The Art of Breathing

I find it both interesting and completely appropriate that the health difficulties I’ve had this year all relate to breathing. We all know breathing is essential to life. But it plays an even bigger role than we may realize. When we are scared or frustrated, our breathing style changes. Some of us may even hold our breath all together. When we are in awe or in love, our breathing changes yet again. For most of us, paying attention to our breath is a window to our emotions.

For me, I discovered with this rash of colds that I breathe too shallow most of the time. Since my colds all attached the upper respiratory areas, I decided to do a couple of things – one, look at what that region of the body could represent for me spiritually, and two, pay close attention to breathing from my diaphragm.

Let’s take the first one of these – the possible “meaning” of my breathing problems beyond the physical realities of my cold. Now, don’t take me wrong – I know my colds are rooted in my physical being, and I’ve taken measures to heal myself (Nothing like GREAT meds!). But I also believe strongly in mind-body-soul connections. And it was that aspect of this I wanted to explore.

Breathing has often been associated with fear – fear of life, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc. For me, this didn’t ring 100% true, at least not initially. But as I reflected on 2013 and what, if anything, had held me back, I had to admit that there were fears and blockages. Once I acknowledged these blockages, I got to work clearing them; letting them go and focusing on “being”. It has been a good journey thus far, and something I know I must continue to work on.

The second part of what I decided to look at is HOW I am actually breathing: am I taking little puffs of air most of the time, barely utilizing my lung capacity, or am I taking deep relaxed breaths from my diaphragm. As I looked at it, the short breaths (also consistent with “fear” responses) made up the majority of my breathing of late. Sure, the cold was part of the reason, but if i am being honest, I must admit it isn’t the only thing going on. Once I came clean on this fact, the coughing fits and moments of breathlessness I’ve been dealing with changed. No longer did I get more frustrated every time I had them, but I used them as warning signs that I was breathing too shallow. For the past week or so I’ve been making it a point to breathe deeper, slower; to focus on my relaxation. It is helping, along with my meds, and between them both, my breathing issues are improving very quickly.

Our breath – it is important in every way imaginable. Guess it’s time to really pay attention to it!

How is your breathing?

The Value of Taking Breaks

Well, my regular posting schedule was a bit of an overstatement I think. The truth: January has left me sick for the majority of the month. The good news, after a few relapses, I “think” I am back among the living!

For today’s renewal post, I want to talk about the art of taking breaks – from everything: Routine, work, digital life…

You get the picture.

As most of you know, I decided to focus on Living Gently for 2014. Getting my body healthy as a way to kick off the year was an unplanned blessing as it has forced me to focus on being balanced and living a life that embraces what it means to me to be in balance and live gently.

I live a full and rich life. This also means it is an often busy and unbalanced on. I spend too much time online, to much time “working” in some capacity, and don’t often remind myself to take needed breaks to just…be.

Enter 2014. A huge part of living my passions and being balanced is about creating moments in which the blogging, the online grind, all of it comes to a stop and I just unplug. So, every month or so, I am unplugging from both blogs and the majority of my online presence. This time is my renewal time – my opportunity to life gently and remind myself how to just…BE.

Next week will be the first unplugging week of the year. Maybe some of you will join me, if not for the week, for part of it – long enough to find your balance again.

I’ll return in February with posts about love and relationships (seemed a fitting Feb topic!). In the meantime, I will be here the remainder of this week, talking about restarting passions and teaching your kids about finding their unique voices.

See you later this week!

Finding Inspiration in Julia Mancuso

I am always looking for inspiration – both from within and without. This past weekend, I found the perfect dose of my daily inspiration in a brief spotlight of Julia Mancuso, Olympic downhill skier.

Julia is from Maui, an island near and dear to my heart. About ten years ago or so, when recovering from a particularly tough bought of burnout (nothing like being super intense), I went to Maui for the first time. I lovingly say I found my smile on the road to Hana. Maui – the environment, the lifestyle, the spirit that embodies the Hawaiian culture – speaks to me in a way that is profound. It isn’t surprising then, that Julia, raised in this setting, works to live a balanced life.  Rather than muscling through adversity, as many other athletes preach and many of us attempt, Julia letting go and relaxing into the moment.

Wow! I know this…and yet, man did I need to hear it.

I am a person that regularly pushes through adversity, often ignoring my body’s pleas to slow down. Stop. I wind myself into a mess this way. Repeatedly.

The result, I get loads done. But, at what cost? Right now, the “cost” has been a never-ending bout of bronchitis that is going on it’s seventh week.


So, I think it is time for me to take a page from Julia’s playbook. Stop pushing through the fatigue. Stop ignoring the pleas from my body and start listening to “me”. Today, I took the first step and I let go of the “plans” for writing and marketing this week and just listening to my body, resting when needed, etc. I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

In the meantime, check out this fabulous article about Julia and her balanced approach to life

More Than Shy: A Request for Help

parent and child talking

As many of you know, I announced the sale of my next nonfiction book, MORE THAN SHY: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety, to Prufrock Press. The book will be released in early 2015, which of course means that I am knee-deep in the research phase now. This book covers social anxiety from the perspective of the biological aspects of social anxiety, the behavioral and environmental factors of anxiety, and specific strategies for parents and educators on the topic of social anxiety. I have some personal stories and Frequently Asked Questions I plan on adding – but I need more.

And that is where all of you come in.  As I’ve done with the majority of my books, I will be holding online focus groups and surveying parents, educators, and even children about this topic and I would LOVE to involve all of you! So, please take a moment and complete this form and let me know if you’d like to help in some way. I will be in touch by the end of the month with more information.

Thanks and here’s the link to the form just in case the form doesn’t come up on your computer or mobile device. -

Going Green – Literally

Those of you who follow my Intense Life Facebook page know that part of my goals this year center around my health. As I mentioned on Monday, my passions involve around my post too! There are several reasons for this! First, both my grandmother and my mother died relatively young – my grandmother at 85 (cancer related), and my mom at 70 (also cancer related). My grandmother never practiced a healthy lifestyle. She was of the era that believed that women did not exercise. Furthermore, she drank and smoked to excess. My mother came to a healthy lifestyle later in life (around my age, actually). She smoked from her twenties until she was in her fifties and she hated to exercise. Otherwise, she was pretty healthy. She always ate a balanced diet, maintained a healthy weight, meditated daily or more, and regularly saw her health care providers. In the end, the smoking lead to her cancer (oral) and took her life prematurely.

Being healthy is something I have always strived to achieve. But, if I;m being completely honest with everyone, it is not something that was at the top of my list of things to become passionate about. Yes, I grew up exercising and eating right. I meditate daily, believe strongly in being physically active, and understand the need to a balanced approach to a healthy lifestyle.

That said, I’ve had my struggles – especially with my weight. When I was an adolescent, my weight defined my  value in my head and an eating disorder was born. In my adulthood, food became a panacea for other issues. Biological issues came into play as I aged, and now obesity defines my current weight struggles.

Until this year.

That’s right – I have absolutely committed to reclaiming my healthy lifestyle – the one that exists in my head and heart, but has not made it in my everyday world. There are a million reasons why I am finally ready to do this, starting with living a longer life. This is literally about living for me. I am lucky right now – my heart is good, there is no diabetes or other obesity related things I need to panic about. But my blood pressure is creeping in the wrong direction, I have some issues around anemia and vitamin D deficiencies to deal with and I know I am setting up a lot of potential problems with the weight.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Part of my commitment to making healthy lifestyle choices/changes is a commitment to going “green” with my diet. By this I mean including more vegetables, drinking green smoothies daily and taking the time to make sure that what I am putting into my body will serve my body well.

I started this journey the way I start many things – with a quick web search for recipes that included kale, spinach, and other greens. Now, I have an adventurous palette, and I am willing to try most things. But, I wanted to start off the whole green smoothie thing will something that didn’t really taste, well, green!

Enter my new fav website – Simple Green Smoothies. This site has recipes, testimonials and more. AND, the best part – I’ve tried several of the recipes and they are good. BEYOND good! My picky eaters at home even love them.

In addition to going green, I am meditating more, exercising more, and stressing out less! Yep, 2014 is all about LIVING GENTLY!

What are you doing this year?

Discovering Your Passions

I am so excited to be getting back to a regular posting schedule. Today, Monday, is all about living authentically, renewing your spirit and gratitude. And what better way to do that then living a passionate life?

I have always believed that being an intense person meant living a life of passion. At times, the passion can be all consuming, derailing intention and plans as the passions turn inward and usurp energy and drive. For me, this happens when I am unclear on my goals or, more likely, when my fears or confidence issues work against me. Seldom does my intensity work against me when I am following my dreams or living my life with purpose and intention.

So, in keeping with my goal to live gently in 2013, I wanted take some time at the start of the year to really focus on my passions and live with those in mind throughout the year.

Enter the Passion Test. I’ve been a long time follower of Chris and Janet Attwood. Their newsletter and blog posts have kept me inspired for more than two years. So it is a bit surprising that it took me this long to finally take their Passion Test and dedicate myself to focusing on my passions. But, well…it did!

I took the test for the first time last week – and it has already positively shaped the year! The test, if you really want to call it that, is simple enough – make a list of the ten things that would give your life meaning and purpose if money, etc was not an issue. This is a chance to dream and DREAM BIG. List everything that has meaning to you. Then you whittle the list down through a specific process until you get to the top five passions.

There is a little more to it that you can investigate on their website and through the book, but you get the gist of it.

What a fabulous experience for me. My passions included things related to my writing life, my spiritual life, and my health. It was different from I had expected and perfect for me! And I have to say, since starting down this road, things are working more harmoniously in my life. I AM living the principles more effortless than I’d imagined.

So, if you’re interested in discovering your path to your life purpose, why not start here. Being intense human beings, we are prone to extreme passions in diverse areas of our lives. Why not harness that energy and direct it toward the things that fuel our lives, help others, and improve the planet.

That’s what I’m doing, at any rate.

What about you? Have you discovered your passions? Your purpose?

An Article in Justine Magazine…and some other stuff.

I am so excited to tell you about a new article I’ve written for Justine Magazine, an amazing magazine for Teen girls. The article is about toxic relationships. Check out a little preview here:

JustMagDigital DJ 2014 p37

The article focuses on the typical toxic friendships that teen girls wind up in, as well as strategies for detangling yourself from these situations. The article layout GREAT and I am just thrilled!!!

Some additional content for teen girls that focuses on digital media and living healthy can be found on the BOP/Tiger Beat website. As a previous reader of Tiger Beat – this thrills me!

I have some new content coming out soon for the Johnson & Johnson Parents Blog related to giftedness (so excited to be returning to a focus on this population) and I will be sure to let you know. Also – HUGE book news coming…


Until then, have a great weekend!

Living Gently

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately (see my previous post – Releasing 2013), and have come to the conclusion that I want to spend 2014 living gently.

What does that mean for an intense person? For me, it means leaving the planet better than I found it – starting on a personal level with me. It means making a conscious decision every day to live in a way that enhances me, humanity, the planet. I want to train my heart and mind to be more in the “flow” of life; to stop attaching to things that block my flow. To live with passion and conviction, but to do so gently.

So, every day, as I wake and start my morning routine, I write my morning pages from a place of contemplation. Every moment, as I walk through my life, I remind myself to live gently – to add meaning to the world in some way; through a smile, a tender word, or simply by refusing to contribute to the negative that often surrounds us. Every afternoon I exercise to release the “whatevers” of the day and I meditate to re-center myself and transition from the day job to my home life. And every night, I end with a longer, deeper contemplation.

I don’t yet know if this will help me achieve the peace that living gently implies, but I do know it can’t hurt!

What is your focus for 2014? Have you given it much thought yet?

Releasing 2013: A gentle look back

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I would love to say it’s because I was so caught up in the holiday happenings. But, the truth is that I’ve been sick. Really sick. The good news – after too many days in bed, breathing treatments and antibiotics, I have rejoined the living – just in time to ring in the New Year!

There is an interesting things about being really sick, a time between feeling well enough to be upright and do things and so sick that you aren’t able to keep your eyes open – this is the space I’ve been living in for a few days. And it is in this space that I was gifted with the clarity needed to move forward.

2013 was an interesting year, filled with hope and opportunity as well as pain and regret. It was like the years that preceded it – 2010 through 2012. Each of these years gave me some of my highest highs and lowest lows. These years shaped much of who I am now, as well as the “me” I want to cultivate in the future.

I started in writing in 2008 when a collection of characters decided to be heard and “forced” me to write their story. That story was promptly shelved, but in it lead to many other works.

In 2009 I started to blog, connected with others online, and discovered a world of other creative, bright, introverts like me, anxious to connect but unsure how. I made some of my deepest friendships and learned so much. I sold my first nonfiction titles, hit a few milestones and wrote more books.

I was happy, alert, alive.

2010 brought my first book to print, my first book chats, and more sold books.

It also started a toxic path for me – one that slowly, over the next several years, shifted focus and became muddled, drained and blocked.

2010 brought illness, death, distance. I survived; but I cannot say that I thrived.

2011 and 2012 were about finding myself again. Figuring out how to release the blocks. Writing more books, etc. I wrote some great books, sold a few more nonfiction titles, learned about micro-publishers, and released my fiction. It was exciting once again. I met book bloggers, readers, and other writerly friends. I had a few more firsts – first book signing, first major presentation at a conference, first writing conference attendance.

I was happy – and I wasn’t. I was satisfied – and not. I was writing – sort of. But I was also still blocked, in a stupor and unable to find the joy writing had previously brought me. More than once I nearly quit. More than once those closest to me helped me through the turmoil beginning to define my life.

Which brings us to 2013. This was the hardest, best year of all. I took a job that nearly killed me. Left the job. Became more lost. Gained clarity. Everything about 2013 represented the highs and lows of the preceding years. Relationships changed. I laughed and cried. And still – I wrote books. Published a few more. And made my goals.

The last week of 2013 had me in bed, reviewing the pattern of life that had been mine for the past 5 years. I would like to say there was some great epiphany – but it wasn’t like that. More a subtle acknowledgement and releasing of the pains of the past years, gratitude for the highs and a preparation for the future.

The past five years, with its highs and lows and life-defining moments have all been necessary and nothing I would ever change. It is through these experiences that I’ve grown to embrace with an authentic heart my life…Me!

I am excited about the upcoming year. Excited and clear.

It is an amazing feeling.

Merry Christmas, Thank You and See you in the New Year!

Hi everyone!

I want to thank you all for the suggestions with regards to this blog. I want to thank you also for making 2013 a wonderful year in so many ways. I was able to realize one of my dreams of having my books widely distributed into brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Noble, with the release of The Girl Guide and Quiet Kids. I also took control over my fiction writing life and have huge plans for it moving forward.

As we slide, rather quickly into the New Year, I wanted to take a moment to share a poem I love with all of you. And please join me in the New Year as I reveal the direction for this blog – and an aspect of my life…

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.