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!

 

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.

Real Men DO Eat Quiche

Real men do eat quiche. Or, at least mine does. He absolutely loves it, and so do I. My ex-BFF always made asparagus quiche every time she had us over for brunch, because my husband loved it so much. It was good, but the rich crust and heavy cream in the filling sat in my stomach like a brick for days, not to mention what it did to my hips.

A long time ago a friend introduced me to a “crustless quiche” recipe she found in a Fannie Farmer cookbook. It included cottage cheese, frozen spinach (yuk!), and just a few other mundane ingredients. However, melted butter formed a lovely crust as it baked. Mmmmmm, butter. Now you’re talking!

For years it was my go-to quiche recipe. But, it just didn’t seem very healthy or nutritious. Go figure. So, I used my stealthy ninja skills to cut, draw, and re-arrange a few things. I added fresh vegetables and the results were short of miraculous.

Then, for good measure (and because it is quiche, after all), I added the coup de gras—bacon! If you’re not a fan of bacon, you can use turkey bacon or just leave it out entirely so it is a vegetarian dish. You may want to even play with a few variations of your own. Just in case you like to play with your food. So, here it is, my Best Quiche Ever!

 

10 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt (I like the Himalayan sea salt, because it’s pretty.)

1/2 cup butter (melted)

1/2 cup flour

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach

3 cups cooked butternut squash, mashed (Mashing things really helps with anger issues. Not that I would know).

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I use either cheddar or a blend of mild cheeses. Depends on my mood).

10 strips chopped cooked bacon (I buy the precooked kind. My late father would be horrified. Frying bacon was his forte in the kitchen).

10-12 spears fresh baby asparagus

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter in a 9x13x2 baking dish, but I would prepare the batter first so the butter doesn’t burn. I learned that one the hard way. Beat the eggs (I do it by hand using a whisk, once again releasing any pent up aggression), mix in the flour, sea salt, and baking powder.

Add the spinach, squash, bacon, and cheese. Mix well. Melt the butter in the oven. Remove pan from oven, gently and carefully (another harsh lesson learned the hard way), add the batter to the pan. Evenly distribute the asparagus spears on top, gently pressing into the batter.

Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 and cook for another 35-40 minutes. Stand 5 minutes to set before serving. This is great paired with French Bread, my Hallelujah Kale Salad, and a light white wine. Enjoy!!

Hairless At Twenty-Five

Imagine a young woman waking up one morning, getting her coffee, having her breakfast, and then taking her shower. It’s just an average day in the life of a twenty-five year old. Until she gets out of the shower and begins drying her hair. She notices a small bald spot at the top of her head, and her boyfriend confirms what she sees.

Instead of going to work she heads straight to the dermatologist. She is diagnosed with alopecia and told not to worry about it–it was probably a temporary situation, and isolated incident, and the hair would grow back. Five months later she was completely bald. Now imagine that young woman is you.

You have just begun living a nightmare that just won’t end. You try every treatment that is recommended, no matter how painful and/or expensive. They all fail. You do all the research, consult with the experts, do everything you’re told to do, and the only result you get are a few soft hairs beginning to sprout. However, within a few days they fall out.

The only consistent answer you get to all of your questions is, “We don’t know.” It’s a wait-and-see situation. However, there is a trial medication that you can try. But it costs about $800/month, insurance doesn’t cover it, and there is no guarantee that it will work. Or, if it does, that it will be permanent.

You feel completely normal except for your bald head. You aren’t sick, but you look really weird, even with your wig. Which, by the way, is hotter than hell and itches as well. Strangers come up to you and ask you what kind of cancer you have. Children stare and point, much to their parent’s embarrassment.

You tell the parents it’s okay–you’re used to it. You try and make jokes about it. You keep thinking that someday your hair might grow back. But the reality is, it’s a crap shoot. What would you do?

I honestly don’t know what I would do. But I don’t think I would handle it with the dignity, grace, and spirit that my niece does. She is that woman. And she is truly amazing.