Sunday, Sunday! Oh Guilt-Free Sundays!

Sunday is the day people are least likely to judge you for not checking email, answering your phone or even looking at it for that matter. The added benefit of being a wedding photographer is that I have Mondays off too, so there's no Sunday night blues.  A good friend of mine works in an office at which all have agreed to four ten hour days with every Sat/Sun/Mon off. I think this is a perfect schedule. When I work, I work. I work for myself, so I don’t have any co-workers and I’m more of an e-mail person so my phone is almost never ringing. I’m also of an older generation and don’t really “surf” the internet either so this allows for working without distraction and I can go for hours once in a groove. I’m not sure I would like ten hour days for myself, but I think so many people already work ten hour days already, it might be worth it to establish that as an office norm allowing for that three days in a row off. Better yet, 32 hour weeks with maximum efficiency in meetings and how you handle your schedule would probably make for a healthier happier workforce.

Here is what makes my Sundays so incredibly blissful (and they really are):

  • Coffee and the New York Times (paper edition) in bed

  • Most of the time I ride my bike to the farmer’s market after I read the paper

  • Afternoon either hiking or in bed with hubby or more reading

  • Late afternoon cook-a-thon to prep for the week (I’m not a good cook, but it’s a de-stresser for me!

  • Evening hangout with hubby either chatting and listening to music or watching a movie or show

Why is this “unplugged” time so important to me? I mentioned in my latest newsletter that I had an epiphany this Sunday and I owe it not only to my meditation practice (only ten minutes a day on weekdays), but also to this electonics-free time. One reason I love staying home on Sundays with just my hubby (other than maybe a hike or my trip to the farmer’s market) is that it allows for a day with minimal decision-making. I almost never make plans with others and I almost always have the same Sunday schedule. There’s something about being completely relaxed with no distractions and no decisions that can put me in a state of bliss like no other. I don’t have kids or pets, so that definitely helps, but I think even if you had kids and nobody in the household took out their electronics for the day it would be almost the same experience because you would be with the ones you love the most. Or if you’re single, you can learn to love just being by yourself (something I love almost more than being with my husband). This kind of time is precious for renewing energy and for opening your mind to your innermost thoughts and self.

So the epiphany this past Sunday was about writing. A few years ago I had my chart read by the fabulous Leslie McGuirk. I’ve always loved astrology in the sense that it was just fun to read my horoscope when I was a teenager (and even when I came across it as an adult sometimes). But I never really took it too seriously. I saw Leslie speak at Rancho La Puerta and decided since I was going through a career change, I would get my full chart read. It was a fascinating experience. Leslie told me that the following fall I should start writing. I’ve never done well in school and I’ve never considered myself a writer, but have always loved reading. I laughed and said I couldn’t write. Fast forward to that fall and I was starting to promote my first retreats and realized I had to start writing on my blog and social media. It was fun to discover that I actually enjoy writing. I always figured nobody was reading it, but I was having fun anyway. Then I started The Healing Farm newsletters and had to write some more. As I became more comfortable with writing, a funny thing happened. I started thinking about writing a book. It was around this same time Brennan started writing his screenplay and I watched the process as he basically put himself through his own at-home PHD film school program. I was so impressed by his passion and even though he had fits and starts the first year and a half of writing because of the learning curve, eventually he hit his groove and writes almost every day now.

So Sunday morning when I walked by him in the living room, I noticed he was writing and I realized he loves what he does so much now, that he writes on Sunday without prompting and without complaint. It’s just something he wants to do. When the idea is there, he wants to get it down. Doesn’t matter the day. I was a little envious because other than hosting retreats on Sundays without even noticing the day, I’ve never felt like I had a career at which I was happy to work any time or any day. Fast forward a few hours and a blissful afternoon in bed with said husband and suddenly I was bursting with writing ideas. I did get my laptop out so I could write down some of the ideas, but made sure I shut is just as quickly so I could keep to my electronics free day.

Although I still don’t want to work on Sundays because that time off is so important to me, I was happy just to know that someday, somehow, I’m going to combine my dream of The Healing Farm and writing. Maybe it will even be the writing that someday finances The Healing Farm? Who knows, but it’s so good to know that I’m slowly finding my way to the person I was always meant to be. I’m striving in this career transition to find my best self to transcend to another level of living. If I can make it through the fears of failure and taking big leaps of faith (without a lot of financial backing) I think I can get there, I plan on continuing to make my Sundays the day of bliss to further and further open my mind to find the dreamer, creative, happiest Julie that I have ever known.

Join us for the 3rd Act fall retreat and unplug for days so you can start to find ways to find that gem within too! Don’t worry, you’ll have internet in your room, but the rest of the property will be blissfully electronics-free!

Healthy Aging - Take a Cue From the Greeks!

The Greek Lifestyle/eating which I would like to emulate for my own healthy aging:

  1. Lots of fruits and veggies (preferably fresh from the farmer's market or garden)
  2. Yogurt
  3. Lots of fish and nuts
  4. Olives and olive oil
  5. Healthy grains
  6. Goat's milk products
  7. Wine! (in moderation - I'll try to stick to red since white is higher in sugar)
  8. Sleeping until I wake up naturally (I already do this!)
  9. Social eating (I need to do more of this!)
  10. Great sleep and rest during the day
  11. Lots of natural exercise like walking (I need to build more errand running on my bike!)

My dear gorgeous, healthy and always fabulous-looking Greek-heritage friend, Kirsten and I had a lovely time the other day having lunch at the cafe at our favorite grocery store (Berkeley Bowl!) and then had fun running into each other while shopping. It was a day off for me and we had been trying to get together for a while so we decided to tie it in with my grocery shopping trip. We love to talk about food and even took a cooking class together while we were at Rancho La Puerta last Spring.

While we had our leisurely social lunch (so Greek!) we were talking about the Mediterranean way of eating and how she's starting to move back to it. We were talking about how we obsess about food these days and she's been realizing she's just happy and healthy eating the diet of her ancestors. Although I'm not Greek (I'm Polish and German), I was thinking a lot about the Mediterranean way of eating and while I shopped and decided to buy some clams to cook that night. Right now I'm on an anti-candida protocol which is pretty strict, but other than being sensitive to gluten and dairy and trying to keep my sugar intake low, if I ever get rid of this candida, I'm looking forward to eating a more diverse diet.

The day after we met, Kirsten shared with me an article she remembered reading long ago about the Greek diet and I was inspired.  The article starts by talking about a man who moved back to a tiny island in Greece (from the states) to live out his lung cancer diagnosis. Getting back to the fresh air, socializing with friends, sleeping late, napping, working in the garden and the Mediterranean diet is the reason (he thinks) he was still alive many years after his diagnosis. He never had any cancer treatments and although I would not necessarily recommend that, somehow it worked for him and it says a lot about the Greek lifestyle. I've been eating a lot of saturated fats recently and although I've been feeling pretty good and am losing weight without even trying, I think I'm going to start shifting back to more healthy fats like olive oil rather than so much coconut oil and having avocados with my eggs rather than bacon or sausage (that's the German in me) - and lots more fatty fish (will I EVER like sardines?). My hubby isn't too social, but I love long leisurely meals with friends, so need to start scheduling more of that too. 

As I prepare for the upcoming 3rd Act retreat (I hope to see you there!) and as I hear more and more friends starting to talk about retirement plans, I'm thinking a lot more about healthy aging and this article couldn't have come at a better time. So there you go, thanks to a healthy social lunch with a friend, I'm inspired and BTW - I had the Ahi salad with seaweed for lunch that day. No wine since I've cut down on the sugar for my candida protocol, but once I'm rid of the candida, I'll be going back to drinking red wine a few times a week!

Here is the article:

 

 

Guest Blog Post by The 3rd Act Retreat’s Yoga Instructor - Rachel Heron

Even yoga teachers and doula’s make big changes midlife. Read on to hear from Rachel Heron (our 3rd Act Retreat Yoga Instructor) about how yoga transformed her life and why yoga can help you in your life at the retreat!

From Rachel:

"One rainy afternoon in NYC, in late October of 1992, my life changed.  I walked into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue, full of doubt, heartache and discontent.  Various things were not going the way I planned or wanted, and I found myself feeling jaded, cynical and stuck in a rut.  A friend had recommended yoga to me months before and I finally decided to check it out for myself, not un-reluctantly, somewhat ready to be disappointed...again.

On that day I discovered a seed of grace, faith, and beauty that has remained ever-present for me in some form.  I found a way of communicating with myself that simultaneously touched a deep place of longing and also felt like a homecoming.  I found practice.

As a trained professional dancer, I understood the value of disciplined practice.  What felt so different to me about Yoga and meditation was the absence of a goal, culmination, or public presentation.  This created a significant shift in my perception, which at first was not altogether exciting.  It was hard to orient toward my inner witness, to practice without striving or reaching for something different or better or definitive.  It took a long time for me to realize, in an embodied way, that Hatha yoga (the physical practice) was a gateway toward meditation--the practice of sitting/witnessing/holding spacious awareness.

After 25 years, what I know about practice is this--it's about showing up as you are--joyful, expansive, faithful, inspired, clear, distracted, heartbroken, angry, confused, resigned, or apathetic.  It doesn't really matter because the practice is here as a way to engage with ALL OF IT.  We don't have to be better or more in shape or happier or even in the mood.  We DO have to show up to get the benefit.  We have to be somewhat willing to look a little deeper, to feel a little more, to be with our distraction and discomfort.  

I'm not saying this is easy.  It often isn't.  But it's what we've got.  We've got this body, this mind, this tender heart, and the capacity to take some action in relation to our suffering.  Cultivating a practice allows us to discover an abiding and steadfast ‘center’.  When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing--and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.

When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing—and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.
— Rachel Heron

Since that pivotal moment in 1992, I have followed a few different life paths, each one strong in its own right, each one essential for clarifying the next phase.  I have learned that life is deeply mysterious, non-linear, uncontrollable, and unpredictable.  I know what it feels like to make choices from fear and anxiety, and I also know what it feels like to make choices from a place of inner wisdom and guidance.  While we don't know what lies ahead, we can take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make holistic choices that support our deepest well-being.

As I was turning 40, I started getting hints that my next round of work in the world would be connecting with women at potent times of their lives.  This lead to a rich and rewarding bunch of years as a birth doula--truly a time of concentrated vitality and major life transition!  And in the midst of that work, I was continually asked by yoga students and bodywork/doula clients for something else as well--they were seeking guidance around how to be in their lives more fully, presently, healthfully--they were looking for ways to alleviate suffering.  It became clear to me that my next move was to formalize a counseling practice that could address these inquiries.  And it was just at the time when my doula energy started to wane (at age 45, staying up all night with a mama in labor is not ideal!) that the form of the counseling practice really started to blossom.

These last many years I have been refining a modality I call "Intuitive Somatic Counseling". I catalyze real, lasting change for women in transition who want to create the next phase of their life with more clarity, satisfaction, and nourishment.  The basis of this work combines compassionate listening, gentle bodywork, and strategic coaching in order to help you access your inner guidance.  In affirming your own intuitive wisdom, we co-create potent daily routines and rituals that will inspire and sustain the changes you want to make.

And this brings me back to practice... We learn to show up, to engage, and to be with what is.  We can make small incremental shifts and over time we notice something new arises.  There is sacredness in the mundane, as we bring presence and mindfulness to the myriad details of life.  In this modern age of abundant technology, stimulation, and options, it is my great pleasure to connect with women on a healing and awakening path: co-creating, exploring, and living in our vitality and radiance. "

How Midlife Changes Affect Your Financial Planning for the Future? 3rd Act Retreat Speaker Catie Fitzgerald’s “Visiting” Blog Post: Focus on Personal Finance in Retirement

Catie Fitzgerald is a three-time Healing Farm retreat participant. I first met her smiling face at the Paleo Reset retreat with Chris Kresser. It wasn’t the first time I spoke with her though; she made a point of calling me right before she booked her spot at that retreat to let me know how inspired she was by what I was trying to do with The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats. You could say she was one of my first cheerleaders and supporters. Catie has fascinated me ever since with her intelligence, grace, zeal for life and zeal for learning and health. She has recently completed her training to be a nutritionist in a midlife career shift from twenty years in financial planning. I am constantly impressed with her quest for knowledge and her brave midlife career shift and feel she is the perfect fit for speaking at our upcoming retreat.

It was at a small group discussion I put together at our Women’s retreat this past January that another retreat participant suggested I not only put on a retreat for those going through a shift from midlife to retirement years, but also that Catie be a speaker. As I started putting together The 3rd Act Retreat with our main workshop speakers, Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins of The 3rd Act, I realized I still wanted a nutrition component since I strongly feel that getting a solid base to your health in your mid-years can help propel you to have the energy and focus to strive for a more meaningful and true “you” for your later years. Getting down to the bottom of chronic conditions (pain/illness and discomfort) is a key part in having the energy and capacity to free your mind to move forward. Personal finance is also key to releasing yourself from the unwanted weight of financial stress.

Catie’s expertise in both areas, as well and her own decision to make big changes in her midlife to prepare for her 3rd act should be an inspiration to us all and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about nutrition and finance at the fall retreat. Finance in particular since I feel like I’ve already figured out the nutrition part (now it’s just a matter of sticking to it!), but the finance part is still pretty shaky for me. Especially while in the process of letting go of the “old” business and starting the new as I prepare for my own 3rd Act. Let’s hear a little from Catie!

Personal Finance in Retirement: Guest Blog Post by Catie Fitzgerald

In preparation for conducting the personal finance session at the upcoming retreat hosted by The Healing Farm (The 3rd Act: Renewing Your Purpose and Passion Midlife, I was astounded to discover that the topics I deemed important to teach in 2006 at the tender age of 41 lacked the substance required by the 52-year- old I am today.  My life has changed so much, and I’ve grown in many ways including in emotional intelligence, comfort in my own skin, and maturity (not sure what that means but I’ll leave it for now).  

My personal finance program for retirees consisted of the following learning modules:

  • Creating your retirement paycheck
  • Investing during retirement
  • Long retirement fitness (what does that mean?)
  • Reverse mortgages

The content, although accurate, is dry and lacks the visioning that I insisted all my clients go through via several activities as I helped them plan for retirement.  Why was the 41-year- old version of me able to help my clients dream of retirement but when it came to helping them live it, I fell short (if I use the courses I created for retirees as a yardstick)?

The 52-year- old version of me knows what happened.  That 41-year old really didn’t relate to the mid-life retiree. She was still building her professional life, building several businesses on the side (multiple streams of income, baby!) and had recently purchased her first house. Retirement seemed so far away from her “now” and so foreign to her modus operandi of work hard, save, and invest. She understood the mechanics of actually retiring, and she was good at teaching others how to do it, but she lacked the connection to the person who would someday in the near future live it.

Her favorite question was, “What does retirement look like to you?  What will you do with your time? Who will you interact with on a regular basis?”  She liked to share her vision of retirement as a situation in which she no longer worked for a paycheck to cover her bills and expenses and instead would spend her time in pursuit of other activities simply because they filled her soul. She declared she would continue to work in a profession of her choosing regardless of the financial return.  These “labors of love” plus her investment portfolio, savings account, and whatever minuscule social security benefits she received would provide for her financial well-being.

The mechanics covered in my courses for retirees (see above bullet points) have value in helping people enjoy a financially fulfilling retirement.  Understanding these “do’s and don’ts” will contribute to a retiree's successful navigation of the fine balance of spending and investing to prevent outliving one’s financial resources.  However, these suggested moves and strategies do nothing to invigorate, ignite, and inspire retirees to make their 3rd act something truly rewarding for themselves or the people they interact with on a daily basis.

The well-intentioned, idealistic 41-year- old I was in 2006 had some good ideas and insights. She just lacked the perspective that comes when you cross over the “mid-life divide.”  I now have the perspective of one who has crossed the “divide, ” and I look forward to sharing new and innovative ideas for making retirement and your third act an adventure worth your energy, time, and commitment.  Will you join me at the retreat in October?

 

   

My Flirtation with Keto: What I Learned and Why I'm not Afraid of Fat Anymore!

I remember when I hit 100 pounds. I don't remember the age, but I remember I was being weighed at a doctor's appointment. I was starting to be self-conscious about my body because the girls at school were starting to get a little snarky about looks and weight. It must have been around 4th, 5th or 6th grade. This was in the 1970s! I can't even imagine what it's like for girls in this day and age of body shaming! 

Anyway, I remember feeling mortified about being 100 pounds and I'm thinking I might have started the dieting yoyo from that point on. That would be about 40 years of dieting on and off. Sheesh. I've never been extremely overweight, but I know at which point my body and mind feel good and I've rarely been at that target. Of course most of my "diets" have revolved around low fat which is what we've all been taught for the past 50 or so years since American's weight (and health problems) has creeped up and up into the danger zone. It wasn't until about five years ago that I started thinking of my overall chronic health conditions and started working with Chris Kresser to solve my health issues. He described the process as "peeling an onion": years of upon years of bad choices + a parasite added in had gotten me to the point of needing to solve my unhealthy body once and for all.

Although I was turned off a little bit about the "paleo" term at the time, I liked that he was more about finding out what would make my own body feel better and getting down to my own health issues to resole them, but yes, it did require a paleo "reset" which is basically an elimination diet. We worked together and the chronic conditions that I blamed on "my bad luck body" slowly (and not so slowly) lifted. Here's a list:

  • Indigestion (for twenty years)
  • SI joint pain (back pain) (for eight years)
  • Sinus headaches bordering on migraines (for twenty years)
  • Restless legs
  • Excess weight
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue (for twenty years)
  • Low sex drive

Quite a laundry list, huh? But, I worked through most of this with Chris. Got rid of the parasite and pretty much all of the other conditions until I had enough clarity and energy to want to start sharing this natural healing with others which is why (and how) I got the energy up to start The Healing Farm.

Fast forward to 2017 (my 50th year) and I'm now completely in tune to the food and drink choices I make and how they effect my body. I try to keep to the following:

  • Mostly gluten free
  • Mostly dairy free
  • Mostly sugar free
  • Low caffeine
  • Low alcohol
  • Mostly whole foods eating, mostly organic and mostly grass-fed

It's not been easy to get to this point, but every time I go overboard and "off the wagon" as they say, my chronic conditions creep back. The back and joint pain kick in, I wake up with the sinus headaches, I get a pimple (or two) and sometimes I even get sick (a cold!). Frustrating, but in reality I know when I screw up and I know when I screw up badly, so slowly as I learn to hate having these conditions come back, I've learned to be MOSTLY sticking to what works for me.

The piece of the puzzle I have not yet figured out is the fluctuating weight issues. I came close to hitting that optimal weight when I worked with Chris, but it has slowly been creeping back and I've gone up and down since. After the last THF retreat, a few of the retreat participants and I got together and one of them told me about Keto and the "Keto Clarity" book by Jimmy Moore. She had lost 30 pounds and felt great. But what really caught my interest was that she said she felt "sharp". Since peri menopause kicked in I have not felt "sharp". In fact, I'm not sure I've felt "sharp" since maybe my early twenties. There was a period of time when I first started taking my business classes and started thinking about The Healing Farm that I felt energized and on fire, but I'm not sure if I ever felt "sharp". She explained that one of the concepts behind keto is that the brain feeds on fat. The more "good" fats you give it, the sharper it will become.

This intrigued me even more than the potential weight loss. Since I have Alzheimer's in my family, I'm more than interested in ANYTHING having to do with keeping my brain healthy. I thought of my father who was diagnosed almost two years ago and thought about his low fat diet since the mid 1980s after he had his heart surgery. His diet at home was low fat, but also a lot of carbs and sugar. When he went out, it was all bets off and high fat, sugar AND carbs AND saturated fats. I was a little scared because I've been the same way for years. I decided I wanted to test out keto for myself and weight loss WAS a big incentive.

Doing a "keto" eating plan is hard. Keto is basically VERY low carb (almost no carb), VERY high fat and pretty low protein. I think I may have had an easier time if I could have eaten more protein, but I felt like I was constantly eating too much protein which resulted in not being in a ketogenic state enough to warrant eating all that fat. As a result, I didn't lose as much weight as I had hoped. BUT, there were three benefits that came out of trying the keto thing:

1 - For the first time in my "dieting" life, I didn't dream about buffet tables of food. I'm not kidding. Every time I would go on a low fat/ low calorie diet, I would dream about buffets of food. It's a little embarrassing admitting that, but this time I was losing weight and not feeling deprived. That was an eye opener that my body did indeed like fat. Once I got through the first week of not knowing what I could eat and feeling miserable and headachey, I loaded up on the fat and felt better and didn't dream of buffets. To be fair to Jimmy, he does give some good ideas on what to eat, but I just didn't feel comfortable eating butter with cheese rolled around it. Plus I'm sensitive to dairy, so I was avoiding that anyway! Bottom line was that I had a hard time figuring out what to eat. Plus I also didn't feel comfortable eating so few fruits and healthy carbs, but if I had stuck with it longer, all that probably would have been figured out.

2 - I had more energy and mental clarity than I've had in a LONG time (when I was in a ketogenic state). There were a handful of golden days and hours when I did reach a ketogenic state and I was on fire. I felt like I could accomplish anything. It was great. This was AFTER I started using MCT oil in my coffee though. After three weeks of not really hitting the ketognic state, I read online that MCT oil is key. It really does work and I only use one TBS. in my coffee in the morning (eased into it starting with a tsp, working my way up). What is MCT oil? Says Dr. Axe (read more here)

“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. Coconut oil is one great source of MCTs — roughly 62–65 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs — but recently more concentrated “MCT oils” have also been growing in popularity."

3 - I DID lose some weight. In fact, I've lost about 12 pounds in three months and the three months have included two vacations in which I was most definitely NOT in a ketogenic state.  

BUT, once I starting seeing the summer fruit at the farmer's market, I decided there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with a total keto plan. The peaches and cherries just looked too good! I also was getting headaches here and there still, my restless legs were kicking in every time I was not producing enough ketones and when I DID go off the plan, I kind of went bananas. That was a good indicator that this was not going to be sustainable for me.

I just finished up with Magdalena's "Cooking for Balance" program and am inspired again to add back in a small portion of healthy fruits and carbs into my diet. I've learned from the keto plan that I'm no longer afraid of fat. In fact, I lost some weight, felt satisfied AND felt great when I WAS eating a lot of fat so feel confident that I can rein in my tendencies to go overboard when eating if I continue to eat enough fat and not deprive myself of anything. I've also learned to rein in the carb intake too. Although I may add in a sweet potato here and there, it will probably only be a half or a very small one. I may even start adding in small portions of quinoa or rice to my stir fry meals. I'm not drinking nearly as much wine (although I did go overboard on vacation) and I'm definitely much more satisfied with eating nuts and seeds and not craving anything sweet or full of trans fats. I'm also not dreaming of buffet lines, so all-in-all, I think the keto trial was worth it in the end.

Now let's see if I can reach that weight sweet spot, but more importantly, I'm going to incorporate some of the "Cooking for Balance" tips by nutritionist Magdalena Wszelaki to tackle some final stubborn issues having to do with hormone balance and possibly SIBO. Maybe then I will reach my optimal health state once and for all. It's a work-in-progress that is taking several years, but as Chris said it's like peeling an onion. I hope that soon, I'll get to that core!

Come to the fall 3rd Act Retreat to immerse yourself in going through big change and at the same time kick off an elimination diet with a great whole food/paleo type meal plan and a nutrition lecture. The nutrition and eating plan will ALWAYS be a big part of EVERY Healing Farm retreat!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.

 

 

 

Straddling Careers Mid-life

I got home last night exhausted, but exhilarated. I sat down on the couch and hubby put on some Billy Holiday and asked me if I would like for him to rub my feet and hands and I thought about what a crazy but rewarding couple of days I had just had - topped off by such a loving and caring husband. 

In my own mid-life transition, like many people, I'm straddling careers. I can't quite let go of my photography career for financial reasons (my husband is going through his own mid-life shift and is currently writing a screenplay so not a lot of money coming in right now), but I also have this dream of The Healing Farm which I can't let go of either even though I constantly have doubts about my abilities and the reality of my dream. It's a constant struggle. One that's truly both exhausting and exhilarating. 

Yesterday I photographed a wedding at one of my favorite wedding venues. It was one of those days when I questioned why I was giving up a career that I know and most of the time love. The vendor team was a dream. The couple was easy and sweet. The guest list was only immediate family (so small!). The light was astounding and as I went through the photos last night (part of my wind-down routine), I was thinking I hit a home run for the couple. But the temperature while I was shooting was 98 degrees and it was unusually muggy in wine country. The property (Beaulieu Garden which is the private family estate of the B.V. wine label family) is gorgeous, but it's huge, so by the end of the day I was a sweaty, exhausted mess. I carry a ridiculous amount of equipment with me because I love shooting quickly and using multiple lenses and I didn't have an assistant or second photographer because it was a small wedding. My body was killing me when I got home so to have a husband who understood that I needed a foot rub was beyond a dream come true.

Wedding photography has become a tough business. There's a huge amount of competition and my 50 year old body just about can't handle the physical and emotional stress that goes with photographing a wedding so after a day like yesterday as I  was ooohing and ahing over the photos, I had to remind myself there are a LOT of reasons I'm switching careers. It's also a reminder as my back pain comes creeping back every time I shoot that I want to be able to make sure the work I've done healing my body from years of stress and chronic conditions doesn't go out the window.

Added to the successes of the last couple of days were the following:

  • A few new business inquiries and meetings for the photography business
  • A fun vendor walk-though of a museum at which I'll shoot a wedding at the end of the month
  • Bookings for the 3rd Act Healing Farm retreat set for the end of October
  • I also had a fun chat with a woman whose husband told her about the fall Healing Farm retreat. She called me to say that she had actually considered switching around travel plans to Argentina because she wants to go to the fall retreat so badly. We talked about the lack of small healing-focussed retreats that don't center only around yoga or meditation, but focus more on nutrition, healing and overall well-being and practical applications for making big lifestyle changes. 
  • Another phone call I had while in San Francisco pinning up promo cards for the 3rd Act retreat was with Claire of whom I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Claire is inspired by what I'm doing and wanted to hear how I went about making such a big shift in my life and wanted to chat about how she could make changes in her own life. I love when people reach out and am so happy to think that others are inspired by the changes I'm making in my own life.

This all reminded me of a quote I posted about a few weeks back which read:

"If you believe, stick with it. Too many people give up right before the tide changes." - Jessica Norwood, Founder of “The Runway Project”

The fall retreat is all about making big changes to prepare for your "3rd Act". I'm making these hard changes in my life right now so that I can access my true potential and calling in life. I will probably write over and over about how hard it is because it is hard to make big changes. What I have consistently found however, is that difficult times and big changes also promote great personal growth and in the end it's the hardest challenges of my life that have produced the greatest results and "highs". We can choose the path that feels easier and more comfortable, but if we do, are we reaching our true potential? In the end, after all my explorations, I may end up choosing the "easy" path, but even when I fantasize about winning the lottery, I instantly build The Healing Farm in my mind with my winnings. I would say that's a good indicator that I may be on the right path and I should push myself forward and be confident that the two rewarding days I just had will become more and more frequent. That there WILL be a time when I look back to this time and laugh with Brennan about how hard it was but realize it was all worth it in the end.

Patricia and Ellie of The 3rd Act will be leading us through a practical application workshop at the fall retreat about working toward reaching your full potential to make the most out of mid and post-midlife. I'm so looking forward to being with a group of women who are inspired to make big changes in their lives to reach their true potential. Being surrounded by others who are ready to put in the work sounds like the perfect thing for me right now too. I already can't wait to meet new friends and hope you'll join me!

Don't forget to take advantage of the EARLYBIRD special of a 15% discount off your retreat cost (excluding treatments and private consults). Don't forget to enter the coupon code "EARLYBIRD" when booking your deposit for the discount to be applied. Offer expires August 15th so book soon! 

Hope to see you there!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.

Snow in July, First Mountains, First Waterfalls, First Mountain River Swims: Taking Time off and Showing Kids the Wonder of Nature!

I love my midwestern family and I love nature and California and when I can put the three together, it's pure joy for me. Seeing that joy reflected on my nephew's faces as I showed them their first real mountains, their first waterfalls, their first swims in icy snowmelt rivers and their first glimpse of an ocean was a dream I've had since moving to California from Chicago 15 years ago. 

I speak often about the importance of time off, but I'm not sure I've spoken much about the importance of family to me. My family is everything. I have five siblings, eleven nieces and nephews and two parents who have taught us the importance of family and loyalty all of our lives. I also have an amazing husband who truly loves me for who I am and his family too! I consider myself lucky every day and as part of my gratitude practice, I'm thankful for all of their general health and longevity and our close relationships.

Helping my family understand why I moved to California and never came back is not easy to explain in words, but when they eventually come and visit I can take them to some of the glorious places that I love and show them with eyes and ears. Getting out in nature is the best thing we can do for our souls and with The Healing Farm it's something I want to share with all.

In California we preach to the choir. Most people in California hike or surf or camp or at least go to the beach sometimes to watch the sunset over the biggest ocean in the world (something I looked up with my nephews when I realized they had never seen an ocean before), but there are a lot of people in the country (maybe our president!) who aren't in nature much and are missing out on how it can help heal us at all levels. It also teaches us how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. That's been an important factor for me in my midlife journey as I've learned to let go of a lot of stress just by considering that I can't control a lot of what's going on in this crazy world. I also have learned let go of needless worrying. If I can't control it or change it what's the point in getting stressed? All of this becomes more and more clear when I'm on a hike or at the ocean or am jumping into a cold mountain river.

Family, time off, being in nature are the precious things in life that we all need to make time for. I'm proud of my nephews for trying so much while they were out here (including surfing and boogie-boarding!). On the last night they were in town we ordered food in and had a pajama dance party in my living room with my husband as D.J. Being the young ones they are they ended up saying that was their favorite part of their trip. I understood though because it was yet another glimpse of their unadulterated joy. I saw it on their faces when they were dipping their toes in the Wa Ka Luu Hep Yoo river, I saw it when they saw snow on Ebbett's Pass, I saw it when they were rafting down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley, when they did their first true mountain hike to Cascade Falls in Tahoe and when they successfully rode the waves on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz. The awesomeness of nature and dancing with abandon to music created by humans after challenges you've never experienced before are equal in mindfulness meditation. It's a glimpse of how connected we all are with each other and nature.

Take a break. Dance in your living room, dance in nature. Show some kids nature like they have never seen it before and watch your own spirit fly!

Inspiring Others

I met with my mentor, Pamela Hawley last night and was so inspired by our conversation that I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning, unable to get back to sleep because I was bursting with ideas. Pamela is one of the most giving and enthusiastic people I've ever met and was an instructor of mine at the UC Berkeley Business School Extension Program. I was always so on fire when I walked out of her class that when the class wrapped up for good, I decided to ask if she would meet me for a cup of coffee so I could pick her brain a little about The Healing Farm and get a feel for what she thought of the idea (and me). It was a little intimidating e-mailing her and asking so I was honored and thrilled when she not only agreed to meet with me, but she asked if I wanted a mentor. Here we are two years later and she's still dedicating time to me and The Healing Farm while running her own non-profit (Universal Giving) and writing her own blog called Living and Giving.

While I was on the train on my way to our meeting, I was reading Conscious Company magazine which is my favorite read in the world right now, other than John Muir Meditations, the Sunday New York Times and fiction novels. The magazine often interviews “conscious company” business owners and in the current issue there is an interview with Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite which is a local San Francisco food market (among other things!). Apparently Mr. Mogannam wakes up at 4:00 AM most days and uses the first couple of hours as quiet reading and writing time. I use the first couple of hours of my day for meditation, reading and exercise; but admittedly it’s more like 7:00 - 9:00 AM. Inspiration and writing time will likely never happen at 4:00 AM for me, but it sure would be nice to experience this on a regular basis!

I was inspired by Pamela and I was inspired by the “conscious company” business owners I read about in the current issue of the magazine. It’s that kind of inspiration that keeps me going in this pursuit of The Healing Farm. I told Pamela last night that as much as I long to do something easier in my quest for a new career, there is something in me that just won’t let The Healing Farm concept go. It’s burning within me. I’ve read over and over that it’s that fire that seems to be what keeps entrepreneurs going when they start a business. If the fire weren’t there, those businesses would likely not succeed. Money is not enough of a desire (Lord knows it’s not what’s keeping me going with The Healing Farm since it is a business that is not yet profitable or fully realized). I’ve written before that personal growth at this level is not an easy path. It’s that passion to help others in their pursuit of practical and natural wellness that keeps me on fire.

It’s also inspiring others while on this path, which keeps me going too. It’s something I did not anticipate at all in this process, but every once in awhile I’ll get validation by someone that I may be on the right path in my ideas and pursuit of THF. It’s that validation and the thought of inspiring others that gives me little kicks in the bottom to propel me forward.

Thank you to Claire and Rae for their lovely notes:

I met Claire briefly last fall when I was in Montana. I was having dinner with a friend and had my Healing Farm bag hanging on the back of my chair. When we finished our meal, one of the servers in the restaurant came up to me and asked where The Healing Farm was located. I laughed and said it didn’t yet exist, but told her about the concept and gave her a business card. Last Friday after I emailed the latest THF newsletter, I got this lovely email from Claire:

Hi Julie,

Been following your posts/events/blogs ever since meeting you last summer at Lucca’s in Helena, Montana.  I feel so inspired by what you are doing!  I’ve recently been searching for work that is a true expression of who I am and would be so excited to talk with you about any little possibility of you doing work here in Montana.  Or, I would also love to know how it was you decided to go for this!  What were your initial steps?  What were your biggest lessons?  What would you say to a young woman with a desire in her heart but no sense of which direction to go first?

And, just a thank you for being a person who follows her heart and emulates what is means to be brave and go for her dream.  Every time I encounter another person like you, it lifts me up and gives me a little hit of hope.
— Best, Claire

I can’t tell you how much this kind of validation helps me to keep going. Inspiring Claire, ended up inspiring me. It’s some kind of a great kharma circle. It never occurred to me that someday I might be mentoring others, but last summer the lovely Tricia in Vancouver, BC contacted me to see if I would have a few mentoring chats with her. We don’t talk as often anymore, but I had fun doing a little mentoring despite feeling like I was getting a little ahead of myself. Claire and I have scheduled a phone call for the beginning of August and if there’s any way I can help propel her forward in her own dreams, I’m going to darned well try.

I also had lunch with a mutual friend of a friend who attended the women’s retreat last January and I was commenting on how fabulous she looked. Rae told me that her lifestyle completely changed after her experience at The Healing Farm retreat. In the six months since the retreat she’s made some hard changes in diet and lifestyle, but is feeling great and credits her experience in helping her to achieve this level of well-being. Said Rae:

After my weekend with the Healing Farm, I felt empowered by information, inspired by other women who were facing similar challenges, and enabled to make healthy choices for myself.  In the six months since the retreat, I have used that momentum to create a new lifestyle that truly supports and nourishes me.
— Rae Richman

Thank you to all that have written to me in the past couple of years. I can’t tell you how much hearing from you helps me and in helping me, you will hopefully be helping others. My hope is that The Healing Farm will ultimately be a property that inspires all sorts of people to live a healthier and more fulfilled life. It’s hard work, but once you start seeing the feedback and results the feeling is so great that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.

Join our 3rd Act Retreat this fall to hear from our speakers about how to create great change in your own life to renew your purpose and passion!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

Announcing Yoga and Bodywork Practitioners for the Fall 3rd Act Retreat!

Excited to announce our 3rd Act retreat practitioner line-up!

Strength Training

Our nutritionist/finance lecturer and three-time Healing Farm retreat participant, Catie Fitzgerald will be offering a special 30-minute light strength building class. Women in mid-life have some very specific needs, especially in regard to building/maintaining healthy bones, regulating hormones (i.e., thyroid, adrenal, etc.), preserving flexibility and balance, and preventing heart disease so we've included this 30-minute functional strength training class lead by Catie.

Yoga and Guided Meditation

I believe yoga (practiced safely and at your level) to be one of the best well-rounded physical activities for any body, but especially for the aging body. I don't do it on a regular basis, but sometimes practice at home on my own or using videos. Every time I get back into it, I appreciate the way it opens up and stretches my body, but also how it makes me focus. It's meditative in it's own right when you truly focus on your poses and your breathing. I'm excited to announce our yoga practitioner for the 3rd Act retreat!

I've known Rachel Heron for several years now and have traded massage for photographing her headshots and yoga poses a couple of times. She's a woman of many talents and has a truly caring practice on many levels now incorporating her more than 20 years experience as a yoga instructor and bodywork practitioner into her life-coaching practice. Although we will not be utilizing Rachel's coaching practice at this retreat, we will experience her deeply caring yoga practice daily and her talented hands as an overflow massage therapist (after Angela's schedule fills up!). Rachel will also lead us in one of our guided meditation sessions.  "Rachel's yoga classes are vigorous, deep, and anchored in therapeutic alignment principles. Her aim is to help students experience a profound inner stillness. We do this by bringing mindful awareness to our physical bodies, engaging our fullest breathing capacity, clarifying the energy body, and investigating the space between our thoughts. Students will leave class feeling alive and refreshed on all levels." You can schedule a private yoga session with Rachel by clicking here.

Bodywork

I've know Angela Bausch for many years and have gotten countless massages from her! I included in the gallery above one of the maternity photos I took of her many years ago. I think it demonstrates her joy and embrace of nature and life. It's who she is at so many levels. Angela has recently moved her practice from Berkeley to Sebastapol, but still comes to Berkeley once a week and shares office space with Chris Kresser. This is how I originally learned of Chris Kresser's work - which of course is what has set me on my current path of healing and career/life change. I feel like it all stemmed from Angela so she holds a particularly special place in my heart. Plus she has very talented and caring hands and will lead you to a blissful state during your massage sessions! You can click here to schedule a massage at the retreat.

Guided Meditation - take two!

The entire team agrees that meditation - even a few minutes a day (I do about ten minutes a day a few times a week) is incredibly important in midlife. Meditation calms the mind. It helps you connect to who you are at a deeper level and helps to re-direct your obsessive and stressful thoughts (I think most of us have those) to a place of calm deep within. It truly is life-changing (it even reduces inflammation!) and so we're incorporating guided meditation sessions in the schedule led by different members of the team so you can get well-rounded advice on how to start (or deepen) your practice. There will also be an art meditation session led by me!

QiGong 

QiGong and Tai Chi are also great meditative practices that incorporate safe, light movement and light strength conditioning. We will be including an intro to ChiGong at this retreat and will announce the practitioner soon!

Looking forward to joining you on the mat, seeing you in guided meditation and seeing your blissful faces after your bodywork. Most of all, I hope to see you and hang out with you at the retreat!

 

A Couple of Tips for Big Change: Physical and Great Life Changes

I’ve communicated a lot on this blog and in my newsletters about my own midlife crisis, why I have been inspired to facilitate two menopause retreats, and why I was inspired to put together the upcoming fall retreat focused on “The 3rd Act” with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins. I started my own midlife crisis in my mid-forties, when I was not only coming to the realization that having a child was never going to happen for me, but also years of chronic health conditions were adding up and really bringing me down. I was also discovering that I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing for my career anymore. Everything seemed to be coming at me at once and adding the heartbreak of aging parents just about put me over the top. Needless to say, the second half of my forties was challenging and I realized I was in a “midlife crisis”.

I’ve done a lot since that discovery. I’ve healed most of my chronic conditions through change of diet and exercise and because of that work was inspired to start The Healing Farm | Retreat business. Since my own healing journey started, I dreamt of an affordable wellness retreat property where I could pass along practical life-changes to prevent and/or alleviate chronic illness and conditions. The Healing Farm concept was born and the “midlife crisis” started turning into my midlife “renaissance” as I started calling it. I know I’m still in midlife crisis because this personal transformation has been anything but easy, but I’ve taught myself enough tools at this point to navigate without freaking out too much.

 When a dear friend told me about the book “Hidden Blessings” by Jett Psaris, PhD I went online almost immediately to buy it. I have to say that I’ve never been into “self help” books - until I went into midlife crisis. The book “Fail Fast, Fail Often” by John D. Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux was the first book I read that truly inspired me to not be afraid of change. I’m a creature of habit and needed to be inspired by people who were telling me that change and failing is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be the catalyst for a truer and more meaningful existence. This simple midwestern girl was suddenly inspired to challenge herself, find greater meaning, and create a legacy. If my legacy wasn’t going to be a child, then damnit, I was inspired to try to create a legacy of helping others to heal.

That’s what “Hidden Blessings” is about. Moving through midlife crisis to find the hidden gem within. It definitely doesn’t sugar-coat the midlife process, in fact when I read that most midlife crises last 10-12 years my stomach did a little lurch. That means I may not even be halfway through mine. That’s pretty depressing. But the book gives tools to guide you through and Ms. Psaris talks about midlife crisis being more of a metamorphosis rather than a crisis. This I can relate to. She quotes George Elliot:

 “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

Ms Psaris says: “....[the guidance given] comes from my own midlife experience and that of others, draws on many traditions and schools of thought to help us respond fully to the transformative invitation of midlife. That invitation is to step away from taking life literally - and perhaps, superficially - to discover a deep and profound underlying existence. Midlife invites us to surrender the narrowly defined view of ourselves and others that prevails during the first half of life, so that we can become more complex and multi-dimensional beings capable of living the largest lives possible moving forward."

Truth be told, I haven’t yet read the entire book, but I’m very much looking forward to what the author suggests and also what the ladies of The 3rd Act will teach us about transitioning in midlife during The Healing Farm’s fall retreat at Mayacamas Ranch. I’ve been so inspired by this book that I’ve already recommended it to friends realizing that more and more as I open up about my own midlife crisis, my friends are wanting to share their challenges too. It really does help to know that you are NOT the only one.

Another thing I’ve been sharing a lot recently with friends is Magdalena Wszelaki’s  “Cooking for Balance” online workshop. As I hear more and more people talking about stress, fatigue, stomach issues, among a multitude of other things, I’m more and more inspired not only to get The Healing Farm wellness retreat property off the ground, but I’m also inspired to continue to share tips about how we can heal a lot of our chronic issues ourselves just through changing our diet. Sure, it wasn’t JUST diet that helped me to work through my long-term chronic conditions (read here about how I worked through mine), but I’ve learned it’s a really important start and Magdalena’s workshop is informative and practical, plus the workshop video/format makes it easy to follow. I watched the free intro video last fall and bought the program right away - it’s four parts with a primer and very important to watch EVERYTHING. I even watched the free intro video a second time to refresh my memory before I started the program.

Needing to understand what various foods and allergies do to our bodies from a nutritional and scientific perspective is important and Magdalena makes it easy to follow. The cooking part of it is also helpful with charts of do’s and dont’s for various conditions, recipes, food guides and how-to videos. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but if you are tired of being sick and tired, it is so worth it. Having all this information in one easy to follow format is great. It’s like one-stop-shopping for affordable and practical long-term healing (like The Healing Farm concept!). Way easier than researching it all on your own online AND cheaper (and quicker) than going through traditional western medicine and medications to manage your health issues.

One of the reasons I didn’t start the workshop for months is because I’m running two businesses. One of the important things I’ve learned in this midlife journey is re-organizing my time and priorities which is how I found the time to take the workshop. I was finding that I was obsessing over the news and reading it with my coffee every morning. It was getting overwhelming and depressing so I decided that I would allow myself to read the news one weekday morning and continue to dive in deep with my Sunday New York Times. The rest of the mornings I would dedicate to doing something inspiring and worthwhile with my morning coffee. So every morning, I set my timer for half and hour, climb back in bed with my bulletproof coffee (you’ll see why I drink coffee with fat after you take the workshop) and I listen to a small part of the workshop.

My favorite tips so far:

  • Testing for an appropriate amount of stomach acid using a simple baking soda solution (I’ve had trouble with indigestion since my twenties so this is important to me).
  • Re-building stomach acid when it’s too low by drinking warm water with lime, lemon or apple cider vinegar while your stomach is empty.
  • The importance of seed rotation and ridding your life of toxins for balance of hormones.
  • What truly are some worthwhile nutrient-dense foods (like seaweed) and sardines.
  • Adding sprouts to my salads (did you know a large handful of broccoli sprouts is the nutritional equivalent of a whole head of broccoli?).
  • An in-depth study of why my diet needs to be so low in sugar (bad gut bacteria feeds on sugar for one thing!).
  • Why fats are so important for brain health and satiation after meals and why NOT to be afraid of fats - contrary to what I’ve believed all my life.
  • A simple meditative breathing technique that I now incorporate into my almost daily meditation practice - something I’ve easily fit into my day by doing while I’m brewing coffee.

All of the information I’ve been getting through this program I’ve also learned from other sources like through my work with Chris Kresser, the retreats I’ve put on and the Keto Clarity book, but I feel like Magdalena’s program is so concise and realistic I highly recommend checking it out.

Another good place to learn about some of this is the fall 3rd Act Healing Farm retreat! Join us for a look into midlife and nutritional tips for this transition as well!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!