To some travelers, “vacation” means laying on a tropical beach or staying in an urban hotel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the start of a new year is time to think outside the box and start planning trips that help you both unwind and grow as a person.
In 2017, and for years to come, do yourself a favor and get creative with the types of trips you take. Of course, we don’t always have the time or finances available for regular getaways. But many of these unique trip ideas cost less than your typical beach break, which makes them easier to get on the calendar.
Which not-so-average experience will you have in 2017?
That’s a ton of money ― some $29 per week ― that could be better spent on just about anything else you don’t plan on trashing within seven days.
But with one simple trick you can put back into your pocket a lot of that hard-earned money, and feel fantastic about reducing food waste (which has great environmental and social benefits) at the same time.
The solution? The old-school weekly shopping list.
Yes, some people may say the method is antiquated ― but sometimes you gotta look back to move forward.
Executed correctly, a weekly shopping list can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars each year ― as it has for me over the last decade, ever since I realized I was stupidly throwing out more food than I was eating.
Here’s how to implement the shopping list properly:
1. Grab a pen and paper. (See, it IS simple).
2. On the left hand side, write down the days and meals, like so:
3. Plan what you/your family will eat for each one of those mealtimes:
4. On the right hand side, first write down your weekly staples ― like milk, bread, butter, cheese, flour, chocolate, etc…
5. Then beneath the staples, write down the ingredients (and the quantity of each) you’ll need for each of the meals on the left. As you progress, you may realize some of the meals on the left require the same elements. Bonus!
6. Buy everything on the list, and ONLY the things on the list in the quantities you’ve listed. Don’t be suckered by “deals” on other products.
7. Then don’t buy a single food item until you come to repeat the exercise in one week’s time (unless you REALLY need something, we don’t want you to starve).
The first airstrike hit at 9:02 on the morning of Feb. 15. As rescue teams dashed to the scene, warplanes circled back for a “double tap,” pummeling the isolated hospital in northwestern Syria a second time, minutes later. And a third. And a fourth.
Twenty-five people died, including nine health care workers and five children. Staff and volunteers who survived the onslaught at the Doctors Without Borders-supported facility rushed victims to the next closest emergency center in a nearby town. The bombs followed.
It’s an utterly grim and tragic irony: Hospitals are now among the most dangerous places in Syria. There have been 252 attacks on Syrian health care centers in 2016 so far, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, a nonprofit organization. Countless men, women and children suffering from injury or illness in the war-torn country have endangered their lives simply by seeking treatment. Many of the brave doctors who voluntarily walk into hospitals to help those in need ― dismally aware of the grave personal risk ― never come back out.
“Perhaps one of the defining facets of the conflict since its outset has been making attacks on medical care a part of the war strategy,” Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders’ U.S. branch, told The WorldPost. “In this day and age, [going to a hospital in Syria] is a very risky endeavor,” Cone added. “Some of our colleagues in Syria have reported that people don’t want to stay in the hospital for any longer than they have to. Many seek to be discharged before their treatment is completed because they don’t feel safe in hospitals.”
The rate of assaults doubled after Russia’s military intervention in the conflict in September 2015, the medical society’s figures show. And nearly 200 occurred after May 3, when the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution strongly condemning violence against those providing and receiving medical treatment in the country.
In July alone, the U.N. recorded 44 attacks on Syrian hospitals ― a rate of one every 17 hours ― including 15 in eastern Aleppo. Not a single medical facility in the formerly besieged region of the city has gone unscathed.
Two of Aleppo’s largest hospitals were bombed out of operation on the same day in September. When a reporter asked Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaadari at a press event if his government had launched those deadly attacks, he simply laughed and walked away. In fact, Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly denied that hospitals are being targeted.
That’s hard to believe.
From the beginning of the conflict in March 2011 through July 2016, Physicians For Human Rightstracked 400 onslaughts against at least 269 separate medical centers in Syria, killing 768 health care workers. The humanitarian group acknowledges that its method of corroboration often leads to significant undercounting, requiring rigorous review of each reported incident and at least three independent sources to add an assault to its list.
“There are far more attacks than we’re able to document,” PHR research coordinator Elise Baker told The WorldPost. Even so, more than 90 percent of the documented attacks and deaths came at the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and its allied forces ― including the two assaults that Jaadari scoffed at.
The U.N. holds an even higher count. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly denounced more than 600 “horrific attacks” on Syrian hospitals and clinics In 2014 and 2015 alone, resulting in 959 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries.
Health care structures in Aleppo have fallen victim to a particularly devastating number of attacks. In October, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien called the city’s health care system “all but obliterated,” with medical facilities “being hit one by one.” By mid-November, there were no more functioning hospitals left to demolish there. Days of intense airstrikes forced every last one out of service, leaving some 275,000 people without access to health care.
“When you have that population also subject to hundreds of airstrikes, that leads to a rate of death we can’t even begin to imagine,” Baker said.
One of Aleppo’s main trauma centers was completely destroyed after it was hit four times in less than three weeks earlier this year. The SAMS-supported hospital had already endured at least seven earlier attacks between 2014 and 2015, according to PHR. Syrian and Russian warplanes were responsible for all of them.
“We’ve noticed a pattern of attacks targeting the same hospital multiple times,” Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, president of SAMS, told The WorldPost. “We’ve also noticed that attacks on facilities are not just individual attacks ― airstrikes will hit many facilities at the same time in the same region to paralyze the medical response in that area, which will increase the casualties and death because of inability to treat even mid-level injuries.”
SAMS operates more than 100 medical centers offering specialized and general health care treatment in Syria. In early December, the organization announced its staff had been driven out of Aleppo after all its facilities in the city were seized by the Syrian government.
“With the targeting and destruction of ambulances, it’s made it incredibly difficult for first responders to even get to people and bring them to medical facilities,” Cone said. Some Syrian hospitals, he said, are operating underground and in caves as a means of shelter and protection from aerial bombardment. “There’s really no line that hasn’t been crossed in this war.”
Experts anticipate health care problems resulting from the war will far outlast the conflict itself. “There are growing longterm issues that we will see for decades to come,” said Baker, who stressed the urgency of civilians’ various medical needs that have long been neglected. “Kids aren’t getting vaccinations, people have gotten amputations without appropriate rehabilitative care … Syria’s entire health care system will need to be rebuilt.”
Children growing up in a war zone are also at a greater risk of developing psychological disorders, added Tarakji. “In besieged areas of Syria in particular, we have seen increased incidences of violence and depression ― signs of illnesses that won’t be easily treated, and will last for many generations to come,” he said. “Some of these children witnessed their parents and siblings dying, being raped or burned right in front of them.”
Syria’s entire health care system will need to be rebuilt.
Some of the hospitals that have been damaged by regime airstrikes are government-operated facilities, Baker points out. “Of course the government knows where they are, because it established them,” she said. The activist asserts many attacks on hospitals have “absolutely” been deliberate, initially as a means to “demoralize members of the opposition” and “bomb them into submission.”
But Assad continues to deny Syrian and Russian accountability. After the U.S. government accused the regimes of deadly airstrikes against a Red Crescent aid convoy delivering medical assistance in rural Aleppo, Assad called the White House’s claims “just lies.”
“I would say whatever the American officials said about the conflicts in Syria in general has no credibility,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press days after the assault, calling it a ground attack by rebels.
Eyewitnesses, including relatives, described helicopters, barrel bombs and at least 20 missiles, AP’s Ian Phillips pushed back, noting only the Syrians and the Russians have helicopters.
“You cannot talk about eyewitnesses for such judgment or accusation. What are the credibility of those eyewitnesses, who are they? We don’t know,” Assad responded.
“In Syria, the government and its allies relentlessly — deliberately — attack hospitals, doctors, first responders and patients,” said MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu during an impassioned speech before the U.N. Security Council in September. “People are being taken off life support so that the multitude of wounded can be treated. With the bombs continuing to fall, the doctors tell us they await their own deaths.”
Beyond the constant exposure to death, pain and relentless misery, doctors in Syria face yet another unimaginably excruciating hardship. With extremely limited resources available, they often have to make the heart-wrenching decision to only treat patients with the best chances of survival, while the others are left to die, explained Tarakji.
“People think this is a political war, and that’s it. But this isn’t true,” he said. “What’s going on inside Syria is a constant violation of humanity.”
Sometimes I have thought that if I could have any superpower, I would want the power to eat everything I want to and have it all be a) good for me and b) not able to make me fat. This, out of all the available superpowers. Why would I want to fly? Or walk through walls? No, I want my superpower to be eating.
It is really kind of sad, if you think about it. And also possibly a tiny bit unhealthy. But, there you have it. I HAVE AN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.
Please note that I am not one to think in such terminology. It makes me wildly uncomfortable just even suggesting that I have any kind of relationship with food whatsoever. As if food is my cherished friend or worse, my secret lover.
My God. It’s all so embarrassing.
And yet here I am, a good deal more sizeable than I was a year or two ago, and on track to become even more sizeable than this. My husband says, “What’s the big deal? Just eat less!” My husband also once ordered two DQ Blizzards because one single large one “might not be enough.” His weight, non-issue that it is, fluctuates by maybe 5 pounds either way.
The fact is, I know exactly how to lose weight. I’ve done it before and I could certainly do it again. I’ve done Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal and LoseIt and Atkins. I’ve tracked and I’ve measured; I’ve marched next to my bed at night in order to reach my daily FitBit goal. And I could continue to do these things over and over and over again, because that is what would have to happen. One thing I’ve learned, and that lots of research has proven, is that for the vast majority of people DIETS DO NOT WORK.
It’s tempting to think: oh, just one more diet. It will be a lifestyle change! Something from which I will never go back. I will lose this weight and THIS TIME it will stay off because I will do things differently. I will eat less sugar/less bread/more vegetables/pomegranate seeds on everything/whatever.
However. I have come to the point in my life where I just cannot. Diet rock bottom.
I’ve read a lot of books and blog posts and other material regarding the concept of ‘intuitive eating,’ which in my mind translates into ‘eating like a normal person.’ Intuitive eating basically revolves around eliminating the diet mentality and allowing our bodies, which actually are remarkably brilliant, to determine when, what, and how much we should eat. Ultimately, this will lead our bodies to settle at a weight that’s natural for them, which may or may not be less than they weight they’re at right now. It sounds fabulous to me. It also fills me with doubt.
For example – an important step in becoming an intuitive eater is to remove all restrictions while simultaneously becoming more aware of your body’s signals. You want a brownie? Have it. And eventually, this freedom will presumably lead you to only eating brownies like my husband does: when he really, really wants one. And then, stopping when he’s had enough.
I say “presumably” because though I’ve tried granting myself this freedom, it has really only led me to bake more brownies. And usually eat more of them than I actually want.
Which has led me to think – as usual when it comes to food – that I AM DOING THIS ALL WRONG.
Another thing I’ve tried to do is to accept my body the way it is. Fuck it. My body is not me, it’s just the vehicle that the real me rides around in. Yes, I’d like it to be healthy, but studies have also shown that thinner is not necessarily healthier. And yet, my feet hurt, and my knees. I feel unwieldy and less-than-mobile. Like a human-sized potato.
And maybe you are in the same boat. Maybe some of this, or even all of this, sounds very familiar to you. Perhaps you are thin but struggling to stay there, or not thin and feeling like a giant root vegetable. Maybe you, too, have read about intuitive eating or mindful eating or any of the non-diet eating concepts and thought, yeah, but that won’t work for me. Or, maybe you’ve even tried them and, like me, have found that it’s just not coming together. Maybe also like me, you’ve watched your thin husband eat two DQ Blizzards in one sitting and wanted to stab him between the eyeballs.
So I’ve decided, once and for all, to figure this out. I’m going to see if I can become a normal eater, only this time, I’m not going to do it on my own. I’ve found a coach who will work with me, and I have all the hope in the world that she will be able to help me in a way I have not been able to help myself. Her name is Haley Goodrich, though I keep telling my husband she’s my “fat coach.” I feel like Haley will probably not approve of this title. We’ll see.
If you want to learn about intuitive eating, I recommend checking out any or all of the resources I’ve listed below. Most are available in audio and digital versions. If you have troubles with eating, you don’t need me to teach you a new way and anyway, I’m not qualified to do that. The information provided by professionals is out there in droves and it’s pretty easy to find.
However. What I will do: share this journey with you, every step of the way. I will share what I learn, and the a-ha moments as well as the shit, I ate myself into a coma again moments. I will show how this works for a real person, or at least, how it works for me.
Because what I know is that diets, for most of us, simply do not work. What I want to find out is how to live without them. And if it truly is the heaven that it sounds like, I want to shout about it from the rooftops. Either way, as God is my witness – I shall never fucking diet again.
We all have to deal with fear and anxiety in our life. Our fears and anxieties can reduce our self-confidence and help prevent us from getting what we want. One of the ways to help manage your fears is to develop some goals and then focus on reaching those goals.
Developing goals will help you manage your fears because goals help us not to focus on our fears. For instance, let’s say that you have to finish your report for work by the end of the week. If you focus on reaching that deadline, this will distract you from getting stressed and anxious. You will be focused on getting the report done for your boss.
Developing certain goals will help you to gain the motivation in doing something. Being motivated can help you in dealing with your stresses, but it will not get rid of them. Doing something you like will increase your motivation to do something besides worry and concentrating on your anxieties.
It is much easier to accomplish something if you know what you want and if you have a plan. Knowing what you want will help manage the stresses and anxieties of getting want you want. Having a sense of purpose can really help you in countering the stresses and anxieties of the situation.
Developing goals will help you to be active during your stressful times. When you are feeling stressed, you need to do something besides worry. You need to do an activity and be active. Setting goals will help you to keep busy instead of worrying about your problems. Once you accomplish your goals, you will be in a better mood.
You will still need to talk to a professional to learn the skills in managing your fears and anxieties. Developing goals and doing something you like to do will help you to not focus on your fears, but it is still important to get professional help for your anxieties.
Dudeoir model Joshua Varozza ― you may recognize him from previous cowboy-themed and merman-themed photoshoots ― is taking the holiday season by storm with a new, sexy-as-ever shoot. The bail bondsman-turned-model recently posed for a Christmas-themed dudeoir photo shoot in partnership with MeUndies.
The shoot is a great reminder that fireplaces aren’t the only things that can heat up your holidays; Varozza can do it, too.
Varozza and photograph Tami Bears make a calendar with images from every dudeoir shoot they do. “All proceeds go to our local veterans group Wheelers for the Wounded of CA,” Bears told The Huffington Post in August. “It’s an amazing local group supporting veterans and our love for our beautiful area we live in.”
Carrie Fisher will be remembered for many things, but one of the most powerful parts of her legacy is her advocacy for mental health issues.
After wrestling with her own mental health and bipolar disorder, Fisher spoke openly about her experiences with inspiring candor and bravery. In one such interview with Oprah Winfrey, the beloved “Star Wars” actress shared the details of her mental breakdown, which culminated with her being committed to an institution. Upon checking into the mental hospital, Fisher said, she chose to sign something other than her name.
“I wrote with my left hand and I wrote the word, ‘shame,’” Fisher said. “It was something that you would be ashamed of, to lose control to that extent. I didn’t know, in a way, who I was.”
Complicating matters, Fisher was allergic to one of her medications and was taken off all of them in order to determine which was the culprit. The result, she said, was her staying awake for six days straight and experiencing a break with reality.
“Six nights later, I was still awake. I thought everything on TV was about me,” Fisher said. “I was also getting secret messages from the movie ‘The Young Lions.’ There were secret messages from the writers… I was so gone.”
“How did they bring you back?” Oprah asked.
“Am I back?” Fisher quipped, before answering. “They fixed the medication… I went from the mental hospital lockdown to just a mental hospital where I could hang out with other people.”
The actress also explained to Oprah how she found hope in her what could be seen as her lowest moment.
“You know what? When you’re in a mental hospital, it’s kind of OK because it can’t get any worse,” Fisher said. “What’s going to happen now? It’s a relief.”
For 26 years, Tess Heidelberger’s wedding dress was sitting in a dusty box in her basement next to her Christmas decorations.
“I thought, ‘What a waste,’” she told The Huffington Post. “My basic Christmas tree skirt was on the top of the box of Christmas decorations and that’s when I got the idea to put the two of them together.”
Tess, who lives in Mauldin, South Carolina, purchased the dress in 1989 so it had all the hallmarks of 80s bridal style ― like those signature puffy sleeves. She got married the following year in 1990.
Her daughters had no interest in wearing it themselves (they felt it was too dated), so there were no objections to Tess turning the dress into an art project.
She grabbed a pair of scissors, her hot glue gun and got to work. All she needed to buy was a plain Christmas tree skirt (to put underneath the dress fabric) and some pretty ribbon to cover the glue.
“I laid out my wedding dress and cut the skirt off the dress ― the first cut is the hardest!” Tess explained to HuffPost. “Then I cut off any details on the dress, like appliqués, bows and beading. Then I pinned the wedding dress skirt on the plain Christmas tree skirt until I liked the way it looked. Then I just hot glued it in place and I added the extra appliqués I cut out earlier.”
In all, it only took Tess an hour to complete. She was very pleased with the finished product.
“I love the way it looks!” she said “I’m very sentimental so now every Christmas I can be reminded of our special day!”
Meditation has been touted recently as the solution for everything from ADHD to PTSD. It’s being introduced in schools, workplaces, and hospitals. A meditation instructor of mine calls this growing popularity “McMindfulness.” The research does seem compelling as scientists the world over try to understand the neuroscience and physiology behind the success of mindfulness meditation. So far results have shown meditation can help us reduce stress and emotional reactivity. It also seems that meditation may lead to enduring changes for those who practice it. There’s a reason people have been doing it for thousands of years, but there is also a lot of misunderstanding that gets in the way for those hoping to benefit from this ancient practice. Here are some things to consider if you’re interested in what meditation has to offer.
Meditation is not something to be mastered “I just couldn’t nail it,” I heard an acquaintance say recently. “I couldn’t get the breathing right.” The fact is, it’s called meditation “practice” for a reason and no one “nails” it. I have suffered with anxiety all my life. When I first started meditating years ago, I found focusing on my breath, as I was instructed, just made me feel more anxious. Instead I developed my meditation with an open awareness, eyes open, focusing on nothing in particular. Meditation eventually helped me with my anxiety making it possible for me to focus on my breath but there was no perfect way to do it.
The only wrong way to do meditation is by not doing it at all. One of the most important ideas of the practice is that you don’t judge yourself, your thoughts, or your meditation. Not judging oneself is a tall order, but meditation is where you can practice, and you begin by not judging the way you do it. The basic idea is to take some time to try to be present in the moment. If you sat down and you tried to do this, consider yourself successful.
Your mind is not empty during meditation For every person I’ve heard say they’ve been turned on to meditation, I can count two or three who say, “It doesn’t work. My mind is too busy.” While it’s true that meditation is practicing the skill of letting go of the stream of thoughts that pop into our heads, it doesn’t mean your mind is a blank–our minds are never blank. But we sit and practice letting go of those thoughts again and again so that we get better at letting go when we are not on the meditation cushion. Happify has a cute animated video that explains this well: Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide.
“We don’t meditate to become better meditators,” says Jane Kolleeny, retreat director of the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York which holds many workshops in mindfulness. “We meditate to become better human beings.” Kolleeny has been meditating herself for decades and also teaches meditation on weekends at the Westchester Buddhist Center, in Irvington, NY.
Meditation doesn’t take all that much time One could devote hours to a meditation practice, but there are benefits to doing it just ten minutes each day. I’ve found ten or fifteen minutes each morning is usually all I can afford but I have found it to be helpful. I am at my most alert in the morning. I know I’ll have a busy day ahead of me as a teacher and I have a mental checklist of a million things running through my head. It’s easy to want to jump up and take care of a few things to get my day started. But every day, I have a chance to resist the urge to do that. I get the chance to stay present, not running with an impulse but just staying with the moment. There are a lot of times in life we need to stay with something when we’d rather be doing something else. Meditation is the place to practice not running and the results of that practice have shown up in my daily life. I have been a master procrastinator all my life. In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten better at not putting things off and I attribute it to meditation.
Meditation is not relaxing While meditation will ultimately bring you a sense of peace, it’s not going to happen right away. Deep breathing is relaxing. Meditation is often anything but that. The act of meditation is one of heightened awareness both physically and mentally. In fact, it’s the point. You are supposed to be aware of how you feel at that moment. You’ll want to have the proper posture and keep your back straight. You’ll focus first on the breath sensation but you’ll also want to be aware of anything you hear. see, or smell without specifically engaging with them. Then, because you’re not engaged with anything else, you’ll find your mind filling with the noise of your inner self. Those thoughts are annoying at the least and overwhelming at their worst. It was in meditation that I began to learn how not to engage so much with the negative thoughts in my head. What I had to learn to do was what Pema Chödrön, the Western Buddhist nun, and author of the book, How to Meditate, calls resting with discomfort, rather than running from it or engaging with it. Starting this, she says, is like a “detox period” because suddenly you’re left with all those feelings you were trying to avoid. But if we’re “willing to stay even a moment with uncomfortable energy,” she says, “we gradually learn not to fear it.”
And sometimes, when the noise gets quiet, some pretty uncomfortable stuff can come up out of the subconscious. Those moments are not relaxing, but they are important and they may lead to us developing a better understanding of ourselves.
“Meditating is really becoming friends with your own mind,” Says Jane Kolleeny.
Meditation can be for anyone. But just as in starting an exercise routine, in which case the hardest part is often getting to the gym, the hardest part of meditation is often getting to the cushion (or chair). Some say it’s got to be as routine as brushing your teeth. If you’re willing to start, the payoff in self awareness is worth it.