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What to Do With Bad News February 3, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Personal Observations, Self-Development.
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537962_228700923911787_1739544636_nLast week was a challenging week for me and for a whole lot of people I care about. We all got some bad news and suddenly our futures looked a whole lot different than we had thought. The seeker and coach in me watched myself move through the process and it was interesting.

The first thing that occurred to me is that this whole thing was very similar to a death. And there are five classic stages of grief according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger,bargaining,depression, and acceptance. And the advice is to go through each stage as consciously as you can—not trying to rush to feel better but to sit with where you happen to be. It’s been my experience if you try to short-circuit any of these stages, they simply come back to you bigger and ‘better’ than before. It’s the way we’re wired as human types. I’ve watched people trying to distract themselves to pretend that the trauma in their life is done with and that they have moved on—before they have actually done the grief work. It never works…(wow—quite an unequivocal statement for me).

So what did I do to come to terms with the bad news? Well, it’s not like I’m finished but I am making progress. First of all I sat with it and all the implications of this ending. Whew, that was tough and I’m not finished yet. Then I allowed myself to awfulize about the terrible consequences that could be mine. Then I got good and angry at a number of people and blamed a few of them. Boy, that felt good—for about a day.

Then I made a sincere declaration to myself that I was not going to stay in a place of depression and hopelessness. I mean a stamp-your-foot-to-the- universe kind of declaration. Not freaking going there, universe. It’s not fun and I like to have fun. And with that (and the help of one Advil PM at night, daily meditation, some conversations, and some prayer thrown in) I found that a sense of serenity returned. Is everything perfect? Hell, no. Am I ok? Hell, yes!

When shit happens as it inevitably does, the thing that gets me back on a more even keel is perspective. Is this a difficult issue? Yup. But when I reflect on the blessings that my life holds and will continue to hold, I realize that this is a blip on the screen.

And with a little bit of luck, this post will help one or many of you out there when the universe rains on your parade.



Walking Through the Fire May 1, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, Uncategorized.
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cccommons by celine nadeauSometimes life gets hard. Sometimes it gets downright overwhelming. I guess we’ve all had times like that. I know I have. It’s something I refer to as ‘walking through the fire.’

Now I’m not talking about minor annoyances like your car not starting, cutting your finger with a knife, or losing a favorite earring. No, I ‘m talking about the REALLY BIG stuff—life changing/threatening stuff. Things like losing a loved one to death, depressions that take away your will to live, battling a serious illness.

Most of us have had these things happen in our lives not once but multiple times. And if you haven’t—well, maybe you could better spend your time reading another post today.

What doesn’t kill you…

I believe that walking through the fire provides us with opportunities—provided we come out on the other side. No, moving through such an event is no fun at all. But to quote Frederich Nietzsche, “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.” I often say that to clients and I’m not being flip when I say it. I mean it.

My own fire

I have had quite a few fires to walk through in my life. One of the fiercest was when my 38 year old husband got a brain tumor and died within 5 months, leaving me with a 5 year old son to raise. There were times that I thought I was not going to make it through that blaze. However, the fact that I had a young child depending on me and that I was his ‘only game in town,’ made any other choices seem unavailable. Was it fun to go through it? Decidedly not. But now that I have walked through the fire I know that it did make me strong. I believe that there are not many things I cannot handle.

The ‘wounded healer’

Some of the very best people I know have had some mind-boggling fires to walk through in their lives. And as a result, they bring a richness of experience and perspective that is very valuable to me. They bring the certainty that there is purpose and joy in life and that the life they have is definitely worth living. They often display a deep caring of others and a capacity for seeing others as vulnerable just as they were. Could they have gone the other direction and become embittered, pessimistic people? Of course—and there are plenty of those around.

But what sets them (and I hope me) apart is that they have learned from these challenging times and they have moved on.They have made a declaration that while they may be wounded by their difficulties, they will heal and rebound from them. That’s why they are the best people.

You can do this

You may be walking though a fire right now or trying to recover from one. Your ability to declare that you are and will be ok is what will get you through it. Sometimes it’s just one day, one hour, one breath at a time. So even if you have to repeat it like a mantra with each breath, your determination will be what gets your through  And for God’s sake, don’t be afraid to ask for help. (Get it?)

I am not sure why this topic came up today but I was guided to write it. Thus I am sure that I was supposed to write about it for at least one of you out there…

Hang in there—fires burn themselves out…


Who Are You Being? March 6, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Uncategorized.
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2418629901_0eceaf6e82One of my favorite questions of people I coach is “Who are you being?” (And one of my favorite most-hated questions is “Name 10 things you love about yourself.” However, I’ll save that for another day. )

What are you about?

Why do I love the question ‘Who are you being?” Because it really speaks to what you want to create in the world. And if you’re not conscious of what you’re creating, you are very likely to create a lot of muck and greatly annoy those around you. And since the guiding principle of my coaching is to get effective work done by intentionally building relationships with others, it follows that I’d like to know who you are being (or at least who you think you are being).

Who do you know?

When someone has a consciousness about who they’re being, it shows up in everything they do. Think of some of these people who are in your life. One person who comes to mind for me is Lori, the owner of Sangha Space in Media, PA where I take tango class. Lori is all about creating a tango community that is vibrant and welcoming. She speaks about these goals and her actions point to this commitment. Her energy and her desire to make everyone welcome is constant and when she’s not at the studio, the place is just not the same. Lori’s actions and words are a match and ‘who she is being’ is enriching her life and that of others. She is acting into a strong declaration about the purpose of her life.

You can be a whole bunch of you’s

Who are you being? There is no one answer to that question, of course. Sometimes I am being supportive, kind, and  loving. Other times I am being judgmental, impatient, and selfish. And I am ok with either end of the spectrum. However, I do have a declaration about who I want to be and judgmental, impatient, and selfish is not part of that declaration. So the trick is to constantly rely on my Observer—that element of myself that can step outside , take a look at how/what I am doing, and allow me to self-correct when I am not acting in integrity with my declarations about who I want to be.

Try this

This week figure out what you’d like to do more of in order to act in alignment with who you want to be. Kinder? More hard-working? Better organized? A friend to all? A setter of boundaries? You decide. Just decide. And then when someone asks you that annoying question about who you are being, you’ll have an answer.


Working to Deadline October 10, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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a nod to marye2

For the last week and a half I have been working to fulfill a deadline. And if there is anything I have learned about myself it’s that I make my deadlines. That completion may come at the 11th hour but I do get there because I hate to miss deadlines.

This particular deadline is for a quilt that I am entering in my guild’s big biennial quilt show. Our registration forms had to be turned in at the August meeting but the quilt did not have to be completed at that time. In August I had finished piecing the top so I could take a picture of it to submit with my entry. However, the quilting had yet to be completed. In the past I have hired a longarm quilter to do this for me because I find quilting on a regular sewing machine to be a major pain in the  ****. However, since I purchased a longarm quilting machine in June, I of course elected to do the quilting myself.

Through a confluence of delaying events which include lower back problems, pieces falling out of my longarm machine and utter fear that I would screw it up, I found myself having to complete the quilt in a few days’ time. Last Monday I had a week and a day to get it done. Then my machine began to regurgitate crucial parts. I remained calm but whiny and got the darn thing back together again with the help of a very patient technician in Missouri.(Bless you, Aubrey.) Bottom line: the quilt is now less than one hour from being completed. See the lovely picture above.

Since quilting  and hand sewing are fairly repetitive it gives one time to reflect. So I reflected a little on deadlines. I often think that if I didn’t have them—or set them for myself—I’d never get a darn thing done. I think I’d be a lazy lout if not for deadlines—but then of course I reflect on who is setting the deadlines. That would be the overly ambitious (at times) but definitely not lazy me.

One thing about life on a deadline is that it really helps to sort out one’s priorities. In the last week and a half I have found it quite easy to say no to requests, to schedule the time I needed to finish the quilt, to cut out unnecessary dawdling. That’s been pretty cool. So cool, in fact that I am going to bring that practice forward to my non-deadline life. (Yes, that’s a very public declaration!)

My way-cool coach Jen Louden calls those things time monsters. And monsters they are. Here are some of my time monsters:

  • surfing the internet for no good reason
  • playing with fabric in my sewing studio
  • watching NCIS re-runs that I could recite from memory because I have seen them so often
  • re-writing stuff that is probably just fine
  • shopping

While I may not stop doing the things that I know are time-wasters (I love NCIS), I can at least make more conscious decisions about where I choose to spend my time. Emphasis on choose. We all make choices—that includes you, dear reader. If your choices are not getting you where you want to be then guess what. You can choose again.

Maybe you’ll get a quilt done ahead of deadline. Maybe I will too someday. Anything is possible.


The Fire in the Belly July 4, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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by gnuckx select1 cc on flickr The wonders of Facebook…I just had a message from a guy whom I taught ninth grade English in the mid-70’s. I knew him when he was 14 and now he’s 48 or thereabouts. This whole chronological age thing really blows me away sometimes. I know that my birth certificate says that I was born 63 years ago..yikes! But the number 63 (well, actually 62 until July 18th—just in case you want to send me a card) just doesn’t compute with me. I’m just me—somewhere around 28-30 but blessed with the wisdom that comes with the pain and joy of a whole bunch of intervening years.

My former student told me what he remembers of me from that time. Not to be bragging but he said I was his favorite English teacher (only one in 9th grade too). And he did remind me that I told his class that I wanted to go study with my swami and live in a tent on the beach, reading books….hmmmm. Yeah, I guess I was of the hippie persuasion—a true product of my generation.

What lights you up?

But here’s my point—and I do have one. Once you tap into who you really are and what lights you up, that gives you access to a lifelong passion or purpose. Did I go live on the beach in a tent and study yoga—no. But I did go on to become a yoga teacher, and that led to a study of eastern philosophy, and that led to a lifelong meditation practice, and that led to studying a variety of spiritual modalities which now inform the way I live my life and the sensibilities I bring to my coaching work.

Have you set aside what you love?

What is your fire in the belly stuff? What lit you up when you were a kid, a teenager, a young adult, and continues to do so? So often I notice that people I work with set aside the things they truly love to ‘make money.’ Nothing wrong with making money but in my opinion there is a lot wrong with turning your back on your dreams and passions. It makes for regrets, emptiness, and huge mid-life crises… you don’t want that do you?

Consider this…

So do a little exploration…consider the items below for starters and when you uncover something useful—do something about it.

  1. What was your favorite activity as a child, teenager?
  2. What activities/pursuits make your heart sing?
  3. Think of something that you love to do but haven’t done for a really long time, as well as the excuses you use for not doing it —and then do it. Some examples:  I love to go canoeing but the kids are too young, I’d like to play my guitar but I’ll really suck at it because I’m so out of practice, I used to love to write poetry but it’s so impractical and I’m so busy.
  4. The next time you find yourself really ‘in the zone,’ notice what you’re doing and decide to do more of that.

What are your declarations?

Our lives are a product of the declarations we make. We get to decide if we’re going to move through life on automatic pilot or if we want to do something a little more conscious.

Up to you….

Happy Independence Day,


Why We Do Things That Don’t Make Us Happy –part 2 April 4, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Self-Development.
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by Robbert van der Steeg

Ok—it’s Easter Sunday and a beautiful day outside and I really don’t feel like writing about why we do things that don’t make us happy. But I have finished hiding Easter eggs in the yard for my grandchildren and making messages from the Easter bunny. So anything that could legitimately garner my attention has been taken care of. (Besides it was fun.) And I do have some more to say about why we do these crazy-ass things that don’t make us happy. And since this is part of my dharma (more about that later), I can get my mood to a productive place about doing it. .So here goes….

Last post I mentioned that one of the reasons that we do things that don’t make us happy is that we don’t have the distinction of what we really want to do. We just do what we think we should do.

We all have tapes.

We also have what I refer to as ‘tapes’ that are on continuous feed inside our heads. Your own tapes come from a variety of places, not the least of which were your parents or caregivers as you were growing up. Actually where they come from is not really my concern—if it’s yours may I suggest a good psychologist? I am more interested in working with what’s present, period.

As I said our tapes run on a continuous feed and give us scintillating messages like, “Only a bad daughter would move so far away from her parents,” or “ I have to do all my work before I can play,” or (my personal favorite) “I have to be perfect in all ways.”

What are your tapes telling you to do?

So what are your tapes? And even more important—what are they causing you to do in your life that doesn’t even come close to making you happy?

I bet your next question is “Can I get rid of these tapes or am I stuck with them?” And my answer is, maybe. If you want to leave your tapes behind then a strong declaration to do so will go a long way. To me though the issue is to be more conscious of what tapes you play and how they have an impact on what you do. Then simply be in a place of inquiry about where your actions are coming from. And just say no if you don’t like what you are doing to serve your tapes..

Be conscious about what you’re doing and why

So if you find that you never make time for yourself—and you’re not satisfied with that—look at what tape is in play. Is it the one that says you are a terrible person if you don’t take care of everyone around you first? Or your tape says that only work is a valid activity and doing anything that is not ‘work’ is frivolous and unproductive.

Change your mind

To quote one of my idols, Byron Katie, “Is this true? If you think it’s true can you really know that it’s true?” If you really think about it, the answer will be no, the tape is not true. It’s simply a thought you carry around. The good news, boys and girls, is that thoughts can be changed. If a particular thought (tape) is keeping you from having fun, I say vanquish it—immediately, if not sooner.

And while I’m on the subject of fun—I offer that this should be another goal of your life. Make sure you include the fun element in your life—your fun,not someone else’s. My own personal motto is that if I’m not having fun, I don’t want to do it. And before you ask,–yes, that goes for the faction of my life that some might refer to as work. This girl just wants to have fun…

Your mission should you decide to accept it

What can you do that totally ignores one of your less productive tapes and have fun in the process? .I challenge you to do at least one thing this week that is simply for fun. C’mon you can do it..

Looks like there’s going to be another installment on this topic since I didn’t get to dharma. Stay tuned.


Time to say “Enough” March 21, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching.
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DSC_0138If you read this blog regularly you will know that I post on the average of once a week—on Sundays. And being a regular reader you will also notice that I did not post last week and am later than usual on this post. (probably should have kept this to myself—now I have just raised expectations..oh well.)

The reason for this untimely interruption? I have been sick…not just a little sick but well and truly sick. Sick enough that the last week of my life is but a muzzy blur. (I love the word ‘muzzy.’ It’s almost worth the illness to be able to use it. Almost.)

Is there anything good about being sick?

So what good is being sick? Well, it was great for having to cancel every coaching appointment I had last week because no one would want to listen to my croaking voice or hear me cough continuously. That wasn’t so good.

It was great for getting me to concentrate on extreme self-care. Is it time for that cough medicine yet? Can I take a Tylenol or should I go with the echinacea?

It was also great for digging deep into my taxes. I suddenly realized I made some money last year and when one is self-employed that means Uncle Sam wants a fair portion of it. So I am on a mission to exclude no rightful deduction this year. In the course of my journey this week, I learned that for the past several years I have been overlooking a chunk of deductions that were rightfully mine to take. So I am highly motivated.

But what about mood?

I have also been giving a lot of thought to one of my favorite subjects—mood. How does one maintain a positive mood in the face of feeling like some totally uninvited guest is metaphorically (or perhaps literally) kicking one’s butt?

I have noticed that my mood is directly related to how much I can line up behind decisions that I have made or states of being that are currently in play for me.

So, it’s helpful to immerse myself in doing my taxes even when I feel like crap because I am doing something that brings me value (and a bit of vindictive joy as well.)

Do you spend time second-guessing yourself?

But have you ever noticed how often you fail to really mentally and emotionally get behind (or align) to decisions that you make? Ever notice how often you second-guess yourself or feel regret about what you are doing in the present moment?

I noticed that about my food choices this week. Since I was sick I was trying to do the best for my body and eating good food was on my list of concerns. But what is good food? Should I eat no dairy or wheat because they are mucous producing? Should I cut out sugar (because it’s the villain)? What about artificial sweeteners? And then there’s fat content and the whole grain issue to consider….arrgh!!

I suddenly realized that there was not one food that I had access to that did not come with some negative message about its healthfulness attached. Then I got to thinking about the effect on my ‘self’ all these negative messages are probably having.

Just stop!

And I said ENOUGH! In my typical whimsical fashion I decided that if every food was bad for me, I could just as easily decide that every food is good for me. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I am consciously avoiding any dialogue about a food being ‘bad for me.’ Instead I focus on saying yes to each food I elect to eat. Yes, Mr.  Popsicle, you are so good for me.

Some advice I hope you’ll use

And here’s my advice to you….Focus on your own set of nasty little gremlins. Maybe it’s something about how you spend your spare time or what kind of a parent you are or your lack of commitment to housework or how much you are willing to stretch your personal boundaries for others or, or, or….You get the idea. Whatever your poison is, just say no— actually just say yes! Yes to affirming that you are doing the right thing, making the right decision, being the right person. Refuse to stop polluting your thoughts— and your mood with the idea that something is wrong.

It’s revolutionary, I know. But I can tell you —it feels pretty damn good…


A NanoWriMo Winner! December 6, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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Ok—I’m going to take a moment to brag. I DID IT! I am what the WriMos call a winner. That means that I achieved 50,000 words before November 30th, 2009 at midnight. Actually I made it to 56,000 by November 30th—mannnnn….

I actually couldn’t believe that I had written that many words. I was a bit paranoid about the word count thing. Kept thinking that I had miscounted somewhere and I was going to enter my document into the Nano word counter and come up majorly short. But no…by all counts I have actually written that many words. I have been basking all week. (I also notice I have picked up the rather distracting habit of avoiding contractions—to enhance word count—weird)

And three of my dearest writing buddies also won the challenge. We had a joyful hoot or two on our weekly phone call last Tuesday (December 1st.)

Making a goal is great—and it is a discipline to be able to sit back and really bask in the achievement. Mostly people just finish something, check it off the list, and rush on to the next item. This is fine if your life purpose is to get things done. However, I think our souls come up with loftier goals for us than to-do list management. Just sayin’… So I have made an art of basking and bragging at least for this week. However, I noticed this morning the tiniest niggling little worry creeping into my head. And that worry sounds like, “ OK, you did it, now what?” Damn it, that always happens.

I did have a conversation with my writing coach concerning what’s three or four steps down the road from where I am right now. That would be how to go about getting the book published. We got back to that old build-a-platform conversation. It makes me tired because it demands so much darn work. After that I wanted to go eat chocolate. It gave me an appreciation for how my coaching clients must feel after having a conversation with me. Oh, well.

So even though I have written the requisite words—in fact exceeded the requisite words, (still bragging) the book is not finished. It is about 90% complete—the first draft, that is. Since I know myself pretty well, I have maintained the wonderful routine I kept during November. If I give myself any slack I get lazy and the first thing you know, I am reading books, going shopping or scrubbing the kitchen floor instead of writing. My plan is to write at least two more chapters that will be part of the draft.

Then comes editing. Then comes giving it to some people I trust to read it. And then—and then—you get the picture. However, I am determined and I’ve invested a lot in getting this book out of my head and onto the page. Too much to stop now.

OK, before I started this sentence I was at 487 words and I try to keep my blog posts to around 500. This new obsession with word count is really getting annoying.

So, that’s it for today. Stay tuned for lessons learned from NanoWriMo— or whatever else strikes my fancy. I can only be so disciplined.


P.S. Did you notice the snow falling in the banner of my blog page? WordPress does that every December–I think it’s just the coolest…



Ok–You Can Say It a Little Louder Now November 11, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, Uncategorized.
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I am now in Day 11 of NanoWriMo, National Book Writing Month…that’s right..day 11 of my quest to write a 50,000 word book—which by the way is not that long a book. It’s the length of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, a slim volume. However, I’m no longer whispering that I am doing NanoWriMo—and I’m not exactly shouting it from the rooftops of my neighborhood either. But so far, so good. As of today I am at 22,506 words—closing in on the halfway mark

I adopted the word count strategy of my friend Anne who is a 2008 Nano winner. She advised doing 2000 words per day which is a bit higher than the goal of 1667 which Nano advocates. That way, she pointed out, if the roof falls in and you can’t write (which would be the only reason not to write) you are not too far behind.

So each morning I get up at six and go into my study. First I meditate and ask for mucho help from any good spirit out there who is so inclined. Then I start. My declaration is to have my writing complete for the day by 10 am. And so far, I have managed that every day except this past weekend when I attended a quilting retreat.

The experience has been a bit different than I thought it would be. For one thing, I am more disciplined and committed to it than I anticipated. Secondly, I have let go of the need to make my writing perfect before going on. The Nano folks advise you not to edit your work or even go back and read what you have written. So, OK, I am not reading the tripe that I have written. It’s not about quality at this point; it’s about quantity. The idea is that if you get something on the page you can go back to it in December and edit it. But you can’t edit a blank page. I have found this to be true before. If I just get something down on the page—good or not—I have made a start and then I can mold it into a decent piece of writing by editing the heck out of it.

Unlike my other Nano buddies, I am writing a non-fiction book with the working title of Intention in the Workplace. It’s based on work that I have been doing for a long time and I am enjoying noticing how my understanding and interpretation of it has changed and in some cases deepened over time. So, while I can’t yet say I am having fun—I am getting satisfaction from this process. Was even feeling pretty good about my word count until I talked with a WriMo at Borders on Sunday. She plans to reach her word count by today. She will then go on to write a second novel by the end of the month. Take a deep breath… “To compare is to despair.”

Me? I am happy to settle for 50,000 good or not-so-good words.

Being Overwhelmed October 9, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations.
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Marli & Thomas at park by Amara Ann Bertorelli

I have not written a blog post since Labor Day weekend—roughly a month ago. And the reason for that is that I have been overwhelmed with busyness. Bad stuff? Nope, it’s all been stuff that I really, really wanted to do. But it has put me in a state of overwhelm.

And it strikes me that many of the people I know experience overwhelm on a regular basis. Doing lots of good stuff is great, however, having a negative judgment about your level of busyness qualifies as overwhelm. The Buddhists have a saying: Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. What causes us to suffer is the belief that things are not as they should be.

It’s my opinion that many busy people choose to stay that way because this prevents them from looking at the issues in their lives that they’d rather not face. It’s much easier to keep trotting through life pushing aside that nasty self-discovery stuff. Taking a deeper look might result in some very difficult decisions having to be made.

With that in mind, I asked myself what I could be avoiding. And yes, I did come up with some answers—not to be shared in this post.  🙂  But since I am a person who believes wholeheartedly in introspection, I have made some declarations about changing my state of overwhelm and have taken actions as a result of my declarations. I offer these to all of you overwhelmed sorts in the hope that my solutions will inspire some of your own.

First, because I know that I need to be home to feel nurtured and balanced, I have concentrated on really being at home. And since messiness and clutter make me cranky, I decided to concentrate on de-cluttering my environment. I have made some headway in attacking the clutter that erupts when I am not home on a consistent basis. There is still much to do there but I am satisfied with what I have accomplished so far.

Second, I have made a conscious effort to find time for creative things that I like to do. I have spent time working on “the next quilt” which is to be an entry in a challenge that my quilting guild is sponsoring. The challenge is to create a quilt suggested by the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. And yes, I am well aware that even in my creative life I always have to set a goal for myself—I can’t help it, it’s who I am…

Third—I went to the park with my grandchildren. We ran around (oh alright, they ran around and I followed at a more sedate pace). We collected acorns and rolled them down the slides—multiple times. If you haven’t ever tried it, I highly recommend acorn-rolling as an overwhelm reliever.

And lastly, I have gotten back to my meditation schedule. I always feel that something is missing when my spiritual practices get pushed aside.

So, I am feeling better and my mood of overwhelm has drifted away—at least for today—and that’s perfect.