In a Sentiental Mood

Sometimes I need to get into the mood to blog. So tonight the candles are lit, the lights are low and Coltrane is jammin' through the speakers. I slept to Coltrane almost every night my junior year in college (random factoid about me). Something about his music soothes the soul. No matter how your day went, he refills your spirit. And I digress.

So I realized a while back that my blog offered less marinade and was offering cooked delights. Hopefully this marinade satisfies that brain stew you're slow cooking later tonight.

I guess the last few months have given me more time to think about things on my own than any other time in my life. I've always placed such high importance on the approval of the people around me, so being able to think things through and act on my own is pretty revolutionary to me. With that being said, I'd like to share a couple revelations I've come across the last few days. If I so may carry on with the self improvement posts one more time, I would be most thankful.

[Sorry that these are all about fitness. I think these ideals really apply to any goal in life]
  1. Be productive today but remember that tomorrow is also a workday.

    What do I mean by this? (I'm not trying to remind you about that report you need to finish by lunch tomorrow). Actually it's more about breaking goals down into tangible tasks. From my senior year in high school to college graduation I gained over 50 pounds! Do you know how many grocery store clerks made fun of me? Bastards! My family loves me so much that they always tell me I've lost weight but it never really dawned on until after college that I was so much heavier. I tried to lose it the way most people do. I cut out all sorts of foods. I worked out hard one day (then took a bunch off of course), and I deprived myself of many things. I would do this and lose quite a bit of weight but then feel entitled to a free weekend (which more often than not carried into the week) and I'd gain it all back. I didn't feel any better and as far as my goals were concerned they were in the shitter.

    What's the point here? That we think personal change has to be instant. Makeovers on TV, Biggest Loser, and all sorts of other media outlets give us this impression. We want instant gratification. We don't want to move up the corporate ladder. I think my generation is even worse about this than previous generations. Well in high school, I was fortunate enough to be pretty cool with one of the tougher kids in our school, Brian. One day I was in the gym and he must have seen me long-faced and ashamed of the barely visible weights I was lifting. He walked over to me. This guy is gigantic by the way (I still remember when I played on the basketball team with him, a guy punched him in the face and he laughed at the guy). So Brian comes over to me and says, “Don't get discouraged man. Chris (his good buddy) felt the same way a few months ago and I told him everyone has to start somewhere and work their way up. (At this point Chris was actually pretty cut) Even I started at that level” He said. Okay he didn't say that last part but I can remember it however I want. That must have been over 8 years ago and I still think about it when I get discouraged with my fitness goals. We need to be productive today but always remember that tomorrow is also a workday.

    I didn't see any improvement in myself until I started working out hard on a given day but reminded myself, “Leave enough for tomorrow buddy. This is about tomorrow (and a month from now). No excuses that you're tired tomorrow.” This type of thinking spread over to other aspects of my life outside of fitness which brings me to my second juicy piece.

  2. Offer yourself positive change rather than negative restrictions.
    This idea has really starting to blow my freaking mind (and those people that know what I'm talking abouts!). One of my first weird experiments was with Ajaya and Hash, where we went vegetarian for a month (I know, I know it sounds easy but believe me, we are carnivorous to the max) Anyway, there were no restrictions on what we could eat within the vegetable family. The result? Each one of us began drinking more water, we didn't eat junk food as much, and we started working out WAY more. Positive byproducts are so rewarding. I once hated most vegetables and started to love bell peppers and onions and eggplant. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that we phrased the challenge in a positive way rather than saying, "NO MEAT FOR A MONTH!"

    Now, take this last month for example. I decided to cut a little weight by cooking every meal I ate. No restrictions on what I ate. For the first 15 days, I only ate meat once. I started working out a ton more and drank craploads of water. I also no longer craved some of the foods that I constantly ate and made me feel shitty. I would actually rather eat homemade food now. I also started to really look forward to coming home and making food. So you see, this could have been phrased as, “I'm not going to eat out for a month” but because somehow I thought of it more as I'm producing my own food for a month" it had a much more positive impact on my life. It also made it more fun because it was a challenge instead of me removing something from my life.

    So maybe instead of trying to watch less TV, tell yourself that you're going to read an hour more everyday or instead of saying, “No going out until you study for an hour” maybe you should think of it as, “Every time I study I get to party.”

    Friend, I'm no disciplinary expert and I most likely never will be. I've gone to the gym before and then snuck out to go to Taco Bell instead. The point is that is this guy can do it, anyone other human can (some other animals I'm a tad bit skeptical about). For example, my diet in college consisted of hot pockets, bagel bites, corndogs, shumai, potstickers, and buffalo wings (COSTCO freezer section anyone?). For about a month span we also had those giant Nestle cookie ice cream sandwiches everyday and all sorts of ice cream. I ate those things everyday with at least a couple cups of coke and beer for good measure. Change didn't happen because I have more power than you. Change also didn't happen because I woke up one day and deprived myself of bad things. Change was gradual. Change was made up of tiny little steps (that went backwards at times) that evolved into permanent distances. We can't go through life hoping to change with the flip of a switch because that's just not fair to ourselves and life is not about depriving ourselves. It's more about being more actively in control of ourselves. So when you fall out of line, take a breath and step back in and when you look in the mirror look at yourself in the way you want to be seen and remember we're all in this together.

    Change CAN be painful and change CAN be overwhelming but maybe if we all listen to Brian and remember that everyone started in the same position as us, maybe change will come in the form of tiny steps.

On Morning Inspiration

The other day I sat at work and was rather overwhelmed with this sense of unfamiliarity and uneasiness. Usually when this happens I cycle through a couple blogs and feel better. I visited smallchou's blog (since he's been on a roll lately) and was super amused by his story of racing an older Asian man on his bike into work. The thing that struck me though was that he had run six frickin' miles that morning before his bike ride into work. I was impressed but thought nothing of it. I just pictured him walking into work at Google, where some hired servant fanned him the rest of the day. That night I came home and went on my usual run but as I came to the end of it, I thought about smallchou again and got all fired up. "If he can run before work, I can sack up and run an extra mile or two after work," I thought. Sure enough not only did I run farther than I have ever run that day but I did it two more times!

These inspired runs led right into one of the best weekends of all-time. On Friday night I went to a BBQ at Ritz', came home and cleaned my place, and then went to a birthday party in the city. Oh but wait! Then our night began. We came back to my place, had a couple frosty beverages and played wii for a couple hours. Believe it or not we were waiting to go out again. The City of Chicago was throwing this all-night party downtown and we wanted to see the tail-end of it. We rolled to this community center downtown, which seemed abandoned. As we walked in, I got a HUGE smile on my face. At least a hundred people were playing chess, two to a table. Now I am talking people big and small; people black, white, brown, green; people in their 80s and people too young to cross the street. It was seriously an inspiring scene. We couldn't even get a table to play on. While all this is going on, the main hall has Classical Indian music, which was too popular for us to even get into!

My friends were fading fast and I made my last attempts to keep them awake. "Coffee? Red Bull? Come on Ritz!" The classic line of, "We really want to stay BUT we're tired." Alas, it was not meant to be. So the night was over..... well it would have been.

Rewind to a time before I moved and I probably would have gone home with them. I was determined to stay by myself and walk over to the park. They were going to have a CELEBRATION at sunrise. I grabbed a giant coffee and walked over to the park around 4:45 AM. I met a bunch of loving folks that were enjoying their night. We all sat in a big circle on the lawn at Millennium Park and waited for the festivities. What were they? YOGA! So at this point I had been up since 6 AM on Friday and I was doing YOGA in a park at sunrise at 5 AM on Saturday (in a hoody and hat nonetheless). I did many downward dogs and triangle poses as the sun warmed the park and then sat front row for a choir singing morning (WAKE UP!) songs. If that wasn't enough though Stavi (who's a med student) just got off call, picked me up and we went shopping for groceries. We came home, woke Ritz up and cooked a mean ass brunch, went for a walk and then I finally called it a night around noon.

As I stood there in the park at sunrise I had this weird feeling. Maybe what I think of as a emotional feeling of being lonely is actually just me getting used to being physically alone? As I stood alone in the park, I seriously felt like everyone I had ever known was there with me (sure maybe I was delirious). I felt more like I was there because of all those people and it was a CELEBRATION of that idea! It wasn't the cold feeling associated with loneliness but a warm feeling of comfort (even though I knew not a soul out there). Maybe even though we spend most of our lives physically alone, we're actually still connected to those people in our lives all the time.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it's the smallest, seemingly inconsequential events that light the fire at our core. I haven't seen smallchou in person in years and yet he's changed the course of my fitness routine (and not even on purpose). We reflect on one another and reflect ourselves back onto the people around us. The tiniest of movements and actions influence the people around us. So keep your eyes and ears open.... this post is just one example but if we're if we're open to them, life changes may be just one small(chou) step away!

Picture Show

I have a few things I really want to post about but have yet to find the right words to describe them. I had one of the best weekends I've had in a long time and tonight I went and saw Les Nubians (a French r&b duo) and they blew my mind too. I also went samba dancing a few days ago. Still digesting the coolness of some of those events including my first Flaco's in Chicago. Anyway here are some pictures from the last few days. Hope you enjoy them. A real post is coming soon.

To the right is some masoor daal, mushroom and green bean medley and some chana (garbanzo bean) masala. Since going on my "only eat what I cook" routine I've only eaten meat once. Another weird byproduct of trying something new. Not to mention the redonkulous amounts of water I've been drinking.

To the left is a great example of my lack of actual cooking skills. Every night I know I have to cook for myself. So of my available ingredients I throw something together. Top left is bell peppers and mushrooms in a soy sauce and sriracha sauce, bottom left is canned tomatoes and kidney beans in italian spices with A LOT of chili peppers, and since presentation is everything I dropped some black beans and avocados in there too for good measure. See, you can all make shit like this EASILY. It's just a matter of making yourself do it!

LES NUBIANS! The concert was phenomenal and both of them are gorgeous! Their message was smart and super positive and I was really impressed. Those that have never heard their music should definitely check it out. An entire concert in French (I don't even know French) and they rocked the house. An entire post about my thoughts about their message and concert is coming soon.

When Hegyi and I were in business, Chuck was one of our best customers. Having him here over the weekend brought back sooooo many memories. I was going to make a Cinco de Mayo mustache too but he fell asleep and I decided to shave instead.

My thoughts about these cups? No fight could ever be broken out in their presence. Am I right? TURKISH coffee is the BEST! One of my coworkers hooked us up!
Anyway sorry about the picture show today but theres been lots going on and soon enough some really coherent mind blowing marinades shall be offered to the masses to cook your mental chickens. Until then.... enjoy your Thursday and GO WARRIORS!

Fill Us Diller

It's always insightful to see what drives the people around you. Some may be driven by food or money or family or the want for love. What drives you people to get up in the morning and do the everyday hustle?

Complete this sentence:

I live for ____________________. (could be many words or a few)

(p.s. HAPPY FRIDAY people)


Tonight a third citizen entered the Small World and it seems like more and more people are are sharing stories!

Marinades from the past few days:

Daily Laughs:
Are there some things that make your day everyday? There's one guys at work that looks exactly like Sylar from Heroes. Everyday he wears a hat and glasses just like Sylar. I walk past him and think in my head, "SYLAR!" Then I laugh to myself a little bit. I've been watching an episode or two of South Park before going to bed too. The latest season of that show is sooo on point with the comedy. Any quirky things you see everyday at work or home that make you laugh?

Chosen Dependence:
For the longest time I've felt like I've been way too dependent on the people around me. I've been on the flipside and been that crutch for people before and it sucks. Do you have a person or persons in your life that you feel like you're dependent on when in need? Well this week I have basically embraced my alone time and really tried to make the most of it rather than getting all weirded out. I've gotten so much done and realized that alone time is actually MY TIME (when I can make shit happen). Revelation. I'm thinking too that I was never fully dependent on the person(s) but kind of loss my point of reference out here. It feels good to realize that I really do just enjoy having them around.

Slow Food:
Hegyi (the other half of Flaco's) has been telling me to get down with an organization called Slow Food, which seems pretty cool. Bringing my lunch to work is starting to make me feel like I did in elementary school. Everyone else is buying chicken nuggets and tater tots everyday (okay the occasional pizza slice) but I know that whatever I've brought is going to be as delicious as I made it (or gross). It's made me think a lot about what I actually eat AND I think something I really want to start pushing is fresh food and teaching people how easy cooking can be. Making actual dishes is just as easy and sometimes less time consuming than making pasta or macaroni. More to come on this topic SOON!

The other funny thing is people always ask me where I learned how to cook. I don't know how to cook but I definitely know how to eat. So I work backwards. I think about what tastes good. For tonight's party on the stove I invited red bell peppers (thought of you niva), garlic, onions, hmmmm some tandoori powder straight from the motherland, some thai chillies and soy sauce for good measure. I had no clue what I was making but when you use all ingredients you like, more often than not it tastes pretty good.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Here's what I took to lunch today. Felt really good to be healthy again and bring my own food. As healthy as food can be in the cafeteria at work nothing beats bringing in your own food!

I also have been saving a little bit of my lunch everyday to eat right before I leave the office. On days I go grocery shopping, this prevents HUNGRY SHOPPING (how much do you do that?) and on days I work out, I don't feel like I need to eat when I get home and can get right to the gym.

By the way, as a snack, tomatoes with black pepper on top of them are DELICIOUS! I also drank a ridiculous amount of water today which always give me extra energy and makes me less hungry. Who knew?