What exactly is purpose anyways?

I cannot remember the last time I took a moment to blog. Okay…maybe I can because all blog posts are saved on this site. But, that’s besides the point.

Every year brings a new adventure, a new journey, and usually a new state…literally. I won’t begin to fill in what the last few years have been, but I will share what moved me to even think about logging in again to write: LIFE PURPOSE.

Life purpose has become such a scary, abstract idea. What is my purpose in life? That’s huge, right? But, is it really? When I really break that down and nix out the external societal expectations, it often starts to become so clear.

I’ve been thinking A LOT about purpose lately. What gets me out of bed every morning? What is important to me? How do I give back to this broken world? At the end of my life, how will people remember me?

The road to “success” is always paved with hurdles, boulders, lakes to cross with no damn boat, and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. However, I used to always be confident in knowing what (I thought) was at the end. It all used to be so clear. Now, I’m not so sure…and that’s scary as shit! You would think that by the time you’re in your 30’s life would all make sense. But if anything, as you continue to learn about yourself and who you are, it just becomes that much more difficult.

In thinking about my purpose, I have done a lot of self-reflection. I think about the happy times, the many moments of disappointments, and the people that have have entered and exited. Sometimes I feel successful, while other times I feel like a complete failure. I used to measure my purpose and success on material things: jobs I’ve held, things I’ve accumulated, tangible accomplishments, etc. But lately I’ve been stuck on the question: “What if my purpose is to be a catalyst in the lives of others?”

A lot of my life revolves around my career as a Student Affairs professional, mainly because, let’s face it, more than 40 hours of my week is spent at work. Being in a people-focused role, I have come across a lot of people in my life and have built a number of relationships with students (undergrad and grad), colleagues, and everyone in between.

Have you ever come into contact with a student (undergrad or grad) and said to yourself, “I’m going to work for you some day”, and meant it? Have you ever had the privilege of working with someone and known that they are literally going to change the world? I have! And I’m blessed to have crossed paths with them. But just when I think to myself I wish I could also contribute more to this world in the way I see them do, I receive affirmation in the form of a written letter, text, note, or FB message that contributes to the continued formation of that lingering question of my own purpose. Some of these messages have appeared years later.

It fills my soul to know that somewhere along the way I aided in someone’s journey. This is not a narcissistic mirror reflection of myself. Rather, it’s getting to know myself all over again. It’s being comfortable in recognizing my strengths, what I do best, and moving forward in what I excel at. It’s re-examining my future goals. It’s supporting others in their respective journeys. It’s continuing to build relationships and encouraging others. It’s knowing that sometimes, that one conversation that may have seemed minimal to you meant the world to someone else. It’s knowing that even the smallest gesture of kindness goes a long way. It means that someone out there knows that they have one additional person in their corner. Its showing others what it means to pay it forward and give back in hopes that they pass it along and give back to others. It’s knowing that we all leave impact on this world in different ways.

And that, my friends, is purpose.

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How do you plan to use your gift today?

Critical Literacy in Working-Class Schools

“School success is tied to systematic inequalities that persist from generation to generation.”

Working-Class Perspectives

In her recent post Kathy Newman discusses the lengths to which schools go to improve students’ high-stakes test scores and reminds us that parents’ income is the best predictor of students’ performance on standardized tests.  Nevertheless, when working-class public school students perform poorly on high-stakes tests we say to the teachers, “It’s your fault.  Teach better!”  What we get is teachers who teach worse:  lessons become scripted and rote.  And we say to students, “It’s your fault.  Try harder!”  What we get are students who become even more alienated and less motivated.

Of course, lurking behind the whole issue of high-stakes testing is our faith in the concept of the concept of meritocracy.  Only when meritocracy is rigorously defined and the assumptions underlying it are stated explicitly, does it become problematic.

Meritocracy starts with the assumption that, by and large, all American children start kindergarten or first grade on a…

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Why are you making it so hard to go on vacation?

I came across this blog, reposted on Twitter http://thesabloggers.org/why-is-it-so-hard-to-just-go-on-vacation/?utm_source=feedly. It struck a chord with me, as I’ve found myself having a lot of conversation around this idea of vacation and guild with colleagues and friends (as it pertains specifically to the field of Student Affairs). So I felt compelled to write my own thoughts.

There seems to be an unwritten rule and culture within Student Affairs that working until you drop makes you a good SA professional. People often take pride in having no life outside of thier job. “I worked 55 hours today” they may say with a smile. “Oh yah, well I had two student meetings back to back that lasted until midnight and then I had to come back in office at 8am to finish the logistics for this weekend’s events” is the response from another. Sound familiar? I’ve heard it time and time again, and used to find myself doing the same thing until one day I took a step back and said “Waaaait a minute. Something is wrong with this picture.”

So now there’s the new me, happy to not check emails once I leave the office (even when my email alerts seem to be going bizerk on my phone), ecstatic to get off around 5’ish on a good day, and happy not to think about the office once I’m gone for the day. But yet this type of behavior is often looked down upon. Why is that? How has this “work until you drop” culture been instilled in the field as the thing that defines you as a “good SA professional?” Now, I’m in no way saying all work places, employees, or supervisors support abide by this or work in this fashion. But, in my experience so far, I have found this culture more often than not.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this field, and I will stay until I get the job done. But at the end of the day, when I go on vacation, I GO ON VACATION!…and I’d like to not be made to feel guilty for doing so. 🙂

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The Road to Curing Dark Eye Circles Starts With Sweet Almond Oil

So if you’re like me, you’ve been battling dark under-eye circles since…well forever. For me they’re heriditary. On nights where I don’t get enough sleep I often resemble a racoon that wore too much mascara. That’s what I like to think anyways.

I’ve tried everything: expensive eye creams, concealer, getting more sleep…but I never noticed anything dramatically different. Upon a Facebook posting asking the question , “What eye cream do you use for dark eye circles?”, my cousin told me about Sweet Almond Oil as a natural way to combat them. Hmmmm, I had never heard of this before, so I started looking it up. I found quite a bit of [online] literature and information referencing it’s use.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/300227-sweet-almond-oil-for-dark-circles/

Well, I figured as much as I’ve spent on a tube of L’ancome I could “invest” in a $20 bottle of Sweet Almond Oil at Whole Foods. Couldn’t hurt to try.

(Note: there is a difference between sweet almond oil and regular almond oil. Make sure you’re using the correct one.)

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Routine: I use it every night before bed after I wash my face. To use, take a drop of the oil (it doesn’t take much) and gently rub it under your eye in a back and forth motion using your ring finger. It doesn’t totally absorb right away, so if it’s slightly oily, that’s okay. But, it also shouldn’t be dripping down your face.

Note: For the first two days I used the oil both under my eye and under the brow bone. I started developing milia immediately under my brow bone, so I stopped putting oil there.

I failed to take a before picture at the start of the process. I didn’t think about it until four days later. But I do have pics showing the gradual progression over the course of two months. The results are pretty amazing!!

After only four days of use I began to notice a slight difference….or maybe that was wishful thinking. There appeared to be a softening of the skin under my eyes. They didn’t appear as deep set as they normally do, and I looked a tad less tired.

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Four Days

After 2 weeks, I noticed a slight lightening of the hyper pigmentation. I also started to notice a decrease in fine lines. My eyes no longer looked so sunken in.

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After 2 weeks

This photo was taken about one month into my use of sweet almond oil. I think I was tired, making my dark circles more prominent than normal. However, notice the reduction of fine lines, and the skin under my eye is a lot smoother.

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After one month

AND FINALLY……

Two months later! And no, there is no filter!! 🙂

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Two months

No eye cream or oil is ever going to make dark eye circles completely disappear. But, the sweet almond oil DEFINITELY made a significant difference. Not only has it subsided the hyper pigmentation, but it has decreased the appearance of fine lines. I still choose to use a concealer at times, but it’s nowhere near the same challenge of cover-up as it was before.

For $20, it was worth it! Now, go out and buy some! 🙂

When You Don’t Like Your Reflection, Change It!

Have you ever had a moment where you’ve looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person staring back at you? It’s in those moments that an internal shift begins. You can continue as this unrecognizable person, or you can make a choice to find yourself again. It’s not an easy decision to make, let me tell you. A few months ago that was me.

It seemed my life was spinning, and I was struggling to regain control. I was discouraged and disappointed in myself for various reasons. I noticed that I was attracting energy and people that reflected what I was putting out into the world. I blamed others for their actions, when, in reality I was allowing people to treat me according to how I felt about myself. I put more time into thinking about what other people thought about me rather than focusing on how I felt about myself. Now, at the time, I would have never believed any of this. But you know what they say: Hindsight is 20/20.

That moment I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I was seeing was the moment I decided to take a stance. Enough was enough. But sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can start climbing towards the top. I begin to take responsibility for my life and my actions. No more blaming others for their actions towards me, no more misplaced frustrations, no more blaming the world. This negativity was attracting negative people (whose lives were in as much upheaval as my own), causing me to engage in negative actions, placing doubt on my self-esteem and self-worth, trying to hold on to unreciprical relationships (all encompassing)…all so I did not have to think about or focus on what was really going on. I mean, who wants to really do that? I had to realize my place and responsibility in the spinning tornado that was my life. It was time to take control.

I am finding myself in a new place of happiness. It wasn’t an easy place to get to. Within this, I have noticed that my postitive energy is attracting positive things. I am meeting great people, establishing new, healthy relationships (all encompassing), and not allowing the negativity of the world to have a place in my life. I’m taking more control of my thoughts. I’m not giving time to the over analyzation of ill actions or things that I have no control over. I’m appreciating my time and using it towards positive thinking. I’m reading books to help shape my thought. I’m not putting time into relationships that are not recipricol, but I’m also not holding a grudge. I am learning I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can control my reactions. I am confident in myself and my abilities. I’m finding new hobbies and ways to use my time. I appreciate the moments I have alone to myself. I smile at the small things and stay in a space of gratitude.

No, my life is in no way perfect. It’s a daily effort to be positive, but it feels SO much better.

Life is beautiful, and I love what I’m seeing in the mirror. 🙂

The First Step to Self-Improvement is Changing Your Self-Talk

I am an intensely spiritual person deeply embedded in my faith. I believe everything happens for a reason, life is a journey to a larger purpose, fate is outside of my hands and is up to a higher power, and people come in and out of our lives – some being seasonal, others here to stay. Well, I also believe in a lot of other things too, but for the sake of this post I’ll keep the list short.

Have you ever had those moments where it seems like you’re receiving the same message over and over from various sources? It could be different people that have no connection to each other, a message you come across on a Yogi Tea bag, or even a book recommendation that aligns with a larger thought that you’ve been processing in your mind. Well, that was just the experience I had over the weekend.

The start to my day began with a lengthy conversation with someone I’ve known for a while and hold dear to my heart, I was pointedly told about my tendency to lead my life by assumptions: about what people think, how they may feel, and the actions I then take according to the new reality I have set for myself. I found it quite interesting. Instead of completely shutting down the idea and being on the defense, I decided to reflect on it.

The day concluded with a long overdue conversation with my twin. (No, I don’t actually have one, but we might as well be.) We talked about life, self-realization, growth and change, recognizing one’s behavioral challenges, and finding the tools to overcome them, improve, and change. Within this came two recommended books by Don Miguel Ruiz: The Four Agreements & The Mastery of Love. I looked them up and loved what they were about, so I ordered them from Amazon:

The Four Agreements reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. When we are ready to change these agreements, there are four deceptively simple, yet powerful agreements that we can adopt as guiding principles:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

“The Mastery of Love illuminates the fear-based beliefs and assumptions that undermine love and lead to suffering and drama in our relationships. Using insightful stories to bring his message to life, Ruiz shows us how to heal our emotional wounds, recover the freedom and joy that are our birthright, and restore the spirit of playfulness that is vital to loving relationships.”

http://www.miguelruiz.com/index.php?p=books 

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The next day I got to work and found a devotional book a co-worker had left on my desk. I was going to put it away and read it at a later time, but something told me to open it up to the message of the day. Imagine my surprise:

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Coincidence? I think not!

Sometimes, things line up for us to recieve a larger message, and it’s up to us to pay attention and be receptive to what the universe is trying to tell us.

As for me, I’m looking forward to spending this upcoming weekend reading and reflecting, heading down the path of continuously becoming a better me, trying to plant better seeds of positivity, releasing myself of fear, and creating healthy self-talk & better self-fulfilling prophecies. 🙂

 

When Life Hands You Strawberries, Make a Mimosa Brunch; But, Don’t Forget the Beets!!

My weekend was full of fun, sun, and cooking! I’m enjoying finding new recipes and ways to eat clean, stay clear of non-natural sugars (i.e.: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, etc.), and rediscovering the joys of a Farmer’s Market.

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I made another trip to Little Italy’s farmer’s market in downtown San Diego. I must say, I’m THOROUGHLY enjoying access to fresh, organic produce.

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I am getting in the habit of buying my groceries on a weekly basis. Though a challenge, it helps me plan my meals week by week, as fresh produce does not last long and must be used rather quickly. It also keeps me on track with my goal of clean eating.

After coming across some GORGEOUS fresh, and sweet strawberries, I decided to try a gluten free pancake recipe a friend of mine posted. Her and her sister keep a food blog. Here’s the link: http://www.sissiesinthekitchen.com/2013/02/the-most-important-meal.html

I used egg whites, as I do not buy eggs. After trial and error, I learned that if you substitute egg whites for eggs, you have to double the content. Example: this recipe calls for 2 eggs. 2 eggs = 1/2 cup of egg whites. So I used 1 cup of egg whites.

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Do not expect this recipe to give you the pancake consistency you’re used to. They are a little more spongy in texture, and they were pretty flat. But they were DELICIOUS!! I cut up fresh strawberries and used 100% pure maple syrup (no sugar added). Next time I think I will try using whole eggs to see if there’s a consistency difference.

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Gluten-Free Pancakes

And, what better way to enjoy a gluten free pancake breakfast than with mimosas?! I must say, the champagne you use in a mimosa is important. I typically buy an inexpensive one, but I decided to try this brand. So delicious!! Less dry, and slightly sweeter. A good compliment to the orange juice.

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Ballatore Gran Spumante Sparkling Wine

With brunch being covered, and taking advantage of the fact I had a friend over and actually someone to cook for, I decided to retry the white-balsamic glazed beet recipe I had made the weekend before. It’s very simple. The recipe comes from this site:
http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/roasted_beets_with_balsamic_glaze/

Farmer's Market Finds

Farmer’s Market Finds!!

At the farmer’s market, I discovered white balsamic vinegar. Though it’s not new, I had never heard of it before. It’s lighter and a bit sweeter than dark balsamic vinegar. I used it for the beets.

 

When roasted, beets have a nice, glazed look fresh out of the oven!

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Fresh out of the oven!

I also learned to cook with the beet greens so as not to waste them. They have a texture similar to kale. I chop them up along with fresh cut garlic. Sauté on medium-high heat in a little olive oil, add a few tablespoons of water, and cover with a lid. Let them steam until the leaves are the consistency you want (I prefer mine a little more on the firmer side so they aren’t soggy). It takes about 10 minutes.

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Together with the white balsamic-glazed beets, beet greens, and chicken breasts grilled on the Foreman, dinner was SERVED!

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I’m learning that eating clean and healthy is not as hard as it sounds. I used to think of it as a chore, but it’s really all about planning and prepping. Make a list every weekend of the fruits and veggies that you’ll be using for your meals during the week. Use the world wide web to access the hundreds of recipes that exist! The only thing holding you back is an excuse. 😉

Don’t Be Afraid to Be You!

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This rang deep and true tonight. I cannot count the numbers of time…a week…I get the age old questions:

“When are you going to stop moving?”
“When are you going to settle down?”
“We have bets on when you’re going to buy a house.”
“Don’t you want to get married?
“When are you going to have kids?”
“How are you going to do [any of the above] if you keep living your life the way that you do?”

Most of the times these questions are pretty offensive. Okay, all of the time. And they usually come from people I know. These aren’t strangers. They are friends, acquaintances, sometimes family members. It gets old trying to explain myself, or even feeling like I have to explain or justify my life to someone else. Because, the fact of the matter is, my life is my own. We’re ALL on different journeys and paths. We all reach specific destinations along that path when it’s our time. 

I’m very deeply rooted in my faith and the belief that God has a plan for me. This was confirmed for me this evening when I happened to open up to tonight’s devotional with these thoughts on my mind:

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“Love Out Loud: 365 Devotions for Loving God, Loving Yourself, and Loving Others” – Joyce Meyer

My plan definitely looks nothing like yours, or yours, or yours over there in the corner. And that’s okay. Because my life is not supposed to look like anything else’s but my own. So, reading this today rang true and clear.

I don’t follow the typical “rules” of society. If that were the case I’d be in the white picket-fenced house with a two-car garage and a family of four, not because it’s what I want, but because it’s what I’m “supposed” to do as a young woman of forever 25. I’m not sure where the seed was planted by society to set up boxes of artificial rules that are only applicable to…hmmmm…NO ONE! And everyone buys into it at some point until you become confident enough in yourself to be okay with “breaking the rules.”

I live my life according to the journey and path God has set out for me. This path is not always smooth sailing; it’s not supposed to be. It’s full of obstacles and detours. But, this life of mine has taken me overseas, allowed me to see places I never thought would be possible, placed me living in multiple states, provided me with multiple job opportunities and a professional career, has removed seasonal people from my life when its their time to go and left me with amazing people who are here to stay. Is everyday sunshine and rainbows for me? No. Are there things that I sometimes wish were already in place? Sure. I’m human. But overall I am filled with a feeling of content and happiness, because I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 

So, when people ask me “how do you do what you do with the strength in which you do it?”, all I can say is all of THIS is beyond me. In fact, it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him. But, that’s just my journey…

…And I’m sticking to it!

Eating Orange Chicken While Learning To Be Human

It was one of those days today. You know the kind, where you cannot wait to leave work because your eyes are so heavy you’re about to drop. I barely made the one minute walk it takes me to get from my office to my apartment (I guess I’m kind of lucky that way). As soon as I got home I threw on pajamas, poured a glass of wine, and stared at my bed, tempted to just turn out the lights and go to sleep. Did I mention it was 5:30pm?

But I was hungry, out of fresh produce, and the only meal-type substance was the Trader Joes’s package of frozen orange chicken that I intended to combine with left over brown rice. A dinner that I would normally crave every once in awhile, but then close the freezer instead and turn to grilled chicken and fresh veggies. But today the package came out. Because it was a long day, and I was hungry.

As I took the finished chicken out of the oven and poured that oh so yummy orange glaze over it, my stomach turned just a little. What was that? Had to be nothing. One night of breaded, high fructose-glazed chicken wasn’t going to kill me, right?

I got down a bowl, filled it with rice, added the chicken, and made sure to get some of the extra glaze with a spoon. But as I saw down and ate it, I found myself overcome with a feeling of dissatisfaction. All I could think about was “I wish I hadn’t been so lazy to drive the 5 minutes it takes to get to the grocery store and make a fresh meal. How much yummier a fresh green salad would taste right about now.” You know the feeling – when your body is so used to eating “healthy” (a relative term – but for me meaning no fried or breaded foods, low in calories and fat, etc.) and you go off the course KNOWING it’s not going to be good for you, but you give in to tempation anyway? Yet all it results in is a yucky stomach and pounds of regret? Yah, that one.

So as I sat, eating my orange chicken, wishing I had stuck with my gut knowing what the outcome would be but doing it anyways, wishing I had made better choices, I reflected on life choices. I thought about the difficult and challenging decisions I have had to make along my journey to get to where I am today. I thought about being stuck in that moment of feeling that causes us to forget about all of the hard work and hard decisions we’ve had to make for ourselves and our well-being in order to get to the point in which we’re at right now…and for all of it to go downhill or backwards in that moment of weakness. It’s the same story each time, and it only leaves feelings of dissatisfaction, guilt, regret, and sometimes disappointment (in ourselves).

So as I sat, eating my orange chicken, thinking about it’s metaphor for all of the other things in my life, I stopped. I listened to my [now disgruntled] gut and realized I know what’s best for me!

Life’s choices aren’t easy. There’s plenty of times I want to contact someone from the past knowing the end result is always going to be the same and it never turns out any good. There’s that sweet tooth of mine that would rather be eating fruit tarts and Subway cookies instead of fresh made juices and smoothies. Oh, and don’t forget about the infamous Snooze button that I’d rather press in the morning instead of getting out of bed and getting in some exercise.

Life is a constant battle of choice. As I continue living and learning, I’m learning to allow myself to focus on my accomplishments and achievements. I am learning to leave room for forgiveness of myself for the mistakes I am sure to make along the way. I will not get so deep rooted in moments of mishap that I allow myself to get completely off course, because I will recognize that I am human.

We live and we learn! BUT, the next time I see some orange chicken, I will most DEFINITELY be running the other way!

Running for the right reasons

Today I posted this on my Facebook page:

I appreciate my friends and FB community that continue to encourage each other towards health and wellness. We’re all on different paths: some of us trying to incorporate better habits, some looking for the motivation to continue working out, or even just to start. 

Knowing this, it saddens me to see posts resembling discouragement and attempts to gain body image validation. No one needs to hear how much we weigh or what our numbers are. How do we know posts about how “overweight” we think we may be (knowing good and well we aren’t) isn’t impacting someone else who may be really struggling with that issue? 

We all have set standards in terms of body image that we set for ourselves in how we want to look, but let’s continue to EMPOWER and ENCOURAGE one another towards a healthy and long-lasting lifetime. 🙂

Blogging, luckily, allows me to expand my thoughts without overflowing a News Feed. 🙂

I was surprised by how well received this message was. Not because I didn’t think it was a good message, but what it made me realize is how easy it is be consumed by society and its definition of beauty. Why are you motivated to go to the gym? Is it because you want to be a better you? Or are you looking to fit a socially-constructed standard? Sometimes I have to ask myself this same question from time to time. 

History: I always wanted to be a Dietician. If someone asked me right now “If you could be anything you wanted in life right now without any barriers, what would it be?” My answer would be, “To become a Dietician.” Maybe it’s the multiple genetic ailments I am prone to and try my best to beat those inheritances, or maybe it’s just my love of food and finding better ways to eat what I love. Either way, I’ve always been interested in health, fitness and how these things affect our holistic well being. But rather in excelling in biological sciences, I excelled in communication and human development. Darn my interpersonal people skills!! 

Back to the present: In spite of this, I am finding new ways to share and dialogue about my love of food, health, and fitness in positive and transformational ways with others. I can care less about how much you weigh. Heck, I don’t even want to know how much I weigh! With the images on TV and in the media, with shows like Keeping up with Kardashians (who said we had to keep up with them anyways? #sidenote), we’re almost trained to find the flaws within ourselves. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I looked in the mirror wishing certain rolls, wrinkles, and dents would disappear. But I’m no longer interested in society’s definition of beauty. I’m not interested in society’s attempt to define me in terms of this “defined beauty.” I’m interested in living a full, healthy, and happy life. Posting a freshly made juice here, a new creative dinner there…not only is it fun for me, but I am happy to know that I’m able to be a positive motivator to others as much as others continue to motivate and positively influence me. 

I’m not interested in tearing others done. I’m interested in lifting others up!! Think about how much better the world would be if this were everyone’s life philosophy? 🙂 We all need an extra push here and there. I love seeing friends’ FB posts about their runs, new recipes, and overcoming the infamous SNOOZE button! 

Learning to be no one else but a better me continues to be a long and difficult journey. I work at it every day. But, as I continue to grow, it become easier. 

So, as I continue on the journey of becoming a better me, I thank you in joining me, and I ask that you continue to keep me going, just as I’ll try to do the same thing for you. 😀

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Always aiming to be a better me!

 

Now…where did I put my chocolate bar? Everything in moderation! We only live once, right? 😉

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For the love of dark chocolate…and life!