California Dreaming: Laguna Beach

Last weekend, hubby and I decided to revisit Laguna Beach for a bit of baby boomer bliss..

This charming beach town, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, with over 20 different scenic coves offers everything from surfing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, and whale watching excursions. Add ultra-chic restaurants and shops and one-of-a-kind art galleries and you get the picture.

Laguna Beach me and ScottMy husband and I happen to have a bit of history here. When I was 16, my father had to meet someone for business in Laguna Beach (if you look behind the town, you’ll see one of my father’s proudest engineering feats, the design of Portofino Laguna, a 200 home development built into the hillside).

He offered to take me and my boyfriend, Scott, along and drop us off at the beach ( incredibly, the same guy I later married – we’ll celebrate our 38th anniversary this year!).

Did I mention that the surf can be a little rough in Laguna? We decided to do some body surfing despite the churning waters. I wiped out on a massive wave (think Beach Boys’ song: Heheheheheheee wipe oooout!) and my face – upper lip first – was smashed into the ocean floor.

Actually, I blame the Beach Boys for this entire mishap since they went and romanticized this whole surfer chick thing with songs I grew up on like Surfer Girl.

The result: the ugliest scab mustache that lasted for what seemed like a year, but in reality was just a few miserable weeks. Yes, I know, it could have been worse. I could have broken my neck, but this was a teen girl’s absolute nightmare!

I begged my Mom not to send me back to school where the teasing was merciless, to no avail. But good ol’ Scott still loved me and told me I looked beautiful despite the thick scab  that made me look like a cross betweeen Cheech Marin and Burt Reynolds. He’s a good guy; that’s why I married him.

I eventually got over the traumatizing experience and have been back to Laguna Beach a few times since then. I knew it was absolutely gorgeous. So, hubby and I went back for a romantic weekend and visited a couple of places somehow we had missed previously.

By the way, the water was waaaay too cold for me this time of year and after my experience, I’m not sure I’ll ever navigate the waves in Laguna again, so the places we visited were more about the hiking and spectacular scenery than swimming.

Heisler Park

Laguna Beach Heisler Park

Located just north of the main beach, Heisler Park offers an easy half-mile stroll along a paved path with spectacular views of the coastline and the soothing sound of crashing waves. You can take one of the paths to the beaches and tide pools, just watch the tides and weather.

Benches, picnic tables, and barbecues abound where you can enjoy the magnificent views. Hubby and I had a picnic on one of the grass areas and it was perfect!

We visited the end of April and were fortunate and didn’t run into a lot of crowds – which I know can be a nightmare during the popular summer months. There are metered spaces all along Cliff Drive if you can find a spot.

Treasure Island Park

Laguna Beach Treasure Park

A true hidden treasure, this park is located on the grounds of the five-star Montage Laguna Beach, where the truly rich stay. Exquisitely landscaped, several lookout benches line the easy-to-walk winding path to enjoy the stunning scenery. Stairways and ramps lead you down to the beach, where you can walk through a beautiful rock archway during low tide, find a spot in the sand for sunbathing, and a large tide pool.

In addition, there is plenty of grass areas for a picnic. I’d suggest bringing some wine and cheese to catch a romantic sunset.

I hear parking can be difficult on crowded days. We were lucky and used an inexpensive pay-to-park underground parking garage. There’s also free parking east on Wesley and we saw coin-metered parking along South Coast Highway.

If you visit my home state of California, be sure and stop at this magical place. I’d highly recommend it, even though the place once gifted me a scab mustache!

 

 

 

 

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My Menopausal Middle: Menopausal Weight Gain

The following is from a humorous article I wrote about menopausal weight gain – more specifically menopausal belly fat – for Hot Flash Daily. The article was inspired by a photo my hubby posted on Facebook of me.

Body FatMind you, normally I try to avoid things that make me plump like mirrors, shop windows, other people’s sunglasses, large puddles, aluminum foil, or any other reflective surface.

Then, hubby posted that darn photo without my Facebook approval.

Don’t you love it when you see a picture and don’t recognize yourself?

I mean, how did I get SO wide? And what’s with that huge bulge around my waist? As the joke goes, my muffin top became a pound cake. When did that happen?”

Oh, I pretend to be puzzled but maybe I do know how it happened. Read, “Confessions of a Menopausal Chocoholic Crack Head” and you get the idea. 

But wait a minute, I take that back. Of course, I don’t accept those as the REAL reasons for this newly acquired belly fat. Like everything that goes wrong in my life, I blame menopause.

Which isn’t all malarkey, you know. Science actually agrees with me. Get ready for some real technical, fancy, savvy language to explain why I can’t lose this pooch.

According to the American Chemical Society, “estrogen receptors…serve as a master switch.” When estrogen levels in the brain dip during menopause, this master switch increases hunger, slows metabolism, and encourages fat gain around the waist.

Oh, great! In non-technical lingo, that means I’m so hungry I’d steal the chip from a monk, my metabolism called it quits, and all that extra fat now makes a beeline to my menopausal middle.

OverwieghtWhew, this menopausal belly fat SO isn’t my fault. But, after the Facebook incident, I decided it was time to face the music anyway.

I reluctantly decided to give up “mirror fasting.” Have you heard of this marvelous trend? People are refusing to look at their reflections for days, weeks, months, or even years so they can quit focusing on their looks and concentrate on more important stuff.

I wholeheartedly embraced this fabulous idea as soon as menopause gifted me with this Buddha belly.

I mean, look what happened to Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection and stared at it until he died. Yes, died! And who wants to be like the evil queen in Snow White who was a compulsive mirror gazer? Or what about the evil magic mirror in Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen that distorted the good and beautiful aspects of people and magnified their bad and ugly qualities? People just couldn’t quit looking at it. The evil mirror eventually broke into a million pieces; the fragments got into people’s eyes and turned hearts cold like a lump of ice.

There’s clearly a pattern here.

So, I quickly abandoned mirrors and felt very self-righteous about the whole thing.

But now things were different. Since hubby went and destroyed my blissful ignorance with the photo, I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror. Just for one second, but the damage was done. Then, I knew it was true: “Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.” No denying it. Depressing, but I survived it.

Okay. Next step. I thought about a measuring tape, but couldn’t find one (okay, I didn’t even look, leave me alone!) So, It was time for that scornful scale I broke up with long ago.

I waited for the morning, peed, and removed every item of clothing and jewelry – even my wedding ring. Then I plucked my eyebrows, shaved my legs, removed my nail polish, cleaned my ears, blew my nose, clipped my toenails, and checked for lint in my navel. Heck, I would have temporarily donated a kidney if I knew how.

And still…the scales read a whopping 167. By far, the most I’ve ever weighed in my life – even counting pregnancy. Deep sigh. It was like that poem, “When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but ten extra pounds on hips, thighs, and rear.”

So once again, I’m on a diet which stands for Did I Eat That? Time to play Hunger Games. Which is the sure ticket to failure, by the way, but I’m desperate.

Before I got started, the experts say to throw out all your junk food. Since I paid a lot of money for all those goodies, some pre-action was in order. So I diligently ate all the chips and chocolate chip cookies so they wouldn’t tempt me anymore. I worked day and night on this project as I pondered on the universal wisdom of the joke, if we’re not supposed to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the refrigerator that makes it so easy?

Now I needed to lose 20 pounds instead of 15. Did I mention that menopause makes you extra hungry?

As you can tell, the whole dieting thing wasn’t going so well. After one week, I was obsessively examining myself in the mirror (I forgot all about Narcissus) to see if I looked any thinner. Yup, the low fat diet was working. My fat was definitely hanging lower.

If only losing weight was as easy as losing my menopausal temper!

On second thought, maybe it’d just be simpler to bake some cookies for my menopausal lady friends and look thinner by comparison.

Yup, that’s my plan. I’m forbidding any more pictures of me from my waist down on Facebook, breaking up with my bathroom scales once again, and I’m definitely going back to mirror fasting!

Image courtesy of jk1991 and AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Be sure and check out Hot Flash Daily for more informative and fun articles on menopause.

Spring Cleaning and Decluttering Makes Us Happy

Are you dreading the task of spring cleaning? If so, consider this: There may be some serious benefits to tidying up.

Spring CleaningAccording to a new survey by Schick Intuition, 92 per cent of Canadian mothers say taking steps to simplify their lives with cleaning and decluttering actually improves their happiness levels.

Makes sense to me.

After spring cleaning, I love the fresh, bright look of my home. I adore all the cheerful morning sunshine that streams through clean, sparkling windows. And I enjoy the refreshing clean smells instead of that old stale winter air. Add a gentle spring breeze and some bright spring tulips on the table –  and, yup, I’m feeling pretty good.

I was recently working on a magazine article on this subject, and my editor suggested taking a look at Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. To be honest, I had never heard of this now-famous Japanese cleaning consultant. However, when I began mentioning the book to others, people gushed about this mysterious guide for simplifying and organizing your life.

Clean ClosetSome of her stuff sounds a bit kooky, like the way she talks about inanimate objects as if they had real feelings. But some of her advice, hits home. The basic premise of Kondo’s book is to ask the simple question: What sparks joy?

“Keep only the things that speak to your heart,” she writes. “Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.” Although that seems like a simple solution, when I used it in my own closet, it worked like magic. Turns out letting go can be liberating and empowering.

If you need some tips on decluttering, you can check out my blog, Clearing Clutter Makes You Happy.  If you’re ready for the next step and are ready to do some spring cleaning, what are some of the things you should tackle?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Once a year, wipe down overlooked surfaces like baseboards, door frames, and walls.
  • Move your sofa and chairs, roll up area rugs, then vacuum and mop floors. Carpets should be cleaned professionally every 12-18 months or rent a deep cleaner to do it yourself. Wash or dry-clean rugs.
  • Pick a cloudy day to wash windows to reduce streaking.
  • Before the outdoor entertaining season gets underway, scrub sliding glass door tracks with an old, dry toothbrush to loosen debris, then use your vacuum hose to remove it. Finish off by wiping with a wet sponge.
  • Go over curtains and drapes with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. Sheer curtains can be put in the dryer on low with a fabric-softener sheet.
  • Dust ceiling fans with a special extendable pole duster. For deep cleaning, use a step ladder and wipe the blades with a water-moistened microfiber cloth or terry towel. Repeat with a dry cloth.
  • As it gets warmer outside, put away gloves, winter clothing items, and boots so you’ll have plenty of space for spring clothing.
  • Store shovels, salt, scrapers, and other winter gear. Clean patio furniture.
  • Rotate and flip mattresses. Wash blankets and comforters, or dry clean if necessary. Wash mattress pads and bed skirts. Have pillows professionally cleaned or freshen up in the clothes dryer on the air cycle (no heat).
  • Go through your medicine cabinets and safely discard any outdated products. Wash and dry shower curtains and liners.
  • Clear out your pantry, kitchen cabinets, and drawers and wipe down. Store or donate equipment you don’t use, such as small appliances or cookware. Discard stale spices and any outdated items.
  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer. Vacuum the cooling coils under or behind your refrigerator.

There you go! Put on some invigorating music and get started. Conquer that clutter and give your house a good cleaning and you’ll feel healthier, refreshed, and revitalized. What are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of scottchan and khongkitwiriyachan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Three Simple Things You Should Do Every Single Day

As readers of my blog know, I have deemed this as my year of healing after a tumultuous few years. Last week I made a deal with myself. I listed three non-negotiable things I must do every day to help me along this path.

Make a list of three non-negotiable things you must do every single day.

Make a list of three non-negotiable things you must do every single day.

And you know what? So far, it’s working. I feel calmer, more centered, and yes, happier. I encourage every one of you to do the same thing.

My sister, Joanie, sold her house recently and is staying with me while she looks for new digs. She saw me writing this blog and asked what the subject was going to be.

When I told her, she said, “Just three things?”

Yup, just three. It’s tempting to list 10 things you should do every day, but so as not to put pressure on yourself, I suggest you start with just three as well. Everyone’s list will be different.

For example, Jim Valvano, the passionate and committed former basketball coach Jim Valvano who in the fight of his life against cancer, stated: “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I like that list.

There’s nothing revolutionary or new on my list, just three simple things that provide an anchor for me. Three things that help me focus on myself, which often gets lost in the hustle and bustle and stresses of life. Three basic needs that help me get through a bad day.

Mind you, I was doing all three of these things before, but not every single day. What are the three? Not in order of importance, but for me they are:

exerciseExercise.

Yes, I was exercising, but not every single day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes – I do something. I’m not talking running a marathon or deep squats. I get bored easily, so I rotate activities. Some days I go to the park and walk. Afterwards, I lift weights at the city gym (I joined for $25 a year – what a deal!). Other days, I do a 20-minute Windsor Pilates routine that relaxes me from YouTube. Most days, my dog sits by my shoes in the closet begging me with his sad eyes and guilts me into taking him for a walk.

Read something spiritual and inspirational.

Once again, I am a regular Bible reader. The religion I belong to provides a daily text with a scriptural thought that I read in the mornings, a suggested Bible reading each week which we review at a midweek meeting, and a convenient online Bible and library I can access on all my mobile devices. Even so, admittedly I’d become sidetracked with work and the business of life and a day or two would slip by without any spiritual fortification. Because of the challenges I recently faced and still am facing, my reliance on God and need for spiritual food requires more deep reading and meditation – yes, every single day. Of course, praying each and every day is also a worthy goal.

read a bookDo something I love.

Yes, I promised myself that every single day I would take the time to refuel and refresh myself so my tank is not depleted. Many days that means lounging on the couch with popcorn and reading a bestseller which feels luxurious. Other days that means sitting on the patio with a glass of wine, relaxing music, and watching the sunset with hubby. Or it could mean snuggling with one of my grandchildren, writing in a journal, gardening, taking a nap, or doing some deep breathing or relaxation exercises. But at the end of the day, I make sure I’ve done something that is just for me.

That’s my list. There are tons of other things you could include on your list to do every single day (with links I’ve written blogs about) such as:

It’s entirely up to you what you choose to do every single day. But make that list and start living!

I’d love to hear what you would include on your list. If you are so inclined, please share in the comment section below!

Images courtesy of nuttakit, everydayplus, and apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Fun Ways to Celebrate Spring

SpringI love this photo. I lived in Washington State for a few years and loved watching the crocuses break through the frozen soil to announce that spring was right around the corner.

The bright tulips and daffodils never failed to cheer me up. In Puyallup, where I lived, the town even had a daffodil parade to celebrate the season.

I now live in the California desert. We’re not exactly famous for crocuses or daffodils here. However, spring still manifests itself in beautiful ways. The wildflowers bloom, the jacaranda trees explode in purple flowers, and even the cactus display flowers in brilliant colors.

Wherever you live, you can’t help loving springtime. Longer days brighten the sky, birds sing joyfully, and trees begin sprouting bright new leaves.

How can you celebrate this spectacular time of year? Here are five simple ideas to get you started:

  1. spring vegetablesIf you’re looking for a way to bring the beauty of spring and nature back into your hectic life, think about planting a garden. After many years of threatening to plant a vegetable, herb, and flower garden, I finally did! One of my favorite activities is picking out seeds or plants at the garden center with my grandchildren and planting them when we get home. The joy of walking outside, enjoying the beauty of greenery shining in the sun, the sound of bees buzzing nearby, plopping an irresistible strawberry in your mouth, and then gathering vegetables and deliciously aromatic herbs for a recipe – what better way to celebrate spring! If you don’t have a garden, visit a Farmer’s Market instead.
  2. spring picnicEat al fresco! Spring is finally here and we have that precious extra hour’s daylight. Head outside, have a picnic at the park or some other scenic area, and enjoy eating fresh food with a view. Or simply throw a bright and cheerful tablecloth on your patio table, add some fresh cut flowers into soup cans painted in spring colors, and a few floral napkins. Then enjoy a magical spring dinner with the family outside to welcome the season. Or simply eat outside at a local cafe. 
  3. Take a hike. This is a no brainer, but put on your hiking boots, pack up some water and snacks, and go discover the great outdoors. As I pointed out in my blog, Hiking and Happiness, no big surprise, a new study shows that walking or hiking in nature can bring us inner peace, joy, and happiness. Or if you prefer, gently stroll on a deserted beach with your loved one or take a bike ride with your kids or grandkids. Just get out there!
  4. Bring the outdoors in. Open your windows and listen to a spring shower or simply enjoy a gentle spring breeze. Take a few calming deep breaths and enjoy all that fresh air.  Buy some showy tulips or daffodils with their bright, cheery colors or clip some spring blossoms and display them in your home.
  5. spring kiteWhen was the last time you flew a kite? Bring out that inner child hiding inside. This carefree activity can get you outside, help you focus on the present moment, let go of stress and worries, and do something just for the sheer fun of it.

Don’t let spring zip by without some kind of celebration. These are just a few ideas, I’m sure you can come up with more. In fact, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.

Whatever you choose to do, shed that winter coat as soon as the weather allows, grab a pare of scandals, and get out there and enjoy the glory of spring!

Images courtesy of Simon Howden, Carlos Porto, franky242, and phanlop88 (in the order the photos appear) at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 

How to Find Yourself Again

Do you feel like you need to find yourself again?

Last week, I got a letter from the hospice bereavement coordinator that helped my family care for my mother in her final days. They acknowledged that family members who have spent most of their time caring for their loved ones for months or perhaps years often ask themselves after their death, “Where do I go?” or “What do I do?” 

Finding Yourself

That’s exactly how I felt after my Mom died.

I was the primary caregiver for my Mom who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally. Being a caregiver was the hardest job I’ve ever had – by far. When she passed away last June, I assumed that while I would grieve for my Mom, I would also feel a sense of relief that my job was finished and my life could get back to normal.

Instead, I felt lethargic, depressed, and yes, lost after she died. My life, my thoughts, and my feelings had revolved around the care of my mother. I discovered that when your roles change drastically, you lose a sense of who you are. Your self-image is shattered.

This uncomfortable feeling can happen whenever you go through a major change in your life such as a divorce or losing your job. Or perhaps you’ve recently retired or became an empty nester. After dreaming of all the things you’d do when you had more time after child rearing and working 9 to 5, you feel lost instead.

Remember, although you may no longer be a caregiver, part of a couple, an employee, or full-time parent, you are still 100 percent you. You just need to find that person again. 

How?

Allow Yourself Time to Mourn

GrievingIf you have suffered a loss, be kind and patient with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings instead of sweeping them under a rug. Everyone is different. Emotions can range from anger, loss, guilt, sadness, lethargy, regret, confusion, and depression.

Whether you lost a loved one, a spouse in divorce, or a job, you may have lost your lifestyle and identity as well. It’s okay to mourn that loss.

However, be careful not to isolate yourself during this process. You’ll need a network of support. Healing may mean lots of heartfelt prayer, talking out your feelings with a supportive loved one, and/or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy.

Let it Go

As I wrote in my blog, Moving Forward After Adversity, avoid getting stuck in all the “I should have…” or “I wish…” feelings that often comes with grieving but can interfere with your recovery. Don’t allow sorrow, stress, resentment, or bitterness to become a way of life.  Take all that negative self talk out of your head like, “I’ve lost everything” or “My life is over.” The fact of the matter is that your life isn’t over; it’s just a new beginning for you.

The goal is not to wallow forever in negative feelings but to move on, be there for the people who need you, have a meaningful and productive life, and enjoy living once again. Be grateful for what IS working in your life right now. Live in the present and focus on the positive. Learn from your experiences and prepare yourself for the next exciting chapter of your life.

Moving ForwardRediscover Yourself

It’s easy to get lost in caring for your family and children or elderly parents or nurturing a career. You may have given up a lot of things that you enjoyed. Make time to get to know yourself again.

“To move your life forward, it has to start by focusing on yourself,” wrote Mark Branschick, M.D. in an article, Seven Ways to Thrive After Divorce, for Psychology Today. “Use this precious opportunity to rediscover who you are. Think of this time in your life as an adventure to explore the real you.”

You can lose sight of your unique gifts if you’re focusing on what you don’t like about yourself or your life. Think about your qualities and skills and how you can best use them. What truly makes you happy? What really matters to you? What do you feel is your true purpose in life? What hobbies and activities did you enjoy before becoming a caregiver, a married couple, or a parent? What is it that will make you excited to get out of bed every day? Make a list of what you can do to reach your goals. 

Rediscover what brought you fulfillment, satisfaction, fun, and joy as a way of rebuilding yourself and your life.

Reinvent Yourself

My life changed overnight and that can be disconcerting. Last summer, we moved into a new home we had built to be closer to my Mom (who unfortunately died the week before it was finished). My husband and I went from being empty nesters to a house full of grown children and grandchildren. Plus, I had to find new clients as a freelance writer and begin working again.

It was a tumultuous year in other ways as well. As I’ve shared before, my mother-in-law lost her fight against ovarian cancer and my son began going through a nasty divorce and custody battle.

Let’s get real, between all these events and changes in my life, I was shaken. I felt fragile and fought depression for the first time in my life.

It’s been a journey, but I am beginning to recover and heal. In the process, I’m learning to embrace all the new changes in my life. My new job writing magazine articles does require meeting strict deadlines, but the subjects are fun and it’s exciting work. We are a multi-generational family living together, but I’ve come to enjoy having the cocoon of family love around me during this difficult time. My oldest son is going through many of the same emotions as I am as he finds his way after divorce and we’ve connected on a whole new level. When our three grandchildren are with us, they bring us joy and keep us young.

My friend, Cindy (left), me, and my husband getting ready to zip line for the first time.

My friend, Cindy (left), me, and my husband getting ready to zip line for the first time.

So, don’t be afraid of change. Get out of your comfort zone and discover a new side of yourself. Maybe that means a new career, trying a new sport, traveling to a new place, changing your hair, or taking classes. Shake things up a little.

A few years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend, Cindy, who was also a caregiver. In the last few years, she lost her husband and both her parents.

Cindy is my inspiration. Talk about embracing change. She is traveling around the world, went back to school, and moved to North Carolina to be near her daughter and three grandchildren. We went zip lining together for the first time and are making plans to go up, up, and away in a balloon next time she visits.

Embrace Your New Role

You will go through several stages before this step can happen. However, the time comes when you make a choice. You can move on and discover possibilities that a life change presents you or get stuck in negative emotions.

Find a way to put one foot in front of the other. If you can move forward, eventually you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know this from experience.

In time, you’ll reconnect with old friends or make new friends, go to work, back to school, or volunteer, rediscover what once brought you joy, enjoy new adventures, and find your way. You’ll look at the changes in your life in a positive way, feel more confident and in control, and become more productive and optimistic about your future.

The time will come when you will find yourself again, embrace your new role in life, and feel like your new shoes are a good fit. You will breathe a sigh of relief. Life will never be perfect, but eventually, you won’t have to struggle so hard to “make it work.” It just will.

Images courtesy of surasakiStock, Ambro, and renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What Star Wars Teaches Us About Happiness

I was standing in line for the new Star Wars movie on opening night with my kids (I call them kids, but they are both in their 30’s now). My youngest turns to me and asks how old I was when the original Star Wars came out. All these young heads turned to look at me with renewed interest.

Me and my niece, Bella (left), and granddaughter, Eden (right).

Me and my niece, Bella (left), and granddaughter, Eden (right).

It was then I realized I was one of the few old relics at the theater, who at the age of 16 stood in those long lines in 1977 to see the latest phenomenon they called Star Wars.

Who could have predicted that 38 years later, the younger generation would still be fascinated with Luke Skywalker, wookies, Ewoks, Darth Vader, Yoda, the Millennium Falcon and all those cheesy jokes?

But make their triumphant return, they did!

Two weeks ago my granddaughter and niece, ages 9 and 8, started making plans for a party and chose Star Wars as the theme. So, Saturday I donned a Princess Leia costume at my grandchildren’s request.

Star Wars Photo 9We cut pool noodles in half and decorated them with duct tape to look like light sabers, My daughter-in-law slaved for two days making an amazing Death Star cake.

star Wars photo 14

 

 

 

 

 

The party got me to thinking about what we can learn from this classic movie. So, in honor of our Star Wars party, here are five lessons we can learn about happiness:

Don’t Allow Fear to Rule Your Life

Star Wars Photo 13“Never tell me the odds.” — Han Solo

Don’t let odds hold you back — even if an asteroid field is hurling towards you and your odds of success are 3,720 to 1.

People told me that less than one percent of submitted works are accepted for publication. They told me stories of how aspiring writers worked for years and years and had nothing to show for it besides a stack of rejection letters. That you had to have connections to get published.

Good thing I didn’t listen. Oh yes, I had that huge stack of rejection letters and it was years before I became published. Nonetheless, I overcame those odds even though I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. I went on to have a book published by the prestigious publishing company, McGraw Hill, and hundreds of articles and short stories published in magazines. Even if I didn’t have any success, it would have been worth the effort. At least I wouldn’t go to my death bed with regrets of not pursuing my dream.

Star Wars Photo 3

So commit, make a decision, and move forward. In other words, go for it! As Yoda said, “Do or do not… there is no try.”

No more procrastination. Don’t be afraid of failure which only freezes you into inaction, cripples you, and prevents you from the person you were meant to be.

Yoda’s advice reminds me of Thomas A. Edison’s famous quote when trying to invent the light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Clearly, Yoda was onto something.

Star Wars Photo 5Value the Power of Relationships

The power that supportive relationships have in our lives is invaluable. Star Wars teaches us to have integrity and to be loyal to our family and friends through all their lows and highs.

Don’t forget, that lovable, small, scrappy group of friends took down a whole corrupt empire!

However, make sure you are choosing the right kinds of friends.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” — Darth Vader

Star Wars Photo 4Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. People who make you laugh and inspire you. Detox your life of negative people who do not believe in you and bring you down.

Don’t be fooled by appearances either.

“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder,” Princess Leia said to Han Solo.

Lesson learned: Don’t discount or give up on that scruffy-looking nerd. If you have faith and believe in him, he just might turn out to be a hero one day.

 

Let Go of the Hate

Star Wars Photo 12“Fear leads to anger,” Yoda patiently explained. “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Or as Luke Skywalker said plainly in Return of the Jedi, “Let go of your hate.”

Free yourself from fear, anger, and hate. Let the bitterness, resentment, and thoughts of vengeance go. Forgive so you can have inner peace, feel free, and be happy.

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny,” Yoda said.

Focus on the Positive

“Your focus determines your reality,” Qui-Gon Jinn told Anakin.

This concept is so empowering, yet many people tend to overlook it. Your perception of life is affected by what you choose to focus your mind on.  Focusing on even small and seemingly insignificant things that give you joy helps you to be present in the moment and absorb the beauty in the world.

This kind of positive thinking helps you be creative, search for solutions, and consider possibilities you can’t envision when your head is clouded with hopelessness, frustration, and self-pity. Don’t focus on everything that is going wrong in your life or negative people or disappointments. Make the best out of every precious moment. Concentrate on fun and exciting goals for the future.

Star Wars Photo 7A Little Humor Goes a Long Way

Who can forget Han Solo’s line as a massive garbage compactor closes in on our heroes. “One thing’s for sure, we’re all gonna be a lot thinner,” he said with a wry look on his face.

Humor lightens the mood and allows everyone time to regroup and reassess the situation. Share your humor with others. Everyone needs more laughter in their lives, so spread it around. A sense of humor keeps spirits high and empowers people to do what needs to be done.

So there’s your five nuggets of wisdom from the Star War franchise. I’ll leave you with one last piece of wisdom from Yoda: “Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall. That is the way of things.”

So it is. Therefore seize the day and cherish each moment you have with those you love.

Star Wars Photo 15

 

Home Office Design Tips for Writers: Crafting a Creation Station

March madness has struck! My writerly pals and I are spring cleaning our work space and sharing the results of our labors this week in our Creation Station blog hop. Hopefully, you can find some ideas and inspiration, then visit the awesome bloggers listed at the end of this post, who also invite you into their work space.

Before we get started, the photo below shows my office space:

Home Office Photo 11

Readers of my blog know that my husband and I recently built and moved into our new home. After a tumultuous year, I was striving for serenity in my new digs. The colors are reminiscent of the beach which I find tremendously soothing.

My former house had an extra room dedicated to my office. It was Old World style with an over-sized dark wood desk, rustic colored paint on the walls, and built-in bookshelves. However, my life has changed drastically and we went from being empty nesters to a multi-generational home. (Which is working well – but that is a subject for another blog.)

Julie Office Photo 5As a result, now my office consists of a corner in my master bedroom which is also decorated in light, breezy, beachy colors. As you can see from the photo, while my old office had shelves and file cabinets, and a large printer stand, my current office is much simpler.

In today’s world of technology who needs bulky file cabinets and a chunky computer? I now use a lap top, and must confess, on a normal workday as a freelance writer, start writing in my bed, move to my desk, and end up in a cushy chair. Nonetheless, during the hours I’m sitting at my desk, I actually like this office better than my previous one.

As a full-time freelance writer, I wanted my office to not only be functional, but inspirational. I wanted a place that invites me to come in and enjoy the simple satisfaction and joy of writing. My home office is still a work in progress, but I wanted to give you a peek and share a few tips you can use to set up your own creation station:

It’s All About Location

Whether you write or blog full-time, run a business from your home, or write after-hours as a hobby, designate a special space where you feel inspired and creative. If necessary, it can be a small corner in a bedroom. Just make sure it is tucked away in a quiet area where you can think and won’t be distracted.

Julie Office Photo 3Surround Yourself with Inspiration

When I first started writing and was just starting to get published, I had a board above my desk with clippings, acceptance letters and even encouraging rejection letters to help me remember early accomplishments and not lose my passion. It worked.

Julie Office Photo 2

 

So hang a few inspirational sayings, a beautiful painting, or surround yourself with photos that make you smile above your desk for extra motivation. I’m SO not crafty, but I wrapped an inexpensive bulletin board in gorgeous fabric and ribbon for this purpose. It was really easy!

Choose Pretty Accessories

Julie Office Photo 4

 

Bring in furniture and accessories that demonstrate your style and personality. Start with a pretty comfy chair and then add a pretty lamp for extra light, trendy notepads, a vase with flowers, or a decorative waste basket.

Add cherished knick-knacks like my Mom’s silk flowers and old pencil holder. Think about colors, textures, and items that will help your productivity and provide a sense of well-being.

 

Julie Office Photo 9Get Organized

This is especially important when you have minimal space. Use floating shelves on the walls for reference books, vertical file folders to keep important papers within arm’s reach, and a pretty basket to tame your mail, notes, and papers.

Julie Office Photo 10

 

My organizer I use for this purpose  was inexpensive and purchased from Target. As you can see, it not only holds papers and files but also my printer.

So there you go. Hopefully, I’ve shared some tips you can use to craft your own personal creation station.

For more ideas and inspiration about writerly work spaces, please visit these #Gr8blogs today:

 

Auden Johnson

My Creation Station

Take a tour of this author’s muse station – which happens to be in her living room like many a writer – and her wonderful world building wall. Auden even includes a photo of her adorable dog, Oreo, who either serves as company or an obstruction.

Cat Michaels

Be Inspired with a Visit to my Creation Station

Cat invites you to come and get comfy as you take a look at her creative space. A lovely vintage maple hutch from the 1960s serves as display and storage unit for photos, office supplies and school visit material.  Love her eclectic mix of old, new, and tech. Cat even includes a video tour for your viewing pleasure.

Corrina Holyoake

Station Creation Blog Hop – Our Creative Spaces

After years of working out of her kitchen/dining area filled with an endless supplies of art materials, Corrina moved and was able to carve out her own little haven with a lovely calming vibe as she lives out her dream as an author and illustrator.

K. Lamb

My Corner of Imagination

This author shares her magical place in a comfy, leather chair that instantly transports her into a world of make believe where anything can happen. Her tips include surrounding yourself with a bit of whimsy, a time-out corner, a jar of jelly beans, and a fort.

Leigh Sherin, Writer

Starlight & Alchemy; The Anatomy of a Workspace

Leigh poetically describes her typical day bustling between family and farm life and squeezing in those creative moments that we all crave. “My little workspace is what I have,” she writes. “It cradles my visionary spirit, laying down a buffer to the reckless and breakneck outside world.”

If you have a blog about designing a work space, we’d love to have you post your blog link in the comments section below, and we’ll give you some blog loving!

 

 

 

Baby Boomer Fulfills Dream of Creating a Winery

One of the things I love best about being a writer is all the interesting people I’m privileged to meet. That and the fact that I get to work at home in my pajamas as a freelancer. But back to the subject at hand.

During my two years as a newspaper reporter in Washington State several years ago, I loved writing feature stories. I wrote articles about adults who were adopted and later reunited with their birth parents (the outcomes were not always positive), a man’s vivid memories of World War II, an 83-year-old widow who had traveled to 183 countries after losing her husband, and a local doctor who visited Albania to help refugees with their countless horror stories. The stories and the people behind them all touched my heart in different ways.

WineOne of my jobs now is writing magazine articles for Century 21’s Life at Home Magazine based in Canada. I was given the assignment to write about a winery and the man, George Hanson, who runs it.

(The marketing company that produces the magazine had a wine tasting contest to choose which winery would be featured in the magazine. The Legend from George’s winery, The Seven Stones, won hands down. Man, wish I could have been there to participate, but no such luck!)

So I gave George a call.

He begins by telling me about how he moved from the wild and mountainous Whitehorse, Yukon, well-known for its dog sledding and viewing of the Northern Lights, to British Columbia to fulfill his lifelong dream of creating a vineyard and winery from the ground up.

I ask about the name of his winery, Seven Stones, and he tells me of the legend behind the seven rock formations scattered throughout the Similkameen Valley. The native people believe the rocks were there to remind them of what’s important in life. The rocks represent relationships, love, food, water, fire, magic, and home.

“I planted the vineyard, but it was a bit lonely,” George admits.

I wasn’t expecting an enchanting love story, but George starts telling me about how he met a woman online named Vivianne. “We fell in love and I convinced her to marry me,” he says. “She moved here and together we started to build the wine business.”

It was all going well, until George wanted to fulfill his ultimate dream to build an elaborate underground cave to store the wine. His wife had other priorities. Vivianne wanted to build a home and get out of the double-wide trailer she called, “the ugliest house in the world.” She offered to pay for it and the building commenced.

After their charming home was finished, George still wanted to build the cave, but his wife was resistant. Clever George suggested visiting some wineries in Napa, California – just to get some ideas for their own winery. Vivianne was game. George made sure every single winery they saw had a cave.

“That did the trick,” he chuckles on the phone. “We came home and she said, ‘why don’t we build a cave?’ As if it were her idea.”

I laugh, amused by the charming love story. They agreed that Vivianne’s son, Colin, would tackle the project and began making plans for the massive caves.

“And then she died,” George says.

WHAT? Nothing prepared me for this somber moment. My editor had sent me a link to George’s website, which I checked out before the interview for background information, but it didn’t say anything about his late wife. “Oh no,” I say quietly.

George explains that Vivianne had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer a year after they got married. They thought they had beat the disease, but then the cancer returned with a vengeance.

After Vivianne died, her son moved in as previously planned. George and Colin began building the underground caves. Halfway through the project, George was leafing through a book on caves and by fluke discovered instructions that his wife had painstakingly written regarding the final details.

“Colin and I changed our plans,” George says. “The little French Canadian girl always got the last word,” he adds with an affectionate chuckle.

Now, I’m wiping a tear away.

Four years have passed since George’s tragic loss. Vivianne didn’t live to see their dream of a world-class underground cave built, but they were finished in her honor about two years after her death.

Mind you, these are no ordinary caves. We’re talking about an Old World-style cave with a spiral staircase, a commercial kitchen, a cave for events that sits 80 people, and even a waterfall to provide just the right amount of humidity. And of course, a man-cave entrance from George’s home.

George then describes the music that resonates through the acoustically-perfect caves every day. Baroque-style classical music with such a pure sound visitors often shiver and some even shed a few tears. The music plays around the clock to help the wine ferment. George firmly believes the vibration helps produce better wine.

Maybe he has something, since the 2013 vintage produced the award-winning Legend wine, which is George’s all-time favorite and the winery’s most popular wine.

I love George’s story, not only because it’s so darn romantic, but also because it shows the reliance of the human spirit. Even though George never remarried, his story does not have a sad ending.

“I have a good life,” George says. “I’ve had my ups and downs with Vivianne passing, but overall it’s been wonderful.”

As he makes plans to build more warehouses on top of the caves, George says joyfully that he is living his lifelong dream with no regrets. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

He enjoys hosting special events in his caves, the breathtaking views from the winery’s patio, and personally supervising the wine-making every step of the way with an extraordinary passion for what he does best. In other words, to quote the title of my blog, George has found his baby boomer bliss!

I love that. And if I ever venture his way, I am visiting those caves!

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Goldie Hawn’s Take on Happiness

Don’t we all want to be a little like Goldie Hawn?

Now 70 years old, this baby boomer became famous with her role on the TV show, Laugh In. Hawn went on to play giddy, ditsy, and adorable blondes in movie roles, became a successful Academy-award winning actress, and seems to have a perpetual smile on her face.

I want to be more silly like Goldie Hawn!

I want to be more silly like Goldie Hawn!

Give me some of that light-hearted happiness. A recent profile described her as “the most deliriously contented person alive.” As Hawn puts it, “I am jubilant. I am silly. I am free.” 

Okay, I confess. I’m jealous of her bubbly and sunny personality. As I’ve admitted before in this blog, I’m way too serious most of the time. I feel like a Debbie Downer in comparison.

In an interview for People magazine earlier this year, Hawn says she remembers being asked at the age of 11 what she wanted to be when she grew up. “Happy,” she answered. “I knew what I really wanted – to live a happy life, as happy as I could,” Hawn adds.

Smart kid.

Although Hawn was born with a happy deposition, she readily admits there were bumps along the way. For example, when Hawn first became successful, she felt anxious and saw a psychologist. Hawn had lost her smile and says it took many years of analysis to get it back. “It wasn’t a quick fix,” she says. “I went through the river, the eddies, the rocks, to get to the other side.” Tough times also included almost losing her first son, Oliver, because of birth complications.

But she got to the other side. Hawn claims it’s not about the obstacle but how you get through it. One of her favorite sayings is: “We are born with the seed of joy; it is up to us to nurture it.”

Recently, Hawn has become a happiness guru of sorts. She wrote three books on mindfulness and developed a research-based training program that helps kids deal with stress and experience more joy.

“One of the reasons I looked into the state of happiness is because I felt this innate tickle inside of me, close to my heart,” she explains. “It’s how I described to Katie [her daughter, Kate Hudson] what God felt like when she was little, because it feels like this amazing sense of joy, just before you are going to laugh. It is the kind of feeling I have, and I don’t remember when I didn’t have it.”

Her advice to parents? The secret to raising happy children is to be happy.

“Children mirror who you are,” she says in an interview with ABC news. “If you’re happy, if you show them smiles, if you show them good attitude, if you show them kindness, understanding, fun. … They just replicate it.”

I guess that goes for us grandparents too.

Can you learn happiness? Yes, according to Goldie. Emotional intelligence: calmness, quietness, concentration, and consideration are key.

Do you agree or disagree? Please share in the comments below!

Need more ideas on how to be carefree like Goldie? Check out my most popular blog to date, Five Ways to Become a Happy-Go-Lucky Person.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net