Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Hello everyone
It's official, I have a new 'blog' website! My hope is to impact even more people with a better site, easier to navigate, 'follow' me etc.

Please wind your way over to and 'follow' me there.  Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gratitude as a Healing Tool

I've been thinking about gratitude as a healing tool a lot recently. Mostly because I've been struggling with my depression as my doctor adjusts my meds (going off one pill) and we are monitoring to see if a higher dose of a single prescription will do the trick and not have the side effects of the one I am being weaned from.

So.  Gratitude.  It's not a natural state of being; it's not an easy place to be in when the kids are screaming, traffic is snarled, bills have to be paid, and work pressure is off the charts.  Gratitude is an emotional state of mind that can so easily be buried or shunted aside by the frenetic pace of life nowadays.

I find it so easy to be angry and stressed, and forget to be grateful for what I have. And anger and stress for me is the 'victim' state of mind.  it's a habit I had for over 40 years, so the roots go deep in my psyche.  I've dug out a lot of the roots, added a lot of fertilizer (love and forgiveness), but it's like one of those weeds where, if you leave one little section of root in the soil, it can pop up again and start crowing out healthy plants (thoughts) so very quickly.

So I use gratitude as a way to kill the poisonous roots of anger and pain.  Gratitude is like one of those non-toxic weed killers you can get in the garden center nowadays.  it's harmful to weeds but doesn't kill the plants you want to nurture, nor the pets or children you have in your life.  Gratitude is something that spills over onto your family, friends, colleagues.  Used properly and in healthy doses, gratitude spreads to the world around you.

However, it's so easy to disdain gratitude, so easy to say "what do I have to be grateful for?"  That knee-jerk reaction takes very little effort on the part of your mind.  Gratitude takes work and awareness.  And many times it can seem so much easier to not be aware, not be conscious.  At least, easier at this moment.  But many moments of anger and stress and ingratitude can gather up into a lifetime of bitterness.

So I"m sitting here, waiting on my husband to finish helping one of our friends with their computer, so we can get to the office, and my thoughts were sliding downhill fast.  I didn't want to work today; I was frustrated with myself. My thoughts were playing tricks on me, trying to trip me up, take me down a well-travelled "woe is me" route that I can travel blindfolded.  It's like driving you ever get there and think....did I stop at all the stop signs?  it's so much easier to be unconscious.  Consciousness takes effort.

However, as part of the healing process, I have learned over time that I can control my thoughts, if I just kick them out of their subconscious litany and into awareness.One of the most powerful tools in my healing arsenal is gratitude. 

What can you be grateful for today?  Take 3 minutes and jot down a list. It doesn't matter if you never look at the list again, if it gets lost in that pile of paperwork on your desk or gets tossed out into the recycle bin.  Just the act of writing it out will change your mental course.  Just the act of writing it down will kick you into awareness.  And that's enough to start the healing process.

Will you lose track and make a 'wrong turn' back into unconsciousness and negativity? Sure.  but you can write another list, even if there's only one or two things on it.  You could call a friend and have a discussion about what you're grateful for.  You can turn off the TV (is there really anything positive on TV?) and take a moment for gratitude.  Respond to this post here on the blog and let me know what you're grateful for.

Gratitude heals you.  it shifts your perspective to a positive slant, even if only for a moment.  But that moment is a little bit of fertilizer for your brain, and the roots of happiness will drink them up.  They are parched right now; they haven't been watered or fertilized in a long time.  And the roots of happiness get stronger if you will consciously feed them.  once you've learned that you can be grateful, even if it's just that you're alive and above ground, and hey, you must have access to computer or you couldn't be reading this...think of how many people in the world don't have that, and be grateful for it....but once you've learned that you can be grateful, you've taken the first step towards healing.

Today I am grateful that the sun is shining.  That I have a husband and friends who love me. That I have the eyes to see the beauty in nature.  That I have a car that works, a roof over my head, a choice in clothing to wear. I'm grateful for dark chocolate and pita chips. Oh, and I'm also very grateful for spellcheck. :0)

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Death creates a different perspective on life

One of my friend's father died today at age 69. 

This is too young to die for anyone, but it hit me very hard because her father is only two years older than my husband, and this is the second friend's father to pass away young.  The other passed away at 72.  Both passed away in their sleep, a day after seeming fine. And I think the reason this death really hit me hard is that there was a military burial, with full 21 gun salute, the honor guard, the ceremonial folding of the American flag, and its presentation to the widow.

I had a flash of me in this same situation.  My husband served in Vietnam as a Green Beret, and on his death will be afforded full military honors; I will be the one receiving this flag.  I had been dry eyed through the rest of the funeral, but this got to me, and I almost lost it when "taps" were played.  I felt like I had been gut-punched, and grabbed onto my husband's arm for comfort. Life suddenly seemed much too short.

Now, I know no one knows what the future holds, but when someone you know dies, it definitely pulls your perspective into a very different focus.  Things that seemed so important, like work goals, financial goals, will I buy a bigger house, better car, more clothes, more (you fill in the blank) become inconsequential.
Because all we have is right now.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, and yesterday is already gone.  In fact as you read this life is moving into yesterday.  I could be the first to die, even though I am younger.

And I thought to myself, have I done all the things I want to do in this lifetime with my husband?  And the answer is no.  So once again I come back to a theme I have explored in past blogs, and that is that you must live in the NOW, that now is all we have, and you need to make every moment count.  

We were going to put off a 2 week camping trip to Yellowstone because of time constraints; I wasn't sure if I should take that much time off from my business.  As if I were the sole reason the business ran.  Quite frankly the day-to-day running of my business falls to my very capable assistant.  I'm the rainmaker, bringing in new business; but she keeps the space running.  And if my business (or your job) is going to fall apart because you take time for yourself, in my opinion it's time to look for either another business or another job.

So he and I had been going round and round on this issue, wondering if we 'should' take time to do this.  We've only been talking about this trip off and on for, oh, 10 years.  It's not like it's something new.  It's something we've been postponing.

And why?  Really, in the end, why do we postpone the things that mean so much to us, and spend time on the things that just fill time, that in the end don't mean anything?  Is it habit? Fear? Laziness? Or is it, as I have stated before, "just is".  It just is. 

So I have decided that we are going to take that vacation.  And we're going to see the beauty of America's first National Park. We are going to take time on what is important to us, which is travel and spending time with one another.  Because I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know when all the sand is going to run out of either of our hourglasses.  And I don't want to live my life regretting that I didn't take 2 weeks to live life with my husband.

Why take time for life, for love, for family?  Because 'taps' is going to play for all of us, much too soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emotional and Physical Bankruptcy

Yesterday's blog and the subject of emotional and physical bankruptcy so resonated within me that I'm awake at 2 am today thinking, thinking, thinking about this, and hoping I said everything I wanted to say, and not sure if I did.

Have you ever taken the time to watch a spider create a web? If you ever need 20 minutes to relax into mindlessness and peace, this is one of my favorite ways.  The spider is so methodical, so deliberate, but not rushed.  I took this photo on a dew-drenched morning in August when the garden spiders were out in full force.  I had watched the spider make this web the night before, and it just mesmerized me.

I can't say enough about emotional and physical bankruptcy.  We are a nation of people pursuing "The American Dream"....and yet for so many of us the American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.  So many people I know work at jobs they hate because they have trapped themselves into believing there is no other way to live. They don't take the vacation time they are due because the don't want to get behind, or they are worried that if they do they will lose their job.  They are doing the work of2 or 3 people because coworkers have been laid off...So many people live in houses they can't afford, and eat fast food because it's cheap and easy to get after a long day working.  People don't cook dinner because they are exhausted from a 10 or 12 hour day.  Who has time to make dinner when you have brought work home?  It's so much easier to feed the kids and yourself prepackage pre-prepared food than to take the extra 1/2 hour or 45 minutes to make a meal.

Watching families has made me form an opinion, and it is this: the 'pursuit of happiness' referenced in the Constitution of the United States has become distorted.  We make more money yet adjusted for inflation we are living on less money than our parents made, and instead of mom staying at home, both parents work and then have to pay a stranger to raise the children.  We can't afford to have a parent live at home and raise a child with our morals and values.  It's just too difficult, or we have been brainwashed into believing we need to have the high-profile, high-powered (and yes, high-stressed) job to have a 'good life'.  So we go to work and work insane hours and our children get to be raised by others.  We live a life of stress and don't really get to enjoy our families.

Now, I don't think this is's only 'bad' if that reality makes you unhappy.  For me, I'm not parent material; so I opted to not have children.  I knew I wouldn't be a good parent.  I'm a wonderful aunt and "big sister" but the ultimate responsibility of parenthood, I knew I wasn't qualified for.  I send blessings, kudos and commendations for anyone brave enough to bring another person into this world.  That is an act of selfish LESS that to me is one of the most amazing things a human being can undertake.

People talk to me all the time about not having 'enough time'....why is that?  Is it because we are working so hard building someone else's dream that we don't have enough energy to build our own?  Is it because we are watching sitcoms and "reality TV" and using up precious time we could be taking a bubble bath or enjoying a hobby?  Does watching TV bring you any closer to happiness?  All you are doing is fulfilling an actor's dream if it takes you away from having 'time' to do what would make you truly happy.

Have you over-committed to the PTA, your church, your family and friends, the HOA, at the cost of your life?  I think it's wonderful to volunteer (I"m a volunteer Big Sister and do a lot of community work) but when the volunteer time erodes your personal happiness time, and you spend your life being so 'busy' taking care of other people, you start to kill yourself slowly because you are overdrawn on your personal life account.

When was the last time you did something 100% what you wanted, when you wanted to, without feeling guilty?  When was the last time you relaxed doing a hobby that you personally enjoy?  When was the last time you took time for yourself without feeling guilty???

In her amazing book "The Artist's Way" Julia Cameron talks about the importance of Artist Dates.  These are dates with yourself, BY YOURSELF, where you go and fill your creative-soul bank account.  It doesn't have to be elaborate, or expensive, or even time-consuming.  Take an hour a week and do something that you want to do.  Something that will refill your soul. 

Now, don't look at me and say "I'm not an artist"... we are all artists.  If you are a parent, you are painting a life for your child.  If you are a spouse, you are weaving together a tapestry of life with your partner.  If you live alone, you need to create a life=picture that makes you happy.

My "Artist Dates" were things like.....go play on a swing set by myself.  Go to a pet store and look at all the colorful and varied fish.  Go to a bookstore and browse on a subject that had always interested me.  Go to the library, find one of the comfy chairs, and settle in for an afternoon (or an hour, if that's all you have).  Instead of going out to the same restaurant for lunch, pick a place I've never been to, and fully engage myself watching people, reading the menu, trying something I would never pick out normally for lunch. Take a walk in the park or a flower garden.  Go to a nursery and look at all the flowers.  None of these things cost money.  They are an investment of time in yourself.

When was the last time you took the time to really look at a flower?  From the intense color to the delicate blossoms versus the tough cactus leaves, drenched in's a study in contrasts, just like life.  And like life, it can be beautiful even in its toughness.

I encourage you to write down your emotional needs bucket list, and start checking things off. Not a bucket list that has things like "climb Mt Everest" or "take a cruise" or any other 'big' item.  Start a bucket list of things you'd like to do for yourself that are small but you have not allowed yourself to do. Mine  included things like blow bubbles, take a bubble bath midweek, use the good china for everyday dining, learn to tap dance, re learn how to roller skate.  Feed the ducks at the local pond.  Make a commitment to call my best girlfriend and connect every week, make an un-birthday cake. 

Start taking care of yourself, start nourishing your soul, today.  This is the only time you have.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, yesterday is already gone, later today isn't even promised to us.  Now is the only time you have, so please, I encourage you, make the most of it. 

I close wishing you the best day of your life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Your Highest Integrity

I  had an interesting conversation today with an friend of mine who is an attorney, and we were discussing legal issues and how they can affect people health, and he said something that prompted me to write today's blog.

We were talking about the state of the world, of people's finances and their health, and he asked me what my point of highest integrity was.  And I talked about honor and respect and doing what was right...and he countered and said "Your highest integrity is taking care of you, your health, your finances....because if you don't take care of you and your health and your finances, you can't be there for your husband, your family, your job, your community, the world."
Take time to play with animals. They live completely in the "Now"

He went on to talk about Bono and Bill Gates and how they have gone past financial concerns and health concerns and even community concerns, and how they are now having conversations about hunger, clean water, saving the planet, etc.  And he said you can't get to those points if you don't have your health, if your financial house isn't in order, if you are not facing your personal concerns.

And that reminded me of things I have read and things I learned while going through the various healing programs through Positive Choice in San Diego.  In the end, what do we really, truly have that is ours and that is intrinsically important?  Is it the big house? The fancy car?  The 401k balance? Where we have or are going to vacation?  In the end, it's our health and our happiness and our relationships.

I think about what is going on in Japan right now, with the aftermath of the earthquake and the Tsunami, and I know that right now, in this moment, whatever prestige a car, a home, a retirement account, possessions etc brought, are absolutely inconsequential and meaningless.  When the Tsunami waters receded, were people searching through the rubble and the debris for their TVs and Ipods?  No.  They were searching for one thing, and one thing only....their loved ones.

Were they wondering what was going to happen to their possessions?  Nope.  They were wondering "Where am I going to get shelter, clean water, a bathroom?" "Did my loved ones make it?"

Make Gingerbread Houses with children
Life in crisis really does boil down to the essentials, because when we are in a crisis we realize what is really and truly important.  I have talked to people after losing their homes to fire, and do you know what they regret?  Photos.  They can replace the 'stuff', but they can't replace the photos that will remind them of loving times spent with family and friends.

So if all we have really in the end is our health and our loved ones, wouldn't it make the most sense to structure our lives around that?  Is our job, even though it pays the bills, really the top priority? Is getting more 'stuff' really necessary, or would your time and money and energy and effort be better served by spending time with loved ones, or with taking care of yourself?

The main reason I decided to do the bariatric Rouen-Y gastric bypass surgery was health.  I knew the side benefits would be I would be more attractive, which is sadly what people see first, but it isn't what motivated me.  What motivated me was the first sentence in my health appraisal from Kaiser, which stated "You are so morbidly obese that we cannot determine your life expectancy."

Talk about a wake up call. 

I had been spending my life taking care of everyone else but me.  Accumulating wealth and losing health.  Eating poorly and destroying my heart.  Not exercising because I didn't have 'enough time' even though I seemed to have plenty of time to work late in the evening and the weekends.  I was focused on the truly wrong things.  I was focused on material goods, prestige, taking care of others....and my health was deteriorating every day.  My relationship with my husband was strong, but I realized after my health appraisal that there was a very strong possibility that, even though he is 22 years older than me, he might end up being the one taking care of me, changing my diapers, feeding me etc, while I was still a young woman.

I was financially and professionally solvent and physically and emotionally bankrupt.

Do you find yourself in this situation?  Do you spend little time with family because of work pressures?  Do you opt not to take vacation days?  Go to work when you are sick? (BTW, the rest of us hate you when you do that, because then you make US sick)  Do you buy things and spend no time? When are you going to take a good look at your situation and say "Enough!" and learn to refocus on yourself, your health, your well being, your priorities.

The bottom line is no one is going to care about you more than you can ever care for yourself.  No one will ever understand you and your needs, goals and dreams better than yourself.  So no one can make the decision to start taking care of your health and well being.

Start making decisions today to take care of you, to do things for you, not others.  Let others do for themselves.  Now, I'm not saying don't help people.  What I am saying is, help people as you can, but not beyond what you can.  learn to say "no" kindly.  Learn to develop boundaries and let other people handle their share of the load.  There's a great book called "Boundaries" by Whitecloud that really helps with this issue.

So are you professionally prosperous but emotionally bankrupt?
Do you give more to your job than you give to yourself?

What can you do about it, right now?  What small step can you take, RIGHT NOW, to change?  Can you turn off the TV and talk to your kids?  Can you  hire someone to come in and clean the house so you can spend the weekends with your family?  Can you stop listening to talk radio if it makes you angry?  Can you stop and smell the roses?  Walk in the grass barefoot?  Blow bubbles and watch the sunset?  What do YOU want to do?  What will make YOU happy?  Not your spouse, not your kids, not your boss, not your neighbors, not your friends....YOU. 

Find your happiness.  Find it everyday.  Find something to smile about.  Start focusing on what really matters ---- health and love.  In the end, in a crisis, that's what we are all searching for first. Your highest integrity is to you, your health, your wellness, you. Take care of you first, and the rest of the puzzle will rearrange itself into something beautiful for you.

I hope my words help you.  Please pass this forward to others you love who are working too hard, smoking too much, eating too much, gambling too get the idea.  Spread love, Pollyanna sounding as it might seem. 
Enjoy Flowers.  Remember, God laughs in flowers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abundant Gratitude and Healing from abuse and anger

I saw a certificate on a friend's desk that started out as "Abundant Gratitude to..." and it inspired me to write today's blog.

It is so easy when we have been victims of abuse and addiction to either forget or forsake gratitude.  Why should we be grateful? would be an easy question.  What in the world is there possibly for me to be grateful for?  To heck with those of you who think in terms of gratitude, was my philosophy. 

Growing up I didn't find much to be grateful for.  All I could focus on was surviving, existing from one day to the next.  I was never sure which mother I was coming home to, was never sure what my father's mood would be coming home from work.  I walked on tippy toes on a bed of eggshells my entire childhood.  Fear was the dominant emotion.  Would I do something wrong that would result in punishment?  Would I be cut to the quick by my father's sarcasm?  It took everything I had sometimes to come to the dinner table and be near my family, and I ate as quickly as I could so I could be done with it and retreat back into my bedroom, my sanctuary.

What was there to be grateful for in a father that gave gifts like horses, only to take them away without warning or reason? (There's nothing like coming home from junior high school earlier than your father thought you would and seeing your horse being loaded into a stranger's van).  Or the day my guinea pigs disappeared, all 'going to a nice home' as my father put it.  Yes, this from the man who loved to trap squirrels in our backyard and then drown them in large trash cans still in the trap.  To this day I can still see their anguish and hear their piteous cries.  Is it any wonder I wonder to this day what happened to my pets?
Why should I be grateful for this?

Why should I be grateful for a father who moved us to an upscale neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, bought a Mercedes for cash in 1978, yet dressed me in my brother's hand-me-down Sears toughskins in a neighborhood of Sassoon and Jordache?  Let's not even talk about 'floods' for pants and a dorky haircut.  Again, why should I be grateful?

This was how I lived my life for a very long time-----angry and ungrateful; resentful of what others had.  Not even the physical things they had, their 'stuff'.  I was angry and resentful that I didn't have parents who would come to my school play, who would encourage me in a spelling bee, who would show the world they loved me.  Nope, that was not to be.

So I grew up as a very angry adult.  And anger, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, is a very acidic emotion, eating up your soul from the inside-out.  It is much like high blood pressure, a silent killer.  You don't know how much damage has occured until sometimes, unfortunately, it is too late.

So what do you do?  How do you pull yourself out of anger and into happiness?

Well, one thing I can say from experience, it doesn't happen overnight.  I have yet to see a fairy godmother or angel come down and take away all my anger in one fell swoop.  But, in an odd way, I am really glad it didn't happen that way. 

What?!?!?!? Are you nuts?  Why wouldn't you want all that pain and anger gone instantly????

Well, what I have learned is that anger is a shield, a very effective tough outer shell that can protect your fragile self from the outside world.  If you take that shell off all at once, you would collapse.  So the shell of anger has to be healed a little at a time, as much as you can handle at one time.  And how do you do that?

I have mentioned forgiveness as a very powerful healing tool in past blogs.  Another amazing tool in your spiritual warrior's bag is gratitude.  Yes, gratitude.

You might not be able to be grateful at first.  That's understandable.  Start small.  Be grateful that you are alive.  Be grateful that you have eyesight and can read this blog.  Be grateful that you have access to the amazing invention called the internet, where you can be halfway around the world and reading this blog that originated from California.

Be grateful for chocolate, or vanilla, or strawberries.  Be grateful for funny kittend and puppies.  Be grateful that the sun is shining and the sky is blue.

Now, is this going to seem a little hokey and Pollyanna at first?  You bet it is.  It's going to seem stupid and contrived and embarrassing.  Do it anyway. What do you have to lose?  Oh yeah, that's right. Anger.  Well, do you want to keep feeling this anger?  If you don't try being a little hokey.

I read somewhere that you should try to find 6 new things every day to be grateful for.  I got a little spiral book and wrote 1 through 6 in each page, and every day tried to find something to be grateful for.  Some days, let me tell you, it was hard to find anything to be grateful for.  I have to admit, those days I cheated and re-used past gratitudes.

What you are going to find is that as you find small things to be grateful for, your world will open up and you will find bigger things to be grateful for. And then when you find larger things to be grateful for, your anger will not be able to exist as easily in your soul.  Gratitude is a much stronger emotion than anger.  Now, it may not be as strong 'physically' in your body, but emotionally and spiritually it is a much happier place to live in.  And it can crowd out anger and resentment if you will only let it.

And at some point in your life, if you keep practicing gratitude, you might run across a certificate on a  friend's desk that says "abundant gratitude" and it will hit you the way it did me.

I have learned to live in abundance, and gratitude.  Will what happened to me ever change?  Nope.  But I can make a decision RIGHT NOW, today, to be grateful.  And the more abundant my gratitude, the more abundant my life. 

I know, it sounds hokey. But what you're doing right now isn't working anyway, is it? That's why my blog 'sings' to you...... try being hokey, learn to be grateful, and find happiness.

I hope my words have inspired you and healed you.  Please pass this forward to someone you know who needs to read this....or to someone who loves you who supports you.