Posted in About the Author

Bullet Journaling and My Journey to Living More Minimally

Way before it became a trend across Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest, bullet journaling was created as a minimalistic way to track to-do lists, be used as a notebook/diary/sketchbook/ calendar. The original idea of Bullet Journaling was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer and author. The original design required nothing more than a dotted journal, a black or blue pen, a ruler (to keep things neat), and a key to help keep things organized and on track while scheduling.

I happened to get into bullet journaling as a way of combining my desire for some artistic expression as well as finding that typical calendars were not quite fitting my needs while in school and working multiple jobs at a time. I watched videos on Youtube of the general concept of how bullet journals worked, found pretty spreads on Pinterest, and then decided to pick up some cheap and simple supplies to get my own journal started. I enjoyed the ability to choose my own materials (I stuck to basics like Crayola markers, stickers, and washi tape), picked up a clearance journal that cost around $5, and set to work on practicing different layouts to see which would work best for me.

It took some trial an error before I realized that I really did not benefit from habit trackers. Aside from tracking my period every month, tracking how many migraines I have a month, and my monthly bills spread, I really could not keep up with monthly mood/sleep/water intake etc spreads that I had seen on so many fancy Pinterest layouts. This eventually showed me how pairing down my journal and cutting out spreads that were not benefiting me or bringing me a sense of calm, were not worth pursuing and helped show me what I really valued and enjoyed focusing my time on.

Just like with bullet journaling, Marie Kondo’s practice of decluttering from her book “The Magical Art of Tidying Up” found its way into my home after seeing the hype on social media. While I appreciated the practice of de-cluttering anything that did not “spark joy”, I also found some of the practices just not practical for my personal goals. Just like with bullet journaling I was able to keep what I found useful and apply it to my life while disregarding methods that would just stress me out and be more of a hindrance to my overall goal. Putting this into practice also allowed me to see areas that I could replace single use items and instead invest in reusable/sustainable options for my every day used items.

Instead of worrying about folding, I found hanging most of my clothes while I sorted to be more practical and useful.

For example, the easiest fix I could make was in using reusable shopping bags instead of constantly bringing home plastic bags. I also found that using a reusable water bottle was just as easy if not easier than purchasing bottled water. I purchased glass straws (while not everyone may find them to be useful or beneficial, I use straws quite often so felt they would be a practical investment). I switched to using a period Diva cup instead of using disposable pads every month. I started doing research and experimenting with shampoo bars from Lush cosmetics to see if that would be a viable option for my hair type (so far, I found that the bar shampoo works well and lasts quite a while on my short hair) and while I have not completely used up my bottled shampoo, it is something to consider in the future. I invested in reusable/washable cloth pads for removing make up. These are all examples of little changes that I have been implementing over time to help limit my waste, organize my space, and eventually have an impact in my carbon foot print.

Bullet journaling and/or living a more sustainable minimalistic lifestyle does not have to cost a lot of money. I did not try to immediately throw away or buy something to replace the plastic or non-reusable items in my home because I knew that that would not be practical nor save me any time or money in the long run. It is a good practice to use up what you have and then invest in better alternatives when possible. The goal is to make small changes over time that will have a lasting effect. I may never get to the point where I can keep all of my trash from the year in a tiny mason jar to proudly display on my kitchen counter. However I will be able to say that I de-cluttered my surroundings, I changed my eating habits, and I implemented organizational tools through bullet journaling that will have lasting effects on my overall health and well being.

Advertisements
Posted in Battle of the Bulge: Cooking and Lifestyle

Battle of the Bulge: Tofu Edition

Through my research over the past few months, I have ventured into the world of Tofu as a meat replacement in meals to add protein. I have learned that there are usually three different types of commonly found Tofu that can be purchased at local grocery stores.

  1. Soft tofu (which has a high water content and is best used to scramble up like eggs or put into smoothies)
  2. Medium firm tofu (which can be fried or baked, best used in soups)
  3. Firm or Extra firm tofu (which has the lowest water content and therefore is the best to pan fry or oven bake and it becomes crispy. Can be used as a meat replacement in stir fry, sandwiches, etc)

For beginners, it is best to use firm or extra firm Tofu as it is the easiest to cook and work with a meat replacement. Tofu can be seasoned with any spices or sauces and tofu will take on the taste of those sauces used so it is very versatile. When pan fried or cooked in the oven, it will brown up and take on a cripsy texture.

I chose to experiment with extra firm tofu, pan fried for about 5 minutes and soaked in Teriyaki sauce. Then added sesame seeds.

The recipe I played around with was using the teriyaki soaked tofu, quinoa, and spinach in vegan roll wraps. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Absolutely delicious! I used only half of the tofu package and freezed the other half for later use.

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

Depression and Other Magic Tricks

Depression and anxiety present themselves differently for everyone and people learn how to cope on their own terms. For some people, they can function fairly well without the need for assistance. For others, they completely shut down while they are in a depressive episode. It took going to therapy and doing my own research to discover that one does not need to be able to accomplish everything at 100% to get by. Some of the hardest things I find to do while I am in a seriously depressed or anxious state is to get myself up out of bed, showered, and properly fed. I learned over the years that if you cannot bring yourself to do the full things that there are tips to getting by.

On days where I know I have somewhere I have to go and must look presentable such as work or a family function, but I just cannot bare the thought of taking a full shower, I know that I can use dry shampoo on my hair. I know that I can use wipes for a quick wash on the face and body to freshen up. I may not be able to bring myself to brush my teeth but I know that if I bring a travel size tooth brush with me I may feel pressured to brush my teeth once I am around people. I may not look perfect but my hair will be brushed and off my face, my face wiped clean, and it will help me to feel a bit better.

For days that I cannot bring myself to eat a full meal, the effort of having to cook seems too daunting or overwhelming, I have learned to snack. I make sure I bring with me granola bars, fruit, or trail mix. Something easy to munch on that will be easy to eat on the go. I keep snacks in my drawer at work so that if I finally do get hungry I have something easy that I can grab. The healthier the options you put aside for later, the better you will feel in the moment when you actually need to get into that stash.

Finally, the best thing I ever did for myself was a pack a “walking pharmacy”. In this pouch I have packed everything that I could possibly need on a weekly/monthly basis including medications, band aids, a nail kit, ear plugs, a tangle teaser or fidget cube, chapstick, and wipes. Knowing that if I ever get an upset stomach or a headache I have the medications that I need on hand is a big relief. I may not need every single thing in that pouch every single day, but I have used it long enough to know that eventually through out the month myself or someone around me will need something from that pouch. It helps ease me during really anxious days because I know right where everything is and it is small enough that I can move it to whatever bag I am using. **For more information, Pretty Neat Living on YouTube.com has a whole slew of videos on the subject which was my inspiration**

Posted in Live a Thousand Lives: Read

National Book Lovers Day: My Bookshelf

In honor of yesterday being National Book Lovers day (August 9th), I thought I would make a list of some of my current favorite books and authors with summaries. So if you see something that interests you, feel free to add it to your “to read” pile!

1. Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“Morrie is an extremely lovable college professor who—in his late sixties—finds out that he is dying. The story of his last few weeks on earth is told by Mitch, one of Morrie’s former students, who happens to bump into him during his final days.”

2. The Grave Series by Darynda Jones

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

3. Cell by Stephen King

Cell is an apocalyptic horror novel by American author Stephen King, published in 2006. The story follows a New England artist struggling to reunite with his young son after a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals.

4. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family’s destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman’s quest to survive and triumph. “

5. Speak by Laurie Anderson

After a blurred trauma over the summer, Melinda enters high school a selective mute. Struggling with school, friends, and family, she tells the dark tale of her experiences, and why she has chosen not to speak. In the book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Melinda Sordino is forced into the worst year of her life.

She also followed this up with a book about her own traumatic experience that was the spark of inspiration for Speak, called Shout.

6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

7. The Border Chronicles by Bertrice Small

“The Border Chronicles” is a series that was written by Bertrice Small, an author of historical romance and erotica, that has appeared on many different best seller lists in her long career. She is also considered the queen of historical fiction, and writes with an erotica and earthy style. The series takes place in the English and Scottish borderlands before and during the Tudors period.”

8. Unf*ck Your Habitat:You’re better than your mess by Rachel Hoffman

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up andAdulting, this philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

9. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Keri Maniscalco

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

10. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

“The Stranger Beside Me is a 1980 autobiographical and biographical true crime book written by Ann Rule about the serial killer Ted Bundy, whom she knew personally before and after his arrest for a series of murders.

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

What Tubing Taught Me About Control

I find water in all its forms (lakes, rivers, rain, puddles, waterfalls) to be comforting and calming. I grew up on the water, always swimming and kayaking in the river by my cabin or at local lakes. However, I have not experienced being on a tube while floating on a river since I was a kid, years before I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. Since it is summer time and I enjoy river outings, I figured I would give it a shot and I learned quite a lot about myself and my anxiety along the way.

This trip in total without any stops would take roughly 3.5 hours to complete. I fet relatively comfortable because I knew what to expect and had packed accordingly. I made sure to have all of the belongings that I wanted with me in a waterproof pouch so as to avoid any mishaps if I fell in or something got wet. I made sure to pack food and beverages to snack on along the way. I had lathered myself in sunscreen, put on my bathing suit, and was on my way.

What I had not taken into consideration since I am so used to being on a kayak in the river, is that when you are on a tube you cannot steer yourself. You have to kind of give yourself over to the river and go with the flow, which meant that I was constantly having to push off of trees, I was floating backwards and unable to see where I was going, and I would get stuck on rocks and logs that were hard to see in the water.

I had not realized just how out of control I would be on this trip and I had to learn to just sit back and enjoy the ride because it was just me and this tube floating on the river for the next 3 hours. I could not turn back and change my mind. I had to learn to cope on the spot and make the best of it. So I settled in, I opened a beverage, I let my hands and feet dangle in the water, and tried to go with the flow.

Now I will say that I enjoyed myself on this trip. Water to me is therapy. I find the sounds and smells comforting and calming. I enjoyed seeing the water pads with lilies on the sides of the river. I enjoyed seeing birds flying above me. I relished in the moments that the bridges and trees shaded me from the sun and gave me a moment to cool down.

However, I also realized that though I made it through this adventure and had fun along the way, the next river trip I do I will definitely prefer to be in a kayak. It is good to step outside of your comfort zone so that you can learn new things about yourself.

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

PTSD and Me: Triggers

*Trigger Warning: this post is going to discuss mental health and disorders, and potentially triggering descriptions of physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion**
Roughly 4 years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with also having a panic disorder and Agoraphobia. What exactly is PTSD? Most commonly known due to soldiers coming back from the war “shell shocked”, people are frequently intrigued to discover that it is not just war that can trigger PTSD.
PTSD is defined as:

post-trau·mat·ic stress dis·or·der

noun: post-traumatic stress disorder;

noun: post-traumatic stress syndrome

  1. a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

And for inquiring minds, Agoraphobia is defined as:

ag·o·ra·pho·bi·a

noun
  1. extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

My diagnosis came after several events that occurred in my life, some mental and some physical, that left lasting impressions on me such as physical and mental abuse. While the event that I will be discussing is not the initial reason that I was diagnosed with PTSD, after going through counseling and researching my condition thoroughly, I have learned how to spot some of my triggers when other traumatic events have occurred.

One event in particular stands out because every single time I smell oranges, my mind is brought right back to the events that occurred. Let me take you on a journey through one of the hardest jobs I have ever had. I worked as a temporary para pro in a disability classroom, working one on one with a Deaf and autistic student. This student was nonverbal, had very low communication abilities with sign language, and was prone to outbursts of rage where they would tear apart books, rip back packs in half, rip bookshelves down, and if allowed to become frustrated enough would self harm by punching their head and face. I was well aware of the risks involved when working with this type of student and felt equipped to handle the task.

However, I did not realize that constantly being on edge and wondering if/when the student would lash out had put me in a constant state of fight or flight. At least once a day help was needed to be called because the student was a threat to themselves and/or others. The one thing that seemed to calm them down almost instantly though was oranges. They loved to sit and smell the orange peels, pick and stab their thumb nails into the peel, and eat the fruit. The mix of the citrus smell and the texture of the peel was calming to the student. So in the midst of trying to calm this student down, dealing with the screaming/hitting/biting/object throwing, etc. I also found myself peeling open oranges, getting the citrus peel under my nails, and squirting my shirt with droplets of juice.

One day, however, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and no amount of coaxing or soothing I did would settle the student. They became so enraged that when I went to hand them orange slices, they grabbed me by my arm and ripped me across their desk, spraining my shoulder. I was so shocked and so desperate to get out of harms way that I did not even notice I had damaged my shoulder until the adrenaline rush wore off. I ended up in a sling and had to go to physical therapy for a few weeks.

I do not blame the student. That was a risk that is always present when working in that sort of environment. However, no matter how much rationalizing I use, when I smell or taste oranges, my mind goes right back to that classroom. I can still see the students wild eyes as I stood across the table from them. I can still feel their hands on my arm as they dragged me across that table. I can be sitting on my couch at home, peeling an orange for breakfast, completely safe and sound. But my mind will still be flashing back to a time when I felt absolutely terrified. That is PTSD.

Posted in Battle of the Bulge: Cooking and Lifestyle

The Battle of the Bulge: Dairy Edition

For most of my teenage and young adult years, I have struggled with controlling my weight and have poorly managed stomach issues. I have gone to see specialist after specialist, with little to no relief. Yo-yo fad diets, quick fixes, and easy fast meals have led to my health declining in a very major way. After a visit to the E.R., another specialist, and further testing, I am beginning to see just how important proper nutrition plays a role in how I feel.

My GI specialist gave me a list of certain foods to try my best to eliminate or cut way back on from my diet. Top of the list was dairy products, fruits high in sugar, and gluten. So I set out on a mission on my next grocery trip to really take the time to inspect the nutrition labels of common foods I had been mindlessly buying and consuming. I was shocked by how many things contain unnecessary added sugars, dairy, and dyes. It took me a while to find healthier alternatives and I cannot say I did perfectly. There are some things that I could not easily find an alternative for but I did the best I could this time around.

A couple things I figured I would give a try include but are not limited to:

-Almond “milk” creamer

-Lactose free milk

-Almond milk cream “cheese” spread

-Just Egg (Plant Based Egg Replacement)

-Lactose free vanilla Activia Yogurt

-Gluten free pasta

-Veggie pasta

-Dairy free edible cookie dough dessert

-Strawberry Poppyseed dressing

Just Egg plant based, after being scrambled. Looks pretty close to real eggs. Added pepper and garlic powder for taste, and really could not taste a difference.

Now of course, moderation is key here. I am learning to retrain my brain and my body that less is really more. I am retraining my taste buds to foods that only have naturally occurring sugars or very small quantities of processed sugars instead of the normal heaps of processed sugars I am used to. I am taking small steps to learn the correct portion size for things (pasta has been the hardest!). I have also learned that using smaller plates and bowls makes the portion size look bigger and I am left more satisfied. A lot of it is in the mind.

For me, I still do not have a lot of answers for what is going on in my stomach. I am by no means an expert. I still consume meat and dairy and processed sugar when I know I should not be consuming as much as I do. I am still struggling with my body weight. But I know that every little bit counts and the more I work on making small changes every day, I will see improvements. I can already tell that my stomach pain has lessened removing regular dairy milk and creamer from my diet.

**Before starting any major diet/food change be sure to consult your doctor and research what is best for you and your health needs. The goal is not perfection here. The goal is just looking and feeling better.**