Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year Brings New...What?

Before I forget:

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2008 has been a year for the books, filled with amazing highs and devastating lows, for the world and for me, personally. But you can probably say that about most years, given that during the course of 365 days a lot is going to happen, both good and bad. Sure, this past year has seemed to have more than its share of misery, but I prefer to dwell on the positive, on the good, not only for what occurred during 2008, but moving forward into 2009. Bad things will, unfortunately, happen this new year, but with them plenty of good. What about for you and me? What is in store for us on a personal level?

While we are unable to control many situations or events or catastrophes or wondrous occurrences that befall or enlighten us over the course of our lives, we can do a few things. Like set goals.

A new year brings with it resolutions. This time of year you see countless posts and articles discussing resolutions and goals that you WILL FINALLY DO this year. Changes in your lifestyle, health choices, careers, relationships, finances, what-have-you, that are so important that you put off attempting to achieve them for months, just so you can set them as RESOLUTIONS to ignore throughout the coming year. To that I say:

DON'T SET NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS, SET GOALS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE YEAR!

The following is a post I wrote about goals back in July of this past year. I talk about the importance of not only setting short-range, mid-range, and long-range goals, but also the necessity of reworking and constantly tweaking your goals throughout the weeks/months/years. After reading the post you may notice that I have reworked and tweaked some of my own goals in only a few months, which underscores the importance of setting goals, or resolutions, throughout the year, and not just at the end of it.

I hope all of you have a healthy, prosperous, happy, and wonderful 2009! I know I'm going to. Why? Because it's one of my goals.

peace,

Mike

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A LIFE WITHOUT GOALS IS A LIFE UNFULFILLED.

I didn’t want to write this post. Not because I don’t have a passion for the subject matter—I live for goals! I just didn’t feel like sitting here, pen in hand (yes, I write the old fashioned way, with pen and paper; I then transfer those scratched out words to a word document, and then I post it to my blog—it works for me) vexing my brain into coming up with today’s post. But here I am, writing about the necessity of goals in our lives, despite desiring to be elsewhere. Why? Because I have to—it’s one of my goals.
Recently, I decided that I would write three blog posts a week—on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I visit dozens of blogs each day, taking note of content, style, and frequency of posts, and based on that figured that three was just about right. That number also fit in with my wanting to write about the three main themes of livelife365.com--Health, Personal Development, and Entertainment—each week. After making this decision, I then made it a goal. Being serious about my goals, and today being Friday, I felt compelled, bound by self-promise, to keep my word to myself. Ah, goals!

I am a firm believer that to be successful in life one needs to have a plan. Now, I also understand the need for spontaneity and that I am unable to “control” a lot of situations, realize that life often tosses us curveballs of fate, both ominous and serendipitous, that my plans or goals make little dent in. For that I like to say, “Worry about the things you can control and not about what you cannot.” What I am getting at is the gist of this post, and that is: Take charge of your life by setting goals!

SHORT-RANGE GOALS

Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight—I strongly suggest setting a weekly goal to strive for. For me, when I lost 40 pounds in six months, I set a goal of losing two pounds a week as something to shoot for. My short-range goals also included weighing myself daily, keeping a diet journal of everything I put in my mouth, and counting calories consumed and burned. A lot of effort, but well worth it—it worked!

Set clearly defined goals, but make sure they are not too easy or too difficult to attain. If they are too easy, then raise the bar; find yourself something worthwhile to shoot for. But don’t raise that bar too high—if a goal appears unattainable, then you begin to lose faith, get frustrated, regress, and sometimes give up. It is a challenging balancing act, but if you put some thought and effort into it, you’d be surprised at how effective your results will be.

Speaking of effort—setting, maintaining, and reaching goals is all about effort. Hard work. You will get out of it only what you put into it. If you are serious about changing your life for the better—physically, intellectually, financially, spiritually, relationship-wise—and bringing more purpose and fulfillment into your days, it takes some work. Work well worth the effort. But you need a plan. You need goals.

MID-RANGE GOALS

Have you ever sat in a job interview, or maybe just a performance review with your boss, and heard this query: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Big groan, right?

Most of us are just trying to survive today, or at least this week, month, maybe year. Think about five years for a moment—it seems like a long time, but, for me, at least, these last five years have flown by! If you are not where you want to be now, chances are you did not give enough attention to your goals five years ago—make sense? Put another way: If you see yourself five years from now in a better career, nicer home, married with children (or divorced, free, and consuming fruity beverages on a beach in the Caribbean), you will need to start planning NOW. Start setting goals.

• Make a list of your dreams and goals
• Make a plan of how to attain the above
• Set a doable timetable
• Put forth the effort
• Remember that there will be snags, forks in the road, challenges and adversity along the way, so…
• Don’t be afraid to reassess, tweak, and refresh your goals. As you evolve, so do your goals.
• Stay the course, never give up, dream, and live!

LONG-RANGE GOALS

When I think long-range, I think ten years or more, maybe longer. What I’m really trying to say is—when can I retire? And: how much money will I need? Also where?

A few years ago, I made a major commitment and decisions that would greatly determine when and how well my wife and I would retire and live. How did I go about doing this? I set goals. Sensing I was nearing the end of my prime earning years, I made a concerted effort to work more hours, earn more money, so we could save more. I set short- and mid-range goals for contributions in our 401k plans, upping the percentages each year until we eventually hit our maxes. I reworked our budget to help meet these goals (a good practice to do at least once a year), cutting spending here, sacrificing there (here’s a helpful video to get you started in the right direction), without compromising our other goal of enjoying our lives today.

These are just some of my goals. Your goals will be different, and they will need different strategies and planning. No matter what your dream life is, what goals you need to work on to achieve it, the more effort you put forth the better your results will be. Focus, plan, work hard, and you’re on your way.

Set goals and stick with them and your dream life, before you know it, will become reality.

Remember: A life without goals is a life unfulfilled.

Wow, for a guy who didn’t feel like writing, I sure wrote a lot. Why? Because it was a goal.

peace,

Mike

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all a very happy holiday season and a fantastic 2009!



peace,

Mike

Friday, December 19, 2008

Drink Green Tea Every Day

As many of you probably know, besides writing this blog, I also have a video site by the same name. I have produced over 200 videos, with topics ranging from fitness and health, diet and nutrition, self-help and how-to, motivation and inspiration, as well as dozens of funny vids and original songs, like I Miss My Hair.

Quite a few of these videos have been well received, and I have gotten hundreds of wonderful comments from numerous blog posts like Do You Believe? and Is It Just Me? and Just Do It? Ten Tips to Get You Started. But one video stands out from the rest.
Why does it stand out? You got me?

DRINK GREEN TEA EVERY DAY is not one of my best videos, if I say so myself. It’s kind of long and uneven in spots, if you ask me. In fact, given that it was one of my earlier efforts, I’d even go as far as to say that besides being nowhere near my Top Ten List, it‘s probably not even in my Top Fifty.

So, again, why does it stand out? And, more to the point, why am I making this big (okay, maybe semi-big) deal about it?

10,000 and counting!

Well, besides always wanting to call attention to healthier ways to improve your life (like the amazing health benefits of drinking green tea daily), my green tea video also happens to be, by far, my most watched. In fact, this very informative and worth-watching vid (even though it’s not in my Top Ten) recently registered its 10,000th view on YouTube. This is a modest milestone on this popular site when compared to some viral vids that get that many views an hour, but when you consider that 10,000 represents the total views my next three videos combined have received, then you can see why I have taken this moment to call attention to this (semi-) remarkable achievement.

So, without further ado, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of viewing my most watched video, please enjoy:

DRINK GREEN TEA EVERY DAY




And for those of you who would rather read the book than watch the movie, here are some of the amazing health benefits you may get from of a daily diet that includes ingesting green tea:

* Helps you lose weight
* Aids in digestion
* Encourages regularity
* Lowers risk of cancer
* Reduces LDL cholesterol
* Fights diabetes
* Loaded with antioxidants
* Strengthens tooth enamel
* Helps to lower blood pressure

Besides green tea, two other excellent sources of antioxidants are yerba mate and rooibos teas.

Yerba mate is found in the rain forests of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Considered a sacred beverage, it is a high-energy stimulant that is also loaded with nutrients. The leaves of the mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and loads of antioxidants. Naturally sweet, this tea is delicious, a great afternoon pick-me-up, and one of the healthiest beverages you can consume.
Rooibos is a red bush tea grown in South Africa. Caffeine-free and high in antioxidants, this tasty tea is also filled with vitamins and minerals and has been known to relieve allergies, colic, and skin conditions, as well as sooth digestion and fight cancer.

DRINK GREEN TEA EVERY DAY is not only my most popular video, but one that has received the most feedback. Here is a sampling of a few of the questions I have gotten from this vid and my responses:

Q: Is it better to bring the water to a full boil or just before?

A: This, by far, has been the most controversial subject of debate in my tea vid. I use a teapot and bring it to a full boil, which purists say one should not do. They prefer the water temperature right before it boils. But when steeping the tea in a cup, like I do, versus keeping the leaves in the pot, the water temperature is just about right, since it loses heat from pot to cup. Check out this site for more about this subject.

Q: What are better, teabags or loose leaf?

A: Another controversial topic, but one I feel is all about personal preference, and for me, convenience. I drink at least five cups of tea each day so using teabags are fast and easy. When my life slows down and I can take a few more minutes each day to relax and enjoy the ceremony of using loose tea leaves, I will probably do so, but until then, its bags, baby! For more about this topic, visit this site.

Q: Are teas like Lipton green tea good?

A: I always answer these questions with one word: ORGANIC. Whenever possible, I choose organic. Why? Because if your goal is to improve your health by drinking green tea, then drinking non-organically grown teas is not helping. In fact, I suggest going organic with any and all foods you ingest: no pesticides, naturally grown, and a lot more healthier for you.

Q: Are bottled, sweetened iced teas good for you?

A: Read the label. If the ingredients say green tea and nothing else, and if it is organically grown, then you will get the same healthy benefits as brewing your own. But lots of these bottled iced teas are loaded with things you should not ingest. A safer bet is to make your own ice tea.

Green tea, yerba mate, rooibos, and even black and white teas are head-over-heels better beverage choices than soda, and a nice change from your daily cup of joe. Loaded with antioxidants, natural vitamins and minerals, they not only taste delicious but may just help you change your life for the better.


Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Monday, December 8, 2008

Looking For Good In One Very Bad Year

I hadn’t planned on writing an end of the year post, certainly not while December was still in its early stages. But, more often than not, life gets in the way of many of our best laid plans. And, sad to say, death does too.

2008 has not been a good year. For me, personally, and for most of the world, it seems that this year is one for the books in terms of bad news.

My wife and I, like millions of others (dare I say, billions?), have seen our net worth reduced by numbers too large and ugly to put into print. Yet we both remain employed, still have the wherewithal to earn decent livings, and are thankful for that. But millions of others are unemployed, and from all the forecasts things will certainly get worse before they get better.

But even though those are big challenges to overcome, it’s only money, right? At least you have your health…right?

2008 has been a trying year health-wise for me. My left shoulder began acting up early in the year, to the point where it needed to be surgically repaired, and still is far from one hundred percent. Yet I am thankful that the rest of me is okay. But that’s just me. And it’s only a sore shoulder. Things could be worse.

What if that sore shoulder turned out to be something bigger? It’s not, but, again, that’s just me--I got lucky. Sadly, my brother and his new bride did not.

One of my best memories of this past year was being asked to participate in my brother‘s wedding. In a year often filled with gloom and doom, this joyous event was a nice respite from the darkness. Yet for all its happiness, that day had a foreboding shrouding the event. My new sister-in-law, a lovely bride and the sparkle in my brother’s eye, was sick. They pushed up their nuptials by several months to accommodate her illness. Life and its paradoxes. 2008, that dreadful, yet wonderful, year.

They remain deeply in love and are hanging in there, both doing all that they can to make the best of their situation, doing what we humans often do when facing adversity: persevere, deal and cope, live life.

Life.

And death.

The reason I am writing this post today is due to having to fly Back East in a few days to attend a funeral. My step-father, one of the kindest, nicest men I have had the pleasure to meet, and a wonderful companion for my mother over the past eleven years, succumbed to illness and age on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor invasion. This is significant given that he fought in that war, returned with a wound and a determination to live life to its fullest every day. Which he did for eighty-eight years. My entire family are better people for having known him. And my mom? She’s tough, a survivor. But recovering from losing your love, that person with whom you share your daily existence, takes time.

It will take well into next year, and possibly the next, to fully recover from the many loses felt during this trying year. And that is what this post is really about, what livelife365.com is all about.

Living your life
Every day
Every way
Not letting anyone (or anything)
Stand in your way.

In memory of my step-father, in honor of my mother, with love to my brother, his wife, and the rest of my family (especially my wife and my son [Happy Birthday, Kiddo!]), and to all those who lost someone or something dear to them during this troubling year, I offer you my latest song, "livelife365":




I hope this inspires you, as it does me, to live your life to its fullest every day. And while 2008 has not been one of the better years in recent memory, it has been a year in your life. Good or bad, it’s your life. Your year. And it should be remembered for that.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Veg Out With Mike

I am a vegetarian. I openly admit this. I’ve got nothing to hide, no turkey drumsticks stuffed in some far corner of my closet or cheeseburger stashed in the glove compartment of my car. And I’m a real vegetarian, someone who has opted not to ingest meat of any kind. That means all meats and meat byproducts. I often hear some people profess their vegetarianism proudly, only to later hear them amend this profession by adding that they only eat chicken…or just fish…or all meats except beef. To these confused folks I say: kudos on your quest toward healthier eating habits, but you are not vegetarians. And that’s okay with me. In fact, I support your healthy choices of eliminating some meats from your daily diet, just don’t go around calling yourself a veg-head. Like me.

But here’s the thing, the real deal, the dark little secret of being a vegetarian that you carnivorous, meat masticating guys and gals may not know:

WE MISS MEAT!

Got your attention? Actually, we, or maybe it’s just me, miss some of the comfort foods, made with meat, that I loved devouring while growing up. Foods like meatloaf with gravy and mashed potatoes. Spaghetti and meatballs. Lasagna stuffed with sausage and crushed meatballs. Enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas crammed with chicken and carnitas. And cheeseburgers. Of all the foods that I’ve eschewed since I made the heart- and heath-conscious decision to eliminate (ALL!) animal proteins from my diet, I miss cheeseburgers the most.

But there was, and still is, a reason why all of these comfort foods taste so good, and why I still avoid them: they are loaded with calories, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium.

One day, while watching my lovely wife enjoy a cheeseburger, as I nibbled on a salad, my mind turned down a dark path, slipped stealthily toward temptation and taste, and wondered if I could somehow create comfort foods, like juicy cheeseburgers or spicy tacos, and make them meat-free and healthy, without losing their taste. And, through trial and error and lots of dirty pots and pans, I came up with:

VEG OUT WITH MIKE


My aim with this new series is to create healthy, vegetarian-based comfort foods that taste great too. I think I have achieved that with my first recipe (and video) for a simple marinara sauce. Serve this up over a high-fiber, whole wheat pasta and you have a delicious, healthy feast that will satisfy even the meatiest of meat eaters.

VEG OUT WITH MIKE (Simple Marinara Sauce)



In future veg out videos I hope to tackle tres frijoles (three bean) tacos, meatless meatloaf, veggie lasagna (my mom‘s recipe), and, yes, those greasy and decadent, but oh so tasty, cheeseburgers. All meat-less and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and calories.

Is it possible?

Can I pull it off?

Can one mere man, armed with a bowl of veggies and a chopping knife, take those fattening comfort foods that we all love to eat and turn them into HEALTHY and TASTY delights?

Stay tuned.

When VEG OUT WITH MIKE continues…

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cut Yourself A Break This Holiday Season

Is there anything worse than being on a diet during the holidays? How about being on a diet period? Even if you’re not on a specific weight reduction/maintenance program, but are just practicing healthy eating habits (like my high-fiber diet), holidays, especially family gatherings around the dinner table, can be a challenge.

I have a simple solution for all your holiday eating angst:

CUT YOURSELF A BREAK!

What does that really mean, huh, Mike?

Simply: enjoy yourself, don’t hold back. Eat.

Really?

Yup.

How much?

As much as you like, within reason.

Wow, cool, fair enough. One more question?

Shoot.

Why? How? Huh?

That was more than one question, but here goes:

The holiday eating season should be treated no differently than cutting yourself some slack on weekends or at a wedding reception or any number of other special occasions that life tosses your way. I am very strict when it comes to healthy eating and proper diet, but I cut myself a break all the time. In fact, I don’t even like using the word “diet” when it is referred to in the “I’m on a diet” sense. A “diet” is what you eat daily. Your daily “diet” should already be a healthy one, and if it’s not then what does it matter what you eat, or how much you eat, during the holidays?

Huh?

Here’s the thing: if you have been successfully eating the right foods and the right amounts, have been maintaining your goal weight or at least have been able to make healthy strides toward those goals, then you already KNOW what it takes to live a healthy life: eat the right foods and the right amounts, exercise, and enjoy each day.

CUT YOURSELF A BREAK!

My point is, if you “cheat” a little during this upcoming holiday season, maybe gain a few unwanted pounds, it’s not the end of the world. You already know how to lose those pounds. And if you are currently practicing healthy dietary choices, like those suggested at livelife365.com, then you already understand what you can and cannot eat.

You will probably practice self-control without even being conscious of it. And if you don’t and decide to grab that second slice of pie or opt for seconds on the turkey and gravy, don’t fret:

CUT YOURSELF A BREAK!


And enjoy these special occasions with family, friends, food, and fun.

Life is short.
Life is, at times, challenging.
But life is also a celebration of living. Part of living is breaking bread with family and friends.

Cut yourself a break this holiday season…and pass the mashed potatoes…and bean casserole…and candied yams…and pumpkin pie…and…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Two more videos to enjoy during this holiday season:

On Being a Vegetarian During the Holidays

Mike‘s 30 Second Doritos Ad, and some Funny Outtakes


Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Essence of Garlic

Want your house to smell like an Italian restaurant? Or a Mexican casa? Or the narrow streets of Chinatown? How about an Irish pub or Middle Eastern market? Here’s what you do: take a pan and set it atop a hot flame, pour some extra virgin olive oil into it, then take a bulb of garlic and bust out a clove.
Okay, maybe bust out ten cloves, then remove the skin (here‘s an easy way to remove the skin from a clove of garlic), chop, slice, dice, or just toss in the whole clove, and wait. In a few minutes your house will fill with the unmistakable aroma of garlic sautéing, and then, if your salivary glands are functioning properly, your mouth will water and then your brain will send a signal down to that mouth and instruct it to utter:

“Mmmmm, that smell! Whatcha cookin’?”

Garlic, a member of the onion family, has been around for thousands of years. It is a basic component in many dishes in just about every country on the planet. Being a lover of Italian cuisine (have you tried my mom‘s lasagna?), I am conditioned to carry gum or mints with me whenever I dine out due to the pungent aftertaste of garlic in most Italian cooking. Yes, garlic has a strong taste, smell, attitude. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, garlic’s sometimes overwhelming “attitude” is what makes is such a standout addition to not just Italian cooking, but as I mention earlier, just about all cooking. From spicy Mexican meals to stir-fry Asian fare, garlic mingles easily with tomatoes, ginger, onions, and my favorite, olive oil.

Still, some people shy away from this caustic clove, afraid that once ingested, or even touched, they will be forever labeled “Mr. Garlic Breath.” And while having a nickname that calls attention to foul smelling fumes emitting from your pie hole is not pleasant, it surely is not enough of a liability to keep you away from making garlic a part of your everyday dietary routine.

Here’s a video where I talk more about the benefits of garlic, as well as demonstrate an easy way to remove its skin:



The addition of garlic spices up marinara sauces, salsa, hummus, and hundreds of other dishes. It also has many health benefits and has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Among the claims:

* helps prevent heart disease
* lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure
* fights cancer
* combats the common cold
* regulates blood sugar levels
* works as an antiseptic

While the health benefits of garlic are not all medically proven or approved, one claim I’m sure we can all agree with is:

GARLIC KEEPS VAMPIRES AWAY!!

(and that’s a good thing!)

The next time you’re grocery shopping, grab a few bulbs of garlic and chop away. Sure, your hands and breath and hair and shirt and house and backyard and entire neighborhood will reek from garlic, but you will also, no doubt, have cooked up a tasty dinner that will make those same neighbors' mouths water and their brains send signals to those salivating mouths, inspiring them to utter:

“Mmmmm, that smell! Whatcha cookin’?”

Garlic.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Want That! And That! And That!

Stuff. Things. Possessions.

We all like to buy stuff, right? As a self-admitted collector, there’s nothing I enjoy more than perusing a quaint used bookstore in search of a rare first edition to complete a collected set of one of my favorite authors.


We work hard all day, why not splurge a little and go for that extra-extra, big-big flat screen HDTV, right? Or take that expensive vacation to the Mediterranean. Or opt for an extra 500 square feet and the three-car garage for that stunning house in that gated community.

Why not?
You deserve it.
Or do you?

Merit. Deserve. Entitlement.
I want it all! Now!

Living ABOVE your means.

The recent credit crunch, housing market bubble burst, and subsequent Wall Street meltdown has made all of us more cognizant of our financial situations. But all these financial fireworks and government bailouts and foreclosures and job loses and political promises and 401K angst have one major connection, one common thread:

PEOPLE LIVING ABOVE THEIR MEANS!

I like to compare those living above their means to someone who is grossly overweight, knows they need to change, but just keeps eating too much of the wrong foods until they eventually face dire health (and all too often catastrophic financial) consequences.

They need help.

They need to learn to “budget” their caloric intake. Need to understand why they THINK they NEED to eat the wrong foods and the wrong amounts. Same thing goes for those overspending, being financially careless.

They need to live within their means.

While practicing better fitness and nutrition is always a major focus of mine at livelife365.com, this particular post deals more with financial responsibility and personal accountability. By the way, if you are looking for ways to help you lose weight or would like to learn more about nutrition and fitness, these videos will help.

For more about my feelings on Living Within Your Means, please enjoy this video:



Now, for the hard part: Changing!

Just as the politicians, during the recently completed (it IS over, right?) presidential campaign, pounded the need for change into our heads, we, too, need to make changes in the way WE do things. But, guess what?

Change is good!

Is change easy?

That’s another story. Change can be painful, difficult, challenging, but no less painful or challenging as filing for bankruptcy. Or having your house foreclosed on. Or having to ignore a medical condition because you can’t afford to visit a doctor.

Here are some ways to help you try to live within your means:

* ADMIT you have a problem. Take personal accountability and understand that you CAN’T AFFORD everything that you WANT. Hey, I would love another 500 square feet and a nifty three-car garage, but will not put myself into unnecessary debt just to have it.

* BUDGET YOURSELF. Go on a financial diet. Just like when dieting to lose unwanted pounds, this is easier said than done. What can you do?

* EDUCATE YOURSELF. Reading this post, as well as visiting websites like livelife365.com, is a great start, but don’t stop there. Read, read, and read some more. Ask questions to qualified financial experts every chance you get. The more you know the better ability you have to understand your particular financial situation, what you can and cannot afford. You should know how much of a mortgage you can afford BEFORE you ever sit down across from a member of any lending institution. If you don’t, then you’re probably not ready to buy a house.

* THINK LAYAWAY. Before the human race became consumed with credit, they used to pay for things BEFORE they bought them. This not only gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment and appreciation, but it also keeps you out of unwanted and sometimes devastating debt. It helps you…

LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

In a way, living a layaway life is the antithesis of being under the misguided misconception of feeling compelled to have a life of entitlement.

Simply put: We need to change.

Change the way we think.
Change the way we spend.
Yes, change the way we eat (had to throw that one in).

Change the way we live.

There’s a lot of nice stuff out there, things and possessions that we all think we need and can’t live without. But unless you really, really need something, or at least can easily afford it, then the solution is simple:

Just say no.

And try to change your life…for the better.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Friday, November 7, 2008

Good vs. Bad

Life is all about choices. Take the recently completed presidential election. Millions of Americans were offered a ballot filled with multiple choices. From those choices, we analyze, ponder, discuss, weigh the pros and cons, then make our selections. While a national election is a major event that challenges our decision-making prowess, the personal choices we all make every day of our lives are equally, if not more, important.

One of the reoccurring messages I advocate on this blog and my video site, livelife365.com, is taking personal accountability for your actions. Part of being personally accountable is making choices. Often, this is not as easy as it seems (think back to all those propositions or initiatives, along with the multiple candidates on that ballot, calling to you on election day.) As with many of the options confronting us this past Tuesday, many of them are good, while just as many are bad. Same can be said about our own life choices.

Livelife365 is all about choices, hopefully helping to assist you in making the right choices for improving your life by offering entertaining blog posts and videos that show fun ways that can change your life for the better.

While recovering from my recent shoulder surgery, I have not been able to exercise as much as I normally do. I have also cut myself some slack (or maybe it’s just the Vicodin talking) and have indulged in some unhealthy snacking. Choices. Some good and some bad. The end results of those personal choices is that I’ve gained a few unwanted pounds that I do not like, but know that I will eventually drop. How do I know this? Because I will utilize the same healthy eating and fitness practices that helped me lose two pounds a week and keep that weight off for years.

I will make GOOD CHOICES.

Here is a video I created that demonstrates, in a fun and entertaining way, some good and bad choices confronting us in our daily lives.

GOOD MIKE VS. BAD MIKE



Some anticipated questions, along with my answers, about the above video:

Q: Were you really smoking?
A: No, those were fake cigarettes that my wife bought for Halloween.
Q: Were you really drinking?
A: No, just pretending. I’ve not tasted alcohol since 1992.
Q: Were you really eating those Doritos?
A: Yes…and they were good!
Q: What’s with you and that wig?
A: I Miss My Hair
Q: How’s the shoulder?
A: Sill painful, but getting better every day.


Life is all about choices, some good and some bad. We all have the power to make the right choices that can help us live a healthier, happier, longer, and more rewarding life.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Friday, October 31, 2008

Health Update and a few Videos

Most of you know by now that I recently underwent surgery on my left shoulder to repair an impingement that was causing me a great deal of pain for a long time. The good news is, that while I am still limited in using my left arm, I am getting better every day. I am able to actually type for several minutes at a time without pain and look forward to the day when I can write some new posts. Soon, I hope!

While I am feeling lots better, my range of motion is still poor. I was just measured by my physical therapist and was at 110 degrees out of 180--not that good. In fact, it is much less than before my surgery. But the pain is better, much better. And the numbing, tingling sensation down my left arm and fingertips is mostly gone. All I need now is lots of physical therapy and time.

In the meantime, I would like to share a few more videos from my archives.

The three categories that personify livelife365.com and this blog are: HEALTHY LIVING, PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, and ENTERTAINMENT. With that in mind, I have chosen videos that represent each category.

For your HEALTH:

Almonds: The Perfect Snack



Some INSPIRATION for your PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:

The Miracle of Tomorrow



And a little ENTERTAINMENT from this (exhausting and never-ending) political season:

Hillary Obama Monsta McCain Jam



As always, I appreciate your wonderful comments and feedback and look forward to the day when I can return the favor and add a few comments of my own.

Until next time...

peace,

Mike

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Video: I Miss My Hair...Still!

While on the mend from my recent shoulder surgery, I received this nice comment from Heidi over at Health Nut Wannabee Mom:

HEALTH NUT WANNABEE MOM said...
awwwwww I am sorry that you are in such pain! I am going to check out your videos. I
love them but the I WANT HAIR one is my favorite of all time! Get better soon!
October 23, 2008 10:12 PM


This reminded me how much I like Heidi and her excellent health blog (check it out when you get the chance), and how much I really like my funny music video I Miss My Hair.

It also inspired me to post it one more time to afford those of you who may have missed it the first few times the opportunity to watch and laugh. And for those of you, like Heidi, to watch it again and again and again...

Please enjoy my funny music video about my lament at missing my missing hair:

I Miss My Hair

See more funny videos at Funny or Die



peace,

Mike

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can't Blog? Then Vlog!

Greetings from Vicodin Land!


I struggle to type this post using only one hand (and a few fingers), embracing the potency of pain-killers that keep the hurt away, but make Mike a bit more goofier than usual. The good news: I'm getting better every day! The bad news: I am still a ways away from being able to write blog posts.

Instead of writing, I have been shooting video and posting vlogs on my video site, livelife365.com. It is much easier than doing this (he says, as his fingers continue to hit the wrong keys!), and a lot less painful and time consuming.

So, in the meantime, please enjoy these v (ideo) log posts:

Mike Post-Surgery 24-48 Hours
Mike Post-Surgery: Red Sox Recap

Mike Post-Surgery (Day Three)
Mike Post-Surgery (Day Four): Never Give Up

Mike Post-Surgery (Day Five): Vote For Change
Mike Post-Surgery (Day Six): Updates and Financial Talk



I would also like to thank all of you who left such kind comments and good wishes during this past week--it means a lot!

Hope to be back blogging very soon. Until then, please enjoy my videos at livelife365.com, and keep living your life every day, every way.

Until next time...

peace,

Mike

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where Does It Hurt?

I am normally an active person. I was one of those kids who couldn’t sit still, was always on the go and in constant motion. Probably drove my parents crazy. This frenetic energy followed me into adulthood.
I like to keep moving and, given that for most of my working life I find myself situated in front of this computer for hours on end, I make sure I find the time to exercise daily: walking, bike riding, lifting weights, calisthenics, or just working around the house.

Staying active has suited me well these many decades. Nothing like the comfortable ache of pushing and testing your muscles and joints with good, hard effort, then rewarding yourself with a soothing hot shower, an enjoyable meal, and relaxation with family and friends at the end of the day. But a lot of that has changed for me recently.

What if those comfortable aches begin to linger? Or if those sore muscles and joints remain sore long after what is considered a “normal” period of recovery?

I feel your pain.

In fact, I feel my pain. For months now, I have been battling chronic shoulder pain. It hurts to do just about anything that involves using my left shoulder. This video will give you an idea of what it feels like:



The sad fact is, I was not acting (okay, maybe a little) in the above vid. My shoulder is filled with pain, especially when I use it a certain way. And since the pain radiates along my entire arm, it even hurts when I write posts, like this one.

Being a man, and by that I mean: being a stubborn creature who only visits a doctor as a last resort, I first ignored the pain, hoping that it would go away, like most aches and sore muscles eventually do. When it did not, I added aspirin and a heating pad to my home remedy. Still no improvement, so I added constant complaining and moaning to my inept self-healing cure. Again, no change. So I had this conversation with my wife:

Mike: My shoulder is killing me!
Wife: Go see a doctor.
Mike: I don’t know what to do anymore.
Wife: Go see a doctor.
Mike: I mean, I’ve tried everything…
Wife: Go see a doctor.
Mike: It’s never felt like this before.
Wife: Go see a doctor.
Mike: It really hurts.
Wife: Go see a doctor.
Mike: Think I should go see a doctor?
Wife glares at Mike, sadly shaking her head as she walks out of the room.

I finally take my lovely wife’s advice and visit my doctor. This begins a chain of events that takes me from x-rays to physical therapy to a botched MRI to more PT to a cortisone injection to another MRI to weeping like a small child to more physical therapy to one more cortisone injection to sucking my thumb in the fetal position to one last trip to my physical therapist (who my wife now thinks I am secretly dating) to…today.

Or should I say: tomorrow.

Thursday, October 16, 2008, I will be having arthroscopic surgery to repair the pain in my left shoulder.

I look forward to this procedure with paradoxical caution: I am not thrilled with the prospect of being anesthetized and having someone poke around my bursa, bones, muscle, and what-have-you, but on the other hand I am tired of the pain and ready to remedy it.


I leave you with two thoughts to ponder while I am recovering:

1. This will be my last post for a while, depending on when I will be able to sit back at this workstation and work this keypad pain free and without the threat of hindering my healing.

2. Listen to your body. That comfortable ache after exercise or physical activity is a good thing, an indication that you have been active and your muscles and joints are happy and healing. But if that ache lingers or turns into something more, then do yourself a favor and listen to your wife.

Go see a doctor.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Monday, October 13, 2008

How To Survive an Election Year Financial Meltdown

I am republishing this post about dealing with the recent highs and lows (mostly lows, sadly) of our economy. Last week's losses on Wall Street were the most for one week in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. Lots of people, fearful of losing more, may have joined in the panic and sold, sold, sold. I hope this was not the case. Today (Monday, 10/13/08) the Dow gained back almost half of those loses from last week, the highest one-day gain since 1933. As this post states, do no panic. Stocks historically go back up. I am not saying that the bad financial times are behind us, they are not. But what I am saying, again, is not to panic, practice patience, and enjoy the things in your life that you can control.

Please also enjoy:

How To Survive an Election Year Financial Meltdown


I know what some of you are saying, "Why should I listen to what you have to say about the economy? You're a self-help guy, who specializes in healthy lifestyle and personal development, as well as makes funny (goofy) videos and goofy (funny) parody songs."


Why? Because in dire times like these (seen the Business headlines recently?), during the most important presidential election of our lifetime, it takes a commonsense and practical approach to combat all the craziness going on out there.

Q: But, Mike, you write and make videos about diet and nutrition, motivation and how-to, what do you know about finances?

A: As much as the next guy, and more than enough to help you.

TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SURVIVE THE ELECTION YEAR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN

1. DON'T PANIC

Wall Street seems to feed on panic--panic buying and panic selling. While others overreact and sell off their stocks and put their cash in safer investments, you don't need to follow suit. Unless you need the money from those investments right now, standing pat is still the best option. Why? Because stocks eventually ALWAYS come back up--this is a historical fact. And if they don't, then we're all in trouble. This too shall pass.

2. SIT ON IT

Rarely, as a self-help, fitness guru, do I suggest sitting back and doing nothing. But, in this case, go right ahead! Pass the popcorn and park it on the couch. Okay, you still need your daily exercise, but with regards to your money--LEAVE IT ALONE. Sit on it. In fact, the best advice that I hear the most from those that get paid to know this sort of thing is: DO NOT stop contributing to your 401k or IRA. Why? Right now stocks are cheap. When the market goes down, prices go down. The more stock you purchase NOW, at lower prices, the more you will have LATER, when the market stabilizes and goes back up. Think about it.

3. KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE, SHERLOCK!)

Simplify your life. Cut back, spend less. Analyze what you NEED versus what you WANT. If you dine out 3-4 times a week, cut that in half. Do you really need satellite TV and radio? The recent trend now is stay-at-home vacations--you spend less on gas and airfare, while discovering local attractions you may have been missing, or avoiding, for years.

Bottom line: Simplify your life and save money.

4. TAKE A WALK

How much do you spend a year on that health club membership? Figure out a way to stay in shape at home, and cancel that costly membership. Walking is one of the least expensive, but most effective, ways to stay in shape. Plus, it gets you outside, and is good for the mind and spirit. In times like these, that's a good thing.

If you desire a more strenuous workout, look into purchasing dumbbells, a stationary bike or other equipment; whatever fits your specific needs. The initial investment may smart a little at first, but will more than pay for itself for years and years.

5. INVEST IN YOURSELF

While exercise and keeping fit are vital aspects of personal growth, don't stop there. Continue working on self-improvement and personal development all the time. livelife365.com offers hundreds of self-help videos that can change your life for the better, all free of charge and just a mouse-click away.

6. LISTEN TO YOUR BOSS


There is no place continued growth is more important right now than in the job market. Now is not the time to take your job for granted. Nor is it the time to mess up the job you have. Yes, keep that resume handy and continue networking and sharpening your skills so that you are more marketable. But you also need to keep your boss happy with your work. Work harder. Do the best job you can to make yourself indispensable. Most companies will have cutbacks and layoffs--YOU cannot control this. But you CAN control your effort, productivity, and attitude.

ALWAYS be in the TOP ranked twenty percent of good performers, not the bottom twenty.

Why? GOOD companies seldom layoff GOOD employees.

Be good, listen to your boss!

7. STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS

Enjoy yourself. Enjoy each day. Live life 365. This simply means to live your life every day in every way. Yes, times are tough, the economy is a mess, the world is a bigger mess, but you can still find a way to enjoy the little things in life that have nothing to do with the bigger things that are out of your control.

Every Day Every Way

8. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

Now is the time to roll up those sleeves and get to work. But you're already working on self and your job; what next? Go outside, dig up the garden. If you don't have a garden, start one. Landscape. Mow the lawn. Do house repairs, spring or fall cleaning. Learn a new (inexpensive) hobby. Do it yourself. Besides saving you a ton of money, DIY is good for the mind, body, and spirit. A sense of self-accomplishment goes a long way. And if you're picking ripe tomatoes off the vine, you're not worrying about Wall Street. Besides, growing your own will save you more money in the long run (and they taste so much better, too!). Can, bottle, preserve, or freeze whatever you can't consume now, and have a winter of homegrown, inexpensive veggies.

9. BALANCE YOURSELF

And your portfolio. The only movement you should be doing with your portfolio is rebalancing it. This simply means you need to take a look at your asset allocations. When there are sharp fluctuations in the stock market, your assets will also shift. But do me a favor, check with your financial consultant before you do anything.

As for you and YOUR balance: you should always be working on managing your Triad of Balance, the harmonic balance between Mind, Body, and Spirit.

10. VOTE FOR CHANGE


Now, more than ever, we need some major changes in Washington. If YOU do not like what is happening in YOUR life due to decisions made by our political leaders, YOU have the power to CHANGE it.

The current financial meltdown we are witnessing needs to be fixed. Fixed fast! We have the choice to keep on making the same mistakes that have led us here.

Or opt for CHANGE.

For the better.

I hope these tips help make dealing with these turbulent times a bit easier. And always remember that YOU have more power than you think to CHANGE your LIFE.

peace,

Mike

Friday, October 10, 2008

Eggplant, So Misunderstood

On those days (most days) when I am following my rigid, yet very effective, high-fiber diet, I often dream about eating other, tastier delicacies. You see, contrary to some popular opinion, I am a human being and not a robot conditioned and programmed for non-stop healthy living. Yes, I take pride in eating right, every day, as well as taking daily walks and engaging in all sorts of healthy activities. But, just like most of you, I, too, would love nothing better than to sink my teeth into decadence, often desiring to dump out my bowl of olive oil-laden veggies and nutritious salad and indulge in…what?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I dream of my weekend “cheat treats” during those more challenging days of the regular week. And when I am not fantasizing about devouring a slab of my mom‘s lasagna, my mouth waters at the thought of another of my favorite Italian gourmet delights: Eggplant Parmesan.

I love eggplant. As a vegetarian, I am always in search of great veggies to add to the haul that I consume daily. Prepared correctly, eggplant parm, and eggplant in general, will melt in your mouth and send your taste buds to gastronomical heaven. As I said, I love eggplant, but didn’t always. Just the name connotes unsavory images.

Egg? Plant?

Yeech!

Like broccoli, mushrooms, onions, even olives, these were all foods, along with eggplant, that I refused to eat during my younger years. All foods, I might add, that I absolutely love now, as a somewhat-adult.

But eggplant? Is it a plant that grows eggs? Could that be possible? Who in their right mind would eat such an oddly named thing? Let’s explore this often misunderstood vegetable.

Eggplants grow on vines, like tomatoes. They are spongy in texture and slightly bitter tasting.

Sound yummy? No? Read on.

While eggplant has been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t always well liked by certain cultures. Because of its bitter taste, some thought it also had a bitter disposition: it was thought, at one time, to cause leprosy, cancer, and insanity. The good news is that has all changed. In fact, eggplant is loaded with phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. Meaning that consumption of eggplant helps combat cancer, rather than causing it.

Eggplant is also a very good source of potassium and manganese, Vitamins B1 and B6, folate and magnesium. One cup also has 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. Besides those healthy antioxidants, regular consumption of eggplant has been found to help reduce bad cholesterol, fight heart disease, and improve cardiovascular health. Now all we need to do is find a few ways to eat it.

But first you need to buy a few. While eggplants come in many varieties, most of us are accustom to the fat purple variety that I am holding in my hand. To test for ripeness, gently press the skin and, if it is ripe, it should spring back. Store in a cool, but not too hot or too cold, place, and once you cut one open you should eat it soon--they perish fast. Now let’s dig in!

Besides being an amazing veggie in my favorite (sorry, mom) Italian dish, eggplant also tastes great baked, stir-fried, stuffed, and used in another dish that I love to eat: babaganoush.

Huh?

Babaganoush is similar to hummus in that it is a Middle Eastern spread and dip made with eggplant rather than chic peas (garbanzo beans). I use soy crisps or strips of pita bread to dip into these two tasty treats. As a spread or eaten with sticks of veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers), babaganoush is an excellent way to add eggplant to your diet.

If you have been avoiding eggplant, like I once did as kid, just because it sounds strange, or have yet to try it because your ancestors told you it may cause leprosy (believe me, it doesn’t!), take my advice and give it a shot. If you love lasagna (and who doesn’t?) then try eggplant Parmesan. And if you are in the mood to try something different, then dip a chip into a bowl of babaganoush. Or scoop out the center of an eggplant, load it up with just about anything, cover with breadcrumbs and some cheese, and pop it in the oven. You will be amazed at how tasty this misunderstood veggie can be.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Secrets of Flossing

Habits often get a bad rap. Most of us, when someone mentions a habit, automatically think that they are talking about a bad habit. And, sadly, there are way too many bad habits that affect us in unhealthy ways. Smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, biting your fingernails, watching too much daytime TV talk shows, or even checking your blog stats every hour on the hour (I promise, I am working on it!). You get the picture.

But I am also pleased to report that, while we all are challenged with the ongoing struggles to overcome our bad habits, a good many of us also practice good habits. Here at livelife365 (this blog and my video site ), I am all about good habits; like daily exercise, healthy eating, positive reaffirmation, personal accountability, and balancing one’s life.

Psssst…want to know about a fast and easy habit that, when done correctly and daily, can add years to your life and save you money?

I’m talking about flossing.

For those of you visiting from another planet (Welcome!) or just recently rescued from a lifetime of living in the jungle or on a deserted island, flossing (from the ADA ) “ …removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it has a chance to harden into plaque. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces.”

If this still seems like an alien concept to you, watch this video. In it, I demonstrate how to correctly floss your teeth in one minute…give or take a few seconds.



I floss my teeth every day. It’s a good habit to get into. One of the many good habits that I encourage myself (and you) to practice to ensure long-term health benefits.

I am amazed by how many people that do not floss at all, let alone daily. And as the above video demonstrates, it only takes, literally, a minute out of your busy schedule.

Hey, calm down there, tiger! Why so adamant, huh?

Deep breath, Mike. Ahhh…okay, much better now.

Why am I so adamant about flossing your teeth every day?

Here are some of these amazing benefits of daily flossing, right from the dentist’s mouth:

* helps remove debris and the plaque that collects between your teeth. This helps clean hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduces the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.
* makes your breath smell better
* polishes your teeth (when you don’t floss, you only clean 60% of your teeth)
* may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack
* saves you money, in the long run, by reducing medical and dental costs

I’m going to let you in on another little secret. For years, I did not floss my teeth. I’m not talking about skipping a few days here and there--I did not floss at all. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I wasn’t even going to the dentist for my regular checkups and cleanings. When I finally dragged my sorry self back into the dental hygienist’s chair, I was given not only a painful and bloody reminder of tooth and gum neglect, but an educational lecture, spoken from the heart (my hygienist, by the way, is a very talented saint), that changed my life.

Since that day, I’ve now become a flossing freak, a tooth and gum advocate, and a regular visitor to the dentist’s office.

Just like trying to do all that you can to find that thirty minutes each day to exercise, adding more fruit and veggies to your diet, or opting to pick up a book rather than the TV remote, dedicating ONE MINUTE of each day to flossing will enrich and change your life for the better.

Your dentist will be thrilled.
Your teeth and gums will be ecstatic.
And there’s a very good chance that you will add a few more happy, healthy years to your life.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Friday, October 3, 2008

What is Jicama?

Many of you may already know what jicama is, may already know how to correctly pronounce it, and my have actually had some contact with it. If that’s the case, congratulations on your acquired knowledge and worldliness--you are more than welcome to skip this next part. For those of you still clueless, here are a few clues: Jicama is: a) a tropical island in the southwestern part of the Caribbean b) a rare skin disease that turns the bottoms of your feet purple c) a popular spicy stew prevalent in Portugal d) an edible root, originally cultivated in South America The correct answer (and it should be no surprise for those familiar with my plethora of posts about diet and nutrition) is “d.” Jicama is a tasty, crispy, root vegetable, cultivated in South America for centuries. It is amazingly versatile, easy to prepare, and healthy for you. If you would like to learn how to pronounce jicama, or are just tired of reading, watch this video: Also known as the Mexican turnip or potato, jicama is used in many recipes south of the border. Its unique taste (a cross between an apple, potato, and water chestnut) and texture (crisp and smooth) make it one versatile veggie. Enjoy jicama: * raw, in sweet, fruit salads, or lettuce-based salads * sliced or Julienned to use with a dip * plain, eaten as a snack (squeeze of lime, some hot sauce) * diced and added to savory dishes: stews, soups, stir-fry * mashed as a side dish Once you taste jicama, you will ask yourself why you waited so long to try it. And more good news: it is loaded with fiber. One cup has about 6 grams of fiber, around 1 gram of protein, and contains less than 50 calories. Jicama is also an excellent source of Vitamin C and potassium. Simple to prepare, you peel jicama like a potato, using either a peeler or paring knife, removing the fibrous skin. From there, depending on how you want to eat it, it can be easily sliced, diced, Julienned, or mashed. Like my late discovery of the avocado, I did not taste my first jicama until I was well into my twenties, thus missing out on years of epicurean enjoyment. Don't let this happen to you. The next time you’re cruising the produce section of your grocery store, look for jicama, and grab a couple. The good news: Jicama is not a rare skin disease that turns the bottom of your feel purple, but a versatile, nutritious, and fun vegetable that will delight you with its unique taste. Until next time… peace, Mike

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Streeeeeetch Your Life

Before I take my daily walk, I do something that has helped me avoid injury, remain fit, and extend my lifetime warranty.

I STRETCH.

I perform a series of quick and simple stretching exercises that work all the muscles of my legs, from calf to hamstring. Watch this video to see my complete stretching routine.

STRETCH YOUR BODY

I have been on a steady exercise and walking program for decades and during that time I have not had one leg cramp or pulled muscle or any number of the injuries associated with the wear and tear of persistent pavement-pounding. Why? Because stretching works. Stretching warms up and loosens muscles and joints, better preparing you for the task at hand.


But don’t stop with merely stretching your legs or other body parts. Stretch the rest of your TRIAD (Mind, Body, Spirit).

I’ve demonstrated several ways how to stretch the BODY, now lets:

STRETCH YOUR MIND

I often stress the importance of feeding your brain as much intelligent food (data) as possible. All too often, the mind is consuming too much junk food, or bad data. We all know what happens, physically, when you eat too much junk food: you gain weight, consuming too much sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats and sugars, which causes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other health problems.

Instead, stretch your mind, feeding it good, healthy foods (data):

* Read, every day (“A Book a Week is All I Ask“). Stretch your mind by reading diverse topics, explore your weak areas that need developing, spanning all genres, utilizing every media available: newspapers, magazines, novels, non-fiction, self-help, how-to, blogs, and websites.

* Learn a musical instrument or a foreign language. This exercises different parts of your brain, stretching you further.

* Continue your formal education. Full-time or part-time, go for that AA, or BA, or BS, or MBA, or PhD. This will not only stretch your mind, but it’s also a valuable career asset.

* Pursue your autodidactic education.
An autodidact is a self-taught person, someone who continues his or her education through methods other than formal schooling. Never in history has there been more opportunity or information at your fingertips than today.

Stretch your mind, read every day, learn something new, explore the oceans of data available only a mouse-click away, while avoiding all the negative, unproductive junk food (data) that same mouse-click away. Your brain with benefit, just like your body, in the long run.

STRETCH YOUR SPIRIT

Spiritual fulfillment, or happiness, or just contentment, especially during challenging times like these, is as difficult to attain as it is essential in becoming he complete person we all strive to be.

If you possess great physical strengths and an exceptional intellect, yet remain unhappy, your Triad of Balance is lacking, incomplete. Besides feeling the pain of being out of balance, your are also spiritually bereft.

Stretch yourself spiritually:

* Give to charities, volunteer your time to worthy causes. By helping those less fortunate than yourself, you help yourself.

* Join local clubs or groups where you can interact with like-minded thinkers. Sharing thoughts, mingling, talking and laughing in a community setting go a long way toward improving your mental, happy health.

* Meditate, practice yoga. Relax the soul, and the body and mind will follow.

* Be positive, all the time. Easier said than done, but well worth the conscious effort.

*Perform random acts of kindness. Sometimes just a smile can make someone’s day.

* Believe in the goodness in yourself, and the basic goodness in the world.

* Keep the faith.

Stretching is good for you. On those days when I do not feel like taking my walk or exercising, I still put on my shorts or sweats and slowly ease my body into my stretches…and soon I begin to feel the soothing, comfortable healthy ache that motivates me into action.

Make stretching your Mind and Spirit as much of an everyday activity as stretching your Body.

The benefits will far outweigh the effort.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Mom Makes One Mean Lasagna

During my recent visit Back East to, among other things, attend my brother‘s wedding, I also stumbled upon a serendipitous epiphany of gourmet delectability.

Huh?

Big words (just showing off) that merely mean: My Mom Makes One Mean Lasagna!

One Mean Vegetable Lasagna, that is.

I grew up in a half-Italian household, by that I mean an Italian household. If you know Italians, then you understand that they have a tendency to dominate a room…or a home. Gastronomically speaking, this is a good thing! The funny thing is, my mom is not the Italian in the family, she’s French. But by marrying an Italian man, she was bound by Sicilian and old Francis Ford Coppola Films tradition to learn, from a genuine Nana, how to make a
tomato sauce from scratch. And also how to please the garlic- and olive oil-loving palate of a gentleman with a vowel at the end of this last name. The good news: she more than passed the test; she excelled.

Have I mentioned: My Mom Makes One Mean Lasagna!

So, when I informed my mother that I would be taking that big (not that big, actually) jumbo jet in the sky back to her neck of the woods to be among family and friends to celebrate her youngest child’s nuptials, she naturally asked if she could cook something special for me. And I naturally requested her World Famous Lasagna…but with one catch.

Mike: Can you make me a vegetable lasagna?
Mom: Oh…I’ve never made one of those.
Mike: I know, that’s why I’m asking you. No meatballs.
Mom: Oh…you used to love my meatballs.
Mike: Yes, Ma, I did, but I’m a vegetarian now. Remember?
Mom: Oh…right. You can’t eat meatballs?
Mike: No meat, Ma. None. So, can you make a meatless lasagna?
Mom: Oh…I suppose. What kind of vegetables do you want?
Mike: Anything, surprise me.
Mom: Oh…
Mike: And no pork fat, please, in the sauce.
Mom: Oh…dear…what?
Mike: Mom?
Mom: Oh…but I always use pork fat.
Mike: Yes, I know. Can you use something else?
Mom: Oh…I suppose…
Mike: Mom?
Mom: Oh…
Mike: Mom?
Mom: Oh…

On and on it went until we agreed that olive oil would be a healthy and tasty alternative to the pork fat my mother usually adds to the saucepan in which to sauté the onions and garlic and whatever else she uses to start her World Famous Tomato Sauce.

During the weeks and days leading up to my trip Back East, my mother would call often, grilling me on my vegetable preferences.

Mike: Hello?
Mom: Michael, do you like mushrooms?
Mike: Huh?
Mom: For the lasagna.
Mike: Oh. Yeah, sure, love ‘em.
Mom: How about your brother?
Mike: Huh?
Mom: Do you think he’s allergic to them?
Mike: Huh?
Mom: Or his fiancée?
Mike: Huh?
Mom: How about eggplant?
Mike: Huh?
Mom: Cauliflower?
Mike: …

After numerous calls and some serious consideration of adding my mother’s phone number to my “no-call” list, we settled on what will from this point on be known as “The Masterpiece.”

I landed in my old state on a Monday and sat down to a small gathering of family and friends at mom’s house on a Tuesday. My salivary glands the only part of my body not suffering from jet lag, I watched with utter amazement as my tiny mother removed from the oven a tray of vegetable lasagna, slightly larger than some of the carry-on luggage I saw my fellow air passengers unsuccessfully trying to cram into the overhead bin.

Heaped upon a plate before me was a wedge of lasagna, roughly the size of my head while wearing a large hat. I dug in. It melted in my mouth. The veggies were cooked just right; not too crunchy or too limp. And the tomato sauce was the best ever: savory and vibrant. Without the overpowering (sorry meat-eaters) presence of the meatballs and pork fat, I could taste more of the tomato and garlic, which also brought out the succulent olio of flavor from the broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggplant.


It was delicious!

It was “The Masterpiece.”

When I stated that my mom made one mean lasagna, I wasn’t kidding. Now I can emphatically add that:

My Mom Makes One Mean Vegetable Lasagna!

The moral of this story: For a healthier, tastier life, go veggie and hold the meatballs.

Until next time…

peace,

Mike