Sunday, July 27, 2014

Monday Mantra: The Broken Ones

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: Life is full of painful truths
Society 6
Life asked death...
Almost all of my family is dead.

This is my truth. My personal mantra. My life.

It is not the exaggeration I wish it was.

I think of this now as I approach the painful anniversary of my grandmother's death. I think of this because somehow I've been drawn to books like The Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks, and Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, both by Cheryl Strayed, that demonstrate the pains of life that we each go through. The horrible, terrible, very bad things that we all have to endure. Painful things that, eventually, go away so we can have a life that leads to better things. A life of wonderful, fabulous, very good things.

This also makes me realize, with even more truth that I knew before, that each and every one of us has been or will be broken at some point in our lives by some act, large or small, that we'll have to endure. The act that breaks us - death, an ugly divorce, molestation, addiction - oddly enough, unites us. I know not of a single person that hasn't had some terrible, horrible, very bad thing happen to them. We are connected by this, as awful as it is, a life where no one goes untouched by pain.

When I say we are broken, I do not mean this in a way that suggests we can never be repaired or that we're definitively ruined by these events. I say it for two reasons: 1) It is a universal truth that life is not perfect and painless and 2) some of the strongest, smartest, most beautiful people in the world are the ones that have been broken the most.

In Japan, they have a word "Kintsugi" that refers to the act of fixing broken ceramics with gold to make them, and I quote, "…more gorgeous, and more precious, than before it was fractured." They believe when something has a history and has suffered damage it becomes more beautiful. When you look at it like that, it means that each of us has a painful, yet beautiful history and that each history is unique, making it even more precious.

That being said, I know there are pains so deep and dark that right now that they seem unbearable. That in this moment it is completely impossible to imagine a brighter future.

But it exists.

I say this from a place of certainty and experience. I was verbally and physically sexually harassed when I was a teenager, lied to for years and years by someone I loved and trusted,  and spent the majority of my childhood in a nursing home watching my father slowly die from an incurable disease.

And yet, I love my life.

And yet, I have my own deep and dark place that often seems unbearable still. I have to live with this ever constant and increasing truth:

Almost all of my family is dead.

I must accept that this is my broken life. One that I keep repairing with the gold love of my friends and family. A life where I have done my own version of Kintsugi, finding and creating a family of my own.

Over the years I've tried to assign this fact of mine percentages... 50% of my family is gone, 77%, 90…90% of my family is gone. I never know how to truly calculate it. I'm not even sure why I try, except that somehow having a number assigned to it makes me feel like I can grasp it better.

My dad died when I was 8. By the time I was 14 all of the family on my father's side was gone. The years blur together for me: Grandparents, uncles, aunts, godmothers, great aunts and uncles, and of course, pets. When I was 19, the next timeline I can clearly date, one of my closest friends was murdered. And after that, I lost my grandparents on my mother's side. My mom is broken in her own way, because of everything. I don't know how to lessen her pain. It is unbearable sometimes. It is unbearable to be alone trying to lessen her pain. I am an only child and I wish I wasn't. Outside of everything else that has happened to me, this is the headline of my life story.

Almost all of my family is dead.

When my grandmother passed away, I lost my memory. Not all of it, but pieces. In particular, and for about a year, my short-term memory was gone. But I never forgot her. I never forgot being 4 years old, playing at her neighbors house next door, with our family friends, Charlie and Millie, asking me what my favorite color was.

"Purple, " I told them. "But Gramma, what's your favorite color?" I asked.
"Blue, " she said.
"Blue. Blue is my favorite color, " I said. Completely and 100% certain in that moment that no other color could have possibly been my favorite because my grandmother loved it and I loved her and everything she loved.

One part about the terrible, horrible, very bad things that I find terrible and horrible in it's own way is having the important people of my life today not fully understand my past because they weren't a part of it. Only those who lived through the funerals with me, through the pain in the moment, truly know what I lost and how deeply it etched it's way in my soul. It also pains me to know that those same important people of today will never meet the important people of my past. My boyfriend will never meet my grandmother. He will never know the true weight of my love for her because he will never see it in action.

I also find it odd, because of my own reality, to meet someone who has an almost entirely and intact family, barely marked by death. A large, living family with aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins everywhere you look. I know this is normal for many people, but because it is not my normal it always throws me off for a second. My mind wraps around one repeating phrase:
You have so many people…so many people…so many people.

I recently met my boyfriend's other grandmother. I didn't know I was going to fall apart just in meeting her. Every second I spent staring at this beautiful lady reminded me of two things: I had grandparents. I have no grandparents.

I had grandparents. I have no grandparents. I had grandparents…I have no grandparents…IhadgrandparentsIhavenograndparents.

And yet.

And yet...

And yet, my life is wonderful. I don't say that from a place of fake hope or misguided judgment. My life is truly wonderful. I couldn't imagine changing any of it because, in doing so, some ripple effect would take place that would also change all of the wonderful things. My repeatedly repaired life, full of cracks filled with gold, is breathtakingly beautiful.

And because of that, I know this:

Whatever you're going through, it will get better. It will end. It will change.

You will find a way to fill the fractures of your life with gold and you will be more beautiful for it.

You are worth the struggle, the fight, the clawing and kicking and screaming. You will make it to the other side.

We all will. We are in this together.

We are the broken ones.

We are strong. We are capable. We are meant to live our way into a wonderful, fabulous, very good life.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Monday Mantra: Secret #2

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: The world is in you
The feeling of gravity keeps us down
Deviantart
While Secret #1 taught me many things about what I believe and why (and that, currently, I absolutely, positively cannot sit and do nothing for 10 minutes everyday without going crazy), it's time to move on to Secret #2.  

Secret #2: The World is in You

We were taught to follow a set of habits and beliefs that totally disregard the mystery of life. These beliefs are contained one inside the other like nested boxes:

There is a material world.
The material world is full of things, events, people.
I am one of those people, and my status is no higher than that of anyone else. 
To find out who I am, I must explore the material world.

This set of beliefs is binding. It leaves no room for soul-searching, or even for the soul itself…as convincing as the material world looks, to the great embarrassment of modern science, no one has been able to prove that it is real…any neurologist will assure you that the brain offers no proof that the outside world really exists...
For all anyone knows, the entire outside world could be a dream. 


Whoa, what? Did you catch that? The entire outside world may not actually exist?! 

The idea held within Secret #2 is this: The world you experience is what you create, what you make of it, your perception of everything, good, bad, or otherwise. It is magical and unexplainable and in so many ways, limitless. However, over time we've been taught to isolate ourselves in order to search out exactly who we are and, in doing this, we've separated ourselves. We've lost the connection to the world within us. We've created an Us vs. Them situation in almost everything we do and, by doing that, we've separated us from ourselves. The world is within you. You are not in the world. 

It's complicated and beautiful and intriguing and, somewhat, overwhelming. 

To live and learn Secret #2, you're asked to change your reality and bring the world home to yourself. You're asked to look around you and notice how everything you see is a part of you. How your color choice of wall paint is a direct reflection of you and how you feel about your world. How you observe happiness around you and how the people in your life all play a role in that happiness. 

My favorite exercise is where he asks you to get a rose, hold it in front of you, and understand how this rose is created by you. "Without me, this flower would have no fragrance." Never before that moment had I realized that I give fragrance to flowers, color to walls, vibrancy to the world, just because of the sensations my brain generates.

The world is within me. I am not within the world.

In an attempt to live this secret, I'm going to start focusing on my surroundings and asking myself how I connect to them, how my perception of them has shaped them. How, if I were to alter that perception, they would completely change. 

What will you do, observe, notice to uncover the world within you?

A shout out to my work hubby, Daniel, for going secret-by-secret right along with me! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Gluten Free 4th of July

Hi Friends, I'm going to take a couple of weeks off for family and fun time, but wanted to leave you with a little something-something for the holiday weekend. Here are some of my favorite recipes from past posts that work great for our amazing and much-to-be-celebrated-about Independence Day!

Enjoy!

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Sweet Herb Lemonade is taken from Rachel's fantastic website, The Healthy Cooking Coach. I did the lemonade and the orangeade and enjoyed them both. Mine were slightly different than her recipe, which is below, as I made a larger portion for each and made them a bit sweeter. This is where you'll need to play around with them. Like she says, add a little stevia, taste, then add and taste as needed.
Sweet Herb Lemonade  

Prep: 10 minutes/ Yield: 1 quart + 1/3 to 1/2 cup

If you love––or once loved––lemonade but don’t want the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in conventional recipes and commercial products, try this. All the sweetness comes from the leaf of a South American herb that tastes 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. 

To avoid a bitter flavor, you need to measure carefully and use it in minuscule amounts. The biggest mistake people make is using too much. Brands may differ in flavor and concentration, so always start with less than you think you need, taste, and adjust in minuscule amounts as needed.

FYI: Look for pure stevia extract powder. For cooking, baking, and all of my recipes, I recommend against brands that contain fillers that dilute the stevia making it difficult to impossible to know how much to add, particularly in cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, frozen desserts, and sauces. Note: I avoid all stevia products that contain FOS, a pre-biotic that not only dilutes the herb but adds something to feed the friendly flora in your intestines. For many people FOS causes gas and bloating. See notes above for more on this!
Caveat: If you do use Nu Naturals stevia packets (these contain a filler to make the volume of the packet like that of a sugar packet), you will have to add, taste, add, and taste to get the right amount. You might need an entire envelope for each 1/2 to 1 quart of lemonade, depending on your tastes and sweetness preferences.
Ingredients:
4 cups filtered water  (1 quart)
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly juiced organic lemons, seeds removed (about 3 medium lemons)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (I like Nu Naturals stevia extract powder & liquids and Wisdom Naturals/Sweet Leaf stevia liquids)
    
  1. Combine water, lemon juice, lemon pulp, if desired, and stevia in a tall glass pitcher or quart jar. Whisk well. Taste and add additional stevia, 1/16th to 1/8th teaspoon at a time, if a sweeter taste is desired. If too lemony, dilute with additional water.
  2. Serve over ice if desired.  Cover and refrigerate. Use within 1 week. 

Easy Crockpot Ribs
2.5 lbs of ribs (I use grass fed)
1 quart container of mushroom broth
1 quart container of beef broth - (I use Pacific Natural Foods for my broths)
1 diced onion
1/4 cup Stubs BBQ Sauce- Original Flavor or 1/4 cup Better BBQ Sauce



Sprinkle in the following herbs and spices:

  • Garlic Pepper (or you can dice up some garlic cloves)
  • Cardamom
  • Sea Salt
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Ground Mustard
  • Chipotle
  • Dulse
  • Kelp
  • Thyme
  • Cumin
  • Basil
The variety of herbs will not only make your ribs taste delicious, but they'll make you feel great as well. Each one does it's own special thing to help digestion, remove toxins, and promote better immune health.

1. Combine broths, spices and herbs, onion, and BBQ sauce in crockpot. Mix well, then add in ribs.
2. Cook ribs in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, checking occasionally.
3. That's about it. I told you they were easy! Pull them out and eat, when ready.

If you like BBQ Sauce, I highly recommend using this Better BBQ Sauce recipe with these. Or with everything, it's that good. If you don't have time to make it, buy the version I mention, above. It's a healthy alternative to the homemade one.



WTF Sweet Potato Salad
Taken and modified from Tasting Table

Ingredients for Dressing:
1/4 cup plus two TBSP's veganaise 
1 TSP garlic seasoning
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TSP dijon mustard
1/8 TSP tabasco sauce
1/4 TSP paprika
1/4 TSP cumin
1/4 - 1/2 TSP black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 TSP sea salt
1 TSP soy sauce

Ingredients for the Salad:
2 large eggs
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup snap peas, ends trimmed
6 ounces ham, diced (GF of course, but also preferably nitrate free)
1 red bell pepper diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
2 TSP's extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl whisk together the veganaise, garlic, lemon, mustard, Tabasco, paprika, cumin, black pepper, soy sauce, and sea salt. 
2. Hard boil your eggs in a medium saucepan over high heat for 15 mins. Immediately (this is the key to easy shell peeling) put them in ice cold water with ice. When they are cool enough to handle, roll them on the counter and crack the shell, the peel away, then dice them up.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat. Add the potatoes and boil for 20-30 mins, or until tender. Use a fork to check them (it should easily puncture the potatoes). Turn off the heat and add the snap peas to the hot water to cook. Leave them in for 2 mins, then remove the potatoes and the peas. Cool them under cold running water. Cut the potatoes into small bites. I removed the skins, but do as you please with that. Chop up the snap peas.
4. Put the potatoes, eggs, snap peas, ham, bell pepper, celery, and dill pickles into a large bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Add a little more salt, pepper, and veganaise if you want a creamier salad. 


It doesn't just look pretty, it tastes pretty, too.
Corn and Bell Pepper Salad
Original Recipe taken from Just a Pinch Recipe Club

2 Cups Diced Red Bell Peppers 
2 1/2 cups Fresh Corn Kernels ( approx: 5 medium ears of corn)
1 Small Red Onion, diced
About 3 lettuce leaved to make the bowl pretty
Salt, pepper, and basil to sprinkle on top

1. In a large bowl, combine corn, peppers, and onion. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the dressing. 
2. Arrange lettuce leaves in cup shape inside bowl and fill with the salad. 
3. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

Side note: The dressing really makes the recipe. I mean it really, really makes the recipe. You really can't go wrong with it, as it's sugar and gluten free- a good combination. This can also be found at Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.


Mom's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie
Ingredients:
  • 1 can Eagle Brand milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cool whip
  • 1/4 TSP almond extract
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 1 can cherries for pie filling
  • Gluten free graham crackers (individual or pre-made pie crust)
If you're using GF graham crackers and don't have a pie crust handy, crush the graham crackers and make sure you add in some butter (olive oil doesn't work as well in this case) to help form the crust. First start adding the butter to the crackers in a bowl until it beings to stick together, then transfer to a pie plate to form the crust. I needed about 1/2 a stick of butter, but start smaller with 1/4 a stick and work your way up as needed from there.

Mix milk, juice, cool whip, almond, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Pour this mixture into your graham cracker pie crust. Pour the can of cherries on top of that. Finish with cool whip around the edges. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, but the longer the better. I like to make it the night before as the flavors really mix together and it seems to set better over night.


Monday, June 30, 2014

In the World of Wellness: Gluten Free Dining Out

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.


In the World of Wellness: Delicious gluten free food, no matter where you go
Delight Gluten Free
Being gluten free (by choice or not by choice) is no easy task. You run the risk of everything from food not tasting like food at all to cross contamination in the kitchen. The good news is over the last few years dining out gluten free has gotten a lot easier. Ohmygoodness, so much easier, hallelujah!

Here are some of my favorite tools and tips for dining out gluten free, as well as some of my very favorite restaurants around.

Find Me GF App 
The Find Me GF app has been my saving grace ever since I discovered it. I use it whenever I travel and even when I'm at home, to double check the gluten free options around me. Thanks to this little handy dandy tool, I have discovered some of the most amazing gluten free places around the country. If you yourself are gluten free or if a loved one is gluten free, install it. Immediately. It will make all of your lives easier.

Delight Gluten Free Magazine
Never in all of ever have I loved a magazine this much. While the recipes and articles are great, my very favorite part of it is the Travel & Leisure review section. Each edition features multiple reviews of cities across the world. Did you catch that? Across the WORLD. My latest copy featured Cape Porpoise, my own home, Phoenix, Port Douglas, and Victoria. I've saved every copy I've ever gotten because they serve as amazing resources when I'm planning a trip. I refer back to them and plan in advance where to eat. This, plus my Find Me GF app truly makes traveling a piece of gluten free cake.

GlutenEase
In my purse there are a few constants: my ID, money, Burt's Bees chapstick, and GlutenEase. If I ever accidentally eat food that's become contaminated with gluten, I pop two of these babies and wait for their magic to happen. We all know there's no cure for gluten allergies, so these aren't magical pills that completely take the symptoms away, but they are your best friend when you've accidentally encountered the big bad gluten.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Once a year the boyfriend and I hit up Las Vegas. We are probably the most boring people in Las Vegas at any given time because we go to the City of Sin for two reasons and two reasons only: To watch the shows and to eat. To eat a lot. For me, in particular, Las Vegas has some of the best gluten free options around. I kid you not when I say I impatiently wait all year until I get to go back there and get my grub on.

The true test of any gluten free meal is how much my non-gluten free boyfriend likes it. Mon Ami Gabi  is one place he would prefer my GF menu to his own gluten filled one. Last year, the chef made homemade bread and a cherry duck confit that I dreamed about for months after. The boyfriend and I would randomly, on several occasions, talk about the duck and the bread and the cherries and ohmygoodness we'd wish we were back there eating it again. I even wrote to management and begged them to keep the duck on their menu as a regular item (it's seasonal right now). This year, I had the corn beef hash for breakfast (one of my favorites whenever I can find it) and it was the best I have ever had. Seriously. Also, one key thing to note is that they've started using Udi's bread now. Still good, but the loaf they baked prior was out of this world amazing.

As you know, Las Vegas is full of buffets, which are normally terrifying concepts for the food allergy stricken. Not the case with the Bellagio. We dined there for brunch and they provided me with my own personal chef who guided me around the buffet and meticulously went over each section and what I could and could not eat. While they don't have GF pizza or pasta on hand, she personally offered to make me some in the back and bring it out. She was also available if I had any other questions later or needed anything at all. The Bellagio gets 5 stars in my book for the absolute best customer service ever.

Two burger places you must check out are Holsteins and the Burger Bar. The Burger Bar has everything from build your own burgers to one of a kind shake creations. We go there every single time we're in Las Vegas. I just discovered Holsteins this year and my mushroom burger was melt in your mouth amazing.

San Diego, CA
There are so many delicious gluten free options in San Diego that I might have to move there.
Snooze was my favorite of all places. The wait might be long, but it is worth every second. The OMG French Toast is named that for a reason and the Sandwich I Am sauce is ridiculously good. Not to mention the most blissed out waiter I've ever met. The man radiated happiness! It's a great place to dine and they're located in Arizona (yay for me!) and Colorado as well. We just went to the location here in Arizona and the food and staff were equally amazing.

Coronado's gold sand
Other must try places include The Mission (the portions are gigantic) 2Good2B (the whole place is a dedicated gluten free restaurant), Blaze Pizza (they take extra care of switching gloves and using GF tools), Rockin' Baja Lobster (wow tacos, wow), the Red Marlin at the Hyatt (most amazing pork ribs in the world), and last, but not least Portofino Cucina Italiana (with the best GF pasta I've ever had, seriously). Some of these didn't show up on the Find Me GF app, but were referred to us by locals. The locals always know.

Also, as a travel nut, I must recommend checking out Coronado Island while you're in San Diego. The sand, oh my, the sand. It looks like gold glitter by the ton was poured on it. If you're a book nut, I highly suggest checking out Bay Books while you're there. The owner is a long time friend of the boyfriends family and truly has one of the most adorable bookshops I've ever been in. I would have stayed there all day if I could have.

Dallas, TX
There are two places in Dallas I wish I could have brought home with me: Boomerjack's, who has the best nachos I've ever eaten in my life, and From Across the Pond, an English pub just outside of Dallas that's dedicated to good gluten free dining.

Madison, WI
If you find yourself in the lush greenness of lovely Madison, Wisconsin, I highly recommend checking out The Great Dane. I've eaten there every time I've been in Madison and am never disappointed. They also have a gorgeous beer garden to dine out of, which is just too relaxing and lovely to miss.

Arizona
I'd be remiss to leave out my own state, so here are some of my very favorites here in Arizona.
Both Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill are two gluten free friendly places to eat that kill it in flavor and hometown awesomeness. Joe's Farm Grill is my favorite of the two and you might even recognize it from the Food Network! Nourish is another newer favorite that is all gluten free and oh-so good. I should also mention Picazzo's, an Italian resteraunt in Tempe that is entirely gluten free and entirely delicious. The salads, the gnocchi, the everything...mmmm! The Melting Pot is pure heaven and their gluten free options are no different. I've already mentioned them before in an earlier post, but Frost Gelato is not to miss. I mean it. Go here. As soon as you get in town. Let's not forget that one time I went camping and didn't die, which lead to a made-from-scratch, just for me berry pie at the restaurant located within Rose Canyon Campground in Tucson, AZ. They seriously made it just for me, a gluten free kick-ass pie! I love them. I don't remember the name of the location, but it's within the campgrounds up where all the lodging and restaurants are. Go check them out if you're spending some time in the great outdoors! If you're heading up to Payson, my hometown, the very best gluten free pizza I've ever had anywhere in the world is at Pizza Factory. They toss 'em, they're awesome.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Monday Mantra: Shhhh

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: Listen to your soul wisdom certainty
Abyss of the Disheartened

I used to cry in the shower. It seemed like a safe place to cry. A place to shed emotions where no one could hear me and no one would know. Where I wouldn't have to explain myself or my feelings. Where each tear would be drowned out in the heavy repeating shhhh of the water.

This very contradictory act made me very happy.

In doing my self study work with Secret #1, I've noticed that lately I live between two emotions: Happiness and uncertainty. While I realize I could have many worse emotions to deal with, uncertainty isn't something to leave unchecked. Because it is believed that there are ultimately two key emotions in life, love and fear, everything you do/think/feel stems from one of them. Happiness comes from love, whereas uncertainty is the stone path in the garden of your life that leads to the house of fear. 

To address my uncertainty, I started making a list of things that make me happy. Not every day happy, but to the depths of my soul and the weight of my bones kind of happiness. This works as a kind of counter-action. In bringing awareness to those things that overwhelm me with joy and bliss, I more clearly see what I am certain of. I can focus in on the things I know for a fact about myself and my life, while simultaneously drowning out the things I'm not sure of. Essentially, I am shhhh-ing my doubts before they become full blown fears.

While I admit this sounds odd, I realized that crying in the shower should be on the happy list. Not because crying equates to happiness, but because it equates to old, familiar, comfortable pieces of my inner wisdom that knew what I needed without having to analyze why I needed it. Pieces that said "This feels right, so this is what I'll do." Soul wisdom certainty.

This soul wisdom certainty sometimes roars load and strong, when you least expect it. Last week I was visiting a friend out of state. The day had been beautiful and the night had been glorious with rain. So heavy and hard it reminded me of the water pouring down in the shower. The comforting, silencing shhhh that drowned out my thoughts. I was in bed reading a book when I heard a continual howl outside the window, a sound unlike I'd ever heard the wind make before. I came to learn that night that the wind does not make that sound, not ever. It was a siren in a town over, warning everyone to take shelter in their basements from the tornadoes dropping down.

It's interesting to see how happiness and uncertainty intertwine when hiding out in a basement. Will the tornado get us? Should I have grabbed my sneakers, my book, some snacks? Then - I'm so glad we have a basement to hide in! I'm so glad I didn't become a tornado chaser, like in Twister! I'm so thankful for the warning wind-like siren howl!

Back and forth like that in my mind. Should I...? - So thankful...! - Will we...? - So glad...!

When it was over, we went back upstairs, back to bed, back to safety. So happy to have avoided it, so awful to admit that when, just one town over, houses were torn to smithereens. In those early dawn hours, from the doubt and fear of the storm, the most powerful resounding certainty came forth:

I love my life.

I would never choose differently.

Never.

Soul wisdom certainty.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday Mantra: The Reality of You

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: The best version of yourself is the authentic one
Pinterest
I was doing self development work recently and read an article called Leading out Loud by Terry Pearce. The article discusses the important need to be genuine and authentic when communicating and working with others. To bring a human connection to our work interactions. To be personable, to be the real you. One sentence in particular grabbed my attention:

Most of us have abandoned the impulsive, passionate voices of our youth to sound more grown up and acceptable.

Damn. He's right.

I started to question how real I am all the time. Have I lost the very important internal youthfulness of myself in my every day interactions? Do I let people see my faults, gracefully and with my own full acceptance of them, or do I hide them away and pretend they don't exist so that I can pretend to be some kind of example of what being a grown up is all about?

It made me want to better study myself. To truly uncover the reality of who I am. Studying one's self, I've learned, is just like any other study you do in life. You have to invest time into it. You have to be willing to ask the hard questions to find the right questions to get to the final solutions. You have to focus, dedicate yourself, and be willing to see yourself in all of your good/bad/weird glory. You have to be willing to be honest in every moment.

Here are 10 questions and actions I've been working through to help me strengthen and fine-tune my authentic self. I hope they help guide you in the study of finding, creating, and fully embracing the real you.


  • What do you do for fun? Does this support who you want to be and what you want others to see about who you are?
  • What inspires you?
  • Make a list of things that make you happy. Evaluate why each item brings you joy to help better understand what makes you tick. Focus in on these and think of ways to create this happiness in your life all the time.
  • Are your words and actions in sync? Do you live/demonstrate the best example of who you are?
  • What areas of your life need more balance? Why and what can you change to create that balance?
  • Are you fully conscious to the decisions you need to make to reach the goals you've set for yourself? Are there goals that no longer apply, that need to be changed, or that should be added to help you reach your full potential?
  •  If you were guaranteed to succeed at anything in life, what would you attempt? Why?
  • What do you want to say you're proud to do for a living? What steps do you need to take to do that (if you're not already)?
  • Draw a superhero cartoon version of yourself with a unique power you already possess. Maybe you make the best french toast in the world or you're the speediest dishwasher in all of Texas. Whatever your power, own it. In those hard or scary moments (right before a job interview, when you've had a bad day at work, etc.) mentally put on your super hero cape and remember this amazing power you possess that makes you uniquely you.
  • Find 10 things you love about yourself, just as you are. In those moments of self doubt,  remember why you deserve love, from everyone including yourself.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Mantra: Secret #1

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: The mystery of life is real
I've had Deepak Chopra's The Book of Secrets sitting on my bookshelf for, oh, at least 4 years now. A friend of mine told me it was a must read, but that I had to read it one secret at a time. Read the secret, apply the secret, then move on. This was key, he said. To truly be able to grasp what is being shared, to absorb it and see the change, you had to live it - no rushing.

Thus, I am at step one with the first secret. It couldn't have been more perfect or timely. Maybe you noticed with some of my recent posts that I've been somewhat fascinated with the mysteries of the world, the possibilities of everything. Having that conversation, which lead to me finally reading the book and to this first secret…well, there's one example that the mystery is, indeed, real. 

I won't give too much away in case you, too, would like to read the book. Instead, as I go through secret by secret (however long it may take), I will share with you what I'm discovering, what I'm working on, and why these seven secrets are important to cultivate.

Secret #1: The Mystery of Life is Real

The life you know is a thin layer of events covering a deeper reality. In the deeper reality, you are part of every event that is happening now, has ever happened, or ever will happen. In the deeper reality, you know absolutely who you are and what your purpose is. There is no confusion or conflict with any other person on earth. Your purpose in life is to help creation to expand and grow. 
When you look at yourself, you see only love.

This one is particularly fascinating to me because I think that dreams are one of the most interesting and most misunderstood mysteries of life. Not the dreams you aspire to have, but the dreams of your sleep. How they work, why they work, what they mean. For example, and as crazy as I realize this will sound, my dreams sometimes come true. It can be the next day, the next week, or a year later, but what I dreamed about has, more than a few times, happened in waking life. Most often, exactly as I dreamed it. Word for word, action for action, to a quite weird degree of accuracy. What's more interesting is that my grandmother had this same gift, shall we say. Her dreams were more symbolic that mine, though, not a clear painted picture. Right before Christmas, many years ago, she had a simple, yet very intense dream that all of the lights on the Christmas tree went out. On Christmas, her father passed away. For her, the dreams that came true always, as she liked to put it, prepared her for a loved one that was about to die. She thought of it as God helping her to deal with something that would always be difficult for her. Whatever the reason behind it, the fact is that these dreams  - mine, hers, yours - are a mystery. We have barely scratched the surface of what they mean.

With Secret #1, you're asked to identify your body's intelligence. There is a list of 10 qualities of bodily wisdom that you're supposed to uncover for yourself. They are: higher purpose, communication, awareness, acceptance, creativity, being, efficiency, connection, giving, and immortality. The book challenges you to live the wisdoms you're learning about. To do this, you must write down one quality for each of the 10 wisdoms and then act out those things you've challenged yourself to do.

To keep myself honest as I work through these, here is my list. 

1. I believe, or at least want to believe, that I am here to connect people. To the world, to the beauty of words, to life and hope and peace within themselves.
2. I will express one feeling/thought that will make someone else feel less alone.
3. I will sit quietly for 10 minutes each day.
4. I will spend 5 minutes thinking of good qualities of someone I dislike. 
5. I will have an adventure, big or small, every day.
6. I will spend 30 minutes in nature doing nothing but existing and feeling what it's like to live. 
7. I will let go of trying to find the right everything and let the right come to me.
8. I will look people in the eyes more often.
9. I will spend quality time with my friends and family (no distractions, no phone, no nonsense).
10. I will write down 5 things that I want to be remembered for.

This video is perfect proof of the wonderful mystery of life. What will you do to connect yourself to the mysteries of life and the wisdom that you have inside you already?

Image via Pinterest

Monday, June 2, 2014

All Around the World: The Travel Bug

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
Image via hongkiat.com
He's got it. Can you tell?

There's a bug you catch, unlike any other, that stays with you forever no matter how many times you treat it's symptoms or address it's ailments. It's always with you, it never leaves, and everyone wants to catch it. Unlike it's cousin, the Love Bug, it never breaks your heart or leaves you achey breaky. On the contrary, it expands your heart with each new encounter, each new kiss of adventure. This, my friends, is the Travel Bug.

You already know I have it, and bad with a capital B. Like breathing or drinking water, I must see the world. I have to. It is so full of beauty. Magnificent, amazing, breathtaking beauty. I hope one day you feel this, too. This need that will never be satisfied, a thirst never quenched, because I believe if you just open your eyes wide enough (and, more importantly, your mind and heart), you will see the world as it really is - the magic and mystery and spirit - and the veil will be lifted.

I don't know how you feel about this or if you've quite caught the bug yet, but every inch of my being believes I am meant to see this entire, wonderful world. And because my brain doesn't function like others, because I think in letters and poems and written words better than spoken ones, I will continue to try and share the world with you the best way I know how, on here, through typed experiences and moments captured on film.

All of the adventures have taught me lessons. Here are some of those random, weird, and hopefully helpful lessons.

1. We're all the same
We might look a little different, talk a little different, and have different ideas, but ultimately we are all exactly the same. We love, hurt, laugh, and cry. We want to be happy. We want to connect with something,  someone. We want to understand - life, each other, ourselves.

I have this theory about people all over the world and how traveling plays a piece in our connections to each other. I like to think that through each new experience I become a blend of everyone. I become a piece of them and they become a piece of me. Over enough time, we all become pieces of each other. This thought makes me happy. This makes me think that I have friends I don't know the names of yet in each and every county, but one day - one day - I will know them and we will share pieces of ourselves together.
2. Here is no better than there
As contradictory as that might sound, since I'm always going somewhere, it's true. If you leave with an intent to get away for an adventure, that's one thing. If you leave with an intent to just simply get away, you'll come to find that here, truly, is no better than there. Better is in you. Better is something you make within yourself. It is not a place. It is peace within.
3. Kindness is a universal language
I, sadly, do not speak anything except English fluently, and that is even sometimes questionable. But I am pretty good in the language of kindness and that, I have discovered, is all you really need no matter where you go.

But for there record, it's always appreciated when you at least try to speak a few words of their native language.
4. Peace is spelled: Respect
I may believe differently than you do, but that's because this is my life. Not yours...and vice versa. That doesn't make me better or smarter or more anything than you.

If you can take this same thought with you into all the places you go, you will find how easy it is to connect with people without the confines that judgement brings.
5. Teleportation would be excellent to have
Stay with me here, people, I have a point. Maybe not a great one, but a point nonetheless. I like planes, trains, and automobiles, but I am also impatient and Australia is too far from my house. Not that it's going to stop me, but I'm just saying...we went to the moon, we can definitely do this.

But since we don't have that option right now, make the most of what we do have. Yes, airports can be annoying and cars can be too, but at least you have options. The buggy life of days gone by, where you couldn't get any-freaking-where for, like, a year, was awful. We've got it good. Realize that and traveling will be waaaaaay better for you. Also, watch this Louis C. K. video where he basically explains what I'm trying to say in a far more hysterical way.
6. The people make the places
Go there, wherever there is for you, and meet the people. Learn from them, laugh with them, see how they see the world. You may be the most fascinating thing they've ever seen. They may ask you all about your life because they really, truly want to know what it's like to be you, because you, my friend, are unrepeatable to them.

And that is exactly how you should treat them.

Let them show you what their world looks like. Let them show you things you might not be able to fathom. I guarantee you there is magic in the world in places you would least expect to find it. Let the people show you their place in whatever way they know how to.
7. Always, always, always bring an umbrella
Because it will rain. Especially if you didn't bring one. It will rain a lot in that case.

7a. And a flashlight
In case you climb a mountain at 4am and you didn't know you were going to do that because you massively failed to read your itinerary.
8. Move
Let. Yourself. Go.

Get lost. Take a new path. Move your feet, your body, your soul to rhythms you've never heard and places you've never been.

Rick Mereki made an awesome video that you really need to see. One minute of your life, that's all.
9. Third world countries rock
Third world countries are excellent vacation destinations. When I leave, I feel more connected to the world and far more grateful for my life than when I began the journey.

I also recommend going alone, at least once in a while. Alone can be truly alone or in a group tour. Either way, go out and meet some new friends because, well, you have to in this case. I've met the most amazing, kind hearted, fantastic people on this planet. And I'm lucky enough to call them friends now.

With third world countries you experience a new culture so vastly different than yours that, I guarantee, you will leave feeling thankful for all you've been blessed with in life (even the bad things will seem minuscule). The people are, in my experience, incredibly friendly. And while you're there, stock up on birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Grandparents Day, whatever-holiday presents. They're unique and they're handmade, therefore, you're supporting that local artists/designer and you're helping the economy and them by giving them the means to put food on the table. More bang for your buck in every way possible.

Important things to consider:
  • They can't handle our way of living, so be open minded and follow their way of life. 
  • There will be weird toilets. Read up before you go. You'll be fine.
  • They don't have trash or recycling like we do and, in many cases, they have a hard time supporting all the tourists and the trash we bring with us (plastic bottles, for example). Please don't litter and please help keep your trash limited.
  • Be open minded. Beds will be hard, hugs or hand holding may be their form of a handshake, and they'll probably ask you a lot of personal questions. It's just normal for them.

Whatever you do, I hope, at some point in your life, you catch this amazing, life changing, awareness altering travel bug.


All images via Melia Metikos Society 6