Why I Am Happy

20140703-104741-38861682.jpg

Now has come, an easy time. I let it roll. There is a lake somewhere so blue and far nobody owns it. A wind comes by and a willow listens gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer. I alight and cry for every turn of the world, it’s terribly cold, innocent spin. That lake stays blue and free; it goes on and on.

And I know where it is. – William Stafford

Where’s your blue lake? When times get tough, or when you’re in a state of overwhelm where can you retreat to? Even if only in your mind, even if only for a few moments? Do you have a sanctuary? A place that is yours and yours alone? One that you can’t share with anyone because you feel like you’ll get laughed at or ridiculed?

Yes, I have a blue lake. A place where I retreat to for safety and to regenerate. A place that sets me free and strengthens me. It’s a place of my own construct. I laid every brick, nailed every nail, painted every wall and flawlessly and lovingly furnished every room. My blue lake is a home…with a view of the ocean, with a room for me- painted white, elegantly appointed with rich upholstery but minimal furnishing. This room is where I meditate. It offers unobstructed views of a deep blue ocean! I can see dolphins beckon- and after my meditation I join them. I’m free, strong and completely One with the universe. I Am.

The iPhone harp tune is hard wired in my brain

We all have read and are familiar with the concept of thinking positive thoughts, the law of attraction, The Secret and countless other books tell us just how to manifest our wildest desires. Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” has been on my bedside table for a decade. I love the quote “what the mind of (wo)man can conceive and believe, the mind of (wo)man can achieve.”

Oftentimes though when we get caught on the hamster wheel of life, we forget to exercise the mental discipline needed to keep these affirmations and visualizations at the forefront of our thoughts and we slip into old habits of negative thinking. I’m guilty as charged. When life gets busy- and the days get long- something’s got to give- and until now- it’s been my affirmations/visualizations. During the Winter Olympics this year- one of the young athletes of the United States (I don’t watch TV usually- I happened to have walked into the family room where my husband was watching) was talking to a reporter after she had just done her run- and she said although she was happy with it- but that if she had to stand a chance of a medal she was going to have to up her game – and that tonight she was going to go visualize the run for tomorrow’s competition. We know that the difference between athletes at the elite level is not physical- it’s mental!

Yes, I’ll get to my title in a moment. I know you’re wondering what the connection is!

A couple years ago I made a conscious commitment to start to wake up earlier than I needed to. I did it in baby steps- setting my alarm clock for 10-15min earlier. I allowed myself slack if I hit snooze too many times- I had a little baby in the house who wasn’t totally sleep trained — it took me a year to sleep train him–(that’s a post on perseverance for another time!). I even wrote my ideal calendar scene in my journal– hour by hour- minute by minute I put down what is like a day in my life to look like. And it started with me wanting to wake at 5:00am.

Now here’s where the title will make sense– I use my iPhone as my alarm clock and so as to not wake my husband who is usually a very poor sleeper and gets into his deepest sleep after 4am- I set the alarm tone to harp and the volume down to the lowest setting. So for the past year or so, the ever so soft sound of that harp is what I have woken to 95% of the time– the other 5% is my little one’s cries!

This week is spring break so I’ve allowed myself some slack and instead of 5:00am– I’ve been waking up at 5:45am. Today however at 3:30, my some woke up crying– so I crawled into his bed (no kid ever allowed in our bed until after sun up!) and fell back to sleep. I was cognizant enough that my alarm would go off so unplugged the phone from my bedside and took it with me to my kids’ bedroom as i stumbled into his bed. I’m not sure what time it was, but before my scheduled time of 5:45am— I started hearing sounds of the harp alarm. I didn’t wake up- and it felt like I was dreaming it- but very clearly- I could hear the very familiar sound of the iPhone harp alarm sound. I finally woke up to my alarm at about 6:15am (yep- I snoozed a bunch) to the sound of CHIMES because my daughter switched my alarm sound when she was playing on my phone last night.

So here’s proof positive that if you listen to something/want something/believe something badly enough– it will become your reality. It will become so ingrained, so hard wired into your brain, it will literally be imprinted; it will shift you on a cellular level!

So I invite you to do this for yourself. Take one thing– anything that you want to change about yourself for the greatest good of yourself and others around you (The Universe will only work for good) and focus on it. See yourself changed, doing the thing that at the moment seems completely undoable. Write a couple sentences describing yourself doing exactly that- (be sure to write in the present tense) and say it daily– whether you believe it or not. Over time, say it enough and it will become your new reality. It may take days/weeks/months or as in my case a couple of years– time isn’t relevant- it will take the time it will take- most likely- I believe that if I didn’t have a baby at the time when I made this commitment- this change would have happened sooner for me. But the Universe knew my impatience and my type A attitude – so the timing was perfect- there were bigger lessons I had to learn- lessons of patience, trust and letting go of the outcome! I am now a recovering type A— most of the time.

September 24: Daily reflections of Highly Effective People

it’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to is that hurts us. Of course things can hurt us physically or economically and can cause sorrow. But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all. In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. – Stephen R. Covey

I am on vacation, but am sort of working because well that’s just that nature of me! I can’t turn off totally. And I don’t want to– I don’t believe in separation of work and personal life– if you love what you do, you’re not working anyway! And I teach people to integrate their work into the nooks and crannies of their day all the time- so why would vacation be any different.

Yesterday, however I let something get to me….in a way that usually things don’t get to me anymore. And you know what happens when you let something get under your skin– even if you’re the root cause of that difficult situation…it gets under your skin and festers. It plays havoc with your mind– you can’t sleep, you are crabby with those around you that you’ve no right to take it out on, and you can’t be in the moment anymore because every moment is taken over by your thoughts around the situation that is not resolved. Things become a mountain when they’re just a molehill. It’s what I tell my 6yo all the time– the more you focus energy on your booboo– the bigger it will get and the more it will hurt. Easy to preach– harder to practice. Anyway, I got the opportunity to right the wrong that caused the issue- and my mind reset…but then when I opened the page to this book that I’m reading to today’s date and the quote above is the quote I got to read. It couldn’t have been more appropriate for me today. Yes, I always am amazed at the infinite wisdom and ability of the Universe to tell you exactly what you need to hear, when you need to hear it.

Thank you Universe (and Stephen Covey!)

Day 16: 30 days to fit- chicken two ways

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
Madam Benoit

I didn’t post yesterday because my 2yo wouldn’t sleep till 11pm! He then decided to wake up at 4:15am – back to bed in 15 min thankfully but then 5:30am he’s opening his bedroom door again. Ugh! I’m exhausted and groggy so I grab my blanket and go lay down on the floor of his room- so as not to get him too used to being in bed with me (and we have a strict no kids in our bed policy!). He’s asleep and now it’s 7am and it’s time to wake – but I just don’t want to!! I’m wiped out and the day has barely begun! My back and neck are sore from sleeping on the floor.

Thank goodness for my pick me up Arbonne protein smoothie breakfast complete with Almond/Coconut blended milk, almond butter, celery, spinach, green beans, strawberries, blueberries, lime and ginger. Extra strong decaf coffee (ha) rounds out my breakfast with my usual assortment of vitamins!

Lunch is Indian chicken and lentils (thanks ma!)

Two Arbonne mango chews and a chocolate nutrition bar helped tide me over till dinner which was chicken teriyaki including a teriyaki sauce made from scratch! I got the recipe from Mark Bittman’s cooking app and improved upon it!

Here’s the recipe:
1 1/2lb skinless chicken (I used drumsticks but feel free to use whatever!)

1/3 cup each of mirin, water, soy sauce, 1T sugar, 1T black bean paste.

If you can marinate the chicken in the sauce overnight awesome- if not – don’t worry.

-heat 2T olive oil in cast iron skillet on med-high heat
-add chicken and cook both sides till slightly brown – couple minutes per side
-add all the marinade, lower heat to medium, cover and cook till chicken is done (175F on instant read thermometer) turn chicken every few minutes to get an even browning.
-once chicken reaches 175F remove lid and let the sauce thicken a bit – just a few minutes longer. Serve over basmati white rice! YUM! My kids and hubby each devoured two legs – leaving me with just one! Such a great feeling!

Ok so not only did I cook this but while this was cooking I also made Indian spinach chicken to be had for lunch tomorrow. I’d marinated the chicken in ginger garlic paste the night before.

– 1 pressure cooker
-1 diced onion
-1 diced tomato
– 1/2 diced jalapeño
– 1 t cumin seeds
-2 t coriander powder
-1 t cumin powder
-1 t turmeric powder
-1 t salt
1 t ground garam masala (or whole – 4-5 cloves, 4-5 cardamom, 1 small stick cinnamon, 3-4 black peppercorn)
– chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat oil in pressure cooker, add cumin seeds – they should sputter
Sauté onions till dark golden brown
Add tomatoes and all spices
Add little water at a time to make a nice paste – let the tomatoes breakdown till they’re not lumpy.

Add chicken stir to coat gently add about a cup of water and cook under pressure for 5 minutes. Release pressure, open lid, lower flame to simmer and let the gravy thicken and flavors meld together. About 15 min. Toward the very end, add spinach and let it cook till fully blended into curry…3-4min. Garnish with cilantro- serve hot over basmati rice!

It’s 9:50pm– my 2 yo is fighting sleep re-training! I’m standing outside his door- hand on the knob so he can’t turn and open it. I’ve a timer set that’s going up in minutes from 2 to 5 to 7 to 10…I go in at each interval, soothe him, put him down (he starts crying again) and leave. I’m at the 15 min interval and although he’s turned the big light on– all is quiet. I’m going to wait till 20min before going in to check on him.

Give me patience and strength!

Day 15: 30 days to fit! Down 4lb in 2 weeks

Today was step on the scale day! I have to admit I was a bit leery– after all these past few days have been not exactly as the program prescribes! I’ve had roti (gluten), cucumber raita (dairy), beer (alcohol), and even a small sliver of the delicious chocolate tart (sugar)– and believe me when I tell you– I usually HATE tarts! I don’t like the pudding texture– all gooey in my mouth– same reason I don’t like marshmallows!

Another 2lb down!! Down to 128lb! And I haven’t seen that number since my wedding 9 years ago so WOW I’m thrilled!

My son woke up at 4:45am– not as bad as 2:45am– but he wouldn’t go back to sleep– keeping a toddler quiet so the rest of the house can sleep for another hour or two was interesting to say the least! We did rather well.

Breakfast was my smoothie as usual, lunch was chicken with black eyed peas (yum btw– really turned out well!), dinner was left over salmon and 1/2 ear corn on cob! Snacks in the middle of the day were cherries, smoked almonds, a couple of Arbonne mango kiwi chews and a lot of water.

So here’s my observations for today- given that I’d not been diligent on the program for a couple days didn’t seem to matter too much– what was interesting to me was that I was very aware of my slips and also forgiving! I enjoyed everything I ate- didn’t guilt myself at all- not even for the beer! But I did do everything in moderation– way more moderation than I would usually consider moderation. Only a thin sliver of the pie- not a whole slice. Only a tablespoon of raita (cucumber yogurt) – not a whole bowl, only one roti- not 2 and no basmati rice!

My observation is that our idea of normal sizes has gotten so skewed because of everything being Grande/Venti/Supersized that our idea of moderation is what normal size should be– and so when I did real moderation– it truly was ‘smaller’ amounts and therefore didn’t derail me!

I did this program in March and went from 138lb to my pre baby weight of 130lb. Toward the end of June with all the graduation parties and July 3rd AND 4th BBQs I was up to 132lb the day I started this program. My drivers license says I’m 125lb– a weight I haven’t been since my wedding day 9 years ago (and that too because I ate every last bite of our scrumptious meal and cake- I only barely saw that number on the scale!).

Now the reason I’m sharing this is simply this: I feel empowered! I feel in control both emotionally, mentally and physically to do this program- one that assures me success as long as I follow it even within a modicum of diligence! I’ve made adaptations for my lifestyle! I love food too much to have so many restrictions on an ongoing basis! I want to control my food– not be controlled by it! I want to eat and drink to savor – to live- to celebrate and to love! I don’t eat to survive! I eat with all my senses– my eyes and nose even more strongly than my taste buds although those are in close third! And no way will I give up eating baguette and French Brie forever! My Belgian friends taught me a true appreciation for good Belgian ale, my husband and I developed a taste for excellent coffee and tequila together, he spoils me on BBQ that I consider world class– and apparently I can bake pretty damn well! My mother still cooks the best Indian meals on the planet! There is no way on God’s green earth that I will give up these flavors that I’ve developed memories around. I can still recall my mom’s hand feeding me my favorite ‘Dhansaak daal’ as I studied late into the night as a high schooler, I still remember where we were when Jason and I went on a tequila tasting expedition, I still have fond memories of my first few tastes of Abbey Leffe Blonde in Marseille surrounded by amazing friends, a platter of Belgian fries with mayo (not ketchup) straight out of the fryer at 3am! Baguette and Brie still reminds me of trips taken on the TGV throughout Europe 12 years ago. Nope– food isn’t just sustenance– food is memories- memories that I want to remember for a lifetime. How could I never eat those foods again?

So for me this program puts me in control- I continue to do it every now and then not because I want to disappear– honestly I’m happy with my weight and if I hadn’t lost a pound i would be fine. I’ve gotten past my identity being tied to a number on a scale way early in life. What I continue to do this for is to create habits- a lifestyle that will last forever. It takes us years of unhealthy eating to get to where we are when we are overweight and yet we expect to drop it in days/weeks/months! Nope– it will take just as long to establish a lifelong lifestyle – doing it for 30 days helps kick start it– then I fell off the wagon a few times– and knowing that I have something healthy to follow to get back to center and re-equilibriate is really awesome! It takes discipline that then flows into other areas of my life- it takes patience that I benefit from having as does my family – and it takes dedication and a never gonna quit attitude!

Finally– anyone can do anything for 30 days– and the power and control that this program gives you is liberating! You ought to try it– the only thing you have to lose is possibly inches and pounds and you have everything to gain– including energy!

Day 14: 30 days to fit

Poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it. ~Dean Ornish

Today was my idea of a perfect recovery day! My son deigned to sleep till 8am!!! Hallelujah!

We hung out in pajamas till nearly 10am -kids played – I organized their closets!

After a late breakfast for them they went off to our playroom – (our living room- converted to playroom) while I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee (décaf with soy creamer and turbinado) and read an entire book!! A short one – granted– but an entire book– all 100 pages. Can you say luxury?

Lunch for me was a protein shake because I was in a cooking frenzy- both to prepare for dinner with my parents as well as to prepare for the week ahead! I cooked Indian style potatoes, cucumber (from our garden) raita, a milk chocolate tart with crème fraiche, black-eyed peas with chicken – Indian style and then also a separate chicken and potatoes as back up for the kids incase that Tandoori chicken I’d marinated the night before didn’t fly! My 6yo devoured two drumsticks of tandoori- my usually more open to Indian food 2yo didn’t care for it too much! I actually think that it was too bland for him. He prefers more spice and we had scaled down the spice on a few drumsticks to make it ‘kid-friendly.’ I made rotis, sliced up raw onions sprinkled with lime juice, salt and pepper and white basmati rice to finish the meal! I had a bit of everything except the rice. Yes– including a roti! It was too hard to pass up!

So after seriously standing and cooking for nearly 5 hours– I was ready to take a load off and hung out in the backyard under an overcast sky with a cool breeze and blew bubbles with the kids!

After the kids were asleep it was me time! Sundays are typically the day when I prepare for the week ahead anyway – however with the new executive management challenge I’ve just signed up for with my company — and I’m committed to my success – which means creating and following a roadmap! I’m less than 5 months away from getting my free white Mercedes Benz from the company! This challenge is going to expedite it! I’M ALL IN!

The discipline of this 30 day health program has helped me discipline my mind more- I feel very ready to do whatever it takes to achieve success! My sharing it here is an added level of accountability!

I believe Napoleon Hill said it best–

What the mind of (wo)man can believe, the mind of (wo)man can conceive and achieve.

GAME ON!

Day 13: 30 days to fit

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. ~Mark Twain

Saturday is the day that I become a chauffeur to my daughter’s activities. Gymnastics for two hours, bring her home for lunch, then hurry up and change and run for horseback riding in the exact opposite direction of gymnastics. By the time all this is over it’s close to 3:30pm!

Ok so remember I said on Friday that I wasn’t gluten intolerant so didn’t need to avoid gluten? Well….my taste buds wanted to believe that, but my GI system let me know otherwise. Let’s just say That yesterday I spent a lot of time in the bathroom…not pleasant when you’re on the go as I was all day!

Breakfast as always was my scrumptiously delicious Arbonne chocolate smoothie with celery, kale, green beans, berries, ginger, pinch cayenne, and today I added a shot of décaf espresso. YUM!

Lunch was a garden salad with cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden! Double YUM!

Dinner was wild caught steelhead salmon with a side of garlic olive oil sautéed spinach and sweet corn on the cob- just boiled- no butter or condiments used— the kids were hanging out with my parents so for the first time in ages it was us sitting down to a quiet meal- without the sweet music of my kids jabbering voices!

Saturday definitely made up for yesterday’s triple sliced BBQ chicken pizza that did me in! Apparently my taste buds might want them- but my stomach doesn’t! Lesson learned!

Day 12: 30 days to fit

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” ~Siddartha Guatama Buddha

Could not wait to have my Arbonne chocolate protein shake this morning! I really really love my breakfast routine. With 20g of vegan protein and only 9g of sugar it’s a really sweet deal! (no pun intended). I cut the sweet, by adding lemon (little trick i learned) and salty almonds along with all my other green/red/blue goodness. (veges and fruit).

I did the same for lunch today too! I ran around with the kids – remembered to drink more water than yesterday, although still not as much!

Today, I took my kids to Casa Pacifica – it’s a nonprofit children’s shelter. Every time my daughter receives a new toy/gift, she knows she has to pick out one of her existing toys to give away to ‘the children who have no mommies and daddies.’ This is a ritual I started before she was old enough to realize, but not old enough to be receiving gifts galore! And as she has gotten older, this tradition has become so much more important. We live in such a privileged world…we are lucky to be able to give our children the best we can – but growing up as I did in India, a stone’s throw from one of the largest slums in South Bombay – I was never too far removed from abject poverty and the reminder that we are not all provided for equally. I have firmly believed that every child in the US should be made to do a semester abroad in a third world country before being allowed to graduate high school. However, being a parent now – I can see how that would be a really difficult thing to do – to send your child off into such a different world…although there are many who do…perhaps not at such a young age. So my compromise was to start my kids early on down the path to philanthropy. On Christmas morning, along with all the gifts under the tree, sits an empty cardboard box – for every gift opened, a toy goes into the box. This will also include at least ONE cherished and loved toy – so as not to only give away things that are meaningless to her.

Anyway – we ran home – quickly changed gears and then head out to lunch at McDonalds – their treat for the day…and I knew I wasn’t going to eat there…so I made myself yep – another Arbonne chocolate protein shake for lunch. MMMMM.

Dinner…ok well – I blew it BIG TIME! My parents wanted to go to Toppers Pizza. I promised myself…1/2 glass beer (stuck to that…Newcastle on draft is delicious) and one slice of the BBQ chicken pizza – i even ate a small salad to fill up on before the pizza arrived. But, I think because breakfast and lunch and no snacks had made up the early part of the day – I was ravenous, the pizza was piping hot and delicious with fresh cilantro which I cannot resist…and I ended up eating 3 slices!!! again – dairy/gluten…two no nos. Yesterday I read something on Facebook that someone had posted…a link to show that gluten/wheat has an opioid effect – ie. the more you eat, the more you want to eat….and it totally made sense. Since that day two days ago of that ONE slice of Mexican pizza – I have slid totally downhill in the gluten and dairy department! I did beat myself up a bit, but got over it quickly…realizing that I am NOT gluten intolerant – I have no reason to be totally gluten free, and that managing the intake of wheat products to a level where it is minuscule and appreciated will make it a lot more fun than cutting it out completely! And so, that’s my realization/rationalization for the day! This is after all an attempt at a better healthier lifestyle and not a diet after which any weight I have lost comes rushing back on! I want to create something sustainable, that I can do for life.

It’s late – my son did the whole 4am wake up till nearly 6.30am, after which I had to be up again in an hour…so I’m off to bed.

A bientot!

Day 10: 30 days to fit

Joy and Temperance and Repose. Slam the door on the doctor’s nose. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A third of the way there and I’m realizing that this journey is so much more mental than anything else. We make choices every minute of every day – many of them very deliberately! And yet most of us aren’t so deliberate about our food choices. We eat till we are stuffed, we drink till we are drunk—pay the price but then go back and do it again anyway promising ourselves all the while that we will never eat/drink like that ever again! But if you slow down – really slow down and think about what’s going into your mouth- SIT down (yes that’s all you moms and dads who eat on the fly), honor your food, appreciate it and then savor every bite– it takes very little to make you full!

Today my diet was pretty consistent with the past ten days so I won’t list it out– sane smoothie, salad with cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden for lunch (teaspoon of olive tapenade served as dressing)…I want to talk about dinner…

My chef extraordinaire husband made Mexican pizza – taco meat left over from taco Monday – deep fried fajita tortillas with a layer of refried beans between two perfectly crisped tortillas topped with taco meat, lettuce, tomatoes, jack cheese, diced jalapeños from our garden, and a sour crema sauce that he whipped up with fresh cilantro and other magic! Bake in the oven till cheese melts and enjoy!! Naturally being gluten free this month- I’m not supposed to partake- but, I just HAD to try it. So I did– just one quarter of it– but oh my was that incredible! I refused to feel guilty about it– i wasn’t about to dilute the experience. The rest of my meal was taco salad and Cholula hot sauce as dressing!

I’m feeling mighty satisfied!