Book Review: Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Ariana Huffington

Thrive is Ariana Huffington’s 14th book, a remarkable achievement. While it was easy to read and informational I found a lot of overlap between this book and her more recent book, The Sleep Revolution. Huffington begins this book by sharing a moment in time where she was so overworked that she had physically collapsed. She regards this is her wake-up call and the start to her journey for balance and the development of a new standard for measuring her success in life that she likes to call the third metric.

This book was well written and contained personal anecdotes from Huffington’s life. She shares her daughter’s struggle with addiction and an eating disorder and charming tales of her Greek mother’s generous nature. Though I found the book great to read before bed to wind down from the day, I don’t actually recommend reading it cover to cover if you are busy as the text begins to repeat itself over time. Most of the time while reading I ended up paying more attention to the inspirational quotes she leaves throughout the book from famous authors.

Here are my main take-aways from this book:

  1. No matter how perfect or successful someone looks from the outside, we are all human and have our own limits and personal struggles.
  2. While it’s good to be ambitious and have goals, pushing yourself towards success to the point of unhappiness and burnout is not ideal.
  3. At the end of our lives we are remembered for our personal relationships and our character, not by who can stay the longest in the office.
  4. Don’t let your smart phone and your email inbox take over your life.
  5. Consider taking up meditation.
  6. Volunteering and helping other in general helps us to turn outwards instead of mulling over our problems over and over in our heads. It’s a win-win for all involved.
  7. If you are able to accomplish things on 6 hours of sleep, imagine how efficient you would be with 8!

 

Happy Reading!

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Glyphosate: What it is and Why it should Concern you

Before concentrating in Agricultural Studies last semester I was unfamiliar with the chemical herbicide known as glyphosate, but as it happens glyphosate is the center of a great controversy in modern agriculture. This herbicide is non-selective, meaning it kills all plants indiscriminately. It is generally applied before seeding to rid fields of pests and weeds. When farming with little to no tillage (plowing) many farmers say it is almost a necessity to apply it. Glyphosate is frequently sold under the name Roundup. Glyphosate is persistent in soil but usually breaks down eventually. In the E.U. there were recently efforts to ban the chemical, but last winter it was approved for use for the next 5 years.

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(Stock photo)

Companies, most notably Monsanto, insist that there are little to no health risks associated with glyphosate when used as instructed. However there are several documented cases where excessive exposure to glyphosate through the skin and/or lungs caused severe irritation and birth abnormalities especially when farm workers apply it without using gloves or protective clothing. Glyphosate residues can also be commonly found on produce grown in fields where it was applied, which means there is a small risk that it could accumulate in the body over time. The easiest way to protect yourself from this risk would be to wash your produce before consumption.

For further information on the subject I recommend this documentary(Glyphosate: The Sick Children of Argentina). It was originally from Deutsche Welle News though I am currently unable to find it on their site.

 

Colmar, France

Colmar was the first town I ever visited in France and also the first class trip I ever took with my Spring Abroad Program, (IES Abroad Freiburg: Language and Area Studies). We took a bus in for the day and walked around town after visiting the Colmar’s St Martin’s Cathedral. This Alsace town is just as pristine and quintessentially French as it appears in these photos.

To top off the experience, a few of my new friends and I went on an hour long search for a cafe to share an Escargot appetizer. (Most places were closed because it was Sunday). We all ordered in subpar German as we’d only been in Europe for a few days and were still somewhat jet lagged. The waitress answered back to us in English as most Europeans will do to you despite your best efforts to speak in the local languages. Since we all shared one pricey Escargot platter I had exactly one Escargot, which I can only describe to have tasted like chicken. Some things are universal I guess.

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Be sure to follow my travel adventures on instagram at: @colormeadri

Till Next Time,

Adri

Minimalism: The Kon Marie Method

I admit to not actually reading Kon Marie’s popular book Spark Joy. I did however watch a few YouTube videos of the woman cleaning other people’s homes. If you have a computer or watch television with any frequency, it’s likely you’ve at least heard a mention of the Japanese organizational sensation.

Kon Marie basically advises that when cleaning the home, to reevaluate all the items one owns, actually hold them in one’s hands and determine whether the item makes us happy or not. Then of course we have to think about function, and then sentimental value in evaluating our stuff. (She also has very interesting ways of optimizing space once we’ve evalated our items. Most of these tips involve either rolling our items, standing them vertically, or a combination of the two).

Kon Marie also advises to clean your home not room by room, but item by item in five larger categories of items: clothes, books, paper, kitchen, and then miscellaneous items (referred to as komono in Japanese).

Using Kon Marie’s tips has helped me a lot to get rid of even more items that just aren’t adding to my life anymore.

Documentary Review: Sugar Coated

Food Politics has always been a great topic of interest of me. In fact it is the social issue that got me interested in studying Sociology in undergrad. I’ve just finished the documentary Sugar Coated, and I think it does an excellent job at raising awareness of the health and social consequences of the sugar industry. It’s available on Netflix which I think makes it pretty easy to access for a lot of folks.

It’s not that sugar in itself is bad. Of course the sugar that is in fruits and vegetables occur naturally and we need to eat it to survive. However, sugar in the modern world is added in large quantities to almost everything we eat and given as many as 48 different alternative names that disguise it’s presence. Processed foods in particular are marketed to people often as being low fat, low calorie in order to attract sales, but in order to make up for the blandness of foods which have lost some flavors in the production process, unreasonable amounts of sugar are added to them.

Reported findings of medical studies over the past few decades on sugar consumption have often been deemed as inconclusive. It is highly likely that the sugar industry has invested lobbying money in order to downplay the effects of overdose on sugar and the consumption of some modified sugars which may be hard for the body to digest. In the past it was difficult to conclude with certainty to the public that heavy sugar consumption could be linked to many non-communicable diseases and conditions such as blood glucose issues, tooth decay, cognition related problems, and even increased risk for heart disease or cancer. This is largely in part to the reality that illnesses are influenced by a myriad of factors, and without the ability to isolate them in medical studies proving a link between sugar and disease is difficult, but over time more and more experts have been trying to warn consumers of the health risks of heavy sugar consumption.

As with anything, don’t just take my word as truth. Explore for yourself. Watch this film. Read some books. Talk to your doctor or dietary specialist and get that important second opinion, but whatever you do, read the labels on your foods! Don’t just be satisfied with vague statements on the front of the packaging that claim “healthy”, low calorie”, or even in some cases claims of “no added sugar”. Read your nutrition facts. You may be surprised (and slightly disgusted) by the amount of sugar we let slip by us. Take control of your health today. Our health is one the most important things we can protect in this world.

Minimalism: Failed Strategy

Today I realized that something I was doing in my mad attempt to make our house a clean and happy house turned out in actuality to be a horrible idea. What could I have possibly done that was so bad you ask?

Well, I simply took everything I could out of all of the cabinets and thought I could tackle all of our household items all at once….

…not so smart.

At first it worked, but over time everything just kept getting messier and messier, and I couldn’t even tell that I had gotten rid of a lot of stuff because the floors were just piled in junk. So I suppose the real error was a false expectation that I could downsize the house instantly. It’s a process that’s going to take some time.

My advice?  Just clean out your drawers and shelves one at a time. You’ll be glad when your home does not look like a tornado ran through it like mine.

Witnessing an armed dispute in Santa Fe

Spring Break 2014: This is an account of an armed dispute I saw while vacationing in Santa Fe. It happened a while back but in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, I am sharing this story to add to the discussion on gun violence.

What I wanted out of spring break was to relax, if only for just a day or a few hours. I headed out by car for the mountains of Santa Fe with my mom, ready to get out of Houston and away from the constant stress of academic life. The first day as we were driving across the vastness of the Texas prairie I still felt leftover stress, but I was hoping I’d get over it. The next day we made a stop at a Torchy’s Tacos in Lubbock. A uniformed man in line for food had a gun in plain sight strapped across the back of his belt. Of course this isn’t the first gun I’ve ever seen and in the US its completely normal for police officers to be armed. It’s part of their job to protect people, but that morning the sight of it bothered me, how it was a bit larger than other guns I’d seen, how visible it was. I tried to shove away my nerves but they hung around as I ate my greasy (but delicious) taco.

We hit the Texas-New Mexico border at a town called Farewell, TX. Sitting behind the wheel I drove a bit faster and thought to myself, Farewell Texas! I’m going to the mountains now. I had never been to New Mexico before. As we drove past, the great plains turned to flat, lifeless, yellow grass with bright red dirt. Desert scrubs and yucca. We gained altitude and peculiar dark green pine trees dotted the rolling yellow hills. We passed between desolate highway lanes, and the small roads of run-down and forgotten towns.

Then we hit Santa Fe, with its majestic mountains. Well-to-do people walked around outside of fake adobe houses. Santa Fe was very commercialized, the rich of the town appropriating Native American culture, decor and customs. My anxiety was still in full gear, but was tinged with a sense of excitement. Santa Fe had the wealth that those other small towns we passed on the way did not. I felt myself wanting to live there.

Until we were driving to our hotel and were stopped at an intersection. In front of us was a black SUV and a white 80’s Honda Accord stopped on the road. We thought perhaps the cars got in a wreck and the owners were about to exchange papers. But two men got out of the SUV and surrounded the white car. One man pointed a very large black gun at the window. It was the biggest gun I had ever seen (and I grew up in West Virginia where a lot of people own guns). Inside a Native American man with long braided hair sat still and silent. Then the gunman turned his gaze and met my eyes. What I thought could be my last moment instead became the moment that the men headed back into their car and sped away.Had we saved that man with the long braided hair?

The next day we learned from a cashier we recounted our story too that the event we witnessed was not out of the ordinary for the area. He leaned in close and confided to us, “It’s the younger generation. They like to race cars in the streets and get into fights. Don’t take the backroads and you’ll be fine. And if it happens again don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t call the police. You just look straight and drive away and you’ll be fine.”

We didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary for the rest of our stay and I was eventually able to enjoy some relaxed time in nature like I planned, but because of what we witnessed, the Land of Enchantment had lost some of its enchanting qualities in my eyes. But gun violence is not an issue pertaining only to Santa Fe. Far from it. In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Orlando I don’t quite know what to say, only that we shouldn’t look away. When things of this nature happen we should never look away. We must speak up. Even when we are afraid, we must tell someone.

Mission Declutter: A journey towards the pursuit of minimalism


At the moment I am living at home, full of its comforts, familiarities, and also full of clutter. I mean, I really don’t know how we managed as a family to accumulate so many possessions. Well, I do know. We went shopping and found a sale. We mastered the art of the garage sale deal.

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing my best to pare down my possessions, and I’ve done well so far. I plan to purge more items, figure out what can be sold on sites like craigslist, and donate some clothes, but a strange thing happens when you try to clean out your suburban home. The more items you throw out, the more items magically reappear in their place. 

But no matter! I know that with dedication and a little daily work, I can help get this house back into some state of order. In the meantime I will share with you strategies I have been using to clean house so that you can join in on the fun.

  1. Birds of a feather stick together: In other words, take all of the items that belong together and put them in a box somewhere. For example, if you, like I, have an absurd amount of half empty notebooks lying around, put them all in one place. If you notice that you are leaving a trail bobby pins and hair ties around the house, put those all in one place. Once you’ve done this with some items, you will be ready to take on tip number 2.
  2. You do not need 5 identical dull nail clippers: Once you’ve paired similar items together reevaluate whether or not you really need 10 rulers with faded lettering, or that collection of hotel pens that don’t actually have ink in them anymore. The answer is probably that you don’t need all these things. I promise.
  3. Why are you so strongly attached to that refrigerator magnet from the 2nd grade? Sometimes we hold onto things because we are attached to them emotionally. I totally think that’s okay…to an extent. I also find that sometimes I hold onto an item I’m not even that attached to anymore, but I remember that I used to be emotionally attached to the item and refuse to throw it out in case I decide I want it back. Don’t fall for this one. Just get rid of the stuff. If you didn’t even remember you still owned it, you won’t remember when it’s gone.
  4. If you want a clean house, don’t become an artist! Just kidding. But seriously though, the hardest part about cleaning has been deciding how to keep my insanely large collection of art supplies and paintings under control. Especially difficult is keeping paintings organized and getting rid of old art. I used to hold onto every painting just in case, but I’ve been painting for about 10 years now and have made hundreds if not thousands of paintings. For about 3 years or so, I’ve been reusing canvases and painting over old pictures I don’t like. This helps, but not every painting surface is reusable. Also, I can basically only paint over art done in Acrylic and not Oil or Watercolor. I’ve created around 4 categories to keep my art organized: Paintings I can’t bear to part with, Paintings that I like but would like to sell in the future, Paintings I plan on painting over to reuse the canvas, and Paintings I hate so much that no human eyes should ever see them again.
  5. Fun fact: We used to have a room in our house devoted almost entirely to holding boxes of biscotti cookies that we found on sale at the grocery store. It all started when my mom noticed biscotti cookies were highly marked down at Kroger. It ended with our utility room housing 70 boxes of biscotti cookies. When we realized how ridiculous that was we stopped buying the cookies and ate them all till we no longer had this issue. Find your version of the biscotti cookie room in your own house and act accordingly.
  6. Do I have time to clean out my house? Good question. Maybe you don’t right now. Life is busy. We all have things to do. However, ask yourself, do I have time not to clean out my house? Is clutter taking over my life? If I had to sell this house tomorrow, move out of my apartment tomorrow, etc. would that be a problem? Do I know where my passport, insert other important documents here, is? Everyone is different. Some people have more stuff than other people and some are better organizers. Just because its hard or would take a long time shouldn’t stop you from cleaning house if you think it would improve your quality of life. Just take it slow, one box at a time. 

❤ Color Me Adri

Great Reads: The Sleep Revolution by Ariana Huffington

A few days ago I checked out Ariana Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution from the Kanawha County Public Library. I saw her promote the book on a talk show interview with Trevor Noah and I’m really glad I picked it out. I knew sleep was important, but I learned so much, because she executed such a diverse collection of chapters on different topics relating to sleep. As she proudly claims in her interviews, “I’d take it as a personal victory if you fell asleep reading my book.”

Some topics she tackles in her book are the culture of dismissing sleep as a status symbol (in other words, wearing sleeplessness as a badge of honor), the sometimes irreversible health issues that arise from not sleeping, lack of sleep in college, sleep’s effects on our decision-making, the significance of our dreams and our subconscious thoughts, the development of sleep monitoring technologies and sleep centers, and many more enlightening topics.

Also, a key takeaway message she shares is the importance of winding down before bed and keeping electronic screens powered off about 30 minutes before sleep. This is something I usually aim for anyway, but I think I’ll try working on calming down my thoughts before bedtime to truly maximize the great power of sleep.

Though there was one night when reading her book gave me “performance anxiety” and kept me up a little longer than expected, on a whole reading this book at night has helped me to wind down the day and experience restful sleep. I would recommend reading it, (or for the busy bees out there, skimming it or choosing chapters out of it you find useful).

❤ Color Me Adri

Lebensgarten Dreisamtal: Deconstructing a Greenhouse

As I walked towards the Lebensgarten this morning I could hear bongos and guitars playing in the distance. Clara, Chris and Miriam, as it turned out, had camped out in the garden’s tent so they could be ready to go for the big project of the day, namely driving to Donaueschingen to take down old greenhouses gifted to the Lebensgarten. The work still is in progress. I was only able to go for today, but I’m very excited to see them installed at the Lebensgarten in the coming weeks.

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The drive was incredible. I had gone on most of that highway on the way to go snow-shoe walking in Feldberg, but I had never been to Donaueschingen.

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When Clara said she had received word that she could take home new greenhouses for free, I never would have imagined they’d be as large as they were.

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All eight of us stood in amazement, not knowing exactly where to begin. But like good Germans everyone effortlessly broke into groups, some drawing an architectural sketch of the greenhouses’s frame structure, others devising on the fly a system for labeling each individual metal beam (there were hundreds) so that it would be understood where each piece went in the reconstruction phase.

We had breaks now and then with coffee, pretzels from the local bakery and later pizza and soda. The atmosphere was very relaxed. I notice that the workers in the garden always schedule in breaks, more breaks than I’m used to working in America, but I think that’s an important aspect of the German work culture. When one is working, they are really working, but they know how to rest so they can be more efficient for later.

I had various small jobs throughout the day. First taking advantage of my height by taking down cables. Later unscrewing bolts on beams from ladders and holding down ladders for others. At the end I was assigned to cut the plastic covering so it could be fully removed. Near the beams were strange pointy looking plants. I began to pull them away and found my hand stung despite me wearing gloves and my arm was turning red.

I turned to the person next to me and said, “Ich denke ich bin allergisch gegen diese Pflanze. Was ist es eigentlich?

He laughed and said, “Alle sind allergisch gegen diese Pflanze. Es heißt Brennnesseln.

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For non-German speakers I noticed I had an allergic reaction to the plant I touched, told the person next to me and asked what it was. He laughed because everyone is allergic to the plant, because it is called Stinging Nettle.

I had heard of the plant before but wasn’t aware it had medicinal properties. Chris said on the drive back that he had used it to heal an injury to his Archilles Tendon. Talk about painful.

I had an amazing day and think everything about the project was inspiring. First of all I am inspired by the incredible teamwork of the workers of the Lebensgarten. Secondly, I am impressed that the greenhouses were given away for free, since greenhouses of that size can cost upwards of 20,000 euros (when sold new I’m assuming, or perhaps even used). Thirdly, because the team had the patience to disassemble the greenhouses because of a passion to recycle something that would have otherwise never be used again. Since they were a little old the plan was either to give them away to anyone willing to do the work or simply get rid of them. Everyone working today shared a passion for nature and for recycling something that could be made new again and I found that to be very exciting.