Archive | life

when no means yes

In 2001, a major event happened that triggered a series of changes and opportunities in my life. In September of 2001, on September 11, specifically, we all know what happened. I don’t want to diminish it by not digging into details, but I think it’s safe to say that we all experienced that day in one shape or form and we’ll all have a personal story to associate with it for the rest of our lives.

What happened to me was that I decided that life was too short not to follow my dreams, which at that time was to attend a vegetarian cooking school in NYC. You see, up until that point, I just assumed it wasn’t possible. It was out of reach because of money, because of derailing my career in tech, because of a million other excuses. But it was never impossible, it was completely within reach, and I got a loan and went.

After school ended I needed to find an internship to put my new culinary skills to the test. I knew I didn’t want to work in a restaurant and feel the stress of a tiny, busy kitchen, let alone an insane Manhattan kitchen. So instead I started googling “vegetarian vacations” because why not make this an opportunity to travel? I went down a few interesting paths in this search, but ultimately landed on a yoga retreat center on the Greek island of Crete run by folks from England. Perfect. Or so I thought.

I reached out to them via email and explained that I had just finished the Chef’s Training Program at an internationally known culinary school specializing in vegetarian cuisine and would they have any cooking opportunities that summer? As it turned out, they would. I was in communication with the manager of the retreat center, a Danish woman who spent the entire season (late spring to early fall) at the retreat center.

We set up a time to speak by phone, because this was of course before things like Skype and FaceTime existed. We discussed the position at length and it all sounded quite manageable. But I felt that familiar something in my gut. I was afraid. I had basically worked myself up to say no even before she called. So when it came time to wrap our conversation and provide an answer, I said, “No, but thank you anyway.” She was very understanding and wished me well and our call came to an end.

Immediately after hanging up the phone, I frantically wished that *69 (yes this was a while ago) would know how to call back someone in Denmark. Or that I had caller ID.

Instead I went to my computer and emailed her back. YES, YES, YES, I’ll do it! 

And so commenced the summer of a lifetime. I mean, have you seen Crete?!?!

Agios Pavlos Crete

Moral of the story? Sometimes you have to say NO to know that you mean YES.

There are better methods out there, but hey, if this is the one that gets you there, use it.

Posted on April 20, 2014 in deep thoughts, life 1

you are allowed

You are allowed.

I’ve been talking about the process of allowing with too many friends lately not to share it on my blog. If you needed a reminder, here you go. Enjoy.

If you think that because you just earned your PhD, you can’t be a makeup artist, well, you can. You are allowed.

If you listen to a collective voice and want to walk to the beat of your drum, go for it.  You are allowed.

If people tell you you’re a great painter, but you really love photography, take more pictures. You are allowed.

If you want to make money, possibly lots of it, doing what you love, go right ahead. You are allowed.

If you want to get rid of everything you own and travel the world, amazing! You are allowed.

If you want to stay home and watch tv, that’s great, too. You are allowed.

If you want to eat meat or wheat or cheese, enjoy! You are allowed.

If you want to quit your job and open a bakery, yummy! You are allowed.

If you want to turn down a job to follow your own path, enjoy the adventure. You are allowed.

If you don’t feel like staying up late, go to bed early. You are allowed.

If you need to turn off all the noise around you so you can truly hear again, by all means, do so. You are allowed.

If you need to look inward so that you can look forward, it’s amazing, do it. You are allowed.

If you want to go slower, slow down. You are allowed.

If you want to go bigger, reach for the stars. You are allowed.

If you want to unsubscribe or unfollow, it’s just fine. You are allowed.

If you want to wake up smiling, how wonderful! You are allowed.

If you need to be honest, do it with kindness. You are allowed.

If you just gotta give it a try, go for it. You are allowed.

If you want to learn something new, weird and crazy, how awesome. You are allowed.

If you want to be you, that’s perfect. You are allowed.

Posted on July 9, 2012 in deep thoughts, life 15

10 things I’m more or less addicted to

One morning, when feeling super inspired, I quickly scribbled out a list of things that are part of my almost every day life that I adore, rely on, love and am possibly addicted to. Since I’ve been going on and on about getting rid of stuff lately, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate the fact that there are actually things / objects / stuff that bring me joy in my everyday life. So here goes…

1) Endangered Species 88% Dark Chocolate Squares

I pop one (or 2 or 3) of these bad boys pretty much every day after lunch. It’s like espresso for the soul. It’s a true jolt of happiness, energy and creativity. They really pack a wollop! Once you go 88%, you won’t go back. Try a bite today!

2) Soy Chai Lattes from Ultimo Coffee

I confess. I am addicted to soy chai lattes, and have been for a very long time. Even though I’ve only been (mostly) vegan for a year+ now, I’ve been getting soy milk in all my fancy caffeinated beverages since the 90s. What can I say, milk freaks me out! Ultimo Coffee has the best coffee in Philadelphia, but I give them mad props for serving up a delicious and not-too-sickeningly-sweet cuppa chai.

3) Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Liquid Soap

You gotta get clean, right? Nothing brightens your day like a minty fresh and super bubbly scrubdown with Dr. Bronner’s. Hey, did I just say that on my blog? Yes, I did! This stuff is so ridiculously awesome and refreshing and really wakes you up. I love when guests visit. The reaction is always the same… “Umm, that’s some soap you got there.” They usually immediately go buy a bottle and become addicts just like me. Go ahead, get some, and have fun reading that crazy label!

4) Bumble & bumble Styling Creme

I try to give it up. It’s a lost cause. Without it, I’m just a sad, flat-haired mophead. With it, my hair has body, life, effervescence! You heard it here, I am indeed addicted to a hair product.

5) Things That Are Purple.

If you know me at all, you know that this should be #1. But this list is in no particular order and 5 is my favorite number. So basically, here’s what’s purple: my laptop case, my iphone case, my purse, my shoes, my bike helmet, my sunglasses, my everything. Purple, I’m into you.

6) My Kindle

I love, love, love to read. Love it, I do. I’m reading lots and lots of nonfiction right now. Stuff to keep me inspired and on my toes, or at least dreaming of a day when I am on my toes. My favorite part about the Kindle is downloading book samples. I love trying new things and this completely satisfies that urge. Not to mention, Kindle books do not take up space on my bookshelf!

7) Shiitake Mushrooms

Love ’em. Buy a big old bag of ’em at Whole Foods every week. They’re super yummy and soooo super good for you.  They get all up in your immune system and make it feel more awesome. I can get down with that.

8) Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer

I drink one of these yum-tastic smoothies (with unsweetened almond milk and frozen raspberries) after every workout. It’s like getting all your vitamins and nutrients in one power-packed punch. It’s sugar / dairy / gluten free and has lots of protein from hemp & peas. It’s good for ya!

9) The GymBox

In a perfect world, I’d be slightly more addicted to this, but I’m hoping that putting it on my list will actually inspire me to you know, be a little bit more “everyday” about it. I really do love working out and the variety and selection of workouts on The GymBox is seriously awesome.

10) Paper Mate Flair Pens

I’m addicted to these pens! I’ve been rocking Pilot G2 gel pens for quite some time, but I got my hands on one of these by accident and decided to buy the whole rainbow. They look especially nice on graph paper which is great when you are dreaming up your big ideas.

Your turn! What 10 things are you addicted to?

Posted on June 19, 2012 in deep thoughts, life 5

like a giant bowl of noodles

Noodle Bowl for two

(photo courtesy of via flickr)

Remember that post about stuff, you know, on consuming things and stuff? It’s been my life since I wrote it. Working on a massive purge of stuff from my home. Making many visits to Goodwill, passing some things along to friends (seems like I’m not alone in not wanting stuff these days), bracing for big change.

I noticed that even though I keep getting rid of all this stuff, I still have so much stuff! Wow. I mean, it’s been hitting me in ways it’s never hit me before. As I go through box after box and hesitantly sever sentimental ties to objects, I reflect on what it took to get to this point. Now, let me set the record straight, I am not a hoarder. I’m not even all that sentimental. I formerly had a policy in place to never throw out a postcard. I’ve cancelled that policy, effective immediately. I have just acquired stuff. I’m getting older, it happens!

As I sift, filter, donate and (regrettably) trash things, I look around and think to myself, “I still have so much stuff!” It makes me feel like I’m eating a giant bowl of noodles that just never seems to end. You eat and eat and eat and the bowl is still full. Has that ever happened to you? It’s delicious of course, but eventually you just feel full, and possibly even terrible. (A lot like a hungry ghost! Check out this wonderful book Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters to learn more…)

This has all been an amazing life lesson and has completely informed my desire to consume stuff. I’d love to hear from you:

What makes something special to you?

How do you manage your own stuff?

What kind of things do you accumulate the most?

What do you wish you consumed less of?

For the record, I probably accumulate books the most  (it used to be shoes)! I also like markers, pens & notebooks. And I tend to like to buy a new dress for a special occasion (weddings, etc). And clothes, but soooo much less than I used to. So much less.

I consume LOTS of healthy and nutritious food and have absolutely no regrets about it!

One last thing, I can’t get enough of the cold sesame noodles at Han Dynasty! You should try them sometime, but don’t eat too much 😉

Posted on June 8, 2012 in deep thoughts, life 7

on mentoring: a followup

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on mentoring. I was feeling a certain lack of mentorship in my life as well as thinking that if I was asking, I better be giving back. First of all, the response to that post was totally amazing. So many of you responded to the questions I posed with your own views on mentorship, how it was revealing itself in your own life and how you were mentoring others. I also received some nice personal messages about your experiences with mentorship and yes, a few asking for some mentoring — which I was happy to offer!

Opening up this discussion on mentorship has taught me a few things. For starters, a mentor is ideally someone whose career path you are inspired by and hope to emulate or follow in their footsteps. I realize that in my original post, I was seeking more accountability, and that’s not really a mentor’s job. That is closer to the role of a life coach, which would be someone whom you would exchange currency with for their services.

A mentor is someone whom you ask for guidance from time to time, and perhaps even volunteer for in order to expand your own learning and experience. I’m sure there are other mentorship relationships where you’re lucky enough to already be working for your mentor in a paid position. I wish we were all so fortunate! The point is, there are mentors all around us, and there aren’t any hard and fast guidelines other than looking up to this person, respecting what they have created in this world, and knowing that they have something to teach you.

Here’s a special note for anyone receiving goodness from a mentor: follow up with them and let them know how they helped you! It’s one of the best ways to show appreciation for their time.

Since that post, and in order to satisfy some of my accountability goals, I actually did connect with a coach for a few sessions. My friend Alla Zollers, who some of you in the UX field may know, is just starting out on her coaching career change and I had the good fortune of being one of her guinea pig clients. Wow, coaching is way different that mentoring because the mirror is pointing right back at you. The best thing I received from these sessions was identifying and isolating my values and understanding the importance of honoring them in my work. That’s really important advice for someone like me (perhaps I’ll tell you more about that in a separate post). If you’ve thought about working with a coach, give it a shot. There are coaches for every possible thing you might want to improve in your life — and I do mean everything.

To keep the creativity train moving, I also created an accountability group amongst some of my peers. This has been incredibly rewarding. This group is currently limited to women, predominantly on creative career paths, most of which have independent businesses or are freelance. Every Monday (or thereabouts), we share our goals, big and small, and check in again on Friday to report back on our successes and… near misses? I don’t think that anyone uses the word “failure.” Each week we’re just trying our best to get to the next step. Throughout the week we share business advice, good news, and other odds & ends. It’s been awesome to have community support. I highly recommend getting serious with some of your peers about goals & big ideas and starting your own accountability group!

As a result of sharing my post, I was also linked a few times to a project started by Diana Kimball called /mentoring.

/mentoring is an open & distributed initiative designed to light the way from serendipity to connection, founded on the belief that believing in others is transformative.

The purpose of /mentoring is to get people to essentially hang their sign out that they are open to mentoring. No need to wonder or ask, they’re announcing to the world that they are willing to help others and will provide their time and thoughts to those who seek guidance in the areas that the mentor has established they have experience in. I love this idea so much! I haven’t officially hung my sign yet, but I plan to. It took me long enough to write this post!

So my parting thoughts to you are as follows:

There are mentors everywhere. Be one, and seek them out. Respect their time and value their expertise. Be understanding if they can’t get back to you right away. Pursue mentors that are on a path that you would like to explore.

If you are seeking a more formal relationship with goal setting, accountability, and a deeper dive into determining your career values, consider working with a coach. There are lots of them out there, in every specialty, and most offer a variety of pricing structures: group coaching, one on one, etc.

I don’t want to ignore the fact that some people just need some therapy, they need to look back to look ahead. There’s no shame in this! Everyone could use a little therapy in my opinion 🙂

Create an accountability group amongst peers. There are so many free community tools out there like Facebook and Google groups. Make an appeal to the people who you think would add value and if you’re the one starting it, commit to keeping the group active. If that’s not your bag, identify a group member who can carry on that role, or create an environment and a routine where people know to share the responsibility. Be respectful and have fun.

Consider hanging your sign out as a mentor and join the /mentoring movement!

If you have any new thoughts on mentorship since we last checked in, feel free to comment below!

Posted on May 10, 2012 in deep thoughts, life 0