Friday, December 28, 2012

No Excuses

“Oh well.”

They’re words we’ve all said before. Words we often use to let us off the hook or to silence that nagging voice inside our heads that says we should know better. But what about those times when “Oh well” isn’t good enough, when experience and integrity tell us the situation calls for something more?

I recently had to wrestle with this dilemma on a trip to Puerto Rico. I was at an oceanside restaurant with my nephew and some friends. Because of the nice weather and stunning scenery, we’d opted to dine outside on the beach -- 100 yards from the restaurant. Not expecting to get service so far away, we were shocked when one waitress trotted over to get our drink orders and ask us what we wanted to eat. Not only did she bring us our meals, she also went back and forth four or five times, refilling drinks, bringing us condiments. And for all her troubles, I left a hefty tip.

I left the restaurant feeling like I’d adequately honored her hard work, only to find a discrepancy on my credit card transaction when I got back to the hotel. It seems the hard-working waitress never received my tip.

What do you do when your good intentions are thwarted? Do you say “Oh, well” and move on? What about when the discovery comes at the last minute and you’re late for the airport? That was the situation I faced. I was at an emotional fork in the road but I knew what I had to do. I had to make sure she got the money I knew she deserved.

So the next time you’re tempted to say “Oh, well” and move on, ask yourself if the situation calls for more. If “Oh well” is really just code for “I don’t care.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Get Well

Do you ever feel like you’re being held captive by your health; like you have little to no control over your own body? Have you ever been given a diagnosis that seemed to rob you of options? If you’ve ever struggled with your own wellness destiny I have a story to share that just might make you reevaluate how much control you truly have over the future of your health.

When I first met Sarah she was a child selling Girl Scout cookies. She was dynamic, smart, loving and independent -- all the things I love in a person. And by the time she was 14, she was also a Type 2 Diabetic. To look at her, you’d never guess. She had a ruddy glow and a sunny disposition. But despite her seemingly good health, she was dependent on insulin.

Fast forward a few years and Sarah found herself on her own -- going to college, managing her own money and waiting tables to make ends meet. Of her small take-home pay, much of it was going to insulin shots. One day, Sarah noticed that when she ran, her insulin intake went down. That gave her an idea. If she could control her insulin with exercise she could put more money in her pocket -- in fact, she could save as much as $200 every three weeks!

Today, Sarah is still running and still controlling her insulin levels with exercise. While she may not be insulin-free forever, she has more control of her own destiny than ever before. As someone who comes from a family of diabetics, I find that encouraging. I once had a doctor tell me that if you eat well and exercise, there’s no reason diabetes should be part of your future. It doesn’t have to be inevitable.

So whatever your health concerns may be, ask yourself if there are things you could be doing to improve your own wellness. Are there habits you can break or good ones you can cultivate that will give you back some of the control you’ve lost? It just might be that with a little determination, you too can change the trajectory of your future health.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The "Fall" Basket

We’ve all been there when hardship finds one of our friends. Unsure of what to do and how to help, we fumble around for the right words and the appropriate acts of kindness. Does our friend want us to acknowledge their situation or is the pain too fresh? Do they want us to bring it up or just ignore the obvious elephant in the room? Lots of questions, no concrete answers.

A few years ago, I myself, went through a hard break-up where I found myself on the receiving end of my friends’ good intentions. Knowing I couldn’t muster up the strength to get through a conversation without crying, I sent out an email alerting those I cared for about the situation but also telling them I wasn’t ready to talk about it. My girlfriends respected my request, but also knew they had to do something to show me how much they cared.

The following week, one of my clients and friends came into the shop with a large basket of candles, coasters and potpourri. When I asked what it was she replied: “Oh, it’s just a fall basket for you.” I gratefully accepted the gift and didn’t think much about it until another person came in with a set of notepads for me. Once again, the reason for her kindness was the fall season. Throughout the week, about a dozen or so people came in to bring me some form or another of a “fall basket.”

What was this long-standing tradition I had somehow missed? How could I have lived here for so long and not known about these “fall baskets?” It took me a while, but eventually, I caught on: those beautiful “fall baskets” were my friends’ way of nonchalantly showing me they cared. Without making a fuss, or bringing up painful memories, they did what good friends do: gave me unconditional love and support. And during those dark days, their simple acts of kindness and those “fall baskets” made all the difference in the world to me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Memories From South Africa

I wasn’t used to this sort of thing -- sleeping outside on a mattress that had been drug out onto the deck. But everything about South Africa was outside of my comfort zone. Both raw and pristine, rugged and charming, it was the very definition of contradiction. And so I slept, fitfully at first, under the stars on a private game farm overlooking the valley with the Mabalingwe Mountains in the background.

I’d come here for a man (how often have you heard that one?). But until that moment, I’d only seen the country through his eyes -- his stories of playing rugby, the chutney his mother used to make, the landscape of his childhood. I’d heard so many tales it was hard to distinguish what was South Africa and what was him.

While it wasn’t as savage as the country I’d imagined in my mind, it certainly wasn’t for the finicky either. When my boyfriend told me not to turn on the light at night while going to the bathroom, he wasn’t kidding. One flick of the switch and a mob of bugs went scurrying across the floor right under my feet! And then there was the time I went to get a soda from our campsite only to look up and see a ceiling full of bats. But there was also the mama baboon we had to stop for as she crossed the road with a baby on her back and a hyena nursing her pups just six feet from where I sat.

So despite my fears and reservations, I gave into South Africa that night and she became more than memories I’d borrowed from someone else. That evening, I slept under a blanket of stars and awoke to the rustling of the trees in the morning. “Whatever you do,” my man whispered, “don’t move. Just watch.” And so I lay there, perfectly still, as dozens of tiny monkeys played in the branches above us. They jumped, grabbed each others’ tales and lunged for what remained of the previous night’s dinner. It was my reward for facing my fears, my own connection to the land and a dream that no one can take away from me.