A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

What it means to be Courageous January 29, 2009

My friend Linea is courageous; her story, inspirational. She is one of the millions of people who suffer from bipolar, yet so many of whom are too afraid to talk about there illness. Her mother, Cinda, teaches about mental health conditions, yet as a mother had to watch her daughter spiral into suicidal depression. Together they have written a book that broaches this topic from both angles, as a person afflicted with bipolar disorder, and a loved one’s family fighting to save a life. Together they share their experience in hopes to raise awareness and bring hope to those who are affected with bipolar.

Because of the current stigmas of bipolar in today’s society, many chose to remain silent, paralyzed by the fear of what others may think or how they would react if someone was to find out. Yet, this illness needs awareness. And, frankly–and this is just my opinion–I don’t like the word “illness” as most medical journals describe it. The word sounds cold and sterile, making you uneasy before you know what it means or understand what it is. The word “disorder” is a bit better. Imagine your  bedroom in disorder–clothes scattered on the floor, books strewn on the desk and the bed is unmade. Is a messy room scary? Is a messy room horrible? No. A messy room is life. Sometimes you just don’t have time to make your bed, or do your laundry. Sometimes things in your room are in disorder, just like, the emotions and thoughts in one’s head for people afflicted with bipolar. And, whereas you are responsible for your messy room, a person with bipolar gets the raw end of the deal–he/she didn’t chose to have  bipolar, it is a brain disorder that happens to them.

So this time, imagine that instead of you making the mess in your room, a stranger comes into your room and starts trashing it–clothes are ripped from the hangers, the sheets torn off the bed, and someone (that bastard!) ripped all of the pages from your favorite book and chucked them across the floor. Now, further imagine that this happens everyday. Or, maybe not even every day, but maybe on a day that you were really really really happy, and then you came home to find your room in disarray. I would be angry at life. I would be depressed. And, depression and feelings of hopelessness are two of the biggest symptoms common with bipolar which can often spiral to more harmful moods or actions:

“As I moved through depression, mania, suicidal ideation, drugs, alcohol, an overdose, self-mutilation, and bulimia I knew I needed to make a difference for others struggling with the same demons. Hospitalized with a 24 hour one-on-one hospital aide I could not help but cry for those less fortunate than me. I cried for those unable to get the help they needed due to financial needs and many other issues.”–Linea Johnson

Fortunately for Linea, she had a loving family and supportive friends that were able to get her through her worst of times–she survived to tell her story. Unfortunately, however, many people afflicted with bipolar don’t tell anyone and they become suicidal before they can get help. If you have any of these symptoms, I encourage you to talk to someone. You are not alone. If you know someone with these symptoms, I encourage you to offer your support–and, if that is not enough, then help them get treatment or seek a doctor for medication.

Don’t be afraid to speak about this condition, there are millions dealing with bipolar everyday. It’s life, just like a messy room.  Things in life happen, but it’s our reaction to the situation that marks who really are. Be strong. Be courageous. Talk to someone, and get help if you need it. And, as Linea puts it, “bipolar is not an illness, but added wisdom.”

To find out more on bipolar, and to follow Linea and Cinda’s book go to their website

To learn about Linea’s struggle with bipolar and read words of inspiration, check out her blog.

To learn about Cinda’s role as a professor in special education and her experience as a mother of child with bipolar, refer to her blog

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A whole new day January 28, 2009

When the sunlight streams through your bedroom window and finds its way towards your sleepy eyes, do you open them with a smile and think–I have a whole new day! Or, do you grumble as you turn over, wanting to return back to sleep, trying to escape the fact that…ugh..I have a whole new day…?

Sure, there are days that I feel the latter. There are days I wish I could escape the realities of the world.  There are days when life does not seem magical with endless possibilities, but rather  a small dark room where I am trapped. These emotions are normal, and you should allow yourself to momentarily feel the negative feelings instead of blocking them out.

Let your body express itself: shed tears over a broken relationship, lament with regret over a missed opportunity, bubble quietly with indignation—then stop.  Now it’s time to let your mind interpret these emotions. Why am I crying? Am I sad because of lost love or fear of being alone? Why am I complaining? Am I afraid i will never get a similar chance as before? Why am I angry? Did I not get what I want or am I upset by the actions of another?

You’ve allowed your body to express itself, your mind to interpret these emotions now it’s time to take the advice offered by your heart.

Relationships: If the person you love doesn’t love you back, let yourself grieve for this loss. Once your tears are dry realize that things are what they are, and you would rather be in love with someone who loves you back than being in a relationship void of love. If the world is a grain of sand, then love is the ocean–love is huge! If you submerse yourself in water, it is impossible not to get wet. If you submerse yourself in love, it’s impossible not to feel loved.  So dive back in.

Regrets: We all have them, but we shouldn’t keep them–let them free. Recognize your regret, tell yourself that you are unhappy with your actions then be proactive to either make amends or allow yourself to let go.  If it is a regret that you still can take positive action on, then what are you waiting for–transform your regret into an accomplishment! If it’s a regret that you can’t change, then accept that it is part of your past and walk forward. Don’t dwell on things you can’t control, everyone makes mistakes, now walk forward.

Anger: The world would be a better place if this emotion did not exist. But, it does, and you have a responsibility to yourself and others to control it. Recognize the fiery feelings that bubble inside and instead of letting them overflow uncontrollably, release them through a positive outlet.  Anger can be a good catalyst to a positive change in that a synonym for anger is passion, just like a synonym for love is passion. If you channel your passions in positive ways you can make BIG changes, because you are passionate about doing something. Instead of being passive, you actually want to be involved in changing the present. I get angry when I see litter on the ground, as a result, I pick it up. I get angry when I don’t challenge myself, as a result, I take more risks. etc.

When you wake up tomorrow, let your body express itself, your mind interpret your feelings, then allow yourself to really listen to your heart’s advice–it’s your best friend. Know that love is never lost, it’s all around you. You have control over your present actions to lead your life how you want to. And, you have the amazing opportunity to channel your passions to make a positive change.

 

If you never ask… you’ll never get an answer. January 27, 2009

When I sent my question to Paulo Coelho five days ago, I half expected it would be lost among the hundreds if not thousands of emails he probably receives, after all he gets 230,000 unique visitors a month and he can only answer one reader’s question a day. But, being the optimistic person I am, I sent the email anyways. After all, when have I ever not done something just because the odds were against me?

Well…* drum roll please*….I’m am delighted to say that my email was chosen to appear on Paulo Coehlo’s blog! I feel honored that he chose my question and gracious for the time he took to respond. Coehlo has a true gift in bringing inspiration to many people’s life, especially my own. Seeing my words next to his further ignites my belief that anything is possible….you just have to let go of your fears, push past your doubts and go for it!

“…keep on knocking every door. It’s always difficult in the beginning, but if you truly believe in what you’re doing, keep on running those risks. Life tend to be very generous with those that follow their dreams,” writes Coelho in an earlier blog post.

My dream is to be an author. And, obviously I still have a very long road ahead of me, but like Coehlo says, if you keep pursuing your dreams and stay true to your path, things tend to fall into place.

Go to Paulo Coehlo’s blog to read my question and his response!

And, don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Alchemist: this is a must read and a truly inspiring story.

 

Simple Moments of Country Life January 26, 2009

I love the city. Bright lights, restaurants galore and endless entertainment options. The city arguably has everything a girl could want…well, almost.  After the countless nights of parading across town in high heels, short dresses and makeup, things become routine.  In a city, you are surrounded by what seems like a plethora of options: Thai food or Italian, Hollywood blockbuster or independent film, wine bar or pub, concert or performance, art gallery or coffeshop art, jazz or hip hop, rock climbing or ice skating.  There are so many choices of entertainment but upon closer inspection, the so called plethora of options are condensed into seven main categories: dining, movies, bars, concerts/performance, art, music or sports.  Occasionally you’ll find an event that breaks the mold of a typical Saturday night out like a beer pong tournament or national geographic lecture, but these seem few and far between. And, for the budget conscious person…*cough*…most of these entertainment options cost money! For two people you’re often looking at least $30 on dinner, $15 on movie tickets, $20-100 on your average bar bill, $40-200 on a concert/performance, at least $10 cover for live music and $20 at the climbing wall. This doesn’t even count the parking, gas or taxi costs.  Man oh man…I already feel a hole forming in my wallet.  And, during this economic crisis, that hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger until *poof!* where did my wallet go? Where is my money? All I want is to be entertained. All I want is a fun moment to remember!

One of the so called downfalls of living in a small town is that there are not a lot of entertainment options. When I first moved to Seattle and told people I was from Davenport, population 1500, people gasped, “What do you do? Do you even have television?”

“Yes, we have television and even Internet–crazy I know!” I would say. But, city people are right, there are not a lot things to do in Davenport. Correction, there are not a lot of things that you can pay to do. Besides bowling and…yup, well that’s about it.

So, what do you do in a small town then? Well, you get creative. You turn the simple things in life into entertainment and along the way you find that often times they are just as fun and more memorable than the cookie cutter options of city entertainment.

Last night for example,  I pulled on a pair of old blue jeans, laced up my boots and layered up with thermals and an old coat to combat the 9 degree weather outside before leaving my parent’s house to go help feed a newborn calf that had been abandoned by the mother.

Upon the first visit, we tried to get the mother to let the calf feed from her own milk. After several attempts and the mother nearly squashing her own calf, we left in a big blue pickup and later returned with an esophageal feeder, which basically looks like a giant UV sac and hose. We filled the sac with milk, glided the hose down the calf’s throat and in less the a minute the milk was on it’s way to filling the calf’s stomach.  The calf was so little it wobbled when it walked and you could easily hold it in your arms.

Although I know I could never move back to a town as small as Davenport, I am thankful that I was raised here and learned to appreciate the simple things in life.  It’s made me realize throughout the years that memories don’t need to wear a price tag. You don’t need to spend money in order to create a memorable moment. For me, it the moments that are random, unexpected and often times free that I cherish and remember the most–like holding a newborn cafe on a freezing winter night.

 

Healthy Eating: Grapefruit Salsa January 23, 2009

My parents are from the Midwest and they still love cooking food they grew up on, especially my dad–he is definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and truly believes that bacon makes everything tastes better. He’s not the only one though, in 2008 bacon became a huge fad. Stores and restaurants around the U.S. introduced items such as bacon flavored salt, bacon flavored toothpicks, bacon ice cream, bacon as a martini garnish and even bacon cupcakes.  What are they going to come up with next, Bacon flavored lattes? Oh wait…they already did. Honestly, some people wonder why many Americans are overweight…I mean seriously adding bacon to cupcakes, that is just a heart attack waiting to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I like bacon, but in moderation and not everyday. Since I’ve been at my parents while I apply for my Italian visa, I’ve taken over the cooking.  And, surprisingly, my dad has loved everything I’ve made—which have all been healthy dishes! I think for most people it’s not that they wouldn’t like to cook healthy, it’s  that they don’t know how and fall back into the routine of what they know. Recognize why you eat unhealthy food, then stop making excuses. Experiment people…come on!  Open your fridge, find a healthy ingredient you already have, get online and run a recipe search.

The other night I looked in fridge and saw a grapefruit. We planned on grilling sturgeon for dinner–grapefruit salsa came to my mind as a perfect accompaniment. After doing a five minute search I had a handful of recipes and mixed and mashed ingredients to form my own easy and healthy version. My dad could not stop raving about it, so I thought I would share it with you:

Grapefruit Salsa:

2 Grapefruits
1-3 cloves of chopped garlic
2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, squeezed
salt and pepper

Peel and de-membrane the grapefruit, cut into chunks and toss in a bowl. Add the chopped garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper and voila!–a gourmet looking salsa is created in less than 10 minutes. Add the grapefruit salsa to grilled fish, top with an avocado slice and serve with whole wheat Couscous or Quinoa (I like the Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joes). Store the leftover salsa in the fridge and use the following day on a spinach salad or omelet. Delish!

Simple to make, healthy to eat and beautiful presentation.

 

Paulo Coelho: An Inspiration January 22, 2009

Typically when I read, I have a pen in hand and am marking up the novel with notations, circling quotes and underlining phrases that move me in some way–all which I later transfer to a writing journal where I draw on for inspiration or examples of writing styles. There are some books where the pen never makes a mark in the novel, and there are others, like The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho, where the entire book is littered with black and blue ink.

It is not big words, intricate plots, or elaborate description that inspire me, rather it is the underlying message. The style of writing in, The Alchemist, is simplistic, the setting well described but not over-descriptive but the message–the message, is powerful.  The underlying message to not be paralyzed by fear in the path of your dreams pervades throughout the novel.  I connect to this message like a mussel to a rock. My fingers can not turn the pages quick enough as I devour the text in gulps, not stopping for air until I consume the last word–my body is full, my soul is satisfied and my mind digests the words I just read.

Books that captivate my attention are those that I can relate to.  I know I’ve come across an excellent novel when I read a paragraph or a quote that mirrors the thoughts that have been stored in my head but never transcribed onto paper–it feels as though the writer is in my mind, pulling out this information and presenting my own words to me! A little eerie, yes…but also comforting in knowing that others share the same beliefs and ideas.

Of Coelho’s books, I’ve read The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die, and I plan to pick up the rest of his books in the next few weeks. I’ve also downloaded The Way of the Bow, Stories for Parents, Children and Grandchildren and The Warrior of Light, which Paolo offers as free! .pdf downloads off of his blog: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/internet-books/

If there are books or authors who inspire you, please leave a comment with suggestions as I would love to extend my ongoing reading list!

 

You’re on Hold, Thanks for Waiting… January 21, 2009

As I sit here writing a post for my blog, I couldn’t help but open a blank page and switch to write about my father’s ordeal in ordering a computer warranty from Dell. It was quite the morning entertainment.

With any customer service call, there usually is a small wait time. I agree with my dad’s lamenting about being put on hold, it is quite annoying especially when you have things to do.  And, for my dad, waiting on hold wouldn’t be so bad with music, but listening to a recording about, “Dell’s new products, buy one today!” sent him straight into a tizzy.

Now, for those who don’t know him personally, my father is one of the most hilarious individuals I have ever met. Being around him is like watching a live comedy, you just sit back and wait for him to do or say something, then you keel over laughing. His satire is much like something you would see on, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, written by Larry David, a former Seinfeld writer. It’s dry, offbeat and often times pushes the limit of things you should or shouldn’t say–but with my dad, anything goes. Every topic, every person, every situation is fair game.

He began his ranting as soon as the customer service voice recording came on. For five minutes or so he complained about how stupid it was to be put on hold, how he hated it, how he DIDN’T want to buy a product etc.

I sat there, listening until finally I had enough!

“Dad!” I said. “Deal with it. It’s not going to help anything by complaining, what good is it going to do?”

“Thank you for being patient,” the woman’s voice recording said in the meantime.

“No, I’m not patient!” he barked back to no one.

After a few more minutes of the voice recording rambling on in a sales pitch, I hear a loud yell coming from the man sitting next to me….yes, my father.

“Your mother’s ugly!” he yells into the phone.

Thankfully, it was just the recording on the other line.

Oh dad….