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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Food as Medicine: Thoughts on Turmeric

This week marks the second anniversary of my brain surgery and cranio-cervical fusion. Over these two years, I have tried several things to improve my health and pain - including trigger point injections and physical therapy, medications and massage - all with varying levels of success. Of all the changes I have made, diet changes have been the most helpful.

Current science believes that inflammation is one of the biggest underlying issues in chronic illness and many of my diet changes, like cutting refined sugars and dairy, have focused on cutting inflammation. There are even diets specific to reducing inflammation like the Autoimmune Protocol diet, or even going Paleo.

It sounds daunting but in reality, it's actually been delicious.

One of the herbs I have recently tried to work into my diet more is turmeric, which gives curry it's vibrant orange color. There have been hundreds of studies on the disease fighting effects of turmeric, including research on its ability to help prevent Alzheimer's, to treat Arthritis, and to even prevent and treat certain types of cancer. One of these studies even identified more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds in the herb.

A few months ago, when Trevor's family was visiting, I tried a turmeric cocktail at Vinaigrette, a great local farm-to-table salad restaurant. They've since swapped that drink out with a turmeric mimosa that I'm excited to try. In the meantime, I did find a great Turmeric Ginger tonic on Epicurious and it even has chia seeds, another super food.

We've also been squeezing lots of turmeric into our weekday diet with Curried Chicken Salad for lunch – either on a bun or over greens. While Trevor has his own secret recipe from culinary school, this option from MyRecipes seems like a close match.

Still, I was on a hunt for other non-curry recipes, and I stumbled on a great list of spicy recipes to try. I figured we could start at the top and work our way through – though I was most drawn to the shrimp with mango and basil – and so I made the Super Power Morning Smoothie earlier this week.

Not surprisingly, we had all of the ingredients needed - like banana, mango chunks, turmeric and chia seeds - for this morning recipe on hand. And, we even had fresh ginger on hand – allowing for an extra spicy addition.

So tell me, what are your favorite ways to eat turmeric? Who else is a big fan of curry?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It's Not All Spandex

Somehow, in the deserts of New Mexico, we found ourselves friends with many bike enthusiasts ranging from competitive road cyclists to mountain bikers, and even our friend Tiffany who has been quoted as saying she is only riding her bike if there is money, she often rides her bike to work, or food at the end of the ride. This means we often find ourselves in a sea of spandex.

While I love our friends and their passion for performance, I was determined to find outfits for biking that were comfortable, practical, and still cute.

That being said, the base for my favorite riding outfits is spandex. As a dysautonomia patient, with unstable blood pressure, I have found that compression leggings are vital not only for bike riding or activity, but for my day to day life. Black leggings are really my signature look.

My personal favorite? The compression leggings from Tommie Copper.

If, like Tiffany, you are biking to work or other occasions which require a little more class, I'm also a big fan of the Bike to Work collection from Beta Brand, the company who first designed yoga dress pants.

Can you tell that I'm all about comfort?

If you're going to wear leggings as pants, it's key to find the right top. Tunics are my go-to choice given their longer length.  I recently discovered a fun direct sales company called LuLaRoe which carries a wide range of tops appropriate to wear with leggings (as well as modest length dresses, and leggings of their own.)

If you aren't familiar with the brand, LuLaRoe sources unique fabrics and creates only 1,000 items from each - meaning that the inventory is always changing. This also means that you can't just visit the LuLaRoe website to browse and shop (though Instagram is a great place to find examples).

While there are consultants all over the country hosting in-home pop up shops, many sell online via their private Facebook groups.

My personal favorite piece? The Irma tunic, which I'm wearing here.

In my last post, I shared a bit about Vionic shoes and when it comes to longer rides, or just hopping on my bike for a neighborhood ride, my Fyn Active sneakers are definitely my go-to.

But, sneakers aren't always the best choice. When riding between classes, or to the office, I rely on my Crocs Sienna flats. I actually like these flats so much that I have them in black and cherry.

The finishing touch for any outfit, even while riding?  Accessories.

While I love throwing on a bright scarf -- this floral print beauty was only $1.50 at Walmart -- the most important accessory is definitely a well fitting helmet.

While it can be tempting to forgo a helmet to preserve your hair style, I've found that throwing a hat in my bike basket lets me ride safely and end stylishly.  (Plus, I kind of love the fact that my Shoreline helmet and Streamliner are nearly a perfect match.)

So tell me, what are your favorite outfits for bike riding?

This year, I am partnering with Schwinn Bikes as a #SchwinnAmbassador to share my wellness journey. Catch all of the updates here, on Instagram (with the hashtag #fromwherejenrides) and on the Schwinn Red blog.

This post contains referral and affiliate links. All products linked are products that I personally own and love and think that you will, too.