Plant Some Roses in that Space In Between!

Point A to Point BMost often, HERE we are (A), and THERE is the goal we are trying to accomplish (B).

I.E. those of us trying to find a partner, trying to make a baby, trying to lose weight, trying to secure financial freedom, trying to be a better person, trying to meditate, trying to graduate, trying to quit a bad habit, trying to be a good Christian, trying to find a new job….Between here and there, is what I like to call, the space in between.

Sometimes that space in between is torturous! Waiting for a second call, waiting weeks to find out if there will be a blue line on the stick, waiting for grades to be posted or trying to abstain from that next cigarette, that next drink or donut….

But the space in between is reality.  It’s the work we have to put in, it’s the patience we need to cultivate, it’s the hope we need to focus on, and the perseverance we need to practice. It is all of the things we need, to accomplish what we set out for.

I’ve found throughout my life that I’ve filled that space in between with much darker things than hope, patience, faith and perseverance.  I’ve instead found my space in between cluttered with resentment, frustration, hopelessness and sadness.

Looking back I notice that once I’ve identified my “there” point, I’ve often taken off with an immediate sense of urgency and undeniable sense of entitlement, like I HAVE to accomplish it, I DESERVE it, I’ve got to make it happen NOW –  In whizzing through that space in between, I never valued what that space actually was and what it’s supposed to be.  But now, I am starting to realize that the space in between is space to grow, develop, hone, fail, learn and relearn – that space in between is where I develop life and how I find out who I truly am.  I can’t only know myself in my victories, I need to know myself at my worst, when I’m forsaken, struggling, waiting and trying. That space in between is important, and sometimes more valuable than the victories themselves.

So while I set out to accomplish the things I hope to, I’m reminding myself right now; to stop and smell the flowers in this space in between.  To not let this space go wasted anymore.  It’s time to start building myself in these spaces, not tearing myself down. <3

ACK! My First Signs of Pubescent Spiritual Acne!!!

MY life is supposed to be about me, isn’t it?  I mean, aren’t I the star of this show?  Isn’t it about my wishes, my desires, my goals, my plans….. hence MY life?

I’m reading a book with a small group that I am a part of, called Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  It’s geared towards developing authentic faith in God as opposed to the status quo mediocrity we sometimes become accustomed to.  You know, just going through the motions.  Regardless of what someone practices, I’m sure we all relate to faith that becomes more routine than intimate, more bland than from the heart. Personally, I find doing things I am “supposed” to do, or that I’m “obligated” to do, without really wanting to; SUFFOCATING.

CrossI’ve been a Christian all of my life, but who knew my faith (almost 37 years later) hadn’t even hit puberty yet!  It’s like I woke up this morning with pubescent spiritual acne that I wasn’t expecting!  I’m only through the first three chapters of this book and already a fury of thoughts and shifted perceptions fill my mind, but one in particular moved me.

Have you ever considered your own mortality?  I hadn’t, well not until this book.  I must admit, I’ve considered OTHER people’s mortality without ever having considered my own.

I’ll admit that I’m not the most patient person in the world, and it’s definitely something I need to constantly work on; from hurrying my poor husband out the door to listening to my Dad tell me eleven times over a span of one week how important it is to save…and when I feel my blood start to boil, I try and remind myself that there will probably come a time when I will wish for this annoying moment back (knock on wood).  That since heaven doesn’t allow phone calls, I need to take in whatever time I have with everyone around me right now regardless of context or content.  Does that work for me? Does it help me become a more loving, understanding and patient person? Not really.

Until this book challenged me to consider MY own mortality….GASP!  True enough, despite how invincible I’ve mistakenly seen my own life, the reality is, I could die at any moment.  It really would just take one person’s inopportune text message or that extra drink that someone had after work to unintentionally clip me and send me into never never land….

I’ve heard all of the clichés, sure “live like you’re dying” – “be present in each moment” blah blah blah, but none of those stirred any authentic consideration until Francis Chan convinced me that I could literally die tonight.

If that negligent distracted driver should spin out my vehicle tonight on the street – and I know right now, that it could happen just hours from now – I immediately recognize that I’m not concerned about me and how I’ve been treated, I’m concerned about the ones I’d be leaving behind and how I’ve treated them.  Was I kind enough? Did I love enough?  Could I have been more nurturing or positive?  Could I have been more helpful and considerate?  Who could I have given more to? Who should I have reached out to?

If I am given the luxury of the knowledge that, yup, tonight that negligent guy is going to fatally hit me – I’d make sure to kiss Jason before he left this morning, I’d pop into my parents Wintery Morninghouse and see how they’re doing….but aside from just relationships, I’d step out of my car, take a deep breath and truly feel that cold wintery air on my skin. I’d look around to really notice and see the places I blindly drive past every morning; the beautiful red brick buildings, the misted air over the beautiful frozen river  – I feel like I would morph into a quiet observer, my higher self.  I wouldn’t be annoyed by the traffic because I’d be so busy appreciating this last ride.  I probably wouldn’t be judging that insecure girl in my office who speaks too loudly and for too long, because my higher self  would forgive and understand that she is only acting the way she knows how to.  My higher self would never have the capacity to waste one moment of this last day on any kind of judgment, hate, intolerance, impatience or anything other than LOVE.

RenewedBut the interesting thing that I realize, is, these thoughts aren’t coming from a worry of how people are perceiving me or making sure I’m liked when I’m gone; it comes from a strong sense of self responsibility.  It is my responsibility to give patience, kindness and love….not for others to deserve it.  I am responsible for my actions and I truly can choose my responses, because I know; that if today were my last day on this earth; I’d even smile at an “enemy”.

So thank you Francis Chan for helping me recognize that each moment of my life is truly a gift. That me being here right now writing this, is a blessing.  I can’t be sure that I’ll retire, collect pension and have morning walks with J by the river each day – so instead I will live this day recognizing that instead of focusing on myself, I’d much rather focus on the big beautiful world around me …. <3

Visions and Dreams and Bears OH MY!

Happy new year!  The start of a new year is the perfect time to set new goals and reflect back on the year past.  I started 2013 with a vision board which was the first time I had ever created one.  Now looking back at the year in it’s entirety; I’m heartened that so much of what I had hoped to accomplish did blessedly come to fruition.

Vision Board Happiness is a Journey Vision Board Family Closeness Vision Board My Book Vision Board Healthy Living Vision Board Church Family Vision Board Travel Vision Board Quality FriendshipsVision Board Everlasting Love

Everlasting Love: Jason and I got married on May 18, 2013 on a beautiful spring day.  The day was full of family, friends, laughter and love. It was the perfect start to our married life together.

 Our Wedding Day My Beautiful Bridesmaids Our First Dance

 Quality Friendships:  During the year I reconnected with old friends, made new ones and cherished those closest to my heart.  There is nothing more valuable than the power of close connections, mutual respect and unbreakable bonds.  Thank God for girlfriends and sisters.

 My GirlsQueen E Girls  Reni and Jennie Bridal Shower Brunch  Mon Lid and I Ayah and I Laughing

 Travel:  Jason and I travelled to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, a beautiful, romantic and exotic getaway.

Costa RicaCosta Rica 2

Church Family:  Jason and I became introduced to City South Church through our friends Leesila and Colin. Immediately we felt a connection to the service, the message, the worship songs and the sense of community within the Church.  We soon became part of a small bible study group through the Church and immediately felt welcomed and comfortable in this group of wonderful people.  We feel blessed to have found such a good fit for us.

           Leesila and Colin The Machados City South Church

Healthy Living: I learnt so much throughout 2013.  I was introduced to health, nutrition and fitness in a remarkably eye opening way that truly affected and touched me. I credit this introduction to Geha Gonthier of the Wellness Clinic who really sparked my interest and curiosity to delve deeper and learn more about nutrition, balance and health.  She introduced me to a more holistic approach to body, spirit and mind; seeing as I had compartmentalized them from each other for so many years prior.  She showed me how my unwanted weight gain was a reflection of something going on deeper inside of me.  She awakened within me the possibility of healing myself; by myself , for myself and because of myself.

Wholesome Foods Geha Gonthier Health and Fitness

My Book: I had started writing a fictional story back in 2004 but had writer’s block for years.  Life mimics art and art mimics life.  I had been in a personal state of indecision and flux for so long, that I wasn’t able to sort out my personal or fictional story. But finally, this past year, the clouds parted and life became much clearer; allowing me the clarity and the freedom to pick up my pen again.

Family Closeness: 2013 really highlighted to me the importance of family and the home my heart always finds in the company of my family.  From my daily phone calls with my Dad while I drive home from work, to the sistership I have with the K-5, the Indian store runs with my Mom, to the reconnection with my extended family during our wedding…TRUE LOVE is the only word that I can use to express the language communicated amongst family.  This past year too was the beautiful start at Jason and I building our own home and family with our mischievous cuddly dog Teddy.

Mom and Joydan Mom and Pooch Dad's Bday Family K5 GirlsLazy Teddy Bear Sept 2013

Happiness is a Journey Not a Destination: There were definitely some unexpected happenings this past year, times of turmoil and trouble.  Times of loss and setback.  But all of it is just life, taking the good with the bad.  The key to my own peace of mind is to not be so attached to the things outside of me, the things I cannot control.  I can’t control people’s assumptions or judgments of me. I can’t control people’s perceptions of me. I can’t control the way people speak or act…the people that come and go, the way the tides turn…but the truth of the matter is – none of these things actually change who I am.  I imagine it like a light inside of my heart.  My God given light; mine by birth and right.  This light is the truth, the purity and the essence of who I am.  And no matter what happens outside of my body, absolutely nothing can dim this light.  Sometime in the face of conflict I might forget, but all I need to do is close my eyes, focus on my heart, feel the brightness of my light and remember that nothing changes who I am, and the only thing I have to do is just continue being me.  It’s the same for all of us, we all are perfectly who we are inside.

            So I’m learning to not wait to be happy, but instead be happy along the way.

           So happy new year! I’m excited to start my new vision board for 2014; to focus on new goals, new visions and bigger dreams (oh my!).

We’re Dying and They’re Profiting? That’s BS.

People are dying of cancer…women my age are dying of cancer? Fighting Cancer

It’s mind boggling and mortifying.  It seems so random and so unfair.  In the past couple of weeks, different friends of mine have been dealing with the deaths of their loved ones to cancer.  It’s sad to see anyone lose a battle against cancer, but it’s especially strange when it happens at such a prime age.  We should be planning dinners and gatherings with our friends, not funerals.  Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves and protect our families?

I googled the prevention of cancer, and the advice that came up sounded a little old wives tale’ish; eat a lot of garlic and blueberries, be active, don’t stress out, eat less sugar, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, use greener products, ditch your non stick cookware, don’t stand too close to a microwave while it’s on…..is there merit to any of these claims?

Who knows?  The advice changes from expert to expert.  Some say less protein, some say more…we are constantly bombarded with such conflicting information that it’s difficult to really know or understand what we should be doing or who we should be following.  Who really knows how the choices we make today will affect our tomorrows?  I don’t know what I believe anymore.  But the question is, can I somehow mitigate my risks? Is it worth it to try and protect myself or is it a crapshoot?

Well, one thing for certain, we can’t rely on our bodies to always remain resilient and withstand the things we put it through.  As we age, we can’t expect our bodies to bounce back, like it use to in our younger days.  Turns out  we’re not invincible.

Me Shortly after I started writing this blog, I thought I was resigning to the fact that I would never again be that same girl I was in my twenties or early thirties. I thought I was nostalgically and wistfully looking back at my prime “bounce back” days.  Those easy recovery days from any ailment I inflicted upon myself; excessive partying, drinking, not sleeping enough or eating too much junk food.  But today I realize that I don’t feel resigned, I feel glad to be here instead of there.  I feel fortified and empowered by knowledge and self awareness.  Instead of blindly living I feel justified in choosing more intentionally.  What I thought was innocence back then was more of reckless ignorance.  I would have assumed that being able to better see and understand the parameters of my health and physicality, (as opposed to living invincibly in every moment) would make me feel weaker, but I actually feel stronger.  I’m glad age popped that bubble for me. It wasn’t until I put on weight that I started exploring and delving into my own health, and what started as a superficial look at weight and self image turned into a journey down health, wellness and wellbeing.

I’ve been reading a book, “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and Processed Foodit’s fantastic.  It’s informative and very easy to read.  It’s similar to Paleo principles but so much more reader friendly than I found the Paleo Diet.  It basically talks about food and how it affects us psychologically, physiologically, hormonally, our immune systems and gut.  It details the effects that bad foods have on our systems, and it’s eye opening! Bad foods aren’t just French fries and ice cream.  It talks about the stop button that less nutritional foods lack which makes us overeat and the pathways this overeating creates in our brains which lead to food addictions.  It details the way bad foods affect our hormonal levels and how they throw them out of whack.  It’s very interesting how our bodies have been naturally and intricately designed to function, and how we throw all of these processes off by the processed food we eat.  It especially highlights how we are naturally programmed to seek sweet, salty and fatty foods for survival, but how food manufacturers have perverted our sense of taste by exaggerating these flavors ten fold and how we’ve all fallen for it – THEY save money by making food that is cheap for them to make because it is so artificially produced and how WE spend so much of our own hard earned money ignorantly buying this crap and becoming their crack addicts, while THEY continue to profit.  We become addicted to these foods while our bodies sooner or later begin to suffer the consequences – excessive hormonal imbalance?  Leaky gut?  We’re not invincible.  We are being led a million miles away from the bodies we were designed to live in, and the health and wellness we were meant to have.  There use to be a more natural order to life, our bodies and the environments we lived in.  Things are so contrived nowadays though, that it’s hard to see past our “new normals”, I grew up with these manufactured goods, why would I have questioned them?  But how do you weed through all this fake stuff and get back to the good stuff? How do we undo what has been done? In a way, I feel like I’ve been duped.

I was duped when I thought aspartame was a good substitute for sugar because it wouldn’t make me fat. I was duped when I smoked cigarettes without realizing the ridiculous addictive nature of them. I was dupedBite of the Apple when I use to constantly buy easy to make “just add water” dishes, or ate fast food on a daily basis…I was duped when I trusted the world around me and lived with a naïve taken for grantedness; assuming that people wouldn’t seek profit at the expense of my health and wellness.  Until I took a bite of the apple and took a good look around….

I don’t know how to prevent cancer (knock on wood) or save the world from greedy food manufacturers, but I do know that I care about my body, deeper than how it looks. I care about how it feels and the way it functions. I want my vessel to be strong enough to house this strong me.  I want the capacity to run good distances, think with clarity, sleep soundly and feel even keeled and in control day to day.  That’s where I choose to start mitigating my risks.  I may not be able to control the future, but intentionally choosing to stop taking my body for granted is something I can do in my present.  Health is a privilege that we ought to cherish and maintain.  Certain food manufacturers may not care, but I certainly do.

The Trying Dance

Ticking Time Bomb!God I hope I get it while I’m still in my thirties!  I’m just four months away from my thirty seventh birthday (yikes!) and the last thing I want to do is go into it the same way I’ve gone into my thirty fifth, and thirty sixth birthdays – fat and unhappy with my weight.  Ahhhhhh if only I could go back to that golden year of thirty four!  Little did I know that would be the year my metabolism would bottom out, and stupid unsuspecting me hadn’t prepared to pick up the slack and compensate for the changes…story of  my life really.  Silly, unsuspecting “live in the moment” me.  I’ve read too  many weightloss blogs and articles in the past year, and ALL of them perpetuate the fear that I have, WILL IT BE THIS WAY NOW FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?  Will I always struggle, now that I am?  Will I always be trying, now that I am?  It seems that so many women do.  Bethenny Frankel calls it “food noise”,  that obsession or constant distraction of food and how we perceive it.

My journey is an expression of mild schizoprenia, which I medicate with soothing dark chocolate, crunchy banana chips, delicious seedy trailmix cookies and the occasional deep fried anything party.  The ten pounds that I lost for the wedding, five months ago, is now just a distant memory being nine pounds up…alas…the hamster wheel that I’m sure I’ve already blogged about.

What haven’t I done this year? I’ve set goals, written down motivational quotes, done some unbelievable emotional unpacking, read other people’s stories, tried other people’s advice, cut out wheat, calorie counted, started food journals, focused on small portions, started this, tried that, and dabbled in everything in between….and where am I?  STILL HERE.

Reward if Found!If anyone comes across my ‘discipline’, please let her know that I’m desperately looking for her and to come back home IMMEDIATELY.  I debated putting lost signs up in my area, but then I  realized my make believe schizoprenia might be turning into real delusional tendencies or excessive excuse making….ahem.  Or is my discipline yet another thing I’ve out grown?  Perhaps then I can find it in my parent’s basement, buried away with my fake brand name purses that I use to buy at flea markets, my size four camouflage cargo pants and bandannas I use to constantly wear?…Maybe in another shoe box hidden amoungst my timberland boots or my fake pleather/plasticy club heels…

My Mom came over for dinner last night with my Dad and she looked up across me at the dinner table and unexpectedly and almost disgustedly pointed at my neck and asked if I had a thyroid problem.  When I said no, the last physical I had showed that everything was normal (unless 7lbs can create the imbalance) a small part of me wanted to buy into yet another excuse….but that small sane part of me, that I can tap into occasionally, started to recall what I’ve been eating and no, I’m not doing enough to make a difference.

What’s going to be my key?  The key that finally unlocks my success?  If not for anything else, I just need to know that I can do it.  I need to know that I can conquer and win this battle, PERMANENTLY. I need to find a way to be on top of this.  Right now, that’s a huge question mark for me.

In my journal recently I likened these days to the days of my dating break up patterns.  If I was emotionally invested in a guy and it didn’t work out,  I would spend hours journaling, analyzing, talking to girlfriends, justifying….everything to try and come to emotional inner understandings of my external experiences.  I think back though, and that was probably just my coping mechanisms, the tides I could surf until I found land again.  In retrospect, they were otherwise mostly futile, because trying was always that, trying.  I would try to reason and justify, I would try and abstain or stay away from the people I knew I shouldn’t be near, I would try by deleting texts and phone numbers….but the trying was always just baby steps, in my journey of a thousand steps…Fortunately however, the illusion of the love I created would eventually wear and dissipate and I would see someone for what they were, not who I hoped they were.  When the smoke would clear and the spell was broken, there was reality (truth).  And it was plaThe Trying Dancein, clear and undeniable, I didn’t have to try anything, I just got it.  It was like that with smoking too.  For years I would try and cut down, try and limit myself, try to only carry five cigarettes  with me (even though I kept the pack somewhere in my car)….but it wasn’t until I went on Champix that the illusion of the cigarette all of a sudden disappeared, it really wasn’t tasty or satisfying; it was horrible and hard to take down.  And again POOF, the trying dance found another partner and I merrily took a seat and rested my weary trying feet.

I know that this is where I am, still riding this tide until I meet land again.  I’m in the midst of my trying dance and I know I’ve probably got a few more songs ahead of  me.  But I also know that eventually I will get it, and it will be clear.  I thought I had found that a few times this past year.  I uncovered some emotional baggage with the help of Bob Greene’s book (Oprah’s nutritionist).  Some really eye opening “aha’s” and though those realizations came in big and still linger, they weren’t the “it” to clear the illusion or stop my dancing.  Sometimes I feel on the cusp of finally getting out of this enchanted forest, only to find that I’ve followed a path that looked like it was going to lead me out, but mysteriously somehow led me back into the thick of it.

Being married now, if I could go back and whisper advice to the heart of my once twenty one year old self who was struggling and trying to get over her first love, I would say, be patient, it’s okay; let this run it’s natural course. Don’t fight it, because through this process you will learn so much about yourself and you will grow in ways that only this struggle could shape for you.  Besides, it’s worth it, because you are not only going to looooove the person you find after him, but you will loooooove the person you become because of him.  Somehow this resonates with me now.  I feel like my forty some year old healthy self might speak to my thirty six year old diet struggling self in in this same way….be patient, it’s okay…it’s going all work out.

Self Reassurance

SSSSHHHHHH!!!! For the love of God, SHUSH UP ALREADY!!!

Too Loud!!!OMGSH! SHU@#$ UP!!!!!  The voice in my head is so loud, I often can’t hear anything BUT what it’s saying!

There was a time, when I was younger and maybe more naïve or idealistic that the voice in my head was much quieter. I was more tuned into the world outside of me, than what was going on inside of me.  I was more of a sponge, taking it all in. There use to be much more silence and space in my head for interpretation and acceptance.  Now, I’m more of a brick, less penetrable.  Now I have such a thick filtration system in my head.  I can barely see nor interpret experiences outside of my colander of judgment and perception.

I can’t count how many times in a day, my inner voice speaks above and louder than the person before me.  What do I mean?  Soon after someone says or does something, my inner voice immediately responds with an opinion or judgment, “Did he really just say that?”  “Why are people so annoying”  “They’re just looking for attention” “Ya, she’s just being moody again” and so on.  I stop listening, because the voice in my head starts speaking, and damn is she loud!  This seems like a hindrance to living a peaceful and authentic life.  There’s obviously no way I could voice these thoughts out loud. So what then, of the paradox that I am or am becoming?  How do I turn it off?

The voice is usually critical.  It probably comes from my deep seeded expectations of how I think people should behave and be.  But when I really reflect on that, it means that my ego really believes that I know what’s right or better, as if I know “the right way to behave”.  Why is this internal voice louder now than it used to be?  It used to be much more easier for me interacting with different kinds of people.  Now, I find myself flocking to people who don’t trigger my inner voice.  After all, it’s easier to have a meaningful exchange with someone when my inner voice isn’t shouting over them.

So I find myself attracted to people who tend to be more like minded to me, share similar values; people I respect, admire or in some way “approve” of.  People say as we get older, our time becomes more precious and valuable.  That we too become more firm in our values and direction.  But does realizing my own values need to equate to judging the values of others?  It’s almost like my values had a naughty one night stand with my ego,  which bore my inbred judgements and expectations.   Isn’t there a way that my values could instead grow more acceptance and openness – maybe I need to marry my values not to my ego, but to my spirit.

I’ve been reading a book “The Hiding Place” that Betsy Thomas had posted about on her Facebook.  It’s about the German invasion and occupation of Holland and the discrimination and atrocities Jewish people were put through.  It’s a mortifying and touching account of how horrible people can be to one another.  But this isn’t an isolated incident.  I think back to Africa, the Middle East, India…  Often times, human beings are horrible to one another. It’s like we stop relating to each other as humans, and instead we begin classifying each other in accordance with our own value system.  But that’s not that different from what I’ve subconsciously doing, is it?  Me flocking to like minded people, means that I’ve been classifying people in relation to my own value sWorld Peaceystem, and in essence, on some level, discriminating against those that don’t quite fit into my value system.  I’m not flogging them or rallying for their demise; but I am certainly identifying them….well my internal voice certainly is…..and maybe that’s where the disconnect and breakdown starts.  I don’t want to create any separations, not globally, not even microscopically.

But having said that, so then what? What of my internal voice?  What does it really mean to marry my values with my spirit not my ego?

Well, I suppose it goes without saying, if I believe in equality on a global level, then it doesn’t make sense to accept discrimination on a personal level.  Also, it dawns on me, that when I think back, I can recollect times where it’s been people seemingly “different” from me that have taught me such valuable life lessons.  It was a Muslim girl who taught me how to be a better Christian.  It was a friend who overcame an eating disorder who taught me we all have body issues and insecurities.  It was a friend who came from a very dysfunctional family that taught me people can take responsibility for their own lives and be successful…

That really is the meaning of the human experience, the exchange that takes place between us.  It’s not really about who I am or who you are, but what happens in that space between us.  There is always something to give or something to take. There is something to learn or something to teach.  The duality that is strung through all of creation, exists even in human to human experience.

The ExchangeWow, I feel like I’ve managed to quiet my inner voice for the time being.  I’m sure though, that it’ll return with vengeance tomorrow.  But valuing the distance between us, maybe muzzles the voice long enough for me to meaningfully contribute to any exchange; this human to human experience.  Marrying my values with my spirit means coming from a place of love not judgment.  That way I can hold on to my values without infringing upon yours.  Maybe that’s the peace that passeth all understanding….

After all, regardless of differences and values, everyone has the right to be themselves.  I might be a brick now, but bricks make firm foundations of which to build upon. <3

Delicious Comfort Dishes for Fall – But Hold the Cream Please!!

Fall has arrived!  It’s starting to cool down outside.  Aside from wrapping a scarf around my neck and pulling out my fall jacket, I find myself wanting some heavier but delicious comfort foods. A fresh green summer salad just doesn’t have the same appeal on a crisp cool day.  But it’s not grease that I’m wanting, not lots of fat, just hearty meals that won’t inhibit my runs or dial me too far back in my healthfulness.  Try these delicious recipes below!

I have to thank one of the K5 girls, my cousin Suja Maheswaran for this idea.  One thanksgiving she had prepared a delicious spaghetti squash baked dish.  Today I was craving it and found ingredients in my cupboard to mimic it but make it a little more healthier.

Spaghetti Squash and Mushroom Bake Casserole

I spaghetti squash

1 tbsp. of olive oil

1/2 onion diced

Container of fresh mushrooms

3 garlic cloves minced

One can of mushroom soup

1c of milk

Shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tbsp of melted butter

1.  To prepare the spaghetti squash, cut it in half and gut the seeds with a spoon (like a pumpkin).  Place them on a baking pan with this cut side up.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on both halves, sprinkle some pepper on them and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes

1b.  After spaghetti squash has cooked, in a casserole dish, and using a fork, comb the spaghetti out of the shell into the casserole dish and spread evenly once complete.

2.  In a frying pan, heat tablespoon of oil, add the diced onions and minced garlic and let soften.  Add the mushrooms and sauté.

3.  In a separate bowl add mushroom soup, milk and melted butter and stir to get an even consistency.  Add the wet mix to the frying pan.

4.  Pour the mushroom mix over the spaghetti squash, using spoon mix all together.  Sprinkle fresh ground pepper on top, cover lightly with cheese then bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees

I bet shredded chicken in the casserole, or shake and bake chicken would go great with this dish!

Chicken Chili

Unfortunately this second recipe comes from a torn magazine page that I’ve had for years.  It’s a classic recipe that never fails.  Leftover portions can be freezed in single servings for quick meal options.  This is delicious and healthy!

3 tbsp olive oil

1 package of lean ground chicken

1 onion finely chopped

3 garlic cloves minced

1 small eggplant

1 med zucchini

2 carrots chopped

1 can of stems and pieces mushrooms

¼ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes

1 can of kidney beans rinsed and drained

26oz can of chopped tomatoes with juice

2tsp salt

1tsp dried oregano

1 box of low salt chicken stock

Fresh ground pepper

Hot sauce and shredded cheese (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the ground chicken until cooked through and put aside

2.  In a large deep pot, add a little more oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft

3.  Add the chopped zucchini, eggplant, drained mushrooms, carrots and red pepper flakes.  Add some chicken stock so the veggies don’t burn.  Cook on medium heat (add more chicken stock if preferred) for 20 minutes until vegetables soften

4.  Add beans, tomatoes (with juice), salt, cumin, oregano and ground cooked chicken.  Add enough stock to submerge everything under the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, lightly cover and reduce the heat to medium and let cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often.

5.  I like serving bowls of chili with a bit of hot sauce and topped with some shredded cheese

AACCCCKKKKK!!! Where’s my Turn OFF Text Feature??

Are we are too technologically advanced to retreat back to simpler times, simpler forms of communication. Remember the good ol’ days when we use to write and mail letters?  How about the days that e-mailing just started to gain popularity?  Remember the days when people use to call each other?  Played their messages out loud on their answering machines?  Kept redialing a person until they didn’t hear that horrid busy signal anymore? Do kids born in the 90’s even know what a busy signal sounds like?  Quick what’s the current cost to mail a letter locally or inNorth America?  How I miss those simpler days that use to include more words, more thoughts, more time; but more importantly engaged more of me…

The viral Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Falon video on hashtags perfectly encapsulates the RIDICULOUSNESS of how we communicate now, how absurd we sound and how stupidly we’ve disguised our laziness with “innovative advancement” #notenglish– it’s easy to get swept up in the wave of what’s new and cool…until it occurred to me, I’m not better off today than I was 10 or 20 years ago.  I wonder how I use to convey “laughing” in a written letter before “lol” became so popular….wait a minute, maybe writing wasn’t my primary means of communication.  Maybe I actually laughed out loud while I was on the phone or talking to someone.  Maybe I only used emailing or texting as a secondary means of communication, and therefore didn’t require abbreviations to express emotion, because I wasn’t using email or text messaging to express emotion!!! 

It wasn’t that long ago that I subconsciously qualified and defined relationships by the number of texts I exchanged in a day with that special someone (good grief) – he didn’t have to ask me to be his girlfriend, I could try and guess from the rhythmic (or erratic) patterns of our text messages.  Was he texting frequently enough?  How quick was his response time?  Did he use a term of endearment? Was he my last text before bed?  (eyeroll)….ummm, I’m going to skip right over any experiences I may or may not have had with sexting….“lol”.

Or the friendships I tried to maintain with spotted text messages.  “Hey, long time! How are you?”  Really?  Really am I asking that way, and really are you going to be able to authentically respond in some way outside of a “I’m good, how are you?”??…..blech.

Or what about the ones who never say nice things to your face, but can sing your praises in writing? The ones who bite their tongue in person but send a lashing in writing?  The ones whose writing is so vastly different from what they’re like in person, you’d swear they were using a ghostwriter for all of their written communication!   The ones who will send a convenient text but won’t actually answer their phone minutes later.  And YES, I’m guilty too. I’ve been known to have killed a few relationships and friendships via e-mail rather than in person.  I understand why people hide behind their writing and the courage it takes to speak face to face as opposed to keyboard to keyboard, I just wish we could reverse some of these trends.

I do love social media and networking. I think it’s an amazing way of keeping in touch and connecting with people.  I credit the rekindling of beautiful friendships and the start of new ones to facebook….oh ya, finding husbands too!  I just don’t want these advancements to be my primary means of communication anymore.

Short of becoming a swami in the Himalayas, or someone inventing a busy signal blockade for my incoming text messages; I may just need to leave my phone in my purse throughout the day.  It used to be exciting to hear my text notification go off, I use to brim with curiosity as I picked up my phone and eagerly checked my new messages…..  But am I the only one getting fed up of the current massacre of human relationship and communication?  Am I the only one feeling utterly inconvenienced by these conveniences? Or maybe I’m just getting old? Sigh… “you know, those kids nowadays….”

Thank God for the people in my life who don’t mind a little face or phone time….less filtration certainly lends to less dilution in relationships…..

The Sweaty Gardener

Weeding is a tedious and laborious task.  But it’s a necessary one.  Weeding opens the space for plentiful growth and abundance.  Sure some weeds can have some positive attributes,  but they all, on a basic level, are competitive by nature. They compete for soil, nutrients, sunlight and water.  Growth is difficult enough, never mind fighting for survival!  Regardless of our intentions, planting seeds is not enough, we need to weed our gardens too.

               There are so many ways that we can weed our lives: rid ourselves of unhealthy habits, dogmas, stereotypes, negative thoughts, excuses, clutter, bad relationships, baggage, people, things…For me, it was friendships.  It was silly of me to think that I could focus on bettering my life without weeding my life of the people that were too competitive.  Too often competing for, and getting the better of my patience, self respect and trust, leaving me feeling short changed and incomplete.  It was immature of me to think that I could keep things in my life the same, yet hope for better outcomes.

Initially weeding my life in this way felt foreign to me.  I’ve always thought that I was that person who needed to hold onto people regardless of what that actually looked like in my life;  like a friend collector of sorts, a friend connoisseur.  I thought it was comforting to surround myself with people; all sorts of people: people I party with, people I have dinner with, people I like to drink wine with, people I like to have deep conversations with, people I Iike to pray with, people that make me laugh, people that inspire me, people that engage me, people I worked with, people I work out with…which is fine enough, but my personal garden of friendship, closest to my heart cried for attention, I was letting weeds grow amoungst the flowers.  I was letting bad friendships that were once fruitful, start stifiling the things I was planting as an adult.  When something is around long enough, we can develop a tolerance to it, making us complascent and inactive.  Like learning to live with an ache, I stopped really seeing things I’d been staring at for years.  But history repeats itself and not everyone stands the test of time and evolution. I was watering without weeding, blindly giving these things more space to populate; leaving me less space to grow.

But life is a learning process, and I will continue to strive in the ways that I am able.  I’m not always ready to face lessons, so I take my time with them.  I’m not always strong enough to make changes, so I sometimes protect my fragility by turning a blind eye.  But the things I avoid weeding, God certainly has a way of pruning. At the beginning of the year, I put “quality friendships” on my vision board.  This came from a deep desire for authentic connections that come from love and not only allow me to be who I truly am, but inspire me to be more.  Friendships that I too could reciprocate the same for. I recently realized that I had friends in my life I had once considered flowers until the contents of my garden changed.  I don’t haphazardly plant anymore.  I don’t just plant the things I knew as a child, I plant differently as as adult. So I’ve let go of friends and accepted being let go of, by people that I couldn’t get to a true level of honesty, authenticity and love with.  Friends, that over the years, always maintained some level of  maliciousness, competition, isolation, gossip, judgment, dysfunction or disloyalty…And that isn’t necessarily inherent to them specifically, but our combination of water, soil, and sunlight.

Despite the weirdness, saddness and holes these presently leave having been dug out, I look forward to the space this creates for me to plant expressions of love and friendship in ways that make my heart smile and feel good to my soul.

Ask yourself what parts of your life need attention and weeding?

 

“It’s better to feel pain, then nothing at all, the opposite of love is indifference” (The Lumineers – Stubborn Love)

Tuning In

“Happiness is a journey not a destination” This is a quote that I had found for my vision board at the beginning of the year, which really came to light yesterday.  I was reading a blog about self-image perceptions passed along to us by our mothers (a really great read actually: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat) and specifically one quote struck me, “Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face”.

How could this lady have spent even a minute in peace or satisfaction when she was so consumed by her weight, her looks and her worry of how other people perceived her?  Imagining spending the REST OF MY LIFE worrying mortified me.  How mean HOW EXHAUSTING!!!  I want to enjoy the process, this journey.

I have a lot of friends, like me, who wait for opportune times.  Opportune times to lose weight, find a new job, get pregnant, start a business….I’ll get pregnant when I quit smoking….I’ll get back on track diet wise after this month of weddings….I’ll find a new job when I pay down my debt….I’ll eventually get back into Church.  Sometimes though, these opportune moments don’t come and we spend so much of our time stagnant and stuck in our habitual patterns of behaviour that, when you think about it, could never present “opportune moments” because we default into life on autopilot.  I mean come on, it’s easy, so much of our day is like the last, how could we not, BUT default into autopilot?  Autopilot though, gets us nowhere but here, where we’ve always been.  Instead of waiting for that so called right time, we need to intentionally jump.  We need to choose these moments and create them.   The other pitfall is we spend too much time planning, reading, researching and less time doing.  Let’s stop intending and just do.  Maybe Nike really was on to something…..

Back to that poor lady that spent 79 years of her life dieting….actually Alanis Morrisette has a song called “Incomplete” which also speaks to the realization that there is no eventual destination…the far off “one days” won’t come, despite the ways we’ve been programmed to expect and strive for.  She sings in her chorus,  “I have been running so sweaty my whole life, for the chance for a finish line. And I have been missing the rapture this whole time, of being forever incomplete”.  Doesn’t that hit home?

What if that 79 year old woman used other measures instead of the weight scale or magazine covers for her own measure of beauty and self image? What if she would have tuned into herself and tuned out society’s painted face standards of what beautiful should look like? What if she would have just stripped down?

Do you know that to style my hair, I get out of the shower and first put in some leave in conditioner, then some mousse, then I towel dry, then I diffuse it, then I curl it, spray it, place it, shape it, set it….I’ve been doing this FOR YEARS. Aussie sprunch spray has literally been a staple in my beauty regimen for almost TWO DECADES. Styling my hair to a daily perfection…what if I just let my hair be the way it is?  What would I look like if I brought it to more of a natural state….and lets be real here, I’m not ready to be completely “au natural” but I’m ready to explore being closer to natural.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start burning my bras, trashing my make up or start growing out the hair in my armpits.  Maybe I can be a fair weather au-naturel girl.    I, of course, want to spend any time I need to, to get ready and look painted, but for the times I choose to.  I want to paint my face or have wild hair when I want to.  I want it to be based on what I feel, who I am and how I choose to express myself in any particular moment of time.  I want the freedom to strip down and just be me.

I wish someone would come up with a new measure of success and progression outside of the weight scale! What if I created a magic contraption which calculated the following things as soon as you stepped on it:

CATEGORY            MEASUREMENT

WEIGHT                     light to heavy

SLEEP                        well rested to can’t keep my eyes open

SPIRITUALITY          nourished to empty

FRIENDSHIP              supported to isolated

STRESS                      manageable to I’m going to rip my face off

LOVE                          complete to fragmented

SEX                             satisfied to starved

ENERGY                    high to dragging

BAGGAGE                 light to burdensome

STOMACH                 normal to bloated

PHLEGM                    clear to congested

MIND                          sharp to distracted

TEMPERATURE       normal to extreme hot or cold

SKIN                           clear to grody

CHEST                        open to tight

NAILS                         strong to brittle

FINANCE                   comfortable to spent

GRATITUDE              humbled to oblivious

VITAMINS/MINERALS: complete to deficient

Imagine waking up in the morning, going through the list, check check check….and then being able to specifically tend to one’s own needs….where could I be a week from now, a month from now or even a year from now? Miles and miles away from where I am…

There are so many other ways of keeping a check and balance on ourselves without a weight scale.  There are ways of tuning into ourselves, to see where we are really at in ways that are profoundly and deeply pertinent and relevant to only ourselves, how beautifully intimate!  By tuning in, we can address the areas that need our attention.  By tuning in, we can see what really works for ourselves and in our lives.

Through a wellness initiative at work yesterday I had the opportunity to see a Psychologist for the first time in my life to assess my current state of well being.  Fortunately I feel on a good upswing of life right now.  Since our wedding and honeymoon, I’ve felt refreshed, invigorated, lighter and content. One thing Dr. Shepticki had mentioned which was interesting food for thought is that our bodies all have a point of vulnerability that sensitively responds to our “insides”.  It turns out that for years I thought my periodic tight shoulders and back were a response to the number of hours I was putting in front of my desk,  but it turns out that I should tune in deeper.  The tightness in my back and shoulders could be my body’s first response to any sort of stress/dis-ease I might be feeling at that time that perhaps I haven’t even mentally registered yet.  There are just so many ways we can tune in.

My wise old owl Ginger (my thirtysome year old girlfriend who feels 150 years deep into insight and advice) said that committing to any health oriented program would be beneficial to a person. And true enough, I agree with her.  A lot of things work as long as we just commit to them, but working for us isn’t necessarily the same thing as truly serving us or being good for us.  I mean the 17 Day Diet did get me down 10lbs by my wedding day which that morning was reason to celebrate.  But what I think most of us miss, or in the least, what I missed, was tuning into myself beyond just the weight scale for measure of my success and wellbeing.  I am interested in exploring healthful ways of being, but not solely for the purpose of losing weight, but for avenues of better tuning into myself, knowing myself, optimizing myself and being good to myself.

I bought the “It’s All Good” recipe book by Gwyneth Paltrow and I was immediately attracted to her outlook and the balance she strives for in her own life.  After an unpredictable health scare, she had gone on Dr. Junger’s Elimination Diet to reset her system and detoxify.  I’ve never really tried a cleanse before, but I’m definitely interested in trying it out.  I’ve vowed to myself to get rid of my weight scale so that I’ll be forced to tune in rather than tune out.

Exploring, trying, discovering, falling, learning….what better way to experience my journey, and how meaningfully intimate to be the captain, the judge, the creator, the lover, the receiver…..to be all things but most of all beautiful plain ol’ newly married, blissfully happy me….it certainly is, “all good”.  :)