Scarlette Letter – September 5, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude: I am grateful for all the courageous and independent women in history who’ve inspired me, among them, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and, now, Coco Chanel

Affirmation: I am remarkable

Attitude: Independent

Activity: Run 13.5 miles

Nurture: Meditation morphed into nap (what do you expect after a 13.5 mile run and an eighty mile drive?)

Enrichment – Listened to a chapter of Wayne Dyer’s “I Can See Clearly” on Audible during drive

Nourishment – Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – Nothing more than kind words and good wishes for everyone’s holiday weekend

Connection – Great conversations while running with my running club this morning

Simplifying – Figured out how to use Microsoft Word and Dropbox on my iPhone so I can blog on the go more easily and don’t have to carry my iPad all the time

Journaling – A Story

My best friend, doppelganger, and soul sister, Jardin D Fleur, posted a little story yesterday about cartwheels. In summary, she’d responded to a Facebook post that asked “Would your eight year old self be proud of you right now?” True to form, Jardin’s response was both insightful and funny, she said, “I don’t think so, I can no longer do perfect cartwheels. I think I’ll go practice.”

I began to think about cartwheels.

I used to be very good at doing cartwheels, and, in fact, I don’t think a day passed between my first cartwheel at about the age of six and the age when such displays became uncool, say, cheerleading aside, in high school, that I didn’t do a cartwheel. (Continue Reading)

For Me and For You

I ran a ten-mile race last weekend. I didn’t win the race, but I did win.

I’m reasonably new to running, I started running at the age of 48, just four years ago. I’ve run a few half-marathons and one full marathon, so far. I didn’t win any of them. I’m registered for a couple of half-marathons and four full marathons over the next year. I won’t win any of them. But I still win.

Scarlette Begonia

Why run in races if you’re never going to win?

Running, for me, fulfills a couple of very primal needs I discovered I have rather late in life; it makes me feel free and it fulfills my competitive spirit. If I’m not in it to win it, how does it fulfill my competitive spirit? I compete with myself, I strive for continual improvement.

Fitness is a lifestyle I believe in, it is a lifestyle I foster, it is a lifestyle I create for myself. Let me clarify fitness and what it means to me:

Fitness is a lifestyle that facilitates good health, well-being, continual self-improvement, self-confidence, and self-worth. Joy.

Fitness is not getting skinny enough to wear that dress to the high school reunion. Fitness is not losing weight to look good, to catch that guy, to attract that girl, to get the engagement ring, to fit into the wedding dress. Fitness is not bulking up enough to win a body-building competition. Fitness is not racing once to prove it can be done. Fitness is not about doing it for someone else.

Fitness, your health, your well-being, are only ever about you. It is a choice and one you choose because it brings you joy.

Scarlette Begonia

I run as part of my fitness-focused lifestyle. It is hard, but it brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. I race because it’s fun, I enjoy the fanfare, I enjoy the people, I enjoy having a measure of my personal improvement.

In this past weekend’s race, there were 540 finishers. I came in 309th. Clearly, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t even in the top 50%, but I’m still a winner. I finished. I ran ten miles. I did, however, run at a faster pace than any of my previous races, though this was the shortest race I ever ran.

I poured over the results, the results of others, knowing everyone runs, and races, for different reasons, for very personal and individual reasons. Some folks do run to compete, to win, to be the fastest. Others run for the sheer pleasure. Other folks run because they can. Sadly, some folks run to please someone else.

Scarlette Begonia

The fastest finishers, the winners of the race, the folks who took home the purse and the prizes, ran a full five minutes faster per mile than I. One such man was 72 years old. Winning. I reviewed the field of finishers near my finish time, I came in a couple of seconds behind a woman who was 74 years old.

Scarlette Begonia

I looked at the people who came in last, and these folks were, in my perception, the true winners of the race and should be awarded the highest purse, the biggest medal, and the most recognition. In the last ten finishers was a woman, 99 years old. Winning. Finisher 540 of 540; a woman of 83. Winning. How blessed to be of such good health at that age to complete a ten mile running race, and, judging from their pace, they were moving along fairly well. They eclipsed my rather ridiculous hiking pace. My rather ridiculous hiking pace elevates my heart rate to an aerobic level, it causes me to sweat profusely, it makes my muscles all wonderfully sore for the next couple of days. A 99 year old woman and an 83 year old woman and a smattering of other octogenarians maintained that pace for ten full miles. Think about it; many folks that age aren’t able to drive ten miles, or walk ten feet. When I grow up I want to be 99 years old and finish a ten mile running race! Run because you can.

Scarlette Begonia

I am speculating, but I’m pretty sure those elderly runners aren’t running that race for anyone but themselves. To live to be 99, or 83, is accomplishment in itself. To be able to run ten miles at that age obviates a commitment to fitness, a personal desire for a fit lifestyle. They aren’t running to get in shape to fit into that dress, to get the proposal, to find a date, to please someone else. They run because they can and because it is their choice, their lifestyle, and, I’m guessing it brings them an incredible amount of joy, confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.

And that, my friends, is truly winning.

I do it for me. Do it if you want, but do it for you.

Scarlette Begonia

Still? Still. Still?

Let’s talk about the word “still”. Five letters assembled together into a single syllable word that has a few different uses, a few different meanings, both good and not so good. Still.

An Effort to Evolve

Still; a bad thing. It takes motion and activity to accomplish things, from getting out of bed in the morning, to acquiring knowledge, to running a marathon. Being still, when we should be moving, then, is a bad thing. We cannot accomplish goals, learn, grow, be healthy, prosper, if we are still. Stillness suggests inaction, or, perhaps, complacency. Sure, we may move, physically, during the course of our day, but are we in motion towards anything greater than we currently are? That is the question. We were meant to learn, grow, achieve, by design, to which stillness is the enemy.

We were meant to learn, to grow, to achieve
We were meant to learn, to grow, to achieve

Further, we were designed, by nature, to move, physically. We are hunters, we are gatherers, by nature, our bodies, our minds and our souls require frequent, vigorous physical activity to thrive, to survive. Consider, then, stillness, the killer. Stillness robs us of our youth and our quality of life.

We were designed to hunt, to gather, stillness is a slow, silent killer, a robber of our quality of life.
We were designed to hunt, to gather, stillness is a slow, silent killer, a robber of our quality of life.

Are you still? Are you too still?

How do we know how to move, what direction to go, what to seek, to chase, to learn, to achieve?

Through stillness!

Still; a good thing. To connect to ourselves, in order to, perhaps, decide what it is we are meant to do, or be, or accomplish, we must be still, in body and in mind. This, though, for only a portion of our day. To learn to sit and quiet ourselves so that only our breath and the immediate moment surround us. In quieting and clearing our mind, in connecting our body and mind to our soul through breath and presence, we become aware of the current moment, the present, and we are more clear on who we are and in our purpose. There are many ways to practice stillness; meditation, peaceful, solitary activities such as walking or hiking, yoga, cycling, running or paddling. We simply need time set aside to allow the mind to quiet and the constant noise of our thoughts to cease. We need time to be present and focus only on our breath as it comes and goes, daily. In this stillness we have the opportunity to become ourselves, to connect our spirit to our being, and to be present.

Is your mind cluttered?
Is your mind cluttered?
Find stillness of thought in nature, walking or hiking.
Find stillness of thought in nature, walking or hiking.

How do we accomplish our goals, our purpose, or even just stillness?

Still; a good thing. Still is also a word used to imply consistency. Much of what we wish to do with our lives, in this world, relies on consistency, constancy, and perseverance. Whether achieving and maintaining our health, our fitness, a skill, some knowledge, or the ability to sit in stillness and connect to our breath, it all will require practice, consistent, regular practice. Still. A lifetime, sometimes.

Consistency, practice, perseverance to learn new things, acquire new skills
Consistency, practice, perseverance to learn new things, acquire new skills

Are you still? Are you still? Are you still?

Spin Spin Spin

I went to another spin class at my gym the other day, triumphant and inspired after my first, successful spin class. I learned a lot in my first spin class. I learned that I wasn’t going to die, I learned how to size the bike, I learned the basics of the digital display, how to switch stages and where to monitor RPMs. Most importantly, I learned that I could have fun and get a good work out, all in a spin class.

My second spin class was a bit different. First of all, the class was packed, almost every bike was taken. I overheard one participant say, about the instructor, before the instructor arrived, “she terrifies me.” Now, I was a wee bit terrified, too. Moments later, in bounced the instructor, a tiny-framed woman, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. She was my age, I’d say, at least, but more fit that I’ve ever been in my life, at any age. She looked familiar, and though I have yet to verify it, I think I went to high school with her. She resembles someone, a year ahead of me, who was, even way back then, small-framed, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. We’re talking the front cover of a body building magazine muscle definition. She could stand at the front of a classroom and be put to good use as a visual aid in naming every muscle in the human body. And I truly mean this with the utmost admiration, respect and a touch of jealousy.

The instructor straddled her bike on the pedestal at the front of the classroom, cranked up the tunes and gave us explicit instructions. We were going “uphill” as soon as our “warm up” was over. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “add some gear”, I wouldn’t have to pay my gym fees for the next year! She knew many of the people in the class by name and even included songs in her playlist she knew they, specifically, would enjoy. Three minutes in and I was already dripping sweat onto the floor around my bike. Yikes. We were still going uphill. As a matter of fact, I think we went uphill pretty much the entire time. Who picked this ride?

Though, it seemed, much of the class consisted of regulars, the instructor seemed attuned to the fact that there was some “fresh meat” in with the veterans. Me, for example. With this in mind, she provided very precise, explicit and valuable information on the use of the digital display, every number being given a meaning, a use, and a measure. At the end of the class, I somehow survived, I felt far more informed and in mastery of the bike, the gearing of the bike and how it all related to the digital display and, ultimately, to the best workout I’ve had in a very long time.

As I understand it, this all translates to actual cycling, too. Having grown up in a “cycling” family, my dad being a cyclist for most of his youth, and owning a bicycle shop for most of my youth, I have some vague knowledge of the sport of cycling. I know that the goal is to maintain a steady cadence. There, that’s the depth of my cycling knowledge. You shift gears to maintain that desired cadence. Got it. What I learned in this spin class is how to “make room, add gear, gain power.” This makes sense and it works. As it was explained, several times throughout the class, you have a cadence range, between so many revolutions per minute and about ten more revolutions per minute. You pedal furiously and as you reach the upper end of that range, in other words, you make room, then you add gear, giving you more power. You continue to pedal furiously after adding gear, which, logically, causes your revolutions per minute to drop towards the lower end of the range. Pedal more, get closer to the upper end of the range, making more room, add more gear. The “power” is measured by the “watts” readout on the digital display. By the end of our mostly uphill ride, we were pedaling at about the same RPMs we started our ride with, but we were generating far more power. The watts I generated more than tripled, even though my cadence was the same, during the course of this exercise. I know this all translates to the street, to real riding, to real hills, and I find it fascinating. Power excites me!

I thought about this a lot throughout the day; making room, adding gear, more power and repeat. I think this method can also be applied to life; to our goals and to our evolution as an individual. Think about it.

We have a goal. Some folks never get past the setting of the goal. Others of us plink away at our goals a little bit, here and there, kind of like pedaling the old Schwinn Varsity around the block. And for some of us, that’s it. The seat makes our butt hurt, we get winded, the chain falls off, the tire goes flat and the old Schwinn Varsity reclaims its dusty post at the back of the garage with the car washing towels draped over it, perpetually drying. Am I right?

pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.
pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.

Others of us work a little harder at our goals. We sit on that spin cycle in class and just pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. We pay no attention to the numbers on the display. We show up, we pedal and pedal and pedal and you know what? We end up right where we started. We could attend spin class and pedal mindlessly and never increase our effort, never stand to pedal, never add gear, never gain any power, assuming we are making a difference, but we find that we never make any progress. That goal is always there, in the same exact position, never changing, never closer, truly like trying to reach it by riding a stationary bicycle.

Perhaps if we set a “cadence” for our work towards our goal, some kind of measure of achievement, of progress, and, as we work towards the first measure, we “add a little gear”, maybe some intermediate or clarifying goals towards the bigger goal, making it, initially harder, but through which we gain some energy, some power, making reaching the next level not only possible, but, in fact, a bit easier. We add more gear, gain more power, make more progress, and so forth. You see?

So, yes, I encourage you to check out a spin class because it’s hecka fun and a real sweat fest. And, I also encourage you to apply some of the principles of spinning, or cycling, to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Keep up a good pace, make some room by setting intermediate goals or meaningful measures of progress towards the ultimate goal. As you approach each of those intermediate goals or measures, increase your effort and use the power to propel you towards the next intermediate goal or measure. Watch as you quickly and powerfully crest that hill and reach your goal!

Grab your yellow jersey, wave it over your head triumphantly, bask in the glory, and enter another race!

Scarlett’s Letter December 16, 2013

For the record, today got off to a much better start than yesterday, by design.

Off to a better start, by design. Did "my things" before going downstairs for breakfast.
Off to a better start, by design. Did “my things” before going downstairs for breakfast.

Today I did something terrifying. Something absolutely terrifying, something I’ve contemplated doing many times in the past three years, and I’ve always chickened out. Always. No matter how many Eleanor Roosevelt quotes I read, I chickened out. No, not skydiving. That was a pip. No, not running on a treadmill, I’ve nearly mastered that.  Today. Today, yes, today, I actually did it. I went to a spin class.

I’d no sooner run with the bulls or miss a BOGO sale at DSW than humiliate myself in a spin class. The people, the equipment, the stories, I’ve had friends say they fell off the bike, how do you fall off a stationary bike? Worst of all, the terrifying instructors, have you seen them? All super fit and up on that bike, on a pedestal, at the front of the class, able to shout loud enough to be heard over the music despite, their impressive level of exertion; demanding you stand up to pedal, turn up the resistance, pedal faster! My God! It is all just an episode of “Jackass” as far as I’m concerned, death defying and stupid, and lots of people are going to laugh really, really hard. At me. They might laugh so hard that Gatorade shoots out their nostrils, or they may laugh so hard they wet their little Lycra bike shorts! Or both!

It wasn’t so bad. Like marathon runners, spinners actually seem quite mortal, human, even. Of course, like everything I do, I had a very logical and strategic approach. I decided to go to the mid-day class. I figured the really rabid spin class folks I’ve seen waiting, frothing at the mouth, outside the classroom, at peak morning and evening hours, would likely be at work. I figured the mid-day class would be housewives and retirees. I was pretty much right. There were six of us. One lady just sat and pedaled at 45 rpm the entire time, with the exception of the water breaks, where she took it easier. No disrespect, she was there and it wasn’t her first time. Where have I been? Cowering over by the cardio equipment, watching the spin class in wide-eyed fear through the five inch wide glass in the door.

I got to the spin room early enough, I was the first, actually, fifteen minutes before the instructor arrived, in fact, in order to chat with the instructor to learn how to fit the bike and what the “commands” were. And it wasn’t so bad. Kind of like having a pit bull come racing towards you only to wag its tail and lick your hand, roll over on its back and wet itself. With this first class under my belt, or Lycra waistband, I now have the confidence to increase the resistance a little more, next time, and, even, maybe, attend a peak-hour class.

The next more fearsome thing I did today; I got on the scale. Oops. Time for atonement, and for toning a bit. It has been a long six-week jaunt from city to city, restaurant to restaurant and that sneaky ten snuck back on. Not that weight matters, but, I have been favoring my more forgiving Aeropostale “boyfriend” jeans to my sizable wardrobe of “Miss Me’s”. Gaining ten during busy travel season is typical, for me. Most of it will be gone by Christmas. Mom doesn’t understand why I won’t share her Panattone bread with her every morning for breakfast, “it’s Christmas”, she says. Um, no, it’s December 16th. On December 25th, Christmas, I might have a piece of Panattone bread. With butter. She warned, “what if it’s all gone by then?” Then I guess I won’t have any. There is a big difference between “it’s Christmas” and “it’s Christmas”. A month of indulgence is much worse than a day, or even two or three.

Ah, but I am not totally fearless. I was headed to Roseville, east of Sacramento, for happy hour with a ladies “Meet-Up” group I’ve been active with for a couple of years. They are a super nice group of women and so worth the hour and a half drive to socialize with for an event now and again. I knew the drive might take a little longer, with happy hour being, also, commute time, and I planned accordingly. I did not, however, anticipate the road construction ensnarled traffic I encountered on Highway 12 which links Napa’s Highway 29 to the rest of the country via Interstate 80. It took me nearly an hour just to get to Highway 12, which usually takes me about eleven minutes. This drive at 3:00 PM is far different than at my usual 3:00 AM. Afraid I’d arrive just in time to leave, again, I aborted and returned home. It is not often you will hear me say “afraid”, but there it is, at the beginning of a sentence. Figures, too, my hair was perfect, for the first time in a month, my outfit was smashing, new top from Victoria’s Secret, and rockin’ new black boots. Drat.

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.

Guess I’ll take a “selfie”. Then put my baggy ol’ sweats and slippers on. And have a beer. Then go fix dinner. And do laundry, my gym clothes stink.

Perfect hair.
Perfect hair.
New blouse
New blouse
New boots (which you can't see).
New boots (which you can’t see).
Guess I'll fix dinner and do laundry.
Guess I’ll fix dinner and do laundry.
Jammies and beer.
Jammies and beer.

All or Nothing

I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl. But I’m getting over it.

It used to be, if the package of Oreos were opened, I’d eat them, three at a time, until they were all gone. This usually took a day and a half to two days. It used to be, if I was going to In N Out Burger, I was having a Double Double, fries and a shake. With a Diet Coke.  If I was going to drink soda, I was going to have three a day. If the “pounder” bag of pretzels was open, I wasn’t going to stop eating pretzels until there were only salt crystals at the bottom of the bag.

In interest of moderation, I found, if I just didn’t buy Oreos or go to In N Out, then I could easily abstain. Pretzels and Diet Coke were another matter, and, in fact, comprised my “lunch” for quite some time. With Red Vines for dessert. Hey, it was all “fat free”, right?

I was on the weight loss roller coaster for years, about twenty, or so. I’d lose weight for a big outing, like a backpacking trek, then gain it all back plus a few. I never grew out of the “junior” size clothing, even at my plumpest, but I was what I called a “top shelf” girl at Hollister. They keep the larger sizes on a top shelf, out of reach of the rotund, and so we have to waddle around the store and find some impossibly thin creature employed there to retrieve them for us. They look at us with something between pity and disgust as they hand us a voluminous bundle of denim, and point us in the direction of the dressing room, knowing full well, in five minutes or less, they’d be putting those jeans back up on the top shelf. I shopped at PacSun and American Eagle to avoid the humiliation, for whatever reason, they were more kind.

When my whole life turned upside down, I saw, where most would see darkness, doom, dismay, and dread, a light. I used foreclosure and short sale, the long overdue collapse of a marriage, and the struggles of rebuilding my own life, by myself, as an opportunity to change. It was a catalyst for growth. If everything was changed, then I was going to change everything.

Somewhere during that period of time, always being a fan of exercising, just more a fan of eating, as was apparent, my son mentioned he’d done a workout video, at home, with his roommate’s girlfriend, and it “kicked his butt”. He is one of the most fit people I know; cross country runner, avid cyclist, gym rat. I drove to Target as fast as I could and bought my first Jillian Michaels workout video. It kicked my butt. I sat down after the warm up and watched the rest from the couch, incredulously, dabbing the sweat from my brow.

Within a week, I was able to complete the video with a fair amount of self-respect. I bought another video. And another. I like variety. And I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I was going to have ALL of Jillian’s videos, and new ones, too, as soon as they became available. Then I spied a book of hers at Target. I bought it. I read it cover to cover in about two days. I have never been the same. I have never been better.

I don't have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
I don’t have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
The book that changed my life.
The book that changed my life.

In Jillian’s book, I learned about diet, exercise, sleep, thought, environment, and, most importantly, how all of this relates to our hormones and that our hormones are what regulate our metabolism, and, so, our weight. I lost fifty pounds. There are ten pounds that come and go, but they do go with minimal effort. The real bragging rights, here, are that I’ve kept most of that fifty pounds of for most of three years. Give or take. I’ve kind of lost track.

The best part about losing that much weight, other than being able to tie my shoes, with the bows on the top of my feet, rather than on the side, where it was easier to reach, or the fact that my upper arms look like arms and not thighs, or the fact that it feels really, really, good to be thin, is that I got to shop for a new wardrobe three times in one year! How cool is that? I had to replace my tight size fourteens with size twelves because the fourteens, literally, fell off. I wore the twelves until they, too, fell off, and replaced them with eights. When the eights got to be ridiculously baggy, I bought sixes, and this is where I’ve been for two years now. So, no, I’m not some tiny, frail, creature riddled with eating disorders. I look pretty darn good and I eat pretty darn well and I feel pretty darn awesome and I can do any darn thing.

With this huge personal success, I became so confident, so inspired and so motivated, I knew, without a doubt, I could do anything. Anything at all. And this set my “effort to evolve” into motion. I vowed to myself to continue to evolve, in every area of my life, and then, to share my experiences, to, hopefully, inspire others.

I am absolutely NOT an all or nothing kind of girl anymore. I can eat two Oreos from an open package and make that package last weeks. If I really try. I still won’t ever buy Oreos for myself, but, others do. I can go to In N Out Burger and eat a lettuce wrap burger and pick at someone else’s fries and drink a nice, refreshing glass of water. Except after a marathon, then I get a Double Double, my own fries and a shake. Just sayin’. Every now and then, a bottle of really good red wine, or a super refreshing bottle of sparkling wine, does challenge my abilities to refrain from my current state of “all or nothingness”. But, I’m working on it.

By the way, where does it say that if something tastes really, really good that more of it will taste better? Why does having more, or all of it, now, make us think we’ll be more satisfied? The last Oreo tastes the same as the first. Isn’t it better to make it all last? Two Oreos every day for a month versus all the Oreos today, prolonged enjoyment, less negative impact. The first glass of wine is enough, and, then, I can enjoy it, again, tomorrow. So, I’m working on it.

Jillian taught me the virtues of NOT being an all or nothing kind of girl, in fact, she preaches it in all of her books. Okay, so, yah, I do have ALL of her books. And videos. And buy the new ones as soon as they come out. It isn’t al “all or nothing” thing, I swear, I’m studying her as a marketing role model. I only hope to be a fraction as successful in my endeavors, some day! Wink, wink.

Being an All or Nothing, Today – In Application:

It used to be, and this is so common it’s a joke, really, I’d start my “healthy eating” program on Monday morning. I’d cave at about 3:00 PM on Monday and, so, the week was “blown”, I’d start, again, on the following Monday. For a few hours. Why do we believe that “healthy” can only begin on Mondays? Now, I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I don’t and then I resume my healthy eating with the very next bite. In this practice, I gain six and a half days of healthy eating every week over what I used to do. Make sense? It isn’t an all or nothing, take it a bite at a time, a meal at a time, not a week at a time. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the week as possible, every week, forever. That’s what healthy is!

It is almost that time of year, again, one I dread with ferocity. In a few weeks the gym is going to be a zoo. For about two weeks. Then it will be a gym, again. For those two weeks, the “resolutionists” will be flocking to fitness classes and crowding the weight room floor. The cardio equipment will have plump, impatient people waiting in line for their fifteen-minute cardio embarrassment. New Years and all those well-meant resolutions will be forgotten within two weeks and the couch and the potato chips will win out, for most. Sad, but true. And, where, exactly, is it written that an “exercise regime” can only begin on January 1st? Why not March 12th? Or August 27th? So fitness is an all year or nothing thing? Nope. It isn’t. I have weeks where I work out, per plan, four, five maybe even six times. I have weeks where I work out only once, and, every now and then, I have a week without any workouts. But, more weeks than not, I am working out at least four times. It isn’t an all or nothing deal. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the year as possible, every year, forever. That’s what healthy is!

Part of “living clean”, part of what impacts our hormones, is our environment, and this is something that most folks aren’t aware of. Being healthy goes beyond diet and exercise. There are many other factors that impact our health that we are surrounded by, all the time. They are practically inescapable in many households and work settings. The cleansers we use, the detergents and soaps we use, the household products we use, the stuff we spray and squirt on the animals we hug, kiss and snuggle with all night, the stuff we spray in the air and on our furniture and carpets to mask the smell of our chemically treated pets, the things we smear on every part of our body from scalp to armpits to eyelids. All of it is chemical based. All of it is, if not toxic, at least harmful to our endocrine system, altering our hormones, which regulate our metabolism, which is a very necessary component of our health and our ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and state. Is it possible, then, to rid our environments of all of these harmful products? No. Not at all. But, every product we are able to replace with something natural, something organic, is one small step in the right direction. We can’t just throw up our hands in surrender and assume if we can’t afford all organic cleaning and personal hygiene products that all is lost and we should just commit suicide, slowly, by sitting on the couch eating ice cream, potato chips and Texas Toast.

There are strategies for low cost alternatives to organic products. There are a million resources for finding them online. Well, maybe not a million GOOD sources, but there are a few.

Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.
Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.

So, if you refuse to give up your “all or nothing” attitude, fine, but try this first; change a few of the things you do and don’t give up on January 14th or on Monday at 3:11 PM. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. I promise, you’ll see positive results, inside and out. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make a few more changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

When we were in the second grade and out on the playground playing jump rope, when our turn came and we “ran in” and jumped, eventually, we’d mess up and our turn would be over, at which point, by golly, we got right back in line and anxiously waited for our next turn. We didn’t just say “well, screw that, I blew it, can’t jump rope again until next Monday, or until next January.” We just kept at it, trying again and again and again, until the recess bell rang, and then we were at it again the next recess, always getting better and better. Did we ever get it perfect? Obviously not, or we’d still be out there on the playground, jumping, jumping, jumping, chanting the lyrics along with a bunch of very patient second graders, hoping for a turn, someday.

Perfection is non-existent. There is perceived perfection, occasionally, but even it is rare and illusive. Do the best you can, just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. A healthy lifestyle isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Life isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Nor am I.

Have a great Monday! Have a great New Year! Have great health! Have a great life!

Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.
Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.

 

You Have to Play to Win

My cousin visited a couple of weeks ago and she, my mom and I went out to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, we somehow got onto the subject of winning the lottery. What would you do if you won a large jackpot? Some people say they would save the money, invest it wisely and live off the interest, others say they would spend it all fast and furiously. My cousin was of the latter mindset, she said she has it all planned out and that she would pretty much just enjoy it while it lasted. Which is what most big jackpot winners do, spend it all and then return to their previous lives with nothing but great memories and some awesome stories to tell.  Fair enough. I’d buy shoes. And maybe a castle to keep them in. But you have to play to win.

I used to play the Lotto religiously. I’d purchase twenty draws in advance, the same numbers, and then, I’d never check the numbers to see if I won. I probably won the big jackpot, maybe even several of them, and never knew it. I stopped playing. You have to play to win.

I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don't know. I never checked. So, I don't play this game anymore. I'll focus my efforts elsewhere.
I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don’t know. I never checked. So, I don’t play this game anymore. I’ll focus my efforts elsewhere.

During my cousin’s visit, we also had a discussion about buying things you don’t necessarily need. On impulse. My aunt, my cousin’s mom, had these two large, beautiful rooster figurines. When she passed, I somehow came into possession of these roosters. At that point in time, I lived in a small suburb of Sacramento, Fair Oaks, in “the Village”, where chickens roamed the streets and most residents had chickens as “pets”. We had chickens as pets. And my house was decorated inside and out with chickens, including these two roosters. That was over fifteen years ago and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved since then. No more chickens, real or decorative. But, these two roosters have made move after move. Now, I really don’t have room for them, and, quite frankly, I’m sick to death of dusting them. So, my cousin, the garage sale genius that she is, came by to pick up some of our discards to sell at her next sale. Chickens included. My mom asked my cousin if she knew where my aunt had purchased the roosters. Of course, my cousin didn’t know, it was decades after she’d grown, left home and raised her own family, and decorated her own home. My mom has a way of asking (a lot) of questions that no one could possibly know the answers to. Often in rapid fire succession. Sometimes almost inquisition style. It’s her gift. We all agreed, knowing my aunt, that the roosters were probably an impulse purchase and we all had a good idea how my uncle probably reacted. On impulse purchases, my cousin mentioned that in her travels, she’d seen a doormat she wanted to buy for her mom that said “Ed, please leave the check under the mat.” She didn’t buy it, thinking she’d stop back by and do so, but never did. My aunt never got the doormat, so Ed didn’t leave her the winning check. I’m not sure my aunt even entered the Publishers Clearing House drawing, I’ll bet she did. You have to play to win.

My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!

Speaking of Ed and the Publishers Clearing House Drawing prize checks, Mom and I were having breakfast this morning when her phone rang. Her phone rings all the time. Actually, I swear there are twelve phones in the house, all with the ringer turned up as loud as possible. When someone calls, I swear the windows are going to shatter. I have my own “land line”, for work. The number is unlisted and the ringer is turned off. I don’t even know what my phone sounds like, but I’m sure I’d hate it. I haven’t given my “land line” number to anyone, ever, at all, so I know without a doubt that no one I would ever want to speak with will ever call me on that line. When my cell phone rings, and it is on silent all the time, too, so I’d have to actually see the incoming call, I look at the number and decide if a) its someone I want to speak with and b) if I want to speak with them right now, or if I might prefer calling them back at a more convenient time, for me. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and I can decide if and when I’ll return the call. Mom answers almost every call. Except for the one that occurs every morning, like clock work, at breakfast time. When she has answered it in the past, it has been some recorded message trying to sell her new windows, siding, roofing, solar panels, and appliances, all financed by the utility company. Even if she understood the whole thing, she really isn’t in the market for any of that stuff. She has asked, on numerous occasions, to be removed from their call list, but to no avail. I’ve registered her number on the “do not call” registry, but we all know that’s only as good as the ability to enforce it. Which is zero. So, this morning, like every morning, the call comes. Mom picked up the phone, glanced at the incoming number, hit the answer button followed immediately by the end button. Then she remarked, jokingly, “that was probably Ed with my winnings for the Publishers Clearing House drawing.” I asked, a little sarcastically, “Did you enter?” No. Well, you have to play to win.

I’m not proposing you should play the lottery or enter drawings and contests, I’m saying that you have to play to win. That applies to whatever you want to happen in your life. If you want to be fit, you’ll have to play to win; work out hard, regularly, eat right, commit to a fit, clean lifestyle. Forever. No pill, no shake, no two-week celebrity diet, no celebrity doctor endorsed super food suggestion is ever going to make you thin, fit or healthy. It is a lifestyle. You can’t wish yourself fit just like you can’t expect the next visitor at the door to be Ed with a big fat check if you didn’t enter the drawing. You absolutely have to play to win.

If you want to find love and companionship, you can’t sit home and wish for it to happen. Fabio isn’t going to crawl off the cover of your Harlequin Romance novel and pull you into his arms. You’ll have to play to win. You need to go out, participate in your community, be visible and active and mingle. You need to increase your exposure to a lot of people to find the one. The Powerball jackpot won’t ever be yours unless you’ve bought a ticket or two. You’ll probably have to go out into the world and meet a few folks before you find your soul mate. Must play to win.

You have to play to win at love.
You have to play to win at love.

Perhaps you’re hankering for increased success financially. Unless you take active measures to increase your income and decrease your spending, it probably won’t happen. Unless you DO play the Lotto and you DO win, but, my friend, in case no one else has told you, the odds aren’t good. No one is going to just give you gobs of money for no reason. Chances are you don’t have a long, lost, rich uncle who died and left you his fortune. You have to play to win. You need to carefully plan, budget and commit to both if you want to begin to accumulate money.

Your next raise is likely to not quite match the rate of inflation unless you’ve played to win in your career, too. But you can’t rest on your career marketability laurels and hope to be offered more rewarding opportunities. You have to play to win. I am hard-pressed to think of a single career field that hasn’t changed dramatically as a result of computers and advances in technology. We, too, must evolve, change, adapt in order to remain relevant, let alone advance. We need to meet or match the same pace of technological advances in order to remain relevant in our careers. It is an ongoing and almost frenzied activity to keep abreast of technological advances, but you must, in order to be marketable. My (former) husband was, for a long time, in software sales, support and customization. He had his own business and did well for a number of years. During that time, Microsoft Windows came out, and for a very, very long time, he resisted. He stuck with DOS and recommended his clients do so as well. Until it was no longer viable, supported or an option. Once he finally migrated to Windows, kicking and screaming, he stuck with the oldest version supported and upgraded only when absolutely necessary. This was not a very sound practice for someone in the software industry. Better to move forward, embrace the new, and make well-informed and educated recommendations to clients than to stubbornly cling to the old, comfortable version of the software, missing out on the enhancements and the benefits and opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in the new version. There is a popular ad campaign for teeth whitening products, “if you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”. I think this can be perfectly applied to doing what needs to be done to remain marketable in your career field. If you aren’t advancing with your field and with the technology within your field, you’re becoming irrelevant and unmarketable. You have to be in the game to score. You have to play to win.

No matter what it is in life you are making an effort to evolve in, you have to make the effort to obtain the result, without exception. You have to be invested. And, the more invested you are, the better your odds for success. I advise “all in” for everything in life you’d like to win, except the Lotto and other games of chance, of course, here, a dollar will do. But you do have to play to win.

Scarlett’s Letter August 13, 2013

I did it! I went to the gym in the morning! I have been trying to switch to morning workouts from my usual evening workouts. If I work out early in the morning, whether I run, or go to the gym for cardio, yoga or strength, I can take my shower and be done for the day. I have that happy glow you only get from working out all day long and I am ready for whatever the day may have to offer. For example, if I go out to lunch and have a beer, or go to a tasting room, then my work out isn’t compromised, or, worse yet, neglected. This is a tough switch for me. While I tend to be an early riser, early morning is my intellectual, creative time. Physically, I tend to gain momentum and energy as the day goes on. But working out in the late afternoon or evening means having to do the whole shower thing, again, if I want to do anything in the evening, which means I don’t often do anything other than work out in the evening. I’m hoping this switch will work and that my physical and intellectual energy time slots will just reverse themselves to accommodate.

There is a track work out this evening I should be attending. In preparation for my upcoming marathon in December, my training really needs to include speed workouts, which are typically done at a track. I need to learn to embrace this form of training, at least once a week. The local running club in Napa, the Vinerunners, has a well coached track workout tonight and on most Tuesdays. I have yet to go. My Sacramento running club also does track workouts on Tuesday, but that’s a long way to drive, in commute traffic, for something I am resistant to doing. I’m just not a track person, and that goes for more than just running. When I run, I much prefer varied terrain and scenery, it stimulates the mind and the senses. When I horseback ride, I prefer trails to the arena, and if I were a race car driver, I know I’d much prefer road racing to track racing, again, for the scenery, the challenge of the curves and hills and the varied terrain. So, how is it, then, that I can stand to do cardio at the gym?

I have a very definite, almost OCD relationship with my cardio routine at the gym. I am very particular about the equipment, the time, the cadence, the resistance and everything. I joined my gym, specifically, because they were the only gym in town that had the brand and style of stair stepper I like. Period. Did I mention that I was a little particular? My routine is an hour and when I am finished, I am head to toe dripping with sweat, heck, I’m that way five minutes in. I don’t “phone it in” as Jillian Michaels says. So, for someone who is so into varied terrain and scenery, how do I manage working out on the same four pieces of equipment several times a week? I do math. Math is not something I am very gifted at. Yes, I know, I’m an accountant, but I wouldn’t be without the advent of software and spreadsheets. I occupy my mind on the cardio equipment by calculating percentages, for example, if I’ve worked out so many minutes and seconds out of a total of so many minutes and seconds, what percentage complete am I? It probably helps a little that my stair stepper machine, the crossramp elliptical with arm levers and the treadmill all overlook the lap pool. And the spin cycle overlooks the martial arts/basketball rumpus room. I usually have something interesting to look at when I’m not staring at the number of calories I’ve burned, the elapsed time, the mileage or when I’m not doing math in my head.

This morning as I approached the only free stair stepper, of two. On the other stair stepper, a mere foot away, was an incredibly sweaty man. He had full size bath towels, several, spread out all around the machine to catch the sweat that was flying from his pores. The machine I intended to use was splattered. Again, being a little particular about the order and preference of my cardio machines, I had to make a difficult decision. Stair stepper first next to incredibly sweaty guy? Or later, and mess with my chi. I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, Eleanor. I always think of Eleanor when I have a fearful decision to make. “Eleanor once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” She is also quoted as saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So, I did. I worked out on the stair stepper next to extremely sweaty guy. Good thing I did, because he was sweating up a storm on that piece of equipment for 55 out of the 60 minutes I was at the gym. He finished a few minutes before I completed my last of four cardio machines. Had I waited, I still would’ve had to work out next to him, he’d have been, by that point, even sweatier, and I’d be all out of order on my machines and my chi would be officially messed up. Don’t let fear rule your decisions.

Before going to the gym this morning, I did have breakfast with Mom. To perfect my new morning schedule, I am going to have to begin a little earlier. There is that strange time vacuum that occurs at the kitchen table in the morning. We are melding better these days, she lets me do my contemplative journaling almost without interruption and I don’t go into an explosive fit conniption if she does interrupt me. I’m getting better. She reads her newspaper, silently, more and more. I only have to remind her once a week or so that I choose not to read the newspaper and so also choose not to have it read to me. But, every now and then, a newspaper article will be shoved toward my place setting and I am supposed to look up from what occupies me, and read it. Today, it was a Paella recipe, she knows I like paella, but, truthfully, after reading a few recipes, I’ve decided I’ll never make it, I’ll just go out to a restaurant. It’s intense. Besides, I can get any recipe I want online in about no time. I know, it’s the thought that counts. Before I moved in I’d get an envelope, regularly, with half of the newspaper clipped out. And coupons. None of which I ever read or used. So proximity matters little. I am always going to have bits of newspaper shoved at me. Though I am committed to going completely paperless, I suppose I’ll survive the occasional attempt to litter my life.

As the day progresses and work is through, I feel a little lost. I am all dressed up and made up and have nowhere, really, to go and nothing, really, to do, other than shop or wine taste, and I really shouldn’t. Almost seems a waste. I have plenty on my to-do list, and did spend part of my afternoon at Browns Valley Yogurt and Espresso Bar where it was cool and peaceful and not my usual scenery. I did some work there until it was no longer peaceful, thank you Elaine. Bless her heart. I think I will write down all the projects I hope to accomplish this week on bits of paper. I need to organize my shoes, shred mail sent by everyone I asked to go paperless with, shoot my next video, go through at least five boxes in the garage, and wash my car.  Then I’ll select one bit of paper out of one of my many, adorable hats and fill the rest of my evening with that task. Or not. Then to bed early, I have to get up and run tomorrow morning. First thing!

Browns Valley Yogurt  and  Espresso Bar, pre-Elaine.
Browns Valley Yogurt and Espresso Bar, pre-Elaine.
... or I could do this.
… or I could do this.

Making It Work

Break it down.

“Making it work”.

When you hear someone say, “making it work” we usually think they are trying to make something work that isn’t working; a relationship, a living situation, or a job, for example. It often has a bad connotation, like a last ditch effort to make something better before totally giving up on it. And no wonder. Break it down; making it work. If you look at in a literal sense it sounds like we are turning something that shouldn’t be work into work, we are making it into work.

When you hear people say they are struggling in a marriage or relationship, but they’re going to try to “make it work” we can be pretty certain the next time we speak to them they’ll be out of the relationship. The same is true when the phrase is applied to a living situation, a job, or some similar circumstance; it seems doomed to demise, eventually, and usually sooner than later. Is it because they are taking something less than perfect, something they desire to change, and rather than making it joy they are making it work?

Words, and their use, spoken and in thought, can be tricky. Remember Mother Teresa and her statement? She won’t go to an antiwar rally, but she’d be happy to attend a peace rally. Her belief that “fighting” against something only fortifies it through negative energy, but promoting something strengthens it through positive energy. What we think manifests. What we say manifests. So, if we are trying to improve something by “making it work”, we are making a chore, a task, or are making harder something that shouldn’t be. An interesting thought, don’t you think?

Break it down. We are struggling in some situation (pick one), and we decide to try to improve it. If we try to make it work, almost immediately our mood shifts and we begin treating the situation like Monday morning; with a bit of dread, a bit of trepidation, a melancholy feeling of loss over the joyous weekend that is now passed. We move a little more slowly, we procrastinate, we fail to find as much pleasure in whatever makes us feel this way and it further deteriorates. Seem logical? What if you approached it in a more positive mindset? I’m going to make it joyful! Whatever it is suddenly seems so much more appealing, so much more attractive. It feels more like a Friday, like something we want to embrace and savor and make last the whole weekend long. Am I right?

I had my annual review for work this evening. I won’t lie, my job is pretty taxing sometimes, usually when I’m sitting in an airport between flights, I’m tired and I just want to not have to carry all my stuff around, I just want to be vertical or horizontal, not bent in half, for an extended period of time, and preferably motionless, with my eyes closed and my mind quiet. Or when I’m setting an alarm for 6:00 AM Eastern time to get up for work when I “live” in the Pacific time zone. Traveling on weekends and working all week. Being away from home for a week, or two, or more. Living out of a suitcase. Waking up in a hotel room and having a really hard time remembering exactly where I am. But, I still love my job! Every day I work with clients I am enthusiastic, upbeat, I infuse fun and wit and humor into everything I do. The content I teach is dry, serious, and really, not much fun, we’re talking audit software, but I do my best to have fun and make fun, delivering it. I try to always be upbeat and energetic and enthusiastic when I’m working with my team on projects, it makes everyone happier, it makes the work easier, it brings joy, if to no one else, then to me. And for this, I am recognized and valued, by my clients, by my co-workers and by those who manage me. I bring joy to a job rather than “make it work”.

Part of the discussion this evening revolved around the rigors of travel. It is hard, no doubt. Some folks I work with get off the plane, go to the hotel, stay in the hotel, go to work, go back to the hotel, get on the plane and go home. They are just making it work. They are generally less joyful about their jobs and usually the first to complain about work. They make it work, though. When I travel for work, I seek out opportunities to see and do and experience and find joy. I take great pleasure in seeking out unique, local restaurants to dine in. I look for interesting local sites and attractions. Or, it may be as simple as my quest for a Whole Foods in every city I visit. I try to visit different Whole Foods Markets in larger metropolitan areas I visit regularly. I have an unofficial quest to visit every Whole Foods Market possible. I also love seeing professional sports stadiums in different cities, and I don’t even follow sports! I love university campuses, they are usually nice places to walk, have lovely gardens, lawns, trees and are festooned with art and sometimes, great architecture. Nothing major, nothing expensive, but definitely way better than the four walls of a generic, chain hotel room. You do realize that every hotel chain decorates with the same carpet, towels, bedding, and often, even wall hangings. Some hotel chains WILL actually put “local” scenes up for wall décor, but not all. So, the only way you can tell which city you’re in is Googling the art on the wall, That, my friend, is making it work.

The challenge, then, is to change our thought patterns, change our choice of words and watch our resulting attitude change. The next time you feel the need to “make something work”, stop yourself. Rephrase it. Make it joy, instead. Approach whatever task or situation ahead of you with joy and enthusiasm, with energy and the thought of opportunity, and I’m quite sure you’ll garner a better result. Whether your challenge is, indeed, a relationship that is faltering, a job that is tedious, a living situation that is strained, a lifestyle that is stagnant, health that is deteriorating, fitness that is languishing, or just a feeling that there must be something more, use a different tone of voice inside and out, select words that are more positive in your thoughts and in your speech and I’m sure you’ll find the outcome to be much easier and more rewarding than something that you turn into hard work.

Make it joy.

 

Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!
Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!

 

To Change or Not to Change

Life is never exactly the way we imagined it, sometimes things are better than we ever imagined, sometimes, they aren’t. We’ve chatted a bit about fear and we’ve chatted a bit about change. To recap, ditch fear, embrace change, it’s as simple as that. Okay, simply said, harder to employ.

The real question comes up when deciding if something in life that isn’t quite all we imagined should be changed, or just left alone, accepted “as is”, and a compromise made. There are many things in life, especially those things we yearn for, try really hard for, think about, work towards, envision, focus on, concentrate on and visualize, and when it comes to be, isn’t nearly what we envisioned or visualized. I think sometimes our imaginations are so good, the imagined outcome ends up being far superior to the real deal. So, when this happens, do we seek to change it? Or accept it for what it is? And if we do, is this a compromise? If we don’t accept it for what it is, are we ungrateful?

This dilemma can apply to very big things in life, and to very small matters. The point is, change is not always easy and we often accept less, compromise, because it is easier than shifting gears and initiating very necessary change. We are afraid of the amount of effort to change versus the actual reward.  Again, ditch fear, embrace change. Simpler to say, harder to employ.

A seemingly small change I’ve made recently, at least small to most, but huge for me; I have always hade love/hate relationships with purses. I buy a purse and think we’ll be together forever. A week later, I hate it and in “the pile” it goes. “The pile” has recently been pared down to two boxes, with the last move. Two boxes of beautiful purses I can make myself carry for a day or two because of the color, the pattern, the size or some other temporarily tolerable benefit. After a couple of days, back in the box it goes and out comes the ONE and only purse I have ever truly loved. If you’ve paid any attention to my pictures or videos, you’ve probably seen the ONE purse I have truly loved; my Kandee Johnson Imoshion bag in leopard print vegan material.

My leopard bag was designed by Kandee Johnson, a YouTube entertainer/mom/professional make up artist. She has incredible style, a ton of practicality, great fashion sense and knows how, exactly, a real purse should be designed. Imoshion approached Kandee and asked her to design the bag of her dreams and the result, my beloved purse. There was some minor hysteria over a contest to win one, then more hysteria over ordering from the first limited batch, then more hysteria over ordering one from the extended batch after the first batch sold out immediately. Through some hysterics of my own, and by employing every family member with internet acumen to attempt to obtain one online (the only way they could be purchased), I finally persevered, and only because I was willing to set my alarm at some unholy hour and attempt placing an online order when the web traffic was a bit more manageable. I’ve had my Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard bag for just over a year. I have never, ever, ever, ever, completely worn a purse out. Ever. Until now. It is, literally, in tatters.

To clarify, this is a very high quality bag, but, I am brutally punishing to any bag I carry, and one I carry day and night, on my business trips, crammed under airplane seat after airplane seat, set upon the floor in every imaginable condition, carried untold miles holding a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, make up, a leather jacket, a wallet, an umbrella, a cardigan, a water bottle, snackage, electrical cords for various devices and even, occasionally, a bottle of wine, and weighing in at probably well over thirty pounds, is bound to die an earlier death than a bag that sees only occasional, light duty use.

As I prepared for my month-long excursion from California to New York, to New Jersey and on to Alaska, I eyed my sorry leopard bag. When I left home just over a week ago, it had a tear in the bottom, the pink satin lining was peeking through a half-inch round hole. The lovely turquoise tassel is long gone, the cross-body shoulder strap still looks brand new, but comes unclipped at the most inopportune time, usually when burdened with the most weight imaginable. The zipper at the top is busted so the bag is always gaping wide open to display its contents. The leopard printed “vegan” material actually wore thin in several areas and looks blurred. The metal studs were vanishing at an alarming rate. I eyed my poor bag and wondered if a) it would survive one more very long, very hard trip and b) would I look like a homeless person carrying it, especially to and from the clients’ office? I ploughed through all my other bags and decided a trip without this purse would be intolerable.

I have been routinely checking in with Imoshion to see if they’d be stocking any more Kandee Johnson leopard print vegan material bags and I would have willingly bought one, two, three. In every color. Furthermore, I get so many compliments on this bag, I could easily have sold another 1,000 bags had they been available for sale! But, the website perpetually said “Out of Stock”. I finally emailed them from the website contact form and told them about my relationship with my bag. They kindly replied, suggesting I follow them on Facebook for upcoming news. I have followed Imoshion on Facebook since the prototype giveaway over a year ago. So, I set them as a favorite, now every little photo and blurb Imoshion makes about every OTHER product they carry, creates a notification on my iPhone, which, frankly, is driving me crazy. Crazier, even, because none of the notifications have anything at all to do with the availability of a replacement for my beloved bag.

This weekend, in New York, the half-inch hole in the bottom of the exterior of the purse finally wore through to the interior, making a “clear through” hole out of which my treasures could tumble. The leopard printed “vegan” finish was peeling off like a bad sunburn. The bag was, really, almost nauseating to look at. I checked the Imoshion website one more time. “Out of Stock”. I caved. I went to Fossil and plopped down three times what my Kandee Johnson bag cost for a new bag. And it was on sale. At first, I was thrilled, more because the color was amazing, and it was genuine leather (sorry vegans). Mostly, though, because the nice salesman at the Fifth Avenue Fossil store found a way to embellish my “tote” with the cute gold key that “only came on the purse”. So, my bag is unique compared to others “exactly” like it. He had nice eyes, too, for the record.

I’ve been carrying my new bag for just over twenty-four hours and it is a major adjustment. I have a “system” when I move into a new bag so it will be easy to find things, I will use the same pockets for the same things. Always. Once I’ve “set up” a new bag for the first time, everything has a place and everything is always in its place. I am not one of those women who can’t find things in my purse. Well, about 99% of the time, anyway. This is a huge adjustment for me. I can switch domiciles more easily than I moved out of my beloved leopard bag into my new Fossil bag. After the first trip down a NYC street with it, realizing I could no longer carry a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, my leather jacket, an umbrella, a cardigan, a full water bottle and all the things a purse is supposed to carry, I remarked to my daughter that I was going to hate the bag. Soon. Of course she laid “dibs” on it.

Today was the first day I carried it to work, and, well, it worked. I did get the cardigan in. And a small water bottle. When I walked into my hotel in New Jersey, though, and both the ladies at the front desk exclaimed excitedly over my bag, I fell a little in love with it. It garnered nearly as much attention as my leopard bag, which, by the way, I can’t bear to throw away. It is in a carrier bag, carefully tucked in my one of my overstuffed suitcases. I will take it home, I suppose, and decide upon an appropriate ceremony and internment for it. Sigh.

I know this seems like much ado over a handbag, but I suppose many of you just don’t understand the depth of the relationship I hold with such an item. We travel hundreds of thousands of miles together; it is, truly, the one constant in my life. Always there. My friends, my family, my possessions, are with me only here or there. My bag is with me at all times, never more than a few feet away. Change was very hard, and I am still a little uncertain, but, I’m afraid there is no going back, at this point.

So, what in your life, big or small, has deteriorated to the point where you really should consider making a change? There are other things in my life that are warranting similar consideration. Truthfully, there should always be a LIST of things in our lives that are up for consideration. A list of things far more serious than a handbag; career, living situation, relationships of all types, fitness, health, diet, spirituality, attitude, social life. To name a few. If any of these facets, or any other facets of your life are less than spectacular, aren’t measuring up, have finally worn through and become tattered, it is not only okay to consider change, it is acceptable to seek change. In fact, necessary is the more appropriate word.

We should not be settling for less when we know in our hearts, in our souls, and in the deepest corners of our minds, that we deserve more. Sure, the superficial voice may tell us we don’t, but our true voice knows better and should speak up. We deserve more. An unfulfilling career, a relationship that is one-sided or languishing, whether a union, a love affair, a friendship or a family tie, our broken health, diet or fitness habits, or whatever else in life that is sub-par, should be rectified, reevaluated, rejuvenated or sent off to the recycling pile and replaced. And, yes, some of these things are easier to change than others, but they should be changed and you should be initiating that change. You need to finally decide it’s time to get a new handbag, especially if the old one can’t be made whole. And, yes. It is scary!

You should have seen me yesterday, with the contents of my leopard bag spilled all over the hotel bed. The carcass of the leopard bag by my side, the hot pink satin lining visible from every open pouch and pocket, looking a lot like blood from many incisions, like after an autopsy. I sat there amidst piles of lip color and coin purses, wallets and device cords, hair ties, batteries, SD cards, various small personal electronic gadgets, an umbrella and a half dozen reusable Whole Foods shopping bags (the really good kind with the amazing prints that cost $4 and support a worthy cause and have a single cross-body strap). I was a little distraught; how was I going to fit this into my new large, more expensive, but somehow smaller and less capable bag? I would have to adapt. I have already begun. I actually felt quite a bit better carrying my new bag today; I felt that my image is improved for finally replacing my tattered bag with a new one. I had a little spring in my step today that wasn’t there yesterday, like I was saying, without words “look at me and my new bag!” It is going to work out and the change will have been the right decision.

What other scary changes need to be considered, and made, in order to move forward in better condition, in a better direction, with more confidence, with improved self-worth and self-esteem? What other scary decisions will leave you shaky and uncertain at first, but happy and whole, after a brief period of adjustment? You will never know the good that awaits unless you are willing to evaluate changes to that which you are carrying around, full of holes, worn bare and thin, weighting your down with excess and compromising your (self) image. What are you hanging on to that could be replaced with something more serviceable, more rewarding, more fulfilling? Only you know and only you can identify and initiate what needs to change, and I guarantee, no one is immune from having something in their life ripe for change. We just fail to see it, or fear the outcome. It is time to ditch fear and embrace change. You deserve it.

My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
A change has been made. The new bag.
A change has been made. The new bag.