Coffee House Vignettes: an Unusual Tribute to My Dad

I do not care for this time of year. Two years ago on Father’s Day 2013 my dad fell and broke his back and knee and that started his journey home. I sat down this morning to write an entirely different entry and ended up with this: an unlikely tribute to life and living.

Coffee House Vignettes

I sit inside a hip and swanky coffee shop after a long walk under the cover of the early morning sun. Looking outside the window I see a man in a baby blue and white striped shirt with a logo of some sort that I don’t recognize. He smiles constantly while speaking animatedly to a young woman who writes her a composition book with a feverish intensity.

As he talks the man, possibly in his fifties, makes graceful hand gestures, accentuating his seemingly articulate points. His blue eyes sparkle while his eyebrows crinkle. His salt and pepper eyebrows match his hair. He sits with his legs casually crossed. His gray shorts come to the top of his knees. He’s wearing grey and blue well-worn Asics, with white socks that barely peak out the top of his shoes.

His name? Jerry—clearly written on the outer edges of his coffee cup. He just now reaches for the young woman’s notebook and starts writing. After a few minutes he turns the notebook back to her and begins explaining—a math problem perhaps? Yet he appears to be writing script, so maybe not.

The young woman appears to be in her twenties with long blonde hair from a bottle, not from Mother Nature’s design. The roots reveal a brunette youth. In spite of the heat she wears a black long sleeve t-shirt and tan pants. Only her flip-flops give homage to the brutal sun. Her nails (fingers and toes) hold no paint. She leans on the table, her head in one hand as she listens intently to Jerry.

Two tables away from Jerry sit two older gents, possibly in their eighties, both drinking frappucinos and wearing military hats. One has a short sleeve Hawaiian shirt, while the other wears a royal blue t-shirt, covered by a faded denim long sleeve shirt. Both have large dark sunglasses protecting their eyes.

Other patio occupants include a woman in her fifties reading an actual newspaper, four teenage girls laughing sweetly while enjoying each others’ company—they do not seem to have an attachment to their phones, a rarity these days. The commonality amongst all—smiling, laughing, and animated faces. People making eye contact; people talking with each other and not to each other.

Connection: the key to happiness—connection with each other—connection with ourselves—connection with that inner sparkle. May we all find a bit of that inner light, that inner shine in each moment.

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One of my favorite pictures of my dad. I am my father's daughter.

One of my favorite pictures of my dad. I am my father’s daughter.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls–NOT ME!!!

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

I’ve been thinking about Donne lately, John Donne. I have an evolving fascination with his thoughts on the interconnectedness of humans. Donne would have us believe that when one dies, a part of us dies as well. Lately, though, when thinking of Donne thoughts of life have filtered through my mind.

Death comes in many forms, not just the loss of an existence. As I shared recently, while going through my first blog entries I noticed how much of my thoughts revolved around others’ perceptions of who I ought to be, could be, should be. I don’t mean to lay the blame upon others. To the contrary, my existence is mine. My choices are mine.

Each day when I wake up I have the ability to make choices. I make choices to live or not to live. Sometimes it’s the little things. I do enjoy some morning star veggie sausages sometimes, yet I know people might (and have) make disparaging remarks about that choice. SO WHAT???? I’ve cared too much about that.

I believe bodies respond better to whole foods, and that’s why I aim to include more of them into my daily eating. I bought a watermelon yesterday and found myself looking forward to consuming it, but when I cut it open this morning it had no taste. NONE!!!

I’m also an emotional creature who comes more from the heart. And that’s okay. I don’t need to change that. I probably need to relax more and react less, but I’m working on that. That’s the key here: working on it.

Death takes many forms. If I didn’t work on myself, that would be a form of death. Every time I feel badly about myself, that’s a form of death, for it keeps my light from shining. All of use have lights that deserve to shine. As Howard Thurman once said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Do something right now. Do something today that makes you come alive and don’t’ worry about what anyone else thinks! It doesn’t matter. When you come alive you contribute to the fabric of society to the light and life of others. When that joy emanates from inside of you the whole sky becomes radiant with intense happiness.

LIVE YOUR LIFE!!!! Right NOW!!!!! Stop the bell tolling!!!! You are worth it!!!

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No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

~John Donne

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Creating MY Authentic Self

Creating an Authentic Self

Creating an Authentic Self: sounds almost like a self-help book, doesn’t it? The other day I found myself sitting outside Starbucks, drinking a latte and staring into the flowing water of a fountain. Watching the ripples lacing their way through the cascading water gave me pause for thought. Each ripple had its own unique rhythm, it’s own dance with the divine. The water held no judgment. It merely moved to its own proverbial drum.

Later that day I found myself going chronologically through my blog. I started writing it on May 22nd of 2013. My first few entries involved Bikram yoga and food and weight loss. As I read each entry a startling realization began to form: I hadn’t reached the core of my authentic self. At the time I thought my words came from the deepest reaches of my inner core. But they didn’t.

You see I still hadn’t found that inner core, my authentic self. I had only started to scratch the surface. I only re-read the first three months of entries, and, sure, some of them did contain soul-searching revelations, but in others I saw a woman still seeking the love, the approval, the acceptance of others.

I hadn’t gotten yet to the point of understanding that who I am matters more that who people perceive me to be. When it came to food, I kept in the corners of my mind how people thought I SHOULD eat, how they thought I was SUPPOSED to eat.

I saw the rawest snippets of myself in the entries around my father’s death. And in the pictures of me doing yoga poses.

That night, after reading three months of blog entries, I laid awake feeling the impact of my revelations, feeling the stench of wasted time. I tossed and turned, thoughts swirling with no place to go, with no way out. Around 3:30a.m. I hauled myself out of bed and started cutting vegetables. I cut enough vegetables for a four or five days, and it took me less than an hour. Now who says eating healthy takes time? I threw the veggies in a giant Ziploc bag and put them in the fridge.

In the two days since then I’ve done exactly what I wanted, without worry about people’s approval. As the great Lao-tzu once said, “care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.” He was right. He IS right.

I don’t care what you think of me. Not any more. I’m also immensely grateful for the writing I’ve done, in journals and in blogs. Those intimate means of self-revelations bring me more strength than I ever thought I had and more courage to continue evolving into the woman I envision myself being.

Here’s a favorite fun blog entry from my first blog:

https://confessionsofahawaiianprincess.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/hot-tips-for-a-happy-hotbikram-yoga-class/

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When All You Need Is Love, Love OTHERS!

I found myself wide awake at 4:00a.m. thinking about love, about concepts of self-love. I have some radical, or not so radical thoughts, depending on how you look at it. I’ve written lately about love, about self-love. I find truth in the necessity of acts of self-love, being kind to self, forgiving self.

What does that look like? Maybe going for a manicure, a walk, taking time to meditate, and the list goes on. But, I’d like to suggest, for today, another type of love, the type of love that goes beyond self, while nurturing self in undreamed of ways.

A smile, a kind gesture, a card in the mail, a phone call, a lunch or coffee with someone you love—I appreciate all of the above and more. When someone, a friend or stranger, smiles at me my heart smiles back and my mood lifts. When I receive a card in the mail I jump for joy. When a friend calls just to say, light enters the room.

Self-love and loving others work together to make all involved happier. I encourage each of you reading this to reach out to someone you love, someone you like just to say hello. If you live close by, maybe invite them for tea or coffee or a walk. Send someone far away a card, a real card that requires a real stamp. Smile at a stranger. Ask the clerk in the store how they are doing and listen to their response. Chances are you’ll feel happier for it and so will they!

Be a smile millionaire and make someone happy today!

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My Love Affair with Food

On this bright and sunny yet chilly morning I woke up and decided to have some yogurt with a tablespoon of honey and some flax cereal for breakfast, along with a cup of tea. I like to think of it as my own version of a yogurt parfait. I use plain yogurt and will add either honey or stevia to sweeten it. When I have really fresh and soft barhi dates I’ll use those as a sweetener.

For years I’d buy flavored yogurts because I couldn’t stand the thought of eating PLAIN yogurt. That just tasted disgusting. Also, I have a sweet tooth. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about all the chemicals that flavored yogurts contain. If I couldn’t tell it by the flavor, I’d sure be able to tell it by taste.

I love the taste of lemon and would be a fan of lemon flavored yogurts, but I’ve discovered something even better lately: plain yogurt flavored with the freshly juiced meyer lemon. I juice the entire lemon in an Omega juicer. The rind adds to the sweetness of the juice, and mixed with the yogurt and honey or stevia tastes so much better than chemicalized imitations.

As I fixed this all natural healthy breakfast, I thought to myself “this only has about 300 calories. I should really eat more.” My body, however, gave me a different message. It told me it didn’t need more, but I’ve become conditioned over the years to thinking a breakfast needed to have a certain look and a certain average caloric content.

I don’t count calories on a regular basis, but will on occasion keep track of a day’s calories just to see what I’m eating. I think of it as a reality check.

I prefer to learn to listen to my body. My body all along has always told me how it feels. It tells me when I’ve eaten too much, eaten just right. I can clearly recall Thanksgiving Days while growing and I’d eat to the point of pain because the food tasted soooo delicious. Then I’d go lie down on my bed until I found more room for more bites. My body clearly told me how it felt and I clearly ignored it.

I can recall with stunning clarity the two to three weeks I’d spend with my grandmother every summer. I didn’t really want to stay with her for that long, but, as the only girl grandchild, the family expected it of me. I suppose I didn’t really want to go because we only did activities my Grandma wanted to do. One time I actually attempted to communicate with her. I asked her if we could go walk around the mall at night. She always took the same route around her neighborhood. Initially, she acquiesced, but, as night fell, she changed her mind.

At some point, out of frustration, I started walking to one of the small stores down the street from her house. I’d buy some form of junk food. Then I’d hide it at her house and eat it when she wasn’t around. That’s how I coped with being invisible. Even then I KNEW what I was doing. My body knew it didn’t need the food. I ate, over ate, because I had no other way of expressing my unhappiness.

I became conditioned to food. Food as a soother.

Fast forward back to this morning. Part of my struggle today involves reconditioning myself. Healthy eating can be and ought to be different for everyone. Do you eat six times a day or 3? Do you eat according to your blood type? Do you eat paleo? Do you eat……………

Over the years I’ve become so conditioned to some many alternate food universes that I’ve decided the path to recovery for me involves listening to the cues my body provides. When I feel the silence, my body tells me its truth. It tells me what I need to feed it. It tells me when it’s hungry.

Finding that space, finding that silence takes effort and time. This morning I found that space. As I prepared my all-natural yogurt parfait, I thought to myself, “I need a bagel or some other bready type carbohydrate to go with my yogurt parfait.” That’s the thought that filled my head, but my body clearly said, “the yogurt parfait is plenty. Along with the tea, that will make a perfect breakfast. I’ll let you know if I want a bagel or something else later.” It took me a second or five, but I decided to listen to my body.

I sat down with my yogurt parfait and tea. By the end of the meal I felt perfectly satisfied. Sitting her a couple of hours later, my body still feels fine. Not hungry at all, and when it feels hungry, I have a salad that I made this morning. I chopped up some red leaf lettuce, sliced some hearts of palm and kalamata olives, diced some watermelon radishes and have hemp seeds that I can toss on top later. I also roasted some yellow beats and purple potatoes.

For the record, I have nothing against eating bagels or bread, but when I do eat them I want to be able to enjoy them and delighting in the taste of food means taking the time to listen to my body and allow it to tell me what it wants. I take more pleasure in food when my body tells me it’s hungry, when it gives me cues, but I think I’ll save hunger cues for another time.

For now, while it’s still Saturday morning, I’m going to take a shower and then go for a walk because my body, my mind and my spirit tell me that’s what will bring me happiness today.

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What Triggers YOU?

A couple of days ago, my brother faced a serious health crisis, the nature of still lies undetermined. He suffers from obesity and has for most of his adult life. He also enjoys drinking. A few years ago, looking for an answer to the toll weight took from his life, he had lap band surgery. His wife had gastric bypass. For awhile, the lap band surgery worked. He lost weight and became a spokesperson for the lap band surgery center.

But this story isn’t about him as much as it is about understanding the nature of addiction. The lap band surgery didn’t work for him. Because he never dealt with the triggers, the reasons for the weight gain. Most people don’t. That’s why the statistics are staggering for people who lose weight and don’t keep it off.

I’m working at a healthier life slowly because I want to seek and understand my triggers. What makes me want to overeat? What makes me want to eat unhealthy foods? What makes me want to buy a chocolate bar every time I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store? What makes me want to eat and eat and eat? What makes me feel less than? What makes me feel like I’m not pretty? Not beautiful?

Do you see the point? I need to look at these questions in order to understand why I have certain behaviors so that I can change them.

Changing those behaviors is key to successful recovery. To successfully stop negative behaviors and transmute them into healthier habits that help me create the kind of life I deserve.

Introspection is never easy. Self-reflection can feel raw, can cause pain, but it’s better to feel that angst than to dull it with food. Sometimes I feel an emptiness I can’t explain. I don’t expect others to fill it. I used to think they could. I used to think if this person did that, if that person did this it would make all the difference, it would make me feel better. But that’s allowing someone else’s behavior to determine my outlook, my mood.

Sometimes I want to overeat because that’s love. That’s where I used to find my life-preserver. Saved by a pack of oreos, the double-stuffed ones. They taste better anyways.

I understand. I have an awareness of the triggers that cause me to crave oreos or chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, or loads of French fries, and the list goes on………. Understanding doesn’t always breed success, but it helps.

I’m learning that yoga, that hiking, that watching stupid movies, that going to the movies, I’m learning that all those and more feel better. The key to creating a better life is understanding what makes you want to engage in negative behaviors and replacing them with life-affirming, with joyful activities.
Some days it’s like the Texas two-step: two steps forward, one step back, but the key is to keep moving forward. One moment at a time.

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More on Numbers that Matter

If you’ve been with me for awhile, then you know I don’t like it when people ask me how much weight I’ve lost. So many judgments and so much other “yuckiness” follows that answer. I’m more than a number. Always have been. Always will be.

Some numbers do matter though. Some numbers tell a greater story than a number on a scale ever can. Last week I went in for a yearly physical. It’s been more than a year because that’s one of things I put off in the aftermath of my father’s death. I just didn’t want to deal.

I rose out of that slump though, at least for the moment! After my physical I went and had labs taken, and today I received the results—serendipitous timing.

I woke up this morning and asked for a sign. I asked for a clear and unmistakeable sign that my life was headed in the right direction. I’ve been making more changes lately and haven’t quite been sure of some of them. I’m working at taking life more slowly. I have been known to take on too much to prove a point to others, to prove a point to myself. I am, after all, the woman who once did four Bikram classes in one day and did not sit out one posture.

I’ve decided I don’t need to prove a point anymore, not to others and not to myself. I’ve been working at taking life more slowly, stopping to smell the proverbial rose. Taking time to just be.

This transformation is a process, like all transformations, so I have moments of insecurity, moments of “am I making the right choices?” Sometimes I forget a decision I make today can be undone tomorrow. Life is malleable.

I wanted reassurance from the universe that the choices I’m making are the right choices in this moment. So, when I went to my mailbox and saw that the lab had “mistakenly” sent my lab results to me instead of my doctor I knew the universe had given me an answer.

With a sense of urgency I opened the envelope and that’s when I saw EVERY SINGLE NUMBER, EVERY SINGLE TEST, fell well within the range of normal, of healthy. Not one number fell out of range. Line after line revealed healthy blood.

Those are numbers that matter. Blood doesn’t lie. Those numbers reflect efforts made in the hot room, on the hiking trails, and meditating, and healthier eating, and working on a healthier mindset.

Those numbers reflect hard work—health that I work for, that I fight for. Fight for yourself. Find some activity you love. Exercise will work for you if you love what you do. And don’t’ depend on others to do it with you. Do it for yourself and allow others to follow if it’s meant to be.

Follow your heart and your heart will lead you in the right direction.

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