Thursday, May 21, 2015

25 Random Things

It was over 6 years ago that my friend, José, tagged me to write 25 random things.  I was pretty recently out of my marriage and was definitely going through some soul searching times.  (I guess some things don't change).  I was far less comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings at that time, but I figured, "what the hell", and sat down one night to write this.

I recently had occasion to revisit this list and was both surprised and pleased to realize I still really liked my list and that most of it still holds true for me.

I think to me that signifies I have been on the right path.  Thinking about my life in a pretty consistent way.  Clear about where I want my growth to be.  I am still considering my legacy, since I still don't have children of my own.  And the third tattoo will read "Never Say Never".  I will let you know where I finally decide to ink it.

Anyone want to take a crack at a list of their own?  I would love to read it.

25 Random Things, by Maria Amendolia.  
Originally written 02.2009

1. I am part of an amazing triumvirate. It is a blessed thing to have found the true meaning of both friend and family in my sisters.
2. And, if not lucky enough to have 2 sisters by blood, I also have a circle of sistas who listen, love, support, encourage, prop, hug, inspire, reflect, challenge (and did I mention love?) me, often in spite of myself.
3. I like honesty. In fact I cherish it. In my opinion, candor is both underrated and underutilized. Yes, I know…why hurt someone’s feelings if you don’t “need” to. But perhaps we would all be a little more trusting, and learn a bit more about ourselves if we could simply be honest…….
4. I love inspirational quotes. By great men and great women, as well as anonymous men and women. I aspire to live by quite a few of them. Getting there…part of the journey I keep telling myself.
5. Never settle. That is one of the most important mantras for me. Through all my faults and shortcoming, I truly hope I always have the courage to never settle. 
6. Courage is a quality I admire in people and one I like to think I possess. Many things are possible because of courage and though I will make mistakes, hopefully one of them will not be that I didn’t have a backbone.
7. If I may steal from Jose…I love sweets. Dark chocolate. A really good cookie. Soft serve ice cream. Nothing better…well, almost nothing.
8. I like that I know that there are a few things better than sweets.
9. I don’t think I like living in a house. I think I prefer apartment living. No snow to shovel, no leaking roof to fix, no gardening I should be doing, no extra rooms to clean. Aaaahhhh
10. I don’t think I ever realized how difficult 25 random things would be. Keep flip flopping between deep and totally random and useless…
11. It took me 38 years to realize just how dysfunctional “chic” movies really are. So sad.
12. I like that I have figured out that I can be thoughtful and kind and generous in life and fiercely competitive and maybe just a tad mean in sport. 
13. I can no longer pretend that anything good will happen in my life unless I MAKE it happen
14. I think I should do another one of these lists when I am really drunk or really tired…might look different……
15. Summer, sun, the ocean, beautiful photographs, Gilmore Girls, great footwear, sex, my niece and nephew, laughing with my friends, sleeping…just a few of my favorite things
16. I like living alone (no offense to Mark…I loved living with him). But now that I am on my own, I actually really enjoy my own space. This surprised me.
17. I no longer mind being the shortest adult in the room.
18. I like that I am figuring out that selfish is not a four letter word…and that no isn’t either.
19. I hope I am able to get to all the places on my travel to do list…
20. I hope that I acquire the strength and wisdom to grow old gracefully. Maya Angelou is a great role model for this. And at present, I do not fear death but I am scared shit to get old.
21. It occurs to me that without the legacy of children, I need to be creative in what I leave behind when I depart…
22. I suspect I will be tired by the time I am old. Perhaps rather than figuring out ways for people to live longer, we should be focusing on ways to live healthier and happier. Quality, not quantity….
23. I wish I had been more of the true ME when I was younger. I would have had so much more fun…damn it
24. Never ever thought I’d have a tattoo. But I have 2…contemplating a third. Perhaps it will read “subtlety is overrated”….
25. I am generally enjoying the journey of life. Just wish I hadn’t recently promised a very good friend I would not make part of that journey on a motorcycle…it would have been a sweet ride. Can you picture it…on my own Triumph? 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Experience with MS: Positive Mindset Choices + Belief Systems Impact On Health by John Montalto

“You will not realize the truth of your choices until you have reached your destination” Anonymous

I faced a life changing decision in 1993 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time I was 28 years old and lived a life with reckless abandon, both physically and emotionally. I smoke, drank and took recreational drugs. Often I found myself in a state of depression and made choices based upon this emotional state, leading to more unhappiness and frustration. I had become a master at sabotaging not only the relationship with other people, but also the one with myself.  I never thought about the consequences of my choices until the day my diagnosis was confirmed. Up to that point I often reacted without reflection before making decisions and in the process, suffering the consequences. Something remarkable occurred when I received the diagnosis and was facing the biggest challenge of my life; I made a decision that had the greatest impact on my well being, the choice to no longer be destructive and complacent, to start a path of positive constructive behavior in regard to my health. I began the process of turning my disease state into a wellness one, by changing my mindset from a closed one to one full of possibilities.

At the time I was diagnosed, my close friend Cindy, who had a serious condition know as Endrometriosis, was attempting to treat her illness with drug therapy. The drugs had such serious side effects that she was forced to stop and re-think her course of treatment. When I received the diagnosis, I was terrified of what I would become as the disease progressed, I had never faced anything this challenging before in my life. The Neurologist who diagnosed me recommended I immediately go on a drug protocol to treat the symptoms; Cindy implored me not to take the drugs based on her experience trying to combat her disease. She assured me that there was a better would way to naturally treat our diseases and had already started to look into alternative approaches and helped me get started. As a person who always chose to take the easy way out, this was not an easy decision to make. I believed in taking the most convenient way possible to resolve any problem I was faced with.  

When faced with the option of taking drugs to manage my symptoms, or taking responsibility for my health by learning about the disease process and how it can overcome without the use of pharmaceutical, I chose the former. I started to do research on the causes of MS and the available treatments pharmaceutically and naturally. I began to weight the pros and cons for each.  The drug-based treatments available were not promising; they seemed more able to mask the disease by treating the symptoms and not underlying cause. The natural approach offered an understanding about cause and effect of the disease process.  This made more sense to me, that to be able to successfully treat a disease, you must know its origin before you can proceed.  The body has an amazing ability to heal itself when you provide the proper nutritional and spiritual input to facilitate wellness.  

I spoke to my Neurologist and got as much information from him about MS, what triggered it, what could I do to prevent an attack, what should or shouldn’t I do in my daily day to day actions to help me stay symptom free. The doctor obliged with as much information as possible, I took many notes and made lists of things he recommended I should avoid in order to  “manage the symptoms” as best as possible. Following this course of action would have limited my ability to live life without restriction and there was no guarantee that it would help prevent symptoms from manifesting.  I was fortunate that the on set of my symptoms were mild, it helped me make a clear decision about what I was going to do. I remember thinking as I looked as the list of things I should or should not do, that I feel good enough to do almost everything I normally do, why should I live in fear of what might happen. I asked myself “why should I not take advantage of what I am capable of today?” “Why should I be a victim when I could take responsibility for my decisions?”  I played a victim for most of my life:  would it really benefit me to continue, or should I finally take responsibility for owning my health and well being. For once I decided to take the unknown path, one that would bring many challenges for it went against every belief system and acted upon in the past.  I took Cindy’s advice not to take the drug recommended for my illness; I started the course of action to naturally treat MS naturally, I was still scarred of what might happen to me, of how my MS symptoms would progress, but I never waved from that decision. I own a great deal of gratitude for Cindy’s friendship and support.

I slowly changed my diet and started to eat clean and healthy foods, I took supplements, which were recommended for MS. The decision was a lot easier than putting it into action, but I gradually starting including more and more healthy choices into my daily lifestyle.  I became less depressed and my outlook on life improved. With each step achieved with success, the more disciplined and focused I became. I developed a passion for learning. For the first two years my symptoms remained mild and slowly the time between outbreaks lengthened. And then they stopped. That was 18 years ago.

Since my diagnosis I have graduated from The Swedish Institute For Massage Therapy in New York City and been licensed by New York State as a Massage Therapist. In the past 15 years I have worked with over a thousand clients privately, in New York’s finest Hotels and abroad. I have taught Massage Therapy classes and prepared students for a career in massage therapy at a New York State accredited school. I been certified as a Personal Trainer by ISSA and an instructor by TRX and have worked with clients in New York City and Germany. And recently, I have obtained my certification as a Life Coach from The Certified Coaching Foundation. All of this might not have been possible if I would have not made the decision to take ownership of my health in the winter of 1993.

When facing your next challenge, consider reflecting on the notion that your belief system plays a significant role in determining your health.  Utilizing a positive mindset combined with affirmative action has great impact on your overall health. And while you may not rise to every challenge, there is always a lesson to be learned. View this as not failure; every choice you make that is authentic and truthful will assure a better chance for you to arrive at a happy and healthy destination.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lessons in Life, Loss, Love, and Living the Dream by Brett Smith

I asked for contributions from guest authors mostly because I feel the value of this blog is the notion that we are all in this together.  That the journey of life is a shared experience in which we can learn from each other and draw inspiration and strength from each others experiences and stories.  Here is the first.  Enjoy!!

They say it is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.  I cannot argue with that.  It is better to have been alive and known the unadulterated love of your parents, then to have never experienced it at all.  Even though now without that love, I feel loss.  For some, many in the world, they never had that to begin with, therefore they do not know.  

Also learned, do not live in fear of what could happen.  Positive Mental Attitude.  If you believe in your actions, then roll with it.  Do not live in fear of what could go wrong.  If you do, you will have many missed opportunities.  I have watched my Father live his entire life in fear, and at times not lived completely due to his fears, and illness.  Only to have his worst fears come true because they were completely out of his control. He lives with much regret daily. I refuse to do the same.  I will not be afraid to jump off a cliff and land two thousand miles across the country.  I will not get lost, I will succeed, I will take the wheel and I will be in control of my life.  The results, the consequence of my actions, will speak for themselves.  The fact that this cliff existed to begin with speaks for me.  When I land, I will roll, I will stand, I will take control of the wheel, dust myself off and continue to kick the world’s ass.  

Why?  Because I have little other in terms of options…  You see, no matter what is happening right in front of you, the world keeps turning.  When everything goes wrong, the world keeps turning.  When you land in a fiery pit of hell on earth, even though you feel it stop…  The fucking world still turns.  It turns with or without you,, so best to get your ass on board when possible.  

Sometimes we are left with no choice but to get off and stop for a while.  Such was the case when my mother fell ill, diagnosed with cancer.  I got on board, learned how the world of Medicine works, and made the decisions to attempt to save her life.  That was the only choice I made, she made, and I was committed to it with every action.  In the end we lost.  I lost my mother.  The world lost a beautiful person.  But we all were given the opportunity to know that person; therefore we are lucky from the start.  Having had such extraordinary parents leaves me better off in the first place than the average person.

I know dedication. I know love, and I know commitment.  I know the consequences of one choice over another.   I have seen it firsthand.  I have seen two people honor the commitments made to one another wholeheartedly, from both ends of the spectrum.  I have seen the easy way, and I have done it the hard way.  Next time?  Do it the educated way!  That’s most likely somewhere in between the easy and hard way, depending on the situation.  But do not be afraid.

As I sit here this very moment, I just received a text from my father.  He asks me for my new address so that when he dies, the crematory knows where to send the ashes.  I think to myself, how fucked up is this situation?  We know what’s coming, we have sat and discussed it to an extent, a further extent than I ever wished, but such is life.  Here we are, here we go, on the journey they started many years ago.  The world keeps turning, whether or not I decide to jump on board and make it to San Diego.  Got to go somewhere, right?  So why the fuck not eh?  After all San Diego is pretty awesome.  I could have easily made up several reasons why NOT to go, my Dad being one of them.  But we refuse to let that be an excuse.  I guess the lesson earlier was do NOT live in fear of that which you CANNOT control.  

Take the world by storm, make the fucking storm.  But do not be afraid of what’s coming, because it will come no matter what.  Best to be on board, and roll with the punches, then to get smacked off.  I cannot control when and how he passes, even if I stay with him.  It will not be easy for either of us, but I will not be held at a standstill in fear of what’s to come.  I will hurt just as much when the time comes, but I will not stop it from happening.  The world will not stop, so how could I?  If I stop, it will hurt even more.  Best not to carry the weight…

Best to live life fully, even to be a bit extreme at times.  Go the distance, love deeply, and laugh hard, enjoy every moment!.  Toss in a few cliffs for good measure, maybe even a few mistakes.  Shit happens, lesson learned!!.  Live a life that was worth living, not a life in fear of what’s to come.  Create the future, instead of watching it pass you by.   Control what you can, but let the rest go as it may.  Sometimes a piece will hit you in the face, that’s just how it goes, that’s what helmets are for!  Life happens, with or without you.  So best to let it be with you and to have enjoyed it.  

I have at times overheard people remark “I don’t know how you do it…” commenting on how I have dealt with the situations at hand.  The truth is sometimes I don’t know how either, sometimes it’s rough, sometimes you get caught in the trough, sometimes things don’t go as planned.  As a matter of fact this life has not gone as planned.  But the world keeps turning.  I deal with it however I do at the moment because I have no choice.  It is what it is, there ain’t no stopping it.  Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes I run, and sometimes I hide.  But whatever I do, I am always moving forward, not back. 
I guess that’s how I deal with it, because I have no choice in the matter.  Life is coming, with the full weight of the real world, whether or not you like it.  Am I too young for this shit?  YES!  Are they too young for this?  YES!  Should we not be going through this right now? Absolutely! But we are.  So there is no choice in that matter.  Life is what you make it.  So make it fucking awesome!  Make a fucking adventure of mass proportion and kick the world’s ass.  Don’t be a prisoner to the world, don’t be a victim of circumstance.  Fill the void however you may, keep it full, and keep moving forward.  

Question that which you know, and that which you don’t know, reach for the fucking stars.  If they tell you it’s impossible, that means you need to find a way to make it happen!!  Accept the challenge, throw it in their face, and keep going.  Be the best, and come out on top.  Make sure they know how good you are, boast but do not brag.  Challenge yourself, and accept the challenges they throw at you.  Call bullshit when you know it is.  Show them what’s really possible.  Anything is possible if you try…  

Lazy is never a good excuse.  Fuck being lazy, sleep when you’re dead.  It could be tomorrow, it could be in thirty or forty plus more years!  The wicked don’t rest, the wicked leave a lasting impression on the world!.  Be inspired! Be the fucking inspiration!  Use every ounce of energy for that which you are passionate about, and do not waste your energy on things that do not matter, or are out of your control. Control all that you can, and deal with the rest to the best of your ability. 

Friday, May 15, 2015


15 months ago I slipped and hit my head.  Fuck...that sucked.  And it didn't. I learned a ton about myself...about what I fear the most and what I am made of.  "Hearty stock" my sister, Christina, said.  She was not wrong...on all sorts of levels.

4 1/2 months ago I started working out again regularly.  I had major problems getting back into a routine in the fall.  Start and stopped.  Was afraid to do too much.  Had gotten used to not getting up to work out.  After the first of the year, I decided to ask for the help I needed and I started to focus.  Getting back in shape is tough and it is so easy to want to give up.  But I had to believe that I could do it.  I had to trust that I could regain the fitness I had previously possessed.  And guess what?  I am getting STRONG again!  Not quite where I was, yet...but getting there.  6 weeks ago I got serious about my diet and I am actually starting to see those muscles I have been working on!

So I am here to tell CAN be done.  Every person that has been detoured by pregnancy, job, kids, parents, injury, marriage, divorce....whatever...can get into or back into the shape he/she wants.  With a little determination, a fair amount of patience, a lot of consistency and some moxy, YOU can do it!  I promise.  And I am here to help, or cheer, or kick you in the ass. :-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trust in yourself...and have FUN

I have awesome friends.  Not saying you don't, but mine are the bomb.  I am sure I have said this before.  But I will keep saying it.  They offer me sage advice, give me perspective and at times, keep me sane.

The other day I was relaying a story to a friend and this was the pearl that he shared with me.

"You will get scared and doubt yourself.  Trust yourself that you are strong enough to enjoy the ride.  Because above all else, have fun.  That's all anything is.  Even the uncomfortable painful stuff."

I love this.  That strength and a positive attitude can trump the fear and the discomfort.  It somehow puts it into perspective in a way that feels powerful to me.  The idea that the doubts, which inevitably creep in, can just as easily be washed away if I look at the journey as a fun adventure.  I think I have said something along those lines before ;)  But, as many of us do, I needed that reminder!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Real = Sexy

I have loved writing this blog, despite the moments I feel like I'm talking to a crowd of people in my underwear. (In fact, I think it is a rather small group of readers.) But when someone I have just met says "I'm checking out your blog," I am initially flattered and then feel a wave of panic.  Yikes! That is a lot of information about my deepest fears and insecurities and maybe it's too soon to let someone see into my brave but delicate heart.

Then I remember that this is what I want.  To be real.  So of course I lean in and say, "Well, you wanted real."  The response...


So perfectly said.  But so hard to remember.  I think we all walk around with an idea of what we should show to the world, consciously or not.  What is acceptable, cute, attractive, safe.  But does it allow us to make real connections?

In my book (book of life, that is...I am not writing a book), real is to be authentic, which means being vulnerable (as she takes a deep breath because being vulnerable is not easy).  It means showing not only the parts of me I feel comfortable with and confident about, but the doubts and the fears as well.  So at times I am a jokester and a flirt...someone who can be super sarcastic and mischievous.  But it is good for me to remember to show all the facets of myself.  Especially to those in my life I care most about and those I want to know better.  And in the moments I remember this, I realize that the response isn't even important.  Because I have offered up the real me and that feels really good.  Take a deep breath and give it a try...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Work to Live or Live to Work

I was talking with a friend last week about her job.  She sort of apologized that she hadn't yet moved on from her less than satisfying position at a big law firm in NYC.  She knows I don't care where she works but it led us to talk about why she is still there.  She has a fair amount of flexibility, a lot of autonomy (especially for her industry), lots of vacation time and is very well-paid.  This job allows her to still have a life outside of work and affords her some of the things she wants in, shoes, her own apartment, savings.  So depending on a person's criteria, she actually has an awesome job.  It is that age old to live or live to work.  I know my fair share that slave away into the late evening hours on many a day.  And for those who love it, then great!  I have colleagues who are giddy about reading an anatomy book on a Saturday night.  Me, not so much...but for them, it is pure enjoyment.

I often struggle with where my work and career fall on the list of priorities.  I work hard, but should/could I be doing more?  I think where I question the amount of time we spend working in this lifetime is when the work interferes with living a happy, balanced and satisfying life.  If the answer is always..."later".  or..."when I retire".  or..."soon I will have time to try that".  or..."I meant to use all my vacation days".  Then I ask, what are you waiting for?  To retire at 62 and within months be showing signs of early stage Alzheimer's like my mother?  Or die unexpectedly from a heart attack at 49?  Because at that point the life you "saved" until you were done working ain't gonna happen.

So to my dear friend Ann, and the anatomy geeks who can't get enough of your are both right.  Nobody can judge what the right formula is for you.  But make sure it is a conscious decision.  We only get one shot at this life.  What do you want it to look like?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Truth

I say to people that I always prefer the truth, even if it is something I don't want to hear.  This is something that seems sort of obvious to me, but I realize it is not a universal desire.  I always marveled at the women who ask their man "Does this look good on me?" and don't actually want the truth but rather are sending what they think is a clear request to be told they look great!  Huh?  I don't get it.  I'm not judging...I just don't get it.  If I ask it's because I want to know that this shirt isn't particularly flattering or no, the ensemble is not accentuating my assets as I would like, or maybe something I thought matched really doesn't.  Why else would I ask?  I personally find no comfort in platitudes.  

Now make no mistake...I am not saying be mean.  I think that Kind is always something we should strive for.  But I see a big difference between "kind" and "nice".  Don't be nice to me to save my feelings.  If a man breaks up with me I want to know the real reason so I can think about it and work to better myself if I need to.  I realize it's not an easy thing to do at times, to be completely honest.  But I think it says a lot about the strength of any relationship, be it with a friend, boyfriend, or colleague.  I also think it speaks to how much respect you have for me.

So why do people look at me weird because they can't understand that I want the true answer to my questions.  Great movie, but I am not sure Jack Nicholson was right.  
At least not where I am concerned :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Walk towards each other

I have a friend who has been having marital issues. Among other things, he talked about feeling disconnected, and has been completely disheartened about the relationship.  He feels abandoned because from his perspective everything comes before him.  I feel like I have learned a lot from my divorce...about what I did wrong and what I want to do differently in the future. I'm certainly no expert, but there are a few things that stand out clearly to me.  I told him he and his wife have a choice. To continue to focus on and fuel the hurt that has been present.  To decide to end their marriage and look elsewhere for what they feel is lacking.   Or they could decide to walk towards each other.  Decide they want to work at mending the hurt and broken trust and closing the distance between them. To choose each other and make efforts every day to do that.  

I realize it is not that simple, but the idea of choosing to walk towards each other, every single day, even while being strong, independent, unique individuals is one that resonates deeply with me and something I can aspire to in the next phase of my journey.