The Red Line

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I watch the weirdest stuff on TV when I’m at the gym, especially if it’s late morning.  Yesterday I got completely sucked into an episode of Hoarders. I don’t know how long this show has been on cable, but I’m guessing they have to keep finding worse and worse examples of hoarding in order to keep the viewers coming back..

I mean seriously, where do you go once you’ve shown the house with the cockroaches, rotting food, boxes and stuff piled to the ceiling? Well, here’s where you go.. you go to the house that has all of those things with the additional roof and septic tank leaks so all of the piles of garbage are wet and covered in “you know what.”

That’s where you go., yuck.

Watching this show actually reminded me of our trip to Charleston a few week-ends ago and a super strange tour we took through one of the historic homes. The Calhoun House belongs to a wildly successful (retired?) lawyer who crosses the globe buying priceless antiques and artifacts. For some reason (taxes?) the man has turned most floors of his home into an official “museum” that is open to the public.

Here’s the deal, billionaires can be hoarders too.  It really doesn’t matter how much the stuff costs, once it reaches critical mass, once it crowds out the rooms, once there is no place to put down your glass of iced know you’ve got a problem.

At one point, as we were all crowded together at a roped off doorway, staring into the over-cluttered study, the tour guide exclaimed, “the owner’s cat is in here!” After about two minutes one of the ladies called out “I see him!” and then went on to help the rest of us locate the sleeping feline who was absolutely invisible amidst all the stuff. I felt I as if I was teleported into a page of “Where’s Waldo?”

Having too much stuff sucks. Whether it’s a collection of crock pots, creepy porcelain dolls or foot stools made out of elephant’s feet (see photo above-it was gross) at some point your stuff starts to own you…

And that’s the red line dear friends, when your possessions start possessing you..







The Secret Sauce


Yesterday, Oprah posted a short interview on twitter, (see my feed to the right.) She and this “happiness expert” were discussing how 2 simple steps can drastically affect how you feel about life. One of the steps was to establish a short and manageable exercise routine..not just for the obvious health benefits and immediate good feeling produced by endorphins, but more importantly, to

“train your brain to believe that your actions matter.”

I could not have said it better myself.

For the past (almost) month I have consistently done three simple things; taken all my vitamins every day, drank 68oz of water every day and gone to the gym three times a week to exercise my “ticker.” Thinking back, I have no idea why I picked those three specific things, but they are three habits that I have never been able to stick with in the past.

Oprah’s happiness expert is absolutely right when he says that “training your brain to believe that your actions matter” can lead to personal well being; it REALLY does! The sense of personal empowerment that I have felt as a result of sticking with my three tiny goals for a month has far exceeded whatever physical benefits I could possibly have hoped to attain.

There may be other experts who would look at me and say “well, you feel great because you are taking a multi-vitamin..” but I would have to disagree. I believe that the real source of this feel-good energy is the realization that I am capable, I can do this- my actions are having an impact on my life!  And frankly, if I can do these small things, I can do other things as well!

The friendly guy who runs the front desk at our local YMCA complimented me last week when I came three days in a row. I told him “you know, it almost doesn’t matter what I do after I arrive.. I may not see physical evidence of these work-outs for a while, BUT it’s the getting here part..  that action is changing me- and I see that evidence of that change every day.”

Oprah’s expert also asked one other very important question, “Is the bar low enough?” For me, the answer has been “umm, yeah!” High achievers (God bless ’em) would probably look at my puny little goals and laugh, but the truth is that success, no matter how it is achieved, is critical to happiness and further success.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to make the case that there’s anything wrong with “aiming high”..I’m just evaluating the psychological risk of repeated failure associated with goals that we continuously fail to achieve. Could it be, that the guy vigorously training for a marathon every day goes to bed with the exact same level of personal satisfaction and sense of achievement as I do right now?

Isn’t success..success?

If you are running into walls over and over again and finding it impossible to stick to your own goals, maybe the bar isn’t low enough. In as much as each success is a building block to personal empowerment and wellbeing, I also believe that repeated failures can be profoundly damaging to our sense of self and the belief that we can actually control and manage our own mind and body.

So lower the bar, just to start, and allow yourself to experience the empowerment and happiness that comes from “training your brain to believe that your actions do indeed matter”…Create an avenue to success by crafting reasonable, attainable goals- and slowly, (SLOWLY!) build on them.. because success truly IS the secret sauce.





photocredit:DBD International,Flickr





Burning out?


I am not a golfer, but I could not help getting swept up in the Master’s Tournament on Sunday.  I watched in amazement as the field gave way to the two top players who literally matched each other’s performance at almost every hole; they finished in an unbelievable tie and had to play a nineteenth hole.

Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose were clearly friends, but I doubt that helped mitigate the enormity of such a high stakes, televised event.  And they both looked so calm..not robotic, just calm. Garcia eventually won after years and years and years of coming heartbreakingly close.  His victory was a wonderful tribute to persistence, sportsmanship and obviously, stress management. I wondered how he was able to pursue this heretofore elusive goal for so, so long without eventually succumbing to burnout.

The Cleveland Clinic tweeted out this interesting article below on burn-out & work related stress this morning. Clearly those who are able to productively process both have a huge advantage in life …and in golf! 😉

From the Cleveland Clinic:

It’s easy to think of stress at work as the enemy, but a healthy dose can give you fuel — and make you even better at what you do. Job-related burnout, on the other hand, empties you out and kills your motivation. If it lingers too long, it also can negatively affect your feelings about life.

The good news about job burnout is that you can take steps to reverse it. You also can avoid it altogether if you pay attention to the signs.

RELATED: 7 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body

When stress is prolonged

“Workplace burnout involves a prolonged and heightened response to work stress in which a person becomes drained from work demand,” says clinical psychologist, Scott Bea, PsyD.

He says to be on guard if you notice these signs:

•Declining work performance

•Decreasing work efficiency

•Loss of confidence that you can accomplish your goals

•Avoidance of work-related tasks


•Loss of interest

“Engaging in tasks that feel meaningless can promote burnout,” Dr. Bea says. “However, if something in your work effort is consistent with your commitments and values, each day can be an opportunity to live these values in a tangible manner.”

For example, people in caregiving professions can notice positive results with their consistent effort to help others.

It depends on where you place your attention.

“Try to notice the rightness of your work effort and the positive outcomes rather than dwelling on the stressors, obstacles or negative characteristics of work,” he says.

RELATED: 5 Super Stress-Busting Foods

Emotions are a tip-off

Before you experience job burnout, your feelings will give you some clues that something is amiss. If you’re not sure if you’re just going through a rough patch or heading down the road to burnout, here are seven questions to ask yourself:

1Are you feeling cynical or negative about work, and are these feelings escalating?

2Is your motivation decreasing?

3Is it becoming difficult to perform work-related problem solving?

4Do you feel yourself getting more agitated or angry at work?

5Are interpersonal difficulties at work spilling over into your home life?

6Do you feel depressed as a result of work-related stress?

7Is work-related stress causing you anxiety?

If you answered yes to many of the questions above, there are various ways to address these feelings for a healthier outlook.

RELATED: Refresh Your Work Day With 9 Standing Yoga Poses

Change your perspective

“Come to work intending to ‘give your gift’ as an alternative to approaching work fearfully about outcomes or penalties,” Dr. Bea says. “It helps when we lean into the experience with positive energy and a positive belief in ourselves.”

Here are some other in-the-trenches strategies to fight burnout:

• Establish good self-care. Maintain healthy habits such as exercise, nutrition, interpersonal connections, and limit the use of quick fixes such as alcohol, nicotine or drug use.

• Set healthy limits. Find a way to manage expectations in your workplace so that you do not become overextended.

• Keep a healthy pace. Strive to get into the flow of your work, and take periodic breaks.

• Develop a mindfulness practice. Rehearse being aware of the present moment, rather than getting into thoughts about the future or past in a way that escalates tension.

• Take breaks from electronic devices. Do this at predetermined intervals so that you are not “always on.”

• Attach your work efforts to something you value. Notice how your work makes something in the world, the culture, or in other people’s lives better.

• Be yourself. Do what you can to reduce the strain of having to project some image that is not authentic.

If you are struggling over a prolonged period, you also want to consider the source of your feelings. Is it that you are not a match for this particular career? Or is it that the work, and amount, has gotten beyond your control? It may be time to consider a change or talk with a supervisor about workloads or roles.






You have to start somewhere


This feels SOO good. I am about to close out on week three of “consistency camp;” three weeks of sticking to three tiny resolutions that have helped me realize I am indeed capable.

Yes, I am actually fully capable of following through on commitments I make to myself, in this case:

Drinking 68 ounces of water every day

Exercising my heart vigorously three times a week (at the gym)

Taking all of my vitamins-every day.

And while I’ll admit that these are not HUGE things, I’ll let you in on a secret:  other good and healthy changes have quietly come along for the ride. I’m not even going to mention them because I don’t want to overwhelm myself with additional expectations.. but hey- there they are..and here I am… ready to start my fourth week and after that?

Well, then I’ll be ready to reassess and raise the bar..

just a bit. 😉





photocredit:Don Gallagher LLC,Pinterest


The ‘March’ of tiny victories..

This has been a successful few weeks of sticking to personal resolutions, (both behavioral and spiritual) and in a way I guess I’m not that surprised. Nothing helps me focus my attention on all that is good in life (and good for me) quite like a touch of turmoil and uncertainty..and March has provided both.  It’s almost as if the negative “life noise” pressing down on one side invigorates my mind to be more determined than ever to press down harder against it on the other.


Go “Team Positive!”





.,Stevan Sheets,




Road trip through space & time..

I arrived back in Charlotte (from Florida) yesterday at exactly 6:35pm. I ran into the house to brush my teeth, my husband removed the bike rack off my car and I zoomed out to my book club meeting at McCormick & Schmicks. Here’s the deal: I paid for the book, read the thing and I’ll be darned if I wasn’t going to get there to talk about it! (It was ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’  btw- easy read, nothing too deep or profound.)

When I got back home, I slipped into a hot, epson salt bath to soothe my aches from the 10 hour drive. My husband brought me a bourbon (yes, he’s wonderful) and I just soaked there for a good long time. I thought about my many road trips up and down Interstate 95 and why I hate but also love them..

I hate them for the obvious reasons: trucks, traffic, gross restrooms, bad coffee, stupid drivers and my sciatica (which I have to say has NOT been acting up lately- a true miracle from God.)

I also love the long drives because of:  gas station m&ms (they just taste better) and the music on my i-phone.  My playlist spans years of my life, and as I listen to the songs they invariably bring back memories of the past.

KC and the Sunshine Band…”Get down tonight” still gives me goosebumps. I can remember being too shy to sing along when he belted out “Do a little dance, make a little love..” That was 1975..I was 13.


Philip Bailey…”Chinese Wall” 1984- I used to prance around our little apartment in Washington State with my newborn daughter in my arms singing this tune..still love it.

Bon Jovi…”Dead or Alive” Have to watch my speed when this is playing. Even though it came out in 1986, I didn’t listen to it much until after 9-11 and when I did, I sang it loud and guttural and angry and I meant it.

Adagio for strings..another song inexplicably and forever tied to 9-11 in my mind; possibly the most heart wrenching music on earth..I rarely make it through.

Nicki Minaj..Super bass.  Definitely a fast lane song along with “Walk this Way”(Aerosmith) and “Payphone” by Maroon 5 ( must be the uncensored version because hey, sometimes it feels great to hurl out expletives for no reason in the privacy of your own vehicle.)

No trip is complete without “In Caelum Fero” which was one of the songs my eldest performed to with her HS color guard team.

I round it all out with some Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton (I’m in you) The Police, Elton John, Mandisa (God speaking) Journey, Supertramp, ELO, Elton John (of course) Cheap Trick, Steely Dan, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and a little Andrea Bocelli (to keep things balanced.)

Like I said, it’s a physical trip through space and a mental trip through time..

..and no matter where I’m headed, it’s always a bonus when the journey safely ends in a steaming-hot tub.







photocredit:Canadian Festival Guide,Pinterest