Well-spirations

Finding Modern Family Wellness at Rancho La Puerta

Hi Wellness Friends! Once a year, I head back to the place where I got my wellness groove on, both personally and professionally, to work at Rancho La Puerta’s annual Family Week. The next best thing to being with my own family, is watching other families smile, laugh, and reconnect with what it feels like to have fun as a family. Here’s a quick re-cap of this magical year. 

IMG_1721Let’s face it. Family vacations are problematic. Keeping kids at various ages and stages of life happy, engaged, and eating foods other than fried chicken fingers, while enjoying a bit of healthy R&R yourself seems like the plot of a summer sci-fi movie.

And if your kids are a bit older, just the words “family” and “vacation” in the same sentence can set off a cascade of eye rolling, foot stomping, and tense family meetings that often end with your teens begging you to let them stay home alone.

The Antidote to the Family Vacation

Enter Family Week at Rancho La Puerta, the award winning destination spa just south of San Diego, in Tecate, Baja, Mexico.

The Ranch, as it is known to regulars, has overcome the stumbling blocks of family summer getaways by transforming itself into a family friendly, family connecting, wellness destination for one mid-summer week each year. The special program they create for ages 7 and up is fun, engaging, and multi-generational, all while staying true to its core values and message regarding the importance of wellness in our lives.

“There’s nothing like it for a family,” explained Rex, a three-time returning guest from the Seattle area, who visits with his wife and 13-year old daughter. As we sat together under the gazebo in the ease of a quiet afternoon he shared, “I can get up early and go off on my morning hike while my wife and daughter stay back at our room and sleep in. Later, my wife takes the classes she enjoys while our daughter is busy doing the activities she loves to do. Last year as we were leaving, our daughter was the one who said we needed to come back.”

Go Outside and Play!

During Family Week, the Ranch maintains the signature schedule of hikes and fitness classes that have made it a top-notch wellness escape. But the most memorable moments for both parents and kids seem to happen when the Ranch spreads its wings to provide a space and place for kids to roam freely and families to interact.

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Pick-up soccer golf with Olympian Sasha Victorine.

Kids enjoying a pick-up game of soccer golf on the lawn, raucous family water polo games played bobbing on pool noodles, and slow family meals sans phones, remind us that we can do things together, and it can actually be fun!

Fern, a returning Ranch guest since 1994, began bringing three generations of her clan when Family Week was announced. She said the only requirement for her family is they gather together for dinner at the end of each day. She laughs and explains that without TVs in the room, the younger ones have no choice but to venture outside to meet new friends and try new experiences.

From sun up to sundown there is no shortage of things to do regardless of your age or interests. Rancho La Puerta’s long and celebrated history attracts the highest quality guest presenters, and during Family Week they stack the deck.

Musicians, artists, writers, and storytellers all team up to create a welcoming “no-judgment” zone for all ages. These masters of their craft make it easy to pick up a paint brush or put on your dancing shoes without worrying who’s watching.

When was the last time you “Danced Like Michael Jackson” with your twelve year old, or drifted off into a deep meditative sleep, listening to the sound of healing crystal bowls, with your teen snoozing just a few feet away? As unusual as these images seem, it’s business as usual when families relax into the rhythm of the Ranch.

Hands on Wellness 

On the wellness side of things, an early morning hike to the Ranch’s neighboring organic garden serves as a template for unique farm-to-table style nutrition talks and interactive smoothie workshops with the family nutritionist brought in specifically for the week.

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Literally farm-to-table.

Kids learn best when they are engaged, and getting their hands dirty in both the garden and kitchen is often the light-bulb moment they need to connect the dots between what they eat and how they feel everyday.

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Hands on smoothie making with Chef Palma.

While sleep comes early after a full day of fun, fitness, and family togetherness, the evening programs are often the highlight of the day. The fourth annual RLP’s Got Talent Show exploded this year with a full line-up of talent, and well . . . not-so-talented talent. Skits prepared during improv classes, Broadway worthy stage performances, and the obligatory joke telling category, all came together in an evening filled with laughter and high-energy support. Rewarding each act with a standing ovation became the perfect way to work off the second gluten-free brownie we all snuck on the way out of the dining room.

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RLP’s Got Talent Show planning session.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

On Friday afternoon, a memorable tradition brings the week to a bittersweet close. Families gather in a big circle and listen to each other share one thing they will miss about the Ranch, and one thing they look forward to going home to.

Not surprising, many moms will miss the healthy organic meals that magically appear on the table at the end of each day, and kids can’t wait to get home and hug their pet hamster. But there are also realizations by both, that walking across the property together in the late afternoon sun chatting about their day is pure wellness gold.

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Buddies kickin’ back in the oak swing.

The Ranch has been helping people reconnect with their wellness for decades, and now it is an annual tradition to help families do the same. The prescription is simple—-slow down, disconnect from our devices, sit across the dinner table from one another and share our stories, laugh, love, and get a good nights sleep.

It’s all present and accounted for during Family Week. And in the end, modern family wellness feels so good; your kids will be signing you up for next year on the way out the door.

Feel Good. Be Well. Meg

Have you found a family vacation that works for everyone? I’d love to hear your family vacation stories!

Or try this week’s wellness prompt on your own . . . 

IMG_1718Wellness Prompt: Vacating our crazy busy lives with our family can be an opportunity to kick back, relax, and reconnect. What is your favorite family vacation or vacation memory? Take a moment to write about it. Where did you go? What were you doing? What did a typical day feel like? Is there a way to bring some of that relaxing family energy back into your day to day life? 10 minute write . . . go!

One Piece of Wellness Advice I Will Never Give Again

I’m a rule follower.

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Leaving again?

That’s why when I hop on a plane, which I’ve been doing regularly this year, I’m the geeky one who puts down my reading material to listen to the safety talk.

The information hasn’t changed in years, but I pay attention for the same reason I renew my CPR regularly. When someone is standing in front of me having a heart attack, I don’t want to be trying to remember which comes first, the rescue breaths or the chest compressions.

After the flight attendant reminds us how to fasten our seatbelt and use the seat cushion as a flotation device, she provides the cautionary reminder in an event the cabin loses pressure and the oxygen masks deploy:

“Put your oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.”

A Wellness Metaphor

It makes for a thoughtful wellness metaphor, and I remember liking it the first time I heard it used in that way. I even began using it in my wellness workshops from time to time.

Many women can relate. We are masters at putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own until we end up sustaining ourselves on diet cokes and airplane snacks.

Coincidentally, I sat next to just such a super woman on my flight to the east coast this week. We shared a laugh when she asked the flight attendant if it was too early for a diet coke, who then jokingly differed to me. I said, “Well, I happen to be a wellness coach—okay, just this one time.”

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A picture of wellness.

It turns out my seat mate was Lisa Patno Bianconi, runner-up for the first ever Music Educator Award given out at the Grammy Awards this past year. She beat out over 34,000 applicants for the honor.

What makes her so special is the music program she developed at the Kurn Hattin School in Vermont uses the power of music to help abused, neglected, and at-risk youth find hope in a life that often feels hopeless. One of her young students was quoted as saying, “She felt like the mother I never had.”

After hearing her story, I wanted to say–forget the diet coke, let me buy you a drink.

Rethinking 

Talking to Lisa, who has made it her life’s work to place oxygen masks onto the little faces of lost children while hers dangles in front of her unused, made me realize how ridiculous this metaphor is as a motivational tool. It makes no sense.

First, women are fearless caregivers. It’s what we do. And we will risk life, limb, and even our own health to do it. We’d rather go down with the plane than watch our teachers run out of paper, our kids struggle to succeed, or people in our community hurting.

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Nose dives: For experienced pilots only!

Not to mention, once the mask drops down from wherever it drops down from—(thank goodness I have no idea where that is)—it’s a little late to worry about who gets first dibs. My guess is there are emergency lights flashing and loud buzzers going off in the cockpit signaling a massive system failure of some sort.

And even if the pilot—or the woman in a wellness crisis—does pull out of the nose dive in time to land safely, valuable time is lost and precious moments are spent not feeling like our well-selves.

You get my drift.

A Better Approach

The smarter approach seems to be what airlines and pilots do to keep those yellow masks tucked safely away in their secret compartments, and airplanes flying smoothly and on time to their destinations.

  • Regular maintenance: Check-ups, yearly health screenings, and a glass of red wine here and there.
  • Pre-flight checklist: A morning routine that puts our wellness on the radar screen, and charts a course for a feel-good day ahead.
  • Quality fueling: A simple, healthy, doable nutrition strategy that fuels for the long haul, not the puddle-jump.
  • Smooth take-offs and landings: Getting up and down frequently during the day; sometimes for longer periods of time and at faster speeds. Lifting heavy objects is also good from time to time.
  • Down time at the gate: Regularly scheduled personal time to recharge and renew. Adequate sleep, naps, and spa days (I invited Lisa to Glen Ivy next time she’s in town).

Now that’s a metaphor that makes more sense.

Taking Action

I laugh at the thought of trying to convince someone like Lisa—-or any woman, for that matter—to put their oxygen mask on before helping the people around them. I just don’t see it happening.

But what if we could begin to connect the dots and recognize that fueling our lives with wellness, rather than sheer adrenaline and diet coke, would help the cause in a more sustainable way?

Maya Angelou said it best, “Nothing will work unless you do.”

Sure, the whole oxygen mask wellness metaphor thing sounds good at first. But look up from your book the next time you fly and really listen to the safety spiel. Deciding whose oxygen mask goes on first is one decision you don’t ever want to make.

It might just be worth switching out your morning diet coke for a nice hot cup of herbal tea.

Feel good. Be well.  Meg

Do you tend to wait for a wellness crisis (sheer exhaustion, cold or flu, nervous breakdown?) to slow down and take care of yourself? What would it take to balance self-care with care for others?

Or try this week’s wellness prompt . . . 

d6e6e5aa81dccdbf50ec5d65e5c1e44dWellness Prompt: What are your 3 biggest challenges to taking care of your wellness on a day to day basis? Spend a moment jotting them down. Consider some opportunities for taking care of yourself while continuing to help the ones you love around you. What would they be and what would it take to follow through? Ten minute write . . . go!

How to Celebrate National Yoga Month Without Even Taking a Class

IMG_0212September is National Yoga Month and the yoga community wants us to roll out a mat and celebrate all the feel-good wellness benefits of yoga.

It’s true. There’s much to love about yoga, as I was reminded when I stepped back on my mat after a long layoff last year. (Read 5 Wellness Lessons I Learned from Quitting Yoga)

For newcomers though, taking a class—even a free class—can open a Pandora’s box of workout fears. Will I be able to keep up? Will I have to stand on my head? Will I have to chant? I’m not flexible. I’m so out of shape. Yoga is way too ****ing hard!

How Come I’m Not on the Guest List?

The last one is how my sister feels about yoga. She’s been making a concerted effort to manage a recent health concern with positive lifestyle changes like walking regularly, switching up to a healthier diet, and even venturing into a beginner yoga class.

The full content of her e-mail read:

I tried to take a yoga class and said **** this! Way too ****ing hard—it stressed me out. And it was supposed to be an easy class! 

I guess I won’t be sending her a link to a free week of classes at her local yoga studio this month.

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My sister does enjoy practicing yoga with her cat.

My sister often says out loud what other people are thinking, and she’s not the first person I’ve met who doesn’t feel invited to the yoga party. Honestly, as the trend has shifted toward fast-paced workout style classes, I’ve muttered a few expletives of my own while trying to keep up.

Celebrating Yoga Sans Mat

I have good news for newbies though. The things I love most about my yoga practice actually happen off the mat. Many of them are easy, accessible, feel-good activities that not only enrich my life but make it a healthier, happier one.

I hate to see people sitting on the sidelines of anything, especially when our wellness is at stake. So, if rolling out a mat on the floor of a yoga studio gives you heart palpitations (like it does my sister), why not get into the spirit of National Yoga Month by trying some of these fun, yoga-like activities on your own:

  • BREATHE! Yogis like to say,”Everything becomes yoga when you combine mindful movement with the breath.” Try this next time you’re washing dishes or chauffeuring your kids around after school. See if you notice a difference.
  • Wear yoga pants as often as possible. They are loose, comfy, and allow you to strike out on a 10-minute wellness walk at any time of the day.
  • Practice Savasana, or “napping” pose daily. When you give it a fancy Sanskrit name, you don’t have to feel guilty taking one.
  • Green up your life. Eat more green, try a green smoothie, use green cleaning products, bring your own grocery bags to the store. Green living feels healthy and is good for the planet too.
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    Mindful cooking class at Cocina Que Canta.

  • Read Yoga Journal. Maybe it would be helpful to know more about yoga before you take your first class. This is my source for feel-good yoga info.
  • Go surfing for wellness on Instagram. Smile, feel inspired, and even laugh about yoga. Right now, I’m obsessed with @yoga_digest because it makes me do all three!
  • Chant. My go-to wellness chants are, “I can do this!” “It’s my turn!” “Today’s the day!” When life feels difficult, they put me back on the path every time.
  • Practice living in a no-judgement zone. You’ll need this for when you are ready to take your first yoga class.
  • Love all beings–especially the difficult ones. (You might have to start taking a yoga class to do this.)
  • Love yourself. Practice self-compassion. (See above about the yoga class.)
  • Take your first yoga class on YouTube. Eliminate the fear factor by learning the lingo and a few beginner poses in the privacy of your own home.

Beginner’s Mind

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Yoga sans mat!

There’s a saying in yoga, “Step on to your mat with beginner’s mind.” But for many real beginners, their mind is saying, “Holy c***! This is too hard!”

I get it. Rolling out a yoga mat for the very first time can be scary. That’s why starting your practice off the mat might be a better way to go.

So, breathe deeply today, pack your lunch with a fresh green salad, flip through Yoga Journal while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Inspiring your life with feel-good, yoga-like activities could be your ticket to go live in a real class before National Yoga Month is over.

Feel good. Be well. Meg

Do you remember your first yoga class? I sure do! I’d love to hear about it along with any fun tips for beginners.

Or try this week’s wellness prompt . . . 

IMG_7301Wellness Prompt: Do you remember when you were a beginner at something—yoga, tennis, writing, a new job? What was that experience like? What were you afraid of and how did you get beyond that fear to stick with the activity? Has that experience served to help you through other “newbie” experiences? 10 minute write . . . go!

Farmer’s Market Tomatoes Three Ways

IMG_7222I realize I am taking a risk writing a food post about tomatoes.

First, I’m not a chef, food writer, or food photographer. I get that I have no business jumping into this bracket of the blogosphere, even for a good cause like summer tomato season. People who write about food professionally will have their opinions.

Even more so, I’m a Californian transplanted from New Jersey where the tomato happens to be the state vegetable—-and for very good reason. (Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable–but the fruit category was already taken by the blueberry.)

The Jersey tomato is legendary for its roundness, redness, and sweet acidic ripeness. It is probably the only thing about New Jersey that’s no joke.

My extended family, who are also from New Jersey and are legitimate foodies, will most certainly have their opinions about me lauding tomato recipes made with the high-priced heirloom impostors we have on this side of the continent. (Stand down Root clan!)

But a couple of weeks ago, I made a breakfast sandwich from a just such a tomato. Though lacking in just about every trait of even your average Jersey tomato, it was good enough to remind me of the white bread, tomato, and mayo sandwiches I ate standing at the kitchen counter in my childhood home.

After I devoured it (standing at the kitchen counter in my grown-up home), I went on an expensive tomato binge for days until I discovered our local farmer’s market had very respectable, Jersey-like tomatoes at a reasonable price.

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My favorite salsa bowl.

The way I see it, we’re all going to be in the same boat in a few short weeks. Back to bland, thick skinned, football shaped stand-ins, suitable only for spicy pico de gallo dressed up in a pretty bowl.

That’s why I’m going out on a limb to suggest three healthy ways to enjoy these late summer treasures before it’s too late. You don’t even need recipes—-just a high quality serrated knife so that the sweet juiciness of your tomato doesn’t end up in a puddle on the surface of your cutting board.

Good Morning Tomato!

This is the sandwich that started it all. Thanks to skinnykitchen.com and their take on the Panera’s Egg White, Avocado, and Spinach Power Breakfast Sandwich, I have another go-to healthy breakfast! If you’re watching carbs or portion sizes, choose a lighter bagel option or eat half for breakfast and pack the rest along with a piece of fruit for a mid-morning snack.

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Must be eaten standing up!

Classic California Tomato Sandwich

You don’t live in California for as long as I have and not learn that vegetables go on everything. Cucumbers, spinach, and a whole wheat pita elevate the soft white bread tomato sandwich of my youth to a whole new level. Anything but Hellman’s Mayo (Best Foods out here) is a deal breaker for me, but feel free to dress it up with your favorite dressing.

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See my point about the knife?

Paleo-Gluten Free It Is!

Did cavemen eat fresh mozzarella? If they didn’t, they were missing out. You can’t exit summertime without making at least one Caprese Salad. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar—-there are so many ways to make this salad, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I think my niece killed it with her version. Here’s a picture I stole from our family Facebook page!

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Way to go, Elizabeth!

So foodies, Jersey tomato experts, and especially my Root family on the other coast—-fire away. I welcome all your comments. But mostly, I’d love a few more good ideas for ending my summer tomato binge on a high note.

Feel good. Be well. Meg

What is your favorite way to eat ripe summer tomatoes? I’d love to know!

Or try this week’s wellness prompt . . .  

IMG_7211Wellness Prompt: Summer brings back so many wonderful food memories for me. What is your favorite one from when you were a child? Take a few minutes to write about it. What thoughts, feelings, and connections come up around those memories? Have you kept those foods alive in your grown-up life today? 10 minute write . . . go!

5 Reasons to Turn Up the Heat on Your Wellness Program

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Channeling mum season.

How did it get to be August?

The past few days reminded me why this time of year is often referred to as the “dog days” of summer. The temperature in my neck of the woods spiked to over a hundred this weekend, and I know there’s a lot more of where that came from ahead. But I don’t care how much hot weather is still in the forecast. For me, August signals the downhill slide into my favorite time of year–autumn.

Happy New Year!

While many wellness coaches save their “fresh start” speech for the New Year, I say why wait until then to turn up the heat on your wellness efforts? In spite of the heavy air and dry, brittle hillsides, the end of the summer can actually be perfect timing for a new beginning.

Need convincing?

Here are my 5 hottest reasons NOT to wait until January to light a fire under your health and wellness:

  1. Woo! Hoo! The kids are back in school! (Did I say that too loud?) Don’t get me wrong, I love having my boys home on vacation. It gives me a chance to take a few weeks off from my “nagging mom” role. But when the doors of the school bus close behind our kids, there’s a moment of blissful silence that’s an invitation to take a deep breath and turn our attention inward. Why not use those sounds of silence to your benefit? Take a ten minute walk, sit down with a cup of tea and read something inspiring, or meditate for 5 minutes. (I love this beginner meditation video featuring Sharon Salzberg and Dan Harris on Happify.) Beginning the day with a brief wellness check-in sets you up for a positive, productive day ahead.
  2. Cooler weather is on the way. Okay, maybe I’m reaching on this one. But at the very least, the early morning and evening hours will begin to cool off soon. You can use the longer summer days to get a morning exercise routine in place before the winter months set in, or set out after dinner for a stress relieving walk before managing the evening homework shift. Exercise is your biggest ally in life. Just do it! (A little tough love, because I care!)
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    My “sweet as honey” friends from Bobcat Farms.

  3. Fresh produce everywhere! Farmer’s markets, like the #coronafarmersmarket in my town, are brimming with the summer’s bounty. What a great opportunity to venture out of your meat and potatoes comfort zone and strive to get more fresh veggies onto your plate. Even if you don’t have the local organic thing going on where you live, big box grocery stores have their best selection and lowest prices at this time of year. Heres’ a fun recipe for Summer Vegetarian Tacos with Avocado Cream and Feta from a food blog I love, called Naturally Ella. If these don’t make you want to go veggie for at least one meal, I don’t know what will!
  4. Less people at your favorite places for wellness. We love the busy season at Glen Ivy Hot Springs where I hang my wellness hat, but 50 people in the 11am aqua class? Talk about close quarters! The autumn and winter months are a wonderful time to experience the contemplative side of destinations like the hot springs. Plan a wellness day for yourself. Arrive early and find a quiet corner of the spa. Bring a journal and take some time to reflect on your wellness path. Explore new wellness avenues with a workshop or fitness class. My August/September workshop, Inspired Change, is all about charting a feel-good course for your wellness.
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    My son and I enjoying a Sunday morning swim at our deserted community pool.

  5. Holiday madness is just around the corner. I hate to jump the gun with annoying reminders that the holiday season is next on our to-do list, but we know it’s coming. Let’s all agree now that we are going to handle this one differently. (Are you with me?) Why not use the next few months to get the new you in place—-that person who continues to exercise, eat healthfully, and savor the wellness life, regardless of holiday craziness.

Bring on the Pumpkins!

I’ve studied enough yoga and meditation to know that I should “live in the moment” and enjoy each day. I agree . . . most of the time. But when my car thermometer reaches 91 degrees at 9:01 in the morning (no joke—-that’s happened before), I say, “bring on the pumpkins!” I’m looking forward to my favorite time of year to get moving again, and I hope I’ve convinced you to do the same.

Feel good. Be well. Meg

Who else exhales a decadent sigh of relief when the kids go back to school? Do you have something you do for yourself right off the bat to celebrate? I want to know.

or try this week’s wellness prompt . . .

IMG_1750Wellness Prompt: What part of taking care of yourself have you put on the back burner during the busy summer months? Take a moment to write about it. What do you need to do most to get yourself back on track—-More movement? Healthier food? More balance? A new passion? Is there some space in your life this fall to make that happen for yourself? I bet there is! 10 minute write . . . Go!