Friday, September 30, 2016

#SelfCareMvmt: What does selfcare mean to you?

I’ve recently begun working with the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. Recently, Self Care Catalysts reached out to the network, asking us to share what self care means to us. While this is sponsored content, and I have received compensation for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

My name is Jen and I use bike riding as a way to manage the chronic pain and autonomic dysfunction that comes from having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

There is a physics law that says “a body in motion stays in motion.” While the idea is about science - and the idea that an object moving through space will continue to move, in a straight line, unless another force acts upon it - the phrase has become a bit of a personal mantra in my journey toward better self care.

The conditions that I have are incurable. I’ve required surgeries, invasive procedures, and months of therapy and that has been the easy part of my journey. While I have been impacted by these conditions for the duration of my life, my day-to-day became hardest to manage after a cross-country move, while working full time and pursuing a graduate degree. I love to learn, to volunteer, to laugh, to achieve my goals - and sometimes, that meant that self care wasn’t a priority.

After my brain surgery, that had to change.

While there are many ways I choose to prioritize my health, from mid-day naps to eating gluten-free, today I want to talk about staying in motion. Before my diagnoses, I was regularly at the gym. From childhood to college, my time included baton twirling, competitive swimming.. high school tennis, and hiking for fun. Then, I had a cranio-cervical fusion and I was forced to give up a lot things, including my days at the gym.

With the help of a great physical therapist, I learned that it was safe to move and that actually, my body felt better when I did.

While my life is no longer full of cardio and weight-training, I’ve learned to take care of myself with regular bike rides, and swims at our local pool. It’s hard to look at other patients with chronic pain and explain this idea, that our bodies in motion will stay in motion, and yet, it continues to prove itself true for me.

After my surgery, I couldn’t ride a bike. And it would have been easy to not try to again. (I'm thankful firr the push I got from Schwinn to get back on the bike.) My first trips to the local pool didn’t include whole laps swam in front-stroke; sometimes I could only walk in my lane or swim 10 yards at a time. Instead of giving up, though, I found ways to make these motion part of my day-to-day. Moving became my self care.

The more that I moved, the easier moving became. After all, a body in motion stays in motion.

In terms of practical ways to integrate motion into my every day, using my bike as a means of transportation has been key. While we live in a suburban area, I loved being able to use my bike to travel from one side of my downtown college campus to another.. whether to make a meeting, or just to grab a chai tea.

Spending ten, thirty, or even sixty minutes on my bike has given me time to clear my head, to build better relationships with the people I love, to increase my physical strength, and to care for myself.

Because self care isn’t always first nature, I recommend downloaded Self Care Catalysts' free Health Storylines app. Created by a  passionate team of self care advocates who believe that the key to healthcare innovation is to hear the voice of the patient, the app helps patients to personalize their care by journaling their thoughts and emotions, by setting reminders for taking medications, for developing and checking in with a Circle of Support and sharing medical information with his or her care team.

So tell me, what does self care mean to you?

Self care looks different for each of us and I’d love to know ways you care for yourself as part of your everyday routine. Share in the comments below or join me in the Self Care Movement by sharing your thoughts on Self Care Movement Facebook page, on Twitter, or by tagging your post with #SelfCareMVMT on Instagram.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ten on Tuesday: Birthday Wishlist

Earlier this week, I may have exclaimed something like "I'm going to be 25! THAT'S A QUARTER OF A CENTURY." But really, it's hard to believe that this will be the sixth year I've shared a birthday wishlist on my blog. Also funny to me is how similar all six of those lists have been - evidently, I'm really into photography, Apple products and tea. Who knew? 

Here are the things that made my wishlist this year:

01 // Swell water bottles are all the rage lately and I'd love one that could fit in my bike's water bottle cage. While there was a bicycle pattern out earlier this year, I'm kind of loving this simple mint design.

02 // Working from home means that I've been using a laptop almost exclusively these days. I recently purchased a laptop sleeve from Amazon, only to find out that it was too big. As a lover of all things Kate Spade, I'm loving this simple pattern in black and white.

03 // The big item on my wishlist this year? An Apple Watch. I never thought I'd be saying that but I love the idea of not having to check my phone for timelines while shooting weddings, and not having to pull out my phone every time I get a text message. Plus, there's GPS and anyone who knows me knows that I get lost, well, often. 

04 // As a fan of leaving funny notes around the house, I'm dying to get one of these adorable letterboards from Letterfolk Co.  But I can't decide: black or gray?

05 // Lately, I've watched my middle school shoe tastes come full circle. Gray converse? Yes please. The best part is that I can totally pull these off in a kids 4. (If you're petite and haven't started shopping in kids shoes, you're missing out.)

06 // Another blast from the past, I'm totally loving the Instax film trend. How cute is this pink instant camera?

07 // And, then there's Britney. Did you know she just released another album last month? We're big fans. I'm traveling to Vegas with work for my birthday this year but she's not performing that week. I'd totally settle for these clever pencils instead.

08 // Continuing with past year's themes, there has to be something tea related on the list, right? I saw this electric tea kettle in store a few months ago and loved the pattern.

09 // I've also got to include something crafty. I'm recently in love with the idea of applying vinyl to all of the things -- the front of my planner, my coffee mug, tee shirts. I'd love to be able to do this myself with the Silhouette Cameo. A girl can dream, right?

10 // And then there's the grown-up item of "I actually kind of need this." With photographing so many weddings this summer, I've found a few pieces of photography equipment that I need. I'm dying for a House of Flynn Evermore bag but a flash seems a little more practical.

So tell me, what's on your Fall wishlist?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What do you do to relax?

While I have loved the last several months as a Schwinn Ambassador, my bike riding experience recently improved when Trevor received a Schwinn Streamliner of his own. I asked Trevor to take a few moments to reflect on his Schwinn experience so far and this is what he had to say:

I have found an obsession and it is called bicycle riding.

It was not on purpose.  It just happened three weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have a bicycle sent to me by Schwinn.   I started pedaling around my development, weaving in and out of the uneven cement ramps manifested from years of drought and dust erosion that may once have been a flat sidewalk.  The memories attached to each pedal rotation grew with the wind rushing around my body.  Reminiscences of the times when I was a teenager zipping around the neighborhood with my school buddies without a care in the world . . .  we all just enjoyed the moment and that was the wonderful simplicity of the experience.

I suffer from Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and whatever else a psychiatrist can tell me I have “symptoms” of.  These neurotransmitter ailments have kept me from being able to concentrate on anything without getting lost in the array of thousands of other thoughts that have little to do with any task at hand.  The toughest question I have ever been asked is “What do you do to relax?”  I have never been able to answer such a seemingly simple question before. 

I now have a crystal clear answer to the question of how I relax.  I get on my bicycle and begin a 4 to 9 mile journey every day.  I am free from negative thoughts, and the anxiety of figuring out what to do with the day, the week, the month.  In that moment of speeding through the paved paths and stone roads, I am thoughtless.  It is a feeling I do not get with any other activity I have tried.  For however long I ride, I am free from mental illness.  These peaceful rides of clarity done every day, religiously, is a gift I had no idea that I could open.  I am grateful.

This year, I am partnering with Schwinn Bikes as a #SchwinnAmbassador to share my wellness journey.

Catch all of our updates here, on Instagram (with the hashtag #fromwherejenrides) and on the Schwinn Red blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Caring Crate: Virtual Trip to the Beach


It's no secret that I love mail, and that I especially love packages. So, when Janelle of Caring Crate reached out about photographing her new subscription box geared toward those living with chronic physical or mental illness, I said yes.  Or something closer to "REALLY? I would love to! Yes!"

Janelle described the box to me as a collection of products to "help you feel better and feel good" and after receiving both the June and July Caring Crate packages, I have to agree. Self-care is such an important aspect of managing a chronic illness and yet it can be hard to get out and shop, or even to know what you might need on your next hard day. 


Each month, subscribers receive a box with four to five full-sized health and wellness related products. Typically, these products revolve around a central theme and July's was a "virtual trip to the beach." This theme was especially timely for me - today marks one week that Trevor has been away for a real trip to the beach and after seven days of single-parenting our dogs, I needed a little self-care.

On this month's card, Janelle quoted, "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor" and how true those words are for someone with a chronic illness.


My favorite item in this month's box was this bracelet, a brass cuff, from Anchor Me's Lost at Sea Collection. The design on the cuff is actually morse code which spells out "strength." I am a big fan of tangible reminders but love how subtle this design is.

Sometimes, it can feel scary to know that others will read your own little "note to self" but I love the idea of starting a conversation with a friend, or even a stranger, over this one.


This month's box also contained two beauty products - a lip balm and a face mask.

Green tea is one of my favorite flavors of summer and so I was thrilled to see it as a lip balm flavor. Better yet, this balm from Two Blooms is made from ethically sourced and natural ingredients, like coconut and avocado oils.

Meanwhile, the SeaLuxe Seaweed Face Mask, made from wild harvested kelp, spirulina, sea clay and benonite clay, was a perfect fit for this beachy box. A hot bath with last month's Native Nectars sea salt soak and this mask are totally on my to-do list before Trevor arrives back to New Mexico tonight.

At first, I actually thought that the box might actually contain three beauty products. Based on it's square shape and adorable packaging, I thought that The Lemon Square was a handcrafted soap. Turns out, while handcrafted, it wasn't for bathing but for eating.

Caring Crate is actually a Canadian company and I love that so many of the products featured come straight from local Canadian companies. The Lemon Bar is based in Vancouver and each bar is made from fresh lemons, fresh butter from British Columbia, and graham wafers, with a dusting of coconut.

I would be lying if I told you that The Lemon Bar was still inside this wrapper. I had every intention of just photographing it but when I opened it and smelled that fresh lemon, well.. You know the rest.


When I let Janelle know that this month's box arrived, I nearly typed, "this is my favorite Caring Crate yet!" but realized in that moment that each box will likely be my new favorite. I suppose that's the nature of a good thing. And, the theme for August's Caring Crate has just been announced: The Better Sleep Box.

While I love the products inside these boxes, and getting a chance to treat myself, what I love most about Caring Crate is that it exists just for people like me. There are subscription boxes for everything but Caring Crate is the only one designed for those living with a chronic illness and honestly, guys: it feels special to be included.