Holly Pinafore™ image copyright Danielle Travali. Illustration by Mike Raysor.

Sep 20, 2012

You have the control: how to change your perception

Last night I did a lot of thinking. The more I thought about my life, the worse I began to feel about it: no romantic love interest, not a lot of money, and a fleeting sense of satisfaction when it comes to my work life. I want more of the good things and less of the negative - don't we all? But then, when I started to meditate, I had a revelation.

I had a very clear vision of a rope. It was a thick, knotted rope -- similar to the ones sailors use to tie their boats to docks. A voice inside my mind lovingly said, "Here is a rope. You can choose to do what you wish with it." I was immediately presented with several different uses for the rope. The choice was mine: I could strangle or hang myself with the rope (more of a figurative than literal meaning), walk across it, climb it, untie it, or use it as a lasso to reel in whatever I wanted.

The rope, which is often used as a symbol of imprisonment, could also be a means of freedom.  I've been feeling so trapped lately, yet deep down I know I have the ability to do whatever I really want to do with my life; with my rope. I have many options:

1. I could choose to abandon all hope and live in a constant state of misery ("strangle" self with the rope).

2. I could take huge risks, be willing to fall, let the net catch me, then get up gracefully and do it again ("walk" the tightrope).

3. I could conjure enough strength to follow through with my life plans no matter how impossible they may seem ("climb" the rope a la gym class).

4. I could free myself from my negative thoughts and just BE - just live without judgment ("untie" the rope).

5. I could pursue and seize my desired outcome without taking no for an answer (use the rope as a "lasso").

This message was to remind me that although life sometimes seems hopeless, we have many choices. Our thoughts create our lives, so when we are in control of our thoughts, we are much more in control of our lives.

How will you choose to use your "rope"?

Sep 12, 2012

My recovery story, in honor of the 2012 National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk on Sunday, October 7

I hated my body from age five, when a girl in kindergarten told me my oversized dress made me look pregnant. Though the poor girl probably had no idea what she was talking about, I never forgot the comment, and always felt overweight. I hated myself because I was always shy and boyish looking, with an ugly bowl-shaped haircut. I hated myself because girls often bullied me in preschool, kindergarten and first grade, taking advantage of the fact that I was sensitive and shy. I hated myself because my father left my mother when I was six. I hated myself in high school because I had anxiety from these things that happened when I was little. 

I have used the word "hate" one too many times. I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to myself with love. But before I talk about recovery, let me share my story with you.

The summer of '98. I was 12 years old. Each time Mom drags me to the grocery store, she runs down the frozen foods and butcher section.  I am always freezing in shorts and a tank top and I can’t stand the sight or sharp smell of bloody red meat, so I venture over to the huge magazine section past the toiletries-beauty products-pet supplies-bakery aisles. My eyes cruise right over my usual Tiger Beat, All About You, or Teen magazines, and for some odd reason, I grab Fitness and Shape instead. Without paying attention to the actual articles, I flip through the glossy pages. Beautiful ladies with chiseled abs, slender thighs, and perfectly toned arms make me dislike my own little body even more.  I’m going to make myself look even better than that. 

Now, I can devote all my time to sculpting my body rather than lounging by the pool with my friends. But I’ll have to take some drastic measures. This is going to be a challenge, but I’m tough enough—I can do it and I won’t stop until I prove to myself that I’m the best. 

I was never a mean, envious person, but after the day I chose to physically “recreate” myself I’d stare each female body up and down. This happened everywhere, in the bank, the bookstore, or even in church. Soon enough, turning on the television and looking at girls’ bikini bodies on MTV Beachhouse was not even possible.  Whenever I spotted a tall, thin, or muscular girl, a wave of jealousy nearly sucked me under and I'd have to change the channel. I was afraid of going to the beach with friends because I didn’t want anyone to see how I looked. Surprisingly, my friends always said, “You’re lucky to have such a nice body. You should definitely show it off.” But I never believed them. I thought they were just lying to make me feel better. I just didn’t trust anyone. I promised myself that until I dropped a few pounds and toned up every part of my body, I wouldn’t reveal a damn thing. From this point on, I would scrutinize every nutrition label, cut my portions in half then in half again, and force myself to train like an Olympian every day. It would take ten years for me to realize I was behaving like an abusive parent to my sad little child-self.

It’s another hot afternoon and Grandma calls, “Lunch time!”  She’d made me my favorite grilled cheese just the way I like it—really hot and crispy.  My mouth begins to water at the smell of bread, butter, and cheese sizzling on her old frying pan.  I say, “I’ll be back…I’m just going for a walk.”  Well, more like a run—nine times around the block and I’ll be done. 

“Well, hurry up.  Don’t let your sandwich get like ice,” says Grandma, pointing at me with an iron finger. 

I flick open the back door and let the wind slap it back. I hop over the first and last concrete steps of the back porch and onto the hot asphalt. My three-inch pony tail sways back and forth and my glasses jostle as my arms move, and I propel myself on the balls of my feet. I skip over bumps and cracks on the gray sidewalk and pick up the pace.  All my frustration and desire to be fit burns inside of me and the only way to release it is to run faster. I’m sprinting around the block, the wind slapping at my back, my quadriceps and calves burning, my heart knocking against my chest as if it wants to fly out.  I won’t stop until my body feels tighter.  I’ll keep going until all the oxygen in my worthless body runs out, I thought.  That’s right, you stupid neighbors.  Keep looking at me like I’m from another planet.  You’ll see—I’m going to look better than you and you’re ‘gonna be sorry you didn’t work as hard as I did. 

I keep on sprinting, nose in the air, oxygen scarce, until I see the brick wall of Grandma’s house.  I see her in her clean, cherry-colored apron with a hand on her hip. She shakes her head at me through the large front window.  Finally, panting like a dehydrated puppy, I slow down and walk up the steps to her door. The little cowlicks on the side of my head curl up with sweat that soaks my itchy scalp and my saturated sports bra is visible underneath my white tank top.  My face is hot and sunburned, my legs are throbbing, my feet are blistered, and I’m so hungry I could scarf down a five-course meal. Yet, I promised myself I’d fight anyone who tried to make me eat.

Like any Italian grandmother, my Gram pulls out her infamous wooden spoon and says, “If you don’t sit down and eat this sandwich right now I’ll whack you over the head!” I say nothing and eat nothing. Grandma wraps the grilled cheese, shoves it in the fridge, and says, “You’re thickheaded.”  I pretend not to hear her, sprint up the stairs and into her bedroom where she keeps the scale. I step on and off in a matter of seconds. I meander over to the full-length mirror, glance at myself, and look away, ashamed. I pinch the skin of my stomach, legs, and arms. I begin to stamp my feet and punch myself over and over. You fat, ugly thing. Why don’t you just die. Die. Die. I want to die.  God, please, I hate myself. Let me die. 

I stand there all alone feeling unsatisfied, sweaty, starving, exhausted, and above all, fat.  I am twelve and a half years old, five foot one, and 67 pounds.

I guess I was so caught up in the idea of being better than everyone else that I failed to see that I was gradually withering away to nothing.  I felt I had to compete with every one of my friends at everything: I wanted, more than anything, to be the smartest student, the greatest cheerleader and of course, the thinnest, fittest girl in the class. I would pull all-nighters studying for tests and typing lengthy  papers. I would practice my cheers, dances, and gymnastics moves for hours and hours in the back yard without even taking a ten-minute recess. I’d run miles every day, do countless crunches and pushups for two hours without fail. If I skipped one day, I’d punish myself by eating nothing but steamed vegetables, if that. I’d work even harder the next day. My quest to lose a few pounds would eventually turn into a quest to gain back my self-control. 

I’m falling apart.  It’s been two months now and Mom thinks something’s wrong with me.  She stares at me wide-eyed and says, “Your face is gray and your arms are nothing but skin and bone.” She also notices how I won’t even eat meat anymore, and that I don’t talk much to the rest of the family.  She says, “You’re so irritable that if a safety pin were to hit the floor you’d probably explode.”  But I don’t care what she thinks or says.  I’m still not satisfied with myself.  I was only supposed to lose a few pounds, but what’s a few more? If I can look just as good as the Shape and Fitness models, why can’t I look better? Why can’t I be thinner and prettier and smarter than all my friends? Why not! Why not!

I step into the shower to let the hot water soothe my body. I scrub myself and for the first time, I feel my jutting ribcage and facial bones. Where is the rest of me? What am I doing to myself? The water merges with my tears of shame as I rinse off the suds.  I step out, dry off, slip on an old Disney World tee-shirt and walk over to my bed where I hide my face in my soft pillow and cry for the remainder of the night.

Next morning, Mom says, “Come on, we’re going to the grocery store to pick up a few things.”  I don’t believe her, but she says, “Get in the car!” and pulls me into her minivan.  I know she’s lying. We pull up to a neat maroon house, go inside and sit down in a secluded waiting room that smells like old people and cowhide. Within twenty minutes, an elderly Indian doctor buzzes open the door.  Before I know it, he’s asking me confusing questions in broken English. He weighs my sixty-something pound body, writes notes on his clipboard and picks up the phone to admit me to the pediatric ward of the nearest hospital.  “Severe anorexia and depression” are the only words I hear him say.

I try to hold my sick feelings in by squeezing my eyes, plugging my ears, and pressing my lips in together so hard that they nearly turn purple. But at this point, I am so terribly ill that I just burst out as if I’d just reached the surface of the abyss in which I’d been drowning for a long time. As we leave the office, I scream, pound my fist on my mother’s dashboard, chuck random items around my house, leave scuff marks on the walls from kicking them so hard, and repeat over and over, “God, let me die tonight.” My teeth chatter, I shiver in these saggy clothes, and I stand here freezing—all alone in the world.

I was admitted to a hospital and underwent treatment for two weeks. I reached my "goal weight" at age 13, but I didn't really recover until after college. After my treatment for anorexia, I suffered for years -- especially as an undergraduate -- by bingeing and then purging with exercise by running up to 14 miles a day to punish myself for being "bad" whenever I ate the "wrong foods" or indulged with my roommates. I always compared myself to everyone else, especially other women. I was never good enough. I was never, simply, "enough." I always felt inferior, inadequate, unlovable and empty. So I restricted, binged, and purged food in the attempt to control my life. 

But the good news is that I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you if I hadn’t made some kind of positive changes. So, I’m encouraging you to do the same thing. Even if your story is different from mine. I will do my best to help you. Is my life perfect? No way! Do I do or say stupid things I’ll later regret? Do I humiliate myself? Sometimes. Because it’s part of the word “humanity.” Because I’m human. But I know that I have the power to make things right. One way is to tell you how fabulous you are. Just look in the mirror! You’ve probably heard this a zillion times, but you need to hear it until your ears start ringing: there will never be another you. Never ever ever. So rejoice and be certain that people can try all they want but they will never get to be you. And aren’t you lucky for that. I didn’t include a question mark at the end of that sentence because it’s really not a question. It’s a statement of truth.

I’ve met so many loving, caring people who have placed metaphorical mirrors in front of me to let me know how beautiful I am inside. Your childhood is over and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You’ve got to move on, but you can still live a happy life. You are not your own experiences. You are not your parents’ mistakes or vices. You are a beautiful person with so much to give the world. The last thing I want is to see you hurt or upset. You, my dear friend, deserve to live a joyful, healthy life filled with the knowledge of how wonderful you are. And it’s not just some new-age “woo woo” meditation. It’s the truth. 

Sep 8, 2012

Bridget Flynn: Teacher, Mentor, Friend

I met Bridget Flynn in person after working with her for about a year on my magazine, HollyPinafore.org. I had hired her as a staff writer. Little did I know she'd become my fabulous editor, mentor, advisor and above all, friend. She's one of those people you feel like you've known in a past life. That's because you probably have.

Here are a few reasons you won't be able to forget her:

She's got a giggle that could melt the heart of a Disney villain.

With her tongue-in-cheek Parisian one-liners (no, she's not from France) and her giddy lick of the lips whenever someone says the word chocolate, she's an iconic brown-eyed beauty with a strong yet gentle presence. Quirky, wise and loving, she's someone you're naturally drawn to. You want to be close to her. She's the key holder to life's treasure chest of wisdom. You'll learn more about yourself by sharing a simple cup of tea with Bridget than by sitting with a shrink who diagnoses you with every possible psychological problem. If you chat with her long enough, you will have earned your degree in the school of life. You will learn that you are indeed enough and that you deserve to live an amazing life. This is what she has taught me, and continues to show me in our friendship.

Bridget is a born healer. She can edit the crap out of a poorly-written sentence and yet she can also help delete the negative beliefs we've held about ourselves since childhood. She can pinpoint a grammatical error within seconds and read any person's energy from a mile away. She's assertive and knows her boundaries, yet she'll wrap you in her comfort whenever you most need it. She's sharp-witted, and yet she's a sweet, soft romantic who dreams of someday finding her prince chah-ming. Her appreciation for a good glass of wine, a dapper gentleman with salt & pepper hair, and a classic romantic film give her that sexy, mystical quality -- one of a woman very wise beyond her years.

Through her alternative healing methods, Bridget cures you with her heart - not out of ego, but out of pure love - a desire to revive the parts of us that have fallen asleep due to old beliefs, doubt, sadness and negative life experiences. She's here to switch all those things around.

Bridget unearths and resurrects the beautiful truths about ourselves that we've buried during our walk through life. It is without reservation that I recommend her to anyone who needs to be healed in any way.

Thanks, B, for all you do. I simply adore you, my friend!


Apr 21, 2012

I wear my heart...and my pasta sauce...on my sleeve

Sicilian women are known for being loud, emotional, and, well, zesty. I'm a little bit of each.

Every drop of my love, my tears, my joy—my passion for friendship and romance—goes into every meal I cook.

Sometimes, I'll be wearing a white shirt (dumb enough, I know) and the sauce will decide to bubble and erupt like lava, all over my sleeve or right where the shirt covers my boob. Sometimes I yell at the sauce and smack the lid so hard that the walls shake. But then I'll forgive it and doctor it up with some salt and pepper. I mean, how could you not unconditionally love a sauce made from delicious "liquid gold" olive oil with fresh garlic, chopped onions and red pepper flakes sizzling with the juiciest Campari tomatoes in a gorgeous, lush red frying pan? There is nothing...and I mean nothing...that can soothe me better than these simple, fresh ingredients that just seem to be making love on the electric stage of a stovetop.

And sharing a good pasta dish with people I love totally makes up for the stain on my boob.

Giving heaping bowls of pasta drizzled with sauce and garnished with herbs is a way to show my loved ones how much I really care about them; how much of myself I devote to every spoonful.

And although it's often a drag for many people, the act of cleaning up after the meal can sometimes be one of the happiest experiences for me, even when I'm alone in the kitchen and there's nothing left but plates and forks to be scraped, scrubbed and scoured.

While picking up the wine-stained napkins and washing plates after a party, I dissolve into the memory of laughter tickling the kitchen walls and the clanking of goblets during the few hours my friends gathered to celebrate a birthday, a girls' night in, or an evening with nothing else better to do than sit, eat, drink and chat about reality TV.

When I was a little girl, I always got so upset when everyone had to say goodbye at parties; I loved sharing food and ice cream cake and hugs with them. Warm bodies in chairs and crumbs on the table meant that life was being lived.

I hated being left alone after a party. I always wanted company. I still do. Not just to have somebody there, but to share a special connection with another human being. To do that is one of the most magical abilities we possess as a species. That's why I love having people like you here on my site. I feel like I'm sharing something with you; I'm connecting with you. I may not know who you are or what you look like, but that really doesn't matter. I feel like I'm making you feel warm and welcome and whole, the way I sometimes didn't feel when I was younger. For a long time, there was pain and drama and loneliness—a lot of which I created. Maybe I wanted to feel sorry for myself. Maybe I wanted people to know I was sad so they could comfort me and hug me and tell me everything would be okay. Regardless, I'm going to do the same for the people I love. Not because I'm the stereotypical "motherly" woman (alright, maybe a little bit), but because I'm a human being with a heart. Someone who loves people more than anything in the world.

The few seconds it takes to hug someone is worth more to me than the $12,000 limited edition wristwatch from Tiffany's that'll probably (no, definitely) last eons longer than a simple human embrace. But I don't care. Call me a nutcase, but I'll love 'ya till the point of tears.

Apr 20, 2012

Move over, Cinderella: redefining the Glass Slipper

One afternoon while at the dollar store, after trudging past the knockoff Oreos, bins of expired mascara and leftover Christmas decorations, I somehow found the party aisle. There's something about paper hats, kazoos, confetti and festive drink napkins that turns me into a giddy five-year-old and makes my troubles melt like icing on a hot cake.

Then I turned around, and there it was: the huge display of wedding stuff: everything from bobble-head brides and grooms to polyester rose bouquets and plastic toasting goblets--a smorgasbord of cheap inanimate objects. Yuck.

And that was when, still in the wedding section, I discovered a pack of plastic glass slippers. I doubt they were intended for people like me to place them around my apartment, wishing that someday, like Cinderella, the right guy would slip the right shoe on my foot.

Ever feel like that? Ever get trapped in the fantasy of a fairy tale, wishing and hoping and dreaming?

Well, I did. And I decided to buy two packs of the glass slipper party favors and give them to my single female friends.

Because to me, the glass slipper represents a few amazing things that I wish for you and all the women in the world.

Instead of sending you the glass slipper as a promise that you'll find the right guy right away (if you're looking), I send you this glass slipper because I want you to know that your foot is totally worth it.

You are beautiful, talented, independent, strong, smart and pretty damn amazing. You are so important in the world not because of what you look like or what you do, but simply because you are able to circulate blood through your veins. You are important because you exist. Period.

Life is full of broken relationships, broken home, broken fingernails and, dare I say it, broken hearts. Yes, this is true. But I know in MY heart that if you really want a lasting, true relationship, you will absolutely find one.

First, remember one thing. This might sound weird, but the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If you don't believe you're the best thing since red wine, nobody else will. Do you really expect someone else to show the world how great you are? You've got to do it yourself. But you've got to do it with class and taste.

Just hold tight to this little slipper and remember the following things:

1. The glass slipper is transparent; you can see right through it. May you be allowed to see through people, especially men, who come into your lives. May you know for sure if a person is genuine and full of love. May you also be transparent: let people see who you are on the inside. Don't go walking around butt naked, and don't go around singing your phone number to the tune of "867-5309." My definition of being transparent is being the genuine person you are inside and not just the gorgeous diva you are on the outside. When you're transparent, theres no way you can ever be fake; when you're transparent, you are not embarrassed or afraid to let people see you for who you are.

2. The glass slipper is breakable; be careful and tread lightly on the path of life. Don't put too much weight (ahem...STRESS!) on your feet. Don't step hard on anything or anyone, because doing so will only cause YOU pain.

3. The glass slipper fits you and only you. Enjoy it! It was custom-made for you with the wand of your loving, compassionate Fairy Godmother. Another woman (or man...hey, anything's possible) can try to squeeze into or walk in your shoe. But her (his) feet won't stand a chance. Nobody's foot fits into YOUR shoe the way YOUR foot does. You've got to walk in it. Others don't. Interpret this the way you want, but think in terms of your life, your dreams and your hopes of finding true love in a cynical, chaotic world. There are a lot of negative, jealous brats in this world who will tell you your dreams are far-fetched and impossible. It's much easier when you wish these people well and weed them out of your life.

4. No matter what happens, you will always have the other slipper. These same negative, jealous brats who can't fit into the slipper will try to shatter it so you can't try it on, either. But just remember, you have the other slipper right in your pocket. The other slipper is your unique personality, your inner beauty and your love. THAT slipper is unbreakable. Let the slipper I'm sending you be a symbol of the other slipper--the one you'll never break.

So, despite the nasty people in the world, YOU be the graceful one. Defy them with your kindness, intelligence and humor. Never silence or censor your emotions. If you do, your insides will erupt.

Sing out loud, even to the occasional spider dangling from your ceiling if theres no one else around. Don't be afraid of tripping and falling down the stairs when you enter the ballroom. Be aware of how great your feet look in the shoes.

Don't obsess about what your heart desires. Just trust that in time, you will receive it.

Because, my dear girl, you work your own magic just by being yourself. Just by working the runway; by strutting your stuff.

© Words and image copyright 2010 Danielle Travali/Holly Pinafore. All Rights Reserved.

You may absolutely share this, but please give credit to Danielle Travali/"Holly Pinafore" and http://www.hollypinafore.org

Kindness, compassion and miracles: what I learned at the "I Can Do It!" 2011 Conference

I'm so blessed to have attended the 2011 "I Can Do It!®" Conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. I was honored to be surrounded by approximately 3000 people who are determined to live a beautiful, joyful life.

I was thrilled to meet Louise Hay, a pioneer of the self-help movement who wrote the international bestseller "You Can Heal Your Life." Louise will be turning 85 in a few weeks. She looks absolutely stunning, and her smile alone could power up the Manhattan skyline. I know in my heart that the love Louise has for herself and others—the kindness she has shown millions of people—certainly has kept her in wonderful condition.

"I trust life and I trust me. Because I know I'm fabulous and amazing," said Louise at the start of the conference. She added, "Decide what it is you want from the day. The way you start your day is the way you're going to finish your day. So start your day on a positive note."

About Louise Hay

It would be an understatement to say that Louise's life didn't start off on a positive note. Born into poverty and abused by her stepfather, she was raped at age five by a neighbor and ran away from home as a teenager. She dropped out of high school at 15, had a child at age 16, and gave it up for adoption. Years later, after moving to Chicago and working as a model, she married an Englishman, who after 14 years of marriage, left her for another woman. Louise was distraught. In the late 1970s, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which she attributes to the shame and resentment she held onto years after being sexually abused (Source: "You Can Heal Your Life," 1984).

But Louise refused to let cancer drag her down. She immediately took action to improve not only her physical health (via various natural remedies and holistic therapies), but also to improve her way of thinking. Her return to complete health—physically, emotionally and spiritually—prompted her to teach, counsel, and mentor others to do the same. Louise Hay started Hay House publishing company, which has become hugely successful and praised immensely.

At each "I Can Do It!®" motivational conference, Louise welcomes Hay House friends and authors Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Doreen Virtue, Fabrizio Mancini and others to show all of us that we can indeed have everything it takes within ourselves to overcome challenges, and ultimately, create a spectacular life.

At the conference, my personal favorite keynote speakers were Dr. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Fabrizio Mancini and Doreen Virtue.

I am going to share my notes from the conference with you by listing the key points from my two favorite lectures. I would like to start with the teachings of Dr. Dyer, who reminds all of us that kindness is the antidote to several of life's problems.

Dr. Wayne Dyer: The Art of Manifestation

Wayne Dyer urges us to "walk down a different street" - to be positive, compassionate human beings in a world of cynicism and negativity.
  • An act of kindness a day can prevent you from feeling depressed by altering your levels of a feel-good brain chemical called serotonin. Dyer said, "After you do something nice for someone else, your serotonin level is just as high as the person who also received [what you've given them]."
  • Meditation prevents violence. "The Dalai Lama said that if we could take every child at the age of five and have them meditate one hour a week on compassion, that we could eliminate all violence on our planet," said Dyer.
  • We aren't just loving beings; we ARE love. If we realized that, we could all achieve our full potential as humans.
  • " You don't have to be sick to get better. Getting better means transcending ordinary. It's living the truth of Jesus: 'even the least among you can do all that I have done, and even greater things'. We are divine."
  • "The physical body is a total illusion. Who you are is birthless, deathless, changeless, continuing to occupy transient dust. We are extraordinary human beings having a temporary human experience."
  • "If you want to elevate your life, you must change your concept of yourself...everything that you believe to be true about yourself and what is possible for you. You must have the expectation in order to receive what you desire or who you desire to be. You are not raised to believe you are a Divine Being, but you do have a higher self. Our higher self is perfect, omniscient, and almighty."

Dr. Dyer's 5 principles to manifesting what you desire:

1. Imagination - This is a big one for all of you who have dreams but think it's foolish to imagine. Actually, according to Dyer, "You must imagine it to create it. You must ignore all the senses. You must be willing to walk down a different street."

2. Stop criticism toward any of God's children. Even if you're not religious or use a different word for "God," Dyer stressed that "all living creatures must cease to feel fear in your presence."

3. Assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled - You have to be able to feel what you want to attract it into your life. "That which you feel yourself to be, you are. Live in the feeling of the one you want to be and that you shall be. Reprogram the subconscious mind and the subconscious will react," said Dyer.

4. Attention- "What kind of attention do you place on things people say?", asked Dyer. Do you listen to the negativity of others? If so, look within and remind yourself that you are love.

5. Bedtime Reflection. Use the last five minutes of your day to program your subconscious mind. "Before you go to bed, think about, reflect upon and feel the positive things you want to manifest in your life. Allow receiving to feel natural to you," said Dyer.

Marianne Williamson: A Course in Weight Loss

Marianne Williamson is one of my favorite speakers in the world. She's passionate, powerful, witty and wise. I also noticed that her principles about weight loss apply to so many different areas of life - practically all areas of life. Here are the highlights from her speech:

  • Believe in Miracles. When miracles do not occur, something has gone wrong. Expect miracles every day. Look for them. Appreciate them. "We were all and are coded for perfection. The problem is that we lack faith that this is true. Miracles arise from conviction," said Williamson.
  • When in doubt or pain, we must surrender to a Higher Power, whatever you may call it. "My mortal mind can do so much, but my mortal mind cannot do everything," she explained.
  • Excess weight is a wall between the overweight person and others. Williamson said, "You create what you defend against. When you fear pain, you subconsciously create pain along the way. Whatever we do in a self-sabotaging way is something that's there because we were wounded. It's time to face it: a divine healer lies within us."
  • Give yourself a break. Have compassion for others, but have compassion for yourself, too. "If you won't fold your own arms in compassion of yourself, you will not allow the power of the universe to feel compassion for you. Look at the conditions of your life. What's not working? We fail to look deeply within ourselves due to fear. The power of infinite love does for us what we cannot do for ourselves," she said.
  • Be a teacher to others. Williamson talked about her fear of airplane takeoffs. She described a defining moment in her life where she abandoned all fear. This was the time she sat on an airplane next to a little boy who had been traveling solo. The little boy was so afraid of takeoffs, just like Williamson. But by talking the child through takeoff and holding his hand, she says she never feared another takeoff again. The point of this story is that you don't have to be perfect to teach something to another person. By counseling and teaching others, you counsel and teach yourself. Williamson said, "Love can override compulsive synapses. This is a miracle. Be so involved with the love of someone else and love will override fear."
  • Don't be afraid to follow your dream to serve others and change the world. Williamson emphasized the following: "You are the faucet. You are not the water. It's about shining the light to help others. It's not just about you. Your work is your ministry. Narcissistic fear can't exist when you base your life on service."

So please, take these lecture points and digest them. Use them to improve your life. If you attended the conference and would like to add additional notes, please do so in the comments section below. That would be fabulous!

Love and Light!


Pictured: Louise Hay (left) and Holly

Recovering Hearts: Where I Found God (and Leslie)

Souvenirs are overrated. And they sure don't last forever. Most of them end up smashed to smithereens in your suitcase by the time you get home. But the sweet, tender, endearing, inspiring people you meet in your travels can remain in your memory for the rest of your life. The advice from these people, who I like to call angels, can help keep you whole when you feel like you're falling apart.

I recently went on an eight-day trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts with my dear friend Ryan. If you didn't know, Provincetown is a very artsy community. It's also a primarily gay and lesbian community. As a (very) heterosexual female who drools over guys (guilty!), you'd think I'd feel so out of place. Not even for one second. I actually felt more creatively inspired and at peace in P-Town than I've felt anywhere else. Why? Well, yes, because of the fabulous art galleries, beaches and bed & breakfasts. But more so because of one woman with a radiant soul who seems as though she's been your best friend all your life.

Two extremely creative people always thinking of new projects and ideas, Ryan and I were desperate for inspiration. So, while Ryan was taking a nap, I Googled "inspirational shop" near the place we were staying, and "Recovering Hearts" came up in the search. The next day, we figured we'd take a walk, since the name of the shop sounded like something that would heal and inspire us: the perfect remedy for two bohemian entrepreneurs in search of love, abundance and success.

Recovering Hearts is THE sanctuary Ryan and I had searched for, complete with soul-soothing music, wind chimes, stones, crystals, stained-glass windows and some of the most beautiful inspirational books to help people heal their heartbreaks, addictions, abuse, physical illnesses and self-esteem problems. If I could open up an inspirational shop myself, this would be it. And I couldn't find one clichéd self-help book in the whole place; every single book on every single shelf seemed to have been hand-selected and written entirely from the heart; no B.S.

This place is all about truth; being honest with yourself about what you want to heal and what you'd like to accomplish in this crazy little thing called life.

As Ryan and I browsed the bookshelves, swooning over the adorable angel trinkets, candles and other beautiful metaphysical merchandise, a woman with blue eyes and a warm, gentle smile greeted us from behind the register. Although there were other customers in the store, she specifically walked over to us and introduced herself. Her name? Leslie. She owns the shop.

After a brief conversation, she picked two postcards from the rack, smiled and handed one to me and one to Ryan - each a different card. Mine read, "She who looks outside, dreams. She who looks inside, awakens."~Jung.

At that moment I could feel my whole body become warm and completely at peace. Leslie didn't need to say much; I knew this woman understood me at first glance, and even more so after we'd chatted for a few minutes. What I'd realized is that I had lived a lot of my life looking for outside approval instead of letting my creative, innermost self guide me. I'd been so afraid, for example, that others would think my hopes and ideas for a successful, peaceful lifestyle were unattainable and ridiculous. I'd been so scared to trust my inner guidance, thinking I'd make a mistake and, as a result, never trust myself again. Have you been there? I think a lot of us have. I think we're on this earth to learn lessons along the way.

After chatting with Leslie, I immediately knew something had changed in me; that I was no longer afraid to make a mistake; that although I am not perfect, I am extremely intuitive, powerful, creative and wise - I have the ability to live a great life. I am truly beautiful on the inside. I'm proud of myself, but in a humble way, if that makes sense.

Leslie reinforced that fear is an illusion; it's just an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Ever hear of that one before? We are much so more powerful than the things that scare us. We cannot control all of the circumstances in our lives, but we do have the power to prevent these situations from controlling us. How will we resist fear? By keeping a positive attitude, taking baby steps with each endeavor, knowing that we're ultimately going to succeed no matter what (even if we think we've "failed"), and acknowledging the spiritual guides (gut feelings, signs, and "Earth Angels" like Leslie!) placed before us along our journey.

Interestingly enough, the name "Leslie" means "Holly Garden." In the few days I spent in and out of her store, she's certainly helped my soul to blossom.

Forever grateful,


Nov 10, 2011

Better late than never: my recap of the OpenSky Pop-Up Gallery event

Took me long enough, but I'm finally posting about the OpenSky pop-up gallery in SoHo that took place on Thursday, November 10. I am so lucky to have taken part in this swanky, sparkly cocktail party, packed with celebrity curators who hand-select items that are sold directly on OpenSky.com. Some of the curators on the OpenSky site include actress and eco-friendly diva Alicia Silverstone, motivational speaker/author Gabrielle Bernstein, style expert Jeannie Mai, celebrity chefs Lidia Bastianich, Bobby Flay, Lucinda Scala Quinn and Ming Tsai among others, along with a number of fitness experts such as Tony Horton and Jackie Warner. The posh and creatively decorated gallery featured the items chosen by these and other experts listed at OpenSky.

I partied all night, sipped the delicious Hi! brand prosecco and mingled with the fabulous crew of ladies and gents who attended. The amazing, inspiring individuals (and my new friends!) included OpenSky Community Manager / blogger extraordinaire Caitlin Heikkila (@BecomingBKLYN), makeup artist Miss Merli (@MissMerli), fashionista-stylist Marley Simone (@marleysimone) and healthy living blogger Grace Kim (@gracekelle). These are some truly gorgeous, talented and lovely girls with a great sense of humor and of course, fashion sense.

Me with OpenSky It Girl Caitlin Heikkila

I was so honored to be a part of this event and can't wait to participate in more!

Lots of love and light!



P.S. The OpenSky Pop-Up gallery is located on 477 Broome Street at Wooster Street and is easily accessible from the 6 train. Go have a look and see what you like!

Oct 11, 2009

Rustic Red Potato Soup (Low in Fat and Calories)

I won't lie to you: the potato is a starchy veggie, which means it's high in carbohydrates. But it's also loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B6, tons of potassium, tryptophan (for boosting your mood) and anti-cancer properties. That's a good enough reason for me to eat potatoes...at least once in a while. People pack in the calories not from the potatoes themselves, but by adding saturated fats like butter, cheese, heavy cream and oil. 

I'm revamping the potato's reputation by sharing my hearty potato soup, a recipe you can feel good about for all the right reasons. Low in fat and calories but high in flavor, it's perfect for a chilly fall or winter day. I like to serve it in a mug, take it outside and enjoy it on my front step while the wind licks leaves off maple branches. You'll be licking the bowl.

Here's what you need:
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 large celery stalks plus the celery leaves, all chopped 
Why celery leaves? Celery leaves add great flavor and aroma to any soup. Never throw them away! Keep them in a zipper bag in your freezer.
  • 6 or 7 medium-sized red potatoes, cubed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cups cold water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh nutmeg (grind whole nutmegs if you can find them; they're much more flavorful than the ground nutmeg that's been sitting on your lazy Susan for years)
Why nutmeg? Nutmeg really enhances the flavors of the vegetables and hums a note of autumn. It's perfect in any creamy soup.
Here's what you do:
  1. Heat a large pot on the stovetop (medium-high heat). Drizzle olive oil in the pot. Make sure it's enough to lightly coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons).
  2. Add carrots, celery, celery leaves, onions, salt and pepper and sauté until veggies start to become translucent. Add your water to the pot and bring to a boil.
  3. In a separate pot, boil your cubed potatoes. After about 15-20 minutes, test one potato by piercing the center with a fork. If the fork comes out easily, the potatoes are done. 
  4. Drain the potatoes and add to the soup. Add more olive oil, a pinch of salt, fresh black pepper and nutmeg. Put the lid on top and allow everything to simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  5. Here are your options: a) Puree the soup with a hand blender, b) carefully pour half of the soup into a blender/food processor then pour it back into the pot for a half-smooth, half-hearty consistency, c) leave the soup as is and do not puree it, or d) puree all of the soup until it's completely smooth. I like mine half and half--a little bit smooth and a little bit chunky so I get nice, rustic spoonfuls of the veggies. It looks pretty, too. The choice is yours.
Finish the soup with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately!


Oct 8, 2009

Simple Apple-Pumpkin Soup

Last night around 9 p.m., I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a can of pumpkin. I was determined to make a gluten-free pumpkin pie or some kind of pumpkin-based muffin. But this morning, when I opened the can, the pumpkin puree panned me:
"Why do most people think I'm only good for making pies, cakes and muffins? To hell with the bottom rack. I want to get out of my (pie) shell and into the pot; to be hot-hot-hot on the electric stage--the stovetop."
Alright, fine. My pumpkin didn't yap at me. I guess it was my own internal voice telling me not to typecast this favorite fall food...not even for tradition's sake.

So instead, I attempted to make a pumpkin-based soup with apple cider and other autumn spices. The result? Sweet and savory success.

Apple-Pumpkin Spice Soup 

What you need:
  • 2 1/2 cups plain pureed pumpkin
  • 3 cups apple cider 
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (less if you want a thicker soup)
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (and more for sprinkling at the end)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (optional, but it nicely balances the sweetness)
  • 1 tsp. salt (always taste before adding more than you need)
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • roasted pumpkin seeds (for sprinkling on top
TIP: Adding an onion to any soup will make it so much more delicious. You can put a white or Vidalia onion, whole, in the soup pot and allow it to simmer until it softens and starts to expand. 
If you want to double the recipe, just know that for every 1 cup of pumpkin, you should add about 1 cup of cider and 1/2 cup of chicken stock.

Combine all ingredients in medium-sized saucepan, cover and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then serve and top with pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of nutmeg, if you'd like. If you want to get fancy, you could garnish with an apple slice, but it's fine the way it is.

The Great Pumpkin would absolutely approve!

(Had to show you the black bowl...thought it was so "Halloweeny.")

Oct 1, 2009

Fresh Fish with a Basil-Grapefruit Twist

I dedicate the following recipe to all you girls and guys who live alone and limit yourselves to frozen dinners. Too lazy to cook? This meal requires minimal effort and few ingredients. No excuses! It's time to treat yourself to a light, fresh white fish with a citrus-herb vinaigrette. If you score a date, just double the recipe and uncork a bottle of fruity white wine. This is one summer supper that's perfect for fall...and for falling in love. 

Orange roughy, my favorite fish, doesn't bear much significance to its name; it has a white flesh with a soft texture and buttery, clean flavor. Each filet has only 80 calories and 1 gram of fat, so it's perfect if you're watching your figure.

I start by grilling an orange roughy filet on my mini indoor grill then dressing it with my special vinaigrette. You'll be amazed at how easy this is.

Here's what you need:
  • 1 orange roughy filet (if you can't find orange roughy, cod is a good substitute)
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  • juice and flesh of 1/2 grapefruit (save the other half for garnishing) 
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh black pepper

Here's what you do:

Grill your orange roughy filet on your mini indoor grill (such as a George Foreman grill) for about five minutes (if frozen, cook until fish is firm to the touch and slightly golden on the outside. Don't have a grill? Brush the fish with olive oil and bake it in the oven at 450° for 8-10 minutes. Top with grapefruit-basil vinaigrette (see below).

Grapefruit-basil vinaigrette:

In a blender, food processor or mini chopper, pulverize the basil leaves with the grapefruit juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want a thinner vinaigrette, add more grapefruit juice and a bit more olive oil. Simply drizzle the vinaigrette over the fish and garnish with some more fresh basil. You can serve this over a bed of fresh spinach or arugula, but it's good enough to plate on its own.

Once you make this dish, you'll never cop out with a Cup O' Noodles again.

Sep 29, 2009

Go Green: Get a Canteen!


Help keep the earth green while keeping the green $tuff inside your wallet. Switch to reusable water bottles today.

Refill not Landfill, a campaign to reduce the waste of disposable water bottles, reports that eight out of ten of these mass-produced water bottles wind up not in a recycling plant, but in a landfill. Something must be done about this.

In the meantime, you can help prevent landfill overflow by filling up a stainless steel canteen and take it with you wherever you go. You can find ones with cool designs on Sigg USA's Web site.

You don't need to munch granola and hug a tree to go green. Unless, of course, you want to.

Sep 15, 2009

Hold Me, Thrill Me, TEAse Me

While walking near Grand Central, I spotted this mannequin, clothed in Lipton tea bags. Astonishing, eh? All I 'gotta do is tell everyone in Midtown there's free tea and she'll be nude. Eek!

Well, that's the blogworthy photo of the day. Just thought you'd be interested.

Sep 3, 2009

"Shock-the-Pants-off-Your-Man (or Woman)" Sauce

There's nothing sexy about brown rice pasta (when you can't have gluten, there aren't many options). But cloak it in a warm, spicy red sauce and it's like slipping into a smooth, silk gown and saying, "Look at me, baby. Give me a whirl. Give me a twirl with your fork."

Today, I took Grandma's meat sauce recipe and va-va vamped it into my own version of smoky arrabiata with bits of shredded pork tenderloin. That's right. Mama's got a brand new man-grabbin' sauce.

Arrabiata means "angry" in Italian, but this crushed red pepper-and-tomato sauce is the gastronomical equivalent to world peace, or simply, make-up sex.

Try this recipe tonight. It'll blow stars out of the sky, and absolutely, positively stun your guy (and if you're a guy reading this, make the sauce for your lady and you'll have an Herbal Essences commercial waiting to happen).

What You Need:
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano)
  • 1 large white or Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 fresh pork tenderloin--1 lb. (can serve up to 4 people)
  • 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more)
  • fresh basil (dried, if you must)
  • fresh parsley
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine (good, drinkable quality)
  • brown rice pasta (or any other pasta if you're not gluten intolerant)

What To Do:
  1. In a large sauce pot over medium-high heat, sear your pork tenderloin in olive oil and brown it on all sides.
  2. Then, you can choose to: (a) wrap the tenderloin in foil and bake at 325° for 45 minutes per pound or (b) set the tenderloin aside to rest, then add to sauce in a few minutes so it cooks in the sauce for a few hours. Choose (a) if you're short on time.
  3. Add a bit more olive oil, then add the onions and some of the red-pepper flakes. Allow the onions to become soft and translucent.
  4. *I don't use garlic in this sauce. To me, there's nothing too romantic about garlic breath on a date night. But if you must, you can add a few crushed garlic cloves to the onions as they're sweating in the olive oil.
    Grandma's Tip: Chew on sprigs of fresh parsley to neutralize garlicky aftertaste.
  5. In order to de-glaze your pan, turn down the heat and pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine in the pot. Turn the heat back up.
  6. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley and a few more red pepper flakes (if desired).
  7. Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  8. You may allow the sauce to simmer while the pork bakes, and then once the pork is completely cooked, shred it and add it to the sauce.
  9. OR let the seared pork finish cooking in the sauce for 1-2 hours on medium low-to-medium heat. It will become tender and fall apart in the sauce.
  10. Cook your pasta in boiling water until al dente (about 12 minutes).
  11. Ladle some of the sauce onto a skillet over medium heat, adding the cooked pasta and a bit of the pasta water to prevent it from sticking. Then toss in some extra basil and parsley. To make it hot-hot-hot, sprinkle even more pepper. Mix everything together, then turn off the heat.
Serve on a clean, warm plate with a glass of red wine. Jaws (and perhaps pants) will be dropping right about now.