Intentions On The Mat

Many years ago, I went to a yoga class where the teacher asked us to set an intention for our practice. I found myself becoming anxious by this simple request. It reminded me of blowing out birthday candles and the pressure to make the perfect wish. I felt my inner-perfectionist bubbling up to make the right decision. What is the right intention? Should it be a literal intention like, “I hope I can touch my toes today.” Or should it be a more spiritual one like, “I hope I become a more patient person.” Or should it be more global like, “I hope there is peace in the Middle East.” I was so in my head about picking the RIGHT intention that my time was up and I came up with nothing. I spent the rest of my yoga class thinking about what my intention should have been.

A few weeks later I took another yoga class, where the instructor asked us to set an intention OR a dedication for our practice. I felt liberated by the option to “dedicate” my practice to someone else. Something about “intention” was just too daunting, but “dedication” felt easier. I just needed to think about someone who needed positive energy sent their way.

I came to love the power of dedications so much. I saw truly miraculous results when I started dedicating my practices to family members and friends who needed help through difficult times.

We do powerful work on our mats when we take the time to breathe, stretch, exercise, meditate or just be still. Not just physically, but energetically.

There is power in thought. There is power in setting an intention… even when we rename it and call it a dedication.

By dedicating your practice to someone you love, you are sending energy to help heal them or to encourage them, to support them or just to hold them closer in your heart.

Now that I teach my own yoga classes, whether it is in a public class or a private session, I always have my students begin in a comfortable seated position, ask them to place their hands to heart, bow their heads, and take a moment to silently dedicate their practice to someone or something that needs their love and attention.

You don’t need to practice yoga to set intentions or dedicate your energy to someone or something. You can do this when you meditate, before you go to sleep, or any time you find a few moments to just be still. It is truly powerful stuff.

I highly recommend finding a few minutes each day to sit quietly and dedicate your silence to someone or something special. It can even be yourself…

You might be amazed by the results.

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The Blame Game

It’s summer time and my big fear looms large: What will my youngest daughter do with herself without high-school and sports to structure her days? Of course this is a rhetorical question. The answer is that she will stare at her phone for the next three weeks until she leaves for sports camp.

Smart phones provide her endless hours of entertainment, distraction, obsession, companionship, and addiction. My daughter is no different than most teenagers. She says that HER attachment to her phone is not her problem. It’s MINE. The other day she claimed that I blame everything on her cell phone. 

When she is moody, I blame it on her phone.

When she is tired, I blame it on her phone.

When she forgets to pick up her wet towel off the floor, I blame it on her phone.

When she cannot hear me calling her to set the table, I blame it on her phone.

When her room is a mess, I blame it on her phone. 

When her acne flares up, I blame it on her phone.

When she forgets her water bottle for sports practice, I blame it on her phone. 

When she gets a bad grade on a test, I blame it on her phone. 

This is simply not true. Okay, maybe a little true.

Meanwhile, my middle daughter overheard this conversation, and, in solidarity with her younger sister, said that she could totally relate. My middle daughter claimed that when she was in high-school, I blamed everything on her wearing halter tops. That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. But then she went on to explain that when she was in high-school, she would occasionally complain about headaches. Allegedly, I said that her halter tops were putting a strain on her neck and might be the cause of her headaches. According to her, I didn’t stop there. When her teenage acne flared-up, I also suggested that the elastic or the lace of her halter top or her exposed back was causing irritation against her skin. And then, I blamed her occasional indigestion on the elastic around the ribcage, on her halter top. She, also, said that when she was feeling stressed, I insisted that the tie around the halter top neck was putting undue pressure on her spinal cord and causing her to feel anxious. She went on to say, I also blamed her poor test grades on halter tops, citing the same theory that halter tops were causing pressure on her spinal cord, constricting blood flow, and resulting in pain while taking tests. She disproved this theory as she did fine in most subjects except math. Apparently, she was just bad at math. I have no recollection of any of this. Although, when she recounted it, I began to recall that I suffered from headaches and neck pain when I used to wear halter tops in the ‘70s and again in the ‘90s when they made their comeback. So, maybe. Just maybe, some of this might be true. 

Feeling kind of defensive and sheepish, I decided to call my eldest daughter and see if she remembers anything that I chronically blamed during her high-school years. I was sure that she would come to my defense and tell me that she had no idea what her younger sisters were talking about. Surely, she would tell me that they are just trying to deflect their unwillingness to do chores and be accountable for their shortcomings. But my eldest daughter didn’t hesitate when asked. She gleefully jumped on the bandwagon and said, “Oh yes! You blamed everything, from bad grades to dishes left in the sink, on sleeping too much and watching too much Food Network!” 

Sigh.

I took this all in. I felt I needed to confess my shortcomings as a mother to someone, so I called my sister. She listened. She laughed. And then she said with her infinite wisdom, “It’s probably genetic. Whenever I am cold, I tell my kids to put on a sweater.” I reminded her that our Bubbie (grandmother) used to do the same thing… and I do it too.

So I guess what I learned from this is that when I spend too much time staring at MY phone, I get tired, unmotivated, crabby, forgetful, and less focused on my priorities. 

When I used to wear halter tops, I got headaches, felt anxious, and stressed.

When I watched too much television or slept too much, I did not feel like doing much of anything.

And when I was in high-school, I did all of these things too. We just didn’t have smart phones, but everything else was pretty much the same. So, I just need to lighten up and let my youngest daughter be a teenager. The good news is that next month she will be in sports camp, so at least she won’t be on her phone.

At least, I hope.

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Tech Wars

I know that I seem to complain about my technological woes a lot lately. It was just a few weeks ago that I devoted an entire post to my endless frustrations with passwords, which continues to be an on-going battle. But during the last few weeks, my patience with technology has been tested to an extreme. 

I was in the midst of completing my Life & Health Coach certification requirements and there were several key pieces of software that I needed to interface with in order to finish the course. All the coursework, homework, and worksheets were delivered on either Google Drive or Dropbox. This would have been okay except that I couldn’t remember my password to Dropbox, and it turned out that I actually had two different Dropbox accounts. So, it was always a treasure hunt every time I went to find my working documents.

Then there was Google Drive. Google Drive is a little bit of a mystery to me. I know that it is where I store all of my files and have been using it for the last few years, but I have mostly stabbed my way through the dark. It probably didn’t help that one of my Google Drive shared folders got corrupted and I didn’t know it. I just knew I couldn’t find my files. So in order to complete my 45 pages of paperwork, I did a lot of cutting and pasting, dragging and dropping, and good old-fashioned re-typing. Basically, I wasted hours trying to figure out how to just find my files, gather them, and send them back to my instructor. I had done the work, I just had no idea how to find it and deliver it into one document. I needed help, but didn’t even know what questions to ask. I know I took the long road and stayed up until after midnight two nights in a row going through hoops it get all done.

I only had one thing left to do to complete my coursework: Create and launch my new website. I had been working on it for about six weeks. It was my husband who suggested that I build my own website using one of the templates from a company like GoDaddy. My middle daughter helped me select a template and taught me how to navigate the website to make changes. My youngest daughter picked the font and helped me pick a color palette. My sister-in-law helped me with the photos. A close friend gave me final notes on the viewing experience. I edited and re-edited. I tweaked and re-tweaked. I must have changed the template more than two dozen times. The big green Publish button loomed large in the corner of the screen each time I worked on the site. I was so nervous about that button, you would have thought that it controlled the nuclear launch codes and that the fate of Western Civilization was in my hands.

Now that my coursework was complete, I was finally ready to hit that big green Publish button to go live. It was super scary, but when I did it I felt truly excited. I waited for something magical to happen and then GoDaddy sent me a big “Congratulations” notification… and told me that I was ALMOST there. I just needed to do one more thing: Check in with my 3rd party domain host. 

Uh-oh.

There are certain terms that make the hairs on my neck stand on end. 3rd party domain host definitely fall into that category. The notice indicated that all I had to do was log into my Google account and change the A-record. Sure, no problem. If only I knew what an A-record was. But I dutifully followed the instructions and logged into my Google account. The only thing was that  I wasn’t certain if that meant my Gmail, my Google Suite, or my Google Drive. I have multiple Gmail emails, I am not sure exactly what the Google Suite does, and I told you I already have issues with my Google Drive. If that wasn’t bad enough, apparently my Google File Stream was no longer functioning properly. You don’t know what that is? Don’t worry. Me either.

So I typed in various usernames and passwords going into the bowels of my Google account. I finally stumbled into portals called Admin and Domains. I tried to open those portals, but they wanted additional passwords, and none of my usual suspects were working. I was out of ideas at this point. I attempted to reset my password, but nothing came up through my emails. So I called the GoDaddy support line. I confessed to the advisor that I thought going live with my business website would be as easy as hitting the bright green Publish button. The GoDaddy advisor named Brian calmly explained that the A-record was just a fancy name for an IP address and I just needed to change the number. Of course, IP address was on the short list for terms that make me highly anxious. But I did not reveal to Brian that I was on the precipice of an anxiety attack. He talked me through the various screens through the Google account. We ended up back in the bowels of Admin locked doors and eventually got back to that final dungeon known as Domains. But there we reached the end of the road… again. No usernames nor passwords were opening the door to this nightmare. Perhaps if I had spent more time playing video games like Dungeons and Dragons, I would not be so daunted by these technological roadblocks.  But, alas, my video game expertise ends with PacMan and Tetris.

Brian spent over an hour on the phone with me only to tell me that he could no longer help me. He told me that I would have to reach out to Google to unlock this. Reach out to Google?? That’s like saying I don’t like a post on Facebook, so get Mark Zuckerberg on the phone. Google was not going to answer an email or a phone call. They don’t have to answer. They control the world. Their help desks are notoriously bad or non-existent. I wanted to tell Brian that I could not slay this dragon alone, but he had bid me farewell. With no other choices, I emailed Google support and typed in a very specific request: "I need to change my A-record to launch my GoDaddy website, but because Google controls my domain name. I need assistance to unlock this portal called Domains." And then I waited.

Surprisingly, someone answered my email within 30 minutes. Her name was Ana and her response was that she couldn’t help me because I didn’t leave a phone number. I was both excited that someone responded to my email, and simultaneously pissed off because my phone number was clearly stated at the bottom of my original email. I quickly emailed Ana back with my phone number and told her to call me any time of day or night! Suddenly, my phone rang. I could not believe my good fortune. Google was calling me back!!!

Unfortunately, it was not the Google help desk, it my daughter asking when I was going to pick her up from school. I looked at the clock and realized I was already 15 minutes late. When I finally arrived at her school, the carpool lane was empty and she was sitting all by herself. I apologized profusely for being late and explained that I was in computer hell. As I was trying to explain my computer nightmare of A-records, admins, and 3rd party domains to my teenage daughter, she just looked at me blankly. By this time, I realized that I might have been losing it. My voice was at a fever pitch and I had worked myself into a full-blown frenzy. I was angry, frustrated, confused, overheated, and ready to pop a gasket. Perhaps had I not been so sleep-deprived from staying up until after midnight two nights with software glitches to turn in my final paperwork, I might not have been so crazy. But I now I was fully over the speed limit.  

As soon as we got home, I took a deep breath and went back to the dark depths of Google suite myself. I was determined. I wasn’t exactly sure I could even remember how to get back in, but I did. I got to the final locked door and I started typing every possible username/password combination I could remember. But nothing. It would not even send me a prompt to reset my password. That is when I noticed at the very bottom of the screen in tiny little font, there was a phone number. I knew that it would most likely be a dead end. After all, I was on a Google website, there was no way that someone from Google was going to answer the phone and answer my question. But I dialed it anyway. Someone named Jeff answered the phone right away. He sounded bright and cheerful. I couldn’t believe it! When he said, “How can I help you?” I almost started crying with relief. I was about to be rescued from my desert island. I took a very deep breath and said, “Jeff, I am going to warn you. I am normally a very rational, intelligent human being, but right now I am feeling frighteningly unstable and dangerous.” Thankfully, he had a sense of humor and asked again how he could help. I told him the whole story and he said he would attempt to help me unlock the door so that I could just publish my little website. He said that he could probably help, but wanted to clarify that I had not actually called Google. I proceeded to debate this. I was on a Google website, so this must be a Google helpline. He said, “No. You’ve called GoDaddy tech support.” Wait, how was that possible??

Well, it turned out that my original domain name was purchased from GoDaddy, but when I set up my Google account years ago, Google locked me out of my ability to change the IP address… aka the A-Record! So, GoDaddy could not help me since Google controlled it. But somehow Jeff was able to provide me with a special numeric code/username that would allow me to finally reset my password, so that I could get in to change the A-record. And yes, finally, I was able to get in and change it. After that, I needed to go through another series of unlocking doors to make sure that Google doesn’t continue to control this domain so that I can interface properly with my own website. The whole thing took another hour. Jeff from GoDaddy saved the day! He sat with me on the phone like an aerospace engineer guiding a person onto a lunar landing. He made sure that not only the astronaut landed safely on the moon, but safely splashed back down to earth too.

The scary thing is there is no way I could have ever done this on my own. Something as simple as launching a small business website was nearly impossible because GoDaddy and Google were having some kind of proprietary corporate pissing match. Under the guise of working together synergistically, I was just an innocent bystander caught up in this perverse Fortune 500 tech war. Apparently, this corporate proprietary nightmare is becoming more common place. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. are all making interfacing more and more difficult. It is simply a way of controlling more of the marketplace.

In the end, I published my new website and then proceeded to change it another half a dozen times as my inner-perfectionist needed to keep editing and changing the aesthetic. As for Google, they did eventually send me another email. Only to say that they were closed for the evening and that someone would try me again in the next 2-5 business days. But the best part was that they had the audacity to immediately send me a survey asking what I thought of their on-line support?

Needless to say, Google did not get a good report card, but Jeff at GoDaddy got all A’s!

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Game of Thrones - Finale

Whether or not you are a fan, you probably heard that last night was the final episode of the epic drama: Game of Thrones. I realize Game of Thrones is like a religion for some people, so I have to tread lightly here.

I, for one, was not surprised that it was so anti-climactic. After Daenerys Targaryen scorched King’s Landing to the ground in the penultimate episode, it reminded me of the old saying: “What are you going to do for an encore?” Sure there were a few spectacular moments in the finale: Jon Snow standing in the snow face to face with the dragon, Jon Snow and Dany’s final kiss, and Jon Snow facing off with the dragon in front of the Iron Throne. Basically, anything with Jon Snow.

But everything else just felt kind of arbitrary and snooze-worthy. Tyrion declaring who should become King was rather absurd coming from the position as a prisoner who basically committed treason. And why did everyone just agree with him like it was some kind of book club meeting rather than a centuries old battle for kingdoms? As one Vox TV critic wrote, "The whole scene felt as though it had been transplanted from a different show — The West Wing, in particular.”

I think the cast and crew were getting tired at the end. Admittedly, they had been standing around in the snow for a lot of months. (Winter was coming… and never seemed to leave.) I think their fatigue resulted in a couple of snafus on the set during the last few episodes. In episode 4, someone had a left a Starbucks coffee cup on the dining room table in front of Daenerys. Oops! It has since been digitally removed. But then, during the final episode, a plastic water bottle was accidentally left at the foot of one of the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms. This kind of stuff is not ideal for a show that has gone to great lengths to build a mythical world from a long, long time ago. Not to mention, a show that has been on the air for 8 seasons, with 10 million viewers, and has budgets upwards of $10 million per episode (about 3x the cost of the average TV series). You would think someone would be looking out for these things?

But the die-hard fans don’t care about a few anachronistic props that have accidentally made their way onto the screen. Nor do they care about anti-climactic finales. The loyal fans are mourning the loss of their Sunday night appointment television. They are going to miss the battles, the beheadings, the dwarf, the dragons, the wolf, the three-eyed raven, the power struggles, the betrayals, the villains, the heroes, the prostitutes, the brothels, the excessive drinking, and the incestuous romances. I suppose the only possible substitution might be watching the actual news.

I have no inside track to this show. I watch completely as a spectator because my husband loved it, as did many of my friends, so I just went along for the ride. But I get the feeling that they are gearing up for a future feature film. My prediction is that the dragon comes back. A white walker is still in the midst. And we have not seen the last of our remaining Starks, Lannisters, and Knights of the Realm. 

Meanwhile, for those of you who don’t want to bother watching the whole eight seasons, and at the risk of spoiling the ending, here is it is:

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Mother's Day Weekend

I woke up this morning with a serious Mother’s Day Weekend hangover. I wish I could tell you that it was from drinking too many mimosas and eating too much dark chocolate, but no such luck. Although the results were oddly the same, I was just physically and emotionally exhausted today.

It all started with working myself into a full frenzy as my middle daughter graduated from college on Saturday. I spent the days leading up to it feeling guilty about not attending her graduation in person (in upstate New York). She and I discussed this for months, and she didn’t think it was necessary for me to travel 16 hours (one-way) to watch her walk across the stage for less than one minute. Most universities now provide commencement ceremonies live online. Her grandparents (who live on the East coast) were there along with her dad and stepmom. She said that was plenty of family to juggle. Due to the 6-hour time difference, my husband and I got up early to make sure we were logged on for the 6am-8am viewing party. The rest of our family watched from different states all over the country and even in Europe. I got teary-eyed during the commencement speeches and when they called her name to receive her diploma.

After watching the graduation online, I had to get ready for the next event on the weekend docket: An eight-hour community service obligation with my youngest daughter. My youngest daughter’s school hosts an annual Craft Fair/Fundraiser which requires every student AND every parent to do a volunteer four-hour shift. As a student/parent of the school, you get to pick where you want to spend your four-hour shift. My daughter picked a food booth to prepare salads. I selected the admissions gate. My husband was a cashier at the rummage sale. Unfortunately, due to the fact that my daughter also plays Club Volleyball in the off-season and they use the school gym, we had an additional obligation. Every volleyball player AND their parent ALSO are required to do a four-hour shift at the Craft Fair. The difference is that the Club VB team is assigned to the overflow parking lot to help park cars… IN a cow pasture. No, I’m not kidding! While standing in knee deep grass, carefully navigating the cowpies like landmines, we were directing 5000 cars to park in neat little lines in the boiling hot sun. And no, just because you do one shift as a student/parent does not make you exempt from doing another shift as a VB player/VB parent. While they call us “volunteers,” there is nothing voluntary about it. It is absolutely mandatory. Although, I was hot, sweaty and filthy dirty from the flying dust, I considered it a victory when I made it out of the field without stepping on a single cowpie.

When our 8-hour shift was finally completed, I had (stupidly) promised my husband and daughter that we would go see the new Avengers movie. They had been dying to see it. I am sure that sounds like a wonderful way to decompress for most people, except that I really don’t like superhero movies. And yet for some reason, I always end up seeing them. Admittedly, it was better than I thought it would be. But after being up since 5am, and being in the hot sun for 8 hours on my feet, I simply couldn’t take a three-hour movie. So, I did what anyone would do in a dark theater with reclining seats: I took a nap during the battle sequence. I fell asleep at the beginning of the sequence, slept for about 30 minutes, and still managed to see how they took down the villains and who ended up saving the world. That night, I crawled into bed like I had been in a battle sequence all day. Every part of my body ached.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I slept in, played tennis with my husband, opened up cards from my family, and we went out for a sushi dinner. As lovely as it was, Mother’s Day is just one of those holidays that will always be a little bittersweet for me.

Today, I thought that I might wake up feeling relieved that all the activity is over, but I just woke up exhausted. I had trouble concentrating on work. I didn't feel like making dinner. I didn’t feel like doing laundry. All of my go-to procrastinations weren’t working. I said to my husband, “Maybe this is it. Maybe I have officially run out of steam. Maybe I have lost the motivation to be productive, write, organize, plan or do anything. What if this is my new normal? What if I just wander around my house in my sweatpants for the rest of my life? What if I never make dinner again? Or never do the dishes? Who will go to the grocery store? Do the laundry? What if I never have the energy to do anything ever again?”

My husband looked at me with a perfectly straight face and said, “You are too emotionally damaged to be that unproductive.”

I just stared at him blankly. I didn’t say anything at first, and then he looked a little nervous after he said it.

Finally, I smiled and said, “I think that was the nicest thing you have ever said to me. You really do know me.” 

And somehow that was the inspiration I needed to get back to work. So thanks honey for the brutal honesty, and for getting me back on track. Now that I am done writing this week’s post, I will need to put the next load of clothes in the dryer.

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Advice For The Graduate

My middle daughter is graduating college this week, and last week, I called her to wish her Happy Birthday. She was turning 22. I could tell as soon as she answered the phone that something was off. Some people don’t like their birthdays. Some people don’t like getting older. Some people don’t like the attention. Some people don’t like parties. Some people find birthdays anti-climactic. But this is not the case for my middle daughter. She loves her birthday. She loves to be the center of attention. She lets every one know when her birthday is coming… and she’s not afraid to throw herself a party. 

So, clearly something was wrong. I decided to play twenty questions: How are your finals going? What are your plans for your birthday? How is your roommate? How is your boyfriend? Are you excited about graduation? Although, I only received one-word responses, everything seemed to be in working order. The usual suspects were all accounted for. But still something was wrong. 

Finally, she admitted that she hadn’t heard back from her last job interview. Let me back up. My daughter is a worrier, a planner, a do-er, a box-checker, a people-pleaser, a hard-worker, and maybe not the most patient person on the planet. For those of you who know me and/or have been loyal followers of my blog, I am aware that these qualities sound vaguely familiar. And yes, it has crossed my mind that these attributes might be hereditary. But I digress.

The thing is that my daughter has applied for 70 jobs over the last six months in anticipation of her upcoming college graduation. She wrote cover letters, sent resumes, did phone interviews, and follow-up letters. She basically did all the right things. She was open to working at variety of companies in a variety of roles. Her only requirement was that she wanted something with potential for learning and growth. 70 job applications later! Some of the companies never bothered responding. Some of them responded with kind rejection letters. Some of them conducted phone interviews, but ultimately wanted someone with more experience. 

Like most young people, she questioned how could she have more experience unless someone hires her to give her more experience. Yes, this is an age-old conundrum in the workplace. Now she was down to the FINAL job. The one where they did write her back and say that she might have the “right stuff” for their sales training program. They agreed to do a phone interview. She got called back for a second interview, and they paid for her to travel to meet with her potential new boss. The interview went very well. They told her they would get back to her in a week. So, D-Day was on her 22nd birthday, and I called the day before D-Day a.k.a. her B-Day. She was on pins and needles and was trying to hold it altogether. Finally, she burst into tears and admitted that she was tired of everyone (aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms, dads, sisters, and friends) asking if she had “gotten the job yet?” She was worried about what she would do if she didn’t get it and what everyone else would think.

I explained to her that people keep asking about her job status because they care about her. No one is invested in whether or not she becomes a “Sales Rep Trainee” for a nationwide paint company. Nobody cares… except her. We all want her to find a job/career eventually, but no one expects that she lands her first full-time-big-girl job BEFORE she even graduates college. Through hysterical tears she said, “But why do they keep asking me? It’s making it so much worse.” I explained that this job does not define her. Whether she gets it or not, it is irrelevant to the rest of her life. Even if she gets this job and stays with this company for years, she will face this line of questioning many, many more times. It will sound something like this:

When are you getting engaged? When are you getting married? When are you going to buy a house? When are you going to start saving? When are you having children? What are you going to do about child care? When are you going to have more children? How are you going to afford college? When are you going to get promoted? When are you going to leave that job? When are you going to find another job? When are you going to retire? When are  you going to have grandchildren? etc, etc, etc.

It’s just what people do. Sometimes it’s just to make conversation. Sometimes it’s to show they care. They bombard you with questions without realizing that their inquiry is like adding gasoline to the fire that already burns inside of you. They don’t do it to be mean. They do it because they want to connect, guide and seem interested in you. But as I told her, this job does not define you. There will always be other jobs. Other houses. Other boyfriends. Other friends. Other other other. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals, work hard, and be loyal, but it does mean you should not be attached to the outcome.

I have written a lot about the Four Rules of Success:

1) Show Up. On Time.

2) Tell The Truth.

3) Do Your Best.

4) Don’t Be Attached To The Outcome. 

This is SO hard for box-checkers, people pleasers, Type-A people, and control freaks. No, I am not talking about my daughter this time, I am actually referring to myself. I wish I had someone tell me the same thing when I was her age. So, I reminded her that she is surrounded by people who love her: Friends, family, an awesome boyfriend, and her beloved hedgehog. We all want her to be independent and successful, but she does not have to figure this all out before she puts on her cap and gown and accepts her diploma at the end of this week.

I reminded her that she has already accomplished so much. She has lived independently for the last four years 2500 miles from home. She has made good friends. She has learned to cook, maintain her own apartment, and pay her own bills. She held multiple part-time jobs during her entire four years of college, and worked every summer to supplement her cost of living. She has already started living like a grownup, and did it with tremendous pride and grace. I could not be more proud of her. She defines herself through hard work, integrity, independence, loyalty, and perseverance. If those qualities are not what this company wants, then it is their loss not hers. Something better awaits. 

With that, I dedicate this week’s post to my 22-year-old college graduate. May life always be filled with joy and opportunities. May you always recognize them and take advantage of them whenever you can.

And one last thing, after I gave her this heartfelt speech, the company finally called back. She got the job.

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Procrastination

I have writer’s block, so I have been procrastinating writing all day. This happens a lot on Mondays. I am looking for inspiration, but it’s not coming. 

What do most writers (or artists) do when they need inspiration? I am not sure, but MY process is terribly mundane.

I usually start in the kitchen. There is always a dishwasher to unload or pots and pans to put away. But that didn’t waste enough time this morning, so I decided to start dinner. At 8am. Unfortunately, I really needed to go to the grocery store, but I was just not in the mood. I ended up using all the remaining vegetables in my fridge to make a vegetable curry. Of course, my daughter doesn’t like curry, so I needed to plan a different meal for her. Thankfully, I had pesto in the freezer, so she will have that over some pasta tonight. But making curry in a crockpot and defrosting pesto didn’t exactly get my creative juices flowing. I needed to keep find something else that was “urgent” on my To-Do list: Laundry. Yes, laundry is my go to place on Mondays. No, not because I like laundry. In fact, I very much DISLIKE doing laundry. Yet I feel compelled to do this never-ending chore whenever I feeling creatively stuck. Why would I do something I don’t even like as a means of inspiration? I guess because it is relatively easy. Not the physical act of doing it, which is actually a pain in the ass. Well, technically it’s a pain in my arm because I spend a lot of my weekends playing tennis. Since I played a lot this weekend, which makes me super happy, it usually results in making my right arm not so happy. Normally, it’s my shoulder that chronically aches, but that chronic pain has taken a backseat to a resurgence of tennis elbow lately.

Warning: Laundry is pretty much guaranteed to aggravate shoulder issues and definitely tennis elbow. I could probably sort the laundry, load it into the washing machine, remove it from the washing machine, put it into the dryer, and take it out of the dryer with my LEFT-hand. But I don’t. Why?

Because I simply forget that have a left-hand. In other words, I am operating on auto-pilot which is probably why I do laundry in the first place when I am procrastinating. I suppose it makes me feel like I have accomplished something with very little risk of screwing it up. Unlike writing, which is scary and sometimes hard… and could easily be screwed up. 

But my mountain of laundry didn’t bring me inspiration either. I know, what a shocker! So, I looked for something else to aid in my procrastination. I won’t tell you how many times I have checked social media today. Yes, I LOVED your sunset. Your vacation photo. Your daughter’s birthday photo. Your cat meme. Your dog video. Your parents’ anniversary pictures. And yes, I even posted my own sunset from last night. But in spite of all of that, I was still without inspiration. What could I do next? There is always my dog. He looked especially needy today. He kept bringing me toys and dropping them at my feet. So, I HAD to get on the floor and spend some time with him playing Tug of War with an old smelly squeaky toy that I gave him last Christmas.

I probably should have washed that too.

While playing Tug of War on the floor, I noticed a few dust bunnies under the sofa. Needless to say, I had to take out the broom and started sweeping the floors. Not surprisingly, sweeping aggravates tennis elbow too.

Back to social media. There was an especially adorable penguin video on Facebook today and some great quotes on Twitter. I was still not writing. 

Then I remembered that two of my friends told me about the Brene Brown special on Netflix, which I really wanted to see! So I watched that. She was brilliant. Her storytelling is pitch perfect, and I found myself in awe of her ability to share her personal anecdotes, entertain, and still teach in a 75-minute talk. I thought for sure that would unleash my creative juices, but when I thought about how she has managed to write FIVE New York Times bestsellers, I found myself right back on my Instagram feed. Then, I needed to text my two friends who recommended her special to let them know how much I liked it!

Five hours later, I finally sat down to write, but all I could muster up was my grocery list. Then it was lunch time. I had really worked up an appetite. Now I really regretted not having gone to the grocery store, but I was afraid of wasting too much time.

A little while later, my husband poked his head into my office to tell me that he was going into town to go to the hardware store. It is highly unusual that he would run errands in the middle of the day.

So, I casually asked him, “What do you need there?” He was oddly defensive when he responded by saying, “Stuff.” So, I responded by saying, “I really need to go to the grocery store.” He then asked, “What for? You already made dinner.” I said, “Because we need stuff.” Admittedly, I had a momentary fantasy that he would offer to do the grocery shopping. Silly me. I think we were both procrastinating from whatever work project needed our attention. I debated going into town with him, since the grocery store is next to the hardware store, but I knew that I would never write this blog post if I went down that rabbit hole.

Besides it's time to put another load of laundry in the dryer… and maybe I will just see what it is happening on Facebook. Don’t judge.

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The Art Of The Font

National Public Radio did a piece the other day about the new Helvetica. My daughter and I both blurted out, "EW! I hate Helvetica." My husband looked at us like we were from Mars. I said to him, “You have no idea what we are talking about… do you?” He sheepishly admitted that he didn’t. At which point, I said, “That is because you are not font sensitive. My guess is that you aren’t even aware of your default setting. You might be a Times New Roman without any awareness at all."

He was both uncertain and kind of defensive. I explained that fonts have a big impact on your reader and that millennials are particularly “font-sensitive." When you work in a large corporation and read hundreds of emails a day, font can have a lot of subtext. Your font says more about you than you think. 

I explained that Comic Sans was quite popular a few years ago. Difficult bosses used it as a way of seeming more approachable. Kind of like how people start a sentence with: “No offense but...” or “Can I talk to you about something?” The millennials rebelled against Comic Sans. It became an unspoken litmus test for whether or not you were hip or cool. I got scolded by my former assistant about this three years ago. “NEVER use Comic Sans!” she warned me. 

Fonts are a secret language. When I first started blogging, I capitalized a lot. My middle daughter almost popped a gasket. She said, “You must get rid of all those CAPITALIZATIONS! It reminds me of getting texts from my step-mother in high school when I was in trouble for leaving dishes in the sink.” Duly noted. 

But it goes beyond Comic Sans and ALL CAPS. You have to be careful about bolding too much as well. It can make you look overly dramatic. Possibly unstable. 

I am a big fan of the American Typewriter font, but that can easily be misconstrued as mentally imbalanced. Like the way serial killers leave notes in scary movies.

There are a number of tried and true fonts. Unobjectionable like vanilla or white bread. You can’t get in too much trouble for using the classics: Arial, Times New Roman, or Courier. But if you are trying to standout and have a distinctive style, it’s kind of like fashion. It comes with risks. There are haters out there… Beware!

Chalkboard SE is kind of fun if you are doing an invitation to a kid’s party, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a business letter.

Futura stands out, but probably better for advertising a paint ball get-together than a resume.

Marker Felt is delightful if you are an artist and you want to show some flair in your email. 

Copperplate makes for a great business card, but it’s very formal.

Avenir is nice and I prefer it to Cochin, which but can look a little tentative. Like you are hoping your email self-destructs five minutes after someone reads it. 

Noteworthy seems really silly to me. Unless you are inviting someone to high tea with finger sandwiches.

Papyrus looks like you’re trying too hard and you belong to a very exclusive sorority… in the 1950s.

Luminari should probably only be used if you are doing a poster for Shakespeare in the Park. 

Of course, it’s not just the font. It’s also the size and the color you choose. And with standard email, black ink is always the safest. But as my middle daughter is about to help me embark on a website for my new coaching business, I am feeling the pressure of selecting the right font, size, and color. It’s remarkably daunting. One thing for sure, I will not be using Helvetica. Not even the “new” one which they annoyingly named Helvetic Neue. I can barely tell the difference between them, but the pretentious spelling didn’t help their cause. 

I jokingly suggested using Comic Sans to my daughter. She didn’t find anything funny about that. Kids these days… they can’t even take a joke. 

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I Am Maris

I haven’t been watching television lately. No reason in particular. I have just been busy with other things. I have been spending a lot of time reading, teaching (yoga), practicing (yoga and meditation), studying, getting my Life Coaching certification (more on that later), playing tennis, and cheering on my youngest daughter during high-school tennis season. 

But last night I sat down to watch television for the first time in weeks… maybe months. While there was a lot of pressure and hype to watch the premiere of Game of Thrones, I promised my husband that I would wait for him to return from a business trip before watching it. The truth is he loves it more than I do, so there is no real sacrifice in waiting for him. 

But as I searched through the overwhelming sea of content now running on Netflix, I stumbled upon a documentary about a teenage girl called I Am Maris. Maris had suffered from anxiety, depression, and a life-threatening eating disorder. Her parents had no idea about the severity of her problems until she was rushed to the hospital for a 28-day recovery program. 

While Maris did well within the in-patient program, she continued to struggle once she returned to her regular life. It was only after she discovered yoga, that she began to find a path out of the wilderness. Yoga transformed her life so much that she became a yoga instructor at 16, started writing a blog, and became a mentor to other teens struggling with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Her transformation was so profound that she was asked to give the commencement speech at her high school graduation. She went to college where she continues to be a prolific writer, artist, yogi, and inspiration to other teenagers (and adults) around the world.  

I cannot recommend this beautiful documentary enough. Whether you know someone who has struggled with anxiety, depression, and/or an eating disorder, or you just want to watch someone transform themselves into a beautiful butterfly, this film is not to be missed. 

 As the website for the movie says, “I Am Maris is a story about mental health, self-love, and the power of one person’s voice.” Anxiety and depression are demons that our society is just beginning to talk about openly. While Khaleesi might be the Mother of Dragons, this young girl is a true dragon slayer and a peaceful warrior.

I am truly inspired by her journey and hope to be like her when I grow up.

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Our Cells Are Listening

Have you ever noticed when you are having a conversation about something totally random: A new diet. A new car. Or even that bike trip through Tuscany you’ve always wanted to take, and suddenly, an ad will pop up with that exact same thing you were just talking about? Is your phone actually listening to you? Creepy for sure. But, it also got me thinking. 

Over the past year or so, I have been reading a lot of books by all of the self-help gurus: Louise Hay, Jack Canfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Shakti Gawain. They are all New York Times best-selling authors who are all experts in the field of philosophy, healing, and self-love. Each one of them has written extensively on the subject of positive self-talk or affirmations. They say that your words and your thoughts can directly affect your success: Personally and professionally. It is believed that your words and thoughts are heard on a cellular level. Your words become part of you… kind of like how your phone hears everything you say and some algorithm creates an ad targeted just for you.

This was a terrifying discovery for me, since I have spent a good chunk of my life, maybe all of it, with self-deprecating humor as the backbone of my identity. I was raised in a family that taught us that self-deprecating humor was disarming, and that self-promotion was tacky.  And while I don’t want to discount humor and humility, I might have taken it too far. I was critical of anything that I didn’t do well. I would readily offer up my weaknesses long before I would discuss my strengths or my accomplishments.

I won’t even mention all of the times that I cursed my curly (frizzy) hair.

But then I started reading about vibrational energy, and the belief that everything is affected by the words we use. The tone of our voices. And here’s the real kicker… our thoughts too! Plants, animals, and human beings are all part of the same source energy. Which means that everything reacts to our words, intentions, and tones…. including ourselves.

So, what does this all mean? Studies show that negative self-talk is damaging. This is our “inner critic” and that bad boy (or girl) needs to be quieted down. Our inner critic plays old tapes that we may have adopted when we were children. Time to burn those tapes and challenge that critic.  

It turns out that positive self-talk is the antidote to that pattern of negative self-talk.

The impact of self-talk (negative or positive) is real. We need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to be more patient with ourselves. We need to be more loving to ourselves.

So lose the negative self-talk… and start the positive affirmations!

Why? Because our cell phones are listening… and our cell biology is too.

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Passwords

There are all kinds of theories about what will be the end of civilization.

Some say that it will be Global Warming.

Others say that it will be Nuclear War.

Others predict a meteor crashing into the Earth.

But I truly believe the end of civilization will be the passwords that we are expected to remember. You know the passwords that control all of our accounts and our lives. The passwords that prevent us from having our identity stolen, but the same passwords that prevent us from accessing our own accounts on a daily basis.

Life was much simpler before passwords. Remember when all we had to remember was our phone number, address, and maybe our junior high school locker combination? Now there is a different username and password for every single thing we do. 

Let’s take this morning for example. I sat down to my computer to write today’s blog, and attempted to turn on my music app because I like to play classical music when I write. It’s just my thing. The blank page is daunting enough, but the silence of sitting at your computer waiting for the inspiration to write is even more daunting. So classical music somehow drowns out the noise of my own internal editor, and then the words generally start to flow. At least, sometimes.

But today the classical music app (Calm Radio) through my Sonos app (my external speaker) would not play. It kept prompting me for my login and password. Which of course, I could not remember. Usually it just recognizes me. Although, I vaguely remember trying to use this app on my phone the other day and running into similar trouble. Then I remembered that I changed my password on that app, which was probably why my computer was not recognizing me. So, I had to reset the password again. But the Sonos app was now requiring an update too. Once again, I could not remember that login or password either. This ended up taking more time than I care to admit.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. This happens daily. A few weeks ago, my husband wanted to watch a tennis match on the Tennis Channel, but we were in Los Angeles and we don't have cable in our apartment. So, I suggested that he log onto our cable account from our home in Hawaii, and watch it online. But naturally that required a password, and neither of us could remember our password to the account. Luckily, I remembered that I could pull up one of our current bills and get the account number online! But guess what?That required a password too. 

Then I remembered I could find the password on my computer through some secret password keeper, but that required a different password. I couldn’t remember that one either. 

My daughter mocked me for not writing down my passwords. But I DO write down my passwords. It’s just that sometimes I don’t remember where I put the list, and sometimes I am not at home to check my list. This requires me to have to reset various passwords, and then I forget to write down the new passwords. You can see the pattern here. No this is not a sign of early senility, this is a worldwide epidemic for anyone who spends a lot of time online and has a lot of accounts.

Okay, maybe it is a little bit of a sign of aging too. But this password thing really bugs me. I find myself not doing a lot of stuff because I simply cannot remember the password, so I just give up.

Although, I have noticed that some accounts make life a lot easier. It appears when you want to buy something online, companies make it VERY easy to remember your password. In fact, they will happily store it for you! Amazon, for example, hasn’t prompted me for a password in years. Similarly, when I buy my movie tickets online, they don’t care what my password is either. Of course, when I want to redeem my 500,000 bonus points, for my small free popcorn, that’s another story. So anything that costs them money, you better know your password. You better type it very slowly AND you better remember case sensitivity and those special characters.

I finally did get my classical music to play, so I am feeling a little calmer. Although, my Sonos speaker still needs an update, and my password is no where to be found. Maybe in the future when everything is voice or face recognition, we will look back at this period of time and laugh about how silly we were to try and remember hundreds of passwords and usernames. Although, with the proliferation of plastic surgery, maybe face recognition will result in the same problem. 

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Epitaphs

We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing and we need to make a decision about his headstone. My siblings and I have been trying to figure out the right epitaph to honor our dad in his final resting place. Our mom’s epitaph simply says, “The Best.” It was the perfect then, and it still is… almost half of a century later. 

But somehow our dad’s epitaph is a bigger challenge. Perhaps because we want the sentiment to be in keeping with the simplicity and perfection of our mom’s. But our dad lived a much longer life with many more chapters. In fact, he lived twice as long as our mom, so finding the perfect expression to encapsulate his life just seems harder.

In the latter part of our dad’s life, the greatest joy for him was to share a meal with family or friends. So, my sister thinks his headstone should say: Let’s Eat! 

My middle daughter thinks due to his legendary parking karma; we should write: Herb’s Final Parking Spot.

My oldest brother thinks we should say: The Sweetest. As this was what everyone would say upon meeting our dad.

Sometimes people use their loved ones most common expression. Most of our dad’s favorite expressions were in Yiddish. Here are just a few:

Zei Gezunt - Which means, Go and Be Well. He said this every time he said goodbye.

Use It Gezunterhait - This is a hybrid of English and Yiddish which means, Use It In Good Health. He said this every time we bought something. Big or small. Whether it was a pair of jeans or a brand new car.

Kina Hora - Which translates, May The Evil Eye Not Look Down Upon Your Success. He said this whenever we told him good news.

Shlof Gezunt - It means, Sleep Well. Ironically, not a bad choice for a permanent resting place.

Are you going to eat that tomato? Obviously, this is not a Yiddish expression. He just really loved tomatoes, and he hated to see them go to waste on someone’s plate. 

A friend of mine used his father’s favorite expression for his epitaph: It Could Be Worse. 

Our dad was the ultimate optimist. A glass half-full kind of guy. So, it is important for us to capture honor that spirit. His optimism might have been the secret to his longevity. As I sit here trying to figure out what expression embodies him best, I just remembered one of his favorite sayings:

Count Your Blessings

I will need to confer with the tribal council a.k.a my brothers and sister. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we might have a winner.

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Expiration Dates

We are in Los Angeles this week due to my daughters overlapping Spring Breaks. My oldest daughter is coming to LA to spend a few days here as well, but she couldn’t get the weekend off work, so she will only be here for mid-week. It’s kind of like a family vacation, except that everyone is here for different legs of the trip due to conflicting work schedules and school schedules. Illustrative of that, my youngest daughter and my husband left this morning to go skiing for a few days. My oldest daughter arrives this evening, and my middle daughter leaves tonight on the red-eye to go back to school. Yes, I will be making three trips to the airport to accommodate all the different itineraries. It’s kind of comical… except that traffic in LA is no laughing matter.

Meanwhile, it has been nine months since I have been to LA. I think this is the longest time I have ever been away from my hometown. While I have lived in Hawaii for over 10 years, I have always come back to LA every six to twelve weeks. Between work and family, there was always a reason to be going back and forth. This has changed since my dad passed away last year, my middle daughter left LA to to go to college on the east coast, and I am no longer tied to any one studio or network. If it weren’t for my husband and daughter wanting to come to the mainland for skiing, I might have been away for even longer. 

Due to all the business travel, we kept an apartment in LA for the last eight years. It has been a great luxury to only have to pack a briefcase rather than a suitcase when you travel as often as we did. Particularly for those of us (me) who hate to pack. I keep all of my winter clothes, business clothes, and black tie attire in Los Angeles. A vestige of my former life. The bathroom is stocked with necessary cosmetics and toiletries. The kitchen is stocked with non-perishable foods.

But upon our arrival the other day, while trying to make a late night snack for the family, I noticed that some of the kitchen staples had expired. We had a cabinet full of dry goods that I thought would last for a long time. But as I started to turn the packages over to check the expiration dates, I noticed that a lot of stuff expired last year. Some things expired two years ago. Some three. Wait? What? How is that possible? How is it that so much time has passed, that canned soups expired? Ramen. Pasta. A freezer full of Trader Joe's stuff. Holy cow. So much for non-perishables.

I ended up going through the refrigerator and threw out a whole shelf of condiments. Who knew that ketchup, mustard, salad dressing all goes bad… even in the refrigerator? Then I decided to tackle the freezer. Bye bye Trader Joe's Tikka Masala, Grilled Cauliflower bites, Ice Cream, and a frozen pizza. Thankfully, I couldn’t find the expiration date on the Trader Joe's frozen chocolate lava cakes. Those would have been a travesty to throw out. 

Our flight had landed at 10:30pm, so it was after midnight when I went on this cleansing purge of “past the shelf life” goods in my apartment. After doing the dry goods cabinet, the refrigerator, and the freezer, I was now ready to tackle the bathroom products. Can you say Jet Lag with a splash of OCD? 

In the bathroom, I discovered bags of old makeup, and some promotional cosmetics leftover from some goody bags from the Golden Globes which were at least five years old. I think the rule of thumb is that used cosmetics should be discarded after one year? Oops. I found half-used bottles of hair conditioner that smelled funny and had changed color. Probably not a good sign. I even found a bottle of rubbing alcohol that allegedly expired last year, but it had never been opened. Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense. I had to draw the line somewhere. The sealed bottle of rubbing alcohol and the frozen chocolate lava cakes STAY!

But this purge of old frozen food, expired canned food, and ancient partially-used cosmetics made me feel like I was cleaning out my grandmother’s house after she passed away. Except that this wasn’t my grandmother’s house. It’s mine. And it’s not like I have lived in this house for 50 years and have never done a good cleanse. This is a relatively new modern apartment. So how did time pass so quickly that I was throwing out things that expired three years ago or even longer? I don’t know, but suddenly these expiration dates felt like a bizarre metaphor for life. 

Time marching on is not a new revelation. I get it. But when you are young, time just moves slower. Hours can feel like days. Days can feel like weeks. Weeks can seem like months. Months can seem like years. But, when you turn 50, everything starts to go in the opposite direction. Years fly by like months. Months feel like weeks. Weeks feel like days, etc.

My middle daughter is graduating college this year. While I am acutely aware of this fact, it wasn’t until my sister called us the other day and asked her, “Are you a senior?” When she replied, “Yes, I am graduating in six weeks.” I suddenly had a lump in my throat and my eyes starting watering. How has my little snuggle bug of a baby, who wore exclusively Disney princess clothing for the first three years of her life, and hummed when she ate her canned pears and peaches, suddenly become an (almost) college graduate? I started to panic about this strange time warp. My youngest daughter is still in high school, but if high school is anything like college, I only have three more years (aka minutes) with her at home before she is thousands of miles away too. 

So what is it about these expiration dates that has suddenly caused a mild existential crisis. How did expired frozen waffles and sunscreen suddenly make me so aware that time is no longer just “marching?” 

Is time now flying? No, time has officially moved into warp speed.

If you don’t believe me… just check your medicine cabinet.

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Seeking Balance

I practice yoga as an extension of my desire to maintain balance in my life.

I now teach yoga with that same goal. 

I have often said that I lived the bulk of my life without balance or boundaries. I was always on the go. Always moving. Always doing. No resting. No stillness. Even when I would take hot baths at night, to try and melt away the tension of the day, I was always working. Multi-tasking. This made for an anxious mind, and an exhausted, depleted body. 

Some of it was unavoidable. It was the typical life of a working mom. It was the life of a busy executive. But as I continue to morph into a new chapter of my life, I am mindful of that former existence. I am grateful for having survived it, and I have come to honor the lessons it taught me. But I suffered physically and mentally having lived in a constant adrenaline-fueled state. I wish I could have told my younger self: 

It’s okay to slow down. 

It’s okay to stop multi-tasking.

It’s okay to take time for yourself.

I wish I had learned how to embrace stillness.

Now I try and incorporate stillness into my every day life. Starting with daily meditation, but yoga is a big part of it too. My yoga teaching is an extension of that philosophy as well.

As I tell my students, it is important to move your muscles and get your heart pumping. It’s not only good for your body, but it has the added benefit of being a great stress reliever too. This is known as the Yang part of the practice.

But it’s equally important to embrace the stillness. The deep stretching. This is known as the Yin part of the practice. They say it is in stillness where we find solutions to the problems that nag at us.

Whether or not you do yoga or meditate, I invite you to take a few moments for yourself. Find some quiet time starting today. See if there is tranquility and maybe even solutions to be found…

in the stillness.

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Two Jewish Women Walk Into A Bookstore

I know it sounds like the beginning of an old joke.

Last week, I was running errands and stopped into the bookstore to buy two gifts. While I was there, I noticed a woman that I had coincidentally seen at the grocery store earlier in the week. She looked so familiar. Not familiar in that we live on a small island and you run into the same people all the time. This was different. She looked like someone I used to know a long time ago. She was older than me, very petite, and her hair was tied back in a bun. But when I saw her again in the bookstore, I couldn’t help but stare. I was quite sure I knew her. She looked like one of my old friends. Then, I realized she might actually be someone famous.

At the risk of embarrassing her, and myself, I cautiously said, "You look so familiar. Has anyone told you that you look like...?” Without letting me finish my sentence, she just nodded and said, "I am.” I hadn’t recognized her because her signature curly hair was neatly tucked into a bun. I have very similar hair, and most of the time, I tuck it into a bun too.

After 30 years in the entertainment industry, I am rarely star struck, but this was someone I have adored since I was a little girl. I gushed and I gushed hard. I started telling her that I had been a fan of her music, since the early 70s. I told her that I recently read her memoir. I saw her life story on Broadway. I watched the documentary about her concert in Hyde Park. Weirdly, I happened to be in Hyde Park on the day of that concert. My sister had my favorite album of hers on vinyl. But over my lifetime, I went on to purchase that same album four different times on: 8-track, cassette, CD and eventually on iTunes. I told her how I cried when she was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors where Aretha Franklin sang her song. She started to tear up when I told her all of this. 

I met Carole King. For my younger readers, sorry if you are not familiar with this musical legend, but she is awesome. The Broadway musical about her life was called Beautiful and it won two Tonys. It remains one of my favorite Broadway shows of all time. Her memoir is called A Natural Woman. The album that I bought four times is called Tapestry. She is probably one of my favorite singer-songwriters along with Elton John, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. 

We swapped stories about being city girls who moved to the country to get away from the rat race of our respective industries. We talked about what books we were buying. She told me that she was working on a novel. I told her that I write a weekly blog. She introduced me to her close friend who was also carrying an arm full of books. We joked about all the ways that we might have met before, since we probably know a lot of the same people, but it took a bookstore on a small island to finally meet in person. I didn’t want the conversation to end, but there is always a fine line between being a fan and being a stalker, so we said our goodbyes.

I had so many questions. What was it like meeting John Lennon? What was it like collaborating with James Taylor? What does she like most about living in the country? What does she miss most about city life? Does she still write music? Does she still play piano every day? Does she still write songs? Does she like writing books better? Does she listen to music when she writes? I do.

Isn’t it strange how sometimes when you meet someone there is an instant chemistry? It is as if you knew each other your whole lives. This is what that chance encounter felt like. It was very special. As we left the bookstore, she said, “I hope we run into each other again.” I said, “Me too.” 

I really hope we do. Thank you for being as lovely as I always imagined you would be.

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And The Oscar Goes To...

I said that I wasn’t going to watch the Oscars this year. While I liked some of the movies, there was really only one category that I truly cared about. I set my DVR so that I could scan through the red carpet arrivals and then watch the rest later. But when I turned on the red carpet pre-show, I kind of got sucked in for a few minutes. Then a few minutes turned into an hour. Before I knew it, it was time for the actual award show to start. 

I thought to myself, I’ll just watch the opening number, since Queen is performing with Adam Lambert. Then Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph appeared to do a riff on the no-host format this year. So, I watched for a few more minutes because they are always hilarious. Just as I was getting ready to turn it off, they started handing out awards, so I thought, Okay, I just want to see who wins the first one. Then it was, Okay just one more. Apparently, watching awards being given are like potato chips for me, I can’t just stop at one.

During the commercial breaks, I found myself doing laundry and chopping vegetables for dinner, but I kept coming back to watch more. Admittedly, I might have watched a few of the commercials too. Did you see that awesome Nike ad with Serena Williams? I admit that I got kind of choked up.

Every time I tried to pull myself away from the television, I found there was something that reeled me back in. Was it an outstanding awards show? Not exactly. But there were some truly standout moments. Here were my top four:

1. Melissa McCarthy dressed as the Queen from The Favourite, with plush bunnies sewn onto her dress, as she and read the nominees for Best Costume Designer. Hilarious!

2. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performing Shallow from A Star is Born. It gave me chills.

3. Olivia Colman’s acceptance speech for Best Actress in The Favourite. So funny. So heartfelt. 

4. Rami Malek’s win for Best Actor in Bohemian Rhapsody. This was the whole reason I watched the Oscars this year.

Rami is a gifted actor who brought Freddie Mercury back to life in this Oscar-winning performance. We became fast friends a few years ago after we cast him in the role of Elliot on Mr. Robot (USA Network). The character of Elliot was an extremely difficult role to cast because he was an unlikely hero: A drug-addicted young man with whole host of mental and emotional issues. The character appears to be an anti-hero who is anti-establishment, reclusive, and emotionally tortured. But Rami found the soul of that character from the very first moment of his audition. He found the fine line between genius and vulnerability. He found the balance between victim and vigilante. His role in Mr. Robot led him to a Golden Globe and SAG nomination, as well as winning the Emmy all in that first season. 

Now his lead role in Bohemian Rhapsody has led him to sweep the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and the Oscar for Best Actor in a feature film. The competition in this category for the Oscar was incredible with outstanding performances by Bradley Cooper, Viggo Mortensen, Willem Dafoe, and Christian Bale. This made the win even sweeter for this rising star.

Rami is not only a brilliant actor, but he is a standout human being. He is pure love. I am so proud to know him and call him a friend. Congratulations Rami! You are a star in every sense of the word.

P.S. I now forgive you for sneaking into my old office and making yourself at home on my sofa whenever I was not there.

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My Brother Greg

My brother Greg had a birthday this weekend. He says that he has everything he has ever wanted… except his own reality show. 

This has been an on-going dream since Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie made a splash doing The Simple Life. A reality series on Fox where these two daughters of rich and famous people were fish-out-of-water in rural parts of America. It was on that show that Paris famously declared that she thought, ‘WalMart was where they sold walls.' Sad, but true.

Anyway, my brother Greg, a larger than life character, felt that if Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, and eventually the Kardashians could become famous, certainly a formerly urban, middle-aged gay man, starting a soap company, and learning to become a farmer could be good fodder for television. So every conversation we have had since 2005, he has pitched the idea of starring in his own reality show. When I was a network executive, he expected me to buy the show. When I became a television producer, he expected me to produce it. This is kind of hilarious… and exhausting.

When my brother and I get together, we are firmly cemented in arrested development. He turns into a thirteen-year-old boy and I become his eight-year-old sister all over again. It is well known amongst our family and friends that he was the obnoxious kid who did everything for shock value and attention. He was an equal opportunity offender. He drove my parents and my older siblings crazy too. But, since I was the youngest, I was probably terrorized the most. When we would watch Saturday morning cartoons together, he insisted that only HE was allowed to sing the commercial jingles. I was not. When my cousins would come over, they would all pile into his room, but I was not permitted to enter. He claimed that I didn’t meet the age requirement. According to him, the cut off was right before my birthday. He would insist that we watch scary movies together, but I was scared of everything, so I would cover my eyes. He promised to tell me when the scary parts were over, so I could watch the rest of the movie. But just when it got really scary, he would say, “You can look now.” Then, I would open my eyes and be completely freaked out by the monster that I was trying to avoid. I went on to have nightmares for years.

He spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to push my buttons. He was definitely a button pusher. On a regular basis, he would hide in closets or behind doors, then jump out and scare me when I was least expecting it. One night when my mom and dad were having a formal dinner party, in which we were told to not interrupt for any reason, he put the head of my only Barbie doll into a meat grinder. I just sat there in horror.

He teased me relentlessly. He mocked my frizzy hair. My teeth brushing habits. My friends. Anything and everything was fair game for teasing. When he was a teenager, he was supposed to babysit me on Saturday nights, but he would sneak out with his friends leaving me all alone. He drove me crazy, but I loved him because he was so much fun. I was Charlie Brown and he was Lucy. Every time he would invite me to play, I would come running and he would yank the proverbial football away… leaving me to fall on my ass. But I always went back for more.

He was the kind of kid parents sent away to summer camp for a month to get a break, but it was never long enough. He was a colicky baby. A difficult kid. A rebellious teenager. The kid who struggled in school. But when he finally left home at 18, he found his true calling: Work. While he never became a great student, he was remarkably creative, industrious, and, much to everyone’s surprise, had a tremendous work ethic. So with success in the workplace, he found maturity and happiness. He worked hard and saved his money. He had good instincts with real estate investments. He learned the insurance business and started his own company. He had a ton of friends, loyal clients, and a beautiful home. My dad would say he became a mensch (the Yiddish word for a person of integrity).

After years of hard work, he decided to sell his insurance business and his home in the bay area. He and his life partner bought a piece of property on the Big Island (Hawaii) to start a soap company: www.konanaturalsoap.com. 14 years later, they have a five-acre award-winning sustainable farm where they make and sell handmade soap, grow and sell coffee and cacao (cocoa), and give farm tours. Recently, he re-booted up his childhood passion of throwing pottery and now sells handmade coffee mugs too. They have dogs, cats, chickens, employees, two small retail stores, and a huge on-line business. He works seven days a week, but he says it’s not work because he loves everything about it. 

He grew up to be one of the most fun loving, hard-working, happy people I know. He has a million friends and everyone loves him. He thinks every day is a blessing and is grateful for everything he has.

For his birthday, my husband and I decided to fly over and surprise him for a brunch at the Mauna Kea hotel. We coordinated the surprise with his beloved life partner Marty and his best friend Harry (who had flown in from the bay area the day before). It was a picture postcard day. 80 degrees and gorgeous. Oh, and the brunch was truly awesome too.

My brother loves his life:  The only thing that is missing is his reality show.  

So Greg, for now, you will have to settle on being “Almost Famous,” as I have dedicated this entire blog post to you and your milestone birthday.

You are 60 years old, but you look closer to 50… and you still act like you are 13. Perhaps it’s your arrested development and your relentless zest for life that keeps you looking so fabulous.

Happy Birthday. Love you.

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Death and Taxes

It has been raining here for two days straight. We have had high winds. Power outages. It is damp and cold... and dreary. Before you jump to the go-to phrase: “But you live in Hawaiiii,” I just want to remind you that my house has no central heat, so when it’s cold outside, it is cold inside too. It even snowed at the top of our mountain yesterday. So yes, it sometimes gets cold in Hawaii too. 

But it’s not just the cold, dreary, weather that has me so crazy. It’s the mind-numbing challenges of being a small business owner and having to navigate certain things that I simply don’t understand. This time:  the dreaded 1099 tax form.

Last year, I had a consultant help me with some editing and computer-related marketing. The other day I got an email asking if I would be sending her a 1099? (A tax receipt for independent contractors.) It hadn't even occurred to me to do this. Why do we send 1099s to some people and not others? Should we 1099 our pool man, gardener, housekeeper? What about window cleaners? Hairdressers? Manicurists? Or do we only 1099 the people who work for our corporations? I called my accountant who said that it’s very easy to send out a 1099. Most of the forms are on-line and free. Except, of course, the ones that need to go to the IRS. Those I need to buy at Office Max. He said it would be easy, since I just had one consultant. 

What should have probably taken me only 15 minutes ended up taking hours and hours and probably cost me way more than it should have. It was a 40-minute drive roundtrip to the nearest Office Max only to learn that the one item I needed only came in packages of TEN. I explained to the nice man at Office Max that I only needed ONE form… not 10. He was very sympathetic when he gave me an “It is what it is” shoulder shrug. Desperate to ease my frustration, he was excited when he found a smaller package of forms that saved me a whopping three dollars. I went home and attempted to fill them out with the instructions on the tax website, but something seemed weird. The questions were not the same on the computer as they were in the hard copy form. 

Uh-oh. 

Apparently, the really nice Office Max guy with the sympathetic shoulder shrug handed me the WRONG forms! I needed the 1099-misc NOT the 1099-Interest Income forms. But I had already opened the package and I was pretty sure that I threw away the receipt. Thankfully, I hadn’t printed any forms yet. So, I carefully gathered up my package of incorrect forms and attempted to re-tape the cellophane wrapping back over it. This did not work by the way… not even a little. I, then, went to hunt for my receipt in the kitchen garbage can, where I was concerned that the receipt might be buried under some wilted salad and discarded pasta with meat sauce that we ate for dinner the night before. But the gods were smiling down on me when I found the receipt, crumpled up underneath some inoffensive junk mail, and no smelly leftover food substances. 

I, then, got in the car and made my second 40-minute roundtrip back to Office Max. There I explained my mishap with the wrong package of 1099 forms to the cashier. She was very helpful and happily swapped them out, when I paid the difference and purchased another package of pens. G-d forbid you should ever walk into an office supply store and not need to buy just one more thing. 

When I returned home, I tried to find the file that I had spent too much time already filling out, but it was nowhere to be found. Not saved on my desktop. Not in my browser history. Not in my downloads. So I did another search for the forms, but somehow kept getting routed to commercial websites that make filling out tax forms “easier.” This led to a number of situations where for just $19.99/month I could filled out other forms on-line and save myself a lot of aggravation? But I don’t have other forms to fill out. I have one lousy form which has cost me $20 (for the package of 10), two 40-minute roundtrips to Office Max, and a brief phone conversation with my accountant which will probably cost me $100. So, I keep searching. Finally, I find a website that does not seem to require a lifetime membership, will allow me to fill these out on-line, and print them in my home office. But, they don’t line up with the forms I purchased. I don’t have the right software or something. I am truly ready to go postal. Finally, I texted a friend and she said I could fill these forms out by hand. Wait, what? This is music to my ears. Had I known that I would have saved myself hours of aggravation.

But wait. This one form actually requires three different versions (IRS, state, payee, payor). Then there are two other forms that have to be filled out too. I keep making mistakes, so I end up starting over. But finally, I get them all done. I make out the different envelopes to the IRS, the state, the contractor, and I think I am ready to head to the post office. (Which is now closed because this took hours longer than it should have.) But while talking to another friend, I learn that I cannot simply fold these forms and put them in regular envelopes. He claims they must be sent in special envelopes and that forms are folded in half. What? Where does it say that? 

So I spend several more hours searching the IRS and state tax websites to find out if that is true. I cannot find that rule anywhere. I am so frustrated with all of the time I have wasted on this “one” form. I don’t want to start over. I don’t want to drive 40-minutes roundtrip to Office Max to buy the “right” envelopes. I have had it. How do other small business owners do this? Why did my accountant say that it would only take me 15 minutes? Why didn’t my accountant offer to do this? 

I have done everything they have asked me. I have bought the stupid forms (twice). I have filled everything out in duplicate. I have separate envelopes. I cannot take it anymore. It’s pouring rain. My dog is barking incessantly because there are birds outside the window. My husband is still playing tennis… six hours later. How did HE not get rained out by the way? I decide to throw caution to the wind. I fold the forms like regular letters, stick them in a regular envelopes, and mail them the regular way. This devil may care, practicing the art of not giving a subtle f*ck, rebel without a cause, my way or the highway attitude is the only moment of joy I have felt since starting this ludicrous exercise in bureaucracy. 

Yes, I am living on the edge. Yes, I sent out my first 1099 AND I folded it in a regular envelope. It is my year of living dangerously… and I like it. They say that there are only two things for certain: Death and Taxes. I am certain that they are related. The paperwork that is required to do your taxes makes you want to kill someone. I took the high road. No one was injured during my complete meltdown, but I did go to dinner with my husband that night and broke down into a puddle of tears while sipping a much needed margarita and inhaling a basket of chips and salsa.

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Movie Reviews

My brother and I were chatting about movies we had seen recently and he said he was disappointed by all the hype of The Favourite. He didn’t love it because it didn’t meet his qualifications for what makes a great movie. He says that all great movies end in redemption or reconciliation. The Favourite does neither. 

While it wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, I thought there was a lot to like about it. The performances of the three leading women (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz) were sublime. The production and costume design were both incredible.

The Favourite reminded me of All About Eve through a historical lens of 18th century royalty. One woman comes into another woman’s life and disrupts it both personally and professionally. But by the end of the movie, I realized it wasn’t so much of a history lesson nor a reimagined 1950's classic movie. I think it was ultimately biblical. I believe the theme of the movie was the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride.

Each of the main characters possessed one or more of these sins, and ultimately it was the undoing for all of them. It was a lesson in humility and in moderation. While it doesn’t leave the audience feeling uplifted at the end, it is a wild ride of indulgence, comedy and misfortune. At its core, it kind of reminded me a of Hollywood. 

I am not sure there is a perfect movie this year. I adored Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and I think he deserves the Oscar to sit alongside his Golden Globe and SAG statues this year for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

I thought A Star Was Born had some amazing highlights. Lady Gaga was wonderful. Bradley Cooper was captivating and made an outstanding directorial debut. But, unfortunately, the second half of the movie didn’t hold up as well as the excitement of the first half.

Green Book was excellent. A feel good movie about a beautiful and unlikely friendship. Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen were both incredible.

Roma was adored by the critics, but I felt it was a little slow. Admittedly, I saw it on Netflix rather than on the big screen, so something might have been lost in translation. No pun intended for a sub-titled picture.

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney was an incredible transformation in Vice, but I still think Rami deserves the Oscar this year.

BlacKKKlansman was a fascinating true story. Performances were incredible there too.

Loved Black Panther in spite of my burnout of superhero movies.

This was the year of breakout performances for sure, but I cannot say there was a movie as a whole that took my breath away.

What movies did you love this year? Which film would you vote for Best Picture?

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Spark Joy

Sorry I have been absent for the last two weeks. I was attending an intensive 16-day Yoga Teacher Training workshop. When I shared this news with my friends and family, the general reaction was: “WHAT? Are YOU going to be a Yoga Teacher?” My response was: “Maybe.” 

In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book Spark Joy, she suggests that the secret to tidying up and de-cluttering your life is to hold each item you own and see if it "sparks joy." If it doesn’t, she says you should get rid of it. I have decided to extend this metaphor to devoting this year to exploring things that might “spark joy” in my life. This is my year of self-discovery. This is my year to browse the shelves of life. This is my year to be less attached to the outcome. Taking a Yoga Teacher Training course was the first step on that journey.

I have spent my entire life on a treadmill. Running as fast as I could to somewhere. Where exactly? I don’t know. I was always running to my next goal, but also probably running away from my demons too. Somehow I equated being quiet or still as not being productive. At first it was a race through school. I thought I was going to be a doctor, so while I was in college I never relaxed. While others were partying and enjoying college life, I was always stressed out about every assignment and test. All I could think about was how each exam would affect my overall grade and how that might affect my ability to go to medical school. I held my breath so tightly that I couldn’t absorb what I was supposed to be learning. The only thing I mastered was being stressed. I got an A+ in being Type A. So, when I burned out as a pre-med student, I switched my major from Biology to Psychology. Perhaps an unconscious choice to cure my own neurosis? Or a conscious one as it had virtually all of the same pre-reqs as my Bio major.

When my dream of medical school was thwarted by mediocre grades and a loss of confidence, I felt it was necessary to channel my energy into finding a new career path IMMEDIATELY upon graduation. I took a bunch of electives in television production. I did an internship at a film studio. That led to a summer job as a secretary to a producer. Then, I landed a full-time secretarial job working for another producer BEFORE I even graduated. It didn’t even occur to me to take a day off between graduation and starting my first real job.

But I got fired from that job after six weeks because that producer didn’t like where I placed his tea cup on the coffee table. Not joking! This should have been a red flag right there, but I was persistent. My brother (a young entertainment lawyer at the time) helped me land another secretarial job working for a producing team. I was with them for about two and half years. I learned a lot by paying attention and being highly organized. But, I always resented the dog-eat-dog nature of the entertainment business. Eventually, some combination of sheer perseverance and luck, I was able to land an entry level job as a network executive. I rode that roller coaster for another 28 years jumping from company to company until I finally got off the wild ride and became an independent producer. 

Segueing from television executive to television producer was the safe choice. It was an easily digestible soundbite to tell friends and family. I left my corporate job as an executive where I bought television ideas from writers and producers, then I became one of those producers who sells ideas to the executives like my former self. But the truth is, I just don’t like being a salesman… and unfortunately sales is more than half the job.

Television was a job that I fell into and I made a career out of it by working hard and mimicking other successful people. It was like riding on the back of a bull. I just held on as hard I could to survive. Eventually, I was considered a bull rider too. In this metaphor, I cannot help think that I wasn’t really riding bulls as much as I was surviving the bull sh*t that was came with the territory.

I have often said that I was so busying working that I forgot to have fun. I envied people who were more carefree. To borrow a term from Michele Obama’s autobiography, “I was a box checker.” Get a college education. Have a career. Get married. Buy a house. Have a family. Work hard. Work hard. Work hard. Check. Check. Check. I was, also, a world-class list maker. Rule follower. People pleaser. Do-gooder. These qualities made me reliable and successful, but they were often in the absence of balance and joy. I simply forgot to check the box for Choose Fun.

When I moved back to Hawaii a few years ago, I finally had time to slow down and smell the plumeria. But I didn’t know how to slow down. I had lived one speed: Hyperdrive. I needed tools to change my brain chemistry, reduce my cortisol-pumping adrenal gland, and modify my outlook. It all started with meditation. (Thanks to my friend Bill.) But learning to meditate wasn’t easy. My mind was like a surly inmate… and it wasn’t going down quietly. It has been two years of daily meditation, and finally, I look forward to it every morning like a great cup of coffee. Several months after embarking on a daily meditation practice, I decided to launch my blog. Writing was a way to channel my creative energies and compulsive mind into something productive. Unlike producing, it didn’t require someone else approving it, buying it, or giving me money to make it. It was my own little weekly production. 

But meditation and writing was just the beginning of this new self-exploration journey. This is why I came back to a yoga practice after 25 years. Thanks to my awesome yoga instructor Tommye, I decided to take it to the next level and consider teaching.

Teacher training was daunting. 6am-2pm for 16 days in a row (including weekends). This required getting up in the pitch black and tip-toeing around my house to not wake my family or my dog. If I woke my dog, he would bark his little head off and that would wake everyone else up. By the way, I am NOT an early morning person. Eating breakfast at 5:30am was far earlier than my stomach was ready to accept food. After breakfast, I would head off (in the dark) to a yoga studio where we greeted each other in silence and sat down to a meditation circle every morning. After meditation, the sun would come up and our teacher would start to teach. She would teach philosophy, anatomy, alignment, the posture names, and then we would practice for hours. My body was so tired, and my brain so full, that I found myself limping home to a hot bath of Epsom salts and a variety of menthol eucalyptus based muscle rubs. I couldn’t even form a sentence for the first few evenings after training. 

During the training my mind went to some dark places. You are too old for this. You can’t teach yoga if you are already sore after three days of training. There is too much detail. I cannot possibly learn all this and regurgitate it out in a cohesive (much less) soothing way. So I thought about just dropping out. But then our teacher sent the class an email that addressed that very thought. The subject line read: “Steadying The Overwhelm.” She went on to write, "You can drop it and run away, but think of the satisfaction, the growth, the empowerment that will come when you decide to stay and do your best.” So, 16 hot mineral baths later, jars of ointments for achy muscles (Tiger Balm, Arnica, Deep Blue, Vicks VapoRub), Advil, and tons of water, I continued to show up every morning at 6am in the dark, took my seat on a bolster in our meditation circle, and finished the course. It culminated with a two-hour written final and we each had to teach an entire class, open to the public. I survived both my fears and my sore muscles.

Oh, and I really really liked it. 

My class was comprised of nine students ranging from about 25 - 60 years old. Most of whom were in excellent shape. Most of them vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian. Most of them had been doing yoga for a long time along with a variety of other sports. Most of them were freelance massage therapists, nature guides, and free spirits. One was a female police officer. Everyone was on their own journey. Everyone was looking to learn more about yoga, but mostly we were there to learn about ourselves. Everyone seemed to be looking for more purpose and meaning in their lives. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had taken a class like this 30 years ago, would it have altered my journey? Would I have had the courage to have taken a different path in my life or my career? But by the end of the class, I learned that this question no longer serves me. I have spent a lifetime apologizing for the way I lived. I felt apologetic for joining the “circus” at a young age and not finding a way to get out earlier. Juggling too much. Not giving anything proper attention and always being in emotional conflict with how I spent my long days and most of my weekends. Always working. Always stressed. But that was my path. Rather than apologizing for it, I now look at it with greater reverence. I did it. I survived it. I am grateful for all of the education and the good living it provided me. It made me tough, but it also made me compassionate. I am on a new path now.

So, am I going to be a yoga teacher? Maybe. But I hope it is in concert with a myriad of other things that “spark joy.” I want to teach other people whose lives are imbalanced how to find balance in their life. Whether that be yoga, meditation, a healthier diet, or even a new career. Because… it’s never too late.

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