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Magical Maui

January 2016 – Wailea, Maui

My friend, Diane was visiting me in not-so-sunny Florida in late January.  We’d hoped her escape from snowy Pennsylvania would be a lot balmier and involve more rounds of golf but Mother Nature had other plans.  Daydreaming of sun-drenched days, we donned our rain gear and headed to Winter Park for some shopping.

Diane was busy trying on some fun clothes when my phone rang.  I knew that ring tone by heart — it was my daughter.  Imagine my surprise when she asked me if I’d like to go to Maui.  “Of course I would,” I replied immediately.  She laughed and said you better pack quick — because we are leaving in 2 days!

It just so happened that Diane was flying out of Orlando two days later – just a few hours before my Maui flight was scheduled to depart, so the timing was perfect!   We shared some good laughs about the benefits of enthusiastically saying “YES” when opportunity calls.

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Lucky me!  In two days, after two flights, I would be transported from a damp, dreary January on the East Coast to a warm tropical paradise in Maui.  Best of all, my sweet 4 month old granddaughter would be there too.

My daughter, Brelana and her husband, Ted picked me up at the airport and I exchanged  my luggage for cuddly baby Charlotte.  It was late and both Charlotte and I were ready for a sound night of sleep.  It was much too dark for me to appreciate the view that was awaiting me at sunrise.

 

Nestled in a snowy white bed of soft sheets and fluffy pillows, I was awakened by a new dawn rising over the ocean in Maui.  The waves were crashing on the beach, chattering birds welcomed a new day, and the rich aroma of fresh brewed Kona coffee drifted into my room.  If this was a dream, please don’t wake me!

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Don’t you just love that brief moment of confusion when you wake up and you are not sure where you are?    Don’t you love it even more when you realize you are somewhere amazing?

Any time I can be near an ocean is a slice of heaven.  Sharing that with my family and a granddaughter is icing on the cake.

Early morning walks on the beach, splashing in the pool with Charlotte, chatting with other vacationers, and exploring the island together makes for some priceless moments.

Always up for a new challenge, I agreed to try stand up paddle board after some playful cajoling from Brelana.  I was laughing to myself as I thought, here’s Ted, a professional football player, teaching his 64 year old mother-in-law how to do stand up paddle board.  Trust me, I was anything but graceful in my first few attempt and fell off multiple times.

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A few more tips from Ted plus a healthy dose of determination and I finally got it!    What a thrilling experience to be out on that board alone, soaking in the sights of Lanai on the horizon along with other paddle boarders and sailboats.  The highlight for me was watching mother whales and their babies skimming the ocean’s surface.  It was so peaceful to be floating along, unobtrusively watching their interactions with each other.

When I turned the board around to head back to shore, what I saw took my breath away! Rising before was the stunning vista of lush green mountains, bright colorful flowers, puffy white clouds mingled with deep dark rain-laden ones and a rich blue sky.

Stand up paddle board is now added to my growing list of activities I love!  For a brief moment I even thought about giving up golf for paddle board.

 

It was such a treat to watch baby Charlotte being introduced to the ocean, to sand and new tiny friends.    She also enjoyed the pool and especially the big water fountain in the center.

 

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Charlotte was a big fan of my room overlooking the ocean with the rhythmic sounds of waves crashing on the beach lulling her to sleep.  Her parents thought I was making a sacrifice while they went to dinner.  Little did they know, I was basking in the joy of watching my granddaughter peacefully sleeping — one of life’s treasures.

 

Exploring the island was a big highlight —  breakfast at a popular local spot by the ocean, Ho’okipa Beach to watch the board and wind surfers, then onto the Lavender farm and the Surfing Goat Dairy.  We enjoyed sampling the fresh goat cheeses while the newborn billy goats frolicked nearby.   One little guy stole Brelana’s heart — he was still wet from birth and working on stabilizing his wobbly legs.

We shared a few dinners together at MonkeyPod – a fun restaurant featuring delectable fresh catches. Makes my mouth water just to recall the fantastic fresh fish and savory sides we devoured. Did I mention that I had my first mai tai there? Trust me, it wasn’t my last:)

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It’s always a special treat for me to play golf with my son-in-law and we enjoyed another fun round at the Wailea Blue Golf Course.  Anyone who knows me, is well aware that I am passionate about golf.  Just say the word, I will be out of my bathing suit and into golf attire in less than 5 minutes!  Any time you can enjoy a round of golf while gazing at an ocean, is an especially incredible experience.  Ted and I saw beautiful cardinals, lots of flora, some crazy squirrels and we both had some birdies on that scorecard!

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Thanks for the Memories…

Unknown   A box of old photos, some faded letters and a sterling silver teapot swaddled in bubblewrap arrived on the doorstep.  There was a handwritten note with little pink hearts nestled in the tissue paper.

That personal note recalled memories brought to life by this box of treasures.  Reading the note conjured the images of a little blonde-haired girl laughing as she tore the wrapping paper off a Christmas present, of a smiling couple cutting a tiered cake while music, laugher and conversation drifted in the background.  Poignantly, the heartfelt note conveyed some lasting, loving experiences shared with a husband who passed away much too soon.

Fourteen years had slipped by since he died.  Teenagers were now married adults with children of their own.  Family and friends were now retired, had moved, dealt with health issues, or also passed away.   In the blink of an eye, 14 years of life happened.

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Recently, my daughter and I had been sifting through moving boxes in a hot, humid garage sorting out what to keep, what to donate and what to discard.  Suddenly we both broke into tears and laughter as we gazed at old photos and touched treasured keepsakes.  Memories of vacations, holidays, adventures and milestones came to life as we both warmly shared our fondest experiences.

It was as if the entire garage had been turned into a live stage and dozens of life’s vignettes were being acted out right before our eyes.  We laughed till tears ran down our cheeks.  We rolled our eyes at bad hairdo’s and our fashion faux pas.  We grew silent in personal reflection as we read his postcards and letters to us.

Our memories were more alive than ever.  Suddenly it was like the 14 years had vanished and we were reliving the highlight clips of our lives.

A fascinating observation about memories is how each of us has a different perspective, poignant moment or touchpoint that resonates with us.  The memory is enhanced by each of us adding our personal details.

It becomes richer in color, more alive and subsequently, a more vivid memory.

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We carefully boxed up some  photos, letters, and the silver and shipped them to his sister.   I could envision her surprise and rush of memories as she unpacked the treasures.

What I had not anticipated was the gift I would receive in return — a lengthy note back to me chock full of her own beautiful memories of her brother and her grandmother.  Some of these stories were new to me and others I’d forgotten.  Now I could watch a movie in my head of another young girl with bouncing curls on a New York shopping spree with her doting grandmother many decades ago.

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I’ve learned a few noteworthy things from my recent trip down memory lane.

  • Memories are best when shared.
  • Memories are inspirational and often serve as reminders of what is most important in our busy lives.  Make time for your loved ones.
  • Each of us has a filter through which we process an experience.  Be mindful of other’s filters and appreciative of their perspective.
  • Most importantly, memories can remind us just how much we were and are loved.

 

 

Inspired by BreatheShelleyGirl and her post ” I love you. Have a cookie.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decluttering House and Mind

Many of you may be familiar with Marie Kondo’s books which guide us to declutter our home enabling us to simplify and organize our living spaces once and for all.  She offers this simple question to help us purge — “Does this item spark joy?”

I’ve recently had a big garage sale in preparation for my upcoming move and I found it pretty easy to part with items I have been dragging around for years by honestly answering that one question.  Admittedly, there was a strong sentimental attachment to some items like my wedding china which has been moved  5 times over the past 18 years and were used maybe a dozen times.  It was stored in padded covers in closed cabinets.  The china didn’t spark joy — the memories of how Skip loved to shop for it is what really sparked my joy!

Those memories take up no space and do not have to be carefully transported once again to yet another dark closet.  My kids didn’t want the china and neither did my closest friends.  Seeing the joy that it brought to a woman who yearned for good china all her life and who entertains her large family quite often made parting it with it all the easier.

What has happily surprised me is that I feel happier, lighter and freer now that I have parted with a lot of “stuff” and am enjoying a minimalist approach to my living space.  My reward for accomplishing this daunting task was a huge bouquet of freshly cut, fragrant flowers.

Being completely candid, it is probably easier for me than most to pare down like this.  After all, I foresee myself living in a small apartment and traveling often over the next 5 years or more.  So from a practical standpoint, it just makes sense to simplify my possessions.

Now picture me sitting in my uncluttered space and asking myself one more very serious question.  If I can declutter my home and part with possessions that are not sparking joy, could I also declutter my mind and part with well-worn habits that are not serving me well?

When I start to ruminate or recall a painful memory, could I stop myself and ask — is this helping me live in the present moment enjoying a peaceful, joy-filled life?

When I procrastinate on dealing with a challenging person or situation, is it really helping me move forward or is it keeping me in quicksand?

Recognizing that old habits and conditioned responses are cluttering my mind and eating up a lot of real estate in that busy brain of mine, it was time for personal clean up.

Mindfulness has been the key in helping me move on from a failed relationship over this past year.    It’s many benefits include improved physical health, stronger family relationships, deepened personal friendships and greater enjoyment of my activities and projects.

So I laughed at myself and acknowledged that there’s still more work to be done.

A yoga instructor once wisely pointed out that we improve physically and spiritually through small increments over long periods of practice.  One day we realize that we can do that backward bend much farther than we once did, but it did not happen overnight.  It happened over months — with lots of committed practice.

The same is true with mindfulness.  We can effect some pretty remarkable changes in our lives by rewiring our brains through awareness and mindfulness practice.

The common thread boils down to intention.

When purging my house and personal possessions, my intention was to eliminate material things I didn’t need or want anymore.  There was tangible evidence that I was accomplishing the goal because my house was uncluttered.

The challenge with a mindful intention is that my busy mind wanders far and wide throughout the day.  It is all too easy to get caught in an old familiar loop of thinking and feeling and the next thing you know, I have eaten half a bag of salty potato chips instead of the healthy carrot sticks so meticulously prepped in the morning!  Worse yet, I wasn’t even hungry – just bored or upset.

Striving to utilize Marie Kondo’s sparking joy theory, I’m paying more attention to my thoughts and actions as part of my daily intention.

All my hopes and aspirations, my values, principles and my character reside in my brain and in my heart.  It’s also where all those priceless, precious memories are stored.

Housecleaning my mind frees up valuable space so there is expansive room to invite new experiences and positive, mindful living into my present and future life.

It’s going to take a lot of practice and I’m betting I’ll get a lot of chances throughout each  day to work on it:)

 

 

 

 

 

Intuition

I got a healthy dose of inspiration about intuition this morning thanks to a video from Brendon Buchard, one of the world’s top personal development trainers.  I’d been doing a lot of journaling lately about hindsight and what I have learned about myself and the choices I’ve made over the years, looking for clues to help me make better decisions in the future.

Oddly enough, I was thinking a lot about intuition and how I used to feel like I was pretty tuned into my own years ago, but that somehow I had stuffed it away and forgot that intuition is a valuable life resource.

While mindlessly sifting through some social media, Brendon’s video popped up and I opted to play it.  Wow — I thought he was talking directly to me!  “Hey, Amy — want to reconnect with your intuition?  Let me give you some insight.”  (Well, at least that ‘s what I heard)

Brendon shared how to distinguish intuition from fear. Intuition operates on 4 planes:

  • Trust
  • Social intelligence
  • Positive growth
  • Tied to your faith or values and beliefs

I listened to his video several times and I encourage you to do the same if you find this to be insightful and helpful in your own life. (brendon.com)

Then I did the hard work of looking at my past to observe where I ignored my intuition.  I was curious as to why I turned a blind eye to such a valuable resource.  What I discovered was mind-blowing and I am so excited that I get to tap into my intuition going forward with a sharpened awareness of what is most important to me.  I’ve got to believe that I will now consistently make good, informed decisions.

Trust

Brendon gives very good, every day examples for each of the four planes.  He encourages us to distinguish between a simple thought and strong vibe.   You might be talking to someone and ask yourself — “Do I trust this person? Am I getting a negative vibe?”

I decided that I better start the “trust” question with myself — Do I trust myself to make a good assessment — of people, of decisions, of choices?    All the work I have been doing on mindfulness over this past year has really helped me to create a short, meaningful list of my values.  I can call these up anytime and ask myself — am I being true to my values as I make this decision or observation?

I know myself well enough to know that I have a lot of empathy for others and most always give others the benefit of the doubt.  I also have tremendous patience and and that can be a blessing and a curse.  I am a natural born caregiver. Too many times in the past, I have trusted that someone will rise to the occasion, or meet my expectations if I just give them a chance.   I often ignored my intuition or did not take the time to learn more about a person so that I could make a wise decision. I was too busy rescuing.  As a result, I made poor hiring decisions, acquired negative and needy friends or life partners who did not share my core values.

Social Intelligence

This plane really grabbed my attention.  While I am very good at personal relationships and maintaining diverse friendships over many years and miles, I failed to recognize a problem that was thwarting my happiness.  I was plagued with codependency.

Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or under-achievement.

The “aha” moment for me was recognizing that all this time I thought I was being a good caregiver and running around rescuing people in the hopes that they’d get happy and productive, I was tolerating behaviors that were in direct conflict with my core values!

Not surprisingly, this ties right back into the first plane — Trust.  Trusting myself to invite people who genuinely want to be on the path of self improvement and are willing to do the work must be the first filter.  Paying attention to my intuition when it is literally screaming at me –“Why are you accepting this draining, disrespectful behavior?”

I intend to blog more about codependency at another time but for now I will just say that my childhood had a lot to do with those tendencies.  As with any experience, one can extract both good and bad skills and habits.  I am a pretty decent and balanced person in spite of childhood family dysfunction since I was motivated to be quite different from my parents.  On the other hand, I also became the ultimate caregiver and did not acquire the necessary filters to respect my own boundaries.

So, I have some homework to do now — how exciting!  I need to take my social intelligence to a whole new level.  I want to become a much better assessor of character as I invite new people into my life.  Oh, and I am resigning my position as caregiver:)

Positive Growth

I’ve had a few setbacks in my life that ultimately ended up being a launching pad for a growth spurt.  Perhaps this is one area of my life where my intuition served me well.

After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 40 and successfully beating it, I got very involved with a variety of cancer research and awareness organizations, volunteering my time to raise funds and inspire others through motivational speaking.   While I knew I was giving to others in a positive way, I may not have been aware of the impact my courage and strength was having on my three children (ages 5, 15 and 16 at the time).

Then at age 50, I was suddenly widowed.  I lost my best friend and the love of my life.  It took a while to find a silver lining in this devastating loss.  I finally decided that I needed to help others in order to fill the huge hole in my heart.  I quit my 25 year career in financial services and opened my own business – a lingerie and breast care boutique.  It had been a long time dream of mine to create a beautiful shopping environment for women who had faced breast surgeries that was feminine, compassionate, dignified and emotionally uplifting.  My daughter and I poured heart and soul into Annabella’s in Paoli, PA.  We accomplished all of the goals we set for ourselves and then some.  As I reflect back on being an inspired entrepreneur, I never made a lot of money — I made a difference.  That’s my personal definition of success.

In his video, Brendon says that this 3rd plane of intuition – Personal Growth – should make you feel excited, energized, connected!  Just hearing the enthusiasm in his voice as he encourages us to listen to that intuition, gets the blood pumping!  I literally wanted to dance around the room with joy as I thought about this next chapter of my life!

I’m having a growth spurt!  It’s a time to change, a second chance!

And then Brendon offers words of wisdom.  While your intuition may be spot on about Positive Growth, your decision making may not be right.  He cautions us to explore and pay attention.  Decision making decides how to implement a new goal.     Ask yourself this question he says:  “What is my next right action of integrity?”

I loved that — integrity really resonates with me.  It ties right back into my core values of treating myself and others with trust and respect.

Brendon shares that “intuition operates best after effort than before”.  That’s pretty powerful stuff.  He suggests that you take small steps toward a larger goal.  Along the way, stop and ask yourself and your intuition how it feels.  If you are still feeling inspired, excited and energized, you are on the right path!

Judging by the enthusiasm I have for this blog post right now, I’d have to say that my recent, carefully planned decisions are confirming I am on the right path.

Tied to Your Faith or Values/Beliefs

Over this past year of mindfulness and mediation, I have often had to ask myself if I was really being my best self.  What did I need from my environment, my racing thoughts, my family and friends to be my best self?

Trusting your intuition and paying attention to how your body feels, how you are reacting to others and to life’s events, being honest about bad habits — these are all guideposts for living your life in balance with your core values and beliefs.

Brendon says if you realize that you are just not being that good for those around you, pay attention to your intuition and see if you are genuinely connected with your values and beliefs. If not, tell yourself “I am better than this.”

He offers that we need to rise through the difficulties of the day and be a role model for others.  Pay attention to how we treat people.

A close examination of myself a year ago revealed to me that my environment was full of drama, negativity and conflict.  As a result I was resentful  because I was emotionally drained, publicly embarrassed and deeply hurt by unnecessary family disharmony.  My core values of trust, respect and positivity were not being supported.  No wonder I was sad, tired and physically strained.  That certainly was not my best self.

Heeding my intuition, it was time to leave and and give myself a peaceful, predictable and happy living environment.  That was a big first decision.  Next I had to stop kidding myself and dig deep into self-awareness and self-improvement.  Mindfulness and meditation played a big part in this process.  It was not a quick fix by any stretch of the imagination.   In fact, it was like yoga — small, incremental improvements over time.  Then one day, I realized that I was definitely moving in the right direction and actually making significant progress.  I was rewiring my brain and learning new skills and habits to rid myself of old habitual responses.

Six months into my transition, it suddenly dawned on me that the whole codependency thing was still with me.   While I had made a lot of positive life changes and was returning to my normal, happy positive, energetic self I was still tethered to this “caregiver” role. I’ll confess that it took a lot of effort to sort out the pieces of myself and come to terms with a big distinction between being a compassionate, empathic person and the person that blindly jumps into rescue mode before assessing the situation.

Today, I take every opportunity that I can to test myself and my intuition to ensure that my hard work is sinking in.  If I get a knot in my stomach or a red flag flapping in a 40 mile an hour wind, I smile and invite intuition to sit down with me and explore.

I am grateful that I watched Brendon’s video this morning because it reinforces my commitment to self improvement and this new chapter of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, Set, Go — I’m a Blogger!

I’m just getting started in building my blog about all the changes I’m currently making in my life.  The past year has been full of self awareness, mindfulness and redefining my purpose and my dreams.  It’s my hope to share insights, some hearty laughs, and a little wisdom along the way.

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Mindfulness will be the cornerstone of my foundation as I reshape my life and I’ll be sharing ideas of how to incorporate mindfulness into our busy, every day lives.  It will come as no surprise that often means getting our faces out of our phones:)

 

Finding meaning and purpose in retirement will be another aspect to my blog.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’m doing each day that makes me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way to my family, my friends and the world in general.  Conversations with friends and folks I meet while traveling have really sparked my interest in exploring this topic more deeply.

Creative writing is something I have enjoyed all my life and I am working to accomplish two goals with this hobby  The first goal is to write children’s stories that incorporate mindfulness into the message. My hope is that we can teach children to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, to be kind and respectful to others, and to be resourceful in problem solving.  I’ve wanted to write children’s stories since my boys were little and I have had a few false starts along the way.  It is my adorable granddaughters that have really inspired me to get make this happen!  This goal also ties into finding meaning and purpose in retirement so that gets me even more motivated.

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My second goal is to write whimsical stories about funny everyday experiences that often happen to us when we least expect it.  Erma Bombeck was always my inspiration for my amusing anecdotes, so I am hoping to do her some justice and spread a little humor along the way.

 

 

When I originally decided to launch a blog, it was intended as a way for my friends and family to keep track of all my adventures as I am about to relocate once again.  Now I have a much more definitive purpose to my life and my blog.   I want to extend a hearty thank you to my daughter and son-in-law and to my many friends who listened to my ideas, who encouraged me and gave me food for thought and inspired me to keep going…and growing.