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I'm Still Learning —

Why I choose optimism

Optimism is skill I’ve not yet mastered—not completely, anyway. A chronic worrier to the core, I’m one who has always gravitated to a more pessimistic state of thinking, which may have something to do with why I married me an eternal optimist. (While I sometimes find it difficult to assume the best possible outcome in any given situation, my husband finds it difficult to assume anything but.)

That said, I’m working on it. I’m better at it than I once was and I hope to only become better yet. I know rationally that so much more is to be gained from optimism than pessimism. There’s a reason my husband rarely gets sick—and I want me some of that!


According to the Mayo Clinic, optimism is associated with the following psychological benefits:

  • Stress relief.
  • Better coping skills during times of hardship.
  • Greater sense of well being and overall health.

The physical health benefits include:

  • Resistance to the common cold (case in point: my husband).
  • Reduced coronary artery disease.
  • Easier breathing with some lung diseases.

Then there are the quality of life improvements:

  • A greater sense of achievement. Optimists tend to strongly believe in themselves. When one expects great things, great things are more likely to happen.
  • Relationships are stronger. A regular flow of positive energy will infuse any relationship with a better resilience to life’s ups and downs.
  • Perseverance. By applying an optimistic attitude to a challenging situation, you create a positive pathway that will guide you through it.

I know all too well the tremendous power my mind has over my body; I’ve experienced both its negative and positive effects on a number of occasions. That is why I take comfort in knowing that optimism is a choice; it is within my reach. Fortunately, we all have this ability—we all have this choice.

So I choose optimism.

More like this:
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Emotional Triggers
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5 things being a mom has taught me

Report cards came home a few weeks ago. I always look forward to report card time—seeing how my kids are progressing, where they’re excelling, where they’re struggling and so on. Report cards give me a glimpse into what they’re doing for six hours each day when they’re not with me.

Each marking period as I glance over their grades, I am reminded of just how much boys are learning and growing every day. Their little minds are constantly being infused with new and exciting nuggets of information. And it got me to thinking: What about me? What about my report card? What have I learned and how have I grown? What nuggets of information have I gathered in my own adult-sized noggin?

As I sit here just weeks after my 40th birthday, I find myself in a place of reflection. I’m looking back on my life in attempt to generate my own progress report. And in doing so, it occurred to me that so much of what I’ve learned over the course of my adult life has come in the way of motherhood.

I’m not talking about the overt skills I’ve learned like how to change a diaper, how to nurse a sick kid back to health or how to adjust a palate expander. I’m talking about the intangibles—the more profound lessons that motherhood has to offer.


Sometimes we break, but we also heal. Last year, my son broke his thumb—in two spots. And oh how upsetting it was. His hand was purple, swollen and throbbing. He had to wear a splint for a month. He had to sit out of gym class, basketball and TaekwonDo for a month. He couldn’t rough house with his brother or jump off his top bunk for a month. He was an unhappy camper… for a month. But of course his body’s natural healing mechanisms kicked into gear and before he knew it, his thumb was good as new. His bone fused and he was back to living his active life once again.

Isn’t that true of our emotions, too? We sometimes break into what feels like irreparable pieces. But our minds, like our bones, have a wondrous capacity to heal. Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes we’re at the top of our game while other times we’re sniffing rock bottom. But the whole of who we are at our core wants to heal. Our healing powers that reside deep within are always working and fighting to keep us going—be it a broken thumb or a broken spirit. Sometimes we break, but we also heal.

Mess is unavoidable. Roll with it. I hate disorder; it stresses me out. But as a parent of two nutty boys, living in chaos is the norm. On any given day, my home looks like a scene from animal house, my car looks like a locker room and my purse looks like a trash compactor.

After years of fighting the uphill battle—working tirelessly to bring order to the overwhelming disorder—I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that, as a mother, mess simply surrounds me. Rather than working myself to the bone trying to keep everything in line, I’ve learned to let go and just roll it. So the sink is full of dishes. So what? Is it gonna kill me to let those dishes sit while I play with my kids or watch an episode of Modern Family? Will I just crumble and die if I walk past the overflowing hamper of dirty laundry on my way out to lunch with a friend? Na. I’ve come to accept the fact that there will always be some mess somewhere calling out for my attention. But who cares? Why not enjoy life more and clean less?

Flexibility is essential. I’ve always had somewhat of a rigid personality; when things don’t go as planned, I become uneasy. Uncomfortable. Antsy. Flexibility has never been my strong suit. (Just ask my husband.) But life with kids requires flexibility—no ifs, ands or buts about it. Children are such unpredictable little things; they’ll throw a wrench into the best laid plans. Think of that fever that delayed the much anticipated summer vacation or the temper tantrum that cut the shopping trip short. We had to be flexible in those instances—there was simply no other choice.

Motherhood has trained me to take on a more flexible attitude. I have learned to harness the more adaptive side of myself and look at those unexpected situations with a let’s-make-the-most-of-it perspective rather than a why-oh-why-did-it-have-to-go-this-way? perspective. The end result: a happier, less rigid me.

Let go of control. I am a control freak—which is no doubt largely related to my aforementioned flexibility issues. When my kids were first born, I was in my glory; I had complete control over the little buggers. I was in charge of what they ate, what they watched and who they played with. I controlled their bedtimes, their bath times and their outfits. I, and I alone, was the decision maker of everything having to do with them. Sure my husband was right there beside me, but he knew better than to get in my way.

As my kids have grown, I’ve had to give up so much of the control I enjoyed during their early years. At 9 and 11, my boys have learned to think for themselves. Do I love every single friend they have or article of clothing they don? No, but I do respect their choices. Do I worry about them when they’re not in my care? Sure do! But at the end of the day, I have to let go and, to some degree at least, have faith in the decisions they make. This has been a tough lesson to internalize—but it is one that I now challenge myself to apply to all aspects of my life. I can’t control all that surrounds me—or even most of what surrounds me. I can only control my reactions. Being a mom has helped me to accept this fact.

Accept disappointment as a part of life.  Last week, my son found out he didn’t make the “A” travel baseball team for Spring. It was a massive disappointment, given all the time and effort he’d put into his training. He had been feeling pretty confident he’d make the team and was devastated when he learned he did not. But once the knee-jerk reaction of disappointment subsided, I reminded my son (and myself, for that matter) that disappointment is an inescapable aspect of life. Nobody likes it, but everybody experiences it. I urged him to use this disappointment to push him harder towards his ultimate goal: playing competitive baseball.

I have this conversation with my kids often, as there’s always something that pops up in their lives that lets the wind out of their sails—be it a team they didn’t make, a grade they weren’t expecting to get or a birthday party they thought they’d be invited to. And each time I do, the conversation serves as a reminder to myself as well. I have been passed over many times for a myriad of different opportunities. But now, rather than hiding my head in shame, I remember that we are all human; we all feel deflated at times. With each disappointment, I remind my kids and myself that there is a reason for it. The disappointments of life are mere stepping stones on our journey to that something greater. This is true for each and every one of us.

Life is one big classroom. I will continue to keep my eyes open to the lessons this life of mine has to teach me.

More like this:
Ages & stages: the pain and beauty of watching my boys grow
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5 ways we should be emulating our kids



Why you should add coconut oil to your pantry

My brother-in-law is a dieting nut and exercise addict. I am a health and wellness junkie and wannabe nutritionist. Put us together and you’ve got two people who think they know it all, but usually end up in a heated debate over whose wellness path is the correct one to follow.

A few weeks ago, he and I were engaging in one of our usual banters. He mentioned that he’d just bought a jar of coconut oil—he wanted to see what all the fuss was about and figured, hey why not? It wasn’t until he got home that he read the label and gasped: 14 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon!

“That stuff is HORRIBLE for you!” he told me. “It’ll give you a heart attack!”

Oh silly boy, time for me to set you straight.

“Listen up, know-it-all, it’s not horrible for you; it’s just the opposite,” I told him. “Yes, it has saturated fat, but there’s more to the story than that—much more.”

I then proceeded to tout all the benefits of coconut oil, as I understood them. But I could see by his expression that he was not sold. He wasn’t hearing what I had to say, he was just seeing ’14 grams of saturated fat’ in his mind’s eye. My words were falling on deaf ears. So I went home and did some additional research and then flooded him with all sorts of eye-opening information. I was simply determined to prove my point.

I’m happy to report that I was successful in my endeavors. He’s now believer.

So what was it that changed his mind? See for yourself.


Promotes weight loss: Unlike the vast majority of naturally-occuring saturated fats out there, coconut oil is comprised primarily of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). MCTs have been shown to increase energy expenditure, boost metabolism, help burn more calories, lower body fat mass and reduce body weight.

Helps manage diabetes:  Coconut oil helps to balance blood sugar by slowing the absorption of sugars into bloodstream. It’s processed in the liver where it is quickly converted to energy. This not only improves insulin sensitivity, but also leaves little behind to be stored as fat.

Improves cholesterol profile: Coconut oil has been clinically proven to increase HDL cholesterol and lower the overall cholesterol ratio. When looking at these specific cholesterol values, coconut oil is believed to be more protective against heart disease than an other dietary fat.

Helps fight viruses and disease: Coconut oil is comprised predominantly of lauric acid, a substance also found in breast milk. Lauric acid converts to monolaurin in the body where it gains its antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti fungal properties. It helps the body to fight off viruses and bacteria and also supports the immune system.

Improves cognitive function: A 2004 study published in Neurobiology of Aging found that the MCTs in coconut oil improved cognitive function in older adults with memory disorders such as Altzeimer’s.

Aids in digestion. With its antimocrobial properties, coconut oil helps ward off various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. It’s also been shown to help in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

May help to prevent cancer: Though coconut oil in the prevention of cancer is still being researched, several studies of lab animals have shown promising anticancer results.

Promotes healthy skin and hair: Coconut oil can increase the moisture and lipid content of the skin. It’s also been shown to protect the hair from sun damage, blocking nearly 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

These are just a few benefits. Coconut oil is also believed to help with thyroid function, tissue repair, sugar cravings, pancreatitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney disease, bladder infections and more.

Coconut oil has been a mainstay in my diet for the last year or so. I use it generously every single day—for cooking, in my smoothies, on toast, in my oatmeal and so on. I use coconut cream in my coffee and also pour it over fresh berries for a night time snack. And no, I haven’t gained a pound. Just the opposite in fact. In the last year alone, I’m down 10 lbs. How’s that for proof!

Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

Do you always love me?

Last week while tucking my 11-year old into bed, he asked me: “mom, do you always love me?”

I was taken aback. “What do you mean, ‘do I always love you?'” I asked.

“I mean, when I do something bad or when you’re really, really mad at me, do you still love me then? I mean, are there ever times when you don’t love me?” he asked.

I couldn’t even believe my ears.

“There has never been a time when I haven’t loved you—nor will there ever be,” I said.

“Okay, what if I go to jail one day… even then?” he asked.

“Even then!” I answered. “I will love you no matter what you do or where you end up. Even if it’s jail—which, by the way, I’m confident will not be the case. But that doesn’t mean I’ll always love your actions. There’s a big difference,” I explained.

“Okay, cause you were pretty mad at me before. I thought maybe you stopped loving me for a minute,” he said.

In that moment, it occurred to me that even though I’m usually pretty overt about my love for my kids, they may need additional reinforcement during those times when we’re arguing. Especially during those times when we’re arguing.

“Don’t be cray cray,” I said. “I love you and your brother more than life itself. Yes, I was pretty angry before; I wasn’t in love with your actions— but I am in love with you, always. [silent pause] Okay?”


We kissed goodnight. He went to sleep and I went into reflection. And from that moment on, I vowed to end every argument with my children with the following words: “Remember, no matter how angry I get, I will always love you. Got it?”

Our kids may act tough, sometimes—but inside, they just want to know that they are loved. We all do.

Do you always love me
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How to live a long life

As I age, and watch everyone around me age, I feel this overwhelming desire to stop time. Since I can’t however, I’ve decided to chase the fountain of youth by way of healthy lifestyle choices.

Some might call it a hobby; others (my family) might call it an obsession. I call it a passion to absorb all that I can about how to achieve optimal health so that I can age gracefully. I learn it, then I share it. That’s just how I roll.

So today I’m sharing 15 tips for how to live a long life.

Join me at My Life and Good Health to discover the secrets to longevity.