Tag Archives: Travel

Not settling

Hi everyone!

Times have been wild since I have last written. I have been working at the same primary care medical practice, went backpacking solo through Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, completed a part time post-bachelors program, and have been experimenting with some other projects and goals. ;)

My two year anniversary at the practice is coming up soon, and I have been thinking a lot about what I have learned. My role has been something similar to a health coach, and I have worked with patients with a wide variety of conditions, goals, and personalities. These are people that are both just like you, and not at all, coming from every stage and experience of life.

I am fortunate to be able to get to know patients on a very personal level. I learn their stories, understand their environment, and listen to their struggles, triumphs and goals. This is one side of the equation of their reality. The other side is genetics and epigenetics (the nature in nature vs. nurture). All of these factors converge into a complex web that determines their health and disease state at the present moment.

You cannot know 95% of these things when you look at a person on the street or meet them at an event. It would be hard to know most of this stuff even if you had been known them for years, unless you have a medical background and ask a lot of personal questions… Being able to see how each side of a person, including their genetic and environmental history, lifestyle choices, motivators and challenges, interrelates with their medical pathophysiology has increased my compassion for others and understanding of the amount of power that people actually have to change.

It isn’t just medical conditions that have complex roots; it is every aspect of a person. Their personality, quirks, habits, and choices are all influenced by a multitude of factors. For example…

  • Mood disturbances and mental disorders are tied to neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, which could be genetic, environmental, chemical, or even nutrition related (not adequate intake of necessary precursors)
  • People have varying levels of pain perception and stress tolerance due to stress exposure in utero
  • Overweight people may be more susceptible to overeating due to low dopamine or altered gut bacteria (ex: h. pylori in excess results in stomach ulcers, but a deficiency leads to a lack of leptin, which is responsible for satiety)
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity is influenced by the hormonal exposure in utero (and theoretically there are external factors that can alter this hormonal environment)
  • It is theorized that some mental issues, including chronic anxiety and poor self esteem, are related to lack of parental attachment in early life
  • Our diets play massive roles in our mood, energy level, sleep, immunity, health, weight, and daily choices. And our diets are massively influenced by our geography, early life experiences, parenting, and socioeconomic past and status.
  • Habitual drug or alcohol use can create a cycle involving neurotransmitters that makes it very difficult to break free of (but also- what spurred the first use? )

I think recognition of the influential unknowns also has huge implications for how we interpret and interact with others. With the understanding that each individual is the outcome of an extremely complex web of factors and events, we can have a bit more compassion for our fellow human beings . We are constantly being influenced and changing, and we can’t know what all of those factors are for ourselves (let alone others). More compassion from the acceptance of our ignorance and the complexity of nature v. nurture interactions, in combination with efforts to change what we aren’t content with, could bring about some seriously positive change in the world. Instead of judging other people (and ourselves!), we should try to be more accepting, while empowering others to make the changes they desire.

I have emphasized the complex roots of personalities and medical conditions in order to bring about compassion, not hopelessness. Most days, I hear someone somewhere saying that they have ‘always been’ a certain way. Whether it’s being overweight, anxious, depressed, or whatever, they appear resigned to this particular trait. It seems logical to me that the best way to change something is to get to the root of the problem, and so I have tried to trace back to the start of a certain problem, habit, or quality. Things quickly turn very murky, as there is not usually one answer.

What I have realized though, is that it does not matter.  There are countless elements that influence who we are that we cannot change. While you can’t change your early life development, genetics, or what others do to you, you can change what you do and how you think. After all, our bodies are made of the foods we eat, and our personas are made of  our actions, words, emotions and thoughts. We do not need to feel resigned to our condition. There are so many things (mental, physical, emotional, personality traits, habits, spiritual) that we can change and the tools are great and varying:

  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • Addressing medical conditions properly, proper medications
  • Probiotics (this can be complicated, different strains do many different things)
  • Supplements, herbs (with medical advising)
  • Therapy of all types
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
  • Meditation
  • Yoga, Tai Chi
  • Introspection, brain storming, goal setting and planning
  • Calendars and list making
  • Positive self talk, positive affirmations
  • Regular reminding self of values
  • Life coaches, health coaches, career coaches, advisors
  • Education, books, reading, studies

In summary, you are awesome. People are complicated with incredibly different life situations. Better to have compassion than pass judgement on others, and  focus on making the changes you wish to seek in yourself – because you can. I hope you all have an awesome Friday and weekend!


me, the salt flats in Bolivia 




Hello from Park City, Utah!

Finals ended last week and I am now enjoying Spring break. Rather than having a wild, typical college break somewhere, I opted to visit my parents at their new home. It’s lovely here, but so cold! I have just been relaxing and enjoying this view.

We went to a lovely dinner last night at La Caille, but I don’t have a cord to share the pictures at the moment, so foodie pictures may have to wait a bit! The only thing missing here is Nina! I miss her. And I am so glad that I am saying that right now because, not gonna lie, I was seriously worried about that for a while. The first two weeks of puppy ownership were hell. It actually made me question my desire and ability to have children one day. A couple nights were so bad that the next day I wondered if I would be one of those extremely unfortunate women who suffers from post-partum depression. Yeah… She is being watched by a puppy sitter while I am away. She sends me pictures of her throughout the day – it is precious!

Before I left…

On my flights over here, I had ample time to think about a few things. I have much more growing up to do and I have a few goals that I need to put out in the open in order to hold me accountable – no matter how embarrassing.

1. Be a better driver. This means always wearing a seatbelt and not speeding. I have improved in both of these areas, but the 25 mph speed limit in all of Davis is my weakness.

2. Be a more neat and clean person. Adults don’t skip showers for a day or two. They clean their bathroom and vacuum on a regular basis. They hang their clothes up immediately after drying or use. They do not wear black jeggings and Uggs in public. I need to do (or not do) these things. And take off that damn crusted nail polish!

3. Don’t be a grumpy beez. Especially to your mother, who put up with your shi-nanigans during your high school years.

4. Spend less $ on food. I actually have the opposite problem of most people – I need to decrease my consumption of veggies and quality proteins. This sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I thought that because I never eat out and prepare all my meals at home, I could spend whatever I needed on groceries because I was saving money in comparison. My last meal before leaving California for Utah changed my mind. In the fridge, I had a chicken breast, a bunch of kale, 1/3 of an avocado, and goat cheese that needed to be eaten. So, I grilled the chicken and sauteed the kale, and rubbed both with goat cheese and threw in the chopped avocado. This is what I brought with me to the airport for lunch.

Chicken = 2.50$ (half pound at 5$ a pound)

Kale = 2$ a bunch

1/3  avocado = .50$

1-oz goat cheese = .75$

So my homemade meal cost 5.75$. I am a college student. Who do I think I am?? Two years ago, I wrote a pamphlet on healthy eating that was aimed at teenagers and their families who live below the poverty line. I distributed them at the high schools and grocery stores in the least affluent areas of Austin. The pamphlet included a grocery list to sustain a family of 4 for a week for 60$. Obviously, goat cheese was not on that list. As a 21 year old student, I should not be spending more on my own eating than a family of 4. I eat tons of fresh veggies and lean proteins several times a day, so cutting back a couple times a week is not going to harm my health at all. I plan on incorporating a bit more beans and lentils into my diet and having a couple more typical college kid meals a week (think milk-and-cereal, I’ll never be down with Ramen). Feel free to comment with your thoughts, agree or disagree!

5. Continue to keep up with world events and always take the time to put yourself in other people’s shoes. What must it be like to lose your entire family to a tsunami or live in fear of a nuclear radiation leak? How would it feel to take part in riots that succeeded in forcing a multi-decade dictator to step down? How desperate must one be to light themselves on fire to protest police brutality? I want to do more than just acknowledge these things, but at the moment, I do not know what or how.

Before I go, I want to share with you a cool link! Yale University has a center called the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. On their website there is a page with tons of presentations from fabulous professors and experts on topics ranging from The Economics of Food Pricing to Food and Fashion in Our Society. Just read through the titles, pick one that sparks your interest, and click on it for the powerpoint!

“Now, those are some sexy crab cakes!”

I have been missing New Zealand lately; the fresh seafood, the ocean, the warm weather, the people, everything! So to transport myself back there, I decided to make crab cakes for lunch today. Unlike in New Zealand, the crab came from a can, but that didn’t stop these crab cakes from rocking my pants off. These were seriously so, so good.

The outside was perfectly crisp and the inside was packed with buttery crab meat. When my house mate walked into the kitchen, she made a beeline for the crab cakes, stopped, stared, and yelled “D*AMN, those are some sexy crab cakes!” And she’s right. Albeit, she does call everything sexy, including her dog. To top ‘em off, I made a light lemony aioli that contrasted perfectly with the savory cakes.

Buttery Spiced Crab Cakes

Recipe: Makes 3 crab cakes, serves 1

1 can crab meat (½ cup, drained)

1 organic egg

½ tbsp onion, diced

½ tsp dijon mustard

½ tbsp butter, melted

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1 heaping tbsp whole wheat panko bread crumbs

big pinch of paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 tsp ApresVin garlic infused grape seed oil (to fry in)

Directions –  Drain the crab very well. Mix all of the ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl. Place a pan on the stove on medium heat and add the oil. Divide the crab mixture into three round patties and place in the pan. Let them cook until the bottom is medium brown, then flip. Make sure that there is some oil on the pan when you flip them. They are down when they are medium brown on both sides! Serve with lemon aioli.

Light Lemony Aioli

½ tbsp mayo

1 tbsp sour cream

½ tbsp greek yogurt

1 tsp lemon juice

garlic salt

pinch salt

Directions – Mix all together in a small dish.


Crab meat * extremely high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates. The fat that crab does contain is largely omega 3 unsaturated, which helps prevent heart disease. Also contains high amounts of selenium which is anti-carcinogenic and chromium which helps regulate blood sugar.

Paprika * contains the antioxidants flavonoids, carotenoids, and capsicum, which aid in circulatory system health (thus preventing heart disease). Capsicum also raises the metabolism temporarily. Also used as a digestive aid.

Cayenne pepper * high in antioxidants and temporarily raises the metabolism!

Eggs * the yolk is where all the nutrients are! It contains tryptophan, selenium, iodine, B vitamins, and phosphorous, many of which are necessary for optimal metabolism. The egg white has 6 grams of complete protein!

Question: What are some of your favorite breakfasts and lunches? I need some inspiration over here!

A little too much about me..

Nicole and Alex tagged me in one of those cutesy blogger things, so I will pass it on…

Four TV Shows I Watch

I’m not really into TV but whenever I have free time and TV sounds appealing, I watch it on my laptop.

1. House (I love him.)

2. Pretty Little Liars (it’s a secret, can ya keep it)

3. Modern Family

4. Americas Next Top Model

Four Things I’m Passionate About

1. Making and maintaining meaningful friendships. (Say it 5 times fast!) But really, friends have always been my primary support system and source of joy. I cherish each and every one of them. :) (Keeping family relationships healthy and open is also important to me, but those are different in that you do not choose your family.)

2. Learning about the rest of the world and my roles within it. This is why I love reading and traveling. There are so many groups of people, issues, and histories that I do not know about. The more we learn about our past and present, the better we can dictate our actions for a better future.

3. Nutrition and delicious food. The fascinating properties in foods that can heal and protect our bodies really excites me. But on another level, I just love food, creating it, and eating it.

4. Being active. This just means doing things. Not necessarily working out, though I do love lifting weights, swimming, and running. I mean doing anything and everything that is not inside of your house. Going out dancing with your friends, going to a new restaurant in town, exploring the city, attending random festivals and events, and saying YES to invitations.

Four Words/Phrases I Use Too Much

1. Merh

2. Neener

3. Creepin’

4. Holycrepe

Four Places I’d Like To Go

1. Sweden

2. Palestine

3. Peru

4. Bali

Four Things I Did Yesterday

1. Went to my 8am class

2. Went to San Francisco for the day with Courtney

3. Ate at The Plant and Triptych

4. Went to the Embarcadero farmers market and then shopped for 5 hours, but only bought 1 shirt (on sale!)

The market..

Vegan muffins! Checkk out the amazing flavors.


Four Things I’m Craving

1. To start reading my Systemic Physiology book. After this post… It is time.

2. Apple Cinnamon Tea with cream

3. Leave the house and do something… Trader Joes? Yes.

4. Something cold, sweet, and creamy. What’s new? (Nothing.)

Four Things I’ve Learned From The Past

1. Go with the friggin’ flow.

2. Stay true to yourself and others.

3. When you take the time to recognize something seemingly hidden about someone and let them know that you noticed, it makes them feel special and tends to brighten their day.

4. Everyone has their own problems and traits. If they do something to hurt you, don’t take it too personally. It’s their shiz, not yours.

Four Things I Love About Winter

1. Flavored coffee creamers (ONLY OCTOBER-DECEMBER) like peppermint mocha and pumpkin pie spice.

2. Pumpkin flavored everything.

3. The calm feeling of a chilly, rainy day and being content inside with a book and warm beverage.

4. Cute boots.

Four Newest Blogs Added To My Reader

1. Eats Well With Others

2. Cotter Crunch

3. Sprouted Kitchen

4. Anecdotes and Apple Cores

Four Bloggers I’m Passing This Along To

1. Katie 2. Meg 3. Tricia 4. Kailey

That took way too long. Sheesh! And your food for the day is…

Favorite Fallback Veggie Sandwich

2 slices whole grain toast, toasted

2-3 tbsp real cream cheese

1/2 avocado

1/2 tomato

2 tbsp white onion, chopped

1/4 cucumber, sliced

fresh ground sea salt


New Zealand wrap up

After 12 days in lovely New Zealand, I am home! Getting back was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. After a three hour flight from the South island to the North island and a 12 hour flight to the US of A, I arrived at LAX. I figured I could just take Amtrak to Davis, so I hopped on the Flyaway bus. Once at the Amtrak station (after being propositioned to be “taken out to hollywood tonight” and then “driven up the beautiful PCH to Davis” by a total stranger), I learned that there isn’t actually a train to where I live. So I took a 3 hour bus ride to get to a 5 hour train ride and then topped it off with another hour and half bus ride. It was just so much fun. During the third bus ride I realized that I didn’t have a key and my housemates weren’t home yet. Oops. It’s all good, though!

I didn’t take pictures every day but I will post some of the best that I have to sum up the remainder of my trip…

My step sista Brittany’s house, see all the Tibetan flags and things?!

Her driveway and horse

New Zealand has the coolest yogurt flavors.

Unfortunately their greek yogurt has the same nutritional profile as regular yogurt..?


Farariki beach, which my mom just called “Freaky Beach”

And the best meal I had on my trip..

Zucchini bruschetta with goat cheese and mint

Amazing goat cheese salad with fresh pears, walnuts, endive, and croutons

BBQ scallops with chili, lemon, olive oil, and wild rocket

Beef carpaccio with gorgonzola Dulce, lemon, chili, rocket, and grilled baguette

Pan fried snapper with tomatoes, red onion, basil pesto, and lemon

Clearly, we feasted.

Although the trip was truly great, I am excited to be back home and get back into the swing of things. This includes cooking and blogging new recipes! The discovery that I enjoy some cheeses has opened up a whole new world to me…

Happy 2011 everyone!

Bird poop in New Zealand is clear, but in the States it is white….

I am not sure if the title of this post means anything, but I feel that it is worth noting.

Day 3:

Madre and I woke up and had breakfast at the hotel and then set out for what is said to be the prettiest section of the Queen Charlotte trek. Unfortunately for us, it began to rain pretty hard about an hour in. I did manage to capture a pretty photo between the bursts of rain.

After the 4 hour hike, we decided to drive all the way across the country horizontally to Westport to go on one of the most beautiful treks in the country, the Heaphy.

The drive was gorgeous. We passed through so many different terrains, including pastoral scenes of sheepies, jungle, thick wooded forests, and vineyards!


We arrived in Westport late on Christmas Eve and Madre almost had a panic attack because no hotels were open. Eventually, we found a gem of a motel and crashed there. As I cozied into bed after a long day, I smelled this really strong odor of garlic-butter-onion-aioli. Is it me? I smelled myself and it definitely wasn’t me. I tossed and turned, each motion granting me a fresh whiff of garlic butter, and eventually fell asleep. The following morning is when I learned that you are always supposed to pull back the top blanket on a motel bed. The rich buttery scent was eminating from my blanket, which I had previously been so cozily curled up in. To be honest, the stench would have actually been half way appealing if I hadn’t been sleeping with it.

Day 4:

We woke up early and went to the lobby for the free continental breakfast and were met with fruit from a can floating in a vat of syrup, stale toast, sugar saturated yogurt, and fake eggs with canned mushrooms. Mmm.

Grossed out but full, we hopped into the car and drove to the portion of the famous Heaphy trek that we intended on hiking. It was gorgeous.

About 2 or so hours in, I started getting pretty loopy. My feet were heavy as stones and instead of focusing on the gorgeous scenes around me, I was looking at the ground. The sounds of nature were drowned out by my pounding heart and inner monologue “IM HUNNGRRYYYY!”

Just another hour… keep on walkin’. Ordinarily, I am against listening to music while hiking, especially in a foreign country. One should focus on taking in all the details of their surroundings and ingraining the beauty in their memory. You never know if you will be back there again, or if it will even exist. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I pulled out my ipod and started my favorite dance/workout playlist. It was like someone had injected me with adrenaline and seratonin. My pace quickened… I felt great. My favorite song came on and suddenly I could breathe, I could run, the trees parted for me and I was so free. It dawned on me…


With my mom’s back to me, I broke out in dance. Yeeee!

Finally, we reached our lunch destination on the beach. I devoured my canned chicken, crackers, nuts, goat’s feta, and apple. I layed out and napped while mom explored and then we headed back the way we came.

I spotted a creek of what looked like blood..

After seeing that, I quickened my pace a bit. I kept looking over my shoulder for a swarm of mosquitos, or towards the water for a stampede of frogs…

5 hours after we began, we arrived back at the car. We drove to Nelson and arrived at about 10pm last night. This morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel (not really photo worthy though..) and are going to go pick up my step paps from the air port.

I miss reading all of your blogs! My reader has 78 unread! :(

Greetings from New Zealand!

Hello! I am currently in Portage, New Zealand! I left on Saturday around noon and arrived in New Zealand almost exactly 24 hours later. The 12 hour flight from LA to Auckland was actually perfectly comfortable. Being in coach on New Zealand Air (or pretty much any other country…) is like being in business on an American air carrier. Sad, but true.

I am meeting up with my mother and step family to spend Christmas with everyone at my step sister’s home! I am so glad to spend time with them;  it is a rare occasion that we are all together!

Day 1:

Land in Auckland and take a short flight to Nelson on the South island. Get a rental car and eat lunch.

Pan seared fish atop roasted asparagus and potatoes with sun dried tomatoes and buerre blanc

Explore the cute little town of Nelson and nap. Eat dinner. Pass out.


Pan seared blue maki with pumpkin risotto, steamed asparagus, salt and pepper fried calamari with a balsamic reduction and a sweet red pepper sauce

Day 2:

Drive 2 hours to Portage. Go on a gorgeous 4 hour hike.

Slightly lost en route, but thats okay.

Mama’s behind.

I brought goodies to make lunch on the trek. Look at the cool stuff I found in the supermarket!

Whole grain crackers topped with goat’s milk feta, pumpkin-kumara hummus, and caramelized onion spread. A few with chicken as well.

Hello gorgeous.

After the hike, we cozied into the Portage Hotel and lazed by the pool. Then, we cleaned up for dinner and passed out once again.

SWEET JESUS. Caramelized pear, onion, and blue cheese tart with candied walnuts and vincotto.

Seared groper with caramelized fennel, puy lentils, and citrus Sambayan butter

The internet is being sketchy, so I must go!

I’ll probably regret this in the morning.

I am not sure why, but every time I go back to California it seems as though my life turns into an epic fail.

Let me start from the beginning. Friday morning, I woke up and went to my last Plyoburn class. I probably would have been a bit emotional about it, but lunging up a mountain, doing “man-makers” until my knuckles were raw, and sprinting 24 sets of stairs kept my tear ducts dry. I did say goodbye to the other regulars and the instructor, and that was a little sad. That class has kind of been my rock. No matter what happens, no matter how shitastic the week has been, I can depend on the fact that I am going to get my rump worked every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am to 11am.

After that, I returned some failed explorations to Book People and Whole Foods (yes, you can do that!) and headed back to Pace’s. I made lunch and then set out to complete my packing. Apparently, JetBlue is a silent killer. They boast that the first checked bag is freeeeeeeee! Free as air! Free as a bird! Free as water!…….Oh, wait. Awkward.

The second checked back is 30$, and every checked bag after that is 75$. And if it is over 50 pounds, it is an extra 50 dollars!

So I am moving my life from Texas to California and judging by my bank balance I need to fit my shtuff into 3 or less bags at 50 pounds or less. Luckily, my friend Clare lent me two gihugenormous duffle bags. I think they are body bags, actually. Clare… are you hiding something?

As I was finishing up shoving my clothing, shoes, food, and a few toiletries into the duffle bags, I realized I had a massive problem. Well, not massive, but like a 20 pound problem.


No effing way am I leaving my child, my baby, my Vivita (Beh-bee-tuh) in Texas, where she will be malnourished and neglected. Baby needs her green smoothies, ice cream, and pesto on a regular basis.

I managed to put the black heavy base in my suitcase and the canister stuffed with clothing in a duffle. I also found a way to pack my large metalloid Tara statue (a Tibetan diety), a large Tibetan tea canister, and 6 jars of nut butter.

Sadly, I had to sacrifice my ice cream maker and a Tibetan painting. Merh. At least Pace can put it on his wall, right between his Bashar poster and Pace flag. How on earth he found a rainbow flag with his name on it will forever baffle me. And no, he is not bi. I am talking to you, Max. He’s mine.

Then, I hung out with Pace and made him 24 strawberry-blueberry muffins and said my goodbyes to the lovely housemates.

He dropped me at the airport at about 4:30 and I went up to the Jetblue counter to get my ticket and check my bags. The ladies behind the counter had to restrain themselves from laughing as they watched me teeter on high heels while loading the 65 pound body bag onto the scale. All in all, I was about 30 pounds overweight.

Would it help if I ate all the nut butter right now?? No?? Damn.

In the end, they were as sweet as aspartame and didn’t charge me for my excessive weight.  The flight was wretched. I was next to a talker, which ordinarily is okay, but not when they are a ripped, spray-tanned bro who wants to argue with you about the highlights of American democracy and policy. That was fun. Apparently, Mexican immigrants are lucky that we let them use the hospital for free to give birth. Oh, and since all countries have partaken in slavery, we don’t actually need to do anything about our past aggressions because, you know, everyone did it. And one more thing, men being gay “is so gross, its just wrong” but for women “its hot.” Idiocy.

As you can imagine, I suffered about 4 aneurisms. Tis a shame I didn’t have a bat handy; I could have pleaded insanity. Dang airport security…

After escaping the plane as quickly as possible, I collected my stuff and was picked up by my dear friend Emily. She fed me and took me to my car in Huntington. My plan was to drive to Santa Barbara and stay with another friend, Chelsea, but that is not exactly what went down.

The drive took about 2 and a half hours but by blasting rap, indie, and electronic beatz and almost running out of gas, the time just flew by! I think my car literally died pulling into the gas station.

I thought that my storage unit was 24 hours so I went there to pick up my stuff (this is at 11pm) and then I was going to go to Chelsea’s, but it was closed. And Chelsea’s phone was off. And the other friend I texted in hopes of sleeping on her couch didn’t answer. Of course, there were other people I could have asked, but I just didn’t want to. You know?

Bloggers and foodies alike talk about how much they love Whole Foods. They praise the healthy products, vast selection, and kind employees. They brag about their long term relationship with Whole Foods.

But, I have got you all beat. I went to bed with Whole Foods last night. Twas amazing. He even made me breakfast this morning.

No, but really, once I realized I was going to be sleeping in my car, the first place that popped into my head was Whole Foods. It’s basically my second home. Or maybe even my first home because I don’t seem to live anywhere for longer than a year at a time. So I drove to Whole Foods and talked to the all-night guard. He said he didn’t mind if I parked there and he seemed safe. So I rolled on into a spot in the corner and made myself a little nest in the back. It was pretty cramped between my duffles but once I figured out that I should lay my entire body on top my body pillow instead of just using it for my head, I got decently comfortable.

I think I woke up about 4 times between midnight and 6am, but no biggie. I had some crazy dreams, but I don’t remember them. And while I was back there, I found some 4 month old Oroweat Protein Bread that was not molded.

Can you even imagine what chemicals must be in there to make that possible?

I woke up ravenous at 6am and was thoroughly depressed to learn that the Santa Barbara Whole Foods doesn’t open until 8am. Instead, I went to this awesome little café named Jeanine’s and treated myself to unlimited coffee and steel cut oatmeal (with added almond butter from my personal stash).

Afterwards, I headed to my old house to pick up the first half of my stuff. Two hours later I went to my storage unit for the second half. When I opened the door, my jaw dropped. How the heck do I have so much stuff? What is this? I hadn’t seen any of it in three months and I thought that there was much less in the unit. I carried it all down to the car and layed it out to survey.

Not gonna happen.

In the end, the only way to fit all my stuff into the car was to:

1. Give my full mattress to this nice family of 7

2. Also give them a suitcase full of clothes and a suitcase full of books and random items

3. Take ALL of my stuff out of their containers/boxes/suitcases/bags/baskets and layer the stuff into my car

4. Plead the family to drop off the containers at a thrift shop for me because I had no room in my car to take them anywhere

There was literally not one square inch of unused space in my car. Proof:

Front, not quite done yet. Can’t see behind me at all.


Right. Poor Corduroy…

Finally, at noon, I was on my way to Davis. I was anticipating getting there in about 7 hours thanks to my handy dandy i-phone. During those 7 hours I…

partially ran over a hay bale

saw a mean looking motorcycle gang in matching jackets

witnessed 12 speeding tickets

was spared a urinating in public ticket

did some calisthenics on the side of the highway

saw a dozen discarded bricks of weed on the side of the 101

…..I am not kidding. I couldn’t even make that up if I tried. You don’t have to believe me, but honestly, what else could a rectangular package of green wrapped in saran wrap be? Wrapped with love and discarded with fear.

Despite countless blind lane changes and bouts of inattention, I made it to my new home in Davis at 7:03 pm all in one piece. I am now deliriously unpacking and on the verge of passing out. Good night.

10 Things I Learned in Tibet

I never thought a vacation could have such a powerful influence on me.  All I knew when I hopped on the plane was that it is in China and some people have “Free Tibet” bumper stickers on their car.

I grew up on my trip to Tibet. Actually, that isn’t quite accurate. Growing up implies progress in a set direction. I grew sideways. Lopsided. I hung a bit to the left. Tibet changed my path. I was heading in a direction of perpetual discontent and destruction. Learning about Buddhism and being around Tibetan nuns made me realize that in many ways, I suck. And Im workin’ on it.

I learned more in Tibet than I probably did in grade school. Here are the highlights…

1. There is no such thing as a mere “military presence.”

What I mean is that if an area is being occupied by a country, there is not just a military presence. That phrase implies that there are a few soldiers standing about not really doing anything. A more accurate thing to say is that there is an active oppressive force at work. There is evidence of the Chinese oppression all over Tibet. In the last three weeks, I witnessed…

Snipers perched atop buildings watching everyone, dressed in full riot gear

Soldiers marching through the streets, breaking up any crowd of more than 5 people

Signs at public computers stating that “no religious, political, or pornographic material may be accessed”

Numerous checkpoints for proper permits and paperwork along roads

Fake plastic policemen holding real video cameras along the roads

Tibetan nuns brought to tears when the Chinese military is brought up, because they were tortured

The Dalai Lama (the highest Buddhist religious figure) is not allowed into the country

The Tibetans are not allowed to have photos of the Dalai lama

Teachers, monks, and nuns must sign contracts saying they are Communist

Videos cameras watching the monks in monasteries

The Chinese government gives incentives for Chinese people to move into Tibet, like no taxes for 5 years

A gaurd smashed a tourists camera because he took a photo of him

Fake tourist attractions with false historical information created by the Chinese

The Tibetan flag is banned

Some hotels are required to post pictures of the Chinese government

2. We are all products of our education.

The vast majority of the Chinese do not know the truth about their invasion of Tibet. They learn from a very young age that China freed the Tibetans from the oppressive Dalai Lama and monks. They are taught that the people were enslaved by them and that the monks took advantage of the people. They have no idea that the Tibetans did not want to be “freed” and they loved Dalai Lama. They do not know that the Chinese invaded Tibet in order to strip the land of its resources and utilize its rivers for their waning water supply. The Chinese know the Invasion of Tibet as the Liberation of Tibet, a joke to both Tibetans and foreigners.

Monks in a temple

3. Buddhism is not a religion.

I always thought that Buddhism was a religion, like Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It is actually simply a way of living and being. One can be both Buddhist and Christian or any religion, if they so desire. It seems to me that the fundamental concept of Buddhism is living in a way that best serves others. Buddhists seek to improve themselves not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all people. Instead of praying and asking a god for favors, Buddhists pray to be aided in their self improvement for the betterment of others. For example, I often prayed for aid in being more positive and more tranquil, so that I can be a better girlfriend, daughter, and friend. I often struggle with depression and anxiety, and it negatively impacts my relationships with others.

Buddhism also does not have a supreme being or God. There are deities, but these are basically just inspirational figures to help one become better. Instead having a list of things that Buddhists must do (like in Catholicism), Buddhists meditate. Meditation helps bring clarity and opens the mind to help one be more conscious in their daily life. More consciousness leads to better thought out decisions, actions, and words.

Buddhists prostrating in front of a famous temple

4. Traditional burials are a waste of space.

The amount of undeveloped land is constantly shrinking. Traditional burials with a full sized coffin and tombstone seem almost vulgar now. Who am I to say that my dead body is worthy of taking up space where trees and greenery could live? Tibetans have a beautiful ceremony called a sky burial for the dead. I had the honor of watching a sky burial on a mountain top in Terdrom. Three days post mortem, the body is taken up towards the top of a mountain. First, there is a ritual to separate the soul from the body. Once the ritual is completed, it is time for the body to be recycled back into the earth. The bodies are cut and the skin is removed. While this is happening, hundreds of vultures are flying overhead and congregating around the area. The family and anyone who wishes to watch surround the body in a semi circle about 40 feet away. When the body/bodies are done being prepared, the vultures storm the bodies and proceed to eat the flesh. After 20 minutes or so, nothing is left but the bones. The bones are then taken into a pot and boiled until soft, where they are then mixed with tsampa (ground barley) to make into an edible paste. This paste is also fed to the birds.

Vultures feeding on bodies at a sky burial

It may sound gory and “uncivilized,” but trust me when I tell you it is beautiful. The birds fly away and one knows that the honored person’s flesh will assimilate into the bird. A sky burial is the continuance of the cycle of life where as a traditional burial is an abrupt halt.

Though, to be honest, if I was going to have a sky burial for myself, I would prefer a bird other than a vulture…

5. No amount of Buddhist teachings, mantras, or meditation will ever make constipation OK.

Traveling in a bus for 22 hours and eating crappy Chinese food really messed with my system. I was tired after doing nothing. I felt mentally fuzzy. And I was pissed as hell because I was so damn constipated. Another woman on the trip, Bronwyn, was in the same bloat boat as me. We couldn’t talk about anything else.

“Lauren, would you like some noodles?”  “No. I am the antithesis of hungry. I am constipated.”

Lauren, wanna go on a walk?”   “Are you kidding?  I can hardly waddle. I’m constipated.”

“Lauren, we’re going to do some yoga, wanna join?”   “I can’t bend or move when I am full of sh*t.”

Our issues did make for a great dinner conversation though. Bronwyn brought up how bad it is that our mental wellbeing is so tied to our physical bodies. We should be able to be content and even happy even when our bodies are not in prime condition. We should be able to separate the mental from the physical. Most people let themselves feel horrible and guilty if they miss a workout, eat something “bad,” are constipated, or have physical pain. On the flip side, people also abuse their physical bodies to combat their mental state. For example, people over-exercise, binge eat, and take drugs in order to bring about a different mental state.

6. The ultimate test of one’s philosophy or religion is not in what they do but how they live.

This applies to both Buddhism, a philosophy, and all religions. With Buddhism, many practitioners and monks meditate in caves for days, months, and years. I met a monk who had recently finished meditating in a cave for 30 years! But if you are living in a cave, being selfless, positive, and open is not very difficult. There are no people to be rude or annoy the crap out of you, no chores to complete, and no stress. The true test of ones philosophy is being your ideal self during your daily, hectic life. Personally, I found it fairly easy to be tranquil and positive while I was in Tibet. I was constantly inspired by the most well-intentioned people. the Tibetans. But when I came home, I wasn’t very calm when some bourgeois asshole in a Bentley cut me off on the interstate, nearly sending me flying over the barrier. Or when the lovely Officer Mendoza wrote me a ticket for not signaling while pulling onto my street. Sigh. Today is a a new day.

The monk on the left meditated in a cave for 30 years, the woman is a nomad

7. Americans have the luxury of eating to reach a goal.

Bodybuilders and frat boys alike can chug whey protein shakes in order to get swoll! Vegetarians and vegans can munch on local veggies and feel good about not partaking in the slaughter of animals! Mamas can buy their babies organic baby food and BPA free bottles to protect them from harmful chemicals! Baby boomers can feed on antioxidant rich smoothies, take resveratrol supplements, and eat kale like its their job!

If you tried to do any of these things in Tibet, you would be met with a quizzical look and perhaps a giggle or two. Most Tibetans live on yak butter tea, tsampa, yak yogurt, yak cheese, yak meat, and noodle veggie soup. Tsampa is toasted barley that has been ground into a fine powder. They add yak butter tea (yes, tea with yak butter and salt mixed in) and knead it into a dough. This is eaten for 1 to 3 meals a day, depending on where the person lives and what their economic situation is. In Tibet, not eating meat just doesn’t make sense. Yaks are abundant and local. Importing vegetables to more remote parts of Tibet would be more harmful to animals and the environment then just eating yak products. Unfortunately, many of the imported fruits and veggies come from China, where they are heavily sprayed with pesticides.


Tibetans don’t eat to live longer or stronger, they eat to live.

8. Letting it all hang out is not sexy.

Tibetan women wear long dresses with sleeves called chupas. They are uber functional. You can store whatever you like in the many folds, like munchies, prayer beads, tissues, or even little gifts that funny American tourists give you. Tibetan men typically wear pants with nice shirts while monks wear special robes.

The one hour that I wore shorts, I was out in the middle of nowhere. We had been trekking all day though the mountains, sweating and heaving at 18,000 feet. When we got to camp, all I wanted was to let my legs feel the loving caress of the wind. So, I put on a pair of shorts and went for a short walk. I came across a two tiny little homes with a family outside. An older woman who appeared to be the grandmother saw me and got this horrified look on her face. She shooed me away with the flick of her wrists and a scowl. I usually take great pains to blend into whatever country I am visiting. I don’t want to offend. But, I had no idea that my knees would cause such a stir in the boonies. You would have thought I was wearing a leather teddy. Or was Lady Gaga.

Monks in their daily robes

9. Western medicine is like a prostitute. Eastern medicine is like a lady in waiting.

American’s want it fast. Gimme now! Fast food, fast service, fast results. Western medicine is expensive, but it works… fast. Got an infection? Cipro will clear that up in 2 days. Got the flu? A Z-pac and you’ll be fine. If you got the money, you don’t need the time.

Chinese medicine is more delicate. You have to take your time with it. Give it a little lovin’, a little willin’. The herbs are often taken as a tea. Morning, noon, and night you must crush your herb capsules and drink them down. You need to focus on getting better and will your body to comply. They are more gentle on the body and don’t pose the risks that Western medicines usually do.

Annie-la showing us which flowers to eat to cure certain ailments

But with constipation, go Western. ;)

10. Tibetans are sweeties.

This is probably because they are almost all Buddhist. My first encounter that made me think that Tibetans are the kindest people on the planet was when I was ridiculously lost and frantically trying to find my hotel. I asked for help and just pointed to a piece of paper with my hotel’s name in Tibetan. If they didn’t know, they would grab my hand and take me to someone that they thought might be able to help me. It took 6 Tibetans, but in the end one woman walked with me for 40 minutes to get me to my destination. My second sweetie pie encounter was when this small, poor family invited me into their one room home and offered me all that they had to eat. And tea, lots of yak butter tea. Until I was ill and burping yak. My third encounter was on our group’s 5 day trek. I sitting in the grass, taking a break, and trying to make myself a crown of flowers. One of our sherpas (mountain men who accompanied us on the trek) walked over to me and took the pathetic crown from my hands. He began to expertly weave flowers into it until it was perfectly round and the flowers pointed straight up. Awwww.

The flower crown

The one room Tibetan home