Friday, January 27, 2012

Just a few months late...

Did y'all catch the movie Drive? A few friends of mine have started a little "movie night" tradition, as one of my friends is a true film buff and the rest of us like to make as many immature observations as we can in the span of a feature length film. She loves hanging out with us, promise.

Anyway, last weekend we watched Drive (finally! I had been wanting to see it for months!) and, while I loved the cinematography and of course Mr. Ryan Gosling, my favorite part of the film was the uber-cool soundtrack. I feel a little high school-ish to be totally hooked on a movie soundtrack, but I'm not going to fight it. Particularly as this soundtrack reminds me a lot of being in high school: restless and a little angsty, always searching for something bigger, better and more exciting. It makes me want to go for a long, late-night drive with no real destination in mind. {did you ever do that in high school? we totally did; I even went on a date once where literally we just drove fast down back roads and talked about life}

For your listening and reminiscing pleasure:

If you saw Drive, did you like it?? Are you as worried about the psychological future of all of the characters as I am??
Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The American Dream, back again?

Did all y'all in America catch the State of the Union last night? I had actually forgotten about it (whoops!) until about 8:03 CST, but thankfully was able to listen to the entire speech. I am the first to let you know that I am very conservative and pretty skeptical if not downright upset regarding most policies Obama has put into play over the past three years. That being said, I have a great respect for our country and for the office of the presidency and was eager to hear what our president had to say and hopeful that he had some awesome ideas up his sleeve. I am not one of those individuals who seeks to tear down members of another political party or who hold to an opposing ideology just because, I think it is so important to continue to have dialogue and to truly understand where other people are coming from and the full implications of their political ideas. I'm not going to run around assuming that I'm always right; I think that's a dangerous position to hold.

Anyway, I'm also the first to tell you that Obama is one handsome, articulate man. Everything he says just sounds so good. But is it true? And are any of the programs he alludes to, or tax breaks, or reductions in regulations, really going to happen? And what are the unseen implications of some of the new policies he's proposing? These are just a few of the questions I always have to ask myself. I, probably like a lot of people, can get easily swept up in the formality and excitement and optimism surrounding the SOTU, forget the facts and just drink the punch of patriotism that is handed over to me that night.

I think it's important, as citizens of America or anywhere other country with an operating democracy, to always think for yourself, research the facts, disregard talking heads and ignore party lines.

One news source I like is CNN's website for just a glossy overview of what's hip, happening, and breaking. They have a little blog called the "Truth Squad," which, if you're not familiar with already, you should definitely check out! They do the fact-checking for you on some of the bolder claims politicians make in debates and speeches, and here is their assessment of Obama's speech and the corresponding Republican response.

What did you think about last night's speech? Loved it? Hated it? Never watch those things?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Technology, the bane of my existence

This Christmas, I was elated to open a Garmin 410 watch that my dad swooped up in a hot deal at Costco. Since Christmas, however, I have been disappointed to discover that I am apparently completely inept at operating the dang thing. I can rarely access the menu portion of the screen and usually, no matter which part of the bezel I touch, I just alternate between viewing the time and date and the remaining percentage of battery life. Also, as I was initially setting the little demon up, back in the day when I could view more than one screen option, I accidentally set myself as my correct weight...but a 32 year old man. So now my watch thinks I am a tiny little man who can't figure out technology. No wonder I'm getting no respect.

smart Garmin, stupid Diana

Now, ordinarily this situation, while annoying, wouldn't really necessitate action. But these are no ordinary times. Marathon training 2012 has begun! My girl HRG hooked me up with her training plan from her first marathon, and I would absolutely love to actually time my speed work and accurately determine my mile pace during long runs to the second!

Any advice, or links to technologically impaired support groups would be greatly appreciated.

Do you use a Garmin?
Have you ever had a similar total failure with newfangled technology?? Make me feel better.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inspirational Friday!

I mentioned in my last post that frustrating moments can be wonderful as they offer us opportunities to grow and strengthen ourselves. In the past, I've allowed myself to throw raging pity parties in which I revel in my frustrations, my mistakes and whatever might be lacking in my life. As I've matured {sort of} I've recognized these habits in myself and developed methods to find joy in bleakness, calm in storms, blessings in every aspect of my life, and minor miracles every day. 

In the midst of all of my recent talk on ancient Indian ideologies, I thought I might mix in some other ideologies and introduce a favorite Bible verse that speaks to this same topic:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint.” –Romans 5:3-5

I hope that, regardless of your religious background, this verse inspires you to welcome the inevitable difficulties of life with an open heart, because they can shape you in beautiful ways.

Do you have any wonderfully inspiring quotations I should know about? Please share!
Enjoy your weekend!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Got a minute? It's all you need!

I've been ranting on about different ways to cope with SAD or general winter glumness for the past few days and thought, well why not just keep ranting?!

I mentioned in my post regarding ayurveda that meditation can help balance your kapha during winter, when kapha is notably out of sorts. Regardless of the season, I think we can all agree that taking time to relax your mind and meditate is always beneficial. Long days at the office or in class, crowded malls, tensions with loved ones, Whole Foods running out of cilantro, all of these things frustrate us year-round. The exciting thing {yes, really} about frustrating events is that they provide us with an opportunity to hone our stress-relieving skills and come out the other end brighter and calmer. Conversely, if we let minor frustrations rule our lives, they can make us truly yicky people. Let's avoid the latter option, shall we?

Over the years, I hope that we've all found ways to cope with an irritating day. Exercise is an obvious option, as is a nice glass of wine at the end of the day -- hey, sometimes, you need it! Another option that is a little more difficult to tackle in our busy, crazy, noisy world, is meditation.

I, for one, have historically been terrible at meditation. I've tried it on my lonesome periodically since high school, I've tried it in yoga classes, I've tried it in health class at the bequest of my instructor, I've even tried it with friends and for years, always failed.

Maybe you're like me and could use some serious help quieting your mind and chilling the heck out. Maybe you're like my old roommate in New York, who could get totally zen on the West Side Highway running path listening to chanting on her iPod. {I know, I'm jealous too}

Either way, you probably struggle to find time to truly relax and let go. Enter One-Moment Meditation from Martin Boronson, who has also written a book on meditation and has created a series for and you know Oprah doesn't mess around. His website features a darling little animated video which will guide you through a quick, one-minute, period of meditation.

And can I be honest with you? For the first time I can recall, I was able to actually only focus on my breath, let go of my worries and my to-do list, my past and my future, and meditate. For a whole minute! I was so excited I've now become a meditation junkie. Can't stop, won't stop.

Have you ever attempted meditation? Any success/failure stories?
What are some other methods you employ to relax?

*disclaimer: no one asked me to praise one-moment meditation, because really, why would anyone?! I just happened upon it and love it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Find your dosha, find your bliss

Do you like quizzes? I LOVE them. It's so enlightening finding out what kind of shopper I am or what kind of household pet I would be or what Friends character I am most like. Sometimes I even take quizzes that have real bearing on my life, my health and my future, like when my doctor asks me pesky questions and I answer {mostly} truthfully or a family friend grills me on what I want to be when I grow up {I'll never grow up, so this is a moot issue at best}. Those are generally less fun.

A few months ago, however, I took a quiz that was both informative and fun: "What's Your Dosha, Baby?" is a quick quiz from yogi Lissa Coffey that determines which ayurvedic body type you are. Also, it's my new pick-up line.

Okay, so let's back up about ten steps. In order to determine why you should take this quiz or even care, allow me to elaborate on the basic principles of ayurvedic yoga and describe the three doshas (or body types). My overview on pick-up lines, however, will have to come at a later time and date.

Ayurveda describes a holistic healing method developed in ancient India that seeks to both treat and prevent diseases through balancing the five major elements that compose the universe: earth, water, fire, air and sky.  Emphasis is placed upon meditation, diet, hygiene, and of course, yoga.

The three doshas are: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata types are generally slender, Pitta types are generally athletic, and Kapha types are generally more heavy-set.


While I think that breaking the entire human population down into only three groups is certainly constricting, the body type definitions do give us some decent basic guidelines. I can only speak to the guidelines given to my particular body type, which I felt gave me an accurate reading of how I can sleep better and maintain my energy levels.

I can also speak to the ayurvedic approaches to the changes in seasons. Regardless of your particular dosha, ayurveda can prepare you for a better winter with a few simple changes to your daily life. I scored these tips in this great article from Yoganonymous, which I will quickly summarize in bullet points below:

  • Winter brings about imbalance in Kapha in the body
    • Kapha's main attributes are: cold, sticky, sweet, oily
    • "like increases like," so we should avoid substances with those attributes
  • Eliminate or avoid heavy foods, particularly wheat & dairy
  • Eliminate or avoid sweets
  • Integrate warm spices such as cinnamon, cumin & cayenne into your diet
  • Maintain a regular routine (I already knew this one!)
  • Exercise daily & try to incorporate a few sun salutations into your daily routine
  • Begin a meditation practice
  • Get a massage (I can definitely get on board with that one!)
  • Wear BRIGHT colors 
What do you think of the ayurvedic guidelines for winter? Do you think you could implement them in your own life?

Don't believe me? Want to learn more? Here are some resources to learn all you wanted and more about ayurveda!

And of course, Wikipedia

Monday, January 16, 2012

Don't let January get you down!

I am famous, or perhaps infamous, for my yearly meltdowns. I become so grouchy and terrible to be around during the months of January and February that I wonder how I've kept any of my friends, any at all. I always wonder why it is that I'm feeling so generally awful about life when I look at a calendar and realize, "oh, yes, that's right, I do this every year, I hate winter."

One of the reasons I think I've recently been so affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is that, growing up in St. Louis, while the weather was certainly sub-tropical during winter months, I still had sufficient sunlight and the dreariness didn't hit levels that would totally destroy my spirits.

Heading off to college in Maine, however, was an entirely different story. My school has a special short January term during which students take one intensive class or have the opportunity to take on an internship or study abroad for the month. My freshman year, I took a very interesting class on film and gender in the 1960s, which I loved. What I did not love was that my class went from one to four pm. Being a wild and crazy college kid, I found myself in a routine that would get me up at about 11 am just in time to get ready, eat lunch, go to class, get out of class, and woops! It's 4 pm, dark already and you want to cry. The following January, I spent the month in Costa Rica. I would recommend that particular path to anyone trying to avoid SAD.

In the event that you aren't in college and have a 'job,' a 'budget,' and 'responsibilities' (ew, ew, and ew), I have found a few tactics to stave off suicidal/homicidal tendencies that I'd like to share with you:

1. Vitamin D supplement - I take it every morning with breakfast. This time of year means less sunlight, and therefore less Vitamin D which is a definite cause of mopeyness.

2. Sticking to a regular routine. I know it's dark outside, but wake up anyway! Enjoy a hot beverage and if you can, get a quick walk in before work in the morning. The chill will certainly wake your face up!

3. Don't sleep so much! It's so tempting to sleep in and take naps when the weather is gross and, as mentioned about 12 times so far, it's really dark outside. But don't! It'll only make you feel even more sluggish than if you had just gotten up and powered through the day.

4. Exercise! Even if you are stuck on a treadmill, do something - it'll help you feel more energized. I highly recommend taking a hot yoga class, whether it's a Bikram class or a Hot Vinyasa class. The cold winter air will feel amazing afterwards! Also, so long as it's not snowing/sleeting/icing, running outside in the cold is quite refreshing and easier on your bod than running in a heat wave. Remember August? Gross.

5. Eat healthfully. Don't allow your hibernating tendencies to make you think you actually need to fatten up - you are not a bear, my friend. Eating excessive sweets or fatty foods might be comforting, but again, they will slow you down. Resist!

I'm going to address further ways to handle this yucky season with one of my favorite methods of holistic healing later, Ayurvedic Yoga, so get excited about that!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crisis of Charity

For nearly two years, the American Cancer Society's charity endurance athlete program, "DetermiNation," has been an important part of my life. I have raised money for it through at least one endurance event each year, I have discovered my love of half and full marathons through the program, I have made wonderful friends, I have taken joy in spending my time giving back rather than focusing {even more} on myself, and I have felt that I am contributing to a cause very dear to my heart - the fight against cancer.

I have recently discovered through Charity Navigator, however, that the American Cancer Society devotes more than the recommended 25% of its income to overhead expenses. At 28% it is only slightly over the generally accepted limit for an efficient charity, however, even 25% is pushing it in my opinion.

I cannot in good faith continue to ask my friends and family to donate to an organization that, while it does significant good, will not administer their donations as efficiently as possible. I have already attended one event hosted by the St. Louis area DetermiNation chapter at which I learned that their numbers for the upcoming Go! St. Louis Marathon and Half are considerably lower than their expectations. I feel guilty to not pledge myself to run on their team, but knowing that I wouldn't feel comfortable fundraising, how could I? As I am registered to run the race, I feel that I cannot continue to attend DetermiNation meetings knowing that they need more runners on their team, but that I refuse to be one of those runners.

Have any of you experienced such a crisis of charity? Do you have other recommendations for a charity I can get involved with in the Midwest -- giving back is so important to me and I don't want to let that go, just because I am moving on from the ACS.