I am a believer in “selfies”, I’ve talked about this before. Selfies, of course, being self-portraits, usually taken with one’s smartphone or webcam, or a camera with a timer. Selfies can be taken alone, or with others to add some variety and fun. How does taking pictures of ourselves help us realize our potential and approach fulfillment and true happiness? Self-confidence is the largest contributor to our success, our happiness, our fulfillment, our ability to evolve into the person we hope to be, the person we choose to be, the person we deserve to be. If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? By taking pictures of ourselves, selfies, we become more comfortable with who we are, what we look like, we learn to enhance our smile, our look, the angle that the camera favors most. Basically, we learn to find a way to like the way we look, which makes us feel more confident about our appearance, we feel better about ourselves, and this, in turn, being the truth in beauty and handsomeness, just makes us look even better. It’s self-perpetuating.

I am often with people who resist having their picture taken, they don’t like the way they look. In other words, they are walking around the planet, on a daily basis, going out into public, working, shopping, visiting, unhappy with their appearance. Ashamed for one reason or another. Can you imagine how this must drain one’s self-confidence? How can we be confident if we are ashamed of our appearance, or simply unsure or uncertain of our beauty? True, none of us are truly immune. Many very beautiful people underestimate their looks. The truth of the matter is that beauty truly does come from within. Beauty is a beacon of confidence. Can you think of a star, a model, or some personality that is deemed beautiful in spite of the fact, when really looked at, feature by feature, are somewhat less than classic beauty? There are surely as many less than beautiful beautiful people as there are truly beautiful beautiful people. Start really looking at what Hollywood, the fashion world and the media consider beautiful. So much of what we consider beauty, on the exterior, is make up, airbrushing, artificial enhancements, professional photography and superior lighting. And we all use these images as a measure for our own appearance, and, if we fall a degree short, we become ashamed of our appearance and our confidence suffers.

Building self-confidence and developing a strong sense of self, a strong self-image is one of the first and most important steps on the path to fulfillment and happiness. A strong self-image and the resulting self-confidence is what we will rely on in our effort to evolve. Whether today is the first day of your journey to a happier and more fulfilled version of you, or if you’ve been on the path to ever increasing happiness, success and enlightenment for years, our self-confidence is always a work in progress. We don’t just achieve self-confidence and we’re done, like nourishing our bodies with regular meals, our self-confidence requires regular care and nourishment. If we simply stop eating we waste away and become malnourished, hungry, and eventually starve. If we eat poorly, our bodies and our overall health suffer. Our self-confidence is no different. We will need to feed it and we will need to nourish it with high quality ingredients to keep it from starving, to keep it healthy and vibrant.

We must make a daily practice of thinking and behaving in ways that bolster, rather than undermine, our self-confidence. This can begin with the practice of meditation, affirmations, expressing gratitude, eating clean, vigorous exercise, healthy relationships and friendships, reading nourishing books, blogs and articles, acquiring a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, healthy self-speak, and, yes, even a daily selfie.

We love to see progress and by keeping an album, either in print or digitally, of our selfies, we can see the self-confidence illuminate, by degree, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. The more comfortable we become with our image, the comfortable we become with ourselves and the more confidence we gain.

To demonstrate the power of self-confidence, try this little social experiment; dress in your homeliest clothes, don’t do your hair, your makeup, or anything. Now go somewhere very public like a shopping center, a mall, or a tourist attraction. Walk around and think to yourself, over and over, as you walk, “I look terrible. I look awful. I feel ugly.” And I’ll bet you do. You are probably somewhat slouched in posture, you are looking down or away from people. There is nothing about you that says “confident”. I’ll bet people pass by you without really looking at you, you blend in and your negative self-speak makes you somewhat invisible. Now go home, take a nice shower, have a nourishing meal, say your affirmations, get dressed up, do your hair and makeup, if applicable, and go back to the same spot. This time, think very positive, uplifting thoughts about yourself, “I look great, I am beautiful/handsome, I like the way I look, I feel awesome, I’m amazing.” My guess is, you are looking up, looking at the faces of those you pass, making eye contact, smiling, and getting smiles in return. You are a beacon of confidence and you get noticed, favorably, as a result. And, getting noticed favorably further boosts your confidence. Several years ago, I had my Girl Scouts perform a similar experiment at a local festival to demonstrate PMA, positive mental attitude. They had fun with the experiment and learned the power that lies within to change, not only how you feel about yourself, but also, how others perceive you. It’s pretty powerful. All we need to do now is adopt the second experiment as our daily modus operandi.

When I was younger, I loved to take pictures, and more, I loved to be in pictures. If there was a camera around, I was likely close by, hoping to be included in the photo. With friends, I was usually the one, and still am, that insisted a group photo be taken. I usually had a camera handy, with a timer, and would facilitate such a photo. There was also a phase in my life where my self-confidence and self-image were poor. And in that period of time there are very few pictures of me. The pictures I saw of myself, I loathed. I took many pictures of my kids, their friends, family, sights and scenery, but I rarely allowed the camera to be turned towards me. When I undertook the project of empowering myself with self-confidence once again, after reading books and listening to audiobooks, I learned of many ways to bolster and rebuild the confidence that once carried me happily through life. One book I read suggested the “selfie”. I practiced this, taking dozens of pictures to keep the one I could almost stand to look at. With daily practice and diligence, I amassed a collection of “selfies” I was happy with, that I actually quite enjoyed looking at. And with each click of the shutter, each photo added to my album, my confidence grew and my happiness, fulfillment and success grew in response.

Though a small part of regaining self-confidence through a healthier self-image is just a small piece of the puzzle, it is demonstrative of how the whole puzzle goes together. We may take dozens of pictures to find one we’re satisfied with, at first, as we become more and more comfortable with ourselves. In our journey, we may try many, many, many different ways to make strides in regaining our self-confidence, some we will be pleased with, others we will likely discard. Like getting the perfect shot, the perfect selfie, finding the perfect steps, practices or means to rebuilding our self-image and our self-confidence, we may make many, many, many attempts before we are satisfied, before we find something that works. We simply need to stick with it, we simply need to continue to make the effort. Life itself becomes a selfie, the picture you make it.

As an avid hiker, I am rather notorious for always wanting to see what’s around the next bend on the trail. This is true, as well, in driving through new cities, or walking through an urban center I’ve not visited before. I am curious and have an insatiable appetite for wanting to see just a bit more. This is how our journey towards happiness, fulfillment and reward should be. We should always be striving to see what lies ahead, what’s around the next bend in the trail, the next intersection in the road, the next block in the city. Never be satisfied, there is always more, there is always room to evolve further. Self-confidence, like exploring a trail through the woods, is never truly complete, there is always more to explore, another adjoining path, a trail up the hill to the left, down into the valley on the right. Never stop.

We, alone, have the power to become exactly the person we desire to be. We, alone, have the power to evolve into a happy, successful, enlightened and fulfilled person. But, we, alone, must decide to do so, we must take the initiative, make the commitment and fuel the evolution. Getting comfortable with who we are, inside and out, is going to be one of the keys to unlocking our potential. Silly though it may sound, and silly it may seem, especially as you begin the practice, a daily selfie is going to assist you in your effort. I swear it. So, get that camera, practice your most winning smile and shine on! You beacon of confidence!



Embracing Technology. Hugs!

Whenever you find yourself in a foreign land, you try to learn the customs, the language, perhaps just enough for basic communication. I’ve lived with Mom for a few months, now, and this is what I’ve learned. A “tape” is anything recorded onto any type of media. And more. A tape is a “tape”, a DVD is a “tape”, anything streaming is a, you got it, a “tape”. Anything electronic for personal use is a “facebook”. A smartphone is a “facebook”, a laptop is a “facebook”, my Dell with a docking station and two large monitors is a “facebook”. My iPad and Kindle are both “facebooks”. My TV, when streaming, morphs into a “facebook”. And, to confuse things more, any website or application you use on any of those “facebooks” are also “facebooks”.

My "tape" (DVD) collection. I'd have to make room for "Friends", that's why I want to buy it digitally.
My “tape” (DVD) collection. I’d have to make room for “Friends”, that’s why I want to buy it digitally.
Some of my favorite "facebooks".
Some of my favorite “facebooks”.

I had a discussion with Mom about the “Friends” series. I love “Friends”. I desperately want the series, I’ve wanted it for years. I thought I’d dropped enough hints to enough people over the past decade that perhaps, somewhere along the line, someone would’ve bought it for me as a gift for some gift-giving occasion. I am still “Friendless”. I’ve seen the whole series, multiple times, thank you NetFlix, for your patience, repeatedly sending me those disks (I mean “tapes”) over and over and over again. I’m about to buy the set but don’t want more DVD’s (I mean “tapes”) to store. Mom suggested I “tape” it from her TV each night. She doesn’t have TiVo or DVR, she actually meant VHS. Patiently, I told her no, I haven’t had VHS capability for ten years or so now. I explained that I’d really like to buy the series from iTunes, digitally, but had inadequate digital storage capacity and that the device I’d like costs $500. She gasped and said as soon as I bought that “facebook”, it would be outdated and she launched into a very long, overly detailed story, including details about what was for lunch that day and what people wore. She told of an old neighbor and his ill-fated choice between beta and VHS format, twenty-five years ago. Sigh.

I know we won’t be able to get everyone on the same paperless page, but we could try! How’s this? We don’t keep our 1920’s car simply because we don’t want to invest in a new car, yet, because they’re bound to keep getting better. This is extremely flawed logic, the trend for improvement and advancement is never going to taper off, in fact, it’s likely to continue at an ever-increasing pace. The technology will continue to improve, exponentially, and it’s best to retire the old jalopy and embrace the new, safer, more comfortable, economical and stylish model.  This philosophy applies to the ever-changing technology in the rest of our world, too. Embrace those changes, they’re going to keep happening.

We need to embrace technology, as it comes along, for two reasons; to remain relevant and for the quality of life technology can offer.

I consider myself fairly technologically adept. Especially for someone my vintage. I’m not a digital native, I’m a digital immigrant. Mom is a digital refugee. I’ve always been sort of a “gadget girl”. I was an early adopter of cellular technology. I had a “Go-Phone”, like, five minutes after they came out. It seemed so extravagant at the time, but, boy, the first time my car broke down on the side of the freeway exit ramp with two kids in car seats with me, it became so worth it. I called AAA for a tow and the daycare lady who came and retrieved the kids before anyone even stopped to ask if I needed assistance. The tow truck and the daycare lady showed up at precisely the same time. I followed the tow truck and broken car home, picked up the other car, and was only five minutes late to work. Luckily, I was able to call, them, too, and tell them I’d be just a little late.

My ex-husband embraced cellular technology, too. He had the first cell phone in the family. It had a large, black carrying case with a shoulder strap. He slung it over one shoulder and carried his “lunchbox” computer in his other hand. And that’s where he’d still like to be, with his 1920’s vintage car. He adopted early then evolved begrudgingly. And he was in the software business, until it outran him. He has always been out of control with the cell phone, he’d call me 47 times an hour, while I was at work. Gadget girl that I am, I ran out and got a digital pager and told him I wouldn’t answer my cell phone anymore. He could page me and if I thought it was warranted, that it was an emergency, I’d call him back. So then every page, 47 an hour, came through preceded by a “911”. I was also a very early adopter of screening calls!

I definitely embrace technology. And software. I once, out of sheer desperation, applied to a job where I needed to have software skills in several applications and operating systems I’d never used. This was in 1992; Windows, Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Project and some accounting software, too. To top it all off, I was four and a half months pregnant at the time, and kind of just let them think I was a chubby girl. Out of 250 applicants, somehow, I got the job. Okay, I worked my network. Okay, so, I name-dropped. That’s how it’s done. And in the first week, I had to master all that software well enough to keep up the illusion of proficiency and to be considered so indispensable that they wouldn’t even consider firing me when I was forced to tell them I was pregnant, not fat, because my suits simply wouldn’t zip all the way up anymore. That was the beginning of my accounting career, I stayed with that company for five years. And became the controller. And that’s when I discovered my knack for picking up software very quickly.

Now I teach software to accountants. If it weren’t for technology and software, I don’t know what I’d be doing. Writing, perhaps. Dammit. Maybe I did make a wrong turn. Truth be told, I started college as an accounting major. I hated it. This was well before computers were used in the industry. Those stupid ledger books and the double entry method. I changed my major and actually have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science. I worked in a doctor’s office for part of college and did the “bookkeeping” on a pegboard system (Google it). It was just a job and almost paid a bill or two. When the doctor computerized and I helped with the data migration (that’s not what we called it then), I saw, for the first time, the relationship and the intent of the double entry system and the whole accounting thing went “click”. I continued on in college for my accounting course work. It was technology that brought something as lifeless and dull as accounting to life. Well, for me, anyway.

I think technology adds a great deal of quality to life, if properly employed. For example, Mom has “bookwork” today. She spends days and days every month hovering over a spiral bound notebook writing down every receipt, bill, and check of all time. Given enough time, she can produce a gasoline receipt and the corresponding Standard Oil billing statement for a charge in June of 1967, I have no doubt. Mom “goes” to the bank, has never used an ATM before and still writes checks at the store, much to the dismay of everyone in line behind her. Her checkbook is in one wallet, with a rubber band around it, to hold the receipts in place. Her ID is in another wallet, and her grocery store discount/rewards card is in yet another wallet. The coupons are in an envelope, with a rubber band around it. She doesn’t use “duplicate” checks, so she writes the check, in cursive, which isn’t even taught anymore, then records it in the register, complete with the subtraction to determine the balance of her account. By now, the ice cream is melted and the bananas, purchased slightly green, have become bright yellow and speckled. I swear I’m going to be her age before we get the groceries to the car! Now, I got paid Friday morning at the stroke of midnight. My money landed in my account and when I awoke, I rolled over, grabbed my phone, tapped this tapped that, and the few bills I have that aren’t on autopay got paid. My “bookkeeping” software downloads the transactions, including when the payments clear, and all my accounts pretty much, self-balance. I only have to adjust the allocation of an expense here or there, if it really matters.  Zzzzz, yawn, blink, blink, tap, tap, “bookwork” done. Day equals mine.

Or so I thought. Until the mail arrived and I had a renewal notice from the DMV, with their system equally as antiquated Mom’s. Please, please, can we go paperless? And not email? Text me, or, better yet, is there an effective App for that? So I can deal with it, based on a meaningful and timely push notification from the convenience of my smart phone? No. They do have an App, with maps to their offices where you have to wait for hours and hours in line, or sit in those nasty, plastic chairs and wait for your number to be displayed on the museum quality monitors overhead. The App also has practice exams, not helpful. And DMV quality videos, (avoid at all costs). Their App is completely and totally useless. Their website is convoluted, but at least, once you figure it out, kind of almost helpful.

The worst thing about the arrival of the DMV renewal notice was the fact that it had been forwarded from my old address. I moved several months ago and when I did, I went online at and changed my address. Oh, but I only changed it for my driver’s license. You have to change your car’s address, too. So, Meep (my car) gets mail, addressed to me, at my old address. Have we ever heard of relational databases? Match registered owner name with licensed driver name, send everything to newest address on file. Oh. It gets better. Enter the U.S. Postal Service. I had a forwarding order in place. My registration was due three weeks before I received the notice. I should have received it in, oh, May. I got it in, um, August. I don’t think I could be that inefficient if I tried. Really hard!

Mom told me I should write the U.S. Postal Service a letter of complaint. I asked her if I should mail it? Should I buy a stamp, funding their stubborn incompetence, adhere said stamp to an envelope and mail it to them? I was apoplectic.

But, Mom mails checks to everyone for payment. Piles and piles and piles of checks. Every week, after she does her “bookwork”, there’s a pile of several little envelopes, full of checks, with her tidy cursive writing in the return address area provided on the envelope. And stamps in the corner, funding the U.S.P.S. again! She can’t believe I pay everything electronically. How terrifying to just send it “out there”. Oh, I don’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of data encryption. It seems far more prudent versus mailing a check where you are sending a piece of paper that will pass through the hands of many many many people and it has your bank routing number, account number, your name, address, phone number, maybe even your driver’s license number, and a valid signature that will 100% match the signature card on file (electronically) at your bank. That doesn’t sound safe at all! I’ll take my chances with data encryption. Yes, my data has been compromised a time or two, my bank called me, emailed me and texted me multiple times within minutes to verify the activity, then took appropriate action. Because I took advantage of that technology. Without all those systems in place, fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for a time. And if it goes unnoticed for too long the bank can no longer do anything about it and it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each time. I’ll take my chances with electronic payment and data encryption.

The best part of the story. Do you know how my bank suspected fraudulent activity? There were purchases made, with my debit card number, from Wal Mart. My bank knows me that well! The chances of me spending money at Wal Mart are so infinitesimal, it’s about as likely as encrypted data becoming compromised!

Yes, I am “like this” with technology. It is my friend.

I just got a pop up notice on my MacBook that said “Shade’s iPhone4 seeking blue-tooth pairing.” I don’t know anyone named Shade. I clicked a button and denied the request. I heard voices in the street out front and glanced out the window. There were two tween-aged adolescents standing by the mailbox in front of my house, staring at their iPhones. From behind the lace curtain I shouted, “Hey, Shade! Is that you?” They nearly shit their pants as they took off down the street! I love technology! Totally made my day, especially since I have everything on my computer encrypted and pass worded. Nice try Shade. What a doofus, still has an iPhone4. At least they weren’t stealing Mom’s checks out of the mailbox.

What Do You Want?

We think we know what we want. We go through life thinking everything will be just fine once we have this. Once we have that. Once we have the other. We may even acquire this, that and the other, but there is always something more that we want. It all seems so clear.

In our quest for all that we want, sometimes we lose sight of what we really want. I have many things in life I am actively working towards; career goals, personal goals, relationship goals, fitness and health goals, all of which are progressing well, most of the time, usually, for the most part. A few are shaky, here or there, now and then. And I had a really bizarre experience regarding those goals and all that I want while on the phone with the love of my life. Having been a little unsettled about one or more of those goals, those wants, he asked, quite simply, “what do you want?”

I was speechless.

If I could go to the wish factory and grab anything and everything I wanted, what would I grab? If I could go to the wish factory and grab four items, what would they be? Two items? One item? What is the one thing I want more than anything else? What is the one thing I’d choose at the exclusion of all the rest?

I have no idea. Really. When it comes down to it, I really don’t know what I want. I go through life writing down my goals, clarifying my goals, I write down my affirmations every morning. You would think these are things I “want”. And they are, but to put them into an intelligible sentence, expressed out loud, in response to the question “what do you want?’ wouldn’t make sense. So I sat, silently, speechless. I have no idea. My goals seem so abstract, so unreal.

I know what I want as in I know I want good health, I want general happiness, I want good relationships with family, friends and my lover, I want fulfillment in my career, I want self confidence, I want a high level of physical fitness. Yes, I want all that, but, what do I want in a more tangible, tactile sense. I don’t have a house, I don’t really want a house. I drive a car, make payments on a car, but, really, the bank owns the car for quite a period of time more, and I don’t really want it, anyway. Some things I “want” just don’t seem real, they could happen, they are possibilities, but they are so ethereal at this point, I barely dare express my desire for them for fear they will evaporate like mist.

I spent so much of my life wanting stuff; a horse as a child, a car, a boyfriend, a different boyfriend, a husband, a different car, another horse, a house, a ranch. All tangible, all material, for the most part. Of all of those things, and I got them all, ask me how many I have now. None. And I’m still me and I’m fine and I’m happier now than I ever was in possession of any of those things. I am grateful for those “things”, but they left me still wanting.

For the past several years, I have focused only on wanting what I could provide for myself, only wanting qualities, traits, characteristics, achievements, goals. Nothing tangible, not anyone, not anything. Oh, sure, there are secret, unspoken desires, but I dare not express them in response to “what do you want?” First, they don’t qualify as something I can provide myself, a quality, a characteristic or trait and wanting them, if they happen, is never guarantee or promise that they will last and certainly not a requirement for happiness. Often, the contrary.

So, what do I want? What do you want? If you could go to the great big wish factory, what’s there for you? Do you ever feel like you’re walking somewhere, really fast, urgently, but when asked, you don’t know where? You’re just walking and walking and walking. This is perplexing to me, this walking without direction, without purpose. When this happens, or when we realize it has happened in spite of our efforts to focus, to identify our purpose and our goals, it means something has changed and it is time to re-examine those goals, that purpose. In those four little words, “what do you want?” I discovered that I want to sit down, again, and redefine my purpose and my goals so I know where it is I am walking so very urgently.

We can’t just dutifully sit down and scrawl out a goal or two and consider it crossed off of our to-do list. Goals are ever changing, evolving, as we do. As our life progresses towards or away from our goals, we need to repeat the exercise. Change is part of life, change is good and is a catalyst for growth and evolution. Change is also the impetus for us to re-examine, clarify, and focus our goals.

Ask yourself, now, what do you want. If you don’t have a clear idea, if you can’t readily express what it is you are urgently walking towards, take some time, today preferably, as I am, and figure it out.

That’s what I want.

What do I want? to see the world, to have experiences that shape my life and make me feel alive.
What do I want? To see the world, to have experiences that shape my life and make me feel alive.

Might I Suggest

This is a phrase I use often to recommend a thought process or an action that I find useful or beneficial. There is a great deal of power in suggestion, you can convince others, and yourself, of many things. It is a tool, when used appropriately. Might I suggest you try it?

Today is my “travel” day. I worked in Baltimore this week and am in Denver, at the airport right now, waiting for my final flight home. I had an afternoon flight out of Baltimore, which gave me a free morning to explore Washington D.C., a city I’ve never had the opportunity to spend any free time in. I set my alarm for 4:00 AM this morning, I wanted to get an early start, avoid traffic into D.C., have time to see as much as possible and make my flight out of Baltimore. I managed to get to bed by about midnight, so I was a little short on sleep when the alarm on my iPhone awoke me. I showered, let my hair go crazy curly and selected an outfit, a pair of jeans and a tee shirt I bought a couple of years ago at Target. The tee shirt is one of my favorites, I wear it often and really don’t think about it, much. I just wear it. It fits in a cute manner and is comfortable and happened to be in my suitcase.

Washington D.C. was amazing! I am so glad I made the effort to see this city. I walked and walked and walked and saw most of the monuments and buildings of interest around Capitol Mall and the Federal Triangle. I’ll have to save the tours of the museums for another trip, or twelve. As I walked through the city, I was encountered by many people who all smiled at me. I’m a pretty smiley person, so this didn’t really seem so remarkable, except that a number of men also commented “beautiful”. So did one woman. Then it occurred to me, my tee shirt has big black letters that look like they’re painted onto the gray fabric:


Got it. But I don’t think people were just reading my shirt out loud, I was suggesting that I felt beautiful, perhaps. When you feel attractive, your attractiveness actually, visibly increases. And, besides, a few fellas said something like “your shirt sure doesn’t lie.” Aw, shucks. But, between the smiles, the positive comments, the sunshine and the beautiful city I got to experience, I did have a beautiful day. The message on the shirt was, perhaps, also a powerful suggestion for me, my attitude, my experience for the day.

I’m not necessarily suggesting you run out to Target and buy yourself a
FUL tee shirt. I am suggesting that you find ways to suggest to yourself, and those around you, that you are confident, that you like yourself and that you feel attractive. I think you’ll experience positive results almost immediately. You’ve seen those people, haven’t you? They are so attractive and charismatic, but when you really look closely, they are actually no more good looking than anyone else, it is all attitude, it is all suggested through their confidence and feeling of self-worth.

Before heading to the airport, after leaving Washington D.C., I grabbed lunch at a kabob place in Baltimore. It was excellent, if you’re ever in the area of the Baltimore Washington airport, and you like kabobs, might I suggest you try MaiWand Kabob! I had a little problem I needed to take care of before going through security; a partial bottle of wine. There was no way I could polish off the whole bottle last night, my suitcase already has an unopened bottle of wine in it that I’m bringing home (I always check my luggage) and my suitcase was already dangerously close to the fifty pound limit. I just needed to find time to enjoy a “glass” of wine between dropping off my rental car and going through security. So, at the kabob place, I secured a Coca Cola cup and filled it with ice water. Once I returned my car to the rental agency, I ducked into the restroom and dumped out the water and poured in the wine. I made sure no one saw me throw the empty wine bottle away. I can be pretty sneaky, like that. I put the plastic lid back on and stuck the straw in. Unless you were really close, you couldn’t really tell it was other than Coca Cola in the cup. The straw did have sort of a purple tint, but you’d have to be very, very close to notice it, and if anyone were THAT close, heck, they’d smell the wine. So, I enjoyed my wine during the bus ride to the terminal, while standing in line to check my bag and then took a seat on a bench until it was gone, then went through security, having nary a care for the long line and slow progress. By disguising my last bit of Hess Cabernet Sauvignon in a Coca Cola cup, I was simply “suggesting” to everyone in the vicinity that I was thirsty and sipping a soda. Right? So, perhaps, the power of suggestion can be somewhat dishonest, at times. Might I suggest you use the power of suggestion with discernment?

While I sat on the bench, near security, sipping my Coca Cabernet Cola Sauvignon, I was within earshot of three Southwest flight attendants, two ladies, one gentleman. In case you’ve never flown Southwest, the flight attendants are a breed apart from most flight attendants for other airlines, though United flight attendants are a close second, and not the recycled Continental ones, the actual United ones who worked for United before the merger. Southwest flight attendants are cheerful, funny, witty, happy, upbeat and really make the drudgery of air travel some measure better. Well, let me tell you, when they are not on duty, they are wholly different! My word! Apparently their chipper attitudes at 35,000 feet are a mere suggestion that they are cheerful, funny, witty, happy and upbeat because what I heard today really suggested they are not at all happy, with their jobs, with their co-workers, with their employer.

One woman said, “I hate everyone I have to work with, some more than others”, to which the man responded, “Oh, no, you have to just hate everyone equally.” They commiserated about company policies about socks, of all things, and the financial state of the airline, which I’ve always thought was one of the more sound airlines, until today. I was a bit shaken. I’m glad I had some wine before boarding the plane! And then, while we were waiting for everyone to board the plane, one of the flight attendants cracked the same joke a flight attendant on another flight earlier in the week made. OMG! This suggests that their material, their super funny, witty jokes, are unoriginal, scripted, perhaps. I don’t know. Here, the power of suggestion is used in disillusion. Anyone who has a job that they so clearly abhor is doing themselves a disservice in keeping it. We spend a considerable amount of our lives at toil, best be something we love or our chances for happiness are greatly diminished. As a customer, I too, am disillusioned. I know it’s important to perform your work with a good attitude, and I have suggested so on many occasion. But, when one discovers that the character of a company, as represented by its employees when they believe they are unheard, is in complete contradiction to everything you’ve been led to believe, it is a little disheartening.

I guess what I’m suggesting here, the moral of my article, because I always have one, is we should use the power of suggestion to improve our self-confidence, to improve our lives. By suggesting to ourselves, on a daily basis, that we are happy, healthy, confident and capable people, we will move towards becoming more happy, healthy, confident and capable. By affirming what we wish to be on a regular basis, and by monitoring and correcting limiting and self-destructive thoughts, we become able to adopt what we suggest as reality. Keeping in mind, that what we do for a living is very much a part of what will lead to our ultimate happiness, and to perhaps include in our suggestions to ourselves that we seek a vocation that will further our desire for happiness and fulfillment, rather than detract from it.

Limiting and self-destructive thought patterns sabotage every desire and every attempt at personal growth and happiness. Limiting and self-destructive thoughts are very powerful, sometimes latent, suggestions by a very trusted source, your own mind, that you are limited, that you’re not worthwhile or deserving of that you desire. Learning to identify and correct limiting and self-destructive thought patterns allow you to align the energy you have with the desires you hold. Once your power and your desires are united they become intent. Intent is extremely powerful, and necessary, in moving in the direction you wish to go. Intent is the power of suggestion driven by desire and agreement of deserving thoughts and attitudes.

Using the power of suggestion to positively affect our goals and desires is one of the most potent tools we have at our disposal. By developing this power we are just beginning to tap into your personal potential. Might I suggest you begin your journey towards fulfillment, towards that which you desire, might I suggest you begin your evolution into the person you wish to become by practicing the power of suggestion.

Ambience – The Hum and the Glow

Of or relating to the immediate surroundings of something: “ambient noise”.

Have you ever noticed the ambient noise in a completely “quiet” house? With the television off, music off, no one else home, what do you hear? There is a humming. There are appliances running, heating and cooling systems, water heaters, any number of things just whirring away, and really, when you focus on it, making quite a lot of noise. The hum.

As an only child and a latchkey kid for much of my childhood, I remember doing this frequently. Sitting in an empty house and just listening. My dad was a hobbyist and loved old clocks, the tick tock clock variety, with the Westminster chimes every fifteen minutes. Our house is a split-level home, a ground level, a mid level a half a story up, then the upper level, a full story up. I remember sitting, often, on one of the stairs between the upper story and the middle level and just listening to all of the clocks ticking. A cacophony of ticking, like madness. Imagine the ruckus when all the chimes went off!

Last night, late, we had fairly high winds, and just before going to bed, the power went out. There are two things I love about power outages, lack of ambient noise and lack of ambient light. I relished lying in bed, in complete and total darkness and hearing only the wind in the tress outside. This spurred my thoughts on ambience, which rolled around in my head for the better part of the night, in the darkest dark as the wind whipped through the trees outside.

Having lived in a very remote country home, having backpacked in the wilderness extensively, again, there are things I adore about being far removed from civilization, temporarily; the sound of the wind, and nothing else and the darkness of the sky, except for the millions of stars. Have you ever been far enough away from the city to see the Milky Way in the sky? It is surprising how many people have never seen this wonder. Have you ever been out far enough in the countryside to be able to see the orange glow in the distance where the next town or city is located? This is light pollution from the ambient light of thousands of homes, cars, and businesses. The glow.

On a backpacking trek a few summers ago, I had the opportunity to tour a gold mine shaft with a group of people. One of the self-imposed limitations I have, and have made a concerted effort to overcome, is claustrophobia, or something like it. I fear being unable to escape, if my access to a clear exit path is blocked, I get a little panicky. Funny, isn’t it, that one of my major ruling assumptions is freedom, independence and autonomy? See any relationship there? I was in a narrow mine shaft with about a dozen or so other people, the guide, as she explained clearly beforehand, and I consented to, turned off her light and instructed us to turn off all of ours. We experienced a pitch-blackness so complete I can’t even begin to describe it, I could feel it more than see it, it was oppressive, it felt heavy, weighted. In this complete absence of any light, ambient or otherwise, we had to place our hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us and walk forward in an attempt to follow each other out of the mineshaft in total darkness. It was extremely disorienting, our balance was compromised completely and it was easy to become disconnected with the person in front of you, leaving you hopeless and helpless in the dark. It was impossible to successfully navigate towards the exit and to the relief of daylight. The guide then had us place our other hand out so we could feel the wall, still holding onto the shoulders of those ahead of us. With the assistance of the sometimes slimy wall, we were better able to balance and navigate our way back to light. I will never forget that darkness, that total absence of ambient light!

Isn’t it interesting how what we don’t really notice, ambient noise and ambient light, can actually be so significant in our lives?

An article in Scientific American summarizes a study performed by OSHA on the stress related hazards related to low-level ambient noise. Stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, peptic ulcers and migraine headaches could increase as a result of the measurable stress caused by ambient noise in the home and at the work place. Among other things, ambient noise has been associated with the release of cortisol, the hormone that is released in the body after a “bad experience”. The release of cortisol, at a minimum, can impact our ability to plan, reason and manage our impulse control.

A couple of years ago I read about a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute linking ambient light to increased risk for breast cancer. Other similar studies noted increased rates of ovarian cancer in women who worked night shifts, and so, were sleeping in daylight or in near daylight conditions. The studies hypothesized that our hormones (melatonin release) are linked to the natural patterns of light and dark in nature. When that natural pattern is disrupted with unnatural, ambient light, when it should be dark, our hormones don’t behave normally and this increases the risk of cancer.

Things that are ambient, that we really don’t normally pay attention to, can actually impact us in very major ways. Ambient light, ambient noise, ambient temperature all relate to our immediate surroundings, our environment. From this, comes the word ambience.

1. The character and atmosphere of a place.

To me, ambient light and ambient noise are subtle, unnoticeable and sometimes beyond our complete control. Unless we focus on them, we usually don’t even notice them. Ambience, on the other hand, I think of as being manipulated or contrived, something we are in complete or near complete control of, something we create, with intention.

The ambience of a restaurant is often referred to in its write up or in patron reviews. The ambience of a setting often dictates that expectation of our activity; a loud raucous bar with a group of friends out for a good time, a quiet, candlelit, corner table in a dark quiet bistro for a romantic evening.

I try to control ambient things, light and noise, to the degree I can for the benefit of my long-term health. I am, at the very least, more aware of ambient noise and ambient light and seek to mitigate their effects in my life. I also deliberately manipulate the ambience of my settings for a variety of reasons.

We’ve already touched on sleep and how ambient light can disrupt its benefits. The power of restorative sleep, absent of ambient noise and unnatural, ambient light, energizes, heals, and can actually restore youth by promoting the natural and beneficial release of HGH, human growth hormone. Creating an ambience for restful, restorative sleep can also help in your effort to evolve by increasing the healthful benefits of sleep that nature intended for us. I know, for me, I find that small sources of ambient noise and light disturb me. Perhaps more so having read up on the potential hazards associated with each of these. But if I am trying to drop off to sleep and I can hear the television downstairs, I find before long, that’s all I can hear. Like the cliché dripping faucet we see in movies, stories and cartoons! If my iPhone screen illuminates it is nearly blinding! Even the little flashing light on the front of my closed MacBook becomes a glaring beacon over the course of the night, enough to disrupt me from sleep. So, I seek to remove all of these things from my sleeping environment, I create an ambience for restful, restorative sleep.

I seek to control my ambience when dining; I make eating a special event, every meal. I set the table nicely and use nice dishes rather than the food packaging to serve my meals. I try to prepare meals that are pleasing not only to eat, but to look at as well. I am so proud of how my meals look, I actually take pictures of them for my food journal! I also tune out distractions while I eat and actually focus on my food and the simple pleasure of eating, the tastes and the textures of the food. I do not read or watch TV while eating, I avoid texting, working or social networking, and just focus on enjoying my food. Focusing on your food, on the act of eating, is proven to reduce the amount of food you consume. When you focus on what you eat, and enjoy the experience, you find satisfaction in a single portion rather than mindlessly eating two or three helpings. Distraction while dining is extremely detrimental to our diet.

Consider the ambience for sex; imagine a romantic room with a lovely bed, candles, flowers, music, chocolate would be nice, too, an inviting environment, rather than making do, so to speak, on a long unmade bed of mismatched sheets, with piles of dirty clothes all around and the dog watching from nearby. I read a fascinating and entertaining book last year, Veronica Monet’s “Sex Secrets of Escorts: What Men Really Want”. She had a great deal to say about the ambience for good sex that made a great deal of good sense.

In our efforts to evolve, to improve ourselves, it is important to consider our surroundings, our setting, our ambience and what is ambient. We need to consider deliberately creating an ambience, or an environment, for self-improvement, self-development, and evolution. We need to find a way to sit in the silence, in the dark, figuratively, and think, without anything ambient to distract us. We need to tune out the ambient noise that influences our lives much like the sound of the highway a few blocks away influences our sleep. The hum. We need to remove ourselves from distractions in our lives, like we do flashing lights while we sleep. The glow.

In our lives, in order to truly find our purpose, our direction, ourselves, we need to find a way to tune out the hum and the glow, the ambient noise; people who influence us, the media, etc. We need to think independently, in the solitary, quiet ambience of our own being, what matters to us, what are our guiding principles, even if they differ from those of people close to us, what do we really believe as individuals? There is always noise around us; the opinions of others, the strong beliefs of those we love, that may, in fact, be different from what we truly believe if we could just be quiet long enough to think about it. Ambient noise. Ambient light are other influential distractions like the media, the press, the entertainment industry, news talk radio, the clergy, business, our employers even, academia. They are all suggesting not just verbally, but visually, how we should think, feel, vote, act. Stop. Tune it out, find a peaceful, comfortable ambience, away from the hum and the glow. Think about it, apply logic. How do YOU really feel when you are away from the hum and the glow? This is where you will find your guiding principles, these are your core values. Cherish them, honor them, live by them, but first, you must know them.

Become aware of the hum and the glow.

Take Away

I went to a yoga class last night at my new gym, the first in several months with my recent move and all. I love yoga, I love the peaceful environment, the focus, the time away from busy stuff; the busier part of my day, my busy life, even the busier part of the gym. Yoga time is me time, I can concentrate on how I’m feeling, stretch, think, relax, and build strength, both physical and emotional. At one point, last night, the instructor had us all in shavasana, a position where we are lying on our backs, on our mats on the floor, eyes closed, relaxed. I have almost drifted off to sleep in this pose on more than one occasion. After quietly contemplating things from this perspective for a few minutes, the instructor broke the silence and asked us to begin to come back to awareness. She asked us to consider our awareness of self; how is it we landed on the floor, the position of our feet, of our legs, our arms, our hands. She asked us to consider how we landed there, on the floor in that room, at that gym, in that town. My internal response was “that’s a long story!”

How did I land here? On this floor, in this gym, in this town? It certainly was not my intention, not part of my “grand plan”, but did become my intention at some point, more recently.

Life changes, in ways we expect and definitely in ways we never expected or could even imagine. When life changes, one way or the other, often our lifestyle shifts. When our lifestyle shifts we have to consider two things, possibly a paradigm shift and an effort to identify what our purpose is in the situation we have found ourselves in.

A paradigm shift is a change in our ruling assumptions. When life changes, or shifts, our lifestyle often changes, or shifts, as a result. The ruling assumptions that once applied may need to be altered, or shifted, to match, to be relevant. For example, a few years ago, my kids were living at home, attending high school. They had many extracurricular activities. I worked nearly full time in a nearby community and managed work, a home and their activities. We owned a ranch and a second home; we had mortgages and lots of ranch chores and home maintenance and all that goes with that. My ruling assumptions were all grounded in that lifestyle. Now, I no longer have the ranch, the second home, my kids are living in other cities, attending college, I have a different job that requires a great deal of travel. My ruling assumptions are completely different than they were just a few years ago. I have had to shift my paradigm to accommodate my new lifestyle.

Everything that happens to us happens by design, ours. Everything happens as a result of all of our thoughts, actions, and deeds preceding this very moment. It may seem outlandish to assume that we’ve landed where we are because we wished for it, or desired it, or wanted it. But every thought, action and deed has paved the roadway to where we are. Now, it is time to identify and serve our purpose, then pave our way, with intention, to where we want to be. If you have landed somewhere you didn’t intend to, or in a place or situation you really don’t want to be in, it may be difficult to accept responsibility for the fact that you got yourself into this spot. But you did. If you wish to be elsewhere, only you can get yourself there. You are solely responsible for the change you want to happen, and this is done, in part, through identifying your ruling assumptions and shifting those paradigms. It is not something many of us are aware of or even know how to do, but a little bit of knowledge and awareness will help you gain control over the direction of things in your life.

I have moved several times in as many years, all as a result of the circumstances that unfolded in my life, both desired and undesired. Each of these moves has required reevaluation of my ruling assumptions and a related paradigm shift. My most recent move has been one of the hardest, admittedly. I have moved in with my mom; elderly, recently widowed and in declining health. Being the only child and in a position where it is impractical for me to own my own home, it just makes sense. I travel a great deal for work and would have a difficult time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on my own. She is old and frail and is having a hard time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on her own. Here we are. I am able to reorganize my finances and save some money and assist her. Before this, I was living with my college-aged son, helping him with rent after his roommates all transferred to other colleges. Can you imagine the shift in ruling assumptions when you move from a house with an active, twenty one year old man to living with an elderly, frail lifelong authority figure? I am in serious need of a paradigm shift! One of the most important factors in my personal evolution, one of my most valuable guiding principles, is freedom, independence, and autonomy. This is not something I am willing to compromise, so I need to shift my paradigm to accommodate this guiding principle and be able to function in this new dynamic. Of course, there has been some frustration, on my part, and I’m sure on my mom’s part, as we work through these shifts. But that’s exactly how it goes; you take stock of the changes, the situation, your guiding principles, the environment you’re in, and you make a plan. That is how you affect a paradigm shift. One way or another, this is a temporary situation and a stepping-stone, a necessary one, for where I ultimately want to be. And where I ultimately want to be is always subject to change, too! That. Is. Life.

With or without change, there comes frustration. It is a normal part of our daily life. When we are reassessing our ruling assumptions and shifting our paradigm, and frustration happens, the best thing to do, and I am still perfecting this, believe me; pause, take a deep breath, and ask, “Why am I here at this moment in time, experiencing this event?” Just like my yoga instructor asked us as we were prone on the floor in shavasana, “how is it you landed on the floor, in this room, in this gym, in this town?” When we pause for a moment and take stock of where we are, why we are here, and where we are ultimately headed, we can shift our paradigm and act accordingly, with attention and with intention. Socrates is quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We need to occasionally examine our lives, where we are, think about where we want to be, identify our ruling assumptions, shift our paradigm and evolve. Everything we experience, the good, the bad, the frustrating, all happens for a reason. There has to be a reason, a lesson, something to be learned, something to be given. Nothing happens without a reason, and while we are in complete control of our lives, our situations and our happiness, we are put into situations and exposed to circumstances and events designed to teach us, prompt us to grow to evolve. If we’ll make the effort.

A popular business concept these days is “what’s the take away?” It’s the new version of “what’s the bottom line” or “cut to the chase”. Show me the value, what am I supposed to be getting out of whatever it is you are providing. In my current job, part of what we do is design training courses. Now everyone wants to know, wants to us to emphasize what the “take away” will be. So, basically, we restate our “objectives”, calling them “take aways” and the review them at the end to confirm they are “taking those things away” with them. Our daily life should be approached in the same manner. In our daily life with friends, family, at social gatherings, stop for a moment and determine what the take away is. In everything we do, look for the take away. There is value, a lesson, something that fits into or compliments “where we have landed”. Examine your life, each situation and setting you find yourself in and find the take aways. Put them to use in furthering your evolution, in utilizing your guiding principles, your ruling assumptions and in shifting your paradigm, if necessary.

What’s your take away right now, from whatever you’re doing, wherever you are? What’s your biggest take away today? What’s your take away from life as a whole? Are you getting from it what you want? Or are you hoping for something else, something more? It is vital to stop and ask yourself these questions, daily even. Or to keep a running journal on them. You can shape and form your life, you can evolve, with effort, so you are taking away from your experiences, from your life, the things that are going to matter, to make a difference, to fulfill you and your dreams, your goals, serve your values, in a meaningful and lasting manner. This is an examined life and you make it worth living.

To accomplish this in our loud, busy lives; be thoughtful, be meditative, be reflective. Discern, listen, observe, note, and think, think, think. Journal, write your thoughts down, if not daily, frequently. Glancing back on these notes on occasion helps you note the progress you’ve made. Meditating daily is a great practice for clarifying your ruling assumptions, your paradigm, for examining your life. If you’re not good at “formal” meditation, consider yoga. If you’ve never tried yoga, don’t be afraid, don’t be intimidated. Yoga people are the most happy, peaceful, thoughtful, understanding, forgiving and compassionate people ever. There are people of all ages and abilities, so being new is not a big deal. In my class last night, at the tender age of forty-nine and a half, I was the youngest one there. There was one guy in the class who just remained in shavasana the whole time, lying on the floor on his back. And that was perfectly okay. There was a lady who couldn’t even bend to touch her knees. And that was perfectly okay. There was a woman there who was practically a contortionist. And that was okay. Yoga is a practice and it is to each individual what that individual needs and wants it to be. The thing with yoga is that it is meditative without having to sit still and deliberately try to empty your mind. It is a peaceful and soothing environment and you’ll find you are centered and calm and able to think more clearly as you practice. If not journaling, or meditation, or yoga, consider walking by yourself each day. Something, some quiet, contemplative time where you can be alone with your thoughts and examine your life, define your ruling assumptions and shift your paradigm to set you on the path to your personal evolution.

From my yoga class last night, I had two major take aways; the first was to just give pause and consider how I landed here, wherever I am. The second was based on a story the instructor had about the pigeon pose. This is a pose that requires quite a bit of flexibility in the hip flexors and groin area, which many people don’t have. Most people hate the pigeon pose. I actually quite like it. When the instructor was attending a class to learn how to become a yoga instructor, they practiced and practiced and practiced the pigeon pose. She hated it and would ask herself why she was there, in that class, in that horrible pose, pursuing being a yoga instructor. Finally, as she sat in pigeon pose, she just broke down and cried, not from pain or discomfort, she had this complete and total emotional release. From that moment on, she was more physically able to do the pigeon pose. It is often the reflection of why we are doing what we’re doing, why we are where we are, that allows whatever release to occur to illuminate our path to what we want to become.

So, pigeon pose, or not, examine your life to make it worth living, define your ruling assumptions and whether they fit where you are, shift your paradigm if necessary, find the release and illuminate the path to what you want to become. That’s the take away!

I’m an Evolutionist

Healthy Living

Are you an “evolutionist”? I am. In many respects. Do you think Steve Jobs was ever satisfied with what he produced? Do you think the engineers at Boeing ever stop designing airplanes that will be safer? Do you think a heart surgeon performing open-heart surgery ever says “this is how I learned to do this in medical school twenty years ago, I’m sure it’s good enough”? I certainly hope not! And yet what those people do, what those companies produce are always being improved on. Their knowledge, technologies, their processes, all evolve. An iPhone from the fist release is nothing compared to what is available today. What was the best thing in the market one, five, ten, fifty years ago is inferior in nearly every respect today.

Continued professional education is required for many fields because of ever changing information and developments. Information and knowledge evolve, as a result, professions evolve. How we treat people in the medical field has evolved tremendously over the years. What used to be the best available, has improved tremendously as our knowledge has evolved. There is always room for improvement. This is true for every industry, every field of study, every field of science.

This applies to what we know about nutrition and exercise, about lifestyle and our environment. Advances in knowledge are made daily that can enhance our health, our productivity, our longevity and our quality of life. Don’t settle for what worked ten years ago. It may have been the best we knew then, but what we’ve learned has evolved. In speaking with people about my philosophies surrounding diet, exercise and the use of organic and natural products in my environment, I am often met with resistance because this is all based on information that has been recently gathered and is still being analyzed and developed. Again, what had evolved ten years ago in nutrition we have found to be not very good at all, and actually, quite harmful. This field of study has evolved tremendously over time. One hundred years ago, people, for the most part, ate what they grew. There was very little use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. During the past century, we have taken our knowledge and developed a vast array of chemical compounds that kill pests that plague our food supply and that will allow us to produce large quantities of food in non-native areas across, non-native climates and for unnatural growing seasons. What we are learning now is that those chemical compounds are actually altering our hormonal balance. We have, in striving to produce larger quantities of high quality food, poisoned ourselves. What evolved in chemical enhancement of our food supply has evolved into chemically poisoning our food supply.

My mom was a registered nurse and studied for her vocation in the 1940’s. She firmly believes that exercising “overuses” our joints and causes damage. Her arthritic knees provide tangible proof, in her eyes. My mom never exercised regularly, in my eyes. She walked while working, and occasionally she walked for “fitness”. On rare occasions she would submit to a fad exercise program for about a week. This being the “exercise” that destroyed her joints. She could be right, but I am putting my stock in the vast amount of contemporary information that supports building strength and flexibility by routine, vigorous activity, building core strength and weight bearing exercises. At the age of 49, my knees are perfectly pain free and strong. I am a marathon runner, a field of exercise plagued with knee injuries, and I say “injuries”. Marathon runners don’t have bad knees because they are marathon runners, they frequently have injured knees because they have trained inappropriately or because they have over trained, done more than their bodies were prepared for. Any form of exercise will be prone to injury if done improperly or in excess of what the body is ready to handle. Every joint needs to be protected by a network of strong muscles and connective tissue around it. Failing to appropriately build and train those supporting muscles will make you more prone to joint pain and injury. This based on the evolution of study in the sports medicine field.

Just think of what all has developed since the 1940’s, in all fields of study, in all fields of science. We’ve put a man on the moon since then. I’m pretty sure what we’ve learned about nutrition and exercise has improved, and what was believed to be the best information then is no longer very relevant, now.

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, it became very popular to package simple to prepare mixes for cakes, main courses and side dishes. Think Rice a Roni, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Betty Crocker’s vast array of products, Hamburger Helper. This practice has continued and now we can buy just about anything powdered, frozen, boxed, or canned. It’s a heat and eat world. And all of this has altered our food supply, how we prepare and ingest food, and even the family dynamic of mealtime. We have evolved into families that no longer visit in the kitchen while whole foods are turned into a delicious and nutritious meal. We have evolved into families who eat on demand, often solitarily, or “together” in front of television. This all thanks to the science and developments of their time, improving on what was the best science, technology and information available. In my opinion, these ready-to-heat-and-eat foods, now, are irrelevant. Our knowledge has evolved. The additives and preservatives and processes required to make something that will move from market to TV tray with minimal effort on the consumer’s part doesn’t just remove the effort from preparing food, but also the nutritional value of the food, the knowledge of the content of the food from the consumer, and the social family aspect in preparing and eating a meal from raw ingredients. You are eating food that is more chemical than food, and more processed than many complex machines we produce. It is depriving you of your health, and is impacting your quality of life. This all is based on what we have learned more recently, on recent evolution in studies of health, disease and nutrition. In food, and in many things, our knowledge has evolved and we’ve found that simpler is better. Simple, wholesome food with simple, wholesome ingredients provide better nutrition. Our bodies will never evolve to be able to know exactly how to metabolize or understand, all the pre-packaged, chemically enhanced, genetically modified, over-processed non-foods on the market shelves.

This simplicity also translates to other areas, other products, that we use a great deal of and, as a result, can actually be quite harmful to our health, to our hormonal and metabolic balance. Hormonal and metabolic balance is responsible for how fat we become and for how diseased we become. There is a whole field of science and research in this area that isn’t really making the over-sensationalized, contrived, mainstream, media news. Our knowledge has evolved, but we just don’t know it yet because the message hasn’t arrived in the popular media.

Household cleansers are one of the biggest offenders. At this moment, my mom is spraying, indoors and out, every window in the house with a commonly produced commercial window cleaner, now chemically reformulated to not cause streaks. I just pleaded with her to allow me to use vinegar on the windows in my office and my bedroom, even if it provides a less than streak free result. Reluctantly, she agreed, giving me that wide-eyed look that translates into “my daughter is some kind of hippy freak.” Because this chemical window cleaning cocktail is available on every market shelf means it must be the smartest, mostly highly evolved thing available. Yet, after a recent hospitalization for a chronic and life threatening anemic condition, she asked her doctor if the condition was genetic. The doctor replied, no, it is most likely environmental, the result of exposure to properties in the environment that caused her body to no longer produce enough red blood cells. Like maybe decades of overuse of a common chemical window cleaning cocktail? Just a thought. She uses this stuff everywhere, all the time. She sprays it on every surface food comes in contact with, the countertops, the stovetop, the vinyl tablecloth. It is used so often it never gets put away. At any time of the day or night, I guarantee you will find the window cleaner and a wad of saturated paper towels on the counter.

I just cooked my lunch, a nice yummy burrito. I walked down to the garage where I keep my old-fashioned iron skillet, toted it upstairs and placed in on the stove next to my mom’s non-stick pan. I could feel the questioning look from across the kitchen. I just really, really don’t want to use anything chemically coated to apply heat to my food. Is that unreasonable? The fact that you are hard pressed to find any other kind of cookware on the shelves at Target doesn’t make it safe to use. My mom’s response to my action was to tell me I should read Nora Ephron’s essay about her love and affection for non-stick cookware. I love Nora Ephron. I will miss Nora Ephron. She was a delightfully gifted and talented writer. To be kind of a bitch, but hopefully to kind of make my point, I couldn’t help but ask my mom how Nora Ephron died, tragically, at such a young age, way before her time. Ah. Cancer. Right. No proof that it was her affinity to non-stick cookware. No proof that it wasn’t. Recent information, our evolution in knowledge, seems to indicate that non-stick coatings may be linked to cancer. The advice the popular media is willing to share is that non-stick cookware should no longer be used if the coating is scratched in any way. Um, I’ll stick with my cast iron skillet over non-stick cookware, no pun intended.

I guess my point, here, is, that as we evolve in our knowledge, advance in the many fields of study and science, as information is gathered and analyzed, we should consider that knowledge that evolved a year, five years, ten years, fifty years ago, may not be reliable, or safe, anymore. And even if our knowledge and studies and science move us in a direction that seems to be the opposite from the technological advances of yore, it is based on the best information we have, on where we have evolved. For the sake of health, of longevity and of quality of life, I am always going to seek out, discern and apply the most recent information to my lifestyle. I am, after all, an evolutionist.