September 17, 2014

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it.

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it, but you may not be living that way because you may not believe it way down deep. Why do so many of us feel so bad about ourselves?

In this age of headlines and 24/7 talking heads we lunge from crisis to crisis. Our culture is swept up in rivers of bad news, glaring failures, dissatisfaction, and united finger pointing at whomever we can identify as a potential villain. NFL players have taken the stage this week led by Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

What has resulted is a narrow focus on the behavior of professional athletes. Not even women’s rights advocates have suggested that all professions should purge their halls of those who physically assault their partners or children. Why is the NFL special? Let’s purge elementary schools, colleges, newsrooms, courts, churches, investment firms, manufacturing facilities, the trucking industry, pipe fitters, doctor’s offices and mental health facilities as well. If we don’t, what point are we making?

And that’s my point. Most of the time, it feels like we’re just finger pointing and creating a villain of the moment – someone who can make us feel better about ourselves while we contrast our public behavior from theirs. What we sometimes forget is that most of the violent incidents we see aired were not believed to be public. They were private moments. We know this and if we’re willing to tell ourselves the truth, we know that we would not look good if our most vile or shameful moments were plastered on a TV screen.

All of us have erred. All of us feel shame. In this commonality of human experience we can find compassion, empathy, and healing or we can find condemnation, comparison, and hate – peacefulness or warmongering.

The problem with focusing our energy on the condemnation of other people in order to make ourselves feel better, or momentarily superior, is that this behavior systematically prevents our own improvement. As we elevate ourselves in contrast with others, we become less and less willing to admit when we have erred in a similar manner for fear that an astute observer may remember our prior condemnation of this behavior and hold us accountable. We will go to great lengths to support our fantasy that we not like those we vilify.

As we feel the internal conflict inherently created by trying to live a fantasy, we are forced to disassociate from our authentic feelings and real truth. Until we reconnect with these, we simply cannot live fully. We will be able to make superficial change, but our inner turmoil will remain. We will never thrive.

Unfortunately, many of us are products of family systems that denied our reality. We had mothers who failed to report our injuries from our father’s physical violence, or fathers who failed to acknowledge the real danger we experienced when our mother passed out and almost burned the house down with us in it. Of course there are millions of versions of this story. The point is that when our family systems normalize this behavior while simultaneously requiring us to hide it, we are trained early on to deny the truth of our experience.

With a cultural bias toward public condemnation and universal opportunities presented by social media to anonymously criticize, it can feel daunting to embrace your truth, especially when it doesn’t match up with social convention. So many of us develop a habit of selling ourselves short.

If we grew up as targets of abusers, we may carry this a step further. The scenario goes something like this: deny our truth, sell ourselves short, blame someone else for holding us back, feel angry, release that anger in inappropriate ways or use it as a defense that prevents us from receiving love and support, suffer the consequences of our behavior or perceived lack of support and continue to make choices that cause us to feel like a victim. Victims do not recognize their power. If they did, they would not choose to continue to live like victims.

If you are existing rather than thriving, we support your desire for change! No matter who you are or what you have done, you deserve appreciation and love. We cry with you as you grieve your losses. We accept your less than perfect behavior even when we can’t condone it. We understand that when we tell ourselves the truth, you are the same as we are and given similar circumstances we are capable of making the same choice you have made.

Forget what you think you “should” do. We encourage you to do at least one thing each day that makes you feel free, safe, happy, light, or content. We also encourage you to allow yourself to feel your anger, fear, sadness, and longing in order to begin the process of letting it go. You do not need permission or approval to embrace the unique gifts and journey you have been given. They are your birthright.

It does not matter how many times you have been told you are worthless. Repetition does not make it true. Whoever told you that was lying to you to make you believe you are powerless. It does not matter how much time you’ve spent alone because a parent did not nurture you. You deserve love, attention, and affection and there are people who will show you love when you find the courage to let down your defenses. You are not valuable because of what you achieve or what you own. You are valuable because you are here. Let your legacy be how fully you live. If your energy is consumed by attaining material wealth at the sacrifice of your relationships or your health, you are living a life limited by material possessions. Such an existence may appear full from the outside, but you know the hollowness inside the facade.

The path to thriving is not all easy, but it is all worth it. No matter where you began or what you have endured, today begins with a choice. You can choose to live your truth or you can be confined by someone else’s. Can you stop just existing and thrive? Yes you can, and you deserve it. The truth you choose will determine whether you exist or whether you thrive.

When you need a bit of inspiration, check out the stories of these survivors of violence, neglect, and abuse who have found a way to move past horrific events in order to thrive. Know someone else inspiring? Share with us in the comments below.


Elizabeth Smart


Iyanla Vanzant


Pat Conroy


Jeanette Walls


Oprah Winfrey


Bill Clinton


Rhonda Britten

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 7, 2014

Top Ten Sauces to Avoid When Living Gluten-Free

GravyIf you’re not big on asking questions in a restaurant to determine if the food is gluten-free, here’s a list of the top ten sauces to avoid because, more often than not in a commercial setting, they contain wheat or barley. Of course there may be exceptions to the rule, but if you don’t want to ask, then take the safe route and leave these off your list of options:

Creole Sauce
Créme Sauce
Gravy (All versions – Brown, White, Sausage, etc.)
Soy Sauce
Red or White Wine Sauce or Reduction
Tomato Sauce

Without the sauce, an entrée can be naturally gluten-free. For instance, a hamburger steak with only grilled onions may be a good choice of protein. A grilled pork chop, or fillet mignon sans demi-glace can be a delicious option. Avoid dipping your sushi roll in soy sauce for a lighter, gluten-free main course (choose rolls made without other sauces).

While some restaurants offer a substitution of gluten-free pasta, they may not consider that the thickening used in the sauce for that pasta contains wheat flour. Unless you are extremely familiar with the restaurant and they with your requirements, it is best to have a conversation before ordering a pasta dish.

Of course there is a slight risk of gluten exposure any time you consume food away from your home. That risk is always minimized with good communication. Each of us must weigh this risk against the joy of socializing with our friends and colleagues.

I choose playing with friends! If you do too, use this list and our Cooking2Thrive Server Cards to make the process safe and easy.

Let’s get out there and have a good time! I know I’m going to.

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August 31, 2014

Great Snacks Can Come in Small Packages!

Being 5’1″ tall, I’ve always liked the saying “great things come in small packages”, so I’m especially pleased to find that great snacks can come in small packages as well! Of course it took getting me out of my normal environment for me to notice, but on a couple of recent trips I discovered some tiny morsels of cheesy goodness.

It started with a trip to Trader Joe’s where I bought a small mesh bag of bite sized Brie rounds individually packaged in small plastic tubs. I paired these with fresh golden cherries that I stored in the mini fridge in my hotel room. The packaging makes tiny Brie an easy-to-carry airplane snack, but these didn’t last long enough to make the return trip.

When I returned home, I took a look at the local grocery and discovered that there are small serving cheese snacks here too. Not only can I buy Brie bites, I can get fresh mozzarella in this cute little packaging.
Small package

I’m excited about this because I often need just a tiny bit of mozzarella and don’t want to have to invent ways to use the rest of a large package before it spoils. Last night, I took some fresh yellow tomatoes to a Labor Day party. They were homegrown and bursting with such flavor that I really wanted them to star as my contribution to the menu, but I also wanted them to look like a finished dish.

I sliced the tomatoes, sprinkled them with a small amount of salt, then sliced a snack package of mozzarella and placed it over the top with a few snips of fresh basil. The result was beautiful and delicious. The cheese and basil added a nice finishing touch without overpowering the tomatoes themselves.
Tomato with mozzarella

This morning, I grabbed a snack bag of cheese chunks out of the fridge to eat for breakfast. It’s the perfect size for a meal that includes the word petit, which it does when we pretend we are sophisticated and speak the 5 words of French we know with a heavy accent. Hey, sometimes we sing our every move as if we live in an opera, too. You can never overestimate the silliness that occurs in our kitchen, but I digress.
Bags of Cheese

I discovered these little bags of cheese when I was meeting my Mom for lunch the other day. She lives about 3 hours away, and I was driving through town, so we met at a health food market that serves lunch. Lucky for me, they sell cheese snacks, too. I couldn’t seem to manage to buy just one bag for the road resulting in plenty of left for un petit déjeuner treat.

Today I’m heading out to do some shopping. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for even more mini fun. Let me know below if you have a favorite snack that comes in a small package.

Happy Labor Day!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 21, 2014

Having Trouble Figuring Out How to Include Cooking in Your Daily Routine? Embrace your limits!

Having trouble figuring out how to include cooking in your daily routine? Embrace your limits!

Today’s tip comes from my lifelong deficits. I have an inability to type faster than anyone else, swim faster than anyone else, or sprint faster than anyone else. In spite of this gaping lack of ability, I have been chosen for typing contests, advanced swim instruction, and participation in track meets. Why? I am ploddingly consistent and rarely know when to quit, but even more than that, I am willing to look my limits in the face.

I think it took me a whole summer to learn to slalom ski. While I’d popped right up on two skis when I was 10. I didn’t try again until I was in my 30s. It still wasn’t difficult to get up on two skis, but I wanted to slalom. The boat driver instructed me to get up on two and then drop one off. And so it began, I’d get up on two, try to drop one, and fall. Then I’d try again…and fall. My kids thought this was both funny and boring because it went on trip after trip after trip…until I finally found my balance point. Once that happened, I quickly learned to get up on one ski. The balance point had been my limiter. Had I not stuck with the process until I found it, my choices would have been to ski on two skis or drive the boat. By finding my limiter, I eventually expanded my options.

How does this relate to cooking? It relates in the same way that it relates to anything that feels difficult to conquer – once you find the primary thing that holds you back and deal with that one thing (okay, it can be a small list of things), you will find you have more options.

I’ll give you another example. I sometimes walk in the mornings with a neighbor who is always looking for an excuse not to show up. If I put on my walking clothes & carry my shoes downstairs immediately after I get out of bed, I am 90% more likely to walk whether he shows up or not. Why? My mental limiter is having to make a trip back up the stairs. I can’t tell you specifically why that trip seems like such a big deal, but I don’t really need to understand this. As long as I know and face this fact about myself, I can make a choice that will lead to me feeling like I CAN instead of I CAN’T!

If you don’t think you can find the time to cook for yourself or your family, start observing how you feel when some informed expert gives you facts that indicate fresh food positively affects your health and you think, “I really should cook more, but I simply…can’t, don’t,”…whatever comes to mind. For me it could be: “If I cook I’ll have to clean up the kitchen & I really don’t want to do that tonight. I need some time to do nothing.”

For you it will be a unique set of limiters. Way down deep, you will feel your limit. You may feel silly about it, or ashamed, or inadequate that, if you’re me, you can’t get your mind around a single trip up the stairs. Often, we won’t let that feeling come to the surface and become a conscious thought because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us – especially when it seems like something small that’s impeding our progress. So instead, we remain in a kind of limbo that keeps us stuck making no progress, or if we let the thought form, spend our time beating ourselves up for having that limit. Often we construct elaborate scenarios to keep ourselves from admitting a simple truth about ourselves that we view as negative.

So, here’s the tipWhenever you feel like you just “CAN’T” cook, walk, say no, say yes, etc. – follow the path your feelings take. Let those feelings lead you to the thing that’s limiting your progress. Trust that the process will bring you insight, and insight will bring you better choices. In other words, you’ll have more choices when you embrace your limits!