Focused Living, One Month at a Time

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Challenge #30(!) - Wrapping Up

So long, sun (and this project)
“You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path.  Aim high.  Behave honorably.  Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure.  Persist!  The world needs all you can give.”

-E.O. Wilson

So this was going to be THEEE month, the “third time’s the charm” (I’ve tried this challenge a few times before), the final challenge in this project to get the new website up and running with a fancy new logo and content-rich and photos and functioning technically optimally and growing the number of pages and site visits and time spent on the site, and steadily expanding an email list and sharing and posting and commenting and responding and promoting it all across all those social media channels, etc, etc, etc and you guessed – didn’t happen.  I did start off the month with some enthusiasm and worked on it a bit, but work and the holidays and other assorted life events (like spending a few weeks on a beautiful tropical island) interfered and basically sucked up my priority management and focus ability, sigh.

Bright Side:  Now that this project is ending, for 2014, the new entire focus will be on the new site – different aspects each month so I will take my time and not feel so rushed to perfection (like each time I have tried during this very varied monthly project).  So there you have it. 

Meanwhile, here’s a brief list of things I learned overall while doing this project, a summary of sorts.

1.     Workouts, of any kind, are easiest in the AM - no question.  And I always feel better all day afterward.

2.     The months that consisted of small habits every day like watching the sunset or running at least a mile were (generally) easier to complete.

3.     The months that had one big overarching goal such as writing 10,000 words, were a lot more challenging.

4.     Corollary:  I still have a tendency to procrastinate the big unfamiliar, unpaced stuff, usually by cranking out the little easy stuff that isn’t nearly as important - I will always be working on this.

5.     Meditation and yoga do work, I need to make them a regular part of my life, and green smoothies are awesome, for so many reasons.

6.     Getting in the ocean every single day was a joyous privilege, and I need to stay connected to it this way.

7.     Life gets interrupted regularly, every single day – making lists of (at least) the top 5 priorities every single day helps me stay generally on target and efficient.

8.     The number 30 now means a lot more to me: I use it to count in workouts (30 sit ups, push ups, etc) and count backwards from it when I can’t fall asleep, among other things.  Yes I’m adopting it as my lucky number.

9.     Outwardly focused challenges, like talking to strangers and especially giving thanks were a few of my favorites because they helped me step outside of my default introvert self – another thing I will always be working on.

10.   And finally:  intention is good, action is better, but completion is definitely best.

Thank YOU sincerely for reading whatever posts you may have explored over this 2 ½ year journey, I deeply appreciate every single page view, each comment, and all the encouragement along the way. May 2014  bring you much joy (and some good challenges) too!  :)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Challenge #29: Smoothly Satisfying

Before, hmmm...

I will eat a green-ish smoothie every day.

With all the conflicting information on diet, what makes sense?  Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, larvicides, genetically modified organisms, chemical fertilizers, microwaves, pasteurization, homogenization, hormonally injected animals, color dyes, artificial additives, and high fructose corn syrup? 

Or raw, organic, sun-ripened plant food? “

- David Wolf


They are all the rage, you must have heard by now…Green smoothies, cold-pressed juices, and all kinds of variations on this theme.  One website I came across recently boldly stated, “Green smoothies are the new coffee.”  That may be overstating it a bit, but there is definitely a trend going on here. The rules for me this month were simple (since I get to make them up myself, I like to keep them easy):  I will have one blended drink that contains both vegetables and fruits every day.  Why this challenge?  Some months ago, I did a three-day juice only “cleanse” with a friend, and that was tough – by the last day I felt bloated and otherwise gastronomically uncomfortable, and we both really missed chewable food.  But I lost a few lbs, and really did feel “cleansed.”  This month would be different – just adding one of these drinks into an otherwise reasonably healthy diet, to see if this makes any huge health difference or adds any other benefits that so many are raving about these days.

During, whoa...
The Hardware and the Contents

Green smoothies specifically seem to be defined as ones that include some kind of leafy green.  Most of mine did, but a few did not.  My go-to ingredients turned out to be:

·      Veggies - kale, spinach, green leaf lettuce, cucumber, celery, red bell pepper and carrots

·      Fruits – Pineapple, apple (usually gala or granny smith), raspberry, lemon, tangerine, tomato

·      Herbs, etc – Mint, cilantro, ginger and the occasional onion

All of these were used frequently, in various ratios, and I’m certain no two were exactly alike. My hardware was simple too – no fancy juicer or super-duper ninja blender needed.  And no specific recipes, but I did get some great ideas and tips from this excellent book.  Just a high quality (yes over $100) blender did the trick: no matter how much frozen stuff I had in there, it worked great once through on the “Smoothie” setting. Clean up was fast and easy too. My other standard piece of equipment was a steel straw with a spoon end – great for stirring up these concoctions, which separate quickly between sips. 

How it Went

This was fun.  It turned into a creative outlet each morning, coming up with different combinations, and then discovering the subtle flavor differences.  One of my favorite parts was the fresh scent that burst out of the blender as I poured it into a glass. And the taste was usually just as good. 

One major exception:  Once I tried adding a bunch of fresh (from my mini-garden) aloe. I took a large stalk and peeled it, tossing the slimy innards into the blender with all the other usuals.  YUCK!  The oddly different smell didn’t warn me enough, and the taste was overwhelmingly bitter – I am seriously almost gagging remembering it right now.  To try and save the batch, I added a bunch of pineapple juice and whipped it all up again.  It was tough, but I managed to down about 8 oz. of the new version and threw the rest out, lesson learned:  just say no to aloe!

Another misfire occurred while traveling. As you know, trade shows are generally not the healthiest eating settings. Although a handy market near my hotel offered Odwallas (the only greenish type juice available), they tasted too darn sweet to me!  They were overpowered with high-sugar fruit, compared with what I had been blending at home.  So I had just two of those, and the other three days I just tried to make sure I had some fruits and vegetables.  By the end of the trip I craved my own smoothies again.

Overall, I honestly didn’t notice any radical health changes or benefits, but I did feel good mentally each time I downed them, knowing generally how many natural vitamins, minerals and healthy fiber I was ingesting, and I will keep consuming these regularly.

After, YUM!
A Few Tips

If you want to try incorporating smoothies into your daily (or occasionally) eating habits, here are my brief recommendations.

       Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Cut up vegetables and fruits ahead of time and keep them handy, including the greens and herbs. A good chopping session once a week should do it if you want to try daily smoothies.
       Use your freezer!  I like cold smoothies, and a good way to keep just about all the items you are going to use fresh is to cut into smallish pieces and freeze them.  Even leafy greens, herbs, whatever, really.

        Try “savory” smoothies  - a few of my favorites were the bloody-mary-without-the-vodka style, like: tomato, celery, kale, cucumber, arugula, shallot, lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Not as pretty green to look at (mine were kinda pale brownish), but delicious in their own way!

I’d love to hearing about your adventures juicing and/or smoothing, any experiences?  Meanwhile, on to December – THE FINAL MONTH of this project (gulp), hope you’ll stay tuned!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Challenge #28 Diving (a bit) Deeper

Soooooooooooooo...I was all set (again) to work on my "new" website (focused on scuba diving) this month, and launch (softly) on November first. Didn't happen.  BUT, I made some progress (not nearly as much as I would have liked).  I met with my graphic designer friend and made serious logo progress, spoke with another friend about website traffic and her blog, and then I actually went on a dive trip (it had been way too long!).  It was the coldest, windiest, unfriendliest tropical weather I had ever experienced, and although we did dive (not nearly as much as I would have liked), I salvaged the sunny gorgeous final day of the trip with a great snorkel outing with my divemaster Josh.  And like the weather, I salvaged the 28th (wow, almost done!) month of this project by writing the following post. So here is a sneak peek (lucky you!) at one of the first items you'll see over at  (And yes I do realize there are too many parens around here, thanks for dealing with it this time)  :)


Yup, this was the forecast (plus wind) and I left on Sunday
The Top 7 Things To Do When The Weather Sucks
(And you can’t go diving)

It’s been raining nonstop from mice and kangaroo rats to cats and dogs to the occasional cows and horses. Nothing but rain here in Fiji for the first 56 (and counting) hours…

Let’s face it, you paid darn good money to be here and those sugarplum visions of sugar white beaches and dead calm warm turquoise seas (with perfect visibility of course, have been dancing in your head for months, and are what you expect) - damn it!  You followed the recommendations about when the best time to travel here, but sometimes Mother Nature unfortunately doesn’t care - she has her own agenda, no matter what history or anyone says the weather SHOULD be this month, this week, or today.  She may just need to cry it out, blow it out (or even hurricane it out) all over your vacation, and you are stuck with it. So here are some ideas about how not to get your swimsuit in a wad and deal with it like a grown-up…you may even enjoy yourself in the process – bonus!

Even the Myna birds were squawking about all the gray skies!
1.     Go Local - Learn something about the country, region, and town where you are, right now. Pick up the local newspaper or read it online – there are often facts and current events that may surprise and interest you.  If you watch TV, don’t do just CNN.  We listened and learned to appreciate the accent on Bonaire while watching local coverage of “Orkan (Hurricane) Ivan” in 2004.
2.     Gear Up – So that new camera you got for this trip, or your dive computer you wish you knew better?  Take this down time to study the manual, or go online and watch videos of how to use it – there are multiple resources on YouTube now for this kind of stuff.  The more you know the better prepared you will be when you get underwater again. And that camera, take the time now to download, organize, and edit photos you have already taken - you know you won’t ever have enough time to do it all when you get back home…
3.     Flora and Fauna – What is the name of that bird that loves your breakfast crumbs, or that beautiful flower you want to share with your friends back home? Look them up online and enjoy learning about nature’s bountiful diversity in the tropics.  If you are a fish-watcher like me, it never hurts to brush up on your Fish ID – studying always helps to prepare you for the next dive, no matter when it may be. 
4.     Work Out – Even if your hotel doesn’t have a gym, yes you can do it in your room – even just 20 minutes a day of calisthenics, yoga, or even just jogging in place will help you stay fit and healthy.  Your body will thank you for this, especially after eating all those banana pancakes and mai-tais…you know who you are.
5.     Pleasure Read – That novel on your Kindle you haven’t gotten around to, the unexpected book from the borrow library in your hotel, the magazines you haven’t had time to read at home. Just read for the sake of reading (and taking your mind off the weather).
6.     Treat Yourself - If you’re at one of those fancy resorts, indulge – get a massage, facial, pedicure (got dive booty toes anyone?), whatever strikes your fancy.  Or just take a long relaxing nap; you’re on vacation, remember! Relax and appreciate your vacation, even if it isn’t quite turning out exactly as you planned.
7.     Go Local (In Person) – Go hang out at the bar, the restaurant, the dive shop, and talk to the friendly locals.  Learn about their perspective on life here, diving and everything else.  This is the best way to get to know a place, and maybe make a new friend in the process…enjoy!
And finally, here’s what I recommend NOT to do: complain - to your spouse, your travel mates, the hotel and dive staff, and even to yourself. There is ultimately nothing you can do about the weather, so make the best of it and show off your good karma - Mother Nature may indeed be listening...