SPARKON! Excellent European Adventure! (Part 3)

Fractured Itinerary

International flights in coach … need I say more? Apparently, I will. When the seats in a plane you’re traveling on for any amount of time are not contoured to fit anyone you know, it can be a huge challenge. When you’re a prisoner of that seat for over 8 hours, it’s a threat to your cheerfulness and excitement. Accordingly, when inconveniences accumulate, time tables are jostled, tours cascaded upon by pouring rain, crowds, heat, humidity … well, you get the picture, one predictable feature of travel is that anything can happen; everything is unpredictable. My mantra becomes, “It’s all part of the adventure.”

I was a tour guide for a season, taking 5th graders to our state capitol, Sacramento, and various places like the train museum and Sutter’s Mill, where the California gold rush began. Talk about unpredictable!! The thing here is that all of life can be unreliable, some parts more than others. The heat was sometimes a culprit and it was important to hydrate these 10 year olds from the time we left southern California and to know where we could replenish our supply of water. Sometimes, the Capitol Building was overcrowded and I’d need to adjust the tour without missing the important parts. There were kids who would wander, or refuse to participate, and sometimes parents who forgot this wasn’t about them. Just as in any job, I was trained to handle all of these circumstances and get our time and excitement back on track promptly.

Back On Track

Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I respond to it”. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves to live in a peaceful state in such a way that our ability to handle it isn’t blindsided by the fickle, uncertain parts of life. It’s an inside job: attitude, thoughts, words and actions, and it begins before we’re faced with instability that throws us off our game.

We arrived in Roma!! My lovely cousin, Manu picked us up from Fiumicino Airport and took us to her home just outside the bustle of the city. Driving, or watching all the drivers navigate the absurd roads of this city is a great adventure. Julie, my travel mate, was amused at how Manu drove through the mazes of tiny cars with her left arm out the window, directing traffic to make our way easier through the chaos.

The evening was magical! After a delicious dinner in her apartment, Manu took us into the city on the Tube, the subway connecting the Romans to their destinations. It was dusk, the lighting on buildings and streets couldn’t have been more perfect. Everything had a luminescent glow as we walked past the Spanish Steps, stopping at the Piazza della Rotunda, to visit the Pantheon and its interesting grotesque style fountain. The main objective was the Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the city and most beautiful in the world. Here, the legend is that when a visitor throws a coin into the fountain facing away from it, they’re sure to return again to Roma.                     

Enjoying the Path You’re On

Sightseeing is such an adventure in itself, however, the path along the way may hold unexpected treasures. Ancient doors, sculptures in alcoves or on corner buildings, nooks and crannies hiding colorful bonuses appear for your enjoyment when you have an attitude of wonderment. People watching is another aspect that adds character to anywhere you might be. However, the real star of the show in Italy, is finding the best gelato shop. If you have time, you can try different places. Knowing a local, or even asking local residents, is like discovering a prized jewel. Fortunately, Manu had this down and we followed her into the unassuming gelati shop and left with most delectable frozen treats.

The night ended with our trip back to the apartment and plans for the next two days. We went back into the city, saw many more sites, including the Colosseum, Arch of Triumph, other ruins, monuments, and serene areas to relax. The last day, we headed out on a tour of Emperor Hadrian’s estate in the hills, but the second half of that tour was lost in a sudden torrential rainfall. We missed the Tivoli Gardens, however, with the promise of a coin tossed into the Trevi Fountain, we will return to Rome again!


Next … Trains, Cities, more Trains!



The Sweet Deal

As the days went on, the conversations turned from planning the business collaboration to European travel. The question was, “How soon do you think you’ll want to travel to Europe?”

I didn’t have an answer except to say that I would have hoped to go in Springtime, but it looked more like it would happen sometime in October. My finances have been in a place of transition, cleaning up loose ends and jumping into this business start-up with a zero budget. Immediately, Julie was determined to make it happen sooner and proposed a very sweet deal. As soon as she had the funds, she would purchase the tickets through our combined business start-up. I would be able to work it off with my former profession of massage therapy. She would be able to take care of the transportation costs (train and car rental), if I could take care of the accommodations – “would that be ok?”

Yes, Please!!

With the wheels set in motion, we each worked on every aspect possible to get our own work done, finalize travel and itinerary plans and begin working on online course projects. I began to think about the previous few years. If I hadn’t gone through acceptance and surrender of my life coaching lessons, I would have been stuck in a dark corner of my mind. It would have been much more difficult to receive the new opportunities with open arms, mind, and heart. Since I cleared out some blocked areas and reset my mindset, I was more than ready to accept the unique and prospective plans for business and travel. Another huge plus was Julie helping me by building a new and improved website, ready to accommodate more of what was planned to grow my business. With her team of experts and her own expert ability to brand and market, my new site now reflected my entrepreneur personality and the spirit of my business.


Make Room For Possibilities

Here’s where it’s clear that a personal life coach can be helpful when doors seem soldered shut. Daily life is not set in stone, and much of the time, even the to-do list I write out the night before or that morning has changed dramatically before the end of the day. However, the mindset that we develop from our early years or along the way in response to circumstances and events is liable to leave us stuck in an unhealthy pattern. Sometimes, it confines us to limiting beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of doing. This isn’t conducive to following ones’ dreams or creating a lifestyle that brings joy to ourselves and those around us. Just as it’s important for us to have checks and balances in our finances, it’s important to be consistent with checks and balances in our minds, hearts and bodies to maintain health.

The progress of my business idea began as information based on the working harmony of the four important elements of a human being: spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. In those earlier days, it was harder for me to convey what I wanted to impart. I had spent the first 50 years of my life learning, growing, failing and making mistakes, as well as teaching my now young adult children whatever I could from what I had learned. When I reached a turning point, I was determined to make the next half of my life more impactful to the world around me. It can’t really be that I’d be able to prevent either my children or anyone else from going through their own necessary passages in order to reach a place of victory. However, all of my varied experiences and resulting empathy is more than enough to provide guideposts and possibly a warning to others. The important component here is “why” this is my calling and “why” anyone would be able to learn from my life. I’m only a speck on this earth; a tiny grain of sand of no consequence to most other lives.

No Coach Needed?

One thing I’ve learned that stands out is that whatever we do, willingness is a key part. What one is willing to do or give is more valuable than what one has or doesn’t have.   

Another thing is the butterfly story: when a butterfly is exiting its’ cocoon, it goes through slow, laborious movements to open the cocoon enough and emerge to dry its’ wings and fly away. If someone helps it in any way, the butterfly isn’t able to build the strength it needs to use its’ wings and will die as as a consequence. Fortunately, this isn’t as crucial for humans, however, each person has their own lessons to learn in order to work out their lives in the best way. As a personal life coach, each woman I work with has their own barometer as to how much and in what area they need me to walk with them. We all need someone as a mentor to us, to be accountable to and serve as a gauge of our progress in this journey of life. The exchange may not always be the same person; it might be an example of what we don’t want; and could decidedly be someone with whom we build a life long relationship. As tempting as it is at times to work alone, (especially for an extroverted introvert), the experience is profoundly enhanced through most human interactions. Think about that for a bit …

NEXT … The Stage Is Set



The Set-UP

Transformation takes place when desire, necessity, and motivation converge. Part of transformation includes surrender. When you’re​ clutching the one dollar bill so tightly that you can’t let go, it’s impossible to take the hundred dollar bill that’s being offered.

Two years ago, I had finished two different types of life coaching courses and was working with a few women with various goals in order to find my life coaching groove. In writing out the topics we covered as well as the processes to make significant changes, I felt it was important for me to go through whatever I would present to my clients. As I began to find a depth of grief in my own darkness, I also became reacquainted with dreams and goals in the archives of my mind.

One of these dreams was to incorporate travel into whatever work or business I would do.

Forward one year to September of 2017, a former work colleague connected with me through a post asking if anyone wanted to go to a marketing seminar in LA. Julie and I talked about all that had happened over the years since we worked together in a non-profit organization; what we were up to in the moment; and what our plans and goals were for the next year. As we talked, we found similar dreams and goals as well as new ideas. It was clear that we each had a component that we could collaborate on to help women move forward personally and in career/business. Julie’s mind raced with ideas and she came up with a meaningful name for the new, joint business: SparkOn! The idea was that when we become stuck and stagnant, our spark diminishes. When that happens, it’s much harder to attract what we’re seeking. Women need to learn to keep the spark lit and on from the inside.


Sparked On!

Here’s where the plan progressed like wildfire. When I shared how I planned on spreading the word about my personal coaching by incorporating travel through speaking to women, a question of “where” begged to be answered. My plan is to speak to women in groups up the west coast, across the country and in other countries as the ability to travel comes up. Within minutes, Europe was our first travel goal!

I hadn’t visited my relatives in our small mountain town of Scontrone, Italy in almost 11 years; Julie hadn’t had the opportunity to travel to Europe yet. It was a set-up for the perfect adventure! Researching the climate and culture of women’s issues and business became the major goal, with a minor in having fun. My first idea was to see if we could set up some workshops during this trip. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be an easy task and needed to be changed. The new goal would be to speak with current and new connections to get a good idea of how this could work in European countries, beginning with Italy, France and Austria. The people I began talking with about this were either family, friends, or former interns and students who’ve stayed with my kids and I over the past 10 years.


Next: The Sweet Deal

Gratitude And Contentment Equal Happiness

What are you most happy about in your life? If you made up a list of ten things, what would be on that list? Practicing gratitude is one of the most important things when it comes to finding true happiness. When you express gratitude over something, the universe hears and will give you more and […]

via Be Happy With What You Have While Working for What You Want – Helen Keller — The Seeds 4 Life

I love how my day changes just by changing my perception with gratitude and contentment. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”    Luke 16:10  This is a fundamental truth in all areas of life. Whether it’s a job, relationship, the way we raise our kids to handle more responsibility each year, or the way we make and accomplish our goals, the way we handle the small things in life will always translate to the bigger, more important areas.

When it seems as if a project isn’t netting the desired result, or it just doesn’t seem to be enough to cover the outflow, the best we can do to make it multiply our experience is to say thank you. It doesn’t matter if it’s not moving us forward in a huge way, even the small steps are steps, and the dance goes on! As Robert Brault says,

“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward
after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.”

It all comes down to savoring the moments, experiences and elements that make up each day. Be content with your present time and space and move forward to your goal with thankfulness. Most likely, you’ll find happiness flowing freely from inside and random thoughts that make you smile throughout the day. The best part, is that you’ll create a contagious habit that’ll raise the vibration of energy around you — who wouldn’t enjoy living on a higher level?

‘Tis The Season for Giving

Frankincense: The Oil of Kings


Productive Harmony

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to know everything you’ve needed to know, each step of the way in your life? On the other hand, if we don’t know what we’re missing, we just make do with what we have and what we know at the moment. One way to thrive in life is to continue learning and growing. During different seasons, the balance could be off, however, it’s most important to enjoy the process and apply the elements that work for you.

One thing I know is that we all need harmony and growth at a consistent pace to live as if we’re alive and awake. There’s even more need for whole health as all the rules of life, making a living and moving forward seem to be changing. No matter what you do for a living, even the monumental task of caring for your family, it is most important to keep your cup full in the areas of your being in order to live fulfilled and serve others more completely. At least monthly, examine your health spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally and take steps to restore yourself. Then, you can be more effective in all you think and do.

I believe there is a way to change with those things that are changing around us and to become more excellent in how we live our lives. Everything we do affects those around us, whether we realize it or not. Even when we’re going through difficulties, someone is always watching, someone will always be within the circle of ripples we create.  We are all mentors or leaders, even if we don’t recognize ourselves as such.  It’s important to learn and live those traits and values that will serve to keep us steady and balanced as well as help us replenish faster when we’re faced with challenges. To be a good leader mentor, we need to have others who we look up to, who we listen to and in the process, we improve ourselves in some way. My friend, Jon, found a mentor in reading all the works of C.S. Lewis, proving that it doesn’t need to be someone who is physically present in your life. No matter who you look up to as an influence in your life, make sure they add to you and not subtract; make sure the ripples they leave behind increase who you are and serve as an inspiration for your journey.

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” C.S. Lewis

“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” C.S. Lewis

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” C.S. Lewis

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” C. S. Lewis

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” C.S. Lewis

Continued Gut, Brain, and Depression Connection

In my last post, I cited some articles from which talked about the connection between gut health and depression. There is a plethora of information across the board that indicates that the more processed foods we eat, the higher the probability of experiencing depression. This doesn’t surprise a lot of us as we know that processed foods tax our immune system, the liver and entire digestive system. Putting any substances into our bodies that require extra work to figure out what to do with them, or create more toxins that the body can’t assimilate leads to overworked systems and inflammation. Inflammation is a response to injury or infection. Therefore, the body responds to foreign substances in processed foods and other toxins with inflammation. This can then lead to pressure in areas causing pain, damaged cells, and hormone and nutrient deficiencies, and all of this can affect the brain. Here’s a short list of what can be done right now:

  1.  Avoid processed foods and any unnecessary synthetic medications (unless prescribed by your doctor). As mentioned above, the resulting inflammation can cause hormone and nutrient imbalance and deficiencies, which will affect the brain and mood.
  2.  Eliminate or cut down on dairy, sugar and gluten in your diet as these also create inflammation. Over-activity in the immune system which fights inflammation brought on by these items may cause joint pain, fatigue and damage to blood vessels. Whole grains
  3. Don’t ditch the good fats! Dr. Kelly Brogan, omega-3s and omega-6s are actually critical for brain and immune function. She recommends eating plenty of those on the daily (think cold-water fish, eggs, and nuts), as well as monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, and almonds) and even saturated fats (ghee, dark chocolate, and coconut oil). You can even work them into yummy desserts. I love the nutty flavor of chia seeds that have a great supply of good fats and other nutrients.
  4. Add probiotics and fermented foods which have the ability to boost the good gut bacteria that regulate our immune systems and brain neurotransmitters.
  5. Don’t forget some of the spice and herb powerhouses that help prevent and heal from inflammation. Some of these are turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, marjoram, sage, ginger and rosemary.
  6. Sleep as much as your body needs. Not getting enough of the right sleep at night can result in inflammation, as well as having to navigate your day as if you had a hang-over. Prepare yourself for sleep by sticking to a regular bed time as much as possible and including a ‘dialing down’ process as a bed time routine.
  7. Meditate on a daily basis is beneficial in so many ways, including the immense calming effect on the brain. Stopping to intentionally focus and meditate each day can essentially stop the spiral into negative spaces or sadness. Data shows meditating stimulates the expression of anti-inflammatory genes and helps stabilize blood sugar. Intuitively, we can see how this may help prevent binge eating or eating those things that exacerbate the cycle of gut health and depression.
  8. Last in this list, but certainly not least, exercise at least 3 times a week as a remedy to stress. Exercise positively stimulates your mitochondria, which have a direct correlation with your mental health.

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Causes Of Inflammation


Does Depression Start in The Gut?

There’s definitely a connection between the brain and the gut. “To a layperson, our digestive tract can feel like this empty tube, but people don’t appreciate how specialized it is,” explains Dr. Robynne Chutkan who wrote The Bloat Cure. “There are so many different things happening in different parts, and so many things that can go wrong.”

“Recent research has directly [shown] the microbiome influences neurotransmitters in the brain, affecting the way that we think and feel,” says Eve Kalinik, a UK-based certified nutritional therapist. “Certain strains of beneficial bacteria can themselves produce many of the same mood-positive chemicals used in brain signaling, such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.” There are studies showing that when gut health is in jeopardy, mood is affected and can bring us down to a serious level of depression. When the micro-flora in the gut is in balance, the brain benefits greatly.

Dr. Kelly Brogan, author of A Mind of Your Own, says science is showing us that depression is primarily an inflammatory condition, like chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. (In other words, its origins aren’t neurological.) Her belief is that the most powerful path to the brain is through the gut—and therefore treating depression with antidepressants that only affect the brain is akin to taking Tylenol for a piece of glass in your foot.

Complicating matters further is the issue of leaky gut, which Dr. Brogan calls one of the “most villainous of biological threats.” When your gut is “leaking,” she explains, levels of LPS (lipopolysaccharides—endotoxins found in the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria like E. Coli) enter the bloodstream and can trespass the blood-brain barrier, which may then lead to inflammation in your brain—something else she links to depression.

Luckily, Dr. Brogan says that gut inflammation can be reversed with some simple diet and lifestyle shifts, all of which are sure to have a positive impact—whether you’re suffering from depression or not.

My next post will have suggestions from these experts. In the meantime, feel free to read these on

A Healthier Life From Gardening

When life becomes stressful or I just need to sort things out, one of my favorite things to do is to go outside and do some gardening. Whether it’s actual hard work or just piddling around, planting or picking produce, the results are an addition to my life. Sunshine, fresh air, colors and sounds of nature all contribute to a general feeling of well-being and joy. Enjoying a day outside in my patio with friends is a direct payoff of investing time and effort in my back yard; while driving up to plants greeting me in full bloom is a pleasant outcome of working in the front yard.

A recent article in, This Is What Spending One Hour in the Garden Does to Your Body gives us a good visual of the health benefits from working in a garden.     

We are already aware of the mental health benefits we can enjoy from gardening, and we even know that it can increase our life expectancy but what physically happens to our bodies during the activity?
Let’s take just one hour, for example – what actually happens to our bodies during that time?  AXA PPP Healthcare have released a new infographic to help illustrate the impact just one hour of gardening has on our health, including the calories we burn, muscles we strengthen, and the vital organs we nourish. These are the incredibly positive results…
How many calories do gardening activities burn in an hour?                
What are the physical effects on your body?
Regularly exposing yourself to the bacteria in soil means that gardeners’ stomachs are more resistant and their immune system is stronger.
Gardening can naturally strengthen your heart, build endurance and increase stamina which, in turn, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Gardening works almost every muscle in the body, especially your back, arms, abdominals, bottom, thighs, and hands. Strong muscles improve posture and can protect the body from injury and other future health problems.
Regular gardening strengthens the muscles around the ankles and feet which in turn improves balance and flexibility. This can help prevent falls and injuries.
So, to confirm what we already suspected, gardening is wonderful for the mind, body and soul.
Take at look at the original article for a complete list of benefits, then get out there and do some gardening!!