What EXACTLY Did You Do?!

Well, among other things, I had another birthday. In January. I like to think I’m ATOP the hill, looking down the other side, deciding how long I’ll hang out up here before I head over it. Makes perfect sense to me.

Anyway, my new age is NOT the focus of this post. This is actually about how I got healthy, on my own terms, flying by the seat of my pants. Since so many people have asked me “What exactly did you do?” I thought it best to simply tell the world. Not for vanity’s sake, not to flaunt success or a new and improved look, but to help people who may have been/or are suffering from the same issues as I. However, before I tell my story, please make note:

I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NUTRITION SPECIALIST, FITNESS EXPERT, HOMEOPATHIC HEALER, LIFE COACH, VOODOO CONJURER, OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN A WOMAN WHO FELT PHYSICALLY SHITTY FOR A LONG TIME AND DECIDED TO MAKE SOME DIETARY ADJUSTMENTS TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.  

So here is how it all began…

Several of the women in my family suffer from chronic diverticulitis (me, two of my older sisters and a paternal aunt before she passed). If you don’t know what that is, please Google it for a proper explanation. The best I can give you is that it’s a condition that causes your colon to become really angry to the point of trying to evict you from your own body. I had four horrendous, extremely painful attacks. Three of them required hospital stays of anywhere from 5 to 8 days. So. Not. Fun. Although, the first time I was in the hospital (May 2013), I did manage to find a bit of humor in it and write a couple of posts. You can read them here and here. By the third time, it was no longer funny. After my last hospitalization, I was told my only option was to have surgery to remove the diseased section of my colon causing so much havoc. Despite knowing the doctor was a straight-shooter–one of my sisters required the same procedure years ago to cure hers—I was still reluctant. Why? I am not your average patient. My body doesn’t like medications. Particularly, antibiotics and painkillers. To date, I am allergic to FIVE of the most commonly prescribed pain meds, and SEVEN “go-to” antibiotics. And when I say allergic, I mean rash all over, throat closing, anaphylaxis inducing. Yes, all of them can kill me, just like a bee sting or severe peanut allergy can do to others. So when I am in the hospital, I have to be in a special unit, monitored 24/7, because, to date…there is only one pain killer that actually controls the pain and one antibiotic the docs are certain won’t cause a reaction. OH…and my veins are not very friendly to IV’s either; they enjoy causing them to infiltrate. You can look that one up too, because I can’t even explain it. All I know is, it’s extremely painful….especially when you are going into anaphylactic shock simultaneously. Having survived all that, I, albeit reluctantly, decided to go through with the surgery and have 10 inches of my colon resected in July 2015.  I was ‘cured’ right? Umm….no, not quite.

And so it goes.

After the healing/recovery process, which took about 2 months….it seemed as though my digestive issues were a thing of the past. Not so fast, though. Around February 2016, I began to feel pretty bad again, noticed I was carrying extra weight and was no longer comfortable in my clothes. I do not own a scale, so I wasn’t sure how much I weighed exactly. However, by the end of April, I visited the doctor for a checkup and discovered I was the heaviest I have ever been, at 128 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, unless you take into consideration I am only five foot one. In addition, I was tired all the time, experiencing abdominal aches followed by extended periods in the potty (sorry, TMI) almost immediately after every meal, and general heaviness in my stomach regardless of what I ate. ALL.THE.TIME. And mind you, I was only consuming soups, salads, and in general, following a pretty healthy diet. Of course, I am thinking… “WTF?!”. By the end of May, I was pretty fed up with the way I felt, because that directly impacted my ability to exercise, which would have, no doubt helped me lose the extra pounds. Unbeknownst to anyone, I looked to the all knowing Google gods for help. Little did I know, typing in the simple phrase “foods that cause problems for people with digestive issues” would change my body, spirit and ultimately, my lifestyle in the most positive of ways.

A little backstory on me…. I was a vegan for a few years in college. Being an animal lover, my reasons were understandable. Unfortunately, that was in the 90’s, when the benefits of such a diet were largely unknown, and maintaining it on the budget of a poor college student, proved to be completely impossible for me. Lack of education for the proper way to go about getting the needed nutrients led to severe anemia, and I became quite sick.  Out of desperation, I reverted back to a more traditional way of eating, reincorporating red meat, poultry, dairy, etc.. as it seemed to be what my body craved in order to heal. If only I’d known then, what I know now. Hindsight, right?

Back to present day. After a bit of research, I decided to eliminate dairy from diet completely, as it seemed to be at the top of every list of “problematic” foods. Within 10 days, I felt a huge difference. My body began to change, inside and out. My belly was no longer bloated, I had more energy, and the chronic stomach cramps after meals were subsiding. But I wasn’t done. As the result of my research, I had learned more and more about the positive benefits of a vegan diet, and opted to give that a try again, in my own modified way, ditching all meats, with the exception of fish/shrimp. And for good measure, I also traded white carbs for whole grains, and stopped consuming alcohol. Being a bit more salty, both in personality and in palate preference, sweets have never been a problem for me, so sugar was the easiest to kick to the curb. That was mid-June 2016. Now keep in mind, I haven’t mentioned incorporating exercise…yet. Because I didn’t do that on a regular basis until September 2016. So the “before and after” photos below, are the product of dietary changes exclusively. The ones on the left were shot in April 2016 and the ones on the right in August 2016 by Jamie Fisher at FishyFoto, although the body transformation only took a total of TWO MONTHS…mid-June to mid August.

    

Needless to say, I am now a very firm believer that positive health and body changes start with a commitment to eating a cleaner, more simplified diet. As for exercise, once I got my energy back…. I began doing Reformer Pilates a minimum of once a week, at Clara’s Room, which has done wonders for the lengthening and strengthening of my muscles. Especially the core ones in my lower abdomen, I presumed lost forever when the doc sliced through them to rid me of the angry section of colon! So I guess my point is… I am 10 months in, 24 pounds lighter, stronger than I’ve ever been and feeling better physically than I did when I was in my 20’s… and I am 45 years old. And I can say with complete honesty, that my intention really was to find foods that agreed with my body, rather than to lose pounds, which is probably why I have been able to stick with this way of eating. It rectified my abdominal discomfort, restored my energy and allowed me to pursue an exercise regimen that works for me. All of that combined, makes me feel good, which goes back to my original goal. Mission accomplished. The weight loss was just a side effect 🙂

Have you ever felt PERSECUTED?

Let me start by saying…. this post is long overdue.

Six weeks ago today, I was invited to attend the Los Angeles Premiere of the faith-based film entitled PERSECUTED. I was not familiar with the movie, therefore I did a little research before accepting the invitation. After seeing the trailer (above) and reading the synopsis, I was instantly intrigued. Not only because I LOVE a good political thriller, but also because this movie appeared to cross the invisible lines drawn in Hollywood about faith-based content being taboo. So, onward I marched…

And man oh man, am I glad I did. 

Without giving away too much of the story– which I tend to do when I’m enthusiastic about a film I’ve seen– I’ll make a few key points, and you can decide for yourself if it’s worth your personal time to see it. Fair enough?

The first thing I’d like for you to know is, while I am a follower of Jesus and this is a Christian faith-based film, I would recommend it to anyone who lives in the United States, regardless of their religious affiliation. Just as I often recommend American History X to people who display racism and close-minded hatred for others. Why? Because the religious theme is not the only one present. As I watched it, I was struck by the deeper message of how easy it would be for us to be manipulated and stripped of our religious freedom at the hands of the governmental officials we’ve elected and trusted to protect them. In other words, despite the fictional nature of PERSECUTED, it hits closer to home than I’d like to believe possible. In fact, like some of my favorite tv shows–CSI, Law&Order, and Scandal, to name a few– it has a storyline seemingly plucked straight from the headlines. “Imagine House of Cards for the religious set”, says  Politco Magazine …and I couldn’t agree more!

Second, the plot is reasonably plausible. Do I think it WOULD happen? No. Do I think it COULD happen? Sure. Anything is possible, especially when the people of a nation are kept remain largely in the dark about our state of affairs. Regardless, this is not a low-budget, work of cinematic crap. It’s a well-structured, entertaining feature with a cast of respected and recognizable actors who deliver solid, believable performances. James Remar, who stars as John Luther, the nationally acclaimed evangelist standing in the way of religious reform in America proposed by Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison), has a commanding presence that brought forth thoughts of Harrison Ford’s performance in The Fugitive to my mind on more than one occasion.  And the addition of real-life FOX News personality, Gretchen Carlson, as the TV anchor interviewing Remar in flash sequences throughout the film is a brilliant casting choice to further emphasize the parallel between fact and fiction. Oh..and my favorite performance of PERSECUTED was that of comedian Brad Stine, who plays Pastor Ryan Morris, the all-to-eager-to-please, right hand to John Luther’s evangelical empire, TRUTH. At first, you think he’s a nice guy, and then…BAM…he morphs into a back-stabbing, smarmy bad guy more interested in the preservation of his own fame and fortune than in doing what is morally or ethically right. What a range! I wasn’t familiar with Stine as an actor before this film, but I’ll definitely be following his career now.

Lastly, this is a film your entire family can see together, and learn from. Sure, it’s got some violence and even bloodshed, but nothing traumatizing enough to keep me from wanting my daughters to see it. Certainly nothing that scratches the surface of what we see on the news today. And honestly, the video games kids play these days are more upsetting in their content than this movie even remotely tries to be. Plus, the action sequences, car chases, and edge-of-your-seat moments will certainly keep everyone tuned in, paying attention and eating lots of popcorn. It’s a win-win, in my humble opinion.

My final advice: Open your mind, buy the DVD when it releases on October 14, or rent it on Pay Per View. If you hate it, my apologies. If you don’t, share this post and spread the word. Either way, come back here and leave a comment so we can discuss it, like grown-ups hashing out politics and religion. Deal?

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Lots of irons in the fire, folks!

You know how I’m always saying I wear eleventy jillion hats? Figuratively speaking, that is. I think it’s reached a fever pitch now, y’all. So I’m about to list ’em for you, and then ask a favor. You knew that was coming right? Of course you did. Because y’all are fancy schmancy mind reading followers.

1. Full-time, mom

Lots of people would just stop here. After all, it’s a 24/7 PLUS job. Especially with The Beans. Which is why it’s listed FIRST.

2. Creator, Co-Producer and actress for THE BAR, a new comedy web-series coming soon from Bless Her Heart Productions.  

Trust me. You wanna know more. And you’ll want to get in on the action. Now, watch this.

3. Stella & Dot  jewelry stylist 

Oh, and I just promoted to Lead Stylist, which means I have people under me now. Wanna have a Trunk Show?

4. Kitten mom.

Let it be known, I didn’t intend to have a cat. But it was destiny. His mama abandoned him, and I took over when he was a day old. Round the clock bottle feedings…keeping him clean and safe…basically like having a newborn. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about THAT. We named him Hiccup and he is almost 7 weeks old now. Eating food on his own, potty-trained, getting into mischief. I guess he’s a toddler now? Regardless, he’s the cutest. cat. ever.

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5. Mixologist/Bartender at one of our favorite local spots. 

This was an accident. I swear. But I’m gonna roll with it, okay? You should too.

6. Volunteer at our church. 

God called, and I need to make sure my ticket to Heaven is punched. Enough said.

7. Blogger 

This is no surprise. I mean, you wouldn’t be reading right now if I stopped wearing this hat. But, recently I’ve been doing more posts like this onethis one, and this one.  Oh, and this!!  So I think it’s kind of a big deal.

Since seven IS a lucky number, I’m cool with it. That is, until somebody hands me NUMBER EIGHT. Because I simply don’t see the line most people believe exists somewhere between ‘overextending yourself’ and ‘why-can’t-I-say-no-insanity’. Yeah, that.

Anyway, remember when I said I needed a favor? Well… here it is. I want y’all to help me with #2. Oh, stop snickering like Beavis and Butthead.  I’m serious. Please consider donating to the Indiegogo campaign for THE BAR. We have the best ensemble cast ever, and it’s hilarious. Not to mention there are some serious, tangible perks to donating! Every penny counts y’all and we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there (See what I just did? Do you recognize that line from the title song of another iconic Southern film? Hint: Smokey).  It’s my baby, and I really wanna see it blossom. But if you can’t donate, I totally understand. You can still SHARE THE LINK TO THE CAMPAIGN WITH EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER MET. Or share this post you are reading. Or even better… BOTH!

 Love y’all. Have a great weekend 🙂

AYDA&CO is IN THE KNOW

Okay y’all, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since my last post. But I’m a firm believer in making sure I have something worthy to write about before tapping away on the keys. I mean, ain’t nobody got time for me to waste, right? As a matter of fact…in general…I’d be willing to bet y’all could use some tips about products that will actually SAVE you time. Uh-huh.

You’re nodding, aren’t you? Well you have hit the jackpot with this post then! Thanks to my dear friend Kit over at Blue Eyed Entertainment, and the geniuses behind AYDA&CO, I am about to share some fantastic news:

THE FANNY PACK IS BACK, SPORTING A MAKEOVER YOU WON’T BELIEVE! 

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Although I’m not the model in the picture above, my fabulous new belt bag looks just like the one she’s wearing. I’ve had it about two weeks, and I adore it! I’ve been wearing it all over my little ‘hood, receiving compliments every step of the way.

Remember how convenient fanny packs were back in the day, but you hated wearing one because…well…they just weren’t stylish or cute? Gone are those days, folks! The belt bags from AYDA&CO are not only stylish, they are down right sexy. There, I said it. Handmade of genuine leather so soft, the feel of it rivals a newborn baby’s tushy. And talk about functional! In addition to a roomy compartment for essentials such as keys, a cellphone, lip balm, etc…there are also credit cards slots so you don’t have to dig through your purse for a wallet. Oh, and did I mention my mini-iPad fits in mine? Because it does. How’s that for convenient, when you’re a jewelry stylist (ME) who books shows and sells on the go, or a scatter-brained mom (ME) who runs the family schedule via iCal? How about if you’re a producer (ME) running a crowd funding campaign, who must have easy access to the Internet on the fly? The answer is a belt bag from AYDA&CO, so you can keep everything you need right there on your hip. Look…as a busy mom, I am often spread so thin I’m invisible and anything that helps maximize my reach is welcome in my life. It’s a beautiful thing, people. Embrace it.

Get yours today, and be footloose and fancy handsfree…like me!

Now THIS is me!

Now THIS is me!

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