Gratitude: How the Finest Nurses in Oakland Adjusted My Attitude

It’s official! I’m in full recovery mode from this seemingly never ending wrist injury! After nearly 4 months out of the gym, I’m BACK and climbing about 90% as hard as I was when I got hurt. I’m almost there! I no longer have to worry about tweaking my wrist picking something up, twisting my hand too abruptly, constantly being careful not to reach for something too quickly, or holding something for too long with my thumb out. I can type all day — with proper stretching and breaks (which I probably should have been doing in the first place) — and most importantly, I can CLIMB! 

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I used acupuncture as part of my treatment for about 2 months during the healing process. On this particular day, I couldn’t believe how many needles she got in there, so I had to document it. 

Outside Season!

We went out to the Tahoe area to climb a couple of weekends back and I couldn’t wait to get on the rock. It was my first time back out in 2015, and I had a whole new appreciation for the sport after having to take such a long break. I didn’t complain about the long approaches, I tried just about every climb I could, and I kept up a positive attitude even when things got hard. Intending to climb at Lover’s Leap, we ended up at Hog’s Back the first day on the wrong route in direct sun after getting a pretty late start. Loren was really mad, but I brushed it off and kept smiling. It was AWESOME. I surprised myself following Loren up a pretty tricky 10A at Hog’s Back and then exhausted myself the next day with a thirty minute vertical approach to Sugarloaf and another long 10A. When we got back down to the van on Sunday, I was so happy to be completely wiped out. It had been too long! 

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Setbacks and Life Lessons

I just got home from a week in Texas, and getting back in the gym after a week off was pretty deflating. It’s amazing what you lose from just a week. It comes back quickly, but that first day in the gym can be a bit of a bummer sometimes if you aren’t mentally prepared. I found myself getting frustrated, cussing, yelling, kicking (if you’ve ever climbed outside with me before, you’ve seen this super charming side of me), and I just quit a route after failing to complete a tough move. I completely lost my focus and ended our session shortly after that. Not a great first day back at all after all the progress I made in April. 

Over the last two days I’ve been working with the nurses at Highland Hospital on relaxation and stress management. It’s National Nurses’ Week, and as the wellness program manager of a large chain of hospitals in Alameda County, I helped set up relaxation rooms with an essential oil diffuser and did guided meditation with the nurses on each floor. Part of our work together has been discussing how we set our intentions each morning and how we prepare for bed each night. I was struck by the amazing positivity these nurses expressed. So many of them said they wake up with gratitude every morning, and that they wind down in the evenings in just the same way. It occurred to me that the job of nursing might very well be impossible if not for routines like this. We also talked about how we use our hands as healers. We shared a gentle reflexology hand massage, and in doing this work, I finally connected the dots.

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Gratitude for My Health

My hands are a gift. When my dominant hand was injured, I realized just how much I need it every minute of every day. I really need my thumb! There were times over the course of the healing process that I thought it would never get any better, and that I was doomed to a miserable, limited, injured life forever. (Not that I’m dramatic or anything.) I got down about my injury quite a few times over the course of the last few months, and when I finally got back into the gym, I was so happy I could cry. My first trip back outside was pure bliss. 

But those feelings fade quickly, and it’s all too easy to sink back into an unconscious state of taking my health for granted.

I’ve been back in the gym for one month, and on my first bad day I had the same crappy attitude I tended to have before I got injured in the first place. It was like I’d learned nothing. These nurses have reminded me of just how lucky I am. Through their example of daily gratitude and positivity in the face of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the county, they’ve inspired me to recognize and appreciate what I have.

I have the use of my thumb again. I can sleep through the night without accidentally tweaking it and waking up to sharp pain in my wrist. I don’t have to wear a clumsy brace on my dominant hand. I can type without pain. I can live my passion and climb again. I have my health, and that lesson in gratitude is the gift I’ve received in sharing self-care techniques with some of the finest nurses in Oakland.

Thank You Highland Hospital!

Losing Lisa

Coping with grief and loss

My cousin Lisa died suddenly on Sunday. She was my Godfather’s youngest daughter, my first cousin in my close-knit Italian family. She was 27 years old. 

I wish I had the words to express the emotions welling up inside me, but there aren’t adequate words for something so tragic. For such a beautiful soul to die so young, for her never to have the chance to grow old, to find romantic love, to have children, for the missed opportunities, the missed experiences, my first feelings are of regret and despair. But not only does that not cover it, it doesn’t do justice to the life she was able to live.

 

What I Missed

Lisa was a smart woman, dedicated to her family, loved by so many, most of whom I never knew. I don’t want to say she missed out on anything, because in truth I don’t know that she did. I know she had close friends who cherished her and considered her part of their families, but sadly, I only know that in her death. Lisa wasn’t as open with her extended family as she was with her chosen one. I never got to see Lisa’s vibrant love as her friends saw it, and I suppose I’ll have to live with that regret. I wish I’d known Lisa better. I wish she’d been comfortable enough to let me into her life. I wish that the unspoken barriers our family has around topics deemed “too personal” or taboo wouldn’t have gotten in the way of knowing my cousin, of possibly helping her. I wish I could have helped. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, that we were all too afraid to say things that really needed to be said. And I know that being so far away from my family in Texas added another layer of distance between me and my sweet cousin Lisa that made it even harder to breach the tough topics. 

Coping with grief and loss

 

Grief and Accepting What Is

I want to believe that there was something I could have done to prevent this tragedy, but part of me — maybe even most of me — wants to believe that there was nothing anyone could have done. That would be easier to live with. And thinking any other way won’t bring her back. 

Although I can’t presume to know her true feelings because we never talked about it, Lisa and I shared a struggle with our body image. I can’t fathom what Lisa’s struggle must have been like, or how lost she must have felt. I can’t imagine how isolated she must have felt, but again, I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know and will never know about Lisa, and it breaks my heart. 

There’s a hole in our family that will never be filled, but I want to believe that Lisa lived the life she was meant to live. That her soul needed to rest when it did. That she’s at peace now, free from the burdens she faced in life. But that’s too hard to accept right now.

Coping with grief and loss

 

Confronting Death

With the contemplation of the impermanence of the human form, something very deep and peaceful opens up inside you … When you accept the impermanence, out of that comes an opening within, which is beyond form. That which is not touched by death, the formless, comes forward as you completely accept the impermanence of all forms. That’s why it is so deeply peaceful to contemplate death.

If someone close to you dies, then there is an added dimension. You may find there is deep sadness. The form also was precious, although what you loved in the form was the formless. And yet, you weep because of the fading form. There too, you come to an acceptance – especially if you are already familiar with death, you already know that everything dies – then you can accept it more easily when it happens to somebody close to you. There is still deep sadness, but then you can have the two dimensions simultaneously – the outer you weeps, the inner and most essential is deeply at peace. It comes forward almost as if it were saying “there is no death.” It’s peace.

– Eckhart Tolle

I just finished Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and the timing of Lisa’s passing with my exploration into this book is giving me an opportunity to practice some of what I’ve learned within the pages. I can’t say that I can embody all of it, because Lisa’s passing is too raw and too close to home; she was too young, and the disbelief and unreadiness to accept it is part of the struggle toward consciousness that this book is really all about. But in hearing the words in my mind and recognizing that nothing real truly dies, I can accept that Lisa is free of her human form, that the formless part of her was her, and that precious soul lives on. Of course, that feeling of peace he describes is fleeting and interwoven with a deep grief, but in some way it’s a comfort.

I’ll miss my little cousin Lisa, and that’s really all I can say about it right now.

A New Look at those 10 Vanity Pounds

10 vanity pounds self image

image created by Frank Kovalchek sourced through Creative Commons

Oh vanity — we all have a little bit, right? We all want to look our best at least some of the time, don’t we? I’ll admit that the beginning of my journey into the health and wellness field was fueled by equal parts vanity and curiosity. I wanted to know why I ate better food and less of it than friends who were thinner. I wanted to know why my skin wouldn’t clear up. I wanted to know why I could work so hard in the gym and never lose any weight, why I had constant dark circles under my eyes. I wanted to pick apart everything I didn’t like about myself and fix it with food and nutrition. That’s what got me started on my path, and to be completely transparent, some of those feelings of insecurity haven’t gone away even though some of the problems have been solved.

The truth is I’ve been playing tug of war with my self-image my entire life. Most people who know me — even those who know me well — consider me one of the most confident people they know. For the most part, it’s true that my confidence is above average, but there’s definitely a darker side to my self-image. I have battled those few “vanity pounds” my whole life. I’ve struggled with my shape, been frustrated with the size of my waist, gone as far as asking my best friend and roommate in college to say, “Don’t eat that, cow,” if I wanted to eat something fattening while I was dieting (he refused — good friend that he is).

Confession: I’ve been known to look at an old picture — say from high school — and think “Wow, I thought I was fat then! Look how thin I was. Now I’m really fat.”

Raise your hand if you’ve done this.

CUT IT OUT!!!

Old Habits Die Hard

I grew up hearing my tiny grandmother say, “I gotta get rid of this belly!” It’s something I’ve always made a joke about (it was super endearing), but in retrospect, I wonder if it didn’t affect the way I saw myself and my value when I was forming my identity. I learned that being small/skinny was a better way to be — and this message was reinforced everywhere around me in the usual ways: TV, magazines, pop stars (I was obsessed with Madonna as a kid). Nothing new here, right?

In the 80’s people were obsessed with leotards, leggings, and sweat bands. I had a “workout” birthday party in elementary school. I practiced Jane Fonda exercise videos and danced to Body Electric on TV at a laughably young age. I was strangely obsessed with Karen Carpenter and her anorexia story, even though I myself have never had an eating disorder.

In pictures and in life, at around age 8, I started noticing that my waist was bigger than those of my friends. I was tiny, but I was already comparing myself to everyone else. I was shorter and thicker than my friends and it bothered me, even then. Before puberty, before boyfriends, I noticed it and it bothered me. And that’s been the case my whole life, even at my absolute fittest.

Wedding Weight

I got married in 2012, and I lost about 12 pounds leading up to my wedding. I’ve since gained nearly all of it back. It took me almost three years, but rest assured, it’s back. At my wedding weight, I was obsessive. I weighed myself literally every day. I monitored all my food. I freaked out if I gained one pound. And still, at my goal weight, I wanted to be shaped differently. I wanted to lose weight in different places. I looked in the mirror and squeezed my belly and wished it would go away. I bought clothes just a tiny bit snug to “motivate me” to lose more. 

10 vanity pounds self image

Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve slowly inched back toward my original weight — a weight I was fine with until I started losing. But I wasn’t until I got hurt that the last 7(ish) pounds brought me back to square one. And it was really bothering me until I realized something I wish I’d realized a long time ago.

The Eye of the Beholder

I realized that my mood was more a determinant of what I saw in the mirror than my weight.

I realized that if I’m feeling good about myself, I look awesome in the mirror at any weight. I realized that 12 pounds ago, I was trapping myself in this paranoid box obsessing about every little thing I ate, and it was sucking the fun out of being a thinner me. Maybe I’ll return to that weight now that I’m back in the gym consistently, and maybe I won’t. Either way though, I want to be HAPPY in my own skin and not constantly monitoring the scale in the crazy, militant way I was 12 pounds ago.

When I look at the pictures from my honeymoon, I might see the slight difference between then and now, but I realize today that I didn’t feel any better about myself back then — and that’s what matters in the end. Back then I felt desperate to hold on to my new thinner body, yet still unsatisfied with it, which made the accomplishment of losing the weight bittersweet. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I’d fantasized I would before I lost it. In fact, at 130 lbs, I felt a little weak and tired and actually chose to put a few pounds back on. 

I realized that I am happier now, not standing on a scale every day, enjoying indulgences in moderation without guilt. I realized that chasing those few vanity pounds just makes me feel bad, and that as long as I am healthy, feel strong in my body, fit into my clothes (which I do), take good care of myself, and enjoy my physical form, that little bit of extra weight doesn’t matter.

In the end, chasing those few pounds doesn’t accomplish anything except self-criticism, but self-acceptance frees up that space in my mind to focus on the things that really matter. Like this guy.

10 vanity pounds self image

Your Challenge

Today I challenge you to appreciate what you have and who you are. I challenge you to be present in the moment and in your body, to love yourself just as you are, to find beauty and gratitude in the mirror. There will always be aspects of our physical form that we wish were different. Some are urgent and real health risks, but some are just a result of early programming and “old habits” that we have the power to undo and free ourselves from.

I challenge you to examine your health and fitness goals and assess what’s real and right for you.

Maybe your high school weight isn’t a realistic goal for you at this point in your life, and getting there would compromise your vibrant health. Maybe you realize that you’ve been ignoring something urgent and finally make the call to your doctor that you’ve been putting off. And maybe, just maybe you realize that what you see in the mirror is a perfect reflection of who you are, and those 10 vanity pounds really don’t matter as much as you thought they did. 

Reconnecting with the Present Moment While Appreciating the Past

It’s been a while since I reflected on the relationships in my life and the value they bring to me and my wellbeing. And in my quest for mindfulness and conscious presence in the life laid before me, I think now is as good a time as any for some reflection. I grew up in Houston, moved to Fort Worth for my first year of college, then to Austin for the rest. I studied abroad in Italy for a semester, then moved to Baltimore, and now I’m here in the SF Bay Area.  While Houston remains my home base and the main hub where I see my family each year at Christmas, I’ve collected friendships in each of the places I’ve lived that contribute to my sweet, rich life on a very regular basis. I have friends I hold dear to my heart in every American time zone (and some abroad too!), and as I get older and life gets busier, maintaining these precious relationships gets harder and harder. 

reconnecting gratitude

the Fab 5 – my grade school posse

 

Growing Up – Or Should I say “Grown Up”

In the last … I don’t know, 3 years? 4 years? … I’ve realized that I’m actually an adult. Yes, I know, I’m 33. I’m a late bloomer that way I guess. My point is that I’m realizing that the life I make here in my new home of California is my actual life — the one I’ve chosen and continue to choose every day I stay — and I only get one. This isn’t a trial run, it’s the real deal. I never felt like I’d stay in Houston, in Austin, in Baltimore forever, and as a result, part of me always felt a little disconnected from where I was — maybe not fully present is a good way to describe it.

I knew I’d move on to find my true home somewhere else, and now that I’ve found it, I’m realizing that I really was connected to those places I left behind. I left behind real, true friends that I carry with me every day in my new home, and I find myself wishing they were here with me. It’s hard to replace those kinds of relationships as an adult. As people get married, have kids, become immersed in their careers, their families, their homes, their pets (I never said I wasn’t immersed too!), the challenge of creating new relationships from scratch becomes greater and greater. At least that’s true for me. 

reconnecting gratitude

Best friends from high school. Pics on the left from 1996 and 2000, pics on the right from 2013

Gratitude

Not everyone is lucky enough to have lifelong friends as I do — keeping in touch through moves across the country, relationships, having kids, break-ups, make-ups, life’s little disasters, and the joys of every day can be a big challenge. But I have been that lucky. I’ve been lucky enough to keep a friendship that started when I was 4 years old long enough and strong enough for us to have been in each other’s weddings in the past few years. I’ve been lucky enough to sustain strong, solid friendships after break ups with amazing people whom I still call my very best friends today. I’ve held on to people I wasn’t sure would want me to when I’ve moved across the country, who’ve surprised me with their consideration and loyalty to our relationship. I’m so impressed with the people in my life, but sometimes it’s easy to take for granted.

reconnecting gratitude

Paige and I have known each other since we were 4 years old. We’ve kept in touch through moves all over the country, even childhood moves.

This post is meant to honor the ones I love in every time zone, whether we talk every week or once a year for hours to catch up. But it’s also meant to recognize that I’ve been chasing relationships in my adult life that mirror these lifelong connections, and maybe that’s not very realistic. Maybe attempting to recreate friendships like these is the wrong goal altogether, and I need to redirect my energy to appreciating the newness of what’s in front of me.

reconnecting gratitude

My wedding day with great friends new and old

Connecting to the Present Moment

Lately, I’ve been focusing so much on the past and the future that I’m missing out on what’s in front of me today, right now. My quest is to appreciate the people around me in more deliberate ways, to appreciate what I have, all the blessings, all the gifts of the universe. It’s true that my friends in every time zone are with me in my heart, but I need to wake myself up to the tangible world in front of me, to the relationships in my life with unrealized potential to flourish and nourish me as a real, bona fide adult person. I need to try harder to build strong foundations here and now, where I am today. 

reconnecting gratitude

the climbing crew

So my promise to myself and to friends new and old is to try harder. To apply myself to our relationships, to express gratitude to the people around me who enrich the life I’ve built. 

Thank you for being you; thank you for making my life a better, richer one; thank you for teaching me something, for learning from me, and for valuing us enough to keep in touch. 

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

We’ve come to the end of another great year, and though it hasn’t been without its twists and turns, I think it’s safe to say that life just keeps getting better. This year, The Year of the Push, included some great adventures, gardening benchmarks, big strides forward with this little blogging project, climbing breakthroughs, new friends, new kinds of fun, and lots and lots of gratitude. 

The Year of the Push

Why am I calling 2014 The Year of the Push?

This year was all about pushing myself. Pushing toward better content for this blog, pushing to grow more food, beauty, and enjoyment on the little piece of the Earth I call home, pushing for creativity in the kitchen, pushing my body to grow stronger, my mind to stretch and expand, and pushing to become more resolved in my path. This is the year of the push because some big decisions have been made, and while life will bring what it will bring, I feel like the decisions I’ve made this year will play a big role in the course of what’s to come in 2015 and beyond. (Of course, other decisions are still being put off, but hey no one’s perfect, right?)

growth

 

The Blog Push

I started this blog in late 2013, and in the early part of last year I took a blogging class at The Grotto in San Francisco with Meghan Ward of Writerland. This class lasted 6 weeks, and I was literally the only person who attended every single class. I dedicated myself to the project of learning everything I could about the art and business of blogging, about how to become a better writer, how to engage on social media, how to monetize, how to build an audience, and how to promote my work. It was in this class that I constructed my most popular post to date, which has had a total of 7,181 views since March. I learned that I actually wanted to do what was required to build a great blog — something I learned I wasn’t ready to do with a budding music career in my mid-20’s — and I also learned that I needed to have a product or service to go along with it. I wasn’t ready to create another “job” for myself in March when I finished this class, but ideas began percolating in my mind. I decided it was time to push forward with this blog, to make it stand out and really represent my passions in a way that would help people make positive changes in their own lives. I finished this class determined to write an eBook by the end of 2014, and in a few months, Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-free Living was published. 

GlutenFreeLiving_BookCover

BlogHer14

My next blogging push was after attending BlogHer14 this summer. I shared how much I learned at BlogHer in a previous post, so I won’t go into that. But again, I was confronted with the need for a service to enhance my site and reach more people. On Pathfinder Day, the group leaders taught us how to weave our services into our elevator pitch, and I found myself hesitant and afraid to commit. I considered my first job out of grad school as a weight loss coach and all the experience I gained both working there and also as a wellness coach on my own before that. I considered how fun it was to create the “typical days” and recipes in my eBook, and thought about what it might look like to offer coaching and meal plans through CWB. All these remained considerations until a few months ago when I launched my new services. I’m thrilled to share some of the client feedback so far: 

“After two weeks on my personalized CWB meal plan, I felt far less bloated and was wasting far less food each week. After three weeks and incorporating bone broth in the morning, I felt great and started getting complements on my complexion. Thanks so much! You rock!” 
-Michelle, Seattle
 
“Toni is extremely knowledgeable about anything to do with health. I consulted Toni on all aspects of nutrition, including exercise, hormones, portions, etc. Thanks to Toni, I am making healthier decisions, and having fun while I’m at it!”
-Nahal, Oakland
 
“My coaching calls with Toni gave me something to look forward to each week, as I had a caring coach in Toni that wanted me to succeed just as much as I did!”
– Lisa, Houston
 
Coaching PromoDex3
 
I’m now taking clients for 2015, but hurry because space is limited! I offer FREE initial consults, and am excited to help you make your New Year’s Resolutions a reality. 

The Garden Push

In 2013, our back yard was the big focus of our gardening efforts. This year we completely revamped the front yard, tearing out all the grass and replacing it with both edible and decorative plants. We built beds out of golden flagstones and covered the walkways between them with river rocks and pea gravel. It was back-breaking labor, but we pushed to do it all ourselves, clearing the sod, laying the weed paper, building the beds, filling them with dirt, folding in the fertilizer and compost, and eventually choosing and planting our crops. My first attempt to grow food from seeds was a mix of success and failure, but overall we had a great summer crop (in front AND back). This experience has taught me about powdery mildew, the importance of attracting bees for fertilization, how to grow better tomatoes by NOT watering them, and the impact slugs can have on collard greens and other crucifers. 

We worked on our front yard over the course of a few weekends and even some evenings during the week. We were determined to get it done in time to plant for the season, and since the initial construction and planting, have harvested those crops and planted new ones for the colder months. It’s been such an awesome journey to learn and trouble shoot out there, and I’ve really enjoyed all of it; the good and the bad. While having my own garden is fulfilling a deep need in my soul all on its own, a bonus dose of personal accomplishment came when our garden won a contest at Edible Landscape Design shortly after we finished up. The front yard garden push was absolutely worth it. Food from our garden is at least a part of nearly every meal we make, and knowing that we grew our food makes it that much more delicious.

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

 

The Push to Climb

Climbing is more of a pulling action than a pushing one, but when it comes to the mental and emotional challenges that often accompany this sport, pushing myself is almost an understatement. I’ve shared the personal challenges I’ve experienced this year in anticipation of certain climbing adventures, and all the great things I’ve learned since I’ve started working at this amazing sport. I’ve now been climbing for a little over three years, and I am still very much a beginner. I had a look at last year’s Recap post, and I have to admit, some of those goals didn’t happen (…ahem, 10 pull-ups, ahem…) but those goals aren’t off the table for this year. As soon as I can get this wrist healed up, I’m getting back on the pull-up wagon. And I have to say that just before I got injured, I was leading harder than ever (child’s play for most of my friends, but a big deal to me), and I plan to get right back out there as soon as humanly possible. Having to hold back lately has been a challenge, but in the end, making sure I don’t re-injure myself is more important than the few weeks I’m missing. 

VANNNNNN!!

Vanna White is a major prop in my push to climb in 2015, because she will make trips possible that might not have been possible before, and she’ll provide me with a more comfortable night’s sleep (thereby taking away any opportunity for me to complain about being tired from sleeping on the ground or being cold). All this is to say that I’ve never been so excited about a purchase in my entire life. 

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

Climbing this year was amazing. We spent a week in Squamish, 22 non-consecutive days in Yosemite, took a trip to Bishop, one to JTree, and a few to Sonora. We also made our way to a local spot or too, and I even got my dad back out on the rock, this time watching him succeed on his first Yosemite crack climb, Claud’s Delight. With the exception of some mild hyperventilation (which he concealed well), he rocked it! (featured on the bottom right.) 

2014 Recap: The Year of the Push

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A Look Ahead

2014 was a great year, but I’m truly excited for what’s in store for 2015. I’m eager to see what’s to come with my budding business, what kitchen alchemy I’ll create to share with you on these virtual pages, what adventures in the back yard and out in the wilderness there will be to share as we move through time and space together. I’m so grateful to all of you for following me on this path to health, happiness and personal fulfillment. I hope that what you read here helps you find your way. Every time I learn what a new reader experiences at CWB, I’m overcome with joy and deeply thankful that you share it with me. 

Here’s to a new year of sweet, rich adventure!

 Dexter New Year (1)

 

 

 

Listening to Your Body

Sometimes life throws a little curve ball and derails your plans for a while. 

I’d been experiencing some pain in my right wrist a few weeks before our big climbing trip to Red Rocks Canyon for Thanksgiving, and of course I climbed on it anyway for 3 days outside. Then when we returned home, I continued to climb at the gym for another week or so before finally admitting something just wasn’t right. I worked on it with arnica oil stretching it gently, made sure not to type for really long stretches, and I went to see Andreea, my magic body worker over at Hibiscus Spa. When even she couldn’t completely eliminate the pain, I decided to go to a chiropractor who immediately diagnosed me with tendonitis and said no climbing or TRX for 3 weeks. Ugh. I almost panicked when I heard that I’d be out for at least that long. Reluctantly, I agreed and started the compression/heat/ice + turmeric + magnesium recommended by my chiro and my acupuncturist, and I’ve been going completely stir crazy with relative inactivity. 

Everything’s Connectedlistening to your body

To be honest, I think this little injury might be my body telling me that it’s time to chill for a while. This time of year, the sun goes down earlier (or stays hidden all day), the days are colder, and here in the Bay Area we’ve been getting a lot of rain. That’s sort of a recipe for chill-time, even if it feels forced by the weather or an injury.

I’ve been working with an acupuncturist on my hand too, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is a time to strengthen the kidneys. This involves rest, looking inward, personal reflection, meditation, writing, and gentle movements like Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I’ve been in the contemplation stages of starting a meditation practice for quite some time now. The furthest I’ve gotten with it is to sit for 10 minutes before I get out of bed. I think I’ve done that a handful of times, but have mostly just hit the snooze button lately. Maybe now’s the time, since even if I do go for a run it will take far less time than climbing does every day. Maybe it’s time to incorporate a few minutes of meditation into my evenings. 

Little Voices: Letting go of Fear

I tend to resist letting up on my work out schedule this time of year, no matter how hectic it gets. With all the extra goodies lying around and the desserts that seem to come at the end of every meal shared with friends or family, I can still hear the little voices in my head from long ago telling me that if I let up, I’ll blow up like a balloon. In general, I’d categorize my body image as above average, but that’s after many years of unhealthy self-criticism.  Last year, my husband and I were climbing outside on Christmas Eve. It was amazing and not at all motivated by a fear of blowing up like a balloon, but I tell you to illustrate my point (and to show you exactly how frustrating it is to be out for three weeks). But sometimes it just is what it is, and I have to let go of that fear and do the best I can. I can accept that if it’s temporary. (I’m sure you can tell I’m struggling with this.) To be perfectly honest, I use to HATE the phrase “it is what it is,” but I think I understand it more fully now than I have in the past. 

listening to your body

Listening to Your Body

Sometimes it feels easier to be tough on yourself than it does to give yourself permission to breathe and relax. We get so wound up with work expectations, family expectations, and personal expectations, that if we slip up, our first reaction is to beat ourselves up about it. This time of year can come with a lot of pressure — some we might not even realize is there until we snap at our partner or have a little road rage over something silly. Just bringing awareness to the possibility that we might be feeling some pressure right now could be what we need to diffuse it. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling aches and pains, if you’re hitting snooze a few more times than normal, if you’re catching yourself with clenched fists, take a break. Talk to a friend. Go to lunch alone and have some quiet time. Take a few breaths, clear your mind, and let yourself relax without judgement or thinking that you should be doing something else right now. We all deserve some time to slow down and reflect. 

 

 

‘Tis the Season: 5 Ways to Foster Gratitude

With Thanksgiving around the corner and the gift-giving season shortly to follow, it seems like the right time to reflect on the value of gratitude and how we might better practice it in our daily lives.

The Value of Gratitude

It’s easy to guess why consciously seeking gratitude might be beneficial for our mood and overall outlook on life. If you’re envisioning reasons to be grateful, then you’re likely remembering or even reliving the joy you experienced from the original source of gratitude.

“Expressing gratitude for life’s blessings (a sense of
wonder, thankfulness and appreciation) is likely to elevate
positive affect for a number of reasons. Grateful thinking
fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations,
so that people can extract the maximum possible satisfaction
and enjoyment from their circumstances.”
                                                        –Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006

fostering gratitude

I’m grateful for these two buddies and perfect days like this one

I absolutely love this idea, and am ready to choose the joy that conscious gratitude will bring into my life. It can be challenging to remember to be grateful if you don’t create a practice around it — it fact, it’s much easier to notice all the things going wrong in day-to-day life. It’s easy to get bogged down by traffic and family drama and stress at work and holiday shopping lists and ridiculously expensive trips to the grocery store. All these little nuisances can add up to a complete gratitude void if you aren’t careful and conscious. 

5 Ways to Foster Gratitude

Part of the value of gratitude is the idea that being present is part of the practice. Taking yourself out of an habitually negative mindset requires an active decision, a decisive effort. That’s what I mean when I say to create a practice out of it. There are countless ways to do this. Here are five:

Create a list of events/things from your day to be grateful for before you go to bed each night

This is not a new one, but it’s still worth mentioning. I keep a little notepad by my bed so that I can jot down last-minute thoughts and to-do’s as they pop into my mind as I’m falling asleep. Back in the day when I played music, some good lyrics would come up right around this time of night. It’s a super practical tool, but shifting it from a subconscious “to-do” to a fully conscious “have-done” list of gratitude for my day would at the very least mean a couple of minutes of reflection on the good stuff right before bed. That type of reflection will remind me the next day to notice even more reasons to be grateful. I might even find myself looking forward to making my list.

Consciously re-frame something that you initially perceived as negative into an opportunity to be grateful

fostering gratitiude

We missed the ferry by 2 minutes and had to wait 3 hours for the next one in a 1-street town that only existed because of the ferry stop. So we picked 3 pounds of blackberries that we ate for the whole next week of the trip to the Sunshine Coast. Free food on a trip that was more expensive than we’d planned! The owner at our B&B gave us lactose-free ice cream to go with them that night too!

Like I noted before, it’s tempting to focus on the things going wrong around us, the disruptive parts of our day that ruin our plans or frustrate us. The parking at work, the mud tracked in after all this rain, the grey skies. But there’s always a silver lining, and amid whatever you perceive to be going wrong in your life today or in general, there is always something going well too, something to be grateful for, or at the very least something to learn. How can we spin the things we perceive as disruptive into something to be grateful for? Those mud tracks and grey skies mean more water in our reservoirs when we’re in a state of drought. They mean less water we’re using to water our plants. Those are things to be thankful for! 

Seek out something/someone to appreciate

Start the day by committing to genuinely thank at least one person you come into contact with (especially those in the service industry, and especially this time of year). The act of kindness and expression of gratitude will not only bring you joy, it will spread to your cashier or server, to your mail man or bus driver, and the flow of gratitude will grow into something larger than you. If we’re actively seeking positivity around us, if we’re actively looking for the silver lining or the reasons to be grateful for the people and things in our lives, the possibilities of what we could do are limitless. 

Resist the urge to complain

You’d be surprised at how much complaining can bring you down. And it actually bring the people around you down too. We all know that one person, the one down the hall at work or that one family member, who can manage to turn every situation into a reason to complain. The one who sends their food back over and over, complains about every little change in procedure, or unloads their whole miserable life on you first thing at 8am as you put your bag down on your desk. Do you find yourself avoiding those people, or do you join in and start volleying your own complaints into the mix? If you choose the latter, how do you feel when you’re finished complaining? My guess is not better. 

I learned about a pretty neat little device at a wellness event I attended at Sonoma Valley Hospital a few months back. It’s up to you whether or not you try this, but it sounds like it worked like a charm for the folks who did it there with incidents of complaining dramatically decreasing over the course of just a week or two. Wear a bracelet on your wrist and switch it to the other arm every time you catch yourself complaining. It’s a simple little reminder not to complain, and it also helps create awareness and conscious presence in your day-to-day life. Try it, see what you think!

Write Thank You notes

fostering gratitude

Be honest, did you roll your eyes at this one?

In this day and age, a paper thank you note seems silly to most of us. But guess what, it’s not silly at all to the person receiving it. The effect of writing a thank you note is a lot like the effect of thanking your server. It feels good to write out the nice things someone has done for you, and it feels good to be on the receiving end of those thank you’s. A fun twist on this expression of gratitude is to thank someone for something small. Thank you notes aren’t just reserved for wedding and shower gifts. You can send a thank you note to someone who made your day last week by sharing a hilarious cat .gif when you were on the verge of tears. Or to someone who helped you sort through a problem that you really needed to talk about out loud. Try it. And include those sweet people on your list of things to be grateful for too. 

Your turn

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving week?

Please share in the comments below.

My First Internet Troll: Life Lessons for a Blogger

For the first time since I started this blog, I experienced a troll on one of my social media outlets. I don’t want to get too specific because I don’t think it’s worth engaging in it anymore. But I do have to admit that I took the bait when it first happened, and it bothered me enough to blog about it — which I’m doing right now.

I posted something about coconut oil for topical use, and this person completely hijacked the conversation, stating that eating coconut oil and other saturated fats was terrible for heart health, and that instead we should be eating soy and corn oil and more polyunsaturated fatty acids.

  • He likened following traditional diet practices to following a cult.
  • He said that the folks who’ve influenced and inspired my view of healthy eating were “wannabe nutritionists” and hacks.
  • He dismissed a highly regarded meta-analysis that casts serious doubt on the validity of the claim that ‘saturated fat causes heart disease.’
  • He said that the only valid research on this topic is from the 80’s before drugs like Lipotor came out and confounded all the evidence, so was unable to cite any new research to support his claims.
  • Then he said that he hoped that I’d “see the light” before it was too late and I died of CVD (cardiovascular disease) later in life.

This person was a doctor.

life lessons internet trolls

“internet troll” by Eirik Solheim sourced through Creative Commons

People on the thread were thanking him for clarifying “confusing information on healthy fats,” and I just couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to say anything, but the thread was growing and more people started engaging this guy, asking him to share his research and saying they were happy that he could clarify what the “right” food choices were. He cited a website with an intentionally anonymous author and said that this nameless person was the expert on understanding hard scientific evidence and debunking diet trends. The website he referred to has a stated vegan agenda. When I quoted a study that he’d shared through this anonymously sourced website as evidence for my argument and asked him to respond, he ignored me and continued to spew. It was clear that he didn’t want to have a conversation; he wanted to hijack my thread and make it about him and his “expertise” on the topic of CVD and dietary saturated fat. 

Choosing Your Battles

Over the course of my life, I’ve struggled with keeping my mouth shut at appropriate times, knowing (or not knowing) when to leave well enough alone, recognizing a futile argument when I see one, etc.

I was absolutely and fully sucked in to the “liberal college kid” syndrome. You know the one where you leave home for the first time and realize that everyone in your family is a conservative freak? And you simply MUST take it upon yourself to start every idealist liberal argument that comes up vaguely at the Thanksgiving dinner table your first visit home during freshman year? The one where you develop shiny new principled views on every social justice issue from racism to transgender issues to homelessness and the environmental atrocities taking place in your home state of Texas? Yes, that one. That passionate sense of injustice for anyone who’s ever been subjugated or persecuted fills you with rage to the point that you develop a ridiculous notion of personal responsibility to educate the world through teenage activism in the form of calling your republican father a bigot at Christmas. Yes, I did that. I got a bit carried away at times. I yelled. I cried. I slammed doors. I picked up my plate and moved. Yes, I did all that. I was experiencing growing pains, and so were the members of my family victims.

In my adult life, I’ve tried to tone it down a bit. I recognize that I live in the “Bay Area bubble,” and as a result can have some unrealistic expectations of what should go on around me and in the country in general. I also recognize that I chose to live here, in part to surround myself with people more like me. I don’t think those causes that impassioned me in college are unimportant, I’m just an adult now and can temper my emotions and talk to people like a person instead of like a lunatic.

That being said, I make it a conscious practice to empathize and try to recognize that everyone’s viewpoint comes from somewhere, whether I agree with it or not. In fact, I was talking about this very concept with an old friend just a couple of days ago before this troll entered my consciousness. I sometimes forget that there are people in this world who don’t strive for that sense of personal growth at all and in fact thrive on antagonistic commentary, especially online where they can safely hide behind the computer screen. Some people aren’t interested in anything but getting a rise out of people. 

Over the course of this online conversation, my emotions ranged from righteousness to despair, with temporary confusion, frustration, incredulity, and powerlessness peppering between the extremes. I finally realized that it wasn’t worth it. I had to just let it go. This person was citing an anonymous blogger while simultaneously making ad hominem arguments against well-respected doctors, scientists, and nutrition experts. How is that fair? But more importantly, what does it matter? 

life lessons internet trolls

Life Lesson: Let it Go

I was tempted to use this blog post today to discredit this troll’s nutrition claims point by point. In fact, I started out writing with that intention in mind — to create a list of my own bullet points countering each of the claims I enumerated in the list above. But I’ve decided against it. Instead of making this post about nutrition and saturated fat (which was NOT what my original post on social media was about in the first place!) I’m making this post about Life Lessons.

What can we take away from experiences like the one I just described?

Sometimes it can be really hard to rise above conflict when there’s a core principle involved. (And as I illustrated through my inelegant college-aged outbursts, I tend toward “principled” in general.) Sometimes it’s actually worth it to engage. But most of the time it’s not, and experience and time might be the only way to learn the difference.

I am still learning.

My hope is that as this blog grows and more people read and experience the benefits of enjoying life with

  • real food
  • a real sense of purpose
  • a creative endeavor
  • mindfulness
  • movement
  • authentic experiences with nature

the power these trolls have will fall away. (There are my counterpoints!) Because truly, that list of emotions I ran through up there? Despair? Powerlessness? The only person making me feel those feelings was me. I allowed some random person I will never meet to cause me distress and self-doubt (and make me late for work). That was me that did that. Not him. I chose to respond and I chose to let it get to me.

And now I’m choosing to rise above it and turn it into something I can use and learn from and share with you. Maybe I should be thanking him for giving me my first trolling experience. I am too old to have experienced any real cyber-bullying, so I guess this is as close as it gets. So my advice, my lesson is to sit back and decide what’s worth arguing for and what’s worth letting go. Decide who deserves your energy; who deserves your attention; who’s worth your time. And if a stranger with bad information and a chip on his shoulder doesn’t fit into any of those categories, just let it go.

Life Lessons: When your Furry Friend Rebels

Lessons in unconditional love often come from our furry friends. They tend to test us, especially when they have excited barfing problems and issues with people wearing hats — or people who are afraid of them that they feel compelled to bark at and make it worse. I have no children, but this little devil is the closest thing to them, and boy does she test the boundaries sometimes.

Due in part to the fact that we’ve created a cuddly monster who lives in our house and gets away with far more than she should, Dexter sometimes steps over the line from adorable to evil, and boy oh boy did she do it this week. This post is a story of rage patience and is also an excuse to show you more pictures and video of Dexter. #Dexterlove. (Side note: I might be starting a Dexter tumblr. If you have an opinion on this, please leave it in the comments!)

#DexterLoveBedwetting: It’s worse than you think

I have been furious at Dexter to the point of nearly seeing red exactly twice. The first time was a few years back when we were experimenting with allowing her to hang out alone in the house uncrated. She’d had a few run-ins with couch cushions, which were frustrating but repairable, but one day, she took it to the next level. She went upstairs, jumped on our brand new Keetsa mattress (the kind that you can’t flip over), dug a hole in it, and peed in the hole. 

Yes, she did that. In fact, here’s a picture of it. The little jerk tore right through the sheets too. 

dexter loveI was gone for less than an hour. I had to run to the store just a couple of blocks away to get one thing, and I came home to find chunks of our brand new memory foam mattress strewn all over the bed and floor, some of which were soaked with pee. 

I was ready to MURDER her — completely lost it. I yelled, I screamed, I pushed her face in it and said, “NO!” even though I know that doesn’t work and you’re not supposed to do that and she probably had no understanding of why I was so upset. I didn’t care, I was furious. I had no self-control whatsoever, no ability to be reasonable and recognize that she’s just a dog and sometimes dogs do things they shouldn’t do. At the time, she was only 2.5 years old. We might have been a little optimistic thinking she was ok to leave uncrated… back in the crate she went.

I ended up spraying down the hole itself and all the foam chunks with Nature’s Miracle (affiliate link), letting it all dry out, stuffing everything back in, and using the fabric from a Keetsa pillow (which matched the mattress) to sew it up. It’s my side of the bed and I sleep on it every night. Anyway, that was the first time I wanted to strangle this adorable smooshy creature.

dexter love

The second time, I was a little more in control of my rage, even though this offense was almost equally horrifying. Now that she’s 5 years old and has figured out how to use the doggy door, Dexter has been staying home alone a few days a week with total success.

Until this weekend…

Dexter Shaming

dexter love life lessons for a pet owner

Yes, she did that.

Garden Destruction

As you know from the various posts I’ve shared about gardening, it brings me great joy and fulfillment to be able to create a beautiful, edible landscape around my house. It’s fun, it’s outside, it’s manual labor, it’s creating food for our family, and it requires problem-solving skills, patience, and persistence. I’ve also learned a LOT about how to grow food. It’s a huge part of my and my husband’s lives and a big source of happiness for us. Lucky for Dexter, we’ve covered most of the property with edible plants, so this one major offense didn’t devastate our entire supply, but it was a doozy to say the least.

Dexter started her acts of terror on Friday when she jumped into our large two-tiered planter box and went to town on the dirt and plants in the front. She dug frantically (the only way she knows how) leaving huge holes and killing about 12 plants, including onions, red lettuce, and chard. We cleaned that up, added a few barriers for her (which have been successful EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE GARDEN!), and when we left her for a few hours on Sunday, she jumped over the barriers and dug up everything she’d missed the first time, including our super productive green bean plants that have been going strong all summer and probably had at least a month left in them.

That was the kicker.

The green beans did me in. Fury, rage, incredulity that this dog who will literally not step over a 1-foot barrier anywhere else in the yard would LEAP over a 3 food barrier to further destroy things — it was all too much. I was ready for someone to take her away forever! We tried to get her to go near the destruction and spray her with a water bottle so she’d associate the two. Not sure if that’s the right thing to do, but we tried it. We put up a little baby gate thing so that the next time we leave her home, she can get outside along the side of the house but not into the back yard where all the food is.

dexter love life lessons for a pet owner

Full Disclosure: I didn’t have a recent picture of this year’s crop, so the top one is from last year. I just wanted to give you an idea of the level of destruction. The gaping hole in the bottom picture is where the glorious green beans used to be.

Life Lesson: How to avoid murdering your dog

For my own satisfaction but certainly not to teach her anything she was capable of learning, I gave her the silent treatment for about an hour. She knew I was mad, but surely not why. She hid between the coffee table and the couch and looked up at me every time I passed by, and I tried not to look back. (This is after I stared her down shamefully upon seeing the destruction.) After a few passes, I looked. And there she was, being cute. My heart softened. I couldn’t help it. I mean, look at her. She’s ridiculous looking! So here’s how I handled not murdering my devilish little dog:

  1. Stare down from hell.
  2. Silent treatment for an hour.
  3. Succumb to the cuteness and finally hug her while saying mean things in a cute voice that she’ll never understand, such as
    • “I’m going to take you to the kill shelter you little weenie!”
    • “Why do you have to be the worst cutest dog ever?” 
    • “What is wrong with your little dumb brain that you could do that?”
    • “Why do you have to look like this? I’d just give you away if you didn’t look like this.”
    • “You’re lucky I’m still gonna feed you.”

You get the idea. Obviously, this is not advice for parenting humans. 🙂 It might not even be advice at all actually, just what I did to make myself feel better. It might be weird, but it definitely helped (as making a joke out of something crappy usually does), and I was able to avoid raging on her like I have in the past. I’d call that progress. 

dexter love life lessons for a pet owner

… and they lived happily ever after

BONUS VIDEO!

Dexter might be 5 years old, but she still has the energy of a puppy, and will often completely freak out when we get home. Here’s an example. Enjoy!

 

 


 FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Flashback: Deep Water Soloing in Railay

IMG_1235

Two years ago this past July, Loren and I went to Thailand and Cambodia for our honeymoon. We couldn’t wait to get out of town after our much-anticipated wedding day, but most importantly, we couldn’t wait to climb in another country! We did some climbing at Crazy Horse just outside of Chiang Mai, but the last week of the trip included climbing nearly every day in Railay on the giant limestone towers that cordon off the entire peninsula, rendering it completely isolated from the rest of the country. There’s no motorized transportation, just foot traffic. The “island” (as the locals call it) is entirely walkable. Every morning, I’d make breakfast while Loren walked down to the coffee shop for Thai iced coffees. We’d finish our breakfast and head to the rock. 

Railay Breakfast

Loren enjoying a breakfast of shrimp fried rice with an egg on top and fresh mango with homemade coconut sauce. Oh yeah, and that Thai iced coffee right there on the left made every day that much better.

Quick Sidenote:

As you might have already noticed, this is a new kind of post I’m sharing with you today — a “flashback” about something from the past that happened before I started blogging. This particular story involves learning some life lessons while experiencing something extraordinarily scary. It’s also an excuse to share photos of beautiful summer days in Thailand to facilitate some happy daydreaming on this cloudy day. I have a few ideas for this type of post floating around in my mind, so stay tuned for more Flashbacks as I further develop the idea. I hope you enjoy these occasional blasts from the past!

deep water soloing in Thailand

Deep Water Soloing in Railay 

One of those wonderful, sunny mornings, we boarded a small boat with a group of climbers in search of an incredible adventure. Headed out to the ocean where huge rocks jut straight up out of the water, we planned to swim over, climb up, and jump off. This type of climbing deep water soloing involves climbing as high as you can and then jumping into the water (or falling if you are brave enough to push yourself to your max). For those of you non-climbers reading this, “soloing” means climbing without a rope. 

deep water soloing in Railay, Thailand

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

I was scared. 

There’s no rope, and since you’re wet from swimming to the rock itself, no chalk. We were also in borrowed climbing shoes. Sheesh!

Some of my favorite memories in the world are of jumping off of rocks and bouldering back up in Pace Bend Park just outside of Austin, TX when I was in college, but this was an entirely different beast. These rocks were completely vertical (some overhanging) and much, much higher. I had to psyche myself up just to get out of the boat! One woman in our crew was completely unable to pull herself up the rope ladder in order to climb the rock at all, just to give you an idea of what we were getting into. 

deep water soloing in Railay, Thailand

Lucky for me, I have a husband who’s part human, part lizard (that’s him up there!), so after a bit of deliberation, I just sucked it up and followed him up the ladder and onto the rock.

Life Lesson#1: Fear can cloud your judgement and cause you to think less of yourself or your ability. Sometimes it helps to have someone around whom you trust to help push you out of your comfort zone.

Just believing that my brand new husband wouldn’t encourage me to do something he didn’t think I could do was enough to get me out of the boat and up the ladder. I’d been preparing for the climbing portion of our honeymoon for 6 months at that point. That had to count for something! I was still a beginner, but not a bad climber. I just needed to try. That was it. I did it, and it was awesome!

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

I drew the line on height before my climbing ability was exhausted, however. See that guy at the very top? He got up there at the beginning of the day and literally refused to jump the whole time. He ended up down climbing a bit and jumping from a lower point — a much more dangerous choice than just jumping. I didn’t want to end up in his shoes, or worse, slip and hurt myself on our honeymoon. 

Deep Water Soloing on Make A Gif

That’s me! (photo credit: Chris Bechtel)

Life Lesson #2: Make a new experience your own and take everything there is to take from it. 

The way I worded that sounds selfish, but that’s really not where I’m going. How I maximized my experience on this amazing trip was defined by me, and I took from that everything I could. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t climb as hard as some other folks on the trip, because I did what I could and I had so much fun doing it. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t do everything that Loren did; in fact, I’ll never be the climber he is, and that’s fine. It’s not about comparing myself to others or feeling less than because of a difference in skill or fear factor. I literally didn’t stop being scared the whole time I was on the rock, and it was still one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a once in a lifetime adventure that I’ll never forget, because it pushed me outside my comfort zone and forced me to face fear. I showed myself what I could do with wet hands and shoes on a wet rock 30 feet above crashing waves in the Andaman Sea. I’ll take it!

——>Check out my post on facing fear in climbing<——

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

At the end of the day, our honeymoon trip will go down as one of the most fantastic travel experiences of my life. We visited ancient temples, rode elephants and bathed them in the river, climbed world class rock, had this amazing soloing adventure off the coast of Railay, watched an MMA fight and fire throwers, and most importantly, we got $6 massages and drank coconut shakes almost every single day of the 21 day trip. 

Oh yeah, and after our deep water soloing day, Loren looked like this.  IMG_1198

Life Moves Pretty Fast …

I started this post yesterday morning, but I was too in shock to finish it until today.


Yesterday I had a meeting with a coworker and friend to work on a welcome letter for new mothers returning to work, inviting them to use our lactation services and private rooms. We talked for about an hour, then I went home to let Dexter out and start dinner. Last night, she and her husband were in a horrific car crash and her husband died. She was seriously injured but is back at home now.

The title of this post, a reference from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, isn’t meant to be trite, it’s meant absolutely literally (even if the grammar is bad). It’s taken from a movie I watched over and over again as a kid and could recite verbatim in its entirety, and it couldn’t be more true with each passing day.

We take so much for granted. We text in the car or flip to the next podcast. We forget to call someone back thinking that there’s always tomorrow. We waste time watching TV or flipping through Facebook, but the truth is, every single minute of our lives is a gift. There’s no guarantee that there will be a tomorrow. All we have is the moment we’re in, and how we choose to live it is up to us.

We sat in her office together while she ate her lunch, talking about her work with the passion that she always does. She ate a salad for lunch with cucumbers, a peach, and an avocado; she dug the seeds out with her fingernail, chopped it all up right on her desk, and wiped her hands on her skirt. It was a normal day. She hugged me goodbye, and I left. That was it, no big deal. Nothing new.

Except that everything changed on a dime a few short hours later.

I didn’t know her husband, but all day yesterday, I could feel my brain rejecting the truth of his death. Almost as if I was in denial for her. Hoping that the news report was wrong, that really he was in the ER and had a chance. He wasn’t and doesn’t. He was 47 years old, and they have three children.

I’m sorry to write such a sad impromptu post, but as we are all about to enter into a long holiday weekend – a weekend intended for fun, but when accidents often happen – I wanted to take the time to remind you how precious and fragile our lives are.

I’m headed to Yosemite, and while I’m always careful, I plan to be extra diligent about safety on the rock this weekend. Please don’t jump into water unless you know how deep it is. Please don’t drink and drive. Please don’t set off fireworks in unsafe areas or start a fire in a risky spot in the forest. Please don’t leave your kids unattended by a pool. Please let your passenger navigate, and keep your hands off your phone while you’re driving.

And enjoy what you have. Appreciate those you love. Call an old friend, your sister, your mother, and really be present in the conversation. Take the time.

My intention isn’t to be scary or dismal. It’s to encourage you to LIVE, and to remind myself that every single person and thing in my life is a blessing to be cherished. 

Thanks for reading, and please be safe this weekend.

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