Red Booth Writer’s Group

Have you ever sat in a red booth? You know, the old fashioned kind that is the standard in every diner in America? When I was a little girl, it seemed that even the nicer restaurants had red vinyl seats. And you never knew what magic would happen when you slid into one of those seats.

It had been many years since I sat in a red booth. But, this past January, I found myself sitting in one with a remarkable woman. She was a writer and an author, like me. And like me, she had experienced her share of health struggles and pain issues. She also had an incredible amount of sass and tenacity. And incomparable stubbornness. I felt like I met my soul sister.

It was in that red booth that an idea was born. To create a group of writers who could work together to help promote each other and share our work with the world. Since that day, four strangers became good friends, and developed a collaboration that is just short of miraculous. We came, we planned, we talked, and we wrote. Article after article. About our life journeys, lessons learned, struggles encountered and conquered, sweet memories, and life’s ironies.

The Red Booth Writer’s Group was born. Our theme became “Roads Well Traveled….Observations and Conversations.” Our plan was to (gulp), contact local newspapers and magazines to get our work published.

After much patience, perseverance, teamwork, and good old-fashioned hard work, our efforts paid off. Our articles are regularly featured in the opinion section of The Pueblo Chieftain. We even had an appearance in the online magazine “FINALLY!” the longest running magazine for GenX, Baby Boomers, and Seniors.

Every time we get together, we meet at the same restaurant and sit in the same red booth. And every time we get together, magic happens. Just like it did on that very first day. And I cannot wait to see what happens next!

 

My Fixation With Feet

My fixation and fascination with feet started with several years ago when I began studying ballet from an incredible woman, Jayne Persch. She is a teacher with an impressive background and a passion for life-long learning. However, I didn’t get her fixation with feet. And toes.

At the beginning of every class, not only did she have us exercise our toes, she had us play with them! Ewe! I didn’t want to touch my feet, or my toes. What did that have to do with ballet class?

Pretty much everything, as well as general health and well-being. When your feet hurt, everything hurts. But not only that, it interferes with your ability to feel the floor, stand your ground (so to speak),and messes with your balance, posture, and overall health as well.

Here are a few fun facts about feet.

1). Nearly a quarter of all the bones in our body are in our feet, which allows for the remarkable range of movement and flexibility of our feet. (Then why do they sometimes feel like blocks of wood?)

2). Feet function best when the heel and the front of the foot are at the same level. The toes have to be able to freely flex, extend, and spread. I guess that explains the following fun fact. Which is…

3). Women are 4 times more likely than men to experience foot problems in their lifetime. High heels, anyone?

4). There are a myriad of foot deformities and conditions that can cause pain, dysfunction, and make you miserable. Often times, painful injections or surgery are the only options offered. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and I have proof.

Because after my initial resistance, working my feet began to make sense. I did the exercises. I massaged my feet. I even (ack!) massaged my toes and between my toes. I used tea tree oil to help break up the calcium deposits that were interfering with my circulation.

My feet became softer, more supple, and more flexible. They contacted the ground more like cat paws rather than blocks of wood. My bunions got smaller, my toes re-aligned, my crossover toe magically self-corrected, my Morton’s neuroma disappeared. All without surgery.

Although it creeps me out a little to post my feet for all the world to see, here are the results. It took time and dedication, but it was well worth it.

 

I know everyone doesn’t have access to someone as brilliant as my teacher, so I would like to share some resources that I have found to help you change your feet and rock your world if you choose to do so.

The first is a book titled “Whole Body Barefoot” by Katy Bowman. She describes the biomechanics of the feet, toes, ankles and lower legs in a very clear way that’s easy to understand. And she’s funny. Who knew feet could be funny? She also includes techniques for stretching, exercising, and massaging your feet.

Here’s a great article I found that has video to support the information. Click here.

However, the model demonstrates the exercises too fast. They need to be done slowly, meticulously, and with thoughtful awareness to allow for the changes to occur. In the second video, she rolls to the outside surface of her feet as she splays her toes. That actually weakens the ankle joint as well as the inner thigh muscles which are crucial to stabilizing your knee, hip, and pelvic floor muscles.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Yes, it’s that important. Everybody deserves (and can have) healthy, flexible feet. Here’s to your health!

Freedom Isn’t Free

When I was a little girl, we always recognized and celebrated Memorial Day. As a child, I thought I knew what we were celebrating, even though my focus was on one event that was the most important to me. Which was the end of the school year. I hated school. I always did, which is ironic that I ended up being a life-long learner as well as earning a Master’s Degree in physical therapy just 3 months shy of my 40th birthday.

But as an adult I fully understand the incredible sacrifices that have been made by ordinary people who did extraordinary things to allow me the freedom and the ability to make some of the choices that I have made in my life. The freedom that we so often take for granted. The kind of freedom that people have fought and died for over the course of over 243 years. 

It boggles my mind to think about the tremendous amount of courage and determination that drove the founders of this great nation, the men and women, who were willing to put everything on the line for freedom. Their lives, their homes, their families. And the courage that makes the few that answer the call–the call to serve.

For me. For you. For all of us. Every Memorial Day, as we enjoy a 3-day weekend with picnics, cook-outs, beach trips and volleyball, I take a few minutes to  get down on my knees and thank God for my freedom. Then I look at the sky and say to all of those fallen heroes, “Well done. And thank you for my freedom.”

Because as we all know, freedom comes at a high price. Freedom isn’t free. And it never will be.

Seize The Day

A few days ago I woke up feeling heavy and sluggish. Gingerly I rolled over in bed, got up, and staggered toward the enticing aroma of fresh coffee brewing. Ahhhh, coffee! I followed it into the kitchen where my husband and 3 dogs greeted me with wagging tails and a cheery “Good Morning!” Easy for them to say.

Eventually the coffee worked its magic well enough for me to give everyone a pat on the head (including my husband) before going down to my girl cave to get some work done. I also had to clean the kitchen, get dinner in the crock pot, get dressed and head out the door for ballet class. I had a lot to get done, and I was in a crappy mood. I made sure I took my bad mood with me as I made my way downstairs.

But something funny happened. All of a sudden my creative juices began to flow. There I was, writing and working, working and writing. My mood began to shift and I felt lighter, and happier as I pounded away at the keys. Here’s one of my many deep, dark secrets–I can’t type. I never learned how. I’m a writer that can’t type and a physical therapist that hates exercise and thinks that chocolate is food. I giggled at the irony.

I glanced at the clock and got a shock. It was so late I would have to scramble to get dressed in time for class. Forget about cleaning the kitchen and making dinner. I was panicked about being late for class and agitated that I would lose momentum with my work. My bad mood returned.

As I ran around like a crazy person, I stopped cold. What was I doing to myself? I was exhausted, and it was obvious that my stress (as well as my bad mood), was purely self-inflicted. I went back into the kitchen, patted everyone on the head again (including my husband), and sat down to have breakfast with him. Surprised, he asked, “No barre today?” “No,” I replied. “I’m going to stay home, relax, and get some work done.” He smiled and patted me on the head.

There are a lot of life’s lessons in this story. First, we have much more control over our mood than we think we do. All it takes is self-awareness and introspection to lower our stress levels and change the course of our day. Next, it’s important to laugh at ourselves and embrace our idiosyncrasies. Also, sometimes we need to pass on the barre, no matter how tempting it is. Finally,  everyone could use a pat on the head. And a belly rub. It’s good for the soul. Besides, it makes us laugh. Most of all, remember to seize the day, and take charge of your life.

Never Stop Dreaming

The ability to dream is something each and everyone of us are born with. However, as we mature into adulthood and the responsibilities of work, home, family, and life’s challenges can get in the way of our dreams. And sometimes we even forget how to dream.

That happened to me. It was a long time ago, but it really doesn’t seem like it now. I was going through a major bump in my road of life, and simply getting out of bed in the morning was a supreme challenge for me. My focus was merely to live to survive another day. Or not.

Well, I kind of did. After all, I couldn’t imagine leaving my husband to take car of my dogs all on his own. But every moment in life was so effortful. And just in case you were wondering, I have been accused of inventing the word effortful. But think about it–if something can be effortless, then why can’t it be effortful?

The truth is that life is full of highs and lows. Good times and bad times. When we’re in the midst of one of our down times, it’s easy to get stuck in it. Especially if we stop dreaming.

So, no matter what life throws at you, remember that it will pass. And remember to keep dreaming. Because we were all meant to live life to its fullest, and living our avowed dream is our God given right. And no one can take that away from you.

As long as you don’t let them.

When Circuits Misfire

Don’t you just hate it when your circuits misfire? Maybe there is just too much going on in your head, the signals aren’t clear, or the messages are conflicting with each other and you can’t move forward. Or backward. Or at all. I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.

A few weeks ago I was driving on the interstate in rush hour traffic. I was anxious to get home so I could let the dogs out. My husband was out of town and I was feeling guilty that I was gone so long. On the other hand, I was feeling quite satisfied that I had a very productive day and feeling good about my accomplishments.

As my conflicting thoughts swirled around my mind, suddenly something felt terribly wrong. Confused, I looked down at the dash and saw that all of my indicator lights were on. My car had stalled, right in the middle of rush hour traffic!

I did what every responsible, mature, experienced driver would do. I totally freaked out. But even in my panic, somewhere deep in the recesses of my brain my mind went into autopilot. Put on the flashers, test the brakes (which weren’t working), scream like a banshee, put the car in PARK and try to restart it. The grinding noise from the engine told me that was definitely not the thing to do.

More screaming, put the car in NEUTRAL and try again. Miracle of miracles, it started. Even more miraculous was that no one hit me, nor did I plow into anyone else. I drove the rest of the way home without further incident, and I didn’t even cry until I hugged my dogs.

Our mechanic checked it out and discovered that 2 internal sensors weren’t communicating well. Each one was sending the other conflicting messages. In the words of my mechanic, since they didn’t know what to do they both freaked out and completely shut down. Huh. Cognitive dissonance.

Our mind and brain work much the same way. Sometimes the circuits get conflicting messages about what we really want in life and how we’re going to get there. It’s not that the circuits misfire. It’s just that they can’t process the information it’s receiving, and shuts down.

It was a powerful lesson for me and a reminder to slow down and proceed with caution when life gets too hectic. After all, I don’t want to overload my system. And I certainly don’t want to be rendered incapacitated in this road of life. Ever. Do you?

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!