The Overly Informed Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf

Making green and healthy living manageable, practical, and affordable.
July 26th, 2016

10 Reasons Third Party Presidential Voters are Wrong

I have spent countless hours debating on Facebook, Twitter, and in real life with former democrats who staunchly refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. Some are voting third party and some refuse to vote at all.

The arguments from these Bernie supporters are powerful – they just happen to be wrong. Like, cataclysmically wrong. As someone who supported Sanders in the primary but now stands with Clinton and the democratic party, I’m tired of going back and forth on social media so I’m just going to counterpoint every argument I’ve heard and leave it here to be dissected by whoever chooses to dive in.

    berniebros

  1. “Clinton and Trump are the same. Birds of the same feather.”

    Not. Even. Close. Bud.

    Clinton and Trump strongly disagree on almost every political issue – economics, foreign policy, social issues. Here are some basic bullet points to make that crystal clear.

    You know what else is not the same? The official Democratic Platform and the official GOP platform. One has a clear and specific plan to get 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade. One wants to cancel the Clean Power Plan, kill fracking regulations, and abolish the EPA as we know it. Also, one claims that one of the most pressing issues in our society right now is porn. Not gun violence. Not poison water. Porn.One more thing that’s not the same – the supreme court justice picks. Those people don’t just fade out after the so-called revolution (more on that later). They stay for DECADES and are the final say on the most pressing issues in our country.

    So, to recap: Not the same. Different.

  2. “But Hillary is a liar and a criminal and I can’t in good conscience vote for her.”

    The FBI concluded that Hillary Clinton was careless in her use of a personal email server, but that’s all. In June 2016, the committee on Benghazi issued its final report, finding no evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.
    Name me one major politician I could Google and not find some kind of scandal, accusations, attacks by other political parties? And, YES, the fact that she is a woman has absolutely held her to another standard. Call it that “woman card” – deep down, you know it’s true.

  3. “Hillary wasn’t always for gay marriage, you know? And did you know she was a huge proponent of fracking?”

    Well, I used to be a huge proponent of tying a flannel around my waist. Shit changes. Before I had my environmental awakening (thank you Al Gore, who really was robbed of the presidency), I was of the mindset that recycling was pointless, informed by routine by Penn & Teller. People evolve and minds change. That’s the beauty of being an open-minded human being. If people judged you on the shit you used to believe, your circle of friends would probably look pretty different.

  4. “Bernie was robbed of the nomination and the emails prove it. I won’t vote for someone who won unfairly.”

    Yes, there were some people in the Democratic establishment plotting against Sanders. Hold my hat while I faint. There were also, most assuredly, people in the GOP establishment plotting against Trump. But his popular vote was too strong. Sanders’ wasn’t. He lost the popular vote in the primary by millions. And the states he lost, he lost huge. Sanders would not have won even without the Superdelegate system. I was disappointed, too, but I can accept that as fact. So can Sarah Silverman. And so can Bernie Sanders.

  5. “Bernie only gave in to pressure to endorse Clinton because he had a ‘political gun to his head.'”

    Bernie Sanders is about to turn 75 years old and I assure you the man has no fucks left to give. Do you think he’s worried about his political ambitions within the Democratic party at this point? If he really felt strongly that Clinton would be unfit as president, he’d have run as an Independent, or simply stayed home like many of the GOP primary candidates who lost to Trump. Sanders is speaking out because he is rational, pragmatic, and knows that the only way to see progress is with a party that leaves the door open for change.

  6. “A vote for third party candidates will send a strong message to the Democratic party.”

    No it won’t. What sent a strong message to the democratic party was the strong support of Sanders in the primary. The democratic platform is the most progressive in history, likely in no small part due to the surge in advocacy from Bernie’s supporters. This was a good thing. Clinton vowed to overturn Citizens United and the party has vowed to take sweeping steps for social and environmental progress. A vote for a third party candidate now will do exactly one thing: empower Donald Trump.

  7. “I will not vote out of FEAR. You are fear-mongering and can not scare me into voting for Clinton.” 

    It must feel good to be so brave. But this isn’t like jumping off a cliff with a bungee cord and being fairly confident that the rope will support you. This is like jumping off a cliff. You should be scared. If you aren’t, you’re probably not paying attention.

  8. “I don’t care if Donald Trump wins because it will bring the revolution.”

    From Dan Savage: “People supported Ralph Nader in 2000 and said there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, therefore we could all afford to throw our votes away, protest-style, on Ralph Nader, who had no hope of getting elected, because there was no difference between Bush and Gore. These same people, at the same time, said that George Bush was so manifestly obviously terrible that he would bring the revolution if he got himself elected somehow….It’s bullshit. The revolution did not come in 2000 when George W. Bush got close enough to winning to steal the White House. It will not come if Donald J. Trump gets his ass elected. Disaster will come. And the people who’ll suffer are going to be people of color. People of minority faiths. Queer people. Women.”

    But, hey, maybe there will be a revolution! Maybe even a civil war! I mean, that turned out awesome in The Hunger Games. Maybe we can divide into districts and fight for food while the revolutionaries fighting with their art can die in battle against all the guns! But it’s all OK because after 75 years of strife, Katniss will come with her bow and arrow and we can all return to the land. Or maybe, this will happen.

  9. “The two-party system is rigged and unfair – we need viable third party candidates!”

    Yes, we do. But Jill Stein ain’t it. She may be as green as a four-leaf clover, but my six-year-old has more foreign policy experience. That said, we need to be electing more third party candidates from the ground up. There have been some excellent third party candidates voted into office in smaller elections throughout the country – but not enough. Let’s take a cue from Bernie to fight for those progressive third-party candidates in our state and city elections – even congress should a viable candidate arise. It may not be easy to accept that the revolution will not come overnight, but that was never going to happen – not with so many hardline GOPs still in power. Slow and steady, my friend. We will get there.

  10. “I must vote my conscience.” 

    Sleep tight on a pile of rubble.

July 14th, 2016

Ten Reasons I Love Pokemon Go

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By the time you read this, it’s likely I’ll be totally over the Pokemon Go fad. But while it lasts, I am embracing one of the most bizarre and pervasive things that has ever taken the world by storm.

I have long been a fan of Geocaching, as a fun family scavenger hunt. But this takes it to a new level. And despite the odd tale of criminal luring and ill-advised use at the Holocaust Museum, I think the Pokemon Go phenomenon is overwhelmingly positive. And here are 10 reasons why:

  1. People are getting off the couch. Pokemon Go may be an unintentional health fad, but it clearly has people logging more steps than ever. Sometimes hatching a mysterious egg is the incentive one needs to walk 5K!
  2. Kids, tweens, and teens are bonding with their parents. Unless you are the most perfect parent with the most perfect children who aren’t addicted to screen time and are happy to chat with you for hours, Pokemon Go can do wonders for family bonding. You’ll have something to talk about that really interests your kids besides what happened on the latest episode of Teen Titans Go.
  3. The app is drawing traffic to small retailers. Tiny shops and eateries are seeing increased revenues from all the foot traffic to “Pokestops.”
  4. Pokestops are also educational. Historic landmarks, statues, public art – many Pokestops have descriptions of the hidden gems around your neighborhood, giving you a bit of education and culture along with your catch.
  5. It’s acceptable to unleash your inner geek. You might have made fun of kids growing up playing Dungeons and Dragons, but deep down you sort of wondered about the appeal. Now it’s completely fine to geek out with the rest of the world, talking about how your team can win battles at the local “gym.”
  6. Oddly enough, the game is opening the door for people to embrace the REAL outdoors. Some scientists are actually seeing a connection between the game and people embracing actual wildlife!
  7. It’s FREE. Sure, there are in app purchases available but you will kill your children if they buy them. And, yes, you need a smartphone. But if you are reading this, I’m pretty confident have access to one.
  8. No actual STUFF. No collecting cards or plastic figurines or other wasteful landfill clutter to trip over in your kitchen. Virtual reality is kind to the planet and your sanity.
  9. People are crediting PokemonGo with improving their mental health. Hey, whatever works!
  10. It’s bringing people together. Call it a distraction in one of the most divisive and unsettling times in recent American history – but it’s working. Bridging across age, race, gender, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status, people are chatting each other up in the streets like old friends. Going for a walk staring at your phone used to be the unspoken sign for being left alone – now strangers will ask you if you’ve seen a Bulbasaur.

Obviously, be careful. Don’t walk into traffic or go down dark alleys at 2 a.m. Just enjoy and be safe!

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July 13th, 2016

Fitness After Illness: Recovering from Sepsis (As a Relatively Healthy Person)

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“Too blind to know your best
Hurrying through the forks without regrets
Different now, every step feels like a mile
All the lights seem to flash and pass you by
So hows it gonna be
When it all comes down, cycling trivialities”
– Jose Gonzalez

FROM SHOWER STOOL TO 5K AND MORE IN LESS THAN EIGHT WEEKS

Remember how frustrated I was trying to get back into shape after pregnancy? I was so happy to be done with that struggle to rebuild my strength, convinced that I would only get stronger and faster until I was winning local CrossFit Masters competitions in my 60s.

But life has a way of throwing wrenches – and I am far from the first to get hit. I have countless friends who have struggled to rebuild their strength after cancer, strokes, injuries, and other physical and emotional traumas. Knowing them and watching them over the years let me know that it was possible to recover from illness and get back to my formerly strong self.

The thing about Septic Shock is that there really is no manual or rulebook for recovery. For starters, it can be caused by so many different things, from an infected wound to appendicitis to meningitis. So people who have experienced it are also recovering from any number of other health problems, making recovery difficult to predict.

I was told countless times by doctors that if I were not as fit as I was, I may not have survived. That said, the mystery infection that led to it probably would be just as likely to happen no matter my age, shape, or condition. I compare it to being struck by lightening.

So after four days in the ICU and three days in the hospital, I was desperate to know the chances of running again before the sprouting summer months turned to miserable winter again. But, at that point, I couldn’t touch my toes – or even see them for the belly distension.

Once I was cognizant I started Googling “sepsis recovery.” Bad idea. Sepsis has a 50% fatality rate and most of the stories were about how to live with missing limbs, persistent migraines, and a general loss of life quality. Googling “sepsis + athlete” or “sepsis + crossfit” yielded nothing but stories of athletes who died of sepsis. It was grim.

So the following is my personal account of recovery in hopes that someone Googling may find some inspiration and hope that all is not lost. Of course I have to note, I am not a doctor, a coach, or any kind of medical professional. I am not suggesting or advising anything here. I’m just sharing my own personal experience as a relatively healthy and fit 36-year-old recovering from infectious colitis and septic shock.

WEEK ONE: After arriving home from the hospital I am still sleeping about 75% of the time. I still have pretty intense stomach pain off and on throughout the day. My appetite returns slowly, at first allowing only small portions and demanding massive amounts of fresh squeezed orange juice. I’m also reliant on Orgain Nutritional Shakes for much-needed protein (affiliate link here because this illness cost me money so I am OK with making a few bucks back). I start a solid regimen of probiotics, branched chain amino acids, and regular vitamins. I walk a few blocks everyday, which wears me out, but I know is necessary if I’m to get back to normalcy. I see my primary doctor and my bloodwork is totally funky. I pay an acupuncturist to come to my house for some Eastern recovery assistance. My pulses are weak and my chi is shit.

WEEK TWO: I’m awake more but still mostly resting and rarely leaving my bed apart from my daily walk. I am able to walk a child the 8-10 blocks round trip to school each day but that is about all I accomplish. My appetite is coming back and I am able to eat larger portions and a wider variety of foods. I still have stomach pain but it is less frequent. A friend takes me out of the house to a coffee shop for the first time where I am blissfully happy to feel like a person but a bit ill from the coffee which makes me sad. But the acupuncturist says my pulses are much stronger and my chi is improving. I still sleep about four hours a day in addition to 9-10 at night. I purchase a FitBit for no particular reason and learn that I am walking less than 5,000 steps per day and sleeping like a hibernating bear.

WEEK THREE: I see a gastroenterologist who is hopeful that I won’t have lasting stomach issues and that I will make a full recovery from the septic shock, though it will take time. I go to the gym just to feel what it is like to try to row. I row 1000 meters in 10 minutes, which is the speed of a tortoise. I don’t break a sweat or even feel like my body is moving. I just feel like I am being wheeled down a hill. Two days later I return to the gym and do a slow and easy 8 minute workout of rowing, light push presses, and squats.

I am able to start drinking coffee again without feeling ill which gives me energy in the morning but I pass out by noon and feel fatigued for the rest of the day. But my appetite is fully returned and I am ravenous, but only in the mood for certain foods and not able to go back to my normal eating schedule. I’m also not cooking, still enjoying the spoils of a wonderful meal train organized by friends. I end the week by hosting my daughter’s third birthday party in my home, which is exhausting, but feels like a landmark achievement. I wear lipstick and a dress and create a Pinterest-worthy table of cut-up fruits and vegetables in planters.

WEEK FOUR: I try running for the first time. I run 400 meters at about a 12/minute mile (I usually run a 9:30/mile). My legs feel like jelly and seem confused by this movement. I start creating short and easy workouts for myself – 10-12 minutes of body weight and light weight movements mixed with short runs and rowing. I try pull-ups with a lighter band each day, but feel no where near getting my strict pull up back so I set a goal of month’s end. There are certain exercises I categorize into later phases: I am not ready for wall balls, burpees, or jump rope as they would gas me too much so I put them into “Phase Two.” I put barbell lifting into “Phase Three.” Later that week I challenge myself to run one mile. My pace is 11:30 and my legs literally can not move any faster. I have a flashback to three years prior when I went for my first run after having my daughter and ran at a similarly slow pace. I know this is all temporary. That same day I have the energy to pick up my kids from school for the first time since getting sick. The next day I feel feisty and go for a 1.5 mile run – 10:20/mile. I’m improving already.

But the next day, despite only taking a morning walk, I’m feeling particularly exhausted and fatigued and sleep for most of the afternoon. I feel extremely frustrated not knowing how long this exhaustion will be a part of my daily life. When will I be able to make actual plans again for meetings or brunch or even a trip to the park? In the midst of my bad day I stumble upon an actual sepsis recovery story from a Crossfitting mother! It says she is now doing well and even competing again so I immediately stalk her out and find comfort and strength in her very similar story. I know that these days will eventually pass, but some days it is just harder to be patient.

WEEK FIVE: It is exactly one month since I was admitted to the ICU and I am feeling very pleased with my recovery. My achilles tendon feels extremely sore, which is common when returning to running after a long rest. So I put running on hold for a few days. However, I feel ready for my first “phase two exercise” — burpees. I design my own 15-minute workout which includes rowing, V-ups, and sets of five burpees. I complete six rounds and feel great – this is my longest workout to date. Two days later, I do a strict chin up and a 12 minute workout RX. I finish out the week with a two mile run at a 10-minute-mile. I still have to take afternoon naps and feel fatigued later in the day, but I am making the most of my morning energy.

handstand

WEEK SIX:

I bring back another “phase two” movement and do a WOD with 30 lightish wall balls. Even though I know I’m doing well considering where I’ve been, I have moments of frustration. I can’t do a strict ring row. I can’t do a kipping pull up. I feel like I’ve hit a plateau of 12 minute workouts and 90 minute naps. But I push those negative thoughts away and press on.

The next day I test out my double unders. I knock out a quick set of five and put the rope away satisfied. I check out the whiteboard and see a workout with a whole bunch of “21-15-9” rep schemes including burpees. I tell the trainer I am probably not physically and certainly not mentally ready for that one. He immediately suggests slightly altering the rep scheme to “15-10-5.” I’m fine with that and finish with the rest of the group at around 20 minutes. The class finishes with some core work and it’s the first full class I am able to complete. And then I go home and pass out for almost three hours.

My husband tells me I am flying too close to the sun – and on this day he is definitely correct. But I’m also afraid to fly too close to the water and waste away. I wish I had some magic formula to tell me just how hard to push and when to hold back.

I continue to modify the workouts on the whiteboard. Burpee box jumps become push ups and step ups. I try to listen to my body and not push too hard, and make sure I take enough rest days. Sometimes when I am running and see everyone else three blocks ahead of me I feel frustrated. But then I tell myself that I am lucky to be running at all – that I need to be grateful that my legs can move and my heart is beating.

I finish off the week by dipping my toe into “Phase Three:” heavy lifting. I work up to an 80# clean and 85# push press and 85# bench press which are 80-85% of my 100# maxes. Totally respectable.

WEEK SEVEN:

I start the week by running 5K at a 10-minute-mile. That’s only 15-30 seconds per mile off my average so I am pleased. I also have a crazy thought cross my mind for the very first time, “Maybe I could work up to a half marathon?” Or maybe the Sepsis is just making me crazy.

I do a 30-minute variation on a “Hero WOD.” I take an entire Intensity class and do almost everything RX. I even get back by hand stand push up (two AbMats which it always was). I also decide that I no longer choose to nap. Nope! I’m gonna power through the day with three cups of coffee and be pretty damn close to fine.

WEEK EIGHT: I almost never nap now, but occasionally lay down for a 20-minute rest. I am barely modifying my workouts, doing most things at my old capacity, save for a few tricks I need a bit more time to build up to. While I know it will be several months before I start hitting personal records again, I feel strong and essentially “normal.” I get tired after a long day of running around, but, quite frankly, I always did. I am basically myself again.

I’ve written this post for anyone who is going through an illness or injury and feels like they will never get back to “normal.” Especially for anyone Googling about recoveries and finding nothing but bad news. It IS possible to come back – more than once if you have to. It might take longer or shorter than you expect, but don’t listen to other people’s grim stories. Everyone is different. And if you are taking good care of your body now, it will be there for you when you really need it.

Other good articles on returning to fitness after illness or injury:

CrossFit Journal: Training Tips: From Wreck to Recovery

Six Steps to Start Working Out After You’ve Been Sick or Injured

 

July 5th, 2016

Shop to Support Childhood Wellness: New Discount Natural Food Products that Do Good

Working with LuckyVitamin, I love them more everyday. They sell all my favorite supplements, pantry staples, and personal care items at the best prices – and now they are doing even more to “spread the wellness.”

I love to support mission-driven businesses, and LuckyVitamin launched a new effort to shape the healthy habits of the next generation. LuckyKids promotes education, nutrition, and fitness through profits raised from the sale of LuckyVitamin Brand products.

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One percent of proceeds from LuckyVitamin brand products will be used to support the wellness needs of children. Programs include educational events conducted by health experts, product and resource donations, and other organized community activities designed to serve the needs of childhood health and wellness.

Shoppers also have more ways to raise proceeds for LuckyKids with the launch of the LuckyEats line of organic nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and snack foods. The LuckyEats line includes varieties of organic almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate almonds, mango slices, ginger medallions, and trail mixes – all stuff we use in bulk and my whole family actually eats!

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Celebrating 10 years, LuckyVitamin is a leading online retailer in the health and wellness space, offering more than 35,000 curated products at competitive prices. Striving to bring good health to the masses, LuckyVitamin.com offers premium quality products at an exceptional value. No membership fees are required to shop the best of health and wellness at a fraction of retail costs.

LVBox

I’ve unsubscribed from the promotional emails from other online shops I used to frequent because their prices can’t be beat. And I get a delivery at least twice a month covering everything from protein powder to face wash to baby wipes!

Learn more about LuckyVitamin online and be sure to follow their social media for even more amazing deals and discounts!

Disclosure: I have a paid relationship with the brand featured in this post. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

June 27th, 2016

Lessons and Lemonade from a Near Death Experience

lemonade

“If it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now and never back down
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter”

Yes, those are Christina Aguilera lyrics. And I don’t give a fuck.

At 36 I thought I’d run out of fucks to give. But no, I still cared too much — about what people thought, people who “wronged me,” people who faded out of my life. I am only human. And I will never be immune to a cold shoulder or harsh word. However, a near death experience can really put things in perspective and give you more strength and courage than you thought you could possess.

It may sound cliche to say I’ve learned lessons from trauma – and ridiculous to say I don’t regret it happening. But the further out I get from the worst of it, the more I am thankful for what I’ve taken from the scariest experience of my life.

For one, I have learned about true compassion and empathy. I thought I was a good person and a good friend – but now I know how careless I have been and I’ve learned how to do better. I am more in tune with what to do and say when someone is suffering. I will go the extra mile and not be paralyzed by some foolish feeling of helplessness. It isn’t that hard to be helpful. To listen, to show you care, to send food or flowers or cards with real words of encouragement. To offer to help with the children or the laundry or the overstressed partner. I have been as guilty as anyone else of the vague “Let me know if I can do anything” text. From now on, I will just do.

As I’ve written before, I’ve learned that sometimes the people you least expect will step up in amazingly beautiful ways. Friendships I feared had faded were rekindled when the chips were really down. Partners and parents stepped up with strength I didn’t know they had. Friends and acquaintances built a safety net for me and my family and gave me a whole new appreciation for my relationships, neighbors, and community.

On the flip side, I’ve dealt with the fact that there really are people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. People who may have seemed important at another time in my life were proven to really have their heads up their own asses.

But here is the good part: I will no longer mince words.

Not that I was ever one to shy away from a good verbal ass-kicking, I now have no reservations about getting it all off my chest. I’ve officially broken ties with toxic people in my life, even the ones I was scared to cross for fear of the consequences.

I have vowed to be more courageous in speaking my truth no matter what. When the Orlando shooting occurred, I took that opportunity to come out as bisexual on Facebook even though I have been married to a man for 13 years. I wanted to take a stand for the LGBT community, and no longer gave a rat’s ass what anyone thought.

Finally, it’s no surprise that a life-changing event will make one that much more thankful for what they have. When a run becomes tiring I push through with the gratitude I have that my legs are strong enough to propel me forward. When my children fight and scream I still get frustrated and annoyed – but I am quicker to forgive them and let them stay up late eating cereal. I relish everything I have and want for nothing more.

Except maybe really big bathtub and a lemon tree. And those two things took me a while to come up with.

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June 15th, 2016

Buy (Almost) Nothing Birthday Party – Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden

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I started writing this post pre-illness. And during my hospital stay, I had one goal: not cancel my daughter’s third birthday party. I already worked so hard on that damn pinata!

Thanks to help from family and friends, I was able to pull it off. And thank goodness it was a morning party because when the guests left at 1 p.m. I passed out hard!

It wasn’t the perfect Buy Almost Nothing party I had planned, but I still managed to come pretty darn close!

Months prior, I reached out to my local Buy Nothing Group and quickly accumulated a brilliant Peter Rabbit/cabbage dish, a ceramic watering can, a few photo frames, some paper butterflies, and nine assorted stuffed bunnies.

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For a craft, I decided to let kids decorate their own mini planters. I had markers in abundance and just needed to purchase some mini terra cotta planters at 10 for $5.99

And for the piece de resistance: my pinata. I loved creating one for my son’s 5th birthday party a couple years back especially because I detest traditional junky pinatas. So I was excited to get to work on this one!

Making one is simple and not terribly time consuming – it’s just a matter of taking time to do the steps.

Start with a jumbo latex balloon  (about $3) and do three coats of papier mache, careful to let it completely dry in between coats. When it is solid and hard, use a scissors to pop the balloon and create a small hole to fill with treats.

You know all those temporary tattoos, plastic figurines, and whistles that you put in your goody bags? Well you are about to receive them all back via my piñata! I also filled it with YumEarth Organic Lollipops  (50 for $6.39) YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks (40 snack packs for $19.88).

pinata

I had originally planned to bake a carrot cake. I even practiced! But I had to give in to the post-illness fatigue and allow a bit of help from Whole Foods, who did a killer Peter Rabbit cake. We’ll just pretend I didn’t pay a fortune for it.

In the end it was a wonderful party filled with family and friends. It didn’t have to be “Pinterest perfect” but having a silly goal of getting those carrots into a vase and filling planters with broccoli motivated me to do a bit more everyday. I also learned that being a crazy Type-A advance planner isn’t such a bad thing when life throws a wrench at you!

Using items found around my house and discarded or shared by others to create something beautiful makes me even happier than a birthday girl surrounded by presents. Thanks to everyone who lent me their stuffed bunnies – now I just have to figure out what to do with them all!

June 9th, 2016

PrAna Dress Giveaway with Stonyfield #SummerCravings

As a Stonyfield Blogger, I was asked to write about Stonyfield Yogurt and a beautiful recycled polyester prAna dress. I never imagined the turn the month would take, and how these items would go from #SummerCravings to actual necessities.

You see, this May I had a harrowing and actual near-death experience. An undiagnosed bout of infectious colitis turned into septic shock and I spent several days in the ICU. It was traumatic and bizarre and put my life on hold. But at the same time taught me so much about friends and family and community and the safety net that exists in one’s life even if you don’t believe it’s there.

So what does all this have to do with yogurt and a shift dress?

After I got released from the hospital I looked about 9 months pregnant from the swelling. Nothing fit me. But then I found my prAna dress had arrived in the mail, a flattering swing dress that I wore almost everyday as my belly slowly returned to its normal size.

I'm no good at mirror selfies, but this was taken after belly went back down to its normal size.

I’m no good at mirror selfies, but this was taken after belly went back down to its normal size.

And having been plied with every antibiotic known to man, the first order of business was to refuel my body and and restore my gut health with some good probiotics. So that’s where my favorite organic yogurt comes in!

So what I craved this summer actually became what I needed this summer. And the cool thing is that I can GIVEAWAY a dress just like this to one lucky reader! PrAna is known for  creating versatile, stylish, and sustainable clothing and accessories that you can wear during every activity, every adventure, every day. Their clothing is ideal for an active lifestyle and easily transitions outside the gym, yoga studio, or hiking trail. You can also use my discount code for anything at prAna – use code SCS16PAWO for 15% off a purchase valid June 1-July 7, 2016. 

GIVEAWAY: PrAna Quinn Dress in your choice of color and size (as available)

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

May 28th, 2016

What I Learned from Almost Dying – and What the Hell Happened to Me?

A bunch of my friends under 45 have already had cancer. I’ve confessed many times that an incapacitating illness is my greatest fear, and not just for the obvious implications. What happens to a one-woman business when that woman disappears? Would there be a strong enough safety net for my family for school transport and general daily life? Missing the gym for a cold has felt like agony – what would happen if I was really laid out?

And then God was like, “Girl, I’m about to show you how that all goes down.”

Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson - must be true, right?

Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson – must be true, right?

Now, like any good storyteller I am prone to hyperbole: the following is not exaggerated or embellished in anyway.

Monday, May 16: I feel uncontrollable chills and just can not get warm. It’s 67 degrees outside. My back has been hurting anyway from something stupid I did at the gym so I go to bed early. A few hours later I wake up vomiting and that is how I spend the rest of the night.

Tuesday, May 17: I am in a feverish haze all day. I’m basically delirious and not sure if I am saying things out loud or in my head.

Wednesday, May 18: I think I’m feeling a little better. I stay in bed but imagine I am on the uptick from a stomach flu.

Thursday, May 19: I am not on the uptick. My fevers aren’t breaking. I go to the ER at Pennsylvania Hospital. They give me two liters of fluids and some tylenol and discharge me. I beg them to admit me. I tell them I feel very sick and I don’t feel safe. I implore them to keep me overnight to be monitored. They refuse and kick me to the curb. I await a bill from them for at least $350 – with insurance. (Reason #1 the US Healthcare system is fucked)

Friday, May 20: My fever is at or above 103 all day despite taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen. My sister in law is a nurse at Methodist and offers to bring me in with her so I will be properly seen to. Just before she arrives I projectile vomit across the room like Linda Blair. I tell my husband to forgo all eco values and go get some Clorox Bleach stat.

What follows is blurry:

I arrive at Methodist and don’t think I’ll make the walk to the triage. I am promptly ensconced by at least a half dozen nurses who inform me that my blood pressure is scary low and I am in septic shock. I know of two people who have had sepsis – an old friend with AIDS who died shortly after and Tony Soprano after a gunshot wound. I have an IV put in my groin to try to stabilize my blood pressure. I also get IVs of fluid, every antibiotic known to man, and a catheter which apparently, while under morphine, I told the nurses I was psyched about. I think I was too shocked to feel scared. I didn’t see Jesus or a white light or Prince standing in the purple rain. I just felt sure that I would not, could not die on this table. (OK apparently I misremembered this as my sister-in-law told me I asked the doctor at least 100 times if I was going to die).

"Mike, why the hell would you take a picture of me being transported to ICU?" "I thought you might want it for your blog." "Good man, good man."

“Mike, why the hell would you take a picture of me being transported to ICU?” “I thought you might want it for your blog.” “Good man, good man.”

Saturday, May 21: I guess I passed out in the ICU because the next thing I remember is that it’s morning and my sister in law is standing over me telling me that I’m being ambulanced to Jefferson because I need special care. I still don’t really grasp that I’ve almost died. Nurses, though, confess to me later that they were not sure I was going to make it.

I spend three days in the ICU – a place where there are no bathrooms because it’s just presumed you will be performing all bodily functions through a tube. I am in pain. My stomach distends more by the day and at this point I look nine months pregnant. All bacterial cultures come back negative. The MRI shows swelling of my colon and not much more. The doctors really don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, let alone how it happened. Everyone has to wear blue plastic hazmat suits and gloves to enter the room because they don’t know the degree of my contagion. It’s like a scene from Outbreak.

Monday, May 23 (I think) That afternoon I am approved to move to a normal room and I am desperate to shower. Of course I can barely walk and I shower in a chair. I finally eat a bit after a week but can only eat very small portions. It’s like I’ve had a gastric bypass but gained 20 pounds.

What the actual fuck has happened to my body?

What the actual fuck has happened to my body?

I spend another three days in various levels of pain, discomfort, and fear that there are no straight answers. I walk 30 feet and it’s a triumph. I haven’t seen my kids in 10 days. But I am comforted by the amazing outreach of support – friends and family helping with the children so Mike could be at the hospital, people sending flowers and meals, and just generally showing true compassion and concern.

As I approach discharge day I ask the case manager how I could go about having a nurse check on me for a few days, just to check my vitals as I am terrified of a relapse. She explains that it would not be covered by my insurance. I said I would pay for it. She said you can only pay for nurses in 8-hour-shifts and even then she isn’t sure if I’d qualify. I order a blood pressure cuff on Amazon.  (Reason #2 the US Healthcare system is fucked)

My official diagnosis - which still makes very little sense to the doctors.

My official diagnosis – which still makes very little sense to me or the doctors

Thursday, May 26: I am thrilled to finally go home and wash the scent of hospital soap off me. I feel that hospital smell seeped into my pores and it’s like I can’t scrub it out. My son is thrilled to see me. My three-year-old daughter couldn’t care less and just wants to play with my phone. I’m still massively bloated and in some pain, but I’m able to eat a bit and finally get a good night’s sleep without being prodded with needles and beeping IVs all night long.

Now I try to walk a little more each day, though this distended belly and extra 15 pounds of (what, exactly?) does nothing for my vanity. I try to eat. I try to stretch. I try to stay awake for decent intervals of time and get back to writing and answering emails (by the way I found it weirdly hard to start typing again – I still don’t have the keys mindlessly mastered the way I used to and I’m beyond the help of spellcheck).

I am terrified of a relapse. Since we don’t know what caused this, I’m scared of getting reinfected. What if it was some cheese I ate and I eat that cheese again? I know I have some type of PTSD from all this, and I’m just trying to cope and recover.

I go back and forth between gratefulness and optimism and depression. I waited all bloody winter for these beautiful summer days, trained for races I’ll be canceling, not wearing that bikini to the beach. But I am alive and healing and home with my family. And I know how to gradually rebuild my strength – this will be harder than coming back from pregnancy because even three days postpartum I could push a stroller, but I can do this.

Brightside?

Apart from surviving with likely no permanent damage, of course.

I’m not a religious person, but I believe that this happened to teach me two very important lessons – lessons I needed to learn the hard way.

  1. Right before this happened I was obsessed with the idea of coolsculpting, basically a newer less invasive form of liposuction (that still sounded pretty invasive). As hard as I work out and as well as I eat, I’m continually frustrated by my belly fat and often looking pregnant if I eat too much or lose awareness of my posture (which is always). And then God laughed and said, “I shall show you what a big belly looks like and make you thankful for your rockin’ post-baby bod. You aren’t modeling for Playboy anytime soon so you better just learn to love your body for the strong machine it is.” Point taken.
  2. Even with a wonderful partner and children, it’s easy to feel alone in the world. I’m not embarrassed to admit being prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Sometimes I feel like that girl with 2000 Facebook friends who no one is inviting to lunch. I have deep-seeded insecurities and sensitivities – if I don’t get invited to a party I will be absolutely sure that everyone hates me. It’s just in my nature. But what I learned from this was enough to assuage so many fears and insecurities and make me feel whole in a way I’ve never experienced. The outreach from friends around the world was simply amazing. The meals delivered, the flowers, the gift cards, the offers of help with our children – just a genuine outpouring of love and concern. Despite how scared I was, I felt safe in a way I never truly had before. Of course, not everyone came through in a crisis. But I learned that the family I have built over my 37 years on earth far exceeds what I was born into. From my childhood friends to my college crew to work associates and newer parent friends, my safety net was strong and sturdy and unbreakable. I was never alone. I was more loved than I imagined.

I expect my recovery to be slow but steady and set small goals for myself each day. Today I walked four blocks – but then had to sleep two hours to recover. I WILL get strong again – mentally, physically, and emotionally. I will count my blessings and try to be a better friend and caregiver to people who might seem strong but are silently struggling. I will find some way to make this up to my amazing husband who has been everything. 

“We can rebuild her. We have the technology. We can make her better than she was. Better, stronger, faster.”

May 9th, 2016

A Superfoods Snack: Stonyfield and Navitas Naturals

I’m a sucker for superfoods — defined as nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

And fortunately my taste buds agree with my commitment to good health.

Possibly the perfect superfood, hemp seeds are a plant-based complete protein and a great source of balanced omegas, magnesium, and nine essential amino acids.  I sprinkle those suckers on everything – salads, soups, smoothies, desserts, and especially yogurt. In fact, if i could choose a meal to eat everyday it would probably be yogurt + hemp seeds + fruit.

A new superfood to me, mulberries are sweet and chewy with a mild berry flavor. Also a source of plant-based protein, they are packed with vitamin c, fiber and iron.

They both go great with Stonyfield Greek yogurt, rounding out my daily snack with more protein and probiotics.

yogurt with seeds

These and dozens of other organic superfoods like acai, camu, goji, and maca are available from Navitas Naturals. Navitas Naturals is committed to socially responsible business practices, creating and expanding fair trade economic opportunities for farming communities in developing regions around the world.

How do you work superfoods into your diet?

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.

May 2nd, 2016

Do You Like Oranges? OrangeTheory Fitness Review

A few weeks ago I was ill-advised to stay at a boutique hotel in Puerto Rico that fancied itself as having a “Miami club vibe.” The hotel believed it was achieving this vibe by making everything shine neon blue. Everything.

The walls, the elevator, the lighting in the hotel room that made you look like a Smurf at all times.

OrangeTheory Fitness, a trendy new fitness program blowing up across the globe, applies that same color overkill. But this time, of course, it’s orange.

Not one to judge a workout by the color of its lighting, I decided to give OrangeTheory a try. Admittedly, I am biased, as it would take a miracle workout to tear me from my neighborhood CrossFit box for more than a few days. But I am always open to try something new, and with my gym closed for the day, this free trial class was a great opportunity on a rainy day.

The first thing you should know about the new OrangeTheory in Philadelphia is that the entrance is in the Liberty Place food court. You’re welcome because I just saved you 15 minutes of walking in circles.

The next thing you should know is that they will ask you to come to your first class 30 minutes early. No, they will not email you the waiver. I was prompt, as I am, and completed the waiver and heart rate monitor hook-up by 8:05. Class began at 8:30.

The heart rate monitor is at the core of OrangeTheory, which correlates your heart rate level as different colors. Green means you are moving at a steady pace, orange means you are pushing hard, and red means you are maxing out and won’t last more than a minute at that rate. It’s not a perfect science – at one point the monitor said I was in the red zone and working at 107% and I didn’t feel like I was heading for a heart attack. But it is a good way to make sure you stay in the “fat burning zone” for a fair amount of time.

As for the workouts, the focus is on high intensity interval training (HITT), which I like and am used to. The downside is that not much attention is paid to individual form. For instance, there was a contest to see who could do the most strict push-ups in four minutes. I was psyched because most of the girls were working from their knees and I knew I had a good chance of winning the glory of a branded t-shirt (I’m competitive OK!)

I look over and see a girl doing a whole bunch of these:

I did 67. She proudly exclaimed that she did 117. She got the T-shirt.

At the end of the class I received a break down of my color chart and informs me that I have received 22 “splat points” for the day. This means I have spent 22 minutes in the “orange zone,” but for someone who is used to measuring reps, weights, and times, it kinda sounded like this:

Look, I am not knocking this place, really! I actually liked it for the most part and if I didn’t have a workout that I liked better, it’s definitely a place I would consider joining. I like the fact that the workouts vary each day and that they focus on HITT with at least some measurement for goal-setting. I’m sure some trainers are better than others and that form isn’t always left up to one’s arbitrary definition of a squat.

Truthfully, the biggest turnoff for me was the lack of any social camaraderie. Not that you would necessarily find that at a Soulcycle or Bikram Yoga studio, but, personally, I like to go to a place where everybody knows your name – and doesn’t let you get away with bullshit push-ups.

I’m glad OrangeTheory has entered the thriving Philadelphia fitness market and I’m thrilled about anything that inspires people get off the couch. For some that’s power walking or kickboxing or mountain biking – for others it’s an orange splat. And for them I say make like an Oompa Loompa! There’s a good chance I would join you if I wasn’t already in a committed sweaty relationship. But for now the only lighting I’ll be working out in is the shadow of a garage door.