Beauty For Ashes: Grieving Loss During a Pandemic, And How To Rise Up in the Face of Hardship

Do not try to change anyone, you will fail. Instead, try to help everyone

– A hand-written letter my Papa wrote to me before passing away from Covid-19

Filled with personal memories and goldmines of knowledge, it is one of the greatest gifts I have been ever given. My Papa was 81 years-old when he passed away. Words cannot describe the void I immediately felt upon hearing the news of his death, and I immediately retreated to my bedside table to read his words over again with tears spilling down my cheeks onto his beautiful cursive text. Emotions flooded over me: sadness, anger, disbelief to name a few. Happy memories began to dance with the negative emotions, and the roller coaster of joyous memories and bitter loss has not stopped.

As I cried over the loss of my grandfather, I was jolted back several months to the inexplicable and unexpected loss of my nephew, Titus Daniel. My eldest sister, Danielle or “Nel” as we call her, almost passed away from the complications during childbirth. She consoled my grieving grandmother that our Papa will be the first family member to hold baby Titus in heaven. The loss of an infant child and a wise, loving grandfather is… trauma. Trauma my family feels, my friends and enemies feel, the whole world feels. To add to this trauma, we are forced to grieve apart as the world continues to battle Covid-19. In a small way, writing this reflection is my way of memorializing and celebrating my loved ones until I may pay my respects in person.

Death is never fair, or easy to understand. A stark reminder we are mortals and our time, too, will come. The gravity of how one will be remembered when it is our time to go is humbling and heavy.  Will we be cherished, wept over, celebrated…forgotten? Will our relatives drop to their knees and weep, frame our (tear-stained) letters, and find comfort in the wisdoms we’ve instilled in them? There are no answers, nor is there a timeline to feeling “normal” after a death. Quite simply, its ok to not be ok. Its ok to feel angry, confused, sad, and blessed all at once.

The playbook for grieving death is to be written by the individual experiencing it. The raw emotions we endure are unique to humans; emotions that separate us from other species of animals. Our intelligence and awareness of our own inescapable and certain demise, is a heavy burden to bear. It’s a shock to the system to realize that any life, be it 9 months old in the womb or 81 years old, can be taken from us. Loss may serve as a reminder to quit wasting time comparing on futile things, such as comparing yourself to others or holding a grudge, to name a few.

My most recent tattoo reads “Beauty for Ashes” and reflects the concept that great things can rise up from the ashes of destruction and death. My hope is the loss we experience may bring out the best in us while encouraging us to capture each moment in memories, to cherish your time on Earth, and to impact others as significantly as those we grieve impacted us. My Papa was so proud of his grandchildren, and his words are becoming my new mission statement.

In his final words to me, my Papa encouraged me to do a few simple things. I’d like to share those things with you as a way to honor him and bless you, the way he blessed me. I offer them as encouragement and light if you are experiencing a loss or heavy emotions. He was a man of few words, and he always thought long and hard before speaking. Papa made sure I knew he wasn’t trying to tell me how to live, rather that he “fully understood” how I feel, given some of our shared childhood experiences. These are excerpts from his letter to me, written one month ago:

“If you try to change someone, you are going to lose… Don’t try to change anybody but try to help everybody.”

“Do not live in the past, focus on the future…None of us can change the past, but live for the future.”

“Forgive. (don’t forget completely…Forgive, it’s good for your soul. Don’t completely forget or you will get hurt again.”

“Obey all 10 Commandments. one being Honor your Father and Mother

These are just a few of his “Papa-ism” he blessed us with. There are thousands more encouraging words and phrases he spoke quietly to each of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren over the years. My most fond memory must be the day he took me, a small child at the time, to the horse barn and allowed me to break in a young horse bareback. He made me feel special that day, and in many other ways in years to come. I know he had experiences like this with all my extended family members.

He taught me how to ride a horse, show a pony, and how to care for the great animals. He taught me how to treat animals with love, respect, and authority – and that every man ought to have himself a dog. He taught me how to dedicate time and effort into hobbies (his was woodworking). He taught me how to be myself by encouraging me to pursue my talents and passions. (“Make me a pie, dear Becca!” he would say to me in a sing-song voice, knowing I make the best pies…ever!) He taught me to wear Sunday boots to church, not dirty riding boots, because the Lord deserves your best. Yet the most important lesson he taught me, perhaps without ever knowing it, was when I was a child after I’d been bucked off a skittish horse. Within seconds I was placed right back upon its back. He literally taught me to get back on the horse, no matter how scared, worried, or afraid you are.

What a man: The last of a dying breed, a true gentleman, and a real cowboy.

What an angel he will make.

May you grieve in your own space, at your own pace. I hope my Papa’s words bring you comfort if not inspiration. I struggle with emotions and loss, and I welcome this time of toiling with my emotions. I know I will grow during this time, rise from the ashes of the past years hardships, and (like Papa taught me) try and help everybody.

Thank you for reading this.

Love,

Becca


DIY Christmas Presents – Inexpensive, sustainable gifts with a personal touch!

Christmas is just around the corner, and in a continued attempt to express my love for both the environment AND my family/friends, I’ve set out to give all 100% homemade gifts this year. I hope this DIY guide helps you spend less, love more, and give from the heart!

1. DIY Candles

Supply List: ½ cup coconut oil, ½ cup all-natural beeswax ($14 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 10 drops essential oil of your choice, #4 wicks (less than $5 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), glass container (repurposing an old jelly jar is my favorite!)

Directions: Place coconut oil and beeswax in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring after each minute until completely melted and blended. Stir in essential oil. Place wick in empty, securing in place with two chopsticks so it stays in the middle. Pour liquid slowly into jar, adjusting wick if needed. Allow to cool, trim the wick, and enjoy!

2. DIY Hand Lotion

Supply List: Shallow glass container, ½ cup jojoba oil, avocado oil, argan oil, or any other liquid oil (I use a combo of all 3!)  ¼ cup coconut oil, ¼ cup natural beeswax ($14 on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 2 T. shea butter ($10 or less depending on size from Amazon or Hobby Lobby), 7-10 drops essential oil of choice

Directions: In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter for 60 seconds at a time, stirring frequently until completely melted. Add in ½ cup liquid oil(s) and essential oil, stirring well to combine. You may choose to use an emulsifier or blender. Pour into shallow glass container and allow to cool. This gift goes well with a wooden scooper and pairs nicely with a matching DIY candle of the same scent. They’re easy items to make together, especially since they require similar ingredients! Wrap in re-usable beeswax wrapping, along with the recipe, to make a fantastic, functional and sustainable gift.

3. Scrapbook

Supply List: 30+ photos, a scrapbook ($10 or less on Amazon or Hobby Lobby), non-acid glue stick, scissors, 15+ sheets of cardstock, protector sheets that fit the scrapbook you purchased (some scrapbooks come with these), fine tip pen, stickers (optional)

Directions: Print the photos you wish to include in your scrapbook. Once printed, arrange on cardstock to your liking, trimming photos if needed. Once you have your pages laid out in the design and arrangement you like, glue to cardstock. Allow to dry for 30-60 minutes before decorating with stickers and/or writing messages below and around photos.

4. Cookie in a Jar

Supply List: 1 ¼ cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar,  ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ tsp baking soda, dash of salt, 1 cup chocolate chips, large Ball Jar, notecard for instructions.

Directions: Using a funnel, layer the flour, brown sugar, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips in the jar. Screw the lid on and write the following directions on a note card: ”Preheat oven to 350* Pour contents into a large bowl. Melt ½ cup of butter and blend with 1 egg until fluffy. Fold into dry ingredients until mixed. Bake at 350* for 10-12 minutes. Merry Christmas!” Attach to jar with a festive ribbon and/or bow!

5. Christmas Ornament

Supply List: Plain plastic ball ornament from the Dollar store, decorative ribbon and/or rope, Epsom salts for snow, small photo or toy car

Directions: Pop ornament open and arrange the photo or contents of your choosing into the ornament. Add ribbon, Epsom salt “snow,” miniature toy tree, etc. to the ornament before closing. If desired, use paint pens to write a message like “Merry Christmas” or the year on the ornament. You may choose to hot glue a decorative ribbon or rope, or perhaps a small pine cone, around the outside as well.

6. DIY Painted Ceramic Mug

Supply List: Plain white ceramic mug from dollar store, acrylic paint, brushes, acrylic paint pain (optional) Polyethylene spray paint (optional)

Directions: using a small brush, paint your choice design onto the mug. You may try using an acrylic paint pen to write messages, too! Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours. Place mug(s) in your oven and turn to 350* Bake for 30 minutes, then shut the oven off. This will help the paint seal to the mug. If you want, you may choose to coat your design with a poly finish. I used both the baking method and a spray top coat (Krylon brand), allowed to dry 24 hours, then washed thoroughly by hand. Avoid spraying the top portion, where you would drink from, if possible.

7. Homemade Yeast or Sourdough Bread

Supplies: Flour, salt, yeast, water

Directions: If you have sourdough starter, opt for a homemade loaf instead of traditional cookies and sweets for a gift. Wrapped in re-usable beeswax or decorative paper, its healthier and more unique touch! For a great guide on how to get started on sourdough baking, visit here .  For homemade yeast bread, follow my favorite weekly bread recipe and bless a neighbor with some delicious bread! Reminder: wear a face mask and gloves when preparing food for someone outside of your household during Covid-19

Becca’s Favorite Homemade Bread

A simple and delicious way to reduce plastic packaging while investing in producing the foods you eat. Kids may enjoy helping knead the dough as part of a fun kitchen experiment!

*Whole wheat flour can be used in place of flour, too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water (should be warm to the touch, not boiling)
  • ½ cup sugar (I use white sugar but plan to try with brown raw sugar soon!)
  • 1 ½ T. active dry yeast
  • ½ – 1 T. salt (I like Himalayan salt, and prefer more salt)
  • 5-6 cups flour

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine water with sugar until dissolved. Add yeast and stir continuously for about 5 minutes. The mixture should look combined and froth a little. Add salt and stir for another minute. Add flour one cup at a time. (I usually add about five cups, and then beginning lightly kneading, adding pinches of flour as a go until the dough isn’t sticky to the touch). Knead for 7-8 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. I usually Once the dough is double in size, punch down (the fun part!) and divide into two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes. Be patient, the bread will turn out at about the height you put it in at! Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes, or until a cooking thermometer reads 190-200*. Brush with butter, let cool, and slice with a serrated knife. E N J O Y!

I’ve enjoyed giving my friends and family all kinds of combinations of these items. I like to include some homemade soap, lotion, and homemade hair conditioner in small, reused plastic tubs (saved and washed from restaurant pick up) so they can try the products first. I’ve also gotten into oil painting, and plan to give some of my best work to my close family members. Time is certainly more valuable than money, and I hope you can share the beloved resource of your time with your loved ones this year with some of these healthy, sustainable DIY gifts!

Happy Holidays!

Becca Kawaoka


Food & Fitness, Sleep & Stress: Balancing it All

The four pillars of a healthy regimen: Food, Fitness, Sleep, Stress. All four pillars must be given equal attention and intentional planning. We’re going to deep dive each pillar with the goal of gaining more energy, more productivity, and (as always) a more sustainable lifestyle.

Food

One cannot think well, sleep well, or love well if one hasn’t dined well.

– Virginia Wolf

The problem: It’s common knowledge that a healthy diet is the foundation for feeling good, performing well, and living long. So why are 40% of American obese? If its common knowledge, why are three-quarters of Americans struggling with a weight issue (obese or overweight)? America has the highest percentage of obese adults. I can tell you why. Bigger portions, a boom in meat consumption, dieting (you heard me) and inactivity. Americans are eating a lot more, especially meat products, and moving less. They’re also confused on what to it and when. Conflicting diet guidelines are everywhere, and Americans want results fast. People are willing to try anything that works, especially if they saw their friend do it. We’re being pumped full of trans fats and artificial sweeteners while jumping on any fad diet we can get our hands on for fast results. Futile, at best.

The solution: Start by determining a specific, realistic long-term goal. Example: “I’d like to lose 10 pounds by November 2021, increase my muscle definition, and feel more energetic.” Introduce 1 daily ritual each month that will help you progress slowly towards this goal. Examples: Drink 2 liters of water each day. Eat 2 fresh fruits and 2 fresh vegetables each day. Eat 25-50% vegan or vegetarian. Refrain from drinking soda, alcohol, or smoking during the week. That’s a solid start if you can commit to it. From there, try cooking more at home. Eating out is expensive and generally unhealthy in terms of how the food is prepared and the portions you’re given. Not to mention, your far more likely to contract Covid-19 if you eat out (even if you pick up curbside). Lastly, do not be afraid of fat or carbohydrates. They have somehow gotten a bad rep in America. 50% of your diet should be carbohydrates. They’re linked to longevity and provide energy. My favorites are sweet potatoes, organic pasta and rice, and fresh fruit.  Fat is also important for several reasons, but my favorite is they’re filling and satisfying. Avocados, olives, and almonds are fantastic foods that provide rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Don’t be duped into thinking protein equals skinny. Protein plays an important role in metabolism, but if you want the most balanced and sustainable nutrition plan, you need carbohydrates and fats too!

Fitness

Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.

– Jim Rohn

The problem: Inactivity, plain and simple. A lot of working Americans are sedentary, and technology has provided us with everything we need to be inactive. We can order online, take a vehicle anywhere, and eat all our meals without raising a finger to grow, prepare, and/or clean up. I’d like to cite a lack of patience, too. As previously stated, Americans want results fast. That just doesn’t happen in reality. Functional, realistic programs take time. There is no end point. Our bodies should constantly be on a path of self-improvement and growth, challenged with new stimuli and tested.

The solution: Start small. If you aren’t training regularly, start with walking for 30 minutes 3 times a week. If you stick to that, and work on your diet/sleep, you will slowly gain energy and lose weight. Try that for a month, and then think about slowly progressing. I have 70+ videos on YouTube for FREE you can try. They’re fantastic for all levels! If you’re already exercising consistently, good on you! I recommend increasing your intensity, or frequency (minutes per week), 10% each week to find improvements. This may mean adding intervals to your cardio or adding a little weight to your strength routines. A coach may be beneficial for this purpose. My training philosophy centers on balance, literally. All my athletes train to improve balance, then mobility, then muscular endurance. It’s essential to have a stable foundation before beginning a periodized overload program or you will just build strength on existing weaknesses and further imbalances. Training deep core muscles starts at the beginning, as I’ve learned to train from the inside out. Stability first! From a stable platform you can launch into a more aggressive program. Starting with stability is not only a wise and sustainable way to begin, it’s also approachable. If you’re overweight and just looking to make a change, beginning with walking a few times a week and some light balance/core training is a lot easier to stick to then getting crushed at bootcamp- which can be embarrassing. You’re far less likely to get injured this way, and far more likely to stick with it to see results.

Sleep

Sleep is the best meditation.

– Dali Lama

The problem: Americans are steadily averaging less sleep, an inverse relationship that directly correlates with a steady increase in weight gain. According to the Sleep Foundation, Americans get about 7.5 hours of sleep/night. Most people go to bed around 11 pm and wake up at 6:30 am during the week, and sleep about 40 minutes longer on the weekend. Ideally, we get between 8-10 hours of sleep each night. (Some people need more than others, mind you) Lack of sleep can lead to cravings and metabolic dysfunction, as hormones like ghrelin and leptin are affected by sleep deprivation. Then there’s the simple notion that staying awake longer presents more opportunities to eat. The more tired you are from missing out on sleep, the less energy you will have for physical fitness, too. Childhood and adolescent obesity are linked with sleep deprivation, the link likely being skipped meals like breakfast and increased sugar / salt consumption. As an athlete, you’re more likely to get injured if you get less than 8 hours of sleep.

The solution: GET. MORE. SLEEP. Make a plan on when to go to bed and wake up so you’re at your best. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is helpful, as big swings in your sleep regimen can reduce your insulin sensitivity (elevating blood sugar) and cause changes in your metabolism. iPhones have a setting in which you can program reminders on when to head to bed and when to wake up. Avoid snacking late, as this is can cause weight gain and instigate sleep issues. Good old-fashioned discipline is required to turn off the TV and stop scrolling on Instagram. Try reading for 30 minutes before your goal bedtime and sleeping in a dark room.

Stress

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.

– Hans Selye

The problem: According to The American Institute of Stress, 77% of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health, while 73% report experiencing stress that affects their mental health. Those experiencing the most stress are ethnic minorities, women, single parents, and people responsible for their family’s healthcare decisions. Top causes of stress are money, work, and the economy followed closely by family responsibilities, relationships, personal health issues, and housing costs. Side effects of stress are irritability, low energy/fatigue, lack of motivation/interest, anxiety, headaches, feeling sad or depressed, acid reflux, muscle tension, high blood pressure, and appetite changes. Many people also experience sexual problems, weight gain, GI issues like constipation or diarrhea, and forgetfulness. Whew.

The solution: Start by identifying the signs of stress listed above and/or any stress triggers. Getting plenty of sleep (as mentioned before 8-10 hours) and regular exercise (start with 3x 30-minute walks/week and some light stretching!). Practicing relaxation skills like meditation, journaling, or diaphragm breathing (nose inhalation to belly for 4 counts, hold 4 counts, exhale 4 counts). You may try setting 1-2 goals, defining your personal priorities, and forming 1-2 daily habits, like we’ve talked about. Spending time with people you love and doing activities you enjoy, like knitting, baking, painting, and reading, are important to minimize stress.

Putting it all together

  1. Set a long-term goal
  2. Form 1-2 daily rituals to exercise and eat well. Think sustainable and balanced. Progress 10% when you’re ready!
  3. Make sleeping 8-10 hours a priority.
  4. Identify stress and work to relieve it.
  5. Be patient. Nothing happens overnight.

There is probably nothing in this blog that you haven’t heard before. This is a friendly note to get back to the basics and invest in yourself. Fuel yourself well, treat your body like a temple, and rest the amount you deserve.  There is no fad diet, sleeping pill, or hack that will do the work for you. You’re going to have to sacrifice some social media time to cook, set some boundaries in your personal or professional life to decrease your stress and/or make time for exercise. I know you can do it, and I promise you it will be worth it.

Best,

Becca


Time Perspective: Living in the Moment

Forever is composed of nows.

– Emily Dickinson

The topic for this week’s blog struck me as I was staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool, distractedly thinking about my lengthy to-do list while swimming laps. I snapped back to reality just before running headfirst into the cement wall lining the pool, indicating just how far away my mind was. It struck me that perhaps I was missing out what I could have been experiencing if I wasn’t so future-focused (we will deep dive types of time-perspectives shortly) If you’ve read my writing in the past, you may already know how firmly rooted I am to the idea of self-awareness. The awareness of time perspective brought me here, to this moment, writing this message to help myself (and you!) live a full, more sustainable, happy life.

Let’s start with the question at the front of our minds: what is time perspective? The time perspective theory is the idea that the way we perceive the past, present, and future impacts our thoughts, emotions, and actions. A Stanford University psychology professor named Philip Zimbardo (you may recognize him as the mastermind behind the Stanford Prison Experiment) developed this theory. His philosophy is based on 5 approaches, or “types.” Review these approaches, or types, below. Which one do you relate with most?

  1. The ‘past-negative’ type. Having suffered trauma(s) in the past, you focus on what went previously went wrong. You would describe yourself as pessimistic, or as a realist. This can lead to feelings like anger, bitterness, and regret.
  1. The ‘past-positive’ type. You enjoy remembering “the good ‘ol days” and have a nostalgic view of the past. You keep in touch with family and childhood friends. You enjoy holidays and souvenirs to remind you of the past but may suffer from a cautiously “better safe than sorry” type mentality.
  2. The ‘present-hedonistic’ type. You are an in-the-moment pleasure-seeker! You may be impulsive, and are reluctant to postpone feeling good, possibly to avoid pain. You may live a less healthy lifestyle, trend towards addictions, and take more risks.
  3. The ‘present-fatalistic’ type. You feel you have no control of your future and therefore feel stuck in the present. You feel trapped in the moment, powerless to change your future. This may lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, or in some cases risk-taking.
  4. The ‘future-focused’ type. (sometimes referred to as extreme-future focused) You plan for the future, make to-do lists, and trust your decisions. You are most likely to succeed and stay out of trouble, but may sacrifice personal relationships, intimacy and enjoyment of the present by meticulously planning the future.

Citation: Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo.

Article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-time-cure/201607/the-importance-our-time-perspective

The idea of this theory and understanding how you look at the past, present, and future may help you. How? Understanding your needs and values, whether those are reminiscing the past or brightly planning the future, may help you find balance and stability while identify toxic triggers. If you think about it, a lot of people who are unhappy, anxious, rushing around, acting out in a grumpy manner, etc. may simply be out of balance with their time perspective. Picture a coworker or companion that unexpectedly snapped at you recently. It may be a result of them obsessing over past pains, like a divorce or simply wishing it was the way it was before Covid, unable to pull themselves to the present. Another example is someone like myself, too busy plotting a productive day I miss out on the taste of my coffee, the warm shine of afternoon sun, or the smell of fresh rain. We often snap when our mojo is off, and I’m starting to see how essential time-perspective is in achieving sustainability and stability.

We all take time for granted. I think this may be one valuable lesson Covid taught us: we may not realize what we have until it has been taken. Especially intangible things, like freedom and time. We all know living in the past or worrying about the future takes joy out of the present. Understanding time perspective may help us slow down, gain perspective, act with kindness and empathy. So, what are some ways we can balance our time perspective? I’m so glad you asked!

Depending on what your time-perspective is, you may need an individualized approach to finding balance. My first suggestion is to seek a therapist that seeks to understand your past traumas, future burdens, and present mentality. Therapy is always a helpful resource – speaking from experience as I still keep in touch with my trusted therapist from high school! A few examples of balancing time perspective can be found below.

If you identified with the past-negative approach, boosting positive experiences may help lessen the traumas deeply rooted in your past. Boosting positive past experiences or memories may be helpful, as well as identifying bright future events. Enlightening yourself with positive past and present events regularly may be helpful!

If you identified with present-fatalistic, giving yourself permission to do things you enjoy may help balance the fear and trapped feelings you feel in the present moment. Perhaps hanging out with some present-hedonistic types will help! Relationships that have different time perspectives may prove useful to all types.

If you identified with future focused but find you’re a bit extreme or obsessive with planning (or extreme future focused), you may miss out on the pleasures of the here and now, like relationships and intimacy. Making more time for present activities may need to be intentional at first but working it into your future plans by scheduling “activities in the present” may soon become more natural. Asking friends and family to hold you accountable may be wise!

Whether you realize you need to make time to read or give yourself permission to do things you enjoy more, it’s important to deep dive your views on past joys or traumas while understanding how you view the future. This may help you be more present. I know I’ve incorporated simply breathing and taking in my current surroundings as a way to let go of past stressors or future worries. I like the way I feel when I’m in the moment: enjoying the taste of the food I’m eating, the touch of a loved ones fingers interlaced in mine, the smell in the fresh air (or chlorinated pool water, going back to my opening story), or the feel of a hard effort in a workout. Awareness of each sense leads to an experience specific to that moment alone, and all those moments added together make up my life, my memories. Why waste them with negative emotions of the past or future? Reminiscing and planning will always be important ways to remember things or be productive, as long as it’s not at the expensive of my presence.

Be well. Love,

Becca


Social Media: Influencers and Inspirers

Influencer: a person or thing that influences another, a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.

Inspirer: someone who inspires, fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

I will never forget hearing the title “social media influencer” for the first time. I was coaching a group of 15-18-year-old swimmers when I overheard a conversation about a crush someone had on. “She’s an influencer,” the boy stated. I was immediately filled with curiosity. What in the world was an influencer? A quick Google search between training athletes filled me in. “A social media influencer is a user who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations.” Apparently, an influencer can bring in $30,000-100,000 per year by promoting products. The trick? Getting over one million followers. No wonder our society is obsessed with hashtags, selfies, likes, and tagging brands- myself included! As I have fallen into these practices of meticulously well-thought posts and hashtags, I began to wonder if this was sustainable. If you know me, my passion for sustainability is now at the forefront of all my practices.

Let me be clear: I believe social media is a necessary evil today’s society. As someone who uses it as a marketing tool (I used Instagram to communicate about this blog, for example), I believe it is helpful for expression, communication, sponsorships, and staying in touch with family. I also have been negatively impacted by social media by no fault but my own. This blog is a somewhat of a ‘journal entry’ of mine, a result of curiosity and self-analysis regarding my use of social media and how I can help others who have struggled with it as well. You may be an influencer, an inspirer, or just a guy or gal who enjoys posting an occasional photo! I hope you find this blog helpful, regardless of your social media stance or presence.

As one of the unique millennials to go through my early teen age years without a cell phone or social media, I have an interesting outlook on how significant the impact has been on humans (especially teens and young adults). Since being introduced to social media (age 14, myspace and Facebook in its early glory days) I’ve been off and on and off and back on again with platforms like Instagram. I would go online for a few months to a year, get exhausted from it, delete it, get bored, create a new profile and see how long it lasts. This pattern was not sustainable, so recently I decided if I was to be on social media, I was committed to being authentic, keep things real with my audience, and limit my time spend scrolling. I think self-expression is extremely important and being online has brought me joy in that regard, but also realize the tears I’ve cried stalking an ex or the rage I’ve felt after seeing some posts.

So, is it good to have social media? Should I avoid being online, or change the way I interact online? Is it just a timewaster? Am I trying too hard to be… influential? Is it worth it? How can I protect myself from the pitfalls of social media?

I feel it’s important to note that my experiences on social media have led me to believe that it’s given some of us a false sense of influence. I believe we tend to seek the attention and affirmation of gaining thousands of followers that think, act, dress like you do. The idea has crossed my mind: “If I just post this photo with the right caption and hashtag I could go viral and have it made!” I’ve had both positive and negative experiences from social media and learned a lot about myself in my time spent online, as well as in the breaks I’ve taken from it. Positives include sharing free workouts to people during a global pandemic, staying in touch with my friends and families overseas in various time zones, and learning from climate-change and fitness education-based platforms. Negatives include arguments from clashing political beliefs, angry emotions and mood swings from reading bragging-based posts, wasted time from scrolling, and jealousy from accounts more successful but seemingly less educated or passionate than mine. Perhaps you can relate?

I’ve learned that if I post something looking for a response, affirmation, or attention, I generally experience more self-doubt and negative emotions. If I post something authentic, honest, and creative, I generally experience more independent, positive emotions. Generally, the more confident, genuine, and self-aware I am at the given time, the more equipped I feel to stay true to myself online. The disassociation, I think, happens when people project their insecurities publicly and analyze their value based on people’s response.

So, in response to those questions… is social media good or bad? Is there a benefit to openly sharing, posting, interacting and engaging with people online? It is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of studies and reviews. Studies have found a connection between social media use and feelings like loneliness, depression, and poor life satisfaction. So, IF you’re going to be on there, are there ways to limit my experiences to negative things and enjoy more of the positives? I would say Yes. In response to “Is it merely a time-waster?” I would state that social media has, at times, seemed to threaten face-to-face interactions, but it may be streamlining those conversations at the same time.

From the research I’ve done on the topic, it’s important to have a clear and aware understanding of yourself prior to exposing yourself to the opinions of the world. As you might know, it can be a harsh world. A photo you thought would go viral gets only a handful of likes and minimal feedback, a crushing blow after your excitement and time spent thoughtfully putting a clever caption together. The person you’ve been crushing on shares a selfie with someone else, triggering stabs of jealous and anger. Your dear friend makes a political statement that shocks you, giving way to the notion perhaps you shouldn’t be friends at all…

 “This is a very, very hot topic,” says Jeffrey Hall, PhD, director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas. “Overwhelmingly, the literature says that if there is an effect, the effect is extremely small, and is likely not in the direction we expect.” This means “that it’s more likely that people who are depressed, lonely, and have poor quality of life are more likely to turn to social media to resolve those pre-existing lacks in their social world, than it is the case that people who use social media are causally becoming more unsatisfied with their life.”

Citation: https://www.apa.org/members/content/social-media-research-series

While I’m no therapist I would recommend those struggling with self-doubt, identity, and emotional or mental health struggles refrain from looking for the answers online. While social media may or may not help these individuals is unclear, but I may reason that the more energy spent fully focused on one’s self, the better. Social media has a reputation for being a timewaster.

Now, there are several people in the subcategory of marketing-those who are only online for the occasional required brand post and that’s it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to push a brand, especially one you enjoy using! I’m all for sharing a good brand of flour, dumbbells you enjoy, and whatnot. What I’m NOT in support of is the notion that sharing useful things may lead to fame, fortune and popularity. While this may seem silly to some of you, those of you who are self-aware and could care less how many likes or comments or retweets you get, realize there are people young and old who have grown to find an identity in posting photos filled with brands and hashtags in hopes of becoming an influencer (or who perhaps feel they are an influencer) and such a notion can lead to psychological consequences and pitfalls.

I want to bring us back to the opening lines of this write up and tie it into what we’ve reviewed about social media. Below is a brief self-analysis that may help shed light on where you are in your personal self-awareness journey. Your responses may help you determine if you’re interactions online will lead to further positive or negative emotions, and my hope is that conclusion will help safeguard you from the pitfalls of social media. There are no wrong answers.

  • Do I want to influence others to use the same brands and products as me; am I trying to become a brand influencer and why?
  • Does my self-worth hinge on how well my posts are received by my audience?
  • Do I want to inspire introspection, self-realization, and positive adaptations?
  • Do I post in such a way that encourages meaningful conversations, open to controversial or opposing beliefs, or do I prefer to avoid conflict-based interactions by posting in a neutral way?
  • Do I have emotional and psychological issues to work through, such as anxiety and/or depression, and will being online positively or negatively affect the work I’m trying to do on myself?
  • Am I exposing myself to anyone that makes me feel negative emotions, like jealousy, sadness, or anger? Should I create a boundary by muting or unfollowing them to limit experiencing these emotions?
  • Am I fostering an authentic environment for myself to share original ideas and real-life emotions, or projecting a version of what I think may bring me, or my followers, the illusion of perfection and happiness?

If I’m being honest, and perhaps I’ve been too honest, I would say there are times when I bounce back and forth from to confident and aware to searching for affirmation. I still occasionally scroll aimlessly through my news feed and look up people that initiate negative emotional responses. I’m learning the consequences of these actions and challenge myself to limit intentional self-sabotage. After all, I really enjoy chatting with friends online, learning new things from posts they share, and communicating my experiences and knowledge as a resource to people who are open to it. Perhaps the question not IF you should be on social media, or is it good or bad, perhaps the question is how are you using it, and are you creating a positive environment for yourself? Dwayne Johnson, one of my favorite celebrities to follow, seems to be a shining example of a fellow who openly commits to speaking from an authentic place, both good and bad, and addressing controversial topics head-on. He is now the most followed man in America, and the most followed American man in the world. He cites authenticity as his driving resource in gaining popularity and promises to continue his honest communication with his audience. This is an assumption, but I have a feeling he doesn’t check his stats or interact with trolls much… He’s too busy accomplishing things!

In conclusion: My goal, and reason for being online is to share my lifestyle with the hope of I inspiring others to continuously search for sustainability, happiness, and personal growth. Anything that strays from that goal (scrolling, stalking, comparing, boasting, “humble bragging”, searching for quick affirmation) could lead to negative emotional consequences. This may mean unfollowing or muting some accounts, thinking about purpose before posting, talking to peers about how you feel, regularly taking account of your feelings (self-analysis checks), taking breaks from being online, and good old-fashioned self-discipline in terms of time spent using social media.

I hope this inspires you to reflect. I believe we are all capable of real inspiration, and right now the world could sure use more of it.

Keep it real out there!

Becca Kawaoka


Climate Injustice: How it Affects You, What You Can Do, and Why Action is Critical

This is not a doom and gloom, scare people into action type of article. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you’ve given up on listening to climate change advocates because it’s depressing and overwhelming, give me one more chance to help your perspective! I have so much hope for the Earth, and I want to share that with you. You can make a difference. We, as a globe, have a chance to reverse the direction we are going and return to a state of sustainable living on planet Earth. No, this doesn’t mean limiting the number of people or mandating vegan diets. It means raising awareness and encouraging humans to reconnect with nature. Read on to find out what I’ve learned and changed in the past 6 months as proof that sustainability is not only a way to thrive, it’s a way to save the human species from the inevitable 6th mass extinction.

How I Got Started

            I just learned how to effectively recycle (rinsing food from all plastics containers, removing stickers from containers, and separating correctly). I also recently learned how to effectively compost and why we should do it. I’ve grown most of our vegetables myself, and visited our local market once a month for local, organic produce. Finally, I began cooking 25-50% of our meals vegan or vegetarian and began making all of our soaps, cleaning products (laundry detergent and surface cleaners) and bread from scratch. Bread and shampoo are not expensive. Simply put: I can make soap and bread, so why buy it?

This all started as a time-filler. I don’t commute 90+ minutes to and from work every day, so I felt the need to fill that time with something productive. I had always been curious about my impact on the environment, but wrote it off as something I simply did not have time for. After a month or so of trying new DIY, gardening, and recycling projects, I started feeling better. Stronger, more resilient, more in tune with my body. Happier. Healthier. A passion to learn more about sustainable living grew each day. I began researching ways to live more sustainable. Soon I was checking out climate change books from the library, following activists online, and watching environmental documentaries.

I want to live in a world that doesn’t have an expiration date. At the rate we are currently using limited fossil fuels, destroying forests, and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we are only accelerating our projection towards extinction. We have the opportunity to shift our focus entirely to sustainable, renewable energy resources. Voting for leaders that are ready to make that investment will not only help our atmosphere, but it will unite us with nature while providing more abundant energy for people in all class systems- not just the wealthy.

 I also want to contribute to the change we all have to make as a society in order for our species to survive. Being in nature is healing and healthy, we all know that. Can you imagine if we lived WITH nature, instead of manipulating it, sheltering from it… abusing it? You see, we’re in a bit of a redundant cycle with Earth. We drill, harvest, hunt, and burn, expecting life to go on as normal merely because everyone else is doing it. We travel long miles to see pretty landscapes and immerse ourselves in the few corners of the worlds that aren’t as inhabited, unknowingly pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere in the process.

What’s Happening?

The oceans can’t absorb our emissions much longer, and the reefs are paying for our flippant actions. Every Instagram post of a friend snorkeling in the ocean is now shadowed by the knowledge that several tons of carbon were expelled to allow such a luxurious photo op. I calculated our home’s emissions. Even without air conditioning, driving an average of 3,000 miles per year, AND recycling/composting, our household of two emits close to 11 tons of CO2 per year, 5.5 tons each. If you would like to calculate your carbon footprint, click here.

As a globe, we should aim for each individual to emit 3 tons of CO2, total, per year or LESS. This includes our monthly home energy, travel, and waste emission totals. Ideally, we reduce our emissions to zero so our future generations can thrive. But…baby steps. Ideally, we just need to start by reducing emissions, instead of increasing.

By limiting our travel, or traveling in energy-efficient ways, we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions that are causing global warming, which could directly help decrease wildfires. California, Oregon, and Washington suffered an extreme loss of forest during this year’s wildfire season, and we’re only halfway through “fire season.” In Washington state alone, more acreage burned in one day than in the last 12 of 18 fire seasons combined. Over the past 10 years, there were an average of 64,100 wildfires annually and an average of 6.8million acres burned annually. For more statistics, please click here.

Unfortunately, the wealthy are responsible for a large portion of the world’s emissions. This is why climate justice would mean justice for the poor. By providing clean, renewable energy to poverty-stricken areas, we can help the globe AND those less fortunate. This would help, not solve, the racial injustice problem by providing more opportunities to minorities while eliminating close to 30% of the emissions the upper 10% are responsible for. We need to hold the wealthy accountable for their actions.

Farming methods can also be improved. The current method of tilling, planting, spraying, and harvesting is not sustainable. We are slowly killing our soil, and knocking down trees to make room for edible livestock. We are stealing the planet’s diversity to push things like chicken, beef, dairy, wheat, and corn. Insects are going extinct. Large fish are being eliminated from over-fishing, and rare animals are even harder to find as we destroy their homes and poach them. Have we already forgotten the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s? We tilled and tilled the land, which coupled with Mother Nature’s wind storms, giving us the first hint of what is to come if we don’t LISTEN to the Earth and LEARN from Her.

Deforestation is happening at an incredible rate. If we follow our current patterns of cutting down trees to make room for animals and crops, or for timber and paper production, by the time your newborn baby is YOUR age natural forests could be reduced to a mere 15%. In the past 50 years, we went from 66% natural forests remaining to 31%. That means by 2070, the world will look incredibly different. Your grandchildren will be wondering why we didn’t change sooner, when we could save forests and entire species from perishing instead of as a last resort. Good news: some countries have already turned the tide! Bad news: the US is not one of them. In fact, in the past few years we’ve only produced more emissions and waste.

The population is often brought up in climate change arguments. While people are causing the problem, people are not the problem. People can change. I am proof of that. All species have a ceiling, and I’m confident that humans will eventually level out in terms of population growth. Japan may be an example. The Japanese culture has developed rapidly, and experienced a notable decline in birth rates. This could be explained, in part, to limited job availability as technology advances. Robots are being used in place of humans, serving in restaurants for example.

Humans are still gradually evolving and adapting. The more informed, educated, advanced and equal our society becomes, the sooner our population can right itself and stabilize.

What You Can Do

Recycling is the first step. If you aren’t involved in a recycling program, I invite you to make a plan to start participating in one. This is an investment in our future. The second step is to look at your lifestyle and assess your emissions. It’s ironic that our cost of living goes down as we invest in sustainable options. Another idea: gardening! Growing plants is a great way to help our environment. Plants breath in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. If you need help starting an indoor container garden, refer to my 30 minute DIY post. Hydroponic indoor gardens just may be the future of farming!

The way we eat has become a grotesque model of unsustainable consumption. It’s not just the single-use plastic packaging (which is awful in and of itself), but also the mass production of plants and animals. We are manipulating nature to provide for our growing appetite. Instead of diets and keto-fad diets, we could try simply taking a small step back. Eating vegetarian 3-4 times per week. Not every day, every meal…perhaps start with 25-50%. We all know dairy products are linked to GI issues, so limiting these items serves as a health benefit and climate benefit. We love a good steak, so now it’s a special monthly occasion instead of weekly. I enjoy making my own almond and oat milk, and swap coconut oil or avocado oil for butter when possible in baking and cooking. When possible, buy or grow organic.

As mentioned before, eliminating or decreasing wasteful travel and clothing purchases is another effective way to reduce your emissions and save money. Travel by train if possible, or by electric car. We have family in Hawaii, and would like to travel to see them. Until energy-efficient flights are available, I have committed to flying roundtrip to Hawaii once every other year, instead of 1-2 times per year. Production, like new Lululemon pants or Gucci bags, requires energy and materials. Where do those come from? You guessed it: Earth. Buying clothing second hands skips the emissions from production AND eliminates the waste of used clothes. Confession: Almost all my name-brand clothing (yes Lulu!) and home décor/kitchen wares have come from second-hand stores. One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure, at least in our household. You’ll save money and Mama Earth, how can you say no?!

When it’s time to replace your car, think about investing in electric. We are making a plan to phase in solar power options, as well as eliminating our two vehicles to eventually invest in one electric car. Yes, solar panels and electric cars are more pricey than natural gas and diesel cars. In the long run, we will save money and *HELLO* the planet! I have to believe my nieces, Emma (5) and Lydia (3), are worthy of a clean future, so this will be my investment in them. If you are a parent, I hope you begin to see the impact of climate change in such a way. You may also consider improving the economy of your home by lowering the temperature of you home in the winter by a degree or two, and the inverse in the summer to save electricity. Swapping out energy-efficient light bulbs is another trick, as well as setting devices like computer to energy-save mode.

Lastly, VOTE for leaders who will take climate change seriously and act to equalize the distribution of wealth by providing sustainable, renewable energy. We can learn from countries like Costa Rica, Morocco, and France. These countries once suffered from deforestation, contaminated water, average temperature hikes, and drought. After their country leaders to action, these countries flourished where they had suffered. Morocco is now exporting energy produced by their solar farms to other countries. Costa Rica, largely powered by renewable energy, has seen its forest double in the past 30 years. France has worked to provide a clean, public water system. The Paris Agreement, formed in 2015, is our best hope at reducing emissions as a GLOBE. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to allow the global temperature increase below 2*C by reducing emissions. Sadly, President Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement upon taking office and the Unites States per capita emissions are among the worst globally at 16.2 tons, compared to a global 4.8.

Encouragement to End

Here are some encouraging articles where climate action is showing beneficial, economical gains:

You see, it IS possible for us to change. The proof is right in front of us. We just lack the desire, or perhaps the group effort, and leadership. It starts with educating yourself. Cleaning up your household, reducing individual emissions, and living a sustainable life, one without an expiration date, is as liberating as it is resilient. I’d be thrilled if you calculated your yearly emissions, and/or googled your next flight emissions. It’s incredibly humbling.

Eventually, the choice won’t be there. Eventually, we will drain the world of fossil fuels. Eventually, Earth will be a barren desert, burnt up from carbon emissions. But, if we act now, we can start going back towards a thriving, diverse planet. Your children deserve a thriving future. By 2050, the world will look vastly different if we continue on this destructive path.      Vote for leaders who will take us in the right direction. Think about an electric car when it’s time for a new vehicle. Consider more economical energy options. Buy second hand when possible. Eat vegetarian once or twice a week. REDUCE travel, clothing purchases, and plastic use. REUSE items before throwing them away (repurposing is SO fun!). RECYCLE and compost!

You can do it. Email me with any questions you may have. I would love to hear from you!

In Good Health,

Becca Kawaoka

“We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world”


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

“No more bad news, please.” Elliot, my husband, says flatly. We’ve shared coffee and breakfast almost every morning since the pandemic pulverized our “normal” routine several months ago. What started as a luxurious adaptation became a downtrodden dose of reality, and soon our coffee chats slowly became saturated with the latest news headlines. In addition to the news and bleak reality of Covid-19, my family was struck with an unexpected loss when my sister lost her son, Titus Daniel, in an emergency C section at 37 weeks. We were at a loss for how to move forward. I don’t blame him for saying enough is enough, at least for today.

I am certainly not the first person to take to writing as a form of sad, frustrated expression during these times, and I won’t be the last. I do not have the answers. I do not have a special solution or magic “fix it” button. I do, however, have a knack for finding silver linings and I hope to share that with you.

As a kid, people used to say, “Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news?” I always chose bad news always first. Let’s start by getting very real, and work our way into positive coping strategies from there.

Reality Check:

  • COVID-19
    • We’re smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, thousands dead with new cases climbing daily, and no vaccine in sight.
  • The Election
    • Both American presidential candidates have demonstrated utterly childlike behavior to the world in an embarrassing opening debate, and the future of this country could not be more divided or uncertain.
  • Racial inequality rages in our faces – a problem that has existed since humans have walked the earth, if you ask me.
    • I’ll throw in sexual inequality for those fighting for equal rights in the LGBTQ community
  • Climate Change
    • The entire West coast is on fire, burning more each year as a direct result of global warming. Coral reefs are dying, hurricanes are more frequent and destructive, and we’re seeing animals go extinct as forests are being destroyed.
  • The Economy
    • … is reflecting the devastation of a deadly virus. Thousands are jobless, homelessness is growing, and there are no signs of stimulus until the virus and testing are in a better place.
  • Individual Struggle
    • As I mentioned earlier, we’re all fighting our own little battles and experiences trauma on top of the world’s devastation. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, lost your job, or are just fed up with dealing with Zoom online schooling.

Alright, now that we’re nice and cozy, lets figure out what the hell we can do to survive the rest of this year. Most importantly, you have every right to be afraid, worried, angry, anxious, sad, and/or any other emotion you’ve experienced. That’s one hefty list of awful things. Honestly, I’m not here to change your political viewpoint, or even to harp about the need to wear a mask, or the importance of recycle and flight reduction. I’m here as a fellow human being, desperate to shine light on my fellow man and woman.

I’ve listed some though process and words of comfort that have helped me during this time. Before you get into them, however, I want you to know it’s ok to have a moment, an hour, a day, or even a week where you just don’t feel like yourself. It’s fine to feel the weight of reality, as long as you don’t let it crush you.

 

 Coping with reality:

  • We’ve been here before.
    • Perhaps not Covid-19 and such specifically, but as a globe we’ve overcome some harsh adversities. Surprisingly, I’ve taken comfort in the idea that the world has almost always been in some state of turmoil. I’ve watched movies reliving the civil war, listened to relatives recall the AIDS, Ebola, and SARS outbreak, read books detailing the inhumanities of WWII and Vietnam. My point is: YES, this sucks, but there is so much hope! There is the ability and resilience of humankind, the same humankind that rallied to overcome all the terrors of the past.
    • If our ancestors can do it, so can we.
  • Invest in deep, meaningful conversations.
    • Share your emotions with a friend or family member. Disarm the power of these uncomfortable feelings you have by speaking about them. Letting emotions rage internally can severely affect your quality of life. If you’re uncomfortable opening up, or aren’t ready to just yet, try journaling.
  • Live In the Moment.
    • We all have an End Date. The world does, too. Regardless of your religion, we share the knowledge as a society that we will not live forever. It is not easy to hear, but this is one constant that has not changed despite the wild roller coaster of 2020. This is as true today as it was on December 31, 2019. We still have no idea when our last day is going to be, so why not find joy, love, and happiness right now? Live in the moment, THIS MOMENT.
  • Adapt
    • Simple, but oh so challenging. I know… I like to travel and give hugs and high fives and go to Costco without something covering my whole face, too (although I could get used to hiding blemishes or the dark circles under my eyes on tired days!)  Listen, I like everything pre-2020 just as much as you do. I miss it, and I hope it comes back. But you know what I’ve committed to? The idea that IF life doesn’t get back to “normal” I’m not going to waste the upcoming minutes, hours, days, months, and years wishing it was “the way it used to be.”
    •  What are some things you CAN do, right now, that bring you purpose and joy? Refer to last blog “Simple, Inexpensive, 30 Minute DIY” if you need a little guidance or a creative jumpstart. We’ve begun utilizing our local library, informally starting the Kawaoka Book Club, and I’ve enjoyed making soaps, lotion, crafty household items and breads, too!
  • Get off social media
    • I’m always flabbergasted at the total time I spend on my phone, especially social media. If I have X number of minutes to live, why would I waste it trying to impress other people? I’m happy to go online and share my resources, experiences and knowledge while attempting to stay moderately up to date on my friends and family, but I have set boundaries on both my followers and following. I have personal time limits for my cell phone, and I’m not afraid to shut my phone off or delete my Instagram app for as long as I need so I can process my emotions without the influence of anyone. I encourage you to separate yourself from trolls, negativity, and the pressure to influence whenever that burden is too great. Just click “OFF” and retreat to those in your inner circle.  
  • Fight for your rights
    • As one who is deeply convicted by the wrongdoings of society, I find I feel peace when I’m doing something about it. This could mean peaceful protest, calling Senators, educating yourself, getting into DIY, and voting. I understand that it can be emotionally and physically exhausting to engage, so fight the fight but rest, guilt-free, when needed.

I’m going to adapt, live in the moment, invest in my relationships, and have hope for mankind. I’m challenging you to speak up, turn the phone off, find something you enjoy doing, stop worrying about the future or wishing for the past, and remember that we, as a globe, have been through turmoil before and we just may get through it again. If you need someone to listen, you are welcome to email me at becca@kawaoka-coaching.com. I am not a therapist, but I am a person who can listen. I do not know what you are struggling with, but I know you should not struggle alone. We are all going through changes, trials, and deep emotional distress.

It’s OK to not be OK.

Becca Kawaoka

“Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.”


Simple, Cheap, Useful DIY Projects (In 30 Minutes or Less)

Winter is coming, and with COVID-19 restrictions on travel and entertainment what better time than now to get craftier? The projects listed below are all sustainable, meaning they’re helping the environment by:

  • Reduce plastic use, and your carbon footprint.
  • Re-using items commonly thrown out (like glass jars and milk containers)
  • Many ingredients call for ingredients that may be made of recycled materials. The ingredients listed also make several future batches, thus reducing consumption.
  • Healthier products: no added sulfites, preservatives or chemicals!
  • You may save money! We’ve put almost twice as much into savings per month than we did prior to Covid due to sustainable living habits and minimal travel.

            Below you will find some of my newfound favorite DIY crafts that you can get done in under 30-60 minutes. I’ve noted the ingredients needed for each item so you can find something you have on hand. If you see something you’d like to make, order the items ahead of time for pick up or on Amazon so you may make them on your next day off.

  • Oat Milk (oats, dates, water)

Place 1 cup of oats in a blender with 4 cups of water and 1 date, pit removed. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Wet a cheesecloth, thin towel, or old t shirt, squeeze the excess liquid out, and place over a large bowl. Strain liquid into jar through shirt. Gather the edges of the towel and squeeze remaining liquid through into the bowl. You may leave it overnight to strain as well. Transfer to a large Ball jar or repurposed container. Refrigerate and use within 5 days. Shake well before enjoying. Makes great oatmeal, delicious over cereal, in smoothies, and even in coffee.

*Almond milk variation: Soak 1 cup almonds in 1-2 cups water overnight. Drain and blend with 4 cups water and 1 pitted date for 1-2 minutes. Strain in towel and store up to 5 days in refrigerator.

  • Conditioner (shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, aloe vera juice, essential oil, optional beeswax)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place ¼ cup shea butter, 3 T. coconut oil, 1 T. avocado oil and optional 1 T. beeswax (I’ve made it with and without beeswax. Beeswax will help it harden slightly) in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 T. aloe vera juice and 7-10 drops of essential oil. (rosemary is recommended for hair) Pour into a wide, shallow Ball jar (or repurposed jar of appropriate size) and let cool for an hour (it will solidify slightly depending on your house temp) Use 1-2 teaspoons (this is stuff is powerfully conditioning) by massage into roots of hair after shampooing. Leave in for 5-10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly for soft, shiny, healthy hair.

  • Lotion (shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, essential oil)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place ¼ cup shea butter, 1/4 T. coconut oil, and 2 T beeswax in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Whisk in essential oil and pour into a wide, shallow Ball jar (or repurposed jar of appropriate size) to harden. Use a small amount of lotion to moisturize. *This recipe can be made without beeswax.

  Pictured with Beeswax Candle (easy to make together) *Moisturizer: my version of lotion w/o beeswax

  • Beeswax Candles (beeswax, coconut oil, wicks, optional essential oil)

Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan to make a double boiler. Place 1 cup beeswax and 1 cup of coconut in a small saucepan and place over the medium saucepan of boiling water. Stir until melted. Whisk in essential oil if desired. Pour into a medium sized glass jar with a 6” wick placed in the middle. It may move around a little while you pour it, but you can recenter it once you’ve poured the liquid in as it begins to harden.

  • Air Freshener (fresh herbs, a lemon, vanilla, water)

In a small saucepan, bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil. Slice your lemon and place in water along with a sprig of rosemary. Simmer until you can fragrantly smell the rosemary. Pour into a wide, shallow jar or repurposed jar of appropriate size. Stir in a teaspoon or so of vanilla.

                                                           

  • Decorative Cement Hands (quick mixing cement, water, latex gloves)

Place 2 gloves over a large disposable cup. Then, pour about 3 cups of quick mixing cement ($15 at Lowes) into an old, disposal mixing bowl. Add water slowly until the mixture resembles thick, smooth pudding. Pour into gloves and tie off the ends near the wrist of the glove. Arrange both gloves in a large bowl and weigh the palms down with a small dish filled with weights (like some rocks). Allow to harden 1 hour, then carefully remove the weighted dish and peel the gloves off the cement. Be careful, the fingers break easily! Sand any rough edges. These are fun to spray paint or use as a succulent planter. Let set for 24 hours before using.

  • Container Garden (used milk container, soil, seeds)

Rinse your container thoroughly. If using an almond milk container, cut the nutrition facts side of the carton out. If using a plastic milk jug, cut the handle (top) portion out. Keep the pour spout intact. Make sure the lid is on tight, or secure with duct tup. Fill with soil and plant seeds based on planting instructions. Water enough to keep soil dry but be cautious not to overwater container gardens. Place in an area that receives good amounts of sun, or under an LED grow light.

“We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world.” 

– Jennifer Nini

Most of these products are easy and somewhat cheap to buy. You might think why wouldn’t I just buy an eco-friendly brand? The answer is because its still creating waste. Instead, why don’t we go one step further and invest in the sustainable ingredients to create the product ourselves? Plus, it’s exciting to gain confidence in your abilities when making these things, and far better for our bodies. No preservatives, added sulfites or chemicals, organic. Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Cheers,

Becca Kawaoka  


Simple Ways to Be More Sustainable

Like all of you, my life changed dramatically when COVID-19 hit. I was forced home, my job as a trainer at a fitness resort near Seattle in jeopardy, and all the triathlon races I was training for postponed indefinitely. It would have been easy to let the circumstances bring me down, but I wasn’t ready to give up hope on growth for 2020. I threw myself into revising our lifestyle to be eco-friendlier.

In years past, I had the “if it’s not happening to me, it doesn’t affect me, I don’t really care” mentality. I also used the excuse that I was so busy with work and training that I didn’t have time to deep dive my life and turn it all around. When I was forced to adapt my work life, a positive result was the opportunity to become more sustainable. I can’t wait to share how this has changed me as a person, and how you can implement small rituals to help save our Earth.

Commuting 60-80 miles a day in a Jeep certainly contributed to pollution. Now, I drive one time a week, 10 miles at most, sometimes less! While it’s not possible for everyone to work remote, there are other ways you can be more efficient AND save money as a result. Carpooling is one option or joining the #GoByBike movement started by one of our favorite cycling companies, Trek! Trek makes a cool E-Bike for commuting, as well as several bike options for people who want to be healthier and exercise their way to work or the store. Check it out here!

Perhaps the easiest way for you to have an immediate impact on both the environment and your budget is to do a quick peek around your kitchen and bathroom. Where do you consume a lot of plastic or waste? Is there a way for you to either make it yourself or purchase an eco-friendlier version? For example, I noticed the main source of waste was food packaging, plastic shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles, air freshener or cleaning bottles, face scrubs/masks, detergents, and lotion bottles. I took a few weekends to try my hand making most of our bathroom and kitchen needs things myself. Yes, it took time. Yes, I messed up a few times. Yes, I kept going and now regularly make all of our bathroom needs from scratch. You may want to try it once for fun- perhaps it will stick like it did for me and perhaps it’s not for you! Below I’ve listed my homemade items I’ve found easy to make myself weekly or monthly,  along with eco-friendly links to products you may consider buying instead to help reduce your waste.

DIY Kitchen:  DIY Bathroom:  DIY Laundry Room/Other:  
Oat MilkBread Pickled seasonal bulk vegetables Mayonnaise Cleaning solutionAir freshenerSoap Shampoo barsConditionerFacial scrubsLotionDetergent Candles Décor  

Eco Friendly Resources:

**If all of this still seems like too much, start by simply using sponges instead of paper towels, reusable plastic bags instead of Ziplocs or single use baggies, reuse your coffee cups from coffee shops, bring refillable water bottles to use instead of buying single use plastic bottles, and avoid buying disposable cutlery, plates, and cups.

I’ve also enjoyed starting indoor and outdoor gardens! I grew up on a farm with a massive garden, and after spending a few years in the Arizona desert I realized how much joy thriving green plants bring me! I’ve started a container garden consisting of herbs, tomatoes, berries, and spinach partially from seed and partially from propagating plants from my existing outdoor garden. My hope is that I can use as much produce as possible from my own plants, so I don’t have to waste packaging material or even fuel to get to the store. I want to be the source as much as possible to save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I enjoy reusing milk containers and bottles to plant new life that will later provide for our meals. Whenever possible, I try to shop at our local farmers market, Carpinito Bros. They offer reduced priced bulk vegetables and fruits, which are great for canning, making sauces, pickles, and juices!

I urge you to locate a farmer’s market near you! Additionally, we use a weekly service that picks up compost (leftover food scraps and yard debris), garbage, and recycling. I wish all states and cities offered this! If you don’t have these resources, look online for a local recycling center to drop off plastics, cardboard, paper, and aluminum recyclables.  If you don’t have a compost option with garbage pick-up, great news: You can start composting TODAY! Start by dumping all food scraps and biodegradable waste into a lined container (I use a large upcycled plant container lined with a re-usable food bag. From there, you may choose to start a compost pile, dump into an area in your garden if you have one, or simply begin a large, open-style compost bin outdoors. Be careful of local animals, as composting is a bit like a buffet for them, and reference different ways to start composting here.

In short, I’ve become a more resilient, self-sufficient, confident individual by taking care of my environment, saving money, and becoming the source of my foods and hygiene products. I enjoy crafting in ways that have a positive impact on Earth, and feel accomplished every time I make bread, soap, jam or repurpose a plastic bottle. I hope you can find a few small ways to make a change, too! Please reach out if you would like to try some of these ideas but are a little intimidated or overwhelmed at how to go about it. I’ve tried all sorts of short cuts, and even some long cuts because I don’t have everything some recipes call for, so holler if I can help you get in touch with your hippie side!

Remember: There is no Planet B.

Cheers,

Becca K

                                 

                                                          


A Weekend of Firsts!

Champions train, endure pain, and never complain.

– Shalane Flanigan

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of cheering on two family members, Emma Watanabe and Joy Kawaoka, my cousin and mother-in-law. Both women, on separate occasions, decided to run the races they signed up for a year ago: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon and the Maple Valley Half Ironman (a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run completed in one day). They planned and plotted how to train for the courses and execute the massive distances completely self-supported. They were successful.

My mother in law, Joy, has survived cancer twice. At 60 years-old, she’s battled broken bones, early onset osteoporosis, and the development of unique food allergies, all likely results of chemotherapy. Joy has been at almost every full Ironman and half Ironman for her son (my husband) and began training as a lifestyle change post-cancer. She never thought she would be able to do a distance like a half ironman without getting hurt, and certainly not within the 8-hour time cut off required by the race organization. I began coaching her almost a year ago to help her prepare for the grueling triathlon. As part of her training Elliot and I would join her for swims every Sunday evening, before having a family dinner, and on virtual bike workouts via Zwift. Incorporating family and socially distant outdoor workouts with her friends has helped her during quarantine, as she’s very high risk with her low immune system and age demographic. Every time I checked in on her regarding the training I gave her, she responded “I really like the training. It gives me energy, and helps me feel strong and accomplished every day.”

She feels the consistent, smart training got her to the finish line injury-free and well within sanctioned race time cut offs. In terms of a race plan, we focused on a good swim (where she is the strongest of the three), fueling on the bike with enough fluid and calories, and getting through the run. I’ve never seen her smile so bright! My father-in-law, Daryl, recorded much of the day as he offered words of motivation and encouragement, such as “You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?” 🙂

Her results: 42 minute swim. 3hr32min bike. 2hr45min run.

Cumulative time: 6hrs59minutes. Mission accomplished! She reflected: “I’m glad I pushed to finish. I really thought about quitting….I thought of Elliot in a wheelchair at the [Ironman] finish line. Got me to the finish.”

My cousin, Emma, is part of an active family. Her father Derek, a competitive cyclist, inspired my husband to get into running and triathlon racing. He ran the marathon that brought us together in 2017, Phoenix Marathon, and has been an integral part of our relationship. Emma and her sister, Clare, have cheered Elliot and me on to many finish lines, yelling splits and positions to us while sharing root beer floats afterwards. We were beyond excited to thank Emma in a small way by joining her for her first marathon attempt.  She consistently trained through the pandemic and a crazy work schedule (she’s an accountant for Costco), putting in big miles, often with a face covering, wherever her work required her to be. Inspirational.

Derek offered to ride his mountain bike to carry the water bottles, cell phones, throw-away clothing, gels, and bars that were required for the three of us (Elliot, Emma, and myself) to successfully finish the distance. It was one heavy bike! Our Auntie Anne dropped the four of us off at the start line, snapped a photo, and wished us good luck before heading to the finish line, 26.2 miles away.

The route is incredible. We started early, so the first several miles were in crisp, foggy mountain air. The famous railway tunnel, 2 miles long, felt like running through a scene from Lord of the Rings. A small dot of light and Derek’s bike light guided us through the dark, wet tunnel before opening up to breathtaking mountains covered in evergreens. We continued on the trail, a gentle -1%  gradient, running under a canopy of trees, over fascinating bridges, and past abandoned railway buildings. Mountain streams trickled by, a constant soothing sound echoed by the constant shuffling of feet. We slowly shed layers and handed them off to Derek, who was careful to keep us hydrated and fueled. The temperature rose from mid 50’s to low 80’s by the end.

Emma never wavered. She started cautious, building her effort throughout the run. By the final miles, she was hard to keep up with! Determined to make the experience race-like, she didn’t stop at any point in the run. She did, however, smile and make excellent conversation while soaking in the views. There were no time goals in place, but she managed to crush Elliot’s first marathon time by almost 20 minutes and negative split the distance (meaning she ended faster than she started, which most first-time marathoners struggle to do!) As promised, Anne was there at the finish with cowbells, old medals to place around our necks, signs, and shouts of joy to bring Emma home!

Emma reflected: “I definitely feel accomplished! It would have been fun to beat random strangers (in an actual race setting) but I think I also proved that I could motivate and push myself even without competition.” She was also happy she didn’t have to deal with long lines to the bathroom before the start!

Hats off to these ladies, who proved that with the right mindset, consistent training, and a little determination, anything is possible. It seems both Emma and Joy surprised themselves, finishing faster than they imagined they would have in an actual race. I was humbled to be a small part of the day, running next to Emma for 4 hours before heading over to Mama’s house to cheer her on to finish her grueling 7 hour triathlon. Well – deserved burgers, fries, shakes and beers were had by all, but even more importantly we banded together as a family to conquer mentally and physically challenging distances. Thankful, humbled, happy, and sore, we haven’t stopped messaging each other since we stopped moving. Love you guys!

 I encourage you to find a community, whether its fellow family members or like-minded friends, to join you in a challenge. It doesn’t have to be a half ironman or marathon, perhaps a 5K, group bike ride or open water swim is more appropriate. Don’t wait around for “real races.” Make a plan, find someone who will join you in training and execution, and just DO IT. If not now, when?  I promise you won’t regret it!