The People That Surround Us Are More Than Strangers

For anyone who’s interested in listening, I’d like to make a public service announcement. The people that surround you on a daily basis are only strangers if you choose to leave them so. Real connections can be made without a network or event. These strangers could be your future soulmate, good friend, or even business partner. After all, we’re all just people in the end.

I’ve made quite a few new friends as of late. It may be the freedom of recent graduation and looming unemployment that allow me the chance to spend my time in good company. However, my most recent friends have come from unusual circumstances.

I made a friend at a bus stop. I had just finished an interview and the rain was pouring down. This stop had no cover but I couldn’t complain. There was the undeniable high of a successful interview. There was possibility. In this possibility, a new stranger walked into the picture.

This story starts with a friendly conversation between him and I. For some reason, I chose to turn off the iPod for a moment and talk to the person next to me. As it turns out, that was the best decision I could have made because I found a new friend. We sat across from each other on the bus and continued conversing throughout the long, traffic ridden commute. It was the most organic connection I’d ever made. We weren’t introduced by mutual friends. We hadn’t met at an office party or an event. There was absolutely no reason we needed to connect but it happened. Now we’ve shared dinner and beers, grocery shopped and even attended a pool party.

Why choose to stay in contact with someone from a bus stop? Take a moment to ask why not. As a society, we’ve established this disconnect between each other. We get lost in a crowd and close ourselves off from one another. There are work friends, school friends, childhood friends, and neighbors. Who can we call just simply a friend? We don’t need an excuse to connect with people. It can happen on our own accord. Let go of this indescribable fear and speak to a stranger.

Let me tell you about Dave, the non-stranger from the bus stop. He is blind. Well, mostly blind. Since our first meeting, I have learned a bit more about his sight and the various lights and shadows that come through once in a while. I’m sure I’ll discover more as time passes. In truth, that is the least useful thing I could use to tell you about him. But it is fact; these are the things we notice. Blindness and other disabilities as recognized in our culture is a complicated and fascinating issue but I’ll save that rant for another day.

What interested me about Dave was that he wasn’t afraid to have a good conversation. Many people shy away from interactions they don’t have to have. Speaking to someone you don’t know requires more effort, more discovery. You don’t know what you’ll get. With Dave, I learned quickly that he was a kind hearted person who was simply getting by in life. He writes too but as of late has lacked inspiration. We bounced ideas off each other though and I’m confident he’ll be getting on the right track again. The number of friends he’s made at all his regular spots doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve already learned a thing or two from him and I expect I’ll learn more. He doesn’t need to hear this advice I’m giving because he’s the one who has taught me.

At first glance, our new friendship is a peculiar thing. When I tell my friends who I’m meeting on the weekend, I get into this story about this guy I met at a bus stop who’s really cool and we’re talking now… You can imagine I get the same confused stare from most of them. It doesn’t make sense because no one does that. Sure, maybe it happens with romantic interests. It’s true that people will do anything to get laid. But a new friend? Why bother? At first I had a difficult time explaining what the hell I was doing spending so much time with someone I met at a bus stop. I was worried people would think I was crazy. However, it didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t care. The more time I spend with my new friend, the more it all seems to make sense.

I have met a number of others through him. When I stop to think about it, I realize that I would have never known these people if I hadn’t given him a chance. There’s the very real possibility of seeing more of them and cultivating more friendships. This could very well change the course of my life. It’s that simple. Small connections shape our lives.

If anything, remember that none of us need to fit inside the established norm. Humanity and its cultures have evolved constantly since the beginning. Don’t be afraid to set a new norm and speak to the stranger at the bus stop. They aren’t merely strangers. They’re individuals with perspectives of their own and they could teach you a thing or two about life. Or they may just grumble to their friends later that there was an annoying stranger on the bus who wouldn’t leave them alone. You never know until you try.

It is this simple: the more you write, the better you get

I’ve struck gold, ladies and gentlemen. I unwittingly unearthed my 6th grade writing journal. Naturally, I read through the whole thing immediately. It was terrible. I’ve decided to forgive the countless spelling and grammar errors because I was only 11 or 12 at the time. However, it took all my strength to quell the editor in me who was furiously demanding to mark up the whole thing with red ink.

As I read through my numerous stories and poems, my first feeling was embarrassment but I quickly discovered that the proper emotion was pride. I really have been writing all my life and this is the evidence to prove it. What’s even better is that this evidence proves it’s working; the writing is paying off. It’s safe to say that I’m a substantially better writer than I was when I was 12. The public education system didn’t fail me after all!

I originally decided that this 6th grade work should never see the light of day. I’ve changed my mind. As it turns out, I was a little comedian back in the day. I also rejected all things deemed “childish.” Always the rebel. Case in point:

“Barney the purple dinosaur

makes my eyes sore

He’s such a freak,

He should not speak.”

“Happy little Dora and Boots

They do little toots.

If they would die,

no one will cry.”

Fantastic, right? I couldn’t stop giggling. How wonderfully morbid I was. To be honest, my sense of humor hasn’t changed much. It’s only gotten more vulgar. Horray for adulthood.

Some of this truly is gold. Even with the elementary writing, some of the ideas hold merit. That’s the thing though. We’re all capable of coming up with the idea. Implementing it is where the real skill comes in. As a child I was a storyteller. The stories were good too. The only problem was that I didn’t have the tools necessary to make my stories the best they could be. Perhaps I possess those tools now. There will always be room to improve but I’m just glad I’ve come this far. The following is one of my old writing passages, word for word, mistakes and all. I’m going to rewrite the prompt to the best of my ability and you can decide how much I have improved.

PROMPT: Do this yourself! Find a piece of work you did earlier on in your writing journey. There’s a lot of freedom here. It can be from childhood if you’re lucky enough to find it. It can be in young adulthood, before you had much experience writing. The one requirement is that it must be something that you can improve and/or expand on. Take a good idea you had and make it great. Here goes my attempt!

“There was once a land called Sorrow. That’s how all the books started. So many books of Sorrow, so many, telling lies. They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover. In some cases, it’s different though. When you see a book that has pictures of monsters and dragons with the name of The Truth of Sorrow, right off the bat, you’d know that the book was full of lies. Even if Sorrow does have monsters and dragons, no one knows. Not a single soul has even set eyes upon the place. How do we know it exists? Truth be told, we don’t. All we know is that on every midnight full moon, an agonizing cry peirces the planet. Every place on this world has been seen and mapped except for one small place that is considered the darkness. There are many myths about what is in the darkness. The most popular one is the land of Sorrow.”

2014 Rewrite

“The glowing full moon cloaked our end of the world in silence. Every person was waiting, listening. The silence would only last another moment. Then it came once again. The distant wailing was difficult to notice at first but as the chorus joined in, it was impossible to miss. Children shuddered as their mothers clung to them. Some put on a brave face but we all knew the feeling of utter sorrow the wails delivered to us. Sorrow commanded our attention once again.

There is only one place that rests unknown to the world. Shrouded in darkness, it stomps out the power of human curiosity. No adventurer brave enough to travel there has returned to tell their tales. Anyone claiming otherwise tells lies. They attempt to capitalize on the fear of the unknown, writing fables disguised as truths. People will look to any explanation to quell their fears but there is only one truth and it is simple.

We will never know the land called Sorrow.”

The Woes of Writing a Novel

I don’t know what it is about these lists but I keep finding more to write. At least they’re an easy format (more like lazy). I may be blogging about fitness at the moment but my real big project is a writing one. I’m working on this little story I’ve had running through my brain since I graduated high school, like four years ago… I have a hard time committing to long term projects and sticking with them throughout so that explains the struggle. Recently, however, magic has happened. I’ve made real progress! The only problem is now I’ve run smack into a brick wall and I’m left scratching my head as to how to get over it. The following are some of my problems.

I get discouraged by my writing skills.

I find plot holes that are hard to fix.

I don’t know how I want to write some of my characters.

I fear the scenes I’m writing shouldn’t be there.

I haven’t solidified my world and what exactly it looks like. (hashtag sci fi/fantasy world-building problems)

The plot line is difficult to sort out.

The work seems to go on forever.

I spend too much time reading and editing old stuff when I should be powering ahead.

I’m afraid I won’t be prepared to power through all the crap I have to edit when I finish this damned draft.

Notice that I said WHEN I finish. Despite the struggle, I’m truly confident in the story I’m creating. Whether or not it means anything to anyone else in the end, I need to get this done for me. If you can relate to any of my list rant struggles, let me know. Tell me your writing woes. I know I’m not struggling alone. Leave me a comment if you have any advice for me or words of encouragement. I most definitely could use it!

I Just Can’t Get Enough of These Fitness Challenges

So I’ve just started a 30 Day fitness challenge that puts together a number of bodyweight workouts that target most of the body. I’m following a chart provided by this blogger named Marc. Check out his page to see the challenge explained in detail. There’s a handy little chart that makes life simple, just the way I like it! In this challenge, we get to work our way up the totem pole of pushups, squats, crunches, sit ups, leg raises, and planks. These are all straightforward bodyweight exercises that are also clearly explained on his post. Thanks Marc! I’ve done day one and two so huzzah to me. Maybe I should wait to celebrate till I’m done…

I pledged my participation on Youtube so I’d better get to it! I’ll update this post daily to check off my progress. Happy exercising!

Day 1: Easy peasy start. I planked for more than called for. Also I kinda hate air squats.

Day 2: Still hate air squats

Day 3: Pushups turning into a challenge, my form could use some work, otherwise, on to the next one!

Day 4: Rest day

Day 5: Doney done done

Day 6: I was bad and missed this. No sweat though (literally) because I’m going to make it up on day 8 for rest day. Keep it going!

Day 7: Finished day 6 work, playing catch up tomorrow

Day 8: This is about to get difficult! Today had me sweating

Day 9: 100 squats = hello sore booty

Day 10: Done

Day 11: Done

Day 12: Rest day but I did a workout anyways. Fitness progress video coming soon!

Day 13: Today’s had me sweating by the end of it. This is starting to get difficult. I changed the squats to lunges today because my hips are hurting. Yikes.

Good Eats!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that food is essential for survival. On top of that, it’s one of my favorite parts of  being awake. The problem is, pretty much anyone can struggle with eating what our bodies need and saying no to the crap. I know I do. What can I say? I love a good burger and fries. I’ve fallen in and out of good eating habits and it’s driving me crazy. I know what I should be eating and I know what I shouldn’t but my willpower sometimes just isn’t strong enough to avoid crappy food. I speak for myself and anyone reading when I say this: Have no fear! Change is a long term process that includes struggle and failure, sprinkled with a little shame. It takes time to form good habits and good cravings. It’s possible to stop craving junk. I did it with soda. Now all the soda you’ll see me go for includes vodka (also not so good for you). Again, you win some you lose some. No matter what, eating healthy can be wonderful. There are some killer delicious recipes out there that keep you satisfied and happy. If you fall on your face and proceed to order some MickyD’s, have no fear, there’s always another meal ahead to make better choices. Here are some of my favorite “super foods.” Most are pretty versatile and can be used in many recipes. Also, I’m digging the green smoothies right now like crazy. Methinks I’ll make a green smoothie video some time…

Before I say anything more, I am by no means a “health expert.” No one handed me a piece of paper saying that I know what I’m talking about. I’m coming to you as one human to another. My favorite super foods come from lists established by professionals (many of which don’t agree on a lot of things and keep changing their minds). My real purpose in writing this is to get this message across: It’s possible to change your food taste. I’ve done it numerous times. This requires eating foods you know are healthy even if you don’t particularly enjoy them. Chances are, eventually you’ll start to like those foods. Currently I’m working on developing a love for tomatoes because they’re really healthy. It’s an ongoing process that’s taking longer than expected (it’s a texture thing really). Eating healthy can taste delicious but sometimes it takes time. Your body will start craving all the healthy foods when you consistently provide them. It’s all about habit forming. Then it gets easy (so I’ve been told). Here’s my favorite foods list:

Spinach – So good for you! Eat lots. Make salads. Put it in your smoothies (I promise you wont taste it, just add banana too).

Kale – Also good smoothie supplements. This stuff can be tough for salads but if you let it sit in oil and vinegar with lemon juice for a little while, it’ll soften up and taste delicious. Try some cool Kale salad recipes. It can be delicious when prepared well!

Bananas – Best go to snack. Freeze it and mash it up to make “ice cream” or put it in a smoothie.

Avocado – I’ve been using avocado oil to cook instead of olive oil. I prefer the taste (practically nonexistent) and apparently it does better with high heat.

Coconut – Also a killer oil. And milk. And water. It does it all ladies and gentlemen. Coconut water does make for an effective hangover cure too.

Radishes – These have become my crouton replacement. Adds some crunch and flavor while being awesome for you. Makes for good variety in salad.

Carrots – Baby carrots are an easy and satisfying snack. Need to do something with your mouth and hands out of habit? Munch on these with no guilt. Hasn’t turned my skin orange yet either.

Onions – I didn’t used to like onions as a kid. Not sure what happened, but one day, my perspective changed and onions are a go to for me. Red onions in spinach salad taste delicious too.

Brussels Sprouts – Sautéed brussels sprouts with some sea salt make for a great dish.

Broccoli – I’m one of those weirdos that can munch on raw broccoli and actually enjoy it. Funny thing too because they terrified me as a kid thanks to the Power Puff Girls. Way to teach kids how to eat right, PPG. If you’re not like me, steam them. Get used to them because they’re great for you.

Here are some websites I use to guide my food choices:

Super food list

Buzzfeed Vegetarian Salads

Kale Recipes

Healthier Boozing Drinks (you’re welcome 😉 )

Green Smoothie Recipes

Oil Free Vegan Recipes

And if you need to shoot down any excuses: Excuses

Workout at home!

I’ve been around the block when it comes to exercise. Literally, I’ve ran all around my neighborhood… Okay, the point is, I HATE going to the gym. Maybe it’s a sanctuary for some of you out there but for me it’s an overpriced chore. If you love the gym, then by all means, keep going. Power to you. I go once in a while, usually to lift weights or hit the stair master (favorite cardio machine by far). More often than not though, I opt to get my work in at home. I don’t want to drive somewhere to workout. It takes time to go to the gym. If you’re one of those people that uses time as an excuse not to workout, then you’re out of luck now because that excuse won’t work any more. Work out at home. Don’t worry about weights or a sandbag or whatever. All you need is to work your body. I just threw together a small 15 minute circuit workout that I did in my backyard and it was killer. I’ve done these kinds of workouts off and on for years so it was easy for me to make something up. For those less familiar with these workouts, here are some of the resources I use.

Zuzka Light – I absolutely love this woman’s workouts. They’re easy to follow, challenging, and require little to no equipment. I haven’t navigated her website in a while because I like to use a blog called Warriorz that puts 70 of her ZWOW workouts in a straightforward way and allows you to post your scores as you complete them. Easy peasy. There’s a little of everything too with workouts ranging from 10 to 30 minutes and little to no equipment. Do one of these workouts if you’re feeling uninspired or short of time.

Melissa Bender Fitness – Melissa has all kinds of great workouts and her site is easy to navigate. You can find workouts for all levels, targeting any muscle group and different difficulty levels. There are a number of fitness challenges too that can help you set short and long term goals. You can find a little bit of everything here, all workouts possible to do at home. There are bonus healthy recipes too to remind you diet is key for health.

The Angry Trainer – Alfonso Moretti, otherwise known as The Angry Trainer hasn’t been active on youtube as of late but all of his workouts and tips are up for the taking. He has numerous fitness videos, some of which require equipment and some that do not. He’s a personal trainer in awesome shape with some good advice to give. Worth a watch. Give one of his workouts a try and chances are you’ll be sore the next day. What I really like about this guy is that he’s real. He provides free resources to people looking to get fit on his own without pushing any products.

One thing that can really suck about the fitness industry is the smoke screens and nonsense that push people into buying things they don’t need. It’s become largely an industry that preys on the weak, literally. Fitness is important and it’s awesome when people help each other to achieve their goals. However, health regimens and programs can get expensive and various fads convince people to spend lots of money on things they don’t need. Good health doesn’t need to cost anything. Work out at home. Build up the habit of doing these exercises regularly and you won’t have to set foot inside a gym to be in shape.

Of course diet is essential to fitness goals. I’ll put up information on that soon!

10 Week Challenge

For those of us who are unable to find some kind of hobby and stick to it, I offer a new way of going about things. Okay, maybe its not so new but here’s my take. Dedicate 10 weeks to something you’ve always wanted to get good at. Set a goal to master in that time and work a little at it every day. Then make progress checks every two weeks to stay on track. There is an amazing number of resources available through the internet. Thank your lucky stars you get to be reading this right now because the internet is a freaking miracle. But don’t forget this. It’s also your worst nightmare. If you’re anything like me, it’s pretty easy to lose most of your day surfing the web, watching videos, reading blogs (ahem), and generally wasting time. I’m going to say this now. All of this time wasting is killing me. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic but I do have a serious problem. There’s so many awesome things we can be doing with our spare time these days and yet a lot of us throw opportunities away. Blame it on the ADD. Blame it on fatigue. Whatever. Excuses won’t change anything.

My scatterbrained mind wont stick to something useful. It’s true I have a hard time finishing anything without a looming deadline or a clear requirement. It’s a struggle making good use of what I’ve got. This means there’s one thing left to try: organization. Let’s mix in a dose of public shame for good measure. The plan is simple enough. Pick a project, any project and go at it for 10 weeks. That’s only 2 and a half months, not even a full season. It’s a quarter at college (if you were one of the cool kids on the quarter system). It’s enough time to make some real changes and not too much to overwhelm, hopefully. This is a new venture and essentially a beta test for me so I’m going to stick with what I know my first time around. Fitness and health is my first target and I’m going to dedicate a small chunk of my free time to getting fit to the level I’ve always wanted but could never manage to achieve.

This is my first 10 week challenge: 100 burpees in 10 minutes

If you don’t know what burpees are, they’re a dynamic bodyweight exercise that will kick your ass. You’ve got Google. Look it up! I’m starting at my personal ground zero, of which I’ve just discovered is 76 burpees, and I’m working my way up to my goal throughout the next 10 weeks. Every 2 weeks, I’m going to make an update, touching on the steps I’m taking towards my goal and making a progress check (in this case, that means more burpees. Yay.) I need all the support I can get so if fitness and health interests you, feel free to cheer me on! Go one step further and try this challenge with me. Personal health should be everyone’s concern. Give this a go, modify it, whatever gets you moving. Here’s hoping I set a good example starting today.