Empowerment

Guest blog by Carol Drinkwater
Author of The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

The Oxford Dictionary definition of empower is : give (someone) the authority or power to do something.  Make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.  The noun is Empowerment

What fascinates me about empowerment, particularly as a writer, is how we can create our own power, how through the experiences of loss or grief, learning or challenge we find the inner strength to grow and move forward with a broader and richer understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live and function.   

I believe that no experience is worth having if it does not takes us further. What have I learnt? What can this teach me about myself and the my relationship with the world about me?
In the OLIVE trilogy I am writing, stories about buying a delapidated villa in ten acres of land in the south of France and transforming that ruin and its Mediterranean terraces into a glorious olive farm that produces first class olive oil, there are numerous examples of challenge and loss, some painful, some very funny. Each of the books recounts some of these challenges and how they can be transformed into rich and uplifting and often humorous experiences.

In THE OLIVE SEASON, the second book in the trilogy, I find myself pregnant. The news is joyous to myself and my husband, Michel, because I had a history of miscarriages. Unfortunately, I lose the little girl at seventeen weeks into the pregnancy. The devastation is compounded when I learn from my gynecologist that I will never be able to carry a child full-term. For almost any woman this is a profound tragedy and one that takes a great deal of courage to face and move through. For me, personally, there were two issues that took my grief way down. Firstly, my husband has beautiful twin daughters from his first marriage and though I love them to bits and they love me I will never be their mother and, secondly, I am an actress and and as such my life is sometimes lived in the public domain. On television I have been described as 'womanly', 'attractive', 'feminine' etc and now here I am childless. Being denied the quintessential female experience. How was I to go forward ? How was I going to come to terms with such a deprivation? 

Running alongside tales of the rich and colourful world of life in southern Provence, this loss, these questions and their answers, is one of the themes of THE OLIVE SEASON.  I believe that I allowed myself to go through the grieving and, slowly, as the seasons changed on the olive farm, as winter turned to spring, as a new harvest of olives was gathered and pressed, as sapling olive trees are planted, I began to find strength in nature. I began looking for what was good in my life.

What makes my cup half FULL and not half EMPTY?

The olive tree is considered to be the Tree of Eternity. It lives sometimes to a thousand years. It does not begin fully fruiting until is about twenty-five years and its finest fruits can be harvested when it has reached a century or more.

We have recently planted another two hundred small trees. Sometimes, these days, I stand on our farmland and I look about me and I thank Life for all that is wonderful. I will never have children in the physical, the conventional sense. But we have young trees that will be fruiting long after Michel and I have passed through this life, I have my books to write, roles as an actress to take on and we are creating a farm that will be there for many future generations to come.

Of course, I remain sad that I don't see that little girl at my side on the farm, that I don't hold her hand, but she is there in spirit and I am stronger and richer as a woman now because I have learnt to celebrate what I have. 

I have been empowered - been made stronger and more confident - by the facing of my loss and I have discovered joy in the everyday world around me. 

© CAROL DRINKWATER, France 2003

Sacred Journey... The Inner Beauty of a Woman's Soul

Guest blog by Cynthia Knorr-Mulder RNC, MSN, NP-C,CS, C.Ht
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Sometimes I wonder how the most annoying people so easily learn how to cultivate the art to charm. One of my more frequent patients who my colleagues describe as annoying, can at times appear to be so charming that as a practitioner you feel completely convinced that this is the session that is going to stop the negative patterns of behavior, change his life completely around and turn prince annoying into a real charmer. Unfortunately, three visits later, you find out you were wrong. 

I started seeing prince annoying over two years ago for many reasons, but more simply put - because everything in his life always went wrong. At the age of thirty something, he was the author of every blind date horror story some sick Steven King wannabe could conjure up. Not only was he longing to find his princess, he hoped his family jewels would soon produce some heirs. 

He was not your typical prince, as princes would go. He was short, not tall, he was not handsome well okay, but he was dark. As a practitioner I am always able to look closely into someone's eyes and see their true soul revealing their inner beauty. Because that is where true inner beauty lies.

Okay by this point you are now wondering why he was crowned the name annoying. I guess you could say it is because he always shows up. With an appointment he shows up, without an appointment he shows up, just because he was driving by, he shows up. For whatever reason he seems to always be there discussing how horrible life is and asking why his princess hasn't shown up.

My secretary learned quickly how to pull up the moat bridge, and put on her armor. "I'm sorry she is with another patient would you like to make an appointment perhaps for next year, I mean next week". Quickly the young prince caught on and when finally one day I answered the phone directly he said, " Oh good, I thought you were avoiding me." I quickly felt pity, until I remembered that such an emotion is negative and invites nothing but bad experiences, so I changed pity to guilt and scheduled him in for next year, I mean next week. 

I dreaded telling my colleagues that he was due for a visit, but sooner or later they found out and as the time approached they scurried into their offices, armor on, doors closed to avoid the soon to be crowned King of annoying. As he sat comfortably in my office chair, looking like he was prepared to stay for a 20-hour session I began to wonder what made us all feel that he was so annoying. 

So how are you? "I'm fine prince annoying. How are you?" I answered. Well you know, so how are you doing? "I'm doing good prince annoying how are you?" I continued. Well I'm not sure. So how are things going..? Stop the press, what was I thinking; now I know why he's so annoying. 

"Let's get right to the point, how is your life going?" I questioned. Not well, I had a terrible accident I fell into a tree while walking down the street. Well that explained the two black eyes and abrasions that I was trying so hard not to stare at. Yeah and that was 8 weeks ago and I still look like this. "Why did it happen?" I don't know he said. I tripped. Trying to move the conversation along as not to go back to how I was doing, I continued to ask if the princess had yet been found, after all he had been carrying her shoe around for over 19 years. 

Well maybe this time, he replied. I have been dating a girl for the past 5 months, she likes me a lot, we have a lot in common and we are having a lot of fun. But, I said. You knew there was a but coming. If this prince hadn't been titled annoying, he could of been the prince of but. Well but, I' don't know. Yes you do, I thought. Just get to the point and stop being so annoying. 

Well but what? Well there is one thing about her? She broke her leg as a child and now she walks funny, you really can't notice, but I think do I want to marry someone who is not perfect? Before booting him completely out of my office and claiming the title as International President, having been voted in by every single woman in this world, I decided I would give him one last chance before I ditched him into the alligator pit. 

Have you gotten to know her soul? Does her outer beauty reflect her inner beauty? Has she gotten to know your soul? And what about your inner beauty? I fired so many inner soul related questions so quickly, I was sure that not only had I lost him, but I think he was hoping for an out of body experience just to avoid my questions. I waited for his reply but there was none.

And suddenly I realized that if I were starting all over again as a princess bride, I would find the ugliest prince in the world for I was sure he would understand life so deeply in a spiritual sense that he would have to have a beautiful soul, a true inner beauty. And he would truly understand that it is not looking beautiful where true inner beauty lies. If I could find this ugly prince, I would snatch him up so quickly, kiss him on his green froggy lips and know that he would love me for who I truly was. 

Hey doesn't this sound like the frog and the princess story. Of course it does and do you know why? Because it was a princess that recognized the true inner beauty of the frog and in doing so she found her prince. Do you think they would write a story about a prince that kissed a frog because he recognized the frogs true inner beauty and behold he got a princess? Get real. Obviously in all of history nothings changed. It is still the princess that sees beyond the frog. 

I ended the session with prince annoying by asking him to reflect upon what purpose his tree mishap may have had in his life. I also told him that it was important to learn a lesson when approached by a wise old teacher - the tree. In fact some ancient old trees have been known to teach many a wise scholar but seldom a slimy frog. I continued to stress to him that he would be wise to learn the lesson for if the lesson was not learnt the first time the teacher would be back again, only next time with a bigger lesson. 

How many times does it take a big fat tree trunk to hit a guy in the face in an effort to realize that any woman who loves him must be the most beautiful princess in the land?

As for me I will not have to worry my teachers will be very proud, for I learned this lesson quickly. Prince annoying's are just that - annoying. No charm can change my availability to provide healing to a soul that chooses to seek a magic wall that will manifest a beautiful princess so that he can live happily ever after. To find a fairy tale ending we must seek our own inner love, appreciate the beauty of the soul, and respect the true magic of life. 

As for Prince Annoying, until he realizes he is traveling on a sacred journey, I predict there will be many a tree that jumps into his path hoping he will look into the mirror and see beyond the trauma on his face. Until one day he realizes that by looking inward to find self-love and reclaim his own inner beauty he will indeed find his princess has inner beauty. The same inner beauty that I saw in his soul each visit, something that has been there all along, just like the beautiful princess that he could find if only he would step back from the wall to see her. 

And what about me, well I'm living happily ever after because I did kiss a frog, once upon a time, a long time ago. Of course I found that frog only after learning that you couldn't kiss an alligator without getting bit. As for my frog, well he turned into a prince and is now tall dark and handsome. He too has carried around my shoe for the past 19 years, however he knows so well how to look past the material me to where my true inner beauty lies - within my soul. 

Sacred Journey...A Women's Power of Wisdom- Connection Heaven, Earth, Mind, Body and Spirit part 1

Guest blog by Cynthia Knorr-Mulder RNC, MSN, NP-C,CS, C.Ht
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Every day I am becoming more aware that each moment I experience is not just an adventure it is indeed a sacred journey. The synchronicities have begun to occur with such magnitude that I begin to wonder if the dream is reality or reality is the dream. I have learned from these synchronicities that not only are heaven and earth one, but the experiences of mind body and spirit are connected into that existing wholeness. 

This column is dedicated to the life experiences that we as woman encounter. It is about recognizing those mundane everyday occurrences in our busy lives that we often neglect to notice as signs and symbols of a greater connection. The stories contained within this column are there to benefit those who wish to make the connection between heaven, earth, mind, body and spirit. They are the stories of a women's journey. A woman who has been fortunate enough to appreciate and live the sacred journey of life to it's fullest. My purpose in life is to learn and teach that which I have experienced. By reading this column, may you receive an awakening in your own sacred journey.

Title Obsession
Over time I have promised Barrie Louise-Switzen to write an ongoing column for The Woman's Connection. The only thing that has stopped me, was finding a title. As I searched for the appropriate title, I began to wonder if Abigail had a whole bunch of letters sitting around for years wondering what to call her column? Imagine all that information and advise waiting to be shared and yet neglected because Abigail could not come up with an appropriate title for her column. 
Finally one day, as not to interfere with the process of someone's sacred journey, Abigail gives up the search for a perfect title and begins publishing her weekly column by starting out with two simple words... Dear Abby. Most times we obsess so long on the obvious that we begin to lose the clear vision of the simplicity that life offers. Our life is truly a sacred journey. With that in mind, I begin this column very much like Abigail did with two simple words. Two simple words that imply the meaning to the experience of life itself.... Sacred Journey. 

Sacred Journey
Is reality the dream or is the dream reality...

We have all had the experience of peaceful sleep, restless nights, vivid dreams, astral visits and gifts of prophecy from elder spirits of another dimension. Yet many of us neglect to acknowledge these experiences and write them off as just a dream. Those of us that are fortunate to have awakened the light within are also those who are able to interpret these dreams and understand their existence. A dream is more than a mere manifestation of some shear bizarre dimension. The state of dreaming is a pure connection between heaven and earth. The dream is a message connecting the mind, body and soul. A message, which if correctly interpreted, becomes a manifestation of reality itself. 

Long ago, a very wise and enlightened spiritual teacher once asked me if I believed that life was the existence of reality or if the dimension of the dream state was reality. I initially shrugged this question off and believed the answer was purely simple. Surely, that which I could physically feel was that which was real. Later on I would learn that not only was my perception of reality wrong, but I also learned a very valuable lesson. Never shrug off a question from an enlightened spiritual teacher as something purely simple. 

Dreaming of the Journey...
The Five Sacred Stones
Suddenly the dream becomes vivid, not like other dreams. Immediately I become aware that I am traveling in another dimension. The colors are vivid and I can clearly define and recall each and every aspect of what I see. I approach a stone castle for what seems to be a simple business meeting. Lured to this majestic location, those that join me wonder how it is that I know exactly where it is I am going. Familiar as it all may seem, I realize the experience is new to me and I begin myself to wonder how easily I have stumbled upon the location of this sacred site.  
Inside the stone castle I meet up with a colleague who is being honored for his accomplishments in his professional field. The room begins to fill with all the people I have ever known and loved, who now join in the celebration. I leave the crowd for a minute and enter an octagon room in which a large screen begins playing. I watch what appears to be a movie of my life; I recall the film in its entirety as if I were once the producer of this film. However, as I leave the room, I can no longer recall any aspect of that which I have just viewed. 

Heading away from the celebration, I begin to explore the majestic castle. I walk out the back gate and follow a dirt trail, which leads to an endless field of green, thick grass. Sitting in the grass a young and beautifully tall blonde women sits playing with a small beige and white dog. She asks if she can help me and I reply yes. "I am lost and I am trying to return to the castle where a wonderful celebration is occurring." I ask if she knows of the stone castle that sits on a hill. She smiles and says, "why of course", as she points behind me to the majestic stone castle. "You must simply return back on the same road you came down." Turning around, I see the castle behind me and I suddenly realize I was still on the same road. Looking now at how simple that seemed I begin to wonder why I even thought I was lost. She tells me she will join me along the way, so that I will not get lost again. 

As we approach the castle, we begin to climb the stone stairs to the back entrance. The women comments on the gown that I am wearing. "You look like a princess", she states. Feeling honored by her comment I look down at the elegant black gown and respond by telling her that a true princess should be wearing white. She corrects me by saying that what I am wearing is appropriate for this elegant occasion and she is glad that I have finally found my way home. 
I thank her for helping me back to the castle and ask her to join in the celebration. As I look in her eyes, I suddenly realize that she is filled with enlightenment and is truly an angel. As we enter back into the celebration, I see my colleague who says, "I was watching you the whole time you were lost. I saw you from the top of the castle." I jokingly say, "so if you knew where I was, why didn't you call me on my cell phone and tell me how to get back?" He assures me that he was never worried about me that I was protected and he knew I would return safely. I begin to introduce him to the women who assisted me in finding my way back. Suddenly their eyes meet and he realizes that he knows who she is. Astound he says to me, " Don't you know who this is?" and I reply, "Yes, she is an angel". 

The women then asks me to open my left hand as she begins to give me five secret gifts. My colleague watches and listens as she continues. She begins by telling me the meaning of each secret as she places a small stone in my hand. The first stone is a rose quartz, followed by a black onyx, a square shaped tigers eye, a tear shaped snowflake obsidian, and finally a small blue triangular piece of turquoise. 

As she places the turquoise in the palm of my hand it begins to slip off. She catches it, places it once again into my palm and tells me to hold on to this stone, as it is the most important secret. She closes the palm of my hand tightly so the stones will remain with me and then she disappears. I immediately realize I have forgotten the secrets, yet I continue to keep each of the five stones with me.

I walk back into the room where the celebration continues. Far across the room, I see my colleague who is surround by those who continue to honor him for his professional achievements. I know that he cannot hear me from far across the room, but I also know that he is constantly aware of my presence. Catching his eye for one brief moment I silently move my lips to say, " I told you it was going to turn out wonderful". Understanding exactly what I mean, he smiles.
Now it is time for me to leave, and although the celebration continues I begin to exit the stone castle. Everyone asks me why I am leaving so early. I tell them I must get back and like Cinderel la I begin to walk briskly down the halls of the castle. Hearing nothing but the sound of my taffeta gown as it flows, I cascade down the hallway. As I turn around to look behind me, I begin to notice construction workers covering the top of the high ceiling to the bottom of the stone floor with a white gauze like veil. Now even though I want to look back, I can now no longer see.
Suddenly and abruptly I awaken, jolting back into my body like a flash of lightening. 
Unlocking Sacred Symbols

Many times as we travel on our sacred journey, we wonder what it is that life has in store for us. We hope that we are following the path we are meant to be on, however sometimes we begin to contemplate what the future has in store for each and every one of us. Along our journey we make decisions daily that not only affect us individually, but also affect the greater whole of those around us. This becomes particularly important in the work environment.

Sometimes we may find ourselves loving with a passion the profession we have chosen, but so many obstacles prevent us from completing the job the way in which we dream it could be. A dream, which in reality benefits the greater whole. It is so easy to quit and give up during such trying times, but the road that is rough makes the journey more of an accomplishment and ones life more sacred for having chosen the difficult path. 

If only we can be told or warned of the future. If only we could be guided gently back onto our sacred path by a message. Imagine the comfort in knowing that we will eventually be able to accomplish the purpose of our sacred journey and that everything will indeed turn out wonderful somewhere just a little further down the road? 

If we listen and look carefully, if we provide a quiet place in our mind uncluttered by stress and busy thoughts, if we except that life is sacred, then the symbols and the signs begin to appear. The dream becomes the reality to those intuitive enough to honor the sacred and embrace the light. 

Got The Secret? Now Get The Tools

Guest blog by Caroline Reynolds
Author of Spiritual Fitness: How To Live in Truth and Trust

This year's phenomenal success of the book, "The Secret", opened many people up to a new reality. It assured us we live in an intelligent universe as responsive to our desires as an eager sales person. It offered us a magic formula for creating the life we want - the perfect relationship, career, prosperity and all that our heart desires. But how do we put this formula into practice?

No matter how hard we try, we have to acknowledge that things can only come to us when we're ready. Beyond the much-vaunted Law of Attraction there are some other 'laws' or processes we must follow in our process of manifestation. Here are some of the tools you can apply to create the life you want by using the heightened consciousness of "Spiritual Fitness".

1. Nurture Your Dream

Before you can fulfill a dream you first have to nurture it. In my book, "Spiritual Fitness - How To Live In Truth and Trust", I describe this process as finding out what you want, then holding that truth deep inside your heart. Allow it to grow and guide you from within, making sure you focus on what you can do each day to move towards it. It does not mean focusing endlessly on the future until you feel such a gap between where you are and where you want to be that you never get started! The secret is to stay focused on the 'now', since the future never comes because it is in fact just a series of incremental 'nows'. If you can align your present reality with your heart's desires, you will create a 'future' that is a reflection and manifestation of your dream.

So what dream could you be nurturing right now? Do you want a relationship, job, good income or just a simple quality of being such as peace or contentment? If you'd like a relationship, for example, you can nurture your dream by taking immediate concrete steps such as making space in your life and your home. It's amazing how many single people have very little physical space in their home or time in their lives for a partner. Break your dream down into manageable, bite-size chunks and start to nurture it on a daily basis.
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2. Become Your Dream Self

The next step is to become the person you need to be to achieve your dream. As statistics show, around 90% of lottery winners blow their winnings within five years. This is because their manifestation was too quick, too unprepared for, and they didn't have time to think of themselves as rich or deal with any negative beliefs they had about wealth. If we don't prepare ourselves for success it can very easily make us uncomfortable and we will sabotage it to return to our small familiar selves.

I can recall the ten years I spent in my native Britain longing to live in the US and watching as all my opportunities to do so seemed to evaporate. While I waited, I was nevertheless gaining more experience and confidence in my work. It was only when I finally got to America that I understood the necessity of all my years of waiting. They had slowly enabled me to align with the bigger self I needed to become to succeed in my new home.

How can you constructively spend your time waiting for your dream? What beliefs do you have that might prevent you from being able to hold and enjoy the experience? For example, if you'd like a relationship do you have a belief that love hurts or that you don't deserve to be loved? Start to dissolve your negative beliefs by tracing them back to their source; to the first time you ever took them on. Take a 'soul level' look at that time and ask yourself what were the lessons and gifts in that situation? Which of your strengths was it meant to develop and how would you deal with it differently now? Then practice forgiveness by seeing through and beyond that situation to its highest truth and letting the 'earth level' experience go.

Next, do you have a peer group or mentor who holds a vision of your highest potential? No-one can rise to low expectations! During those years of my 'preparation' in Britain, I was blessed with friends who believed in and encouraged me (despite my frequent nosedives into health issues) and a teacher in the US who both praised and goaded me into being more courageous and aligned with my highest truth. During one particular health scare, I wrote what I called my "contract with God" and listed the many ways I pledged to own my truth and step into my greatness if the scare proved to be unfounded. It did and I kept my promise. Within two years I finally got my visa and as soon as I arrived in the US, my health also radically improved.

3. Develop Gratitude

The third essential tool for manifestation is gratitude. While you're waiting for your desired outcome, focus on the gifts you currently have. If you don't have riches, do you have health? If you don't have a relationship, do you have family? If you don't have peace or fulfillment, do you have hope? This not only helps you feel less incomplete but also prepares you to deal with holding on to your dreams when they materialize. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by our blessings. We reach an incredulous stage where our surprise at our good fortune is about to turn into panic because we don't know how to handle it. Since our beliefs create our reality, saying "I can't believe how lucky I am", is a sure fire way to stop your luck from flowing! At these moments I've learned to just keep saying "thank you". This way I affirm the reality of all the goodness and good fortune around me and strengthen and perpetuate it.

What can you give thanks for today? Look for the little blessings as well as the big ones - a stranger's smile, a touch from a friend, an uplifting phone call or an inspiring book or movie. In practicing the art of gratitude, you will develop a much greater capacity to appreciate your dreams when they come true. 

By living in truth and trust, you gain clarity on the things you want and how to create them. By practicing "Spiritual Fitness", you can "Get the Secret!"

Operation "Winter Renter" Nine Tips for Attracting Off-Season Guests to Your Vacation Home

Guest blog by  Christine Karpinski
Author of ow to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner Second Edition

Time to build crackling fires in the hearth, bundle up in your warmest sweaters, sip hot cocoa while you watch the snow—and start fretting over that unrented vacation home. That's right. T.S. Eliot may think that April is the cruelest month, but for many vacation property owners, any month between now and Memorial Day would qualify. That cabin or condo that renters clamor over all summer tends to sit depressingly (and expensively) empty all winter. If only there were something you could do to make your off-season not quite so, well, off. 

Actually, there are many things you can do, it's often the little touches that draw "winter renters," delight them, and keep them coming back for more.

"Obviously, more people vacation during peak season, that's why it's peak season! But there are still plenty of people who prefer to travel during the cooler months. Maybe they want to avoid the crowds, maybe they want to take advantage of the lower rates, or maybe they just want a break in the February doldrums. Your mission is to make your vacation home stand out from the many others that are available to potential renters. It's that simple. You have to go the proverbial extra mile." 

Here are some of tips for making your vacation property appealing to winter renters:

·First and foremost, "winterize" your marketing. It won't matter how perfect your place is for a mid-winter getaway if people don't know about it. Play up features like hot tubs and fireplaces. Sprinkle copy with words like warm, cozy, cocoon, snuggle, and cuddle. You might even paint an inviting verbal picture such as "Envision yourself gazing out the tall picture window, a cup of hot cocoa in hand, as fat snowflakes drift lazily through the pines." Finally, add a few "off-season" photos of your property to your website. Photos of the home framed in brilliant autumn leaves or dusted with snow will speak louder than a thousand poetic words.

·Consider off-season specials. Everyone loves a bargain, and in the winter, they expect one. "My favorite off-season booking magnet is 'rent three nights and get one free. Or, when you get a call from someone looking to book for next spring or summer, offer them a winter special—say, half-price off a weekend stay—so they can come check out the place early. That would be tough to resist." 

·Add "warm cozy" touches. Put thick, warm comforters on the bed and fleece throws on the sofa. Place a few spice-scented candles on tables or countertops. Leave savory winter treats in the kitchen: cocoa mix & marshmallows, spiced apple cider, ginger cookies, chili fixings, and a crock pot. (Ask the housekeeper to replenish edibles.) You might even consider leaving an extra coat or two in the closet, along with toboggans, gloves, and scarves—chances are they won't be used, but guests will appreciate the hospitality. 

Plan for snow! If guests should happen to get snowed in at your home, you want to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Make sure to have a snow shovel, ice melt, and a windshield ice scraper on the premises. The possibility of inclement weather is a good reason to have a selection of nonperishable foods on hand, as well as movies and books. You certainly don't want a houseful of hungry, stir-crazy, cranky renters who are cursing their vacation experience (and by association, you)! 

Consider adding a hot tub, sauna, or ventless gas fireplace. If your vacation property is a "summer home" with no winter appeal, such additions can make a world of difference. You may be thinking that these are pricey upgrades, but you'll be amazed at how fast they pay for themselves via increased off-season bookings. One caveat: if you install a ventless gas fireplace, be sure to get a carbon monoxide detector as well.

Make your home baby- and toddler-friendly. You've probably noticed that people with very young children are more likely to travel off-season. (After all, they're not constrained by school schedules.) Appeal to these people by including baby and toddler paraphernalia. A high chair and a porta crib should cost less than $150 combined, and can drastically increase your off-season bookings. 

·Accept pets. Vacation properties that accept pets increase their occupancy by 10 to 50 percent. When you accept pets, it's okay to take an additional $20 to $25/night or $140 to $175/week. This extra (which pet owners would have to spend anyway on boarding fees) is enough to pay for any carpet cleaning that needs to be done. "I spoke with a woman named Jennifer, who owned a nice cabin in the mountains of Colorado; she was within driving distance of three ski resorts, but not really close enough to any of them to advertise that her place was associated with any of them. She was booking her cabin only two or three weeks per year. I advised her to start accepting pets, and the minute she did, her bookings started to flow in. Two years later, she is booked for the whole ski season, three or four weeks during the summer to hikers, and she rents ten to twelve long weekends through the year. She has never been happier!" 

·If all else fails, offer a "customized" special to repeat guests. If you've tried everything and you still have lots of weeks unbooked, it's time to get creative (perhaps even a bit assertive). Consider calling or e-mailing prior "VIP" guests and offering them discounted off-season stays. You might even link the stay to a special event in their lives. For instance, if you know that John and Jane Smith have an anniversary in March—thanks to the detailed file you keep on them—call them and offer a special celebratory weekend at a reduced rate. When they accept, have a champagne gift basket waiting for them in the bedroom along with a handwritten "Happy Anniversary" note. 

Not sold on winter renting? Consider it "damage insurance." All of that said, some people actually prefer to lock up their place for the winter. Maybe they don't think renting is worth the effort, or maybe they make enough money during peak season to pay their mortgage for the year. If this is your mindset, reconsider—winter renting can ward off property damage. "I've heard stories of locked-up properties that have been ransacked by families of raccoons, and of broken furnaces that have led to burst pipes.  Houses that are empty for long stretches of time, especially in freezing weather, tend to have problems. If renters had periodically visited such homes, these issues could have been avoided or at least discovered early, before things worsened." 

A word of caution: exercise moderation.

"It's great to spend some money on things to attract winter renters. just don't go overboard. I knew a guy who would do tons of extra advertising and equip his place with all these bonuses for his off-season renters. Yes, he ended up booking the place for all of January through March—but his bottom line for all three months was only $500! My advice is this: a little effort goes a long way. Do one or two things on the list, not all of them. Otherwise, do a good job with the basics and be a friendly, hospitable host. As word gets around and your guests become 'regulars,' your off-season problem will solve itself." 

The Difference Now

Guest blog by  Cherie Burbach
Author of The Difference Now

The difference now
is when pushed
I push back.

The difference now
is when I'm hurt
I'll cry
openly
unashamed.
Why should I hide it?
Or pretend that I don't care?
You know you hurt me.
My pretending only helped you,
not me.

The difference now
is that I'll fight for the life
I want to live
and not the one
you think I should live.

The difference now
is that I make the definitions
and throw yours away.

The difference now
is when I walk in a room
and you guiltily look at each other
and stop talking
I'll wonder who you'll blame
for the problems in your life
after I move on.

The difference now
is that when you're laughing
behind my back
I realize I must be ahead of you
and I'll keep going. 

Read the Label

Guest blog by  Cherie Burbach
Author of The Difference Now

You gave me a dress
but it was too small.
I looked at the label
and it said "unfeeling and ungrateful."

When I told you it didn't quite fit
you suggested I lose weight.
I ate what you prepared
and when the dress you bought me
still didn't fit,
I stopped eating.

Now the skirt slid over my hips
but I still felt uncomfortable.
I realized it was the wrong color and style. 
You said
since I was good
and lost weight
you'd buy me a new one.
But I couldn't go with you
or make the choice myself.
You'd pick out my new clothes
and if I didn't like them
I could go entirely without.

The new skirt's label
said "lazy and stupid."
I didn't want to try it on
but you made me.
And I didn't protest
I didn't want to argue
or give you the impression
that I wasn't a nice girl.

So I put on the new skirt.
It was short, and tight.
You said it looked good
that it fit me perfectly.
So I tried to be happy
and be what you wanted me to be.

You told me girls were quiet
they didn't talk back. 
So I held my tongue
even though I disagreed with you.
But then you told me I didn't talk enough
that I was stupid
and slow.

So I tried to show you I was smart.
I had a mind of my own.

But when I told you my dreams
you shoved me down.
You told me no one would ever want me
and I would always be alone.
And then you gave me a new skirt to wear.

This skirt's label read
"difficult and unlovable."
I put on my new skirt
but cried softly in my room.
I wore that skirt for a long time
even when I had outgrown it
I still told myself that it fit.

Every once in a while
someone would ask
why I wore that skirt.
They would tell me it didn't fit,
and I should get a new one.
But I didn't want to upset you
so I chased them away
from my life.

But one day
I walked past a store window
and saw a beautiful blue skirt
long and flowing.
I walked in the store
and tried it on.

"It looks good on you," 
the salesclerk said
as I spun around in front of the mirror.
I felt good, real, beautiful.
I read the label,
"passionate and honest."
"It really is you," the clerk said again.
And for the first time
I believed it.

"I'll take it," I said, 
and handed her the money.
"In fact," I said, "I'll wear it out of the store."

I handed the clerk my old skirt
and told her I didn't want it anymore.
As I walked out
I looked at the mirror one more time,
and smiled.

Like Old Men in Rocking Chairs

Guest blog by Cherie Burbach
Author
of The Difference Now

Angry words
framed the doorway
of the house where I grew up.
And there was no way to enter
without those words, 
tainted and searing,
landing upon your soul.

They evaporated
into your skin
and you couldn't wash them away
or cover them
with the fragrance of kindness.

They embedded each cell
of your heart and mind
and shaped the person you saw
when you looked into the mirror.
And the tears
that tried to wash them away
only made them grow.

And when I thought
they had left me,
they were really sitting in the corner
like old men in rocking chairs
watching, waiting,
until happiness fades
and they can say
I told you so.



With Every Breath

With every breath
the example of his life
fills my eyes and ears

it is
behind every action
ahead
of every decision
it waits
around every corner
it lights
up the sky
in the morning
and
puts me to bed at night.

It fills my lungs
it guides my life
it weighs in on every decision.

I breathe in
the progress of today
the promise of tomorrow
my life transformed
my greatest lesson.

I breathe out
the self-doubt
the anger
the isolation
the pain.

With every breath,
I live.

I'm Not That Girl

Guest blog by  Cherie Burbach
Author of The Difference Now

I'm not that girl
the one you knew.

Who smiled when I hurt
and slapped away your kind hands.

I'm not that girl
who'd rather self-destruct
than ask for help.
I'm not her.
Not anymore.

I'm not that girl
who chased sorrow
and ran away from everything good.

I'm not that girl
you thought you knew.
But no one did.
Not even me. 

Dr. Christine Horner's Program To Protect Against & Fight Breast Cancer

Guest blog by Dr. Christine Homer
Author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner's Program to Protect Against & Fight Breast Cancer
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

You have the power and ability to influence your state of health more than you ever imagined. Your choices every day significantly influence your chances of staying healthy or developing a disease such as breast cancer. My recently released book, reveals all the research-proven “natural” approaches that can dramatically lower your risk of breast cancer, or if you have breast cancer, help you to fight it and live a long healthy life. Here are a few tips:

1) Eat a plant-based diet high in organically grown fruits, grains and vegetables (especially cruciferous) and whole grains

2) Avoid health-destroying fats like trans fats and saturated animal fats. Instead, eat health promoting fats, like omega-3 fatty acids found in flax oil, everyday.

3) Think Asian: Make whole soy foods, green tea, maitake mushrooms, garlic, turmeric, and wakame seaweed part of your regular diet or take them as supplements

4) Take a good daily multivitamin

5) Take protective supplements daily like calcium D-glucarate, grape seed extract, selenium and CoQ10

6) Avoid red meat, sugar, alcohol, and smoking

7) Keep your weight ideal

8) Exercise regularly

9) Go to bed by 10 PM and get up by 6 AM and make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

10) Use nontoxic products

11) Practice effective stress-reducing techniques daily

12) Laugh, stay positive, and make it a point to take care of your needs

Healing Pain Healing Lives

Guest blog by Cynthia Knorr-Mulder MSN, NP-C, CHt
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Many of us first experienced pain as a child. A fall off a bike, a bee sting or a scrapped knee from the pavement can cause even the bravest child to run home crying to their parents, seeking comfort and healing. A hug, a band-aid and some soft music can stop bleeding in a second and comfort even the biggest bruise in a matter of minutes. 

Healing pain is as simple as it was when I was 5 years old, but along the way as I have studied medicine, I have found that many of us as healthcare professionals have forgotten what heals us best - our relationships, how we live our lives and our feelings of wholeness and belonging. For all the technological advances in pain management, modern medicine still has much to learn about healing pain. Healing is not only a one to one relationship it is a multidimensional aspect of energy. 

Pain is a symptom of imbalance. A true healer of pain recognizes that pain is not only a symptom of disharmony of the body, but a disharmony of the patients' life. Heal the patients' pain - heal the patients' life. Patients' with pain are connected to other people, to families, communities, work, their home, and yes even to the their surrounding environment. All of these relationships need to be in balance in order to heal the patients' pain and heal their lives. In fact all of the patients relationships need to be in harmony and balance in order to maintain health. 

To start the healing process the patient with pain seeking medical care must find a therapeutic relationship with their healer. This is the most important aspect of achieving healing. Many of my patients are referred to me as the last resort. They have tried everything and nothing has helped their pain. They present in my office with no hope, no emotional strength, no support, no relationships and sometimes a belief that pain will always be a part of their life. But they all present with one thing in common - pain and the intent and desire to get rid of it. I can give them all the medicine in the world, but there is little that I can do to heal them and take their pain away unless they seek healing. It takes more than just medicine to heal the pain these patients experience. It takes intent on the patients' part and a therapeutic, caring and humanistic relationship on my part.

I find myself in a constant struggle between two worlds, the scientific one where I truly believe that nothing works unless data has been researched. Then there is the intuitive side of me - a patient walks in my office and I begin to know their whole life story, why they experience pain and what it will take to change their course towards healing. To care for a patient experiencing pain is an opportunity to enter sacred space, a place where the mind-body-spirit connects to a dimension of healing far beyond this universe. 
In order to heal your pain, you need to find a therapeutic relationship with a practice that can nurture and support you. Your relationship with your physician and nurse practitioner should in a sense be a form of preventative medicine. You should feel as if you are in a sacred space where healing occurs. The healer that works with you should look searchingly into your eyes and communicate a sense of caring and trust.

Having experienced my own pain was by far the best and most important part of my training in pain management because I learned what it was like to be on the other side of my profession, as a patient with pain. I got to see through a patients eyes what is like to be a patient in pain. I will never forget this lesson and will never see pain management in the same way again. 

To care for my patients I view their pain as more than just a symptom. In order to do this, I have to remember that each patient has a story, each one a reason why they experience pain. I believe that in order to understand pain, you must understand the reason behind the pain, the life force, energy, chi, the thing that connects all things and is within all things, and the consciousness of which we are all a part. 

The art of healing is a magnificent experience. In spite of my University education that has taught me to accept the significance of researched theory, I believe that energy healing techniques can dramatically change ones experience of pain. The spiritual intensity and energy that surrounds a patient during a integrative modality session can help the patient return to a way of balance and guides the patient's body back to a pain free state.

As I see how my patients respond to my caring and humanistic philosophy it makes me appreciate the therapeutic relationship and thereby become a better healer myself. Each day I am constantly reminded that the way my patients heal and decrease their perception of pain has as much to do with the patient as it does my skills as a practitioner. 

Imagine using the best of modern medicine, the best interventional procedures and the best therapeutic relationships in a multidimensional approach that recognizes the patient as a whole, more than the sum of their body-mind and spirit. At any given moment we all have the ability to heal or be healed. Meshing together both worlds while practicing this philosophy is a very strong pain management medicine. This is what I do each day. This is what I call Integrative Medicine. 

Introduction to Breast Cancer Q & A

Guest blog by  Charyn Pfeuffer
Author of Breast Cancer Q and A: Insightful Answers to the 100 Most Frequently Asked Questions

"I never went to Europe," my mother sighed in a Percocet-induced state of delusion. (That comment was followed up with "And I can never have sex again," but I readily ignored that statement.) It was a Thursday night, exactly two weeks, before my mother's 38-year old body would surrender to a brief, half-year battle with metastatic lung cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, I was 17-years old, and cancer was a topic that never, ever occurred to me. I grew up in a cookie-cutter Philadelphia suburb where, except for the occasional tragedy or accident, people just didn't die until they were good and ready. So, you can only imagine my shock and disbelief when I later found out that best-case scenario was that my mother had three months to live. From the moment my family was handed the dreaded "C" diagnosis, I immediately embarked on an exasperating educational crash course in the world of cancer, health care, and medical experts. 

My mother was first treated for what doctors thought was a blood clot in her right arm that resulted from overexertion. Although my mother was statuesque, she wasn't exactly Wonder Woman when it came to physical strength. If her right arm was ever overexerted, it was from lifting the cordless phone to her ear, obsessively vacuuming the house, schlepping shopping bags from Saks Fifth Avenue, or from mixing 5 o'clock cocktails. I would later come to appreciate that she made up for her physical shortcomings in the emotional department. 

My mother, Christine Pfeuffer, spent my pre-senior year summer (1990) in and out of the hospital. When she wasn't horizontal and hooked up to intravenous blood-thinning drips and taking smoke breaks with the nurses, she was taking a carefully timed, around-the-clock regimen of prescription drugs. Her condition was hardly improving as her arm and neck swelled to unattractive proportions, and doctors kept fumbling for a possible diagnosis. One moment it was Hodgkin's Disease, Lyme's Disease the next. My notion that doctors were all-knowing creatures (in the same realm as parents and teachers) slowly dissipated. 

One hot-as-hell August day, she was in the midst of a week-long inpatient stint at the hospital. Her throat started constricting and she physically turned blue. Doctors were at a loss of what to do, and she was transported via helicopter to the intensive care unit of another Philadelphia-area hospital. When I arrived at the latest and greatest hospital, during the designated family-members-only visiting hours, and saw her semi-conscious body, I realized the uncertainty and seriousness of her condition. I didn't know what was wrong with her, but for the first time, I knew that she could die. 

A CT scan later; a suspicious mass was discovered. The mass was aspirated, and the fluid was sent out for cell count and cytology evaluation. Cytology came back with Class IV cells, raising suspicions amongst the doctors of adenocarcinoma. A few days later, my mother's ever-changing condition had a name: non-small cell lung carcinoma. The doctors also made an alarming discovery: a tumor existed on very first CT scan taken in June. The report accompanying the original CT scan stated in the very last paragraph (on the fourth page) that the underlying problem was cancer, but two months later, it was the first we'd heard of it. 

Doctors were surprised that the original hospital and throng of doctors didn't mention cancer, and were reluctant to confirm how long she had had the disease. We skeptically wondered if she'd been transferred to cover the initial hospital's mistake. Lesson learned: it's crucial for the patient or the patient's advocate to review all x-rays and reports, and not take the doctor's word as the absolute truth. 

Pissed off, but grateful to know what we were working with, I immediately set about researching the diagnosis and treatment options. The doctors had given us disappointingly little information to go on: a few photocopied handouts, a short recommended reading list, and numbers for family therapists. The books we did consult required medical dictionaries to simply navigate, let alone fully comprehend. I was scared to death. My mother was dying for chris sakes. I felt helpless, left in the dark, and appointments and treatments were being scheduled too fast to keep up. Making decisions, let alone informed decisions, was damn near impossible. As I look back upon my mother's medical records, I wince at her scrawled signatures on countless consent forms, knowing that she had little knowledge of the choices she was making. 

Once my mother was stable enough to be cared for at home, she started seeing doctors at a top-notch, specialized cancer center on an outpatient basis. She was consulted about the possibility of chemotherapy and radiation, and managed to receive about a month of radiation treatments. The radiation was brutal on her fragile body, and nightly I would soothe her burned skin with lotions, tickle her back, and brush her hair. It was the least I could do, and these simple pleasures brought her so much joy. But her condition rapidly deteriorated, and doctors ruled out the possibility of chemotherapy. It was clear that she wasn't going to survive with or without chemo, but the doctors snatched up this opportunity of a last ditch effort away. Life was moving faster than ever, and although the doctors and nurses tried to keep us up to date on her status, we always felt two steps behind. 

My mother's quality of her life became the most important issue. We knew she was going to die; she was given three months to live, maximum. Throughout the dying process, my mother claimed minimal pain, but after one look, you knew she wasn't a very skilled liar. Women are rarely given societal permission to express feelings of pain or distress, and my mother prided herself on being the dutiful housewife and my father's secretary. Many women with cancer experience feelings of intense guilt if they dare kvetch about any of the side effects, such as pain, menopausal symptoms, psychosexual effects, etc. They are living with cancer and how dare they complain about anything else when their strength and focus should be on conquering this disease? Sheesh. 

Doctors were endlessly adding to my mother's medicinal artillery. The more scripts they wrote, the less I recognized the woman my mother had morphed into. Her connection with reality was long gone, and although I found much-needed moments of comic respite in her hallucinations and delusions, I would've given anything for the way things were pre-cancer. 

Exactly one week before my mother died, she was checked into the chi-chi Suburban Philadelphia cancer clinic. She'd been on a never-ending wait list, but somehow, my father finagled her admittance. The evening before she passed away, my dear friend, Marc, and I made the 45-minute schlep to the hospital bearing irises. I left her spa-like room knowing that would be the last time I would see her breathing. Sure enough, the following morning, I had a lingering, sick feeling around 10:30am. Lynard Skynard's 'Free Bird' came on the radio. I don't particularly like Classic Rock, but for some coincidental reason, 'Free Bird' would come on the radio at pivotal times throughout my mother's sickness. 

I knew in my gut that she had passed away, and I knew that nobody would be able to find me. Reluctantly, I made an appearance at school, and my instinct was confirmed by the Vice Principal-the last man I would ever hope to be consoled by. The moment that my suspicions were verified, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. I'm not a religious person, but it was like some immaculate conception took place in my mind. I had always considered my mother the ultimate taskmaster, queen of the 'to-do' list-but during what should've been an emotional meltdown, I was able to maintain some semblance of sanity and put one foot in front of the other. I wish I could say the same for my relatives, who, to this day, are still in deep denial about my mother's death. I guess we all deal with death differently-some better than others. 

Fast-forward a decade: my father married an amazing woman-a high school teacher and a wildly creative and insightful woman. I acquired two incredible stepbrothers in the process, and have grown considerably closer with my sister, Carrie. Yes. I still mourn the loss of my mother, but I have learned to rejoice in the positive things that life has dealt me as a result. Cancer makes you take a step back and re-examine your life and what you want it to mean. My mother's brave spirit and words, "I never went to Europe," have inspired me to live my life fully, kindly, spontaneously and with purpose. 

When I moved to San Francisco in 2000, I desperately wanted to give something back to my community. I'm a freelance journalist with a flexible schedule and a hunger for human interaction. As much as I love my 10-second daily commute to my trusty computer, giving dating advice to girlfriends via Instant Messenger isn't exactly what I had in mind in terms of a humanitarian contribution.

I found the Women's Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) in Berkeley, CA, participated in an intense training program, and immediately began volunteering. At WCRC, I assist with the annual fundraising event (Swim-A-Mile) and staff the Information and Referral Helpline once a week. Breast cancer is an issue that comes up far too frequently, and, as a woman, it's hard not to take notice. Calls from women with cancer, their friends, co-workers, employers, family members, and loved ones flood the Helpline, helping me to refine my listening skills. As a volunteer, I am able to provide these panic-stricken women with immediate information about support groups and services, traditional and complementary treatment options, and information on local physicians and other health care providers. 

I think it's important for women to evaluate all of their treatment options, both conventional and complementary. Much of the information and opinions currently available are biased towards one method or another, and I hope to present many of the possibilities free of weighted-down medical jargon. Much of the research for this book was conducted at WCRC's extensive library. And since you won't find a Ph.D., MD or RN after my name, I've had the appropriate information reviewed by two women who are experts in their respective fields. Lillie Shockney is a breast cancer survivor and the Director of Education and Outreach at Johns Hopkins Breast Center. Beverly Burns is a mother, practicing acupuncturist, and Clinical Director of the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic in Berkeley, CA. I asked Diane Estrin to write the Foreword, since my experiences at WCRC have far exceeded any expectations I may have had. I sincerely want women near and far to know about all of the wonderful services and comfort that WCRC provides. It has been sort of an extended family for me. And to return the support these groups have provided me, a percentage of the proceeds of this book will be donated to these incredible women's organizations. 

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer among women. This year, breast cancer will account for nearly one out of every three cancer diagnoses in women. The good news is that an estimated 2,167,000 women are living with breast cancer. These shocking statistics and my personal experiences with cancer, however, prompted me to write this book. If a woman hasn't been affected by breast cancer, she is at risk. Over 70 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no identifiable risk factors other than age and only 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to a family history of breast cancer.

Whether you're newly diagnosed, in the midst of treatment, picking up the pieces post-treatment, or facing a recurrence-coping with breast cancer can be a frightening journey. A diagnosis of cancer inevitably brings with it countless questions and becoming an instant breast cancer authority can be overwhelming. Whatever your reaction may be: it is normal. Cry, get angry, feel fear, scream and shout, belt out some Aretha Franklin, or do whatever it is that you need to do. In this time of crisis, you must become your own advocate. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of patient empowerment. Whatever your questions or concerns, you should never hesitate to share them with your treatment team. You'll be faced with making difficult decisions that you may not feel comfortable making. That said, doing research on your own can make the dialogue with your treatment team much more productive. It is essential to remember that you have time to gather information, and then make decisions based on the facts and personal considerations, (i.e.; your life style, emotional well-being and philosophies)--not knee-jerk emotional responses. 

Remember:
This is your life and your breast.
You are an individual, not a statistic.
You have needs that are unique to you. 
Information is a valuable tool.
You have every right to be involved and in control of your medical care and decisions.
Questioning authority, respectfully, is often difficult and fraught with self-doubt. Doing so is often necessary and productive. One should do so without fear of making the wrong decision, no matter how vocal and determined are the forces against doing so. 
The fear of the unknown tends to be worse than the actual treatment.
Treatment for cancer has greatly improved and survival rates are at an all time high.
Think of the future.

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself aloud."  Coco Chanel

Are All Diets Unhealthy?

Guest blog by Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D
Author of Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions

Want the short answer? Yes. Now, you may be thinking, "If I don't stay on some kind of diet, I'll just blow up like a balloon. I need to be on a program just to keep control of myself." But consider that any kind of dieting involves a diet mentality, which ensures failure, encourages you to ignore hunger and satiety signals, and promotes a negative relationship with food, because you have to give up "forbidden" foods and, often, eat foods you don't really like. This inevitably results in giving in, which often means bingeing and feeling terrible about yourself. So, though this idea may sound radical, we firmly believe there is no good diet.

By "diet," we mean the conscious restriction of the amounts or kind of foods you're allowed to eat for the express purpose of losing weight. A diet is something that you go on when you want to change your body, and go off once you've reached a certain goal. Though we certainly do endorse consuming a wide variety of healthful foods, paying attention to portion sizes, and thinking twice before eating a lot of foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition, we don't recommend following any kind of plan that tells you what, how much, and how often you should eat, without regard for your body's hunger and satiety signals. And we definitely don't recommend any eating plan that you go on and then go off.

Although it may sound surprising, the negative effects of dieting also hold true even if you aren't following a formal diet but still think like a dieter. If you count grams of fat, opt for high-protein foods while shunning carbs, rely on "safe" foods, beat yourself up for eating "bad" foods, consciously or unconsciously undereat (which can trigger overeating later), use diet soft drinks or coffee to quell your hunger, or decide what you can eat based on what you've already eaten today, you're dieting. 

The Physical and Psychological Effects of Dieting

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you go on a diet, all you want to do is eat? Even if you weren't particularly concerned about food prior to dieting, all of a sudden you become obsessed with it. You find yourself preoccupied with what you'll have for your next meal, whether you can have a snack, what others are eating, or even what you'll allow yourself to eat tomorrow. What's going on? 

The mind and the body are inextricably linked, and never is this more apparent than when you go on a diet. Geared to survive during feast or famine, both body and mind switch into survival mode when the food supply is radically diminished. While the body turns down the metabolism and becomes a "slow burner" in an attempt to hang on to every single calorie, the mind gears itself to one overriding purpose: getting food. The result? Suddenly, you may find yourself clipping recipes, planning menus, cooking elaborate meals or dishes for others (neither of which you'll eat yourself), or even dreaming about food at night. The message is clear: Your body wants food, and your mind does, too.

After a few days of extremely restricting your food, you'll probably become more depressed and anxious. Although this may be due to changes in neurotransmitters like serotonin, it may also occur because you are depriving yourself of things that are very pleasurable that aren't replaced by anything else -- leaving a pleasure void. You may suddenly prefer to spend more time alone -- it takes too much energy to deal with others -- and your self-esteem may start to drop. Unfortunately, the more depressed, anxious, and isolated you become, the more you'll obsess about food. 

Some people can hold out longer than others, but the result is eventually the same: a binge. You eat something you "shouldn't," which makes you feel as if you've blown it. So you let go and eat. During the binge you feel relief -- at last you can relax and do what you've wanted to do all along. But you may also feel as if you're in a trance and can't stop yourself. It's almost as if your body has developed a will of its own; it's going to feed itself whether you like it or not. As a result, you can end up eating more food in one sitting than you ever did when you weren't dieting. 

Are you crazy? Absolutely not. This is a normal, even healthy reaction to a period of semi-starvation, a reaction that made good sense during primitive times. After a period of famine, it was natural and necessary for our ancient ancestors to overeat. They needed to be able to take advantage of a feast when they had the chance, because the food supply was uncertain. To make this possible, their appetites increased after a period of famine. So the same amount of food that would have satisfied them during times of plenty left them feeling hungry after a period of semi-starvation. The same thing happens to you when you restrict food. Suddenly, you develop the urge and the capacity to binge, and you no longer feel satisfied after eating what you used to consider a normal meal. In short, restrictive dieting can trigger binges and leave you hungry even after you've eaten normal amounts of food. This is true for most Runaway Eaters, and even for those dieters who do not develop Runaway Eating problems. 

The psychological consequences of dieting were clearly illustrated in a classic study of the effects of semi-starvation done in 1950 by Ancel Keys, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota. In the study, 36 healthy, young, psychologically sound males were observed over a period of 1 year. During the first 3 months, the men ate normal amounts of food; during the next 6 months, they were given half as much food; and during the last 3 months, their food allotment was gradually increased. During the semi-starvation period, the men became preoccupied with food and constantly talked about it, read cookbooks, clipped recipes, and daydreamed about eating. When a meal was served, many took an inordinately long time to eat it, trying to make it last. Over time, the men became extremely depressed, anxious, and irritable. 

Once they made it through the period of semi-starvation, the men ate nearly continuously, with some indulging in 8,000- to 10,000-calorie binges. The men reported that their hunger actually increased right after meals, and some of them continued to eat to the point of being sick without feeling satisfied. Although most of the men finally reverted to normal eating patterns within 5 months of the study's end, some continued with their new patterns of "extreme over consumption." 

We see these same patterns in dieters: the preoccupation with food; the anxiety, depression, and irritability; the tendency to go off the diet and eat more than one would have in the pre-diet days; and a propensity toward bingeing even after the diet has ended. 

Pinasca

Guest recipe by Cameron Bogue, 
Beverage Manager Cafe Boulud, and Pleiades, in NYC

Inspiration was drawn from Latin culture where fresh picked fruit is dipped into salt and dried chili pepper. Combining these flavors with another Latin favorite, the Caipirinha, accentuated the caramelized flavor of grilled pineapple. 

1 ¼ oz Cachaça or aged rum
2 slices Grilled pineapple*
1 oz Fresh lime juice
½ oz Simple syrup
1 Tbl Sugar
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper

Muddle grilled pineapple, lime juice and simple syrup in bottom of a shaker. Add ice and Cachaça. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass rimmed with sweet and spicy mixture. 

*Cut fresh pineapple, slice lengthwise and grill until the simple sugars are caramelized with beautiful grill marks. 

STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR WOMEN Utilizing Tai Chi/Qigong and Yoga for Total Relaxation of the Body, Mind and Spirit

Guest post by Cynthia Knorr-Mulder RNC, MSN, NP-C,CS, C.Ht
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog!

When we talk about stress management one thing we always have to remember is that we can’t change stress. It is always there and always will be. However, what we can do is decrease our perception of it by utilizing complementary modalities that have been practiced for over hundreds of years to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Tai Chi/Qigong, which has been practiced in China for over 600 years, does exactly that. Moving through Tai Chi/Qigong postures gently works the muscles and helps to combine mental concentration with coordinated breathing. Often called meditation in motion, Tai Chi is becoming very popular in the US and appeals to women because the synchronized movements are easy to learn, perform, and can fit into busy lifestyles.   As women, we have a tendency to nurture all of those around us and in doing so we forget to nurture ourselves. Self-care plays a vital role in how we manage stress. Women all over have recognized the positive outcomes of self-care and are attending weekly classes for Tai Chi/Qigong and yoga. Women attending these classes state that they feel less stressed throughout the week and are better able to face the challenges ahead. Outcome research has shown that even after only one week, women will have a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain and a general increase in their overall perception of health.

I had a 42-year-old women who was referred to me by her physician for anxiety and high blood pressure. During her fourth week into a yoga program her blood pressure was within normal range and she was feeling less stress by utilizing the techniques she had learned in the program. As she expressed how wonderful she was feeling she stated, “Okay now I’m done, I just wanted to get better so I could go back for my doctors appointment next week with a low blood pressure”.  I advise participants that including these modalities into your lifestyle can indeed be very beneficial for stress management and total health although one must practice these modalities weekly if not every day in order to incorporate it into your philosophy of life. 

As a Complementary Medicine Nurse Practitioner I not only recommend these modalities for women seeking stress management, but I also feel that it significantly benefits women with chronic conditions.  It is an ideal practice for women at any age that experience increased stress resulting from chronic pain with arthritis, fibromyalgia, or back injuries. Women with this type of pain need a milder and more soothing exercise. Tai Chi/Qigong and Yoga facilitate low impact movements that increases muscle strength and balance while promoting general pain relief and an improved quality of life.

By participating in these modalities women report a decrease in pain, depression, anxiety and fatigue increased flexibility and an overall increase in their perception of health. These classes are an ideal lifestyle addition for women of any age to help decrease stress. Not only are the classes inexpensive, but they can be practiced almost anywhere at any time with no special equipment or clothing.

Tai Chi/Qigong and Yoga are not a vigorous workout like traditional exercise and participants reap the added benefit of balancing mind and spirit. Most female patients with chronic illness don’t want a vigorous exercise regime, but they want the benefits of exercising. If they don’t like to exercise they will not stick with any program designed for them. Since Tai Chi/Qigong and Yoga are something people really enjoy, they tend to stick with it.

In most classes you can find a large group of women ranging in age of 28-83 participating weekly to master gentle postures and movements with an emphasis on breathing and inner stillness. The women continue daily to practice Tai Chi/Qigong or Yoga, and state they would never go a day without it because it makes them feel physically, mentally and spiritually fit.

Not only do I advocate these modalities for my clients I also stress the importance of self-care and therefore can be seen weekly joining group sessions of Tai Chi/Qigong and Yoga and include meditation in my daily practice. Practicing these modalities increases my mind-body-spirit connection and reaffirms my commitment to self-care. This serves as the foundation of what I do as a complementary medicine practitioner and that is first and foremost to build a therapeutic relationship with each and every one of my clients.

Six Essentials for Networking

Guest post by Christine Camaford-Lynch
Author of Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality

Networking is about creating an extended family. It’s about developing connections, caring about people, increasing the size of your “tribe.” Most of all, networking is not the awkward social ritual many of us think it is—networking is actually FUN!

Here are my top six networking essentials to rock your career and your life. 

1. Practice “Palm Up” Networking. When you network, are you giving, or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network “palm down” you’re grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Which attitude results in building relationships, providing value, and ultimately bestows benefits on both parties? You guessed it. The universe has a perfect accounting system. Give to others, it’ll all come back to you in time.

2. Do Daily Appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are, what they do, whatever about them moves you. They’ll be flattered and you’ll feel great. 

3. Equalize Yourself with Others. I believe we all have one unit of worth, no more, no less. No one can add to it, no one can take it away. We’re all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich, famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others—this will enable you to more comfortably interact with others, and to reach out to people of all walks of life.

4. Rolodex Dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure who. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They’ll be surprised and delighted.

5. Pick a “Sensei of the Day”: Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone who has taught me a lesson or reminded me of something important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to acknowledge that there is much to learn and you are being offered valuable lessons constantly.

6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties, conventions, groups of all sorts are great opportunities to network, but sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood, or have too many events in one evening (like during holiday season!). This is when you’ll want to use the Drive-By Schmooze. Here’s how:

a. Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you’ll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer. 

b. Set your goal. Determine the number of new connections you want to establish. Remember, your goal is meaningful connections, not simply contacts.

c. Let your intuition guide you. OK, this may sound flaky, but it works! Stand near the door, in a corner, out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You’ll be amazed at who you meet.

d. Connect. You’ll always resonate with someone at an event. When you do, ask questions about them, such as: How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.

e. Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it. If you’ve had a fruitful conversation and want to take it further, offer to meet for lunch or coffee. People say life is 90% about showing up. Nonsense! Life is 90% about following through!

Rejected? Throw A Party

Guest blog byChristine Lynch
Author of Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality

You’re going to be rejected in life, heck it happens to me all the time. And if you haven’t experienced much rejection, I’ll bet you’re not taking many risks. Without taking risks you’ll lead a safe, predictable, and somewhat boring life. So let’s learn how to rock rejection. Read on.

I’ve been rejected zillions of times… such as when I was a 16 year old runaway in New York City. Of course I hadn’t figured out how I’d make a living before dashing out the door. The only job I’d had was working at a bakery, and pastry-pushing wasn’t going to cover the bills. The only other “skill” I had was what I’d learned in modeling school. After calling numerous agencies, one finally agreed to see me. Within three minutes I’d been dismissed as “too short” and “ugly.” When I heard those words the first thing I thought was “I can get around that.”

And that’s how I’ve dealt with rejection ever since. Could I have been destroyed by the dissing they dished out? Sure. But I had to eat. I had to find a way to make it in Manhattan. So I decided to rock the rejection. And it worked.

Fast forward several decades later, and here I am getting rejected still. So what? When someone says “no” I say “next.” Somebody out there wants what I have—I simply need to find them.

It’s one thing for me to tell you not to take rejection personally; it’s another to pull it off. The key is to desensitize. The first thing I do when rejected is to practice QTIP:

Quit
Taking
It
Personally

My preferred method of desensitization is to throw a Rejection Party. Yep, you heard it right. Party when you’re rejected and down—it’s the best way to peel yourself up off the floor.

How to Host a Rejection Party: Type A

Gather ten or more people together (more is better). They can be colleagues, friends, members of a networking or Mastermind Group, or even strangers with a desire to learn. 

Here are the rules: 

1. Each person in the group forms a question for something they want, such as “Will you invest $100,000 in my new company?” or “Will you buy my widget?”

2. Now walk around the room, approaching the other participants one-on-one and asking them your question. They’ll give you a “yes” or “no” answer, and will ask you their question too. You must give a “yes” or “no” answer. See step #3 for the rules on answering.

Keep a silent tally of the number of requests made of you. You can only answer “yes” if the person addressing you is making the ninth request. Say “no” to all others. Once you’ve said “yes”, start counting again and say “no” to the next nine requests. You can say “no” however you want—apologetically, curtly, kindly—it’s up to you. The goal is to simulate real-world rejection in order to become immune to it.

After repeatedly getting rejected, you’ll find it doesn’t hurt so badly. You come to realize that each rejection gets you closer to acceptance. Remember the Rock Rejection Mantra: 

Some will.
Some won’t.
So what?
Someone’s waiting. 

Keep asking and eventually you’ll get a “yes”. Thanks to Jack Canfield for teaching me this technique.

How to Host a Rejection Party: Type B

As much as I like Rejection Party Type A I extended it to this new version, which I find mirrors the world more realistically. The requester must ask for the same thing, but can change his or her pitch, trying on different approaches. For instance, the requester could say “Will you invest $100,000 in my new marketing company?” and the next time he or she could say, “Will you loan $100,000 to my new marketing company at 6% interest and a 10-year payback period?” The requestee is allowed to say “yes” if he or she finds the request compelling enough. He or she doesn’t actually have to follow through (i.e., fork over that $100,000), but must honestly be intrigued by the request.

I can’t tell you how incredibly effective Rejection Parties are—they’ve help hundreds of my friends and colleagues to desensitize, and to no longer be stymied or stumped by rejection. But the best part, of course, is the less you let rejection throw you, the more risks you’ll take. And risks are what rock our lives, help us find more meaning, help us reinvent ourselves, help us make a difference in the world.

So go ahead. Take risks. Get rejected. You know there’ll be a party afterwards!

Five Aptitudes for Female Business Success

Guest post by By Catherine Kaputa
Author of The Female Brand: Using the Female Mindset to Succeed in Business

Ever since a certain assertive female decided she wanted to eat from a certain forbidden tree, influential women have been loved, hated, glorified, vilified, and misunderstood.

Our modern time is no different.

Yes, we've come a long way from the fifties and early sixties, when career women were viewed as a lesser version of men, and urged to pursue service-oriented "pink jobs," such as nursing and teaching. However, today our ranks in the corporate workforce still thin out above midlevel. Today, women comprise less than 3 percent of senior executives in Fortune 500 companies. So, whether we are boomers, Generation X, or Gen Y, we're still not where we want to be. 
Do you know this woman? She could be in your office, she could be a friend, or she could be you. She doesn't lack talent or work ethic, but her life and career aren't on track. It can be hard for her to strike the right tone in the office. If she's too nice, she's viewed as weak and not up to the job. If she's too assertive, she's criticized for being severe. She seems to work harder than the men—for less rewards. She's suffering from an ailment that mainly affects women that I've dubbed "Female Behavior Confusion Disorder." 

So what's a woman to do? Well, for one, we have to stop trying to act like men in the workplace. Strong brands—products or people—are always built on authenticity. Don't fight your nature. Instead, build on your innately female strengths and inclinations.
Research in gender studies points to key aptitudes that can propel career success for women —what I call "The Top 5 Female Aptitudes for Branding and Business Success." Not all women have these qualities, and many men have these qualities as well. However, these are areas in which women tend to be stronger. You can use these five aptitudes to help you in the workplace.

Aptitude # 1: Social Perception. Women are wired for empathy, the ability to read and identify the emotions and feelings of others through a sense of similarity—to walk in their shoes, as it were. MRI studies show that most women use both hemispheres of the brain to process emotional messages, while most men use only one hemisphere, giving women an advantage in picking up subtle non-verbal clues. Many women are also strong in intuition—it's called women's intuition for a reason. 

How to use it in the workplace. Intuition can give you another source of information beyond rational analysis. Pay attention to what's going on behind the scenes. In meetings, for example, if something feels incomplete or not talked about, act on your hunch and initiate a follow-up, clarifying phone conversation. Empathy can be particularly helpful in business during tough economic times. Work on listening to others and asking questions. When people feel listened to and understood, they will pay you back by liking you and supporting you in return. 

Aptitude # 2: People Power. A lot has been written about the fact that women have the social gene, and it's something that starts early. In one study, even one-day old baby girls were more fascinated by faces (or organic things) and boys more fascinated by inorganic things, such as mobiles. Playground studies of boys and girls point to interesting differences in how boys and girls play and relate with each other. Girls tend to pair off and play together one-on-one or with a small group. Boys tend to play with one group and then move to another larger group.
How to use it in the workplace. Women are born to network and make strong emotional connections. Use your social skills to build as many professional alliances as possible. Leverage your "social gene" to get well-known around the office. Be a mediator and an influencer. In terms of your personal career goals, you can use your strong people skills to land new opportunities and positions in your company—and get noticed, recognized, and rewarded. 

Aptitude #3: Communication Agility. The female verbal edge is strong across the board. Girls, on average, start talking a month earlier than boys. Girls use a larger vocabulary at an earlier age, are better spellers and readers, score better on verbal memory or recall of words are markedly stronger writers. Women generally have better listening skills.
How to use it in the workplace. Use your wordsmith mastery to develop a virtual identity for yourself and for your company: blogs, websites, wikis, online newsletters, and so on. Solicit feedback early and often at work, and find mentors with whom you can discuss your ideas and development. Be an idea bridger and a meetings facilitator. Become known as someone who can grasp—and restate—others' points of view. Get practice as a presenter, and use your communications agility as a valuable business tool for promoting your great ideas and accomplishments.

Aptitude # 4: Vibrant Visual Identity. Brand managers use product design and packaging to develop a strong visual identity for their brands, and women have more tools available to them than men do for creating a strong visual identity in the workplace. While men wear a relatively boring uniform to work, women have a variety of "imaging tools" in clothes, colors, accessories, hairstyles, jewelry, and make-up. 

How to use it in the workplace. Michelle Obama is the poster girl for what a powerful tool visual identity can be. She has a casual, American elegance, yet her clothes convey subliminal messages too. Her striding self-confidence, fit body, and clean American designs with bold colors result in inspirational magic. She favors immigrant American designers, a choice that reinforces the President's political message. You can do the same. If you don't have the body of a fashion model, then do something wonderful with your hair and clothing. Work on your posture and gait. Think about what your visual image conveys, and find visual "props" that add originality and a confident, powerful statement. 

Aptitude # 5: Leadership that Includes and Empowers. One study of male and female group dynamics involved groups of pre-pubescent boys and girls, segregated by gender and given tasks to accomplish cooperatively. The girls used their social skills and worked together and formed a kind of committee. The girls all took part in discussions about how to accomplish the task, while the boys jostled about and picked a leader, who then directed the group on how to get the job done. Both had positive outcomes, but each gender used very different models. Women's inclusive, collaborative style of leadership is increasingly valuable in today's complex and interconnected global business environment.

How to use it in the workplace. Recent episodes of Celebrity Apprentice pitted women against the men—and displayed how their unique group dynamics gave the women a decided advantage. In the real workplace we can see the effect of these different leadership tendencies, too. Men tend to have a more directive management style, and women tend to have a collaborative style with shared decision making. Leverage your more inclusive leadership style so you can lead in a way that doesn't seek to have power over people, but empowers others instead. Consult others on important decisions. Create teams and a "personal board of directors" who can advise you—and be sure to include men too. Conduct brainstorming sessions. Give public credit to people when they contribute. Such a leadership style will result in loyal, committed, hardworking colleagues and employees and will give you a distinct advantage and reputation as a problem solver.