365 Days Ago I Graduated College

One year ago today, I celebrated the biggest life accomplishment I have made. 365 days ago I earned my BA in Performing Arts: Dance and my certificate in Psychology from California State University Channel Islands. I earned this along with University and Program Honors. To this day, I am still overwhelmed by what these accomplishments all really mean.

Let me tell you a little bit of history about how I got to this place. Starting off with the fact I didn’t actually know if I wanted to go to college or not. I grew up thinking the only thing I was capable of ever pursuing was my theatre career, because I was afraid of being seen as smart due to the restrictions society made me believe I had. I was a cheerleader, I had a pretty face, and I was amazing on stage…I didn’t see or understand the need of being educated. However, my parents wanted more for my future. They didn’t go to college, so they wanted to help me have the opportunity no one in my family ever did. So, I applied to colleges as a way to get out of the town that felt too small and continue to build my acting career. Mind you, I didn’t get into my top college choices because of my poor grades. So, it was between CSU Channel Islands and University of the Pacific. I knew after stepping foot on CSUCI’s campus, that was going to be the place for me.

Located near LA and a small performing arts program meant I had many opportunities to shine. I soon became aware that performing arts wasn’t about shining, but about the power behind creating art and the good that you could do for the world. This is where I fell in love with dance, and this is where I would begin to learn that being a pretty face no longer made me feel good about myself, but that becoming educated in so many fields on so many issues made me feel empowered. I started taking harder classes, being told by professors that I have an intelligent mind that deserves to grow and flourish. This is how I discovered my love for psychology and developed my Capstone thesis and research.

I presented my Capstone theory, research, and actual findings on Dance/Movement Therapy that changed the way others thought about how artists can change the way the world views and treat mental health. I ended my college career with a 3.65 GPA and earned University Honors for my academic achievements. I also earned Program Honors for Performing Arts for both my academic and humanitarian accomplishments. I was never prouder of myself or more excited/terrified to be in the “real world.”

After graduation, I was still working for YMCA as I had been for the past 2 years. Through this job, I developed a passion for creating communities and helping families build strong bonds. I loved that going to work meant changing lives, and I decided that performing was no longer going to be the career path I followed. Instead, I came to the realization that this world needs to incorporate finding a balance between a healthy body and a healthy mind to help with communication, expression, and emotional behavior. I found that working with the youth of YMCA, I was able to practice these skills. I loved working for a company that allowed me to do what I loved while also grow as an individual and professional.

What I failed to mention before is that during my first year of college, the beginning of a 4 year long stalking and sexual harassment incident that changed my life forever. It began slowly, and as time went on, became worse and worse. Police and Title IX became involved, and things still continued to get worse. It is extremely hard to go to school when someone watches your every move and claims that you are their girlfriend in both a sexual physical and romantic way even though you’ve never had any romantic or even overly friendly contact with them. It is hard to focus in class when he is sitting outside waiting for you to come out. It is hard to even finish school when your stalker and harasser is ALLOWED to roam around campus and continue to violate agreements and faces no consequences. But that story is for another blog post; for another time when I am strong enough to have fully overcome what gave me ptsd. I mention this because it not only played a huge role in my academic career (one point I almost dropped out from feeling so unsafe, and my grades slipped noticeably in the middle of a semester) but it also was a part of what happened after graduation.

I was working my usual summer position at the Y, and although I had graduated, we were still working on the case I mentioned above. There was a lot that went into something like this, a lot of time, unanswered questions, interviews, and exhaustion. I began to not only just have anxiety, but showed signs of ptsd. I was afraid of being alone, scared of him finding out where I worked and lived, but most of all, I was afraid of the school and town that had become home because he was there too. I knew I had to get out, but I was working that summer. So, I began applying for jobs at other Y’s away from CSU Channel Islands in hopes that I could escape.

That’s when I was hired to be a full-time Residence Life Coordinator at a camp not far from my hometown. This would get me away from the pain and fear, and give me a newer beginning. This job, I thought at the time, would be THE JOB. You know, the one you get right out of college that seems like a dream because of have a fancier title, get benefits, and feel like an actual adult. I was only at this job for 3 months due to a long chain of unfortunate circumstances and realization that this was not what I wanted to be doing.

During those 3 long months, I did learn a lot about myself. I learned I was stronger than I believed, a really good person, and capable of pushing myself in ways I never imagined. I made some lifelong friends (s/o to Laura, Lizz, Gabi, and Thomas) who I still tell everything to. But I also learned that my anxiety and fears couldn’t just vanish by running away to live in an awful cabin in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I found out the closing statements of my case from college. They were not what we had hoped for, but I had won the case. However, this sent me spiraling in ways that I didn’t know I could. I began eating terribly once again, never wanting to move or even get out of bed, and I lost my passions because I didn’t know my purpose anymore. I honestly gave up for awhile. I was unemployed, feeling at loss, moved back in with my parents, and absolutely miserable.

Then, in December, I found my place in the dance studio world. I began helping run one of the studio locations and then started teaching. I had fallen in love with movement, dance, communities, and connections again. I started becoming happier with myself and my life. I started researching more and more about grad school and what I wanted to do with my future. Although I am still unsure about what I specifically want to do, I have a better idea now.

I am currently still at the dance studio, but I also signed a year long commitment to volunteer at a local hospital where I am working on bringing more communal aspects, as well as the arts, into patient long term care. I started this blog after having the idea for months and finally saying, “screw it, I want to write and share my life!” That lead me to finding online health/fitness coaching where I am able to help others with their goals while also being on my own journey. I have strong friendships and bonds, and knowledge that although my future is unknown, I am working hard to make it bright and beautiful. There is a lot I still need to discover about myself and heal, but that personal journey is incredible and truly humbling.

365 days have past since I made the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far. 365 days of emotions, changes, irrational and rational decisions, and finding myself after not being in school for the first time in my life. There is no guidebook to tell you exactly how that first year will be, but this is how my first year out of college went and I couldn’t be happier that I have amazing health, a wonderful job, and ambition for the future, even if it took a lot of hard times to get here now.

Future and current college graduates, let me leave you with this: you are going to have a hell of a first year. Your life is going to change, and it will be different from what you have now and probably what you think it will be. There is no shame in not knowing what the right path is. This is tryout time to try everything and anything out! This is your time to apply what you learned in school to the real world by taking on jobs with flexibility so you can travel, create a life for yourself, and discover what it is like to no longer be a student! This year is going to take you crazy places, but you will get through it all and find so many things out about yourself if you just hold what knowledge you gained tight!

I had a tough year, but I also had a year that allowed me to become a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better teacher, a better role model, and overall a better person. Yes, there were MANY downs and rock bottom points, but where I am now is worth every single one of those low points. Believe in the power of your education, believe in the power of your journey, and believe in yourself. Cheers and namaste to my one year anniversary since completing my under grad studies and becoming a CSU Channel Islands Alumni!

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup

IMG_5089.JPGI have a confession...I love soup. I love making it, I love eating it, and I love how many vitamins I can shove into one bowl. My family has been feeling sick on and off and I work with children/families, so I am exposed to a lot of germs. I need as many vitamins as I can get! Sometimes I make enough soup to share and freeze leftovers, but lately I’ve been making a fresh bowl of soup daily. It does not have to be complicated or simmer for a lengthy time to be delicious, especially when it’s a vegan soup! Meat tends to need more time in the pot, but herbs and veggies breakdown a lot easier. I also do not always need complex, flavor-building soup. Sometimes you need something simple, quick, and easy! I like to use as fresh of ingredients as possible, but if you prefer dried herbs or pastes, use what is best for you! Now, let’s talk about the benefits from this recipe!

Kale: this low calorie, non-fat, fiber rich, leafy green helps aid digestion, and helps promote iron absorption (hello vitamins B and C!) It is also a great source of vitamins K,  A, B1, B2, B3, B6,  and E. All the nutrients, and a great alternative to spinach or collard greens. If you are an avid reader on my blog, you know that I eat around 3-4 cups of kale a day, so I am personally a huge fan.

Garlic/Onions: Ah, the Allium family. Garlic, shallots, chives, leeks, onions..oh my! I love the flavors of all alliums, but garlic and onions are by far used most in my daily life. They help with cold and flu relief, as well as provide great anti-inflammatory benefits due to the vitamin C and manganese content. While you can get heartburn from both of these ingredients (my grandmother could not stand garlic), when eaten in moderation, you should be okay. I typically do not have side effects, so I eat a lot of garlic! Again, modify for yourself.

Ginger: I’ve been a fan of ginger for quite sometime now. I love ginger tea, ginger chews, and fresh ginger in soup. Ginger is typically known for its relation to relieving stomach pain. Whether it be motion sickness, nausea, morning sickness, or just an upset stomach, ginger is a great option to try! It is also known to help relieve cold and flu symptoms, as well as help reduce inflammation.

Lemon: Fresh lemon juice has so many great benefits. Again, a great source of vitamin C (do you see the theme here?), but lemon juice also promotes weight loss, aids digestion, and can help promote hydration. When making soup, add your lemon juice in when serving. Just like with all vegetables and fruit, it is best to consume them in the rawest form possible (if safe) so you can really get the nutrients than can be cooked out.

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup Recipe

I made a single serving for this soup, so feel free to double, triple, or make as much as you want! It’s easy to digest, low calorie, non-fat, vegan, gluten-free, and filled with immune boosting goodness!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ginger, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pour water into a medium sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil and continue to let it boil for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium low for 10-15 minutes covered.
  2. Remove ginger if you do not want to eat it in your soup. Personally, I do remove it at this point, but if you want to consume the pieces, go for it! Remember to remove the skin before cooking if eating.
  3. Add your kale. Let the kale cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour your soup into a bowl. Pour lemon juice into the soup and give it a stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Enjoy and try to keep the germs away!

Spaghetti Squash with Protein Sauce

IMG_4957I have an obsession with squash, but more importantly spaghetti squash. I am gluten-free, and as much as I love gluten-free pasta options, I still hate how many carbs are in a single cup. My parents used to serve us spaghetti squash as a treat when we were kids, and all three of us would gobble it up. In college, I rediscovered how cheap and easy it was to have a squash fill you up and be just as tasty as actual spaghetti. You can replace spaghetti squash in any of your favorite pasta dishes, or simply enjoy with olive oil and seasoning. There are virtually endless possible ways to consume this yummy squash.

Even if you aren’t gluten-free or on a low carb diet, this is an easy way to get a ton of vitamins in your diet. Spaghetti squash is high in fiber, vitamin B, potassium, and omega-3 fats. It also contains the essential minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. With all the benefits, spaghetti squash can help aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, and help regulate your blood sugar. Who knew you could replace regular spaghetti with something so nutritious!?

For this recipe, I decided to make a meat sauce with ground turkey, garlic, olive oil, and fresh tomato and basil. I’m sure a meat substitute, such as lentils, would work fine (I was a vegetarian once, I get it!) or even without the meat substance at all. This is how I chose to fuel my body, and I have no regrets!

Spaghetti Squash with Protein Sauce Recipe

This recipe includes how to prepare a whole spaghetti squash, so there will be enough for leftovers. I made enough sauce for a single serving, but feel free to double or triple it to serve your whole family! Sorry, I do single girl servings!

Ingredients

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 a cup ground turkey
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For spice, you could add crushed red peppers, but I didn’t have any on hand!

Directions

  1. Start by cooking the spaghetti squash. To do this, preheat your oven to 450 ℉. Pierce your squash with a fork so it can steam. Put your squash on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. This allows the squash to soften making it easier to cut. Cut the squash in half (I cut mine long ways, but the choice is yours) and remove all seeds. Evenly distribute olive oil and seasoning on the squash. Place the halves back on the baking sheet with the inside facing down. This helps the squash steam and not burn. Cook for about 10-15 more minutes. Take out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before trying to touch. With a fork, carefully scrape your squash and create long strings. Boom. Spaghetti in squash form.
  2. For the sauce, start by cooking your protein. I put the ground turkey in a skillet on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil, flavored with salt and pepper, and occasionally stirred until it was fully cooked.
  3. Next, turn down the heat down to medium. Add your tomato and garlic to your protein. Cook and stir until the tomatoes have softened.
  4. Slowly incorporate the basil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the rest of the sauce.
  5. In a bowl, portion yourself a serving of spaghetti squash (I eat about 1 1/2 cups at a time) and add your sauce on top. Top with salt and pepper for added taste.
  6. Enjoy!

February Trader Joe’s Wine Picks

Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places to shop. Their snacks are cheap, they have great all-natural options, and a lot of their food is gluten-free. Another huge perk is their IMG_4791_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-34-03alcohol selection. From brews to barrels, there are options for every budget and every taste bud. In college, I drank a lot of Two Buck Chucks (aka Charles Shaw) and occasionally would splurge on a $3.99 option. Now that I have a better hold on life, I buy wines ranging anywhere from $3-$12, but I still buy them from Trader Joe’s. Not only do they switch it up monthly, but there are some great options from around the world and it still fits in my budget. I thought I would go ahead and share with you the wines on my wine rack for February and why I recommend any (or all) of the four.**

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First up, Sara Bee Moscato. This sweet white wine is a product of Italy and has been on my top list for a couple of years now. It is a regular at TJ’s, and it is perfect for a sunny day. This golden hewed wine is sweet with notes of pear and lychee, as well as floral with aromas of elderflower. There is a slight honey-citrus zing as an after note. This is a richer Moscato, but does not have a fake, sugary sweetness. Instead the sweetness comes from the fruity flavors embedded in the wine. I personally like Italian wines because the naturally sweet flavors are a constant theme. I like Moscatos, but they are not my favorite because of how overwhelming the flavors can be. However, I find this wine to be refreshing and a nice way to end a warm, sunny day. Costing only $5.99 for one bottle, the price is even sweeter than the wine.

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Next, Kidia Sauvignon Blanc. This wine pours at a nice yellow-green color and smells clean, but intense. With hints of white currant, green apple, fresh herbs, and lime, this wine is fruity, elegant, and bold. It is a stronger wine with an alcohol level of 13.0%, but not overly powering. I will say I am a little bias as Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite type of wine and Chilean wine is my absolute favorite. I find wine from Chile to be refreshing, clean, and a bit on the citrus flavored side (which I am found of in white wine.) Kidia has the flavors I crave constantly, and is strong enough to enjoy a single glass to relax with dinner. I like wines that I can pair with creamy cheeses and a nice salad, and Kidia goes great with an arugula salad topped with goat cheese and dried cranberries (hmm maybe a recipe?) This wine is one of the most I have read that this wine can be sold for up to $15 a bottle, but at TJ’s I found it for just $5.99.

Blue Fin Riesling. Another classic from my college days. Riesling is similar to Moscato inIMG_4796_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-44-46 the sense it is easier for me to drink, but can get to the point where it is way too sweet. Thankfully, this wine is medium in body and acidity, creating a nice balance with flavors of lemons, pears, tropical fruits, citrus, and a hint of mint. Although this wine smells very sweet when the cork comes out, it has a slight tartness that makes this Riesling lighter. It has a crisp aftertaste, and unlike most sweet wines, it didn’t leave my mouth with the taste of alcohol. I once used Blue Fin as a base for Sangria. I made mine peach based with some citrus flavors, and it turned out really nice. I served this with a spicy chicken dish and salad tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I highly recommend this combination as it pairs very nicely and enhances the Riesling’s flavors. Although you could pay closer to $10 for better Riesling, Blue Fin is $4.49 at TJ’s and great for a cheap wine!

IMG_4795_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-51-27Finally, Mbali Chenin Blanc Viognier. I have very little experience with Chenin Blanc or Viognier (I’m not even sure I can pronounce those correctly..sorry dad), but what I do have experience with is South African wine. The interesting part about this wine is that South Africa produces Chenin Blanc in a dry style, and Viognier is a very full-bodied wine similar to Chardonnay. Mbali’s blend is 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier. Surprisingly, Mbali is a bright and light wine that is very easy to drink despite the slight buttery notes. Flavors of melon, peach, pear, apple, and kiwi add enough sweetness and body without too much acidity within the after taste. What I like the most about this wine is how different it is from a basic Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio that I would order when I wanted a fuller wine. I would compare this to Sauvignon Blanc but with notes of honey and possibly vanilla. I like that it has a mix of rich flavors but isn’t too complex or heavy. I would pair Mbali with lighter dishes and fresh herbs. Plus, it was only $4.99, so I think it’s a great way to introduce yourself to new types of wines and blends!

**Disclaimer: I am NOT a wine expert. My father is, but I do not have the extensive knowledge or refined palate like he does. I am a vino, and a college graduate, so I like to find cheap wines that won’t taste like fermented sadness. Feel free to disagree with my tastes, but remember all taste buds are different and deserve to be respected!