Pieces of April

I absolutely love the song “Pieces of April” by Three Dog Night. In my mind, it’s the more sophisticated (and musical) version of that quaint saying, “April showers bring May flowers….” There’s a metaphor for life, don’t you think?

I love springtime. But for some reason, April bums me out. Maybe because a lot of tragedies in our nation’s history happened in April. Maybe because the weather is psychotic, especially here in Colorado. But it’s spring. Isn’t every one bubbling over with joy and happiness?

Apparently not. Because I’m not the only person who gets bummed out during the month of April. A few years ago, a friend described this time of year as being full of effort, even for nature.

She explained that the grass and flowers were hard at work struggling to push through the earth to get to the sun. Same thing with the trees trying to push open their buds. Only to be foiled by a late spring snowstorm. Birds were frantically trying to stake their territory, build their nests and lay their eggs. Everyone and everything was pushing, pushing, pushing.

Maybe it’s our biology. Maybe it’s our history. Perhaps it’s the 24/7 news cycle that relentlessly bombards us with bad news. Even when we turn it off it still pops up on our computer screens. Maybe it is simply that we empathize with the frenetic pace of nature trying to get things done before spring turns into the lazy days of summer.

The point is, life isn’t always easy, but it’s always wonderful. And sometimes we need to push through the tough times to get to the other side. Because no matter what we are dealing with, it will pass. There is always a morning in May, and the promise of great things to come. It’s just  the way life works.

When Life Gives You Lemons….

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I was recently reminded of this when I was looking for an old Fannie Farmer recipe. I didn’t even know that Fannie Farmer was a real person. I just thought it was a catchy name for farm fresh recipes. That shows you how much I know! I was fascinated at what I found.

Fannie was the oldest daughter in a family of 4 girls. Huh, interesting. I grew up in a family of 5 girls. She and her sisters were expected to go to college. Another coincidence–my sisters and I were expected to go to college as well. So we could be self sufficient before we got married. We were kind of expected to do that as well.

Anyway, that’s where any parallels ended. Fannie never did pursue higher education. She suffered a paralyzing stroke when she was 16. Sixteen! How does someone have a stroke at 16? As a medical person I know it happens, but it’s pretty rare.

For several years, she was unable to walk. She lived at home so her parents could take care of her. While recuperating, she took up cooking and eventually turned her mother’s home into a boarding house that was renowned for the quality of the meals it served. Go, Fannie!!

The rest, as they say, is history. And Fannie Farmer certainly made history, as well as significant impact on the future of cooking, nutrition, and domestic science. Her life path was dramatically changed by a devastating medical crisis. But instead of giving up, she managed to find a new path which made her name a household word long after she was gone.

Her story inspired me, and made me think of other people who changed the world. Not in spite of their physical challenges, but because of them. Joseph Pilates and Moshe Feldenkrais are just two that come to mind, but there are hundreds more out there.

Maybe you’re one of them. Or will be in the future. Just remember that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I have faith in you, and I’ll give you plenty of sugar along the way if you need it. Because I believe in the resilience of the human spirit. And I certainly believe in you.

Opportunities Are Everywhere

Opportunities are everywhere. And when opportunity knocks, it’s always a good idea to open the door and look inside. Which is how I became a podcaster. And now a member of The Red Booth Writer’s Group.

A few months ago I received an email about a networking group for non-fiction authors to help each other market their books. I snorted. I’ve had years of experience with groups like that. Typically, 1-2 people do all of the hard lifting (including Yours Truly), and everyone reaps the rewards without even a “thank you.” I wasn’t going to fall for that again.

As I predicted, the group failed miserably and dissolved after a few months. However, just before it took its last breaths, I received another email from the group’s coordinator asking people to write a sample query letter which can be sent to local publications.

One guy immediately responded. So did I. After all, I wasn’t doing anything at the moment so I figured “Why not?” That simple action resulted in a collaboration of four authors to join forces in an attempt to come up with fresh ideas to market our non-fiction books and reach out to a larger audience.

It’s fascinating to see how much four like-minded people (with very different experiences) but with the same goals could accomplish in a short period of time. We each wrote 2 articles and sent them to several local newspapers. Our goal was to gain some media attention. It worked.

I am excited, honored, and humbled to have one of my articles chosen by the Pueblo Chieftan to launch our new program called Roads Well Traveled. All because opportunity knocked and I opened the door. Like I said–opportunities are everywhere. You simply have to look for them, and take action. And that’s how the Red Booth Writer’s Group was born.

Walk Softly and Carry Big Sticks

Now that spring has finally sprung, many of us are dusting off our walking shoes and hiking boots to venture back out into the great outdoors. Nothing beats a good walking program or an exhilarating hike to keep us fit, healthy, on top of our game and on top of the world. Here is a simple and surprising tip to keep you moving and get the best results possible. Invest in a set of walking sticks.

No, I’m not kidding, and no, it’s not cheating. Although, in my martial arts training we had a saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Completely different set of circumstances. But, I digress. Whether you are a walk-around-the-park kind of trekker, or if you prefer going deep into the forest or climbing high in the Rockies, there are multiple benefits of using walking sticks. Or hiking poles. Whatever you choose to call them.

Hiking poles (or walking sticks), can help your posture by keeping you more upright, with your chest lifted, your shoulders back, and your torso balanced over your hips. Not only does this help your posture, it takes pressure off of your knees, reducing the possibility of pain, stiffness, injuries, and eventually arthritis.

It’s also good for a healthy spine. Using the poles helps to simulate a “normal” gait pattern, meaning that your arms and legs are moving in opposition. This results in a gentle counter-rotation of your chest and pelvis, which is essential for a strong, flexible, and healthy spine.

The poles give you an upper body as well as a lower body workout. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and get back to me. You might be surprised. Also, since the poles help put you in better postural alignment, the forces of gravity are able to go through your legs in a harmonious way, working the backs of your legs as well as the front. You work your gluts (butt muscles), as well as your hamstrings, resulting in stronger legs, a more shapely derriere, and significantly less stress and strain on your knees at the same time. Score more for the poles!

The poles help you go the distance, giving you a longer workout as well as a more balanced one so you can go deeper into the woods or further up the trail to enjoy the great outdoors.

Finally, the little ninja in me couldn’t keep from including this last little tidbit. Having two big sticks in your hands can provide a handy dandy makeshift weapon when your walking in the woods (or in the park). You never know when you might run into an unexpected four-legged (or two-legged) threat. As we say in my martial arts class, everything’s a weapon. Besides, if you have one, chances are you won’t need one.

Happy hiking!

 

Laughter: The Best Medicine

Laughter really is the best medicine. Too many of us have forgotten how to laugh, and have become far too serious. If you don’t believe me, take a look around you. There are too many unhappy people–you can see it in their body language and their faces. It’s not healthy. And life is too short not to make the most of it.

I was born into a family that loved to laugh. They also liked to yell a lot, and many fond childhood memories are of family gatherings filled with loud Eastern European voices yelling over each other to be heard punctuated with bursts of hearty laughter. I remember my paternal grandmother laughing so uproariously that tears streamed down her face. Ah, those were the good old days.

Everyone in my family has a sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, but my mother and her older brother were the masters of humor, pranks, and trickery. It was in their DNA and they fine-tuned their skill by learning at the feet of the master, my grandfather. Good grief, that man was funny!

My mother used every April Fool’s Day to play a joke on me and my sisters by taking liberties with our lunches. Peanut butter sandwiches were laced with rubber bands. Ham sandwiches were a piece of paper between 2 sliced of bread which read “this is not a ham sandwich.” Hard boiled eggs weren’t. They were raw.

Of course, we learned to expect it, and so did our friends. They couldn’t wait for us to open our brown bags to see what devilment our mom cooked up, so to speak. And, everyone got a good laugh out of it. I still do.

So, this April Fool’s Day, remember that laughter really is the best medicine. It’s right up there with high quality dark chocolate and good wine. It beats the heck out of being unhappy.