If I Knew You Were Comin’, I’d Have Baked a Cake

I’m posting the original recipes photo, as it is SO pretty – but, no lie here, mine totally looks like this (minus the carrot hearts). Delicious!

Since having some health issues last fall (massive gall bladder infection/emergency surgery/near-death experience), I have had a miserable time eating. This has been sad, as I am a girl who LOVES food (check out the width of my arse to validate that statement). I have been going through a process of elimination kind of thing, and have determined that wheat/gluten and dairy were causing my issues – so about 7 weeks ago, I quit both. Cold turkey. It sucked. I nearly wept for cheese (okay, I totally did), and I began looking at dinner rolls like they were lined with gold and stuffed with diamonds, but I stuck to my guns (and my restrictive diet). It made a MASSIVE difference – I felt 168% better – woohoo! I am hoping that this change isn’t forever, but that, after a reboot of sorts, I will be able to return to my regularly-scheduled eating. However, in the meantime, I am learning a whole new way of cooking and eating – and, honestly, it ain’t been that bad. I came across this recipe for Healthified Carrot Cake this weekend, and it turned out frighteningly delicious – who knew? My kid even ate some – woohoo!!! Double success!! Here’s the recipe:

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup + 6 tbsp of my gf flour mix {1/2 cup brown rice flour, ½ cup tapioca starch, 6 tbsp sweet sticky rice flour/glutinous rice flour, ½ tsp guar gum}{or, if using a store-bought mix I recommend using 1¼ cups of Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend}.
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup maple syrup {or another liquid sweetener like agave, etc.}
½ cup unsweetened applesauce {for a homemade version, see here}
1 tbsp lemon juice
1½ cups finely grated carrots
1 cup of add-ins of your choice: I used ½ cup raisins, ½ cup walnuts {other traditional add-ins you can try: other nuts or dried fruit, shredded coconut}

Frosting Ingredients:
1½ cups cashews, presoaked for at least a few hours {or for 15 mins in boiled water, if in a rush}
⅓ cup water or non-dairy milk, warm or at room temperature {milk would give it a slightly whiter look}
¼ cup maple syrup, at room temperature {or liquid sweetener of your choice}
3 – 4 tbsp coconut oil, softened
2 tbsp lemon juice, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Optional Carrot Hearts Topping:
a few extra carrots and a tiny heart cookie cutter {I used the one that came with my linzer cookie cutters set}

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter an 8″ x 12″ cake pan {or anything of a similar size} and set aside.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Add in sweetener, applesauce, and lemon juice and use a mixer to mix everything together. Add in the grated carrots mix through once more to incorporate. Fold in the add-in items. Transfer this batter into the prepared cake pan. Level the top using a spatula to even out the surface.
Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 23 minutes until the top becomes golden and a skewer inserted down the center comes out dry. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the frosting by placing all ingredients in a good blender and process until completely smooth {I used my Vitamix for this}. Adjust the sweetness to taste. Feel free to add a hint more water/milk to help blending as needed. Note that if your ingredients are not at room temp here, the coconut oil will begin to set before the frosting is blended through.
Once the cake has completely cooled, spread the frosting over the top evenly. Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour or two to help the frosting set a little {unless you don’t mind a very soft frosting, of course 😉 }.
If using the carrot heart topping, simply slice the carrots into thin rounds {1/16″ of an inch or so}, and then use a little heart cutter to cut out a heart out of each slice. Sprinkle the hearts over the top of the cake, cut the cake into slices and serve! {Note: the carrots will brown up after a few hours, so best to make them & decorate with them right before serving}. Enjoy!

I didn’t make the heart-shaped carrots (I know my limitations), but I did pull off the rest of this recipe – and I’m totally pleased with how it turned out. Yaa! Even if you aren’t having to stick to a restrictive diet for health reasons, I would totally recommend the carrot cake – it’s pretty healthy, and dammmmmn delicious. Yum. Enjoy!

xxx

In the Mood

Check out this commercial from French supermarket chain Intermarché – it’s adorable:

I miss French thinking – the simplest things in life can be extraordinarily romantic…I don’t seem to see much of that here in the United States. What do you think? Has today’s top speed pace of life, with all its technology and “convenience” killed romance and love and making connections? Sometimes I wonder.

xxx

PS: If you fancy bringing a bit more love into your life, grab yourself one of these Heart Projectors from Urban Outfitters – they are on sale now, and I WANT ONE!!! 🙂

The Sound of Silence

I’ve been in Houston for a couple of days on a work trip – it was an easy, peaceful drive here on Wednesday (I FINALLY got around to listening to the first season of ‘Serial’, and OMG am I hooked! LOVE it!!), I had a great walk around and shop at the Galleria (which is right across the street from my hotel), my conference sessions have been tolerable…it’s been a pretty decent time. I decided to spend my Thursday evening exploring Houston’s Museum District, and am I ever glad I did! WOW!! I can’t wait to come back!! Have you been?

img_1288

I started at the Rothko Chapel, where something very strange happened. Are you familiar with this place? If not, here’s a brief description:

The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas, founded by John and Dominique de Menil. The interior serves not only as a chapel, but also as a major work of modern art. On its walls are fourteen black but color hued paintings by Mark Rothko. The shape of the building, an octagon inscribed in a Greek cross, and the design of the chapel was largely influenced by the artist.

Susan J. Barnes states “The Rothko Chapel…became the world’s first broadly ecumenical center, a holy place open to all religions and belonging to none. It became a center for international cultural, religious, and philosophical exchanges, for colloquia and performances. And it became a place of private prayer for individuals of all faiths” 

On September 16, 2000, the Rothko Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

img_1286

I entered the octagonal room and found a bunch of benches, and a few people in the room, some on the benches and one on the floor. It was absolutely quiet. I took a seat on one of the benches, picked a direction to face, and got comfortable – I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me next. I lowered my head and closed my eyes, and just sat. About 2579 thoughts roared through my head (as per usual), but then they slowed down…and nearly stopped. I’ve never experienced this before. I felt instantly uncomfortable, as if I could smell smoke somewhere nearby and needed to get out of the way of an impending inferno – but I didn’t move. I didn’t even open my eyes. I kept sitting there, thinking about all of the things that have been going on lately, and what I can do to change them. Then I started thinking about all of the good things that I have going on – and that was when the tears started. I still didn’t open my eyes or raise, my head – I just sat there, head down, moisture leaking out the sides of my eyes and dropping onto the floor. For whatever reason, this starkly simple, small room had somehow affected me in much grander ways…I’m still struggling to explain the experience.

img_1287

Once I pulled myself together, I sat up and opened my eyes – new people had joined us in the chapel, and I hadn’t even heard the doors open. I studied all of the paintings, moving a complete 360, to ensure that I had the chance to look at each one – and then I silently collected my belongings, and left. As I walked out of the chapel, I felt a calm and peace that I have rarely felt in my life…I think some of it is still lingering. What an absolutely magical place..and I’m hard-pressed to explain exactly where the magic came from.

From there, I moved on to the Museum of Fine Arts – what a gorgeous institution! It was open until 9:00pm on Thursday nights (woohoo!), and it was FREE! Double Woohoo! I LOVED this museum, and wish I’d had the time to explore the entire collection – but now I have an excuse to come back! I focused my efforts on the Impressionists (of course), and I found some true beauties! LOVE!!!! Here’s just a couple:

img_1289 img_1290

I loved my trip to this museum so much, I can’t even tell you! It reminded me of visiting museums in Paris, London or New York (I don’t mean to be a name dropper, but it’s true!) – I can’t wait to plan a weekend here, and come back with the Wee Muppet! 🙂 Yaaa! 🙂

I’ve always had a rather negative opinion of Houston (too hot, too humid, too crowded, etc) – but I need to seriously revise my opinion. Yes, it is all of those things – but it is SO MUCH MORE….I can’t wait to come back and see what other treasures I can find! 🙂

xxx

 

Hard Advice

I just want to share this article with you – please read it, carefully, and let the words soak into your brain. There’s good stuff here:

19 Radical Truths I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

by Fran Sorin

Something happens to a woman when she turns 50. Call it an awakening of sorts—a tipping point. For me, it was as if a cloud had been lifted and I could finally see what really mattered in life. The realization hit me hard. I’d been on this earth for a half a century and my time was limited. This coming of age, for me, came with a feeling of freedom and urgency.

It’s a time to take stock of your life: where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve failed, opportunities you’ve passed up and those you’ve taken advantage of. Ask yourself what you love and what you want to change. How do you want to journey through this next phase of your life?

Reflecting on my younger years, I wished an older, wiser woman had taken the time to help me create a road map for a life of meaning, creativity, and joy.

It would have saved me a lot of time, confusion, and worry. And it would have given me clarity, a sense of calm, focus, and self-assuredness as I journeyed through this very complex world of ours. With that in mind, here are some of the things I would’ve liked to tell myself a few decades ago:

1. You have to be your own top priority.

If you tend to your own well-being first, you’ll have much more energy to help others. Because women have historically taken on the role of caretakers, it’s something we do reflexively. Remember that practicing self-care is not selfish. It’s a necessity if you want to lead a rich and productive life.

2. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health.

Although our culture talks a lot about de-stressing, the majority of us are still leading stressful lives. When you realize that most diseases are related to lifestyle choices, you might get serious about integrating exercise, nutrition, and relationships into your daily life. You’ll be astounded by how much more productive, positive, and healthy you feel.

3. The people around you should be those who love you and support your growth.

How many times have you spent time with a friend or family member who is negative, judgmental, or an energy vampire? Stop making excuses for the toxic people in your life. Anyone who is consistently negative needs to be kept at a distance. Your five closest friends are a mirror of what you truly think of yourself. Make sure that they embody attributes and values you cherish.

img_1224

4. To get anywhere, you have to get comfortable with saying no.

It takes practice to catch yourself if you tend to say yes out of habit. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be delighted to see how much time and energy you have to pursue your passions.

5. Don’t let anyone else’s perception influence your choices.

People who fill their lives up with stuff they think they “should” do rarely feel fulfilled. Replace “I should” with “I choose to” or “I want” and see what you come up with. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Spending time chasing the approval of others will not only drain your energy but will keep you from uncovering the best parts of yourself. When you catch yourself in self-doubt, call on your wise inner self to remind yourself that you only need to please and receive approval from yourself—no one else.

6. Doubts hold you back; affirmations propel you forward.

Women spend so much time questioning whether or not they’re good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. As soon as you hear that inner critic, replace that voice with the phrase, “I am enough” or “I am the artist of my life.” I can’t tell you how many clients have tried this technique with astounding results. They report back to me that they feel like a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders and that their self-perception has been dramatically improved.


7. There’s always time to be still.

Our culture places a high priority on productivity and keeping busy. If you give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time the morning, you’ll start your day from a centered, calm state, so that no matter what happens you’ll be able to respond thoughtfully rather than react instinctively.

8. You need to become a person you can love before you try to love anyone else.

Look at yourself in your bathroom mirror each morning and say “Good morning. I love you.” It may sound hokey, but the more you do it, the more you’ll come to appreciate who you really are. You’ll discover internal beauty and great self-love by making this one small change.

9. Gratitude really does change your life.

Develop a daily gratitude practice. It takes five minutes. I love sitting with a notebook and taking stock of what I’m grateful for each morning. Whatever comes to my mind, I write down in a quick list format. The key is to allow yourself to experience the feeling of gratitude. For example, if you’re truly grateful for the delicious cup of coffee you’re drinking, take a deep breath and sink into the sensation of appreciation you feel for that cup of coffee.

img_1225

10. It’s cool to be your own best friend.

Becoming familiar with your moods, motivations, and deepest desires is critical if you want to live a meaningful, abundant, and productive life. Rather than walking through your day mindlessly, check in with yourself every few hours. How do you feel? If you have a strong negative reaction to something, take note of it. Figure out why. Notice when you feel pleasure, fun, joy, spirituality, and creativity: Being aware of these positive experiences means you can find ways to incorporate more of them into your life.

11. You are responsible for yourself—and only yourself.

Blaming external circumstances for your unhappiness will only perpetuate it. Instead, when you find yourself bemoaning the state of the world, affirm to yourself, “I am responsible for my own life and I choose to create an extraordinary one.”


12. You need to believe in your own abilities.

Once you own that you have the power and ability to create a life that you deeply desire, you’ll experience—deep in your soul—the power you possess, which, in turn, will inspire you to make changes. You’ll also understand that there is a solution to practically every issue and that you have the ability to figure out what that solution is.

13. You’ll always learn more from listening than you will from talking.

Whether with an old friend, a stranger, a family member, or in business, learn the art of listening. Becoming an excellent listener will enable you to develop more intimate and deeper connections. You’ll also have more interesting conversations and it will keep your mind active and growing.

14. Curiosity is the key to never being bored (or obsolete).

We live in a culture that places a high priority on expertise and productivity. If you want to live a rich, creative life, you need to expose yourself to new concepts and practices. And even in areas you’ve been exploring for years, there’s always more to learn. Let go of perfectionism. Be willing to fail. It will reveal so many possibilities.

15. Hatred costs everything. Forgiveness costs nothing.

So many of us hold deep grudges indefinitely. Often, an inability to forgive others is a sign you struggle to forgive yourself. Catch your inner voice making critical or angry comments about others, and acknowledge that what you’re feeling toward them is actually a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Just by noting these feelings and reminding yourself to let them go, you’ll begin to dissolve these feelings of anger and judgment. You’ll experience a rush of positive energy, relief, openheartedness, and compassion.

16. Spending 20 minutes a day in nature is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

It’s a profound way to de-stress, clear your mind of clutter, jump-start creativity, and experience feelings of well-being, calm, and awe. Take just a few minutes a day to awaken your senses and you’ll reap magical benefits in all areas of your life.

img_1226

17. You’re much better off doing one thing really well than three things poorly.

We’ve been led to believe that success means multitasking all day long. When you slow down and practice being present and focused each moment, you’ll experience a deeper, richer, and more meaningful life. Try this: Stop whatever you’re doing, sit still, clear your mind, and take three deep breaths. Then start again.

18. “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.”

OK, so I borrowed that one from Oscar Wilde. Life is a paradox. Knowing how to integrate fun, laughter, and playfulness into your pursuit of a meaningful life will jump-start your creativity and enable you to develop deeper connections. Think about it: After you’ve had a good laugh, don’t you feel more light-hearted, happier, and able to continue your day with more ease?

19. Your job here is simple: to create the life of your dreams.

We all have moments of self-doubt. In those moments, let your wiser self remind you that you’re highly intelligent and creative. All it takes to make a difference is the desire and drive to keep making it happen. If you set your mind to it, believe in yourself, and take action, you’ll always find a way to create an extraordinary life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Great, right? I have come to a lot of these conclusions myself, but it’s only in the past few years that I’ve found my way to this knowledge – imagine how different my story would’ve been had someone told me this when I was younger? Although, I likely wouldn’t have listened, but…still. It might have been nice to have the advice. 😉

xxx

Take Me Away

I saw this article on Lifehack, and thought that I would share it with you:

Removing These 8 Things From Life Can Make You More Successful
By Amy Johnson

Lots of people think that the best way to become successful is to pick up lots of new habits and skills. While this can help, sometimes the best thing you can do is give up the things that distract you from your goals.

Instead of adding more things to your life, try removing some negative things that hold you back from success. Some are very easy to give up, while others require a little more time and effort.

Here are 8 things that you should remove from your life to be more successful:

1. Remove Excuses
Successful people don’t try to blame their family, their friends, their boss or their co-workers for their life. Instead, they understand that they are fully responsible for their own life and situation. They see this as a good thing as it means that they hold the power to significantly improve their life. When you make up excuses you are lying to yourself, which will hold you back from achieving your goals.

2. Remove Perfectionism
Perfection is unattainable, so trying to achieve it is a waste of your time. Instead of worrying about mistakes that you have made or physical flaws that bother you, simply focus on trying to better yourself with small steps. No one is perfect, but anyone can make the decision to be a better person.

Playing Twister is an excellent way to be successful, don't you think?!
Playing Twister is an excellent way to be successful, don’t you think?!

3. Remove Fear
Lots of people make themselves smaller without realizing; they keep quiet during discussions when they want to say something; they avoid taking risks; and they always think about the worst-case scenario. This fearful attitude will stop you from achieving your full potential, so remove it from your life and be brave instead; speak up, voice your thoughts and actively chase your dreams and goals.

4. Remove The Need To Control Everything
You can’t control everything, and trying to do so is a futile task. It won’t help you to become more successful, but it will make you feel stressed, upset and frustrated. Instead of trying to control everything around you, make an effort to care less about the things you can’t control and focus on the things that you can.

5. Remove A Fixed Mindset
Lots of people have a fixed mindset and they make no effort to learn more or change their perception. This makes it hard for them to become more successful as their mindset is stuck in the past. Try to embrace knowledge and learning, and remember that you can always become wiser.

6. Remove The Desire For Overnight Success
Some people believe that the majority of successful people became successful overnight, or that they became successful by chance. While luck can certainly play its part, you can’t rely on luck to become successful. In reality success takes time and dedication, so you should plan for the future as well as the day ahead of you.

I drank this on Christmas Day. Straight out of the bottle, no glass needed. I was VERY successful!
I drank this on Christmas Day. Straight out of the bottle, no glass needed. Never been more successful in my life!

7. Remove Toxic People
If the people around you are negative and pessimistic, over time you will start to become negative and pessimistic too. Remove the toxic people from your life and replace them with optimistic, supportive people who genuinely care about you and your dreams. You will find that you are more motivated to work on your goals, and you will be happier and less stressed.

8. Remove The Need To Say Yes (When Really You Want To Say No)
Some people struggle to say no to the people around them, even if they want to say no. This normally means that they end up wasting time doing things that they don’t want to do, and other people might start to take advantage of them. Be brave and say no when you want to; only you can make your dreams a priority, and it is difficult to do that if you are too busy helping other people with their dreams.

 

This list is golden, don’t you think? Instead of telling you all the things that you need to learn to do and add to your already-overflowing life, this one suggests removing the things that don’t feel good. I LOVE this. I am crazy about the idea of not doing the things that don’t make you happy – for example, I don’t hang out with people who make me feel shitty anymore. I’ve known people who used to like spending time with me because they would put me down, and in the process build themselves up – which is no way to treat a friend, if you ask me. I’m done with it. I didn’t have a dramatic scene where I spelled out just how bloody much they sucked – instead, I always found reasons to say no to making plans with them…and eventually they took the hint. Done with that crap.

I’ve written before of my refusal to keep saying ‘yes’ to every single damn thing that comes my way – if I don’t want to do something (and I don’t have to for work/life), I don’t. Again, no big dramatic moments ever go down…I just say no. It’s liberating! I’m master of my own domaine, and I get to decide how I spend my time and how I am going to feel about it. Woohoo!! 🙂 Just say no – you should try it! 🙂

I’ve never had the perfectionist gene, and I’m pretty good at taking responsibility for my shit and not offering up lame excuses. I am addressing the fear issue at the moment, as this is a biggie for me. I avoid doing all sorts of things that would probably revolutionize my life and how I live it  – all because I am afraid…which is silly. I have gone back to Gabrielle Bernstein’s book “May Cause Miracles” and I am working my way through it, day by day – I’m even doing the exercises and everything! Yaa me! This week, the focus was on being the witness of my thoughts, actions, and energy – and choosing love over fear. I love that. When things get shady and the fight or flight instinct kicks in – take a step back, and choose love. I will keep you posted on how this works out – I am a girl who could realllllllly use a miracle!

Have a good day, mes amis!!! 🙂

xxx

This stuff will definitely make your life better!
This stuff will definitely make your life better!

The First Noel

The First Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

 

Happy Christmas Eve, my friends! I hope that this finds you surrounded by friends and family, the people you love most in this world, with a gorgeous feeling of peace around you. I’m planning to spend the next couple of days with my folks and my Wee One, doing nothing too terribly exciting – but enjoying every moment that I have with them. We always have appetizers on Christmas Eve, and this year we are bypassing the traditional Christmas dinner and having fondue instead – yaa! Fondue is one of my favorite meals – I am pumped! 🙂

I hope that you are well, my darlings – Merry Christmas. 🙂

xxx

 

PS: I made this dip for our meal this evening – it’s HEAVENLY, and so so so easy! Enjoy!!

 

Dill Pickle Dip
Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak for NoblePig.com. | Serves: 3 cups
Ingredients

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup pickle juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
2 cups diced pickles
Directions
In a large bowl add cream cheese, red onion, pickle juice, garlic, Old Bay seasoning and pepper. Combine with a hand mixer. Add pickles and continue mixing until fully combined. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to three days before serving.

 

 

All These Things That I’ve Done

I had one of my very favorite students come to visit me yesterday afternoon – she’s still a student at my school, so I see her pretty much every day in passing, but this time she stopped by for a visit. She wanted to talk about how things were going with her, her stresses, her boyfriend drama, her family relationship issues…all of the regular stuff that gets teenagers down. While we were talking, she made a couple of self-deprecating comments about herself and her appearance – and I was all over her ass. I am the queen of comments like these, but I have made such a concerted effort to stop it lately – and I think she should, too. It does nobody any good to put themselves down like that, even if it is meant in good fun. I wish someone had told me this when I was 17 years old; honestly, I wish someone had told me something – anything – like this when I was 17 years old. All it takes is one person to show an interest, to express concern, to care  — and it can (and likely will) completely change the course of your life.

img_1157

We don’t start out our days being so insecure and sensitive (thank the Lord) – somewhere along the way, though, life gets in the way and changes the essential make up of our brains. Read this passage from a great book that I read last year:

“When we’re born, we have an instinctual understanding of some of the most important basics of life that includes, and goes way beyond, bending at our knees instead of our lower backs, to pick a beer can up off the floor. We’re born knowing how to trust our instincts, how to breathe deeply, how to eat only when we’re hungry, how to not care about what anyone thinks of our singing voices, dance moves, or hairdos, we know how to play, create, and love without holding back. Then, as we grow and learn from the people around us, we replace many of these primal understandings with negative false beliefs, fear, shame, and self-doubt. Then we wind up in emotional and physical pain. Then we either numb our pain with drugs, sex, booze, TV, Cheetos, etc. Or we settle for mediocrity. OR we rise to the occasion, remember how truly mighty we are, and set out to relearn everything we knew at the beginning all over again.” (From Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass”)

 

So true, eh? I remember being a kid that sang all the damn time, whether anyone wanted to hear it or not. Then, when I was about 13 or so, I completely quit singing out loud – unless there was A LOT of booze involved and a group karaoke situation, I NEVER sang. Never. However, as I have aged, my give-a-shit has loosened (I think it’s broken, actually), and I have begun singing again. A lot of the time. I even rapped an Eminem song last year. Imagine. I remember singing a song with my Wee One at my mom’s house one day, and my mother being absolutely amazed at the sound of my voice – not that it was particularly good or anything, but just at the actual sound of it…she had forgotten what I sounded like. Funny, eh? Now, why did I care so much what other people thought of my voice? I kind of think my pathetic dance moves fall into the same category – I don’t dance EVER anymore. I know that my rhythm is sketchy at best, and I am not the most coordinated girl in town, but…why should I care? I remember the last man who asked me to dance actually prayed to God to give me rhythm while we were still on the dance floor –  which made me not want to dance anymore…but that is completely stupid. Who cares if I have rhythm???? Who gives a shit????! I guess I have in the past, but I need to stop. Life is too damn short. Grr. I think I will just dance…it’ll be okay. 😉 (I hope you caught that Gaga reference)

xxx

That’s What Friends Are For

img_1131

I’m watching “When Harry Met Sally” as the rain pounds against my windows, for the third day in a row. The air is so wet and cool, I feel like I’m back in England…but it’s done a lot to get me in the spirit of Christmas. I love it! I’m finally starting to feel festive – ho!ho!ho! Oh, by the way – this movie totally stands up…it’s still fantastic. The back and forth between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal is so absolutely delightful – even though I’ve seen this movie 264 times (at least), I still feel like I’m falling in love, too, as I watch this. Awesome! 🙂

img_1130

I came across this article recently, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you! 🙂

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

Meeting new people can be awkward. What should you say? How can you make a good impression? How do you keep a conversation going?
Research shows relationships are vital to happiness and networking is the key to getting jobs and building a fulfilling career.

Robin was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations for over 27 years. He’s an expert on how to make people like you.

1) The Most Important Thing To Do With Anyone You Meet

Robin’s #1 piece of advice: “Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.”
Ask questions. Listen. But don’t judge. Nobody — including you — likes to feel judged.

Studies show people get more pleasure from talking about themselves than they do from food or money:
Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money…

2) Suspend Your Ego To Get People To Like You

Most of us are just dying to point out how other people are wrong. (Comment sections on the internet are fueled by this, aren’t they?)
And it kills rapport. Want to correct someone? Want to one-up them with your clever little story? Don’t do it.

Contradicting people doesn’t build relationships. Dale Carnegie said it many years ago — and modern neuroscience agrees.
When people hear things that contradict their beliefs, the logical part of their mind shuts down and their brain prepares to fight.

3) How To Be A Good Listener

We’ve all heard that listening skills are vital but nobody explains the right way to do it. What’s the secret?
Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and focus on what they’re saying right now.
Be curious and ask to hear more about what interests you.
What you do is this: as soon as you have that story or thought that you want to share, toss it. Consciously tell yourself, “I am not going to say it.”
All you should be doing is asking yourself, “What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?”
Research shows just asking people to tell you more makes you more likable and gets them to want to help you.

4) The Best Question To Ask People

Life can be tough for everyone: rich or poor, old or young. Everyone.
We all face challenges and we like to talk about them. So that’s what to ask about.

Questions are incredibly powerful. What’s one of the most potent ways to influence someone? Merely asking for advice.

5) How To Make Strangers Feel At Ease

First thing: tell them you only have a minute because you’re headed out the door.

Research shows just asking people if now is a good time makes them more likely to comply with requests:
The results showed that compliance rates were higher when the requester inquired about respondents’ availability and waited for a response than when he pursued his set speech without waiting and inquiring about respondents’ availability.
Nobody wants to feel trapped talking to some weirdo. People are more likely to help you than you think, but they need to feel safe and in control.

6) The Best Body Language For Building Rapport

Your words should be positive, free of ego and judgment — and your body language (“non-verbals”) needs to match.

From Dale Carnegie to peer-reviewed studies, everyone says smiles matter. (In fact, to increase their power, smile slower.)
It makes us happier too. Neuroscience research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate — or $25,000.

Depending on whose smile you see, the researchers found that one smile can be as pleasurable and stimulating as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate! …it took up to 16,000 pounds sterling in cash to generate the same level of brain stimulation as one smile! This is equivalent to about $25,000 per smile…

7) How To Deal With Someone You Don’t Trust
Don’t be hostile but be direct: ask them what they want. What are their goals in this interaction?

I watch for validation. If someone is trying to validate me and my thoughts and opinions, I am alert to it. I love doing that as well. So now I’m looking for intent. Are you there for me or are you there for you? If you are there strictly for your own gain and you’re not talking in terms of my priorities ever, that’s when I’m seeing someone is there to manipulate me.
Want to build a connection with someone? Focus on trust, not tricks. That’s how you earn respect. Trust is fragile. And mistrust is self-fulfilling.

Sum Up

Here are Robin’s tips:
The single most important thing is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.
Suspend your ego. Focus on them.
Really listen, don’t just wait to talk. Ask them questions; don’t try to come up with stories to impress.
Ask people about what’s been challenging them.
Establishing a time constraint early in the conversation can put strangers at ease.
Smile, chin down, blade your body, palms up, open and upward non-verbals.
If you think someone is trying to manipulate you, clarify goals. Don’t be hostile or aggressive, but ask them to be straight about what they want.
img_1129

I love this article, don’t you? I find that I feel so ridiculously awkward 99.7% of the time, and I feel like it’s nearly impossible for me to make connections with people, and I have no idea why. This never used to be a problem, but somehow as I’ve aged, it has become one. I just don’t get it. I think I’m interesting and kinda fun, but…this is not a popular opinion that is shared by many, sadly. Boo! Hiss! That’s kind of why I liked this article – maybe if I apply some of these tips, I will have more success with people. I’ve never thought that I was a person who monopolized conversations talking about myself, but…perhaps I’ve become one? (I bloody hope not – I loathe that quality in people) I try to be a good listener, but maybe I am not 110% present and engaged – this could actually be part of my problem. I’ve been thinking about presence lately, and trying to stop with the distractions that are always running rampant in my head. I like it when someone I am with looks at me, speaks to me, pays attention to me – and not their phone/the tv/whatever other distractions are going on around them. I am trying to learn to be present, to give those around me the same respect and attention that I want from them. This article from Zen Habits has some great suggestions on being present – they suggest a small regular practice of meditation (I downloaded some Gabby Bernstein meditations yesterday, I am SO trying this one this week!), work with others (on meditation, on whatever you are working on within yourself – three cheers for accountability partners), have mindfulness bells (set alarms on your phone/computer to remind you to pause and pay attention to what is going on around you), set an intention before an activity (I want to set intentions for my days as I begin them in the morning – how will you know if you’re where you’re supposed to be unless you know where it is that you want to go?), reflect daily (I’m such a fan of a few quiet moments at the end of the day – I really ought to get back to journaling, though), and finally, see everything as a teacher, meaning step out of the moment and see what you could possibly learn from these moments by being present. I’m not sure if these tips will do much, but…what harm is there in trying, eh? I’ve been working hard on cutting down on my technology consumption lately, and I’m finding that a) it has me feeling better, and b) I’m also becoming increasingly annoyed at how dependent those around me are on the technology in their lives – which is stupid. What other people do is none of my business, so why get worked up about it? Time for more zen….or perhaps Zinfandel? 😉

Xxx

Repost: It’s a Hard Knock Life

I began building a database recently, using data collected from some questionnaires that our seniors filled out a couple of weeks ago. As I was doing this, I so admired the ambition of some of our students – ER/Trauma Medicine, Social Justice Attorney, Petroleum Engineering (I don’t even know what this is, but I can imagine…however, when I was 17 years old, I wouldn’t have had a hot clue), Creative Writing degrees (AKA The Barista Program)…there were some really beautiful, lofty ideas there – and reading all of them made me so envious of the opportunities a lot of these kids have. When I was in school, I couldn’t have imagined having the belief in myself to decide to pursue a degree in Creative Writing, Fashion or something else that may not be the most ‘practical’ choice (but man alive were those the things that I most wanted out of life) – I was full of hopes, and things that I wanted to study and learn…but, they seemed to be flights of fancy, and I knew that I didn’t have the time and/or money to pursue anything that wasn’t going to get my through my education in the quickest way possible – so I chose to study in the Faculty of Education, with a concentration on Secondary Education, Double Major in English and French. I decided to become a teacher because it was something I knew, something I knew that I would be good at, and I would enjoy the variety of working with kids – because they’re funny and learning is just plain awesome. I have never regretted my decision to study Education, but I have always been full of the feeling that I am meant to do other things as well. I would never turn my back on my career in Education – one way or another, I will always have a toe in this pond, because I believe in Public Education very passionately, and we desperately need people around who do still believe (there aren’t enough of us, let me tell you). However, I somehow find it difficult to believe that this is all that I’m meant for – I don’t mean that in a snobby way at all, I just feel that there is SO much more out there for me to sink my teeth in to. This is probably why I do a lot of the things I do – I’m always studying something (whether it’s for my job or my own amusement), I live to try new things, I read constantly…there are so damn many beautiful, glorious things out there and not enough time to get to them all, so I think we owe it to ourselves to stick our straw in as many experiences as we can and slurp them up, don’t you? 🙂
img_1127

I also didn’t know that there were so many options available when I was in school – probably because I grew up in the Middle of Nowhere, Canada, so I wasn’t exactly exposed to much. (True Story: One of my earliest ambitions was to be a writer on Degrassi – it still is, come to think of it…I figure I would be perfect for the job: I’ve watched every series of Degrassi since Kids of Degrassi Street began around 1980 or so, I know all of the characters and storylines, I’m Canadian (so I’m down with the vernacular, eh), and I’ve spent the last 20 years working with teenagers (so I know the scary things that go through their minds)…I think I’d be awesome! If anybody knows anyone on Degrassi, PLEASE SEND THEM MY WAY AND HELP A GIRL’S DREAMS COME TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) 🙂 One of the kids I work with this year is interested in getting in to Public Relations – I had NO idea that such a field existed when I was in school, did you? I suppose that so much of what we know depends on where we are from, what we’ve been exposed to, etc.. although the Internet revolution has certainly changed that up considerably. I love that our students today have the world before them, and so many opportunities that we didn’t have even 20 years ago – but, at the same time, there are so many more hoops for them to jump through these days…if you get yourself into a good college, you deserve a big ol’ pat on the back, because getting there is NOT easy. Between the FAFSA and the rest of the Financial Aid finanglings, the application process and the SATs/ACTs…it’s like a full-time job just working your way through all of this. We hosted a Financial Aid information session for our parents recently, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of wanting to hug each set of parents that attended. They were all there because they desperately want to help their children get a good education, but watching their faces drop and become considerably paler as they learned all about the complicated processes involved in Financial Aid made me feel physically ill – it shouldn’t be this difficult. Getting an education should not be as hard and soul-destroying as it is…it just shouldn’t. 😦

As I’ve been working on this database project and learning more about the hopes and dreams of those around me (it is seriously fascinating stuff), I’ve been listening to some music….and the song “Try” from P!nk came on:

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try

That’s kind of the message that I want to send out to my students as they are preparing to leave the safety net of high school and stare down the real world and make it their bitch – things are going to happen, you’re going to get kicked around a lot, and everything is going to seem impossible at least once an hour, but…whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP. Just get up and try try try. I need to hear those words myself from time to time….don’t we all? 🙂

xxx