Don’t shoot the messenger

Don’t shoot the messenger

This piece was written by my good friend and neighbor, Kelly Wolz.  It is dedicated to all the girls I’ve loved before, my sisters of the present, and all the women I will meet and share life with in the future.

My sentiments exactly.




I have been seeing a lot of reviews on the Barbie Movie, and to be honest, I haven’t seen it, and I’m not sure if I will.

It’s not that I’m not a supporter of females or blind to all the adversities we feel and deal with daily. Trust me. I could write a book on how dirty I and some women in my industry have been played.

Disclaimer, I know what I’m about to say will come off as wholly arrogant, and that’s okay. I feel a bit entitled and proud of my hard work and where I am, and it didn’t come easy.

Sadly, I’m not the norm regarding confidence, and I’m incredibly comfortable in my skin.

Here is the truth. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows regarding being a confident female. Unfortunately, that confidence comes with extreme guilt, sadness, hate, and wonder.

Regarding the hate, I take action from Jay Z’s playbook “Gone brush your shoulders off.”

It’s the wonder of women that always gets me messed up. Women always wonder what other women have or how they walk around with such confidence—constantly questioning the validity of their own persona and doubting that someone with a certain face, size, kind of car, hair, makeup, kids, husband, no husband, etc could be so happy. Instead of being happy and proud, most women are in disbelief and wonder why someone could be so delighted with who they are and what they have.  Just know, What’s good for me or someone else, may not suit you. Good thing, I am me, and you are you.

And for me one of the hardest things for me as a female is to watch another female (especially if it’s someone I respect) bring another female down. What’s even worse than that??? Witnessing such beautiful women struggle with what they see in the mirror and then letting that image affect them mentally.

So you know, some of the most physically beautiful friends and family I have, maybe some of the most insecure people I know. Society has led people to believe we should be concerned and worried about women who don’t charm the world and the insecurities they may have as a result. (Don’t worry about us; our milkshakes can still bring the boys out to the yard). 😉

I am more concerned about our children and the women who hold the power to charm the world and feel that pressure always. They spend their time counting calories, feeling the need for the best of everything: the perfect body, hair, clothes, and makeup. It’s almost as if the world treats them like performers. Their sole purpose is to be easy on the eyes of society. And the moment they take a break from trying to impress the world, they feel that negative energy from everyone because people hold so much value in their beauty that they don’t take the time to see their inner beauty.

Ladies, can we make a pack? To be more supportive of each other and more open about our confidences and insecurities. Can we build each other up instead of ripping each other down when we think someone has surpassed where we want to be?

Let’s use our women super powers and determination to ensure our children have fewer adversities than we do. We are all in this together ❤️

Napalm in the Morning

Napalm in the Morning

When he was three years old, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a variant on the autism spectrum. By the time he was five, I had read everything I could get my hands on about what they (at the time) referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome. “A syndrome is a recognizable complex set of symptoms and physical findings which indicate a specific condition for which a direct cause is not necessarily understood.” Though I suspect there is a direct correlation between agent orange exposure in Vietnam War veterans and the rise in Autism among their grandchildren.

Asperger’s is generally marked by:

  • Emotional Sensitivity.
  • Fixation on Particular Subjects or Ideas.
  • Linguistic Oddities.
  • Social Difficulties.
  • Problems Processing Physical Sensations.
  • Devotion to Routines.
  • Development of Repetitive or Restrictive Habits.
  • Dislike of Change.

There also tends to be a co-morbidity between mood disorders like anxiety and depression and behavior disorders like attention deficit disorder (ADD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And please note, in this context, the word behavior is defined as a particular way of functioning (i.e., can’t focus) versus how a person chooses to conduct themselves. 

When Covid hit and schools closed, I became Jason’s teacher. I then realized how far behind he was academically. Unfortunately, he is not only cognitively impaired but also socially impaired. And because of it, he was being bullied at school.

He often ate alone at lunch (he later told me it was easier because he didn’t have to worry about what to say). He likes quoting Francis Ford Coppola movies (Apocalypse Now is his favorite movie) and telling you the specifics of various World War 2 military battles. And let me tell you, those are not exactly great 6th-grade conversation starters.

And then, one day, a girl asked him if he’d be her boyfriend. I knew this girl and his troubles with her in the past. I warned him, but he was thrilled. And when he said yes, she proceeded to mock him and joke to everyone that he would never stand a chance. As his mom, this hurt, of course, but I also believe in getting hard knocks out of the way early. The school handled the situation remarkably, and Jason learned fundamental lessons about the human condition.

I kept him home for the next two years and became the county’s least-paid full-time middle school teacher. And that’s when I realized how bad his attention deficit disorder was. Not being able to focus also caused us a lot of anxiety. But he also comes by his inability to concentrate, rightfully. I could’ve had this piece written in two hours, but I got up at least 12 different times to do 12 other things. The squirrels in my head are also fast! But I don’t like labels and told Jason that if he can harness his ADD, it can be his superpower. 

We got ahead in school because we could stay with a topic until he “got” it. But I knew that was not possible in high school, where they covered a subject and moved on. I had held off on medicating him but knew his ability to focus was critical to his success. So, we did it, and he started meds over the summer. And academically, he’s doing great!

Thankfully we stopped his moodiness and outbursts when he was little with no meds needed. I read about the correlation between food and Autism and removed all dairy (specifically the casein protein) and gluten from his diet. There is a direct correlation between the severity of symptoms and these sticky proteins.

Anyway, high school has been great. He is good in math and bad (but getting better) with girls. He is also taking medication for anxiety (which he also gets from me) and for ADD. His grades are good, and he genuinely seems to be happy. Still, when he told me he had put his name in the ring for Homecoming court, my first thought was, “Aw, crap.”

My oldest, who loves her brother and wants nothing more than to protect him, pleaded with me to convince him not to run. But I told her that was not possible. He was way too excited. My only warning was to run a fair and well-mannered TikTok war with his opponent!

And guess what? He won and was elected to the freshman homecoming court. It turns out they were right. You are free to be yourself in high school, and nobody cares. Before he started high school this fall, he nobly reached out to the kids he had issues with in middle school and apologized. Those same kids have grown to know and embrace Jason and were instrumental in getting him the homecoming sash.  

If I had discouraged him from running, I could have robbed him of his success, of getting the win. And what a shame that would’ve been. He came up to me after this picture was taken and told me it was the best night of his life! That made this momma smile and even cried a little.

You Gotta Nourish In Order To Flourish

You Gotta Nourish In Order To Flourish

One of my “favorite book” recommendations is a book that I used to gift to my health coaching clients. It is called “The Mindful Diet How to Transform your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health (Wolver, Ruth, et al.,2015). The cover is a little tattered and torn, but no worse for wear, as they say!  Deeply rooted in Psychology, I like it because it helps you understand your relationship with yourself–from many angles. And we, the readers, are gifted with tools and easy ways to create sustainable changes for a healthy life.

I am on day 4 of a 7-day detox, in which the first two days are an herbal liquid fast. When you don’t eat for 68 hours, it’s an easy way to understand and know your cravings! You can even write them down if you want. It’s an excellent way to check in with ourselves.

During this time of fasting, I realized that I had ebbed away from the things that brought me actual physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I know how I feel when I take care of myself in all those ways, And I also know what it feels like to neglect myself in those ways. Holistic health is the Tao of Happiness!

I have also decided to give up alcohol for the time being, if not forever. And not just because it’s awful for my body. My reflux and weight gain are directly correlated to my alcohol consumption. But I am rebelling against our cultural love of alcohol. Alcohol is poison. It is not medicine. Though I believe many people use it that way.  It numbs, but it’s also death to more than just brain cells. I know someone in a coma RIGHT NOW because of a drunk driving incident.I saw a great quote: “Alcohol is the only drug that if you DON’T do it, people assume you have a problem. Now, that’s a problem.   But it’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE!

And I want to fall in love with good nutrition again because guess what? It can also taste good! That idea is what made me want to become a professional chef. I also know that I want to eat good food and not just eat what tastes good. Oreos are vegan! And guess what? Our healthy tastebuds have been hijacked!

Our entire understanding of what to eat has been conflated and confused. We are disconnected between what goes in and what comes out of us! But no wonder we have commercials for “Arby’s—We got the meat.” The next damn commercial is for Lipitor or Viagra. I just read that the average 40-year-old takes two long-term prescription medications daily. It goes up A LOT the older we get. The number of pills my 82-year-old stepdad takes is staggering. Watch the documentary “Game Changers.”

Change is possible, but it is also incremental. One of the things that I always say is, “Think Evolution, not Revolution. Change takes practice. Like anything else, it takes a desire and effort, but pace yourself. I tend to take off quickly! Also, we need to get out of our way. My friend did the Hard 75. Her advice is, like Nike, “Just do it.” Hey, monkey mind, stop thinking about it and go do it already!

In psychology, we talk a lot about the mind all the time! But how many of us understand what it even is? Ha! Here’s a quick Psych 101 lesson. The first layer of our mind is the waking mind, also known as the chattery mind. It’s the always-thinking, mile-a-minute mind that likes to achieve satisfaction!

The second layer of our mind is our reactive mind. The “what do we do mind.” “Do I go home and fix dinner or run yourself through a drive-thru?” This is the judgmental mind that loops all of us! This mind can trick even the most experienced of us!  “Eh, I’ll make dinner tomorrow night.”

And the third and final mind is the wise old owl mind. The mind simply does what it needs to do, even if it’s hard, because it knows it’s essential. It is also the practicing mind.  Repetition and practice are what allow change to change us!

Excerpt from The Mindful Diet How to Transform your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health. Wolver, Ruth, et al.,  2015


In effect, it is from this perspective that one can become a teaching mind. It takes discipline as well as desire to achieve “real” change. From now on, my hope is to share what I know. And I promise to practice what I teach. I love cooking. Food is life. But there is so much more to proper health and well-being than what we eat. Don’t worry. I’ll still share recipes because I will never stop cooking!

From this day forward, this space will be all-encompassing, holistic, and from a place of authenticity and selflessness.  It’s not about me, yet it is about me. This is why I share my cooking videos, but I’m not in a bikini doing it!  In fact, you’ll rarely see my face. I believe in plant medicine, and yes, I am pro-marijuana.  I believe in moving and stretching the body, but I don’t think that has to be in a gym. I will explore topics in alternative medicine, psychology, and spirituality.  I believe in a higher power. In practice, I am an omnist; I don’t believe there is one path to transcendence (though much of my practice is rooted in Buddhism), and I am not here to judge or deny anyone for their beliefs.

And as to the knowledge I share, I humbly say that most of what I know comes from standing on the shoulders of giants. Those brave souls paved the way for folks like you and me to know and grow!  So you will often hear me reference doctors, researchers, educators, activists, mentors, and musicians.  I will also share personal experiences and stories of my friends and me.

I am an ardent follower of people like Dr. Michael Greger, MD, Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.; and Dr. Stephen Cabral, ND.

I hope to impart wisdom and humor from great contemporaries like Maya Angelou and Matthew McConaughey (if you haven’t read his “Greenlights” book, ya gotta); and neuroscientist Andrew Huberman just to name a few.

Furthermore, I will reference activists like John Muir, Sierra Club, Peta…and THAT list goes on and on! Just a forewarning, tho, on the topics of animals and our planet, I’m going to be factual and blunt.

Finally, I encourage people to have reasonable, even heated, discussions!  I am a very passionate person! And I love being in the scrum!  But I will literally block people from my page if they cannot have a dignified and respectful conversation.

Helping others by helping ourselves is the best gift we can give the world.

#The journey of 1000 miles…

XOXO —Steph

“What we seed, we feed.” 

Uncommon Valor

Uncommon Valor

My father died last year.  He had just turned 70 years old.    The official diagnosis was Agent Orange Related Parkinson’s Disease.   The official cause of death was asphyxiation.   He died choking on his own blood.  And though he may have died on January 29, 2020, the truth is, Agent Orange exposure killed him 50 years before.  

For the first two years of their marriage, my mom was the recipient of many a late-night trip to the floor as my father would grab her and toss her,  yelling “incoming.” The only story I had ever heard about his time in Vietnam was one in which he was riding shotgun, holding a gun, as their convoy passed through a small village.   As was often the case, the villagers in town would gather on each side of the road as the soldiers would throw provisions and food to them.  

The young Vietnamese children would run up yelling, “chop, chop,” which meant candy.   My Dad said he often knew when they were among the Viet Cong because no one gathered.   But this particular day, as the crowd parted, a young Vietnamese girl about four years old walked from the crowd and stopped about 20 feet ahead of them.  My father saw the grenade.  As the truck stopped, he got out and slowly made his way over to her.  He spoke to her in Vietnamese and asked her to drop it.  He asked again, and he asked again.  But the child reached for the pin. In one fail swoop, my father made a decision that changed his view of life forever. 

The only other story I have heard about my Dad, and Vietnam, came last week at his service. This letter was written by one of my Dad’s platoon buddies. Jay had reached out to my Dad via email before he died, but my Dad could not respond. So after letting him know about the email, Reverend Apple decided to reach out to Jay. This is the letter that Reverend Apple read…

Hello Reverend Apple,

Thanks so much for letting me know about Glenn’s passing.  I am sorry to hear that he is gone and wish we might have had the opportunity to reconnect.   My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Glenn saved my life on Easter Sunday 1969 (April 6) in a clearing in the jungle near Black Virgin Mountain Nui Be Den) in Vietnam.  Our company’s lead platoon was ambushed earlier in the afternoon. Two men either killed or badly injured lying in the clearing, exposed to fire from North Vietnamese Army soldiers concealed in well-camouflaged bunkers.   Our platoon was called forward to try to reach the casualties, and the platoon leader instructed me to send a fire team (3-4 guys) forward toward the nearest body to pull it back. 

Leading the team, I crawled across the clearing but was suddenly hit by a burst of fire from an AK-47, which tore my rifle from my hands and also punctured my left lung, just missed my heart, and wedged within an inch of my spine.  About the same time, a rocket-propelled grenade went off in a tree at the edge of the clearing, and I was also spattered with shrapnel.  I did some serious praying, and God sent Glenn Dale and the platoon leader across that bullet-swept field to pull me back. Unfortunately, the enemy was still very much present, as I was shot again in the leg after being pulled back to our side of the clearing. 

I suspect Glenn did not receive an award for bravery for his actions that day (enlisted men seldom did). Still, he certainly deserved to do so, as he openly exposed himself to the enemy fire to carry me to safety.  Without his action, I would certainly have died there and then.

Later in the afternoon, I almost missed the medevac helicopter, as they thought I was a goner.  When I finally lay on an operating table at a MASH hospital in Tay Ninh, a priest gave me the last rites. You cannot imagine my surprise when I awoke the following day.  I spent the rest of 1969 in military hospitals until discharged – from the hospital and the army – on December 31, 1969.

Please express my condolences and my eternal thanks to Glenn’s family for sending him to me on that Easter over a half-century ago.

Jay Phillips

Running the Path

Running the Path

The other day my neighbor came over for coffee.  She seemed a bit down and out and told me she was thinking about running.  She said she wanted to feel better about her body, and that losing some weight would make her feel better about herself.   She told me she had never run before, and wanted to pick my brain on how to run.   I smiled and said, “Go put on some running shoes and run!  Don’t overthink it.   Just go for a run.  Don’t worry about how fast you are, how long your run is, or how many times you had to stop to catch your breath.  Just go run.”  I remember not being able to run ¼ mile without stopping.  Now I run a full 8 miles without resting once.   I started by simply putting one foot in front of the other.  “But,” I also cautioned her, “it’s not the weight you lose from running that makes you feel good about yourself.  Weight loss is an extrinsic motivator and will likely be a reason you stop running.  Don’t seek to be a size two.  Instead seek dedication, consistency, and persistence.  They will make you feel better about yourself.”  Change your vernacular and you will change your life.

Like yoga, running has changed my life.  It’s become a way for me to quiet my mind.  It is like a moving meditation.   I focus solely on my breath and let go of all tension and thought.   When I hit my stride, I feel like I could run forever.   I achieve the same state when I stay in certain deep asanas, like pigeon, for a long time.   It’s the best feeling in the world.  If I am in a bad mood, anxious, stuck creatively, whatever is going on, I will go for a run, or do some flows.  And when I’m done, all is well again.

When I look back over the last year, hell, over the last decade… I am proud to say I have accomplished much.   I have gained a lot, learned a lot, but also forgotten much, and lost a lot.   I have reached some goals that I never imagined possible, while I watched other dreams go up in smoke…but that, as they say “is life.”    The “one foot in front of the other” mentality has served me well, until now.   Lately, I feel fearful and uncertain about some big things in my life.  And the truth is, I don’t really know why.  Life has pretty much stayed the same.  But then I think maybe that’s the reason I feel this way.  The Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”  I get it, I want more.  But thinking about my future is almost paralyzing.   It was the Buddha who said, “Overthinking is the greatest cause of unhappiness.”  So perhaps silence is best.  Who knows, maybe I’ll slow down and give silent meditation a try.  Or maybe I’ll just go for a longer run.  🙂

With that, Happy New Year’s and Happy New Decade.  May you have many abundant blessings, and may you get back all that you give.  Remember to seek out joy, as it is always there for us. May you find peace in any given moment, and may you do hard and scary things!  Grow abundantly!  Namaste!

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

Next week, I have been asked to speak to a group of middle school girls about body image and self-esteem. Lately, these buzzwords have gained momentum in our culture, a culture laden with false narratives and inaccuracies about value and self-worth. Many expert responses to this narrative, while encouraging, often lack depth and therefore do not resonate or connect with their intended audience. So I knew my words had to be carefully chosen, intentional, and authentic. In other words, they had to come from the experiences gleaned by traveling down a dark and winding road called self-actualization.

Self-image is simply the story we tell ourselves about who and what we are.  Our stories define our self-esteem, (the manner in which we evaluate ourselves), and our self-worth, (the belief that we are loveable and valuable despite how we evaluate our traits). To make things more complicated our stories are usually co-written by those around us, people who may have the best intentions, but are likely struggling with their own confusing falsehoods.  Add to the fact that human nature is inherently geared toward the negative for survival purposes, and it’s no wonder we are sometimes left feeling insecure and at odds with the world.  All of these elements perpetuate the inaccuracies of our true selves; this leads us to internalize and criticize ourselves, generally culminating in some kind of unwanted behavior.   In some, this may mean eating disorders, drug abuse, and in extreme cases, suicide.

So what is a girl to do?   The first and most important step is to be present and not unconsciously respond to stimuli.  Life is not about what happens to you, but how you respond to life.   Being present allows us to analyze our behavior; it helps us assess our feelings and thoughts, and allows us to take a much-needed breath or two.  Frankly, it is the most powerful tool in the box.  The next step is to realize that we have a choice to rewrite the script.   The words we choose to use, the ideas that we embrace about ourselves are ultimately up to us.   We are not what others say we are unless WE choose to embrace it and believe it.  We are no longer fighting saber tooth tigers; we are fighting against ambiguous texts, simulated fantasies on social media, and trying to adhere to the impossible task that we must be all things to all people.  

What is my suggestion to these young girls? Instead of trying to be something…just be. Be your imperfectly perfect selves, work hard, be honorable, and stay humble. Don’t worry about being good or being right. In fact, don’t worry at all. Have faith and fear not, because fear will hold you hostage. Be brave and explore the paths less traveled. Do hard things. In fact, seek out things that make you afraid and uncomfortable and do them. Then you will begin to see what you’re truly made of. We are not confined to a future that has yet to be written. Our destiny and fate can change from moment to moment. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Because for better or worse, what you believe, you will achieve.