Monday, September 8, 2014

Breakfast at Target Does "The Whole 30" - Part 2




Good HEAVENS, friends.

I can't believe how many awesome people I've connected with since my first Whole 30 post a few weeks back. Seriously, one thing I love about this odd little excuse for a blog is the really cool people who stumble upon it and let us sit at the cool table of the internet.

As you recall, the first post focused on my overall experience: how I weathered the thirty day storm of detoxing and rewiring my brain (and gut) to consume more whole, healthy options. It's easy to get caught up in the downsides of the program while you're deep in the throws of it; but once you step back and reflect, the Whole 30 is life changing regardless of what you do on Day 31 and beyond.

I had originally planned a very different "Part 2"; but after the feedback from friends and new guests to Breakfast at Target, I tossed it and took it a new direction. You can read for yourself on the Whole 30 website and the accompanying book It Starts With Food all the do's, don'ts, expectations, knowledge-bombs, and nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty details you need to set your sails on the Whole 30 high seas. However, there were some things that, even though mentioned in some capacity in the resources available, made more impact on my experience than I expected.

Of course, to compliment the first post, I had to add the artistically crafted masterpieces to go along with it. We all know true art takes time, so I very much appreciated your patience as I worked tirelessly to make this post totally kick-a$$.

:: Breakfast at Target Does The Whole 30 - Part 2 ::

1. You will acquire superhero like wine tasting senses.

I actually did the Whole 35 - I was so nervous to reintroduce anything and was loving my Whole 30 nirvana I kept up a few extra days. When an opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal at one of our favorite swanky farm-to-table places came up, I couldn't turn it down. We ordered a bottle of the featured Pinot Noir from northern Pacific coast - from the first whiff I swear I felt transported to the winery in Oregon. The cool, arid grapes danced on my tongue, greeted by the songs of the black cherry notes that floated in my nostrils and the dark wood barrel bounced over the chorus a'la the classic sing-a-longs of my youth.

Y'ALL.

I went into a lucid state of pure sensory overload, a happy blend of masterful taste sensations colliding with my thoroughly polished palate from 35 days of no alcohol consumption. The best part? It wasn't an "addictive" feeling of instant satisfaction; it was really tasting the ingredients and being fully aware of how it complimented the meal and the occasion. I learned I could create this experience over and over by doing a "Whole 7", maybe a "Whole 5" leading up to whatever opportunity to enjoy a really good glass of wine. The cleaner your system, the more heightened the sensation. 

Does this make me a lush? Maybe. 
Let's meet for happy hour to find out.

2. The food that was hardest to east was the one that had faces.

I'm sure there were some red-blooded, hearty folks who LOVED that animal protein was such a significant part of the Whole 30 program. For me, this was one of the hardest parts to accept. I had been predominantly vegetarian for many years of my life, mostly due to the fact I don't agree with factory farming and the accepted industrial meat production standards. By not buying or eating meat, I didn't have to deal with the constant conflict of not being sure how the animals and workers were treated to get the products to my table. 

My pre-Whole 30 trip to the grocery store was nerve-wracking enough as it was, but I had a mental breakdown when I got to the meat section. I chose a store that "guaranteed" its organic products and sustainable practices, but my hesitation and suspicion still led me to read every. freaking. label. in the aisle. I stocked our fridge with the best meat we could afford (and that I felt confident enough to prepare) - yet it took me a while to get comfortable eating meat, and lots of it, again.

Worse was being away from the comforts and safety of my home kitchen, being at dinner with family or friends and not knowing where the meat came from - and not wanting to be a jerk asking all kinds of questions. I could often determine how kosher the meat was based on a few quick, seemingly harmless inquiries to the house host or the waiter. If it felt questionable, I opted for the most modifiable vegetarian option available, scrambling a few eggs when I got home or keeping snack bags full of nuts in my purse to get the protein I needed later. Dramatic? Probably. But the program itself is pretty over-the-top, so it was just one more step to make sure I completed the program in terms of its definition of success, as well as mine.


 3. Beware the saboteurs - especially the ones you least suspect.

When it was time to start my Whole 30 program, I explained it to a few people in my immediate circles, more-so because I wanted them to hold me accountable. People were mostly supportive, if not simply indifferent; but then there were people who are normally trusted, empathetic friends and colleagues who thought it was total hullaballoo. I told myself it was because they didn't really understand the point of the whole thing or how it worked in the first place. But the sarcastic comments and attempts to see me fail were very direct, often hurtful. It made the program that much harder, and often times I wanted to give in not because I actually wanted the non-Whole 30 food in front of me, but because I wanted the taunting and the snide comments to stop. 

I never did give in, though. The finish line was always in mind. I had to remind myself that food has such a deep-rooted significance in so many social and cultural settings. By, in theory, "refusing" the food at an event or gathering - birthday cake, grandma's mac 'n cheese, specially chosen wine, etc. - I was, in a sense, "refusing" to be part of the celebration. By not eating the "bad" foods, it came across like I "knew better" about what and how to eat... it was often exhausting explaining the Whole 30 and getting met with angst about it. But there's a quote in the ISWF book that guided me any time I wanted to cave: "There are no cheats, only choices." At the end of the day, I'm the only one solely responsible for what I allow on my plate and into my mouth... and for that, it was never worth giving in to the haters.

I can promise to those in the middle of their Whole 30 right now, the victory tastes far, FAR sweeter when you get to Day 30 with a clean conscience.

4. Bless you, Whole 30 angels in disguise.

Remember those supporters I told you about? I could not have done it without them. Even more surprising was the people who I avoided even mentioning the Whole 30 for fear of ridicule who turned out to be my biggest advocates. They prepared special Whole 30 approved versions meals, asked questions about menu options and sources on my behalf, provided alternatives so I still felt part of the experience, and often checked in on my progress. They listened in my times of frustration; they reminded me of why I started - to kick my sugar addition, to create better habits, to ensure a happier me - and, without fail, in the times I needed it the most.

More excitingly so, by having to make conscious and active decisions around them, they started seeing what all went into a Whole 30 adventure - and they wanted to start their own. I don't want to say I "inspired" others to do it; but let's get real, if a bumbling blonde such as myself can pull it off with great results, what's to stop the next guy? (The answer: Not a ding-dang thing, folks.)

5. There's a big, happy Whole 30 community out there - jump right in.

I was a total Whole 30 martyr when I first starting - lamenting my inability to drink my nightly wine, having to give up my morning toast, OOOOH WOOOE IS MEEEEE. Once I got tired of my own whining, I realized I was doing so because I felt pretty isolated. I also felt awkward every time I went out to eat with friends, modifying menu options until they were unrecognizable. Truth is, I didn't understand what my Whole 30 friends were going through when they did it - and not many understood me as I trudged through the experience myself. 

One thing I wish I had done way, WAY sooner is to make connections with the (official and approved!) Whole 30 community far and wide - Whole 30 alumni, super stars, all-stars, gurus, and current rookies like myself. With email newsletters, social media outlets (I've been incredibly impressed with their Facebook and Instagram), and official online resources galore, I had no excuse to feel like I couldn't find support. Once I did, I learned so much and got excited when people found their successes and shared their knowledge. So explore and connect, and if you can, find a Whole 30 buddy to help you stay focused and excited about your progress!

----------

So what's happened since the Whole 30? 
It's been a few months now since I completed it, and here's where I am:
  • John and I have mostly adopted a paleo-based diet at home; we still keep some grains on hand (low-sugar cereals, whole wheat bread, etc) as we're pretty active, working out 4-6x's a week. After some trial and error, I just found we needed the quick carbs for super early morning workouts.
  • Black coffee was too much for me to handle; it felt like I was drinking battery acid. So now we use a splash of coconut milk in our coffee - it's made all the difference and a huge improvement from the chemical laden creamers I used to dump into my coffee.
  • I've gotten better about learning how to prepare meats and feel more confident in knowing how to buy. When we have a little extra wiggle room in the budget, I'll get some fresh sausage or cuts of meat at our local farmer's market on Saturday mornings.
  • I still fight the sugar dragon constantly - the cravings are far less intense or frequent from before the Whole 30, but they still bubble to the surface daily. However, I have to say when I do partake in a treat - a piece of wedding cake, a birthday cupcake, etc. - I don't feel the need to wolf it down and go for another helping. I've learned to enjoy them and associate them with special occasions, limiting the intake and heightening the experience in the few bites I allow myself.
  • My sleep patterns are the most "normal" than they've ever been. I fall asleep much easier and wake up not feeling like I got hit by a bus (I'm not a morning person, so this is a huge improvement).
  • I've been plagued with painful, embarrassing adult acne for the last few years. Though I had started to finally get it under control, the Whole 30 almost completely cleared up my face with only the occasional, minor breakout since then (usually in response to the weekends I make poor nutritional choices). 
  • I'm a Greek yogurt fanatic and now it's the only diary we keep in the house. My body just knows what to do with the stuff, so I still have it for breakfast once or twice a week (or when I just can't handle more eggs) - plain topped with fruit and/or mixed nuts, a dash of cinnamon and honey for touch of sweetness.
  • Avocados, olive oil, and butter were huge no-no's for me before Whole 30 because they were "fatty." Now that I understand their function and have seen a dramatic change in my hair and nail growth (and glowing skin!), we keep plenty on hand. We got rid of chemical laden sprays and margarines and swapped for coconut oil and clarified/unsalted butter.
  • Overall? I'm simply far more conscious about what I buy and eat, reading labels and planning meals well in advance so I don't rely on "easy" convenience items. We spend a little more in our grocery budget to get whole, safe, quality foods, but we've saved a ton in not going out or ordering take-out. Meals are more fun because we experiment with more spices and veggies and meats. I feel more wholly satisfied and not bloaty and weighted down. If I fall off the wagon, I know where to turn and what to do to get back on track.

To those of you who have successfully completed the Whole 30, what were your biggest "a-ha" moments or things you learned?
How did you feel after? What have you done to maintain it?

To those of you considering doing it yourself, don't waste another day thinking about it. You can do anything for 30 days; and if your health is a concern, either for yourself or for setting an example for those around you, you really have nothing to lose. (Well, accept acne, pain, insomnia, YOU KNOW.)

Here's to your health, folks!

Hugs & High Fives,
C

Monday, July 21, 2014

Breakfast at Target Does "The Whole 30" - Part 1

It's been a whirlwind of a summer, folks. The dog days of summer are in full swing, and I'm finally in a place to enjoy the heat, the sunshine, and the general lazy, hazy feelings that can only be embraced in the south. With that, a little time for catch-up here. 
Let's get on with it.

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:: Breakfast at Target Does the Whole 30: Part 1 ::

It's no surprise I've got a thing for food. Well, and a thing for constantly talking, thinking, and obsessing over it. In a high school beauty pageant, I listed "lunch" as one of my hobbies (this was hardly the reason I didn't win - shocking, I know). On an application for a job, there was a question "What are you passionate about?" I responded: "Goat cheese."

All true stories, people.

As time wore on, I found myself in a complicated relationship with food. I would use food as rewards, as punishment, as a means of temporary pleasure and escape... sometimes as a means of control and restriction. Generally speaking, I ate fairly "healthy" and a predominantly vegetarian diet, but I ate just as much bad stuff as I did good. I convinced myself my constant on-the-go lifestyle paired with exercising 4-6x's a week gave me the excuse to carry on with my eating habits the way I did. After all, I wasn't overweight, I didn't have any disruptive/chronic medical conditions, I knew "diets" are stupid and don't work, and I figured I'd always deal with any potential problems when they arose. I was "too busy" and "too important" to let something like having Oreos stashed in my cupboard be a major issue.

(Did I just say "cupboard"? What am I, eighty?)  

Cue the symptomatic problems that showed up in college and got worse in the years ahead: Painful, constant acne; sleeplessness; headaches; exhaustion; irritability;  extreme muscle fatigue during workouts; anxiety; sharp, painful stomach pains that accompanied bouts of anxiety. I chalked it all up to the pressures of life and the madness that was my world. I tried desperately to address each of these issues: expensive creams and cleansers for the break-outs; sleeping medications for the insomnia; self-help literature for anxiety and irritability. The "cures" were short-lived and temporary. In fact they got worse as the conditions adapted to the remedies, creating more anxiety and depression from complete loss of control over being to fix the problems. Of course, I turned to my Chick-Fil-A waffle fries (and regular waffles) and other "treat-yo-self" foods. The cycle continued.

After hearing the buzz about Whole 30 and learning from a few friends who had done it and experienced great results, I did my research. After a couple of weeks of reading up on the plan, I made the decision to go for it. For those of you unfamiliar, here's the breakdown: No grains, no dairy, no sugars (of any kind, not even "natural" ones), no legumes, and no alcohol (YA HEARD RIGHT) for 30 days.

I know what you're thinking:
DEAR LORD, why would you do such a thing?

There's no easy way to nutshell the answer to that (seriously, just go take 30 seconds to skim the context of the program). Basically I was tired of feeling like a run-down old hag being a slave to poor food choices. If 30 days could break me free of this, what really did I have to lose?

In May 2014, I dove head first. I ripped the non-Whole 30 foods from the cupboards (what? again?) and stuffed the fridge full of colorful veggies, fruits, and high-quality meat. Little did I know the struggle that would lay ahead.

As the 30 day challenge is a lot to cover in one post, I've broken it into two: Part 1) What I experienced during the Whole 30*; and Part 2) What I learned from the experience. Below is a recap using artistic renderings crafted carefully by yours truly. (I know what you're thinking - despite my lack of future in beauty pageants, I should've been an art-TEEST.)

*Disclaimer: These results are not necessarily typical, and that's the thing - everyone experiences it differently.

Days 1 - 3: Come at me, brah.

Whole 30 Breakfast at Target

I am ALL about a challenge; I'm also obsessive about planning. So, OF COURSE, being armed with a bevy of knowledge and a plan AND clear-as-day rules, I knew I was going to kick this Whole 30 in the face. It took a little extra preparation and research to stick with the meals, read labels, and do all the other things you need to do for optimal success... but ultimately, I hit the ground running. The next month was going to be a breeze.

Days 3 - 4: The Junkie Phase


Having gone my first 3 dinners successfully without ending them with dessert, I started jonesin' for a treat. I have the world's WORST sweet tooth, but knew I just needed to ride it out. I went to bed that night and kid-you-not, had the most bizarre dreams about chocolate chip cookies, cake, buttery, cheesy mashed potatoes, YOU name it. What proceeded was 48 hours of shear torture and hysteria - I swore I smelled brownies everywhere and heard ice cream trucks circling our apartment. I broke out into full on sweats, shakes, and crying fits. I called John some pretty offensive names when I found him snacking on some leftover Easter candy (oh, right, did I mention he was NOT doing the Whole 30?). The cravings for sugar and carbs were so violent my muscles tightened and sensitivity to noises and light heightened. I was devastated both by my need to just get a morsel of chocolate and realizing just how much of an addict I was. 

Days 5 - 10: Just Let Me Die


I have never, EVER, experienced the devastating exhaustion as I did during this point. As the last of the sugars and simple carbs and processed junk left my system, my body essentially went through a giant reformatting. As it struggled to operate without the addictive foods I normally consumed and process the highly nutrient dense foods I was now shoving in (i.e., no "quick energy" carbs and sugars), I was in a cloudy funk. Y'all, I was TIRED. I felt heavy, sluggish, and defeated. There were many points during these days I thought I should just give up because the fatigue was so debilitating, but I trudged onward.

Days 11 - 15: The Whole 30 High


I distinctly remember waking up one morning feeling light and being totally alert. No heavy, groggy, hazy funk. I felt clear-headed, focused, and efficient. The cravings had gone away as had the fatigue. I wrote down two pages of "To Do's" on my trusty legal pad and blazed through the entire thing in one day. I was hyper-present in the moment, and the path to getting seemingly chaotic and confusing projects tackled became clear and direct. Some people note a "burst of energy" at this point, but for me it was more that I was energized by my ability to focus and get sh*t done. It was AWESOME.

Day 16 - 19: The Betrayal


Just as my magical superpowers of productivity and focus reached their height, I was slapped down by my own body deciding it had ENOUGH. My gut rallied a strike with its rag-tag team of other digestive system buddies, refusing to cooperate any longer. I was gassy, bloated, and constipated... not a single thing helped alleviate the pain or the alien-esque distention in my belly. I literally had to stop eating for a day because there was no room in my stomach to put it. I felt dizzy and sick, wanting again to throw in the towel... I just didn't think this was worth it. But with the days getting close to single-digit range, I had to see this through until the end.

Day 20 - 23: Paranoia 


As the "Betrayal" phase finally wore off and I stabilized again, I started to develop a weird nervousness and anxiety. Being so close to the end and having gone through everything thus far, I lived in a paralyzing fear of screwing it all up. I had people rooting for me and wanting to see me successfully complete the Whole 30. I needed to do it for them as much as myself. Similarly, I was following the Whole 30 Instagram and other social media outlets; I wasn't experiencing the same "dramatic," sunshine-and-butterflies results or pulling off the gorgeous, amazing meals as others who were completing the program. I felt like I was falling behind or simply doing it all wrong. Failure felt imminent... 

Day 24 - 30: Peace, Love, and Whole-iness


Then, thankfully, a restful calm spread over my Whole 30 experience. I floated through the remaining days of the program feeling centered, peaceful. Food and I found a balance with one another, a mutual understanding that what we eat is about nourishment and cognitive responses to happy times with good people -- not a drug or device to be abused and manipulated. I started sleeping more soundly, my skin started clearing up, and my body felt efficient in using the energy I was putting into it. In fact, I extended the program another couple of days to make sure I really sealed in the effect; I also wanted to make sure I fully prepared myself for the reintroduction post-Whole 30. Okay, and maybe I was just really enjoying the zen, man.

----

To sum up the 30 day experience: It was intense. I mean, you eat - generally speaking - 3 times a day  and have been for quite some time. Completely overhauling the way you approach food is something you have to give lots of attention to... and you find yourself analyzing every food choice you've ever made. Obviously, too, what you put in your body has direct, sometimes immediate effects. In essence, it's a major shock to the system. Not just the physical body, but mentally, too... 

And we'll get more into that in Part 2.

So, stay tuned friends. 
Stay tuned.

Until next time, 
Hugs & high fives.
-C

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Plunge. The Journey. The Overdue Update for Life as of Late.


It's June 2nd, 2014.
In Columbia, South Carolina.
It's 85 degrees today.
Breezy, sunny.


I don't think y'all heard me.

It's JUNE and the weather is PERFECT.

Not stifling, not raining, not gross and muggy and full of things country singers lament when we think of a Carolina summer.

And I won't question it.
(And I hope I'm not jinxing it.)

I will enjoy it, and be thankful.

The last time I checked in my world had been literally turned upside down, and a totally unforeseen adventure lay ahead of me. I had no other choice but to plunge cannonball style, holding my nose while forcefully hurdling myself into a deep end for which I had no bearing of how far down it went.

And when I surfaced and gasped the fresh, clean air that stretched my lungs and heightened the sparkle of the drops that clung to my eyelashes, I thought:

HOLY SH*T,
that was awesome.


This quick and all too simple post is let you all know I'm still in a process of creating waves and splashing wildly in the deep end while I navigate the waters of my new life. 

Imagine your life as a magazine; someone cuts up out all the features of the pages, tosses them into the air, and you have to survey them each as they scatter to the ground. Imagine instead you now have to choose only the important features to slap onto a drug store poster board. You have to present your life now, creating the layout, choosing the highlights, and telling the world this. is. who. you. are. No explanations, just a giant open page that people can just get it.

I'm still sorting out the remaining pieces, but overall, I have a pretty good idea of what non-negotiables need to be on that page. I'm also saving room for the pieces I have yet to discover.

All while seeing my city, my life, my family and friends from a whole new perspective.

Taking the plunge.
Being intentional about where my life is and where it's going.
Enjoying the small, unexplainable things with a simple appreciation.

In the moments of chaos and anxiety and uncertainty, these have been my ways to cope.
And, to hope.

A totally brand new career path, a bustling side-hustle in photography, fitness adventures a'plenty, and a personal life make-over to strengthen the areas that cracked over years of wear and tear.

I've got a long way to go, meaning I may be touch and go here for a while. 
Nothing you all aren't used to, but giving you an honest head's up nonetheless.

I'm in a good place.
A little bit crazy, a lot of bit busy
but a good place.

To those of you who supported me with no question and no explanation,
who took time to understand and support,
who served as spiritual guides,
who inspired me to frickin' grab life by the kahunas and GO for it,

I THANK YOU.

Stay tuned, muchachos.

Hugs & high fives,
C

PS. Next up: I'm working on a recap of my Whole 30 experience to share as it's one of the most challenging things I've ever done, and certainly one of the most enlightening. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Awakenings: The Great Transition of 2014

Fellow citizens of planet Earth,

Life is weird.

The World prepares us for many a splendid thing. Google "job interview tips" and the interwebs explodes into a furry of articles, websites, blogs, and info-graphs giving us no excuses to bomb. Post to Facebook you've got a bun in the oven; and within minutes, you're wading through a sea of advice from friends, relatives, your aunt's-mom's-cousin's-best-pal about books, pamphlets, leaflets, outlets, and collections of baby advice and what to 'expect when you're expecting.' Prepare for a major life-altering test that determines what school you get into or what career path you'll face and there are how-to's, to do's, top 10's, books of secrets, books of strategy, games, flashcards, and mock-testing situations you can practice time and time again. In those instances, the only thing you can control when it comes to the moment is your reaction; you face them, nervous... but ultimately, feeling prepared.

Then there are the experiences we don't see coming. The times when you feel like you've been pushed backwards and are falling, suspended in mid-air with no sense of where the bottom is. In those moments, there are no books, articles, or pamphlets. All you've got is your aching and confused gut, your strangled and stifled emotions, and a sudden and swift dead weight that makes the world so, so heavy. 

(It is these moments that keep the junk food and wine industry well funded.)

Modern Family {ABC}

Mid-morning of Feb 28th, a Friday, a warm and sunny Friday, I was called into my boss's office, as I had been many times before, at the job I'd been at barely two months. A job I saw myself growing into. A job rich with possibilities and a chance to finally start developing a career. A job I took so seriously that I gave up many parts of my life outside the hectic 9-to-5 to be focused. Sure, there were some weird, un-fun, and confusing things - but overall I knew I was laying the groundwork. (I wrote a post about it, for crap's sake.) So, I ran into my boss's office with my legal pad filled with updates and things to talk about, already starting the conversation before I got in the door. I was met with a blank stare. I proceeded to carry on my one-sided conversation, then was sharply interrupted with:

"Celia, this isn't working out."

... Huh..?

What proceed that gut-sinking sentence was a choppy, hasty, semi-rehearsed speech that included things like, "we think you're so great and so talented..." "...but we just can't afford you right now..." "...this is all going to work out..." "... but it's just not a good fit..." "... you are going to do great things...

Friends: Have you ever been slapped with something so hard your ears ring so loudly and violently you've basically gone deaf? Your head is spinning and throbbing to the point you can barely see and you're pretty sure you're going to barf? Um, well, you're not sure if that's barf or your heart or your stomach in your throat. Nope, not your heart - it's been ripped out and thrown out the window of your boss's corner office. You think you're starting to cry but the scary, screaming part of yourself is starting to bubble to the surface, and your face feels like it's literally caught on fire. You almost hope you start crying to put the sting out. But all you can do is stare while the torment proceeds. Stare... and wonder why.

And when you can summon enough will-power to turn your head through the garbled static and slow motion of everything around you, you see a once inviting and friendly co-worker, now stone-faced, with a box in their hand. An empty box. A box meant to hold all the things you brought in to make your space, your career, your own. A box meant to take back all your hopes, dreams, and plans that would have eventually become the story of how you'd make a difference. 

So, I left with my pathetic Staples box filled with my pathetic sparkly pencils and shattered dreams. I left with severance paperwork in hand, giving me 30 days of compensation to last until I, hopefully, found the next thing. I left with a deep and twisted anger I had never experienced before.

I. Was. Furious.

In the recent months, I had completely restructured my day-to-day and made sacrifices to move forward full-force with this new opportunity. I had given up large chunks of the "me" part of my life to open my time and energy to put towards this gig. I thought I was doing the appropriate "adult" thing, being smart and dedicated and responsible. I didn't realize how tightly I had wound the blinders until they were ripped off, and I looked around - and there was nothing.

But there was my sweet and perfectly dashing husband who sat on the couch with me while I blubbered uncontrollably, episodes of Sex and the City playing quietly in front of us. I'd already polished a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and half a package of Oreos by 4:00pm that afternoon.

I wallowed. I full-on ugly cried. I found myself in wild fits of hysteria.
I felt alone, pathetic, and pissed off. 

Sex & the City, HBO, Samantha, SATC
Sex and the City {HBO}

In slowly divulging the details of my descent into Loser-Land to a few friends, a few family members, and a few trusted colleagues, I decided I needed to snap out of it - and do so quickly. But I was really scared. Terrified of the rejection, of explaining things to people about what happened, of settling out of the necessity of needing to put food on the table and not be tossed out of our apartment. I wanted to hide under my dog-haired covered Snuggie. I wanted to run away.


Will and Grace {NBC}

Y'ALL,  I had no back-up plan for something like this. I hadn't planned to fail. I hadn't planned on someone else making a very important, life-changing decision for me. Quite frankly, I hadn't thought it the slightest bit possible. As a sloughed through job boards, completed application packets, mailed resumes and cover letters, and made phone calls to people, I fell more and more into a deep sense of defeat and indifference. The best thing that awaited me was wading back into the lazy river of career mediocrity, floating through for a paycheck and a steady schedule.

Breakfast at Tiffany's {Paramount Pictures}

And one morning, I decided I had been given a rare and sparkling opportunity to throw up my middle finger at the status quo and abandon the "sensible" path I had wandered for far too long.

But I was going to need a 2nd cup of coffee and a manicure first.

Through an interesting series of events, I had established a connection with the manager at the lululemon Showroom here in town. Within the first weekend of being "in limbo" I reached out to her about an opportunity I knew about at the showroom. She was amazing and responded very quickly and graciously, and we got to talking. Fast-forward through a series of conversations, interviews, a spin class that kicked my butt, and lo and behold... I was extended an offer.

I'm proud, grateful, and thrilled to report:
I am now a team member with lululemon
serving as Assistant Manager for the Columbia Showroom.

I get to work with an awesome team of people.

I get to experience new workouts every week.

I get to return to my first love of community outreach, planning events and meeting new people in Columbia's fitness community.

I get to flex my social media and marketing skills, finally putting my creative talents to use.

I get to learn a lot about running a business and cultivating people to rise above mediocrity.

I get to wear black stretchy pants to work.

Full House {ABC}

To be honest, I never guessed that would be a possibility either; and quite frankly, it still feels a little surreal. In the few short days of training, reading, and preparing, I've really come to believe this is where I was headed all along - that, really, I would've talked myself out of it had the opportunity presented itself in any other time or form. It's a major transition and totally different lifestyle - but instead of having to fold myself up to fit in the box of normalcy, I get to stretch fully and breathe deeply and extend the long limbs the dear Lord gave me.

Did I mention I get to wear stretchy pants to work?

So, to those of you who I reached out to and shared my situation and listened and offered help; to those to excitedly supported my new (new?) transition; to those who did not cast judgment nor pity but who rather rallied to make sure I only came out better than where I was; to those who offered their time and wine to allow some moments of comfort and reflection; and to those who shared in the relief and excitement for what's to come, I thank you.



There is still much to learn, much to explore, and much to share; but I am so, SO looking forward to where this journey will take me. Rather, I'm thrilled about how it will push me to go beyond the limits of my own experiences and learn to crave that excited, nervous feeling my inner gap-toothed spaz has been dying for, for far too long.

And of course, learn to appreciate and simply exist as my inner gin-slinging, early-to-bed-early-to-rise old bitty has been needing for far too long.

The adventure begins, my friends...

"Mommy, I'm still not exactly sure what's going on..."

Hugs and High Fives,
C

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sweet Potato Chili


sweet potato chili breakfast at target

We're finally breaking through the last of winter and hints of spring have started to grace us with their presence - typically just long enough to be an invariable TEASE - but there are still the cold snaps that strike on the regular, leaving those lingering cravings for something warm and filling. I was first introduced to this recipe via Real Simple while enjoying a leisurely post-exams winter visit at the home of my dear pal, Tracy, a few years back. Flipping through the pages of the magazine we stumbled on this mouth-watering concoction and immediately set out to pick up ingredients.  6-ish hours later we practically had our heads submerged in healthy-sized bowls of this stuff, only coming up for gulps of wine. Since then, it's been a frequent find in my crockpot; and considering this stuff is cheap, filling, healthy, low-fat, high-fiber, delicious, AND fool-proof, I don't see it leaving the meal calendar any time soon.

Y'all, when I say "foolproof" I mean it. I'm no master chef (I struggle with EZ Mac, people); but if you can pick out fresh ingredients (and half of them come from a CAN for crying out loud) and have decent chopping/peeling skills, you'll be set.

Even better? This recipe is super customizable. I'm definitely "that girl" at restaurants who subs things for other things and asks for several things on the side because, frankly, I have weird tastes and cravings... okay, and maybe I like to think I can do a better job of flavor combinations and pairings. ANYWAYS. For instance, I love corn. So ya' know what? I ADDED CORN. I think sweet vidalia onions taste way better than red ones (maybe it's that southern thing?). So, I ADDED SWEET ONIONS, DARNIT. Seriously, let your imagination run wild, folks. You can make this as simple or as much of a crazy crockpot fiesta as you want. You have the power. USE THE POWER. 

Sweet Potato Chili via Breakfast at Target (vegetarian)
Stockpile of ingredients; armed and ready to go.

Okay. And here's another dirty little secret. I hate cleaning the crockpot. HATE IT. There is nothing worse than having your house smell like a magical culinary wonderland, enjoying a nice dinner, and then DUN-DUN-DUN, you've got a crusty, goopey mess to clean up. GROSS. I know, it's not the most eco-friendly option; but it's a keep-Celia-good-mood-friendly option, and isn't positive energy just as good for the world, too? (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)



Right - I don't have to tell you to properly wash your veggies, do I? Listen, I don't care you pulled them off a gold platter at Whole Foods, they still need a good rinse.


Then peel those suckers. Peel 'em good.



Hehehehe... Nakey sweeeeet potatoes! 
For best results, always make sure you have your trusty sou chef + scraps-on-the-floor-disposal handy.

"Sou chef" - more like, "Soooou, chef, ya gonna drop anything anytime soon? Huh? HUH?"

Why do bell peppers always look like they're yelling? I guess I would be, too, if someone sliced me in half.


And, y'all, thanks to this Vine video, I can't wash/eat/deal with beans without a little shoulder-shruggin'.


Last step is dumping your seasonings on top, giving it a good swirl, and walking away.


Approximately 4-8 hours later (depending on your settings of choice), you'll return to a kitchen thick with the scent of warm, spicy magic and a crockpot pull of goodness.


Now listen, you can totally forego the extra trimmings and enjoy this meal completely vegan if that's your style. 

But if you're of the belief that chili is the perfect foundation for loads of cheddar cheese and hot sauce, you can come over to our place. We won't judge.

(Not pictured here, but I also dump some serious salsa on there; avocado, too, when it's in season.)

Something to note is that in our little household, we've replaced sour cream with plain Greek yogurt. It's a little more expensive, sure; but the health benefits far out-weigh the couple of extra bucks (protein boost, low- to no-fat, better taste all around? hellOOO!).



So grab your Costco-sized spoon and pat yourself on the back for a delicious job well done (with the hand NOT holding the spoon, OBVIOUSLY). 

And really, I should get some kind of medal for being able to hold off long enough to snap some photos. Though it's a good thing the camera was off when I finally dove in. Word to the wise, change out of your work clothes before you go for it.

Enjoy, muchachos!

Hugs & High Fives,
C




Base recipe from Real Simple:

Serves 4Hands-On Time: Total Time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and tortilla chips, for serving
Directions
  1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.
  1. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours  or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
  1. Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Brave New Year



We're almost two full months into 2014.

I swear I was just cleaning champagne and glitter out of the carpet just last week.

And for the first time in years, I'm not living in fear of the painful whirl of time. I've learned to breathe. Yes, I had forgotten how to deeply inhale, to slowly release the exhale... to give my body and soul a positive reaffirmation that, in a single moment, I can exist.

And as I breathed in the fresh new year (wildly uninhibited thanks to a healthy flute of bubbly), I made a very serious decision. This year is about - has to be about - the art of simplifying. Read any of my blog posts over the years and they all encompass some tinge of anxiety, fear, frustration, and messiness of life. (And oh, how ironic, my love of spotless countertops and color-coded calendars and "to do" lists within to do lists.) It dawned on me - shoot, it straight up kicked me in the face - that the only magic solution for being in proper control of one's life is to recognize one's true capacity. Living fully didn't necessarily mean having a full calendar.

I have always piled on the commitments and lived in absolute, paralyzing fear that if I turned things down, I would ultimately turn down an opportunity to grow, to meet someone, to learn something about myself... to get ahead. I assumed if I felt some compulsion towards something, that was the Universe telling me to do it. Similarly, if I was presented with an opportunity, I knew it had to be the Universe trying to give me an opportunity. I always survived my experiences and opportunities, so I convinced myself this was supposed to be how I lived my life: always on the move.

I'm also a very impatient person. When things or results weren't happening fast enough, I felt that by piling more on my plate I'd expedite the process of gaining experience. Clearly if I did double, triple, or quadruple the average person, I'd be pushed to the top that much faster. And The World practically begged me to do it, so I was fulfilling my destiny, right?

Meh. Not so much.

After a few years of being unable to sleep throughout the night without medication, go a day without experiencing some kind of physical tension or pain, or be fully present in both big and small experiences, I realized my burn-the-candle-at-both-ends approach wasn't working the way I thought.  I left no room in my life for truly important things - friends, family, personal hobbies, inner-most dreams and goals, etc. - and always convinced myself I'd get to them eventually.... Even if I did, I didn't fully. And for that I may have well not gotten to them at all.

I prostituted my passions and turned them into more work, leaving the end results to be decided by clients and outside passerby's. More dangerously, I convinced myself I was still satisfying the "me" part of my soul by doing so, that I was killing two birds with one stone and essentially creating personal efficiency. In 2013, I cracked open a total of two books (where I used to put down at least two a month); one I never finished. I told myself reading for enjoyment was only to come after I finished all my to do's, chores, and work. My husband, with his a high-pressure job, and I continued to swirl in a vortex of overlapping existences; in our first year of marriage we couldn't make those day-dream inspired newlywed promises to each other like the saps we should've been. Instead we clung to our bourbon on the rocks and any tiny moments we had together. Getting to Friday in one piece was an accomplishment.


Then an opportunity presented itself; it wasn't a hard, fast, instant-results opportunity. It was a career transition that, for the first time, offered to help create a foundation: to give me room to build, grow, learn, and flourish while having a varied team of support and leadership that expected me to seek challenges. It was going to be slow. It was going to be a lot of trial-and-error. It was going to mean some sacrifices and sucking up my pride because the learning curve was going to be steep. I was going to have to do a little grunt work while keeping a smile on my face. But I wasn't going alone and the opportunity had the possibility to go in a number of directions -- all of them in the upward motion. The mission was in need of a champion, and the mark is mine to make if I work smart and graciously. I caught the break I had so desperately been praying for; and for once, the "unrealistic" vision I had in the back of my head for years suddenly started to feel very real, indeed.




Amazing how a little bit of clarity affords you the will to get out there, to enjoy simple pleasures... to spend the afternoon at a trampoline park and not give a HOOT you're at least 15 years older than the average bouncer.


A new opportunity, a new realization, and a new perspective on the future hit all at once. Slowly, I found my inner gangly, excited, gap-toothed spaz with her desire to experience the world and believe that fulfilling her true capacity - not just "getting things done" but actually "doing" with intention - was possible.

... and a new overhaul of my wardrobe and an overly-priced haircut did wonders for my inner girl-on-the-go diva.

Though, this is just the first step in a long yellow-brick road ahead. I still having crippling moments of anxiety and dwell on thoughts that do me no good. The cloud of impending uncertainty hasn't lifted yet, but I'm getting better at preparing for the storms. The new year's been plagued by a brutish winter, but it's also afforded some beautiful moments of cozy tranquility. Patience is a virtue I still lack, but I'm getting better by trying in the small moments.... I ate fully heated leftovers at lunch recently. It was totally worth the wait.


And as March comes in like the lion it promises to be, things are about to get a little crazier than normal; but with it comes the much-needed promise of spring. And instead of a chaotic, disjointed furry of activity, it will be a series of focused leaps of faith.

To be continued...

Hugs & High Fives,
C

PS. As an added bonus, below are some of the highlights of 2014 thus far! (All from the iPhone, if you can believe it... letting the Nikon rest up for engagement/wedding season... :)



fire and ice columbia contemporaries
Fire & Ice Ball with the Columbia Contemporaries (Jan 2014)
south carolina state house
Snowy Sate House (Snow Day Part 1 - Jan 2014)
Snow day deliciousness; homemade chocolate chip cookies and chai (Snow Day Part 2 - Feb 2014)

Homemade Sunday Brunch (Feb 2014)

hilton head half marathon
Hilton Head Half Marathon - 13.1 miles of freezing rain and never better (Feb 2014)

Sean Luca as my 'fuzzy' Valentine (Feb 2104)

studio cellar columbia sc
Impromptu art date night - went totally rogue from the model painting (Feb 2014)

south carolina state house columbia sc
Sunset stroll around the State House; spring slowly showing itself (Feb 2014)

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