One Month At a Time

7222384_origAs we get ready to enter the last month of the year, I’ve been looking back and assessing my one-month-at-a-time plan that I began last January. At the beginning of the year I put myself on a vegan diet, and added exercise. The goal was to stay with what I was doing for one full month, assess how it was going and how I felt, and then adjust as necessary when a new month began.

I have to admit that while I started out with the best of intentions, the exercise part of plan did not go well. I began the year with waking early to take a walk, but quit that in a couple of weeks because a) I hated having to wake up so early, and b) the walk was difficult because of the hills and the bursitis in my hip. I switched over to riding my exercise bicycle three times a day which went well until the humidity returned in the spring. Even with fans operating and breezes blowing I sweated enough to make the whole process exceedingly uncomfortable, and that form of exercise was given up. Exercise was changed to taking walks with Brett, but problems arose even with that when the bursitis in my right hip flared up to dangerous levels and didn’t subside. Injuring my back at the end of August sent me into what has become a three-month stretch of pure sedentary living. A couch potato probably gets more exercise than I have these past three months.

I’ve been happy overall though at how differently I approach eating these days because of the one-month-at-a-time plan. I’ve gradually added most things back into my diet, but am far more conscious now of what and how much I’m eating and how it affects me. I am aware of how little I need of some foods in order to be satisfied. Meat (poultry, beef and pork) remain the only things that have not returned, but probably will this month, in very limited quantities. I am going to follow Mark Bittman’s approach in the coming days, vegan/vegetarian before 6:00 p.m., and then a more varied diet at dinner, with meat included, if desired.

There will be some other new changes appearing on December 1:

  • Now that I have a recumbent bicycle for exercise, I am going to ride 30 minutes/day, in two 15-minutes sessions. The humidity will be dealt with somehow.
  • I am going to drink eight glasses of water every day.

Both of these will be tracked. When I complete both every day for a month I will reward myself at the end of the month, something a bit more special than a coffee at Starbucks or some such thing.

One other activity beginning December 1 will be to spend at least 30 minutes a day studying/reviewing Japanese, and 10 minutes each day learning another language, maybe Italian or Spanish (again).

One month at a time.

About My Back

I’ve been complaining and whining here about my back for the last month or so, but I finally understand what happened and why, what I have to do to get well, and how long it’s going to take.

My current back injury is a long-term result of a catastrophic accident that occurred over 17 years ago. Two months after bringing WenYu home from China, I tripped over the baby gate we had installed at the bottom of the stairs in our house. My left kneecap hit the hardwood floor and shattered into five pieces. Before surgery, the doctor told Brett and I there was a possibility it could not be saved, and that I might not walk again. But, the doctor did a superb job and was able to repair the kneecap. It took a long time to heal, along with months of physical therapy. I can walk now, which is the most important thing, and will forever be grateful to the surgeon who repaired my knee, but there are things I’ve never been able to do since the accident, or do easily, like run, or walk down stairs or hills, or get up and down off the floor easily (which was hard when the girls were little).

Although I appear to walk normally, I’ve actually been favoring my broken knee ever since, and over the years developed a wicked case of bursitis in my hips, especially my right hip. It’s been getting worse over the past couple of years to the point where after walking for around a half hour or so I experience intense, burning pain. Over time my body has come up with all sorts of strategies to protect both my knee and my hips, and my current back problems are directly related to the bursitis in my right hip. During my long day of travel at the end of August, I hurt my back because I was protecting my hip which was still trying to protect my knee. Both my doctor and the physical therapist said a large knot had formed in my lower back, a mess of muscle and nerves.

After my first PT session I felt awful. The session itself hadn’t been painful, but I felt like the therapist had opened up a bag of poison that had been growing inside of me. I came home and slept for two and half hours, the longest nap I’ve ever taken, and the next morning I woke up feeling more sore than I had in weeks. But, as I went through the day I began to feel better and better and with a couple of exceptions I feel like I’m finally on the right track.

Besides helping my back to heal, the therapist and I will be working on retraining my back and hips so that the bursitis won’t flare up again, or at least not as much as it does now. The physical therapist will be using massage and exercise over the next few weeks to get things back to where they should be. The very good news is that I don’t have arthritis or spinal problems, which was a concern.

It’s going to take several weeks to accomplish the PT goals. I have to continue to spend time lying down, more than I would like, to rest my back. I’m going to have to resist trying to get up to “do it all” again. I felt good enough to go to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, but that proved to be a mistake and I came home in agony. So, short walks and small chores will be it for a while still. Brett and YaYu will continue to take over most of the household duties until I can ease back in to them.

I dislike being sick or injured, so I will get better. There’s a whole world waiting for me out there!

How to Travel Solo and Fall in Love With It

RIshikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, www.bartnikowski.com
Rishikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Myth: it costs a lot to travel.

Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.

It was fun.

The truth is I love to travel solo.

I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.

When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!

I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.

You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.

I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.

I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.

I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.

Advice.

Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.

Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.

You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.

I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.

It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.

So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.

Freedom!

One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.

If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.

If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.

First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.

For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.

I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.

No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.

It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse Siem Reap, www.bartnikowski.com
Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse, Siem Reap, http://www.bartnikowski.com

You meet so many people!

When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.

They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.

Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.

Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.

Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.

Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, www.bartnikowski.com
Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Safety.

Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.

Your body knows before your mind. Listen.

And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.

Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.

A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.

Change Your Life, join Mary on Kauai July to December for a 3-day luxury private retreat, learn yoga and photography on the best island in the world.

 

Be Happy

Be-happy“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

It’s one of the great opening sentences of all times, because you know right away that you are going to be reading someone’s unhappy story, which I assume is what Tolstoy knew would keep people reading. Discontent sells.

With the advent of the Internet, and blogs, and people openly writing about their daily lives and problems these days, I think though that Tolstoy might have to flip that opening sentence around these days. It seems like unhappy people are more alike than different, but truly happy people are content in their own way.

I have known people my whole life who are not “happy” unless they’re unhappy, and want you commiserating along with them. These people often have interesting jobs, nice homes, are financially secure, they and their families are healthy, and yet they are always complaining about something, or asking you to feel sorry for them or excuse their bad behavior because don’t you know they’re having a bad day/month/year? Why can’t you respect their misery or understand how hard their life is? Something is always going wrong and it’s not their fault! They seem to have an inability to see how good they have it compared to almost everyone else, or are obsessed with what others have or are doing. They seem disinterested in figuring out ways to overcome or rise above whatever is bothering them, or accept responsibility for their own agency. They choose to be unhappy and they are.

One of the benefits of being invited into others’ lives, whether in a book or a blog, or real time, has been not only learning and thinking about new things, but also realizing that there are many and different ways to achieve happiness. And, what works for one person or family, and brings them joy or contentment, will not necessarily work for me or my family. Every person, every family has their own unique way of finding happiness or contentment, and their own ways of dealing with the obstacles of daily life. Each person or family defines happiness, contentment, gratification, whatever you want to call it in their own way, and no one gets to define them for anyone else. We really don’t even get to have an opinion about it (although we of course always do). If there is a sameness to others’ contentment or happiness, as Tolstoy contends, it’s that it takes work and commitment to maintain it. It’s easier to complain, to sulk, to criticize, to whine, to look for or expect the negative than it is to remain positive and cheerful, even in the face of obstacles. It’s often easier to point the finger at others rather than focus on our own lives and what we could change or do differently to increase our own happiness.

No one lives a life free of trouble, worry or unhappiness; I certainly don’t. I have days when it seems like everything is going wrong. Bad things happen sometimes. There are days when I’d like nothing better than to get on this blog and vent. But, I also worry less these days than I did in the past because I finally figured out that problems have solutions and that things will eventually be resolved. Maybe not always the way I’d prefer, but they will work themselves out. I know that tomorrow will not be the same as today. As written in the I Ching, “you cannot step in the same river twice.” Nothing lasts, everything changes, and while things may not always get “better” right away or the way I want or even at all, things will at least get different. And, different will eventually change as well, and sometimes different is the best we can hope for.

I have far, far more good in my life these days than bad. We have enough, more than enough really. We’re healthy. We’re living the life we dreamed of and worked for. You can choose to be happy, and I choose happiness.

Not A Poodle

bigstock-Standard-Poodle-7733433-Bigstock-Danielkz

This past December, as Brett, I and the girls were heading out to dinner with our son and his family, I made my usual obligatory remarks about my weight, that I had gained too much, that I was changing shape again, yada, yada, yada. The girls reply: “Mom. Stop trying to be a poodle.”

A what?

A poodle. Why, they asked, was I trying to or wanting to become a poodle all of the time? We don’t expect dogs to change their breed’s characteristics, even though they’re all dogs, so why do we expect to be able to change our own?

I was not born tall, or lean. I do not have long legs or slim hips and have always erred on the side of being overweight. I have small, wide feet. I have thinnish curly hair that grayed prematurely. I have blue eyes, fair skin with freckles, and I sunburn easily. Why couldn’t I be happy with who I am? the girls asked. They thought I looked terrific, and Brett agreed with them.

When we got home that night, WenYu shared the following video with me. She had used it in as part of a presentation she gave on body image, and women’s seemingly unceasing need to make ourselves over into something we are not, pushed along by both science and society.

The video was a genuine attitude-changer for me, and has helped me look at myself in a whole new light. I eat a wide variety of healthy foods, limit my alcohol intake, and get enough exercise. I am not obese. I am in good health, both physically and mentally. I have a loving family and good friends, and am living where and how I want, with little to no stress. And that should be good enough.

It is these days. No more dieting, no more scales, no more worrying about my size. It’s been positively freeing. I am not a poodle, don’t want to be a poodle, and am not trying to be a poodle any more.

Recently, there’s also been some icing on the metaphorical cake (so to speak). Scientists now think that being overweight, or slightly obese, can actually protect your health.

#Kauai: Yoga and Photography on Kauai

I love helping people discover this stunning island, that I finally found after searching the world for it.

Suddenly I floated down into paradise when I got off the plane, the first time I arrived.

The truth is I feel that way every time I come home to Kauai.

I just led my most recent private luxury retreat here, for my amazing couple from Australia. They came all the way from another continent to learn yoga and photography with me. Lyn will tell you how she felt about the retreat better than I can as she actually did the retreat and didn’t want to go home.

Check out the video above.

The best thing is seeing your delight when you finally get away from your busy life and breathe in the jaw drop amazing nature here, the sparkling clean air, and the papayas and starfruit that make your palate sing.

Don’t put off your own peace of mind and relaxation. It makes your life richer to have had a recharging and rejuvenating time in a powerful place. I didn’t do this so much when I lived in the center of Silicon Valley working 18 hours a day.

I didn’t notice I was impossibly pushing myself. I loved what I was doing – shooting and writing but when you don’t get to the ocean and you live 30 minutes away – that’s just criminal!

Now that I swim in the ocean daily, I can’t even get my mind and heart around the idea of not doing it. The ocean is all the medicine you’ll ever need. It makes everything new again.

Photo Credit www.bartnikowski.com
Photo Credit: www.bartnikowski.com

Discover what people love about Kauai that words can’t describe, the sacred quality, the amazing food, the mesmerizing turquoise of the water, it’s all here.

Join me on Kauai to get a new lease on life. Learn more here.

Photo Credit www.bartnikowski.com
Photo Credit: www.bartnikowski.com

#Kauai: Helicopter Tour

Absolutely the best thing I’ve done on Kauai!

I’ve lived on this magical island for 2 years. But this opened my eyes all the way to my toes.

Soaring over the plunging velvety emerald cliffs and mesmerizing turquoise waters was a jolt to my soul.

How could all this amazing enchantment be sparkling in the now moment and I’ve never seen it?

I fell more deeply in love with this 25 x 33 miles tiny island. But no, it’s not so tiny. The power of the landscape made me tingle for hours, it was like having a crush on a hunky man turn into true love.

I was floating. My eyes grew new nerve endings, I could see more clearly and my heart busted open in gratitude.

Wonder and awe guide my life now. And I’ve never been more grateful that I sold my belongings, explored the world, moved to an island, and decided to be happy.

You can change your life. It all starts with that whispering in your spirit that says, yes go that way or no that is not for you.

Listen to it, even if it doesn’t make sense. Logic is not final wisdom.

Would your friends and family tell you not to move to another country or convert a used shipping container into a home? I am considering this.

Don’t live anyone’s life but your own.

It’s enough to do that one thing in your life. Truly live what is in your heart.

Yes courage takes practice. But there’s no other time like right now to start practicing.

Kickstart your motivation here, in my new video on the beach in Poipu.

Mary Bartnikowski, is an author, award winning photographer, and speaker. She has led programs at Apple Computer, Stanford, Intel, and worldwide.

Stay in touch with Mary and get her free ebook, Secrets of Stunning Photographs.

Go with www.sunshinehelicopters.com

Life in the Himalayas

bartnikowski.com
Rishikesh, India, http://www.bartnikowski.com

My First Trip to Rishikesh, India, 2006

I’m in India where cows roam the streets and I feed them from a doggie bag after dinner.

I’m looking at a cow right now. It’s standing outside the door of the Internet on the other side of the glass.

I think this one knows me.

My cow friends find me after I eat. They come charging down the dirt road with glee in their eyes ready to grab my leftovers. So I can’t very well eat them now can I?

We’re staying in an ashram on the Ganges River and not moving.

This morning wild monkeys who looked like burglars woke us up by peering into our barred windows.

But it’s way calmer than yesterday when I flagged down a big rig in Southern Nepal after the bus we were waiting for failed to arrive.

The truck driver gave us a lift for a few hundred Nepalese rupees. About $3 US. Two hours later the driver had to perform mechanical magic on his engine and we stopped for an hour to wait.

Time is fluid here.

One must be creative in the transportation department in the Himalayas. Busses are packed to the brim. So my son showed me how to climb up on the bus roof for a seat. The view was spectacular but I had to tell a man sitting next to me to stop spitting in the wind as his spittle was sliding dangerously close to my cashmere sweater.

He looked at me like I was from Pluto but he did stop after I gestured for him to spit on the ground twelve feet below us.

I’m so glad I had my son – he’s been my bodyguard here in India. When I’m alone I get hassled but with him, I’m protected.

So now that I’ve left Nepal I have some insights on it:

Little Known Facts about Nepal, the Rooftop of the World

If you see a sink in a bathroom don’t assume turning on the faucet will produce water. I now consider plumbing a luxury.

Don’t believe anything you read in the US press about the political situation in Nepal. It is highly exaggerated. I’m now used to seeing mostly handsome men walking around wearing fatigues with rifles slung over their shoulders cruising the streets. As soon as they see our white USA faces we are waved through every security checkpoint. They need our rupees here and we don’t look like Maoist insurgents.

The Maoists kill policemen not tourists.” My son said to comfort me.

Tourism is down to zilch due to the exaggerated claims of violence. But last week the police did find a house full of Maoist artillery in Pokhara, the tiny mountain town we vacationed in a few days ago.

There are lots of security checkpoints if you are riding in a car. If you’re walking, no problem. They immediately wave you through with the barrels of their rifles.

The Nepalese people are gorgeous and feed you constantly. I just learned the word for “enough.” Its pujo. I think.

Toilet paper is an extravagance. Public bathrooms have none. Men don’t need it so it’s not provided. It’s helpful to have strong thighs for the Eastern toilets. Squatting is a more relaxed pose for elimination and I’m now trained for this procedure.

Now, we’re in Rishikesh, India, a holy village on the Ganges River, which does feel sacred when you stick your feet in it. Rishikesh is the birthplace of yoga but all I did today was get a massage from Gita.

The young whippersnapper did yoga but after hearing how difficult it was I decided to just get a massage. Thank heavens I had him. He’s a fine courageous young man and far more calm than I am.

And because of him I have been washed of all sin.

Let me explain.

Wolf asked me to go river rafting with a few other youngsters on the Ganges River. I mentioned it was Winter now, but after being drenched with river waves over our heads I was spiritually cleansed and felt much younger.

The worry lines faded from my forehead. I barely recognized myself.

And I was just going to read a book that day.

It is a known fact that bathing in the Ganges purifies you. Look Ma, no sin.

I feel lighter. And definitely sin-free.

There is no meat, eggs, or alcohol in town. I just asked for an omelet and even though I was so hungry I was gnawing on my foot they denied me. Then the waiter didn’t know what a grilled cheese sandwich was and brought me cold cheese with raw vegetables between frigid slices of white bread.

My stomach was shell shocked from lentil beans on tap but my son said, “Just eat it, Ma.” He’s more cultural savvy and accepting than I am.

I did eat it after sending it back and getting another culinary surprise. This time it was toasted bread with frozen cheese and a well-iced tomato.

I’ll just go back to eating dal baht. What did I expect on the rooftop of the world? Unfrozen cheddar and Skippy peanut butter?

This is a true tale from my book, Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, Adventures of a Female Vagabond. Read the reviews on it and check out my 3 other books here.

My Best Photography from the Himalayas here.

Get my Free ebook, Secrets of Stunning Photographs,

my life’s work in 37 pages 

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Check It Out and Read the Reviews Here

#Kauai: Power Places

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Anini Beach, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Suddenly I was on Kauai. My toes tingled and my skin sparkled. 

My mouth dropped open in wonder and awe.

The power of this island surged up from the floor of my soul and out the top of my head. Happy I listened to that urge inside me to leave Hawaii Island and discover Kauai.

I’d been looking for this enchanted place in 32 countries and I never found it until now.

I knew I was home. 

I didn’t think I’d live in the USA again after traveling for 8 years worldwide. But when I found myself lying in the road after a brutal motorbike accident in Thailand, my heart whispered Hawaii.

So with 3 pieces of luggage I came home to the USA and landed in Honolulu, Hawaii not knowing a soul. I’ve never been more thrilled to see the Welcome to the United States of America sign in international arrivals. But this one had hula dancers on it.

Kauai happens to you. And your life is never the same. In the 18 months I’ve lived on this island I continue to discover new secrets that sing to my spirit, and when I visit a powerful place I love I am re-ignited with passion and purpose for my home.

Yesterday I went to Anini Beach in the above photo, and when I got there my heart busted open with gratitude. This is why I live here! Turquoise as far as the eye can see.

You’re dunked in killer beauty and pristine air. Swimming in diamond clear water that wild turtles love to be in!

This place heals you. My toothache disappeared. 

So I’m having dental surgery tomorrow. And I know in the depth of my being, at the core of my spirit that it kicked me into a greatly improved mindset to commune with turtles on Anini Beach.

Maybe I’ll go there right now to get another infusion of fairy dust, see my sea turtle friends, and soar to heaven and back without getting on a plane.

Speaking of that, I went on a helicopter ride and saw all my power places from the sky and it blew my brain cells out of my mind.

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Flying Over Kalapaki Bay, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

I was speechless and that is not an every day thing for me. You feel the radiance of cascading waterfalls, lush emerald green cliffs, and a beckoning bewilderingly blue coastline that delivers instant transformation and peace as you fly over this sacred rock in the middle of the ocean. You feel blessed.

It made me see that you can fly without your body, you just have to steep yourself in a powerful place that calls to you.

Surrender to what you loved as a child. Go see that place on the other side of the world that floats up in your heart when you’re dreaming. You’ll never be the same again. 

Next Post: the video of flying over Kauai in a helicopter.

Mary Bartnikowski, author of 4 books, award-winning photographer, and educator. She has led programs worldwide and at Apple, Stanford University, and Intel.

Join me on Kauai and Discover the Power Places of Kauai. Learn Photography with any Camera, Get Incredible Photos Guaranteed and Change Your Life, includes Luxury Accommodation.

Learn More Here.

Aging Gracefully

Mom's college graduation portrait, 1945
Mom’s college graduation portrait, 1945

My mother will celebrate her 92nd birthday this coming April. She’s been an active and independent woman all her life, and has lived on her own and forged her own path for over 40 years (my parents divorced in 1974). She currently lives in an assisted living community, but for the past couple of years her memory has been fading, and the facility coordinator is now saying it may be time for Mom to move to “memory care” or another place where she can receive more direct care.

Mom is still ambulatory, gets herself to meals on time and feeds herself, dresses herself, and doesn’t require any assistance with hygiene other than her three weekly baths in the facility’s whirlpool tub. After spending time in the sun nearly her whole life, starting when she was a child growing up in southern California, she only recently developed basal cell carcinoma in three places. She had a heart attack nearly 20 years ago, and has diminished lung function (even though she never smoked) but otherwise is in good health for her age. She has outlived all of her peers and her immediate family even though she was the oldest child/cousin. It appears her body will outlast her memory.

I genuinely hope to live as long as my mother has, and stay as active as she has for most of her life. Mom was still traveling abroad when she was in her 80s, still taking math classes (she was a math and biology teacher), and still running a small craft business. Until a couple of years ago she always kept a garden. Other than going to the hospital to have her four children, she never had stayed overnight in a hospital until she fell and broke her hip in late 2014 and needed surgery. It’s been very difficult to see her struggle with memory issues, and unable to remember things that use to come so easily to her.

Mom comes from a time when many believed that medicine could solve any problem – it was reactive versus preventative. She was never particularly careful about her diet – she loved sweets and always ate too much salt, among other things. She was a human whirlwind, but never regularly exercised other than doing some not-too-strenuous walking. For all the time she spent in the sun, she never used sunscreen.  She has lived with a family history of cancer, diabetes and heart disease hanging over her, and she has familial high cholesterol (which I inherited).

However, except for certain interludes, her life has been relatively stress free. She has kept her weight mostly under control. She has done what makes her happy. Up until the last five or six years, she still traveled all over. She loved seeing new things and having new experiences. She was always reading something, enjoyed doing jigsaw and other puzzles, kept up with her craft business, and loved watching the Denver Broncos play football. She found ways to help others or give her time and talents. All of these helped contribute to her longevity and quality of life.

My own goal for aging gracefully is to follow a modified “Mom Plan:” I am being careful about what I eat and making an effort to get more exercise. I’m more proactive about my health (and my skin!) and am going to try to not to have to rely on more and more medication as I age. I hope to still be traveling abroad when I’m in my 80s, and enjoying experiences with Brett, our children and grandchildren. I don’t ever want to lose a sense of wonder about the world, or refuse the opportunity to learn something new or have my mind changed about something. I want to continue on as a life-long learner, and keep my mind active every day with reading, writing, trying new things, going places, doing puzzles, staying connected with others, and keeping up with what’s going on in the world. Like Mom, I want to live as stress-free as possible, stay positive about life, and do the things that make me happy. I want to continue to give myself things to look forward to, set goals and figure out how to achieve those things. And, I want to remember every day all the many blessings that I have been given in this wonderful life.

Atul Gawande, in his book Being Mortal, posits that while we are not born pre-programmed for how long we will live, genetics doesn’t actually have all that much to do with longevity. Mom has lived a long time, as did her mother, but it’s no guarantee that I will. But, like my Mom, I intend to make the most of every day I’m given, and age as gracefully as possible.

Thank you, Mom, for everything.