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Our Family’s “3 Words” for 2016

January 4th, 2016

My friend Chris Brogan has been doing this wonderful exercise for the last 10 years where he chooses 3 words to guide him through the new year.

Howdy!

Howdy!

What a great idea. These words serve as markers – cairns – to keep one from wandering aimlessly away from their intentions during the year. I love to explore and go off-trail, but I also want to not wander too far from my path, or get lost.

I don’t have my personal 3 words yet, but I’m almost there and I will write about these in a separate post. But for now, even more exciting for me is the fact my family came up with 3 words. My family consists of my husband, Jerry, our three sons, Wolf, 15, Hayden, 13 and Fin, 8, and myself.

First off, just having the “What should our 3 words for 2016 be?” conversation was fascinating and fun. During dinner last night, we debated on words, and about their meanings. I suggested Fun be one of our words, while another family member suggested Adventure. I wondered if those were the same thing, when Hayden, our 13-year-old, argued effectively that fun and adventure aren’t necessarily the same thing. “If you go out sailing in stormy seas, that’s an adventure, not fun,” he said.  Jerry suggested Learning, which we all liked, but then one of our sons he wanted New, as in seeing and experiencing new things. We all agreed that Discovery would include learning and new things, so we went with that word. There was some debate about if Discovery and Adventure were too much alike, but then we all agreed they were similar but not the same. “If I discover I don’t like eating peas, that’s not an adventure,” one of them explained. Although I said I thought that was debatable, we settled on DISCOVERY, ADVENTURE & SERVICE. The conversation alone was fun and was different conversation from ones we usually have.

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What I love about our family’s brainstorm and three words is that we have these three important intentions on record that will help to remind and guide us in our actions throughout the year. Our 3 words will be a topic we can revisit on a regular basis as we sit around the table for dinner. We can collectively ask, What have we done that was adventurous? What have we discovered? And, what have we done for others? If we realize that a week or two has passed and we haven’t done anything service-related for our community, friends or neighbors, or that we haven’t discovered anything new lately, or that we haven’t had an adventure, then our three words will remind and inspire us into action.

What will your 3 words be? Please reflect on this, and if you want to participate, please share your words below. I’d really appreciate that, and your words may inspire others.

Thank you for stopping by. Fondly, Shelli

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Whew! We Survived the Epic Wellness Challenge Week

June 11th, 2015

Whew! We made it to the other side. If you read my last post, my family and I embarked on what I am calling a 7-Day Epic Wellness Challenge. (Read the pre-challenge post and see the pre-challenge video interviews.)

Hi there!

In short, we agreed to give up a lot. We basically gave up technology, auto transportation, and processed foods for a week. (At the outset, a friend suggested we were going Amish, and that description would be pretty apt.)

I’m excited to report here about both the challenges and the takeaways from our experience.This blog post is lengthy, and I apologize for that. But it was a long week, after all! (We also recorded a video with post-challenge insights from each of us, which you’ll find at the end of this post. I hope you’ll watch it, but I also hope you’ll read this post because there are more insights that we discovered after we recorded the video, and they’re significant, and unfortunately, not included in the video.)

Hi. We are the Johnsons.

Many have asked me what inspired this challenge. That’s a good question. Four things inspired it:
1–I’m a health enthusiast and wellness coach and presenter. I am always experimenting with ways of eating, ways of exercising, and most importantly, ways of living. I’m a huge fan of the Blue Zones work being done by Dan Buettner. I love my life and I want to live as long as I can, as vitally as I can. I know that life expectancy for me is 78.7 years. I also know that the many healthy habits I’ve adopted over the course of the last six years increase my expectancy to 91. Barring cancer or other disease or tragedy, that’s 32 years more years of life if I live the typical American woman’s life, or 44 years if I continue to make some sacrifices and live a more disciplined life. If I’m lucky and I do live to be 91, that’s only 16,000 days I have left. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not enough. So, I’m fascinated by aging in a way that extends and improves my life. It just so happens that my family is the most important thing in my life, so their health is even more important than mine. I wanted to see if our giving up technology, auto transportation and processed foods for a week would translate into more vitality.

2–I love challenges. I like committing to things that are difficult – so difficult that the outcome is uncertain. This week of deprivations fit the bill for being difficult. I know – my poor family! Friends and colleagues have asked me, “How did you get your family to go along with this?” Here’s how: I asked them, while explaining how much I wanted to do it, and they said Yes. (I know how lucky I am to have them willing to get on board – and how unlucky they were!)

3–My curiosity. I love to learn and discover new things. I was curious about how embarking on a challenge like this together might affect our family. I was inspired to make new discoveries with the people I love the most.

4–My desire for us to return to the ways of my childhood, if even only for most of the time and not all of the time. When I was a kid, I biked everywhere, with friends, and to friends’ houses. I played outside all of the time, and in creative ways. Jerry has the same memories of his childhood. He remembers being turned loose and playing ‘til the sun went down. Ours are fond memories and reflective of a healthy life, and we want our boys to experience similar times, especially during the summer when school is out and the weather is nice.

LIMITED TECHNOLOGY:
During the 7-day period, we gave up all television, movies, video games, and even listening to music and podcasts on devices. We gave up all social media, including Facebook, Instagram, etc. Our two oldest sons gave up their cell phones. Jerry used his only for family correspondence, and I used mine only on weekdays and only for coaching and other work-related calls. I gave up my cell phone completely for the weekend. In fact, to ensure I wouldn’t goof up, I turned my phone off and locked it in the trunk of my car Friday evening.

Here’s what happened: We played a lot together. We played many games – a different game every evening. One night we had a pool tournament followed by a ping pong tournament. The next night we had a heated game of Aggravation. The next night we played Life. Another night we played Apples to Apples. I loved games before, and we’re a game-playing family. One of the reasons I love playing games with my family, or with anyone for that matter, is it is FUN. Most games generate spontaneous interaction, and “play” happens. Our connections with each other are deepened. Or, in more personal games, where there are just two of you, conversation is facilitated that just wouldn’t occur if you were watching a movie together.

Playing the game, Life.

We went on family hikes. We saw my parents more. We biked a lot. We biked all over town and to parks and playgrounds. Once we biked to a playground, where we played basketball and messed around on the monkey bars and swings.

A hike with my mom, the boys' "Mommom."

Our two oldest sons and our dog Buddy, joined me for a sunrise hike.

Fin, swinging on monkey bars during one of our many bike rides to various playgrounds.

We all read more. I re-read a favorite, Gift From the Sea, a new book by Eric Greitens called Resilience, and I started reading Wanderlust: The History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit. Jerry and the boys read more than usual, too.

What what hard about it: I would be lying if I didn’t say the lack of technology was challenging for each and all of us. Every night during dinner we’d each share what was most difficult about the day. For example, my husband, Jerry, missed watching the news on television every morning. He gets up early every day and catching the news on TV while drinking his coffee and reading the newspaper are a morning ritual for him. He missed this.

I missed Facebook. I love Facebook and missed checking in on a regular basis to see what friends and colleagues and relatives were up to. I have a dear friend who is traveling with her family in Africa right now, and I missed being able to see their photos and posts. One night I wanted Kimchi, and I wondered where in our small town I could find that. Normally I would post a quick question to Facebook, and within minutes would have 10 responses from local friends. Another time, I talked our two oldest sons into getting up before sunrise and hiking with me. I captured a wonderful photo of them with our dog in flowers with the sun rising in the background. I would have loved to have shared that photo in real time, (and hopefully inspire others to get up and hike our trails at sunrise.)

Wolf, 15, and Hayden, 13, most missed their cell phones and the quick access to their friends. Our youngest son, Fin, 8, missed morning cartoons. All three of our sons missed having what we call “privileges” on Friday and Saturday nights – a chance to play some video games and watch a rented movie together.

Not texting was hard for me, too, and I goofed early on. One of our son’s friends left a note on our door asking if he could get his work gloves back, which he had left in my car the previous day. I quickly (automatically) texted his mom and indicated we put them in our mailbox for them to fetch the next day. And there was one other similar goof-up by me on this front. They were not intentional, and I am reporting that I quickly course-corrected myself.

We all missed listening to music. That was hard during trips to the trailhead, on my work trip to and from Dubois, for the boys when playing in the Lego Room, and for all of us during times when we were just hanging out at home or in the backyard, which was often! However I have a vivid memory of Day 3 when Jerry and Fin were playing ping pong out back and I was shooting hoops with Hayden, and beautiful piano music was being played by Wolf and filling our back yard through the screen door. That was an amazing memory!

Takeaways:
–Without our gadgets and various technology privileges, we were together more. There’s just no other way to explain it. Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together is a book I recommend. I read it a couple of years ago but was reminded of it during this challenge. In the book, Turkle examines the current landscape – one where we all have our gadgets and instant connection to our friends and networks that are in another physical place. Being together more often meant being together-together rather than alone-together. We had to work harder to be together. There was definitely more arguing and nagging than normal, which was at times frustrating for all of us, and certainly required effort. We had to work harder at co-existing.

–The upside to being together more, and even to arguing more as a result, is that we bonded at a deeper level over the 7 days. I can say that by the end of each day, I had had numerous meaningful conversations with each of our sons, and with my husband. This is significant, because my best (epic) life is one where I have meaningful connections on a regular basis with my loved ones.

–For the weekend, I locked my phone in the car. And it’s a good thing I did because I counted 30 times that I passed by the area where my phone is usually plugged in, to “check” my phone. This was telling, if not surprising. I’m a little too tethered to my cell phone. I will likely go many weekends from here on out with my phone locked in the car. 🙂 I actually go unplugged often. All of my wilderness expeditions are unplugged, and often when on a road trip in Wyoming there is no reliable cell signal. As much as I love my technology, I LOVE being free from it. But despite knowing I love to be untethered when it comes to my cell phone, I also love to be tethered. I will continue to work on this and be more conscious about the time I invest using technology.

(BTW, if you want to break a habit, or stop doing something, I highly recommend you “remove” it from your environment. Ask yourself, are you practicing saying No to something, or are you practicing living a better way that does not include that thing? They are not the same thing, and I can tell you the former is more difficult. You have a better chance at success by removing the thing from your environment.)

–There are tricks to help make restrictions easier. Since I was still using my cell phone for work on week days, it was even harder to ignore Facebook and Instagram because the apps were right there at my fingertips. Anticipating that ignoring social media would be hard, I moved these apps from my home screen to a screen at the very back, making it unlikely for me to stumble upon them. I also turned off notifications for Facebook, Instagram, and Messaging. This is a tip I often promote in presentations and in my leadership development work. But before this challenge, I wasn’t following my own advice. Doing this was a brilliant way to not be alerted by comments or posts or messages in my social network. (This helped tremendously, especially when you consider that when I finally checked Facebook this morning, after 7 days away from it, I had 92 notifications, 11 new friend requests and 8 unread Facebook messages!) Not having the little red circle with the number of new notifications next to the Facebook app on my home screen helped me achieve my goal.

–The boys biked or walked to friends’ houses. What a concept, right?! This is how Jerry and I did it when we were our sons’ ages, but boy, how times have changed. This rarely happens – especially without prior arrangements made via a cell phone.

–I saved the most significant takeaway for this category for last: Without our technological gadgets and distractions, time passed more slowly. Our family talked about this at dinner on Night 7, and everyone agreed that during the seven days, the days were longer, and that this was a positive.
My husband put it this way: “We had to be there, in real time, together, and somehow that made time pass more slowly. We weren’t zoning out watching a movie or looking at our phone and then suddenly wondering where the time went.”

Seneca said “Life is long enough if you know how to use it.” We have learned that our time is longer without gadgets, or at least with some strictly-enforced rules and boundaries around gadgets.”

NO CARS:
For the 7-day period, we were not allowed to use our cars for any transportation, except to travel to a trailhead, or for my half-day work trip to Dubois, WY, on Tuesday. We had to bike and walk everywhere.

Here’s what happened: We are already an active family. For months now, I’ve been deliberately walking to places more often, and during the summer it’s typical for us to have our kids biking and walking to places. But still, this was harder than anticipated.

We walked, and biked A LOT. My FitBit reports I walked 175,000 steps (about 70 miles!) in 7 days. That does include a training hike and a family hike, but still, that’s a lot of steps, and the stat is reflective of our family walking so many places. BTW, I gained some useful information: I now know that it’s 3,000 steps, roundtrip, to our local grocery market. It’s 2,000 steps roundtrip to my parents’ house. It’s 5,000 roundtrip steps to the Oxbow, where Rotary meets on Wednesdays. It’s 2,000 pedal revolutions (if you ride a coaster bike and take the out-of-the way, scenic route, to the print shop to ship my package via UPS. It’s 3,000 roundtrip steps to the elementary school playground. And so on.)

Fin and I. Notice I have a backpack on for groceries we were about to fetch, and a package we would deliver to UPS.

A particularly special positive: our boys rode their bikes to my parents’ (their mommom and poppop’s) house more frequently. We spend a lot of time with my parents, but our boys spending more time over there on their own was neat, and it was a highlight for them.

Did I mention I love Lander, Wyoming? Ours is an awesome community that is a small town where one can walk or bike everywhere.

Jerry and Wolf returning from the grocery store.

As far as I know, there isn’t a study that reports that sitting is inspiring or that sitting makes us more creative or healthy. There are, however, countless studies that indicate walking is inspiring and makes us more creative and energized. As Americans, we sit an average of 9.3 hours a day. And when we sit this much, we’re more likely to get particular diseases and cancers, and it’s no wonder we’re not feeling more inspired. (BTW, gym rats are not off the hook. You can be fit but not healthy. I think not too long ago I was a case in point. Even though I hike 1,000 miles a year, and train hard 3-4 times a week, I was quite sedentary each day. I bought a FitBit 18 months ago. Now I average 10,000-20,000 steps a day. This increased mobility throughout my day is just about 100% due to my FitBit and the fact it makes me more conscious about my level of activity each day.)

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

What was hard about it: Sometimes we were just tired of moving.. (On one day of our challenge, we walked three times to the market, in addition to going on a family hike in the mountains)

One day – the same day I had gone on a hard training hike – I walked to the grocery store, to the hardware store, and then remembered I had a package to ship. Normally it would take about 8 minutes, total, to drive the package to UPS and return. It took me almost 30 minutes on my bike to run the same errand. I was tired that day from my time on my feet and it was hard to muster the motivation to bike that package up and not wait for Thursday to come when I could drive it!

One night we had dinner on the table and realized we were missing a key condiment. Was it worth walking or biking to the market? We voted No. But if we could have driven there, we would have definitely opted to go and get it.

On Night 7, Wolf had to get to a haircut, and walked in pouring rain and thunder with an umbrella and rain jacket on to and from. Normally we’d give him a ride.

Takeaways:
–Here’s our biggest takeaway for this category: When we don’t use cars, we sleep better at night. By the end of each day, we were tired! We were already an active family. But take away the cars completely, and we reached a new level of active. (My FitBit also tracks my sleep, and except for one night when someone, who I will not name, did some unusually raucous snoring, my FitBit indicates my sleeping was improved for the week.)

Before you start yawning… Sleeping better is kind of a big deal. Hopefully you’ve been reading the latest news about sleep science. Some of the smartest, healthiest people I know are now calling sleep the #1 health habit. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation wreak havoc on our health. Poor sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity and diabetes, just to provide a small sampling of what poor sleep can lead to. I’m pretty sure it was our increased activity levels that caused us all to sleep better, but I also have a feeling that the lack of screens in the evening also helped. (One of the best ways to improve sleep is to remove use of all screens, including TV, computer, iPad and cell phones at least 2 hours before closing in.)

–Another positive is that Jerry and I were no longer chauffeurs! Yeehaw to that, right?!

–Add to that, the boys had much more freedom. As long as they were willing to bike or walk, and we they weren’t at the mercy of our schedules and availability for driving them or picking them up, they could do almost anything.

–And finally, errands became experiences rather than errands. When walking to the grocery store for 10 items takes 45 minutes total, you’re walking more than you’re grocery shopping. These trips became as much about our walking or biking as they were about fetching something we needed. This opportunity for meaningful conversation isn’t as likely to happen while in the car for 1-5 minutes when running an errand.

NO PROCESSED FOODS:
We agreed to not eat any packaged or processed foods except for the occasional gluten-free energy bar. We would shop only the perimeter of the grocery store and eat real food. Now, as I mentioned in the pre-challenge video and blog post, we have done lots of work on our eating already. For example, there are no processed foods consumed in our home from Monday through Thursday. However, the boys are allowed to have cereal on Friday mornings, frozen pizzas on Friday evening, donuts occasionally on Saturday mornings, and soda pop with their popcorn on Saturday nights. Still, this would be hard because our 7 days included a weekend, and also, it’s summer and there are more sugary sweet treats available (ice cream, slushees, s’mores, etc.)

The boys, making healthy choices at the local grocery store.

Here’s what happened: Not much “happened,” other than feeling a little deprived on the weekend. The boys definitely missed having their weekly soda pop with our traditional Saturday night popcorn. And Wolf, who is famous for his carefully placed “donut request” poems and notes on a paper plate, missed getting donuts for he and his brothers on Saturday morning. And, there were no “Mommy’s famous epic pancakes” on Sunday.
On Night 7, during dinner, we all agreed that giving up processed foods was hard, but was the least difficult of the three categories.

Takeaways:
–“Treats” taste even better when you’ve gone without them for a while. Well-practiced at giving up things for long periods of time, I can say that it’s worth giving things up just for the benefit of how awesome they taste when you do surrender.

–Watermelons are heavy when you have to carry them a mile.

–We were forced to get more creative with our food and vegetables, and the boys’ lunches. (Hayden was working as a junior counselor for a camp for young kids, and Wolf was enrolled in Driver’s Ed and started his first job.) And I’m here to report the obvious: Food can be tasty even if it’s not processed. (Sorry to be a buzzkill here, but did you know that Americans consume 22 teaspoons of refined sugar a day, and 100-150 pounds of refined sugar a year? Sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine. And before you think you’re off the hook because you don’t eat donuts and you only eat cake on birthdays, consider that 80% of the refined sugars we eat are in packaged and processed foods that most people generally don’t think are unhealthy.Examples include many yogurts, breakfast cereals that claim to be healthy, tomato sauce, ketchup, lunch meat, etc.)

Conclusion:
In summary, we embarked on this challenge to see if we could accomplish something hard, and also to get healthier in the process. We accomplished both of those goals.

While hopefully the above provides insights to benefits that each of us enjoyed, I want to share my biggest personal realization: I am better when distractions are removed. I was more present in my life and my family’s life. I’m pretty certain I was a better wife, a better mother – a better everything. Time passed slower and I felt more alive.

I am so inspired by the results that I’m feeling compelled to do this on a semi-regular basis. I’m also interested in working to inspire other individuals and families to consider embarking on similar challenges. For example, I think it would be pretty darned awesome if any of you would agree to give up cars for a week. Or if families would consider giving up cell phones and technology for a week, or a weekend. Or if people would consider going 7 days – or 30 days – without eating processed foods.

As far as I can tell, any of these is a small price to pay in exchange for longer-lasting and more meaningful days.

And, last, but not least… here is a video with comments from each member of my family. (Note: We recorded this yesterday – the final day of our challenge)

Here’s the Post-Challenge Video:

Saying Thanks, I Love You – and Goodbye…

April 27th, 2015

Last Monday night, we received the devastating news that Jerry’s dad was not feeling well, and tests indicated his body is full of cancer. The next morning, Jerry got on a plane and has been with him ever since.

Jerry, with his brothers and sisters, and Dad.

It was soon after I met Jerry, late in 1990, that it was obvious to me that his Dad was a hero to him. And, as soon as I met and got to know Harlan, I could see why. Harlan is one of the most generous and noble men I know. I often thank him, in my mind and heart, for the man he raised in Jerry. I have been married to Jerry going on 23 years, and he is my best half. He is the best husband I could ever dream of having, and he’s the most wonderful father to our three sons. While Jerry obviously deserves so much credit for his wonderfulness, there is no doubt that the way his dad raised him has a lot to do with the man I have for a partner and who is the amazing father of our three wonderful sons.

Not knowing how much time we have left with Harlan (he is in hospice care and the cancer is aggressive), I wanted to thank Harlan for Jerry, and for being such a kind, generous and amazing father-in-law to me, Dad to Jerry, and “Pa-Grandpa” to our three sons.

I called Jerry Tuesday night and after talking to him, I got the chance to talk to Harlan and thank him and tell him I love him. It was painful and hard. And it was wonderful that I got to do so.

Our sons, sending a message in real time to their Pa-Grandpa.

I have been talking to Jerry daily, sometimes twice daily for updates and to see how his Dad, and he, and his siblings, are all holding up. Jerry shared that thanks to technology, his dad was able to Facetime with his only brother, Gilbert, back in Omaha. That conversation was heartbreaking – and special and important.

From Omaha, Harlan “winters” in San Diego, with Jerry’s sister, Lisa, and her family. Harlan is a “worker” so while in California during the winter and early spring, he spends his days outside working on projects and putzing around. Because he is not able to do that now, Jerry said that Thursday they moved his dad outside in his wheelchair so Harlan could “supervise” and Jerry and his brothers and sisters could do the work their dad would normally enjoy doing. Afterward, the boys and their dad “passed out” in their respective recliners and proceeded to snore in unison. Another evening, Jerry texted me a photo of he and his Dad drinking beers together.

Jerry and his Dad, drinking beers last night.

Jerry said his dad’s cousin, Betty, stopped by for a visit. They hadn’t seen or talked to each other for a long time. The two reminisced, and Jerry heard stories about his Dad, and his Dad’s youth, that he had never heard before.

When someone we love falls ill, or approaches the end of his or her life, it sure puts things in perspective real quick, doesn’t it? Suddenly, we are absolutely certain of who and what are important.

By the way, during our spring break, we visited Jerry’s Dad – just 3 weeks ago – and all was well. At least we thought it was. Now, especially, we are so very grateful for having made that trip.

We spent a few days of our recent Spring Break in the San Diego area so we could visit Jerry's sister, Lisa, and her family – and to get some time with Jerry's dad, who winters there. We are extra glad that we did that!

Some of my favorite memories of Harlan are the trips he’d make to visit us in Wyoming. We’d take him into our mountains, and we’d fish with him. He, and his brother, our “Uncle Gilbert,” built a treehouse for the boys, and made furniture for us. We also love our annual trips to Omaha because we get to go fishing with him, eat carp with him at Joe Tess’s, go to the Henry Doorly Zoo with he and Gilbert, and other family members. I will also always remember fondly the simple pleasure of sitting with him on the patio in his big and wonderful back yard, under the big trees he takes such good care of, and our boys, and their cousins playing yard games and swinging on his famous tire swing.

You know, for a long time now, I’ve been fascinated by what people who are approaching the end of their life have to say, and to teach us. Near the end of their life, they are in a unique position, and I would guess they place a higher value on each of their days than the rest of us do. In my research, these people always – 100% of the time – reflect most fondly on the people in their lives, on their family and friends. They don’t wish they would have worked harder, and most of their time is not spent reflecting on their work or accomplishments, but rather on their people, and the memories they have shared with them.

While I’m heartbroken for Harlan, and for my husband, and his siblings, and for all of us who love Harlan, I can’t help but be grateful that Jerry, and his siblings, and all of us who love him, have the opportunity to say what we want to say to such a wonderful and generous man. I love you so much, Harlan! And, I thank you! Your wonderful ways continue to live on and be of great influence to, and in, my husband. I see you in Jerry on a daily basis. The way Jerry starts each morning watching and reading the news, the way he makes pancakes for the boys on Saturday morning, the way he can fix things, his work ethic, integrity, loyalty and bravery, and his level of respect for others – and the list goes on.

Jerry, his Dad, and our boys, on the Loop Road about five years ago.

Two years ago, I read the book, Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life. It had a profound effect on me. The author, Eugene O’Kelly, had learned he had terminal brain cancer, and he wrote about his journey from diagnosis to the day he passed and couldn’t write anymore. One of the things that struck me most was his “unwinding” of relationships while he was still alive. He would thank people who meant a lot to him, and he would reflect on shared memories with them. I remember then thinking that it would be good for all of us – not only those with a terminal illness diagnosis, but those of us who are living as if not terminal – to be more conscious about our relationships and the people in our life.

The devastating and heartbreaking call we received last Monday has reinforced my belief that we should not wait to say what we want to say to those who mean so much to us, regardless of the circumstances. We ought to get right on that. Right now. What are we waiting for? We may not get a call.

For now, I hope we get some more Skype calls with Harlan… but just in case we don’t, I say this to him: I love you Harlan Johnson. I will forever be grateful to you, and I – and we – will try to honor you every day. I will remember you for your love of family, your adventurous spirit, your honor, integrity, generosity and humility. I will also continue to love and take care of the wonderful man you raised in Jerry!

Think of the people you love the most. If you could say one last goodbye to them, what would you say? And, when will you say it?…

Another question to ponder, that is worth any amount of time, is are there people you want, or need, to make more room for in your life? And if so, what are you waiting for?

Being Before Doing; Inserting Meditation and Mindfulness into Family Time

March 21st, 2013

“In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” ― Rumi

I am not a very still person. Add to that, I tend to be future-minded. I’m often not fully in the present moment because I am lost in thought — usually about ideas, motivations, dreams — you know, possibilities. It is not a bad place to be. After all, dreams tend to be exciting.

But I value the present. Time is one of my greatest values. I want to fully experience the time I have with my husband of 20 years, and our three young sons, my parents and grandmother and sisters and brother, my friends, colleagues and clients. It is why I live on purpose and encourage my clients to say no to things that suck the life out of them, and yes to things that give them life. Living our epic life means making each day count and living more consciously. Living our epic life means daring to choose how we’ll experience (rather than spend) our time.

I know we are human beings, but most times I would be best be described as a human doing. I want to be more of a human being.

In an effort to start each day in a more reflective, “being” state, I talked Jerry and the boys into doing Deepak Chopra’s Soul of Healing Affirmations every morning. Since Jan. 1, we’ve been doing this every single weekday morning before we each head out the door to school or work. Since our first son was born, almost 13 years, ago, we started a tradition of doing a brief “family prayer” to start each school/work day. This is a homemade prayer that is filled with mostly gratitudes. Nothing fancy, and it doesn’t take much time. Now, we’ve simply added one of the aforementioned affirmations/meditations to it. It has been an amazing experience, so I wanted to share about it in case you want to try it for yourself or your family.

For starters, these affirmations are short. Each track ranges from 1-4 minutes. So it’s not really a good excuse to say you don’t have time. 🙂

There are 26 tracks, and you can get them for for free on Spotify, which is how we stream/listen to it each morning. Each of the affirmation titles start with a letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. They are Acceptance, Bonding, Compassion, Divinity in Me, Empowerment, Fear, Giving, Higher Self, Intention, and so on, until you get to Z, which is for Zero.

Our sons are ages (almost) 13, 11 and (almost) 6. Except for Wolf, the oldest, the boys were not super excited about adding these meditations to their morning. But over time, it’s been a great experience.

We follow up each day’s affirmation by (usually me) asking, while around the table at dinner time, if anyone thought or incorporated anything from the morning’s affirmation into their day. There are lots of days when most of us have done so. This can only be a good thing, as the affirmations teach us to be patient and compassionate toward self, and others.

Finally, don’t take my word for it that mindfulness has tremendous value. Neuroscience is now supporting long-time Wisdom teachings — that practicing mindfulness, which Jon Kabat-Zinn describes as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, on a regular basis teaches us to be able to choose how to direct our attention. Instead of reacting we can create a pause to notice, and then determine if we want to engage a thought or emotion. Kelly McGonigal’s Neuroscience of Change, A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation, is a great source for anyone interested in learning more about the science behind the mind. McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford, and a yoga teacher and author of the aforementioned book, as well as The Willpower Instinct.

Many corporations and organizations are implementing mindfulness practices into their work, including Google (with their popular, fast-growing model called Search Inside Yourself program), as well as apps such as Headspace, which is a simple and awesome app for your smartphone that guides you through 10 minutes of mindfulness (doing nothing), and HeartMath’s app called GPS For Your Soul, which is endorsed by Arianna Huffington, and is an awesome app that measures your stress levels and then provides guides, which can be borrowed or created, to help you relieve high stress right when you need it.

Love, Family & Nature Complete Me

May 7th, 2012

I have been traveling quite a bit to develop Epic Life, so I am relishing being home in Wyoming with my family — my “home team.”
Yesterday, my husband, Jerry, our three sons, our dog, and I, hiked to Popo Agie Falls — one of our favorite local hikes. It was glorious.
Nothing completes me like family, love and nature. As long as I have these, I am rich.
#EpicLife