From the Sounds of Silence to Perpetual Motion

Just a few snaps since the beginning of the year...

And it’s time to write. And write. And write. This is a long one for a lot has happened in the last five months...

I’m sitting at a writer’s retreat house in the Eastern Sierras right now and finally putting “pen to paper” after a few long and transformative months. A couple months back, I was invited to stay here to photograph for the retreat’s marketing materials. Even after making a huge life decision to move out of the Bay Area and with the move scheduled for a couple of weeks from now, I decided it was important for Brennan and I to go on this little trip. Given our ten year wedding anniversary is June 3rd and we'll be unpacking and living in a trailer for our anniversary, we also decided to celebrate our ten years together here in this spectacular place. I also went forward with a previously planned trip to Mercey Hot Springs with friends (and a couple of blissful days alone with Brennan). What I’ve discovered in the last few months has been life-changing and I want it to be a part of what’s taught at The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats in addition to the nutrition and exercise components.

Something I’ve learned through meditation (and lots of self-exploration) is to not let my emotions and ego rule my life and decision-making and to also go a little more with the flow rather than letting situations, planning and fear rule my life and schedule; something my new “boss” echoed when I was racing around trying to make a big decision and freaking out a bit a few weeks ago. Made me feel like where I was headed was in the right direction (thanks, Steven).

My “boss” you ask? For someone who’s been self-employed and has started two businesses, this is pretty freaky to say! So let me explain what has happened since my last heart-wrenching blog entry!

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE

My 50th year ended with some major challenges (see my previous blog post for more details). I was writing a business plan for The Healing Farm and had planned for a big women’s retreat to keep the business moving in a direction which would give me more experience and more visibility for The Healing Farm | Retreats. I was keeping my head above water until Mayacamas Ranch (the retreat property at which I was to hold my last retreat) burned down. It was three weeks before my 51st birthday, the end of the wedding photography season and I was in the intense Renaissance business plan writing program twice a week. Try finishing a business plan while trying to resuscitate the women’s retreat and also go away for the holidays. Not an easy end to the year.

2018 rolled in with the month of January:

  • Making the decision not to move forward with rescheduling the retreat since I couldn’t find a location that I truly felt could accommodate my specifications and having to let my retreat team and guests know of this decision
  • Starting to try to work out the financial losses with Mayacamas Ranch (huge!)
  • Finishing the business plan + graduation

Thankfully I had all of my photo projects behind me, I split the “best business plan” award at graduation and presumably had a “plan” for moving forward with The Healing Farm business - after all that’s what a business plan is for! I should have been rearing to go to start working toward making 2018 the year I took a leap of faith forward with The Healing Farm business! But one gorgeous Saturday, I went to a shoreline cleanup event with the Trident Project which is a non-profit a business friend started to build awareness about pollution in our oceans.

Something happened that morning as I realized the enormity of the planet’s peril. I spent an hour working on about a six square foot patch on the East Bay shoreline. Picking up tiny pieces of plastic, styrofoam, hypodermic needles, plastic straws, plastic portable flossing devices (I’m all for flossing, but let’s get rid of those things. They are EVERYWHERE), plastic caps, etc. This didn’t even include all the micro-fibers which is what my friend who is in the sailing clothing business wants to build awareness about. I had about a ¼ mile, maybe ½ mile walk to get back to my car and I couldn’t move beyond a snail’s pace. I got home and slept for two hours and when I woke up I just couldn’t get my energy back. And the next day was the same. And the next day was the same. I entered into what I might now call a depression and deep exhaustion. I was:

  • Exhausted from running one business while starting another
  • Exhausted emotionally from the devastating wildfires which even affected my business in a big way and so many others who lost lives and homes.
  • Exhausted financially
  • Exhausted worrying about the future of this planet
  • Exhausted by our political climate and situation
  • Exhausted from writing a 45 page business plan complete with two years of financials (something is is not in my natural tool house)
  • Exhausted trying to change my life
  • Exhausted from perimenopause
  • Exhausted from my mid-life crisis which is in about year 7 (yes, really!)
  • Exhausted worrying about family illness

I just couldn’t get motivated. So I didn’t. I decided to let myself rest as long as I needed. I guess you could say I took a sabbatical. I’m sure to most people this sounds like a luxury and I admit I’m lucky to be self-employed. It was a huge financial risk and setback, but I strongly believe this kind of time of reflection should be available to all of us. It’s a crime that our workforce encourages long hours and constant work and it’s a disservice to all Americans that the majority are underpaid and overworked with only 1-3 weeks of vacation for the typical person. I’ve thought about a lot of big issues during this time of reflection and sabbatical and feel strongly that it shouldn’t be a luxury for just a few.

So this is what I did:

  • I slept as long as I liked
  • I took the time to pray on my knees
  • I took the time for longer meditations
  • I took the time to not only read Jett Psaris’ book “Hidden Blessings” (about midlife crisis), but also to do every exercise in the book and wrote them down in a journal
  • I took the time to hike
  • I only answered essential emails to keep my businesses running on pilot light
  • But mostly, I just took time to be with myself, in my house and let my mind run free

And here's what happened from my time of silence:

INTO (almost) PERPETUAL MOTION

I found the time to help care for a dying friend and her children - something that has had a profound effect on my life. I had the honor of taking her to Ocean Beach for what turned out to be her last time.

I was re-contacted by a friend who in the spring of 2017 asked if I would be interested in helping to develop a 50 acre organic farm in the Sierra Foothills.

Just as I was finishing the “Hidden Blessings” book, I was contacted by a woman who was interested in talking about partnering on a retreat property in Idaho. It wasn’t the right fit/place or timing, but she sent me a message the week I finished Jett’s book. Knowing I was wrestling with some big decisions and emotions, there was a new moon that coming Friday and with a new moon (she told me) it’s a good time to contemplate big decisions so she suggested I take some time that Friday to reflect on a big decision. Sounded a little woo woo to me and then I read one of the last exercises in Jett’s book which suggested a “meditation” in nature. More of a walking meditation. A time to go out into nature and connect in a profound way to the universe and myself. More woo woo, but I thought the coincidence was just too big. Friday came and I announced to Brennan that I was going to pack a small daypack and go to our local regional park and spend the day. I planned on hiking a three mile loop and brought food, a little pot vape pipe (yes, it’s legal now in CA!) a blanket and a backpacking chair and I had the most blissful day of reflection I’ve ever had. It took me seven hours to do that loop. I stopped and communed with nature. I felt the sun on my face. I laughed and I cried. I slept and I hiked. I had a vision of wanting more security in my life and that I wanted to be cared for and then I realized I’m cared for in an incredibly deep emotional way by my husband which matters the most (to me). I realized that although I knew we needed to move out of the Bay Area I wasn’t interested in moving outside of my beloved West Coast (unless it’s back to the Midwest with my family) and I realized I still wanted to pursue The Healing Farm, but that maybe I needed to take a different path to get there. That few hours of bliss lifted me out of that depression and malaise just enough that I could see the point of light and plan the next tiny steps to get fully beyond that dark place. The pot helped too.

And then more and more profound things started to happen.

I opened my mind up to exploring the offer in the Sierra Foothills further and took baby steps to take a realistic look at what it would be like to move and the opportunity the experience offered to help develop a small retreat property on an organic farm. Wasn’t that what I wanted The Healing Farm to be on a larger scale anyway? Brennan and I went for a night. Then we went for a whole week, then I typed up a proposal and went back a couple more times on my own and slowly it started to occur to me that it was the absolute right next step to take. I could spearhead a retreat property development at very low risk to myself and at the same time take a baby step out of the Bay Area which allows me to finish out my 2018 wedding photography season and still see my friends and family in the Bay Area which made the idea of a move not so heart-wrenching. And so it happened and we started making plans for a move at the end of May. I started working part-time for the farm a few weeks ago and love every minute of it. Every time I go to the farm for a night, I don’t want to leave. The air is clear. I can collect fresh eggs from the henhouse. I can eat all the organic produce I can get my hands on. I can envision a retreat property and hosting my own healing retreats once it’s finished (or rustic retreats while it’s in development). I can live with a little community of people who care about the land and what we eat and how to live their lives mindfully. If I hadn’t given myself that time to relax and reflect, I’m not sure I would have been ready to take such a big leap and despite the fact that we’re going to move into a 26’ trailer and will have to walk outside to get to a shower and a toilet, I’m learning to embrace living so minimally for a little while. We’ll have nature and an organic farm, two mountain rivers and three warm and sunny seasons to live outdoors. It’s going to be a challenge. For sure. BUT I’ve built up my energy reserves in the last few months and am truly ready to jump in and give this next step my all. Check out Stone’s Throw Farm CA. This will be my new home.

Embracing what came my way without fear and without judgement on myself for making what seemed to be extravagant decisions given my work and financial situation was also part of this time of reflection. After I had my “visionquest” day as I’m now calling it, situations that just seemed right started to come my way and I started embracing what felt right despite that I was feeling a little fearful:

I serendipitously realized that Jett Psaris, the author of that profound book on midlife crisis that I can’t shut up about was doing a workshop at Esalen Institute. I’d been wanting to go to Esalen for many years since it’s been an inspiration for The Healing Farm and I’ve never been! I tried to get a “sleeping bag” space, but they were sold out, so I booked a shared room and contacted a friend and Healing Farm client who I know also got a lot out of the “Hidden Blessings” book. She had recently moved to the East Coast, but she happened to be coming to the Bay Area for some meetings and we roomed together. It was a great experience. I fell in love with Esalen and really loved the workshop and listening to others who were also trying to change their lives in their midlife transition, plus I got to bond with this very special woman who was my roommate and who made some of her own big decisions that weekend. A new deep friendship (thanks, Rae!)!

I had also been wanting to experience 1440 Mutiversity - the new retreat center development in the Santa Cruz mountains. My fave publication “Conscious Company” was holding a “World Changing Women’s Summit” there and damnit! I really want to be a World Changing Woman. I couldn’t really afford it, so I reached out to see if there was a volunteer opportunity or a scholarship (something I never would have thought to do in the past since I would have thought I wasn’t worthy). We worked it out and I was so on fire and inspired by the women at this conference that it also turned out to be somewhat of a life-changing experience. I stayed at the last minute on property in one of the “bunk bed” rooms. Although 1440 is NOTHING like I envision for The Healing Farm property, it was good to get a feel for a large and new property, their programs, their food AND their accommodations.

Brennan and I have been rocking our house as we get closer to moving. We’ve loved living in our little neighborhood and house in Oakland and although I’m sad to leave, I realized I’m ready for this big shift. We’ve made the time to enjoy our last couple of months and I’ve become inspired by a whole new side of myself and my relationship which I’ve been hinting at for several months. Sex is a big part of my life and relationship and I’ve realized how important release is and I have ideas percolating for sharing this side of myself and my relationship as a future part of the retreat business so stay tuned!

I’ve made time to book some weddings, shoot and deliver some gorgeous photos to happy clients, write a mini-business plan (and had fun doing it) for Stone’s Throw Farm’s event arm of the business. I’ve held the hand of someone within the last week of her life, who was younger than me and had so much more of her life to live and have been further inspired to build The Healing Farm to try to prevent so many deaths of those far too young. I happened to be driving up to Mt. Shasta to photograph a small retreat property  (Hestia Magic  - my photos not up yet!) on the day of my friend’s death and I felt like I was channelling her spirit as I sang and cried and then I realized she had just climbed Mt. Shasta two years ago for breast cancer awareness. More seemingly perfect timing. Brennan and I made time for that little trip to Mercey Hot Springs and this current trip to the Eastern Sierras.

I feel like my wings are opening up and I’m finally embracing who I am at my core. I don’t know where this current road will take me, but am pretty sure it’s a leap of faith on the right path for who I am. Taking the time to let myself feel exhausted and depressed ultimately has helped me work to the next level of my journey and I’m slowly getting my energy back and more and more excited about the work ahead.

I visited a friend from my very first business class yesterday. In the second class of the program, she and I met a few times to be part of each other’s business start-up support system. She was tired of the rat race of the Bay Area and wanted to get out of the construction business which is something she’d always done just because it was just what she ended up doing, but she wanted something more. She wanted to follow a dream of opening up a coffee shop. Fast forward three years and I drank the most lovely cup of coffee you’ll get on this side of the Sierras at her Pupfish Cafe coffee shop in Bishop, CA. She took a huge leap of faith and left the Bay Area and a relationship to follow her dream in a place where she never imagined she would live. She looked happy and relaxed. She’s running her small coffee shop, laughed at the fact that she’s living in a trailer community with mostly retired people (we compared notes about our trailers), hikes and has developed friendships out here. I asked her how much she works and she said 50 hours a week (not bad for owning and running a business). I asked her if she likes it and she said it’s the best thing she’s ever done. She was proud of her offerings and her employees and for now is content with where she’s at.

Janette and Pupfish Cafe, Steven and Bryanna and the folks at Stone’s Throw Farm, Jett Psaris and the awesome women at the Conscious Company Women’s Summit, Sydney of Ocean’s SF, Belinda and Hestia Magic, all of my friends and family who have been supportive of my crazy dream, the brave souls who wrote business plans last fall taking two classes per week while working full time, brave Jill who fought so hard to fight her cancer but said she was “ready to leave her body” a few days before she died, the woman in Idaho who is trying to follow her dream, and the people who continue to reach out to me to ask when I’m going to host my next retreat or “where is The Healing Farm property”, I say this: Thank you. Continue to follow your dreams. Find out who you really are. Let go of fear and influence and just be. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find your way, get your energy back and have a more hopeful outlook for your life and your very short time on this beautiful planet. My biggest hope is that everything that I do in the next few years will lead to The Healing Farm property where I can share my dreams and life with you.

Reach for the stars because we are (as Carl Sagan says) all made of star stuff.

On month five and two weeks out from a major move and feeling incredibly creative and beautiful. I should listen to myself more often.....

Wild Willy's Hot Springs in the Eastern Sierra - taken the week I wrote this post and yes, I'm naked and covered in mud. LIVE A LITTLE!

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men: How to pick up the pieces and move on...

 One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

“The best-laid plans of mice and men….”

We’ve all heard that saying. Even if you give something your all and feel you have all the pieces in place to prevent failure, major challenge or an unwanted outcome, circumstances even beyond your control can cause your plan to go awry. This happened recently with The 3rd Act Women’s Retreat scheduled for October 29th - November 2nd.

The fantastic speakers and practitioners were in place. We had women coming from the Bay Area, Maine, New Jersey and the Midwest. We had the perfect retreat property booked and ready to make us our specific elimination diet meal plan and we had hopes for relaxation, growth, learning and meeting new friends. Within the first day of the devastating California wildfires our much-loved Mayacamas Ranch burned to the ground and all was lost for the owners and their 12 employees. Jobs, their gorgeous property and even homes. And for The Healing Farm Retreats and all the other retreat leaders and retreat participants, we lost a very special property that was unique in so many ways. As stated on the Mayacamas website and in their fundraising campaign:

“It is my deep belief that something beautiful will emerge from this devastation.”

It is my own hope that the owners of the property have it in them to rebuild and I hope to hold retreats at the property in the future, but in the meantime I had to make the decision to relocate or postpone the retreat.

As the week went on and the wildfires continued to destroy acres and acres of land, wineries and properties at which I had photographed so many weddings over the years and as the death toll continued to rise, I was frantically trying to find another location at which to hold the retreat. I was tired, I was heartbroken and I was fearing for more and more loss as the fires burned. I finally had to come to the conclusion that it was best to reschedule the retreat and started going about notifying guests and team members and trying to contact the devastated staff of Mayacamas to figure out the financial end of the loss for my own business (at least in the short term). I am so grateful that I have developed the skills through my own growth process in the past few years to “roll with the punches” as another well-known saying goes. That hasn’t been easy in the last two weeks, but here’s what I continue to do to calm myself in trying times:

Meditation and Prayer

Just 10-20 minutes a day is life-changing. You can really teach your mind to view your worry, obsessive thoughts and sorrow as fleeting and to see this life as existing in a much bigger place than all of us. This situation was not as devastating to me as to so many others, but compounded with running two businesses, staying in touch with my marriage and going to a business plan writing class two nights a week it was hard and continuing to do the meditation practice almost every morning really gave me a sense of calm and understanding that life is so much greater than myself. There are two books that I always recommend. Both of which have helped me understand meditation practice:

Regular Exercise - Oh that Seven Minute Workout!

I’ve mentioned it countless times, but it’s because I believe in it so much. The New York Times Seven Minute workout is essential to my well-being. If I don’t workout (and meditate) in the morning the day gets away from me and it doesn’t get done and then I feel down. When I do the workout, it lifts spirits and energy levels like nothing else. When it’s hard for me to get out of bed because I’m down and I really don’t want to workout, I do my other routines (meditation and prayer, coffee and email/news and making the bed) and then it’s hard for me to justify blowing off a workout that takes seven minutes! Once I do it, I’m usually motivated enough to add-on my equal-length stretching routine derived from years of yoga. I’ve added another seven minute workout to alternate with the NYT workout too. For women over 40, keeping up your muscle mass is key to weight management and bone health, so I now alternate days and added a Pop Sugar seven minute hand weight routine (thanks for the tip Christina of Nightingale Photo!). Between these two workouts, I feel toned and healthy and it really doesn’t take long. Plus it’s a GREAT stress-reliever. Especially if you put on DJ Dan in the background!

Healthy Diet, Low or No Alcohol and Great Sex!

The past few months I’ve gone back to an elimination diet meal plan (first learned with Chris Kresser's "A Paleo Cure Book")  pretty much full time until I relieve some chronic conditions that have popped back up. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, carbs, grains, dairy or sugar in about ten weeks. I’ve dropped 25 pounds and am looking and feeling great. If I had gone through this major challenge at the weight I was at, feeling bloated and belchy and tired and drinking too much wine on top of it, I might not have gotten out of bed while the California wildfires raged. Even though food and alcohol can be soothing when you’re feeling down or stressed and offers some immediate relief, give it a little time and you’re going to actually feel worse. We all know this, yet we continue to repeat these old patterns of comfort. Teaching yourself newer, healthier patterns of comfort (like mindfulness meditation) can really help you in a more positive way when you’re dealing with stress.

And then there’s sex. Glorious sex. Or maybe I should just say “orgasm” because not all of us have partners! There’s nothing like a relaxing evening (or afternoon) at home in bed (or wherever) and a mind-blowing orgasm to relax you and to bring you back to who you are at the core. We are sexual beings. Sex can be the best of mindful meditation. It can take you to a place of pure being like nothing else. Sex with a trusted partner with whom you have a deep connection also makes you feel secure and loved. No matter what happens in your life you can always be reminded that you are who you are at your core, the people you love the most will be with you in hard times and we all pretty much have the ability as human beings to feel this great pleasure and connection to others. It’s really darned important in my book and I feel fortunate that I have grown to not be insecure or afraid or guilty about being a sexual human being and hope to one day lead a Healing Farm retreat about this very important topic. Plus it’s fun!

Does going from devastation to talking about sex seem like crazy talk? I hope not. I hope you can see the connected dots.

I did leave one very important tip out of the above list because I truly haven’t found the time in the past two weeks (except sitting in my own backyard and riding my bike to the farmer's market) so here’s one that may be the most important of all:

Getting out in Nature

This can wrap all of the above into one really lovely gift. All can be done in nature (although the sex part is a little tricky - you may need a tent).

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” - William Shakespeare

We are all one interconnected organism on this planet and in this universe. Carl Sagan once said we are all made of starstuff and it’s true. Every part of nature is one big mixed and interconnected bunch of elements and when we go into nature we can see the awe of creation and our part in it right in front of us. Getting out into fresh air, taking a hike, camping, looking at the stars can really make us see the awesomeness of the universe and help us to understand our miniscule place in it and suddenly worries can lift and drift away.

Meditate, pray, exercise, eat what nature and human hands provide (whole foods!) and have a kick-ass orgasm all in nature and see how you feel. For those who have lost homes and loved-ones none of this will help in the short term, but keeping at it and chipping away at all of life’s difficulties and tragedies as they come our way (because they will always continue to do so) and learning how to practically deal with our challenges and emotions will help so much in the long run.

In the meantime, grieve if you need to, volunteer if you can, give money if you’re able, but most of all take care of yourself and learn what makes YOU accept and move through your own challenges more gracefully and with hope.

Paving Your OWN Way to Optimal Health - Is Functional Medicine the Future of Healthcare?

Left photo is now - gearing up for my 51st birthday, middle photo was from two years ago and the photo on the right is a photo my dear friend Laura Turbow took of me around my 50th birthday last year. I was around 20 pounds heavier in those previous photos although I have to say, I was hiding it well!

I haven't worn the pants in the newest photo above since my husband and I got married almost ten years ago. Funny thing is this blog post isn't about weight loss. Weight loss is just a happy bi-product of my ever-evolving and continuing journey to optimal health. I'm not only happy with the way I'm looking, but I'm feeling pretty great too and as I quickly approach my 51st birthday and listen to my husband's exclamations of how sexy I am. well - that's just the best!

My Health Journey with Chris Kresser and Functional Medicine

If you've been to any of The Healing Farm retreats or have read any of my early blog posts, you know that I worked with Functional Medicine practitioner Chris Kresser on the first leg of my healing journey. I agree with Chris that functional medicine could be (and should be) the future of healthcare (he has a new book coming out called "Unconventional Medicine"). This is why I'm hosting retreats based on the premise of healing from the inside out - finding what's at the core of your chronic health issues and addressing those problems in a quest for long-term healing and preventative care. It's also why I want to build the Healing Farm property. Except for some of the big stuff, like necessary surgeries (I had a ruptured appendix many years ago and would have died without surgery), cancer treatments, trauma and a whole host of other medical issues Western medicine can address, much of what Western medicine seems to do for chronic conditions and auto-immune disease is about putting a bandaid on the problem and not getting to the core issue.

If it weren't for the initial work I did with Chris, I would not be where I am today physically and emotionally or able to build The Healing Farm business as I'm currently doing. It's not that I went into his office with major issues, but it was a collection of long-term issues that seemed to be adding up and getting worse:

Add the words chronic to any of the conditions below and that's what I experienced:

  • Sinus headaches so severe they bordered on migraines
  • Massive indigestion that would sometimes keep my up all night wondering if I was having a heart attack
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Increased mood swings - especially during PMS
  • Low libido
  • Constipation
  • weight problems
  • When I added chronic back pain to the list and opted out of surgery for that, I went to see Chris

When I worked with Chris, we found a parasite and some definciencies and indicators of inflammation. He put me on some herbal remedies and vitamins and an elimination diet and within six weeks most of my symptoms were alleviated. I was so inspired by natural healing and functional medicine that it set me on my current journey today. I had the energy and brain power to start taking business classes and started coming up with the concept of The Healing Farm. I would NEVER be where I am today if it weren't for the work I did with Chris Kresser. I would have continued to go around thinking it was just my darned bad luck that my body was so finicky.

Life-long Health Changes Can Take a Long Time and There May Be Setbacks

Fast forward a few years and my weight was creeping up again, restless legs were coming back, I was popping stomach pills and sinus pills again and wondering what the heck I was doing wrong. I thought I was eating a low sugar, low carb diet and I was almost 100% dairy and gluten free. I thought maybe it was just my aging body, but as I passed 50, I realized something was wrong again. I was listening to Magdalena Wszekaki's Cooking for Balance program since I was doing a retreat on menopause and women's health and started suspecting I may have a candida overgrowth or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). At this point in my business start-up I'm short on funds for just about everything so couldn't go to see Chris, but started doing some of the protocols in Magdalena's program including going on a vitamin and herb regimen recommended by her functional health practitioner and started taking Mega Spore probiotic. I've lost almost 20 pounds (I lost ten pounds on Keto) and am feeling great again. Now, I have to admit, I've been on a NO CARB, NO SUGAR, NO ALCOHOL plan for over eight weeks and had done the keto-type regimen right before I started the program and was now comfortable with eating fats and definitely not craving sugar or alcohol. This made it easier.

What I needed to think about though was the fact that I had almost lost all the work I had done with Chris and I needed to really think about the reasons. When I really thought about it, I realized I was drinking a lot of white wine and completely ignoring the fact that white wine is hight in sugar. I was sneaking in sugary snacks and gluten here and there and had found my new favorite go to chips (all natural beet chips in coconut oil) were really high in carbs (which converts to sugar in your body and if I do have a candida overgrowth - candida feeds on sugar). I also had to look at the amount of snacking and portions I was eating. I'm an emotional eater. It's a vicious cycle when you're down because you're not feeling good and it makes you feel better to eat (or drink wine). Basically, I was fooling myself thinking I was doing such a great job and was really producing more an more inflammation in my body. I got myself back into that unhealthy state. The no carb, high(er) fat plan has been working for me. Once I hit my goals and feel like I'm at optimal health, I'm not planning on going without my dark chocolate or an occasional beet chip, gluten free pizza, of glass of (red) wine in the future, but once I reach my goal, I know now what my limits are and I'm pretty darned happy with a few tablespoons of coconut yogurt (no sugar added!) for a sweet snack after dinner and some yummy ginger tea in the afternoon in the meantime. 

Your Personal Paleo Code, or Whole 30 Code, or Ancestral Code, or Veggie Code, or Mediterranean Code...Find Out What Eating Plan is Best for YOU and YOUR Body.

"Your Personal Paleo Code" was the title of Chris Kresser's first book before it was changed to: "The Paleo Cure". What I liked about Chris' philosophy is that he stresses that's it's most important to find what works for you and YOUR body. Although he's more of an ancestral/paleo guy, he's not completely opposed to carbs and grains. He's all about finding what works best for your body through the elimination diet and getting to the bottom of other lurking issues through blood and stool testing and then finding the right path to true healing. My husband can eat just about anything and never gain weight. He feels great all the time and is rarely sick. His way of eating is more like a snake's. He can go for hours without thinking about eating and then eat a ton and feel fine. A dear friend feels best when she eats more of a mediterranean diet, another friend recently discovered she really likes fasting for 24 hours between meals and loves the way she feels, another friend is vegetarian but has celiac so balances her diet accordingly. She's incredibly healthy and active despite what some of us would see as deficient in some essential nutrients by not eating meat. The point is, it's all about you and your body and what makes you feel best.

But Functional Medicine is Expensive....

I was recently telling someone about The Healing Farm concept and she instantly said she's not a fan of functional medicine. I asked her why and she said it's because it's cost prohibitive to a lot of people. This is where perception needs to change both in our own minds and in our healthcare system. If I added up all of the costs of the MRI and cortizone shots for my back, the upper GI and Endoscopy for my GI issues, years of blood tests and all the medication I've taken since I was in my mid twenties, it would be WAY more than the treatment cost of working with Chris Kresser. What we pay in insurance and what some of us get in health benefits from work hides most of what Western medicine costs. If we were paying all those bills (which increasingly we ARE), it would shock us. I paid about $1,000.00 five years ago for my work with Chris and the benefits have been life-changing. If we can change our healthcare system to accept Functional medicine into the fold (I was recently told by a THF client that Sutter Health now has a functional medicine practitioner), then maybe we can TRULY change the way we heal ourselves and prevent chronic conditions. This is why the work Chris Kresser, other functional medicine practitioners, nutritionists and hopefully The Healing Farm does is so important. We need to change the future of healthcare so let's start now!

How to Add a Little Control to Your Day When Going Through Big Change? Make Your Bed!

 Our simple (and made!) bed.

Our simple (and made!) bed.

Many years ago I was working as an office manager in a small office. Since some of my co-workers were (presumably - I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) too busy to do their dishes, I took it on as one of my duties to make sure the kitchen was clean and neat.

Once-in-a-while when I would go in to tidy up, I would find the on-site business partner already doing the dishes and I would be mortified that I didn’t get to it sooner. I would thank her and try to brush her to the side so that she could get back to her more important work and I could take over. She finally explained to me that sometimes she just liked to do the dishes. It was a task that she could accomplish easily and actually complete and it gave her satisfaction to finish up and see the benefits of her accomplishments immediately (a clean kitchen!). When she explained it, I knew instantly that she was being sincere. Her days were so chaotic and overwhelming that by completing this one simple task, she felt like she had a little more control.

Fast forward 15 years and here I am running two business and starting to write a business plan (while going to a class two nights a week). Overwhelmed can barely describe how I feel sometimes. The coping mechanisms I’ve learned in the last couple of years have helped and are these:

  • Regular meditation (10-20 minutes a day)

  • Regular exercise (7-20 minutes a day during the week and one longer workout (hike or bike ride) on the weekend.

  • Good eating habits - reducing inflammation in my body so I can have optimal energy and mental clarity

  • Take most Saturdays and all Sundays completely off and mostly electronics free with unplanned and unstructured time

  • Schedule regular time with hubby and friends

  • Cooking a proper dinner at least three nights a week

But one thing I haven’t quite gotten a handle on is feeling under control in my house. Thankfully I’m married to a minimalist so the house - for the most part - feels light and airy and clutter-free. My husband would probably disagree with me on this since we have different ideas of what is clutter-free! But that aside, I never feel like I’m under control keeping up the house. I bought Maria Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  and then put it on my bed stand never to be opened. It DID prompt me to organize my office and closet though which made me feel better about never reading it.

I can’t afford to hire someone to clean my house for me and my husband (who also works at home) tries to keep up with light cleaning here and there, but I never feel like the house is a pristine place of calm and order (do any of us really even if we have a cleaning service? I don’t know!). Then I read Katherine Rosman’s article “Want to Have a Good Day? Try Making the Bed First”.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a bed-maker. My mother tried the best she could to instill good housekeeping habits but when it came right down to it, she had six kids and a full time job so making sure we all made our beds wasn’t exactly a top priority so it never became a habit for me. When I married my husband he never said anything about the making the bed and he never made it, so it always remained unmade. This article, coming at a time of great change and chaos in my life, made me think about little habits (smaller than meditation and exercise) I could probably build into my life that will give me a small sense of accomplishment and control.

But how does one become a bed-maker after 50 years of being a messy bed keeper? Isn’t there a saying (or probably a book) that claims it takes 10 days to make a habit? I didn’t have time to look that up, so I decided I could just put it to the test and see if it stuck.

  • The first few days, I just tried to remember to do it and made the bed about 50% of the time. That wasn’t working.

  • Then I thought about the one thing I do EVERY MORNING without fail. Make coffee. So I decided to live with a post-it note on the coffee maker for a while to see if it would get me in the habit.

  • Oddly enough though, I decided I actually like making the bed as soon as I get out of it. Before I even have a sip of water. We don’t have a complicated bed with a ton of pillows, so it’s quick and easy and it really does feel good. I feel like by accomplishing something as the first thing I do in the day it puts me in a good mindset for the entire day. If I forget to do it as soon as I get out of bed, I have the post-it note on the coffee-maker!

  • Add the meditation and exercise onto that and I go into my work day with confidence (most of the time) having already reached a few goals I have set for myself.

So my verdict is that you really can develop a habit in ten days (check back in with me in a year!) AND this article is worth a read! Here are just a few tips from the article:

  • It’s an anchor point for your day

  • It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another

  • Wrinkle (less) sheets: take out of the dryer five minutes before they are completely dry and fit the bottom sheet on the bed to let air dry and drape the top sheet somewhere to let the wrinkles hang out (a clothing line is good for this) - BTW - I don’t care about wrinkled sheets, but I was staying at my in-laws and wanted crisp sheets on their bed when I remade it. When I went to iron them the iron wasn’t working. I remembered this article, washed the sheets again and air dried them damp and voila! It worked!

  • Folding a bottom sheet: there’s a video within the article of Ariel Kaye of Parachute Home folding a bottom sheet.

  • Top sheet vs. no top sheet? It’s simpler to make the bed without one, but then you have to wash your duvet more often (which I think is a pain), I use a top sheet and actually find it satisfying to fold it over and tuck it in when I make the bed.

Read the article if you feel you need to add more habits and anchor points into your chaotic life. Pick up William H. McRaven’s book: “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life….and Maybe the World” and good luck! Share with me on Facebook if you are a bed-maker or not and if you are successful in developing this habit! I’m still working on it, but I now make the bed most days!

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:

 

 

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!