Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Kindness Chronicles: More Amazing Body Products

I went through my house the other day and realized there were all kinds of awesomely amazing products I'd been using forever and a day that I had not told you about yet. For shame! There's no better way to be kind to yourself than to use safe, natural products. So, without further adieu, here's the scoop on the goop in my bathroom.

WEN Hair Care by Chaz Dean
WEN is an all natural hair care line unlike anything you have ever tried. Ever. The shampoo and conditioner are one in the same and you absolutely, positively have to follow the instructions on how much to use. Here's the deal: The bottle says to pump out something like 10-15 pumps in your hand. 10-15? Yes, 10-15. I was in denial about how much you had to actually use, so I kept trying to cheat and only use 2 pumps. Then 4, then 6, until finally I just gave in and found out that I do, indeed, need to use 10 pumps for my hair's length.

Now, I know that sounds crazy, but it works. This really is the most amazing shampoo/conditioner ever. So much so that I almost want to say it's magical and that maybe little woodland creatures have created it. Again, it's all natural. It doesn't list ingredients on the bottle, but I did research and we're all good. Also, and very importantly, it works. So. Good. It makes your hair soft, strong, thick, and lovely.

Magical, I tell you.

I discovered this when I bought a travel sized peppermint body wash for my trip to India. I specifically purchased it because of the essential oils in it and because peppermint is great for repelling bugs. Bugs that could have malaria and might want to snack on me. No fun. Anyway, ever since then I've kept buying it because it really is all-in-one awesome.

There's a documentary out there about Dr. Bronner and how he came up with his soap. It explains the story that is printed on every label of the bottle. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't that fascinating, but it at least explained the story of the label and how he came up with this soap.

Let me tell you a little story about me and my tooth fascination. First, dental hygiene is incredibly important anyway, but I'm a little bit fascinated with having healthy teeth. If you asked my friend, Becky, she would tell you I was kind of crazy in high school. I would like to blame this on the fact that I had to have braces and with those, the dreaded, awfulness of headgear. That I had to wear to school. In 7th grade. All. Day. Long.

Parents- Take it from me. If your kids ever need headgear, do not make them wear it to school. Just shoot them. It will save them the trouble of all of the embarrassment.

Anyway, back in school I found out that the normal, standard toothpastes we all have aren't actually all that awesome at all. If you read my post, Skin Health: What you need to know NOW, you understand why chemicals on your skin are bad. If you haven't read it, I strongly urge you to do so. Now, apply what that says to chemicals in your mouth and it's even worse to think about. Which is what lead me to this, which I dub, The Most Super-Excellent Tooth Cleaning Paste Known to All Mankind. A long, but worthy title.

Ching Wan Hung Burn Cream
A few years back I burned myself on my arm, right where my tattoo is. It was a very, very bad burn and I was positive I was going to have to have my tattoo re-done due to the damage, if that was even possible, considering the burn. I went to school the next night and showed my teacher, who is a Traditional Chinese Medical doctor, and he pointed me in the direction of this. He wasn't sure how great it would work, since the burn was about 36 hours old at that point, but he said it would at least help a lot.

And help it did, more than a lot. My arm (and tattoo) are 100% normal looking. You would never know I had burned myself in the first place. For a few weeks there was a slight pink mark, but even that went away. I honestly didn't think anything was going to save me. A few months later I got a sunburn. I decided to try this baby out again. Not only did my sunburn go away almost overnight, but so did everything else that went with it. No pain, no redness, no heat. It was unbelievable. I keep this in my house at all times for any incidents.

Another teacher at my school, who's a chef,  has given it to firefighters to use, other chefs, and pretty much anyone who is constantly in danger of being burned. I cannot express how fantastic this product is and how important it is to have on hand for any type of burns. I seriously wish more people knew about it because I am certain it would save them a lot of pain and grief.

I'll scour my house more, as I know I have plenty of other things to share, but I thought this would be an excellent start for you guys.

Questions? Let me know.
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday Mantra: Connect the Dots

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: Trust that the dots of your life will connect as they are supposed to

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in the world. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. 

 - Steve Jobs

A couple of weeks ago I went to the renaissance festival with my friend, Colette. While we were there we strolled about the grounds soaking in the sun, watching the shows, and eating ginormous turkey legs. I don't know about you, but time with my friend plus sunshine plus turkey legs equals a very awesome day in my book. 

As we were leaving, we passed the booth of a palm reader named Madame Carolyn. A cute, grandmotherly palm reader, with an honest face and a little bonnet on her head. Madame Carolyn also happened to have a gentleman stationed out front of her little booth to sign people in for readings. The whole place had this feel to it, very welcoming, very friendly, very safe. 

Colette and I sat and talked to the gentleman manning the sign in sheet. He was nice, polite, funny. He told us stories about his life, his travels, and about how he did not believe in palm reading. At least he didn't until he worked with Madame Carolyn. Apparently, within the six weeks he'd been working with her, several people had returned from years prior to tell her how things she had predicted had come true. I had been thinking about getting my palm read for fun, so I decided to go for it.

Now, there are a few things you need to know:

1. I've had my palm read before and it's always been a disaster of a joke. So fake, so bad, so not worth the money. But I enjoy the fun in it. I enjoy the idea. Normally, the palm readers say 12 million things that could apply to anyone sitting in front of them. They also usually get info out of you without you realizing it. Neither of those things happened. 

2. The night before the festival I had a dream. In it, I was in some other country at a weird indoor-outdoor mall of some sort.  There were all of these little vendors with little booths and one vendor in particular, a gentleman who very much resembled Julian from One Tree Hill, had me come over to his booth so we could talk. He was dressed in green and brown and he was scruffy, tattered. He tried selling me different jams as well as some paintings he had done. We talked and talked, and in our conversations he tried to guess where I would be traveling for the year ahead. He also talked to me about love. Then I woke up.

Madame Carolyn's booth was set up just like the one in my dream. 

The guy was dressed in the same, tattered clothes. 

3. As previously mentioned, according to my horoscope my life was suppose to change for the better on March 12th. The day we went to the festival was March 11th. That being said, I was confused that entire week and honestly thought that it was the 12th that day.

At no time before I sat down with her did I have to fill out a little sheet of paper with any details of my life whatsoever. Also, while we were talking to the guy who signed us in, I didn't talk about my life at all. Not at all, at all. 

When it was my turn, Colette came and sat with me while Madame Carolyn read my palm. She wanted to see what it was all about, but she also wanted to see if what Madame Carolyn said could be applied to anyone who sat with her. Like a test, so to speak. I wasn't sure what to expect from this cute little lady, but I certainly wasn't expecting things to start off with the bang that they did.

Madame Carolyn: If you're not a doctor in the medical field, you've studied holistic nutrition and you practice health and wellness.
Me: *Jaw dropped open*
Colette: *Jaw also dropped open*

Things got more awesomely real from there. Not only did she tell me things like how I just got a divorce or how my mom was having a hard time dealing with something difficult that just recently happened, but she also told me about my travels for the year and about how my love life was going to pan out. Much, much like my dream from the night before. Her details were exact, specific, with time frames and numbers and moments that either had already happened or would. 

Basically, Madame Carolyn was blowing my mind. And Colette's. And our jaws just kept dropping open. 

It's funny how this one little, random thing has made such an impact. How this stranger could actually have gotten so many things right, now and hopefully for my future. Which I guess is all it's really people hope. Giving them something to believe in, something to trust. 

Things have happened since then. Small, minuscule things, but things nonetheless. And since I can't connect the dots of the instances that have yet to occur, I will connect the ones that already have. I will wait for the rest to take shape, to form, to see what my life will look like. I will look backwards one day, far in the future, and remember these moments. I will see how everything lead to where I am at and I will understand. 

So friends, when you look at your life from this very moment, look backwards for the dots. Look for the moments, the details, and the steps that lead you here. Steve Jobs was right- you can't connect them looking forward (unless you're Madame Carolyn, I suppose), but you can trust in them. Trust that they will align exactly as they should. Trust in your life. 

And maybe go see Madame Carolyn. If she doesn't blow your mind, at least you can feel good about spending some time with someone who looks like your grandma. 

If you could know your future, exactly as it will turn out, would you? Or would you wait for the dots to connect themselves?

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monday Mantra: Make it Great

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: I will make today great
Inscription found on a wall in Germany after the holocaust.

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
- Ayn Rand
A couple of months ago my horoscope told me that on March 12th something great was going to happen, that it would be the beginning of something wonderful. Since reading that in January I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for that day to roll around. Just waiting to see what great thing would happen. And guess what?

Nothing did. Nothing super, amazing, and awesomely stupendous happened to me.

I didn't win the Powerball or a new car or anything at all, for that matter. In fact, I had my taxes done that day and I found out I was getting less back than the year prior. Not so great, in my book. That being said, I still feel like I had a great day because I went into the day deciding, no matter what, that it would be great. I decided to focus only on the great things in my life.

The sun was out that day and the temperature was perfect. I had food in my fridge and a puppy at my feet to snuggle with. I was alive and well, and it was a great day after all. I even thought to myself that, for all I know, something great could've been happening behind the scenes, in the background of my life, that I just haven't become aware of yet. It was all in the way I chose to see the day.

There are a lot of things in life I can't control, like the weather. And the IRS. But the one thing I can control is how I feel about a situation. How I perceive something to be. I am capable of deciding how I'm affected by everything.

We all hold within ourselves this amazing ability to determine how we feel about everything- people, situations, events, life. If we decide something's awful, it is. If we decided something's fantastic, it is.If we decide not to decide then we've still made a decision.

I'm choosing to decide that my days will be only how I determine them to be. Good, bad, or otherwise. It's all up to me.

What will you decide?

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A Skin Care Line You'll Want to Try

I am pretty dysfunctional when it comes to all things makeup application related. When I was younger my mom never had the, "This is how you put on makeup" talk with me. Not ever. Which is why when I was a freshman in high school I used eye liner on my eyelashes and not on, well, my eyelids. Now that I think about it, my mom never had any talks with me, so it's kind of a miracle I'm alive and well today, but I digress.

Even to this day, after I have attended at least 31 Mary Kay demonstrations, I am still pretty clueless about most makeup things. I have no idea how to apply bronzer or what it's really all about. Foundation pretty much terrifies me entirely because I don't like the idea of hugging someone and leaving half of my face behind on them. And lipstick? I always end up eating more of it than wearing it, so for me, it's all about the mascara and chapstick and that's it. Because, with me, what you see is what you get. No layers of makeup, no nothing. Just me. Which is why it's so important that I have good skin care products that ensure my skin looks good all the time.

Therefore, it's important that you know about this wonderful skin care line that does just that. Da da da da, da da! I give you...

Eminence Organic Skin Care.

This is a product line from Hungary that's organic, all natural, and amazing. On top of that, almost everything smells fan-freaking-tastic. I'm not going to lie, I kind of want to makeout with myself. That's how good it smells. Even people around me have been asking what fabulous new perfume I'm wearing, when really it's just these products.

Among the products I've bought, the spa I found it at was kind enough to give me all sorts of samples so that I could try them out. The good news is that they seem to last a long time. I started using everything in the fall and I still have a ton of product left. That is mostly due to the requirement on the label which instructs you to emulsify everything, which is fancy talk for adding water to it. The bad news is that the products are expensive. However, I truly feel like I can get at least 9 months out of everything I've got, if not more. In that sense, it's not bad on the price at all.

Here's what I've tried and discovered, thus far:

Firm Skin Acai Cleanser: Gets my skin really clean, but it takes a little extra work to remove eye makeup. I always feel really fresh after I use it, though, and I'm pretty sure my skin is whispering, "Thank you" at me every night.

Lemon Cleanser: This is very refreshing, but I didn't feel like it was as cleansing as the Acai one. However, the front desk girl swears by it.

Stone Crop Hydrating Mist: I adore the smell of this. It reminds me of London, and long walks, and happiness. Seriously, it does. I feel super, duper hydrated after I apply it and it's great to use throughout the day.

Eight Greens Whip Moisturizer: I felt very clean after I applied this, but not necessarily super moisturized. It doesn't really smell one way or another and for me, now that I know how great everything else smells, I want it to smell amazing. I have not tried the Apricot Whip Moisturizer, but the girl at the spa swears by it. Based on her desperation for me to buy that one, I am definitely trying it next.

Rosehip Whip Moisturizer: I'm hooked on this one. It's a very gentle moisturizer. I find that it really brightens my face while hydrating it. I also tend to think of it working much like rose water misted on the skin. It balances everything out and makes your skin feel and look great.

Persimmon & Cantaloupe Day Cream SPF 32: I have a love/hate relationship with this one. I love it because it's got SPF in it and it moisturizes all at once. I hate it because it's a trick-and-a-half to put on, sometimes. You have to emulsify it just right or it gets flaky and rubs off in chunks. That part drives me insane. When I do get it just right, it is pretty amazing. Also, you either love the way it smells or you don't. It's one of those. I probably won't use it again after I run out. I do, however, like the Tropical Vanilla Sun Cream SPF 32. It smells like a heavenly vacation bottled up, but it's not a full-on moisturizer. It's mostly sunscreen, so you'd have to layer it with something else.

Jasmine Tangerine Age-Defying Night Cream: Love it. It actually smells like jasmine flowers are blossoming on your face. It works amazingly. I had been using the Say Yes To Carrots line in the interim while searching for a new product line to try, and I hadn't even realized how dry my face had become from it. This jasmine product seemed to work overnight. So, while the Say Yes To line is still a good line overall, and is very cost effective, this knocked it out of the park.

Naseberry Treatment Cream: This, ladies, is great for combating hormones. It helps to balance out your skin and fight acne, as well as wrinkles. It's good for layering, so doing this and then the Jasmine cream at night is a safe bet. However, it's uber-powerful, so only do it every other night or so.

Eight Greens Phyto Masque: This is a powerful little hot face treatment in a jar. It works to prevent breakouts and normalize production of oil. I used it when my skin was recently breaking out and it worked great. While it isn't actually hot, it does leave your skin a little red afterwards, so do it at night when you're not planning on heading out and about.

Raspberry Pore Refining Masque: When you use this, I guarantee that you will feel like you're putting raspberry jelly on your face. You just will. It resembles jelly so incredibly much that I am often tempted to eat it and regularly have to remind myself that it is not actually an edible item. The smell of it is out of this world amazing. And it works great. You have to rub it in and leave it on for a bit, then scrub off. I highly recommend it. You only need to use it once a week.
Strawberry Rhubarb Masque: I use this twice a week. The jar says that it works to "replenish the skin for a youthful look" and I agree completely.

Wild Plum Eye Cream: Every single lady in the spa swore up and down, left and right, that this eye cream is magical. I'm still deciding if it's as magical as they say. I do think it hydrates very well and moisturizes. I'm just not sure how great it is with preventing signs of fatigue, as they say. Then again, I just need to sleep more, so I can't hold that against it. Overall, though, I like it. If a dozen women in one spa surrounded me and "forced" me to purchase it, and all of them looked very nice and rested, then it has to be good.

If you try this line out, let me know what you think! 
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Oatmeal to Go!

Last week was oatmeal madness in my email box. My lovely friend, Jessica, had discovered all these new "Breakfast in a Jar" oatmeal recipes and had passed them along to me, thus ensuring I was starving all day at work. After I looked at what she sent me, I became hooked and had to do a massive Google search to see what other amazing oatmeal goodness was out there. Which, by the way, was a lot.

The idea is that you throw the ingredients together the night before and take to work the next day for breakfast. Easy and quick! 

I've made two so far and I've enjoyed them thoroughly. I try and avoid  dairy as much as I can, so this first one was an experiment even for me. I went with the Fage yogurt, as that's a great authentic Greek yogurt, but I think I'll skip it from here on out. I also found that stirring the ingredients all together in a jar was kind of a pain in the booty, depending on the size of the jar. Jess came up with the great idea of putting everything in a tupperware container, which worked much better, for the record.

Breakfast in a Jar
1/3 cup Fage Yogurt
1/2 cup rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill GF Oats)
1 ripe banana, sliced
A sprinkle of cinnamon for taste
1/3 cup coconut milk (the kind in the carton, not the can)
1 TBSP honey
1 1/2 TSP almond butter
1. Add all ingredients in jar and stir.
2. Put in the fridge overnight. 
3. Take out of the fridge the next morning, before you leave for work in a hurry.
4. Eat at work, making everyone else jealous and hungry.

The other one I tried, in the tupperware container, was way easier to mix. I used Bakery on Main's GF Maple Multigrain Muffin instant oatmeal. I really like this one because it has chia seeds, flax, and quinoa in it. It was amazing and I hardly had to add any other ingredients. 
Breakfast in a Tupperware Container
(Not as easy or fun to say, I know)

1 pack of instant oatmeal
1 banana, sliced
1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut milk

Follow the same steps, above, and enjoy!

There is a vast amount of recipes out there for these instant oatmeal ideas. You can add berries, mango, or raisins. Maybe throw in some maple syrup or peanut butter. I even saw one for Rocky Road Oatmeal, so maybe give that a try. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the deliciousness of it!

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CPK Moroccan Chicken Salad

In the last month I've become slightly addicted to California Pizza Kitchen's Moroccan Chicken Salad. It's gluten free, full of good foods, and utterly amazing. Due to all of that, I was spending way too much time and money at CPK, so I though I'd figure out how to make it at home.

The trickiest part of this creation was the salad dressing. I tried making my own, I tried different kinds, and eventually I ended up with Girard's Champagne Dressing, which is gluten free, but doesn't say that anywhere on the bottle. So tricky, people, so tricky! The good news is that it's at Fry's and most grocery stores. The bad news is that it's not exactly the healthiest salad dressing out there, ingredient wise, but it's not altogether awful, either. That being said, it tastes exactly like CPK's version with it and nothing else came close.

As for the chicken, the first time around I used chicken breast and the second time around I made it easy on myself and grabbed a roasted chicken from Sprouts. Saved me some time, so I recommend that.

Here's what I came up with in total, with some help from Google and various random other people trying to make it. I planned it to be a big salad so that I would have plenty of leftovers for lunches in the week, so keep that in mind. You should get at least 4-6 servings out of this baby, depending on if it's a side dish or the meal all in itself.

CPK Moroccan Chicken Salad
2 chicken breasts, chopped OR 3 cups of chopped roasted chicken
1 cup butternut squash, diced
1 cup of beets, diced
1/4 cup of dried cranberries (look for the nitrate free ones)
1 avocado, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, diced
3 medium sized carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup of dates, diced (nitrate free, again)
1 five ounce container of baby spinach
1/4 to 1/3 cup of roasted almond slivers
1/4 cup Girard's Champagne Dressing
1.5 TBSP olive oil
1 TSP cinnamon
1 TSP ground coriander

1. If you're baking the chicken yourself: Combine cinnamon, coriander, and olive oil in a bowl to make a  paste like texture. Coat the chicken and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until fully cooked, then let cool.

If you want to make this easy and get a roasted chicken: Combine the cinnamon, coriander, and olive oil in a bowl. Chop and measure out the chicken, then throw into the bowl with the mix and coat evenly.

2. For the squash: Slice the squash in half lengthwise and place in cooking dish with an inch of water, face up. After it's cooked, let cool and then dice.

For the beets: Rinse, peel the outside layer, and dice.

Roast both items, in separate dishes, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. If you're cooking the chicken yourself, you can do all three of these together at once.

3. Combine all ingredients together in large bowl and enjoy!

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Monday Mantra: Find the Fun

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: I will find the "fun" in everything I do
The most insane letter ever written by a child to a TV weatherman.
You MUST read this. Go here
The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.  - Nicolas Chamfort

This week I propose you find the fun in each day that you live. LOL - A lot. Maybe even try some of that ROFL. I see it as a workout with extreme happiness mixed in. Some of my very favorite memories are those in which I have laughed so hard I ended up crying my mascara off and looking a little like a raccoon.

Those memories always happen with my friends, as you may have noticed from prior stories.

For example, when my friend, Jess, was pregnant I threw her a baby shower. It was not your typical shower. The guys played video games and the girls took turns hanging upside down on the sofa making Chin People Faces. (You're going to want to try it, I promise)

Or like when we were all at a hotel once and I made the girls do what I like to refer to as The Running of the Curtains. You see, there was this big ole window with floor length curtains. A huge kind of a window that took up an entire wall. So, I decided we should run in and out of them, front to back, like it was some kind of a curtain tunnel and we were being chased by zombies.

Our most awesome adventures, however, usually happen in the car. We do a lot of singing out loud with the windows down and dancing while we drive kind of fun. And not just to normal songs, no. We mostly go for rap music, but every once in a while we throw in some really good embarrassing ones. For example, "When I Think About You I Touch Myself." To up the ante a little we always try to stop right up front at the intersection to really be able to provide the good drivers of the day with a show. I like to see this as our own personal attempt to bring joy and laughter to the entire state of AZ. Which I think we are slowly but surely succeeding in.

We have had people bust out into full on laughter in all four corners of the intersection. Others have waved and honked as we were passing them in the other lane. Some join in, if they know the song. One time there was a girl was walking across the intersection right in front of my car and hadn't noticed us...yet. She was on the phone, those darn things. When she did see us she jumped, started laughing, waived, and then explained to her friend on the phone what had just gone down as she continued to laugh, wave, and point at us.

What do these all have in common? They're normal activities.

Driving. Baby Shower. Curtains at a hotel.

We do a million things a year, all of us. The things we choose to do aren't so bad. We chose them. We enjoy them. The thing's we don't choose to do, but have to do, like laundry, are dreaded. We can trudge through them, hating every minute, or we can find the fun in them. We can make it a game. We can laugh and live and succeed in our daily lives, all at the same time.

I don't like yard work as much as, say, shopping. But I look at the good in it and I find the fun. I get a workout by doing something I have to do anyway. I can get some fresh air and sun. I can pretend I am one of the Spartans from the movie, 300, and take out my enemies- the weeds. This also may or may not be how I wounded myself recently.

Fun. It doesn't always show up in the forms you want it to, but it's there. Sometimes it's up to you to discover it. Sometimes it's up to you to create it, to re-shape it, to make it work for you. Shift your perspective on it and you shift everything, including your outlook on the day to come.

I am now off to find the fun in preparing my taxes. I'm thinking some paper airplanes are in order.

Happy Monday (Sunday Eve), gang. Go find the fun this week!

What do you do to make things more fun?
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Kindness Chronicles: Seven Secrets

People always think there are secrets. I always hear, "What's that person's secret to staying fit? What do they do that I don't?" The fact is, there are no actual secrets. There are a lot of truths out there that are bogged down in the multitude of marketing campaigns and photoshop ads, magazine articles and media tricks. We sometimes get stuck in a mindset just based on something we saw or heard so we don't think to question anything.

It's time to question everything.

It's time to question ourselves.

As previously mentioned, I'm crazy and I'm taking a bootcamp class. I like it because I like challenges and new things, but I don't like it because the emails they send out focus only on eating and working out.

They do not focus on what I believe is the most important aspect of losing weight: The mind.

I fully believe that for anything to happen for you, whether it be weight loss or leading a happier life, it has to start in your head. You have to be willing to dive into your own brain, to ask questions you've never asked, and to understand your thoughts from an entirely new perspective.

You have to ask, "Why?"

For example, wanting to work out and lose weight is great. Yes, you'll see results, but if you don't figure out why you eat when you're depressed then you're never really getting to the bottom of things. Or, more appropriately, the top. Because everything you do starts with a thought.

I've created some things for you to think over. I call these The Seven Secrets which are, in all actuality, truths hidden beneath the surface. It's time to shine some light on them.

The Seven Secrets

1. The body you want is the body you have.

You might be shaking your head "no" right now, but please pause. Learning to appreciate yourself right now, exactly as you are is a key step. Don't discount your body. You have one - this one. Be thankful for it. Love it. It's the only one you're going to get.

Once you see that, you can move on and shape it the way you want. You can mold it, your one and only body, into what you want. Self-hatred will get you nowhere. Self-love will get you everywhere.

2. Every. Single. Diet. Works.

It's all about the mental shift, really. Every diet out there focuses on the same underlying theme: Eat better. Work out more.

That's it.

All they do is package it up differently and change a couple of guidelines. In that regard, every diet works because various people have all seen results and attest to all the different diets out there.

So, what am I saying?

If one didn't work for you before, it's most likely because you weren't mentally ready for it or the lifestyle change it required.

Diets aren't easy and they rarely last...that's why I don't recommend them. What I recommend is a lifestyle change. An entire lifestyle shift. That's what lasts. That's what re-molding yourself requires. For that you have to be in the right place, mentally. You have to want it the right way for the right reasons. You have to be prepared.

That's why diets work for some people and not for others. They were in a mental state that allowed whichever diet they tried to work for them. And they didn't just diet. I guarantee you their whole perspective on life changed.

So, if you're not ready, you're not ready. That's all. You'll know when you are because the effort behind it will excite you, not terrify you. It will come more and more easily until it's just what you do. Then you've shifted. Then you've made it work for you, not the other way around. Then you will be successful.

3. Silence your mind.

What you think about yourself is incredibly important. You hold yourself accountable in a way no one else can because you, and only you, live in your mind and hear your thoughts. No boss, co-worker, friend, or relative can tap into your innermost mental musings.

To really understand yourself, you have to silence your mind. You have to understand that a thought is a temporary, fleeting moment in time. It can change on you in seconds. You hold within you the power to act, or not act, on what you're thinking about.

That being said, before you decide to do anything, ask yourself: What or who am I doing this for?

If the answer isn't fully and 100% for you, it will fail you in the long run.

Losing weight to fit into a new dress is awesome, but it's just a dress. Doing it for summer is fine, but winter will be back. Doing it because you saw a magazine cover and feel inadequate is a form of motivation, but it's not a good one.

Do it for you. Do what makes you happy. Tap into the silence of your mind. It will tell you what those things are. You'll have all the answers you need in that quite space.

4. Move. Lift. Sweat.

Overweight people can be healthier than thin people. And it's all dependent on how you take care of yourself.

Let me explain.

For starters, you can't go off of BMI calculations. They're outdated and don't take into consideration overall muscle mass vs. fat tissue. Contrary to the very popular, yet very misstated quote of, "Muscle weights more than fat" it's actually that muscle takes up less space than fat. One pound of muscle and one pound of fat both separately pound. It's the space inside your body that they inhabit that's different.

A "skinny" person might be at the right BMI calculations, but if they've never worked out a day in their lives they will have more body fat than muscle. That is where they run health risks. Fat stores toxins. Fat keeps you tired, run down. When you have no muscle, you have nothing to set your metabolism aflame. You're a slow burning ember rather than a raging fire.

A "fat" person might step on a scale and see a number that terrifies them and, if they base everything only on the number, they may then proceed to freak out. However, if they've been building lean muscle they are replacing fat with muscle. Remember Taylor Lautner from Twilight? Of course you do. He went from being Normal Taylor to Buff Taylor. He did that by packing on 20 pounds of muscle. Thats' right. He gained weight. Anyone think he looks fat? I didn't think so.

Point being: It's important to move your body. You need to move around, sweat, lift some weights. It's good for you mentally and physically. And if you do yoga, very often spiritually too. It's a win-win-win situation.

5. It's you against the world.

Advertisements, magazines, billboards, and even (sometimes) people you know, are out to get you.

Nothing is real, ladies and gentlemen. Every magazine ad is altered. Movies are even altered so that the lighting make everyone look just so. I read a statistic the other day on how many people photo shop their Facebook pictures just so they look better. I don't remember the numbers, but it was a large percentage and I was shocked. 

But that's the thing. Everything is so fake that when we see a real person we don't take them as they are. We want the fake. The re-touching, best lighting, "perfect" version of them. And we want that in ourselves more than anything else.

Enough is enough. We need to fight for normalcy and the way we do that is with ourselves.

Be the real version of you.

If you want to lose weight, don't aim for a photoshopped, fake version of yourself. Aim for a better, real version of who you are right now.

Remember, your body type is not like everyone else's. We are all completely different and we need to remember that. I will never look like Cameron Diaz. I am not tall or lean like that. Looking up to her as role model for size would be bogus for me. You have to be realistic about what you can change. You have to be realistic about what you can look like.

I vote for you looking like you. Fully and completely, whatever version you want. As long as it's really you.

6. Learn more, live better.

You have a right to know what's in your food, but you have to be willing to do some research. There's a lot of junk out there pretending to be food. It's not safe. It's not.

Question everything. Heck, question what I'm saying. Ask a multitude of questions. Demand answers. Never stop wanting to learn about anything that can and does affect you-  like High Fructose Corn Syrup. Or GMO's. Or overly processed foods, chemicals in your body products, and cancer causing ingredients in your drinks.

Question everything you put on and in you. The more you know, the better.

7. There is always an answer.

The first one, to all of your problems, is you.

Everything you want to change, become, and transform begins with you and no one else.

You have to make the first move.

You have to decide to be better.

You have to want to do the work.

You can and you will.

It's you. It's always been you.

You can do it.

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Friday, March 9, 2012


If you've talked to me recently our conversion might have gone a little bit like that. My apologies. It's been quite a year and I say that realizing that it's only the beginning of March. I would like to blame my lack of focus on Pinterest and all of the amazing things I can pin and re-pin and "like", like this very cool T-Shirt Scarf which you design out of your old shirts. But it's not Pinterest's fault. It's just been a crazy few months.

I've learned how to fix a toilet pump as well as sliding glass doors and regular closet doors, among other household things that all decided to break on me in the same nanosecond. I honestly think my house is testing me. Shhh! Don't tell it I'm on to it.

I have learned to make "mugs" and "bowls" and mostly mustaches out of clay. More to come on that later. I have also re-learned that paintball and plants are not my friends, and that adventures with my girlfriends end in me being terrified of my ice machine. Long story.

Also, I learned that while shopping for things such as groceries or wrapping paper it is best not to make eye contact with anyone, especially teenage boys who clearly don't even have their permits yet. Apparently eye contact translates into please-come-hit-on-me-and-impress-me-with-your -90's-Walkman-or-your-Zelda-knowledge. I am now wearing my sunglasses indoors everywhere.

I also decided to take a bootcamp class, mostly because there was a Groupon for it. What can I say? I like deals. Anyway, in this class I'm certain the instructors want me to strangle them. Not because they want me to move "Faster, faster, faster!", but because they have Britney Spears songs on repeat.

There are comment cards and this weekend I plan on writing one that says, "Please, PLEASE, for the love of music, enough with Britney! Let's get some System Of A Down, NIN, or N.E.R.D. in here! Please. I beg of you....I...beg..." and let it trail off right there like I died from actually being hit, baby, one more time. We'll see what happens.

I should also add that I've discovered my garage door.

Have you ever wondered just how tough your garage door might be? Well, let me just tell you that on a recent backing-out-of-the-garage endeavor, I discovered that it is incredibly solid and made out of very excellent steel.  No need to test this out yourself.

Additionally, I feel like I haven't updated you guys on my life fully and appropriately lately because, well, I've been working on figuring it out. Which is obviously a forever To-Do item on the life list, but worth the effort.

For starters, I have a job, in case y'all were wondering since my last update on it. I'm in a role where I work on fun stuff like recognition and associate engagement- which is basically the perfect fit for me. Although, admittedly, I am a little sad that my band, 40's in the Park, will not be performing anytime soon. One day...

My mom also has a new purpose in life now that my own life has had some changes. What it is exactly, I'm not sure, but it involves me significantly. Before this year she called me all the time at work anyway just to chat about odd things like sandwiches and mousetraps, but now she shows up randomly during the week to have sleepovers and keep me up all night watching Netflix. I've tried explaining to her that sleepovers during the week are not allowed, just like when I was a kid, but she's not paying any attention to me. Honestly though, it's cute.

On a more serious note, I've also discovered that sometimes life requires a day reserved for meltdowns, followed by your dog bringing his favorite toy over to you and setting it on top of you, to literally pick yourself up off the floor. I truly believe we should have a calendar day reserved for that. Life changing, people, life changing.

Anyway, there you have it! I have a cooking class this weekend, so I'll share the cool things I learn from that soon. I also have some way past due travel stories/info and some Kindness Chronicles coming up...right now.

Anyone else addicted to Pinterest? Let's waste time together and follow each other! But not like stalkers. That's creepy.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Monday Mantra: Design Your Own Life

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: I will design my own life

The Invincible Summer by Matthew Kavan Brooks
As an only child I have learned the important lesson of adoption. And by that I mean, if you have a small family it's good to adopt other people that you really like into it or to let yourself be adopted by them.

Either way you get a Bonus Family.

I like bonuses.

Let's take my "sister", for example. Those that have known me my whole life know I don't have any siblings. Those that haven't believe me and then meet her and wonder which one of us was adopted, as I am clearly not Asian. Nonetheless, I consider her family. A really wonderful part of my family. There are people you meet who you feel like you've known your whole life. There are people you meet who you know will be a part of your life forever. She was both for me and that makes me very blessed, because at the end of the day, when you count up all of my blood relatives that are alive and well, I have practically no family at all.

Going through a divorce has brought this all back to me. In one moment I was part of a complete and total family, unlike anything I had ever had before. A complete set of parents that were loving and kind and perfect in ways most people can only dream of. While they still are those people, I can no longer call them mine.

I had a nephew who said my name so wrong and adorably cute that I contemplated changing it to his version instead, just because my heart would melt every time he said it. I had people I could count on, instead of having to count on myself. Not having any of that is a hard thing to face at the end of the day sometimes.

For a little while I was stuck on this thought of no longer having this one thing I so very much wanted. I was angry for so many reasons, sad for so many other, and jealous of those that had what I didn't, especially when they didn't even realize what they had going for them. It felt like I had moved backwards in time to a teenage version of myself that once never believed I would have any of that.

But in the midst of all of this, of my new life and my new everything, I was reminded of the family I have adopted and that has, thankfully, adopted me back.

I am reminded of all of my Bonus Family members.

I am reminded of the people in my life who I call friends, but who are so much more than that, that the word "friend" doesn't even sound right. No one word sounds right, no one word fits what they are. Friend or relative or anything, well, it doesn't do them justice.

I have people that know me through and through, in and out, upside down and right-side up and still want to hang out with me (I'm kind of a handful sometimes, not gonna lie). I have people that included me into their families long before I ever caught on to the notion that I was being invited into a Bonus Family. And when I realize all of this, when I remember this very special family that I have, I know just how fortunate I actually am. I realize I am in no way alone. I have a helluvah family, actually.

I think that to some extent we create our own realities. We make decisions, choices, plans, and then we act on those, often subconsciously. I, without even actually trying, created a wonderful Bonus Family. And I'm certain that in the future I will once again have a family like the one I had before, because I am choosing to believe that. I am choosing to create my life exactly as I want it and that is a component I require.

I also think that life has a way of giving you exactly what you need, when you need it, for reasons you might not always understand or even acknowledge at the time. And after that, when it's all said and done, I truly believe that it's up to you to decide what your life will look like at the end of the day.

I am choosing to design my life.

I invite you to do the same.


With all of that being said, I am now accepting applications for a gay best friend. No, really. My Bonus Family feels incomplete currently.

Ever see that TV show, Felicity? You know who I adore? No, not Ben or Noel. Not even Felicity.


I would like a Javier. He kills me, in a good way. I adore him through and through. So, if you're interested in being my Javier, please let me know. If you have a cute accent like his you get bonus points.

Also, I could have used a brother back in high school, but I hadn't realized this adoption plan yet, so, now that I think about it,  I'm accepting applications for that as well. You have to be cool and willing to kick some butt, as any good older brother would be willing to do. You may give me one, I repeat, one noogie a year. I hear that's a part of the whole brother-sister dynamic. One only, though. ONE. I mean it.

What do you think about the notion of Bonus Families? Love it, hate it, would trade your current family if the price was right? I'm kidding, unless you're not and you can fill those two openings for me. Then let's talk.

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Music from The Hunger Games...and More

Sometimes I get into a music rut in which I usually only listen to one song over and over and over and over get the idea.

Well this time I'm in a more in-depth music rut with several really fantastic songs and I'm fully enjoying it.

Therefore, I must share. I hope you enjoy them.

First, a song from The Hunger Games soundtrack, "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars. The song all by itself is haunting. The video tends to play upon that feeling. The books, if you haven't read them, are not to be missed. These are not your normal YA books. These aren't just for the ladies, either. Yeah, there's a love story involved, but the main component of these books is about fighting for survival. Fighting for your family, your life, your right as a human being to live. Dare I say these books are some of the finest books I've read? Yes, I dare, because the author weaves a tale of courage in a time of despair where hope is something few have and all desire. If you haven't read them, you should. I'm just saying...

OK, I'm done with my rant.

Next, "Born to Die" by Lana Del Ray aka the Gangster Nancy Sinatra. She gets a lot of flack, and I honestly don't know why, but you can't deny her talent. I would highly recommend checking out "Dark Paradise" as well. That's another haunting one.

Now, my favorite: "The Sun" by The Naked and Famous. I cannot get enough of it. The official video is very, very edgy, dramatic, intriguing and artistic. It's also something I can't post here, so instead I give you a really boring video that still has the amazing lyrics. If you want to see the original, it's on YouTube as well.

Up next, "Tamer Animals" by Other Lives. Also a little bit haunting...I think I have a theme going here. Anyway, excellent song. 

"St. Christopher (On My Way)" by Michael Logan is another really good one. The video isn't too thrilling, but the song is beautifully done.

"Be No Lie" by The Wooden Birds is another excellent one that I can't find anywhere on YouTube to save my life. So check it out on iTunes or Spotify or whatever source you have. It's great.

And just to throw off everything, I leave you with one of my very favorite new songs,"Cupid's Chokehold" by Gym Class Heroes. I dream of one day being able to Karaoke this baby all the way through without messing up any lyrics. The video is hilarious, by the way. Gotta love the dad's eye roll.

Any songs that are stuck on repeat for you right now? 

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Friday, March 2, 2012

To Every Soldier Out There

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about politics or the inner and seemingly crazy workings of our government. I don't know who's telling the truth, who's lying, who's good, who's bad, or who's just plain crazy. What I do know, what I can trust in, is the people out there who believe in their home, their freedom, their country and because of those beliefs, are willing to sacrifice a lot of things to go out and protect it- to protect us. How incredibly brave, how selfless they are- that is something I do know.

As I mentioned in the past, there's a wonderful non-profit company, Packages From Home,  that helps show our soldiers how much we appreciate them. When I was on their website recently I noticed something. Not only do they accept packages and donations and actual volunteer help, but they also accept letters.

Personally, I know that it makes my day when I receive an actual letter in the mail from someone. Email is convenient, but letters show effort and time and compassion. They require a little something more. Words written out are almost so old fashioned these days that they're beautiful when you see that someone took the time to write them to you, for you. And the right words, well, they can make all the difference in the world.

So, I ask two things of you.

1. Pass this on if you agree and want to thank the good military folks who keep us safe every day.

2. Write a letter. Send them a little gratitude in an envelope. You won't just be giving them a warm and fuzzy feeling, you'll feel warm and fuzzy for having done it.

Details on where to send letters can be found here.

I'm going to write a new letter to send out, but here's the original one I wrote that I want everyone to have because...honestly, I will never be able to thank everyone, every single person, for all they've done. So this is how I'm going to try.

Dear Amazing Stranger,

I don't know you.

I don't know what you've given up or put aside or what family and friends you've left behind so that you could protect your country. So that you could protect me, someone you also don't know.

I have absolutely no idea what it's like to put my life on the line for anything really, anything that matters. I don't know what it feels like to be in the midst of danger constantly, to not know if I will see tomorrow or the next day, or even if I will have a comfortable bed to sleep in each night.

I don't even know what possesses a person to do something so selfless like that. Something so wonderful. To give up the comforts of life so that strangers you've never met can enjoy their own comfortable lives. I don't know how you do it because I don't know if I ever could, but I admire you for it tremendously.

I admire you for your strength and courage and the will to get up every day and do the thing so many of us can't. I admire you for being brave in ways most people will never know, never understand. I admire you for facing fear head on - Every. Single. Day.

I don't know you, but I do know this: You are a remarkable person.

You are kind, wonderful, and brave beyond measure. You have inside of you a hope and a determination that makes you stand up and fight for what you believe in. You not only say that you believe in something, you go out and stand behind that belief.

You are a hero. To me. To millions.

This letter will never be able to express my gratitude fully, but please know that with these two last words, I speak for all of us back home when I say...

Thank you.

If this inspired you even a little bit - GOOD. Now go out there and do something about it. Write the letter. Tell someone thank you for something they did that matters to you. Pick up some trash on the street. It doesn't matter what you do, just do something.

Make a difference.


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