Saturday, November 15, 2014

The ABCs of Essential Oils

Disclaimer, I am a "wellness advocate" for  an essential oil company called doTerra.  But this is not a blog entry about doTerra products at all.  This is purely an educational blog entry for those that are wanting to begin their journey into Essential Oils.  If you are interested in exploring more about DoTerra products, you are more then welcome to contact me privately as I do not use this blog as a way to publicize my affiliation with doTerra.

I have been a lot more vocal about my Essential Oil usage over the last few months.  While essential oils have been something I have always been interested in, it wasn't until the last year where I really started to focus my essential oil usage to my mental, physical and emotional health.   I like these posts to be pretty practical since we are all on our own wellness journey through life. Also, I would like to add that essential oils are *not* a cure all.  Just like meds aren't little miracles we swallow to cure all of our problems, essential oils should be used in conjunction with a real food diet, exercise, counseling, support medical recommendations. It takes a little wellness village that includes essential oils to make some of us feel whole.  Only you can discern what is going to work best for *you.* So here is a practical and visual story on how I use them:

I use essential oils for three primary reasons:

1. To support my mental and emotional health
2. To support physical health
3. To make cleaning supplies

Essential Oils that I use to support emotional and mental health:

                                                                            Clary Sage

Wild Orange
Lemon Oil

Essential Oils I use for physical health benefits:

I use peppermint to help with headaches, cold and flu symptoms

I use this mostly for allergy relief in conjunction with a netty pot

Essential Oils I use for Cleaning (diluted in white vinegar):

Usage and application:



Skin Application diluted in either coconut oil or avocado oil
(link above gives more information on why it is necessary to dilute)

For more resources on all thing essential oils, feel free to follow my essential oils pages on Pinterest: here

Top three things to remember when using essential oils:
1. dilute! dilute! dilute! in a carrier oil.  The most common are coconut, avocado and almond.
2. Pay attention to the brand of Essential Oil you use.  Not all brands are created equal.
3. Stop using if you have any negative reaction to an oil!  These are powerful!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The ABCs of Juicing

My journey to juicing every night started after I took my daughter to see our nurse practitioner who specializes in Integrative Medicine suggested that we begin giving our daughter a cocktail of vitamins and minerals to help her Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms.  Anyway, while any other child would greatly love have an extra smoothie or yogurt in their day, adding another meal to my daughter's routine takes a lot of creativity to introduce in a way that is fun and exciting.  Simultaneously, I had recently been participating in a smoothie and juicing challenge in a wellness board on Facebook.  I married the two opportunities together and now my kids and I juice every night together.    I wanted to complete a blog entry about how to start.  I am going to try to answer the questions I asked the Food and Wellness Board last month as I began this journey.  I am still a tried and true beginning juicer and always value the advice of my friends that are advanced juicers.  Anyway, here is how it works for me:

Buy a Quality Juicer

The first thing I would advise is finding a quality juicer. I would recommend the following brands:
Jack LaLanne

Make Juicing Affordable

My juicing routine is pretty standard.  Every week we purchase a combination of the following:

English Cucumbers

  • I purchase them at Aldi's, our local Farmer's Markets and Trader Joe's.  Trader Joe's has really affordable packaged Granny Smith apples and English Peppers for about $3.00
  • I purchase English Cucumbers (mini cucumbers) as way to manage the amount of cucumbers I put in my juice.  A package of English Cucumbers from Trader Joe's comes in a pack of 5 so in my head I am able to ration one mini cucumber a day for almost a week
  • Many of Aldi's fruit is organic and on sale throughout the week.  If you keep an eye on their produce sales, you could get some great deals and a weeks worth of fruits and veggies for juicing.
  • Farmers Markets are a great place to purchase seasonal veggies for your juicing routine.  I can often purchase bunches of organic collard greens, carrots and beets at my local farmer's market for $1.50-$2.00.  Plus it's a great way to get your kids to the market with you to learn more about wear food comes from.

Make It Routine

Whenever I am starting a new habit, I have to make it a routine.  I am fairly sure this comes from teaching children with visual impairments over the course of the last eight years but it makes sense to me.  It adds meaning to my day.  So after trying to juice in the morning and feeling rushed, I decided juicing was a more meaningful and fulfilling habit for me to have in the evening.  The kids and I save our daily vitamins, probiotic and supplements for our nightly juices.  This was the best choice for us since I work full time and mornings are usually rushed.  It's kind of our "wellness routine."

Use the Pulp In Other Recipes!

One of the first questions I asked was wasting all the great fiber and skin that comes from those fruits and veggies!  Never fear, you can use those amazing pulp particles in other recipes! Below are some photos from the homemade hummus I made out of juice pulp.  The added pulp gave my hummus and extra citrus zest!  It was great!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mindfulness Photography Practice

As stated in my most recent blog entry, I am currently writing and teaching a creative book study based on the book "The Gifts of Imperfections" by Brene Brown.  I felt so strongly about this week's class assignment that I am writing for class that I wanted create a blog entry out of it.

Mindfulness meditations have been a very important component  in my own ability to overcome my own anxiety issues.  It's not that I am living anxiety free these days (not at all) but it's more that I am living in constant awareness of it, not as a feeling to run away from but as a feeling to learn from.  When I start to get an anxious thought, I am better equipped to be more mindful of the emotions and physical signs when anxiety appears in my lovely, sometimes confused little noggin.  The practice below is a lesson I wrote in response to Guidepost 8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety As a Lifestyle.  I have found photography and writing to be the best way for me to tap my inner world.

This week's lesson and prompt was inspired by this write up on Mindful Photography

Becoming Friends with Our Anxiety

dj bean round 2.jpg

Brene Brown highlights a very important thought by psychologist Harriet Lerner in this text; it is one that played a big role in overcoming the negative impact of anxiety in my own life. Lerner states that in order to overcome anxious feelings, it might be smart to learn to “identify the emotions that are most likely going to spark reactivity and then practice non-reactive responses.”

One of the things I have learned through writing and photography over the last year has been learning to use our emotions to teach us how to understand the history of why we feel anxiety.  

What are some non-reactive responses you can take when feeling anxious?

Using Photography to Be Mindful


This week as we participate in our photography practices, I urge you to approach photography with an increased awareness of what you are truly seeing in front of you.  Try to quiet your mind and begin to observe what you are seeing through the camera lens.  Mindful photography is intentionally letting go of inner voices in our head that wants us to control the final outcome of the photo.  It is really viewing the moment for what it is, as a meditation practice.  As you take the photos consider observing your thoughts as you complete your photo assignment this week:

  • What emotions are you feeling in the moment of capturing the photo?
  • Do the colors of the object increase or decrease your ability to be calm and still?
  • What attracts you to this object or person you are viewing?

Mindfulness Photography Practice

  1. Go on a 10 minute photo walk by yourself in your neighborhood. Photograph things that evoke a feeling of calm or stillness. Try limiting yourself to 2 photos in 10 minutes. Remember to be mindful of each emotion that comes up after each shot. Observe your thoughts without judgement. Welcome each thought but do not discern your thought as either good or bad as the truth of the experience. Do not look at your photos until you have completed the photo walk.
  2. As you look through your photos, observe the thoughts that come into your head as you view them without judgement.  
  3. Reflect on this process in a 10 minute free writing session. When writing, avoid using statements of judgement.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why I Love Photographing St. Louis

I have had the honor over the last three months to be in the process of writing and teaching my first creative book study through Brene Brown's Gift of Imperfection's with my friend and fellow blogger Andrea.  It has been an amazing journey into discovering who I am as a content writer for things I am passionate about and also being able to walk with others as they learn to be opened to their creative side.  As my psychiatrist says "we're all creative, we just gave up on that side of ourselves when it wasn't the first thing we were good at."  To be honest, that is what I decided about myself with math and science.  Anyway, teaching this class has come at a very poignant time for me.

Working in Ferguson, MO right now is like walking on egg shells. (Google Mike Brown if you are not aware of the happenings in Ferguson).  But having the opportunity to walk around St. Louis with some of the most  innovative minds I know has been very rewarding and cathartic.  Photo walks are like symbols of hope for me as I go through my work days trying to focus on teaching students Braille and technology but losing myself to overhearing teachers discussing the imminent community uprisings.  Photo walks are a reminder to me of who St. Louis is as a whole community.  From the brick streets of Soulard to the anxious Ferguson Community, photo walks can help us understand and tell visual narratives of the grit AND hope that lives in this 250 year old city.  The pictures aren't always pretty but is this a city that tells the truth, even when it hurts.

I am not in an emotional space to really dig deep on anything related to Ferguson through writing.  Instead, I am just using my camera to tell the story for itself.  Photo essays. yes. that is how I am doing it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sustainable Fashion in STL and Beyond

I know in the past I have talked quite a bit about clothing swaps, recycling your clothes, thrift store shopping etc.  I have had many people emailing me asking to list out places that do clothing swaps, recycling clothes, etc.  So I am going to do what I do best, make a Sustainable Fashion Resource List

Clothing Swaps:

Perennial is one of my favorite Not For Profits in St. Louis.  They teach sustainable furniture design classes among many other things.  Clothing swaps are just the tip of the ice burg.

Refresh is a fantastic thrift store in Brentwood.  Their clothing swap is organized by my friend Cristina Cousins.  You can sign up for the swaps on the St. Louis Clothing Meetup Site here.  You can also sign up for the kids clothing swap,  The Moppet Swap on the St. Louis  site as well.

Recycling Clothes

I take any clothes that I cannot swap to my local H&M.  They take everything!  Kid's clothes, fabric scraps, stained baby onesies (no joke).  Plus, they also give you 15% off an clothing item for using their recycling program.


Schoola is a new way to trade in gently worn clothes to raise money for your child's school.  I am just learning about this program and seeing how I can get my daughter's pre-school to be a participant.  Please check it out here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On Ferguson

It has taken me almost a WEEK to even want to write about Ferguson, MO.  Mostly because I have worked in this area of St. Louis County for 4 years and it feels odd that the whole world all of a sudden is taking interest in North County, St. Louis, a place that has taught me how to confront my own prejudices as I have learned to deeply love so many parents of children with visual impairments in North County over the course of the last 4 years.  Working in North City and North County has truly taught me how to deal with the most difficult sides of myself.  As one of my friends who works in ministry pointed out today, "when we confront areas of race, we have to look up (to God), look within ourselves and then act out our prayers to everyone (especially the people who live and look different then me).

See, when I started to confront the prejudices and dark places inside of me, I began to rethink my fears towards others.  I have learned over the years that my "fear of the others" in the world is my body's physical and mental response to things it has never experienced or fully understands. So REALLY, what I have learned about facing these types of fears is that it says way more about me then it does the person or place my brain is telling me to fear.  It is a purely biological feeling that may not be true at all.  We needed it has cave men to survive and sometimes that is still the case.  But my radar is  not 100% accurate, especially when it comes to people.  Here is another thing I have learned, "the others" also have this SAME primal gut reaction to things they don't understand. If I show fear to their differences then that fear is felt by them and projected back on to me.  Yes,  I have learned that I truly fear what I don't understand.

Working in Ferguson, North County and the North City has taught me that the initial primal response  to new things is not true fear, it is often times God's urging for me to step out of my comfort zone with people who would in fact become my greatest teachers.

So, if you live in St. Louis, I would recommend that you start hanging out in North County.  You have teachers waiting to teach you about beautiful ways of life that you can only learn in that area of St. Louis,  if you are a willing and humble student.