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My Aunt Gloria left this world the other day. 84 years young and full of life right up until the end despite hauling around an oxygen tank.

Though I knew her most of my life, I don't recall any real conversations with her as a young girl visiting my cousins in their Queens Village.

In fact, I think the first time my aunt came to life for me was at the memorial gathering for my own mother when I was almost 50! We found ourselves sitting on a couch together and ended up having a really interesting conversation about how she quit smoking and drinking years back. It turned out that she was one of those rare people who could make up her mind to stop doing something and then just stop doing that thing. Like flipping a light switch from on to off, she quit smoking and drinking with little backslide or drama.

After the service I remember thinking that besides the opportunity to reconnect with my wonderful cousins who were rallying to take care of the details of my mom's wake, that fifteen minute conversation was one of the great gifts that came from that sad occasion. All because of her mantra.

Of the over 300 mantras in my Pocketful of Mantras book, only a handful are credited directly to the person who said them first or made them famous. Mostly these attributions were for authors or famous scribes like the Dalai Lama. But #91 came straight from my wise Aunt Gloria.

It was not a hearts and flowers saying. Not a mantra for the squeamish. But it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wisdoms to keep up front and present every day so as to live our best lives. For some its truth is too 'in your face", too distressing. But for me, it was so powerful that I felt compelled to give her credit in the book.

I remember exactly how she offered it to me. I asked her how she was able to so instantly, so easily, choose a new course—like quitting a two-pack a day smoking habit cold turkey—or even just deciding to say 'yes' to lugging her, now ever-present, oxygen tank out for ice cream with her grandkids. Shrugging her shoulders and tilting her head slightly, she leaned over and in her beautiful, raspy, matter-of-fact, New York drawl said, "Well I'm gonna be a long time dead."

•••

I flew in for my Aunt Gloria's funeral. It felt important for this family love to come back around to my dear cousins and return the hugs they gave me when my own mom died. But I guess I also wanted to honor a woman whose brilliant, hard-earned, heart-filled life left an unexpected and beautiful mark on my own by being witness to when her mantra, sadly came true.

She will be missed but not forgotten. Rest In Peace Aunt Gloria

Past is yet to be determined

The past is yet to be determined.

It was a comment made by one of my professors in grad school during a discussion on how to help clients get unstuck from their past stories.

It was the kind of line that didn’t make sense to me at the time, so I tucked it away in my unconscious puzzling it out until it finally made sense. Eventually I got it big time. Both professionally and personally.

It is not a literal comment. Events and facts about the past are still facts. You have an older sister. Your father was abusive. You were married and then divorced. You have two children. You were fired from your job last month. Etc. But what those facts mean to you, how these facts effect you, is determined not by the past but by where you are in the present.

Suppose you got fired from your job last week. You are devastated, blind-sided, feel hopeless and afraid and spend the week half stunned, half depressed. At some point you get back out there and stay at the job game long enough to land a new job. A year later you are telling your friends how much you love your current job and that same firing is the luckiest break you ever got.

Of course it can go the other way too. A month after moving to a big city you are having a fabulous time enjoying the sights and sounds and bragging about the fact that you made the move. 3 years later, cramped in a small apartment because that’s all you can afford, you are cursing yourself for that impulsive decision.

I’ve seen this kind of remorse, regret or even resentment spin on the past at the break up of a long term relationship. The points of the past that get elevated are the ones that correspond to current feelings. He was always a selfish person. She was never please-able. Did we ever love each other?

When the past has a negative spin, when it diminishes joy or success or positive regard, it can be wise to be particularly wary. It helps to remember that this spin is much more of a statement on how you are feeling right now than what really happened back then.

Getting to the root of why you are spinning your story a certain way can serve you. What need are you seeking to fulfill? Are you looking for support? Empathy? Validation of the struggles you’ve had to endure? Permission to feel helpless or hopeless or angry?

There is nothing wrong with these reasons. But be careful of the price you may pay to contort the past this way: Being depressed... Holding on to anger... Living life as a victim...

Throwing yesterday completely under the bus may serve your mood now but at the cost of dismissing the benefits of that same past. Can you find balance with those negative highlights? Can you find gratitude for your past or shift your story to notice how far you’ve come? Can you work to acknowledge the strengths you now possess exactly because of those past challenges you’ve had?

I invite you to be determined to determine your past in such a way that you feel stronger, lighter and more at peace. Find the value in those past facts and I guarantee it will serve you right now. Today. In the present. (And because of that, your past and your present will surely determine a nicer future as well!)

Its_A_Girl

(I have three awesome sons but I've always wanted a daughter, too. If I had had one, here's what I would say to her now.)

Dear daughter,

WOW - have you grown up. It's like I can't even remember when you were a little girl. Now you are sorting out the world of school, friends, boys, sex, career plans, and eventually marriage? Motherhood?

It's a confusing time with lots of pressure and messages about what you should be doing. And I know I've given you plenty of advice already but I hope you are open to a little more. There are some tough challenges you are facing and I - well - as your mother, am worried for you. ...continue reading

Telling_A_SecretWhat is the secret to a good life? I have been actively pondering this question since I was asked to answer it during my recent adventure to become Good Morning America's first Advice Guru. (I made it to the top 20 and this was my last challenge: answer this question on video in 20 seconds or less. Which may be why I didn't make it past this round. Has anyone ever known me to only talk for 20 seconds?)

My brain raced with thousands of thoughts! I sought the wise words of spiritual leaders, popular writers, poets, musicians, bumper stickers, and the wisdom of family, facebook friends, fans, my gratitude group, my teenagers and my clients. On the suggestion of one friend, I even googled it!

I scribbled notes, typed and reworked nearly 50 answers and recorded a half a dozen less than brilliant clips. When I finally had my first major insight - ...continue reading

Massage TherapyStress is like the flu. It can get passed on just by coming into contact with someone who has it! And holidays - with all their high expectations, sense of obligations, crowd navigations, and family connections - set up the perfect conditions for catching and passing on this bug.

But even if you yourself are good at keeping stress at bay (or just don't need anyone else's), there are likely all kinds of people in your life that are coughing and sneezing and groaning about their aches and pains. So if you want to help a person who's laid up with a bad case of stress, here are 3 steps to consider:

Step 1. Practice Prevention. Stay healthy with your own stress. Don't get too close to others who are infected and definitely don't use their condition as an excuse to add your own stress to a potential epidemic. And don't forget to practice good handwashing throughout the day to keep from spreading stress to others. ...continue reading

So what do you think?Dog Training vs Couple Training

Dog training or Couple's training, which one do people like better?

-~-

Now, I'm not saying that this is a scientific study or anything, but from what I'm seeing dogs win. Hands down.

A brief explanation: I offer a half day couple's training that can be registered for on-line through Ann Arbor Rec and Ed. Because of how the alphabet works, before they started adding winter classes, Dog Training came right before my Fight Right, Love Better class. Checking in to see how registration was going, I found that the last Dog Training class filled fast and you'd better hurry up for the January session. My class however is not even getting a bite. ...continue reading

YTML Front Cover 2012Excerpt from You'll Thank Me Later ~

A Guide to Raising Grateful Children

(& Why That Matters)

The Nature of Boys

According to research, girls seem to access gratitude easier and with a broader scope than boys. How much of this is biological and how much is cultural is hard to say but it is likely both.

Research has even found that American men value gratitude less than men of other cultures. The theory is that gratitude means that ...continue reading


Not_Greatest_Mom_-_CCodolphieI remember the morning I realized it. My sons were 6, 4 1/2 and 18 months old and had done something that had gotten me upset. What they did completely escapes me now which tells you how bad it must not have been, but for whatever reason I went beyond my usual aggravation to a crazy place.

Even now I can recall the rush of heat rising to my face. And then the roar. It was a furious, excruciating explosion of a person going insane. The tirade went on for at least several minutes as I exhausted my frustration and despair at this latest infraction. On and on I went, like a hurricane slowing down only to gather new force. ...continue reading