A day of Zen

As a veteran, programs and logistics coordinator for a nonprofit organization serving veterans, and community outreach coordinator for a park district, I was invited to attend a Veterans Wellness Day at Green Gulch Farms & Zen Center.

I listen to zen music when falling asleep, enjoy the occasional yoga session, and need those quiet moments to myself, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for this event.

This was an entire day of essentially just being. There was some group talk, lunch, exploration of the grounds and walking to the beach…but overall, not much.  Again, I’m happy to just be but 8 hours of mellowing out was a bit much for me.

Though doing a Zen day may not be for me, it was an incredibly healing experience for a lot of the repeat veterans.  It did however, enlighten me. I have repeatedly said I’d like to live out in the woods, with very few people, where its peaceful and quiet. Well, this spot was out in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of people, and extremely quiet. Turns out that’s not the life for me!

Here’s some snapshots of the Zen Center and the grounds.  Happy meditating!


                              

Have you ever…?

 …just packed up and left? Realized where you are at this moment is maybe not where you’re supposed to be.  

Have you ever…
Had the feeling that “this can’t be it”.  This can’t be my life for the next 40 years…

Have you ever…
Taken a risk, left it all and hoped for the best?  Knowing it may be a challenge, a struggle, but oh so worth it?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to hear how you got the courage, the strength, and just left.  
Lately I’ve been day dreaming of moving to another country, starting life over, simplifying everything… It sounds like a dream. Perhaps temporary until the real world sucks me back and forces me into a career …  But I feel like it’s an adventure I need to indulge in before real life happens.

God is good friends. God is good.

Apparently I suck…

at taking constructive criticism

Photo from markhowelllive.com

Photo from markhowelllive.com

It’s funny, for the last two weeks I have been assisting with interviewing youth for jobs – and one of the questions we asked was: “describe a time when you were given constructive criticism, and how you responded”.  As I sat on the other side of the table, I didn’t bother to think about how I would answer this question… but, today, I figured it out.

I recently interviewed for the position I have been working in for the last 8 months (on assignment).  I felt confident – as I was praised for the work I had done thus far, I knew I had made a positive impact, and I walked out of the interview feeling relatively confident.

To my surprise, my interview was described as “vanilla, low energy, not your A game…”

<insert blank look here>

As I let the feedback settle, all I focused on was the word “vanilla”.  Urban Dictionary describes “vanilla” as unexciting, conventional, normal, boring.  Ouch – that hurt.  I felt myself getting internally defensive, thinking my work had proven my worth, what did I miss, what didn’t I say, I answered all the questions, what else were they expecting?

My response was “perhaps I’m not the best candidate for this position“, and perhaps I’m not, but by golly, I wish I taken this feedback with a little more grace.  Yes, tears are welling in my eyes, I’ve already perused other jobs, and I am accepting that this may not be where God wants me – but I wish I would have sat up tall, smiled boldly, thanked the person for the criticism and expressed my goals of improvement.

Now, on top of feeling vanilla, I feel disappointed in myself for how I reacted.

So what’s the point of this rant?   To not let words cut so deep, to take them for what they were – honest feedback – and to be grown up enough to accept them and move on.

Thanks for hearing me out.  If anyone has any tips on interviewing, staying strong & positive, accepting criticism – etc., I would love to hear them.

God is good friends.  God is good.

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season for Festivals!

I LOVE a good festival.  Beer Festivals, Art & Wines, Street Fairs, you name it.  The sun, the greasy, sweet of corn dogs, and the delicious beverages – you can’t beat it!

The season is just kicking off – and I’ve had a blast at the 2 festivals I attended.

Festival:  Bay Area Craft Beer Festival

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2 Date:  18 April, 2015 (every year in April)
Location:  Downtown Martinez, CA
Cost: $35 – buy in advance – they sell out!
Info:  http://www.bayareacraftbeerfestival.com/
Highlights:  Good beer (though I wasn’t overly impressed – I thought the 2014 selection was better) good food (we indulged in a Indian Tika Masala wrap – YUM), free shuttle from Concord Bart.
Bummers:  There’s just so many people, and it’s a relatively small space, you need to get there about an hour early – the line to get in gets insanely long!

Festival:  Walnut Creek Art & Wine

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5Date:  30 & 31 May 2015
Location:  Heather Farms Park, Walnut Creek
Cost: FREE!
Info:  http://www.artwinefestivalwc.com/
Highlights:  Good beer & wine, lots of good food options, great music playing all weekend, variety of arts & crafts, kids area, dogs welcome, free shuttle from Walnut Creek Bart and Shadelands Business Park.
Bummers:  None!

Here’s some other festivals I plan to attend:

Todos Santos Music & Market Series – http://www.cityofconcord.org/page.asp?pid=3000
Every Thursday Evenings, May – September, Todos Santos Park, Concord, CA

First Fridays in the Park – http://visitmurphys.com/first-fridays-in-the-park/
Murphys, CA

Operation Red, White and Brew – http://www.eventbrite.com/e/operation-red-white-brew-wine-craft-beer-tasting-event-benefiting-contra-costa-blue-star-moms-tickets-16213403727
June 28, 2015 in Martinez, CA

Lafayette Art & Wine Festival (my favorite!) – http://www.lafayettechamber.org/events/art-wine-festival/
September 19 & 20, 2015

Here’s some links to how I find out about what’s going on:

http://calendar.insidebayarea.com/
http://sf.funcheap.com/
http://www.visitsfbayarea.com/events
http://www.hiddensf.com/390-best-sf-bay-area-events.html
http://www.sfstation.com/music/calendar/bay-area/

If you have any event suggestions, or other ways to find out what’s going on in your area – please share!

Let’s not forget…

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Memorial Day: 5 Ways to Honor Fallen Troops

While most of us will be enjoying the 3-day weekend with BBQs, camping trips and cold beer – let’s take a moment to say a silent THANK YOU to the men and women who died fighting for our country – and aloud to their families – for supporting their service member, who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Let’s take a moment, to bow our heads, and give glory to God for letting us (Americans) live free. That fighting for our country is now a choice, made by less than 1% of the bravest of the brave.  Just take a moment for sheer gratitude, knowing that the majority of us, will never know what it means to be on the frontline.  Take a moment to feel the sun, warm on your face, and just feel peace.

Thank you, for your service, for trading your life, so that I may be free.

Visit www.r4alliance.org to learn how you can support service members and their families.

Guest Blog: Confidence 101

Every so often I ask someone to write a post for my blog.  Today I asked my sweetheart to, and I love his wisdom!  It’s simple, and just makes sense!  Enjoy!

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Alex, my guest blogger, and me 🙂

I’d like to think that I dress well. I dont like to spend too much on clothes, mind you, but if I see something that I like and I can justify the cost, I’ll likely go for it. Why shouldn’t I? I work hard and I believe it’s important to reward yourself however you see fit. I often get comments on the way I dress. Most of the time it’s the typical “ooh, you look nice today.” or a variation thereof. Or sometimes I’ll get the sarcastic “wow, look at this guy”, however, I take those with a grain of salt as it usually comes from the type of guy that wears the same pair of cargo shorts 4 days a week and I don’t let that stuff bother me anyway.

In any case, the reason I mention all this to you is to explain WHY I like to dress well. Not only have I developed an appreciation for certain styles, but I firmly believe that they way you dress DIRECTLY affects how you feel and the level of confidence that you not only project, but actually have within you. Now, this is only one aspect of a source of confidence and I believe one should have several sources, but it certainly made a large impact for me

Have you ever heard the phrase “Look Good, Feel Good”? I had heard it plenty of times over the course of my life. Heck, 9 out of 10 fitness or diet infomercials will say something like it. But it never really sank in, it was more of a sales pitch than anything. It finally hit me when I was in college.

I was visiting my family and had mentioned to my sister that I wanted to…update my wardrobe. I was living out of a pair of jeans that were too big for me and a few hand-me-down shirts. So, we hit the mall to re-image me, (at the time, I was a big fan of The Mentalist and thought we should emulate that classy yet relaxed look). We ended up with a few new button-up shirts, some jeans that fit correctly, and a couple of vests.

At first I was a little nervous to dress that way in public (even though I had just laid down the money to do so). I had little in the way of confidence and thought I would get laughed at for “trying”. However, I was completely wrong. I felt, for lack of a better word, AWESOME. It was a complete 180 degree turn from where I was. I stood taller, walked faster (but not in an awkward way), looked straight ahead and felt like I had a million in cash with me. It was great! What’s better is that I got no negative reactions! I would get double takes from girls (and the occasional fellow) as well as some comments. All of this serviced to feed my inner confidence and as it did so, it would show in my appearance and attitude. It was a perpetual cycle of feeling fantastic. Since then, I have picking up new articles of clothing and developing my own style. A blazer or two here, some slacks and shoes there, and all worth every penny.

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God’s Country: Yosemite Valley

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
IMG_8362My childhood summer vacations were spent exploring around Yosemite Valley, wondering through the Ahwahnee dreaming of what it would be like to stay there, basking in the sun and playing in the freezing cold river, laying in the meadow gazing up El Capitan & Half Dome, and taking deep, deep breaths of rejuvenating mountain air.  As a kid we stayed in the cabins, which were flooded and ruined in 1997, so we moved to Yosemite Lodge.  My brother and I would be packed up in my dad’s old, yellow Mercedes, and meet all his buddies and their kids.  It was the greatest experience a kid could ask for.  Yosemite is home for me.  

If you’ve never been to Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get looking up at the massive granite walls surrounding you.  It’s humbling and awe-inspiring; it’s unreal.  I try to go at least once a year, either for a day trip or a weekend of camping.  To get a weekend campsite is a bit of a challenge – as it fills up right when reservations open.  I was fortunate enough to grab the last spot in North Pines Campground for this weekend.

The weather was overcast  when we rolled in on Friday afternoon, so we unpacked and rode around (you must bring bikes!) the valley.  It was my beau’s first time, so it was fun for me to take him around.  We went to shops in the Yosemite Village, Ansel Adam’s store, walked around the Indian site and explored the museum, and wrapped up with some hot coco from the cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge.  We came back to our site, lit a fire, made some dinner (steak fajitas!) and tucked in with a good book (the BFG – Roald Dahl) right as the rain rolled in.

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If I ever get married (again) it’s happening here!

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Even though we’re in a drought, the falls were mighty!

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On Saturday – we woke up to a b-e-a-utiful day!  We woke up leisurley, enjoyed some breakfast and hoped on our bikes to lower Yosemite falls.  We walked up the trail and enjoyed the views – and debated doing the much longer hike to the upper falls, and decided a drink at the Ahwahnee sounded a little better!  Ha!  We got a seat on the patio, ordered coffee, tea and cheesecake (of course) and enjoyed our afternoon.  We then went back to the site for a little nap, and got back on our bikes to stroll around Mirror Pond and Curry Village.  We wrapped up the evening with chili and cornbread by the fire.

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Best spot in the house!

Sunday morning we woke, enjoyed some delicious blueberry pancakes and packed up camp.  As we were heading out, we realized we had a dead battery!  Luckily, we had a very nice neighbor who jump started us, and we were on our way.

I truly can’t express how amazing Yosemite is.  There’s places to stay (and eat) for any budget, tons of hikes, amazing scenery and neat things to do.  It’s a must visit for anyone!

Oh ya, we saw this guy too:

God is good friends.  God is good.

The sunset that took my breath away

Have you EVER seen anything so glorious?  No, no you haven’t.  I promise you my friends, there are no filters on this image.  I took this photo in my back yard when I lived in Colorado.  I remember walking outside, feeling like I just stepped into Heaven.  This is one of those “Awe” moments.  The world stops, it takes your breath away, makes you feel so incredibly small yet so blessed for experiencing it.  Friends, I have witnessed some amazing sky-scapes, but this one, this one… there’s no words.  God is good friends.  God is good. IMG_0389IMG_0388 IMG_0390

Veggie Lasagna (if you must…)

In a effort to lighten up a bit, I decided to replicate a favorite comfort dish.  I replaced lasagna noodles with zucchini (since I had a few lying around) and substituted sautéed veggies for sausage.  I do have to say, I should NOT have gone with my gut, and cut down the cheese by half or so.  Anyhoo, here’s what I did (with recommendations of cheese use).

Ingredients:

  • Bottle of Bolognese Sauce *I never buy store bought sauce… being an italian and all, my family would be so disappointed!  But I wanted a quick meal, and had no homemade sauce at home – so forgive me.
  • 1/2 cup whole milk Ricotta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella
  • 3 large Zucchini, sliced long ways
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Get a grill pan nice an hot, over medium-high heat.  Coat zucchini in olive oil and salt and pepper, and grill on each side for a few minutes, or until they have grill marks.  Sauté onions and mushrooms in olive oil with salt and pepper, until soft – about 8 minutes.  Mix Mozzarella & Ricotta with salt & pepper in a bowl. Line an 8×8 baking dish (I always use ceramic – so easy to clean!) with some sauce (no need to heat sauce first).  Do a layer of zucchini, dot with cheese, sprinkle with veggies, top with sauce, repeat until you’ve used up the ingredients.  I got 2 layers out of it – finishing with zucchini.  Top with a final layer of sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake for around 15-20 minutes – or until bubbly and delicious.  Service with a nice glass o red wine, and buon appetito!

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