The Secret Handbook 4 Teens

Let it RAIN

Hi guys. Sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve posted but my Mom passed away a few days before Christmas and, as you know, my Dad passed away about a year before that so I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’ve been trying to take care of myself though and one of the things I did for myself recently was attend an all day retreat withTara Brach, Ph.D. It was an amazing day filled with lots of insights and thinking but I really wanted to share one of the meditation techniques she taught us because you don’t even really need to use it when you’re meditating. It’s really just a good life practice. It’s called RAIN.





Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re at school and someone makes a rude comment to you and it hurts. You find yourself going back to it over and over again which seems sort of silly because you don’t even know or like this person so why is it impacting you so much? To help understand why you’re so upset it’s time to practice RAIN.

First, Recognize that you’re upset. Don’t try to brush off the feelings but stop and take a moment and Recognize – hey, I’m sort of upset about this.

Second, Allow that you’re having these feelings and that’s ok. “Ok, I’m upset about this rude comment and it’s not really anything else that’s bothering me so I need to just sit here for a minute and acknowledge and allow these feelings that I’m upset.”

Third, Investigate. This is where things get interesting and this is where you have to put some work in. On a superficial level it’s easy to say “Oh, I’m upset because that person was rude.” But Investigating forces you to look a little deeper. Why do you care that someone made a rude comment? Well, because it hurts. But why does it hurt? Because it made me feel bad. Why did it make me feel bad? “Because I’m afraid they don’t like me and that if they don’t like me maybe other people don’t like me.” But why am I afraid of this? See, how you can dig deeper and deeper? The purpose is to really try to understand your deep feelings behind something. Once you can start to Recognize and Acknowledge these feelings you become more aware of how your mind is working, how your thoughts impact how you react and respond to things and who you really are deep down inside.

Finally, Nuture. Now that you’ve figured out why you’re upset it’s time to take care of yourself. It’s time to say, “Hey wow. I didn’t realize how these little things upset me and what they awake in me but that’s ok. I’m human and these are just feelings and thoughts. In reality, I am loved and I am worthy of love.” The words don’t even matter so much. Sometimes you can Nuture yourself just by sitting with the feelings until they start to fade and you accept them as an ok part of who you really are.

So, when  your mind is spinning and the world feels out of control, stop and take a moment and make it RAIN. Just like rain cleanses the world when it comes down, this simple exercise can cleanse your mind and your soul so the sun shines again.



Furry Love and Why It Makes Us Smile

Meet Blue! He is my three month old blue Holland Lop bunny. This is just a quick post to give a high five to all our furry friends – whether they live with us or just make us laugh via YouTube – as there is something truly special about animals. There are reasons why animal videos are so popular but for me animals do these three things to make is joyful:

1. Animals are always fully present and in the moment. They aren’t worrying about the past or the future. They are just in the here and now which forces us to be in the here and now. I think we recognize the value of this and see them modeling the behavior that we know would be healthy for us to adopt. I know that petting Blue or watching him run around like a race car driver is very Zen for me. I’m fully there and fully with him. It’s like a living meditation! 

2. Animals love unconditionally. They don’t worry about what kind of mood we’re in and whether we’re having a good day or a bad day. They know us and they love us just as we are. That is invaluable and extremely rare here on earth so I think it makes our souls sing a little inside when we get to experience unabashed in-your-face love from an animal. 

3. We get to see our more playful goofy sides. I volunteer for an animal rescue organization and last week I had to sit in the puppy pens trying to find homes for nine adorable hound puppies. It was obviously a joyful and joy-filled “job” for the day but what cracked me up was how goofy these puppies made our visitors. Big huge burly manly-men would get down on their hands and knees and say in their most babyish voices “Who is a good boy? Who is a silly puppywuppy? Why yes you’re a silly puppy. That’s sweet boy!” Pets completely disarm us of our egos for a moment and allow us to play and smile and give freely of our love to something that doesn’t ask for anything but that. 

So, go give your pet a pat or Google some funny animal videos today. You will smile both inside and out. 


My yoga practice ended with this poem today and I was inspired to share. Lately I’ve been feeling really sad about my Dad and missing him a lot. This poem helped to remind me that I can think if my grief as a housecleaner of sorts. Sometimes you have to just wipe everything out and start fresh. And so, I will try to treat my grief honorably and you can do the same with your emotions too. If you’re sad, it’s ok to feel sad. Happy? That’s great too. Angry. Sit and work it out for awhile. These emotions make us who we are and prepare us for what’s next. Well enough of my paraphrasing. Go enjoy the poem yourself! Let me know what you think!

The Unexpected Guest

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

One Simple Thing U Can Do 2 Change This Sometimes Scary World We Live In

Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting with my colleagues and was discussing the wariness and sometimes outright fear that I feel when commuting into work on the train. My senses are always on. I’m always looking around and assessing my fellow commuters. I’m ready to “See Something, Say Something”, I look for my escape route. To be honest, it’s a pretty sh*tty way to feel on what should just be a train ride home or to work and I wish I didn’t have to feel this way but it’s hard to not translate what you see on TV and sort of be ready for it to maybe happen to you. I, sadly, often do the same thing in movie theaters which doesn’t make for the most enjoyable experience. But obviously we can’t live our lives this way right? Sure we have to be aware but if we let ourselves get too caught up in this thinking, it can lead to paralysis, paranoia and worse.

So what can I do and what can you do to try to counter this? Well, this might sound simple and it might not even feel like you’re making a difference in the world (but I would disagree – I believe this actually works) but I think at a very simple level you can just think, feel and send out love. I tried it yesterday. It was a super crowded train and I felt myself beginning to grow tense (and my Spire told me I was getting tense too) and I decided to try a different approach. I closed my eyes and started to send out love to my fellow passengers. I sat there and thought, “I love each one of you. I love your humanity. I love your faults. I love our connectedness. I love that we’re all here on this planet together. I love that you have someone who loves you too. I love that you matter. I love that you are me and that I am you.” I just sat there and tried to picture warm rays of love coming out of me and touching every unhappy and stressed commuter on that train. I know, I know, it sounds cheesy but stay with me here.

So did it work? Did someone feel that love and turn around and look at me meaningfully in the eye? Did I make that real world connection with someone and change the energy on that train? Well no. At least not that I could see or sense but I felt love. It caused a shift inside of me. I felt that connectedness with those around me. I was no longer feeling tense or anxious or fearful. I just felt peaceful and that somehow, it would all be ok.

It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t immediately address all of this world’s problems but I believe in my heart that if we all did this, if we all committed to just trying to feel love towards one another, we could start to shift. Will you try it with me and let me know how it makes you feel? Sending you all, obviously, lots of love!

Why Finding Dory Might Leave U Stressed Out (& Two Tips 2 Calm Down)

So I think I’ve written about my Spire device here before but just to recap, Spire is this gorgeous and amazing little device that you clip onto your clothing that monitors your breathing throughout the day. It has it’s own app and that app is what tells you whether you’re tense, calm or focused and believe me, practically everyone in my family has one and we’re all amazed by the data and what we’re learning about ourselves. I have actually found that in using Spire consistently, I’ve been able to increase my moments of calm and decrease my tense moments over time which, for someone like me who previously suffered a panic attack, is pretty darn amazing. All the meditation and yoga I’ve been doing likely hasen’t hurt but being more aware of my breathing and how I’m acting (or reacting) has truly been the biggest factor to my increased zen state.

And so, we went to see Finding Dory. My husband, step-daughter and I all have Spires and we all wore them when we went to the movie. I don’t know about you, but I always think of the movies as a place to go and relax and to escape from reality as you lose yourself in the onscreen fiction. Well, you would think that an animated film about a fish and her friends would be the perfect way to wind down over the weekend right? Not so! Our Spires were buzzing throughout the whole movie and all of us thought “Oh, we must be really focused.” or “Oh, we must really be calm and relaxed.” But nope. We were tense people! We got out of the theater and looked at our apps and saw prolonged moments where our breathing was tense! Why? Well, I personally thought Finding Dory was a good movie but I guess we were a little more invested in whether or not Dory would find her parents than we thought! It’s all good but being tense actually isn’t good for your health so what can you do when you find yourself getting tense?

Here’s my top two tips for calming down:

  1. Take long deep breaths. You don’t need a lot of them but slowly breathing in (for let’s say a count of five or six) and slowly breathing out almost immediately starts to calm your body and brain down. Should you have to practice such breathing during a children’s movie? I’ll let you make that judgment on your own but in any situation, deep breathing is an easy and quick way to find your center.
  2. Become aware. Become aware of where you are, how you’re feeling and what’s going on in and around you. Feel the chair under your butt and your feet on the ground. Become aware of the popcorn smells around you and the colors on the screen. So often we go through life almost oblivious to the world and our place in it but practicing this present moment awareness is another simple but extremely powerful tool to get you out of your head and out of your thoughts.

That’s it. It’s that simple. Deep breathing and awareness and you’re on the road to more moments of calm and a less stressful existence. I will end this story by letting you know that my husband and I also went to see the movie The Shallows where Blake Lively gets attacked by a great white shark and we were both less tense in this movie than Finding Dory. I’ll let you come up with your own opinion of that!

Three Things U Need 2 Know About Your Final Grades

I know many of you are in the process of taking, finishing up or have recently completed your final exams in high school and that many of you are relieved, depressed, happy, nauseous or some combination of all of these emotions. Yesterday, I experienced the tears of someone who didn’t do as well as expected on one of their finals which blew their chances of getting a 4.0 for the year thus ruining their chances of getting that same 4.0 for all four years of school. My heart breaks for this student and for all of you who didn’t end up where you wanted to be with your final grade(s). That said, I have three really really important things to tell you about your final grades and you need to trust me that these things are true because I always only tell you the truth on this blog and I’m older than you and living happily and successfully so I’m living proof that I’m right. (Ok, there’s a bit of sarcasm there but stay with me!)

Here’s what you need to remember and remind yourself of about grades:

  1. You are not a number or average and this number cannot and should not ever define who you are. I admire you for wanting to get good grades because, sadly, they matter. Schools look at them and people judge you by them and frankly, that’s life and sometimes it life isn’t fair. But, who you are today and who you decide to become in the future has nothing to do with those grades on a report card. I promise that your dreams and goals in life are not going to be impacted by the B you got on your chemistry final and that a few bad grades (and a B isn’t actually bad so let’s also try to remember that) truly are a few measly raindrops in the ocean that is you and your future. You didn’t do as well as you wanted to do. It’s over. Mourn about it for a day and move on and start thinking about what you’re going to do differently moving forward. That leads me to #2.
  2. Use your unhappiness about a grade or grades to look at your actions and what responsibility you can take, if any, for the outcome. Another sad thing about life is that most of the lessons you will learn from life are learned the hard way and often with pain and heartache. I’m not sure why our lives are set up this way but it is and the sadness and pain you feel about the outcome of your efforts can teach you something. Maybe you got the grades you did because you worked as hard as you could and there is nothing you could have done differently. If that’s the case, then take a moment to be disappointed but feel good that at least you tried to do your best. But maybe, just maybe, you didn’t do as well as you would have liked because, in truth, you really didn’t work as hard as you needed to throughout the semester or at the end. Hard work and sacrifice are often necessary to achieve our goals and sometimes that means temporarily giving up some pleasures to get some work done. Did you spend the days and night before your final really and truly studying as hard as you could or did you put your books away (or only pay half attention to them) because you were watching the NBA finals? Only you truly know if you did your very best but being honest with yourself is really important because you will need to be honest with yourself for the rest of your life to live your best life so start now. I’m sorry if your disappointing grades are teaching you a lesson at the moment but let that be a positive and use it to make positive changes in the future.
  3. Finally, stop thinking about your grades and move on! If you’ve read anything I’ve written on this blog you will know that I am always talking about living in the present moment and practicing mindfulness and meditation too. It’s easy to sit and chew on your feelings like a stale piece of gum over and over and over and over and over and over and over again but why are you torturing yourself?! You got a bad grade. Maybe you deserved it and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you needed to work harder or maybe you did everything you could have done. The thing is, it’s over. Summer is starting and frankly, you deserve a break and some down time. Take a deep breath. Actually, take three or more. Sit and think about what happened for a moment and with one really long and deep exhale and let it go. It’s over. Sitting and thinking about it is only going to make you miserable like most of the past memories we hang on to. The rest of your beautiful and amazing life is sitting right in front of you if only you’d look up and start it.

So that’s what I want you to think about when it comes to grades. I got some sh*tty grades along the way too, believe me, and yet I never gave up on my dreams and followed whatever path was necessary to achieve my goals. I didn’t let a few bad grades define me and you don’t need to either. Trust me. Now go and enjoy your summer before it all starts over again. 🙂


Are U a Good Match 4 Matcha?

I’m not going to lie. I’m completely and totally addicted to matcha (a powdered green tea) so I’m pretty much going to try to convince you that you ARE a good match for matcha! You’ve probably noticed that matcha is showing up on more and more coffee house menus (although Starbucks calls it a green tea latte) but perhaps you’ve been afraid to try to this alien green concoction. Fear not! I’m here to tell you how simple it is to make and why it’s good for you too!

I switched to matcha after my panic attack when I was looking for a less caffeinated alternative to coffee. The first thing I’ll tell you about matcha is that yes, it does have a less caffeine than coffee but it gives you this lovely energy boost (that I personally feel almost immediately) that lasts for a few hours. It doesn’t blast you with caffeine like coffee does but sort of imparts a nice alertness. Just perfect.

Anyway, you might be wondering what matcha is and why it’s a powder. Matcha is a green tea that is grown in the shade for the last few weeks of its growth and then ground into a powder. You’re drinking the entire leaf when you drink matcha which is why you get so many more health benefits. Matcha has lots of antioxidants and catechins (which can help with cholesterol) but it’s chock full of other good things too! Because you’re drinking the whole leaf it’s also why you get this lovely sweet flavor (if you’re drinking good matcha). I don’t recommend trying to skimp on matcha and buying a cheap brand. I started out this way and it’s very bitter so it’s probably ok for baking or smoothies but for pure sipping pleasure, spend a little more and get a ceremonial grade tea. You don’t have to hold a tea ceremony when making matcha like they do in Japan but you can make preparation a little mindful and special which, to me, is part of the joy of partaking of matcha.

Sure you can just dump a teaspoon of matcha in a mug with some hot water and stir it but with a few simple steps and tools, you can make a much more special and tasty drink. I highly recommend buying the following (and you can just google these and find lots of online sellers. I bought my stuff on Amazon because it was easier but it’s up to you!)

  1. A sifter. Putting the tea in a sifter over your bowl and sifting it through takes out the static and clumps and makes for a smooth tea with no overwhelming matcha sludge. You know those gross clumps you get when you make powdered hot chocolate? That’s because you’re not sifting so sift when making matcha for a smoother end product. Personally I’m probably going to sift hot chocolate from now on too!
  2. A bamboo matcha scoop or chashaku. Yeah yeah you can just dump in a teaspoon in a sifter but using this lovely little bamboo scoop is so much more fun and you always seem to get just the right amount (although you can obviously add or subtract depending on your own personal tastes.) Have fun with this and experiment!
  3. A bamboo whisk or chasen. Believe me, I tried just using a metal whisk but the fine pieces of bamboo make a lovely creamy foamy top (or crema) and it’s also super fun to do! It’s hard to stop whisking actually but try to control yourself people!
  4. A bowl. Sure you could drink matcha from a mug but there are lots of beautiful bowls out there to sip from. I bought one on Amazon from Japan with bunnies on it and it makes me happy every time I take it out.
  5. Finally and obviously you need some matcha! I just bought some at Teavana in the mall but there are lots of online purveyors out there to check out. Just make sure it says “ceremonial grade” so you know you’re getting better quality.

That’s it! With five simple tools you’re ready to make some matcha. This part is easy. Ready?

Just take a scoop of matcha with your chasen (or about a teaspoon of powder) and sift it into your bowl. Then take your heated water and pour in about an ounce or so (only a little bit in other words) and use your whisk to create the foam and try to get a whole bunch of small bubbles on the top. Once you have your crema on top you just gently pour in some more water and enjoy! Savor this process and slow down when you take your first sip! Try to bring some of that ceremony to your tea drinking and try to be mindful and aware of what you’re doing. Consider it a mini-vacation from life!

So there you have it. A little matcha 101 for matcha newbies like me. Once you get the basics down you can make lattes, iced matcha, etc. Any matcha fans out there? Let me know your tips and tricks and favorite brands! Namaste!




What r u hanging on to and can u let it go?

Here’s a question for you to ponder today: What are you holding on to and what would happen if you let it go?

While this might seem like a simple question it’s actually sort of terrifying if you really spend some time with it. When I think about this question, things like hurts, anxieties and fears are the first things that pop into mind. And so I ask myself, what fears am I hanging on to? Fear that if try something new I might fail so I avoid doing it altogether? Fears about losing someone (because after losing my Dad last fall death is always on my mind)? Fear of change? Geez, actually when I think about it it’s sort of amazing to watch the list evolve.

But let’s talk about what happens when you hold onto something. Eventually, you may hold onto something because it’s true to you. You’ve been hurt by someone and you hold onto that hurt and don’t trust again. You failed at something and you hold onto that fear moving forward and don’t take chances.  Eventually, these things come to define you and they also become comfortable – like a pair of comfy old sneakers that you can’t imagine parting with. But what would happen if you did let it go? What if you realized that those comfy old sneakers are actually pretty stinky and that you can’t run as fast in them anymore (and, God forbid, that they aren’t fashionable anymore!?) You would dump those sneakers and be ordering a new pair in a heartbeat. Well, it’s the same with all the things you’re hanging on to that don’t serve you anymore. What would happen if you let go of your fear and took a chance at something you want in your heart? What would happen if you forgave the person who hurt you and decided to let love in again? Sure it might be uncomfortable, like a new pair of shoes, but before you know it, you’ll break in your new state of being and wonder why you hung on to those old smelly sneakers for so long.

So ask yourself today, what am I holding onto and what would happen if I let it go? Be brave and let it go for a minute or two and just try it on for size. You might discover a new look!


Helping Others = Happiness. It’s Pretty Simple.

This weekend my family and one of my daughter’s friends volunteered at the 2016 Food Fight to end hunger at our nearby expo center. Sure the girls are looking for community service hours for school but I don’t think any of us knew how bubbly, giggly and happy we would be at the end of our service period. This event was sponsored by Feed My Starving Children and as a volunteer you help make and pack  up bags of MannaPack Rice. This incredibly nutritious combo of rice, soy protein, vitamins and veggies contains about six meals and costs only about $0.25 per bag. Our job (though there were plenty of different things to do) was to scoop the ingredients into the empty bags and then hand them off to the rest of our table where they were weighed, sealed and boxed. Our little ole table of just nine people managed to pack up 47 boxes in 2 hours which equals over 9,000 meals for hungry children!

Knowing we were helping others was reason enough to attend but I cannot tell you how much fun we had together. There was a DJ so we were dancing and singing and there were various challenges along the way to keep us motivated and boy we were motivated knowing our hard work was providing more food to more children! But here’s the thing, sure our event was fun but studies have shown that people who are the happiest are people who give back. You don’t have to feel hungry children to give back. You can donate old clothes or electronics to a good cause, help out a local animal shelter (another one of our favorite things to do), help your elderly neighbor carry in her grocery bags or donate your old prom clothes. You don’t have anything to lose by giving of your time or self but you do have everything to gain!

Worried that you won’t be able to find any volunteer opportunities where you live? Check out the site Do Something. You can choose a topic you’re passionate about, figure out how much time you have and what type of volunteering you’d like to do and it will give you some ideas.

I know lots of you are busy with end of the year tests and exams but when that’s all over, give some thought to giving back and helping others this summer. I promise you’ll have fun, I promise it will look good on your college resume and I promise you will make a difference in someone’s (or some animal’s) life. All those pluses and you’ll end up feeling happy too. What are you waiting for?


End of the school year got you stressed? Just breathe!

Last night at dinner my daughter and I were talking about how she and her classmates were all starting to experience elevated levels of stress with end of the year exams and standardized tests looming in the not-so-distant future. I’m sure she inwardly roller her eyes (maybe, maybe not) when I immediately used this as another opportunity to talk about the power of your breath to help calm you down.

As I’ve previously discussed here, I have embarked on my own breathing and meditation journey since experiencing a panic attack a few months ago. In fact, today is my 58th day of meditating using the Headspace meditation app and my second week of my beginner yoga practice which is a whole ‘nuther post. Through meditation I’ve certainly become more aware of my thoughts and breath and I’ve found that frequently during the day, I check in to see how I’m breathing. When things get tense at work or with life, I remember more and more to just take three slow deep breaths. I pause to look at my bracelet which read “Be Present” to ground myself in the present moment (because everything is actually always ok in the present moment when you’re not worrying about the past or future) and I breathe.

Breathing is a powerful tool to use when school pressures start to mount and it doesn’t have to be complicated either.

Just take three deep belly breaths.

And I do mean belly breaths. No shallow half-hearted breaths here! Breathe in so deeply that your lower belly expands (you know, like when you eat too much and get a food baby pooch? Yup, like that.), and sloooowly let your belly flatten as you exhale that breathe. You’re almost done – just take two more breaths like that.

Breathing like this to help manage your stress doesn’t mean you get to study less or that all your worries will fade away but studies have shown that this type of breathing actually causes your brain to change in positive ways. So who knows, maybe meditation and paying attention to your breathing will make it easier to take your tests and finish out the school year in a more positive way. I’m not making any promises but approaching stressful situations with a little more peace and a calmer body can’t hurt. Namaste my friends and wishing you many successes as your close out your school year!


Chasing Away the Clouds with Headspace

blue sky

Since my panic attack I have performed some kind of meditation or mindfulness practice every day using a number of different apps until one of my friends recommended Headspace. I saw Headspace while perusing apps but didn’t feel like spending almost $100 a year after the free 10 day trial. Well here’s the thing. My other meditation apps are getting dusty and I am about $100 poorer but boy am I feeling better!

With the free 10 day trial (called Take 10) all you have to do is take 10 minutes out of your day and you learn to let all those pesky negative thoughts just sort of float by you instead of engaging with them. My favorite visual for this that they shared is to think of your mind as a blue sky. And sure, sometimes the sky can be cloudy but behind those clouds, the blue sky is still there. They use the example of when you go up in a plane and you get above the cloud level and discover that the sky is all blue and pretty. Yup, your mind can work just like that.

It’s a powerful visual even if you’re not sitting quietly and trying to meditate. I find that even when I’m just going about my day and a negative thought blows in, I mentally picture myself just sort of blowing or pushing it out of the way so I can see my clear blue sky again. Simple but powerful stuff.

Anyway, I’m not associated or affiliated with @Get_Headspace in any way nor am I getting any kind of monetary compensation for this post. I share merely to tell you how it’s been working for me and to encourage you, if possible, to try it for yourself. I have some tips on meditation right here on this little ole blog that are also free! So take some time to today to picture those clouds blowing out of your mind and remember that a blue sky is only a thought away.

Ever Have a Panic Attack? I did & it is NOT fun.

panic button

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted since my Dad died and while I know that I’ve been grieving and have been experiencing stress, I thought I was coping pretty well. I still got up and went to work every day. I still talked to my friends, went grocery shopping and spent time with my family. The weeks after my Dad passed were the most stressful…we moved my Mom, sold her house, got her settled and drove to NJ every weekend from down south so sure, there were lots of hours in the car. Still, I thought I was doing pretty well.

Well, two weeks ago my Mom went into the hospital with a respiratory virus. Because she has an existing lung condition even a cold can be a big problem so to say I was stressed would be an understatement. My stress was compounded by the fact that my Mom has been telling me and my sisters that she just wants to go be with my Dad in heaven. Then my sister really freaked me out be telling me that I needed to come up to see my Mom immediately implying that she was dying. OMG.

So yeah, stress. My mom went into the hospital on Thursday night and they quickly got her stabilized and my other sister informed me that no, my mother was not dying and that I could relax. Sure I felt relief but I guess I was underestimating how stressed I was. On Saturday I felt funny. Not like myself. Short of breath. Dizzy. Nauseous. Headache. I sorta knew I had a sinus infection and even though I’ve had these symptoms for a few weeks now, I was still attributing them to various other issues…I must just have a head cold. Allergies. My asthma was acting up. As my I began to feel worse and worse my husband insisted he was going to take me to the emergency room. And then it all started.

I felt a tingling start in my spine and it soon traveled to my arms and legs. I began hyperventilating and asked my husband to call 911 telling him I was having a heart attack or stroke. My arms and legs began to shake uncontrollably and I felt like I was hanging on to my consciousness by a thread. The EMTs got there and monitored my heart rate, put me on oxygen and took me to the ER after assuring me I was not having a heart attack or stroke (at which point I decided I must be getting ready to have a seizure then because my body was so out of my control). What did they know?! I felt like I was dying!

So they did all the things they usually do in an ER. Put in an IV, heart monitor, more oxygen, chest xray, bloodwork etc etc. And then the doctor came in and told me I had a panic attack. I was embarrassed, horrified, confused, and in disbelief that stress could do that to my body.

So, what’s the point of my tale? It’s to tell that I am now a firm believer that stress really can kill. Yes we all hear about how stress is bad for you. How you need to do things to manage stress and we all poo poo it and say yeah yeah, I know. I’ve got this though. I’m good. I’m getting through all my days aren’t I? I’m getting my work done. I’m living my life. I’m managing my stress like a pro. Until you’re not.

Honestly, I still don’t quite feel like myself since my little trip to the ER but I immediately began taking steps to truly take care of myself (instead of just saying I am). I am trying to eat healthier. I’m limiting sugar. I can’t even think about coffee or caffeine at the moment because the idea of taking anything that would make my heart race like that again is terrifying. I stretch. I have started walking again. I am honoring my body when it tells me I need to rest. But most importantly, I am truly practicing mindfulness and meditation. I religiously spend a few minutes meditating every day but I’m not doing it on my own. I downloaded the Mindfulness apps and Buddhify (my favorite) and I manage to find the time to quiet my mind and monitor my breathing.

I’ve spent many posts here preaching about the importance of meditation but I have to admit, I got lazy and didn’t practice what I was preaching. Don’t be like me. Meditate. Quiet your mind. Manage your stress. Don’t just tell yourself you’re managing it when you know you’re really not.

There are a lot of things that can kill us in life but this is one that we can control so why not control it? I see the stress that my daughter is under in school and now I worry more than I used to about how she’s managing it. And how you all are managing the stress in your lives. With that, I’ve realized it’s time to get back to blogging. It’s time to stop ignoring the things that I care about in life and start to actually engage in life again. It’s time to manage my stress. It’s time to help you manage yours.

Thanks for reading folks. It’s good to be back.

Why U Should Stop & Hug Your Parents

Hi all…Sorry I haven’t been posting lately but my Dad’s health was failing so that was pretty much consuming my time, energy and focus. I’m devastated to report that my Dad passed away on Oct 17th. He was 89 years old and lived a full life and ended that life surrounded by everyone he loved. As far as dying goes, it was about as beautiful and peaceful as anyone could hope for. I expect I will be silent blog-wise for awhile as I sort out my feelings, sit with my grief, help my mom and try to adjust to life without my Dad in it.

That said, there is one bit of advice I’d like to pass on to all of you teens. Believe me, I remember all the arguments I had with my father growing up and all the moments I found it hard to like him very much never mind love him. Thankfully, as you grow up you eventually (and sometimes begrudgingly) realize how much your parents love you and you learn not to take them for granted.

My advice to you is don’t take them for granted now.

Accept that they are acting in your best interest.

Accept that they love you unconditionally.

Accept that they are human and doing the best they can with the tools they’ve been given.

Life is short and hopefully most of you will have your parents around for a long time but imagine if they were gone tomorrow? Imagine if they were snatched away and weren’t there to nag, cajole and pester you. Imagine that they weren’t there to say good morning or good night or “Put that phone down already!” Believe me, you would give anything just to have them scold you one more time. So, while I know you are young and death seems abstract and far away, life is unpredictable and it’s important to live every moment to its fullest and to love and appreciate those around you.

Hug your parents today. Tell them you love them. You can go back to eye rolling tomorrow.

Peace to you my friends.

One Important Thing 2 Remember in High School That Could Impact the Rest of Your Life

Last night was Back to School night for my daughter who is a sophomore in high school. I have to admit, while I dread having to go out after a long day of work (on a rainy dreary evening no less), I love Back to School night. Yes I enjoy meeting my daughter’s teachers and hearing what she’s learning about and I love the enthusiasm of the teachers for their craft. It’s easy for me to feel these things as an adult though because I don’t have to sit through these classes and have enough life wisdom to know that what you’re learning in high school will shape your future and outlooks for the rest of your life. But did anyone tell you that in high school? I bet not and that’s what got me thinking.

As I was sitting in the English class presentation I found myself fondly reminiscing about the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird and those first deep dives into literature and reading where you turn from a regurgitator of facts to a critical thinker. I felt that love of writing and reading bubble up in me again and wished that someone had told me when I was a teen to pay attention to those feelings. While my college and graduate school path led me into science (another love) I easily could have been an English major and may have been if I had honored those high school feelings a bit more.

So my advice to you is this: pay attention to how you feel about certain classes, topics, events and experiences in high school. Pay attention to what sparks your interest, what leaves you stone cold bored, what makes you want to learn more, etc. You have plenty of time ahead of you to carve out your career and academic choices in college and beyond but these first exposures to all these different classes matter. They are your first deep dive on a higher learning level into so many different worlds and topics and, if you pay attention, you may see a certain path or interests developing along the way.

I know there will be classes with bad/boring teachers and classes that you’re only taking because you have to so the moments and sparks of interest may be fleeting and limited but all the more reason to pay attention to them. Your sudden interest in a topic is something you can explore as you go along and either embrace more fully or reject along the way. But that “Oh, that’s interesting” moment could also lead you into your future career path and choice of study.

Small moments matter and so do your feelings. Honor them in high school and they will serve you well in the rest of your life.

What Do U Love & What Does it Say About U?

I just got a pamphlet in the mail and on the cover is the quote by St. Thomas Aquinas – “The things we love tell us what we are.” and it really made me pause and think. What do I love and what does it say about me? Family and friends were the first things that popped into my mind. Ok, that’s good. That probably means I value relationships and those who are close to me. Ok, I’m good with that. My next thought was animals. I love all kinds of animals and nothing brings a smile to my face quite like an animal encounter (even if it’s just watching funny animal videos online). Yup, I’m good with that too. A love of animals, to me, in some ways shows that our souls are wide open to love and especially to the unconditional love that animals offer. It also shows a love of the natural world and all the benefits associated with it. Ok, good. My next thought was Real Housewives and reality television. Whaaaat??? It’s true! I love getting lost in the scripted and unscripted drama of these shows (a guilty pleasure for sure) but if I dig deeper, I also think it may show that I am fascinated by human behavior and what makes us tick and God knows these shows are filled with humanity at it’s best and worst. Right? That’s why I watch these right? Surely there is some deeper reason why I love reality television! Maybe it’s just escapism? Maybe I love to leave my world for a little while and immerse myself in fiction (which is why I love reading too perhaps?) All interesting musings…

So what do you love? What does it say about you? Are you spending or giving your love to something that doesn’t serve you in the long run? Does your love show you areas where you are lacking or needing something? Does it show you a part of who you really are that you should invest in more deeply? A simple question with many deep answers. Ok, you go think about that. I have to get back to watching Bravo TV.

Hate Writing Essays? Here’s a Tool 2 Make it Hurt Less

For some, hearing a teacher say, “For homework you need to write an essay…” causes immediate anxiety, angst, fear and dread. As a former dissertation coach who helped students write the dreaded dissertation keeping them from their PhDs, I promise you that the advice I gave to them is the same advice I will give to you. I also promise that this advice will be just as relevant now as it will be in college, grad school or anywhere else you’re asked to write something.

Ready for the advice? Ok, here it is:

Learn to outline. 

Don’t start without an outline. 

Always make an outline. 

Did I mention the outline? 

Sure everyone tells you that you should outline a paper before you try to start writing but so few people actually do this. Here’s the thing about an outline. With only a little bit of effort and using the bare minimum of words, you can create yourself a map and guide to where you need to go. Outlining helps you to get your thoughts on track and, because you haven’t invested minutes and hours crafting the perfect sentence you may never use, you have the freedom to sketch, think, brainstorm, cut, paste and scribble. An outline is pure freedom. It’s just thinking on paper. But, eventually something starts to creep out of all the mess and before you know it, an actual map starts to emerge. This map is key because this map becomes your “To Do” list for writing the rest of the essay.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sit down and just write freely. Don’t worry about format, spelling or anything else. Just write out your thoughts (even if those thoughts are “I don’t know what to write. I hate writing essays. I hate my teacher for making me write essays.” Get it all out and eventually you will start to write about your actual topic.
  •  Once you are done free writing, look back at what you’ve put together. Are there any good ideas in there? Anything to keep that you could use? If so, great. If not, go ahead and write freely again. Repeat this process until  you actually start to see a theme starting to emerge with some coherent thoughts.
  • Now start to take those chunks of writing and put them into a more specific outline (this is your map) for your intro, middle sections and conclusion. Don’t try to start writing from this just yet. You still have more work to do. Once you have those sections starting to take place go ahead and continue to flesh them out even more so your outline because fatter and longer and more organized.
  • Eventually you will know when it’s time to start writing but don’t try to jump into this process too soon because you will just become frustrated and quickly lose your way. Ideally, your outline will become your “To Do” list because you can break it down into tasks (and I mean very specific tasks) like 1) Write sentence for introduction. 2) Write second sentence and include quote. 3) Read section of book again to help with transition into main thought. All these little tasks on your “To Do” are super important for making progress once you have your outline but that’s another post!

The next time you’re asked to write an essay or paper, do me a favor and please please please think about using an outline. It might seem like more work to begin with but it’s a really simple but powerful tool for getting your thoughts together and giving yourself some structure to move forward with ease. I promise!

Now you tell me, what other essay writing tactics work for you? Do you use outlines? How else do your approach your writing assignments?

You Know U Can Hit the Reset Button Right?

How was your day yesterday? Are there things you that you wish hadn’t happened? Things you’d like to do over? Feelings you’d like to not experience again? Well, I’ve got good news. You don’t have to relive yesterday. In fact, feel free to pretend it never happened. Take what you want from it. Learn from it. Then let it go. The amazing thing about being human is that you get to hit the reset button and start afresh at any given moment of your life but yet most of us forget to do that.

Think of it this way. Imagine you have in your ear buds and a song comes on that you don’t like. For some reason you can’t stop it from playing and are forced to listen to it until you can get to the next song. But then, 30 seconds into the new song, that old song comes on again and starts playing. This time you manage to skip to the next song but yup, once again, just a few seconds into the next song that damn old song starts playing again.

This is basically how our mind works when it comes to replaying those old memories. We can be part way into a new song and enjoying life when WHAM! Our mind takes us back to the old depressing moment that we just can’t seem to stop playing.

You don’t have to live your life like that and, yes, as usual, I will once again caveat this with a warning that this is not easy to change your way of thinking. It’s much easier to relive the past or worry about the future (that is based on…yup, you guessed it, the past) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just try it for today. Let yesterday go. Embrace the new day. Be who you want to be in it. If you start to slip and that old song starts to play there is good news. You still get to stop it and start over again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

Getting Battered by Waves of Grief & Why I Recommend It

Since my Dad was hospitalized last year he has been slowly failing and now, at 89, is in the final stages of his life. All of the signs that he is dying are there. He sleeps more, he eats less, he is disinterested in life. But yesterday, he seemed to take another slight turn for the worse and the doctor ordered a hospice nurse to come in and start seeing him on a regular basis. While I have never personally had someone in my family be in/with hospice before I certainly know that they can provide great comfort to both the family and the patient and are considered to be angels here on earth. That said, the word “hospice” is sort of that final nail in the coffin (and yes I know that is a really horrible pun but believe me, you find laughter in the strangest moments during this grief process) and as it all started to sink in, my grief became a palpable physical entity last night.

After hearing this news about the hospice nurse from my sister I just sat in a chair with a cup of tea and decided to just experience the grief that was washing over me in waves. I’ve heard people describe grief this way before and have certainly experienced it this way my self a bit but last night I could literally physically feel the emotion battering me around like I was standing in the shallows of the ocean. One minute I was breathing, the next minute I was not as the tears choked my throat closed and the salty water flowed down my cheeks. The next minute I was breathing, thinking that this was all ok, that it was his time, that it was better for him not to suffer and then slowly but surely, I began to sink back into the depths of speechlessness once again and prepared myself to be battered around helplessly again.

In a previous post I have given advice for you guys to “sit” with anger or sadness to help you both learn from it and recover from it and last night, that’s exactly what I did with my own grief. I have to say, well, I am exhausted. Sitting with and really owning and experiencing any emotion takes a lot out of you but at the same time, it’s a good sort of exhausted. It’s like the feeling at the end of a race or run or workout where you’ve pushed yourself to the limits and feel like you’re going to throw up but, at the same time, you feel good about what you accomplished. That’s sorta how I feel today. I feel a little more familiar with my grief. I feel like there is less to fear. That I know I haven’t experienced it at its worst but that I know when I do, I can just lay on my back and not fight it.

I offer you this story to encourage you to not fight the emotions you’re feeling. To tell you that it’s ok to just sit there and feel really sad or really pissed off or really whatever it is you’re feeling. Let it take you over and know that when you emerge, you will be slightly stronger, slightly wiser and slightly more you.

Knife or Spoon? Choose Your Weapon

The rule in carving holds good as to criticism; never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon.

Charles Buxton

When you disagree with someone or have a point to make, do you whip out a “knife” and make that point with as much venom and damage as possible or do you gently offer a spoon filled with warm suggestions and a taste of vanilla? Both ways are certainly effective at making a point or offering a criticism but why use a knife when a spoon works just as well?

Here’s the thing, there are going to be plenty of times in life when you disagree with someone, need to make a point, need to correct someone or stand up for yourself. What matters is how you do it. There are plenty of people who I’m not incredibly fond of (and who probably aren’t very fond of me though how this can possibly be true I’m really not sure but I digress…) Anyway, back to those people I’m not fond of. Even though I might not like them or particularly respect them, I do have to deal with them or work with them throughout my day. I have found that learning how to handle people and how to offer up suggestions and changes with honey instead of vinegar always gets me to where I want to end up.

Think about your approach to people especially as you head back to school and, may I gently offer, as you deal with your parents or other figures in authority. Rather than attacking and rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath (which is what we really want to do when we’re frustrated or disagree right?) take a deep breath and think before you speak. Control those emotions for a minute and try to  have a conversation instead of a battle. Spoon a little honey into your conversation instead of threatening them with a knife. A little kindness and understanding will go a long way to not only helping you achieve your goals, but also to create rather than destroy relationships. Trust me on this.

The Only Thing U Need 2 Know Before Heading Back 2 School

Ok, this might not be the only thing you need to know before going back to school but I do think it’s one of the most important things you need to know. It’s also really simple which is a bonus.


Only you can hurt yourself.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s not true. Plenty of people hurt my feelings all the time. I respectfully and gently disagree. People may say or do things to upset you along the way but it’s up to you as to whether you feel hurt or not. You see, we create our own internal experiences so you can choose to react to a hurtful word internally with much drama and reaction or you can choose not to react. It’s up to you. You can change your mind at any minute or moment to not feel this way. Pretty powerful right?

And yes I know this is actually really hard to do and I am by no means an expert myself on this, but every time I read something to remind me of this, a little lightbulb goes off like “Ohhhh, yeah….I’m the only one who can make myself miserable.”

So, as you head back to school remind yourself that you are in charge of your brain. You decide what you let in and who you let in. You decide whether you’re going to let the little stuff upset you or if you’re going to rise above and try to live as your best self and the hell with the haters. I say, the hell with the haters. Go be you.