Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Mantra: What Is, What Was, and What Shall Be

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 have the ability to change things for the better
As I sit here trying to write this my fingers stumble over the keys. My head races with questions. My heart aches.

I am upset.

As a youngster, I didn't care much for history. I care a great deal now. I want to know know KNOW everything. I want to understand: How we got here, to this place. What we've done differently. What we're repeating. What we could've would've should've done and what we still should be doing, but aren't.

I need to know.

Every night, when The Fiance and I take the boys for a walk, we put on a new podcast. An informative, Teach Me About Something New lesson in life based on facts, data, and research.

I've learned a great deal. For example:

How the Native Americans play a role in the game of Football. How a man who once hunted them came to regret his actions and decided to Americanize them instead to help save them from people like him.

How one vote from a grand jury on a small matter could have changed what we now know to be the electoral college.

How we possess the technology to literally obliterate major crime situations - everything from drug cartels to robberies to child abductions - yet aren't able to use it because of citizen outcry and the fear of being spied on.

How savage our history is in general because we learn best from our mistakes. How we tend to make a lot of mistakes before we begin paying attention.

I've said this a lot and I'll continue saying it because of the truth it bares: Life as we know it is only life as we know it. 

There is so much more to everything.

There is so much more to learn.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: Angels We Have Heard on High

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels we have heard on high, 
Do you watch me in the night?
Do you know my silent dreams?
Do you see me suffering?

Angels, angels- are you near?
Can I whisper in your ear, 
All my secrets, all my dreams,
Every thought that's haunting me?

Every moment in the making,
Every time my heart is breaking,
When my tears are falling swiftly, 
Are you with me? Are you with me?

Angels, angels shining bright
Do you hear my pleas at night?
Are you with me when I cry?
Do you judge me when I lie?

Are you reaching when I'm falling?
Do you hear me when I'm calling?
When I'm reckless, when I'm daring, 
Are you right beside me, caring?

Angels we have heard on high, 
Do you hear my whispered cries?
Do you see my haunted dreams?
Do you know the thoughts I keep?

Monday, November 21, 2016

All Around the World: Weekend Getaways - Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC

Asheville, North Carolina is one of my new favorite places. There's the eating and the shopping and the eating and the sight seeing and the art and the foot spa (ohmygoodness, the foot spa) and hey, did I mention the eating?

I am in some serious L.O.V. E. with this place, and I'm going to do my best to make you love it too.
Blue Ridge Parkway
First and foremost, if you've never been to North Carolina, you should go. Like, right now. Fall is exceptionally beautiful, especially to this born-and-raised Arizona girl. The colors of the leaves actually take my breath away. The pinks and reds and oranges and yellows- I've never taken so many pictures of trees in my whole tree loving life.

Before I can move on to the actual topic of this post, please enjoy these pictures from a trip I took to Raleigh a long time ago.

Okay, back to business.

How much do I love Asheville? Let me count the ways:

1) The Food

I've never met a city so designed for someone like me, which is to say, I've never seen so many gluten free options in one place in my whole life. (Normal People: Don't let this deter you. Allllllll of the food is amazing.)

The Fiance had been traveling to Asheville for work and after his first visit he told me this place was made for me. It would seem so. Having a gluten allergy is exhausting and irritating. You're continuously on the lookout for places that provide options, and not just boring half-assed options, but well thought out, delicious ones. Asheville is a place with endless eating possibilities for all people. I ate well, y'all. I ate well.

  • Fig Bistro - Excellent food and the chef can make almost anything on his menu GF.
  • Well Bred Bakery - Somewhat dangerous. I mean, there are so many baked goods!
  • Biscuit Head - One of the best breakfasts ever. EVER.
  • Curate - This tapas style restaurant is so popular, you have to book reservations weeks in advance. Do it.
  • Posana - An entirely gluten free restaurant. It was like every prayer I've ever had being answered in the form of this place. I ordered breakfast and lunch in one meal and, uh, ate all of it.
  • Doc Chey's Noodle House - Excellent pad thai.
  • White Duck Taco Shop - Two words: Mmm. Yum.

2) The Shopping

Asheville is an un-chainable city, as you'll see if you visit. They prefer unique, one-of-a-kind stores over chains that can be found anywhere and everywhere. Walking through the streets of downtown was like going on an adventure. You never knew what you might stumble upon and discover.

Appalachian Naturals has some bomb diggity bath bombs, you guys. This family owned business has been around for decades. Their philosophy: Don't get naked with anything you can't trust. The products are all natural, all awesome, and those bath bombs I mentioned? They leave your skin silky smooth.

Malaprop's is the local bookstore. If you're a book person, you must go here. They have a little coffee/tea store inside and endless rows of books and goodies for you to check out.

aSHEville Museum is more than a museum. It's a store with tons of fun and handcrafted goodies. Jewelry, kids toys, and weirdly awesome re-created vases from soda bottles. Totally worth a visit.

Honorable Mention Chain Store: Ten Thousand Villages. If Pier 1 and Cost Plus World Market had a millennial baby, this would be it. This fair trade stores brings you products from artisans all over the world to help improve and support their lives. I actually saw items in this store that I'd purchased in other countries, which was thrilling.

3) The Foot Spa

This gets a category all on it's own because yes, it is that amazing. I would buy a one day round trip plane ticket to Asheville for another hour at Wake, a foot spa that I'm pretty sure angels created. Even The Fiance hasn't been able to stop talking about it. For real, you guys, we want to plan another trip out there almost entirely because of this place.

The experience is unlike anything else. First, you choose what kind of foot soak you want, which is to say what oils and herbs they'll be using. Then, you have the option to add on a massage. Last, but not least, you can also order a pot of tea to enjoy while you soak and soothe the day away.

Once you're ushered back through the the gates of heaven to the foot soaking room, you're seated on comfy sofas or chairs with blankets and pillows. A giant Himalayan-looking gong bowl is wheeled out, which is filled with hot water and the herbs/oils you chose.  Dip your feet in and let the good times begin.

Bonus Awesomeness: The front of the spa doubles as a little boutique with, yet again, locally crafted lotions and lip balms and even some of the coolest necklaces around.

You must go here.

4) Everything Else

Are you a dog person? Excellent. Your dog is welcome everywhere. Are you a nature person? Perfect. The Blue Ridge Parkway is just a short drive away. Do you want to drink coffee in a London double decker bus? Yep. They've got that covered. Asheville is artsy, fun and unique.

The famous Biltmore Estate is located here and OMG, the Internet doesn't do it justice. This place is something like 9,000 acres big. We thought it would be a short visit, but nooooo. You need a full day at the very minimum. It's a ten minute drive just from the gate to the first stop at this place! I highly recommend checking out the gardens. It's like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Insanely beautiful.

Biltmore Village (not located within Biltmore Estates) is home to the above mentioned Well Bred bakery as well as a few other stores. Most are chains in this particular location, but there are a couple that host local artist creations such as pottery, furniture, and jewelry.

I must also mention the River Arts district, not just for the handful of artsy stores, but for the awesomeness that is the graffiti. It's beautiful, folks. Beautiful.

As for places to stay, you have endless options. However, if you want something completely different (and if, like us, you have a lot of hotel points to use) the Grand Bohemian Hotel is the place to stay. It's located within Biltmore Village, across from the entrance to Biltmore Estates, and ten minutes from all the food and shopping. Clearly, an excellent location, but also this:

Pay no attention to the weirdo in the tub
Do you see this bathtub? You better believe I used that sucker every single night with the bath bombs I bought in town.

Here are a few more pics from the magical city known as Asheville, just so you get a better idea of how awesome it really is.

The Grand Bohemian Hotel

The famous "Before I Die" chalk wall

Downtown shopping

Some of these pictures are up on my Society6 page.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: The Finale

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

The Finale

When we part, I will still feel you.
I will know each moment your heart beats,
For mine beats at the same rhythm.
I will know each moment you take a breath
For my breath will be still until yours is released.
I will still feel you.
I will know the path that you walk is the right one,
No matter the direction you take.
And I will know what weight is bared
With each footstep we take away from each other.
I am still with you.
Even then,
I am still with you.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Mantra: There's Some Good in This World...

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: ...and it's worth fighting for.

I'm struggling, you guys. This election has shaken up what I thought I knew about my country, in so many different ways. 

I have followed and read and asked and tried and tried and tried. I have spent hours upon hours to try and figure out what looked like chaos. And after all that time, all that research, I still do not understand. It still looks like chaos. 

I am trying to sort through my thoughts.

I met a man from North Africa recently. He was my taxi driver. We made small talk at first. Where are you from? Where are you going? How long have you lived here? What do you like best about this city? The norm. 

Then we started the Real Talk. We talked about his life in America. We talked about his life before America. We talked about the differences between America and other countries. He shared stories with me, each one so incredibly interesting that I kept hoping the drive would take longer and longer so I could hear another.

At no point was I ever alarmed, afraid, or concerned. At no point did I hesitate in conversation. At no point did I hesitate in kindness. 

This man and I were no different. This man so many of my peers fear solely because of his birthplace, an Islamic country. This man - this unbelievably upbeat, positive man - radiated kindness. It was undeniable. Every word, every story, even every struggle he ever faced was tinged with compassion and sincere warmth.

We talked about discrimination. He said, "I always tell people to picture themselves as babies. To picture all of us as babies being born into this big world. Little, beautiful babies of all shapes and sizes and colors. Babies don't discriminate. Babies don't know differences. Babies love. We should all remember we were once those babies."

At one point an alarm went off on his phone. It was a reminder for prayer. The alarm itself was a song sung with words I don't know in a language I don't speak. 

It was beautiful.

I believe in equality. In every way possible. I believe men and women should be considered equals. I believe people should be able to love the way they love, as well as look the way they feel they should look, without their rights being brought into question. I believe that our world is more beautiful because of it's diversity, because of it's differences, because of all the languages and races and cultures and colors. 

I believe we have made mistakes. 

We founded this country the wrong way- we stole it. We bought and sold human beings. We told people they weren't worthy of equal rights for a multitude of wrong reasons.

This feels like a mistake. I hope I'm wrong. 

I find it odd that we tend to only ever have two options when it comes down to our final political choices. There never seems to be a middle ground or multiple possibilities. 

For example, Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. I can't say that either one is perfect. I can't say this because I have spent countless hours of my life considering every possible angle. The religious and/or murder perspective of believing a child is a child is a child regardless of the amount of time they are in the womb. What a woman who was raped and impregnated might feel. What a child unwanted and unloved might go through when they are given up for adoption or put into foster care the second they are born. (For the record, as of last week, there were over 200,000 children in America alone who need to be adopted). What a drug baby must struggle through from the very first moment it has a beating heart. What a late term mom with twins who's life is at risk because of one of her babies must think when her doctor tells her she must abort one to save the other, and to save herself. What must go through her head when the state she lives in doesn't support the late term abortion she needs. 

I've thought about the cruelty women, and only women, face because of this issue. Men's bodies are never brought into question. Their freedom of choice for what they can and can't do with their bodies is never up for debate. There are no laws about what should happen to man if he's impregnated X amount of women. There's no demand of a vasectomy. There's nothing. It is always the women. 

I've thought about medicine for men and women, and what's covered under insurance or not. How even this lacks equality. Viagra is never brought under fire. No law makers are debating whether or not that should be covered under medical insurance. Yet, somehow, birth control and other things women need and should have access to under insurance are always up for debate. Why is that acceptable? (And what exactly are you trying to say if you're Pro-Life but you also don't want women to have birth control covered by insurance?)

I've thought about the thing that bothers me the most; the idea that someone else should have the power to tell me what to do with my body. Whether it be how I cut my hair or what I choose to do with it, it is my body and mine alone. It belongs to no one else. Let's not forget we've already seen what happens when someone else has that much power over your life. Let's not forget China and the baby limitations and the murders. 

This is what happens when the government has control of your body. If this is where you want it to start, where do you think it will end?

I voted for Hillary. For me, in my own personal opinion, based on my own personal perspectives shaped by my life experience, this made sense. I am certain this also applies for the Trump supporters. They feel justified for their beliefs in him. I've read and heard that his supporters feel like their voices have gone unheard for too long. That they've been left out, left behind, forgotten. I don't doubt they feel that way. I also don't doubt that women, minorities, and LGBTQ people (to name a few) also feel that way. They too have been left behind, silenced, pushed aside, and forgotten. Everyone is fighting the same battle, at least in these ways. 

We're too busy fighting each other to realize we could be fighting together.

I live in a country that treats sexual assault as a nuisance. 

Leaders Lead by Example: This is the motto of every business.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you: This is what we teach our children. 

Take away everything else. Take away the qualifications. Take away the promises. Take away their histories. 

Look only at how they acted, how they conducted themselves, how they showed kindness, or the lack thereof, to others. This alone should tell you everything you need to know. 

You may have seen the safety pin thing going around. For people who have been shocked by this election, this tiny act is helping them feel like they have some control, some way to support anyone who feels unsafe. I thought it was a nice idea.

Then I read an article that started out "Dear White People, Your Safety Pins Are Embarrassing." That caught me off guard. No one said safety pins were going to change the world. They're just a small measure of kindness right now embraced by all kinds of people, all colors, all varying beliefs. 

Apparently, all forms of kindness are up for attack. This helps nothing.

When I get this out of sorts, I make lists. I sort and divide and organize my thoughts. But this time, a list won't help. You'll have a list, I'll have a list. We'll point out all of the facts and opinions and reasons and then we'll crumple up our lists in a fit of frustration.

That's what America looks like now. That's how America feels. Crumpled up people trying to fight through fear and confusion and oh so much chaos.

I am marrying into a diverse family, some of whom are Mexican. "Let's build a wall." Let's maybe ask the folks in Berlin how that wall thing felt, huh? Walls don't just keep people out...they keep people in. From an emotional standpoint, we build up walls and then spend years trying to break them down. We already know: Walls answer nothing. Walls make things worse.

My great grandparents fled Germany when this dude, Hitler (you might have heard of him), was destroying lives. They were Germans, but they were people. Good people who wanted better lives in a better country. They weren't Nazi supporters, but people were scared of them none the less. This is no different than what's happening to other immigrants today. This is no different. 

I believe in immigration. It's the reason I'm here. It's what made me an American. It's how most people became citizens of this country. We are a collective result of immigration. This country is literally made of immigrants who then birthed children and grandchildren and great grandchildren who now no longer want immigrants. 

We don't get to choose where we're born. None of us. We are either incredibly lucky or we aren't. It's that simple. I would never fault someone else for wanting a better life in a better country. I would do whatever it took to get my family to a better place. 

I understand. I understand.

I will raise my children to be better than this world. They will know, from birth, the importance of equality. They will understand how these United States were formed, both the good and the bad, and they will know. They will know. 

To my fellow Americans who are scared, who are worried, who are uncertain of what may come:

I will walk with you. I will stand with you. I will sit with you. I will fight for you.

I will fight for us.

"A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand!"

- Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. Tolkien


Update: I had a great talk with my Work Husband today about the safety pin situation. He shared some new perspectives with me as to why some people, like him, think it's a stupid idea.  Ideas that the article, in my opinion, didn't make clear. I always appreciate being shown things from different angles and appreciate the chance to see into other people's minds. He does a good job with that. I heart you, WH. Thanks for our good conversations!

That being said, taking into consideration all the views as I understand them now, I still lean more towards this being a very simple, very small kindness gesture. A "sign" for anyone feeling unsafe, even though I now understand more of how conflicting and confusing and possibly wrong that "sign" might be. It's not an answer to the problems we're facing, clearly.  But it's also not something built upon hatred and harm, rather hope and healing. I think if people want to wear them AND they're out in the world fighting the good fight, then by all means let the people wear their safety pins. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: What I Feel

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

What I Feel

All I know is what I feel,
And what I feel
Is real,
Is real.
It's here,
It’s here.
It’s now,
It’s now.
I am not lost-
I’m found,
I’m found.

I have not quit, I have not bled,
For all I know
Is how to live.
For this,
For this.
For now,
For now.
I am not lost-
I’m found,
I’m found.

I am not broken, am not weak,
My greatest strength
To speak,
To speak.
For all
I love,
For all
I know,
I must not quit-
Have hope,
Have hope.

Monday, November 7, 2016

In the World of Wellness: WelleCo

In the World of Wellness: Drink it up


My new favorite morning drink is this beautiful green baby, The Super Elixir. I try to eat veggies at every meal but I don't always have time to make that happen at breakfast. This drink makes me feel better when I fail. It makes me feel better in general.

It's certainly not a cure-all or a healthy eating replacement, but there's something about it that just makes you feel...amazing. Full of everything from pineapple to broccoli, this little drink is kind of magical. I've read reviews and some folks say it doesn't mix well, but I haven't had that problem. I use my favorite coconut water with it and it stirs together just fine. From a taste perspective, I think it tastes great. A little bitter maybe, but the coconut water helps balance that out.

I know it costs a kazillion dollars. I don't use it every single day because of that reason. I stick to it on weekdays to help energize me for work, which it does rather impressively.

Since I was such a big fan of this, I decided to try the Nourishing Protein as well. I am ALWAYS on the lookout for a protein drink that's chock-full of healthy things, but also doesn't upset my stomach. It's a hard task, folks. For whatever reason, protein drinks and I usually don't get along. Not with this one, though. I can drink this baby without a single problem. Hopefully, if you suffer the same kind of sensitive tummy situation as I do, this drink will also solve that problem for you.

The ingredients are brag worthy as well. It's obvious a lot of thought was put into these products and that impresses me. The only downside would be the flavor, in my personal opinion. While I wouldn't say it's amazing, it's not bad either. Mostly just...boring. The chocolate flavor isn't very chocolaty is basically my point. Probably not the best selling point, I know, but I like to keep it real.

If you want to try these, they have samples so you don't have to commit to the huge price tag without knowing how you like it. Pretty awesome, right? Give them a whirl and see how you feel!