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Reflections on Gratitude

“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally “count our blessings,” give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.” — Shakti Gawain

The devastation and tragedy that has and is continuing to take place in Haiti has really forced me to put my life in perspective.  I’m typically someone who tries to show my gratitude every day, but like so many other people, I can often let the most trivial things bother me.  In the grand scheme of life, this is not OK.  In taking some time to pause and reflect on my life, I have come to truly appreciate just how lucky I am.

After reading an inspiring post by Ashley on Daily Goods earlier, I couldn’t help but start coming up with a list of all that I am grateful for in my life.  I encourage everyone who reads this post to do the same.

This is my list.

1. Roof over my head

I have a place where I can be safe at any time.  This roof protects me and my loved ones from the sometimes harsh outside world.  When the weather is cold, I can be cozy and warm.  When the weather is hot, I can cool down.  I have doors and windows that lock making me feel secure. Many people do not have this. There are places in the world, including your very own city, where people do not have a place to protect themselves.  They face all weather conditions.  They face dangerous situations when the sun goes down.  Some are not even protected by a roof and four walls.  There are people who at any time can have their houses bombarded by tyrant governments and militias. I am grateful.

2.  Clean water

I have filtered water through my refrigerator.  And if I didn’t have this, I could buy a filtration system.  And if I couldn’t afford that, I would at least have water running through the faucet in my kitchen, which I could boil on my stove top.  Many people do not have this. There are places in the world where people have to walk for miles and miles just to access water, not clean filtered water either.  They must carry this water back to their homes in order to boil it for safety.  Many people die because they do not have access to water at all.  I am grateful.

3. Abundance of Food

I not only have food stocked in my fridge, freezer, and pantry; I have healthy, organic, and natural food.  I have access to local farmer’s markets and organic grocery stores.  I also have a chain grocery store that sells unlimited food directly across the street from my apartment.  If I’m making a recipe and forget an ingredient, I am able to get it in less than 5 minutes. I have a choice in what I eat.  Many people do not have this. World hunger statistics are scary.  1,021,110,977 people are under-nourished, 13,789 people have died of hunger TODAY, 412,966 people have died of hunger this YEAR (note it’s mid-January), and 63,694 tons of food were wasted in America TODAY (Source).  Keep in mind this number is growing.  Check the stats later today and you will be blown away. I am grateful.

4. Ability to Smile/Laugh

This one might seem silly, but think about it.  If you’re reading this, it means you have access to the Internet, which means you have the ability to watch funny videos, read funny websites, or laugh at funny pictures.  There are so many opportunities to smile and laugh throughout our days.  Whether it is a compliment received, a message from an old friend, or funny show on TV, I can not count the amount of times I smile or laugh each day.  Many people do not have this. There are people battling depression and other mental disorders which cause a heavy and deep sadness in their hearts.  There are people who are in actual physical pain every day, from battling various diseases.  There are people whose problems are SO big that smiling seems near impossible.  Although I am a firm believer that your mindset can change your life, there is no doubt that smiling and laughing are luxuries and come easier to some of us than others. I am grateful.

5. Pets

I look at our cats and can’t help but feel happy.  Knowing they were all rescued from lives that were not so great keeps my heart light.  We are able to provide them a comfortable home , homemade food, play, and lots of love.  Many animals do not have this. So many animals are confined in dark, dirty, and crowded crates.  Both domestic and animals used for food.  Many are not provided with proper nutrition.  Many never know what love feels like.  Many never live out a full and vibrant life.  Many live out their shorts lives with abuse and torment.  For the ability to care for my beautiful babies, I am grateful.

6. Transportation

I have a vehicle that gets me everywhere I need to go.  If that vehicle breaks down, I have friends who could give me a ride.  If they were busy, I have access to public transportation.  I live in a world where planes, boats, and trains can take me to new, exciting places.  I have two legs that allow me to walk should all other transportation fail. Many people do not have this. There are people who have no legs or do not have the ability to use them.  There are people who don’t own cars that can take them far distances.  There are places with no public transportation.  There are people who live their whole lives in the same small space due to these factors. I am grateful.

7. My Health

I fuel my body with nutritious foods.  I can work out at a gym or go for a walk outside.  In comparison to so many others, the little pain I may feel on occasion is nothing to complain about.  I have no diseases that plague my body.  If I were to get sick, I have the resources and people in my life to help me get better.  Many people do not have this. Millions of people suffer from mental and physical diseases.  Every day brings new challenges.  Some people live the majority of their lives in a hospital being poked and prodded with various medical tools.  They may be forced to take drugs and go through procedures that in turn make them feel worse.  They may rarely experience the beauty of the outside world.  Others do not even have access to health care, forcing them to experience a long, lonely and painful battle. I am grateful.

8.  Community

One thing I’ve learned from blogging is that there are a whole lot of people out there who can help me become the person I want to be.  I’m able to read others’ stories, get to know them, and ask them for advice.  I can become good friends with people who I’ve never even met in person and who live 1,000s of miles away.  I live in a city with groups for any and every kind of interest and hobby.  Everywhere I look, there is some group of people able to help me achieve my goals or provide me with companionship.  Many people do not have this.  There are people who live isolated lives and must achieve their goals without the help of others.  There are people who are so judged by the outside world that they never find a place where they feel accepted.  And there are even those who do not have access to the Internet and therefore never get to experience the powerful impact that millions of others around the world can have on you.  All they may ever know are their immediate surroundings.  I am grateful.

9. Ability to Help Others

I am able to volunteer my time and donate my money to others who are not as fortunate as I am.  I can spend time with someone who is feeling lonely.  I can lend an ear to a friend who is going through a hard time.  I can use my creativity to create things that make others smile.  Because of the amazing opportunities I have been given, I am able to give to others.  Many people do not have this. In a world with so much turmoil, there are people who have to focus all of their energy simply on making it through another day.  When survival is your main priority, it’s nearly impossible to be able to help others.  And like they say, in order to help others, you first must help yourself.  I am grateful.

10. Being Able to Make Mistakes

Yes, you read it correctly.  I spent my whole childhood trying to be perfect and learned very little about myself.  Living on auto-pilot and doing the “right” things to make others happy is no way to go through life.  I am grateful for every rash and stupid mistake I’ve ever made since those times.  As hard as some of the lessons may have been to learn, they helped mold me into the person I currently am.  I transferred schools on impulse.  I’ve blown money and credit cards on things that really didn’t matter.  I quit jobs that didn’t immediately satisfy my longing for something better.  While I don’t consider these all mistakes now, I did at the time.  Although they put me through difficult times, I know they all happened for a reason.  Many people do not have this.  For some people, a mistake may mean being abandoned by your family or loved ones.  It may mean criticism and feelings of worthlessness.  For others, a mistake might mean you can’t get something or someone you love back.  And for some, a mistake can mean the end of their lives. I am grateful.

11. Fiancé

From my impulse decision to transfer schools, I was able to meet the love of my life.  I get to spend every day with someone who loves me more than the world, as I love him.  I have someone to sleep by my side on dark nights and someone to cheer me up when I’m having an off-day.  Many people do not have this. There are people who search their whole lives for their soul mate and never find them.  There are people who are married, but who are not truly happy or satisfied.  There are people who are in love but unable to share equality by law or unable to openly show their love due to harsh judgment.  There are people who are in abusive relationships with no escape.  There are people who must be apart from their loved ones for months or years at a time.  And there are people who have lost the love of their life.  I am grateful.

12. Family and Friends

I have family and friends, who despite many of my crazy decisions, love me regardless.  I know that no matter where my life takes me, whether good or bad, I have their undying support.  I know that were I to lose everything tangible in my life, I would have a place to stay filled with love.  Many people do not have this. There are people who have lost their whole families to a tragedy.  There are people who have been disowned by their families.  There are people who were given up at birth or a later point in their lives and forced to create their own family.  Some people never experience a family at all.  There are even people who still have family around, but a family that is unwilling to help them or show them love. I am grateful.

13. Freedom

As much as we like to complain about the government and the “restrictions” in our lives, the reality is we have it made.  We have the freedom of choice.  If we’re not happy with something, we can fix it.  We have more luxuries than nearly every other country in the world, and as much as we like to blame big business and big government, the truth is that it is our individual choices that make the difference.  If we really want change, it starts with ourselves.  We can’t depend on a few people to make us happy.  The more we focus on that, the longer it will take to make progress.  And if we do become that unhappy with our country, we have the freedom to move somewhere different.  Most people do not have this. Many parts of the world are ruled by governments that severely limit individual freedom.  There are millions of people who live in some form of slavery.  There are places where women are still viewed as objects, rather than equal individuals.  There are people who do not have freedom of speech and could be killed for writing the way we so freely do on our blogs and in our books and magazines.  I am grateful.

14. My Mind

The mind is perhaps the most powerful thing we have as individuals.  Regardless of your situation in life, the mind can transcend you to a very different time and place.  The thoughts we think have the power to transform our lives.  We are able to think intellectually with it, as well as create masterpieces.  The minute I changed my thoughts from constant complaints and negativity was the minute I literally set my life on the most inspiring path.  Many people do not have this. There are people who have suffered brain damage from accidents or disease.  Their entire personality may have been changed from such an occurrence.  There are people who live their lives as “vegetables” unable to effectively communicate or even think the numerous and amazing thoughts that once filled their minds.  By losing the ability to think, they have lost the most powerful trait we have as humans.    I am grateful.

15. The Air I Breathe

Were I to lose everything I just mentioned and still have the air I breathe, it would mean I still have a fighting chance.  So long as I am alive and breathing, I know my journey is not yet over.  Every time I inhale and exhale represents more life I have to live.  And believe you me, I will do everything in my power to continue living such a rewarding life.

I AM GRATEFUL.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.  My hope is that it got you thinking about some of the people and things you are most grateful for in your own life.  Although I am grateful for many, many, many more than 15 things, I believe these are the foundation.  Remember to seize every opportunity that enters your life and never take what you have for granted, even if it doesn’t seem like much.  I truly believe that as you start to show appreciation for what you have, the more you will start to receive.

So look around and smile.  And know that where you are now is exactly where you are meant to be.  The thoughts you have now will create your future, so focus only on what makes you happy and never settle for less.  Take chances to live out your dreams.

With this I also wanted to leave you with a link from Google listing some of the many ways you can help the victims in Haiti.  Even if you, yourself, do not have a penny to your name, you can spread the word by posting on social networks, tweeting on Twitter, blogging about it, or telling those around you.  Everything little bit helps!

Here’s the link:

WAYS TO HELP HAITI

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A Fresh New Start in 2010 – Our Story and Goals for the Ten in 10

I’ve never really been a big fan of resolutions.  Of course, I’ve always told myself I was going to change this or that and then rarely took the steps to actually do it once January 1 hit.  Looking back, it’s clear to me why this always happened.  I simply wasn’t prepared.

I don’t mean “not prepared” as in I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t do something.  I mean “not prepared” as in I didn’t equip myself with the proper knowledge, tools, and motivation to achieve my goals effectively.

Our Story

As Dustin and I have been on a weight loss journey since last spring, I can honestly say this is the first New Year’s where I am positive my goals will be met.  Last April the two of us joined SparkPeople with the hopes of losing some weight.  We not only lost close to 30 pounds each, but we also began an eye-opening journey into the world of food.

We’ve always loved cooking together.  In fact, we loved cooking so much that within two years of dating we both put on some major pounds, or as Dustin’s mom put so nicely: happy fat.  You know, the kind of weight you put on because you’ve met that one person who loves you regardless of how you look.  We were so happy and in love that we just got comfortable.  We loved cooking steaks, Chinese food, and buttery dishes.  We also spent lots of time (and money) eating out or on the go.  After nearly two years of eating extremely poorly, we not only started noticing differences in our bodies, but also in the way we felt.  We were losing motivation, were always lethargic, and simply didn’t have the zest for life that we each had before meeting one another.  As much as we were happy together, we became miserable as individuals.

Close to our heaviest weights--we took most pictures only from the chest up at that time

Everything changed the minute we found SparkPeople and a little book called Eat to Live by Joel Furhman.  Initially we simply practiced portion control and working out.  The weight did come off, which felt great, but after reading Eat to Live, eating smaller portions of any kind of food simply wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  We were both disgusted and dismayed to learn about the various industrial food practices that take place, as well as the kinds of ingredients that get put into our main food supply.  We couldn’t believe that no one ever taught us this in school.

I would be lying if I said that the changes we made were easy.  It was difficult. We fought many times about whether we were “taking it too far” or if we even had the money to eat organic and natural food.  We found ourselves constantly scanning ingredients on every package.  Every time we thought we found something healthy, I would point out another ingredient that made it bad.  Suddenly many of our “go-to” healthy choices were no longer healthy.  It became an extremely stressful process and at times made us wish we could have remained in our state of  ignorant bliss.

Eventually though, we began to appreciate the journey.  We knew that to avoid the stress, all we had to do was stick to foods closest to their natural source.  We began to buy groceries at Whole Foods and farmer’s markets in order to avoid all of the temptations in mainstream grocery chains.  By choosing to only buy from sources that sell food in its purest form, it became not only an easier experience, but a more enjoyable one as well.  Not to mention, we’ve actually learned to spend less money on groceries by changing to a more healthy diet.  Fast food, restaurants, and junk food were for so long the main cause of financial burdens and we never even realized it.

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In addition to reading more books on health, food, and fitness, we also began following blogs last summer.  It was so inspiring to find an even wider community of people who were living the kind of lifestyle for which we were striving.  Although we’ve personally only been blogging for about a month, we already feel the wonderful effects of being part of such an amazing group of people.  It is the best feeling in the world when you find people who really understand exactly what you’re going through and can guide you on your journey.

We have been far from perfect in trying to change our unhealthy habits.  We love going out to new restaurants, sometimes eat from non-organic sources, take comfort in junk food on occasions, and fell off the bandwagon when it comes to fitness.  Despite our slip-ups, one constant has remained.  We have kept the off the weight we lost last summer.  In fact, we kept it off effortlessly.  Because we changed our habits and didn’t actually “diet”, there has been no chance for us to gain the weight back.

We have no desire to EVER go back to the way we used to live.  Changing our diet has poured over into so many other areas of our lives and for that reason alone, we know we are on a path that will only keep bringing us in a more positive direction.  We still have a ways to go, but we are ready for each and every challenge that lies before us.

With that, we bring your our goals for the Ten in ’10 Challenge.  We plan to go more in depth on certain goals in later posts in order to explain why we chose them.  We will also post a separate entry on our overall goals for the whole year.  So stay tuned for that!

TEN IN ’10 GOALS

  • No meat for 10 weeks (eggs, dairy still allowed)

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  • Eat one BIG salad per day

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  • Drink one green smoothie per day


  • Complete Couch to 5K Challenge (9 weeks)

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  • Run our first 5K race in week 10

(source)

  • Do Yoga at home at least 3 days per week

(source)

  • Walk/hike on one local trail per week


  • Always carry water

(source)

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep

(source)

  • Eat more whole, unprocessed food

(source)

  • Lose 1-2 pounds per week

(source)

  • Take part in Whittle My Middle challenge for 30 days

  • Limit alcohol to special occasions (ie birthdays, holidays, family visits, etc)

(source)

This may seem like a hefty list, but overall, most of our goals are just small changes we need to make in our everyday life.  We’ve already started many of them and love how great we’ve been feeling in just a few days.   We view the Ten in ’10 as the foundation for long-lasting habits.  Keep reading our blog for weekly updates on the progress we’re making.

Hope you enjoyed learning more about us and what brought us to blogging.  We’d love to hear from you and learn about your goals and resolutions!  If you have a blog, link back to your resolutions page in the comments below or feel free to just let us know some of the changes you are planning to make in the coming year!

How Bizarre, How Bazaar

Quick, funny story about the title of this post.  Ever since we decided to go to the “Keep Austin Bizarre” Bazaar, I couldn’t get the song, “How Bizarre” out of my head.  Of course, I thought it would be the perfect title!  Well this morning, Dustin was sitting in our office with the door shut, and I was out sitting on the couch with my laptop.  We were chatting on Facebook while 20 feet away from each other (Seriously? Other people do this, right?), and I asked him if he liked the idea of using “How Bizarre, How Bazaar” as the title.  Within five seconds, before he even responded to me, I could hear the song playing from behind the closed doors!  I took that as a YES!

We went to the bazaar last night with our friends, Lauren and Jason, whom I am sure you will see many times on our blog.  Before we headed out, they met us at our place and Jason cooked us some delicious whole wheat rotini with vegetable primavera sauce and ground turkey (sans turkey for Lauren 😉 ) .  We also whipped together a quick salad, LOADED with chia seeds, as you can see.

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We ate, chatted, and quickly realized it was already 8:30 before we actually left!  We planned to leave by 7:30.  Oops.  We recently started working on planning and time management though.  Thanks, NERD KERF and Google Calendar!

We really had no idea what to expect at the event.  None of us had ever gone, but we heard the word “FREE” and it was a done deal!

Here’s the entrance.  Even the banner was homemade!  Keepin’ it classy, Austin. 😉

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Our very first stop, which also happened to be where we spent a good chunk of the evening, was at the Scented Sea Crystals table:

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We couldn’t resist.  The scents were amazing coming from it!  We got to chat for a while with the owner and genius behind the patent, Jerry Edelman.

Here’s some information about the sea crystals.  This won’t be the last time you hear about them.   Let’s just say this wonderful company wanted to share some samples.  😉 So stay tuned for more information and ideas on how to use them!

Scented sea crystals:

  • Come from the Caribbean Islands
  • Are infused with high quality essential oils
  • Release ions into the air to eliminate odor (and absorb odor)
  • Are non-toxic and pet-safe
  • No smoke, water, or flame involved
  • Last a VERY long time and are renewable
  • Come in 60 different scents!

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The few samples we brought home freshened up the pockets we held them in, the car, and now the room in our apartment where they are sitting.  And that is with them being in plastic bags!  All night, Lauren couldn’t stop commenting on how amazing her gloves smelled.  Seriously, we couldn’t stop raving about these babies!

Eventually, we continued on.  We hadn’t even made it to the heated tent yet!

The picture below was originally where “Pictures with Santa” took place, but he was long gone and in bed before we arrived.  We decided to take our own!

Best friend picture with unplanned coordinating Christmas pea coats:

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Couple pictures ❤ :

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Aren’t Lauren and Jason adorable?  They recently started their own blogs, as well!  Lauren’s blog is Somethin’ Outta Nothin’, where she documents tips and tricks for starting over completely from scratch in a new city.  Jay’s blog is A Brand New Path, where he writes about his journey of self-exploration and growth as he ventures into new territories, having lived in one small town for the majority of his life.  Both share great information and reflections on how to live a happy and satisfying life.  Truly inspiring for anyone considering taking a big risk or making a big move!

Back to the BAZAAR.

The boys took many of the pictures throughout the night.  They both had quite the fascination with these light decorations. Doesn’t it look like a cartoon? Pretty cool!

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Next up was the Aldea table, where there were adorable hand-woven scarves and coin purses.  Aldea is such a wonderful company!  Their mission is:

To connect artisans from developing countries to YOU, sharing their authentic stories through the beautiful goods they make.

They work directly with the local artisans, providing them with microcredit loans to buy the necessary materials to make their products and giving them access to larger markets outside of their local areas.  I encourage you to check out their website to learn more about the awesome efforts they are making!

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There is so much support for entrepreneurs, organic living, and environmental causes all throughout Austin.  This city is just bursting with positive vibes.  Honestly, if it were not for Austin, I sometimes wonder if we would be on this amazing path towards happier and healthier living.

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Next up were some 100% natural and organic hygiene and beauty products.  Lauren and I each got a nice mini arm massage with shea butter from the kind gentleman selling the products.  He had us compare the arm with shea butter to the one without, and we all agreed it made it a huge difference!  I think Dustin wished he got some.

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Shea butter works excellent as:

  • A moisturizer
  • Hair conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Cooking lard
  • Medicinal ointment (for dry skin/rashes)
  • Soap and candle-making
  • And many many more things!

Here’s Lauren getting her mini-massage!

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Some of the other products: soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t get to snap a photo of every artisan booth, but there were plenty more local businesses promoting great products.  Everything from jewelry to paintings to DIY crafts.

We ended the night by enjoying some music by one of the local bands (on a decked-out stage…SO Austin!):DSCN2415

I also managed to get a fun clip of some people dancing!  They really represent what life is all about: having fun and being unapologetically yourself!

Overall, we had a great night!  We got to hang out with close friends, meet unique and inspiring entrepreneurs, and create a totally new holiday tradition!

Later tonight we’ll be watching some Christmas movies and eating yummy food over Lauren and Jason’s, so hold tight for that.

Also, don’t forget to check back for some fun stuff involving the Scented Sea Crystals!

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Question of the day: What is the most unique/interesting holiday tradition you have ever been to or been a part of?

The “Keep Austin Bizarre” Bazaar will definitely go down as a First for us!

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“Haters, they gonna hate”…and lovers are going to love!

Yes, I just quoted a 3LW (3 Little Women) song.  Does anyone else remember that group?  Let me refresh your memory.

Only choosing the classy inspiration for my readers

I have to admit when I was younger I was just obsessed with the song because it was fun to dance to.  And I’m sure I occasionally sang it in reference to mean people at school.  But now as an adult (when did that happen?!), I’m actually pretty impressed with the message.  (Whatever if it was written by some cookie-cutter pop song writers.  I don’t judge.)

The message, of course, is that there will always be people who find fault in what you do or find reasons to criticize you or tell you all the reasons why what you’re doing is stupid and crazy, as if they are experts in the game of life.  Newsflash: No one knows everything, and last time I checked no one could definitively tell you exactly how your life will turn out.  Key word being definitively.  Psychics don’t count.

Anyways, the negative people I’m talking about are what positive people call ENERGY VAMPIRES (no, not sexy Twilight vampires…they’re OK).  The kind of vampires I’m talking about literally suck every last drop of positive and optimistic energy you had, whether it be for an idea, person, or general zest for life, and leave you completely emotionally drained.  I’m sure you have been there!

More like this kind of vampire. BAD! No thanks.

But you know what?  I have finally reached a point in my life where I just don’t care.  Bring on the stupidity and rash decisions!  At least I’ll know I lived and tried.  Tis’ better to hurt from risk than be numb from never changing.

Think of how much energy we, humans, waste on people who drag us down.  Or how much we get caught up in the “drama” of other people’s lives.  Seriously, we have one of the greatest powers of all: the power of choice.  And so often, we forget to use it.  It took me until this past year to wake up and realize how powerful CHOICE is.  We set our lives on autopilot and LET things happen to us, when in reality, we can choose to change how we think or what we’re doing at ANY time.  Yes, any time.

I leave you with a little Jack Johnson to dwell on.  From his song “Wasting Time”:

“But everybody thinks
That everybody knows
About everybody else
Nobody knows anything about themselves
‘Cause they’re all worried about everybody else”

My hope for you is that you spend your time on Earth wisely.  Learn all you can about YOURSELF.  What makes you happy?  What drives you?  What will you want to look back on in your final days?  Until you know yourself, you really can’t be of help to others.

Love those around you.  Encourage others, even if it’s not something you would personally do.  And don’t take matters too seriously.  The things that seem SO tragic now will eventually fade with time.  Life is meant to be fun.  Don’t be the damper on anyone else’s parade.

More to come on this topic in future posts…

Question of the day:  Has anyone ever tried to stop you from going after your goal?  If so, how did you it make you feel?  Did you overcome the negativity and achieve it anyways?