Upon Trauma & Grief…and Writing Again

TW: Death, pet death, drowning

I’ve been absent for a while, unable to feel inspirational enough to write or even to inspire myself. But then Joan Didion, one of my favorite writers, passed away this week. If you read A Year of Magical Thinking (and if you haven’t, you absolutely should), you know that Joan dealt with not only the sudden death of her husband, in front of her, but later the same year, the slow death of her daughter to cancer. From that trauma and pain came her lovely book about grief and healing. Remembering her journey helped me to process the end of my journey. Even writing this, which I’ve been drafting in my head for months, is a huge step forward.

So what happened? In late September, I was working from home alone, except our three dogs: Coco, our elderly girl of 14 1/2, Jax, now 6 and Suki, then 6 months. Coco had been struggling for the last year with some mobility issues but still got raving health reports from our vet. That day, she was struggling a bit, so I had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom. I left her there and walked back inside with the puppy. A few minutes later, I went back outside and realize that Coco was floating lifeless in the deep end of the pool. I jumped in, pulled her out and tried lifesaving measures. I was told later that CPR on an animal, even when performed by a vet, is less than 10% successful. My kind neighbor heard my shouting, ran over and then got her car for a quick drive to the vet we share. Unfortunately, too much time had gone by and Coco did not survive.

My lovely Coco

Processing what had happened was so difficult. I felt responsible even though now I can see that it was a freak accident. At the time, though, it sucked all of the life out of me. The pain was so great, I couldn’t image how people who lose a spouse or a child could ever cope. What I realize now is that the intersection of trauma and grief is a strange one. You never quite get to deal with the traumatic event, the flashbacks, the post-traumatic stress, because you are thrust immediately into grief. You have a husband who you made a frantic call to and rushed to the house only to find you gone. You have a child who lost the dog that she’s spent her whole life with. You eventually need to make arrangements, to say goodbye, to start informing your friends and family. You shield the majority of people from the entire story. You push all those feelings down.

Luckily, I realized I needed a few things. First, I needed an emergency session with my therapist. She was instrumental in telling me that even though this was a pet, I still had to go through the grieving process and especially allow myself to be sad when I needed to. Validating my feelings was important. We also took a nightly walk with our other two dogs, giving them attention and love and allowing my Husband & I to talk out our feelings together. Honestly, we also got a short-term prescription from our doctor for some medication that helped us relax and keep calm. We had to not only take back the pool so it wasn’t a negative place. We also needed to make sure our other dogs knew where to go to get out of the pool if they ever fell in, especially the puppy who had never been swimming.

While these things helped, I still went through a depressive slump. The thing is if you have depression, you can slip into a dark place for a lot less! I wasn’t working out regularly (not even yoga) and I was overeating a lot. Needless to say, running went straight out the window. I wasn’t necessarily eating unhealthy, I just was just eating until I felt over full and even a little sick. It’s a familiar concept for those that self-harm: make something hurt outside so the inside doesn’t hurt so much.

I kept thinking I would get back to “normal” next week, then the week after. Pretty soon it was December and I still was stuck. I think I didn’t want to treat myself well because I was still blaming myself for what happened. The “What Ifs” were the worst. What if I hadn’t gone inside with the puppy, What if I had brought her back in right after she went to the bathroom, What if I was able to get to her quicker.

I read recently that grief is all the unexpressed love you have. In focusing on that love, I have been able to turn some of that love towards myself. I started doing yoga, even if it was only 10 or 20 minutes. Then, I focused again on my eating. Last week, I even fit in some strength workouts. Did a switched get flipped? No. Not even close, but I’m moving forward and pushing through. All I can do is take one day at a time.

I still sometimes sit out by the pool, either sitting on the part of the deck where I pulled her out or just in my chair next to it. I still have flashbacks but I quickly try and replace them with good memories. My husband and I continually trade videos and pictures and we have some gorgeous pictures of Coco around the house so we are bombarded by beautiful memories.

Coco & the puppy, Suki

Really in the end, life is about processing feelings and moving through. For all I have lost in 2021, I have gained a lot too and that can’t get lost in all the grief. I’m choosing to take all of the unexpressed love and spread it around.


Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all! We’ll be celebrating my husband today with a fun brunch and cooking up some of the fish he caught yesterday. We’ll try and give him a relaxing day!

I’m also lucky enough to have my dad in my life, although he is several states away. We’ll have a nice phone call today to honor him.

For those of you that don’t have a dad in your life or who’s dad has passed away, I’m sure this day is tough. I hope you have good memories and/or other family support to get you through this day.

My Favorite Recipe: Fresh Caught Fish

We are so fortunate to live about 40 minutes from the ocean. When the pandemic hit and we were short on activities, my husband and I decided to buy a boat to give us a safe, outdoor and Covid-free activity. We keep our boat at a marina next to where the cruise ships are now returning to. It’s a short boat ride out of the inlet to the ocean or through the loch to the intercoastal for calmer waters.

Now, this could almost be a post about self-care. I can’t tell you the joy having the boat has brought us. There’s something about sunshine and sea air that clears up a lot of what’s ailing you. It’s even made headaches disappear!

With pleasure boating came serious fishing. There are days where my husband wakes up at 3am to hit the marina well before sunrise for some hardcore, deep sea fishing. They go 50-100 miles off-shore, sometimes fishing in 3,000 feet of water. Out there, there is nothing but open water, dolphins and whales and copious amounts of game fish, if they play their cards, or reels, right.

A dolphin fish or Mahi Mahi as it is commonly known

The first big game fish he caught was a Wahoo. This is truly an anglers fish. Since they do not swim in schools, they are not commercially fished so you would be hard pressed to find them on a restaurant menu. When a Wahoo is eaten, it is sushi grade meat that you can eat raw.

Wahoo, prepare with a sesame coating, flash seared and served rare

My favorite is dolphin. Not the porpoise type of dolphin, but a dolphin fish, known to most as Mahi Mahi. It’s just a great tasting fish and is so versatile in it’s preparation.

Blacked dolphin (Mahi) served with a side of pineapple salsa

My air fryer has been a lot of fun to experiment with blackened seasonings or even a nice Panko coating. The salsa changes every time but the one above is just pineapple, tomatoes, green peppers, a little jalapeño, cilantro and scallions. We made it the next day with mango instead of pineapple. The spice of the peppers along with the sweetness of the fruit just makes the flavor pop.

Even if you can’t make it to an ocean, check out the fish section of your local grocery!

New Year’s Resolutions?

A time honored tradition as each year closes is to make New Year’s resolutions, usually containing things like “lose weight” or “make more money” but do they really do anything to help us improve our lives?

I don’t make resolutions but I do a review of the year and set goals for myself for the new year. How is that different? Resolutions are so much about pass/fail. Goals also include an action plan and progress towards obtaining those goals are a success!

In 1996 (I know, that’s crazy) I started a Dream Book. In it, I wrote out my values and then set goals for each year. Now, have I been perfect for the last 25 years? No, but I do review past years and craft my goals for the upcoming year. There were a few years I skipped (hey, it’s been 25 years!) I think about things I want to accomplish personally, family wise, professionally, and physically. I also started the book with a list of “life goals” which I still work towards.

My Dream Book

Reviewing last year was interesting as so many goals were impacted by the pandemic. However, others goals appeared that I wasn’t expecting! I review goals periodically throughout the year and make changes as necessary.

I’m excited to set this year’s goals. I’m turning 50 (I know, I can hardly believe it myself) and I think this year will be an amazing year! What are some goals you have for 2021?

A Wish on Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and Happy Holidays to all!

This year is different. We are missing spending time with our parents and other extended family. I miss my friends and our annual holiday brunch. I am thankful that we all still have our health so we will make the best of it.

Everyone else is still sleeping this Christmas morning so I am going to sneak in my workout now. Much joy to you all and here’s to a Happy and Healthy Christmas!

What to do when the plans go out the window

I love to plan. I am a planner. One of the things that has been so difficult during the pandemic is the cancellations! In the beginning, events would cancel slowly. Things started getting crossed off bit by bit until there was nothing left. I eventually just threw my old planner away and started fresh. Even then, I was only putting in new events with a sticky note.

Even without a pandemic, things often go off the rails. You forgot an ingredient for a recipe, you have work dropped in your lap or you don’t feel good enough to workout or cook that meal you were planning. This last weekend, we had rented a boat for a day of fun but found out late Friday that our reservation had been cancelled due to mechanical issues. I also had a migraine Saturday and Sunday which made my planned workouts impossible. Fast forward to Monday morning which is the first day of virtual school for my 5th grader. Not only do we have the expected glitches with 200,000 kids all signing on at the same time, but then our power goes out in the house! No WiFi, laptop battery running low and no A/C!!

When things like this happen, the most important thing is not to panic. Being a lawyer, you always have to think on your feet. When there’s a problem, just stay calm and think what can I do to fix it. I know this is easier said than done but if you can make it even a tiny bit better, you’ve done something. The root of the panic really boils down to not being in control. The quicker you can get some of that control back, the better you will feel. Another big thing is to drop the expectation on yourself of perfection. No one, I repeat, no one is perfect. Everyone is out here just trying to do their best.

So our boat trip turned into a day at the beach. Not quite the same but it was still a lovely day with the family and we chose a beach that we knew wouldn’t be super crowded. A bonus was the sea air and the ocean water helped keep my headache at bay for a bit! When we got home, my body was telling me I needed rest, so I just shifted my planned workouts a bit and I will be finishing 21 Day Fix tomorrow instead of yesterday. I had to drop the expectation of finishing perfectly.

We didn’t give up on virtual school this morning either! We got the laptop hooked up to my cell phone hot spot and just as she was about to run out of battery, the power came back on! If we hadn’t had that stroke of luck, we would have moved on to another laptop and hunted down any battery packs we could. We did the best we could with what we had!

Here’s hoping that our crazy streak is coming to an end but if it’s not, we will just continue to do the best we can! It’s all we can do.

Meal Planning – Vacation Style

On Sundays (and sometimes Mondays), I meal plan for the week. This week, my husband and I are on vacation so I will be planning on lunches for him as well but I plan on incorporating leftovers and treats. Stay tuned for some new recipes I’m trying out, including peanut butter cups!

I know a lot of people are intimidated by meal planning but I promise, you don’t need to be. You already do a little bit of meal planning when you buy your groceries, whether or not you mapped it out in advance. It only takes a few minutes to plan out the week. You can get started by planning out the first few days and then expanding to the week from there. You don’t have to cook it all at once and I often switch things around during the week if we have a lot of leftovers or feel like getting takeout one night.

I start my meal plan by writing down different ideas I have for things I want to cook that week. Then, I fit them into a day that makes sense at the time. I also know which meals will give us a lot of leftovers and will skip a night of cooking. I also cook things that work for everyone’s tastes at that time. So where I may eat something over a salad, my Husband may eat that same thing with a wrap or bun.

Since this is a vacation week, I want to make sure we’ve got plenty of food for lunches and snack as well. Since I have extra time because of vacation, I’m going to be cooking every night and saving the leftovers for lunches. It’s also my Husband’s birthday on Friday so we are planning a fantastic night of takeout along with cake and celebration!

Of course, this vacation week is different than years past since we will be at home all week. Normally this week of the summer is spent at the beach but I still meal plan when we are away. We know when we are going to splurge at the breakfast buffet, when we are going to eat away from the hotel (and where) and when we are going to grab a quick something from the beach cafe. Traveling to somewhere you haven’t been before can be a little trickier but you can always have a flexible plan and check out the menu before you dine.

Happy meal planning and have an awesome week!

Sleep…How I Love You

But sometimes sleep doesn’t love me back! Between a husband who snores, an elderly dog who is up several times throughout the night and crazy blood sugar numbers that need attention at 2am from my daughter, sleep has been fleeting the last few months. When all the stars align and I can sleep without having to get up, it’s a feeling like no other!

My current sleep log – the blue means I’m awake and out of bed!

Why is sleep so important? You probably know that you feel better and think better when you’ve had a good nights sleep. Did you also know that sleep allows you body to slow down, rest and get stronger? Your blood pressure decreases which helps your heart functions. It also regulates your blood sugar and helps prevents type 2 diabetes. You are also less hungry if you are well rested and are less likely to give into unhealthy temptations.

On the flip side, lack of sleep can make you cranky, as my family can attest to first hand! It also impairs your cognitive functions like problem solving and alertness. Chronic sleep loss can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It also ages you and give you puffy or listless skin. It messes with your metabolism and can cause you to gain weight. If I wake up too tired, it’s hard to get motivated to workout and my best chance to work out is first thing in the morning. For me, too tired equals no workout, which makes me feel even worse!

So how can you get the best sleep possible? For me, I try and keep a consistent schedule where I am in bed no later than 11pm and I get out of bed between 6am and 6:30am. (If it’s been a particularly sleepless night, I may sleep longer than 6!) I also cut caffeine, at first just after lunch and now it is rare that I drink coffee at all. Everyone in my family, even my 10-year-old, benefits from a little melatonin about an hour before bedtime. I prefer Good Day Chocolate and my husband prefers the Zzzquil gummies. A good cup of Sleepytime or chamomile tea may help as well. I also try and limit my screen time on my iPad while I’m in bed and I recently invested in a Kindle, which doesn’t use blue light and doesn’t disrupt your sleep. Of course, a good workout during the day along with keeping balanced macronutrients through the day helps too.

And as unpopular as it may be, especially during the stress of a pandemic, limit the alcohol you drink before bed! Any deep sleep you get when you first lay down after many drinks will be ruined by the disruptions that will come throughout the night because your circadian rhythm is off. This goes the same for a heavy meal or snack right before bed. The only time I’ve ever had a good workout after a night of drinking is my forced morning runs in Las Vegas!

Here’s hoping the stars align for us all to get a good nights sleep!

Nighty night!

When a pandemic gets your nutrition out of wack

Did you start out when the stay-at-home orders came down thinking you were going to learn new skills, cook amazing and healthy meals and get that six-pack you’ve always wanted? I know for me, I was more stressed then ever, working from home and trying to help my daughter with distance learning while running a household and dealing with my husband working longer hours than normal. It was so stressful!

I don’t know about you, but this is my first pandemic so I wasn’t sure what to expect! I think we’ve all had a bit of tears, a bit of boredom, a bit of alcohol and a lot of Uber Eats! OK, probably a lot of alcohol too! What we probably haven’t had as much of is fruits and vegetables!

At a certain point, I decided we had to get back to a little bit of normality. No, we didn’t head to Disney last weekend when they opened and we still haven’t eaten at a restaurant but I am back to meal planning, although it’s a little different than before. Where I would cook 6 chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on Sundays and divvy them up for the week, I am taking meals day by day but I map out what we are going to eat on which days. I also keep lots of vegetables on hand to roast or steam. Our favorites are broccoli, carrots, asparagus and zucchini. I also make a large salad and split it up into small containers. My husband likes to grab one and eat it while dinner is being prepared and I usually eat one as part of my lunch.

Cooking lots of veggies!

I keep my grocery list on my Amazon Echo, so as I see things are needed, I can just say “Alexa, add broccoli to the shopping list” then access the list from my phone while I am at the store. There are also a lot of other grocery list apps you can get on your phone or put it right into your Instacart order as the items come up. Just make sure you have a list so your planned meal doesn’t get derailed and then temptation to eat that frozen pizza overtakes you!

The meal planning sheet, which I purchased from the Pop Flex store, has a grocery list you can write on the side which is easy to tear off and bring with you. The back is also stick so you can put it on the fridge. There are a ton of subscriptions you can buy to help with your meal planning as well. I have used the 131 Method and subscribe to the Monthly Fix on Beachbody, both which layout a weekly meal plan for you along with a shopping list. I also use a macro tracker called LifeSum which has several meal plans you can choose from. I usually don’t follow these meals plans to a tee, but I do pick the meals that I know everyone in the family will like.

This week, I am going to be doing a 3-day refresh to help kick my sugar cravings that have re-emerged since the pandemic started. This does blend well with what my family will eat. I just add a protein to their dinner while I will stick with the veggies. I will link a rundown of the 3-day refresh here for those who are interested.

Another trick is that I plan for leftovers. One of my daughter’s favorite recipes is a homemade Mac & Cheese with flat egg noodles. I put that in the meal plan for Wednesday night and they can eat that Thursday night too since it makes a large pan. I always fill the cooking sheet with veggies to roast as well so we have those for lunches (or even breakfast) and snack for days.

Here’s a peak at my meal plan for this week. It’s a little light because of the 3-day Refresh, which is just a lot of fruits and veggies. The stir-fry is a classic, easy recipe which you can look for on the site soon! You will also see a plan to order from UberEats on Friday, which is a nice way to treat ourselves after a long week. There’s always a healthy way to eat out so stay tuned for tips on that as well.

I always say putting a plan together is half the battle! So happy meal planning and please stay safe and healthy!