Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am Thankful

I have maintained a fairly positive attitude this week. For that - I am most thankful. Sure, I am tired, sure I had disagreements, sure someone ticked me off ROYALLY, but I GOT OVER IT, and that was the purpose of this test for me. (See my Energize Saturday Post for why I am doing this.)

With all of that being said, Thursday I am supposed to try and think "Gratitude." 

As I sit here, on a black leather smooshy couch, in my pink butterfly print cotton pjs, with only the sounds of crickets outside (yeah - they are THAT loud) - I look around me and think, yeah.. I am thankful.

To my left is my husband. (literally.. he is sitting diagonally from me.) My imperfect, moody, sometimes completely disagreeable husband. But honestly, that is not what I see tonight. (Wait I will snap a pic quietly with my phone.. he'll never notice.)  Ah - that's better - see.. he is sitting quietly at the dining room table trying so very hard to study for the G.R.E. Imagine - in ENGLISH  - when it is not his first language. I am thankful for a man who wants nothing more than to succeed. He wants to feel important. He wants to do good. Look how he sits? He looks stressed. I am thankful for him. His wisdom. Just him. Things may have been far from perfect, but they started out lovely - and I know we can get through this. He is a man. In need of validation. For most men - that comes in the form of being able to take care of his family. I am his family... and he is working on it.

Next I am thankful that my mom and dad are still together 38 years later. I am so blessed to grow up with my biological parents. I am thankful that my sister is with my family and had a beautiful little girl. I get the unbelievable honor of being an auntie!

I am so thankful to be given the opportunity to do what I do best everyday. Not many people get the opportunity to say that they set a goal - went for it - and actually get paid to do what they enjoy. Sure, it has its moments of extreme stress, but that's because we are not doing it for fun. We have to measure our progress and goals are set.

I am thankful that I have an unquenched curiosity for life. I want to know and see everything that I possibly can. I always secretly laugh when people start to tell me about something they are passionate about, then they stop and say, "Oh - I know I am boring you."
.. actually my friend, you are doing what I wish everyone would do - and that is show passion and teach others what you know.

What are you thankful for this week??

Rocking' it on Wednesday

Truth be told - I am feeling a little melancholy, but I will use my whole "new attitude" to pull myself out of the funk.

It is mid-week (workwise) and it is time to pull our spirits up out of the muck and into the fabulous week that still lays ahead.

How do I do that? I am a big believer in MUSIC. This stuff is better than any drug you can take. Who needs meds when you have the sounds of an amazing voice, the pounding of a drum, the screeching of a guitar - it's all good.

Maybe it is the dancer that still lurks inside - but I can't help but stop and listen to music. Or maybe it is the writer inside, absorbing every well-thought out lyric. Whatever it is - it works. My plan for today will include making sure I have music on the entire day. Good stuff too. I will tune into Pandora.com and create a few excellent playlist for work. I will plug in my ipod in my car after work -(going, I HAVE to listen to NPR.)

I thought I would give you a "Best Of" in music for me. I always play these very song when I feel a little down - or need a little pick me up. Silly stuff, but I am into silly this week!

Positive Music, if you will - to get your day going. Take a moment and push play!

















WOW Leanne! You deserve it!

Today I think the blog that is rockin' it out is.. well.. Little Miss "From Chaos Comes Happiness."

I know it seems Leanne and I have a blog love fest going - but you know, writers tend to adore one another's work. I adore her AND her sister (The Adventures of CT & Me) and some of her other blog friends. (For a list of links - click on my blog roll above or click on any of the comments in previous posts - these are my peeps!) With that, I like to celebrate their successes!

BUT tonight I want you to check out something else - I say all of this about  her because she was featured - AGAIN! This is at least the second time I have seen her get featured on blog networks. BTW that's huge! I want you to visit Mama's Little Nestwork. Another favorite blogger of mine (You can click on  her page from my blog roll too (Mama's Little Chick.) All delightful and I hope you follow them both and join the Nestwork. (No - you don't have to be a mommy to join. She took me in!) But there are some really lovely people and blogs.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

P is for Positive

Mark Victor Hansen says,      “Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”
That's sort of the philosophy of the day. Plus, I think that is the greatest piece of advice anyone could actually accept.

Part of the "Life is a Journey, Not a Destination" quote that I love the most is just that core piece that Hansen mentioned above - "Don't wait until everything is just right." That is probably the biggest lesson I learned in my 30s. I am never going to be thin enough, rich enough, smart enough, perfect enough to "start" anything. Never. But if I keep waiting for this or that to come into play, I may end up losing some really valuable years of life. We are NOT guaranteed tomorrow, why wait?

That's where the POSITIVE attitude has GOT to come into play. Hell No, I am not suzy sunshine, nor will I ever be. But that is OKAY. That does not mean I am not optimistic.

The picture above is someone holding a plant that seems to be growing and standing tall - and a little ray of sunshine is beaming down. The little sprout does not seem to be worrying if he is in the right garden, or planted in a green house. "He is Growing Where He is Planted." Haven't we all heard that before? Grow where you are planted? I think the rest just works itself out.

God how I wish I could get some of my friends and family to read those words. Some of them are still in the phase where everything else needs to line up before they can begin their lives. STOP WAITING. Grow. Believe.. and honestly.. trust. I put my trust in God. You may put your trust in your family, or the universe. Whatever - just know that we were made to evolve. Staying stagnant is not an option.

People pick on me all the time about all of the silly classes I take, or volunteer activities I join, or dozens of books I read a month, and that's okay. But I have always found one thing to remain true - we're not growing, if we aren't living.

I have tons of crap I deal with, but one thing remains true - I always pick myself back up, brush myself off - and try again. I am spontaneous, but not in a destructive way. I get it. I get that there is more to this life than what we see. I get that I only use a little bit of my brain on a daily basis - I want to change that. I get that there is a whole BIG world out there for me to see, and God willing, I will get the opportunity to see more. But I don't wait for all of my finances and vacation time to accrue - hence the international exchange students. I decided a while back, I will bring the world to me instead. Even now, I seek friends from other countries. I read as many books as humanly possible. Ask anyone!

I will leave you with one more nugget of truth. No, I cannot take credit for it - but we ALL need to start at this moment and - CARPE DIEM. (Seize the Day.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Let them eat cake!!

I think I was channeling one of my favorite historical figures today - Marie Antoinette.

Sure, she was a bit  compulsive and indulgent and well.. ever so slightly pompous - but I really don't think it was her fault. She was bred that way.

Like me - I can be a bit compulsive.. and indulgent.. maybe on certain subjects I might come off "pompous" - but I really do MEAN well. ;-)

It's about to be Postive Tuesday for me! My new "attitude" adjustment.

I am positive - for one, I have absolutely NO meetings on the books. That requires a Woot Woot!

No - I still do not have coffee and creamer (update: I DID get a doubleshot espresso and one cup of coffee at the conference. Can I get a Triple Woot Woot Woot!) BUT - on a positive note, I will learn to enjoy the cheap coffee at my office. And hey, you never know -if I throw positivity around the office maybe, just maybe - someone will want to make ME happy and brings me a little Starbucks.. or they will call the state hospital to check my sanity.

OR cake. OMG... Marie Antoinette had it right - "LET THEM EAT CAKE." Why in the world am I craving CAKE? Seriously. C-A-K-E. What is strange about this craving, I rarely crave sweets. I am more of a bag o' chips type of girl. I WANT CAKE. If you are friend of mine on FB (and yes, my dear Blog Followers - if you REALLY want the inside scoop - send me a friend request.) - I had 2 cake status updates. I WANT CAKE. Cake Cake Cake. Positive happy cake.

Sorry.. I 'm hungry.

(It happens to be Monday night - and I just got back from Body Jam class and I ate healthy tonight.) Booo..

BUT on a positive note - it's all good. God willing, in time - the pay off will take place.

For now.. 'LET ME EAT CAKE.'

Maybe a miracle cake will arrive at my office tomorrow.. maybe. I have a optimistic, positive attitude. ;-)

PS - I promise to give you a REAL post in the morning. I am just rambling.. ramble ramble.. wanting CAKE!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Beginnings

I like the idea of starting my Monday off on the right foot. But what if you typically have two wrong feet?

There is a minor crisis in my home - we are out of coffee and creamer. That's the first crisis. The second - I have a very strict budget - and my "grocery budget" is busted until Thursday.

BUT - this is the 2nd day of my personal philosophy change, and I have to  view this as an opportunity to GET A GRIP and not obsess over the lack of good coffee in the morning.

I am also starting the day off in a "Vision Meeting." Basically, my organization has arranged for our team (the BHAM office) to meet at another location for a "retreat-like" day of meetings. If the planets align, there might be coffee. God willing..

Lot's of big things will begin this week: I start back at the gym. Monday night is Body Jam! Very excited. I also begin Day 1 of fighting off some old tax debt (again) from my X and luckily my dear friend (and attorney) is there to walk me through it all.

Technically all big stuff, but good stuff.

What about you? What new and exciting thing do you hope to tackle this week?

The Egyptian's Favorite Recipe

I do not know how many times my friends ask me to share an "egyptian" recipe with them. I always give them easiest one - Tahini, Hummus, things like that. But THAT does not make an egyptian's stomach full. The recipe I am about to share with you is one that is found on many of an egyptians dinner table. It's easy, it's cheap, it has all the major stuff you would need to feed a family - but it is a little time consuming. (Remember, most of the women are housewives there.) I tend to wait until the weekend to make it.

I actually attempted to take pics with my mobile phone last night. The quality sucks, but I think you will get the picture.

المكرونة بالبشاميل

That is the name of the recipe. I am not kidding you. LOL Just follow the instructions and check out the pics.

What you will need:
1 pound of ground beef (1/2 kilo beef)
1 pound of pasta (penne, macaroni, whatever you would like to use) (1/2 kilo macaroni)
1 large onion
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 egg
mozzarella
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, White Pepper, Cumin, Oil

Okay.. let's begin.
Start by chopping your onion! (Simple enough - but makes me cry like a baby.)
Now, add a little oil to a skillet, and for about five minutes, saute the onions until they are tender.

While you are doing that - boil the pasta on another burner

Drain the pasta when it is al dente!

Add just a smidge of oil to keep the pasta from sticking together. Set it aside in a bowl.

Since my husband is a muslim - we try to eat Halal as much as possible. (It means it is butchered a certain way.) So - I grab my thawed beef.

Mix it with the onions and brown for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.

Now I am going to add a littl cumin (well - a lot! We love the stuff) Most middle eastern meat is seasoned with cumin! Gives it that "different" flavor.

Stirring it up.

Add black pepper

Add salt. I prefer a Kosher or Sea Salt. (Just add enough to season.)
Now turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20 minutes in the seasoning.

Cut three tablespoons of butter. I use Sweet cream unsalted Butter.

Melt it in a sauce pan over medium heat

Grab your three tablespoons of flour.
Mix the two together for about three minutes, stirring constantly

Add your two cups of milk. (I used 2%)

Whisk for about 3 minutes or so that everything is combined, the sauce gets thicker and does not get chunky.

Then you set the sauce aside and allow it to cool. Then add one egg. Whisk together.

Add a little bit of salt and white pepper.

Sprinkle with Nutmeg

Whisk everything together

Now divide the mixture. That would mean 2 - 1cups.

In 1/2 of the mixture, add 3 tablespoons of the meat and fill it with pasta.
Mix it together.

Poor that into a deep baking dish. That is your first layer.

Add a layer of meat mix.

Sprinkle a little cheese.

Add the rest of the pasta

Then the rest of the meat mix.

Pour the rest of the Bechamel over the entire container. Spread it evenly.

Top with the remaining cheese (I just use one bag of Mozzarella)


Cook in the overn at 350 for about 40 minutes and voila! Let me tell you - it is thick, it lasts forever and it is good reheated.

Let me know if you try it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Meditation: Soul Enriching

One of my favorite lines from Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation" is - "To be content to be solitary."

That's powerful.

This post I thought I would share with you one of the things I am doing to "Enrich my Soul" on Sunday.

Meditation is one of my absolute favorite ways to gain focus. It takes so much to get me to stop my brain long enough to find some sort of inner peace (a common theme in my journey.)

I recently was reading some of More's writings. I like this guy! Aside from his "family expectations" to be successful in law and  government - More was quite the humanist! (I like to consider myself a humanist!)
He was also a good friend of Eramus, and a prominent literary figure. You might be familiar with his work called "Utopia."

What I also admire about More is that he was quite spiritual. He had a wonderful devotion to religious life, while maintaining an excellent sense of humor. It is said that even at the height of his career, he would always set aside one day a week for meditation and prayer. HELLO? I am doing the same thing!! And that, my friends.. is today. Sunday - my Soul Enriching Day.

Another thing I have to tell you about More (before I get into his meditation) is his strong integrity (w/o losing his swagger!) Apparently Henry VIII appointed him to be his royal counselor. However, when Henry wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, More told him, after careful study, that he could not support his case. (Love it. He at least saw all sides and then reported back.) He also refused to support Henry when he appointed himself the head of the church. In turn, Henry (the spoiled brat) had More put in prison, later to be executed. They say that when he went to his execution, he went with great composure and was even found joking with his executioner. I like this guy!

Back to his meditation - "A Godly Meditation." Love it! (Please click on the link if you would like to see the entire thing.)

I thought I would share some of my favorite lines that I hope to take with me into the week and use for more "meditation."

- To be content to be solitary
- Gladly to be thinking of God
- To continually have in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me
- To buy the time again that I before have lost.

How cool is that? Two are very general and can apply to everyone. The two in the middle may only speak to a few of you. Whatever - it's all good!

Part of enriching my soul - I want to learn to be content in my own solitude. I want to be happy to think of God. I want to remember that someone cared so much as to suffer FOR me. I always want to learn to buy back all of that time I lost worrying, creating my own drama and just doing mindless stuff.

It's a good thing to consider.

There is a specific bible selection you might be able to check out to go even further with this. It's Jeremiah 15:5 - 10.

Some of the take aways I get are:
- Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
- I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to the fruit of their doings.

What I see is for (me) I have to remember - If I trust - I will be blessed.
If I take time to meditate and concentrate on what is important - it is known. All good things will follow.

In the end - I think my big take away to meditate on is clear - LOVE. Love my enemies. Love my friends. Love my life. Love your right to your life. Love God most of all.

Got it - if that doesn't enrich the soul, I don't know what will?!

** I think some of you thought I was actually creating daily themes for my blog - actually, that is not true. The "daily" ideas was for my state of mind, and perhaps something in my personal life I could try. On Sunday, since it involved reading, I thought I would share. Hope that makes sense!

Energized on a Saturday

That's right - I have a theme for my Saturdays - and that is ENERGIZE.

As I sat here last night at my dining room table, I began to think about how I could create my own little "make over" of sorts. We know it took me a year to get the food thing down and the exercise thing down. Now that I have that in order, it's time to just get the rest together.

Then I thought about me. As much as I talk about the ups and downs of living with an immigrant and all he is going through - the truth is, it is just as hard on me. So, how can I get back that silly, fun, energized Nicole?

Then I took a look at all of my books on the shelves. I have a TON of books. Lots of them, lord help us all, are "Self Help" books. Not like Boo-Hoo woo is me kind, but more of the how to improve your life kind.

Yeah, I 've read them all. But still (it's kind of like the exercise thing, one size does not fit all.) I began to think about piecing it all together. Like the exercise and food thing.

So that's what I did last night.

Since the WOTD helps me come up with a post sometimes, how about assigning a theme to each day. I always loved theme days at school, and themed parties, etc. Personally, I will keep a theme for my days.

Yes, this is goofy as hell. But it is just one thing I want to try. In my analytical mind, I decided to decide what are my BIGGEST issues on various days. Then I wanted to counteract those feelings or circumstances.

Without further adieu - here are my THEME days to keep me sane:

Saturdays - ENERGIZE. Why? Because I usually wake up on Saturdays completely exhausted from the week. I am now taking a Zumba class on Saturdays, and I notice when I get home, I feel fantastic! Zingy even. That is part of the "energy." Also, it is definitely a day to get out and do something. Festivals, art galleries, museums, hiking - whatever. I am turning Saturday in an adventure and energize day!

Sunday - Soul Enriching. Why? Because I am losing some of that. If you read yesterday's post, I am having some serious "spiritual warfare" internally going on. I want to recharge and get back to the things I hold near and dear to my heart. I have tons of devotionals and books on spirituality and religion. I need to actually finish what I started. Also, I used to be heavily into meditation. I want to get that back. There is a Yoga class on Sundays at the gym, perhaps I could take that also. I just want to put meaning & spirit back into my week. Sunday is the perfect day to do it!

Monday - New Beginnings. Why? Because it's Monday - do we need another reason. Instead of groaning about the work week, why not see it as a fresh start? I want to find some professional/inspirational books to read during breakfast & lunch to "empower" me to make plans/focus/and engage. I need to schedule out my week. (Routine is good for people like me.) Also - I have a Body Jam class at 6:45pm. That will put a little pep into my step!

Tuesday - Positive. Why? Because Mondays typically bum me out, and Tuesday makes the week feel so long. I need to keep my attitude up. I need to read some things on positive thinking. I need to actually write in the Gratitude Journal I bought years ago. I could concentrate on encouraging others and maybe find a volunteer activity for that night! (I have been wanting to volunteer for something new!)

Wednesday - Rockin'. WHY? And that is a big why - because Wednesday suck. Why not be a little quirky and fun and adventurous on Wednesday. Party time! LOL I will develop some type of "kick butt" attitude. A Warrior of such. I can energize others and plus, I have that awesome ZUMBA class at 6:45pm. I will read some affirmations and try to feel powerful!

Thursday - Thankful. Typically we are all Thankful on Thursdays (maybe it's the whole Thanksgiving thing.) But I do think it is a nice way to add the "love" back to the week. I can re-center, show some gratitude to others and maybe slip in some Meditation. There are three classes I am looking at (and I can alter depending on my moods) - Body Jam, Water Aerobic and Yoga. I can just have a little fun with this one.

Fridays - Flawless. It's the end of the work week, and what is done is done. Finalize my plans, check off my to-do list and toss it. I can regroup on Monday. Also - this may sound vain - but I am a HUGE proponent of grooming. Perhaps I will use my Fridays as a scheduled day to take care of my skin, hair and nails.  (making me FLAWLESS) lol.

Am I crazy?

I just have to figure out how to make my life work smarter, not harder. I have set the boundaries. I have layed down the foundation. I have changed the food and exercise. I am building my personal inner strength back up. I am looking to enrich my spiritual life.

I think - by 40 - this girl may actually get it together!

Passionate is such a better word!

It is so true, unfortunately.

I swear, if I did not want to turn into a total zombie, I would invest in medication to just level me out.

No - I have not been diagnosed with any mental illness to date. No, I am not bi-polar or depressive or manic. I am just moody and well, a bit of a control freak, who according to her parents was "spoiled" by her grandparents. WHATEVER. ;-)

High strung is a really good way to describe me. Passionate is the word I would prefer you use.

I am! Super passionate about a lot of things. I am not afraid to share my point of view with you. No - I don't go on the attack, instead I look for situations where I can share my vision and "passion."

Some subjects get me completely wired: Animal Rights for one. OMG - I will go cuckoo for cocoa puffs over hurt animals. Any time that commercial with Sarah Mclachlan and ASPCA comes on I want to throw something at the TV. Or when I see one of those random viral videos about the crazy artic hunters beating those beautiful white seals over the head with a bat.. I have to admit I react very strongly. I have a wonderful collection of stickers from PETA. If you get a letter from me (especially bills) I tend to add one of my stickers to them.

The Amnesty International commercials dealing with human rights will send me spinning into a major letter writing campaign to random delegates and high officials around the world. I get crazy mad about that type of stuff. The song "Imagine" by John Lennon is played over a PSA which a little girl is "molested" (well.. not actually - but it is implied) and another woman is beaten by her partner. Stuff like that makes me want to start picketing the streets and screaming "Down with the Penis." LOL I can't help it - makes me mad.

Then when it comes to politics - lord have mercy - I have such strong opinions. I blame my Foreign Relations teacher in High School - Mrs. Virginia Phillips. One of the best teachers I have ever had - but she got me so fired up about politics and the world around me, it is hard for me to make it to work while listening to NPR. I instead want to hop the next flight to DC and start lobbying the latest issue I get so passionate about.

Another tough conversation to have with me deals with Women Rights - and man oh man, I am living and breathing it. I know I have alluded to it in the past, but I live with an old-school chauvinist. Unfortunately it is conditioned in him. He is an arab. Lord have mercy - talk about starting the sparks up! LOL It can get quite comical on the differences between us. But I have to admit, after talking to a good friend that is very much Italian and married to an Italian and another that is Mexican - it's quite the norm in sooo many cultures. (PS - these are Americans.. lived here their entire lives.) Just a different culture.

You just got to love our differences in this world - even if they make us a little crazy!!

PS - I added those PSAs I mentioned:


BTW - this guys goes on and on and on... if you can skip forward.. you will see the stickers I am talking about (the ones I use to make my friends annoyed! And at least one bill collector or two laugh. ) ;-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Exorcising while Exercising

G.K. Chesterton: "These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own."

Why in the world am I even going to tackle this topic? Well - because it has been on my mind.

I say this (jokingly as far as western minds are concerned) but in Arabic it makes sense. I am going through a little jihad, if you will. Jihad translates to holy war. Not so much with other people (that would be a literal translation, and even in Islam - it's not what it means.. literally.) I am going through what all Muslims go through - and that is a holy war within myself.

For those of you new to my blog - I am a christian (catholic to be exact.) I do live with a Muslim. Most of my friends are either one of two things - Super Duper believers or straight up atheist or agnostic, mixed in with a slew of Muslims and sprinkling of Buddhist, Pagans and Jews.

Let me break it down even more - My closest friends in the world are probably more agnostic than anything else. My co-workers are all super-duper protestant. VERY active in their respective churches. I volunteer at my church as a youth leader (and all of the other volunteers are very dedicated to the church.) My hubby follows Islam (as well as all of his friends and there is no in between mu slim. Either you follow it or you don't.) My sis is a pagan, and my parents are non practicing catholics.

I hint at it during the holy months, and mention from time to time - but guess what folks? I hope it doesn't turn you off - But I am very spiritual. Very. Yes, I pray to God. I do believe in God. God the Father to be exact. I do believe he had a son and his name was Jesus. I believe Mary was a virgin. I believe in angels and demons. All of it. Holy water, crucifixes, the works.

I am a rational, intelligent, worldly human being. I have studied most world religions and I respect everyones right to believe what they want. I believe in free will.

What I am getting at is - I get SICK of defending my belief, if by chance it comes up in conversation.

Growing up in the south you have to understand one thing - I am in Southern Baptist country. These people are nothing like the Presbyterians or Lutherans or Episcopalians you might know up north. Noooo... there are sooo many denominations and they are (for the most part) anti-catholic. I spent my entire life having to educate my fellow "Christians" on where their belief comes from. Ask the average Baptist or Church of Christ member (etc.) where their belief system originated - honestly, most could not tell you. I am not speaking about the entire lot - I mean in general. Half do not even realize that I am a Christian.

Then there is explaining to my Muslim family and friends why I think God would need to have a son. (It is a dead end conversation, I can tell you.) I have my husband who literally prays for my conversion (or reversion - since Muslims believe everyone is born a Muslim - we convert to other religions. PS - to be a Muslim means you believe in one true God.) You can imagine what it is like when my hubby wants to sit me down and discuss my damned soul.

Then there are my bright and wonderful friends who think the whole idea of organized religion is a sham. Or my pagan sister who sees Christianity as a patriarchal dictatorship. Or listen as she has taught my 4 year old niece to say, "Let's say the prayer to the Goddess," before we have our meals. The same niece she chose to have baptised in the catholic church and deemed me her Godmother. Which means in my religion - I am responsible for her Christian upbringing, but clearly I am not in a position to do so. Or to be told how can I be soo smart, and believe in a figment of my imagination by my atheist friends.

*sigh*

I typically choose to refrain from discussing these things. How do you explain faith? You can't. At least - I can't. Of all the things in the world I know how to explain - my relationship and belief in a higher power is something I cannot put into words.

As corny as it sounds - it is something I know in the depth of my being. It is something I feel. It is something I have experienced.

Yes - I believe in evolution. But I believe that was GOD putting things into motion. Yes I believe there are scientific reasons behind miracles in the Bible - again - can't that be the magic of God? Also, yes - I believe there are several stories in the Old Testament (Torah) that were written or passed down more so as a story to teach a lesson. (Even the catholic church teaches that.)

Yes - I believe that homosexuality is genetic. I don't know why. But I believe there can be things that go a little fuzzy during the creation of human life. Perhaps there are lessons to learn there, on how we treat our fellow man, when the wants and attraction does not lead to procreation. It is not for me to understand or judge. That is God's job.

Yes - I believe all life is sacred. No, I do not agree with abortion. Any person I know who has had one, and I was in their life, knows my thoughts on that. But it is NOT my place to pass judgement. That is an issue between them and God.

Yes, I think birth control is perfectly okay. Especially between married couples. Yes, I think you should wait to have sex until you get married. Does it always happen? Nine times out of ten - no. Did I wait? No. Do I think that decision was wrong? Yes. But I was an adult, and made that decision knowing full well what I was doing.

I do not support capital punishment. I think that is playing God. I believe in rehabilitation. I also think that anyone who has the mindset to murder, clearly is not well.  You can still function in society and not be mentally well.

I HATE explaining my beliefs. Hate it Hate it Hate it. I wish it were "socially acceptable" among Christians to just keep it personal. But apparently it is not. At least not in these parts. They don't call it the Bible Belt for nothing.

I titled this post - Exorcising while Exercising - because I have to tell you, I feel most alive and cleansed when I am exercising. I am usually alone (well - in a room, but I don't know anyone) - and I am forced to deal with myself. In my head, I talk to God. It is one time I can just CLEANSE.

I feel such pressure from my husband, from my non believing friends, from my believing friends - all of them. I wish we could all just be left alone to believe what we believe. I find such peace in my spirituality. I wish humans would not judge me so. I try really hard to keep it to myself, and let you live your life the way you want to. Again - I don't think any of us have it all together, but I believe I have found something that speaks to me.

Yes, it throws me off to see those I love not believe in God. (PS - God is Allah and Yahweh or G-D.) Yes, it pains me to see those I love suffering in life, and (because of what I believe) I think a lot of that suffering is a way to draw them closer to God to find comfort. But that is my faith. It is not a game, or a fad or whatever. I don't turn my nose up at organized religion, but I do not condemn you for choosing to practice your spirituality in anyway you choose.

This "jihad" of sorts is just me - who tries to keep her mouth shut about it all, and just stick to her prays, and her candles and her Eucharist - and just do what I know is right... but I am not one who can stay quiet. As private as this is for me - sometimes it just wells up and I have to release it all.

I am surrounded by people who are different. I love that. But at the same time - at the core values - (as my husband says) - there will always be that invisible wall - the strongest wall of all.

Thoughts?

Hello Weekend!!

I think I did a pretty good job of balancing home and work this week! Perhaps I am on an upswing and the little vacation I took to recharge my battery worked!

When I think about it, that's what it is all about - Balance. I put in some serious hours and stayed focused and just checked off the little tasks that needed to get done at work.

At home, I was able to help the egyptian makes some HUGE decisions and get him on track for the long haul.

See - a miracle happened on our trip. Even though he and I were still snipping and griping with each other, when we got back - the communication started flowing.

I am happy to report that he will NOT be returning home alone in October. (Nor will he be going back at all this calendar year.) He is post poning the trip to take care of something waaay bigger. He is having WES certified and validate his teaching certification from Lebanon. Which means after taking about 4 classes in education at a local university he will be a certified teacher in the states. That's it.

I think visiting with my friend Telisa and speaking to her class and being in that environment solidified this for him. (Many thanks T!) Also, when he and I were talking about our "gifts" and "talents" - one thing he mentioned, "Nicole, I have taught classes for years." It only makes sense.

I think that the change in culture, diet, friends, everything just threw him for a loop. Over dinner two nights ago, he asked, "How do you think you would do in Egypt? With no friends, no family, you don't speak the language?" I replied, "I don't know."

It's true.

I don't know. How could I know if I am not there. I am really excited about his future. He is studying the GRE as we speak and I hope and pray this all works out in our favor.

On to other topics -

This weekend!! It's the Greek Festival here in Birmingham! I don't know why, but most Americans just looove the Greek Festival. I think I am conditioned to be excited, because in the past it was about the food. LOL Well, since marrying my Mediterranean man - that's what I cook all the time now, sooo.. I am still trying to figure out what I am so excited about. It must be the whole pavolv's dog thing. ;-)

Oh yeah.. I am also doing something I said I would never do again. BUT - there are no rules on this one, so I think I am in the clear. Maybe.. ;-)

BoostMyBlogFriday
Yep - I am blog hopping it. I thought I might go shopping for a few new blogs to follow. (It never hurts.) I am cleaning up my blog follow list and thought I would make sure I have some quality things that I like to read. One of my MANY projects this weekend.

I also think I will start on the storage room. Yeah.. I know...

What's up with you guys? I feel like I have lost track with my blog friends and followers. Now that my balance and focus is back - let's chat! I will be visiting YOUR blogs this weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It all goes back to your gifts!

The conversations keep coming back to "gifts" and "talents." I am not sure what that means - but I think I should try to dissect it all here!

I am one of those strange souls who believes if something keeps coming up or you are reminded of a certain word or theme or whatever - then it is some sort of "sign."

I choose to believe it is a sign of God - you may believe it is the "universe" sending you a message - whatever, I try to figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing, or actually take a moment and make note of it.

Talents - and gifts. The theme keeps coming back. It started at Faith Chapel (visiting the egyptian's friend's church.) Then the next week I ended up at my catholic mass at Prince of Peace Catholic Church - and Father was talking about our gifts/talents. Then I have sat with friends as they discussed their "talents" and what they wanted to do with them. THEN I go to my work conference and they decided to do a whole meeting on "Strength Finders." Then my father discusses what his "talents" are and what he can do now that he is retirement.

Last night was the final hint - the egyptian was discussing how he finally decided what to do with his life. LIke 100% - and I saw the enthusiasm. I think the trip away, spending time my family and just reevaluating life worked its magic! He has identified his gift and wants to use it.

That brings me - to well.. me. My gifts. My talents. *sigh* What are they??? What am I supposed to be doing? I am not necessarily talking about work - I mean in general.

In the strength finder test we took at work, I discovered that
Input

Connectedness
Activator
Context
Intellection are my "strengths." The test gave some advice on what I should and should not do.

My strongest strength was Input - here are some words of advice they gave me:
-Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.
-
-Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.
-Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people. Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.

Connectedness:
-Consider roles in which you listen and counsel. You can become adept at helping other people see connection and purpose in everyday occurrences.
-Within your organization, help your colleagues understand how their efforts fit in the larger picture. You can be a leader in building teams and helping people feel important.
-Help people see the connections among their talents, their actions, their mission, and their successes. When people believe in what they are doing and feel like they are part of something bigger, commitment to achievement is enhanced.
-Your philosophy of life compels you to move beyond your own self-interests and the interests of your immediate constituency and sphere of influence. As such, you see the broader implications for your community and the world. Explore ways to communicate these insights to others.
- Connectedness talents can help you look past the outer shell of a person to embrace his or her humanity. Be particularly aware of this when you work with someone whose background is very different from yours. You can naturally look past the labels and focus on his or her essential needs.

Activator:
-Seek work in which you can make your own decisions and act on them. In particular, look for start-up or turnaround situations.
-You learn more from real experience than from theoretical discussions. To grow, consciously expose yourself to challenging experiences that will test your talents, skills, and knowledge.
-You possess an ability to create motion and momentum in others. Be strategic and wise in the use of your Activator talents. When is the best time, where is the best place, and who are the best people with whom to leverage your valuable influence?

Context:
-Accept change. Remember that your Context talents do not require you to “live in the past.” Instead, you can actually become known as an active agent for positive change. Your natural sense of context should allow you to identify more clearly than most the aspects of the past that can be discarded and those that must be retained to build a sustainable future.
-Read historical novels, non-fiction, or biographies. You will discover many insights that will help you understand the present. You will think more clearly.

Intellection:
- Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology. You will always enjoy subjects that stimulate your thinking.
- List your ideas in a log or diary. These ideas will serve as grist for your mental mill, and they might yield valuable insights.
- People may think you are aloof or disengaged when you close your door or spend time alone. Help them understand that this is simply a reflection of your thinking style, and that it results not from a disregard for relationships, but from a desire to bring the most you can to those relationships
- Engaging people in intellectual and philosophical debate is one way that you make sense of things. This is not the case for everyone. Be sure to channel your provocative questions to those who similarly enjoy the give and take of debate.
- Schedule time for thinking; it can be energizing for you. Use these occasions to muse and reflect.
-Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.
-Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest.
-Encourage people around you to use their full intellectual capital by reframing questions for them and by engaging them in dialogue. At the same time, realize that there will be some who find this intimidating and who need time to reflect before being put on the spot.
 
Then I thought what do I enjoy:
- Photography
- Writing
- Traveling
-Talking/discussing issues
- Philosophy
- Literature
- World Religions
- Spirituality
- Food/Coffe.. etc
- Interior design
- Fashion
- Skincare/Make up
- Books
- Music
- Theater
-Dance
- Nature
- Human Rights
- Animal Rights
 
I could go on and on...
 
What about you? What are your strengths? Have you ever been formally instructed what your gifts were? What would you do? What should I work on?
 
Ohh.. questions.. questions..

Check out my Guest Blog Post!

 
 
 
I am a guest blogger at "From Chaos Brings Happiness!" Check it out by clicking on the picture (button) above!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Soo.. I guess I am a grown up!

Man.. when did it happen? When did I become one of THEM? Can it be true? Am I really a GROWN UP?

While visiting with my family in Georgia last week, my mom and I were talking about the age of children, from people my age. One of my closest friends has a 14 year old and she is 37. Then I looked at mom and said - WOW - you were 37 when I was 14.

How did that happen? I remember my mom when I was 14, and I have to tell you - she seemed "older" than me now. When did this whole adult thing happen?

Is it because I don't actually own my own home? I rent an apartment. Is it because I never had kids? WHY do I feel  so much younger than 37? My next birthday is in 5 months. How in the hell did I get to my late 30's and yet feel like I am at least 10 years younger?

I don't mean physically. TRUST ME - I feel every bit the 37 years I have been alive. All types of changes are taking place, and from listening to some older friends - it only gets worse. I am waaay more tired. Things are not quite are perky as they used to be, and hair seems to be a new type of nuisance. A few times I have experienced this extreme wave of heat in my face and somewhere in my mid-30s I ended up with a little acne. Yes - it is official - I am in puberty for middle age. LOL

I thought for sure I would FEEL more mature at some point. But other than just not feeling insecure, I feel the exact same. I don't worry so much about the way I look. Don't get me wrong - I do my make up, and I try to pick out cute things to wear, but I don't WORRY about what YOU think. I do it because I like it.

I still like to have fun, I still like to laugh, I still think really silly things. I can still be petty and talk about you. So when .. oh when.. will I become a mature adult?

I am taking care of myself. I have battled some sickness. I have traveled across the world alone. I've done all of that! I have meetings with CEOs, I accomplished the items I wanted to accomplish professionally... what.. what.. what is next?

Perhaps my spirit is young. Maybe that's it. I am still silly, I am still loud, I am still opinionated and I just don't take myself too seriously...

Right now, I just want to run through my office with a sheet tied around my neck, holding a yard stick in my hand screaming  - "GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!!"

Double sneeze means only one thing.. I hope

One can only hope that the temps will lower at some point. Yesterday as I was driving home, my temp gage said it was 100 degrees. Hot as Hades hot.

I woke up this morning a little cold. Interesting twist. Then there was a bout of multiple sneezes. Why do I share this with you? Because THAT means that the seasons are officially changing. My body reacts right before Autumn and right before Spring. Time to really invest in a few more bottles of Nasanex.

I took a peek at the morning news and saw that by this weekend the highs will be in the 80s. FINALLY. Lows in the 60s. In the south, generally it is the 3rd week in October that you will officially need a jacket at night. Not quite time to break out the sweaters, but I can comfortably wear my jeans not feel like I need to peel them off!

I do feel the need to apologize for the lack of writing, I am just really tired. Not in a stressed exhaustion - but in a re-adjusting to waking up and going to work way. I am trying to tie up a lot of loose ends on this Heart Walk season, so that requires a little hard work on my part!

I am also excited to share with you guys - one of my friends is in school at Aveda studying to be an esthetician, and she will officially be able to go "on the floor" very soon. I am sooo excited to go get my discounted facials from someone I trust!

Heading back to Zumba tonight. I finally have an official schedule for exercise. Mondays - Body Jam, Wed - Zumba, Thurs - Body Jam and Sat - Zumba. Works for me!

Also - I leave you with this:

My husband is sooo convinced he will be happier in a different city.  I think it is not so much the city as it is feeling useful and doing what you love. Which would you prefer? Geography or an awesome career?

It's a hard decision - but one that must be made. I think work on the career... and the geography will come. ;-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One more time..

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have attempted to write something today. It is completely out of character for me to NOT have anything to say. But the truth is - I really don't.

I have been pretty calm, sleeping well, eating well, the egyptian is behaving well - all is basically well since my return to my home and "normal life." Quiet. Peaceful.

I did spend a little time watching some seriously odd videos on Youtube. Seriously odd.

Instead of writing some deep, thought provoking post - I thought I would share with you my top five ODD videos that have me fascinated.

Yes... I warn you.. they are odd. Please note - I am in no way making "fun" of these people. I just find it all interesting.



I think she has such spunk!








I know.. I know.. weird stuff.

What I find fascinating is - this is real life. People living with and dealing with abnormalities.

Where do we draw the line between educating and exploiting? Hmm.. thoughts to ponder.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Making a difference

In the end, I just want to know I made a difference.

That's what I took away from my week with family and friends.

As I sat and listened to each of my "people", I tried to soak in what was being said. Listen for the needs and wants and wishes - and just be there for them.

Perhaps it is one of the gifts my job has afforded me to polish off - "needs" based listening. I just wanted to make a difference, in any small way that I could.

On the way down to Georgia, the egyptian and I enjoyed a very tasty lunch. I listened as he talked about what was next for him. He asked lots of questions about different cities, and lifestyles - just lots and lots of questions. I tried to answer them to the best of my ability. What I gathered from him was his need to feel useful. To find a routine that works best for him. To be the man he hoped he would one day be.

When I finally arrived at my home, my mom talked openly about her excitement about retirement. She is ready to embrace a lifestyle where she can pursue her talents - something she is very clear about. I listened to my sister talk about a website she was working on, and how she was struggling with financial aid at her university and most importantly, I listened to how she was excited and proud of her daughter's progress.

My father on the other hand had a more "traumatic" and life altering week. I listened as he expressed his concern over his new-found retirement. He was forced to take disability due to health issues and for the first time in 40 some odd years, he felt useless. I listened to him explain how he needs to create a new routine, pursue some hobbies and work on a new life - a foreign life. I heard him loud and clear - Change is not comfortable to him.

I visited with friends on Saturday night and listened to them discuss grandchildren, and kids and in high school, and vacation plans, and health issues. We are all forging our way through middle age and I feel like the stress and ridiculous issues of our 20s and early 30s are finally gone.

I attended a work conference and listened to how the American Heart Association created Life's Simple 7 - where optimal health was officially defined. I heard our board president and epidemiologist explain how standards are set now to PREVENT cvd occurrences versus treating the issue. I heard change. I heard health.

I spent the night with one of my best friends and listened as she explained her current hopes and dreams. How life was quickly changing and she finally has some simple clarification on the next half.

I watched as my husband spoke to a middle school and explained what the similarities and differences are between the middle east and islam. I heard the sincerity in the children's questions. I saw they genuine interest. It gave me hope.

I traveled to a mountain city with my family and watched as age and money has officially become a factor. I heard in my husband's impatience that I talk a little too much and possible repeat myself (old age?? ) I saw the beauty in every single detail.

I listened to Native Americans as they shared their connection to the earth at the Ocmulgee Indian Festival. I watched colorful dancers move around a field to the beat of the drum. It reminded me that I am a guest here - and lucky to be born on this land.

I listened. I learned. I recharged. That's where I am going these days - I want to listen.

In the end, perhaps the things I learn and garner can be shared here - and together, we learn.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Did you miss me??

Hey there peeps! IIIII aaaaammmm baaacccckkk! WOW. A nine day break from writing. Geez....

*sigh*

Soooo many insights to share. But I think I need a good night's sleep to process it all. You know what they say.. always sleep on it!

I do hope you enjoyed our guest bloggers! I think each really layed it on the line and was super honest. I really appreciate them sharing their thoughts and talents with us!

Now - for a pictorial journey of my trip. (I did snag a few pics from my sis - since most of my pics were taken with my phone. :-( )

Enjoy!

Friday morning - a little greek yogurt with dill, strawberries and a banana for breakfast!












Lunch time the egyptian and I stopped by Cafe Lazio for a lunch pizza. Yes - we sat outside and enjoyed the afternoon before we took off for Georgia.










Before we got to my parent's home - a little salsa & guac for the road at a really neat Mexican restaurant.











These two have not seen one another since December - 9 months later - lots o' love!












The egyptian shared a bedtime story with my niece, Autumn.












Saturday morning I went for a "make over" on my little 4 year old niece. She ate it up!!












Then she decided to try on my scarf and sunglasses!!!












Saturday night we helped our friend Robby celebrate his 42nd birthday!


It was a pirate themed party!









Lisa and I helped the Pirate feel more at home!













Diana helped just a little bit more!














There were even jello shots! This is the birthday boy's sister in law.











Happy Birthday!













Here we are leaving the Birthday party. (Right after my school bully showed up - oh yeah! LOL)












I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Atlanta for a work conference. After it ended - we went to the Coke Museum. I have been before - but I KNEW the egyptian would get a kick out of it.
























There was an egyptian coke poster at the museum!













Heading back to Middle Georgia













Mom & Dad at Cafe International in Helen. Dad had a really rough week (health and work wise (more on that later)). We took a short day trip to Helen. His blood sugar was all over the place - but we made it!









There I am! With the Egyptian.













I went for the Prime Rin sandwich... yummmmmm














Oh yeah we did... lol




Don't forget - it's Oktoberfest








That building to the right is where we had lunch. We were crossing the bride to go shopping.











Mom & I














Dad checking out the German Beer Steins.












Today we went to the Ocmulgee Indian Festival in Macon, GA. Here is Autumn with her dream catcher face painting.












BRUTAL hot. It is well over 90 degrees.. we were chilling out for lunch under a shade tree. That's my mom on the left.











Chilling out at lunch. I think I turned pink!















One of the dancers.















Ocmulgee National Monument - the "Indian Mounds" and the festival for the Creek Indians.
















Us with the niece. Nooo.. the weight is still not off.. but I head back to class tomorrow!
















That's it. I will write more tomorrow.

I have MISSED YOU GUYS!

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