Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There Has to Be More to Life

picture from a card
This morning on my way into work, I began talking to a coworker/friend who has a daughter in the 4th grade. She shared with me that the daughter was having a meltdown this morning over what to wear to school. She was crying and "hormonal" (yes - girls as young as 9 and 10 are getting their periods now because of, probably, the unecessary growth hormones we add to milk and other foods) and claiming that none of the clothes that fit her last week fit her today. My friend shared with me that the new trend for "skinny jeans" and "skinny pants" leave her daughter feeling fat and too big. This story broke my heart. And it makes me want to scream at whoever pronounced skinny jeans as the new trend. At age 9, instead of thinking about what cool science project she can come up with for the science fair about how to make things blow up in a chemical reaction via baking soda and whatever else, she is worried about her thighs. Instead of reading a book about pirates or samurai swords or 18th century London, she is worried about looking good in skinny jeans. I want MORE for society, MORE for 4th grade girls. And in turn I do believe there would be MORE for everyone if we had a nation of confident, driven girls who were encouraged to discover who they were on the inside and learn how to love themselves rather than encouraged to see themselves as mere mannequins, constantly despising themselves for what they look like on the outside.

I chose this picture because I feel it encapsulates a lot of what girls and women in society go through today with regards to self-esteem, self-worth, self-hatred, body image, etc etc. - sometimes it feels like we are holding up a mountain with our bare hands. Trying to control everything. Trying to keep this massive boulder (of what? fear? rejection? loneliness?) from falling on us and smashing us into compote. The saddest thing about all of this is that I don't think it's the boys who hurt us, but OTHER girls. Friends. Peers. Family. I'm not sure why this is? I'd love to hear your opinions about it.

At its core though, the issue boils down to the disconnect between the spiritual/divine (the unchangable goodness and wholeness that we cannot see with eyes or or taste or smell but have to feel from within) and the material world of things, food, images, clothes, bodies, nature, tangible objects that constantly change. Our job is to marry these two (the divine and the material world) as they are both necessary, wonderful and interdepedent.

"So many "perfect" girls were raised entirely without organized religion, and the majority of the rest of us experienced 'spirituality' only in the form of mandatory holiday services with a big-haired grandmother...Overlay our dearth of spiritual exploration with our excess of training in ambition... and you have a generation of godless girls... raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity. In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks... not the amazing miracle of mere existence." - Courtney E. Martin (via, Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth)

And where does food come into all of this?

"Women turn to food when they are not hungry because they are hungry for something they can't name: a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life. Something deathless, something sacred. But replacing the hunger for divine connection with Double Stuf Oreos is like giving a glass of sand to a person dying of thirst. It creates more thirst, more panic. Combine the utter inefficiency of dieting with the lack of spiritual awarenss and we have generations of mad, ravenous, self-loathing women. We have become so obsessed with getting rid of our obsession, with riding on top of our suffering and ignoring its inherent message, that we lose the pieces of ourselves waiting to be found beneath it. But fixing ourselves is not the same as being ourselves. The real richness of obsession lies in the effible stillness, the irrefutable wholeness, that is found in turning toward its source." - Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God

And how do we feel a connection to the divine? By knowing it's in us. In all of us. In everything. Always. It permeates throughout, weaved through the atmosphere, soaked into everything - the way salt dissolves in a glass of water and no longer becomes just salt or just water, but saltwater. There is no "out there" divinity and internal sinfulness, or internal divinity and out there sinfulness. Goodness and the divine is inherent in everything around you and within you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Orange You Glad?

sunset last night

Last night the sky exploded into the craziest color palette I've ever seen. As I was just sitting on the couch, I noticed a pink-orange glowing color spilling into the white corners of our small apartment and when I looked out of the window, I saw why. The sky was on fire and immediately my brain tried to pin down the colors with words - "crimson," "calypso orange" "raspberry orange sherbert" - and it reminded me of last week when my brother, my mom and I were driving to the outlets and saw a similarly crazy colored sunset and began rattling off descriptive words. Even though I don't live far from him, it made me miss my brother. And my sister (who lives 5 minutes from where I work so there is really no excuse for me not to see her.) But I still miss living with them, sharing a small bathroom with them and seeing them every day. They are home to me. And the song "Orange Sky" by Alexi Murdoch could not be a more perfect fit. Orange you glad to have people you love so much that you miss them to bits?

Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch

Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
Yes I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother standing by
With my brother standing by
I said brother, you know you know
It's a long road we've been walking on
Yes it is, yes it is, you know
Brother it is,
Such a long road we've been walking on
Oh brother, oh brother

And I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my sister standing by
With my sister standing by
Said here is what I know now sister
Here is what I know now
Goes like this...
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love
Oh but you know I am so weary
And you know my heart,
My hearts been broken now
Sometimes, sometimes
My mind is too strong to carry on
Too strong, too strong to carry on
But when I'm alone
When I've thrown off the weight of this crazy stone
When I've lost all care for the things I own
That's when I miss you, that's when I miss you
You are my home
You are my home now
Here is what I know now brother
Here is what I know now sister
Goes like this...
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love
Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother and my sister standing by
With my brother and my sister standing by now
With my brother and my sister standing

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alice in Wonderland by UlaFish via Books, Paper, Scissors

"She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)”
~ Lewis Caroll, "Alice's Adventures Adventures in Wonderland"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God Speaks in Flowers

It is never more clear to me that God exists than when I see flowers. Summer may be ending, but it doesn't mean we have to let go of that summertime feeling in our souls. When your soul gets chilly, listen to this Leddra Chapman "Summer Song" and spend a little moment being thankful for the seasons. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Are Not Your Thoughts

"The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity
- "the thinker". Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you
 start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.
You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought,
that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all
the things that truly matter -- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace -- arise
from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken."

-Eckhart Tolle, author of "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Did you Know?

Did you know that is a picture of the train station in East Torresdale? Did you know that that's near New Jersey? Did you know that across from the train station there's a restaurant called the Three Monkey Cafe? Did you know they have a little outdoor seating area called Monkey Court? (And no, that's not going to be my new nickname although it fits.) I didn't know any of this either, until I accidentally took the wrong train home to Trenton last night and practically tripled my usual 45 minute commute to an hour and a half.

Did you know that I've been taking the same train for 3 years now? (Sad.)

Did you know that for the entire hour ride they kept anouncing stops that should have been clear to me were not places I had ever heard of before in my entire lifetime? (Very sad.)

Did you know that you have to pass through miles and miles and miles of trash mountains and industrial waste piles to get to Trenton? (Actually sad.)

Did you know that I was too busy reading an article in my yoga magazine to notice that hello, I wasn't in Kansas anymore? (Not sure if this is sad, hilarious or ironic. Or all three.)

Did you know that I wasn't really all that upset by getting lost and tripling my commute time but that what really threw me over the edge was getting bit by a mosquito at the East Torresdale station? It's the little things that get us.

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out —
 it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

Monday, September 12, 2011


Flowers from the garden

Grilled chicken with dad's home-made pesto sauce with the basil he grew

On Sunday night I ate dinner at my parent's house and enjoyed a simple meal of home-made pesto pasta with grilled chicken and a salad. My dad made the pesto and chicken, I made the salad and my mom prepared a little bouquet of flowers from her garden in my great grandmother's blue vase. It sounds perfectly rustic, effortlessly chic and so Martha Stewart doesn't it? Well I guess it sort of was, if Martha Stewart's home also has issues with ants and if she eats her perfectly made meals in her pajamas and leaves the dishes dirty while digging into her "thrown together" meal. But the whole thing could not have been more spontaneous, easy or lovely. Nothing was forced or prepared. I noticed my dad's overflowing pot of basil and suggested he use it. We thawed some chicken, used up some veggies for a salad, boiled some pasta. And the flower arrangement? Well while gardening in her sweats my mom decided to FINALLY pick some of the flowers and enjoy the fruits of her and my dad's sweat-filled summer labors. (The two of them can make a yard look like a magical, secret oasis.)

This past weekend was a special weekend for two reasons. Not only did it mark the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, but it also marked the 28 year anniversary of my parent's marriage. (There is no correlation. And luckily, my parent's were married September 10.) Sometimes that is just the way life works: tragedy and beauty coinciding side by side. Loss and growth. I don't think I will ever understand the full extent of what that it meant to be in New York that fateful day or what it meant to lose someone so violently and so abruptly. Nor will I ever fully understand what it means  to have "28 years of marriage" under my belt - until I have been married for 28 years myself. I am only 23 (ahem, 23 and a half thank you very much as of tomorrow) and I don't think I have even been able to commit to a favorite color for that long - let a lone a person. The miracle of my parents staying together is actually no miracle at all. I think they put a lot of work into their marriage but to some extent (and this is what they always tell me whenever I ask them what their secret to being married is) they just married the right person. I don't know what that means. Or how you know. Or how you make it work. I guess I am not supposed to know these things yet. But I do know this: they make each other laugh, they both have faith in God, my dad is 100% committed to my mom and my mom is 100% committed to my dad. And they both honor and value the institution of family above all else. I love those two so darn much and feel immeasurably and unspeakably thankful that I am homegrown from their able arms and careful hands.

When I look back at drawings I did as a child there is one theme in all of my pictures that I drew of my family. Besides the strange stick figure drawings of my family (and my mom with yellow hair) there is always a consistent theme: we are all standing together (love), there is a couch (comfort), there is a sun (warmth), there is a tree (stability and growth) and a window (perspective). My parents have always provided and continue to provide those things to me and my siblings through their commitment to one another. And in honor of September 11, more than anything, I am just glad I have both parents that are alive and breathing and still walking this earth.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Carry On"

This is Smt. Hansaji J. Yogendra and me. Hansaji is the Director of the Yoga Institute in Mumbai, India as well as the president of the International Board of Yoga. I was lucky enough to spend my entire Saturday with Hansaji and my fellow teacher training buddies at the Yoga Life Institute where I am getting my training under Dr. Bob, who himself trained at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai under Dr. Jayadeva and Hansaji herself.

For the first part of the morning, we stretched our extremeties with Dr. Shantaram Shetty, a yoga therapist who was also from the Yoga Institute in India. Dr. Shetty is also the chief research co-ordinator and secretary for the International Board of Yoga. He was simply the most adorable man I've ever seen. He showed us the stretches and breathing techniques in his pin-stripe button down and khaki pants. Afterward we all sat around Hansaji's feet as she told us stories. For the entire day we would stretch, listen to stories, stretch, listen to stories, dance and sing, listen to stories. (We also sat around and ate copious amounts of fruit and nuts and talked about how we each handle extreme emotions and how the idea of "samadhi" frightens us.) Hansaji recommended not giving in to emotions or giving in to crying too often. She told us that life is work, that people will always get angry and be rude, that major difficulties will come but that we must remain undisturbed by others and by the change. Change is constant, people will disappoint us, upset us and get angry but we must always first remain strong and balanced within our own selves. She told us our duty is to balance our mind and not give in to strong emotions. Her advice to not cry was a bit shocking to me, as I am someone who enjoys crying maybe a little too much.

Hansaji explained that many people think that "yoga" is only the asana poses that you see on fitness dvds and in workout classrooms in the gym. If you look at yoga as aerobic exercise only it is like looking at the tail of a dog and calling the tail the dog. Yoga is so much more than the poses and the physical stretches. Yoga literally means "union" of the mind and the body. Yoga can be practiced anywhere - and should be practiced everywhere and in every area of our lives if we are truly looking to find the most benefits from our practice. When we are at work and focusing on a task but thinking about how much we hate our job or hate our boss, we are missing a valuable opportunity to practice yoga. Yoga is skillful action and deep concentration. Yoga is not giving in to emotions of boredom, anger or sadness. Yoga is not letting the mind wander from the task at mind. When we are having a difficult time with a relationship in our lives, getting frustrated and angry at someone and losing our temper to them - or when they lose their temper to us - it is the perfect time to practice yoga. Yoga is the ability to NOT react to others emotions or even to our own emotions. Yoga is awareness of self, awareness of what truly makes us "tick" and what sets us off. When we see that yoga is so much more than the physical poses, we see that practicing yoga is something we can do at every moment of the day and especially while doing work.

Here are some memorable quotes from Hansaji from Saturday:

"Do your duty. Let go of the results."

"You have no right over the results. You only have the right to the action."

"Your duty is first to find balance within your own mind."

"Uplift yourself."

"Do not try to remove anger. Bring more joy."

"Yoga is concentration. Yoga is skill at work."

"Goodness will always win. You can trust in goodness."

"Life is work."

"The cause of all suffering is desire and expectation."

"Every man should treat every woman, besides his wife, as if she were his own mother."

And her particular, tailored advice which she gave to me after getting my picture with her,

"You are a sweet girl. Carry on." 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Home-made Cool Ranch Doritos

These home-made doritos were based off of Macheesmo's recipe. Because I like his name.


 1. Get your ingredients: oil (we used Smart Balance), corn tortillas (Aly suggested using mini ones, but you can use regular sized too), Hidden Valley ranch packet ($100 dollars - or more if you market it and sell the product - to the person who can make up this seasoning without the msg), paprika, and garlic (ours had parsley flakes in it because apparently the hurricaine wiped out ALL the garlic seasoning in the Acme. It's either that or everyone is super prepared for Halloween to ward off the vampires, my guess is 2.)  

 2. Heat your oil. *Don't pour too much oil in, just enough for a few chips to float. We used a wok because it has a lot of depth and therefore minimized any flying-bubbling-popping hot oil from hitting us or our walls. To protect our wall, we actually made a paper-towel-contraption-shield held up by boob-tape because we didn't have tape. It was a great idea until the paper towel slipped onto the burner and almost caught flame. (And as it turned out, no oil hopped out onto the walls anyway thanks to Aly's idea of using a deep wok.) Oh Life. When you're busy preparing and worrying about one thing (that never happens), it turns out your worries and fears can actually cause a whole other catastrophe. Moral of the story: stop worrying. Or worry, but realize it's not going to do you any good. Also, don't play with fire.

3. Cut your tortillas. If you use the mini corn tortillas, cut them into 4, but if you use regular ones cut them into 6. (You can stack them on top of eachother.)

4. Mix seasoning. Use the entire packet of Ranch seasoning, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tbsp salt. (Macheesmo used 2 tbsp, because he is a macho machismo and his heart can apparently handle that amount of sodium. We found that 1 heaping tbsp. was salty enough.)

5. Drop your tortillas into the oil.  

6. Prepare a DoritoStation with wire-racks if you have them, or if not just some paper towels is fine. You have to work quickly to make sure you cover those toasty babies in the seasoning while the oil is still hot. Thankfully, Aly and I had eachother and she worked the frying part (this girl is talented, did you know?) and I seasoned because I'm salty like that. Use tongs or a spoon with holes in it to pluck the chips out. You'll know when the chips are ready because they will float and bubble and start to brown a bit.

7. Make your own Dorito bags and enjoy the chips while they are hot and fresh! (But they are still so good the next day.) 

Thank you to Aly for making this all possible. Her and I both thought the chips were good but still missed something that made them "authentically" cool ranch tasting. Aly will be working on tweaking this recipe to make it more accurate as well as do more posts on Home-made Junk Foods - which frankly, I am so excited about.

I think making home-made Junk Foods is a great idea because often we think of those foods as "off limits" because of calorie, fat, carb contents as well as the chemicals added to preserve these foods in supermarket aisles. Not only does making these foods home-made cut out some of those preservatives, it also makes you aware of what you are eating. What I've learned is that there is no such thing as good or bad foods. It's how we eat them and approach them. If we say we can NEVER HAVE DORITOS EVER AGAIN, then we are setting ourselves up for a disaster. No food should be off-limits - this creates a love/hate relationship with food that is unhealthy. But, I do think that people should know what goes into their food. For example, I could eat my way through 10 bags of chips mindlessly without thinking about it. Or, I could have a small bowl of hot, freshly fried chips and truly enjoy them knowing all that went into the making of them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Birthday Post for a Cool Ranch Gal

A picture of me and The Birthday Girl, isn't she gorgeous?

Home-made Dorito bags for...

Home-made Cool Ranch Doritos!!!
Some people like to make their friends birthday cakes for their birthdays. I say, who says? It's time to think out of the cake box... and step into the chip bag.

I would have made my best friend Elizabeth a birthday cake but after 12 years of knowing this girl I know one thing: she loves her chips. Her angel mother, who basically raised me and all of our other friends, always kept a stash of the Frito-Lay multi-pack assorted flavor chip box in the backroom of their basement. Countless sleepovers were spent munching our way through bags of Doritos (Cool Ranch being me and Elizabeth's favorite) while watching MTV and classic 80's movies - and in later years, watching the home videos we made at said sleepovers. (I would now like all of those videos burned.) At this point Elizabeth is not just a best friend - she's kin. She's the sister that I don't fight with (unless of course you count that one time we both wanted to wear the silky yellow tie-in-the-back shirt from Forever21 for New Years Eve that you probably couldn't even PAY either of us to wear today...) and the reason I have not yet boarded the Crazy Train to Crazyville, USA.

I will never forget how we became friends. It all started when Elizabeth invited me to her beach house one summer in Ocean City, New Jersey when we were 12 years old. Somewhere in between walks on the boardwalk, coming up with dance routines to 'N Sync's newest album "Celebrity," eating grilled cheese sandwiches (with what else, Cool Ranch Doritos), her teaching me how to properly wash my face and me teaching her how to straighten her beautiful curly hair (I don't think her mom has forgiven me for that one yet), falling in love with her older brother's friend as well as the Joe Boxer jersey-material sheet sets in our bed, we became best friends and have been ever since.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for being the coolest and best friend in the entire universe! AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!! Now, time to rock out to Hannah Montana... (don't lie, you know you kinda want to...)

P.S. - Next post is dedicated to the making of the Home-made Cool Ranch Doritos!!!! Stay tuned