Shopping at Thrive Market

I recently went shopping at Thrive Market. Have you heard of it? They’re a social enterprise market, helping feed the world, while they feed you. They have top selling brands at wholesale prices, which I must say is nice to my wallet. And all from the comfort of your own home.

They have several different categories to meet your specific dietary needs, like Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, and of course, Gluten Free. Thrive Market makes buying your dry gluten free foods a breeze, plus they have so many options.


I made my first purchase the other day, and got it in the mail. I was able to find things I haven’t found in the stores around my town, and certainly not for the price I purchased them at Thrive Market.

The coconut oil was free gift with my first purchase, and while shipping is free for orders over $49, mine didn’t quite reach that. But it was still totally reasonable. I remember feeling so surprised at how cheap it was!

Thrive Market Purchases
The cereal was demolished in about two days. I love and miss cereal like it was my best friend. Being gluten intolerant now means it’s basically impossible to find cereal that isn’t made of wheat, or that contains, malt. I also have a high intolerance for oatmeal, but that’s another story for another day.


And the mushroom soup by Pacific Foods is the first time I’ve ever seen it, so I just had to try it. When I lived in Oregon, the Pacific Foods factory was near my house and I always felt an affinity for their products.


To sign up at Thrive is easy. First, you make a free account, so you can browse and see all your options. When you’re ready to make a purchase, you’ve unlocked a free 30-day subscription to the market. If you find you’ve really enjoyed the service, you can sign up for a membership and continue to receive amazing savings, plus for every membership they get, they sponsor a low-income family who is struggling to provide healthful food to their family. Plus if you use my special link, you’ll save an additional 15% off your first order! Pretty sweet deal, right?


I’m really excited to start trying all the gluten free hygiene products they have, like masks, shampoo and conditioner, and body lotion. I’m convinced because all of my stuff has vitamin E, I’m getting cross contaminated all the time, which is why I never feel like I’m getting better


I think the coolest thing about this business is that they’re making it accessible to families who live in food deserts, or who have such highly specialized diets that regular grocery stores often cannot accommodate them in the way they deserve. Thrive Market is filling a gap and helping to end malnourishment.

Short Story: Summer Love

Short Story: Summer Love

I saw bright red leaves where green should have been, walking along the path from here to there, one morning. I was surprised to see the red flakes on trees; my since of time had become lost in the long summer of overheated days and dusky blue skied nights. I had thought I was still there; we were still there under the naked sky, a bottle of Jim Beam next to him, and a bottle of Jack D. next to me. Those days when waking up wasn’t necessary and going to bed was never what was on our minds when we landed, free flying on to the old mattress. 

No, now we were in fall, but oh wait. It was not we, not us, it was me, alone going to class in the crisp cold morning, a drizzle of cold rain falling from the sky illuminating the contrasted colors that flew away from their home and to their final resting place, the grass or the pavement below. He was no longer with me. I wondered if the trees that began to hibernate felt as numb inside as I did when I thought of what had just come to pass; the summer left and so did he, back to wherever he came from and here I was again, alone, preparing myself for regeneration though I had not fully stopped existing in life or my mind. 

My hands were cold. The tips of my fingers felt like carrots pulled fresh from the refrigerator. I rubbed them together, creating friction and heat to keep them warm. I wondered if he was chilled to the bone far away from me, and our love that kept us warm through those summer night breezes. I tried to convince myself that summer love never ended, and when winter came it would be the only thing that kept us warm while we were so far apart.

Class began and I pulled out my notebook and doodled his name on the cover. 


Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy my book Sigh, Alaska. You can check it out on Amazon.

My submission for Peace Corps RPCV Story Telling Contest

Last month I composed a story entitled My Safe Space for the Peace Corps RPCV Story telling Contest. I didn’t make the finals, but I wanted to share it with you. It was a turning point for me in my service. So many days I asked myself why I was there, who was I helping, and was it really worth the life I had given up?

The staff spends literally hours convincing us we’re not safe because we’re foreigners, but then insists we become one with our neighbors and for someone who is sometimes more literal minded than she cares to admit, this was a hard line for me to bridge. 

Here is the video I sent in to the RPCV Story Telling Contest, and the text you can tell I was reading below.


My Safe Space by Jessica Walker

The plumber was coming on a Wednesday. I had very little notice to clean my house. I tried to make my bed and do the dishes. I picked up all the cockroaches that lay dead on my floor, a vicious reminder to those who would come into my house later of what happens when they do. I had just finished a load of laundry in the tub. Most of it was hanging on the line outside, but I knew it wouldn’t be okay to put out my underwear, so they dried inside.

I scrubbed the toilet, and when I realized the stain that was there long before I arrived, was going to take more time than I had available, I sighed and headed off to school for the day.

When I came home that afternoon, my landlady stopped me.

“Neo! Have you ever seen a clean house? I asked you to clean, and your house, it was not clean! I was so embarrassed to have the plumber over. I told you he was coming! I asked you to clean the bathroom, and it wasn’t clean.”

“I am sorry mma, I did the best I could in the time I had.”

“Neo. Come here.” She brought me into her house, to her bathroom. She pulled out a scrubber and got on her knees. “This is how you clean, Neo.”

Frustrated, that I hadn’t even had time to set my bag down, I nodded. There was nothing for me to do about it.
“I’ll do better,” I said. I just wanted to go back to my house.  My safe space.

“Neo. You must clean that house! You see how I keep my house! I am too busy and it is clean. You must keep it clean or the Peace Corps will remove you from here. They will move you to a village without water, without toilets. Without electricity. Is that what you want? You have forty-eight hours to clean your house, or the Peace Corps will move you to the middle of nowhere with nothing and no one!”

The threat of eviction sparked an old fear I thought I’d long left behind. Those days when I had been homeless, and wasn’t sure where I would end up, how I would get to the next day, or where my next meal would come from. Suddenly I was blinded by the fear of the unknown, and being alone.

And so, I screamed back at her. “Okay! Okay! I’ll get it done! Leave me alone you bossy old hag!”

It was not my finest moment.

I finally made it into my house, and slammed the door, collapsing to the floor in a fit of tears. It was no longer a safe place, but a place that threatened my very livelihood.

It was particularly bad timing, this crying jag, because I promised a teacher I would meet her at the church in the middle of the village and take some photos for her. The church was in need of a roof. They had been building it for years, small donation after small donation at a time. The progress took so long that parts of the infrastructure were already coming apart, and it wasn’t close to being finished yet.

I could hear my landlady talking about me through my window, partly in English, partly in Setswana. “Why is Neo crying? What is there to cry over? Is she a child?”

Crying, publicly or at all is not common or acceptable in Botswana.

I grabbed my camera, and headed out down the red dirt road, tears still streaming down my face. My two favorite girls rushed up to the fence to get their high five hello, but all I could do through my tears was shake my head.

“Not today, bana.”

What would I do, I wondered. Where would I go? Surely, the Peace Corps wouldn’t remove me over a dirty house. Even if they did allow her to evict me, they surely wouldn’t make me switch villages over it, right?

As I passed the cow jail, the Kgotla, and then the little grocer, I tried to picture the worst case scenario. I would start over in a new village, perhaps one that another volunteer recently left, and try to finish out the next eighteen months there. I could do it. I would be alone, but I’ve been alone before. I could do it again. I didn’t spend ten years working to get enough experience to be accepted into the Peace Corps, just to give up when the house got too dirty.

A few teachers from the Primary school  were at the church when I arrived. They saw my tears, and without any question, they wrapped their arms around me, and held me there. They gave me comfort, and they let me cry.

So I did.

These women, I realized were more than just teachers at the school. They were my friends.  I wasn’t alone in my village and these women would be on my side in case of a fight. I wasn’t alone. It was one of those moments in life where you know nothing will ever be the same again. They saw me at my most vulnerable and accepted me with love and friendship, and in turn, my service became devoted to them and their school and their students.  My safe space.




Pre-Order the 7 Day Gluten-Free Start Guide

The contest for the 7 Day Gluten Free Start Guide Giveaway has ended, and the winners have been contacted. Thank you to everyone who entered. If you missed your chance, you can pre-order your copy here.

The 7 Day Gluten Free Start guide is a Slow Carb style meal plan designed to get you eating clean, whole foods, and removing excess sugars, and accidental cross contamination which can make you sick. If you have basic cooking skills, and you’re ready to to take control your health and your gluten free life, you have to check out this book. 

The difference between Slow Carb diets and Low Carb diets is just that; carbs. Slow carb diets encourages caloric intake from beans, legumes, and lentils. Low Carb diets allows for caloric intake of dairy (like cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream) but for those who have Celiac, consuming dairy can be particularly hard on the system. 

The 7 Day Gluten Free Start Guide has seven days of recipes that are simple and fun to prepare and are full of flavor. If you’ve been gluten free, but doing your best to stick to the Standard American Diet, stop right now! The Standard American Diet isn’t doing anyone any good! All of that processed crap is just keeping you sick. Now is the time to try something full of whole, fresh foods that are truly enjoyable. 

You can pre-order the 7 day Gluten Free Start Guide here. The Release date is July 25th, 2016.

How I am Reclaiming My Health

Since going gluten free, it has been a real struggle reclaiming my health, and trying to maintain the new lifestyle. Figuring out what I can and cannot eat is often like crossing a field of landmines. The regular size Hershey’s chocolate bar is safe, the the King Size is not. Cheerios claim to be gluten free and I just can’t tell if when I have a reaction, if it’s because the Cheerios process for eliminating gluten isn’t good enough, or if my body just doesn’t like oats at all. Things you would never guess had gluten do, like, Pepsi 1883, vitamin E, many other kinds of chocolate, candies, and gum. I have to try to read between the lines on the packages of toothpaste, OTC’s, and cigarettes. (Note:I don’t actually smoke, but I just found out that gluten can exist in the paper, and the cotton filter of cigarettes. Crazy!)


I share a kitchen, and if the other person in the home wants to have a bread, she has a bread. And crumbs get all over everything, but they’re so small I can’t see, and somehow I end up with headaches, and queasy stomachs, and a hulk like attitude about the sun shining too brightly. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I was making it up. That this was all in my head. Life would be so much easier if I could just eat whatever I wanted.


But I understand that is not how life works, and to be perfectly honest, I feel blessed to have this disease. Not all the time, mind you. But it is nice to have some required forethought into my meals. To really pay attention how food affects my body and my moods. To explore new types of foods. It is forcing me to reclaim my health, a health I hadn’t realized was so far gone until I was off the gluten.


Now my days are spent searching for recipes, meal planning, and trying to be intuitive with my cooking. I recently cut out dairy because I noticed how my mood depletes when I’ve ingested it, how my bowels seem to protest entry and exit simultaneously. Its not all about food though. I was left weakened by my experience, and gaining back my strength is something I have to focus on as well.


I try to limit my simple carbs these days. Sugar just slows me down. It also happens to be my favorite food group, so it’s not always the easiest thing, but I feel my absolute best, and cleanest when I’m on a low/slow carb meal plan. You can learn more about a slow carb diet here.


As previously mentioned, I’m training for the Denver Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this fall, and I’m raising money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital because no family should have worry about how to pay for their child’s treatment. You can support this amazing cause here.

Playing with Dog:

Getting a dog was possibly the best decision I could have made coming home. No matter how hard life gets, or impossible things may seem, this little boy needs a damn walk, and good long belly rub. It’s hard getting caught up in your own life when you have someone dependent on you.


I chant the Daimoku, and when I do, I see and feel active change around me, and in me. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It brings change, and clarity, and strength.


It’s so important to stay hydrated. I try to drink at least 3 20 oz bottles of water a day, and at least one of those bottles has a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help clear out the decay inside of me. Incidentally, drinking so much water has had a beautiful effect on my skin. Cleared it right up!


Are you on a mission to reclaim your health? What steps are you taking?

7 Day Gluten Free Start Guide Giveaway!

A couple of months ago, I joined a celiac support group on Facebook. Every day since, I’ve seen post after post of people asking, “is this gluten free?” or, “What do I eat now?” And more often than I would ever care to see, “Guys, it happened again. :(” These posts just kill me! Often, when people ask if its Gluten free, its some highly processed sugar laden replacement for the “real thing” because the Standard American Diet hasn’t already done enough damage.

There are more and more people being diagnosed every day with Celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and I decided I would try to do what I can with the knowledge I have, to help ease the transition. 

Enter: The 7 Day Gluten Start Free Guide. 

7 Day Gluten Free Guide

This book includes seven days of recipes of delicious and healthy foods that are easy to make. There is a lot of cooking involved, but I don’t want that to scare anyone off. Half the problem with The Standard American Diet is that it requires so little cooking on our part. 

When I came home from the Peace Corps, I got glutened even more often than while I was away. It was because I was desperate to include all the old foods into my life that I missed out on, and suddenly things that should have been safe, became landmines. Things like soy sauce, king size chocolate bars, ice cream, and assorted frozen foods became little bombs that would set me off. Learning to eat again was dangerous, and I realized that once I had gone gluten free in Botswana, I stopped eating all procesed foods. I only ate meat, vegetables and beans and I finally started to feel healthy. 

So please, if you’re interested in fixing your diet, consider using my new book, The 7 Day Gluten Free Guide to help get you started. 


To honor the publication of my new book, I’ve decided to have a giveaway! I’m giving away FIVE copies of The 7 Day Gluten Free Start Guide! Winners will be chosen at random, and there are several ways to enter!


First, You can tweet to your followers on twitter about the giveaway. You can do this every day during the contest.

Second, you can start following me on the twitter.

and Thirdly, you can visit my Facebook page and like it. Just leave a comment below saying you’ve liked my Facebook page. 

The contest will run form July 7th, 2016 to July 16th, 2016. Winners will be announced on July 18th, 2016,

The release date of The 7 Day Gluten Free Start Guide is July 25th, 2016, and you can pre-order it right now!.

Savvy? I hope we get a lot of entries, so make sure you tell your friends!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Getting started as an Entrepreneur

For me, talking about going out on my own and being my own boss is possibly the most uncomfortable of any conversation I’ll ever have. I’m a secret entrepreneur. I don’t want people to know what I’m doing in my spare time, or why I’ve decided to forego the usual kinds of job. And I certainly don’t want to talk about what I’m doing instead.

Of course, rule number one in the Entrepreneur book is: Don’t be a secret Entrepreneur. If people don’t know what you’re up to, they’re not going to support you. If no one knows, no one buys. You starve. It’s simple math, really.

So, in that vein, I wanted to take some space on my blog to talk about my entrepreneur plans.

Inside business to business sales

I recently joined a start up to invite nonprofits to see if we can work together and create a partnership in marketing and fundraising. My specific job is to set up conference calls, and if they sign up, I earn a commission. It’s still very new, so I don’t have any statistics yet, but I think it has a great potential to change the way people think about fundraising. When I first came across it, I was really surprised, delighted, and thought to myself, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”


Monetizing this blog

Occasionally I’m going to share links to companies or products that I’m in love with. If you click and buy, I earn a small commission from that purchase. I promise I’ll never share a thing I don’t see the value in, and wouldn’t/didn’t purchase myself. Between the Celiac/Gluten Free, Running, Writing, and exploring ways to earn money, there will be a variety of different products and services to share.


Real Estate

If you know me in person, you know that I’m studying to get my real estate license. I didn’t know when I signed up almost a year ago, how dry the content would be, and I have a lot of excuses as to why I haven’t finished it yet, but the fact of the matter is, is studying for the Real Estate Exam is just hard. It often takes people up to a year or more to complete their courses, and most people don’t pass the test the first time. Here would be a great time to insert which school I’m attending online, but I just promised I would only recommend products I believe in, and this is not one of them. Perhaps if I earn enough side money, I’ll sign up at a school that offers videos for learning.

This is going to be my main source of income. There is some crazy statistic that 1 in 4 real estate agents quit within the first 2 years because it’s too hard, or not lucrative enough. I promise you, I am not going to be one of them.



Writing has always been a passion of mine. I remember the first short story I ever wrote, about a bald eagle. It made me giggle. I wrote my first novel while I was in the Peace Corps. It’s called Sigh, Alaska and it might be veritable trash. I don’t really know. All I know is I was compelled to write it for nearly eight years, and it was a sweet relief to get it out of me.

I’m currently half way through the first book of a trilogy that I also started in the Peace Corps. It’s called As Good a Place as Any. I’ve stopped writing on it for now, but I’m thinking NaNoWriMo might get me motivated again. I plan to self-publish it, though I may send it off to a few agents/publishers first, just to see if it makes the cut.

I also plan to release a book of poetry, a Peace Corps memoir, and hopefully, a series about mermaids. Considering how slow I write (read: get distracted and don’t write), it’ll probably be a while before those come about.


And so, these powers combined, I’m going to become financially self-sufficient. I’ll keep you updated on my progress, let you know what’s working out and what isn’t. It’s not enough to just start the project. You have to finish it. Its not enough to just finish it. You have to tell people. You have to convince them of the value of your service or product. Every. Chance. You. Get.

How to Explain Celiac to Strangers or Family

The easy answer is: Don’t.

Of course, life is never easy, especially if you have the celiac, so what are your options then? It always seems like people want a quick and dirty version of what takes hours to get out (literally) and weeks to get over.

My thoughts are to just keep it simple. Celiac disease means my body attacks itself when I ingest gluten. If it is consistent, it could cause other health issues, which will in turn, kill me.

But what happens when you eat gluten?


Hulk toilet
celiac attack
lilo and Stich leave me alone to die
How I feel for days after a gluten attack
running into wall crying
me, trying to make breakfast the day after being glutened.


Explaining to your wait staff is another story. As we all know, the fad of the Gluten Free Diet has turned eating out into a nightmare. Advocating for yourself is paramount.

But again, try to keep it simple. Imperative, but simple.

“I have celiac disease, and need my meal to be prepared with clean utensils, new gloves, the works. Please do your best to eliminate cross contact with gluten so I don’t turn into a poopy raging hulk. Let me know if cross contact cannot be eliminated, and I will have a glass of ice water.” (Okay, I’m getting a little snotty here, but you get the point, yes?)

For me, I personally hate talking about it, because I never wanted to be that person who only ever talked about their health, or lack thereof. Now, I don’t get a choice in the matter because everyone wants to know, and sometimes its vitally important that they know. 

Continue reading “How to Explain Celiac to Strangers or Family”

Celebrating Father’s Day

Ugh, try telling him that!
Ugh, try telling him that!

Without getting too personal, Father’s Day is one of those holidays that make me hate waking up in the morning. I don’t have one, not one worth celebrating anyway, and its a little like going to a birthday party when you can’t eat the cake. You just stand there and wish it was all over.

This year, I’m apart of something bigger than myself. I’m sure you’ve heard of St. Judes, and all the wonderful things they do for pediatric cancer and other terminal diseases. There are few things more honorable in this world than looking after our children and their health and St. Jude’s is a miracle for every parent who is fighting for their child’s life. 

Did you know, families at St. Jude’s never receive a bill for the health care of their children? It’s all paid for by donors like you, just a couple dollars at a time. The families don’t even have to pay for the airfare to get to the hospital, which is pretty impressive. They experience so many roadblocks on the road to recovery, and figuring out how to pay for their child’s treatment should be the last thing on their mind.

I am raising money for St. Jude’s this year. It’s my first year fundraising for an organization like this, and while I don’t have a personal story to share, perhaps one day my friends or family will and the best way to support them then, is to pay it forward now.

St. Jude’s has a place online where you can create a Father’s Day card for the dad’s whose children are currently at St. Jude’s. In this time of unimaginable horrors and despair, receiving a gift of notice, a little light of encouragement can make or break someone’s special day. And so I urge you go to the St. Jude’s Website, and send a simple card for Father’s Day. It’s free, and it’ll bring a smile to a stranger’s face. 

For me, being able to share in a moment of happiness on Father’s Day this year, will be like finally getting to eat the cake, I think. 


7 Tips for Running if You’re Overweight

The other day my mom and I were talking about running and she casually slayed me with, “I don’t understand how you can run! It must hurt you so bad!” She assumed of course that because I’m clinically obese, that running must cause a certain level of pain that must also be intolerable.


I didn’t understand her because while running has caused me some pain, I’m sure it was well earned and I thrive under the the new lengths I can take my body to. Every time I clear a mile, whether I ran the whole thing or walked for some parts, I feel like celebrating. Once, I did 26.2 miles in one go. It was the most physically and emotionally exshausting experience of my life, capping out at just under nine hours. I cried, I celebrated. I survived, I thrive.


A lot of people start running to lose weight, and while I did notice some loss, what I found was a profound inner strength, physical endurance, and addiction to endorphins. I highly reccomend the chase to anyone. (Medical disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, please don’t take any of this as medical advice and please consult your own physician before starting any new workout plan)


Over the years I’ve noticed some things about running when you’re moving as much weight around as I am, work better than others. Below is a list of tips that’ll help you get started.


  1. Get fitted for a pair of shoes, and be prepared to pay for them.
    Decent running shoes will go anywhere between $80-$200, and I promise you, there is nothing that compares to a pair of well fitted shoes. You can get fitted at your local running shop.
  2. Stay hydrated.
    It seems simple, especially during the summer but it is vitally important.
  3. Start slow.
    It may be tempting to start your running career with big number with big ambitions, but it takes a while to build your base and as someone who is overweight, you don’t want to cause further injury or problems to yourself. Take it slow, maybe with a c25k app, and work your way up to whatever your goal is.
  4. Work on your form. Some people will tell you to just start moving and then work on your form. I personally believe (again, not a doctor) that if you can start with a decent running form you’ll do less damage to your joints in the long run. My preferred method is called Chi Running, which advocates a straight back, and a forward lean so it’s almost like falling forward until you can’t stop. You can learn more here: Chi Running.
  5. You don’t have to do the races, but they sure are a whole lot of fun.
    Plus, the give you a goal to achieve and once you complete the distance, you can start racing against your previous time. Running is this excellent mix of solitary activity and social gathering. Its a beautiful community world wide.
  6. Stick to running either early in the morning or later in the evening when its cooler.
    If you live in a place where the temperature doesn’t change with the setting of the sun, try to stick to shaded trails, or maybe a gym.
  7. Whether you run alone, with a pet or a friend, make sure you run safe.
    Never assume drivers can see you, vary your route and run times so people can’t follow your schedule, wear reflective colors, and make sure you have some sort of ID on you if something does happen. Road ID makes sturdy, ID bands that identify you, contact information, allergies and/or medical issues. It is a simple and inexpensive way to protect your health, and definitely worth checking into.


Tell me about your running goals. Why did you start running?