With a little help from my friends

Last December, I made a commitment that, in 2011, I would think less, and act more. I haven't been as consistent as I would like to be, but I am conscious of my theme, and have it written on a sticky note above my desk so I don't forget.

There are times when I think about, dwell on, and dread what I should be doing, but I don't do it -- as is probably the case with most of you. A typical example is working out. I'll be watching the clock tick down to the time when I start to get dressed in my workout clothes. Sometimes I get carried away with something else and I don't notice how late it's gotten.

I used to look at the clock and say, "Oh well, it's too late." And just continue with whatever I was doing.

Now I look at the late hour on the clock, assess the rest of my day, and if I'm not in a time crunch, I get off my butt, put on my workout clothes and go.

Yesterday is a perfect example of how sometimes I need help to ACT -- even when the action is fun, not work.

I was eating dinner at a restaurant with hubby Rudy and friend Evelyn. The conversation was all about momentum, motivation and accountability. At one point, I mentioned something about planking, and how I would love to plank (pics) on one of the tables in the restaurant. After talking about it, scoping out good tables, discussing how the two of them would have to stabilize the table so I wouldn't fall off while getting into position, and talking about it some more, I basically chickened out.

Then, as we finished our food and got up to leave, Evelyn walked over to a table and grabbed onto the edge. I said, "Oh, are we doing this?" Rudy grabbed the other edge. And in an instant, I had dropped my bag, climbed onto the table, and had accomplished my first plank.

Now, this may seem like complete nonsense to you (but if you're reading this blog, then you must have a tiny sense of silliness in you somewhere), but I had been talking about doing this for weeks, and I finally did it. Sure, it's completely silly, but I like and need silly in my life, and I wanted to be part of this silly game playing out around the world.

Much like the nudge I needed to meet Kathy Griffin, as I described in my Starstruck post, Evelyn gave me that that little kick in the butt. No, I haven't finished either of my books. No, I haven't finished my online group coaching program. No, I haven't started packing for my move in three weeks. But YES, I planked on a table at Wahoo's restaurant, had a great laugh, and took a picture for posterity. I stopped thinking and started acting. Thanks, Evelyn!


Getting ready for 50

Lately, I find myself surrounded by articles, images and living examples of stylish, fit women in their fifties. I suddenly can't help noticing how many great-looking 50-year-olds there are here in Santa Barbara and elsewhere.

So maybe a lot of them can afford fitness trainers, weekly massages and manicures, facials and personal shoppers, but the fact remains, women in their fifties are looking hot.

Why am I suddenly obsessed with women in their fifties? Because I've got four years to get ready, and I need to get on the ball.

I was never prepared for aging, as most of us aren't, but I was excited to turn 30. I was so tired of everyone thinking I was still a college student, when I had accomplishments and achievements and life under my belt. Finally, I could say, "No, I'm not in college. I'm 30!" I felt I had come of age, a true grownup. I also gained weight for the first time in my life during my 30s, but easily exercised it away.

I was thrilled to turn 40. It was the year I walked away from the nonprofit I had founded and created my perfect career as a public speaking coach. I was coming into my own as a person and an entrepreneur, and feeling optimistic about the possibilities for my future. And I started noticing it was much harder to stay in shape through exercise; for the first time ever, I had to pay attention to my eating habits.

I'm not excited to turn 50. (Yet.) I feel more apprehension than anything else. My forties have been great, but also a wake-up call regarding my mental and physical health and fitness. I just can't screw around any more. I have four years to get my act together: I can either be a frumpy, dumpy 50-year-old who creaks and groans every time she gets up from the couch (and it's just downhill from there), or I can be a stylish and fit 50-year-old with joints and muscles that haven't completely deteriorated.

The grainy, fuzzy picture above of a half-eaten strawberry cake is symbolic of the journey I need to take, starting now. I need to approach my next four years with a new kind of discipline, a more mindful way of eating, exercising, taking care of myself and presenting myself. I don't mean discipline in a harsh or punishing way (and just to be clear, I don't believe in dieting). I mean the kind of discipline where I respect my body and what it's capable of.

That cake: It looked delicious in the case, but on the plate something was off. There was a chemical flavor to it, like artificially flavored jam. But I kept eating, thinking I would get used to it, or grow to like it. I mean, it was there.

It's easy to keep eating the bread in the bread basket, or the french fries that could serve an army, or the tortilla chips that keep coming with a new dish of fresh salsa.

But are they worth it? The question is no longer, "Are they good for me?" but rather, "Are they worth the extra weight, sluggishness and regret I'll experience if I'm not mindful of my eating?" And the answer is NO.

If I had ordered a rich Danish pastry, something that restaurant specializes in, I would not for a minute have hesitated to finish it. Because yes, some things are worth it. It would be a special treat and I would savor it.

But an off-tasting piece of strawberry cake is not worth it. A huge pile of generic french fries is not worth it. The second half of a gigantic burrito is not worth it. This is the lesson of my mid-forties.

1. I don't have to be angry that I can't eat everything I want or as much as I want. I just have to savor and relish the truly delectable foods I do eat, and eat them mindfully and in moderation.

2. I don't have to obsess over getting back the body of my 30s, when I was at the peak of my fitness. I just have to work out enough to keep my heart pumping, my joints flexible, my bones strong and my cholesterol at a reasonable level. Maintaining a healthy weight would be nice, too.

3. I don't have to resent dressing like a grownup (even a fun grownup). I can be comfortable in my clothes, while making a little more effort not to wear t-shirts and shorts every day. And for that matter, why do I always save certain jewelry, accessories and perfumes for special occasions? I need to pull those out, use and enjoy them.

As I've been looking back, I've also been looking forward. I want to carry the younger, feistier, more colorful me into my middle age. I also want to carry the older, wiser, more sensible and confident me forward. I want to live a long, happy, healthy life with my kitties, my husband, my family and friends.

I've made good strides over the years, and I'm on a good path. But the real work starts now. Four years to go... how will I do?


Sparkly fun with jewelry

Click images to see full size
I may not be as adventurous a dresser as I once was, but I do have a special affinity for funky jewelry, especially earrings.

From 2004-2007, I had a jewelry business. I made one-of-a-kind earrings, necklaces and bracelets from vintage, Venetian and art glass beads. I had been a jewelry artist as a hobby for decades, but at a time when I had been laid off my jobs in nonprofits three times in four years, it made sense to turn my hobby into a business.

Unfortunately, turning your favorite hobby into a business doesn't always work, and I found myself resisting the mass production that was going to be required in order for me to make a living at this. It stopped being fun to crank out 8-10 pairs of earrings in a day. And I had started my public speaking coaching business in 2005 that was starting to look like it would go somewhere.

I closed the jewelry business in 2007, and for probably a year, didn't pick up my tools. Slowly but surely, however, I've gotten back into my hobby, especially when I want to remake a piece for myself that I sold. It's fun again, it's a great creative outlet, and I take huge satisfaction in wearing my own handiwork.

It's gratifying to know that people still wear my jewelry; just the other day, a Twitter friend mentioned she had on a pair of my earrings, and when I met another friend for cocktails on Saturday, she was wearing some as well. I love seeing that my jewelry stands the test of time; it's not dated or out of style. It's a style all its own!

Here are a few of my favorite pieces, most of which now belong to someone else.