Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preserving Gratitude

Some of you may know that I am into health and wellness. I try to eat organic foods, meats without chemicals, and drink iced green tea like the supply is running out.

But this week I was reminded that taking good things to an extreme can leave you with problems you didn’t have before.

For instance, on Monday night I went to one of my favorite restaurants. It’s an Asian teahouse, and they serve wonderful soup, steamed veggies, rice, and some protein as the entrĂ©e. Yet, when I got my salmon, I found myself wondering, “Is this wild salmon or farm raised salmon? Are there any additives in it?”

And I thought, “ Stop! What am I doing? Here I am, in this wonderful restaurant, and I’m making myself miserable over the preparation of this delicious salmon! This is stupid.” I was disgusted with myself.

It’s possible to overdo “good things.” I wish everybody cared enough about themselves and the planet to be more health conscious and aware of chemicals – but obsess too much over things and you uglify your insides with self-absorption. Before you know it, you don’t realize how blessed you are to begin with. Then, you are just another pretentious and ungrateful perfectionist, with no perspective or maturity. Even if your efforts and possible paranoia have made you physically healthy, you now have no gratitude. That’s a pretty serious problem in my book. Frankly – I should have been thanking God for my ability to visit that teahouse on Monday night!

Then, today – I realized I was coming down with a cold. And, I was low on groceries. I nearly dragged myself a few miles down the road to Trader Joe’s to do my regular shopping run, but then my husband said, “Are you sure you want to do that when you aren’t feeling well? You should probably rest, or just go to the corner market.” He knew how I felt because he had the cold too. And, he was right. We have a market that is one block from our house.

Again, I over-analyzed and argued with myself. “I want my organic stuff, but I know it’s not kind to myself to go to my regular store.” Luckily, I had enough wisdom to realize that I should be grateful for the corner market – and stop fussing. They sell perfectly good food, even if it’s not all the same stuff I would get elsewhere.

If you’ve got a decent job in America, you’re going to have a lot of choices. Make healthy choices when you can, but try to be aware of extremism and perfectionism. It lurks everywhere – even in health and wellness circles. Always retain an ability to give thanks for the blessings you have.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

4 Tips to Improving the Outward You

Recently, a woman picked my brain about what I did when I was dating to attract men and build my confidence. I came up with some tips during this informal coaching session, and realized that they don’t only apply to dating. Looking good and believing in yourself will also help you move up professionally and succeed at whatever you do. The tips are simple:

1.Stop Dressing “Catholic Amish” or Nun-like – Although this tip didn’t apply to the lady I spoke to, it applies to many other young women. If you are one of those Catholic girls who wears long skirts every day, and doesn’t do anything to spruce up her appearance – think twice. You can wear long and flowing skirts sometimes. But, covering every centimeter of your body with black and brown clothing and rejecting all modern fashion sensibilities could hold you back. Years ago, my look was “Greek Orthodox goth” with my black flowing skirts and matching liquid eyeliner. I thought the cosmetic indulgences made it less nun-like. I was lucky enough to still attract some admirers, but my look was bland, inflexible, and uninteresting. It’s unlikely that your best features will be accented or showcased when you are weighed down by gobs of dark fabric every day. What are you trying to prove and what’s your vocation anyway? Modesty does not require you to uglify yourself.
2.Try New Styles – A low cost way to learn fashion is to watch What Not to Wear with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on TLC. They have pretty conservative tastes and will push you to consider style choices that you wouldn’t try otherwise. Like different colors, patterns, accessories, and even hairstyles and makeup. Stacy has a new company, Style for Hire, which features stylists across the country. Also, if you want to try new hairstyles and makeup at home, check out Two ladies show you how to look like a star through YouTube skits. It’s so much better than old school magazine illustrations where you have to wonder, “Is this illustration telling me to do this, or that?”.
3.Remember That You Are a Star Too - Is there a star you admire? Someone you sort of resemble? Check out her style and experiment with it yourself. The idea is that if you resemble a star, her style will probably work for you too. She probably has an army of high paid stylists and makeup artists working on her – so steal ideas with pride. And remember that sometimes that’s the only difference between us and “stars.” They have the high paid assistants to make them look like a million bucks. So if you are a dark brunette Natalie Wood look-alike– get into that image. Modernize it a notch, but embrace the fun of having star quality. Make an entrance and expect people to notice you. Feeling like a star will make you look like a star.
4.Radiate Confidence - If you want to look great on the outside, things need to be great on the inside too. Silently tell yourself uplifting things in the serenity of your own mind. It can be, “I’m a great catch!” “I know I have it going on.” “I’m smart and cute.” “I’m achieving my goals.” “My dreams are coming true.” Some people call them affirmations, others call them mantras. You don’t have to share your magic words with anyone. By telling yourself inspiring things, you infiltrate your mind and heart with positive and transformational messages. When you surround your psyche with wonderful and powerful thoughts, it is hard to resist making them your personal truth and reality.

Confidence goes a long way. A reader recently told me that to her, my book was written in a tone that “breathed confidence.” Confidence is “woven” into the chapters. Anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Confidence will inspire you to do great things.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Faith and Film - Dragons Reminds Us to Embrace Artists

A new film is on the way – There Be Dragons. It’s due out in Spring 2011 and features St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, as one of the main characters.

I’m always happy to see a professionally done film with a storyline that has a strong faith element in it, so let’s see how it is!

About the Film:
Roland Joffe, the director who brought us the highly acclaimed and deeply spiritual film The Mission has returned to his roots with the epic movie There Be Dragons, a powerful story of war, tragedy, love and redemption. Featured in the NY Times, the $35 million Dragons is rated PG-13 and planned for release in theaters worldwide in Spring 2011. Set during the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War (early 1900s), Dragons tells the story of two childhood friends who become separated during the political conflict to find themselves on opposite sides as war erupts. One chooses the path of peace and becomes a priest while the other chooses the life of a soldier driven by jealousy and revenge. Each will struggle to find the power of forgiveness over the forces that tore their lives and friendship apart. The new movie resource website will be launching this week at


If you are inspired by art and want to create art, but feel like you’re in a rut or blocked, let me recommend a book for you. It’s called: The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I’ve been reading it and like how it acknowledges that God is inherently in art, and active in artist’s lives. By creating art, we learn what it’s like to be a creator….and so you might have this awesome experience of feeling extra close to your Creator when you take photographs, paint, draw, sew, write, or shoot film. Embrace your inner artist! It could be part of your overall life mission and vocation.

Also, we have to embrace other artists. I feel that some religious environments encourage people to view art with an excessive amount of suspicion. That attitude is probably because so many well-known, iconic artists have crashed and burned, or highlighted life experiences that are not always viewed as desirable or worth glorifying.

However, have you ever stopped to wonder if those artists were pushed out of their communities and churches as children because they were different? Because they were powerfully inspired in such a way that other people could not relate to them? Because they were extra sensitive? Or, had unusual talents? Could this rejection and feeling of being misunderstood be an underlying factor that attracts them to drugs (to kill the pain) and sordid social scenes (they just want to be accepted). I know I carry memories of the creative kids in high school being shunned and going off on their own.

Artists are great resources and channels of heavenly wisdom and inspiration. We should encourage them to do what God’s calling them do. Only then will we have more people who are willing to take chances and produce films like this one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Out and About

First, some updates. I was on Relevant Radio – On Call today. Wendy Wiese interviewed me and the show is here. Also, I’ll be at the National Shrine next Saturday, November 13, to do a book signing. That begins at 1:00 p.m.

The book is doing great, and yet my regular 9-5 life continues on. I just got back from a work related training session in Boston. It was a Harvard-MIT class called “Dealing with an Angry Public.” I found this class interesting in light of the elections and the sometimes heated discussions within the Catholic community.

This class deepened my understanding of a concept I initially heard from a former staffer to Ted Kennedy. When I heard him speak, I wrote an article about the abortion debate on that got a lot of attention and feisty comments.

A lot of these super educated and intelligent types who get big bucks to do consulting gigs are into negotiation. I have not personally met many Catholic activist types who embrace this way of working through problems though. Catholic activists usually aren’t open to negotiating agreements that feature mutual gains – it’s all or nothing. Or at least – that is what I usually read about on my news sources.

Further, it was interesting to hear how Catholics came up in the class discussion. There was one icebreaker that went something like: “A seminarian asked a priest, ‘Father, may I smoke while I pray? The priest said, ‘No son!’ Another seminarian asked the priest, “Father, may I pray while I smoke?’ The priest said ‘Yes!’” The point is that how you say things can influence if your proposals are ultimately accepted or rejected. But, I also had to chuckle because Catholics can be so particular about how things are worded – it comes from the theology and philosophy.

There were more serious examples though. Like, when Vatican officials or clergy have made public statements that seem insensitive and deny the value and legitimacy of concerns like child molestation in the Church. Catholics we may be – but our folks don’t always abide by basic public relations principles. It can make people very angry.

Then again, there was the example of a well-respected Boston priest who responded to the abuse scandal in a manner that gained public trust. Following the news, he said he’d be upset too and not trusting the clergy after hearing the news if he was a parishioner. His willingness to admit that the scandal was a mess and identify with the public’s shock (or, put himself in other people’s shoes) was heralded as a good way of dealing with the angry mobs. I also think it shows how communicating well can help people heal. Denying problems does not work.

I’ve got many blog posts in mind, so keep checking back. If you have this page bookmarked, I recommend changing it - as that's my primary hub for information these days.