The Best Medicine
This month, a look at the very measurable health benefits obtained by indulging in one of life's sweetest pleasures - laughter!
- by Christina Richardson
In this new column, grief counselor Christina Richardson focuses on the continuum of body, mind and spiritual heath and keeping balance in all areas of our lives. This month, she takes a look at the way fear can hold us back - and ways to overcome it.
So What? Who Cares? I Can Do This!
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung
What would they think of me?
I’d be too embarrassed.
These are some of the responses that host Gok Wan got from prospective participants for a reality television series on BBC Television. The program, How to Look Good Naked first appeared in England in 2008 and ran until September 2010. It crossed the pond to the United States where Carson Kressley was the U.S. host. I just happened to see it on Saturday while channel surfing. At first I was appalled - and then I changed my mind.
The premise for the program is to focus on less-than-perfect figured women. When I tuned in, a young woman, Layla Morrell was standing in an foundations store in her underwear, in front of the sales staff, a couple of customers, and the cameras. She had just received a “tutorial” in the proper sizing and fitting of undergarments. By the time the show ended, Ms. Morrell had learned how to dress for her size and shape and she was feeling pretty good about herself.
In this video, another woman sees how others see her - in her (extremely modest) underwear. Here is Angela, in central London.
I don’t know if I would watch the program again, but I did enjoy the message of appreciating yourself as you are and having a healthy level of self-esteem.
Watching the show did not make me want to apply to be a contestant, but it did make me think about how I would feel being in my underwear in public. I had a hard enough time wearing a bathing suit in front of people. What was I afraid of? I guess the fear of ridicule due to my perceptions about how I looked to myself in the mirror. I am not afraid anymore. I learned three little sayings.
The fear of embarrassment, of looking like a fool, or of being laughed at has stopped many of us from doing something we would like to do or try. Master the art of saying So What!
The fear of what others will think of you is an exercise in trying to read someone else's mind. And, who are “they” anyway? The people who matter know you for who you are, they care about you, not for what you are attempting. If you are going outside your comfort zone, they will be applauding you along the way. Those other folks - strangers - are pretty busy worrying about their own fears and what is happening to them. They probably won’t notice - or if they do, their judgement won't affect you. Practice saying, Who Cares?
The fear of facing a truth you don't want to accept may mean that you have some skills to work on, or that you really are good at what you are doing. How are you going to know if you don’t challenge yourself? Learn to say I Can Do This!
With So What?, Who Cares?, and I Can Do This!, you are ready to face any challenge/opportunity that presents itself. When you accept yourself naked - so to speak - you build self-esteem and live with self respect. Add a dose of taking action, toss in some persistence, maybe try a different approach, and keep at it until you are happy with the results.
Take on the places that scare you!
Mother Knows Best
In honor of Mother's Day, Kerrie Loya looks back at the women who inspired her with advice on how to live well - in more ways than one.
- by Kerrie Loya
This year in particular has been a time of recognition for me. My mother’s words of wellness wisdom keep popping into my head! I must admit, her word’s were the last for me to acknowledge as r...r...right, but she was the one who was right the most. In honor of these strong, beautiful women, I’d like to share some of their best wellness advice with you.
Great Aunt Jean
I was always a little afraid of Aunt Jean. Born to poor Italian immigrant parents, Aunt Jean didn’t put up with nonsense, whining or complaining. She worked hard and saved her money. She seemed way more serious than her sisters and brother whose vaudeville act she managed when they were young. My mom adored her.
WELLNESS LESSON #1:
STAY OUT OF THE SUN
We all lived in Southern California and I certainly lived my youth as a typical beach girl. Which of course meant I spent every sunny day tanning with my friends. Aunt Jean was horrified. She tried scaring me -- “your skin will look like leather” but of course, I didn’t change my habits.
I think she and my Mom secretly conspired, because although my Mom is half Italian, she has beautiful pale skin and avoided the sun even when we vacationed in Hawaii. The day they learned about a new, clear sunscreen, PreSun, everything changed. A compromise was struck and I promised to use it religiously on my face (while still tanning my body).
Well, of course, Aunt Jean was right, and I am so grateful I listened to her. I am told by my facialist that my skin looks many years younger than it is.
WELLNESS LESSON #3: DON’T GO TO BED ANGRY
Even before I was married, I got what she meant. You should go to bed free of negative thoughts so you get a good night’s rest. I also now guess that there could have been a bit of superstition in this one. People always regret fighting with someone who then passes away before they have a chance to make amends. Whatever the reason, I embraced this bit of advice as a teen.
My mother’s mother, Nanny, is still my beauty icon. Being poor didn’t prevent her from looking like a model in a simple dress with matching handbag, shoes, hat and gloves. Nanny was the dancer in the family, performing in vaudeville by tap dancing on her toe shoes. She maintained her lithe figure until she succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. I never saw her angry or unkempt.
WELLNESS LESSON #1:
NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT LIPSTICK
I realize these might be fighting words to some women, but she didn’t say a full face of makeup! I’ve always interpreted this “rule” to mean it is important to look pretty and for Nanny, that meant lipstick. Now there are so many options from tinted lip balm to glossy stains. I used to think if I got stranded on a desert island with no makeup I’d miss mascara most, but now I agree with Nanny. There’s nothing like a bit of color on the lips to brighten up your whole face.
WELLNESS LESSON #2:
EAT WHOLESOME FOODS
Nanny and my great Aunts loved to cook. So did my Grandpa. I spent a lot of time watching the ladies make Marinara sauce and Grandpa make the best turkey ever. One of my first food memories is of a risotto Nanny made in a red sauce. I’ve never found a recipe for it; she served it in a casserole dish. I can still smell it now. Last winter I tried my hand at one of her specialties, stuffed cabbage. Mine was ok, but no where near as good as her’s. As the wellness movement grows, and the farm-to-table movement becomes mainstream, I raise a glass of wine to Nanny for her understanding of the importance of simple, home-cooked meals.
WELLNESS LESSON #3:
SING AND DANCE
Whenever Nanny was around, there was always singing and dancing. As I got more proficient on the piano, I’d play and she’d sing or we would both sing and usually my little sister would put on her ballet outfit and dance around the piano. Great Aunt Jean loved it! She didn’t have a voice, but I do remember Aunt Jean teaching me slightly off-color songs in Italian.
The greatest compliment Aunt Jean ever gave me was when she said my voice sounded like Barbara Streisand’s. That gave me the confidence to sing in public. Many years later when she was in a nursing home, I would go down and play piano and sing her favorites. Her joy always made me cry.
My house is always full of music and dance. It helps that we live in a Blues hall, but even when we didn’t, I remember my husband Jesse putting on various records and our two toddlers running and jumping around to the music. Later, Jesse taught Desiree to swing dance and she would leap across the kitchen into his arms while I was making dinner. I confess, just the other day I put on one of my oldest daughter’s favorite albums from when she was little, The Spice Girls, and just danced and danced.
What is it about dancing in particular that makes people smile? Whether it is awe-inspiring moves on Dancing with the Stars, or a simple slow dance with a partner, dance brings us into the moment and connects us to an ancient ritual. Everyone can dance. So put on some tunes and move!
My Mother, Valerie
My mom is a natural beauty. She never wears a lot of makeup, embracing her mother’s rule of never leaving the house without lipstick. It is always a pinkish coral, usually with some sparkle. I was shocked when I saw a photo of her in college with RED lipstick!
My mom is still slender like Nanny was and her skin is amazing, thanks to Aunt Jean’s rule of staying out of the sun. She’s not much of a singer, but she taught me the Lindy Hop when I was in junior high and it has come in very handy!
WELLNESS LESSON #1:
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK UNATTRACTIVE?
Oh, boy, the first time I heard this I was so upset. Of course, she must mean I was unattractive! In high school at the time, I had been experimenting, copying clothing looks from magazines. I was so hurt to think she didn’t like my outfits. This “battle” over how I should dress carried through college. I confess, when I was out of school, I had a special section of “clothes Mom would like” in my closet to wear whenever I would visit my parents.
One day, I realized what was going on. The natural look of my youth, leather surfer sandals, bell bottoms and tank tops, was simple, and let my looks shine over the clothes. That’s what my mother meant! Ahhh. And particularly interesting since that “surfer” look is what seems to look best on me now, not the expensive designer clothes hanging in my closet.
I find myself repeating my mother’s words frequently, and particularly when watching awards shows where wealthy, talented women let dresses wear them. They allow a stylist tell them what to wear - to their detriment. Yuck. I love to tell a woman who is simply and attractively dressed how beautiful she looks!
WELLNESS LESSON #2:
NATURAL IS BEST
I remember sneaking mascara to school and hoping I got all of it off before I got home, because I was the last of my friends allowed to wear any kind of makeup. In high school, I was allowed to experiment with eye shadow; my mom bought me one of those giant samplers that was a “gift with purchase” at the department store. My little sister would sneak some whenever she could.
Flash forward to my first job out of college….and my first “makeover." Wow. I had no idea there were so many products you could put on your face. Foundation, blush, under-eye concealer, eyeshadow primer, eyebrow gel……..I bought all of it! Pink lipstick, lavender eyeshadow, Lancome was my new best friend. My mom was curiously silent when she saw my new look.
I was so sensitive. I assumed she didn’t like how I looked. Years later, I looked back and thought differently. Things my mom said came popping into my brain. “Your skin is so pretty, why cover it with foundation?” “Your eyes are so blue, you don’t need colored eyeshadow” “I prefer your natural (curly) hair”. And of course, “you look better with a touch of lipstick.”
All of these statements made me realize my mother was complimenting my natural look, not criticizing it. I ended up saving lots of money and time resisting magazine articles and ads and sticking with the makeup basics. And while getting my curly hair straight was easy in the dry air of Los Angeles, I have finally given up here in the South. After 11 years of battling humidity, I am happy with my wavy, curly mop of hair.
So as Mother’s Day approaches, spend a few minutes remembering the wonderful things you learned from your female relatives, and if it helps, try some of the wellness lessons from my family.
And Mom, since I know you read my column, I love you and thank you for being such a wonderful Mom.
by Kerrie Loya
- This month, Kerrie interviews Garni Sohrabian, one of the founders of Steal Time Back, a company that believes that "everything is interconnected and in constant interplay. We feel this unity the most when we fully immerse into the present."
Then, one afternoon, I looked at my watch and freaked out because it said 4:30 and the kids weren’t home from school. I called for my husband and said he better call the school, there was something wrong! He looked at me like I was nuts! “It’s 12:30, Kerrie, not 4:30!" Oh my gosh, my watch just stole four hours from me, I thought. Obviously, my watch needed to be repaired. I cringed just thinking about it because my watch, the only one I’ve ever owned, is a Rolex my dad bought me when I graduated from high school. I knew it would be ridiculously expensive to fix.
I certainly underestimated the repair cost! Yikes. I realized the universe was giving me a very costly sign that the only watch I needed was the NOW watch. The Rolex was retired. Three days later, my package arrived and my concept of time started shifting.
I was curious about the company and the creators of my “watch”. Their vision really caught my attention: “ An obsession with knowledge has lead us to forget the wisdom of simplicity”. Ahh, that is certainly something we struggle with at my house. Even though we do simple things, like ride bikes, garden and bake cookies, I have lost count of the number of electronic devices we have in our house! The kids accuse me of always being on Instagram and I accuse my husband of being a Facebook addict! The kids spend way too much time playing Minecraft. I crave simplicity.
I should have counted how many times I checked my “watch” the first few days. The cool thing is every time I did, I laughed. I’d run up to friends and say “Ask me what time it is!!” and there baffled face would make me laugh, too. One lady just kept asking, “But how do you tell time?” over and over. More laughter. Then, the ultimate compliment. My kids asked for their own. And what do you know, I just saw a promotion on Instagram for 40% off!
After I ordered two more watches, I emailed one of the founders, Garni Sohrabian, and set up a phone interview. We talked for almost an hour about the meaning of time in our society. Here are some of the highlights:
read interview below
K: What do you mean by the wisdom of simplicity?
G: Our society is impressed with technology and complexity, the more complex, the better. Life must be conquered. In many ways, we have lost our ability to appreciate the beauty of simple things. We don’t need bigger and better Smart Phones, we need wise phones.
K: I have noticed that even the yoga and wellness movement, which really started as an appreciation of simple things and an attempt to achieve a more peaceful, simple life has grown into a huge, hyper movement, particularly in Los Angeles.
G: Yes, there seems to be a huge amount of pressure. And also pressure to be loving always, to love everyone. I disagree with this. I think sometimes it is good to not like certain people and to be angry occasionally. There must be a Yin to the Yang.
K: I am glad to hear you say that because I was feeling like a bit of a failure because honestly, there are some people I just don’t like! I really try, but I just can’t. And sometimes I get angry.
G: Suppressing anger leads to popping off, which can be way worse.
K: So, my oldest daughter who lives in Southern California says the general feeling there is if you aren’t a raw vegan who practices yoga seven days a week, you are a slacker.
G: There is an idealization going on in the wellness “uprising”. Everyday a new “Guru” is born. There is a feeling that people must “conquer” yoga and wellness. This is the complete opposite of enjoying the simplicity of this movement.
K: Years ago, I realized “control is an illusion.” When did this happen for you?
G: I had a very successful business and was living “the L.A. life” when I felt something was missing. I would hike in the mountains to find peace. Then I hurt my back, which was especially hard because I was such an athlete. I knew I had to make a major change in my life. I sold my business. I realized control is about conquering. Learning to let go of that desire and trust the universe was the greatest lesson for me.
K: Coco Chanel said “Don’t spend time beating on a wall hoping to transform it into a door.” www.brainyquote.com
G: Yes, I agree. She is talking about how people try to force things, try to conquer, rather than just letting things be what they are. A wall can never be a door.
K: OK, here’s another quote I’d like you to weigh in on. This one’s from Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”
G: That’s funny. I just don’t like the word “end” because the whole world is constantly ending and beginning. We are as well; we are different people from moment to moment.
K: I love that idea. One last quote; agree or disagree with Vladimir Nabokov. “I confess I do not believe in time.”
G: I agree. Time is really a man-made concept. It is simply the symbol for change, for the constant creation and destruction of our planet and everything on it.
K: So you don’t really call your company a “business”, do you?
G: No, not in the traditional sense of a business, although “business” is part of it. We have a book coming out called “The ABC Brand” that describes us:
A -- Art. We create things that better the world, that make people feel whole.
B -- Business. This is simply magnifying and realizing the effect of your intention.
C -- Charity. We believe in the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Children naturally create art every day through play. Because we consider the whole world as one village, we donate 50% of profits to help children.
K: Any last thoughts?
G: Join us in our vision to bring more oneness into the world by reminding it of the present of the present.
The Bay Rollers -
Remember the days of your youth exploring the streets, joining friends to cruise the beach, and coming up with exciting games on your bike? The cement slab under my house was a course for high-speed chases and the streets were canvases to our invisible swerving trails our tires left behind. Our bikes meant freedom and adventure for my sister and me, often with friends or cousins.
Fond memories like these are not so distant from a group of thirteen guys between 40- and 70-years-old. They call themselves the Bay Rollers Cycling Club. While they aren’t kids anymore, they still enjoy the adventures and friendship their bicycles afford them.
Beach to Bayou
At the advent of the club in the summer of 2014, some of the members noticed that their buddies were doing the same thing they were to stay active. Individually, they were riding their bikes. So, they decided to come together one Saturday and ride together instead. Once it became a regular occurrence, they decided to form an official club with elected officers.
The men boast an average of 20 miles in a typical group ride at about 15 miles per hour. That’s pretty impressive stamina for men of their seniority. Labat describes the club as a “group of friends who share a love for cycling and want to be physically active into their retirement years and beyond.” Their goal is to improve their level of fitness and cycling techniques in an environment of camaraderie and mutual support. In between rides, they hold monthly meetings to discuss upcoming events and to share cycling information.
The Bay Roller’s don’t just ride their bikes for fun and fitness, however. They also come together to give back to their community. They’ve promoted cycling by donating over 30 bikes to elementary schools, raise community awareness about bike safety, and participate in other group rides from Slidell to Gulf Shores. The club actively participates in community beautification projects and supports local non-profit organizations. You can also see the Bay Rollers in local Mardi Gras parades.
“We are especially grateful to our sponsors who have supported us since our initial meeting in July, 2014,” says Labat. “Their support has allowed us to be a presence in the Bay St. Louis community that we love.”
Cycling is known to be a source of low-impact exercising with little strain on your back and hips. At the same time, cycling can be a serious and strenuous sport. The Bay Rollers take advantage of the ease of riding, while also pushing each other to be better cyclists and healthier adults.
“Cycling affords us a means to get physical exercise, socialize, and promote the sport to others,” says Labat. Because cycling is fun and you can control how much energy you exert, it’s truly a past-time for anyone.
Take it from Myron Labat: “Cycling is one of the least expensive, most gratifying and most wholesome ways to see the best parts of your community, or even other communities, while reaping the benefits of non-jarring exercise."
"It can be enjoyed on many levels: solo (therapeutic), together with family and/or friends (social), or competitively (racing). To those searching for a fun way to exercise that's easy to stick with, we say, ‘Give cycling a try. Transform a childhood pastime into a lifelong passion that continues to reward.’”
"And don’t forget your helmet!"
Upcoming events for the Bay Rollers include participation in the Natchez Trace Century Ride in Ridgeland, MS on May 2nd and presence at the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club’s Vintage Bike Show and Swap Meet on May 3rd.
Labat offers, “Anyone who loves cycling, wants to improve their fitness level and wants to give back to their community is welcome to join the Bay Rollers.”
Spring Cleaning for the Body
- This month - Include your body along with your house in that wonderful ritual of Spring Cleaning!
Spring is right around the corner and people everywhere are making plans to clean out the cupboards, pantries and closets in that wonderful ritual called“Spring Cleaning." According to many, Iranian customs are responsible for this yearly event. In Iran, the new year, “Nowruz," arrives on March 21 and is a time of regeneration. Iranians partake in a ritual, “Khaneh Tekani," that literally means to “shake the house." New clothes are bought, every nook and cranny of the home are scoured, and scented flowers are brought in to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Well, Well, Well
AGNI - The Sacred Fire Within
According to Bayan Botanicals, resetting Agni is great for those who struggle with: digestive issues like constipation, loose or irregular bowel movements, a lack of energy, or intense cravings for spicy, salty or sweet foods. A mono-diet based on your constitution is just the thing to put you back on a healthy path. If you have trouble skipping meals, you will eat kitchari, a mixture of basmati rice and split mung dahl. If you feel lethargic with a cloudy mind, fruit is your choice. For those who feel uncomfortably heavy and dull, a juice fast is the choice.
Now to get started. Pick a day where you can have peace and quiet and minimize stress. Don’t eat after 7pm the night before. Upon arising on your agni reset day, scrape your tongue and scrub your body with a hemp body mitt or loofah. Drink 16 ounces hot water to cleanse your system. Do some gentle exercise such as stretching or take an easy walk. Eat your chosen mono-diet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with three hours in between meals. Drink 8-12 cups of room temperature water or hot fluids. You can also take triphola tablets or powde one half hour before bed, which should be 10pm.
Now if you really feel great after one day of detoxing, you can purchase a seven-day Ayurvedic cleanse kit for $69.95 here.
The Pressed Juicery Cleanse
Cleanse #1 is for those who are new to cleansing, athletes or those with higher caloric requirements. This cleanse includes two almond milks high in protein and complex carbohydrates.
Cleanse #2 includes their most popular juices including the “Greens 2”, kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple and lemon.
Cleanse #3 if for experienced juice cleansers and is the lowest calorie option.
Once your cleanse is over, you can opt to purchase a post-cleanse box consisting of three days worth of meals for $75. It includes green detox salad, cauliflower tabbouleh and quinoa with veggies.
I am always weirdly impressed with packaging and the Pressed Juicery takes the prize for the most beautiful website and juice bottles. Does it make Pressed Juicery better than other cleanse options? Not necessarily, but it definitely makes me want their products over others.
Gwyneth Paltrow's Favorite Cleanse
Alejandro Junger, the “detox it boy”, is the creator of the Clean Program, a 21-day program which gets rid of dairy, sugar, alcohol, gluten, caffeine, nightshade veggies (potatoes, eggplants), soy and peanuts. He claims that “toxins slow us down and make us sick”. For $450, you can prove him right or wrong. Now, I think the biggest thing a program like this does is teach us what foods are good for our bodies by fine tuning our food choices, teaching us what it feels like to be hungry, and to feel gloriously and healthfully satisfied.
For a look at the reality of a 21-day cleanse program, read the hilarious article “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cleanse Made Me A Monster." It’s the account of one woman’s Clean Cleanse experience. My favorite part of the whole article is her account of cheating by adding an extra scoop of lentils!! Now I love lentils, and am hard-pressed to ever find a way that eating lentils equals cheating.
You can order the program book “Clean” at local bookstores (or online) and I found the accompanying reviews to be excellent and full of practical advice.
The Wellness Detective Weighs In
Now, I must admit, I have done a five day juice fast preceded by a high colonic (I am from California, after all), and I was less than overwhelmed with the results. In retrospect, I believe I didn’t see dramatic results because I have spent my entire life eating healthy and exercising. I love food and love cooking and really am not a fan of juice, so the whole experience was kind of a drag.
I have also done an Agni reset from Deepak Chopra’s book “Perfect Health." His is different from the one I outlined above but seeks to accomplish the same reset. Chopra advises doing the program over a weekend:
- Friday do not eat or drink alcohol after noon and at night eat a light dinner. Before bed, take one tablespoon of castor oil, followed by a glass of hot water. You may be awakened in the middle of the night to have a bowel movement; others wait until morning.
- Saturday have fruit juice cut with warm water for your meals. Apple or grape is best. You can have three to four glasses as snacks. Avoid strenuous exercise and spend the day doing as little as possible!
- Sunday start the morning with a light breakfast of hot cereal. Avoid coffee and tea. Do not eat again until noon., then have a good, moderate lunch. Do not just have a salad and avoid anything fried or very spicy. Don’t eat again until dinner. Have a lighter meal, perhaps just lentils, rice and steamed vegetables.
I really enjoyed this routine and felt lighter and purer after completing it. To reap all the benefits, continue to eat a light breakfast and light dinner, making lunch the biggest meal of the day. Don’t skip meals, take it easy on the booze and coffee, and avoid eating between meals.
So here’s to a good Spring cleaning, inside and out! I would love to hear from any of you that participate in any cleanse, fast or agni reset program.
by Kerrie Loya
This month - 28 ways to open your heart - one for each day of February!
Put a Little Love in Your Heart!
Have you ever watched “Scrooged” with Bill Murray? At the end of the movie, Scrooge has found his heart, the little boy who couldn’t talk finds his voice, and the entire cast sings “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” I cry every time. That song just tugs at my …...heart.
What is it about heart? Athletes are told “you have heart”. At weddings, “our hearts are full of joy”. To lovers we say “I love you with all my heart.” With Valentine’s Day this month, why not take it to another level by celebrating a month of love, a month of opening up our hearts? Following are my suggestions for 28 days of love.
1. Since 1943, 127 songs with “love” in the title ended the year at the top of the Billboard music charts. From Benny Goodman’s “Taking a Chance on Love” (1943) to the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1962), we have loved these songs all the way to the top. Pick out your favorites and make a playlist or CD for someone you love.
2. Add the top 15 heart healthy foods into your diet. At Eating Well, you can also learn the reason why these foods are so good for your heart: yogurt, raisins, whole grains, beans, salmon, nuts, chocolate, tomatoes, apples, berries, pomegranates, bananas, popcorn, green tea, and wine.
3. Breakfast for your heart. Make a parfait of plain yogurt, berries, bananas and chopped green apple. You’ve just added four of the top 15!
4. Lunch for your heart. Make a salad of arugula with tomatoes and sundried tomatoes topped with grilled salmon. Hmm, three more!!
5. Dinner for your heart. Well, I am totally happy with dark chocolate and wine, but some may want something more substantial. Try beans and rice in a whole grain tortilla with some homemade salsa. Another four!
6. Pick a loving affirmation. What is an affirmation? It is a simple, declarative sentence voicing a deep wish. You pick a quiet time, preferably in the morning, sit calmly and say the affirmation a few times. Here are some of my favorites:
7. I live a life full of love for myself and others.
8. I make my decisions based on love.
9. I forgive those who need forgiving for not being what I want them to be.
10. My heart is full of joy and thankfulness.
11. Open your heart chakra, one of your body’s centers of energy, by surrounding yourself with nature. Hmm, this is easy here on the Gulf Coast with our amazing trees, waterways and sky.
Well, Well, Well
13. Wear rose quartz, renowned for its heart opening power.
14. Hug often and long. Check out “Hugs Have Healing Power.” That loving feeling you get from a hug can have reparative antiaging benefits because oxytocin, the “love hormone” is released. Hug until you feel that release, that “ahhhhh”.
15. Create a fairy garden. Why?? Because it will enchant everyone who sees it, bring smiles, laughs and happiness.
16. Give a gift to someone who always gives so much. You know at least one of these people, those amazing men and women that give so much of themselves! So give something back, something small, handmade, a flower from your garden, just a token of thanks for their generosity.
17. Give a random compliment to a stranger. I love to do this!! Sometimes I see someone who I think is so beautiful, or so sweet, or so polite, I have to tell them! The look on their faces is priceless.
18. The following three loving ideas were inspired by an article in Elephant Journal. Be open to receiving all the gifts the universe offers. What does this mean? To me, I work to keep my heart open to nature, to new people in my life, to new opportunities that are presented to me. I am thankful for all the lovely things and people in my life.
19. Live the life you dream of having. If you don’t love your life, make changes now that move you closer to that life. It’s amazing when things fall into place as soon as you begin to live your dream life.
20. Enjoy a massage. The power of a healing touch is worth every penny.
21. Instead of giving the traditional rose bouquet, give a rose bush! I love this idea from Nature Moms.
22. Start a love journal. Write about what you love about your daily life, what made you smile, who you hugged. Record only positive and loving thoughts, please.
23. Wear pink. The color pink represents compassion, nurturing and love. Pink combines red, representing the need for action, with white, the color that helps achieve success and insight. The deeper the pink, the more passion and energy exhibited.
25. Try a heart opening yoga pose such as Camel or Side Bending Mountain. These would be great to do after you say an affirmation! See our sidebar for photos and instructions!
26. Try a yoga pose to get you in the mood. If your partner is game, do this one together.
27. Say I love you! Receiving a text of “I love you” is just not the same as telling someone how much they mean to you. While phone calls might not be the norm these days, take a tip from Stevie Wonder and call “to say I love you”.
28. Kiss often and passionately! We all know kissing feels good, but there are actually health benefits to a nice, long kiss. Kissing might help you lose weight because a really passionate kiss burns two calories a minute -- twice your normal metabolic rate.
I lift my glass of rose champagne and toast all of you, dear readers. I love you!
Hiking My Hike - Part 2
This month - Marcie Baria tackles the Appalachian Trail solo again, this time with only her trusty dog, Oscar, for company. Click here to read Part One in our archives!
Of Husbands and Bears
David is not thrilled to hear that I need to go back to the woods. He is not thrilled that I learned that I had not done nearly enough conditioning for my first trip so I now feel compelled to walk around Bay St. Louis and Waveland with my pack on looking like a scary homeless person packing bear spray and an orange knife. He is not thrilled to hear that I am going to go back in a month. And he is not thrilled that I broach the idea of going by myself (with Oscar of course).
The girls and I started at Dick’s Creek, about seventy miles from the beginning of the trail. I had decided I would like to do the first seventy miles up to that point. David begins re-deciding the part of the trail he wants to hike and all the other things that “David the-family-Travel-Agent” would normally decide. I do not like this—this is my pilgrimage.
Luckily for our marriage, he gets too busy to go, so it is just me (and Oscar) again.
The appointed day arrives. Oscar and I leave at six am, arrive in Hiawassee, Ga. around five pm. We check into a little mountain hotel, run into Hiawassee and I have my last, non-trail meal and margarita. Oscar contentedly waits curled up in the driver’s seat, enjoying my leftovers when I am through.
A Promising First Day
Throughout this process, I have had a lot of people express their fears about being on the trail alone—“what about snakes, bears, crazy people…?” (I figured that (1) I have survived 24 years of law practice, so this should be a piece of cake and (2) as long as I didn’t see any lawyers, I would be fine, and just in case…I had bear spray.) As for snakes, I intended to make a lot of noise and keep my eyes open. As for bears, those on the Appalachian Trail are black bears, much less aggressive and dangerous than the Grizzlies out west. Most hikers never see one; they are notoriously shy. “I’m sure I won’t even see one,” had been my frequent refrain. And as for crazy people, I was hoping to avoid them; but, hedging my bets, I had Oscar, bear spray (much stronger than mace, capable of causing third-degree burns) and a good knife, the latter two I intended to keep in my Eno with me at night.
To psych myself up-- that I could in-fact sleep out in the middle of the woods all by myself--I (of course) did some more reading. Perhaps the most helpful book for me was “Untamed” by Will Harlan, about Carol Ruckdeschel, “the wildest woman in America and the fight for Cumberland Island.” Carol was a largely self-taught biologist who lived on Cumberland Island during the 1970s and 80s, off the coast of Georgia, establishing largely single-handedly that it was fishing (largely shrimping) practices that precipitated the ruinous decline in the world sea turtle populations. She managed this as a by-product of living (for the most part) in the wild, sleeping in the woods and on the dunes of Cumberland Island, dissecting sea turtles when they washed up, monitoring the invasive wild boar population during their night-time maraudings-- while continually subjected to their potential assaults—not to mention those of snakes and gators. Carol lived in the wilderness because she loved it and her discoveries were a result of her chosen way of life, not so much visa versa. Reading about her single-mindedness, fearlessness and wholesale disregard of convention gave me confidence that I could manage a few nights in the woods, on the relatively tame Appalachian Trail, by myself.
All of these thoughts about snakes, bears and crazy people are scrolling through my head as we head up the dirt forest service road that will get me to within a mile of the beginning of the trail. Oddly enough, there is no way to get to the head of the trail by car. You have to hike in—either six miles from a real road, or, you can use a forest service road that will get you to a point that is one mile down the trail from the start. This way you have to hike down the trail to the beginning, then retrace the mile you just walked, if you want to actually get to the beginning. I opted for the one-mile package.
As we round the last curve before my drop off, I see a baby bear waddling across the road, diving for cover on the far side as he notices us coming. So much for all of my predictions. I unload, say my goodbyes to Sallie, and Oscar and I take off at a trot. Despite the bear sighting, I am excited and ready to go. I do keep Oscar on the leash until we retrace our steps and then some from our drop-off point. We make good time, which is good, because despite our relatively early start, it was almost eleven am when we get on the trail.
All goes well throughout the day. I feel good, my feet don’t hurt. My pack is heavy—heavier than it was with the girls. I have to carry everything this time, and I can feel the difference. But it’s still all right. Late in the afternoon, I scale a stiff incline and impress myself at how strong I feel and what a good pace I am keeping. This despite the fact that I am carrying two additional large bottles of water because there is a long stretch of trail just ahead with no water source.
I am thinking that all my scary-person beach hiking (especially my fourth-of-July hike down the crowded beach) was worth it after all. That is until I begin having some sort of serious arrhythmia at the top of the hill. I keep walking, slowing the pace a little, giving my heart a chance to calm down and get back on track. Well, it doesn’t. It keeps charging ahead like a team of spooked horses. Finally, I lie back, as best one can with a large back-pack still on one’s back, on a large rock and see if it if will abate. Finally, it begins to slow down--so much for over-confidence. I decided I should find a good spot and set up camp.
Horse Gap is the next eligible spot, lucky for me it is at the bottom of “Arrhythmia Hill.” I will have done eleven and a half miles. Not too bad for a half a day on the trail.
When I get there, the campsite is located right next to a forest service road. This is not indicated on the guide that I use as my trail bible. This is not good. It is not recommended that one, especially a lone female, camp at sites with road access. This is where people tend to run into trouble. Usually “trouble” in human form does not appear as a fellow hiker. (I mean, who wants to hike up and down a bunch of mountains and buy a bunch of expensive equipment to cause trouble when you can cause trouble without having to do all that crap?). “Trouble” most often drives to--or at least close to-- the trail.
That being the case, I am still done for the day and that’s that, road or no road. And to top things off, the only two trees that lend themselves to Eno set-up are right next to the road. Great. Up goes the Eno. Then, lucky for me, here comes another hiker down from the hill--a man, looking to be about 60. He asks if I mind if he sets up camp a little down from me. “Heck no!” Oscar introduces himself.
I have debated what to do with Oscar’s sleeping arrangements since he won’t have the girls to sleep with in the tent this time. I ended up bringing him a little blowup mattress that I will put just under my Eno. I also have a little tarp that I am going to hang from the Eno to act as a little tee pee to keep the bugs and rain off of him. I climb into the Eno and call Oscar to try to situate him on his little bed. He is having none of that. He puts his front feet up on the edge of the Eno and makes clear his intent to sleep in it, with me. “Ok, ok.”
In he climbs. Lucky for me, the Eno is a double one. Much to my surprise, Oscar makes room (and the Eno accommodates him) next to me and passes out. Oscar is a surprisingly good Eno mate. He adjusts when I adjust and moves out of the way when I need him to with a minimum of difficulty.
About two in the morning, I am awakened to hear something scuffling around on the plastic air mattress I put down for Oscar. Hmmm, I think. I lie there frozen for a few minutes. “Ok, first, that guy is right down the hill; second, it can’t be that big cause I am not that far off the ground; third, it is starting to get on my nerves…” So, I hit my Eno and make some noise to scare it off. It doesn’t flinch. I turn on my headlamp and press my forehead into the bottom of the Eno to scare it off with the light. Continue scuffle, scuffle. Hmmm. After a while, I deduce that it is not going away. Out comes the iPad and I read until I put myself to sleep. It is gone in the morning. Oscar never woke up.
Day Two - Making Good Progress
All day we make good time. We don’t stop for lunch but share some Cliff bars along the trail. All goes well on day two, we end up doing about sixteen miles, making it to Jarrard Gap. There we come upon a family with two young children and a dog named Rowan. Oscar is thrilled. We are late getting into camp and hurry to get set up, make it to the spring .03 miles down the hill and cook supper before dark. We just make it. All goes well—no critters come to visit, or if they do, they are quiet and we both sleep.
In the morning, the mom of the family says that they had something scratching on the outside of their tent. Rowan slept through that too.
Day Three - An Unexpected Detour and a Midnight Marauder
Giving the day-hikers as wide a berth as possible, Oscar and I navigate the descent as fast as we can until finally, there it is. The Wasili Yi-- heaven at Neel Gap. The trail actually passes through a little breezeway of this store/building. They have pretty much everything a hiker could want. I have a package waiting for me with resupplies of food. Oscar and I shop a while, pick out a few t-shirts, repack them in my food box and ship them home. I shower (heavenly) and talk to the knowledgeable guys in the store about my shoes. They look skeptically at my minimalist Merrell running shoes and my sort-of-minimalist Keen sandals. I have been alternating between the two, so far, so good. One says, “I think you really might want to invest in something with more support and, these Merrells need to be a size larger than your regular size since your feet swell up to a size when you are doing big miles….” “Nah. I may for my next hike, but I’ll dance with the one that brung me.” I also see salve for abrasions, and I think, “I guess that’s for guys whose legs rub together…glad I don’t have that issue.” Oscar and I indulge in a couple of egg salad sandwiches and make a few phone calls since there is service, and off we go.
We soldier on, and as Murphy’s law would have it, the trail takes an immediate turn for the hellish. We climb incline after incline after incline but there is no good place to stop for the night.
My Xeroxed paper trail guide (pages from The A.T. Guide are my bible for how far I am from everything and where the next water is) has now gotten so wet—repeatedly-- it has almost disintegrated; there was no place on me to keep it that stayed dry and I had to consult it often, folding and unfolding it. I could barely still make out that the next shelter was at Whatley Gap, about seven miles past Neel Gap—making for about a twelve mile day. I press on, as fast as my lame feet will carry me. Finally, Oscar and I arrive, too close to dark for my tastes. The stream is .03 miles down the hill. We run down a couple of times to get enough water for cooking and drinking (putting in an extra mile or so just for good measure).
We just manage to get set up and eat before it gets dark.
As I take Oscar’s pack off, I see that it has rubbed him raw across his belly. In fact it has cut into him. I feel terrible. I am going to have to carry his pack for him tomorrow.
On the way down to Neel Gap, we had passed dozens of people. Since Neel Gap, we’ve seen about two, in over seven miles. Whatley Gap feels very remote, very quiet.
No one else is around.
Oscar and I retire to the Eno. I pull out my iPad, pop two Benadryl and read myself to sleep, managing to put the fact that I am in the middle of a lot of miles of inky blackness without anyone but sleepy Oscar around. About two am, I feel something scratching at the back of my head through my Eno. I am suddenly very awake. When panic subsides, I analyze the situation. Hmm. “Well, it doesn’t feel like a bear. After all, I am almost on the ground, I have hung my Eno low to accommodate Oscar….” “Ok, stop it!” I hit my Eno. It scratches my head again. I growl and make other (what I interpret to be) scary noises. It scratches some more. I keep trying the hitting, noises and headlamp things, to no avail. But, luckily, the other night when the critter was under my Eno, I thought that in the future I should put my hiking poles under me in case I needed them to fend off something in the night. Unluckily, I did not think to put them inside the mosquito net surrounding my Eno, so I would have to stick my hand down exactly where the critter was to retrieve said pole and risk being bitten by the rabid creature. So I opt to forego the poles.
This scratching thing went on for, oh, about an hour or so. Then the critter started licking my head. Great. I pulled out the iPad. I did my best to read between the licking and scratching. Finally, I was fed up. “Ok, I’m bear spraying it’s a**.” I pull down the side of the Eno, take aim directly under me and shoot. A strong blast launches from the can filling the air with hot pepper spray, but it’s not too bad inside the Eno. Silence…for about a minute… and here it goes again, scratch, scratch, dammit. Crap.
I give up and start reading. Oscar never wakes up.
The Slow Burn and Blisters
Finally after a protracted morning pack-up, Oscar and I set off down the trail—only to discover that the trail ends just past our campsite. “Wait a minute, I know this trail goes on for a couple of thousand miles…what is up with this?” We look all over, and the only way to go is back the way we came. It turns out that between my pain, haste and disintegrating trail guide, I have taken us 1 and ½ miles (downhill) off the trail to this shelter—three miles out of the way! (Not to mention the extra couple of miles I have trekked back and forth to the spring.) Cuss.
We climb all the way back up the hill 1 and ½ miles to the trail proper and proceed. Instead of counting today, I plant my poles to the chant of “dumb a**, dumb a**, dumb a**.”
As the day progresses, the palms of my hands burn, and burn and burn, thanks to my good aim with the bear spray. We come to a stream--I scrub them with sand. It helps some. Wiping my face with them, however, does not as my eyes start to burn like –well, like someone put hot sauce in them. My feet swell and swell some more. My shorts are rubbing the crap out of the insides of my thighs. Oh for some non-chafing cream! Oscar is limping now. Good Lord.
Well, it’s our only option. We press on. I wrap my thighs in duct tape because I cannot stand it any more. This works until the duct tape comes unwrapped and becomes stuck to my pubic hair. Really!? What fresh hell is this?
At least we are getting close. The easy part of the trail ends. It starts up, down, up and up…. We limp. We sit. I lie down on my pack on the down-slopes. Oscar curls up at my feet on the trail. This has to be the last hill. It isn’t. Finally it was and down we went to Unicoi Gap, the road and a parking lot. Now, if I can just reach Joyce and Sallie. They answer, thank god.
Soon Oscar and I are ensconced in Sallie’s luxurious Subaru, on the way to my luxurious Prius and we have reservations at a “hiker hotel” in Hiawassee.
I have never been so happy to see a hotel in my life. To say that it was not luxurious would be a monumental understatement. But, it seemed pretty clean. (Admittedly, everything seemed pretty clean compared to us.) I cursorily showered, we go to get food and come back. I set about doctoring my feet, which have been reduced to one big blister. They are disgusting. The duct tape and dirt has formed a formidable sticky concoction that will not yield to soap, water and/or scrubbing. I will just have to live with them looking awful for a while.
I did what I could for them, cleaned Oscar up too and we climbed up in the bed and passed out.
The next morning we awoke, got in the car to go to the shipping store to ship my pack home (as we were now on the way to Massachusetts to pick Bess up from a summer camp at Amherst College and didn’t want to take it or ride with it in the car because it stunk, bad). As I pulled the seat belt across my shoulder, I winced. It hurt like crazy for the seat belt to touch my collarbone where my pack had been or to touch my hips where the pack sat. Every part of my body hurt. My feet were still swollen. I did not think I would ever recover.
But I did. Oscar and I made the trek to Massachusetts. I was surprised that by the next morning, I felt like a new person. I was not nearly as sore, and felt like I could have actually taken to the trail again. But, alas, children called.
My short stints on the trail were eventful, certainly challenging on many levels, fun, even. In hindsight, I undoubtedly pushed Oscar and myself too hard on our solo hike. Next time I will go easier on us. Next time I will not worry so much about being super woman and worry about looking around and taking a little more time. Even going too fast and doing too much, there was so much to see and so much to take in, so much that I did see and did take in. There was great challenge and gratification in having to make decisions and live with the immediacy of the consequences. There was a simplicity in this that is lost in my daily life.
But, perhaps the most significant thing about my experience was that being out there, doing something of my own, on my own, gave me back something I had lost in life’s maelstrom of finding a mate, establishing a career, having and rearing children and trying to do what I am “supposed” to be doing in life. The trail gave me back knowing there is a me outside children, husband and law practice…that there is a me that can aspire, that there is a me that can attain. My challenge now is to give air, light and voice to her, and not just on the Appalachian Trail.
Miss Part One of Marcie's AT Adventure? Click here.
A Morning Cocktail That Will Keep You Fit For Life
- 1 cup room-temperature filtered water
- 1 Tablespoon organic local honey
- 3 Tablespoons Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
- Several dashes cayenne pepper
~ Claiborne Hills
~ Herbal Alternatives (they have organic local honey, too, and many herbal supplements)
of the Shoofly
Across The Bridge
At Home In The Bay
Beach To Bayou
BSL Council Updates
Casting My Net
Coast Lines Column
Friends Of The Animal Shelter
Growing Up Downtown
House And Garden
Legends And Legacies
Mother Of Pearl
Murphy's Musical Notes
Old Town Merchants
On The Shoofly
Shore Thing Fishing Report
Talk Of The Town
The Eyes Have It