Monday, January 8, 2018

January 2016.

One of the biggest goals I've heard for 2018? 
Being healthy. 

Hey, plants matter too ok, not just oatmeal.

For everyone, being healthy means something different. 
2 years ago this month, it definitely changed in meaning to me. 

Since I started this blog, I knew I would eventually write about what happened to me two years ago this week. I didn't necessarily know it would be this soon.
However, it seems fitting that it be now, because it's the two year anniversary.

For 2018, I want to write a lot of posts to help other people who might be going through the same thing. In my first post of the year, I talked about being genuine and how finding myself changed me. I have been bothered lately by the amount of people making fun of people who made it a goal this year to get in shape, go to the gym, or eat healthy. 
Mocking people is not good, because it brings them down. 
Soon they may give up on their new lifestyle, because no one believed in them. Wouldn't that be sad?

Everyone is different. 

Mind wellness matters as well.
Currently reading this amazing book by Deepak Chopra. 

I got a lot of pushback when I cut out dairy from my life two years ago. 

I had just arrived back from NYC from the weekend with my mom. I had noticed my eyes were heavy, but blamed it on the cold and tiredness. 
We took the train back and I remember driving home thinking wow, I'm so tired I can barely keep them open!

However, the next day, after ample rest, they did not improve. 

I went back to work, I struggled to get anything done because the computer seemed to make it worse. I struggled to drive back and forth to work each day. I mentioned to a few people this, they just thought it was a tick, or just tiredness. But eventually, I couldn't open them enough to drive. I think the worst part was being home trying to relax, and having to literally hold my eyes open to watch tv. That is how bad it became. 

I booked an appointment with a general practitioner because I really had zero idea what was happening.  As we all know, the answer would be cancer if I looked it up on WebMD, so I didn't even go there. The doctor had no clue either, but said maybe it would be a good idea to see a neurologist. 
Great, a starting point. 

10 minutes later, not great, the soonest I could be seen would be April, and we called an entire list. 
Based on the fact that I was terrified and could barely see, this was not ideal. 

As fate would have it, we had a family friend with ties to a local hospital. 
I was able to get in the next day. 

We went in, they immediately determined they were pretty sure what it was, which was exciting, well, I hoped. Depended on how bad whatever it is, was. 
But, they wanted to do some tests to be sure. One test, was basically a taser to the neck. No joke, mom had to hold me down, and they "tased" me to see how my muscles contracted. My mom didn't handle this well, and I think they were coerced (not gently) by her to end the test early. 
They still got their results. 
The other test, equally awful, was a bag of ice (nothing around it) straight to the face, to see what my eyes did when it was removed. Straight to the face, for like 10 minutes. Yep. Excruciating. 
The tests were 100% necessary and routine, but... that didn't make it better. 

The doctor said, we've got it. You have Myasthenia Gravis
"What's that?" I said. 
As I am sure most of you reading this are as well. 

Myasthenia Gravis is a very rare auto-immune disease. 
It affects your muscles, and can make them not respond appropriately, hence my eye muscles not opening. It can also spread to the rest of your body, but in some people it stays in the eyes. There's some research that says after two years if it hasn't left the eyes, it won't. So I'm hoping that is correct. For now, it has never left my eyes. Some people also get a small benign tumor in the thymus gland, I had the MRI, but do not have this. If it gets bad enough, it can affect the muscles that help you breathe, this part scared me the most. 

Now that I had an answer I was grateful, but nervous. They put me on a medication, that I took three times daily. I returned home hopeful that the medication would work, although I knew in a lot of cases it didn't always. Because the disease is so rare, even the knowledge the doctors have is somewhat limited. Much of the treatment is trial and error. 

This was a very long road. I threw up every single day for over a month. We tried to tweak the medication doses, eat with meds, everything I could think of but nothing was working. I lost 15 lbs just from being sick in about 3 weeks. I couldn't do anything, I took off an entire month from work. I felt worthless (for those who don't know this about me, I used to define myself by my work). 
I looked into long term disability, I didn't know what any of this would mean. 

But eventually, I got sick of being sick. 

So, I took to the computer. After a lot of reading I found something that said the medication I was taking, did not interact well with dairy and fried foods (and sugar did not bode well either).

Well, well well. I live for cheese. I eat fried everything. Mozzarella sticks, best of both worlds right there. Cheez-its? Heck I lived on those, cause I kept getting sick. If there was any truth to this, it made sense. So in an experiment one day I decided to cut out dairy, sugar and fried foods.

That was the day that I stopped being sick. 

I started to research and research foods that were good for me to eat. I bought books, I looked up different websites, I followed bloggers, doctors, and Pinterest'd recipes with no dairy until my heart was content. 

I love food, and now, food loves me too. 

Things I discovered:
For me, there hasn't been a great real substitute for cheese. So either I eat it, or I don't. However I am trying the newest Vegan Shaker Parm Cheese by GoVeggie. So I'll let you know. 
+I prefer cashew milk in my coffee. 
+Almond milk in my cereal. 
+Coconut milk for everything else.
It is AMAZING what can be mixed to taste like actual cookie dough, and really it's a bunch of nuts and dates (talking about food, not tinder). CRAZY! 
I have come to accept and love earth balance butter. Even more than actual butter.
I live by olive oil and coconut oil. 
Cutting out dairy makes you lose weight and acne, FAST. 
There are name brands that have dairy free brownie mix. 
I suddenly felt great and had way more energy.
Also, ginger root gives you SO MUCH ENERGY. 

So finally, what happened....

Well, I cured myself of all symptoms in less than 1 year, approximately 10  months to be exact. 

The earliest the doctors had ever seen was just over a year, but they said USUALLY it takes 2 years. In fact, within 6 months I told them I thought I was cured (from symptoms). They laughed, and said to come back closer to a year. At 10 months they said ok, maybe we believe you but wait to go off meds completely until the 12 month mark. They also were very surprised and asked me how I did it. 
I told them, they were very interested. I was pretty proud of myself. 
I may have cheated a little on the timeline,  because I wanted to be off of meds. 
But I was right! 
I've been off meds completely for over a year now. Last year, since I was off meds, I lost my way a bit, and got back into dairy. It left me lethargic and I gained weight. So, the first day of the new year this year, I cut it out again. I DO NOT want these symptoms back ever again. 

I've already lost pounds in just a few days, and have increased energy and clarity. It's not about the weight though, because weight comes and goes. It is about being healthy. 

Kombucha - my current love.

2018 - I've also gotten more into & am working on:
+Letting go of anything that formerly bothered me
+Breathing before answering messages
+Thinking before I speak or type
+Being more kind and understanding
+Keeping an open mind at all times

I feel that all of these things will help me maintain the health and wellness necessary to keep these symptoms away forever. 

Thanks for reading this super personal post. I hope that it helps you in some way. 
I want to point off that I was fortunate and I do recognize that. There are those who are in this disease way more aggressively than I am, and to you I say please let me know how I can help you in any way. We can fight this fight, and I feel for you. Don't lose hope!

Have a great week everyone,

Friday, January 5, 2018

International Travel Tips

Before I begin let me just say, there is one day of the week that I allow myself to sleep in
 (unless I have an appointment) and that day is Friday. 
By "sleep in" I mean until 7:30am. 
So, my blog gets started a little later on Fridays sometimes. 
Thanks for dealing with me!

As you've probably seen, I'm headed to Thailand in a week for 9 days!

Featuring, the sun hat I'll be wearing and NOT a coat and scarf!

Current weather: 80-90 degrees 

I've never been to Thailand but I've been to:
+ France (Northern)
+ Italy (Rome and Venice)
+ Finland
+ Estonia
+ Germany 
+ Spain
+ Czech Republic
+ Canada (Toronto, Quebec City, Halifax)
+ Panama (City, and several islands)
+ Mexico (Cancun, Cabo)

Tallinn, Estonia

So, since I've never been to Thailand, I won't be sharing with you tips for packing for THIS trip because to be honest, I'm still figuring out the intricacies myself!

But, I will give you how I plan for my international trips and what to commonly pack,
some you may know (like passport, duh), and some you may not have thought of!
Also, please share yours with me too. I LOVE to talk travel. 

Helsinki, Finland, with my travel crew

How to prepare "The Big 3":
I'm not going over booking a flight or a hotel, as this is pretty self explanatory, I think?
But if you were wondering, I recommend the app hopper for cheap flights and AirBNB, hostels, or a bed and breakfast. Hostels and bed and breakfasts' allow you to interact more with locals and are more kind on your wallet in a lot of situations. 

Get Your Bearings
 (months in advance if possible)
A few months in advance (if I have that much time), I will start researching customs and language, and learn enough phrases to get me around. 
{In France, I considered myself well prepared as I had been a French minor, but that did NOT account for the slang! All of a sudden, there were all of these words I had never heard in my life,  being spoken at a VERY fast pace. So basically I shoved cheese in my mouth until I was able to get all of the phrases down. I recommend doing this in advance to save yourself the scare, and the pounds.}
For Thailand there are several different ways that you bow, according to hierarchy. I'm not trying to offend anyone! Every country has intricacies like this, you'll be way better off if you prepare in advance. Also, if you want to do some kind of tour, check out the best places and tour guides and any other activities. Many places require you book way in advance! 
(I'm looking at you, any place that has four wheelers).
This also includes finding out, weather, zone, clothes people wear, etc.

 (weeks to months in advance)
Learn some common city routes before you go, check out where the bus, train and metro stops are, and also, check out the discounts for students or other discounts available! In France, we were able to go to Paris on the weekend, for around 11 euros? Of course this was back in 2008, so I'm not sure of the current rate, but I am sure it's probably affordable. 
I'd look into where to get a travel card if needed too, like a pass for the bus that may be cheaper to take each day. Find out where you buy these things in the city you are going to.
This also depends on length of time staying. 
Or do like my friends, find out where you can rent a bike! (weather and location permitting)

(weeks in advance or as determined by doctor)
Insurance + Shots needed are your best friends. Get travel insurance, & get shots needed at a travel doctor office. 
If you can, research the shots in the area that you are going, and make sure you are up to date on Tetanus, (recommend going to your regular doc for this, because they are VERY expensive at the travel doctor). 

Isla Grande, Panama

What to pack:

This can vary by location and has to do with preparation part 1 "Get your bearings". For Thailand, I need bug spray, in a serious way, as well as light clothes. 

For the most part I have found the following to be helpful:
+ Ear buds (you never know)- 
the kind that keep the noise out, and the kind where you listen to music. 
+ Passport (even on a train!)
Don't be like me and leave it back at the airBNB because you will be on a train to another country instead of an airplane. Otherwise you'll spend days not sleeping in Munich because you are afraid of being detained. 
+ Books, (1 or 2) 
Like if you are going to Thailand, and your flight is hella long. 
+ A converter charger
Depends on country, Europe has different prongs, countries stateside are the same. 
Thailand has a voltage that works with my phone charger, so that was nice. If you have a hair dryer, I'd look into that too.
+ Comfortable walking shoes
But really, need I say more? The more function the better- from night to day and still fly? I like it.
+ Dry shampoo
For those days when you just need a boost
+ A wash cloth (if this is important to you)
In Europe, I don't know why, but they just don't believe in them. 
+ A bigger suitcase for more room
I know, you want to look so awesome with your minimalism and your small suitcase. 
I get it. 
But, guess what? You're probably going to buy souvenirs, and you probably will need more space. Mom needs that home made dish. So have space for it. 
+ Granola or in my case Clif Bars
You never know what will happen, maybe you are still hungry after dinner, maybe you can't eat the same food again for some reason, whatever the issue, you won't be hungry if you are prepared.
A camera! (and maybe tripod)
Most commonly on your phone, but also can be in the form of an instant camera like Instax, which I am really excited about! I'm probably taking my tripod too, so I can get photos of myself without bugging my friends.
+ Common over the counter meds (and any others you need)
Examples include advil, excedrin, tylenol, peptid, etc. 
If you are taking heavier drugs, make sure you check country guidelines.
I'm taking antibiotics and my auto immune medicine, just in case. 
I also recommend always leaving prescribed meds in their appropriate bottles. 
+ Water bottle with filter
Make sure that water that you have is always safe!

Drinking to get rid of my "not having a passport with me" fear
Munich, Germany (beer gardens)

This list is not extensive, things like bug spray, sunscreen, the appropriate clothes based on location or activities (hiking boots, etc), it all depends. These are pretty much standard for any location that you are going to, and I welcome more ideas as well!

Prague, Czech Republic

It's been years since I've been overseas, so I'm excited for all of the traveling coming up this year. 

Barcelona, Spain

Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing as well! Have a great weekend. 


Quebec City, Canada

Monday, January 1, 2018

How I Found Myself in 2017

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone enjoyed their night, even if it was just staying home and setting goals/organizing & watching NYE tv (like me) or going out to a fun party in Baltimore or wherever you are reading this from!

This is probably going to be my most honest post yet. 

Looking back on 2017
Photo Cred: Brittany Collier

I've spoken on here before about how this year I finally feel like I am myself. 
It only took 30 years right?! 
But I do. 
For the first time in my life, I'm finally accepting who I am, and loving it! 
I won't say I've never had confidence.
 There were things that gave me confidence, like my hair being perfectly straightened, my spray tan, my blonde highlights (or that time I went completely platinum), my strength in getting through some VERY hard times, but mostly superficial confidence.
 I didn't have the confidence when I was my in my natural state of curly hair, pale skin, free spirit, and the list goes on. 

What are the holidays, if not for nostalgia?

There are things I've worked on in the past with my personality, to better myself. One was getting into fashion. I won't embarrass myself with a photo (pretty sure I got rid of several), but from the ages of about 7-13, my fashion sense was well....dismal. 
So, in order to fix this, I asked my parents if I could sign up for a magazine. I'm sure they were hoping for something more educational, but I picked my (soon to be) one true love, Vogue. I studied that magazine. I studied it like it was my part time job, and I learned about fashion, labels, style, everything. I was determined to have a fashion sense. 
I think it worked? I'll let you decide!

My mom is gorgeous, so there's that.
I also still have this red car, in my basement. 
It was my first car, what can I say?

The second thing that I actively worked on was being more adventurous, and by myself. 
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I was a shy child. Not shy around my friends, but shy in that I wouldn't do ANYTHING by myself, and if I did, I was in a state of panic the entire time. I wasn't good at making friends. I think I cried almost every single day my mom left me at kindergarten and most of first grade (shoutout to Harford Christian School- that has to be some kind of record right?). I'm pretty sure the teachers and teachers aids were not a fan of me. 

When I was in my senior year of college, I decided "I'm going to study in Europe". Did I know anyone else going? Nope. 
Did I have a panic attack when I arrived? Yep. 
But I stuck it out. 
Since then, I do many things by myself (well, with Ella too, except travel). I have no problem traveling alone. This past year in Mexico, I took surfing lessons alone, I went around the Cabo town alone, I made friends there, without speaking hardly any Spanish (at the time I knew hi, how are you, bathroom, beer, and I think that's it). 

Where I went surfing-
Costa Azul

What does this have to do with my biggest lesson for 2017?
I'm so glad that you asked. 

I feel like, throughout my life, I have traveled a long way to become who I am today.
I'm sure many people can say this.
This year, I decided to accept my physical appearance. 
Here's the change.

From this:
straight hair, fake tan, a preppier look, like I grew up

To this:

curly hair, natural "tan" (hey, I'm a redhead), 
a more boho style, and an overall sense of 
knowing exactly who I am, a new found plant lover, 
and a free spirit who wants to have fun. I've even
started meditating
 (several of my friends have told me the benefits- 
thanks Brittany for the app recommendation 
and Stacey for the benefits info!), 
and I can't explain to you how eye opening
it has been! (well I can if you want, just ask :) )
I've had several friends over the years who have been into it, 
and I'm finally seeing it for myself. 

But there's more....

Towards the end of the year, I started to discover some things while blogging. 
I love following different blogs for inspiration, for ideas on new things and places to try. 
However I found that I got too caught up in what everyone else was doing. 
I didn't realize it at first, it was slow. At first it was little things here and there that I started changing (oh man, my new found sense of self was starting to slip!) about myself. 
I started losing my new interests, style, and overall vibe. 
I started trying to be like everyone else, and I just realized it, probably LAST WEEK. 
It took longer than I would've liked. But it is what it is. 
I love Kim K (a bit too much), but I'm not trying to keep up with anyone. 

So my biggest lesson this year, is that I'm going to stay true to myself.
Followed by- I'm going to both blog and post whatever interests me. 
I didn't start this blog to get free things, or gain recognition for being someone that I am not. 
I started it to talk about things that I love, and my new sense of self. 

pura vida bracelets, my all time summer fav

Here's a little about me that will be coming out more and more in 2018:

  • I am a serious thrifter. I mean, I live for it. I also live for vintage 70's and boho styles. I have a thrift shop that I used to frequent, and I'm going back more and more now. Be on the lookout for styles that are out there, that I'm thrifting for less. 
  • Fitness: I became obsessed with beach/type fitness this year like SUP (oh hey Jen, I know you love going with me!). If I lived closer to some waves I'd probably be more into surfing. I LOVED surfing in Cabo this year. I will probably seek it out this summer. 
  • Healthy lifestyle: This is something that I struggle with (cheese is my vice and not in small amounts). I'm planning to get back into it this year, in order to stay healthy. It's a small known fact that I have a rare auto-immune disease so it's not a resolution, it's necessary for me to do. But more on that later this year. 
  • Plants: Oh my goodness I'm starting to really get into plants. I love them all. I mean I have favorites, but I'm learning so much. 
  • Travels: I am a traveler, I have been for years I just haven't had as much opportunity. In January I'll be going to Thailand (9 days), in April back to Toronto (a weekend), and in June (after graduation! 1-2 weeks), I will be going back to my second home- France! Thank goodness for credit card travel miles and school scholarships, because I'm not a baller. 
Despite her appearance, this is not her favorite thing to do, but I love it!

I hope that you find this helpful or motivational or inspiring or in some way useful. 
I think it's important to be yourself no matter what.
It makes a world of difference to your mentality and motivation every day.

A few things to look out for/avoid:

+ Getting caught up in social media and losing a sense of self. 
You know what social media needs? Less of what everyone else is doing and more of who YOU ARE as an individual! There's no one like you- am I right?!
+ People telling you that you have changed, and they don't think you are being authentic, even when you're now your most authentic self. It's about you babe, you DO YOU.
+ Others who try to say you need to change in some way, again, you do you.
+ Being caught up in negativity (towards yourself or others). I'm learning to let things go, it's helpful!

I find that my happiness depends on doing what is right for me, 
and being myself no matter what happens.
I also have a personal list of things I intend to work on this year to better myself in other ways. 
I love setting new goals for 2018, and can't wait to look back to see how much changes!

By the way, I also discovered my drink of choice
is whiskey.

Cheers to 2018!
I wish you all love, success, and happiness.


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