How to stay strong – at any age

I recently came across the book Strength for Life by Shawn Phillips, and as these things usually do, it came at the perfect moment in my life. That is, I was ready, and more than ready, actually eager – to hear his message. 

This quote from Shawn  pretty much sums up this book’s theme:

  "Your body, the only one you will ever have, is the foundation of your life. And it’s either an anchor limiting your freedom and potential or a source of radiant energy, vitality and joy, elevating your life and the lives of those around you. It’s your choice… will yours be a source of strength, from which you will impact the world, or an obstacle, preventing you from your dreams and desires?"

This really hit home. Watching my 86-year-old mum and her 92-year-old husband struggling with balance and strength, I realized that now, (better late than never, right?) in my early 60’s, is the time to lay the foundation for strength, posture and balance so that I can be a strong and  agile 80 and 90 year old!

Strength training
And so, in order to do that, I have had to push beyond my comfort zone -  I love walking and hiking and swimming in natural bodies of water – and actually set foot in – the dreaded gym!   Now, I’m certainly not saying that training on machines in a gym with a trainer is the only way to get strong and fit, but for me, it was certainly the missing piece.

Think you’re too old? 
If you’re in my age group or beyond, you may be thinking, what’s the point. I’m to old to start…..  However, as I learned from Shawn Phillips, “You’re never too old to gain strength. The Human Nutrition Center on Aging found muscle growth in people ranging from 60 to 96 years old was statistically equivalent to younger people doing the same amount of training with their bodies.”  My own experience in seeing the changes in my body after a few short months certainly supports this.

How strong are you?

And a final quote from Shawn: “How strong are you? How will you lift the world? How will you be a beacon of strength for others? These are the questions of utmost importance… Every one of us has a time limit to fulfill our destiny. Don’t be one who waits for the final buzzer to start to really live. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a dream. Today is the day to make your mark—to make a difference.”

Take a peek at what this lovely 89 year old I met on a walk in Spring Lake  has to say about staying strong.  If you are having trouble viewing this video, click  here

Honoring my dad on the Day of the Dead

In Mexico and Central America, where I spent the first half of my life, Nov 1-2 is dedicated to celebrating El Día de los Muertos by honoring the dead with flowers, food and in some places, giant kites. These symbolize our connection with our departed and ancestors. 

  One of my dearest memories is accompanying my dad to Santiago Sacatepéquez in Guatemala to photograph these beautiful multicolored giant kites.

So today he is no longer with us, and I am far from Guatemala but I am grateful to remember those magical times and to honor him with this Day of the Dead altar.

Wherever you are dad, may your spirit fly as gracefully and freely as the kites you so loved to photograph.  

Lessons on letting go from Mother Nature, or to put it another way: Does a tree freak out when it’s leaves turn color?

As summer gives way to fall, and green turns to gold and red, there is no doubt that change is in the air……

And speaking of change, have you ever realized that you were over committed and that you needed to let go of something in your life?

This happened to me last week…  as a self employed entrepreneur, I’m constantly needing to assess where my time and energy are going, and looking to see if I’m on the right track to my goals. Even though I know that life is all about change, when it comes to having to actually make a change, and let go of something in order to make room for something else, it isn’t always so easy. 

I’m complaining about my schedule. My business coach asks me “Don’t you think you might be over committed?”  “Who, me?!”   Well, indeed the answer was yes. And it was fairly easy to hone in on what it was I needed to let go of.  A commitment I’d made a year ago, that made perfect sense at the time, was no longer serving my goals, even though there were so many things about it that I loved.

Ok, that’s clear.   I knew it was true. End of story, right? No.  As my always wise spiritual counselor Jeff  Anderson likes to say, we have that inner knowing of what is the right thing to do, but then our head wants to get in on the act, so that knowing creeps right up our necks and our head gets all crazy with it. “Oh but….. “, “What will they think?”  “What if…”   But still, we know, and I knew, so I thanked my head for it’s machinations, and listened to my inner knowing.

And so, dear reader, what’s your inner knowing telling you this week? Is there something it’s time to let go of, and gracefully accept that “to everything there is a season”?

A love poem to money

A few weeks ago, my business coach asked me to write a love poem to money. A rather strange request, you might think. But then I did come to him because I want more money.  Who doesn't, right? Yet, that hippy part of me still struggles with knowing that's OK.  Hence, the assignment.  I sat with this, and pondered it, and thought, how on earth am I going to write a love poem to money?? 

Then one day, sitting by the south bank of the Yuba river on our family summer vacation, it all came to me. So here it is, my slightly playful, but honest, reflection of my current relationship to money.

Now honey love,
That’s two words I can
            put my head around
            wrap my heart around

But money love?
That’s two words I’m not so sure about

I love  you, honey
            just rolls off my tongue
            slips through my lips
            like a sweet kiss

But I love you, money?
            a bit of  a wince
            check and see who may be listening
            did I really say that?

There, I said it.
I love you money.

I love you in my pocket
a promise of…. so many things
            a gift, a new dress, a blackberry pie, a plane ticket, a helping hand, a dream…

How do I love you money?
Let me count the ways.

I love you passing from one hand to another
I love you showing up in unexpected moments and unexpected places
I love you doing good work in the world
I love you bringing joy
I love you bringing hope
I love you saying thank you
I love earning you, easily and joyfully,
I love seeing you growing in my bank account
I love investing you
I love giving you away

Save you for a rainy day?
I’d rather play with you on a sunny day!


How To Increase And Sustain Productivity When Working At Home

"I get to work in my pajamas." How often have we heard that phrase as an advertisement for the benefits of being self-employed and working from home? It's a great statement, implying having your own schedule, only having to commute as far as your home office from your bedroom, not having to worry about what you look like.
The down side of working in your pajamas 
As someone who works at home though, I can tell you that the down side of "working in your pajamas" is that it makes you feel, well, like lounging on the couch with that second cup of tea while catching up on the day's news. And then maybe, the bed looks really inviting and you think, well... I'll just take a little nap. Before you know it, the day is half over and your productivity is shot.
Put on your running shoes 
So, my best advice for being more productive when working from home? Get dressed as if you're going out to work. No, that doesn't mean you have to don a suit and tie or panty hose, but it does mean being showered, hair combed, dressed, and - I don't know why this is so important - but wearing sneakers, as opposed to flip flops or slippers, just makes me feel energetic. Don't believe me? Try it!
Four tips for making the most out of your workday at home
A few other tips that I find useful to maintain and sustain my productivity when working at home: 
1. Focus on income producing activities first. Leave those "busy" tasks (like cleaning out your inbox) to later in the day.
2. Turn off Facebook and email notifications while focusing on a task. It's even more tempting to take frequent social media breaks, which can easily lead down the path of hours wasted, when there is no boss looking over your shoulder.
3. Unless you are expecting an important business call, turn off your cell phone ringer, or better yet, leave your phone in another room. Does the very idea make you break out in a cold sweat? Just try it for small increments, say a half hour and gradually build up. Like detoxing in reverse.
4. Use a timer for daunting tasks. You can do anything for 15 minutes. And then another 15 minutes. Before you know it, you've made a good dent in that project you'd been putting off because it felt too daunting. 
Get ready, get set, go 
In summary: get dressed, put on your running shoes, turn off distractions, pace yourself and have fun being productive and basking in the glow of one more important income producing activity you can check off your to do list.
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What if yours was the last word someone heard?

What if? Often those “what if…” thoughts are the worst-case scenarios, the dire imaginings that our minds are so wont to concoct.  Happily, our worst what if’s don’t usually come true. Life is infinitely more creative and unexpected than what our brains can imagine.

I heard a different take on the “what if…” possibility at a recent talk by Edward Viljoen. The subject was love, and what stayed with me is the idea that what if the last words someone heard were your words?  What if the last thing someone saw before they died was the look on your face?  What is someone’s last memory was the interaction they had with you before you right before they slipped away to that unknown dimension that lies on the other side of this consciousness?

What if the last thing someone saw before they died was the look on your face?

This really gave me pause to think. How many times do I mindlessly go through life, not really giving much thought to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of interactions that I have each day with my fellow humans, not stopping to consider the ripples created by my looks, my words, my actions.

I started to wonder, what would my life look like if I kept that thought, that particular “what if…” present in every interaction?  Would I be so quick to roll my eyes, let that tone of impatience slip into my words, speed up to get my place in the checkout lane if I knew that look, that word, that action would be the last thing this person experienced before some sudden twist of fate, luck, God, intervened and that person was suddenly no more? 

Sound Advice: Take a Breath before Responding

I decided to try it and find out.  My discovery? I’m a nicer person!  That thought, that simple “what if…” thought, gives me just the needed pause between that moment of reaction and the ensuing look, words, actions…. The opportunity to take a breath before responding, to suspend my judgment, to take the high road , to be kinder, more generous, to give the benefit of the doubt,  to smile .

What if we all went through life this way?  I wonder if the invisible web of creation which binds us together, the indiscernible ripples of cause  and effect, would make this world a kinder, gentler place to live?