Friday, April 22, 2016

Changing Perspectives

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."  This is one of my absolute favorite quotes by one of my favorite motivational speakers, Dr. Wayne Dyer.  When I heard him say it, it completely created a shift in my thinking.  Sometimes, when things seem to be going downhill or life isn't exactly where we would like, a change of perspective is all it takes.  It's quite simple.  I remember sitting at the dinner table as a child refusing to eat my dinner.  My mother will immediately say, "There are so many starving children in the world and you're rejecting your food!"  I remember always having a quick shift in perspective when she'd say that.  Or more like, "Well, geesh.  Now that you put it that way! I guess I'll eat it."  Of course, I did so begrudgingly, mind you.  But, that comment always made me change my perspective on how "terrible" this meal was.  What if I had nothing to eat, for days at a time.  What if I was actually starving, would I eat it then?  Gladly?  Probably.

Life is so often confronting us with the unpleasant.  We face problems with relationships, at work, with finances, etc... And we get so mired up in the details of our problem that we expand it to take over our minds and our lives.  We stop looking at all the blessings we have each and everyday and minimize them by focusing only on the one unpleasant issue that's bothering us.  It's so common.  It may as well be called "the human condition."  But, it does not have to be that way at all.  We can become mindful of our thoughts.  We can regain control by being present in the moment and looking at whatever our problem is for what it truly is.  Let's ask ourselves, "what does this really mean?" "Is this the absolute worst case scenario?"  I know this is common sense for most of us.  But sometimes, it's nice to be reminded.

Stay present today.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Minimalist Exercise - Running

Back in October of 2014 I made a commitment to myself and my family.  I was determined to lose the "baby weight," get fit and become an example of healthy living to my daughter.  I decided to take up running.  Of course, in my usual fashion, I went in with both feet.  Or more like a direct dive.  I signed up for a 15K and just started running 4 days a week.  It started with one mile a day and quickly moved into 3 miles.  I remember looking at 4 miles as if it was an impossible feat, only to be running 9.32 miles (15K), 3 months later. Yep.  Did I quit running after the 15K? Nope.  Instead I signed up for and ran an Iron Girl half marathon 3 months after that.  During that race, I thought I'd die honestly.  But, did I give up then? Yea.... no.  Instead, I opened up my e-mail to find out I'd been selected in the Chicago Marathon lottery (which I signed up for as a total joke).  I definitely couldn't turn that once in a lifetime opportunity down! So, what did I do alllllllll summer in the Florida heat?  I trained.  I ran.  I prepared.  Come October of 2015 and I ran and finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  One of the World Marathon Majors! Me!!! Little ole' me who couldn't even run a quarter of a mile without feeling completely winded and red as a lobster!!

So, am I still running today? Yes.  In fact, in a couple of months I will begin training yet again for another marathon.  This time? The famed TCS New York City Marathon in November! My name (which again, I put in as a "no way I'm getting picked for this") was drawn out of the lottery.  How can I say no to that?? I'm running it.

I share this story with you in an attempt to encourage you that exercise and fitness need not be expensive or impossible. You really can't get more minimalist than running.  All it requires is a quality pair of sneakers, which will run you anywhere from $75-150.  But, they are WORTH it.  Trust me.  Don't run in cheap shoes.  Your shins, ankles and feet will thank you.  The road is freeeeeeee!! Plus, what better way to get in touch with nature than being outside several times a week.  If you have a stressful day job or home life, I can't say enough about what a stress buster and endorphin inducer running is.  You WILL feel awesome!! I guarantee it.

Are you new to running? Don't fret.  You don't have to be a crazy person and go all out like I did.  I'm just crazy like that. I would recommend starting with a couple of days a week following a run/walk program.  You will slowly build up endurance and suddenly feel like you can go a bit more than the week before.  Increase your distance weekly and you will be on your way to making running a part of your minimalist lifestyle.  Are you already a runner? I'd love to know how you fit it into your schedule and what your routine is! Have a healthy and happy Wednesday!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Practicing Kindness

Kindness.  It's a characteristic we want and expect from everyone around us, but sometimes we have a hard time expressing it onto others.  People and situations test our patience and we can get quite short fused sometimes.  It's easy being kind to those who are nice, considerate and kind in return.  The real test is when we must show kindness to those whom we deem least deserving of it.  The grumps, complainers, gossips, backstabbers, liars, thieves, etc... You get my drift.  "Those" people are difficult at times.  But, honestly? Let's be real.  We've all been one of these at some point.  Maybe not thieves.  But, who hasn't complained incessantly a time or two or three??? 

So, next time, when we are faced with a challenging person, let's take the lesson and learn from it.  Let's practice kindness.  Imagine what kind of world this would be if we all made a commitment to do this?  Let this be our mantra this week (and always).  Have a kind filled Monday.


Friday, April 15, 2016

The Path Less Traveled - Ignoring Social Pressures

Societal expectations. Ugh. They can be so heavy, right?  Who else grew up being told you had to graduate, go to college, get married, buy a big house, a nice car, have kids, be successful, be rich, retire, play golf, die...? Yep.  I know the spiel well.  My mom was a master at repetition.  Growing up I wanted to be an actress.  Nothing else.  I wanted to act.  It was most definitely my childhood dream all the way through college.  My mother definitely did not approve of that.  At all.  Her dream for me was to become a successful lawyer or doctor.  Those were the only two valid choices.  Period.  I graduated high school without a clue as to what I wanted to do because I'd never thought about anything else but acting. I suddenly discovered teaching when I was promoted to be an on the job trainer at Busch Gardens and realized I actually had a knack for teaching others.  Years later, I stood in front of a classroom and knew that teaching was my life long calling.  After all... they do say that teachers are just failed actors, right? Haha! Definitely true for me.

However, teaching was "failure," in my parents' mind.  After all, it wasn't law or medicine.  So, what did the 24 year old me do? I took the LSAT and enrolled in law school.  3 years later, I graduated with a law degree.  My parents beamed with pride.  They're little girl did it! She was a lawyer and now they could brag to everyone they knew about it. Yes!!!  Except, that dream of theirs was short lived because I hated it so much that a mere year after graduation, I was back in the classroom and I've been in it since.  Suddenly my mom's new line became, "My daughter is a lawyer, but she's currently teaching."  I had to go through several years of, "So, when are you going to return to law?  Why are you teaching? You could be making so much more money!"  Eventually, however, the nagging died down completely.  I don't hear it at all anymore.  They gave up.  I stood my ground and even though it took years of constant nagging, my calling won out.  I just had to be patient and avoid succumbing to the pressure.

As for the big house, luxury car, being rich part? Yep.  Didn't do that either.  Our house is probably the smallest on the street.  My car? A Ford.  Rich? In comparison to the rest of the world? Yes.  By American standards? Middle class at best.
So, what is this post all about?  It's about following our path and not derailing from our calling because of what society expects from us.  God instilled certain gifts in us and we are called to fulfill them.  We will not feel at peace until we do.  If we follow others' dreams for us, then we risk living in inner chaos for the rest of our lives, never being truly happy.

Today, I may not have the life my parents dreamed for me.  But, I do have the life and state of mind they hoped for me.  Happiness.  Contentment.  Love.  Joy.  I may not live in a big house or drive a Benz.  But, I have a life filled with good people, a job I love, free time to do the things I enjoy, and a family with whom I fall in love with more and more every single day.  That, my dear readers, is my definition of success.

What's your dream?  Live it.  Love it.  Enjoy it.  For if it's your God given calling, then things will always fall into place and you will always be filled with peace of mind.  Society does not know what's best for you.  But, God does.  That's why He blessed you with certain gifts and skills.  So, listen to that still small voice telling you what you should be doing and ignore those who think they know what's best for you.  


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When It's Time to Walk Away from Friendship

Life is short.  It's fleeting.  We are here one minute and gone the very next.  So, why do so many of us spend it dwelling on the things and people who no longer bring meaning to our lives?  Is it habit?  Perhaps.  But, one thing is for sure... it's a waste of time... the very short time we have here on this beautiful planet of ours.  We've all been there, right?  The awesome friend we couldn't imagine our life without and then suddenly, boom, they're over there and we're over here.  They changed.  We changed.  Life changed.  Whether it's a new marriage, a baby, a new job, new group of friends or a dumb fight, suddenly they are now further away from the friendship than ever and it's hurting our hearts.  What to do, what to do?

Unfortunately, I've been in this situation more times than I care to count.  Having moved 14-15 different times in my childhood years, I moved schools, a lot.  So, I left friends behind constantly.  Especially having grown up in the age of no social media or cell phones (cave times!!).  As an adult it's happened to me a few times.  The most recent one being a "friend" who walked away while I was pregnant (ouch!).  She never really said why.  She just deleted me from Facebook and walked away from a 5 year friendship without as much as an explanation.  She then shared with my sister that it was because I was "mean" to her. Huh? I was a hormonal pregnant mess! What in the world?  A true friend would've understood that and said, "Yep. Bygones." In fact, I tell my best friend now, who is 9 months pregnant that whatever she says or does while pregnant is forgiven, point blank, no questions.  Unfortunately, not everyone is that considerate.

So, what did I learn from that person?  That some people are insensitive jerks? Yea. Perhaps.  But, mostly, I learned that not everyone is deserving of our friendship.  Sometimes people just suck.  And I don't mean that in a derogatory way.  I mean, they really do suck.  They suck the energy out of us.  They suck the positive vibes out of our lives.  They suck happiness and joy and hope and understanding out of us without ever offering anything in return.  So, why do we hang on to these sucky people? We shouldn't.

Let's count our losses, move on and make room in our lives for genuine people who do deserve us.  It's quite simple really.

By the way, I wrote said "friend" recently to apologize for having hurt her (you know... while I was hormonal and preggers).  She responded by not responding to me and blocking me from Facebook and then proceeding to tell my sister she thought that was the best way to handle it. 

Again, some people are much better left in the distant past.  And by the way, if you're wondering what mean thing I did/say? I still don't know.  Since I was never told. Haha!! Crazy. 

Let's push the crazies out and make time and space for the cool beans in our lives.  They are so much more fun anyway! Have a great Wednesday!


P.S.  Keep in mind that even when we let people go and remove them from our lives, we don't waste precious time hating them.  That is also fruitless.  The key to peace is to forgive/ask to be forgiven; move on if the situation calls for it and there's no reconciliation; send them off with good energy, wishing them well in their future and keeping them in prayer.  Hate is an ugly word and a feeling that we should never hold on to.  It's toxic.  Send people away with love and forgiveness for their shortcomings.  After all, none of us are perfect.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Minimalist's Way to Being Zen In Times of Chaos

When people think about a minimalist or someone who enjoys simple living, there's this idea of a very peaceful, quiet person.  At least that's how I always pictured it.  Think Gandhi or the Buddha, Siddartha Gautama.  They were these people who were definitely minimalists and who seemed to handle things with an incredible peace.  So, how can an everyday person like you and me, emulate that?  Well.  It depends on each person, really.  Some of us are quick tempered and it will take more work.  While others, such as myself, are a lot slower to anger and so it seems a bit "easier."  But, at the end of the day, we can all become overwhelmed in times of chaos and have our balance quickly disturbed.  What would a minimalist ask themselves when things seem to be getting out of control?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Is this really worth getting upset over? (the situation, the person, the bad experience, the traffic, being late to something, etc...)
  2. What, if anything, can I do to change it? 
  3. If I can't change it, can I change my perspective on it?
  4. What is the worst that can possibly happen? Imagine that and then let it go (this one is one of my favorites).
  5. Why am I really getting upset? Is it xyz or is it something entirely different and I'm just taking my anger and frustration out on xyz?  Get to the root of the issue, then work to rectify that.
  6. And lastly, (but, should ALWAYS be FIRST)... Pray and let God take care of it.  He'll always know best.  This is a matter of surrendering, letting go and being okay with whatever the circumstances may be.  Being able to do this, is incredibly peaceful and liberating.
What is bothering you today?  Ask yourself these questions.  As Descartes would say, "An unexamined life is not worth living."  Therefore, examine your thoughts today, for they lead to your life.  So, think carefully.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Is Less, More?

"Less is more."  Yes.  The good ole' saying.  But, how exactly does it apply to minimalist living?  Less of what?  A lot of people believe that minimalism is strictly tied to clutter.  But, it actually applies to every facet of our lives.  From the jobs we do, to the hobbies we partake in, to the wardrobe we build for ourselves to our diet and exercise regimes.  Minimalism is not meant to be boxed up into just one part of our lives.  At least not if one expects it to yield any true, long lasting benefit.  If we are to truly take on this liberating lifestyle change, then we must commit wholeheartedly to it and not just partially.  When you minimize, you will have more.  How so?

  • Less bills means you can work less, which equals MORE time to do.... whatever your little heart pleases.
  • Less clutter means you can live in a smaller space, which equals MORE money in the bank because your utilities, mortgage/rent, insurance, yard work, etc... will be much more affordable!
  • Less clothing means that you can purchase quality pieces that are timeless and classic and will last you a few years.  It means you will have MORE time in the mornings to get ready because your choices won't be so abundant that they eventually limit you.... (case in point... have you ever had SO many clothes that you hear yourself sighing and saying, "Ugh! I have nothing to wear!!"? Yep. I've been there).  When you have less clothes that all coordinate and outfits that can be dressed up or down, you will have MORE closet space, MORE peace of mind, MORE quality pieces, and MORE time! Yay!
  • Less bad food and more balanced nutrition will ensure MORE health! We all hate being sick, right?  We all hate feeling overweight, lethargic and all other icky feelings that come with bad nutrition.  So, let's consume less bad food filled with empty calories and we will have MORE healthy meals that will lead to MORE quality of life.  Plus, your waistline will thank you, as will your heart.
  • Less TV and social media time will provide you with MORE valuable time to spend with family, friends, alone, or just reading a great book, practicing a new hobby, listening to quality music, etc...
  • Less gossiping (better yet... NO gossiping) will lead to MORE peace of mind.
  • Less judging (or better yet... NO judging) will lead to MORE love and appreciation in your heart for those around you.
  • Less arguing and fighting will lead to MORE quality relationships filled with mutual respect, as well as a more nurturing, healthy and loving home.
  • Less shopping will lead to MORE money in the bank for meaningful trips, a rainy day fund, and peace of mind when you realize your car needs all new tires and guess what? You HAVE the money! Woohoo!!!! Can I get a "Yassssss!"
  • Less desiring will lead to MORE contentment.
  • Less negativity and complaining will lead to MORE happiness, laughter and joy.
Today, let's CHOOSE less, so that we may have the benefits that come with it... MORE of all the good stuff life has to offer.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Leaving Social Media for a Time...

Imagine a world in which we don't have anything but rotary phones and a little phone bench to sit on when speaking to someone.  A world in which a message is left with a relative if the person we're calling isn't home.  A world in which when we run into people we actually have to bring them up to date on what we've been up to because they have absolutely no idea. Oh yes.  This would be called the pre-Internet and social media era.  Looking back it seems like it was a much simpler time.  Today, however, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Vimeo, Vine, YouTube, etc..., it seems as if each and every one of us is living in a reality TV show and are semi-celebrities in a way.  Think about it.  People already know what we've been up to before running into us.  We can share where we went on vacation and snap pictures in real time.  Our child's first step is shared with everyone we know through a video on Facebook.  I even knew someone who gave birth while posting on Facebook!! Haha! No lie!!! And nope.  Wasn't me.  I actually didn't even know where in the world my phone was when I was in labor.  Neither did I care to know!

So, what's my point?  Can we ever get back to that place? The place of a mystery cloak wrapped around our lives.  The place of living quietly without knowing what everyone in our lives is doing, every second of the day?  The answer is, "yes, we can."  Last year I left Facebook and Twitter for 8 months.  It was a glorious experience.  I traveled all over the place without sharing any pictures with anyone! I texted or called the people I wanted to speak to.  I found out who my real friends were (the ones who contacted me and said... "hey! Miss you! Where have you been!?!?).  Truly, it was eye-opening.  Plus, it was extremely peaceful to not know how everyone else was doing.  Very cathartic.  

I did eventually choose to return as a means of easier sharing with friends and family.  However, being off of it was really wonderful.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Whether you choose to get off of social media permanently or even just for a few months, you should definitely do it.  It will be a blessed experience to get back to a quieter and simpler time.  You will soul search.  You will read more.  You will learn more.  You will love more.  You will laugh more.  You will be in relationship more.  Unplug.


Monday, April 4, 2016

When We Enter Contentment, We'll Always Have Enough

We all have so very much to be grateful for.  If we wake up in a home with modern day conveniences, we are far more blessed than the majority of the 7 billion inhabitants of this earth.  So then, why are we always searching for more in the way of discontent?  Malls, boutiques, cell phone companies, Apple, Amazon, etc... all make enormous profits off of our discontent.  Advertisers play off of it by promising us happiness, looks, inner beauty, peace of mind and a myriad of other great things if we just buy whatever they're selling.  Sadly, we fall for it all the time.  But, it needn't be that way.  As soon as we take control of what we expose ourselves to, we can live more intentionally and make choices based on our values, morals, and ethics.  We don't need to be puppets to the corporate world which spends billions and billions of dollars each year trying to convince us that we do not have enough and we need the latest and greatest to really, truly, be happy.  

Let's try something different.  Let's think about our choices for once.  Let's not let someone else tell us what we need, when we need it and why we need it.  Instead, let's make that decision for ourselves.  If our cell phones are working just fine for us and ring when they're supposed to, make calls to our loved ones, takes pictures (if you're wanting it to), etc..., then why are we so easily convinced that we need the newest model? If our cars are taking us to and fro in an efficient and safe manner, then why are we so easily convinced we need to trade it in for an inefficient, gas guzzling, pay check hogger?  Is it to impress someone else or is it because it will actually fill your life with meaning? Which is it?  If it will fill our lives with meaning, then by all means... let's get it.  Otherwise, let's walk away from the false advertisements.  Don't believe me?  Look around your home right now.  Count the things you bought believing they'd somehow bring your life more value and then, after the excitement wore off, it no longer did so.

True value is found in relationship with others.  True value is found in spirituality, gratefulness, giving, loving.  True value is free.  All we need to do is accept that, reject the other choice and reap the benefits.  Let's be content.  For only then, will we have enough.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Adopt... Don't Shop

Today, in belated honor of "National Puppy Day" (which was on March 23rd),  I dedicate this post to my dog Nola and to all of you who have opted to rescue as opposed to buying from a breeder or puppy store.  We just recently rescued Nola on February 1st.  The first picture above is of the day after we brought her home from the shelter.  The second picture is her about 6 weeks later and the last picture is from this past Sunday, on Easter.  When I arrived at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (GREAT organization, by the way) I knew I wanted a small doggie that would have more than enough room in our small(ish) house.  We also suffer from allergies, so we needed a hypo-allergenic pet.  When I saw Nola I just thought she was so sweet.  I asked to see her and I was immediately "warned" that she was on the "CHANCES" program whereby I could essentially "foster" her for a couple of weeks and bring her back if it didn't work out.  She was on this program because she was in pretty bad shape when she arrived and was on all sorts of meds to get better.  Apparently people were walking away from her left and right and didn't want to be "bothered." Ugh, just breaks my heart thinking about it.  She had a urinary tract infection, gingivitis (for which they had to do dental surgery), ear infections in both ears and possible hip problems.  She was also pretty malnourished and had her little ribs and back bones just poking out.  They also said she came in so badly matted they had to use a sharp razor blade to get the hair off.  She had so much hair on her they even nicked her on the ear, where she had a pretty bad scab. Oh boy.  She was just a downtrodden little dog.  Plus, she's "older," at 6 years old.  
I took her home on the CHANCE program and just couldn't wait the two weeks.  I came back 3 days later and officially adopted her.  At that point, it didn't matter what her "issues" were.  She was a Brinkey.  She was family. Today, two months later, Nola has gained weight and is said to be at "a perfect weight," according to the vet.  Her ear scab is long gone.  Her UTI and ear infections are also long gone.  Her gingivitis was taken care of by the Humane Society and now she could pose in Hollywood dog commercials her teeth are so white. We've only fed her grain-free, top of the line dog food and treats, purified water and fruits.  So her coat is super shiny, soft and brighter.  Every Saturday is her "bath" day where I lather her up with waterless oatmeal shampoo.  Plus, I clean out both ears and give her a good ole brushing every other day or so.  Not to mention her teeth maintenance treat every night.  What has been the result?  What you see above.  A healthy, happy, sweet and loyal family pet who has just wiggled her way into our very hearts with her sweet and caring nature.  

Why do I share all this with you? For two reasons.  First, think before getting a pet.  Why?  Because as you can see above, it's not exactly the cheapest thing.  Pets are family and shouldn't be treated as subpar or not worthy of the same love and care we give ourselves.  They deserve quality time, nutritious food, a balanced diet and consistent grooming.  It's another family member.  So, unless one is willing to provide the care they need and deserve, it's probably best to opt out of being a pet parent.  This includes being way too busy to spend time with them.

That being said, are you too busy? When we create a minimalist life, we open up more time, space and monetary resources to add these special beings into our families and provide them with a loving and forever home.  When we fill our lives up with clutter, debt and commitments, it's not fair to bring these innocent animals into that, until it's at least been brought under control.  Especially the time and care factor.  That's just my two cents.  My other two cents?

Adopt.  Please, adopt.  Don't shop at puppy stores or breeders.  If you've done this, I'm not knocking you.  I've been guilty of both in the very distant past.  I honestly just "didn't know better."  But, today... I do and I hope we can all work together to spread the message that shelter dogs make the absolute best dogs... (Oh! Cats too!).


P.S. Sorry for the super long post.  This is just such an important topic to me.  Thanks for reading!