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You can change the atmosphere

Great news! Yes, you and I have the power to change the atmosphere! Here’s a thoughtful post on changing the atmosphere, just in time for the beginning of the work week.
Happy 3rd week of October!

enlightenedsocialworker

Last month, I went on my first business trip in months – a sign that my work life is back to normal. I welcomed the trip because I was in a work “slump”. My attitude had not been the greatest due to some recent decisions made that were out of my control. Those decisions impacted a project I had been working on for 3 years. I often use the travel time to reflect and regroup, and boy, did I have some epiphanies!

I know I have the power to change the atmosphere (environment I’m in) with a positive attitude, but it takes work. Sometimes, it feels more comfortable to mope around, but it doesn’t provide any long term benefits. Here’s a personal example from my business trip of changing the atmosphere.

This incident occurred at the airport on my way to my destination. Yes (eye roll)…I hadn’t even left Austin…

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This is what breast cancer looks like

enlightenedsocialworker

I’m actually starting to feel normal again…my brand of normal.   I listened to my doctors and rested for the most part.  Over the last few weeks, I gradually started doing housework, cooking, getting organized, primping myself with mani/pedi’s, and have completed a week at the office.  I’ve been exercising for a week via DVD’s from my vast exercise DVD collection.  The desire to do more things has been a sign that I’m getting better…stronger. It’s been 4 weeks post breast reconstruction and I am healing beautifully.  I have to admit that I am beyond pleased with the results…stitches and all.  My breast cancer is Stage 1 and I’ve gotten test results indicating that chemotherapy would not impact my survival rate very much.  Therefore, I will not take part in that treatment.  I’ve since met with the radiology oncologist and had a CT scan last Monday.  It’s just a matter…

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Brave in Sunny San Diego

I’ll never forget this place!

enlightenedsocialworker

San Diego…what a beautiful place! I’m here for a few days to attend a behavioral health business conference. It’s been a positive experience. I generally love conferences because I walk away inspired and energized. I needed this considering I’ve been drained.

I admit the first day, preconference, was rough: a 3 hour flight and then I couldn’t figure out where to enter the hotel due to construction. I drove around several times. There was a slight problem with my hotel reservation, but it was resolved. My ears were plugged up for the rest of the day. I was tired and irritable. My nose was congested.

I felt better when I woke up Thursday morning at 3:14 a.m. My body was thinking it was 2 hours ahead in Texas, so I woke up on time. On Friday, I woke up at 3:48 a.m. I’ve still been getting a little less than…

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It’s Finally Here!

Hi all! It’s finally here! Yippee! Fall in Texas finally came…even if for just a few days! See what I mean below. We’ll be hot again before you know it, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. The weather unpredictability factor is pretty high this time of year. But I’m so happy the season has finally caught up with my meals because I’ve been cooking comfort foods for a while now. You can read more about my favorite comfort foods here and here.

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I was so excited to find canned organic pumpkin on sale for $1.50 at my local grocery store last week. I bought several cans so I can make my delicious pumpkin green smoothies. I’ve already enjoyed a batch of pumpkin/pineapple/spinach and pumpkin/mango/super greens. In all of my green smoothies, I add some power foods depending on my preference such as flax, chia, and/or hemp seeds. I choose a liquid depending on what I have a taste for such as brewed green tea, coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or plain water. I wrote a post about my love of green smoothies a while back which you can read by clicking I love green SMOOTHIES.

In Chicago, I didn’t grow up eating pumpkins. Everyone I knew ate sweet potatoes, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years, I’ve become more interested in the nutritional benefits of certain foods. I’ve learned that pumpkins are very nutritious and have a high amount of Vitamin A, so when they are available at a reasonable price, I purchase them for smoothies.

I don’t remember eating sweet potatoes all year around in Chicago like I do now. I enjoy a plain baked sweet potato with a pinch of salt whenever I want – no butter and no sugar. On occasion, I also enjoy a sauteed sweet potato and onion hash as a breakfast side.

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Hardy breakfast: sauteed sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, & bacon. LPC

For the holidays in Chicago, family and friends made sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole, which usually included marshmallows. We didn’t eat pumpkin pie. I do believe this is cultural because my inner circle consisted of Haitians and black or African American friends.

Sweet potato pie

My Sweet potato pie-LPC

In my first few months living in Texas as a new bride, I bought a Texas holiday cookbook. If the book weren’t so worn out, I’d share a picture. I never learned how to make the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. My sister, Gina, makes a fabulous sweet potato casserole. I’ve had many a delicious sweet potato casserole. They tend to be really sweet as you can imagine. It’s almost like eating a dessert.

There is a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes in my Texas holiday cookbook that I’ve been making for 22 years. It’s so good, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE! I always get compliments when I prepare it for potlucks or for my guests during Thanksgiving. It’s so simple, it’ll blow your mind. The secret ingredient that takes it over the top is brandy. Yes, indeed – ALCOHOL. The brandy allows the sweet potatoes to SHINE. Therefore, no marshmallows needed.

Thinking about my wonderful holiday recipes is making me excited for Thanksgiving, but we have a little ways to go before we get there. In the meantime, my weekends are spent prepping delicious meals for the upcoming week. I work to please my family’s palate as well as my own. Cooking is soothing for me. It is also gratifying knowing I’m doing something beneficial for my body by preparing healthy meals.

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Love, love, LOVE my simple salads. LPC

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The best mess. LPC

I had a taste for cashew cream, which is a versatile, vegan substitute for sour cream or whipped cream. It can be used for sweet or savory. I’ve come to really love cashew cream and have gotten quite good at making it. This last batch was the fluffiest I’ve ever made. I used it in my vegan Waldorf salad with apples, roasted walnuts, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cashew cream. I omitted the celery because I’m not a fan of it in the salad.

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Cashew Cream. LPC

I bet the cashew cream will taste delicious with my sweet potato pie and a dusting of cinnamon. I may try it this Thanksgiving. What do you think?

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I usually reserve stir fry for during the week because it’s quick to put together, but last Sunday, I made a scrumptious chicken stir fry with fresh pineapples and brown rice.

Mid week, I made crock pot chili before work. Here’s a funny story. I tasted all the ingredients before I left for work, so I knew it was going to be delicious after a 10-hour simmer. My trick is to layer the flavors. I was only missing the chili seasoning packet. I left a “honey do” list for my husband, Bryan, to pick up a packet at the grocery store along with hot dog buns for their chili dogs. Before I left the office, I had asked him to put a baked potato in the oven for me. I was looking forward to my chili cheese baked potato.

Of course, the chili was delicious. I grabbed my plate and loaded up my baked potato. I noticed the chili seasoning packet on the table. I asked Bryan if he bought more than one seasoning packet. He said no. I asked if he’d put the packet in the crock pot. He said no. He said I only told him to buy the chili mix, but he didn’t know I meant for him to put it in the chili. Really???

I have to admit my chili was seasoned so well I didn’t need the chili seasoning packet, but REALLY, Bryan!

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Detours

Before I get into my post about detours (and this little story I’m about to tell is in fact a detour), I want to share that I set myself up for so much self-care this weekend I’ve come pretty darn close to overdoing it. And overdoing the activities of self-care to the point of anxiety and exhaustion is no longer self-care …is it? Leave it to me to find a way to overdo self-care with my overzealous ways. Don’t mind me, I get snarky and cranky when I’m tired.  However, by writing this post, I’m about to enter into my place of zen. I tend to get so caught up in writing that hours fly by without me realizing it. I hope that doesn’t happen tonight though because like I said, I’m tired. But my tiredness won’t stop me from sharing what I’ve been up to in the past week.

In the spirit of stepping out of our comfort zone, my husband, Bryan, signed us up as couple for a Lifegroup at our church, LifeAustin.  This is our first experience so I can’t tell you too much about the Lifegroup concept except it entails small weekly group meetings,  usually held in someone’s home for a period of time (ours is 6 weeks), which allows people to get together to discuss their faith. The topic of our group is Detours, which is very apropos to our life right now. I’ve been open on my site about Bryan and I’s challenges, particularly in the last 3 years regarding our health. My mom, passed away two years ago, 9 months after my breast cancer diagnosis. Over the years, there have been other detours in our lives individually and as a couple. We don’t always know the reason and it can be frustrating, but we know that God is in control.

Last week was another demanding work week and I was feeling weighed down. On Tuesday, I found myself looking forward to leaving work at 4:30 pm (I actually left at 4:40pm…rarely happens, but I’ll be doing it for the next 5 weeks) to participate in something new. I met Bryan at our home so we could drive together over to the hosts’ home. The neighborhood we’ve never been to was about 15 minutes away and truly something you see in the movies, and their house…even more so. I couldn’t remember our hosts name, so before we rang the door bell, we grabbed our phones to find the names from the previous emails sent. As we did that, the host opened the door and welcomed us in.  I didn’t get a chance to find her name in my email, but she reached out to me for a hug and I gave it. We introduced ourselves and met the other 3 couples in attendance…5 couples in total.

It was an enlightening experience. Once I let my guard down, I was ok. I go through a range of emotions when I struggle to find similarities with myself and others. I will be honest and say I was judging, which I shouldn’t have been. It’s my defense mechanism. It might surprise you that I was judging myself more harshly than others. It didn’t take me long to see that these were kind and loving people. I immensely appreciated all of the sharing that occurred. I shared and I cried in my sharing. It was cleansing.

At the end of the day, our faith is what we have in common and that is enough to see common ground.  I look forward to the next session. It’s all for growth and getting closer to God.

Here’s to new experiences and making meaningful connections. What new experiences are you trying that take you out of your comfort zone?