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?

The Ultimate Love Affair

Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s talk about love! A very common topic for the day! Let’s talk about love affairs! Let’s talk about the ULTIMATE love affair!

An Effort to Evolve

What do we all want out of our love relationships, whether we have a love interest now, or are searching for one, or even if we’ve sort of given up? The ultimate love affair; what would it be like? Deep, lasting, secure, passionate, compassionate, considerate, kind, beautiful, romantic, thoughtful, nurturing, appreciative, loving, honest, and faithful. I could go on and on. I know, I know, it sounds like a Hallmark card, which is why I usually buy Papyrus cards, instead. Back to the question at hand, though; is a love affair like this possible? Can something like this be real? And forever? Yes. It can. Yes. It should be. Yes, it must be.

Next question; how?

First, let’s talk about your lover, the target of your cupid’s arrow. I’m not actually speaking of your significant other, your spouse, your lover, your life partner, though having a relationship with that person as described above is certainly our universal intent. The lover I am speaking of today, the party to your ultimate love affair is – you. I dedicate this day of love and lovers to you.

Most of us have been raised to believe that self-love is conceit, to put oneself before any other is selfish. This could not be further from the truth. It is sad that we are raised in this fashion, that society reinforces this standard. I can’t help but think that this philosophy contributes partially, if not primarily, to the number of unhappy people, to the annuls of the depressed, the clinically depressed and the millions of people on prescription drugs to “treat”, more like mask, something rooted in our misconception of self-worth.

If we are incapable of loving ourselves, how can we effectively love others? If we are incapable of loving ourselves, how can we expect others to find us lovable?

We must first learn to love ourselves, then we are in a position to love others and to receive the love of others. Loving ourselves is the foundation for all love we are to experience in our lives, both in giving and in receiving.

Most of us find ourselves in a position of caregiver at some point in our lives. We have a spouse or life partner whom we are to care for. We have a family to raise. We have friendships. We have parents who inevitably age. We must first care for ourselves in order to be able to most effectively care for others. If we don’t care for ourselves, we may not be able to provide appropriate or adequate care for those we love.  Do we know people, who, as parents, aren’t able, physically, to ride bikes with their kids because they’ve never cared for themselves, physically? Do we know people who are unable to show affection to their spouse because of unhealed wounds from childhood or from previous relationships that have been left unresolved, open and festering? There are millions of examples, I’m sure, and all cause unnecessary pain and suffering. Often they cause betrayal and the end of love.

As a party to a loving relationship with others, again with the list describing the ultimate love affair in mind, if we are not loving of ourselves, we are setting the example, the expectation, of how we are to be treated by those around us. If we are self-loathing in what we say and do, and in what we fail to say and fail to do, we are demonstrating our expectation of love from others. We’ve set the example, through the power of suggestion, actually, beyond mere suggestion, we’ve actually trained and conditioned the people around us to believe our self-loathing beliefs, words and actions. And we act surprised when people treat us poorly, when, in fact, we treat ourselves worse, habitually.

Changing our thoughts, our values, our ingrained belief system about self-love is not a huge undertaking. We do not need to re-engineer ourselves from the ground up. We just need to shift our focus a little, we just need to understand the hierarchy or love a little more. Then, with a little mindfulness and a little conditioning and a little fun, we can experience the ultimate love affair. Then the rest of the world will follow.

So, again; how?

Step one; listen to how you talk to yourself. Most of us spend a great deal of time in conversation with ourselves in the ultimate echo chamber, our heads. We ridicule, criticize and berate ourselves constantly in our thoughts. The remedy is simple. Stop. The methods for stopping self-destructive thoughts and chatter are numerous. I, personally, thrive on mindfulness through meditation, affirmations, gratitude, and “prayer”. There are books by the hundreds, explore a few and find one or two you find provide practical methods to relieve yourself of the constant barrage of self-criticism. One of my favorite books is Jillian Michaels “Unlimited“.

Step two; get physical. There is nothing better for the soul, for the self, than improving one’s general health and well being. If we care enough for ourselves, physically, we are better able to provide care to those around us; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Seeing your body change as you gain fitness, seeing your skin radiate and your smile appear more easily as a result of regular exercise is one of the best self-esteem boosts imaginable. Exercise, regular exercise, is fantastic not only for the body, but for the mind and the soul. You deserve that kind of attention. Again, the vehicles to fitness are more in number than the models of cars you’ll find at the auto mall. Test drive a few and find something that fits. The best book I’ve devoured this year, both in print and in audio, “Younger Next Year for Women“.

Step three; get a good ad campaign. Why do you buy the brands you buy? Cars, phones, shampoo, cereal, beer? Branding and strategic advertising and marketing, whether you like it or not, that’s the answer. Now, you need to sell yourself on, well, yourself. This is where you get to have some fun and maybe even get a little creative. Take some time each and every day to market to yourself what it is about yourself you find so amazing. Try to find something new every day. Find some way to collect all these “ads” together so you can review them periodically. This is where you can get creative. I’ve seen a few ideas, recently, being the beginning of a new year, that I thought were terrific. One was the “gratitude jar“. I like that. How about an “attitude jar”, too? Where you write down something you love about yourself on a slip of paper every day and put it in the jar. Read through them every month or so. Take a look at the “365 Grateful” and adapt that. Take a picture of yourself every day, throughout the year, and create an album of them. Another idea I stumbled across the other day was a video project by Brooks Wheelan, a one second video clip every day for a year, again, adapt this so you have a second (or two, or three, or five) long selfie everyday and compile them into a video monthly. Maybe even film yourself saying one of your affirmations out loud everyday! Or reading your “attitude jar” slip of paper out loud and dropping it into the jar! See? Creativity! Fun!

Step four; give it away. Volunteer. The more you donate the good things you have to offer, the more you receive in return. No one is exempt, here. We all have gifts, talents, time and other “free” stuff that others, less fortunate than we are, will appreciate and benefit from. Volunteering is nurturing for our souls and reinforces good feelings we have of ourselves. Making a difference, no matter how small, makes a big difference in how we value ourselves.

Step five; give it all away. De-clutter. We are not our stuff. We are prisoners to our stuff. Liberating ourselves from unnecessary clutter actually lifts our spirits measurably. We are literally and figuratively weighed down by the stuff we allow to accumulate around us at home, at work, in our cars, even when confined to garages, spare bedrooms, expensive storage units, or the trunk of the car. We should respect ourselves enough to live and work and drive in a clean, uncluttered space. Minimalism is maximizing joy and self-esteem. Check out some books on the topic, my favorite is “The Joy of Less – Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life“.

Step six; sex sells. If nothing I’ve said so far hasn’t made you fidget a bit, this one probably will. Let’s talk about building sexual confidence. Let’s talk about unleashing our inner Samantha Jones, or Don Draper. There is power in sexuality, in sensuality. There is confidence in power. Men and women, alike, appreciate a sexually confident partner. Confidence under the covers, or on the kitchen counter, or wherever, brings more enjoyment and excitement to sex, which usually increases the frequency of the act and, well, everyone is glowing happily, way more often. Gaining sexual confidence is the trick. Again, books? Maybe a class? Yes, there are classes. A sexologist? A few concepts; Know thyself, really. You need to know how it all works. Get comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable with the way you look you aren’t going to be confident. You don’t have to be a super model to be sexy. Sexy comes in all shapes and sizes. Again, it’s confidence and know-how. One way to gain more comfort with how you look, in “that” way is to, well, take it all in. Spend some “me time” in front of the mirror, regularly. Not once a year, more like once a day. Or, get out your camera and Include pictures of “yourself” in your pictures of yourself. This is all about you, all about all of you. If you can’t talk about sex with yourself, who can you talk about sex to? My favorite author on the topic is Veronica Monet who authors “Veronica Monet’s Sex Secrets of Escorts: Tips from a Pro“.

Step seven; social network. Be with people, they are like mirrors of yourself along your journey. We are social creatures, we are meant to be with others, to socialize and interact. People who are withdrawn from social interaction suffer far more physical, psychological and emotional maladies than those of us who are socially active. And in our social contact, again, be mindful of those thoughts. Judgmental thoughts of others, like judgmental thoughts of self, are poison and have a virtual life of their own. In mastering good thoughts of self, practice good thoughts of others and notice how many more smiles you are greeted by. The golden rule really is golden, even in our thoughts. Think of others as you’d like to be thought of. The golden rule works in reverse, too. When you think of yourself in a positive light, people will respond in kind, and when you treat yourself as well as you treat others, you’ll see a shift in your self-esteem and in how people react to you and treat you.  As your self-love develops and your self-confidence grows, you’ll notice that people react to you differently.

Step eight; spoiled rotten. When you’re in love you take great pleasure in spoiling your sweetheart. So, if you love yourself you should be spoiling yourself a little, too. We can all afford to be a little self-indulgent. Don’t go overboard, of course, but do make an effort to treat yourself on occasion. I have a membership with a national chain of massage spas. I pay a reduced, monthly fee and am entitled to a massage worth about twice the price I pay each and every month. There is evidence that massage and therapeutic touch are very beneficial in enhancing our well being. Consider an occasional facial or manicure and pedicure to boost your self-esteem, or perhaps a cute shirt to replace some less than attractive wardrobe piece you find yourself wearing a little too often. Shoes. Never underestimate the power of a cute, new pair of shoes. If you love desserts but are cutting back for health purposes, consider having one divine dessert a week as a treat, your just desserts! Think of positive ways to spoil yourself, and then do.

Step nine; don’t let yourself down. My kids used to tell me they absolutely hated letting me down in some way, it bothered them to no end if they thought I might be disappointed in them. I didn’t beat them or punish them or yell at them (much), but I had a way of looking when I was disappointed, sort of a sad look, and they sought to avoid it. The same is true when we let ourselves down in some way. Sure, life is filled with good intentions, but I find there is nothing so deflating as letting yourself down. Those days when I plan to work out, then wimp out instead, I’m disappointed in myself. I have a hard time feeling super good about myself if I’ve disappointed myself. For many of us, this is an every day occurrence on several levels. The first step is to get real. If we set goals and guidelines that are practical and manageable, we are more likely to succeed, and, feel good about ourselves. Our goals can build on earlier goals. It might be impractical to say “I’m not going to overeat ever again and I’m going to work out an hour every single day.” Day one comes and goes and we’ve failed at both and our self-esteem spirals further. And for each successive day that we overeat and don’t work out for a whole hour we become even more disappointed and self-critical. If we take baby steps, achieve some success and then plan a slightly bigger step a bit later on, we’ll bolster our self-esteem and make steady, measurable progress towards our ultimate desire. Get real. Make goals reasonable and achievable. Follow through. Hold yourself accountable. Live up to your own expectations. Make yourself proud. And if you do blow it, now and then, don’t beat yourself up. Pat yourself on your back, give yourself a little kind encouragement, and try, try again.

Step ten; go out on a limb. Insert adventure into your life, it builds confidence, it builds experiences, it enhances life. For some of us, adventure may be shopping at a new boutique instead of Wal Mart. For others, it may be walking in a park we haven’t visited before, or going to a coffee shop alone with a book and a tablet instead of drinking our coffee in front of the morning show at home. And, for some of us, adventure means travel or daring feats, traveling to India or skydiving, Germany or scuba lessons. The point is, we become more confident every time we do something that scares us a little. Eleanor once said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Step eleven; detox. Don’t hang around negative people. If there are people in your life that affirm your self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, they need to be made to disappear. Don’t hire a hit man, just clean house. Pull up the welcome mat when they’re in the neighborhood. We have the liberty of choosing who we spend time with, choose people who nurture your attempts to be happier. Occasionally, people who drag us down, or worse, pull us down, are inescapable; family members or spouses. Reason with them, if you can, distance yourself as much as possible if they can’t be reasoned with. You deserve to be treated with respect and love, by yourself and by every one you spend time with. You deserve to be around people who support and affirm your efforts and anyone else is just undermining your progress. Be harsh.

Step twelve; vigilance. Do this daily for the rest of your life and you will have a love affair that is deep, lasting, secure, passionate, compassionate, considerate, kind, beautiful, romantic, thoughtful, nurturing, appreciative, loving, honest, faithful. Forever. And when you love you, everyone else loves you, too. What’s not to love? Lovability begins with our ability to love ourselves. Show them the way.

P.S. The best relationship book I’ve ever read ten times is “The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships”, I highly recommend it, if you’re looking to enhance your experience beyond your love of self!

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.

 

Scarlett’s Letter October 8, 2013

Lunch out, it has become a tradition and unlike many family traditions, this is one I both enjoy and look forward to. Lunch with Mom and my cousin.

I am away from home a lot for work, if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you are well aware of this. Until earlier this year, I lived in Sacramento, an hour and a half drive away from my mom. Widowed now for coming up two years, aging and in deteriorating health, I’ve moved “home” until we figure out a better solution. This has been really hard for me. I’m sure it’s no picnic for Mom, either, and I’ve written plenty on this dynamic, too.

I am not totally satisfied with my livelihood these days, either. I have a fantastic job, no doubt. I am grateful. My work is satisfying and varied and interesting, the travel, though wearing and tiring, is fun and at least I’m not stuck in the same cubicle day in and day out. I am fairly well compensated and have competitive benefits. But. Yes, but. I am tired. I am bored. I have no direction for advancement. If I stay here I will never progress further. The travel wreaks havoc on friendships, relationships of all sorts and I’m certain constant upheaval, continual lack of sleep, restaurant food for weeks on end and wildly varying availability of exercise has to be less than ideal for my long-term health, which is one of my core principles. And then there’s Mom. How can I be here to help if I’m never here?

This week I am working from home, yet I have no teaching assignments. It isn’t a week off, I have plenty to do; expense reports, travel arrangements to make for upcoming trips, upgrading software, organizing materials for upcoming classes. I don’t get scheduled administrative time, so it piles up until one of these rare weeks comes along. These weeks are also the time I use to regroup, personally. I try to get back on track with my workouts, my clean eating routine, my organization and my attempts to assimilate my more wannabe minimalist lifestyle into my mom’s piles of paper, cupboards and closets of clutter and her knick-knack intensive world. Example; eight months after moving in now, the closet, desk and dresser in “my” room are still full of aforementioned things of Mom’s and I have piles of boxes in my room from which I must sift for underwear, shoes and purses. This all makes me a little cray cray.

The adjustment coming “off the road” where I live and dine in solitude, where I have almost certain quiet in the evenings, returning home where my whereabouts and activities are under constant inquiry, scrutiny, critique and question, where the TV is on full blast more of the day and night than not, where my comings and goings must be carefully and accurately detailed, where everything I say must be repeated, repeatedly, at louder and louder intervals, often with accompanying hand or body gestures, and where meal time is a constant barrage of questions to which there are no answers and lengthy, convoluted stories about people I’ve never met like, Mom’s hairdresser, her doctor, and other characters in her life. How she has accumulated so much personal data on these people I have no idea. She knows the names, national origins, livelihoods and every diagnosis for each and every family member for every individual she has ever encountered. I try to listen actively, to be present, as I preach, as I believe, and yet, the whole while I am thinking “this pertains to me how? What is the point of this story? Why am I being told this story? Is the only lesson here one of patience?” I crave silence, just a tad, if only a moment to gather my own thoughts so I can, perhaps, write an article or make a video or tell a story of my own from my travels.

I am happy to be home and can’t wait to leave again within about the first five minutes home. I am so out of sorts my first day or two home, I’m grumpy, I’m agitated and I hate that I feel grumpy and agitated. If I were a child I’d recommend a big, fat time out. In fact, I’d love a big, fat time out! More than anything. It takes me a few days to settle into some semblance of a routine of waking in my own bed, cooking, cleaning, working, working out, all while juggling Mom’s needs; errands, a chore here and there, figuring out why the TV only displays static, talking to the cable people on the phone to figure out why the TV only displays static, meeting the cable TV technician to demonstrate the non-functioning TV and to be the interpreter between Mom and the technician on why the TV only displays static, moving heavy objects, putting clean glasses back up on the top shelf, hanging the hummingbird feeders and answering tons of  unanswerable questions and listening to even more stories.

I have a lot on my plate and a whole bunch of crap swirling in the toilet bowl that is my mind, these days. I want out of just about everything I’m up to my eyebrows in. My sense of duty and my pragmatic side are preventing me from making the changes I need to, want to and really, have to make. This is my personal struggle and one I am counseling myself on like I would a good friend or anyone who asked my advice.

I don’t always take my own advice. And years later I usually end up scolding myself for not listening to myself sooner. When I don’t listen to my really good advice on personal growth and evolution, I turn to some of my tried and true mentors, usually found on my Kindle and in my Audible library, provided I am afforded any quiet solitude. This week, in my car, alone, I had a good no nonsense smack up the side of the head from Jillian Michaels in “Unlimited”. I agree 100% with every passionately spoken word she said so emphatically, sometimes I felt like I was being scolded, in her self-narrated audiobook from Audible. It was just the right amount of practical advice, common sense and that “get off your ass and do it” attitude of hers that I needed. Her books have, without a doubt, changed my life. Whether you like her on TV or not, her books are the best and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend.

With my priorities suddenly straightened out again, thanks Jillian, I got almost everything accomplished yesterday I hoped to; an easy three-mile run, a chest workout at the gym, shopping for food for the week, bills paid, work, of course, and laundry. I got an article posted, though I’d hoped to maybe get a second from my backlog finished and posted, too. Today, I’ve accomplished much of what I set out to do, knowing that today was going to be partially hijacked with Mom’s doctor’s visit. I made it to the gym for stairs and yoga and I’ve posted a couple of articles. But, yes, most of the day was devoted to Mom and her doctor’s visit.

In my absence, while traveling or when living further away, my cousin has made herself available to my parents. She is retired and has moved from San Francisco to Sonoma, and so, is only about twenty minutes away. She is very socially active but always finds time to help my parents out, especially as my dad’s health deteriorated, ultimately leading to his passing at the age of 91, a bit over a year and a half ago. My cousin was there for my mom, often, in the year that followed before I finally moved home, and continues to be close at hand for these doctor’s visits in the neighboring town, as Mom is not real confident driving such a distance these days. For all of this, I am so totally and completely grateful. That my cousin has devoted her time and compassion so generously has allowed me to keep this crazy job of mine, with my wild travels, decent pay and good benefits for that much longer.

The past couple of doctor’s visits, though, I have been home and have been willing and able to take Mom myself. Still, my cousin comes, drives even, and, per our family tradition, this is all followed by lunch, somewhere fabulous. The lunches were tradition long before I ever tagged along, but now, when I am in town, there are more and it is merry!

My cousin, an artist, a photographer, and creative in any imaginable way, strongly opinionated in many ways, and several of those strong opinions I agree whole-heartedly with, I’ve learned.  A few, I don’t. But that’s okay. Being my elder by some years, her children being my age actually, until now, I’ve never really had the opportunity to really develop a relationship such as a peer, a friendship, with her. And for this, too, I am very grateful. There are “family” similarities that cannot be denied, for example, the way we see things, which she easily expresses in art and I have the good taste to simply admire. We have a similar love of food and the outdoors, fashion and some basic philosophies about living life. I will admit, that through the years, as a child and young adult, I feared the differences we may have, based on our propensity to develop strong opinions. Hearing most of her points of view second hand, I almost wished to avoid visits so as to avoid any sort of butting of heads. Not that I seek to avoid people whose opinions differ from mine, but with family, and especially this family, it is sometimes the easier path. Thankfully, due to Mom’s routine doctor’s visits and our traditional lunch, I’ve had the opportunity to find that our differences are minor and rare. Example, I love polka dots, she scoffs at them. Big deal.

So, every few months, like today, the three ladies, our ages spanning three generations, pile into a car, drive to the neighboring town so Mom can see her doctor. After the doctor’s visit, we pile back in the car and decide on a place in Napa to enjoy lunch. At lunch we share stories, we share things that interest us, share artists and authors, ideas and philosophies. We enjoy an incredible meal and, most of all, the three of us enjoy each other’s company.

What in life do we avoid because we fear differences, adversity or conflict? Often those fears are unfounded, the differences, adversity and conflict are much more minor than we ever expected, once confronted, they are manageable, and, in fact, we grow from them. We learn new information, a new point of view, we learn, perhaps, acceptance and tolerance. We become better for the differences, adversities and conflicts we face, we become stronger, more confident. Sometimes, we discover that we have been, maybe, intolerant, closed minded, stubborn and by facing the difference, the adversity, the conflict, we grow. We may even change. Perhaps we even find the inspiration we’ve been seeking, or that we’ve been waiting for, to act as the catalyst for positive change in our lives. I will quote Eleanor Roosevelt daily until the day I die, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And if that is facing whatever you fear in the way of a difference, or adversity or conflict, then you will have overcome yet another measly fear and you can move on to conquer the next, another day. And with each fear conquered, we evolve towards the people we deserve to be. Make facing those fears, overcoming differences, adversity and conflict a tradition, just like a good visit and a fab lunch with Mom and my cousin after a doctor’s appointment.

 

Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!

 

 

 

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.

How to Have a Hot Body! Mirrors and Pictures and Porn! Oh My!

You hear a lot these days about having a “healthy body image”. I need clarification. Does that mean we should be healthy about our body image as is, or should we have an image of ourselves healthy? Having struggled with this in the past a bit myself, I really think the latter should be the goal. I think it is important to love your body enough to want to make it healthy. I think in making an effort to evolve into more healthy ways, for the sake of our bodies, it is important to nurture and care for, appreciate and savor, in every positive nuance, every positive change.

We were all given a body to carry us through our lives. I, personally, choose to do everything in my power to make it and keep it has healthy as possible. That I think healthy bodies are more attractive is my opinion. That someone else prefers a more voluptuous physique is their opinion. To me, it does not come down to just shape or size, it comes down to health. It is absolutely and irrefutably proven that excess body weight, or voluptuousness, if you prefer, is less healthy and is linked to an increased risk of long-term health conditions, disease and even early mortality. Like my car, I do all the suggested maintenance so that it will last me as long as possible. And not cost me a ton of money to fix. Or suffer an early, untimely demise. But that is my opinion, again. Your opinion matters as much and may differ from mine. Ultimately, the point I want to impress upon you is that one of the biggest factors in self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem, happiness and fulfillment is going to be a healthy body image.

Stick thin, muscular or voluptuous aside, whatever you are, whatever you prefer for yourself, be proud of it and be proud of where you’re at in the process of becoming healthier, if that is your goal. Revel in the glory that is you and your journey if you choose to embark on one. If you are making an effort to evolve, no doubt, whether visible or not, your body is better today than it was yesterday. If you are happy with where you’re at, then rejoice and celebrate. The important thing is to love your body for what it is and what it does. If it looks like you want it to, fantastic. If it doesn’t, and you have realistic goals for how you want it to look, then worship your body by committing to those goals. In other words, no matter what your body looks like right now, love it. It is your home, a house for your soul. The one you get. The only one you get. And, like a house, if you don’t like the one you have, the best you can do is move. If you don’t like the body you see right now, then move. Get it?

What matters most, is that you are happy, comfortable, healthy and confident in the body you have. And if you aren’t, you need to find a way to get there.

I have a friend, I’ve known her for over twenty years, which is about how old she was when we first met. She has the healthiest body image of anyone I have ever met. She is absolutely confident and happy with every, single part of her body. She dresses to accentuate the good and to reveal the best. That she dresses flamboyantly may be an understatement, but she illuminates every room she walks into with her confidence first, and the vibrant hue of her attire second. I have never seen her tug uncomfortably at any article of clothing to hide or camouflage any part of her figure, though it is good, great even, it is certainly not perfect. I have never seen her strike a strategic posture to mask something about her figure she was uncomfortable with. In the twenty some years I’ve know her, she has matured from barely past teenage to a woman, a mother and now a forty-something. And through that all, yes, there have been some additional pounds here and there, but still, she is fit, she is healthy, she is very physically active and, most important, she is as confident with her body image as ever. We should all want to be like that!

Really, we should, and I do. It is something I am making an effort to evolve towards, a healthier body image. I’m doing pretty well. At the very least, I have a clean and healthy lifestyle, with the possible exception of punishing my body with a little more wine than I should, here and there. With a great deal of commitment, and effort, I have a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy wearing the same size jeans I did in high school. This has not always been the case, I sort of lost my healthy body and healthy body image there for a decade. A decade and a half, if we’re being totally accurate. But, overall, I am pleased. I do my best to focus on the positive I see in myself; the way my jeans fit, my waistline, the tone in my arms and the shapeliness of my calves. I try not to focus on the things I can’t change or that will take longer to change; a scar, a stretch mark or two, the lack of tone in certain stubborn areas. I am, we are all, a work in progress, and just like any work of art, from the first brush stroke, from the first pinch of the clay, the first twist of wire, the first form of the glass, it is absolute beauty and only bound to improve with more work. Remember that.

Strategies for improving your body image:

Find a dream body double, someone, a celebrity or an athlete, whose body you admire, whose general physique is similar to your own. I admire Jennifer Aniston, Sophia Vergara, Eva Mendez, Jillian Michaels and Cameron Diaz. I know I will never have a body like Sophia Vergara. Never. I’d like a body like Jennifer, Eva, Jillian or Cameron, and while I may never achieve exactly that, it is not a totally unreasonable goal for me. Once you’ve selected some dream body doubles of your own, and, yes, I will share mine, if you like, go to Google Images and look at pictures of your body double, consider that your dream body image “goal”, if not your actual body composition goal. Notice how confident they look, so comfortable with who they are and how they look. Practice that. Learn to become so comfortable with who you are, in your body, that you can confidently look into the mirror, the camera, or just walk down the street, as you. So, when I look in the mirror, when I get dressed in the morning and undressed at night, I look in the mirror and see me, as Eva Mendez. Splendid!

For the ladies; I read a sensational book, and highly recommend it, “Veronica Monet’s Sex Secrets of Escorts: What Men Really Want”. It is a little racy, a little graphic, but, it is also full of fabulous suggestions and solid advice for acquiring a healthier body image, among other things. From looking at yourself in the mirror, to dressing yourself up, to taking pictures of yourself, all of which I have done, and do, and find incredibly empowering and rewarding. Once you get used to it. I have mirrors in every room, more than one. I make sure I can see a reflection of myself in almost every room I enter. It is against all things Feng Shui, but in this case, I will exercise my veto. The mirrors are a way to become more accustomed to you, your expressions, how you look. It is amazing how we are sometimes taken by surprise at our appearance if we aren’t accustomed to really seeing it frequently. Pictures provide a great benefit, as well. I try to take at least on “selfie” a day, either with my phone, my video camera or my computer camera. I have a whole gallery. And in that gallery of self, I can see the progression of self-confidence, the comfort I have gained with the camera and angles and lighting, make up, my hairstyles. I am okay with looking at me. I know this may come across as vanity, but it is really only an exercise in self-confidence. It isn’t vain to be comfortable with how you look, and to be accustomed to how you look in a mirror, on video, or in a picture. I cringe worse when I am around someone who gasps in horror when they see a picture of themselves, “I didn’t know I look like that!” than when I’m around people who are, perhaps, a little over-confident.

Know thyself. Another lesson from Veronica, but works for both genders. Learn about your individual body, its nuances, needs, preferences. Do whatever it takes, if you know what I mean. She recommends, “exploring” yourself, and, even, if you’re comfortable with it, watching some, yes, I’m going to say it, porn. The idea is to become more comfortable with our own sexuality, our sensuality, our power as a “goddess” (or god). Building our sexual confidence enhances our body image much more than we realize. There is a great deal of power, confidence and self-esteem derived from the fact that we are comfortable with ourselves in our sexual experiences. Men and women both prefer sexually confident partners in study after study after study. And knowing what you like, how you work, individually, and how to draw from your own power as “goddess” (or god) will enhance your enjoyment, as well, further inflating your body image. When we are more comfortable with our sexuality, which is something, sadly, that our society almost frowns upon, we become more empowered, more fulfilled, more attractive, have more enjoyable experiences and enhanced relationships by being more sensual, more knowledgeable and more confident.

On a tamer note; dress up, not down. No matter your size, your shape, your weight or your muscle tone, dress it up. Disguising your low self-esteem and poor body image in shapeless clothing only makes you feel worse. Clothing, fashion and all the wonders that go along with it are one of the biggest, simplest boosts to self-esteem we can garner. This is the one “immediate” fix, it may be the first step in the process to becoming the confident, diva, goddess (manly, god) you have locked inside of you. There are so many folks out there who hide behind a wall of fabric, cower in unshapely clothes and only dream of some far off day where they can wear “clothes like that”. Wear the damn clothes! Now! There are very fashionable, attractive clothes in every size and shape, made specifically to enhance and conquer! We’re talking swimsuits, pretty lingerie, jeans, dresses, blouses, shirts, suits, camisoles, whatever. Many fashion magazines have entire sections devoted to fashion for every body type. No one is discriminated against in the world of fashion anymore. Truly. A little wardrobe makeover and I guarantee, your body image will instantly improve enough you’ll want to take the next step.

Whether you are happy with the general shape of things, or if you plan to downsize or remain a plus size, matters not. We are all powerful, diva goddesses (or powerful, manly, deities, guys) and deserve to live a life with a healthy body image. Take some steps, read some books, some fashion magazines, search out other resources for positive advice for improving your body image. It is likely the single most important step in gaining the confidence we need to rule the world and to evolve into the happy, confident, fulfilled person we deserve to be.

Scarlett’s Letter August 5, 2013

I re-read my own article on self-esteem. I determined that I need to go to rehab. No, not what you’re thinking, but I do need to rehabilitate some of my healthy practices in order to maintain my healthy self-esteem.

I have fallen “off program” a bit lately, with work-related travel to New York City, immediately followed by a two-week vacation to Alaska, followed by a mourning period of returning to my “normal” life after two weeks in NYC and two weeks in Alaska. Then there was the birthday celebration, which lasted for a week. Or two. And, wow, it’s August and I’m feeling a little pudgy, lethargic and have caught myself with a few self-critical thoughts and actions as a result. Like calling myself “muffin top” in the mirror and patting my belly and going “ugh”. I don’t like the way my jeans are fitting and I can still only do twelve push-ups. My goal is 100. And there is that full marathon coming up in December.

So back on track. I am making an effort to read thirty minutes of self-esteem bolstering material a day. I am currently in the middle of “How to Light Up a Room: 55 Techniques to Help You Increase Your Charisma, Build Rapport, and Make People Like You” by Kate Kennedy. I’m on technique #37.  I’ve also decided to make an effort to study for at least thirty minutes a day for a professional certificate I hope to obtain to allow me a bit more flexibility career-wise in the next few years. And, of course, I have vowed to mend my wicked ways, as follows:

  1. One serving of bread per week
  2. One dessert per week
  3. One adult beverage per day
  4. Portion control
  5. Detox

I love bread. Who doesn’t? But when I was busy shedding those fifty unwanted pounds and plateaued, by eliminating my daily serving(s) of bread and replacing it/them with whole grains like quinoa or bulgur, I immediately dropped another fifteen pounds. My daughter has suffered from eczema on her legs for much of her life. When she moved in with me over the summer between college semesters, she also gave up bread and her eczema immediately and permanently disappeared. There is definitely something to the bread intensive American diet that has many of us on the brink of dietary destruction. I would rather enjoy one exquisite piece of bread per week than loaves and loaves of ordinary bread and the related health consequences.

Dessert. Ditto. One amazing dessert per week is so much more worth it than a bunch of mediocre sweets that only destroy my well-intended efforts everywhere else. Total elimination of treats is a prescription for failure and complete denial is always only temporary. But looking forward to, anticipating and planning for that one, epic, epicurean dessert delicacy makes the whole experience so much better. And with good results, too.

Number three. We’ll see. Who am I kidding? Maybe one beer and one wine per day. To start. Hmph.

Portion control. I’ve got this under control. I don’t do seconds. What is it with seconds? Did it not taste good enough the first time? Eating more of something doesn’t make it better, it makes it overeating. And as far as portion size goes, I buy my lean protein servings and simply repackage them into four-ounce servings and freeze them individually. As for everything else; I use itty-bitty bowls. A portion of most foods should not exceed in size, the size of your fist. Hopefully you don’t have mutant, jolly green giant fists. My itty-bitty bowls eliminate any guesswork there. If it fits in the bowl, it is likely a reasonable serving, unless it is a serving of caramel and fudge with whipped cream and marshmallow topping. Ew, anyway. But still, I seem to be overeating. My dinner plate is mostly vegetables, but I have been eating to the point beyond feeling full and that should never be. I need to learn to cook only as many vegetables as I can fit into my little bowl, but, it is hard to get the large variety of veggies I like to fit into a tiny portion. Something to work at.

Detox. I need to detox my thoughts and my self-speak. I have caught a few self-critical thought sneak by, I have slipped out of living in the “now”, now and then, and I have had less than wonderful sleep cycles lately, being plagued with stupid insecurities, petty and fruitless anxieties and annoying song lyrics for a few hours per night when I should be in dream cycles so HGH can naturally release into my bloodstream. Focusing once again on meditation, yoga, cardio and living in the present is a sure cure for all that ails me here.

So, after my run, and my glass of wine, I am going to read a chapter or two in my book, maybe write a little, and nestle down for a restful night’s sleep. Rehab isn’t so bad.

 

My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!
My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!

 

Scarlett’s Letter August 3, 2013

I ran with the herd today. It’s been a while.

I’ve mentioned before, I belong to an excellent running club in the Sacramento area along with 500 hundred other people or so. Due to travel for work and vacation and weekends away with girlfriends and all, I haven’t run with the club at all this season, which began in June. Since I’ve been running on my own, all alone, and have made some progress pace wise, I was unsure which pace group to run with today. The plan was an eight mile run, and I’ve been running about six and a half or seven, on my own. I last ran with the “Gold 12:00’s”. The club is divided into several color groups, each focusing on the appropriate distances, paces and walk/run intervals based on the goals and abilities of the members. When I started running a little over a year ago, I was a “Red 13:30”. I promoted myself over the course of the year to the “Gold 12:00’s”. On my own, I’ve been running about, on average, 11:00 minute miles, but for a slightly shorter distance and I’ve been challenged. I decided, upon my arrival this morning, to run with the “Gold 11:30’s”. My ultimate goal this year is the “Green 11:00’s”, and ultimately, maybe, the “Blue 10:00’s”. We’ll see.

SacFit Running Club
SacFit Running Club
SacFit Running Club
SacFit Running Club

It was a fantastic run, and seemed almost effortless. Eight miles along the beautiful American River Parkway, the gem of the Sacramento area and something I have cherished and enjoyed for over thirty years. I ran alongside one of my favorite coaches, who also, for whatever reason, moved up a pace group. We chatted a little as we ran and we both agreed, running is so much easier in a group, in a regular group, your group. Like a community. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word community lately and have even expanded on it and what it means to me, and in general. Community is important.

SacFit Golds!
SacFit Golds!

After my run, I headed back home to Napa full of energy and feeling very satisfied and accomplished. After showering, I took Mom to the wine tasting room I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago, “The Taste at Oxbow”, which offers four or five free tastes to Napa locals.

I ordered the Brie plate to share with Mom and we enjoyed our time there. One of the gals who works at Taste recently adopted a dog, Pickles, from a couple who had to move to assisted living. Pickles spent her time cruising around the tasting room policing the floor for crumbs. I do really miss having a dog in my life, but, at this point, it is probably best and I can get my pooch fix by enjoying other peoples’ pups.

The Taste at Oxbow
The Taste at Oxbow
The Taste at Oxbow, the Brie Plate with brie from Marin French Cheese Company
The Taste at Oxbow, the Brie Plate with brie from Marin French Cheese Company
My favorite sommelier at The Taste at Oxbow, Pickles.
My favorite sommelier at The Taste at Oxbow, Pickles.
I did not leave Oxbow empty handed.
I did not leave Oxbow empty handed.

I’ve been really missing having horses, too, but, again, I placed my horses in other homes because I simply couldn’t provide them with the attention they deserved, and they really weren’t fitting into my short-term financial goals, like being able to buy groceries and gas. But, when you have a passion for something, like horses, and you can’t fully indulge, there are ways to include that passion in your life. While supporting a horse, boarded, properly vetted and shoed may be beyond my means, an occasional lesson may not. If there’s a will, there’s a way. This is on my “to-do” list for the next month; take a riding lesson.

This evening, I worked on a video project I’ve been wanting to put together, and while I think it’s fricking hilarious, the quality isn’t quite right. I had camera and lighting issues. It’s a good thing I had a really good time filming it, it occupied the better part of my evening, and will probably occupy the better part of tomorrow evening when I re-shoot it. As it involved food, and wine, I will definitely want to stick with my work out plan for the next week. Well, for the next forever, actually. It has been a rough month or two on my fitness goals with all the traveling, dining out and partying. To one’s self remain true. I banished my muffin top a long time ago, and it seems to be seeking a reconciliation. It shall not happen. Time to make an effort to get back to the effort.

High calorie video project in the works.
High calorie video project in the works.

Scarlett’s Letter July 1, 2013

I wrote an article on Slowing Down earlier today. I did a fair job, I mean, there was no agenda, no “to do” list. Well, actually, there was, but it was very general, things that needed to get done, at some point, sooner rather than later. I helped out with this list, a little (I mean a very little) manual labor. And it felt good.

We ran into town to get my fishing license and I had to sign an scan an HR document to send in to work so all the I’s were dotted and the t’s crossed for the rest of my vacation. We stopped at a fishing hole on the way home and since we happened to have a couple of poles in the car, we thought we’d try my new license out. There I was in my brand new purple floral print jeans I bought at UNIQLO on Fifth Avenue last week in New York and my adorable high-low blouse with the diamond shaped copper studs on the collar. The mosquitoes were thick as flies, so I did the unthinkable, I mixed DEET with Vera Wang’s Princess. An interesting fragrance combination. In fifteen minutes I learned the basics of fly-fishing and even managed to catch a grayling, which we released. Meanwhile, my man was after a pike he spotted on the edge of the river in the tall grass. We’ve been after that pike, or a similar pike, in the same location, for a few visits now. This time, after switching out lures, he got him and I guess we’re having pike for appetizers before our moose steak tonight. I’m excited! I guess my license worked. Or the outfit. Or my new fragrance combination. Whichever.

This brings up an excellent point; I am considering launching a whole new product line including shampoos, conditioners, body wash, lotions, fragrances, deodorant, makeup, even laundry detergent and dryer sheets, laced with DEET. I’m also going to develop the same line with organic, toxic free citronella, for the Whole Foods crowd. They’ll invest heavily in my organic line, and eventually, reinvest in my DEET line because, we all know, it will actually work. I’m pretty confident this will be my million dollar idea. Stay tuned!

Slowing down is valuable in our life, as I wrote about, on an occasional basis, to let the mind quiet, to absorb our surroundings and to acknowledge the essence, the quiet voice from within, once we can calm the superficial voice.

We can also learn to slow down on a daily basis, as part of our routine. We need to build some “slow” into our hectic and chaotic days. Amidst the agendas and to do lists, the work, the chores, the obligations, the meetings, the phone calls, we need to find a way to slow certain aspects down.

We can practice deliberate periods of slowness with mediation, rhythmic breathing or yoga. Some people are even capable of clearing their minds of the superficial noise by walking or running. The practice of slowing down, though never completely mastered, adds a deeper dimension to our thought processes. We become more capable of problem solving, of managing stress and of quieting ourselves in an otherwise hectic world.

Slowing down while eating is another fantastic practice. In our rushed and hurried lives we tend to just wolf down our meals, snacks and munchies mindlessly. And we end up eating far more than we require for good health and nutrition. To slow down and acknowledge each bite, appreciate the flavor, the texture, chew slowly, set our utensils down between bites we’ll find we enjoy our meals more and consume less. This is a little known weight loss and maintenance secret.

We should also slow down enough, a little bit every day, to refuel our knowledge; read, write, sing, speak, learn. Finding a way to incorporate this into our routine will benefit us whether just trying to keep our minds nimble, further our studies, or enhance our knowledge for career advancement.

So, when considering what to do to make life a little more relaxed, a little more fulfilling, just remember the lyrics to the Simon and Garfunkel song “Feeling Groovy”, “slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last. Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

 

 

 

 

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!