• Making sense of it all…The high cost of workaholism

    Single_RoseI am a recovering workaholic and busy-ness addict, which in Silicon Valley valley is not only encouraged, but lauded. To actually slow down, relax and receive the world in all its wonder at this time of my life (recent retirement from a long successful career) has been challenging to say the least. The seduction of this “disease” is powerful. But I’m learning and enjoying the process along the way.

    I came across this quote from Virginia Wolff which says it all….

    “If people are highly successful in their professions, they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Hearing goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion and the relation between one thing and another. Humanity goes.”

    One of the reasons I joined Nancy in our Hourglass Workshops adventure several years ago is because I wanted to regain full use of my senses—all 5 of them (plus better use of my women’s intuition). I want to share such experiences with a community of like-minded women, as well as learn to more fully appreciate and attend to the world around me. More importantly, I wanted to regain my sense of proportion, a stronger connectedness with life, family and friends, and the bigger community around me. I’m doing all those things and savoring the process.This blog and our Hourglass events reflect part of this journey, and I’m very interested in the experiences of other women during such transition points and what they’ve discovered for a book I’m writing.

    Back when I was growing up, this was known as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight and I’d like to know it again as that. There is no better time than right now, today, this Summer and this lifetime to turn up your tunes and dance, try a new recipe, smell a beautiful summer rose, and really listen to the voices of those you love.

  • Travel—the Elixer of Life!

    Cafe in FranceFrom the age of 16, I’ve always loved to travel after a life-changing experience as an AFS exchange student to Brazil. With my newly issued passport, I clearly remember sitting in SFO waiting for a flight to New York City and then on to Rio De Janeiro. Looking back at my parents as they waved good-bye at the gate (obviously back in the pre-TSA days), I still remember the excitement, fear, and heightened sense of anticipation as I boarded on my very first flight. Since then, I seem to always be planning the “next trip”. I thrive on travel. Not only the trip itself, but the planning, anticipation and the pre-trip excitement. I just don’t understand people when they say they rarely ever go on vacation!

    With all its frustration, too small seats in crowded planes, extra fees, and petty inconveniences, travel continues to fully engage me and during trips I really stay in present. Studies show that travel improves our physical and mental well-being. I’m sure its partly due to the heightened awareness we have when we are out of our routines. Also, I always walk more when I’m on a trip than I ever seem to at home and it feels so effortless. (A real bonus is regardless of what I eat, I never gain weight while traveling.) I remember a recent trip to Paris and all the walking we did. Who hasn’t walked from dawn to dusk all over a new city, exploring streets, aware of architecture, people watching, and the variety of sights, smells and sounds? I have been keenly aware of the sensory feast in a Greek spice market, the sounds of waves crashing as we walked along on a Hawaiian beach, and the stunning vibrant autumn leaves along the Blue Ridge Highway in Virginia— all remain vivid reminders of travel. I was fully engaged in those experiences, my level of everyday stress was reduced, and I felt much more in the flow of life.

    In an excellent article published by the Global Coalition on Aging , the authors discuss the physical, mental and emotional benefits of travel. Perhaps it’s not that healthy people travel, rather people who travel and remain active are healthier! In one study, women who travel twice a year are statistically less likely to have a heart attack than those who travel once every 4 years! So, for your heart’s sake, plan a trip!

    There are many, many wonderful travel blogs and one I suggest is The World According to Barbara, a delightful travel log by a woman in mid-life…well written and inspiring.

    More later as I share some of my travels and insights, and of course the health benefits! And if you have a favorite blog or a comment about how travel has made you healthier, let us know in the comments below.

    Ciao!

  • Toolbox Tip #5–Road Trips–Venture off your Beaten Path

    Blue Ridge Parkway“On the road again!” was my October theme song. (thanks Willie Nelson). We just got back from a wonderful 2 week vacation–“Americana Road Trip 2013”!. Along the way I learned several things I felt would be great tips on life’s journey, especially at this time of our lives.

    1. Identify several “must’s” in your life and decide when you want to do them. (Hint: The sooner the better.) For me, I love our National Parks and road trips. Fortunately my husband does too. I have wanted to visit the Smoky Mountains and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. We hit the fall colors perfectly, visited fascinating historic sights, enjoyed delicious regional food, wines and beers, and shared some memories with family and friends along the way.

    2. Get something scheduled. I almost always have some kind of trip on my calendar. It can be a big vacation, but often they are day trips or weekend getaways. They keeps me focused forward and excited about something new. Planning something is invigorating, opens our minds to new possibilities, discoveries, and stretches us to learn about new regions and enjoy different experiences. I have a close friend and when she’s a bit down, she’ll call and say, “let’s get something on the calendar”. We do and it cheers us both up. Anticipation and planning are great antidotes to the “blahs”.

    3. Embrace the unexpected. One morning, after we’d spent a night in a relatively unknown small town along the Hudson River, we realized we were 1/2 hour from Hyde Park (Roosevelt’s home and Presidential library) so we drove up and spent several hours. What a fascinating look into history at that time…one of the highlights of our trip.

    4. Get off the freeway of life. Side roads offer a slower pace and many more interesting sights. We stopped at a local fruit stand with over a dozen varieties of apples; found a local bbq dive with the best pulled pork sandwich we’ve ever had; and toured an interesting craft brewery.

    Give one or all of these a try soon, you’ll find your life’s journey much more interesting.

  • Greek Quinoa Salad

    Quinoa SaladAround this time several years ago, I was packing for my trip to Greece. I loved the food, ambiance and feel of the country, and especially their relaxed, fun approach to eating. As many of you already know, I cruise recipe blogs, websites, and magazines and enjoy exploring new ventures in cooking and eating. Here’s a wonderful new recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Stranded Foodie, for these warm, summer days. Definitely brings back fond memories of the Greek isles. Enjoy!

    Greek Quinoa Salad
    Stranded Foodie
    (Serves 4 to 6)

    Ingredients for dressing:

    • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Ingredients for salad:

    • 1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
    • 1 1/2 cups red or yellow grape tomatoes (halved)
    • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
    • 4 green onions (green and pale green part; thinly sliced)
    • 1/2 cucumber, cut into small dice
    • 1/2 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, minced
    • 1/3 cup cannellini beans, rinsed
    • Crumbled feta cheese (for sprinkling on top)
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Directions:

    Whisk together the lemon juice, cumin, garlic and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the salad to allow the flavors to meld.
    Rinse the quinoa in a strainer until the water runs clear. Combine the quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
    Transfer the quinoa to a bowl, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Add the tomatoes, olives, green onions, cucumbers, parsley and beans. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt (if needed) and freshly ground pepper to taste.

    You may not need additional salt because the feta cheese adds a nice salty taste to the salad. Squeeze more lemon juice over salad if you like it lemony. Mmmm!

    Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours before serving. The longer it sits the better the flavor. Just before serving, transfer to a bowls or platter and sprinkle feta on top and garnish with parsley.

  • Ditch the resolutions….I did!

    This year, unlike in the past, I deliberately decided NOT to write out resolutions, set goals or intentions for the year. It just makes me feel bad in mid-January. So, I made it really simple this year. It’s actually a technique I learned from Mother Nature and years of gardening.

    If you don’t want weeds, plant and take care of what you love and these plants will crowd out the weeds.

    In life terms…for me, this means do more of what I love doing and it will crowd out what I don’t like. Simple, right? Easy, not always. A few simple steps to consider.

    1. We need to really know what we love (that is, what brings us joy and energizes us). This includes people, activities, and our environment. (Not what we’re “supposed” to love or enjoy, but what truly energizes us and makes us “better” for the time and energy spent.)

    2. Add them to our life and on your schedule. Make a commitment on your calendar. To say, we don’t have enough time makes no sense. To make something happen or get done in my life, I HAVE to put it on my calendar. Important things must be on your calendar, not just your to-do list. For some reason, it took me years to figure out things don’t leap from the to-do list to the calendar and seem never to get done.

    3. Just do it. For example, I love to run, yes, simply run outside, listening to my music. But I don’t like getting started, that first mile is awful for me. So, I schedule my runs for the week, get dressed to run and I head out, listening to my ipod. I focus on what I love in that moment, my music. Soon, I’m past the first mile and truly loving the run. The other day, the weather was rainy, so I just put on my rain jacket and went for a run in the rain…..all good, even enjoyed that first mile because it was so different and invigorating!

    One more example. I love the feeling and the look of a pedicure. In the past I didn’t do manicures because they don’t last (see above, I garden!). In my desire to do more of what I love, I decided to get my nails done with that new gel process (it doesn’t ruin the nail bed as with acrylics and it lasts). Now I have doubled my pleasure of lovely nails. I see my fingers all day, they make me smile. Also, that wonderful hour of feeling pampered is nice too.

    Wishing you a year filled witn more of what you love and all that energizes and brings you joy!

  • Change your music, change your mood!

    “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
    and life to everything.” ― Plato

    I love country music. (I think Plato would be ok with that.) Truth be told, I enjoy pretty much all types of music, depending on the mood I’m in or want to be in. Country music is often my companion on long runs. I enjoy listening to words you can actually understand and stories about life and emotions we know. While I love the faster, more upbeat tunes, I also enjoy the slow love ballads. Those songs about new love, troubled love, and lost love. Music can alter our moods and amplify our current feelings, so I’ve discovered it is essential for me to select my music, artists, songs, and genres with much greater awareness.

    I’ve recently become much more aware of my sense of hearing and the sounds in my environment. Our sense of hearing is one of our most valuable senses and one we all take for granted.  It is a direct link with our surroundings and how we relate to others.  Imagine if you couldn’t hear and all you would miss in life.  In the past few years, when I observe how my mother struggles to stay connected with the world with her very limited hearing, it’s heart-breaking.

    Just as we fill our spaces with too much stuff, we often are not even conscious about what sound occurs around us and how it affects us. Having the TV on (whatever the channel), tends to hype me up and can be very distracting. This can be good or bad, depending. Many experts recommend not watching TV in bed or before going to bed due to this hyperactive effect on our brain. Although my husband often falls asleep at 9 pm watching TV, so that may disprove that theory!

    A cacophony of unfiltered sounds can rattle our spirit and impact our mood, making us edgy and stressed. Selecting music we love can soothe our soul, melt our heart, and even affect our brain patterns.

    Music affects us in many ways. It can take us back to high school angst, our first serious boy friend, and pull up memories of that great love of long ago. Certain songs serve as a sponge of painful, tear stained nights. When I broke up with a man I felt was “the one” many years ago, I was sure Garth Brooks’ song, The Dance, had been written just for me. Even today, over 20 years later, I still tear up when I hear the song, although not when I think of him! The words of that song also helped me realize I was not alone in my feelings of loss, as well as coming to terms that I never would have given up the experience for the pain at the end. And I attribute Creedence Clearwater’s version of Proud Mary to help me run my fastest 1/2 marathon a couple months ago.

    Various music genres move us in other ways. I enjoy classical guitar and piano when working. It seems to help me concentrate. Jazz, whether it’s the smooth saxophone of Kenny G or the magic of Miles Davis, they export my spirit and mind to places more creative and unrestricted.

    We all have our favorites. What are some of yours?  Add them to your playlists if you haven’t already? And let’s not forget the “sound of silence”.   I embrace silence far more often throughout the day than ever before. Be mindful of what sounds you allow into your space and your day? Do they enhance your current situation and mood, bring you down, or agitate you? Be aware, and change that tune…it could change your mood.

  • Being present in your own life….

    How fractured and distracted are you as you travel through your day? I have to admit I often struggle with this. Why am I compelled to constantly be “in touch”? What would happen if I didn’t know what was “going on” immediately? Is this constantly being in touch filling our ego’s need for reinforcement we are important to someone in the world? I think that is a distinct possibility.

    Even though I don’t check email on my phone while I’m with other people, I could be accused of having my mind wander off as I multi-task. As hard as I try, there are times I am on auto-pilot, completely unaware of the present moment as my mind spins off someplace else. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

    Frequently patients ask me, “I don’t remember that at all, do you think I have Alzheimer’s?” My answer, “Did you hear the information in the first place? If you weren’t paying attention how would you expect your mind to remember?” We cannot remember what we didn’t hear. Our body may have been there, but the mind was off somewhere else.

    Here’s another example…..How many times have you driven somewhere, knew where you were going, yet when you arrive, you have no conscious recollection of driving there?

    The anecdote? SLOW DOWN! Show up and really be where you are. Take a breath. Remind yourself to be present—in this moment, right now. Look up and notice the sky above you. Look around and really see your surroundings. Sense the world around you. Maybe if each of us slows down a little, life will respond and slow down a bit for us. The years seem to be sailing by at an ever increasing speed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by slowing down our world, it would allow us to actually savor more of each day and one another, simply by being present in our own life?

    Take the time to truly listen when talking with a friend and be thoughtful in your responses. We can only do this when we are all there–totally present for that person. I, for one, would love to get to know you a little better. How do you show up for yourself?

  • Making sense of our senses

    I am fascinated by how we sense the world and am committed to living a more sensual and pleasure-filled life and help women do the same. I’m reading a terrific book–Brain Rules by John Medina in which the author describes sensory stimulation and how it works in the brain.  He’s a molecular biologist and is able discuss complex material in such a way it makes sense to my non-scientific mind.  While he primarily applies his research to learning (and by the way, he says we are designed to never stop learning and exploring), I’d like to expand on his insights into the realm of pleasure in our lives.

    Our senses evolved to work together–for example vision and hearing are partnered in a learning situation, (which explains why PowerPoint  slides and a talking head in the front of the room have become so popular, albeit with shortcomings).    He also explains that our brain takes in sensory signals and stores them in parts of our brain to reconstruct them later. However, due to their own unique past experiences, two people may perceive an event very differently.

    So what does this have to do with us delighting in our feminine essence?  As time goes by,  we tend to “forget” the incredible value of all our senses—for example, color, texture, and scent  in our homes or wardrobes.  Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel catalogs seem to dictate the season’s colors.  Very often, I don’t even like the colors. Are they your favorite color?  How do you experience those colors?  What do they feel like to you? Today’s fashion palette simply may not please you.

    Scents, whether candles, air fresheners, perfume or flowers either make us feel better or worse.  Notice how you feel when you light a beautifully scented candle you love; or when you wear a perfume you adore; or as you walk into your home and inhale the scent of a bouquet of day-lilies on your table.  In these moments I truly cherish my sense of smell.

    I always wear perfume even when working alone in my office writing.  And I listen to lovely classical guitar while I work.  While Mr. Medina doesn’t specifically say that perfume and music make me smarter, I feel that I am and think my writing is a bit crisper and insightful that day.   What can you do today to delight your senses….and improve your brain?