#ProjectWhimsy

Sustainability; what a scary word. It’s the kind of word people associate with inconvenient changes in order to help, “The Greater Good,” – an abstract concept at best. It’s the kind of word associated with overpriced items or hippie, “granola” ideas.

But what if it doesn’t have to be? What if it’s just happy people living happy lives?

To me, sustainability has uplifting connotations. When I think of sustainability, I see animals frolicking because they haven’t lost their homes to deforestation, and I see children eating watermelon because we haven’t ruined our top soil. This utopian society is aware of their actions and the impacts they have on society. Everyone is healthy, grateful, and joyful.

Unfortunately, we’re just not quite there.

We all know Humans are intrinsically self-absorbed. Back-in-the-day, this trait helped us survive, and I’m convinced it can still help us today. If you are having a bad morning or aren’t happy with where your life is going, it’s hard to care about other people and their problems. A person cannot be expected to help preserve a stranger’s tomorrow when it is taking every fiber of their being to get through the present. People need to improve and help themselves before they can help others. First, they need to be in a positive, happy mind-set; even if it is only for a few fleeting moments at a time.

This is where #ProjectWhimsy comes in.

Through my own self exploration, I realized it was the small, seemingly inconsequential things that made my day special.  There is a reason places like Disneyland and books like Harry Potter have done so well. It adds magic to people’s mundane lives. It allows people feel like a child again; gives people permission to dream with reckless abandon. Miracles can happen when a person finds their happy place, and big or small, they will pass these feelings on because they are far too glorious to be selfishly bottle-up.

In regards to #ProjectWhimsy, I want people to take this concept and run with it. Perform those random acts of kindness, plant flowers someplace unexpected, or paint your garden fence a fanciful color. I implore you to go out into your community and start putting faces to those “strangers” you are trying to help. Go put smiles on their faces and make them feel like they have experienced something magical. Learn to care about your neighbor, and make it your mission to fill their day with light and love. Life is too short to be serious. Life needs to be filled with a touch of whimsy.

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Your Positive Moments

 

It is my deepest belief that one does not need to concentrate solely on the adversities they have overcome in order to be considered an interesting and wise individual. No matter what life experience a person may encounter, if they take something away from it, they are on the path toward becoming an enlightened being.

Let me explain.

On the way to work, I was listening to a PodCast about documenting one’s experiences without compromising the privacy of the other people in the story, the “supporting characters,” if you will. As a whole, it was a brilliant, inspirational PodCast, but it got me thinking. The primary reason writing one’s life stories can get sticky is because people gravitate toward promoting their struggles instead of their positive moments.

First of all, if this applies you, kudos for showing life who is boss, and thank you for sharing it with us. It is an honor to learn with you. Sharing personal information is an undeniably scary endeavor. With that said, although you should be proud of your accomplishments, they are such a small part of what makes you, you. We want to know the whole you in its fabulous entirety.

In college, I took an exploratory writing class. Here we were encouraged to take our experiences and compile them into short stories. One student wrote how he used to be a drug addict, another how she became an orphan by the young age of 15. Then there was me, writing about seemingly inconsequential things like a telephone conversation with my best friend and my immobilizing fear of bugs. My teacher described me as the “warm and fuzzy” writer in the class. I may have kept things more light hearted, but at the end of the semester, I still felt as if I got the same amount of internal insight as the other students. Focusing on the small moments is what I needed to do at that particular juncture.

As a deeply emotional person, the only way I know how to handle my emotions is by confronting them head-on. In term of my class, it wasn’t that I was afraid to confront the more difficult moments in my past. I wasn’t even afraid of people reading about them. When it came down to it, I was already friends with the skeletons in my closet. We’ve met, compared notes, and made peace. This practice is the only thing keeping me from becoming an extremely negative person, and even then I have my days.

What I’m trying to say is, yes my lovelies, explore every nook and cranny of your past. Delve deep into your subconscious and embrace every beautifully ugly part of you. Share what you have learned, and help others on their journey, but don’t dwell on those areas as if they are the only thing making you stand out.

On this mortal coil called life, it’s really just one presumably unimportant event after another, with sporadic note-worthy moments breaking it up. The adversities you have overcome don’t define you, and those big, glorious moments don’t either. It’s all those little twists and loops that knit our lives together; each part joining to form one magnificent tapestry we can all learn from. I would bet you anything, if you also focused on and promoted the small, positive moments, instead of the struggles you have endured alone, you will start looking at life, and your upcoming hardships, through a more positive light. In turn, you will then make the world a more positive place.

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Life without a Full-Length Mirror

Mirror

Before we leave the house, we stand in front of a mirror, one last time, to make sure we look put-together. If we go to the bathroom at work, we check the sink mirror for any flyways or food in our teeth. Even walking down the street, we sneak-a-peak at our reflection in store windows, just in case we appear disheveled. Keeping tabs on our appearances has become so second nature to us we don’t even realize how habitual it has become. I know I didn’t. Well…until I was forced to stop.

At first, it was stressful. How was I supposed to meet my friends for lunch without seeing if my shoes matched my sundress? Surprisingly, after a month, it helped bring my stress down.

A month ago, I did the most adult thing possible; I bought a house. It was the quintessential starter home with a pale yellow exterior, two bedrooms, and a gigantic backyard. My sweetie and I were beyond happy. Moving in, of course, was a pain in the butt. We transferred all we could, but the house still needed a lot in the decorating department. There was a small mirror in the bathroom that barely showed my collarbone, but nothing of the full length variety. At my last home, I had a huge floor length mirror. Not only was it great for checking-out my outfits, but also perfect for monitoring my alignment during yoga.  Naturally, it was my plan to get a mirror ASAP, but weeks went by and still nothing. In fact, I started to realize, I didn’t want one.

Too many times, I thought a look would work in my head, but once I saw it on, I’d decided it was a no-go. At my work it was important to look professional, but the other women in my office turned each day into a spectacular fashion show. How was I supposed to compete with potentially dreary, ill-fitted attire? Outings with friends, even date night, were always opportunities to express my personality through fashion, so it was imperative I looked on point. I also had the added twist of visually seeing my digestive problems. No matter what I ate, my stomach would become unbelievably distended and bloated. My mornings were consumed with trying to stay comfortable, look professional, while still selecting clothes that fit and hid my swollen stomach. Inevitably, each time I would look in the mirror, my confidence would dive and my stress level rise.

Granted, I still had the small bathroom mirror, and by no means did I avoid mirrors while out-and-about, but eliminating a full length mirror in my home turned into a relief. Gradually, I lost interest in what I was wearing each day. I still picked quality pieces I felt matched, but I was no longer worrying about little details like matching earrings or perfectly knotted scarves. Most of all, I wasn’t constantly bombarded with images and reminders of how my health was doing poorly.

When I didn’t feel well, I usually overcompensated with my looks. If I looked good and made everyone else think I was doing well, then I started to believe it myself. Since my Crohn’s Disease was going downhill, it was easy to become consumed with my appearance. I wasn’t able to control how I felt on the inside, so I became controlling on how I looked on the outside.

The problem was, even if I was looking fabulous, all it would take was one glance in a mirrr to make me feel depressed about my chronic illness. Eliminating a full length mirror in my home wasn’t a life altering event, but it did free me from all the self-induced stress. My mood and spirit became uplifted in the morning, energy was no longer being drained on something incredibly narcissistic, and my confidence was on the upswing.

There are still times when looking in a mirror is a necessity. Relentlessly seeing my distended stomach may have become depressing, but initially it was a helpful alert to a bigger digestive issue. Without a doubt, I will eventually buy a full length mirror, but this time, it will be hidden in a closet unless absolutely necessary. No more of those constant visual updates for me.

Past, Present & Future of Miss Sustainability

Originally, this blog was created because I was getting fed-up at adult life. It would be nice to say my intentions were always noble; trying to change the world by starting a green crusade and so forth. Although this was definitely something I wanted to do, pure frustration is ultimately what made me hit the, “Create,” button.

At 23, I had finally graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Sustainability. I already had an Associates in Fine Art from Scottsdale Community College, so I was feeling really good about my future. As I started looking for a job, I realized my degree wasn’t as in-demand as I originally believed. Yes, all these professions were trying to go green, but they still wanted their employees to have a degree in that specified field. A degree solely in Sustainability was too broad.

After three months of submitting applications and not even being called back for an interview, I was getting discouraged. On top of it all, my personal life was hanging on by a thread. One Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t stand the thought of job searching for one more minute. Within an hour I had a blog, Instagram account, Pinterest account, and Twitter account all revolving around Miss Sustainability.  If I couldn’t get a job anywhere else, then I was going to make one myself. Suck on that world! Fortunately and unfortunately, I had also sent out invites to every person I ever met, so moment of impulse aside, I had to do it.

It started out great, but if you look at the dates of my blog entries, I started to post less and less. Well…What have I been up to??

  • For several months I took an internship with a local environmental magazine called Green Living. That was probably the busiest three months of my life, but I learned a ridiculous amount. Was even privileged enough to attend all the events leading-up to Phoenix Fashion Week 2015. 
  • Eventually, I did get a grown-up job. Granted, it is with a financial firm, but the company itself is very Green. Even though making the office more sustainable isn’t part of my job description, I still do what I can including: E-Waste Drives, Blood Drives, and coordinating Corporate Responsibility Week. 
  • I got engaged to the man of my dreams! Each day has been better than the last. I never imagined myself being as happy as I am with him.img_4045
  • Travel, travel, travel! I went to Colorado, Iowa, and Sedona, Arizona for the first time, along with revisiting Las Vegas, Nevada, San Francisco, California, and San Diego, California. Each place was filled with food tasting, famers’ markets, and hiking.

 

  • Oh and I went to Costa Rica; no biggie.

Unfortunately, not everything has been positive. Over the last six months, my Crohn’s Disease has become progressively worse. For those who don’t know, Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that attacks my digestive system. Right now, I am on the road to recovery, but it has definitely made things more difficult.

Normally, I don’t open about my Crohn’s because most people don’t know what it is or can’t relate. I don’t want people to feel bad for me or think I’m using it as an excuse. The reason I bring it up now is because my blog will be taking a more health conscious turn. I’ve been doing a lot to get my Crohn’s under control without the use of pharmaceuticals and through adopting an overall healthier lifestyle. This journey is something I would like to share with others. Everyone’s bodies are different, but I’m hoping it might also help someone else find relief. It might seem a bit off topic, but I believe being healthy has a place in sustainability.

Miss Sustainability is constantly evolving. Sometimes it is hard to still post as life gets in the way, but I want to share my experiences with everyone. We can all learn from each other. As you follow my sustainable journey, please let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover, and please share your experiences with me. My goal is for us to create our own informed, healthy, green community.

Miracle Noodles & Vegan Garlic Alfredo Sauce

My sweetie and I both have health concerns and have to adhere to stricter diets than most. He has recently been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I have Crohn’s disease. Since we have limited diets, eating-out can be difficult. This weekend for date night, we wanted to stay-in and try cooking a healthier, vegan, diabetic approved, pasta dish. We are not vegans, we’re not even vegetarians, but we both are lactose intolerant and feel we can reduce our meat consumption. After discussing possibilities, we decided to try Shirataki noodles, and for a sauce we found an intriguing recipe for Vegan Garlic Alfredo by Vegan 8.

For those who haven’t heard of Shirataki noodles, they are traditional Japanese noodles. They are made from a dietary fiber called glucomannan, derived from the konjac root. We chose them because they reduce glucose levels after consumed, and it likely improves insulin sensitivity. Translation: A healthy pasta substitute for diabetics. The ones we purchased are by Miracle Noodle, and come in a water filled pouch. It was a little off-putting at first, since it looks really weird!

To cook the Shirataki noodles, you boil just the noodles for one minute; mainly to warm them. After draining the noodles and patting them dry, you dry roast them in a pan. They make a high pitched squeaking sound when you do this. Dry roasting the Miracle Noodles helps make them harder, otherwise they are borderline gelatinous. They don’t have much of a taste, but they do absorb whatever sauce they are cooked in. Personally, I thought they were the constancy of mushrooms. Although the Miracle Noodles didn’t taste like regular noodles, I still enjoyed them more than ones made of wheat or whole grain. We will definitely be using them again.

Miracle noodleFor the Vegan Garlic Alfredo Sauce, we followed Vegan 8’s recipe closely. The only “deviation” we made was adding mushrooms. It was fun to see what other ingredients can be used to create a creamy flavor without even adding “Vegan Cheese.” This recipe used cashews to make it creamy, and lemon to cancel the nutty flavor. Granted, we are new to vegan cooking, be we never would have thought to try that combination on our own.

Our first impression was, “Wow, this is garlicky!” It only called for four garlic cloves, but somehow we overdid it. Although it didn’t taste exactly like Alfredo sauce (when you’re an avid cheese lover, there just isn’t a true substitute) it still was good in its own way. We made sure to soak the cashews overnight, to soften them, but our Ninja blender wasn’t high powered enough. The graininess wasn’t a deal breaker, but next time we will try finishing it off with a hand blender.

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Overall, it was a great dinner! We have some thoughts on how to adjust the recipe to our own tastes, but would still recommend both the Shirataki noodles and Vegan Garlic Alfredo Sauce. I encourage you to visit Vegan 8’s website to get the recipe, and peruse for inspiration!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion: Changing One’s Last Name

 

Our engagement announcement!

Back in August, I got engaged. From then on, it didn’t matter who I spoke with, I would automatically be asked a slew of questions. “Have you set a date yet?” “Where are you getting married?” “What’s your new last name going to be?”

When getting married, it is easy to get wrapped-up in everything behind the “event.” Even the most out-of-the box weddings, ultimately are about a ceremony binding two people in a legal contract. This act goes back hundreds of years; doesn’t get more traditional than that. While sorting through taffeta covered gowns and sampling cake options, it’s easy to stay traditional, down to the woman changing her last name.

With that said, it’s not for me.

Of course, when I tell be people I will be keeping my last name, I am immediately considered a rebel. Although it’s not a common practice, by no means have I considered this rebellious. Yes, I like his last name. No, I’m not keeping mine because I think we will be getting a divorce (although statistically speaking, it’s a good point). This also seems like a good time to point out; my future husband doesn’t want me to adopt his last name. As he put it, “It’s weird.”

Oh, have I mentioned how no one has asked him if he will be taking my last name? Is that really so absurd?

When you think about it, your last name is part of your identity. For 25 years I have had the same name, which I’ve liked. It might sound silly, but I love my signature, and am delighted whenever I get to sign a receipt. All through high school, people actually referred to me solely by my last name. It’s even in songs! Other women might not be able to say the same thing. For example, my mother hated her maiden name, and jumped at the chance for a new one. The point is, the decision isn’t necessarily simple.

During my first long term relationship, I was buying into it all. We were going to tie-the-knot after college, have two children (a boy and girl, of course), and I was going to be Mrs. Caitlin Rose Woods. Although my potentially new last name complimented my middle name, that wasn’t why I wanted it. If I looked at other couples around me, it’s just what they did, so I figured it’s what I would do too. Being in love was a new, wonderful thing, and I wanted everything I thought came with it.

My enthusiasm to keep things traditional wasn’t too surprising. We started dating when we were only 18. I hadn’t figured-out my own identity yet, so it was really easy to absorb someone else’s ideas. Having that sort of life was expected of my boyfriend, it was what he wanted too, and by default it got passed down to me.

We broke-up a couple months after I turned 22. My whole world did summersaults and crash landed as a pile of rubble. Those early years are when you create your identity, discover who you are, and since I was being shaped by someone else, I no long knew what I wanted. It was frightening at first, but it soon became liberating. I could do whatever I wanted to do. Plan whatever future I wanted based on the things I solely liked and believed in.

Maybe it was because I was running from a fate I was almost trapped in, but I soon realized I didn’t want anything he and I had planned for us. I still ultimately wanted a long term, monogamous relationship, but the logical part of me didn’t see the point of actually getting married.  Yes, for the sake of legalities, it eventually made sense to get hitched, but there was definitely no rush, and there was definitely no reason to give-up my last name.

The tradition dates back to when women didn’t have their own identity. They didn’t have rights, and they were basically treated as property. Now women can be their own person, have a job, and own a house, so there is no legal reason their name must change. By no means am I condemning any woman who chooses to change her last name, but it shouldn’t be considered radical if she chooses not to. There needs to be a societal shift in order for this to become accepted. Ultimately, it is the woman’s decision to do what she wants with her name, her identity, but to me, changing one’s last name for the sake of tradition alone, is archaic.

Day 100 – “Green” Smoothie Challenge

 

 

A healthy drink containing fruit and vegetable juices as well as spinach.

A healthy drink containing fruit and vegetable juices as well as spinach.

Back in October, I decided to do the cool thing, and jump on the “green” smoothie bandwagon. For the last 100 days, I have downed this vitamin-packed drink every morning. The challenge was originally only for 30 days, but obviously I’ve liked it.

Below are my thoughts!

  • I loved it! It gave me the promised energy-boost in the morning, made me feel healthy, and gave my skin that much-desired glow. Even though I always ate breakfast in the morning, I never looked forward to it. With the green smoothie, I was glad to drink it! Granted, it wasn’t the most delicious thing in the world, but how it made me feel, was worth it.
  • I would recommend it! It was an easy thing to add to my diet, and the combination possibilities are never ending. For those on a time crunch, it can even be made ahead of time, so you can just grab-n-go. Obviously, since it’s filled with fruits and vegetable, you will get more vitamins if you drink it immediately (yay water soluble vitamins!), but making it the day before is still a healthy alternative. Personally, I had everything precut and frozen, so I could save time in the morning.
  • Not for me, so maybe not for you! This whole time I am going on about how wonderful green smoothies are, but when it comes down to it, I can’t have them every day. When I was 20, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. It is an autoimmune disease, and subsequently requires a special diet. Things vary person-to-person, but a general rule of thumb is sticking to a diet that is gentle on one’s digestive system. Part of this means low fiber.

At first, my green smoothies were wonderful, but as time went on, it began to make me feel like something was scraping my intestines. Being in denial, I was hoping it was caused by other things I was eating, but sadly it was my green smoothie. This doesn’t mean I have to give-up smoothies all together, but it does mean I have to give-up “green” smoothies every morning. I wanted to make sure to point this out because it is important to remember not every diet craze is for everyone every time. A lot of people have diet restrictions and have to vary things to fit their needs.

2015 Resolutions (Review)

At the beginning of 2015, I created a list of 10 resolutions, so I thought it would be fitting to see where I landed with them. The majority of them, I’d say were incomplete, but some did manage to take place. Four out of ten completed; not shameful at least.

 

 

2015 Resolutions (Review)

  1. Write more!Wrote some, but by no means enough!
  2. Read all eight books on Neil deGrasse Tyson’sEvery Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read list. Nope, didn’t read a single one. Does this mean I’m not intelligent…
  3. How about, just read more!I read a total of two books! To be fair though, I started keeping-up with current affairs and reading articles. With that said, I feel good about checking this one off the list!
  4. Up-Cycle.  A big, fat nope.
  5. Start a happiness jar. I started my happiness jar, but quickly forgot to add to it regularly. Instead, starting in October, I kept a daily journal of what my fiancé did that made me happy and/or thankful. I did this for two months, and gave it to him for Christmas. He hasn’t had a chance to finish reading it yet, but so far, the results have made a positive impact on our relationship!
  6. Finish watching Cosmos. Close! I only have a couple episodes left. Although, since it has taken me so long, I feel like I need to start the whole thing over…
  7. Explore dietary options. I feel like this will always be an ongoing goal as new research emerges etc., but I did try a few things. First of all, I was able to replace my anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical pills with ginger and turmeric supplements. I also started drinking green smoothies in an attempt to get more “greens” into my diet.
  8. Go on more hikes. Still would like to hike more, but at least I hiked more last year than the year before!
  9. Investigate home remedies. Eh.
  10. Inspire. I’d like to think I accomplished this, but I don’t know for sure if I did. Even if I have, I think this is something to always strive for.