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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

They say to feel happy, make someone else happy

The old saying, It’s better to give than to receive, apparently is true on many counts. For most people that makes it a win-win. Unless of course, you’re a sociopath, narcissist or any one of the Frank Underwood Administration. There are always exceptions.
I suggest that we try this for one week, 7 little days out of our lives. One gesture of giving, of kindness a day and let’s see how we feel at week’s end. In fact, if you are feeling down or upset, one of the greatest things you can do is to share a bit of kindness. Here are some really simple suggestions, things that you can do right now.

Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

1. Give someone a compliment. We can always find something good — whether, I love your shoes, your smile, the skip in your step.
I told the girl behind the counter at the post office the other day that I loved her new haircut. I don’t know her but I see her there when I drop off packages and I noticed she had cut quite a bit of hair off. I was actually taken aback by her response.
Do you really? She was so excited. Oh my gosh, you just made my day. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. Oh, I’m so happy you think it looks good!
She was gushing and I left there feeling pretty good about my own self, too. Even though that was not at all my intention. I really did like her hair!
2. Take someone a small gift (flowers from your backyard/a bowl of oranges or fresh herbs from your garden)
3. Make someone’s day (buy the guy in line a cup of coffee, or better yet, the guy standing outside the coffee shop)
4. Call a friend. Or your Mom. Or someone who would love to hear from you.
5. Say hello and smile as you pass people.
6. Visit someone who lives alone.
7. Let someone go in front of you in line.
8. Listen without distractions. That’s right, put the phone away. Be present.
9. Leave your server the biggest tip you can afford.
10. If you see someone struggling, with a stroller, with grocery bags, up the steps or with whatever, do the old boy scout deed of helping. Lift groceries into their car, or up the steps, or tell them if tag is showing or their shirt is inside out. (Trust me, people appreciate this, it happened to me!
And remember, surround yourself with positive people, listen to your head, listen to your body, know when to say yes, and when to say no. You deserve kindness too!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Best Years

I’m turning 62 this year. I remember not all that long ago when I heard people say things, like, “life starts at 50” or “the best is yet to come” I thought, Well, that all depends. How bad or mediocre was your life before? I always had a feeling this was somebody's idea of trying to cheer us on so that we would make it to the finish line.

But now I'm realizing that there is some truth behind this best years sentiment. It isn’t that there is more excitement, better sex, wild parties, booming career opportunities or lots of firsts to do or tell; it's because we finally get to be authentically, genuinely, ourselves.We don’t need to give a damn if we don’t give a damn. We no longer need to hide behind the facade of being perfect. Or of being effortlessly beautiful, or agreeable, or worrying if people like us. We can let our guard down and relax a little. Or like in the movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, we can finally exhale. 

By this time we should know who we are. No apologies necessary. We know what we like and what we don’t like. What we’ll live with and what we’ll live without. We have our tribe. We know our comfort zone and our boundaries. We may choose to leave them on occasion, but we at least know where they are.

Every age comes with its difficulties. If I look back, I’d have to say my teen years were probably some of the hardest. Or maybe it was my late 20s. There were struggles in my 30s, while 50 found me going through a divorce after 13 years of marriage. I was living alone in a small apartment with the one cat I never really bonded with, my daughter was off at college and my self-esteem and vitality were at an all-time low. Yeah, every life has its struggles, and they present themselves at every age. 
Even if we find ourselves with more challenges, such as physical limitations, or maybe we have become divorced, widowed, out of a job, or faced with an illness, if we’ve made it this far we have a fairly strong sense of survival. We’ve all experienced the good and the bad, the yin and the yang, and we know that what goes up, must come down. Whether we like it or not. Nothing lasts forever.

I’m not really sure if there are “best years” - I think just being lucky enough to have years makes them all pretty great. Different, but great. While some things definitely become a little harder with age, there are so many things that become easier. For example:

  • I can make peace with my hair and forget about trying to find the perfect hairstyle (I've had the same one for the last 40 years, obviously, I'm not gonna change)
  • I can quit thinking that one day I'll wear floral print dresses to garden parties instead of my jeans and black t-shirt  (I've actually accepted that I have always had a "didn't think I was going to get out of the car" kind of style)
  • And, I no longer have to beat myself up for not running a marathon or making an attempt to climb Mt. Everest (I've felt the pressure before that these are types of things that I should want to do, but now I can say, I honestly have no desire to and never did)

And that's ok. I finally know and accept who I am. And it only took me about 60 years to do so.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Guilt doesn't do a body Good

Tis the season. Full of thanks and Ho Ho Ho’s. We’ve survived another candy-coated Halloween and are now sitting down to the Thanksgiving meal which encompasses an entire day of non-stop eating and a day or two of filling up on leftovers. Then, off we go running to the month of holiday parties, get-togethers, school and work functions and various other food-filled festivities. 

I just want to remind everyone, that if we focus on all of the sugar (and as many of you know, I’m pretty serious about getting sugar out of my diet), and all of the carbs and calories that we will be consuming, we will spend the season singing the blues instead of Joy to the World. And this, my friends, is not healthy.
November and December, for most, are filled with tradition. Traditions are good, and let's face it, food is usually the center of family traditions. Having fun in your life, feeling joyful, laughing and spending time with loved ones is just as important (or more so) than the food we consume. I don't want to downplay the importance of eating a good diet and taking care of yourself on a regular basis, but feeding our soul is what gives us the fuel to love and live a life of passion. 

So, during these types of events, relax, let it go. The stress and worry about what and what not to eat can be more harmful to your health than that slice of pumpkin pie or serving of stuffing with a little extra gravy. That said, if you find yourself slumping down in the front seat of your car, eating a pumpkin pie straight from the box that you just bought at the grocery store, you might have something to worry about.  But otherwise, you don't need to deprive yourself and you don't need to be a glutton, either.  Practice moderation and enjoy.  This is life ~ it is short, and every moment should be savored.

For more information about health coaching, click here to visit my website ~

Monday, November 6, 2017

Changing with the Seasons

One of the things I miss most about where I live is witnessing the change of seasons. Living in Santa Barbara, the seasons change, but not too drastically. Our seasons consist of “Amazing” then comes "May Gray" followed by “June Gloom” (which refers to our two overcast months) and with any luck, another season that consists of some light rain and nights cold enough to wear my peacoat. 

Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the coolness of the air on my skin, the surge of energy I feel, and the way I sleep like a baby under heavy blankets. I also adore boots, jackets, scarves, and turtlenecks. Yes, turtlenecks.
A fall day at the beach in Carpinteria

There's something to be said for appreciating a beautiful day. Here, every day is pretty beautiful and it's easy to take that for granted. We really do need something to look forward to. Whether it's a sunny day, a vacation, a Broadway play, we need to have plans, events, things that are not ordinary, not delivered to us daily.

I can remember what it felt like when after having a long cold winter, the first day of spring rolled around, and flowers started to bloom and birds started to sing, and there was that exhilarating feeling of everything coming back to life. That feeling of wanting to dance in the mixture of spring rain and warm sunshine. Everything seemed possible in spring. 

Whereas, fall is the time of year when things slow down, nothing seems as pressing; it's restful. Fall and winter are such quiet times. They are more in line with the likes of the hopeless romantic, where it's easy to get lost in an epic novel. There is a peaceful hush to the world. Fall and winter seem soft, nurturing, and safe. To me, they feel like cashmere and smell like freshly baked banana bread.

Even if the leaves aren’t turning orange and yellow where you live, there are subtle shifts happening outside and in us all. There is a communal slowing down. Fall helps us make the transition from the frenzied activity of summer to the deep quiet of winter. It can also remind us to pause, to be present, and to reflect on the past year. It's a time for us to look back on what we have achieved, on any unfinished business in which we need clarity or completion. It's a time to stop the fiery summer energy of running around, of trying to accomplish maybe too much at one time, and breathe. Just breathe.

So, if the idea of the warmer weather being over brings you down and the thought of the cooler and colder months ahead already have you feeling a bit blue, try to relax and embrace the notion that we are meant to change, just like the seasons ~ and rest assured that spring will return and those hot summer days will come again.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The G Word

I’ve been talking, ok, maybe preaching, about the importance of practicing gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal for years. But I’m gonna come clean, I haven’t been keeping one on a regular basis either. I have a hard time doing anything over and over - except, strangely enough, I manage to keep my daily commitment to morning coffee. Hmmm . . .

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
I always think of myself as being grateful, of paying attention, practicing mindfulness and staying aware of how blessed my life is. But in reality, when I stopped journaling months ago I have since noticed that my life feels a bit less grounded, I have more cynicism, more anger, and at times feelings of hopelessness. The negative shows up on the big screen for me.

So back to my journal. And I only ask myself to come up with three things a day (actually I do it at night, right before bed.) Three things are easy to come up with, there’s no fishing, no going through my daily memory bank for things to write down.  But just these few things seem to be enough to switch my frame of mind. To remind myself of the beauty, the blessings, and the ease of my life compared to so many others in the world. I once again find myself appreciative of the smallest things. Things like some half and half in the refrigerator for my coffee, for the refrigerator itself, and for electricity to keep the refrigerator going! Things that normally are not given enough appreciation.

So truly, if you are better at routine than me, or even if you’re not, start a gratitude journal. Three little things a day - you can do it - it really only takes a few minutes. Not that much of a commitment but you will definitely notice the changes in your mindset, your mood, and your overall well-being. Keeping a gratitude journal forces you (in a gentle way) to look for the good. 

And that, my friend, can’t be bad.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wabi Sabi through the Holidays

Making them jolly and bright

Photo by Nikola Jelenkovic on Unsplash

Some people can’t wait for the holiday season — for them it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. For others it’s a time of dread and just something to get through. But in whichever camp you fall there’s no better time to put into practice the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, roughly translated as the art of acceptance and finding beauty in imperfection.
It seems during this time in particular we demand so much of ourselves, wanting everything to be perfect, that we can’t help but set ourselves up for disappointment. As a one-time pastry chef, I have to remember that even if the chocolate soufflĂ© falls, it will still taste just as good.

But truly, one of my best and most memorable Thanksgiving holidays was spent years ago with a group of friends.

The woman that was hosting had unfortunately broken her back in late October but she still wanted to host so her husband had agreed to do the cooking. When we all sat down at the table and he began to carve the turkey, it was not only raw inside but the cavity was void of any savory bread stuffing and instead was filled with the plastic bag containing all of the turkey organs.
After his wife apologized profusely and her normal skin color returned, we all started laughing that belly aching kind of laughter that ends in tears, and then calling for Chinese take-out. The holiday, though not all that traditional, was nothing if not memorable. The food was good, the wine flowed, the company was divine, and the store-bought pumpkin pies that our host placed right on the table in their plastic containers along with the normally looked down upon Cool Whip, was absolutely delicious.

Expectations around the holidays run high and so do emotions.

We want everything to be perfect. We want everyone happy, the food cooked to perfection, and the table setting beautiful enough to rival one in Martha Stewart Living magazine.
So what’s the solution? How can we adopt a Wabi Sabi attitude? First, recognize that the stress of the holidays affects everyone, even small children. You can’t expect everyone to be on their best behavior all of the time. Know ahead of time that this is an emotional time, filled with excitement, joy, and at times, unhappiness. Try to keep your schedule as open and flexible as possible. Go ahead and skip your weekly book club or piano lesson. This alone takes a lot of the pressure off and will give you more time and a feeling of ease throughout the holidays.
Don’t assume all of the responsibility. If we do this, not only will we not enjoy the holidays, but also we will end up exhausted and depressed when they finally come, or shortly thereafter. So this year, enlist the help of your family. Divide up the activities evenly or do them all together. Make it fun, not a chore to be done.
Another problem is that we put too much emphasis on gift giving. If you feel you must buy gifts for every relative, teacher, hairdresser, neighbor, and the mailman, you are setting yourself up for a very stressful holiday season. Try to simplify this year. Give something of yourself — something that you love to do and that you are good at. Bake cookies, make scarves, give gift certificates for pet sitting, plant–watering, childcare for an evening, or help with clutter clearing. These all make wonderful gifts. Do set a budget, make a list and be realistic about what you can afford to spend.
Of course, for many people the holidays can be a time of sadness or depression. This is unavoidable if we have lost loved ones or have memories associated with Christmas that are not favorable. But this year make a ritual of honoring those who have passed and spend a small amount of time giving in to those feelings. It’s okay.

What causes us the most stress is to feel we cannot feel this way.

Celebrate your ancestors. Americans usually hide them away because most of us feel so awkward about death. If you are missing friends or family, try to remember happy times and share them with others.
It’s always important that we stay healthy, but it’s especially important at this time when our bodies can easily get run down. If you have a holiday party in the evening, make sure you eat a nutritious breakfast and light lunch and limit your alcohol intake. For every cocktail or glass of wine you have, drink at least 8 oz. of water in between. You’ll thank yourself in the morning!
Treat yourself to a bath with lavender, pine, rose, or tangerine to help you relax and calm down. Do this before bedtime to help with a good night’s sleep.

Remember to BREATHE.

Deeply. Start each morning out sitting still, eyes closed, breathing. Do this for only a couple of minutes, if that is all you can spare. End each night doing the same thing.
A good Feng Shui remedy is to take an orange and cut 9 small round circles out of the peel. Citrus is known to lift our energy and help with stress and anxiety. Place them in a baggie and take along with you when you are out shopping or out in a crowd. Inhale when you are feeling tired and fatigued. This will invigorate you to keep you going a little longer! Or, you can also bathe in orange peels at the end of the day if you need to regain energy.

Most importantly, keep your sense of humor, relax, release your expectations– and enjoy the holidays!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


When I think about what makes a woman a Wabi Sabi Woman, what comes to my mind is resilience. It’s not so much that we just flow with everything that comes our way. We are not Stepford Wives, we are not anesthetized, and we don’t sit around all day meditating and chanting OM. We have our fears, our tempers, our moods, and our down days when we don’t feel very Wabi Sabi at all.
But we have embraced that very important lesson — that everything changes.
We cannot resist it. As the salmon struggles to swim upstream, we have learned life is easier when you stop the struggle. As much as we hate it, we know that with every joy there is some sorrow; with every dark there will then be light. We face whatever challenges appear (and they will always appear) and we deal. We know that this too shall pass and we keep our heads above water.
So many wonderful lessons we could painlessly learn if we just believed the wise words of the teacher. For example, Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them, the first time.” Wow, that would’ve saved me some heartache!
And what about “Without our health, we have nothing.” When we have our health we seem to take it for granted and only become proactive about preserving it when we’re close to losing it. Please don’t wait to lose yours before you place great value on it.
And one of my favorites, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Little things like hearing a child’s belly laugh, the perfect cup of coffee, finding a bra that fits, a morning kiss from your special someone, watching the sunrise or witnessing the most glorious sunset, waking without a headache, feeling rested, that incredible garage sale find, or opening a bottle of champagne for no reason — other than life itself is a celebration and that is reason enough.
All these great words of wisdom manage to find their way on to some decorative Pinterest board but can’t find their way into the way we live our lives. Why don’t we live these lessons?
The Wabi Sabi Woman’s scale tends to tip in the favor of optimism, on the positives and possibilities in life. We make a conscious decision to notice, love and appreciate the little things. Those little things in life that in the end, or when we are without them, prove to be the big things.
My post here is simply to serve as a reminder to stay aware, to be mindful of these simple luxuries we have in life.
Luxury isn’t what they’ve been trying to sell us. It’s not European sedans (though I do love a nice BMW :) caviar, designer handbags, diamonds and jet planes. No, luxury is being alive, breathing good air, eating good food, and having friends and family to share your love and your life. The little things that are really the big things, the things that truly matter, are the most luxurious of all.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash