Sunday, September 20, 2015

Blessings from a Balanced Birthday

This week was my birthday, which for me, is kind of like New Years, a sobering time to “rethink everything.” The recognition that time is so precious and OMG am I really THAT old?!  

Chocolate Raspberry Cake from my book, Savvy Secrets
I woke up feeling sad, frustrated and sorry for myself. My husband was out of town, and my twin sister and a few others who were coming to my retreat next week are now unable to go. I’m sad not to be able to share this time with them but grateful that a couple of years ago everyone came together to create yoga dance videos, such precious memories!  You can see why I will miss her and how she is so much fun here:

Also given my own recent wake up call and given that I am STILL trying to figure out exactly what I want to be when I grow up, I’m cognitive of what my recently deceased brother in law said, “My runway may be shorter than I thought”. 

Yes Lisa, your actions today determine tomorrow’s destiny…

So I purposely chose NOT to work on my Birthday.  As the “energizer bunny” I’ve been known to work too hard.  This is a badge of honor we Washingtonians bestow upon ourselves to prove our worthiness.  “I’m just so busy” (and therefore so important).  It’s true, I do feel more productive and seem to get more done, the busier I am. But sometimes this busyness has a cost. In my case, my blood pressure is my body's loving reminder to find equal time for rest, relaxation and play!

My mantra has often been “There's never enough time...” which, according to Dr. Deepak Chopra is the fastest way to a heart attack.

So the question is what do I really really really WANT? So I pondered this on my Birthday, starting with how did I want to spend the day. First I had to call my twin sister in tears and offload what had been on my chest.  I want honest open loving relationships.  That means first being open, honest and true to myself and verbalizing hurt and sometimes-difficult conversations. I told her that yes I may sound vain and selfish but I was really disappointed that she decided to go with friends on another trip instead of coming to my retreat and I didn’t want to give her a guilt trip, but that I felt sad and hurt anyway. This was not an easy call for me and especially challenging for an accommodating, people-pleaser like myself. 

My rock solid, faithful, loving, sister said, “I’m not accepting any guilt trip and I am so proud of you for making this call”.  Wow, aren’t our relationships our best teachers? It felt good to let it go and I felt heard and safe to verbalize my feelings. Something so important for all of us to practice. Now that the air was clear, we could plan our day together.

The night before I stopped at Whole Foods and bought a few of my favorite things for a picnic lunch. Denise did the same, and we met at a vineyard close to her home with our Mother to celebrate.  I made Victoria Woods’ quick roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts with olive oil, garlic and spices and brought pate, raw cheese and gluten free crackers, grapes, olives, and of course, dark chocolate.  I grabbed a bottle of green tea, my glass water bottle and some ice and was out the door. 

I decided to wear my new Athleta wild yoga pants because after all it IS my birthday so I could wear and do whatever I wanted! Don’t you love how they match my company colors? I even got a couple of thumbs up in my convertible on the way, not bad for a 56 year old woman :)

My gift from Denise?  An old caricature that she found drawn when I was twelve years old as a ballet dancer and a cheerleader.  My husband who was out of town, sent me a jibjab card of him dancing and singing about how I am still his cheerleader…..hmmmmmm

After our picnic, I mailed my books and handouts for the Asilomar Retreat and went to the bank to cash in a savings bond from 1968, another found gift from Denise.  Worth $131 today, woo hoo!  I decided to treat myself to a Hot Spot infra Red Sauna @HotSpotSauna and relaxed while I put the finishing touches on my workshop for next week. It's amazing how good and productive I felt in the 45 minutes of writing in the sauna. There is nothing like a good sweat to get the endorphins going and the heat is soooo relaxing!  An infrared is different than a dry or steam sauna.  It uses the same heat that hospitals use to warm newborn babies.  It actually penetrates deeper in the tissue and is hotter but does not feel stifling hot like other saunas. I especially recommend this to my clients who want to do a periodic cleanse. My daughter and I spent 30 minutes in an infrared sauna several days a week during her cancer treatment in Arizona and getting one for my home is on my wish list. 

Last stop was to MOM's Organic Market to buy food for Sunday when we will celebrate my daughter Margo, and sister Cristin and niece Luzy's birthday and my nephew Eddie's birthday too!  How blessed we are to have a big loving family and how grateful I felt to spend time with my twin sister and to take time just for myself too.  

A very important lesson I learned from my friend Dr Wes Rocki is that by acknowledging all of us, the fear, the sadness, and the parts we want to hide, allows us to see the opposing emotions. If we stuff our anger, fear and sadness, we also stuff our joy. Imagine balancing on a boogie board. One side is our dark side and one side is the light. If we press down on the dark, the light rises. By letting go of the thoughts that no longer serve you, you are able to make room for love and joy.  By letting go of our constant busyness, gives us time and space for gratitude.

"Healing means to make whole, to accept all parts of ourselves, not just the parts we like, but all of us." Louise Hay

Maybe for next year's birthday, we'll practice SUP yoga!

How will you practice balance and what will you do for yourself today, this week and especially on your birthday? 



One spot left for Self Health Retreat @ Asilomar next weekend! LMK if you want more information

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Griswold Vacation Part II: Getting Unplugged, Expectations & Lessons Learned

 Last week I talked about my expectations for our family vacation. 

To unplug and communicate with each other; to dedicate time and commit to each other the most precious gift possible, our presence.   

How rare and difficult is this in our modern society? Even toddlers are kept entertained and plugged into iPads, iPhones, the new babysitter, so Mom & Dad can have some “peace.”  Television, movies, cartoons and commercials are the mainstay sitters. No wonder we become brainwashed and develop unrealistic expectations that create insecurities and feed automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) in our heads.

Having expectations keeps us in the future and interferes with our staying present.  My expectation was that we would all “go with the flow.” Just getting to our ranch vacation had a few surprise challenges. The 4am taxi was 20 minutes late so we were not able to check bags and we missed our flight…and then the next flight… before getting rebooked on a different airplane; which off course caused the checked bags to be lost for a couple of days with airlines’ finger pointing.  My son-in-law’s comment was, “it’s a good thing I was on another flight.” I laughed and said, “Maybe you married into this family to learn to “go with the flow.” (I can be a little challenging at times…)

As life grants us, I was the one given the opportunity to learn how to “go with the flow.” The expectation set before our trip, was that some would need to work and stay plugged in during the day and connect at night. Our cabin that slept 8-10 was only 2 bedrooms with a loft, sofa and loveseat. I accidentally gave up the bigger cabin when I said we needed Wi-Fi. The cabin felt small and hot for 8 adults and my sister and teenage nephews had not yet arrived.  On our first morning hike we discovered the larger cabin, nestled on a hill between beautiful vistas and views, surrounded by bison, wild horses, donkeys and chickens. Beautiful breezes sunrises and sunsets. Most of us wanted to jump at the move. The grass seemed greener in this pasture.

Drawback, we had no Wi-Fi and only one bedroom, an icebox instead of the modern fridge, and completely off the grid. Only one car (the infamous minivan) could get to the mile hike between cabins. My daughter brought her own Wi-Fi, so we tested it and declared this could work for everyone. After we decided and were granted our move, my pregnant daughter said it would be uncomfortable sleeping together in one big room and some were still worried about giving up the known Wi-Fi. We then discovered that the sink leaked, the toilet didn’t work well off the grid, and I felt more resistance from everyone to “go with the flow.” 
So nerves shot from our death ride (see previous post), I was the chosen one to lose it, yelling at my poor pregnant daughter. I wanted everyone to stop complaining and to feel grateful for what we did have. 

My son-in-law helped me realize that I was the one who needed to let go and go with the flow. I needed to recognize that my demanding things to be a certain way, only met with resistance. Instead of letting everyone voice his or her opinion, I wanted nothing but Kumbaya, peace and gratitude. I took it personally. I was married to the outcome as if I could single-handedly control anything. 

We all have free will, at every moment, we have a choice to how we choose to view situations and how we choose to react or respond.  We can react out of fear or respond with love. The loving way is to recognize others fears and expectations with empathy and to let go of the need to control the outcome. 

We started calling this luxury camping; exactly what it was, roof over head, running water, gas grill and fire pit. What more could we ask for? Greeted in the morning with wild horses at the railing.  Here I was in heaven, and yet I had let my impatience create a momentary hell when I sent my daughter to the other cabin in tears.  I needed to heed Cowboy Bronse's sign:

My son in law said it best over the campfire when asked, “What’s the best and worst thing about being a twin?” He responded, “Why would we choose to focus on the negative when there is an abundance of good at being a twin? Besides, that’s all I’ve ever known.”

Makes sense to me, especially during times we feel like we have no choice. Truth is, we always have a choice to how we think, and consequently feel, about every minute in every day. In this sense, our thoughts create our own version of reality. 

Can you think of a time when your thoughts made your situation worse?  Can you now think about how reframing the situation might have changed the experience? Have you had a Griswold vacation? What’s the funniest and best lesson learned?

Turns out when I asked everyone to describe the vacation, the response was all positive! Words like, Fun, Immersion, Bonding, Unique, Togetherness, Authentic, Different, Memorable…

I’m very grateful that my family was able and willing to come together, to be accommodating to all of our needs; that we were able to relax, have fun and truly enjoy each other’s company. We love, care for, and respect each other despite our humanness, despite our past mistakes, harsh words or actions. Coming together in nature is an excellent way to appreciate how we are all connected to each other and to other animals and plants on this planet.

My last expectation was to go horseback riding and although that did not fit into the schedule, I was able to mount bareback one of the wild horses that Bronse was told, “No one will ever be able to ride this wild thing.”  He tried to kick a few times, but I again put my fear aside, grabbed his mane and found my seat.  Heart racing, I felt pure joy as I was encouraged and supported by my loving family.  

Thank you for your presence in my life and for all the loving lessons that bring me back to honoring our unity.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Griswold Vacation

Remember National Lampoon's movie, Vacation?

I’m the matriarch of a budding family, mother of 4 adult children and soon to be grandmother.  I’m still growing, learning, deciding what I want to be and do when I grow up, and am always amazed and grateful for the continual lessons my (sometimes challenging) family provides for me.

My family goal, is that we have at least one vacation, or time together to connect, unplug, and be present for one another.  So my son requested that we go to Yosemite in California and my oldest daughter, the “planner” in the family, found a spot on VRBO.  Not your ordinary Vacation Rental By Owner, but a 7,000-acre Bison Ranch outside of Yosemite.  It was Awesome…and Adventurous!

Getting adult children corralled to dedicate one week together (did I say unplugged?) away from their busy lives to “connect” is quite a feat.  The first year I did this was a few years ago after my daughter’s cancer relapse and it felt like a medical emergency to me. I said three days, no cell phones or computers. We were going to a family retreat housed at a children’s camp in the mountains. We played games, did vision boards, practiced yoga dance (not in my husband and son-in-law’s comfort zone), did the teambuilding ropes course and experienced a giant scream-evoking rope swing.

Last year we did a family “staycation” where everyone met at our home and we did day trips, however this year I wanted more togetherness.

11 adults sharing one bathroom and a one-room log cabin in the middle of hair-raising off-wheel roads will indeed, provide you with “togetherness.”  This is a testament to the fortitude of family.  To quote our host, “You guys are both conservative and crazy.”  Still trying to figure out what he meant by that…
When my husband asked my son’s girlfriend Gabrielle, “What surprised you the most about this vacation?” Gabrielle replied, “The Death Ride; I definitely wasn’t expecting that!”

We all climbed into our minivan for a nice ride to the river for an afternoon swim.  The river was only 7 miles (on the hand drawn map as the crow flies) away. What we didn’t know or foresee that to get there was to drive over death-defying dirt roads, complete with mind-blowing views and deep cliffs. Once we started our journey there was no place to go but straight through.  Have I told you that I've developed a fear of heights and guess who was behind the wheel?  Moi, my husband was on the highway back to SFO to retrieve lost baggage.

 I took a deep breath and announced that this is out of my comfort zone, “Please put on your $&*# seatbelts.” You know it was tense when my social media junkie kids were too busy holding on for dear life to take any videos or pics.  I finally said, “is someone recording this because no one will believe us!?”
They screamed, “Keep your eyes on the road Mom!”

 My son-in-law was on an ATV leading the way and my daughter was petrified that we would slide into him and push him off the cliff at the bottom of one of our hairpin curves. Thomas was on an ATV while we were in a friggin mini-van…Did I mention that we were sliding down rocks and dirt, testing our brakes all the way? At one point we got stuck trying to scale a narrow dirt road and nearly slid into a tree (albeit a welcome choice to sliding off the cliff).  My son is the only one with experience in off-roading.  He is also the daredevil in the family so I hesitated to hand over the reins, but again, choices were limited.  We got unstuck by practicing our survival team building skills and letting Brad, my other son-in-law get out of the car and navigate backing down the narrow terrain, and then Travis scaling the mountain with us running behind, cheering at our victory.  Dana yelled, “This is supposed to be a vacation, no more teambuilding!”

Comic and laughter is a great way to reduce steam and relax.  We joked that Disney rides ( and Wally World) had nothing on Cowboy Bronse’s ranch roads. The only difference is that when my adrenaline-junkie kids finish a hair-raising Disney ride, they want to ride it again. 

There was not one person who wanted to repeat this trip. In fact, when we finally did make it to the river, we chose to drive miles out of our way to avoid the same roads.

Lessons learned:

There’s only one way to move from fear and that is to walk through it. We had only one road and one way to go, straight ahead, focused on faith that we would persevere. I took a deep breath, prayed to God and made the conscious choice to relax. It was at that point that I said, “Someone document this OK?” I knew we would be OK and that I would not panic and when the “ride” was over, felt more empowered for it.  In fact, the earlier road to the remote cabin that felt scary, now became a piece of cake.  It’s all about perspective and how we choose to view the challenge.  I know that I can drive under these circumstances and survive. I pushed my comfort zone, tested my faith and created a few memories in the process.  Isn't that what family vacations are for?

Did you have a fun Griswold vacation this summer? Any lessons learned while on school break? Can you identify with this?  Please share!

Carpe Diem!
  1. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
  2. I contend that strength, prosperity and well-being must begin within the individual and then the family.  I am thankful for our jobs that enable us to create this time together. In doing so, we all become better individuals and citizens.  Happy Labor Day to you!

  3. I also hope you will consider joining me and other authors and health coaches in our first Self Health Movement Retreat (in 21/2 weeks!) in Asilomar, California. Bring your spouse or a friend who wants to enjoy the refuge by the sea while you partake at the conference for a reduced rate of $1.  There are nearby golf courses, shopping and the quaint towns of Monterey and Carmel by the Sea.

    You definitely deserve this and I would LOVE to spend this time with you! Here’s some of what we will be offering:

    1. Yoga and yoga dance classes offered on the beach and inside studio spaces.
    2. Personalized small health coaching groups to help you walk through obstacles and health challenges
    3. Discover my Seven Steps to Inspired Wellness in an informative, experiential session where you will leave inspired and empowered to take back your health and understand the process to meet personal goals. We will walk through how to go from “Overwhelmed” to “Empowered”!
    4. You can choose workshops from other inspirational authors and health coaches. The conference outline is on our website
    5. You will enjoy amazing gourmet food, seafood, California wines, and bonfires to music.
    6. Saturday night we will witness the lunar eclipse while listening to live music under the stars on the beach.
    7. You will enjoy luxury accommodations, with chimneys in the rooms, wooden floors, trees and the beach to help you relax fully and recharge.
    Boardwalk2-800x532laguna beach
    Please let me know how I can best assist you or inspire you as you discover optimal health and wellness. 
    With Love & Gratitude,