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Monday
Jul222013

Taureau Piscine - A bull in the swimming pool

One of the funniest events held throughout villages in the south of France is the Taueau Piscine, literally translated as Bulls and Swimming Pool. Upon first encountering the posters displayed throughout villages hosting these events our imagination went while with a large Provencal swimming pool and bulls swimming in them. The camargue is known for their huge bulls, white horses and "camargue cowboys" being chased down streets whie young men and boys run after to grab their tails and wrestle them to the ground. This is not so different but here, the young boys and some girls (on a dare or trying to win a few euros) chase, dodge, and bascially play ball with the bulls. Bets are made and "plays" are announced, from getting the bull to go through the water, over the water, or over the person and the games begin. 

 

PHOTO

Wait until the end  Watch the Women

Tuesday
Jul092013

Some things just don't change -- thank goodness!

Take a look below at our phenomenal daughter 7 years later (6 and 13). She is even more amazing, more global and yearning to change the world. Visiting our old stomping grounds of Avignon, thank god she still loves the Carousel and smiles as she goes round and round. 

France is as gorgeous as ever and life definitely slows down. The heat, the sun, the long days, our dear friends, and the impossibility to have a lunch on the go, resets our clocks to living life fully in the moment.

Our hearts are always here ...and when we walk through Uzes and swim under the Pt du Gard we know how lucky we are to have had such amazing memories living here... and making new ones wherever we go. 

The Pt du Gard is a symbol of such strength, timelessness, connection, beauty and elegance. It also holds the memory of where Jean and I first fell in love with France (again!) and I painted my first painting on the side of the bridge when some school children asked to buy it from us. It reminds me to get back to painting just for the fun of it and the joy of painting en plein aire! Creativity is in the air!

Saturday
Jun152013

Simplifying happens slowly

No more how much you think you have cleaned out, it is never enough... especially when you move and begin to see how much can go into a 17 foot UHaul truck. After 5 years of cleaning, sorting, purging, and letting go we are once again moving to a new home (one we bought) where the sun shines 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The purchase of the house is another story, but this one is about the stuff we take with us and how hard it is to carry fewer things with us through life. Even with digital photography (thank god it does exist or I'd be in real trouble) I still had 4 boxes of photo albums and 6 boxes of photo boxes that contained the best and most precious photos from an original 28 albums. By only keeping the bests and taking apart 28 photo albums I have slimmed down and am proud of it. The best part is I actually can look at the photos as they are self contained and easy to find. Photo albums, I believe are the hardest to dispense with (next to shoes) and the most that need cleaning. "What was I thinking keeping 17 photos of the doubledecker bus in England. 

Let's next go to the kitchen. This is an impossible task as you need plates, glasses, cooking wear and various coffee makers. Kitchens are a lost cause as you just might need that platter for Thanksgiving dinner. 

An of course there are those books, heavy, wonderful books. Even with every electronic gadget, I like my books - at least the few i've kept and yet they are still soooo heavy. Ive slimmed down and got rid of most of the fiction books and kept the non-fiction, art books, and cookbooks. A few foreign language books, travel books, and copies of dissertations got packed. I'm proud to say though it went from 3 huge bookshelves 5 years ago to only 1. That is progress. 

So overall, maybe the key is to slowly simplify and enjoy what you have around you. If it isn't used, makes you happy or has some benefit- purge-- that makes you even happier. 

 

Saturday
May252013

The last of the photo albums

Four years ago when we moved back from France I began to shed the 18 boxes of photo albums that span the years from middle school to adulthood. Each album was special at the time and currently looked like the rats had a bit of a snack, the mold got to the corners, and the photos were all but glamorous. But they were mine. 

Determined not to lug 18 boxes of very heavy albums anymore I began to sort, throw away and only keep the top 10-20 photos in each album. Stacking them into little plastic boxes bought at the Container Store my 18 boxes was reduced to 6 and I could easily carry two photo boxes under each arm and in each hand. 

The other 6 -- well they just didnt get done. 

Now it is time for another move as we bought a new house north of the Golden Gate Bridge with plenty of storage. Yet, I refuse to bring the moldy albums with. As a result i spent the afternoon sorting and determining which to keep in albums and which to place in my handy Container Storage Box #5. 

Keep the High School albums (can't take them apart anyways). Keep the 500 postcards written by my Dad to his mom and us kids throughout the years. Each one was a 4 line poem that described life. Keep the wedding photo album and the album that depicted the time when Jean and I met and lived freely on the Kibbutz in Israel on the Red Sea near Eilat. My journals and a box of Jean's.  Keep Jean's 2 childhood albums and a few assorted photos. A total of 4 boxes in all. 

That left me with an additional 8 BIG albums to sort through. The feeling of emptying, cleaning, sorting, and only keeping the best is amazing. The ability to not carry so much baggage to the next house is freeing. The knowledge that I can actually take a Container store Photo Box and find what I want to view in 3 minutes if gratifying. 

Yes, Life is one big photo, but how many photos of the same tree or the London Bridge does one need? I say one or maybe none.. After all how many photos of wart hogs do you need?

Wednesday
May082013

Eating Healthy while on Vacation

Eating Healthy while on Vacation

by Cole Millen (visiting writer)

Eating in a healthy way while on vacation may prove to be quite a challenge for some people. This is especially true if you are visiting an area of the country or world that tends to favor very rich, high calorie dishes. For example, when you are sampling the local cuisine, eating a grilled fish dish at a restaurant off of the coast of Maine will net a much lower calorie count than Texas barbecue ribs with a full side of fries. The same is true when you are travelling internationally. Eating a rich, gravy-laden pot roast in England will be much higher in calories and fat than a grilled chicken dish with grape leaves and fresh vegetables in Greece.

If you do choose to travel to a destination that favors rich foods, bringing and/or buying some staple items when you arrive is critical to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet while you are on vacation. When you arrive at your hotel, the very first step to maintaining a healthy diet is to ask the desk clerk to lock the minibar in your hotel room, so that you are not tempted to snack on high calorie foods. Also, if the hotel offers a continental breakfast, making sure to eat a healthy breakfast of fruit, high fiber cereal or oatmeal will nourish you for the day ahead and prevent binges later in the day. 

When you arrive at your hotel, it is also helpful to ask the concierge if he or she knows where the nearest health food store is located and to have a small refrigerator placed in your room. If you go and stock up on healthy snack and meal items as soon as you arrive at your hotel, you are more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan while you are on vacation. Additionally, bringing a small crockpot to the hotel with you will enable you to cook some simple, nutritious meals.

A few meals that are quite easy to prepare in a crockpot are chicken, mushrooms and rice, jambalaya and a variety of soups. Bringing a few staple items with you to the hotel will also help to offset food cravings. Whole wheat bread, nuts, energy bars, peanut butter, fruit and vegetables all fit this bill. Hard boiled eggs are also very transportable and lovely to eat for breakfast with a croissant and a piece of fresh fruit. Most hotels will offer rooms with microwave ovens, which will further enhance your in-room cooking options.

It is very important that prior to booking your vacation you do a little research to ensure that the hotels offer these amenities that are so helpful in your healthy lifestyle. I have found that the best way to do this is to look up reviews regarding the hotels in the area that you are staying. Consumer reviews tend to give you the best insight regarding these types of things because they are unbiased facts based on personal experiences. I recently took a trip west and found a great site that listed the top hotels in Las Vegas and it offered reviews regarding all the amenities, restaurants, and even things to do. This made it so much easier to plan ahead and maintain a healthy week.

When you are ready to go out for dinner, asking the hotel concierge for recommendations of local restaurants that specialize in regional cuisine will often steer you in the direction of a healthy, freshly prepared meal. Chain restaurants that advertise family-size portions, county-style and so on will usually be very high in calories and fat. If you stick to local restaurants that are recommended to you by the hotel staff, you will usually be delighted with a wonderful meal that showcases local cuisine in a healthy way. Of course, ordering the entrees that are prepared by grilling or baking will ensure the meals you are eating are healthy and nourishing, without all of the extra fat and calories.

If you can follow these simple yet strategic steps, you will find yourself having a blast on your vacation and ensuring that you feel like a blast as well.

Visiting author Cole Millen
colemillen@gmail.com>

Monday
Apr012013

Some days you need to just regroup

Today was a unique day in which I had an unexpected holiday (I didn't realize I had it off until a week ago). It's a day that was badly needed to recuperate and take care of myself.It's been one of those months where work seemed to have taken on a life of its own and breathing time was rare.  As the day started I remembered what it was like to have Friday's off when I had my own company. A day to regroup, do errands, get caught up at home and get your nails done. 

So I took this gift of a day and did just that. I took a walk with a friend, had coffee, had a pedicure, went to yoga, and came home and checked off items on my personal To Do list. I love my work, my company  and my job and yet, I reaize how these "free days" are truly a gift and needed.

I remember a friend who worked for a city government and if the month did not have a 3 day weekend, they create one. In most organizations, there are only 3-4 months without a 3 day weekend (March or April, June, August and sometimes October depending on what you celebrate). I say, create your own and take that personal or vacation day during those months and give yourself the respite we need in this busy world. 

For today, I say Thank you 

Wednesday
Mar272013

A great new book on the Enneagram 

I am enthusiastically supporting the book launch of Deep Living: Transforming Your Relationship to Everything That Matters through the Enneagram, written by my friend, Roxanne Howe-Murphy. This book’s message is one that I know will resonate with you, and I think you’ll be amazed by its transformative, sustainable approach to real growth. Visit the Deep Living Institute site to read more about this remarkable approach to change, and I urge you: take any and all of the following actions to lend your support.

Buy this book between Wednesday the 27th and Friday the 29th, from:

  • ·         your favorite bookstore or
  • ·         Amazon

This book introduces the radical idea that our personalities, when operating on automatic, take us in exactly the opposite direction from where we need to go, so we move further away from what our souls most want, further away from what will create the deepest fulfillment. We continue to question who we really are.

“There is nothing missing in you,” author Roxanne Howe-Murphy says. “What is lacking is a direct and unfiltered experience of inhabiting your own life, which the vast majority of us have never been taught to do.” 

Offered through the lens of all nine Enneagram types, Deep Living compassionately guides the reader to discover her own lens for understanding how to truly “be with” herself in a new way, enjoying greater intimacy with her own authentic, precious nature.

 

Thursday
Mar212013

To be Amazed by our Children, What a gift!

Day after day, week after week, month after month we take care of our children, give to them, love them, do homework with them, and give of our time and money for them. We don't ask for much in return, but that they grow to be great solid people who will be happy, joyous and contribute to the world in their own way. 

And there are times we they truly amaze us and we wonder "Did we bring this person up?" "Who is she?" "Where did she get so wise?" 

Following is the story of such a time.

This past December, our daughter had her Bat Mitzvah, an intimate affair at sunset with family and friends, a great meal and dancing. The evening sunset glowed over her like an angel as she read out loud her interpretation of the Torah portion she chose to read. (Being a private ceremony she decided to choose the Torah portion about Adam and Eve.  Following is an excerpt from her speech which we heard for the first time that evening. 

"My torah portion comes from the book of Genesis and takes place in the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is a perfect place, filled with beauty, honesty and joy. Animals, Adam and Eve are the only beings present. You might remember that God ordained rules for Eve and Adam. God told Adam “You can eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of All Knowledge.”

That's when things start to get interesting. A serpent slithers along and starts up a conversation with Eve. He broaches the subject of the tree of All Knowledge. Eve tells him that “God said you can’t even touch the tree of All Knowledge because you will die.” The serpent disagrees and states that God knew that if they ate of the tree they would be like gods, knowing all things. Eve sees how good to eat the fruit would be, that it was alluring to the eye and how desirable the insight from the tree. She ate and then gave some to Adam and he ate. They achieved knowledge at a great price (being kicked out of the Garden of Eden for one).

Christopher L.C.E Witcombe, an art historian with a P.H.D and studies ranging from Leonardo de Vinci to Prehistoric Art states the traditional view of Eve as “By nature disobedient, guileless, weak-willed, prone to temptation and evil , disloyal, untrustworthy, deceitful and seductive.” Her story was supposed to show to men what women were really like. In many past contexts her actions were interpreted as proving woman’s temptation for evil.

This is one way of reading the story. However, in my personal view, Eve is ambitious and desires more than living in ignorance. She isn’t content with living without knowledge. She craves learning and despises ignorance which we know because conscious of the consequences of disobeying god she still ate the fruit.

Do you think Hillary Clinton, Anne d’Autriche; Elizabeth the 1st, Catherine the Great, Susan B. Anthony, J.K Rowling or even Oprah weren’t ambitiously seeking power through knowledge? Knowledge and ambition can change the world. Knowledge can be stored or traded just like a valuable commodity. Ambition is what drives our leaders to be great. An ignorant but ambitious person can get far in life .A knowledgeable but unambitious person can only teach so many. However if you have both of these qualities you could transform humanity. By having these qualities you can govern a country, start a philanthropic foundation or invent Facebook. You can cure disease, discover an end to world hunger and create world peace. And what did Eve start? Just the human race........"

Stay tuned for the second half.

I bring this up now as I think sometimes we overlook what we have built, created, helped, assisted in and only focus on what we haven't done, what we have neglected, what we have lost or forgotten. 

Take this beautiful first day of spring and stop and count the amazing things in your life and the gratitude that we have the these amazing kids in our lives who will indeed make the world a great place to live.

 

 

Thursday
Jan312013

5 Keys to Staying Healthy when everyone else has the flu

The cold season is here for awhile and the flu season is just peaking. There is nothing worse than being down for the count and feeling miserable. A few ideas worth considering are as follows.

#1: Wash your hands all the time 

Washing your hands or using the waterless disinfectant is key to keeping germs away. Wipe down your keyboard, phone, and everytime you touch a banister, glass, faucet, doorknob, wash your hands. Okay, maybe not every hour, but making a point of doing it often is key!

#2: Take Airborne:  

Popping a chewable airborne everyday seems to work the trick to build up your immune system and cut back on the chances of getting sick. Pop them early and often

#3: Drink alot of water and keep hydrated. it can only help

#4: Chew a couple of gloves of garlic a day. 

Peel fresh garlic, cut it up in small bits and swallow it like a pill. It's bound to ward off the evil germs.

#5: Stay away from people who are sick

Cancel all plans if someone tells you they have a cold, are coming down with something or just got over the flu. A night of visiting is not worth a miserable week of being sick

 

 

Tuesday
Jan012013

Happy 2013

Happy 2013!                                                                        

The world did not end on December 21 as we were told the Mayans predicted. We can all breathe easier as 2012 is behind us and we made it. However, we all seem to know and feel somehow that an era has ended and we now live in a new world.

The downward spiral that started in 2000 is over, greed and materialism is giving way to connecting through the heart, being compassionate and living in harmony with nature. Plant based diets are in and killing animals are out. Owning guns is frowned upon after the recent tragic incidents. Needing assault rifles for hunting seems to finally be questioned like never before.

Today we use technology in everything we do from working, to shopping, to leisure and to connecting with friends and loved ones. In a connected 24 hour world, achieving balance is more difficult. Unplugging for rejuvenation is harder than ever before. To thrive, we need to disconnect and center into solitude and reflection in spite of our craving for the constant flow of information from a world out of balance.

Hopefully, the economy will start improving in 2013. The spectacle of our leaders discussing the financial issues with ineffective resolution is over. Going forward we need to ensure social programs are not gutted to pay for the lack of fiscal management. The recent decisions to tax the so called rich, the coming increase in the payroll tax, keeping middles class taxes unchanged; it means we can hope for the economy to improve minimally at best and exactly at the time we are all wishing for a truly strong economy. We are all tired of the constant struggle, wages remaining flat and costs increasing constantly. If more and more costs are passed onto consumers and if more austerity is imposed to address the budget deficit, we (who are not economists) know from common sense, that it will not create new jobs or stimulate the lackluster global economy.

The good news is that we are in a new year and in a new cycle. The 2013 energy is expanding. We can change and improve on the status quo, we can fulfill ourselves, and we can do and achieve something we have wanted to for a long time. Individually we can communicate more authentically from the heart, speak more freely, we can eat healthier, be more grateful, be balanced and joyful.

For 2013 it boils down to deciding on one item that you could do differently that will move you closer to your goal. Pick one easy thing you could do every day or week, that will improve how you think and feel. It could be as simple as; drink a glass of water once per day, replace one meal of animal meat once per week with plant protein, walk around the block once a day, call one friend once per week or do one thing that makes you feel passionate.

At the core, it is about using the expansive energy available to you now and to move beyond your blind spots, to find true meaning and joy. This is the year to achieve what you have wanted to for a long time. Have a happy, healthy and joyful 2013!

 Jean Pierre Roux, Ph.D.