Monday, March 30, 2015

All Around the World: Croatia

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.

Considering a trip to Europe? You'd be remiss to leave Croatia off the list. This country boasts the best seafood risotto I've ever had, waters that are so beautiful you don't even believe they're real, and one of the coolest Old Towns in the history of all Old Towns.

I've been here twice and both times I've visited the Old Town and done the wall walk - that's how exhilarating it is. The Old Town is surrounded by giant walls which host walking paths on top of them. To walk them you do have to pay a few dollars, but it's worth it. In the front of the town is a giant water fountain made out of stone. Right around there is where you can purchase tickets to walk the walls. From on top, you'll get breathtaking views of the town below you and the city and ocean around you. Not to mention a really nice workout. Wear your comfy shoes, ladies and gents!

The town contained within the walls is bustling with life. You'll find restaurants and stores all throughout, even down the tiny side streets. It's quite the maze inside this little village and it deserves adequate time for strolling each and every path.

Good news for my gluten free friends - you have options! I found a pizza place with gluten free pizza, but opted for a seafood restaurant - Restaurant Kopun - where I had gluten free seafood risotto. This little gem is at the far end of the town, kind of over by the town's clock, but not right next to it. Wander around a bit and you'll find a bunch of restaurants with outdoor seating. Go past them and up a big staircase, then to your left.

Restaurant Kopun

Just outside the walls of the Old Town (to the right, specifically) is a sidewalk/path area that leads to a tower. From up high on the tower you can look back at the Old Town for a very different view. It's truly breathtaking. A little more over to the right from the tower you'll get scenic views of the ocean and a beach area (which I believe is private) with emerald green water.


Here's another fun thing you can do, folks: Take a cable car to the top of a mountain that overlooks Dubrovnik. However, if it's between this and the Old Town, stick with the Old Town. This was fun for me because it was a little different than what I'd done there before, but the magic is within the walls.

Split is a great place to have a little adventure within your bigger adventure. From the pier of the city, which you'll probably start at if you're on a cruise ship, if you head straight back and to the right, you'll come upon an older part of town with breathtaking architecture. This area will be full of artists and tourists. Keep going to the right and you'll find an outdoor market; clothes, food, antiques - you name it, it's there, and it's gigantic.
The pier
The old buildings. Go past all of this to get to the market.
If you were to keep going back into the heart of the town (think of a straight line from the pier all the way back) you'd come across a park. It's a lot less busy here and really nice to relax in. Plus, there's a cool statue you can take this kind of a picture with, if you're nerds, like we are.

Now, here's where it gets really awesome. Remember when you were a kid and you discovered a new street to ride your bike down? Remember the excitement in those moments of discovery? The way it felt like the whole world was a different place? That's what's about to happen, friends. Ready? OK...go back to the pier.

Pretend you're starting over and this time, go left. Walk and walk and walk until you get to the boat docks. There are some pretty cool benches you can rest on for a bit, if you like. This is what you're view should look like by the benches, looking back at the city, just so you know you're on the right track.

When you're ready, keep walking and soon you'll be on the street/sidewalk (in a residential part of town). Keep going until you get to a HUGE park/grassy area. Your whole walk will mostly be one straight-ish line, for the most part. Walk through the park/grass to what seems to be the end of it and go right. You'll see a little stone/cement path that probably no one will be on. Take it. After about three minutes or so, you'll get to a point like this. It's going to feel like you discovered something awesome, and you did. Keep going.

Eventually, you'll come upon some old ruins. Keep going past these and you'll discover a beach.
The ruins, if you can call this kind of beauty that.
This little gem must be the locals secret hot spot or something. All of five people were there. We basically had the place to ourselves. It. Was. Awesome. There were chairs to lay out on, a restaurant (which was closed), a place to get drinks, and a really cool deck that probably lights up with life at night for dancing. This is also a great place to find seashells and sea glass, if you collect those. Note: These two shots are looking back at these places as we left, so keep that in mind when you're arriving as it will look just the opposite for you.
The secluded, amazing, spectacular beach.
There's going to be a big hill right by the beach. This is the road everyone drives down to get to it. Walk up that road and go right. You'll find a tree lined walking path that gives you views of the beach below, and leads you back through town and past a a museum of sorts that you can visit, if you like. 
Once we got back to the boat, I took a shot of everything as a whole. From right to left: Grassy park, stone path, ruins, beach, and see that wall behind the beach? Above that wall is the tree lined walking path. BOOM. Now when you go to Split, you can also have this wonderful little adventure!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: Show Me

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Into the Unknown

Show Me

                                         Step into my vision with a quick and true decision,
                                         With a sureness that will answer all the math to my division.
                                         Let me see your steady nature, when I gaze up at your features,
                                         Let my heart erase it’s tampered beat and follow in your sneakers.
                                         Let me stare into your eyes to know your soul has met me here,
                                         Let the world erase itself tonight and chase aware my tears,
                                         Let my doubts break down and shatter, let them rust and fall astray,
                                         Let the empty void of nothingness begin to fade away.
                                         Fill me up and make me whole- light the darkness in my soul, 
                                         Show my heart how to unfreeze itself; help me to let go.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Mantra: The Awkwardness that Lives in Me

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: Find the harmony within yourself, by yourself first
Andys ArtWorks
Thanks to The Boyfriend, I recently discovered author Patrick Lee, whose books Runner and The Breach have me dying to read each and every other book he's written. In The Breach specifically, one of the characters has a special tool that allows him the ability to observe people when they think they're alone, getting a true glimpse into who they are. He notes that only in these instances has he ever seen people who aren't acting for the rest of the world, who aren't pretending, who aren't self conscious of their every move or how they're perceived. People who are at complete and utter ease with themselves, only in their solitude.

I relate to that more than I would like to admit. Even after all of my years of education on awareness and acceptance and understanding the psychology of the mind, I still fail. Like, a lot, you guys. A lot.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a friends engagement party. I was the first to arrive, having promised my other friend that I'd help him set up. On my own in this crowded bar/restaurant, I was instantly aware of how out of place I felt, and paid far too much attention to how I walked, how I stood, how I was. Throughout the night people showed up- some I knew, some I didn't. I mingled. I made small talk. I laughed and I did truly enjoy myself. But one particular moment in the night stands out to me.

Within the larger group of people that evening, there were only three people I truly knew well, the four of us as a whole being a close knit group of friends who sincerely and genuinely care about one another. Two of the four, my seeeester and my Office Best Friend Forever, as I call them, have what I can only describe as this natural harmony between them. They laugh, they joke, they dance to a music that only they can hear. It's one of the most beautiful and unique friendships I've ever seen, but it also makes me massively aware of my own awkwardness. Of my lack of being able to laugh and joke and flow in and out like everyone else. It makes me aware of how I still somehow feel like this person who just doesn't quite belong.

This is why I understood what the character in The Breach was saying. Only in my aloneness am I able to somewhat shrug that away. To be completely honest, even then that feeling lingers like a residue that won't quite wash away. It's not a bad feeling or a sad feeling or anything negative, necessarily. It's just a feeling like maybe I'm just South of everyone else's North and no matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to navigate my way to them because the two can and never will belong together.

I've decided the only way to deal with this is to become that much more aware of who I am when I am truly alone. How do I feel, how do I compose myself- what are my thoughts and my actions and my emotions? What music am I dancing to in my solitude? I believe if I can focus in on those moments - really etch them into my memory - I can find or create a place of inner harmony within myself that I can call upon when needed. That can then become the foundation on which I stand in every other moment of my life, awkward and otherwise. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: Nothing's The Same

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
I Paint my Love in Pictures
Society 6

Nothing's the Same

Oh, nothing-
Oh, nothing's the same,
After words hit the air
When you whisper my name.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Mantra: Let's Get Down to Business - The Mindful Approach

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 more you know, the better
I've been thinking about doing a post like this for quite some time, but just lately realized why it was an important topic to touch on. While this blog deals with other life topics, the working world is a part of each of us - a large part. Why not better ourselves around this time consuming, life-required thing?

You've already been given, or should have (I hope) the basics: Why it's important to become a subject matter expert, how to build your personal brand, why it's important to get your on and so forth. Today, I want to talk about things you most likely haven't heard or haven't heard enough of.

Alright, friends. Let's get down to business.

Get Invested in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality
If you want a successful company, a successful team, or a successful career, you need to get on-board with this key thought process.

Why? Because the ability for a person to bring their whole self to work is critical in being able to perform, think, and function at their highest possible levels. Hiding any part of who they are will hinder their ability to think outside the box, to be creative, and to come up with brilliant, much needed ideas.

Think of diversity like this: Each and every background of each and every one of our diverse ancestors is what's provided the variety of how people look, how people think, how people talk. It's given us the amazing smorgasbord of foods we love so much: Sushi, Mexican, Italian, Chinese. Our dinners would be horrifically boring without diversity, as would our culture. I would be deeply sad if British accents didn't exist. I would also be devastated if there was no Gandalf as I know and love him today. Why? Because Sir Ian McKellen is gay and in some countries people face criminal punishment. Criminal punishment for simply being who they are. 

Let's touch on this piece a little further. Why are there such variances in the world like that today, where you can be gay and live in Zurich and be accepted, but if you're in Russia your life may very well be in danger? It's because being different scares people when it shouldn't. Let's put that into perspective. 

We love, dare I say crave, different. We want variety in almost every single aspect of our lives: food, clothing, movies, music, hairstyles...but for some odd reason having variations in people, whether it be the color of their skin or the gender they're attracted to, freaks us out (well, some of us). Having a variety of people/employees is just one more thing we should love and aspire to have, not fear. Spiders - those we can fear, especially the Australian ones, but people that look and think differently? Completely unnecessary and illogical. 

Diversity, inclusion, and equality is good for us. All of us. It's good for our personal lives, our work lives, and our whole planet. We've come a long way from days gone by but the world still has a long way to go on this journey toward equality. YOU are a key piece in making this happen.

Be Human
I know, I're probably thinking, "Well duh, Melia. I am human. Obviously." That's not what I mean.

Too often we leave our real, genuine selves at home when we go to work. We put on our Career Faces and our Career Personalities and we become who we think our bosses and our peers want us to be. We check our humanity at the door when we should bring it along. 

Think about it like this: When a leader in your company shows you who they really are - when they crack a joke or share a personal story - you instantly feel more connected to them. Why? Because they suddenly become a real person to you. Not a face, not a name, not a suit who sits in their mighty office in their mighty Tower of Power.

Bringing your humanity to work means connecting with people on a human level. When you do this, you genuinely want good things for the people around you- in both their personal and professional lives. You become invested in them and, in turn, they become invested in you. That human connection is crucial to building quality relationships that lead to quality work that all lead to success.

Be Your Own Compass
It's a fact: We emulate what we've been shown. Very often employees do what they see their managers or peers doing, even when these things aren't necessarily correct. Why? Because we use the actions of others as a compass to guide us.

Example: Let's say your company is all about work/life balance. They preach it all day long, even your manager says how important it is, yet this same manager has absolutely no work/life balance of their own. They never take a lunch break, always work 12 hour days, and when they do take vacation (which is rare) they work the whole time, sending you emails and calling you. This manager is pulling the classic "Do as I say, not as I do" move, which is dangerous for you because actions do speak louder than words. This is a fact. 

What does this demonstrate? Sadly, that they have no respect for themselves or their personal lives. In fact, this behavior is often something people do because they either fear for their job, have absolutely no time management skills, or are trying to escape some other aspect of their personal lives by filling it with work. No matter the case, this behavior will give you an unconscious reaction to follow in their footsteps. We do what we think our bosses would want us to do based on how they act, how they perform, how they lead. This is horrible for our health. And theirs.

I have a challenge for you, to help you gain more awareness of this and to help, hopefully, set a positive example for others at work. The challenge: Take your lunch break. Set an example of respect for yourself and your time by doing this one simple thing. This may sound like no big deal, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it.

Sometimes we need motivation to act, so think of this little challenge like this: Once upon a time, we didn't have employment laws. This also meant we didn't have things like lunch breaks or anyone at all caring about our health. People suffered (in a lot of terrible ways) and because of this they fought long and hard to get us all the privileges we have, and should be enjoying, now. DO NOT waste the efforts of these people. Uphold what they fought for. 

You are not your manager. You can and should learn from them, but they can also learn from you.

Remember: A compass is only as good as it's navigator. Just because it points a certain direction, doesn't make it the right one.

Understand Your Company's Morals and Ethics
This is particularly important for reasons you may not normally associate it with. A company doesn't have to be ethical or have morals - they just don't. And a company without these two critical things is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. It's important for you to keep this in mind when dealing with or working for a company such as this. You don't want to be anywhere near that bomb when it explodes.

We all need jobs to support ourselves and our families, but we also need to do our homework, know what we're getting into, and know what dangers we could face if we work at a place where they lack sound judgement in ethics and a completely immoral approach to business. Case in point: DuPont. I recently did an entire research project on them thanks to a recent lawsuit stemming from employee deaths at their La Porte plant. This company is literally killing it's employees due to poor management decisions and budget cuts that have led to incredibly unsafe work conditions involving highly dangerous chemical leaks, which multiple sources (including their own) have shown to be deadly to employees if no action was taken to correct them. Guess what? No action was taken. 

Don't let yourself be a victim of a company that only cares about their dollar signs and not the safety of their people or the communities around them.

Know How to Protect Yourself
This one may seem obvious, but because it's one of the most important, I wanted to cover it.

One of my favorite writers, EJL from Flourish in Progress, recently wrote a post about the people in our lives: The good, the bad, and the broken. Sadly, the good, the bad, and the broken are all people we will encounter in our personal lives as well as our work lives. The bad and the broken - those are the ones you have to watch out for. What I previously mentioned about morals and ethics in a company is just one reason, but here's another:

When I was 17, I was sexually harassed. I was working as a line cook at a restaurant and the new chef was some horrible combination of both a bad and broken person. He was racist, filthy, sexist, and drunk. All the time. The management as a whole was no better and the few good ones were afraid for their jobs. One evening the kitchen staff was plating dozens of sorbet dishes for a Jewish party. The chef, openly disapproving of this group of people, came over to the dishes of sorbet, picked his nose, and proceeded to touch the top of every single sorbet scoop with his disgusting, filthy hands. Some of the management saw it take place. Those of us that witnessed it tried to get them to do something - anything - to stop him. Nothing happened. The plates went out.

That was just the beginning.

On a different night, I was in the back of the kitchen mixing chocolate ganache in one of those giant, industrial sized bowls, when the chef walked up to me. He reeked of alcohol and dirt. In one very swift and unexpected movement, he dipped his finger into the chocolate and shoved his vile hand into my mouth. I was, of course, shocked. I stepped away from him, putting distance between us. He stared me down and told me to lick the rest of the chocolate off of his hand, which I refused to do.

Bizarre and creepy don't adequately sum up the experience. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one sexually harassed. One of my friends and co-workers experienced the same hand-forced-in-mouth scenario, along with a few other things, and decided to fight back. She helped me and countless others in a time when we didn't know something everyone should know: This behavior is not only highly unethical and immoral, but illegal. We went to the EEOC, hired a lawyer, and fought for ourselves when the people who should have been protecting us, the management, didn't. We won, for the record.

The moral of my twisted, horrible story is this: Once upon a time, people were not protected by employment laws. Those same people suffered countless acts of horror with their instigators facing no punishment whatsoever. Those people fought and fought and fought and now you, me, everyone has laws to protect us. Even though terrible things still happen, we have ways to fight back. 

Know that. Know the laws. Learn about the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, and every other employment law out there. Do not ever think you can't protect yourself. You can and you should. 

A mindful approach to work encompasses all of these things, and more. With the right mindset, a positive approach, and a dedicated focus to awareness in all actions, we can help each other along the path to better things in everything we do, including our work interactions.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Fading Away
Society 6
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

My favorite lipstick-
It matched his eyes.
It matched his deceit,
His coward, his lies.

My favorite perfume
That covered the scent
Of his nightly adventures
And the money he spent.

My favorite picture
Of a walk on the beach
That held all the promises
He never could keep.

My favorite song
On the radio that played
The words of a lover
He never could say.

My favorite mascara
That ran down my face
On the cold, lonely nights
When I’d stay up and wait.

My favorite memory
Of my favorite day,
When I got in the car
And just drove away.

Monday, March 9, 2015

In Memory: Chef Rachel Albert

Photo Courtesy: KC Miller
I just found out that one of my most influential teachers passed away. Chef Rachel taught me so many things about taking care of my body, my health, and ultimately, my life. She taught about about whole food eating, whole food cooking, and whole food health. Some of my most favorite recipes, that you've seen on my blog, come from her.

When I first met her I hadn't yet found out about my allergy to gluten, so her gluten free approach saved me before I even knew I needed it. I would go to her cooking classes each night where we would whip up some amazing meals, which we then got to devour. Those were some of the best nights of my life, not only because I was learning so much but because her food made me feel good. I would go into class with a stomach ache and leave with a belly full of amazing food that made me feel well - stomach ache no more!

It's never the news you want to hear - that someone you care about has passed on. I know she's in a better place, probably already cooking up some kick-ass meals.

I truly love and highly recommend her cookbooks and don't know how much longer they'll be available. Hopefully, forever, but now they feel even that much more important to me, knowing there won't be any others coming out. I'll just have to treasure the creations she put together that much more. Please take a moment to pay tribute to her dedication to whole food living by checking out her website The Healthy Cooking Coach, and trying out some of her amazing recipes. For reference (and if you're interested in getting her fabulous books) you can find The Garden of Eating and The Ice Dream Cookbook here.

You will be missed, Rachel.

Missed, but remembered. Always.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Reflection of Shadows: When You Left

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Into the Abyss
Society 6

When You Left

Through the woods and through the trees,
When shadows came upon my eaves,
The sky was overcast by you
In shades of purple, gray, and blue.

Through the darkness and the pain,
Through emotions I can’t name,
Swallowed whole- engulfed, submerged
In the depths of your last words.

My breath quiet, shallow, thin
Until I felt a stir within,
All I knew is what I’d lost
The day you made my heartbeats stop.

Every smile, every moment,
Everything that made me someone,
All my joy was bound in you
So when you left you took that too.