’t turned over. Consider donating because if you didn’t wear it in 30 days, you might not really like it.
  6. Ask yourself- Do you really, really love it? Does it make you life better? Does it make an impact on your life? Do you use it everyday?
  7. Don’t Throw Out Other People’s Stuff-As tempting as it may be to toss someone else’s belongings in the midst of your newfound minimalism, it’s better to lead by example. I learned this the hard way and then some after repeatedly putting my boyfriend Mando’s things in my ‘pile’ to be donated or sold. (He really loved those elephant pants, apparently; oops.). My way of thinking was that if I was minimizing and he thought it was a good idea, then he should as well. It didn’t go over well the first, second, third or fourth time, did we make it to a fifth? I have finally realized not to do it. Which brings me to my next point…once you rid it becomes addicting so….
  8. Make Sure you don’t give away things you still need and use everyday! Mando and I got a little carried away making space on his computer that we both erased some pictures and a downloaded cookbook that we both still got enjoyment and use out of.
  9. Feng Shui-You can apply this ancient Asian practice to your home more thoroughly or apartment to as much degree as you’d like. Has ideas like clearing negative energies with a sage stick.
  10. Make Money-See what value your things have before you toss it or give it away incase it’s worth selling. BUUUT…
  11. Don’t Hang On To Things Because You Think You Can Make Money From It. Be honest with yourself, some things just aren’t worth selling so donate them and don’t waste your time.
  12. Trade, Donate With Friends-One of the best ways to get rid of your stuff is to offer it to friends and loved ones. You can even trade for something that you might need or really like. Win-win.
  13. Take A Photo Of Things You Want To Remember But Also Give Away Or Toss-One of the reasons I didn’t feel too bad about getting rid of things that held memories for me was because I made sure to take pictures of things I wanted to remember like my college gradation frame I mentioned above.

The day I went to clean out my Mom’s room, over the course of about 6 hours, I minimized it from a full closet to a quarter of a closet or less with my old brownie uniform I can’t part with just yet, a mink coat of my grandmothers for my Sister, a beautiful poncho of my Mom’s and some cozy shoes I insisted Al take. By the end, the only thing I didn’t get to was under her bed or through family photos which there are plenty of.

In the morning when I woke up I journaled my feelings. My goals for the day, what I hoped to achieve and the fact that this was all a healing process, it would be sad and simultaneously enjoyable and that’s ok. My to-do list is laughable now but it was..

  • Clean out, minimize, donate and recycle and decide what to keep, take them with me give to Al (Mom’s room)
  • Garage-go through what’s mine and begin to go through what’s Mom’s and decide what to keep, throw away, donate and sell

I only got to her room but I’m not beating myself up about it. It was a long emotional process but I prepped with a salad jar, smoothie and some kombucha. I think it’s important to have the things you need especially in an emotional situation. And good things because I didn’t take many breaks during the day and it was really nice to have these.

Poppy, my Mom’s dog, was there to not help and lay around like a lazy bum. Maybe she was sad. She mostly waited at the window for something, anything. Maybe my Mom to come home. I whispered in her hear that I was waiting too.

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My Mom’s dog Poppy and I taking a break from letting go.

My Sister popped in every once in a while to look over some things, laugh and reminisce. She decided on some things she wanted for herself and we discussed further plans to clean the garage out. It’s all so ironic but fitting because the last time I was with my Mom we talked about cleaning out the garage. I know it’s something she wanted and needed to do. Although I’m sad that I can’t give her the gift of doing it while she was alive, I know she’d be happy that we are doing it now.

Among the things I found among  my Mom’s things were letters and journals, some I read, some I let be; I’m not sure I need to know everything. I found endless amount of cards from Allison and I. I’m so glad to have some of them but was once again reminded of our carbon footprint and its impact. I must have thrown out over five garbage bags of things. I also had about ten donation bags that I had to drive back to the city with because when I went to drop them off at Goodwill for donation, they were closed.

In the process of deciding what to keep, I tried to be very diplomatic about things but also enjoy the moment for what it was. I was saying goodbye to my Mom while also helping keep her memory alive in the best of what she loved and treasured.

Some of my favorite things that I kept of hers are two rings that my Dad gave her. Allison has her other two. A guitar pin that I have yet to find out the story about but am sure I soon will. A pin that says, ‘I’m neat.’ It looks pretty old, I love it. I kept some of her tops, pants, old red gloves that I remember her wearing years back. I’d always steal them. I also kept a spool of yarn from my grandmother’s sewing machine, some of my favorite magnets I gave her and schoolwork she kept. I know that some of it I will throw away but I wanted to take pictures of some or just look over them one more time.

When I was done for the day, I sagged her room and cried a bit. I asked the angel of air to clear it and cleanse it and allow her spirit to be free. I’ve done this before and it’s a practice I like that makes the whole process feel more spiritual and makes me feel more connected to my Mom.

Today, I can’t necessarily call myself a minimalist. I would still have a long way to go if that were my goal. But it’s learning the basics of living with less has helped when a time in my life when I needed it the most. I know that throughout my life they will continue to serve me as I journey my nomadic adventures. 

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A photo of my Mom and her high school friend that I found amongst her things. Also, this poem, I like to think it was a message from my Mom that was much needed at the very moment I found it.

Resources

Minimalism; A Documentary About the Important Things (it’s also a book which I have not read)

“The More Of Less, Finding The Life You Want Under Everything You Own,” by Joshua Becker

The Minimalists blog 


Adapting To Death And The Woods

To be honest, I don’t really know what I was thinking packing up all of my shit in San Francisco and to head to the woods. Well, not the woods exactly but for this suburban/city girl, Weed, California is as ‘in the woods’ as I get.

It’s not that I don’t like it here, actually the contrary, I love it. It’s just that every transition has its adjustments. For one, I don’t think I’ll ever get use to leaving my car unlocked. But it’s just the norm here because people are trusting of each other.

People are to be trusted but not animals. This I learned the hard way the night I left several snacks in my car from the drive up. I also left my window down just enough for a raccoon to sneak inside and enjoy said snacks.

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Something else that I’ve noticed immediately is that you can’t really hide anywhere in a smaller town. You’re almost forced to interact with people, or in the very least, say hello. Which I do now often as well as wave to people passing by on the road. It’s an intimacy that initially made me uncomfortable like that feeling you get as a kid standing in a wet bathing suit in the cold. But after the initial discomfort and general get-to-know-you questions, there’s genuine interaction and compassion. And always a promise to see them again, because here, it’s likely that you will.

One of these fist interactions occurred when I accompanied Mando and his Mom to their newly built catholic church this past Sunday. After the service at a special breakfast for the new Father, Mando and I got into a conversation with a stranger from San Diego who approached us. His smile was warm and gentle and he was complimentary to our lifestyle after we told him what had brought us to Weed, which I didn’t even realize myself until I heard us say the words.

“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” I heard Mando say aloud, “Maybe we’ll teach out of the country or even stay here for a bit. We really like it.”

I could feel myself agree and for the first time I settled into those words, and the idea that, no, we didn’t really have an idea what we were doing and I wasn’t going to let it freak me out. You see, it’s not always easy being adventurous, being a free spirit. Sometimes, you can scare even yourself with your ideas and moments of uncertainty.

I keep reminding myself that this is why it’s good to have some sort of foundation so that you’re not flailing aimlessly through the universe. I try not to be too hard on myself though if I don’t stick to everything daily. Things that I consider part of my foundation lately are….

  • Yoga or stretching
  • Smoothies in the morning
  • Cooking
  • starting up therapy again
  • Journaling
  • Exploring my new home for the summer 🙂

And Mando reminds me too,”You lost your Mom and close friend, it’s OK to feel…. lost.” I’m not sure that I can say I feel this way because I lost my Mom or that the feeling is intensified by her loss, either way, it’s there for interpretation.

It doesn’t help that matters surrounding her estate are unfinished and that most people have a difficult time talking about death. Either just completely freezing up or ignoring the subject entirely. But who could blame them? Death is an uncomfortable subject only forcing itself to the surface when the unthinkable has happened. It’s not a fun water cooler topic. If people even still use water coolers.

I can’t expect everyone to be catapulted into wanting to address the subject every time I catch a glimpse of my Mom in the mirror or whiff of my Dad’s cologne passing a man in a bar. I just believe there’s so much to learn from it, so many places to go, be them dark or not, and that to turn away from them is to live in pain and fear for the future and death itself.

It reminds me of something that happened to me two Septembers ago when I was up here with Mando visiting his family. It was The Blackberry Festival at Mt. Shasta City Park where I was helping pick blackberries with Mando’s sister Dolores and my goddaughter Rocklyn. The band was playing and kids were swarming the blackberry bushes, running in and out claiming secret bush tunnels and caves. One of these little girls stopped me mid-play and asked if I wanted to join. She told me all about the game and the bushes before abruptly stopping to say, “And my Mom is dead.”

Her words threw me off, further, they shook me to my core and sent shivers up my spine. Sure, I’d gone through the pain of death in my life, even my own Father’s, but there was just something so wrong about hearing that this little girl’s Mother had died. I didn’t know what to say to her, I was stumped.

I wish I could go back and hug that little girl. I wish I could tell her that if she wanted to talk about her Mom to me that she could, all day if she wanted. That it didn’t make me uncomfortable or scared and she shouldn’t be either. I’d tell her that her Mom loved her for sure and was still with her. Maybe even there, then as we picked blackberries and she ran through the bushes giggling with other kids. I wish a lot of things.

But mostly I’m just fascinated how something that once made me so uncomfortable to hear now rolls of my own tongue so easily, almost daily. Fascinated and grateful that I was able to share many more years with my Mom than, sadly, that little girl got to with hers.

Fascinated and grateful for the small changes I see just by making the move up here  and for the warm welcome and open hearts I’ve received already so far. At least from the people, the raccoons, that might take some time…

 


My first Acupuncture Experience

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For various reasons I decided to try acupuncture, the practice of placing thin, solid, sterile stainless-steele needles into specific point of your body in order to activate or inhibit the flow of Qi and blood. It’s a comprehensive health practice as it involves the emotional as well as the physical connecting specific organs to certain emotional issues.

I’ve listed the specifics about what I was hopping to help with acupuncture below. I was really excited to go and intrigued by the whole process but it  wasn’t always this way. It took me a while to open up to the idea of it. You see, things like acupuncture always seemed like ‘treating myself’ and too much money so I shied away from them even though I was intrigued in the idea of them. I also shied away from it because the people in my life at the time made fun of it or saw it as a silly, hippy idea to heal.

There’s nothing like a huge life a event to make you start doing the things you know are good for you and stop caring about what other people think and stop feeling guilty about healing. My Mom’s death in particular has lead me to want to take care of myself in ways that speak to me. Maybe that’s why I finally decided to try acupuncture. It helped that I work at a Juice Shop downstairs from the office where I made the appointment. I guess  I had just heard one to many good things about Stillpoint Wellness in San Francisco to put it off any longer.

After doing some brief research on acupuncture and buying myself a used book, Between Heaven and Earth-A Guide To Chinese Medicine, I though acupuncture would help me for the following reasons;

  • Frequent urination
  • Heavy, painful menstruation
  • Pain in my left side groin and left buttock area
  • Pain in hips
  • Fatigue even after full night’s sleep
  • Emotional healing from big life events
  • Stress

Questions asked during visit and on the form I filled out beforehand (I won’t include them all but one that stood out)…

  • Do I enjoy work?-The last couple months have been a transition period for me and the last one in particular hasn’t been enjoyable which has spurred a change in position, really a while in the making, to teach English abroad and write which really excites me.
  • Diet-Mostly vegetarian recently putting fish and meat back in, sometimes eggs, dairy and coffee upset me, trying to avoid
  • Lose or solid bowl movements?-Both, mostly solid
  • Amount of alcoholic drinks per week -2-4. In recent years though a lot more maybe ten or more in a week.
  • Current symptoms & complaints (listed above) and which was the most pressing to me at the time to which I answered the pain on my left side.
  • What helps symptoms? Stretching, walking, exercise.
  • Do I sit a lot at work? Yes. More recently though I’ve had to be up and about at work. But after my day job I write and am sitting more when I do that.
  • Any recent life changing events? Death of my Mom and stress relating to that. She also mentioned that my Dad’s death was significant although he died over five years ago.

 

Things that stood out during questioning…

  • She asked about my parents and grandparents deaths on both sides, how old they were and what happen to each of them and their medical history. It was really interesting recapping it and learning from their lives. Maybe when I feel a little stronger and better about sharing I will write a blogpost geared a little more toward what I learned specifically.
  • Fact that she asked if I was close to said family members.
  • She told me that it was better that I didn’t take pill form birth control as it disrupts hormones.
  • She also told me that it was good that I use pads as there are toxins in tampons and it could be the reasons of urinary problems. She also advised against using plastic cups for menstruation as she was advised by a fellow colleague. I was happy to get this information as I was considering using these cups. I’ll stick to pads.
  • This actually was asked during acupuncture but she gently asked if I was comfortable with my weight to which I replied no, that 120, I’m 111, was better. She agreed. I thought it was a nice way to suggest that I put on some more pounds.

Her diagnosis which is given before the acupuncture session

  • May be low in iron, anemic. This came after questioning of my heavy periods.
  • May have some gut, digestion issues because of lose stool.
  • Kidney is weak and is trying to be helped my my liver but my liver is also weak. In her words, the liver is like a mother to the kidney and tries to help even though her reserves are low which actually just worsen the liver. This may be causing my frequent urination.
  • Have symptoms of adrenal fatigue, (I will address this in a future post as I have guessed that I have had this since reading Medical Medium and noticing symptoms myself). Some of the symptoms are sweating without much effort, under eye circles, fatigue after full nights sleep, sporadic energy at night. Some of the causes include stressful life events, dehydration, bad diet specifically not eating enough or eating sugary things as well as too much caffeine and alcohol.

 

Recommendations-

  • Get blood work done to find out specific deficiencies -she mentioned that I may be deficient in iron and B12 which may be why I’m low on energy and having trouble with my periods. This made me realize that I had run out of B12 months ago and never replaced it. She recommended the blood work specifically as she said it’s better to know exactly what I’m deficient in and taking supplements is better than just guessing. I was happy to get this much needed advice because sometimes try things without all of the information first and this reminded me that sometimes we need to have all of the information before we can make a good decision. My plan to move out of the country also helps motivate me to get the proper supplementation before I go abroad so I’m at my best for this big life change.
  • Drink less cold beverages and more hot drinks. As I work at a Juice Shop, she suggested the juices with ginger to counteract the cold. I also told her that I like to pull the juices out of the fridge a half hour to an hour before to drinking to let get to room temperature. In Chinese medicine the belief is that cold beverages
  • Drink bone broth for more nutrients and minerals as she said she guesses I am low. We discussed the influence of my vegan diet which may have had an influence but honestly, I think it’s because I haven’t been making sure to eat a well rounded diet, vegan or otherwise for a period of time of the past five years. In recent years, although I’ve gotten better at eating a more nutritious diet, my habits of waiting to eat, not preparing ahead of time and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol before eating have followed me. Stressful life events and being unhappy at my job have encouraged these habits and it’s continual work for me everyday to stay on track. Getting this diagnosis is just another step in moving toward better, comprehensive health that doesn’t involve just what I eat.

 

The acupuncture experience…

I undressed and laid on a table much like a massage. When she reentered the room she discussed the diagnosis with me and inserted the pins, mostly in my left hand and when she inserted the pin in my left hand between the thumb and forefinger, I felt a surge of pressure. She asked me if it was tender to which  I answered yes as it is most of the time always tender.

As she worked she explained that my issues were my kidneys and the importance of strengthening it to help my bladder. At this point I was laying on my back. She left for room for a period of time with a heat lamp at my feet which felt nice. I drifted off for a short time but not too long as I was a little too excited to relax. As I laid there I felt read painted message surround the top of the walls one in particular that stood out to me, “I am always safe.” It spoke to me and I repeated it softly aloud and began to feel relaxed. During the acupuncture I felt as though I could feel sublet pressure and pulsing throughout my body that felt nice.

When I moved the pins didn’t bother me much other than a slight tugging when I hit one pin in particular while moving my hand. I was nervous, naturally, but as the she explained to me, nothing would happen if I bent or moved one. Still, I mostly tried to stay still but relaxed.When I turned over she mostly put pins in my lower back, couple in each arm and feet and she asked if I wasted an herb mixture or to see how the acupuncture worked first. I decided on the latter mostly because of money, why do I always hesitate on health? Still, because of moving, it was the better decision for me at the time. But I will take her other recommendations such as getting blood work done.

As I was dressing I felt relaxed like after as massage. I sat down to pay and when I did she mentioned something I’ll never forget.

“When I was putting pins in your back, on the left side, there were red marks.”

I asked what it meant.

“It signifies a lot of pain held in your heart. If you can, come back for another appointment before you leave the city you should.”

I think I will.

Resources…

‘Between Heaven And Earth-A Guide To Chinese Medicine’ by Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac.,O.M.D. 

Stillpoint Wellnes Center, San Francisco. I saw Dr. Mimi.

Other reasons people seek acupuncture…

  • fertility
  • headaches
  • eczema
  • rashes
  • bloating
  • muscle tention, stiffness
  • heart, kidney, liver, lung problems

and more!

I know I’m missing some so if you are suffering, do some research and see if acupuncture is right for you.


Adaptable Ashley-A Name Change For An Ever-changing Person

I used to avoid change like bill collectors, and well, actual bill collectors. But all that has changed now. Not necessarily by choice, but by pure force of the universe I have had to change and basically learn to adapt to things out of my control so many times and in so many ways.

Once upon a time the girl afraid to leave home who pinky-swore her childhood best friend that she never would, is moving again, for the third time in the last five years. Needless to say, I have become an adaptable person. But it wasn’t always this way and it wasn’t easy to let go, move on from things no longer serving me or accept life as it is.

Many times in my life I’ve been stuck in the comfort of familiarity unwilling to go with the flow of things and have faith, all things that for so long felt inherently against my nature.

If you’ve ever felt the same, then maybe you understand my need for change and a name change. On the contrary if you’re annoyed with my ever-changing name, you’re not alone. I often annoy myself with my constant need for change. But recently I’ve been feeling like I am OK with being an ever-changing person. I saw a meme the other day that really hit home for me…..

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Meme reminding us it’s OK to change

The figure on the left kind of highlights our inability to accept change in society. Which makes perfect sense. Change challenges our once held beliefs and pulls people out of their comfort zones. Sometimes it’s the reaction of others to the changes we are making in our lives that can’t disrupt the changes necessary for us to grow. I know because I’ve often been that person as well, the one who can’t let things or allow other people the growth and change they need to become their best selves. I’ve also kept myself from growing and change because of discomfort.

Having things stay the same feels so comfortable until you begin to feel like a hamster on a wheel. The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Sometimes you’re lucky enough for this to occur to you out of nowhere and other times you’re unlucky enough to have something that turns your world upside down to remind you of this.

For me, it has been many things. Most recently my Mom’s death that has once again been a reminder from the universe the need to adapt to change, this time a life, without my Mom.

This new chapter will certainly bring significant change to my life and for me in particular, it’s imperative that I get on top of this change, build a solid foundation for myself and ride the waves, as pissed, hurt, guilty, angry and sad as I may feel, I know what it’s like to do the opposite and get carried away in the tide. It’s not a pretty thing.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful in the process of adapting and an adapted recipe as well…..

  • The Book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” by Louise Hay
  • The Book, “The Art of Possibility,” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander
  • Therapy
  • Meditation, although I still find it hard, bee watching and other things can serve as meditation practices

How do you adapt to changed circumstances in your life?

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Adapted recipe from a dish my Mom love-Stuffed Bell Pepper

 

Adapted, Dairy-Free Stuffed Bell Pepper Recipe (serves 2)

*use all organic ingredients if possible

1 pound grass-fed ground beef, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have great options

2 large bell peppers

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 onion, chopped

Kite Hill Garlic and Chive cheese cream cheese (nut based)

3 cloves garlic

1/2-1 teaspoon ground Turmeric

1/2-1 teaspoon garlic powder

sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

parsley or cilantro for topping

  1. Mix meat with salt, pepper, turmeric and garlic powder in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat small pot to steam bell peppers. Add steam basket and turn sliced bell peppers upside down and cooked until fork pierces somewhat easily through. Be sure not to overcook or they’ll be soggy. Once cooked through, remove from pot and set aside in a covered dish to keep warm.
  3. Back to the meat…Make sure to use a wooden spoon or spatula to break the meat up. Add the chopped onions and garlic and let cook a bit longer, or add later raw if you prefer. Once completely browned, the meat is done. You have the option to  cook it longer or shorter according to preference.
  4. Drain fat and add cooked quinoa long enough just to warm it through.
  5. Stuff cooked bell peppers with meat and top with Kite Hill ‘cheese’ and minced parsley or cilantro.

 

Tip: Avoid green bell peppers. Green bell peppers are actually red bell peppers that have never ripened and can be hard on your digestive system. See more here about the benefits of bell peppers.


Mirror Work and Matchas

Last week I got an email from HayHouse radio about mirror work. After watching the video I decided that I wanted to try it and so decided to take the advice in the video and try in out for seven days.

The Challenge 

The challenge is seven days of mirror work for five minutes per day, one minute per time that you do the work. So if you need to spread your minutes out, you can. Just make sure you total five minutes each day. Who knows, this may be the only alone time you get all week! Or maybe your job requires you to be alone most of the time, like me, this work will still offer more intimate time with yourself in order to heal from the inside out.

What Do I Say To Myself? 

I love you. I really, love you. (insert name here), I really love you.

What you need to do mirror work

  • mirror
  • willingness
  • good attitude

What is mirror work?

What’s the point of mirror work? 

Mirror work is all about self love. Learning to love yourself in a safe space without judgement from the world or yourself. It’s a chance to connect with your deeper self and you may even find some answers to some questions you’ve been pondering.

It’s important to have fun with it. Make goofy faces and be silly, get back in touch with the child inside you. If you have a hard time doing so, just watch a child as they play and goof off in the mirror.

Day 1-2-For me so far, mirror work has helped me have an important conversation with my boss that I’m not sure I would’ve had to the courage to have if it wasn’t for this work. I also credit my affirmations although I find it hard to make time to say them in the mirror and mostly write those out. That’s why I wanted to challenge myself by stepping it up with some mirror work.

Day 3- I started this day with mirror work and I think it made all the difference with my attitude and tone for the rest of the day. I also ended my day with mirror work as well. I like this approach and feel like I’m getting into the groove.

Day 4-I was proud of myself today for making the time to do mirror work and doing it on my phone in bed when I was too tired to do it in the bathroom. Posting on Instagram writing this blog help me stay consistent.

Day 5-I was on such a high the first four days and then day five hit and I was immobile. A lot of things went into making this day bad but I’m sure it had something to do with my not doing any of my mirror work… I was grumpy upon waking up and really didn’t feel like going to work on Friday. It would’ve been perfect time for me to do some mirror work but I didn’t make time for it and instead went into work in a funk. The day went downhill from there mostly because I let it with my thoughts and because I spent most of the day outside in the cold.

Once home, I again avoided my mirror work and instead took a long nap. Which I don’t regret because I obviously needed it, but wish I had made time for it because I know it would’ve helped brighten my mood even if just slightly. I got up after Mando got home from work and I continued to have a rough night. I was thinking about my Mom a lot and feeling bad about things. So I just let myself feel things, get the rest I needed and skip the mirror work. Self forgiven.

Day 6-Back to and feeling good. Didn’t start the day with mirror work but still did it and that’s something to be proud of. A little distracted but snapped myself out of it by making silly faces and having fun with it. It reminded me of the joy I had in childhood and now I’m seeking that joy a lot more.

Day 7-I have to admit, I got lazy and was easily distracted today. I was doing other things while doing my mirror work like cleaning the sink and mirror around me. I also began plucking my eyebrows. I think the mediation music help me concentrate more and when I do it in the future, I’ll make sure to put some on. Although, I am glad I became comfortable enough in my bathroom to do it without fear of being heard.

Conclusion 

Overall, I really liked the mirror work and think it had an impact on my mood and ability to relate to people throughout the week. It was definitely uncomfortable at first but I’m glad I pushed through it and found a routine I like. I’m still not sure how I will be consistent about it, however.

Any suggestions are welcome! In the mean time, I haven’t made time to do any mirror work since but have been telling myself I love myself when I catch my own face in the mirror. It makes me laugh even though I don’t think it’s silly at all because it’s true, I just love myself! How about you?

 

Matcha Recipe 

I have to admit that I’m certainly not the guru of matcha and there are plenty of people who could rightfully claim to know much more about it than I. None- the -less, I like it and have been wanting to drink less coffee, I’ll share more about why in a future post, so that’s why I’m sharing with you how I’ve been making it for myself.

The original recipe if from a Lee From America blog post, said matcha guru, who makes an amazing looking cup-o-matcha buuuut-I didn’t have all of the ingredients.

So I made a version with what I had below that you can try if you’re down. If you like green tea, you might be. Be mindful that it is caffeinated although it won’t give you that jolt coffee does, maybe for some people but not me. More like a workable energy than psychosis to crash.

Resources on Mirror Work…

Robert Holden

Louise Hay

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Super proud to make my first matcha latte!

1 tablespoon organic matcha, try to get authentic Japanese matcha if you can

1 teaspoon coconut cream or coconut oil, I prefer the creme and sometimes I use 1 tablespoon (I know, wild child!)

1 1/2 cups filtered watering, near boiling

Raw honey

1/3 nut milk I used homemade cashew milk you can find the recipe here. Or if you’re pissed that I even mentioned that it was homemade because you don’t have time then just buy it. But it won’t be as good or as good for you. Trust.

Note: I’ve made the lattes using both warm and cold milk and I prefer the warm. Be sure not to boil it. Lee From America even gives a temp if you wanna check her recipe.

What to do…

  1. You will need to sift’ your matcha so it’s not all clumpy. I don’t have fancy matcha tools or any matcha tools so I used a small, netted strainer and strained it right over the blender. It worked!
  2. Pour in water, milk and add coco oil or creme & honey if adding.
  3. Blend on low-medium for 3 minutes.

Some like it a little sweeter so test it out and add more honey or even coconut oil or creme.

 

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Mom

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Allison, Mom and I in our backyard in Concord.

Sitting here writing this I’m listening to Rolling Stone and I feel like Bob Dylan is talking to me.  Which is weird, not because he’s obviously not talking to me but mostly because I never really liked Bob Dylan. Gasp, I know. I just always felt that he talked more than sang. Whenever I mentioned this to my Mom when a song of his would come on she’d say,   ‘But he’s such a good song writer!’ She was right. So maybe that’s why I find his words speaking to me now.

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

Now that my Mom is gone, I feel very much, even more so now than before in my life, like an outcast. When I called myself Orphan Ashley recently to Mando, he made a face that was somewhere between terror and the other half sadness for me. I think I made a joke after or said, “too much?”

I guess it was. Sometimes that’s just my way of coping with an idea that is too much to handle. Being a lose cannon flying through this infinite, large universe with neither of my chosen teachers to guide me throughout the rest of my journey here is a pretty scary feeling. No net to catch me if I fall, when I inevitably fall as we do in life. But I’m an adult. And according to many people’s standards, my age and my Mom’s age are when people begin to get sick and die. But I know far too much about health to know that this isn’t normal and my Mom died far too young.

Beyond that, though losing my Mom has been some else to me, more of blow to the stomach-a breathless, nightmare. My Mom, my best friend, the person I shared secrets with. She was a single Mom who raised my Sister and I while running a thriving business while still making time for all the in betweens-our softball games, sick days, awards and bad dreams. My buddy for so many years accompanying me on trips, lunches, movies, snuggles, upsets and pains. Maybe my closeness to her is why I’m finding her absence to hard.

Naturally I’m also finding it hard to do normal things and find myself feeling irritated at people and in need of things that are self-healing, quiet and meditative. This isn’t to say that in the first couple of weeks after my Mom’s death were quiet.                                                                                                                                    Among my crying and whaling, there has been incomprehensible yelling, loud music and television to drown out my thoughts, broken things, screaming prayers to angels and God, more broken things, more crying and talking to my Mom everywhere and anywhere-on the streets, at work, in the bathroom, in bed and on the bus.

At my worst, my actions have been destructive and even though temporarily relieving of my grief, not the best way to permanently deal with my Mom’s death. Not that I could ever try to forget about it. I feel like like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates waking up everyday to a new but the same reality; my Mom is dead, she’s not coming back. I can’t call her or text her about plans or her day. The early morning and night are worst when I see the sun rising or going down and I think of you, Mom. I think of you a million times in between but for some reason during these sunless times of day, my heart is heavy for you.

They say there are five stages of grief. Here I have listed them as well as what I’ve found helpful through each stage recently. Everyone is different of course and I am no expert, these are only things that I have found helpful through my greving process. Part of what makes going through this OK is knowing that I’m not alone so please feel free to take the time to comment below and share what has worked for you in the grieving of a loved one.

5 Stages of Grief

  • Denial-I think I was only in denial when I first heard that the paramedics were working to keep her alive. I’m not sure how long I stayed in denial for as I waited for her to be revived. I guess nothing else works with denial but just truly feeling the feelings and having a memorial for her helped to deal with the reality of her death sooner.
  • Anger-Admitting that I’m extremely anger about my Mom’s death is one of the first things that helped me. When I expressed this to my therapist and she asked what I thought would help, boxing immediately came to my mind. When I was younger I got into Taobo and my Mom even bought me a punching bag to support it. The fond memory along with a way to get out my anger has proven to be really great for me through this process. I even made a new friend who I meet for classes and look forward to moving up in the class. I think any exercise is a great, healthy way of exuding energy when you’re angry.
  • Bargaining-I certainly bargained for my Mom’s life at some point or another. And may again because I know the desire to want her here on earth will never leave me. But I have found solace in readings and teachings that remind me that her soul has truly never left me. I’ve listed them below.
  • Depression-Therapy helps, as well as journaling, repetition of positive affirmations, adult coloring books, yoga, lemon balm, talking to friends and loved ones, getting out in nature-I’m adding to my list each day of things that help with depression, anxiety and overall negative feelings. I even picked up a tip from a book I read, ”I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye,” about grief. Whenever the feelings and thoughts get to be too much and no matter what I’m doing to try to stop thinking of a specific negative memory, I can’t, I slap my knee. It sounds silly but it brings me back to reality and the sting reminds me that I’m still alive to feel feelings and each one of those feelings will lead to a greater or worse outcome for me. I can usually come back from that negative thought and turn it around.
  • Acceptance-Reading and journaling have helped but I’m not sure that I’m entirely accepting of my Mom’s death yet. Everyday and every activity I do in honor of her helps with that. Like spreading my Mom’s ashes with my sister Allison and choosing stones and gems to identify personality traits about my Mom that I wish to carry with me throughout the rest of my journey on this planet.

I kind of feel like I’m feeling these stages of grief at different times, not in order and in surprising ways to myself. My therapist says this is OK and perfectly normal.

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Allison, Mom and I on Christmas 2015.

In remembrance of my Mom, we had two memorials for my her so that people in both her personal and professional life could mourn. She would’ve hated all of the attention and fuss that goes on with these things. As someone who made their living throwing parties, she was never one to enjoy going to them, at least not the Mom I knew.

In preparation for the events it was nice to rummage through old photos of you, Mom and to get to hug hug your loved ones. I planned so many things for your memorial and only about 25% of them happened but you would laugh at the fact that Mando raved about the beet deviled eggs that I never put out.

“Bless his pee-pickin’ soul!” you would’ve said and rolled your eyes at our disorganization. I was spinning all day but eventually tried to just let go of the things I knew didn’t matter. It was a good and bad day with ups and downs as I expected.                                                                                                                              Death is funny in that you can’t plan it, any of it or anyone’s reactions and behaviors. You think there is a way people should act in behave, what they’ll say and do and say. How they will reach out and help you grieve. And the same goes for myself-I thought I would be some certain way, but you surprise yourself.

For me, I didn’t cry much at either event. I guess other people noticed too because at one of the memorials someone who came to pay me condolences told me I was acting like a robot. I wasn’t sure that I cared, I just felt as though I was going through the motions. I have to keep in mind that people don’t always know what to say, or do but it doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about them.

I also think it’s odd to say, ‘if you need anything at all, I’m here for you,’ or ‘call me.’ Because, well, you’re not really there for me and I’m not going to call you. I don’t have your number. And when people are grieving, they’re not so inclined to reach out. If you want to be there for me, reach out to me.

My favorite line, though, was when one person asked when I was going to get married and why I wasn’t yet. Standing across from this person I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hit him or laugh at him. I think I responded somewhere between mental patient and flight attendant-my lips pursed in a tight smile trying to ignore my urges while trying ever-so-politey to make my way down the aisle and toward the emergency exit.

Luckily, I learned from your life, Mom, not to take everything too seriously, get too offended or be insulted, if for nothing else than my own benefit. I know now she was right and as I’ve learned, carrying things with us causes dis-ease in us so it’s always better to let things go. I also have to admit that I have a hard time accepting condolences.

I think it’s only natural, though, to not really feel comfortable grieving around people I don’t feel close to or can’t connect with me on the emotional level I require. And that’s OK. I have to remember not to just take care of myself but to truly love and respect myself enough, in my case, to heal properly and give myself what I need in order to do so. Even if that shakes up my life, stirs the pot or create tension. Change is necessary in order for me to grow and heal properly.

I may not understand it now but there is a reason that my Mom left this planet at this time to be only understood by each of us in our own ways and mirrored in our daily lives.

On Mother’s Day, Allison and I spread some of your ashes in Martinez by the water. I got these crystals and stones to represent your personality. My favorite is the small, green one, your birth stone. It represents forgiveness and helps prevent the repetition of negative patterns.

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Crystals and Stones I got to represent my Mom’s personality. I brought these to spread her ashes with. From top left across:

 

Eating was difficult at first. Drinking wasn’t. I just wasn’t hungry. Which was the opposite of when my Dad died, I just wanted to stuff my face. One of the first things I got as a condolence for my Mom’s passing was a basket of fruit from one of Mando’s aunt’s and her family. It was one of the nicest, and certainly tastiest, things I got from someone. I am extra appreciative of it because fruit was one of the easier things to eat when I didn’t want to eat much.                                                                                                                                              I’ve had a hard time getting back in to cooking in particular as well. To actually have the feeling of wanting to be in the kitchen and feel happy slicing, dicing, baking and blending hasn’t been something I’ve been feeling a lot. So I’ve been eating out more or buying thing at the grocery store that are pre-made or easy to assemble.

I’ve also been waiting for my quiet rage to return. Or maybe it’s that I’m digging up that rage, giving it nowhere left to hide. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s what I must do in order to live in a world without my Mom. No more hiding behind things and being able to fully feel my sadness.Because I could drink, smoke, snort away my gut-renching feeling of loss, believe me I tried, but my Mom will never be here in the physical world as she was again. There’s no point avoiding that feeling.

I will fuck up again and stumble and fall but I now I know where the line is drawn, what works for me and what clearly does not. Not coincidentally enough, some of them are very similar to what helped and hurt my Mom. I’m still learning my way and making sure to make balance a part of my everyday and really beginning to see the importance of self-love and self-care and taking action. Not just talking about it.

Mom, you died far too young. There are so many things that truly make me sad to think that you will miss in my life and Allison’s life. But those are just my wishes and things about me. Even more so though,  I mourn the life that you planned for yourself. I feel incredible sadness thinking about the things you deserved and wanted to see and experience.

But I have to believe that when you died your soul became free, that it remains among the angles I believe in. Or sitting across from me like I feel like I can see you in my chair now. And with us in moments when you would be happy to experience what Allison and I are experiencing.

Still, life is forever different now, everything amplified by your death-my choices, my mistakes, the things that irritate me, the things that bring me joy, the people who drain me, the people who support my growth and share a similar path as mine.                                                       I’m also dangerously grazing the line about not giving a shit about things in life that I used to the consequences. Which is all freeing and terrifying at the same time. Mostly I feel the need to be more honest and be responsible for things I haven’t in the past and positing things I have procrastinated on.

I do, however, feel equally frozen in other aspects of my life, unable to move forward or see the path that lies ahead.It could be the lack of quality sleep I’m getting or it could also be because I’ve been floating, not walking on the pavement like everyone else, since March 27. I’ve just been watching people live and sometimes, when I hear you yelling at me to get off the couch, to live, I go through the motions, too, and I take a food picture, smile, laugh, write, read, work act normal or whatever that is for me.

Along with these sad feelings I do feel inspired and motivated by your sprit, Mom. Oddly energized and feel supported to succeed and be happy on my own terms in a way that I have never felt before. To do and be better, to live a life full of joy and happiness for the rest of my time here on this planet.

Stand up for myself and be brave. She taught me that strength is good but it doesn’t always need to be shown in the traditional sense. Look for it in other ways like making good decisions for yourself, the willingness to grow and admitting you’re wrong and ASKING FOR HELP. Strength can sometimes be seen in the things that our society encourages to go against. She taught me to say no to things that don’t support your soul’s true purpose in life. Say no to things that don’t fill your heart with joy. Live the life of your dreams even when it’s hard-especially when it’s hard. Take risks and forgive people even when it seems like you can’t… Implement Self-care DAILY as well as self-love that goes beyond pedicures and massages, although these things are great as well, and were favorite things of my Mom’s to do.

I love you forever, Wita, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Love your sweet pea,

Ashley

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Mom and Me

 

Recommended for health and grieving reading…

‘I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye’, Mando got this at the library for both of us to read

‘Motherless Daughter’s’ by        Mando’s sister Dolores sent this to me almost immediately after my Mom died. Coincidentally I was reading ‘Mother-Daughter Wisdom’ by Christainne Northrup, another highly reccomneded reading, and this book was listed as recommended reading. I had already on my eye on it and when it showed up in the mail, I was in tears.

‘Medical Medium’ by Anthony William, particularly the section on healing mediations and angels

‘Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,’ by Dr. Christianne Northrup

Exercise Resources 

Yoga for Loneliness, Yoga With Adrianne on YouTube 

HitSF, Mission & Nob Hill SF is where I have been taking boxing

~Inspired by my Mom and a recent video I received from Hay House Publications, I have decided to do 7 Days of Mirror Work.

Check out my next blog, A Challenge In Self-Love for details and follow along on Instagram.

 

~Vegan French Toast Recipe~

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Vegan French Toast, recipe below, with grilled grass fed, beef sausages, spinach and fresh garlic. 

2-4 pieces of good organic sourdough bread (I used Acmne)

1-2 tablespoons ground flaxseed, I use Bob’s Red Mill 

3-6 filtered or spring water

Avocado oil

Organic Maple syrup Grad B

Sliced Organic Strawberries and bananas for topping

 

~Mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water and set aside. If you are making 4 pieces, mix 2 tablespoons flaxseed with 6 tablespoons water.

~Slice 1-inch thick pieces of sourdough and dip into flaxseed mix. Make sure to cover each side well.

~Press into greased pan after heating for 30 seconds to a minute.

~Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Top with fruit and pour syrup over before serving.


The Last Days Of Our 28-Day Cleanse

Days 26, 27, 28

Worked from home on day 26 and that always gives me the opportunity to make better meals and give them more time. I love putting on music or a good cooking show and getting down in the kitchen! I made a huge smoothie for myself after my morning water and my first smoothie.

I can’t say the same for the rest of our last days as our meals haven’t been too exciting. We  have been on rotation with vegetables like potatoes, broccoli, greens-which is fine but not exciting. On our last night we had artichokes again with honey-lemon dipping sauce from Life-Changing Foods from this post. Another standout was a baked hassle back potato that I made and created a sauce for it. The recipe is below.

I’m pretty excited about the results of this cleanse and will share more in a later post about if/when I’ll do another and how to incorporate, but for now, here are some noticeable differences from our cleanse.

-Energy level-way increased for us both. I usually get tired at least twice during the day and sometimes take naps. While on this cleanse, I didn’t take many naps and even stayed up later at night without being tired the next day.
-smoother skin-Mando’s skin got worse, at first before it got better. It’s improving but I think continued detox, through smoothies incorporated into whatever diet he chooses, will work even better for him.
-less urinary frequency-I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten up less at night to pee and during  the day as well with the exception of the first week. I think this has to do with less coffee and alcohol.
-less brain fog and twitching-I credit Hawaiian spirulina, cilantro, atlantic dulse (see veggie) and nori for this because it’s these things that help detox heavy metals.
-improved mood-incredibly improved. I’ve been feeling really happy and at peace. I credit wild blueberries, vitamin B-12 and just an overall clean diet.
-lost weight
-feel lighter
-better bowel movements
-more positive thoughts
-clearer thinking
-less bloated
-less anxious
-less depressed

Things I feel we could’ve improved on-

Variety in fruit-I stuck with the ones that fit my budget and convenience. Maybe the next time I do a cleanse I’ll venture a little further out.

Actually eating fruit-I had a lot more smoothies and juice which I’m still super proud about but I’d like to get into the habit of eating more whole fruits.
Too much salt-I was still a little heavy on the salt which I’d like to cut back on.
Didn’t stay consistent with the celery juice

Variety in veggies-I would have liked to have been a bit more creative with our meals and not resorting to throwing a potato in the oven for dinner. Having said that, some of those dinners were my favorite meals!

Habits acquired and Lessons Learned-

  • I started almost every day of the 28-day cleanse w/a lemon and cayenne pepper water half room temp filtered water, half boiled. This is a great diuretic and weight loss tip. It also cleanses out your liver and can help prevent illness.
  • Detox smoothies-I honestly thought I’d get bored of smoothies. Especially the wild blueberries but I got hooked! Sure, I’ll mix it up a bit and won’t beat myself up if I miss some days but I think this will be around to stay. Even Mando is a smoothie making machine now!
  • Love for fruit-Mangoes, Papayas, kiwi, oh, my! I never really thought about how little fruit I was eating until this cleanse. Mangoes and papayas I didn’t even really eat at before this cleanse and now I love them! Papaya saved my life during this cleanse when I was constipated and mango is just so delicious and both are great for your skin! I will continue to eat as much fruit as I can everyday as early as I can so that I know that it will be done.
  • Eating Out-This cleanse also helped me realize how much I eat out and what crap I’m eating! In the past, even when I think I’ve been diligent about ordering, there’s often some crappy ingredient snuck into it like canola oil which can reek havoc on your health. Further, the way things are cooked, mostly fried when it comes to me, isn’t good for health either. This cleanse has really beat into me how important it is to stick with restaurants that source local, organic products and that offer plant-based dishes, fruit juices and smoothies.
  • Wheat Brain-I was surprised to find that most of my cravings went back to one thing-wheat. As much as I wanted eggs or cheese some days, it really irked me not to have that ‘full’ feeling after eating something weighted down by wheat. You know the feeling, the lump that sits in your stomach when you eat? The feeling that I once took for being full. Now full means something entirely different for me. Consider an example-if you serve a child a dinner of vegetables, carbs, side salad and small bit of protein, the child may very well proclaim that they are full before having finished said dinner. But if they know that an offer for dessert is around the corner, suddenly, the feeling of being full is lost on them. There’s always plenty of room for the things we want or think we want. That slice of chocolate cake, gooey brownie or piece of crusty apple pie. I’ve learned from this cleanse that the idea of being full can sometimes be relative to what we have learned throughout our lives about food.
  • When you booze, you loose-I feel like not drinking for 28 days helped me to realize that I drink more than I’d like to. Don’ get me wrong, I like a good glass of wine to accompany a well-made meal and nice conversation, but somewhere over the years in my life, the lines have become a bit blurred. Somehow I lost sight of the enjoyment that can be found in an alcoholic beverage and got to the point where I could only see the end of a glass that needed to be refilled. I don’t know what will come out of this but I think it’s good to be aware of the changes I went through during this cleanse.
    Supplements-I haven’t been taking them long enough to see results but I do feel like I’m on my way. I think the B-12 has begun helping with my energy. You can see my post  Day 7-Celery & Supplements for more information on the supplements I take. I also added hawaiian spiraling to the mix. You can check for more information on that and other herbs  here.

 

Hassle back Potato Cashew ‘Sour Cream’

2 large Russet potatoes, washed and dried

1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight or 2-6 hours if you can’t overnight

1/2-1 cup water depending on consistency of sauce

2-3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1-2 teaspoons himalayan sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

cilantro

Carefully make several ‘slits’ in potatoes moving tiny pieces of the potato and replace with sliced garlic. Once you’ve put in the garlic, drizzle with coconut oil and bake potatoes at 400 degrees for 30-45 or until fork tender.

While the potatoes cook, rinse your cashews very well after soaking and place in blender along with the rest of the ingredients (except olive oil). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the potato is done drizzle olive oil on top and top with cashew cream. Replace in oven to warm the sauce if you’d like. Top with cilantro after.


Natural Healing

Days 22-25

Day 22

I had really bad menstrual cramps on day 23 that rendered me useless. Ever since I could remember this curse has been upon me. My Mom still tells me to this day that it runs in our family and recounts the years she herself spent in pain. Like her and many other women who suffer from menstrual pains, I’ve tried pills, heating pads, milk chocolate, sweatpants-whatever could make me feel comfortable. But nothing ever really worked. Even when my doctor has put me on birth control in the past, although it slightly helped with symptoms, I couldn’t help but wonder what else the pills were doing to my body. Since then I’ve wanted to find a more holistic approach to menstrual symptoms, particularly cramps.

I’d read in Life-Changing Foods that the wild food Nettle Leaf helps to relieve menstrual cramps. I’d already had one cup that day so I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to have anymore. But the pain was excruciating and I didn’t really have anything to lose. I didn’t have any pain medications in the house so I was willing to try anything.

I boiled some water ands sucked down two more cups with a half drop of the tincture each in it and ended up falling asleep on the couch from the pain. When Mando came home, I woke up and was able to talk to him a little because the pain had gone down. Within an hour, I was up cleaning and making dinner! I couldn’t believe it, the pain was pretty much gone.

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Squash pasta made with a spiralizer! Recipe below

What we ate…

Lemon cayenne water (A)

Mango, cilantro, wild blueberry, banana smoothie (AM)

Banana, cacao arribe, maca, coconut water, raw almond smoothie (AM)

Dates (AM)

Nuts (AM)

Banana (A)

Sweet potato raw cacao nibs, raw honey, banana, cinnamon (A)

water (AM)

Leftover curry (AM)

3 cups of Nettle Leaf Tea (A)

Recipe for Squash ‘Pasta’

4 squash

3 cloves garlic

1/2 onion

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes sliced

himalayan sea salt

black pepper

Coconut oil

Spiralize squash on your desired setting. Heat coco oil in pan and cook minced garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds. Then add onion and cook 30 more seconds before adding squash. Add roasted tomatoes. This will add the needed moisture to help cook the noodles. Cook 5-10 minutes depending on your desired texture of noodle. I like mine to be soft but not soggy-still have a bite to it. Once finished put over mixed greens.

Day 23

Mando and I went to another march at city hall to show our support for anyone that feels unsafe in our country after the muslim ban. It was another beautiful, peaceful day. Mando and I stayed as long as we could stand the cold listening to some people speak and feeling connected to our community. We broke a rule by stopping off to got coffee and a tea to keep warm but we didn’t care.

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Saturday morning smoothie!

Day 24

Today Mando and I woke up pretty cranky. Me because of my cramps and being tired of the cleanse and him because he was tired of the cleanse. He told me he was feeling weak and quitting that day but later took it back.The fact that it was Super Bowl didn’t help. All the treats, food and booze surrounding us made it difficult to stick with it. He ended up having a few beers during the game. I wasn’t interested and did some coloring in my adult coloring book while the game was on in the background.

As far as food goes, we pulled it together and got some assorted plant-based snacks that would interest us instead of me slaving over the stove to create something spectacular. I wasn’t in the mood. We even pulled some tamales out of the freezer for Mando’s brother so that he would have something to eat while we watched the game.

This day again proved to me that as long as you surround yourself with the right foods that you enjoy that are nutritious for you, you will win.

What we ate…

Mango, wild blueberry, banana, strawberry, filtered water, cilantro smoothie (A)

Marinated mushrooms, artichokes, beets, olives (AM)

Guacamole, romaine lettuce wraps (AM)

babaganoosh, hummus, carrots (AM)

Celery juice (AM)

pomegrante bark (AM)

roasted potatoes (AM)

water (AM)

nuts (AM)

Day 25

Back at work where I’m lucky I can eat the food and drink the juice on this plant-based diet! It took me a while to get here but working for a company that I love to supplement my career working from home is one of the things that makes me happiest. I wouldn’t be able to work for a company whose morals and values don’t align with mine. I have tried before and it has put my life off balance. It’s so important to your health that you surround yourself with people you love on a daily basis.

What we ate..

Pineapple, wild blueberry, banana, cilantro, filtered water smoothie (A)

Walnut taco salad (A)

Banana, caco, maca smoothie (A)

cold brew coffee -about 4 ounces (A)

Baked potato stuffed w/veggies, salad (AM)

 

 

 


Finding Comfort in Coconuts

 

Days 19, 20 & 21

The days are starting to run together and I’m getting bored of the same food and wondering how this lifestyle is possible. Funny enough though, even with this thought, as I’m planning what my diet will be like after this cleanse, I’m seeing a lot of the same foods on my horizon. I think a lot of the negativity I’m feeling about this cleanse has more to do with being allowed and not allowed to do a thing. Also, any time I’ve been hungry and cranky on this cleanse it’s because I haven’t planned well. And I always realize after eating a meal and being full, that I wouldn’t have enjoyed a bad dish. I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself.

Especially since I should be focusing on the GOOD. Like getting a FREE bowl of lentil soup from work because they said I’m doing a great job. Also, other job opportunities are coming up for me and I’ve never been happier at work. On the good days which outweigh the bad, this cleanse has helped clear my mind to see the positives more in my life. I will have more to come in an upcoming blog on the benefits of this cleanse.

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A cup of Nettle Leaf tea, best had in the afternoon, and lentil soup from work. The nettle leaf helps UTIs, reproductive cancers, ovarian cancer, acne, eczema, psoriasis, infertility and more! The lentil soup is certified organic, platen-based and super delicious! Thanks Juice Shop. 

On day, day 21 of our 28-day cleanse, I got a text from Mando asking for a wonderful, comforting dinner. It was cold and rainy that day and I could totally relate to the feeling of wanting a comforting dish. I was on my way home on the bus and told him he could pick anything from the book but eager as I was, I sent him a pick of the curry and he ecstatically agreed that we should have it.

Aside from my potatoes being slightly undercooked, this dish was AMAZING and we ended up eating leftover for days/ I will definitely make this again and can’t believe that I haven’t been cooking with coconut milk more. The flavors in this dish are incredible. I even subbed butternut squash for the kabocha squash in the recipe be cause I couldn’t find it and it turned well. I always get get really excited when I find a dish that offers the comfort I used to feel as a child when I’d eat a tasty dish that my Mom lovingly prepared for me. Knowing what I do now about nutrition and food because of the information available to me now that wasn’t to my family before, I feel blessed to make dishes that are as nutritionally powerful las they are tasty.

Here are some great reasons to eat this dish and add these ingredients to your diet in as large quantities as possible to reap these wonderful benefits and rid yourself of symptoms and conditions listed below:

Coconut-

  • Coconut enhances the power of anything it touches-when combined with any heeling food, coconut supercharges the benefits of that food. For example, if you add coconut water to a smoothie w/ parsley, that coconut water increases the parsley’s ability to remove unproductive acids from your body by 50% & increases parsley’s effects of trace minerals.
  • Coconut water is remarkably similar to human blood.
  • Coconuts put us in touch with that foundational essence of who we are because we are tropical beings at our origins.
  • Coconut water provides glucose and mineral salts including potassium and sodium. This matters because it provides our neurotransmitter chemicals that if we don’t we receive can lease to insomnia, neurological sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances.

Symptoms/Conditions helped-

  • Bipolar disorder
  • depression
  • Asperger’s syndroms
  • insomnia
  • seizure disorders
  • optic nerve conditions
  • migraines
  • parkinson’s disease
  • alzheimer’s disease
  • dementia
  • epstein-bar virus
  • autism
  • parasites
  •  carpal tunnel syndrom
  • HPV
  • sunburn
  • bells palsy
  • heart palpitations
  • grand mal seizures
  • memory loss
  • weight gain
  • food allergies
  • frozen shoulder
  • spasms
  • twitches
  • fatigue
  • difficulty swallowing
  • nervousness
  •  urinary urgency

 

Tips-

  • When buying coconut only get it it if it’s clear or very slightly tinged with pink.
  • avoid coconut water that contains natural flavors, citric acid or sweeteners.
  • you can find organic coconuts at your local co-op grocery store.
  • if you don’t have access to fresh coconuts seek out jarred coconut butter or frozen young coconut meat.
  • for cooking use coconut oil-baking, frying, roasting, it works for it all!
  • if you have a fear of swimming or open water bring coconut into your life. they are excellent swimmers so when you consume them you inherit it’s natural instinct for life on the water 😉

 

~Yellow Coconut Curry Recipe~

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Yellow Coconut Curry recipe from Life-Changing Foods below

1 small kabocha squash (I used butternut squash)

8 potatoes

8 carrots

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

3 cups coconut milk, BPA free

2 teaspoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup cilantro

1 lime

Red pepper (optional)

Peel the squash and place in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes. Mine took a little longer so just test with a fork. You want it slightly softened. Remember, you know your stove.

Drain and set aside to cool. Wash and dry potatoes and carrots and roughly dice and set aside. When the squash is cool, slice in half and remove the seeds. Dice the squash and rest urn to the pot along with the carrots and potatoes. Add a couple inches of water and bring to a boil. Cover to steam, sitting occasionally. Add more water if needed, I needed to. Steam the veggies until they are just cooked through.

Fur the curry, warm the coco oil in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté over high heat until they are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add water to prevent sticking if needed. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder to the onions, sitting frequently for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, honey and salt and continue sitting. Add the veggies and bring to a low simmer for about 10-15 minutes unit veggies are tender. Serve the curry topped with cilantro and red pepper.

 

*use all organic ingredients if possible

*Information on coconuts can be found in the book Life-Changing Foods by Anthony William and here as well.