A Beach Inspired Haven

I’ve had a fixation with beach-themed bathrooms for over a decade now, and love using shells and beach-themed décor as fun accents to remind me of the ocean and the beach. When I moved to a new residence this past January, I decided to really have fun with the beach theme, and I took it to the extreme.

One of the features I have displayed in my bathroom is a collection of clear containers which hold sand and shells from different beaches I have visited.  Included in this collection are sand and shell samples from Hawaii, Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand and the Maldives.  Whenever I look at my collection, I am transported back to those magical destinations which captured my heart and spirit.

Whenever I feel like escaping to an island getaway, but I am stuck in Los Angeles, I’ll take a bubble bath while surrounded by my sand and shell collection, lit candles, and starfish lights.  It’s a wonderful way for me to recharge and to surround myself with reminders of my favorite terrain.  I also love the fact that I finally have a full bathtub in my bathroom after 20 years of having shower stalls.  Whenever my schedule allows, I try to take a relaxing bath, which beats taking a quick shower any day.

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To Compete, Or Not Compete…That Is The Question

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The experience of being onstage at an NPC or IFBB bodybuilding contest is unique and exhilarating, and I miss it. What I don’t miss, though, is the maddening prep which precedes the event, and the constant self-scrutiny which always surfaces during prep. I remember when I couldn’t wait to step onstage again, and would always make sure that I had a contest lined up to prep for, but my priorities have shifted dramatically over the past year. One thing I grew tired of with prepping for contest after contest is that I had to be so disciplined all the time, and was unable to ever let loose and have fun for fear of messing up my prep. A few of my closest friends even remarked that I no longer knew how to have fun, and they were absolutely right. Though I understand that the sacrifice is essential for success onstage, I don’t want to live in a constant state of physical and spiritual deprivation. Life is short, and I certainly don’t want to look at my life and think, look at all that fun stuff I missed!

last Fall, I visited Hungary, Sydney, and Bali, and quickly realized during these trips that despite all my efforts to maintain clean eating and regular exercise, there was no way that I would be able to hold onto a goal of competing once I returned home. I had been struggling with significant metabolic issues, and though I ate relatively clean during my travels, I didn’t follow the seven daily meal regimen I had been accustomed to. Here’s another shocker: I had wine while in Hungary because that country is known for its wine, and I am a wine lover. I wasn’t about to deprive myself because of some orthorexic thought process which in previous years would have had me convinced that the fermented libation was evil. I also had little to no access to weight equipment, and though I made every effort to use exercise equipment whenever it was available to me, I didn’t follow the six-day workout regimen which I follow when at home. Was that a bad thing? I think not. I was able to see parts of the world which I had always wanted to see, and I had an amazing time. Thank goodness I didn’t obsess over what I was supposed to do and complain about the lack of resources in these countries.

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Though I always want to win, I am not going to have a nervous breakdown over the fact that my placings as a Pro have been underwhelming. I don’t feel pressured to step onstage, and I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with retiring completely from competing if that is what I decide to do. Yet I still get that question, “When’s your next show?” One person (NOT a competitor) went so far as to say, “Hey girl, you need to step up your game!”, which I thought was extremely rude and presumptuous. I am tired of trying to balance a very busy schedule with two-a-day cardio sessions and double training. At the peak of my contest prep, I was training FIVE HOURS daily, six to seven days per week. Every part of my body hurt. I did plyometrics with a foot strain, and trained nonstop with hip bursitis, sciatica, a rotator cuff tear, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and a wicked skin reaction to the latex corsets which I would wear. I have been through the paces and have paid my dues. I AM good enough, I just choose to focus my efforts on showing off my brain now. So please don’t tell me that I need to keep running in the race when I already won.

In case you are wondering if working towards a personal best and finally winning my Pro Card was worth all the sacrifice, I can say without hesitation that it absolutely was worth it. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But I will no longer sacrifice balance in my life for the sake of getting to the next level. I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever qualify for Olympia, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want that pressure anyway. Life is good, and I have settled into a really nice groove.

Some very well-meaning people in the industry have warned me that the competition in the Pro ranks is getting even stiffer, and I have seen proof of that with my own eyes. Let me be very clear: I am NOT going to get myself all worked up and feel self-conscious because other Pros have raised the stakes. I am quite content to avoid the stage if need be. To be honest, the vast majority of IFBB Pros don’t even compete, so I feel no remorse over my casual attitude towards competing in future events.

Life is about balance, and the way I choose to maintain balance now is by working on my careers, passions and talents fully, without being distracted by notions of returning to the stage. Yes, I love the bodybuilding stage. But I also love my life and the freedom which I reclaimed after shifting my priorities.

Wood Working In Bali

I recently was blessed enough to go to Bali for several days, and was able to visit Seminyak and Ubud for a number of shopping excursions. Ubud is known for its wood working factories and silver factories, so it was a dream come true for a wood carving and silver jewelry freak like me to visit. There are factories all over Ubud, most of which not only display the finished works of the artisans, but also feature the artisans at work on pieces.

One thing I did NOT like was how much the salespeople would hover over me as I walked through the stores. The best thing to do is to walk through a store without indicating interest in any of the pieces until you have determined which ones you are truly interested in purchasing, otherwise you will be asked incessantly, “You like this one? Give good price, not final price!” until you walk out of the store. The majority of stores will have what is called first price, which is the price they quote, but you are expected to haggle with the salesperson until you arrive at a price which is usually about 25% to 40% of the first price. Even so, whenever I would hear “6 million rupiah” ($500 US) for a 20 inch Buddha carving, I would think it was way too expensive and walk on.

One salesperson took the time to educate me on the different types of wood commonly used in Balinese carvings. I learned how to distinguish between hibiscus (which is always two-toned and has a slight reddish hue), coconut (a lighter, greenish, variegated wood), ebony, and mahogany.

Hibiscus wood

Hibiscus wood


Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here

Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here


Ebony wood carving

Ebony wood carving

He also informed me that there were three different levels of wood carvers: Student, Teacher and Master. Master carvings command the highest prices since the skill level of the artisan is the highest, followed by the Teacher and then the Student. I was thankful for the information because I discovered that a 24 inch Balinese Buddha wood carving which I have had for about 7 years was created by a Master out of a beautiful piece of hibiscus wood. Later in the day, I saw strikingly beautiful and ornate carvings like this life-sized horse:
Life-size horse carving

When I saw the gorgeous woodwork in Bali, it me wish I had a huge home with a real need for wooden sculptures and furnishings. If you love hand carved wooden sculptures and furniture with an ethnic flavor, you really should visit Bali.

Travel Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

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Traveling abroad is a wonderful way to break out of established patterns and comfort zones, become exposed to new cultures, and press the spiritual reset button. I have always been interested in doing more international travel, but because of financial and time constraints, the extent of my visits to other countries has been confined to Mexico and parts of Europe. I don’t feel challenged culturally when I visit Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Sacramento, Columbus or Chicago, because the primary language is still English, and American customs are relatively consistent around the country. When I return home from any of these places, I don’t feel a shift in my perspective like I did when I visited Europe.

I will be traveling to Europe, Australia and Indonesia within the next two months and am exhilarated and somewhat terrified. What will I encounter in these places? What kinds of people will I meet? What will I learn about myself? Even the process of gathering information on my upcoming trips to Hungary, Sydney, and Bali is causing my life’s perspective to shift. I have mostly been focusing on the trip to Hungary since it is scheduled a month before the other two locations, and have been making a concerted effort to learn the Hungarian language before I arrive there. In my efforts to learn Hungarian, I have experienced a shift in my cerebral cortex which not only helps me with the language, but to also think like a Hungarian, at least to a certain extent. When I practice the speaking drills, I imagine being in the middle of Budapest, having to ask for directions, struggling with a very difficult language to make my thoughts understood.

In addition to the language barrier, I have no idea how to navigate through Budapest and imagine that I will need to learn the public transportation system or take a taxi to certain areas, while backpacking and walking through other areas. This will be an adventure unlike any other I have experienced. Things I am incredibly reliant on like clean food sources and a gym will be somewhat hit or miss when I am out there. I know I will feel a bit like I got drop kicked into a very unfamiliar territory, and I know I will be well outside my comfort zone during the trip.

Some of the greatest breakthroughs have come from challenging existing patterns. Perhaps I will have an epiphany while in a foreign land, trying to find my way and struggling with a language which I am rather unfamiliar with. I am certainly up for the challenge and the adventure. It has been far too long since i have thrown myself out into the big wide world, at risk of stumbling over every little thing. It certainly doesn’t help that my brain is more like a stone than a sponge when it comes to learning languages now. However, I have made a concerted effort to learn Hungarian. At least I can say things like “szeretnék valamit enni” (I would like something to eat) while in Hungary and hopefully understand the response I will get to that statement.

I am excited for the adventures ahead and fully expect them to influence how I view the life I have built for myself. It’s always good to shake things up a bit!