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Product junkie

Over the years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy products free of harmful chemicals. This was prior to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2016. Since then, I’ve amped up my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle by way of foods I consume and products I use to take care of my body.

On my social media page, I post a lot of my healthy food choices. There’s a push for buying all organic, but that can get expensive. I would love to get to a point where I can buy organic meat, but it’s not cost effective for my family. I find myself considering when I’m at a place like Costco. However, I end up going conventional when looking at my budget. What I do buy organic is produce noted as the dirty dozen. I need to add to my routine to go to a farmer’s market on the weekends. I’ve heard this is another cost-effective option for buying organic.

Dijon dressing ingredients. LPC

I’ve gotten more vigilant about ensuring my physical environment is free from harsh chemicals. In my quest to be healthy, as much as I work to control the things I can, I don’t believe any of us can control everything. Just in our home, it can be overwhelming in considering all the possible places of chemical exposure: carpet, paint, insulation, toilets, new clothing, etc. However, one small thing I’ve done is make a commitment to refrain from purchasing any more scented oil warmers and refills.

Scented Oil Warmers. LPC

I’ve read how harmful scented oil warmers can be for the environment because of inhaling harmful chemicals. I’ve collected so many oil warmers over the years and don’t want to waste them. I found a hack on Pinterest where I replaced the liquid with essential oils, but it hasn’t worked for me. The oils and liquid won’t diffuse, so I may end up trashing all my oil warmers anyway. Bummer!

When I shop for soaps, facial products, and hair, I purchase products free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oils, and other harmful chemicals. I look for products that have essential oils, shea butter, and other healthy ingredients. As part of my self-care routine, I love to give myself facials, so I’m always on the lookout for affordable masks and scrubs. I’m the type of shopper who loves to take my time reading ingredients and touching the product. I do online shopping on occasion, but I prefer to go to my favorite specialty stores to buy what I need.

We’re all going to die at some point, but I don’t see anything wrong with living a good quality of life. In the quest for health, I think we all just need to keep things in perspective, control what we can and let go of what we can’t, and make healthier choices that make sense for our budgets. As my husband says, you’ll either pay for it now or pay for it later in poor health and medical bills. Again, I want a good quality of life, so we’ll do what we can to pay for it now.

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The Unlearning

Part of the “work” of personal growth is constant self-awareness and reexamining your thoughts. As I’ve been thinking about growth opportunities, particularly in my career, I realize that there is some unlearning I need to do. Like most people, I was raised a particular way and was socialized to believe certain things. I’ve been challenging those beliefs.

This is part of the “work” one must do to release old habits and old ways of thinking that no longer serve a purpose. My main goal is to live all areas of my life authentically and in congruence with my beliefs. I need to get to the source of my beliefs and determine if these are truly my beliefs or beliefs passed on to me that may be holding me back. If they don’t serve a purpose, then I need to let them go or reframe them so they do serve a purpose.

I’ll share a few examples of beliefs I’m challenging:

  1. One must not share an opposing/different view so as not to offend the other person.
  2. Always make peace.
  3. If one doesn’t have anything nice to say, one must not say anything at all.

I’ve found these particular beliefs could potentially prevent me from speaking up in situations where I need to. These beliefs are antithetical to field in which I work – public health/social services. Additionally, I earned my graduate degree in social work and made a commitment to advocate and serve underprivileged populations.

In all humility, I’ve advocated and helped many people. In my current position, I manage resources, which includes people. I’m required to use my expertise to solve problems and make decisions. I advocate at a higher level. I’ve found beliefs can manifest themselves subconsciously, causing me to struggle with speaking up in certain situations because of this subconscious, almost automatic way of thinking.

Could this discomfort also be related to the growing pains of living outside of my comfort zone? Perhaps. I’m here to examine all of the possibilities. Maybe the “discomfort” is really caused by beliefs that don’t serve me well.

My challenge to the first belief:

  1. One must not share an opposing/different view so as not to offend the other person. This was definitely what I picked up on in my family growing up. We were not taught that you could express disagreement to another person, especially an authority figure, and go on with your life, maintaining the relationship. It’s unrealistic to think everyone thinks and believes the exact same things. I’m constantly providing opposing views, especially at work. The reaction I get isn’t always pleasant. Systemic problems, social problems, resource problems, people problems…problems are not pleasant. For the greater good, people need to get over their offenses. I take comfort in performing the requirements of my job with integrity. In terms of family and friends, I’ll work on making my delivery more palatable to the people I love, but if I want to live in integrity and honesty, which I do, then I will speak the truth even if it’s an opposing view. Therefore, I will let this first belief go because it can hold me back from having authentic and truthful relationships. It can prevent me from performing at a high level in my career.

I will unpack my thoughts on the other beliefs in forthcoming posts. Each belief I listed has a theme and feed into each other. I want to free myself from them.

What beliefs do you need to unlearn?

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Thai Tuesday

Nope…it’s not Taco Tuesday. It’s Thai Tuesday. I’ve been looking forward to trying out this Organic Thai Style Curry Chicken Broth. I don’t always cook during the work week, especially since I arrive home late most days, but when I have a taste for something, I make the effort.

I’ve been thinking about my mom, Solange, today and how much she loved the show Chopped on the Food Network . I wrote a post on my mom teaching me how to cook, which you can read about here. I’ve never really liked the show Chopped, but my mom watched it every day, for hours. I’m more of a 30-Minute Meals, Pioneer Woman, and Master Chef kind of girl.

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Chicken Breasts, chopped vegetables, lime, oil and vinegar

This whole dish was inspired by the Organic Thai Curry Chicken Broth. I’ve never heard of it until I saw it in the grocery store a few months ago. This meal was really quick to prepare. I’m an experienced cook and am used to making meals quickly. I also use whatever ingredients I have and enjoy being creative.

I set the bone-in chicken breasts out last night to dethaw. I chopped up some vegetables and prepared Vermicelli noodles (not pictured). Bless my husband’s heart! He attempted to make dinner and made the grave mistake of boiling the broccoli. I haven’t boiled broccoli in years. I prefer roasted broccoli and so do my kids. In fact, I prefer all of my vegetables roasted. There was no undoing the boiled broccoli, although I could have used it for one of my favorite vegan broccoli potato soup recipes. However, instead, I decided to roast it and use it as a garnish for my soup. I don’t like wasting food.

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Sauteed vegetables. LPC

My oil of choice was coconut oil. After seasoning the chicken, I sauteed the chicken, then vegetables, then added the Thai Curry Chicken broth (plus added 2 cups of my homemade chicken broth), and then the noodles. Ordinarily, I’d marinate chicken for a day or two, but I didn’t have the time. I’ve read a few articles on how healthy bone broth is, particularly because of the collagen. I also attribute my immune health to eating my homemade broths and soups weekly.

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Thai Curry Chicken Soup. LPC

I ladled the noodles and broth in a bowl, then topped with the chicken and broccoli. I didn’t want soggy chicken or broccoli. If I weren’t so hungry, I would’ve been patient enough to add a touch more red pepper flakes, carrots, and green onions for the visual, but I ate it up. The dish came out DELISH! Bon Appetit!

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Body image

The other night as I was perusing through a tray on my night stand, I came across an old high school prom picture in a pile of random photos. I’ve been thinking about aging a lot lately. It’s funny how distorted the mind can be. When I was 18 years old, I didn’t think I was pretty, thought I was fat, and was afraid to talk to people. Oh how I’ve grown…literally (pun intended because I’m silly)! Here I am today, wiser, smarter, and the most ALIVE I’ve ever been, and my body is literally changing every day. If I could have my current mindset combined with the body I had back then, I’d be unstoppable! Alas, as fate would have it, life doesn’t work like that.

So at forty six years old, I must contend with this next phase of my life. In the past few weeks, I’ve added to my research: perimenopause, anemia, iron deficiency, and healthy aging. Of all the health issues I’ve had over the years, not one of my doctors told me about perimenopause. I broached the subject with my primary care physician and she didn’t offer much, except to say I was probably experiencing it, but no tests would confirm it…only if I were in menopause. As a breast cancer survivor, my health is my main priority. I put in the work daily to keep myself healthy by exercising, eating healthy, controlling my stress, sleeping, etc. In addition to all of this, I am striving for a healthy body image.

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LPC Summer 2019

I’m glad I can laugh about a recent, real conversation I had with my husband about body image. It went something like this:

  • Me (looking in the mirror, squeezing my stomach & pretending like it didn’t exist): If I didn’t have this stomach, you wouldn’t be able to keep me away from cropped tops. I don’t care about the other parts of my body, I just want a FLAT stomach!
  • Husband: If that’s the case, if I got rid of my stomach, I would never wear a shirt while on my walks, EVER again! (Inside joke: We can’t figure out why most men, no matter their shape or size, or where we are in Austin, jog shirtless.)

I made a deal with myself a few days after our conversation that I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. I will focus on the positive parts of my body I love rather than the parts I don’t. Think about all the modifications we make to hide our imperfections. Think about how much energy that takes. Yes, I’ve had a pouch for 18 years (since giving birth to my 12.2 pound son), and I may never like my pouch, but in the big scheme of things, I have two beautiful children. Instead of looking at myself in the mirror in disgust, I will remind myself of the other parts of myself I love more. I’m hear to tell you, this is hard work, but it’s worth the effort. This may be too much for family members who may read this, BUT did I mention having a pouch hasn’t stopped me from having the best sex of my life? Yup, one of many perks of aging and aging with your love.

My oldest sister told me something recently which made me pause. She said, “You know, you’ve been through a lot in your short life”. Her simple statement rendered me speechless (for a few seconds). It’s true, but because I just move forward, I don’t spend time thinking about what I’ve been through. I focus on how else I want to grow and what else I want to accomplish. And because I’ve been through a lot, I no longer want to beat myself up or waste time thinking about how I look. I definitely don’t want to bring that negative energy into my fifties. We all have imperfections. These imperfections make us beautiful.

I want great health and great body image. I want the same for my daughter. I’m committed to aging gracefully, getting wiser, having a healthy body image, and inspiring others to do the same.

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LPC 7-21-19

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Be still

Sometimes, it’s the small things that go unnoticed, yet make the biggest impact. As I think about this upcoming week, I’ll share a quick story. This mug was a gift and sits on my work desk. I use it for tea…I’m not a coffee drinker. It actually took me a few months before I started using it because I have several “favorite” mugs on my desk. It quickly became my favorite because of the soothing color and the size holds just the right amount of liquid. I also love the bible scripture although I honestly hadn’t paid much attention.

One particular day, the feeling of stress was beginning to smother me. My self-care coping skills kicked in and I felt the urge to drink a soothing cup of tea. I leaned over my desk and grabbed the mug. I felt compelled to read it. The message was so clear. I didn’t know at the time I needed the verse. I opened my bible app, in that moment, while at work, and read the whole chapter (wasn’t very long) for context.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I, Lucrece, am not God. I’m not in control. I’m not the architect of my own life. But I have comfort, peace, joy, and strength in knowing God is God and God is in control. The stress subsided.

I’m not a deeply religious person, but I strive daily to be more spiritual, to listen, to be more obedient to what God calls me to do. Our lives are so busy today. It’s almost like a badge of honor to boast about how busy we are. However, I believe we need to make room to be still everyday. Be still to hear own thoughts. Be still to examine our hearts and desires. Be still to unplug from the clutter. Be still to solve a problem. Be still to read the bible. Be still to be grateful. Be still to hear God. I often have to remind myself I’m not in this alone. In all aspects of my life, I’m expected to solve problems…have the answers, but I don’t do it alone. God is on my side. I can lean on Him.

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DR Chronicles 2019: Sosua Beach

A little over a month ago, I was in heaven on earth. The sand was hot and the crystal, blue water…luxurious. I now have the travel bug. I want to be on another beautiful beach for Christmas. Next summer might be a more realistic goal. My husband and I have been discussing some options. We’ll see. Hopefully, I will learn how to swim by then, although I doubt I’d swim in any ocean even if I could.

The best part of Sosua Beach was being in the water. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time in the water because we wasted some time touring the shops and attempting to get lunch at an overcrowded popular taco restaurant. Listen, I could get tacos in Texas. What I can’t get in Texas is this beach. We eventually ate a late lunch at a different spot where I had a whole fried red snapper. I wrote a blog post about some of the food from the DR here. It was good, although if I had to do it again, I would’ve eaten another darn peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was packed for us just so I could stay close to, or in, the water.

Sosua Beach, Dominican Republic 6-7-19. LPC

My screensaver on my work laptop consists of pictures from this trip. My home screen is a picture of the beach. I’m usually very busy while at work, so I’ve been enjoying the occassional glimpse of a picture that takes me back to the Dominican Republic.

The lovely thing about travel is that the people and places stick to you. I see why it’s advised to spend money towards experiences like travel rather than on material things. The experiences enrich your life and the memories stay with you for a lifetime. I’m so thankful for the memories. I miss it.

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Solange taught me how to cook

This isn’t the first time I’ve boasted about my good cooking. I attribute my cooking skills to my mom. She started teaching me as early as 11 or 12 years old. She taught me when I didn’t want to learn. She made me do it. She would call me into the kitchen when she was making a dish like one of our Haitian staples: rice and beans. You can make rice and beans two ways: separately (pot of rice, pot of beans-sauce pois) or together (rice and beans cooked in the same pot with herbs and spices). These two methods could produce probably hundreds of meals depending on the combination of beans and rice you choose. She’d have all the ingredients out and would walk me through every step from washing the ingredients, to chopping, to putting them in the pan, to tasting, and to admiring the completed dish.

As it’s been two years since my mom passed away, she’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to use my pilon (Haitian Creole) that I purchased from a garage sale a while ago. My mom always used a wooden pilon, but what you usually find nowadays in stores are marble ones. I didn’t know it was called a mortar and pestle until sometime after I moved to Texas. I’m very big on meal prep and I had a taste for rice and beans made in the same pot. The types of beans and rice are endless, but I particularly selected peas because I learned a month ago that I’m iron deficient and peas are a good source of iron. I’ve been diligent about increasing my iron intake.

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I haven’t actually used a pilon in years. One time a friend was over for dinner and she saw me using the pilon. She asked me why I just didn’t use a mini food chopper/processor. I thought to myself at the time, “Good idea!” because it was easier, so I stopped using the pilon. Looking back, what I should have told her is that by smashing the herbs in the pilon, it releases the juices allowing for more flavor. For years, I used the food processor, but today I tested my theory. I was right…the herbs were more fragrant. I might be a little biased. This reminded me there is wisdom in tradition. My grandmother likely showed my mother how to cook the same way. I also remembered using a pilon is a workout in itself as a result of pounding the herbs.

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Herbs sauteing in olive oil before I add the peas. I ommitted the salt pork. LPC

The rice and peas were delicious. I ate a bowl with nothing else. So did my daughter. For my work lunches, I will have them with chicken breasts. I blogged about Haitian food when I was in the Dominican Republic last month which you can read about here. I’m not putting any pressure on my daughter to learn the techniques my mom taught me. I want her to come to me when she’s ready. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll continue to bless my family with these creations.

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The largest “Pilon” or mortar and pestle I’ve ever seen-Dominican Republic 6-7-19. LPC