Healing in Heels

With 2018 around the corner and many women looking to make some changes in their food and lifestyle habits, I decided to interview Melissa Botten, a wellness guru who incorporates holistic healing through food and movement with her company, Healing In Heels.

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M: What made you decide to start Healing In Heels?

MB: I literally looked down at my swollen, arch-damaged feet and decided I needed to heal them. I was wearing high heels that day – really cute expensive ones that I found on sale – and I realized I was ready to leave my career in corporate fashion and work on healing my feet and healing in general. I started doing lots of research on Plantar Fasciitis, bunions, and herbal remedies for feet. I found ways to treat my swollen toes, mend my damaged heels, and improve the sides of each foot. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to a woman who has since become like a mother to me. We began working on her healing journey by eliminating meat, dairy, sugar, and processed foods from her diet. With the elimination of those items, we added strong vegan proteins, lots of nutrient-dense foods, and meditative breathing. She was super dedicated to trying anything I recommended to her and saw positive results quickly. Within a couple of months, she went from having difficulty breathing and thinking she was going to die, to doing yoga, hosting gatherings, taking long walks, and laughing with her friends again.

M: That’s great! Have you always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen?

MB:  I started cooking with my dad and grandmother when I was a little girl. They taught me recipes that are special to our family. As I got older, I started learning about different Italian dishes from my aunts and uncles who lived in New York. So I guess we really are a family of chefs! My company, Healing in Heels, grew out of my desire to help people heal through yummy cuisine, organic and natural herbs, and colorful presentation. After all, food should be good for you and delicious, but it should be beautiful too.

M: How do you make healthy taste so delicious? Do you have any favorites or “Go-To” meals for busy women on the go?

MB: That can be challenging for anyone! You know, I’ve been at this for a few years professionally, but I have been using cooking as a modality for healing my mind and body my whole life. I’ve learned the fresher and more natural the ingredients are, the more delicious the food is to even the most discriminating client’s palate. Anything you can put on collard greens or in a vegan gluten-free wrap with fruits and vegetables is probably my favorite Go-To meal. I also enjoy making muffins with five simple ingredients. They’re so amazing, I’m afraid to leave my house at night with a basket of them because someone might accost me just for those darn muffins!

M: I need to try the muffins! What about women over forty? How does healthy eating help?

MB: Women in their 40s, 50s, or even their 60s are all experiencing different hormonal shifts and trying to figure out the necessary steps to get them through these stages in their lives. There’s definitely a transition with each decade and for some, it’s easier than for others. Our hormones can be really out of whack from things like childbirth and menopause or acute and chronic stress and medications. It can be difficult to regulate our body temperatures, keep our bones strong, and ensure all our parts inside – big and small – function properly. In addition to this, a lot of women feel their emotions and stress levels are hard to control and are exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically. A good place to start is by adding nutrient-dense food, herbs, and spices to their diet to either help prevent or minimize some of these symptoms. Teaming up with Mother Nature is great because even if you don’t feel like something is working or it’s taking too long, you’re still making healthier choices in your daily routine and getting a vitamin or two out of it as an added perk! If targeted nutrient food healing is needed, that’s where I’d suggest a customized diet or menu for helping to heal specific ailments in the body.

M: You’re a single mom of two. How do your girls influence your work?

MB: My children influence everything! I made a conscious decision when I decided to really take charge of my life and embark on a journey of healing. I healed from the loss of my parents and my divorce. I healed insecurities from past relationships that had been hindering my growth. I knew that I had to follow a path that was true to who we are as a family and who I am as a person – one that would influence healthy living for the three of us – especially since my girls were still so small at the time. If I keep the house positive and make it a nurturing environment then that’s what the girls are going to experience and want to emulate when they’re older too. When I’m consistent they feel safe and comfortable. I’m selective when it comes to food we keep in the refrigerator and in the kitchen, but I offer the girls choices and explain the reasons behind each option. I don’t believe in depriving them of things to eat but we do limit our indulgences to an acceptable level that works for our family’s needs.  Both of them volunteer with me in the community, help me cook, clean up around the house, and care for our dogs. We create recipes together, we paint together…I really do credit them for a lot of my inspiration, creativity, and success.

M: I know you’re based in Southern California, but you are able to Skype and travel to clients all over the country, right? How do people contact you for a consultation?

MB: Yes, I’m based out of Long Beach, California. Ideally, I prefer to meet people in person because one-on-one connecting is vital when a woman is choosing a supportive partner to help in her healing journey. However, I know some people live in other cities and states so I offer consultations over the phone, via FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom too. Curious friends, new referrals, or prospective clients can find me at my Healing In Heels website or through social media on my Instagram or Facebook pages. There’s a contact form they can submit which goes directly to me. After I receive it, I’ll reply and we can discuss the next steps to connect.

M: What’s a typical weekday for you? Is there such thing in your line of work?

MB:  It differs slightly depending on the day. I share custody of my children with my ex-husband but I’m very involved in their day-to-day and after-school activities. Plus, we have two puppies so the needs of the dogs are also figured into my schedule. Weekdays are reserved for clients when the kids are in school. I coach over the phone or in person and do home visits too. Some days, I may have a private cooking lesson scheduled with an individual client I’m coaching or a group I’m teaching. Since so much of my volunteering, special event guesting, and community projects are done on weekends, I’m also mindful to keep one day a week just for myself so I can do things that nurture my own soul like meditation, yoga, and roller skating.

Rape Culture didn’t start with #MeToo

While the #MeToo movement has made successful inroads in opening up more discussions about consent and sexual assault in this country, it’s wise to remember that Rape Culture has existed here since America’s founding. What is Rape Culture, you ask? Basically, it’s a sociological concept that describes a society in which rape and sexual assault is normalized because of the social mores centered around gender and sexuality. Some modern-day examples of this include, but are not limited to: victim blaming, sexual objectification, denial of rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, and trivializing rape or assault.

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One of the things that really frosts my cookies with critics of this current atmosphere is when I hear them question the timing of the victim’s reveal or accusation. It’s even more frustrating when those seeds of doubt are sown by other women. I often ask myself if these female naysayers are completely daft or deliberately obtuse. Either way, it’s maddening. Women should be rallying to help other women and to hold the line together.

It’s naïve to think that with the Fifteenth Amendment in 1919 and much later, the Women’s Movement, this kind of archaic mentality in the United States ceased to exist. Even now, with the #MeToo movement, we hear women being blamed and shamed for ruining the careers of famous men everywhere from the Silicon Valley and Hollywood to the United States government and institutions of higher education. Rape Culture reinforces the belief that women are merely property and second class citizens. It’s irresponsible and dangerous.

I find it tragic that while we encourage and applaud inspirational women like Oprah, Brene Brown, and Sheryl Sandberg, we vilify the brave victims who have survived rape or sexual assault and question the validity of their claims and agenda. Apparently, it’s too uncomfortable to have to think about heinous male behavior and it’s much easier to just subjugate women instead. Words like “hysterical” and “manipulative” to describe women in Rape Culture (the etymology of both words are not lost on me, BTW) infuriate me. They add insult to injury both literally and figuratively.

The figures from RAINN are sobering:

Out of 1,000 cases of rape, 994 perpetrators walk free. 

Two out of three cases of rape are never reported because of the victim’s fear of retaliation or that their account won’t be believed.

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If another woman is telling you her story, listen. Use it as an opportunity to support her and to bear witness to her pain. Don’t dismiss or diminish what you may not understand. Encourage her to report the crime if she hasn’t already. Let her know she’s not alone.

To find out how you can do your part to help end Rape Culture check out these websites:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

AVP  (The Anti-Violence Project)

NSVRC  (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)

Make time for yourself. Yes, really.

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Self-care seems to be the phrase du jour right now and rightly so. It’s about time humans started realizing the importance of loving themselves. I know that for me, personally, it’s difficult to fill other people’s cups when my own pitcher is running on empty. Women are taught from a very young age to nurture and care for others – from our toy dolls we bathe and clothe in tiny outfits, to our Easy-Bake ovens with a nod to society’s gender roles surrounding a woman’s place being in the kitchen.

One of the classes I lead centers around the need for Self Love and Self Care. Not surprisingly, many women feel guilty or embarrassed to think they deserve either of these things. They have learned to put themselves last on the ladder and everyone else in their lives above them – husbands, boyfriends, parents, children, even their pets. Often, this turns into resentment, anger, or even sadness. It’s truly a beautiful thing — that moment during the workshop when I see the light in a woman’s eyes change and I know that she finally gets it and understands that she is worthy of love and care. Just as with career professionals needing to take continuing credit classes for their respective fields, it’s imperative that women take time to recalibrate and decompress from Life’s daily grind.

Here are a few simple examples of rituals that aren’t complicated but will touch a part of you that you’ve forgotten to nurture. They will make you reflect on simple joys and they will offer you a glimpse of the beauty that your soul needs to experience regularly in order to thrive. They range from ten minutes to several hours. None of them are exhausting physically or emotionally. ALL OF THEM will show you the importance of creating time for yourself.

  • Sit outside and look at the stars or the clouds and just appreciate the vastness of the Universe and time.
  • Take a different route to work, to the grocery, or somewhere you go regularly. The change of scene is a nice break from your routine.
  • Laydown on the grass, the sand, or the yoga mat and try to connect with the Earth. Close your eyes and imagine roots spreading down through your body below. Let go of all the other stuff above the surface.
  • Get some cuddle time in with your furbaby. Pets are soothing and the touch therapy will be good for you. Focus on the unconditional love your animal has for you. Try to remember to give that same love to yourself.
  • Do you have a garden? If so, go outside and appreciate it, weed it, prune it, cultivate it – whatever. Marvel at its growth and beauty. Sample a succulent fig or find a pretty flower to put in a vase. These are things YOU’VE grown. Be proud of that accomplishment.
  • Take a bubble bath or a linger in a hot shower. Enjoy the water and the time alone. Light some candles, maybe even pour yourself a glass of bubbly. Picture yourself soaking or washing away the everyday stress or issues that are currently bothering you.
  • Draw, color, paint, craft, take some photographs. Use your hands and appreciate that you’re physically able to create. No one expects Picasso or Ansel Adams.  Revel in your own unique abilities.
  • Take a walk outside. Yes, even if it’s just around your block or the neighborhood park. Feel the air outside hit your cheeks or the sun warm your shoulders. Look at the other people you see strolling by. Appreciate the colors and the smells of your neighborhood. Smile at strangers and watch them smile back.
  • Stretch. Even if it’s just before getting out of bed and not necessarily a full yoga or pilates session. Take note of your body’s strength.
  • Breathe in and hold it for a few counts and then exhale. Repeat. Concentrate on your breath and being in the moment. Inhale all the positive in your life and exhale all the negative. Breathing has been scientifically proven to change your brainwaves from betas to alphas.

 

Pandora would be pleased with any of these boxes.

It’s the holiday season so why not give yourself a gift to celebrate all the magic and fabulousness that is you? In the hustle and bustle of running around shopping for everyone on your prezzie list, it’s important to allow yourself to be pampered a bit too. Each month, you’ll get a gentle reminder of how awesome you are with a subscription to a club that delivers a little box of happiness to your door. As women, we get so caught up in making sure everyone else feels special and loved this time of year that often, we forget that we deserve to dote on ourselves a little bit too. Below, are a few of my faves.

  1. Kawaii Box – Kawaii is the perfect gift for the woman who loves a little fun kitsch in her life. Fun items from  Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Pusheen, My Melody, and the like fill the box with everything from pencils, coin purses, and mirror compacts to bracelets, travel pillows, and water bottles. Each month 8-10 handpicked items are delivered to your door.
  2. Globe In – Globe In is a great way to help on an international scale because all of the products in this club are sourced from artisans and farmers in countries around the globe. Money from your membership goes to support their livelihood. There’s different levels to choose from, but they’re all great. Some examples of items you’ll receive are handpainted mugs, organic chocolate bars, palm leaf baskets, and handblown wine glasses.
  3. Hygge – “Hygge” is the Danish word meant to acknowledge a feeling or a moment that’s extraordinarily charming or lovely. It’s become the word du jour for hip travelers and those who want to experience that state of bliss that comes naturally to Scandanavians. This club promises atmosphere and things that will make you feel cozy: candles, books, hot cocoa, cookies, etc. Delivery is twice monthly.
  4. Mindfulness Box – Need a little Zen in your life? Then this is the subscription for you. Mindfulness Box memberships are about connecting with yourself and products include a wide array of self-care lovelies like geodes, sage for smudging, candles, mala bead bracelets, affirmation cards, crystal charging plates, energy clearing sprays, Yogi tea, and books by authors like Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown, and others.
  5. The Wordy Traveler – This club is pricier than some of the others, but totally worth it if you dream of exotic and romantic places in dreamy spaces. With this subscription, members get a new location every quarter and three books that are curated to represent the destination, an ethically sourced tea that symbolizes the region, and a custom art print to inspire their sense of wanderlust. The best part? With each membership purchase, the company donates some of the proceeds to girls and women around the world needing assistance with access to education.
  6. Love With Food – If you’ve got gluten allergies and/or prefer organic food, this is the club for you! For $19.99/month you get a box that includes gluten-free goodies and snacks that are totally organic with yummy items like pasta, tepenades, dark chocolate sea salt brittle, and banana caramel pancake batter. In addition to all the super yummy food, for every box purchased, Love With Food donates a meal to feed a hungry child.
Box Clubs _ Lipstick-Republic[pic credit: CrateJoy]

Women need our help.

I wish I could tell you that the items in this post weren’t real and that it’s just a satirical piece. Unfortunately, I can’t do that because the laws described below are VERY REAL items of legislation around the globe. I was horrified by all of them, but felt compelled to share them with you because women need to stand together to oppose this sort of tyranny.

  • In Lebanon, any man who rapes or kidnaps a woman cannot be prosecuted if he opts to marry the woman after the act is committed.
  • In terms of bequeathment, women in the country of Tunisia inherit only half of what their male siblings do when a parent dies.
  • If a man catches his mother, sister, wife, or daughter in the act of what he deems as “an illegitimate sexual act or behavior” in the country of Syria and murders her, the maximum amount of prison time he can receive is seven years.
  • In Iran, if a dispute goes to court, a woman’s testimony isn’t as valuable as a man’s in the eyes of the law. So, in especially severe or heinous cases, a minimum of four women and (only) two men must testify.
  • In Cameroon, a husband can prevent his wife from taking a job if he views it to be unfavorable to him.

FORTY-SIX countries have no laws protecting women from domestic violence. Some of them include: Algeria, Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Haiti, Iran, Latvia, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mali, Niger, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in 3 women (that’s 35%!) on the planet are the victims of physical abuse and sexual violence. We must put an end to this brutality.

What can you do to help? Groups like United Nations (UNWomen.org) and Human Rights Watch (HRW.org) are fighting hard to help women worldwide. Check out their sites and see how you can volunteer or donate.

 

 

Hello. I love you. Won’t you tell me your name?

We all have an idea of who we are as people. Younger people often confuse their real identity with who they want to become. Although to be fair, I’ve seen older people do this too so it’s not like Millennials have a monopoly on this behavior. Are you as big a believer in spirituality as your girlfriends at yoga class and in solstice festival you attended believe? Are you as open-minded in real life as you espouse to be online or at cocktail parties? These are just a few examples for the sake of this post and there’s no right or wrong answer – only you know the truth.

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I had theories of who I thought I was for most of my life from about age 18 till about 33 when I realized I wasn’t any of those things. It wasn’t so much that I felt like an imposter – I mean, I genuinely DO like opera, but I’m not itching to see La Boheme whenever I hear it’s playing. Rather, I felt like I was interested in a lot of things because that’s what I felt was expected of me or needed for me to be liked or loved by those I respected and admired. Also, because I went from being a teenager to being a mother and wife so young, I believe that played a large part in not really having the time to really understand who I was as a young woman: my passions, my dreams, what made me truly happy or truly sad…those sorts of things. For a long time, this not knowing myself caused me a lot of pain through no one’s fault but my own. By the time I realized that a person wasn’t whom I thought them to be, I was exhausted and ready to move on without them in my life, becoming resentful and instead of owning my own baggage, I’d walk away from the friendship or relationship. I was honest with the “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, but in hindsight, I should have explained to those people the gravity of that statement for me and that it really wasn’t just a vapid way of blowing them off, but a very real one.

I had a friend named Talia who was really into loud music, loud men, and loud opinions. In retrospect, I think I gravitated toward her because she was strong in a lot of ways I wasn’t – she asserted herself and didn’t put up with anyone’s crap. I was soft spoken, avoided conflict, and tended to be more submissive in my romantic relationships. For a time, I loved hanging out with her and the power I thought she embodied, hoping it would rub off on me. Eventually, I began to see that while she was assertive, she was never soft and often cruel to people. I saw her need to be loud wasn’t necessarily some sort of illustration of feminist strength, but more a need to always be the center of attention that stemmed from her own insecurities. I walked away. There were other similarly dysfunctional relationships that came into my life and with each of them, I made the decision to walk away.

When I was thirty-three, after another bad judgment call in the friendship department (this time I had seen red flags early on in this particular friend, Janice. She was clearly a user and only wanted to hang out when I’d buy her things or take her places. Still, I allowed it because I always had a companion to travel with or to go shopping or eat out with because well, of course, I could count on Janice. If I was paying, Janice always RSVP’d), I had an awakening. I went to Santa Barbara for the weekend alone to do some much-needed thinking. I sat by the sea. I wrote in my journal. I made lists. I ate by myself. I shopped by myself. And –  I realized that I enjoyed being with myself. I didn’t need another person to validate who I was for me to like myself. I went home with a renewed purpose and excitedly told my therapist. I was elated. It was like a I’d been in a fog and could finally see for the first time.

Since then, I’ve learned much about myself and who I am as a human being. I no longer desire relationships that lack substance. I would much rather have a few good friends than a lot of fair weather people in my circle. Here are some other things I’ve come to understand about myself:

DISLIKES. I don’t cotton to people who are quick to criticize but not interested in doing any real critical thinking. I respond better to dialogue when asked or spoken to directly and do not like being triangulated. I don’t like when I feel rushed  (eating in a hurry to catch a movie? No thanks, I’d rather enjoy my meal and linger over conversation). I panic when I don’t know where I’m driving  and it can make me grumpy. Women who do the breathy voice, helpless act with men annoy me. I can’t be around them long before I want to vomit. I have little patience for people who talk down to others. I don’t respond well to those who proselytize or browbeat others into submission or conversion to anything.

LIKES. I like going the speed limit or 5-10 miles over it and prefer driving during the daytime as opposed to night driving. I like having alone time to read or journal to recalibrate. Afternoon naps are sacrosanct to me. I like fresh flowers and original art (that doesn’t have to equal expensive, BTW). I prefer antiques and classic style to ultra-modern decor. I think women should have a place at the table and no, I don’t mean just setting a pretty one. I like museums and galleries and can wander through them for hours.

What about you? How are you NOW different than you WERE ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Are you the person inside that you show the world outside? Do you do things because you want to or do you feel beholden or obligated to them because of other people’s expectations? Are your relationships with others authentic? Do you get out of them what you put into them and if not, why are you still friends with that person(s)?

It can be terrifying and difficult to have these conversations with yourself. Believe me, I speak from a place of personal experience in wrestling with these demons and identifying my own hang-ups. Here’s the thing though –  we’re all in this together as women. You’re not alone. Be true to yourself.

 

 

Travel Essentials

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I travel a lot. A LOT. Upwards of 120,000 air miles a year. People are always asking me what my travel essentials are on long flights (i.e. any trip over 6 hours in duration).

Here’s a few of my Must Haves:

  • Kiehl’s hand cream
  • Chewing gum so my ears don’t pop
  • Rosewater spritz or Evian travel mist to stay hydrated in all that recycled cabin air
  • My own travel pillow and blanket (I once had a friend who was a flight attendant and told me horrible stories about airlines not always washing blankets or pillows between flights).
  • A book or two (I realize that many people prefer eReaders, Kindles, and the like but I like things with pages I can turn.
  • A few magazines
  • My planner, a blank notebook, and a pen for penciling in meetings and writing down ideas
  • Carmex or cherry Chapstick
  • Pamprin for headaches and cramps
  • Flip flops or slippers of some sort because flights over 6 hours merit taking one’s shoes off (and still making the effort to be hygienic while walking on airplane floors)
  • A couple of doctor’s masks if people start coughing or sneezing (or in flu-prone seasons of travel like fall and winter)
  • Dental floss
  • Tide stain remover pen (because I’m always spilling something on myself)
  • iPad Mini
  • Crossword book if it’s an especially long overseas flight (because I usually finish a book or two en route to the destination if I’m traveling alone)