Find Your Own Signs

Find Your Sign

Short and sweet today, my friends. Take five minutes to sit with the brilliant author Paulo Coelho to view his video about understanding your own language of signs.  A few weeks ago, I came to a realization: stop creating obstacles to publishing my book. Those obstacles seemed like good business practices, create an LLC, finish the website architecture, promotion plan and more. Yet I still need to find a new cover designer, write the acknowledgements, shoot the author photo and give the manuscript a final proof. At this point, making plans, vision boards and exploring legal options are obstacles to stepping fully into my light. They will get done, but first, the book needs its final birthing. The day I realized this, I told my husband, then watched the Coehlo video, and just minutes later I received an email from one of my favorite straight-talkers, Paul Jarvis. He offered me a free e-course called “Write and Sell and Your Damn Book.”  Um, hello, I’d call that a sign. A green light my on very own corner. So I send you a light right here, right now. Shine it on your own map. It might help you decide what to have for lunch. When to let go. When to love (always) and when to get out of your own way and act.

A post script: I’ve been enjoying Paul Jarvis’s Sunday Dispatches, you can sign up here: He also designed a wicked cool t-shirt to raise funds for his favorite furry friends here:

You’re Done


for EG

What you gonna do with that?
Magnets coming off
Drippin’ sugar from your cheeks
You can’t help but show your row of whites
every time you get a whiff
say you’re sick
in a twist
that’s love, baby
You’re done

I have been thinking a lot about romantic love lately. Remembering adolescent angst, excitement flip-over-backwards love. Answering my six-year-old’s question: “What’s a crush?” And thinking about my own marriage. My husband and I were both raised by single moms so when it comes to bumps in marital bliss, we look at each other and say, “We’re still learning.”

What if the same goes for romantic love? Are you in that kind of love now? Have you ever been in love? Were you heartbroken after? Or did it fade and now you’re bored? The poem above was inspired by my friend who fell in love and didn’t know it. She had gone on a few dates with this guy. She was complaining about her stomach hurting all the time. We were standing in line outside the White House:

Me: Girl, you’re in love.

Friend: No, I’m not.

Me: Yeah, you are. You’re done. That’s what it feels like.

Friend: Really?

Me: Yup.

They’ve been married for eleven years.

Love doesn’t always come in the form of a stomach ache. Sometimes you find it again with long-time partners. You can find it in their crooked teeth. In the way they make you laugh. In the way they fold your laundry. One thing I’m learning is that you can ask for that kind of love in your life whether you are with someone or not. It starts with your heart’s center. According to The Institute of Heart Math, your heart creates a magnetic field five thousand times greater than your brain.

For years I was a serial monogamist, in one long-term relationship after another. I even had a brief stint on Then I said, I’m done for a while. And I consciously chose not to date. It gave me a chance to just be. And what a marvelous time I had. I was so happy just taking a break. I didn’t think, “I’ll never meet someone if I don’t keep trying.” You know what happened when my heart center was generating that glow? I met a cute guy at a cafe’s art opening. He was shy and I had this kind of soul recognition and shameless attraction. I was talking to a group of people, all Mexican-American, and they were asking me about my background. I told them that I was Mexican, Polish, Irish and German. The cute guy said, “You came out good.” In that moment, I was another kind of done. I took a big fat risk with my heart and it worked out. Keep in mind, lots of risks were taken with that organ in the previous years. I was highly skilled at scooping that puppy off the pavement.

Sometimes during mundane moments of solitude on the bus, I think, “I love my life. I’m in love with my life. Someone is driving me around and I don’t have to pay attention.” This kind of happiness is cultivated consciously. Two great things happened yesterday. I read a beautiful story about a man eating his first meal alone after losing wife of 43 years. He watched a couple during dinner and was inspired to pay for their bill. Here’s a man who’s heart might be aching from grief, yet he’s morphed that into a pay-it-forward kind of love. Second, a friend and colleague sent me Pharrell Williams Happy video saying he thinks of me when he hears the song. I was so touched that I danced right there in my office. Watch it here and see your heart pulse with ten thousand magnets!

Whatever your circumstances right now, I hope that you’ll fall in love with your life. Even if it’s starting with a bus ride. You might get to know yourself better. You might get to know your partner better. Or the person next to you might give you a stomachache.

What’s on your list?

Life List

You can read some of the things on my son’s staycation list in the picture above. I really like the idea of adding play, pray and dream to my list. Plus who wouldn’t love credit for waking up? Think about it: you get credit for being alive.

I’ve been jamming with my to-do list since getting The Desire Map day planner (which by the way is now 50% off). It has the dates for the week on one side and on the other side here’s what I see:

Core Desired Feelings: this is where I write: “free, energetic, powerful and lotus love joy” to keep those feelings front and center in all that I do. Then I see:

  1. Livelihood & Lifestyle
  2. Body & Wellness
  3. Creativity & Learning
  4. Relationships & Society
  5. Essence & Spirituality

Positive Declarations

People to be of service to

Helpful people to connect with

So instead of over a decade of Franklin Covey planning where there are A, B and C priorities and work and personal lists, now there is flow. I know that every week, I’m adding something about my health with that “Body & Wellness” section—it may be a workout plan or a doctor’s appointment. For Livelihood & Lifestyle, I know that I need to take care of some paperwork for our property. Now I look at it differently. I’m still going to the Cook County’s Assessor’s office, but I’m centered on the fact that it’s for my livelihood, my family. It’s different for me visually and feels connected to something important to me, it’s not just another thing on the list of one million things that I have to do. My work and personal tasks fit comfortably together. I especially love the “People to be of service to” and “Helpful people to connect with” sections because it also puts a new lens on some of the tasks I need to do.

You don’t have to “know” your Core Desired Feelings or own The Desire Map to use the planner. I’m still learning about it and evolving my list as as I go along. As I’ve been listening to the audio of The Desire Map, one of the sections focused on what you crave. Dancing and singing keep coming up for me. And so, I’ve skipped yoga in the morning sometimes and just danced in my living room with headphones before my tribe wakes up. One morning it was Prince’s B-Sides (which I would not play for a six-year old), and for fifteen minutes I was a teenager again. You’ll laugh at the fact that I had to ice my knees afterwards, so maybe I have to work back up to my adolescent moves, but the point is, I tried and I was inspired. And as I write to you now, I’m feeling the beats of Mandalay. You might also be interested in this article about the 11 problems music can solve.

For one friend of mine, 2014 is her year of fun. She is scheduling lots of it. What about you? Have you been listening to tunes that lift you? Are you still dreaming? Are you intentionally declaring love to the people that matter while you are still awake?

Why not? It feels good.

#desiremap planner

You are asking me to swallow the sun…

“Don’t let me down.” Remember that time when you believed that someone held the answer to your happiness? Remember when you had expectations and people met them? Hopefully you grew up with food, shelter and love. Some of us didn’t get all three at the same time. And it was then that don-don-don-doooooon, we were disappointed!

Thus began the hunt for people you could depend upon and trust. Your best friend. Your teacher. Your first love. Your spouse. And then, they showed their humanity, made mistakes and let you down. Now you are self-reliant and subscribe to the best approach: “I”ll just do it myself, it’s faster/better/easier/safer that way.”

Alas, it’s exhausting to live like that, isn’t it?

Expectations: To paraphrase author Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk about the weight of creative genius, she said that expecting someone to take responsibility for that genius is like, “asking someone to swallow the sun.” Sometimes the expectations of ourselves and others can feel like that: impossible, and a little dangerous.

As an adult, how can someone else be responsible for your happiness? Or your pain? I woke this morning with a new nightmare. Two people who played a part in a childhood trauma were in it. I confronted the one who played a passive role in the dream. And then I awoke. I could have berated myself for not being over that trauma with an, “I thought we were done with these nightmares!” I took a completely new approach and said, “Thanks God, for the object lesson. I release you, pain. I release this story. I rubbed my neck and stretched my shoulder and went back to bed. And then I thought, it’s time to write to you.

Event + Response = Outcome:  I could choose to carry the pain from the dream or the childhood experience with me in an active way. It could manifest in all kinds of areas and relationships in my life at work, at home, on the bus. Even if it lives in my subconscious, it makes up the parts of me that are more sensitive to those who have gone through something similar. And I’ll quote my friend’s mom, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

I had a wise woman talk to me about a friend who is in a lot of pain. There is nothing more that I can do to help her with that pain. The wise woman told me that she was “externalizing” her pain and that I wasn’t responsible for it. When I woke this morning from the nightmare, I had that experience of knowing whatever happened in the past is in the past and I don’t need to blame those individuals for that pain. I know who was responsible, yet I don’t need to carry the blame, hurt, fear and pain. What I have NOW in my life is joy, knowledge and lotus flower love.

If you are still interacting with people who “cause you pain” because you are related to them or you work for them, you still have a choice about how you react to those individuals. You can feel pain or look at them differently. You only have control over your response and that will impact the outcome. It’s that formula Event + Response = Outcome.

When being right is wrong for you: I think, at times, when my ego bubbles up the fear, it manifests itself in wanting people to do things my way. In having EXPECTATIONS. They need to operate with my rulebook. Because, I’m right. And when they don’t do it my way, when they don’t meet my expectations, they let me down. I’m disappointed. Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this sound unhealthy? I’m laughing as I write this because it’s a joy to see the fallibility of this theory outlined. Go ahead, reread this paragraph. It’s preposterous!

La-Z-Boy, Bed on the Beach or Massage Chair: As an adult, you are responsible for your pain and your joy. Sometimes, we can externalize that pain and make others responsible for it. “Don’t let me down!” Or better yet, self-flagellation, blaming yourself for not meeting those high expectations–that can be a comfortable place to be. Lots of us know how to sit, wallow and stretch out on the La-Z-Boy of disappointment, pain, fear, hurt, abandonment and betrayal. The upholstery has that familiar orange and olive green pattern from your childhood. It’s soft and worn, the cushion fits your bottom just right. And there’s that adjustable handle you used to play rocketship.

Do we know how to sit in the joy? The happiness? The quiet contentment? What does that chair or bed look like? Make it one of those fabulous beds on the beach that you see featured on the cover of Travel and Leisure. Or make it one of those massage chairs you like to sit in at the airport or at Costco. Only it’s in your living room, a soft italian leather with shiatsu massage and a built-in television and music remote. You can use your visualization in times of crisis, “Where’s my massage chair? Oh it’s over there!” You can also call yourself out and say, “Stop playing rocketship already, this is getting old.”

I’m inviting you to find your place of kindness. Get comfortable. Start with yourself: be kind and forgiving. Then forgive those who let you down. That was then.

You have now. So stretch out, relax and enjoy it.

Rest n Your Joy by Rebecca Villarreal

Out There

Out thereTonight I was talking to a friend about this book: Heal Your Body A-Z by Louise Hay. It helps “diagnose” some of the negative thinking that can contribute to big and small ailments from knee pain to lymph issues. It offers affirmative thoughts to get you to a place of health.  It doesn’t replace medical treatment. (Though the author did cure herself of cancer.)

I know what some folks are thinking: that’s out there!

And that’s what one of my best friends said to me a few minutes ago, “Wow, that book sounds “out there.”

It is.

I spoke to another friend, who leans conservative, and urged her to check out one specific video mentioned in my last post about food because I thought that the speaker would appeal to her. I said, “She’s not a giant hippie, so I think that you will like her.”

And she said, “Good, because those people drive me crazy.”

She knows that I can be classified as one of “those people” and she loves me wholeheartedly.

These are two people being honest about their opinions.

When I went to college, there were a lot of rich people there since the endowment for financial aid wasn’t so great. I had scholarships, loans and two jobs. I arrived with a strong prejudice against the wealthy because I assumed they were all privileged snobs. During my junior year, I was a resident assistant (because I wanted to be one and because it gave me free housing and funding for food which I redeemed to help pay tuition). One young woman who was on my “team” in the dorm, was a boarding school kid who chose to be an R.A. because she wanted to–no need for the money. In my eyes, she was rich. And she became one of my best friends.

Here’s what I want to share: challenge your assumptions.

About people that heal themselves with positive thinking. About giant hippies. About the wealthy.

About anyone who shows up in the world in a way that’s different from you.

Think about loving them. It might work out.

It might surprise you.

Tilt your head, squint your eyes and believe that someone is more than your past experience with your perception of who they are.

What’s it to ya?

The Gage Apple Cider Donut with Orange Coriander Ice Cream

Today is a day of gifts. Three Kings bring gifts.  No matter your tradition, why not accept the gifts I’m giving to you right now? There are eight gifts below. Take your pick!

So what’s it to ya? Food. Oh food. I love it! As I write, I’m trapped with my family indefinitely in my 1200 square foot condo in Chicago and it’s -7 degrees. We’ve been inside for days, weeks! I get extra credit for getting dressed today, accessorizing and putting on a little makeup.  (Don’t ask me if I’m in an elastic waistband. Well now that I raised it, of course I am.)  I’ve rebooked my mother’s flight to Philly five times. And five times her flight has been cancelled. All my home projects are not done and yet, I feel renewed and that I’ve had one of the best family hangouts of all time.

So about food. We wake up and plan our meals while eating breakfast. My mother “smuggled” 12 Tastykake pies and two dozen soft pretzels through TSA. Food is how we celebrate, commiserate, communicate and exist. This, my friends, is a recipe for an emotional relationship with food. And guess what, I can deal with it. However, I still like to tap into some resources to help me understand it and to pay attention to when and how much I eat. To why I eat and whether I’m actually, get this: hungry!

So this post (featuring the most gorgeous apple cider doughnut from one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago – The Gage) is all about loving food and loving your body, no matter where you are at.

So to keep this easy to digest, here are some of my favorite resources right now in the world to celebrate food, eating, your body and your health. (Note to dog lovers–there’s a part about a healthy “beer” for dogs):

1. Body Image Movement: Taryn Brumfitt, this amazing Australian former model is now an amazing normal person who eats burgers and is healthy and likes her body. Do you struggle with that? Then check out her website and become her friend on Facebook.

2. Food Babe: You will learn more than you probably want to learn…my husband has now become a healthy smoothie expert in part due to Food Babe’s influence. Vani, aka Food Babe, is a person who had an office job, then got appendicitis that was misdiagnosed, then chose to revamp the way she eats and lives. Some of my favorite resources include her interview with Marie Forleo featuring five healthy foods you shouldn’t eat, her piece on beer and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (think scientists making a chemical ingredient in your smiley snack cracker that interacts with your brain to make your crave it more – red alert!). It’s worth subscribing to her blog and check out this recent New York Times article which features the Food Babe Army.

3. Dawg Grog: Since I mentioned the beer post above, I know that I have a ton of readers who are dog lovers and beer drinkers. Yesterday I read an article about this wonderful entrepreneur from Bend, Oregon who likes to kick back with a brew at the end of the day and his dog, wants to do the same. Thus, Dawg Grog was born. It’s nonalcoholic and contains some healthy ingredients for your pup. Check it out.

4. What’s a GMO? It’s a genetically-modified organism. While I’m not an expert, here’s how I look at it as a consumer: there’s food that grows on the planet and food that’s altered by scientists with chemicals modified to grow differently or to interact with human beings to create certain reactions. In the early 90s new proteins were introduced into the food supply. No human trials were conducted to see if they were harmful. The hormones, for example, injected into cows to create more milk caused the cows to get sick, have cysts and need antibiotics. So countries like the UK and Canada decided that is wasn’t proven safe and opted not use them. The U.S. took a different approach. They decided that it wasn’t proven dangerous and so kept using them. Cysts in Cows? Cancer in People? The U.S. has a higher rate of cancer with 9 out of 10 cases being caused by the environment. It’s not just cows, it’s soy, it’s corn. There’s even a corn that has been engineered that as it grows it releases its own insecticide. General Mills is not permitted to use GMOs in its Cheerios in Europe, but until their announcement a few days ago, they used them in U.S. manufactured Cheerios. Think about how many kids eat cheerios in the U.S.

Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truthis a former food industry analyst, a conservative with type A personality who had four kids in five years. One morning, after eating L’eggo my Eggo waffles and blue yogurt, her kid’s face began to swell up. She had no idea what was happening. The rest is history. I urge you to set aside 18 minutes for your own health to watch her “Patriotism on a Plate” Tedx talk. She’s been called the Erin Brockavich of the food industry.  And here’s what Erin Brockavich says about her: I believe that in the absence of the truth, all of us stand helpless to defend ourselves, our families and our health, which is the greatest gift we have. You don’t have to be a doctor or a scientist to look into whether our food supply is safe, and Robyn O’Brien’s courageous pursuit of THE UNHEALTHY TRUTH is an example of how we can all do our parts to protect the health of our families.”  If you want to learn more about food allergies, check out her organization, Allergy Kids, or Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) or read my Courage to Be Catherine post.

5. Weight Watchers: Peeps, this is not a diet. I’m going to tell you something, I don’t always count “points” on this program. It’s a lifestyle which raises your consciousness about how you eat and why you eat.  The meetings are worth it.  I lost 25 pounds on it in utter and complete kindness to myself.

6. Kerri Richardson, Clutterbuster, Intuitive Life and Business Strategist: What can I say about Kerri? She kicks butt. She is a total and complete straight-talker from Massachusetts. I took her clutterbuster e-course this year and it changed my life. For real. We dealt with physical, mental and emotional clutter and are you ready for this: love handles can be a form of clutter. I’m not talking Body Image Movement love handles, I’m talking lots of excess weight that impacts your health. And here’s the cool thing about all that I learned from Kerri, none of it makes you feel guilty or bad. It’s a message to you and you can listen to it. Hey love handles, what are you trying to tell me? Lucky you, Kerri is offering a free webinar on weight loss on January 17. Even if you are shy, just consider listening in. By the way, Kerri lost 70 pounds, and she was nice to herself along the way.

7. Geneen Roth: Author, When Food is Love and Women Food and God, An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. This is a referral from a friend. She read the latter book and it completely changed her relationship to food. Regardless, I’m also intrigued by her book, Lost and Found: One Women’s Story of Losing her Money and Finding her Life. She lost her money in the Madoff fiasco and found a big a-ha moment related to a mentality of lack and scarcity related to money which she had never discovered despite all of her work in this arena related to food. So the lesson here: we are all human.  Always learning.

8. Love it. This is from my expert opinion. Love your food. Enjoy your food. You don’t need to overanalyze it. You need to pay attention. That’s it. No diets. Just pay attention. A book which I’ve always enjoyed is French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mirelle Guiliano, the former President and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. And you know what, French women consume, bread, cheese, red wine and champagne. They enjoy life. And they know that the first three bites will taste the same as the 7th, 8th and 9th bites. So sometimes, they stop at the first three.

Okay friends, eight tips, that’s my lucky number, so with that I say Happy Epiphany, Three Kings and Happy, Happy EATING, LIVING AND LOVING!

xo, me