Author Archives: Sara Gabriella

About Sara Gabriella

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10 Things to Do in San Francisco (travel blog)

(written for Extranomical Tours travel blog)

San Francisco Tours bring you to iconic attractions, jubilant street festivals and cultural marvels—all with that extra city by the bay twist! With so much to see and experience, this wondrous city can feel overwhelming. But you gotta start somewhere! Here are ten activities that will blow your mind—but not your budget!

Must-See Sites in San Francisco

Family-approved fun with kids (or those friends and family that still act like children!)

  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • The historic waterfront at PIER 39 is not-to-be-missed, and this is one stop on the Pier you want to make, especially if you have the kiddos along. The Aquarium is home to more than 20,000 marine animals—we’re talking sharks and rays, octopuses, hypnotic jellyfish, frolicking river otters—and so much more. It’s easy to see why the Aquarium of the Bay has dazzled nearly half a million visitors for two decades. Insider tip: Go upstairs above the tank to get up closer to these fantastic creatures, touch them with your bare hands in tide pools, and even feed the sharks!

  • Coit Tower
  • coit tower

    This towering column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill has been a fixture of our San Francisco skyline since 1933. Take the elevator (tickets can be purchased in the gift shop) to the top of the observation deck and capture stunning 360-degree views of the city and bay—including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. It’s the perfect vantage point to take it all in! The story of the tower’s donor Lillie Hitchcock Coit is fascinating—Google it!

  • San Francisco Alcatraz Tour
  • alcatraz

    The lore of Alcatraz inspired movies like “The Rock” with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage and “Murder in the First” with Kevin Bacon, because of its fascinating history as an inescapable prison isolated on an unforgiving island.

    Federal agents imprisoned Chicago’s notorious mobster Al Capone at Alcatraz so he couldn’t orchestrate a jailbreak. Interesting fact:  The ruthless Capone became the banjo player in Alcatraz’s prison band, the Rock Islanders.

    Insider’s Tip: There’s a small group tour (30 people or less) where a ranger leads an adventure to explore clues to the Island’s fascinating past… the stuff you don’t see on the regular tours. You’ll discover secret tunnels, underground jails, and blooming gardens with stunning views. If you enjoy little-known stories, artifacts, and hidden doorways—this is the Alcatraz tour for you. Get your tickets here: Alcatraz Island: An Inescapable Experience.

  • San Francisco Cable Car
  • cable car

    You can ride the world’s very last manually operated cable car through the scenic neighborhoods of San Francisco and “half-way to the stars!” (the signature song of Tony Bennett). There are three lines that cover different parts of the city. The Powell-Hyde line is a good one for visitors, it runs from the corner of Powell and Market Streets to the end of Hyde at the waterfront (near Ghirardelli Square)—and hits a bunch of hot spots along the way.

    Love to walk? Try taking it from Union Square to the top of Lombard Street, hop off there and walk down the famous “crooked” street, then head a few blocks to the waterfront.

    Shopping more your bag? (pun intended) The Powell-Hyde line passes San Francisco’s premier shopping destination: Union Square.

    Into museums? There’s a cable car museum, and a Powell-Hyde cable car will get you there (Washington at Mason).

    All this adventure worked up a monster appetite? Ghirardelli Square has delicious eats. Speaking of grub, get off at California or Sacramento and walk two blocks to Grant and you will find yourself in an enchanting world of exotic sights and tantalizing tastes… it’s #5 on our list.

  • Chinatown
  • chinatown

    As you enter the ornate Chinatown Gate, you are in the world’s biggest Chinatown outside of Asia. Chinatown is its own world within the city. The street signs are written in both English and Chinese, the streetlights are supported by golden dragons, and red lanterns create a matrix hanging above the streets below.

    Authentic cuisine (go for the dim-sum…the best!) line Washington street between Grant and Kearny. You will notice women playing mahjong and men playing Chinese chess in the park and tons of shops with affordable souvenirs. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley) is a treat that doesn’t cost… you guessed it, a fortune! For a few dollars, you can buy fresh fortune cookies and tour a unique factory unlike any you’ve ever laid your eyes on.

    Getting Fun, Festive, and Freaky in San Francisco

    Festivals, Street Fairs, and Adult Entertainment

  • Carnaval San Francisco Festival
  • carnival

    The end of May is time to shake your tail feathers at Carnaval! The Mission District sizzles with samba, salsa and more during Carnaval San Francisco’s hot parade and street fiesta on Memorial Day weekend.

    This annual tradition is muy caliente!  Floats decorated with colorful multicultural themes cruise by, hundreds of Brazilian performers dance through the streets in fabulous feathered headdresses and swirling Bahia skirts, and Caribbean musicians and dancers of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad all come out in full regalia and celebration.

    Mexican Aztec performers, traditional African drummers, Polynesian dancers, Japanese drummers, giant puppets and folkloric groups representing Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia all participate in the festival that is the biggest dance party in the city!

  • Fillmore Jazz Festival
  • The largest free Jazz Festival on the West Coast happens every year in San Francisco’s lively Fillmore neighborhood. More than 100,000 visitors fill the streets over Independence Day weekend on Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy Streets to get down and get funky!

    Live music rocks multiple stages from dusk until dawn.  Twelve blocks of art, crafts, delicious eats and overflowing drinks make this sprawling music and art block party one that locals look forward to every year and that makes visitors want to keep coming back.

  • Haight Ashbury
  • height ashbury

    The summer of 1967 is known as the Summer of Love when 100,000 people communed in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury to kickstart the Hippie Revolution. San Francisco soon became the mecca of hippie subculture. Insider’s Fact: They were inspired by an earlier San Francisco-based cultural movement, the Beat Generation of authors of the 1950s who had flourished in the North Beach area.

    Long after the Summer of Love has given way to Silicon Valley’s digital age, Haight Ashbury remains a vibrant, counter-cultural hub reminiscent of the days of peace, free love, flowers and psychedelic trips.

    Insider’s fact:  Our San Francisco City Insider’s small bus tour shows you the two houses, still standing today, where the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Grateful Dead lived right across the street from one another in the Haight-Ashbury. Rock ‘n roll is still bringing people together in Haight Ashbury!

  • Exploratorium After Dark
  • exploratorium

    Every Thursday Night from 6:00–10:00 p.m., the famous interactive museum goes dark… and the adult fun begins. The Exploratorium’s After Dark Thursday Nights Series turns this usually family-friendly museum into a setting for a different type of discovery.

    A pitch-black dome, a fog bridge, a large-scale kaleidoscope, dazzling light displays, and mind-bending mirrors or some of the fun, hands-on, exhibits you can enjoy after the kids go home and the drinks start flowing. Adults-only programming with unique guest speakers, great music, specialty films, and one-of-a-kind activities make this series a mind-blowing experience you and your friends will talk about for years after!

  • The Speak Easy
  • speakeasy

    Are you searching for a night-time adventure? The Speak Easy is an immersive, interactive show that puts you at the center of a 1920’s roaring good-time. After giving the secret password, you leave the present behind and enter an Illicit Bar, Crooked Casino, and Vaudeville Cabaret right out of an old movie.

    A cast of 35 characters leads you on a “choose your own adventure” into the Prohibition Era. Song and dance, comedy and drama, casino-style gaming, and of course, cocktails are some of the many surprises you encounter as you explore the secret passages and hidden rooms of The Palace Theater.

    Find drama in the bar, sexy spectacle in the cabaret, riotous comedy in the casino… and a few more surprises that we could tell you… but then we’d have to kill you (haha).  Let’s just say, SF Magazine called The Speak Easy “Voyeur’s Playland” for good reason!

    But Wait… There’s More!

    Coming back for a return trip? There are San Francisco bus tours that can take you to nearby Northern California destinations that will have you California dreaming long after your return home!  Monterey and CarmelYosemite National ParkWine Country and Sausalito. We got you covered on the essential beyond the city tours in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned… the fun is just starting!

    In Honor of National Caviar Day (Satire)

    In honor of National Caviar Day, I will nibble on fresh Royal Sevruga Sturgeon roe posed delicately atop a cracker, and sip chilled vodka, served neat in Waterford Crystal, as I draft this commemorative note on July 18th’s national day of record. Excuse me a moment as I dab my chin with my monogrammed, linen napkin. Ah, that is better. As I was musing…yes, this tasty gourmet morsel is quite deserving of an entire calendar day in its honor. After all, the gastronomic disaster that is a “hot dog” has its own day. Caviar should rightly be designated a week. But, that is not the topic of this particular missive (note to self: compose a communique on the rationale for “Caviar Week”); the topic at hand is celebrating the tantalizing experience of consuming caviar.

    Imagine, if you will, fine delicacies being hand-passed by wait staff adorned in formal attire. A tray of gleaming black, red, and gold caviar pearls is presented for your choosing. You squeal with glee—on the inside of course, you are no heathen—as your fingers gently lift a cracker piled high with the black gold of finger foods. The initial burst of lusciousness on your palate is almost too much pleasure to bear. But you carry on, gleefully following with a sip of crisp, Dom Perignon champagne for an eloquent finish to the delectable delight. Gluttonous? Dangerously close. Better than sex? I’m a proper lady and do not discuss such matters in public company (nods head up and down, ever-so-slightly).

    Alas, I must bid you,” Adieu”. I have a charity luncheon to attend, and it would appear dreadfully uncouth if I were to be unpunctual.


    Katarina Krotanko

    Set Boundaries to Set Yourself Free

    Women and Boundaries

    As women we are acutely aware of other people’s feelings.

    Opinions differ as to how to define this—call it the magic of women’s intuition, or a finely-tuned perception developed through experience. Whether it’s society’s cultural engineering, instincts emerging biologically from our role as life givers, or a confluence of nature and nurture, as women we are conspicuous of the comfort, and unease, of those around us.

    This sensitivity prompts us to try and fix things when we sense someone is sad, angry or hurt. It’s simple and harmless at its base; we feel good when making our friends, co-workers and family feel better. We unconsciously jump in to dissipate tension when we sense it building—with a well-placed joke, a coy smile or a compliment.

    But there is a dangerous edge to our feminine gift for lifting people’s spirits—the reluctance to set boundaries when, and where, we need to.

    We become so concerned with the comfort of those around us that we overlook our own needs and security. Too quick to people-please, we recoil from standing our ground. We talk ourselves down from asserting our power. We convince ourselves: “he didn’t mean it like that”; “that’s just how she is”;  “what if I say something and they take it the wrong way?”; “I don’t want to make it a big deal.”

    Sound familiar?

    Our self-talk cajoles us into the lie that it would be rude or unwarranted, and definitely not “lady-like”, to grab hold of our power and adeptly wield it like Wonder Woman’s lasso. The easiest way we surrender our power is by convincing ourselves we have none.

    How and Why Boundaries Work

    How many times have I let someone walk over me in the past out of fear I’d be labeled weird or a bitch?

    Enough that I learned my lesson: What you allow to continue, will continue.

    The uplifting thing about asserting yourself is it gets easier the more you do it. It becomes as second nature as our womanly ability to gracefully smooth things over.

    The greatest thing about setting boundaries is that if you do it upfront you avoid heaps of toxic drama down the road that will mire you in pitfalls of wasted time and energy.

    Boundaries possess the almost magical effect of turning off those personalities that are prone to invading the sanctuary of your well-being. Boundaries brandish the power to push away takers who want to leech onto your goodwill without any intention of reciprocity. And boundaries cast off those who seek easy targets to satiate their malignant pathologies and play out their malicious intentions.

    So boundaries are a powerful weapon, but how do we erect these electromagnetic force fields of personal protection?

    The first step is to use our heightened powers of perception to sense when something feels peculiar. This sensation in your gut—or in your bones, or wherever you feel you carry it—that something is off about an interaction or behavior should flash a warning signal that someone is about to trespass into your personal space.

    The same way kids will test you to see what they can get away with, so will adults with nefarious plans to trample your inner peace.

    The moment you sense the chilling ripple that cautions someone is manipulating you—stand up and resist.

    It’s not important that you decipher their intentions; they might not be fully aware of their own motives. What is crucial is your confident, unwavering power.

    Persistent people will circle back a few times and come at you from various angles, trying to circumvent your wall, looking for any crevice to turn into a foothold. But when they see they aren’t getting anywhere they will move on to an unsuspecting target not yet awakened to the full force of her boundary-erecting power.

    Let’s get to a few real life examples. Waste no time setting boundaries if someone is…

    • Pushing their agenda but trying to create the impression that they are giving you advice that is in your best interest.
    • Trying to hijack your schedule, forcing you to commit to their demands for your time over your repeated statements that you are not available.
    • Having a hard time taking “no” for an answer and forcing you to make increasingly stronger assertions to be heard over their flurry of objections.
    • Either ignoring or trampling over your words and ideas. They either never hear you or override your wishes and words with brute force (interrupting; raising his or her voice, as if that makes their point more valid; and/or dismissing information or opinions that don’t align, or originate, from their “superior” intellect).
    • Using fear, shame, guilt, or other manipulative and demeaning ploys to make you feel inadequate, powerless, or stupid. This is a tactic often used by people who want to control you. Be wary when someone responds negatively when you disagree with them or behave in a manner that conflicts with how they want you to be or what they want you to do. (This is a five-alarm boundary setting emergency! DO NOT walk, RUN to your boundary-building workshop, get the tools you need and go as fast as your flailing arms can build! Make that wall stretch beyond the treetops, top it off with rusted razor wire and make it light up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree – with skin-scorching electricity if touched.)

    How do you set steadfast boundaries that will get you to the promised land of Live and Let Live?

    • To quote the legendary Doc, “Say what you mean and mean what you say, because the people that matter don’t mind and the people that mind don’t matter.” ~ Dr. Seuss In other words, be confident in expressing yourself authentically. It’s not about ego, it’s about a healthy sense of self-worth that is not dependent on external factors, like the approval of others or social status.
    • Socrates summed it up in two words: “Know Thyself.” By growing in self-knowledge you can learn to trust yourself. Become that one friend that you can trust 100% in every situation because you know your deepest values and what you will do to protect them. Be wary of those who try to get you to doubt yourself. Do You! 
    • Always remember you have every right to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions about the world. Never let any person make you feel wrong for being true to yourself. You have the same claim to the pursuit of joy and peace as everyone else. You don’t have to earn your worthiness, it is your birthright.
    • Sharpen your intuition. The more you listen to your inner voice the louder and clearer it will speak to you. This powerful source of inner knowledge will protect you by warning you when something’s amiss.
    • You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run! This is the first time in my writing career I’ve quoted Kenny Rogers, but he says it all in those lyrics from his hit song “The Gambler”.  Setting boundaries requires a judgment call of knowing when drawing a line in the sand is sufficient and when you need to retreat because you’re behind enemy lines and there’s no recon team on the way. Practice makes perfect, so the more experience you have asserting your personal power the keener your powers of discernment will grow. Get good at setting boundaries and it becomes a life-saving superpower!


    Setting boundaries can set you free to be yourself in a world of competing interests trying to mold you to serve their needs. Asserting your power is part of the process of growing into your own skin.

    As women we often shy away from conflict, preferring cooperation and collaboration, but strength is every bit as womanly as tenderness.

    Be fierce in your compassion, especially when it comes to extending that compassion to yourself.

    It’s crucial to be as fierce in the care and protection we give ourselves as in that we give to our loved ones.

    A beautiful contradiction of Life is that the better we take care of ourselves, the better equipped we are to take care of others. Self-care and self-love are not selfish—they are essential to being a whole person and living a fulfilling life.

    Setting boundaries is therefore one of the highest forms of self-care and self-love.

    4 Ways a Healthy Relationship Gives you Super Powers

    Humans are social animals. There’s no getting around the science that our support system—the network we count on for encouragement, inspiration, love, and guidance—is vital to our physical and psychological health. Science indicates romantic relationships play an especially powerful role in our wellness: increasing our life span, lowering rates of depression and anxiety, and spiking overall mood. A good relationship can even pad the pocketbook when sharing financial resources.

    But be warned, the reverse is also true. Bad relationships wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. They flood our systems with toxic stress hormones, make us less creative and more insecure. The key to having your relationship make you better, more peaceful at home and productive at work, is to have a healthy relationship. If you want to be the most dynamic and satisfied as possible—ditch the dysfunctional relationship sooner, not later. You win twice; you get rid of the negative anchor dragging you through the dregs and open yourself up for the positive health benefits a good relationship will activate.

    4 ways a good relationship improves your physical and mental wellness:  

    1. Hormonal Bliss.  When a romantic interest enters your life a chemical reaction sparks, literally.  The connection you feel floods your body with feel-good hormones. Rushes of dopamine, one of the hormones triggered when people are in love, instigates pleasure, optimism, energy and a sense of well-being. Physical touch—hugging, kissing, hand-holding and sexual intimacy—releases oxytocin, which drops stress hormones. Research shows these positive love related emotions build up your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and increase healing time after illness and injury. As if the physical boosts weren’t enough, they also inhibit anxiety and depression.
    1. Physical Super Powers.  A committed relationship breeds both biological and behavioral benefits for your body. A European journal of preventive cardiology published a study that evaluated heart attack rates for married and unmarried people and showed that married people were less likely than single peers to have, or die from, a heart attack. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior study shows married people have a post-surgery survival rate three times higher than single people. The British Medical Journal published an article indicating that health benefits continue to increase over the longevity of a relationship. Some of the health bonuses men reap are a consequence of the way a committed relationship affects their behavior. Men tend to drink more, driver faster, and live more risky lives when they are single. Think back to when you were rolling solo, you probably stayed out later (so you got less sleep), were quicker to get into fights, and ate more junk food. Many men won’t care as much about their own safety and health when single as they will when they have another person in their life they care about. Men’s habits in positive relationships become healthier because their partner nags …uh um…encourages them to adopt a more active and healthful lifestyle. They are more likely to ditch cigarettes, see the doctor regularly, exercise, and improve their nutrition.
    1. Mental and Productivity Super Powers.  University of Chicago researchers report that being in a committed relationship is associated with a reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone. The finding bolsters a growing body of evidence showing marriage can insulate us against stress. Emotional support lifts psychological health because people are more stable when they feel someone is looking out for their interests and cares about their welfare. Having a loved one’s support helps people achieve difficult goals, rebound from devastating life events, and manage life’s unpredictable ups and downs. Companionship makes the poignant moments less heartbreaking, and the funny and blissful moments more intensely gratifying.
    1. Financial Perks. Two incomes buy a better quality of life than one. Since finances are one of the biggest life stressors, having someone to contribute to the household expenses adds stability. Knowing you have a partner that has your back to weather life’s storms boosts your confidence, leading to increased productivity and creativity.

    There’s no doubt there are times when every relationship, no matter how positive and loving, has its share of strain. But overall, a good partnership promotes security and stability. Caring about someone takes you outside of your own head, making you less self-absorbed and freer to live in the moment. A solid mate you can work toward goals with betters your chances of achieving them. It also makes the journey more enjoyable. Superpowers might not only be for comic book heroes after all.

    10 Ways to Win in Office Politics

    As we mature we come to understand Life is not always fair. The spoils of competition may be awarded to the most popular, most well-connected, or most well-funded, regardless of whom is more deserving.

    In a perfect world, what we earn would reflect the effort, integrity, and intentions we put into our work. But politicking—amassing and asserting one’s influence through social networking to position oneself closer to power—can determine upward mobility as much, or more, than virtue and value.  Since office politics can play a substantial role in the corporate climb, it’s essential to play to win.

    1. Give credit where credit’s due. Few things will build resentment from your colleagues faster than not acknowledging their contributions. Sharing credit doesn’t cost you a thing, but will pay huge dividends in gratitude and respect. Collaboration is critical to success, so learn how to work with others in a way that recognizes the value and effort each member brings to the table.

    2. Be a person of your word. If you say you will do something, be like a mailman…and deliver! Have it done right and on-time. This builds trust; people will reciprocate by having your back when you need them.

    3. Create a win-win when possible. One way to ensure your office mates will be there for you in a pinch, is to consistently make working together mutually beneficial. It may not be possible in every situation, but if you make a sincere effort, people will be receptive to working with you.

    4. Don’t gossip. When someone comes to you with all the dirt, keep your mouth shut. They’re doing the same thing about you to everyone else. The best way to stay clean when someone is slinging mud is to change the subject, or stay silent and mutter something about needing to meet a tight deadline. Whatever you do, avoid taking sides. Choose the wrong side in a civil war and you can end up taking a bullet on the battlefield.

    5. CYA (Cover your @$$). Keep records of emails, voicemails, and other documentation if you are involved in a situation you suspect might come back to bite you.

    6. Neutralize toxic people. A few rules for detoxing from people who force their issues on everyone they come into contact with:  Don’t take things personally, distance yourself, and don’t try and rationalize with them because they do things based on illogical motives. Remember, they are playing out their own issues and their behavior has nothing to do with you, so don’t get trapped in their web of crazy. Keep interactions to short small talk and make every excuse to avoid working together on projects or teams.

    7. Be helpful. Reciprocity makes the world go round.  If you have the time and resources, do a favor when you can. But be mindful of co-workers always eager to receive, but never to give. Prioritize your time and effort for those that appreciate it and will return the courtesy.

    8. Show some interest in your co-workers as people. You don’t have to jump on board for every Happy Hour invite, or buy cookies from every parent hocking it at the office, but taking a genuine interest in your co-worker as a real person develops an authentic bond. Simple gestures like shooting off a silly happy birthday GIF, and asking if you can bring them back a burrito from lunch when they’re stuck at their desk, will build a genuine rapport.

    9. Be slow to snap, and quick to smile. In the workplace some circumstances will be out of your control; but the three things you always have control over are: your reactions, your efforts, and your attitude. When one of those emails that sends your blood pressure to near stroke levels ends up in your inbox, don’t fire off a reply in  an emotional frenzy. Wait until you’re relaxed, then be emotionally neutral and strategic about your response.On the flip side of the pancake, be as easy going and approachable as you. People can feel when you make a genuine effort to understand and help. They will feel comfortable coming to you with a question if they know they won’t be assaulted with an eye roll, or condescending tone. People gravitate to a calming, uplifting, personality in the office. Your energy will make them feel more at ease and confident.

    10. Be Courteous of People’s Time. Successful people take offense to their time being wasted. Being punctual and prepared is not only smart business, but is a sign of competency and respect. Likewise, showing up late and not being ready to add value means you become a liability instead of a in-demand collaborator.

    Whether you’re at the bottom trying to locate a foothold to climb, or at the top and looking to stay there, social diplomacy is key to advancement and longevity. Likability has a part to play in who gets passed over, and who gets a push up. HR may call it “cultural fit” or “leadership ability”, but it’s often code for emotional intelligence. If you know the rules of the game and how to play, you can maneuver successfully to where you want to be without sacrificing your ethics or values.

    7 Ways to Break Free from the Past

    Whether trying to break the hold of an old habit, rebound from a dead relationship, or survive a job loss, making a clean start can be a difficult, but freeing, experience.  Maybe, you want to limit drinking to the weekends, implement an exercise routine, or stop obsessing over your past so you can focus on the now. Here are seven tips to rip free of the iron grip of thoughts and habits trapping you in misery and dysfunction.

    1. Stop beating yourself up about past mistakes. Keep the lesson, but ditch the paralyzing regret and guilt. End the rotation of negative thoughts and self-defeating criticisms by listening to your inner voice, and interrupting the negative loop right when it arises. Reverse the what-ifs and should-haves by thinking about the present moment.  We don’t get do-overs in Life, but we can start being the person we wish we had been. Today: Seize the opportunity to start responding to the events occurring now in a way that feels authentic. Why waste today’s opportunities by obsessing over missed chances that are long gone? In the now we are free to be the best version of who we are capable of being and that is empowering. Punishing ourselves over past actions we no longer have control over robs us of our personal power, motivation, confidence and hope.
    1. Clear out the clutter. Physical clutter also clouds our focus and attention. Letting go of clothes and appliances we don’t use, clearing out old files, and shredding unneeded paperwork helps us to let go of past worries and discouraging thoughts that take up precious space in our minds. When you clean out your physical space there is less to mentally and emotionally distract you. Instead of feeling emotionally claustrophobic, boxed in by old apprehensions and fears, you have room to move and breathe. Want to amplify the good vibes you’re feeling? Give the stuff you’ve been hoarding to a local shelter or non-profit that accepts donations. Your old coat might save an elderly man or woman from a winter of being chilled to the bone, or an old pair of sneakers could allow a homeless teenager the chance to participate in his high school gym class.
    1. Leave the past in the past. Be aware of this moment, since it is the only one that really exists. You can’t go back into the past, or flash forward to the future; you can only live this exact moment. So do it. Visualize the disappointment that has you trapped as a lesson that is building you into a stronger person, not as a failure that has broken you down. Change your perception. Where you once saw a tragic end, envision a thrilling new beginning.
    1. Do one thing at a time. The desire to transform our body, our health, our career, or our relationships, can be so compelling that we try and overhaul all our outdated habits at once. It took a while to get into the routines you have now, it’s going to take some time and effort to break free of them. Just as the caterpillar has to build a cocoon and then do its time before it comes out a moth, there are no short cuts. Start with one thing at a time; as you witness a small change in your life your confidence will grow.  You will feel empowered as you exert your will over your mind and body. Then add another, then a bigger change, a more daunting challenge.  If your goal is to lose weight and get more fit, start by switching out sodas for drinking water for a week or so. Once you got that handled, then add a weekly exercise. A month in, you got this, so kick up the work outs to 3 times a week. Two months later, you’re ready to cut fast food to twice a week, tops. Slow and steady wins with creating change because you won’t stick to something long-term if it’s too extreme and difficult out of the gate. You’ll get discouraged and give up. But you can focus when you’re only doing one thing at a time.
    1. Forgive yourself and others. I know what you’re thinking, but the first thing to realize is: Forgiveness isn’t being weak or letting anyone “get away” with treating you badly or doing you dirty. That’s because forgiveness isn’t even about them, it’s about you. Forgiveness is your gift to yourself; it’s setting yourself free. And just like you needed to cut the cord with forgiveness so you could fly away from those that hurt you, you need to unlock the iron shackles you put on your own wrists and ankles. Forgiving yourself is sometimes tougher than forgiving other people, but you won’t get very far into a fresh start shackled in chains.
    1. Set yourself up for success. We have all heard the saying, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Turns out people keep repeating this glittery gem of wisdom because it’s true. Let’s revisit our healthy lifestyle example. You’re trying to look more fit and cut down on your chances of being wheelchair ridden in your old age. You want to have more energy and not grip your chest as if your heart is going to burst when you sprint from the parking lot to the office door because you’re running late. The key?  Stock your kitchen with healthy foods.  When your stomach starts to rumble you’re going to hit the fridge and eat what’s there, so fill it with easy to make, healthy ingredients and you’re half way to eating better. Take your lunch to work. You might feel like you’re a pimply faced, Calculus-despising teen again, but when you have an already prepped option you’ll find it a thousand times easier to pass on the group grabbing tacos or burgers.
    1. Replace an old habit with a new one. It can be easier to surrender an old pattern if you the void. Let’s say you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption so you decide to give up drinking during the week. It could be helpful to replace that beer or glass of wine you usually kick back with as you watch the news with a tasty chocolate banana smoothie. Stick a banana, some chocolate-flavored protein powder or raw cacao power, a spoonful or 2 of peanut butter, and there you have it, a tasty treat to sip on that will fill that void. Not feeling the choco-banana-peanut butter shake? Replace with something that tickles your taste buds, coconut pineapple (coconut water, fresh pineapple chunks and vanilla protein powder) or whatever pampers your palette. Anyone who says change is easy is lying or delusional. But when remaining trapped in the same demoralizing rut is more painful than doing something about it, you will be ready to do the work. And once you start you will hit little victories that will pump you with motivation, pride, confidence, all types of positive feelings you haven’t felt about yourself and your life for a long time. Then you’ll catch a wave where more days are good than bad. And you’ll ride that wave right into a more empowered and fulfilling life.  Hang ten!

    5 Ways to go from Tired and Stressed to Refreshed

    Do the following scenarios quicken your breath, increase your heart rate, and send an electrifying mix of adrenaline and cortisol surging through your veins?

    • Late to work and hitting every red light, and on the one day you have that important meeting at 8 a.m.
    • Slammed at work trying to meet a crucial deadline and everyone picks today to have a crisis that only you can help with.
    • Have no idea how you made it through the work day, jaw is clenched, muscles tight, you want nothing more than to kick off your shoes and turn on the tube and your ex calls to ask if you can pick up the kids even though it’s not your day because something came up.

    Welcome to the modern world.

    The fight or flight response triggered by stress can wear down our bodies and psyches. Hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, lowered immunity, and anxiety disorders are some of the ravaging effects stress produces.

    There is no way to avoid stress, short of escaping to an isolated mountaintop, spending the day fluctuating between meditation, prayer, and yoga poses.  But it is essential for our mental and physical health that we know how to relax when we’re in the crushing grip of stress.

    Stress doesn’t have to win.  When we feel its effects coming on—increased agitation, muscles tightening, blood pressure rising—we can initiate a counter response. We can find ways to undo the effects of daily stresses, and refresh our minds and bodies. With a few strategies we can become better equipped to handle whatever chaos life throws our way with diplomacy, composure, and maybe even some humor.

    1. Breathe through it. Breathing deeply counteracts rising blood pressure by bringing the heart rate down. If next time you start to feel angry, anxious, or worn out you stop, focus on your breathe—inhaling and exhaling deeply and methodically. Do this for five full breaths and you will feel a sense of calm wash over you. Even that co-worker that hits every button connected to your last nerve will be powerless when you switch focus from your frustration to the sound and feel of air entering and exiting your diaphragm. Sit up straight, close your eyes and inhale slowly, deeply through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and travel up to the top of your head. Now feel and listen to your breath as it pushes out all the way down, until your diaphragm is empty. Repeat until you feel comfortable and at ease.
    1. Refresh with Mediation. A practical 3 minute breathing meditation can take the breathing technique to a higher level of relaxation. Meditation doubles the impact of breathing alone. The power of mediation is that it lets you recognize your negative thought patterns and release them, letting them dissolve and float away. The emotions and judgments that would usually attach themselves to these thoughts and take over your mind, mood, and actions, lose their control over you. If you can, lock your office door or escape to your car for a quick refresh. Sit up with your eyes closed and begin the breathing exercise, being aware and in the moment as each breath flows in and out of the body. As thoughts enter your mind, do not judge or react. Let them simply float right back out, the same way they drifted in. Do not take any thoughts personally; detach from any feeling about any thought that enters your mind during this time. Acknowledge the thought and send it on its way as you come back to your breath. You will probably notice your mind continually runs away with a train of thought— that is fine, remember, this is a break from any judgments.  Just bring your attention back to your breath as soon as you are aware you’ve drifted into a string of thoughts. This is natural; it means you are meditating correctly.  If it helps, you can repeat a positive affirmation, or mantra, to come back to every time your mind wanders. As you breathe out repeat to yourself: I breathe out worry and stress, and as you breathe in repeat something like: I breathe in calm and strength. Minds oscillate between thoughts, creating a jumbled sequence of endless chatter. So again, when you become aware that your mind has roamed, just gently, effortlessly, guide it back to full awareness of your breath. Why does this help? Mediation has been proven to decrease everything from depression to irritability, and of course, stress and anxiety. It works because it leads you to the life changing, empowering realization that thoughts and feelings are temporary. They are non-stop, they come and go, but you are detached from them and have the choice whether to react or to simply let them be. Just as you don’t have to engage with the thoughts and feelings of your own mind, you are free to react anyway you choose to the moods and behaviors of others. They can push your buttons if you give them permission, or you can disconnect the cord that attaches those buttons to your emotions and reactions. You can literally unplug from the stresses of life.  With practice, when negative thoughts arise, they will dissolve away again much more easily, making you less erratic and reactionary and more unshakable and accepting.
    1. Cultivate Mindfulness. Mindfulness realizes that we go through unpleasant, uncomfortable, and even painful experiences but instead of running away from this truth, it embraces it with acceptance. It acknowledges the inevitable, so it can distinguish between two types of suffering: primary and secondary. Primary suffering is the inciting stressor, whether it’s your boss taking credit for a project when you did the work, or your car suddenly needing a thousand dollars in repairs right at Christmas. You can face the problem directly and admit that the situation sucks or is unjust. Secondary suffering is the raw emotion, fighting, fear and stress that flow from the original incident. You may feel angry and frustrated, overwhelmed and defeated, or a jumbled mess of emotions. But the key is that if you see these clearly, just as you did in meditation with your thoughts, it’s possible to allow the feelings of sadness, frustration or anger to exist without trying to make them go away. You don’t have to escape from initial suffering, but to avoid secondary suffering you have to realize that adding negative emotions to your situation is not going to help. Use that energy that you would normally use to scream, meltdown or freak-out to brainstorm solutions or to find the nugget of humor in the absurdity that is the human condition.
    1. Foster an Attitude of Gratitude. Mindset is one of the biggest indicators of happiness. The more you see what is good in your life, the less you will obsess over the unexpected challenges and disappointments that rear their nasty heads every now and then. When you consistently recognize the things that you are grateful for it turns on a switch that illuminates the value in the world, and your own life, more clearly. On the flip side of the pancake, the less you count your blessings the more obscured the wonderful things will be; you will pass them by because your focus will be fixated on what could’ve been, should’ve been, or how things are better for someone else than for you. And as you might expect, focusing on the negative generates stress.
    1. Get it Moving! It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health. And by now most of us know that the benefit of being active goes beyond physical fitness to increased energy, self-esteem, motivation and coping skills. Endorphins, hormones released during exercise, are nature’s anti-anxiety and anti-stress treatment. Best of all, the side effects are looking hot and feeling great. Have you read the side effects of those anxiety pharmaceutical meds? Those side effects alone are enough to stress you out. Best of all, exercise is proven to be more effective than medications in lowering stress and improving overall mood.

    Chronic anxiety wreaks havoc on your body, mind, and emotional well-being. When you are in the throes of stress you are less likely to use good judgment, deal well with others, or think rationally. There are ways to channel stress into positive energy, like exercise, or to counter stress when it starts to overtake your mood, including breathing and meditation. Getting plenty of sleep and avoiding excess caffeine, alcohol, and sugar also have a significant positive impact in how you deal with stress. Find out what works for you and begin to see your life transform from a series of crises, to a manageable succession of vibrant moments.

    “Living Things” Serves Delicious Thrills


    When horror writer and filmmaker Eric Shapiro turns his knack for ghastly drama to the grisly topic of animal cruelty, differing opinions turn to bloodlust. In his latest feature film Shapiro pits a vegan, yoga instructor against her blue collar father-in-law who harbors a distaste for new ideas and a lust for red meat. Tensions typically fly fast and fierce between opposing sides of the meat-eating argument. When you add family dynamics to the recipe, an already emotionally-charged debate becomes prelude to a ravenous apetite for revenge.

    Living Things explores the morality, ethics, health effects, and environmental issues of veganism and vegetarianism. This PETA-endorsed film balances engaging drama with intelligent debate to have you challenging conventional beliefs while anxiously perching on the edge of your seat.

    For Rhona veganism is a matter of putting conscience before comfort. Actress Rhoda Jordan, who plays the usually peace-loving “Rhona” ,and Ben Siegler, the anti-intellectual, ultra-masculine “Leo“ ,are the centerpiece of this slowly simmering, dinner table narrative. They spar, first courteously, but soon their jabs reach a boiling point.  The match intensifies until it erupts into a deliciously startling finale. Whichever side of the table you sit on in this controversial discussion, you are sure to get a hefty serving of thought-provoking entertainment from Living Things.






    Sincerely, Sara: How Do I Fast Track My Career?

    Hello Sara,

    I’m 25 and got my start in marketing right out of college with an internship. I was excited when I started my career, but a few years into it, I’m stunted. I get feedback saying  I have “talent” and “potential”, but I’m not progressing. I’m desperate to escape this rut but don’t know which moves to make. I’ve tried networking, but it only leads to a bunch of connections that are superficial. None of them have helped me advance. I want to find the on-ramp to the career fast track. The problem is I’m lacking the GPS that other people must have. I don’t know how to map the route from “Here” to “Success”. 

    Please help,

    Lost on the Road to Success,

    Dear Lost,

    The good news is you are aware of your stagnation and you possess the “drive” to surpass mediocrity and arrive at greatness. Those are strong indicators you are the type of person who will accomplish the goals you set for yourself.

    The primary distinction between under-earners and successful people is not talent, skill, or even opportunity—it’s having a clear purpose, perseverance, and follow-through. So, you have the vision, enthusiasm, and work ethic–now you need the game plan. A mentor, or multiple mentors, can provide support and strategic advice that will escalate you to the next level in your career climb. Why reinvent the wheel when you can reach out to someone who has achieved the level of success you are striving for, and embodies the vision and values you aim to emulate in your career? Odds are your mentor once faced, and overcame, the same challenges you are encountering. If you’re current thinking got you into a stalemate, then you might need an experienced perspective to get you out. Ask for help, and be diligent in following the advice you’re offered. For a mentorship to be of value, you have to be coachable. The 5 most powerful words you have in your vocabulary as an ambitious professional are, “Will you be my mentor?”

    When Warren Buffet recently advised Millennial women on strategies for success he suggested they, “Pick the person that has the right habits, that is cheerful, generous, gives other people credit for what they do. Look at all of the qualities that you admire in other people … and say to yourself, ‘Which of those qualities can’t I have myself?’ Because you determine whether you have them. And the truth is you can have all of them.” Of course, you must be thoughtful in your choice. “If you tell me who your heroes are, I’ll tell you how you’re gonna turn out. It’s really important in life to have the right heroes. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve probably had a dozen or so major heroes. And none of them have ever let me down. You want to hang around with people that are better than you are. You will move in the direction of the crowd that you associate with.” And yes, in the same talk Warren Buffet asserts it’s essential aspiring professionals find mentors. (Warren Buffet Offers Career Advice to Millennial Women)

    Don’t forget to help others along the way too. The best way to engage the support of others is to support them first. Today’s intern may be in a position to offer you a job in a few years, or bring you in to collaborate on a winning project. Building relationships is one of the most important ways you should be spending your time at your current job. Relationships will outlast your current position. You will carry your valuable connections with you from company to company, throughout your career.

    Stop distressing over your next move.  The truth is there are many paths, and what looks like a setback today may next year turn out to have been a blessing. It’s often impossible to clearly identify the full value of your difficulties while you are in the midst of experiencing them. In hindsight, it later becomes apparent that what you categorized as failures are the very teachings that were vital in leading you to your most profound lessons. Don’t take your failures, or your achievements for that matter, personally. Try to suppress your ego and focus on your passion and your purpose.  Remember, making mistakes and paying your dues is how each one of us becomes savvy enough to later break the rules and create the innovative processes and solutions that revolutionize our industries.

    Most importantly, be the kind of person you would want to work with, and work for: ethical, upbeat, motivated, and resourceful. Character, persistence, and focus will not only get you to where you want to be, they will help you stay at the top for the long run.  Best of luck and enjoy the ride!



    Sincerely, Sara: Amazing Job Offer Requires I Leave the City and Life I Love. Ahh!

    Hello Sara,

    A head hunter contacted me saying she wanted to recruit me on behalf of a large company that is headquartered in a different state. I agreed to the interview, since I figured she was looking at multiple candidates. I just heard back and was offered a well-paying job as a Director of Marketing with a good track advancement if I perform well. It sounds too good to be true, except I absolutely adore my city and my life here.  

    To complicate things even more, I’m engaged to a great guy and my fiancé hates the idea of moving. I make enough money to support both of us while he gets settled and hopefully finds work, but he is already established here as a freelance photographer and loves the clients he works with and the projects he gets to work on. 

    This break would be huge for my career, and we will be able to do things we can’t afford to do in the amazing, but very expensive, city we live in now, like buy a house and plan for a family. I don’t want to regret taking this chance, especially since another offer this good might not come around for a long time; but my fiancé says being happy is about more than owning property and having more spending money, and I agree with that too. I have no clue how to make this decision.

    Please help,

    Not Sure of the Right Move

    Dear Not Sure,

    In life we can’t have it all, and while we are generally accepting of that. The difficulty comes in deciding what is most important to us, and what we are willing to trade or give up to acquire it. My first suggestion would be: approach your current boss and negotiate a raise using your new job proposal as leverage. If you are planning on leaving anyway to pursue the offer, you have nothing to lose.

    Secondly, I’d advise you to expand your perspective and consider what you might be gaining in your move to a new city, instead of focusing only on what you will be losing. Research the lifestyle the new opportunity may present—a slower pace, less stress at the office, a more informal and relaxed environment and a better commute than your big city, rush-hour madness.  Your new city, and the surrounding area, could offer scenic landscape and pleasurable outdoor activities that city life lacks. And with more money, and less overtime and commute time, you will have opportunity to enjoy them.

    If you are concentrating on how the money will improve your life, your fiancé is right in countering that happiness is measured by more than a bigger account. However, extra income, and the time and energy to spend it, can translate into more enjoyment out of life and your relationship. Is there a hobby or interests you are too busy and distracted to engage in now that you, or you and your fiancé together, would finally have the time and resources to dive into? Maybe it’s ball games, painting, cooking, sailing, swing dancing, wood working, yoga or taxidermy? Ok, I threw in taxidermy to make sure you were paying attention. The point is, we are consistently making trade-offs in our lives, remember to weigh in the potential benefits when comparing them to the drawbacks.

    If you have any vacation time accrued at your current job, it would be smart to visit the city where the new job is located and stay for a few days, or a week, as a tourist in a hotel. If your fiancé can manage it, bring him too. Maybe the city has more to offer than you realize. Research activities you both enjoy and try them out while you’re there to get a realistic taste of what life would be like. For instance, if you enjoy hiking, gather information on parks and trails in the area beforehand and then try it out during your “research” vacation. You can also get a sense of the pace of the town, the people and the “feel”. All these will combine to give you a much deeper sense of the community than you have now as an outsider.

     Many people find love is a crucial, or even essential, element in their happiness.  If you have been blessed to find the partner you want to build a future, and possibly a family, with than you must plan for what you will do if your fiancé can’t find a job.  How would his unemployment affect the relationship? Possible fall-out could include him building resentment or anger towards you, believing you “ruined” his career at the expense of advancing yours, or the damaging of his self-image if he is unable to find work for a long period of time, either of which could potentially break up the relationship. To minimize the negative outcomes, discuss the possibilities openly and honestly with him before you decide to make the move. Maybe you can come to an agreement whereby if he can’t find work in 6 months, or a year, you will consider moving back, or you will support him while he switches careers to another occupation he loves, or help him transition to fine art photography and publish a book of his artistic work—whatever works for you as a couple.

    It’s important you also do some soul searching and ask yourself, is it worth the fast track, a big house in the suburbs, shopping sprees, and nice vacations if you lose your life partner? Maybe he can reach out to local magazines, advertising companies, and the like, beforehand to see if he can set up some meetings and make a few contacts. Perhaps the co-workers at the new job will have leads that may pan out for him as well. In the end, you might decide that if your fiancé cannot support you in this move then the relationship you two share is not as strong and close as you thought it was and going alone is better for you. Maybe he can come and visit once you’re settled and see how things progress from there. Only you know what this relationship means to your future and to your happiness, so face the tough questions bravely and with complete honesty.  Times like these can be crucial turning points in our lives and when we look back, sometimes years later, we see it is our adversities that lead to some of our proudest achievements and grandest triumphs.

    Best of luck in this fork in the road, and may it lead you down the path to your dreams.