Friday, January 24, 2014

The Taming of the Grouch

Have you ever wished you had a “refresh” button for your life? 

We acquire a fair amount of knowledge from study and personal experience, but at times it seems all it takes are a few setbacks, and poof, we revert to our old bad habits. 

It happened to me.

I was in a car accident a year ago which left me unable to do a lot of the physical activities I enjoy – including playing softball with my team, the Stingers. Nearly a year has passed. I received therapy, slowly began preparing my muscles by taking yogalates classes and now it was time to play ball again. I started off pretty good and got some solid hits, but in my enthusiasm to sprint to first base I pulled a hamstring muscle.  Part of the problem is I didn’t warm up properly. It was a knee jerk reaction – hit the ball and run. 

I have never been a powerful slugger like many of my teammates such as Mary Lou, Stella and Tracy, so part of my effectiveness as a softball player is being able to get a hit and beat out the throw to first base. The same formula is true with my fielding. I may not stop line shots like Kathy or Jo, or snag fly balls like Karen, June or Ruth, but if a ball gets past me at least I can chase it down at a respectable pace. The pulled hamstring was taking away my mobility edge.

Mary Lou and Shirley, our couch and manager, found pinch runners for me at the next game, but I batted a miserable 0 for 4. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. While in the dugout my teammates, Connie, Carla and Mo encouraged me. They reminded me that I had hit the ball solidly, it just had the misfortune of landing in our opponent’s mitts.  It happens to everyone, including our most powerful hitters. Still I was grousing and made a few negative remarks about my performance. 

Normally I am a “glass-half-full kinda gal,” so my pessimism raised a few eyebrows. My teammate, Jo, was especially surprised since she knew I not only valued an optimistic attitude, I penned a book about it (Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.) She suggested I reread what I wrote.  Talk about a wake-up call.

That evening I pondered what Jo said. The hamstring pull was a pain, but certainly not the end of the world. What was causing me to unleash my inner grouch?

Upon reflection I realized I went into a slow, but steady downspin following my car accident the year before.  Over time, some of my positive routines disintegrated into bad habits. Instead of exercising like I would’ve liked to do, I had to be sedentary and heal. I began watching more television – including programs that were violent and depressing. This not only gave me nightmares, it affected my attitude. Slowly, but surely, I was giving my inner grouch permission to run amok.

Fortunately Jo’s comment caused me examine the issue and correct it. I was a little embarrassed with my flirtation with the dark side, but it’s not like I had total amnesia on all things hopeful.  I just needed a little refresher course. And being a middle child who likes to share, I thought many of you who normally embrace optimism, but occasionally relapse, might benefit from what I discovered. Here are a few tips on how to refresh your optimism.

·         1. Go back to the basics. It doesn’t matter if it’s your golf swing, a diet or life. Review the basic principles of what you are trying to achieve. Chances are you didn’t develop an esoteric tendency that nullifies ALL your past efforts, you just need to review some of the fundamentals. The good news is you don’t need to start from the beginning.  Just do a quick review, discover where you went astray, and get back on track.
o    2. To prevent from going too far off course, monitor your progress on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. It can be a list, check-up sheet, journal or any tool of your choosing. The point is to have a barometer to measure your level of optimism.  When you review your emotions you can spot when your attitude is taking a nosedive and catch it before it becomes a serious problem.

3.  Create an internal emotional vibration that matches the positive things you want to manifest. You can’t attract happiness when you dwell on misery any more than you can make orange juice by squeezing an onion. Match your thoughts, speech, actions and emotions with your desired outcome, NOT YOUR FEARS.

In conclusion, remember we all make mistakes. No one is perfect, not even the self-help gurus. Also, I might add, nothing is gained by beating yourself up. For example my hamstring is healing, but it still hurts. I can complain about it for hours, but that doesn’t help. Not even a little. Instead I choose to look at this painful experience as a life lesson. Maybe I had to get a pain in the butt to learn how to not BE a pain in the butt.  Now how is that for a refreshing thought?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nature makes you think positively

Here is a guest post by Emily King.

Everyday obligations and tasks occupy our minds so that we are practically disabled to think in any other way from the one that is prescribed by the established social norms.

When you are a pupil or a student, you are forced to go to school, to study and to attend some extracurricular activities. Many children even have to go to different trainings and other activities that are not in a direct relation to school. When you grow up, you are asked or forced to look for a job and become an independent person.

While this might be the proper way of functioning for the society we live in, it leaves big scars on our souls. People's natural state is not spending days and nights in front of the computer. It is neither wasting half of your time off work on commuting, nor throwing away your natural potentials on the process of becoming a slave for someone else, who earns money on putting you in (both metaphorically and literally) chains.

As those children mentioned in the previous paragraph, we are forced to do things as some ruling head or a trust of brains have imagined. By our obedience to those deeply structured rules, we become cogs in the money-making mechanism that takes away your energy and vitality so that its members or rulers could do what every person should do in the first place – find peace and take care of his or her own persona.

We can often see TV programs in which famous actors, music stars or wealthy businesspeople show us around their manors in the country or at the sea. The program's hosts and those larger-than-ordinary-life figures together create an imitation of life for many hard-working regular people. Us, the prudent pillars of their society, are meant to watch that and heap praise on their success. Sometimes we even get angry with ourselves and our lack of knowledge and courage to do the same as they did to enjoy the lavishness of life. We fill our minds and bodies with negative energy while the solution is so close within our reach.

We are here, on this beautiful planet thanks to our parents and we should appreciate our lives more than we do. Every day can be a new and different experience, embellished with beautiful sensations of nature around us and the world inside us. Going to work, sweating in the underground train, devouring fast food to get back to work and toil for those boasting characters from those TV programs cannot be your only function in this world. Stop for a moment and listen to the wind, to the rustling of the leaves. Take a look at birds flying above you or at clouds hurrying to the horizon. All those pictures around us are here thanks to the balance of nature. Humans should grow their food in their gardens. We buy artificially grown food, together with fruit treated with pesticides and frozen vegetables.

By agreeing on being a part of the rat race for the three-meal day and a ten-day holiday, we disqualify all the potentials nature has for us. It is the strongest force in this world and it sends us numerous messages to make our lives easier and happier. Listening to its frequencies and guidelines can change your view of the world.

Just like in the movie Into the Wild, where the protagonist decides to go away from the city rush and the bright future planned by his parents, adorned with college diplomas and material possession, we can turn to the other side. Observing and listening to nature and its mind-easing messages, spending time in woods, in parks or at lakes will help us come closer to what our species used to be. Turning to nature and its laws can be a real refuge for all those people struck by poverty and injustice. Mother nature is waiting for us. Heed its call and you will do something most useful for your mental and physical health.

About: Lily is a mother of two wonderful girls, and she needed something to break her out of her bad habits. Going out to nature was just like a gift from God. Visit

For information about my website check out

Monday, January 6, 2014

To Listen and "Make it So"

I went with my daughter, Alicia, and her family to get haircuts yesterday. My granddaughters are four and six years old and sometimes I tag along to make sure the girls don’t get into any trouble while their mom is getting her hair trimmed.

Also, the cosmetology school where we go, International Academy of Hair Design, is one of my public relations clients. I like to visit the school and talk to the students, instructors and customers to see what interesting developments are taking place. Also, the school is located at Fiesta Mall in Mesa, AZ. Right below the school is an indoor playground. This is a favorite spot for the girls to play – especially in the summer time when it is too hot for outdoor fun.

My oldest granddaughter, Rosannah, has long hair. It grows quickly, but occasionally she experiences the typical childhood hair disaster - gum in her goldie locks or a misguided attempt at playing hair stylist without a license. Fortunately, she enjoys going to the award-winning beauty school and often asks me about the staff and students there. She was recently a model for the school when the producer from KPNX asked for a segment on “Creating Princess Hair.” Now Rosannah feels like she is “one of the girls.”

Rosannah is kind and observant. She is generous with her compliments and is the first to notice when I sport a new manicure or pedicure. Due to her love of beauty embellishments I have become a little more adventurous in my taste. Rather than go the traditional route (pinkish polish or French tips) I have the cosmetology students at IAHD add glittery pizzaz to my nails. My only question is why did I wait so long? Life is too short to deny myself some sparkle.

Unfortunately, Briannah, my younger granddaughter, is more skeptical of the whole beauty process. Her hair grows more slowly than her sister’s. She didn’t even need a haircut until this year. When it became necessary to have a hair cut (and not just a little bang trim) she wasn’t too thrilled about the prospect. She suggested skipping the ordeal and spending extra time in the kid’s play area instead. On one occasion she vehemently refused to cooperate. Rather than take a risk, the instructor suggested we not force the issue.

However, this time our trip to the school manifested different results. Briannah was not only willing to get her hair styled and trimmed, she was okay with getting her hair shampooed as well.

Mother and daughters lined up at the shampoo bowls for hair cleansing and a scalp massage.

This got me to wondering, “Why is it women and girls enjoy going to the hair stylist?” Of course there is the obvious, to look better. This is no small thing. When we look better, we feel better. When we feel better we smile more and interact more sociably with those we meet. It creates a happy, harmonious cycle.

But it goes deeper. A good hair stylist (or cosmetology student) listens. Really listens. They pay attention to your vision of how you want to look and they do their best to make your beauty dream a reality.

My 4-year-old grandchild is a case in point.Briannah is a chatty little girl. Her cosmetology student stylist, Rosalinda, asked her preschool patron about her life. I didn’t hear the whole conversation, but as I observed from across the room I could see my youngest granddaughter enthralled in a gabfest. I’m sure she told Rosalinda about her Christmas presents, pets and even preschool. As Briannah talked, I could see Rosalinda smile and listen attentively. I’m sure the cosmetology student complimented my favorite four-year-old on her hair and beauty.

Briannah may only be four years old, but she was experiencing something so many of us crave – to be truly listened to. The preschooler came in for a new style, but she came out with more. A true test was in the final product. In addition to the haircut, Briannah had asked for a braid. The child’s hair isn’t long enough for a traditional braid, so Rosalinda created a halo-like braid around the back of Briannah’s head. This was not Alicia’s vision for her daughter (although she wasn’t opposed to the idea) it was Briannah’s idea. Rosalinda listened and like Captain Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek, the Next Generation, she demonstrated she could “make it so” and did. Needless to say, Briannah was absolutely thrilled with the results.

When everyone was coiffed and styled

(including daddy Greg)

the family went to a rock and mineral show at nearby Mesa Community College. I could see both of my grandchildren were satisfied with their new “look” and felt more confident. When they approached one of the rock booths they chatted up one of the vendors. I’m sure the cute little girls were a welcome sight compared to the old codgers like me who generally attend these events. Before we walked away the vendor gave each girl a free baggy full of rocks and explained what each one was.

“I go to preschool and these will be great for show and tell,” Briannah exclaimed.

Her enthusiasm earned her and her sister a couple additional stones. Later, Briannah would tell me that these rocks would be part of her “collection.” Although I can’t prove it, I think Briannah’s trip to International Academy of Hair Design in Fiesta Mall, increased her self esteem. Rosalinda treated her with respect and kindness (as did Digna who took care of Rosannah’s needs) and the cosmetology students who were assigned to Alicia and Greg. Together all of the future cosmetologists created a warm and caring atmosphere, and my daughter’s family was satisfied with the experience.

However, a visit to a cosmetology school may not be for everyone. One drawback (although it can also be perceived as an advantage depending on your perspective) is the cosmetology students take their time. Speed will come with experience, but while they are learning their trade they are motivated by quality, not quantity. That said, they do not operate in a vacuum. All students perform under the supervision of a licensed instructor to ensure quality and safety.

Something I gleaned from my experience was about mutual goals. Customers come in for a service. Whether it’s a trim, hair extension, relaxer, permanent wave, color or nail service, each person has a mental image of how they want to look. The cosmetology student also has a goal and vision. He or she wants to complete their education and launch into a satisfying career where they help people look and feel great. When you combine these dual purposes you have a bonding experience where everyone’s beauty-related wishes can come true. How awesome is that?

So what’s the take-away on this story? It’s not about our hair, it’s about our ears. If we can focus on talking less and learning to listen with an open mind and heart, there is no limit to the beauty we can create in our lives.

IAHD and its sister schools in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Florida are offering 40% off all relaxer services and 50% off all perm services now through Feb. 28, 2014. Prospective cosmetology students can visit or call and make an appointment with the school’s admissions director.

Mesa Fiesta Mall – 480-820-9422
Mill Avenue in Tempe – 480-964-8675
Metro Center Mall in Phoenix – 602-944-0001
Desert Sky Mall in West Phoenix – 623-846-4000