Thursday, January 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—31: Healthy Take Out Food

"I have some weird habits. For instance, I love beets. Show me a salad bar and I will clean them out of their beets."—Chris Pratt

Between prepping for classes, teaching classes, grading papers, keeping up a blog and writing a book, I don't always have time to cook home-cooked meals, so sometimes I do have take out food or go out to eat. I like going out to eat with my husband on the weekends. If I haven't had time to prepare anything, I try not to eat "fast food" that is devoid of any nutrition whatsoever.

I'm on the Paleo diet (no grains or sugar), so my options can be limited, but I've already identified take out food that works for me. One of my favorite places to go when I need a quick bite to eat is Central Market near my house in Seattle. They have the freshest salad bar I've ever seen. The lettuce and veggies look like they've just been plucked from the garden. The best part is they use compostable containers, so everything goes back to the earth.

My habit before, when I was in a hurry, was just to grab anything. The worst place to grab something, I've realized, is the staff table at work. It's so tempting when I'm hungry, but it's full of things that I know are not good for me (i.e. chocolate, candy, chips, coke, etc.). I used to just grab a cookie from the table and not think about it, but now I pause, think about it and turn away. I've been down that road already.

The great thing about healthy take out, is that it doesn't just give me a quick pick-me-up, it gives me nutrition that sustains me throughout my day and does not leaving me feeling hungry or crashed out from sugar.

I start with mixed greens and spinach, then I add veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, etc. and I always make sure I have protein on my salad. There is an excellent turkey salad (turkey, celery, mayo and cranberries) that I like to add for the protein or they also have hard-boiled eggs. There's also a very nice bean salad and a greek salad. I like to throw in a little fruit, like pineapple and put some nuts or seeds on top. I usually skip the salad dressing or I just add oil and vinegar. I top all this off with a Kombucha.

Have you heard of Kombucha? It's a natural, fermented drink with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and probiotics. These delicious drinks are very helpful for those with digestive issues. My favorite Kombucha is Gingerade by Synergy (G.T. Dave's).

So that's my favorite take out food.

Do you ever order take out? Do you like to go out to dinner or lunch? What do you eat when you need a quick meal?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—30: Hot Baths

Natural Japanese Hot Spring
"There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."—Sylvia Plath

Yesterday I taught 6 hours at the college and had a split shift, so all I could think about when I came home was sinking into a hot, steamy bubble bath—Calgon take me away!

And that's exactly what I did! I prep my blog posts the night before, so it was a late night for me last night. 

I take baths almost every night in the winter. It's my way of unwinding and relaxing. There's something about the warm water in winter that soothes my soul. I picked up the habit of taking baths when I lived in Japan. 

Most of the Japanese people I knew when I lived there couldn't dream of going to bed without a bath. It's a big part of the Japanese culture. Whenever I'd visit a Japanese friend's house to stay the night, they'd always prepare a bath for me. It was a real ritual. They'd give me a robe and some fruit and tea and then they'd disappear while they prepared my bath. They'd often add bubbles or powder or natural minerals.

Japan is full of onsens (hot springs) and I visited over a dozen of them. At the hot springs, you are given a bathing robe (yukata) and people actually walk around the onsen grounds in a yukata and slippers. When you get to the hot springs area, most people bathe nude and the men's and women's sections are separated. It's quite the experience to go to a hot spring in Japan. 

In Korea, people in the old days used to not have bathing facilities, so many would bathe in a public bath house or "mogyogtang". The Korean style bath house is different from the Japanese experience. The Koreans have what is called a Jimjilbang (sauna). Each sauna room has different healing properties. There's usually a salt room, clay room, charcoal room, jade room, medicinal herb room and even an ice room for cooling off afterwards! There are a couple of Korean Jimjilbangs near Seattle and they are very popular. After going in several sauna rooms, you can also relax in the hot and cold pools which are segregated. My husband and I go a couple times a year and it's FREE on your birthday!

 After living in Asia for so long, baths have become a big part of my life. They go well with all the rain we have this time of year. I like to open my bathroom window a crack and listen to the rain drops while I sit in my steamy bath and drink a nice cup of herbal tea and read a book! It's heaven.

Do you like to take baths? Have you ever been to a natural hot spring or Korean spa?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—29: Saying Thank You

"Gratitude is the memory of the heart."—Jean Baptiste Massieu

Two little words that can make such a difference in someone's life. I hope I never pass up an opportunity to say THANK YOU to anyone who I appreciate. I probably have, though.

Life feels difficult at times. Not every day is a bowl of cherries. Sometimes I write and wonder if anyone is really reading what I put down here day after day. I've just about completed an entire month of writing every single day. HOORAY!

Only 11 more months to go (he, he!). But really, in all honesty, I write because it feels so good to share. I write because I have something to say and I want to connect. I write because I have received so much in my life and I want to give back.

Just the other day I received this comment on one of my 365 Inspirations and it was completely unexpected:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing your book. I was pleasantly surprised to find, while reading it, that you are a local writer. This book has moved me beyond words. Thank you for taking the leap and publishing.

That was "four" thank yous and probably more than I deserve. Today I read a very touching letter from a community leader on her webpage. She was recently in a plane crash with her husband and he is suffering from severe burns on one-third of his body. Even though she has been through the most unspeakable situation in her life, she wrote about how acceptance of the situation has brought her peace and also how that has brought her equanimity at the same time.

We don't know what life will throw at us each day and I was struck by the fact that she was able to find acceptance of the situation and how that, in turn, brought her peace.

Lately, I've been struggling with a few personal issues, but nothing comes close to what these two friends of mine have been through. After reading her words, all I could do was think thank you.

That thought prompted me to write her an e-mail and express my gratitude for her words today. That's the gift that I can give right now. The gift she gave me was to see that sometimes life doesn't turn out how we expect or how we want it to be. If we learn to accept where we are right now and not wish it to be different, there is great peace.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you (you all deserve four "thank yous" too) for reading this post today and for taking the time to leave comments. They make a world of difference and they mean so much to everyone you extend yourself to. Thanks to all of you bloggers and writers out there who, with your words, are making a difference in someone else's life.

Do you usually express gratitude to the people in your life? When was the last time you said, "thank you" to someone?

Monday, January 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—28: Sharing

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'” ―Erma Bombeck

I believe we are all here for a reason and each and every one of us has something to share or offer. You may not believe it, but you have a gift or gift(s). There's only one of you and only you can do things the way you do them.

I decided it was high time to offer something new to world. I have had my blog here since 2009. In 2010 I blogged lessons for 365 days, in 2011 I did weekly lessons and in 2012 my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, was born and I went on a east and west coast tour with my husband and blogged about the experience. Now I'm offering 365 Inspirations for 2013. Not an easy task, but I get so much inspiration from sharing with others and discovering others gifts and talents.

Blogging every single day takes time and effort, but I'm committed to this opening and this sharing. Recently I felt like I wanted to offer more. I love how easy it is to connect via computer with access to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but I've recently felt like I want to share what I have learned through more of a personal relationship.

I don't know if you noticed, but I added new tabs to my blog. I should have done it months ago, but I was a bit fearful. I hesitated a long time and finally took the afternoon and added all the information above that I've wanted to add for months, but was afraid to do for whatever reason.

In Retreats and Classes, I'm currently offering a new class called Discover Your Passion and Live an Authentic Life. You can read all about it in this section. All of my writing has been about finding the inspirational all around me and discovering my true path. My blogging journey has lead me to an agent, a publisher and a host of other amazing writers and bloggers. I could never have dreamed of this when I started my journey here. Blogging helped me let go of so much fear and has opened doors to so many interesting and new things in my life. I'm ready to share that and to help others move past fear and into living fully and authentically, on whatever path one chooses.

So if you are ready to take a leap of faith, please join me on this journey here or by taking my newly offered series of classes! I can't wait to see what life has in store for you!

Do you have any special talents or gifts? What are they? Do you believe you have something to share with others? What is it?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—27: Full Moons

"For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us."—Richard H. Baker

There is nothing like the experience of suddenly noticing a huge full moon rising. On Friday, after witnessing a beautiful sunset and feeling completely content, I caught a glimpse of the moon rising on my drive back home. It's always breathtaking to see the moon so full suddenly. It's different than watching a sunset that is right before you. Seeing the moonrise is often a complete and utter surprise. On my way back from the beach, instead of following my usually way home, I drove down neighborhood roads and backstreets trying to follow this moon. Every time the moon would get behind a tree or building, I'd try and find a clear view. I ended up at a dead end street and parked to just stare at it for awile. It was so big and bright and it felt like another world.

When the moon is this big, it feels like you can see the details of it and it feels so close.

Many cultures depend on the cycles of the moon and use a lunar calendar, particularly in Asia. In Korea, I learned that a person's birthdate changes every year depending on the lunar calendar. It's not fixed as it is in the West.

Also, the tides ebb and flow with the moon and so many animals and the natural world are tuned into the moon's rhythms.

Sometimes I miss this. We live with so much technology these days and it's easy to lose touch with the natural world, but we can't exist without it. We depend on nature.

I hope that I continue to step outside and take notice more often. I'm happy I got to see the full moon a few days ago. Today is very cloudy and rainy and I'm not sure I'll be able to see it tonight. The picture above was taken on my street. We have lots of very huge Evergreen trees right in my neighborhood in Seattle. That's why Washington is called The Evergreen State. These trees framed the moon nicely the other day. Believe it or not, I took this photo with my cell phone. It captured the moon quite well, I think!

Did you see the full moon recently? Do you like to walk or spend time in the moonlight?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—26: Sunsets

"When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator."—Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday turned out to be surprisingly sunny in Seattle. I went to yoga in the morning and met a friend for Korean food for lunch. When we stepped out of the Korean restaurant, sun was all around! It was so nice. We went to my house for tea and the banana bread I made yesterday and chatted a bit and then I drove her home. It was a wonderful day!

The sun was still high and suddenly I had an impulse to go down to Puget Sound and watch the sunset, but was afraid I was too late. I googled "Sunset today in Seattle" and "5:00 PM" in huge print showed up on my computer screen. It wasn't 5:01 or 5:20 or 4:45, the sun would set at exactly 5:00 PM. I found this so intriguing. Such an exact time for the sun to decide to set!

I looked at the time and it was 4:40 PM. I hopped in my car and drove to a park near my house on Puget Sound. As I mentioned in a previous post, right here in Seattle we have the most picturesque parks with a view of the Olympic Mountains, ocean, sand, beach and forest. It is so breathtaking to see these all at once right in the city!

As I was winding down to the water, I could see the sun slowly sinking between the trees. There were plenty of parking spots. I parked, grabbed by purse and made my way down to the water.

There were people walking up and down the beach and couples huddled together waiting for nature's show. Children drew images in the sand with sticks and some people even brought a picnic dinner.

I sat down on a log very close to the water and listen to the sound of the waves. A train roared by hugging the coastline. What a spectacular ride for the passengers! The sun's reflection on the train caught my eye.

 Another day was almost over and I wanted to see the very last glimpse of light on the horizon. I wanted to freeze the moment. I closed my eyes and meditated for a moment. I felt like I was in a holy place, like church or a temple. Every sight, sound, smell and touch felt like a benediction.

After the sun dropped away, I felt a chill in the air as night began to set in.

I made my way to my car, happy that I did not let the day and nature's final offering slip away from me unnoticed.

Do you like sunsets? Have you seen a sunset recently?

Friday, January 25, 2013

365 Inspirations—25: Banana Bread (Grain and Sugar Free!)

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight."M.F.K. Fisher

Since my husband and I decided to go Paleo, I can't seem to stop trying out new recipes in the kitchen. I've done this recipe many times, but it's so delicious! Who says you can't have bread for breakfast? Why not try a grain free, sugar free banana bread? Add a little butter on top and perfect!

As some of you may know, I also blogged for 365 days in 2010. That time I did lessons! It was quite different from the inspirations I'm doing this year. The year I did lessons was a big year for me and I learned quite a bit. That year of lessons is also going to become my second book. I'll let you know more about that when the project is underway.

I'm finding, once again, that it is quite a challenge to blog every single day, teach full-time, do yoga 3-4 times a week and begin working on a second book, but so far I'm still here. That is a good thing. The truth is, I'm always up for a challenge and writing inspirations on my blog every single day helps me keep focused on the good things in my life. There's always something I can find that I'm inspired by.

Healthy banana bread is one of them. And it's ready to come out of the oven RIGHT NOW. Wish you could smell it! It smells divine. Just a minute while I take it out.....

I just put it on the counter top and cut a slice out while it's still hot!

Mmmmm.. Super moist and you simply can't believe that there is no sugar or grains in this.

Here's the recipe:

Two very ripe large bananas
1/2 cup of honey
3 Tbs. of coconut oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups almond flour
1 heaping tsp. of baking soda
handful of walnuts and raisins

Mix together the almond flour and baking soda and set aside. Mash the banana with a masher and add in honey, vanilla, eggs, and melted coconut oil (olive oil will do too). Mix this with a mixer. After that, slowly add in the dry ingredients with a mixer. Grease a bread pan and pour in. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until brown on top and firm.


I also cooked a Crockpot of Italian sausage, sweet potato, lentil, onion and brussel sprout soup.

This was intuitive and completely on the fly. I did not use a recipe. Just saute everything in olive oil with a bit of cumin, a dash of Chinese five spice and a dash of cayenne. Add to beef broth in Crockpot. Cook lentils separately and rinse and add those to Crockpot too. Slow cook everything for about 4 hours.

Off to my classes at the college. Here's my question for today:

Have you ever tried doing an activity (besides the regular sleeping, eating, etc.) for 365 days? If you could choose one thing, what would it be?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

365 Inspirations—24: Yoon's Yoga Bliss

"That taste of the present moment through the physical body is good. Through that taste, we begin to enjoy the state of simple existence and I think that is right concentration of the mind because we are not distracted by outside things and we naturally want to reside in the deeper sense of ourselves."—Seong Yoon Lee on Practicing Yoga

*special note* Yoon's Yoga Bliss closed its doors at its former location, but yoga with Yoon is still happening! Contact Yoon a to find out about classes and retreats!

Okay, I might be biased because this is my husband's yoga studio, but going to Yoon's Yoga Bliss has always left me feeling inspired. I feel lucky to have a husband who is a very good yoga teacher in the Seattle area and fortunate that his studio is a 5-minute drive from our house. I should have no excuses for missing yoga, but I'd like to go more often.

I work late on weeknights, so I can only attend yoga classes in the mornings. It's hard for me to get up early and do yoga because I stay up so late after my class doing my blog posts, etc. I try and get my posts done before I teach at night, but I'm not always successful.  

Last night was one of those nights where I stayed up too late writing, so it was hard to get up. Somehow I managed to get myself to yoga class and I'm sooo very grateful that I made it.

I think the hardest part in life is just getting there. Once I'm there, time flows and I'm always grateful that I made the effort. I've never once regretted going to yoga. Have you EVER regretted exercising or eating healthy or showing up for a class? It's the getting there that is hard.

So I woke up, ate a little breakfast, made sure my blog post was up for the day, jumped in the shower, pulled on my yoga clothes, grabbed my mat and water bottle and headed out into the rain. 

Once I was sitting on my mat in the studio, I felt a BIG feeling of relief and immediately felt relaxed. I was so happy to be there today. I needed the time to tune in to both my mind and body.

My husband was a Buddhist monk for 10 years in Korea and had never held another job (besides very short part-time jobs) outside of the monastery. When he decided to be with me, he left everything he knew behind and had to figure out what he would do for a living. He was trained both in the monastery in Korea and in India in yoga and had a natural knack for teaching others yoga. The fact that he now owns and operates a popular yoga studio in the Seattle area is so inspiring to me. It shows that someone with nothing can do anything if they put their minds to it. (You can read all about our journey in my book Lessons from the Monk I Married ^_^).

My husband became friends with Sonam Rinpoche from Tibet who is recognized by the Dalai Lama. He has come to Yoon's Yoga Bliss on several occasions to chant and give talks. We've felt very fortunate to be connected to him. This is a picture of all of us above at the second anniversary of Yoon's Yoga Bliss.

The studio is inspiring because my husband has made it that way. It is bright and cheerful, has beautiful art on the walls from many yoga students, and the energy and people make it such a great place to practice yoga. There's now a pretty strong core group of people who attend this studio and we often go on yoga retreats. We've had two on Whidbey Island, WA at the Yoga Lodge, one in Sedona, Arizona and we are going with a group of students to Kona, Hawaii this March. I think the community of people who attend the studio make it very special.

So this morning I felt gratitude for reconnecting with the studio and this community. I also felt gratitude for my husband who has created such a special place, an oasis of peace, in the midst of the city! 

Have you ever practiced yoga before? Is there a yoga studio near you that you find inspiring?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—23: Paleo/SCD Diet

"We must avoid the temptation of 'food as a source of cheap, nutrient-devoid entertainment' and instead make conscious, deliberate and wise choices about what it is we mindfully incorporate into our living matrix."—Nora T. Gedgaudas, Primal Body Primal Mind

Have you been feeling tired? Chronic fatigue? Do you have digestive issues? You might want to try the Paleo or SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). They are very similar and do just about the same thing for a person. In the past, I have felt sluggish and foggy-headed. I also have extreme digestive problems. I thought I had parasites and went to many doctors to try and figure out what was wrong with me. This has been a problem that has been going on for years. Finally, several friends who studied nutrition recommended I try the SCD diet or Paleo diet.

I tried it for one month in October 2012. Basically I had to eliminate all grains and refined sugar. It also helps to eliminate alcohol, coffee and other stimulants. I don't drink alcohol, but I stopped drinking coffee. I felt so clear headed on this diet. I did not feel heavy. I felt light and healthy. I had energy to do all the things I wanted to do. Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around and I was feeling so great, I thought What would happen if I just went back to pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies and all that good stuff?

I went back and ate all the stuff I used to eat. Cakes, cookies, candy, wheat, rice, pasta, breads, pastries, etc. While they tasted good, all my symptoms came back and I felt horrible again. Finally in mid-January I just couldn't take it. I literally felt sick and tired.

I made a vow to stay on the Paleo/SCD diet for one year. My husband, a yoga teacher, also felt foggy and tired from eating grains and sugar. He saw how much I had improved and now he's on the diet too. The best part about it is that I am now more aware and mindful of what I eat. I pay attention to the food that goes on my plate and in my mouth. I've stopped craving carbs and sugar and have found alternative ways to make delicious desserts that are grain and sugar free.

When we eat a diet that is rich in carbs and sugar, we initially feel energy and then we crash. Grains turn to glucose in the body creating a "crash" response if not immediately used. Grains and sugar are hard for the body to break down if ones digestive system is weak because they are complex (disaccarides). If these sugars are not broken down or properly digested, they remain in the small intestine and can cause a host of other problems (yeast, parasites, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)

The truth is, we don't need grains or sugar in our diet. All the nutrients in grains can be found in many other foods! In fact, in Paleolithic times, before agriculture became part of our lives, people were hunters and gatherers. They did not live on grains and sugar. They lived on meats, fish, berries, fruits and vegetables.

I highly recommend the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall if you have digestive problems and/or have any diseases related to Autism. This book changed my life. This woman spent her life researching the SCD diet after her daughter went through years of excruciating pain due to digestive issues. She has a huge section in the back of the book with lots of delicious recipes for Thanksgiving and beyond for those who still want to eat traditionally and love desserts.

I'm not a doctor, but I can share what I've studied and what works for me. All I can say is, "Give this diet (Paleo or SCD) a try and see how you feel after ONE month." If you feel different and good, keep it up. So far, it's the only thing that has worked for me and I'm so grateful for it!

(Above picture is garlic kale and sweet potatoes. Potatoes generally are too starchy for the Paleo diet, but many Paleos say sweet potatoes are fine—still some debate about that, but I eat them!!)

Have you ever heard of the Paleo diet or SCD diet? What do you know about these diets? Do you have any of the symptoms above?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

365 Inspirations—22: Homemade Cookies (Grain and Sugar Free!)

"Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal."—Sandra Lee

  I recently made homemade peanut butter cookies that are actually grain and sugar free! That means they are GOOD for you too! I'm on a restricted diet and can't eat any refined sugar or grains due to digestive issues. I have to look at labels carefully and I eat a lot of smoothies, fresh juice, lots of veggies and fish or meat. However, I still LOVE desserts.

Just because you decide to do away with refined sugar and grains, does not mean you can't have cookies. You just have to be creative. These cookies are packed with protein and will not give you a sugar crash. In fact, they will lift you up and you'll be ready to do just about anything. They are great in a lunch box or when you are on the run and need a quick pick-me-up!

Here's the recipe:

1 cup of organic crunchy peanut butter with no sugar added
1/2 cup of honey
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 cup of butter
2 1/2 cups of almond flour (almond meal)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Handful of walnuts and raisins

Mix the almond flour and baking soda, salt and almond flour together and set aside. Mix the other ingredients with a mixer. Gradually add the dry ingredients while mixer is going. If you feel you'd like thicker dough, add a bit more almond flour. Finally add in the walnuts and raisins. You'll need to put this dough in the refrigerator for about an hour for it to firm up. Roll the dough into one inch balls and then press down on cookie sheet with back of fork. Cook at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. These are not super sweet, but if you'd like them sweeter, add a bit more honey.

Mine came out so soft and peanutty! I've already eaten quite a few! I often get inspired in the kitchen to try new things, especially with the new diet that I'm on. I feel so much healthier without grains and sugar. I no longer drink coffee either. Tomorrow I will blog about a book I read that changed my life and diet. I feel like I have so much more energy these days and I'm very grateful to the author.

I've realized that eating healthy can actually be fun and it has inspired me to be creative and experiment with new things in the kitchen.

Do you like cooking new things? What is your favorite thing to cook? Do you ever experiment with recipes for restricted diets? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

365 Inspirations—21: Beach Walking in Winter

“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
—Jacques Cousteau

I like to walk on the beach any time of year and winter can be a great time to go beach walking. We've been stuck under a cloud of fog for about a week. Last week, as I was driving home from my classes at the college, I couldn't see more than two feet in front of me while driving because the fog was so thick.

Finally, the sun broke through yesterday while I was in yoga class. We were doing our last few "Ommms" to end the class and the place filled with light! My husband and I went outside after the class and he said, "This is a day we should not miss! Let's go to Discovery Park."

We had a bite to eat at the huge grocery store near the yoga studio. They have an outstanding salad bar. Then we headed out to Discovery Park in Seattle. One thing I absolutely love about living in Seattle is the fact that we are in a city, yet it often feels like we are in some remote location on an island somewhere when we go to the parks in the area. The truth is, all the photos in this blog post were taken in Seattle!

The sun was high and the fog was finally gone. It seemed like all Seattleites were finally breaking free from their cocoons they had been in. People were wandering around along the seaside just staring at the mountains, ocean, and beach in awe. 

I walked slowly along the shore, soaking in the sun. I listened to the waves roll in. They were big round rolls that didn't break until they got to the shore. A flock of seagulls squawked above my head and I could see both the sun and the moon at the same time.

The weather in Seattle is mild. We usually get quite a bit of rain in the winter, but often only have about a week or so of snow each winter. The weather was around 45 degrees for our walk. We were happy to finally see the sun again and we were particularly happy to be beach walking in winter!

Do you like to go to the beach? Where do you like to go? Have you ever been beach walking in winter?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—20: The Crest Movie Theater, Shoreline, WA

The Crest Movie Theater, a 10-minute drive from our house, was built in 1949 and has been operating as a neighborhood theater ever since. In the 1980s, the Crest Theater started to host "bargain nights." They were so successful that now the theater runs discount programming on a permanent basis! The tickets are only $3.00 for every single showing.
The theater is one of several Landmark Theaters in the Seattle area. These movie theaters tend to show unique foreign films and also Hollywood blockbusters. Sometimes my husband and I find a movie at the Crest that we've never heard of and it often turns out to be a gem.

I would say that we go to this theater at least once a month. Last night, we saw A Royal Affair at the Crest. It was a great movie and one I had missed at the main theaters.

It's so fun to go to this neighborhood theater. The seats are old, creaky and probably some of them are the original seats. The place still looks like nothing has changed since 1949. We love it!

We feel lucky to have so much culture so close to us. After our movie, we headed to a nearby Korean restaurant for Korean Barbecue. It was the perfect Saturday date night!

Do you have any old theaters or historical buildings where you live? Do you often visit these places?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

365 Inspirations—19: Planning a Trip

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I always get inspired when I plan a trip! Maybe I should have been a travel agent. I love traveling, but I also love planning trips. I'm usually the one who organizes the travel arrangements in the family. My husband and I have spent a great deal of our 17 or so years together traveling. We've been to India, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Tibet, Hong Kong, Nepal and Canada together and to many other countries on our own. In the USA, we've traveled to Hawaii, Arizona, New York, Maryland, Nevada,  Utah, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Oregon, California and to many other states that I can't think of right now. He's seen much of the USA, but his first trip to America was in 2000.

We got married in Korea and had a traditional Korean wedding and went to a Japanese hot spring resort for our honeymoon and then we had another wedding ceremony in Washington State at a friends house on the water. We took a boat across Lake Washington to a friend's condo and left the next morning for a second honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii. My aunt and uncle offered their place to us as a wedding gift. I felt lucky to have both eastern and western weddings and honeymoons. I loved planning those trips.

For my husband's 40th birthday in December, we went to Las Vegas and met two friends from California there. We also took a side trip to Zion National Park. Our friends planned most of the trip. It was actually nice to have someone else do the planning for once, even though I love it. I finally got to just go along for the ride!

In March, my husband is leading a yoga retreat in Hilo, Hawaii. We have done many yoga retreats together and even combined our talents at yoga and writing retreats at various locations in both the USA and abroad. We hope to do more of those! I'm probably going to add an extra page to this blog with information about our retreats. They are usually very well attended.

We just booked our flight for Kona today. The yoga retreat is for seven days in Hilo and I will also do a book reading/signing at a bookstore in Kona for my book Lessons from the Monk I Married that came out in April last year. From April to June, 2012 my husband and I went on both an east and west coast tour for my book and had a great time!

Do you like planning trips? Do you have plans to go anywhere soon?

Friday, January 18, 2013

365 Inspirations—18: Fridays

"Make each day of the week like Friday and your life will take on new enthusiasm."—Byron Pulsifer

It's been a long week of full-time teaching, full-time blogging/writing and doing a number of other things and Friday is finally here!

 I don't teach on Fridays and it is usually my day to decompress from the week. I don't usually plan much for this day. After a week of sticking to a schedule, I often feel I want to have a day of just doing whatever inspires me.

 I hope to start the morning off with yoga class at my husband's yoga studio. I haven't been able to go all week! I usually go 2-3 times a week, but was especially tired this particular week. Hopefully I can finish off the week with yoga on both Friday and Sunday and get my walking routine back on track.

Sometimes life seems to go at full speed. I know it is just an illusion. Life goes at the same pace, but it appears to go faster depending on what we do and how we spend the time. I have had more on my plate than I'm used to.

Now it's finally Friday. I don't want to say I live only for Fridays, because I try to make the most of every day, hour and minute of my week. Writing 365 Inspirations this year is helping me to tune into all that is around me. I'm finding that even the smallest things can provide me with inspiration. It's just a matter of tuning in to what is already there for the offering.

Tuning in to what's around me helps me to stay present, focused and appreciative of what I have.

Today is Friday and I'm so appreciative of this day. I have some ideas of what I want to do, but nothing is set in stone. After yoga, maybe I'll take a nice walk with my husband, go to a movie or go out to eat. I'm going to take it as it comes. It's the start of a long weekend in the USA. I don't have to teach on Monday because it's Martin Luther King Day! That's another special treat!

Do you like Fridays? Do you have anything special planned for the weekend?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

365 Inspirations—17: Homemade, Fresh Juice

"One cannot think well, love well or sleep well, if one has not dined well."—Virginia Woolf

 My juicer is a wondrous thing! It's one of the BEST things I've ever purchased. Recently I'm not able to eat much refined sugar or grains due to digestive issues. Instead, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I also eat meat, so I guess I'm sort of on the Paleo or cave man diet, though I haven't read up much on these. My body needs the protein, but can't process grains and refined sugar very well.

Today I got out my trusty ol' juicer and while my husband napped on the coach, I made juice. Here's my recipe for the best tasting and healthiest juice ever:

1. half of a pineapple
2. one large beet
3. one large apple
4. 1/8-1/4 of a cabbage
5. two carrots
6. one orange
7. about one square inch of fresh ginger

You don't need to slice anything too much. Just get it to the size that it will fit in the juicer. I take the peel off the orange and pineapple, but the rest can go in whole.

This is absolutely delicious and so healthy. The pineapple has bromelain in it which is a good anti-parasitic ingredient. It is also good for the heart, immune system and is anti-inflammatory. Cabbage is also a veggie that helps with any inflammation and has lots of fiber.

The combination of the earthy taste of beets and cabbage with the sweet taste of the fruits is so delicious. Ginger is an excellent natural digestive aide.

After drinking this pure juice, my whole body was tingling and felt alive!

I was so inspired in the kitchen today and wanted to prepare a nice dinner for my husband before I have to go to the college and teach my evening ESL classes.

While juicing, I also made a huge Crockpot of curry, sausage and lentil soup.

I also roasted sweet potatoes in the oven in coconut oil and added a dash of curry and some sliced ginger.

All I need now is to throw together a big, green salad and TA-DA! Dinner!

I am a full-time teacher and blog every single day. On top of that, I am working on my second book. As busy as I am, I still hope I find time to exercise, meditate and prepare healthy meals at home. It's not always easy to find time to do this, but I feel so much better when I do.

Do you like to cook or make your own fresh juice at home? Do you have any recipes to share?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

365 Inspirations—16: Solitude

"It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts."—K.T. Jong

Solitude is my inspiration for day 16. Well, at least I found inspiration in my time alone. We all need time to ourselves to ponder, dream and scheme about life. I spend quite a deal of time with my husband because he's my best male friend and companion and we enjoy similar activities, but every now and then it's good to do something on my own.

I had a break between classes at the college where I teach. This morning, before my earlier class, I packed my car with gloves, a hat, a scarf and boots just in case I felt like going for a walk after class.

The sun was shining bright and I hopped on the freeway and drove directly to Greenlake. I slipped off my work shoes and put on my walking boots, hat, scarf and gloves and began walking the three-mile loop around the lake.

I tried to feel my feet in my shoes and the cold wind on my face. I stopped to take a picture of many ducks on a log sunning themselves.

I wanted to be aware of all the sights and sounds around me. I walked close to the edge of the lake and could hear the waves lapping against the shore. I saw a man writing in his journal on a bench, some people were running around the lake, others were speed walking and some were meandering like me. There were lots of moms and strollers and most people were walking in pairs or groups, but there were also a few people walking alone like me.

I stopped to take a picture of my shadow. It followed me half-way around the lake and it sort of felt like I was walking with a friend. When I took out my cell phone to take a photo, I noticed that my husband had called me. I decided to call him back.

"Where are you?" he asked.
"Well, I'm more than halfway around Greenlake," I replied.

He was on his way to Greenlake to do the very same thing I was doing. He decided to walk the opposite direction than he usually does and we ran into each other near the end of the walk.

It was the best of both worlds. We each got to experience solitude while walking around our favorite lake in Seattle and we also got to meet up at the end. We went to PCC (our local, organic supermarket) for a bit of dinner afterwards and I felt so refreshed.

Do you enjoy solitude? How do you spend your alone time?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

365 Inspirations—15: Pike Place Market, Seattle WA

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."—T.S. Eliot

The Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle is not a place to miss if you are ever in the Pacific Northwest. It's a hubbub of activity. I was there with my husband on Saturday! Street musicians are everywhere—from Native American singers to banjo players. There's even a guy who hula hoops while spinning and balancing his guitar on his chin.

The public market is situated overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains along the downtown waterfront. Ferry boats come and go from several islands along this waterfront.

The very first Starbucks is located in Pike Place Market. Years ago, it was just a local hangout and no one knew what Starbucks was. Musicians still gather in front of this old hot spot.

I love going to the market with my husband. There's so much life there. We like to meander through the market and look at all the beautiful flower arrangements and fresh vegetables. Of course, we always get caught up in the crowds watching the infamous "flying fish". If you go to the market, you must stay and watch someone order fresh fish. There's a lot of hollering that happens and then a fish flies through the air from behind the counter into the hands of a worker on the other side who wraps it up for the customer.

Oh, and you must stop by Market Spice Tea. They have free samples in the back of their delicious cinnamon spice tea. In fact, there are wonderful samples of everything from chocolate to cheeses throughout the market.

We happened to hit Pike Place Market on a very sunny, yet cold, day! The picture above reflects that. I like it because sun is so rare in January here, but it was shining bright last Saturday.

Are there any great places to visit where you live? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, January 14, 2013

365 Inspirations—14: Heated Toilet Seats

"You can program it. Set temperatures of water in the morning and when you get up at 7:30, your toilet seat is warm and ready for you."—Hamid Shoushtari 

 Our computer internet is out, so I'm at my husband's yoga studio down the street typing my next post. I've committed myself to blogging every single day, so a downed network is not going to stop me!

A heated toilet seat is the inspiration for today. It just came to me, believe it or not. My husband stopped by to install one in the bathroom of the yoga studio as I was typing this.

As he was leaving, he said, "After you use the toilet, be sure to put the seat down so it stays warm."

The toilet seat was a gift from a yoga student for my husband's 40th birthday. He turned 40 on December 26, but we celebrated mid-December at our house in Seattle because my husband wanted to go to Las Vegas for his 40th.

Now, when I asked him what he wanted to do for his 40th, I did not expect him to say, "Let's go to Las Vegas." Friends said, "That could be your next book. 'The Monk Hits Vegas.'"

I'll have to give it some thought.

 Anyway, when my husband unwrapped the gift, his guests all laughed and someone piped up, "You can take that one to the Craps table in Vegas." And the laughter continued.

I just went and used the toilet. Let me tell you, in the dead of winter, those seats can be handy! It reminds me of when I lived in Japan. My toilet had so many buttons on it—one for heat, one for water, one for spray and a bunch of other buttons I was afraid to try. The thing looked like a space ship and even played music!

In the bathrooms in Japan, some of the public restrooms have sound machines on the wall that play sounds like waterfalls or waves in case you need privacy. While in Korea,I discovered that there was something similar on the wall. I thought, Oh, they have these here too and proceeded to push the button. With that, an army of Korean staff showed up at my stall. It was not a sound machine, but a help button! That's the last thing you need when all you want is a little privacy in the public restroom.

Have you ever experienced a heated toilet seat? Would you ever buy one for your home?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

365 Inspirations—13: The Movie "Chasing Ice"

“We as a culture, we are forgetting that we are actually natural organisms and that we have this very deep connection and contact with nature. You can’t divorce civilization from nature, we totally depend on it.”—James Balog

Yesterday I went to the discount ($3.00 movie tickets) Landmark Theater called Crest near my house in Seattle. We saw the 5:15pm showing of Chasing Ice about a photographer named James Balog who was given an assignment by National Geographic to photograph the disappearing glaciers around the world. He set up cameras in Alaska, Greenland, Montana and other places and left them there for several months to record, through time lapse photography, how rapidly these glaciers are disappearing.

The two most inspiring things about the movie were:

1) James Balog's dedication to the Extreme Ice Survey project. Despite the fact that he had had knee surgery three times, he did not let that stop him from ice picking his way to across some of the most treacherous terrains in order to see this project through. What started out as simply an assignment, very soon became a passion to educate the world that climate change is very real.

2) The photography and footage are breathtaking, miraculous and heart-breaking all at once. I could never really wrap my head around climate change until I saw these photographs and footage.

The movie inspired me to "be the change" I wish to see in the world and to pay more attention to my natural environment and treat it well.

Have you seen any interesting or inspiring movies lately? Did they inspire you to do something different?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

365 Inspirations—12: My Writing Group

 The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden. —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I've been meeting with my writing group for almost four years I think!  When I made a commitment to publish my book, I felt I needed the support of other writers. I wasn't sure who would be in this group. I mentioned out loud at school one day that I wanted to form a writing group and two of my co-workers at the community college where I teach ESL piped up that they wanted to be a part of it.

We started out meeting weekly, but now we meet once a month. Our enthusiasm for meeting each other and sharing our writing and our dreams has not dwindled over the years. If anything, it's grown stronger. We even had a writing weekend getaway at my family's lake house in November last year. We had so much fun and I hope we have a chance to do that again one day! Above is a picture of us collaging together which also helped give direction to our writing and goals.

We are currently writing a novel collaboratively. Whenever we get together, ideas for this book seem to spring forth effortlessly. I have no idea if this book will ever come to be, but boy are we having fun writing it.

I think inspiration is contagious and if you have a group of like-minded people to share your ideas, interests and dreams with, it really does help to speed things along. And when you do succeed in your endeavors, your community or group will be the ones who are right there next to you. This has been my experience and I feel so fortunate to have these people in my life.

Last night we met for yet another session. We hadn't seen each other since mid-December. Everyone came to my house and I made a Crockpot of chili, one friend brought corn bread and a big tossed salad and the other friend brought some dip and crackers and some dessert.

Not much writing happened in the meeting because we needed to catch up with each other and find out what was going on with everyone. We enjoyed the food and chatting and planned our next meeting time and place. I have a feeling we'll be writing and sharing quite a bit in the next meeting.

Do you have a community or group that you meet with regularly that shares a common interest? What is it and what do you usually do together? 

Friday, January 11, 2013

365 Inspirations—11: Shiny, Brass Door Knobs

"Polished brass will pass upon more people than rough gold."  ~Lord Chesterfield

Okay, now you are probably thinking, she's already hurting for material and this is only post eleven! She has 354 more to go! Well, there's a reason why shiny, brass door knobs are an inspiration to me.

2012 was the first year ever that we had Thanksgiving in our house. All the family planned to come. That's a lot of people to fit in our little 1940s bungalow. We just recently had our house remodeled and thought we'd celebrate by having people over.

I had never cooked a turkey in my life (that's a different post altogether...stay tuned). So I went out and bought some extra table settings and got out the old, rustic brass candle holders to shine them up.

My husband was having a cup of tea at the table. I had just been to the store to purchase Brasso to shine up these former beauties.

My husband sat there watching me in awe as I took these ugly, tarnished things and turned them into what looked like gold! King Midas style gold! I guess they don't have Brasso in Korea. He loved the fact that I could make something so plain look so amazing.

Within seconds, my husband was walking around with the Brasso and a cleaning cloth in his hand. He was determined to shine any brass we had in the house. We don't have much, but we have brass door knobs.

He shined every single door knob in our entire house. They probably haven't had any attention since 1940. Now, whenever I go to open a door, I think of my husband and how something so simple could make him so excited and happy!

What kind of doorknobs do you have in your house? Have you given them any attention lately?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

365 Inspirations—Ten: Cozy Socks

"I have a huge addiction to colorful socks, because when you have an opportunity to be creative, why pass it up?"—Darren Criss

Cozy socks make a huge difference in how my day goes, especially in the winter! I don't care if the socks are all the same color or style. My sock collection is as varied as the posts I write here.

The socks in this picture hold particular meaning to me. My mother gave me these socks. I think she gave them to me for my birthday one year, but can't be quite sure. She told me they were from a little shop around where she lives and they were knitted from recycled materials, that's why they don't exactly match.

I don't care if they match or not. During the gray, cold winters we have in Seattle, it's good to have a bit of color and comfort to spice things up.

There's another reason why these socks are important to me. Last year my mother came to Seattle. She had an appointment and thought she'd stay the night at our house. In the middle of the night, we had to rush her to the emergency room because she was having a gall bladder attack. In a hurry to get out the door, my mother forgot her socks!

While waiting for the nurse, she complained that her feet were freezing. I took mine off and gave them to her. They were these socks in the picture above—the ones she had given me for my birthday.

It's amazing what something as simple as a pair of socks can do for someone. At least it gave my mother a little comfort as she waited for the nurse.

Now, whenever I put on these socks, I appreciate them even more. The colors inspire me and I like that they were handmade and that there is no other pair like them in the world. (Just as there is no other mom like mine in world.)

I think cozy socks, especially colorful socks, can be inspiring, especially on a rainy, cold day like today!

Do you like cozy, colorful, plain, short or long socks? Do you have an inspiring sock story to tell?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

365 Inspirations—Nine: Meditation

"Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day."—Deepak Chopra

I don't know where I'd be without all the meditation I've had in my life. I'm very grateful for it and have written many, many posts on it. You can find them all here.

I practice Vipassana Meditation in the tradition of S.N. Goenka from India. Read my posts on meditation above to find out more about it. I started my practice in this tradition in 1996 in Nepal with my then-monk-now-husband.

I was a 20-something, vagabond on a quest for the meaning of life when I arrived at the footsteps of a remote meditation center near Kathmandu. Boy was I in for a rude awakening! I didn't realize how much baggage I had been carrying around, and I'm not talking about my backpack!

Through continuous practice, it was easier for me to make clear choices and even be in a space of unknown when there wasn't a clear choice to be found. I was much more able to experience things as they were and not as I wanted them to be.

Meditation streamlined my life and made me happier with simple things. In fact, it made me appreciate the beauty of all people, places and things.

I have gone through periods where I have abandoned my practice for a bit, but somehow I always return to it and am always grateful when I do.

Today I had a large gap between my classes at the college (I'm an ESL teacher). What did I do? I came home and meditated! I feel very refreshed now. My goal is to keep this up throughout the year. It makes such a difference in my life!

Do you meditate or have you ever practiced meditation before?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

365 Inspirations—Eight: Sedona, AZ

"If we look at the path, we do not see the sky. We are earth people on a spiritual journey to the stars. Our quest, our earth walk is to look within, to know who we are, to see that we are connected to all things, that there is no 
separation, only in the mind."—Native American, source unknown

The rain in Seattle has its own beauty, but I've been dreaming about Sedona. Ever since I went there on a yoga retreat with my husband and two yoga retreat participants, I've been thinking about it. So much so that I thought I'd just pack up and go. Perhaps the rain and drizzle are getting to me. It's not the best time of the year to be in Washington State. The summers are perfect, but the winters...well, you have to be creative. I'm actually pretty good at dreaming up things to do and making my time fun and worthwhile, even when it looks like doom and gloom outside.

Have you ever been to the Southwest of the United States? It's a magical place and I highly recommend a visit to Sedona. You can read all about my time here in this post from October. 

I think what impressed me the most about Sedona was the breathtaking red rocks against a crystal blue sky. The perfect contrast.

There was something magical about the place. Sedona is known to have strong energy as a result of the vortexes under the earth that even cause Juniper trees to take on a twisted shape.

I highly recommend hiking at one of the vortexes. It's breathtaking in more ways than one. My favorite hike was the one we did up Cathedral Rock. We hiked way up to a spot with a view. I felt so much energy at that spot and thought I had found my home.

I will be back one day. (Picture above is a yoga shot with my husband in front of Bell Rock Vortex)

Have you ever visited a place that was inspiring? Where was it and what was about the place that inspired you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

365 Inspirations—Seven: Korean Cuisine

"I think careful cooking is love, don't you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give."
Julia Child 

 In this world of fast-food and FAST everything for that matter, I really appreciate and am inspired by the Korean cuisine. Nothing is fast about making Korean food. There are no drive-thru windows that I know of offering this cuisine.

Fortunately, I live in Seattle, which is abundant with ethnic food from all over the world and up in North Seattle, where I live, Korean food is everywhere! This was a blessing we did not know we'd find when my Korean husband and I arrived at our house in Seattle in 2006 after spending nearly a decade in Asia.

Within a mile or so of our house, I can count a dozen Korean restaurants offering various dishes. We even have a Korean spa and norebang (singing room) not too far away. Needless to say, my husband feels right at home here.

I wish I could tell you that after living in Korean and marrying a Korean man, I've mastered the Korean cuisine, but I haven't. Not really.

The thing about Korean food is it often includes many side dishes. Making the side dishes alone would take several days. Then you have the main dish and often you have a soup.

I can make various soups and a few rice dishes, (dol sot bi bim bap, duk mandu guk, kimchi jigae, daeng jang jigae, etc.) but I'm not sure how tasty they are and I don't have copious amounts of time to make all the intricate little side dishes! In fact, that's probably one part of the Korean cuisine that's gotten faster to prepare because many people pick up already prepared side dishes in Korean supermarkets.

Above is a picture of a dish called Duk Mandu Guk (Rice Cake and Dumpling Soup). Many Koreans eat this dish on New Year's Day. Since we have so many excellent Korean restaurants right next to our home, we go out for Korean food a lot. I hope to try and prepare more Korean food at home this year, but I may cheat and buy the little side dishes to make my life easier.

What is your favorite cuisine? Do you like to prepare it at home or go out to eat?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

365 Inspirations—Six: Engaging Conversations with Wonderful Friends

"Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true."—Charles Dickens

 In a world of online communication, it is so nice to actually have an engaging face-to-face conversation with good friends. I think as a society we are moving toward this more. I can only hope this is the case.

I love all the friends I have met on the net and am so grateful for the fact that this worldwide network has made it possible for us to meet, even though you are in __________ (India, China, Australia, Korea, England...where are you from? Leave me a comment) and I'm in Seattle. I consider this blog to be one of my communities and it would be so thrilling to meet you in person someday. I had the great pleasure of meeting many bloggers/friends while on book tour. There's nothing that compares to finally meeting someone in person after years of communicating online. It's like meeting a long lost friend, yet you've never actually met in person.

On December 31, 2012, just before the ball dropped, the fireworks went off, people clinked glasses, locked arms or kissed, I was on the sofa next to my husband staring into the fire in the fireplace drinking apple cider and completely content. I checked Facebook and realized that people all over the world were wishing each other a Happy New Year 2013!

At 11:56pm, a friend sent me a message. She said, "Happy almost New year! Are you and Yoon available this upcoming Friday for dinner? I will be in town and it would be so fun to see you both!" This is a friend I knew from high school, but never really talked to in high school. She somehow discovered my blog and read my book and since then we have been in contact with each other.

She came over at around 6:30pm and we had a cup of tea and chatted a bit on the sofa and then we went to the yoga studio to pick up Yoon at Yoon's Yoga Bliss. Yoon showed her around the studio and  then we all carpooled over to a Thai Restaurant up the street. After a tasty meal, we went back to our house, made a fire and had delicious little cakes and tarts with herbal tea.

But it wasn't so much what we did that left an impression on me. It was the time we spent together and the conversations we had. In our fast pace world, this is so rare. There's no time to meet others. There's no time to linger with friends.

We are all in a hurry to do and get to the next thing! Why are we running so fast?

I hope this year I spend more time meeting and lingering with friends, walking, writing letters (real, handwritten letters), witnessing my surroundings and slowing down. Even though I'll be writing this blog for 365 days this year, I hope that my feet can still feel the earth and my ears can still hear the sound of a friend's voice and I can really listen.

Engaging conversations with friends is so important to me because inspiration feeds off of inspiration. We all bring something to the table and when we meet in person it makes it that much stronger!

(Above is a picture of me and two high school friends at one of my book readings last spring. I hadn't seen them since high school and it was so nice to reconnect face-to-face!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

365 Inspirations—Five: Rhododendrons in Winter

“Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” 
 Georgia O'Keeffe

Winter is here. Where I am a from it tends to be cold, rainy and dark. On occasion, we have snow or sun, but it doesn't last very long. We had snow in mid-December that lasted a day or so. Everything was frozen and silent. Nothing seemed to be growing under the blanket of snow. For many animals, it's a time to go into hibernation and wait for spring. Sometimes I feel like doing the same.

A few days ago I went on a walk with my husband. It was very cold outside and I had on my down jacket, gloves, and hat. The trees were bare. Fortunately, the sun was out and that tends to make all the difference in the world in the winter in Seattle.

As we got closer to Puget Sound I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't believe what I was seeing along the side of the road. It's January and a rhododendron bush (our Washington State flower) was fully in bloom. I have only ever seen these flowers bloom in the spring.

I got closer to the bush to examine the flowers. They were a pale pink and were in clusters. What were they doing there? Why were they blooming?

I have no idea, but they made me happy. They made me believe that anything is possible. That even in nature, there are no set rules. Things and people can change.

Just because all the other flowers are blooming in the spring doesn't mean that this bush has to do the same. Why not show it's true colors at a time when there are no colors to be found? Why not do something different?

We could use a little color this time of year and I was inspired by this little rhododendron bush. I hope that I can also be an inspiration to people in times when life may seem cold and dark. I hope that I can also show vibrant colors when there are none to be found.

Friday, January 4, 2013

365 Inspirations—Four: The Whos down in Whoville

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose 

 Sometimes it's easy to forget how much we have. The Whos are my inspiration today because they weren't going let their day be destroyed by the fact that the Grinch had stolen everything they had.

Two days ago, I went on a lovely sunlit walk with my husband in some beautiful woods near our house. I was enjoying three straight days of sunshine in Seattle. The sky was blue, the sun was high and the smell of pine was in the air. I felt happy to see the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound at the end of our walk. I felt invigorated.

When we got back to my car, my husband paused at the passenger side of the car and then said, "Do you have your wallet and your cell phone?"

"Yes, why?" I said, with a slight bit of concern.

"Well, you don't have a window anymore," he said.

I went over to the passenger side of my car and saw hundreds of shards of glass in the seat and and on the ground. Someone had smashed my window into dozens of little pieces and took my purse.

For some reason I was very calm. I looked at the window with a detachment that surprised me. Recently two friends were in a plane crash on Christmas. Both survived, but one was badly burned. After hearing the news, I couldn't shake the sadness I felt for my friends from my head and it made me realize that we really don't realize how much we actually have until it's gone. I'm not just talking about material things, I'm talking about the fact that we are breathing and alive. I'm talking about love, compassion, family and friends. I'm talking about the things that really matter.

 Perhaps that's the reason why I felt so indifferent to the smashed window. If anything, I felt sorry for the desperate person who felt the need to smash it. Perhaps the person was homeless or jobless or simply desperate. Unfortunately, for the thief, the purse didn't contain anything but a few receipts, a lipstick and some loose change.

When I got home, my husband got out the vacuum and the garbage can and cleaned up all the glass as I got ready for work. He even taped up my window. Seeing him doing this made me feel so much gratitude that he was there with me and eager to help me.

I drove to work and actually felt warm inside despite the cold air blowing through the window. For some reason I thought of the Whos in Whoville. They just popped into my head and I felt happy. I taught my first class of the quarter at the college (I'm an ESL teacher) and then drove home with the white garbage bag taped to my window flapping in the breeze. At one point, on my journey home, the bag became loose and was blowing out the window like the white flag of surrender.