Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grand Revelations

I've been out and about again.  This time, a return trip to Arizona, visiting my sister and her mom.  We did some more cooking and discussing of health and care taking, but I also got the opportunity to take a little vacation.  At the end of my time in Phoenix, Harry came for a visit.  Now, for him to leave Chicago, get on a  plane, and visit a completely new place is a big deal.  Luckily all went smoothly and I picked him up at the airport, knocked out, and woke up to 80 degree weather.  I really did cheat the terrible winter here in Chicago.  What a butt I am!  And so began our adventure!

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ

Antelope Canyon "Monument Valley Sunrise" Page, AZ

Exiting Antelope Canyon

Hot Air Balloon ride!!

View from the top

Taking it all in
Pictures can never capture this place

That's a really big hole

When you stand in a majestic place like Antelope Canyon, or look out onto the vast expanse and mentally incomprehensible grandness of the Grand Canyon you feel alive.  Really alive.  And you have thoughts.  The existential side within all of us is beckoned to the forefront of our minds, and we consider our mortality.  Pair these beautiful places with a night out away from the lights looking at the truly unimaginable infinity of space and stars and other galaxies, and you have an inevitable dissatisfaction with the problems you've been having back home.  Imagine that, a dissatisfaction with our recent dissatisfaction.  Looking out into true nature, you realize how fabricated the city life is, in my case city, in your case maybe suburban or rural.

The society we choose to live in, or have been brought up in, affects us.  It is inevitable and part of being human.  As social creatures, we are made to adjust to our social surroundings, and our tribe or community culture is a huge part of crafting our thoughts, behaviors, and personalities.  The culture I have been raised on is East Coast American.  Now I'm in Chicago, which is more laid back than what I'm used to, but it still upholds most of the same cultural expectations, of which there are too many for me to name here in a post of reasonable length.  I'm sure you can get the gist of it though.  The stereotypical stuff: high efficiency, material beauty, possessing much stuff, being busy, working hard, being tight on time, chronic high stress, etc.  These are valued by my culture.  Happiness, not so much.  It's valued, but it falls below the above list.  Why?  It is told to us, through media etc. that happiness will come when we are better at the above list.

Some cultures, like Brazil, value time to relax and be with family and friends.  Even much of western Europe, our brother economies regarding efficiency and growth, encourage much more family time and vacation time than we do.  One might argue that Brazil's economy is not as strong as ours.  They don't have as much impact on the world as we do.  They are happier than us, but so what!  Our GDP is more impressive and eventually we will be happier than anyone!!  Welp, that's just not the case.  I'd rather be happy.  Would you?  I'd rather have more vacation time, more time with my family, less stress, and die with a smile on my face.

My options: leave this godforsaken place and move to a country that places greater value on happiness or stay and make a difference.  I have been on a constant hunt for a new home.  A country that will support the life I want to live.  That was my old plan.  Leave.  Ditch.  But my new plan, as I've grown up and learned more about how the world works. is to stay and fight the good fight.  Things don't change when people give up.  They change when people care.  I'm here to make the change I can make and teach people how to create a new culture in this community.  A culture where people value happiness and understand how to attain it in a positive way.

Are you planning to ditch, give up, or stop caring?  Complain your day away?  Or are you planning to do what YOU can do to make this culture a happier one.  Vote with your demands.  The more employees who demand more time off and more flexibility etc. the more businesses will HAVE to resect it.  It's already changing as my generation moves into the workforce.  If businesses want to retain their employees they are having to change their expectations of employee personal sacrifice.

Cheers to that!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Clarity

It seems like I need to clarify my thoughts on my last post about everything being temporary. I meant it as a state of mind to keep life pleasant. Not a way to avoid commitment or pursuit of long term goals. It is an understanding that change is consistent and it is not something we can always control. This idea is meant to be a comfort for accepting things that happen, both the good and the bad.

It does not mean that there is no reason to strive for goals because everything comes to an end anyway. It does not mean avoiding the things you're passionate about or believe in because they are temporary. It means that when you have fought for your beliefs as hard as you can, when you have given your heart to a cause or person to the best of your ability and with integrity, and things change in anyway, be grateful everyday that the good is in your life and accept the negative and the pain for it will pass. Good will return and you can go back to being grateful for it. Pain will come and know that there is good on its way.

That's what I believe in. This is especially true when fighting for something or someone you believe in. Understanding that there might be pain and difficulty along way and knowing it will pass, allowing for the greater goal to bring good and happiness with it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

You're Temporary

I'm in Phoenix.  I cheated.  Sorry Chicagoans.  While I'd love to be celebrating the 40's and 50's temps with you, I'm celebrating the 80's.  The sunny 80's.  I'm not ashamed.  This is my last big outing away from Chicago for a while, as previously mentioned.  I'm really excited to see spring AND summer AND Fall again.  Beaches and biking, dance classes and outdoor yoga.  I love Chicago in the summer.  And chocolate.


Some of you, really all of you who see me, ask what my tattoo means.  It's been making guest appearances in some photos during my travels, and I did just get it in January.  SO, to some it looks like an infinity sign, especially to many ladies who have infinity tattoos, but it's actually the OPPOSITE of the infinity tattoo.  So while, I'd love to squeal about having the same tattoo as some young spritely Chicago Lass on the train, I can't do that because, though you're a sweetheart, it's actually different.

The broken infinity sign is actually a tattoo my roomy, Sarah, got on her finger.  She also got the infinity on the other hand.  Two opposing ideas.  She explained her broken infinity as stemming from her appreciation for the Buddhist idea of Anitya, or impermanence.  That all things have an end and nothing is forever.  She had been looking for a good, simple symbol to convey this philosophy and settled on the broken infinity.

For those of you who know me, I live and preach impermanence. It is my life philosophy.  It is how I base my decisions for the job I want, the place I want to live, and how to deal with the positive and negative in life.  It all ends.  It's all temporary.  Our lives are impermanent.  The pain in my foot will change.  It may go away, it may get worse, it may get better, but I know for sure that it is not forever.  Each moment changes.  So I kinda completely fell in love with the broken infinity as a tattoo, and decided pretty quickly that it would also join me at some point.  That point happened to be January.

Many times we loose perspective and think that situations will last forever.  I'm not just talking about the rough stuff, but people forget that the good stuff ends too.  And they get really upset about it ending.  It is just as temporary as the bad stuff.  The mentality you have, that is in your power and you can change and choose it.  So you may hate on yourself a lot now, but you CAN change that.  You can teach yourself to love yourself.  You can choose for that mentality to be stable through the good and the bad.  You may see everything as terrible and your life sucks, but, guess what?  You can also change that.  Not overnight.  But over time.

EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY.  So change some stuff and expect everything to change.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lessons Abroad


My name is Lia and I'm a change-aholic.  I like to ditch my situational discomfort and hit reset by going somewhere new and having a clean start.  I'm in recovery.

What made me admit this to myself?  I'm sure you can guess it was my recent trip to Kenya.  More specifically the question posed to me by my friend Tahir.  He asked me one day WHY I was getting rid of a bunch of things and people that I loved.  I loved my boyfriend, my lifestyle in Chicago, the people I lived with and worked with, my job, the money I made, yet all I could think about was ditching everything and leaving.  My plan was to go to Kenya in Feb, Phoenix in March, Europe in April, Minnesota from May-September, and Australia for a year after that.  I ended things with my boyfriend and my job and packed my bags.  I told my roommates I actually wasn't going to be staying anymore.  And that was that.  I think this is called a major freak-out.

I believe that I am so not used to being comfortable and stable that it made me freak out that I would get bored of myself, of my life.  I needed something to happen.  I needed change in order to grow.  One of my biggest fears is stagnation, and I was so worried that that's what was happening.  I was stagnating.  But stagnation, I discovered, is a choice and stability does not have to equal stagnation.

But then I flipped my world around and realized how important stability can be for growth.  A great example is one's yoga practice.  It just cannot develop and grow without consistency.  Or an exercise routine, a way of eating, a relationship.  A relationship cannot grow unless you ACTUALLY commit to the growth of it.  It's easy for me to commit to the fidelity part.  The growth of it, the patience of sticking things out, that kind of commitment scared me so much.   But now I'm aware of something I wasn't aware of before.


Right before I left Chicago I stumbled upon a quotation saying that fear is a great indicator of what you should be doing.  Fearlessness is a quality I am working on cultivating within myself, and pursuing my dreams scares me.  So, I'm going to pursue my dreams.  Running my own business and believing in my awesomeness scares me, though I do generally think I'm pretty awesome in the way that all people are.  So, I'm going to run my own business.  These are all things I know will make me happy.  Being with Harry, the good and bad, makes me so happy.  So, I'm putting my fear aside and I'm giving the relationship my everything.  What's the point of being scared of doing things you think will make you happy?  What's there to wait for?  Next time?  Maybe you won't be so scared?  Maybe you'll be more deserving?  There really isn't a next time.  Only this time.  One shot.

Marie Forleo
I've joined Marie Forleo's B-School, which is a great first step toward building my business, helping people on a greater scale, facing my fears, and NOT stagnating.  I'm very excited about this step I'm taking.  It's going to be scary awesome hard work and I couldn't be more excited about it!  

I've readjusted or cancelled a lot of my travel plans for a while.  I still love and want to travel, but not back to back to back.  I saw it for what it was, an escape plan, and I've readjusted because now I'm aware.  Awareness is necessary for prevention and I was so NOT aware of a lot of this stuff before.  Harry and I are together again and I'm staying in Chicago.  I have a bit of cleaning up to do here and elsewhere, changing plans affects other people (imagine!).

Source

I also had this very rational epiphany while I was in Kenya, that it's all the same.  We're all humans and have the same foundational wants and needs.  Culturally we vary, but, interestingly, none of that really matters.  Cultures shift individually and globally.  It's all temporary and not all that defining.  People everywhere that I've been still worry about their bodies to different degrees and for different reasons, they still worry about their romantic partners and finding good ones, women still like to stick together and talk for hours, while men still like to focus on their projects and work (and sex).  The details change, but human nature does not.  It severely dampened my desire to travel.  Not in a bad way, but in a way where I felt like I found something I was looking for.

It also gave me a great perspective on what we do and how much it matters.  Every community gives to others in different ways.  In NYC there is an emphasis on the CEO billionaire being of greater value than the janitor.  In the Masai tribes the most valuable position or persons have a completely different definition, and in Switzerland, Mexico, the Middle East, it all varies.  Within Portland, Nairobi, or Bluche people value very different things and people impact each other in very different ways.  It doesn't mean that one way is more right or valuable than another.  It is arbitrarily defined.  So I can do whatever I want.  Everyone can contribute in their own way and whatever they choose is of equal value to everyone else's choice.  That's so comforting.

I hate to burst a whole bunch of people's bubbles, but comparing yourself to others is therefore impossible.  Yay, you're free now.

Here I am looking for a "better" place to live.  The community here is mine.  It is where I contribute, and I'm finally happy with that.  It is a space I can help to grow.  I can help to improve.  I can educate people about food, health, and happiness.  I can do my little part to make this country a better place.  It IS my better place.

Who'd have thought it would take a trip to Kenya to make me more patriotic.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Balanced View on Veganism

I just read this great article in Whole Food's little free magazine taste for life about different diets and weight loss.  It talks about a study done where they split participants up into different groups, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian (flex-atarian), and omnivore, and gave them the typical low-fat low-GI guidelines.  Calories were not restricted.  Not surprisingly, the Vegans lost the most weight over the short and long term when put on this diet.

This isn't the interesting part actually.  If it is to you, then this is the interesting part, but it gets MORE interesting.

The article ends by telling you to aim for veggie-centered Veganism in your daily life, in a positive way, aka without obsessing, and by default, you will add more vegetables into your diet.  So even if you "cheat" every once in a while, I don't like using that word, but they used it in the article, your consumption of the nutrient rich veggies will still be highest than if you aimed for any of the other dietary lifestyles out there.

It's like the idea, "shoot for the moon and you'll hit the stars" (even though its way more accurate to say "shoot for the starts and you'll hit the moon").  You get the idea regardless.  I've never read an article saying, it doesn't matter if you don't adhere 100%, because aiming for veganism will change the way you eat in a positive way.  That it's okay not to be 100%.  I've read that in some great diet/cookbooks, but never in a magazine or article. It was refreshing not to read about strict guidelines and black or white thinking.  Because, frankly, people are so, so many more than 50 shades of grey.  Had to do it.

I was vegan for 5 years and even if I diverged from the path I was still consuming so many more veggies and fewer animal products than if I wasn't striving.  Even now, as a selective omnivore, I eat mostly plants and I feel strongly that if I hadn't been vegan I would probably be a very unhealthy overweight chick or an unhealthy slim chick.  Veganism taught me how to eat veggies in so many ways.  I think everyone should be vegan at least for an extended period of time just to learn how to expand their vegetable cooking/uncooking repertoire.

I am still a huge supporter of veganism and many of the causes vegans are behind.  I just loved this article's take on things, even though it was about weight loss more than nutrition.  Shoot for healthful veganism and you'll hit the veggies.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Goodbye Nairobi

My last days in Kenya were spent in Nairobi.  I was under the weather unfortunately, so my adventures and time out of the house were limited at this point.  It was just a mild flu or a nasty cold.  I'm leaning toward mild flu.  So these were my last days.

We visited a friend's home, and Tahir played with her children.  Her name is Ami (pronounced Ummi)

Another feverish day we went to see the elephant orphanage at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Giant bottles filled with special formula

They babies were all orphaned from their mothers for one reason or another


After milk they get to munch on some greens and play with a soccer ball

Between adventures we went to a very pretentious cafe where Tahir was the only not white person eating there.  It was very strange.  He felt weird about it too.  Not usually a white majority in Kenya

I'm a sick tourist, but I LOVE YOU!!!  This is at the Giraffe Center

Giraffe kisses are the best! 

Like a giant cat tongue in texture.  I got so many kisses my cheek was tingly afterwards

Like seeing a dinosaur, they're just so big

That night and the next day my flu symptoms got worse, so I got to explore the Nairobi hospital scene and get blood drawn just incase it was something more serious.  It wasn't, so off to lunch we went.  I'm telling you, the Coca-Cola there tastes soooo much better and not sweet

Indian Food!  The best kind of food.  Chicken Tikka Masala, Tikka Paneer or something, and naan bread

For Dinner we returned to Ami's home for traditional home cooked indian food.  I did not get any pictures of the food mostly because I was on pain meds and the thought would never have crossed my mind, but also because it was a family dinner including the in-laws husband and children.  Her in-laws are Jane's, as in the religion.  I was so intrigued because I had only heard about Janeism

Speaking of children!  How cute is Ami with her kids all snugly!

The next day we went to River Cafe for lunch.  it is nestled behind a nursery full of plants and art work.  Very cool spot.

The river

The art

The lotuses
That night we went to a goodbye/birthday party for a friend of Tahir's and I managed to stay up past 10:30PM. Great idea because I had an early pickup the next morning at 5:00AM.  Off to the airport I went and after a nice long sleep and a movie I found myself in Amsterdam where my good friend Mariam met me at Arrivals.  We took the train to The Hague where she's a diplomat at the United Arab Emirates Embassy.  I fell in love with The Hague so fast.

Going on a walk in the sunshine

Through the park toward a massage parlor!  What a perfect post-flight treat!

It was about 50F, so chilly, but not unreasonable

Beautiful streets

Skate park

I wouldn't mind owning this guy

Pre-massage refreshments.  Mariam got a latte

I got a fresh mint tea and Dutch Apple Pie of course!

For dinner we went to a Thai restaurant and ambitiously ordered 3 full meals!  An amazing red seafood curry on the left, a "meh" green tofu curry in the middle, and a tasty Pad Thai on the right.

The sunrise from her apartment the next day.  Goodbye!!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shela Village Part 2



The Island is teeming with cats.  They rule.
Taking pictures of the picture taker, in the streets of town

Anyone?

Being a creeper and being fascinated by the normal lives of people here

Samosas!  Wrapped in newspaper

Kids fascinated with Tahir's camera

Wanna know where your Toms are being donated?  These kids!  Such a cool feeling to see the other side of the deal.

Famous doors

Existential Donkeys

Lunch at Poponi.  This is a fish carpaccio

My amazing tuna ceviche

Macadamia, beet, avocado salad.  Didn't even touch the dressing it was so tasty

Breakfast table view

We took a "snorkeling trip" to Manda Bay.  In the back is our captain by the name of "I'll Be Back"

The rest of the group.  Our new friend Anne from Bordeaux, and a British friend?

Our guide by the name of "Midnight" and our lunch in hand

Just some famous people's homes nobigdeal

Striking a yoga pose and avoiding the sand for a bit.  It was very windy = blowing sand

Lunch!!  Chapati, Fresh cabbage and tomato salad, and fire cooked fish

Chapati and salad

Fish of unknown variety
The main square of the main village of Lamu, 40 minute walk from Shela

On our last day we visited the main village of Lamu and found this little guy at a cafe

Anne checking him out and showing how tiny he is!!!
A cafe we visited, hiding within the village

Waiting for some fresh juices away from the sun

Tahir the poser

Bahahahaha!

Can't leave Shela without some fresh coconut!

Yum yum hydration!