Scheffleras & african violets…

I want to experiment with organizing my life around my strengths.

An example:

I have a Schefflera plant in my dining room which is thriving despite my almost total neglect of it. Yes, I do occasionally water it, but besides that, nada! And yet, it persists in growing and being healthy. When I look at it (which is often these days as I frequently find myself at the dining room table studying for the health & wellness coach certifying exam), it gives me pleasure. I love having a bit of nature indoors with me. I think, “I’m the kind of person who can have plants in her home.” I feel warm and fuzzy and content.

On the other hand, I also have a small African violet plant atop the wicker chest in my bedroom that sits under one of the windows. In contrast to the Schefflera plant, this plant is not thriving. It looks stunted and undernourished despite the fact that I give both plants the same exact care (if you can call it that) and attention. Looking at the African violet brings me no joy; in fact, getting a glimpse of it can start some pretty severe internal scolding for not being a better caretaker. This results in my feeling like a bad person and my mood takes a momentary dip.

So, here’s what I’m thinking, I need to fill my house with Schefflera plants or at least give away that poor African violet!




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Wary maintenance…

Some times you have to go back to the beginning. I started getting healthy when I joined a gym and started working with a trainer. Changing how I ate was an add-on at first, no pressure, just modifications here and there. That changed down the road when I addressed my over-eating head on, but it wasn’t my original focus. Now I’m trying to figure out the formula for keeping weight off. Or, as Prochaska, Norcross, and Diclemente* say about what happens once you’ve made a significant lifestyle change such as losing weight – you get a life of decreasingly wary maintenance. Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

But that’s reality; otherwise you find yourself drifting back into old habits like eating mindlessly and copiously in front of the TV. And then you throw in an unexpected medical scare, and all the crazy emotions that go along with that, and momentum starts to build in the wrong direction. Lapsing is scary stuff. So, some times you have to go back to the beginning. And for me, the beginning is making physical activity my main focus.

But it’s never exactly the same, is it? Because you haven’t been standing still since the beginning. You’ve acquired new skills and additional life experiences plus the knowledge that you know you can do this. One way things are different is that this time I want to be the designer of my plan. It’s a subtle shift. I will still go to bootcamp twice a week and be grateful each and every time for our wonderful trainer. But bootcamp twice a week, I’m learning, isn’t enough for me and I want to figure out what else I need and then, well…Just Do It!

This morning I kicked off the long holiday weekend by going to my local high school to jog around the track, something I haven’t done on my own for a very long time. I ran/walked for 1.5 miles. Then I alternated three sets of running up and down five flights of stairs with 20 wall push ups. A good beginning…

Best moment besides the feeling of accomplishment that comes with having just had a good workout? Having an adorable two year old mimic my wall push-ups. Change yourself, change the world.

*Changing for Good: A revolutionary 6-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward



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Crossword puzzle…

Last night I was stumped. The New York Times crossword puzzle I had been working on was mostly solved except for a couple of pesky sections. I had been at it for three nights in a row. Finally, I knew what I had to do. I had to be ruthless. I needed to erase every answer that I wasn’t absolutely sure of. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. But the “maybe” correct answers were giving me a false sense of accomplishment as the number of empty cells diminished. In reality, these “maybe” correct answers were clouding my vision. Clearly, something was off and not working; otherwise I would have been able to finish the puzzle. I needed to be on firm ground once again and I could only get there by eliminating everything that wasn’t truly trustworthy. All those educated guesses needed to be gone. So out came my eraser. And then an amazing thing happened…with the distraction of the unreliable answers gone, I was able to see the way forward easily, almost effortlessly, and I completed the puzzle in no time.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been slowly creating a new life for myself. I’ve been careful and thoughtful as I chose a new profession, found new jobs, made new friends and experimented with what wellness looks like for me. I made sure each step was sure and true. But creating an authentic life is an art, not a science. And to make matters worse, I continue to grow and change. (Now who’s being pesky?!) So pieces that once felt right, currently feel less so. Perhaps not totally wrong, but, as Bob Dylan once wrote, “if it’s not right, it’s wrong.” It dawns on me that it might be time to apply an eraser to portions of this new life I’ve created. The new, better answers I’m looking for might not come as easily as the crossword puzzle answers did, but eliminating the “maybe” correct parts of my life feels like the right place to begin.

frame less eyeglasses on newspaper

Photo by Pixabay on


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Fathers and sons…

Often in the past 10 months while doing my job as a wellness coach at the YMCA, I’ve observed fathers showing their sons how to work out. I’ve witnessed many teaching styles – both encouraging and demanding and everything in between. Some of the kids look proud, cognizant that they are getting special one-on-one time with their dads and that they’ve entered a sacred space that had previously been off-limits to them because of their youthfulness; others look like they are living out a prison sentence. As a woman, I don’t understand the “take no prisoners” approach…that is simply too alien to how I interact with people in general, not to mention my own daughter. However, on some level, I get that, regardless of the style of interaction, something important transpires when a father decides that it’s time to teach and guide his son in how to navigate the world of the gym, how to be physically active, and get stronger.

Girls don’t usually have this experience.

My own dad started going regularly to a fitness club some time during my teen years but I was never invited and I have my suspicions that he spent most of the time when there schmoozing with his fellow gym rats. And mom was not physical in any sense of the word. The one time she signed up for a series of Yoga classes, she went to the first one, hated it, and then pretended to my dad, brother, and me that she went to the remaining classes – leaving the house on the scheduled evening each week as if she was actually going. (I didn’t learn about the subterfuge until many years later!) She was a life-long smoker with scoliosis and depression who let fear, pain, and misinformation inform her choices about what was in her best interest. Her inactivity as well as other poor lifestyle choices eventually caught up with her; towards the end of her life she developed emphysema and was ultimately bed-ridden, unable to even turn over on her own.

I know that not every boy whose dad indoctrinates him into the gym brotherhood ends up being a healthy adult, but it’s a head start, right?! I also know that there are lots of other things at play here such as modeling what it means to be a man and a father…and as such it feels sacred to witness and observe.

My parent’s generation didn’t yet value physical activity to the extent that we do now. Despite our increased knowledge, the gender gap still exists. It’s rarely a mom showing the kids the ropes, and rarely is it a daughter receiving the instructions.

Today at work I watched a grandfather and grandson go through the time-honored ritual. As I did my rounds around the gym, I overheard the older man patiently instruct the teenager. It left me wondering…what impact would it have had on me to have had a similar experience (or better yet, multiple experiences!) with one of my parents when I was that boy’s age? Would the trajectory of my life been different if I had developed more self-confidence in my abilities, strength, and appearance at a younger age; if I hadn’t waited until relatively late in life to embrace physical activity and wellness? I don’t ask with regret (well, maybe a little!) but with genuine curiosity….



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Hidden rooms…

For years I had a recurring dream about walking through my house and suddenly coming across a room, or sometimes an entire annex of rooms, which previously had been unknown to me. I would wake from the dream feeling disquieted but also exhilarated; these newly discovered spaces hinted at possibilities, almost like stumbling upon buried treasure.

Today my dream world and the real world intersected for a little while. I finally visited a spiritual bookstore that I had been meaning to go to for quite some time. I was in search of a necklace that I could wear daily which would be a symbol of my desire for calmness and centeredness. When I arrived, I discovered that the bookstore was located inside a nondescript ranch-style house – conventional and plain. I had expected something else entirely.

But when I opened the door, my disappointment vanished. I felt like Harry Potter visiting Diagon Alley for the first time…one moment in an ordinary, British Pub and the next moment passing through a portal to a different world full of magical things. What hit me first was the smell of incense, the sparkle of hanging crystal mobiles, and, everywhere I looked, a riot of colors. The bookstore is composed of several rooms, each with a theme – Eastern thought, personal development, crystals, candles, gemstone jewelry, tarot cards, and fantasy, to name a few. I noticed a couple of rooms off to the side for psychic readings. But it was a large separate room clearly designed for classes and meditation, that attracted me the most. Its yoga-like emptiness and decor was in contrast to the onslaught of stimulation that greeted one’s senses everywhere else in the bigger-than-expected, meandering store.

I didn’t find that special necklace today but I left with something even better – a new way of seeing myself. Just like the exterior of the store, I appear conventional. I’m a quiet, nice introvert; a good listener. But there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of me, a lot more color and irreverence and laughter and wonder. I haven’t had that recurring dream in several years because I’m no longer a stranger to myself. But I still have interior rooms that are in need of fresh air and light and I want to provide these things. But even when I do, at my center, there will always be a quiet space, an empty room, made just for being still.


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Crystal ball…

Do you know who has the ability to imagine the future? Landscapers! Landscapers select and place young, immature plants and trees with an eye towards the time to come. They imagine a distant day where, if Mother Nature cooperates, a harmonious or bold tapestry of color, size, shape, and texture will emerge. It seems a lot to calculate at the start – the knowledge of all things green, the understanding of weather patterns, as well as the aesthetics in multiple time frames – now, somewhat down the road, and then over the horizon. I’m in awe.

I got to thinking about the prescient powers of landscapers while I was walking at my favorite park last week. The newest of the two trails opened up only a few months ago so springtime on the trail is a new experience. Previously unnoticed and unremarkable saplings are now in bloom. One section alternates between redbud trees (whose blossoms are purple, go figure!) and a type of tree with small white blossoms. It hit me that this color scheme was pre-planned (duh!) and then I began to notice, with eyes newly opened, all the other landscaping choices made along the path. Clearly, these designers can navigate the terrain of the future with ease and comfort.

For my part, the future is a mysterious place so undefined that I can’t yet indulge in the pleasure of making it beautiful either in reality or in my mind’s eye. I know that the present is really all we ever have but there is a part of me that wishes for just one quick glance into a crystal ball.

Photo courtesy of




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30 days of positivity…

  1. Walking and taking photos at Lullwater Park on a cloudy, mild, and damp late afternoon in December.
  2. Detouring down a street I never go down just so I can see the Christmas lights on display.
  3. Making an omelet early Sunday morning before going to work. Taking the time to enjoy my meal and read at the dining room table; appreciating the stillness and natural light coming in through the windows.
  4. Drinking coffee and finishing Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon at Starbucks early Christmas morning. Later, being fully present with my family as we devour incredible homemade (not by me!) Thai dishes for Christmas dinner.
  5. Speechless. Garden Lights, Holiday Lights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens. A fairyland of color and magic while outside on a perfect clear crisp winter evening with my friend.
  6. Lounging on my bed mid-morning, texting holiday greetings to family and friends. Sharing my favorite photos from the Holiday Lights exhibit.
  7. Loving the drive to work when there is no traffic!!!
  8. Unexpectedly running into, and reconnecting with, an old friend and his college-aged son at my place of work.
  9. Sleeping straight through til 8:15am…8 and a half hours. Unheard of! Feel like a new person.
  10. No waiting at the post office this morning when I went to purchase stamps for “Save the Date” postcards for my daughter’s upcoming June wedding.
  11. Taking advantage of an empty gym to do my own upper body and core workout while at work this afternoon.
  12. My annual ritual of replacing the calendar on my home office bulletin board. January’s inscription – “Today is Day One.” But not stopping there. Deciding it was time to take down my 2017 Vision Board. Need space for new dreams and new words of inspiration.
  13. Getting it just right today in a session with one of my wellness coaching clients. Had missed the mark last time. So gratifying to watch her mood elevate as a result of intensifying her workout.
  14. Beginning to develop the eye of a photographer – an old one-speed bicycle propped against a bare tree and a beautiful Asian child poking her head out of the sunroof of a car in the parking deck at Lenox Square Mall.
  15. Going to bootcamp this morning. (It was 16 degrees at 6am! Thankfully we were in the gym and not at the park!) Felt so good to push myself physically and see my friends. Going to feel this workout later for sure!
  16. Wall to wall people at Einstein’s. Writing my goals for 2018. I’m writing each goal using the present or past tense; meaning, as if each one was already happening or had already happened. Empowering…
  17. Being able to go to Yoga class this morning when a window of time unexpectedly opens up. A particularly good class, though I’m not sure exactly why that is. PerhapsĀ  it was the right balance between talking and silence and relaxation and effort. Felt seamless and restorative.
  18. Going to a stranger’s home for a Women’s Circle. Her artist’s sensibility is everywhere. Beautiful light from the many unadorned windows, vibrant textiles, burning incense, fragrant tea, moody/airy music.
  19. So much fun! Corralling my growing supply of skin care products into a simple, wooden tray from Target. This task cascades into a total bathroom makeover. Especially enjoyed repurposing items that I had elsewhere in the house or that had been languishing in a hall closet. Total project cost – $6.99 plus tax.
  20. Arriving at work and unexpectedly being handed a belated holiday gift from my employer/friend. She so clearly spent time thinking about what I might like – The Untethered SoulĀ by Michael Singer, a hand-crafted book mark and a beautifully potted succulent which fits perfectly on my recently rearranged bathroom vanity!
  21. Staying 45 minutes past shift’s end to talk with a co-worker who shares similar career goals (and challenges) and who has a unique way of expressing herself that I really enjoy.
  22. Spending the morning with my ex-husband, first touring the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Decatur where our out-of-town guests will stay for our daughter’s June wedding; then peeking through the windows of The Solarium in Oakhurst where the ceremony and reception will take place; and ending with a leisurely brunch at Goldberg’s in Toco Hills.
  23. Wedding planning for an hour over the phone with my daughter – no stress, just taking care of business in a relaxed, collaborative, and anticipatory way.
  24. The thump on the front porch turning out to be the postman, who like almost all visitors, has stumbled on the unexpectedly high top step. His package? The Cup of Tea 2018 Wall Calendar which I unwrap with relish and immediately hang on the refrigerator. Favorite quotes: “I drink tea and forget the world’s noises.” ~ Chinese proverb; and “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~ Hermann Hesse
  25. Walking at Mason Mill Park this afternoon, jittery with excitement about the possibility of snow.
  26. Knowing immediately upon waking up in the early morning that it has snowed over night as light reflecting off the snow is causing a false dawn. I quickly bundle up and go outside to breathe the crisp air and to take some photos but it isn’t long before the warmth of the house calls to me.
  27. Feeling like a true community is starting to form as I participate in our second monthly Zoom call with fellow health and wellness coaches in Atlanta. Getting reminded how important it is for me to learn and grow and be the best that I can.
  28. Singing with my congregation at synagogue during a celebratory (50 years!) Shabbat service. Need to sing more often!
  29. Suddenly realizing that one year ago today I began my formal journey as a wellness coach. Reflecting on the me I was then and now. Filled with gratitude.
  30. Basking in the warm sunshine as I sit on the top step of my front porch. All of Atlanta is taking a collective cleansing breath as we savor our reprieve from the recent frigid temperatures.
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