Sunday, July 22, 2012

Modifying food choices even further

A few weeks ago I decided to eliminate dairy products from my diet just to see what would happen. I've had one common recurring health issue that many women get that has plagued me since I was in my 20s off and on. I found out that this issue is likely caused by milk and its other by-products.

I don't drink milk, but I do consume plenty of dairy: yogurt, cheese, half n half in my coffee. It's not a whole lot, but enough just the same. So I bought some soy creamer and a couple cartons of almond milk and coconut milk at Trader Joe's. I tried coffee with just the almond milk one afternoon and it was rather nasty. Half soy creamer and half almond milk was good. I don't want to go too heavy on soy products because that can be unhealthy too, so I try and balance it out.

A week ago I got the book Skinny Bitch from the library. In the past I was was put off from reading it because I had heard it was rather vulgar, but in the end, the salty language made it funny and not much different from how I hear people talk today anyway. But the basic message in the book is to recommend a vegan diet because it is the healthiest and most morally responsible way to eat.

So now I've been eating vegetarian as often as possible, filling up on my fresh fruit and vegetable juice in the morning and eating a big salad before having lunch or dinner. I've been trying out tempeh and making more vegetarian dinners. I've eliminated Diet Coke and have seltzer water or club soda if I want something bubbly. I put away the Splenda and now use raw agave nectar and use my steevia more often - no more artificial sweeteners.

I've lost SEVEN pounds!

I'd like to lose another 10-15 pounds, even more if possible. I've never been very overweight, just a little bit, and those pounds added up slowly over the years beginning with my happy comfort 5 pounds I put on just before getting  married. It needs to come off.

My husband is not vegetarian, nor contemplating a vegan diet, but to his credit (and he deserves a lot of credit) he has also modified his eating habits. This is a man who used to insist on meat for every meal and he'd eat big portions of meat. His weakness was beef.

He's now open to having beef only once a week, (I'll eat a different vegetarian meal on that day). The rest of the week has lighter meats with less portion sizes and a vegetarian meal once a week. He incorporates more vegetables into his meals and even joins me with a morning juice, something unheard of earlier!

Here are a couple of websites I enjoy reading that has been helpful:
Vegan Coach
Green Smoothie Girl
Forks Over Knives (great movie you MUST see. Their articles and recipes are terrific resources.)
Happy Cow

Do you have any recommendations? Success stories? I'd also love to hear comments if YOU are vegan or vegetarian with a non-veg spouse.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Summer Happenings

Since Aidan got out of "regular" school a few weeks ago, I've been spending a majority of my time with him. It's given me some time to think about the direction my life has taken and I'll sum it up as follows.


Golf is getting on board for a healthier lifestyle and I couldn't be happier. But our eating schedules are exactly opposite as are our sleeping habits, and that is a challenge.

I need to lose at least 15 pounds, preferably 20,  and it's becoming an urgent matter, mostly because I can't stand myself any longer. A friend of mine at the Thai temple says she simply does not eat after 4 pm. I like her idea and I'm considering giving it a try. However, Golf eats his main meal at night and if I have to cook, I will have to forbid myself to eat a bite.  Maybe I will have to eat a nice salad before 4 o'clock and then I won't be tempted.

I'd like to know if you've successfully committed to a lifestyle change regarding food when having to cook for your family. How did you do it?

I still juice every day, and now Golf's interested in joining me, so I've been getting lots of fresh produce at Berkeley Bowl for good prices and running them through the juicer every morning. I drink a liter of juice and I give a pint to Golf, who is still getting used to the taste.

I have not yet done a juice fast, because I think it might be too challenging having to fix meals for Aidan and Golf, but I might check out the Reboot forum to see if anybody there is doing that and finding support.

But I still get very tired, and I think that part of it is my mental state regarding work.


I feel utterly defeated with my online businesses. Last month gave me a total of $365 in earnings after 3 years of hard work. I don't have to tell you what kind of ROI that is. I have three websites right now and I'm letting one go. I'm not doing much with the other two because I feel so badly about them. The business model sucks, that's all I can say, and every webmaster and business owner is a slave to Google's whims. That's the bottom line and I don't want it any more.

The new business venture is definitely promising, and it incorporates art and writing. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities and I already have a story and am working on the preliminary sketches.

But instead of going at the task wholeheartedly with vim and vigor, I prefer to chat with other moms at the temple. When I do work I get sidetracked easily and find excuses to do something else. What is going on here?

I feel like I'm floating in some sort of weird void when it comes to financially contributing to the family. This has been an issue ever since we moved back from Thailand and it's a spiritual/emotional block I need to work through. Maybe I'm still reeling over my online failure.


I'm supposed to be meditating every day. I don't.
When Aidan was in regular school I would meditate every morning, but something about his summer schedule is not making me do it. I have plenty of time during the three days he's off, but instead I check FaceBook and now I'm writing in my blog.

When he goes to Thai school I am pretty good about sitting for half an hour in the main room, so I do feel good about that and it is helpful.

I have been listening to inspiring dharma talks where I want to work on myself and also change the world. But I also feel like I can't do much when my first responsibility is to take care of my family. And my family is my priority, so all things in good time. I'm not stressed about it, for taking care of Golf and Aidan gives me so much peace and satisfaction. It feels wonderful.

And so these are the three areas in my life that need some work. Writing it down gives it clarity and I see what I need to do. Hmm.. maybe once summer vacation is over, I'll update this to chart my progress.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Path Unfolding

My online businesses have been utterly devastated by Google and life has been turned upside down. Funny though, I feel numb to it all and don't care anymore. Right now I have zero interest and am taking a much needed break from building a website with an obsolete business model.

During this time off from work, I've been indulging in some activities that I enjoy. I've attended some meditation evenings and went on a date with my husband during the day to see Snow White and the Huntsman while Aidan's in school. 

Yesterday I drove to the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City for a half-day mini-retreat. From 9:30 AM to 12:15 we had both walking and sitting meditation and a short dharma talk by Gil Fronsdahl, whom I've wanted to meet for awhile now as I've been listening to his podcasts for going on 6 months now!

It was a fabulous day. I've discovered just how much I enjoy walking meditation. It holds my attention quite well and moving my body and noticing the world around me with my eyes open is appealing. I can still become rather concentrated. I will explore this further, that's for sure.

What else do I plan to do during my time away from my websites? Well, Aidan starts Thai school on the 15th and I plan to take him to the temple and just hang out all day. I may take a hike in nearby Tilden Park, walk around the neighborhood, and help out at the temple. I'd like to contribute with work, like cleaning up after lunch. The wat also has a nice garden and I would like to do more walking meditation in that garden.

During these meditations, my path has become clear. I don't have to abandon online business, but I may have to give up my stroller website. It is not viable at this point, especially if Google keeps penalizing it. Successful online entrepreneurs always talk about offering a product and selling it yourself. Product, product, product.

I like to write and I like to draw. Golf, a friend of ours and I are developing a new venture together that will produce products and these products involve aspects of creativity that I'm good at and enjoy. So I shall put all my energy into this new venture. I'm not going to say too much right now, but you can be sure that I will write about it as it develops.

Oh, and this kind of work is possible to do from Thailand as well, so if things go well next year, at the very least we can visit for a month before deciding to move back.

The path is becoming clear and it's an exciting time!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Twists and Turns Ahead

Photo credit: Huffington Post
I've been working extremely hard for three years this June on my websites. I made the decision to go in that direction to earn income at home so I could have maximum flexibility for being there for my son. Take him to school, volunteer at the school, be with him for homework every day. I also wanted to be my own boss with unlimited earning potential.

Turns out I'm not the boss when it comes to online business. Google is. My business plan is not sound: it is utterly dependent on what the big G decides is worth ranking in their top pages. For years I've worked extremely hard to put out quality content. For my stroller site I actually buy strollers, take my own photos, carefully and thoroughly test them out, and do a video demonstration and review. Google doesn't think that's good enough, apparently.

Since last year Google has made some significant algorithm changes called Panda. Late last month they released another called Penguin. I won't get into all the details about what each of these means but I will say that most of these changes slashed my traffic in almost half each time. I'd get slammed, then build back up half a year later then get taken down again.

This is not a good business model. I also see other stroller review sites that SUCK with half-assed content thrown up and only stock photos used - sometimes extremely out of date ones, too. They get ranked higher than mine. What the heck???

So when I have one of hundreds of stroller review sites that can get wiped out overnight, even when mine is miles above the others in terms of quality and value to the reader, I realize my business is way too vulnerable. I cannot have a business that gets wiped out so easily.

Yesterday I listened to a dhamma talk by Ajarn Brahm called This Too Shall Pass, and after one of his famous stories he said, "When you are surrounded on all sides and you can't do anything, then do nothing."

That really spoke to me. I can't do anything about my website, so I'm doing nothing. It's going on the back burner. I will still write guest posts on a few blogs I've agreed to do monthly, but until Google changes again, I'm not going to bother. Why put in all that hard work and effort only to be punished?

During this time, another door has opened. Golf and his friend Will have discovered a business opportunity. One that could get our families back to Thailand for a time!

So I'm helping Golf. I'm spending my time on a project that could pay off big time, that has far more potential. I totally enjoy what I'm doing and once this project ends, I'll find something else to do to help.

During the summer when Aidan goes to Thai school I shall find some opportunities to do other things than worry about when I can work on my website. Perhaps I might volunteer a few hours a week in an old folks home nearby and make some good merit. I find I'm becoming intrigued by the elderly, knowing I shall be one of them one day. I might take some more day hikes in the regional parks nearby and, of course, help out in the Thai school during lunch. Maybe even work on my own language skills!

Rather than being bitter and angry about my situation, I am actually looking forward to what the future brings me. Google may change its algorithm again and I may get huge surges in traffic and sales, but I will know that that success could be as short lived as the next algo change. My purpose is beyond that.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Daylong Retreat
I'd been planning for my best friend's 40th birthday for some time now, wanting to give her something very special. I'd heard of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin for quite some time now, and thought that a day long retreat with her would be the perfect gift.

I've also been attending Insight Meditation Center talks in both Oakland and Berkeley, and basically Spirit Rock is the "mothership" of these centers, so I had a good idea of the teachings. I'd also heard the teacher of our daylong, Sharda Rogell, give talks on DharmaSeed via podcast.

The previous week had nasty weather, the most spectacular thunder and lightning storm we'd seen in years was only two days previous to our day trip. But Saturday could not have been more beautiful: crystal blue sky, crisp breeze and warm sun. The land on Spirit Rock is gorgeous, just look at the photo! 

A small flock of wild turkeys were strutting around and the male was all puffed out, showing off his stuff to the ladies. He was magnificent!

Without going into too much detail, our day consisted of talks, sitting meditation and walking meditation. I learned that I should work with my laziness by rescheduling meditation times when necessary and not scolding myself until I actually DO something (or don't do something as the case may be).

The talks were about letting go and trusting that everything will be OK because we don't really know what REALITY really is. Just being here now, coming back and being mindful, and trusting. That's the whole point of my journey.

I was able to define my journey style, so to speak. This inner adventure of mine is just to see what happens. No goals, no concerns if I'm "doing it right" or not. Just giving it a try, keeping at it, and seeing what happens. I liken it to me being a little bug on a leaf, carried away by a stream. The Dharma Stream as Sharda called it. :) I like that.

This was a great day for Mellie, too, she enjoyed the talks, got to practice her meditation posture, contributed to conversation, and loved the environment. We both ate delicious Indian food afterward and ended our experience that night when I dropped her off at her place.

Everything went perfectly. It couldn't have been better. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Spring Break Plans (That Never Materialized)

This year for spring break we've decided to just stay home. In the past, we had some goals for spring break 2012.

The first was to be moved back to Bangkok for a few years. Yeah, I had it in my head over a year ago that by spring 2012 we'd be moving and ready to start the new Thai school year that commences in May. That certainly never happened! Funny how things change... My husband doesn't want to go now because of possible political upheaval. He says the country is on the brink of some major sh!t going down and wants to say far, far away.

Another idea I had in my head was to go visit my sister in Chicago. I've always wanted to see Chicago. I never pursued it fully and now spring break is here and it's not going to happen this time around. This is mostly because we're still just getting better in our finances and more sure footing would be better before taking a "real" vacation.

And speaking of a real vacation, if the job scene is looking better for my husband and my online business continues to improve, then we may consider going back to Thailand for a visit. I would love for Aidan to attend Daroonpat for a few weeks and take some trips this time. I'd like him to visit the beach and to take a day trip to Ayutthaya.

I feel very stagnant, but I do not dwell on this. I've been working more on improving income so that we don't HAVE to be stagnant any longer - got to work on goals in the right order after all! That is a mistake I've made in the past and it gets a person nowhere.

What is your story with goals that never materialize? How do you deal with feeling stagnant?