Browsing Category

Finding Strength

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

Emotional Wellbeing, Finding Strength, Happiness, Mindset

Who Ultimately Wins An Argument?

shutterstock_370182680

 

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.

Continue Reading

Finding Strength, Health, Success, Wisdom

Reboot Your Resolution

IMG_0422

One of the most basic yoga poses is called Tree Pose, but on this day, for me, it was incredibly difficult.  I can do advanced balances with one leg in the air behind my back, but for some reason I could not stop wobbling in Tree Pose. I fell. I tried again. I fell. There are times in life when we wobble before we get to our destination. We oscillate. We are off balance. The most important thing is that we get up and attempt the endeavor again.

There are many stories of celebrities and wealthy individuals who have tried only to fail. Continue Reading