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Free At Last: Simplifying and Letting Go of Stuff

Ceramic hula maiden and ukulele player © lynette sheppard

We had our Hawaii house painted white over the summer. And that’s where it all started.

Maybe the clutter was less noticeable when we had ash paneled rooms. Or maybe seeing the bookshelves and walls empty was like seeing our home as a blank canvas. Whatever the reason, Dewitt and I have decided to simplify, to declutter, to jettison stuff that is just clogging up our life.

Which is why we are ruthlessly attacking every closet, drawer, and space as if we are moving into a new home. And why our house looks like Hurricane Iniki looped back around for another pass right through our living/great room.

The inevitable disaster cleanup is taking a long time. We have to examine each article, tell its story, and decide: does it go or stay?

We have had an unfortunate habit of buying art and tchotchkes
in equal measure when we travel. And we have traveled a lot, it seems. We briefly consider opening an eBay store called “Tchotchkes R Us”, but decide that is another form of clutter – time clutter. And we don’t need that! So out with the majority of the refrigerator magnets, unused hair adornments, and small statuary.

We have enough shells to repopulate Waikiki beach. Or stock a gift shop in Florida. We need to look more and stoop less when beachcombing. We say aloha to them and move them on.

And the automated cat toy that promised “hours of delightful fun and play for kitty” that our teenage boy cat ran from initially and was bored by later? Off to the thrift store.

Unappreciated Cat Toy © lynette sheppard

How, oh how, did we manage to accumulate 12 golf towels in pristine (read unused, ever) condition? Ah, the accretion factor. Before you know it, you are buried in stuff.

I think we are doing pretty well, so far. We ditched our stereo system for a Bose that takes up a quarter of the space. Our music library lives on our iPod anyway. I’ve thrown out all those weird Easter egg and Santa Claus earrings. We’ve donated a number of the books that we have carted all over creation for years to our local bookstore and the library.

We even decided to release our kitschy little ceramic hula maiden and ukulele player after their years of service (and dust collecting). They lay on top of the trash bin for nearly an hour, before Dewitt rescued them and they were relocated to the lanai. At least they are out of the living room. We are making progress.

Rescued From The Trash © lynette sheppard

Their New Home © lynette sheppard

Second adulthood is a time of letting go. To be sure, there are losses – of youth, smooth unwrinkled skin, and temperature control among others. But letting go can be cleansing and freeing as well. We are making space for our next phase. We are allowing a freshening breeze to blow through our lives.

Will we live in a spare, clean, Zen home after all the excess “stuff” is relocated? Probably yes, for at least a month or two. Until we get the urge to frequent an art gallery or the neighbor island ABC store. Then I’m guessing all bets will be off and the whole process will begin again! Gonna enjoy it whichever way it goes. Time to drag out the Christmas stuff…

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Women Changing The World – One Dinner at a Time

That is the tagline for one of the most inspiring women to women endeavors I’ve ever seen. And we will tell you all about it.

Flash back to September and our annual Menopause Goddess gathering this year. We talked once again about legacy and contribution. MIdlife has made us all too aware that our time on this planet is limited. We wondered how we share might some of the blessings in our lives, whether it be through mentoring, volunteering, public service, or donations.

Then Cyn Venus told us about a project that she has been involved in for the past year called “Dining For Women”. This nonprofit organization was begun in 2003 by Marsha Wallace. The premise is simple: a group of women meet for a potluck dinner and donate the money they would have spent going out to eat to a cause benefiting women.

On their site, diningforwomen.org, they further describe their mission and vision:

“Dining for Women from the beginning has focused on improving the lives of women and girls worldwide, who often live on less than $1 a day. By focusing on women and girls, DFW empowers women to find solutions to the problems they face through education, healthcare, and economic development.”

“Our Mission
Dining for Women’s mission is to empower women and girls living in extreme poverty by funding programs that foster good health, education, and economic self‐sufficiency and to cultivate educational giving circles that inspire individuals to make a positive difference through the power of collective giving.

Our Vision
Our vision is to create a new paradigm for giving – collective giving on an immense scale while maintaining the intimacy of small groups with a focus on education and engaged giving.”

Dining For Women involves us in two of our favorite things: girlfriends and giving back. Okay, three if you count eating. And I do. I was sold on the idea from the minute Cyn described the concept. And then she shared the following video of the cause of the month for September, 2011: the Fistula Foundation in Ethiopia.  Warning: grab your Kleenex before you watch.

Want to know more about fistula incidence and options for women in Ethiopia? Read the novel “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese, a stunning story written by a physician that will break your heart wide open.

So: Dining For Women. $10 here. $15 there. Resulting in 1.2 million dollars raised over the eight years it has been in existence. Where else can we get so much return for our money? As for me, I’d much rather have a potluck with gal pals than go out to a restaurant where I have to dress up and be on my best behavior.

The website shows all the ways we can help whether we organize a potluck group that meets once per month or just shop in their Marketplace to support Dining For Women. Let’s see how many chapters we can create in the new year (not wanting to stress anybody out over the holidays. Although it may be a stress reducer to meet with girlfriends and commiserate/celebrate/what have you.)  And hey, what a great New Year’s resolution.

Women helping women. To quote my handsome spouse, Dewitt, “I can’t wait until women run the world.” Yep, me neither. But we’re getting there by doing what we do best. And after all, we are more than half the citizens on this little blue marble. Just sayin’… Dinner anyone?

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Roaming the Pacific NW: Second Adulthood

British Columbia Sunset © lynette sheppard

My friend and sister goddess Karen-Venus likes us to set aside a day or an afternoon to just go roaming.

Which means having no real plans, destination, or goal. Just being together, meandering. Eating, strolling, maybe shopping – just allowing ourselves to wander.

My handsome hubby. Dewitt, has adopted a saying from a Hawaiian rules T-shirt as his own personal credo: The unaimed arrow never misses. So it was with our recent meander up to British Columbia and eastern Washington state.

Of course, we made some plans – we had airline reservations, hotel and car rental from Seattle onward and plans to visit friends on Vancouver Island. The rest was up for grabs. Just the way we are growing to like it.

This phase of second adulthood reminds me of the best of childhood, when you would start a day not knowing what you would do or see, just experiencing the world as you happened upon it.

When you have no expectations, everything is a miracle. I made a new goddess friend (actually I believe we must be sisters that got separated somehow and found our way back to one another.) Never expected that!

Saw seals basking in the sun, drank wine on a boat while music from a concert drifted out to us bobbing on the sound, ate fabulous food and didn’t count the calories, watched rainbows and sunsets, met a farmer and a barber, hooked up with some Facebook photo pals who I’d not met in person before but felt like I knew so well, got lost in wheat fields and explored abandoned houses. Expected none of that either.

Of course, now I’m back home madly playing catch up. I’m a little behind on some things and a lot behind on others. But that feeling of peacefilled joy is hanging on. And when it dissipates, I’m going to try a little roaming around home.

Instead of powering through my walk to get it over with and check off the exercise portion of my day, I might just roam and see where I end up. Or I’ll hook up with Theresa-Venus and do some photo roaming where we may or may not actually take a photo.

It’s important to my second adulthood to make time for me – and being open to whatever, rather than being so quasi-organized and scheduled. Only one thing I want my Menopause Goddess sisters to do – remind me! And I’ll try to remind you too.

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Practice Gratitudinal Healing

eagle falls reflection © lynette sheppard

Just over a year ago, I was writing about the tsunami warning and our evacuation here in Hawai`i after the Chilean earthquake. Deja vu all over again as Japan suffered a 9.0 quake and a huge tidal wave engulfed much of the coast.

Once again, we have much to be grateful for in Hawai`i. The tsunami caused some property damage, but we are all safe. Once again, our hearts hurt for our friends, known and unknown, across the sea.

I’ve talked to several of the Venuses who’ve felt tired, ill, depressed and/or frightened. I’ve been having nightmares every night. I have not had bad dreams since I was a child. Such a huge “disturbance in the force” affects us all. What to do?

Certainly, we wish to help. We can donate to relief funds and help our neighbors clean up if needed. What might we do beyond this?

My friend, Cathie Haynes, wrote a thought provoking post this week about celebration on her wonderful blog: BE-ing Rooted: a Practice in Essential Living. Confronted with the suffering and disaster, she did one of the only things we can do. Celebrate. Focus on what is important in life. See the extraordinary in the ordinary. And practice gratitude.

My husband, Dewitt Jones, sends out a photo and quote each week exhorting us to “Celebrate What’s Right With The World.” It’s simply a lovely reminder, a refocusing, and an affirmation of life. It’s something we need all the time and especially at times like these.  As he says, celebrating what’s right can give us the energy to fix what’s wrong. (Sign up to receive the Celebrate photos on his site – no charge, just spreading gratitude.)

How does this help? Do gratitude and celebration create positive vibrations in the force? Does kindness? I’m not sure if it helps the world, but I’m pretty sure it helps in our little corner of it. I may still have nightmares for awhile, but I’m going to adopt an attitude of celebration. Right now.

Here’s a partial list of those things I am grateful for in this moment:
rescue animals (including a dog afraid of thunder and a cat that “thinks out of the box” sometimes
breathing
family
birdsong
good friends
raindrops
rubber slippers
photography
rice
sprouted grains
water
breezes
the gift of sight
books
Hawai`ian music
old cars that still run
wifi and cable on a rural island
hot flashes (okay that’s a stretch, but means I’m alive!)
flowers
kisses
my menopause goddess sisters

Wishing you all some gratitudinal healing. What are you grateful for? What might you celebrate? Share it in the comments or just hold it in your heart. Malama pono – take good care. Of you.

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Happy Holly Daze For Menopause Goddesses

I don’t have grandchildren yet. And while I love, love, love the holidays, I also dread, dread, dread the busyness of the season. (Which seems to happen earlier each year or is this just my imagination?)

So last year, I began to wonder why I get myself all worked up and frantic carrying out the mandatory rituals every November-December. It was not easy to score a live tree last winter here on my rural island, so I opted out of the pine needle, broken ornaments (cause by cattus domesticus who can’t stop playing with the shiny things),  sugary dough all over the kitchen, unwritten Christmas card mess.

And it was…heavenly.

So this year, I was way more gentle with myself
. Thanksgiving was glorious at our neighbor’s house – potlucked of course. The day was lazy and filled with gratitude for us.

Theresa Venus is here on-island and we celebrated Lei Venus’s birthday with a holiday dinner of turkey, ham, and all the trimmings. There was no have-to or pressure, just an ease of fun food prep, sharing of conversation and meal, and mostly quality time spent with one another.

Wow, two holiday feasts already and no stress so far
. I’m thinking that I may be on to something. Because the rituals have been comin’ apart at the seams, in the very best possible way,  it was with absolute serenity that we cruised downtown to see the Christmas parade of lights and hang out with the entire island’s population to celebrate, Hawaiian style.

I am having a tree trimming party
. Which involves putting miniature ornaments on a Lilliputian fake tree (about 4 inches tall). Yes, I mean inches, not feet. I can hold it in the palm of my hand.

Of course, there will be eggnog and wine. We can sing Christmas carols. (Or not, maybe it’d better to listen to Willie K. or Na Leo Pilimehana sing.) And we’ll even have the right smells, thanks to Menopause Goddess Teri Waros’s Kalele Bookstore and Divine Expressions – provider of the Douglas Fir incense

You are all invited. Happy stress free holiday and Mele Kalikimaka.

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Create Time To Be “Queen” Every Now and Then

aspen_leaf_stones

Jimmy Buffett sings “I just want to live happily ever after…..every now and then.” And we can create time to be Queen for a day every now and then, if not everyday. As promised, I’m bringing us all some help in doing this.

One of our very own Venuses, Karen Leland, has just released a fabulous new book on Time Management. (Co-authored with her business partner Keith Bailey.) In a recent interview, I asked her for a few of her tips on Time Management for Menopause Goddesses.

How can the working Menopause Goddess keep her work-life balance?

“I think the key for working Menopause Goddesses is to discover what their deepest contribution and passion is and to integrate that into their lives. For some, they are lucky enough to have that be what they do for a living. For others, they need to make a concerted effort to carve out time to practice their passion.

I find, as do many of the working Menopause Goddesses I talk to, that we have to protect the time we spend on our heart’s greatest passion and not let the continuous demand of the daily to-do list keep us from expressing our greatest creativity or fulfillment.”

What are the biggest challenges the working Menopause Goddess faces in having a balanced life?

“One of the biggest challenges we working goddesses are facing – especially in this economy – is that many of us have to keep working to earn a living, Even when at this time in our lives some of us would rather pursue other, more creative outlets. I find that I don’t have the same drive I used to when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. My priorities have really changed, so creating a balanced life, means not sacrificing my true heart’s calling just to earn a living.

For many Menopause Goddesses this means adjusting their lifestyle so they can still work, but not so intensely.”

What five small things can a goddess do to increase her work-life balance?

“In doing the research for my latest book “Time Management In An Instant”, I spoke to a lot of psychologists and sociologists who were examining the nature of how we work today. A few things become abundantly clear including:

1. Each day, determine the 3 things you must do, 2 things you want to do and 1 thing that will relieve some pressure if you do it. By doing this, you avoid simply doing the stuff that is ‘crisis’ oriented.

2. Don’t do email or social media first thing in the morning. It’s a black hole that can suck you in for hours and hours. Do your exercise, meditation etc. to set yourself up for the day.

3. Use time planning to block off specific days and times in your calendar when you are going to work on your passions and most important commitments. Rather than leave them to chance, schedule them.

4. Make dates with girlfriends to go for a walk, for coffee, out to lunch, see a movie etc. If you make a date, you are less likely to break it and it forces you to get some time away from working or producing.

5. Limit your goals. It’s always tempting at the beginning of the year to sit down and come up with a laundry list of goals to achieve, in a wide variety of areas. But really, most people can only focus on at most 3 goals at a time. By limiting your goals and really focusing on the most important 2 or 3 the chances of them happening are greatly increased.”

How do you keep your sense of work-life balance?

“Well, for me things like art, being in nature and personal writing, are my lifelines. I need to be doing something artistic or I’m just not a happy person to be living with.

I’ve worked my schedule out so that I work longer days, 4 days a week, but can take Fridays off. This is prime time for me to go for a walk with a friend, do photography, paint, write a personal essay etc… It really helps me to stay in balance and get a perspective when I do this.”

Do you feel that the onset of Menopause affects work-life balance?

“For me it has greatly affected it. I am still ambitious, I still have goals, I still enjoy working, but something has changed. I really don’t want to work with the same level of intensity I used to. As one of my Menopause Goddess friends said ‘our bodies just are not supposed to work that hard at this time in our lives.’ I think that is true. I have a much greater interest in slowing down reflecting, taking time to enjoy life than I did.”

Buy a copy of Time Management In An Instant the week of July 20th and receive a free license to view the Essential Email online course. To buy the book and claim your bonus, or just to buy the book go to: http://www.quality-service.com/timemanagementinaninstant

Karen Leland and Keith Bailey are the bestselling authors of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. They are the co-founders of Sterling Consulting Group, which helps organizations and individuals learn how to fight distraction and find their focus in a wired world. For more information please contact: kleland@scgtraining.com

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Menopause Queen For A Day

Remember that old sixties television show "Queen For A Day"? Women competed to win the title along with roses and a grand prize such as a washer and dryer. Those grand prizes would be downright insulting to us daughters of the women’s lib movement. Give me a spa weekend or a fabulous dinner out, but DO NOT give me an appliance or housework aid. Sheesh.

I do know now what it is like to truly be "Queen For A Day". I went camping for a week in the High Sierra with my hubby Dewitt and dear friends, Don and Theresa Souers. On my birthday, we climbed up to this incredible lake.

Stunned into breathlessness by equal parts vista and oxygen molecule deprivation, I stood there just enjoying being Queen for the Day. I reveled in the best life has to offer: natural beauty, clear air, clean water (okay,we filtered it just in case, but you get the drift), good friends who know when to talk and when to be silent, and TIME.

Time. That glorious commodity that we were rich in as children. Days when we whined that there was nothing to do. And here we were revisiting such a day. A day without plans, agenda, or focus. It lasted soooooooooooo long. Hiking, photographing, junk food snacking, napping, reading, writing, more photographing, and spaghetti for dinner. Mmmmmmmm.

"What shall we do now?" we asked at intervals throughout the day. So many possibilities permeating that question. Such bounty and perfection. We sent ourselves outside to play, as if parenting ourselves.

Like kids, we barely combed our hair before throwing on mismatched clothes and jumping into playtime. We got scraped, muddy, and mosquito bit. We played in the water and sunned on the rocks. We lay down in a meadow, discovering shooting stars and Indian paintbrush as if for the first time.

We saw lynx tracks, marveled at the jewel toned flank of a golden trout, daydreamed as clouds drifted across a cerulean sky. This is what we most want: Time. Unstructured. Open. Free.

We’re all royalty when we take the time to look and enjoy our earthly "castles" – whether we are in the High Sierra, a local park or conservatory, or our own back yard. All we need is to STOP and enjoy. And if it is hard to find the time? If one actually feels they need to absent themselves as we just did to find that time? Well, on Wednesday (two days from now) one of our very own Venuses will share tips right here on Menopause Goddess Blog from her new book on time management. So we can all be "Queen For A Day."

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The PAUSE in Menopause

Menopause should more accurately be called menohalt, as reader Jackie M points out. I wonder sometimes about the scientists or health professionals that named it – were they overly optimistic? Confused? Clueless? Where actually is the PAUSE in menopause?

I think I may have figured it out. The Pause might be a pause for reflection. We can’t remember anything, can’t function as we used to, are clueless and confused ourselves. We reevaluate everything. We pause to ask ourselves who we are. We look back to who we’ve been up until the Big M. We look ahead to the woman we might become.

We pause to ask what WE want, rather than what does our family, our work, our world want from us. We cease going on automatic and examine our life from the sides, the bottom, the soft juicy core.

The Big M ushers in a host of other m’s, not the least of which is mortality. A pretty big M in its own right, mortality reminds us that this ride is not forever, so we had better choose our manner of conveyance and pay attention to the journey.

We pause to ponder what we might be when we grow up. We pause to consider what we might wish to leave behind when we shuffle off this mortal slinky. Mostly, we pause to appreciate, to savor flowers and love and blue sky and books and girlfriends.

I recently discovered Vibrant Nation, a website for women over fifty, when they posted an article about my book "The Big M". I liked the site and its conversations. so I joined. When I filled out the personal info page with bio and the usual stats, I came to a box that asked me to send a postcard to my younger self.

I was delighted and intrigued. What would I say to her/me if I could? Besides love your body because it changes, don’t sweat the small stuff, clean less and play more, work and success are okay, but love and gratitude make for a meaningful life. Stuff like that.

In the end, I simply wrote this:

Dear Me,

It’s all worth it – it only gets better. I’ll be (am) glad when you are here.

All my best,

Me

What would YOU write to your younger self? Let me know and maybe we’ll be able to pass on our notes to our daughters and the young goddesses in training. Pause, reflect, and send that virtual postcard to the sweet, young you from the wiser, vibrant woman you’ve become. Let’s really put the PAUSE in menopause.

(photo for this posting by my handsome hubby, Dewitt Jones)

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Taking a Break from Menopause

There are definitely days that I’d like to take a break from The Big M. Even when I’m not particularly hot, sweaty, cranky, or weepy, most of the time it feels like Menopause has taken over my life.

Okay, okay, I know that the goddesses and I chose this path – we wanted to make sure that no other women had to suffer the uncertainty and panic we went through. If nothing else, we wanted our sister goddesses to travel the journeys through menopause, and more important, the second half of life with one another. And we love this job. But there comes a time when a goddess has just got to take a break.

In that spirit, I am declaring a menopause break for the solstice. On June 21, I’m going to forget about hormones, creams, night sweats, mood swings, and brain fog. I’m going to spend the day being young!

Of course, my laugh lines won’t disappear. My age spots and wattle will still be there. My low-flying tatas will still struggle mightily with gravity (and lose) But just for the day, I’m not going to notice them. (Or care if anyone else does.)

I’m a big fan of the best of second childhood; things like openness and wonder, celebration and play, romps and naps. I’m going to start my second childhood on my Menopause Break Day in earnest by doing whatever frivolous things catch my fancy.

I might plunge into Photoshop and play with my photos. I might sit on the porch and read a novel. I might just zone out and watch the points of light on the water. I will most certainly eat chocolate!

Join me! Let’s play hooky from the Big M and celebrate thinking, feeling, and believing young. Pick a day, doesn’t have to be the solstice (because Father’s Day may not be the easiest day to take off). Who knows, our Menopause Break might become a habit. Second childhood is just around the corner, let’s start practicing now!

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Affirmations for Menopause Goddesses

My feelings about long plane rides have transformed since the Big M. I now LOVE to climb inside that metal tube and hunker down in my seat blissfully unavailable by phone, tweets, facebookings, email, or solicitors. I’ve even compared these rides to taking bubble baths – Calgon, take me away. (See blog entry of 6/21/08 "A Bubble Bath at 30,000 Feet).

What’s even better than a bubble bath, however, is a bubble bath and a good book. And Goddess-in Training (meaning perimenopausal) Diane Mierzwik’s new book, Weekly Affirmations for Pre-Menopausal Women was the best part of my latest stratospheric bubble bath.

She writes with humor and grace about the changes that afflict us all as we age and travel down the pathway toward menopause and midlife. She chronicles 52 weeks, from New Year to New Year, where her wry and funny observations culminate in an affirmation for each week. Her quirky illustrations complement each entry.

These are not affirmations that place unreal expectations for sainthood upon us or make us feel guilty for being, well, us. Instead, she gives us focus points toward acceptance of where we are and small nudges to who we might wish to become.

Here’s an excerpt to tempt you:
"Week 13
They say the best, given enough time, will rise to the top. So, I’m not sure why cellulite has such a bad rap.

Twenty years ago, I had smooth supple skin. I had "fat in all the right places." But, did I enjoy it? No, I obsessed with the extra two inches around my waist, the dimples in my bicep areas, the baby roll on my tummy. What I wouldn’t give for that body today, except diet and exercise, you know, sacrifice. The memory of that body is like an egg ready to hatch or explode into an extra 30 pounds around my midriff.

I imagine twenty years from now I will look back on my middle aged body and wish my days away for it like I wish I hadn’t eaten that cookie, but it smelt and tasted so good at the time.

This week, as the weather warms and the malls hang swim suits in the windows, I will love and appreciate the body I have today, cellulite and all, so twenty years from now I will not kick myself for not appreciating the beauty I had when I had it."

This is a must read for any woman confronting the Changes. My only complaint? The other passengers turning to stare at me when I erupted into laughter as I read all 52 weeks in a single sitting. But hey, they didn’t know that they were joining me in m bubble bath, so they’re forgiven.

Buy the book at Amazon. For more humor and heart, visit Diane’s blog at weeklyaffirmations.com.

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