The Great Holiday Décor Debate

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who take down their Christmas decorations in a timely manner, and those who do not. Whichever side of the holiday divide you fall on, you stay true to it. You have your system, or lack there of. Chances are, you follow in the footsteps of your parents’ tradition. It’s how you were raised.christmas_decor_debate

For those of us on the taking down in a timely fashion category, it can be quite disturbing to see holiday lights and trees still decorated in windows when the calendar turns to January, and much worse, February and beyond.

On the other hand, those who cling to their holiday décor well past the holiday itself, tend to fall into a few categories themselves:

  • Blissfully unaware of details
  • Busy, busy, busy
  • Romantically attached to the holidays
  • Borderline hoarder

Those Who Cling to Their Holiday Décor

Blissfully unaware of details

Those of us who hang out here tend to be the same people who could really care less whether our homes are decorated or not. We paid for something, we transported it, we gave it a space and there it will live. We don’t think much more about it day to day.

Busy, busy, busy

If you fall under this niche, your calendar is so full, it’s a wonder you had time to get a tree and decorate in the first place. Maybe your girlfriend did it for you. And now you’re stuck with this burden. Well, it can wait because you have more important things to do. And so your neighbors will suffer the monstrosity on into Easter.

Romantically attached to the holidays

If this is you, most likely, you decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. You couldn’t wait to bring out all those boxes from the basement and get to work transforming your home into your own bubble of holiday headquarters. You have a miniature Dickens town on your mantle and Santa towels in the bathroom. You delve into all the holiday movies, especially the romantic ones, and cling onto the romance of the season well beyond the date itself. You have a deep attachment to the scene you’ve built and deep down you’re afraid if it goes away, so will your happiness.

Borderline hoarder

On the extreme end of those clinging onto their holiday décor, the borderline hoarder’s home may also consist of multiple collections of things from Snoopy to Star Wars to sports paraphernalia, this home is a clusterfuck of stuff, wall to wall and there is barely any floor space to be found. There is no way this home is ever going to be purged so you might as well leave the Christmas decorations up year round!

Those Who Take Down Their Holiday Décor
in a Timely Manner

Back to the other end of the spectrum, those who take down their holiday décor in a timely manner often insult those that cling to theirs. Some of us are appalled at the once loved Christmas trees discarded as early as a day after Christmas, so sad and lonely now naked and brown at the curbside. Chances are many a dog has marked the discarded emblem of holiday cheer already.

These are the punctual people. The organized ones. Every ornament is perfectly placed. Trees often have color themes. These are the people who host the parties, the carol nights, and are the go-to destination for family flying in. They welcome guests from the cling-to category and often find humor and ease in their counterparts on these celebratory nights.

Divided as we might be, we continue to coexist holiday season after holiday season much as our forefathers did whether our calendars have 12 days of Christmas or 12 months of Christmas. And so it is, and so it will be.

Stay tuned for next month’s installment, those who still have pumpkins on their porches and it’s FRIGGIN FEBRUARY!!!

Which category do you fall in? I’d love to hear from you. Please reply in the comment section below.

5 Ways Road Trips Are Good For The Soul

Click to watch video of my road trip! 

Red rocky desert backdrops turned to purple silhouettes and faded quickly into darkness as I blazed the road ahead. Later, I backed into a dirt driveway, hopped out and began setting up camp like nobody’s business. Dog out, water and food station set up, headlamp on, tent up, stove lit, dinner on its way. It was Week 3 of my month-long road trip and I was high on life. With my trusty new Mazda CX-5 I nicknamed Dusty Blue and my seasoned furry adventure pal Shilo in tow, I had embarked upon a journey from California to Colorado and back. What I didn’t know then was that it was to become a pivotal changing point in my life – a journey to the soul.

IMG_7330

Moab Campground. First night camping.

Leaving my job at the beginning of summer became a catapult to delving into where I was in my life. Was I where I wanted to live? Was I doing what I wanted to do? Was I happy? Four years ago, I’d taken big steps to balance my work life and my social life and set myself up for the family to come, the life I so desired. I’d made strides to sell my business and escape the rat race and position myself in a city known for health, outdoor activities and smaller town family values. Granted I moved from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, not to Minnesota or Iowa or somewhere where there would have been an even greater difference, but I at least had to be somewhere where there were still single people my age and I also wanted to remain close to my sister and father and their families.

Leaving my job at the beginning of summer ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. It caused me to finally raise the rent on my San Francisco condo to market price. It resulted in some unknowingly bad tenants moving out and some great tenants moving in. It thrust me into self-preservation beyond financial security. It caused me get in tune with myself, my inner person, my soul.

I started going to yoga regularly. I drank less. I cleansed. I cleaned out my apartment of unneeded things, the past – things silently weighing me down. I began going to therapy weekly. I’d only been to therapy at one point in my life before – when my mom died. This time I was going to dip deeper and really work on all of me. My job became working on myself.

The biggest part of my self-work became the road trip and the five ways it was what my soul needed.

Buckle up and check out 5 Ways Road Trips Are Good For The Soul:

  1. Restoring Faith in the Kindness of Strangers
  2. Connecting With Yourself Free from Distraction
  3. Sharing with Travel Companion(s)
  4. The Unavoidable Elements of Spontaneity, Danger and Surprise
  5. Igniting Change in Your Life
  • Restoring Faith in the Kindness of Strangers.

In Bryce Valley, it was 95 degrees. After an early morning rim walk with Shilo in Bryce Canyon and attempting a scalding hot hike later in Red Canyon, I decided to venture off the beaten path following a sign on the highway promising a reservoir. Tropic Reservoir turned out to be a diamond in the rough – our own private paradise. We set up on the beach and swam in the refreshing water for hours. I’d tucked my pepper spray, phone and a knife under my towel and occasionally looked over my shoulder unsure if there might be a bear or some mountain rapist. Fear aside, it was an act of bravery and following my gut that led us here.

Paradise at Tropic Reservoir.

Paradise at Tropic Reservoir.

Tired and happy, we began the long, bumpy road back to the highway but once I turned onto the paved road, a warning light went on in my car. My heart raced, as it was the first warning light I’d come across in my new car. I didn’t know what it meant. I had a long drive ahead of me the next day through Zion and onto Vegas. A quick check of the car manual told me it was the air pressure. A mechanic at the gas station helped me the next morning to get the air pressure equal in all tires and explained to me it was best to do it in the morning before it got too hot. He waived the fee and told me the warning light should go off after I drove a while. “Drive safe!” he shouted as I pulled away. When the light was frustratingly still on an hour later, I called a Mazda dealership in Las Vegas to set up an appointment. After all the breakdowns with my tired old Subaru, I was admittedly gun shy to embark on lengthy treks with a potential ominous sign. The service man on the phone walked me through how to turn the light off by a push of a button, as simple as that. I was so relieved!

thumb_IMG_7504_1024

Bryce Valley campground kisses.

Suffice it to say, these two strangers provided me comfort and security when I felt alone, in danger and far away from home. They were of many I would come across on my journey. Beacons of humanity and a reminder that the kindness of strangers exists all around us but is often revealed when we feel lost in some sense and need it most.

A partial list of the kindness of strangers I came across on my road trip include the woman working at the KOA in Moab who directed me to a non-touristy dog-friendly creek crossing canyon hike; the camper adjacent to me on a religious group camping trip who loved Shilo and asked to pet her and chatted with us the many times we passed her tent; the couple from Georgia I came across on my backpacking trip in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness who appeared out of nowhere when no one had been seen for miles and took our picture at our highest celebratory elevation;

Silver King Lake, elevation 12,657'.

Silver King Lake, elevation 12,657′.

 

the hikers on the Flatirons hike in Boulder who helped with directions when I’d missed a turn; Joselyn and her friend I’d never met who coordinated getting me Joselyn’s key so Shilo and I could crash at her place in Boulder while she was away; the waiter at the brewery in Littleton who added humor to my last night with my aunt and uncle and cousin before carrying on my road trip; the many people who took our pictures along the way when a selfie wouldn’t do the scenic backdrop justice; the couple at Red Canyon who stopped to admire Shilo and tell me of their black Lab who’d passed; the bartender at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas who poured me a “deal” of a $5 beer and was refreshingly cheerful and opened up to me about her two and 14-year old kids; the jovial tipsy businessman at the Hard Rock Hotel who stopped by to say hello and put a $10 bill into my slot machine before dashing away; and the friendly check-in ranger at my last camping destination at Jalama Beach who told me I had a great tent site complete with hedge privacy and wind protection. Big gratitude to all! You meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

  • Connecting With Yourself Free from Distraction

Let’s face it, when you remove yourself from the daily grind and open yourself up to the road of discovery, you’re bound to have time with your thoughts more than you may be used to or even comfortable with at first. I divided my time by singing my heart out to my various Pandora stations. I listened to Amy Poeler’s “Yes Please!” on Audible.com (loved it!). I got in the habit of writing in my journal, reading from the books I brought and writing a list of 10 things I was grateful for in my Gratitude Journal each evening at the campsite or wherever I was staying.

The best part is I got to do whatever I wanted. I could choose to break up the trip however I wanted, stay wherever I wanted, go wherever I wanted and do as much or as little as I desired each day.

I spent time really soaking in the beauty of the countryside.

America the Beautiful.

America the Beautiful.

There were times I felt lonely or scared but the key feeling at my core was definitely exhilaration. I often thought of Cheryl Strayed and her journey in the book I so love, “Wild.” At my core I really honed into myself as a tiny granule in a vast space. I mattered. I realized through all life’s trepidations, I am fortunate. I can make of my life what I want.

 

  • Sharing with Travel Companion(s)

One of the highlights of my trip was observing my soon-to-be ten-year-old dog kick butt on our 26 mile 3-day backpacking trip in the Collegiate Wilderness of Colorado. Reaching an elevation of 12,637 feet more than we were used to, Shilo tromped through river crossings, zipped up and down rocky passages, and jumped over logs like a young puppy. She carried her own pack. Each night, she curled up into a ball at the campfire and woofed quietly in her sleep. Watching her, being with her, seemed to breathe new life into me.

IMG_7397

Colorado Trail. Backpacking the Collegiate Wilderness.

Some of the greatest adventures are found when traveling solo. I chose to share mine with my best friend. Being a single female on the open road, trail or campsite, having Shilo gave me a sense of security as well providing companionship. I have so many pictures and videos of her and us from the trip. Some pictures are magnetized on my fridge so I can see them daily and be transported back to the adventurous time we had together.

We had grand one-sided conversations over the miles spent in the car. I’m so glad we had the experience together and I’ll savor the memories for the rest of my life.

  • The Unavoidable Elements of Spontaneity, Danger and Surprise

The temperature gauge in Dusty Blue told me it was 123 degrees outside. All around me was flat, dry, cracked desert. I was in the middle of nowhere with many miles to go. I looked over at my iPhone and it had the ominous red thermometer symbol on it. It had gotten too hot sitting on the passenger seat. I held it in front of the air conditioner vent until it came back to life only to reveal I’d lost reception.

It never occurred to me I might not be able to rely on my phone’s GPS on the trip. I felt like a dummy. I didn’t have any paper maps. Also, what would I do if the car broke down or Shilo or I had a medical emergency? I couldn’t call anyone. Fear rose up in me like a volcano.

On this day I packed way too much in. I awoke early from my campsite in Durango, Colorado. Shilo and I spent hours exploring Mesa Verde National Park. I loved it there. The remnants of ancient cliff dwellings were fascinating and haunting to me. I was mesmerized by the history there.

Mesa Verde cliff dwelling ruins.

Mesa Verde cliff dwelling ruins.

 

From there we drove on to New Mexico where we stopped at Four Corners Monument. We quickly got kicked out of the New Mexico side by one of the vendors who screamed at me, “No dogs allowed in here!” I tied Shilo up at the Colorado side and left her with a bowl of water while I ventured to the centerpiece where the four states meet to take the obligatory picture. I had to wait in a long line of picture takers before securing the spot to myself. When I returned to Shilo, she’d knocked her water dish over and was very hot and distraught. I felt horrible. Back at the car, it was scalding inside and I realized I had low blood sugar and a dull headache.

Four Corners Monument.

Four Corners Monument.

No dogs allowed.

No dogs allowed.

I had planned for our next stop to be a quick one at the Grand Canyon in Arizona before ending the day’s travels at the Bryce Valley, Utah KOA. Moments after realizing I’d lost cell reception, I came to a sign at a T in the road pointing to the “South Rim” of the Grand Canyon by turning left. South Rim? Did that mean there was a North Rim? I knew I eventually needed to go north to get to Utah but before my reception was lost, my GPS had just been taking to me to whatever it defaulted to when I typed in “Grand Canyon.” Ugh!!

To make matters worse, as I paused at the T freaking out on what direction I should go, my eyes detected my gas was at well below half a tank! I’d gotten in the cautionary habit of never letting it go below half a tank on the trip since I never knew how long it would be until a gas station.

I ended up going south and stopping at a gas station 10 miles down the road. When I got out of the car, wind instantly beat me in the face and pelted gritty dirt at me. It was so hot I felt like I couldn’t breathe. When the tank was full, I drove around to a store on the property. It looked like an Indian Reservation. There wasn’t any shade and a big sign read “NO DOGS.” Again, I faced fear and panic. Parking as close to the entrance as I could, I left all the windows open in the car and, regrettably left Shilo, running inside where I bought an Arizona and Utah map and asked the advice of the cashier. She said I was so close to the South Rim, I should go there but looking at the distance I still had to cover and the little daylight left, I made the reluctant decision to skip seeing the Grand Canyon. I was more than a little heartbroken.

Looking back on it now, in the midst of all the unexpected events and the danger, I felt alive. I was living in the now. I was using my survival instincts to the best of my abilities. I learned the most from that day. Shilo and I were survivors!

  • Igniting Change in Your Life

We had a bit of an escape from our adventure when we reentered civilization in the big city of Vegas. I was craving a bed and non-camp food and desperate for conversation. We stayed with friends and I indulged in such things as comedy shows, pool parties, gambling and lots and lots of gluttony.

Rehab Pool Party, Hard Rock Hotel.

Rehab Pool Party, Hard Rock Hotel.

While I was grateful for the escape from my escape, I was happy to get on the road again. I wasn’t quite ready to be home yet so booked one more night at a campground. Fittingly, as I entered my home state of California, we camped our last night right on the beach.

That night, as I watched the sun setting and my ears consumed the crashing waves I hadn’t heard in a month, with Shilo resting beside me, emotions came flooding up. Mixed emotions. A part of me didn’t want the journey to end. A piece of me pondered whether I could lead a gypsy life forever. Another side of me missed my family, my expansive deck at my apartment and the life I’d grown accustomed to in Santa Cruz. I wondered if I should move. I had fallen in love with Colorado years ago and it still called to me. Tempted me.

IMG_7610

Jalama Beach. Last night camping.

With ferocity, I traveled the remainder of the way home, determined to make every last bit of the road trip mean something. I took the coastal route and we stopped at San Simeon, Big Sur and Carmel. We watched the sun set at Carmel Beach and arrived back home two hours later.

Sitting in the darkness on my deck, looking at the stars, I knew I was headed on a new path. I didn’t know where I would end up exactly but I felt closer to me than I ever had before. I looked into my soul through this wondrous journey and I knew, without a doubt that the future would be grand. That I was going to be all right.

The road trip ignited a fire within me to make no excuses for my own happiness. Not to settle for anything less than what I believe to be amazing. To fight for what matters to me. I’ll no longer allow myself to become complacent or feel unnecessary and if I sway that way again, so help me, I’ll be hitting the road again sooner than you can shout, “Weeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Comments

I’d love to hear from you! Please share learnings, observations, revelations of your own road trips. Where did you go? What was the best part? What was the most challenging part? Please reply in the comment section below.

Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Wasting My Hotness

I stumbled in the door a moment ago and threw off my boots. The intoxicated walk home up the hill did a number on my feet. I opened the fridge door and pulled out the first couple of items calling my name. Oh shredded cheese and tortillas, how I love you. Just as I lit the stove to get to work on my quesadilla, my phone went off. It was Karen. “You make it home alive?” her text said.

Three and a half years ago, I moved to the burbs – a bold transition to a land I once envisioned as being my savior in being inhabited by men with family values – you know, the settling down type. I had come from a land of city dwelling men, riddled with Peter Pan Syndrome and seemingly all with a touch of ADHD. This same land was traversed by athletic, educated, beautiful vixens, double in number to the male population. I dubbed these vixens my mortal enemies.

hotnessI had come from a land of city dwelling men, riddled with Peter Pan Syndrome and seemingly all with a touch of ADHD.

Night after night my single gal pals and I would hit the town. Day after day I’d primp myself for the daytime look. Whether it be baseball game, concert in the park, beach day, or a San Francisco favorite, hangover brunch, my mind was on the man hunt. I was in the game and in it to win it.

After what seemed like a lifetime and many drunken taxi rides home feeling defeated, I decided to think about hightailing it out of this land I’d probably assimilated all too well into.

Here’s how I did my location scout research: Step 1. think of “burby” slower paced place, Step 2. Does it have mountains and water?, Step. 3. What are the men like?

It is in this third step that I applied rigorous, diverse journalistic skills. I delved into Match.com. I plugged in the zip codes of my trial cities and checked out the men.

That’s it!

When they say hindsight is 20/20, mine is like x-ray vision. I am a marketer and I basically sold myself the story that I would find an athletic, family man with a great silicon valley type job here. I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

I wanted to believe the story I sold myself was true.

Turns out I moved to a city where 21 and under and 45 and over have the biggest singles population. Oh and there are also more females than males, so I didn’t do myself any favors there. Factor in that only a small portion of the age range I fall under are single and add to that a large percentage consider surfing a number one priority, believe being able to get paid just enough to float rent in a shared household is a sweet deal, and typically fall under the grow weed, sell weed or smoke weed category.

After three and a half years of attempting to adapt to my new environment, albeit passes the mountains, water and athletic men criteria, I found myself proclaiming to Karen earlier tonight, “Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my hotness!”

Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my hotness!

At this she laughed. I laughed. We cheersed. Then I bawled.

Three plus years of getting dressed up for Italian dinners only to find my date in a Bob Marley t-shirt and flip flops or to have him forget his wallet or end the date prematurely on an urgent need to meet his weed cutters. What is a girl to do if this is the population of suitors?

Two cities down and it would seem I’m not winning. Add to that my hotness is waning.

And so it is I’m determined to do better research with my next move. I’m also determined to let the game go. To let the idea of winning go. I’m going to focus on the things I can control to keep myself happy and healthy. After all, that’s all I really can do. Hotness be damned!

Happy and healthy is the new hotness!

Comments
Can you relate? Have you had similar experiences? How about the guys out there? Has anything like this happened to you? I’d love to hear from you. Please reply in the comment section below.

 

 

New Year, Same Old? 7 Steps to Get What You Want out of Life

I woke up this morning just before five. After a while of telling myself, this is Saturday, you really could sleep in, another part of me was pulsating with energy and singing at me that I could get up and work on me. I chose to get up.new_year_same_old

I made my hot lemon water, an early morning ritual I’ve come to enjoy since I did the Conscious Cleanse. And here I am in the silence of the morning, energized, focused and happy.

Let me back track a bit, two months ago you couldn’t pay me to get up this early on a weekend. I started the new year feeling better than last New Year’s but still hungover, still foggy and still out of shape. At some point I said to myself, “forget this!” I don’t want to do this anymore. There are things that just aren’t working for me. It was time to make a change. This time it wasn’t going to be about changing where I live, changing who I’m with or changing my job, it was going to be about changing ME.

Right now, it’s the end of the first month of a new year. In a new year, many of us have a ritual of making resolutions, starting fresh, revamping or cleaning up and clearing out. It’s not surprising that January sees the most volume in gym enrollments or people donating to Goodwill or people trying all sorts of cleanses.

There is something about a new year that drives us to want to become new as well.

I had never done a cleanse before. The first week was like torture. I had a dull headache every day. I was grumpy. The food preparation was unfamiliar and time consuming and I loathed it. As the days progressed though, I began embracing my new practices: crafting delicious green smoothies, experimenting with food combinations that would take the least amount of toll on my digestive system, testing out daily action plans and journaling – lots of journaling.

My first weekend saw a turning point in me. For the first time in five days, I didn’t wake up with a headache. Hallelujah! I felt happy, really happy. I felt energized. For the fist time, I felt a sense of hope.

I clung to that feeling and guess what? It only got better. I now feel lighter, freer, happier, more energetic and clearer. Clarity is what I wanted most out of the cleanse. A light bulb has gone off in me. I’m not ready to share it with anyone yet. Soon, though, I will shine brightly exposed.

Clarity is what I wanted most.

With a cleanse, a resolution, a start of a new year or a beginning of anything for that matter, a few things help us get on that path. There is a method and, trust me, it works!

  1. Review the past. Where have you come from? What are the things that have made you who you are? What are the occurrences that have brought you to today?
  2. Get perspective. What has worked for you in the decisions you’ve made? What hasn’t? What do you like about who you are? What parts of you do you wish you could change?
  3. Begin journaling. How do you feel about you now? What is your work life like? Physical activity life? Relationship life? Spiritual life? Delve into the status of your energy level, immune system, sleep patterns, mood, stress level and body appearance and function inside and out. Start a practice of transferring your thoughts into the action and a routine of writing.
  4. Set an intention. What do you want? See yourself there. Feel how you’d feel as if you were there. Carry that vision and that feeling with you at all times.
  5. Work on yourself. Give some love to yourself. Pamper yourself. Learn something new. Get creative. Hone in to your spiritual side. Exercise!
  6. Cleaning up and clearing out. Give your home some love. A makeover in your living space will do wonders for your wellbeing.
  7. Give and be grateful. Offer to help someone. Volunteer. Start practicing gratitude.

Review
Reflection is a powerful thing. When I took the time to reflect not only on the previous year, but all the years before that that have lead up to the present, I found myself focusing on my major life changes and how they have shaped me: my parents’ divorce, the move to Florida, the decision to live with my dad, college, grad school, television career start, getting engaged, getting unengaged, my six-month backpacking trip, the move to New Zealand, starting my business, my mom’s death, adopting my dog, selling my business and moving to Santa Cruz.

Perspective
For me, getting perspective is one of the easiest parts of the “creating new” processes. When we’re in the moment of decision-making or in the moment of an evolution, we have no idea what will come out of it. We sort of throw our arms up and surrender that everything will be ok. When we look back though, it’s often easy to see, ah ha, there’s where I should have done this instead or why do I always do that?

Journaling
Here’s the part many of us don’t do. There’s something about carving out time to write down your thoughts and feelings that both guides the “creating new” process and helps it stick and become true. Journaling is an action. It stirs up the desire to want to “do.” Doing sets the path of making change.

Intention
This is the most challenging and the most important part of the process. Often our minds are cluttered with multiple wants and wishes. We may be being pulled in a direction by our partner, boss or friend. The best thing to do is meditate for a bit each day. Get quiet within yourself and pay attention to blips that come in. Not the things like, oh I have to remember to pick up toilet paper at the store but the imagery and the light. What thoughts bring you the most warmth?

Another powerful thing to do is return to journaling and write down: “what do I want?” Then if you had that, what would you want from it? Then if you had that, what would you want from that? Write until you can’t think of anything else then stop. How do you feel imaging yourself at the last point you were at? Grasp that and set that as your intention.

Think about the word “intention.” It means you intend to do something. You intend to take action. You intend to make something happen. Making something happen is creating change. To make all of this happen, we need to carry that intention with us at all times. Cradle that vision, that goal within you. Don’t get distracted from it. Revisit it often throughout each day.

Self Work
It’s true we often pay attention to our own needs last. Sure we get by making certain we have food and some sleep to function in our daily lives but we’d benefit so much more by taking the time to not cheat ourselves and tune into what our bodies and minds really need.

We are so busy these days that we use the excuse that we can accomplish more by skimping on sleep or grabbing a quick processed food meal. In the long run, this does us more harm than good. Cutting out foods that are bad for us and learning how to buy and prepare whole foods will do wonders for your sleep patterns, physical and mental health.

  • Pamper yourself. We tend to feel guilty spending the money or taking the time to indulge in treating ourselves. We’d much rather spend $60 on a concert ticket than on a massage. The truth is, the act of allowing ourselves a massage, facial, pedicure, hot tub or sauna is an act of love to yourself. There’s something that goes on in our brain chemistry there where we say, “I love me.” This feels good. It brings with it self-value, self-love and self-confidence. Simple as that. Just try it.
  • Learn something new. Ever tried photography, painting, playing an instrument, scuba diving, rock climbing? Again, we often think we’re too busy to do these things. Or it’s too expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to cost much, if anything. Investing the time is worth it. Many scientific studies report that learning a new skill results in increased optimism, desire and ability to get the most from life.
  • Get in touch with your spiritual side. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, we all have a little Yoda inside. This often gets ignored and brushed aside. We may feel it in a blip when we recognize a moment of beauty be it nature, children, the elderly, animals. It may be what we see as a miracle, something unexplainably good. Some of us may find it in church. Wherever, however you connect with your zen side, do it. Make it a habit. Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to sit outside with your eyes closed and breathe deeply.

Cleaning and Clearing
There’s a reason many of us participate in the tradition of spring-cleaning. After the haze has lifted from the holidays, we have the urge to not only to drop some pounds from ourselves but also to rid excess from our living spaces. It feels good and freeing. Take some time to go through all the stuff you’ve accumulated and sort out what you don’t need or what isn’t good. It will have you feeling lighter.

Try on things. If they don’t fit right, lose them. Stop holding onto things that are outdated thinking they’ll come back in fashion again some day. If you haven’t used something in a year, get rid of it. Purge your fridge and cupboards of what isn’t healthy for you.

As you do the clearing out ritual, clean. Clean every nook and cranny. Save money and be healthy by using a homemade non-toxic cleaner. A simple concoction of a baking soda, vinegar with warm water works great in many areas.

Now, donate your unwanted pile of clothes and household items to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or other charity. Non-perishable unopened foods can be donated to a local food bank. Animal shelters will happily accept blankets, towels and comforters. Make sure items are washed first.

Giving and Gratitude
You might not think these things belong on this list but they play an important part in health and happiness. I’ve talked a lot about how I’ve learned how to build a better me and get on a path to my life’s dream. It’s important to not get so self-focused that you lose touch with others in the world. Know that other people help you in ways you may not even realize. Know that others are going through the same thing you are. Some are in much, much worse states than you think you are.

• Giving a part of yourself does wonders for your soul. It connects you to other people. It brings you compassion. Compassion and connection brings us happiness. Whether you take a couple of seconds in a day or devote a day or a week of your time to help another in need, it all adds up to bettering you.

Help someone with directions. Offer to help carry someone’s shopping bags. Pay for someone’s toll. Volunteer. Donate clothes or household items. There are a lot of ways you can contribute to someone else’s happiness.

Lastly, practice being grateful. Whether you do it at the beginning of each day, just before you go to bed or all throughout the day, acknowledging the things, the times, the people you are grateful for will make you feel better.

We tend to spend so much of our days honing in on what we think is bad in our lives and what we don’t like about ourselves. We begin from the moment we wake up and look in the mirror. “Ugh, why is my hair so boring?” “Why do I have to have these wrinkles?” “I’m so fat!” Then we move on in the day. “Why is this person driving so slow in front of me?” “Why does that person get all attention at my job?” “If I had more money, I would be happier.”

You can imagine what all this negativity building up in you can do to your self-esteem and your view of yourself in the world. Well, stop it!

What if you turned that around? I know it sounds “woo-woo” hippidy dippity but it works. Do it in your head and write it down. Start a gratitude journal. You’ll be amazed to see how many things you actually have going for yourself and how much you have to be grateful for. I promise you, that list will be a lot longer than what you think you don’t have going for you.

In summary, all of these action plans, these tools I’ve listed combine to get you on the path to a better you. It sounds like work, I know, but just think of it as gifts to yourself. Who doesn’t want a gift? And these add up to one “you” wrapped up with love and tied with a bow of happiness set to explode open to your life’s dream.

These 7 steps add up to one “you” wrapped up with love and tied with a bow of happiness set to explode open to your life’s dream!

Comments
What do you want most out of life? What do you think is stopping you from having what you want? Do you think there’s anything that would add to this list? Is there something I’ve left out? I’d love to hear from you! Please reply in the comment section below.

  • Please share this post. After all, spreading the word is an act of kindness that could end up helping someone you know or someone you don’t know.

Thank you and take care.

Adventures in Speed Dating (I’ll Try Anything Once)

This crazy thing called speed dating has swept the nation. Well, ok, maybe not exactly “swept” as, much to this newbie’s surprise, it’s been around for almost two decades. I guess then it’s been more of a nudge than a sweep. In any event, at this point in my dating career I figured I’d check it out. Obviously nothing else has worked thus far, right? What did I have to lose? My dignity? Hah! With that long since checked out the window, I vowed to sign up for the next event nearby in my age category.

speeddateAnd soon I found myself clicking the checkout button on a $35 ticket to an ages 32 – 49 hosted speed dating event.

Thirty-five dollars seemed like a reasonable amount to pay for a couple of hours of my time having mini one-on-ones with twenty bachelors. After all, an online dating subscription can take weeks of searching and communicating until meeting just one eligible man. I was down to make the best of it.

The event was put on by DateSwitch. The day of the event, I tried to find any excuse in the book not to go. It was Friday and after a long week, I was pretty tired. I also woke up that day with a nice big blemish between my eyebrows. Perfect! If any of my girlfriends had been available that night, I gladly would have eaten my speed dating ticket cost and spent the same on some wine and a night out with the ladies. As it turned out, everyone was already booked up for a night of canoodling with beaus.

I was one of the first daters to arrive.

After check in, I bellied up to the bar for a much-needed libation to calm nerves then proceeded to my marked station.

From where I sat, I had a good gander of the gentlefolk coming in as well as my female peers or, should I be referring to them as competition?  Nope, nah, next, oooh no was pretty much how my mind checked the guys off the contenders’ list. On looks alone there were about three possibilities. Odds were not looking good. I swigged my wine.

As the night progressed, I found myself enjoying talking to these men. They were all very different from me. Since the event was in San Jose, 90 percent of them were, not surprisingly, in the tech industry. When asked what I did for a living, I found myself mentioning REI a lot as I often refer to where I work as the “REI for water sports.” Nobody had heard of REI! Not a single guy had heard of it! Many had never been camping. One guy said, “aren’t you afraid of bears?” Next!

Suddenly, I felt like the oddball. “One off these things is not like the other” started singing in my head.

I was sharing a table with another woman. After her second speed date, she waived the host over and said she wasn’t feeling well. It was distracting as I was trying to talk to my guy but soon we stopped blabbing and eavesdropped. I’m pretty sure she was feigning illness and that what was really going on is she was freaking out. Oh I feel you sister!

The thing is, I could never just bail like she did. She left rapidly and awkwardly, resulting in an uneven guy-girl ratio. The host explained that the guys were going to get a five-minute break after me to fill the space that would have been allotted to her. I joked with the men that the break might be needed after talking to me. Haha! Nervousness. Why did I say that?

The whole scene was so bizarre with the women staying at their designated stations and the men wandering from one station to the next at the sound of the bell. I found myself envying the men as they got to stretch their legs and get a better view around the prospects. I had dressed up for the occasion and staying seated in my dark corner, these guys weren’t really seeing all my outward assets.

Suffice to say, I’ve crossed speed dating off of my list of things to try in an effort to find Mr. Right. I drove home in a daze, exhausted from all the mini interviews. I walked Shilo and when I got back, plopped my laptop on my bed, laid on my stomach and logged in to the speed dating event website. I looked through the list of men I’d met and their pictures and marked “no” one by one next to each of them. Sigh. I wondered if anyone selected me. I’d never know. After submitting my votes, I got an immediate response back that I had a free speed dating credit. Not terribly optimistic and wishing there were events in other cities close to home to try my luck with a different environment, I filed the response away.

I’ll try anything once. Once may be all there is for me with speed dating.

Comments
Have you tried speed dating? Has it worked for anyone? Tell me your successes or disasters. I’d love to hear from you! Please reply in the comment section below.