I am an editor and writer for elephantjournal.com. Here are the articles I have written.
APRIL 23. 2012
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert
Traveling is one of the most freeing, awe inspiring, eye opening and enjoyable experiences anyone could possibly dream of. Once we leave our city, state, or country, and charter unfamiliar territory, we discover the beauty of the unknown. We discover ourselves through other people, cultures and natural environments. And we reciprocate this by teaching others about ourselves and opening them to other ways of understanding themselves and the world.
Traveling is a beautiful thing that everyone should experience.
To travel does not mean one must move to Peru or the Philippines for invaluable life experiences. It is about being open to new experiences. If you can’t travel the world, go on a camping trip an hour away from your home or drive to the city for the day. Traveling is what you make it––it is a mindset.
The sad thing is, I hear too often that people do not have the time or funds or that they are uncomfortable with the unknown and unplanned life. And what I want them to know is that you make your own destiny––you can make traveling fit into your schedule or lifestyle.
We make so many excuses in our lives because we are scared to give somehting new a try or because we don’t want to spend the time planning, saving or leaving. We need to stop making excuses and live life to the fullest. Yes, we may spend more money than we had planned on a vacation, but those memories, life experiences and personal obstacles and invaluable.
“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon
Last year I lived and worked in Khon Kaen, Thailand in the Northeast near Laos. I chose Thailand because I wanted to experience something totally new and challenge myself to being comfortable with the uncertain.
Initially, it was extremely challenging because I could not yet speak Thai and the culture was vastly different from my own, but then I learned to embraced the challenges. I embraced that life is sometimes more worthwhile unplanned. I embraced that I don’t always have to plan two steps ahead or be in total control.
When traveling, there is no goal, except to live in the present, day by day.
I do know that traveling may not be for everyone. I do know that traveling can be scary, but what is more scary is that people are not willing to challenge themselves––that they are comfortable doing the same thing everyday.
If it is not for you, I hope this article has inspired you to consider changing that. If you feel that you do not have enough money or no time off of work, that is not the case. You can always save, and make time in the future.
I want to take on an internship that involves community development in agricultural communities. I chose a program in Salvador, Brazil. I can do this type of work in Boulder, but because I love to travel, I am taking my work abroad. So now I will work everyday and make it happen next year. I have saved about $2,000 on my own over the last year and despite living on a budget, I know that I can do it, and so can you.
Awaken your inner vagabond with these tips:
Khon Kaen, Thailand
1. Be open to the possibilities of traveling. Do some research online, travel books and by talking to people. It is a mindset. If you want to travel it will happen, you just need to make it happen. Look for apprenticeships, study abroad programs, internships, couch surfing, au-pair programs or write a grant to research something abroad.
2. Start saving. Depending on where you would like to go, after you research, determine how comfortable you are living on a certain budget and make that your personal goal. Instead of buying that coffee before work, take that cash out of your wallet and put it away. Make the coffee at home, which will be cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. Wow, killing three birds with one stone. I even have an huge Carlo Rossi wine jug that I have put all of my coins in since 2009. I know I must have a couple hundred dollars in there. Or if you have ones in your wallet at the end of the day, take those out and set them aside. It doesn’t look like much, but will add up in the end when you need it.
3. Plan. Yes, I know I said the unplanned is the way to go, but you do need to plan how you will get there, and if you work, how you will take the time off. Once you are there, then stop planning and live. That is when the magic of life comes alive.
4. Just Go. There is no time like the present.
5. Journal. There is nothing more happilly chilling than documenting your experiences and reading them later. You will learn a lot about yourself, the world and how you incorporate your experiences into your “normal” life.
6. Take your experiences with you, everywhere. When you return home or travel somewhere new, live like you did when you were happily somewhere else. Take those worldly experiences into your dialogues and work ethic. Practice living simply. Always take on challenges and expect more from yourself.
7. Never stop traveling, living, experiencing and challenging yourself.
Inspirational travel quotes.
“He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” — Dutch proverb
“The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson
“Home is where the heart is, and my heart is wherever I am at the moment.” — Lily Leung
“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer
APRIL 16. 2012
Beatles to Bassnectar––The (De)Evolution of Music. That was the name of a panel I attended last week at the Conference on World Affairs, which was held at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The intriguing title compelled me to see why two music groups and genres that I love so much could be compared in such a way. How could a new and different form of music, Bassnectar’s booty bouncin’dubstep, be contributing to the de-revolution of music? Or, how can we say a more traditional form of music, from the British pop band, The Beatles, be what we compare all pioneering musicians and genres to? Remember that when the Beatles hit the scene, their music represented their ever changing styles, beliefs, messages and causes. Was that a de-evolution of music or did it lead us to where we are now?
Here is a quote to consider: “Those who criticize our generation seem to forget who raised it.” –– This is not a quote about music, but lets remember that for something to be, it has had to evolved from a previous source.
So why this criticism?
I love music and the soundtrack of my life would certainly an interesting one. I love almost everything from classic rock, to instrumental, to house music. I love concerts and music festivals. I especially love turning my radio up and rolling the windows down when I hit the streets. I grew up guessing the names of rock bands on the radio, like The Rolling Stones and Jackson Browne. I grew up playing bass guitar, classical guitar, clarinet, piano and even singing in my high school choir.
I grew up going to concerts with my parents, like the Temptations, The Steve Miller Band and Donna Summer––I even saw Paul McCartney in 2005 with my Dad. I have a special appreciation for talented individuals who are required to create and perform music from their vocal cords and fast moving fingers to the beat of their soul––but I do too have an appreciation for electronic music that has redefined the possibilities of what we consider to be music.
The panel consisted of four musicians. Charlie Bisharat, a violinist who has performed with Aerosmith and in Austin Powers Gold Member.Gooding, a young musician and philanthropist, who has written music for commercials, and for movies such as Walk The Line. David Grusin, a jazz musician. And lastly, Abraham Laboriel, the famous jazz bassist who has written scores for movies such as Ratatoille and Forrest Gump and has worked with Barbara Streisand and Ray Charles.
Upon their arrival, they annouced that they had listened to Bassnectar only just a few hours prior to this conference. Wow. Four talented musicans who have only heard of electronic music and have yet to experience it, are here to tell me why this Bassnectar character is the downfall to all music.
But I was open to their criticism, I mean, these men live and breathe music.
Bassnectar, for those readers who are unfamiliar with the electronic scene sweeping the nation, is a musician who would fit under the category of dubstep/electronic music. Dubstep is a form of electronic music that originated in the UK in the early 2000′s. Artists like Skream, Benga, and Rusko have come from this new musical revolution. I would say Bassnectar has recently became more well known, as electronic music is becoming more mainstream, although he has been around for years.
He is a composer, in a revolutionary sense. His music commands his followers to forget about their worries and experience life at another level––at least that how he makes me feel. I’ve seen Bassnectar concerts in various states––even mental states. He and his music are an experience. Rememeber the Jimi Hendrix Experience?
My friends and I live for live music. It is part of our culture. Every weekend is another concert. But these concerts are more than musicians showcasing their talent on instruments, they are experiences. Do not get me wrong, I love a great rock show, but there is something about the multidimensional character of an electronic show.
It is another language, as Mr. Laboriel, who has the most experience with electronic music, had commented in the panel. His son is a DJ and his other son is a guitarist for Paul McCartney––so we get the best of both worlds. So, its the lights, the sounds, the rollercoaster effect of beats dropping and DJs hyping the crowd. And, its not just one person, or two DJs or two drummers that are the show, there are many people behind the scenes that are now able to showcase their talent. Technicians, light crew and stage design are part of the experience. So how can we say this is the de-evolution of music, when more people are able to showcase their talent in new forms? Music is language, and I believe that some people are having a hard time understanding that.
I can totally understand how a classically trained orchestra member may feel that a person who presses play on their electronic devices, hypes the crowd and maybe turns a few knobs, cannot compare to their work. I can understand how that is the perception by many people, but electronic music is a whole new level of music, because it is not just sampling a riff from Stevie Wonder song and adding some beats. It is also not just sampling famous songs. Yes, many people can go on Garage Band and ad a drum beat to their favorite song, but that is not what musicians like Bassnectar are doing. It takes an unbelievable skill to be able to orchestrate so many sounds and moods into just one song. It is the language of my generation, and just like The Beatles, music is always evolving
My good friend LoBounce from Chicago is an electronic DJ. He spends countless hours in the studio creating his own music, singing on some of his tracks, and opening for musicians like Bassnectar at the House of Blues in Chicago, or Big Gigantic and Dillon Francis. He sings and plays guitar, but because he creates most of his music using technology, the panel seems to discredit what it means to be a musician and the new language of music. I beg to differ with the panel––LoBounce represents revolutionary musical talent.
So there you have it. Music is another form of language. As humans, we are perpetually evolving, and so too do the ways we communicate. Maybe some of Bassnectar’s music does not have words like all of The Beatles songs, but maybe the ways in which my body moves and how the songs make me feel is my generation’s new form of expression that must be acknowledged as evolutionary and revolutionary.
If Bassnectar came before Orchestra music, we may think its de-evolutionary to dress up, stay seated and silent at a concert. So let’s be open to the possibilities of music.
APRIL 9. 2012
Are you fed up with being treated like a second-class citizen by your sexual prospects?
We are too. Something clicked this week––maybe it was the realization that all of the neglect, unreturned phone calls, meaningless hookups and not feeling fully satisfied––that something was just not right.
After some discussion regarding relationships, we came to understand that as two independent college women in the prime of our dating lives, we should not allow ourselves to enter into the negative relationships zone. We are intelligent, outgoing, creative and motivated women who do not need to put up with being treated poorly.
Is it too much to ask for a mature relationship based on mutual respect without the seriousness of being in a relationship? We are looking to have some fun here.
We decided we could not stand this bullsh*t a minute longer––it was time to take matters into our own hands. Sitting in the dimly lit corner of a favored local coffee shop, we formulated a plan of attack. We needed to change our strategy when it came to dating.
The Challenge: Ask a guy out on a date by the end of the week. The only rules set were that the candidate must be someone we haven’t gone out with before and we would have to report any results, no matter how embarrassing, to the world of elephant.
The Challengers: Two like-minded, hopeful and the slightest bit crazy 22-year-old women hoping to get past the relationship funk they are stuck in. Lindsay the laid-back environmentalist whose wild side is sure to attract an interesting dater and Hayley, the blossoming philanthropist, whose alluring black rimmed spectacles call for an intellectual and spontaneous dater.
Optimistic and excited we took the week by storm. What is the worst thing that could happen?
Hayley’s experience: After a semester worth of shameless flirting in my 15 person writing class, I knew the perfect candidate worthy of a date with me––the intelligent and sexy guy who sat next to me in class. I had been eyeing him since the first day of class in January.
I panicked and chickened out all week, contemplating the worse case scenarios––how exactly the words could leave my mouth and his reactions. I pushed back the inevitable until the last day I knew I would see him in class––it was time! If I didn’t do it now, when?
We walked out of class and through campus, chatting about our spring breaks and plans for the weekend. He explained he would be going out of town––I was so nervous I just wanted to blurt out, ‘let’s just go out together sometime,’ but my reserved and rational conscience would not let me, but I simply asked, “Oh, who are you going with?”
Instantly, I wished I hadn’t asked as his response stabbed into my heart like a rusty dagger, “my girlfriend.”
I was livid but tried to remain calm. I composed a relaxed response. I told him to have a great trip and that I would see him in class, but inside the confusion and rage burned. How could he have a girlfriend? I honestly thought we had some sort of connection all those days flirting in class and all the interesting discussions we had shared. I felt defeated, but did not want this bump in the road to discourage me from the bigger picture.
I had participated in the challenge, which yielded a less than stellar result, but I could not get down on myself. It was the first time since realizing exactly what I want out of a relationship that I had tried to ask someone out. At least those words didn’t come out of my mouth before he told me he was attached. So what if he had a girlfriend––he was not the right one, there will be someone else.
I went into the weekend with this strong mindset and ended up meeting a sexy someone whose energy complimented mine. He showed genuine interest in who I am and actually excited me for the first time in a very long time. The kicker in this case was that I did not have to stress out and muster the courage to ask him out, he came up to me, we had a great time together and after mutual agreement, we decided to go out.
I got the date, under different terms then I originally set for myself but I guess the greatest things always happen when you least expect them to, right?
Lindsay’s experience: As someone who loves a challenge and living life to the fullest, I gladly took onthe challenge of asking a guy out for a date. I am a senior in college and I have pretty much met, dated or hooked up with the guys that I would be interested in. I am looking for something and someone new.
This past week I have been hanging out with a few different groups of friends––making the effort to put myself out there and be open to new experiences. I have gone out a lot, slept a few less hours, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my escapades. On Wednesday night I went out with a girlfriend of mine and her friends who I am not so familiar with. We went to trivia night at a popular bar. I told the new girls about my challenge. I figured that if I tell some people I don’t really know, that they will want to see me actually go through with it. If I didn’t live up to my challenge, what would that say about me?
After a few drinks and rounds of meaningless trivia, I had yet to talk to the guy. I needed to build up courage, maybe some liquid courage, and make my move. I had been eying a sexy, tall, curly long brown haired bouncer the entire night. I mean, he was fine. I told my friends that he would be the one. I didn’t know how to approach the situation. Do I give him my number, I mean, we had yet to make formal communication. Do I ask for his number? Do I just walk up and start a conversation? If I do, do I ask him for a drink?
So many thoughts went through my head as my adrenaline rapidly increased. “Do it, just do it,” I told myself.
I went for it. I asked a waitress for a pen and paper, and then wrote down my name and cell phone number. I anxiously walked around, went to the bathroom, had the remaining sips from my beer and got ready to leave the bar with my friends.
I walked up to the bouncer and said, “Hey, I think you are sexy. Here is my number, call me for a drink sometime.” I smiled and he nervously smiled back as I walked out. My guy friend walked up to him coincidentally after I handed him my number and he told me that Mr. Sexy seemed to be totally and happily thrown off guard.
I couldn’t have been happier with my daring self. I did it. I proved to myself I could do it and now I feel a little more comfortable trying it in the future. I am still awaiting a call from Mr. Sexy. I mean, if I had the courage to give him my number… well come on, the least he can do is be a little spontaneous himself––unless he too has a girlfriend.
That was not my first time doing something like that, but it was the most spontaneous. The first time I had ever asked a guy out, we had already had a conversation. I asked him to dinner that night and then we ended up hooking up for months, but now we are friends.
Sometimes being open to your own vulnerability is a blessing in disguise.
Reflection: Regardless of how we or the readers define success, we both ended up winning. Though we may not have gotten dates with the specific guys we tried to ask or handed our numbers to, the confident vibes we exuded called people to our attention.
As we held each new men and ourselves to higher standards, we realized sub-par treatment is simply unacceptable––we deserve the best. We can be happy and have fun without a man’s validation and if we are positive and confident in ourselves good things (hopefully good looking and good hearted men) are bound to come our way.
We will continue to live by the guidelines of this challenge in hopes that we will meet that person who deserves the awesomeness inside each of us. We will go up and talk to that guy we always see around but don’t really know because we know that waiting is not practical. We will ask out the guy we flirt with all too often because we are in charge of our dating lives. We will try new things and push ourselves to the limits, what is the worst thing that could happen?
Tips on meeting your next fling, hook up, date, or partner.
1. Be Positive. Tell yourself everyday that life is good and that no matter what challenges arrise, that you can tackle them with a positive attitude. Thinking with a positive attitude, despite how hectic our lives may be, will shine from within and will draw people to you. People are attracted by confidence and good attitudes. The first step is to change the way you approach life and the guy or girl you have your eye on will for sure take note.
2. Experience Life. Go out and try new things, get involved in new activities, new bars, new restaurants and maybe even a new path for your daily jog. By spicing up your life, you are spicing up your own bio. You will have more to talk about with people. You will become happier and want to experience life to its fullest. You will have dealt with the uncomfortable and will become more eager to take risks. Lastly, you are sure to meet different people and hone down on what type of person will make you happy.
3. Challenge Yourself. Build up the courage to ask your newest prospect out to dinner or give him or her your number. Yes, it seems scary, and not to sound cliche, but we only live once. What is the worst that can happen? You owe it to yourself to be happy, even if its to only spend one exhilerating night with that person.
4. Expect More. Once you become more confident in yourself and start to attrack the kinds of people you are interested in, don’t settle for anything less than what you want. Most people are too afraid to put themselves out there and to ask for dates or to give their number, but not you. Once this becomes easier, it becomes easier to get the guy or girl you want.
Life is full of challenges, what’s yours?
APRIL 2. 2012
Not too long ago, we knew our neighbors by name, we were friends with the families that owned the local shops and relied on each other for security.
Now, it seems that we have forgotten the importance of being a community. It’s time to get back to our roots and rediscover the value it is to have relationships with the people in the neighborhood you call home.
As our developing world reaches out to become a more globalized entity, it seems that we are forgetting our own roots. We are forgetting that our culture and community begins at home and that we can learn so much from our neighbors. We forget that we do not need to travel far to discover ourselves. We forget how important it is to support local family businesses rather than the Walgreens at the end of the block. We forget that we can ask each other for help. We forget that taking care of your neighborhood means to look out for one another.
We forget that part of loving where you live is to love the people around you.
I recently lived in the Northeast of Thailand, where I rediscovered the important of having neighbors. The families I lived with actually borrow sugar from their neighbors. They go to the market together and support their local economies rather than large enterprises. If they make too much food, they share. This neighborly love is truly special.
This is not to say that this neighborly love only exists in 3rd world countries, but that it is more common because they depend on each other for resources and companionship. Their families have been rooted in the same place for decades, unlike most 1st world people who move all the time or are constantly traveling.
We can learn from people who are so remote from us. They may not have as much as we do in the USA, but maybe what they do have is more special. Maybe they are just as happy as us because people fill them with joy, not materials that distract them from human communication.
My parents raised me to believe that your neighbors are important people in your life. At home, in the city of Chicago, I hang out with my neighbors, go to their family events, and babysit for their children. They were part of my adolescent life and are still a part of what I consider to be my home. I find it rare for city folk to have more than a nod when passing by their neighbors because a city offers outlets. In many rural, suburban areas, it seems that there is more comradory amongst neighbors, but that should be the case everywhere.
I currently live in Boulder, Colorado and I am a college student. I belong to the university community, a work community and the Boulder/ Chicago community and I find it very strange that I barely know the people who I have been living next to for a few years. When I do see them, it seems that neither of us are that interested in getting to know each other. Maybe they feel that it is because I am in college, or maybe because I feel that they are too old. But why this disconnect between people that share the same backyard fence?
But why now that I am on my own have I forgotten such important lessons? Why haven’t I developed my own community in Boulder?
Here is some advice on how to develop new relationships and flourish current ones. For once, I will follow my own advice and try these out as well. Sustainable relationships are deeper than just knowing your neighbors by name. Hopefully you too can find the value in developing sustainable, life long relationships.
1. Knock on your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is weirder that you would want to ignore the fact that you live next to each other. Do this especially if you just moved into the neighborhood or a new apartment floor. Or, you are both sitting on your front porches, simply say “Wow, today is a beautiful day.” They will respond and then a conversation will begin.
2. If teenagers live next to you, ask them if they would like to babysit for you. Or if you are a babysitter, ask a family if they would be interested. Not only does this allow you to become aquatinted with your neighbors, you get to make a little moolah on the side.
3. If you have a party at your house, invite your neighbors over.
4. If you belong to a community group, say restoring local parks, invite your neighbors to join. This will strengthen your community group with additional members and will allow the people who you live near to appreciate things you love. Great bonding experience too.
5. Just be open to meeting new people. If you see you neighbor on the street, say hello! people seem to be so nervous to say hello and will often pull our their phones to distract from the situation. This is just plain weird. Be brave the next time you see your neighbors.
Let’s get back to our roots. Comment below if you have any more advice or inspirational stories.
MARCH 19. 2012
The Bikini Open
Laying out by the pool or at the beach, going mountain biking, or skiing—these are all fun activities for this year’s spring break, but remember to take care of that precious face of yours.
We get so excited by the fact that the only responsibility we have for the week is to have fun…that most of us forget to use sun protection and end up facing major painful consequences. I’m not only talking about using sun protection, but using the right kinds.
The types of sun protection that we should all use are Earth and body friendly. We tend to forget that what you put on your body—lotion, perfume, make-up, etc—goes into your body—similar to digesting food. Topical products do not remain on the surface of your skin, they absorb into your skin. So using generic sun protection may protect you from the sun, but it is not protecting you from other harms.
Skinbiology.com says that free radicals from chemicals lead to other skin problems that can lead to cancer. Since our bodies are not used to these types of synthetic chemicals that we heavily apply for a few months, the chemicals are stored in our body fat and remain in our systems.
There are many environmentally and body friendly companies that make sun protection, but there are a few things you need to know before using them. I use Burt’s Bees 30SPF Chemical Free Sunscreen with Hemp Seed Oil. This 100% natural, non-whitening lotion works wonders. Because it is natural, and does not have the chemicals that allow it to stay on in the chlorine pool or in the salty ocean, I must apply it after I get out of the water or sweat for a long period of time. The more frequently I apply it, the more aware I am of my time spent in the sun, which I believe to be a good indicator of how much longer I can go before I cover up or head inside for another margarita.
#1 rule: When you apply sun protection, use one shot glass full for your whole body a few times per day and especially after you towel off, sweat or get wet. And we know this spring break you will be getting yourself in plenty hot situations.
Another thing you environmentalists or snorkelers should care, is that the chemicals from non-natural products harm ocean reefs and water ecosystems. If you don’t apply natural sunscreen for your own well-being, do it for Nemo and his friends. Biodegradable sunscreens break down naturally in the oceans, rivers and lakes and do not harm the environment. Read this article from the National Geographic, Swimmers’ Sunscreen Killing Off Coral.
A few companies that support healthy bodies and a healthy world:
Burt’s Bees Chemical Free Sunscreen with Hemp Seed Oil
Badger Sun Screen
Jason Family Natural Sunblock
Earth’s Best Organic Chemical Free Sunblock
MARCH 13. 2012
Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick)
Migraines are the worst. They take over your day, get in the way of anything you had planned and are hard to get rid of. As someone who has had cronic migraines since the the age of 12, I’d like to share some advice.
Are you bothered by the weather, light, sound, food, and or smell? I am. I know it will rain later in the day when I get a migraine in the morning. I know I will have a migraine if I am in an office or space with florescent lighting for too long. If I do not drink enough water after working out I get a migraine. It is unbelievable how many things can trigger my migraines, but over the years and many appointments with my neurologist, physical therapist and general physician, I have learned to manage my migraines.
So, what do I do?
I plan. I recognize the things that trigger my migraines and take all preventative measures.
Weather Triggered Migraines
It can be too sunny or too gloomy, but every time the weather is too much, I am sure to get a migraine. If you do not look up the weather forecast for the week or at least for the day, you should. Checking out the weather will not only help you plan for the day or week, but will change your attitude going into the week. If you see that it will be sunny for the next few days and then a chance of rain, you will be happy about the sun and not shocked when it goes away. You will take full advantage of those sunny days and be ready for the rain or bad weather. Migraines triggered by weather can at times be how we deal with change. The temperature and the weather affect our moods, and when we do not plan for the changes, migraines can be triggered more easily.
Light sensitivity is the most common reason why individuals get migraines. The unnatural lighting in your building, home, office, school, restaurant –– you name it –– is one of the most difficult things to get away from. It seems that florescent lighting is everywhere, but you can manage your migraines. If you have florescent lighting in your home or office, change that now. Buy natural light bulbs or sun bulbs that are not painfully bright.
If you cannot change the light bulbs in your office or if you are out to dinner with the onset of amigraine, try this: sit straight up, relax your shoulders, place your hands palms up on your upper thighs and breath with your eyes closed. Do this for a minute or so. This takes off the tension from muscles surrounding your head and breathing allows for more oxygen to circulate through your blood vessels.
Life is complicated. School, work, parenting and etc. can trigger your migraines. So, plan, plan, plan. I used to get stressed out very easily and then would not be able to do what I needed to do because of my migraines. I have learned to plan ahead. I still get the occasional stress migraine, but I have reduced the amount by a lot.
1. Relax. If you know something will be stressful, go into open minded and clear headed.
2. Always have a plan b. If you cannot get your work done today be sure to have another time to get it done and do it over a few days instead of cramming it for the last minute.
3. Step outside or at least stretch. This helps you get away for a moment.
4. Drink lots of water or tea while doing your work.
Vapor Rub or Peppermint Oil- The cold sensation and strong smell is really soothing when rubbed onto your temples, cheeks, or neck. I always carry vapor rub in my backpack. It helps me relax and opens up my sinuses.
Lavender- I like to mist my body with lavender because it has a calming effect. The more clam and the less stressed you are, the less likely you are to get a migraine.
Sunglasses- Never ever leave your house with them. They are a life saver. You are already in horrible lighting all day long, so do not strain your eyes with the sun.
Shoulder & Neck Exercises- We put so much pressure on our shoulder, neck and back, which really take a toll on our heads. Be mindful of the ways in which you treat those areas. Roll your shoulders a few times, then your neck, while you sit up straight.
Other Options: Yoga, acupuncture and massages –– they work wonders.
MARCH 5. 2012
As a vegan, it is difficult at times to find innovative recipes that satisfy my taste buds. I love food and I love to experiment with it. I have such a great time whipping up fun dishes, but after a while, all my food starts to get a little boring.
When I crave sweet things or something that has a salty cheese taste, I check out these blogs for alternatives. Although eating a vegan diet means that food lovers are restricted from some foods, it does not mean what us vegans whip up has to be boring.
After much research, I have listed five blogs that I feel offer the most variety and ease when it comes to healthy and delicious vegan meals.
2. Vegan Piggy – Two cooks and easy meals. One is tracking her weight loss and the other is a witty side-kick. My favorite dish for dinner is the seitan and barley stew.
3. Spices & Spackle –– With DIY, thrifting and vegetarian meals, this blog is more than you average vegan food blog. My favorite lunch/dinner dish is the vegan buffalo mac and cheese. Vegan mac and cheese? Yes, and I bet this is the best one you will ever make.
5. The Post Punk Kitchen –– I like this blog because it is not the typical vegan food blog. As a vegan who lives in Boulder, I think it is safe to say that the typical vegan appears organic and earthy looking than the vegan cooks of this punk kitchen and online blog. Try the yamroom sushi rolls–– filled with savory yams and mushrooms. This blog shows us why vegan food rocks.
FEBURARY 20. 2012
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch
From an early age, I learned the importance of education. It began when I was a 3-year-old American girl, thrown into a French world, with no safety net to catch me. Scary, yes, but I would never take back the challenges and experiences of growing up bilingual in the U.S.
Our most recent Census and statistical websites, tell us that a majority of residents of the U.S. only speak English, unless they have recently immigrated to the U.S. from a non-English speaking country. If we look at other countries, we can see that averages of bilingual individuals is much higher. That being said, we know many individuals in Europe or Central America speak more than one language because their countries are much smaller. But does that mean that we have no obligation to be diverse as well? Check out this article from the New York Times on bilingual education.
So many American children grow up without ever learning another language, and I feel that is unfortunate. Maybe they had a one hour language class during the day in middle school or high school, but how much can a child take away from that one hour? From talks with my friends and even some of my own experiences, much of our schooling is just going through the motions to get to the next class year. We do our homework just to get it over with, and study really hard right before exams to then forget most of what we have learned. How can diversity and an appreciation of education blossom from just going through the motions?
We are not French, and my parents do not speak French. My parents decided to send me and my sister to a French immersion school in Chicago called, Lycee Francais De Chicago. (There are many of these schools across the U.S. and for different languages.) We had yet to go to France, but I felt like I had already lived there my entire life.
There were so many things that differed from my life to the life of an average American girl, but that it what made me and my sister independent, appreciative of education and eager to learn more.
The Adventures of Kristin & Adam
The first day of school I knew nothing. I would point to an object and the teacher would tell me what it was in French. It was as if I was a small baby learning my native language, English, all over again. I got the hang of it real quick, because I needed to in order to function in this unique space. We spent 6 hours a day speaking French, reading French books, and assimilating to French culture, accompanied by one hour per day was for English class. My mom, an English teacher, would also make me and my sister read an American book one hour per day after school so we got a little bit of everything.
My lifestyle, friends, culture, was inside my school –– not at home or Americanized at all, yet I identified with both cultures. I did feel closer to the one that my education revolved around which I find unique.
At times it was difficult for me to grasp that this was what my parents had chosen for me. My sister and I only had each other when it came to doing homework and understanding cultural differences. But this is what is so great about my experience now –– I see the importance of education in ways that I believe would have taken me much longer to recognize. I see that education can be what you make of it and that anyone can shape their learning experiences.
When parents introduce their children to a unique experience such as the one I had, their children will be able to appreciate the world through a different lens. Through the gift of bilingual education, your child will have a great appreciation of self-discovery and exploration.
This experience of mine will always be in my thoughts when I am faced with challenges and new experiences. I want to learn because I know what can come of it. I have learned Latin, Hebrew and Thai since my time at the French school. I see my education more than going through the motions in order to graduate –– I see it as bunch of little opportunities helping me accomplish my ambitions.
I believe the importance of education and especially a bilingual education, would have taken me much longer to recognize, if it were not for the decision of my parents. As a college student, soon to graduate, I believe all parents should involve their children in different forms of education and self-exploration.
Speaking another language is more than being able to read the menu at a French restaurant to impress your family, it is being able to live and breath another culture. It is about tackling challenges and progressing self-exploration. Speaking another language will inspire you to travel, meet new people, and step outside of your boundaries. It is more than a resume builder, it is who you are.
Check out these websites for more information on bilingual schooling and language programs. Be more than ordinary, be extraordinary.
Lycee Francais De New York, Lycee Francais De Los Angeles, Denver Montclair International School –– Mandarin Chinese, Spanish & French, International School of Arizona –– French and Spanish, or just type your state into your search engine followed by bilingual education.
FEBURARY 13. 2012
What does sustainable food mean to you? Does it mean healthy, organic, pesticide free and GMO free? Does your definition also include sustainable workers’ rights?
Many Americans that purchase sustainably produced foods have only been conditioned to look for symbols like the UDSA Organic logo or packaging with organic Earth-like colors. We forget that there are people, like you and me, behind the sustainable food operations, that are not given their fair and basic human rights or credit for their hard work.
Bread for the World
If the people who produce our food are not treated fairly, then how can we say that the product is totally organic or sustainable?
A package of tomatoes from the grocery store has a picture on it of a farm, maybe a cheerful family, with the sun rising behind a red barn. This is a picture perfect illusion. The food may look appealing because of the picture, but what if we put the real picture on it?
The real picture would maybe be of a few family members who own the farm, and many immigrants, authorized or unauthorized, fighting to keep their low wage jobs.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I am not saying all farms operate in this way because that is not true, but many work this way. Even some at your Farmer’s Market. They may produce sustainable foods, and have family members and mostly Caucasians working the booth, but that does not mean that we can assume that what we see is what we get. If a sustainable farm is going to claim that they are sustainable, it must also include that workers are able to live a sustainable life as well.
This means that workers are paid fair wages, have good housing, water and bathrooms on site, have breaks from the hot sun, and have safety training for farm work and from pesticides. I added the pesticides to the list because those workers deserve fair rights as well, even if pesticides do not belong to our definition of sustainable food.
The agricultural market is very competitive. That means that workers can easily be replaced if they are unhappy with the pay or have issues with the farm. Another worker will take their job despite low wages, because they need to live. This keeps wages low, but how can farm workers take care of their families with such low wages? Many keep quiet despite the injustices, just so they do not have to join the unemployment force. So how can farm workers demand for change if they can easily be replaced?
Imagine one day in the life of a farm worker:
Get up around 3 or 4 a.m. to hopefully be chosen to get on a truck that drives for maybe more than hour or two away to a farm with uncompensated time. So workers have already been at work for two hours or less unpaid. Then, they work all day in the sun, on their knees or bent over as their pick our baby arugula and bell peppers. Can you imagine being bent over all day with a bucket on your back as you pile pounds of produce into your bucket everyday of your life? Maybe there is a water and bathroom break, but it is very short because time is money. Workers are returned back to the pick up site later at night, uncompensated for their travel time. They may not even have time to spend with their children because they have to get up at 3 a.m. and do it all over again. And you can bet that an unauthorized immigrant worker will seldom stand up against these injustices.
How does your food taste now? Pretty bitter I can imagine.
Why should we care about worker’s rights? These workers make it possible for you and me to eat healthy food at lower prices. These workers take on jobs that many of us would never do. These workers are human beings –– like you and me.
What do we need to do to make a change? We need to do research. We eat food more than three times a day, yet many of us have no idea what it is we are actually eating. We are actually eating good food without responsibility. We give no credit to some of the hardest workers in the U.S. and around the globe. It seems that since a majority of our foods in the U.S. are processed, that we have forgotten that there are actually real people that produce agricultural and sustainable healthy foods.
We owe it to ourselves, workers and revoltionaries like agricultural labor activistCesar Chavez to treat all humans the way you, yourself would like to be treated.
If we change the ways in which we buy our foods, we will change the ways we look at many other things in our lives. Maybe we will understand that there is more to a story, a people, or a region that we had thought. We will become more aware of our surroundings and the people around us.
Bring peace and justice into your home, and onto your table next time you and your family and friends enjoy a meal.
Please check out these websites for more information: coloradofarmworkers.com, CIW.org –– Coalition for Immokalee Workers, and sustainabletable.org. Or type Agricultural Workers Rights into your search engine to find news, articles and websites for more information.
FEBURARY 6. 2012
We have many relationships. Ones with our family, friends, pets and not to forget –– plants. I’m talking about the ones in your kitchen, living room and bedroom. They occupy those spaces and remind you of what it means to be in sync with the natural world.
Last spring I spent part of junior year in the northeast of Thailand. I was a member of a field research group that worked on various human and environmental issues with villagers.
I lived with a few families. Some had makeshift homes from recycled materials or nicer homes with a running shower. The one thing they all had in common was that there was never any furniture –– but their plants filled those spaces.
If I were to injure myself or get sick, we would look to the garden or to an indoor plants for help. If I cut myself, we would cut a piece of aloe from the plant without damaging the plant. If I had a sore throat, I would chew on shards of ginger. If I had a headache, I would drink tamarind tea, which I would pick from the tree on their farm. Centuries of traditional Thai holistic care really came in handy.
There was something magical about holistic care and looking to nature for the answers. I started to look at plants as more of a way of life, and not just something I enjoy because of their impressive beauty.
My friend, Clayton Lewis, studied the relationship between people and plants while he lived in Nepal. He then moved to India and worked with plants for medicinal use while I was living in Thailand. He filled me in on his work over our Skype chats and made me want to learn more from my homestay families and their holistic methods. He too inspired me to purchase plants for my bedroom. He told me, “Plants remind you about being healthy. Having a connection with nature makes a big difference on the way you feel. You can cook them, use them topically and enjoy them.”
When I returned to Boulder, I purchased a few plants with my dad. I bought an aloe plant, an orange cactus and a four-foot cat palm for my bedroom. Initially, I placed extravagant plants into my shopping cart because of their beauty, but my dad told me that there was no way that I would be able to keep them alive. He told me I needed to start out with some easy ones, see how it goes, and later I could move on to the more complicated plants. I agreed –– I am a busy college student.
The best part of owning my plants is that almost every time I looked at my plants, I get this body high, because they remind me of precious moments in Thailand –– like a whiff of a beautiful smell that takes you back to a moment in time.
I began changing my habits and taking a more holistic approach to my daily routine. I now think of plants as medicine that heals my body. When I eat food, I eat with the intention that I am taking care of my body. I am also happier when I wake up in the morning and have some nature by my side. I think of owning my plants almost like owning a dog because they both make me happy. But dogs are much more of a responsibility, the only thing is –– I can’t cuddle with my cactus.
Clayton compiled the lists below. Enjoy.
Benefits of Plants:
arsheffield –– Top off some ice cream with delicious rosemary.
- Plants are cheaper than synthetic medicine.
- Plants purify the air.
- Think of eating plants as eating medicine. Everything we put into our bodies should be with the intention to heal and sustain.
- Plants can be easily taken care of and will make you happy.
- Plants can prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes.
- If we consider plants as mighty healers, then we will change our habits and take a more holistic route in all of our actions.
Top 10 List: a list of the safest plants that everyone should have and use everyday.
1) Aloe Vera: By far on of the easiest house plants and easy to use medicinal plants. It barely needs any water (once every couple 2 weeks to month) and all you have to do it cut a piece off, cut it open, and put the goo inside on any wound or burn. Can also be ingested with juice or smoothie for an upset stomach.
2) Parsley: A vitamin and mineral powerhouse, this is not just a garnish. Good for urinary tract and general physical health.
3) Lavender: Very relaxing, beautiful to look at and smell, put in little pouches in your underwear drawer, or to mix with chamomile before bed.
4) Rosemary: Circulatory and nerve stimulant, great to relieve tension headaches and depression. Also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and can be used externally for muscle pain
5) Mint: A powerful stomach soother for any kind of aliment. Make tea after a big meal, use as a face wash, or breathe in some steam when your nose is clogged.
6) Basil: A member of the mint family that is also good for the stomach, also helps with headache, anxiety, and is so delicious.
7) St. John’s Wort:Harvest these beautiful yellow flowers in late summer and save them to make tea on dark winter days. It is a general anti-depressant that will make you noticeably happier. Also great for external cuts and bruises.
9) Chamomile: Mmm, so realxing. If everyone had a cup of fresh tea with this before bed, the world would be a calmer place. Chamomile is a sedative and carminative (stomach soother). It is also called the “children’s herb” because it is good for child fevers and general restlessness. Also a good mouthwash for gingivitis.
10) Garlic: Did you know that the cloves of garlic we eat are also seeds. Just pick the best looking clove and plant it. Garlic is a powerful antibiotic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antiviral. Stronger when eaten raw, it can counteract colds, flus, chronic bronchitis, infections, and also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
11) Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): This is a common house plant is particularly good at air purifying.
Home Gardening: Easiest places to get plants are:1) Farmers markets, 2) Plant Shops, 3) Seed Banks (http://www.seedsavers.org/), and 4) Foraging.
JANUARY 30. 2012
After a long week of school, work and publishing my own articles to elephant journal as a new intern, I confronted my first mental writing block. I sat at my computer editing articles, thinking of how I can create an original piece of my own.
My roommate walked in the door at 5:50 p.m. and said, “Let’s go to yoga, but we have to leave in 10″. I declined, knowing how much homework I had, let alone a pitch to deliver to the elephant crew in the morning. Five minutes later, I reconsidered and we were off.
As we arrived to the yoga studio, we found out that our favorite instructor could not make it and had someone else fill in for her. My roommate Rachel and I were disappointed as we hit the mats, after rushing to make it to class on time.
The relatively new yogi began the class by telling us that her grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday on Friday. She asked her grandmother if she had any pearls of wisdom and her grandmothersaid, “I have no advice. I learned to not give people advice.” The instructor then said, “So everyone, I have no advice for you. Now on to downward dog.”
Rachel and I immediately looked at each other, trying to fathom the yogi’s intention as we questioned why we even showed up to class.
I came to yoga that night hoping for inspiration and clarity, but my mind was clouded by the tone she set for our time on the mats. Was it that she was not prepared for class and it was the easiest thing to say? Did she want us to guide ourselves from within? What was her intention for the class?
Rachel (who is a yoga teacher) and I desperately tried to enjoy this class. The teacher would say, “We will now go to humble warrior pose. Hold it as you smile. Be gentle and soft, but focused.” I didn’t get it. For every pose she would advise us how to do the pose for about one long minute. Her advice bothered me. She began the class by telling us she had nothing to offer us, then she couldn’t stop offering advice. Or was I just a tad bitter that my favorite teacher did not show up?
I kept peering at Rachel under my arms while in downward dog. We would make faces at each other or would go into child’s pose to avoid having to continue our flow to the teacher’s voice.
Rachel mouthed to me, “Let’s just leave. I want to go” about a dozen times. I would say, “No we can’t leave. I’m scared to leave.” We went back and fourth for about five minutes, until I caved. I couldn’t believe I was about to ditch the last half of class –– which is so not proper yoga class etiquette.
The voice of my grandmother –– who meditates daily and attends her weekly pilates classes –– popped into my mind. She always advises me to listen to my MBS –– mind, body and soul. I went to yoga to find an inner voice and I could not leave unsatisfied. My mind told me to endure the remainder of the class and take it for what it is worth. My body was indecisive. My soul told me to follow my intuition and follow some real advice.
When we were instructed to get on our backs for core strengthening, we saw it was our opportunity to leave without causing a scene. I sat up and pretended I was feeling dizzy. I felt like I needed a better excuse than, ‘I can’t take another second of being in here.’ It was just a little unfortunate that my mat was up front facing the mirrors and next to my teacher. As I folded my mat she sat up with a puzzled look. I motioned that I was feeling sick and dodged straight for the door.
As the door shut we laughed with a rush of adrenalin. How rude of us… But suddenly my mind was clear.
Listen to my mind, body and soul.
The constant mental searching for something to pitch to the elephant crew, the time spent sitting on my computer reading interesting stories and playing on Stumbleupon.com was just the opposite of what I need to be doing. What I needed was to relax and be mindful to what is around me. What I needed was to recognize that a story does not need to be some momentous event, but just a refreshing moment of listening to your MBS.
JANUARY 25. 2012
Do you need healing, relationship counseling, meditation, guidance from God, or Buddhist teachings? BetterListen!com is an online media distributor of video, audio and downloadable mp3s.
As a senior in college, who has a part time job and just began an internship with elephant journal, meditation helps me relax. I frequently attend yoga classes, and meditate by the creek after my runs—but I am by no means your new-agey spiritual woman, I just like to relax and reflect. I have never listened to audio on meditation, or spiritual healing, so I was open to experience the the power of healing and self-empowerment during me time.
To get the best understanding of Better Listen! I gave each of my roommates CD compilations that spoke most to them.
I listened to a few CDs by the New York Times best-selling author Marianne Williamson. After a few chapters from The Luminous Mind Workshop, I was able to grasp that she spoke with a somewhat religious and spiritual tone—which I can appreciate from all my years at Temple, but I don’t really connect Jewish Sunday school Temple with relaxation.
Her live recordings accompanied by small injections of tranquil music and audience participation can be persuasive if a listener wishes to feel that they are in her presence. She called to her crowd as if they were part of a fellowship of spiritual knowledge attending her sermon. Don’t get me wrong, I believe sermons teach communities a great deal of lessons and give space for personal reflection, but during my metime, I did not want to be disturbed by the coughing in the background or the unison of laughter from the crowd, I wanted pure undistracted me time in my head.
I believe if a listener wishes they had time to be part of a motivational/spiritual group, then listening to Marianne can be a great substitute or as an addition to groups listeners already belong to.
This month, listeners can download one of Marianne Williamson’s lectures, The Power of a New Year, for free.
Photo: Of Steve Gorn by JolieNY
This is a beautifully told vivid story accompanied by majestic music. It touches the anthropologic side because it unravels the relationships between humans, animals, and the environment. My roommate could not make it through the entire story, but that may just be because us young folk have a hard time devoting all of our attention to a CD without becoming distracted.
If you want an inspiring story, download Laura Simms 4 disc compilation. I would recommend this to my mother, who is an avid listener to books on CD while she drives. That’s another thing, when my friends and I get into a car we want to listen to music and not silently focus on a story. I believe this story would be best for an older and more mature crowd.
My other roommate is in the process of recovering from knee surgery, so she listened to The World of Relaxation – A Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice for Healing in the Hospital and/or at Home withDr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and original harp music by Georgia Kelly.
To prepare listening to the CD with my roommate, we dimmed the lights in her room, lit an ocean breeze candle and got comfy in her bed. As comfy as you can get with an ice machine wrapped around an elevated leg. With our eyes closed, we listened to the soothing voice of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Though I am not recovering from surgery I felt that it was helpful to me as well. His message was to find the strength within, and anyone can use that kind of advice.
She liked listening to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn because it reminds her of her yoga practice.
“It is nice to have someone to guide you in yoga, even if you know the moves. Even though I know what I have to do to get better, it is nice to relax and have someone guide me. His voice brings awareness to my reality in a way that helps me focus on healing rather than my pain.”
Better Listen! not only hopes to transform the lives of their listeners, but transform the ways we interact with the Earth with small mindful acts of environmental consciousness. They recommend that listeners stream mp3s from their computers rather than ship CDs. The CDs are in plastic box compilations—to mention all of the shipping materials—but listeners who would rather listen for more than 120 hours before the mp3 deletes, CDs are the best way to go.
Note: elephantjournal.com received these BetterListen! CDs for free, in return for a guarantee that we would review said offering. That said, we say what we want—good and bad, happy and sad.
JANUARY 18. 2012
New winter boots, a sweater, cute tops, jewelry and a whole lot of guilt.
I began my holiday season with lots of consuming. It was as if now that I was home from college after finishing my finals that I could justify this much consumption. I practically got a whole new wardrobe while burning a nice whole in my wallet.
The holidays should be about recycling. Recycling ourselves and the things we own. Creating changes, but with an awareness of the impact we have on the world and ourselves.
The theme of my resolutions this year is to become more environmentally conscious and active.
We are a little more than two weeks into the New Year and it can be difficult to maintain resolutionswe promised to friends, families, and ourselves. It is not as difficult at first because we are excited, but after the first few weeks it becomes much harder than anticipated and eventually we are back where we started.
I decided to make resolutions that I could easily live up while having fun.
Recycle my clothing for cash or in store credit. Use less packaging and bags. Place less value onmaterialistic items.
Recycling my wardrobe means to take my gently used clothing to a consignment stores like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange for cash or find other gently used clothes within the store. The clothes are much cheaper than Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Savers, Old Navy and Target. Just know that you will never leave a store feeling guilty again once you start shopping at second hand stores. Plus you get great deals on one of kind clothes or on name brands.
If these stores do not accept your clothes because of the season or style, donate them. I go to Salvation Army or Goodwill.
For the packaging, if you know you are going shopping bring a bag large enough to hold all of your items. Keep shopping bags in your car. Or, if you purchase two shirts at a store and you are walking right back to your car, just tell the clerk you do not need a bag. It is a waste a plastic or paper when you have two functioning hands.
I am trying to control my consumer habits by placing a lower value on materialistic things. I need to get creative with my style by not supporting companies with bad practices. I need to realize that I do not need new clothes every season. I can still look fly with a cheaper budget and recycled clothing.
For all of you who are trying to keep up with your resolutions, trust yourself that you can do it. If not, try mine.