Monday, January 31, 2011

Wisdom, Light & Love

Hello everyone!  I'm back after a long illness and dealing with other issues in my world.  So happy to be writing again!  Working on several new projects so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I have been reading a wonderful new book called The Joy Factor by Susan Smith Jones, PhD.  It's written so beautifully.  Full of inspiring quotes and great advice.  She says there are 10 sacred practices for radiant health.  The first one is to live your best life. (Isn't that what Oprah says?)

Quoting from the book, "When you change your attitude about yourself from negative to positive, everything else in your life will change for the better."  I've been pondering this a lot.  I tend to denigrate myself often.  I tend to use negative self talk and keep a constant conversation with myself that, I believe, is very destructive.  I feel unworthy or unloveable and this bleeds out into my world in a negative way. 

Louise Hay tells us to look at ourselves in the mirror each day and say, "I love you".  And mean it!  I find that difficult some days.  She suggests starting with just your eyes if you can't say it to your whole being.  Then each day expand your vision until you are looking at and loving yourself fully and wholly.

When you find yourself saying negative or self destructive things about yourself, try and turn it around and bless your body.  Put a smile on your face.  Laugh at yourself.  Meditate.  And definitely give up control of how you "think" you look or act and know that as long as you are in God's grace everything you do and are is OK.  Commit yourself to be the best you can be and let the rest go.  It doesn't do you or anyone else any good to hold on to this negativity.

In her book, Smith Jones suggests cleaning out closets and drawers.  Planting beautiful flowers in your garden, eating healthy, exercising.  Clearing any energy that is negative in your life and replacing it with positive, beautiful, light filled people and things.  Honor your body and honor the space you live in.   Treat yourself with respect and dignity.  Find a good doctor who really listens to you.  And doesn't just medicate you every time you have a complaint.  Listen to your body when it is in pain.  Find the real souce of that pain and treat it holistically if you can.  Drink plenty of water.  Get a good night's sleep.  All these things will contribute to well being.

This will also give you new energy to face the world with a brighter light.  And when you shine bright light and love on on yourself and others it will return to you 10-fold.  Isn't that what we all want?  Fabulously joylicious!

By the way, I highly highly recommend this joyful wonderful book. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Finding Balance for the Caregiver

Finding Balance for the Caregiver:
16 Stress Reducing Strategies By Lisa Bailey 

When my husband Phil’s colorectal cancer returned in October of 2006, this time in the liver and lungs, I found myself stressed to the max.  With my full-time job as a kindergarten teacher, my commitment to my adult children and grandchildren, and keeping tabs on my teenage daughter, adding compassionate caregiving to my life’s work demands from me an incredibly difficult balancing act. 

The following sixteen coping strategies have helped me in my attempts to live a balanced life.  Because caregiving is such a universal task, faced by nearly all of us at one time or another, I hope you find these strategies helpful as well.
  1. Make all choices from a solid base of integrity. I try to make medical and personal choices from the base of my Christian faith, which helps free me from second-guessing myself.
  2. Be clear about today’s reality. Don’t imagine things are worse than they are.  Enjoy the good parts of today and don’t let worries for tomorrow take over your emotions and thoughts.
  3. Talk honestly to family and friends. Honest, frequent communication with close family and friends from the start of diagnosis is much easier than trying to play catch-up later. I discovered a wonderful, free Internet service at  which has allowed me to create a Web site to communicate regularly about Phil’s health. 
  4. Expect and prepare for tough talks.  Family and friends process the news about a serious illness at their own pace. They will not accept the reality of the illness on a schedule that meshes with yours. This means that sometimes family and friends will not understand the tension of your caregiving lifestyle, especially at first. This requires a difficult conversation about what the illness is, how it will be treated, and what kinds of side effects will be expected from the treatment and the disease itself. It is helpful to have a family conversation with the doctor present.This provides an opportunity for questions to be answered accurately.
  5. Learn the medical lingo.  It will help you as a caregiver and a medical advocate to learn the lingo surrounding your loved one’s illness. The Internet is a helpful resource, but you need to learn what Web sites can be trusted and what Web sites have a hidden agenda. I have included a list of trusted Web sites I have used for medical information.  However, even with a trusted Web site, don’t believe everything you read. Not all information will pertain to your loved one’s situation and you can worry yourself into a frenzy over some Internet information you have read.  Ask questions of the doctors and nurses. Check the accuracy of your information if you are at all troubled or in doubt.
  6. During treatment, pain or pain medication might do some talking.  Be aware that pain, stress and pain medications will release the patient from their social “filter” and they can and probably will say some interesting and difficult things at times.  Actually, caregivers do this, too, as stress lifts our social filters at unexpected times—forgive yourself as well when this happens. Listen and be compassionate as best you can. Children and teenagers will need help understanding the changes in their loved one’s personality, especially to know that the changes are not permanent. 
  7. Control what you can control. Lots of articles about stress-management advise letting go of control; however, I have found that being in control of some areas of my life has greatly reduced my stress. 
    1. Get help with housework—paid or unpaid.  Help with household chores has helped to make our home a cleaner refuge for Phil as he recovers and a sanctuary for me. 
    2. Get help with yard work—paid or unpaid.  Our backyard is our vacation destination this year; we eat most meals on the deck, enjoy the variety of birds that visit our birdfeeders, play cards, do art work and garden.  Help with yard work makes this vacation destination possible.
    3.  Prepare meals in advance and freeze them.  I do bulk cooking and freeze pre-prepared meals
    4. Keep bills and insurance paperwork organized so there are fewer financial surprises. Make necessary phone calls to insurance companies, and pay bills, or call to arrange payments, on time.
    5. Plan your work; then work your plan.  Be efficient at your outside job and in taking care of home stuff.  Don’t let things pile up. 
    6.  Do three things every evening before you go to bed—laundry, dishes and take out the garbage. The morning will be much more of a gift.
  8. Let go of what you cannot control. For me, this means “let go and let God.” I carry a scripture in my pocket from Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Cancer is what it is; I cannot change that, but I can and do trust God for our future.
  9. Nest.  Everyone, especially people who are recovering from illness or injury and their caregiver, needs a comfy chair—a place to relax and rejuvenate. Make a comfortable nest for your loved one and for yourself by adding afghans, pillows, fresh flowers, candles, books and great music to your comfy chair area. This is important to do both at your home and at the hospital should there be an extended stay there. 
  10. Make comfort food.  Think about what your patient is hungry for, and then consider the details—digestibility, comfort, correct textures, temperature and presentation.  A compassionate and informative book that I found helpful as I prepared food for Phil following chemotherapy and surgery is Laurel’s Kitchen Caring: Recipes for Everyday Home Caregiving, by Laurel Robertson, with Carol Lee Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal, R.D.  Laurel speaks with such love for both the patient and the caregiver and her encouraging voice revives my spirit for caregiving, especially in providing good nutrition for healing.
  11. Enjoy life today.  During my husband’s chemotherapy treatments, our world becomes pretty small.  We find that watching television is an important diversion, and we have become fans of shows we probably never would have discovered without some enforced downtime. We also play cards and Monopoly, put puzzles together and rent many movies.  I found a new interest in sewing, knitting and watercolor painting.  Phil, a drummer, has never stopped his daily drumming practice or working at his business from home.  We try to enjoy simple pleasures everyday.  We remember that Phil is a person with interests, not just a cancer patient.  And I, too, am a person with interests; not just a cancer patient’s caregiver.
  12. Journal for yourself.  There are so many ways to re-center yourself, but none works as well as journaling, in my opinion.  Even if you have never kept a journal, starting one now will help you clarify feelings, manage the stress and plan the work you need to do as caregiver. 
  13. Keep a vision for the future.  None of us comes here to stay; we know that.  But we also know that we can “grow until we go,” and we should.  One scripture that came right to mind when Phil was first diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer was “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs. 29:18 KJV. We make plans for our future.
  14. Give.  While I have learned through Phil’s illness to receive the gifts of help, encouragement, prayer and love from other people, Phil and I continue to enjoy giving as part of our marriage. We enjoy praying for other people, talking to other patients in the waiting rooms, encouraging others as much as possible through conversations both in person, in email and through good, old-fashioned snail mail. Giving keeps us feeling emotionally and spiritually full and is always worth the effort.
  15. Take good care of yourself.  Eat good food, exercise a little, rest well and learn to say no to outside demands.  See your doctor and dentist for checkups. Get away from the house now and then—even if it is just to the laundromat to do the bulky wash. 
  16. Release yourself from expectations for perfection. As humans, we all experience finitude, our “feet of clay” when we do not have infinite energy, wisdom or capabilities to manage our lives. This is normal. Get through each day as best you can, and don’t dwell on mistakes.   
Today Phil is doing well, fighting the cancer with chemotherapy, prayer and a great sense of humor. I am blessed to be his partner in this fight. As long as I keep my balance, I feel I do a good job as a loving caregiver. I hope these strategies work to help you both in your caregiving work and in reducing the stress that comes from this part of life’s journey.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass - by Mike Robbins

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a negative place, worrying that things won’t get any better (or even that they will get worse)?  Or, have you ever had things going so well in your life that you just knew it wouldn’t last?  If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, your answer to both of these questions is, of course, “yes.”

Many of us seem to forget that there is a natural ebb and flow to life, especially when things get challenging, stressful, or scary.  Right now, there is a lot of agreement in our world about how “bad” things are – particularly in relation to the economy.  And while I do believe it is essential for us to confront things in life directly and not put our heads in the sand, it seems that many of us (myself included at times) tend to forget an important truth about life…this too shall pass.

Ironically, this same phenomenon is also true when things are “good.”  Life constantly evolves and changes…nothing stays constant.  We waste so much of our precious time and energy worrying about things, instead of appreciating and embracing them in the moment.  Worrying that bad times won’t pass (which they almost always do) or that good times won’t last (which they almost never do) takes us out of the present moment and causes us to suffer, miss out, or both.

You or some of the people around you may be experiencing significant pain or challenge right now – based on the economic situation or other factors.  Or, you may currently be experiencing a great deal of success, opportunity, and joy in your life.  At some level, most of us experience a certain amount of real joy and real pain all the time, simultaneously.

Whatever our current experience of life may be, it always serves us to remember that things are in a constant state of flux and that whatever is going on in our lives right now, will pass.  As difficult as this is for each of us to remember, especially when we’re scared, it can be a powerful reminder and an important mantra that we hold onto and share with others as a way to keep things in perspective.

Here are a few things you can do to enhance your ability to stay present, grounded, and grateful – regardless of the external circumstances in your life.

1)  Count Your Blessings - Whatever is going on in your life – no matter how “good” or “bad” things may seem; there are always many things for us to be grateful for.  Take some time right now to think about or write down some of the many blessings in your life.  And, as a bonus – share them with others today and this week.

2)  Support Others - Reminding others that things can and will get better (if they’re tough) and that it’s important to appreciate and enjoy what is happening (if things are going well), is a great way to remind ourselves, get out of our own head, and be in service.  When we support others, we also support ourselves in a healthy and generous way.  And, our authentic support of other people helps make sure we don’t spend and waste time feeling sorry for ourselves or getting too caught up in our own narcissism. 

3) Reflect on Your Past in a Positive Way - Think back to times in your own life when you’ve overcome challenges and/or created great success and fulfillment.  Remembering that we’ve had tough times and risen above them and that we’ve been able to appreciate ourselves, our lives, and our success – can help us remember how strong and capable we are in the present moment.  Allow your past to empower you!

About Mike Robbins
Mike Robbins empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to be more productive, appreciative, and successful through his keynotes, seminars, writing, and consulting. He is the author of the audio program, The Power of Appreciation, a contributing author of Chicken Soup for the Single Parent's Soul, the author of the best selling book, Focus on the Good Stuff (Hardcover, Jossey-Bass/Wiley) and the forthcoming book, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Hardcover, Jossey-Bass/Wiley, April 2009). Mike has been featured in Forbes, on the Oprah and Friends radio network, and on ABC News. He is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), NSA's highest earned designation. Mike lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Michelle and their daughter Samantha. Learn more about Mike and sign up for his free newsletter at (Reprinted with Permission © Copyright 2008 Mike Robbins)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who Loves You?

Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it.”
–Thaddeus Golas, 20th century author and philosopher

Are you a loving person? Are you kind, friendly, and encouraging? For most of us, the answer to these questions is yes—at least to some degree.

But here’s the true litmus test of unconditional love: Are you a loving person to yourself? Are you kind, friendly, and encouraging to yourself? Chances are it’s harder to answer yes to these questions.

Yet loving yourself is absolutely vital. Studies show it’s the basis for success, happiness, and healthy relationships. So how do you do it?

It’s easy to love yourself for your “good” qualities: your talents and successes. The trick is in learning to love your less-than-perfect qualities. The most direct way you can love the unlovable in yourself is to bring the feeling of love to whatever it is you’re feeling or experiencing – even it’s challenging or unpleasant. If you’re having a hard time loving yourself, begin by simply loving the fact that you are unable to love yourself in this moment.

Try this little experiment: Think of something that you really don’t like about yourself – you’re too fat or too thin, you can’t balance your checkbook, for example. Now close your eyes, and remember a time when you felt love in your heart for someone or something. Notice if you feel a warmth or expansion in the area of your heart. Now direct that same feeling of love toward yourself—just as you are, flaws and all.

Let’s be clear here, I’m not asking you to love your excess flab or your boniness or your lameness in the bean-counting department. What I’m suggesting is that you beam love, compassion, and understanding to that person who’s experiencing the challenge: you! When you do this, you’ll probably feel a physical shift in your body – you’ll be more relaxed and you may even find yourself smiling.

When you can love yourself in every situation—whether you’ve succeeded or failed, whether you feel good or bad, whether you’re enjoying life or hating it – you’ve taken self-love to the unconditional level.
This one small act can have big and measurable effects. A team of British researchers led by Dr. Paul Gilbert showed that training people to be loving and compassionate toward every aspect of themselves – even toward their tendency to be self-critical – significantly reduced mental suffering, depression, anxiety, self-criticism, shame, inferiority, and submissive behavior, while upping their ability to soothe and reassure themselves.

Hale Dwoskin, the bestselling author of The Sedona Method, and one of the 150 Love Luminaries I interviewed for my latest book, Love for No Reason, told me, “What most people call self-love – positive affirmations and putting smiley-face Post-its on the mirror – is just a manipulation. It’s like pasting a thin layer of positive emotion on top of problems. If you try to change them from a place of simply manipulating them, they only grow. But, if you love all your qualities as they are, good and so-called bad ones, you actually have the power to change them.”

When you connect to the unconditional love at your core—what I call Love for No Reason—real self-love starts to flow.

Every day, I do a very simple self-love practice that brings me into my heart and reminds me to treat myself with care. It comes in especially handy whenever I’m having a rough time or being critical toward myself or others. You can do this, too.

Throughout the day, ask yourself, What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? or What’s the most loving way I can be with myself right now? And then pay very close attention to the answer.

Sometimes the answer is that you need to have more compassion for the part of you that is hurting; other times it’s forgiving yourself for your mistakes or lightening up on yourself. There are also times when the most loving thing you can do for yourself is taking a walk or a hot bath or calling a good friend for a chat. The important thing is to make the questions a part of your daily practice.    Don’t think you’re being selfish—far from it! When you love and take care of yourself, you’ll find it inevitably serves everyone.  And isn’t a world filled with love the kind we all want to live in?

(C) 2010.  Marci Shimoff. Adapted from Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love (Free Press, December 2010). Love for No Reason offers a breakthrough approach to experiencing a lasting state of unconditional love—the kind of love that doesn’t depend on another person, situation, or romantic partner, and that you can access at any time and in any circumstance. This is the key to lasting joy and fulfillment in life. To order Love for No Reason, go to and follow Marci on Twitter @Marci_Shimoff.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cheryl Richardson's New Year's Resolutions

Good Stuff

Be picky.  Have high standards.  Don't settle for less.  These are all messages that, when used appropriately, help people to live better lives.  As you start your New Year, I want to invite you to be picky about something in particular - your mind.  If you really want to make this year a year filled with self-love, self-acceptance, forward movement, and success, then decide right now that you'll do everything in your power to fill that beautiful mind of yours with good stuff - really good stuff. 

No more reading boring emails that might have something in it you need to see, or watching violent news that leaves you feeling helpless or afraid.  Forget about the celebrity sightings that make you feel like everyone else is living a great life but you.  Nope.  No good.  Not enough for you anymore. 

Stop listening to the latest drama story at work or to the friend who's been complaining about the same damn thing for years.  Ugh.  It's exhausting and it's creating a neural pathway that leads to nowheresville.

It's time to be picky - really picky.

This year, resolve to do things that fill your mind with exciting new ideas, inspirational messages that motivate you to act, or wisdom that touches your soul in the best of all ways.  

Cheryl Richardson

Start Small ~ Dream Big

For 2011 I want to reiterate what my pay it forward project is all about by revisiting my mission and vision statements.  Have a joylicious day!

Vision Statement: I envision women reaching their full potential by learning to embrace loss and grief as opening a path to a new hopeful, peaceful and joylicious life.

Mission Statement: Using my writings, blog, and speaking engagements I will inspire, coach, and enable women to see that they are special and that their stories matter.  That all women can experience a joylicious life after suffering adversity.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

I hope that 2011 is a wonderful New Year full of joy, prosperity, laughter, love, health, and well being for all of my friends, family, and followers.  I love you all!  Happy New Year!