Archive for September, 2011

10 Ways to be Playful

I was in Los Angeles last month for a few days and had a wonderful time seeing my husband’s family and playing tourist to many sites and activities.  One of my highlights was meeting Leah Adler and getting to spend some fun time schmoozing with her.

Who is Leah Adler, you ask?  She is Steven Spielberg’s mother who owns a restaurant called, Milky Way.  She is also a real hoot – a most surprising 91 year old woman with vim, vigor and enthusiasm like you don’t often see in people, let alone someone that age.  Obviously she’s chronologically old, but childlike in essence.    

I want to be like her (if) when I grow up to be her age.

Alphabet blocks were hung on the bathroom doors to display the Men’s and Women’s room. 

She had pictures of herself with her family on display in amusing poses – hanging upside down, pinching Steven’s nose.

She went around sitting with each group of people at their tables talking and taking a real interest in everyone.    I also got a chance to speak to her one-on-one for quite a while where I learned she was a social worker way back when in Ohio. 

But back to being childlike.  What is that childlike essence that radiated from Ms. Adler and was so appealing? 

It’s a sense of joy, wonder, excitement, curiosity, glee that emanates.  It’s the ability to be real and playful without worrying how you’re coming across.  It’s an openness, an honesty and vulnerability to the unknown.  Everything is like a treat. 

How can we develop a childlike or playful spirit?  

Let’s start by Doing some playful things. Here are 10 suggestions. Warning: may require giving up some of those inhibitions.

  1. Go down that fun-looking slide in the playground (even without a child).
  2. Jump in a pile of leaves.
  3. Lay down in the snow for a snow angel.
  4. Jump in a puddle.
  5. Catch the raindrops or snowflakes in your mouth.
  6. Wave to the person in the car next you at a red light (unless of course he’s picking his nose, we don’t want to embarrass him now do we).
  7. Roll down that beautiful grassy hill.
  8. Dress up and go to a nursing home/assisted living and talk with the residents.  Bring music along and start dancing.  Some will join you.
  9. Start a collection of something you love.
  10. Engage in conversation with strangers.  People can be surprisingly open. 

Oh and here’s my other highlight of my trip to LA  – I found a store off of Rodeo Drive that sold giraffe TV’s (and many other animals built around the TV).  And it wasn’t even expensive.    So here’s to my playful and very fun collection of giraffes!

Let’s lighten our load and engage in something playful today.

What playful/childlike things do you do? 

Thank you for stopping by.  Please spread the Playful word.  And leave your playful tips.


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8 Tips To Build Resiliency

In highlighting recently the idea of choice and that we can choose how we respond to our difficulties, which was brought out  in Julie Genovese’s interview and in Viktor Frankl’s quotes,  the concept of resilience comes to mind here. 

What exactly is resilience?  The Mayo Clinic’s definition is, “Resilience means being able to adjust to life’s misfortunes and setbacks.”  Interestingly, it comes from the Latin word ‘resilire’ meaning to ‘leap back’. 

So how do we bounce back from our difficulties and regain our equilibrium?  How do we adjust to life’s challenges and not stay stuck in the mire of it?

It seems that some people are just naturally more adept at adapting and seem to have the innate inner strength to stay afloat and keep themselves together.  But what if we’re  not so innately resilient?  Can we do things to build ourselves up and fortify ourselves?

Let’s look at 8 ways to increase our resilience for those trying times:

  1. Take care of our total selves – body, mind and soul.  Feed ourselves nutritious food, work our muscles so they are strong and meditate/breathe/pray so we can hear our inner self and/or talk to a higher power. 
  2.  Gather as much information as possible on the issue we are facing.  Knowledge is power.  Being proactive in our educational quest gives us some control as to options and choices.
  3. Allow negative feelings to surface.  Don’t bury them or look to deny them.  They’re real and valid and need to be let out, appropriately.  It’s in the expression of them that relief may be found.  Painful emotions are heavy to carry around.  They need to be unloaded so we have the energy for our task at hand. 
  4. Know who our support people are.  Who can we turn to with our deep, painful feelings?  Who can we go to for concrete help, favors?   
  5. Keep the larger purpose in mind.  Incorporate Nietzsche’s life-affirming quote, “He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.” It can truly keep us going to deal with what’s at hand. If we stay focused on the bigger picture, we can hopefully take the smaller steps necessary to do that which needs to be done. 
  6. Find gratitude and appreciation in even the smallest things.  As long as we walk this earth, there is beauty to be found.  (Read some of my interviews with people who have been able to thrive, not just survive, beyond some horrific circumstances.)  We can train our minds to count our blessings even amidst our difficulties.
  7. Do something pleasurable every day, something that brings joy.  Put even that few minutes of enjoyment into the day. 
  8. Self –awareness of our thought processes can help us restructure our thinking.  Do we live with the awareness that change is inevitable?  Are we flexible, sometimes, to be able to go with the flow?  Are we excessive worriers over things that may never happen?  Do we over-‘catastrophize’?  

This list is but a few key points in resiliency building.  Nothing here is necessarily easy.  But each point  can be worked on and attained. 

Any points to add?  Please do, in the comment section.  Thank you for reading.  Stop by again and spread the word; oh and please subscribe, if you haven’t already. 

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Lately I’ve seen a lot on the web about Viktor Frankl’s classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Perhaps it’s ‘come’ to me because it’s one of my all time favorites.  In cleaning out my basement I just came across a paper I wrote in social work school (many moons ago) on The Self that incorporates many of his brilliant concepts and quotes.  Reading this paper now struck me as to how much I’ve developed, grown and been guided by many of his ideas and theories on pain and suffering, external  circumstances, choice, responses, responsibility and meaning.   

I guess it’s no wonder then that my life’s work on a personal and professional level, my innermost struggles and my deep interest has for as long as I can remember, revolverd around this theme of overcoming adversity, and rising above one’s challenges and creating a good life despite…   This has resonated for me my entire life. 

My most exciting new venture in this area is seeking out and interviewing people who personify this theme.  And then writing up and putting out there on this blog their messages of coping, finding new meaning and rebuilding their lives through and beyond their challenges and pain. My hope is that their words teach, touch and inspire you as they do me.  And that hopefully you walk away with a new way of looking at things. 

In my most recent interview by Julie Genovese, choice was one of her poignant concepts in guiding her towards creating and therefore living a more positive life. 

Choice is one of Viktor Frankl’s big ideas.  He speaks of being in the concentration camps and having everything taken away except one thing:

“the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.   And there were always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom….”      

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.  It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish.   Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.  Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forego the opportunities of attaining the values that a difficult situation may afford him.”

There is obviously something much deeper than one’s circumstances in shaping our lives.  Frankl goes on to say, “man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate.”

There are those who are resigned to believing that some people are just lucky enough to be born with strength of character or an optimistic nature.  But to me the issue is, how can we develop these traits of strength and optimism?  How do we teach ourselves to view things differently, to become of stronger nature?  I believe we all can do this, if we want to.  We can work on our attitude; we can work on letting go of some of the suffering, as the great quote (unknown author) states, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  And we can certainly take steps towards self-improvement so we don’t remain stuck in our misery.  (That’s where coaching help can come in – plug for us coaches!)

One final powerful idea stated by Frankl – “What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life.  We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

This reminds me of what Julie said, “For many years I was always looking for how I can be helped because I thought I needed help.  Instead I realized I had something to give; it was me and my experience and my heart, and that was enough.”

Are we rising up to the occasion of Life?  What is life’s expectation of us?  Are we Choosing to make it as good and meaningful as possible even in the shadow of our problems?    


There’s a lot of food for thought here.  I hope you will share some of your thoughts by commenting.  Please share this piece on facebook/twitter.  And of course I thank you for stopping by and reading.  I hope something resonates with you and that you take something positive away. 

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Here’s another big concept I’m picking up on from Julie Genovese’s wise words – the idea of Choice.

We can choose how to respond and to see our challenges.  One person can see his obstacles as his demise; another sees it as an opportunity.  It’s all in the viewing.  If those glasses are too dark and you can’t see clearly, change to a lighter pair. 

It’s obviously not as easy as that, but that’s the idea.  The work is in getting there.  First you have to want to; second you have to believe it’s in your power to.    

A lot of times we stay stuck in a negative place because we feel badly and we’re waiting to feel better so we can get moving.  As we know that could take a long time. 

We might consider acting the way we’d like to, if we felt better.  In other words, act before we feel.  Put the action before the feeling.  That can actually propel us toward that feeling. 

When my daughter, Nava, went through her medical crisis, I knew I was very susceptible to falling into a deep dark hole of despair.

 I had been there years before when I first found out about Nava’s disabilities.  It was a time of bitterness, resentment, jealousy and anger.  The ‘why me, why my child’ sat on my shoulders weighing me down with angst.  I couldn’t even bring myself to take her to the park. It was too painful for me to be with acquaintances and friends who I knew had had ‘normal’ babies at the same – to have in my face these  babies who were holding their heads up and reaching out for their toys, while mine sat back contentedly in her stroller looking around and smiling. 

At that time I didn’t appreciate her most wonderful disposition; I was only focused on what she couldn’t do.  My shift in perspective came later when I began to take in her goodness and See all that she Could Do.

All the while, I was getting help from a therapist and a parent support group, both of which were absolute life-savers.   

Eventually I made the decision to go to the park; to feel the pain and go anyway.  My baby needed to be in regular environments with ‘normal’ kids.  If I waited to feel better, she could’ve lost out on those early years of seeing and being with her regular toddler peers. 

So when crisis number two arrived – Nava’s medical condition- I made a conscious decision to not allow myself to go down to that dark place again. I was all too familiar with that one.   I could not afford to be sucked in to the muck and rehash the ‘why me, why my daughter’ mantra.  I knew the answer already – There was none.   (Not in this world anyway. I’m hoping in the next one, these questions of the human condition of suffering  will be answered.) 

When I felt myself starting to go down that path:

I put up a Stop sign in my mind and held onto that visual that said, ‘don’t go there.’ 

I did a lot of self-talk – “you know it’s an exercise in futility to start with those questions which breeds self-pity.  Don’t start with that ‘why me’ crap.  You need to stay strong and clear-minded.”

I did a lot of (extra) walking to keep myself energized.

I certainly was not going to allow my energy to be consumed by the unanswerables and by getting myself trapped inside my own despair again.      

That of course didn’t negate the feelings of pain and sadness.  Many days I came home from the hospital especially during those initial weeks of sheer terror and curled up in bed crying for hours until there was nothing left in me.  Then I got up and carried on.      

Choosing to respond a certain way doesn’t mean we don’t feel our feelings.  We must allow expression of them.  Rather it means we can try to manage what we do with them, how we handle them, how we give expression to them.   And eventually how we view our difficulties and what we do with them.   It is truly up to us.

How have you chosen to see something differently or to respond differently?  When have you acted a certain way before feeling it?

Thank you for reading.  Please share on facebook and twitter.  I love Comments.  It tells me I’m reaching people.  Thank you.  And of course if you haven’t already subscribed, please do.

If you need a coaching boost in this area, please contact me at 516-214-4778

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One of my take-aways from my interview with Julie Bond Genovese is the importance of open communication in the home.

She states how in her family they didn’t talk about their negative emotions.  They wanted to “honor” their parents by not showing that anything was wrong.  And there was this “unspoken rule that you keep smiling through the pain and let it roll off your shoulders.”

This brings to mind a personal situation from the opposite angle.  When my middle daughter, Nava, was in the hospital for a year,  I tried to be cognizant of my younger daughter’s emotional well-being through this critical and very trying time.  I would go into her room and try to talk to her about how it was for Her – her concerns, fears, and overall feelings of this medical crisis we were all going through.  But all she would basically say is, “I’m O.K. mom, don’t worry about me.”

I knew she was trying to protect me from any additional difficulties or concerns pertaining to her.   She didn’t want to add to the drama already going on.  And so despite the fact that she  lived at home with her step-dad while I lived up at the rehab hospital for 9 months (I am forever grateful they got along), and she came up for dinner once or twice a week with her homework in tow, my Penina appeared to be a  well-adjusted freshman in high school.

I felt that she wanted to “honor” me by not showing that anything was wrong.  I, however, wanted her to ‘let it out’, to vent.  I tried to give her quiet opportunities, permission but she kept tight.   

I know how important it is to give expression to emotions, especially negative ones.  For as Ms. Genovese states, unexpressed difficult feelings can start to “detonate”.  They get buried inside and can eventually start to ooze out like toothpaste from all the little holes made along the sides, instead of from the main one on top.  Unexpressed rage can turn inward, fester and grow into depression or unhealthy acting out behaviors. 

We obviously cannot make someone open up.  But I feel strongly it is our ‘duty’ as parents who want to raise healthy and well-adjusted people, to create a home environment that fosters openness and offers out a safety net for all feelings to be expressed.  We’re there to catch them, acknowledge them and validate their normalcy without judgment. 

I initiated and continued to ‘check in’ with Penina throughout that year and little by little she was able to let some ‘gunk’ out.

Do you check-in with your kids or anyone of importance as to their feeling states?  Let’s hear and share some of your feedback.

Thank you for reading. 

Going through a rough time?  Email me for a complimentary coaching session and let’s see if we can take some initial small steps of action.

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Interview with Julie Genovese

“If we keep staring at the closed doors, we won’t see the open  windows.”

I am excited to introduce you to Julie Genovese, writer and inspirational speaker.   Her memoir, Nothing Short of Joy, is truly nothing short of uplifting and motivating. 

May your heart fill up with compassion, joy and appreciation as you read her pearls of insight and wisdom.

What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

My desire for joy.  I grew up believing it wasn’t possible because I was born with SED, a type of dwarfism associated with degenerative arthritis.  I felt I had several strikes against me.  What kept me moving me forward was this hope that maybe I was wrong.  I think deep down our soul does know that we are in fact all love, all joy.   What also kept me going was my connection to my spirit.  It felt small for a while because I was so immersed in challenges and difficulties.

 I didn’t realize I had a choice of how to see my challenges.  When I turned it around to see those challenges as adventures or as mountains to climb so that I could see a fantastic view, my attitude changed; that shift in perspective would change all of it.  I realized I did have more of this inner divine power than I had realized in the past.   

It’s a universal quality that keeps us moving forward.  It’s that desire to be our own truth, to be our whole self.  We are all born into these different handicaps, visible or invisible, and they are the catalyst to wake us up and remind us that we came here for growth and awareness. 

Our hardship and struggles are that springboard to appreciate what we can have here if we look at it differently or if we experience it with new senses; like jumping into a pool after a horribly hot day is ten times better than jumping into a pool everyday when you’ve never really gotten hot.  As humans we have these catalysts to keep prodding us forward and to keep remembering there’s a greater and more beautiful truth than maybe what we’re living.

Did you go through a period of self-pity?  If so, what helped lift you out?

Oh my goodness, yes and I still have these times.   I wouldn’t have labeled it as self-pity as a youngster because I thought life was against me; I thought I was born either an accident or a punishment or some kind of genetic mutation, and therefore others pitied me, and I should as well.  I felt I had no choice, and of course that’s never true.  But as a kid and as an adult, there have been times when pity seemed to be my only option to feel what I was feeling.

 In our family, as in many families, we didn’t talk about our negative emotions – sadness, anger. We just didn’t bring them up.  Although my mom was open to that; she used to say it’s good to cry.  My dad wasn’t.  I think we all wanted to honor my parents by not showing them that there was anything wrong with us.  We wanted to only show the positive side.  It was this unspoken rule that you keep smiling through the pain and let it roll off your shoulders.  I found myself in that pity party because I had nowhere else to direct the pain. 

Pity leads to depression because if there’s no place for that kind of voltage, which we all have known and felt, if there’s no place to express it, then it goes inside and starts to detonate.  There are days when my old habits about myself come up and I wonder,  am I enough, am I doing enough, am I giving enough. 

I considered myself less-than the rest of the population for so many years.  I still have that habit but fortunately it lasts for a few hours or a day.     

Emotions need expression; they don’t need judgement.  Once they’re expressed they move, transform and change . 

But I held them in.  I repressed them.  I shoved them under the bed. I did whatever I could so no one would see my humanness.  Since my body was different and it was this billboard of negative attraction, I thought I certainly couldn’t show any other vulnerability.   

I had no idea that to express these vulnerabilities that we all have, actually connects us and gives us strength to share instead of  hide.

Was there a specific moment, thought or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally and psychologically, or did it evolve?

It’s been both and of course it continues to evolve as we are all masterpieces in the work.  But there was a specific time in my early 20’s when I moved to Boston.  Boston had been the place where my parents had taken me for medical check-ups because it was on the leading edge of genetics.  It was really traumatic for me.  I felt like a specimen.  I felt like I was the description of my body.  The doctors called it a birth defect.  They pointed to things and said, ‘abnormal, deformed’.  That became the definition of me.   I didn’t realize then that they were speaking about a condition.  As a child, I thought the doctors were against me. 

So when I moved to Boston it was this beautiful full circle.  First it had been the place of incredible heartache; even the name Boston used to get my adrenaline running.  Then it became this place of awakening.  I found a bookstore that was packed with self-help books and books on inspiration and motivation.  I started reading themes like, the power was within us, that our reaction to the outside world was the internal triggers, that we could changeIt was just negative programming.  

This really resonated with me because I knew I was responding in a negative way. I thought it was because of my reality.  But instead they were saying (the books) it’s really your perspective.  And when you are able to claim that, take responsibility for that, and say, ‘I can undo this’, you’ll see the progress and the change. 

 With fingers crossed and hope eternal, I did see changes.  I read and read and read.  I wasn’t able to speak to my friends and share these things yet.  It was very scary to show people who I really was.   I had such rage built up, wanting to scream at the doctors, at the bullies, at my parents, all of it.  It was just boiling; and it was released and relieved and comforted by these writers.  I wasn’t a writer then – that would be 20 years in the future. 

 I used to be afraid to just go out into the world in the morning because I didn’t know if someone would be there laughing at me or asking me questions I couldn’t answer.  A lot of people have that, that anxiety, to step outside their door and not feel enough, or be afraid of failure.  I would take Wayne Dyer’s tapes in my walkman and instead of listening to my own criticism I would listen to his tapes.  His wisdom became part of my every step.   

Those writers changed and opened my heart and my mind.  I thought at that time it was an epiphany, a moment of ultimate change and transformation.  Little did I know the path is long and there’s a lot more that needs to happen than just an intellectual understanding or a relief from the pain of childhood or our past wounds.  There is this continual climb.  It’s not supposed to be a punishment as I thought it was.  Now it’s more of an excitement.  When something seems negative my first instinct is to think, something good can come of this because I’ve seen it now. I’ve seen it in the biggest way where my dwarfism was the ultimate negative in my life and now it’s become the ultimate teacher of how I really want to live.

What are your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat?

It’s become an important habit for me to sit, close my eyes and breathe.  Somewhere in that silence I start to see the craziness of my thoughts or that I need to feel something that I’m not feeling.  Sometimes my busyness will eclipse what has built up over time and I just need to cry or write and express some rage that I know is mine; it’s not  really anybody’s fault.  It’s that I’ve been plugging up the hole of expression.  That moment of silence is really important. 

While I drive I do deep breathing.  There’s something incredible about it.  As I breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly, the relaxation in the body causes a relaxation of my mind and my heart.   I can then  see what I am still holding onto that isn’t serving me well or see how I’m looking at something that’s causing pain or even causing me to move too quickly.  What’s the big hurry we’re all in that’s causing us to forget who we love, to not see the beauty on the side of the road. 

When I take in that silence, I remember to tap into the shifts I need to make, the perspective that may be a little off.  If we present ourselves differently in our world, then our response back is going to be more positive and more helpful. 

I’ve learned not to take the world so personally.  I see it as a place I’m trying to help, instead of that knee-jerk reaction toward a world that isn’t taking care of me.  That’s a switch in my consciousness.  For many years I was always looking for how I can be helped because I thought I needed help.  Instead I realized I had something to give; it was me and my experience and my heart, and that was enough.

 When we start to share who we are in that authentic place, others want to share too.  So often it’s communication that’s the problem, not the issue; not my dwarfism, not lack of money.  It’s our response to it, and that can be changed, thank goodness.

What advice would you offer someone going through a difficult situation?

Ultimately our limitations really are self-imposed.  It sounds like blame but it’s not meant to be.  It’s meant to be empowerment; it’s meant to be a catylst to help us move forward.  There is help everywhere, like the writers who I found, the authors who were like friends to me.  What they said spoke to me so deeply.  With technology there’s no limit to the mentors we can find or the advice we can find.  It’s there when we’re ready, it’s waiting. 

 The incredible limitation leads to incredible freedom.  There’s always this light that comes out of darkness.  I’m astounded that our life is about these extremes.  But if we go from this place of heartache, we can be catapulted forward into the wholeness.   

The silence I lived with as a child led me to understanding the power of communication.   My differences that I felt isolated me, led me to a more true understanding of connection.  The surface stuff – our bodies or finances or security-  these things we are so distracted by  are not who we are deep down.  We have the seeds of opportunity within us that act  like a slingshot forward so that we can transform that pain and be a billboard that shows it is possible. That’s a really exciting place to be. 

To then be able to inspire someone who’s been in your shoes and to know and really see them and say, ‘I know it hurts but it’s going to get better.’

It’s really important to examine what we believe.  I thought my beliefs were reality.  I thought they were factual.  I started to examine them and realized how many of them were negative toward myself and the world.  I looked at the response in my life; my world was negative.  I thought that was reality.

There was that crack in the armor where I said, ‘I’ve had enough of this and I may be a reason for why it got so negative.’  And that’s hard to admit.  It’s an incredible strength to say, ‘so I was the one shoveling the dirt on myself.’  I’m going to start to dig myself out and see that I have this inner power that’s going to keep blossoming because now I see I do have responsibility and I do have the strength to lift myself out of this.’

 We can see that beliefs are a magnet for more of the same. 

If we have a lot of negative beliefs, we’re going to see a lot of drama and negativity around us.  We can change it by changing our beliefs.  We don’t have to force the outside world to change; or in my case I couldn’t change my body, there was no cure for that.  I had to go inside and find out what else I could change; otherwise I felt  hopeless.  Discovering that power was huge for me.

 I can be the one to transform my beliefs so that I can be a magnet for what I want, not what I fear or what I have already experienced. 

Start to envision what we want to experience and then that will grow  and bloom in our life. 


Thank you for reading.  Comments are appreciated.  Please share on facebook and twitter.  And please subscribe so you receive these postings automatically. 

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