Category Archives: create the life you want

The 5-Minute Motivator

“The road to success is always under construction and in life there is no free ride.”   — Eric Kaplan 
If you are looking for a great book to get you moving, check out The 5 Minute Motivator by Dr. Eric Kaplan.   I like this book because of the suggested concrete actions and habits to incorporate into your daily life. Dr. Kaplan and his wife were 100% paralyzed from cosmetic injections but fought through the pain, fear and suffering to complete healing!  Click on the book to check it out now!


Personal Goals – How to Birth Your Dream

“I made the chickpea and tomato recipe from your blog.  I loved it.”  Being first generation Italian, I love Mediterranean cooking and Yvonne; being part Italian, never disappoints me with her new recipes at  We had just left the organic farmers market in Lincoln Park and we were having a cup of coffee.

“It was so easy and tasty. So, where are you with your cookbook?”  I asked.

“I’ve been busy….” She said.

Yvonne is an accomplished food writer, recipe developer, culinary instructor and consultant. She’s published a book on organic cleaning and was recently featured in a half page spread in the Chicago Tribune about her cooking and work. BUT…what her heart wants is to publish her cookbook.  It’s almost done.  As a matter of fact she has drafts and outlines for three different cookbooks.  She has the expertise to succeed with this project along with a great platform for promoting her book.

Eventually she admitted that she hadn’t picked up the manuscript in over a year.  Like many of us, she needs to ask herself…………..WHY?

Why is it that deep down we know what we want to be doing, but we don’t do it?  Why do we let life distract us?  Is it fear, family demands, lack of clarity, old stuff we haven’t let go of?  The reasons dreams are left to dwindle and become fallow is endless.

How about you? Is your dream withering?  The first step is to really look at your dream and decide is this really what my heart wants or is it my ego saying I should want this.  Once you’re clear about what’s bursting inside you and you’re willing to move past fear, a few actions steps can catapult you to success.

  1. Dedicate a certain amount of time to the project each week.  Structure it any way that works for you.  Set the intention and keep it.  Start small.  Some people will carve out a block of time once a week; for someone else it might be getting up 15 minutes earlier each day to dedicate to their dream.
  1. Visually plot your dream into your life.  Either through words or pictures, identify all your responsibilities and desires.  Life requires a certain balance so dream big but be sure to take care of your basic responsibilities.  If you want to visually plot your dream on the computer try one of the free mind mapping programs.  This is a great way to re-evaluate and prioritize what you’re doing.
  1. Break your dream down into manageable action steps.  Each small step completed is an accomplishment.  The more you feel accomplished the faster you’ll move.
  1. Find a working buddy.  A friend of mine was struggling to finish her thesis.  Even scrubbing floors was more inviting than her paper.  I also had a few projects that needed renewed attention.   We decided to meet every Tuesday morning for coffee with our laptops.  We visit for about 15 minutes then both hunker down to work for three hours. It’s much harder to say ‘I don’t have time today’ when you’ve made a promise to someone else.

If you are really stuck and need jumper cables to ignite your dream consider hiring  a mentor or coach.  People often hire personal trainers for their expertise in order to formulate a program—and of course to get their butt kicked.  It’s the same with a life coach or mentor. Hiring a mentor is a commitment to change, a commitment to oneself, and ultimately a commitment to birthing your dream.  There’s no better time than the present to recreate your life.

Oh, and keep your eyes open for a great cookbook.  I have it on the best authority that it’s busting out soon.

This Week:  Incorporate one of the above dream actions steps into your life.

Four Questions to Jumpstart Your Life

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. ~~Alan Lakein

I felt like an air traffic controller this summer.  Both my sons worked two jobs, my husband traveled a lot for work and I took on a number of new  projects.  I should have installed a revolving front door—it would have saved on our air conditioning bill.  As September arrived, my husband flew to South America, my two sons returned to school and I took a breath. I love when everyone is home, but I love being home alone.  It gives me a chance to reflect on my life.

With this quiet time I asked myself four questions, an exercise that I do a few times a year.

  1. Am I doing things that bring me joy? 
  2. What’s working in my life… what’s not?
  3. What dream needs action?
  4. What help do I need?

 After answering these questions, I developed an action plan for the next couple of months.  The first question encouraged me to reject a job for a potential customer.  The compensation would have been lucrative, but I knew in my gut he’d be a difficult client. The moment I made the decision not to take the job, I experienced a sense of relief.

Each question gave me a concrete action to take.  Question 4 is one of my favorites.  I had a mound of ironing overflowing two baskets.  I hate ironing!  Action Plan…I’m sending our shirts to the laundry!  That decision had me dancing around the room.

Try these questions on for size and see if they help your develop an action plan. I call them my jumpstart questions.  They help me get moving when my battery is dead.  What’s your favorite question?

This Week:  Answer the JUMPSTART QUESTIONS.


7 Keys to Creating the Perfect Retreat

“It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.”~~  Eckhart Tolle

  No cell service, gourmet meals, sunny days, cool nights and a cabin to myself—just a few of the ingredients that created a perfect retreat.    I spent a week in Boyd Mills, Pennsylvania at a writers’ retreat sponsored by the Highlights Foundation.  Terminally sleep deprived, I caught up on sleep.  Sleep is good…but the real gift for me was the time to just be.  The first two days I wrote furiously, after that I wrote, napped, walked in the woods, waded in the creek, and edited my writing.

If you don’t have the luxury to escape from the demands of everyday life for a week, try creating a personal retreat for a day or even just an afternoon. You don’t need to include all of the suggestions below.  Just pick one and try to incorporate it into a personal stay at home mini retreat.

Here are some of the elements that I think create a successful retreat.

RREST AND RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES.  I can’t remember when someone in my house didn’t wake me up at night.  My eldest son is 23 years old, and I am sure that I have not slept through even one night in the last 23 years until this retreat.  If it’s not my kids or husband roaming around the house waking me up, it’s our dog.

EEAT WELL. If you want to jump-start your life, besides  rest you need nutritious satisfying food.  The meals provided by master chef Marcia Dunsmore nourished my body and spirit.

TTAKE TIME to do something you love or just do nothing at all.  Set your intention for the retreat and then give yourself the time to do it.  I had a two-fold intention—to work on two of my manuscripts and to re-energize my spirit.

R Reflect.  Spend some time reflecting on your life.  What brings you joy?  What are you struggling with?  What doesn’t support you?  These questions are easiest to answer away from ones everyday routine.

EENGAGE YOUR SENSES. Find a peaceful setting that engages your senses.  I spent the week nestled in the forested hills of Pennsylvania along a rolling creek.  If you are planning to try a stay at home retreat, de-clutter and clean the space and surround yourself with things you love.  Use flowers, a scented candle, dark chocolate or whatever else evokes tranquility and arouses your senses.

A ALLOW TIME FOR PLAY.  My retreat was a writer’s retreat, but I knew it was important to allow time for play.  Laughter and play fuels my creativity. I couldn’t resist rolling down the hill or swinging in the tree swing.

T TRY SOMETHING NEW.  I don’t write in rhyme, but I tried it on the retreat.  Although I wasn’t thrilled with the results, it triggered some new ideas. Step out of your comfort zone and magic can happen.

Do you have an idea for a mini-retreat?  What was especially nurturing about a retreat you attended?  What creative ways can you carve time into a busy life for a mini retreat?  Leave a comment for a chance to win Cheryl Richardson’s book The Art of Extreme Self Care.  One winner will be chosen from comments left here or at

This week:  Make a plan to have a mini-retreat this fall.

Tips for Getting Unstuck

Nothing cures overwhelm and breaks through obstacles like action.~~Jack Canfield

I’ve been trying a lot of different yoga classes lately.  I’ve done bikram, fusion, hot, gentle, vinyasa, hatha—I think I’m trying to find my yogi niche.    I recently went to a candlelight vinyasa flow class with an instructor I had never practiced with before.  At the end of class, I knew I’d come back to this teacher’s class.  Unfortunately, she announced it was her last class.  She was moving back to Hawaii!

“The Chicago weather is too much for me.  Chicagoans are really rugged.”

I personally never really thought of Chicagoans as rugged, northern Minnesotans maybe, but not Chicagoans.

 “The winters with the cold and gray can be difficult.”  I offered.

“I like Chicago, the people are friendly, there’s a lot to do, but I appreciate the weather in Hawaii so much more now.”

I wished her well, and left the studio.  I’ve lived in this area all my life. I’ve often thought I’d love to live in a warmer climate, but if I moved, I’m sure I’d miss the change of seasons.  It’s easy to take for granted things in our everyday life.  Sometimes we need to shake up our life to figure out what’s important.  Moving to a new environment, ending a relationship, changing jobs are just a few ways to shake up your life.  There are times when we are so stuck that we need these major shifts, but why not try shaking up your perspective before you really get stuck in the muck of your everyday life?

Pick one area of your life that needs a pick-me-up and try the following:

  1. Identify what’s not working.  Spend some reviewing what’s not working and why.  Write it out, tell a trusted friend, get the whole story out.  How many times have you told this story, ruminated about it or just couldn’t get it off your mind?  For most people the answer is probably a sizable number.  This is your old story; playing in your life like a broken record.  If you look hard enough you could probably track threads of this theme back to your childhood, but this revelation won’t necessarily change anything.
  2. Develop a new story.  After today each time you catch yourself, talking or thinking about the old story STOP, take a deep full breath in and then a complete and full exhale.  Now change your rap.  Look for what’s working in the situation and see how you can grow that behavior.
  3. Find support.  Enlist people to support you who believe things can change.  As you discard your old patterns and adopt a new perspective, you need believing eyes.
  4. Do it now.  If you really want to get out of the muck, you have to take action. Do something different and new.

If you are faced with a situation in your life where nothing is working, then you are probably already stuck in the quagmire and a perspective change is most likely not enough. You need an earthquake.  Forget Northern Minnesota, maybe it’s time to move to Alaska.

This Week: Drop the old story and do one thing to weave a positive thread in your life.

Overcoming the Odds to Graduate

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”~~Ben Okri

I recently found myself at the graduation ceremony for Prologue’s alternative schools in Chicago.  To be honest, I really didn’t want to go and how I got there is another story, but I soon realized that I was amongst a very special group of young people.  The Prologue schools are primarily for students 18 to 24 years old who have dropped out of high school. Instead of getting a GED they attend a Prologue school to get a high school education.

I have attended many high school graduations, but have never been to one anything like this. My two sons graduated from Walter Payton College Prep, a topped ranked school in Illinois.  Payton is filled with students considered to be academic achievers.  In contrast, this graduation was for students that few believed would ever even achieve a high school diploma or succeed in life.   The graduation was in the Peoples Church on Lawrence Avenue.  At night the Peoples Church becomes a homeless shelter; during the day community events and church services are held there. Security guards circled the premises to keep out anyone without an invitation.  The audience was rowdy and somewhat disruptive, but the graduates attentive and respectful.  It didn’t take me long to discover that I was witnessing an amazing event.  I found myself at one of the most moving graduations I have ever attended; even watching my own sons graduate did not elicit as many tears for me as this graduation did.

Instead of having guest speakers, six students spoke. Of the six, five cried as they gave their speech.  They cried tears of joy and tears of thankfulness as they shared their stories.  There was the young man whose mom died when he was 13.  With her death, he dropped out of school and lived on the streets.  His grandmother took him in and he went back to school; then at 15 his grandmother died.  Once again, he spent several years living on the streets.  Eventually with hard work, determination and an amazing staff he graduated.

A petite 20 year old woman also received her diploma that day.  She dropped out of school at 15.  Her mother who had been helping raise her children, became gravely ill and needed her help.  She spent the next four years caring for her mother and her children.  Never letting go of her dream, at 19, she enrolled in one of the Prologue schools and stood before us, full of anticipation of achieving her next goal—a college education. The only speaker who did not cry was a young man who dropped out of high school six different times.  He said, “I was trouble, and no one believed I would ever do this. For a long time I didn’t believe I could do this.”   Now at 22, he received his high school diploma.

One hundred students graduated that day. All these students were dropouts that few believed had any potential to succeed.  Four students of the 100 received full rides to college.  One young man received a full ride to four different universities, one of them being Princeton.  He was still deciding were he would attend.

How did these young people from seemingly hopeless situations succeed?  I believe there were three key ingredients that helped them on their path.  First, they had a goal…a dream to graduate from school and improve their lives.  But a dream alone is not enough.  They had to do the hard work required, the action needed to graduate. They had to work and study, even when the environment around them made it nearly impossible. The third ingredient to their success was they had mentors, especially at the school, that believed in them and their dreams and helped guide them on their path.  These students are a testament to the possibility of overcoming great odds.  Having the privilege to witness their achievement was a great gift for me.

This week:  Put your struggles in perspective and remember if these graduates overcame their struggles, so can you. Have your dream, take the required action, and find people who support and mentor you on your journey.



Is this the journey you want to make?  Invest in the process not the outcome.~~Kumar Rao It’s funny, because I feel as I go through different phases of my life, I keep sharing the same messages in completely different environments.  … Continue reading