Bellinis on the Balcony

January 4, 2018 | Posted in Living Hartfully | By

We had planned a relaxing beach-side getaway in Florida to soak in some sun and fun. What we got was soaking wet for a few days as we hunkered down to ride out Hurricane Matthew which had the audacity to ravage Florida’s coast in the middle of our vacation. It was eerily calm, warm, and sunny as we watched the shop keepers install the hurricane shutters and at poolside, we sipped umbrella drinks and ordered nachos. It was weird that each time a guest would get up from their lounge chair, an attendant would swoop in and scoop it up, along with all the potted plants.

One by one, all the patio furniture was carted away and doorways boarded up as us die-hards watched the Weather channel non-stop while floating in the pool. I’ve never watched so many hours of weather in all my life, but we were in the “cone of uncertainty” and several of the tracks showed us getting slammed by the evening. The hotel staff told us the windows were rated up to 200 miles per hour and this storm was estimated to “only reach 140 miles per hour.” I wondered who did the math on that calculation.

Later that evening, we walked the strand admiring the kite surfers and as we meandered, the wind started picking up. We had heard a hurricane may hit landfall, but it was supposed to be further north, so we kept walking as dusk settled in and the wind picked up. It only intensified the tricks the kite surfers could do in the gusts…looked like a blast to me. Note to self – try kite surfing – but not in a hurricane.

Live jazz was playing across the street from a sidewalk café and we felt the first droplets of rain, so we dashed back to our villa stopping by the CVS to round out our provisions we had hoarded to ride out several days without electricity or water. The storm grew stronger as the sky grew black and the rings of the hurricane most certainly were upon us. Bless the CVS store owner for remaining open until the last possible minute while every other shop around them was boarded up so we could get just one more jug of water for good measure.

Then it hit with a ferocity I hadn’t experienced. Our doors started blowing open before we could get them locked. We sat atop the intercoastal waterway and watched boats being tossed about and whipped from their moorings. We didn’t get the brunt, but you could see the rain bands and feel the building swaying. After holing up for a day and a half, we were able to venture out again and it was as if nothing had ever happened. We went to the spa and when we reached the pool deck, all the furniture was in place and the steel drum band was playing and umbrella drinks were flowing. Later that night we toasted a narrow miss with bellinis on the balcony and watched the boat traffic flow effortlessly in the intercoastal waterway like nothing ever happened.

Sometimes you need to ride out the storm and wait for the sunshine and sunset after the worst part. We didn’t want to throw in the towel because we still had vacation days left and wanted to use up every single minute for our holiday. We prepared, assessed the probability of a direct hit, and decided it was going to be another adventure and a good story. We were very fortunate, indeed. The next day we went air boating in search of gators, a perfect Florida trip complete with the requisite hurricane and gator sightings, that’s what I call livin g Hartfully, feminine and fierce.

Read More →

Stepping it up and Stepping Out in Europe for the Holidays

December 24, 2017 | Posted in Living Hartfully | By

There’s always been a certain charm of Europe that grabs hold of you, a sense of great architecture, grand design, great food, amazing culture, and women who know how to wear a scarf effortlessly. I particularly like to be in Europe for the holiday season. It’s done so well, so elegant, old-world charm, light-handed, and all your senses are immersed in holiday cheer. Not the unabashed, neon, tinsel-town fakeness in America.

So my BFF and I decided to spend this holiday in Italy and Belgium to surround ourselves with Christkindlemarkts, gluehwein, kaesestanger pretzals, and French fries with mayo in a cone and little forks as only the Belgians and the Dutch can do so well. When we arrived in Bruges, one of our favorite towns in the world that we thought couldn’t get any more charming and quaint. Well… cue the horse-drawn carriages clip-cloppping down the cobblestone street, the smell of chestnut roasting on an open fire (no kidding), and the smell of chocolate, the sight of 18th century canal homes decked out in greenery, simple white lights and red ribbons, ice skaters on the square encircled by holiday market stalls, and holiday music piped through the streets. Bliss, simply bliss from all angles.  All we needed was reindeer and some snow. It did spit rain, so we ducked into a 15th century convent turned hotel for high tea by the roaring fire in the walk-in fireplace along the canal. We were the only ones in the sumptuous drawing room replete with champagne, tea, and crumpets – just what we needed to complete the holiday mood.

Several trips and years ago we had decided to up our game in several areas of our lives. It’s funny how little things can be improved and when you string together all the areas you have stepped-up, it turns out your life has been up-leveled in interesting ways. This trip was no exception. We continued to step up our scarf game because they are plentiful in Europe, take up no room in the suitcase and don’t break. I’ve come to know that eyeglasses are much more creative and interesting in Europe than in America. Why can’t American’s have imagination when it comes to eyewear. There is no comparison. This trip was no different when we met a woman whose dad has been the creative force behind some wild and crazy designs since the 60’s. Of course, we couldn’t leave the country without a pair of hot pink and purple frames to add to the collection.

One this trip we decided to step up our balsamic vinegar and chocolate game. Visiting a tiny artisanal vinegar house in Modena was a perfect entre into the world of fine balsamic vinegars. They produce only 2000,  100ml bottles per year and the entire operation is in the attic of their 1800’s home. The sweet, tart scent of vinegar wafted throughout the home where they took such pride in aging their stash for 12-25 years completely naturally. Of course, we had to buy bottles at $65 – $130 each. The complex taste is out of this world and the consistency of heave syrup is divine. I had long stepped up from the watery balsamic of the grocery store to specialty vinegars, but had no idea this amazing concoction existed. It rocked my world.

The same held true for chocolate. The Europeans have the Americans beat to shreds in chocolate-making, bread-making and many other things. When we strolled the Galleries near the Grand Place in Brussels, the high-end chocolate shops looked like fine jewelry stores with Mary chocolates holding the seal of the royal family. Another divine sensory overload. Eat your heart out Hershey’s.

The cherry on top was the sensory overload in the Grand Place at night with a light show set to holiday music while eating a warm waffle and turning in circles to not miss a thing trying to catch a glimpse of the fabulous buildings from the 1600’s bathed in flickering lights timed perfectly with the music. It was magical, it was marvelous, it was setting the bar very high for holiday experiences European-style. Yet another area where we had up-leveled our experiences and our awareness of bigger and better things available.

What kinds of things have you up-leveled in your life? How have you stepped up in different areas of your life? What are you consciously letting go of in order to make room for newer, better things, experiences, ways of being, doing, having? From things such as pens, furniture, fabrics, foods, jewelry, books, what you watch on screens, how you choose to use your time, dishes, thoughts, habits, colleagues, job/work, friends, behavior, bed linens, towels, lingerie, bags, paper, lotions and self-care products to hotels, villas, restaurants. Treat yourself to some up-leveling at any level this year. One small thing or big leaps and be conscious of what works for you and how it feels and what feels right for you. It’s all part of continuous improvement in all areas of your life. Make an effort to notice your space, your closet, your kitchen and refrigerator. What can you improve to represent who you are or who you want to become?

I’ve decided I probably need to be in Europe the month of December from now on. It feels like home. I’ve always tried to stay off the road and out of the malls and stores between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day in America. It feels bad for me and I refuse to get caught up in the self-imposed stress of running around for sales and buying obligatory gifts that you wouldn’t normally be buying. The rushing around and fake blow-up decorations are a big turn-off for me. What feels more right is the old-school way of celebrating the holidays is how it is done in Europe. One more way of stepping it up and stepping out to enjoy what feels best for me. What do you do to feel your best and take care of your soul, your psyche, your body and your mind?

Read More →

Num Lock: Avoid Becoming Numb and Locked up to New Ideas

December 18, 2017 | Posted in Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully | By

An open mind is a good mind. Keep an open invitation to fresh ideas that can be enlightening, inspiring, and energizing. Blow out those cobwebs and entertain thinking that expands your creativity and your perspective. Be curious about life and learn a new or resourceful way of doing things. Continuously look for ways to view the world from another angle, or test-drive activities, foods, ideas, or philosophies that question the way you previously chose to look at the world.

Closed minds and closed eyes are no way to move through the world. Being entrenched in your own stance not only drains your energy, it drains the energy of those around you. You can open your mind and your life to new possibilities just by changing a few words in your vocabulary. Instead of saying “I don’t care” when your spouse or friend suggests an activity or an idea, try saying “I’m open to that”, or “Yes, I’m willing to try that”.

By using phrases of openness, you open yourself up to more possibilities. Avoiding the numbness and locked up feeling of “I don’t care”, helps us tap into our energy and our true intentions. When we get to the lowest levels of “I don’t care”, our soul dies. So open your mind, open your heart, and open your eyes to new adventures and ideas to avoid becoming numb and locked up to new possibilities.

 

Read More →

Back in the Swing Again: Old Dog, New Clubs

December 4, 2017 | Posted in Living Hartfully | By

I grew up on a golf course and started playing in the 3-holer league in grade school with hand-me-down clubs from my siblings. I’m left-handed and they are right-handed, so I learned to play with their equipment and continue the sport today in a right-handed way. I always thought I was not good enough to spring for new clubs since my college days….after all I wasn’t growing any taller, ahem.

So I kept the same equipment for a few decades until recently when I borrowed a friend’s clubs and shot the best game of my life. By George there is something to this thing of using updated equipment. I was hooked once again and sought out the ladies’ line of pink, flex, petite clubs because even if I can’t play pretty, at least my clubs will look pretty.

It turns out I looked pretty foolish my first day out with my new set and my new cart. Still in the parking lot, I couldn’t figure out the new-fangled strap. It seems they now make them like back-pack straps to go over both shoulders. Who knew? I was flinging that bag around trying to figure it all out and luckily nobody was paying attention. I find that’s usually the case…nobody is paying attention.  Strike one.

Strike two came when I strapped my bag onto my new handy dandy pull cart that ever-so-swiftly folds into nothingness to fit in my trunk. I had everything in place and only got two car lengths away from my car when the wheel fell off the cart and down goes the bag and the clubs sprinkled about the parking lot. Quick look around to see if nobody was still paying attention and back to my car I went limping along with one wheel in my hand.

Returning to the backpack method, I waltzed up to the driving range to practice with these new petite, pink clubs. After a large bucket of balls, I was exhilarated and exasperated at the same time. I loved the clubs, my drives were better than ever, and I was sweating so badly my sunglasses fogged up and I couldn’t see a thing. Strike three. I’m sure glad the driving range stalls had barriers between then because I couldn’t see where I was hitting. It turns out I had severely over-dressed for the occasion.

Stripping down before hitting the links; I told the starter that I had a 10:24 tee time and instead of pointing me in the direction of the tee box, he announces – are you playing alone? You only have one person in your party? It felt like the maître d at a swanky restaurant announcing to the dining room that you are the loser eating alone or when they call price check at the checkout counter over the loud speaker for a special ointment. Yes, I’m playing alone this morning on my maiden voyage with my pink ladies and by the way do you have a pull cart, my wheel fell off in the parking lot. I also wondered if I could even see the ball with my bare eyes and without glasses with nobody watching where it goes except me. I decided to use pink balls – easier to see than white. It turned out I could see them, but maybe next time I pull out the glasses just in case. Just another reminder I’m getting older….bifocals for golf….ugh.

Turns out that after those three strikes, I got it out of my system and played pretty darn good and pretty darn fast thanks to my pretty pink clubs. Even teeing off in front of several fire engine crews who were doing training just beyond the fence line…no pressure with 100 firemen mere yards from you. Ah, but I remembered…..nobody is paying attention, so there really was no pressure. It’s all a mind game.

So you really can teach an old duffer new tricks with new clubs. I’m ready for next weekend for another tee time and more adventures on the range and on the course. I find trying new things keeps me on my toes and keeps me humble and it gives me something to look forward to….getting better. This will surely be a lifetime of getting better because there is no place to go but up. Though I did manage to get a par on the last hole, a couple bogies and a couple double bogies. I lost count on the other holes….the pink ladies helped me improve, but they are not miracle workers. I didn’t lose a ball and I didn’t hit anyone. I call that a good day.

Read More →

Print: Read the Printed Word – Expand Your Horizons

November 19, 2017 | Posted in Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully | By

So many motivational and inspirational books are out there, you are bound to stumble across one of the 100,000 books that are printed each year. Burying yourself in a book is a breath of fresh air and perhaps the mental escape you couldn’t physically take. Visit a mega-bookstore, a quaint old used book store, or library and get lost in the aisles and in time while you check out all the different perspectives and topics.

It is said that we don’t necessarily select a book, but a book selects us. So if you don’t have the time and inclination to visit an actual store, let your fingers do the shopping as you click your way through an online dealer and have your selections delivered straight to your door. Select reading over TV-watching and watch your energy increase along with your knowledge.

Some of the research suggests that the average American reads only one book per year, but watches over four hours of television per day. If you don’t want to be average, then do something above average and read more books to expand your horizons, your knowledge, and your interests.

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and it really hit home to me just how much I needed reading material when I first lived in the Colorado Rockies without television and only weekly visits to town and its libraries or bookstores. I then moved to Europe and was without television for another five years. This was in the years before  the Internet, and being without access to TV or printed words in English made me very aware of how much I longed for something to read. I would make a list throughout year of the books I wanted to buy when I visited America, and then mail back boxes of them to myself to fill my time and my mind while I was back overseas.

You can become an expert in a chosen field by reading and researching that topic for just 15 minutes per day. Why not start out your day and end your day by reading a few inspirational pages to set positive thoughts in your subconscious before you start your day and before you go to sleep. What books have you read lately? A great book on increasing your personal energy is Vital Energy: The 7 Keys to Invigorate Body, Mind, & Soul by David Simon, MD.

How about giving books or gift cards to book stores as gifts. Giving the gift of knowledge to children or adults is all about enhancing and energizing their life. How about giving a book of blank paper so they (or you) could start your own printed word or write a journal of your hopes, dreams, or reflections. Surrounding yourself with printed words – whether your own or from others lifts your energy and your spirits.

Read More →

Cuba, Culture, Color and Cars

November 4, 2017 | Posted in Living Hartfully | By

Travel adventures have occupied my mind quite a bit most of my life and there are many destinations that have set up camp in my brain. I keep them tucked away and keep researching and being open to opportunities and the gut feeling when my intuition tells me it’s the right time and the right place to take action. I experienced this strong, overwhelming feeling of urgency in my gut lately that I just HAD to get to Cuba as soon as possible.

The feeling has been getting stronger and stronger with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in the past couple years. I wanted to see the island before it was changed by too many outsiders. I wanted to experience the authenticity of the people, the culture, the colors and the cars. I do love great cars – that comes from my dad who always had quite a collection and he was also a former race car driver in the 40’s. Cars are in my blood.

It was two distinct experiences a couple months apart that drove me to take action. The first was when I was watching the movie Fate of the Furious – the one we had seen them setting up for in Iceland when my college roommate and I were up in Lake Myvatn in the northern reaches of Iceland on the frozen lakes. I just had to see what they were going to do in the movie on that frozen lake. They did A LOT with it – very cool. Anyway… the beginning of the movie begins in Havana, Cuba with all those glorious, colorful 1950’s cars. The next incident was President Trump announcing he was clamping down on some of the openings that former President Obama had negotiated. As soon as I heard that, I started researching trips to Cuba to get over there before the bureaucracy but the kibosh on any travel for Americans.

I found a cruise that circumnavigated the island and made many stops along with sanctioned people-to-people cultural excursions for Americans. I decided to stay in Jamaica before and after the trip to luxuriate in the amazing resorts to soak in the ocean breezes and beaches and allow the trip to imprint on me. Just being in a place where JFK took Jackie on their honeymoon, where he wrote his inauguration speech and where Stella got her groove back in the movie of the same name; so I could feel taken care of in a most luxurious way.

So the first resort was a complete disappointment and I ended up getting a full refund due to the comedy or errors, the terrible food and the lack of service. Fortunately, the new General Manager was Swiss, who know how to do hospitality well. He had been brought in to shake things up and evidently, I was the unpaid consultant that helped him make his point to his managers about what has run them downhill from their heyday. The last resort was purely heaven, gracious hospitality, and sumptuousness to the nth degree. It was just what I had imagined with the spa, the cliffside walking paths, the organic food grown on the property and the Ralph Lauren-designed rooms overlooking the lush gardens and beach. I was pampered to within an inch of my life and I loved every single leisurely minute of it as I tried to drink in every ounce of luxury.

The cruise ship only had 200 guests instead of their usual 1200, so we were very well cared for by the staff. It was a delight to actually have time to get to know them and the other passengers as we soaked in the long-hidden culture of Cuba…at least hidden from Americans. We stopped in several ports around the island, but the jewel is Havanna….at least the few blocks that were renovated for tourist eyes to see.

I was taken aback by the oppression, falling buildings, and poverty. I had only seen the Havana that the news and the movies had wanted you to see. But there were those amazing cars – beautiful, restored 1940’s and 50’s relics that had to have magicians as owners to keep them so pristine. A weird reality is that the old car taxi drivers make $50/hour from the tourists to drive around and doctors only make $60-$100/month while the average income is around $10/month. The economic pyramid is being turned upside down. Air BnB’s are popping up as residents are now able to own a business. It was a little strange rambling around the old city taking in the culture at the same time feeling communist eyes and ears upon you. It was uneasy. Signs of Castro were still everywhere. Very strange to pull into the harbor and not see any yachts or boats…nothing except another cruise ship and the dilapidated terminals with nothing but timbers from many decades ago.  The irony of the culture clash was not lost on me — pulling up to the rickety pier perched upon the deck of my Royal Suite. Disconcerting…. The whole place is falling apart. I’m certain many buildings came down after the hurricane as report were that the spray of the waves reached above the lighthouse at Havana Harbor.

The best part of the cruise was the ship’s officers offering me the Royal Suite – the largest suite on the ship because a few of my shower tiles had come up and they didn’t want me to be disturbed by the repair. The place was palatial as far as ship cabins go – you could easily fit 50 people on the deck along with its own outdoor shower, hot tub, lounge chairs and dining suite.  One of the perks of having a mostly-empty ship and I’ll gladly take it. If this was part of the Cuban cultural experience, I’m in! I’m forever grateful that I listened to my intuition and took the trip….a lifetime of memories from all my senses.

 

Read More →

=: Equalize Your Time Between Professional and Personal

October 19, 2017 | Posted in Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully | By

It’s that old balance thing again. Get your priorities sorted out according to what is truly important: people first and then things, people first and then things. It is good for the soul to feed it what it wants, or it will always be hungry no matter what else you give it. Work with your personal energy cycles to be the most productive.  For some, this means intermittently switching off between personal and professional tasks throughout the day and inserting personal energy breaks in-between stretches of intense concentration.

For others, it could mean working a night shift if they are night owls and sleeping during the day. For another group it might mean both spouses working part time so they can split the child care and still have time for work, family, and couple time. The advent of flex schedules and compressed workweeks are a great invention to help workers equalize their time by working four days and having three days off. It sure seems more equal than the old five on and two off.

It takes constant attention to how you are balancing your personal or family time with your professional or school time. Whatever your balancing act entails, it takes vigilance and attention to ensure you are in sync and in balance for optimum energy and peak performance.

When we are out of balance and have unequal amounts of time spread between the different areas in our lives, we feel overwhelmed, under great stress, out of focus, out of sorts, and irritated with others. We tend to lose our sense of humor and our sense of control over our time and our lives. When we feel out of control, we feel stress and fear and frazzled. Recognize the signals of being unbalanced and make a plan to equalize your life in the future.

Take note of what circumstances brought you to this unequal place and create steps to get yourself out of there. Sometimes we cannot attain the proper balance over one day; we need to take a look at the week, or even the month. Sometimes circumstances warrant that we need to plow through a project or moment in time with intense focus and only after that time can we opt for better balance. Plan some down time as your reward for getting through this period so you have time to recoup your energies.

Become aware of your natural biorhythms for optimal performance and equalize your time between personal and professional responsibilities. Balance keeps things in perspective and helps you do most things in moderation to keep your energy in check. It’s a constant, conscientious effort to keep all the areas of your life in balance. Awareness is the first step to creating boundaries for your time and energy.

Pre-set your boundaries and know your limits. When demands stretch you towards your ends, you know when to pull back to maintain your balance, your sanity and your energy. Let others know of your boundaries and when they have crossed the line in order to keep your stress levels and your energy in check.  n a USA Today survey, 75% of CEOs and 88% of middle managers listed balancing work and family as a major concern. How’s your balance? What are you doing to create more balance in your life? Do you know the signs your body tells you when you are unbalanced?

Read More →

The Biology of Hope

October 4, 2017 | Posted in Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully | By

I know from my experience and the research on humor and healing, that we need to laugh through a hard time to help us get through it – known as the Biology of Hope (when we anticipate an enjoyable event and laugh at a situation, our good stress, eustress, hormones beta endorphins and growth hormones kick in and help our immune system.)

Here are some proven ways to reduce stress with everything else going on around us:

Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and get your day started at a more leisurely pace with enough time to have a proper breakfast. You can get much done while it is quiet such as exercising, yoga, meditating, getting your day organized. It also helps to have clothing selected and lunches prepared the night prior so you don’t have to think too much.

Write down everything (and do back-ups) – as we get older, our brains can’t hold all the info it once used to. Give your brain a break and keep all your notes in one place – either electronic, paper, or both so you won’t stress over what will happen to your info if your batteries die. We now know that stress kills our brain – as it also does our heart. Stress affects the hippocampus, the memory and retrieval system of our brains. You know you have brain cells dying from stress when you’re in a grocery store aisle and you have no idea why you are there…stress.

Do it today – stop procrastinating and make a decision. Procrastination and clutter are just postponed decisions. Figure out why you don’t want to make that decision and go about it in a different way, just do it.

The Law of Entropy states that everything without work or force applied to it will break down over time. That includes cars, gardens, our health, communication, or relationships. Focusing on prevention will help alleviate the stress caused by things breaking down. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Get rid of as many irritations, aggravations or energy drains that you can. It’s the culmination of all those little sniggly things that add up to big stress. So fix the broken towel bar, the squeaky door, the rip in your couch, or throw out the pitcher that is too heavy to lift. All those little drains add up to an empty energy tank.

Plan ahead – live for today and plan for tomorrow’s events or emergencies. Have contingency plans in place for the probable causes that may affect you. Living in Germany for 10 years, we had to have a NEO plan in place – a Non-combatants Evacuation Plan. We were supposed to always have at least a half a tank of gas in our car, our medical information and family info easily accessible and important documents within reach in case we had to evacuate in a conflict situation. Friends in California tell me they have an emergency kit in case of fire or Earthquake with all their important items in it near the door. Make sure all your documentation is in order and look towards the future.

Read More →