All posts by doloresh

Read about fascinating Matera

One of the gifts of being over sixty (actually, well past 60) is the freedom to enjoy learning about other people who inhabit our beautiful planet.

Recently I visited Sicily and Southern Italy. One of the most eye-opening visits was to the ancient urban structure of the Sassi dwellings in Matera in the Basilicata region of Sicily. Known as the Sassi, the inhabitants lived in caves carved out of the side of the mountain. If you enlarge the photo (click to enlarge), you can see how the dwellings and churches seem to be stacked on each other as well as the lava draped over some of the buildings.

photo of Matera Sassi dwellings

Matera Ancient Cave Dwellings – Click on photo

Used by international film directors as a setting for biblical movies, the area looks like an ancient Jerusalem. You may see this background in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of The Christ.”

The idea that people lived in caves as late as the mid-20th Century is mind -boggling. Conditions were such that these people kept their livestock in the caves with them, sometimes for warmth in the winter. They had no running water and often they had only enough food for one meal and that meal went to the worker in the family.

With the most valuable possession being the donkey that could carry the worker to a farm in hope of finding a day’s work, it slept inside the cave with the family. To say that sanitary conditions were the worst possible is an understatement. Poor health was a trademark for the Sassi.

Needless to say, illness and starvation played a large part in their everyday lives.

Ironically, these deplorable living conditions took place midst the lush, bountiful farms that surround the area. Driving outside the area you can see verdant valleys bursting with grapes, figs, apples, pistachios, kiwi, wheat, and many other crops.

How could this happen? Were the Sassi afraid of change and kept to themselves?

The government ignored the conditions until an Italian writer, Carlo Levi wrote about it in the novel “Cristo si e Fermato a Eboli” (the Shame of Italy). Levi was an Italian writer and anti-fascist activist who was exiled to the Basilicata region where he encountered these people. In the late 50′s, the government forcibly evicted the Sassi because the conditions were becoming too public.

Going through this area I felt a sense of awe, incredulity, and gratitude that I live where I do. It also made me feel somewhat helpless knowing that there are probably many people in the world living under similar conditions. Always underneath such horror is fear…fear of change, of being killed and the worst to me is fear of God.

Exploration of this part of Italian history was a bit daunting; however, modern day Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you would like to view some of the wonder and beauty of Italy, I’ve posted some photos on Facebook. This link opens the album without your having to sign in to Facebook. When there, click on each photo to enlarge and the narratives will be on the right-hand column just below the photo of me. That way you can take a mini-trip with me.

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Don’t ever give up on your dreams

I have been following this amazing woman, Diana Nyad, for a long time and have read her accounts of the challenges she has faced in her attempts to swim 110 miles from Havana, Cuba to the treacherous Florida straits. The last time she attempted the swim, she was attacked by jellyfish numerous times, the current was against her, and despite her heroic attempts, she had to give up and get medical attention.

To me, the pain and exhaustion that she endured on her last trip (maybe this one too) is hard to imagine.

Now on this fifth courageous attempt she finally realized her dream.

What’s so inspiring to me is that despite a discouraging and painful attempt on the fourth swim, she still didn’t give up on her dream. Instead she took steps to figure out what didn’t work and did everything she could to prevent the jelly fish attacks as well as the possible shark attacks since she was swimming without a shark cage.

She is a great example of what can be accomplished if a dream is strong enough, no matter what your age.

What we can all learn from is that being over age 60 is NOT a limiting factor (we’re not over the hill). To quote 64-year old Diana, “I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

Here are two related articles as well as the article from the New York Times.

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The most important cleaning you can do

It’s Spring again…the traditional time for clearing, cleaning, reorganizing. You know, it’s the season where transformations of the best kind take place. Crisp, sunny days, birds nesting, the beauty of Spring flowers…a rebirth in nature.

photo of spring flowers

Spring Flowers at Mosque in Oman

Spring is usually when we get in the mood for clearing clutter and freshening our homes. Often, though, we give little thought to clearing the most important clutter of all..the thoughts and relationships that no longer serve us or bog us down.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could start with a clean slate by discarding what might be robbing us of our happiness and wouldn’t it feel good to clean up all the emotional clutter that’s been carried around for years? I always picture mind clutter as dead weight dragging me down, keeping me from feeling the ultimate freedom of pure joy.

Strange how we can discard physical items we no longer need but when it comes to giving up the stories we’ve created around childhood hurts (real or imagined), betrayal from a spouse or sibling, the dressing down from a teacher, a back-stabbing co-worker, we hang on to our hurts and anger like treasures we’re afraid to lose. Why is that?

I’ve observed that it’s partly habitual thinking…part of our identity. Without our stories, we could lose who we are even if we’re not happy with who we are. At this stage in life, maybe we’re wise enough to have discarded a lot of those stories yet, sadly, some continue to haunt us.

Could these be some of the life lessons that will give us the biggest learning?

In my younger years, I was quick to judge and be the self-appointed critic with remarks often disguised as wit and humor. Some of these remarks still haunt me as I think back on the people hurt by my eagerness to appear witty, especially those I’ll never see again. If I could reach them, I would ask for their forgiveness but since they’re gone from my life, I’ve worked hard to forgive myself and to work on my patience and judgment. The person I find hardest to forgive is me.

I believe that the act of forgiveness is heroic. I also believe that we have many opportunities to be the heroes in our own lives because clearing mind clutter is an ongoing process, much like the closets we clean out seasonally.

Hard though it may be, if there’s someone who needs your forgiveness, take the first step and connect with them. You’ll feel less clutter in your head and that clutter may even be replaced by a feeling of elation. This is true whether you’re forgiving yourself or someone else.

 

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Celebrating Women

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to honor women and the amazing creatures we are.  It’s also a day of inspiration and a time to thank those women who have made it possible for today’s women to be who she is meant to be.

Here are three of my favorite women who have made a difference in women’s lives. Anthony for her fight to secure women’s vote, Roosevelt who fought for civil rights, and Keller who became an inspiration for people with a handicap. Each one had a special gift to give, was passionate about it and set out to reach her dreams in service to others. Here are some of my favorite quotes from them:

____________________

“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball-the further I am rolled,The more I gain.”  

Susan B. Anthony Talks to Voters from the Grave

Susan B. Anthony Talks to Voters from the Grave (Photo credit: Occupy* Posters)

 Susan B. Anthony

 A courageous woman and Women’s Rights leader, Anthony played a pivotal role in the 19th century women’s rights movement to introduce women’s suffrage into the United States. We have her and the women who joined her to thank for the privilege we have to vote. Could we be like the snowball?

Eleanor Roosevelt: political activist, First L...

Eleanor Roosevelt: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The future belongs to those who believe in the

Beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

The First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, Eleanor Rossevelt assumed a role as an advocate for civil rights. We owe her thanks for advancing the Civil Rights Movement. How beautiful are our dreams?

 

 The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched …

 They must be felt in the heart” 

Helen Adams Keller

Helen Keller

Helen Keller (Photo credit: Arabani)

American author, political activist and lecturer, Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

We can thank her for showing us that handicapped people are as capable and brilliant as those of us who have not been afflicted with such obstacles. What obstacles are we facing? What beauty is in our souls?

_____________________________

As you read through this article, you can ask yourself, “What gift do I have to give the world?” Start with your special talent, your passion, your love of something. It could be photography, art, music, a love of nature, a memoir, or simply the joy of laughter. Share your love, talents, passions to honor all the women you know and love (and even this article if it moves you).

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10 tips to help you lose weight

Still working on those ten/twenty pounds? What if we could change a few habits and lose 10-20 pounds without having to “diet.” The truth is that as we get older, it’s harder to lose and maintain a healthy weight and dropping a lot of weight too quickly will send you back on a yo-yo trip. Going slowly by changing habits that don’t serve you will take more effort but the effects will be long-lasting.

picture of vegetables

At the local Farmer’s Market

Here are some guidelines or reminders to help you on your way to looking and feeling sensational:

  1. Eat when ONLY you’re hungry.
  2. Food is fuel, not therapy or a drug. Don’t use food as a drug or as a way to comfort yourself or to beat yourself up.
  3. Watch serving sizes and read the ingredients on prepared food.
  4. Eat what your body wants, not what your mind or emotions want. Your mind can rationalize reasons to have something that doesn’t serve you well. Pay attention to your body. It will tell you the truth. 
  5.  Eat slowly and until you’re satisfied and no more.
  6. Snacks are snacks, not meals!
  7. Eat what’s good for your body not what old habits lead you to.
  8. If you can shop at a Farmer’s Market, take advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies that are in season.
  9. Eat with enjoyment, attention and pleasure. If you take the pleasure away what’s the point?
  10. Experiment and have fun with different fruits and vegetables in main dishes, salads, soups and desserts.

Start today and you’ll be on the road to a healthier, more fabulous you!

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Happy Thanksgiving and a couple of easy recipes

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo of Thanksgiving Birthday Cake

A memorable Thanksgiving birthday cake

 

About every five years my birthday falls on Thanksgiving so my birthday candles have appeared in pies, puddings, seldom in a birthday cake. This year, I’ve decided to combine the cake and pumpkin pie. It’s from Paula Dean’s recipe for “Gooey Pumpkin Squares.”

When I read about the different menus and ideas, I find that the most debated item on the Thanksgiving table is the stuffing. In or out of the turkey? Sausage or no sausage? Giblets or raisins or nuts? Everyone seems to favor one kind or another. My mom put chili and raisins in hers. It was not my favorite. You can download My Favorite Stuffing for Turkey if you prefer a lighter stuffing with mostly vegetables you probably already have.

Preparing the Thanksgiving meal is a big deal and everyone has their favorite way to celebrate. For some it’s about the turkey, for some it’s about the pies and for many, it’s about the football games.

Regardless of the bounty on the table for many of us, Thanksgiving really is about setting aside a day for being with friends and family or finding ways to serve those who need help.

I’m grateful for the support of family and friends and especially for you, dear reader. May your day be full of appreciation and blessings in abundance.

 

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When inspiration comes from perspiration

Lately I’ve had writer’s block and haven’t posted an article for a while. When I hit a dry spell I look around for writing prompts or turn to my journal and stare at it for a while before I close it. Then I look for the next way to escape from “doing the thing” I promised myself I would do.

Do you ever have those moments? Hours? Days?

photo of crumpled papers

Maybe the next draft will do it…

Sometimes when I want to try something different I’ll write a Nonet. This is a newer type of poetry where you start with nine syllables, the next line has eight, then seven and on down to one syllable. It’s fun and I discovered that it’s like a puzzle that’s not impossible for non-poets like myself. Here’s one I wrote:

Blogging

My mind is like a desert wasteland

Nothing to say a lot to do

Why waste another’s time too

With words that don’t inspire

Or lighten the heart

That don’t sparkle

How I do

Stay in

Touch?

Strange how just struggling over the challenge of putting words into an unfamiliar form or doing something I’ve been putting off can change my energy. Call it perspiration for inspiration or butt in gear. Of course this works with most things that keep us stuck, be it exercise, diet, relationships, etc. We can get stuck just on decisions we’re trying to make.

If you’re feeling stuck on something, why not try something new or something you’re not comfortable with? Explore the discomfort and see what comes up for you.

In my Nonet I found that if I don’t have anything to say or write about, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I can also see that it’s important to me that I help “lighen the heart.”

If you’re stuck on something, may I help you lighten your heart? If so, I’d love to work through that with you.

Just contact me (doloreshagen@gmail.com) and  I’ll be happy to gift you with a half-hour coaching consultation.

 

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Why a Client Nearly Lost Her Pants

I was thrilled when a client told me she had put on a pair of pants she hadn’t worn for a couple of months and as she walked out the door, she noticed they were very loose. She took a few steps and they dropped about four inches and she had to quickly pull them up.

Why was I thrilled? Because she wants to improve her health and has been working very hard to lose weight. This story told me that the results are truly beginning to show…BIG time!

How has she done this?

Mainly by being aware of and slowly changing her eating habits.

I don’t believe that diets work because most weight-loss diets are too restrictive. Given this belief, we used a different to approach the problem; that is, we worked on changing beliefs, ideas and habits that result in unhealthy eating and an unhealthy body.

What I know to be true is that losing weight gained over a long time can’t be fixed in a few weeks! Yet I see women who don’t have the patience to stick with a program, especially when they have a few setbacks (and there WILL be setbacks) revert to fast fixes, a sure path to a downhill slide and even more weight gain.

Other dangerous times are when we hit that dreaded plateau and the scale doesn’t move. We can feel we’ve failed, the process isn’t working, and many simply give up.

If you’re thinking of losing a few or a lot of weight, here are some questions to ask yourself before starting a steady, lasting, weight-loss program.

  1. Why do I want to lose weight?
  2. What will losing that extra weight do for me?
  3. What will not losing the excess pounds do for me?

The most important of these questions is the “why.” If you want to lose weight and don’t know the “why,” then a commitment to the process will be fleeting and possibly a failure. This is the key to overcoming setbacks including the patience to work through the plateau.

With Halloween and the holiday season coming up, this is the time to decide how you want to look and feel during and after the holidays. Perhaps this is a good time to decide how you want to be at the start of the year. Remember, it starts with those little Halloween treats that look so tiny they couldn’t possibly harm you…you know the tempting little “bite size” Snickers, Milky Way and Baby Ruth kind.

Final thought: Love yourself no matter what your weight is. Love your body. It’s the only one you have.

How have you handled the holiday eating whirlwind? I’d love to hear from you.

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Even smart people can get scammed

There seems to be a proliferation of scam calls, many of which we’ve been warned about before. The scammers have become so sophisticated, however, that even smart people can fall into their carefully laid-out traps. Here’s a story about what happened to a friend this week who, though embarrassed about having been the victim, wanted others to know the details and who hopefully will not fall prey to a similar situation.

My friend received a call from “his nephew” who asked if his “favorite” uncle would help him out. The story went like this: Said nephew was having marital troubles, stopped at a bar to have a drink, decided to spend the night with a friend, came across a road block, his alcohol level was a bit over the legal limit and he was now in jail…a horrible jail….where he did not want to spend another minute.

According to the nephew, bail was set at $1,800.50 and the court wouldn’t take a check or credit card to pay the fine. He didn’t want my friend to call his dad (my friend’s brother) because he didn’t want them to know about his marriage being somewhat rocky.

My friend was asked to have a Moneygram transfer to a local drug store where his attorney could pick up the check and pay his fine. And, oh yes, it had to be done before 2:00 p.m. Pacific time because the court closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. When he had completed the transaction, he was to call an 800 number, dial a certain extension, and give the Moneygram confirmation number to the “attorney.”

The number was an 800 number that answered via answering machine, “County Court’s Office.” When he dialed the extension, a woman who said she was the nephew’s attorney took the confirmation number and said, “He can make two calls and the second call will be to you to let you know he’s been bailed out.” Of course that never happened.

In retrospect, he says he could have done a few things differently, like think with his head, not his generous heart.

Any one of us can be emotionally triggered when a family member or dear friend is in trouble, and this is what these scammers prey upon. Unfortunately, it works a lot of the time, especially when something is as well planned out as this was.

Think about it. Anyone can get an 800 number and put whatever message they want on it.  Moneygrams require cash payments and you’re given a confirmation number so that it can be picked up anywhere there’s a Moneygram facility.

The scary part is that the scammers seemed to know something about my friend’s family; i.e., nephew’s name, that he was recently wed, that his father and my friend were brothers. Since he doesn’t take part in social media, they had to get the information somewhere and that part remains a mystery.

Speaking of scams, here’s one more that surprised me. I’ve recently received many calls, some political and many “out of area” calls. One number I looked up by area code was from Costa Rica. Another one was from Washington. Out of curiosity I called that number and the immediate answering machine said, “Please enter your ‘do not call’ numbers.” I didn’t but looked up the correct number for that service. What I found surprised me. Take a look here. https://www.donotcall.gov/

Some final word of caution:

  1. Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know. That includes calls that say your son, mother, daughter has been in an accident, is in jail, or anyone who promises you riches being held for you if you only send them money so it can be released.
  2. Be careful about giving personal information to strangers, to workers who are repairing your home, garden or car.
  3. Do not give your Social Security number to anyone who calls you to “verify” any of your accounts.
  4. Check everything out, including promises of mortgage loans at a low cost, quick loans of any kind and “out of area” calls.
  5. Always review your checking account, bank statements and especially credit card statements.
  6. Call your bank or credit card number immediately if you find charges you don’t understand.
  7. Report fraud to police department. Many scams are not reported because of embarrassed victims.

For more information, here’s the consumer affairs website for you to check out.

 

 

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Is where you live healthy for your skin?

Our skin is the biggest organ we have and deserves the best of care. Perhaps where we live can make a difference in how quickly our skin ages. I’ve noticed that in the different countries I’ve visited there is definitely a difference in the texture and health of skin.

Nature’s brilliance in providing the amount of melanin natives of different countries are born with has always been a source of awe for me. Seems that the closer to the Equator we live, the more melanin people are born with as a source of skin protection against the intense rays of the sun.

Photo of baby with sunglasses

Don’t forget your sunglasses and your hat!

It’s a bit different in the U. S., however, given that we are a “multi-race” country where there is a high rate of inter-racial marriage. Here, more than anywhere else, I believe, you can see beautiful combinations of skin in color and texture. Unlike some of the world where the population is mainly single race, we in the U. S. have different facets of beauty with the many inter-racial mixtures we are blessed to have.

In researching the latest findings in skin care and anti-aging products, I came across an interesting study conducted by Daily Glow and their just-published, “55 Best and Worst Cities for your Skin.” This was published on the heels of Skin Cancer Awareness month. It’s interesting and well worth the time to explore the regions. It’s the first one I’ve seen that lists the best and worst cities as well as the reason whey they were picked.

No matter where you live, however, the best defense is still a good offense. This means wearing sunscreen EVERY day, using a moisturizer on clean skin at night, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep…even if the city you live in is the best. If it’s on the “worst” list, you can take extra precautions such as establishing a disciplined approach to skin care, especially once you know what the dangers are.

One more thing…get a skin cancer checkup at least once a year or if you notice anything suspicious looking such as a skin growth that doesn’t heal or is growing. One of my friends started out with a tiny growth (like a pimple) on the side of his nose, had it removed, and it grew back again at a faster rate. This resulted in surgery to remove cancerous cells. Not a fun thing to experience but better that it was caught early enough.

The best anti-aging formula for your skin is good care. There really is no one cream or formula that will have you bathing in the fountain of youth, although many do stave off the deep wrinkles and brighten your skin.

When all is said and done, your skin is an amazing organ that protects you. It deserves to be protected as well.

 

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