How To Set Boundaries That Actually Work

Do you remember how proud you were when you set your first “healthy boundary?” I do.

I remember finally planting my metaphorical foot down after months of frustration. I told someone I was dating that I wasn’t going to tolerate anymore flaking or not showing up when he said he would. I deserved my time to be respected. I set my boundary and … he listened!

Well done! I thought to myself. Should have done that months ago!

But…he didn’t listen for long. In the end it was a battle of me re-setting boundaries, trying to control his behavior, then him complying…and eventually breaking them again. Then I’d withdraw to “enforce” the boundary…rinse, repeat.

When I was first taught about boundaries, it was in the context of women who do too much for other people, and not enough for themselves. It came across to me that I had to be firm and defend myself against others asking me to do things I didn’t want to do, or allowing them to act in ways that were not healthy for me. Sounds like a good idea right?

While that sounds like a really good idea on the surface, the way I was doing it ended up leading to not-so-good things for everyone involved. Things like Anger. Frustration. Control.

That last one is the biggest thing – it turns out unbeknownst to me, I was using boundaries to control other people’s behavior. I was giving ultimatums like “you do/don’t do this…or else!” This is not a healthy way to set boundaries – yet it is the way most of us were taught to set them.

Most of us set boundaries based on how we can change how someone else behaves, and not on our power of choice and agency to do what is best for us.

The healthy way to create boundaries necessitates remembering a very important thing: that boundaries are all about YOUR behavior.

Whaaaaat?! That’s right. The focus of a healthy boundary is actually not about the other person doing or not doing what you want at all. They are all grown up, and whether you like it or not, they “get” to do whatever they want. I know. It sounds crazy. But stick with me for a long minute;)

A healthy boundary is all about what you are going to do. It is a consequence you set that is completely based on an action you will take.

For example, if your mother is constantly belittling you when she calls, you can create a boundary. You can say, “Mom, it is not OK for you to belittle me when we talk. I love you, but if you start to do that, I will let you know I am going to hang up, and we can talk again when belittling isn’t part of the conversation.”

Then, if she does it again, you say, “OK mom, I love you, and I’m going to hang up now. When you’re ready to talk without doing that, we can chat again.”

You don’t continue to try to change her or “make her stop.” You just take care of yourself.

You may have noticed a few other things in this example:

1) The boundary isn’t about something petty. Some people want to set boundaries around things like getting people to stop giving them unsolicited advice, or doing something annoying like talking too loudly. That is actually attempting to control someone and not letting them be themselves – which is not OK.

Boundaries are set for big-deal items: emotional or physical boundaries. People do not get to hit you. People do not get to emotionally abuse you (like the belittling in the example above). People do not get to break your trust.

You may wonder – Hold on, girl! What’s the difference between setting a boundary and making a request for my preferences, then? Can’t I ask someone to stop something that annoys me?

YES! Make all the requests you want!

If someone is not crossing a physical or emotional boundary but is simply annoying you, choose to either share your time and energy with them, or not. Make a request, or not. Requests don’t have “consequences.” The person either does it or not, and you do the work to learn how to be happy either way.

If you choose to still be around them, let go of trying to change who they are.

Don’t forget to not let whether they comply or not affect your happiness or your sense of empowerment. It really isn’t appropriate to create boundary around something you’re simply being annoyed by. That’s usually solvable by you changing your thoughts about what’s going on and not taking them personally.

That can be a big-girl-panties concept, but I know you’ve got this;)

2) Boundaries (unlike simple requests) have a consequence that is about an action you will take, and you need to follow through on this. Using the example above, if your mom/partner/friend belittles you and you don’t hang up like you said you would, that removes the strength and purpose form the boundary. It also tends to eat away at your self-respect and self-esteem. You end up not trusting yourself, which is usually worse that the original breach of the boundary anyway.

3) The boundary does not come from a place of anger. Your happiness should not rely on this person’s actions. Therefore, the boundary is simply to honor yourself, and you can choose to not take it personally and step away from the unhealthy situation. No drama. Just, “No, thank you.”

Let’s see more examples of what this all looks like:

If you have a friend who is constantly late and this wears on your time and energy, you can choose to stay friends with her and say, “I get you’re often late, it’s what you do. But it’s hard for me when I waste my time when I’d rather spend time with you. So, if you are more than 15 minutes late, I’m going to leave.” Shazam! You honor who she is, and you honor your needs.

In this example, you are choosing to stay friends with this person, and creating a boundary that respects both your needs. You can also choose not to remain friends with this person if they don’t follow through. In either case, you can walk away – without drama.

In my relationship example in the beginning, choosing to leave when it was clear my emotional boundaries and trust were not being honored would have been better than trying to control someone else’s behavior. I could have said, “If x, y, z behavior continues, that doesn’t work for me.” Then I would have left – which ended up happening anyway – but it would have happened with me being in a much more empowered place – and much sooner. That would have saved both of us a lot of time and energy and suffering. And way less drama.

I know some of these concepts can be a bit WTF for you right now, but let it simmer awhile. Check it out and observe the difference between people setting healthy boundaries vs. trying to control someone else’s behavior. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers would tell me, “Check your mind. Check it for yourself.”

What are your deal-breakers that you’d like to set boundaries for? Are you able to differentiate between the need for boundaries vs making a request? If not, shoot me an email. Trust me – I’ve been there!


Ready to dive deeper into this? Check out Freedom School and see what everyone’s obsessed about. It’s not just group coaching. It’s a mindset revolution that you won’t want to miss.

I Am a Pee Stick Addict

I had no idea there was a term for this funny thing I have developed about obsessively taking pregnancy tests. But after taking three today, I had to wonder if there was something a little off.

I am almost 40 and trying to get pregnant, after all, so in a way it makes sense. But in another way, it’s a bit obsessive;)

You see, 10 years ago, when I was 29, I was walking down the streets of San Francisco with a good friend talking about how awesome our lives were, and how we were pretty sure we didn’t want kids – at least not anytime soon. We went climbing in Yosemite almost every weekend and took epic lipstick roadtrips to Joshua Tree, and had wonderful adventures, all over the world. We were studying at the graduate schools of our choice, and we felt young, sexy, smart, and fucking badass.

As we reflected on our blessings, my friend said to me, “If I ever talk about getting pregnant, kick me.” I laughed. I think I even said, “Totally!”

I am less prone to saying words like “never,” so in this case I leaned more towards a gentler, “I can go either way, but I’m not going to stress about getting pregnant or make any decisions based on it” – like being with men just because I really, really wanted to have a baby, which so many of my friends were doing. And I definitely wasn’t going to lasso a guy into getting me pregnant because I lied about being on birth control. The idea of that scared me – I couldn’t believe people would sneak someone into fatherhood!

At that time, I was totally OCD about not missing one pill of my birth control. I did not want to have an abortion if I got pregnant at that time, and I did not want to have a kid at that time. I simply did everything in my power to not get pregnant – except to not have sex. That was not an option I was willing to entertain;)

As I got older, when I dated men who said they wanted to have a family with me, I found myself starting to think about what creating a family might be like. I discovered I would miss a few pills here and there. I wondered about what I’d do if I accidentally got pregnant.

I even stayed in a way-less-than-ideal relationship for too long, and I am pretty sure it was because he wanted to have kids with me and I rather fancied the idea. The idea. At least of me being pregnant. Not of him being the father.

I even found myself being secretly pissed as a midwife when I would need to care for women who were pregnant but didn’t want to be. It was a very interesting, and surprising, experience after being used to so effortlessly give my love and care and compassion.

Still, in the end, I knew I didn’t want to have a child unless I was with a man with whom I felt the journey of parenting would be an utter adventure and joy. I didn’t meet anyone like that for a long time. I was even married once and I knew I didn’t want to have kids with him, because he was not the partner with whom it would be an utter adventure and joy.

Then, over a decade later, Thai (my fiancée) and I allowed ourselves to love one another the way we always had, and the love of my life blossomed.

And I wanted to have kids. NOW.

He and I reunited when I was 38. While we wanted to, we couldn’t try to get pregnant them because of our trips to Africa and having to take anti-malarials, which cause birth defects. And when we returned from our recent Africa trip in December of 2012, I took three more weeks of the anti-malarials and then came off of birth control for the first time in 23 years. 23 years!

Let the games begin!

In hindsight, I still think I made a good decision by delaying pregnancy. If I had gotten pregnant before I was with my fiancée, I would have had a very different life. I’d have less flexibility to consider closing shop in the lower 48 and moving to a different state to live out of a yurt through Alaskan winters, for example.

I think about my exes and, while generally really good guys, one in particular makes me want to vomit when I think of what it would have been like to have to co-parent with him, because we would definitely not have stayed together despite having a kid. It would have royally sucked.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t taken anti-malarials and just tried to get pregnant ASAP. But malaria would have sucked too, and we were in places where it wasn’t a question of IF you get malaria, but WHEN. I went with statistics. I was WAY more likely to get malaria than to get pregnant at that time!

So here I am, about to turn 40 this summer, and so very much wanting to have a baby with my soul mate. It makes me cry just writing this. I never had the feeling of wanting to create a baby before this, and it is really, really beautiful.

Right now, it seems it’s not so much about being pregnant, per se. Rather, it’s about having a baby with Thai. And if I wasn’t with him, I don’t think I would want to have a kid. I decided long ago that being a single mother was a challenge I would choose to pass on. If I wasn’t going to rock the family thing with my soul mate, I had plenty to keep me busy and fulfilled.

But now…I want it really, really badly now. My moon is 5 days late and I’ve been testing every day since 10 days after I thought I’d have ovulated. I’ve mastered the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and I have my Woman Calendar App downloaded onto my iPhone. I sleep with my basal temp thermometer by my bedside, and I have months worth of LH strips from Amazon that would allow me to test for ovulation every day for months (read: WAY more than necessary). Along with the LH strips came 20 pregnancy tests and I have only 6 left (read: way too few).

Then there’s the worry. I know its normal for my cycles to be irregular after having come off the pills. I broke my rib right before I was supposed to ovulate, so I know that can throw things off too. But still – I can’t help but wish I am late because I am pregnant. I know I am not supposed to stress or worry about it. I know I know I know. Trust me. I know.

But I do.

I had one negative test today and re-read the instructions for this particular test and it said to use plastic or glass cups. I had been using metal. After two Master’s degrees, I figured I might have just slept through the part about how freakin’ important glass and plastic is to accuracy, so I took out another pregnancy test. It had a faulty absorbent area that was falling off but I used it anyway. Negative. Then I did another one because maybe it was negative because the absorbent part was messed up. Negative.

It’s a good thing these strips were cheap on Amazon.

I read the reviews for them because there was a weird line in the wrong place on one of them and I was looking for comments. I found out people were saying things like, “These strips are great for pee stick addicts! They’re so cheap!” There’s a blog for pee stick addicts. And an acronym POAS Addict (Pee On A Stick Addict). And a group POASAA – Pee On A Stick Addicts Anonymous. For realz.

A pee stick addict. Who’dve thunk it.

Alas, it’s a name I am willing to accept. I’m coming out;)

Wish me luck, tribespeople. I’ve had lots of good vibes from the Universe telling me not to worry, like the woman that cut my hair telling me she had her first baby at 40, unassisted, and now she was pregnant again, unassisted. It was one of those annoying, “I got pregnant right away once I came off pills!” stories, but still, it was cool that she was 42 and six month pregnant, and looking and feeling great.

In the meantime?

I’ve decided that for every month I am not pregnant, I am going to do something that I wouldn’t do if I were pregnant. Recently I dyed my hair for the first time in over 17 years. I know it is theoretically safe to dye your hair when pregnant. But I wouldn’t do it. So I got a Baliage highlight thing done. It’s fun;)

The previous month, I signed on for a Grand Canyon trip, which I’ll cancel if I’m really pregnant, so either way life is good. Next month – well, I won’t start focusing on what I don’t want. I teach the exact opposite here at Freedom Junkie – focus on what you DO want – because I know it works.

Now I have a new mantra to add to my repertoire: “I am pregnant with a perfectly healthy, happy baby.” Aho._______________

Addendum: I thought y’all would like to know that I got knocked up in Mongolia August, 2013 – approximately 3 days before my 30th birthday, while we climbed the tallest peak in Mongolia and another peak the bordered Russia, Mongolia and China, and packrafted 250km down the Tsavan Gol, a milky white river that took us back to the city of Olgii. It was there that I bought a broken pregnancy test (I didn’t know it was falling apart when I bought it). It came out positive but I wondered if it was broken.

So I bought 5 more. And they were all positive too;) She is due April, 2014…and I can’t wait for her to get here! Good thing there’s not a peestick for when you’ll go into labor;)

Days 183 to 189 Full On Family – An Ode to Nana Verzone

Nana’s Antipasti

I thought I could dance. At least freestyle. But then I met my boyfriend’s almost 90-year-old grandma (aka Nana). We went to a wedding in

Her homemade ravioli

Vermont, and it was also a good reason for me to meet Nana since she wanted to suss me out after learning that Thai and I were “serious.” She was supposed to have died over a month ago, according to her doctors. They told her 8 months ago that she had 6 months to live due to a weakening heart valve and her poor candidacy for surgery. But, as she puts it, she showed up at her doctor’s office and said, “I’m still here!” Thank goodness for that!

Suffice it to say, she wasn’t supposed to be gardening or cooking. And she does both. Her garden is prolific with freshly picked flowers adorning the house. She cooks multi-course meals despite protestations with full Italian flair. And I mean homemade raviolis. Gluten shmuten – I had 3 servings.

Nana certainly isn’t supposed to dance. She has passed out a few times gardening (albeit that was before a few med adjustments). However, after watching Thai and I swirling on the dance floor at the wedding, she asked for me. I walked up to her, curious as to what she wanted and wondering if maybe my underwear was showing when Thai spun me around. To my delight, she came out on the dance floor and we danced and danced. She even swirled! (see video here – if the link isn’t active, come back as that means it is still uploading). After a bit of feistiness, she stopped and said she needed to stop. She was feeling

Thai and Nana after she almost passed out. Still table dancing!


Oh shit. I refused to be a partner in crime for Nana’s last dance. Not on my watch! With an eagle’s eye I tried to act nonchalant, noticing how she was

Homemade cannoli!

still smiling as she sat down. She was breathing hard. She was a little concerned in the brow…but then she started laughing. We all started laughing. See, it takes chi to laugh, and she still had lots of it.

Thank freakin’ God.

I thought about it later, how she had been told what not to do to stay alive longer. And how all these things – cooking, gardening, dancing – brought her such joy. I thought about what I could only imagine her thought process was – “Hmmm. That dancing sure looks fun. I really want to dance. I probably shouldn’t. But I really want to dance. And this wine feels good! Oh what the hell. Why not!? Just for a little bit.”

Would it have been worth it for her? I don’t know. I think maybe it would have been worth it, to be honest. For her, at least. To not stop living just to live. She wasn’t dumb about it. She just lived at her edge.

What’s your edge? What do you do to keep feeling alive? What do you do for pure FUN? Share below with the tribe – let’s LIVE!

Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie™ She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Freedom Junkie™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her “Full-On 365” blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)!

Days 126 to 138 I Love You Dad

I am missing my dad. He died in 2008. This was two years after he had been told he was going to die in 6 months, and was subsequently kicked out of hospice when he was trying to get out of bed and they discovered that every bit of cancer in his 82 year old body had disappeared for the time being.

I miss him because I have been truly living full-on every day, and that just makes me want to share my life with him even more. I want him to meet my partner, Thai, and know I am with someone who truly loves me and celebrates me. I want them to sit side-by-side on a riverbank and laugh about me, and for my dad to tell stupid stories about my adolescent fiascoes, or how I found a beer in the neighbor’s backyard when I was 4 years old and then he found me dancing on the windowsill when no one was looking. (Some things never change – except now I don’t mind if people are looking;). I want to show him my cute house in Ashland and let him sit in my hammock under the colorful array of leaves draped above it, I want him to see our land in Alaska and show him moose and bear and fantastic scenery.

dancing with my dad at a birthday partyI want to show him these beautiful places – tell him stories of my adventures in Africa, the mountains in Alaska, our sailing to snowy peaks and living in a yurt. My pack-rafting trips and my business adventures and celebrations. I want him to witness all I am creating. You see – when you are living fully, you WANT others to watch. Especially those who love you. And you want others to watch not because of ego, but because you want them to see what magic is possible for them. Like: hey, look at me! I’m flying! So can you!!!!!”

I know he would be so proud of the work I am doing, which he would see as me helping people to see God/Source/the Universe in themselves. I used to take him to Muir Woods and he would stop, look straight up at the towering redwoods with sunbeams filtering through the branches, and say, “THIS is my cathedral. Let’s stop and pray.” I want to tell him how much his whackiness inspired me to dance to my own drummer, how he taught me loving and accepting others was more important than trying not to be embarrassed, I want to tell him how no matter how many mistakes he made, that I’d do it all again with him, because I am so fucking happy right now.

Fortunately, I have already said these things to him. I just want to tell him again and hold him. Smell him. Hear his voice.

my dad
always smiling, even when he was pooped!

I suppose the only thing I worry about is that he might feel I am not happy. He was worried about me for a bit because when he died, I had just gotten divorced, and he really wanted me to have a family. However, in the end I know people don’t die and worry about their relatives. They are stoked because they see truth, the emptiness of our suffering and how, in the end, it is all beautiful and perfect and as it should be. And they are rooting for us to figure all that out here and now, because this, my friends, is an epic playground;)

I have some of his ashes here with me in this remote Alaskan village I am at for the next few days. Thai is here too. We are going to try to go to a spot by the majestic Kuskokwim River and sprinkle some of his ashes there. Maybe he can “See” the moose and fish as he flots by, the thunder clouds and lightning, the reflections of the mountains when the water is still…One day I will run out of his ashes, as I try to take a little wherever I go. But until then, it feels really really good to be able to share this with him on a somewhat physical level.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. You truly amaze me.

PS: I am really sorry for the lag in posts. You see, I have been migrating ALL my other material over to one site,, as well as working on its re-design (all the new eye candy is almost ready to be made live!), moving to Alaska, trying to sell/rent my house in Ashland, launch the next Ziji Up Mastery Program (which started today – yay!), and more.  But we’re back in the game. Thanks for waiting!

Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie™ She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Jedi Juice™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)! Sign up for her next FREE Jedi Juice Training call on the Law of Attraction at

Days 57 to 60 – Besties

Living Full-On Every DayThis post will be in bullet points, because things are a bit full on to write a loquacious one. You see, today I’ve got to drive from San Francisco to Oregon, and tomorrow I’ve got several kick-ass Ziji client calls, then a photo shoot (for the cover or a local magazine! Yeehaw!) then a Ziji Up! Workshop in the eve, and finally, I’ll record a short video on confidence for a colleague’s uber popular website. Whew! So whaddya think…bullet points OK? One full-on event for each of the last few days

• Day 57 – created an awesome teleseminar for April on adapting to change. I can’t wait to get on the phone with more Ziji peeps and talk about skills for Jedi mind juju to get through times when it feels like you’re swimming rapids in life. PS: it’ll be free so can an eye out for details next month

• Day 58 – I honored my needs and didn’t go out late with friends, even though I really really wanted to. Instead, I went to an amazing workshop during the day, then had a lovely evening of tapas with my “lil’ sis” and fell asleep by 10pm after sending a mushy text to my man. It was a sahweet slumber;)

• Day 59 – drove to San Francisco and actually enjoyed the views of Mt. Shasta and the valleys and sunset along the way (instead of multi-tasking), and did a lot of catching up with people I hadn’t spoken to in awhile. And i also got more clear about the upcoming logo (creating is so fun! Especially with people you dig;)

• Day 60 – had an amazing evening with two of my besties at Sol Food (amazing Puerto Rican cuisine) then hot tubbing under the stars, then champagne and chick flick. I slept sooooo well;)

Girlfriends kick ass.

Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie™ She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Jedi Juice ™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download  her FREE Getting Clear Guide by signing up at! Sign up for her next FREE Jedi Juice Training call at

Days 25 and 26 – Family Time

The past two days have been Full-On Family. We are driving – in four days – a total of 24 hours (11 hours on our longest day) to be with those we love on opposite sides of a different state. You see, a close family member got sick, and another got better, and it was just time to hit the road and give gratitude that we are all still together, albeit miles apart.

Like I said on Day 1 – living full-on isn’t just about being in the mountains, traveling to exotic places, or doing extreme things. It is more often than not about showing up in this world with integrity and love, even when it isn’t “convenient.”

We made the most of all the hours of driving too. My partner had the brilliant idea of skiing for 1/2 days on longer stretches to break it up. Sahweet!

Days 8 and 9 – Raining Babies and Snowing in Colorado

Yesterday I caught 3 babies…three new human beings! Two boys and one girl. Sooooooo cute. One tiny, one huge, and one right in the middle.

Ya know what’s full-on? A woman in labor! I sing the praises of the powerful women I was with yesterday. To witness the miracle of birth and the power of a woman birthing is always humbling.

Do you know how deep these women dig within themselves to get their sweet baby out? How scary it is? How HARD it is? How INTENSE it is? How AWESOME it is? Too look into her eyes takes you to another place.

If looking into a newborn baby’s eyes is like looking into heaven or some ancient wisdom, looking into a birthing woman’s eyes is…primal. PRIMAL. It’s so freakin’ raw. Some of these women think they can’t run a marathon, or hike to Everest Basecamp, or travel to Antarctica, or go back to school…and they do THIS and it is awesome. And not just the birth, but they’re parents after it all! It blows me away – this not knowing their power, and touching it during this miracle.

You can always do more than what you’re capable of. The Universe plays like that.

I’m sleep deprived after all those babies, but happy 🙂

Now I’m getting on a plane to Salt Lake City to visit some friends in Park City, then head to Telluride for some skiing of all kinds…backcountry, resort, and longer touring. I can’t wait! A lot of living full-on for me is playing outside, and my body has been needing this a good long while.

To top off my full-on-ness, I will perhaps have a glass of wine on the plane while I’m at it.


Days 6 and 7 – Moonlight and Forgiveness

My 76 year-old mother trying on a pirate hat...she's so cute!

Last night I went for a full moon walk along Ashland Creek. It was gorgeous, with stars peeking out from under the feathered clouds. Then I sat on the swing and made my belly turn. I told my partner I appreciated his honesty and for not running away when things got uncomfortable. That was for me.

My mother had called me and left messages the past 2 days, and I finally called her back, even though I didn’t feel like it. I was so busy, I was so tired…yada yada. I thought that was for her. But perhaps me too?

I love my mother, and I sincerely know she did the very best she could raising me (How often have I heard that?! But I really do mean it…) I also know I still have tender spots from some of the decisions she made raising me. And sometimes those get in the way of me doing things like calling her back right away, or … well, I think that’s the main on: calling her back right away. But as time goes on, and her humanity – and mortality – become more apparent, my true love for her grows. Not the “Oh I love you cuz you’re my mother” kind of love, but true love, seeing her soul, and liking it! I can honestly appreciate all she has done for me.

Forgiving her has been one of the hardest and richest experiences of my life (doesn’t that always seem to be the case?). So yes, I called her and heard her sweet hoarse voice (she had a cold…I am so horrible!!!!!!) I did a telephone assessment to make sure she didn’t have pneumonia, and promised to talk more the next day, when I could be more present. And I sent her a prayer of love. And today I called her and waited for her to get off the phone. She was off to a party (oh yes, she is my mother).

If you have a hard time moving through some aspects of having been a child with your particular parents, have a listen to this episode of This American Life. It’s one of my fave’s, called “Go Ask Your Father,” where sons and daughters ask their parents things they’ve always wanted to know. Warning: heart-wrenching at times!


The Vitamin D fix…it is amazing what a little bit of sun can do for the soul. I went to the Big island of Hawaii and then to Kauai a few weeks ago. We had a surreal time kayaking with dolphins in Kaelakekua Bay, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters with our kayaks tethered to our waists (no beaching or anchoring of kayaks is allowed in the marine preserve). We found hidden beaches off muddy 4WD roads and watched amazingly saturated sunsets with colors enriched by volcanic ash, beholding the burning red orb of our sun descending below the horizon. A helicopter ride into the other-worldly valleys of the Na Pali Coast sent us into meditation thousands of feet above the world that we’d hiked below. Quiet moments on deserted beaches–including the 15 (or is it 17?)-mile stretch of beach at Polihale State Park–are always such a surprise for an island that is a part of our normally crowded and busy US of A. I returned refreshed and renewed, appreciating the gifts of daily dips and playing in healing ocean waters, fresh and locally-grown food each day, and a slower pace of life.

Ultimately, this much-needed vacation was also a timely reminder to count my blessings. This journey and my subsequent return home allowed me to take inventory and truly see what was before me in the here and now, in my daily life, with my local community and family. I have a renewed appreciation for my close group of friends and the beautiful valley I live in, where I can access organic and local food at our farmer’s markets or the Ashland Food Co-op, take daily trail runs in the mountains, go xc skiing in the afternoons, and not have to rush around to find parking every day. I can walk to my dear friends’ homes, sleep with a clear starry sky above, and spend a quiet evening away from traffic and smog. I returned to snow and crisp air…and feel enlivened! It’s nice when it feels good to come home.

Consider starting a gratitude journal. Studies have shown that people who keep gratitude journals or have some kind of gratitude practice for only 15 minutes a week have higher rates of happiness and less risk of depression. Wake up in the morning and take a few minutes to state (verbally or internally) what you’re grateful for–even if it is as simple as having woken up. Never take that for granted! Or, write in a journal once a week listing your blessings: your family, a roof over your head, your dearest friend(s), food in your stomach. Whatever it is, you deserve to remind yourself of your blessings…they are there! Feel that fully, and bring it into the New Year.