Friday, December 30, 2011

The Glad Game

"You're so Pollyanna, Peggy," a colleague exclaimed at a meeting a few months ago. Apparently she didn't agree with my optimistic solution to a problem.

I sat back in my chair and smiled. On the surface it appeared that I took this comment lightly, as I'm sure it was intended, but on the inside I wondered what being, "so Pollyanna" meant. The way it was stated sounded a bit insulting, so when I got home I looked up Pollyanna on Wikipedia. Here's what the mastermind of the World Wide Web said,   

"Pollyanna is a best-selling novel by Eleanor H. Porter (1913) with the title character's name becoming a popular term for someone with the same optimistic outlook. Eleven more Pollyanna sequels, known as "Glad Books" were later published. Pollyanna has been adapted for film several times."

What's it about?

A young orphan girl, Pollyanna, goes to live in Vermont with her wealthy, but stern aunt. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls, "The Glad Game," an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The objective is to find something to be glad about in every situation. With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt's dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. 

I felt better after reading about Pollyanna. I hadn't been insulted at that meeting, I had been complimented. After all, don't lots of people spend money on self help products and many hours in therapy trying to be "Pollyanna."

And does it work? Can being positive actually result in feeling positive? If you Google that question, you'll find people who say, a positive attitude = a happier life and those who argue the point. I figured the Mayo Clinic was a relatively unbiased source so went to it via my search engine. Here's what they report:

"Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It's also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess." For more click here:

So maybe Pollyanna was on to something with her "Glad Game." She explains it below (sorry about the marginal audio):

If it works in the movies, it can work in real life, right? You bet. Over the next two weeks we'll focus on true stories about how a positive attitude made all the difference, even saved lives.

Kick Back Book of the Week:

Let's go with Pollyanna by Eleanore H. Porter. It's a classic that if you haven't read, you'll be glad you finally did. If you've read it before, read it again. It'll be a good reminder of how to play The Glad Game.

Kick Back Song of the Week:

Ordinary Miracle sung by Sarah McLachlan from the movie, Charlotte's Web. This simple song is about the "glad" that surrounds us everyday. 

A Little Something Extra:

Watch how Laverne and Shirley play the glad game without even knowing it.  


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

No matter how or if you celebrate during this holiday weekend, I wish you the best. I'm taking a few moments to enjoy friends, family and a blessed year. Thanks to all you pingers who have dropped by to visit my pinpoint on the blogosphere. I'll be back on Tuesday.

 Don't forget to look for those spaces in your day where a bit of fun can be found. It'll make all the difference.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Light a candle for an Immediate Kick Back

Candles light up a birthday cake, illuminate a dark room, add romance to a dinner table and are used as a sign of remembrance and celebration in different religions around the world.

Lighting the Hanukkah Menorah is a ritual that has been observed since the destruction of the Temple in 332 BCE when the Jews refused to acknowledge the deification of Alexander the Great of Macedonia ( The menorah symbolizes the ideal of universal enlightenment. The branches allude to human knowledge and the central lamp represents the light of God..

The ring or wheel of the Advent wreath of evergreens decorated with candles was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. The circle symbolized the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signified the persistence of life in the midst of winter. Christians now light one candle on the wreath each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.

The way religions around the world use candles warrants a blog of their own and I'm guessing there are hundreds.

What is it about a formation of wax with a flickering flame that makes humans feel at peace and gives them hope?

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson ( tell us that, "The speediest way to stamp out stress is by engaging one or more of your senses."

Think about the senses a candle ignites...a kaleidoscopic light in the dark, an aromatic scent, soft warmth and a whisper of sound as the flame dances.

The only way you can feel the calming effect of a candle is by lighting one and staring at it for a few minutes. There is no way you can experience the full sensuality of a candle over the Internet. Your eyes may water a touch when you first gaze at the flame. You may even see double, but as your focus settles in you will escape to a faraway place.

In honor of the candle, I'll share an award winning film, Lightheaded by Michael Dacko, which focuses on the journey of a flame. The animation is incredible. Click on the first link:
<iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="400" height="225" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href="> from <a href=" Dacko</a> on <a href=">

A Little Something Extra:

"Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." 
~Chinese Proverb~

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Instant Peace what is peace?  

"Peace is a state of harmony, the absence of hostility," according to Wikipedia. "To be at peace with one's self would indicate a sense of serenity, calm, and equilibrium."
People that experience inner peace say that the feeling is not dependent on time, people, place, or any external object or situation. It's keeping oneself strong in the face of discord or tension. It is the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Sounds good, but how do we get it?

Way to complex for this blog, but here's a link to the Peace Pilgrim that should help launch your journey:

What I'll give you are some moments that evoke a peaceful feeling, at least for me. It's not scientific, but I have felt a warm sensation in my core, which I interpret as peace, when I have experienced the following:  
  1. Giving - It can range from making a donation after a natural disaster, volunteering, and saying, "yes"  to the cashier at the grocery store when asked to donate a dollar to the charity of the month. It can be quite spontaneous too. This morning, while at the gym, I waited in line to get an exercise mat for class. The first woman lifted one out of the bin and instead of taking it to her spot on the floor, she started passing them out. Everyone smiled. This act of easy and unexpected giving generated that peaceful feeling.
  2. Breathing - Taking slow deep breaths and focusing on them almost instantly soothes sorrow or anxiety that you may be feeling. Formally, it's called meditation and it really does work. 
  3. Self Commitment - When I set a goal and accomplish it, I feel satisfied, at peace. It can be as simple as promising myself to make the bed in the morning, doing abdominal crunches before my shower or drinking eight glasses of water throughout the day. The bottom line is I valued myself enough to keep my word and it feels pretty good.  
  4. Creativity - Doing something you love. For me it's writing. When I write, especially fiction, the world around me seems to disappear along with problems. We all have a creative side that, when accessed, helps us escape to a peaceful place, whether it's making an awesome play list on an I-Pod, snapping photos or sketching a pretty scene.
  5. Smiling - Smiling is the true peace sign. If you give it away, you'll almost always get one in return too.
  6. A Candle - There's something about lighting a candle then gazing at the flame that ignites peace -- an instant calm. I'm not sue why, but we'll explore that in my next blog post.

These are a few things that have given me a glimpse of what peace feels like. Please share ways that foster a sense of peace for you.

A Little Something Extra: 

Here's a short story about a mean school photographer who tries to get 4-year-olds to frown instead of smile for their class picture. The last little girl just won't give in. Does the magic of a smile work? You'll see. Click the link below:

<iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="400" height="225" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href="/30133754">School Portrait (2011)</a> from <a href="/picopictures">Michael Berliner</a> on <a href="/">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tis the Season to be Peaceful

The holiday season can be a wondrous menagerie of parties, gifts, culinary delicacies and glittering decorations. On the other hand, it can be a reminder of loss, loneliness, illness and financial woes. Aren't I a downer? Possibly, but it's true.

It can be annoying when people go around telling you to be merry and happy just because it's December when all you want to do is go into hibernation with the bears. I can recall a Christmas when my life was in the dumpster and the seasonal pressure to be joyful made things so much worse. What did I do? I stepped back from the holiday hoopala and gave myself the gift of peaceful reflection. I made time to meditate, took long walks, read books and cried. I spent less money and made up excuses not to attend parties. What was the result? A cleansing calm feeling and a sense of control in my life.

I'm pretty indifferent about Brad Pitt, but I really did like something he said this year, which is, "I think happiness is overrated, truthfully. I do. I think sometimes you're happy, sometimes you're not. There's too much pressure to be happy. I don't know. I know I will be at times and I know I won't be at times. Satisfied, at peace, those would be more goals for myself."

On my difficult Christmas (and I'm pretty sure, if we live long enough, we'll all have one) I wasn't happy, but I was at peace. I let myself grieve. Although sad, I felt satisfied -- and from there I was able to move forward. Along those same lines, Scott Peck starts The Road Less Traveled (which spent 694 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller List) with, "Life is hard. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."

It's sort of like, life is hard. I know it and I'm going to deal with it. When the hard comes along I'll accept it and that is where peace comes from. So if you're feeling lonely or depressed or lost this December, know you're not alone. It's all part of living on the planet Earth. No one can escape it. It's okay to step back from the merriment. Kick back, embrace your melancholy and know that a better day is on the way. 

Remember holiday celebrations are not prescribed. If you're into it, go for the festivity -- I know I am this year. But if you're not, shrug your shoulders and tell yourself  it's okay because it really is.

This week we'll look at ways to bring peace into the holiday season whether we're feeling happy or sad.

Kick Back Song of the Week:

Here Comes the Sun by the George Harrison. The earth's star may not always be visible, but it is always there. We can count on that even when it's hidden behind a cloud.   

Kick Back Book of the Week:

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Jew who was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany. His parents, brother and wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens. Although he suffered extreme torture, he discovered what he refers to as, "the last of human freedoms." He could decide within himself how all of what was happening was going to affect him. He chose to keep his basic identity intact. Although I don't imagine he was happy, he found peace. 

No one can say it better than Viktor Frankl himself. Here he is speaking about how to overcome suffering in 2009.  

A Little Something Extra:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bubblemania -- It's Not Just for Kids

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, bubbles are my favorite toy. There's something about these clear orbs floating around that makes me smile. An image of laughing children, sunny days and a peaceful feeling surfaces when I see bubbles. I'm not alone. Bubbles are the best selling toy in the world and have been around since the 18th century when mothers used to give children leftover washing soap to play with.

But they're not just for kids. There's a street corner in the art district of Berlin where adults gather just to make bubbles:

Bubble sections are featured in many museums around the world. Here's a scene from the Hong Kong Museum of Science:

Parents and preschool teachers use bubbles to calm and entertain active children:

There's even such a thing as bubble painting:

Why all this love of bubbles? Some things are meant to be enjoyed, not analyzed, but I do like the explanation given by Sir John Edward Millais who painted the portrait, "Bubbles" in 1886.

Millais stated, "Bubbles are fragile and have a brief moment of beauty before they burst." In the 1800s Dutch artists painted children blowing bubbles to convey the brevity of human life, the transience of beauty and the inevitability of death.

All this magic costs about 49 cents per bottle at most stores.

So the next time you're feeling stressed, blow some bubbles. See what happens. If you you don't have any around watch this video:

A Little Something Extra:

Bubble Recipe:

1/2 cup of dish detergent (washing up liquid)
5 cups water (soft water is best - if your water is very hard consider using distilled or bottled water)
2 tablespoons glycerin (available at the pharmacy or supermarket). You can substitute light corn syrup (not golden syrup!)
Mix the ingredients together very carefully, so that you they don't get too bubbly. Pour into storage containers and, if possible, leave overnight to blend.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shopping for Toys on the Internet

If we're going to start playing, we'll need some toys. Luckily, we're smack in the middle of the prime shopping season so there's lots to choose from. I did a little Internet browsing and found some unique items. Here are my top ten:

10. Skatecycle - I am certain I would injure myself just standing on this contraption, but I wouldn't mind watching someone with a touch of coordination try spinning around on this. I'd advise wearing a helmet and I'm assuming the "no driving while talking on a cell phone law" would apply.

9. L.L. Bean Snowman Kit - No more searching for carrots in the vegetable bin with this handy kit around. Does not include snow. 

8. Photo*opoly - Interesting, but looks like a lot of work finding and pasting photos to play a really long game. I think I prefer the version that Parker Brothers makes for you. 

7.  Lady Gaga Paper Doll Book - No. She doesn't sing and dance when you pull the tabs.

6. R2 Fish Training School Kit - I had to include a video for this one. Just click the arrow. I might just buy a goldfish to see if this works.


5. Apples to Apples Board Game - There is always a non-electronic game under my tree on Christmas Day. My family plays it some time before dinner. My sons, at ages 21 and 23, tell me that they still enjoy this tradition. Of course, they could just be humoring me so I keep them on my Verizon plan and stay off their Facebook page. 


4. Air Swimmers R/C Inflatable Shark - Did anyone say air shark? For $30.00, I might buy the fierce predator. It could create quite a kick back moment as we watch it fly through my living room. With a 40 foot remote range, this toy could also come in handy if an intruder ever pays a visit.

Now, for my three all time favorite toys. I seriously would love to open a package and see these:

3. Silly Putty - I love flattening this sticky substance over newspaper comics and seeing the images that are copied onto it.

2. Crayola Crayons - When my sons were young they would be on to a new activity long before I was done coloring my pictures. Love choosing the various shades for my own unique design.

1. My favorite all time toy has to be bubbles. I really miss blowing these clear orbs into the sky and hated to give them up when my kids lost interest. Maybe I could start making bubbles again without looking too silly. You'll see why in my next blog post.   

Please share any unique toys that you come across while shopping this year. Always fun to see what's out there. I'd also love to learn about your favorite toy.

A Little Something Extra:

"Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities."

Stuart Brown, MD
Contemporary American psychiatrist

Friday, December 9, 2011

Come Out and Play

Sometimes a kick back moment finds us and says, "Come play." It usually occurs when we're buzzing around like this:

It happened to me this past week and I almost didn't see it. I wonder why???

I was rushing through my work day when a 6-year-old girl (I'll call her Annie) asked me to read her a story. You see, I'm a speech-language pathologist who conducts evaluations (among other things) for a school district. I see a lot of kids.The problem is I generally don't get to play with them. When I assess struggling students, I do it efficiently, so they don't miss what's going on in their classroom.

Last Friday afternoon, as I was testing Annie, her eyes kept shifting to a bookcase. I re-directed her to  task, but her attention consistently drifted back to that bookshelf. When we were finished, she gazed at me with hopeful eyes and said, "Will you read me a story?"

I checked the clock. I still had one more appointment scheduled. I looked at those eyes. Her class was in the library. I figured the librarian was right in the middle of an activity so Annie wouldn't have a clue what was happening. I decided to be 15 minutes late for my appointment and told Annie to pick out a book.

Annie jumped up and skipped to the bookcase. She browsed for a minute, tapping her finger on her chin, then returned with The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. It made me smile. I'd read this book at least 100 times to my own sons who are now 21 and 23. Annie and I meandered through the pages meeting various animals and contemplated whether the spider would stop weaving his web to go play. Right in the middle of our own very busy day, Annie and I took a moment to kick back.

Was it a good thing? We enjoyed it, but did it make our work day more productive?

"Play is one of the top ways to develop stress resilience," explains Dr. Kathleen Hall from the Stress Institute. She goes on to say, "We cannot be stressed and play at the same time. When we play, our blood pressure goes down, our heart rate goes up; we produce endorphins. We get into almost this flow state of happiness."

Research points out that recess breaks at work increases productivity in the office up to 127 percent. Click here for more:

I have to agree. After the fun reading, the sense of urgency left me and I still made it to my next appointment. I was just happier when I arrived.

Am I suggesting you bring The Very Busy Spider, play dough and bubbles to work with you? Probably wouldn't be a good idea unless you work at a daycare center. But I, and research, found that taking mini-breaks at work to do something you enjoy will actually increase your performance and will make you a more content employee.

Stay tuned. This week we'll explore various ways to incorporate play into our life. Any ideas?

Kick Back Song of the Week:

Peter, Paul and Mary remind you to never grow up all the way with Puff the Magic Dragon.

Kick Back Book of the Week:

Find a child, if you don't have one of your own, and read him or her The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. I guarantee you a kick back moment:

A Little Something Extra:

"Life must be lived as play."
Greek philosopher
427–347 BC


Saturday, December 3, 2011


"Would you like to try some wine?" a man wearing an evergreen sweater and a smile asked.

"Sure. Do you have Pinot Grigio?" I responded.

"Absolutely. Do you prefer a fruity or oak flavor?"

"Can you explain the difference?" I asked, a touch embarrassed. I never quite understood what that meant.

He explained and went on to tell how the wine I was about to taste was fermented in Northern California. The man, who introduced himself as...gosh I wish I could remember, maybe Jeff, pointed to a platter of cheese and crackers set on a table adorned with garland. "Help yourself."

I did.

Where was I?

Not  a swanky holiday party...Not an expensive wine bar...Not a really good dream. I was shopping on Black Friday.

While other shoppers were stampeding to purchase $2.00 waffle irons and dodging mad women with pepper spray, I was being treated like a socialite in a small wine shop in Saratoga Springs. Thank goodness. I don't know about you, but I think the Black Friday craziness has gotten out of hand. Just look at some of the headlines:

The L.A. Times:   Wal-Mart's Unhappy Holiday Tradition: Black Friday Violence

Bangor Daily News:    Man Accused of Stabbing Tire Over Black Friday Dispute

Chicago Tribune:   Violence, Pepper Spray Mar Black Friday Shopping

Tis the season to be jolly?

Despite these disturbing headlines, I still believe holiday shopping can be delightful and I proved it at that wine shop. You're probably thinking, but how expensive? Surprisingly, not very. I bought a variety pack of six as a gift for $60.00. Plus, I received  a mini seminar, had questions answered, was treated to friendly greetings, conversation, music and food.

After placing the wine in my car, I continued shopping. I experienced a store front window frosted with snowflake etchings, bells that chimed when I entered a shop, a platter of cookies, hot apple cider and various scents like pine, chocolate and peppermint. I came home energized, cheerful and ready to delve into the holiday season.

I can count myself lucky. An informal survey conducted by Shop Talk found that most people do feel stressed about holiday shopping regardless of their budget. Reasons include crowded malls, outrageously chaotic traffic conditions, uncertainty of what to buy as a gift, and more gifts to buy than the wallet can accommodate.

Well, I believe for every problem there is a solution. So if one of these stresses is causing a frazzled feeling to accompany you while shopping for those perfect gifts, here's my "top ten" solutions to shoo it away:

  10.   With the exception of Black Friday, start early in the morning. Parking spots will be more abundant, crowds will be less and stampeders will most likely be sleeping off their spending spree hangover from the previous night.

  9.  Go to at least three small shops on a street as opposed to the mall. Chances are you'll be treated to delicious snacks, greeted by friendly merchants and offered gift suggestions for those hard to buy for folks on your list.

  8.  Enjoy the ambiance. The music, decorations and scents are amazing this time of year. Don't ignore them.

  7.  If you don't have small children of your own, spend five minutes watching other people's kids as they step up to greet Santa. Scenarios you may encounter are beard tugging, screams of apprehension and eyes filled with awe.

  6.  Buy a cup of hot chocolate and find someplace to sit. Watch the bustle pass by you.

  5.  Don't fret if you can't find the perfect present for someone. People love gift cards. They really do. If you think it's too impersonal, put it in a decorative gift bag along with an inexpensive universal favorite like candy, gloves, a book, lotion, a candle, gourmet coffee, etc.

  4.  Don't forget an important person who is often ignored during the holidays -- You. Treat yourself to lunch at your favorite spot when shopping is done.

  3.   Don't pull all of your hair out trying to find that special someone a "must have" item. If they are that special, they'll understand you did your best. Yes...even kids...especially kids. Remember his or her birthday is less than a year away.

  2.  Stay within your budget. The credit card bill that comes in January can be more frightening than trying to get your hands on a $3.00 towel at Target on Black Friday. Believe me. I've received one of these shocking statements before -- not a kick back moment.

1.  Enjoy that giving feeling. Don't worry about the actual gift. Most can't even remember the presents they received the previous year. What they can recall is the warmth that came with it. Don't lose it at the mall.   

Kick Back Book of the Week:

I'm going with a classic short story this week, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. No matter how you celebrate this season of giving and peace or what your beliefs may be, this simple tale tells how the best presents don't always come in a package. It begins:

"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies."

To read the entire story click here:

Kick Back Song of the Week:

If holiday shopping really does become horror shopping just start humming In My Mind I'm Going to Carolina. Hopefully it will take the edge off. Here it is sung by one of my favorites, James Taylor:


A Little Something Extra:

Saratoga Springs, NY
Happy Holiday Shopping!

Friday, November 25, 2011


"What can I bring for Thanksgiving dinner?" I asked my sister.

"Let's see. An apple pie, a bottle of wine, umm...," she replied.

This was good so far. There's a gourmet market in town that makes delicious pies and wine is easy. So while my sister is home on Thanksgiving day, stuffing a 24 pound turkey, peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables, I'll be on my couch exchanging glances between the newspaper and the Macy's Day Parade. Should I feel guilty? Probably, but I got over that years ago. After all, my sister insists that she loves preparing the Thanksgiving meal, and frankly, I don't. In fact, I don't even like to cook. Over the years hungry children and a distaste for frozen dinners have forced me into this chore, but when given the option, I'd rather let someone else do the work. I mean, isn't that why they have salad bars and those convenient rotisserie chickens in grocery stores today.

So as my sister tried to think of one more item for me to bring, I thought about who might flub up a lip sync on an elaborate float at the parade.

Then it came -- those dreaded words...,"Peg would you mind making the butternut squash?"

"Absolutely not," I said as a jitterbug starting dancing in my gut. How do you turn a hard peach vegetable shaped like a warped trumpet into a velvety orange souffle?

I started asking around about how to make that happen and received all kinds of advice like:

"Go with frozen squash. No one will know the difference."

"Who eats butternut squash, anyway?"

"Order it at that gourmet market in town." Really? At $24.99 for six servings?

"Making squash isn't hard, although cutting it in half is like trying to slice an ice cube and the pulp is so messy."

"Just bake it before mashing. Don't try peeling it. The skin is almost as tough as a pineapple's."

It was clear that butternut squash was the vegetable from Hell. I thought about going with the frozen option. No. Not for Thanksgiving. Maybe order it. I'd need twelve servings = $49.98. Can't do it -- not when I can make it for $10.00 and that extra $40.00 could go to the food pantry. I had only one option -- buck up and prepare the squash into something edible.                  

I suddenly had a revelation. Cooking could quite possibly be a kick back moment. I Googled Cooking and Stress and found volumes. Examples of some of the conclusions are:
  • Chopping vegetables can release stress especially if you use them like a voodoo doll (think of that guy with road rage who followed you down the highway on your way to work the other day, then chop...chop...chop).    
  • Aromatherapy - Here’s a brief breakdown of some common cooking scents and how they can enhance your mood:
    • Energizing/Invigorating: Orange, Rosemary, Lemon.
    • Stress Relief: Lavender, Sage.
    • Sleep Aids: Lavender, Chamomile.
    • Mood Elevators: Mint, Basil.
  • Zen Effect - After you start cooking, you can sometimes reach the Zen state of meditation. You’re in the zone of cutting, grinding, and sauteing. All that matters is the food.
So this past Thanksgiving morning I did what many American do, I cooked. Here's the proof:

Yes. I did cheat. My local grocery store did such a nice job peeling and chopping the butternut squash for me, I wanted to thank them by purchasing it. Plus, I had a good week and didn't feel the need to implement "voodoo" on anyone by stabbing a vegetable.

By the way, people do eat butternut squash at Thanksgiving and the compliments I received for my efforts were wonderful.

Is cooking now my favorite kick back activity? No. But do I get why it is for many people? Yes. And with the right music, the heavenly aromas and a glass full of Chardonnay by my side, I just might engage in culinary endeavors a little more often.

For more on cooking and stress relief click here:

Kick Back Song of the Week:

In honor of delicious food no matter who does the cooking...Frim Fram Sauce sung by Diana Krall --incredible piano and bass solos:

Kick Back Book of the Week:

Melissa Senate mixes love, cooking and magic into an incredible recipe. A fun, heartwarming read! Warning: It will make you very hungry -- delicious descriptions of food.

For more, click here,

A Little Something Extra:

Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law for all of the scrumptious holidays!!! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The worldwide web is zipping with messages about blessings this Thanksgiving season. It's great -- all that appreciation being spread around. Even in times of distress, I love the idea of digging deep and pulling out a few reasons to be grateful. H.U. Westermayer pointed out the following...

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving." 

Humbling, isn't it?  Think about about the Pilgrims then think about some of the things we gripe about.

I for one had a very fortunate year. I have a home, a job, food on the table, a loving family, friends and peace. I really don't have to search too far for reasons to be thankful. I would, however, like to add something new to my list this Thanksgiving  -- something intangible. Something that if humans didn't have, they would surely perish and if they have, will undoubtedly flourish. What is it? 


What is perseverance? says, "Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement."

Oswald Chamber says, "Perserverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen." 

Just think about some of your hard times. If you didn't have the will to take the next step on the ladder to a better day, you'd be stuck in a bad place forever. We all have the power to persevere if we choose to -- the power to believe in ourselves. For that I am grateful. In fact, the people who keep going, even when times are tough, are generally the ones who triumph. Just look at what the Pilgrims started -- a country called the United States of America.

The easiest way to make my point is through example. I'm going to target two individuals in the entertainment and technology world. Why? Because this is a kick back blog and everyone who visits my pinpoint on the Blogosphere is looking for ways to check out from the stresses of the real world, to slow down a bit. One of the best ways to do this is through fun. 

As I began researching two giants in the entertainment and technology industry, I realized how much they endured before rising to the top, and even when they fell, they stood tall again. These people had extraordinary talent, but just as important, they had stamina. 

Walt Disney: 
Disney formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921. He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. Flushed with success, he began to experiment with new storytelling techniques, his costs went up and the distributor went bankrupt. He was forced to dissolve his company, could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food. This was just one of many setbacks for Disney. Others included being turned down by a production company for his treasured mouse, Mickey, because a large mouse on a screen would scare women. The Three Little Pigs was rejected because a story with only four characters wouldn't hold people's interest.

Thanks for persevering Mr. Disney. The joy you created will be with us forever.

Walt Disney - The Early Years

Did you really do all that, Mr Disney?

"If I dream it I can do it."  
Walt Disney

Steve Jobs:

At just 30 years old Steve Jobs was successful, wealthy and a global celebrity. And then it all came crashing down. He had revolutionized personal computing and created an iconic brand – only to be forced out of the company he had built into a billion-dollar colossus. "I was out -- and very publicly out," he recalled in a commencement speech at Stanford University. "What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating." He added, "I was a very public failure." (Time Magazine)

Fortunately Steve Jobs rallied after his fall to invent all kinds of fun and useful technology for us.Thank you, Mr. Jobs. The world of computing today would not be even close to what it is if you didn't persevere.
"I want to put a ding in the universe."
Steve Jobs

Although these are big stories about big people all of us go through a difficult period in our life, usually several. Whether we witness our child struggling, lose a loved one, are lonely, broke, disappointed...the list of possible challenges is endless. We could give into the gloom by whining and complaining or we could choose to persevere. Christopher Reeve once said, "I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

So this Thanksgiving as I pass around the butternut squash and mashed potatoes, I will not only give thanks for traditional blessings, but for the option of perseverance when times are tough. I will also give a nod to those who persevered to provide me with entertainment -- a realm that takes me away from everyday stress to a faraway place where I can dodge problems and strife.

Kick Back Song of the Week:

For Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, the kick back song of the week is When You Wish Upon a Star sung by Billy Joel. Thank you for seeing that star, reaching for it and grabbing it, no matter how far you had to stretch or how hot it got. Even when it slipped out of your hands, you lassoed it right back and held it even tighter.      

Kick Back Book of the Week:

Talk about perseverance, just read, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A description from follows:

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, Zamperini, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulled himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Laura Hillenbrand writes an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

A Little Something Extra:

Steve Jobs
1955 - 2011
Thank you.


Sunday, November 13, 2011


Who would have thought hiking, sitting down to eat an orange or reading a novel during the day would be hard (see previous posts)? I mean I'm not trying to learn how to write in Chinese -- just trying to kick back a little. But it feels strange to slow down -- like I'm being lazy, unambitious. Eating an orange at the table instead of grabbing a few grapes as I sprint from one activity to the next seems wrong. It's almost like a jockey is on my back cracking his whip to get me to race along. I tell him to stop, but his persistent snapping disrupts my tranquility. I guess learning to slow down is just like learning any new skill. It takes time and practice.  

My quest to relax reminded me of a method I used when I was a clinical supervisor at The College of Saint Rose -- Four Stages of Competence developed at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970s.[I spoke of these stages when encouraging students studying to become speech-language pathologists as they fumbled through their first few therapy sessions. They are:

Unconscious Competence - This is when we see, hear or know about a skill and decide to try it. It can be anything from learning how to make home made pizza dough to downhill skiing. It looks easy - shouldn't be too hard.  
I think I'll learn to ski.
Conscious Incompetence - This is when you try the skill and discover it's not so easy. You fall ten times skiing down the bunny hill. It fact, you can hardly scoot over to the chairlift on those long, narrow skates. Your pizza dough comes out full of holes and no matter how hard you try to pinch them together, the holes keep coming back. You have to make a decision. Do you keep working at the skill or is it simply not worth it? After all, the Italian place down the street makes an excellent pizza and hanging out at the ski lodge has its perks. If you decide pizza making and skiing are skills you truly want to master, get ready for some work and pain.
Do I really want to do this?

Conscious Competence - This is when you obtain some proficiency at the skill, but you have to think about it. The cookbook is right in front of you as you carefully spread out the pizza dough. If skiing, you dutifully attend the lessons you signed up for and practice, practice, practice.

Slow and Steady

Unconscious Competence - This is when holes are history as you spread out that pizza dough and you glide down the ski slopes, not even realizing how fluid your parallel ski turns have become. 

This is fun! I think I'll try snowboarding.

I have tried both pizza dough making and skiing. The pizza dough thing ended at stage two, conscious incompetence, way too frustrating for me. But I made it all the way to stage four, unconscious competence, with skiing (a long as I don't wander onto double diamonds -- the expert slopes). It was my choice. I didn't care about making the perfect pizza dough, but loved the idea of spending sunny winter days gliding down snowy mountain trails. 

So, do I persist in my mission to slow down, as with skiing, or do I dump the idea like I did with the pizza dough and keep spinning around like the Tasmanian Devil?  

I want to make an intelligent choice so I searched the Internet and found this site: 

According to the Heart of Healing Website the benefits of relaxing include:
  • gives the heart a rest by slowing the heart rate
  • reduces blood pressure
  • slows the rate of breathing, which reduces the need for oxygen
  • increases blood flow to the muscles
  • decreases muscle tension

As a result of relaxation, many people experience –

  • more energy
  • better sleep
  • enhanced immunity
  • increased concentration
  • better problem-solving abilities
  • greater efficiency
  • smoother emotions — less anger, crying, anxiety, frustration
  • less headaches and pain
Okay. My decision is made. I will continue to make time in my day to kick back. Before I know it, I'll be sailing into Unconscious Competence.              

To learn more about the Four Stages of Competence click   here:  

Kick Back Song of the Week:

      Sail Away sung by Enya. Enjoy the journey into peace and serenity.


Kick Back Book of the Week:

Learning to Breathe: My Year Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life by Priscilla Warner. A spirited New Yorker sets out to find her inner Tibetan monk by meditating every day, aiming to rewire her brain and her body and mend her frayed nerves. On this winding path from panic to peace, with its hairpin emotional curves and breathtaking drops, she also delves into a wide range of spiritual and alternative health practices, some serious and some . . . not so much (taken from book description on

 It's amazing. The simple act of breathing, when focused on, can provide us with so many benefits. Priscilla Warner talks about her book below:

A Little Something Extra:

"Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you."
  ~John De Paola~

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