Monthly Archives: April 2014

protagonist parting words:


It’s now six weeks into my new move from St. Croix, Virgin Islands to Mechanicsburg Pennsylvania. This particular transition is yet another short season and a difficult reality to adjust to. Spring itself has helped greatly though, entering fiercely, working to wake me from my winter hibernation habits. Poking and prodding with its unpredictable and fickle weather, the season is forcing me to grow and expand in new ways. Reminding me to stop expecting what’s around the corner and demanding that I start accepting what is right in front of me. It seems like the best way to be prepared for life’s forthcoming changes.

Developing new patterns and habits in my ever changing environment this month has been a challenge. With many ups and downs and the back and forth movement, it’s understandable that I feel slightly disoriented. Staying fluid and flexible in my exercise routine, on the dance floor in life transitions really has been the best way to grow though this season.  Rigid routine has never worked for me but the simple structure has.  I thank both chapter writer Dawn and Wild Card Howard for enforcing this.

Even before taking dance lessons I have had much experience taking one step forward and two steps back.  It is a practice and place we all find ourselves in at times. It often feels static like treading water, making it difficult for us to pause and examine where we are.  Especially in a world where working hard, fixing things, and moving forward is valued more than taking time to assess, and be in balance with ourselves, others and our surroundings.

My current lifestyle has prepped me for learning new dance patterns. I move  forward, backward then slide to the side, repeat the whole thing and then hold on for the ride. I continue turning, gliding and spinning through minutes, hours, days and years. Every step of the way has been priceless or pointless depending on how I look at it. Some days the circles feel aimless and other days I’m caught up in the exhilarating motion.  I’m left dizzy and happy with adrenaline thankful that I learned somehow to stop over thinking and analyzing each step and that I have finally embraced the feeling and rhythm of the dance we call life that  continues to push us to our next move.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


new moves

new moveshappy feet

Living in a reality in which change itself has been the only constant, I find that creating and keeping any kind of habit, structure, or routine in my daily existence to be a huge challenge.

Like leaning new dance moves in each new place I land, the pages of my story rotate as fast as a spinning disco ball. It feels like one chapter blends into the next ending one storyline before it even has time to begin. And as the lights whirl their way around and across the floor, I must admit, I’m feeling a bit tossed around, dizzy and somewhat out of breath.

I woke up this morning and assessed my current reality: living in the suburbs, assisting my aging mother and visiting a cemetery daily dodging grave-diggers with dance moves. Hmmmm…. What brought me out on this dance floor? I know that resisting my current chapter is not helpful but examining what my present circumstance is could potentially teach me something – right?

Dancing daily this month has honestly been a highlight. Whether it’s in the graveyard busting out zombie “thriller” moves, at a club under a glittering gala ball or with my 9-year-old friend Grace being a dancing pineapple!

I’m finding myself wanting to let loose everywhere and have had to hold myself back from getting my groove on at the grocery store or seat swaying while stuck in traffic. Not knowing how to dance hasn’t hindered me too much. Being free from thinking and focusing more on the feeling has really helped me with this dancing task.

Well at least it has been working in my own individual private dancer world. But this past week I took on Howard’s second part of his wild card challenge: “Take an actual dance class!” I wandered into a near by studio and took my first “official” ballroom dance lesson. Let’s just say I learned more than dance steps in this lesson. I don’t think 45 minutes is enough time to fully learn any one dance properly but I did learn that if I was going to be successful and/or stylish in my future dancing (or life planning) I would need to work on the following:

  1. Find a balance between following and leading
  2. Find a compatible partner (attitude, energy, and rhythm)
  3. Find the balance between thinking through steps and feeling the movement of the music

I am hoping to find another lesson before the end of the month to see if I can put these new-found illuminations to the test.



Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

feel the heat: from the jungle to the graveyard

Thank you Howard!

My April wild card writer and dear friend Howard Sure, tapped into the absolute best way to lead me to healthy movement and heart racing activities. Dance! Of course! Why not combine my stress reducing coping mechanism of listening to and moving to music to my daily exercise routine for a more enjoyable workout?

Now… I am trying to overlook the fact that I really don’t know how to dance… but I guess that’s where taking the lesson comes in, right? And heck, I didn’t know how to meditate when I started and I didn’t know how to write when I started this blog. Neither of those technical hurdles stopped me from greatly benefiting from practicing both meditating and writing on a daily basis.  So dance it is.

Even though I am not an exercise enthusiast, I have somehow been “raising my heart beat” every morning this month in 20 – 30 minute brisk walks before starting each day. I must emphasize the word brisk here – my walks have been fast paced, invigorating, and downright COLD! Its mid-April (Spring time here in Central PA) and it’s still somehow below freezing temperatures. So this past week, I decided that I needed to heat up my morning meetings with my heartbeat. Dance has been the perfect addition to help me feel the heat.

While on the island, I relaxed into the tropical environment, and became accustomed to the warm and welcoming weather. Here, in my northeastern suburban surroundings, I have to work a little harder to “feel the heat”. So I brought a little Jungle back into my life.

Each morning, I’ve been bringing the heat to my daily routine by taking the music that makes me want to move, on my walks with me. With this particular song, my feet are a little lighter and more playful.  So when the wild card says, “Dance!” Ok no problem I will start dancing!

But how will I fit this into my daily routine? And where will I be able to dance? In my suburban paradise, I don’t get out to dance clubs often, and I have not found even a good place that plays music that I like. I sleep in a very small room with little space to practice personal dance moves and at this point in life, I also have no access to a private dance studio. I already have a hard time finding places to go walking without finding myself in an apartment building parking lot, along a highway or by a fast food drive through.  So where am I going to dance?

In my search for green grass and a car free environment to exercise in, I settled on walking in a beautiful cemetery with walking paths near by. It’s a spot near my mother’s house that I go to daily. It may seem like a strange habit, walking to a cemetery daily, but I find it to be a perfectly peaceful place to exercise and not be bothered. Exercising around other people has never been my thing and I am not a fan of expensive monthly gym bills – so joining a gym is just not the answer for me! I must admit though, exercising in a graveyard is kinda strange and what’s even stranger is the fact that I have now added dance to my morning routine.

Yep, that’s right, I am officially dancing in graveyards now. This may be one of the weirdest things that Living Chapters has led to me do this entire project (well besides the sensory deprivation tank experience)  And as odd as it may sound, I believe dancing in the graveyard, to be the best place to get my dance groove on. I don’t know how you feel about dancing in front of people but I, from time to time, am a bit self-conscious. I think I have to work up to this “take a dance class” challenge.   At least in the cemetery, there are no bystanders (well that are alive) to make me feel bashful or uncomfortable in my skin. And after doing something as ridiculous as dancing in a graveyard, I think I’ll be able to work through all my “embarrassment issues” entirely! However, the best reason I have for dancing in the graveyard, is that it reminds me of the first time that music inspired me to want to dance!

I am a child of the 80’s and was undeniably influenced by Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller”. He and his dancing zombies scared the heck out of me but also led me to try dancing myself! Truly,there just is no right or wrong way to dance like a zombie, it’s the best way to enter the dancing world unashamed (as far as I am concerned)!  No only is Thriller an extraordinary dance song but it definitely gets my heart racing with its super weird and spooky sound effects! So yes, strangely enough I am starting to feel the heat on these chilly April mornings while also getting my monster mash on!  Who knew dancing with the undead could keep me in shape? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done to stay in shape?


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

April Wild Card



This month’s mission has been about getting your heart rate up.  I think that it’s time to make that heart sing!

Your assignment is to dance. Everyday.

All day if you’d like, but for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day. Dance with a friend, dance with a stranger, dance with an enemy, dance by yourself!

What kind of dance you might ask?

Any kind! Modern, classical, ballroom, whatever mood happens to strike you at the time.

I know you have a good playlist to choose from, or just hum a tune to yourself. Is that all you ask? It sounds so easy!

Well, there is one other thing.  Take a class, a for real class where you learn a dance; it could be a Tango, or a Foxtrot, or Swing Dance, or some obscure tribal ritual.  But it must be an actual class where you must interact with an instructor, or a group.

That is your Wild Card assignment for the rest of this month.  I know you will swing into action!


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

react and attract

love drama

I was driving south on Interstate 83 last week trying to get to a meeting I had in Baltimore, when I noticed my heart banging loudly in my stationary sitting body. I must still be getting acquainted with being back on the East coast where the drivers’ mentality seems to be “My car is bigger than your car – so I’m gonna ride your bumper and flash my headlights at you until you get the heck out of my way!” Ummm… yeah. “And if you don’t go fast enough for me, I am going to run you off the road!” Well I am obviously not a race car driver on the highway but my heart seems to be doing a lot of racing while driving these days. Each time someone is on my bumper or cuts me off, I find myself getting a bit, let’s say “pissed off”. My blood begins to boil in that “oh so unhealthy way”. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the same thing that happens when a co-worker decides to put you down because they have a “higher” title than you or someone cuts in front of you in line at the post office, or when your mother treats you like a teenager even though you’re in your thirties. Oh the drama! (sigh) It is thrown at us at record speeds from the dark corners of the universe.  It’s even more amazing how we create our own drama! All those mountains made out of miniscule mole hills each day, for no other good reason than to have a reason to climb them?

So why is drama so attractive? Why do we seem to seek it out? Even when we’re not looking for it, it creeps into our days, in our relationships, at work, at home or even with total strangers? Why do we attract it and create it? Why do we openly invite drama into our lives?  Is it an easier way to get our heart-moving than physically getting it into action?

You may say “Oh no, not I! I detest drama and avoid it at all costs”. Oh yes, I’ve heard this come out of my mouth as well. I was one of those dramatic deniers believing that I didn’t attract it and of course was not allured by it either. But since I’ve been unleashing my secrets for the last nine months, I might as well go ahead and be honest yet again. I continuously react to and attract drama just like anyone else. I’m just now starting to be aware of it in its many different shapes sizes and elusive forms. I am also starting to see what an impact it can have on me (and those around me) both physically and emotionally.

We live in a society in which we surround ourselves in drama. If we can not find it in our daily lives or in the newspapers, we pay money to be scared, confused or excited by all forms of it in movie theaters, playhouses, through video games, or on television? We seek it out to entertain, to spice up and flavor our lives. Or do we seek it out to escape our own personal manufactured drama? Probably a bit of both if we are being honest.

I am learning that I cannot control the external sources of events, people, or circumstances that birth a rude comment, a heated argument, or road rage session – but I have realized that I can begin to control my reactions to all these things.

As I am sure you have all heard before “you pick and choose your battles.” And I am realizing that choosing not to battle is a whole lot healthier on my heart and head.  Ask yourself this, “Do I always have to be right?” before entering a conversation.

I’m also learning to simply change my reactions to external drama. Eliminating stressful situations or negative influences from life when I am able to has also been helpful. “Easier said then done” you say? Its true, I can’t pretend that I smile with kindness to every jerk driver on the highway that catches me off guard.  But I can kindly let the race car driver change lanes and not let it affect my day.  Making them happier is surely better than getting into a car accident, is it not?

Coping mechanisms are also greatly helpful in reducing and dissecting the effects of drama. The daily physical exercise has been a great addition to my toolbox. Sweating all that extra-added anxiety out of my adrenaline glands seems to be keeping my dramatic attack reactions at a minimum.

That along with my mood modifier of choice – Music! Whether I’m on a walk, in an argument or avoiding road rage. Music aides my actions to defuse or intensify almost any situation my racing heart has found itself in. So I try to keep my personal soundtrack on hand at all times!

There are many songs that have kept me company in my daily morning walks – most of them actually repetitive upbeat and fast to keep me moving at a fast pace. But I thought I would share one of my favorite anti-road rage songs that I’ve been playing on my PA – MD commutes.

So what do you want to attract? Try changing your thoughts and reactions to external drama and see if it changes what you’re attracting. The only way to see if the Law of Attraction works is to try it on for yourself and ditch the drama in the dumpster where it belongs.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.




simplify… step by step


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The writer for chapter nine Seth Fertenbaugh, ended March’s chapter with this quote of Lao Tzu’s.   I kept it with me throughout the month of March and am bringing it back for April as I am in need of a motivational mantra.

Getting active and staying that way has definitely been a serious challenge for me. To be honest, I have not used my running shoes for anything other than hiking and hoola hooping since my last attempt at a “get in shape routine” back in June of last year (check out Chapter One).   Unlike this month, Chapter One writer Joe barraged me with a plethora of things to think about, do and not do concerning my body. It was a great way to try physical activities out and explore the world of healthy living. I jumped into a jump rope journal, went jogging, and started a new diet while at the same time, practiced my muscle memory and sensory awareness. Phew! Just reading all those requests in chapter one raised my heart rate!

Unfortunately, very few of the activities from that month became a part of my daily life. The running obviously did not stick (I still hate running to this day), the 15 minutes of planned exercise a day did not stick either. Even my beloved jump rope journal breaks did not stick. So did anything from my first chapter stay a part of my daily life? Yes! I am still mindful in thinking about and keeping to my diet on a daily basis.

How did I do it? Well, I took small steps and merely simplified the diet rather than doing a complete overhaul. I chose a few good meals (that I liked) and repeated them over and over throughout the weeks. The repetition of the choices may have made have led some people to have tired taste buds but I knew that after developing a habit of only eating these good things in a moderate way, that I could eventually expand to new things in healthier ways.

The diet really started to take hold when I also became more aware of how my dietary choices not only affected my own health but also affected my environment (check out Chapter 3). Realizing that my choices of what I put into my body affected the local economy, my local water quality, and climate made me check in with my decision process once again. And finally, when I realized that my new diet had started to make me feel better physically and emotionally, it was a done deal – a life change made.

In Chapter four I was led to check in with myself in another way. Chapter Writer Amy Rothstein asked me to begin mediating twice daily, once in the morning and at once at night. I actually had to time my meditation sessions! And write down my experiences with the process. Doing this ritual for 30 days straight really helped it sink into my every day routine. Meditation has now become a simple and repetitive ritual that I don’t even think about doing. Another life change that is working for me. I have stayed true to this practice and have felt better and better each day, with this new addition in my life. Meditation has become my best way of dealing with internal stress and outside drama that in the past has led to negative heart-racing episodes.

In this particular time of transition and change in my life again, I find myself in South-Central Pennsylvania wondering what is next? How do I navigate? How will I handle the next steps? Could creating a simple daily habit of raising my heart beat in positive ways affect my life as much as the other simple life changes that I have made in the past year?  Well if I have learned anything this year, it is that letting go of trying to have control over external situations outside my immediate self is not helpful or useful.  The process of “letting go” is rewarding and controlling the few things in my life that relate to myself and my body is helping and is useful!

This month’s chapter writer Dawn provided me with the most simple and direct chapter yet during in this entire Living Chapter’s process. I believe that it may be exactly what I need at this precise moment to make the changes I need to. She said,

“Make the exercise something simple that you enjoy. – Something that is repetitive might work best for this.”

I have taken her words to heart and have enacted my promise daily. Each morning I wake up before doing anything for anyone (or even anything else for myself). I give this 15 minutes of my morning, before the rush of the day starts, to my running shoes. No – I have not by a miracle started running! I am doing what I love… walking! Each morning, (early) my shoes are taking me walking very briskly to a lovely spot that I have chosen near my mother’s house about 15 minutes away. During the walk I use the time to (not make a plan for my day as Dawn suggested) but allow my walk to plan my day…the forward motion of the walk has become my morning meditation. I just changed the form of my still meditation and pushed it forward into motion.  It’s not, hard-core athletic regiment but so far… it feels pretty good.

I am convinced that mediation is playing a great role in balancing my emotional, and mental states. I also believe strongly that a strong body and heart can only help the mind and spirit as well. Let’s see how it helps balance me out…. and let’s see if I can stick with this physical routine and slow the pace of my stressed racing heart by picking up the pace of my meditative heart. Step by step.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

april fools me

IMG_8639IMG_8637Drawing by Solstice Bawol

It seems so easy. Was it an April fools chapter? Chapter ten writer Dawn Bennett asks me to raise my heart rate for at least 15 minutes every other day for the month of April. But why do this? And in what way? How will I do it? For what particular purpose?

My chapter training these past 9 months has led me to consider these questions closely before taking any action on making changes. I thank Dawn for leaving the questions and decisions open for me to consider on my own. I am not fooled into believing this to be a simple challenge. Doing the physical task daily along side exploring the questions that follow could turn this month into a deeper endeavor. Sure we can all raise our heart rates but what really happens when we do? And how are we affected when we do? Does it always help? Is it always in a healthy way?

After a few months of questioning, probing and meandering through so many esoteric existential questions in my surreal island setting you would think that I would be aching for some kind of down to earth physical interaction. Well, guess what? I am! I have been yearning for it!

During my time on the island I was in constant motion naturally – hiking, walking, swimming, and snorkeling. While there, I developed a rhythmic flow and a beginning balance between mind-body and spirit. Being back stateside, I have already noticed an immediate decrease in my physical activity – driving more, walking less. Swimming and snorkeling has been replaced by grocery shopping and commuting. Not only has this change in activity lowered my energy level but I am also feeling it emotionally.  Let’s just say I’m a bit crankier?

Granted a lot has changed besides my decrease in physical activity. The weather, my physical surroundings, the color palette out my window, my living conditions, my immediate community and the amount of people who I am now dealing with on a day-to-day basis, to name a few. Leaving the island at this point was not something I wanted to do, but something I needed to do. I had to return to the east coast to take care of some very real and physical life situations including my current job, my remaining bits of belongings, my car here, and primarily my mother’s transition to a new home. (the latter being what has landed me in my now current home base of Central Pennsylvania.)

In the first 6 months of the Living Chapters project, I looked closely at what effected my mind-body, and spirit based on the different themes selected. (Body/Kinesthetic, Logic and Order, The Environment, Existential/Spirituality, Purpose, and Interpersonal Relationships) Looking at each of these themes individually, I was able to see how shifting my habits in mindful ways could greatly effect my emotional, physical or spiritual health. With health and growth as my focus, I decided to dig further repeating the themes during this second six months. The question now is not, how can I develop a mindful habit to affect these areas in my life but how can I develop mindful practices and learn how to balance the different areas in my life. Can I now learn how my environment affects my mind? Or how the mind and emotions affect the body? And doesn’t the body affect the spirit?

Thus far in 2014, I have been teetering on the see-saw, trying to balance my emotional (chapter eight) and spiritual worlds (chapter nine) while becoming a pro at adapting to ever-changing new environments (chapter seven). I think it’s about time to jump back into the physical world by adding the body back into the equation. The physical needs to addressed in conjunction with the mental and spiritual aspects of my life, rather than being separated from the two.

Amy Rothstein, the existential chapter writer from September got me started on this track. She reminded me that “One of the core agreements of existentialism is that being human means we will experience anxiety.” Which to me is the way that most of us raise our heart rate on a daily basis in an unhealthy way without even noticing.  Amy also asked me to be mindful of my breath, body/extremities, movements and actions while looking at how I access and experience comfort as well as discomfort in my body. She asked me to identify how my body reacts to stress or anxiety and to observe my body in different situations and emotional states.

I feel that re-visiting some of her more complicated requests along with my direct and simple current challenge this month may help me stay on the path for a fuller mind, body and soul connection. So yeah, its time to get my jump rope and running shoes out again but this time with greater goals in mind. Let’s get physical shall we? Not only seeking a better body and energy level but in a quest for a healthier balance and a different mindset.

Will you take notes with me this month? Follow the pitter-patter of your own heart in the next 30 days. Is it fluttering in happiness, anxiety, adrenaline, dance or drama? How does the state of your physical body and rate of your heart affect your mind and spirit?


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.