26 Ideas to Make the World a Better Place

I am purposely posting this on May 26th ‘cuz I’m clever like that!  Not only does the date coincide with the message, but it’s MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.  This is a great time to remember all those who have passed before us and remind us just how precious life is.  As mentioned in last week’s post, I, and my former classmates were horrified at the events of December 14, 2012 in Sandy Hook, CT.  Once the fog of grief started to lift, the resilience of the families affected, and the community as a whole, inspired me to find the good that can come out of even the most tragic of circumstances.

Ann Curry started a project of committing 26 Random Acts of Kindness to honor the 26 lives lost.  While numerous worthwhile projects were born from this tragedy, this project helped quantify the good that still exists in the human spirit.

Check out (and “Like”) the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/26acts for more about this ongoing project.  Stories are shared to encourage and report wonderful examples of people doing simple acts that serve to restore faith in humanity.

There are so many awesome ways individuals can spread a little joy.  Here are 26 of my favorites:

  • Personally thank a veteran this weekend
  • Buy 26 roses and hand them out to random people that look like they need a little love
  • Create care packages for homeless people (hygiene products, hand warmers, etc.)
  • Give $5 extra at a toll booth and tell them to apply it to as many cars as possible
  • Give $5 extra at Dunkin or Starbucks for the next person
  • Volunteer at a food bank, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, school, etc.
  • Donate to causes that you believe in
  • Donate clothing and household items to the Salvation Army or Goodwill
  • Volunteer at special events like Relay for Life, Special Olympics and community clean-ups
  • “Share” a friend’s  “new business” post
  • Take the time to listen to that long winded co-worker’s story instead of doing the army crawl around the building to avoid them
  • Send someone an email telling them what a great job they did
  • Ask an elderly person to tell you one of their proudest moments
  • Thank a police officer and other first responders for their work in the community
  • Post a public “thank you” to someone who has helped you in some way
  • Make a “Welcome” package for the new neighbor
  • Ask the new co-worker if they’d like to lunch with you
  • Give your bag of returnable cans and bottles to that person you see picking them up along the street every week
  • Visit the new business in town and try to help them succeed
  • Email the corporate office of a business letting them know you received great service from someone on their staff
  • Mentor a youth in need by becoming a Big Sister or Big Brother
  • Offer to do yard work for an elderly neighbor
  • Never pass up a kid’s lemonade stand…buy generously
  • Tell that pompous, know-it-all something you truly like and admire about them
  • Forgive someone’s crabby behavior and treat them nicely anyway
  • Volunteer at a local ESL (English as a Second Language) program or learn someone else’s language (Spanish, Sign, etc.)

Behavior is often contagious.  When someone treats you poorly, you are more likely to treat someone else poorly while in your pissy-place.  Yet, when someone treats you kindly, you are more likely to ‘pay it forward’.  In essence, like one stone creating many ripples in a pond, your act of kindness has the ability to (directly or indirectly) impact millions of people!!  If you spread it out over one year, that’s only once every other week. (Math whiz you ask? Why yes, yes I am!)

I’ll leave you with a quote I stumbled upon just before writing this post:

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”    -Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

Will you use one of your 26 Random Acts here?  Please share some Random Acts you’ve committed in the comments section of this post.  You never know when you might inspire someone else.  

Looking for Fellow Conspirators…

With social media so rampant and news media able to communicate so quickly, information gets delivered at a much faster pace.  In the past, information came from the 6 o’clock news or the morning newspaper.  Now you can learn about any published report, from any corner of the world, in seconds.

This technological advancement comes at a cost.  First, there are many inaccurate reports, so you have to vet out the rumors and theories from the facts.  Secondly, you can support virtually any argument or belief.  This is great if you are trying to support the idea that there are more good people in the world, than bad.  This is depressing if you’re trying to support the idea that there are more bad people in the world, than good.

I believe that which we focus on, is our truth.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, I don’t want graphic pictures of abuse or neglect to assault my world.  It’s not that I doubt their existence; it’s simply that I don’t need to SEE it.  It only serves to add negativity to my world.  I CHOOSE to live in a place of light.  Dark may enter it, but I try to determine how much of that I allow in.

December 14th, 2012, and the days immediately following, were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.  I and many of my former hometown classmates were devastated by the loss of 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  In my grief, I immersed myself in anything related to this.  Online, TV, radio, I couldn’t miss one single detail.  In retrospect, this was an entirely unproductive exercise.  It helped catapult me from sorrow to depression.

Viewing these reports (some rumors, some theories, some true) caused me to see my world from a perspective that only served to ‘prove’ that bad things happen to good people.  What you focus on becomes your ‘truth’.  If you focus on the bad in this world, your perspective is going to view everything from this angle, which will make you feel anger and want to share that anger with others. Likewise, if you focus on the good in this world, your perspective will view things this way, which will make you feel good and want to share that goodness with others.

This mindset is not intended to encourage ignorance or oblivion.  You have to be smart and balanced, but if you continually view media that is negative, you will ‘live’ in a negative place.  There are more than enough reports to support conspiracy theories, but there is equal publicity on ‘do-gooders’ as well.

If your intent is to make a difference, focus on those areas where you can effect change.  Posting that Africa has starving children or the US has ‘crooked’ politicians does NOTHING, unless you back it up with peaceful, intelligent action and non-confrontational education.  Tell me how I can use good to improve those situations.  Making donations, writing to my representatives or any other positive actions I can take.

I’m all for awareness and protests and expression, but if your only form of action is posting it on social media or sharing your unsolicited views at the water cooler, than you haven’t really made any positive difference at all.  Do something positive and productive or shut the “F” up about it.  This sounds harsh and may erroneously imply that I’m unwelcoming to opposing views.  I would just rather pay attention to those good aspects of this planet, and if I feel passionately about a negative, I will do my part to improve it by taking peaceful action.

Won’t you ‘conspire’ with me to do, and spread, goodness and positivity?  Tell me what YOU are doing to make a difference.  Perhaps instead of focusing on how the wealthiest country in the world has such a high homeless population, you can tell us about volunteering at the food bank.  You get the idea.  Comment and share the action you’re taking to make this world a better place.

The Occasional Vegan

To commemorate Earth Day, I thought I would post an alternate way to honor and respect this round thing we call “home”.  Once upon a time, I was a full-time Vegan.  I lost weight, I felt good and I learned a lot!  Veganism is neither a cult nor a religion, it is simply a lifestyle.  While many Vegan’s are very passionate about their lifestyle, they are not praying to the god of tomatoes.  Furthermore, some can be a bit outspoken about debunking the myths of Veganism, but that’s likely because they have heard the question, “but where do you get your protein?” a gazillion times already! Lemme give a quick rundown for those unfamiliar with the basic premise: Vegans do not eat any animal products.  This includes meat, chicken, pork, seafood, eggs and dairy products.  Instead, their plates are filled with veggies, fruits, legumes and grains.

Here are three main reasons people typically choose to become Vegan:

1-     They love animals and respect their right to live & die naturally

2-     They want to eat in a more healthful way

3-     They want to respect Mother Earth

Let’s talk about good ol’ Number 3 today.  So what, you ask, does being a Vegan have to do with Mama Earth?  I thought you’d never ask.  Some factoids you probably didn’t know include:

  • Factory farming (where traditional meat products, dairy and eggs come from) is incredibly detrimental to the environment
  • The methane from all the gas passed by 10 billion animals a year is directly responsible for global warming (ewwww!)
  • The urine and feces from these animals pollute and contaminate our soil and water (double ewwww!)
  • See more info below from www.CulinarySchools.org

There are numerous facts and research papers to support the benefits of going Vegan, however, proposing an all-or-nothing type of lifestyle works for very few of us and quite frankly is likely what gave Veganism the cult or religion stereotype in the first place.

So I propose being an Occasional Vegan.  That’s what I am now.  While some of my meals include dairy, eggs and seafood, I regularly create meals that are Vegan.  One meal a week can make a difference; one full day of meals a week, an even bigger difference.  But do what’s comfortable for you and your family, every little bit helps. As an adult, you can feel good knowing you’re providing a healthy, nutritious meal for yourself and family.  There are also many great opportunities for family discussion on the topic.  While I hope, over time, you’ll increase the fruits and veggies portion on your plate and decrease the animal products, this doesn’t HAVE to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle.  To help get you started, I’ve included a few of my favorite recipes that I encourage you to try.  Don’t be fooled by the claims that state that a particular Vegan dish tastes just like its non-Vegan counterpart.  It likely doesn’t.  But introducing an entirely new flav to your weekly dishes is super cool!  Just like Thai and Mexican are fun themes for food, now you can add Vegan dishes too!  Not only are they healthier, but it’s a great way to appreciate that big ol’ Mama of all Mama’s!  Happy Earth Day!!  And if you have some favorite earth-friendly recipes, c’mon now…share-nice in the comments section!

Breakfast:

Scrambled Tofu

  • 1T olive oil
  • 3 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 pkg (16oz) firm or extra firm tofu (usually found in the produce section of your favorite supermarket)  ((drain water and remove from package.  Place tofu block on paper towels and wrap in dishtowels to absorb water.  Place heavy cookbook on top to help drain water for 20-30 minutes))
  • 1C spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2T nutritional yeast (most health/natural food stores carry)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Heat oil in sauté pan then add scallion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add bell pepper and sauté till tender.

During the sauté, crumble tofu in a large mixing bowl using a fork, pastry cutter or your hands to create coarse crumbs that resemble scrambled eggs.  Add to sauté pan, stir and combine with scallions & pepper.

Add spinach, and all remaining seasonings and sauté an additional 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally until tofu is bright yellow and heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with toast and Earth Balance spread.  Serves 2-3.

Lunch/Appetizer:

Cuc-YUM-ber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

  • 1 eight-oz container Tofutti nondairy cream cheese (most health/natural food stores carry)
  • 3T finely chopped chives
  • 2T finely chopped fresh dill (fresh is key here)
  • 2T finely chopped fresh mint (fresh is key here)
  • 1 cucumber peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pkg cocktail rye, wheat or pumpernickel bread (usually in the deli area)
  • ½ lb arugula
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix cream cheese with chives, dill and mint.  Dry cucumber slices between paper towels.

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese mix on each slice of bread.  Top every other slice with cucumbers and arugula and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cut each sandwich into a triangle and enjoy!  32 servings

Dinner:

Veggie & Bean Cassoulet (that’s French for yum)

  • 2T grapeseed or olive oil
  • 6T Earth Balance butter, divided
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1 carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1.5T tarragon
  • 1T fresh minced thyme
  • 1T fresh sliced chives
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cans white cannellini beans drained and rinsed
  • 1C veggie broth
  • ½ C panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Heat oil and butter in large pot over med-hi heat.  Add leeks, celery, carrots and garlic and cook 5 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add thyme, chives and bay leaf and cook 5mins more.  Add tarragon, beans, veggie broth and ¼ cup of breadcrumbs.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with S&P to taste.

Meanwhile, nuke remaining Earth Balance butter then mix with panko crumbs and set aside.

Pour veggie mix into a 13X9 baking dish, throw out bay leaf.  Cover loosely with foil and bake about 25 mins.  Remove foil and sprinkle with breadcrumb mix and cook til browned on top.  6 Servings.

 Side/Soup:

Corn Chow-it-down-Der

  • 2T olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • ½ C chopped celery
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 6 small gourmet red potatoes chopped into large chunks
  • 2 C corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 C veggie broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 C almond milk (can substitute with soy)
  • 1T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3T water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan and sauté onion and garlic about 4mins.  Add garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds. Add potatoes, corn, broth, thyme and milk.  Simmer 20-25 minutes until potatoes are tender.

In small bowl, whisk flour and water til smooth.  Add to soup.  Simmer 5 more minutes.  Add S&P.  8 Servings.

 Dessert:

Perfect Parfait

  • 2 pts strawberries (preferably organic) quartered
  • 1 pt blueberries
  • 1 pt raspberries or blackberries
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 1 six-ounce container nondairy plain or vanilla yogurt (health/natural food stores)
  • 2T agave nectar (sweeter than honey, but honey is not a Vegan food)

Evenly divide fruit between 6 bowls or wine/champagne glasses, leaving 6 fruit pieces separate. Add lemon juice to each bowl or glass. Spoon yogurt on top and drizzle with agave nectar. Top with fruit piece. Serves 6.

The Limitations of “Labels”

“ADHD”, “Depression”, “Autism”, “Sensitive”, “Addict”, “Introverted”, etc.  Common labels, yes? However, labels are inherently limiting.  Sometimes a medical professional applies them, other times it is people we respect or look up to. Once that label is accepted, the tendency is to forfeit responsibility and control and accept defeat.  It’s like a big weight that’s been placed around your neck.  Take ADHD for example.  I have a colleague “Kevin”, who has been diagnosed with ADHD.  Here’s the thing:  This comes up in a confession-like statement in virtually every conversation we have.  He even commented that his medication hardly even works.  Well how crappy must Kevin feel each day knowing, not only that he’s often seen as loud and hyper by others, but that this is the improved effect of being medicated for the disorder.  If the watered down version of Kevin is annoying, what is the unmedicated version?  What if, instead, Kevin was “diagnosed” with being a highly creative, social creature that thrives in ever-changing environments but could benefit from some organizational tools?  What if Kevin just needed friendly reminders to lower his voice yet was rewarded for being caring and funny and interested in others?  Visually, do you think these two versions of Kevin would carry themselves differently?  One with shame, the other with pride?

Let’s take someone who has battled addiction.  Twelve-Step Programs are great, however, some addicts get stuck on Step 1: “We admitted we are powerless over the addiction.”  OK, great, but if the pole dancing on the tent pole of cousin Jane’s outdoor wedding in June wasn’t indicative, I could have told you that forever-ago! This is often followed by, “Well, addiction is a DISEASE!”  Oooohhhhhh, why didn’t you say so?? By ‘disease’ you mean, out of your control? Not your fault? Little you can do about it? I’m not saying there isn’t scientific evidence to support some labels and their limitations, however, they have a tendency to suck the control out of a situation.  I have a beautiful, wonderful, badass friend who has been diagnosed with several debilitating “disorders” and yet she could kick the butt of everyone I know on her WORST day! She doesn’t doubt the accuracy of the diagnoses, but she doesn’t allow them to drive her bus! They are uninvited passengers, but they are NOT the ones in control. They do not define who she is. Those unaware of her struggles would never know.  She inspires them to be their best selves as she leads them towards greatness.  She pushes them through emotional and physical limits to show them the power and control they have over their own bodies and minds.  She does this WHILE suffering the effects of her own labels.

When someone of authority, like a physician or specialist, gives us that label, it’s much easier to buy-in to all the limitations of it.  I mean it’s science, right? But nothing is more powerful than the mind and sheer will of a human being.  Why not focus on what you CAN do and not on what you (potentially) CAN’T?  Perhaps if you do things IN SPITE of the labels others have given, or rename it to reflect your strengths, you can conquer the world. Sound crazy? How about you throw that “Crazy” label out and replace it with “Bold”, doesn’t it immediately sound more possible?

Have you “conquered” a label and would like to inspire others? Leave a comment on this post, sharing your wisdom!  If you have a label that’s held you down and you don’t want to allow it full control any longer, send me a message on my “Contact Me” page and together we can find ways to take back the steering wheel of your life!  Don’t allow ANY label to define who you are.

If you would like to partner up and work on living a life by design, then an Empowerment Session is for you! Take advantage of the complimentary strategy session!

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email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

Soul – Angel Card Readings

I’m a Christian.  While there are some aspects of my beliefs that may contradict with others who identify as Christians, I believe in a Loving God.  I am incredibly intrigued by the teachings of Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and other teachings.  I know everyone thinks “their” beliefs are the right ones, and I respect that, but I’m open to varying viewpoints.  I feel like they all could connect together as one but somewhere in our human-ness we separated them.  But that’s just me.  I also love the idea that my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and especially my dad are “up there” watching over me. I’m skeptically open-minded.  The ‘skeptical’ aspect is only exposed when I am introduced to non-traditional beliefs.  

I have a friend who does Angel Card readings.  These would fall under my definition of “non-traditional beliefs”. Similar to tarot card readings, but instead call on ‘your’ angels to help select the cards that will provide guidance and assurance for you.  All I can say is that I felt more calm and confident in my path following the reading and I felt more close to those that have passed before me.  I think of my grandmothers who were both strong, independent women.  I think of the grandfather that I knew and how he and my dad instilled a value-based integrity and work ethic in me.  I think of my aunts and cousins and friends who left some sort of an impression on me.  Someday I will find out the validity of these readings, but until then, I will enjoy the comfort they bring.

Body – The Dukan Diet

I have been a skinny girl my whole life…until my last child that is.  I never completely lost the baby weight.  It was easily disguised until I hit about…well, let’s just say “mid-30’s”.  In a confluence of circumstances, I went from a position that had me on my feet most of the day to one that required a lot of traveling, to a desk-based position.  The last two not helping in my attempts to maintain, let alone lose, weight.

We have an amazing wellness team in my company, and for months I watched as co-workers slimmed and toned.  I finally tired of complaining and decided to try the diet.  I especially liked that results happened quickly and there was a plan that extended beyond the “diet” phase.  In a nutshell there are 4 phases.

The Attack Phase – this phase lasts up to 10 days (you choose the length).  In this phase, you eat only lean meats, fish (including shellfish), poultry, eggs, and fat-free dairy products in any quantity. (There are vegetarian/vegan modifications).

The Cruise Phase – this phase lasts until you have reached your desired weight.  You follow the Attack Phase options, but every other day you can have (most) vegetables.

The Consolidation Phase – the length of this phase is 5 days for every pound lost.  You follow all the options of the Attack and Cruise phases but can add 1 serving of (most) fresh fruit/day, 2 slices of whole grain bread/day, 1.5oz of cheese/day, 1 or 2 servings of starchy foods/wk in addition to weekly “celebration” meals.

The Final Phase – this is the “rest of your life” part of the diet.  This simply requires you to follow the “Attack Phase” rules once per week for the rest of your life.

This is a somewhat oversimplified explanation of the program, so I recommend getting the book in hardcopy, Nook or Kindle format.  The only main additions are drinking lots of water each day and walking for 20 minutes every day.  I lost 25lbs in about 3 months.  Every body is different, but if you’re looking for something, I’d recommend trying this one.

Mind – “The Week”

When was the last time you fed your mind?  Not just with information you needed for your job or your family or your life, but information that would expand your “daily brain requirements”?  “Worldly” is not in the “Top 10 Adjectives Describing April” list.  While networking at social gatherings, the moment a current news event became the topic of discussion I would slowly back away from the group.  Eventually, I figured it might be easier to understand a little about what was actually going on in the world.  I didn’t even know where to begin.  There is so much “noise” out there, I didn’t really understand what the heck was going on.

While at a business conference, one of the instructors had a “recommended reading list” and on it was a magazine called “The Week”.  I subscribed and haven’t gone back since.  What I like so much about this magazine is that it is a compilation of other news articles.  This way, you can see the opposing viewpoints, and create an opinion based on the varying sides of an issue.  It covers every conceivable topic (World news, US news, Arts, Food, Travel, Obits) and it has Crossword and Sudoku puzzles!!  Check out www.theweek.com for more information.