Friday, January 20, 2017

Five things to do today instead of watching the presidential inauguration.




1) Watch President Obama's farewell address again, or for the first time

2) Make signs for the Women's March

3) Send a message to oppose Betsy Devos

       and then maybe watch this to amuse yourself...




4) Spend time with your loved ones

5) Read a book, see a movie, create some art, clean your house, make a smoothie, Netflix binge....literally anything else.


The loudest sound that we can make in protest of this event is our collective silence.

Then tomorrow, the fight begins.


- A -




Thursday, January 19, 2017

The mind has a mind of its own.


"Sync up with the now."

This was the mantra for day 12 of the 31 day yoga challenge I am taking part in this month, and although I've moved on to newer practices, I can't get it out of my head.

I'm finding this aspect of yoga - being fully present - a little difficult these days. There's just so much going on. 

Life stuff, family stuff, home stuff, work stuff, work stuff, work stuff.

I found myself awake at 3am the other day, for reasons unknown, and unable to fall back to sleep.

"Clear your thoughts!" My self command, punctuated by a heavy exhale. "Clear your thoughts. Relax your muscles. Find ease. Nothing matters now." Only to realize two minutes later that the wheels had begun to churn again.

It's a constant battle, for some of us anyway, to control the mind. 

Yoga can do wonders and has helped me to focus my attention over time, but even that seems to be no match for my industrious brain these days.

So whir on, inner cogs. I won't fight you. That won't help. 
I will accept you, silently, recognize you, and then encourage you along. Determined in my pursuit of ease and peace and a quiet mind.


- A -






Sunday, January 15, 2017

Healthcare in the United States - current issues and events.


Just as I finish writing and publishing a post about focusing on the good, I am forced to eat my words.

Typical.

There are some really scary things going on in the United States at the moment regarding health care provision. For the last four years, the Republican party has made it their business to undermine every initiative or attempt made by the Obama administration to improve the lives of American citizens (and to improve global perception of the United States).

Now they are seeking to overturn the decisions that were made - to repeal large parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the only progressive healthcare plan that the United States has passed in fifty years - and using the flaws and ineffectiveness of these laws (which mainly exist because of the Republican party's determination to block reform at every possible turn and render the plan useless) to justify their actions. 

The following comments were made by someone I know, who studied and now works in public health and health services:

"And just to be clear, the ACA has been successful: the number of uninsured has dropped, health care cost growth has slowed, quality has improved, patients with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage, I cannot be charged more for insurance because I'm a woman, when I go to chain restaurants like Starbucks I know what a ridiculous number of calories are in a venti latte (those calorie-count posting requirements were in the ACA), non-profit hospitals are required to better demonstrate their community benefit, NO LIFETIME OR ANNUAL LIMITS ON COVERAGE, I can see an OB/GYN as my primary care physician without a referral, there's a center dedicated to finding ways to deliver and pay for care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries that improves quality and lowers cost. What needs to be tackled now are the increasing out-of-pocket costs for consumers, which requires addressing the underlying PRICE of healthcare, which is based on the price of the inputs of healthcare like prescription drugs and medical devices - and costs of administering care under multiple different payers instead of a single payer - which in this country can cost upwards of 5 times that of other OECD nations. But again, what did the GOP just do to "rescue" that? They voted down an amendment that would have helped to reduce the rising costs of drugs by importing from Canada. They're the failures."


Needless to say, many people are frightened about what will become of their coverage once the changes that are currently being sought after take effect, especially as the incoming administration has failed to present any evidence of a new healthcare plan or of how the gaps will be filled.



More information:


So, tell me what is actually happening


Current GOP Replacement Plans Don’t Fix Obamacare’s Biggest Problems








We aren't even one day into this new administration, and yet it is successfully and consistently inspiring fear, confusion and disgust in the American people. We have to take action to combat this. We have to protest. We have to share our stories. We have to contact our representatives and tell them that we do not agree with these decisions, and to implore them to represent us in Washington.

The question is no longer, will you do anything to prevent further infringement on our civil rights, but what will you do? How will you do it? Who will you speak to and how will you show up for yourself and your neighbors? We can no longer afford to be idle.


- A -






Friday, January 13, 2017

Year's end - some shining moments.


As I said in my last post, though the final months of 2016 were dark and cloudy, there were some seriously stunning silver linings. Here are a few photos from those moments that I neglected to document on this blog.


My sister's visit in August and our trip to Cork.




On a walk with friends in Yorkshire in October.


Right before my best friend said, "I do."


And right after..... Pie.

Plus, some of the professional photos, because it would be just plain wrong to deny you that pure joy and the most perfect Autumn day.











And finally, Christmas cookie baking! What a great batch this year. Find the recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies here,


and Polish Pierniczki, here.

Gratuitous



As we roll on into the new year, it is so important to focus on the positives and to keep our hopes high for the future. Things are still a bit grim, but the fight continues and human kindness is a powerful thing. Instead of looking back on all of the horrible things that happened last year and finding ourselves overwhelmed, we need to keep our sights set dead ahead and vow to make this year a better one.

So, come at us 2017. We will not let ourselves be kept down, we will welcome you with open arms and we will keep on dancing.









- A -


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017.



2017. Thank goodness. We have been eagerly awaiting you.

Last year was tough for many of us, but we still managed to find some moments of light. 

I had the opportunity to explore some stunning scenery and a little bit of culture during our travels to Austria, Iceland, Devon and the Lake District, and Cork, Ireland. I went skiing for the first time (and surprised myself by loving it)! We were also really lucky to be visited by a number of our loved ones, and to be able to travel back to the states for a very brief, but wonderful, family-filled week in November.




My #bestnine Instagram photos from 2016. Can I just say that I LOVE that the pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving is front and centre! Find more photos from Instagram here.



The best part of 2016 for me, though, was the fact that O and I were finally able to live together. Our main focus since last Christmas has been on working, laying a foundation for our future, and just enjoying every day together, without the spectre of separation looming over us. Sounds simple, but it was something that we had never experienced before and something we'd been looking forward to for a very long time. 

This year we are hoping to build upon what we started last year - both figuratively and literally. After five years of nomad-like existence, I am feeling really ready to lay down some roots. For the moment, this means England. We are so lucky to have an incredible support base in this country and in the United States, but for now, things are moving along so swiftly and this is just what feels right.

I'm not big on goals or resolutions, but I'm feeling really motivated to make some decisions this year, to make a plan and to follow through. To make it happen, so to speak. Last year we took some leisurely steps, floated along enjoying life and dreaming of things to come, but this year we are ready to buckle down and make those dreams a reality. 

So, I guess you could call that a resolution. 

Whatever it is, it's exciting. An adventure in itself - not like traveling to a new place or in a thrill-seeking kind of way, but more in the sense that we have the ability to create something wonderful, using only what is within us and what we have gathered around us. What that might be still remains to be seen, but I have no doubt that it is certain to delight and surprise us all.

Readers, stay tuned.


And may 2017 bring you all that you have dreamed of.


- A -


          

               



 ☆                   ☆                     ☆






[Edit: I used to end all of my blogs with Love, but after seeing a recent tweet from Donald Trump end that way, well.....I think you understand why I just couldn't carry on with it. New year, new sign-off, I guess, but until I figure out what that will be, my initial will have to suffice.]





Sunday, December 18, 2016

This year.



Christmas is coming.

Some of us actively avoid all of the trimmings and trappings of this season, while others of us revel in them. I am firmly set in the latter category, but this year.....

This year....

This year has been so up and down that no amount of mulled wine or carol singing could effectively take the edge off.

The world is suffering. Each day we are being inundated with such heartbreaking images and I don't know about you, but I am feeling it in a way that I never have before. 

I have empathy, don't get me wrong, but I am not an overly sensitive person. I would struggle to do my job well if I let every, little thing get to me. That's how I know that this is different. 

To be sat at the dinner table, my eyes welling with tears for seemingly no reason is just not like me at all. And no, I'm not PMSing or pregnant (don't even go there). 

I'm just sad. 

And sick at the horrendous and unnecessary things that are happening in the world.

The indiscriminate slaughtering of masses of people. The denial of rights and protection based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. The complicit ignorance of those of us who aren't directly affected allowing all of it to continue.

That is why I can't (won't) sit idle this year. I want to help. I know that I can help. 

I can help by promoting tolerance and mutual understanding, and by allying myself with those who are being discriminated against. I can help by protesting and signing petitions and by contacting those who can directly affect change. Most importantly, I can help by donating time and money to organizations that work tirelessly to do all of the above.

So, that's what I will be doing. I'll start this Christmas by donating money - in lieu of extravagant gifts and in honor of those that I hold dear - to the causes that feel most immediate to me. 

We all have a responsibility to help shape the world into a place that is safe for everyone and I know that I will only be able to enjoy the holidays this year if I feel like my efforts may help others to be able to enjoy this time as well.

If you feel as affected as I do then I hope you will also consider taking action - whether it is in addition to or instead of your gift giving this year. Our help is needed and we CAN help. 





Some ideas, if you need them:

How Can I Help People in Aleppo?

In Aleppo, we are the ones we've been waiting for

Friday, November 25, 2016

Currently reading.



My favorite. Thanks Mom!



Back when school started, in September, I set a goal for myself to make more time for reading.

I was a voracious reader growing up - something of a Rory Gilmore, always a book on the go - but as I got older and my academic agenda became more demanding something had to give and reading for pleasure fell to the bottom of the priority list.

I hoped that when I wasn't bogged down by books relating to my studies, I would have more time and and an increased desire to return to reading as a daily habit but, sadly, the working world has proved to be just as draining as the world of education.

So, I made a goal - and so far I feel like I'm achieving it. I have been pushing myself to choose reading over other, more mindless activities and have made it through a fair few books this autumn. Every once in a while, though, when things get crazy, I just feel the need to put down the book and pick up something a little more relaxed.

So, here it is. What I am currently reading - a big ol' stack of magazines - mostly Real Simple magazines that my mom saved up for me over the past few months since they don't sell them in the UK.

The perfect indulgence :)


Love.