New Year Reflection: Finding Space for the Creative

I’ve waited to write a New Year post, because I have mixed feelings about using January as a jumping off point for big life changes. After all, it’s still the dead of winter. Any physical health goals that involve weight loss, increased activity, or eating fewer calories is sure to be a challenge when you’re freezing or stuck inside, so I don’t feel right about trying to get you amped to make all these changes when doing so when the weather warms is likely a better choice to actually get the results you’re looking for.

New Year Reflection

This post is different from my usual posts. It’s more of a reflection as I gaze forward, backward, and inward, and examine how I’m living and feeling right now in this moment. My goal with this type of deeper sharing is to encourage you to reflect in the same way — and write it down. Actually verbalize your observations and reflection, even if it’s just for yourself. You’d be surprised at how helpful it can be to put things into perspective as your direct your energy into new goals for 2016.

New Year Reflection

I’m more than slightly obsessed with succulents. This is my first propagation mandala, inspired by so many beautiful works of art on Instagram. Making time for more quiet, meditative, creative projects like this is part of my plan for 2016.

A Year — or Decade — In Review

So, 2016 is here — I’ve officially been out of college for over a decade and out of grad school for just shy of 5 years. That’s bananas! Adulthood, womanhood, professional career, home-ownership, marriage, dog-parenting, gardening, owning a vacation vehicle — these are all external markers of where I am right at this moment. I’m someone who’s doing things. 

But what does that really mean? Is a list of interests and accomplishments really what life is about? Do these things represent who I really am at my core? Does what I “do” define me?

I don’t think so. Not totally anyway. 

I’ve realized that the big, gigantic life events that can be all-consuming (like being in school, planning a wedding, and buying a house) are all checked off the list — a list I didn’t consciously realize I was keeping. When I went back to Texas for the holidays, I realized that, while my career is going through some pretty exciting transitions at the moment, I really didn’t have that much of an update for my family and friends. I don’t want to be one of those people who’s always talking about work, so I tend to hold back on that — especially with friends that I rarely see — because I’d rather talk about something more substantial/personal/interesting. At the moment, there’s nothing exciting on its face to share with people I only see once or twice a year. And I’ve realized something about that.

That’s ok. 

It’s ok that I don’t have a big update. I don’t need to prepare talking points about my life’s accomplishments to have something valuable to contribute. Yes, my personal insights are based on experience, but they’re also rooted in introspection and self-discovery.

I think there are some folks waiting for Loren and me to decide that we’re having a baby. And to be honest, I don’t think that’s going to happen. That topic always comes up at one point or another when I go back to Texas (or when I’m around friends with kids), and because I’ve been ambivalent for so long, I allow (and even invite) the conversation at times, because I feel the need to hash out my trepidation. But I’ve pretty-much covered it at this point. There’s not much new to discuss on that point either. And I’ve realized something about that.

That’s ok too.

I’m not going to use this space to explain why Loren and I don’t want to have kids. If you’d actually like to hear about that, let me know in the comments and I’ll do a follow-up. But for now, I’ll assume that you know all the major reasons a couple might decide not to have kids. We pretty much hit all of those. I will say though that I really like being around other people’s kids, and I would like to make more time in my life to be able to do that.

New Year’s Resolutions

I resolve this year to recognize more quickly when I get caught up in doing doing doing.

I resolve this year to master the art of stillness.

I resolve this year to listen when creativity calls me.

Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to start a mindful meditation practice. To be frank, I didn’t succeed in creating a daily practice. I did succeed in awakening my senses and becoming a more deliberate person, but the practice itself didn’t stick, and some of the habits I was hoping to break at the dawn of 2015 are even more entrenched at the dawn of 2016, namely the constant need for stimulation. There will be moments in time when I look up and realize that I’ve either been reading a screen, listening to a podcast, or sleeping for days and days without any sort of break in the noise. No silence. No room to empty my brain and make space for something spontaneous. And I realize that I need silence — stillness.

I actually wrote a song about this very thing when I was in college. Well, it’s about a lot of things, but the main point was that I’d learned to access myself — my truth at the time — in silence. And I’ve realized that I need to learn that skill again. That’s where creativity lives. I’m reading Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic right now, and it’s all about accessing your creativity in the face of fear. She defines bravery not as the absence of fear, but courage in the face of fear. Not an original idea, but resonant nonetheless. 

I’ve never considered myself a fearful person when it comes to expressing creativity, but I can honestly say that I was absolutely the most brave (read:fearful but did it anyway) I ever was musically in deciding to add this song to the album I was recording. It’s a pretty big departure in style from anything else I ever wrote in all the years that I wrote music, but it was so true to who I was when I wrote it. It was one of those songs that flowed out and kept going and going — I was channeling something — but I was pretty nervous about adding it to my otherwise folky- girl-with-guitar-style album. In case you want a glimpse of me from a previous life, here it is:

It might seem vainglorious to be inspired by my own art, but to be perfectly honest, I really feel like there’s an element of who I was back then that’s gotten lost, and I’d really like to find it again. So I’m fine with using my own art as a jumping off point, or a place to get back to in my quest for being open and still. 

So yeah, I don’t really know where this post was headed when I started it, but this is where it ended up. With a song written by a 20-something version of myself from 13+ years ago and some resolve to find a piece of that person inside of who I am today. And to do that with some silence and contemplation. As I mentioned earlier, my career is going through some major shifts, so I think these resolutions are my preemptive strike against burnout. And my sincere appeal to the creative energy around me to come in and set up shop the way it used to when I was younger. 2016 is going to be the year of making space for the creative. 

Your Turn:

February is almost over, what have your NYR’s been about so far? Are you thinking of revising them? Do you have a plan? Have you considered where creativity might fit into your year? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments below!

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Special Edition: Cultivated Wellbeing 2 Year Anniversary!

It’s officially been 2 YEARS since I started Cultivated Wellbeing (CWB), and I have to say, it’s been SUCH a fun ride. I’ve enjoyed pretty-much every minute of the journey so far, and I’m looking ahead at what’s to come in all aspects of my life — personal, professional physical, psychological (well, I guess I’m only looking forward to things that start with a “p”).

A pretty cool side-effect of having a blog in the style of CWB is that it sort of doubles as a virtual scrapbook, chronicling the adventures in the aspects of my life that I’m most eager to write about: those in the kitchen, the great outdoors, the garden, and inside my mind. This project started out as an expression of all the ways I wanted to create and feel personally fulfilled, and over the course of the last two years, I’ve whittled away some of the hobby-style aspects of the blog and focused more deeply on the activities I think would be most useful for others — the lessons I’ve learned and discoveries I’ve made along the way that might benefit someone else. 


I shared this image in my very first CWB post back in 2013. It was taken on a climbing adventure in Pinnacles National Park, and the only proper gear I had for climbing was my harness and shoes. Seeing this — what I’m wearing from head to toe really highlights for me that this was the beginning of an epic adventure in the sport of rock climbing. I barely recognize the person in this picture. She certainly had no idea what was to come!

Progress Report

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve forged relationships with other bloggers through workshops, conferences (like BlogHer), and on the interwebs. These relationships have taught me how to make genuine connections through blogging, how to reach more readers, how to use social media as best I can to get my message out, and ultimately how to create better content for you to read.

I’ve been a guest on radio shows and podcastsfeatured on other blogs and wellness sites, hosted guest bloggers here at CWB, even had a spot on a news show in Milwaukee!

I’ve published three eBooks, one of which was bundled together with masterpieces from some of my peers in the blogosphere in the 2015 Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle.

I’ve forged relationships with companies I believe in and just recently launched a YouTube station dedicated to answering your questions about the Bone Broth Acne Cure.

Oh yeah, and before your very eyes, I cleared 20 years of acne in two weeks with traditionally prepared bone broth. That was a big one. 🙂

The Bone Broth Acne Cure Question and Answer

In the garden

Over the past two years, I’ve built out my garden (even won a competition!) and seen both successes and failures in the front and back yard. I learned that slugs love to get drunk and that peppers and tomatoes prefer the front yard over the back.

I’ve discovered that succulents prefer less sunlight than I thought they did, and that food won’t grow under the shade of a redwood tree.

I’ve set up an indoor seed-sprouting station, been ready to kill my dog over a destroyed green bean crop, and found joy and magic in the surprisingly delicious brassica bean

Above all else, I’ve learned that organic gardening is a humbling endeavor, and that what worked one year might not work the next. In the garden, you will always be surprised (maybe not always pleasantly), and you will inevitably find powdery mildew, aphids, and leaf miners. I’ve learned that nature rules, and there are plenty of variables you can’t control — a lesson that applies on many fronts of life. No matter what you do, or how long you’ve been at it (for me, not all that long), you will always learn something in the garden. I started gardening because I wanted to cultivate my own food, but I’ve ended up cultivating a lot more than that. CWB Garden Spoils (1)

In the kitchen

The CWB kitchen has turned out some pretty fantastic flavors over the last two years, if I might say so myself! Of course, there have been some flops too, which you’ve probably seen if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. My sad cauliflower pizza crust that crumbled on the plate, the chewiest turkey necks known to man, burning things, under-boiling Dungeness crab … the list goes on and on.

But the gems are in there too! I’m planning to dedicate a whole post to recipe highlights of 2015 at the end of this year, but for now, suffice it to say that if you want to get a bunch of winners all in one package (or three), consider downloading my eBooks! And here are some teasers just because I can’t help myself:

Recipe Round up Sneak Peek!

In the Great Outdoors

The amount of character that has been built entirely out of the perils of climbing and being in the elements could fill a whole book. Granted, we got our van this year, which was HUGE for cold weather camping, but in the end, it’s the adventuring that’s paved the way to a more contemplative and deliberate me. 

Let’s not kid ourselves. Sometimes there’s crying. I’d say that on multi-pitch climbs, there might even often be crying. But I never regret the push. I never regret getting to see the view at the top, struggling with a move I don’t think I can do and then finally pushing through it. Climbing forces you to be in the moment — right there, nowhere else.

It’s not the kind of sport that allows you to check out and move forward mindlessly — there is no multitasking in climbing. You have to be completely in it. And that element of singular focus can really be a challenge for me sometimes. I’m juggling a lot right now in my professional life, and it’s often difficult to turn it off at the day’s end. Climbing forces you to clear your mind and solve the problem in front of you.  And all the while you get to be in some of the most beautiful places on earth.


Brag Over

Ok, so I’ve spent this whole post telling you all the great things life has brought in the last 2 years. Sorry if it was over the top. But the point of this post was to encapsulate this moment in time — this two year mark where I look back to see where I was, look in the mirror to see where I am, and look ahead to see where I’m going. And I’m doing all three things with the utmost gratitude and humility.

This work is fun, but it’s a commitment to making tiny little steps forward. There aren’t a ton of overnight blogging success stories, but sometimes it’s hard to resist comparing myself to others, and wondering if there’s something more I could be doing to get to the next level. A little sense of competition never hurt anyone, but that urge to compare can be intoxicating — and toxic. A lesson I’ve learned across everything I’m doing: in blogging, in business, in gardening, cooking, lifting, and ESPECIALLY climbing, is that nothing good comes from comparing myself to other people. All I can do is see where I was, see where I am, and see where I’m going. 

One of the more treacherous experiences of the last two years -- Cathedral Peak in Tuolomne Meadows. This was a multi-pitch climb that involved altitude sickness, getting lost on the route, and realizing as the sun was setting that two out of three of us had forgotten our headlamps. If it weren't for the patient and generous soloers who topped out with us, we might have had to camp out up there.

One of the more treacherous experiences of the last two years — Cathedral Peak in Tuolomne Meadows. This was a multi-pitch climb that involved altitude sickness, getting lost on the route, and realizing as the sun was setting that two out of three of us had forgotten our headlamps. If it weren’t for the patient and generous group of soloers who topped out with us, we might have had to camp out up there. Sure is pretty though, right?

Spoiler Alert!

I won’t spoil everything I have in my bag of goodies, but there are some exciting things in the works at CWB. In this third year of the blog, I plan to launch some exciting new offerings, write another eBook (more to come on that!), and who knows? maybe there will be some new developments in the CWB kitchen that are worth writing home about!  

Until then, THANK YOU for your support over the last two years (or whenever you started reading)! Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter, for replying to my emails, for taking my surveys and answering my questions, for participating in the comments section, for watching my YouTube channel, and for following me on social. The CWB community is amazing, and as we move into this third year, I plan to call on you more and more to ask for your input as I build the next phase of this project. 

A Complete Toolbox for Becoming Your Best Self

The Weight Obsession

As a culture, we’re so obsessed with losing weight (especially women) that thinness has become synonymous with health. I want to reframe this conversation and emphasize that there’s a difference between being skinny and being healthy, and sometimes you can’t tell from the number on the scale just how healthy (or unhealthy) you are. 

Admittedly, I’ve had my fair share of struggling with the number on the scale — I won’t pretend that I’m immune to this social conditioning that thinness = beauty — but in recent months, I’ve really begun to feel a shift. And that shift came when I realized that I FEEL better than I’ve ever felt in my life, and feeling great is reflected in how we interface with the world.

Sure, there are some physical indicators: healthy hair, skin, and nails, and the total absence of digestive distress. But there are some beautiful internal markers too: satisfaction with my work and my relationships, and the joy of being fully present and connected when I’m away from the office. All of these things serve to bring me to the place I am today, which is happy with who I am and how I look. 

TOFI Thin outside fat inside

A Lifestyle Shift

One of the biggest lifestyle changes I’ve made since recovering from my hand injury has been the introduction of a weight lifting program into my weekly activities. It’s been a slow and modest effort, but I’m lifting more weight than I ever have, and it feels so empowering! Not only am I feeling awesome in my pants, I’m also feeling a LOT stronger while I’m climbing and hiking — which always gives me a confidence boost.

I plan to dedicate a few future posts solely to the topic of weight lifting, but for today, my point is that there’s a lot more to being healthy than the number on the scale — it’s multifaceted, not just in the physical sense, but in the mental/emotional/spiritual sense as well. Where we place our priorities, what we surround ourselves with in our homes, the connection we have to the food on our plates, the people in our lives, and the world in which we exist; all of these things make up a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, and it’s in these finer points that we find true fulfillment.   

Staying Healthy with Whole Foods and Holistic Living

Sometimes making a lifestyle shift is more complicated than just sticking to a list of instructions. Attempting to flatten out the complexity of our lives — our families — onto a sheet of paper can feel stifling. And at the very same time, attempting to stick with what’s prescribed can feel overwhelming. In this digital age, the vastness of information, differing opinions, and conflicting theories can make for a confusing plan of attack. 

But what if you had the best resources on the web for living a healthy lifestyle all in one place and right at your fingertips? What if you had guidance and info from respected nutrition and holistic health experts like Abel James of Fat-Burning Man, George Bryant of Civilized Caveman, and Katie of Wellness Mama on your phone or kindle waiting for you every time you needed them?


Enter the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

I’m super excited to tell you about this eBook and eCourse bundle this week! I was invited to contribute my eBook, Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-Free Living, and when I saw the list of authors and contributors, I couldn’t say yes quickly enough! 

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

This is truly the best value available for a comprehensive resource on holistic, healthy, natural living. I can honestly say that I’m proud to be a part of this and honored to share it with my readers (that’s you!). Not only are Abel, George, and Katie on board with their beautiful books (already worth more than twice the cost of the entire bundle), we’ve also got homesteaders, paleo bloggers, certified aromatherapists, nutritionists, and real foodies on board sharing their very best work, all compiled in this beautiful package. My book is in a lineup of 9 “allergy-friendly” eBooks, and accompanying me on that list is Carol from Ditch the Wheat! Super psyched!

TOFI Thin Outside Fat Inside

All together, this package is worth over $1900!

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

Plus, it comes with $220 worth of bonus products including:

  • ePantry – FREE hand soap + $8 credit on one shipment, FREE dish soap + $8 credit on the next shipment, AND 60-day VIP access with FREE shipping ($30 value)
  • Plant Therapy – Lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oil set ($22.92 value)
  • NaturOli – FREE travel essentials facial set: deep conditioning facial wash (1 oz.), new radiance facial creme (1 oz.), exfoliating walnut scrub (1 oz.) ($16.95 value)
  • Bloom Naturals – FREE SPOT treatment for acne & eczema OR a $15 gift certificate toward Bloom Naturals products ($15 value)
  • Lexie Naturals –  FREE natural care gift set: lip balm (.15 oz.), lotion tube (1 oz.) and trial-size deodorant (.35 oz.) ($15 value)
  • Perfect Supplements – $15 gift certificate toward any Perfect Brand product ($15 value)
  • Strawesome – $15 gift certificate toward the straws and accessories of your choice ($15 value)
  • TriLight Health – FREE 2-oz liquid herbal formula or $15 off larger bottles ($15 value)
  • Craftsy – 1 FREE online class ($44.99 value)
  • Once a Month Meals – $32 toward OAMM membership + a free mini menu ($35 value)

Besides being so incredibly helpful and inspiring, one of the things I like best about the bundle is the price. By offering the bundle for a short time only, we’re able to give you access to over $1900 worth of amazing products for a whopping 97% off!

TOFI Thin Inside Fat Outside

Here’s how it works:

  1. Visit the Ultimate Bundle website, take a quick look at all the goodness that comes in this package, then click “Get my copy now!” to go through their simple 3-step checkout process.
  2. You’ll receive an email with a login to their online access portal, where you’ll begin downloading your eBooks, signing up for your eCourses, and redeeming your free bonus products.
  3. Use their Getting Started Interactive Guides to pick the area you want to tackle first and start making healthy changes!

The most important detail, though, is that this bundle is available for just 6 days! After Monday night, September 14th, the sale ends and you’d have to buy all of these products individually.

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

Oh, and one more thing!

I’m giving away two of my own special bonuses exclusively to every CWB reader who purchases this bundle. The first one is a list of my 23 favorite, tried and true, healthy smoothie concoctions — all compiled into a beautiful eBook! Start your morning off with a veggie-packed smoothie and pretty-much guarantee a great day for yourself! 


The second one is a CWB bumper sticker! Yes, I’ll actually MAIL it to you! This is my very first ever CWB swag, and I’m probably more excited about it than I should be, but here it is!!! Eeeeeee!!!!!!

whole foods and holistic health

To get these exclusive CWB bonuses, simply fill out this form after you’ve purchased your bundle and I’ll get your stuff to you as soon as humanly possible!

–> CLICK HERE to learn more or buy the bundle!

This bundle offer is now over. If you’d like to be informed of the next time an offer this good comes around, fill out this super short form and I’ll be sure to let you know! (They happen at least once a year)

It’s even backed by a full 30-day guarantee, so you can know for sure that it’s right for you. 

If you’re a regular CWB reader, you know I don’t give a lot of real estate to “sales” on this site. This is the exception because it’s worth being an exception — I’m proud to be a part of this, and I want to share it with you!

I’ve already shared how fantastic it feels to finally be my best self, and the resources in this bundle are exactly the type of skills and tools I’ve used to get there. Join me and become your best self today!

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Back from Vacation with Something Exciting to Share!

I just got home from an eventful 10-day vacation that started in Texas and ended in Maine. With two back to back wedding weekends and a short New Hampshire climbing trip in between, we had a jam-packed time. I wish we could have had a bit more relaxing mixed into this whirlwind trip, but to be honest, it was so much fun it doesn’t matter. I was able to recharge my battery by reconnecting with great friends while enjoying the beautiful natural landscape in central Maine. We swam, we ate, we drank, we laughed, we cried. (Might have been the crying-est wedding I’ve ever attended — and most unique and beautiful.)

4 essential habits of healthy families

Spending quality time with friends and family is always fodder for a sweet (potentially sappy) post about how much I cherish the people in my life. I’ve done that a few times on this blog, so I’ll sum up my sentiments with this: I am so so so grateful for the path I’ve taken in my life that’s led me to amazing people, all doing amazing things with their talents and passions. I cherish the relationships I have — my cousins who are getting older and have become young adults that I love talking to and listening to, and the friends I’ve made over the years. 

4 essential habits of healthy families

Baby Bonanza

The last weekend of my vacation was spent entirely surrounded by kids. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever seen so many children in one place at one time that wasn’t some sort of school or camp in my entire life. There might have been close to a 1 to 1 ratio of adult to child at this wedding. It was bananas. 

4 essential habits of healthy families

A few of the little ones gathered to play in the ice inside the booze-filled canoe

But there was also something cool about it. My friends who got married draw a special type of person into their lives — the DIY, off the grid, natural-living, adventure-seeking, sincere type. I was excited to reunite with the mutual friends we share, but I was also fascinated to meet people I’d heard about by name but never met (and their 2 to 5 kids in tow). I was interested to learn about the unique and fulfilling ways they were living their lives and raising their families.

And that brings me to the “something exciting to share”!

The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families

I skipped a post last week while I was on my vacation, but what I wanted to give you is ready today! It’s free and it’s awesome. Get excited.

Here it is:


My friends over at Spark Health and Ultimate Bundles have put together a FREE mini-course called “The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families” Hey Folks, sorry, but this promo is over. But there’s a new one running through the folks at Ultimate Bundle! Go on over and check it out! (affiliate link)

The course contains a collection of quick and easy-to-follow lessons from trusted bloggers (like me!) to help awesome people (like YOU) learn simple, helpful ways to get yourself and your family on track for a healthy fall and winter season (and beyond!)

Here are the 4 Habits:

  • Essential Habit #1: “Nurturing your Best Self” (with Heather from Mommypotamus)
  • Essential Habit #2: “Staying Fit as a Family (Gym Membership Not Required)” (with Crystal from Money Saving Mom)
  • Essential Habit #3: “From Scratch Meal-Making” (with Katie from Kitchen Stewardship)
  • Essential Habit #4: “Using Natural Remedies” (with Katie from Wellness Mama

Each lesson comes with a 25-minute audio lesson, PDF transcript, and a practical “Take Action” guide.

Why You Need this Free Course:

If you’re like me, you’re often on the hunt for an easy, healthy snack to bring on the trail (or to the office), a new natural dish soap that actually works (and doesn’t just spread the grease around on your dishes), or a natural remedy for a head cold or sore throat that doesn’t destroy your gut bacteria (or taste like chemical grossness, not that herbal formulas taste that great).

You think about all this stuff because you want to be healthy and you want your family to be healthy too, right? You want to have plenty of energy to do things you love — get outside for a hike, play with your furry friends and children, do some yard work, create something beautiful.

And maybe you’re curious about what natural alternatives you could use in your house to get rid of the chemical-laden cleaners and sprays you use at home. I know I’ve been working on a chemical-free household for quite some time, and I’m almost there. My husband and housemate can’t quite let go of the chemical bathroom stuff, but I’m still working on him.

This course sets you up for success in the most essential areas of health and wellness, and it’s great for the whole family. And I love it because you can listen to it on the go and check out the “Take Action” guide when you’re ready to get started. I don’t know about you, but anything that gives me the option to listen instead of read is probably more likely to get consumed, because I can do it while I drive. I love that about modern technology!

If you want to get your family on the road to real health, it’s simple to get started: sign up for your FREE mini-course now!

P.S. Hurry because this mini course is only available until Sunday, September 6th. Don’t miss your chance to access this exclusive content! Grab it now.

Update: Sorry, this free offer is no longer available. Click here to make sure you catch the next one!

4 essential habits of healthy families


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Time to Unplug: Why Downtime Makes You More Creative

Are you someone who gets really great thinking done in the shower? Did your last great idea come to you when you were scrubbing your belly or rinsing your hair? Or maybe you like to sing in there — or even zone out completely, losing time as the steam rises. Either way, don’t you just love a nice long shower? I sure do. It occurred to me the other day that the shower is one of the few places you can’t take your phone with you. It’s built-in downtime, and for some of us, it’s the only downtime we get.

I, for one, can definitely get addicted to the constant stimulation of having devices at my fingertips. I’ll read my kindle as I walk down the hall to the restroom, or I’ll continue listening to a podcast on my way from the parking lot to my desk. I will fill every potentially silent moment in my brain with input, whether it’s a story, information from the web, a podcast, checking my email, or a phone call. It can reach a level of complete excess before I even realize what I’ve done. I’ll exhaust myself by never letting my brain take a break to roam the imaginary terrain of spontaneous thought.

downtime and creativity

I remember way back in my former life as an aspiring musician — before smart phones — when I had a little notepad on my night stand. Ideas for song lyrics would pop into my head right as I was relaxing into sleep. One song even came to me in the middle of a restless night, and I jumped out of bed and wrote the whole thing in one sitting, music and all. Creative ideas, whether they’re song lyrics, an idea for a painting, a garden idea, a recipe idea, or just something fun to write about, often come to me in those moments of idle thought — of daydreaming. What am I missing out on by filling all that empty space with noise from my phone?


Getting Caught up in Being Plugged-in

downtime and creativityAs much as I enjoy being unplugged (one of the motivating factors in my constant retreat to the wilderness), I’ll admit that having this blog has meant being more plugged in than I’ve ever been in my life. It could also be a function of the world at large becoming more and more plugged in and me getting swept away with the times, but to be honest, I’ve historically been relatively resistant to technology that makes me constantly available. I like to disappear from time to time. You might notice that about me if you follow me on twitter — I’m not great about keeping up on weekends, because I’m usually hanging off the side of a rock somewhere, very much in the moment with what I’m doing.

I hung onto my flip phone far longer than most, and from there, I wanted to make sure that the next phone I got did not have an email function. I actively did NOT want to be able to check email from my phone, and nowadays I check it (and Facebook) somewhat ridiculously often. Even when I know nothing new is there, I’ll grab my phone at a stop light and check it. Since when did sitting at a stoplight become so unbearably boring that I can’t sit there and listen to whatever I’m listening to without fidgeting with my phone? And when did being bored become such a burden?

I realize my conundrum when the constant checking reaches a fevered pitch. Then I attempt to ditch the bad habits and regroup to live a more sane life. It lasts for a while, then it slowly creeps back in! I mentioned this same pattern with my coffee addiction a little while back. 


Downtime: a Goal on its Own

So what I’m getting at here is that we do actually need the downtime. It’s not expendable. We can’t just wait for our next vacation to get some good quality, deviceless, unscheduled time in. Our bodies, minds, and souls need and deserve more than that to function at their best. In fact, we need daily bouts of downtime in order for creativity to flourish.

downtime and creativityOur brains are doing really important work when we think we’re doing nothing. Letting ourselves get bored pushes us into the subconscious and leads us to some of our best ideas. As we become more and more involved in our devices, we spend less and less time allowing our minds to wander, which is where creative sparks and self-exploration originate.

There’s a concept called “autobiographical planning,” the act of mentally planning and anticipating personally relevant future goals, which takes places when our brains are in that idle or daydreaming state. When we fill those empty spaces with our devices (games, Facebook, Instagram, email), the potential for that planning is interrupted or entirely prevented. 

There’s also this idea of productivity that pops into conversations about daydreaming and down time. When we think about being productive, we think about being constantly busy and engaged in our work. But the truth is that without the downtime, we’re actually less productive. We need not only vacation, but a good sleep schedule, a reasonable amount of time away from our work, and again, time to do absolutely nothing. Tony Schwartz, author and CEO shares his secrets for being more productive through relaxation and refers to studies on sleep and vacation, stating that employees who take vacation will be up to 8% more productive at work.


Bored and Brilliant

These days, the average mobile consumer spends an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes on their mobile devices daily. In the past, at least some of that time was spent doing nothing with our brains in idle mode — daydreaming — and when we miss out on that, we miss out on spontaneous ideas popping in; potentially brilliant ideas! In googling around for today’s post, I came across a project that WNYC launched through their show (and podcast) Note to Self. In February of this year, the Bored and Brilliant project challenged listeners to do less on their phones — and with technology in general. I mean, the catch is that the info they share comes to you via email and podcast, but we haven’t figure out telepathy yet so I think it’s a fair way to play at this point. I love this idea of a collective effort to put down our phones and zone out. I know I’m a little late to the game, but I decided to sign up.

It’s time to program some boredom into my schedule and see what ideas emerge. My goal is not only to create some lasting changes in the way I deal with my devices, but to reignite the spirit of my former musical self. Maybe a song will come, maybe something else, but I bet what does come will be brilliant!

And you should try it too! Sign up for Bored and Brilliant and let me know how it goes for you. Maybe we can swap our creative ideas when our boredom sparks our brilliance!

downtime and creativity

Gratitude: How the Finest Nurses in Oakland Adjusted My Attitude

It’s official! I’m in full recovery mode from this seemingly never ending wrist injury! After nearly 4 months out of the gym, I’m BACK and climbing about 90% as hard as I was when I got hurt. I’m almost there! I no longer have to worry about tweaking my wrist picking something up, twisting my hand too abruptly, constantly being careful not to reach for something too quickly, or holding something for too long with my thumb out. I can type all day — with proper stretching and breaks (which I probably should have been doing in the first place) — and most importantly, I can CLIMB! 

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I used acupuncture as part of my treatment for about 2 months during the healing process. On this particular day, I couldn’t believe how many needles she got in there, so I had to document it. 

Outside Season!

We went out to the Tahoe area to climb a couple of weekends back and I couldn’t wait to get on the rock. It was my first time back out in 2015, and I had a whole new appreciation for the sport after having to take such a long break. I didn’t complain about the long approaches, I tried just about every climb I could, and I kept up a positive attitude even when things got hard. Intending to climb at Lover’s Leap, we ended up at Hog’s Back the first day on the wrong route in direct sun after getting a pretty late start. Loren was really mad, but I brushed it off and kept smiling. It was AWESOME. I surprised myself following Loren up a pretty tricky 10A at Hog’s Back and then exhausted myself the next day with a thirty minute vertical approach to Sugarloaf and another long 10A. When we got back down to the van on Sunday, I was so happy to be completely wiped out. It had been too long! 


Setbacks and Life Lessons

I just got home from a week in Texas, and getting back in the gym after a week off was pretty deflating. It’s amazing what you lose from just a week. It comes back quickly, but that first day in the gym can be a bit of a bummer sometimes if you aren’t mentally prepared. I found myself getting frustrated, cussing, yelling, kicking (if you’ve ever climbed outside with me before, you’ve seen this super charming side of me), and I just quit a route after failing to complete a tough move. I completely lost my focus and ended our session shortly after that. Not a great first day back at all after all the progress I made in April. 

Over the last two days I’ve been working with the nurses at Highland Hospital on relaxation and stress management. It’s National Nurses’ Week, and as the wellness program manager of a large chain of hospitals in Alameda County, I helped set up relaxation rooms with an essential oil diffuser and did guided meditation with the nurses on each floor. Part of our work together has been discussing how we set our intentions each morning and how we prepare for bed each night. I was struck by the amazing positivity these nurses expressed. So many of them said they wake up with gratitude every morning, and that they wind down in the evenings in just the same way. It occurred to me that the job of nursing might very well be impossible if not for routines like this. We also talked about how we use our hands as healers. We shared a gentle reflexology hand massage, and in doing this work, I finally connected the dots.


Gratitude for My Health

My hands are a gift. When my dominant hand was injured, I realized just how much I need it every minute of every day. I really need my thumb! There were times over the course of the healing process that I thought it would never get any better, and that I was doomed to a miserable, limited, injured life forever. (Not that I’m dramatic or anything.) I got down about my injury quite a few times over the course of the last few months, and when I finally got back into the gym, I was so happy I could cry. My first trip back outside was pure bliss. 

But those feelings fade quickly, and it’s all too easy to sink back into an unconscious state of taking my health for granted.

I’ve been back in the gym for one month, and on my first bad day I had the same crappy attitude I tended to have before I got injured in the first place. It was like I’d learned nothing. These nurses have reminded me of just how lucky I am. Through their example of daily gratitude and positivity in the face of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the county, they’ve inspired me to recognize and appreciate what I have.

I have the use of my thumb again. I can sleep through the night without accidentally tweaking it and waking up to sharp pain in my wrist. I don’t have to wear a clumsy brace on my dominant hand. I can type without pain. I can live my passion and climb again. I have my health, and that lesson in gratitude is the gift I’ve received in sharing self-care techniques with some of the finest nurses in Oakland.

Thank You Highland Hospital!

Losing Lisa

Coping with grief and loss

My cousin Lisa died suddenly on Sunday. She was my Godfather’s youngest daughter, my first cousin in my close-knit Italian family. She was 27 years old. 

I wish I had the words to express the emotions welling up inside me, but there aren’t adequate words for something so tragic. For such a beautiful soul to die so young, for her never to have the chance to grow old, to find romantic love, to have children, for the missed opportunities, the missed experiences, my first feelings are of regret and despair. But not only does that not cover it, it doesn’t do justice to the life she was able to live.


What I Missed

Lisa was a smart woman, dedicated to her family, loved by so many, most of whom I never knew. I don’t want to say she missed out on anything, because in truth I don’t know that she did. I know she had close friends who cherished her and considered her part of their families, but sadly, I only know that in her death. Lisa wasn’t as open with her extended family as she was with her chosen one. I never got to see Lisa’s vibrant love as her friends saw it, and I suppose I’ll have to live with that regret. I wish I’d known Lisa better. I wish she’d been comfortable enough to let me into her life. I wish that the unspoken barriers our family has around topics deemed “too personal” or taboo wouldn’t have gotten in the way of knowing my cousin, of possibly helping her. I wish I could have helped. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, that we were all too afraid to say things that really needed to be said. And I know that being so far away from my family in Texas added another layer of distance between me and my sweet cousin Lisa that made it even harder to breach the tough topics. 

Coping with grief and loss


Grief and Accepting What Is

I want to believe that there was something I could have done to prevent this tragedy, but part of me — maybe even most of me — wants to believe that there was nothing anyone could have done. That would be easier to live with. And thinking any other way won’t bring her back. 

Although I can’t presume to know her true feelings because we never talked about it, Lisa and I shared a struggle with our body image. I can’t fathom what Lisa’s struggle must have been like, or how lost she must have felt. I can’t imagine how isolated she must have felt, but again, I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know and will never know about Lisa, and it breaks my heart. 

There’s a hole in our family that will never be filled, but I want to believe that Lisa lived the life she was meant to live. That her soul needed to rest when it did. That she’s at peace now, free from the burdens she faced in life. But that’s too hard to accept right now.

Coping with grief and loss


Confronting Death

With the contemplation of the impermanence of the human form, something very deep and peaceful opens up inside you … When you accept the impermanence, out of that comes an opening within, which is beyond form. That which is not touched by death, the formless, comes forward as you completely accept the impermanence of all forms. That’s why it is so deeply peaceful to contemplate death.

If someone close to you dies, then there is an added dimension. You may find there is deep sadness. The form also was precious, although what you loved in the form was the formless. And yet, you weep because of the fading form. There too, you come to an acceptance – especially if you are already familiar with death, you already know that everything dies – then you can accept it more easily when it happens to somebody close to you. There is still deep sadness, but then you can have the two dimensions simultaneously – the outer you weeps, the inner and most essential is deeply at peace. It comes forward almost as if it were saying “there is no death.” It’s peace.

– Eckhart Tolle

I just finished Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and the timing of Lisa’s passing with my exploration into this book is giving me an opportunity to practice some of what I’ve learned within the pages. I can’t say that I can embody all of it, because Lisa’s passing is too raw and too close to home; she was too young, and the disbelief and unreadiness to accept it is part of the struggle toward consciousness that this book is really all about. But in hearing the words in my mind and recognizing that nothing real truly dies, I can accept that Lisa is free of her human form, that the formless part of her was her, and that precious soul lives on. Of course, that feeling of peace he describes is fleeting and interwoven with a deep grief, but in some way it’s a comfort.

I’ll miss my little cousin Lisa, and that’s really all I can say about it right now.

A New Look at those 10 Vanity Pounds

10 vanity pounds self image

image created by Frank Kovalchek sourced through Creative Commons

Oh vanity — we all have a little bit, right? We all want to look our best at least some of the time, don’t we? I’ll admit that the beginning of my journey into the health and wellness field was fueled by equal parts vanity and curiosity. I wanted to know why I ate better food and less of it than friends who were thinner. I wanted to know why my skin wouldn’t clear up. I wanted to know why I could work so hard in the gym and never lose any weight, why I had constant dark circles under my eyes. I wanted to pick apart everything I didn’t like about myself and fix it with food and nutrition. That’s what got me started on my path, and to be completely transparent, some of those feelings of insecurity haven’t gone away even though some of the problems have been solved.

The truth is I’ve been playing tug of war with my self-image my entire life. Most people who know me — even those who know me well — consider me one of the most confident people they know. For the most part, it’s true that my confidence is above average, but there’s definitely a darker side to my self-image. I have battled those few “vanity pounds” my whole life. I’ve struggled with my shape, been frustrated with the size of my waist, gone as far as asking my best friend and roommate in college to say, “Don’t eat that, cow,” if I wanted to eat something fattening while I was dieting (he refused — good friend that he is).

Confession: I’ve been known to look at an old picture — say from high school — and think “Wow, I thought I was fat then! Look how thin I was. Now I’m really fat.”

Raise your hand if you’ve done this.


Old Habits Die Hard

I grew up hearing my tiny grandmother say, “I gotta get rid of this belly!” It’s something I’ve always made a joke about (it was super endearing), but in retrospect, I wonder if it didn’t affect the way I saw myself and my value when I was forming my identity. I learned that being small/skinny was a better way to be — and this message was reinforced everywhere around me in the usual ways: TV, magazines, pop stars (I was obsessed with Madonna as a kid). Nothing new here, right?

In the 80’s people were obsessed with leotards, leggings, and sweat bands. I had a “workout” birthday party in elementary school. I practiced Jane Fonda exercise videos and danced to Body Electric on TV at a laughably young age. I was strangely obsessed with Karen Carpenter and her anorexia story, even though I myself have never had an eating disorder.

In pictures and in life, at around age 8, I started noticing that my waist was bigger than those of my friends. I was tiny, but I was already comparing myself to everyone else. I was shorter and thicker than my friends and it bothered me, even then. Before puberty, before boyfriends, I noticed it and it bothered me. And that’s been the case my whole life, even at my absolute fittest.

Wedding Weight

I got married in 2012, and I lost about 12 pounds leading up to my wedding. I’ve since gained nearly all of it back. It took me almost three years, but rest assured, it’s back. At my wedding weight, I was obsessive. I weighed myself literally every day. I monitored all my food. I freaked out if I gained one pound. And still, at my goal weight, I wanted to be shaped differently. I wanted to lose weight in different places. I looked in the mirror and squeezed my belly and wished it would go away. I bought clothes just a tiny bit snug to “motivate me” to lose more. 

10 vanity pounds self image

Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve slowly inched back toward my original weight — a weight I was fine with until I started losing. But I wasn’t until I got hurt that the last 7(ish) pounds brought me back to square one. And it was really bothering me until I realized something I wish I’d realized a long time ago.

The Eye of the Beholder

I realized that my mood was more a determinant of what I saw in the mirror than my weight.

I realized that if I’m feeling good about myself, I look awesome in the mirror at any weight. I realized that 12 pounds ago, I was trapping myself in this paranoid box obsessing about every little thing I ate, and it was sucking the fun out of being a thinner me. Maybe I’ll return to that weight now that I’m back in the gym consistently, and maybe I won’t. Either way though, I want to be HAPPY in my own skin and not constantly monitoring the scale in the crazy, militant way I was 12 pounds ago.

When I look at the pictures from my honeymoon, I might see the slight difference between then and now, but I realize today that I didn’t feel any better about myself back then — and that’s what matters in the end. Back then I felt desperate to hold on to my new thinner body, yet still unsatisfied with it, which made the accomplishment of losing the weight bittersweet. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I’d fantasized I would before I lost it. In fact, at 130 lbs, I felt a little weak and tired and actually chose to put a few pounds back on. 

I realized that I am happier now, not standing on a scale every day, enjoying indulgences in moderation without guilt. I realized that chasing those few vanity pounds just makes me feel bad, and that as long as I am healthy, feel strong in my body, fit into my clothes (which I do), take good care of myself, and enjoy my physical form, that little bit of extra weight doesn’t matter.

In the end, chasing those few pounds doesn’t accomplish anything except self-criticism, but self-acceptance frees up that space in my mind to focus on the things that really matter. Like this guy.

10 vanity pounds self image

Your Challenge

Today I challenge you to appreciate what you have and who you are. I challenge you to be present in the moment and in your body, to love yourself just as you are, to find beauty and gratitude in the mirror. There will always be aspects of our physical form that we wish were different. Some are urgent and real health risks, but some are just a result of early programming and “old habits” that we have the power to undo and free ourselves from.

I challenge you to examine your health and fitness goals and assess what’s real and right for you.

Maybe your high school weight isn’t a realistic goal for you at this point in your life, and getting there would compromise your vibrant health. Maybe you realize that you’ve been ignoring something urgent and finally make the call to your doctor that you’ve been putting off. And maybe, just maybe you realize that what you see in the mirror is a perfect reflection of who you are, and those 10 vanity pounds really don’t matter as much as you thought they did. 

Reconnecting with the Present Moment While Appreciating the Past

It’s been a while since I reflected on the relationships in my life and the value they bring to me and my wellbeing. And in my quest for mindfulness and conscious presence in the life laid before me, I think now is as good a time as any for some reflection. I grew up in Houston, moved to Fort Worth for my first year of college, then to Austin for the rest. I studied abroad in Italy for a semester, then moved to Baltimore, and now I’m here in the SF Bay Area.  While Houston remains my home base and the main hub where I see my family each year at Christmas, I’ve collected friendships in each of the places I’ve lived that contribute to my sweet, rich life on a very regular basis. I have friends I hold dear to my heart in every American time zone (and some abroad too!), and as I get older and life gets busier, maintaining these precious relationships gets harder and harder. 

reconnecting gratitude

the Fab 5 – my grade school posse


Growing Up – Or Should I say “Grown Up”

In the last … I don’t know, 3 years? 4 years? … I’ve realized that I’m actually an adult. Yes, I know, I’m 33. I’m a late bloomer that way I guess. My point is that I’m realizing that the life I make here in my new home of California is my actual life — the one I’ve chosen and continue to choose every day I stay — and I only get one. This isn’t a trial run, it’s the real deal. I never felt like I’d stay in Houston, in Austin, in Baltimore forever, and as a result, part of me always felt a little disconnected from where I was — maybe not fully present is a good way to describe it.

I knew I’d move on to find my true home somewhere else, and now that I’ve found it, I’m realizing that I really was connected to those places I left behind. I left behind real, true friends that I carry with me every day in my new home, and I find myself wishing they were here with me. It’s hard to replace those kinds of relationships as an adult. As people get married, have kids, become immersed in their careers, their families, their homes, their pets (I never said I wasn’t immersed too!), the challenge of creating new relationships from scratch becomes greater and greater. At least that’s true for me. 

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Best friends from high school. Pics on the left from 1996 and 2000, pics on the right from 2013


Not everyone is lucky enough to have lifelong friends as I do — keeping in touch through moves across the country, relationships, having kids, break-ups, make-ups, life’s little disasters, and the joys of every day can be a big challenge. But I have been that lucky. I’ve been lucky enough to keep a friendship that started when I was 4 years old long enough and strong enough for us to have been in each other’s weddings in the past few years. I’ve been lucky enough to sustain strong, solid friendships after break ups with amazing people whom I still call my very best friends today. I’ve held on to people I wasn’t sure would want me to when I’ve moved across the country, who’ve surprised me with their consideration and loyalty to our relationship. I’m so impressed with the people in my life, but sometimes it’s easy to take for granted.

reconnecting gratitude

Paige and I have known each other since we were 4 years old. We’ve kept in touch through moves all over the country, even childhood moves.

This post is meant to honor the ones I love in every time zone, whether we talk every week or once a year for hours to catch up. But it’s also meant to recognize that I’ve been chasing relationships in my adult life that mirror these lifelong connections, and maybe that’s not very realistic. Maybe attempting to recreate friendships like these is the wrong goal altogether, and I need to redirect my energy to appreciating the newness of what’s in front of me.

reconnecting gratitude

My wedding day with great friends new and old

Connecting to the Present Moment

Lately, I’ve been focusing so much on the past and the future that I’m missing out on what’s in front of me today, right now. My quest is to appreciate the people around me in more deliberate ways, to appreciate what I have, all the blessings, all the gifts of the universe. It’s true that my friends in every time zone are with me in my heart, but I need to wake myself up to the tangible world in front of me, to the relationships in my life with unrealized potential to flourish and nourish me as a real, bona fide adult person. I need to try harder to build strong foundations here and now, where I am today. 

reconnecting gratitude

the climbing crew

So my promise to myself and to friends new and old is to try harder. To apply myself to our relationships, to express gratitude to the people around me who enrich the life I’ve built. 

Thank you for being you; thank you for making my life a better, richer one; thank you for teaching me something, for learning from me, and for valuing us enough to keep in touch. 

Living Your Passion: My Podcast Interview

So I know I promised you the FINAL final installment of Why Gut Health Matters today — I said I’ve been working on something that would sum up everything you’ve learned in a quick reference guide so you could share it with your friends and family. And I will do that! But I have to put it off until Tuesday, because I have to dedicate this whole post to my appearance on the Living Your Passion Podcast with DJ Waldow! 

Living Your Passion with DJ Waldow

If you haven’t heard of this podcast, you should most definitely check it out.  The conversations are short and sweet, encapsulating  the stories of how guests on the show live out their life’s passions. I was excited to get to talk with DJ, and as you will soon hear, we had lot of fun discussing gut health, bone broth, and getting in touch with nature and your creative side.

In case you haven’t been following along over the last few weeks, I’ve been hard at work on a series called Why Gut Health Matters. I finished out the series this week, but there’s a bonus post wrapping it all up in a nice neat bow coming out next Tuesday, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out this interview. 

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

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Mindfulness and Wellbeing: My New Year’s Resolution

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to start a mindful meditation practice. I have been talking about it on and off for the past 6 months, and though I’ve attempted to start a morning routine a few times, all attempts have been false starts — that snooze button is just too tempting! My sister has been getting into mindfulness lately, and for Christmas she asked me to get her a book that illustrates an 8-week plan for cultivating a mindfulness practice. I started reading it too, and I’m hoping it will help me stay on track, as trying on my own has barely gotten me anywhere. (Even coaches need guidance!)

Why Mindfulness Meditation?

Surely you’ve heard of this word, “mindfulness”? Possibly at a yoga class or in therapy? Maybe on talk radio or in a weight loss group? I’ve written a post on mindful eating, but a mindfulness practice extends far beyond eating behavior and into how we interface with the world (and all the wonderful things that lie within it). Becoming mindful isn’t something that just magically happens overnight. Rather we have to cultivate our awareness, and as such, having a teacher, a book to follow, a set of guidelines, or even an app can be helpful to get started.

Mindful meditation (a practice rooted in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) has been shown in scientific studies to be as effective as prescription antidepressants to reduce depression and anxiety — and with none of the side effects. In fact, it’s the preferred treatment in most cases. But importantly, even those without depression and anxiety can benefit from this modality. Whether we practice mindfulness for stress management or for a renewed sense of how we see ourselves, both in our bodies and in the world, it’s a useful tool to improve our emotional wellbeing every day.  

mindfulness meditation

Inner Gaze by Alice Pennes of Avenues of Artistry. Click to learn more about her work

What is Mindfulness?

“Trying to understand mindfulness by its definition is like trying to understand what it is like to fall in love by reading a textbook. You might get a general idea, but you’d be missing out on the best part: what it actually feels like. Mindfulness is all about experience, about the actual aliveness, of each moment. You learn to pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, not because someone said that it would be a good thing to do, but because that is where you find your life.”
             – Michael Baime, MD (creator of mindfulness-based programs at University of Pennsylvania)

This word mindfulness is elusive and intriguing to some, heavy and burdensome to others — the second attitude is often enhanced if the word “meditation” comes right after the word “mindfulness.” There can be some pretty heavy associations with meditation. I’ve even had a colleague tell me that she didn’t want to return to a yoga class (after her very first time ever) because she felt that the meditation conflicted with her religious beliefs. I was simultaneously surprised and not at all fazed. It’s just as easy to misunderstand meditation and the intentions of the practice as it is to be intimidated by the stillness and silence that often accompanies it.

The truth of the matter is that mindful meditation is a personal centering practice — not rooted in religion but in behavioral therapy — and while there are countless other forms of meditation, some of which include chanting, it’s possible to receive the benefits of meditation without contradicting any religious practices.

Starting Small

I’ve mentioned before that meditation doesn’t have to be this extreme, long, painstakingly silent process. Rather, it can just be the active experience of breathing — mindful breathing — for short periods of time. The book I’m reading even provides a 1-minute meditation in the first chapter. Noticing your body, noticing the details of how you feel, allowing thoughts to pass through your mind without judgement, and then letting them melt away — this practice is a brief mindful meditation, a tremendous tool for dealing with stress, appreciating life, and overall wellbeing.

My Personal Journey

To be perfectly candid, sitting still without some sort of stimulus is a challenge for me. I might not be theologically threatened by meditation, but I’ve spent a good bit of time working out my own preconceived notions about the practice, just because I’m not great at sitting still.

I’m actually not great at walking with a still mind either. I go through regular phases where I won’t get up from my desk to do anything at all (get a snack, go to the bathroom, walk to my car) without a book in my hand or a podcast in my ear; reading and walking, listening and walking. Why do I crave constant stimulation? Part of this mindfulness practice will be unpacking the stories I tell myself. Maybe one of them is that I don’t have time to read, so I fit it in minute by minute by never doing anything without text in front of my eyes or ear buds in my ears. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not. I suppose I’ll find out.

When I envision a full picture of holistic wellbeing, I see food, movement, creativity, sleep, personal growth, and connection with nature, spirit, and community. I’m approaching this year’s resolution around mindfulness with the intention of touching on quite a few of these components in my own wellbeing. I mentioned mindful eating (food), but this practice will also provide me with tools to help turn off my mind when it’s time for sleep. Mindfulness is also crucial for personal growth and understanding how I affect those around me and in my community. It’s a way to acknowledge that my existence matters and that the decisions I make have an effect. By creating inner stillness and awakening my senses, I will interact with the world around me from a place of deep peace.  

Let’s do it together!mindfulness meditation

Have you been contemplating a mindfulness practice of your own? Why don’t you join me? The book I’m reading is called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Marc Williams and Danny Penman. Click the title for the paperback version.  Click here for the Kindle version. Using these links will help me out if you decide to get a copy. You can also get a sample through the kindle e-reader for free if you want to get a peak at the beginning of the book. As I move through the book, I’ll be posting about my experience and what I learn — knowing that you’re waiting to hear from me will help hold me accountable, in addition to (hopefully) shedding some more light on this topic.


2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

We’ve come to the end of another great year, and though it hasn’t been without its twists and turns, I think it’s safe to say that life just keeps getting better. This year, The Year of the Push, included some great adventures, gardening benchmarks, big strides forward with this little blogging project, climbing breakthroughs, new friends, new kinds of fun, and lots and lots of gratitude. 

The Year of the Push

Why am I calling 2014 The Year of the Push?

This year was all about pushing myself. Pushing toward better content for this blog, pushing to grow more food, beauty, and enjoyment on the little piece of the Earth I call home, pushing for creativity in the kitchen, pushing my body to grow stronger, my mind to stretch and expand, and pushing to become more resolved in my path. This is the year of the push because some big decisions have been made, and while life will bring what it will bring, I feel like the decisions I’ve made this year will play a big role in the course of what’s to come in 2015 and beyond. (Of course, other decisions are still being put off, but hey no one’s perfect, right?)



The Blog Push

I started this blog in late 2013, and in the early part of last year I took a blogging class at The Grotto in San Francisco with Meghan Ward of Writerland. This class lasted 6 weeks, and I was literally the only person who attended every single class. I dedicated myself to the project of learning everything I could about the art and business of blogging, about how to become a better writer, how to engage on social media, how to monetize, how to build an audience, and how to promote my work. It was in this class that I constructed my most popular post to date, which has had a total of 7,181 views since March. I learned that I actually wanted to do what was required to build a great blog — something I learned I wasn’t ready to do with a budding music career in my mid-20’s — and I also learned that I needed to have a product or service to go along with it. I wasn’t ready to create another “job” for myself in March when I finished this class, but ideas began percolating in my mind. I decided it was time to push forward with this blog, to make it stand out and really represent my passions in a way that would help people make positive changes in their own lives. I finished this class determined to write an eBook by the end of 2014, and in a few months, Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-free Living was published. 



My next blogging push was after attending BlogHer14 this summer. I shared how much I learned at BlogHer in a previous post, so I won’t go into that. But again, I was confronted with the need for a service to enhance my site and reach more people. On Pathfinder Day, the group leaders taught us how to weave our services into our elevator pitch, and I found myself hesitant and afraid to commit. I considered my first job out of grad school as a weight loss coach and all the experience I gained both working there and also as a wellness coach on my own before that. I considered how fun it was to create the “typical days” and recipes in my eBook, and thought about what it might look like to offer coaching and meal plans through CWB. All these remained considerations until a few months ago when I launched my new services. I’m thrilled to share some of the client feedback so far: 

“After two weeks on my personalized CWB meal plan, I felt far less bloated and was wasting far less food each week. After three weeks and incorporating bone broth in the morning, I felt great and started getting complements on my complexion. Thanks so much! You rock!” 
-Michelle, Seattle
“Toni is extremely knowledgeable about anything to do with health. I consulted Toni on all aspects of nutrition, including exercise, hormones, portions, etc. Thanks to Toni, I am making healthier decisions, and having fun while I’m at it!”
-Nahal, Oakland
“My coaching calls with Toni gave me something to look forward to each week, as I had a caring coach in Toni that wanted me to succeed just as much as I did!”
– Lisa, Houston
Coaching PromoDex3
I’m now taking clients for 2015, but hurry because space is limited! I offer FREE initial consults, and am excited to help you make your New Year’s Resolutions a reality. 

The Garden Push

In 2013, our back yard was the big focus of our gardening efforts. This year we completely revamped the front yard, tearing out all the grass and replacing it with both edible and decorative plants. We built beds out of golden flagstones and covered the walkways between them with river rocks and pea gravel. It was back-breaking labor, but we pushed to do it all ourselves, clearing the sod, laying the weed paper, building the beds, filling them with dirt, folding in the fertilizer and compost, and eventually choosing and planting our crops. My first attempt to grow food from seeds was a mix of success and failure, but overall we had a great summer crop (in front AND back). This experience has taught me about powdery mildew, the importance of attracting bees for fertilization, how to grow better tomatoes by NOT watering them, and the impact slugs can have on collard greens and other crucifers. 

We worked on our front yard over the course of a few weekends and even some evenings during the week. We were determined to get it done in time to plant for the season, and since the initial construction and planting, have harvested those crops and planted new ones for the colder months. It’s been such an awesome journey to learn and trouble shoot out there, and I’ve really enjoyed all of it; the good and the bad. While having my own garden is fulfilling a deep need in my soul all on its own, a bonus dose of personal accomplishment came when our garden won a contest at Edible Landscape Design shortly after we finished up. The front yard garden push was absolutely worth it. Food from our garden is at least a part of nearly every meal we make, and knowing that we grew our food makes it that much more delicious.

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push


The Push to Climb

Climbing is more of a pulling action than a pushing one, but when it comes to the mental and emotional challenges that often accompany this sport, pushing myself is almost an understatement. I’ve shared the personal challenges I’ve experienced this year in anticipation of certain climbing adventures, and all the great things I’ve learned since I’ve started working at this amazing sport. I’ve now been climbing for a little over three years, and I am still very much a beginner. I had a look at last year’s Recap post, and I have to admit, some of those goals didn’t happen (…ahem, 10 pull-ups, ahem…) but those goals aren’t off the table for this year. As soon as I can get this wrist healed up, I’m getting back on the pull-up wagon. And I have to say that just before I got injured, I was leading harder than ever (child’s play for most of my friends, but a big deal to me), and I plan to get right back out there as soon as humanly possible. Having to hold back lately has been a challenge, but in the end, making sure I don’t re-injure myself is more important than the few weeks I’m missing. 


Vanna White is a major prop in my push to climb in 2015, because she will make trips possible that might not have been possible before, and she’ll provide me with a more comfortable night’s sleep (thereby taking away any opportunity for me to complain about being tired from sleeping on the ground or being cold). All this is to say that I’ve never been so excited about a purchase in my entire life. 

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

Climbing this year was amazing. We spent a week in Squamish, 22 non-consecutive days in Yosemite, took a trip to Bishop, one to JTree, and a few to Sonora. We also made our way to a local spot or too, and I even got my dad back out on the rock, this time watching him succeed on his first Yosemite crack climb, Claud’s Delight. With the exception of some mild hyperventilation (which he concealed well), he rocked it! (featured on the bottom right.) 

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

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A Look Ahead

2014 was a great year, but I’m truly excited for what’s in store for 2015. I’m eager to see what’s to come with my budding business, what kitchen alchemy I’ll create to share with you on these virtual pages, what adventures in the back yard and out in the wilderness there will be to share as we move through time and space together. I’m so grateful to all of you for following me on this path to health, happiness and personal fulfillment. I hope that what you read here helps you find your way. Every time I learn what a new reader experiences at CWB, I’m overcome with joy and deeply thankful that you share it with me. 

Here’s to a new year of sweet, rich adventure!

 Dexter New Year (1)




Staying Present with Future Adventures Ahead

It’s official. We have a new member of the Rothcola clan. (Rothman + Sicola = Rothcola)

No, I’m not pregnant.

We bought a CAMPER VAN! Unofficially, we’re calling her “Vanna White,” (credit for that goes to our friend Lindsay) but we’re hoping that a more permanent name will come to us once we take her out on our first big adventure. This awesome road warrior will serve as our already-set-up campsite on wheels from now until the end of time! We won’t have to set up or break down camp for our climbing trips — or even get OUT of the van if we’re doing winter camping. I’m so excited. 

Those of you who follow me on Facebook might have seen my quick note about a month ago that I was on my way to San Diego to check out a van we were thinking about buying. This isn’t just any old van. It’s a camper van with a stove, a refrigerator, a sink, swiveling chairs, a table, a solar panel, a fan, and most importantly, a platform bed. OHMYGODGUYSI’MSOEXCITEDABOUTTHISVAN!

Isn’t she a  beauty?

staying present future adventures

This picture was taken in Joshua Tree about a month ago. Our friends and previous owners generously offered to let us take her for a test run weekend to JTree before we committed to the purchase this month. We flew down to San Diego, learned about all the bells and whistles, threw some climbing gear in the back, stopped off at a grocery store to stock the fridge, and we were off! 

WARM Nights in Joshua Tree

The first time I went to Joshua Tree, I woke up in the middle of the night pretty much in tears because I was so cold. I crawled out of my tent, turned on the car and blasted the heat with my wool-socked feet shoved into the heater vents. I tried to sleep for a little while without draining the gas out of the car before morning, but eventually had to return to the terrible tent. I couldn’t take it. The next morning, I declared no more winter camping. I caved and went a few more times, but I really really don’t like it. 

Enter Vanna White! We were so warm for our two nights in the desert while all the campers around us had to brave the howling winds and near-freezing temperatures. We cooked in there, we relaxed in there, and then we slept under blankets in there, reveling in our comfort and warmth — and the simplicity of it. It was so pleasant to relax and read quietly after dinner instead of huddling by a fire wearing every warm piece of clothing I own secretly wishing I hadn’t been tricked into going on another winter camping trip. The weekend sealed the deal for us, not that we needed any more convincing that this van should be ours. I’m in love. And now it IS ours! It’s parked in front of the house at this very minute, looking all giant and awesome. 

I’m looking forward to the adventures we’ll have in the year (and years) to come, and I have a feeling that our new toy will teach us some valuable lessons about living simply that might do us a bit of good. While we won’t be living in it full-time (yet), a long-term hiatus is most definitely in the not-too-distant future, and I’m pretty sure that 36 pairs of shoes won’t fit in there …

staying present future adventures

Staying Present

Next week I’ll do my year-end recap for Cultivated Wellbeing — the 2014 list of reasons to be grateful for what’s happened over the course of a great year. I’ve learned so much in doing this work, and it’s been a tremendous pleasure to share it all with you. This post has mostly been about future adventures with this gigantic new toy we’ve just purchased. 

So what about the present moment?

Sometimes I find it pretty challenging to sit still in the present moment and soak in the NOW. What’s happening tonight? What’s happening this weekend? What will the weather be like while we’re traveling? And the list goes on and on. Sure it’s important to plan ahead, but it’s just as important to be present with what’s happening right in front of you. Lots of us will be celebrating two big holidays in the next two weeks, and we’ll be surrounded by family and friends. Some of those folks we only get to see once or twice a year. I encourage you to start practicing being present today so that when Christmas comes, you can truly be with your friends and family.

  • Practice leaving your phone in your pocket while in the presence of others and remaining there in the room with them the whole time you’re together.  
  • Start undoing the “multitasking programming” that’s infiltrated all of our minds. Not only are multitaskers less productive and more stressed than folks doing one thing at a time, they’re also not fully present with any one task they’re doing. 
  • Let the past be the past. Everyone has at least one family member they’re not super excited to see, because of something that’s happened in the (distant or recent) past. Let it go and enjoy the holidays. Whether it’s worth making amends is up to you, but bring a peaceful intention to the room either way, and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy your loved ones.
  • Appreciate the older generations while they’re still here. The time is now to sit and talk with the older members of your family. Not only will you learn from them, you’ll be making them very happy when you sit with them for a few minutes at the holiday party.

As I mentioned last week, I’m recovering from a wrist injury. To honor that effort in healing, and also to recognize that the holidays are a time for relaxation and rejuvenation, I’m going to skip my Friday posts this week and next week. Stay healthy, happy, and present in the meantime, and see you next Tuesday!


Listening to Your Body

Sometimes life throws a little curve ball and derails your plans for a while. 

I’d been experiencing some pain in my right wrist a few weeks before our big climbing trip to Red Rocks Canyon for Thanksgiving, and of course I climbed on it anyway for 3 days outside. Then when we returned home, I continued to climb at the gym for another week or so before finally admitting something just wasn’t right. I worked on it with arnica oil stretching it gently, made sure not to type for really long stretches, and I went to see Andreea, my magic body worker over at Hibiscus Spa. When even she couldn’t completely eliminate the pain, I decided to go to a chiropractor who immediately diagnosed me with tendonitis and said no climbing or TRX for 3 weeks. Ugh. I almost panicked when I heard that I’d be out for at least that long. Reluctantly, I agreed and started the compression/heat/ice + turmeric + magnesium recommended by my chiro and my acupuncturist, and I’ve been going completely stir crazy with relative inactivity. 

Everything’s Connectedlistening to your body

To be honest, I think this little injury might be my body telling me that it’s time to chill for a while. This time of year, the sun goes down earlier (or stays hidden all day), the days are colder, and here in the Bay Area we’ve been getting a lot of rain. That’s sort of a recipe for chill-time, even if it feels forced by the weather or an injury.

I’ve been working with an acupuncturist on my hand too, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is a time to strengthen the kidneys. This involves rest, looking inward, personal reflection, meditation, writing, and gentle movements like Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I’ve been in the contemplation stages of starting a meditation practice for quite some time now. The furthest I’ve gotten with it is to sit for 10 minutes before I get out of bed. I think I’ve done that a handful of times, but have mostly just hit the snooze button lately. Maybe now’s the time, since even if I do go for a run it will take far less time than climbing does every day. Maybe it’s time to incorporate a few minutes of meditation into my evenings. 

Little Voices: Letting go of Fear

I tend to resist letting up on my work out schedule this time of year, no matter how hectic it gets. With all the extra goodies lying around and the desserts that seem to come at the end of every meal shared with friends or family, I can still hear the little voices in my head from long ago telling me that if I let up, I’ll blow up like a balloon. In general, I’d categorize my body image as above average, but that’s after many years of unhealthy self-criticism.  Last year, my husband and I were climbing outside on Christmas Eve. It was amazing and not at all motivated by a fear of blowing up like a balloon, but I tell you to illustrate my point (and to show you exactly how frustrating it is to be out for three weeks). But sometimes it just is what it is, and I have to let go of that fear and do the best I can. I can accept that if it’s temporary. (I’m sure you can tell I’m struggling with this.) To be perfectly honest, I use to HATE the phrase “it is what it is,” but I think I understand it more fully now than I have in the past. 

listening to your body

Listening to Your Body

Sometimes it feels easier to be tough on yourself than it does to give yourself permission to breathe and relax. We get so wound up with work expectations, family expectations, and personal expectations, that if we slip up, our first reaction is to beat ourselves up about it. This time of year can come with a lot of pressure — some we might not even realize is there until we snap at our partner or have a little road rage over something silly. Just bringing awareness to the possibility that we might be feeling some pressure right now could be what we need to diffuse it. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling aches and pains, if you’re hitting snooze a few more times than normal, if you’re catching yourself with clenched fists, take a break. Talk to a friend. Go to lunch alone and have some quiet time. Take a few breaths, clear your mind, and let yourself relax without judgement or thinking that you should be doing something else right now. We all deserve some time to slow down and reflect. 



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