Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finding perspective in Denver

It is crazy to think that I have already been in Denver for over two months.  I haven't managed to blog about my new job, Lucy, or all things Colorado - and that is a good thing.  With a heavy heart, my first post (in a long time) is about a truly remarkable woman who lost her husband this morning to a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Theresa was one of the first friends I made in elementary school. I had transferred to a new school in third grade, and was the luckiest girl in the world to sit next to Theresa. Theresa was (simply put) the funniest and kindest person I knew. Every day in school she made me laugh until I was in tears.  My favorite memory was lunch time in elementary school.  Nearly every day, without fail, Theresa would discover that she didn't have a spoon for her yogurt. She would then go into a routine we called "No Spoon" where she would start talking to her yogurt container (while tapping on the lid), and say "No spoon! Where are you? Hello in there!" and then she would proceed to eat her yogurt with the lid (unless she scored a spoon from a friend).  It never got old.

Theresa was incredibly goofy but she was also the most thoughtful and genuine person I knew.  She was the definition of the "cool girl" who was also kind to everyone, despite the bullying that went on in school.  She embodied (and still does) the type of person you wanted to be some day.  I will be eternally grateful for the positive impact that Theresa had on my life - back then, and now...

Flash forward to 2010, when Theresa met her husband, Brandon.  A few years later (after their engagement), they found out the unimaginable news that Brandon had leukemia. Their story was remarkable, and featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine.  For a while, Brandon's health improved, but then this Summer, it took at turn for the worse.  Last week, Theresa wrote a beautiful and brave message to her family and friends on their public Facebook support page: 

Hi ‪#‎teamlepow‬, Theresa Lepow here. I have dreaded writing this but wanted to update people who have followed Brandon's journey the past two years. You all have just been incredible to us. In an effort to make this brief, here we go...

As most of you know by now Brandon has had serious complications from his stem cell transplant and now his body is giving up on him. 40 days ago Brandon decided to stop treatment and live the rest of his days filled with family (Penny Lane included), friends, and the biggest love I have ever seen. Brandon's doctors gave him hours to days to live in late August. That was 40 days ago.

To say that Brandon is a fighter, doesn't even begin to explain the strength and courage he has. I am so proud of him in the way he has chosen to leave this world. Under his own terms. We are here just to experience it and hold his hand through this process. These days have been long and hard. I feel challenged beyond anything I thought I could ever endure. But we are all getting through it. I promised Brandon I would be ok in the end-so that's my plan. 

Brandon is now sleeping all the time. He is peaceful and not in any pain. For most of the past 40 days Brandon was awake. Holding our hands, kissing us and simply being Brandon. I have fallen more in love with my husband as I sit and watch him die. He continues to take care of me, to make sure we all are going to be ok. It's incredible. 

Thank you to everyone for showing up for Brandon. He needed to know his 32 years counted and this community of people did just that for him. That is such a gift to us and what a life he had. 

With so much love,
Theresa Lepow 

This morning, I read the heartbreaking news that Brandon had passed away.  I was in my home alone, getting ready for work, and the news just stopped me.  At that moment, my home was perfectly quiet.  The sun was shining through the living room windows.  I paused, sat down in silence, and let things soak in.  I prayed that God would wrap Theresa with so much love - that was the only prayer that came to mind, but it was the right one.

The most incredible thing about Brandon's journey was the outpouring of love from literally hundreds of people around the country, including over 50 of his colleagues from the White House.  It was so special hearing about some of my childhood friends who flew out to Houston to visit Brandon and Theresa at the hospital.  I'm not sure if I've ever seen a better demonstration of love.

Another amazing thing that happened in recent months was a fundraising page that was started in Brandon's honor - to help Theresa and Brandon with medical costs, in addition to setting up a foundation to help carry on Brandon's legacy. Within just days, family, friends, and strangers had contributed literally thousands of dollars to the campaign.  Today I will be making a donation to this campaign, and I'd ask that you please consider joining me.

This morning was one of those days that put things into perspective (yes, that is an understatement).  It's a reminder of how beautiful and sacred life is. It's a reminder to not complain. To live life fully. To forgive, love, and appreciate your partner. To treat others with kindness and respect. To wake up each day with gratitude that we are alive. To hug your dog. To spend time outside. To call your family to say hi. To not sweat the small stuff. To reconnect with old friends. To pray.  

To my dear friend Theresa: I love you, am praying for you, and am here for you always. No words could ever be the "right" words to share in this situation, but I want you to know that you are deeply loved, and you and Brandon have been (and will forever be) an inspiration to many.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A new life adventure

The past few months have brought me tremendous joy, excitement, nervousness, exhaustion, and action.  In early June, I was given an opportunity to make two big decisions in regard to a new city and a new job.  After much prayer, talks with mentors and friends, and waiting for "YES" moments, I decided to take a leap of faith and follow my gut. 

Tomorrow, I will be moving to Denver, CO to explore a new city and start a new leadership role at a nonprofit organization.  I cannot be more excited for this next chapter of my life, because it's exactly what I've been yearning for - for a long time.

A lot of people have asked me what precipitated this change. The quickest answer I can give is that for the past year, I've been in a rut. I didn't have anything to complain about in my life, but was feeling bored and uninspired (you may have noticed that even my blogging slowed down :).  I was less motivated than normal to achieve some of my goals in my personal life. I had become complacent with settling for less than I ultimately wanted.  For the sake of being honest, I had also become unenthused and disinterested in the Seattle community and culture at large. As time went on, I realized I needed to live in a community that felt friendlier, more welcoming, less pretentious, and more in line with my values. 

Will it be difficult to part ways with my family, friends, former organization, and one of the most beautiful cities in the country? Absolutely yes. But I know this is a change I am ready for that will challenge me, make me better person, and enrich my life. I am excited to take Showing Up for Yourself to Colorado and hope that my blogging will continue. 

As I close this post during my last night in Seattle, I feel truly grateful for the many friends, neighbors, volunteers, colleagues, and strangers who have challenged me and brought a smile to my face.  I also want to thank my friends who have played a positive role during my journey to Denver - thank you for pushing me to make this leap even when you shared you would be sad about my departure.  May the rest of 2015 bring all of you joy, love, countless blessings, learning, and a lot of fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Healthy living reset - progress so far!

A few weeks ago I posted about doing a healthy living "reset" to get back on track with my overall health.  I thought I'd do a quick update on how things have been going and what I've learned.

1. I've already lost 5 lbs!
It's amazing how quickly this happens when you are simply more intentional and mindful about your eating and exercise!  It feels nice to feel more back to "normal" with my body and daily health.

2. I've cut back on drinking and it feels great.  
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good glass of wine or excellent microbrew, but those calories do add up if you aren't careful.  Beer in particular leaves me very bloated and often prevents me from meeting my weight loss goal if I drink it too often.  I'm still drinking regularly but have scaled back on my beer intake and kept less wine open at my home and it's worked for the most part.

3. I'm spending more time outside.  
This is good for your body and soul!  I feel more energized and at peace, and those good feelings transfer into my home.

4.  I've developed a fondness for hearty dinner salads.  
A few years ago (before I started this blog) I took charge of my health and changed my life. One big lifestyle change I made was having smaller dinners. One of my favorite strategies (especially if I want to enjoy wine that evening :) is to simply have a salad for dinner - and it doesn't even need to involve meat or seafood!  This directs more of my energy to eating throughout the day, and ensures that you aren't eating a super heavy and/or caloric meal right before going to bed.

My latest favorite dinner salad!
Mixed greens, cucumbers, avocados, carrots, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, shredded cheese + dressing of choice (I usually default to ranch or goddess dressing because they give the avocados and veges a richness).  The walnuts are KEY because they give the salad some healthy fats and calories and keep me satisfied so I'm not hungry for something else later.

5. I've started running more
This is definitely not been a consistent effort, but I'm running about once a week and it feels great. While it's not a lot, I know that starting small is a must for me with building healthy, long-term habits.

6. I've learned that being proactive is key.
If there's one main challenge I've had, it's not planning my exercise or grocery shopping ahead of time, and then getting busy and making less ideal "game time" decisions.  I've learned how key it is to plan for when I grocery shop, and schedule exercise ahead of time.  If I don't, I can only be so optimistic that I will make impromptu decisions to have a healthy meal at home or get to the park to run stairs.

What has helped you in the past/present when you've maintained a healthy lifestyle?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Healthy living reset

Over the past two months my schedule has been all over the place.  I went on two long trips to D.C. in February, and then hosted two friends back to back in Seattle in March.  It's been a blast, but with all the flying, driving, and time changes my body has felt completely out of whack.  As proof, when I looked down on the scale last week, I realized I had gained 7 lbs during this time period (for someone my size who has stayed at a consistent weight for the last 5 years this was pretty unusual to discover).  It wasn't a moment of guilt or panic, but a good wake up call.

Earlier this year when I felt myself getting off track, I (frankly) didn't care.  I wasn't feeling motivated to put in the effort, and I intentionally chose to have fun instead of being disciplined (which, for the record, I don't regret).  Being reunited with your best friend from college for the first time in 7 years?  Yes, I'll skip exercise and go for all the drinks, cupcakes, and late night dining that comes along with that opportunity.

However, this weekend I experienced a shift.  I felt SO ready for a change for the first time in a long time.  I was wanting to eat healthy, wanting to grocery shop, wanting to read the stack of health books on my nightstand, wanting to exercise, and wanting to challenge myself.  I reminded myself that travel, friends, parties, and other events will always surround me, and so it's up to me to ditch the excuses and empower myself to take control of my health.

So, moving forward (for the foreseeable future), I will be giving my body and spirit a "reset" - focusing much more on my health and getting back on track.  I took some time today to brainstorm a list of motivators during this time period that I know will keep myself inspired, focused, and disciplined along this journey (as they have always worked for me in the past):

Healthy Living Reset Motivators

1. Accountability
Yesterday I heard from my cousin Robin, who shared her desire to get back on track and do a cleanse after getting home from vacation.  It was the icing on the cake that made me even more motivated to take action! I LOVE when your life intersects with a close friend who is experiencing and wanting something similar to you, so you can encourage each other along the way.  Note: please join Robin and I in a healthy living reset if you are feeling inspired!

2. Healthy Food Options & New Recipes
During my reset period (and hopefully after) I will be focusing on a mostly vegetarian diet (including seafood and eggs), and being mindful about my intake of sugar, caffeine, gluten, animal products, and alcohol.  In the past this cleanse concept with 5 focus areas has worked remarkably well for me (I learned about it from Kathy Freston's 21 Day Cleanse mentioned in Quantum Wellness).  I am not eliminating those things entirely, but trying to scale back in each of the areas to keep my blood sugar and energy more consistent. 

Today I went to the grocery store and purchased a cart load of healthy food options.  I've never been so excited about an inventory of food at home!  Before going to the store I had looked through a series of recipes so I could try out some new dishes (tonight's recipe will be my favorite Sweet Potato Quinoa cakes with Avocado-Lime dressing and a fresh garden salad).  I also purchased a variety of new products to mix things up, and splurged on a high quality multivitamin to integrate into my daily routine. 

When I got home, I made myself an yummy smoothie designed by my friend Lestraundra (a health and wellness guru and owner of The Balanced Berry) who has some awesome resources and ideas.  I highly recommend liking The Balanced Berry on Facebook to fun new ideas for eating and exercise!

3. Reading & Sleeping Routine
Recently I splurged on a new mattress (and pillows), after waiting for years to pull the trigger.  For the first time ever, I now enjoy getting into my bed and going to sleep (I'm serious). Along with the joys of a new mattress, I am excited to establish a healthier evening routine (different from staying up late staring at a bright TV screen).  My hope is to get in bed around 9:30 on week nights to read books, journal, and digest the day.  I have a stack of health/wellness related books that I am excited to comb through.  When I'm embarking on a health journey of some kind, I've found that if I read relevant books during that time period, I'm more successful in meeting my goals.  A few on my list to check out:
4. Yoga!
Lately my body has been craving yoga.  I got totally lucky when I came across an awesome Groupon deal at the exact studio I've been wanting to go to.  I can't wait to get back into yoga and try out some new classes at Core Power Yoga!  Whenever I am doing yoga regularly, I am happier, more at peace, energized, and healthier overall, and I am so excited to experience this shift again.

5. Girl crush: Kate Walsh
Perhaps the most random/ridiculous motivator of them all - channeling some girl crush inspiration! I adore Kate Walsh and have always been amazed by her inner and outer beauty.  She is simply a strong, sexy, kind, and confident woman and I love her style.  As silly as it sounds, sometimes when I'm looking for some inspiration, I channel my Kate (or whatever person/role model it is at the time) and somehow get a friendly nudge in the right direction.

Wish (Robin and me) luck! Stay tuned for our findings, book reviews, and results!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Finding your center


Today I stumbled upon a beautiful quote written by one of my favorite yoga instructors, Michelle.  One of my favorite things about Michelle is the wonderful and authentic way that she carries herself in and outside of class.  There's no putting on a show or pretending to be something you are not - you come to class just as you are, and with intention.  Michelle is one wise woman that I have been grateful to learn from over the years.

"Through teaching yoga, my primary hope is that I can help others uncover their original center - that neutral state of being where you feel awareness, clarity and discernment as you move through the ups and downs of daily life. There are different ways to get there, and I personally love using the body, the yoga asanas."

What is your hope in practicing yoga (or your favorite exercise)?  Where do you find your center?

Latest breakfast fave: Avocado toast

In recent months I've been making a solid effort to eat breakfast every day and be intentional about stocking my kitchen and fridge with nice options.  My latest favorite is whole grain toast with avocado.  It is so yummy, nutritious, and appropriately filling (neither too much or too little).  I love Dave's Killer Bread (specifically the 21 Whole Grains, thin-sliced option) and use Smart Balance buttery spread, fresh avocados, and then a little salt and pepper (and sometimes lemon) for flavor.  If I'm looking for something more substantial I add an egg (fried or sunny side up) to the mix.  So good!

Morning walk reminder

Today (my wine from last night) woke me up at 7:00 this morning.  Since sleeping in was no longer an option, I decided to grab a few things at the market across the street.  When I left the store, I noticed how quiet and peaceful of a morning it was and decided to go for an impromptu walk around the neighborhood.  I realized how long it had been since my normal walking routine.  I felt so refreshed and happy when I got home, and thankful for a positive start to my day.  I hope to be more conscientious about going on walks moving forward - even if it's during the Winter.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's going to be a beautiful day

Tonight I stumbled upon this song and was truly inspired by the music and words (not to mention it's the cutest video featuring an awesome charity).  If there's a song that could no better sum up my own personal mission as I navigate through the New Year, this would be it.  The lyrics to the song provide a great reminder about not losing focus when you hit bumps in the road.  It's important to stop, look, and listen to notice the beauty that surrounds us, and remember all we have to be thankful for.

"Beautiful Day"

I'm gonna wash the dust off my soul
I'm gonna listen to some rock n' roll
No cares, come what may
I'm making a beautiful day

I'm gonna drive my car into the sea
Swim out far cause I believe that the waves will wash the gray away
I'm making a beautiful day
But let me hear you say

Oooh ooohh my my
I'm learning to fly
Hey hey what's that you're saying
Lets not forget we're alive

Gonna climb that hill behind my house
See what this place is all about
Cause from above it all
You can't help but say
It's gonna be a beautiful day
It's gonna be a beautiful day
But let me hear you say


Gonna turn my enemies into friends
Was broken yet stronger when it mends
When we all come together this song will play
We'll sing it's a beautiful day
And it's gonna be my beautiful day


Monday, January 12, 2015

Current home decor faves

If you've been reading my blog for some time you know that I love little pick me ups at home - treats and/or decorations that make my day.  Here are my latest faves:

"Sister" glassybaby

I am a huge fan of the local Seattle company, glassybaby. Not only do they make gorgeous products, but 10% of their sales go to wonderful causes.  Recently I purchased the color "Sister" to round out my collection (of 5).  I truly love it!

Capri Blue "Aloha Orchid" candle

I was introduced to the Aloha Orchid (Capri Blue) candle at Anthropologie through my friend Alex.  It smells AMAZING.  It is a bit strong but so amazing.  I have been lounging tonight with the candle lit and it honestly has made me feel so relaxed at home.  Something about the smell is simply comforting.  I can't wait to purchase the candle in a giant container size next time :).

What is your latest favorite household treat?

Creating a meditation space

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Sarah...that we may find peace, joy, and understanding as we navigate through the New Year.  I love you!

Last month I had a vision of designing a meditation space in my home.  I thought about something simple - just a place with a yoga mat and candles.  Somewhere that I could go to when I wake up, get home from work, get ready for bed, or anytime I need a moment of peace.  Last night I felt inspired to rearrange my furniture, and in doing so I discovered that I created a little area behind my couch where I could create the meditation space!  I noticed it was next to my book shelf, which reminded me of wisdom and learning.

Tonight after getting home from work I designed the space.  I changed into my comfy clothes, lit some candles, rolled out my yoga mat, and created a relaxing playlist (including this beautiful song by Bon Iver).  I first did some yoga stretches (downward dog and child's pose) to unwind and then ended up meditating.  While my mind wandered and I had a hard time focusing at times, I was grateful that I took the time to stop, sit, and be still.  I did feel better and noticed a more positive energy afterward.

I hope to go to this quiet place more often as I navigate through 2015.   My wish for you is that you may take a moment (or two) this week to sit still and find peace.  Blessings!