experiencing Portland area's culture through food & travel

Self-Improvement Book Excerpt

A writing sample from my library of unfinished works – your feedback is welcome! Just email me, and be sure to mention the piece in your subject line (click here for more info).

How to be kind to yourself & transform the energy in your life: become more successful and more productive in life, love and at your workplace

Chapter 1 – What is Love?

Charlie Ashner photo.

Charlie Ashner photo.

Well? What is it? For those who have not been fortunate enough to experience it in their lives (and it’s possible that you haven’t, if you’re reading this book), the only estimation you can make is by watching a Lifetime movie or a soap opera (I didn’t say the estimate needs to be exact). It is a simple observation that people who love each other give hugs, kisses, and other affectionate acts. One obvious sign of love is saying those three words to one another. But, what is going on inside the mind? Aside from the physical actions you know are the actions of love, how can you define the meaning of love itself? The possibilities are endless.

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I experienced true love. Sure, my father loved me and today I know he still does, he’s just not very good at showing it (sorry, Dad–you know I love you). But, for years my absence of true love left me starved for it, yearning to feel accepted completely by another human being, loved for my strengths and for my flaws. I began to think that it was my flaws that were keeping me from feeling love. So, I became a perfectionist and a control freak. If anything wasn’t exactly how I planned it, everything was wrong. The world had to stop revolving until I regained my footing, and everything was perfect again. – Sound familiar? I charged over those who stood in my way of perfection in a fit of curses and shouting. I hurt a lot of people this way.

But, who did I really end up hurting? By putting out all of this negative energy at the cost of keeping everything scaled to perfection, I only felt negative energy in return. And so the cycle continued. By receiving negative energy, my world became imperfect once again, and I had to expel more negative energy to land back to perfect, and so on and so forth. It took me experiencing true, unconditional love to realize this endless cycle of suffering, which thus gave me the power to end it and take back control of my life.

What I realized is that we cannot expect perfection in life. The Universe sprang from chaos, and the only thing that doesn’t change is that things are always changing. It is okay to strive for greatness, but it is unrealistic to expect perfection. Thomas Jefferson put it quite well: “Be firm on principle, but fluid on taste.” In my analogy, I bring in the Oak tree and the wind. The Oak has the strongest root system of any tree on Earth. If you choose to believe in something substantial you must remain firm like the Oak, unswayed by conflicting people’s storm of negative reactions. Quite often those people will yell at you to change your principles, pressure you to change your ways, but if your beliefs are something of true importance you must remain rooted and stand firm.

But even oak trees must sway in the ever-changing wind. Wind, like the taste referred to by Mr. Jefferson, represents the ever-changing mood or fancy of a person. One day you might like the color purple; the next you might like the color blue. This does not mean you should make it an oak tree and beat every person who likes the color orange with a wooden club. Rather, let the wind of people’s tastes be formless, easy-going, and impermanent. Too often people spout out their opinions with such self-righteousness that they blow over anyone with a different mindset, and lose many friends along the way. They end up looking like a pompous ass with no communication skills.

Don’t look like the ass. Instead, use the tools in this book to harness chaos and use it to transform your life for the better. This book will teach you how to embrace change, chaos, and the true nature of Life itself while remaining true to your own beliefs. You will learn how to become like the Oak and like the wind, strong in principle but fluid on taste. Once you find this power within you, you’ll be able to transform your interactions within yourself, with your coworkers, and even with your lover. You will find renewed energy and a new-found appreciation for your strengths—and weaknesses—which allow you to take on new challenges and experience real growth.


Something’s a Brew in Portland

Coffee by Design Sweets

When I first sipped Coffee by Design’s coffee I knew there was no turning back to Folger’s. Easily surpassing name brand chains as good as Starbucks, this Portland-based micro roastery gives honor to putting pride in every drop of caffeine they produce. The aroma of their coffee is strong and fresh, the taste smooth and lingering. If you buy their coffee and make it at home, it’s even fresh enough to warm up the next day – although they probably would never recommend doing it. Coffee by Design owners Alan Spear & Mary Allen Lindemann use only the finest coffee beans from some of the best coffee producing regions of the world. They ensure the farms traded with are fair, organic and sustainably managed to produce the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. Catch Alan in one of his shops and you’ll soon understand why CBD holds such a reputation. He’s a bright, uplifting character with an infectious smile and twinkling eyes that you just want to get stuck in conversation with. His face was glowing as I spoke with him about his coffee and I knew this man’s business and passion were one & the same.–He even explained to me how to make “the perfect cup” as if it was his sole responsibility; you’d think he was changing the world, one cup at a time.

I have been to Coffee by Design before and when thinking about the Passion of Portland, what better to blog about than the passion for coffee? Coffee lovers are loyal and dedicated to their brew of choice, and Coffee by Design is one of the best coffee shops around. If you’re ever visiting Portland and need a mightily tasty pick-me-up, there are four locations where you can check out CBD’s brewmastery [just check out their website here]. For me, this Friday afternoon was the Congress Street shop after a long week at the office. It’s located right in the Arts District, so is an easy walk during any downtown tour or shopping trip.

Coffee by Design in the Portland Arts District, Congress Street

Step inside the slender building and you’ll find what most Portland coffee shops have. – A rhythmic flow of businessmen and tourists reading newspapers, or hipsters in flannel & suspenders grabbing a drink on their way through town. A wide mix of 90’s pop & soft rock play in the background, and there is a counterfull of locally baked goods to complement your beverage. The artistic baristas patiently wait as you peruse the menu above to explain your options and inform you of any specials.

If you’re into the classic cup of Joe, you can choose one of their peak roasts or dark roasts depending on your palate that day.There’s always decaf if you can’t have the caffeine spike. Then, there’s the usual espresso and tea concoctions. On my hot, humid visit I opted for their iced Chai latte. – I know it’s a travesty to order tea when I’m blogging about the best coffee shop in town, but I’ve had their iced coffee too and can tell you it is equally refreshing. CBD uses a tasty organic chai that you can order either spicy or sweet – to fix my sweet tooth, it was sweet Chai and a chocolate frosted brownie to match.

Sitting in one of the sleek leather reading chairs at the face of the store, I leisurely sipped my iced latte and watched the people walking by – many of them stopping in to grab something themselves. Multimedia art from the Flat Iron Gallery hung on the walls, and beside one piece hung a picture of 15 Important Things to Know About Coffee [I’m guessing Alan bought that one]. It’s in that chair I learned that CBD has made a name for itself not by using extravagant store decor or in-your-face marketing and gimmicks. They have become a name to remember by the way they do business, the sustainable farms they use, the communities they give back to. Most importantly, the tedious hours they spend picking the right coffee beans and roasting them not the easiest or quickest way, but the best way [check out their process here]. Passion is not easy, but it can certainly make things interesting. Coffee by Design has really brewed something up in Portland, and I’m happy to wake up to the fruits of their passion any day.

Chris admiring CBD’s wall art courtesy of Flat Iron Gallery


Where is it that you find yourself? Or, to properly ask the question: When is it that you find yourself? How? With whom? From what? There are so many ways to find yourself: in moments, places, with people or things, or in the middle of an unforgettable experience. Finding yourself can be a constant metamorphosis, if you allow it.

Perhaps its in the first savor of a chilled vodka martini on a Monday afternoon, or a barefoot stroll across Higgins beach with flip-flops in hand, or with your favorite person in a room full of colored lights and smooth music, as you both dance hand-in-hand. Its that moment we all live for, the one we all long to slow down and soak up like the sun’s warm rays on the last day of summer. With this blog, I will give you moments of my own, captured in time like photographs – but with 1,000 words.

It took me 25 years to find myself, when I suddenly realized I could be doing what I love like all the rest of the happy and successful people. – I will travel all around the Portland, Maine area and its region sharing my own moments of inspiration for life. I’ve found myself and who I was meant to be. With a bit of curiosity, you could find yourself with me – at a local café, volunteering at an animal shelter for a day, or enjoying lunch atop a mountain in the cool Maine summer sky.

My blog will highlight the true joys of Maine and what our region has to offer the wandering soul. I will be celebrating Maine’s unique sense of community and promoting healthy local businesses so that when you plan to travel, you will know just where to go for a remarkable memory. I will be illustrating experiences from food & beverage to outdoor exploration, general hobbies, local events, local markets, and more. I intend to captivate the reader while giving helpful information to any traveler researching the area.



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