Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Think I've Recovered...

I think that I've fully recovered... enough to finally out up a post, at least.  My apologies, y'all, but a girl was exhausted!!  Prague wore me out!

I'm still in shock that this dream of mine came true.  I used to study my mom's atlas when I was young.  I ripped up sheets of paper and used them as makeshift bookmarks.  I poured through the pages of the maps and descriptions of different cities around the world.  For every place that stood out to me, whether it was the people, colors, houses, or overall beauty of the city that struck me,  I inserted a bookmark and vowed to visit one day.    

Prague was one of those places.

I've been planning this trip every year for the past 3 years.  I would walk into my boss' office and say, "I'm taking vacation on these dates.  I'm going to Prague this year."  Every year it proved to be untrue, until this year...

It happened around Christmas. I was surfing around on Instagram and I came across a few airfare deals.  I kept scrolling until I landed on Prague.  I made up all of these reasons why the deal was too good to be true.  I confirmed that it was real through the airline's website.  I took the next step and booked my ticket.

I waited months to finally go on the trip, but every week sped by so quickly until I looked up and the trip was here.  I was so nervous, but I knew that this trip would be a game changer for me.

I'm not going to talk about all of the details an the things that I did, but I will say that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities that I've ever seen.  It was so much more than what I've seen in pictures and movies and even my thoughts based on firsthand accounts from people who've been.  It was one of the best gifts that I have ever given myself. 

Even though I'm back now, I can still feel how much this trip has affected me and I am forever grateful.

Check out some of the pictures I took below.   If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Europe, I highly recommend adding Prague as a must-see destination.

Astronomical Clock


Statues along the Charles Bridge

St. Vittus Cathedral

Prague

Wenceslas Square

Library at the Strahov Monastery




Church of St. Nicholas

Secret Garden

Mill Colonnade at Karlovy Vary



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Break time!

Hey everybody!

I do apologize for missing out on the last post. I was prepping for my vacation.  Of course, I waited until the last minute to pack and I wasn't able to update the blog before I left.

And now I'm back!  But, I am still getting my sea legs, so I am giving myself a little time off.  Don't fret!  I will be back with a brand new post in the next 2 weeks.  See you then!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lessons From a Lost Journal

Photo by Scott Miles Love
At the time that I put up the last post, I was on a road trip across the country and was still in the process of writing what I had intended to share.  Read the finished product below:

----
I lost my last journal on a flight home.  This one was extremely personal, more so than the others.   In it, I wrote about beliefs that I've allowed to limit me, innermost fears, and past experiences that I still feel guilt and shame about.

I searched high and low for it.  Then I realized that my worst fear was true.  It was gone.

A deep funk crept up on me and I went through nearly a month long period of grieving.  I simply could not function.  I couldn't write another word.  There are plenty of other empty journals around, but I wanted MY journal back.

How could I have been so careless with something so private??  Why wouldn't I check to make sure that I had it before I deplaned?

Then I thought about someone reading all about me: stuff that I've held onto for a lifetime, stuff I've told to very few people, stuff that I've thought, but never said out loud, and it just killed me.

I wasn't ready to "share" any of that, but what choice did I have?  What if someone read it instead of tossing it?  Did they share my brand of crazy with others?  Did they all have a good laugh at my expense.   Did they cackle at my exposed feelings?  Judge my not so finest hours as harshly as I had?

Or maybe, there was something on those pages that spoke to them...

Maybe my words gave them a sense of solace in knowing that some stranger (me) had made big mistakes too.  This stranger had done things for which they weren't proud.  They too exhibited old wounds and scar tissue from living, but despite all of that, they're still standing.  Those words were written as a way to release the pain, to experience forgiveness and peace.    

There was a huge lesson in this experience and I'll share it with you here. 

There is nothing that truly belongs to us.  There is nothing for us to keep.  Not possessions.  Not secrets.  Not these bodies.  Not these gifts or talents.  Not life.  Nothing.  None of it is ours forever.  What we've acquired is only here for now and all of it is meant to be shared.  

We aren't in control.   These things have the power to exist forever, but not within our possession.  Ask yourself what's the purpose of keeping these things to yourself?  Why hoard it, guard it, sacrifice life and limb for it?  Why spend so much time and energy doing that when we can't take any of it with us?  It could all be gone within a blink of an eye.  

Against my will, my journal was gone, thus I was exposed.  I wrote things in it that I've hidden even from myself, that I finally had the courage to put out there, on paper, and now it's wherever it is.   As much as this hurt me, it taught me that our true purpose is to give: these lessons that we're learning, our joy, our pain, our light and our darkness, all of who we are.  This is what creates a legacy of which to be proud.

Through giving we get back tenfold.  Then we give that away too.  Closed hands can't grasp new blessings.

I thought that I understood everything about my intention.  I intended to let go of emotional baggage, weight, the past, old wounds, clutter, and things that no longer serve me.  Now, this intention has shape shifted.  Now I know that I have to let go of my attachment to everything, not just the negative and painful stuff.  EVERYTHING.

Oh.  My.  God...  I can finally see it!  

Next destination: Surrender... 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Excerpt: Untitled


I'm currently out on a work trip across the country and in the process of writing a new post. 

Below, is a super rough draft of what I've been working on.  The completed post will be up in the next two weeks. 

---------

I lost my last journal.  It was extremely personal. In it, I wrote about beliefs that I've allowed to limit me, innermost fears, and past experiences that I still feel guilt and shame about to this day.  I was writing in it on a flight home and thought that I packed it in my bag upon descent, but that wasn't the case.

After I lost it, I went through a nearly month long period of grieving.  I simply could not function properly.  I was in such a funky mood that I just couldn't bring myself to write another word.

How could I have been so careless?  Why wouldn't I check to make sure that my journal was in my bag before I deplaned?

Then the thought of someone reading all about me: stuff that I've held onto for a lifetime, stuff I've told to very few people, stuff that I've thought, but haven't said, just killed me.  I wasn't ready for that, but what choice did I have? 

Not sure whether someone read it and shared my brand of crazy with others.  Maybe they all had a good laugh at my expense.   Cackled at my exposed feelings, judged my not so finest hours as harshly as  I have.  Or maybe, there was something on those pages that spoke to them... 
-----

Let me know what you think so far!  The completed piece will be up the Wednesday after next.  Have a great day!

Photo credit lurve: Photo by Jimileek

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Post Spotlight: Reminder

Hi guys!  I hope that all is going well for you!  What's been up?

I finally watched the finale for How to Get Away With Murder and my mind is still blown.  Why did no one tell me that it was such a roller coaster ride?!  Next season is going to be nuts!!  Watching that show really took my mind off of the things that have been coming up lately.

At the start of the new year, I made an intention to release: release emotional baggage, release clutter at home and work, release unforgiveness that I have towards other people and myself, and release all things that aren't serving me in this moment.

This intention has lead me to have deeper relationships with people through being more open and vulnerable, books and podcasts by people I've never heard of, and situations that are revealing feelings that I thought had left the building eons ago.  This has truly been a scary, painful, and yet, enlightening and freeing process.

I've had so many aha's and epiphanies that my head hasn't stopped spinning.  One of those aha's was about the power of fear.  I recognize now that I've let fear dictate my circumstances.  I've been so in my head about what could happen based on what has happened or what could happen.  I finally understand the power of now and what it means.  I get how it has transformed so many lives.

I was looking for a good post to use for the Post Spotlight.  This is what came up.  How perfect, right??


Post of the Hour: Reminder

About: Fear and faith.

Inspiration: How my cat provided me with a reminder that the Universe has my back.      

Favorite quote:  Our responsibility is to fulfill our purpose.  Allowing fear to stop us means that our faith isn't big enough.  Your faith needs to be big enough to move around fear.  Know that the Universe is truly in your corner and will provide you with whatever you need to make that happen. 


Read the full post by clicking here!  


Meet you back here on March 25th with some fresh new content.  Hope to see you here when it goes up!  :-)

Photo credit lurve: Me  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Post Spotlight: The Struggle of Imperfection

Photo by Malik ML Williams


It all started with a TED Talk about vulnerability.  Then, it seemed like Dr. Brene Brown was everywhere.  Her appearance on OWN's Lifeclass made me look at vulnerability in a different way.  I started to look at it as a tool for healing as opposed to a tool for causing heartache.  It's become a tool that I feel the most uncomfortable using, but whenever I have done so, magic happens.  (More on that next time.)

Post of the Hour: "The Struggle of Imperfection."

About: How vulnerability is the cure for perfectionism and not fully living life.

Inspiration: Dr. Brene Brown's appearance on Lifeclass.

Favorite quote:  
...when I think about other things in my life that I have not completed, have obsessed over to the point of being sick, or things that I've totally shut down for fear that it isn't perfect and people will criticize it or me, I feel sad.  I feel sad for the time that I've lost worrying so much about how I would be judged.  Most importantly, I am sad for how hard I have been on myself.  I recognize that I am judgmental, but I judge myself the harshest.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Part Two: Rituals

Photo by Partha Sahana
Last week we discussed routines and how they help us be more disciplined in getting things done. This week, let's talk about rituals.  What they are and how they can help add meaning to routines.

Is the difference between a routine and a ritual?  Like routines, rituals are a series of tasks that you put together.  What is different between the two is the focus and purpose.  While routines focus on productivity, rituals focus on feelings.  They are meant to allow you to connect with your inner self and the Universe.  Routines are things to do and rituals can turn these things into a ceremonial celebration.  

Routines can become boring, especially when you do them regularly and they don't change often.  You get to have a different experience with a ritual, because of how you feel.  The best thing about rituals is that they bring about healing and experiencing life fully.  

Some examples of ritual include yoga and prayer / meditation.  They all require presence.  Yoga is the practice of focusing on the breath through each position.  Prayer and meditation, though different, are about the connection to the Universe, whether through stillness (meditation) or communication and expression (prayer).  

What are ways can you engage in ritual?  

The most simple way to do this is to add mindfulness to your routines.  Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present with what is going on.  One of the advantages to doing a routine is that we can mentally check out while completing a task.  This is great when the task is typically something you don't care about or that you don't want to do.  Mindfulness is the opposite.  It's all about being hyper aware of what's happening.  You see and feel everything.  

Mindfulness can be added to anything, whether brushing your teeth, making the bed, or simply breathing.    You can learn about the different aspects of mindfulness and even try out a few exercises by reading this article in Mindful magazine.    


Besides being mindful, consider adding an element of "me time" to your day.  I watched a two minute video on Oprah's tea ritual.  

It starts out with this shiny tea kettle and special teapot to steep the tea in.  She talks about the process of preparing the tea, what she likes to see (mindfulness), and what that moment does for her each day.  I am sure that it is something that she truly looks forward.  Having a cup of tea doesn't take long, but turning it into a ritual like this can help put you in the perfect mood for the moment.    

What is a ritual that you do that honors you?  What are some of the ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your routine?  

As always, your responses help us all, so please feel free to comment and be sure to share with others.  Be well everyone!

Photo credit lurve: Photo by Partha Sahana

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Part One: Routines

Photo by Jon Swanson
I've always thought of routines as a tool typically used by the anal retentive. 
  • Get up at 7:07 AM. 
  • Take five deep breaths. 
  • Roll your eyes to the right two times. 
  • Fart.  
  • Cough four times. 
It seemed entirely too restrictive, narrow focused, and left too little room for free will.  Thinking about it now, I wonder, is that a bad thing though??

Routines are for the Get Stuff Done breed.  In interview after interview, book after book, and article after article featuring _______ (*insert any random multi-millionaire business mogul here*), one thing is crystal clear:  they follow a routine, usually several, every single day to get their goals accomplished and, ultimately, achieve their dreams.  Routines are vital for success no matter how you define it.  Without some form of structure, how can you hunker down long enough to do what is needed?  

Over the course of my life, I've been a wild child when it comes to my time.  I dole it out and squander it freely.  Procrastinate runs rampant in my world, which causes rushing around and barely making deadlines or missing them altogether.  Somehow or another, I think I've reached my breaking point.  Through my own experiences, I've learned that there is a better way to get things done without feeling like you're drowning.  My layer of rebellion has been penetrated.  There is hope after all!!  

Life is full of things that we don't really want to do, but we need to do them to get to the next level and keep things moving along.  How many of us genuinely like working out?  We may not like to do it, we may even hate it in fact, but the benefits can't be denied.  Other activities like making your bed, stretching, and waking up early are also things that we don't care to do.  However, turning it all into a routine puts you on autopilot thus helping you get it out of the way on a consistent basis.  Routines take help you fight the urge to toss it aside for a day or time that will never come.  It's a way to reap the benefits without forcing it.  You get to be in control.

The two most important routines are morning routines and evening routines.  Morning routines are important because they set up your day.  If your routine makes you feel energized, in control, clear, happy, and at ease, then no matter what happens, you feel prepared and are more equipped to handle whatever gets tossed your way.  Evening routines are meant to help you decompress and sleep well, which also prepares you for the next day.     

We all have a routine whether we know it or not.  Some routines are more simplistic than others: we all wake up at a set time.  Maybe we have coffee or eat breakfast.  We shower/wash, brush our teeth, and get dressed.  In the evening, we eat dinner, watch our favorite programs, and go to sleep.  More elaborate routines include exercise, meditation, checking email, or feeding pets.  If you're anything like me, you have a pretty simple routine that just isn't working in your best interest.  Now, you've realized that it could be optimized to help you be your best self.  

To get started, we'll have to answer three questions first: what, why, and how.

What:  What does "Your Best Self" look like?  List the characteristics.   Organized.  Timely.  Healthy.  Go even further into the details.  What does it mean to be healthy, for example?  Does healthy mean that you are a certain weight?  Does it mean that you can do a certain activity, like 100 pushups?  Does it mean that you can do an activity in a certain way like climb that flight of stairs at work without getting winded?  Be specific!  

Why:  Determining the why is important.  The goal here is to find the reasons that will keep you motivated to stick to the routine.  For each characteristic that you listed, ask yourself, Why is this important to me?  Then keep asking that question for every answer that you give.  This allows is to drill down to the base level need.  Why is it important to be organized?  Being organized makes it easier for me to find things.  Why is it important for you to find things easily?  Finding things easily means that I won't waste time in the morning.  Why is it important not to waste time in the morning.  It's important not to waste time in the morning, because that means that I can spend quality time with my family during breakfast.  What's the base level need here?  Quality time with your family.  

By finding your why, you are gathering ammunition to fight off those excuses that you know are going to come up.  Make sure that you get to the base level need.  If you asked why only once, the dialog would be, I need to hang up these clothes, because it would make it easier for me to find things.  No, duh...  But I don't really feel like it right now.  It's been a stressful day.  I can hang them up in the morning.  There is no sense of urgency or consequence here to get it done.  Making it easier to find things does not appeal to my needs.  With the other example, you know that by not taking the time to hang up your clothes now, you run more of a risk to miss breakfast with your family in the morning.  If taking 5 minutes to hang up your clothes means that you will be able to spend quality time with your family in the morning, you are more likely to do it.

Notice, that we haven't even gotten to the routine yet.  First, as with anything, we start with what you want.  If you are not clear about what you truly want, then happiness and achievement are a shot in the dark.  If what you want means doing things that are not natural to you or they are things that you don't want to do, then determining your base level need will help you climb any obstacle to get to what you want.  Now for the next and final question.

How: How can you get closer to the things that you want every day?  What can you do daily that primes you for what you are wanting?  Let's go with "healthy".  My Best Self is healthy.  That means that I am able to jog up 2 flights of stairs to get to my work desk without feeling like someone kicked me in the chest.  This is important, because this gives me the boost of energy I need to handle my duties and be productive throughout my day.    

Now ask yourself, what can I do daily to facilitate this?  Try some things out to see what works for you.  Make sure to time it.  You'll definitely need that to put together the routine.  Let's say, that through trial and error, you determined that doing spending 20 minutes on the rebounder is the quickest and most optimum activity that you can do every morning for you to achieve your goal.  You find it to be beneficial and since it's fun, it's pretty easy for you to do it.  Make a list.  After you have all of the activities listed along with their times, you can start to arrange everything.  

It's easier to work backwards.  Let's say that you are creating a morning routine.  The first question to ask is what is the purpose of this morning routine?  If the purpose of the routine is to mentally, physically, and spiritually prepare you for the work day, then the routine would probably to take place before you get to your office.  If the purpose is to help obtain high productivity and manage deadlines at work, then the routine probably won't start as soon as you wake up.  It may start when you get to your desk.  

Use the information to help you determine an end time for the routine.  I want to get to work by 8:30 am.  I want to wind down my work duties by 4:30 pm.  From there, you can work backwards, filling in activities that you can do daily, weekly, monthly, or how ever often to get the job done.  

Once your routine is created.  Take a long hard look to see if it could work for you.  Does the order of activities need to be rearranged?  Maybe it makes better sense to feed the cat before I exercise, because she is not going to patiently sit in the corner while I do my morning yoga and get my zen on.  Do the time frames need to be changed?  Hmm... 2 hours of morning meditation is simply not going to work, especially since my work day starts at 4 am.  Can activities be moved to another period of the day or week?   Instead of picking out my clothes every morning, I can save almost an hour each week (10 minutes a day) by picking out my outfits for the week on Sunday night after the Housewives of Atlanta.  Tweak the routine.  Take it for a dry run and see how it fits.  Notice if it is making any difference at all.  Keep tweaking and testing as necessary.

Once your routine is finalized, figure out if there is an easier way to complete the routine.  My sister finds that keeping her kettlebell in the bathroom next to the sink reminds her to do her swings after brushing her teeth and before hopping in the shower.  She can't miss it when it's in her way.

We'd like to know: do you have a routine that works for you?  What are some results that you've experienced from doing a regular routine?  We would love to hear from you and as always, your responses are very helpful to our audience.  

As a reminder, next week, we'll get into the second part of this discussion about rituals and how they can be used to guard against burnout.  

Thanks everyone for your patience and I will see you back here next week Wednesday!  Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bad Kitty

I know that I promised a brand new post today about routines and instead of delivering it, I give you this instead:

Photo by Garrett Ziegler
How can anyone be mad at that fluffy face??
Posts normally go up every other Wednesday, but alas, you won't have too wait that long!  The post will go up next Wednesday, and since it is a two-parter (unless I add more later), the continuation will be up the next Wednesday after that.

So what am I saying exactly?


Part 1 will be up on February 4th 
Part 2 will be up on February 11  
Boom...

See you back here next week for a brand new post!  Thanks!!

Photo credit lurve: Photo by Garrett Ziegler

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Post Spotlight:

Howdy folks!  

This is the time of year where people are looking to create long lasting change in their lives.  I'm in the process of writing a piece about how routines and rituals can truly help us with that.  I'm doing a little experiment and plan to report my revelations in the next post on January 28th.

This morning, I watched Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live, on the Kelly and Michael Show.  It reminded me about the importance of making healthier eating choices.  I remember the last time that I did a cleanse.  It totally kickstarted my initiative to eat healthy.  In that vain, I present the Post of the Hour.

Post of the Hour: "Big Diva at the Farmer's Market"

About: How the farmer's market is a great option for eating healthy, supporting your local community, and saving money.

Inspiration: After I tweaked my knee, I got an important lesson about gratitude.

Favorite quote:  
I went off to the meat counter where I picked up some smoked maple turkey bacon, which had to be the BEST turkey bacon I've ever had.  Across the aisle was the cheese counter where I picked up some goat cheese and cajun cream cheese with lobster and crabs.  I also grabbed some almond butter, whole flaxseed, chia seed, jasmine and saffron rice, big bags of pretzel crisps, freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juice, and dried strawberries.  I ate like a queen for weeks:  steamed salmon and asparagus, smoothies and fresh fruit and vegetable juices, creative salads, and healthy snacks.  I have to say that I am forever a fan and search for farmer's markets in different cities to find healthy food and great deals.


Photo credit lurve: Photo by Quiltsalad