Taking Relief Time

December 17, 2008

About a year ago, I was approached by the most interesting person,  Svetlana Konnikova, who had written a book, Mama’s Home Remedies: Discover Time-Tested Secrets of Good Health and the Pleasures of Natural Living. It is based on home-made remedies she had learned from her mother and grandmother while growing up in Russia. Today, I found her blog, which talks about taking relief time, a perfect topic for The Power of Slow.

Around the holidays we tend to overeat or not eat well. Svetlana offers the mamas-home-remediesmost mouth-watering ideas to fill your tummy while you fill your soul. She’s the one who told me about the power of pomegranate juice in the winter time. I’ve been faithfully buying what I call my ‘wellness drink.’ Luckily, my daughter likes it, too!

Relief time means eating mindfully. It is tempting to eat in front of your computer or on the run. Take one day this week to eat a meal in peace, and at pace, with your resting heartbeat!

When Life Screeches to a Halt

December 16, 2008

As I read Gayle Bu’s email, my jaw dropped and stayed there. Once a time-crunched executive assistant for the head of babyGap in San Francisco, she suffered a severe brain aneurysm at the tender age of 27.** Her story of recovery and slowing down is a wake-up call for us all.

“As I lay in the hospital bed drifting in and out of consciousness, trying to make my last will and testament, and deciding on surgical options, I had attempted to give my husband instructions on what to do with my manager’s expense report and travel arrangements!  My job had consumed me that much!”

CLH:  Your story is incredibly inspiring. Can you tell us what happened?

Gayle: I was an Executive Assistant working for the head of babyGap in San Francisco in 2002.  I loved my job.  It paid well with upward mobility and unlimited career paths. There was always so much energy and activity that the days flew by.  But as much as I loved what I did, I began to resent leaving home in the dark and coming home in the dark. It was becoming exhausting.  I toyed with the idea of starting a business where I could do the same type of work from home and re-gain some work/life balance.  But in the hustle and bustle of my crazy life and the stereotype that one could not possibly be a high level secretary from home, the idea was pushed to the backburner.

Then, on May 15, 2002, my life came to a halt.  After a usual day of work, I came home, had dinner with my husband and went to bed.  At around midnight, I awoke to the loudest, most shrill noise I have ever heard that gayle-bucaused me to sit upright in bed.  I looked over to my husband who was watching TV with noise-canceling headphones and realized that there in fact was no noise in the room.  Then all went blank.  The next thing I remember is being carried out my bedroom by a big burly firefighter and feeling like a helpless rag doll.  Shortly thereafter, as I lay in a hospital bed, I found out that I had a brain aneurysm and had experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage.  I was only 27 years old with no prior medical history.

I would spend the next two weeks in the neurological intensive care unit being monitored 24/7 and being fed by a tube.  Interestingly, it was bought to my attention later that as I lay in the hospital bed drifting in and out of consciousness, trying to make my last will and testament, and deciding on surgical options, I had attempted to give my husband instructions on what to do with my manager’s expense report and travel arrangements!  My job had consumed me that much!

After two life-threatening surgeries and a stroke, I wasn’t sure if my life would ever be the same and knew that I needed to make changes. The chance at a total recovery for someone in my condition was merely 5%.  The subsequent months of fatigue and physical therapy (I had to learn to walk again) left me unable to go back to work in a corporate environment.  I had to seriously re-assess my life and was able to find the clarity I needed to slow down.   I then started working as a Virtual Assistant from home.  Fast forward six years – I have fully recovered and now have two beautiful children – a one year old and a three year old and still love working as a Virtual Assistant.  I not only get to enjoy more balance in my own personal life, but I also get to help others do the same.  One of my favorite clients is a working mom who also has two small children – I have the privilege of helping her with day to day items so at the end of the day, she too can slow down and enjoy her family.

CLH: How do you view work-life balance today?

Gayle:  It’s so important.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and the stress of everyday problems that it’s hard to find time to slow down.  But it’s in those times when we make ourselves slow down that we’re able to figure out what our priorities truly are.  Perhaps we’re being overly consumed by issues that are draining us.  Five years from now, those issues may be insignificant, yet they consume so much of our time right now.  So why not focus on areas of our lives that will significantly impact ourselves and those around us in five years instead?  I always wonder – if I hadn’t suffered something life threatening – would I have slowed down?  Probably not.  It’s unfortunate that for so many of us it has to take something so drastic in order for us to stop, slow down and enjoy the life that we’ve been given!

CLH: What advice can you offer others who are struggling to manage it all?

Gayle:  Set aside some quiet time alone in your favorite place to journal about what is truly important to you in your life.  What do you really want to do with your life?  Where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now and what do you need to do to get there?  What is draining you?  Do you need support from others and in what areas?  What do you need to do to create a nurturing and supportive environment for yourself?  Then you can establish goals for yourself and figure out your own personal roadmap.  If you take the time to care for yourself, you’ll be in a better position to manage the other relationships in your life and you’ll be on your way to creating a more enjoyable life for yourself.

CLH: Thank you so much for sharing your incredible story.

Gayle: Thank you!

**Gayle Bu is now a Virtual Assistant (www.buvirtualoffice.com) who provide administrative and personal assistance to executives and small business owners so that (in her words) “they can recapture precious time in order to focus on the important things.”

Her Life Is Time Off

December 15, 2008

elizabethAs a former branding executive at Proctor & Gamble, Elizabeth Jarosz is perhaps best known as the former contestant on Donald Trump’s reality series, The Apprentice. In 2004-2005 she trumped over 1 million candidates to appear on the show (pun totally intended!). Achievement is something with which Elizabeth is very familiar. As the first child of Italian immigrants to attend college, Elizabeth had worked on branding and market research projects for more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and over 40 multi-million dollar brands by age 30. Some of the campaigns on which she has worked include: Tide, Pantene, Olay, Glad, Gallo of Sonoma, and AT&T Wireless, to name a few.

With such an impressive portfolio, it is even more amazing that she left her high-powered P&G position to start her own company, Pulse40. Before she did, she took a leave of absence from P&G so she could write, produce and direct an award-winning short film.

Using her experience and brand wisdom, Elizabeth now focuses on making a difference in people’s lives. Take Humanity Unites Brilliance, an organization she co-founded that works towards sustainable abundance for all. Work-life balance and women in business happen to be two of her favorite topics. We connected via VoIP for a chat about life, gender issues, and making a difference.

Balance is as much about “getting what you want” as it is about “wanting what you have.”

CLH: What caused you to make a change in your life from a high-powered brand manager for a major US corporate to an entrepreneuer?

Elizabeth: I believe strongly that we all have a purpose in life.  I downshifted so that I could make time to live my potential and do all the things I dream of, most of which involve making a positive and powerful impact in the world. I wanted to dedicate more time to my ‘passion projects’, things that I really felt had a lasting impact. Even though Procter & Gamble is a great company to work for, I realized if I stayed where I was with P&G, I’d not be fulfilling that true purpose.

CLH: How do you view work-life balance?

Elizabeth: To me, work/life balance is fulfillment on all four levels of existence: physical world (what we create/do), mental (our mind), emotional (our feelings) and spiritual (honoring our authentic self – not to be confused with religion).  When all of these are fulfilled, we have the feeling of balance.  If any one is out of alignment, we feel out of balance.

Balance is as much about “getting what you want” as it is about “wanting what you have.”

CLH: You seem to have a lot going on! Do you ever take time off?

Elizabeth: My whole life is time off. I pick and choose a project, which usually is within two weeks of agreeing to it, and it takes three days.
I have designed my life in that way. It’s been like that for over eight years.

When I was young, I wanted to work in the media to positively influence society. But I did what any second generation child of immigrants would do. I attended business school instead. After accomplishing so much all my life, I finally decided I wanted to work five days a month and do whatever I want the rest of the time. When I first started Pulse40, I worked full-time and thought! Hey, this wasn’t the idea! It took a while to find the right balance. Now I work with the people I want, when I want while still making the money I did at my corporate job.  I developed a women’s workshop entitled Beyond the Boardroom. It is a one- or two-day workshop for working women to help them define success in ways they might not normally think. We talk a lot about work-life balance. It is so gratifying to watch people light up after realizing their true potential.

CLH: Good luck on your passion projects. Thanks so much for your time, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Thank you!

For more, visit Elizabeth Jarosz’s Web site.

Perhaps you are as guilty as I am of blogging. A lot. Like email, blogging is an instantenous medium that allows us to reach out, connect, and sort through our lives. But at what cost?

When my children come home from school, I devote two hours of undivided attention to their homework and culinary requirements. Thereafter, I expect them to leave me alone for at least an hour while I get work done. But during the lulls in work time, I whip out my blog pad and bang away. It’s rather addictive, really. Life-caching at its best.

The term life-caching is catching on. According to TrendWatching.com,

The LIFE CACHING trend owes much to bloggers: ever since writing and publishing one’s diary has become as easy as typing in www.blogger.com, millions of people have taken to digitally indexing their thoughts, rants and God knows what else; all online, disclosing the virtual caches of their daily lives, exciting or boring. Next came moblogging, connecting camera phones to online diaries, allowing not only for more visuals to be added to blogs, but also for real-time, on the go postings of experiences and events. And that’s still just the beginning.

I’ve started non-blogging, non-digital days, in which I preschedule posts. That seems to be working.

Oh, to live in the Digital Age!




Rhea J. Brown, a marketing and business development professional, started her blog, The Cocktail Café, out of sheer desperation as a working mom with a need to express herself and connect with other time-starved mothers.  She wanted to create a place where she could celebrate the woman behind motherhood, marriage, and business. Her motto, much like mine, states:

“All moms are working moms and my mission is to empower, entertain, and inspire moms to live their best lives.”

She not only shares a birthday with Britney Spears, she also shares cool advice on her blog every day. I sat down for a cyber chat with her recently. Here’s what she said.

CLH:  When did you realize slowing down was a good idea?

Rhea:  After getting married and having my first child, I became so confused. Between the pediatrician, husband, mother, mother-in-law and single friends offering up their advice on me and my life, I was depressed, stressed, and overworked.  I was a young mother and wife,  yet I felt so alone.  One morning I got up, locked myself in the bathroom, rolled up in a ball in the corner on the floor, and cried until I laughed.

After hours and hours in the bathroom, my husband knocked on the door to check on me.

My response?  “Honey, I’m OK… I’m just having a little ME TIME!”

CLH: Eureka! Me time is an important aspect of our relationship with time.

Rhea: Exactly! It was then that I realized that in order for me to maintain my sanity, I had to slow down.  I had spent all those hours in the bathroom crying and not looked at myself in the mirror once.  When I did (mascara running down my face), I saw someone that I hadn’t before. It was me!

CLH: Inspiring!  How did you go about making the change?

Rhea:  That day, I washed my face off, took a long bath, and went shopping. That’s right, I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure, bought a really cute cocktail dress, and called my husband to inform him that I was going out… alone.  After never having enough for me (baby toys, clothes, food, rhea_mommielaundry etc.), I carved the time for myself, by myself. It felt so good! That evening I came home and my husband cooked my favorite dish. We had a candle lit evening, talked and laughed. He said that he missed ‘me’ and was happy to see her again. Wow!

CLH:  What a great start!  What strategies have you developed to remind yourself about the importance of balance?

Rhea:  Here are a few tips that help me find balance and serve as constant reminders of the things I hold true. I hope that they will serve you well:

  • Focus special attention on your personal and spiritual health as well as your well-being. Whatever it is that helps you find peace, rest and relaxation is necessary to maintain happiness and joy.


  • Find a community (physical/virtual) or group for the support and help you seek. As women, we are unique in that helping comes naturally for us – empathy is second nature. When things get overwhelming, reach out and touch someone who will be there for you.


  • Focus on those little moments where hope floats. Laugh as much as possible, cry only when you’ve laughed too hard, and always remember to love yourself.

These tips have helped me and continue to serve as constant reminders that I must honor myself first in order to serve others.

Create a place of balance by thinking positively in order to attract the things that are destined to come your way.

CLH: Thanks so much for your insights!

Rhea: Thank you!

Balance Needs Beauty

December 11, 2008

Sian Lindemann is no ordinary artist. She uses art to create not only a powerful, lasting message, but also to create beauty to serve the world. On September 11, 2001, she took action as she saw the world crumbling around her. Balance without beauty is like a mirror without a reflection. In her artist’s mind, they are essential counterparts.

“If one invests wisely in beauty, it will remain with them all the days of their lives” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

CLH: You started your National Living Arts Foundation as a post 9/11 response. Can you tell us how surrounding yourself with beauty can serve as a reminder to remain balanced in life?

Sian: I did indeed create The National Living Arts Foundation in response to the event of 9/11.

As I sat in response to the event unfolding on the television, I decided that living in the next moment, where individuals would be afraid to travel, to do, to participate and to try new things, might be limited.

Creating the Foundation was an opportunity to “make visible” and to assist many more artists to succeed with their works…..thus establishing more public art exhibitions, installaitons and the like….to inspire elevated thought.

It is essential for me to surround myself with beauty, as acquiring art and the appreciation of art, for me is not a luxury, but a necessity to maintain an inspired view on the world…..when things like the present economy and global unrest seem an overwhelming task to accept or to overcome.

In small ways, with artists, one at at time, or now as we develop group educational programs, I feel that contributing to the ongoing inspiration to the artists to continue is an essential part of my work.

CLH: Some people feel they aren’t creative. In what ways can people invite art into their lives?

Sian: It is true that some people do not feel as if they are creative. It has been my experience that many of my benefactors and supporters do not feel that they are particularly creative. They have expressed that following me, following my activities, and / or acquiring the works that I present to them, is an act in which they can participate to encourage and support this broad development, and they do so as a vicarious “taste” into creativity.

CLH: How does creativity help people in therapeutic ways?

Sian: Creativity and the expression of one’s creativity is a healing proposition. I know that if I cannot get clear on a particular topic in my day….I sing, or I write, or I journal or I paint, as a way to “connect” with my internal intuition and unique “voice.” Yes, sometimes even I drop the thread to that internal peace.

Developing creativity is an essential activity, I believe, and it need not be for_sian_3

limited to that which is art, per se.

It can be developing a creative twist on one’s immersion in family life or business……All of this is a healing and soothing process that brings about greater peace.

CLH: How do the arts serve to counterbalance negativity in the world?

Courtney Milne, Photographer 

Sian: Great question. We can lift humanity throught the arts. I, in fact, had a complete spiritual epiphany with a collection of works from one artist, now many many years ago.

**You can enjoy 365 days of beauty this year with a desktop art calendar and journal. Go to www.poolofpossibilities.com. PROMO CODE: F101.

50% of the proceeds go towards Sian’s foundation to benefit artists.

Life Balance Found in Taos

December 10, 2008


Brandon Schmid just wanted to be alone. A hard-working lawyer from Seattle, WA, he escaped to the rugged landscape in Taos, New Mexico, in the middle of winter. A rugged outdoorsman, he decided winter camping might be just the thing. Sad thing was, he forgot the matches…Read on to find out what he discovered about himself, his life, and his filmmaking abilities…

Humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community.

CLH: Can you tell us what happened to turn your life around?

Brandon: I went snow camping outside of Taos, New Mexico, without any matches or a lighter (I forgot), and while freezing to death (not literally – but it was sub-zero in the negative teens and I was considering hiking back out) I had a vision for a movie — not just any vision, but a complete vision complete with characters, story, beginning, middle and end, what happens, why it happens, themes and everything in vivid detail — all in a matter of moments.  For the past five years, I had been working as a business associate in a couple prestigious law firms in Seattle — Heller and Ehrman,* and Perkins and Coie — working my tail off, long hours, etc. billing and recording every six minutes of every working day for various clients.  I had been to Taos several times in a row over a series of months back in 1999.  But this time, I stayed for a whole week, as I had recently decided to switch firms and take two weeks in between to unwind.  On the way down to Taos, I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie on the plane and couldn’t stop crying — the walls and boundaries I had built up in order to function and succeed in such a highly competitive and demanding profession over the past 5 tuesdaysyears came crumbling down. I realized how mechanistic and attuned to efficiency and accountability I had become — very inhumane in the sense that humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community, right?  

CLH: What advice do you have for workaholics whose lives are off kilter? 
Brandon:  I’d say take an inventory of what you have and cut out the excess to get down to what you really enjoy and need — and then adjust your work accordingly.

CLH: Have you developed a more positive relationship with time, and if yes, in what way? 

Brandon: Once you throw it all away once – in this case to make a feature film – you get a better perspective on how you have been spending your time in the past — which helps you decide how you want to spend that time in the future.  but, unfortunately, the best teacher for developing a more positive relationship with time is time itself.

CLH:  You are currently on the film festival circuit, showing your movie, Toas. When can viewers enjoy your film in theaters?

Brandon: As soon as a distributor is willing to pick it up and pay my publicist to market it! 🙂 The film was a self-financed production. I guess those long hours slugging away at the clock paid off (just kidding!).

CLH: I appreciate your taking a moment to answer these questions.

Brandon: Thank you! 

*Heller and Ehrman dissolved in October 2008.