Dogs & Health

This post is dedicated to those dealing with autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancers, the flu, or the common cold. I hope this lifts your spirits!

When I was in college (against my parents’ wishes) I rescued Jaxon.

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Jaxon is some sort of maltese/poodle mix if I had to guess (Maltipoo?) and he’s deaf from being left alone outside for the first eleven weeks of his little life. The vet’s best guess is that grass mites actually ate his ear drums- poor, sweet guy! He’s been deaf ever since.
(side note: I’m certain there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who are mean to dogs)

Thankfully, my roommates were all on board to keep Jaxon, so we took turns feeding him nutrients via syringe depending on who was at the apartment from class. Before we knew it he was making his rounds to all the college parties, occasionally even sneaking into classes and workplaces. On more than one occasion I was walking him through West Campus when a complete stranger ran up to us, “Jaxon!!!!” He was quite popular.

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In the Fall of 2012 when I became sick and was diagnosed with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, Jaxon slept on my face while I napped for hours at a time. He slept on my feet while I had symptomatic episodes from the toilet. He stuck his nose beneath the door when I locked myself in the bathroom. He knew I wasn’t feeling great, and he did his best to heal me.

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And in a way, I really think Jaxon has succeeded in helping me heal.

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Honestly, he’s Mister Independent most of the time. His favorite spot is alone on the back of the couch. But if he knows that I’m not feeling well he sleeps ON my face, and I swear I can hear his concern. When I was worried about symptoms, he was there to try to calm them, letting me pet his soft fur all through the night while he curled up into a tight ball by my stomach.

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And now that I’m feeling much better he’s still careful to keep a watchful eye, making sure his people don’t wander too far:

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Just knowing my little furballer was at home patiently waiting to greet me after doctor’s appointments, infusions, procedures, or just a regular day made all the difference in the world, and I’m confident that he’s a big reason why I’m able to be the positive patient that I am.

 

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For more, here’s an uplifting article about how pets can improve your health. Do you have any experience with an animal helping you better manage your disease or condition? 

To find a pet rescue near you, click here! Hope you consider adopting whether or not you’re ill; pets have a way of changing your life for the better!

Keep moving forward 🙂 I’m rooting for you! (and so are your pets)

-Stacey

PetCareChoice.com


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A Weekend in LaLa Land

A Weekend in LaLa Land

Hey Ya’ll!

Hope your week is off to a great start! Thought I’d update you on some real life events:

We went jet-setting for a weekend…

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…to the City of Angels!

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We hiked to the Griffith Observatory after a quick breakfast at Roosevelt Cafe where they served copious amounts of avocado slices with my spinach and mushroom omelette, and not skimping on the extra avocado is my love language.

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Here I am modeling in unnatural poses at iconic tourist locations in an attempt to make Zack as uncomfortable as possible in public.

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The switchbacks on the trail were NO JOKE, and we got a decent little workout in during our short hike. California is beautiful.

What possessed us to go to L.A. just for the weekend?

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Football.

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at the Texas Exes tailgate at Exposition Park

The last time our Longhorns competed against the USC Trojans, we were the underdogs for the 2005 Nation Championship at the Rose Bowl. We were the underdogs for this game too, but we lost…

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…but it was by one field goal in double-overtime. In case you don’t keep up with football, all you need to know is that my Longhorns have been sucking it uppppp for far too long, so I was quite pleased that we kept up with a top 5 ranked team. Hit me right in the feels.

That night we went for a live show at The Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd (where Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, Steve Martin, and more got their starts!). Entry was free with minimum purchase of two drinks, so I ordered two hot and fresh out ‘the kitchen chocolate chip cookies and a water, naturally, because I’m seven years old. HILARIOUS. Crude and witty, my favorite combinations. I want to return to at least a dozen more shows.

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Then back to our quaint little bnb before a late brunch and a plane home the next day.

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Once we returned home reality set in and I had to continue fighting with my doctor’s office and the infusion center to get me scheduled for an infusion.

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Sometimes managing a chronic disease feels like a part-time job…Jaxon agrees.

After returning from L.A. I was about a week past-due for my infusion. I had been sending emails and making calls the week leading up to our trip whenever time at work allowed, but I had no luck getting anyone motivated to send a doctor’s order to my infusion center.

Basically my infusion center discontinued my drug, Remicade. “We no longer carry that drug because it is too expensive.” But no one bothered to let me know BEFORE my infusion, so I had to find out once I actually arrived to get infused and there was no order written for the new drug.

So after enough back and forth communication to make me lose my mind, I showed up to my doctor’s office with an order. “I’m not leaving this office until he signs this order.” All he needed to do was fill it out. DONE!

…But he didn’t fill it out correctly. To make a long story short it took nearly two weeks after my scheduled infusion time to get everything sorted, but finally I GOT INFUSED!

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I have fought for over five years to reach remission. I’m finally here, and I’ll be damned if I begin having symptoms again because of a flawed healthcare system and people who won’t do their jobs. Being your own health advocate requires that you raise hell from time to time as if your life depends on it…because it does, friends. It really does.

But I must give a shoutout to my infusion nurse. She was a heaven-sent angel.

The rest of this weekend was spent napping (because infusions = the best naps evahhh), getting pizza (because infusion days always call for pizza)…

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…and (sour) beer…

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… and more football at quaint neighborhood bars

(if you’ve never visited OKC, you should. It’s tremendously underrated).

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Hope everyone has a great week. Hang in there and keep fighting, all my fellow IBD and/or chronic disease warriors! You life is worth it.

🙂

Stacey

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Quick Guide to Austin Favorites + Weekend Recap

Have you ever been to Austin, TX?

Austin is one of my favorite cities, not just because it’s where I did my undergrad (hook ’em!). I love how it’s completely Texas but also energized with expressive people, entrepreneurs, and creative-thinkers from all over. If I’m being completely transparent though, I’m a little worried with how crowded it’s getting, but it’s still one of my favorite spots to grab a taco and explore outdoors all.day.long. No place like Austin.

Zack and I spent a few weekends ago playing and visiting friends down in Austin

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Clearly, he was thrilled^ 🙂

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And I got to see my sister!

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And most of my bridesmaids (minus three!) 🙂 Picked them for obvious reasons…

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We stayed at the brand new Archer Hotel near the Domain, an up and coming area of shops, restaurants, and Rock Rose (all new bars and clubs). I can’t say enough good words about Archer Hotel.

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We had complimentary “sweet dream” wishes delivered daily to our room, and there was a fancy espresso maker that Zack enjoyed. This hotel was truly mindful of their guests!

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Also- heteronormative SLIPPERS! Honestly though, I loved these. ^ 🙂

The shower was big enough to fit some friends with space for a dance party, but I only photographed the entrance…

I also wanted to take this chandelier home.

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And the pool area…

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…we took note of the giant TV at the pool area. We’ll be back for football season. 😉

Homemade brunch in the hotel restaurant was reasonably priced, and the salsa was great. Win/Wins in my book!

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In honor of our fun weekend in Austin, I’m making a list of favorites! If you’re in Austin, try these and let me know what cha think 🙂

Favorite sno-cone:
SNO-BEACH. Bring cash. They give complimentary ice to your fur ballers, and that kind of love goes a long way. They’re delicious to boot- I never knew I could love a sno-cone so much!
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Breakfast Taco:
Juan in a Million, specifically the Don Juan. Do it. Thank me later. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to shake the owner’s hand…he’s actually won awards for “best handshake”. 🙂

Tacos:
Torchy’s Tacos (the OG is from Austin!). Texans know there’s a difference between breakfast tacos and just plain ‘ole tacos. You’ll see, too.

Breakfast:
Biscuits and Groovy. This is a food truck! I always forget to mention that. Plan to nap afterward; you’re gonna need one. If you’re in the mood for lighter fare, I suggest Bouldin Creek Cafe. The kick-ass granola and fruit is my favorite. They’re pet friendly with lots of vegan options!

Soul food:
HOOVERS. Casual, relaxed soul food at a good price. Get the Beet-A-Rita and DO order some cobbler. If you’re lucky, Anthony will be your server. I’m sure he has NO IDEA who I am, but the best service I’ve ever received at a restaurant was from him. I haven’t seen Anthony in at least three years, and I remember his name. BECAUSE HE WAS THAT GOOD.

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Thanks, Austin Eater, for the photo via google images

Margarita:
Matt’s Famous El Rancho– specifically, the skinny ‘rita

Pizza:
Homeslice Pizza on South Congress. WORTH THE WAIT!

Burger:
Hopdoddy, the OG on South Congress. My favorite is the Greek (probs because I don’t eat beef). My mouth is watering.

Nighttime bar:
The Handlebar. I’m not sure what it is about this place, but it’s SO.MUCH.FUN.

Texas BBQ:
Franklin’s (it’s an experience you’ll never forget) or The Saltlick, but we had our rehearsal dinner at The County Line. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

Running routes: (duh)
Austin is a very active city and a runner-friendly place! Lady Bird Lake Hike-and Bike Trail is my favorite, but go early in the morning before the city awakes. This is when it’s the most peaceful and it really feels like it’s yours. Cool down by kayaking on the lake after.

Hill routes:
HILL TRAINING LIKE A MOTHER on the hill at the intersection of Lamar and MLK but be aware of traffic. You’ll know this hill when you see it.

Best outdoor atmosphere:
Spiderhouse, they also have coffee AND alcohol AND food, so whatever you’re in the mood for.

Parks:
Pease park is nice and shady and Zilker is iconic for the pups. Can’t go wrong with either!

Coffee:
Epoch. Or Bennu for their chai teas, aka my kryptonite.

Hiking:
Loop 360 Bridge is iconic and picturesque, but I love taking dogs to Bull Creek.

Cheap, quick food that won’t kill you if you have digestive diseases:
P. Terry’s. I always get the #5 veggie burger, and it makes me so happy.

Hope you found these suggestions helpful 🙂

When life hands you lemons…

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I was a baton twirler in high school, so naturally I juggle.

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My backup career is to join the circus. Barefooted.

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^ This book (highly recommend!) is what got me thinking about this topic. Not the joining the circus as a solid Plan B, but the topic of “When life hands you lemons…”

You get to finish that sentence.

… “Make lemonade”
… “Add alcohol and make vodka sours”
… “Juggle them”
… “Throw the lemons on the ground and stomp on them”

However you want to finish that sentence- that’s your choice.

But what isn’t always your choice is what form the lemons manifest in your life. My lemons have taken many forms, most notably getting diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease at age 21. Shoutout to moderate to severe ulcerative colitis Crohn’s disease.

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P.S. Diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, then crohn’s, then ulcerative colitis…and most recently, “Crohn’s?”

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And at times I threw it on the ground.

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I did not handle the lemons gently and I didn’t do life so gracefully, because Crohn’s is a bitter-sour pill to swallow…again and again, ups and downs of flaring and thriving- one step forward and two steps back.

But at the end of the day- it’s my choice. What am I gonna do with those lemons?

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What are you gonna do with YOUR lemons? The pain and the uncomfortable, unfair life that happens that you can’t control- what are you going to do?

I think we create our own realities. Not completely because, you know, disease and things out of our control. Lemons.

But we choose the response that becomes our reality, and that is powerful. YOU choose to get up off of the bathroom floor, put down the Netflix remote, and chase the world outside and around us. You choose to see and feel the beautiful life stuff. You choose to muster the appreciation of the crap that’s happened to you…because even though it’s bitter-sour, it makes you all the more resilient, if you let it.

So.

Let the lemons make your life more flavorful, even though it doesn’t always taste good – let it make you better.
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Because I believe you’re bigger and badder and sweeter than your lemons, and if you disagree then we can just join the circus together.

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P.S. Health benefits of actual lemons:
-Vitamin C is good for your immune system
-Helps with hydration: drinking flavored water sometimes makes you drink faster
-Natural diuretic and can prevent bloating

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P.P.S. I set up the self-timer on my iPhone to take ALL of these goofy photos with lemons AND THEN I put them on the world wide web for the world to see—

-Stacey

Weekend Recap: Pizza Day, OKC + Movies

CHRISTY CAME TO TOWN!

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Christy and I roomed together in Houston for a year and a half. She and Zack met in the same graduate college at Rice University, and almost immediately we knew that Christy was “our people”. We’ve been close friends since 2014!

We began our weekend by enjoying the weather on the patio at Empire Slice House in OKC, probably one of my favorite pizza spots in Oklahoma to date. I mean. Look at dat pizza. Plus they had Shiner beer, and ain’t nothin’ finer than Shiner, so we’re 2 for 2, Empire Slice House. HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you’re ever out and about around OKC! Christy picked a good day to fly in- Remicade/Pizza day! 🙂

Then we rented Hidden Figures a la RedBox. I love a girl power, and I love space. I can’t believe it’s taken so long to tell the story of these GENIUSES behind NASA who were complete trailblazers, except I kinda can (#society). But Hidden Figures is definitely up there with some of my favorite movies now. Just go buy it.

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Saturday’s weather demanded outdoor festivities, so we settled for some specialty pops in the sun with ice cold beer on the side. Christy said, “Hey Stacey-pretty sure you could make these for free.” <– not untrue. I also got a really good chicken and hummus wrap situation from a food truck, but I forgot to photograph. Still gettin’ this whole blogging thing down! A nice family sat at our table with us and immediately started talking politics. Honestly, I really enjoy how eager people are to make conversation here in Central Oklahoma. These people are genuine and kind, and they always have enough time to speak to you and make you feel like a friend…even if you disagree politically ;).

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I found a new sour beer that’s pretty good ^ . I. luv. sours.

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And then we walked down the street to a brewery for more sips. Unfortunately neither Christy nor I are big drinkers, so after three beers over the span of four hours we needed naps (I’m a little ashamed to say). So we came home, ate leftover pizza (#CarboLoading), and watched the new Beauty and the Beast. Emma, you’ve come a long way since Hermione, and I love you all the same. 

This morning we woke up and had breakfast at a local eatery and then walked a couple of miles around and throughout campus just to look around- OU is really quite beautiful. I know nothing about it, but the architecture is admirable.

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We finished off the weekend with a trip to the theatre to see Wonder Woman (lots of movies). I LOVED WONDER WOMAN!!!! GOOD LAWD I want to learn a dozen languages and Brazilian jiu jitsu and meet Chris Pine. Hope your weekend was just as great!

Have you seen Wonder Woman or Hidden Figures? Thoughts?
Any other sour beer drinkers in the house? Suggestions? 

R E M I S S I O N

Monday was the best day I’ve had in a long time.

“Are we allowed to use the ‘R-word’? Are you saying I’m in remission?”
“Yes. You can say that you’re in remission! Be proud of our hard work.” <- my doc.

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After nearly five years since my diagnosis with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, my medical chart has added a new word to its history: REMISSION

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A brief recap:
Late September 2012: began noticing symptoms (x rated version: bloody stools 30x daily and through the night, fatigue, sudden weight loss, nausea)
October 2012: Diagnosis “Moderate to Severe Ulcerative Colitis”; began Remicade IV treatments immediately
April 2013: hospitalization (“holistic approach” without meds didn’t work- oops)
May 2014: Mega-flare
June 2014: diagnosis changed to “Crohn’s disease” after 2nd colonoscopy
July 2015: Ran first half-marathon while fundraising for cures to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America; still not in remission
August 2016: Concerns that Remicade infusions are losing efficacy; increase frequency of infusions
December 2016: New medical center, new doctor, new state, new meds
February 2017: Diagnosis is confirmed to original dx after 3rd (or 4th?) colonoscopy and biopsies, “Moderate to Severe Ulcerative Colitis”
May 2017: Reached clinical REMISSION

…what does that mean?

My labs are normal, showing no signs of active disease, meaning that my inflammatory markers are all within normal range. Also my micronutrients are all within normal ranges. I have zero symptoms in a day. ZERO. And then I wake up the next day after sleeping completely through, and I have zero symptoms again, and it keeps happening.

There’s no guarantee how long remission will last, since there’s no medical cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. My doctor is enthusiastic to work with me though, and he thinks there’s hope in the future for me to eventually live life without my IV infusion with a 50% chance of relapse. I actually like those odds, and I’ve NEVER heard a doctor reference my life without infusions, so this made me cry happy tears…and I’m not a happy tears kinda girl. However, weaning my body off of the infusion will take months, potentially even years because it’s a slow balancing act: increase the time between infusions, check blood, remain on oral medications, check symptoms, lower dosage of oral meds, check blood, etc.

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The goal now is to stay in remission and eventually get into “deep remission”. To me it sounds like I’m currently in remission with training wheels, but I gotta ride like a pro before I can be set free. More patience and hard work, and I am completely up for it!

In order to appreciate a milestone of this magnitude, I’m gonna be nostalgic for a hot second. Lessons I’ve learned from Crohn’s/ulcerative colitis/whatever the heck my diagnosis was when I learned these lessons:

1. Vulnerability is your friend. Vulnerability leads to empathy. Be vulnerable, because it creates a genuine connection with people that you can learn from, be encouraged by, or befriend. You can still keep your dignity and humility AND manage to be vulnerable too- don’t worry :).
I can connect with people on really weird, strange, close levels now because of my new-found empathy powers…and sometimes that freaks me out. But it’s cool, too.

2. Disease is a lens to view the world. NO WAY could I see the world in the way that I am able to see it now had I never been diagnosed. I’m able to feel the importance of time. Time is vital. Time is not on our side, but we can make the most of it…because it’s a gift. Truly. Sound cliche? I don’t care.

3. Humor is your greatest weapon. Whether I’m shitting my pants in traffic, dealing with a bad report, debilitated by fatigue, or having the greatest day of my life…humor. Always, always a good reason to laugh, usually at my own expense, and that makes my day. It’ll make yours too, if you let it.

4. Strength isn’t something that comes by osmosis. Life is tough- no, really. Life. Is. Tough. But one day you’ll look back thinking, “How did I survive that? How did I make it through?” You got stronger. While you were driving that struggle bus, you were gaining character, muscles, emotional fortitude, and badassery. You couldn’t feel it, but you were resilient. And now your resilience has made you strong. Way to take those trials like a champ! Find joy in trials, because you’re gonna find strength.

5. Kindness. Be slower to judge. You don’t know what people are enduring. We’ve all been through some small version of hell at some point, and some people handle that with more grace than others. Be kind to yourself, also. Rest, breathe, relax, sleep in if you need to, but don’t beat yourself up. You’re a work in progress, and you deserve a little kindness; we all do.

Oh- and celebrate every little accomplishment along your way. The best is yet to come!

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^ How I celebrate/deal/rationalize/breathe

Thank you all for celebrating this milestone with me!!!

-Stacey

 

Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Guys. I’m gonna be real.

For the past few weeks I have struggled with feeling inspired…more than just with my blog content (you may or may not have noticed that I slowed down from hammering out a post daily).

I started wondering, “Should I continue pursuing my degree in dietetics?” Graduation seems so far away at times since I’m working full time using my sociology degree (Yes, kids. You CAN get hired using that liberal arts degree after all!) and taking one/two classes at a time is DRAGGING.

So naturally, I started looking at other degrees career paths. Master’s in Pubic Health? Oh. I could do that! But as I was doing a case study for my nutrition class on Friday night I thought, “I love this crap. I’m just gonna have to suck it up and stick it out.” So that’s what I’m doing. Sticking it out- juggling work with school, and keepin’ on (even though TBH I wish my school wasn’t online and was in person- I LOVE THE CLASSROOM. But I’m thankful anyway).

And today on my run I was reminded of how I always struggle during the first mile and a half and forget why I love running. It’s not until I push through until miles two or three that I FEEL it. “THIS is why I run. Because I’m out here, when I could be anywhere else.” And it’s liberating, after the first mile and a half of clumsy feet/ gettin’ into my groove.

But I keep on.

And then suddenly my muscles remember what we’re doing. My breathing picks up and settles into a familiar pattern. My legs swing happily beneath me. I can feel the wind (on a good, breezy day anyway). There’s nothing like it. And there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of finishing a race after months of training hard. There’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of accomplishment.

So I’m keeping on.

Past this semester of “Ugh why am I doing this?” until I get my groove back. Because I will. Because nutrition is my ultimate jam, and I’m good with people.

So whatever you’re pursuing, keep on…past the mile/semester/time of being uncomfortable, because trials develop perseverance, and perseverance develops maturity. One day you’ll find joy in what seemed like suffering, because you’ll have accomplished your goals…and there’s nothin’ sweeter than that. (1)

Except this, maybe this:

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Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding

It’s gluten free. It’s dairy free. It’s pudding.

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-1 C coconut yogurt (I used vanilla)
-small splash of milk (sorry, I’m still working on the measuring thing
-1/4 C chia seeds
-1/2 C raspberries
-1/2 C blackberries
-1/2 C strawberries
-1/2 C kiwi, peeled and sliced

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-Mix kiwi, blackberries, and splash of almond milk (we’re talkin’ probably less than 1/4 cup of almond milk, guys. Jusssst a splash) in a medium-large mixing bowl.
-Once mixed(ish), stir 1 C coconut yogurt into mixture
-Add chia seeds and stir some more
-Pour in glass container and refrigerate overnight.
-Enjoy a serving for breakfast (about 1/2 cup), topped with favorite granola

When you wake up in the morning, this should be your view:

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I know it doesn’t look all that appetizing, but it is. Oh. It is. Promise.

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About chia seeds:
-not just for chia pets

 

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source: Target.com

-high in Omega-3 fatty acids (if you don’t like seafood, here’s your substitute!)
-high in protein (about 4g/serving in this pudding!- not including the protein from yogurt)
-an antioxidant! Healthful anti-inflammatory properties in these seeds

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Let me know what cha think if you give this recipe a shot! I’ve got a fun Workout Wednesday post in the works for mañana.

Hope you’re having a lovely week. Keep on keepin’ on!

-Stacey

Footnotes: (1) Romans 5:4