Burning Man: Helping April get over her fears yet again.

Hello again, readers!

I apologize for my silence over the past two weeks but I have been busy preparing, attending, and recovering from Burning Man. I ended up staying just a few days at the monumental event of around 70,000 people, however, I came home with a bunch of stories and an even more magical embrace of my body image than I had shown up with. Last time I wrote here on the blog, I told my story about my first experience at Burning Man and how dropping my top helped me get over a lot of my self-shame about my body size.

This time at Burning Man, I tested myself even further. I had longed to separate the sexuality aspect away from the ability to just be comfortable in my own skin with no constrictions. My brother Tommy was going to be joining me for this adventure and, you may remember me saying, I was hesitant about getting fully topless in front of him. It just didn’t seem like something I could do. The general American view of women being bare-chested around other people in a non-sexual situation is just not accepted.  Women can barely whip out a boob in a private corner to breast feed her baby without someone gawking at her or making a rude comment about how she needs to “cover up.” As my time progressed on and the desert heat continued to beat down on me like Animal on a set of drums, I started to make small steps in finding my true level of comfort around a sea of strangers. I suggested to Tommy on the second night, “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you just walk about thirty feet in front of me? That way, you won’t see my boobs.” My brother would laugh and walk on as I fell behind to embrace nothingness upon my skin.

On Day 3, our final day there, I decided to just go for it. I had left to go to port-o-potty land and while walking, I decided to take off my uncomfortably itchy bikini top. Instantly, my body temperature dropped and I felt much better. Once back at our truck, my neighbors offered me some coffee and as I went over to talk to them, I covered up my chest and commented how I didn’t want my brother to see as he was a couple hundred feet away taking down our tent set-up. My neighbors, two lovely people from Montana named John and Sherri,  laughed at me and began what became a few hours of amazing conversation and insight on how to live life. They broke down for me so simply how silly I was being and that if I wanted to do something, I should just do it, and surely my brother would get over it. I also remarked how eventually my brother will probably see a kid attached to one of my boobs so I might as well get it over with now.

After talking to these Burning Man angels of wisdom, I decided to approach Tommy. I went up to him all confident and stated my claim, that I wasn’t going to be afraid today to just let it all hang out. As the amazing brother he is, he said something that gives me happy tears as I write this. He said, “April, I’m pretty sure the only one who cares about me seeing your boobs is you.” I instantly felt a million times more confident and for the rest of the afternoon, I paraded around not only topless but just in a bikini bottom and my hand-sewn white hooded cape. I even got noticeably checked-out so that made me feel great too until they would notice Tommy and IMMEDIATELY turn away.

Words of advice: If you don’t want any attention from the opposite sex at a large social event:  make sure you go with your sibling – everyone will think you’re married. This concept also works with friends as well.

Once I got home my ability to just be comfortable with my body didn’t leave. That night, as I laid in bed with Alyssa (who was in town hosting our honorary sister Katelyn’s bridal/bachelorette parties), I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that I was sans-shirt and totally talking to both girls with no shame at all. I didn’t even give it a thought until Alyssa  commented on the noticeable difference I was showing as she knows first hand my insecurity about my chest. Now that it’s been a week since I got home, I haven’t exactly been running around topless in the house, but I don’t seem to be as self-conscious about bits of skin showing. If my shirt accidentally comes up a bit and my love-handles show, I’m not so aggressive when it comes to getting my shirt pulled back down immediately. I went to the doctor the other day and as I sat there in my luxury giant drape of medical paper-towel, my bare ass totally exposed for the doctor to see, I quickly shushed my inner thoughts of body shame and had an epiphany. I realized, if anything, getting to see my lower parts was probably like visiting a princess’s palace in comparison to the hundred’s of different bodies she sees in a year. I may be overweight but I bet she would rather see my bare ass than that of a 85 year old man. So I got over it and left the doctor feeling proud of myself for putting myself in check so quickly.

How are all of you when it comes to nudity in a non-sexualized way? If you’ve breast fed, have you ever had feelings of insecurity about doing it in a public place? Have you been one of the women that has been ridiculed by an unpleasant human uncomfortable with the milk of life? Would you be able to be topless around your siblings?

Let me know, I would love to hear about the way other people view this topic!

Have a wonderful Thursday everyone and thanks for reading!

Love and bare chests for all,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

PS – Here are a bunch of photos from Burning Man for your viewing pleasure <3

 

Two men – both impressive in their own ways – Random stranger, I’m sorry I didn’t get your permission to take this photo but you definitely add to the artistic integrity of this photo.

 

The Temple – A place where people can honor those who have passed on as well as a place to leave behind anything you are ready to release from

 

Our tent battling the wind. This is a wonderful place called “walk-in” camping… a chance to camp with a bit of peace – NOT quiet – sound travels way too far in the desert.

 

Tommy during one of the many quick dust storms.

Art shark.

Art shark.

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a "before" shot for my future weight loss success!

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a “before” shot for my future weight loss success!

My favorite art car – CHARLIE THE UNICORN! Click the picture to see the internet video this was inspired from.

 

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

A sweet art car in the desert.

A sweet art car in the desert.

Bone tree.

Bone tree.

 

And finally, that gorgeous Nevada sky.

 

10 Miles Training for the 3-Day — This is where it hurts!

Hello!

I’m currently lying in my bed, aching and sunburnt with all sorts of crazy stripes thanks to my roll-on sunscreen, but this is a good thing because today I accomplished a major goal in my 3-Day training — I walked 10 miles! My husband and I had planned on taking a weekend constitutional, but I was thinking maybe an easy five or six miles. We decided to walk from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach, which the interwebz said was about 4.4 miles round trip. Perfect! Our friend Jason came along, and we ended up parking about a mile north of the pier. Somehow, with all of our weaving in and out of little trinket shops and stopping at Muscle Beach, we ended up closing in on about 8.2 miles. Jason and Matt encouraged me to seal the deal.. so we kept going to mile 10, even though my legs were screaming at me to stop.

Now that I have a few long distance walks under my belt, I’m learning a few important things.

1) Thou shalt wear thy compression socks at all times. Today I didn’t, and my dogs are BARKING. In fact, I even took this photo for you at about mile 6 to show you that compression sockless walks are not the business. I have one pair of compression socks, but it’s time to expand my compression sock wardrobe and get another pair, because the difference in foot pain is staggering. Any recommendations on brand?

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2) Thou shalt stretch more and more often. When we were ‘fake done’ at mile 8.2, I took a few minutes to really stretch, and it felt soooo good. It might even be time to get into foam rolling. I need to make time to stretch more often, maybe every three miles or so, if not more frequently. Do my runners/walkers have any thoughts on stretching? I know you do.

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3) Thou shalt continue hydrating. We have a phrase on the 3-Day that is “Drink, Pee, No I.V.” meaning, if you hydrate, you have a good chance of staying away from the medics. This is important for many reasons, and a lesson I learned again today while doing my 10 miles in the 85 degree heat. I stopped at one point to get a Gatorade and was so glad I did. Your body really does need those electrolytes and salts.

4) Thou shalt reapply sunscreen. I use an SPF 70 roll-on sunscreen from Neutrogena. I didn’t do a very nice job applying it today, because I have some pretty wild tiger stripe burns (See above). Also, if you sweat like you’re in a sauna, you probably need to reapply. Lesson learned.

5) Thou shalt push thyself a little bit harder. I was done, like really done, at mile 7. My foot was cramping, there was a stabbing pain all around the edge of the arch of my foot, and I was hot, ornery, and getting grouchy. I kept going because being hot, ornery, and grouchy is better than having cancer. (Obviously, I’m no doctor — if you’re in pain and you don’t think you can keep going, don’t! I just powered through because I knew I could.) My word for 2014 was perspective. If there’s one thing I can thank 2014 for, it’s a huge dose of perspective. My “hard” at that moment was nowhere near the “hard” someone who is sick has to deal with on a daily basis. I can power through it. And I did, with the encouraging praise from my husband and Jason.

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I’m so excited to be getting this far in my journey; and now the hard part is thinking “Um, I have to do that TWICE in one day? Three days in a ROW?!” However — I know that a huge part of my success with the 3-Day is one I’m so close to finishing — getting $2,300 in funds donated to help fund cancer-fighting research. Today I crossed the $2,000 mark, which means I have only $300 to go. If you’d like to support me on my journey, or April or Monique on hers, please click the links in this sentence. Every step of the way, every sunburn, every foot ache, we’re making a difference. <3

How do I love Avocados? Let me count the ways.

So even though it’s September, I still haven’t come down off of the epic high that was winning the California Avocado Commission Cutting Edge Culinary Contest! I wanted to share with you guys what I’ve been up to with all of my awesome prizes. For three months, I get a monthly shipment of ripe California avocados. The first month I didn’t plan well, and ended up giving away many avocados, which made for many happy neighbors and friends. However, I did have this recipe set aside from Yoga magazine that has just five ingredients: avocado, cocoa, honey, coconut milk, and vanilla. I was amazed at how delicious these little fudgsicles were — you’d never guess that avocado was a primary ingredient, and they were so rich and clean tasting.

Coconut Avocado Honey Fudgsicle Recipe Yoga Magazine

Alyssa’s take on Avocado Fudgsicles

I’ve also fulfilled my life’s quota of avocado toast, but that’s not really true because I could probably eat avocado toast every day for the next year and still want more. There’s nothing like some toasted sourdough with mashed avocado, sea salt, and pepper, and if you’re feeling really fancy, you’ll top it with a fried egg. Isn’t this droolworthy?(Newsflash: I’ve only just now gotten into “Dippy eggs”. I used to be one of those people that thought you’d get sick if you ate a runny egg yolk. It’s not true…at least not so far, anyways!)

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Now that I’ve either made you hungry or grossed you out, let’s talk about prizes! My beautiful new white Kitchenaid is enjoying its new home in my kitchen and has been used several times already, to make a gluten-free cake, brownies, and a marinara sauce. I also scored a Williams Sonoma giftcard, and with that, I made several purchases, including:

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Nordic Ware Honeycomb Pull-Apart Dessert Pan – There’s no reason I got this other than the fact that I love bees, and I wanted it (it was on sale, too!). I’ve also kinda always wanted a NordicWare pan because I’ve heard you could try and blast them to smithareens and barely make a dent… and it’s true. This thing fell on my kitchen floor the other day and it looks great… the tile it fell on, however? Not so great. Goodbye, rental deposit. Hello cute novelty cakes.

KitchenAid 5-Quart Glass Bowl with Lid – My fellow avocado queen Kelly suggested this to me and I’m so glad she did. I’ll often times bake something and have leftovers that I don’t really want to swap out into a different container. The lid is great and it’s way prettier for photographing!

Top Shelf Living – Slate Cheese Board – 10″ X 14″- I’ve been having a wild love affair with cheese the last year, and having a slate cheese board makes me feel all “Oooh, you fancy.” This one came with chalk so I can write the name of said cheeses, which will usually be, “Brie, Gouda, Cotswold, Cheddar.” The end. (And there’s something about how slate keeps cheese at their natural temperatures yadda yadda but I just think it looks cool.)

The Spice Lab Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt, Island of Cyprus 2 oz. – Impulse buy! I’d never seen lemon sea salt, so in the basket it went. I just had this on top of a tomato slice fresh from the garden, and holy heck, was it yummy.

Chef’n Stem Gem Strawberry Huller - Totally worth $7 and adorable. I hate cutting strawberry tops, and on the occasion that I want a strawberry without the flat top, I have this handy tool. Also can be used for tomatoes.

Chef’n Buttercup Butter Maker – Another impulse buy. Everything is better with butter, and I fantasized about making my own butter with honey or herbs. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to use this yet but I’ll give you the full report when I do.

So there you have it! That’s how I spent some of my giftcard from the lovely people at California Avocado Commission. I still have some funds left that I may put towards another Le Creuset item, but we shall see. I’m not being compensated to talk about any of these products, I just wanted to update you on a day in the life of an Alyssa spending spree. These links are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on them I might make 4 cents, but that’s all. What would you buy with $150 for kitchen stuff? Also, am I missing out on any amazing avocado recipes? Do tell!

 

Alyssa Got Her Groove Back

Heeeey! *Dusts off a few spider webs, then sits down next to you*

How’s it going? I know I’ve been gone for awhile, but I’m back! I’ve been super busy the past few weeks traveling around the country for work, helping kick cancer’s butt with the 3-Day. I’m lucky that I find the work I do immensely fulfilling, and I spent many long weekends hearing and telling people’s stories. Love, love, love it!

Being on the road when you’re in a perpetual state of trying to lose weight can be challenging. In addition to working long hours, there’s the fact that you have a per diem, and sometimes, the only food around you in the area in which you’re traveling is fast food like Popeyes. (And I’m not going to lie – I do find a buttery Popeyes biscuit quite delicious.) While I was in Michigan and Minnesota for work, I tried to just tell myself that I could make an unhealthy decision if there didn’t seem to be any other options, but that I needed to make up for it with exercise. And exercise, I did! My job while out on the road is very active: as I’m documenting people doing the 60-mile walk, I also get a fair amount of walking in. At one point, I walked 11.25 miles in one day! I tried to stay away from too many of the delicious snacky items like potato chips, and tried to nom on fruit whenever possible.

Happily, my efforts weren’t in vain, because when I got back from my last trip, I had an endocrinology appointment to see how everything was going. I hadn’t weighed since a month prior, and I’m happy to report I’m down another six pounds! This is roughly 22 – 25 pounds since the beginning of this year, and while it’s slow progress (sometimes only two pounds lost per month), this is PROGRESS. As I’ve written about before, weight loss is challenging as is, and then add a double dose of PCOS and thryoid crap, and you’ve got a perfect storm for frustration after lots of good effort. However, I’ll take it. I feel like I’m finally in a groove again with weight loss, realizing that if something doesn’t taste worth it, I don’t need to eat it, AND, that if I stick to my PCOS medication regularly, that will help keep me on track. I sometimes avoid it because it makes me nauseous, but I’m starting to see that it’s an important ally for me in the weight loss war.

I’ll be taking some new progress pictures hopefully sometime this week, but when the nurse at the doc’s office told me my weight, I had a sudden burst of victorious glee. I know that I still have a long, long, long way to go, but every day and every choice that I make can help put me just one tiny step closer to the person and place I want to be :)

 

I can not eat-eat-eat apples or bananas

It’s been a little over two months now since I found out my food allergies. I’ve been plagued with constant headaches and tummy problems my whole life but never considered it to be from the food I was eating nearly every day. I had cut out processed crap years ago so it just didn’t make sense to me how I could eat “clean” for a week yet still have a headache nearly every day.

Finally, after a blood test, the results came back saying I was allergic to wheat, rice, oats, apples, oranges, and bananas. I also am apparently right on the border line with eggs, cow dairy, corn, and CHOCOLATE.

Since finding out about the wonderful things I should no longer enjoy, I have drastically reduced everything and have noticed a dramatic change. I can not choose which food has really been the hardest thing to give up as I loved all of it. Since I’m on the border of the eggs, dairy, chocolate and corn – I have yet to even attempt giving those things up. I just don’t want to. Giving up the rest of the foods has been a challenge enough and with how great I’ve been feeling since making the change – I just don’t see a need to give up my border-line foods just yet.

I’ve lost twelve pounds in the past two months and I credit 80% of that weight loss from getting rid of my allergens. Of course, all the training walks I have been doing and having a routine food schedule from my summer job certainly helped however I am positive the food has made the biggest change. Besides the weight loss, not having to take ibuprofen nearly every day or carry tums in my pocket has been amazing.

What has freaked me out the most is what happens when I cave and eat one of the things I am allergic too. I had an enchilada at work two weeks ago, hoping it was made with corn. Within twenty minutes, I had a raging headache and within three hours, my head was worse than it had been in a long time. Six hours after the initial enchilada, I was completely congested as if I had a horrible cold.

Last Thursday night I have three small cocktail glasses of blood orange soda, a BIG favorite treat of mine. I didn’t experience any symptoms that night but the next morning I awoke with a headache that cradled the whole front part of my skull. The headache wasn’t gone until I woke up the next morning.

It’s things like that which make me realize that my sensitivity to certain foods is a real thing. I’ve mostly accepted it but I’m still somewhat in denial. I think most of my denial comes from the weirdness being that apples, bananas, and oranges are such “normal” fruits so I just don’t understand how I could be allergic to them. I can get the wheat – and even the rice and oats – because those are all grasses. Outside grass has ALWAYS been horrible on me in the sense of hay fever so obviously consuming it would be devastating for me too.

For those of you who have food allergies too – what was it like for you when you found out? What kinds of allergies do you have?

Have a fabulous Wednesday everyone, I’ll be back with another blog Friday as Alyssa is off working on the FIRST 3-day walk in Detroit happening this weekend. Did you guys know she is less than $900 from reaching her $2,300 goal? I know I still need a ton of money towards my goal – but in case you’d like to help Alyssa get to her goal since she’s already so close – click here for her page!

Bye bye!

 

AprilSignatur

 

 

Blissfully Unplugged: Camping in Lopez Lake

Hello everyone! This weekend, I went camping for my third annual grad school girls camping trip (here are the posts from 2012 and 2013). I met these ladies in grad school, and we quickly bonded over an insatiable need for caffeine, the horrors of mass communication theories, and how many times we cried each week. I jest (kind of. grad school aint for sissies). We drove north from Los Angeles to Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, which is about an hour south of San Luis Obispo. Our campsite was “Buck 12″ and was on a shady hill looking over the madmade Lopez Lake, surrounded by oak trees. Isn’t this beautiful?

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We set up our tent on Friday night and made a fancy gourmet dinner of fire-roasted hot dogs and chili cheese fritos, in addition to s’mores. In typical Alyssa fashion I enjoyed the indulgence at the time, but later paid for it when I woke up at 1 a.m. in a swirly nauseous junk food haze. I was really excited this camping trip to try out my new Klymit Static V Camping Mattress because for the past two years I’ve relied on a yoga mat or towel to shield my soft body from the unforgiving rocks. This year I splurged a little and got this camping mattress, which comes to you the size of a Nalgene water bottle, you blow it up with 15-20 breaths, and BOOM! Instant mattress. I was really happy and surprised with how durable and comfy this thing is… and it totally doubles as a fashionable skirt. See?

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We woke up the next morning and headed out on what was supposed to be a 1.1 mile hike, but ended up being about four miles because we got lost several times trying to actually find the trail. It was all good training for the 3-Day, especially because it was in hills, in the middle of the day, in the sun. While we tried to find the trail, we enjoyed seeing the numerous deer at the campground who were totally unafraid of humans.

Deer_LopezLake

We finally made our way to Blackberry Trail and were so excited we had to take a picture with the sign. The hike was beautiful, with lots of fluttery butterflies, shady fern groves, and brambles of berries. Because we’re awesome, we actually got on to another trail after some other hikers had told us they had seen a bear on it (Yes, we wanted to see a bear!). Sadly, we did not run into any California Black Bears, though I did hear one huffing and puffing around our tent later that night (bears have a very distinct huff n’ puff style breathing. See?)

Hiking_BlackberryTrail

Training for the 3-Day has really shown me how important the right shoes are, and I was happy for this hike to be wearing my Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Air Mesh Hiking Shoe. I actually won these on Facebook (and so did my friend Julie – see? She’s wearing hers, too!), and I have to say I’m loving this shoe for hikes. They have plenty of support around the arch and toe box, and the grip was great as we scaled up loose dirt and tip-toed down shale-covered ravines. Plus they come in cute colors in a size 11, which is actually a big deal because most shoe manufacturers stop making cute things past a size 10 (thanks, Ahnu!).

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After our hike, we schlepped back down the mountain to the Marine store, treated ourselves to a well deserved cheese burger, and then hiked all over the campground again to go lay on the lake beach for a few hours. Sprawling in the sun felt SO GOOD. Then, it was back to our campsite for dinner for night 2 – ceasar salad and JIFFY POP! Jiffy Pop is kind of the best thing ever when you’re camping, just because it’s so fun to make over a fire. You basically shake it like crazy and then watch the foil on top turn into this huge martian head filled with delicious buttery corn.  It’s worth the $2. Do it!

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I think I so badly needed this camping trip because early Saturday morning, my phone ran out of battery and I was able to super unplug for the whole weekend. As much as I love tweeting and instagramming, there’s nothing like taking a break from being “on” and spending time really being present, like the amazing colors in this sunset, or the tiny tomato plant growing in the camp water fountain — or, even better, laughing with my friends!

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When was the last time you went camping? Are you a fan of camping or is it not for you? I definitely love camping but have learned over the years it’s better to go a little closer to “glamping” and splurge on things like a sleeping pad, bringing a table cloth for the camp, and choosing a campground with showers. Those little things can make a big difference in your comfort level! What did you do this weekend?

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*I was not compensated in any way to write about the sleeping pad or Ahnu shoes, just wanted to share two things that made my trip less campy and more glampy. There are affiliate links in here which will earn me a few pennies if you end up deciding to check either item out :)