2016

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

The Natural Professional shares EasyTask Manager

Shawn Tuttle, of Project Simplify fame, offered a workshop last evening demonstrating the use of a task management program that will change my ToDo list-making forever!

Shawn's "Let it be easy" approach to professional success has helped millions of Nevada County-ites, not to mention the masses across the globe, to create organizational systems that invite simplicity, ease, and efficiency. To this end, she searched high and low to find the best available task management program, decided upon EasyTask Manager, and became familiar with it by integrating into her own workday. She then put together this hands-on workshop to share the opportunity for effective project execution for the rest of us.

In just two hours, I learned how to list my projects (big and often intimidating), and break them down into specific categories including "office", "call", "computer", "1:1", etc. I then assigned subcategories of prioritization by due date or by my sense of their importance. Shawn shares her expertise in a very pleasant and relaxed manner, able to answer the "what-if" questions that arose, while keeping the information light and easy to understand.

Here's the plan: On Sunday evenings, I will check the upcoming week allowing me to efficiently and effectively understand the big picture schedule. Each evening I will spend a few moments looking into the next day short list of tasks that will bring me closer to project fruition. I can and will check by my "call" list, "email" list, and other subcategories to better plan my in-office work versus my in-person work. Oh, think of the enhanced effectiveness I will be enjoying!

Yes, I have some dinking around with EasyTask Manager in the days ahead so that I become more familiar and comfortable with the program nuances, but I have no doubt that I will fall into a pleasant routine that will serve me, my clients, and my projects. Onward!

5/19/10 Eskaton, Nevada County

Speaking to a mixed audience, the staff and residents of Eskaton, was a rich experience for me because they were all so savvy! As we exchanged ideas, challenges, and successes related to Living Healthfully In A Busy Life, the dialogue transcended age, touching the group with a special connectedness. Intriguing questions, suggestions, and anecdotes were appreciated by those in attendance.

Grace (the dog) = JOY

I've been writing and talking and reading a lot about joy over the past several months. Joy [joi] –noun 1.the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
Joy is available to all of us. Joy is a choice. Joy is a gift. Joy is all around us. Joy is free.

When joy is evoked and acknowledged, all sorts of wonderful physical benefits occur in the body. Many of the positive changes are connected to the resulting decrease of circulating adrenaline and catecholamines (stress hormones): a relaxation of the blood vessels, leading to lowered blood pressure; a decrease in cell wall inflammation, which may decrease the risk for some cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease; and a measurable balancing of brain chemicals, leading to a sense of well-being, just to name a few.

Grace the dog brought me to a place of pure JOY today. For those of you who don't know her, Grace is our rescued/adopted Border Collie. Two years after our beloved black Lab Mack died, I began to long for a dog again. One Wednesday, I went to the animal shelter, "just to look", and fell in love with Grace--a short-haired Border Collie with expressive eyes and a sleek body--a real beauty. The shelter folks were calling her Spot because of her coloring, but this undignified name did not suit her! All they knew of her was that she had been abandoned in an adjacent county and had spent a month in that animal shelter before being transferred to where I had found her. She had already been taken home by one family locally, but had been returned due to her "skittish" personality and inability to get along with the other dog in that house. It was inferred to me that if she couldn't find a good home, that the choices for her longevity were limited...maybe it was knowing that, or her soulful eyes, or her gorgeous coat...yes, you guessed it, home she went with me later that week. I renamed her, choosing to call her Grace, which seemed so fitting for this fragile creature.

What a handful! She was so incredibly nervous, her ears seemed permanently plastered back and her tail threatened to poke a hole in her stomach, it was kept so far between her legs. There was general consensus that she had been abused in her past life, which was manifested by the sheer terror she exhibited when a man would approach her. When Grace was outside, she would press to the back of her doghouse if a man was in the yard. Inside our house, any stranger--men in particular--would cause her to shove herself into the 6-inch gap under our bed, hiding and shivering all the while. Our hearts went out to Grace, to witness the fear and anxiety that had defined her life thus far, and we were determined to right her life through love, patience, and structure.

We just celebrated 3 years of Grace being in our lives. Gracing our family. Today, she is a completely different dog. She is happy and animated. She had filled out in body and is a super athlete--leaping into the water, chasing balls at the speed of light, and bounding through the woods where she walks with us twice each day. She is well trained (most of the time) and follows commands (um, well not always!). She smiles. She wags. She plays. She has transformed into a loving, bright, affectionate dog that brings so much to our family.

Grace = JOY. We feel this daily, but I was especially invited to acknowledge this today, during a visit to the vet. Our vet had been wary when she first met Grace, seeing her fear and distrust, and mentioned the potential for aggressiveness or other alpha manifestations. She has seen Grace several times over the past 3 years; today Grace trotted in, tail up and wagging, smile on her face, and spontaneously licked the vet's hand. Our vet was so pleased and impressed with how far Grace has come. She went out of her way to thank me for having been so diligent, loving, and patient with Grace as she found her place in the world.

At that moment, with Grace sitting by my side, looking at me with adoring eyes, relaxed and settled, my heart filled with JOY, for this wondrous animal and our love for each other. What a gift.

Small-step changes: snippet from a radio interview

For your listening pleasure, a pearl from my recent appearance on KVMR 89.5 FM, Nevada City community radio. It's a snippet during which I share briefly the connection between quieting the mind and the small-step goals of behavior change. Small changes

Brain Changes Lead to Behavior Changes

Joy, mindfulness, positive affirmation, and visualization

We are creatures of habit, finding comfort in the familiar. Our brain reinforces this sense of routine and familiarity, in that the brain would rather you made the same choices over and over.  Although you may be committed to a goal of "eating healthier" or "becoming fit", the very desire to change familiar behaviors to ones that will support the achievement of your goal(s), are perceived by the brain as being a stressor, which will activate the sympathetic nervous system response of fight or flight.

The body of science-based evidence continues to expand that validates the fact that we can “change our brains” to be more responsive to subtle and pleasant behavior change goals. There are four principles to practice that will decrease the excitability of the brain, minimize stress hormone presence in the body, and create the brain changes that will enhance the achievement of small-step behavior change goals.

  • Invite joy into your life
  • Move mindfully through your day
  • Express positive affirmation regarding your intention
  • Visualize the outcome you desire

How wonderful those principles are! Finding joy is such a gift—and it is everywhere, if you choose to see it. The laughter of children playing, the glorious song of birds celebrating spring, the scent of blooming flowers, the smile you receive as a result of a kindness you extend to another human being, the petting of an animal…all of these opportunities present themselves to us every day  (in variations, of course), and if we slow down enough to see them, then JOY will become a primary emotion throughout our day. And by the way, joy and gratitude are kissin’ cousins in terms of the positive effect on your brain and body.

Mindfulness and joy go hand-in-hand, in that the slowing down of being mindful creates the space to experience joy. Additionally, mindfulness can be evoked while we are eating, listening, and even while working on the computer.

Ah, positive affirmation…isn’t it interesting that we have evolved to be a species that expresses displeasure about ourselves—in the form of negative self-talk. This very common and potentially sabotaging dialogue can be slowly let go of simply by practicing positive affirmation. Called cognitive restructuring, expressing your intention with positive words will diminish resistance and ambivalence that the brain holds regarding new behaviors or thoughts. For instance, stating “I enjoy the energy I feel after going for a brisk walk” is received differently by the brain as opposed to “If I am going to get into shape, I have to go for a walk”—a subtle difference on the surface perhaps, but truly, there is the positivity of “enjoy the energy” versus the obligation of “have to go”. Think about it!

Lastly, consider visualization. It’s been known for years that prior to competing, athletes visualize the ski run, or the gymnastics routine, or the bike race, seeing themselves at their best performance. This prepares the brain for success and fine-tunes mindfulness for that particular event. You and I may not be racing in the Olympics, but nonetheless, the same technique of visualization will enhance our performance to create our own personal successes. Imagine a party scene, as it relates to your commitment to “eating healthier”. See yourself visiting with friends, visualize the buffet table: you take a small plate, mindfully selecting a variety of small bites of whatever you desire, see yourself sitting at a table with friends, enjoying their company, eating slowly, savoring flavors and textures, allowing yourself the time to become satiated. Visually experience the pleasure and satisfaction of having eaten well, reveling in good conversation with others, and having honored your personal commitment. When you arrive at the party in reality, you will have set the tone for your behavior, simply by having visualized your success.

These four principles are FREE! Meaning they are available to you right this very minute, at no cost to you, but for the few moments it takes to practice.  Practice is a key concept, as each of the four mindsets becomes more and more familiar to you and your brain when they are intentionally practiced.

I invite you to experience joy, cultivate mindfulness, express your positive beliefs about yourself, and visualize your success. What a rich life you live!

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a super nutritious grain, chock-full of protein and fiber. The nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture make it unique, either as an ingredient in a salad or casserole, or as a hot breakfast cereal. It cooks more quickly than most other whole grains--just 12 to 15 minutes--an important fact to remember to maintain the crunch. Enjoy the following recipe for one of my favorite ways of cooking and savoring quinoa.

Ingredients:
2 parts water to 1 part Quinoa
Grilled eggplant
Grilled peppers
Basil
Garlic
Feta cheese
Kalmata olives
Roasted pine nuts

To prepare:

  • Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, turn down heat to simmer for 12 - 15 minutes. When the grains are cooked, add a bit of garlic infused olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.
  • Rub the veggies w/ garlic infused olive oil, place under the broiler for 3 – 5 minutes, on both sides. Of course you can grill other favorites such as tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus...
  • Chop the basil and garlic.
  • Crumble the feta.
  • Chop the olives in half.
  • Mix it all up gently (cooked quinoa is fragile!), let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Then…

  • Place the pine nuts in a non-stick pan, cook on low, constantly stirring to prevent burning; add these right before eating (so they do not become soggy!).

Note: Pine nuts are fabulously rich, adding not only a divine flavor to this or any dish, but are also a good source of mono- and poly- unsaturated fats and protein.

Enjoy!

Best Beets Recipe

Yep, it's true: Beets are delicious. If your memory of beets are from the canned, mushy slices your mom served you, be prepared to have your taste buds delighted and your body rejuvenated! Beets are nutrient dense and can be prepared in a very tantalizing way. Here's my favorite recipe:

Ingredients:

Red or golden beets or a mixture of both
Blue Cheese, crumbled
Turkish apricots
Candied pecans or walnuts
Balsamic vinegar

  1. Wash and wrap beets in foil, bake at 400 for 60 minutes. Let cool completely (several hours).
  2. Wearing kitchen gloves, rub the beets gently and the skin will fall right off.
  3. Clean up the beet tips.
  4. Chop into bite sized chunks.
  5. Add crumbled blue cheese, chopped turkish apricots and (optional) just a few candied pecans.
  6. Drizzle with good quality balsamic vinaigrette (I used fig) and sprinkle a tad of salt and pepper.
  7. This dish can be eaten at room temperature or cold from the fridge in the summer. Enjoy!

“Robin brings dedication, focus, passion, and intellect to whatever endeavor she is pursuing. She does not just talk about good health, she practices it thoroughly every day of her life. When she talks to clients about healthy lifestyle choices, they are able to see the effects of healthy choices by observing the woman in front of them!”
Arthur S., Client

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