Destin..My Favorite Place To Be

This weekend, I am visiting one of my favorite places–Destin, Florida. I’m so excited because it’s been years since I’ve been to Destin, and I’m here with my siblings. I love it because it’s quiet and the beach is clear, and warm. So lovely!

The weather has been beautiful. Yesterday, it was sunny, with a cool breeze. The forecast predicted rain, but we were so thankful that it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

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This morning, I went for a jog with my sister and brother along the scenic route. It was a great way to start the day. I never used to like exercising while I was on vacation, but now I make it a part of my day, and I enjoy it.

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We made a late breakfast at home, and hit the beach in the afternoon. After we soaked up the sun for a few hours, we lay by the pool for a little while.

Yesterday, we rode a pontoon for the first time, and it was tons of fun! My brother navigated for most of the time while the girls lounged around. We took it out in the early afternoon until the evening, and packed our lunch and snacks with us for the day. I even drove it myself for a while, but it wasn’t long before my sister pointed out that I was going in circles, so I gave the wheel back to my brother. They say I’m not the most skilled driver, but I beg to differ 🙂

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Yesterday evening, my sister Nina and my sister-in-law Areej cooked dinner for us. They made baked chicken breasts with onions and potatoes, quinoa, and avocado and tomato salad. It was yummy and healthy! Today is our last day before we head back to New Orleans tomorrow. I hope you’re having a great a Labor Day holiday, wherever you are!

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Healthy Waffles for Breakfast

Today I tried a new brand of waffles for the first time from, Van’s Natural Foods. I had their lite, whole grain, wheat waffles variety, along with Log Cabin syrup. My sister (who is a bigger health nut than me) introduced me to Log Cabin syrup, which has no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I love it, because it’s just as yummy as Aunt Jemima syrup–the stuff I grew up on!

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I believe in everything in moderation. I don’t think it hurts to have a spoon of that delicious Aunt Jemima syrup occasionally. But if you’re like me, and you can eat waffles every day for breakfast, I would stick to the syrup with no HFCS. I wanted to learn more about HFCS, so I did a little research. I knew that it wasn’t good for you, but what I didn’t know is that HFCS causes inflammation in the body. That was it for me. This is what else you should know about HFCS:

  • High fructose corn syrup is extracted through corn stalks and chemically processed and used as a sweetner.
  • It is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease-creating industrial food products or “food-like substances”.
  • It contains contaminants including mercury that are not regulated or measured by the FDA.

It’s always better to go for the HFCS-free foods when you can. If you want to learn more about HFCS, here’s the link to a great article by Dr. Mark Hyman who explains what HFCS is and how it affects our bodies. The title of the article, 5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You, I admit is a bit dramatic, but the article is insightful and interesting, nonetheless.

Seafood and What It Does For Your Health

I came across this on the Twitterverse today, and I thought it was neat. There is a website called SeafoodHealthFacts.org that provides the health benefits and risks of eating seafood. Since I currently live in New Orleans, the land of seafood, I thought it was pretty cool.

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I never used to think much about the food I consumed and its affect on our health, until after I got sick. That’s when I became really interested in learning about how foods can help us heal. Lots of different seafood offer proteins, vitamins and minerals. The website includes credible and detailed information on:

  • The nutritional benefits of various species of seafood
  • Seafood safety, sustainability, regulations
  • The risk vs. benefits of consuming seafood

I’m a New Orleans girl at heart, and I grew up cracking crawfish and crab legs. So, this is good news for me and my health. But how about a fried shrimp po’boy with all the trimmings? Mmmm! Does that count?

This Is Your Life & Six Ways to Look at It

I came across this article yesterday and I loved it, so I had to share it. Mindfulness is something I became familiar with after my diagnosis over a year and a half ago. It is a practice that I continuously work at incorporating into my life. It’s one of those things that I always feel better when I do, but it’s easy to put off. Sort of like exercising.

The writer of this article interviewed the founders of Holstee, a company that designs unique products with a focus on mindful living. The company is most known for its’ Holstee Manifesto, which you may have heard of, and which I believe are words to live by. Here are the six tips the founders suggested for practicing mindfulness to reframe your perspective on life.

1. Presence

When in conversation, give someone your fullest attention. Put the computer away, turn your phone on silent, and get lost in the moment with that person. Be fully interested, rather than interesting.

2. Architect Your Life

Be considerate and intentional with your life decisions. Rather than let life happen to you, author the story of your life. Author and philosopher Howard Thurman says it best with, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

3. Taking time for yourself creates clarity and renewed energy. At Holstee, they strongly suggest all teammates take their birthday day off each month.

4. Ask “Why?”

Why am I doing this? Why are we creating this product? Why is this a design principle? Asking “why” encourages you to go deeper and become more aware of what’s driving you, and whether or not you want it to be driving you.

5. Know Your Food and Appreciate Meals

What are you eating and where did it come from? As a society, over the last 50 years, we’ve created a knowledge and geographic gap as we’ve distanced ourselves from our food. To stay aware, the team at Holstee cooks in the office almost every day, and meal times are savored without work.

6. Understand the impact of what you buy

Transparency is slowly being built into the operations of many forward-thinking companies. This movement is a direct result of the increasing number of people asking questions about the clothes they buy, where their electronics come from, and brands they choose to support. Before buying, understand the impact.

You can read the full article on Fast Company by writer Amber Rae, here.

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Vitamin B12 and What it Does for You

Do you know about vitamin B12 and what it does for our bodies? I’ve seen it in passing, but never really paid much attention to it, until recently. I was doing some research on the medicine that I take, colchicine, when B12 caught my eye. I learned that taking colchicine at a high dose and for an extended period of time can cause depletions of certain vitamins and minerals in the body.

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B12 is one of those vitamins. After I learned this, I asked my doctor to test my B12 levels. My levels were average, but he wanted them a little higher, so he recommended I take B12 over-the-counter. So, I got to my research right away, like a good journalist would! This is what I found.

Here’s what B12 does for you:

1. It helps in the manufacturing of red blood cells in the body

2. It supports the nervous system

3. It is required for the replication of DNA–generating new and healthy cells

Vitamin B12 is found in the following foods:

  • Fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk
  • Beef liver and clams are the best sources of vitamin B12
  • Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products are fortified with vitamin B12

The recommended amount of Vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4mcg (micrograms). Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B12 from the foods they eat. But some people have trouble absorbing it from food. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Have you heard of B12 shots? I heard of them but I didn’t know what the purpose or benefit is. Well, some proponents of vitamin B-12 injections say it gives you more energy and boosts your metabolism, helping you lose weight. But unless you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, vitamin B-12 injections aren’t likely to give you an energy boost, according to the Mayo clinic. Leave that to being active and eating healthy!

To learn more about Vitamin B12, visit this link at the National Institutes of Health website.

The Happiness Project–Finding Happiness Everyday

I first came across The Happiness Project when I was at the airport in Atlanta last September. The title, The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, And Generally Have More Fun, and the bright blue cover caught my eye. I added it to my book list, but I didn’t buy it at the time because I already had quite a few books on my list . But I knew I really wanted to read it at some point.

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About two months ago, a dear friend of mine, who had just lost his mother to sickle cell anemia, told me that he had a book that he wanted me to read. He enjoyed reading it and he thought it was perfect for me.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received a package in the mail the following week. Inside was The Happiness Project. He hadn’t mentioned the title when we spoke on the phone, and he had no idea that I had it on my book list. Isn’t it interesting how those things work out?

The Happiness Project is my favorite pick for the summer. It details author Gretchen Rubin’s one year journey to find ordinary ways to live a happier life. One of the things I love about the book, besides the insightful, engaging writing, is Rubin’s practical approach. In the midst of her busy life in New York City, Rubin realizes one day that although she lives an overall satisfying life, she can do more to feel happier.

Instead of taking a big leap that we might think of as a way to “finding happiness”, like leaving a job, or traveling abroad, she incorporates small, practical things into everyday life. I love this approach, because I too believe small steps can lead to a big change.

Rubin’s writing is filled with interesting research on happiness, along with witty, entertaining comments about her own experience. She manages to describe her happiness project in a way that makes you feel as though you are a part of her journey. She breaks the project into twelve months, assigning a happiness goal for each month, and the lesson that she learned from applying each goal. She creates a “happiness chart” to document her progress along the way.

I found The Happiness Project to be both inspiring and uplifting, just as my friend had promised. And it came when I needed it.  It was a much needed reminder of how being grateful, pursuing passions and making a conscious effort to shift our perspective can contribute to a happier, more fulfilling life.

I intend to read The Happiness Project again. And I’ve never read the same book twice! I think it will be one that I keep on my bedside table, and refer to time and time again. I hope you’ll have a chance to read it sometime too.

What’s your favorite read this summer? Please share!

Dancing In The Rain

You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I came across this picture last week. I remember hearing this when I was much younger, and thinking..”Who wouldn’t want to dance in the rain? That sounds like fun!”

Little did I know.

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Now, as an adult having faced some of life’s most enduring challenges..illness, death, and loss, I understand what this saying really means. When things aren’t going as we planned, expected or hoped, it’s about embracing those experiences and living in the moment, anyway.

This is no easy practice to apply.

Last weekend, my sister Ivan and two of my cousins, Huda and Linda were visiting . (I’m currently visiting my sister Nina in Philadelphia) We planned to go out and see some of the sites in the city and spend the day outside. When we made it to our first stop, the famous Rocky statue, it started raining. We tried waiting it out, but it didn’t let up. So we decided to leave and find a coffee shop where we could sit inside and wait for the weather to clear up. As soon as we arrived to the central part of the city, it started pouring down rain. There went our plans for the day.

The five of us huddled under an awning and waited impatiently as we watched the rain come down. Immediately, I started to think how annoying it was that the rain had ruined our plans. But then I caught myself. Instead of thinking that our day was ruined, I thought, why not make the most of it? You can’t change the weather. How often do the five of us get to spend time together (we each live in different cities) and just slow down? In fact, that moment is what made me recall the saying, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

That’s what I’ve been learning, especially over the past year. We all make big plans for life, and we expect life to act accordingly. But often times, our plans, big or small, don’t work out the way we want them to.  And when that happens, it’s easy for us to feel discouraged or frustrated. I’ve found myself in situations saying, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.” Or “This is not what I was expecting.”  But instead of backing away, and waiting for things to change or get better,  we can appreciate our experiences for what they are.

Our day in the rain was just a small thing. But I thought, if I could adapt this way of thinking to ordinary things, then maybe I could learn to see the bigger plans that don’t work out the way I hoped, as opportunities to embrace too. I think the true test of our character comes when things don’t turn out quite the way we want, but we go forward with grace anyway.

Have you recently had an experience that made you think of this saying? Maybe it was an important event in your life, or a vacation you planned? Or even a social activity you were looking forward to? Please share if you have.