Monday, December 15, 2014

You Are A Work Of Art

"The body we have, that's sitting right here right now... with all its aches and its pleasures... is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive." 
-Pema Chodron

I remember vividly the first time I hated my body. I was in middle school and cheerleading sign-ups were going on that week. You see, my younger sister had been in the little league cheerleading program for the past two school years. I loved watching her cheer. I loved helping her practice remembering when to clap and when to shake her pom-poms. Plus, I loved cheering for all the dreamy boys who were playing on the field. ;) 

Now, just for some background information, I was not completely wheelchair-bound at this point. However, I did use a wheelchair in public for safety because I had zero balance. I could stand and walk with the help of a cane or a walker, but not for extended periods of time. At school and at football games, I was in a wheelchair.

I went to my teacher who was also the little league cheering coordinator and asked her if she thought I could be a cheerleader. She smiled and said she thought I would be great with cheering on the team, but I would probably be better as a mascot than a cheerleader. At the time, I didn't think anything of it. I was still super excited to race home and ask my mom if I could be a mascot!

"Mom! I need to talk to you about something really important!" 
"What is it?" She smiled at how I was literally shaking with anticipation. 
"Mrs. Smith told me that I could be the mascot for the football team this year!" 
My mom's smile fell into a stark, straight line. 
"Why would you want to do that," she asked softly. 
"Because! Being a mascot would be cool!! This is the first year the younger kids get a mascot! Plus, I already know all the cheers from helping Robin! They use the same cheers every year!" 
"No, baby."
"Why?" 
"I just don't think it's safe. What if you get hurt? Maybe next year." 
"Mom!! Why? How would it not be safe? I would be sitting down!" 
"Jennifer, I'm sorry, baby. But the answer is no." 
As my dad called from the other room, my mom walked away. I just remember screaming into my pillow and pouting on my bed, watching the ceiling fan spin. Then I heard my parents. 
"I just don't see what's wrong with her doing that?" 
"She could get hurt, and I....." Mom paused. "Don't you think the other schools may make fun of a mascot that is in a wheelchair? I don't want her going through that." 
My dad let out an exasperated sigh, and I think I heard my mom begin to cry. 

I was so mad. I remember thinking.. are they ashamed of me? Why do I have this stupid, broken body? I just want to be able to do everything everyone else can! I hate this body! 

That was the first time I ever considered my body to be a roadblock or an inconvenience. And it wasn't because my parents were hateful or even overly controlling. They just loved me very much and wanted to save me from any hurt that may come my way. And I really do appreciate them for that. But as a middle school girl who is still trying to figure out who she is supposed to be, it hurt like hell. 

As I grew up, I still struggled with body issues. From being angry about what it lacked in physical ability to what I felt it lacked in physical appearance, I was waging war against myself. But slowly, I began to discover my passions. Singing was one. Writing was another. My body and my mind were my tools to learn and practice these passions. Without my body, I would have no talent. No passion. Heck, I would have no existence! I realized, it was time that I love my body for what it is. So I began to observe my body. I look at it in the mirror naked every day (crazy I know) and view it for what it truly is -my vessel in which to carry out life's journey. I am thankful for this body, because I am thankful for my abilities, and I am thankful for life.

With this mindset going, I began to search for others with like myself who were working to embrace their bodies more. That's when I found FED BY THREADS. They are a Tucson-based company that sells all hand-made, American-made, organic clothing. This company is helping drastically improve the amount of respect people give their bodies! The founders, Alok and Jade, are passionate positivity advocates. They are incredibly mindful of how to communicate with men and women in a way that assures them that, just because a piece of clothing doesn't work for them, does NOT mean there is anything wrong with their bodies. There is a limit to the number of ways fabric can be cut, but there is no limit to the uniqueness of our bodies. 

I recently ordered two organic tank tops from Fed By Threads and OH. EM GEE. Can I just say, it is luxurious? Can I also say that I didn't think tank tops could feel luxurious? Well, I was wrong. And with the richness of the organic, vegan material, I also get the pleasure of knowing that with every item purchased, Fed By Threads provides 12 meals to food-insecure Americans. Talk about guilt-free shopping! It's been cold here the last few days, so it's about time for me to order some more seasonally appropriate clothes from Fed By Threads. And I most certainly plan to. Let me know what you guys think about this company!!!! 

Check them out at: http://fedbythreads.com/

Also, check out their other project! This is a collection of breathtaking un-airbrushed, unapologetic photos of real bodies that are REALLY beautiful. From the inside out.  http://www.abeautifulbodyproject.com/





I shared this on instagram @accessiblethoughts. Remind me to take another pic next time I wear the other shirt I got! Haha!




I have body fat. I have stretch marks. I have bumps and scrapes and plenty of scars. But I love each and every lump. Each and every mark. They are all brush strokes on the canvas of my life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Love Story Begins Again Every Day

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
-Mignon McLaughlin

When Drae and I first met, we were two vastly different people. I mean, literally we couldn't even sit next to each other in class because we would end up arguing over stupid things. We were both still trying to figure out who we were. I was the nerdy do-good scholastic over-achiever. He was the comic book loving movie buff who was always armed with a clever, quirky quip. 

Eventually, he became more outgoing, more hilarious. And I became less follow-every-rule-without-question-or-everything-you-love-will-cease-to-exist. I encouraged him to question things, as I had begun to do. I encouraged him to take the reigns on his own life. All the while, he encouraged me to believe in myself even more. His belief in my capabilities never wavered. I fell in love with that softer side of him that had such faith in me.



We started SERIOUSLY dating. In the beginning, we just HAD to see each other every day. We were just wrapped up in each other. All the time. Immense cuddles were had and it was wonderful. Sure, we argued sometimes but it was over petty things. I encouraged him to be cautious of negativity. It was ironic that he was negative about some things, he was a shining light about others. I always knew that no matter how bad my day was, he would be there to pick me up and make me smile bigger than should be humanely possible. I fell in love with that feeling he gave me when we met each day and the effort he was making to be more positive daily.



Next, we got engaged. He proposed to me on Thanksgiving night at his Mom's house when it was just the two of us. I was obsessed with Twilight at the time (it was ok back then, it was before the movie!) and he remembered the photo of the hands holding the apple from the first book cover. So he told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, he was holding a red apple with a ring on top and the words "Will You Marry Me?" written on it. I fell in love with the way he held me when I said yes. I fell in love with that warmth that was going to be mine forever.



Next, we moved in together and had our first Christmas in our apartment. You see, Christmas was a BIG deal to me. Always has been. Drae didn't hold the same high regard for the holiday as I did. It probably didn't help that I spent $70 on crappy christmas decorations even though we were living off Ramen noodles and Spaghettios. So we had our first "living together" big fight. I was devastated. But after it all blew over, Drae cuddled up on the couch with me and watched Elf and drank hot cocoa with me. I fell in love with him again that night because even though he didn't really geek out over Christmas like I did, that year was one of the best Christmases I ever had. He went above and beyond because he knew it meant something to me.


Finally, we got hitched!! Let me just say, I don't know how anyone could get married and NOT fall in love all over again. I remember my dad holding my hand as he guided me down the aisle. He stopped at the entrance for a picture and I remember pulling forward and gritting my teeth saying "Come on, Dad!!!" Because I was RIGHT THERE. Now, I wish I would have stopped for the picture, because I didn't get any of my entrance! Haha! But I fell in love with Drae again once I made it down the aisle. The look in his eye was like a baptism. It washed away every fear or anxiety I ever had. I was safe. I was home.




(the above picture was taken a few years ago)
Today, I am still falling in love with new facets of Drae. I fall in love with the glimmer in his eye every time he freaks out over a new Star Trek movie annoucement. I fall in love with the way he does little thoughful things to show that he is the most caring person on earth. For example, I have a hard time opening water bottles. So, before he goes to work he always opens to and puts them in the fridge for me. He ALWAYS puts towels in the dryer when I'm taking a shower so they will be warm when I get done. (bragged about that on facebook today too). I fall in love with excitement in his voice when we plan our future. I fall in love with his generous, sensitive heart. 

Falling in love is fun. But it's even better when it's with the same person every day.










P.S. Sorry it's been so long since my last blog post. I have been SWAMPED! Between Christmas shopping for the kiddos in the family, to my husband's crazy work schedule in retail, to MY NEW JOB, I have been a busy bee! Speaking of my new job, I absolutely love it. I know it is where I am meant to be right now. And what proof do I have of this, you ask? 

1. We are having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.  Ugly Sweaters are my spirit animal.

2. It's being catered by my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. If that isn't a sign from the heavens, I don't know what is. I'm convinced my destiny is directly correlated to the quality of chips and salsa in my life.









Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'll Take 20, Please

When people find out I'm vegan there are usually two main responses:

"Oh, no. My best friend's second cousin's great great aunt was vegan. She died. Like super died. A horrible, painful, meat-free death."

or

"Ew. I could never do that. I don't even like salad. Plus, I basically bleed cheese."

Honestly, I can't blame them. I remember my little sister and I fighting over the last squirt of canned cheese when we were younger. I remember cringing at the word tofu or soy milk. I remember wondering if vegans were the same as hippies, and if so, did they have to wear bras. The jury is still out on this one. I vote no bras, if it ever comes up.

But then I began to search for answers. You see, I started taking blood pressure meds when I was 19. NINETEEN YEARS OLD. Every day, I would have to pop a pill in order to keep my blood pressure manageable. I was pissed. Yes, I was in a wheelchair and I had plenty of health issues, but I just felt like there must be SOMETHING I could do to fix this without having to rely on medications. I watched a ton of documentaries. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Forks Over Knives. And finally, Vegucated. Each one showed me a different piece of the puzzle and led me to understand that going vegan was the best thing I could do for my body, my environment, and all the innocent animals in corporate dairy, egg, chicken, and slaughter houses. I feel that shifting from a diet to a plant-based lifestyle, I was doing the least amount of harm that I could. It was almost a spiritual awakening, really.

I finally have control over my life and my imprint on the world. That's a very powerful thing. But not only does it feel great to know I am making thoughtful decisions, but there is some DELICIOUS food out there that is completely plant-based! 

I had the honor of receiving this bad boy for review from Alternative Baking Company, Inc. 


They are located in Sacramento, CA and have ALL VEGAN COOKIES. They now even have a line of Gluten-Free cookies! You can order them online at alternativebaking.com. 

This cookie was TO DIE FOR. It was moist, about half an inch thick, with huge dark chocolate chunks. 

My score:
Texture- 9
Taste- 10
Appearance- 9
Freshness- 7

I loved the softness of the center of the cookie. It was a melt-in-your-mouth delight. The only thing that I would change would be smaller chocolate chunks. While there are a decent amount of chocolate chunks, they are slightly too big to be evenly dispersed in the cookie. That being said, I could still eat like 20.



My omnivore friend, Chelsea also got roped into helping me out with this review!

Chelsea's Omni Score:
Texture- 8
Taste- 10
Appearance- 10
Freshness- 8.5

Chelsea said, "I honestly couldn't tell it was vegan. It tastes just like a delicious f***ing cookie!"





Saturday, November 15, 2014

Create Your Own Label

"Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals."
-Oscar Wilde

According to Merriam-Webster, society is 'a voluntary association of individuals for common ends." Me? I see two issues with this. One, being a part of society has never been voluntary. You don't get to chose whether or not to be a part of the wheel that is already spinning. The only thing you get to chose is if you will keep spinning towards the cliff, or if you will come together with like-minded individuals and turn that wheel toward safety.

Secondly, in my opinion, the common end we seek is to live and live happily. The issue is, the way each individual wants to seek that end is vastly different. Most people just follow the same footsteps of their parents and other leaders in their community. They nurture their minds solely with the opinions and ideals of the people who's beliefs are based on the people from THEIR past. Many times, this has gone on for generations, causing a cycle of the same decisions, same mistakes, and same end. People end up being almost brainwashed by passions of the past, with ideas so watered-down that they lose any meaning of what was once behind them. Sure, sometimes they find happiness, but can you truly own that happiness if it belonged to someone else years ago? Are you truly happy just because someone convinced you that you are?

While some choose to follow, there are some who step out of that clone factory and create a path of their own. I would like to think that I am one of those people.

Raised in a small town in Texas, it's hard to be an individual sometimes. You see, the society in which I live has a lot of rules and expectations that I have never identified with.

Look, I'm not going to lie. Being in a wheelchair definitely has it's perks. (Can you say parking?) However, it is not without its struggles. The largest, and sometimes most hilarious struggle would have to be society's assumptions about people in wheelchairs. For example, let us revisit one of my first dates with my now-husband. Drae planned out the whole day and I was so excited to spend all Saturday with my super hot new boyfriend. ;) When we arrived at our first stop, a local museum, we were stopped by an older man who worked at the museum and offered to hold the door open for us. But, before he wrapped his hand around the door handle, he placed his hands on his knees and bent down to be eye level with me. 

"Aren't you a pretty girl," He squealed in a sickly-sweet baby voice. "Pretty, pretty girl." 

I seriously thought he was going to pinch my cheeks and give me a lollipop. Now that I think about it, after living through that mortifying experience, it would have been nice to get a lollipop out of it. My first reaction: oh my god, can someone hold my skin? I would like to crawl out of it now. Great, now Drae is probably super embarrassed that he is dating someone that people assume must be talked to like a child. Awesome.

My embarrassment was short-lived though because immediately when we got inside, Drae and I looked at each other and busted out laughing. We both knew the man meant no harm, plus, the experience was like a free tour through the museum of hilarious works of ignorance. If truth be told, this wasn't the first time someone assumed I was on a lower intellectual level than others. It definitely wasn't the last. But, just because my husband and I find these small moments of ignorance highly entertaining, it still doesn't make it right. This is just one of society's expectations. Upon first glance, many people that come in contact with handicapped people automatically assume that they experience mental disabilities as well. While for me, this assumption has been used as a challenge to prove my true intellectual ability, for others it may destroy their self-confidence. 

Another way that society's expectations could potentially destroy individuality is through the use of gender roles. 

Men must be:
  • Strong
  • Tough
  • Emotionless
  • Protecting
  • Dirty
  • Insensitive
  • Aggressive
  • Dominant
Women must be:
  • Fragile
  • Weak
  • Overly emotional
  • Protected
  • Clean
  • Overly sensitive
  • Passive
  • Submissive
Who would want to be with either one of these? Every man must be a smelly ball of rage? Every woman must be a blubbering sack of tears? Seems like a dream couple to me...

Instead of trying to smash people into one category or the other, I think we should appreciate the people who encompass the positive aspects of HUMANITY, not gender.

I want (and luckily have found) someone who is:

  • Kind
  • Nurturing
  • Sympathetic
  • Courageous
  • Unique
  • Honest
  • Determined
  • Open-Minded
I challenge you today to step outside the labels that society has tried to thrust upon you and create your own label- YOU.



It's not about coming together as one unidentifiable mass of faceless drones, it's about letting our individuality change the perpetual wheel into a spinning palette of color.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Don't Be Afraid to Find New Love in Life

"Give your heart then change your mind. You're allowed to do it. 'Cause God knows it's been done to you, and somehow you got through it."

-John Mayer
In July of 2011 I was a wreck. I had just quit the WORST job I'd ever had at a call center. I was a ball of nerves, not knowing when I would find another job. I was 20 years old, my husband was working part time, and I was terrified that we wouldn't be able to pay our bills. I made it my full-time duty to do nothing but apply for jobs. I composed the fanciest resume I could assemble and spread it faster than Ebola (too soon?).

Then, it happened. I got a call from the PERFECT job. A Dermatology clinic offering full-time office work in the insurance department. So I sent my nicest, professional clothes with my husband on his way to the laundromat. I immediately began rehearsing the answers to common interview questions. I was going to nail this interview. It was as if my life depended on it, and in all honesty, at that point I felt that it did.

The interview went fantastic. The managers and doctor were so nice and they seemed to be willing to trust a 20-year-old with some major responsibility, which was a first when it came to other office interviews. 

I remember asking, "So, do you know when applicants will be told who was selected for the position."

"Oh you'll -er, they- will find out today. For sure."

Luckily, I had parked a good distance from the building, because the moment the car door closed I did the most passionate victory dance of my life. There was far too much jiggle involved for human consumption, let me just say that. 

My phone was glued to my hand. I swear I didn't even eat that day. I just stared at my phone. After two hours, it rang, and I was in such an odd combination of anxiety and excitement that I almost forgot how to answer. My verbal skills came back quickly though, just in time for me to accept the job.

I trained diligently for the first week and was astonished by how much I loved what I was doing. I had finally found, what I thought at the time, was my career for life. I went from Insurance clerk to Insurance Coordinator. And for a long time I was content with this. 

But then it changed. Actually, I changed.

As I grew up and learned more about what I felt was my life purpose, I realized that I couldn't stay at the job forever. Although it was a job that I enjoyed and I was pretty darn good at it, I realized I had grown as much as I could grow there. I wanted a fresh taste of life, learning, and a new journey to mastery. I wanted to get out and have a bigger impact on lives while I had the chance. 

Now, starting December 3rd, I get my shot at it. I begin my new job at a local substance abuse support center. I am absolutely overjoyed! I have decided that my goal is to become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. Can you imagine the impact I could have on people?! Just the thought of helping someone cope with the struggles of addiction is exhilarating! Step one of accomplishing this goal is getting my associates degree, which, turns out will be more expensive than I hoped. According to FAFSA, I am not eligible for grants and my "Estimated Family Contribution" is way higher than I could ever pay out of pocket, so I am going to be forced to take out loans. Which, in all honesty, is really scary to me. Sure it's risky...

But you have to take risks to truly live.

You see, when I started at the dermatology clinic, it was absolutely PERFECT for where I was in my life at the time. But, my life has evolved and and so has my attitude, my mind, and my goals. And even though I, at one time, gave my heart to that job, my heart's needs have changed and it's time to move on.

And that's ok.

Don't ever think that you are forever indebted to any situation, job, or relationship simply because at one point it was everything you needed or wanted in life. You don't have to spend the rest of your life 'paying off' the happiness that you received from things or people. You have a right to be happy today. 


Find happiness even if it means saying goodbye to something that once helped you achieve it in the past. 




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Think happy. Be happy.


"Our life always expresses the 

result of our dominant thoughts."

-Soren Kierkegaard

The other morning my bed seemed extra comfortable and no matter how many of my alarms went off, I just couldn't will myself out of bed. So, I ended up being dragged (figuratively and literally) out of bed by my husband, ten minutes before I had to be out the door and on my way to work. Immediately, when I saw the time constraint, I started scrambling around, frustrated at myself. Then as I was frantically slamming my makeup around, trying to slap any semblance of a work-appropriate look onto my face, Leia (my dog) became enticed by the tizzy I was in and decided to jump up at me. I ended up stabbing myself in the eye with a mascara brush and shoved the dog away, pouting. I somehow managed to fly out the door and make it to work on time, but as far as I was concerned, this day was already ruined. On top of all this, I remembered I was on a deadline at work. 

I remember rolling up to my computer thinking, "How am I going to finish all this today? There's no way. And on an empty stomach... ugh. I can't believe I forgot my breakfast too. Five o'clock can't come soon enough. Today is going to be awful." 

And it was. 

However, it wasn't awful because I accidentally slept in, nor was it awful because I stabbed myself with mascara, although that really freakin' hurt! It was awful because I had convinced myself it was. All of these little things that I was getting so worked up about were not life-altering occurrences. They were minor inconveniences, at best. But because I had it in my mind that this was the worst day ever, I saw every minor mishap as an attack on my person. 

There was no water in the dispenser in the break-room? That was obviously the universe sending me a message that it didn't care if I died of dehydration. 
Receiving twelve calls from people asking me to fix their mistakes? That HAD to be the universe punishing me for pouting this morning. 
Having to wait 10 extra minutes because my husband had to work a little longer before picking me up? What a cruel injustice from the powers that be.

Do you see how toxic thoughts like that can be? I went from experiencing almost laughable offenses, to somehow building them up into towering demons bent on destroying me. And with that, I destroyed my entire day. 

Oh, how different my day would have been if I had viewed things differently:
There was no water in the dispenser in the break-room? It's almost lunch time, I can pick up a bottle of water then. I've been wanting some Fiji water, anyways. 

Receiving twelve calls from people asking me to fix their mistakes? It feels good to be needed. I'm glad people see me as someone they can call to help them out.
Having to wait 10 extra minutes because my husband had to work a little longer before picking me up? Hey that's extra money on his paycheck! And the fresh air feels great!



Now that sounds like a much better day!

Don't be a victim to your own thoughts. There are enough obstacles in the world without having to put up a fight against your own psyche. Be your own hero by shaping your thoughts into positivity. 


When you only try and harness light in 

your mind, you shine brighter. Always.