Step 86 - "In the Midst of Difficulty Lies Opportunity" Albert Einstein

In July 2003 I found a lump in my left breast.  The experience was both shocking and frustrating.  I was a single mother with two young children, then aged four and six.  If anyone had told me there was opportunity in that present difficulty I would probably have lashed out.

Nine years later as I look back there certainly have been opportunities gained from the experience. If I am honest, I would have preferred to learn them differently and the fact that I survived and am still here to tell the tale tells me that all is as it should be.

A couple of years after the experience the girls and I put together and published a small book called "Mommy had an Owie".  My oldest daughter illustrated the front cover.  Creating the book gave them and I an opportunity to take something that was negative and create something positive that might help other families.  If you know someone who has young children who is facing breast cancer I would be happy to send them a copy of the book.

It was my first foray into self publishing - I had previously been published in the UK by a division of Lion Books. I began to evolve the dream, which had been put on hold for several years to raise the girls, of writing for a living.  Breast cancer taught me that you just never know how many years you have to live your dreams and that  health is not something to be taken for granted.

In some ways I feel I am going backwards as I get older.  My professional life which started out creatively and evolved into social services is returning to creativity.  Film making, art making, jewellery making and writing are the  inspirational activities that take me through the day and that will, one day, bring in my income.

I may not become the next best selling author (or I may). The point and purpose is knowing what is important, what my values and relationships are based on. That what I do is part of who I am when I give myself wholeheartedly into that.  I do still work "for a living" in social services and I would not continue if I didn't also enjoy and receive great rewards from this work.  Financially it is certainly not the best but the bills do get paid and I am thankful to work with an amazing group of colleagues.  I am still learning to balance what is necessary to get through the week and support my girls  with activities that are necessary to promote my own and family health and wellness.

Exercise - Reflect on an event that has influenced your life as it is today.  Don't worry if the event was positive or negative.  What opportunity or information did you gain from that event.  What will you do today to take the opportunity further to promote your own journey to health and wellness? When you have reflected take time to write down the event as a story use  the chosen outcome that you decided you would do today as the ending. 


Step 85 The Art of Being.  "Courage is Grace Under Pressure" E. Hemmingway

Being in the moment, and I mean really being in the moment - with all our senses at capacity engagement - sound/taste/smell/touch can either rock our world or make us want to flee.  I am not including disaster, extreme stress or violence when I write this, just the simple matter of day to day living or survival.

Depending on whether we are "living" or "surviving" significantly changes the way we respond to being in the moment.  If, even in survival, we manage to stay present we are experiencing the courage that Hemmingway refers to in his statement - Grace under pressure.

Recently a friend and I were talking about the difference between remaining optimistic and managing the reality of circumstances that can, oftetimes, seem like trying to climb a mountain wearing flip flops.  Impossible right?  It is very hard work to remain optimistic all of the time when circumstances that prevail reflect that all is not as we would hope or like it to be. 

However, dwelling on what is wrong can prevent us from seeing the opportunities that are present even in the most challenging situations. 

One of the things I love about the work I do is helping families see the strengths they have going for them - when those strengths may not be obvious.  For example, helping a mum struggling on a very low income, figure out that by adjusting some of her expenses and looking at the current situation differently she could, in fact, save $1,200 over a year.  Instead of being broke she will have savings and create a positive habit that will help her and her son; assisting two teens, who have seriously demonstrated grace under fire, apply for and receive an amazing bursary by Outward Bound.  The bursary will give them a three week camping trip and challenge them mentally, physically and spiritually.  This happened because they followed up on the opportunity presented to them and took steps to engage in a process which was time consuming and, to some degree, personally challenging.

This blog is about finding our inner Fiji - the steps we decide to take towards a healthier and happpier
life depends on whether we decide to simply read (or write) the words or actually engage in the process.  Sometimes just reading can be part of the process by planting seeds -  those seeds get watered and flourish quickly; other times they take a little longer but water (action) at some point is essential.

Whether you are in survival or living mode the choice of action and recognition to experience the moment and seize opportunity is there.  If you can't find it in yourself ask a friend to help or contact me for online coaching and support.

Exercise:  Write on a sheet of paper Survival and on the other side of the paper Living.  Make a list of words that immediately come to mind.  Decide in which modality you are right now.  What opportunities are there for you to move closer to your dreams and goals?  What senses do you experience when you reflect on the situation?  How can you use this moment in time to move you closer to where you want to be?


Step 84 - Listening to our instincts. "Often life whispers to us to warn us of potential problems that may lie ahead, but frequently we are so busy with other things that we ignore these warning signs. One of the best ways to reduce the number of problems in your life is to learn to listen and act on life’s whispers."  Dr. Anthony Fernando

Have you noticed that often before something "bad" happens that you have a sense of premonition - it can also happen when something "good" is about to happen as well.  The physiological experience can often be felt in the stomach or neck and shoulder areas. These warning signs when we listen can prevent health problems,  making poor financial decisions and prevent us from engaging in unhealthy activities or relationships.  All too often, however, I have not heeded these signs and the exact opposite has happened.   The upside is that the experience offers an opportunity for learning and a new and better understanding of how to respond to those instincts and physiological warnings in the future.

In other words there is no point in beating ourselves up for not listening because we can't change what happened but we can change how we respond in the future.  Mindfulness works this way too.  The more mindful we become about what we are feeling and thinking about a situation will pre-empt more positive action and choices.  We still may take risks but we go into those risks with greater understanding.

Since my last post I have been working on weight loss and saving frantically for our trip to the UK.   My body has responded well to the discipline and positive energy that I am putting into both - and even though the results are not as I had hoped they would be by now I am optimistic and positive that I am on the right path.  The physiological feelings are the ones that indicate "good" is about to happen.  It awakens creativity and possibility.

Listening yesterday to an interview on the CBC with Richard Dawkins about his book for children The Magic of reality I was surprised to find myself in agreement with much of what he said in regards to the importance of seeing the "magic" in science and things that can be proven.  However we parted company in agreement when he dismissed any experiences that could not be explained in reality or by science.  Whilst I long ago gave up on the belief in creation mythology I do still believe that our journey towards understanding how and why things works and came into being are part of a much bigger picture.  That what we cannot explain, such as premonitions, feelings of rapture and paranormal experiences occur and are very real for those who experience them.  That there is no scientific proof does not diminish the reality of those feelings and beliefs.  For me it is more of a chicken and egg question - which came first science or creation?  Evolution has its place within both scientific and spiritual philosophies, in my opinion.  To dismiss one is to exclude the opportunity for collective understanding and the potential for peaceful co-existence.

Which takes me back to the quote at the top.  Just because we can't prove the feeling we have about something does not mean we should not listen to it.  Our inner wisdom,  soul, however you like to call it or understand it has a purpose to assist and help you live as healthily as possible.  Becoming aware and mindful of those inner thoughts and feelings will guide us all in our quest for a healthy and happy life.

Exercise - Take two or three colours of paint that you really like and let the colours guide you as you apply them to paper.  Let them mingle and swirl as they lead you.  Try not to control how you work with them - either use brushes or your fingers or sponges or all three.  When you have finished reflect on what you have painted and how it felt to just let the colours take control.  What did you learn about yourself ?  Did you need to control the colours or do you have a natural ability to let go and live freely with your instincts?  How can you apply this experience to a current problem or situation?


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Step 83 - Thinking twice about second helpings!

"Personal size and mental sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions.  A large, bulky figure has as good a right to be in deep affliction as the most graceful set of limbs in the world. But, fair, or not fair, these unbecoming conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain - which taste cannot tolerate - which ridicule will seize"  Jane Austen.

Since posting yesterday I have had some requests for meal plan suggestions.  Like some of you I have a family to feed and separate dishes and fussy diet plans are a no no.  I also strongly believe that "diets don't work" and it is the intention behind weight loss that paves the path to success. 

Sadness can certainly lead to comfort eating as the lovely Jane wrote, but so can being in love and sharing too many chocie bars with your sweetheart.  Amazing how the pounds pile on soooo easily, especially in mid life, and fall off so slowly.

The dishes I prepare all work within busy family and full time work life and you are welcome to them as suggestions for your own weight loss goals.  I may not get to post meal plans every day but I will aim for at least three per week.

To re-state my goal is to loose a further 10 pounds over the next 30 days and take my goal weight dress to Paris!  To achieve this I am eating a maximum of 1,750 calories a day, exercising at least 250 calories by going to curves3-4 times a week and walking 30 minutes on the other days.  On days 7/14/21 and 28 I will reward myself with a treat or on the closest day to them that makes sense.

Breakfast      235 cal.

1 egg fried in 1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp flax seeds
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup watermelon

Lunch 162 cal.   

2 x generous tablespoon humous
8 rice crackers
1 orange

Dinner  510 cal.

Avocado and Tuna salad with dressing -
1 tsp olive oil, 1 tblsp low fat Hellmann's mayonnasie and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Snacks and Drinks 387 cal.

8 glasses of water
2 cups of tea with milk
1 cup of coffee with cream
2 x slices provolone cheese
1 apple
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 slices watermelon

Total Intake 1,294

Both fat and protein are essential for helping metabolism and to ensure good muscle retention.  If you are feeling tired protein will help you rather than a low value snack such as a 100 calorie bar.  I also take vitamin C and vitamin B complex each morning - a multi vitamin may also help you when you are trying to loose weight and reducing calorie intake.  Grazing throughout the day - hence the number of snacks is good for boosting metabolism and protein at breakfast is essential for this.  Leafy greens and spinach are also important and aim for at least five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables per day.


Step 82:  "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence...Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."- Calvin Coolidge

Temptation to give in or give up whether we are on a diet, trying to save money or work towards an important goal often has a loud voice.  Unfortunately this usually means we settle for a short term gain (reward) leading to long term pain; piling back on the weight, spending the savings or more seriously a relapse back into addiction.

Having a long term goal and shorter term goals that act like stepping stones are a really helpful way to prevent and consciously deal with temptation. 

Today I am going to specifically talk about weight loss - but the principles of what I am saying can be applied in other areas.

In just over six weeks I will be heading out to the UK to visit my mum.  My goal weight dress is coming with me!

Since January I have successfully lost some of the weightI had set as a goal and now I have stuck. Becoming discouraged by the lack of movement I spent a couple of weeks gorging on foods that were not only not wheat and gluten free they had no real nutritional value.  It was as if I was punishing my body, yet I was the one in control of my body, making poor choices. 

Daily I stepped onto the scales letting self congratulations speak loudly for being lighter than I was in January all the while closing my eyes to the fact that the pounds were creeping back on.  I wanted to delude and convince myself that I had no control over this and blamed all sorts of other things on what was happening.  I had also not been making time to go to curves or exercise - and conveniently came up with all sorts of excuses and that's what they were excuses!

Sounds harsh but sadly true, I was lying to myself.  For sure I was 20 pounds lighter than when I started but I had lost a further 5 and had now put back on 7.  This was 100% due to lack of willpower or staying power and needing a reward.  Thus to stepping stones plan I mentioned earlier.

"Temptations come when we are feeling deprived and rewards are how we give ourselves recognition of what we have accomplished". Liza Miles 2012

For the next 30 days I will be consuming 1, 750 calories a day with a reward every day 7 of a "treat" of 250 calories. I will also be working out at Curves or waiking at least 30 minutes each day burning 250 cals. My goal - to loose 10 pounds. My treat may be a cocktail, a desert, a bar of chocolate - and I will be sure to make it special, not "wolf it down" in secret. I am publicly sharing this plan with my children who are great monitors.

Exercise - this can be adapted to a weekly or monthly plan for savings and other goals too.
I am creating a daily stepping stone with a specially designed eating plan for that day. At the end of each day I will put a coloured tick or star to confirm that I accomplished the goal for the day.   Every seventh stone will include the treat or reward.   You can also make weekly or monthly stepping stones for different goals.  However I suggest that rewards are given at least once every seven days.

I have not suggested a diet plan here - everyone looses weight differently.  If you need a place to start check out my hub on how to loose 20lbs and keep it off at  I have also listed some suggested sites below that offer weight loss suggestions and products.  If you are planning to loose weight it is always best to loose it slowly and aim for 2-3 pounds a week.  If you have a medical condition, are pregnant or nursing a baby loosing weight should be with the consultation of your doctor.

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Step 81 - choosing to be ...........

There is an old joke that says " should I wake up up grumpy or let him/her sleep."

Joking aside we all have that choice each and every day of our lives.  Honestly it has taken me quite a few years to get enlightened enough to realize that I can choose to have a happy day or not.  The last couple of weeks, since my last post in fact, have been a testament to the ongoing choices that I am able to make to create positive and ongoing peace within myself.

Perhaps it's a part of getting older that I am able to accept situations without
reacting to them and to make a more measured response instead.

The ongoing path to my inner Fiji is certainly enlightening me as I approach day to day problems, relationships and professional duties in a more mindful way.  Mindfulness has helped me overcome many internal and external struggles and I am enjoying the life lessons it creates.

Working alongside a colleague who is way more practised in the art of mindfulness has also helped.  Although she still has "bad days" her empathic approach to problems and weighing of how her actions or reactions can contribute to a positive or negative outcome has taught me that indeed it is the snail or turtle who wins the race.  I have been the hare too many times not to get this - especially in the making of some pretty poor or dare I say tragic decisions based on impulse!

When I attended church regularly I was used to being told that God does not give his people more than they can handle.  I used to swallow this belief whole.  Now I realize it is not God that controls how much we can handle but rather how we behave and respond to situations.  It was convenient to believe that the control was not in my hands but it really did me no service and excused or extended the amount of chaos I brought upon myself.

Working with vulnerable families who may indeed be victims of circumstances the one clear difference between those who remain stuck and the ones who move on and become successful and independent is taking responsibility.  The words "are you done" was once asked of me by a counsellor.  I thought it was harsh but now I see what she was saying - encouraging me to leave "the story" behind and create a new story, one in which I could be in control and not give up or give in to what had gone before.

Exercise for Step 81

Create a daily note of how and when you feel in control of your responses to what happens and when you react.  Notice the difference between a considered response and an immediate reaction.  This can be chartered over small and big things.  Examples may be how you speak to someone who may be rude or curt with you, how you ask your children or family to do stuff around the house, how you approach your co-worker or boss about a situation or a pay rise.   Try to choose response more than react overtime and notice how that benefits not only how you feel but your relationships overall.


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