Anxiety: Yoga poses, Foods to help, Sleep!

ANXIETY! SLEEP! Falling asleep can be one of the most difficult things to do. Sometimes I think so hard about falling asleep that I think I psych myself out, become even more anxious about it and end up not sleeping at all! I also wake up most nights, anywhere from 2-4 AM hungry and experience major anxiety attacks. Anxiety is a difficult thing for most people to understand unless they have truly experienced it first hand. You may not always be able to see it physically on a person and it can be easy for someone to tell you to calm down, but in reality you just can't. Whenever I've told someone about them they respond "oh" or if I ever have one in public during the day, which is not often, they are always in the middle of the night, usually the people I am with back away and are completely helpless as to what to do and think I am crazy. 

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Why I Decided to Eat Meat Again

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while and when I asked many of you the other week what you wanted me to talk about, this topic, had the most hits. I was surprised and had so many thoughts flood through my mind. 

Mainly wondering a few things. If people were/are feeling sick, experiencing low energy levels, and an overall sense of ‘blah’ maintaining a vegan lifestyle like myself when I was a vegan, curious to start incorporating meats again, or if their body is actually craving meat and wondering how to approach this.

When it started:  

For me, honestly, it wasn’t necessarily a personal choice to be completely vegan, but more of a somewhat forced dietary choice that led me there from the digestive issues and the migraines that I was suffering from. I didn’t wake up one day and shout I AM GOING TO BE VEGAN. In fact, I enjoyed eating meat, eggs, dairy and fish- it is how I grew up and didn’t think twice about it. It gave me energy, made me feel strong, and satisfied long after my meals were finished. Then, after college and down the road, as you know, I started to experience severe digestive pain & long story short I was diagnosed with leaky gut, SIBO, IBS C/D as well as gastroparesis and on top of that I was experiencing some pretty heavy migraines regularly often causing me to spend some time at the ER. You can catch up on my part 1 and part 2 of digestive issues and healing your body in the links! 

SO, after being hit with all of that, my food choices needed to be re-examined. Foods that I once loved: eggs, red meats, certain fish, and other non- related meat/protein sources were causing havoc on my body. Certain white fish and deli meat (nitrates) were causing my migraines immediately to flare and because of my gastropareis (which is when your body can not empty at a normal rate, note: this is very simplified, explained in detailed in links above) I could barely digest foods such as red meats. I would feel run down, extremely full from just a few bites, and the meat would feel stuck in my throat even! Since my body wasn’t breaking down, digesting, and processing any of these foods in my body, it would sit in my stomach/rot while I continued to add more food causing my SIBO and leaky gut to worsen.

Dairy was the first to go. Every time I ate dairy I would immediately become ill. Migraines, sick, extreme bloat, so it was a no-brainer and honestly that didn’t bother me. I knew I had a major problem with dairy. I then eliminated red meats and truthfully became fearful of eating fish because of a potential migraine attack. Salmon also made me feel terrible, so I stayed away. That pretty much, left fish out of my diet too. I never really ate bacon or sausages so much, so the only thing that was really left was chicken. I kept chicken in my diet for a while, because I had just given up so many foods what felt like immediately and it was super overwhelming and I felt pretty hopeless as to what I could actually eat. At this time I didn’t just give up certain meat, eggs, fish, dairy, I had also stayed away from certain grains, legumes, coffee, I couldn’t eat raw vegetables, and I was taking a CRAP ton of medication. If you are thinking, what the hell did she eat?! I was constantly thinking the same thing every day I would wake up. 

During this time; I was eating copious amount of vegetables; sweet potatoes drizzled with tahini and nut butters, sugary smoothies filled with dates and bananas, chicken here and there, and really that was pretty much it. My nutrition intake was not balanced at all. I felt helpless, but also loved it. I felt in a sick weird way, cool and that I was super healthy. My body was craving this sugary lifestyle and that is all it wanted. I loved eating nut butters by the spoonful and justified it with it being my only protein source so it was OK, not realizing that the high fat content was hurting my stomach as well and causing IBS-C. My smoothies would be filled to the BRIM with dates, bananas, coconut water, nut butters and I would drink them down so fast and be bloated just as fast and feel so terrible just as fast. I was also always super tiny, but I started to realize that my pants weren’t fitting me, I was always bloated, inflamed really, and gaining weight fast. Not blaming it on my diet, I would blame it on the leaky gut, the SIBO, migraines, all these other symptoms and continue to take more and more medication and work out harder to sweat out the bloating and twist out the pain of my stomach in hopes my IBS would settle as well. Life on the outside was perfect, on the inside I was slowly withering away and becoming super depressed, so so tired, irritable, and self-sabotaging. Soon enough, I took chicken out of my diet, because every time I started to eat chicken, I felt sick; I couldn’t digest it, I would feel too full. I think it was also just a mental thing too and I was already feeling so terrible, that I just gave it up. Smoothies, bottomless bowls of vegetables, and juices just “felt” better, that’s what I thought.

It also made it easier at the time to label myself as a vegan when I would go out to eat, or be in a social setting instead of having to explain why I couldn’t eat certain foods. At the time I was still pretty uncomfortable with everything I was going through and I doubted anyone cared that, well if I eat red meat, I won’t be able to digest it and then it will get stuck in my throat or it will sit in my stomach blah blah. Yeah PASS!! 

So basically, veganism just fell on to my lap with a big slap in the face and a whole lot of sugar that did not work for my body, but in a weird way, I stuck with it because I thought what I was feeling was normal and did it for about 5 years. This blog was started when I was a vegan! It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I started to incorporate meat, eggs, and fish back into my diet.

When & Why

I vividly remember one day sitting on my couch and reading about how much sugar intake is recommended for the average person (yes, I know, this is what I do….). I think I had hit an all time low at this point, because I was feeling so uncomfortable with the way that I was feeling:

extreme hard bloating
constantly craving sugar
brain fog
3 PM tired/crash
always hunger/wanting to constantly eat
never satisfied after a meal
always bloated after a meal
skin issues (redness, breakouts)

IBS symptoms

& at the time the average was something like 25 grams a day and I was currently drinking a smoothie from a local juice place with the nutritional label on it, that read: sugars: 48 grams. I nearly lost it. One, because I had already had one that day and two because I was drinking these on the regular, multiple times a day. I, then started to calculate how much sugar I was consuming a day and realized that I was consuming anywhere from over 100 to 150 grams a day. I wish I was lying.

I realized that eating this way, this lifestyle wasn’t working for my body. Consuming high sugar smoothies, juices, juice cleanses, only vegetables, and being high carb was in fact hurting my body instead of healing it. It was simply worsening my leaky gut, contributing to my SIBO, causing more migraines, and triggering my IBS. That day, I went to the market and bought meat for the first time. I didn’t tell anyone I just did it, really without even thinking twice about it. I knew this was what I needed to do. I was tired of feeling miserable all the time and not myself. I was also experiencing some INTENSE cravings for meat. Couldn’t stop thinking about it AND my body was craving peanut butter hardcore; which is a sign that your body is deficient in protein. I wasn’t craving red meats, fish, nor eggs, but chicken and turkey. I subconsciously knew that my body wasn’t being fed properly and I was disrespecting it by trying to follow a diet that wasn’t right for ME. 

Which is an interesting concept. Some people THRIVE on vegan diets, raw diets, paleo diets, vegetarian diets, high carb, low carb, whatever diet there is out there! When you think about it, that is pretty cool. It goes to show and prove that no two bodies are the same. We all need different foods, things, calorie intakes, sugar intakes, etc to survive and function at our best. Which is why there should be more of an understanding and less judgement as to what people are eating and why they are eating a certain way. Our bodies are constantly changing and it is important to listen to what it needs, craves, and wants because it is telling you something. What it is telling is, is exactly what it needs at that moment. Your cravings are a sign of something that your body may be missing or needs. Everyone needs to focus on what they need as an individual and worry less about everyone as a whole. When I was little I was full of life eating meat, during college and after, it caused many of the said problems above, but then after reintroducing it into my body, I felt alive again!

The first thing I made was turkey meatballs. Thinking back, I really don’t know why I just didn’t grill up a piece of chicken or something a little easier, but I was seriously craving turkey meatballs. So I listened. I followed some recipe, made them, and ate them. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I felt amazing. I was completely satisfied after my meal, I wasn’t bloated, I wasn’t tired, and was full until way past the time I normally ate dinner. I started out slow since I hadn’t eaten meat in over 5 years, I didn’t want to over do it and stress out my system. I first decided to stick with turkey and chicken and work my way into organic eggs and wild caught fish when I felt ready. It can be a big deal going from not eating meat, eggs, fish to eating these foods again. A big deal for your body, your mental state, your community (I had started this blog as a vegan), and your physical state whether it all be positive or negative. 

I was also excited about this because it opened up so many doors for me in social settings, my own kitchen, and I felt that I was on a path in healing my body. I was determined to cut my sugar intake drastically down, incorporate a variety of foods in my body, eat more balanced and really tune in to what it needed. For the first time, I realized the importance of tuning in, listening to what my body needed and fueling it rather than following a certain diet or standard because it is the cool thing to do. The cool thing wasn’t working for me at all and I needed to take a step back and figure out what worked for me as an individual. 

After eating meat I noticed that I was 

less bloated
more satisfied after meals
sugar cravings stopped
less hungry throughout the day
less tired/energy levels more stabilized
less headaches
clearer skin
more confident in how I felt

To this day, I am still figuring out what my body needs. There are months, weeks, or even days, that I might not eat meat, or eggs, or fish. I may over do it on certain vegetables or get stuck in a rut with foods, but that is just how my body is. It is constantly changing and I try to eat as balanced as I can, while listening to what it wants to eat. I eat to fuel my body so I can have energy for the day, work out, be social, life my life, have healthy skin, a healthy brain (!!!), and hopefully continue to heal my gut. I do not follow any diet, but rather live label free. This works the best for me mentally and physically. I did it without seeking the approval of others. I did it for my body and my health.

Mentally I don't feel constrained to a paper list of things I can and can't eat and physically I feel that I (I hope) am eating enough of a variety of proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and whatever else falls in between to be happy, balanced, and healthy. This is what works for me and it may or may not work for you, but that is OK. The most important thing is to listen to what your body, your mental well being, needs in order to function and for you to feel your best. That is what matters. 

xx . 

Balancing Act

Question: Do you feel that you’re doing everything “right” but still feel run down, bloated, experience flares, and that you are still getting sick?

This one I get A LOT. My answer: All the time. In a perfect world, I would love to be able to completely manage my stress, rid myself of my anxiety attacks, sleep the same number of hours each night, and know what foods worked exactly for my body ALL the time, but I am human and I don’t. I don’t have it balanced ALL of the time, and you should understand and realize, not everyone else does either. HOWEVER, I do have it together more times than I don't, considering how far I have come- where I am today and where I was before- there is a major difference. I juggle my to do lists as well as my commitments every single day to the best of my ability and at the end of the day be as satisfied with it as I can as well as stay positive about what I have accomplished; relinquishing what I can not control. That is key. 

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Tuesday Threads 2: Social Situations & Digestive health

This week I wanted to address how to deal with digestive health issues in social situations, traveling, or even around the holidays. How do you defend yourself and your lifestyle choices. How to overcome those feelings of being insecure. Simply, how to just be YOU. 

First and foremost. WHO CARES. Why do you need to defend yourself to anyone. If living your life, the way that you want to, makes you happy, makes you feel your best, does it matter? It shouldn’t, but of course it does. We all have feelings of insecurity, we all want to be liked, accepted, and thought of by other people as how we see ourselves. Even I feel that way, we are all human. Every day I have moments of self doubt, feel insecure about my body, my self worth, and question my own life and the path that I am on. It can be even harder when you are struggling with something that someone else, your friends, significant other, parents, strangers, whomever simply do not understand. Such as, digestive health issues, anxiety, eating disorders, you name it. It took me a while to be comfortable sharing the types of digestive health issues that I had and being so opened about it to my friends, family, and you- my instagram/blog world. You go through stages, you’re embarrassed, scared, nervous to talk about it, fear others will judge you, you hate that you have them and everyone else seems to be so “perfect,” and it begins to control and define your life. The worst, when you are starting a new relationship. Oh My God. You hold a grudge against your friends, family, and anyone in your circle and maybe even ostracize yourself from social settings because you are tired of explaining yourself, fear of eating certain things and feeling terrible after, scared to turn down drinks and being made fun of etc. Seriously, so exhausting and actually quite depressing!! 

What to do: What do you do when you’re out with your friends and you may have gone over board either with the alcohol or have eaten foods you are intolerant to or that simply do not agree with your stomach/should be completely avoiding if you have IBS, leaky gut, SIBO or any other digestive health complication. What do you do when you are feeling so terrible; reads: severe bloating, cramps, severe abdominal pain, headaches/migraines, anxiety attacks, brain fog, IBS-D/C and you desperately want to cancel but either have canceled one too many times, simply can't miss it, or fear the repercussions from your social circle. It is sometimes so hard to plan ahead when you simply do not know how you are going to feel that day. 

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Tuesday Threads 1 : Digestion

After writing part I and part II of the digestion posts, I had an overwhelming outreach of questions, thank you's, and comments. I was blown away as to how many of us suffer from digestive health issues as well as how many of us feel isolated, lost, and completely helpless as to finding solutions and simply how to feel your best. Hearing from you all made me happy, because I love being able to talk about this aspect of my life since it is a huge part and it also made me feel a sense of community. I wanted to keep that going and answer as many of the questions as I could. While reading through, many had similar underlining tones and I realized that if one person is asking this question, I am sure someone else is thinking it as well. (or at least I think!) So, it brings me here to Tuesday Threads. I wanted to start a bi-weekly section on my blog and eventually weekly to answer your questions about digestion, anxiety, and really anything else there is! Every other week I will lump the questions together, anywhere from 5-8 at a time, that are similar and talk about them. I don't want to limit the questions to be about digestion, but since that has been much of the focus thus far, it is a starting point, but there is so much more to life and my life that I want to share. I also, don't want it to be primarily question based, some weeks I may dedicated posts to one topic and so forth, but for now, I wanted to start this new section on my blog this way. so here it goes:

how long did it take to heal your stomach? How long did you have to avoid certain foods? (such as coffee, fruits, nightshades, grains, etc).

I like to think that I am constantly healing my stomach and the process is never ending. This isn’t supposed to sound daunting or for you to throw in the towel, but there may be days, weeks, or months that I feel amazing but that doesn’t mean I am going to go crazy and eat all the foods I couldn’t before. However, if I am feeling good and I know that I will be attending an event or meeting a friend, I might order something that has the potential to bother my stomach. This “potential” thing, is something that I enjoy; whether it be dessert, something with a little caffeine, or whatever else.  I do this for many reasons- life is all about balance and being positive towards the foods that you are eating.  I eat very well on a day to day basis, I work out regularly and because of this there is wiggle room for my body. I know my limit on alcohol, coffee, sweets, etc and will stop at that. Too much will cause days or weeks of re-healing my stomach, my mental state, migraines; my body- something I am not interested in, when I know that the cause was self inflicted.  This isn’t a negative mindset for me, or a “I will be better on Monday” thinking process, this is “I am enjoying the company of someone else,” mindfully indulging and being at peace with my decision. 

If you are looking for a timeline, know that everyone will be different. I started experiencing all of these problems in college (almost 10 years ago, yikes!) and there were times where I had to avoid all grains, gluten, dairy (still do), nuts, coffee, anything too acidic, raw veggies, honestly it seemed like I had to avoid everything. When I took rounds of antibiotics I felt as if I could eat everything, I probably took a round of antibiotics every 6 months and each time they worked less and less. For one summer, honestly all I could eat was chicken and grapefruit, they were the only two things that didn’t bother my stomach. It was bad and that was probably my lowest point. After about 3 or so years of that routine, I quit cold turkey on the medication, changed doctors, and experimented with different foods myself. It wasn’t until then I saw a change. In the last three years, I have only had to go take antibiotics once because my SIBO and leaky gut came back pretty bad. I had terrible bloating, migraines, I was having pretty bad reactions to foods that were normally “safe” for me, and overall felt a sense of tiredness, depression, and was completely rundown. My sugar cravings were at an all time high and I was not satisfied after any meal, I was either constantly hungry or couldn't eat at all without feeling sick. Considering all things, that is actually amazing since I went from taking medication every 6 months for 3 years to only 1x in three years. So, there is no timeline, it is essentially up to you. How serious you want to be in the healing stages. If you focus on eating the foods that will make you feel your best and truly heal your stomach you will be on your way to feeling better more days than not. You will have set backs, I still do! I may be great for a month or 3 months, then I will have terrible flares for a week or 2 in any given month. It is usually brought on by stress, hormonal, food related, lack of sleep or some other issue. I would say, notice how you feel after certain foods, if you feel any adverse affects (bloating, headaches, skin rashes, IBS-C/D, brain fog, mood swings etc) then stop eating it. Give your body a few weeks off, test it again and see if there are the same affects. I still do this on a constant basis and for now I’ve found a happy medium on when I can enjoy foods that normally bother my stomach or that I’ve had to completely stay away from the in the past. You will know immediately upon eating certain foods whether it agrees with you or not.

Things to take away: if it bothers you, stay away and test it again in a few weeks. Change up your “diet” everyday, do not over eat the same foods every day, experiment with spices for flavor, find moderation and balance in all foods - what works for YOU, not the person next to you or your friends. Let others inspire you, but not dictate how you should eat. It is beneficial for our bodies to constantly change up the foods that we are eating. I know that every few months my body changes and I go through periods of not being able to eat foods that I could in the past because I may have over done it; which is why I think variety is so key. I will also say, that my body thrives on finding a routine and balance; mentally, physically, and how I eat. More to come on that.

How did you find out?

Tests! After first, doctors explained to me that this was something that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life and there was nothing that could really be done.  This was not the answer I wanted to hear. I decided to see a gastroenterologist, a specialist, in hopes to figure out ways to help alleviate the pain that I was going through and was given the routine tests. The first was the upper GI exam, where I had to drink liquid barium, which coats the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and shows up on the x-ray. Second, was called Radioisotope gastric-emptying scan, also called the egg & toast test. I had to eat eggs that contained a small amount of radioisotope and then lie under a scanning machine.  If the scan shows that more than 10% of the food was still in your stomach 4 hours after eating, then you are diagnosed with gastroparesis. For me, I think the eggs just made it past my throat after 7 hours. It was taking SO long they finally sent me home. Third, I had a colonoscopy to check for cancer. Lastly, I went through many CAT SCANS and blood tests to check for further issues or illnesses.  It was a long & scary process and I sympathize with anyone that has gone through it or is currently going through it now. After all of the tests were completed and the results were given, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, IBS-C, and distension of the abdomen.  Pretty much you feel as if you have a watermelon in your stomach at all times, constantly full, severe pain and really just feeling like crap. I also showed symptoms of leaky gut and small bacterial over growth causing me to develop a high sensitivity to fructans. Which, is why I stay away from sugar (even limit honey, dates, maple syrup; tolerate small amounts) and many fruits. I also have to avoid dairy, because of an allergy, which should be avoided regardless if you have stomach issues such as mine. So, all those fruit free smoothies and low sugar snacks I make are not just a fad or me following a trend, its been a way of life for me for MANY many years. If you think something is off, follow your intuition and see your doctor! Don’t try and self diagnose or follow what others are doing. Hopefully I am here to inspire you through my journey, but you know your body best!

How did this happen?

Short answer, I have no idea. Long answer, I have a few, one which I will eventually tackle on my blog to come. Other reasons, potentially: years of taking antibiotics, poor diet when I was younger and throughout college, and simply not properly taking care of my body. Thinking exercise was enough and looking healthy on the outside was enough to get by- and that is the key word, I was simply getting by. Turning to medication, antibiotics and over-the-counter medications was a no brainer and I never thought twice about what I was putting into my body. If I had a cold or if I was suffering from something more serious, medication was the solution, always. I never thought how it would affect my body and mental state in the long run, it was more of how quickly can I heal with the strongest medication there was/is available. Now, my attitude towards medication is completely different. If I have to ever take antibiotics, I will do my research. I will admit that I have to take medication every single evening for my migraines and if I don’t I will end up in the hospital. Unfortunately, I am the type that is prone to them, and have more than 15 migraines (not headaches, migraines- there is a big difference) a month and without the medication I simply can not live my life day to day. I will also make sure that I am nourishing my body while I am taking medication or antibiotics for any reason. Now, knowing that there is potential that healthy bacteria in my gut, is killed while taking antibiotics, I do everything in my power to feed my body. I’m more of aware of the foods to turn to, the superfoods, probiotics, and the types of foods that I need in order to restore my gut health. You can read more of some of the healing foods I turn to here, on my two part digestion post.  

When I was younger and in college, I never thought twice about the foods I was eating; take out, coffee, alcohol, dairy, I was a self proclaimed pepsi addict, or I just didn't eat. I honestly didn't realize how much food affected everything; from your skin, your mental state, your gut health, sleep, or your hormones. Now, for the most part, I try and think of how certain foods will make me feel and eat foods for clear skin, to balance my hormones, help with my gut health, improve my migraines and so forth. It can be challenging and time consuming, but it is better than feeling worn out, sick, bloated, or irritated ALL the time. Meal prepping is key and is beneficial to always have food on hand during the week. It gives you a peace of mind knowing there is food already prepared that can be literally thrown together within a matter of minutes. This way, you always have the option to eat healthy and for the most part feel your best, energized, and ready for the day. 

What are my triggers?

I have different triggers for each thing that my body goes through; migraines, IBS, leaky gut, gastroparesis, SIBO, anxiety attacks, but in a way they are all related and connected to one another. Most of the time when I am experiencing my flares, it isn’t an isolated situation. I am not sure if I consider myself lucky or just fortunate that I have been able to for the most part nail down my triggers for my migraines. For me, I have to be careful around red wine, even the smell alone can trigger, packaged deli meats, any product containing nitrates, some white fish (shrimp), the weather (high levels of humidity) and the hardest ones to manage; lack of sleep and stress. Whenever my doctor tells me to get more sleep and stress less, I am like….??? Stress and lack of sleep is also a major contributing factor to my IBS which in turn affects my gastroparesis as well as leaky gut and SIBO. The less sleep I get throughout the weeks and the worse I am about managing my stress and taking care of my well being the more migraines I will suffer from, the more bloating I will physically feel, the less I will be able to eat, the more negative reactions to food I will feel, the more my IBS will act up and so forth! I will have a build up of toxins in my body that will cause tremendous bloating, IBS-D and C, and pain in my abdomen. In a future post, I will come back to stress, sleep, and anxiety. You can see how important it is to truly take care of yourself. It isn't selfish in doing so. It is allowing you to live your best life. I won’t go into too much detail about foods that I have to avoid because for example, my body changes constantly. At times I’ve had to remove eggs, salmon, peanut butter, chicken, or apples out of my diet to name a few, then months will pass by and I am able to eat said foods without an issue. As mentioned before I do limit sugar tremendously (agave, high fructose corn syrup, any types of syrups and stick to small quantities of dates, honey and maple syrup in recipes). I also do limit nightshade vegetables, grains, and make a conscious effort to constantly add variety each week to my meals as well as mindfully eat/chew every single meal. It sounds silly, but eating your meal without distractions makes a huge difference especially if you suffer from digestive issues. I think that if you are at the beginning stages of figuring everything out and feel helpless, keeping a food journal is a great idea. At the same time, I am very against them. Personally speaking, I believe they can trigger old habits or start new ones for people, cause you to overthink / become anxious around food, and allow you to become to rigid in your lifestyle. I do believe that jotting down notes after certain meals if you felt “off,” noticed signs of headaches, fatigue, bloating, or brain fog is a great idea! I used to do that, now I do it mentally. I make a mental note of how I felt both mentally and physically and make the decision to myself if I want to either cut the food out of of my diet completely, take a break from it and reintroduce it again in a few weeks, or keep it only have it every so often. As you can see your body probably changes as does mine. I am constantly figuring out what foods work and which ones do not, but have a better grasp and understanding of what foods I need to stay away from and which foods nourish my body, simply by experimentation. Which, I believe is the best way to figure out if any food will work for you or not, rather than listening to someone else. You need to figure out what works for you, and you only.

So this is a start. There are so many more questions that I want to touch upon and have received that I can't wait to dive deeper into. Questions range from my work outs to alleviate digestive pain, anxiety, and migraines, how I went from being a vegan to eating meat, how to deal with these issues while traveling, social pressures, and so many more that I love. I am hoping that these answers, questions, discussions are meaningful, helpful, and become something that I can continue to write about every two weeks for now and eventually once a week.  I would love to hear from you! Comments, questions, whatever; leave here or send in an email if you feel more comfortable!