Because I Don't Believe in "Beauty"

Monday, August 26, 2013

On Instagram, there's a button you can push called "Explore", and when you hit this magical button, dozens of pictures appear, pictures from all different kinds of people all over the world. Sometimes I like to hit this button just to remind myself that life exists outside my sphere, to remember just how small I am. One day I pushed this button over and over and there were so many pictures-- Norway, China, Italy, Russia-- snapshots of life, slivers of earth, tiny telescopes offering glimpses of people and places I have never seen before and will never see again. But as I pushed this button (over and over and over again), I read the comments at the bottom of the pictures. Sometimes they were actually in English.   In every picture that contained a busty brunette, a tall, lithe blonde, a skinny, puckering wafer of a toned, tan twenty-something, there would (unfailingly) be the trailing comments of her preteen fan club.

"You are so beautiful! I wish I could be as pretty as you!"

"It's not fair how beautiful you are!"

And most damaged of all:

"I would die to be as pretty as you!"

Die. Die? DIE. No matter how you say it, dead is dead is dead. That a thirteen year-old, still a child-- glasses, braces, and boy bands-- should be willing to sacrifice the gift of her very life to be tall, skinny, blue-eyed, and blonde. To have the conventional brand of "Beauty".

I was disgusted. I was shocked. But more than that, I empathized so very, very deeply with these girls whose parents had put extensive safety measures on their daughter's Instagram account to prevent creepy old men from looking at their pictures, yet who couldn't prevent the violent mind-rape and soul-twisting of their little girl by a cannibalistic, sex-obsessed media.

I'm sad because I know and I remember the ugliness of her jealousy and despair. I never vocalized it like her, but I felt like a different species, subhuman, when I stood next to someone who looked like how a person was supposed to look. "Beautiful."

So I changed myself. I changed my size and my colors and my texture and my type. I changed my conversation and my clothes. It was such a slow, subtle transformation that I barely noticed. But I didn't even really look like myself anymore. I was still there, small and quiet, on the inside. But the "better", "prettier" me was on the outside. I could fake it and it worked. I attracted the kind of people who valued "Beauty", the right kind of shallow, flat people who cared more about their body than about their heart.

That kind of violence, however, can have debilitating consequences-- physical and emotional. After months of hurting I needed to heal. I knew that I needed to find a fact, a hope, an idea, a truth that I could hold to that would keep me grounded, keep me sane, keep me happy and hopeful and grateful.

I was on the top of a mountain in the English Lake District when I found my idea, my truth to keep me safe.

Picture height-- Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England. Picture the depth of the drop, the worn, ancient grayness of boulders chipped and stones heaped, the whiteness and coldness of air molecules decelerating their incessant dance of bounce-and-swap-and-flee in the high altitude, but most of all the deep view, the vast view, the gargantuan and archaic and god-like view of cloud-shadowed, stone mountains and cavernous, gouged valleys and sky-filled lakes and the endless horizon that extended from the boots I had torn my muscles and rattled my bones to plant upon the peak. If a picture is worth a thousand words, even millions of words could not accurately reconstruct my attempts at mountain goat leaping between the giant, lichen-stripped boulders that balanced so delicately and disorderly upon each other up the side of the mountain, the desolate, dust-filled air and moon-like landscape of the paths between the peaks, the suddennness of unbroken, crystal swaths of snow, the surprise of Indonesia-green cliffs and waterfalls, and the fear of shattered ankles and vanishing into the forever downwardness as I found myself careening down the side of the mountain, alone as far as the eye could see, just to catch the last coach to Keswick.

I saw myself so clearly then. I was a broken pilgrim who had come to the mountain to worship... something. Something bigger and better and infinitely more real than glossy magazine ads and perfect hair and skinny, skinny bodies. I felt myself leaking out of my body, the earth rushing in through the cracks. The prison of my skin dissipated, or maybe it unraveled and blew away in the wind. All I knew is that the facade was gone. I saw the real, real, real, real, REAL beauty all around me. It was wild and raw and natural and everything it was created to be. If some person had come and replaced the jagged, organic, unrestrained beauty of this place with perfect, ordered lines, smooth artificial turf, had trimmed and tucked and taken away-- the thought of it made me crazy. No one could possibly top the real, wild beauty of an untouched mountain. I thought of myself. Why couldn't that be me? If the mountain was perfect just the way it was, pure, existing exactly the way God intended it to-- then why not me?

I felt as though I had finally woken up, that I had finally come home to a place I belonged to but had long since forgotten. Here, in a space crammed tight with air molecules peeling off trees, with leaves and blades and stalks rich with chlorophyll and carotenoids, with jagged igneous rock, I was earth-- timeless, faceless-- I was everything. I was simply the raw, untouched, wild Morgan I was meant to be.

I stopped starving myself and ate wonderful healthy foods instead. I stopped coloring my hair and trying to look and act a certain way. I read more poetry. I love the earth and my family more. My friends are adventurous and original and wild. I have never felt cooler in my life.

My advice to the young who are dying to be "Beautiful"-- stop.

Stop believing in and reaching for a standard that will leave you feeling ugly and sad and empty. Embrace your texture and your color and your type. Love the things in your heart and say the words in your brain. Be with the people that fill you with joy. Eat the natural foods of the earth. Be kind and serve others. Be grateful for the goodness in your life.

Love yourself.

Love others.

Live responsibly and frugally and do good deeds.

Choose to be happy.

Favorite Things Friday

Friday, August 23, 2013

On Fridays, I like to think about "a few of my favorite things." Last Friday I posted about one of my favorite things, I talked about a song my step-dad would sing to me that I still love to this day. Today, I'm thinking about one of my favorite books.

If you are looking for a super engaging, different, and interesting book, I would recommend my favorite biography, Ada Blackjack

I know that many people tend to get turned off of nonfiction, especially biographies, but this book is so, so great. Trust me. After I checked it out of the library, it literally did not leave my clutches until I had come to the last page. This story is absolutely spell-binding, riveting, gripping... you know, all that good stuff. 

This book is the totally true story of a 23 year-old Inuit woman from Nome, Alaska joining an otherwise all-male expedition to the uncharted Arctic in the 1920's to earn money to provide for her young son. What happens after they arrive on the desolate Wrangel Island is something out of a nightmare-- loss of communication with the outside world, harsh environmental conditions, polar bears, starvation, abuse, sickness, death... 

When a rescue ship finally brought Ada home years after she was originally supposed to return with the rest of her company, she was the lone survivor of a totally harrowing experience she refused to talk about. Controversy and murder accusations swirled around the timid, broken young woman who had returned to find her son years older in her absence. I don't think we'll ever know the truth of what happened on Wrangel Island, but that mystery is part of what makes the book such a fascinating read. If you love bizarre, disconcerting, true survivor stories, you'll love this book. Jennifer Niven, the author, is a wonderful writer and the book reads just as fluidly as any novel. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. Pick it up and give it a read!

Happy reading!

12 Healthy, Versatile Foods to Always Have Handy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I currently have several wonderful and inspiring friends who are trying to make healthier choices in their diet. It can be frustrating finding healthy staples to buy that you actually want to eat. There are WAY too many food products at the grocery store that promote a "heart healthy", "organic", "green" image, or whatever... Tasty as these food are, many of them more often than not contain unnecessary ingredients that harm your body (sugar, added sodium, artificial flavors and colors, MSG, various toxic preservatives, etc.). It ends up being counterproductive. Just to lend a helping hand, instead of posting a recipe, I decided to compile a list of staple foods that I always have in my fridge and pantry to help me whip up a tasty, guilt-free dish quickly.

  • Gluten-free oats. These things are just so necessary. If you're craving sweet, bread-y foods, just bake some oat cookies. Cereal? A scoop of oats, stevia, cinnamon, some berries with almond milk poured over makes a delicious substitute. Granola bars? No problem. Muffins? Easy enough. Oats are super, super cheap and are friendly to all dietary restrictions. They're low in calories, have plenty of fiber and protein (for a grain), and are low in fat. They contain lignans which protect against cancer and heart disease. They remove bad cholesterol, and stabilize blood sugar which reduces the risk of diabetes. And they're yummy. So buy them.
  • Plain, 0% fat Greek Yogurt. Don't buy the sweetened, flavored kind. Not only does it always contain sugars and flavors that add carbs and calories, but it's so easy to sweeten with a splash of vanilla and some stevia extract (stevia is zero calorie and is a perfectly lovely sweetener). You can freeze it with some fruit to make fro-yo, you can add oats and berries for parfait, go half-and-half with some pureed pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and blueberries for a delicious, low-cal treat, plop a dollop in your smoothie or milkshake for a more filling, protein-filled drink. Or totally nix the sweetener and use it on a taco salad instead of the more fattening sour cream. Greek yogurt has a tangier flavor than normal yogurt. Learn to love it. Embrace it. You'll get used to it and the sweetener definitely helps. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein (attention fellow vegetarians!), calcium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. If you want to lose weight, THIS IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. It will help you feel fuller longer.
  • Quinoa. I've talked about the benefits of quinoa in previous posts (here), so check out the link if you want to know why you should be eating this grain. This is a wonderful substitute for rice. Asian food lovers, buy this by the case. It cooks very quickly and doesn't require much thought or effort. Combine this with some veggies and you have an easy meal. If you're craving rice or pasta, this is what you should be eating instead. You can also make this into a breakfast food by adding sweetener,  cinnamon, fruit, and nuts. It's good stuff.
  • Stevia. I know I talk about this a lot. It's because I love it more than anything in this world. Not really. (But yes...) This sweetener can either come in a liquid extract form or a powdery white form (more common and can be found at most supermarkets). It's zero calorie and carb (YAAAYYY!!!), tastes plenty sweet and cooks well. There were a few studies in the 1980's that indicated that there may be a few health risks related to stevia, but these were disproved in further studies in 2008. Make sure you don't buy a blend, but a type that is 100% stevia. I think the liquid extract (though more expensive) is healthier. The stevia plant has sweet leaves that can be broken right off and consumed, which is where we get the healthy extract. It's practically a spice. Stevia is an antioxidant and helps your body fight off aging free-radicals. It has also been proven to improve insulin productions (good news for diabetics!). It's good stuff.
  • Frozen Fruit and Frozen Vegetables. Buy bags of both. Make sure you buy the kind that doesn't have ANY preservatives (excess sodium is a preservative), sauces, spices, or sweetener. Fruit is great for smoothies (put it in a food processor with handfuls of spinach and stevia, and you have yourself a detoxifying meal replacement). Frozen veggies are great steamed (I prefer not to stir-fry things, but that's an option, too). It's great to have these things on hand since they make for quick, healthy meals and energizing breakfasts. Frozen fruit is great for my fellow sweets-lovers.
  • Greens. Buy spinach. Buy arugula. Buy them deep green and luscious. Put them in smoothies and make them into salad. I don't need to tell you why. Make a goal to eat a giant salad for dinner each night. Put berries or pears and nuts with your greens and pour some low-fat raspberry vinaigrette over it and just eat it. Cut up some avocadoes, some portobello mushrooms, some tomatoes, toss them with some greens, and pour a low-fat Italian dressing over it. Stay away from creamy dressings and stick to oil-based vinaigrettes. Go easy on the dressing and actually use only the recommended serving size and no more (normally two tablespoons). Iceberg lettuce is not going to give you the nutrients you need, so buy the deep, leafy greens. The more you eat them, the more you will like them. So don't give up just because you don't think they taste fantastic at first.
  • Almond milk. Buy the unsweetened, 30 cals/cup kind. It has more calcium than cow's milk and is free from the hormones and chemicals that can aggravate acne and make menstrual cycles more difficult. Dairy is tricky that way. Pour a bowl with oats, stevia, cinnamon, and sliced bananas for breakfast. Blend with frozen fruit for a milkshake. Freeze with stevia and berries for popsicles. 
  • Egg whites. Buy the cartons of 100% egg whites for an easy, light source of protein. Cook in a pan with garlic powder and cayenne powder, add some sliced avocados and bell peppers for a great, filling breakfast. Pour in muffin tins with spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms for a portable pick-me-up. Blend with a dollop of Greek yogurt, stevia, cinnamon, cook in a thin layer in a pan, smear with sweetened Greek yogurt and drizzle with a sugar-free berry sauce for crepes. Egg whites are super great because they are super versatile. 
  • Legumes. Black. Northern. Garbanzo. Black-eyed peas. Lentils. Buy bags of dried legumes, soak overnight, and let cook in a crock pot or large pot over the stove all day, then come home to a great, filling source of protein. Don't buy canned beans. They have a ton of unnecessary sodium that makes you retain water weight and are considerably more expensive than the dried variety. Dried beans can last for years, as well, so they're great for food storage. Plus, they taste waaaay better. Cook them with garlic powder, a dash of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Dried basil and thyme is good with Northern beans. You can make your own hummus with chickpeas. Lentils are wonderful in winter soups. Legumes are fantastic.
  • Bananas. Freeze these in a Tupperware container for a quick, sweet snack. Bananas go great with oats, both as cookies and as breakfast cereal. I normally buy a couple bunches at a time.
  • Fresh Fruits and Veggies. For on-the-go snacking, buy oranges, apples, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, avocados, pears... anything your heart desires. If you bring your own healthy snacks, you'll be less tempted to accept unhealthy foods when you're hungry. It's harder to make good decisions when you're hungry.
  • Nuts. You need your healthy fats and protein, so buy nuts to snack on. Almonds, brazilians, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, pecans... buy them unsalted and unsweetened. Don't buy the sugary trail mixes the supermarket sells. Dry your own fruit and make your own.
I hope this is helpful to anyone who needs some ideas for healthy groceries to always have on hand!

Banana Oat Cookies

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Confession: I have a major sweet tooth. Like, if I could eat cake all day I probably would. However, a couple of years ago, we found out that my nine year-old sister, Lillian, had Type 1 diabetes. It's been really, really hard on her. At first, she felt ostracized because she couldn't eat what the rest of us could without having a painful shot of insulin. So we decided to give up sugar and white flour so that she wouldn't feel quite so left out. I've been surprised by just how easy it is to cut out sugar and white flour. Eventually, I decided to cut out all flours and breads, which has made a huge difference in not only how I feel and how much energy I have, but also in how I look. I tested out the difference for a month by eating just a little wheat bread and a few things with sugar and then going back to totally cutting them out-- there is definitely a huge difference. When I eat flour and sugar, I feel swollen and bloated. When I don't, I feel light and energetic. If you feel sluggish or just a little heavier than you would like to be, cut out sugar and white flour all together. It's so worth it and there are so many ways to satisfy your sweet cravings AND still eat healthy.

This recipe is the best. It's simple, quick (eighteen minutes start to finish!), super easy to modify, and complies with almost every dietary restriction. It's gluten-free, vegan, sugar- and flour-free, and friendly to diabetics. Also, these cookies are so yummy and taste delicious dipped in almond milk.

Banana Oat Cookies

You'll need:
1 banana
between 1-3 cups of gluten-free oats (depends on how big your banana is; rolled and old-fashioned are both fine)
a dash of cinnamon
stevia or honey
1 tsp of vanilla

The following ingredients are optional suggestions and can be added as you please:
2 tbs flax
chopped/slivered nuts (pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds are good with this recipe)
dried fruit (raisins, pineapple, cranberries, and blueberries are all good dried fruits to try)
a small spoonful of pumpkin puree
coconut shavings
white or dark chocolate chips

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with Pam. Then put your banana in a big bowl and mash the heck out of it. Chunks are going to give the cookies a weird, fiber-y texture, so mash it. Mash it real good.
Cover the banana in oats and stir and mash. If you see banana, add more oats and stir and mash some more. By the time you're done, you should have a bunch of sticky oats but no banana chunks. Add a dash of cinnamon and as much stevia as you please (just keep tasting the mixture until you're satisfied-- but don't eat too much). Add the vanilla and stir it up. Add whatever extras you like.

Spoon clumps of your scrumptious mixture onto the cookie sheet and form little circles. Because there's no yeast, don't count on them changing shape or rising at all so you can place them as close together as you wish. Sometimes if I have a lot to make or I'm in a hurry, I'll just make a solid sheet of the banana oat mix and cut granola bar-shaped rectangles out after they're cooked. Again, just make it however you would like.

Your cookies should be golden brown and have a thin line of dark around the border. It's usually around 10-15 minutes. Just check. You'll know that they're done when you don't have trouble sliding them across the pan. They shouldn't stick any more. When they're done, take them out, let them cool, and enjoy!

Happy eating!

Chinese Veggie Quinoa

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Guys-- quinoa is the best. Ancient Aztec warriors used to eat this grain to get srong. Not only does it have great taste and texture, but its health benefits make it a heavyweight as well. Quinoa is a great source of protein (good news for non-meat eaters!) and contains all 9 amino acids. It's high in iron, calcium, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin B6. It's been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. It's also gluten-free! That makes me very happy.

Another thing that makes me happy? Asian food. For those who agree, here is my super healthy take on the conventional fried rice.

Chinese Veggie Quinoa (vegan and gluten-free)

You'll need:
a box of uncooked quinoa
frozen or fresh veggies (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and sugar snap peas are all good choices)
low-sodium soy sauce (I like Kikkoman's)

Honestly, this is such a simple recipe, I almost feel bad for posting it. Cook your quinoa for fifteen minutes-- either in boiling water on the stove or in a rice cooker (two cups of water to every one cup of quinoa-- just cook it the same way you would rice). While your quinoa is cooking, steam your veggies either in a steamer on the stove, or pop some frozen veggies in the microwave if you're pressed for time. Just make sure your veggies stay somewhat firm and green-- you don't want them to be brown-ish and mushy. Overcooking produce kills the nutrients, so steaming  is the lightest and least harmful form of cooking. Steaming also allows you to have moist vegetables while avoiding fatty oils.

When both are done, combine the two. Make sure you have way more veggies than quinoa. To cut down on carbs and calories, make the vegetables the staple of the dish instead of the grains. Pour some soy sauce on it, but measure it out so you avoid overloading on the sodium and killing the flavor of the grains and veggies. I recommend two tablespoons for a single serving.

Happy eating!

Pumpkinberry Flax Smoothie

Monday, August 19, 2013

Now that autumn is almost upon us, we must prepare ourselves for the peak of perfection, the dowager of deliciousness, the sinful slut of cinnamon-y scrumptiousness-- that's right, we must prepare ourselves for pumpkin.

Pumpkin is not only delicious, but it is also a super food. It is low in calories, high in fiber and carotenoids. It's known to lower the risk of heart disease, many different kinds of cancer, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Eating alpha- and beta- carotene like the kind in pumpkin has proven to slow the process of aging as well.

Here's a wonderful vegan and gluten-free smoothie recipe that is chock-full of health-boosting goodness-- give it a try!

Pumpkinberry Flax Smoothie

You'll need:
a handful of spinach or two
1 banana
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tbs ground flax
a dash of cinnamon
as much stevia extract or honey as you desire

Process in a food processor or blender. Taste and adjust spice/sweetness as you like.
Bada-bing, bada-boom.

here's to the entrepreneurs!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

So here's the story-- my sweet little friend, Kolbi, is starting up her own business called "Kolbi's Bracelets Galore." She custom makes these beautiful little friendship bracelets in any color you could possibly want, and (here's the kicker!) the prices start at only a buck-fifty each! The prices vary according to the design. All you have to do is send her the money in the mail with instructions on the colors and design you want for your bracelet(s) and she'll send you the friendship bracelet of your dreams!

Friendship bracelets are marvelous, wonderful things. They are kool (with a "k", because that's the koolest kind of kool) and indie and boho and say awesome things like, "I'm a free spirit! I do what I want!" They make great gifts, and at only $1.50 each you can buy, like, a lot of them.

Plus, when you buy these bracelets, you are supporting entrepreneurship! You are telling a preteen girl that she can dream big and have her own successful business! So buy one! Buy three! Buy twenty-five of them!

If you'd like to buy a bracelet, you can email Kolbi at:
Check out her designs and rates at

autumn wishlist

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The last weeks of summer are upon us and that means it's time to start prepping for autumn.
Whoo hoo! Yay! Yippi-ki-yayayay! I LOVE AUTUMN!


Here are a few great little dinglehoppers I've had my eyes on that would be marvelous buys for anyone. (But repeat after me-- "This is not a fashion blog. This is not a fashion blog. This is not a fashion blog...")autumn wishlist

The Magic Wishing Hair

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last night I found my first gray hair.

I was washing my face when I saw this wiry, silver unicorn hair protruding from my scalp, gleaming like the Star of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. My first reaction was to pull it out, trichotillomania-style, throw it away and pretend it never existed. 

But then the significance of my discovery began to sink in. It was a milestone, much like my first tooth, my first word, my first period-- but so much scarier. As far as my body was concerned, I had hit my physical peak and it was all degeneration and decay from here on out. I was shell-shocked. Twenty years old just feels so young. I feel like I have my whole lifetime ahead of me, like I've accomplished relatively nothing in my short 7,450.941 days I've been post-uterus. I began noticing little wrinkles around my eyes in the mirror, moles on my arms and back I need to have checked for melanoma, stretch marks on my inner thighs and spider-veins where I cross my legs. I wondered how long that gray hair had been hiding in there and if there were any more lurking out of sight. 

I texted my dear friend, Andee, a picture of my special new hair (below).

She responded with these wonderfully wise words:

"Maybe it's a magic hair."

I snorted to myself and quipped, "Yeah, maybe it's a magic wishing hair." But, I let that idea stew around all night, thinking about what that would mean-- a magic hair.

In a way, that one hair symbolized my sweat. It symbolized my determination. It symbolized all the of the late nights I've spent working on school work, the early mornings trying to get myself to work, the trials and travels and heartache and good friends and adventures and everything I've lost and loved and learned in my life. It symbolized everywhere I've been and everywhere I'm going-- hopefully, a lot of really wonderful places. So I guess it is a magic wishing hair. I guess I'm kind of proud of it. Getting older is kind of a beautiful thing.

Let the aging process begin!
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