Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upside Down

The trees just turning to fluff look pretty remarkable with your head between your legs.  I always end my work out with a few silly, outdoor yoga poses by the kids' swing set. In all sorts of weather.  Don't care what the neighbors think.  I love going from the pounding of feet, looking for all the signs of change in that same little patch of turf - the rush of blood and breath - to stillness, then seeing the world upside down. Thoughts bouncing all over just skid to a stop while I'm  holding a pose.  It doesn't work every time, but the meditation of the walk wakes up my noticing reflex or something.  So then I'm looking up at the clouds or down at the grass or through my legs at the topsy turvey trees and field - and actually really see them.  Magic.

By the skin of my teeth I squeeze in my morning workout and make it to my first Thursday 8:30 or 9:15 appointment.  I'm usually pulling into the parking lot with the client's car already parked and waiting - have to beg patience while I rush to open the door, turn on the lights, etc.  But walking round and round the muddy, lumpy circuit of mowed grass at the edge of our property, through the slog with my smelly pups playing doggie motocross, soaking my tennis shoes and then being really still is soooo worth the last minute dash to work.  Hoping you turn things upside down a little, too.  XOXO

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It stopped raining for a minute yesterday evening, just at the perfect gloaming moment.  Sun was lighting up big white clouds and the horizon had piles and piles of blue and purple clouds.  My client was leaving the office - and she has had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad set of circumstances to deal with of late.  I was behind the little rescheduling window and she was lingering in the door way.  Then she looked over at me and said, "Come here."  So I did.  She just pointed up and we appreciated it together.  Gorgeous.  That was a moment, right there.

So, technically speaking, in blogging days, we've passed the 21 days in a row for journaling about moments like that one.  If you have been faithful with the commitment to create a new habit of daily gratitude, you're off the hook - if you want to be.  I personally am remaining firmly on that hook and plan to stay on it.  According to my hero, Dr. Martin Seligman, the equivalent of Alder's red cloaked super chipmunk, lots of things contribute to thriving that are outside our control and one big thing is within our control .  Circumstances and genetics: things like age, stinky dog you-know-what, jellyfish blooms, intelligence, the foolish cult of unearned "self esteem" we've institutionalized in the last couple of decades, income bracket, climate, etc. all affect our ability to create and thrive.  But we have the one thing completely within our control that can always tip the scale in our direction.  The story we tell ourselves about what something means.  Attitude.  That was a horribly inadequate condensation of  Dr. Seligman's life work.  Read his latest writings to get the straight up details, and there will be more of my take on it later. But for now, concentrating on my attitude of gratitude/amazement/mischief;  my stories I tell myself and my intention to be of service (an instrument of peace).  And you?  XOXOXOXO

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not boring

Some days are like that, but Oh. My. Gosh.  We've all had worse evenings.  That's one good thing.  Right?  Oh,  another good thing.  I stuck to my diet.  And it was quite the "kaprise".  Got home after a 12 hour day to practice my gag reflex for what seemed like eternity. My whole house smelled like dog you-know-what.  Lucy is a BIG dog. They were in their crate for 9 hours, which I fully didn't intend, because I forgot Dan was traveling yesterday.  I followed their trail down the stairs and out the front door with bleach and a scrub brush.  Then I put in two calls, Dan and a son-in-law, to get directions for how to turn the water on to the outside hose.  Don't even want to talk about having to drag the hose over from the garage before I could wash their feet enough to let them back into the basement for a scrub down.  And you don't ever want to know what it takes to get such soiled bedding and that tray on the bottom outta the crate.   Amazing.  Utterly amazing.

So, bored yet?  Because Dan's day was equally fun.  He's windsurfing on his off time.  I knew he'd beat himself to a pulp - he's not enjoying any sport unless he gets a little bloody.  But "kaprise", different kind of pulp experience.  There was apparently a bloom of jelly fish in the bay down where he's surfing.  We talked while he was on his way to the grocery to buy vinegar - guess it takes out the sting.  And makes you smell like a salad.  One of the goobers wrapped itself around his thigh down to his knee.  So, since he didn't take his wet suit along (the water's 80 degrees), he went to the sporting goods store to buy some protection for tomorrow.  Ended up with women's lycra tights.  I don't even want to think about it.  Just don't think about it.  Didn't I say I wake up in a new world every single day? One never has to be bored. XOXO

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oxytocin junkie

We're almost to the magic 21 days - if you didn't skip a day yet.  If you did, try to get back on the 21 days in a row plan.  Even when things are tough,  gratitude and friendly self talk and breathing for relaxation are good things that work at least double duty.  I'm about to get serious again and talk more about other tools for the 'how to thrive' toolbox.  More about how to relax, be assertive, organized, free from past hurt and stuff like that.  Starting this week sometime.  Today I'm too soaked through with oxytocin from my house full of lamb and apple tarts and chaos and funny babies yesterday.  Dwelling a little on good memories is taking up a lot of space for in my brain and heart and gut.  Did you know that oxytocin is the neurochemical you get from loving?  It can be romance, baby smiles like Oliver's (7 months old now) with the only two teeth he has on the bottom sticking out, a good long talk with a dear friend, visiting puppies at the pet store, volunteering.  We have lots of neurotransmitters - in our heart and gut, too - not just our brain.  It's some powerful stuff that oxytocin.  Makes you believe in magic.  I get myself regular doses any way possible and dwell on memories after, because they work almost as well. Oxytocin junkie. That's me.

So, closing today with something I have on the cork board behind my computer because I love it so much:

Peace.  It doesn't mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Wishing you lots of oxytocin soaked memories of the weekend, many more today and calm in your heart.  XOXO

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Once a week Alder and Fia sleep over at Abuela and Grandpa's house.   The two babies and I sleep in one big bed and grandpa has to sleep alone.  When they wake up, newly 2 year old Fia starts talking - something about me being her sweetie this morning and Alder carrying her up to the ceiling, where she flew around like a fairie.  The stories are all connected by "and then", so they never really end.  Alder joins in a bit more slowly, but once he's fully awake, he starts talking too, like I can understand them both at once.  This morning he said something about a dream with fairies in it, too. The fairies wanted to live in his hair but he was too tall and they couldn't get up there because they didn't have wings and couldn't jump high enough.  So he had to lift them up very carefully.

My favorite part of Saturdays is whatever it is they say when we first wake up.  Last week, Fia told me she had a nice "kaprise" for me.  Alder told me that morning fairies are what make red tulips.  Night fairies make daffodils. He's such a little poet.  He said "These words stay in my hands and the words are in my whole body". Last weekend we decided we shall all be superheroes someday.  Alder will be a red flying chipmunk.  Fia will be a purple butterfly named super Fia.  Grandpa will be a blue jay with a wonderful crest on his head as part of the costume.  I will be an orange squirrel.  Of course. We make quite a weekend team since they moved here from Olympia last December with their parents, whom we also love but don't have as many interesting words.  It's only been a few months but it feels so normal and correct.  Seeing them at least once a week instead of every few months.... What can I say?  I'm grateful.  I notice.  Hope you have a lovely holiday full of gratitude and noticing.  XOXO

Friday, April 22, 2011


"Good morning, my sweet gu-rul.  How ya doin?  Goooood?"  Miss Fia's two year old morning greeting to her momma  says lots about her world, doesn't it?  Loving, safe, secure, friendly little place, our Fia's world.  Right now she has a cut on her knee that she calls her "chop".  She'll show you first thing.  She's pretty amazed by it.  She's so very lucky to have parents who create a world like that for her, allowing her room to grow into her feisty little self without fear, surrounded by love.  It's a lot easier to make that kind of world for your children when you grow up in it.  But it's never too late to start having a good childhood, to start feeling amazed by everything.

Really.  Think about it - waking up, a chop on your knee, a morning in spring, a smelly dog greeting, grass, stink bugs, shoes - everything is pretty amazing about being human.  Hard for me not to have some spiritual sense that there is a design to it all.  I wasn't going to talk about this part until we got done with mind/body discussions, but since it's a religious holiday, I decided to just philosophize about a couple of my biases. So far, what I've figured out is that being human is a short, wild, fabulous ride.  I genuinely believe we are before we were born and that we will be after. Also that while we're being human, random things happen all the time for no apparent reason.  But the marvelous thing is, we also do get to create in this phase of existence.  Our thoughts, our choices, our energy, our bodies - we create.  If you sow a patch of pumpkins, you'll get a few random weeds, but mostly, you'll get a crop of pumpkins.  Some people are actually surprised by that.  Makes me laugh.

So, I have observed that thinking and behaving and choosing "gooooood" is  likely to create good.  Other than that, it's a mystery and I am more than willing to let that be.  My bias is that one cannot come to a healthy spiritual self via fear or dogma, brow beating or meanness.  Mostly it comes from being still, using ritual like prayer or meditation and reverent, open, grateful observation.  That stuff gives me deep joy.  Right now.  Maybe it'll guide the next phase of existence when I'm done being human, if there is a next phase.  If not, I don't care over much. Makes me happy to be deluded in this manner, and as the Chef sings in The Little Mermaid, "Don't hurt cause you're dead..."  Hope you have a lovely holiday!  XOXOXO

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I like fashion.  Getting dolled up is fun.  I even put on a little mascara and perfume when I go outside to garden in my own yard.  For me.  I'm well beyond looking good in a bathing suit, but being semi-geriatrically put together makes me happy.  So when matching became unfashionable, I was a hot mess, let me tell you.  That was one of my rules.  Sheesh.  I remember the start of my fashion woes when my mom and Aunt Sara told me not to buy saddle shoes.  I swore saddle shoes would never go out of style.  We were all right about that.

Sarah, my oldest, made me a color wheel while she was away at college to help me understand what went together and what didn't.  It's still in my closet.  Jess and Allie are so used to my befuddlement that,  when we're getting dressed under the same roof, they will just pick out things for me that can go together.  Dan even does better than I do.  If there are no other options and I am in doubt, I show him and ask if it's OK.  Being a husband of 30+ years, he merely offers a yay or nay, never commenting on fit or style.  I pick out my work clothes for the entire week on Sunday night - every single thing down to the ear rings, belts and shoes - so I can get to work on time, without a crisis of indecision.  Naturally, just so you know, a bunch of models in the NY Times fashion page are matching lately.  This took much too long.  My mom used to say to just wait a minute, it'll change.  A minute is a relative thing, but she was right, of course.

So, thoughts for the day...  Be still.  It'll change.  Have fun.  Watch for fun.  Observe and participate in baby magic or any other sort of frisking whatsoever.  Get dolled up.  Make fun. Of yourself whenever possible.  Some of us are easier targets, but if you observe, you will find plenty of fodder. I take my foolishness very seriously.  I hope you do too.  And I hope you keep on being grateful with everything you've got. XOXOXO

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


All right.  I admit it.  I'm sick of this weather.  It may not look like fall or winter any more, but it  feels like the end of November.  I hate getting up at 6 AM and if I could give myself a coffee I.V., I'd be wheeling one of those little bags around with me all day today.  It's Wednesday, a no time for exercise day no matter how much I need it.  And every single one of my loved ones has bleek aspects to their lives right this moment - and that doesn't account for the suffering of my clients.  I hate that I can't do one whit more about it than I'm already doing.  Suffering sucks - and for parents, if you are one, you know -if it's your children, square that.  You're supposed to take care of them and be able to fix it, but sometimes you just can't.   Crap, crap, crap.  Plus I just noticed in the mirror of the shabby bathroom at the bowels of the Guyte building at Purdue where I sit in my tiny office T & W mornings, that I have white deodorant smears on my shirt.  They are not coming off.  There's a bumper sticker on the door to the Anatomy & Physiology room - you see it when you go out of the bathroom.  Some days it's really just the truth.  "Oh, I'm stuck in a vortex of unspeakable evil.  And you?"  Think maybe these feelings were brewing in yesterday's rant about mean people at the BMV?  It feels good to dwell for a minute on how rotten things are.  Like a good soak in a hot tub.  Once you get started, it's amazing what you can pile on.  But self indulgence only gets you so far, then the water gets cold and your fingers and toes get wrinkly.

So, here's the thing that gets me through days like today.  It's temporary.  (Disclaimer:  If this sort of hopeless/helpless/anxious mood lasts longer than a month, go get some medication and see a therapist.) Not death and taxes, but everything else about life and your current circumstances.  The weather.  Temporary.  Sleepiness.  Temporary.  Suffering.  Temporary.  Joy.  Temporary.  Sick.  Temporary.  Being human.  Temporary.  There are always slivers of truth to tune into that make you feel better in the face of seemingly immovable other truths.  Maybe that's delusional, dwelling on good stuff in the face of uck.  What can I say?  I choose delusional.  A lot.  What the hell?  If I'm wrong, I still feel a little bit more in control because I just reminded myself I am in charge of how I interpret the meaning of things and therefore how I feel.  We're not really in charge of much more than that in this being human phase of existence. That's actually a good thing.  It's a good thing I don't have a magic wand because my children and clients would be emotional cripples. They'd never overcome a single obstacle themselves because I'd be way ahead fixing it before there was a moment's discomfort.  So, we do have that going for us.  No magic wands.  Be still a minute with the stuff you feel rotten about.  Let it just be what it is.  Then move your focus elsewhere.  Right (or delusional) thinking makes for right choice which sets us up for better consequences - or at least keeps the opportunity for a better outcome in the realm of possiblity.  So, sometimes I'm delusional.  I got that going for me.   XOXO

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


There's not enough time.  I hate weather like this.  That was so rude.  Wa wa wa.  I had a client last Tuesday tell me how much he was dreading the "bad" weather predicted for the weekend.  Really?  It's Spring in NW Indiana.  What do you expect?  We're not having tornadoes or tsunamis here, just a little cold rain. And afterwards you can practically see the tulips open, the buds pop out and the grass green up. I even don't mind that it's stayed a little cool lately because that makes the spring blooms last a little longer - and when you work outside in cool weather, you sweat less.  There's usually quite a lot of hard outdoor garden labor needed in early spring.  A good hot day feels fabulous when you're lounging, but it wilts daffodils and crocus and abuelas who have trouble lounging.  Is it really that tough to see things this way? 

People who insist on being crabby can be contangious.  Not sure how it rubs off, but it can if it hits you at a moment when your defenses are down. I'm asked regularly how I do this line of work without wanting to off myself - or my clients.  I guess people wonder that because we've all been hijacked by someone else's bad attitude.   But the people who get the juice in life out of being nasty or victimized work at the bureau of motor vehicles. (Just in case you work at the BMV, that was a little joke).  They're drawn to jobs that cause misery. "You don't have enough ID. Cruel smile.You get nothing for waiting half a day in that line. Go back home and try again later."  I'm just saying - generally speaking, mean, pessimistic, self important, self indulgent people don't go to therapy.  I guess those folks have it down pat- feeling special, being the exception to the rule, powerful, or the heroe or heroine of a sad, sad, story. I almost never see them in therapy because they have it figured out already and don't intend to confuse themselves with facts.  So, though I hear tragic things daily, the people who go to a therapist just want to find a way to cope, not prove that their misery is epic, justified - whatever they need to make it permanent. I like being a healer and hanging out with folks who inspire me.

Because change is uncomfortable.  And being happy isn't bestowed.  It's earned and created.  Sometimes you have to wrack your brain, if you're one of us mere mortals whose brain isn't serotonin soaked from birth, to tune into or remember what is good.  And take steps to create more, or dwell on it or talk about it.  I am junk yard dog determined to do it every day.  You?  XO

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not my fault

Alder started it.  Even when it's three-year-old-urgent to get to the bathroom, he skids to a stop by the Easter lily in the hall and takes a deep sniff.  Then he whooshes off to the bathroom.  Three year olds have a lot to teach me.  I never pass that lily without a pause and a big sniff.  It's a new rule.

Besides making dumb rules for myself, one of my character flaws is to finish what I start.  It's been richly rewarded, but it's still a flaw.  I tend to work on everything until it is DONE. So I finish within my time frame at the cost of excellence.  I push my physical self to the point of unnecessary aches and pains and utter exhaustion to finish a project.  I constantly struggle with balance and living in the truth.  While I insist on waking up in a new world every day, with awe, delight and a knowledge that something new is about to happen -like a goose, or a 3 year old - I still work hard and I must get it done.   With that attitude, I'm constantly at risk of becoming a human doing instead of a human being.  A silly old grown up.

I think the one thing that makes a person crazy is insisting on not living in truth.    And the truth is, I am not a 3 year old, there are responsibilities and planning involved in running my life, my gardens, my budget, my practice, etc.  All that can so easily spin off into worry (borrowing trouble), and hurry. Being fully present to the moment can be tricky if you're always in a rush.

So, this weekend, I planted 36 bulbs in the barn garden, put in 6 new rose bushes, and 6 grasses, installed a sand box under the play set slide area and filled it with purple sand, built two little raised bed garden plots beside the slide for the babies to grow veggies, and wove apple branches along the garden's edge so the vines would shade the sand box and make it a cozy green tent in the summer.  I was pretty sore and tired at the end of all that.  But while I was doing it all with my Alder and Fia, we sang Little Bunny Foo Foo and Bear Tracks on tree stumps.  We marched and kissed and took breaks and ate snacks and slid down the slide and stuck our face in the Easter lily.  Made all the difference in the world. XOXOOX

Saturday, April 16, 2011


"A big ole goofy man, dancin' with a big ole goofy girl.  Oh, baby, it's a big old goofy world."  John Prine.  It sure is, isn't it?  My youngest daughter, Allie, in the throes of taking herself so very seriously at the beginning of her college career, like we all did, accused me of trying to act like a three year old.  Exactly.  Which makes me think of a poem my Aunt Betty used to recite.

The Pert Chicken by Marian Douglas

There was once a pretty chicken,
but his friends were very few,
for he thought that there was nothing
in the world but what he knew.
So he always in the farmyard,
had a very forward way,
telling all the hens and turkeys,
what they ought to do and say.
"Mrs.Goose", he said, "I wonder....
that your goslings you should let,
go out paddling in the water.
It will kill them to get wet."

"I wish, my old Aunt Dorking,"
he began to her one day,
"That you wouldn't sit all summer,
in your nest upon the hay.
Won't you come out to the meadow,
where the grass and seeds is filled?"
"If I should," said Mrs. Dorking,
Then my eggs would all get chilled."
 "No, they won't" replied the chicken,
and no matter if they do.
eggs are really good for nothing.
What's an egg to me or you?"

"What's an egg?" said Mrs. Dorking.
"Can it be you do not know?
You yourself were in an eggshell,
just one little month ago?
And if kind wings had not warmed you,
you would not be out today,
telling hens and geese and turkeys,
what they ought to do and say!"

"To be very wise, and show it,
is a pleasant thing, no doubt.
But when young folks talk to old folks,
they should know what they're about."

There's not much new someone hasn't already figured out, here in this big old goofy world, but this goofy old girl is looking at it like a three year old and it is way fun.

Friday, April 15, 2011


If you're a rule follower like me,  and you're doing precisely what I've asked, you are awfully busy.  You're constantly minding your thinking and interrupting it with cartoon versions of yourself committing violent acts or singing goofy songs,  talking back to your sassy self talk in a foreign language while breathing with your belly sticking out and staying on the look out for ways to be grateful.  I think that might be enough for a minute.  We've not hit the 21 days it takes to create even one new habit and if you're a mere mortal, you will have skipped a day or two and had to start over on the 21 days anyway.  So let's have some fun for a little while.  You keep working on spinning those three tasks into your life - minding your thinking and talking back to it; breathing for relaxation and writing your 3 daily gratitude experiences.  Meanwhile, I'll tell some stories of how I've been doing with that juggling act I'm asking of you.  I'm willing to be humiliated for the greater good.

Here's a good one. Sometimes I glue my toes together.  I hate when that happens.  Trying to suffocate a wart on the end of my right middle toe that comes and goes since I timed Allie's Lowell Dolphin swim meets bare footed.  I've had it removed twice but it just keeps coming baaaack.  Tried duct tape, which keeps coming off.  Tried three different OTC wart removers.  So I decided to try super glue.  Made sense at the time.  Glued my sock to my toe yesterday and two of my toes together.  Sheesh.  But I'm not bored.  XOXO

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Alder, my oldest grandchild (3),  Fia and I were walking down the path to our pond, which Fia calls our jungle.  It is kind of a mess of willows and weeds, fallen tree branches etc., but we love it.  We'd stopped to examine a new bud on a low branch when Alder spotted a vapor trail that was two parallel white tracks across the blue, blue sky.  It really was cool and I have no idea what was making it.  He did.  He said, "Abuela, I think that's a rocket making a space railroad track."  We sat right down in the grass and watched it happen.  Baby magic.

I said I'd talk today about what to do when your body doesn't cooperate with your plan to manage your thinking and savor magic with joy and abandon.  OK.  I had other ideas, but I keep my promises.  The thing is, it takes hard work, determined practice and focused effort to make change.  Change is uncomfortable.  And sometimes, things like depression or anxiety or other medical conditions interfere.  We have the silliest tendency to think that somehow it's a failure of character or will to acknowledge mental illnesses and treat them with medications that are effective and easily available.  We don't give ourselves or others grief for needing blood pressure or thyroid meds or for taking an antibiotic for an infection, but somehow it's different when it's our "mind".  Just FYI.  It's not.  It's your brain. If you have been feeling rotten and working hard to stop it, but your body just will not cooperate, go to your doctor.  Have a screening.  If she gives you medication, swallow it daily and do not feel like that is some sort of failure. These medications work differently than Tylenol.  If you feel something right away, it's probably a temporary side effect.  Hang in there, those pass.  The full benefits can take 6-8 weeks.  It is worth it.  We can now see, with some of the expensive new brain scan techniques, increased numbers of connections in brain structures when medication are used.  Healing.  Practices (cognitive/behavioral) and exercise also make visible brain change.  Do all of it together if that's what it takes.  That is not a bad thing.  Taking care of yourself so you can give your best selves to those you love, your community and the world is just the right thing to do.  XOXO

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ta da!

The pale green fringe on some of the bushes is rocking my world.  All those stark, bare branches then yesterday, ta da! there it was.  Green fringe.  In a minute all the leaves will be out and the green will be ubiquitous.  We won't even see it, so we certainly won't appreciate it.  It will be background to the drama of our lives.  So, I am today being delighteded by bare branches in the AM and green sighting in the PM.  It happens that fast.  So fleeting.  And it's happening whether we notice and appreciate it or not. Why not?

These techniques I'm blogging about are all "practices".  Things to incorporate into your daily life with purposeful, determined intention.  Being delighted doesn't float down like the blue bird of happiness and land on your shoulder.  You won't be happy when....... you win the lottery or buy that house or move to San Diego or go on vacation.  Enough money is good.  How much is enough?  People who win the lottery usually have some brief bliss. but then their level of happiness goes right back to their pre-win days.  The source of joy is not external.  The planets do not have to allign and good fortune does not have to wonk you on the head.  There are happy people in cold climates and warm climates, with very little money, and a lot, with generous government services and bleek ones, with diseased and healthy bodies, young and old, during periods of tragedy and ease.  Your thoughts and expectations are crucial to creating happiness.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how sometimes your body won't or can't cooperate with the cognitive practices you're building into your life, and what you can do about that.  XO

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You think you know

Fia, who turned 2 in January, put her forehead on mine, both little hands on the sides of my face, and nose to nose told me "You are my favorite Abuela."  That sort of magic can do me for weeks. Having her 3 year old brother and family right here instead of on the West Coast, I get baby magic now almost every day.  Really, really lovely stuff, that baby magic.

So, relaxation breathing - the opposite of anxious - is another sort of magic.  Some of you already do know how to breathe for relaxation.  If you've taken yoga or voice lessons or just watched your child napping, you know the real action happens in the belly, not the chest.  But for most adults, a deep breath is heaving your ribs open with chest and shoulder muscles.  That is not conducive to a real, deep breath.  We best operate our lungs with our diaphram, which is a muscle that sits below the lungs and works like a fire place bellows.  When you breathe in, you are actually stretching that muscle, pulling air into the bottom of your lungs; when you breathe out, you tighten it and force the air out. 

Steps to breathing for relaxation:  1.  Drop your shoulders, loosen your neck muscles, think of your arms like noodles and imagine your body is loose like a rag doll (but not falling out of your chair).  2.  Slowly pull air into your lungs by loosening your diaphram muscle.  Your belly should fill up like a balloon as you do a slow count of 1001, 1002, 1003.  3.  Tighten the diaphram for the out breath which should be longer.  Count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 before you end the breath.  Your chest only expands a lttle at the end of the breath because you're filling your lungs from the bottom up. Your neck and shoulder muscles should get looser as you breathe out, and there should be a quiet pause between the in and out breath. 

Try to do that belly breathing all day long.  Shoot for 10 times a day, every hour.  Take at least three slow belly breaths every time you think about it - more if you can.  Try for a second to focus on the quiet between breaths.  It keeps you in your body and keeps you from reving up and staying nervous.  It's best to practice when things are "normal".  Trying to calm yourself once you're in a panic is sort of like trying to ride a bicycle for the first time on an interstate highway.  Won't turn out well for you.  Believe it or not, this breathing for relaxation takes practice like everything else we've talked about so far. Breathe like you know how to do it.  All day long.  And are you still writing the gratitude things?  XO

Monday, April 11, 2011


Ollie likes to grab my hair when we look at stuff cheek to cheek.  It's one of my favorite baby magic moments. His momma says it's my fault that he pulls their hair.  I am having so much fun with this.

Saturday I talked about simple things you need to get it right with your mind.   1.  Notice and honor the narration always going on in the background, spoken in the language you lived.  It can be mean or scary or sad or glad.  You get to choose.  You're the one talking.  2.  Talk back if you don't like what's being said. Just because it's a true feeling doesn't mean it's the truth.  Tell yourself another part of the truth - with gratitude and a sweet focus on the present.  3.  Do it over and over and over.  Dwell on the good stuff until it becomes a habit.  This is pretty simple stuff that may take years to fully work at your will. 

Sometimes we get hung up on not so random thoughts that trigger mean, scary or dismal feelings.  If you can't shake them loose, here are some ideas:  Use visual or auditory cues to stop the thought.  Make up whatever works for you, but feel free to use any of the following... Imagine a cartoon version of yourself at your perfect weight, dressed exactly right with the perfect haircut.  Perfect you, vicious snarl on your face, using a death ray gun.  Laugh at yourself.  Or yell the word STOP (only in your head, silly) with an exact visual of a STOP sign.  Sing yourself an annoying song.  Tell yourself a one liner joke.  In some manner that works for you, interrupt the thought. Do several things in a row, whatever it takes.  Then take 3 slow belly breaths and tell yourself a kinder part of the truth that makes you grateful.  Tell someone else that thing that makes you grateful.  Do it over and over and over until it sticks.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how to breathe.  You only think you know, smarty pants. XOXOXO

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Big scary looking black mutt number one of our two dogs is an epic coward. Lucy sounds so fierce when someone knocks at the door, then she hunches behind me when they come in. "Go get 'em, mom!" Thunderstorms really flip her lid.  So this morning we had Loony Luce.  I went out onto the front porch and sat with her a bit to help her calm down.  Really glad I had the time to do it. Cool morning air, big, big world, awesome spring rain, dog leaning up against my legs for reassurance, tail thumping.  Lucy and I both felt soaked up in the moment, there on our mostly dry front porch. We could practically see the rain making the grass greener, unfurling the leaves on the trees and lilac bushes...

It's so easy to overlook, minimize, downplay splendid moments.  The story we tell ourselves is always running in our minds - even if we don't recognize it.  We have a permanent sports announcer, narrating our life to us, blow by blow, in the language we learned growing up. Because you learn what you live. Grow up in Russia, speak Russian. Since it's just you talking to you, it's easy to think it's more "honest" when you're critical or harsh.  You know that you thought ugly, embarrassing, icky things.  So only you can be honest with yourself and call yourself out for it, tell yourself the harsh truth. Especially if criticism is what you lived growing up, it can become your autopilot language.  How you view and speak about yourself and the world. Gotta stop that.

True feelings and old habits of thinking are not the only truth.  The way we describe an experience creates its meaning and therefore our feelings about it.  That thunderstorm/silly dog behavior this morning could have been "Sheesh I hate my dog. What did we do to make her such a nutcase?  When will it ever be really spring instead of just mud season?  It's the weekend already.  I only have a couple of days to work outside and now it's raining.  My whole day is gonna suck and my dog sucks, too."  See why gratitude practice is such a good thing?  If I started my day thinking like that, I could make my whole day suck.

After so many years, I had to really think to re-view my morning in that sorry, complaining way.  I no longer have to work to find good things.  They hijack me, like that soaked through feeling I had sitting outside in the rain with a neurotic dog.  But when you first start minding your thinking, being present and searching for the good is not easy.  You have to notice your thoughts, listen to the language you use to talk to yourself.  It's there, always in the background.  Recognizing the thoughts and tone of speaking to yourself may only happen after you've felt your mood dive South.  Go backwards in your mind to figure out the trigger.  A glimpse of your changed figure in a plate glass window?  An off handed comment someone made that triggered a quick, mean, knee jerk thought?  Then you have to honor that your thoughts feel true, and come from learning what you lived, even if they are sorry or complaining or mean as snot things you'd never say to anybody else.  You're not an idiot for doing this to yourself.  Everybody does. Next, interrupt the cycle and talk back to the true feelings with something else that is also true. Don't lie to yourself, but be nice and dwell on the good. Over and over and over and over again. Like you're learning to speak Chinese. We'll talk more about all that tomorrow.  XO

Friday, April 8, 2011


Got a phone call this morning a little after 6 AM.  Usually those don't mean good news.  It scared the puddin' out of me.  It wasn't catastrophic, but not good news either.  So during my exercise, which is what I use to ground myself, I tuned in to the rhythm of my feet, the ripe cow smell (farmers are fertilizing) mixed with new grass in the wet air, how much traffic there is so early in the day.  That was the best I could do to quiet my brain.  My walks are my meditation or prayer or means to the present moment.  They get me in my body, because I'm pushing it.  That gets me out of my head.  I  can 'what if' myself to shreds if I let that go unchecked. Some days, it takes most of the work out to get the endorphins going enough to bleed off the anxiety and start to enjoy the squirrel sighting or giggle in surprise at the sound of peepers squealing and plopping into the pond.  But that is my intention and so I do it.  Even on days that might not be so swell later on.

 So the idea today is that sometimes it takes hard work to tune into the gratitude channel, or be present to the present moment and notice what is with some pleasure.  That doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.  Are you still writing your three things?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mindful gratitude

My gratitude story for the day:  Cows are really BIG.  I walk by a farm on my work out that has these silly fluffy ducks with stickin' up hairdo's milling around outside.  When I see them,  I need to visit them and watch them scatter a little bit.  Wouldn't you?  So this morning they were out by the barn and I had a close up visit.  I can't imagine how little ole me was able to also spook the cows by the barn into a bovine stampede.  Honest.  Didn't do that on purpose. And no fences were damaged or anything, but it sure gets your heart rate up.  And, not kidding, cows are BIG. 

Now, why gratitude is such a really good thing:  In a nutshell, what you pay attention to grows.  And you notice what you believe or expect. So, being human, it's only natural that what's wrong with the picture gets our attention.  Plus, it's programmed right into our DNA to do that.  Imagine your ancestor out in the prairie looking for nuts and berries.  The grass nearby rustles but the wind isnt' blowing.  If the tendency to notice that something's wrong was missing, that guy is right out of the gene pool.  He's that tiger's breakfast.  So, since there are way more people than saber toothed tigers, we do not need to focus on what is wrong with this picture. Instinct helps us along with that just fine.  In fact, we do it so well in order to prepare ourselves for the next bad thing that suddenly that's one of our habits of thinking, a constant companion.  Worry.  Mistrust.  Judgment.  Gossip.  Suffering.

If something is wrong, trust me, we will know it soon enough. You do not need to practice looking for it.  You are a fine tuned machine when it comes to that.  And if you live, being human means something really wrong will happen more than once or twice - usually when it's mighty inconvenient and utterly unwelcome.  You need to work at finding what is right with the picture.  Hard.  Daily.  Or risk getting all the juice in life out of being ticked off or worried or being a tragic victim.  All of us feel like our own suffering is louder and greater than other people's. And it sure is juicy.  But as Gran says about the "Why me?" folks,  "Well, why not you?"  Even in the midst of great suffering, you can be grateful.  Try it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Being enchanted is my job.  It's my daily practice.  In one form or another, it's what I've taught people as a licensed, PhD psychologist in my prairie private practice for nearly 30 years. And in exactly that form - being enchanted, or grateful, or happy- it has been my deliberate, focused intention for at least the last 15 years. You can teach yourself how to be resilient, happy, enchanted as well by following this blog.  Want to learn how to be like a goose and wake up in a new world every day?  In this blog, I'll write about grand baby magic, looking at grass upside down, breathing like you don't really know how - living well in your body, mind, spirit and relationships.  It's all pretty simple, but it's not easy.  Shall we?


I love rules.  I've always been one of those good girls who followed the rules.  Show me the rules, I'll follow them so well and you'll just love me.  I know.  You probably hate me already.  I was about 9 (Thank you very much, mom and dad.  You are wizards.) before I realized that some rules suck. As a 56 year old PhD licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice, a husband, 3 daughters, three magical grand children and two dogs, I've read lots of other people's rules, made up and tossed a lot of my own and can honestly say that there are some things that work if you practice them.  I love extravagantly, use my aging body reasonably well and am mostly happy so the rules work for me.  

In this daily blog, I'll give you rules I've learned to follow in the care of  mind, body, spirit and relationships that do create happiness.  And this one that won't.  Since middle school, I made up a rule that I had to wear wool at the beginning of the school year.  Bobby Brooks pleated skirt, sweater and knee socks.  So, whether it was 100+ degrees or not (which it usually is in Central Illinois in late August, early September), all those long first days of school, I tortured myself in lovely fall colors and hot, itchy wool.  Don't do stuff like that.  If any of my rules strike you as silly, don't do that either.  You can pick and choose.  But practice for a while - 21 days in a row (harder than you think) before you toss them.  And start with the first rule - gratitude.  Not kidding. I have 15 years of daily practice and it's a good thing.   Every day for 3 weeks (it takes 3 weeks to make a habit), I'd like you to write down 3 things that made you grateful that day.  Feel free to share them at the end of each of these blogs.  I'll start each of my notes with one of my 3 things.  XOXO