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28 Dec

Michael Jackson: Another Look at The Man in the Mirror

Since Michael Jackson’s untimely death last week we’ve been inundated with stories and speculations about his life. I’m in the generation that grew up with Michael. We watched him as a child singing on TV with his brothers, ABC and Rockin’ Robin, and tried our best to copy his moves. As kids we sang along, mesmerized by the upbeat tunes that played on the radio as we sat in the backseat of our parents’ cars. We went through the awkward teen stage in our own lives, set to a disco soundtrack. And we came into our own just as Michael did with Thriller, finding our groove, and defining ourselves.

Celebrity is a creature all its own. We have a perceived access to these individuals, we feel as though we know them, even though we don’t. I remember getting my dad to buy me Tiger Beat magazine, which regularly featured either the Jacksons or the Osmonds or both on the cover. Today, celebrity access is widespread and instantaneous. We can follow just about anyone on twitter. Websites break news before the news stations can get a camera crew out to the scene.

When I was just two years old my mother was grocery shopping and I was sitting in the cart. One of the managers must have made an announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. I remember my mother getting very flustered, and taking me out of the cart to go home. She was trying to explain to me what was going on — and I could feel that something was terribly wrong. This was such an emotional event that many of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we got the news. I also remember where I was when I found out that Princess Diana died. She and I were about the same age, and we both got married and had two boys at about the same time, so I always felt a connection with her. And now I’ll always remember when I heard that Michael Jackson died. I got an e-mail alert that Michael had suffered cardiac arrest and was being transported to the hospital. I felt troubled, and confused. Then I drove to pick up my mail, and as I got in the car to come home, I heard on the radio an official confirmation that Michael had passed away. The radio station was playing his music in tribute. My heart dropped.

What is it about celebrities that gets us so engrossed in their lives and deaths? My favorite Michael Jackson song, and ironically it is one that he didn’t write, is “Man in the Mirror” and I think this helps to explain a lot of what we are going through.

Whenever we look at another person and feel a strong emotion, there’s something about that person that we see in ourselves. Whether we love it or hate it, people act as mirrors for each one of us. We are examples for each other, of what we judge to be good and bad, best or worst. The qualities in another person that draw us or repel us we can also see in ourselves to some degree, in some way. Celebrities, with a kind of larger than life image, end up being archetypes. Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and now Michael Jackson might be thought of as the tortured artist. Talented, creative, expressive, and yet at the same time uncomfortable and somewhat out of place. Each turned to various distractions to try to “normalize” their feelings. Both Elvis and Michael basically created their own worlds in Graceland and Neverland. These were places where they could fit in, surrounded by people and things that made them feel at home.

If we are caught up in the coverage of Michael Jackson’s life and death that is going on right now, maybe it is because we have some of that archetype in ourselves. Maybe we feel misunderstood. Maybe we seek to create, and be heard the way Michael was. Maybe we long for our childhoods, for simpler days. What can we do? We can take out own advice, look at that man in the mirror and change our ways… “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.”

In his 50 years Michael Jackson lived a very full life. He had successes and failures; he had conquests and controversies. As much as we feel we might know him from his concerts, albums, testimonies and interviews, we don’t really know Michael Jackson the person. The best we can do is to know ourselves. That’s all we can ever really do.

Michael Jackson’s death reminds us that time is fleeting. Just a few months ago many of the items taken from Neverland were on display in Los Angeles. I heard about this and went. At the last minute I decided to take my camera. I didn’t know if I would be able to take it inside, but I was allowed to, and I made a video of what I saw. It’s very interesting, and gives us some glimpse of insight into Michael Jackson’s life.
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Collection

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15 Oct

13 Romance Ideas to Warm Up the Fall Season

1. Join In On Football Season

For many men, “Fall” is just another name for “Football season.” Since you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em! Get tickets to a local game, pack a tailgate picnic and head out to the stadium. Be sure to bring a warm blanket for the two of you to snuggle under, and maybe a thermos-full of hot chocolate laced with coffee liqueur for half-time.

2. Take Advantage Of Pumpkin Season

Jack-o-lanterns aren’t just for kids — this Halloween, pick up a couple of extra pumpkins and spend the evening carving them up together! Maybe you want to work together to create an amazing masterpiece, or maybe you want to work solo to design special “his and hers” messages for one another. Some ideas: a big set of lips and some false eyelashes on a girl pumpkin for him — an “I love you” message that lights up when the candle is inside for her!

3. Play High Stakes Board Games

Take a traditional board game and make up your own rules. Yahtzee can become “Strip Yahtzee,” by simply adding that for every three of a kind you roll, your partner loses a piece of clothing. For every four of a kind you roll, you get a “wish”: a kiss, a foot massage, etc. And for every Yahtzee, set the timer for 5 minutes (and only 5 minutes!) of “high scorer dominance.” You can do something similar with Scrabble – earning extra points for sexy words, or Monopoly – paying for properties with “favors” rather than cash.

4. Share Firelight

There’s nothing more inviting than the glow of a fireplace on a crisp Fall evening. Spread a blanket out in front of the fire, toss around a few fluffy pillows, and serve up some warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Relax and enjoy each other’s company. Soon you’ll be toasting more than your tootsies!

5. Dance In The Dark

Set up an impromptu dance floor in your bedroom. Light some candles, turn on the Harry Connick Jr. CD and hold each other close. Dance the old-fashioned way, cheek-to-cheek, and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Let the music move you, and melt into each others arms.

6. Want To Make It interesting?

When the weather’s crummy and he wants to spend the day watching sports on TV, make it interesting for both of you! Place bets on how many car commercials are shown in the next station break, which team’s cheerleaders get on camera next, how long it takes five minutes to really play. Bet kisses, massages, sweet treats, etc.

7. Puzzle Him

This takes a little forethought – get a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on a piece of cardboard. Put another piece of cardboard on top of it and flip it over. Now write a message to your significant other, or make it an invitation! Be creative, even naughty! Then flip it back over and pull the pieces apart. Keep one piece hidden in your bra. That night, ask him to help you with the puzzle. If you have a glass top table, do the puzzle directly on the table. Once the puzzle is all assembled, have him look for the missing piece under the table. When he can’t find it, crawl under the table to help, and show him your message. It won’t take long for him to find that missing puzzle piece now!

8. Create Your Own Starry Nights

Get a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling over your bed. Have them spell out a love note to your honey. When the lights go out, you can lie under the stars and cuddle.

9. Wash Your Cares Away

How about a soothing bath for two? Make bath sachets by wrapping cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in pieces of fabric and tying with a ribbon. Drop into a hot bath, add a few capfuls of almond oil. Indulge!

10. Tea For Two

Take a little time-out with an afternoon tea party. De-stress over chamomile and banana bread, and take turns with the shoulder rubs.

11. Recipe For Romance

Cool Autumn breezes call for simmering stews. Spend time in the kitchen together chopping up herbs and veggies and create your own cold-weather feast! Serve with corn bread and your favorite wine.

12. Bicycle-Built-For-Two

Enjoy the last few sunny weekends by renting a bicycle built for two and cruising the neighborhood!

13. Story Time Together

Grimm’s Fairy Tales take on a whole new meaning when read aloud by the one you love. Curl up on the couch and revisit some of your favorites, and love happily ever after.
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17 Sep

Why I Didn’t Like The Movie “It’s Complicated”

The movie “It’s Complicated” opened Christmas Day. Given the rave reviews plastered all over full-page newspaper ads, and the fun trailer that showed promise of an actual adult comedy, I was very much looking forward to seeing it. Meryl Streep is an amazing actress, and I have loved every movie she has ever done – until this one.

The biggest problem with “It’s Complicated” is the premise. A long-married couple, divorced for ten years, has moved on with their lives. The woman, Jane, played by Meryl Streep, runs a successful business and has good friends. The man, Jake, played by Alec Baldwin, has remarried and is raising a child. Their shared children are now adults, navigating the world rather successfully themselves.

And yet, one night the two get drunk and have sex. Hilarious? I think not. This isn’t complicated, it’s adultery, and it’s not funny.

To make matters worse, rather than chalking up the experience to poor judgment and a bad mistake, the two continue their dalliance. This smart businesswoman confides in her friends, who egg her on. She seeks the advice of her therapist, and in the movie’s one truly honest moment she wonders why she has chosen to have this affair. Jane has a long list of reasons that she has considered, including revenge and loneliness. She begs the therapist to tell her what to do, and he basically gives her permission to continue the affair, saying: “What could it hurt?”

It seems a renewed sex life has turned this once-wise woman into somewhat of an adolescent as she sneaks around, lies to her children, and convinces herself that she needs to be stoned on marijuana to have a good time.

Meanwhile, Jake is facing a kind of second mid-life crisis. He obviously hasn’t learned from his past experiences, because he is once again the cad, the philanderer. The child he is raising with his new wife isn’t biologically his, and he uses this as an excuse to shirk any responsibility. He lies to both his wife and his ex-wife to get what he wants. This man is a narcissist, and toxic to both women, although he has them blinded by his charms.

So what could it hurt? The woman is humiliated and almost loses a chance at real love. The man loses the respect of his children. The children are confused and afraid of additional pain. The future son-in-law is put in a position where he must lie to his fiancé. The current wife realizes she has been lied to and cheated on by the same man she is planning a family with. The woman’s potential boyfriend gets his hopes and dreams dashed just when he’s finally opened his heart to someone. And a little boy, who is finally bonding with his stepfather, may lose the only adult male in his life.

There may be some jokes in this movie, but it is not a comedy – it is a tragedy, a commentary about values.

At the end of the movie, Jane and Jake sit and talk, inches away from each other, but miles apart. There is a reason they were divorced in the first place. She says it wasn’t all his fault. He apologizes.

What the characters in “It’s Complicated” really need, and want, is closure. But do they have to go through all that they go through, and hurt other people and themselves to get it? Well, there wouldn’t be a movie if these characters didn’t mess up. It’s the slipping on the banana peel that gets the laugh. But in real life, the answer is no.

Closure is a process, one that we can move through maturely and deliberately. We can’t get closure from any other person, only from ourselves. And once we have it, we can move forward with our lives in a positive and powerful way – and not look back.

My new book is CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings

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21 Aug

Stress and Resilience: Sandra Bullock’s Example

All of us have some sort of stress is our lives. Stress can come from positive or negative experiences, in packages large or small, and over a long period of time or all at once. The Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Ratings Scale, developed in the 1960s, is one way for us to measure stress that may have accumulated during the past year. The idea is to look at the list of “life events,” choose the ones that you have experienced in the last 12 months, and add up the corresponding scores to evaluate your possible stress load.

Let’s take a look at Sandra Bullock’s score to get an idea of how this works:

Divorce is second on the list to “Death of a spouse” and comes in at 73 points. She has filed for divorce, so I’m using that score rather than the one for “marital separation.” Gaining a new family member, her son Louis, adds an additional 39. Given the circumstances surrounding the divorce, I’m guessing we could say “change in frequency of arguments” applies, for 35 points. There’s no score for “winning a major award” but there is one for “Outstanding personal achievement, so we’ll use that, at 28 points. Since she won several major awards, we could probably multiply that, but we’ll just double it for a total of 56 to keep it simple. Change in residence is 20 points. I’m guessing she’ll be keeping her home in Austin, but she did move out of the home she shared with Jesse. Having a new baby around means a change in social activities, so that’s another 18 points. There’s definitely a change of sleeping habits, too, for another 16 points. She’s probably had a vacation in the last 12 months, which gives her another 13 points. And Christmas comes in for an additional 12 points. With that, Sandra has a total of 282 points.

There are other factors we don’t know about that would add in more points. A major mortgage is worth 32 points. Change in health of a family member is 44 points. Trouble with in-laws is 29 points. Change in responsibilities at work is 29 points. Any one of these “events” would put Sandra’s total over 300 points, which increases her risk of serious illness over the next two years by 80%. Now that’s stress!

Many people would fall apart under these circumstances, let alone having the circumstances played out for public scrutiny in the tabloids. And yet, this woman who has gone through so much in such a short period of time looks no worse for wear. Here she is smiling at her sweet baby on the cover of People Magazine! What makes a person so resilient to handle all of this stress with such grace? In a word — Closure.

Closure is understanding that there is a purpose to the events in our lives, and it is being able to move forward with a newfound wisdom from the experience. Sandra Bullock has been able to recognize this strength in others. Of the students at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans, a school that she has supported after Hurricane Katrina, she says: “I fell in love with the kids at Warren Easton — their spirit, their elegance, their soul, their profound ability to see the beauty in an experience that would have left most people hardened and angry.”

Now, after weathering her own storm for the past couple of months, Sandra is modeling this same strength for her fans. Rather than playing the role of the victim, or lashing out at a betrayal, she instead has opted for a kind of “chop wood, carry water” attitude and has gone on with the business of her life. She is learning and growing from the experience, from the changes in her relationships, and she is grateful. In the People Magazine interview she says: “To say that I am changed is an understatement. But that might not be a bad thing. I have learned a lot about what I am and what I am not. But the most important thing to me was to protect and know the truth. And the truth is simple. The things I hold most dear are things that could not have happened without Jesse.”

Life is complicated. Relationships change. But yes, the truth is simple. The truth is that all of it, the good and the bad, the fantastic and the painful, the sunshine and the rain — no matter how we choose to judge it or categorize it — all of it is here to serve the process of our growth. We can take these lessons and learn from them. We can look at examples given to us and follow them. When we are in gratitude, we are in the present moment. We’re not dwelling on the past or worried about the future, we’re simply in the here and now. And now is the only time there is.

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02 Jul

Royal Marriage Manners

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just visited Southern California and of course the media covered every moment. Upon their arrival in Los Angeles from Canada, I noticed something that I don’t think everyone did, but that could be very telling of the royal relationship.

After William and Kate disembarked the plane, they went through a receiving line to be welcomed by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other dignitaries. Will went through the line first, followed by his bride. They were greeted, curtseyed to and shook hands with each person graciously. When Will was finished, he made a bee-line for the Range Rover and got in the back seat without a glance back. Kate completed her duties a minute or so later and went to the back seat on the other side of the car.

What is unusual about this? Since the British are such sticklers for etiquette, they should be practicing it in their marriages as well as amongst commoners. The gentlemanly thing for William to do would have been to wait for his wife to shake the last hand and then walk over to the car with her. Ideally, he would walk her to her side of the car and help her in before entering the car himself.

This may be a small thing, but it shows respect and consideration. I get that they’re both on a schedule and being shepherded around by security. But in a marriage, there is a kind of radar that keeps you aware of where that other person is at all times. I get that William is the prince and probable heir to the throne. But whatever happened to common courtesy and “ladies first?” If I were in Kate’s position I’d be saying to my hubby: “Hello? Wait for me!” Of course it’s not good form for couples and especially royals, to correct each other in public.

While I’m on the subject, yes, it was a lovely gesture that William gave Kate his mother’s ring. However, I do believe that Kate deserves her own ring as well. Why have Diana’s ring be her engagement ring? After all, even though Diana’s ring is beautiful and historic, it did originate from a marriage that is widely known as unhappy and that ended in divorce. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around on your finger. Already Kate is being compared to Diana and this will inevitably follow her throughout her lifetime. Kate is her own person and this is a new relationship, so I say give her a new ring.

Kate has a lot to put up with. Every bride has to deal with in-laws, but Kate has to do it under the scrutiny of the world. She had her wedding in the same church where her husband’s mother had her funeral. She’s a good sport to go along with her new family in all these decisions and I know this will go far in keeping Will and Kate together.

The royal couple is sure to get lots of attention wherever they go and whatever they do. But they need to remember that it is the attention that they give to one another that will be what makes this marriage succeed. It is both the attention that they give to each other in private, at home, when it is just the two of them. And it is also the attention that they give to each other in public. I remember hearing from body language experts about the sweet glances they gave each other during the wedding ceremony and how that was a good sign of a true loving relationship. The world is watching! The pressures of the position will be there and there will be obligations and schedules and demands. But the smallest reassuring glance, the hand on the back as a guide and the simple act of waiting for the other person to finish before going ahead with the next task, that will make all the difference.

This royal marriage is only a few months in and as time goes on, these simple courtesies will mean more and more. I would advise William to get in the habit of being a gentlemanly husband now. A husband with good manners is a true Prince.

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25 Jun

Kim & Kris Krash & Burn: What Went Wrong?

We should have seen it coming. But then, I think we all did. Did Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries ever look blissfully happy, at the same time, on their reality show? Not from what I could see. They had their issues from the very beginning, and yet they chose to look the other way. This is typical when you get two Kapha types together, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000-year-old “science of life,” there are three doshas, or mind/body types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When you know your dosha, and the dosha of your potential partner, you can gauge your compatibility. This information helps you to look at the strengths and challenges that you will have in the relationship, so that you can move forward knowing what you need to know.

Both Kim and Kris are Kapha dosha dominant. You can tell physically by the thick hair, big lips, sturdy body frame. And you can tell by their personalities as well. Kaphas are home-bodies, with a devotion to family and a loyalty to friends. Kaphas are kind, sensitive and caring. Ironically, while these are all traits that attracted Kim and Kris to each other, they are the very traits that likely broke them apart.

Being kind and sensitive are wonderful traits to have — but not when it means you avoid conflict at all cost. There are some things that need to be discussed before you walk down the aisle. Things like: where are we going to live? Whenever this was brought up on their reality show, it was clear that Kris wanted to live a more normal life away from the cameras near his family in Minnesota, and that Kim wanted to stay near her family, and career opportunities, in Los Angeles. Nothing was ever resolved on camera, so it is likely that nothing was ever resolved in “real” life, either.

Kaphas are very set in their ways. This is true for both Kim and Kris. Kim is a self-professed “neat freak” who really could be diagnosed as obsessive compulsive when it comes to order around the house. Kris considers his dogs to be his children, and wants them around all the time, including on the bed at night. How to reconcile these two lifestyles? On the show, it seems the two reached an impasse. They both dug in their feet, and then the dogs went back to Minnesota and we didn’t hear anything more about it.

Kaphas can be childlike and playful. On the show, Kim would say that she liked how Kris acted like a little kid in his excitement. She actually laughed when he burped in her face. But then she would get frustrated at his lack of attention to details and his sloppiness. Kim could be just as childlike, wanting the wedding to be her way, and not validating Kris’s input. When two Kaphas get together, it is important that both partners behave like adults when necessary. When one partner acts like an adult and the other doesn’t, then the role-play is more parent/child than equals, and then resentment is bound to build.

The impulsiveness of both the quick engagement and the wedding is out of character for Kapha types. It is as if they felt pressure to perform, to put on a show, for the camera. And once the decision was made, they spent the rest of their time planning a wedding, rather than planning a marriage. They seemed to both be swept up in the glamor and glitz of the wedding, and they didn’t give their relationship a chance to get past the romance stage. Couples need time together — both quality time and quantity time. They need to successfully get past conflicts together, and it’s hard to do that with cameras around all the time.

Now that papers have officially been filed, it seems the couple still can’t agree. Kim’s issued statement was that “things don’t always work out as planned.” Kris was surprised that papers were filed and has said that he will do whatever it takes to make the marriage work. California is a no-fault divorce state, so even if Kris doesn’t want the divorce, it can still happen.

What is troubling for the rest of us is the implied disposability of marriage. For all of the professing about how important this relationship was to her, how it was forever, why didn’t Kim and Kris seek marriage counseling? America feels duped! We feel like we were sold a bill of goods, on national television, on the covers of magazines. Online people are calling the marriage a sham, and the wedding a publicity stunt. This wedding was a reportedly $10 million party that netted the couple a nice chunk of change from endorsement deals, not to mention all the gifts they got. Shouldn’t they be returning those gifts now? Or donating the proceeds to charity? It all seems like such a waste. With the economy the way it is, people hurting financially, whole countries going bankrupt and children starving, how does anyone justify spending that kind of money?

A lavish $10 million wedding does not guarantee a happy marriage. Was it telling that Kim appeared solo on the cover of People magazine, beaming about her “dream wedding?” Is it a coincidence that Kim filed divorce papers the day before her mother’s book hits stores?

It takes six months for a divorce to be finalized in California. So the legal process, even with a pre-nup, will last longer than the 72-day marriage. We’re sure to be hearing a lot more about this. And that’s sad. Not sad for this couple, who will surely bounce back, but sad for the rest of us. There are so many more important things we could be putting our attention towards.

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28 May

Prescription: Media Fast — Stat !


As someone who has been called a “media maven,” and who participates in and contributes to practically every form of print and broadcast media out there, this is probably the last thing you expect to hear from me: Turn it all off. Unplug. Seriously. We — and yes, I am speaking for just about anyone who is plugged in at the moment — are desperately in big-time need of a media fast. I wouldn’t say this if I were not experiencing it myself.

How many times do we need to come across the photo of a celebrity’s mugshot? Are we really sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to learn the most popular baby names of 2012? Do we really care that a 40-something newscaster covets a 20-something model’s dyed blonde hair? How many times do we need to hear about getting in shape for swimsuit season? And yet, these are the kinds of topics that permeate the airwaves on any given media outlet, at any given time.

Social media serves an important purpose in highlighting and encouraging the connection between us all. And yet, it is also a place for idleness, a distraction, where the trivial meets the banal. Then, when our social media “friends” post their political viewpoints, respect and courtesy often fly out the window. This forum creates as much tension and controversy as any other.

There are literally hundreds of television networks. And there are thousands of radio stations to choose from, probably even more if we count all the new online stations. There are millions of websites to peruse. We hear the same thing over and over again — in different ways at different times, through different mouths. Tweets are pre-programmed, pitches are automated, and shows are rerun ad infinitum. There is never a moment when we aren’t presented with some sort of tap dance from some form of media. Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling overwhelmed, knowing that I’m just adding more to the mix. We are on information overload! It’s time for a reboot.

Silence. Do you remember what that sounds like? Silence is the antidote to all the noise we are bombarded with every minute of every day. We’ve gotten so used to the cacophony that we don’t even hear it anymore. I know many people can’t even get to sleep without the TV or radio on. When was the last time you drove in a car without the stereo blaring? We need to detox the brain, to get some space in between the billboards so that we can think clearly, and remember what is really important in life.

Imagine what it would be like if we had to read sentences with no spaces between words. Wewoulddefinitelystruggletomakesenseofthings! There are so many media outlets literally fighting for our attention that we don’t know where to look or listen first. No wonder we’re so stressed out.

Instead, let’s start with silence. Let’s end the day with silence. Let’s spend some time in nature listening to the birds, the rain, and the wind as it moves through the trees. This is where all the wisdom of the world lives. Tap into that. When we sit quietly, check in with ourselves, we regain that sense of calm and balance that gets out of what when our attention is placed outside of ourselves for so long.

This is why traveling is so healthy and restorative. When we travel, especially if we travel to a foreign county, we’re away from media. We don’t watch TV or read the paper because it’s in another language. We give ourselves that luxury of time to rest, and to just be. There’s no reason why we can’t have that same experience wherever we are, at any time. It just takes the commitment to a regular practice. We can’t let ourselves get into bad habits.

It would be totally amazing if we could go cold turkey and just have a media-free day once a week. And for those who can do that — go for it! For others, we might want to work in a media-free hour once a day. Set aside some time when you might normally be surfing the net or watching a TV show, or, as is probably most likely, when you would be multitasking with multimedia. Media-free means no media: no books, computers, phones, games, movies, television — none of that! No going to the mall, either. This is time to reflect, to be still, to gain insight, to be calm. Sit outside, take a bath, or go for a hike. There are lots of options. Don’t try to distract yourself, just be with yourself. Novel concept, I know — but I think you’ll find that you are very good company.

The idea behind a media fast is to regain balance. We’ve been so inundated with media for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be quiet. We need that reminder that our inner world is alive and well and ready to serve us. Everything we could possibly need or want resides within each one of us. When there’s a power outage, we’re kind of forced to take a media break — unless of course you’ve got backup systems and generators. But a media fast is proactive. It’s purposeful, and meant to help us set our priorities straight.

Shall we start right now? Who’s in?

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on unplugging and recharging, click here.

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16 Apr

Life Lessons Learned From Salsa

Summer 2014 will go down in my personal history as the “Summer of Salsa!” I’ve spent the past seven weeks going from 0 to 60 in learning this particular style of Latin dance, and I’ve loved every minute of it!

This all came about because of the Oxnard Salsa Festival, held every year near my hometown. As a part of the festivities, they hold a “Dancing With the Community Stars” Salsa competition. Community “stars” are matched up with seasoned professional dancers and then the pair comes up with a dance routine to perform at the Festival. All of this helps local charities raise money as the charities campaign for their stars through the various events. Of course, when I found out about this, I loved the idea, and was thrilled to take up the challenge! So I’m dancing for my favorite nonprofit organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County.

My partner, Lovie Hernandez, has years of experience and his own studio in Santa Paula. Before meeting him I had never danced a step of Salsa in my life — wouldn’t even know where to start. The two of us hit it off quickly as we were faced with the same goal: get this girl dancing and win the contest!

With Lovie’s background and teaching experience, I knew that, despite my awkwardness, that somehow he’d get me to looking at least a little bit like a Salsa dancer. But what I didn’t know is that Lovie would become my own personal Yoda, sharing with me the wisdom of the Salsa philosophy. While I learned to dance, what surprised me is how much I learned about life through this whole experience. Over the course of our time together I got some great takeaways and I want to share them with you.

— Mix it up. Salsa dancing is actually a mix of different styles from different countries. That’s how it got its name, after the famous spicy salsa dip that’s made out of a mix of different ingredients. Mixing things up to create something new is a good thing! The combination as a whole can be absolutely amazing. Life is like that. We don’t always have to stick to a formula, we can try things out to see what we like, what works. Whether it’s adding new elements to a recipe or a dance or anything, we can always be unique in our self-expression.

— Dancing is communication without words. Lovie says this over and over again. And it’s absolutely true! The body is an instrument, and partners can tell when either one is nervous, unsure, tired, or distracted. You don’t have to say a word, it comes through in the way you move. Relationships are like that, too. We learn to read our partners such that a sigh or the twitch of an eyebrow speaks volumes. We go through a dance with everyone we meet, but those who really know us can sense when something is amiss. The body just doesn’t lie.

— Take your time. Every one of us is going to have our own pace. We can’t compare ourselves to other dancers, or other people. We need to be patient, and gentle with ourselves. Just do your best and trust in the process. When we keep going, we eventually get there. There are many paths to any destination. Once I took Lovie’s advice and was easier on myself, I could enjoy the dance so much more.

— Be in the moment. Choreography is like following a map. You know where you’re going, but you can’t focus on that end goal, you have to be present for every step along the way. If you race ahead, or have your head in the next move rather than the current move, the whole thing is going to fall apart. Not that you can’t recover! A good partner, like Lovie, can help you get back on track. We don’t even realize how much we’re missing out on in life when we’re not paying attention. Be mindful, pay attention, and you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

— Trust your partner. I knew I could trust Lovie from the first moment I met him. We were posing for a photo, and he asked me if we should do a dip. I gave an enthusiastic “yes!” and he proceeded to turn me heels over head. Literally. What fun! I knew that Lovie was strong, and would not let me fall no matter what. When Lovie says “look at me” during our dance, it’s a reminder to me to “spot” so that I don’t get dizzy. At the same time, it’s a reminder to me that we’re a team in this thing, and he’s got my back.

— Keep your eye on the prize. From the very beginning, our motto has been that we are “in it to win it!” And it’s definitely been our goal to win this competition and make as big a splash as possible for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I hope we do win, but I know that all of the other dancers have also put in their work and want to win as well! Now that I’ve been through all this training, spent so much time, sweat, and energy working on this dance, I realize that I already have gained much more than any win. The real prize is the new-found knowledge and skills that I now have. The real prize is all the wonderful people I’ve met who have share my enthusiasm. The real prize is my terrific new friend, a dancer and philosopher who has taught me so much.

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08 Jul

My Radio Interview

Hi everyone!

It has been quite a while since I last posted on this blog.  My apologies.  Unfortunately, my time has been taken up with editing my newly released book, If You Should Read This, Mother, in addition to other writing projects.  As those of you who have read my previous posts know, I am a huge fan of suspense, whether in film, tv, or books.  I think If You Should Read This, Mother is quite suspenseful and is a great summer read.

The book is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/You-Should-Read-This-Mother-ebook/dp/B07214BLW5/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498410445&sr=8-1&keywords=If+You+Should+Read+This%2C+Mother as well as on the publisher’s website (www.blackopal.com) and bookstores.

I invite you all to tune in to The Kim Pagnano Show next Saturday 7/15, when Kim will be interviewing me about my book. The interview will be played between 7-8 PT on next Saturday on KVTA  Radio 1590, and it will be posted on www.kimpaganoshow.com starting at 9:00 PT.

Hoping you’ll have a chance to listen and to spread the word and that you’ll be placing a copy of If You Should Read This, Mother in your beach bags this summer:


And you haven’t already read my first mystery, Groomed for Murder, it is available as an e-book at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=groomed+for+murder+by+Vivian+Rhodes&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Agroomed+for+murder+by+Vivian+Rhodes

Happy reading!  Vivian

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12 Nov

5 Strategies to Enjoy Your Free Time

Free time is good for the soul. Your best opportunity to re-charge your emotional batteries is to take advantage of those precious non-work hours.

Depending on how you spend it, free time allows you to truly express who you are and who you strive to be. You’ll feel at peace and content with your life when you begin to utilize non-work time doing the activities you love.

Try these tips on how to use your free time to your best advantage:

  1. Ask yourself, “What do I really long to do?” Make a list. Include simple and complex projects and activities you’ve always wanted to do.
  • Your list might have items on it like “do yoga 3 times a week, ” “watch those DVDs I bought 6 months ago,” “read at least one novel a month,” or “spend 2 hours making a scrapbook from last year’s vacation photos.” What makes your heart sing?
  1. Take a look at your calendar. It’s good to get a visual of how much free time you have in a given week. It can be exhilarating to realize you have 20 hours of free time each week. When does most of your free time occur? In the evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.? Or only on the weekends? Or both?
  • If you use a paper calendar, highlight the time blocks when your free time will happen in the coming week. You’ll feel a little excited and happy when you do this step. It just feels great to know you’ve got some “me time” coming.
  1. Plan desired activities by writing them into your schedule. It might be unusual for you to consider using your calendar to “schedule” free time. However, if it’s written in the calendar, you’re more likely to follow through.
  • For example, you might reserve 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday to read a novel. From 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. you could schedule “work on vacation scrapbook.” From 9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., maybe it’s “call my sister in TN.”
  • It’s not necessary to schedule every unscheduled bit of time you have. However, if it’s written into your schedule, it will be a great reminder for you to begin doing many of the things you long to do. You’ll get focused and feel more fulfilled once you start doing the activities you choose.
  1. Gather necessary supplies for favored activities in advance. You’ll be prepared to jump right in if you already have the supplies you need. Use shoe boxes or plastic bins to store supplies so everything will be at the ready when free time rolls around.
  2. Regularly update your list of desired activities. This is the wonderful thing about enjoying free time: you have free rein to change your mind and develop new, exciting interests at your whim. Life is incredibly enriching when you realize you can spend spare time taking part in activities you find stimulating, interesting, or just plain fun.

To feel content and develop a real enjoyment of life, use spare moments to your best advantage. Do every single thing you desire. Enrich your life by enjoying your free time!

Hope you enjoyed this article and have a beautiful week filled with love and light, Barbara



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MotivateYourLifeWithBarbara/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarbaraSavin

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