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i remember…

Joan in Vermont, age 17

With spring bursting wide open here in New England, I am overwhelmed by the aliveness in the woods, the meadows and in my garden.  It brings back memories of a time in my youth that played a key role in developing my identity.  I am sharing it in hopes that it will spark a memory of a your own.

At age sixteen I spent the first of four subsequent summers on a farm in central Vermont.  There were 20 of us ranging in age from 14 to 30.  We had no electricity or indoor plumbing.  We milked our cow, grew our food, used a springhouse for cold storage and built whatever we needed: Tables, benches, shelters, etc.. Each day was spent preparing for the next – chores were sometimes tedious, and some of them magical.  One particular afternoon we shelled baskets upon baskets of freshly picked peas by the pond. With the sun beating onto our backs, one by one we jumped into the freezing spring water to cool off.  By the end of the day we were sunburned, had dirt under our fingernails and were happy as clams to have picked, shelled, blanched, bagged and frozen enough peas to feed an army through the winter.

This was no small feat for a girl from Long Island whose parents worked hard to provide all of the creature comforts, and some.  They would have preferred I return to summer camp like the other children in my community, but my determination to be in Vermont was unrelenting.  It was the closest I could describe as a calling, and no voice of reason was going to stop me.  It was also one of the most important decisions I would make in my life – influencing the very core of my identity.

One particular sunny day while walking through a meadow – grass up to my elbows on either side of the warm dirt path, I ran my hands along the top, creating a wave of sorts in my wake.  What I distinctly remember thinking at that very moment was: “It can’t get any better than this.”

I’ve gone back to that moment throughout my life, as it’s a memory that used all of my senses:  visual, tactile and olfactory.  It was also one that was privately my own.  It has informed who I was then and who I’ve grown to be; my love of being in natural surroundings, of quiet and solitude, and the peace I know I can create from a very simple life.

Is there a moment in time that stands out as remarkable, or a calling that informed your growth? If so, are you willing to share?  I would love to learn more about you.

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Rethinking Balance

A balanced life has been touted as the ultimate in mastery of the adult experience.  The ability to give equal attention to career, family, wellness and leisure seems to be close to having it all.  Actually, one of the most commonly used coaching tools; the Wheel of Life plots levels of satisfaction in the above categories on a wheel-shaped diagram.  The “bumpiness” of the circle highlights areas in need of attention. Lately I find myself questioning the notion of balance. For instance, is putting as much emphasis on work as we do on our health or relationships really… healthy?  For some people, absolutely.  For others, definitely not.

Did you ever get swept-up in a project or a commitment only to realize that you’ve been neglecting a promise you made to yourself or your family?   The key here is “swept-up”, which implies not being in choice.  Taking ownership of our own lives means we’re allowed to prioritize, even when there is a cost, which can be monetary or perhaps judgment by others.  After all, one individual’s priorities can’t possibly mirror another’s.  Who’s to say that at certain times in our lives, service to others shouldn’t outweigh leisure or career?  Or, if you’re starting a business or creating an art piece, perhaps you’ll need extra focus-time at your office or studio.

There are life events that can throw all semblance of balance out the window:  For example, a new infant can single handedly turn your world upside down. Fighting the chaos and lack of sleep in order to maintain “normalcy” will likely cause tension, whereas letting go of old priorities will create space for easing into the transition.  Balance is fluid, always in motion and adapting to what’s present in our lives.

I remember when my nephew was about one week old, my sister and I packed him into the snuggly then proudly took off for a walk in NYC.  We were four blocks from her home when we entered a shop owned by a woman from India.  She was not only astounded that the baby was out in public, but almost incensed that my sister had left her house.  In this woman’s experience, new mothers are cared-for by family and rarely leave the house for the first month of her newborn’s life (we scurried back home with our tails between our legs). I use this example to highlight our culture’s need to maintain balance by carrying-on as usual, even in the midst of life-changing events.  I look back now and wonder where were we going?  Why were we shopping?  Shouldn’t my sister and her new baby have been home, napping, nursing and easing into their new lives together?

My definition of a balanced life would be one that reflects relationships, intentions and choices based on an individual’s values.  I also think we need to slow down. If a half-hour of gardening feels more fruitful than attending a professional workshop, I say tip the scale.

To be honest, I have a bit of a conundrum here.  The tagline for my business reads:  Fulfillment, Clarity, Balance… whoops.  I may need to change that!

photo by nina weinberg doran

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I confess.  I love shoes.  Pointy toes, black boots, flats, kitten heels, sandals, cowboy boots, buckles, lace-up, cut-outs, zippers, grommets.  Years ago when my children were very young, they lined up all of my shoes in pairs – from my closet, down the hallway and into another room.  They laughed at me because I loved every single pair!

Recently, I’ve become acquainted with an old friend who wears very sensible shoes.  Actually, I’ve known her all of my life, intimately.  You may have a similar friend, a.k.a. your Inner Critic, Gremlin or Naysayer.  Dare I step out of my box wearing sandals on a cool day or a brand new pair of boots for walking in the city, and her voice can be heard clear across the street “Wait just one minute.  Who do you think you are?” or “Does the word ‘blister’ mean anything to you, or ‘hypothermia’?  She’s right you know; the discomfort from donning a new pair of shoes can be well, painful.

Here is what I’ve also learned: Sensible shoes can be downright boring, if not paralyzing.  The question is:  How do we stretch and find our way to what’s possible, while at the same time honor the voices of our dear old friends?

I do love my old friend, as she’s kept me safe and loved for all of these years.  But I’ll be damned if I wear sensible shoes all the time.  Sometimes we need to make space for different voices, new friends… impractical shoes.

Now isn’t it time you took those gorgeous heels out of your closet?

photo by Nina Weinberg Doran

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featuring… nina weinberg doran

I am thrilled to introduce my dear friend and favorite photographer, Nina Weinberg Doran. Nina will be collaborating with me by featuring her photos from time to time on this blog. Nina brings her whole self to her work, with complete immersion into the culture of the people she studies.  She is a warm and engaging traveller who is right at home on the streets of NYC or the deserts of Morocco. I had the good fortune to accompany Nina on a week-long shoot in Guatemala and it wasn’t unusual to lose her in the corners of  a market or a backyard full of chickens. I hope you will be as moved by Nina’s photos as I am. To see more of Nina’s work, please visit her website:

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Right Again!

It’s exhausting to be right all of the time, isn’t it?  That is one of my least favorite games.   As if it snuck in the back door, I can find myself playing it on occasion.  I noticed the dice rolling quite a bit at social gatherings during the holidays. When I get that squirmy feeling like “I’m outta here”, or I start to feel the need to one-up, I’m playing it.  If I have to struggle to get a word in edgewise – playing it.  Do you often insist on a “better way” to get somewhere or do something?  You’re playing it.  When the conversation lacks flow, it’s a signal that something’s amiss.

The art of conversation appears to be simple but often eludes people:  One person asks a question or raises a topic, then pauses for a response.  The other person answers or shares, and back & forth it goes.  The problem begins when one of the parties attempts to prove a point rather than engage in dialogue.

People expend a huge amount of energy on “being right”.  So much so, that after the game has ended, they rarely care about what others have to say.  When there’s competition brewing in conversation, my instinct is usually to disengage, not to enter the battle.  Distance is created and the connection is lost.  In my experience, the need to be right is usually a sign of pain – a longing to be noticed and ultimately, to be loved.  So, if you catch yourself playing this game, just notice and ask your self, “What do I really need right now”? It’s a more compassionate way to see your self and your opponent.  We’re all simply people with the longing to be loved.  It always boils down to that.

Am I right, or what?

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The following is an excerpt from Amy Elias’s blog in the Huffington Post. I particularly love this piece about adulthood and “playing pretend.”

Do we really need a personal development trainer, counselor or coach to tell us to “Tell the Truth” now and again? I guess so, as we all are not emotionally honest and lie to a degree at least some time, in some space, in some way. I have learned that by NOT telling the truth, and not being as real as I could possibly be, I have lost many opportunities — for one very major reason: I felt “fake” to myself. This created a separation between my true “Truth Telling” authentic self and the one I paraded around the world with. Non-truths are like “smoke and mirrors.” Untruths compensate for the deep hurt, protection, sadness, deficiency inside of us and hide our authentic selves. Have you learned that our lies, our untruths, have shades? White lies, anyone? Even when we ‘white lie” and pretend the pink elephant is NOT in the room, it interferes with expressing who we really are in the world, our authentic “brand,” per se. We hide, cloak our greatest gift and live someone else’s version of our dream life. When we are dishonest to ourselves or others our “YOU-nique” gift, the one no one else can offer the world, is hidden. What a sad thing that is!

Listen and hear TRUTH as truth and you will feel the untruths bubble up — as we are hardwired to sense it. We call that intuition.

The truth is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. Say the TRUTH when you feel hurt, sad, distressed, betrayed, abandoned, unrecognized, invisible — be out with it and be clear in your own heart. When we are truthful, we become the expert in our lives. So say, “I deeply screwed up — I lied to you when you asked me x, y or z.” A coming clean refreshes all and allows the real you to emerge. Come out of the preschool game of “let’s play pretend.” Kindergarten is over. Adulthood is here. Milk and cookies anyone?

Amy Elias, MS, is the founder of WHiP It! Productions: Where Wisdom, Health, Integrity and Passion Merge. Link here for the entire blog post: