Wednesday, September 19, 2018

No Means No

I had an awful experience weeks ago that I have not been able to get out of my mind. It is an occurrence that is, sadly, fairly common to me, but something I rarely talk about.

I went to a Chris Stapleton concert with 3 of my amazing girlfriends. We had great seats right up front. As soon as we got to our seats, the man directly in front of me turned and apologized for being so tall and obstructing my view.

"Eh, no biggie."

And it was all downhill from there.

He turned back around, "I like your shirt, what does it say?"

"I really like your braids... very cute."

"I love your glasses. You look great in those. Where did you get them."

Each compliment I smiled dutifully and then turned back to conversation with my friends. I thought it was the good universal hint of physically turning away from someone to let them know you are shutting down the conversation.

It didn't work.

He persisted.

And, if he was not directly trying to speak to me, he was simply turned with his back to the performer, staring at me. Mind you, he is two feet or less from me. As you can imagine, this makes a person very uncomfortable.

"You should really go out with me sometime. I am a fun guy. I live in Boston, its a fun city."

"No thank you."

"You don't like the city? It's not that scary. I will take care of you. You know I have been watching you since before you even came in here?"

At one point my friend kindly interjects, "She is not interested. She said no."

He persists.

I think I spent an hour of politely declining. Some might say, "Why not tell him to go to hell?"

If you ask that question you are most likely a man and most likely not a sexual predator. When I was younger and had a much less acute sense of self preservation, I would have said that. And did. Many times.

That's a big mistake.

"OK, you stuck-up bitch. You think you are better than me?" This is where the uncomfortable situation turns from bad to worse: when you attack a predators ego and his power. Most woman know that switch. You see it first in their eyes. You see that fire is lit after you defy them. It will make your heart stop and your stomach leap.

So I took another route which I find so deflating, "I have a boyfriend." I hate trying to use this as my "no". I hate that I am now asking this man to respect my boyfriend and the fact that he has laid claim to me. I want this man to respect my no.

No matter, that doesn't work either. It usually doesn't when you are engaging with a predator.

"So? I don't care."

He persisted.

Finally, as the encore was beginning and we had spent two hours at this, I clasped my hands together in a sort of prayer and said, "Pleasssse. I really like Chris Stapleton and I really want to enjoy this. I came here to hang with my friends and enjoy his show and their company."

He smiled at me, he leaned into my ear so I could feel his hot breath, "Ok. For now. But I am VERY persistent and I ALWAYS get my way." He turned away.

The goosebumps came. My throat started to close. I stop watching the show and started looking around to plan my escape from the venue. In leaving, you have to walk through wooded areas to your car. I could not have him follow me. I planned my route. I would dart out, take a left into the bathrooms where I know there is an attendant and I know she has a radio if he happened to follow me. I would wait and text my friends and tell them where to meet me after I felt the coast was clear. We would walk the route I knew back to the car the passed through the least amount of wooded areas.

How does my thought process take me so immediately to such an intricate escape plan? Because this is not new to me. This is not new to any woman. This is how we live our lives. This happens to me at my place of employment, in a bar, in a park playing with my kids.

The next day I could not get this incident out of my head. I kept replaying it and practicing different things I might have said. I wondered why this night in particular was bothering me so intensely.

And it hit me... I had dropped my 18-year-old daughter off at college for her first day that very morning. The anxiety was creeping in as I knew this could be her. This will be her. I can't even stop this from happening to me as a shrewd 42-year old woman, and now my child has been left to the wolves. I have three daughters who will face these circumstances over and over again and will be made to endure the same anxiety I do as I walk down a quiet street or sit on a park bench or attend a concert at my favorite venue.

1 in 4 women WILL be sexually assaulted in college.

So to the people who wonder why we make such a big deal of one quick drunken incident of a Supreme Court nominee from 30 years ago: it's a culmination of all the instances together of all the men in all the towns over all the years that means my daughters are not safe to exist. They can not freely walk down a dimly lit street. They can not walk to their car after work. They can not go for a quiet hike in the woods. They can not attend a concert in a crowded auditorium. The can not sit alone in a secluded office in their workplace. They can not do these things without the anxiety that accompanies a woman who has spent the entirety of her life in fear of the physical and psychological power men have been allowed to exercise over them.

He persists.

Monday, October 2, 2017

5 Things: My Mind is on Food

After watching What the Health, my girls decided to go vegetarian. Of course, I had to follow suit as not to be tasked with making two meals per day.
 I have been experimenting with new vegetarian recipes, especially the recipes that can be frozen as I love to be able to make food ahead and save myself time and energy on week days.

Two recipes are absolutely fantastic:

1. White Bean Buffalo Soup. This soup has such a great flavor and froze/reheated very well. It was a hot with the man and I could not get enough of it in my lunches at work. Two thumbs up!

2. Cheesy Broccoli Soup. When replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock, this is a great vegetarian soup. The smoked gouda added such a great flavor, I could not recommend this any more. This also froze and reheated well.

3. Since it is time to switch my closet to my fall wardrobe, I am started the Project 333 challenge this weekend. I am reducing my wardrobe to 33 items and outing the rest away for 3 months. I am excited to have less in my closet and to see how I do with less options. I do believe my mornings will be much more simple.

4. I am somehow now obsessed with desserts in a jar... although I have never made one. But I will be trying to make some this week!

5. Time to start planning our annual pumpkin carving party!

Let the weekend begin!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mom-Shaming: You Can Help Stop the Obesity Epidemic

Beware: what I am about to post may trigger you. Those of you who are sensitive to mom (or dad) shaming... it is coming.

I have seen a post on social media recently. The first time I thought was a fluke and I moved on. But now it seems to be gaining momentum and I am a bit taken aback.

Have you seen the school lunch hack that looks like this:

Do you see what is in there? The hack includes advice to pre-make 30 or so lunches (minus the main coarse of a sandwich or something of that nature) using an over-the-door shoe rack. While I love the ingenuity of pre-making all those lunches, I am just surprised at the content. I live in my own bubble I guess, but in my bubble, people know the health risks of giving your children soda on a daily basis. Not to mention pairing that soda with other sugar-laden snacks. 

Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, please let me clarify that I have lived every Momma life you want to throw out there. I have been married and working full time. I have been married and stayed at home. I have been a single mother who worked part time. I have been a single mother who worked full time (and then some!). 

I know the challenges of working 60 hours a week and trying to prepare healthy food for my 3 children. I know the challenges of surviving in a household with one income and trying to prepare healthy food for my three children. I have done it all. But, in the end, I have always found a way to make it work.

I am not really out to shame other parents. I truly think there must still be a lack of education. I don't think any parent wants to cause their children heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, sleep apnea... and the list goes on... by provided them poor nutrition. I am just not sure how the big processed food corporations are winning and our nation is become more and more obese by the day.

I do want to address the cost issue since that is one huge fallacy that really scares people. I do not know how or why people are kept under the assumption that eating better is so much more costly. Much of my youth was spent on government assistance and the vast majority of my food was home cooked because that was all my mother could afford. I distinctly remember that buying Oreos was such a fancy treat because my mother could bake 4 dozen cookies for the price of a small package of Oreos. We often had oatmeal for breakfast because the processed cold cereals were too expensive.

I decided to do a comparison of what the lunches above cost as compared to what I provide my children. I went online and got prices from Walmart as I think that is one of the least expensive places to buy your groceries and is available to a large portion of the US population.  I am only comparing the snacks and drinks with the presumption we both give our kids a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. 

Almost exactly the same cost but wayyy less added sugar and way more nutrients provided. A child should have no more than 25 grams of added sugar PER DAY. This lunch on the left more than doubles that in ONE MEAL. It also provided barely any nutrients that a child needs to sustain themselves throughout their school day.

Again, same price but this lunch on the left would provide THREE TIMES the recommended added sugar for one day!

It is not about shaming, it is about education. How can we educate these parents? I was recently watching a show where a woman was trying to lose weight. It was so sad to hear her say that her life would have been so different if only her parents had taught her to have a healthy relationship with food from the beginning. She had 20 years of poor eating to try to reverse the effects of as well as retrain her brain to combat the addiction to processed foods. She had such an uphill battle ahead of her that would most likely last the rest of her life.

Here are a few tips to help make some changes. All may not be feasible for every family, but I think any change is a step in the right direction:

• Eat together, eat at home
• Eat healthy meals and snacks
• Model healthy eating choices
• Increase activity, decrease inactivity
• Get active with your kids
• Participate in community activities
• Only 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week
• Avoid diet trends for children
• Know when to consult your doctor about your child’s weight

Your child's life is worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Things Friday: A Motley Mix

1. Speaking of authenticity, I need to start by loving myself. All parts of myself. I so struggle with being comfortable in my own skin. I found a great course I think I am going to take: 10 Days of Body Neutrality Discoveries. I am hoping this e-course will help me let go of body shame and move me towards more acceptance.

2. I sense a trend here. I have decided to let my grey hair show! I started graying when I was 22. With black hair, that is a very noticeable change. I have never accepted that gracefully, so I have spent 20 years dying my hair. It is time to let it go... but not in a subtle way. I want to make fun of it. I have found a ton of ideas and I would LOVE input. What style and color do you love?

3. My family has been eating vegetarian for about 6 weeks now. I am officially sick of looking for new recipes that 3 children will all eat. I found a new one this week, though, that was delicious. I actually bought ingredients the next day to make another batch to freeze. If you like buffalo wings, you will love this soup.

4. Halloween is coming... I hope my friends and neighbors get on this bandwagon.

5. I can not really put a list together without a living simply bullet: 25 Things to Get Rid of This Fall... some great tips here.

Happy Friday Bitches!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

15 Habits of Authentic People

Authenticity is a word that has caught my attention more than once recently. I have spent the last few years becoming acutely aware of who I am and what things need to change so that I can live my best life.

While I am on this path, something in the universe keep throwing "authenticity" my way.

And so I decided to research authenticity. Authenticity as it pertains to people... more specifically as it pertains to me. Am I authentic? If not, is it a quality I should be aspiring to develop?

What are some of the key characteristics that define authentic people? I have come up with 15 major indicators that really strike a chord with me:

  1. They figure out what they're tolerating and tolerate less. You tolerate things because you're just not quite ready to deal with something. Can be anything from - home repairs, clutter, paying attention to your body, or even unsupportive relationships. 
  2. They don’t complain as they take full responsibility of their lives. They take personal responsibility for how their actions created a certain outcome. They are willing to look at how they influenced each and every situation and act accordingly.
  3. They find genuine connections: They seek to truly understand the people around them. They ask thoughtful questions, and listen intently. By developing a genuine understanding of and connection to the people they are with, they are more likely to feel genuine and authentic themselves. 
  4. And, to make genuine connections, you must be present: They are more present in their conversations and relationships. They are active listeners, and give people their full attention. Mastering the art of presence perhaps is the single most effective way to ensure authenticity in any situation. They truly listen to others. They don’t listen in order to respond. Nor do they listen to others while being distracted by their phone, the TV or whatever else may be a distraction. They’re able to be fully present with another person. They’re able to listen to others with a genuine interest and care for the other person. 
  5. They see value in giving love to others. They see value in giving love and kindness indiscriminately. They understand that we are all connected and are willing to give others a helping hand. They know that by helping others, they are helping themselves. They allow and encourage others to express their own truth with love and acceptance as well. 
  6. They’re perfectly happy in their own company and they’re great friends with their own selves. 
  7. They put some time into personal growth. This can be through classes, volunteering or hobbies. Regularly doing hobbies that inspire people to improve skills is a great way to define what makes them happiest. 
  8. They accept their flaws. Being comfortable with yourself requires you to accept that you are not perfect. If you know your flaws and make efforts to avoid hurting others or yourself with them, then you are much more in touch with reality. 
  9. They keep all of their agreements. They don't take agreements lightly. They really consider: Do you want to say yes to this or not? They write all of their agreements down, because most people forget the things they agree to. It is too easy to forget. They schedule time to do the actions or the activities that are required to keep that agreement. They inform someone if they are going to have to break an agreement as soon as they know it is going to be broken, rather than wait until the last minute, because then they don't have time to reconsider or reschedule themselves. 
  10. They recognize the emptiness in material things.  They also don’t rate other people based on the material items that they have or don’t have because they know it doesn’t hold much meaning. 
  11. Instead of investing in material things, they recognize that experiences make their lives richer. They’re aware of how life experiences create more meaning in our lives. They are open to explore and learn, both externally and internally. 
  12. They make the most out of the situations they find themselves in, good or bad. 
  13. They let go of critical and toxic people, although they don’t hold any bad feelings towards them. 
  14. They express their true thoughts, feelings and views unapologetically They don’t say things that they don’t truly mean. They don’t do things that they don’t really want to do. They are able to share their own unique thoughts, feelings and views without fear of other’s opinions. 
  15. They’re not out to please people. They know that by living their lives to please others all the time disconnects them from their own inner experience. They know the importance of being aware, acknowledging, and expressing their own unique thoughts, feelings and views to the world. They know that by expressing their true internal experience, they are able to share their gifts with the world. 

And now that I have defined some of the traits, I need to assess my values and find my way to my true self. Are you authentic? Do you believe in authenticity?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

5 Ways To Create A Positive Change Today

Change happens when we come together. And right now, more than ever in my lifetime, we need to come together.

"I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."   
-Nelson Mandela

We each are responsible for our own actions and have the opportunity to change ourselves, our family and our community. Imagine if everyone could make that commitment? Only then can we start to change the entire world, one beautiful home at a time.

Here are five small changes to get you started:

  1. Educate Yourself. Let your ego go and stop right fighting. It is hard to fight ignorance with ignorance, so be the person who is actually educated on the cause you are fighting for. I actually spent a lot of time researching neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, alt-right, etc. yesterday. (Lord help me if somebody looks into my search history!) But, to me, I want to have an educated opinion if I ever have the opportunity to have a discussion with one of these groups of people. And that goes for anything I am rallying for. If I am trying to fight climate change or help fight the drug epidemic, I need to be knowledgeable to make sure my voice is most effectively heard.
  2. Spread Peace in Small Ways Within Yourself. Set the example. Refrain from gossiping at work and judging people. Don't lose your cool at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. Your children are always watching and absorbing your attitude. Start with the small things and lead by example to be tolerant and forgiving whenever possible. 
  3. Volunteer. Join the school board. Volunteer at a shelter. Help feed meals to the homeless. And if you are driven by a societal problem as well as its symptoms, you might not just help out at a shelter; but you also might advocate for new housing policy. Stand up and do something, anything. So much of contributing politically and civically is local in its nature that is the perfect place to make a change.
  4. Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. Make sure you are not supporting a business that is run by someone who holds views you are vehemently opposed to. That is downright hypocritical. This goes back to educating yourself: know who you are dealing with. This applies to donating to charities as well. Make sure you know where your money is going by first checking a non-biased site like Charity Navigator, which will spell out exactly where your money is going within the charity. Next, simply make sure their values line up with yours. Are they opposed to gays? Are they a board made up of 100% men? Just be aware that where you spend the mighty dollar sends a message.
  5. Be Kind. That's a given, right? But are you doing it? A lot? Speak with a kind voice (literally and figuratively), let someone in line in front of you, take your new neighbors a bottle of wine, tell a policeman how much you appreciate them... just be kind. This is the first and foremost way we can change the world... let the next generation see that, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." -Dalai Lama
My new mantra is, "When they go low, we go high," and I am determined the hatred can be killed with kindness.

Friday, July 28, 2017

7 Clues That You May Be A Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned in my last post, my research regarding my own introversion is an ongoing endeavor. I am constantly discovering new and different things about myself. I guess my advanced age is making me more self-aware and also more interested in adapted myself so that I can lead the most fulfilling life possible.

My new discovery is that audio and visual distractions hurt me to my core. I mean, it's not new to me abundance of noise and clutter disturb me, but it is a new revelation that it is definitely connected to my introversion.

I have a long history with a calling to live simply. I just can not deal with "stuff" in my space. I absolutely abide by "A place for everything and everything in it's place." This philosophy sticks in my office and my home as well. I can feel my anxiety rising when things pile up around me. I simply can not relax if my eyes are wandering to all the "things" that are out of place. I loved this article:

"Clutter distracts and confuses us. It drains our energy, keeps us from doing what’s most important and gets in the way of our goals and our dreams. While extroverts seem to thrive on juggling lots of balls, introverts who are more sensitive to the world around them may find that clutter is truly an obstacle to their ability to function."

I also abhor audio distractions/ clutter. Slamming cupboards drive me mad, loud talkers are my nemesis, televisions turned up to 50 want to make me stick a knife in my ear... you get the point.

I have been researching ways to cut back my anxiety during these overwhelming times, and in my research, I have introduced myself to a new personality trait: the Highly Sensitive Person. So now I have a new rabbit hole. I actually took a test, and I am clearly a highly sensitive person and, as we all know, internet quizzes are never wrong.

One thing (aside from the aversion to noise) that struck me about the Highly Sensitive person habits was that they have above-average manners. I find this hilarious. I am such a stickler for manners. I always thought I was just uptight, but now I have a much better excuse.

Here are 7 more qualities of highly sensitive people:

1. They get hangry. Hunger can trigger crankiness and an inability to function coherently.

2. They need adequate sleep. Everyone needs sleep, but, for a highly sensitive person, a sleepless night can put you on an emotional roller coaster the next day.

3. They need a healthy way to manage conflict. Nobody likes to fight, but sensitive people tend to feel extra anxious when conflict arises, and an internal battle takes place. They feel torn between speaking up for what they believe is right and sitting back so they don’t provoke an angry reaction from the other person. Often they subjugate their own needs because they’d rather “go along to get along.”

4. They exercise alone. The majority of highly sensitive people prefer individual sports, like bicycling, running and hiking, to group sports.

5. They do not like when they're under observation. It can make them feel rushed and they get flustered because there isn’t enough time to process what they’re doing.

6. They find noisy environments chaotic. Highly sensitive people don't work well in open offices because their senses are put into overdrive by the sights, sounds, smells, and activity buzzing around them.

7. They truly enjoy beauty and nature. Sensitive people are affected by surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments are overwhelming. They feel calm spending time in nature enjoying it's simplicity.

Being a highly sensitive person doesn't mean you have a disorder that needs to be fixed. It simply means that you process sensory data more deeply. Recognizing that you're a highly sensitive person could help you develop a better awareness of yourself and your needs.