A Few Thoughts on Nourishment

It’s time for us all to let go of the idea of low calorie diets and begin to understand what it means to truly nourish ourselves.

Consuming natural, whole food sources that provide lean protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for our bodies to run efficiently is the best place to start. Clean, unprocessed foods will fill us up faster and give us what we need to feel and be balanced.

Does that mean we have to stop enjoying food from now on? No. In fact, it can be enjoyable to eat clean, natural foods, we just have to try it consistently enough to develop the habit.

Does that mean we NEVER indulge and we give up alcohol forever and ONLY eat and drink natural food sources? No. Straying that far away from whatever you enjoy now will not be realistic nor sustainable.

Does that mean we TRY to make healthy food choices at LEAST 80-90% of the time and make a consistent effort to limit our indulgences to only 10% of the time? Absolutely!

Start with whatever you typically eat and drink now and then make adjustments from there. Be aware of what you enjoy, why you enjoy it and who or where you happen to be when you do. Then you can identify when indulgence becomes more than that 10-20% of your daily, weekly and monthly habits and you can start opting some of them out for healthy alternatives.

Once we see how food can nourish us and we choose to do so 90% of the time (especially combined with muscle-building physical activity) calories no longer become the issue or a concern.

~V~

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Darn This Sweet Tooth!

As my schedule continues to change and I fill my days and weeks with more and more activities, I find that I’m making less time for things that I still truly enjoy.  One of which was keeping my house clean and in order but I’ll keep working on that.  The other is writing this blog which I am so passionate about but can take hours out of any day.  Since I’m naturally long-winded I’m going to start focusing on one simple swap or adjustment that either continues to work for me or something new I’m willing to try and maybe we can work on one new change at a time together.

Darn this sweet tooth!

This week is going to be all about keeping this sweet tooth of mine in check.  I’ve said it over and over that I’m no fan of deprivation.  I just don’t believe in cutting out an indulgence because for me that often means a binge of said sweetness whenever my willpower is a little on the weaker side.  I’m much more of a fan of making the best choices possible 80% of the time and allowing a bite or two of something here and there.  But after the last several months I went way past “here and there” in the sweet department and now am having to readjust my habits, again.

sweets

So my quick adjustment for as long as I need to break that sweet tooth habit is to flank each desired indulgence with as many fruits as possible.  The natural (water-based) source of sweet combined with the added benefits of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber will gradually train my body to be satisfied with the good stuff and eventually crave it more.  It has worked for me before and it’s starting to work for me again now.  I’m armed with pieces of fruit at home, at the office and anywhere I go and if I see a piece of chocolate I really want to try or a cookie that I decide I don’t want to pass up before it goes the fruit and then after as well.  I do this with my meals, too.  It’s already starting to help adjust my cravings and I’m feeling much more in control which feels like such a relief after these last several months.

It’s my opinion that you can never have too many fruits–or vegetables, for that matter.  It’s true that it would be taking in extra calories and sugar to eat fruit before and after everything else or even if you weren’t really hungry but compared to the alternative, I’m willing to take in that excess.  Mostly because I’m trying to create a good habit which can’t be done by eliminating foods that we crave.  I find my body responds much better by developing a new craving for a more nutritious option than to just cut out something it’s used to with no alternative for satisfaction.

If you have the same tendency as I do towards sweets try this tip out and let me know what you think!  It takes at least a couple of weeks to create a new habit so stick with it and stay consistent and maybe we’ll revisit this one again next month.  Cheers to healthy living!

Love,

V

Commit with Awareness and Keep it Simple

Commit with Awareness and Keep it Simple

When we take a look at all of the different programs available on the market for healthy living, it can be seriously overwhelming.  There are so many different theories, some of which are contradictory, and with all of the promises out there, how do you know which methods to follow?  In my personal experience, the only techniques that really work are those that are simple and continue to keep the momentum slow and steady and therefore encourage long-term changes.

Most of the tips out there we’ve all heard before, especially if you follow this blog, but reminding ourselves of some of these really basic ideas will help it actually click for us one day.  It’s worth it to consistently surround yourself with motivating resources that encourage health and wellness because one day, you will be ready to make that change, and it will truly register for you once and for all.  Remember, we’re in this for life!  The only tips I’m willing to follow myself are realistic enough to at least try and maybe, one day, become a regular habit.  Join me in some of the commitments below and see which ones work best for you if not all of them.  This is your journey.  Explore every bit of it that you can.

I’m committed to making a change.  This sounds like I’m stating the obvious, right?  Well, not really.  Not when I still talk with people who say they want to make a change or live better or feel better or make better choices but they don’t.  Here’s the thing, whatever excuses we come up with, that’s all they are—excuses.  People make time to do what they really care about doing.  Whatever it is, what they invest their time in is their choice.  When you’re ready to make a change, you will, and with awareness you can start altering your lifestyle in the way that works best for you.

I commit to not eat anything after 7pm.  This is certainly easier on some days more than others and it also has to do with my particular schedule.  For the most part, we’re up around 6am every day (if not earlier) and in bed by 930pm so this works for me on nights we don’t go out.  There’s something about the way I personally eat or snack after this time of day.  By trying this simple tweak to my daily habits I found that any eating I did after this hour was more out of boredom or habit because this is when my husband and I typically wind down from the day together and just hang out on the couch.  Commit to learning your own habits and figure out what needs to be tweaked so you can start cutting out the mindless eating we all tend to do from time to time.

I commit to (at least) taking a 30 minute walk every day.  This is an easy one to tailor to your own lifestyle.  Simply put, if you’re currently sedentary, the least you could do is take 30 minutes off of the couch and go for a brisk easy walk outside or do a 30 minute workout video inside.  If you’re moderately active, try an hour-long class somewhere and try something new until you find something you love and will keep doing.  Take small, simple, easy steps to make physical activity a regular part of your lifestyle and your body will eventually begin to crave it.  Push too hard and you may end up quitting before it becomes a true habit.  Go too easy on yourself and you may not feel the benefits enough to be motivated to keep going.  Find the balance of what you can do and what you need to do to make exercise in one form or another part of your daily life.

I commit to drinking a glass of water before every meal or snack.  This is so important for everyone who still has to drink a glass of something other than water when feeling thirsty.  Here’s what helped me—feeling thirsty is your body’s way of telling you that you need hydration.  The only thing that truly satisfies that is water.  So out of the desire to not dehydrate myself, I began to drink water anytime I felt thirsty and the more I did the more it was all I craved.  Drinking anything else when you’re not regularly hydrated just adds more calories, sugars or artificial junk that your body doesn’t truly need at all, ever.  Don’t even worry about how much you drink for now.  Just start drinking before you eat anything and your habits will begin to change over time.  This tip is an easy one to incorporate and the benefits really are endless.

Keep your focus steady and make your changes simple.  Don’t worry about the big, end results—you’re not working towards a goal here so much as you are improving your journey towards healthy living.  If you are focused on a big payout, an end result that’s going to suddenly be the end-all be-all of your current life and create your happily-ever-after, I would rethink your expectations.  What often happens with that mindset is more of a yo-yo effect:  super-charged up and ready to push hard and motivated by the “I’ll be happy when…” mentality and when you don’t reach your goal or you hit your plateau, you’re back to where you started and your old habits are current again.  Give yourself a chance to succeed and make these commitments now because you deserve it.  You always have.

Love,

V

Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Greetings, all!  I’m so happy to be back on this journey of health and wellness and I thank you for joining me.  After taking a month or so off of HLbyV, I realize that writing this blog really does keep my own habits in check and I’m so excited to find my focus with you again.  Now that we’ve all settled back into our daily routine, many of us are also trying out new approaches to reach new goals.  As I struggle to find time to evaluate my own aspirations and new methods to reach them, it occurs to me that in order to be successful, the pace at which we go about our everyday life is a huge factor.

Here’s the thing—we pretty much already have the tools we need to make significant changes towards a healthy lifestyle.  We know what we’re supposed to do and we certainly know the basic factors that can help us be successful—so what’s holding us back?  I would say that for many of us, our busy lifestyles allow for our days to get away from us and we continue to go, go, go through the motions without appreciating or being mindful of the present.  As a result, we make the excuse that we don’t have time for healthy habits or we continue to act as though we don’t know any better.  If we don’t slow down and learn to make mindful decisions we are guaranteed that our current state of physical, mental and emotional health will remain just as it is.

To start, our nutritional habits are something we can all focus on right away.  Every day and every time we eat, we have the opportunity to choose mindfully and eat much more slowly than we do and it could make all the difference in our overall lifestyle.  Too many of us let convenience and time constraints dictate the way we choose our snacks and meals as well as how fast we consume them.  Unfortunately, we’ve become a society that prefers quick and easy over quality and nutritional value and very few can appreciate a meal long enough to have it last more than 15 – 20 minutes.  Eating habits like these easily set us up for an unhealthy foundation on which to build upon anything else we want to achieve.

Start the process of satisfying your hunger by first being more thoughtful of your choices and prepare your meals and snacks in advance.  In our house, grocery shopping includes plenty of fresh produce, various sources of whole grain and lean protein but we also plan for meals I can make in larger quantities on the weekend so they last us throughout the week.  This helps us prepare for several days of healthy eating even when we’re on the go or too tired to prepare something new.

Secondly, when you do take time to eat, also take time to enjoy it!  For those of us (myself included!) who tend to eat while working, cleaning, or standing in general so as to move on quickly to the next to-do, we lose so much of the wonderful experience of eating good quality food.  Junk food is meant to be eaten quickly because there simply is no substance to truly taste or enjoy, so when you learn to choose food worth savoring learn to really look, smell and taste each bite and chew it slowly.  Taking the time to slow down and really develop these habits while nourishing your body will create a new appreciation for good nutrition and what it can do for us.  Soon your newfound awareness will show you that your body, mind and spirit really do reflect the quality of your choices.

Here’s to healthy eating!

Love,

V

Bring On the Holidays!

Bring On the Holidays!

We’re only a few weeks away from the Season of Eating and I’m beginning to hear the rumblings of those who already expect it to be a period of defeat!  As if our only option has been and always will be to succumb to the obligatory pressures of holiday parties and an overabundance of rich and decadent foods and libations which only result in one thing in regards to our healthy habits—FAILURE.  To translate this mentality, we work hard all year only to undo every bit of it for about 2-3 months and then start over again in the New Year.  I’m here to challenge all of us to turn this entire frame of mind around starting right now.  We have the opportunity to not only accomplish more than we ever have during this period of JOY but more importantly to set the stage for better habits in the future and even all year-long.

Now, before you stop reading don’t get me wrong.  I’m certainly not against the celebrations that accompany this beautiful time of year which we all know is really about Love, Generosity, Gratitude, Peace and Hope.  In fact, I encourage you to celebrate as much and as often as you can!  I’m simply not an advocate for deprivation and especially not so during the holidays when participation of (some) events is part of the joy that we share with one another.  My challenge for all of us (myself included!) is to incorporate the tips below to add to the festivities we choose to participate in from now and throughout the New Year celebrations.  This is such a special time for all of us for our own reasons, values and beliefs and I encourage, support and celebrate them all with you.  Let’s enjoy these next several weeks together and really get into the spirit of love and living well, for ourselves and each other.

Tip#1:  Avoid the NYR cycle and start a new fitness regimen now!  Don’t make the mistake of waiting for the New Year to set goals or begin a new activity, join a new gym, studio etc., etc.  Here’s what happens when you do:  If this is suddenly (or is typically) your New Year’s Resolution, you’re probably motivated by the guilt of whatever you did to yourself over the previous two months and are probably even carrying excess weight that you didn’t have on you before the holidays started.  These two factors already set yourself up for a more difficult time to make any progress and it will take you much longer to see any results.  Also, the NYR craze is the reason that the busiest time of year for any gym or studio is the first three months.  As a result, while you’re “trying” to develop new exercise habits for yourself, so is everyone else and now you also have to work around a crowded class or facility while probably feeling self-conscious about anyone noticing you.  Soon after you start your new routine, you begin to make one excuse after another to avoid the large groups of people and because you aren’t making the kind of progress you initially hoped for your resolution is suddenly in the past until it comes around again next January.  Am I right???

End the cycle now and commit to trying something new before the holidays instead of after.  First of all, you know full well to expect plenty of festivities so what better way to balance it out than to start an exercise regimen that helps to expend the additional intake?  Secondly, this is your BEST opportunity to develop new habits rather than trying to do so in the New Year when you’re typically trying to get back into your old routine.  We know these next several weeks will only uproot our usual weekly and weekend schedules.  Developing a new habit of physical activity now will not only help you manage the stress of the holidays, it will also be an easier adjustment because nothing will be a set routine for the next two months!  What better way to get your body used to something NEW that will help you feel better and help you manage all those extra calories we ALL want to enjoy???

Below are some of the best local spots in town to check out now or research new classes in your own area.  My challenge to you is to join me in trying at least one new fitness class at as many locations as possible before the end of this month AND (especially if you don’t go with a friend) commit to introducing yourself to as many people as you can including the instructor.  Ask questions and listen to testimonials.  Find out who loves it there and why!  I would be surprised if you didn’t get hooked on something new and it’s always so much easier and much more fun to get moving in a group where friendships develop which can be a great source of encouragement and accountability.

Tip#2: Turn every errand and casual get together into an opportunity to move!  Shopping for party supplies, heading to the grocery store, shopping for gifts at the mall or even meeting a friend for lunch—put on your walking shoes and wear clothes you can move in to find simple ways to burn a few extra calories.  I personally love to dress up and look cute whenever I can but it’s the holidays!  We have PLENTY of opportunities to dress up even if it means calling a friend to meet for dinner at a fancy new restaurant later in the evening.  I challenge you to make activities during the day part of your fat-burning schedule, whether you get an actual workout in or not!  It never hurts our bodies to move, that’s what they’re meant to do, so bring a friend to stay motivated and park in a safe place but as far away as you can, opt for stairs whenever possible and consider walking the perimeter of the entire shopping center, mall or store at a brisk pace before you begin to stop and actually shop—consider it window-shopping the sales before you commit to the buy and have fun getting that heart rate up!

Tip#3: Indulge mindfully.  Don’t over think things this year.  Learn to follow your instincts and if something beautiful and decadent calls you to try it, do so!  But I challenge you to keep the following in mind when you do.  You’ll never have to deprive yourself of anything and you’ll keep that extra fat and those empty calories in check.

1.    Only indulge in late-night eating and special holiday treats during social gatherings, parties and festivities.  The pressure is too great when you’re hosting get-togethers or out with friends and family.  Allow yourself that time to join in but when you’re at home on a regular night, commit to avoid those extra goodies and stop eating anything by 7pm.  This is something I’ve started doing recently and I’ve already noticed a difference in how I feel in the morning and overall.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to indulge these next two months and many of them will last well into the night.  Save those extra calories for when you have a good excuse to really enjoy them!

2.    When you do choose to indulge, commit to eating no more than half a serving and then put it down.  Again, you’re going to have PLENTY of opportunities to treat yourself.  Think of how many options you’re going to be presented with at every gathering!  I don’t plan on saying “no” to anything that I’m really interested in trying myself, so let’s commit to keeping the quantity of our excess in check.  I challenge you to plan ahead and see if anyone is willing to split something with you or simply take half portions of everything.  Additionally, always wait at least 30-45 minutes after your last bite before going back for seconds of anything except for water.  Again, you’re not denying yourself anything so you shouldn’t feel deprived.  In fact, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your night because you shouldn’t feel overly full which is absolutely unnecessary and quite unpleasant.

3.    Get an extra workout in the day after a night out.  This tip speaks for itself.  Don’t let the previous day’s extra calories just sit there.  I challenge you to commit to taking a class, workout using a video or at the very least go for a walk in your neighborhood.  You’ll certainly feel better physically and I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself overall.

I’m so excited about this holiday season because of my new journey to help others incorporate the joys of healthy living.  The opportunities we have to celebrate are endless if we choose to embrace them and that’s what I hope to inspire.  If there’s anything the holidays can encourage us to do, it’s to learn to live with gratitude and I’m here to continue to motivate us all along the way.  I hope you’ll join me.

Love,

V

Moving Beyond the Words

Moving Beyond the Words

Over the last several months, we’ve learned so many new ideas, tips, methods and even attitudes we can all use towards living a healthier life and reaching our personal goals.  It’s been encouraging to hear so many who sound really motivated and are definitely talking the talk.  There are daily declarations of living life with a positive attitude, letting go of the negative, excitement about working out and working hard and there’s certainly an eagerness to improve one’s health.  What we need to address now is how to turn those words into actions so we can actually start to move forward and see some results.  Take a moment to really ask yourself the questions below.  With honesty and determination we can truly start moving beyond the words and start walking the walk together.

Am I really ready for a change?  We all know what we’re “supposed” to do.  The basics have been said over and over, the foundation for a healthy life has been laid out for us and there are a million different strategies, techniques and health programs that claim to be the answer.  I’ve given my ideas on how one can figure out what works best for each person but the more I hear and see the choices people make and in the same day say they want to make a change, I understand more and more it all comes down to our true motivation and what’s really guiding us along the way.

We already know we don’t need junk food, fast food, sugary drinks, saturated fats, heavy sweets, etc.  Personally, I know that when I indulge in any of these foods for whatever reason, I tend to feel pretty awful afterwards.  Past any enjoyment at first taste, if I overdo it, once it goes down I eventually become lethargic, moody and unmotivated to exercise.  If, however, I still believed that any of the above was an overwhelming source of pleasure, an overall positive experience or a necessity to feel satisfied, I would say I was NOT ready for a change at all.  The contradiction is too great.  If something still makes you feel that good and you still value that temporary indulgence over your own overall health or long-term view of your own self-worth, it’s pretty difficult to suddenly start to cut any of it out.  The same goes for not exercising when you know you should.  If you haven’t found something you really enjoy moving to or your concept of an exercise isn’t intrinsically positive, how do you expect to really maintain or even begin any activity?

The difference from where I was when I shifted my life compared to others who can’t seem to find that first step, is that I had given up the idea of a magic number or the concept of “I’ll be happy when…” and just decided I want to FEEL better now, I want to feel good about myself now and I want to be healthy now.  If your motivation is still external and your choices still contradict your words, your attempt to make a change is going to be that much more difficult.  Be honest with yourself before you try to do anything new and when you know you really are ready then start thinking about the first step that’s right for you.

Where should I begin?  Now that you’ve found an internal motivation, it’s time to take a good look at your surroundings.  Your day-to-day relationships, family, work and social life will speak volumes when it comes to how you make your decisions and this is going to be just as tough, if not the toughest step, in making any changes.

I’ve put off discussing this challenge until now because my method was not intentional and not one many can adopt but it is such a huge issue for everyone that it has to be addressed.  With my initial shift in lifestyle, I found myself in a situation where my only family was over 200 miles away and living completely alone in this stage of my life allowed me the opportunity to choose to live however I wanted to live.  I had no one to answer to but myself.  Not eating out often and beginning to exercise was easy with no one to answer to or question me.  Simply put, if you are ready for a change and you value that lifestyle of healthy living, it is a choice you have to make for you and possibly your family and healthy alternatives will just have to become a regular necessity for everyone.

I have been on average the same weight for the past 5 years and one desk job I found myself in a few years ago had an atmosphere of ordering in food as an office on a regular basis.  By that time, I had developed a habit of not eating out much at all but this was on the expense of our employer so why wouldn’t I join in on free lunches and occasional breakfast tacos?  What I found for me was that even if I chose salads, the leanest meals possible and ate only half of my order EVERY single time it was STILL a sudden struggle to keep my weight in check!  The bottom line is that no restaurant out there prepares food the way that I do for me and without being able to control every ingredient and only have appropriate portions, I was going to gain weight if I continued to participate in their daily lunches.  I finally decided to opt out on a regular basis, went back to bringing my lunch to work and only joined in for special occasions.  My lifestyle was commented on regularly, but I also like to believe that I motivated a few others to at least consider making healthier choices a little more often than before.

When we find ourselves in the habit of eating large portions and poor quality foods when we’re with our families, at work or out with friends, choosing to make healthier choices can feel isolating and anti-social.  It’s human nature to want to fit in and yet if you’re surrounded by those who choose foods you’re trying to avoid or who don’t support activities you want to engage in, you’re not only without a support system but you will more than likely be ridiculed for being the odd one out.  First of all, it’s always important to NOT take negative comments by others personally.  Their opinions stem from their personal issues not yours and that goes for anything and everything.  Secondly, if you truly are ready for a change and you’ve decided internally that it’s time to do something for YOU and YOUR health, you have to evaluate your surroundings honestly and decide what you need and don’t need and DO something about it.

On the flip-side, surrounding yourself with as many like-minded people who live a healthy lifestyle you hope to emulate is another key to success towards wellness.  You need a support system whether it’s to help remind you of your internal motivations to treat yourself better, to eat well, get moving or just believing you’re worth more than a number on a scale, on your clothes or on a chart in your doctor’s office.  There’s value to you and who you are and the more you invest yourself in you on the inside, the more those words you’ve chosen to repeat become your actions and eventually an authentic lifestyle of healthy living.

Love,

V

Inspiration is Everywhere

Inspiration is Everywhere

This journey of promoting health and wellness is evolving in a way that I never would have predicted and I am so grateful for the experience.  Not only have I met some amazing people whose growth motivates me daily but I am also beginning to view so many things in a completely new light.  In teaching and motivating others, sharing my passion for healthy living is offering new opportunities to teach and motivate me and the inspiration that is everywhere truly connects us all.  No matter our experiences, we all struggle with moving forward from time to time.  Whether it be those first few steps never attempted before, hitting that wall that seems to slow or stop our progress or even just maintaining the standard of a healthy and happy life, we all experience setbacks that can be overcome with the right focus, determination and a little bit of inspiration.

Accomplishments

It’s been just about a year since Ingrid has been coaching the lovely ladies of Miller’s Pond Community Center and it is truly amazing to see all their hard work pay off week after week and month after month.  I remember when she began instructing there and the degree to which she challenged them then compared to now.  To see these ladies today is to know they truly found themselves through this regular physical activity, the camaraderie and friendship found in group classes and the supportive and encouraging atmosphere that Ingrid creates and insists upon for everyone.  Each one of them has their own story of accomplishment while they continue on their journey of wellness, MANY of which include considerable weight loss and smaller clothing sizes.  More importantly, however, their confidence has improved as well as many pre-existing ailments and health concerns have either lessened or disappeared completely.

One perfect example of this transformation is Sharon Garcia who whole-heartedly understands and implements the fact that consistency, dedication and belief in oneself are the keys to achieving your goals.  Using more than just words and a positive attitude, since attending Ingrid’s classes, Sharon continues to work hard and now finds herself several pounds lighter and in single-digit clothing sizes.  Again, above ALL the physical accomplishments, her quality of life has improved, she now believes in herself more than ever before and she chooses every day to use love and encouragement to maintain her momentum as well as encourage others.  This energy is so much more powerful than any energy wasted on criticism and judgment and I believe that it is the only way to truly master, accomplish and achieve anything.  Sharon is a true inspiration as are many of the ladies of Team Ingrid and we look forward to following each of their stories as they continue to break through their challenges and reach their goals.

Peace

I was blessed with a happy childhood, a loving family and a grandmother who cared for me 24/7.  Through the experiences of my life I held on to some more than others for some time not realizing that it only held me back from moving forward.  Talking to my grandmother today, I realize that more than anything.  This year she turned 102 years old and is still as sharp as ever.  Physically, her doctor has said for years that she is “as healthy as a horse” and would ask her how she does it.  She always enjoyed this little exchange and the answers are fairly simple: she exercises regularly and eats plenty of fruits and vegetables.  I would humbly add, that I believe her daily meditations through prayer and ability to let go have also been instrumental to her long life and good health.

Mama - 100 years old

Physically, my lola is still able to get around as necessary and sometimes with assistance but as long as I can remember and even to this day she exercises as often and in any way she can.  For several years, it was using her walker to and from one room to another, as many “laps” as necessary.  She would also include leg lifts and leg and arm raises while she sat or even lying in bed just to get the blood flowing. When my husband and I went to visit her he was amazed to see how my aunt prepares her food.  He saw so much of the freshest, most colorful vegetables with a little bit of rice and plenty of fruit for the taking.  Neither her exercising nor her eating preferences were a surprise to me by this time.  I never saw how impactful these habits were before and now I’m SO glad to say I truly understand the value.

When my lola is in a talkative mood, she is quite fun to listen to as she tells stories of being a child athlete, parties she attended as a teenager or even stories about her children growing up.  She likes to laugh and joke around a lot and will often break out into song.  A few years ago, I interviewed her for details of the Japanese invading the Philippines during WWII as she was pregnant with my mom at the time—her seventh child out of thirteen.  I don’t know what I expected, but what I got was far from it.  Ultimately, she had let it all go, all of the particulars that would have made an interesting and dramatic story, was of no use to her anymore and she had moved on more than likely long before I came around asking questions.  What she values with passion and intense emotion today are not the hardships of her life, not the darkness and not the pain of her past.  She invests her energy and the strength of her spirit in now, in whatever brings her peace and joy, and happy memories.  Of course, she’s still human and can find natural irritations to bring up daily as we all can but it’s not the essence of her life, it’s just on the surface, just the external.  Whenever I call and ask how she’s doing, her answer is almost always that she’s doing just fine.

I’ve been working on this particular post for much longer than I normally spend on any piece of writing and, personally, it was worth it to take my time.  It is always humbling to step back as a teacher and take the time to focus on all that has been teaching you.  Though quietly reflecting on what inspires me is often part of my day, I really wanted to share it with everyone in the most authentic way possible.  Hopefully the inspiration I found in just these stories for me will reach someone new today and together we can continue to find and share the potential beauty through hardship everywhere we go.

Love,

V