I started blogging to share my health knowledge with the world, but I also feel called to share bits and pieces of my personal journey. I have a feeling that my story is meant to inspire others not only to take deep care of themselves but to rise above adversity and choose the life they so desire. So, to that point, here is the story of a young 24-year-old girl who got pregnant after dating her then boyfriend for only two months…you guessed it, that young girl was me.
My dream was to be on Broadway. I had been performing since I was a little girl, and naturally attended a performing arts college majoring in musical theatre. After my junior year of college, I decided to start auditioning out in the “real world”. I had two auditions in Manhattan and booked my second one on the Nickelodeon tour “Dora the Explorer.” I would go on to play the female swing, understudying all the female roles in the live musical version of the Nickelodeon cartoon. I was scared out of my mind but so exhilarated that they chose me for this role! I didn’t care that I was going to miss my senior year in college or that I was leaving home for the first time. I was ready to spread my wings and fly.
From the date of that audition, the tour would take off to the United Kingdom in two weeks and we would travel to Whales, Ireland, Scotland, and London. It was an unreal experience for a 20-year-old girl to have and it opened my eyes to an incredible world around me. After 4 months of performing, traveling, and living out of a suitcase, I was so ready to be home. Our flight home from Ireland finally touched down in New York. Ahh, now I could relax for a little while and plan my next move. I turned my cell phone on as we waited to depart the plane, and instantly, a voice message popped up. I was being offered a role on the Equity tour “Go Diego Go Live!” in the US. I was exhausted, I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on another tour, but I humbly and graciously accepted.
I believe I performed on that tour for a good 9 or ten months. I truly can’t remember because I think part of my long-term memory died when I had two children. Either way, it was the best experience of my life and I was living my dream. That tour was filled with some of the most amazing and hilarious humans I’ve ever met. We laughed, we cried and performed our butts off. We loved each other like family and found ourselves along the way. While I was so honored to have such a profound experience, eventually my intuition began telling me it was time to go home and finish my senior year of college. So, I did just that. And then…I got pregnant.
Cole was a patron at the bar I worked at, called Social in midtown Manhattan. He pursued me for a long time while I repeatedly and kindly told him, in a Long Island accent, “I don’t date the customers”. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship that was filled with dysfunction and I really wanted to focus on my personal goals and endeavors here in NY. I was really trying to listen to my head for the first time in, well, forever but I couldn’t resist his business-man charm and humor, not to mention homeboy was persistent. I loved that about him. His confidence was my kryptonite. Finally, on his Birthday, and only because he came into the bar twice that day, I gave Cole my phone number.
We fell hard and fast for each other, obviously. So much so that two months into our relationship I found out that I was pregnant. As I write this I’m thinking of the emoji that smiles through its teeth but looks kind of scared. I still have a hard time believing our story, myself. Yet, there I was, 24 and pregnant by my brand-new boyfriend, freaking out like I was 16 and pregnant. I was somewhat emotionally mature, and smart, but that was about all I had going for me. I was living in a tiny bedroom at my sister and brother in law’s house, sleeping on an air mattress, drinking too much alcohol in midtown Manhattan, and getting home after the sun came up. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. My perspective has since changed, and I am so grateful that I got pregnant when I did. My experience taught me a few million things. I’ll share a few below.
Lesson #1: “Be thankful for the closed doors, detours, and roadblocks. They protect you from paths and places not meant for you.” -Unknown
This detour in my life was the scariest one I’ve yet to face but I believe it protected me from a life that wasn’t meant for me. I was truly being reckless and too carefree for my own good in New York but somehow (I don’t believe in coincidences by the way), this amazing man, whom I’d fallen in love with, who was not ready to be a father either, stepped up to the plate in a huge way. In a panic, I told him I was pregnant, and this was his response: “Well, I thought that we would be in a serious relationship for a long time before something like this came up but change of plans, I guess? My lease is up on my apartment this month so let’s get a place together and figure this out.” I’m not exaggerating guys. Like in what fairy tale world does something so seamless transpire out of something so completely unexpected and terrifying? My faith in God (call it what you like, the Universe, the Divine, etc.) grew by leaps and bounds that day. This unexpected pregnancy was the start of the family I’d always wanted.
Lesson #2: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Don’t quit.” -Unknown
We knew the road that lay ahead of us was going to be riddled with obstacles. We barely knew each other, and we were going to bring a baby into this world in less than a year?! It took courage and bravery but we had a feeling that we could do it and we did. I applied for Medicaid, we moved into an adorable one-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills, Queens and I continued working at the bar until I was 7 months pregnant. Things got a little uncomfortable, as my belly grew, and customers realized they should stop hitting on me. Yikes. We took it one day at a time, maintained a positive outlook most days, and made it through to March 26th, 2010, when the most beautiful and mysterious brown-eyed baby girl forever changed our world.
Lesson #3: “Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.” -Unknown
Cole and I were so fortunate to care so deeply for one another, and share very similar values from the start, but it still has not been an easy journey. I envisioned a completely different life for myself. I wanted to have a career and travel the world as an independent woman. I never expected to have most of my independence stripped away by a brand-new baby who would rely on me for constant love and attention. My children and husband are the greatest loves of my life, but I had to accept this new path that I was on and make peace with it. I had to find the joy and gratitude while home with a newborn, feeling bored out of my mind. I had to find the joy while my cute, young girlfriends were taking sexy vacations with their boyfriends and starting fabulous careers. I had to find the joy while having my sleepy two-year-old throw tantrums at her Daddy and I’s wedding reception. I became really, really good at finding the joy and gratitude in life’s challenging moments and I believe it to be my greatest asset in life today. Had I not had this detour in my journey, maybe I wouldn’t be as grateful and happy as I am now.
Of course, there is so much more to this story. Lyla is this amazing ball of energy that is now 8 years old and is one of the lights of our life. Cole and I have been married for 6 years and have made another incredible human, Eva, who turns 5 this week. We are so blessed and fortunate to have two healthy children and the drive to always work on our marriage, but it’s still a lot of trial and error most days. There are so many incredible and valuable lessons that I’ve continued to learn along the way and I will continue to share them with you. My hope is that you might find the beauty in adversity and learn your own lessons in times of struggle as well. “Flip your perspective, and save your mind, you are that POWERFUL.” Xo, Mel
Every now and then Cole will whip up a batch of waffles and my mouth waters while I stare at them like a creep. Since I don’t eat gluten or dairy on a regular basis I need a good waffle recipe that I can make and love to keep my jealousy pangs at bay. I played around with some ingredients and bingo!! Look no further…
These Paleo Banana Waffles are something delightful. They’re fluffy, moist, and naturally sweetened from ripe bananas. This recipe is filled with simple whole ingredients, and takes about ten minutes to whip up. I typically double this recipe and cook all the waffles up at once on a Saturday afternoon. I’ll keep enough stored in a large freezer bag in the fridge, and freeze another batch for another week. To reheat the waffles, I lightly broil them in the oven so they crisp up a bit. Top these babies with fresh strawberries and some pure maple syrup and you are in for a real treat my friend! Gluten free waffles have never tasted so good! 🙂
Best Paleo Banana Waffles
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c coconut flour
1/4 c almond or coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Plug in and preheat a waffle iron.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas up with a fork.
Add eggs, vanilla, and almond milk to the large bowl and combine with the bananas.
Add all dry ingredients and mix well to combine. The batter will be thick and lumpy.
Spray your waffle iron with cooking spray.
Pour a large soup ladle full of your mixture, or about 1/3 cup, onto the waffle iron and wait until the little red light goes off :). Enjoy with some topped fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup. Yum!
From my posts and highlight reel on social media, you might not guess that I’m someone who is greatly impacted by mental illness. I don’t have a mental illness, but I come from a family lineage where mental health issues run rampant. Somehow, I am one of the lucky ones. And if I’m being real, I’d say I’m extremely effing lucky, blessed and fortunate, and I don’t take any of that for granted. I’ve seen and experienced firsthand, the pain and trauma that mental illness wreaks on an individual and family. It has driven me to work on my own mental health daily and prioritize inner happiness and peace of mind above all else. For all intents and purposes, in this blog, anything affecting the mind in a positive or negative way is related to mental health.
Although many of us will never know what it feels like to live with a diagnosis of mental illness, my belief is that we are all only a few degrees away from experiencing a mental health issue related to emotional trauma or chronic stress. My goal is to bring awareness to some simple practices that may positively impact our mental health daily.
Recently, a friend came to me for some advice on an emotional issue, and I knew that our chat was a perfect fit for a blog post. My friend had been in a disempowering situation with someone that left her feeling used and hurt but now even worse, she couldn’t stop replaying the events in her mind. On this given day she was spending over an hour of her time reliving this bad movie. She kept thinking about this negative experience and wishing that she would have done things differently all while feeling victimized. Her thoughts were leading her straight towards regret, resentment, and pain. In a matter of minutes, I was able to help her out of this funk.
Listen, we’ve all been here, haven’t we? Someone pissed us off or hurt us or took advantage of our kindness. We’ve experienced a bad break up or a betrayal, and now our story is forever changed. We cannot forget the trauma and it begins to impact and alter our emotional wellbeing and state of happiness. Before we know it, we are emitting all the low-level, toxic vibes and we are edgy, irritable, and accidentally dropping a whole bottle of kombucha on the kitchen floor. That last part may or may not have happened to me, and the cleanup was dreadful. So, how can we avoid this mess in our minds? How can we change that bad movie and bring on all the feel-good emotions? I’ve created a list of ways to move forward after a painful experience and break a toxic pattern in the mind.
5 Ways to Stop Reliving a Painful Experience in Your Mind
1. Learn the lesson. What’s done is done and although it would be awesome if we could all go back in time and change certain parts of our past, we can’t. However, we do have the opportunity to use our negative experiences as teachable moments. For example, if you were in a dysfunctional relationship with someone, can you think back and remember your counterpart’s distinct personality traits? Were there any red flags that you ignored throughout your relationship? Typically, we all feel some type of instinctual warning sign that triggers our emotions and makes us feel uncomfortable when something is off, but we don’t act on our instincts and that is what gets us in trouble. If we can reevaluate our entire negative experience and find specific patterns that did not serve us or our wellbeing, we have the potential to prevent a similar experience from happening in the future. We can learn the lesson the first time and avoid the necessity to endure it again. You wouldn’t touch a hot stove more than once would you? Lesson learned! Now this traumatic experience has a positive ring to it because it will alter your judgment and protect you in the future.
2. Allow yourself to feel the painful emotions. Listen, I get it, no one wants to hurt and feel like shit, but sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do before you can move forward. Give yourself time to think about the situation without censoring your feelings. Journal your heart out or scream about it to a friend or loved one you can trust and release it out of your mind and body. Dedicate a specific amount of time to think about what happened (15 minutes or so) and once the time is up, divert your attention elsewhere. My girlfriend was feeling embarrassed about her thoughts instead of giving herself the compassion and space that she needed to honor her past.
3. Find a positive outlet and creative use for your energy. “An idle mind is the devil’s playground…”, or something like that. You know how this goes. You find yourself with a moment to rest and chill and your mind starts wandering, typically not about romantic fantasies. Suddenly you are right back on that playground where that Mom said something nasty about your kid, and you are seeing red. Although it’s not happening in real time girlfriend, so why are you letting this high jack your peaceful and quiet house? This is so normal, but can you find some ways to be productive instead of thinking and thinking and thinking some more? I recommend exercising, cooking, reading a great book, spending time with a friend, meditating if you are craving downtime, journaling your thoughts and moving on, watching Bachelor in Paradise, ok you get the point here. Find more enjoyable ways to spend your time.
4. Realize that you are not a victim of what happened to you. This is a tough one, and I know some of you may be angry reading this, but I promised to be authentic in this blog so I’m going to speak the truth here. Please trust and believe that your girl Mel has lived through some trauma with a capital T, so I get it. What happened in the past may have been awful and terrible and completely unjustifiable, and I want you to know that I have immense compassion for you. I also hope you have found self-compassion for yourself. But what’s done is done and it can’t be changed. You can either become victim to your trauma by replaying it like a broken record or you can use your new knowledge as a source of empowerment to help someone else. The choice is yours, my friend.
5. Understand and accept that we are all doing the best we can. Even in the most extreme circumstances, this is always the case no matter how heart-wrenching it may be to accept. That bully that taunts your child is lacking love at home in a big way and is taking out his aggression on your kid. That certainly doesn’t make it right, but more than likely, the fact is that he does not have the proper skills yet to release his pain. Can you focus on a solution to the issue and avoid fueling the issue with hatred and aggression? Acceptance does not mean you accept what is and settle for it, acceptance means you come to understand why someone or something is the way it is, and you release negative judgement from it. Sometimes our best freaking sucks but the only way to do better is to know better. Educate yourself and others so that we can break free from toxic cycles and prevent them from negatively impacting our younger generations.
I hope that this helps you or someone you love to rise from the funk. It may take time so be patient with yourself as you heal and grow. Whatever you do, please do not turn to alcohol, or drugs, or self-punishment when you are hurting. You wouldn’t give your crying baby a bottle of vodka to calm her down, would you? You would love on her and tell her it is all going to be ok. Please do the same for yourself and nurture your innocent inner child. It is all going to be ok, and you my friend are whole and well exactly as you are. Sending you all the loving and healing vibes. Xox