Thursday, February 23, 2012

WITHERED



Lately I've been lamenting on the geriatrics surrounding me. "What have I done in my life to deserve being surrounded by mean, negative, bitter, hateful, and malicious old people?!" If you've ever been around these types of creatures you slowly metamorphosize into them and the transformation is insidious. If you don't guard your heart and mind from their toxic effects the words that pour out of your mouths will be bitter dribble that poisons the ears of those around you. 


As I grow older and settle into middle age I am resistant to being set in my ways. However, I've been raised around people who criticize instead of encourage, tear down instead of build up, nit-pick instead of bless, focus on the negative instead of the positive, begrudge instead of forgive, hate instead of love. I realized I was already on my way to becoming a set-in-my-ways-embittered-and-withered-old-woman because I've learned to retaliate in like manner. I don't want to be THAT old person in the family whom everyone avoids or ignores at family parties. I don't want my grandkids to steer clear of me or look at me with disgust in their eyes because I make them miserable with my presence. 


When I was lamenting about the old, hateful people around me I realized I wasn't being punished but given living examples of how NOT to be in my old age. I AM hateful, I CAN be mean, and I AM filled with bitterness. But I am capable of changing all of that as long as I am aware and willing to make the necessary steps to walk the path opposite of ugly. Ironically, the day I had this insight I found two e-mails in my inbox that addressed the same issue. One of them was Michael Hyatt's blog entry titled "The Secret to Happiness As You Get Older" gave me a reference point. The secret is to: 


1. Never complain. It doesn't change anything. It only makes you miserable.
2. Be thankful. Treat everything in life--whether good or bad--as a gift. 

I would like to add: Don't succumb to the woe-is-me syndrome. Once you start raging in your own pity parties it will be difficult to pull yourself out. 

The second e-mail that was in my inbox that morning was a Joel Osteen devotional about change. "...when we are not willing to change, we get stuck in life holding on to what God did in the past instead of growing and moving forward into what God wants to do in the future." 

I started 2012 with the conviction to focus on the blessings and be thankful. Although, I haven't written a "Scavenger Hunt for Blessings" installment for the last few weeks, I HAVE written about the things I've been thankful for. I would like to believe that I am off to a good start. I have a choice to make in my life: be a withered, old, unyielding tree or a flourishing, pliant willow tree. 

I'm thankful for the presence of mean, hateful, and negative elderlies in my life; for without them I could grow into a withered old tree. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

UPHILL BATTLE | CHINATOWN FIRECRACKER 5K

Sunday, February 12, 2012
Last Sunday, I ran the Chinatown Firecracker 5K believing it would be easy. I should know by now that nothing in my life is ever easy and is ALWAYS an uphill battle. A 5K is a little over 3 miles which is a normal run for me. When I registered for the race I restrained myself from signing up for the 10K (6.2 miles) because I needed to train for that. I temporarily stopped running when I was advised not to exercise while my body acclimated to the blood pressure medication. I thought it was symbolic that 3 days before I ran this 5K I was given the green light to stop taking the medication. 

I didn't train for the 5K because like I said, it's a normal run for me. What I didn't know until the day before the race was that there was a hill. A very LOOOOONNG hill that would take me up to Dodger Stadium. Well shoot me! I haven't done any hill training in months. MONTHS! My goal was to have fun and not mentally obsess over miles, training, etc. Ha, the joke is always on me! 


I didn't even run half a mile when I was confronted with that hill and ran oh, I don't know, a few yards up when I felt like I was going to die! And all the thoughts of defeat assaulted my brain. "Quit, it's only a 5K. This race is nothing." "You didn't bring your inhaler so you can get an asthma attack." "Dude, I need to stop and just fall over." "Look, that old lady just passed you up, you're a goner!" "Oh wow, see that guy with the handicap? He passed you, too! Face it, you're a loser! Just quit! No one will know."


This was the point when I knew I had to keep moving forward. Why? Because I rarely succumb to those plaguing thoughts of defeat and I wasn't going to let a hill beat me down. It was a HILL, not a flippin' mountain! So I slowed my roll and walked. Upwards and onwards like I've always done when I faced adversity in my life. When the people who were close to me or called themselves my family were the ones to beat me down I never caved in. I kept moving forward and never gave up despite what I was told.

When I reached the top of the hill I was awed by the view of Los Angeles that I wouldn't be privy to had I chose to turn back. I stopped and took a picture of myself with downtown LA in the background. I cruised controlled running back down the hill and when I saw the "FINISH" banner I walked across that finish line. I savored my victory. 
Award and Reward
No matter what you are currently facing, whether it is an uphill battle of sickness or circumstances beyond your control, remember that the mountain is probably just a measly little ol' hill.

To view my pictures of the race and event, please click my Facebook link.

Friday, February 17, 2012

WRITING YOUR DREAMS | GUEST POST

This is a guest post written by Melanie Bowen, Part-time Blog Contributor for Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. She also has her own blog: Milady Knows




Writing Your Dreams


Think about the last time that you were truly honest about who you were and what you wanted. The truth is that for many people, this is a harder thing to do than they think. Too often, we are stifled by what we should be saying or what we should want. We don’t think about the things we want as often or about the goals that, in essence, make us who we are. When you are in recovery from something like mesothelioma cancer, and even when your prognosis is quite hopeful, you’ll find that it can take something like journaling to get you to peaceful mental state you want.

Why Keep a Log?
Psych Central states that putting your feelings into words are a helpful tool in many more ways than one. Not only do you get your thoughts down on a paper and give yourself a physical reminder of what you want to accomplish in life; you will also stimulate your brain, causing you to think about how to make those goals a reality. For many people, their dreams are simply smoke. There is no reality to them, and nothing that connects their dream to their real life; this is where keeping a log or a journal comes in.

How Do I Keep a Log?
There is no right or wrong way to start writing down your goals or your dreams. Some people write in long, storyline detail about what they want to do, while other people write in short, fragmentary sentences. As long as the intent is clear to you, you’ll find that it doesn’t matter how you are doing it; all that matters is that you are getting your thoughts on paper. This is something that can be quite freeing when you first realize it. You do not have to write conversationally, and you’ll find that all you need to do is to get the words on paper.

Fun Extras
When you are logging your goals and journaling about what you want to do, don’t feel constrained to work solely through journal entries. If you find a picture that you love that is related to your goal, paste it into your journal. If you want to answer questions or to interview yourself, go ahead and do that. This is something that can help you figure out what you want and it also injects a bit of playfulness into the experience that helps you get where you want to go. A journal or log can be anything you need it to be, so take the time to experiment with your own ideas.

When you are on the move and ready to start living again, take a moment to think about what you can do with journaling and what kind of tool it can be for you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

MY SAM GAMGEE

Ray -->>PEACE<<--Nannette
I've mentioned it many times before--Ray is the Sam Gamgee to my Frodo and not because he's my sidekick. In this epic story called My Life he is equal to the main character; the one who displays courage and loyalty as he does life with me. I know the journey isn't easy and somewhat perilous. Ray has to give constant reminders that he stands by Me-the good, the bad, and the VERY ugly. Remnants from an abusive marriage are magnified in this relationship  and creates many obstacles along the path. Just like Frodo I push Ray away while he tries to protect and take care of me. He rescues me from myself as I run headlong into decisions that ultimately bite me in the butt, yet, I have a difficult time admitting it. 

Before Ray and I reconnected he knew me as an innocent and idealistic teenager. But the twenty-five years that separated our lives created a distrustful woman who built an armor of steely pride to protect herself from further injury. I viciously react to things he says or does as if his intentions were meant to harm me or rob me of my independence. There is a battle of good and evil that rages in my head: the good that tells me I'm worthy enough to be loved and the bad that's full of the lies I've heard most of my life. And in the midst of it Ray is there, always patient but sometimes quite fed up with my brokenness. And understandably so because being my significant other is not for the faint of heart. He reiterates that I'm the one he could be honest with and through the fog of my distrust I know he's right. With him I operate on full disclosure which used to be difficult for me in the past. 

Every day, I work on being whole again. When my mind isn't warped by the lingering trauma I ask God to create a new being that walks in peace and total trust. I don't want to grow old as an embittered woman resistant to love and seeped in negativity. To prevent myself from becoming THAT woman I freely admit that I CAN be vicious, manipulative, and vindictive, then counteract it with being thankful for everything. Every day I pray that God fertilizes the soil of my heart with the words of 1 Corinthians 13, "It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." We've all heard those words millions of times but my actions fail to emulate them. 

Ray and I have known each other for almost thirty years and I am grateful that he chooses to accompany me on this journey, protecting me, doing everything to keep me sane, and having the courage to love me. Our love isn't one of romance but a union born out of a deep friendship and loyalty. We are two imperfect beings traversing through the landscape of our story with humor, faith, honesty, and valor. 

On this day that celebrates love (February 14) may you all have a Sam Gamgee as a fellow companion on your journey! 

Happy <3 Day, Ray! 



Friday, February 10, 2012

MORE LIFE TO LIVE



I did it. Yesterday morning my doctor gave me the green light to stop taking my blood pressure medication. Three days before the new year I was diagnosed with hypertension and it infuriated me. And when I get mad I take action. At the time, I gave my doctor the usual spiel about my stance on holistic healing. But when he gravely delivered the "massive stroke" punchline I didn't laugh. My aunt just suffered one and I saw the devastation it caused in our family. (Thank God she's recovered 100%.) My doctor pulled no punches and asked if I wanted to see my granddaughter graduate from medical school. A notion that wasn't too far fetched since she always has the medical dictionary read to her. 

The following week I intensely scoured the Internet on information regarding hypertension. I used the resources available to me at my job and learned it would take 10% common sense and 90% free will to control my blood pressure. I didn't have to be a victim of genetics or depend on medication to do something that my body is capable of doing on its own. I had to make a permanent choice! 

What is hypertension? It's high blood pressure. It's a serious condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. What causes hypertension? The list is long but common causes are: smoking, obesity, high levels of salt intake, a sedentary lifestyle, vitamin D deficiency, stress, high alcohol consumption, birth control pills, genetics, and chronic kidney disease. It didn't take a profound epiphany to extract the #1 culprit of MY hypertension from the list-high levels of salt intake. I exercised regularly, managed my stress as best I could, drank one glass of wine at night, and didn't have chronic kidney disease. I could have chalked it up to genetics and stress but I had to be honest with myself. I wasn't eating properly and was feeling it for months. 


I found the Dash Diet  specifically designed for people like me and it touted to lower blood pressure in 14 days. So it was up to me. In one day I was dumbfounded to learn of the high amount of sodium in the food I consumed that I thought was safe. I erroneously believed that soup was heart healthy. Uhhh, that would be a negative. The soup I was eating at our cafeteria contained 1,770mg of sodium!!!! I'm supposed to consume ONLY a maximum of 1,500mg/day. Let's not talk about the sauces, dressings, meat, and snacks I loved. I truly believe that french fries should be removed from a food group and placed in a drug class-narcotics. I made excuses every day for needing to stick those salted potato sticks down my throat. 


For the last month I replaced french fries with fruit; lots of fruit! And I ate vegetables (preferably raw) instead of white rice. I decreased my red meat and increased my protein intake via vegetables, nuts, legumes, and spinach. (I still eat red meat once in a while but not 3x a week or more.) I checked the sodium content on every nutrition label that was available and discarded those that had more than 6%. I opted for the veggie burger w/no sauce and convinced myself to love it. Oh, and water. I am drinking so much dratted water. Thank God my friend Michele told me about MIO water enhancer which makes H20 consumption a pleasant experience. I have to be honest, I used to love eating and was a proud foodie. Eating was a recreation meant to be savored and enjoyed. But those days are over...well, for now. 


My radical shift in mindset toward food will allow me to have more life to live. I'm taking responsibility for my actions and ensuring that I don't become a burden to my kids should I have a massive stroke or heart attack prematurely. This vast world has parts of it that my camera hasn't captured and my calling has yet to be fulfilled. My granddaughter, Rylee, and I, have so many adventures to undertake. 


Life was meant to be lived in abundance. Let's do it healthy! 









Wednesday, February 8, 2012

INTEGRITY, BUSINESS, AND PYRAMIDS

Integrity. What's happened to it? Does anyone even know what the definition is and how to apply the words to their actions? 

Integrity --->>>The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles<<<---

Why is that so difficult? 

Last December I asked myself these questions after experiencing a disappointing encounter with someone I believed exemplified the meaning of integrity. This person befriended my family at a time when hopelessness dwelt in our hearts. We didn't question this person's intentions or integrity because of how we met. I will call this person Decepta. 

Decepta seemed like a decent human being with a big heart for loving people. Decepta also loved Jesus. I thought Decepta was an answer to my prayer for an older mentor who would help me in my spiritual walk. I was excited! My family opened their home to Decepta and was introduced to our huge clan during a holiday party. My aunts commented on how nice Decepta was and how fortunate we were to have met such a person of integrity. One week before Christimas, Decepta invited us to her humble abode for dinner. Again, her motives weren't questioned by anyone and we genuinely believed that we found a true friend in this person. 

I should have seen it coming, though. The meticulous way everything was planned and manipulated should have alerted me. But my desires for a mentor drew a curtain over my eyes. After dinner Decepta unfurled her sweet facade like one of Megatron's little minions and revealed her true incarnation. Decepta had a business venture to present to us-a business venture that surprisingly mimicked a pyramid. No amount of fancy words or shucking and jiving could disguise the shape of a pyramid.


And there it was. The ugly truth. My family was only a means to Decepta's ambition to promote her business. Decepta even had the audacity to suggest that we would be successful in this business venture because of how large our family was. Which meant she didn't view us as people, we were merely walking $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. I silently shook during the half hour I sat on Decepta's couch watching the DVD presentation. I had my mom and granddaughter with me and causing a scene would have been disastrous.


Had Decepta been straightforward with us and presented the business venture without false pretenses her credibility would have remained intact. I'm sure she is still a nice human being who is capable of loving others. But her actions that preceded the presentation of her business were misleading and disingenuous. Nothing Decepta says or does will convince me otherwise. 


My family convinced me to handle this situation in a mature manner and I did. I told her NO, not interested instead of HELLLL TO THE NOOOOO! But I AM grateful she passed through our lives albeit briefly because as a business person I have an example of how NOT to be. As I conduct my photography business I will ensure that my actions AND words are backed up with integrity while I approach people with honesty.






Saturday, February 4, 2012

SCAVENGER HUNT FOR BLESSINGS | 5

Last Monday night when I was sitting in the emergency room with my mom the exhaustion had seeped into my bones. It was around 10:30 p.m. when my mom was crying from the chest pains she's experienced for the last 24 hours. The sights and smells of the emergency room were reminiscent of 2011 as I sat on the uncomfortable chair blindly reading Steve Jobs's biography. I was done. 


I watched the pair of hands on the hospital clock dance a neverending minuet and I had a sudden urge to salute it with a middle finger. I allowed myself to think self-centered and self-absorbed thoughts because I was too flippin' tired of finding the positive in the situation. I was tired of taking care of people and even more weary of waiting. Waiting for my turn to live MY life. Because quite frankly, I hate living at home. I want my own place. I feel trapped with the debt that yes, I know, I accrued on my own volition. I hate that my family depends on me yet makes me feel like a burden at the same time. All rational thought ceased from existance in my fatigued brain that night. Inside my head I was a stark, raving, self-centered, lunatic bitch. 


The doctor came in at 3:30 a.m. to tell my mom what I already knew before they checked her in the emergency room. My mom wasn't having a heart attack. She was experiencing chest pains/heart palpitations from stress/anxiety. The stress/anxiety that she was too afraid to admit was partly caused by my presence at home. 


Driving home I told myself that I refused to be a victim of my circumstances especially when those circumstances were created by my bad decisions. I won't allow 2012 to be defined by people and things beyond my control! And I reminded myself of the many years my parents silently endured the hellish nightmare I put them through. They never gave up on me and always kept their door open when I needed to come back home. I have been the prodigal daughter more than once and they have never turned me away. Today, I saw this tweet in my Twitter timeline and it humbly reminded me that everything is temporary. I just need to get my head out of my a$$! 




I am thankful for:  the blessings of good health in my family, parents who don't give up on children even when they're being a-holes, the job I'm not passionate about that is slowly paying off my debt, and my faith. Because without my faith I would probably be in jail. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

20 BEAUTIFUL BOOKSTORES | BUCKET LIST

Yesterday morning my inbox  greeted me with the most breathtaking article from Flavorwire: The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores In The World.  For a die-hard bibliophile it was fodder for my voracious reader's heart. I live and breathe books. I would probably eat them if my body found sustenance in its pages the way my brain feeds off of the words. I was jealous of Belle when the Beast's testament of love was delivered through a library! A flippin' LIBRARY! Imagine the heart palpitations in my chest when I read this article and saw the 20 beautiful bookstores in the world! I pulled out my Bucket List and wrote: visit each bookstore in this article and take a self-portrait before you die! First stop: Ojai, California! (I've already been to The Last Bookstore, in Los Angeles, CA.)

Enjoy these images that I copied from the Flavorwire article and hope you don't drool on your shirt like I did. And if you know of beautiful bookstores not mentioned in this article please share your knowledge with me. 
A gorgeous converted Dominican church gives the power of reading its due diligence. Selexyz Bookstore, Maastricht, Holland
Modern design at its finest in a store full of art books. The Bookàbar Bookshop, Rome, Italy
We love the stairs as reading and display area, the wall-to-wall bookshelves, and the simple, clean design. Plural Bookshop, Bratislava, Slovakia
This divine neo-gothic bookstore, opened in 1906, contains what we consider to be the ultimate definition of a stairway to heaven. Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Somehow, this bookstore manages to be both whimsical and slightly macabre all at once. Cook & Book, Brussels, Belgium

There’s magic in the air at this English-language bookstore in Beijing. Bookworm, Beijing, China

This majestic converted 1920s movie palace uses theatre boxes for reading rooms and draws thousands of tourists every year. Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina [images via and via]

 Poplar Kid’s Republic, Beijing, China

This is a bookstore that seems to be made almost entirely out of books — down to its dramatic front doors. Livraria da Vila, Sao Paulo, Brazil [photos via]

For those who like their green spaces (and coffee shops) to invade their bookstores. Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico [photos via]

For those browsers not as impressed by architecture as they are by the beauty of books upon books upon books in narrow hallways — not to mention a place to nap. Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France [photo via]

The huge space, high ceilings and stately pillars make for a lovely reading experience. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA

For sailors and beach readers alike, this sun-kissed bookstore is a little less ostentatious than some of the others on this list, but no less lovely. Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece

The biggest outdoor bookstore in the world, this photo doesn’t really do the place justice — it’s all about the view. Bart’s Books, Ojai, California [photo via]

The bookstore section of the larger complex dedicated to art and design certainly lives up to its mission. Corso Como Bookshop, Milan, Italy

Barter Books, Alnwick, UK [photosvia]

This beautifully designed space has surprising shapes, cleverly constructed nooks and crannies and even a tree or two. The American Book Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands [photo via]

VVG Something, Taipei, Taiwan

This store has a flying bike and books to the ceiling. Need we say more? Ler Devagar, Lisbon, Portugal

Daikanyama T-Site, Tokyo, Japan