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Morning Movement, For the Win!

Man in hair bonnet and bathrobe, drinking coffee with smirk on face, waiting for toast to pop up in toaster. Text on picture says, "Actual footage of me working out."
Robert Blackmon.

I am certain that by now, the above image doesn’t represent any of you! I will admit, I don’t like working out in the morning. The science is out on whether or not it really makes a difference. For me, my mind is firing and I need to do brain work then. I like evenings, when everything is done and I can throw my booty in a happy little circle and not think about email, dishes, and the like. To be sure, I am of the school that believes the workout you will DO and ENJOY is the best one. Hell, it is really the only one you should be doing.

The following three strategies are ways to get you up and going! Have fun trying them all (if you do #1, please comment FOR SURE). The point of this month was to get you some morning motivation so that you can establish routines that support the tasks necessary to crush your goals this year! If you have gotten better about the routine but maybe are struggling to break down the goals, read this.

  1. Awake using the Wim Hof Method. Full Disclosure: I had not heard of this and have NOT tried it. It sounds a little to jolting for me. However, those who do it, rave about it and tout effects like decreased stress and improved performance. Taken from the website, the protocol is as follows: 1. As soon as you wake up, sit in a meditation posture. 2. Do 30 power breaths — inhale through the mouth or nose and exhale through the mouth in short powerful bursts (like blowing up a balloon). 3. Hold your breath until you gasp. 4. Take a deep breath in and hold for 10 seconds. 5. Repeat for three more rounds. 6. Have a cold shower. Meet me at #2.
  2. Rise and Shine 2.0: Years ago, I started following the Fly Lady. One thing she talked about was “Shining your sink” and getting “dressed to the shoes”. Those things have stuck with me and my wake up ritual consists of rising (to greet the day with a quick stretch), smoothing the bed (not making it as it still holds the hubby), and getting dressed and shining that sink while I drink water and make coffee!
  3. Move your body, of course. I know that are some people who will prefer to get their joyful movement in the morning. If that is you, go ‘head with your bad self. If it is not, maybe you can get in the morning magic and get your full on workout later! It does get the blood and thoughts flowing and I do enjoy walk breaks all day!
Man dancing and spinning on a fast moving treadmill conveyor belt.
Man Dancing on a treadmill.

I hope that these posts about starting your day have been useful to you as we start this year! In February–you guessed it!–I will be talking about the basis of love, self love. Cultivating that love is tantamount to you living your best life–now.

Join the free 5 day Self Love Challenge boost your self confidence starting on Monday, February 1st!

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Morning Habits That Rock

Witch grumbles sarcastically about hating gorgeous mornings. She is wearing dark cloak and is in a candlelight dark room.
Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus

Today, I have a quick round-up of 5 doable habits to add to your mornings that will boost your mood–even if you are not a morning person!

  1. Get Enough Sleep. This one needs no explanation and is totally underrated!
  2. Get ready for the day while listening to positive or productive podcasts and TedTalks.
  3. Drink a full glass of water. I do prefer mine warm with lemon, while I make the coffee.
  4. If you can, do a brain dump of all the ideas you have and of things on your mind about the day. When you settle in to work, you can review and make sure critical tasks are being completed.
  5. Do something creative in the morning. Work on your side hustle; write a blog (YASS!) or page or two of your book. Sketch. You get the point. It will give start your day with something you enjoy and you can concentrate on work things!

What go-to habits are built into your morning routine? Do they help you or distract you? Drop a comment and let me know how you launch into your day!

College football fan dressed like astronaut, pretending to blast off, jumps and lands in hedge.
SEC Football Fans


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Bonus: Take Time To Review Your Morning Routine Regularly

Creating routines and habits for your mornings are a great thing. They allow you to do what you need to do to move ahead without having to spend a lot of energy and time thinking about it. That’s a good thing. It’s can also be a dangerous thing when you’ve focusing on the wrong things and are in the habit of doing things that don’t help you reach your goals.
When we get into a routine, it’s hard to stop and ask ourselves if it’s working as well as it could be. Even more importantly, with a routine and a set of habits firmly established, it’s easy to keep going even when the circumstances changes. That’s why it’s important to take some time every now and again to review our routine and habits, including the new morning routine.
Set aside a little time every few weeks, or even months to review your routine. Put it on the calendar and make sure you do it. It won’t take long and it will be a very valuable exercise in the long run. Our lives and circumstances change. Our routines should change with it. Just because something has served us well over the past few weeks and months, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. Which brings up a good point…
When you sit down to review your morning routine (or any routine or habit you’ve been working on for that matter), ask yourself this:
Is it working? Is it working really well?
If it is, simply carry on. If it isn’t, it may be time to make some changes and tweak it until you find something that works well for you at that particular point in time.
Another way to look at it is to find what you love and what you hate about the new morning routine. Change it accordingly until you get as close as possible to loving everything about it and still getting the results you want.
Remember, this morning routine will change and evolve over time as you, your circumstances, and the people in your life change and evolve. Embrace the changes and look at them as an indication that you’re making progress.
Keep tweaking and improving your morning routine and don’t be afraid to mix up your goals for it. Maybe you started out by making exercise a priority first thing in the day. As time goes by and you become more fit and make time for it later in the day, your focus may shift to meditation, or learning a new language. Keep evolving, keep changing, and keep using those precious first few hours of each day to establish some positive change in yourself and those around you.

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The Importance Of Habits And Routines

With your new morning game plan figured out, it’s time to not only put it into action, but make it your new morning routine. Why is this important? Because you want to make sure your new plan happens every morning without fail and turning into a routine is the best way to make sure that happens.
Before something becomes a habit or a routine, it takes a lot of willpower to things happen. That’s energy that you will need for other things throughout your morning and busy rest of the day. Yes, it will take some willpower, mental energy, and drive at first to create the new morning habits, but once they are set, it will become automatic like brushing your teeth before bed.
Once you come up with a good working morning routine, stick to it for a few weeks. That’s the best way to turn it into a strong habit. Before long, it will feel like the new normal and you no longer have to remind yourself to do each thing along the way. It will have become a habit and a routine you’ll follow automatically. It will take a lot less effort and mental pep-talk to get things done… even if your new routine includes a 30 minute run, or getting up at the crack of down to work on your most important business task for an hour.
Watch out for moments when you slip back into your old habits and routines. It’s going to happen. The key is to catch it early and get back on track as quickly as possible. For example, let’s say you’ve been doing well with waking up 30 minutes earlier and going for a run before you start your day. Then one day you oversleep and can’t make it out there. Or the weather turns too bad, you get sick or hurt, or something else pops up that keeps you from going on that run. That’s life. It happens. What’s important is what you decide to do the next morning.
Your most important job whenever life gets in the way of your new morning routine is to get back on track as quickly as possible. Do what you can as soon as you notice the disruption. If the weather is bad, do a quick workout at home, or head to the gym to run on the treadmill. If you overslept, try to squeeze in a few minutes of meditation or doing something to grow your business before you get back to the rest of your day. Most importantly get back on track with your regular morning routine as soon as possible. Get back into your new habits the next morning if at all possible. Actively remind yourself to get back on track for a few days until it routine is firmly back in place. You’ll be glad you did when you start to see the results you’ve been hoping for.

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5 Minutes of Morning Magic

Animated Cinderella turning over in the bed and covering her head up with a pillow.
Cinderella Morning Reaction.

Mornings, am I right?

I only recently became a morning person in the past few years. And not because of some grand, lofty lifestyle overhaul strategy. It was literally the only time my house was quiet enough for me to think.

I started by getting up only 15 minutes earlier than my husband. At the time, he was up at about 6:30am. I didn’t get up until about 7:00am. After the couple of days of adjusting and actually getting a list of tasks together, I realized was how much more I got done in all areas of my life. Over the years, I have worked myself up to a 4:45am alarm (Monday – Friday). Disclaimer: I am in bed by 8:30 on ‘work nights’ and usually get in a 30 minute power nap when schedules may push my bedtime later.

FACT: How we start our morning often sets the tone for our day.

And, more often than not, our busy lives dictate a busy morning!

The Morning Makeover Challenge is about to wrap and if you missed it you can catch the next one here. In the meantime, I challenge you to wake up 5 minutes earlier in the morning and do at least ONE stretch (or yoga pose) and think of ONE thing for which you are grateful. That’s it.

One stretch won’t take you 5 minutes, so you may choose to stretch a little longer, learn a new yoga pose or take a few extra minutes to relax, enjoy your coffee or get ready for your day.

Waking up 5 minutes earlier and doing ONE stretch and ONE gratitude practice is TOTALLY doable. And transformative.

Stretching increases your flexibility and mobility – making movement and daily tasks easier. It also increases body and mind alignment and can also decrease stress.

Studies show that a daily practice of gratitude can lead to increased optimism, satisfaction, enthusiasm, motivation and HAPPINESS.

Consciously choose to think of one thing you are grateful for each day. Honestly, it can be the same thing every day. Just take a moment at the start of your day to be thankful.

Can you wake up 5 minutes earlier for the next 7 days and do ONE stretch and ONE gratitude practice? Leave an emoji or comment if you accept the challenge.

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Come Up With A New Morning Game Plan

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do in the morning, what you don’t want to or need to do, and where to find the extra time needed, it’s time to put it all together in a new morning game plan.
The best place to start is with the new set of tasks that are most important to you. Figure out a preliminary time during which you want to get them accomplished. If your goal is to go for a run in the morning, you may decide to do that first thing before getting a shower and having breakfast. If your goal is to meditate each morning, you may decide it would work best after you’ve had a cup of coffee. If your goal is to find some time for reading or your favorite hobby in the morning, you could carve out some time before everyone else gets up and while you enjoy that first coffee. The same goes for wanting time in the morning to work on your business or learn something new.
Then work the rest of your morning chores around these new plans. It may take some shuffling around and mixing up of your current routine, but with a little creative thinking and a bit of flexibility, I’m sure you can come up with a working plan.
Making over your morning and turning it into a new routine isn’t something that comes natural to most of us. It takes a little while to get into the grove of things. We’ll look at this in a little more detail tomorrow. For right now, my suggestion is that you write your new morning game plan down. It’s easy to forget what you’re planning to do. Writing it down will not only give you a reference to refer back to, but also solidify your new plan in your mind.
Put the note, or notebook where you jotted down your new plan on your night table or somewhere else where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. It will serve as a reminder of what you’re intending to do and do differently in the morning now.
Even though you’ve written your plan down, it’s important to realize it’s not written in stone. The well-laid out plans don’t always work when put into action. Adjust it and make changes as needed until you come up with a new morning game plan that works well for you and the rest of your family. Once you have that it’s time to make it the new routine… something we’ll talk more about tomorrow.

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Finding Time In Your Busy Morning

Mornings are busy and they can be quiet chaotic. If you have a young family and plenty of people to get ready and out the door, you know this first hand. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way, no matter how busy you think you are first thing in the day. Earlier I shared with you how the first few hours in the morning set the tone for the entire rest of the day. Do you want that to be rushed, frantic, and feeling like you’re constantly running and trying to catch up? Or do you want it to be calm, collected, productive, and with a feeling that you’re in control? It’s up to you and it’s all about embracing two simple concepts.
Get Up Early Enough
It’s tempting to hit the snooze button and catch a few more minutes of sleep, isn’t it? It’s even hard to set the alarm early enough that you have plenty of time for everything you want and need to get done. I get it. If you’re not a morning person, moving up the alarm by 30 minutes to carve out a little extra time can be tough. Trust me though, after the first few mornings it’s not nearly as hard as you think and something you’ll quickly get used to.
Getting up early enough and avoiding the snooze button at all costs is the key to an unrushed morning. Here’s the problem with cutting time too short, or worse hitting the snooze button a few times. It gets you behind from the very start. You have to rush to make it out the door in time and any little problem or speed bump along the way turns into a huge problem. Not being able to find the car keys is suddenly a major crisis because it could cause you to be late for work and the kids to be tardy at school. Remember, your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you start it chasing down time and things, that’s likely how you’ll spend the rest of your time.
Getting up early enough on the other hand puts you ahead of the game. You’re in control. You can take care of everything that needs doing in a calm manner and still have time for the important things you want to work on. In short, getting up early enough sets you up for an amazing, productive day.
Restructure Your Routine
Before we wrap this up, spend a little time thinking about your current morning routine and where you’re spending time. Look for things you can change and tweak to find more time for the things you really want to do. For example, if you want an extra 20 minutes in the morning to meditate, look at what you could take care ahead of time, eliminate, or delegate to make that time. If you spend a lot of time getting breakfast for everyone, get in the habit of setting the breakfast table the night before. Get your spouse to get the coffee ready, so all you have to do in the morning is push a button. Teach the kids to make their own breakfast and take the dirty dishes to the sink, rinse them, and put them in the dish washer. Make sure clothes are set out the night before (including yours), and that book bags, purses, briefcases, and car keys have a designated spot and that there where they need to be before you turn in for the night. Small changes like this to your morning routine can make a big difference. I challenge you to come up with a few small tweaks that will save you at least 30 minutes in the morning.

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Define Your Perfect Morning

Here is my question for you this morning. What’s most important to you? What is the one thing you really want to do on a daily basis that would make a big difference, but you just can’t seem to find the time for?
In short, what good habit do you want to cultivate that would make a real impact on your life? Think about this for a moment. It could be in any area of your life from exercise and healthy eating to self-improvement or getting ahead in business or at your job. It could be working on your relationship with your kids, finding time for creative pursuits, or getting in the habit of reading every morning.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to work on, what you want to improve, and what’s important to you, we’ll think about how you can make it part of your morning routine. Sit back and imagine your perfect morning. It isn’t stressed or rushed. Most importantly it’s a day when you have time for everything on your list. Maybe it means having time for a long shower. Maybe it’s going for a run before breakfast. Maybe it’s having a few minutes to connect with your spouse over coffee or maybe it’s carving out an hour first thing in the morning to work on your side-business.
That’s a lot of “maybes” but the key is to start with what’s most important to you and think about how you could fit it into your morning routine. Remember, you’re just dreaming and imagining at this point. We’ll work on figuring out where to find the time to fit it in and how to make it all work out later on. For now I simply want you to paint a vivid picture of what your new morning could look like.
I want you to become very clear on what you want that perfect morning to look like. Imagine it in as much detail as you possibly can. Write it down in a journal or on a piece of paper that you can refer back to as needed. In short, define your perfect morning.
Why is this so important? Because you can’t start to make any meaningful changes until you know what your goals are. You need to know your destination before you can start to pick a route and figure out how you’ll get there. That’s what today’s task is all about. It’s figuring out where you want to get to. Don’t stop until you have it figured out and firmly pictured in your mind.

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Impact of a Morning Routine

I love mornings. Each new day brings new opportunities and it’s a chance to start fresh and do better. How you start your day, or more specifically how you spend those first few morning hours has a big impact on the rest of it. Think of it as setting the tone for your entire day. That’s why making over your morning is so important. It’s about much more than those first few hours.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself. Let’s use the snooze button as an example. You set an early alarm to make sure you have time for exercise, meditation, or simply some much needed “me time”. You have every intention of getting up and doing whatever you’re setting out to do when you set the alarm in the first place. Some mornings – hopefully most mornings – you get up when the alarm chimes and go for that walk, do your meditation exercise, or read a book for twenty minutes. Then there are those days when you just can’t make yourself get up. You hit the snooze button multiple times, or turn the alarm off altogether and go back to sleep.
Think about how the rest of those days went. Did you notice a difference in how you felt? How much did you got done on the mornings when you got up with your first alarm? Were you able to do all the things you set out to do? How did those days compare to the ones when you hit the snooze button over and over again?
If I had to take a guess, I’d say that the mornings when you got up as soon as the alarm went off went a lot smoother. I bet you accomplished what you have planned to do, too. Chances are that sleeping through the snooze button didn’t just affect your morning, but the entire rest of your day. You set the tone for how your day is going to go first thing in the morning. That’s what the old saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed is about. Let’s make sure we get up on the right side and start our day off in a positive and productive way.
Over the course of the next seven days, I want to guide you through the process of making over your morning. As we’ve already established, this is an important tasks and a good thing to work on and pay attention to. Not only will you enjoy your mornings more even if the alarm goes off much earlier than you’d like, it will make the entire rest of your day go much smoother.

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New Year, Halleloo!

It’s a New Year and a New You – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions


Do you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolutions? More than likely, the excitement of starting a New Year wanes away and you find yourself back into your old routines.

Even when you have adequate motivation and the will to change, seeing it through can be damn-near impossible! The trick is to turn your optimism for the New Year into concrete actions. Once you start a routine, it becomes easier to follow through.

Whether you’re making multiple resolutions or wanting to work towards one bigger goal, be sure to pick something that’s achievable within the year’s time frame. And then, break those goals into chunks-or smaller goals that you can tackle in 4-, 8-, or 12 weeks time. I assure you, this is only way to prevent the ‘time horizon’ from getting the best of you.

I outline a few critical actionable steps that you should add to your resolution protocol!

A clipboard with a planner for the year 2021 and shiny stars sprinkled around like confetti.
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Set Achievable and Clear Goals (S.M.A.R.T.)

Strive for making your goals achievable so you don’t set yourself up for future failure. For example, let’s say your goal is to save money. Determine where you stand currently, and then give yourself a goal that can be achieved putting back or cutting about 3-5% of your income a week.

You’ll also benefit from making clear goals. Rather than saying that you want to save, state a specific dollar amount. Then define the “how” as well. Are you going to follow a specific budget? How are you going to cut costs? Are you going to start an account that bears interest?

By now, we are all familiar with SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. This works! With a clear, achievable goal and a set plan of tasks you know you can complete, you virtually guarantee your success! You know exactly what you want and how you’re going to get there. All you need to do now is take action.

Take and Track Action

Taking action is usually where people tend to run into some trouble. It’s easy to get pumped up about an idea, but when it comes down to executing your plan, you might be tempted to fall short which is why smaller, less daunting goals is helpful in avoiding overwhelm and procrastination.

In this situation, you only need to muster up the energy to start. Tell yourself that you’re going to stick to your new plan for one week and then evaluate how it went. On the other hand, if you take everything in all at once, you’ll be less likely to begin in the first place. If it looks overwhelming, just focus on the short term.

Establish Strong Routines

I personally believe this to be key. Rituals or routines can set the stage for success if you develop them when motivation is high. Then you experience lulls in motivation, you will be accustomed to the work part and will be able to power through until you are feeling motivated again. Failing to plan for a lag in motivation is what distracts and derails most people.

For example, in our money saving scenario, paring back spending can be especially tough if you’re not accustomed to budgeting. The early days can leave you without items of convenience and feeling deprived. That doesn’t sound like fun at all! However, those first few days are the worst you’ll endure. You will need to plan for entertainment and expenditures and perhaps prepare meals instead of dining out. After your rituals are established, however, you may find that you are exceeding your savings goal and having a good time in other ways as well.

Reward Yourself

Reward yourself often for your excellent efforts because you deserve it for working hard to change yourself for the better. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year to treat yourself.

Break up your goals into smaller pieces and every time you achieve a milestone, give yourself something that you enjoy. It could be an item you’ve been wanting or maybe a night out on the town.

Rewarding yourself for a job well done motivates you to keep going!

Do It Again!

After your first successful year of bettering yourself through New Year’s resolutions, you can then repeat the process and work on another aspect of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be a perfectly happy and healthy person because of your awareness, perseverance, and hard work!

Join me for the first email challenge of the new year, Establishing Your Morning Routine! It’s free and great way to get a running start on accomplishing your goals!

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Moving Towards Oneness

“Othering” is a term that not only encompasses the many expressions of prejudice on the basis of group identities, but we argue that it provides a clarifying frame that reveals a set of common processes and conditions that propagate group-based inequality and marginality.

https://www.otheringandbelonging.org/the-problem-of-othering/
A photo of a hand of a person of medium brown skin touching the hand of a person of white  skin. Together the hands create a heart shape. The photo conveys the ideal that differences can be overcame to create an accepting, diverse society with all.
A photo of a hand of a person of medium brown skin touching the hand of a person of white skin. Together the hands create a heart shape.

A Complex Challenge

This concept of othering extends beyond mere recognition that we are individuals. Being an unique person means difference. That is not only ok but necessary for a enriching, challenging, and interesting social relationships. It is the expressions of prejudice aspect that is problematic. I am not really here to peel that onion. I merely want to acknowledge that expressions of acceptance and respect of those differences should be the goal of the global society. I am hopeful that we can move towards a society where we are able to care for each other. My work of faith in this regard is compassion for all and a much softened disposition than the days of my more militant youth.

To that end, I would like to invite you to listen to a podcast about Yoga and Removing the Concept of Other, in which, along with two of my colleagues and friends, and I was privileged to be included.

My hope is that the podcast will be a catalyst of reflection and conversation. As I endeavor to continue to move in front and behind the scenes to ensure that all people are able to live a life free to pursue happiness, I look forward to your thoughts, questions, comments, and experiences. Please like and share the podcast which is available on all the major platforms. For your convenience, listen on Spotify here and on iTunes here.

The Socials:

@fiercefitness.atx @innerexploreryoga @dexcellentfitness.

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Gratitude: The Single Most Important Emotion

The one thing that holds people back from having their dream lifestyle and connect with other people in meaningful ways, is, in my opinion, a lack of gratitude.

Ingratitude, its polar opposite, leads all of your blessings down a black hole and you are left in a perpetual state of discontent. And the tell-tale signs are all there because genuine gratitude cannot.be.faked.

This feeling of emptiness is one of the reasons why we strive for more- more friends, more money, more status. Because how can you ever have enough if you don’t appreciate what you have?

Most of us, particularly in the “Western” culture, should be grateful for our lives and what is in them in a way that’s borders being apologetic. We, as animals, adapt. We become accustomed to things too easily. This phenomenon even has a name! Psychologists call this concept ‘hedonic adaptation’. We take our basics and our luxuries for granted (especially those we think are basic!). We take the paved streets, cars, public transportation, food and variety of food–all of it–for granted. We take the company and love of our families for granted.

This hedonic adaptation creates something even more dangerous–the false sense that these things will always be here at our disposal or for our enjoyment.

If you have ever lost something you valued, or worse, a loved one you treasured, then you know the truth in how truly fleeting the things and people that enrich our lives are.

Bring grateful is the anecdote!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson offers a helpful introduction into what practicing gratitude can look like, and I, a reformed ingratiating fool, can attest that while it can feel forced in the beginning, it is like a muscle that builds endurance and ease as it is worked out.

Gratitude is an emotion similar to appreciation, and positive psychology research has found neurological reasons why so many people can benefit from this general practice of expressing thanks for our lives, even in times of challenge and change.

Science Says…

Check out the above link when you a little time to read. There is a growing body of research that is finding ties to mental, emotional, social, and physical health and wellness outcomes when expressing gratitude occurs for the both the person expressing thanks and to the person being appreciated. Endorphins, decreased stress, and increased positivity and happiness to name a few of the recorded benefits. So practice gratitude. Really.

A short list of science-backed benefits are:

  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced blood pressure and inflammation
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Decreased anxiety and depression

Isn’t that cool? In this day and age, all of those are big revenue streams for Big Pharma or expenses for folks. Consider that the power to improve them can be influenced by your and a practice of being grateful! (Please do not stop taking any prescribed medications!)

Positive psychologists have found evidence that practicing gratitude in the midst of grief, troubled times, and traumatic events, decrease pain and increase recovery/coping windows and improves resiliency.

Leslie Says…

What I suspect is that you will see how rich your life is, even in these trying and uncertain times, and you will stop looking at what is missing and began nurturing what you do have.

That is what happened to me. I started to add a few moments to my morning stretch and meditation to think of things I was grateful for in my life. At first, my health, job, and family were those things I mentioned moved on. Then I decided to say one unique them about each of them. Then I found myself driving mindfully and could often think of small details or events that made me smile. I took this with me everywhere I went! I felt better and more positive, even in the face of difficult situations.

I deepened my relationship with y husband and my teenager, my 8 year old seems cuter and less nerve-racking (I assure you-she has not changed AT ALL!) Overall, I feel happier and more optimistic and oddly enough, I sleep better and have keep my workouts sacred (and look forward to them). Funny how it all works out. It started with my sincere effort at being grateful for 2 minutes a day.

Most importantly, I found that practicing gratitude helps develop an abundance mindset and that feeling of contentment brings other things that make you happy into your life! It is the loveliest of cycles! Law of attraction at is finest !

Practicing Gratitude

If you are looking for a way to get started, try the following family-friendly activity. You can start now and to it on Thanksgiving Day, which should be every day. Get you some gratitude NOW!

The Gratitude Jar Activity

The gratitude jar is a stunningly simple exercise that can have profound effects on your well-being and outlook. It only requires a few ingredients: a jar (a box can also work); a ribbon, stickers, glitter, or whatever else you like to decorate the jar; paper and a pen or pencil for writing your gratitude notes; and gratitude!

Step 1: Find a jar or box.

Step 2: Decorate the jar however you wish. You can tie a ribbon around the jar’s neck, put stickers on the sides, use clear glue and glitter to make it sparkle, paint it, keep it simple, or do whatever else you can think of to make it a pleasing sight.

Step 3: This is the most important step, which will be repeated every day. Think of at least three things throughout your day that you are grateful for. It can be something as benign as a coffee at your favorite place, or as grand as the love of your significant other or dear friend. Do this every day, write down what you are grateful for on little slips of paper and fill the jar.

Over time, you will find that you have a jar full of a myriad of reasons to be thankful for what you have and enjoy the life you are living. It also will cultivate a practice of expressing thanks.

If you are ever feeling especially down and need a quick pick-me-up, take a few notes out of the jar to remind yourself of who, and what, is good in your life!

Kindness Challenge for November

Another way to try your hand at gratitude is starting with its sister, kindness. Kindness goes hand in hand with gratitude! At times, being grateful can be tough but you can always be kind–even if just with your self. Try it! People will or won’t appreciate it, but you will feel better and when you do receive thanks, you will grateful that you were able to make someone’s day! Click HERE for the challenge calendar!

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Where is Your Passion?

Eeeek! It is almost National Novel Writing Month! #NaNoWriMo https://nanowrimo.org/

Living a Life that is Passion-Filled and FUN!

What are activities or things that you enjoy that are purely for fun? In this day and age where folks are hustling and monetizing their hobbies, it can be a challenge to simply enjoy something for enjoyment’s sake.

For me, that activity is writing! I have written a romance novel and have started the editing, but I do not like that part, lol. I plan to write the sequel this November during the #NaNoWriMo challenge. So, I would like to challenge you to 30 days of participating in your passion projects or activities! Yay for you!

The Benefits of Passion Projects

There are a few reasons why you should indulge in a passion project or passion activity.

  • Passion projects can help develop character and relationships. As you get involved in your project, you will become more positive and this will run over into all areas of your life.
  • Cultivating passion can help you cultivate success. Time for your passion project is a built in reward system that can encourage to tame time-sinks and become more productive and focused so that you can get to what you love.
  • Passion is a pusher; it is an emotional catalyst that fuels drive and intrinsic motivation. It can sustain you through rough times and dips in progress.
  • It will make you happier. “Happiness is about learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviors that have been empirically proven to fuel greater success and fulfillment,: says leading Positive psychology researcher Dr. Shawn Achor. He explains that even a quick shot of happiness can go a long way. Passion projects should be fun and have a happiness factor for you.
  • Add creativity and broaden the way you express yourself.
  • It is a way to express your talents or to develop them!

I have a friend who loves to write. Not novels, poems. His goal is to write a two poems a day during #NaNoWriMo. You can a children’s book or series. A cartoon. A memoir. Stories from family elders. Or not write at all. But jump in to the challenge to live a little more fully this month!

Passion projects should encourage and motivate you daily! They can add a challenge, but should be fun. After all, this is not a work assignment or school; you are choosing the project, scope, deadlines, timelines, all of it!

You need only decide what you want to get out of the project, what kind of project or activity you are going to participate in, commit, and start on November 1st! See you on other side–happier, no doubt!

Please comment about your passions! Will you do the challenge? Have you joined the #NaNoWriMo challenge? If interested, it is here!

To your increased happiness!

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My Daughter is a Blessing…Plain and Simple

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Technically, they both are. But today, I am writing specifically about the youngest one, Yani.

As October and all of the observances that were shoved into these 31 days draw to an end, I want to talk about the fact (increasingly becoming wide spread) that October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Not to be confused with World Down Syndrome Day (3-21).

Our Yani boo has Down Syndrome. It was an undiagnosed surprise so that is all I can say about that. She was born healthy and then we brought her home. At her one week checkup, her pediatrician said she wanted to have her chromosomes analyzed and I was like, thank goodness. She seemed surprised. I told her I suspected but no one in the hospital said anything but I stayed for three days and I could not figure out why I had needed to–no c-section, all-natural delivery. I did not press the issue because I was resting! No housework, etc. She informed me that the notes from my ob/gyn indicated I stayed due to my severe anemia! The baby had been free to go but my ob/gyn thought I would not stay if she had left, so he did not say anything, just came by to pretend to look in one the baby while checking on me! Smart doctor!

Admittedly, I think I had already worked it all out in my head so the diagnosis was merely a confirmation. After all, this was the second child I had birthed that had down syndrome. My son, who died suddenly at age two years, had broken down all ego or judgements or any need to grieve. I understand all of that intimately. I am frequently questioned about it and will cheerfully answer any questions if you reach out.

People with Down Syndrome have some general characteristics and those are only generalizations. The same amount of variety and individuality abound in them. After all, they are just people. They are stereotyped for being sweet, friendly, gentle, and cognitively delayed to varying degrees. My little girl is all of that. She is also a genius at getting out of trouble unscathed, inciting her sister to fits, has the heaviest hands on a little person if she is hitting you, and is functions in both English and Spanish (although her expressive skills in English are much stronger). She is sturdy and strong and very flexible. She loves dancing but is lazy when it comes to walking.

It was a new experience for my husband, who was not my son’s father. He had not known any one with this chromosomal arrangement and was terrified he mess her up. Fast-forward eight years. She let’s us know daily the things we did right and wrong with her. DAILY.

She is full of spunk and fire (right – although I am not sure how much we had to do with it!) She is loved and she knows it (right). As a result, she is confident and lives free from fear that punishment for writing on the walls or pouring out the soap into toilet (wrong!). Don’t get me wrong; we have tried to correct these displays or missteps, but no method we know of is effective. For real, folks, REACH OUT! She is social and accepted by peers and adults whom she views as extended family (right) and may leave with any one of them (WRONG!) if they meant her harm. She is playful and humorous (right) curses a lot (wrong-but she is contextually accurate and creative). Most importantly, she confirms how much of an blessing she is through teaching us about ourselves. We get daily lessons on forgiveness, why boundaries are important, having fun, the joys of family, what real hugs are like, the uselessness of pride, and unconditional love.

We adore our Yani boo. She is learning and teaching us every day. And of all the fears and doubts, the only one we have is whether or not we deserve her.

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3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Immune System This Winter

What We All Should Know…I hope!

Good Hand Hygiene is Your Best Line of Defense Against Cold and Flu (and COVID-19) and Avoid Getting Sick by Keeping Your Distance

Hopefully, you and your family have mastered these two basics of health. But running a three-way tie behind them are easy and just as important!

Eat Plenty of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

All systems of your body work best when they are properly fed. This includes your immune system. Stick to a mainly whole foods based diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you feel like you might be a little under the weather or suspect that you may have come into contact with someone sick, increasing your intake of Vitamin C may help as well. Eat a few citrus fruits. Broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are other great options.

Avoid eating processed foods. It takes a lot of time and effort to digest them and you don’t want to weigh your body down with extra work when that energy could be used to boost your immune system, keep you from getting sick, or help you get well sooner.

Get Some Exercise

In addition to eating well, get out there and get regular exercise. For best results, work out in the fresh air. Something as simple as a daily quick walk can help you stay well and strengthen your body. It has the added benefit of helping you to de-stress. I don’t have to tell you that you’re more likely to get sick when you are stressed out. Use daily exercise to destress and stay well. It will also help you with the last way to boost your immune system.

Make Time for Sleep

This last tip is easy to skip over, yet it is the most important one for most of us and the one that can give your immune system a great boost. It’s getting enough sleep. Make the time to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Practice good sleep hygiene. Don’t let the word scare you. It means turning off your phone and other screens a few hours before bed. Keep your bedroom calm, quiet, and at a temperature that encourages sleep. It also includes establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine. As an added bonus, you’ll feel more energized for everything else you have to do all day.

We all have times when we could use a little extra boost to our immune system. Cold and flu season are certainly part of that time, or the long winter weeks when we’re stuck inside in close quarters, our hygiene gives way to comfort and we are more likely to catch something. It’s also important anytime you board a plane for holiday travel or when your kids start school. The above are three simple things you can do daily to strengthen your immune system.

Stay tuned! I will share some easy recipes that will boost your immune system and satisfy!

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Goal Challenge Check In

So, How is Going…REALLY?

I am doing great, thanks for asking!

For me, and the folks I coach, I find that weeks 1 and 2 are fueled by sheer excitement and potential! Which is great! Experience has shown that when motivation starts to wane it is discovered that the either 1) the goals are too big and a sense of overwhelm and panic at the time horizon sets in or, 2) the lack of rituals fail to get one over the hump of important/mandatory, but tedious tasks.

Today, let’s tackle the first pitfall before we get there.

One of the biggest issues regarding setting goals is to keep them at a high level. We all want to accomplish things in life. But setting goals that are too general (read BIG) is going to make it difficult to accomplish them. It’s also going to be difficult to measure how you are doing. The best approach is to break big goals into chunks. Give your smaller goals a second look and see if the scope exceeds the 12 week framework. If so, break it down so that each week you are moving the needle. Also, make sure that your goals are not too small and you are spinning your wheels. Just right-sized goals take time and can change based on weekly accomplishments and RITUALS. This is where the 12WY really shines. It helps you with this hard part so much!

Think of the chunks as action items. These actions are measurable units that you put to milestones. You need to set them up in a way that holds you accountable. Otherwise, they won’t get accomplished.

Write your goals and action steps down on paper. Put it in a place where you can view it every single day. It’s okay to record them electronically as well, although some people find it difficult to keep both the paper version and electronic version in sync. It’s personal preference. If you feel you can succeed with just one or the other, that is the way to go.

It’s okay to dream big with your goals but be realistic about accomplishing them. When you break your goals down into action steps and find they are not within your ability or skill set to accomplish within the specified periods, rework them until you find the right mix of actions. Making the goals and actions too difficult will set yourself up for frustration when not being able to accomplish them. Also, a the scoring practice of the 12WY helps you with this other hard part!

For me, I scored a 95% on Goal One, which was great because mid-week I realized one of my smaller goals was too vague to really measure progress. So I clarified it by making it into two smaller defined goals, but rated myself 0. I have four little goals that roll up into the one big goal and the average was 95%. The second goal, which was a weight loss goal of 1 pound a week was 80.25%. I did lose the pound but most likely due to increased workout intensity and length. The late night dinners got a 4 got me out of the 7 days. I am still in it to win it!

We will be back next week and I will share my tracking system and talk about rituals as an effective tool for building habits and persevering when motivation dips, which it will!

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Flex Your Productivity Muscle

End Procrastination with the October Goal Challenge

We’re all guilty of doing it, more often than we’d like to admit. Procrastination may not be just about turning in your work project at the last minute. It can be putting off important life decisions like whether or not you should ask your boss for that raise he promised last month, or whether you should join a gym, leave your boyfriend, have a baby, etc. Choices are endless, therefore, the opportunities for procrastination are endless, too. The up side? The opportunities to choose action are endless as well so let’s get to the tips to help you develop action-based muscle so you can progress in the accomplishment of your goals!

1. Turn Redundant, Non-Urgent Tasks into Habits

We all have enough willpower to get about 3 or 4 tasks done each day. Habits use other parts of our brain rather than the prefrontal cortex which is associated with rational thinking. So, when you train yourself to do something out of habit, rather than look at it as a mundane task, you think about it less which means you’re using less willpower and you won’t fall into the procrastination rut.

Things like brushing your teeth or making your bed have all become daily habits which you automatically perform without even considering putting them off. Why not turn healthy eating, daily exercise, or turning in reports ahead of time into daily habits as well?

After that it becomes easier, but you still have to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Procrastination is all about taking that dreaded first step. So why not ease into it with the knowledge that after a certain amount of time, or once I’ve finished X, I can watch videos on YouTube or go get a cup of coffee. Make it pleasant for yourself because the reward is the part that the brain assimilates to gauge your enjoyment level. If you’re happy, then your brain slowly turns this task into a habit which you look forward to, instead of something you dread on a daily basis.

2. Break work tasks into chunks.

Instead of cleaning out the entire garage, do the right side first, take a break, then do the left side, take a break, then finish off the rest. At work, big tasks may seem daunting when you look at them as a whole. The answer? Break it down into smaller tasks. Make an outline of the entire project, and then divide it up into smaller tasks.

Working in 30-minute increments also helps break down tasks into smaller chunks which are manageable and not so intimidating. After the 30 minutes, take a break and assess your work. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished will give you that boost of confidence you need to keep at it.

3. Remove distractions.

Checking your email every 5 minutes isn’t doing you any good. So, once you’ve committed to doing the job, limit distractions by putting your away. You can find apps that help you stay on track, but some will say that’s completely missing the point.

The important thing is that you set up a certain time for checking emails or your social media, and once you’ve started your task, you avoid the urge to take a sneak peak.

Another serious distraction is multi-tasking. Even though it may seem that you’re being productive, the truth is it’s a complete waste of time and energy. Think about it, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to completely focus on one task and give it 100%, and then you bring in another task which means you decrease your focus level by half, bring in a third task and the focus drops even lower. So even though you’re working more, your end results will be below average.

4. Work during your peak hours.

We all have certain times during the day when we’re most alert. Some of us are morning people, some are night owls, and some have more energy during the afternoon hours. Find out what your peak hours are and tackle your most difficult tasks then. You’ll be more of a powerhouse then with your brain working at its maximum capacity.

We all have the ability and power to make positive incremental steps–build those daily habits! After all, Coaching Legend Vince Lombardi once said “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Get into gear this week with the October Goal Challenge!

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Make the Plan, Plan to Work

Hey, there! Is your vision clarified? Milestones identified? Great! But, if not, start here. If so, then let’s get into firming up the plan and the plan of attack!

Bye-Bye, Comfort Zone

In digesting and implementing the 12 Week Year by Moran and Lennington, I found the next steps to be the hardest to do but they made the biggest difference. They were a challenge for me as they spoke directly to my comfort zone. I had done relatively OK in my life with minimal effort. I had not grown because when I set a goal, especially an annual goal (New Year’s Resolutions ring a bell?), I stalled due to lack of urgency and the mindset that there was always enough time to “get it together”. When the time horizon was upon me, and I could accomplish what I set out to do, then I did. When it was not going to happen without some type of discomfort, it didn’t. And subconsciously, I made the requisite excuses (to myself in 99% of the occurrences) and vowed to do better. But make no mistake. There was no Vanessa Williams singing to me. It was clear that my comfort zone was too small to accommodate my desired progress. We humans do not generally like discomfort. But once I decided to build that muscle, some real grit, things shifted. Hopefully, you are comfortable with accountability; this method for goal setting accomplishment forces you to embrace it. And you will like it.

Step 3: Defining Goal Metrics and Controlling Time

Note: The book discusses these concepts as tactics and process control.

Picking up where we left off, we have our lofty vision clarified and some milestone goals that serve as stepping stones. For me, I am going to tackle two goals, to build my email marketing list and to lose a 12 pounds (1 pound per week). Looking at the first goal, it needs some refinement. Goals need to be SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For the 12WY, they should also be positively stated and assigned to some one for accountability (personal goals are ALL on you. If you have a professional goal or want to apply this methodology at work, then teammates would be assigned a specific sets of tasks.)

So, to correct my goal of building my list, it will now read: Grow subscriber list from 17 to 75 in the period beginning October 5 and ending Sunday, December 27th. For the weight loss goal: Lose 12 pounds during the next twelve weeks. Both are written in action-oriented verbiage, are specific, measurable, attainable (although not comfortably but I won’t DIE), realistic, and time-bound. Let’s GOOOOOO!

Time Control

This is where we develop the time management and process control piece. 12WY teaches three time blocking strategies and I use them in the way described! 1) Strategic, or deep work, blocks for at least two or three hours daily. Covid-19 has changed my work so much that I have a one two hour block there and one 90 minute at home. This is the nose-to-the-grindstone, only interrupt me if I am on fire, concentrated highly-productive work block; 2) the buffer block, where you deal specifically with flow interrupters like, emails, calls, sticky notes, and little fires that pop up. I have one of these 60 minute blocks at my job, and one 30 minute one at home as I work on my business. I typically sit to do light tasks as my family waits until then to interrupt. Then I give them the block and get the little to bed and then have my deep work block late; and 3) the breakout block, where you step completely away from all work. HA! This is the family time block where I help with school work, dance with the little, cook and workout! My husband works long hours so and the big girl is a ghost 19 years old, so it is usually me and the little and this works for us.

Within the blocks, you have your tactics or daily tasks and activities that prioritize and drive the movement of the goals. So for my weight loss goal, my tactics could be a) weekly weigh in, b) eating a salad lunch daily to decrease calorie intake, c) 3 cardio and 2 strength workouts weekly. The premise of the 12WY is that if I do my tactics at a rate of 85% or better, I can reach my goal by the end of my 12 week period. For the list-building goal, tactics could be a) create opt-in content to gather emails, b) create and sell ads for the opt-in landing page or website , c) create email sequence to welcome and nurture those new subscribers, and d) track engagement analytics.

Here are SEVEN free resources that you can use to help you track progress. I am using only two and they are enough. I am using the Asian Efficiency Scorecard and the Weekly Road Map! The last post will talk about taking score and the weekly accountability meeting! And, then we are ready for the 5th and a full launch! If want to know what you can do next may I suggest, calendarizing your time blocks and checking out the weekly roadmap. It has proven to be instrumental in moving me in the right direction with the least discomfort!

For both goals, I know what I will be doing on a weekly basis to reach the goal. Those deep work blocks could be used for development of the opt-in content, or for a workout session. It is tougher to get the time for personal goals but not impossible. Do you binge Netflix? Are all the teams your teams and you can’t miss a game? What comfort would you have to give up to move closer to your vision? Like, Follow, Comment!

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It’s Fall, Y’all! – Goal Challenge!

The Autumn Equinox debuted on September 22 at 10:21 a.m. ushering in the official beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. One of two days with 12 hours daylight and dark, National Geographic tells us that even split in the day is linked to the reason that the Earth has different seasons and cycles of weather. I really enjoy learning about the lore and actual influences of nature’s cycles in our lives and energies. As I have gotten older, I try to rely more on the wisdoms that have stood the tests of time and Mother Nature reigns supreme.

Whether you prefer the Southern sun all year round, or find solace in the huge snow drifts of Wyoming or Vermont, the seasons do change. I’m one who has learned to find peace in the changing of the seasons. In Texas, I grow tired of triple-digit heat ALL DAY, with air that has a palpable weight. Autumn brings crisp air (AIR!) and a rejuvenates my mind and body. The transitions and energies of each season is unique and special, but to be clear, Fall is my favorite season–hands down.

As creatures of nature, not just habit, we can tap into both the subtle and striking energy changes brought on by all of nature’s cycles, particularly at the onset of Fall. The second half, moving closer to winter has it own energy!

With fall, comes a time where usually parents are sending kids back to school and the comfortable routines resume. It is a time that can bring energy to tackle projects before winter sets in and can be a natural catalyst to accomplishment. I am going with this energy full throttle this year! Come along!

The Challenge!

If you have not read the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, please do! He says a lot but my take-aways and I use it are simply:

“the number-one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great, to achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans, is your comfort.”

Brian Moran

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau”

Brian Moran

So, I have been plagued with being busy but stagnant and I wanted to change it. A deeper look at why lead me to the realization that it was simply comfortable made me angry with myself for wasting the one resource I could ever get back-time. That, naturally, highlighted the first quote for me and I made the conscious decision to move out of my comfort zone by expanding it to a new level, a level that included productivity over busyness.

The book is awesome, lots of resources abound on the web and on the author’s website. This is not a sponsored post nor am I an affiliate so moving on. READ: I will be talking about my take and how I use it to increase my personal and professional productivity only.

In talking about this book to friends who have not read it (but BOTH read my blog!), I decided to try my hand at breaking it down for them.

Steps 1 and 2: Clarify Your Vision and Goal Setting (Milestone)

This week our task will be two-fold: 1) to clarify our visions for the next three to five years. The uncertainty of life (i.e. PANDEMIC) has undoubtedly got you thinking about what you want from life. This week, write those visions in specific terms like, “I want to scale my business to $10k monthly” or more intentionally aspirational like, “I want to live comfortably enough to not worry about income and also give back”.

Then 2) chose only one milestone goal that will take about 12 weeks to complete. This was by far the hardest part to get the hang of. Babies have a vision of walking. You can see it in their eyes as the stare at your expensive or irreplaceable items on tabletops and shelves. Being on two feet is where the action is. But, alas. First, they have to sit, then crawl, then stand. These are milestone goals that are necessary to accomplish before they are able to actualize their vision. Identify your milestones to your vision. We are going to tackle the first one in this 12 week year.

For me, my vision is to replace my work-for-somebody else with income from my online coaching business (which I launched about three months go. Short story long–not a clear plan, spinning wheels, ready to progress). Milestone goals include creating a suite of courses, creating digital content for residual sales, build email marketing list, monetizing my Youtube channel, and recreating the process for another person. Whew…chile. The only goal I can actually accomplish is to build my list. The other goals all have some other milestone goals within them. Building my list can be accomplished with some weekly tasks and metrics for success. And the great thing is, doing it will help the other goals. For giggles, I am going to tackle a second goal. I would like to lose a pound a week for 12 weeks. Next time (two days), I am going to talk about good goals and we will set the weekly tactics. Then we will be ready to start our 12 week year on October 5th!

Are you feeling frisky this fall? What would you like to accomplish this quarter?

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Love in the Time of Corona

For me, watching coupling trends or items of the like are of interest to me. I mean, real trends, not gossip. For example, China reported a record-high number for divorce filings in March, after their nation exited lockdown. This was timely and interesting to me as I found the report just as we entered sheltering-in-place protocols in Texas. I have always held the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as a universal truth, particularly given my own personalities and needs for time alone. For me, this applies to the kids, too! Albeit, in smaller amounts or time increments. So, I have held the opposite to be true as well. Too much time results in somebody getting on someone else’s nerves, and the pandemic protocols begged the questions: Why? Can I prevent reaching the breaking the point? Will I still want to after the smoke has cleared?

What is it about closeness, and specifically lots of time spent together in close quarters, that is so damn hard. I started to look for answers before the proverbial shoe dropped so I could arm myself. My mom is widow, so this was one reason I did ask her. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who is older and married. He and his wife have been married for 50 years and are both retired. He takes a dance class with me. He does this without his wife, who is really a lovely person. I reached out via facebook and he responded enthusiastically.

Basically, he said when it is just the two of you, you hyper-focus on the things you don’t like about a person. The trick is to tick off the things you do like as well. Make it a mental exercise. Also, you have got to do something that is yours. For us, we both love the Y. She swims while I dance. We have mutual friends there but may not see them together all of the time.

Ahh! I felt like I could help keep the scales balanced. Any time a light was cast on a what I considered to be a personality flaw, I would say, “but he is/also does _____”. No problem, right?

When I tell you the scales were broke, busted, and I was disgusted in a matter of days, please know I mean it. Things like the way he slept or breathed while he slept had really started to be all I could focus on. Like, how is he even sleep already? But about 10 days in, I realized that I was the only one who was feeling like this. Why? My husband got to leave the house. His business is essential and he got to leave the house-daily. While I was inside with an invisible teenager (except when the meals were ready) and a super-attached primary school child with diverse needs (hint all of her needs required physical contact at all times with –in her mind).

So, before I filed for divorce, I reached out to the teenager and told her she needed to step up and entertain her sis more so I can have some alone time so I do not commit homicide. I hinted that I might start with her. This special time , which I have come to call Quarantine Squared, is a little quarantine within the bigger overall quarantine, and it made huge difference. Everyone in our family has called a Q2 time-out. The concept was then explained to the husband and I told him where I needed him to step, too.

Immediately, some pressure was released. In addition, we both tried to find some ways to do couple things. The following are things that you can try, even now, as many are still living pretty restricted lives, as we are.

  • Talk about what we miss from our former lives and how it makes us feel. Restricted movement patterns/freedom, loss in finances, or even loved ones to this illness are all things that may need a compassionate ear. This alone helped us a lot. As racial inequities have been highlighted and exacerbated (especially in my day job) talking about it really helped!
  • Relive fond memories and day-dream about when this is over…
  • Enlisting a friend to be a sounding board for the usually harmless vetting that needs to happen at times. I know I have a married friend and we serve on each other’s personal board of directors in this capacity. We don’t belittle the spouse or divulge personal or sensitive details. It is just girl talk about if I find one more unmatched sock… NOTE: Take care if this person is family! Will vetting change their view of your spouse if you stay together?
  • Use the time together to get to know each other better. Hands down, this was my favorite thing. We have been married ten years and I have learned quite a bit about him during this time. Little things about his family, pre-us memories, small things, big things. It certainly explained some things and I ended up with an even deeper connection and appreciation for him and his perspective on things. I also taught him a thing or two about me! LOL!
  • If these don’t help, please don’t hesitate to try teletherapy. Sadly, I have witnessed some marriages end during this time, and likely there were pre-existing issues or resentments. Either way, the help of a professional can help give you the tools to resolve them or at least get to a healthy place emotionally so that there is no baggage in a new relationship going forward.

Every relationship a person had was likely tested in a variety of ways during the sheltering in place. For me and my husband, we are no longer in the strictest phases and have survived not just in tact, but better off, relationship-wise. It was not a breeze. Nerves were stepped stomped breakdanced on. But the single most important thing I learned was a true gem I gleaned from an article I read. In a marriage, or partnership, you must play to each other’s strengths. Me whining about doing more housework or juggling the little’s school and therapy demands is not likely going to change. But I am also not going to lug 100 lbs. back and forth as we move boxes for my mom (I could but it is infinitely easier for my husband), worry about all the vehicles, security and other things that have fallen into his realm of duties. These delineations are not all based on conformity to stereotypical gender roles either. They are where our strengths lie. He is physically stronger. He carries the heavy stuff. He is a carpenter and builds homes. He fixes stuff. I am a former elementary educator. I do the school stuff. We promised each other that we would be a helper and partner to the other. Sometimes, it is not equal, but it is equitable. I do the things that help him do the things he is good at and vice versa. He does this unwaveringly and without complaint. I learned that this is my biggest struggle and I have a new perspective on our partnership. And, things have never been better.

What are ways that you relationships have or are weathering the storm of the pandemic? Please drop a tip, comment, or question!

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Healthy Snacks for Thriving Students

Whether your kids are going back to school this fall or taking virtual classes at home, one thing that won’t change is their endless need for after school snacks. Parents, like me, have been fighting a variety of battles of wills during the sheltering at home. Many I have talked to have admitted that nutrition and food choice battles were some of the ones most frequently dodged or exchanged for a little ease and peace and quiet.

This ferocity of the battle can be amped if there are other factors, like not great habits by adults or household influencers, or like in the case of the Little one, diverse abilities that can affect sensory processing or sheer willpower. My girl, as I have said, has Trisomy 21 and that girl is stubborn. I have had not had to “Mommy Dearest” her, but I have learned the hard way that I have not set a great example and while I have cleaned up my act to the tune of 25 pounds lost since April, she is not as easily influenced by my choices. It has been tough and often she repeats her desire for chicken “luggets”, “fench fies”, and soda for HOURS. No exaggeration. Eventually, she takes the food I offer out of sheer hunger. Often, I have to feed her a few bites to get her to try it. Almost at a 100% rate, she will eat what was handed to her, report she liked it, and we do battle again the next meal. It does not carry over, at least not yet.

I have basically tried to fix her dinner meals. If I can get some consistency here, I plan to tackle lunches as she is at work with me right now for virtual school. She will go back in two weeks (GAH! PLEASE!) and then I will gladly leave it to school lunches and peer pressure. She had really started to eat better at the beginning of the year and then WHAMMO! The pandemic brought a lot of her progress to a sudden halt.

As adults have put on a few pounds during this time, it is time to tighten up for ourselves and for kids. After all, they do as they SEE and not what you SAY. Keeping this in mind as well as the fact that the parents control supply lines, you can help your child get back or track or start to develop the kind of eating habits that well serves them well throughout their lives.

For me, my girl, who is a grazer by nature, is content to eat the same snacks. She likes fruit sauces (I make them), and smoothies (I make these too!) and baked veggie chips, yogurt, some fruits. I try to her snacks pretty unprocessed but am having no luck shifting items from the snack list to meals. So, we are all, in this together!

So how do you get your children to eat healthy snacks?

Studies show that children need to be offered a new food anywhere from 10 to 15 times before they will readily eat it – and enjoy it.

That means that it may take awhile!

But consistently offering healthy snacks, fruit, vegetables, and whole foods will pay off.

Instead of allowing your kids to choose their own snack from the pantry, plan to set out the healthy snack that you want them to eat each day after school.

Whether that means putting berries in a bowl, slicing an apple or celery sticks with a side of peanut butter, or preparing a healthy snack – put the snack on the counter in the same place each day.

If your child doesn’t want the healthy snack, that’s okay. He or she will survive without a snack.

Eventually (maybe it will take 10 – 15 times!!!), after understanding that the presented snack is consistently the only option, he or she will most likely come around and start munching!

Here are 5 easy snack ideas that kids can help prepare as well as enjoy!

  1. Baked Sweet Potato Crisps- slice (mandolin or spiralizer), season, and bake!
  2. Yogurt Parfaits – provide fruit, granola without added sugars (or make your own), and yogurt. Kids can do their own layers–may not be pretty but it may help the kids try their own creations.
  3. Humus Dip with dippers – Cutting the tahini is an easy way to lighten up humus, which is really just pureed beans. You can experiment with chickpeas, black beans, edamame and a variety of seasonings, add veggies or crackers and BOOM!
  4. Ants on a log – A Classic! Cream cheese, peanut butter, and raisins or any other dried fruit can be a fun way to tweak this classic to your child’s tastes.
  5. Peanut Butter Fruit Dip – a little peanut butter mixed with Greek yogurt can be used as a dip for fruits or even veggie or crackers! Lots of possibilities

If you have favorite healthy snacks that your kids love or tips and tricks to help encourage to try new foods, please drop a comment!

Featured

It’s Hard Out Here – Pimping or Not (Part 2)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Let’s resume our conversation.

Last time, I used an all-too-common example, a lost job. A lost job, no matter the why, is an opportunity for new enterprises — a new business, a trip, time off to spend with family and friends, continued education, and more. Training our minds to look at adverse or undesired situations in this way is the trick.

Well, here comes a bit of bad news–I cannot tell you how to do for you. Only you should train your brain. This makes sense. Think of how folks refer to cults and organizations, or even relationships that seem to rely on a sort of brainwashing to control the other person. No one says, “Sign me up for that. I do not want to be in control of my own mind”. This is really just a scenario where one person forfeits their power, for a plethora of reasons, and the power person then trains their brain for them, usually to their benefit. Pavlov’s Dog, plain and simple.

Difficult situations are going to happen despite intentions, preparations, or purity of heart. Knowing this is inevitable, we can be confident that on large and small scales, we will have ample opportunity to practice our brain training.

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it

Margaret Thatcher

When Disaster Strikes


It is healthy, and quite necessary, to grieve the loss or change that feels like loss. But it’s also important to take responsibility for every stage of our lives and take a proactive approach to every situation. Only then, can we find meaning in our lives and minimize uncertainty. Taking the responsibility with acknowledgement is where we hold on to the power to choose our next steps.


Luckily, the hard task of introspection is not the only way to find meaning in difficult times.
When hardships come, it’s easy to over-think the situation. However, focusing at least part of your time to giving to others helps putting life in perspective.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth

Muhammad Ali


When you give away your time and energy to help others, you create a connection with others. Life is no longer something that happens to you. Instead, it becomes a network, which you can influence in a positive way. When disasters strike, it is very easy to get wrapped up in fixing whatever you need to fix. When we hyper-focus on our selves, we forget about the connectivity we have with others. Service brings perspective.


Finally, difficulties are part of life. Trying to avoid them is not only futile, but it also prevents you from focusing your energy in purposeful, selfless work when appropriate. Therefore, if difficulties cannot be avoided, you should face them with patience and compassion to yourself and others, including strangers.


Every situation leaves a mark on you. That means something. It means you’re growing, building your own path of self-acceptance and compassion. You have the power to take control of your life by reflecting non-judgmentally, accepting each situation as an opportunity, and working with and for others.

Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others

Booker T. Washington

Determining What You Should Be Doing Is Crucial

Yesterday we talked about finding the time in your busy morning to do the things that are important to you. Today I want you to think about what you should and what you shouldn’t be doing in those first few hours of the day. That’s an important idea to ponder. So often we get stuck in a rut or a routine and do things because that’s what we’ve always done. We do it without really thinking about whether or not it’s the best use of our time.
It’s Not About Cramming More Things Into Less Time
Making over your morning isn’t about figuring out how to cram more tasks into fewer hours. When you read books and articles on productivity and time management, that’s often the main message and gist of it. While it can help in the short term, it isn’t a good long-term strategy for meaningful change. Very soon you’ll hit the limit of how much faster and how much more efficient you can get.
Shift your thinking and don’t try to add to what you do in the morning. If you want 15 minutes for bible study, meditation, or exercise, don’t just think about getting up 15 minutes earlier, or shaving 15 minutes off your morning routine by showering faster, getting dressed in record time, and rushing through breakfast. In other words, don’t add to your already lengthy list of things that need to get done. You’ll only feel more rushed and stressed if you do.
It’s About Making Smart Choices About Using Your Time
Instead, what you should be thinking about is the best use of your time in the morning. Compare your perfect morning with your current morning routine. What aren’t you doing on your ideal morning? If you can start by cutting things out, finding time to do what’s important to you becomes much easier.
There are two great ways to find things you can stop doing. The first is to look for busy work. This is something you do out of habit that doesn’t necessarily need doing every day. Maybe it’s checking your email first thing in the morning or playing around on Facebook for half an hour while you drink your coffee. If that’s how you choose to spend your time, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re doing it out of habit it may be time to rethink it.
The second way to quickly earn back time is to see if you’re doing things or others that they can do themselves. Kids are the perfect example. We start out fixing their breakfast, making their lunch, cleaning up after them, picking out their clothes, and making sure their backpack is packed and ready to do. When they are very small, we have to do these things, but all too often we continue to do them long after they’re capable of doing things on their own. The same goes for things we do for our spouse. Maybe there was a time when you had less to do in the morning and it made sense to take on the majority of morning chores. Did things change and if so, is it time to lighten your load and get help from your partner? A few small changes may be all it takes to make the time in your busy morning for what’s important to you.