I am a native Massachusettsan (or should I just say Masshole?), who always yearned for warmer weather and chiller vibe. After attending University of Rhode Island my freshman year, I realized what the F am I still doing in the cold? I transferred to the College of Charleston, graduating in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. I met Schanen at AC’s (a dive bar on King St.) my senior year and we connected instantly - she was the sister I always wanted! Ironically, she graduated the same semester from CofC with a BA in Communication Studies. We were VERY different, she liked punk rock, wore dark clothing and at the time did not want to cook for anyone as she wanted to defy societal norms of being a “housewife." I listened to The Doors, wore long flowy dresses, smoked a lot of pot and loved to cook with fresh veggies from the garden. Differences aside, we both loved to laugh, LOVED to eat, have pool parties, loved vodka and were huge animal lovers. She was also the kindest, most honest friend I’ve ever had and only my father up until this point in my life could make me laugh like she did; I knew this would be a lifelong bond.
After graduating, my desire to travel was stronger than ever. Leaving friends and family (and my dog Jasper) behind was difficult, but there was this part of my soul that needed to explore. I knew my bonds in Charleston were strong, so I set forth on my next chapter. I traveled down to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 5 weeks, earning my TEFL certificate. With that in hand I kept moving South, residing in Buenos Aires for 6 months to have a go at teaching English. It was quite the experience, rooming with a Brit, an Austrian and another kindred spirit from Tampa. The four of us ventured through Argentina, teaching English here and there, but it was more about the experience than anything. I certainly learned more from the portenos than they did from me… how to dance tango and dubstep, how to start dinner at 11pm, clubbin at 2am and going to bed after sunrise, how to hike through high altitudes, how to pick out a nice malbec, eat all cuts of beef (including the skin and blood) and how to drink a 40oz like a champ.
Oh it was the best of times! We had a blast, but my heart was calling me back to reunite with family and friends in good ol’ Chucktown. When I returned, I did not feel like my resilient twenty something self. I had heartburn and struggled to sleep well at night. Like many people do, I suppressed those warning signs, wanting to continue my happy go lucky lifestyle. I spent the next four months working at Monza (a gourmet pizza joint), hustling to save dat money! And then, like the wind, I packed up for a European extravaganza, this time I had my best mate Schanen by my side. We back packed for three months, starting in England and traveling East from Barcelona through the South of France into Italy. We spent three weeks eating our way through Italy, traveling deeper South down the boot. The more south we went, the better the food tasted and the faster we ran out of change. We did not let this slow our roll however, we made do, living off oats, nutella, bread and cheap wine. Ironically, I lost 10 pounds and she gained 10 pounds. We managed to live this way for the remaining month and a half of our trip, traveling from Paris → Amsterdam → Cologne → Berlin → Vienna → Prague → Munich. In Munich we went our separate ways, I flew from Dublin → Boston, just in time to spend Christmas with my parents. And Schanen went back to her hometown, Hilton Head, just in time to get engaged!
When I returned to Mass, I was sick. At this point in my mid twenties my lifestyle choices had caught up with me. I had chronic heartburn, bloating and started to vomit blood at night. I had no choice but to seek professional help. My doctor diagnosed me with a stomach ulcer, advising me to start a daily prescription of Prilosec and have an endoscopy to assess the damages. I opted out of this invasive procedure and refused to believe that popping a pill was the answer. This was the first time in my life that I decided to take my health into my own hands. I did some research on what causes ulcers, the number one reason was an imbalance of acidity and alkalinity in my diet. This was certainly the truth; beer, wine, meat, sugar, liquor, cheese, bread and coffee were the primary staples in my diet at this time and are ALL highly acidic. Eureka! I realized diet directly correlated with health. I decided to do an elimination diet in order to let my gut heal. I ate only steamed veggies, brown rice, olive oil and drank lots of water and peppermint tea. After three weeks, my heart burn subsided, vomiting stopped and I was ready to start trying different foods. I kept a journal, logging what made me feel good and what caused the heartburn to flair up. Red meat and pork was an absolute NO go, it caused the worst heartburn, cramping, bloating and constipation. I also could no longer binge drink beer like I used to. Which was a good thing! Who needs to play edward 40 hands anyways!? So I ate what made me feel good. LOTS of big ass salads, fish and chicken, good grains like quinoa and brown rice and drank green smoothies every day.
During my twenties, I also realized that I had a lack of passion for working in the PR field and wanted to delve into my newly formed interest of health and wellness. I always had a knack for cooking and was so enjoying making health creations with my Pinckney’s Produce bin. I also started teaching ballet and performing again, which I had not done much of since my teens. I thought, how cool would it be if I could cook, do yoga and dance all day? So, my parents, a couple good friends and I took a road trip from San Diego, CA to Portland, OR. I inquired about grad school programs and immersed myself into each city, imagining what life could be like for a Yankee girl? My favorite cities were San Francisco and Portland, but I still couldn't get over the chilly weather. I dreamed for island life; one where I could wear flip flops, be a few minutes late to class, pick fresh fruits and veggies and go swimming year round. SO, we booked our flights and my family and I flew to Oahu. (my parents and I share the same zest for traveling and exploring, I’m pretty damn grateful for their unconditional support!) During my two week stay in Oahu, I toured the UH Manoa campus. Upon my visit, I came across Betsy Fisher, a Professor of Dance, gliding solo across the dance floor. This tiny teacher in a giant studio, captivated our attention, my parents and I stood there until we broke her concentration. She walked over to us, greeting me with a giant smile, informing me about the dance program. I was sold! Not only could I study ballet and modern, but island Pacific dancing, movement analysis, anatomy and physiology were also requirements for the program. Little did I know at the time, but Betsy has an extraordinary mind and became one of my greatest mentors.
With a goal for a healthier lifestyle, one where I could be grounded to mother nature, I moved to Oahu in 2011. I immediately began teaching ballet and working on my grad school application. Throughout that time, I also volunteered with the Cancer Project, a non-profit which educates people about a plant based health and how to make it attainable. I decided to transition to a vegan diet myself, first giving up chicken, then dairy, eventually fish. I felt great! I had no more allergies or menstrual cramps! I also got a job at a wellness center doing administrative work, but learning everyday about the power of superfoods, vitamin B, magnesium and probiotics. It was more of an internship than anything! In Fall of 2012, I began my studies at UH Manoa, I focused on Dance Education and Wellness. Grad school was one of the MOST challenging times of my life. I continued to teach about 9 ballet classes per week, volunteered for a kale farm, joined a dance company and did work trade (cooking for a family for discounted rent). I also got to help write the menu and cook for one of Oahu’s first all-vegan joints during my summers.
With too much on my plate already, I also faced some very personal challenges. I was in two car accidents during my studies in school. The first one occurred a month before starting grad school. I was rear ended on the H1, this really affected my posture, causing a lot of pain while dancing. The last one, occurred during my last semester of grad school, the driver and I survived but my car did not! My father and greatest confidant also passed away in October 2014, during my last year of school. I want to delve into these challenges on another blog post, sharing about how I survived and am currently surviving these grievances. However, I just want to note that though at times I felt incapacitated, I am now a stronger, more knowledgeable teacher/human being.
I graduated in May 2015 with a MA in Dance Education and Wellness Management. I was proud of myself, but exhausted. I felt I had lived a thousand years in my four years in Hawaii. With a heavy heart, I knew I wanted to spend some time on the East coast, reconnecting with my mom, brother and best friend, Schanen. In July, 2015, Schanen and I joined forces, launching our Kale Whale business. I am elated to have found a partner and forum which allows me to share my journey towards optimum health. Schanen is the guru of social media and has a gift for motivating and energizing others. With our powers combined we are determined to share the power of a plant-based diet, not just for our health, but for our planet’s!