family, Happiness, Inspiration, Wisdom

Gram

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Today my grandmother, Ruth Cowan would have turned 100 years old. Gram, as so many of us lovingly caller her, was truly one of a kind: an electric and buoyant woman who looked into your eyes, into your soul, upon meeting.  Some of my most cherished memories are from our late night conversations. We played cards and talked, ate large bowls of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and she would listen – really listen.

 

She was the first person I wanted to talk to when I endured seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I couldn’t wait to hear her advice for my most devastating tribulation – when my husband had an affair and a child with another woman. Her answer, however, was unexpected.

“What would you do, Gram?” I asked.

We were at a restaurant and she took her time, chewing her food slowly.

Sixty seconds is a long time to wait when you are eager for an answer, advice.

I waited.  And waited.

And then she finally blurted out, “I’d get a boyfriend!”  And as a second thought she added, “…and a yacht!”

It was hard to be in a sour mood around Gram even in the darkest moments.  She had a way of livening up the room, and the world.  She made it a better place while she was here.  Indeed.

Like most people from the Greatest Generation who endured real hardships like the Great Depression and World War II, she had a moral compass that was always pointed in the right direction.  As a young mother who lost her husband to cancer, she worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet for her three children.  There were hard times in her life, yet I never saw her without a smile.

One of the things that inspired me most about my grandmother was her ability to live life to the fullest. She entertained at night clubs until she was more than 90 years old, belting out cover songs of the forties, fifties and sixties and playing the piano – although she never learned to read music.

The highlight of every family gathering was watching her play Mama Goes Where Papa Goes, with all of her children and grandchildren singing along. She had a powerful, soulful and authoritative voice that didn’t need a microphone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=v4Q8w_nHDYg&app=desktop

My grandmother taught me to live life to the fullest and dance if no one was watching. At 92 years old, she joined Ted on stage at one of his rock ‘n’ roll concerts. In front of twenty thousand hard-core rock ’n roll fans,  Gram strutted across the stage as if she owned it. She did.

On my desk is a photograph of her laughing.  Whenever I have one of those moments when I’m sad or frustrated, I look at that picture and ask myself, “What would Gram do?”  I hope I make the best of every second in my life and make as many people smile as she did.

Celebrating Veterans Day Every Day
Finding Strength, Inspiration, Mindset, Spiritual, Spirituality, Wisdom

Celebrating Veterans Day Every Day

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.Charles Dickens

We’ve all experienced dark nights of the soul, times when we endured spiritual crises that brought us to our knees. We lose hope, hit the bottom of the depression pit, and perhaps even consider suicide. Let’s be real. Maybe you wouldn’t do it, but have you thought about it?

Taking the focus off myself and putting it on others has always lifted me from the deepest, darkest depths of despair. In 2004, Ted, Rocco, and I visited veterans at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. That day was one I can still see and feel in my mind.

The three of us went from room to room, floor to floor, visiting severely injured soldiers. The sights were gruesome—much worse than any Hollywood movie could depict. Ted played his guitar and entertained some of the troops in a rehab room. A young man who had suffered serious burns all over his body was strapped onto a bed; his arms and legs were extended. Emblazoned in my memory are the moaning sounds he made while his limbs were stretched so new skin would have a chance to grow.

As we ascended to higher floors, the wounds on these hero warriors seemed to get worse. The cheery demeanor of a beautiful, dark-haired woman overpowered the fact that half of her face had been maimed. She smiled wide and bright as she talked about recovering quickly so she could rejoin her fellow soldiers.

Nineteen year-old Corporal John Chrzanowski had been brought in the night before we arrived. Wrapped from head to toe like a mummy, John had been burned all over his body. To minimize the chance for infection, John’s visitors were kept to a minimum. Ted scrubbed up, put on a face mask and gown, and headed in to give John a pep talk. Rocco and I stood outside the room with John’s mother, Nancy. I had no idea what to say to her. How could any words bring her comfort? I asked if there was anything she needed, anything I could do for her. With all the confidence in the world that her son would someday make a full recovery, Nancy Chrzanowski lifted her chin and said defiantly that her son was an outdoorsman and she couldn’t imagine him recovering without being able to get outside. At the time, there was no patio at BAMC to shelter burned and wounded veterans from direct sunlight.

I was slightly stunned, but I leaped into the conversation as if something else had taken over my words. I had zero experience with fundraising and had no idea how I would do it, but I told Nancy I’d raise the money for a patio at the center so her son and so many others could get outside into fresh air but stay out of the sun. With the help of my husband, Texas governor Rick Perry, and so many others, a beautiful pavilion was created at Brooke Army Medical Center and has provided relief to hundreds of deserving and honored American military veterans. That experience prompted me to start Freedom’s Angels to help wounded soldiers and their families. Most recently, we raised money to provide a much needed track chair to a veteran who had lost his legs. Now, he can go to the beach with his family and not worry about the complications of walking with prosthetic legs in the sand.

Every year, Ted and I are involved in dozens and dozens of charity events. We’ve hosted too many children with terminal illnesses for me to count. Or want to. Meeting innocent children stricken by a death warrant is heartbreaking. It’s so unfair to them and their families. It puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it? How dare I complain of having a bad hair day or gaining a few pounds? Those children would love to have my problems. So whenever I have my pity days, I think about people who struggle with much more daunting tribulations, and I get involved.

You don’t have to write a check to make a difference. One Thanksgiving, Ted, Rocco, and I went to a soup kitchen and served the homeless. Lend a helping hand to others and you’ll be more appreciative of what you have. On this Veterans Day, go out of your way to thank a Veteran for their service.

Emotional Wellbeing, Finding Strength, Fitness, Happiness, Health, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindset, Nature, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wisdom

Tearful Yoga

The room was completely dark except for the illuminated “Exit” sign.  As I lay on the floor in a supine position, sweat streamed down the side of my face, arms and legs. Toxins and stress drained from every pore.  It had been fifty-eight minutes of the most strenuous stretching, balancing, and hard-core strength exercises a body can tolerate, but as I lay in my own pool of sweat, I felt elated.  Yep.  Elated.

The instructor, Michael, taught an intense power yoga class which included traditional yoga postures combined with a series of faster paced moves which called for a bit of mental gymnastics.  When a difficult pose ended, another began. There was very little rest. When we were instructed to hold a challenging balance that required muscular strength and stretching limbs and torsos beyond what was once imaginable, my mind played its usual tricks:  leave now and go get a cappuccino…why are you working so hard on a Sunday when you could have slept in and read the paper….there’s a woman at least ten years older than you bending like a pretzel…..c’mon…you can do this, etc…

At times, there was no music, just the sound of the instructor’s voice encouraging us to go deeper into the pose, or take just another “sip” of breath. Serious and seasoned yogis use a diaphragmatic breathing technique that’s supposed to bring attention back to one’s breath, maintaining calm and focus amidst chaos. The mind continually races, however, with thoughts of “I should have worn the black tank top….what am I having for lunch….to…I bet I’ll lose three pounds of sweat from this class…”

While there are many different kinds of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, power, gentle, and everything in between, yoga has evolved from thousands of years ago. Today, yoga is a culture of its own. There are people who do (it) and people who don’t.  You either fall into one category or the other.  There’s little flexibility because many gurus are so serious about their craft. Although I’ve been in the fitness industry for more than thirty-five years as a choreographer, program developer and instructor, I often feel as though I’m out of my league when I attend a yoga class.  It’s a feeling akin to sports fanatics.  You either like to watch games or you don’t.

The yoga culture extends to manners and clothing, as well.  Be prepared to speak in a whispered voice and be cognizant of your space when entering a yoga studio. Smiles are given freely and often, except when walking on someone else’s mat or (gasp!) when a cell phone buzzes. Anger is simply not welcome.

Stretch pants previously reserved for the gym and only the gym are now seen on both hockey moms and dads in and out of yoga studios and worn as a statement; “I can do the splits and I eat kale.”

The lights dimmed with just a hint of radiance from the gorgeous chandelier above me and the music became so loud I couldn’t hear myself or the person inches away from me breathe, or fart, although I’m quite certain that happened to at least one of us during the hour.  It felt like a nightclub scene, but without any alcohol or pick-up lines.

The instructor never demonstrated any moves, and as an intermediate yogi, I was unfamiliar with the sanskrit terminology, so I cheated by looking at those nearby including my son, Rocco, who is currently attending yoga teacher training.  Not realizing we would have to remember sequences, I simply played “follow-the-leader” as I mimicked those around me in the shadows of the dimly-lit room.

At the end of the class, when it was so dark I could only see the ‘Exit’ sign, we laid on our sweaty yoga mats, exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. It was quiet, with only a faint sound of deep, relaxing sighs.

Then, with the first sound of the piano notes, it started.  I felt a tightening in my throat, and heavier, more intense breathing.The music blasted, but this time with a more peaceful, poetic combination of Gaelic, New Age and classical sounds that both calmed and comforted me.  The volume of the music grew along with its intensity to levels that I felt in my bones. Suddenly, a persuasive, emotional wave took over me and within seconds, tears filled my eyes and streamed down my cheeks.

I began to weep.

Salty tears of elation mixed with my hard-earned sweat.

And it felt so good.

Feeling blessed to be healthy! #4minutes2happy #yoga #healthyliving #fitness #exercise

Feeling blessed to be healthy! #4minutes2happy #yoga #healthyliving #fitness #exercise

Health

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I know that’s a lofty claim, but let me start by saying I have never felt better in my life, never slept better in my life, never had more energy and never known such vitality, ever!  While I wasn’t looking for another job, another responsibility, or one more task on my list of things to do, these products found me and I have no choice but to tell you how they’ve changed my life.  It’s not a responsibility.  It’s an obligation..and a blessing. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing it with you.

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After recovering from pre-emphysema due to toxic mold exposure in our home that was once featured on MTV Cribs, I cured myself and my family with alternative remedies like vitamin IV, infrared sauna, and oxygen. What had happened to me affected me on a cellular level. Here’s an example:  When I was getting sicker and sicker, plagued with debilitating migraines and not sure why, there was a time when I thought I was having a heart attack.  It felt as thought an elephant was sitting on my chest!  My husband rushed me to the hospital, but doctors in the emergency room sent me home because they could not see any problems with my chest x-rays.  That’s only because they couldn’t detect what was happening to me on a cellular level. They’re only explanation was “sorry”.  It took many more months of headaches, fatigue and insomnia for me to determine that “sorry” wasn’t a good answer.  I deserved to be healthy!

You know when you feel good and when you feel bad.  Back then, I thought I was dying.  Now, I feel as though I’ve never had this much vitality in my life, and that I just have to share my secret!

After only one day of taking these products, I had a total body transformation from the inside out.  Perhaps even a spiritual awakening. Now, I’m a month into my journey and I cannot believe how amazing I feel.  I wish I would have had these products when I was teaching back-to-back 2-hour sessions at the International Zumba Fitness Conventions!  I would have been unstoppable!

As a healthy lifestyle expert, I feel compelled to share this information with you. If I have an abundance of energy and sleep better, maybe you can too! Oh, and the other side effect is I have zero food cravings all throughout the day! From the moment I got these super foods into my body, I started feeling as though I could conquer the world!

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Happiness, Mindset, Success

4 Steps To Set Yourself Up For Success

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Here are 4 steps to set yourself up for success this week!

  1. Get rid of cookies, chips, sodas and any junk food in the house. If it’s there, it’s a temptation. Set yourself up for success by eliminating food triggers.
  1. Make exercise a habit.  Taking care of your health means putting yourself first…not after the kids, work and your spouse.  FIRST!  Now, I realize that’s super tough, especially with young children that constantly need you, deadlines at work, or household chores that cannot be put off any longer.  But when you have sick days – when you have a cold or flu – you are forced to take a break.  Schedule at least three times a week when you can focus on YOU and any type of exercise you can fit into your busy schedule, whether it’s walking, swimming, biking or taking a fitness class.  The more you exercise, the less sick days you have, the more you want to eat better and the healthier you’ll be! Getting your heart rate up releases “feel good” hormones in your body, so you’ll be happier too!  Set yourself up for success by scheduling a workout at least three times a week.

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Emotional Wellbeing, Relationships, Wisdom

Sometimes It’s Best To Save Yourself

 

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“Save yourself.”  That’s what a friend told me after we discussed a predicament involving a mutual acquaintance.

Sometimes it’s best not to get involved in situations we cannot control even though we may think we can be of assistance.  It’s difficult to allow others to make their own (bad) choices and allow them to figure out the predicament themselves, but occasionally we may need to.  Often, it’s best to back away, bite your tongue and save your sanity.

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Health, Nutrition, Wellness

Stay Healthy And Have A Fabulous Summer!

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Summer is here! That means picnics, pool time, parties, and lots of fun! But also potential sunburns, feeling overwhelmed, and weight gain from too much snacking and unhealthy food.

Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and have a fabulous fun-filled summer!

  1. Drink lots of water. You can set a reminder on your phone to notify you periodically throughout the day to drink water whether you need it or not. Sometimes we get so busy and we forget. I like to put lemon or cucumbers in my water for a refreshing twist. You can also have fruit like strawberries, apples, or watermelon.

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Emotional Wellbeing, Finding Strength, Happiness, Mindset

Who Ultimately Wins An Argument?

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I planned my attack.

In my mind I had it all mapped out: How exactly I would respond to the person who had said something hurtful and humiliating.

I knew what I was going to say. After all, I rehearsed it in my mind for hours. No, days.

We were at a gathering where a dozen or so people were laughing, telling stories and feeling elated about the camaraderie of old friends and new.  No one else knew that what this so-called friend had said in a joke brought up old wounds in me.

The offender knew.  I’m sure of it.  Although, I don’t think that they intentionally wanted to hurt my feelings.

Regardless, the words they said cut like daggers into my soul. It felt as though Mike Tyson punched me where I had already been black and blue.

So I waited.

And waited…for an apology that never came.

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Inspiration, Nature, Spirituality

The Spiritual Vortex of Sedona

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It is a place where roads are named Lizard Head, Broken Arrow Lane and Devil’s Pass. It’s not unusual in this stunning, mountainous region to see cars parked on roadsides for mountain bike riders (young or old) to get their groove on in the valiantly hilly topography of Sedona, Arizona. Through the red, rocky mountains, the stars seem closer than usual at night and the air is cool, crisp and fresh. It’s a place where the mountains are so high in the sky, you have to tilt your head back to see the peaks. It’s a place where peace and serenity abound. Where it seems as though God took a little extra time in painting the scenery. Continue Reading

Relationships

The Lost Art of Connecting

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Billions of people around the world are now in touch through social media, but are we really truly connected with one another? In a recent hot yoga class where the temperature was tipping one hundred degrees, the instructor asked us to hold hands with the people on either side of us to help us with a balance pose.  Sweat was pouring down from my head and my entire body, and it wasn’t exactly a moment I wanted to share with a total stranger.

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