I’m going to insert in Flourish a sentence or two about ethics.

I do not think I was a special person. This is not why I succeeded. I wasn’t special. I credit my recovery and my life to my parents’ quick action to get me help within 24 hours of my break.

I discounted my role in my success until a guy suggested I was talented not only in writing: I was talented because I had a work ethic: I was willing to work longer and harder to get what I wanted.

That’s it in a nutshell. I had the experience recently of seeing a lazy-ass worker in action. He was so slow and lazy I thought there was something wrong with him. I thought he had some kind of mental defect. He was so slow and lazy I recommended to his supervisor that she replace him and hire someone else.

No kidding. You want to succeed in life and you want to succeed at work: have a hard work ethic.

No one is going to give things to you. If you’re fortunate in that everything comes easy to you, or that other people give you things, you’re most likely not in the target market for my book(s).

Acting self-reliant is a critical skill to have in recovery. You’re responsible for taking action every day in the direction of your dream(s). The hardest-won victory is the sweetest.

Nevermind when you see management rewarding unethical behavior. Keep your nose in front of you (not stuck up in the air or stuck in other people’s business.)

Keep your eye on the prize(s) of your life and it will hardly be an effort to take action in the direction of your goals.

Hard work. That’s the ticket to success.

Your Ace In The Hole

Easily 15 years ago or 20 years ago I read a book where the author stated you need to have an “ace in the hole.”

An ace in the hole is a steady income stream apart from your day job or regular job. Having this kind of job puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to being in charge of the direction of your life.

Why spend 2 or 3 hours each night watching TV when you could be doing something that earns you income? What if having a second job were like earning money while you sleep?

Wouldn’t this be much better than watching TV all the time?

I recommend people diagnosed with mental illnesses have an ace in the hole so that it doesn’t matter what happens in the workforce: be your own boss and the stigma is irrelevant.

The goal is first of all to find the work you love so that it’s more like passion not drudgery.

I recommend the book The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine for “Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One.” An illuminating guide about how to do what you love without having your soul sucked out of you at any old “day job.”

This is a radical idea: that individuals with MIs should not only get a job if they want to work: we should find the job we love and have more than one job to secure our future if we’d like.

It comes down to this:

We’re in the driver’s seat. We can go down a road of our own choosing. We don’t have to take a backseat to others in society.


Career MatchMaker

I want to talk about a database that can help people pinpoint their Top 40 careers: CareerCruising.

You can use it with your Brooklyn Public Library library card at by clicking on the articles and databases link on the left then searching on CareerCruising.

First: create a profile and sign up. Then take the Career MatchMaker quiz and save every quiz results sheet under a different name.

If you do not live in New York State you can get a Bklyn library card by signing up and paying $50/per year. Or you might see if your own library system offers this database or a similar one.

A free career match test you can take is at on the Internet. I prefer the CareerMatchMaker. The careers I scored high on were career counselor, writer, motivational speaker, activist, and librarian. The quiz is eerily accurate.

It can save you from making the mistake of trying to fit yourself into a career that doesn’t suit you. The earlier you take the quiz the easier it will hopefully be to discover the work you’ll love to do and be good at.

In the next Flourish entry I will talk about the secret solution to stigma in the workplace.

Weight Loss Magic

From the time I was 23 until I turned 29 I was 20 lb. overweight.

It took me six years to lose 20 lb. and then in my early forties I gained 10 lb. back.

The earlier you start to train, the quicker you’ll see improvements in your life.

I did step aerobics and pounding the treadmill in my twenties. I did Zumba in my early forties.

You can lose weight and keep it off when you set weekly, 3-week and 3-month goals. At the end of the year you can assess where you’re at and if you need to change what you do.

I committed to changing one behavior at a time. First, I started drinking skim milk instead of regular milk. Then I ate chicken without the skin. Next, I stopped eating meat.

To this day I don’t eat beef, lamb, veal or pork. AT ALL. I rarely eat chicken and turkey. I mostly eat seafood and vegetables and pasta. During Greenmarket season June through November I buy and cook fresh seasonal organic produce.

I say: start to strength train earlier in your life. At 40, a woman needs to reduce what she eats and strength train to keep off the weight.

I started to lift when I was 45 going into 46. I was able to shape my self: “Make Yourself” as the Nike advertisement proclaims.

It would tick me off to think most people think healthful food doesn’t taste good. I don’t think meat tastes good. I don’t think processed food tastes good either.

I haven’t had a hot dog since 1992. I read the ingredients label of a hot dog package and found out it’s 100 calories and 90 fat calories. You do the math: does this sound healthy?

I haven’t had a soda since 1987. As kids, we used to drink C&C cola. Remember that? It was cheaper than Coke or Pepsi.

My philosophy of life is rooted in science and kindness as the twin engines of healing.

You can heal your life. You can have a fit body and a strong mind. It involves being kind to yourself and others. I’m not a fan of any kind of “garbage in, garbage out” lifestyle.

What you eat impacts how you feel. I submit that eating healthful foods can bring a smile to your face.

Cooking well is an act of kindness. Sharing a meal is one of the enduring joys in life.

People who take atypicals have lost 20, 30, 50 lb. and kept it off. I will try to interview one of them to share his secrets for weight loss too.

I’ll end here by stating that weight loss isn’t quick and it isn’t easy.

The rewards are lasting.

Appetite For Life

I might be Italian yet I eat to live not live to eat.

There’s a difference: food can fuel your body and give you energy and stamina. Or it can make you sluggish and lethargic.

Cooking is one of the joys of life that makes the difference between health and hardship.

I wanted to talk about this again because I devote information about it in my book.

How you eat and what you eat does change your body. I got into a fight with a friend because I told him to “can the cans” and not drink diet sodas. Drinking diet sodas or any kind of cola or soda or soft drink is linked to obesity.

I suggest you can the cans too. Have water flavored with a slice of lemon. Most drinks and sports drinks are full of sugar or “natural flavors.” Natural flavors are actually fake chemicals labeled “natural flavors.” It’s a marketing tool.

The best way to change is to change one thing at time. I recommend starting by nixing any kind of drinks.

It’s the plain truth that you deserve to be healthy rather than making agribusinesses and biotech firms rich. They don’t care that upwards of $71 Billion of healthcare costs in America are linked to obesity and diet. They’re getting rich and we’re getting sick.

It’s prime time right now to shop at farmers’ markets and buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

You can go on the LocalHarvest website to find a Greenmarket near you. It’s Without a farmers’ market you can shop in WholeFoods if there’s one near you.

In New York City: FreshDirect delivers groceries and household supplies to your door. Log on to to sign up. The great thing about FreshDirect is that it delivers CSA boxes to your door: community-supported agriculture boxes where you can buy produce from a local farm.

Instead of traveling to a meeting place, schlepping home boxes of fruits and vegetables from a CSA, and having to spend hefty fees for a summer-long share: voila: you can get a CSA box delivered to your door without the cost of car service to take the box home from the meeting place.

I’m a big fan of buying and eating organic food mostly. Spaghetti squash is in season and is easy to cook too.

I will write this week in the reviews section a review of the book Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. I’ve created numerous recipes from the book that are tasty and nutritious.

In evolutionary terms: it makes no sense to eat meat anymore. Having chicken or turkey occasionally is something I do though. Any kind of extreme diet might not be healthful.

Mostly, I’m opposed to factory farming of beef because of its impact on the environment.

I think eating mostly fruits and vegetables is the way to go now. Though I couldn’t judge other people because I do eat seafood. It’s a choice, and everyone has the right to choose.

I have an enduring interest in health and fitness because I’ve seen the positive effects of diet and exercise on mood, confidence and well-being. It can’t be a coincidence that the two are linked.

On Thursday I will talk about my own experiences losing weight. I used to be 20 lb. overweight as a young woman.

I’ll end here because I want to post the book review.

How Lifting Changed My Life

I recommend consistently lifting weights only because I’ve tried other forms of exercise (all OK on their own) yet lifting was the secret solution to losing 10 lb., keeping it off for years, and maintaining my weight.

I don’t encourage any woman to strive to be bone-thin or look like a waif. As I’ve often talked against using pretty woman for face makeovers instead of letting average woman get beautified, I’m also against the use of Kate Moss skeleton body women in fashion shoots. Kate might have a beautiful face when Francois Nars does her makeup. Yet I’m no fan of her tape measure body.

I’m not certified as a personal trainer or nutritionist. Yet I’m certain carrying 5 or 10 extra lb. is no big deal. The goal is to be a healthy weight and that can be a range of numbers not one specific number. It’s also not good to constantly weigh yourself every day.

How I lost the weight: I started to train at the gym in February 2011 going on 4 years now. I have the trainer create a new routine every five weeks. Then I do the routine on my own and meet with him again to get another new routine. It’s cheaper than hiring a trainer for weekly one-on-one sessions.

You can go on YouTube and searching under the move, like “sumo dead lift” to watch a video that shows the correct form before you start the routine.

Hitting a plateau after 3 years is a good thing because you can continue to challenge yourself by lifting heavier weights. I want to hit women over the head with a pocketbook when they claim they won’t lift heavy weights because they’ll bulk up.

Do I look like the Incredible Hulk? I rest my case. The goal is not to be Kate Moss thin: the goal is to be fit. Remember: “Fitness is Forever.”

Women who have the money to do strength training at the gym should absolutely try to do this if they also feel they need to lose weight. You can spring for attractive workout gear from Nike or Athleta. My favorite place to shop for this is Modell’s. Gotta Go to Mo’s? You bet.

You might get overwhelmed thinking you’ll have to do strength training for the long-term. Yet the pounds didn’t magically appear: most of the time they got there because of what a person did (busted: I’m guilty of this too). So break your long-term goals into weekly, 3-week and 3-month goals, going as far as one year for your goals. Once you’ve reached one year, examine and set a new goal.

Keep a fitness journal in a small hardbound journal. Record your goals in it and the routines you did and whether the routines were easier or harder that day.

No kidding: I can now dead lift 190 lb. That’s how I know that when you repeat the mantra “fitness is forever” it doesn’t matter whether you’re bone-thin or not. What matters is that you build muscle so that you burn more fat as you get older and go through menopause with all its bodily changes.

Do you think. It’s a coincidence. That I kept the weight off for the long-term after I started to train.

I will end here by stating that aside from feeling better/having a glorious mood, you will gain emotional freedom and confidence, and alacrity in how you resolve problems. The self-doubt will come on, yet it will become fleeting and you’ll find yourself not caving in to it anymore.

You’ll start to take risks in other areas of your life.

What’s not to love about lifting?

Lifting Weights To Lift Your Spirits

I’ve talked about this in my old Left of the Dial blog a couple of times and I’ll reprise it here now.

I’m going to detail a little-used secret technique for succeeding in life. It’s not a pill you swallow or an easy, breezy walk in the park. Yet if you commit to this technique for the long-term you will succeed beyond your wildest expectations.

You can make this change at any point in your recovery or your life. It’s better later than not ever to create this change. I’ve talked about it before: strength training.

Taking action cures fear and instills confidence in a person. “Lifting” as it’s commonly called is the magic motivator for creating other positive changes. The more you do it, the easier it will get. And the longer you lift, more benefits accrue like greater confidence and ahem-a better sex life.

Training 3x/week for 4 weeks is the goal. Training 2x/week on the days you can’t train 3x is acceptable. The goal is to train consistently to see progress over the long-term. A slip-up, a failure, days when you fall down here and there don’t matter as long as you’re resilient, pick yourself up and right yourself to re-commit.

Setbacks of any kind are often only temporary and this goes for doing lifting routines. A quote on the whiteboard at the gym was from Robin Williams a couple of weeks ago. It talked about finding that spark of madness and using it while you have it. Though it could seem in poor taste that the management chose that quote Robin’s words do hint at what it takes to persist in achieving goals.

I’m okay calling this spark madness because it appears not everyone has it not even people diagnosed with mental illnesses. My words for this are drive, determination. It’s when you decide to commit to a goal, take steps to make it happen, and use the achievement of the goal as a springboard to do other things.

It helps to make it as convenient as possible to do what you have to do to succeed.

I will sign off now and on Thursday talk about my own experiences with lifting.

Having A Second Or Third Act

I like the idea that a person gets to have a second or third act in their lives.

My life didn’t lift off until I obtained my library science degree when I was 35 years old.

It’s not ever too late to do something new or to make a positive change in your life.

The photographer who shot me for my author website was 55 years old when he decided he wanted to get a job and stop collecting SSI. He retired with a stash of cash years later.

I attended school with a woman who was in her early seventies too. She had the desire to get a library degree even though she was at a time in her life when most people are winding down.

Doing what you want to do or what you love in your older years is payback for the struggle and hard times you experienced early in life at the hands of an illness.

You can find new things to do and love when you turn 50 or older.

I turn 50 in the early spring. Our lives aren’t over until they’re over. Each of us has good years ahead of us. I firmly believe that the best is always yet to be: tomorrow can be better than today.

The Aveeno skincare advertisement got it right:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Today is the only lovely day. No other day exists. Everything we do today can bring us closer to a better tomorrow. Even if things aren’t so good now we can expect that the future can be different and things can change.

Having a second or third act?

It’s entirely possible.

Setting Lifelines Not Deadlines

I talk about this more in Flourish: the beauty of setting lifelines not deadlines.

Using the term deadline indicates there’s an end: a result you achieve that is the end, that the process is over at a certain point in time.

This isn’t helpful because often people set goals that are restrictive, impossible to achieve because the deadline is too soon. Rome isn’t built in a day, neither are goals completed quickly. Nothing worth having comes without effort.

You can’t undo years of personal neglect in two or three months and then quit. Goal-seeking behavior is a lifestyle not an endpoint, so to keep striving to maintain health is imperative.

The gym has a whiteboard in the entrance foyer. Every week a new quote is written down. Last week the whiteboard proclaimed: “Don’t seek to be skinny by Tuesday. Strive to be fit. Fitness is forever.”

It’s true: setting a strict deadline to live up to demoralizes you, sets you up to fail. It’s better to remember that changing your life is a long-term process. It starts one habit at a time. Then you change another behavior. And so on.

It takes kindness and patience on the road to a new you. Focus on what you did do instead of what you couldn’t do. Cheer yourself on for pounding the treadmill 2 times instead of beating yourself up for not doing it 4 times.

I suspect a lot of goals people set aren’t based in science. Read the book Changeology by John C. Norcross because he details a scientifically-proven method of changing, a technique to make lasting changes.

We need to remember that it’s not ever too late in life to change something we’re not happy about, either an aspect of our lives or about ourselves. Completing one goal should not be the end; it should be the stepping-stone to other goals.

That’s why the mantra “Fitness is Forever” sums it up well: change is a process, and it’s not the result that counts.

The first part is the hardest. It’s often 80 percent mental, 20 percent the action: in terms of achieving success.

So: set a lifeline, not a deadline.

School is Cool

As hard as it can be, I recommend that a person with a mental illness who’s attending school follows through with getting a four-year degree.

Seek help at the mental health center on campus, get involved with ActiveMindss on campus, join a club.

Do what it will take to graduate even if you don’t have a high GPA at the end.

At University, I was a disc jockey at WSIA, 88.9 FM the college radio station. The two years I was an on-air personality were the happiest time of my young life. It made the prodrome easier to go through because I sought help and and no one I talked to could help me. So I had to do things on my own in college.

I’m certain that since this was in the 1980s things must surely have changed and that there is help for individuals attending school who have mental health challenges.

Log on to StrengthOfUs if you’re under 30 for resources if you’re a young adult with a mental illness.

It gets better. It truly does get better living with a diagnosis.

There’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about having a diagnosis.

My stance is that a young person shouldn’t get side-tracked into a long-term (over one year) traditional kind of rehabilitation program.

Going to college or getting trained for a job is in my estimation a better activity.

School is Cool.