Challenges. AKA Opportunities… And Parfait.

Last night, I attended a benefit workshop called Pursuit of Happiness with Kurt Johnsen. He’s the founder of American Power Yoga, and has done a lot of work/learning in things like energy balance, tai chi, kung fu…and even astral travel (which sounds wonderful to me!). I enjoyed the two-hour talk very much, and identified with everything he said as he talked about how we are not our bodies, but we’re our permanent souls using our temporary bodies (paraphrased). He also mentioned that happiness is a choice, and that our challenges are opportunities.

As he talked, I realized that much of what he was saying are the exact things (in different words) that I say to my stressed out, unhappy, unhealthy clients.

  • When you’re stressed or mad, it affects you and your health but it doesn’t change the situation.
  • Energy comes from the sun. Eat foods that are grown by the sun, or eat animals that ate the foods grown by the sun.
  • Lose the labels – once you label something you can’t see it anymore. (good, bad, vegetarian, smart, pessimist…you get the idea).
  • Quit multi-tasking.
  • Seek out challenges—this is where real change happens.

Kurt told a story about the day his mother died, when he and his sister needed to go into her room at the hospital and say goodbye to her before she passed. He talked about how even years later, they speak about that day and the process they went through to face that challenge. And how their mother dying was not “good” or “bad” …they both changed because of it.

It threw me directly back to October 28/29, 2003, when my sister died. Of course, that situation, especially the crisis portion, never felt good.  There were tears and shock, and the horror for me at 3am calling my parents’ dead cell phone as they drove to Rochester where my sister was supposed to be airlifted to (but was too unstable to make the trip), and the nurse in the ER finally telling me illegally (HIPAA and all) that my sister had died. That the baby was in trouble. That they had no idea where my parents were.

Really, it’s hard for me to not label that night as “bad.” In fact, I just took a break after typing that to hyperventilate for a second.

But you know what? Once the crisis was in the past, the process (the real challenge) of dealing with life without Jen (which is ongoing) is not something I can label “bad.” And it kind of makes me upset to admit that—because my ego really wants to label it as “bad.”

It’s a challenge. One that I did not choose, but a challenge nevertheless.

My Mom and I made a pact back then, in 2003. We decided that although we couldn’t mend the broken fairy tale, we would take advantage of every opportunity that came from this situation. We had to, or really, there would be no point to life. If your sister/daughter can die in the middle of night when you thought she was just going to become a Mother, then the whole game of life changes in an instant. Actually, it changes in every instant—it’s just not always that dramatic or impactful.

We also made a pact to look at life as a game. After all, can it really be that serious?

One opportunity I’ve capitalized on is in regards to food—I became a nutrition teacher and a lifestyle design coach, helping people learn about food and adopt healthier habits in a positive way.

So, today, I thought I would just share those thoughts with you because they were refreshed in my head after last night’s workshop (I would love to sit down over coffee and chat about it too, if you’re in the neighborhood).

And then I thought I’d share with you another simple recipe. It’s easy and not complex at all—in fact, it’s barely a recipe. But for me, it’s an opportunity to make a small mess in the kitchen for a few minutes and yield a big gain in enjoyment. And really, what else is life about?

Don’t let the messes faze you, and enjoy every delicious bite. Then share it with people–let them enjoy too.

Shamrock Coconut Cream Mousse


1 8oz container coconut cream (refrigerated, with the separated liquid poured off)
3 droppers full of vanilla stevia (or 2 tbsp other sweetener—adjust to taste)
1/8 tsp mint extract
1/8 tsp green food coloring (I used organic forest green color…and had to add a few drops of yellow to lighten it)

Put half of this blended green mixture into another bowl and set aside.

Add 2 tsp dark cocoa powder to the remaining mixture  and mix until fully blended.

Serve in a 6oz mason jar, layered, with cacao nibs or chocolate chips.

I love this because it tastes amazing (and reminds me of Shamrock shakes), and because it’s full of wonderful health-promoting medium chain fatty acids, superfood chocolate, and it’s void of sugar!

If you get full, put the lid on to store in the fridge till lunch (I mean, that is if you’re like me and you make this for breakfast).


A little messy....not all that pretty....the $12 "safe" green food coloring is wussy, dull and kind of bluish...but I still love this anyway.


How do you turn challenges into opportunities?

I hope your weekend is as wonderful as Shamrock Mousse! 

22 thoughts on “Challenges. AKA Opportunities… And Parfait.”

  1. oh boy, would i ever enjoy sitting down over coffee with you, lisa!! some day!
    thank you so much for writing this post. your message is powerful. this is the type of post to print out, highlight and glue into my journal, that’s how much what you say resonates with me. and every time you share about your sister…it really touches me – thank you.
    i am an optimist (almost always!). so yes, curveballs in life throw me initially then i turn around my perspective and make the best of things. it really helps to remember those who are less fortunate, too.
    btw – i found coconut flour at the bulk food store! no excuse for me NOT to try some of the great recipes you’ve been sharing lately!! (except if they have peanut flour – still no luck there!).

  2. Thank you for sharing that story – I can’t imagine what they must have been like for you and your family.  I think my new blog is a huge challenge for me, but something I have wanted to do for a long time, so it is exciting to put myself out there, and now to start connecting with so many people.

    The parfait looks wonderful.  I haven’t experimented with coconut cream yet, but I think I have too.  I have been wanting a Shamrock Shake.

  3. What an inspiring post, Lisa.  I love the thought of looking at life as a game and at challenges as opportunities.  Thank you for sharing.

  4. I just read this post to Tony. I love how you teach strength and you completely motivate me to move forward. My life has been full of personal struggles and as I get older, I realize that these struggles have framed who I am today. I did not, however, let them bring me down. I do feel stronger for them and I believe I’m a happier person because I truly appreciate the people I’m with and the place I am at now. Thank you for being such an inspiring voice!

    Oh and that parfait! Wow! Looks and sounds amazing!

  5. lovely post and great reminder to be grateful for things in our life. to learn to view a bad situation differently despite how hard it is. we both still struggle with understanding why our best friend’s husband is still struggling to recover after being in a horrible motorcycle accident. we have seen patients next to him (sometimes in worse conditions) heal faster. what the hell?? you know. it is crazy how life works sometimes. why certain things happen to certain people. 

  6. Eddie has actually been the one to help show me to make the most of situations that get thrown my way. I think that is why we have such a strong bond! I used to really concentrate on the struggles but boy has that changed!

  7. What a great post Lisa. I seriously can’t wait to meet you in October!

    I resonate so much with what you expressed. I have been grateful to not lose someone very close to me. On the other hand I used to let every little challenge in life bother me, but now I can see how much stronger it has made me. I’ve been wanting to write a post about how I handled issues in my life led to my hormonal imbalance. At least my theory 🙂 I just don’t know where to start lol. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to write something soon.

    Still going strong with Yogaglo 🙂 Thanks again!

  8. What an amazing post! Your posts always serve as inspiration and a reminder that we should never take anything forgranted as it can all change in an instant. Right now some things are changing in my life and I will go forward trying not to label them as good, bad, scary, etc. Thanks for the amazing reminder! 🙂

  9. Mmm this looks good. I’m thinking I’ll create some sort of mint flavored shamrock treat in the next few weeks. I bought some mint m&ms that I want to incorporate 🙂

  10. Thehealthyapron

    I’m going through a tough time right now, my mother is basically dying from cancer and it’s TOUGH. It’s definitely a challenge and I DO think of it as unfair. I do believe that one day I will look at the situation as neither good or bad..but right now? I feel it’s bad.

  11. Thehealthyapron

    I’m going through a tough time right now, my mother is basically dying from cancer and it’s TOUGH. It’s definitely a challenge and I DO think of it as unfair. I do believe that one day I will look at the situation as neither good or bad..but right now? I feel it’s bad.

  12. I love that Shamrock Coconut Cream Mousse recipe!!  Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!!
    So many great creations w/ coconut =)I get chills when you talk about your sister… I feel the love you had for her and I think that how you and your mom handled the situation is a blessing to her child.  He is an angel that came from her.

  13. I love the idea of removing labels…you’re right, there are so many situations that just evoke such a strong emotion it’s almost impossible not to turn that into a label.  Almost.  I guess that’s where conscious effort (and challenge!) comes in.  Thanks for sharing.

    P.S.  LOVE the shamrock treat!!

  14. I absolutely agree that happiness is a choice. The blurb about your sister just makes my heart ache.  You’re such a strong and amazing person. I always say this – but I just love your posts. 🙂

  15. I love you!  I love that I’m friends with you, and that I’ve known you almost forever.  I love that you have so many talents and are constantly doing more great things… and I love that I get to see you this afternoon again for the first time in way too long!

  16. this is a wonderful post! all your points are so true and i often tell people in my yoga classes the same thing. challenges are opportunities, happiness is a choice. very often we end up seeing situations in a way too negative way. of course it might not feel good at that particular moment but thats what life is about. it cant always be positive and run well. situations like that should HELP you learn and appreciate and then move on. maybe it helped u see the world from  a new perspective and maybe this change is for the better and help you achieve way more than u would have expected. but again this will only happen if u LET IT HAPPEN! if u accept these changes to happen- then u also choose to be happy. 

  17. Wow Lisa, you are so strong and have been through so much! You and your mom are both inspiring and your pact was a great plan to start living life again without Jen, even if it never gets easy. At least you know you always have each other.

  18. You’ve told me before that wegmans carries coconut cream….where do they stock it?  I look all over natures marketplace and cannot find it! 

  19. Hi Mel! I find it in “my” Wegmans in the Nature’s Marketplace baking aisle….it’s on the top shelf near the cocoa, baking chocolate, coconut flakes, etc. I can’t remember the brand name, but it’s in a green can! Which Weg do you go to? I know Pittsford has it too…Maybe we should just meet for coffee, and I can bring you a wilderness family naturals one (I bought two cases so I have plenty!).

  20. I so would’ve loved to attend that benefit workshop with Kurt. Sounds like he had a lot of great things to say.

    You amaze me with your strength and everything you had to go through with the passing of your Jen. I can totally understand how it’s a challenge to not look at it as a “bad” experience. I’m not sure if i would be able to be as strong as you if I was in your position. I’m so happy to know you and learn from you! 🙂

    And that Shamrock mouse parfait looks great. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Shamrock shake from McDonalds. I guess that’s a good thing!

  21. Hi Lisa!  I shop at the Calkins Rd Wegmans in Henrietta.  I have found they don’t always have the best selection.  I would love to meet you for coffee!  I will email you and we can pick a day 🙂

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