Live Your Best Life: How To Be You + Be Free.

{ Manhattan Square Park in Rochester, NY at Party in the Park, Thursday, 6/23. }

BE YOU

live your best life.

BE FREE.

Freedom is many things. It is an innate right, + it is incredibly oppressed. It is sought after, + it is sabotaged. It is died for, + it gives life. It is exciting, + it is terrifying. Freedom is elusive. Freedom is precious. Freedom is essential to living our best lives. Freedom should be as natural as it is innate. But Freedom, is not. Thankfully, given the right circumstances, Freedom is attainable.

Because even when we live in “lands of The Free,” our own lifestyles, emotions, thoughts, actions, relationships tear this freedom down, instead of reinforcing it. Building it up.

I’d like to share 3 tips for how I am discovering + uncovering my own freedom.

trauma can happen, + it does not have to control our freedom.

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Walking to Party in the Park Solo at the newly opened Inner Loop, Rochester, NY.

Helllll nah, I was not always this free. The freedom I speak of in this post? It’s been a lifetime in the making. Just recently, it’s truly spread its wings. You’re going to have to wait for the publication of my memoir{s} before fully understanding the trials + tribulations I have endured throughout my life. For now, I’m going to highlight 3 choice experiences.

The goal is to show you that trauma can happen, and it does not have to control our freedom.

1. Food By Oppression. I started counting calories around 1997, when I in the 7th grade. This evolved into carefully portioning-out my food. About 2004, the Disordered Eating manifested into an Eating Disorder my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t until 2008, when I had a major mental breakdown my 2nd semester studying graduate school at Columbia University, that I fully began to heal.

  • how does this limit freedom? Your mind, body, + soul are trapped in a set of beliefs + actions that prevent it from enjoying everything. You are riddled by guilt, shame, fear, self-hate, + a slew of other deamons that have 0 place in your heart + soul.
  • how am I doing now? Much better. I attribute this to therapy and lots + lots + lots of work on self-love. As well as the mental breakdown, because tbh y’all, my mind started itself back-up in “safe mode.” I know not all of us are lucky enough { see what I did there } to endure a mental breakdown. But for me, it truly was a beautiful thing.

2. Assaulted + Charged with Assault. April 20, 2012 I went to the Fun. concert at an establishment I will not name here, but one that has a past riddled with sketch + shade. I was with friends. Not doing drugs. I’d been drinking, but we also took a cab, + I was 27, so. Unfortunately, I’d been separated from my friends the majority of the night. Long-story-short, by the night’s end, as the concert let out, I was afraid + alone + tiny skirmishes started to break-out. That’s when a huge man came up behind me, grabbed me, + started dragging me back into the hall. I panicked. I 100% believe I was going to be raped. I struggled. Another man accosted me from the side. They beat the shit out of me. I felt excited to see the police standing before me. Until the police threw me to the ground, yanked my arms akimbo behind my back, + shoved my head through the back of a cop car. I’d been assaulted by 2 bouncers who then charged me with 3rd degree assault. I’d just been hired into a new job the day before. I lost that job. I was also per diem substitute teaching at the time. Not only did I lose those 2 teaching jobs, but apparently, when HR in education reads — 3rd Degree Assault { b/c who really knows which is worse, 1st or 3rd } — they call you up, personally, to chew-you out, as well as write you very mean letters. I spent my full-savings on a lawyer. When the DA, who was also a young woman, saw the pictures I documented of my bruises + contusions, she assured me that, under no circumstances, would I be charged. The bouncer who pressed charges never showed-up to court. The establishment refused to furnish video footage. I endured 3 separate court appearances across the next 5 months before I was cleared.

  • how does this limit freedom? It makes you feel unsafe everywhere you go. It makes you feel like you have 0 right to be anywhere. It makes you feel you will be accosted, accused, charged, fired, ridiculed, + drained of all your money, even when you do nothing wrong. It seriously tugs on those Victim strings.
  • how am I doing now? Recently, much, much better. I have transformed . { Because of the tips I promise I’m about to share! }. But I can say it still affects me. In October, 2015, I saw a Joywave concert at Anthology. I don’t consider myself to have PTSD, but for whatever reason, 3 years later, I flashed back to the old venue. My panic attacks where so severe that I could no longer recognizes people’s faces. I felt too scared + vulnerable to walk home alone or to even call a cab. That’s what fear does. It takes away all of our choices + all of our options.
    • { post-edit} … And now — today this day, over 1 year later — instead asking — Hey, were you okay? — I just get a lot of passive-aggressive, underhanded comments + side glances. { You know who you are. } That makes you look insecure + pretty ignorant, quite frankly. Not me.

3. Creep Factor. I cannot even begin to describe to you the number of creeps I’ve encountered. What’s more, these 3 experiences pale in comparison to other stuff I’ve endured. Here we go: 1) My 1st semester in NYC 2007, I went on a date with this guy who very seriously engaged me in intimidation tactics. He even carried a duffle bag that he said was filled with batting practice equipment. When I told him he could not come back to my apartment, he followed me into the subway and yelled at me the whole time as if we were long-lost lovers. 2) Around 2012, a UR PhD student took me on a date one summer. I wasn’t feeling the vibe, but one night he still insisted on walking me home. When I refused to let him in, he pressured me by reminding me how nice it was he walked me home in the 90 degree heat + insisted I owe him a glass of water: that I must let him inside. He did not get a glass of water. 3) Most recently, I walked down Goodman Street one weekend night about 1 month ago. I was nearing Monroe Ave between Park + Monroe. A younger guy crossed the street. We made eye-contact + said a simple hi. He walked-on, only to double-back, slap / grab my ass, thereby hiking-up the hemline to my underwear. He then ran away.

  • how does this limit freedom? Feeling unsafe everywhere, at every time of day. Not being able to do what you want or go where you want when you want to. Having to be resilient enough to shrug-off people’s judgements when they make horribly base assumptions, which really reinforces their ignorance, about what you were wearing + what you said, etc.
  • how am I doing now? Almost 0 fear. In a responsible way. { See how I had to qualify that. } How was I a few months back? A mess. I work with the public day-in, day-out. It used to be that 1 wrong look from a client sent me shame spiraling. Well, no more.

be well. be free.
trust yourself. trust your life.

I truly am living the best life I know, right now, in this moment. This past week I socialized with friends, I went to a bar by myself to watch the Copa game — unafraid + uncaring of others’ judgements — and I even let myself shoot a few hoops at 1AM { gasp! } on a Wednesday as I walked back to my apartment from Good Luck. My point? I finally, finally, have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want. I trust myself. I trust my life. That is freedom. Here’s how to do it:

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Playing hoops solo at the Merriman St. Playground around 1AM on Wednesday.

I finally have the framework + infrastructure to do what I want, when I want.

1. No Judgement. At the root of all of this — we have to stop judging ourselves. Why? Because only when we self-love { which means being judgement-free }, can we make the best, most pure choices for ourselves.

  • counterpoint: Should every woman walk alone to a bar or Party in the Park or shoot hoops at a city park at 1AM? No. Duh. Absolutely not. Just as every woman shouldn’t get married or have babies or backpack the world alone.
  • point: We have to be comfortable + confident making our best decisions given each moment + circumstance. We are capable of this.
  • recommendation: Read The 4 Agreements. Practice it as you read. And then read the Companion Book. Practice that, too. Really, truly practice it. Live it.

feed your feelings healthy “foods” / thoughts.

2. Practice Every Damn Day. People go to the gym regularly. People make it a habit to eat healthy. No one questions this. People talk about this every single day, all of the time. So practice doing these same healthy, holistic habits with your mind + soul. Some of my favorites:

  • recommendations:
    • Sing in the car. Unabashedly! Loudly! Freely! If you cannot express yourself freely while driving in your own, separate vessel … then when can you be free. Anyone else who is near you is driving by, anyway. They are gone from your lives forever. Be free. Sing.
    • Journal. It is not a 4-letter word, frands. Quite literally. It is a very simple practice.
      • Make lists.
      • Draw pictures.
      • Vent.
      • At the very least, practice gratitude.

Really pissed about something? Make a Gratitude List. It does not mean that you are not allowed to be pissed or upset! Yes, you are. Feel. Feel everything. Feel your full range of emotions. What it does mean is you still get to feed yourself positivity, even when you are negative.

  • Toast Yourself. Fill your cup with milk, or whatever, Cheers to you. Acknowledge what you have accomplished. Celebrate it. Big or small.
  • Smile at Yourself. Step 1) Look in the mirror. Step 2) Smile. Optional) Put your hands on your hips, breathe deep, peel those lips. Smile. Recommended) Do a butt-wiggle. Bonus points?? Compliment yourself.

Every single time you look in that mirror, say something nice. You said something critical, too? No worries. Let that go. Follow-it-up by saying something nice. 

if you cannot express yourself freely, while driving in your own separate vessel … then when can you be free?

3. Root Yourself. This is a bit higher level, + that’s why it’s #3. Progression. What is Rooting Yourself?? It is taking ourselves from all of the assumptions + what-if’s. It is coming back to our minds, our bodies, our true light, + our present moment. Rooting Yourself is placing yourself within the present moment.

  • recommendations:
    • Practice Mindfulness. I talk about it here. You can start by reading it here. Very simple. Very solid. Very whole.
    • Practice Chakra Healing. This has been 1 of the most transformational elements of my life these past few months. I really enjoy the affirmations + information on this website. When I am stressed or fearful, questioning or critical, I quiet that destruction + replace it with the wholesome “food” of chakra affirmations.
    • Affirmations. Chakras not your thing? Come up with your own phrases to say over + over + over again. Re-hone and refocus. Quiet + heal.
    • Be a Kid. Walk barefoot in the grass. This is very healing + rooting. If you practice chakra healing, you know this balances the Root { grounding } + the Heart { childlike spirit + connection with nature } Chakras. By being a kid, we honor + practice our most root freedom.

Swing on a swing. Play a sport. Go to a park. Do bounce ball soccer or trampoline exercises. Climb a rock wall or play some volleyball. In Rochester, alone, there are a million ways to honor your inner-kid.

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Swimming in Lake Ontario at Charlotte Beach, 1 of my favorite places to get away + go alone.

Thank you for taking the time to read with me + about my experiences today. I’d love to continue this conversation + hear what you guys have to say! My thanks for your energy.

#bewell.

#belocal.

#befree.

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Full Disclosure: Clean Gut Diet { + Brittany Angell! }

{ My first haul. … Stevia pop – not approved. (But Stevia is.) }

GET IN

clean

MY  BELLY

gut diet

{ It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. … And you can decide if that is a reference to A Tale of Two Cities … or Chumbawumba (because you know that’s what you thought of when reading it). }

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Eat this once a day.

I have so much to say about this incredible + horrible, incredibly horrible, and horribly incredible … diet.

Let me tell you why.

NAY’S This is what you cannot eat.

  • fruit
  • peanuts
  • corn
  • beans
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • grain
  • caffeine or alcohol
  • processed sugar/foods

As a human, that’s just unnatural. 

YAY’S This is what you can eat.

  • berries
  • tree nuts
  • vegetables
  • meat
  • preferably organic
  • preferably hormone free/free range

clean gut diet is not a lifestyle

{ paleo is }

I’m doing this diet/cleanse for health reasons. I should clarify – I’m not even doing the cleanse part. { Which requires liquid breakfast + dinner. … } When I say “cleanse,” I mean that this diet has the purpose of cleansing my stomach + intestines.

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Yum.

messiah medicine

HEALTH BENEFITS – A trinity of healing powers …

RELIEF + BALANCE

  • migraine relief
  • anxiety relief
  • brain fog relief
  • bipolar disorder balance
  • hypothyroid balance

BODY + MEDICINE

  • constipation
  • … so I don’t wake-up feeling hungover every single morning … for no reason at all
  • eliminate side-effects from primary medications so that I don’t take so many secondary

DIAGNOSE

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Spaghetti Squash – I will always eat this.

full disclosure

The worst part about what’s been happening to my body this past year??

CONSTIPATION

Let me tell you about being 29 years old, jogging regularly + supplementing with yoga and kickboxing. Eating fruits + veg on the reg. Not partying a lot.  … And being constipated like a 75 year old man. { This gets graphic. }

  • Two words: bloody nose.

This happens when you’re trying to shit out a weeks worth of fruit + veg. And you can’t.

  • One word: balloon.

Squeeze a long balloon, from both ends. That’s my guts.

love for clean gut

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I heart squash.

Take 5 { Shits }.

Day 2 – no hungover feeling when I awake. Incredible.

Day 4 – I can finally shit. I can still shit.

Thank you, god. The only time I struggled was Day 13 + Day 14, wherein I severely cheated on my diet Day 12 { migraine … while traveling } after having been clean for 12 days.

non-love for clean gut

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Inedible.

I Used to Have an Eating Disorder.

I can’t do diets! Fuck that. Give me a 3 day or a week long cleanse with genuine health benefits – I’m about it. But Clean Gut … is 21 days long. { And then you painstakingly reintroduce foods … which can take another month, at least! } After a week and a half, these are some side-effects I incurred:

  • perfectionism
  • acutely aware of body fat
  • obsessing over being thinner
  • guilt when I don’t eat healthier … and I’m eating the most healthy any being can

and that’s why I’m not pissed …

I’ve cheated

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Cookie recipe with coconut sugar.

No Shame.

You cannot shame-spiral when on any diet. The end objective is what’s most important. For me, this means asking –

Can I shit? Can I not shit?

Do I wake-up feeling hungover? Do I wake up feeling refreshed?

And, with just 2 days left, before I begin reintroducing foods … I repeat this like an affirmation.

lifestyle change 

The best outcome from Clean Gut? Awareness. Paleo is a lifestyle I can handle. It is very healthy, more realistic, + way less restrictive.

Brittany Angell

Coincidentally, I’ve just discovered Brittany Angell! A Rochester native, who is a gluten-free + paleo goddess.

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Hot Coca with Stevia + Coconut Sugar. YUM.

I truly look forward to continue using a ton of savory vegetables + simple dietary substitutions in my daily cooking and eating.

{ For videos detailing my journey … check it. }

#eatlocal

#bewell

XO.

Fall For Your Favorite Snacks: French Fries!!

FALL FAVORITES

 { SNACKS }

FRENCH FRIES!

{ It’s no surprise that french fries are one of my favorite snacks, meals, medicines, + general past times of all time. But I especially find them appealing in the fall. Fall, in general, is a capital time to snack. For one – it’s #back2school, which pretty much fuels the snack industry. For two – it’s getting just a tad bit cooler, which begs us to whip-up heartier combos. }

My fall snack staples include:

  • hot coca with marshmallows
  • popcorn with evoo, salt, pepper, + a sprinkling of cheese
  • homemade french fries!

I’ll eat anyone’s french fries. But I’ve just discovered that I can fry my own! This tickles me. Before we talk recipe, check out my quick tips for all of these delectable + comforting snacks:

  • Hot Coca with Marshmallows: Healthy for your World.

I buy Fair Trade Equal Exchange cocoa mix + vegan marshmallows from Abundance Cooperative Market. The coca is more expensive. … But so is craft beer, and even I {the woman who can no longer drink beer} know it’s worth it. Plus, Fair Trade Equal Exchange ensures an “economically just and environmentally sound” world. I’m down.

  • Pop Corn: Healthy for You.

I pop my own … in a microwave! Yes. This is true. Scoop 1/2 cup of un-popped, regular kernels into a brown paper lunch bag. Micro as per usual. (I do 2.5 minutes or until the popping slows.) Pour into a bowl + season. How. Much. Fun. Is. That. … And you control the toppings. Recently, I made garlic infused butter and poured this overtop with parmesan cheese. … Instant gourmet snack, in literally 2.5 – 3 minutes.

Homemade Fried French Fries

I cannot find the recipe I used last night. It was that magical.

These are neither healthy for you nor healthy for your world (unless you buy local or organic or IPM … you get the point). But they are flippin’ fun. I recommend looking up your own recipe. (There are a ton!) Here’s my informal version and the tips + tricks I used:

  1. Ingredients + Materials – dutch oven (or huge sauce pan) | canola oil (or peanut oil – any oil with a high smoke point) | russet potatoes (most sites recommend these or any high starch potato) | paper towel | plate | salt | mesh spoon (whatever that’s called) | recommended – thermometer | optional – bowl, water, strainer
    • tips + tricks Mr. Potato Head. It’s a funny thing while stove-top frying instead of deep frying. Most recipes encourage you to buy high starch potatoes for crispy, sturdy, meaty fries.  The recipe I used last night instructed to use a high starch potato, but to draw the starch out, exactly because this is a stove-top fry. I’ll speak more to that soon. In the meantime, I say – use whatever potato you got. (Look up separate recipes for sweet potatoes.)
  2. Prep – slice potatoes to desired thickness (1/4 – 3/8 in.) | soak potatoes if doing so | if not or while potatoes drain + dry: add oil to pot + heat
    • tips + tricks Practice Safe Frying. One time my mom fried a chicken wing and almost burnt her face-off. It’s because we underestimate how much oil bubbles once something’s dropped in. IE – If you’re waiting for your oil to bubble so you can guess how hot it is … DON’T. First – make sure whatever pot you use is no more than 1/3 – 1/2 filled. Second – This is why a thermometer is highly recommended. (Goal temp: whatever your recipe says.) … I didn’t use a thermometer (because I don’t own one), + I felt comfortable eye-balling it. But I was lucky I didn’t overfill my pot with oil. Phew. Once I added those fries, it really got a bubble going.
  3. Recommendation – Add to bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. If you use a red potato, white, or new potato (low starch), try 10 – 15 minutes. This draws out the starch.
    • tips + tricks – The Starch Factor. Apparently high starch is best when frying. But, according to the recipe I used last night, high starch might not be best while stove top frying. I soaked a low starch potato, and the result was perfect. (To my taste buds.) Though I can see how it could have been crispier. Solution? Try something in between: i.e. soak, and then thoroughly dry, a high starch potato.
  4. Fry – When oil reaches frying temp, use wire mesh spoon to gently add potato slices to oil. Flip slices mid-way through. Fry for 5-6 minutes. Drain on rack or paper-towel lined plate when finished. Salt to taste.
    • tips + tricks – Give Them Their Space. Do not add too many at once – fry in batches. This ensures even coloration and crispness. If you happen to pull some before desired doneness, add them back! (Worked for me.)
  5. Rest – Most recipes call for 10-15 minute cool time. … Just don’t burn your fingers or your tongue.
    • tips + tricks – Worth It. I wasn’t that patient. But I also didn’t burn myself. Maybe clean up some of your surroundings while the fries cool. This way, your will power isn’t totally … fried.
  6. EAT – Enjoy salted and plain. As a snack or with a meal. Dress up in a cute cup. Or eat off the grease-stained plate.
    • tips + tricks – You Think You Fancy, Huh. I would include a photograph of my plated fries … except that I devoured them instead. But I did make a garlic mayo (veganaise) and pair it beside ketchup, both of which I placed in bowl and plated amongst my salty, savory, fresh french fries.

* * *

I love fall, and fall snacks might just be my favorite snacks. They’re so comfy + cozy + crispy + yum. What are your fall favs?!?

#fallfavorites
#eatlocal

XO.

Adolescent Seasons + Awkward Transitions: Happy Fall!

{Above Photo: Shit gets awkward when seasons change. … Even my hair’s at an awkward length!}

Summer Into Fall / Summer – both photo sets taken before bed. In summer set, I’m also wearing eyeliner. …Eyeliner doesn’t make that big of a difference, guys. (Season transitions do!)

AUTUMN

ATUMUNAL EQUINOX

FALL

happy fall to all

Fall is, by far, my favorite season. (Least favorite – spring. Not sorry.) Especially in coastal upstate New York (by which I mean coastal-Lake-Ontario + coastal-Finger-Lakes) the beauty of fall awakens a new sort of energy. The cumfy, cozy, + crisp energy. For any bountiful number of reasons, fall is magnificent!

  • fresh apples
  • fruit roll-up colored leaves
  • sweet and sticky smelling breezes
  • inky twilights
  • pumpkin everything
  • gourds
  • orange twinkle lights
  • film {Hocus Pocus, Disney’s Halloween Treat, The Legend of Sleepy Hallow, I could go on …}
  • carmel popcorn
  • haunted houses
  • ghost stories
  • decorations
  • costume parties!
  • Halloween
  • trick-or-treat
  • candy corns

The real reason fall is my favorite?? …Those are the real reasons. But a close second is this little known fact-of-nature:

transitions between seasons are more awkward than adolescence

  1. Crazed hair
  2. Morphing skin tones
  3. Mixed-up wardrobe
  4. Befuddled accessories
  5. Tricky weather

I take at least 20 more minutes each morning, merely because my routine’s thrown into chaos. I wear winter-time pajamas at night because it drops to 40 and my heat’s turned off. I haven’t allocated a fall purse yet, and so I can’t settle things into pockets. There’s a 20 degree weather differential across 12 hours of shortening days and, quite frankly, I dress like a frump to compensate. In short, I’m happy fall has arrived. 

the case for magical thinking

Sure, okay – it’s still 45 degrees when I wake and 75 by the time I eat dinner … . But it’s the mental-frame-of-mind I’m stoked for. There’s just no question, anymore. It is fall. Fall is here. It’s like graduating high school and going to college. The awkward baggage just magically drops right … . Alright, this part isn’t fact-of-nature proof. But at least my frame of mind is.

Now. Who’s got some Shop Local tips + tricks + treats for me this fall??!

#shoplocal

#happyfall

XO.

The Subtraction Project: Back 2 School Lesson 1 … Is Life Adding Up For You??

{Photo taken from the Facebook of The Subtraction Project brain-lady: Cass McCrory.}

THE SUBTRACTION PROJECT

BY: CASS. JUST CURIOUS.

WEBSITE | SIGN UP | FACEBOOK

WHO: Cass McCrory – business woman, strategist, mentor, mom, wife, blogger, writer, web site developer, + #ladyboss.

WHAT: A simple way to help your life add up, everyday.

WHERE: At your digs! With updates online + on Facebook.

WHEN: …When works for you? Newest Subtraction starts this September! (Sign-up now.)

WHY: Mindfulness. For me, this is about setting 15 minutes everyday so that I can practice mindfulness inside and out: in the 2 spaces I frequent most. My mind. And my home.

{ I lifted this from Cass’ Facebook. }

Have you ever been tempted to cut the puzzle piece to fit? What thing to do you need to cut out of the puzzle that is your life right now?
What’s missing? All of the comments of people who, like me, want to minimize. … Why should you join? You tell me!
(How it all adds-up, for me.)
  • Time + space to … subtract the extra in my brain!

Listen, I got a lot going-on up there. {Points to brain.} Clients. Blogging. Strategizing. Planning. Executing. … I recently started jogging again. I’ve done yoga since 2012. I’d like to get back to kickboxing. … I work hard to keep my body in shape. Why not keep the mind in shape, too?

  • No trips to the big box store required

This is the best part! Subtraction Project is free … + it requires no extra supplies. In fact {let me rephrase that}: the best part is … I finally get to get rid of stuff! Stuff. I’m sick of it. And yet, when do I sit down, go through the bags and totes I’ve used  the past 6 months {2 years}, and subtract?? I don’t. The Subtraction Project will help.

  • What time commitment??

As Cass says, “Prompts will be short and sweet taking between 5-15 minutes to complete.” Can you handle that? Because 100%, I can. And, yes, of course you can too. It’s like–putting #Instagram down for 1 hot minute and, instead of scrolling through every last photo that’s in your queue, subtracting some of the extra.

Speaking of…
(Where you can see it add up for me.)
  • Daily.

Find a post on Instagram! Or Facebook. Or Twitter. See how, on 1 of my social media platforms, + you Subtraction Project works for me.

  • Monthly.

Find a longer post + reflection right here! See what I love. See what works. See what doesn’t. See how it helps. See why I laugh + how I’ve channeled the lightness that so many seek.

  • Nightly.

Okay, you won’t see this. But I will. Nightly, I’m excited to see how each + every prompt and exercise helps me. Life’s about meaning, about feeling whole.

* * *
What’s The Subtraction Project mean to you??
#subtractionprojct
XO.