My Day With Oprah

I spent this week researching and writing about the blatant connections between large-scale animal agriculture and disease in humans. And until last night, I had planned on today’s post being about that specific cycle of speciesism and the commodification of life producing dire consequences for human health and safety. Because to a vegan (and a whole lot of scientists) the writing is on the wall, and it’s time to hold ourselves accountable.

After leaving my small business yesterday where I spent about ten hours talking to many women I consider friends, I decided that now isn’t the right time for that content. I’m not suggesting that “fluff,” or timely distractions are the answer to panic, uncertainty and fear. But I am suggesting that a good writer knows when to steer the audience to something positive until the true reality of a situation can be assessed and absorbed. We’re in the speculation phase of COVID-19, and the last thing anyone needs right now (myself included) is more uncertainty or stress about the unknown. My goal in helping others make a connection between eating animals and sickness can wait for another day when introspection is an option, and the initial reaction has ceased.

So today, I’m talkin’ about Oprah!

Yes, the one and only, Oprah Winfrey and her Your Life in Focus tour. I snagged my mom, sister, and myself tickets to go last month in Los Angeles, and now I can officially mark “seeing Oprah live” off of my bucket list.

First of all, let me explain that as a latchkey kid with limited access to television, it quickly became my after-school ritual to watch The Oprah Show with my sister. Later, as an aspiring news and editorial writer in my high school and early college years I idolized Oprah for her humble beginnings in broadcast journalism. Her ability to consistently ask the right questions provoking a spectacular interview and a deeper look into what it truly means to be human were skills any writer hoped to hone even half as well as she does. Fast forward to present-day – I listen to both of her podcasts: Supersoul Conversations and Oprah’s Masterclass on a regular basis. As a woman and an entrepreneur I look up to her even more now for her unapologetic attitude toward her fantastic success – she is truly a force. But I believe her true talent is in balancing that incredible power and energy elegantly with a genuine empathy and an unbelievable presence that draws truth from people coming from every center and walk of life. She is one talented lady.

We spent roughly seven hours at the event. It began with a full-on dance party of around 13,000 people followed by an extensive talk Oprah gave about her health and wellness journey. Throughout the day several experts took the stage to lead us through dances, guided meditations, and breathing exercises. Then to wrap up the show Oprah gave another in-depth talk about her background which led us into an interview with Jennifer Lopez. It was amazing, and I am so glad that I took the time to go.

Throughout the day, Oprah would instruct us to open our workbooks (which she provided in our gift bags at the start of the show) and she guided us through them, step by step to hone in on what our wellness focus and intentions will be moving forward, and how we will accomplish real change in our lives through commitment to these specific goals.

One of the first things you see in the workbook are the words

“You are here. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

Then Oprah’s definition of wellness:

“Wellness for me is simply all things in balance. We long for a life without constraint, free from conflict, fear, or judgment– where our health, relationships, career, and finances coexist in perfect flow with our spiritual center. This is the highest form of well-being.”

I thought the most useful way for you to see what we spent much of our day with Oprah doing would be for you to participate, and for me to candidly share my results with you from my own workbook. These are the answers I wrote on the spot, and they have not been edited. I know they may be a little hard to read, but I did the best I could to brighten up the photos for you.

The first step was to figure out our “wellness quotient” through a series of questions, because it is hard to know where you want to go if you have no idea where you actually are.

“Knowing where you are on your journey is a gift. It grounds you in the moment and guides you to a hopeful future. Knowing why you’re on this path creates intention, which gives you the motivation to take the next right step.”

113 was my total. “Purpose” and “relationships” were tied. And the phone number is one you can text if you want help with your goals!

After we finished this section, she walked us through setting our wellness intention, because she, like me, believes that

“You don’t get what you want; you get what you intend.”

We did this by first, writing down and examining a time where we set a goal that we didn’t accomplish. More often than not, we did not accomplish this goal because our intentions did not align with the truth of who we really are. For example, I listed “Opening a business with a partner” as my goal that ultimately failed. I wanted to achieve this goal to “combine our talents and provide them to the community, to make money, to move forward in my career, and to employ more people in my town.” Those all seem like good intentions, but when you turn the page there are a list of underlying motives for accomplishing these goals. I read them through, and ultimately decided that underneath those reasons for opening that particular business with that particular partner I also wanted to: “prove something to someone. I wanted to win and to live up to someone else’s expectations. I felt obligated, and I felt like I was supposed to want it.” The goal failed because the “why” did not match up with the true person I am.

The next step was setting our intentions, because when they are not clear it is hard to accomplish specific things, and it is impossible to see if those goals line up with what is truly right for ourselves. I decided to set a general mind, body, and spirit intention with an understanding of how this intention will bring me more meaning and fulfillment.

Then Oprah says:

“The commitment to do well and be well is a lifetime of choices that you make daily. The space to live in is not ‘I’ll try.’ Not ‘I want to.’ Not ‘I really want to.’ It’s ‘I have decided.’”

Which leads us to the last part of the workbook where we commit by setting three healthy habits based on the areas of focus we determined from our “wellness quotient.” I didn’t include “nutrition” because for me, that’s not something I want to actively work on at this time. And then we conclude with a contract to ourselves that will hold us accountable.

Honestly, I have to admit that most of this introspection I’ve done before. Countless times. It’s in my nature to plan goals, explain them, and execute them through planning. If you follow this blog regularly, or you know me in person, you know this to be more than true. But what it did do for me was something unexpected and interesting. It challenged me to level up, and to expand my goals beyond myself and my own wellness and to really think about what that truly means. The bigger picture. There is always room for improvement and self-growth, and I have made my mental and physical health a serious priority that I work on daily. But what I realized is that I’ve been thinking too small. I’ve outgrown many of these goals because thankfully they’ve evolved from goals into my daily practices. Lately I’ve been feeling lost searching for new things to strive for. I think the key is to keep searching.

“Nourish what makes you feel confident, connected, contented. Opportunity will rise to meet you.”

-Oprah Winfrey

Give Yourself Permission to be Vegan – My 4 Year Veganniversary Post

When my vegan lifestyle comes up in conversation, more often than not, by husband and his dietary habits become the immediate object of curiosity. The center of the interaction. Everyone wants to know if he’s vegan. Since he isn’t, everyone wants to know how we cohabitate. How we grocery shop, cook our meals, agree to disagree. Everyone wants to know how two people can be happily married and hold two completely different ideological viewpoints when it comes to food. And for us specifically, when it comes to animals and morality.

Let’s back up. When I was dating I had three (yes, only three) requirements for my future boyfriend. At that time I did not think that I wanted to be married, ever, so they looked something like this: He needs to have a job, a car, and his own place to live. Like I said, they were simple requirements, but shockingly hard to find. I had decided that I didn’t want to muddle things up with extraneous requirements like what kind of job, or car or dwelling. Or make it even more impossible with specifications pertaining to diet and lifestyle… like vegetarianism. At that time, I still had a few years to go before making the switch from veg to full on vegan. I don’t want to say that my standards were low – in my opinion, they were just realistic. I was only in my mid-twenties, wasn’t looking for a husband, and had so many amazing people in my life from diverse backgrounds, so I didn’t want to limit my possibilities based on assumptions like: If I date a vegetarian we will be more compatible. Because honestly, that might make eating easier, but that’s about it.

Then I met Kanan. For those of you that don’t know the story, he moved into the apartment next door to me and we noticed each other from afar before I finally took the plunge and slipped a note under his door asking him to go grab a beer with me. He called me back TWO WEEKS later… so much later in fact that I had assumed he had a girlfriend, or wasn’t into me, so I went about my life and honestly kinda forgot about it. Over the months (and then years) we lived next door to each other, I had made several observations about Kanan’s habits: He wasn’t home a lot; when he was home he never had any visitors and almost never left, and sometimes his car would remain parked in the spot next to mine for long stretches without moving. So basically, I had concluded exactly what any logical person would: If he had a job and wasn’t just sitting in his apartment playing video games all day, it must be some nefarious illegal activity that kept him away for weeks at a time, or he was a firefighter. One day I took a little gander into the back seat of his car and noticed a pile of ropes. After that, I added potential serial killer to the list, but was happy to learn that serial killers almost never murder their neighbors.

Being from Kern County (near Bakersfield), where everything is dry, and hot, and dusty it never occurred to me that some people actually could make a living fishing. Fishing was something my dad made us hike upriver at 3am on the weekends to do. Something I was more than happy to leave behind after I declared vegetarianism as my new world view somewhere around junior year of high school. So when we finally went on a date and Kanan explained that the ropes were for crabbing and not for some sort of mass strangulation scheme, I was relieved. But I was also a little sad and confused. I liked him instantly, and after only a few dates I was ready to marry the guy. Seriously. I was used to most people eating animals, but had never even considered dating someone who made their entire living by killing them. I was from Kern County but clearly I had never dated a meat or dairy farmer…

So this brings us back to the topic at hand. How did I reconcile dating and then MARRYING a man who had basically the complete opposite viewpoints and values when it came to the treatment of animals? Although he has since then changed careers and no longer kills animals for a living, we still hold different views. He enjoys recreational fishing, and on occasion eats animal products. I decided to go full-blown vegan. But now we enjoy a mostly compatible lifestyle based on generally healthy whole food eating habits and a shared philosophy of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. While I completely omit all animal products and refined sugar, Kanan allows himself the occasional splurge but has grown to have very strong viewpoints on health and whole foods. He balances me out when I’m going crazy for vegan fast food because hey, I went vegan for animal rights, not for health! And I feel like I can sometimes act as his moral mirror, and the conduit for new enlightening vegan nutritional information.

A lot has evolved and changed in our relationship because of two factors, which I believe are the key to making any relationship between a vegan and a non-vegan work. I can give you all the “tips and tricks” you want for day to day living, but until you get these two concepts dialed in, none of them will actually work for you.

#1: Give yourself the emotional permission to embrace what you know to be right for you. If you’re considering going vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’ve already done the hard work of unlearning societal programming regarding food consumption. Your husband (or partner) has already done that for themselves as well by accepting that the way they choose to eat is normal, and everything outside of that worldview is “other” or delinquent from the way people are essentially “supposed to eat.”

This is a simple concept once you wrap your head around it. There is always something that dominant society has deemed “normal.” Someone (or in this case, several powerful “someones,” like large, corporate agribusiness, big pharma, and our for-profit medical system) has a stake in maintaining the status quo, therefore a lot of effort and energy is put into poking holes in other ways of thinking, trying to prove them “wrong,” “unhealthy,” or “worse for our planet.” But here’s the thing – our planet is dying, we’re dying, and animals are dying using the old framework, so maybe let’s just test out this new way and see what happens? Everything is normal, until it’s not.

I’m here to tell you that if you know that for you, veganism or vegetarianism… or just eating one plant-based meal a week is better, then give yourself the permission to shift your consciousness, moving your new held ideas or ideals from the margin (or what is unusual, weird, or not normal) to the center, which is usual, normal, and good. Making yourself the center in this way will ironically produce a series of completely unselfish and empathetic consequences, like caring more for the health of humans, animals, and the earth.

Instead of feeling guilt and assuming that you and your new moral and/or dietary choices are the burden, flip that on it’s head and ask yourself why your partner’s choices aren’t the burden?

To challenge these deeply ingrained ideas of normativity even further, ask yourself why anti-speciesest beliefs are thought to be inferior to those socially constructed speciesist beliefs that we are the inherently superior beings atop the animal and nature hierarchy.

#2: After you’ve got #1 down, then just lead by example. But be tactful.

Once you start viewing the world through this more critical lens, a lot changes internally, and it can be difficult to not judge and criticize other people, or proclaim your new lifestyle as better. Trust me, I still do it often because I choose to be vocal, and believe in making social change. Everything is seen as a deviation from the norm, until it’s not.

People who aren’t vegan or vegetarian navigate their lives as “normal” simply by living in a country that accommodates them, facilitates their behaviors, and rewards their dietary choices with limitless options, advertising that aligns with dominant culture and a convenient separation between our individual choices and policy. Because of these reasons, vegans are criticized for speaking up. We’re casting a bright light on something that needs to be seen, something that doesn’t look good under that light.

If being in a relationship with a non-vegan for almost seven years has taught me anything, it’s that that voice that I choose to use in a political sense only drives Kanan away if directed at him in a more personal sense. For a lot of people, unlearning what they think they know about nutrition and veganism is painful because food is so closely woven into every fabric of our society and life. It also calls on people to look inwardly at their choices, forcing moral introspection. This can be extremely difficult for most people to do- it challenges us to level up and be accountable for our choices, which also requires an acceptance that our choices matter. Veganism calls people to look at how we treat the planet, other beings, and ourselves. That is simply overwhelming. Every vegetarian or vegan, including myself, went through that period of difficult growth. Every vegan or vegetarian you’ve ever met had to go through intense changes in realizing their accountability, unless they happen to be one of the very few vegans who’s parents raised them that way since birth. We understand what you may be going through.

I will tell you with 100% certainty that the longer I am vegan, the simpler the concept becomes for me. I try to do as little harm as possible, and all that can possibly do is ripple kindness out into the world. That’s all it’s about. All food, human rights, animal rights, and global arguments aside.

So just lead by example. Share positive things about being vegan, cook good plant-based food and share it, shop from vegan vendors who also value the planet and other humans, incorporate more whole foods, watch veg documentaries, read books about animals. And learn, because I’m finding that the more I learn, the more I realize that we’re all so interconnected that each choice you make really has a positive impact elsewhere. Only good can come from a lifestyle based on love and kindness. And others (including your husband/partner) will see this over time.

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Photo: Hennygraphy https://www.hennygraphy.com

Vegan Tattoo: Seven Stars Tattoo, Eureka CA

Fitness Update & Natural PMS Remedies

I haven’t posted a fitness update since I ran my half marathon in May. Since then my routine has completely changed because my fitness goals shifted from building endurance to building muscle. My body is very slow to build muscle in general, and when I’m doing any type of cardio in my weekly routine it becomes even harder. Since weight loss is the opposite of my goal, my current training and food plan reflects that. I’m so excited to share the progress I’ve made, and as a bonus, a couple of dietary and lifestyle changes I’ve made to maintain energy levels during those lethargic and headache-y days during the Luteal Phase* of my cycle.

*The Luteal Phase is one stage of the menstrual cycle that occurs after ovulation and before your period starts. Often times this is when “PMS” symptoms arise.

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My Current Workout Routine:

As many of you know from my previous fitness updates, I’ve been working with my good friend and personal trainer, Katie Berrey for nearly three years now. She owns Rebel Fitness & Nutrition in Eureka, California and is certified in plant based nutrition. If you’re interested in learning more about her business, check out her interview on my Women in Business Series.

https://thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/03/16/women-in-business-preview-katie-berrey-rebel-fitness-nutrition/

As a courtesy to her time and expertise I will never publicly post exact workouts or the exact plan that she puts together for me. I encourage all of you with serious fitness goals to try working with a personal trainer at least a few times to see how amazing your results can be when you trust a professional to help you.

For the last six months I’ve been doing an amended version of what Rebel Fitness calls the “Transformation Program.” Essentially the program includes customized daily workouts, training sessions when applicable, progress photos, measurements, muscle quality assessments, etc. Because Katie had a new baby (Asher, he’s adorbs) in September, the parts of the program that I can’t do myself have been put on hold until future notice. Currently I have an at-home program that Katie puts together that looks a little like this:

Monday: Arms

Tuesday: Heavy Hip Thrusts

Wednesday: Quick 30-45 minute glute and legs focused light weight circuit.

Thursday: Heavy Deadlifts

Friday: Quick 30-45 minute glute and legs focused light weight circuit – different than the first one.

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Rest or light exercise like yoga, Pilates, or a walk.

I absolutely love this routine because I’m working out five days a week instead of six. But here’s the deal – Last week I ran six miles on one of my rest days. So for me, the idea of resting is nice, but doesn’t always happen. It just depends on my mood, and more than anything I appreciate the flexibility in my schedule.

With this routine I’ve been able to “PR” (beat my personal record) in hip thrusts, deadlifts, and backsquats (when they were in my schedule). Going from running and lifting light weight, to occasionally doing cardio when the mood strikes, but mostly lifting heavy has been a great change for my mind and body. And I’ve definitely gotten substantially stronger, lifting more than pre-surgery for the first time. BUT I haven’t been going to Pilates or yoga for the last few months. During bridal season it can be extremely difficult to get workouts in if I have to leave my house to do them, or if they’re at any time other than 5am. Therefore, that part of my plan has been put on hold until this week. Now that my busiest season is over and we’re back from vacation, I can get into the routine of at least two classes per week to strengthen my core and improve flexibility, which in turn, improve my lifts and form.

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Food:

Other than my experiments with raw plant based eating, I’ve kept my nutrition fairly simple. I meal prep for work days and eat intuitively. Usually my daily food plan includes a smoothie for breakfast, a bowl of fruit for a snack, a salad for lunch, some mixed nuts and seeds as another snack, and then an unplanned dinner, because my husband likes them to be flexible. Because I found my results from eating raw to be so amazing, I’ve tried to incorporate as many raw foods into my daily routine as possible, but we do cook most of our dinners and sometimes I eat cooked foods during the day.

I don’t track macros or count calories at all. I don’t have a cheat day, or any rules regarding vegan junk food other than no refined sugars. I just eat (mostly) good plant based food, in whatever quantities satisfy me and give me enough energy to get a good workout in the next morning. The other day I went and got Beyond Burgers from Carl’s Jr for dinner – it’s all about balance.

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Tips to beat the lethargy that happens right before your period starts:

I get tired before my period, not regular tired but so exhausted that I can barely keep my eyes open for at least one to two days. I also get a headache that is lingering, terrible, and sometimes morphs into a migraine. When my nutrition is on-point (all raw plant food) the headaches go away and the tiredness lessens considerably. Here are two things that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine that have helped me tremendously without having to change entirely into a raw vegan.

#1) Magnesium

A very basic search of what magnesium does for the human body includes: Maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping the heartbeat steady, helping bones remain strong, adjusting blood glucose levels, and aiding in the production of energy and protein. Additional benefits include boosting exercise performance, fighting depression, lowering blood pressure, and preventing migraines.

During all my research to try and discover what I could do to help with my headaches, and why a raw plant based diet was so effective at curing them, I discovered that this one mineral was responsible for many of my positive results and is found in particularly high levels in leafy greens, nuts, and seeds – huge staples in a raw plant based diet. Our bodies also absorb much more of it if we consume it in food, rather than in a supplement form.

I started making myself (what I now call) my Chocolate Headache-Curing Smoothie. I drink one every morning and because of the high levels of magnesium found naturally in the plant ingredients, my headaches completely go away when I am drinking them on a regular basis.

Recipe:

1 Cup Coconut Water

3 Medjool Dates

3-4 Frozen Bananas

2 Tbsp Cacao Powder

1-2 Tbsp Raw Almond Butter

2-4 Tbsp Raw Hemp Seeds

Because of the hemp seeds, this smoothie is also high in protein. And because of the cacao, you can also enjoy a boost of energy. So add as much as you’d prefer!

#2) Mushroom Tea

I know, I know, I know. Mushroom tea sounds disgusting and conjures up an image of privileged college kids trying to dress like hippies and drink weird things for the sake of being holistic or whatever. But I have to admit they’re onto something. I’ve been drinking the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Lion’s Mane. The loose tea or “elixir mix” comes in tiny packets that I pour about two cups of hot water over, mix, then enjoy. You can add creamer to it, but I don’t. There is a touch of stevia added to the mix, but as someone who cannot stand the taste, I do not notice it. It tastes like an earthy tea, and I get mine from our local health food store. Four Sigmatic’s website is awesome, and there are several different elixirs, coffees, and teas to choose from so I plan to try more.

The reason why I love this particular elixir is because it’s organic, vegan and decaf yet it gives me a huge boost in energy that lasts most of the day. This is especially useful to aid in intense workouts and during long days at my shop when I’m about to start my period and I’m experiencing that intense lethargy. The lion’s mane mushroom supports memory, concentration, cognitive function, and nervous system function, so I’m also able to produce more meaningful work on projects that require concentration. I find that the energy it creates feels cleaner and more sustained than the temporary boost caffeine gives.

https://us.foursigmatic.com

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I hope that you’ve found some of this information useful. Leave a comment if you try my magnesium smoothie, and let me know what you think about mushroom teas!

Sensi Magazine Freelance Work

For much of this year I’ve had the privilege of being an on-going contributor to our local Sensi Magazine Emerald Triangle edition. And I have some new and interesting articles coming this holiday, and next spring!

While bridal season comes to an end at my “day job” and I prepare to take some much-deserved vacation and enjoy the holidays to follow, I find myself in the final mad-dash to the imaginary finish line. A chaotic state I seem to create for myself each fall.

As I edit more Women In Business Series interviews, put together food journal entries from my entirely raw vegan experience, and catalog fitness and digital minimalism updates, I encourage you to pick up a copy of our monthly Sensi Magazine at a local business or browse through the online version. Below you will find two of my most recent articles.

Enjoy reading about North Coast happenings, unique businesses, alternative lifestyles, and health and wellness. (I’m usually in that section.) Support the good old written word and get back to those analog activities we’ve all gotten away from – like reading something you turn the pages of.

What’s better than cozying up with a hot beverage and flipping through a magazine as we watch this beautiful summer turn into fall? Not much.

Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Ed. 09, 2019
Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Ed. 09, 2019

For the full issue: http://s3.amazonaws.com/document.issuu.com/190828200219-dd58178e9ef8588098d3915f5b063558/original.file?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIATDDRE5J7YOA3PRJS&Expires=1568380147&Signature=BhrxdXPv3SB3Z6mXSGwEBzeF9hc%3D

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Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Ed. 07, 2019
Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Ed. 07, 2019

For the full issue: http://s3.amazonaws.com/document.issuu.com/190625163031-0c089d3448a0e414acc5b74fed7efbe9/original.file?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIATDDRE5J7X2YVMP3B&Expires=1568380304&Signature=6S8%2F%2Bu30r0Y5BWEMt71NRNIkzmo%3D

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Local Business Links:

Rebel Fitness & Nutrition https://rebelfitnessandnutrition.com

Body Tuners https://bodytuners-gym.com

Fit NorCal https://www.fitnorcal.com

Chumayo Spa http://www.chumayo.com

Platinum Float Spa http://platinumstudiosalonandspa.com

One Year No Beer

One year ago I sat around a breakfast table with my sister, my sister in law, and seven of my closest girlfriends to toast to my bachelorette party weekend and it’s success. In the loud cafeteria at Camp No Counselors Seattle we said goodbye over mimosas and departed to locations all over the country – back to our normal lives. I had made up my mind to quit drinking at the dance party the night before. I had been quietly considering it for months, wondering if I had the will power to go through with it. Somewhere between dancing the night away to Whitney Houston and standing in line for midnight nachos while drinking soda water and lime, the decision became crystal clear and easy. Camp left much to be desired, but my memories are all perfect – bunk beds and ping pong, waterslides and the talent show. Three nights in a cabin together with accomplished dynamic women taking breaks from their busy lives and careers to eat burgers in the mess hall and do bad yoga. Most of them I’ve known a decade or more – we’d come a long way from scream-singing Tenacious D songs at college house parties over shots of watermelon rum – most of us have been through a lot since then. I don’t want to say that being together again was like “the old days,” because it wasn’t. To me, it was better.

I’ll just start by saying that fifteen years is a long time to be in a one-sided relationship with something that only takes from you. Something that encourages your self loathing, and cheers for depression to root deeply inside your heart. Something that intentionally wastes your time and energy, strains your relationships and willfully stands strong and stubborn between you and your dreams and goals. I had decided I’d simply had enough of this self-inflicted bullshit.

I’ve never been someone who accepts what is “normal” just because everyone else does it. Sometimes I walk my own stubborn path to my detriment, questioning everything along the way. Critically. But this time I had recognized that for some reason the lemming in me had a thing for booze. I had fallen into the socially-acceptable catchall for life: alcohol fixes everything. Not that I believed this to be true, but on some level almost all of us buy into that narrative, otherwise we wouldn’t regularly drink alcohol. I wouldn’t drink a glass of milk because to me it represents violence, but I’d drink a beer because someone somewhere is selling me an illusion of happiness.

During this last year as I’ve put time between myself and alcohol, I’ve realized something big. We’ve been sold the idea that more money and more things will make us happier. We’re realizing that isn’t true. Each time we reach a new standard or pillar of accomplishment, we move the marker for success onto the next. If we live this way, we never reach happiness. On the sidelines of this over simplistic, capitalist equation for happiness is alcohol, working as an easy band aid when the rest of what we’ve been promised falls short. And it will always inevitably fall short. I believe that being truly happy requires so much more effort than buying something new and washing your guilt and lack of satisfaction down with a beer at the end of a long day. But I haven’t always felt this way.

Over my bachelorette party weekend I had several epiphanies. The most influential in my decision to quit drinking had to do with the company I keep. I could count on one hand how many alcoholic drinks I had over the course of my five-day party. As I quietly contemplated my decision to quit altogether I realized that I was having just as much fun without alcohol as I have with it (if not more). And then it “clicked.” Instead of drinking to “suffer” through events I attend out of a false sense of obligation, or drinking to “tolerate” people I do not wish to be around, I should stop wasting my time and life and just stop. Stop going and stop doing out of obligation and/or guilt. Give myself the emotional permission to create more time in my life by just saying no. If I don’t want to go, or I don’t enjoy the people, I shouldn’t be there. If I feel like I “need” alcohol to “have fun” then I am clearly using it as a band aid for a bigger problem: I am wasting my life doing things that do not serve me or my real happiness and that makes me unhappy. The other epiphany I had was that when you’re around your real people, the ones that give your life joy and meaning, alcohol is not just unnecessary, it can be a detriment to really experiencing your time together. And our time here is short.

Time. That is a topic I’ve written often about, and after discovering Andy Ramage and the company he co-founded: One Year No Beer, all the benefits of not drinking that I had struggled to articulate became clear. I was rarely a binge-drinker. I considered myself to be a moderate drinker, usually enjoying a beer or two a night after work “to relax.” My husband was the first one to point out to me that I shouldn’t need alcohol to relax, and that perhaps I should spend more time contemplating why I’m so unrelaxed in the first place. I met his ideas with stubborn resistance. I’m not an alcoholic. I work hard. Why shouldn’t I be able to have a beer at the end of a long day? I still, even now do not think that I have or had an alcohol dependency. What I did have was what Ramage talks a lot about: A bad habit that drains my energy while simultaneously sabotaging my physical and mental health. A habit that I engage in without question because society encourages it and deems it “normal.” And a habit that will always keep me from reaching my true and full potential because it is a huge waste of my time. Alcoholism aside, that just sounds terrible.

The focus of One Year No Beer is on the moderate drinkers. Those of us that do not consider ourselves extreme enough cases to need serious intervention or assistance, but who would benefit greatly from being part of a community of other people who just don’t want to drink anymore. Who recognize the untapped potential in a life and mind that isn’t constantly clouded or depleted by alcohol. Those of us that recognize that being an American should consist of more than working and drinking in an attempt to find happiness. Because most of us grew up living this model and are now realizing it’s pitfalls and failures. And we want more from our lives than a cycle that supports a general feeling of malaise.

Once I made the decision to quit drinking, I began to truly recognize how deeply alcohol is ingrained in our daily lives. When was the last time you stopped drinking for long enough to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of a body free of alcohol? From the research I did, the general consensus is that it takes at least two weeks to begin to feel the physical and mental benefits. Much longer if you want to experience things like long-term career or fitness boosts. Most of us will never experience this since we begin drinking as teens and continue on some level, forever. This shocked me to think about. Would I really never let myself experience my full potential because I like beer? That felt absurd.

One thing that the OYNB movement emphasizes is that the benefits of not drinking snowball tremendously. And after a year, I can attest to that. Time seems to multiply because every late night, every hungover or tired day, and every event I did not want to attend simply vanishes and can be replaced by other more fulfilling activities. Sleep improves, energy levels improve, depression and anxiety decrease, workouts are more effective, and work is more productive. Instead of struggling through a full day at moderate productivity, I find that I can complete more meaningful work on my business and personal endeavors in less time. Making time for even more meaningful relationships, goals, and activities. My husband and I have a stronger relationship (he quit too), and I believe that our decision to omit alcohol from our marriage will help us to focus our energy on positive endeavors and leave aside all of the complications and traps alcohol brings into relationships.

But it’s difficult to get that snowball rolling. Between the social event excuses, the work event excuses, and the “wine-o-clock,” “mama needs a beer,” and “life is better day drinking” t-shirts, alcoholism has become so pervasive in our culture that to not drink makes you somewhat of a social leper. My interest specifically on the strong emphasis on moms and females self proclaiming their drinking habits as a “funny” way to cope with our lives fascinates me, but that topic is for another day. As a meme I once read so accurately put it: “Galentines Day is not a thing. You’re an alcoholic.” And as someone who would have scoffed at that comment in a past life, I see it clearly now. Alcoholism has taken on a much more female tone recently- “I’m on a juice cleanse, and by juice I mean wine.” Normalizing drinking, emphasizing it’s importance in our social lives, and excusing our “need” for alcohol is not only shocking, but indicative of a culture that is starved for meaning. So I am happy to leave it behind forever.

Popping that special bottle of champagne my best friend brought and toasting to us, the round table of strong women felt like a break up. An empowering and permanent celebration of acceptance, surrounded by my biggest supporters. I’m leaving alcohol behind and beginning my new life with a different perspective – life is short and I refuse to waste it.

Women In Business Series: Angela Boults Co-Owner Escape Salon & Skin Studio

Today’s blog edition is a special interview dedicated to one of my closest friends, Angela Boults. Angie has played a major role in mentoring and supporting me personally and professionally throughout the last decade, during half of which we worked together. Her kindness, honesty, non-judgmental guidance, and intellectual incite has proven invaluable to me during times of abundance and growth, but more importantly, during the lonely and challenging moments in my life. I call her a mentor because I believe she leads with a vulnerable and open heart and in doing so has helped create a community of strong female cooperation and empowerment. So much can be learned from her success doing so.

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1) Explain what your business is, and your role in the company.

Escape Salon & Skin Studio is a full-service salon established in February of 2012. I am a co-owner with my business partner Amy Kolshinski. We are both licensed estheticians (skin care therapists). 

2) Tell us a little about yourself, your professional background, and why you chose to get into the beauty service industry. 

I am a Humboldt County native. I was a dental assistant for seven years before discovering the world of esthetics. I have always been someone enchanted by all things beauty, but knew that I didn’t have a passion for hair or nails. It wasn’t until one day on my lunch hour when I went to have my lip waxed that it clicked for me. After my ten-minute service my friend said: “That will be $12.” At the time I was making $12 hourly and was struggling to love my job. The salon environment was fun and energetic and stirred something in me. I had made a comment to my cosmetologist friend about how I could totally see myself doing waxing but had no interest in the “other stuff.” She told me about Frederick and Charles Beauty College in Eureka and their esthetics program. That was it for me! As a single mom of three, it wasn’t an overnight change – I had to develop a plan. But six months later I had quit my dental assisting job and was enrolled full-time in the December 2006 esthetics program at Frederick and Charles Beauty College. The program took 600 hours to complete and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. 

3) What is it like working with an all-woman team and co-owning with another woman who happens to be a best friend? 

Amy and I joke all the time that we are totally “cheating” at the job thing. We have been in business together over seven years and have never had an argument. I couldn’t have imagined a world where my work environment is so fun, supportive, and full of love. My business partner and I are different in a lot of ways but also complement each other well. Amy is very organized and methodical. She takes care of all the logistical aspects of the business. I tend to be the more social of the two of us. If we need to network or engage in a challenging conversation, I am usually the woman for that job. All other situations are figured out together. There are six of us who work out of our salon: Amy and myself are estheticians, Katrina is our massage therapist and airbrush spray tan specialist, Yvette is killing it on fingers and toes (natural nail care), and JoAnn and Sarah are our talented and experienced hair stylists. We are all self-employed booth renters. These women empower me to be the best version of myself every day. We encourage and lift each other up without judgment and actually enjoy our interactions with each other. It is a unique working environment in that way. 

4) Do you feel that working with (predominantly) female clients and colleagues helps to create community? If so, why. 

I 100% agree that our work environment and the people (mostly women) we encounter foster a sense of community. We all actually care about each other. It would be impossible to share many hours with someone over the course of a year and not become part of their life. Our interactions with our clients and our co-workers impact who we are as a whole. Our world is opened up. New ideas and views are formed. Connections are made and relationships grow. People initially come to us for beauty and relaxation services. They return, over and over again, because of what transpires during those appointments. And I am so overjoyed and thankful that they do. 

5) What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of all different backgrounds and life situations? 

I think the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in my years as an esthetician is that despite our amazing and beautiful differences, we are all basically the same. We all want to be loved, supported, validated, and respected. And sometimes we just want someone to listen. 

6) What is beauty to you? And how does your work environment foster that idea? 

Beauty is confidence. And confidence is beautiful. Does a single facial or leg waxing erase every self-perceived imperfection? Ummm… that would be a no. BUT, spending time taking care of one’s self can make them feel important. And the valuable choice to invest in ourselves makes us more confident. Putting ourselves on our own list is beautiful and necessary. 

7) What is one thing you hope your kids learn from your journey as a female business owner? 

More than anything, I hope my kids have observed that what we do for a living should be part of our life, not our entire existence. That everyone deserves to feel respected, happy, and valued in their profession. Life is short, but it can feel very long if you don’t love what you’re doing with it. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“You can’t please everyone.” Struggling to do so is fruitless and results in frustration. 

9) What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own small business? 

The biggest challenge at times is knowing that I’m it. There is no one else to blame if things don’t work out. The biggest reward is that I am able to cultivate my environment. I create a space of acceptance for everyone and it feels pretty damn good. 

10) Tell us about one book that changed your life. 

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz changed my life. I chose two books because they really go together. The idea of these books is how to achieve heaven on earth by changing our agreements with the universe. The first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” Say things that need to be said, speak the truth, and do not gossip. The second agreement is to “not take anything personally.” What people do and say has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who they are and what they are going through. The third agreement is to “not make assumptions.” Take things for what they are and ask questions if you have them. The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Your best will vary from day to day but as long as you give what you can to everything you think and do, you’ll be on the right path. And the fifth agreement is to “listen but be skeptical.” Which I understand as actively listening to what people are telling you but knowing that every piece of information comes with a healthy dose of opinion. Doing my best to implement these five agreements has helped me to become a more effective communicator and has therefore helped improve the quality of my day to day interactions with others.

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http://www.escapesalon.org

215 7th Street, Eureka CA

707-269-0199

@eureka.escape

Digital Minimalism Diaries Part 2

My First Week Being Somewhat Digitally Minimal

I struggled with what to bring to you this week. I have a list of blog topics and a calendar of scheduled ideas on hand, but the only thing that I feel motivated to discuss with you at this moment is what I’ve discovered during the last seven days. This week I began truly examining and unpacking my technology use and implementing strategies for improvement. My journey toward a life with less distraction, improved mental health, and time spent doing meaningful things of value (to me) has become my new obsession. For better or for worse.

I decided that the best way to communicate this journey is to break it down into individual strategies, my motivation for making these changes, and how they’re working in my real life so far. 

Strategy #1: Come up with a plan to minimize social media use.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. As a business owner, Facebook and Instagram help me network and book new clients. Posting on The Real Life Vegan Wife can be fun and informative, working as a vehicle to discuss veganism and entrepreneurship. But somewhere along the line managing all four of my social media accounts became an arduous chore – the pressure to post has become a nagging stress in the back of my mind at all times. Being constantly present seems almost necessary in the current social media climate we live in, lest you risk disappearing and becoming irrelevant altogether.

The reality is that what I truly want to be doing with my time is build in-person client / community-member relationships and write meaningful content for my blog and other publications. Not feel constant anxiety or distraction from toggling between social media and the real, tangible, valuable things I am producing. And when I do post on social media, I want the content I share to also be real and valuable, not forced or phony.

So what did I do? I decided that the best way to implement strategy for change is to know the conditions I’m currently functioning under. Step 1: Find out how often I am using social media. Step 2: Come up with a strategy to maximize my return on my time invested, therefore enabling me to minimize my time spent with these platforms.

This seems simple enough. Honestly, now that I’m really examining it, it is fairly simple. I determined that between my four accounts I spend about one hour per day on social media. This is actually not as much time as I assumed I spent, so there’s a positive. Using the month of June as our example, that means that in June I will spend thirty hours total on social media. This is over one FULL 24 HOUR DAY of the month spent with social media. In a year that is 360 hours, or FIFTEEN DAYS. For some reason, what our minds consider a harmless hour per day becomes shocking when you realize you just bought yourself a two-week vacation per year if you just quit using Instagram. Or, on a smaller scale, an entire extra day per month. Chances are, that’s where all our time has gone. Or it’s at least a major contributor.

For me personally, it does not make sense to quit social media cold-turkey like my husband did, and truthfully I don’t want to. I want to figure out a way to coexist with these methods of communication without allowing it to waste my time, while communicating meaningful content that produces value for my business, my clients, and my blog. I would argue that if you’re concerned about not having enough time in your life, you have stress and anxiety related to social media, and you’re not producing original content, you should probably just quit it altogether. At that point, it’s value to you may be perceived but not actually real. That’s what my husband determined and did. Instead of going that route, I mapped out the ideal content I would like to post in a month for my business and my blog social media accounts, how much time it should take me to make those meaningful posts, and tallied up the hours – to 8.5 per month. That means that the content is planned, the timing is planned, and the hours I was spending scrolling or wasting time would be reduced by almost 75%. I just bought myself 258 hours a year – almost eleven entire days.

My plan is to take January completely off from all social media and return in February with this strategy as an outline moving forward. Although, after a month off, I may have entirely different ideas and new incite to put into practice. 

Strategy #2: Stop using social media for business communications, and funnel all inquiries to my business phone and email.

This strategy may seem counter-intuitive after explaining that social media is actually valuable to my business. But it seems simple to me. When someone has a service or business inquiry, I set up an auto-response on Facebook and a quick-response on Instagram to instruct them to contact the business directly. This is straight-forward, clear and reasonable. It will “weed-out” inquiries that were not serious, or people who want free advice or consultation without going through the appropriate channels of making an appointment for our undivided attention. It ultimately saves me a tremendous amount of time. And ensures that the clients who do choose to make scheduled appointments get the highest quality of service and attention possible, because we are not distracted. This does not mean that I will not get back to you, it means that you need to call my business or send the business an email with a serious inquiry first, and I will get back to you during my posted hours of operation.

Essentially, I’ve determined that social media serves my business when used for networking, event promotion, and portfolio picture positing, but anything more is a waste of time.

Strategy #3: Set client boundaries with tech use.

Strategy #2 falls into this category because I set clear boundaries. I no longer will respond to personal and direct messages at all hours of the day and night because it is convenient for the potential client. I will respond to calls to my business phone and emails to my business email during operating hours. Basically, I am no longer available all the time because I’m unwilling to continue distracting myself from doing other things that produce more value for myself and my business in the long-term. I’d rather give that new client or project my undivided attention.

So, this leaves texting. How do I handle the steady stream of communications coming in? Yesterday my first text from a client came in at 6:42am, but I didn’t know this until 8am because I set up an auto-text response as part of the “do not disturb” feature on my phone. I turn this on manually outside of my business hours so that anyone who texts me before or after hours, or on my weekend will know that I got their message and will respond, but will no longer be available to answer non-urgent inquiries at 6:42am via text message. This is straight-forward, clear, and reasonable.

This takes an enormous amount of stress away from my day-to-day operations, allowing me to check out from communications and enjoy my days off, or evenings and mornings outside the shop. While being reassured that everyone is being taken care of and is clearly informed about my boundaries.

Ultimately, I believe this will make me happier, and better at my job because I will not be distracted by a constant stream of text messages and emails which cause stress and anxiety when I cannot immediately return them. And I can take more time to focus on business improvements.

Strategy #4: Fix the problems created by strategy #3.

This one makes me laugh because it became very apparent early on that this process is going to be full of trial and failure. And although I want 99% of my texts and calls to be filtered until business hours, there are still personal communications that I would like to be able to receive. Additionally, when my phone is on do not disturb with auto-text response, I essentially cannot use it for anything without turning the feature temporarily off, resulting in the flood of texts coming though that I didn’t necessarily want to see until I was back in the shop. 

My solution, after doing a heap of research, was to go purchase an Apple Watch, turn it on do not disturb, adjust the setting to not mirror my phone so that I do not get any notifications, and only use it for music, podcasts, audiobooks, and tracking workouts. And oh my goodness it’s fabulous for that.

Essentially I can put my phone on DND with auto-text response, plug it in, and leave it alone until I need it while still using my watch for everything I enjoy and find value in. I added my close family and friends to my favorites list in contacts, so if they need to call me they will get through to my watch. If I absolutely need to look at my calls and texts I can also choose to do so by turning DND off, and seeking out my messages which are not easily accessible. I did it once to make sure it was working, and haven’t looked at it since.

I did not install any apps on my watch except Pandora, security lock and alarm, and my to-do list. My watch face is simple, with music, podcasts, and my workout results being the only easily accessible features. It’s life-changing and it’s been five days.

I feel free from my phone and the expectation to text and email everyone back immediately, but reassured by the fact that Kanan or my sister can still call me and I can still contact the world if need be. Currently I use my watch with my phone on DND with auto-response before work and after work but have not worn it and left my phone at home for entire days out of the shop yet. Today will be the first time and I’m so excited to try it and write about it.

The irony of using technology to correct technology use is not lost of me, but that is why digital minimalism is so much fun. It’s all about picking out the good and letting all the rest go. The next things on my list to quantify and correct are television, random internet use, and news consumption, and I cannot wait. I feel like my mental clarity and stress levels have already decreased dramatically in an extremely short period of time.