The Oaks at Ojai: The Ultimate Weight Loss and Fitness Spa

Imagine a small town nestled in between rolling golden hills and tall, green mountains. Natural rock formations jut out of the scenery, and the land you’re in has a rich Indian heritage, with citrus groves dotting the scenery. This quaint little town is just an hour and 15 minutes north of Los Angeles; seemingly make believe, a peaceful respite away from sirens and smog, a stone’s throw from the glistening coast in Ventura. Welcome to Ojai!

I had the pleasure of being invited to the Oaks at Ojai Spa for a long weekend, and I attend October 7 and 8th. Initially, I had some concerns about attending a “Weight loss spa” for the first time. I had visions of Biggest Loser style challenges, being surrounded by platters of junk food that I needed to psychologically resist, and carrying giant packs of heavy stuff up a 15-mile mountain. Thankfully, the Oaks at Ojai is not like any stereotype of a fitness or weight loss spa, and it is instead a safe haven of serenity for those looking to relax while improving their health.

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My childhood best friend Katelyn drove up from Sacramento be with me, and we checked into our adorable little casita. It has a private patio with lounge chairs and a table for outdoor dining. Inside the Spanish style door, the decoration was clean and classic, with a gigantic Talavera style bath tub that I couldn’t resist posing in a picture for. There are even organic bath soaps and shampoos! We settled in and then headed over to the dining room for our first health-conscious meal.

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I was super pleasantly surprised at the way the food was made. The Oaks at Ojai uses almost no salt, so if you’re a big salt user, you may at first feel like everything needs salt. I admit at first I wanted to grab a salt shaker, but there wasn’t one – and the home-grown spices helped. The Oaks uses herbs grown onsite for their blends. How’s that for farm to table? There are a variety of spice blends, including vinegar, so if you feel like flavor is lacking you can jazz things up to your liking. I especially liked the salsa that was served several times throughout the weekend; it just had the right touch to add a little heat.

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Let’s talk portion sizes. Of course, the portions must be made for someone the size of a mouse, right? Nope! The portions are generous yet healthful. You’ll never go hungry at the Oaks, and I felt like I ate more (but more healthfully) there than I did at my own home. Between meals, there are broth breaks, with potassium rich broth, set out between exercise sessions, and then a vegetable break, too. The veggie break was my favorite as there were three different types of dip, including a beet hummus and a garlic hummus. Yummy! I also was obsessed with the unsweetened iced teas that were constantly available, including this incredible Meyer lemon iced tea that I should have gotten the brand of, because it was so flavorful. There was also always spa water (Water with fruits or veggies), so I was always hydrated. You even got a popcorn break after dinner for a little post-dessert nosh!

Of course, health means more than just eating well, so the Oaks offers you a robust daily schedule of many different kinds of exercise. The best part is you get to choose what you want to do: so there’s no obligation, but if you wanted to do three or four classes a day, you could, but if you’d rather just relax and do yoga, you can do that too. There are literally classes for every fitness level here, from meditation and gentle yoga to endurance hikes and boot camp. I started my Saturday morning with a cardio bootcamp lead by Gloria. Gloria was funny and motivating, but also encouraged each person in the class to go at their own pace. This is so important in fitness as you really have to listen to your own body. As someone dealing with a heel spur, I knew I needed to go low impact on my left foot, and kick it up with the weights on the arms. Gloria helped me customize the plan when sections of the class just wouldn’t be a good choice for my foot.

 

I had a few hours of free time on Saturday and unfortunately Katelyn was under the weather, so I walked around downtown Ojai (just a few steps across the street from the spa) and bought myself some pottery. Downtown Ojai has a bunch of cute boutiques and there is something for everyone if you’re looking to bring home a sweet trinket for a loved one. After strolling around, I wanted to hit the pool. I was the only person out basking in the sun, and I lazily flipped through a magazine, waded through the pool, and admired the gorgeous scenery around me. It was the ultimate “me time” that I had been craving. I love my husband and kiddo, but it sure was nice to take a few hours to just be still, soaking up the sunshine. After my pool time, I headed back to the spa for some YOGA! I did an hour of a totally peacefully yoga-flow, and I left limber and inspired for our dinner of chicken with peanut sauce and broccoli. Thai inspired and oh so yum! In the spirit of not lying and maintaining authenticity, I will admit that in true Double Chin Diary fashion, I allowed for one indulgence I love, the unsweetened Starbucks Black Tea Lemonade. I admit it, I brought contraband back into a weight loss spa! Haha!

Next up was SPA TIME! I chose to have a body wrap as I had never tried one before. The aesthetician helping me was fantastic about setting my mind at ease, as a body wrap requires full nudity. Say what?! Don’t worry, your parts are covered by a towel at all times, so you’re not just going commando for a show. My treatment began with a coffee bean scrub, helping to draw out impurities and bloat. After being slathered and rubbed with several different concoctions, I was swaddled in a wrap and cozy warm blanket where I snuggled for 15-20 minutes. After being wiped down and cleaned up, I received a wonderful scalp massage, and ended up leaving being TWO pounds lighter than when I had gone in. That’s two pounds of bloating and excess water weight, folks! It’s not uncommon for me (or other PCOS folks) to bloat up to 9 pounds overnight, so I’m not surprised. I felt svelte and slim! Katelyn also had a body wrap and raved about how her skin was unbelievably soft.

Speaking of skin — the Oaks is a Skin Authority Spa. I received some complimentary Skin Authority products, and because my skin is sensitive, my favorite product is the Vitamin C Serum. It fills in fine lines, rejuvenates cells, and sloughs off dead skin. In the week that I’ve been using it, I already feel like my skin is getting a gorgeous glow to it. Definitely ask at The Oaks how Skin Authority can work for you.

After our spa treatment, Katelyn and I headed back to our cozy casita, where we nestled up in our beds and drifted to sleep under a sky full of stars.

I’m so grateful for my experience at the Oaks because it showed me that a vacation CAN be a trip without eating junk food, guzzling booze, and laying around like a slug. I also can now say that any preconceived notions of a weight loss spa being like a fat camp are totally not true. I felt at ease, rested, well-fed, and best, totally pampered and respected at my time at the Oaks. Though the Oaks will run you a bit more than your average hotel (starting at $250 a night), remember that all of your meals, snacks, and drinks are provided. In addition, the fitness classes, steam rooms, pool, and hot tubs are well worth that extra cost. Be sure to look into the specials they’re running – this would make an amazing romantic get away or weekend away with the girls.

So, if you’re looking for a total mind and body reset, the Oaks at Ojai is for you. Pamper yourself, work your body, calm your mind… you’ll do all of that and more at The Oaks. Learn about how you can experience the Oaks at Ojai now!   Also, November 1- 20, experience the BRING A FRIEND DISCOUNT!  It’s twice the fun and a 25% discount for both of you when you share a room!  Workout, chat poolside, explore Ojai and stay up late catching up!  Click here to learn more about this amazing bring a friend deal that Katelyn and I got to enjoy 🙂

 

I was gifted a stay at the Oaks Spa including a spa service and skin care products in exchange for my honest review. I am grateful to the Oaks for the awesome opportunity. It most certainly went above and beyond expectations. 🙂

Body Positivity and Weight Loss: Can you have and want both?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer for the very first time. It’s always fun to connect in person with other members of the blogosphere and learn from their successes (and flops). I was hanging at a protein powder booth at the expo hall, and introduced myself to the brand rep. “Hi, I’m Alyssa,” I said, beginning my usual elevator pitch, “I blog about losing weight without losing my sense of humor, though lately this weight loss blog is more of a weight gain blog because I recently had a baby.” The rep and I chitchatted for a few minutes, and then I turned to leave, when I saw a girl approach me. I knew she was on the younger side as she had that youthful skin that no lotion or potion can give you back. “Hi, I heard you say you’re a weight loss blogger and I have a question for you.” She went on to explain how she struggles finding the balance between being body positive but also wanting to and trying to lose weight. She wanted to know, how did I find balance between the two and what was my perspective on it all? First of all, I asked this girl her age and she’s 17! Seventeen! Wow! Color me impressed for such an awesome, thoughtful query at such a young age.

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The answer to this question is both simple and complicated at the same time. The question, if we reduce it to one direct statement is “Can you still be body positive if you are trying to lose weight?” To that, my answer is yes, yes, and more yes. I’ve actually had a few bloggers snark on me for not “being body positive” because I want to lose weight, but if you go through my blog, I think you’ll find my body positivity is pretty on-point. The key to this equation for me is that I can love myself just as I am, and I should, because once that weight comes off, there’s a lot of me that will still be the same. But more importantly, it’s about loving my body ENOUGH to know that it deserves the very best. For me, the very best is a lighter body — not just for how it will look in size 12 jeans, but to walk miles without my heel spur aching, to get my blood pressure taken without anxiously spiking it, to not fret about fitting in airplane seats or going ziplining.

 

Now, these two things can exist and both be true, and that said, I’m a big advocate of body positivity and am grateful it’s become a “thing” now that I am a mother. Images like this make me so very happy, to be living in a world where different shapes and sizes are becoming more accepted, just like skin color, sexual orientation, and gender.

However, I have to scrutinize a little bit about the body positivity community if those who are wanting to lose weight are being challenged. If we’re advocating for acceptance of all bodies, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be against those who are wanting to make a change to their body? I think that you can love yourself just as you are but still want to make improvements; for example, how my husband adores the heck out of me but really wishes I didn’t need 10,000 reminders to empty the dishwasher. I think perhaps the emphasis of body positivity can shift slightly to be just more positivity in general; with your pants size, your religious beliefs, your diet, your hobbies, whatever makes you YOU. However, I suppose a key difference here is if you’re coming at your body and size with negativity, no confidence, and self-hatred while wanting to lose weight, THAT doesn’t really work as body positivity, ya know?

I guess the point of this is, and what I told that girl, is that you can lose 100 pounds, 5 pounds, or 1 pound — and you might look “perfect”, or whatever the meaning of that word of what we’re desiring really is, and if you haven’t done the hard work on the INSIDE of learning to love the person you are, then you’re not much better off than when you started. We all know happiness comes from within, and it sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you hate yourself at 300 pounds there’s a chance you’ll hate yourself at 100, too. So, I say, rock on with your body positive self, but if you’re wanting to lose weight to feel better or heck, even look better, rock on with your self-loving self. Because there’s nothing more positive than believing in the person you are and were meant to be — regardless of what the number says on the scale.

An update from Alyssa and April: A fresh start in 2016!

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Well hey there! How are ya? Lots has happened  in the past year… mainly that I had a baby! Holly was born on 11.09.15 and is an amazing, sweet, happy little baby. My life has changed dramatically in just two months, and as I suspected, I’m finding that my attitude towards my body and weight loss is changing. The desire to get healthy is even stronger than ever now because it’s no longer just about me – being a healthy Alyssa is being a healthy mom for my daughter. April and I decided over Christmas this year that we wanted to come back to the Double Chin Diary.

Managing a full-time job, marriage, baby, and writing on my blog is going to be a bit difficult, so this year I’m not giving myself any “goals”. It’s simply trying to move to a frame of mind for feeling good. Pregnancy and the post-partum time period does a doozy on the body, so for now, I’m ready to get started with a few simple things; 1) Getting back to gentle exercise, like walking, yoga, and riding my bike, 2) Moving away from sugar, and 3) focusing on self-care like sleep, gardening, and eating nutritious things. That’s all. No goals of “I must lose this much weight by so and so,” because that stuff has never worked for me. I just need to try to do and be better.

A blogger friend of mine has been experiencing some health issues, and she posted this on her Facebook: “To all of you youngsters on my friend list who are carrying extra weight, PLEASE heed my warning and lose the weight … sooner rather than later! We only get one shot at this life, so please don’t waste/throw away years of it being overweight like I’ve done.”

It really resonated with me, and as I approach the ripe old age of 31, no day or time is ever promised. Why wouldn’t I want to spend it feeling great? I’m thrilled that so far mommyhood has been wonderful; I feel happy mentally, and now it’s time to start feeling better physically. My back in particular has been aching a lot since late pregnancy and labor (more details about that later: the chiropractor is my new best friend), so I’m ready to shed some weight to see if that helps.

Feels good to be back… I’ll check in soon with more details about my body during pregnancy and after.  2016: let’s do this! (PS: You can also find me on my other blog, LaLaLyssa.com sharing more lifestyle related things like tales from motherhood, random posts about cats, and other stuff.)

XOXO

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From April:

It has been a year since I stopped writing on the Double Chin Diary. This past year went by quickly as I didn’t have much time to rest with my usual chaotic schedule. I spent 2015 working an assortment of positions at a local humane society, babysitting, and being a full time student. I am proud to say that I’m just one class away from completing an advanced certificate in Environmental Resource Management and Pollution Prevention!

Even though my life was on the constant move, I managed to gain 45 pounds. I know why I gained the weight. I ate for convenience and not health. My idea of exercise was walking from the farthest parking spot in the lot at work. I stopped hiking, playing tennis, and going for walks around the town. I hit my ultimate level of exhaustion and my body took the impact of it.

This year I can’t continue to act the same way. My body just can’t handle any more weight. My legs get all twitchy when I’m tired, just like they used to do 8 years ago before I had lost 50 pounds. I eat Tums like they are the only thing that keeps me alive. I spend my weekends sleeping and cleaning because I’m too tired from the week to do anything productive after work. I need to start making the changes necessary for me to lose weight and regain my health. Plus, with my niece Holly around now, I have even more motivation to get fit.

Alyssa and I have been talking how we need to start writing again on the Double Chin Diary. I never had an extraordinary amount of weight loss while writing here but a major benefit I found was the accountability for myself to do well. I felt like I wanted to have positive things to write about so I was motivated to try harder.

Now that it is a new year and my crazy schedule should be calming down, it is time to start again. I plan to write at least once a week about my adventures of being back at the gym, eating well, and regaining my health. I’ll be using Myfitnesspal.com to track my weight and maybe my food and exercise, if I can be disciplined enough. I need to start COMPLETELY avoiding the foods I’m allergic to (wheat, rice, oats, apples, oranges, and bananas) as I do think my denial of my food allergies over the past four months definitely attributes to my weight gain.

Like so many at the beginning of the year, I am full of great intentions. I hope I can actually fulfill them this year.

Happy 2016 everyone!

Cheers,
AprilSignatur

The F Word

You thought I meant the four letter one, huh? Or the three letter one? Nope! I mean the word FEMINIST.

Most of the time, I love being a woman. In high school, my best friend and I would pore over the book Making Faces, spending hours crafting various looks from tubes of concealer and blushes and eyeshadows. We delighted in the feminine pursuit of shopping and finding clothes that flattered our bodies, made us feel confident, and brought a swing to our step. Even dating was in some ways an exercise in self-acceptance, as we quickly grew to realize what boys really did appreciate the fact that we loved aggressive girl-punk-rock, and which ones actually thought we were just silly girls.

I’ve always had a feminist edge, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m a feminist. I’m still shocked by something that happened to me in college: I was working on my Bachelor’s degree in 2008 at Cal State Northridge, and we had a “women and men in the media” class. My teacher asked everyone in the class who was a feminist to raise their hands. Out of 32 students, one person raised their hand. That person was me. I couldn’t quite understand why being a feminist was seen as such a bad thing. In fact, one of my first boyfriends dumped me because I was a “feminazi” because I told him that females could be DJs just like men, and he felt that DJs should only be male. My definition of feminist is somebody who values, respects, and appreciates that women should have the exact same rights as men. I’m not standing on street corners burning my bra or refusing to shave my legs (though quite frankly, if women want to do that, go for it. (And shaving your legs totally sucks, so I can see the appeal in that,). I once saw a quote that said that all people born from women should be feminists… and I agree.

As I near the end of my pregnancy, I’ve had some time to reflect on body image and beauty standards for women. When other people see you are pregnant, they feel they have a free pass to comment on your appearance as it now pertains to two people: you and a baby. I’m used to rude comments on my appearance as a woman of size, and thankfully while I don’t experience it often (apparently I “carry it well”, another thing I hear a lot), I’ve noticed that as I have just under 4.5 weeks to go, the comments about the size of my body, appearance, and bump are picking up. I also heard comments about my food choices in my early pregnancy, but anyone who dares comment on my dietary choices now might receive a swift kick to the head. I don’t want my daughter to be walking through the mall hearing teenage boys make “oink” sounds behind her back. If she chooses to become pregnant one day, I also don’t want her to have to hear “Wow, you still have four weeks to go? You look ready now!”. I don’t want her to hear about the size of her breasts, how she has such a pretty face, or how things would be better “if only” she lost a little weight. However, I’ve accepted the sad reality that because she is female, she will hear these things. In Amy’s Schumer’s movie, Train Wreck, the main character’s sister shares that she found out her unborn baby is a girl. Amy shares her excitement and says something to the extent of “That’s wonderful!”. Her sister immediately says “No, it’s not! She’s totally screwed!” and Amy says, “Yeah, you’re right, she’s screwed.” The actual dialogue in the movie is much more succinct, but basically the gist of the scene is, yeah, she’s  a female, she’s already got a few challenges stacked against her just because of her gender. While I am thrilled to be having a baby girl, I admit I have some of the same hesitations. I’ve lived an amazing life thus far, but have I experienced sexism or problems because I’m female? You betcha. We all have… and I’m sure even men have experienced things that suck because they’re guys.

Jennifer Weiner wrote this letter to her daughters, and it made me sniffle because it sums up so eloquently what I want my daughter to know. As we’re just weeks away from meeting her, I want her to know it’s ok to be a girl. It’s ok to love the color pink, and it’s also okay to hate wearing a bra. It’s ok to be a feminist. It’s ok to question the status quo, to be angry that she may be reduced to her appearance rather than the sum of her parts. I haven’t even seen her yet and I know that she is beautiful, not because of what she looks like, but because of who she is. She will be courageous, and strong, and intelligent. She will be creative in her own ways, independent in her own ways, opinionated in her own ways. And she will grow up with a mom and dad that encourage her to be herself, and to raise her hand when a teacher asks if she is a feminist. And with any luck, hopefully she won’t be the only person in the room to raise her hand.

It’s not goodbye, but see ya around!

Dear Double Chinners,

When I started this blog over four years ago (wow!), I felt inspired and compelled to chronicle my journey from fat to fabulous. When I started blogging, the ‘fabulous’ part meant that I’d reach my goal weight and flutter off into a land of thinness, where I could eat chips and dip with no ramifications (I still wish for that!). As the years wore on and the journey remained a journey and not a destination, I started to grow a little bit bored of the whole “losing weight” thing. I’ve accepted that my struggles with reaching a healthy weight will be something I’m constantly trying to achieve, and that’s okay.

I decided over Christmas this year that I was ready for a change. I was planning on writing my traditional New Year’s post for this blog, and I was looking back at last year’s New Year’s post. I had already been feeling stifled this time last year, and even wrote that I was considering starting a new blog, since my “weight loss blog” has really been nothing but a “weight maintenance, sometimes loss, and sometimes gain blog”. I was feeling like I was falling out of love with blogging, and that sucked, because I’ve been blogging since I was 14 and I LOVE blogging. So I took some time away from the blog to think. We didn’t break up, but we took a break. And that break was exactly what I needed to decide that while I’m not done blogging, I need a breath of fresh air. I need to get out of the box that I put myself in, and step into a new place– one that’s huge and large and limitless and lets me talk about whatever the heck I want, like travel or makeup or fashion or weight loss with PCOS.

And so, my friends, LaLaLyssa.com was born. I noodled for awhile on a new blog name, and settled on LaLaLyssa.com for a few reasons. First of all, I had purchased AllLyssa.com as a play on words, to be everything and ALL Alyssa, but then I learned that Allyssa.com (one less L) was a porn site. Yeah, no. Too much potential for awkward typos. I was going to blog under my business site, AlyssaCurran.com, but I liked the idea of a cutesy, separate land for all my ramblings. And so I chose LaLaLyssa.com, for a few reasons:

1) I choose to live my life embracing quirkiness, and sometimes I feel like I’m in LaLa Land.
2) I live IN La La Land (Los Angeles).
3) I used to name products, and one of my favorite things I’ve ever named is a popular toy line that starts with the prefix ‘Lala’.

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So there you have it. The Double Chin Diary isn’t going away, but it’s going to quietly simmer on the backburner. Every now and then when I want to write about weight loss or fitness, I’ll probably write a post over here, but will link to it from my new site as well. As I said before, my journey with weight loss is far from over. Despite the number on the scale, I’ve made some amazing progress towards being a healthier me — like being able to walk amost 60 miles in 3 days, and more importantly, learning to love myself despite my weight. I hope you’ll come over and check out what I’m up to at LaLaLyssa.com, because I love hearing what you think. I’ll always be grateful to the Double Chin Diary for giving me a taste of what being a ‘real blogger’ is like, and for opening the door to many exciting and awesome opportunities. I also plan to one day write a book, and that was the reason I started this blog — because I knew one day, I’d have an “after” to match my “before”, and I’d call it the Double Chin Diary. This isn’t goodbye — it’s just see ya later 🙂

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Happy Thanksgiving from the Double Chin Diary!

Wow – I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving. 2014 has been a year of learning, and I’ll reflect on that in a month, but here are some things I’m grateful for today, yesterday, and always.

  • I’m grateful for YOU. Sometimes I feel like this blog is just a creaky old soap box I step up on that nobody reads, but I know that’s not true when I get an email from somebody who says I inspired them to go kayaking even though they’re plus sized, or that they’re newly diagnosed with PCOS and looking for information. A blog is just a diary if it doesn’t have readers, and I’m proud to say the Double Chin Diary is actually a bonified blog. Also, you readers help bring me opportunities – like attending Fitbloggin’ 2015 as one of their social media managers. Hooray! Thank you!

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  • I’m grateful for my health. Sure, sure, I have terrible allergies, PCOS, and the occasional case of anxiety – but for the most part I am healthy, capable, and getting closer every day to this whole being fit thing. Our health is genuinely a gift we take for granted until it’s too late, so I’m glad I can recognize my body, though imperfect, is just fine.

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  • I’m grateful for my family. I’ve been blessed with cool parents, siblings I’m super close with, awesome in-laws, and my sweet husband. They make me a better person every day, and I’m proud to be a Lofgren Curran.

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  • I’m grateful for closure. This year, we lost my mother in law to cancer. Around this time last year, we learned of her diagnosis, and it’s awful that just one year later she’s no longer with us. One of the only positive parts of losing her is that we were able to spend time with her before she passed, to tell her how much we loved her, and how we knew we’d see her again. Many people don’t have this opportunity, so this year, I’m grateful for the fact that no words were left unsaid. I still feel her all around me, like in this amazing rainbow that arched over us as we walked the 3-Day this past weekend.

    Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

    Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

  • I’m grateful for the 3-Day. What may have started as an exciting new job managing social media for the 3-Day has turned into a life-changing experience. Not only do I adore my co-workers and job duties (AND I get to work from home), I feel like what I do has real value in giving back. I walked my first 3-Day this year, raised over $3,300, and saw first hand the impact that this walk has on people facing cancer.

    This is why I walk.

    This is why I walk.

  • I’m grateful for a cozy home. Matt and I have lived in our little bungalow for six years, and while it’s not perfect (who designed a bathroom with the light switch behind the door?!), it’s warm, cozy, and holds our vibrant little family of two adults and two fur babies.560538_10100449850528036_1856930000_n
  • I’m grateful for my friends. There’s friends in my life that have been around since I was a spunky little spitfire (Hey beek!), to friends I met at work (Hi Jason and Juan!), to friends I met in grad school when simultaneously crying and laughing was the norm (Hi Julie, Virginia, Em), to new friends (Aubrey, the Erins, Jenn… the list goes on), to friends I work out with (Hey Susannah!). I have so many awesome friends, way too many to list here, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them and their many endearing quirks.

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  • I’m grateful for travel. This year, thanks to work, I got to see Michigan, Twin Cities, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New York City. Next week, I’ll be on my way to Costa Rica. In March I’ll be going to the Bahamas. Matt and I pinch pennies all year to afford travel, and it’s one of my favorite things. Exploring the world is a great way to relax, rest, and reflect on all these amazing things that make life life.

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    Whereever you are today, I hope you take a quick moment (or a long one!) to reflect on what you’re thankful for. No matter what crappy hand life has currently dealt you, there are people out there who have it much, much worse. Sending you love and light for a wonderful Thanksgiving, and thanks for being YOU.