My Green-Eyed Monster

I flip through the magazine on my lap, glossy pages filled with articles and page after page of beautiful women in shiny gowns, their hair perfectly placed. “Buy this cologne,” one ad says. “It will make you beautiful.”

“Huh,” I laugh.

I turn the page. A man and woman walk a beach, holding hands and smiling. “If you wear this brand, this could be you,” it says.

“Hmmm…”

“It’s true,” says a voice over my shoulder.

I jump. “What?”

“It’s true,” he says again. His emerald green eyes dance with a fiery blaze. I pull back. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“You know who I am. I am your old friend, the one who helps you stay in style, who finds the clothes that make you happy, who helps you discover a better life.”

He smiles slyly. “Look at that picture, the pretty girl with soft pearls and creamy white coat. See that bag over her shoulder? It’s so much nicer than the one you have. And look at the beach. Can’t you imagine yourself walking on that white sand, your hand tucked inside your husband’s?” His voice is gentle, calm, soothing.

“What beach is it?” I ask.

“What difference does it make?” He becomes annoyed, then quickly softens his voice again.

“It can be any beach you want. It can be the southern coast, or the Virgin Islands. It can be Hawaii. The fact is, if you wore those clothes, if your husband wore those new jeans, you could have the ultimate vacation. You could be that couple.”

I look at the picture. I loved the bag she was carrying. It was a lot like mine, only bigger, darker. Newer. Her hat, tan, the brim curled slightly over her bangs. And her sandals, oh, how I loved the twisted pieces of leather that wrapped around her ankles.

I glanced at the man, his outfit a combo of dark jeans, white shirt, and black shoes. Upon his wrist was a silvery band, matching the one the woman wore. The perfect couple. The perfect attire.

A green haze covers the room. I hear myself saying, “I want it. I want it all.”

“Of course, and you shall have it.” My friend slips out the door, returning with a plastic card in his grip. He waves it over my face. “One swift motion, and it’s all yours. The shoes, the clothes. Even the vacation.”

I smile. “They do have nice stuff,” I say dreamily.

“And they look so happy. You could be that happy,” says my green friend.

I glance up at him. “Aren’t I happy now?” I ask.

His eyes become tiny slits as he breathes a dark green cloud over my face. “You could be happier.”

“I could,” I say. I flick the power button on my laptop, type in the web address my green friend reads to me. Easy. Simple. Quick. The room gets hazier, blurring images across the computer screen. “I can’t see. The numbers, the pictures, it’s all so hazy.”

“It’s okay, I’ll guide you.” He places his hand on my shoulder, guiding my arm and wrist from place to place, dropping images into a virtual cart.

“What am I getting?” I ask.

“It doesn’t matter. Everything is new, guaranteed to make you happy.” The green smoke becomes thicker. “Style. Grace. Charm,” he whispers in my ear. I am floating.

I place my hand on the desk and a piece of paper crunches beneath my fingertips. As I lift it, my friend snatches it away.

“What is that?” I ask, ripping it from his claw.

“Don’t look,” he says, a sense of desperation in his voice.

I stare down at the paper, a long list of numbers, dollars after dollars. Money spent on shoes and clothing, glittery jewelry and soft pink sweaters. Books, movies, magazine subscriptions I never read. I’d worked hard to buy those things, and harder yet to pay them off.

My friend is restlessness. He leans into my ear, “Remember how happy you were. Remember the feeling of euphoria, the touch of a new silk shirt, the rush of adrenaline as you slipped on a new dress. Remember. You can be that happy again.”

Green smoke billowed around my head. I looked at the list in front of me, thinking about the boots I’d placed on my feet, how I danced and twirled in my new skirt, how elegant I felt with new beads around my neck.

But where were those items now? Tossed in a drawer? Or had I given them away, already weary of the color and style? I wondered if I’d even worn them. It seemed all that remained were memoires, and the paper in my hands.

I twirled around and faced my friend. “You did this,” I said.

“We did it together,” he sneered. The fire in his eyes was fading, a harsh gray etched across his face. “We can do it again. You and I, we could be happy.”

I looked around my home, at every chair and picture, at every shelf that once was filled with piles of books and tiny knick-knacks. All the stuff I’d released was hard to let go, but once it was gone, I’d never felt so good. And now, my friend, my green-eyed monster, was trying to get me to buy it all back.

I turned off the computer, and slowly walked away, turning back for one last glimpse at my friend. “I am happy,” I said.

“Remember me,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.

“How can I forget?” I said, looking at the statement in my hand.

Occasionally, I see the green monster, though he is no longer my friend. He peers at me from behind a rack of clothing, or peeks at me between pages of a magazine. I am no longer drawn in by his soft voice, no longer glazed over by a bright green haze. But he smiles slyly, as if he knows temptations will never end. He waits. And he waits.

Simple Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I swear my brain never stops. It is always thinking, making lists of groceries and projects, birthdays and holidays I need to remember. There are appointments to make, vacations to plan, people to call. If that weren’t enough, this wacky head of mine is always dreaming, constantly creating.Yup, my brain is an endless stream of activity. But believe it or not, I’m better than I once was.

A few years ago, this crazy brain of mine kept me from sleeping. While everyone in our house slept soundly, I would lay in bed thinking of all the things I needed to do. A little voice inside me would whisper, “Get up. You have chores to do, a million things to take care of.” When I finally did drift off, it was a restless slumber filled with bizarre dreams that would soon wake me up.

Immediately, my head was barraged with lists and umpteen projects I was certain were more important than sleep. I’d jump out of bed, make lists, do laundry, and clean. By the time everyone in my family was awake, I’d already had a full morning.

On the outside, I was the perfect organized mom and wife, everything neat and tidy, the house completely arranged. But inside, I was one stressed-out tired mess. I was never relaxed. I was always thinking of what needed to be done, the next thing to cross off my ever-growing list.

I didn’t know it then, but my lack of sleep was catching up with me. I lived in a foggy kind of dream, not really living life. And my health, well, it became a series of illness requiring many visits to doctors for viruses and infections I could no longer fight off.

I needed a serious wake-up call. Many years later, I got one.

It happened the day I was in an auto accident and sustained a brain injury. It sounds terrible, because it was. And yet, in some weird way, I think it saved my life.

After the accident, both my body and brain were broken. I would find that the only true way to heal would be with a ton of sleep. I think it’s safe to say I slept more than I was awake. It took me a few years to heal, and during those years, I made a discovery.

I liked sleep. I’d never known what good sleep felt like, or what it meant to wake up refreshed. Even as a teenager, I’d never been a good sleeper, and now, here I was, sleeping eight hours at night, waking up with energy and a fresh mind.

Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner. Soon, my old personality crept in, and along with it, that little voice that said, “Don’t sleep. You have too many things to do.”

In some ways, I’d missed that voice. It represented the old me, the one before the accident. And yet, I knew I could no longer stay awake at night like I once had. My brain would never be able to function.

It was time to still that voice. I came up with a plan, one that has me sleeping through almost every single night. This plan has changed my life. It’s now a rarity for me to wake up during the wee hours of the morning. And unless I’m having a severe allergy attack, I hardly ever suffer from foggy-brain.

What is this plan that helps me sleep sound every night? I’m so glad you asked.

My Simple Plan to a Better Night’s Sleep:

Yoga – I learned yoga after my brain injury. The stretching helped my body, but it was the breathing that saved me. My blood pressure went down, and my muscles relaxed. Even my spirit was lighter. I do deep breathing as I go to sleep.

Exercise – Working out is important to me. Something, every single day. Walk, turn the radio on and dance, garden, play with children, lift weights, do push-ups. Something to get the heart pumping. Try it. Your body will thank you.

Eat healthy – We all know that healthy eating is important for many reasons, but one is helping you sleep better. Avoiding excess sugar, especially before bed, can aid in a good night’s sleep.

Drink Water – Drink plenty of water. Water keeps muscles lubricated, which helps to eliminate those pesky nighttime leg cramps.

Magnesium – According to Dr. Mercola (mercola.com), eighty percent of Americans do not get enough magnesium. Magnesium can be found in spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, and a host of other foods (do a search for “foods with magnesium”). If I do have that rare bad night of sleep, I know I need a magnesium boost. The next night, I add Calm (a powdered form of magnesium) to a glass of water. Voila. I am out cold the rest of the night, and wide-awake the next morning. Another great way to get magnesium is by taking a hot bath in Epsom salts, something I try to do once a week in the winter. The bath alone is relaxing, but the Epsom salts soak into the muscles and skin, relaxing every inch of the body.

Be Quiet – One hour before bed stay calm and quiet. Watch something silly, read something light, drink tea.

Have a Routine – I used to think routines were just for kids, but it seems as if everyone’s body likes routine. Keep it the same every night, as much as possible. That includes bedtime.

Give thanks – I give thanks for something before I fall asleep. It sounds kind of silly, I know, but there’s something about this simple little routine that makes my night go better. I don’t go to sleep stressed, or angry, or upset. I go to bed happy, because I have found something to give thanks for. I love falling asleep happy.

Most of all, still that nagging little voice -Nothing is important enough to keep you from sleep.

There you have it, simple ways to get a good night’s sleep.

Good night everyone.

How Minimalism Gave Me Extra Time

It’s the beginning of the year and all I want to do is clean. I want to sort through closets, rearrange drawers, organize files, and buy new plastic bins for doo-dads I will never use. I want to look through every box and container in our house and clean it all. But I can’t.

I can’t because I have nothing left to clean.

After my last year’s cleanse of $8000 worth of items from the house (not including furniture, books, and movies given to family and friends), my home is organized. Clean. Neat. Nothing to rearrange, not a single thing to put in order. Believe me, I’ve checked.

So now, I have nothing to do. This thing called minimalism has given me way too much time.

What am I going to do with all these extra hours?

Anything I want.>

I can read,
Or do a hobby.
I can volunteer.
I can spend time with family and friends, and not be rushed to get home.
I can go on day trips with my husband, and stop for a picnic.
I can take a walk, and stop and smell those roses everyone is talking about.
I can sip tea,
Take a nap,
Or just sit and think.
I can work on my career.
I can call relatives I rarely see,
Or write a letter.
I can learn a language.
I can exercise daily,
Then cook a labor-intensive meal (not that I will, but I can, because I have time).
I can take a long, luxurious bath.
I can take care of me.

You know, I think I’m going to like this thing called minimalism. I think I’m going to like all the extra time.
What would you do with a little extra time?

12 Simple Steps to Get Rid of a Holiday Hangover

I have chicken-chunk, beef-bloat, pork-belly, holiday-hangover, sugar slump. It seems no matter how determined I am, each year I manage to eat a little too much, and even a few things I shouldn’t be eating (like gummy bears and store-bought eggnog). In the last two weeks, I have seen more sugar in this house than I have in the whole previous year combined. And now, I am suffering dearly. But my guess is, I am not the only one.

It’s easy to eat too much this time of year, with all those gravies and succulent meats sitting on tables, all that sugary goodness hanging out at every party, filling the shelves of nearly every store. It’s too much for even the most dedicated health-nut. What is a person to do?

I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to cure my holiday hangover as quickly as possible. But how does one do that? I’m so glad you asked.

I have a plan. A very simple plan. (You knew it had to be simple, right? I hate long and complicated).

All that’s required is commitment, the desire to feel better, and a tad bit of time. It will all be worth it. Are you with me?

Here it is. A Simple Cure for a Holiday Hangover:
1. Start your day off running. Just one minute while the shower warms up. The blood is pumping, and your brain has received its first charge of the day.

2. Hydrate. As soon as you get out of the shower. I keep a water bottle next to the bed, and refill it each day so it’s ready for the next morning. Lifeworks makes a nifty glass bottle with a cool rubber grip on the outside.

3. Eat breakfast. I am a big proponent of the first meal of the day. I’m a slug without it. My daily breakfast usually consists of the same thing: One egg, a green smoothie (hemp, flax, bananas, another fruit, and spinach – the ingredients vary depending on what’s in our house). I top it off with tea (filled with antioxidants, and not as big of a crash for me as coffee), and a piece of chocolate. Whoa! Stop. Chocolate? Yup, that’s what I said. If people can have chocolate drinks, donuts, and chocolate cereal, I figure I can have a piece of chocolate. I make homemade, with three ingredients: honey, raw cocoa, and coconut oil, toss in some cinnamon, maca, sea salt, nuts, and coconut. One piece, and my brain has the extra fuel (read: healthy fats) it so desperately needs in the morning.

As much as I love my simple breakfast (mostly I love not having to think about what I will eat each day), my husband gets a little bored with the routine. Occasionally, we mix it up and have bacon, pumpkin pancakes, homemade granola, or stir-fried veggies. Do whatever works for you – just make it clean, simple, whole foods.

4. Snack. They aren’t just for children. I need snacks, mostly because my meals are small. My body feels energized when I eat smaller amounts with healthy snacks in between. If you do snack, choose something light and healthy: nuts and a piece of fruit, hummus and veggies, banana and nut butter, half an avocado with a tablespoon of tuna.

5. Stay hydrated! Drink, drink, drink. I can’t say this enough. This is one habit I stuck with over the holidays, and I’m really, really glad I did. Water is necessary to fuel our bodies and brains, and keeps our organs running smoothly. It keeps our muscles lubricated (that’s probably not the right terminology, but it does help our muscles). I’ve had muscles lock up and every time it’s happened, it’s been when I haven’t been drinking enough water.

If you get bored with plain water, or find yourself overdoing it, add a lemon, cucumber, or mint. Or if you just need something completely different, try some herbal tea or a real juice drink (as in juice bar, or a make-your-own at home juice drink).

6. Stay active. I know, it’s not always easy. We can be so busy, yet somehow still manage to spend most of our days sitting. And sitting can be really bad, giving us neck pain, back aches, stiff muscles, and headaches. It can also cause weight gain, which leads to a host of other issues.

If you have your own office space, you are in luck. It’s easy to get a little exercise time behind a closed door. Stand up every hour and run in place for one minute, or do a few push-ups or sit ups.

If you don’t have your own office (which most of us don’t), you can still get some exercise. Walk around the building on your lunch break, up and down the stairs, or even back and forth down the hallway. Park farther away from the office, get up and do small errands throughout the day (like bringing papers to someone’s desk, or walking over to talk to someone instead of sending them a message).

7. Take breaks. How is taking a break healthy? When we take a break from work, we are able to release stress from the day. It makes me crazy when I think of all the people who eat lunch at their desk instead of taking a break. I was once one of those people. Believe me, no job is worth your skipping every break. Get away. Close your eyes for five minutes and just breathe. Listen to tunes, read a book, sit outside. And as much as you love your co-workers, sometimes it’s best to take a break away from them. It makes you forget about work, if only for a brief time.

8. Eat lunch. Stop the fast food madness! Eat a simple, whole food lunch. A salad, meat wrapped around carrots, deviled eggs. Simple to prepare, easy to eat.

9. Don’t work late. I think I just heard yelling. How is that even possible, you ask? I don’t know. I did it too many times myself. But I do know this, all those extra hours, all those missed breaks and Saturday mornings spent in an office were not worth one single moment of my life. For work, I missed family time, moments together that can never be replaced. I was stressed, and often tired. I gained a few pounds, got out of shape, all for a job I didn’t really like.

I realize sometimes we are forced to work extra hours. An occasional week, or even month, won’t matter. But what happens when we do that every week of every month of every year? What do our bodies do? They live in a constant state of stress. They overeat to compensate, not just for the stress, but for emotions we can’t control. Stress taxes our brains and our bodies. Stress taxes our whole lives.

10. Go home. Kick off your shoes. Throw on something that makes you happy, your favorite jammies, your soft sweat pants. Listen to music, or a funny show. Unwind with a glass of wine.

11. Eat dinner. Light. Healthy. Not too close to bedtime.

12. Sleep. They don’t call her Sleeping Beauty for nothing. Everyone looks better when they have had enough zzz’s. I don’t believe we are all wired the same way and each require the exact same amount of sleep. One person may get by fine with six and a half hours, another person may need eight every night. But no matter what your needs, make sure you get it. Leave the dishes, leave the laundry, and go to bed. Your body, and your brain, will thank you.

There you go. Your twelve-step program to getting rid of a holiday hangover. It’s simple, really: eat well, sleep well, exercise. Take care of you.

Happy new year!

A Simple Way to Make a Goal Come True

It’s over. The planning, preparing, shopping, wrapping and unwrapping, cooking and cleaning and rushing about. The glorious hoopla of the holidays is gone.

In some ways, I’m sad to see it go. It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old year. But in other ways, I rejoice.

With eager anticipation, I see the new year enter, and wonder what will happen. Where will I go? What will I do? What changes will I make in myself?

I begin to make plans. Call them resolutions, if you want. I call them goals. Because, for me, resolutions never stick. Resolutions, like diets, are easy to make, and easier to break.

That is why one day, I changed the way I planned my life. To be honest, it happened by accident.

The year was 1997:

My husband and I sat down one late fall evening. We were tired, of everything. Our home, our lives. We needed something new. He wanted to leave his company. We both wanted to move.

We had no plans, no set directions, no idea how these goals would come about. We only knew we both had dreams. We pulled out a piece of paper, scratched the date across the top, wrote our goals down, and signed our names at the bottom, then tucked it in the back of our file cabinet, never to be pulled out again.

September 2002:

I was tired, and excited. We were moving 1900 miles away, to a place where we knew no one, to an area we didn’t know. There was a lot to do in preparation for the move. I looked at the mess by my feet, dozens of thick files that needed to be sorted through. Except one.

I picked up the thin file. One single sheet slipped to the floor. I recognized it immediately, and began to cry. It was the paper my husband and I had signed almost exactly five years earlier.

In those five years, we had hardly talked about our goals, and hadn’t made any definite plans. Though my husband had interviewed at one company, and we had checked out a few homes, nothing ever felt right. Until now.

Here we were, dreams, goals, a final reality. How did this happen? I wish I knew.

Sometimes I think it was the desperate dreams of two young people, dreams we could never release, visions we held on to with all our might. But I often wonder if it wasn’t that one simple motion of writing down a goal and signing our names.

I am positive if we hadn’t sat down that fall day in 1997, we wouldn’t be where we are today. How can I say this? Because I’ve seen too many of my own empty resolutions, and in the past few years, I’ve also seen what written goals can do.

I think it’s time to stop the resolutions. I think it’s time to make some goals. Write them down. Sign your name.

What are your goals for the new year?