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Reflecting on 2014

Monday, December 15th, 2014

This time of year is marked by so many rich holiday traditions and celebrations! It is a festive and fun time filled with parties, gifts, twinkling lights, an abundance of special foods and treats, and little children with wide eyes standing in line to talk to Santa. December is a month filled to the brim with special music, shopping to find the perfect gift for a loved one and preparing for the holiday time we will be sharing with family and friends.

As we see the calendar year coming to an end, it is also the time that we pause and reflect back on what the past 12 months have meant to us.   For some, the year may have surpassed their expectations and been a year they will always remember fondly with a warm heart and smile. But, for others it may have been a year marked by struggles and difficulties, and thus a year they are eager to put behind them. Life is a chaotic mix for all of us, including great years filled with happy memories and good times, as well as those marked by negative events or sadness. It is part of the human experience to know both the moments that are filled with joy and happiness and those colored by sadness or struggles.

It is important to be able to be grateful for the good times in life, and the blessings we see all around us.  An “Attitude of Gratitude” is a healthy motto to attach to our daily lives.  Research has clearly shown the many health benefits from keeping gratitude front and center in our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.  It helps to promote wellness on many levels and increase our zest for living.

However, when times get tough and we experience challenges in life, getting to the “gratitude-thing” can be almost impossible.   But, in fact,  that is exactly the time that we need it the most!  Finding something to be grateful for in the middle of the negative event or difficult situation is very healing and helps us reframe things in a more positive light.  It also gives us hope for a better tomorrow and allows us to see that there are brighter days ahead.

So, as 2014 draws to a close and you reflect back on the past year and how it has colored your world, remember to also focus on gratitude, for the good times and the joy it has brought into your life.  And, if the year has been marked by not-such-happy-times, gratitude can help us find the bright spot and focus on the hope of better times to come.

Have a blessed holiday season as you celebrate the rich traditions with dear friends and family.

Best wishes for good health and happiness in 2015!

“Perfectly” Imperfect

Friday, October 17th, 2014

My husband and I recently took a “bucket list” trip to Sanibel Island, Florida. For many years I have been reading about this unique barrier island famous for its outstanding shelling.  This island is rather unique due to its east-west orientation (rather than north-south like most islands)and it has a reputation around the world as offering some of the best shelling on our planet. Since shelling is one of my passions, I felt these Sanibel beaches were calling my name, so off we flew to Florida to search for some special treasures that the oceans were ready to give up and share with us!

Our arrival to Sanibel just happened to be at sunset that night, and just in time to watch the brightly flaming orange sun slowly sink below the western edges of the Florida gulf coast outlined by purplish-hued waters.  I quickly snapped a picture with my cell phone as my husband and I both gasped at the raw beauty of the the multi-layered sky that went from shades of violet to pink to bright orange in an explosion of tropical splendor.  With the palm trees in the foreground to complete the frame of this “slice of heaven” photo, I quickly snapped several more pictures to make sure I had successfully captured this moment filled with awe.

As we later learned while on our island vacation, the sister islands of Sanibel and Captiva are famous for their breath-taking sunsets and thus, there is a predictable late afternoon ritual of folks flocking to the beaches to stake out their favorite perch.   Since we are major fans of sunsets, especially when they involve the ocean, my husband and I quickly became members of this sunset crowd and witnessed some spectacular “grand fireball finales”  while there.  We were amazed that each night’s sunset was unique and different from the one that had preceded it.  Some looked like a perfect painting that an artist had created from a diverse palette of colors, with brilliant hues of the rainbow exploding before our eyes.  Yet, other sunsets were marked by layers of clouds that refused to give up hiding this sought-after fiery planet and teased us with a fleeting glimpse of yellow rays as the sun quietly slipped below the horizon.  We concluded by the end of our trip that no two sunsets were alike, and although some were definitely more spectacular than others, they each were “perfect” in their own way, however imperfect they might actually appear.

Our shelling on the beaches proved to be a glorious treasure hunt each day with a search for the perfect shells.  We collected many varieties of shells in assorted shapes, sizes, and colors.  Some were unbroken and perfect with their intact edges and outlines, while others had a chip or a tiny hole that would definitely qualify it as a “broken” shell.  As the week unfolded and I examined my new treasures, I soon realized that some of the prettiest finds were those that were not perfect, the shells you would put in the broken pile.   In cleaning my new treasures after I returned home, it was obvious to me that many of my favorite new shells were not whole, were not intact, and most importantly, were not perfect.   Yet, they were “perfect” to me in all of their imperfection.  They still had value, worth, and their own story to tell.  If we only knew the thousands of miles these shells had traveled, the storms they had survived, and the waves they had been carried by, to finally be deposited at this beach at this moment in time.  It did not matter to me that some of them had arrived with scars from their journey to get here, that they were chipped, cracked, and broken.   In its own right, each and every shell was still beautiful, and was to me “perfectly” imperfect.

Much like the sunsets and the seashells, we as humans share the same imperfections.  We go through our lives being tossed about by the rough waves of life and come away from these events with some rough edges, a wound that causes brokenness, and at times a hole through our entire soul.  Imperfection is a common thread in our human condition.   It does not reflect weakness, but to the contrary, it displays our strength of character, of our struggle to survive the storms of life.  Our imperfections help to shape us and move us forward.  Embracing this imperfection is the first step to celebrating being “perfectly” imperfect in all we are and all we do.

So, our bucket list trip to Sanibel Island was worth every penny and did not disappoint us.  We came away feeling a sense of connection to the waters, the people, and the coastal nature.   We had the pleasure of watching brilliant sunsets, dining on amazing seafood, and exploring new beaches and the shell treasures they held.   What we came to understand and appreciate in a new way is that whether it was the sunsets or the seashells, we learned how to value and celebrate the “perfectly” imperfect in the world around us. And, even more importantly, we have a new awareness of how unique and valuable we all are as human beings in our own perfect imperfections.

3 Tips to Survive Curveballs in Life

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

I think we would all agree that part of the human experience is dealing with the “unknowns” that are lurking around the next corner. Unfortunately, we cannot always predict these circumstances nor prepare for their arrival in our lives. Dealing with these “curveballs” in life can be stressful, exhausting, anxiety-provoking, and overwhelming, to say the very least. They are capable of completely tapping us out and even making us depressed over time. So, how can we navigate through these waters and survive with the fewest battle scars? Here are 3 tips that can make a difference and promote a faster return to total wellness.

My husband recently had an accident at work and his fall resulted in a broken hip!   Considering his age and physical build everyone was shocked that he would suffer such an injury from a simple miss-step.   He is doing very well in his recovery, thankfully, and is back to work after going to surgery for a new total hip replacement nearly 8 weeks ago.  However, the past two months at our house have been anything but normal!   None of us could have predicted this event, nobody saw it coming based on any risk factors, and in the flash of a second with one simple wrong step, our lives have been turned upside down!   This rather bizarre accident would definitely qualify as one of life’s “curveballs” and it has succeeded in creating havoc  for my husband and our family!  All of a sudden, things you have taken for granted like mobility and a monthly paycheck are taken from you in a heartbeat, and life assumes a “new normal” (even if only for a brief time).

So, what do we do to survive in these “darker” times of life when control of our lives goes out the window?  How do we find “normal” again and carry on?    Are there tricks that can help us get back in the game of life more quickly?   Why do some people seem to bounce back with a positive outlook more quickly than others?

There are 3 tips that can actually make a major difference in promoting a faster recovery and finding “normal” again:

1.  Adopting “an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE” in the midst of the crisis.   Although this is not always easy and can present quite a challenge for most of us, it is important to stop, look for the positive in the situation, and then adopt an attitude of gratitude for that positive.  This can help us see the brighter side of life again, and fight off negativity.

2.  Looking at the negative event in more of a “local,” limited,  and temporary way, rather than a “global” and forever framework.   This will promote feelings of empowerment so that the event does not color a person’s entire outlook on everything in their life and cause feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.

3.  Reframing the negative situation by looking at it from another perspective in which the “new normal” can be defined as having some positive aspects.   It is not always easy in the middle of a “storm” in life to find the silver lining, but if we look at it from different perspectives, we can usually find something positive in the situation, even a small positive.

What we know to be a universal human experience is that “life—happens” for all of us!   It is not a matter of “if” a curveball is coming, but rather a matter of “when.”   So, employing these tools or tips to deal with stress, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and despair is paramount to promoting the healing process and wellness, both physically and mentally.

My husband and I are so relieved to have this “curveball”in life mostly behind us and we are seeing much brighter days ahead.  He has chosen to capitalize on this opportunity to focus on his health and improve his overall wellness.  A positive outcome of his accident and surgery is a new commitment to lose weight, exercise regularly, and make lifestyle changes to get healthy.   He is 8 weeks post-op and we are all seeing how this accident and broken hip has now morphed into his new attitude and behaviors about diet, exercise and making lasting lifestyle changes.   Our hope is that long after the events of the past couple of months are a faded memory on our life’s tapestry, my husband will be a brand new picture of health and wellness, enjoying all the things in life he loves most!







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