"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How are you shaping up?

It's been a few weeks since I've reported on my new vegan challenge. I have to admit, it hasn't been easy. My youngest daughter has been baking up a storm the last few days - lots of mint choc brownies going in and out of this house. She also gifted the home with about 5 pounds of york peppermint patties (my favorite) from school. To make matters worse she made gluten free chocolate chip cookies and in my mind in some area, I can trick myself into thinking that they are "healthy" as we got them from the health food section of the grocery store. I DID have one fresh out of the oven the other night and I thought that I died and went to heaven.

The other day we ventured on a college visit and ate at the school cafeteria. That was a hard one to navigate! In the food court were pizza's of every kind, hamburgers and french fries, spaghetti, deli sandwiches an alas... a salad bar. Did I mention the fresh DESSERT bar?! After spelling all of the delights I grabbed a plateful of raw spinach, topped it with a few seeds and went over to the soup bar. I grabbed a cup of lentil soup (which tasted more bland than dirty dishwater) and then grabbed a bit of whole grain spaghetti with sauce. I have to tell you... watching everyone else eat their pizza and boston cream pie pretty much did me in.

Later that evening we went to a pub to grab a sandwich. The girls had fried fish and chips and chicken parm and my husband had a burger and fries. I found a vegetable wrap on the menu (the only thing remotely healthy) and ate a few sweet potato fries (I know but I was STARVING). It has been so difficult.

As I think about Christmas Eve chinese food (YUM) and Christmas dinner with patrician potatoes, ham, shrimp, maybe scallops and then desserts galore I have to admit I have some severe angst going on in my system. My cute little black dress has to be worn a month from tomorrow and it still is rather tight on the top end. I don't want to mess up resolve and results with so many temptations barraging me at every turn!

I am making progress although it seems slow. My wedding rings once again fit my fingers. I purchased a pair of  jeans two weeks ago and at the time couldn't imagine getting them fastened. Today I wore them for about 10 minutes... still complete with muffin top but on none the less. I've sized down consistently from an XL to a L and for that I am grateful. All this in 2 months of exercise and 6 weeks of veganism and eating around 800 calories a day. It's a hard price to pay... slow long term gratification verses immediate pleasure - especially when everyone else is enjoying themselves to the hilt this holiday season.

I just keep reminding myself of my goal. I venture into stores more often and spend great amounts of time trying things on in the dressing rooms, imagining when they will fit me and then they will be too large. I tried on my dream sweater the other night- and it looked marvelous! However, I realized that in 2 short months, it would be too large and I wouldn't like it anymore. These temporary beautiful clothes will soon be my fat clothes and will make their way to the second hand shop so I have to hold back on them too. Ah... good old holding back.... putting off joy till another day.

I didn't even make it to the gym this week! With all the activities of kids coming home and visiting colleges and all that I've been plumb tuckered out. I'll be kind of glad when the holidays are done.

But I'm going to take my own advice and cherish the moment. Maybe I'm not enjoying my food a whole lot and I'm not getting my precious yoga classes in, but I DO have my family home and the holidays are after all about love and sharing more than they are about food. When I'm on my death bed I doubt that I will regret having forfeited the chocolate mint brownies.

Are you living passionately?

This past week we have all been dreadfully aware at the shortness of life. We have publicly watched and grieved over the lives of young people who were just beginning to live. It's been a sad week to bring in the new season.

Social media has been full of stories of the deceased given by family and friends who are trying to deal with the loss of their loved ones and memorize their lives as best they can.

Did you know that the people who die the hardest are those who didn't live life to the fullest reports Elizabeth Kubler Ross? Every day we age. I'm reminded of that as I look in the mirror and wonder where the years have gone. I'm dreadfully aware of that fact as I fight with my slow metabolism while I eat like a little birdie and slowly wait for changes in my body. As new age spots appear and new creaks in my bones and pains in my joints take over I marvel at the brevity of life.

I am so much more now than I was back in my youth. I'm more me... more alive and yet, I squander a great amount of time. Maybe it's just the way that life is and maybe it's indicative of my energy level but I don't feel that I'm embracing and cherishing every moment to it's fullest and it bothers me. Sometimes for me I fear it's that for so many years I had to learn to dial back life while living with a severe chronic illness. I had to learn to accept my limitations and I think I learned it a bit too well. Now I learn how to live live to the fullest again.

One skill that we start to cultivate as we get older is acceptance. It becomes time to accept that life indeed does have a beginning and an end. We learn to accept both our bright happy sides and our sad sinful sides. Acceptance means that we acknowledge that there is nothing that we can do about many situations in our life and we learn to give them to God. Acceptance keeps us in a state of peace and faith. We trust that it all will work out in the end.

But acceptance without action and hope leave little room for passion in life. Every moment is a gift, every day is to be cherished. Every wink of an eye or hug needs to be savored. Today my message is the same as it has been all week. Laugh.. love...cherish. Milk the most out of your day. Keep your electronic time down to a minimum and your people time up. It's easy this time of year to take those few days that you get and cherish your family. Not to be morbid, but none of us knows who will be here next Christmas. Life is your greatest gift! Make the most of it today... it's good for the soul.

On that note.... Push the link to the right of this article - the colorful one on living passionately for the year of 2013 in your life and business. Sometimes it helps to write things down... journal and plan. I'm doing it. It's not something that I've invented, I purchased someone else's plan... but it's a useful tool for me this year and it can be for you too. Part of planning for next year is looking back on this year to celebrate what you did right and look for improvement about what you can do better next year. I'm doing both and it's really educational. Blessings!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cherishing your Loved Ones

Today I received a letter from my daughter's college saying that one of their students had died. This month has been tough on many parents. It started with my husband's co-worker losing a son to a biking accident by his college campus. A week later, news of the terrible massacre in Newtown filled the air with images of beautiful, bright young lives taken too quickly along with dedicated teachers and staff.

When I received news from the campus I felt that much worse. It's the holiday season. It's the time when we cherish our families and to through great lengths to be home for Christmas like the songs and movies tell is to do. Without family the holidays are sad, but losing a family member during the season is especially painful.

Society as a whole has become more isolated. One of the most common complaints that I hear from people on message boards and in person is that they are lonely. Single people are lonely because they haven't met "the one person that will change their lives". Married people are lonely because they either married the wrong one and have been living in pain for years or have lost touch in their relationship. Children are lonely because they don't have friends to play with. Adults are lonely because they spend so much time working that they can't cultivate friendships.

We pursue many things.... money, power, fame, material possessions, faith, knowledge... but the one thing that we all need is LOVE. Ideally a family is a ready-made LOVE system. It's a love that spans miles and time. It's a love that continues even after the death of a loved one.

In this image of a bunch of men breaking ground for a new church is my dear Grandpa (the man in the snow white hair). He has been gone for more than 20 years. This picture showed up on my FB feed the other day and my heart jumped out of my chest. My love for that dear man is as rock solid as it was when he was alive. Death doesn't change that.

We all have those people... many people that have moved on to their eternal home. Someday we will see them again but until then, we can cherish their memories and love on those people that are here for us today.

Here's my little challenge.... turn off your electronics for a while and visit with your loved ones this Christmas. Don't get so caught up in the ball games and the movies that you forget that you are living your own version of a Christmas movie. Play games with the kids... visit with the older folk. Hold hands with your spouse. Kiss... hug...laugh...spoil. Christmas is about the gift of love... not presents.

For the past few years, we've made our family present about doing something together. We no longer give gifts to our kids, instead we go on a short family vacation. It's a great way to build memories and value each other. Our favorite trip is to NYC, where we can visit art museums and eat good pizza, chinese, bagels and diner desserts (my vegan ways shoot a hole in THAT plan... dang). 

What can you do this year to cherish your family? 

Guilt free chocolate...

If you are into cooking - which unfortunately I'm not.... here's a little chocolate recipe for you for the holiday seasons to give you pleasure without guilt. It's NOT a vegan recipe... so if you are a vegan don't bother watching. But if you just want a healthier dessert this holiday season, try this one on for size.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Artistic Inspiration... A Poem written and performed by Derrick Brown

The last few days have again turned my eyes towards Heaven.

Six months before my dear grandmother died, she had an experience that she could not understand. While she was napping in bed, she felt someone touch her on the toe. She woke up and saw a beautiful man with kind eyes standing at the foot of her bed. He said "Grace, come with me". She leapt out of bed feeling none of the familiar arthritic pain or vision problems. Her chronic cough was gone. As she followed this man, they were walking along a beach. She said to him, "Are you Jesus". He looked at her. She said, "You have the kindest eyes, you must be Jesus". He then said "Grace, take my hand and climb up here with me." She said to him "But I see no stairs". "Trust me" he said. They climbed high above the earth and she looked down at the beauty. And then....

She was back in her bed. Was it a dream or did it really happen? She believed that it was way more real than her dreams every were. I believe it was a true spiritual experience. Grandma was more prone to intuition and spiritual encounters than most people. She had a special revelatory gifting that would catch her by surprise now and again.

Grandma and I used to play a little game. I would wake up one day and say "I think I better visit Grandma. I believe she is expecting me". I would make the trek into town to visit her and she would always say. "Oh Ruthie, I knew you'd come today".  Never failed.

Grandma has been gone about 15 years now. She was very special to me and I to her. One day after her spiritual encounter, she climbed those steps and chose not to return. She's up there with my grandpa who died a few years before her. She used to fuss because she believed that he wouldn't know her anymore. He wouldn't know he had been happily married to her for 60 plus years. I'm sure he was the first one there to greet her!

There is so much mystery in the afterlife. We wonder if our loved ones see us down here or give thought to the earth. We wonder what they really do to stay busy and the issue of timelessness is rather confusing. I often wonder if we all "sleep" and then arise together or if they are up there first without us. And the children... do they stay young forever? Do they grow? Is there age? Lots of questions... answers will come in time.

Right now our job is to live passionately and love ferociously. We are the hands and feet of God. With our mouths we can bless. With our actions we can show love.

This holiday season, give of yourself, your time, your love. Don't hold back. The world needs you!

Artistic Tribute.... Hallelujah, The Voice

The tributes keep coming in for the Sandy Hook community. The outpouring of love is beautiful. I know that nothing can take away the pain of the families involved, but it's great when people use their gifts to bless others. This one is really very touching....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just for a few days

My heart has been overwhelmed with pain for the families of the women and children that were killed last Friday morning in Newtown.

There are no appropriate comments for the crime, just prayer and outpouring of love for those who are suffering during this season. I can't answer whys there just IS. Evil happened in a horrible way and we are all grieved.

For a few days, instead of reading my blog, I would love it if you would take a few minutes to pray for the families. I know you probably all are already, but a few extra minutes would be wonderful. I have links here to the Facebook pages for the victims so that you can read their stories and hold the families up.

There are also a plethora of youtube videos and tributes already and the news stories keep coming. In a few days, this story will subside and yet the pain and loss of those grieving will be very real.

Please pray for the families that they will experience peace in the midst of their heartache.

Pray for the brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and all affected by the loss.

Pray for the children and teachers in the school who survived and are dealing with the terrible anxiety and grief.

Pray for the first responders and all who are on the front lines helping.

Pray for a town that will never be the same.

One more thing... please don't post anything on your FB page about God not being allowed in school as the reason for this. Really? To say that is vindictive and small minded and trite and the families and the victims deserve so much more than that. God abides in people and I saw God in all the public schools where my children attended.  God is everywhere. He was in the concentration camps. He is in the darkness to bring peace and joy to his children. He loves ALL people for he IS love. Don't use this to jump on your religious or political rant. It is a painful affront to all those who have lost people so dear to them.



Friday, December 14, 2012

On Becoming a Butterfly

Are you destined for greater things? Are you living up to your full potential? Do you feel like you were born to soar but you are only crawling around on your belly? Are there areas of discontent in your life that you just don't want to look at or deal with because a change would be far too painful for you?

I think if we are honest, we all have areas like this. We tend to excel in one or two areas while the other parts of our lives fall behind. It's kind of the ebb and flow of life... but is it something that we should be satisfied with?

There is a tension between living your fullest and being content with your situation. If one is TOO content, they will not want to move forward. However, if one is ALWAYS striving for the unreachable, life becomes a big project and true joy becomes elusive.

Sometimes there comes a stirring in our lives to move forward and press ahead to a new goal. It comes in the form of discontent. We can do one of two things during those times. We can either squash those feelings, shaming ourselves for our lack of spirituality and possibly reaching for one of our vices such as food, alcohol, shopping or whatever or we can recognize it as our soul crying out for change.

It is alright to feel discontent at times. Being content to take a lower pay check when you deserve more is "underachievement". Being content with a B when you are smart enough to get A's is setting your sights too low and not an admirable quality.

Discontent should stir you into action. If you are unhappy with your body... change it. If you are miserable in your marriage, work on it or get out. If you don't like your job.... move on. If you need more education to reach your dreams, attend school. There are so many things that we can do to move forward and fly.

At times we are trapped in our circumstances and financial constraints. Our lives can get caught in a gridlock where we can't move forward. At those times it helps just to start working on one little area where there might be some wiggle room. If you can get that little stick moving, it may loosen things up for some other changes in your life to follow.

Life is too short to crawl on your belly when you should be flying!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Pain Avoiders

This morning I set my alarm, got myself out of bed to go to bender ball/yoga. I have to say that I made it there a bit late, but was not too sad about it because bender ball is KILLER. Basically it's pilates with a little ball that you squeeze while you do a bunch of things that tighten your tummy.

I always go to yoga with great excitement because I feel SOOOO good when I'm done. However, usually during yoga I remember the pain and strength that I need to pull off the exercises and then I say to myself "Why exactly is it that I LIKE this?" I push through however because sitting down in the middle of class attracts attention that I would rather not have. At the end of the class we get to enjoy savasana. This is when you get to just lie there and let your body relax and melt into the floor. At the end of a long workout, it is complete heaven as I listen to the gentle music and my muscles and bones realign. I leave feeling GREAT! In fact, I feel so great that tonight I'm going to go back to the gym and torture myself with an hour of zumba and yoga again.

My actions are really a tad abnormal. As a rule we human souls are pain avoiders. We don't like what doesn't feel good. We want to eat what tastes good to us. We dislike confrontation so we avoid people that we don't prefer. We usually try to take the easy way out of things. Unfortunately in life, there really are no short cuts. You get what you put into it. You can't cheat and get great results either in physical health and fitness or in work or relationships.

Life takes hard work. If you aren't pushing ahead, you are falling behind. It's one of the unfortunate realities of this world.

Is there anywhere in your life where you are taking a short cut? How are you "paying" for it? Are you avoiding something that needs to get done or be said? Are you taking control of your life or are you letting the chips fall where they may? Are you happy with the way your life is?

I'm old enough to know that despite the best laid plans, things can and do go wrong regularly. I know that unforseen circumstances can set you back and change the course of your life. However, I also believe that there are things that ARE within our control if we dare push through the pain for a positive outcome.

So today, I challenge you to begin to take charge of your life. Take a look back at last year and see where improvement can happen in both your personal lives and your business. Make some lasting changes that will serve you better in the new year.

If you need a little help and organization with that, on the right of my blog is a colorful picture and link to purchase a yearly plan and organizer. For only $10 each or $17 for both you can download Leona's artistic and whimsical yearly planner to your computer and start working toward a new you! It truly is good for the soul!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life Unplugged....

Are you plugged in? Since you are taking the time to read my blog, you probably are one of the millions of people a day who spend way too may hours on your computer. You are aware of the posts on Facebook of all your friends and you feel proud of yourself for keeping up with so many friends from your past and present and those who are long distance. Your head is swimming with information, videos, nice quotes that seemingly edify your life and your social networking score would be an 8 out of 10. You might blog as I do and pass more information out to others throughout the day in hopes that you will edify their lives.

Here's the question... are we? Are we edifying our lives? Maybe... I hope so. I do think it's great that I can keep up with all my friends. I love that I can see pictures of them and if we want to connect closer we can call each other or skype. Social networking definitely has it's good points.

Here's my second question... are we helping our business? There's a good question. It's one that depends on your goal for the day, your business and your life.

Do you get paid to surf the net? Does it effect your bottom line in dollars? Does your Klout score give you more than kudos? Does keeping up on social trends bring you closer to the goal in your business?

Here's my take on it - yes and no. I think it's very important to keep yourself "out there" so that people know who you are and what you are doing. I think it's great to show your "human side" to others so they have an identity as part of your brand with which to know you and trust you. In a sense by social networking you are forging and maintaining a relationship with others. Getting your work and ideas out there can benefit your business greatly. However, if you spend too much time doing social networking, you might not have the time to attend and improve upon the core basics of your business.

Which brings me to my big fat no. If not put in check, time on the web can be an incredible time waster. Yes, it's fun but it poses a constant interruption into your work flow. Most of us need a chunk of time where we can be "unplugged" to dig deep into a project that will benefit our businesses. When we cave in to constant interruptions of phone calls, texts, email and Facebook responses, we take our mind off what we were doing. It is extremely difficult to get back into the deep thinking that we need to continue on with our project. Sometimes we get sidetracked and walk away and sometimes it will take us way longer to finish something than we need to.

And there is the question of quality of life and relationships. Yes, my relationships with my Facebook friends and other websites are very real. But they are VIRTUAL relationships. I speak with real people and have real conversations but at the end of the day, we aren't doing "real" things. We can't sit across the table from each other and have a meaningful connection. Instead we are sending little notes here and there in leu of a relationship. Texting someone back and forth, while it may be fun, doesn't satisfy the deep need that we all have for time and connection. It's a poor sacrifice for real relationships. I wonder if over time that will be most of all we have. After all, how many of us ignore the people in the room with us so that we can spend time on Facebook connecting with our friends. Granted we know small facts about them, how they are feeling about something (maybe) and that they are alive. We see pictures of their trips and their families. We see projects that they are working on... but are we really connecting with them on a personal level? It's not the same.

I'm not advocating to "give it all up". As an extravert, I think it's great to keep in touch with so many. Facebook has opened a whole new world for us. I'm just saying... keep it in check. Understand that you have a life outside of your virtual reality. When you are sitting with someone at the table, give them your full attention don't ignore them to check your news feed. When your spouse or child wants to talk with you about something, give them both eyes and both ears and more than 2 minutes time (I'm preaching to myself here people). I am guilty on all counts. I'm multi-tasking myself right into a frenzy lately. I read 5 website pages at one time, jumping back and forth to get as many done as I can at once, while listening to a youtube movie. Sometimes I even have the TV on in the background while I'm doing it!

So today, after I check my emails and Facebook page... I'm going to unplug for a while and work on my portfolio, website and submissions into competitions and grad school.  I'm going to focus on the people in the room and look them in the eye when I speak to them. I'm going to use hugs and touch to connect. It's called living life and it's good for the soul!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Climbing out of the Hole

I got up and went to yoga this morning and then came home and walked 5 miles. On my walk, my husband and I were talking about how hard it is for people to dig themselves out of the holes that they either put themselves in or were born into. The more hopeless a situation appears to be, the harder it is to climb out. I think that there are a few steps that need to happen.

The first thing that has to happen is the person has to BELIEVE it can and will get better. They have to BELIEVE that the steps that they take will come together toward a marked improvement on their life. The problem is that the more deeply embedded in the hole they are, the more potential there is for things to collapse on them when they are trying to climb out. The belief in a better way will fuel them to stay the course.

Not only must they believe it can get better but they must BUILD THEIR RESOLVE. It's important to build resolve because it is the fuel behind your energy. When one moves forward toward a goal and reaches a roadblock, or worse, a setback, one needs a force of energy to move ahead again. Discouragement is deadly when one is reaching for a goal. They must be strong and singleminded and not let people or situations stop them. Move forward, march on. To do this they must spend time and energy building their resolve. You can do this through education or inspiration but it must come from inside your your spirit. Any external resolve is too easy to lose.

The third thing I think is important is to GATHER SUPPORT. Gather your friends and loved ones to support you on the goal. By support, I don't mean policing you. You should be able to police yourself for that is the only way you are going to feel good about accomplishing your goals. I don't really even mean having an accountability partner. In my experience, using a friend as an accountability partner often ends in resentment. It's better to find a stranger as an accountability partner and let it grow into a friendship than the other way around. When I say gather support, I mean tell your friends what your are doing so that they don't inadvertently sabotage your efforts in their uninformed state. Let them be your rah rah team. Take their hands of support, don't try to be brave and do it alone. We all need each other.

Finally to climb out of a hole at any time, you must CELEBRATE THE SMALL STEPS along the way. If you have to lose 100 pounds, celebrate every 10 as a landmark. If you are looking for a promotion, celebrate the kudos you are getting from your employees. If you are seeking greater health or movement, celebrate the breakthroughs however small. If you are wanting to start jogging from a sedentary lifestyles, celebrate your first walk around the block and then keep it up. Whatever it is, be proud of the little that you do and you will be able to build on it. Before you know, you will be that much closer to who you would like to be or what you would like to do.

It's so important that you don't let yourself get discouraged and sabotage your efforts. Just keep plugging away at it. Remember "slow and steady wins the race".

It's never too late to go for your goals. You are never so deep that you can't climb out. Whatever it is that you are working on. Keep it up. Start today. Plug away at it and don't give up. It's not over till it's over!

Artistic Expression... Faith Hill


Monday, December 10, 2012

Inspirational Video

I was just researching juicers since I sold mine at a garage sale a few years ago thinking I wouldn't be using it again (tip, sell what you don't use and then you will need it. If you do this with all your healthy stuff you will be in good shape! haha.) Anyway - check out this short video of this woman who did the vegan diet and juice fast.

Do you Self-Sabotage?

Life is going perfectly. You are at the top of your game. You found your true love. You are making lots of money. You are happier than you have ever been and then..... it all goes south. You start looking for problems with your job. Your love is no longer the perfect god/goddess that you thought they were. You believe that you shouldn't be too happy so you mess with a good thing. Or maybe you run into the same patterns over and over again in your life and you just can't seem to break them. You may be self-sabotaging. 

As the year draws to an end we look at out accomplishments throughout the year. What have you accomplished? What are you proud of? What do you regret? What wall do you consistently run up against when you are trying to move forward? Are you happy inside? Do you experience joy from the decisions that you make or are you a victim, slugging through the day in a low whine waiting for the day when you will be "released" from your burdens?

Your answers tell a lot about you as does your life experiences. If you are not satisfied with the course that your life has taken, despite having some great opportunities for improving those situations maybe you are self-sabotaging.

If you think that you may be sealing your own doom, I have a great option for you today. It's a course called Overcoming Self-Sabotage by Debbie Ford. You can take it for as little as $1 if you don't have the resources to pay more. Check it out! I'm enjoying it immensely as it helps me pinpoint areas for greater efficiency and improvement and understand my emotions better.

As we continue in this "being all that we can be" theme without having to join the army, benefit from this great course. It's good for the soul!

Artistic Expression.... Moriah Carey

Another great holiday song....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Artistic Expression - Heaven touches Earth for Christmas

As we worship the King today and during this Holiday season, here are a few beautiful moments when it is as if Heaven touches Earth.

Forks over Knives


At the risk of being too fanatic, I want to share one more link to a movie that I watched last night called "Forks over Knives". I was having difficulty falling to sleep and found this movie on Netflix instant. Above is the link if you would like to watch it on youtube for $3.99. This is a documentary film again on the food we eat and scientific correlation to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It's pretty startling.

I know the holiday season isn't when we like to focus on these things... it's usually January that we take stock of our lives and try to gain some health and clarity in our personal lives and business, but again, what a wonderful gift for your family, health and all that comes with it. You know what they always say when things get tough "well at least you have your health"!

Here's to YOUR health!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Link for Reboot

Joe Cross - of Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead has a website... Click here.

Artistic Expression... Believe

Keeping the Vision in front of you

The other day, I walked into my folks house to pick up my daughter and a waft of amazing smells came my way. My mother had prepared a delicious fresh pizza. The smell and the sight almost sent me right out of all my conviction and resolve.

As the three sat down to eat, I reached for a V-8, determined that it would satisfy me. I took my mothers large poinsettia on the table and placed it between my eyes and the tantalizing treat on the table and focused on the conversation, keeping it active and alive so that my mind wouldn't start down a path of pity.

All good. I left the home without a bite of pizza and instead walked 2 1/2 miles along a beautiful wooded path. My vision and my food chart was left in tact. Later that night I took my daughter to the movies. In the back of the vintage theatre is a wonderful snack stand full of delicious foods and alcohol. Visiting this old movie house is a treat because you can eat a meal, down a nice spritzer and enjoy the show. Instead, we enjoyed the show while we watched everyone else munch on their goodies. But the show was great.

Part of what is helping me stay the course besides sheer determination are the tools that I have mentioned earlier in my blog. The two wonderful courses that I am taking are MORE than worth the price of the course (which is as low as $1). If you haven't signed up already consider taking 21 Day Yoga Body and Permanent Weight Loss with Self-Hypnosis. It will help you get through the holidays with hopes of being more slender or at least perhaps not gaining the traditional 5-7 pounds which bless you for the rest of the year.

The courses help me stay the course with my health goals but I've also been feeding myself with a more "girlie" focus. My little black dress hanging on the back of my closet door is only the start of it. Lately I've been going to my favorite clothing websites and "pinning" outfits that I plan on wearing once I meet my goal. Clothing can be so artistic and fun to wear when you are feeling good about your body. Below are a few of my favorite outfits from Free People. I'm sure you have your own favorite sites that tantalize you. The great thing is knowing that you WILL reach your goal and wear the clothing that you want!

It's good to have both short and long term goals to keep your vision alive along the way. I play little games with myself. After I do this many of these classes, I will treat myself to more yoga. Or if I fit into this dress by this time, I will treat myself to a day trip to NYC. Whatever it is that floats your boat, hold it up in front of you as a prize and soon you will be able to stave off that short term gratification for something that will pay greater dividends in the end! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Artistic Inspiration... Hu Jun Di

This is the work of artist Hu Jun Di. Born in 1961 and living in China, Hu paints these oil paintings with depth and color. He does not use models, but rather paints images that he sees in his mind. If you would like to know more about Hu click here.

Artistic Expression - The Piano Guys

Peaceful and beautiful.... rest and absorb... Christmas version below...


Writing your way to health....

Today I want to share with you another book that can help you in your getting healthy pursuit... "The Writing Diet" by Julia Cameron. You probably know her from "The Artist's Way". If you don't - do yourself a Christmas favor and read it - fantastic book for creatives!

The Writing Diet is not a food plan, but rather an urge to "write your wrongs" so to speak. Listen to this small interview with Julia as she explains her book.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Artistic Inspiration - Hsin Yao Tseng

Here's a young man that paints like an old soul - in a good way. He's incredible. My friend Heather the Painter posted him on FB today and I couldn't resist sharing him with all of you. Click here to see his website.

What do Emotions have to do with it?

For those of you who know me well, let me just tell you that today I got up at 6:00 and made it to my 9:00 Bender/Yoga class. Yes, I feel great.... and it's nothing short of a miracle! For 25 years I have had a hard time getting out of bed before 10 AM unless I'm running on adrenalin for a class or conference. CFS took it's toll on my body and I lived with the effects of it but the past 3 weeks on the vegan diet have really made a difference in my life.

Although being a vegan seems to be working well for me, there are other eating plans that may work for you. Do whatever works... you are the master of your body and life force. If you choose health it will pay you great dividends which far outweigh the quick moments of pleasure from the poor food choices.

Sometimes our weight problems can be a result of habit and too much fast food, while other times its a bit more sinister than that. Eating things that don't benefit our body over a steady course is actually an act of self-violence. We don't think of the fact that we are acting out against ourselves when we indulge in a slice of chocolate pie, but we ARE unless it's a rare treat. I noticed in the movie "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" when large people were interviewed they very calmly stated that they knew they would have a short life expectancy and it didn't seem to bother them. Why? I'm thinking most of them aren't too fond of life as it is and they were numbing their pain as a drug and waiting for the day they wouldn't have to deal with their problems anymore. Overeating is slow and intentional suicide. I get it... but what a shame. This is your ONE life...  This is your chance to have a voice, make a difference in the lives of others. Help others along. Life has so many great aspects to it! Laying down to die, while it may be an option, really serves no one.

This leads me to the crux of the situation. People check out because they can't deal with their lives. A diet isn't going to change the root of the problem that gets you fat in the first place - emotional healing will.  Marianne Williamson addresses emotional pain in her book called A Course in Weight Loss.  Changing our diets is a great first start but unless we address the reasons that we eat we will just be another one of those pathetic "took is all off and put it all back on" stories that are so common. In this book, Williamson tells us to picture our excess weight as bricks insulating our body from pain. One by one, we are taught to dismantle the bricks and give them to God to destroy. It's a book of surrender and release. It's a course that will transform your life if you give it the time and energy.

If you have struggled to stay at a healthy weight through out your life, check out this book. It's good for the soul!

 A Course in Weight Loss.

Artistic Christmas Inspiration.... Charlie Brown

Don't you just LOVE Charlie Brown? I do. Perhaps I could relate to the poor out of step boy with good intentions. The boy who was kind and loving, tender and sensitive. And what about dear Linus? A good friend to the bitter end full of wisdom coupled with his childhood need for security. There's Snoopy who is a very self-centered dog, doing his own thing. Not much of a best friend for Charlie Brown. And we can't forget Lucy, witty, smart and incredibly mean in her well-intentioned self... or is she? What a great human character study those Peanuts are!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Australian film maker Joe Cross was over 100 pounds overweight and ill with an autoimmune disease. After four years of living on prednisone and other pills he took matters into his own hands and decided to go on a juice fast consisting of fruits and vegetables. In 31 days he lost 47 pounds and in 60 days he was down 82 pounds and feeling better than ever. Along the journey he found a truck driver weighing in at 429 pounds and through his inspiration, Phil was able to lose over 227 pounds and is now inspiring others in a healthful lifestyle.

You NEED to see this movie. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. You can watch it on Netflix instant if you like or click on the title and it will bring you to Hulu where you can also watch it.

It's a fascinating documentary on the weight and health problems that we have put on ourselves. The film is 1 hour and 37 minutes and well worth your time. Be inspired, informed and healthy. They made my Vegan diet look like a cakewalk! In fact, once I feel sufficiently detoxed I'm going to go on a juice fast. I've done it before and I can do it again. Maybe right after Christmas to give myself another little push to get into that black dress. But let me be clear, this isn't as much about weight loss as is it about health and quality of life. People seem to be alright with "checking out" early. After all, life is kind of a drudge. We work hard and there are always problems waiting at every turn to drag us down. But the truth is that checking out early if you can help it is a bit selfish. What about those kids and grandchildren that would have the benefit of knowing and loving you? What about the people that you can still touch with love? And no body thinks about quality of life because until you lose your health and are bedridden, you don't understand the price. Aches and pains we can live with and mask, but serious illnesses and death are no laughing matter.

I mean here is really the deal. As long as we feel good, we make no changes. Even if we don't feel completely energetic we don't change because it is just TOO hard to go counter culture. The reason that I gave up my healthy lifestyle years ago was because it was expensive and too hard to keep it up. So much easier to grab a burger when you are on the run and I'm much more into a juicy steak than a glass of green. As the price of fruits and vegetables started to rise, my intake went down. But thank goodness for price clubs! Fruits and veggies in bulk.

In America we tend to equate slender with healthy. Slender people still get heart attacks and cancer. Slender people still have strokes. Slender people develop autoimmune problems... CFS, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, colon issues, skin conditions, etc. I wasn't heavy when I got sick! It's not all about having no fat, it's also about what we put into our bodies to keep us healthy. It's about nourishment. Yes, I know this isn't a popular message, but it's the truth and one that most of us would rather turn away from.

Here's my gift to all of you readers. Choose life. Choose health. My health left me at age 27. With it went my financial security and quality of life. It not only has affected me but my entire family. A whole new generation struggles because of the burden that my poor health has put upon them.

There comes a time when we must look at the truth. In the movie Phil and Joe both said, "I did this to myself. I have no one else to blame. I am the only one that can change it and I am going to have to pay the price to fix it". We all pay the price whether it's now with eating vegetables or later on the table getting bypass surgery or spending tons of money on medications.

Press on the movie image below for the link on Hulu. This is the best present that you can give yourself and your family for the holiday season.... added health and life expectancy. Clarity of thoughts and motivation. Joy and peace. Amazing that all those things can all come from your food choices. But it's true. Eat your vegetables - it's good for the soul!

Joe Cross

Phil Riverstone

And here are a few other people who's lives have been affected by watching this movie. There are way more on youtube if you are interested!

Christmas Time is Here Charlie Brown

Peanuts... a true art form in so many ways....

Exercise verses Diet

Do you all know that 70% of weight loss is diet and only 30% is exercise? This means that you rarely "work your butt off" at the gym alone unless you change your eating habits. For six months last year I faithfully went to the gym for two hours a day, five days a week and nada... nothing. I did feel a bit better. My blood pressure went down and I firmed up a bit, but there was no evidence of any "size dropping" if you know what I mean. A lot of work for not enough pay off.

Apparently taking a walk isn't enough either. It used to be they would say walk two miles a day but that has been upped to four now. During our cardio - new studies suggest that we alternate fast with slow, one part fast to two parts slow. This gives yourself a chance to increase your heart rate and then bring it back down, which strengthens your heart (which is the point of cardio after all).

It's also important to build muscle in addition to doing cardio. This can mean 3 days a week on the weight machines at the gym or a good yoga class either at home or in a studio. Stretching and using your own weight as resistance is a great body builder.

I'm starting slow. I've been walking for 6 weeks now, changed my eating habits during that time gradually until I was ready to go all out vegan and today joined the gym to get a more balanced work out - and also gets me out of the cold New England weather.

Here's my tip for today... a yoga/body/lifestyle change course that gives some new and positive ideas and energy. You don't need to be overweight to take it. Again you can pay whatever you feel you can afford so if you are strapped for money, you can enjoy the benefits of the course for as little as $1. This course is fantastic! Yoga instructor Sadie Nardini teaches a very complete course called 21 Day Yoga Body. This is a holistic and very intelligent approach to health and worth your time if you just want to start the new year a more healthier you! She includes great yoga teachings and videos daily that you will be able to refer back to over and over again. Peace....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Comfort Food Addiction - CHEESE, chocolate, meat and sugar...

If you have 40 extra minutes and want to learn about why we crave chocolate, cheese and other comfort foods listen to this excellent recording. Well worth the time if you are trying to become more healthy and aware of what you are putting in your body.

Christmas Cutie

A Music Break and Holiday Cheer

I LOVE music.... it reaches down to my core and brings me up. Here are real time, talented young artists exercising their creativity and bringing joy to the world. Here's a beautiful rendition of Carol of the Bells... Enjoy!

And for a whole different version....

Staying Honest

I'm almost three weeks into this vegan life and I have to say that somedays I feel that I'm starting to wane. My weight loss is noticeable but it's not significant enough to celebrate yet. I mean, I still can't wear my wedding ring and that cute little black dress is still pretty snug. Long term gratification can be hard when I'm looking at almost a year to reach my true goal. That seems like forever in my book and I'm a "live in the moment" type of person. It's a good thing I have some support systems built up, but I'm wondering how strong they are.

Last night I experienced a bit of a set-back. Been working hard on a project all month, spent hundreds of dollars and untold amounts of valuable time that I could have been doing something more lucrative and when it fell apart it forced me into a bit of a tail spin and the first thing I wanted was FOOD. I texted a friend and said, "I want ice cream" to which that friend said - "I won't if you don't". Right answer! I didn't and I woke up this morning glad to have been honest to my goals.

Sometimes staying honest means being honest with your emotions. Instead of trying to stuff them down, pretend they don't exist or bury them with the good feelings that we get from eating our favorite foods, it's good to be honest with disappointment and experience the pain that comes with negative emotions. It's not always easy because NONE of us wants to feel pain - we are all pain avoiders and who can blame us. The very nature of pain is UNPLEASANT. But if we lean into the pain eventually we work through our discomfort and can move on. We all need a shoulder to lean on at times and it's alright to do so. Good friends and loved ones want to be there for you, just as you are there for them sometimes.

Being honest with ourselves is also crucial when we are undertaking some kind of transformation in our lives. I have a little free tool that keeps me honest with my food goals, livestrong.com. If you sign up and go to "my plate" you can record your daily food and exercise intake. You can plug in your weight, lifestyle and weight loss goals and they will tell you how many calories you need to consume plus they will break down your food into carbs, proteins, sugars, sodium etc to ensure that you get the proper diet. With your exercise they will even estimate the amount of calories burned. There are all kinds of articles and forums for additional healthful support if you need it. And did I mention that it's FREE? Yes, it's a great tool to keep you honest and motivated. Just make a promise to yourself that you will not lie and that you will continue to record in it every day. If you have another program that works for you, by all means, do that. The point is to be brutally honest with yourself about your food intake, exercise and emotions and you will be able to weather the storms of disappointment without throwing your goals out the window.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artistic Inspiration.... Lilya Corneli Gallery Exhibition

As an artist, do you ever try to EXPLAIN your work? Do you even know why you do what you do? Are you just making pretty pictures or do you have a deeper meaning behind your work?

Artist/photographer Lilya Corneli explains here what her exhibit means and why she chose to portray what she did. If you want to become a fine art photographer the first step is having a "body" of work. That means to have a message or theme that drives what you are doing with some kind of artsy interpretation to give it meaning and value.

Dance walk to fitness

Are you sick of going to the gym and bored with your fitness regimen - then take a look at this! Dance walking, an out of the box way to get fit, meet people and plant a big smile on a lot of faces! Warning... this exercise takes some extreme confidence!

Losing weight and your health

Here's the skinny on weight loss. Since I became ill 25 years ago, I've been quite the hypochondriac. What didn't help was adding additional weight to the issue. I sensed a heart attack at every turn. My joints were getting more and more enflamed and walking up the stairs was becoming difficult. My blood pressure was elevated. My arteries were clogging. Migraines were vicious. And I worried about cancer and my life expectancy. Worries were ALWAYS there in the back of my mind.

Since I've begun a healthy eating and exercise plan those worries are GONE! The negative things that took up valuable space in my energy level are now replaced with things that I can do to change my world and that around me, not with worrying about things that very well COULD happen due to my lifestyle. The trade off has been worth it! I've traded ice cream and all the worries that went with it, not to mention lethargy and brain fog for energy and clarity of mind! It's about quality of life!

I know it's so hard to say no to the immediate pleasure of sweetness and say yes to fruit and vegetables. I couldn't do it if I allowed both things in my diet because my like for one would always trump my dislike for the other. The good news is that the MORE you eat what your originally didn't like, you end up developing a taste for it and actually craving the food and the feeling of health that it rewards you with. It all starts with a step.

I just grabbed this little chart off my FB account that I puts into concrete terms how the benefits of weight loss far outweigh the need to eat the junk food in front of you right now. Even if you are still young and your body is still in a very healthy spot, you are growing older by the day. You don't want to experience 90 year old poor health in our 40's, 50's and 60's. We need to celebrate and embrace life, not tolerate it from a place of illness.

The choice is yours! Nobody puts food in your mouth. Do not give anyone the power over you to ruin your day and cause you to harm yourself. Don't let your past negatively influence your present and your future! Don't let the bullies rob you of time in the future with your children and grandchildren! Take charge of your life instead of letting the world take charge of you! It's good for the soul!

Step 2 - Reprogramming

Saturday we spoke about motivation... how to inspire your conscious mind to START on a weight loss program - or anything else else for that matter. Something has to motivate you further than a thought or an urge, it has to be strong enough to cause you to take action. Often it takes more than one thing to motivate you to action and we have to learn to continually motivate ourselves to proceed further with the action until it becomes a new habit (around 60 days they say). We have to STAY motivated and keep the momentum up.

Here's the trick. Our conscious minds may want to be healthy but our subconscious habits are already programmed in unhealthy ways. Sometimes it's unhealthy thinking or maybe it's as easy as stimulus/response. We see food on TV and suddenly we want to eat or we pass the donut shop and go in because it beckons. It may be a feeling of sadness or another emotion that is the stimulus that triggers the desire to eat. Whatever it is, we need to reprogram our subconscious minds to do what our conscious minds want.

Our subconscious minds are like a garden, if you plant good seeds you will reap a harvest, however if you plant bad thoughts or let others place those thoughts in your mind, you will reap weeds. Weeds come in the form of extra weight, sluggishness and not fulfilling your life's purpose. I don't know about you, but I do not want to die without giving it a really good stab at being all that I can be in my life!

Saturday I gave you a wonderful link to a course I'm taking on self-hyponosis to weight loss. Hundreds of thousands of people have been successful with this. I know that for every one person you know who has a weight problem and have successfully lost the weight, you probably know 20 others that haven't. And for all the people we know who have lost the weight, most put it back on and then some within the first year. It really does feel futile! But there ARE people that have success and keep the weight off. This is because not only have they gotten their behavior to support their goals, but also because their subconscious minds have been reprogrammed also to support their goals. You can do this. You are brave! You are a conqueror! You are impressive! Think of the things in your life where you have had success.... you can do it on this level too! And again, the same principles apply to any challenge in life, not just weight loss.

Here is the link again to the course. I don't always make it through the 20 minutes of listening - on some days because I'm so busy I just skip right to the reprogramming last 10 minutes. I can bring myself into a state of relaxation and hypnosis really easily. Some people can't, so do what is right for you. The course also has some great tips and explanations for stimulus/response and helps you really find out what is going on inside your head. Permanent weight loss with self-hypnosis.

Tomorrow I will share with you one of my conscious plans to staying motivated. Blessings on your journey and your day!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Never Ever Give Up

Here is a great video to watch if you need a little added incentive! You can do this! We can all do this!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Step 1 - Motivation

Continuing on my "getting healthy" series, let's talk about ... motivation. Motivation is the energy that catapults you to your goal.

To make a significant change in one's life, a person must desire to do so. How many of us don't hear our friends or ourselves say, "I really need to eat right" or "I really should get to the gym" or "I need to change 'this' about myself"? It happens all the time but usually we give more lip service to it and we never take action.

Years ago when I was lying in bed for days and months on end I was willing to do ANYTHING to get healthy. I was in my late 20's, early 30's and I did not want to waste my life languishing in bed. I did pretty much anything anyone would tell me to do to get better from sucking on nasty vitamins, to eating "yucky" foods that I never ate before to doing things that I won't even tell you about because it would just be too graphic. I drove 60 miles to go to doctors that had unconventional treatment. I spent hours with IV's in my arm pumping in Vitamin C and an Hydrogen Peroxide while my veins blew.

My initial decision to eat right was for my health. Because I left no stone unturned this was the next natural course. I ate nothing that wasn't organic or didn't come from the health food store. I read labels and had myself tested for food intolerances. I even put myself on a rotation diet. The result was huge weight loss but the GOAL was health. I wanted healthy because I was young and wanted children and I BELIEVED that this would get me to my goal --- and it did!

For years, if I put on a little weight, I would go right back to that way of eating because I still BELIEVED in the goal and the method. I was MOTIVATED to be healthy for my young girls. I wanted it worse than I wanted a hot fudge sundae.

As the years went on my motivation started to wane because I regained more health. I could eat things that weren't good for me without seeing an immediate health decrease. When I had my cholesterol checked a few years ago and it was way too high, I thought that might motivate me to change my eating habits - but it didn't because it was rather intangible. What I mean is that it was easy to forget about and put on the back burner. Once in a while I'd get a panicky feeling that I was heading for a heart attack but I'd talk myself out of it and go right back to my old habits. At this point many people start taking medication to lower their cholesterol or blood pressure but I steer clear of medication in as much as is possible for I don't want to experience the long term health consequences of that either. If my health issue can be improved by diet, then I'm determined to do it, however since I wasn't addressing my diet, I just avoided going to the doctor and having my blood drawn (yes, it's true).

Being heavy wasn't enough motivation either. I'd just put on stretchy clothing and go on with my day. After all, I am still the SAME person I was then, just sporting a few extra pounds as is most of the rest of america. We are the fattest nation in the country! We might be the first generation of people that die before their parents. Our children are getting heavy at an alarming rate and type 2 diabetes is prevalent. We hear these statistics on the news all the time, and yet still very few people do anything to change this either personally, or in the schools. Knowing all this still doesn't provide enough MOTIVATION.

Many people who have heart attacks change their eating for a time and then go back to old habits. For some it sticks, for others it doesn't. We all know smoking causes cancer and yet people still smoke. Nurses are the worst, smoking on their work breaks! Why do we do this? What does it take to motivate us? What does it take to motivate you?

My little black dress was just a part of my motivation. It was the beginning step. We all need one beginning step and then we have to work up more motivation from there. One day, one step and then work it. That's my formula.

Working it is like climbing up rungs of a ladder. Each rung gets you higher on your motivation level. Start on the bottom rung and then look for another rung that you can reach for that will get you closer to your goal. If you stay on the same rung, it's too easy to go back to old habits. You have to keep yourself motivated by building your conviction. You must focus on your goal and train your body and mind to support you in the race. Most of us aren't born with sheer grit and determination, we have to build it into our character. This goes for every area of our lives, not just weight loss.

To be successful at changing your diet, your relationship with food has to change. Food has to be thought of as fuel for the body and not as your soul source of enjoyment or as your friend when others let you down.

If any of you have decided to join me on this new way of life I'm going to be sharing some of the resources that are helping me get to my goal. Everyone is different and what helps me might not help you. You can adapt it to your needs and life or find an alternative route, whatever suits you.

Okay, are you ready for tip number one..... Permanent weight loss with self-hypnosis. Here's a course that you can take and pay what you can. Their suggested payment is $25 but they will allow you to pay as little as $1 to take this course. This is an internet eight week course. Every day I listen to their 20 minute recording that leads me through a relaxation activity and then helps me reprogram my mind to healthy eating. For the skeptics out there.. it's not magic, it's just readjusting your thinking and it really does work! What do you have to lose by trying it? Maybe a lot of weight!

Stay tuned tomorrow I will come back with another tip for weight loss. Until then, have a great Saturday!