Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday season, and I absolutely love the holiday season. My favorite, hands down, is Christmas. I'm a sucker for glitter, and lights, and, most of all, love.  Unfortunately, for the last six weeks I have been sick. First it was an inflamed larynx, and now a sinus infection. I am not at all fibbing when I tell you that I have never in my thirty years of existence been sick for this length of time. However, I am also not fibbing when I tell you that I believe everything happens for a reason. At this particular moment in my life, I am sure, for several reasons, that I am supposed to be seriously slowing down and taking care of myself first, and I have to confess that even with being sick, I haven't been fully doing this. So, the Universe has a funny way of making things happen sometimes.

As a result of being run-down and ill, I will not be traveling to visit my family tomorrow, nor will I be going to anyone else's festivities; I'm simply not able to really function and am in dire need of rest. I admit I am nervous to be alone tomorrow. However, I have to remind myself that there are places nearby I can go if I so desire, and families I can join if I suddenly feel well. More importantly though, I need to remind myself that simply because I may be physically alone on Thanksgiving, that doesn't mean that I will be emotionally alone, it doesn't mean I am not loved, and it especially doesn't mean that I will be spiritually alone. If you are celebrating your gratitude in solitude as well, I believe this is the same for all of us.

Therefore, on this Thanksgiving, I am choosing to remind myself of how grateful I am that love exists as a guidepost in my life. I'm forever trying to stay guided by it ("trying" being the key word as I'm only human!) It is this that has allowed me to have amazing relationships with people and to continue to grow and have even better relationships as a result. Loving connections and relationships are what it's all about anyway. 

Have a beautiful holiday, and let us all remember what we are grateful for.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Today's quote

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky." (Rabindranath Tagore)

Several years ago, to me, life seemed like a succession of painful occurrences, or storms, dotted with tiny bits of hyperactivity and elation. My perception of reality was totally screwed up, and I couldn't seem to figure out how to be happy or calm. Then, I finally found a way. Since then, life has become a series of moments, some up, some down, some in between, but all contributing to a greater sense of peace and contentment. 

The "clouds" of life these days help me practice acceptance and love, the sunshine helps me practice gratitude, and all of it helps me to grow. Sometimes a shift in perception and the willingness to see and do things differently can take you in a completely new direction. If you are feeling lost or unhappy, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find." This quote has not been repeated a trillion times for nothing. Time and time again, those who truly ask and seek, do find. The answers probably won't come to you in the way that you think, but they will come in whatever way you can take them in (this is why there are a million forms of spiritual discovery), because we are all meant to be happy and know love.

Today, I thank the Universe for my life and hope that I can do a lot of good with it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Law & Order addict

Lately, when I want to blow off steam and need a little brain candy, I will turn on Law & Order. Although I always thought that these criminal investigation shows were, for the most part, harmless to me, I have had my suspicions. For example, why is it that sometimes, when I am alone after watching the show, I will suddenly have to run from the kitchen straight into my bedroom and turn on the light as quickly as possible with my heart thumping in order to avoid being in the dark for too long? Or, why do I flinch when I am lying in bed and hear an odd sound come from the other room and think to myself, "Has a rapist broken in?"

In all seriousness, I really believe that our minds process these scary stories that we expose ourselves to and integrate them into our consciousness. To give another example, it seems that the more often I watch a show like Law & Order, the more frequently my mind is quick to recall a violent image I have seen when something in the real world is similar to it or triggers it. 

If I think about what I know about my own mind just from my own experience, without going into the research (which I am sure would support my theory), it points to the idea that what we repeatedly expose ourselves to is likely to have an effect on the way our minds work and how we feel. For example, all of the times in my life when I have practiced using an affirmation, I saw a clear and distinct infiltration of the saying's meaning into my actions and thoughts. These two experiences, the negative impact of watching Law & Order on my nerves and the positive effects of affirmations on my thoughts, lead me to believe that not only does what I allow to repeatedly surround me impact my emotions and thoughts, but that I also need to stop watching so much Law & Order.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

Today is a day for sending out tons of love and I'll be doing just that. I am especially thinking of those who lost someone. I hope they know they are not alone. When someone is lost through an act of fear, we all - the whole world - bear that loss.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are you an organ donor?

My birthday is in three days, so tonight I was filling out a driver's license renewal form when there it was, the "Be An Organ Donor" signature line. I felt very uncomfortable leaving it blank, yet I felt equally uncomfortable signing it. I sat there for a good twenty minutes...somewhere caught in the middle.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit this because I try to aim for living a spiritually generous life, and what could be more generous than giving a part of your life to someone else so that they can live? Or, so they can at least live better? However, the idea of people cutting into my body and taking parts of it left me feeling anxious and, honestly, a little sad. I felt suspicious of what they would do with my organs, scared that I wouldn't be treated with respect, and also had this feeling of anticipated loss (a feeling my current self was feeling for my deceased self, if that makes any sense). At the same time, I was so intrigued that I felt such attachment towards, and protective of, my body! After all, I knew that I did want to give of myself to another person in this way. And, mentally, I was aware that it is just a body. I am not my body; I am the spiritual force within it.

So, I enlisted the support of a few people to help me come to my senses. After sending a random text to my mother asking, "Are you an organ donor?" She replied yes and then when I told her my apprehension about donating she explained, "Your body is just a vehicle for your soul...So many people could benefit." 

Then, later on, my friend told me that her father's eyes were donated when he passed away. Afterwards, her family received a letter in the mail telling them that a little boy could now see because of their father's gift. How amazing is that? I can't even tell you how much that fills my heart with love.

I signed the "Be An Organ Donor" line immediately.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Off to Europe!

I am off to explore France and Spain and will probably not post until I get back. Please enjoy your own journey for the next few weeks and check in with me when I return at the end of the month!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Never surrender

What a perfect song for expressing the sentiment that you should never give up. Whether the struggle is with love, life, or something you think I can't even imagine, Corey Hart's "Never Surrender" will help you remember that nothing is worth the surrendering of your spirit. And, even when I'm not struggling, this song always throws a little inspiration into my day.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peter Cetera, Peter Cetera, Peter Cetera

I don't know why I've been mildly obsessed with Peter Cetera's music lately. It's in my head and coming off my lips constantly. He's my Pandora radio station. One of my friends has even had to endure my poor rendition of "Next Time I Fall" one too many times over the last week. I guess that's just the kind of mood I've been in. It's a continuation of my affection for the 80s...and proof of my love of romance, of course. I mean come on, how is "Restless Heart" not one of the best songs ever?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York vs. Chicago

I would be a better writer of a post entitled "New York vs. Chicago" if I had actually lived in both places. However, even though I have not resided in Chicago, having visited there for five days recently, I did pick up on some differences between the two cities (mostly focusing on Manhattan and center city Chicago). I absolutely love New York, and I seriously fell in love with Chicago while I was there, too. Having lived in New York City for seven years now, I am grateful for having had the experience of it. However, I am at a point where slowing down and having a better quality of life is important to me. I have been exploring the idea of living in different cities and Chicago is one of my options. My initial (far from expert) thoughts on both cities are as follows:

Chicago is a much cleaner city. I did not see a single rat or roach on my visit, which I cannot say of New York. In New York, there is often bagged trash on the streets, whereas Chicago seems to keep their trash in dumpsters. There is also much more pollution in New York. There are less people in Chicago, and therefore far less crowding. Chicago is right on Lake Michigan (which is gorgeous), which means people can literally walk out of their downtown apartment and go swimming, whereas New York is surrounded by rivers so you either have to live way far out in an outer borough or travel a fair distance to get to the beach. Also, the lake water is a light greenish blue, whereas in New York it is a deep bluish gray.

In Chicago, I felt like I was in the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz because all of the buildings were so polished, architecturally impressive, and well-kept. In New York City, there are many beautiful and historic buildings, but there are also many areas that seem (the words that come to mind are) "less sparkly."

In Chicago, people seem to be more easygoing and friendly, whereas although there are friendly people in New York, most people seem to be moving at a much faster, more rushed pace, and there seems to be more general hostility in the air. In Chicago, people on the bus were quiet and I didn't hear horns honking, or people screaming or arguing on the street. In New York, occurrences like these seem quite common.

In New York, there is always something strange or unusual to be seen. People always put themselves out there in even the wildest of fashions. In addition, New York is highly diverse. On every corner you will find multiple ethnicities and people of varying socioeconomic status. In Chicago, I did not see a large amount of wildness or diversity. New York has anything you could want, and stores are jam-packed along the streets. If you are looking for Chinese food, there are a million places within a short distance. In Chicago, it seems that although they have a little bit of everything, there are not as many stores and they are not so packed together. You may find a little area of shops and restaurants here and there, but you may have to travel a bit to find what you are looking for. Also, the nightlife is more prominent in New York. There is more glamor, more chaos, longer hours, more clubs, more venues, more restaurants, more musical performances, more theater.....basically more of everything. However, both cities have deep historical roots in the arts.

New York is loaded with street performers and vendors whereas Chicago has much less of this. I only saw one street performer in an underground Pedway of Chicago and I think one cupcake truck the entire time I was there. I was told by a friend that they are not permitted to have vendors out on the streets. This is in stark contrast to New York where many vendors make a living selling items on streets throughout the city and performers are all over the place. Both cities had people begging on the street for money.

Both cities had amazing art museums, but Chicago took their art to another level by having multiple outdoor sculptures (some very large in size). Although New York has sculptures around the city, they do not seem as prominent as they are in Chicago. Chicago also has a huge outdoor auditorium in the center of the city in Millenium Park which is like a huge, beautiful sculpture in and of itself, whereas the stage in Central Park is just a regular stage. In general, the parks in both cities are very beautiful.

Both cities have wonderful zoos and aquariums and both have zoos located right in the middle of the city. However, in Chicago, the zoo is free. Also, in New York, you have to travel a fair distance to an outer borough to see the aquarium.

The cost of living in Chicago is less. It also seems much easier to get an apartment there. There are no broker's fees like there are in New York and you can get a much nicer place for your money. The public school systems in both cities are problematic and are known to not be the best, but both cities have a variety of private schools. The weather in Chicago is one of two extremes, hot and very cold. The city is known for its harsh winters. In New York, all four seasons are present. The summers are hot and humid, and the winters are cold, but a bit shorter than Chicago and not quite as bitter. In Chicago, people stay for the summer and love it. In New York, a lot of people go out to Long Island, or other beach destinations outside of the city.  Both cities have free concerts and events in the parks during the summer.

Chicago has Navy Pier, which offers amusements, boat rides, a museum, food vendors, etc. New York has Chelsea Piers which offer boat rides, and lots of opportunities to be athletic, with rock climbing, athletic fields, etc. If you want amusements in New York, you have to travel out to Coney Island which has more rides than Navy Pier, but is less clean, less safe, and further away. If you want to be athletic in Chicago, they have many groups that play intramural sports, such as the Chicago Sport and Social Club.

I think I could probably go on with my comparison of the two cities for quite a while. Overall, Chicago is a much cleaner, more laid-back city, with a more extreme climate and fewer happenings, but still enough going on to make it a hip place to be. New York is a less clean and more rowdy city. It is more expensive, but has more to do and much more diversity. The fact that Chicago is still a city, but has less pollution, people, and noise, while still being near the water sounds nice to me. My only concern is, could I handle such harsh winters? Hmmmm, I'm not sure about that! I would love to hear your take on both cities, or on any other city that you think is amazing.

 Chicago (July 2011)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Resilience and incredible talent

Watching clips of Britain's Got Talent is such a fun thing to do. Actually, I lied, it's quite emotional. For example, in this clip, young Shaheen Jafargholi auditions with the song, "Valerie." When Simon Cowell interrupts him, criticizes him, and asks him if he has anything else, Shaheen shows great resilience at a moment when I probably would have started crying at that age, and goes on to knock one out of the park with another song. And, it's so beautiful to see his mother there watching him, so supportive, and so proud. Rock on, Shaheen.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peelu - the healthier chewing gum

Recently, I have become more conscious of what I put in my body. This means that, when possible, I try to avoid processed foods and those with chemicals or artificial ingredients. One item that I have been avoiding is gum. I have been wary of sugarless types because they are sweetened artificially. However, I did not want to buy regular gum with sugar even though some brands aren't too bad for you because I am conscious of getting cavities. Then, one day I was at my local organic grocery store and I saw Peelu Chewing Gum.

Fibers from the Peelu tree, or Salvadora Persica tree, have been used for many years, generally in the form of a teeth-cleaning twig known as a Miswak, as a way of maintaining oral hygiene. By chewing on the fibers, plaque is removed and bacteria is killed. If you'd like to read more about the use of Peelu fibers, definitely check out the article "What Is Miswak?"

Peelu, a United States company, has created a line of products that contain Peelu fibers. I decided to try their chewing gum and I think it's great. It is sweetened with Stevia extract (from the Stevia plant) and Xylitol (from the fibers of different fruits and vegetables), and contains the cavity fighting power of Peelu fibers. Because it is not traditional gum, laced with chemicals, it is not extremely soft and the flavor does not last a very long time. However, it does what it's supposed to do by freshening your breath and cleaning your teeth. It comes in multiple flavors such as peppermint blast and cinnamon sass, and is about eight dollars for a bottle with one hundred pieces, which isn't that bad compared to around two dollars for twenty pieces of regular gum. You may be able to find it at your local health food store, but if not, you can easily find it for order on Amazon.com. So, chew away, but more naturally.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chicago bound!

I will be in Chicago for a week and may not post until my return. Enjoy this beautiful week and all the gifts the universe presents to you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quote of the day

"Sometimes we are forced in directions we ought to have found for ourselves." (The character Lionel Bloch in the movie Maid in Manhattan)

I seriously needed to relax tonight and so I decided to take a break and watch Maid in Manhattan. It was a touching, light-hearted, romantic comedy, and I loved it. One of my favorite parts was when the character Lionel Bloch, a butler, gives a speech to Marisa Ventura, a maid played by Jennifer Lopez, about life.

In my experience, like the quote states, sometimes life has forced me in a new direction. Although the push has, at times, been in the form of something uncomfortable or even painful, I have found that inevitably it was what I truly needed. Indeed, many times, the change was something that I actually wanted somewhere deep inside but was too afraid or uncertain to fulfill it on my own. As an example, think about someone you know who wanted to leave their job but never could, and who inevitably was laid off or fired. Sometimes - probably often, if not always - a perceived "negative" is actually a gift of some sort. Whether it is a gift to grow emotionally, to learn something, or to pursue an endeavor one has always wished to pursue, it is still a gift.

Therefore, if we can learn to trust the process of change more, knowing that inevitably we will be okay, then perhaps life wouldn't have to force us into new directions. Instead, maybe we could let go of the old and bring in the new with added grace and more faith in the direction of our intuition and in the ebb and flow of life.

If you haven't seen this movie and are in the mood for something fun and idealistic, check it out. (Just keep in mind that it is definitely a chick flick!)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bullying is horrible; Here's one boy's inspirational story

Bullying is a serious problem. Not only does the bully have very low self-esteem and other issues (often they are being bullied somewhere else in their life), the victim of the bullying also suffers awful side effects. These side effects can include extremely low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, detrimental shifts in mind and personality, isolation, and many more. It is a highly serious matter and it can affect the rest of the victim's life. Immediate action needs to be taken when a case of bullying is discovered, and both the bully and the bullied need help overcoming the abuse.

As a teacher, I have seen some of the effects of bullying on children, and they are not pretty. Here is one boy's powerful story of how he was consistently bullied, but how his art - the very thing he was bullied for - led him on a journey that helped him have more strength to recover from the abuse. Watch Andrew Johnson's audition on Britain's Got Talent and clearly see how important it is that victims of bullying be supported and given the means to gain back their self-esteem. (This one always makes me cry!)

Also, if you or someone you know is being bullied, check out the website StopBullying.gov for advice on how to deal with it and get help. Remember, it will and can get better. Hang in there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Incredible, wondrous kale

Tonight when I arrived home from an outing in Manhattan, I was hungry. However, my hunger was specific. I was craving nutrients like you would not believe. After yesterday's lovely fireworks and fun festivities filled with chips, popcorn, hummus, carrots, and a few watermelon slices (that's what happens when you don't eat meat or cheese and have not adequately prepared for a picnic), I was feeling particularly lacking in appropriate sustenance and I couldn't decide what to eat for dinner that would fulfill the need. After some serious contemplation and searching of my kitchen, all I could think of that I wanted was steamed kale. Yes, you heard right, steamed kale alone. I've learned that if I am craving something that is decent for me, I need to fulfill that craving. So, I destemmed and rinsed half of a bunch of organic kale, steamed and lightly salted it, and then ate away. 

When I was finished, it was like something woke up in the blood coursing through my body and I wanted more. So, I gave my body what it wanted and prepared a second plateful. What pure deliciousness. I felt like I was naturally high and decided that I needed to figure out why kale had such a wondrous effect on me.

Here is what I found: According to Wikipedia (yes, I know it's not the best source, but let's face it, a lot of the information is good), "Kale is considered to be the most nutritious vegetable in the world with extremely powerful antioxidant properties." Let me repeat: The "most nutritious vegetable in the world." Awesome.

And if that's not enough to get you into this deep green leafy wonder-food, check out what the non-profit organization The World's Healthiest Foods has to say about it. According to their article, some of the many health benefits of eating kale on a regular basis (preferably 2-3 times a week) include:

1.  Lowers cholesterol and provides cardiovascular support.
2.  Lowers your cancer risk.
3.  Detoxifying.
4.  Contains over 45 different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
5.  Contains omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.
6.  Good source of fiber.

Amazing, isn't it? If you are interested in trying out some dishes with kale, a simple search for "kale recipes" on google will reveal a ton of ways that you can incorporate it into your diet. Just remember, steaming the vegetable is said to be the best way to obtain the most nutrients. But, no matter how you cook it, one thing is clear: You can't go wrong by adding this vegetable to your diet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some advice on life

I remember first hearing this "song" entitled "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" performed by Baz Luhrmann when I was in high school. The pieces of advice contained within the lyrics which are taken from a 1997 essay written by columnist Mary Schmich were significant to me then and are even more so to me now.

Every so often, I reflect on how I am living my life, the attitudes I possess, and the experiences I've had as a check-in that I use to assess whether or not I am living it the way I want to. I also use these self-appraisals to ensure that I'm doing the best I can and will not regret how I have lived and the choices I've made. This video helps me to remember what is important and keeps me on track. I hope you get something similar out of it. Life is precious and we need to make the most of every moment.


Monday, June 27, 2011

New York legalized gay marriage and it feels personal

I understand that despite the legality of same-sex marriage within a state, the Defense of Marriage Act still causes all sorts of serious problems for gay couples who wish to marry and want the full gamut of rights equivalent to those granted to their straight counterparts. This is a major issue and a battle that still needs to be won in the fight for equality. However, that aside, I must say that I feel extremely elated and emotional about the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York this past weekend. I was actually surprised at how much it has touched me.

For all of my adult life, I felt very open to the idea of falling in love with a man or a woman. However, since I had only had relationships with men, I assumed that although I was open and had no issue with the idea of lesbianism, that I was, in fact, straight. Then, I fell in love with a woman. It was a shock to me and I really was surprised at the feelings I was having. Those feelings turned into a serious relationship and I realized that I was, in fact, truly bisexual - but even that term didn't make much sense to me (seeming so definitive). What I have preferred to call myself is "open." However, that doesn't change the fact that I am attracted to both men and women, as is summarized in the definition of bisexuality

Having been in a same-sex relationship for a few years, I had plenty of time to experience prejudices and the repercussions thereof - both those that were mild (those actions that people probably didn't even realize they were doing) and ones a bit more intense. There was the incessant staring and comments from strangers (often sexual and lacking any respect). There was the push-back and fear from some people close to me. There was the angry man who spoke hateful slurs and tried to physically hurt my then-girlfriend. There was the all-too-common, "Are you two sisters?" question when we would hold hands in public. There was the persistent exposure to negative proclamations in the media or from strangers, such as: homosexuality is an illness, homosexuals are going to hell, homosexuality is disgusting, and so on (nothing like making one feel rejected).

There was not the usual, "Do you think a proposal will happen soon?!" type of excited questions that you get from fellow women when you are in a heterosexual relationship, which I happen to love so much (since I'm a big romantic). There is, however, the fear of not being accepted everywhere you go. There is the ever-present anxiety of, "Wow, despite all of this, we must actually have it really good since we live in New York City. What will it be like if we wanted to move elsewhere someday?" Also, there's the need for acceptance and consideration that if we ever wanted to have a family, prejudice against our innocent children would be something we would have to prepare for. And I could honestly go on, ad infinitum.

Although dealing with these difficulties is not something I would actively choose, I am not one to shy away from adversity at the expense of love. Love is what life is about; Pure and simple, it's about loving others. I get teary-eyed when I think about how I had to justify, explain, or deal with barriers and prejudice because of the fact that I had fallen in love with a woman. I have a hard time accepting that not everyone believes and sees people as spirits within something called a body and that we are not our bodies. I fall in love with people, not their genitals, and I am saddened that this is difficult for some to comprehend. I also am confounded at how those who worship Jesus (who preached solely in love's favor) or other spiritual leaders can justify the belief that those enlightened beings would be unloving or punishing towards anyone.

Thankfully, I have felt for a while that there has been a growing shift in public opinion towards homosexuality. Although we have a long way to go, as horrors such as children committing suicide over it are still occurring (which really says something don't you think?), I feel like things are continuing to change, particularly with the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York, the third most populated state in the U.S. The fact that my home state is now acknowledging my right to marry whomever I love makes me feel more accepted, free, and so very grateful. Maybe now, if I ever fall in love with a woman again, people will be more likely to ask me if there's a proposal in the works. Thank you, New York, and to those of you out there who understand that the power of love is beyond the scope of a person's gender.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hallelujah

If you want a song to give you the power to get through something, here it is. As always, turn it up!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Free your mind

Call me crazy, but with marriage equality for New York hanging in the balance with one more vote remaining to pass the bill, the song "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue seems very apropos. Although its lyrics speak about racial equality, the same sentiment can be applied to equality of sexual orientation. (Plus, this song never goes out of style.) Let it remind us of the power of love, freedom, and togetherness, as opposed to prejudice, fear, oppression, and separation. Let people love who they love.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The best version of "Hey Jude" that you ever did hear

Here is an adorable little boy who can't be older than two displaying such adorable talent. Do yourself a favor and at least watch until the one minute and twenty-five second mark. If this doesn't make you smile, I'd be tempted to say that perhaps not much ever could. This version of "Hey Jude" is the best that I've ever seen and never fails to brighten a moment.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

My artwork

A fantasy world. The paper is a bit warped, but you get the gist. Mixed media. (Circa 2000)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's time

I feel very excited and hopeful about Governor Andrew Cuomo introducing a marriage equality bill in New York today. I've been sending positive vibes out into the universe saying that it's definitely time for this change. Here's hoping that love will triumph sooner rather than later.

Monday, June 13, 2011

We belong

What's coming out of my heart and speakers right now is "We Belong" by Pat Benatar. Hmmmm, it may sound uncreative, but what I am moved to say is that this song really does make me feel like I "belong" to something powerful and amazing when I listen to it... But, whether or not you feel the same, one thing to remember is that this song needs to be played very loud (a recommendation I will probably continue to make for most of the music I share with you).


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Apartment hunting? Don't forget about the breeze

Just a suggestion, if you are apartment hunting, definitely look for a place that is at least on the second floor. I love my apartment; It's somewhat big by New York City's standards, has a ton of closet/storage space, and has high ceilings and lots of light. There's only one problem: it is on the first floor.

On cool nights like tonight, there is nothing I would love more than to open all my windows and fall asleep with the natural brisk air flowing through my apartment. But, alas, I cannot. It's just not worth the risk. Even though I live in a very safe neighborhood, being almost on ground level someone could easily climb into my apartment and steal something, or worse... Therefore, I always, very unfortunately, sleep with all my windows locked up tight. 

Although I'm obviously safer this way, it allows for no movement of airflow in my apartment, and so it gets very hot, very fast. Therefore, I have to use a fan or an air conditioner (I can't sleep when I'm hot). This, of course, means more money and recycled, instead of fresh, air when what I really crave is to have the sound and feel of the breeze put me to sleep.

Back when I was looking for an apartment, the thought of being able or not being able to safely leave my windows open at night never entered my thoughts. Therefore, to those of you seeking a new place, my suggestion is to keep this in mind because I sure wish I had!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bring me a higher love

What's coming out of my heart and speakers right now is Higher Love by Steve Winwood. I love this song. Interpret it as you will, depending on what's going on in your world at the time. Maybe one day it's about spirituality, maybe one days it's about life, maybe one day it's about a romantic relationship. Whatever way you look at it, it's about love.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Allergies stink! Here's something that may help

I have very bad common allergies. Dust, dander, mold, pollen, and grass are pure torture for me. I have had three series of allergy shots in my lifetime and still my allergies act up. Recently, I changed my diet (which I will discuss in more detail in a later post) and I also frequently do nasal saline rinses, both of which have been extraordinarily beneficial at helping to minimize my allergies. However, at times, particularly in the past month or so, I was still hit with fits of sneezing, congestion, headaches, etc. I had recently made the decision to minimize the amount of over the counter medication I take and so was resistant to taking allergy medications, so I was suffering. I thought perhaps acupuncture would help, but before trying it my friend suggested I try local honey.

"Local honey?" I thought, perplexed, but then I did some research. Apparently, local honey helps build immunity to local allergies. When you ingest the pollen in the honey, your body becomes more and more tolerant of it and it inoculates you against your allergic reaction to the local pollen. I was stunned. I was very familiar with the concept of being immunized against allergies, but not by a regular food source (although it does seem logical.) I had to try it out. Plus, I was willing to do anything that would be more holistic than taking medication and cheaper than acupuncture. 

I researched New York City local honey and ran into some luck. The only provider of truly local honey (within a mile or so) in NYC that I could find was David Graves' New York City Rooftop Honey. He actually harvests the honey from hives located on rooftops in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn! The next day I rushed down to the Union Square Greenmarket to pick up a jar. The price tag - $15 for a small jar - seemed hefty for honey, but I reminded myself that I was actually purchasing natural medicine that could potentially alleviate much discomfort in my life, and that is exactly what it did.

I began taking a tablespoon of honey on an empty stomach (and not eating for a while afterward) daily. At first, it seemed to spike some allergy symptoms for an hour or so after ingesting it, but within two weeks, I began to see an overall decrease in my allergy symptoms. Although I still experience allergies at times, it's not nearly as bad as it has been in the past. I was shocked when, not once but a few times, I would hear others complaining about their allergies while I was having hardly any symptoms. I'm so grateful that I tried out this holistic cure and definitely recommend it.


If you decide to try taking honey to help with your allergies, here are a few things to remember:

1.  It must be honey that is harvested near to where you spend most of your time - the closer to your home that the honey is produced by bees, the better it will work.
2.  Because the honey only helps with allergies caused by local pollen, it may not help with allergens from other areas or other sources (like pollen from another state, dust, or pet dander, to give a few examples).
3.  If you have bad asthma, be careful. Start off slowly with the honey and make sure you have someone with you for a few hours after taking it the first few times in case it triggers an asthmatic allergic reaction.
4.  Keep in mind that other factors, such as your diet, can also potentially impact your allergies. I have found that drinking a lot of water is helpful in reducing allergies, as is eating less (or no) dairy.

(For readers living in NYC who would like to try New York City Rooftop Honey, David Graves sells his honey at the Berkshire Berries stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The location changes depending on the day, so check out the map before you go.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quote of the moment

"Have you ever had one of those days where nothing all that monumental happens, but by the end of it you have no idea who you are or what the hell you are doing with your life? Do you ever have one of those days?" - Robin in the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother"

This quote describes me perfectly lately. Sometimes I feel very calm, secure, and confident in what I am doing with my life. Those times when I feel good about where I am at are comforting and I feel content. 

However, once in a while, I have moments where suddenly something will strike me emotionally and I'll have a longing that I hadn't felt before, or I'll realize something about myself that had been dormant for awhile or just appeared and will suddenly question all that I'm doing and the whole point of my life. I'll wonder what it is that I truly want my life to be about. I will then either realize something about my journey and find deeper meaning in what I am already doing, or, it will be a bit of a longer period of revelation where I will realize that I need to open up another pathway to walk down. Sometimes that involves letting something go, sometimes it involves adding something, and at times, it consists of both.

Right now, I am definitely going through one of those times. I have been feeling a bit lost. There has been a shift in what I want to do with my life, but I don't know in what direction that shift is meant to push me in, and that has left me feeling unsettled. I had thought that I was settled, but it turns out that perhaps I am meant to do other things.

Thankfully though, the other day I spoke with a friend. I told him how I am questioning what I want to do in the next few years. I explained how every other day different ideas are coming to me: Should I teach art? Move to Paris? Write a children's book? Help people redesign their homes? Go back to fashion school? Get involved in HIV/AIDS education? Stick with what I'm doing but volunteer more? Create paintings? I expressed my fear and upset about not knowing what to do next and my discomfort with being somewhere "in-between."

A huge smile came across his face as he told me, enthusiastically, something to the effect of, "This is great. This is so exciting. You are figuring out who you are now. What will you do next? How wonderful!" In that moment, I realized he was right. The way I had been looking at this was all wrong. I'm not lost, I'm seeking. I'm not powerless, I'm challenging things. I'm not staying still, I'm moving forward.

I realized that living life is about constant growth through experiences, and these shifts, changes, and discoveries are how we achieve a life lived to the fullest. So, now, I'm learning to embrace the uncertainty.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A little bit of adorable for your Sunday

There's nothing like watching a momma kitty comfort her baby kitty while he's having a dream. This video melts my heart. Love is real.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

We've all had at least one cosmic love in our lifetime

Florence + The Machine is an incredible band. (Thank you to a great friend of mine for introducing me to them!) A few of their songs are among my favorites. This one, entitled Cosmic Love is so powerful and captures the intensity and, at times, turbulence and potency of love (any type of love in life - work, art, passion, relationship, spirituality) and the loss or feeling of being lost that sometimes comes with it.

I think it's important, in order to get the full effect of this song (and the band's music in general), to listen to the whole song with your full attention and just try to feel it and take it in. The music itself, even apart from the lyrics, is so incredible (turn your volume up!) I'm sure many of us have known a love of some sort that has felt like this.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Try this vegan, summery salad

I made a salad the other night that immediately became one of my favorite dishes. Not only is it delicious (my friend and I kept repeating how wonderful it was again and again throughout the evening), it is also incredibly healthy, vegan, and so fresh that it is perfect for the warmer weather. It is full of nutrients, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates - a perfect meal. I advise you, seriously, to try it out for yourself. I have a feeling it might make your list of favorites, too. (Please note that although there are a number of directions, it really is quite a simple meal to make.)

1.  Put some brown rice on the stove.
2.  Add salt (preferably sea salt) to the rice and boiling water.
3.  Since brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, wait about 20 minutes before moving on to the next step.
4.  Boil some water and throw in a good amount of corn (this is half the bulk of the salad). It can be frozen or fresh. (If you are using fresh corn, boil it first and then cut it off the cob after cooking and cooling.) Don't cook the corn for too long - a minute or two is sufficient; You want it to be crisp, not mushy.
5.  Drain the corn, then rinse it with cold water a few times. Next, soak it in cold water (to reduce heat).
6.  Dice one medium-sized red onion and one medium-sized red bell pepper, add to a medium-sized bowl.
7.  Drain the corn again and add to the bowl.
8.  Take a can of butter beans (the other half of the bulk of the salad) and half a can of black soy beans (Eden Organic sells both), rinse, drain, and add to the bowl.
9.  Add some chopped parsley.
10. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil and mix.
11. Dice one avocado and add to the bowl.
12. Add about three tablespoons of sweet red chilli sauce (as I mentioned in a previous post, Thai Kitchen's is my favorite) and mix.
13. Add salt to taste (I like mine somewhat salty, but to each his/her own), and a little bit of pepper.
14. Check that the rice is salted enough (no need to add butter!)
15. Serve a mound of rice on the plate with the summer salad on top. (The warmth and coolness are perfect together.)
16. Enjoy (and let me know what you think!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oprah Winfrey, one of my heroines

Tomorrow, May 25th, is the last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. I love Oprah. I admit that I rarely get to watch her show, however, I think she is absolutely amazing. She is honest, beautiful inside and out, real, compassionate, educates people, and constantly gives, gives, gives. She created her show with the intent to help others. She is the one person on television who has made me cry more than any other. In fact, pretty much every time I watch her show, I end up crying! 

If you want to be inspired, just read her Wikipedia page, or do a Google search of "Oprah Winfrey impact on the world." This is a woman who donates at least ten percent of her annual income to charity. She started a school in Africa, created a charitable organization, created a network to help others, has given people hope, has impacted others in more ways than I could ever list, and so much more. Rock on, Oprah. You came from hardship, overcame adversity, used your tender heart and passionate energy to do incredible good, and are a total inspiration. You have taken care of so much more than your corner of the world. Thank you. I love you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An adorable wedding entrance (that also helps people)

I know that some people may disagree, but I think that this act of dancing to open a wedding ceremony is utterly adorable. First of all, the fact that all of this couple's friends agreed to and enthusiastically participated in this performance demonstrates such a fun, loving attitude towards life and friendship. Second, a couple that wants to have fun and do something entertaining, uplifting, and energetic to celebrate their love is beautiful. Finally, the fact that they did what they wanted, without shame, reservation, or care of what others may think is admirable. They are having fun in their own way.

Additionally, due to the popularity of the video on YouTube, the couple decided to create a link to a website where people can donate money to a charity that helps fight domestic violence. They chose that charity based on the circumstances surrounding Chris Brown (the singer of Forever, the song that they dance to in the video) and Rihanna. As of September, 2010, they had already raised over $34,000. How awesome is that!? I can't tell you how many times I've watched this video. I love it!

(On a little side note, I have no idea if this is true, but I have this small idea that perhaps the bride's father was not present to walk her down the isle, and that maybe this was their solution to that situation. The thought of that makes this display all the more touching.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Try this stir-fry - delicious AND nutritious

Try this recipe I made up the other night for a yummy, sweet (but with a kick), veggie-filled bite!

1.  Put some brown rice on the stove.
2.  Since brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, wait about 30 minutes before moving on to the next step (chop the veggies and set the table while you wait).
3.  Sauté some bok choy with olive oil until it is limp and tender (covering it for a few minutes helps the process by steaming it a little).
4.  Add in diced asparagus and red onion.
5.  Add sweet red chilli sauce (my favorite is the one sold by Thai Kitchen) and continue sautéing.
6.  Throw in some cashew nuts and sunflower seeds.
7.  Pour over brown rice and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Piiiizzzzza........without cheese?

I have recently been avoiding most dairy in my diet to improve my health (more to come on this later). One of the foods I have been nervous about abstaining from is pizza. I go absolutely nuts for pizza. It's super scrumptious. About a month ago, I purchased a groupon for Domino's Pizza which expires tomorrow. I felt a little bummed because I really do love pizza (did I mentioned that already?) and wasn't sure whether I should give the groupon away or what to do with it. Despite my suspicions that I would loathe a pizza without cheese, I decided to go for it anyway.

I chose their crunchy thin crust, no cheese, and their regular sauce. (Domino's has an ordering system where you can customize your whole order and send it through online - awesome!) Then I decided to load it up with toppings. I chose onions, roasted red peppers, pineapple, jalapeno peppers, spinach, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, and black olives. It was A-MA-ZING. The thin crust was crunchy and satisfying (not soggy), while allowing me to consume less refined flour than their regular crust (which is much thicker). The vegetables were tasty and what really helped was the sweetness of the pineapple coupled with the spiciness of the jalapeno peppers and flavor of the onions.

I realized that I could still enjoy pizza without the cheese. What a fun, yet shocking, discovery. If you are interesting in going this route with your pizza parties, definitely try it out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My artwork

This piece is part of one of my favorite series of artwork that I made back in 2000. The subject was the human body. Isn't it amazing how atoms come together to form cells that work tirelessly to house the beings that we are? Isn't it awesome how we have this life force in us that moves, grows, and heals with innate intelligence? Beautiful and spiritual, it is.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Can microwavable popcorn make you sick?

Let me just say that the fact that there are carcinogenic chemicals in popcorn bags makes me really upset. Microwavable popcorn - a delightfully delicious snack that I have loved indulging in since I was a child - has supposedly been laced with chemicals from the bag it is popped in!

Dupont is the creator of the dangerous, cancer-causing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is used in popcorn bags. Apparently, the company has agreed to work on eliminating these chemicals by 2015. Really?! It's going to take them four more years to work on eliminating the chemical? On top of it, the artificial butter flavoring that is often used in microwavable popcorn has also been identified as disease-causing.

I have understood for a while now that something "artificial" probably is not good for me, but, honestly, for my whole life up until recently, never have I truly realized the fact that some companies are actually poisoning us. However, lucky for us popcorn-lovers, there is an amazing alternative to nasty, unhealthy, disease-causing, commercial, microwavable popcorn that is safe, delicious, and easy to make.

I think all (or most) of us are aware of the old-fashioned stove-method of making popcorn. You coat the bottom of the pan with a good amount of olive oil, pour the kernels in the pot, cover it, turn on the heat, and then watch the popcorn pop deliciously in front of your eyes. I love this method. However, I will be really honest that the cleanup afterward gets on my nerves. Also, you have to use a good amount of olive oil which, although it's good for you, is still fattening if taken in too large of a quantity. On top of it, when I have made popcorn on the stove, I usually like to add other toppings as well, which adds on to the fat/calorie count. I realized today that there is an even easier way to make healthy popcorn that is also safe and does not require the use of any oils.....paper bag it!

That's right. Put some dry kernels, no butter or oil needed, into a brown paper bag, fold down the open end to close the bag, and microwave until the popping starts to slow down. Then, add whatever toppings you desire (my favorite is melted Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread - which is dairy-free - with a little bit of salt and Bragg's Nutritional Yeast.) In the end, you will have a healthy, yummy snack instead of one that, although it may be tasty, is harmful. Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

You take a piece of me with you

Could I love this song any more than I do right now? Unlikely. What's coming out of my speakers right now is Every Time You Go Away by Paul Young.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Noisy neighbors? Can't sleep? I understand

I am the type of person who needs one of two things when I sleep, either full-on quiet or a consistent rhythmic noise, such as that of a fan. If I become aware of a clock ticking or, worse, an upstairs neighbor walking around, I can't sleep. The more random and inconsistent the sound, the harder it is for me to block it out. 

I struggled with this for a few months when I first moved into my apartment several years ago because I happened to be able to hear every movement of my upstairs neighbor who kept late hours. I would toss and turn in bed, sigh loudly after being woken up by the sound of footsteps just as I was drifting off, and had many conversations with my neighbor about it (who is super nice by the way.) Things improved, but the noise continued to be difficult. I am, unfortunately, not one of those people who can just fall asleep anywhere in any setting or circumstance (although I truly wish I was.) 

Eventually, I made the most amazing discovery: a white noise machine. It totally saved me! Sleep, to me, is precious and I was able to easily get more of it with this gadget. It provides me with a consistent sound that pretty much completely neutralizes or blocks out other noise. I love it, and my less sleep-deprived self thanks me all of the time for buying it. 

If you are having trouble getting to sleep, have someone in the family who snores, have noisy neighbors, or live in a busy neighborhood, I definitely recommend giving a white noise machine a try. You can also check out all the reviews for it on Amazon.com if you are itching for a second opinion. At over 1,350 reviewers and an overall star rating of four and a half out of five, I don't think you can go wrong! Here's to peaceful sleep for all of us.