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Griffin's 11th birthdayLast week Griffin turned 11! The photo to the right was taken at the trampoline park where he celebrated with his friends!

The park had an obstacle course, a basketball court (where you could get a big enough bounce to do an awesome dunk!) and a dodge ball court. It was another amazing experience that I can add to the many wonderful adventures I’ve enjoyed being Griffin’s mom.

As you’ve probably noticed, I don’t think you need a birthday to find an excuse to celebrate!!

Sure, I have tons of challenges, but you will almost always find me focusing on what’s new and good in my life – from delighting in my sweet family, to learning how to ski, to quitting my hospital job, to working with super yummy clients – because I can always find something to celebrate.

Here’s the thing: The present moment is the greatest gift you have. It is perfectly created for you according to your stated beliefs. You state these beliefs by the thoughts you choose to focus on and the actions you decide to take.

I know I created the life I am currently enjoying and I know you can too. If you, for the most part, are not enjoying your life, you can change that.

For me, my life got SO MUCH better when I decided to focus on appreciation.

I’m delighted to share that I was asked to be an early reviewer for Barbara Ann Kipfer‘s latest book, 1,001 Ways to Live WILD. Barbara is the author of sixty books, including the mega-bestseller 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. 

1001 Ways to Live WildThis is a book filled with light-hearted quick hits of encouragement for anyone looking for a jolt of “get out there and live.” Short entries – musings, things to do, and inspirational quotes – are paired with stunning artwork, and these combine to create a beautiful keepsake to give as a gift or to keep on your bedside table.

Presented as one continuous list accompanied by whimsical sidebars and thought-provoking quotes, the text touches on many and varied themes such as: following your passions, staying curious, appreciating nature, traveling, trying new things, and living life with courage.

As my long-time readers know, one of my favorite things is to have fun and make memories with my family and friends, and since summer generally affords a slower pace and more time to be outside and “unplugged,” it has inspired me to make – and keep track of – a “Summer Bucket List.”

I use the list to make sure that we make the most of our summer, and also so that we can know at the end of it that we did everything we set out to do. And what’s so wonderful about Kipfer’s book is that it gives me so many WILD ideas to add to my list.

Here are some of Barbara’s suggestions that will help you to be more present and enjoy everyday gifts that don’t cost a thing:

5. At dawn, take an hour to witness the transition from night to day. Stop and contemplate the incredible beauty of the day.

113. Create your own Ministry of Silly Walks, as in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show.

232. Compliment people all day and see what a difference it makes.

766. Hug a tree and a person today.

Those are ideas you can implement on the spur of the moment, but some of her ideas require a little more planning:

234. Put a message in a bottle and float it out to sea. (This reminds me of the time Doug made a treasure map and put it in a bottle—and then “found” it and led Griffin and his cousins on a memorable adventure to a real treasure – a can filled with dollar coins!)

335. Try a new ethnic food tonight. (Yes! Just the encouragement we needed to try the new Ethiopian restaurant in town!)

588. Follow a traditional Chinese recipe to preserve a batch of hundred-year eggs. (I’m intrigued!)

Some of her tips are even more challenging and thought-provoking:

315. Leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.

664. Live and act from the understanding that all things change.

930. Watching wildlife can reawaken senses dulled by the man-made world.

Woven among the tips are inspirational quotes (“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” – Scandinavian proverb, one of my favorites!) and short lists like “Natural Phenomena to Go Wild For” (Aurora borealis and volcanic lightning, for example).

If you open a random page of this book, you can’t help but be inspired to try something new and bring a little adventure into your life. Whether you long to dye your hair purple or learn how to play the guitar, it’s time for you to create YOUR Bucket List!

As for me, I’m going to try practicing Barbara’s tip #394 today:

“Live in a simple, direct way, without cluttering your mind with hatred, judgment, worry, doubt, or want. Choose the experience of genuine happiness.”

Why the Problem is Never the Problem

Griffin's soccer teamThe photo to the right was taken after a very celebratory last game of the season for Griffin’s soccer team. They won 4-0 to one of the league’s best teams!

I mentioned the team in a newsletter a few weeks ago after their first win all year – yes, the team played together all last fall and this spring and they ended their season with only two wins. So I believe it’s all the more extraordinary that they continued to work hard as a team, love the game – and each other through it all!

So often things don’t turn out the way we plan, but I’m a firm believer that this doesn’t mean that things won’t turn out better than we ever hoped they could.

Sometimes that’s because things surprise us – but sometimes we surprise ourselves by coming to a different understanding of what we need and want.

Like most relationships that have lasted for over 20 years, Doug and I have had a lot of problems. But about 15 years ago I realized that all of our problems stemmed from the fact that I looked at Doug as the problem.

What I have learned over and over again is that Doug is a mirror for me – reflecting back my thoughts – and very often it is my thoughts that are the problem.

As I’ve gained more and more facility with the practice of looking at thoughts as the problem – not any particular person, and not any particular circumstance – I’ve become more and more free and happy.

But before I knew this, I thought without a doubt that my biggest problem was that Doug was not successful at making money from doing what he loves – writing fiction.

Over the last 10 years, however, I learned to redirect my thoughts about him not making money and found quite a bit of peace.

Now, I’m going to share a story from my marriage because I see lessons in it that anyone can learn from, and that you can apply to anything you find challenging. And in this story, I’ll point out three lessons you can learn.

Lesson One is that when you’re faced with a situation that makes you unhappy, you need to articulate a clear desire – you need to describe the positive outcome that will make the situation satisfactory.

Over and over through the years I have recognized that what I most want is for Doug to be successful at his writing, to get published, and to make money for our household from the work he loves to do.

When I get most fed up with Doug, I return to that desire. So fortunately that’s where I went in my thoughts in the story I recount below.

the problem is never the problemMy mom and I were sitting in a movie theatre a couple of years ago. We had come to see The Butler, but one of the previews was for a movie called Twelve Years a Slave. As I watched the trailer, I realized Doug had written a similar screenplay – 15 years ago.

That’s right: fifteen years before, Doug wrote a screenplay based on the memoirs of Solomon Northrup, the freedman sold into slavery whose story is told in “Twelve Years a Slave.”

Doug sent this screenplay out to agents and producers, and he got a positive response from Morgan Freeman’s production company, Revelation Films.

The reader who read the screenplay said that it was fantastic, and said that Doug looked like a new and emerging talent. Revelation Films became interested in the screenplay but said it needed some work.

When I heard the feedback I said to Doug, “Oh my gosh, you need to get on a plane to LA tomorrow, stay in a motel, show up at Revelation Films and say, ‘I’m here to work on the screenplay. I’m not leaving until it’s done to your satisfaction.’”

Doug responded to this idea with a, “No, I’m not going to do that. I will work on the screenplay from home and I will send them my rewrite and then we’ll see what happens.”

I deferred to his judgment. I mean, I couldn’t make him get on a plane to LA, but just keep this in mind: we had plenty of income from my work as a nurse-midwife and we had no children. Point being, Doug had plenty of money, tons of freedom, and an amazing opportunity.

I may not be remembering correctly, but my memory is that he never resubmitted the work to Revelation Films and nothing ever came of their interest in him and his work.

(Side note: Do you find as interesting as I do that somewhere in the universe, someone else had this idea to write a screenplay and produce a film based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup, and that this screenplay got great reviews and won many, many awards, including a few Oscars?)

But let’s get back to the movie theater: I see this preview and I think, “Huh, that could’ve been Doug’s movie.” When I got home from the movie, I asked Doug, “Did you know that ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ had been made into a movie?” He said, “Yes, I did.”

I thought it was interesting that he hadn’t mentioned it to me but I didn’t dwell on that point. I asked, “How did you feel when you heard someone had made a successful movie out of the same book you did?”

He said, “I was angry.” I said, “What were you angry about?” He said, “I wish that I had fought for my screenplay,” I said, “Well, does that thought change the way you feel about any of your current writing projects?” (To be clear: at this point I didn’t think he had a strong action plan for any of his writing.)

He said, “Yes, now I want to fight for _________.” (That blank is the title of a YA novel Doug gave up on two years ago – a novel I liked, but didn’t think had much appeal.)

“Really?” I asked, struggling to maintain my composure. “Not ___________?” (That blank is the title of the YA novel Doug’s working on now. It’s fantastic. It’s engaging. It’s interesting. It’s exciting.)

“No.” Doug said.

Suffice to say, I was not happy with his response. I felt he needed to put his energy into his current work.

And for a while – a couple of days – I was stuck thinking that what happened with “Twelve Years a Slave” was going to happen all over again. Doug would give up, move on, and 15 years from now I’d walk into a bookstore and there it would be – Doug’s novel, written by somebody else.

I didn’t share this thought with Doug. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over 20 years of our relationship, it’s to keep my negative opinions to myself. (That’s Lesson Two, by the way.)

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with those negative thoughts and feelings. So for a couple of days I went around thinking, “I can’t believe that Doug is going to do this again.”

From there, my thoughts went into a tailspin. “Doug does not know what it takes to be successful.” “Even when someone as enlightened as me tells him what it takes to be successful, he won’t do it.” “Doug is never going to be successful.”

These are some pretty bad feeling thoughts. And yet, even though it took some time and willpower, I finally remembered my clearly defined desire: that Doug would succeed. Once I remembered Lesson One, getting out of that tailspin became easier.

For starters, I did a little bit of Byron Katie’s Work. But that didn’t lead me where I expected to go. When the thought was “Doug doesn’t know what to do to be successful” or “Doug is not willing to take the actions that are required to be successful” and the turnaround was “I don’t take the actions that are required to be successful” or “I don’t know the actions to take to be successful,” it didn’t ring true. I knew what I needed to be successful in my own work.

And then I realized (or remembered, really, because I had been through all of this before) Lesson Three: Your happiness doesn’t depend on anyone besides yourself, not even a spouse.

I didn’t need to sweat what Doug’s doing or not doing to be successful, because I can always be successful on my own account, no matter what.

And any time I wanted him to be successful for any other reason than that he should have that wonderful feeling of succeeding – I was making a big mistake.

Does this mean I never worried again? Never gnashed my teeth again at one of Doug’s decisions? No. It still happens. But then I remember lesson 1 – articulate a clear desire – lesson 2 – keep your negative thoughts to yourself – and lesson 3 – your happiness doesn’t depend on anyone besides yourself – and every time I move on faster than I did before.

When you put all those lessons together, they add up to one BIG lesson: when you’re feeling challenged, stop focusing on outcomes, and just take action from the feeling you want to enjoy if you had that thing you wanted in your hand already. Do this, and you’ll experience the best life has to offer. Do this, and things will always turn out better than you could ever have hoped.

It’s time for you to create YOUR Bucket List!

May 10, 2016

Last week Griffin turned 11! The photo to the right was taken at the trampoline park where he celebrated with his friends! The park had an obstacle course, a basketball court (where you could get a big enough bounce to do an awesome dunk!) and a dodge ball court. It was another amazing experience that

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Why the Problem is Never the Problem

May 3, 2016

The photo to the right was taken after a very celebratory last game of the season for Griffin’s soccer team. They won 4-0 to one of the league’s best teams! I mentioned the team in a newsletter a few weeks ago after their first win all year – yes, the team played together all last

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Stop wasting your time in negative emotion and do this instead!

April 26, 2016

That’s a photo of me with Griffin taken during the Rainbow Marketplace for Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship. He and his fellow sixth grade entrepreneurs sold their products and shared about their socially responsible businesses on the school’s deck on Friday. Griffin practically sold out all of his stock (30 of his 34 Tiny Terraria!) and made

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How to Use Your Emotional Guidance System to Feel Great AND Accomplish Great Things

April 19, 2016

Yesterday I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary with the amazing man you see in the picture to the right. We’ve actually been together for 23 years, which, I’m sure you can appreciate, is no small feat. Of course, we’ve had our share of conflict in our marriage, but as Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author,

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How to Be Your Brain's BFF

April 12, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with his beloved Coach Zak after his team won their first game of the entire fall/spring season 5-4! Griffin scored the game-winning goal and just all-around played awesome. Each week various members of his team would bemoan their losses and look at future games with resignation and doubt. But not

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You're Changing the World (whether you like it or not)

April 5, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with Mason LaMotte accepting the Rainbow Community School Peace Award on behalf of his dad, David, a local songwriter and activist for peace who was out of town for a retreat. Griffin researched David’s life and interviewed him for his project, and what a rich life it is. David is

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How an "Empathy Jolt" Jumpstarts Your Happiness!

March 29, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with 2 of his BFFs after an impromptu Easter Egg Hunt. I thought they might be too old for it, but when I asked if they were interested their all-out enthusiasm confirmed that you’re never too old for friends, fun AND candy! Along with Easter I also celebrated a very

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How to Say No to Other People and Say YES to Yourself (a proven strategy for doing what lights YOU up)

March 22, 2016

That’s a photo of me and Doug celebrating his birthday at our favorite French bistro. Notice the Paris skyline in the background? C'est magnifique! I’m SO close to pulling the trigger and sending my revised book proposal to my agent. At which point I hope she’ll sell it. Fingers crossed!! Writing the proposal (not to

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