Archive for August, 2010


Superheroes have a bad habit of over-extending themselves. They want to do great things. They want to save the world–and they want to do it all by 5 o’clock on Friday. Problem is, they burn out by 3 o’clock on Thursday and hate themselves for not being able to do it.

Guess what–you can say no!

But I feel so guilty.

I know,me too, but you can say no. Here are a few tips to help you avoid burning that candle at both ends:

  • Know your limitations: Face it, there are some things you’re just not good at. Yes it great to challenge yourself and try new things, but if its outside of your area of expertise, politely decline. Even better–suggest someone from your hero network who is better qualified.
  • Be realistic about your time: There are only 24 hours in a day, only 7 days in a week. Even if you have a time machine you have to sleep eventually, and eat, and spend time with friends and family–you get the picture. If you don’t have time, you don’t have time–period.
  • Stick to what matters most to you: There are millions of worthy causes out there all in need of great volunteers like you. Only get yourself involved in the ones that truly speak to your heart and passions. It’s okay not to actively engage in every cause. In fact, fully engaging in one cause has a greater impact then half-assing several. Plus, you’ll be better able to fulfill your obligations, which will make your fellow heroes appreciate you more!
  • Just say no!: Reminisce with this catchy slogan and save yourself from over-committing by finding the power to just say it–NO!

Superheroes know organic is better for our bodies and for the planet, but most people believe organic foods are expensive, hard to find, and out of reach. Now, I’m a coupon clipping, budget conscious mom yet I’ve been able to easily integrate organic choices into my family’s diet. It just takes a little know how and a few tricks:

  1. Focus on the dirty dozen. Although 100% organic would be great, for some people its just not feasible. That’s why Environmental Working Group puts out an annual list of the dirty dozen–the top 12 fruits and vegetables known to have the highest and most harmful concentrations of pesticides and chemicals. If you can’t go 100% organic, focus on just replacing the dirty dozen with organic choices.
  2. Shop in season. The reason organic is sometimes more expensive is because, out of season, organic is more expensive to produce. In season, organic fruit and vegetables are considerably cheaper. One, because it has a shorter shelf life and needs to move quickly. Two, because organic produces abundant crops in season. Plus, focusing on seasonal choices forces you to add variety to your diet and to eat in a way that’s more in tune with your bodies natural processes.
  3. Shop local. Not only is it great to show support for your local farmers and ranchers, it’s cheaper too. You cut out the middle man and if you frequent the farmer’s markets and small outlets on a regular basis, you can develop a rapport with the producers–and get in on some good deals reserve for loyal customers.
  4. Shop like the Europeans do. One of the biggest issues is that many Americans end up throwing away huge amounts of food. We buy too much at a time, so the fruits and veggies go bad before we’ve had a chance to consume them. I’ve been guilty of it too and have to wrangle myself when I’m surrounded by sales and delicious looking fruit. Europeans don’t buy in bulk. They buy enough for a few days or a week maximum, especially for perishables.
  5. Go frozen. Frozen items such as meats, fruits, and vegetables keep longer and often have higher nutrient value than fresh. This is another great way to avoid the waste mentioned above.

Chain stores are also jumping on the organic trend, offering organic choices at competitive prices. As it becomes more popular and more people elect organic over conventional, availability will go up and the price will go down. It’s all part of that vote with your dollar concept I ranted about on Monday’s soapbox.

Cancer survivor, author, dancer, spokeswoman–all at an age when most girls are thinking about prom and American Idol. Melinda Marchiano shows us that heroes come in many forms and at any age.

Diaz: You are a survivor of childhood cancer. What was the greatest challenge you faced while fighting cancer?

Marchiano: The greatest challenge I faced while fighting cancer was being patient.  Being sick and feeling horrible day after day was exhausting both physically and emotionally.  I had to remain patient and remind myself that I would have to wait a long time before I felt anything like myself again.

Diaz: What gave you the passion to fight your disease?

Marchiano: Dance, family, and God all inspired to keep fighting.  I began lessons at age three, so dance has been a lifelong passion and has always been there to give my spirit a boost.  My family was so supportive of me during my illness, and I am so grateful to have so many who love me.  To give up during my fight against cancer would have meant letting them down; leaving my family would have made them suffer which I just couldn’t let happen.  I have had a very strong faith all of my life, but during my journey I became even closer to God.  He was with me at every step along the way and provided comfort to me when nothing or no one else could.

Diaz: Do you think your experience has given you a different perspective from other girls your age?

Marchiano: My experience has given me a completely, utterly, entirely, exponentially different perspective than other girls my age.  Not to generalize, but most girls my age are very absorbed in the tiny events and concerns of their “life bubble.”  After going through cancer, I see a wider view of the world and don’t share the same worries as others.  My eyes have really been opened up to exactly what matters in life, and many girls my age simply have not been introduced to this take on the world and existence.

Diaz: You’re the debut author of Grace: A Child’s Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery. What motivated you to write a book?

Marchiano: What motivated me to write a book was my intense desire to help others through my story.  I reached a point in my “cancer maturity” when it all stopped mattering about me and I realized that I could really give hope to other people by sharing my journey.

Diaz: You speak and advocate on behalf of several organizations including the Children’s Miracle Network. What is your motivation for doing this?

Marchiano: Being a speaker and an advocate for many different organizations is my way of expressing gratitude for my life, so appreciation is my motivation.  I discovered that my unique story can be a gift to many organizations and help them receive the financial support they need to do the wonderful things that they do!

Diaz: How can people help your cause?

Marchiano: People can help my cause in many ways!  They can purchase a book by going to www.happyquail.net and contacting us!  Happy Quail regularly makes donations from book proceeds to organizations such as the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network, and many more!

Diaz: How do you balance promoting your book, speaking on behalf of these organizations, participating in dance, and maintaining a full and successful academic schedule?

Marchiano: To maintain my busy schedule I prioritize, organize, make lists, avoid spreading myself too thin, stay on top of things, and take lots of nice, deep breaths!

Diaz: What would you tell someone else who is facing their own personal challenge?

Marchiano: To anyone facing their own personal challenge, I would tell them to always hold on to what makes you happy in life.  Rough times are exactly when you need that “something” that consistently boosts your spirit and is always there for you, even when you feel as though your life is completely out of control.  For me, that “something” was dance, for you, it could be anything…reading, playing piano, drawing, soccer…anything you love!

Diaz: What’s next for you?

Marchiano: Next is junior year of high school!  Also this fall, I will be busy promoting my book, which will be released October 1st nationwide!  As far as long-term, I plan on becoming a doctor and continuing to write and dance!

As a society, our priorities are screwed up. We reward bad behavior, and we reward it richly with money, fame, excuses, and ratings. You see it most in entertainment with reality television following spoiled housewives and over sexed twenty-somethings and in the news with starlets serving a couple of weeks of a nine month sentence. You also see it when the star football player is arrested with a DUI and gets off with a shrug and a “boys will be boys.”

There’s a saying, “vote with your dollar.” Every time you watch that terrible reality show, every time you choose to read the tabloid full of exposes, every time you decide to buy the numbered jersey–you are voting. You are showing your support of unethical, selfish, materialistic mayhem.

Why not vote with your dollar for something better? Why not vote by watching the in-depth documentary that shows the plight of  the poor, the abused, and slighted and bring light to those issues? Why not vote by buying a book or article that shows the heroic, the unselfish, and other good deeds happening on the sidelines? Why not vote by recognizing the teachers, first responders, laborers, parents, and other people living honest, good lives?

You can also vote with the products you buy. Go for the fair trade coffee, choose the ethically grown cotton, support the company that pays fair wages and donates to a good cause. You still get your latte, your little black dress, and your new pair of tennis shoes. If you can get the same product then why not vote for the stand up company that actually stands for something besides a bottom line?

I’ll say it again, our priorities are screwed up. It’s time to change. Vote with your dollar. Stop rewarding bad behavior and start sending a new message.

“Prejudices are what fools use for reason.” –Voltaire

Because superheroes stand out from the crowd, its important that they be able to justify and defend their beliefs in a sound and reasonable manner. Too often, the political discourse and social commentary that people buy into are full of fallacies, faulty lines of reasoning that rely on prejudice, fear, stereotypes, and ignorance. Each fallacy has a name, but what they all have in common is the fact that they are unsubstantiated, inflammatory, and are clouding the way to healthy and sound solutions for some of our worst problems.

At best, a faulty argument looks something like this:

Mary is a woman.

Mary likes brussels sprouts.

Thus, all women like brussels sprouts.

It’s faulty to assume that what is true for one person is true for all. Right now, there are people calling for drug testing for all people receiving government assistance through welfare and unemployment. The assumption is that people on assistance must be doing drugs and that their drug abuse is the cause of their poverty and unemployment. By proxy, all people who are employed and off assistance must therefore be drug free.

It is false to make assumptions about either party. Drug use and employment are not directly related, nor is poverty and drug use. Recent Hollywood cases have shown us that there are plenty of drug addicts with more than enough money to cover their habits and their bills.

Be a responsible Superhero. Rely on evidence and logic when sharing your ideas and beliefs. Qualify your statements, and divert to authorities when you don’t know. Above all, point out when someone else uses a fallacy to defend an unfounded conclusion. It’s the most powerful way to stop injustice from prevailing.

Are You A Warrior?

The Warrior Dash is coming to Austin this year and our team is ready to go! It will be my first year competing (and I have the Turkey Trot the weekend after) so it will be interesting to see how well I do. For those of you who don’t know what it is, the Warrior Dash is a 5k obstacle course full of mud, fire, barbwire, and shenanigans. That’s right, I said shenanigans.

It’s a fun athletic event that tours the country, hitting up different cities every year. We put a team together from work (mostly ladies) and are scoping out potential costumes. We want to look the part.

The event is followed by an after-party complete with drinks, food, and live music. It spans over three days and sells out fast, so hurry up and check the schedule to see if its coming to your area so you can get in before there’s no room left. Fellow Austinites, you want to hurry!!

Hope to see some of you there!

“Stop trying to be so ordinary

Be strong and be brave

And begin your story.”

— “So Ordinary” by Ryan Star

Superheroes are much more than characters on the Technicolor pages of a graphic novel. There are real superheroes – everyday angels who spread light in large and small ways. They stand up for others in need. They help us believe again when we’ve lost hope. In the end, they change the world.

And you want to know a secret? They are no different from you or I. Really! You have that same essence of bravery, love, empathy, and empowerment flowing through your veins.

True…it’s not always easy with the pressures of family, friends, and society to embrace our inner awesomeness. Most of us make the mistake of trying to live our lives from the outside in. We focus on appearances, fitting in, and trying to make others happy. We focus so hard on avoiding losing love that we shut down our inner light. It’s the exact opposite of what we must do to live a full life and connect with our inner superhero.

To live the life we are truly destined for, we must start from within. Your experiences, your inner wisdom, your gifts are there for a reason. You are not on this Earth only for yourself. You’re here to better the world and be of service to others. Short changing yourself robs the world of something very precious.

But we can’t manage to do great things until we see ourselves as great. Unless we believe in our potential, we won’t fly. We’ll sit on the edge of the ledge, gazing out over a beautiful valley, feeling the sun’s warmth and tempting kiss of the breeze. We’ll ache for the experience that is calling us, all the while missing out on it.

We find the faith to leap by connecting to the divinity within us. So how do we begin to do that?

Meditate

Meditation calms your whole being. It centers you firmly in the present moment. This practice of relaxing the body and quieting the mind allows you to connect to the energies of love, peace, and creativity.

Fears don’t exist in the present moment. They are worries based on potential futures. Fears lose their power when you are able to stay hooked into the blessings held in the Now.

Take responsibility

You’re the co-creator of your life. You choose your perspective on situations. You decide to take a chance or to stay in the status quo.

To change your life, change yourself. Begin with your thoughts. Watch their positivity or negativity. Be aware of self-judgment and negative self-talk. When you catch those kinds of thoughts, replace them with a positive thought that connects you with the kind of life you wish to manifest.

And always realize you can choose to see the blessing or pain in any situation. You can act to change things if you are not experiencing life in the way you desire. You are not the victim in your life…you’re the hero or heroine of it.

Laugh

Joy is one of the highest vibrations in life. When we experience it, our heart opens. Our body releases stress and relaxes. We become caught up in the love of life; and that is a powerful place to be.

Stepping out of your comfort zone becomes easier if you can just laugh at yourself and enjoy the experience – even when things don’t go “perfectly.” It eases the pressure. It allows for a loving acceptance of imperfections as you grow. So let yourself have fun!

See the humanity in others

If you’re not feeling especially happy with yourself and your life, it can be easy to envy others. We see things in their life like a job, good mate, nice home, and fall into a sense of lack about our own lives.

But no one is perfect and neither is their life. They all have challenges, fears, weaknesses, strengths, joys, and sorrows. Imagine being fully in their life with all the personal history, challenges, and responsibilities. Their life won’t seem so easy or perfect when you allow yourself to see the bigger picture.

And you know what is fabulous about that? It means that, like the people you admire, you can be powerful and make a difference. It doesn’t take perfection. It takes a willingness to act from the heart and stand in your truth.

So enough with the playing small. Stop trying to be so ordinary. You’re much more than that. Be unapologetically alive today. Be brave. Try again and again. Love fiercely. Allow the amazing light within you to radiate.

You just might surprise yourself and discover there is a superhero lurking within.

Thanks Lark N. for your wonderful guest post. I hope everyone is just as inspired as I am by your words!

Diaz: What motivated you to start Tiny Buddha?

Deschene: I was looking for a way to work on the web meaningfully. As a freelance writer, I spent a lot of time writing and editing for websites that didn’t really matter to me. There had to be some way to connect technology and mindfulness instead of letting technology pull me further away from myself.

Also, I wanted to help people become happier, more self aware and more peaceful. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to understand how to be happy, and yet most of my searching has made it more elusive. I have come to realize that joy exists only in this moment, exactly as it is, because life never takes place anywhere else. There is nowhere to get to; there’s only the challenge of being.

Diaz: What is the purpose of Tiny Buddha?

Deschene: My main goal with Tiny Buddha is to help people act on what they’ve learned. Oftentimes we read or learn something, and as poignant or insightful as it may seem, it doesn’t motivate change if we haven’t experienced it directly. Even when we have experience it directly, sometimes we either don’t know how or simply don’t make the effort to put it into practice.

I hope Tiny Buddha reminds people of the endless possibilities available to us in this moment; and empowers them to observe and quiet the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that stand in the way.

Diaz: What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your project off the ground?

Deschene: Tiny Buddha started on Twitter as a daily quote, and there really weren’t any challenges there. People enjoyed the quotes and shared them, which allowed the follower base to grow organically over time.

Starting the website was a different story. It’s not the usual order of things to start a Twitter account and leverage that into a website. It usually goes the other way around. For a year and a half, people who followed @tinybuddha received just a daily quote. Many people weren’t happy to see links popping up on their stream.

I received a lot of criticism through email in the first month, partly because it was new, and partly because I was learning as I went. A close friend even suggested I might want to stick to Twitter. I didn’t want that to be an option because all my heart was wrapped up in the project, so I just kept going.

Over time, a lot of people who didn’t love the site have un-followed on Twitter, but many more who do enjoy it took their place. I have learned I don’t have to please everyone. I just need to do what feels right and allow people to think and do what they will. I don’t need to change the world. I just need to my best within my sphere of influence.

Diaz: What was the greatest success?

Deschene: The greatest success is making a meaningful difference for people. I don’t get many critical emails anymore. Instead I get a lot of personal emails from people who, like me, have struggled with feelings of inadequacy, sadness, and helplessness—and, like me, still do at times.

When someone opens up to me about positive changes they’re making, both in thoughts and actions, I feel like I have reached the pinnacle of success.

Diaz: On your blog, you talk about Tiny Buddha being a community to share wisdom. What does wisdom mean to you?

Deschene: Wisdom, to me, is more about unlearning than learning. It’s about letting go, staying open, and living mindfully in the present without regretting the past or fearing the future.

It’s about being—and accepting that sometimes you will get in your own way. We’re human. We’re meant to make mistakes. Wisdom isn’t about perfection; it’s about accepting life and ourselves, imperfections and all, and finding the courage to let ourselves be.

Diaz: We live in the information age. Do you think we as a society are wiser?

Deschene: I don’t feel the need to make that judgment. If I did, it would be a sweeping generalization pointing fingers in every direction outside myself. That’s not how I choose to operate. I’m not really looking to change the world; I’m looking to tune into myself next to other people who want to do the same.

I can tell you this much: we’re doing better than we think. Progress always presents new challenges, but it also provides new opportunities. I see people seizing them every day, in front of my eyes and on my computer screen. If we keep focusing on ways to stay present in a tech-driven world, we will continue to leverage technology for good.

Diaz: How should people use the information provided on Tiny Buddha?

Deschene: It’s different for everyone, and I welcome that. People should use the information however it makes sense to them. We’re all at different places, with different experiences, different challenges, different internal blocks, and different sensibilities.

All I hope is that people keep stay open to new ideas, take time to simply be with themselves and learn to trust their own intuition. We’re always looking for authorities in life—people to tell us what to do so we can trust we’re doing the right thing.

I am not that person. No one who writes for Tiny Buddha is. We need to learn to tune into ourselves, even if it feels like a heap of responsibility. The future is uncertain no matter how well we follow someone else’s plan. We may as well chart our own.

Diaz: What do you see for the future of Tiny Buddha?

Deschene: I am now working on my first book, which explores life’s hardest questions and how we can live happily and powerfully in the uncertainty. It will be published by Red Wheel/Weiser and available in stores next fall.

Since Tiny Buddha started on Twitter, I’m using the site to get readers involved in the process. Anyone who wants to answer one the questions for inclusion in the book (by tweeting with a hashtag) can read more about that here.

Beyond that, I am working a site redesign with Joshua Denney, a talented web strategist who has worked with me since the site launched. Next year, I expect to see a lot of developments on the site, potentially including eBooks and eCourses.

Diaz: How can people help Tiny Buddha?

Deschene: One thing people can do is help spread the word about the book. I have received hundreds of responses so far, and I hope to receive more insights before September 15th. There are many other ways to support the site—sharing it with friends or donating, for example. You can read more about that here.

Diaz: What would you tell someone else staring over the cliff, contemplating making the leap into a new life?

Deschene: You don’t need to stare over a cliff to make a new life. Usually all you need to do is take one step forward right where you are. That can sometimes feel even scarier because it means sinking into the moment and working within it instead of trying to escape it. Your new life isn’t a huge plummet away; it unfolds from this very moment and place.

It only takes one person to make a difference.

Too often we wait around for someone else to be the first. We let injustice and hatred continue because we don’t want to be the one to stick out our neck and absorb the first blow. We’re afraid of what might happen, that no one will be there to support us, that we may endure negative repercussions in return. You know what else might happen?

You might succeed.

You might stop that ranting asshole who never knew how much he tormented others. You may inspire a woman to leave an abusive relationship. You just may save a life. Doesn’t that make it worth it?

Here’s my favorite it takes only one story. If you ever think you can’t stand up and make a difference, just stop and think about this guy. I have for over twenty years. If one man can stop a tank, imagine what you could do.

For those of you who don’t know, this time last year I was a size 12 with 34% body fat–not healthy by any means. I was addicted to sugar and other white carbs, including salty chips, and had to force myself to eat what little veggies I did. Then I watched my father go through chemo. I sat there in the hospital, reading the literature lying around, only to discover how many diseases including cancer can either be attributed to or aggravated by poor lifestyle. As a single parent, I knew I needed to get healthy, if not for myself, for my child.

It was difficult to make the change, but I did it in small, manageable increments. Luckily, someone referred me to the Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno. Easy to follow, full of common sense and tasty recipes I was hooked from the get-go. The diet prescribes real, unprocessed food in moderate amounts. Variety and flavor are key to creating tasty, healthy meals that the whole family will enjoy.

Side note: Diet, in its original meaning, refers to the foods commonly eaten. Today we refer to the term “diet” to mean to deny oneself of something, to starve, or some other negative association. Diet does not mean to cut out something or only eat one thing, it’s just quiet simply what you eat.

The basics of the diet prescribe:

  • Small meals 5-6 times a day (an adjustment, but it really does pay off)
  • Eating balanced meals that include fiber, protein, good carbs, and veggies/fruit
  • No processed foods
  • Healthy fats and lean proteins
  • Eat in season, organic when possible
  • Pair healthy eating with exercise

I get the magazine, which features seasonal faves including a healthy Thanksgiving dinner makeover and several desserts (carrot cake, hot cocoa, muffins-yum!).  Most of the meals cost less than $10 per serving (sometimes as little as $2) and not only do I like them, but my husband and 8-year-old daughter love them too! Bonus–most meals take less than 30 minutes to make and require just basic cooking skills. Mommy says sweet!

Of course, the best thing is I don’t diet, I just eat healthy. Now I am a size 2 with 26% (and shrinking) body fat. Along with exercise, I have lowered my metabolic age from 34 (which is older than my real age of 31) down to 24 (yes, I am physically younger than my actual age now!) and that is in just under a year. Health wise, I have eliminated most of my chronic pains, illnesses, and aggravations.What more could you ask for!