Sunday, July 31, 2011

0028: Never Give Up

On something you can't go a day without thinking about.
 - Unknown -

One of my many favorite pictures, from my trip to Dingle, Ireland

I think about freedom every day, freedom to be able to follow my heart, my dreams, my passions - no matter how many times they change :-) Freedom to figure out how to live a more meaningful life.

I focus on a million things - I focus on making and cherishing memories, on learning, on connecting, on creativity, on discoveries, on love, on giving back, on growing my business, honestly I'm focused on happiness. I'm finally aware enough to enjoy this journey and realize that by being happy and balanced I am able to give 10-fold more than ever before - in all aspects of life. 

I have no specific road map to where I want to go but every decision I make is aimed towards protecting and further securing this freedom that I've been so blessed with.   

Saturday, July 30, 2011

0027: Miracles - 3 things learned while a plane crashed...

"I was given the gift of a miracle of not dying that day. I was given another gift which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently." - Ric Elias

Photo: NY Times

Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as he heard “Brace for impact” (see video – 5:03 minutes)?

Three things he realized that day:
1. It all changes in an instant –> I no longer want to postpone anything. I got a sense of urgency and purpose that has changed my life.

2. In my humanity, I let my ego in. I regret the time I wasted with the things that didn’t matter with people that matter –> Now I focus on eliminating negative energy – I no longer try to be right, I chose to be happy.

3. Dying is not scary, it is very sad – I thought, I don’t want to go… that sadness framed with one thought, I only wish I could see my kids grow up -> Now I know that above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.

How would you change?

*** I wrote this blog before hearing about Caribbean Airlines Flight 523 which crashed in Guyana on this same day. The Boeing 737 landed but failed to stop in rainy weather, it overshot the runway and crashed through the perimeter fence. When it stopped it broke into two sections. The crazy part, or rather the miracle, is that the plane stopped just short of a 200-foot (60-meter) ravine which could have resulted in many fatalities. There was no fire and only 7 of the 157 passengers and 6 crew were injured. (Read more.) ***

Friday, July 29, 2011

0026: Thandie Newton

Although I'd seen her in several movies I was completely captured during a speech she gave for Ted on the topic of "Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself" - it's almost 14 minutes but it's worth it if you have some time. 

Photo: Zimbio
I'm guessing some of you may not have the time right now so a few of her comments...
  • "Embracing Otherness" - when she first heard the theme she thought 'Embracing Otherness means embracing myself and the journey to that place of understanding and acceptance'. 
  • As she shares her journey, she goes into the notion of 'self' - and how she believes we are born into this state of oneness but soon begin to move into a world of separateness and individuality - a world of self. That people's perceptions and expectations shape our own sense of self. As she was growing up, she never quite felt she fit in. She had anxiety, shame and hopelessness because she was different - her mom was black, her dad white and she was raised an atheist and was attending an all-white Catholic school in the UK. She struggled with trying to put out different forms of her 'self' hoping for acceptance. But all she felt was rejection of her 'self' over and over. She was wondering how many times her 'self' would die before she found acceptance. Then she discovered new channels of expression. Starting with dance - where she didn't feel like her dysfunctional 'self', she was free to be. Then came acting, at 16, it was the place she didn't feel lost - she found peace being able to release herself from her 'self' and become someone else.
  • She then talks about our essence - how there is something that can give the 'self' ultimate and infinite connection - 'oneness', our 'essence'. It is important to understand and connect the reality of oneness and the projection of selfhood. When we 'lose ourselves' we are in our essence, we are suspended, we are connected to everything, all senses are alert and alive - there is a feeling of oneness. When the self is suspended so is divisiveness and judgment. 
  • She learned to accept and respect her 'self'. She realized it has a function but she stopped giving it so much authority.
  • The key to her success as an actor and progress as a person is the lack of 'self' that used to make her feel so anxious and insecure. 
  • When we are so caught up in our own selves we can mistake it for life and then we are devaluing and desensitizing life and in that disconnected state we don't connect with other's pains, sufferings, or even other people's deaths.   
  • She ends with "Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next - simple awareness is where it begins.
Thandie (which means Beloved) is the daughter of a Zimbabwean mother (a Shona princess) and a British father. She was born in London, lived in Zambia until political reasons made them move back to the UK. She earned an Anthropology degree from Cambridge. She is married with two children. 

Her movies include: Flirting, Interview with a Vampire, Beloved, Mission Impossible II, Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness, 2012, For Colored Girls. (Read more.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

0025: Leptis Magna

I recently learned about this beautiful place while watching the news. I'd never heard of it and in 2:40 minutes I was extremely awed and extremely concerned. The news story was titled "Is Gadhafi Putting Ancient Ruins at Risk?" - check it out.  Leptis Magna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This map shows the site's layout. 

Map by Looklex

Right by the sea, it is one of the most spectacular and unspoiled Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The city appears to have been founded by Phoenician colonists sometime around 1100 BC. 
This report that Leptis Magna is being used as a cover for tanks and military vehicles by pro-Gaddafi forces is a serious concern. When asked about the possibility of conducting an air-strike on the historic site, NATO refused to rule out the possibility of such an action saying that it has not been able to confirm the rebel's report that weapons are being hidden at the location. (Source.)  But as the news video stated, that is almost impossible to imagine, "it would be like bombing the Coliseum in Rome", its too important of a site. Here are some still shots if you haven't seen the video...

The Basilica

Arch of Septimus Severus

Hadrian's Baths by Alex Hunger

The Forum
Hopefully the people of Libya, and the world, do not lose something so beautiful. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

0024: Norwegian March of Roses

Picture from The Daily Mail

76 people were slain on Friday, July 22, 2011. 
Untold grief leads to a beautiful spirit of togetherness. 

 “Evil can kill one person, but it can never defeat a whole people,” 
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

0023: Impressionist Art

"It took some time before the public learned that to appreciate an Impressionist painting one has to step back a few yards, and enjoy the miracle of seeing these puzzling patches suddenly fall into one place and come to life before our eyes." - Ernst Gombrich

Seashore at Guernsey (1883) - By Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Renoir Quotes:

"There isn't a single person or landscape or subject which doesn't possess some interest, although it may not be immediately apparent. When a painter discovers this hidden treasure, other people are immediately struck by it's beauty."

"About 1883 something like a break occurred in my work. I had reached the end of "impressionism", and I had come to realize that I did not know how to paint or draw."

Monet's Garden at Argenteuil (1873) - By Oscar-Claude Monet

Monet Quotes:

"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love."

Critic asks: "And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?" - "The subject matter, my dear good fellow, is the light."

Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers
(Star of the Ballet, 1878) -
By Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas
Degas Quotes: 

"Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty."

-on his deathbed, age 83...
"Damn, and just when I was starting to get it!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

0022: SUGAR - in moderation of course....

I'm not saying we should eat a million pounds of it but like they say, everything in moderation... Several years ago I read a great little book, The Martini Diet by Jennifer Sander. The book was very entertaining but centered around a moderation philosophy I still like to use today:  

Rule #1: Eat Only the Very Best
Rule #2: Eat Somewhat Less of the Very Best
Rule #3: Only Eat the Best at Mealtime

So, I don't hang out eating lollipops and cotton candy all day - although a little bit on rare occasions :-) ... I typically save my indulgences for the stuff I really love - like macarons, pecan pie ala mode, girly martinis, hot molten chocolate cake with ice cream, or a moderate slice of real cheesecake, or creme brulee or even just a York Peppermint Pattie, ok, ok - I almost lost control of my imagination!! The list can go on for days but the point is, I indulge in the sweets that I think are worth the calories and that aren't typically available to me. Did I mention pistachio gelato!!! 
Right, focus... So, did you know:  
  • During the 16th century, 1 tsp of sugar in London cost about $5.
  • Lemons actually contain more sugar than strawberries.
  • Sugar is a natural preservative which can keep some foods from molding or going bad quickly. 
  • Today, an average American consumes 2-3 pounds of sugar each week.  While at the end of the 19th century (1887-1890), the average American consumed only 5 lbs. per year
  • Brown sugar is actually sugar crystals that have been prepared in molasses syrup.
  • Bacteria in your mouth can feed on sugar and then produce chemicals that can dissolve the white coating. When that happens, cavities form.
  • When your body has all of the energy that it needs from sugar, it converts the excess into fat and stores it. That is one of the reasons why people gain weight.
  • Aside from being used in food, sugar can also be used to help asphalt harden. In addition, it is used in printer inks, textile sizing & finishing, and leather tanning.
          (Tidbits so far Source 1, Source 2.)
  • Sugar is an excellent disinfectant for cuts and scrapes. (Source.) 
  • Sugarcane ethanol - as an alternative fuel option. (Source.)
FRESH, one of my favorite beauty companies, has a Sugar line. They are pioneering the use of sugar's healing and humectant properties in the beauty industry. I love their Sugar lip treatment, worth the extra bucks!
Aquolina Pink Sugar perfume - takes you on a journey through the pleasures and flavors of childhood with a playful blend of vanilla and caramel with a hint of cotton candy - simply fun.

Monday, July 25, 2011

0021: Aurora Borealis

"No pencil can draw it, no colors can paint it and no words can describe it in all its magnificence." 
- Mufassir Masum

Before you read on - check out this 1:55 minute video... isn't that just breathtaking and did you see those shooting stars! Ever since my 0015 post (Perspective & Wonder) I've been in awe of the space shuttle picture showing the Aurora. It seems so cool, so surreal and magical. So I did some research and was even more blown away! I can't even imagine seeing this in person - but I'm adding it to my list of must-sees! 

Cool Picture from a Free Wallpaper site
So... An Aurora is a natural phenomenon that often occurs in the polar ends of Earth. It looks like colorful clouds and rays of green and red (and sometimes blue) light that dance across the sky. The aurora borealis and aurora australis (Latin for "northern" and "southern" dawn, respectively) occur in symmetric ovals centered on the north and south poles. (Read more at NASA.)
Trivia Tidbit: In 1619 A.D., Galileo Galilei coined the term "aurora borealis" after Aurora, the Roman goddess of morning. He had the misconception that the auroras he saw were due to sunlight reflecting from the atmosphere. 

Picture taken from the ISS - May 2010
So, what causes these gorgeous dances in the sky? I've read several explanations but a lot goes over my head - you know, that same science jargon most of us didn't comprehend in grade school :-) So the short answer - it's the Sun's fault or rather the Sun's work of art... Here are some abbreviated tidbits from Encyclopedia of Earth - great site btw...

View of The Aurora from Space.
Courtesy of NASA

  1. The energy source for the aurora is 93 million miles from Earth at the sun. 
  2. The sun continuously emits charged particles. These charged particles make up the solar wind, which travels away from the sun through space at speeds of about a million miles per hour.                 *** Stay with me.... ***   :-)
  3. At Earth, the steady solar wind is deflected by Earth's magnetic field or the magnetosphere. The solar wind flows around our magnetic field much like a river flows around a stone. It also pushes on the magnetosphere and distorts it so the magnetosphere is stretched and pulled into a comet shape with a long tail trailing away from Earth on the side away from the sun.
  4. When there is a disturbance in the solar wind accelerated particles will travel down the magnetic field lines of Earth and collide with the atoms and molecules of the upper atmosphere.
  5. When the particles from the magnetosphere collide and finally release their energy and return to their normal ground state, they give up energy in the form of light. This is the light that we see from the ground as an aurora.

Phew! That took me a minute to grasp and a few to write... but if that's not going to stick, I hope you just appreciate the beauty of it. I think I could watch that video over and over again...

0020: The Beach

It's summer in Florida and the beaches seem to always be packed. But every once in awhile we get a special little gift - a downpour... nothing clears a beach out quicker than a good downpour. Which if you live here you know they don't typically last. So the other day some friends and I headed to the beach right after an afternoon downpour. Here are a few of the shots - enjoy... 

Great ocean breezes, nice salt air, and an abandoned beach all to ourselves :-)

No one left on the beach. The umbrellas were abandoned.
But perfectly poised for a picture!

The sun was setting, there was a lot of seaweed - I guess from the storm.
I love this angle... the seaweed, that was no more than 3 inches high,
has a cliffside likeness...

Later in the evening there was a spectacular lightning show. This was a lucky shot,
the evening was totally dark when I captured lightning illuminating the skies.

The last shot of the evening - the complete disappointment that we were leaving.
She was so bummed but fell straight to sleep when we got home!

0019: 1 minute and 34 seconds - Tour de France

That is the final margin of victory for Cadel Evans - this year's champion. 

Photo: Roberto Bettini

It’s a victory that’s been a long time coming. Evans has been trying to win the Tour since 2005, and many people were wondering whether his time had passed. Given his age, this may have been Evans's last realistic chance of winning the Tour. He finished second in the 2007 Tour and was expected to win the next year, but was runner-up again. Last year, he was leading the race but crashed and fractured his left elbow. He was not considered one of the top favorites going into this year's race, but he soon showed his mettle. This time, persistence, planning—and a little good luck—paid off. The 34-year-old Evans is the oldest champion since before World War II. (Read more at Sports Yahoo.)

Tearful Tribute to Aldo Sassi
Reuters: Denis Balibouse

For all the tears of joy shed by Team Evans, there have also been solemn ones for his former coach, Aldo Sassi, who died of brain cancer last December, aged 51.
"He believed in me, often more than I did myself," Evans said. "He said to me last year: 'I'm sure you can win a grand tour and I hope it's the Tour de France. And then you'll be the most complete rider of your generation.'" (Read more at the Guardian.)
Evans could barely speak as he talked of his late coach after winning: "There's been some really good people who have believed in me, from my very first coach when I was 14 years old. I turned on to the road (having started his career in mountain biking) and as everyone is aware it was Aldo Sassi who always believed in me. His situation has certainly pushed me a lot further than I would have otherwise gone this year."
You sense Sassi's illness and death showed Evans the true meaning of suffering and made him what his late coach always believed he could become. The best rider of his generation. (Read more at the Herald Sun.)

Photo: Roberto Bettini
An Australian, he’s only the third non-European to win the Tour since it started in 1903. What a great story and what an inspiration!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

0018: Cirque du Soleil - Alegria

Just saw Alegria and it was fantastic! It was beautiful and magical. I felt like a child seeing the circus for the first time, the awe and imagination of the show captured my complete attention. Although the venue (Bank Atlantic Center) wasn't as grand as in Las Vegas where I saw my first Cirque, it was still incredible. The beauty and talent of these performers takes you somewhere special. And the set was a bit dark and gothic so I felt like I'd traveled back in time. I'd highly recommend seeing any of Cirque's shows if you ever have the opportunity. So, here is a little insight on this particular show...

  1. Alegria - Promoted as a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth. (Check out this video, it's about 2 and a half minutes.)
  2. Alegria has a cast of 55 performers from 17 countries. Since its inception in 1994, the show has visited more than 65 cities on five continents, performing more than 5,000 times to 10 million people. (Read more.)
  3. Alegría was created for Cirque du Soleil's tenth anniversary; the concept for the show came to life over a dinner conversation between Franco Dragone and Guy Laliberté. Dragone wanted this show to be dark and heavy. "At one point," Dragone said "I was with Guy and I told him the next show would be sad, heavy, really hard: ' AlegríaAlegríaAlegría!' It's Spanish for 'Joy! Joy! Joy!' Where I come from, it's what you say when you're in pain. It means life goes on."
  4. Costing more than $3 million to produce, Alegría makes use of darker lighting and music than previous Cirque productions. The stage and the props use gothic arches and harsh angular designs to attempt to invoke a feeling of oppressiveness. (Read more.) But the adorable clowns made light of it all - 

So, a few other interesting tidbits:
  • Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of the Sun"), is a Canadian company, founded in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier
  • Fire-breathing stilt-walker turned billionaire, Laliberte, aged 51, owns 95 percent of Cirque du Soleil. He was 25 when he founded Cirque du Soleil!! Wonder what his parents thought :-)
  • The shows employ approximately 4,000 people from over 40 countries and generate an estimated annual revenue exceeding US $810 million.
  • The average age of the Cirque du Soleil cast is just over 31.
  • Cirque performers are loved everywhere. They even get invited to throw opening pitches like this CRAZY pitch - check it out here. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

0017: J.K. Rowling

Last night I came across her life story - or a version of... it was a movie on Lifetime, "Magic Beyond Words / JK Rowling". It was so inspirational - I even shed a few tears. Although I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 this weekend and have seen most of the movies and even read up to book 4 of the 7, I'd missed really knowing anything about J.K. Rowling herself. All I'd heard was that she was at some point broke, with a baby and then became a billionaire with Harry Potter. Here are some interesting things I've learned since yesterday - between this movie and Wikipedia (More here.):

  • Her real name is Joanne Rowling. She was asked to use initials so that boys would read her books but her mom hadn't given her a middle name so she took Katherine, her grandmother's name and came up with J.K. Rowling.
  • As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls, "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee."
  • At 25 years old, she was waiting for a four-hour delayed train when the idea of a boy attending a wizardry school came to her. It would take another 5 years to finish the manuscript. 
  • She started writing as her mother was dying of multiple sclerosis and never told her about the story. Her mom seemed very loving and supportive, in the movie she said, "Find happiness, that thing that completes and fulfills you and when you find it, never let go of it because you don't know how long you are going to have it for." Her mom died after a 10-year struggle with M.S., Rowling was 25 years old, Harry came to her only months prior. She told the Boston Globe that this death heavily affected her writing and that she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew how it felt.
  • Not too long after her moms death she had gotten married (while teaching English in Portugal), had a little girl, gotten divorced and was unemployed and on welfare. 
  • At one point, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. It was the feeling of her illness which brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. 
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as "the biggest failure I knew." But she described her failure as liberating:

"Failure meant stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other then what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." J.K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008. 

"She has shown that it is our choices that define us; that our weaknesses can sometimes be our greatest strength, and that without faith in love, friendship and loyalty we are nothing." (James Runcie.)

  • In 3 years, J.K. Rowling went from being a welfare mother to one of the richest women in Great Britain.
  • In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which gives to organizations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Every 30 seconds, someone in the world starts reading a Harry Potter book. 
  • It has been estimated that more than 400 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide.
  • In 2006, Rowling was honored by paleontologists who named a 66-million-year-old dinosaur "Dracorex Hogwartsia" because it reminded them of a beast from the Harry Potter books. (More here.)

What a beautiful soul and amazing inspiration!

Monday, July 18, 2011

0016: Nadeshiko

As you all know by now we lost the women's world cup yesterday. Without yet another analysis of what went wrong on the US side, bottom line is that the Japanese team won. As the game opened the commentator said, even if you aren't cheering for Japan, you certainly can't cheer against them after all they have been through. And that's true, so, congrads to the Nadeshiko - that is their nickname back home - on an incredible win. This was Japan's first appearance in the final of a major tournament, and it hadn't beaten the US in their first 25 meetings. (Read more.) 

Interestingly, their nickname derives from Yamato Nadeshiko a Japanese term meaning "personification of an idealized Japanese woman". Virtues include loyalty, domestic ability, wisdom and humility. It's a floral metaphor combining Yamato, an ancient name for Japan and Nadeshiko, a frilled pink carnation. (More here.)  Personally I think the Japanese team has just modernized the definition. Before yesterday, the nadeshiko referred to Japanese women with "good old" traits, today I think it means you can have good old traits and still be modern, strong, fierce, driven, and athletic - not your traditional domestic goddess but a goddess nonetheless!

The US fell to a team to whom the victory meant so much more than just a title. And no one could have said it better than Carli Lloyd - "If any other country was to win this, then I’m really happy and proud for Japan. Deep down inside I really thought it was our destiny to win it. But maybe it was Japan’s.” 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

0015: Perspective & Wonder

During my walk this morning I was noticing how much life goes on in smaller realms. I bet there are tiny life forms that have as stressful or as serene a life as we have. Here are a few shots of these "smaller" life forms... 

The snail was as big as my thumbnail...
 Alex Wild (

Then I started getting hot, the sun was coming up and I was beginning to sweat - I know, me sweating, oh my! But my thoughts turned towards the sun and how lucky we are to have it. (Trivia: did you know that the Sun's diameter is 100 times that of the Earth?!?!?!?) I was trying to be optimistic as I sweated my way home - I WAS getting my vitamin D after all... Then I thought of the final space shuttle mission. I was sad to think it was all over, but it couldn't be or could it? So I did a tiny bit of research... First I got caught up in the gazillion AMAZING pictures NASA has online.

Pic of the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis while visiting the ISS (International Space Station).

Then I laughed and thought here I was thinking of the "tiny" life forms in my neighborhood and I am the TINY life form!!! I stared in awe at these NASA shots as I tried to grasp how small we really are...

My home state: Florida
How brave is this astronaut! Getting farther...
There is that moon,
Looks pretty close...
I still see Florida...

Earth in relation to the other planets, in our solar system...
We basically live one of the four smallest planets. And News Flash - We as a planet, and certainly as individuals, are not the center of the universe :-) I then found a NASA statement from 7/1/11 promising that there is still more to come, a lot more - that made me happy. (Check it out - What's Next for NASA? Click here.) 

Then I found another article about new, giant planets that were discovered just last year! NASA's Kepler Space Telescope detected its first five exoplanets, or planetsbeyond our Solar System. The planets range in size from an object that has a radius four times that of Earth, to worlds much bigger than even our Jupiter. (Click here for more.)  Are we feeling small yet?

So back to us... 

Funny how a little perspective can change your entire thinking and can fill your mind with wonder a million times beyond what we think of on a normal basis - assuming you don't work for NASA!!