Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hearts and Healing

We sit at the kitchen table, cutting red and white hearts.  Hands sticky from too much glue.  Scraps of paper scattered across the floor as she creates one-of-a-kind Valentine cards for each of her friends.  Her long, curly hair gets in the way of signing her name.

I take it all in.

Embrace it.  

Because today, more than any other day, I'm reminded of how our world can turn upside down in an instant.  

On Valentine's Day 2011, my doctor called me in, showed me my abnormal MRI image and sent me directly to the hospital.  

It could be anything.  Anything from an infection to cancer.  

In an instant.  

Everything changes.  

And then 

you change with it.  

That Valentine's Day brought the most terrifying, life changing awakening.  Surrounded by oncologists and more questions than answers, I had never experienced such fear.  

When I left the hospital, I was a different person.  For one, I was determined to never go back - at least not if I could help it.  All the worries that take up so much space instantly went out the window and all that mattered was time - with my daughters, my family, with people I love.   

In the months that followed and after eventually being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, I was determined to fight.  Fight for my health, fight for remission, fight for living my best life.  

Last February, I turned a corner.  My heath improved and I found what worked for me - a combination of diet, lifestyle changes, targeted supplementation, daily exercises and minimal medication.  Still I was fighting for it.  

Fighting has its place, but it can also be exhausting.  

This year, as we approach Valentines Day, I have peace.  I am a champion for health, prevention and natural wellness more than ever, but it's different this time around.  There is less of a fight and more of an embrace.  My goal is nothing but beautiful, vibrant, amazing health.  I love that eating clean, whole foods gets me closer to my goal.  I love that natural, smart supplementation fills in all the gaps and has me feeling better than ever.  I know that when I move and stretch and build my strength, my body is happier for it.   

Am I in remission?  I don't think so.  

Can I move and function and play with my kids without being restricted by AS?  Yes!  

Do I still have rough days?  Absolutely.  

But they are so far and few between that I have nothing but thanks.  In fact, I don't argue with the fact that there's no cure.  Maybe there is.  Maybe there isn't.  I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about it.  All I know is that if I can live well with AS, that's all that matters.  

That's a bold statement and something that would have never come out of my mouth a year ago.  

But time brings wisdom, perspective and ultimately peace.  

So cheers to Valentine's Day, to love, to awakenings, to the beauty and wonder of health.  

With love, 

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I've spent far too little time here this year.  

And while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I have missed it. 

And you.  

Just when I think nobody noticed my infrequent posts, I get an email, phone call or text message saying, "Where have you been?"  "Once a month isn't cutting it, sister!" or "I hope all is well."  

All has been well.  

In fact, as I reflect back to this very day last year, I am reminded of just how well it has been.  

You see, it was this time last year that I was desperately looking for a change.  Something had to happen because I needed 2012 to be different.  The medication I was on was killing my immune system and I was constantly sick.  The pain was hit or miss and life felt a bit out of control.  I wasn't about to give up, but I was getting tired of fighting.

Resolutions seemed silly at the time because clearly I just wanted one thing - to be healthy.  

And so it began.  

In my quest for health, I found new passion and purpose.  

In early January I began a nutrition program that changed my life.  In the last year, not only have I been able to cut my medication by 75% and live mostly pain-free, I have built a meaningful business that shares health and wellness with others.  I have traveled, made new friends, work with incredible people, and get to help others live healthier, happier lives.  I named my business Thriving365.  That was the idea - to thrive 365 days a year and to still be thriving 365 days from now.  

And here we are.  

This year, as I look ahead to 2013, I'm thinking about things a little differently.  Instead of starting with a long list of specific things I want to do or accomplish, I started with a vision of what I want my life to look like this time next year.  For example, instead of saying I'm going to go to the gym 5 times a week and then feel like a failure by March, I'm saying I want to be fit, strong and in the best shape of my 38-year old life come December 2013. It's about staying active, pushing myself and enjoying the process of getting stronger.  That could mean going to the gym but it also leaves room for long hikes through the forest, laps at the pool, dancing with my girls, and regular visits to my yoga for arthritis class.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still the type A, list-loving gal I've always been. I'm just trying to approach the goals in a way that lets life happen.  Somehow I think it will make me love the process more than the act of crossing words off a list.  Details of this beautiful vision for 2013 to be continued.  And yes, I do plan on writing a whole lot more this year.  

Enough about me.  How about you?  Do you remember where you were this time last year?  Where are you now?  Whatever the case, the good news is, however far we have come or backwards we go, there is always a new day.  While life can take a turn at any moment, why not take the symbolism of a new year to start fresh.  Whether it's better health, stronger relationships or a career change, there is no better time to take a step forward than right now.  

What's it going to be?  

Thanks for being here - even when I'm not, 

Friday, November 30, 2012


This is the first year we're doing a fall/winter garden.  I just love learning about what plants are able to withstand the cold, the lack of sunshine and the months of pouring rain.  My husband recently explained to me the concept of overwintering.  Basically some plants are able to wait out the winter season.  It's almost like they go into hibernation.  When the spring comes, many of these plants will begin to flower and flourish.

Imagine that.  These plants that are made to survive the harsh conditions of the season, thrive even in the dark - even in the cold where nothing grows.


Sometimes it appears as strength.

Other times, patience.

Love going out for some fresh kale for my morning green smoothie.

Broccoli is beautiful...

Still going strong.

The last of the fall colors popping through in the background.

Growth is always good.

Wishing you a season full of quiet strength, resilience and growth.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Table Full of Thanks

I don't know where the time goes.  Seriously?  It's been over a month since I last wrote here?

I think that's what happens this time of year.  Holiday events and excitement make the days and weeks fly by.  Speaking of holiday events, our family enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with dear friends this year.  So much to be thankful for.  I just love sitting around the table enjoying a meal with people I love.  It might be one of my favorite things.  Maybe that's why I love to cook.  Thus, the stack of recipe books piled up next to my bed.  Many of you have asked what kinds of plant based foods I cook on special occasions.  Well, this year I didn't have to worry about the main course so I got to have fun with a few sides.

Here's a recipe I've been wanting to try for a while.  I'll be honest.  I've had brussels sprouts a few times in my life and never liked them.  Still, the recipe (and picture) in Power Foods looked so good, I just had to try it.  Even though brussels sprouts are a power food - high in fiber and loaded with Vitamins A and C - I still maintain that good food should taste good too.  Thankfully (and somewhat surprisingly), this one delivered on both fronts!

I took my Thanksgiving shopping list and headed off to Trader Joe's.  I stood and stared at this heap of brussels sprouts for a few minutes.  I had never seen them like this and wasn't quite sure how it all worked. Finally, I asked a nice little grandma who was meticulously searching for the perfect stalk.

Um, excuse me.  What exactly do you do with this? 

Oh honey, you just twist the suckers off!  

I had to laugh.

But that's exactly what I did - twisted the suckers off.

This is right before it went into the oven. I wish I got an "after" picture but I was too busy sampling.  It was delicious.  And this is coming from someone who has never smiled while eating a brussels sprout.  I thought it was fabulous.  The sweetness of the pears, the buttery sprouts, the caramelized shallots.  Yummmmy!  Click here for the recipe.  

In addition to the whole giving thanks part, the other thing I love about Thanksgiving is the abundance of... yup, you guessed it - cranberries.  Packed with phytochemicals and disease-fighting antioxidants, the benefits of these little berries go on and on. 

One day I'll figure out a healthier version of my favorite cranberry cornbread recipe, until then, it's all in moderation.  

I never knew the full goodness of fall vegetables until I moved to the Pacific Northwest.  Wherever you live, you'll still find some delicious squash and sweet potatoes in your local grocery store.  This recipe is so easy.  Just choose the veggies you like, toss with olive oil and rosemary and roast.  The key is rotating your pan and tossing the veggies about every 15 minutes.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  While Thanksgiving may be over, the giving thanks continues.  

With love and gratitude, 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Several weeks ago, I had some routine blood tests done.  I don't think much of it these days.  In fact, as I sat in the lab's waiting room, I thought about how nice it is to just go in for these tests without worrying about the results.  

Two days later, I got a voicemail.   My rheumatologist wanted me to call him back right away - on his cell phone.  

My heart sank.  I felt flush, that sensation where you don't know whether you are hot or cold.  

He told me he was concerned about some of the numbers.  

How can that be?

He was worried this was a "complication" from my medication.  

Trading one disease for another...

I had to wait a week to re-do the test, then another few days to get the results.  Oh, the waiting.   

But in that waiting - those minutes that make up hours, that make you crazy if you let it - something powerful happens.  A new sense of clarity and purpose, an urgency to live, a deep appreciation for every moment, total and complete mindfulness.

The phone rings.  I take a breath as I look down at the caller ID.   

No matter what, everything will be okay.

Your numbers are back up and looking normal.    


There's talk about medication, rethinking "treatment" and weighing risks and benefits.  We talk about some changes that need to be made and where to go from here.  He reminds me that AS is a progressive disease and that it's not going anywhere.  I remind him my goal is remission.

I spend the next day devouring dozens of books on health and healing (both the physical and spiritual kind).  I fill my head with those voices.

And it changes everything.

I don't write this simply to update you on what's going on with me.  I write this because sometimes wellness and illness aren't so black and white.

Sometimes there's a lot of gray.

Sometimes health and disease can co-exist.

It seems strange, I know, but in my case it's the truth.  Ironically, I am as healthy as I have ever been, more mindful than I have ever been.  But it has been a journey - a series of decisions, actions and changes, a resolve to keep moving forward because the alternative just isn't acceptable. While there may not be a cure - not today anyway - it doesn't mean I can't live my healthiest, best life. Somehow, if I focus on that - the rest may take care of itself.  I'm reminded that I've come a long way, that I've made more progress than I was supposed to.  And for that, I am so very thankful.

"Health is more than the absence of disease; 
it is a state in which the body, mind, and spirit thrive in balance." 
~ Institute of Complementary Medicine


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where are you heading?

Stop for a second.  

Think about your life at this moment.

I'm thinking about mine.  

We often ask ourselves, "Am I where I want to be?"  

While this is a valid question, I think the more important question is, "Am I heading in the right direction?"  

When I think about where I want to be one year from now... five years from now... ten years from now, am I positioned to end up there?  

This can apply to your work/career, health, relationships, personal growth, every aspect of your life.  I'm of the opinion that we don't accidentally stumble upon a lasting marriage, a fulfilling, successful career, a healthy body, or deep friendships.  

We invest in these things.  

Make decisions.  



"If you do not change direction, 
you may end up where you are heading."  

~ Lao Tzu

The good news is that it's never too late to change direction.  What will I do today?  How about you?  

Take a risk?

Slow down?

Ask for forgiveness?

Eat your veggies? 

Get moving? 


Whatever it is, know that it's bigger than today.  It will change your tomorrow.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reflections from the Garden

It never fails. 

For the last year and a half, our garden has been my teacher.  On Labor Day, as I watched my husband and daughter plant our fall/winter garden, the lessons kept coming.  

There is a joy that comes over my daughter when she digs in the dirt - purposeful, yet curious. She loosens the soil, digs, makes a home for our food.  I watch her little fingers grasp her shovel, wonder what she's thinking, thankful that joy comes so simply.  

It's crazy how the most important job in the world is something we are never trained for.   And yet, every day we have a chance to guide, encourage, lead and nurture these little ones into the people they were created to be.  So very thankful.  

I love beginnings.  Birthdays, New Years, Weddings, Seasons.  I think it's the hope - the possibility - that gets to me.  And today, it doesn't matter how our spring garden did or what we got out of our summer harvest, we're starting over with new seeds, new possibilities.  I love that.  

And that's life.  

There is always a way to start over.  

To be refreshed.  

To grow and live and reach your potential.  

It really doesn't matter what happened yesterday, last year, or in your childhood.  What matters is what we choose to do today.  

And there's no better time to start than right now...

As she planted this one, she looked at it and said, "Grow big, little kale."

A sweet wish.

A simple blessing.

And there it is.

A new season.

A fresh beginning.

And while we look forward to the harvest to come, it's this moment that I'm soaking in.

This is enough.

With love, 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

36 while 36 - revisited

A friend emailed me the other day asking me how I'm doing on my list.  I had no idea what she was talking about.

Your list.  You know?  The one.  The list of things you were going to do this year.


I forgot about the list.

And 37 is just a couple weeks away.

I'll admit, I had to laugh a little when I read it again.  Most of the things I did this year weren't even on the list.  Just never know where life is going to take you.   Let's revisit...

  • Paint something (I'm terrified of art and not very good at it - so I need to try:  a canvas, a table, a wall, something, anything.)  Hmmmm... does watercolor during arts and crafts count?  Yes.  I say it does.  I'm crossing this one off.  
  • Dust off my guitar and play again (it may only be for 10 minutes at a time but that's better than nothing).  Took it out a few times.  Not enough to build up any callouses though.  Thus, the dust collection.     
  • Go country line dancing.  That would have been fun.  
  • Write letters to old friends and mail it (like with a stamp).  Yes!  This, I did - and will continue to do.  
  • Play in a poker tournament.  Nope.  I even went to Las Vegas last month, but for very different reasons.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm down for some Texas hold'em any day.  
  • Plant a tree (or two).  I'm not 37 yet.  This will happen.  :)  
  • Write - my story.  Okay, well I guess I sort of am - maybe that's what this is all about.  
  • Eat at new restaurants.  Easy one.  
  • Drink hot chai tea in the snow.   Check!  
  • Pick apples.  Barrels and barrels of them.  
  • Write a song (and sing it).   Ha! 
  • Allow spontaneity.  Yes, and this came in the form of choosing fun over laundry, last minute road trips over summer house projects.  Lesson:  there are a lot of things in life that really can wait.  
  • Raise awareness for AS.   I guess in my own way I have.  This one will be a process.  
  • Laugh at myself.  :)  
  • Create irresistible vegetarian meals.  It may depend on who you ask.  
  • Refurbish some furniture.  I'm over it.  
  • Write - something to be published.   To be determined...  
  • Wear more colors.  Sure did.  
  • Sing (either in a microphone or in the shower - just sing) Nothing beats singing with my girls.  Nothing.  
  • Become a better gardener.  Let's face it, my husband grows the food.  I pick them and eat them.  It's a good arrangement.  
  • Pray without ceasing (and believe without ceasing).  Still believing...
  • Listen to live jazz as often as possible.  Not even once. Just a lot of Coltrane on Pandora.  
  • Stomp on grapes at a vineyard.  Yes!  It's on the calendar for later this month.  Can't wait.  
  • Write - a song.  Oh my, apparently I was really into writing last year.  Sorry, no songs here. 
  • Make jam (or jelly - I don't really know the difference).  I'm not doing so hot on this list.  
  • Learn how to knit (or crochet - whichever is easier on my hands)  No, my but 4-year-old daughter did.  Does that count?  
  • Embrace the rain - walk in it, play in it, splash in it, LIVE in it.  YES! 
  • Make pumpkin pie out of the pumpkins in our garden.  Not exactly. I used the pumpkin in my smoothies instead.  Delish!  
  • Dance in a flash mob (seriously, if anybody knows how I can go about doing this, please let me know.  this is a non-negotiable, must-do!!).   I'm still looking for one!  One of these days...
  • Read poems to my children.  Love.  
  • Stay in a cabin in the snow - embrace winter!  Giving myself 1/2 point for this one.  
  • Be kind to myself - set lofty goals, but allow myself time to get there.  Who would have thought that this vague point would end up taking up most of my year.  
  • Take water aerobics.  Taking my 2 kids to the pool should count for this one.  I'm crossing it off.  
  • Go snow sledding!  YES!  
  • Walk in a "Race for the Cure"   I was out of town.  Next year...
  • Choose joy - because each day is a gift and I won't take a single one for granted.  YES! YES! and YES!  

  • -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A year ago when I wrote that list I had no idea what 36 would hold.  I never would have thought it would look a little more like this:

    - Start a health and wellness business.  
    - Decrease medication by 75%!!  
    - Travel to other states helping others build their own businesses and have so much FUN doing it.  
    - Take the girls to Disneyland.
    - Spend one month in Hawaii.
    - Become stronger, healthier and more determined than ever.

    I'll have to spend some time in the next couple of weeks thinking about where I want to be when thirty-eight  rolls around. Be careful what you hope for, having a vision is a powerful thing.

    To living life,

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    A Tale of Two Structures

    For the last several months my daughter has been fascinated by the house being built down the street.  She always make me slow down as we drive by so she can check on the progress. Yesterday, as we drove by once again, we had a conversation that really struck me.

    Mom, the house is happening so fast now.  They took forever and ever doing the floor.  Now the bedrooms are so quick.  It's finally starting to look like a real house.

    Forever and ever doing the floor.   

    I explained to her how important that "floor" really is, how the builders need to spend a lot of time making sure there is a strong, solid foundation.

    She nodded her head, gazed out the window, quiet.

    Then came the next question.

    What happens if they don't make a strong floor?

    I thought for a second, not wanting to give her nightmares of collapsing buildings.

    Well, honey, if the floor isn't strong, the rest of the house won't be strong either.  It wouldn't be safe to live in.  

    She nods again.

    I'm sure glad we have strong floors, mama.  

    Me too, baby, me too.  

    Her attention turns to her sister as they start to sing Old MacDonald.

    I, on the other hand, keep thinking about "floors".

    Just last week, I heard about a half-billion dollar hotel in Las Vegas that was built but never opened because of serious construction defects.  Inspectors noted that the building would likely collapse in a major earthquake.  After millions of dollars and months of litigation, a Nevada state judge recently gave the go-ahead to implode the building.

    What happens if they don't make a strong floor?

    Shiny and beautiful on the outside, the entire project will soon turn to dust.

    But isn't it the truth?  When it's all said and done, no matter how things look on the outside, your foundation is what keeps you standing.  I'm thankful my four-year-old reminded me where I need to spend my time.  When my floor - my family, my faith and my health - is taken care of, everything else works out.  I'm strong and can take on everything else.

    And unlike the Las Vegas hotel that awaits its fate, you and I can always go back and strengthen our foundation.  Why wait for a collapse or implosion?  We can do something today to make sure we have a strong tomorrow.  Whether it's spending quality time with your family or making changes to your diet and lifestyle, check your floor and see how it passes inspection.  The rest of your house will thank you.

    With love,

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Five Minute Friday - STRETCH

    It has been far too long.  But this morning, I'm joining Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.  This is when we stop, drop and write.  No editing or over thinking, just five sweet minutes to write for the love of writing.  Today she asks us to give our best five minutes on:    

    S  T  R  E  T  C  H



    It's funny how a simple word can take on such new meaning at different points of our life.  This word brings up all sorts of emotions for me. This time last year, being able to stretch was a daily goal.  Between regular physical therapy sessions, yoga for arthritis classes and daily exercise, I worked hard at maintaining my ability to stretch.  It wasn't that long ago when simply bending down to touch my toes got a standing ovation from my rheumatologist.  Every morning, alone in the bathroom, I made it a point to reach for the ceiling - as high as I could, pulling, stretching, straightening out my spine.  It hurt.  Hard to breathe.  So much work.  Just to stretch.  

    But what was the alternative?  

    Weakness.  Pain.  Inability.  

    Today, while I still stretch to maintain strength, flexibility and range of motion, life is stretching. 

    The goal is no longer just stretching my limbs, but stretching my vision - leadership, passion, faith. Stretching, reaching - out of my comfort zone and into places I never imagined - because there is no alternative.  


    Hugs and Health, 

    Five Minute Friday