Learn to love mornings

I wasn't a morning person. I remember sleeping in until 11am on weekends, having a hard time getting out of bed, feeling unmotivated to do anything but eat breakfast and then plop down on the couch. By the time I felt like I could get out and do something, it was already early afternoon, a decent part of my day was just gone

We all need a day off here and there, a day to just relax, to do nothing.  My old habits were much different than that. They were lazy. This was before I worked night shift for two years, and that made things much worse. To "prep" for my next shift I would stay up until about 3 or 4am and then wake up in the afternoon.  I felt terrible any time that I was up in the morning, I never enjoyed that time. I missed out.

The other day I was thinking about life, how quickly our days pass, and how those days are numbered. I have a choice, to get up and live, or to lay around watching tv and sitting on my couch. The thought of looking back when you are nearing your end, and seeing a life lived after 12pm every day.. honestly it scares me. What a sad waste of time. 

I am so grateful that I have switched things around, I have broken old habits, and I have been steady with it for over a year now. I love my mornings. I love the dreamy light peeking over the hills, and then pouring through my windows. I love my warm coffee, I love diffusing oils that wake me up and make me happy. I love reading my daily devotional book alone. I love the quiet, calm energy before everyone rushes off to work. I love going places because mornings can turn any place (even in the Bay Area!) into a ghost town. I love seeing who else is out, running, riding their bikes, breathing that cool air. I love seeing those that love their mornings as much as I do. 

Photographers often refer to the time around the sunrise as the "golden hour." They are definitely referring to the lighting, but I call it the golden hour for many other reasons. It is the best time of the day! 

If waking up early is something that is hard for you, but you want to be a morning person, I understand. Here are a few tips for you to improve your morning game, to wake up and live.

  • Sleep training. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at at the same time in the morning. This takes discipline, but I promise it works. When I am not able to do this, I wake up so much more tired.
  • A warm drink. Whatever it is, hot lemon water, tea, coffee. Make it special, use your favorite mug, set it all up the night before so all you have to do is heat your water and enjoy. Life's little pleasures are what it is all about.
  • Peppermint oil. This is a go to almost every morning for me. I smell it straight from the bottle, or put some on my neck, or a drop on my thumb pressed to the roof of my mouth. Peppermint is a great wake up oil!
  • Be grateful. If you think about life in a positive way, if you are grateful to be given the gift of another day, you'll be more willing to launch yourself out of bed when you wake up in the am. I say in my head or out loud "thank you" several times. I just woke up, I am alive. What a gift! 
  • Dream. I don't mean while you are sleeping. Do you have dreams for you life? Or did you, and life has buried them?  Don't be afraid to dream. I think of the life that I want for my husband and future children, and I have to work for that. That dream, that image in my head instantly fuels me with the motivation to peel the covers back and get up. 
  • Make it comfy. We don't want to leave our beds because we are soo comfortable. I get that, so when I am reading, or having coffee, I am wrapped up in an oversized robe. And if I head out into that amazing but chilly morning air, I am bundled up in sweats and a hat. The thought of leaving your bed becomes less daunting when you are headed for warm clothes or blankets with your cozy drink of choice.
  • Watch your productivity. Nothing makes me more excited than seeing how productive I am when I enjoy my early mornings. I am able to relax, read, have grateful thoughts, and then start working. Without the rush of flying off to work or feeling stressed, I get so much more done. Try it for a week or two and watch how much more you are able to accomplish, and all before 12pm! 

Here are a few pictures of my favorite golden hours, that time that I have learned to love so much. 

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Death Valley

Just the name of this valley might make you want to stay away. This is North America'a driest and hottest spot, with less that 2 inches of rainfall annually, and a record high of 134 degrees. But remember my husband and I want to see all nine of California's national parks this year?  In the spirit of travel, and seeing new places, we put it on the calendar to go with a few of Riley's Canadian friends from work. I invited my brother as well, he is living just outside of Vegas, so his trip was much shorter than ours from the bay area. Lucky!

This whole weekend was Riley's jam. Off roading in his jeep, spending time with other guys who appreciate cars and a crazy time out on the trails. He was in heaven. I on the other hand will start with a disclaimer. I really want to be truthful about experiences while I encourage people to see new places, because photos show highlights. Please don't get discouraged if your travels aren't perfect. This time, there were many discomforts to say the least. The weather got up to 94 degrees on our last day, the road we found ourselves on for wayyy too long was the worst wash board pattern I have ever seen/experienced. Our day hike left most of us with sore knees, hips, feet, etc (are we getting old??). And I ended up with some not so flattering sunburns, despite my vigilant attempts to avoid them. The eight hour drive home, through a wind and rain storm,  arriving back at 12:30am was the icing on the cake. 

Stuff like this happens all of the time. I don't report it much because it gets buried by the amazing memories made. The discomforts turn into funny stories, and the trip always turns out to be a good time. That's why I keep saying it: go and see new places. No matter what happens, I can promise you it is worth it. We had many laughs, watched the stars, felt the warm, powerful breeze sweep across the salt flats. We drove through uninhabitable land, for hours, seeing a new corner of the world. 

"Experience is the teacher of all things"

I love coming home with my pictures, my sweet memories, and more experiences shared with Riley. Building a life together is the most fun I have ever had. And seeing him in all of his jeep glory was pretty adorable  :)

Here are my favorite things that we did or saw in Death Valley, my highlights:

  • Arriving on the first night to a steak dinner and friends at the campsite
  • Seeing "the racetrack" and its mysterious sliding rocks
  • Watching Riley and his friends rescue a lady in the middle of nowhere by changing her tire out in record time. I love witnessing random acts of kindness! 
  • Dark skies FULL of stars
  • Bottomless cups of coffee every morning thanks to our friends 
  • The salt flats, parts of it looked like ice but it was 90 degrees! SO strange and cool to see
  • Waking up before sunrise and getting to the sand dunes to see that first light
  • Sleeping in our little "home" (our half dome tent) 
  • Hiking to telescope peak (there was snow up there!) and having our surprise champagne at the top

I will never forger this trip or the memories made. Our time living in Death Valley was one for the books. 

"Life wasn't meant to be lived in one place"

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Food for thought

I get so many questions about what we eat, how we eat, and where to even begin for someone who wants to start a healthier lifestyle. 

I want to start by saying this took me years. Not years to transition, but years of saying "I want to eat healthier" and not actually doing it. Changing what you eat regularly is 100% an act of the will, I can't convince you to do that, only you can set your mind to it, and choose to stick with it. 

I know how hard it is, It was hard for me to kick fast food, processed food, and refined sugar out of my life. I have also seen countless patients who would rather take a pill or some extra insulin than change how they eat. I know from enough experience that I can't make you want it, that part is up to you. 

I also want to say we are not 100% perfectly healthy, nor do I want to be. I am not going to live and never eat pizza, or a cookie, but for the most part I will consider what I am putting in my body to be fuel, and think consciously about what I am using to fuel my body. My body that is a total gift from God. 

When I think that way, and never about counting calories, loosing weight, or some fad diet, I am able to stick to it. I am SO happy when I know I am putting good things in, to allow me to live my life in a healthy, strong, and happy way. 

So first of all, here's how you can enjoy those indulgences that you can't imagine giving up: find options that are made out of real ingredients! Meaning not processed, or refined, or completely synthetic garbage for your body to filter. For instance, I had pizza last weekend while I was in Las Vegas. When I travel, I find myself eating things that I normally wouldn't at home. My brother and husband found a pizza place with the coolest menu. All of the ingredients were real, the tomato sauce was just that, Italian tomatoes and some seasoning... my body still didn't love me for eating gluten and dairy (that's another story) but with this non processed, thin crust Italian style pizza, I was able to enjoy the moment and know I am not eating all of the pesticides and chemicals that use to be in my every day life. If I am craving sweets, I have a piece of dark chocolate, fruit, or I'll make a paleo version of lemon bars, or brownies. Yes, this will still spike your blood sugar, but with ingredients like almond flour, coconut sugar, eggs, cacao, there is some type of benefit, actual nutrients, and your body will feel something like, hey I know what to do with this ;) My favorite account on Instagram for ideas and recipes when I need something sweet is @bakeritablog. She is so creative with real food ingredients and I don't think you could ever get sick of those recipes! 

The most shocking thing about making huge dietary changes was realizing the food was better on the other side. If you can't eat a pile of cookies, or fill your belly with bread before the entree even shows up (my old ways) you're going to be more creative with what you do eat. We make sure our meals are delicious, flavorful, and packed with nutrition. 

Cutting out processed food is an amazing place to start. I will list some things that we totally threw out of our home, and never bought again. It feels weird at first, like how will I get by without these ingredients but I promise you'll use your creativity, and the real food ingredients here on earth for us, and you will thrive! I sleep better, am in better moods, and I am never bloated ..even during that time of the month. Cramps are also a breeze too, requiring no Motrin. I don't get heartburn anymore, something I use to take tums or Zantac for. Sometimes we are suffering and not getting to the root cause, rather covering it up with a pill. If you have health complaints, and have not looked into changing your diet (completely different from going on a diet), I really encourage you to do some research. 

We are not trapped, although it may seem like a dark alley of fast food options everywhere you turn in the beginning.. we have SO many options these days. Thrive market (online) is a great place to get real food, organic ingredients and products shipped right to your doorstep. Shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store will give you all of the produce and none of the processed junk. Farmers markets are a wonderful place to shop for fresh food, more recently harvested than your grocery store produce which means more nutrients! And obviously, growing your own food would be the best possible scenario. I DREAM of owning a home and having a garden some day. I want to get back to the good stuff, the way it use to be. If you need fast food, because we are all busy and on the go, chipotle is a decent option offering non GMO ingredients. You just have to order wisely at any place that you go to ;) Panera bread is another decent-ish stop as long as you're not getting cheddar broccoli soup in a bread bowl and a diet coke (seriously, my old order, every time I went there. No wonder I had digestive issues). 

Ok here is the list I promised, before I write a book because I could talk about this all day. Bottom line, ask yourself is this real? Will it benefit my body? And go from there. 

Thrown out, and never bought again. This list is an awesome place to start! We are going on over a year of this lifestyle and I absolutely love it! First is what we have thrown out, and next is what we use instead. 

  • Refined sugar//Coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup 
  • Flour//coconut flour & almond flour (there are others but these are our favorites)
  • Pop (midwest talk for "soda")// La croix, kombucha
  • Juice// freshly juiced veggies & fruit with no additives ever
  • Processed food especially snacks, cereal, and energy bar type things// coconut oil potato chips, chips and salsa or guac for a "junk food" fix, gf granola, Lara bars, we love to snack on veggies and hummus or carrot dip! 
  • Those jugs of country fresh milk that I (sadly) drank my entire life// coconut milk, almond milk, hemp milk, there are so many options, with a lot of calcium and benefits for your body 
  • canola oil// olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil are our go to oils. We also use ghee as well.
  • Processed meats// rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts as "lunchmeat," find words like grass fed, free range, organic etc. If they were fed hormones/antibiotics/GMO grains, then you will be too when you eat meat. 

I hope this list is helpful for you. I don't feel like there has been much sacrifice involved. It is the new normal and I love eating like this. It really, truly makes me happy and allows me to live well and be the best version of myself. My list is a great place for you to start, if you are feeling like you want to change your health habits.  Another thing I would encourage you to do is become a good label reader. I won't buy something if it has any of these ingredients hiding in it.  I was shopping for hummus the other day and there were loads of options, plenty of organic ones. I read the labels and one had only veggies, sea salt, and olive oil in it. The other, sugar and canola oil were added. There are often unnecessary hidden ingredients that we have to be aware of. I feel empowered when I know exactly what is going into my body and will be used as fuel for a great life! 

I do also believe that everyone is different. This isn't set in stone, not everyone can feel great eating the same, you have to tailor your list to you and how you feel! Always listen to your body! 

And just know that you never, ever have to suffer. We love what we cook, and thoroughly enjoy our meals. Cooking and creating beautiful, nutrient packed food is something that I know you can enjoy too. 

I wish you wellness! 

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Joshua Tree

Someday these will be the good old days.

Packing up the jeep to head out for a weekend of camping. Fresh air, our favorite little tent, The "best food I've ever had" cooked over the fire, desert sunsets, nature, exploring a new place, unplugging, and quality time- just the two of us. 

Sometimes I hear people say they didn't realize what they had until it was gone. I know how lucky I am to be married to him, to be on this adventure with him. I know God looked out for me when I met Riley. I don't need to loose anything to realize that. 

Things will change, finances, kids, possibly health, I know that. I also know that I will not ever take one thing that I have for granted. 

Life is so good. 

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