Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Finding our way to Happy

Don’t worry; be happy. Sounds simple, right? But happiness has been eluding mankind since the beginning of time, or at least since the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that we had the right to pursue it! And so, like an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt, we all scurried off to find it. And no matter how many eggs we found, there was always someone who found that extra egg, the golden egg, or the one filled with chocolate or money. And then, suddenly, all of our pretty pastel eggs just seemed to dim in comparison.

It seems that we may have the word happy confused with the word perfect. For many of us, it seems that in order to be happy, things must be in perfect order. We must have the perfect relationship, the perfect house and the perfect career. But this is where the road to happiness can cause our vehicle to break down, when it collides with perfection and expectation, the mortal enemies of happy.

The main principal of the Chinese I-Ching is that everything changes. This is the natural and universal law. Our moods and emotional state are not exempt from this law. When you study the Yin/Yang principal and their energetic polarities, you learn that everything has an opposite, that you can’t have the light without the dark, soft without the hard, and you definitely can’t have the happy without the occasional sad. Resisting change and trying desperately to stay the same is what causes us pain, discomfort and unhappiness. Learning to flow and adapt to what is before us in the moment is how we come to arrive at a place of peace, a place of happiness. So is it really happiness that we should be in pursuit of or the state of contentment, satisfaction and peace?

They say that true happiness lies within, at the very core of our being. But for many of us, we don’t know how to begin this journey and feel we need a roadmap to find our treasure. And we’ve all seen the map. It consists of things like meditation, exercise, bubble baths, golden puppies and happy children. But like happiness itself, this road map needs to be customized.

Just as important as the food we put into our mouths, is the food we feed ourselves in the form of healthy relationships, our career or path in life, physical activity, our connection to nature and a spiritual practice. Knowing the path you are meant to be on, which is simply finding your passion, being true to yourself, and trying to put into practice the suggestions below, for me, is definitely the path that can lead to happiness (or contentment):

Let go of expectations. This is a difficult one, because we all usually have some intended outcome that we want to see happen. But try not to get stuck on any one particular outcome. Be open to what comes your way.

Trust. In the universe or trust in your God. Trust that life was given to you to live, fully.

Gratitude. Look at your life in smaller segments.  Everything might not be going great in every life area, but if you break it down, you will find there are lots of things to be grateful for. When we are grateful, when we consider life itself to be a blessing, we can’t help but feel happy.

Be Present. On too many occasions, we wait for the right time and the right circumstances. We fall into the “as soon as I” syndrome. When I think of how much time and enjoyment I have wasted while waiting for things to be “right,” it’s almost a sin

Know that this too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately, not the good, and luckily, not the bad

Forgiveness. Anger and resentment only hurt the person bearing this poison. They do not harm the object of our anger. Give yourself a gift and let it go.

Passion. Find something you love to do, and, as Nike says, just do it.  Even if you only take baby steps, just take that first step. If you feel there is nothing that truly interests you, reach back in your memory bank. As a child, what did you love to do? There is always some connection between the interests that we had as a child and what we would be passionate about doing as adults.

Acceptance. Explore the subject of Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese philosophy that finds beauty and acceptance in all things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Once we can accept that life is full of imperfections and that they too are beautiful and of no less value, we can relax our grip on the reins of perfection, expectations and outcomes. When we accept that change is inevitable, that this is the way, the law of nature, then life becomes easier. We can then get in and flow with the current instead of always struggling to swim upstream.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Some Idle Wednesday

"Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday."

True, Mary Schmich, true. Those are lines taken from her hypothetical commencement speech, Wear Sunscreen, that was published in the Chicago Tribune in June, 1997.

It wasn't a Tuesday, but close. It was Wednesday. The chest x-ray showed a large mass in his chest. I watched as his face whitened and disappeared into some underground foxhole, as the doctor calmly explained the different types of cancer it might be, the different treatments that might be applied, and explaining that now he needed to go get additional ultrasounds, blood work and CT guided biopsies. I was trying to be his ears and eyes, because I knew this was skimming his surface. But I couldn't hear all that was being said very well either. There was a loud pounding sound making it hard to hear. I think it was both of our hearts.

Blindsided - yes and no. You know these things are coming. One day. Or another. You know it happens every day to so many people. Just not you. Or the people you love. And all of a sudden, life as you know it, is no longer anything that you've ever known. All the plans you've had get shaken out in front of you, like that party game, Total Recall, trying to remember what all was there. You frantically grab for maybe a couple of the really important pieces, because now you just know, there might not be time to get to it all. To make the plans a reality. Afraid to go forward, to see what might be up ahead, you start working backwards. In little baby steps. Looking and stepping back on wasted years, wasted relationships, wasted careers, wasted time. And it's hard not to go there, but you do know that this negative thinking will get you nowhere! Right? Yes, yes, refocus, pull it all in. Gather your courage. Soldier on. I'm mean, really, it's just life, right? Those words ring loudly now in my head. How many times have I heard that? How many times have I said that? It's just life. Like it's no big deal. But oh my, it is such a big deal.

Life - I read that without an end, life really wouldn't have any meaning. that if our lives went on forever our choices would be without ramifications, utterly without meaning; life without death would be meaningless.

So I lie next to him, in his restless sleep, and I close my eyes, clasp my hands together and go to that place where I go when there's nowhere else to go - sending out my thoughts, concerns and requests to hopefully, a God that is listening. And as I send my wimpy, apologetic airmail to the heavens, "Yes, I know, I only come here when I'm desperate, I'm sorry. But what am I supposed to think? Why would you grant me any favors? One out of three deal with this, and with all the mountains of suffering in the world, why would I be special?" I'm not. But I will try anyway to use all of my bargaining powers, this for that. A fair trade.

Then once I am sure he is in a deep sleep, I quietly sob. I know sobbing is usually a noisy affair, but I do it very quietly, under the covers, holding it in, while my body does a few convulsions rivaling that of some Russian contortionist. And then I compose myself, give God the benefit of the doubt, and hope that I might have caught him in a moment of weakness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Black Hole Friday

I'll offer my apologies right up front, because I'm sure I'm going to offend many of you. I have always disliked Black Friday and all that it stands for. What really bothers me is that, what has become more important that the holiday itself, spending time with family and friends, or the tradition of being thankful and showing gratitude for what we already have, has become the countdown to more mindless and gluttonous consumerism. We can fill up those carts at Wal-Mart, Toys”R”us and every other major department store faster than we can fill up our plates at Thanksgiving dinner.

Just makes me all warm and patriotic inside, you? 
Black Friday, like every other marketing scheme, is really just that; a scheme, a ploy (and most of these items that you will risk your life for can be had at an earlier date or right after, I mean after all, these people are out to make a sale) It's a sad day when our insatiable appetites are filled by spending, and adding to our already obese supply of material possessions. These newly acquired possessions fill our holes only momentarily ~ then soon evaporate, needing a quick refill. In this article read how less can make you much happier than more.

I know many of you love it. You can’t wait to get out there in the rush and excitement of the season - the hunter/gatherer syndrome. But it’s really time to slow down, examine our lifestyles and the hows and whys of our buying into the material world madness. I just hope that before you run off at 4 or 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day to your nearest Wal-Mart, you might take a moment to rethink it. You might be saving a few dollars but you are feeding the beast and sacrificing the really important possessions, time, peace of mind, connecting with self, family or friends.

If I could wish anything for you, I wish you would slow down, find satisfaction and comfort with less things, and more satisfaction and joy by sharing your time with people you love, cooking together, telling stories, laughing, having a glass of wine and just being ~ just being.  Together. No price tags.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dear Sir, I write to you today concerning a large sum of money

Stress is one of the biggest factors when it comes to the state of our health. As I've said before, you can eat the healthiest diet, exercise regularly, but if your mind and body are being assaulted by stress, it is pretty much a guarantee that your health will be compromised.

In today's world with all of the gadgets, inventions and technology that we have, designed to make our lives easier, it sure can cause us to "lose it" when it isn't working properly. Like, for example, when your wifi goes down and you can't get online, or the garbage disposal backs up on Thanksgiving after the big meal, or heaven forbid, the cable TV goes down and the latest episode of House of Cards is about to start, and instead you spend hours on the phone with some customer service rep in another country.

But one of the things that can wreak havoc on our lives, and can be more than just a mere nuisance, is Spam. It can turn your life upside down.  And while it seems many of us are getting rather Spam savvy, a lot of us are still confused and scared by what shows up in our inbox. 

Spam is coming at us from all directions, our emails, on Craigslist, on home rental sites, just about everywhere. It seems that the Spammers can't really be monitored so the only solution I see is to educate ourselves. 

So, first and foremost, when you get ANYTHING from institutions like your bank, the IRS, credit card company, or PayPal via email stating that they need account info from you, or any other Urgent message, disregard it. If you look closely at any of these emails, something will be off.  Like their spelling. Or punctuation. If there is truly an account problem you will receive a phone call. And, if you think that possibly the email is valid, do not respond, but instead you should call whatever company is emailing you directly. And not to the number on the email, if there is one, but to the correct number that you have in your records or that you can locate legitimately. 

I mean seriously, are you kidding me? I keep getting this email from, what they would like me to believe, is PayPal. I love the use of the word "here" in the body of this email. But many people won't even see that ~ and they will panic and respond immediately to the Update Your Info button.

Your Account Will Be Limited.
Dear customer,
Your Account Will Be Limited , Until We Here From You . To Update Your Info . Simply click on the web address below (or copy and paste the link into your browser):
Update Your Info

So what I am asking all of you, is to look closely when you receive these types of things and share this information with others you know, especially older people who aren't quite as tech savvy and have a strong sense of "doing the right thing" ~ they are extremely vulnerable and the Spammers know it. Heaven knows, we don't need this kind of bulls*#t causing us any more stress in an already stressful world.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sometimes it's okay to be a control freak ~

Recently I posted about dangerous toxins and how they have invaded every part of our lives. Whether it is the toxins in food, household items, self-care products or even toxic people (we call them energy vampires, I believe) we need to find a way to rid ourselves of them.
Did you know there are thousands of ingredients that the FDA has approved for use, but no one has studied in over 3 decades, or for that matter, some not at all? And little to no studies have been done on the cumulative effect of all these industrial food-scientist-created ingredients in our food system. 

Many of these ingredients are created by substances contaminated with carcinogens, some make us addicted to non-food substances that are cheaper to produce than real food, and some are downright dangerous.
If you feel overwhelmed and are tired of all the conflicting reports and information out there, making you want to throw your hands up in the air, I have one suggestion. And it's simple. It will reduce your exposure to these toxic substances, at least in your food, and it's called, cook at home. 

“The most important thing you can do with your health is cook. Cooking is more powerful than any medication.” ~ Michael Pollan
But the key here is that you cook using whole foods, meaning food that is not processed, not from a box, and with ingredients you can pronounce and know what they are. Eat at least 15 meals a week at home using ingredients you buy (so you are in control of what you are consuming) and cook yourself.  Make it fun and  involve other family members. It is a great gift to teach your children to cook. 

That's 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 5 dinners. And these can be simple meals, you don't have to get all fancy with it. That leaves you 6 meals a week where you can be flexible to eat wherever you choose, dinner at a friends,  have a night of take-out, or at a restaurant.

Cooking at home is beneficial in so many ways; you save money, more time with family, you can flex your creativity, and of course, you know exactly what is being consumed by your body. You control the amount of salt, sugar, and fat you use, as well as being in charge of portion control. Another extremely important benefit that you will get from cooking at home is that you will nourish and ground your relationships, creating a loving and healthy environment for those around you. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do you take sugar in your coffee? 1 teaspoon or 2?

I remember when I moved up to Olympia, Washington in 1987. There was this incredible and edgy new Coffee Roaster in town, Batdorf and Bronson. This was well before Starbucks became the rage and was situated on every street corner in America.

On my first visit I sat down at the counter and ordered some crazy (at the time) concoction. I think they called it an iced cappuccino, but really, it was anything but that. It came in a large glass, poured so that the espresso and 1/2 and 1/2 separated, creating these wonderful layers, almost too pretty to stir. It was one of the most delicious things I had ever tasted. It was like drinking an adult milkshake, without the guilt. I mean, come on, it was coffee.

Now, loving coffee like I do, I really appreciate the idea behind the coffee house. The gathering place where friends meet and conversation is cultivated. And for many years, it felt that way to me. It was a place geared towards adult and the adult beverage. But slowly it changed. Everything about it changed.

Starbucks and the other large chains became the place to bring your kids. It became the Ronald McDonald playland for the hip young moms and the grandmother's with their little grandchildren in tow. A place where they could get their "coffee" and buy the kids a little something as well. What's the problem with that, you might ask? Well, for starters, what we are now calling "coffee" is really just a major sugar high in disguise. Actually, it's not even in disguise, and it's not coffee. It's in a cup called a "Grande"~ it is filled with caramel, vanilla or chocolate syrups and topped with whipped cream and another helping of caramel, or . . . yes, yes, I know, everyone loves them.  And what's wrong with giving our kids a little treat?

Only about 15 tsps of sugar!
But they are not a special treat anymore, not a once in awhile delight.  They have become a part of our daily lives.  They say most people now average spending $90 a month on "coffee" ~ the drinks we buy outside the home. And the cost is much larger than the dollar amount we are spending.

Now I must admit, years ago, during the winter, I got into the habit of getting a Starbucks "tall, non-fat, 2-pump mocha" on my way to work, at least 4 times a week. Later in the summer, I would treat myself to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Vanilla Blended. A small one. Oh, how much I loved them! I haven't had one in a long time and the other day I felt I wanted to treat myself. It was the first time I ever asked the barista how much sugar the small Vanilla Blended contained. He didn't know, so he went to look it up. He came back over and said "not too bad, it has about 44 grams of sugar." 44 grams! That comes out to about 10 teaspoons of sugar in that one small drink!  I ordered an iced coffee instead.

What we have started here is an awful habit and for some, addiction, in our young people. I see teens with these monstrous sugary "coffee" drinks and I can now see that it's no wonder we have such an obesity and early childhood diabetes problem in this country, and spreading quickly to many more I might add. We have got to get our sugar addiction under control, as consuming sugar only leads us to craving it more and more. (And just an FYI ~ Starbucks Grande Caramel Frappaccino comes in at a whopping 59 grams of sugar.)

I was really sad to learn about the sugar content in my favorite Iced Vanilla Blended. One more item on my "never to do" list. I don't see it though as deprivation, but more, a new found appreciation and dedication to my health. There are other ways to treat your taste buds and get that warm and cozy feeling without harming yourself in the process.You can recreate many of your favorites. For example, when this fall, Starbucks re-introduces their crowd pleasing, Pumpkin Spice latte, do yourself and the ones you love a favor, and make a healthier version of it at home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Elimination "Diet"

Detoxing has become the new black as far as health and diet activists are concerned. It is something we do when we want to give our bodies a breather. But why detox, you ask,  is it really necessary? Since we live in a time with more toxins in our environment than ever, many say an occasional detox is a good idea. Whether you do a simple juice/water fast for a few days, a brief cleanse or an extended, restrictive food detox, they can be quite beneficial.

And toxins enter our bodies through much more than just the foods we eat. We also receive toxins regularly through the cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, lotions, deodorants perfumes, hair coloring and makeup that we use on a regular basis.  It would be best if we could minimize the use of these chemical based items and substitute natural and chemical free products where we can.

But I believe that what is just as important and necessary for many of us is a media detox for our mind, spirit and soul. One thing that has happened in the past 20 years or so is that we have become overloaded with activity with very little time left for rest, rejuvenation and relaxation. We are on call 24/7 and most of us are not ER doctors, nurses, or first responders. We have programmed our phones to let us know when we receive an email, a Facebook post, or a text message and these alerts come through at all hours of the day and night. For some reason, we feel that if we don’t find out immediately what is going on, we might be missing out on something.  The truth is, most of this information is far from an emergency that needs our immediate attention, and more than likely doesn’t require our attention at all. We are overfeeding ourselves ~ too much news, too much information, and it has created an overload that is clogging up our mind and starving our spirit.

I realize in this high-tech day and age, it is hard to let go of something that seems so vital to our existence.  But if you really look at things, do you need to be on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and every other social media site out there? It is exhausting to say the least. And what are the true benefits? You might want to ask yourself this question. What would benefit you more; adding another post or link on your Twitter account or using that time to do something like, read a book, spend time with a friend, relax in a chair and watch the clouds go by?

I have had to pull in the reins on my own social networking. I was told it was necessary to be involved in all of these if I was to become successful in my business. But after attempting it for only a short time I found that what I was doing wasn’t authentic ~ it wasn’t my true voice or serving my soul purpose. I was so busy trying to figure out what to tweet on Twitter, which hashtags to use on Instagram and finding recipes to share on my website, that I was falling behind on the things that really matter to me. So I eliminated what I could and settled on just a couple of the things that I like to do best; my blog, my business Facebook page, and spreading my message the good old fashioned way, by talking, by word of mouth.

If you are feeling what I am feeling, a bit overwhelmed, then my suggestion is to try a media detox for a short period of time. I can hear you screaming “Nooo” right about now. I realize it is asking a lot.  But if you can, take some baby steps here, and at least set some boundaries for yourself where you are “off limits” to the rest of the world ~ establish periods of time that you are available for work calls, phone calls, returning emails and the like. Try to spend the first hour or so of your morning without turning on your computer or the morning news. Set a time in the evening where you turn it all off and don’t recheck it again until morning. Stick to it for a little while and I have a feeling you might just end up sticking with it.