Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Groove of Giving

I never shop on Black Friday, mostly because I don’t like to shop. I also don’t like crowds or lines, and combining shopping with crowds and lines makes Black Friday about as appealing as a root canal.

Plus, as you may remember from my previous post, The Stress of Mess, subtracting stuff means multiplying mojo. But what do we gift-givers (and gift-getters) do for the holidays? No fear, my mess-less mates! I’ve compiled a list below. Honor somebody special this year, or put these groove-growing gifts on your wish list.

1. The Gift of Giving

One of the nicest things you can do for someone you care about is to honor something they care about. If your BFF loves dogs, make a donation in his or her name to the ASPCA. If your sister thinks pigs are the cats meow, take her on a trip to visit Farm Sanctuary (there’s one in New York and one in California). Perhaps you can give your spouse a special short-term volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity. You can both enjoy the sights of a fabulous destination while building a home for someone who needs one.

2. The Gift of Green

There are so many sustainable ways to say “Happy Holidays!” Plant a tree in the name of a loved one, cook a meal made with fresh, organic ingredients and invite your friends over to share it, or head on over to You’ll find loads of sustainable gifts for everyone on your shopping list.

3. The Gift of Health

There are so many books and movies on how to get healthy... how do you know where to start? No worries... I'm here for you! I've done all the research so you don't have to. For those in your life who may be going through an illness, or even those who just want to feel inspired to improve their overall health and well-being, here are a few gift-worthy titles:

Forks Over Knives - DVD
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead - DVD
The China Study (by T. Colin Campbell) - book
Eat to Live (by Joel Fuhrman) - book
Crazy Sexy Diet (by Kris Carr) - book

4. The Gift of Time

Time is something that everyone could use more of. So how can we give the gift of time this holiday season? You can offer to clean your very busy friend's house, or if you're domestically-challenged like me (don't laugh... it's a real disorder!), you could hire someone to do it instead. Your parents would probably love to spend some time with you. Why not take them out to dinner, or invite them out to see a show? Surprise your kids with a special "kids" day... pick a weekend and tell them that you'll do anything they want (within reason, of course... jumping off the roof onto a trampoline doesn't count as "within reason"), and then be prepared to give them your undivided attention.

Fortunately, most of these gifts don't require trips to the mall, long lines or crowds, and, better yet... they won't clutter up your house! Do you have other groovy gift ideas? I'd love to hear about them!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Money or Your Mojo

We humans have a very strange relationship with money.

We don’t talk about how much we earn. We lie about how much we spend. We judge other people for not having enough. We judge other people for having too much. Some people spend all their time thinking about it. Some people refuse to think about it. We feel bad if we don’t have more. And we always feel like we should have more.

Money is a big source of relationship strife, too. According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, about 30% of couples say finances cause the most stress in their relationship, followed distantly by intimacy (11%), their children (9%) and their in-laws (4%).

That’s a lot of power for a flimsy piece of green paper.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with money, and I realized that the two of us could use some therapy. I imagine our session would go something like this:

Therapist: So, why are you here today?

Money: She totally ignores me, except when she needs something. And then she’s angry at me if I’m not there for her.

Therapist: Is this true?

Me: Yes, yes it is. I want Money around when there is something I need, but other than that, I don’t really care for him. In fact, I dislike him!

Money: That really hurts my feelings.

Therapist: Why don’t you like Money?

Me: Well, I’m not supposed to like Money. I’m supposed to care about making the world a better place. Everyone knows you can’t have both… you have to choose one or the other.

Therapist: Who said you have to choose?

Me: I don’t know. I guess I just have that belief that it’s either my money or my mojo.

Money: You really know how to hurt a guy.

Therapist: What if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have both Money and Mojo?

Money: Maybe if you treat me like a partner instead of this hot-and-cold, back-and-forth, one-sided relationship we’ve had, we could do beautiful things together.

Me: Really? Is that possible? We could actually work together towards a common goal?

Therapist: How should I know? This is your imaginary therapy session.

So, I started thinking about what Money said, and I realized he was right. We have so many assumptions and perceptions about money, most of which were formed subconsciously, long ago. What if we didn’t give money so much… value? What if we thought of money like we think about the other necessities in life that we’re grateful to have, such as electricity, running water, or heat? You never hear anybody say, “I need more electricity!” or “My running water isn’t enough for me!” or “That person has way too much heat. Who does he think he is?!” Of course not. When it comes to those resources, we take just what we need. Sure, it’s valuable because it makes our lives more comfortable, and we feel badly for those who don’t have it, but we don’t have any excess energy on it.

Can we approach money the same way? What would happen if we used what we needed, were grateful for what we had, and shared what we could?

You know the old saying, “Money is the root of all evil. I don’t think that’s true. The saying should go, “Our notions of money are the root of all evil.” If we stop looking at money as evil, if we stop connecting money with fear, if we stop putting anger and resentment towards money, I’m willing to bet our financial outlooks will change for the better.

The next time you’re feeling anxious about your funds, take a deep breath, smile, and give Money a hug. Get rid of all your preconceived notions about Money. Give the poor guy a chance. Start fresh. Remind yourself that you and Money are partners, and although you will have your ups and downs, you’re in this relationship for the long haul.

What’s that other old saying? “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Let’s start using honey to catch money… and see how our fiscal future unfolds.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Trend Is Your Friend

I have this somewhat useless talent of being able to pick up on food trends. I couldn’t tell you the next big fashion statement, or the next hot song, or the way the stock market will go, but if you want to know about where the future of food is headed, I’m your gal.

Back in the day I predicted the passion with protein, the fetish with fat-free, and the curb of carbs. More recently I predicted the organic obsession, the local lure, and the kale craze.

What can I say? Some people read palms; I foresee food fads.

When I became vegan in 2004, the people who even knew what that word meant (and there weren’t many of them) thought I had lost my mind. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked, “But where will you get your protein from?”… Or, worse yet, the people who didn’t say anything and just stopped talking to me, muttering “freak” under their breath as they headed for the nearest burger joint.

Being a social outcast didn’t faze me much. A vegetarian for twenty years prior to that, I was used to the absurd questions and comments that people felt compelled to share simply because I didn’t eat animals. Plus, I had just read Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” followed by T. Colin Campbell’s “The China Study,” and that re-affirmed what I already knew almost twenty years prior when I experimented with the diet plan in Dean Ornish’s “Eat More, Weigh Less.” Not only was there no reason to eat animals, but research has proven time and time again that NOT eating animals is a healthier way to live.

But I digress…

This post really isn’t about whether or not to be a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, or chocolateivore (I made that last one up… all blog posts should mention chocolate at least once). This post is about food trends.

I usually shop at Whole Foods, simply because there are so many wonderful options for me there. Where else can I get a gourmet meal, complete with a fresh salad, a savory hot bar, steaming soup, and some vegan chocolate mousse to top it off (remember, all blog posts should mention chocolate at least once)? But today, it just so happens that another grocery store was on my way home. And, since we only needed a few things, I figured I’d run in there. It had been a while since I shopped at a grocery store besides Whole Foods, and I was pleased with what I saw.

First of all, the “natural foods” section was packed. And I mean, packed! I bonked my cart into someone else’s cart at least half a dozen times. (Although I am great at choosing healthy foods, I’m not so good at cart driving). Next, I noticed that the produce section was bursting with some great-looking, and sometimes organic (!) produce. And better yet, people were buying it! The coffee bar in the store had soy milk. SOY MILK! And, to top it all off, they even had a section for gluten-free products... it was tiny, but it was there! What a beautiful sight!

Nowadays, people don’t sneer too much when I tell them I’m vegan. Sometimes I even run into people who tell me they’re vegan, too. I send my kids to a school that serves only vegetarian lunches… and guess what?! Other parents send their kids there, too! And they LIKE, or at least DON'T MIND, the fact that the lunches are vegetarian. Even better… there’s a waiting list to get into this school! I’m telling you… this didn’t happen seven years ago in my part of the world. I’m no longer an outcast. I’m almost… dare I say it… normal!

Even for people who aren’t vegetarian (and I still love you), the trend is moving in a healthier direction. Everyone is eating more vegetables, fruit, and unprocessed foods. Thanks to national television shows like “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” and countless shows on the Food Network, people are becoming educated on healthy, sustainable foods. Authors like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are on the best-seller list. “Food, Inc.” and “Supersize Me” are blockbuster films. Everybody’s catching the sustenance subway, and everyone will benefit from that ride.

So what’s next? Here’s my prediction… the future isn’t only about what we eat. The future is about how we live. Being a junk-food vegan, living off of Doritos and Coke, isn’t where it’s at. The future of food will be about health and harmony. Are we eating sustainably? Are we wasting less? Are we embracing quality over quantity? Are we eating real food that is created by nature and not in a factory? Are we treating food as medicine, recognizing that it has the power to make us sick… or not? Are you ready to ask yourself those questions? The answers could shape your future.

Food is not just food. It’s culture and wellness. It’s health and happiness. I believe that as our food choices improve, our communities in general will be more peaceful, our citizens will live longer and better, and our priorities will shift. We’ll choose people over principles, kinfolk over cash, and giving over greed. We’ll not only add more years to our lives, we’ll add more life to our years.

A pipedream? Maybe. But the trend is my friend. I haven’t been wrong yet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why Try?

The English language should remove the word “try” from its vocabulary. Or at least I should remove it from mine.

It seems that whenever I use the word “try,” I’m really saying “I say I’m going to do this but really I’m not.” For example…

“I’m going to try to exercise more” really means “I say I want to exercise more, but I'm not willing to put in the effort.”

“I’m going to try to eat better” really means “I say I want to eat better, but I'm not willing to put in the effort.”

“I’m going to try to go to bed early” really means “I say I want to go to bed early, I'm not willing to put in the effort”

Do you see what I mean? Saying I’m going to “try” makes me feel better than saying I’m not going to change anything. But does anything really change?

Now what would happen if I truly commit to something, instead of “trying” to commit to it…

“I’m going to exercise more” really means “I’m going to exercise more.”

I’m going to eat better” really means “I’m going to eat better.”

I’m going to bed early” really means “I’m going to bed early.”

Here’s an experiment:

Stand up.

No, really, stand up.

You up?


Now, try to jump.

Go ahead. Try to jump.

My guess is… you either jumped or you didn’t.

Am I right?

Trying is really irrelevant. You either did it or you didn’t.

Trying to do something is much safer than fully committing. If you try, then that automatically means you may fail. The word “try” by definition is “to make an effort to do or accomplish something.” If you make an effort, you may, or may not, succeed. But if you fully commit to something, your chance of success is much greater, simply because of the change in your mindset.

Let’s use another example... you don’t have to stand up for this one!

You “try” to train for a 5k race. You decide to “try” to see how far you can run without stopping. You go outside and start running. You become uncomfortable after half a mile, so you stop. You tried.


You commit to train for a 5k race. You commit to run one mile without stopping. You go outside and start running. You become uncomfortable after half a mile, but you keep going. You keep going because you committed to run one mile without stopping. There is no “trying.” There is just “doing.”

The act of committing is the difference between failure and success. “Trying” simply means that we’re not ready to commit, but we just don’t want to admit it.

Of course, we never have to “try” to do something we really want to do. When was the last time you tried to have fun with your friends? Have you ever tried to enjoy that triple chocolate layer cake? I’m sure you don’t have to try to look forward to vacation. We only have to try things that we don’t feel sure we’ll succeed at.

Making a full commitment to something is scary. It means we put our hearts and souls into it, and that could take effort. But if it’s something that’s near and dear to you, it’s effort well spent. Can you imagine saying that you will “try” to take care of your kids, or your spouse, or even your pet? Of course not! There’s no doubt in your mind. You’re fully committed, so you just do it.

What is one thing that you’ve been trying to accomplish, but haven’t? Are you ready to stop trying, and start doing? Join me in eliminating the word “try” from your vocabulary. Fully commit to making one change in your life that will maximize your mojo and propel your power! I can’t wait to hear about the results!