A Sign From Mom: The Mourning Dove and the Cross

dove and cross

My mom loved to tell the story of a memory she had from when my nephew Matt was a toddler. Mom and my dad cared for Matt—in fact for all four of my sister’s kids—while my sister and brother-in-law were at work.  She had a favorite memory for each of them.

Her memory for Matt was of a day when a mourning dove was cooing in the yard. Mom pointed to the sky and told Matt to listen for the sound of “the owl.” (Eventually, she realized it was not an owl, but a dove.)

The dove cooed, and Matt asked, “Grammy, if I point to the sky will it do that?”

The night before my Mom passed away, Matt, now 19, had a dream about an owl. Or maybe about a dove. The next day, as our whole family sat with her during her final hours on Earth, my sister told Mom the dove would be our sign.

“Send us a sign,” she whispered in Mom’s ear.

Mom passed away peacefully with her husband, children, and older grandchildren by her side. We’re heartbroken, and as I write this, it’s hard to imagine the pain will go away. But I lean on the words of my dear friend who told me that despite the pain and stress, this experience would also bring us the key to a new kind of love. He is right.

Our Sign

After Mom’s funeral mass, as we left the church and got into our cars for the drive to the cemetery, my sister said aloud, “Mom, you were supposed to send a sign!”

At that moment, she looked up and saw a mourning dove in the sky, “sketched” from clouds.  (“Mom really couldn’t draw,” she joked, though later when she sent me a photo of a mourning dove in flight, I thought it wasn’t such a bad sketch after all.)

mourning dove in flight

A mourning dove in flight

And that wasn’t all. Next to the dove was a giant cross. It followed our cars all the way from the church to the cemetery. Another sign, we’ve decided to believe, that Mom is okay and with God.

Our Mom’s Christian faith was the cornerstone of her life along with her love for her family, friends, and students. So, it’s fitting she’d use the cross along with the dove as our sign. The days ahead will be difficult, but we choose to believe that not only is she with God, but that both she and God will always be with us.

 

 

 

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Well-being Business Content Marketing: Part One—Who Are You and Who Are You Becoming?

explore create inspireLately, I’ve spoken with a lot of wellness professionals who are wondering what to do next. A yoga teacher wants to write a book. A personal trainer is thinking about blogging. Another yoga teacher wants to get certified to teach Pilates, and a nutritionist is branching into holistic health coaching, so she can focus on the mind and emotions as well as diet and exercise.

The great thing about wellness is the possibilities for growth are endless. I’m working with a coach right now who has just been through a series of certifications so she can do wellness counseling. She’s also a writer, and the project we’re working on is a book to supplement her counseling and position her as an expert in the field.

Today I met a young woman who described herself as a “holistic wellness junkie” and a “hippie.” She was wondering how to focus her passion as an entrepreneur.

First Steps First: Defining Your Well-being Business or Service

Before you can create content for your well-being business or service, you need to know what that business or service is. Sounds obvious, I know, but most of us evolve, and as we do so, we become a slightly different version of our former selves.

Are you a yoga teacher? What sets you apart from all the others? Maybe it’s your love of restorative yoga or your ability to inspire others to become more powerful. Maybe devotion to classical yoga is your ID. Or perhaps you’re ready to offer videos of your classes or write a book about how yoga changed your life.

Did you begin your career as a nutritionist? Your next step may be holistic health coaching that focuses not only on food but on the mind, emotions, and physical fitness. What tools will you create to reach that goal?

Do you want to connect with your tribe via email marketing or is blogging your thing? Helping people grow their own well-being business may be next for you. Or perhaps you offer complementary healing services, like reiki or aromatherapy in addition to teaching yoga.

I worked with a personal trainer who created his own vegan protein powder and became a new kind of entrepreneur. Another client turned a passion for yoga into a business selling yoga and aromatherapy products.

Let Your Passion Lead You

Last winter, we had a blizzard in the northeast. The yoga studio where I practice was closed, but one of teachers posted a YouTube video on Facebook so we could all practice at home. It was wonderful! I wouldn’t be surprised if the next step in her career is creating more videos and DVDs.

The point is if you tune in and follow that voice that led you to a career in wellness to begin with, it will continue to lead you. What would you like to create next?

Content is King

If you market online, you’ve heard it said that content is king. To be honest, I’m a little tired of hearing that. Obviously, your online presence depends on something your audience can read, hear, or see. The problem is there’s so much to read, hear, and see these days that a lot goes unnoticed.

The real question is how can you stand out? Here are a few ways to start with:

  1. Be sure your content is relevant to your audience. So, this means not only defining what you do but who you do it for. Be as specific as possible.
  2. Create content your audience can respond to. Engage them. Make them want to comment, share, and follow you. That may mean testing different formats—written posts, images, quotes, videos, etc.—to see what resonates with your tribe.
  3. Know why you’re creating. The content you offer online is probably not your end goal. You want to get people interested in your services, your classes, your book, or your paid courses, right? People you meet online may not become students, readers, or clients overnight—or even ever—but they’ll be aware of what you do and may refer others to you.
  4. Get help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one is successful alone. If you find assistants you connect with and trust, you may end up with much more than a better product and more successful business. You’ll also have the opportunity to form valuable relationships with like-minded wellness entrepreneurs. The value of good relationships really cannot be overstated!
  5. Help others. Join networking groups and share your knowledge. You’ll be surprised how much people appreciate a tip or answered question that takes only a few minutes of your time. That time will pay off. You never know when someone you’ve helped will need your services or know someone else who needs them.

I hope these words will help you move along the path of your dreams. I’d love to learn what you’re creating, and so would others, I’m sure. Please share your thoughts in the comments, and let’s see how we can help each other move forward!

 

Uplifting Essential Oils: Using Aromatherapy To Lift Your Mood

essential oilsI’ve been a fan of aromatherapy since I learned about essential oils in a workshop at my local yoga studio awhile back. I’d been using scented candles and those plug-in air fresheners to keep my home smelling good, but I was wary of the ingredients in those products. Aromatherapy with pure essential oils solved that problem. The benefits turned out to be more than I expected, especially when I discovered uplifting essential oils.

Diffusing essential oils does more than keep my home smelling great. Each oil has specific benefits as well. I learned that certain aromas have a direct effect on specific brain centers. Aromas travel through the capillaries in our sinuses and trigger nerves that send direct signals to the brain. Many of these signals have to do with emotions.

A number of uplifting essential oils can be used to boost mood and even alleviate depression. And you can go a step further to target specific kinds of depression. For example, do you tend to feel tired when you are feeling down? You can lift both your mood and your energy level with geranium, lavender, peppermint, basil or rosemary. Anxiety can be calmed with clary sage, frankincense, patchouli, ylang ylang or chamomile.

How to use uplifting essential oils to lift your mood 

There are many ways to use essential oils. Start by simply opening the bottle and inhaling the aroma! Some other great uses include:

Diffuse them. Place a few drops in a room diffuser and the aroma will last for hours. There are many types of room diffusers on the market.

Bathe in them.  Add your favorite oil to warm bath water and soak your way to good mood. Scented water is extremely relaxing and very therapeutic.

Use them in lotions or bath products. You can make aromatherapy products yourself by adding essential oils to unscented bath products, or you can buy them already made.

Spray them in your room or car. Essential oils can be added to pure water in a spray bottle and used sprayed anywhere to instantly fill your space with pleasing aromas.

Sleep with them. Put a few drops of essential oil on a tissue or piece of cotton that you slip under your pillow case. You can even put a drop of relaxing oil inside each nostril at bedtime. If you choose to latter, make sure to choose oils that will not irritate your skin. The labels on most essential oil bottles will indicate if you can use them directly on skin.

Use them for a relaxing massage.  You can make your own massage oil by adding essential oils to unscented massage oil. Another option is to buy aromatherapy massage oils infused with essential oils.

Once you discover the benefits of aromatherapy with essential oils, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

A Complete Protein Supplement for Vegetarians and Vegans!

CTP

Originally published in 2013. 

I recently learned about a product unlike any I’d seen before. It’s called Complete Truth Protein Powder, and it is a raw, plant-based supplement designed primarily for active women.

Now, I’ve never used or seen the need for protein powders since I’m just an average active woman, but this supplement intrigued me. When I read about it, I learned it could be used for baking, and this discovery could not have been timelier. I’d been looking for something easy to carry with me when I need to eat breakfast on the road. I like a moderate amount of carbohydrates with my breakfast, but I don’t want to go overboard. In other words, I don’t want a bagel or any other kind of commercial bakery product.

At home, I usually have something like scrambled eggs and a slice of sprouted grain toast or a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, but obviously those are not foods I can throw in a baggie and take with me to eat in the car! So when I came across CTP, I thought this might be my answer.

The Truth about Complete Truth

While it’s labeled a “protein supplement,” CTP is really much more than that. It’s a whole food; it’s raw, and it’s 100% vegan. It also provides a good source of nutrients like magnesium, iron, and zinc. These are not qualities that are easy to find in a single package.

If you’re a health-conscious vegan or vegetarian (yes, there are unhealthy forms of these diets), you know you need to pay attention to the way you combine plant foods to be sure you get all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) your body needs. If I asked you to name a plant that provides a complete source of protein, you’d probably say soy. But soy can be problematic for some for several reasons, such as allergies or the desire to stay away from the hormone-like phytoestrogens soy contains.

If you’ve made the decision to eliminate or reduce the amount of soy in your vegan diet, what do you do for protein? You may wonder if there are any other options out there that provide a complete source of this important nutrient. Well, there are: quinoa and hemp, which happen to be the only two ingredients in Complete Truth Protein Powder.

What’s so great about quinoa and hemp?

You probably know that quinoa is a high-protein grain, but did you know that its protein is complete? I love quinoa as an alternative to rice, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a protein powder with quinoa, not soy, as one of its basic ingredients.

The other ingredient, hemp, is also a complete source of protein, this time in a seed. And hemp’s got some other benefits as well, most notably its omega 3 content. In fact, both hemp and quinoa qualify as super foods in my book.

If, like me, you are a vegetarian or vegan who enjoys a moderate amount of carbohydrates but wants to balance them out with protein and healthy fats, few foods on the planet are better choices than quinoa and hemp.

Finally, a Complete Protein Breakfast Muffin!

Drew Taddia, the fitness expert who designed Complete Truth Protein Powder, says he created the product after searching for a whole, raw, plant-based source of complete protein that did not contain long list of added ingredients he couldn’t pronounce. Not surprisingly, Drew couldn’t find such a product…so he created one himself!

Maybe if I searched long enough, I could find a whole food, high protein breakfast muffin that has all of the essential amino acids and also a good amount of omega 3 and other nutrients. But why look? Now I can make one myself!

My Complete Truth Protein Banana Muffin

There is a recipe book that accompanies Complete Truth Protein Powder, but since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for any of the recipes, I decided to try CTP in a banana muffin recipe I often make with oats and whole wheat flour.

All I did was substitute Complete Truth for the flour, and in about 30 minutes, I had a healthier version with a complete source of protein! I can store the muffins in the freezer and take one (or two) out whenever I need something to carry with me for breakfast on the run.

I’m guessing you can do the same with anything you bake – muffins, cookies, breads, etc. But if you’re not a baker, you can also add CTP to yogurt, oatmeal, shakes, and smoothies to make those foods more balanced and healthier.

Bucket Lists, Careers, and The Meaning of Life: Why Do You Do What You Do?

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What’s on Your Bucket List?

Recently, a friend asked me what’s on my bucket list. He began to name some things on his—mostly travel to various places. I couldn’t think of a place I need to see in my lifetime, though there are a few places I’d like to go. Go or not, I’ll be happy.

Or not.

I no longer have a specific career goal on my bucket list either. Over the last few decades, I wanted to be a noted psychologist, a bestselling novelist, and a nutritionist. I imagined changing people’s lives with my insights and ability to motivate my clients to live a healthy lifestyle.

A more recent career goal (before I became a freelancer writer), was to be an awesome teacher to a special population of kids I really understood. Let’s just say politics got in the way of that goal.

But like I said, I no longer dream of accomplishing a specific career-related goal. I now see how all of these pursuits fit together.

There are a lot of things I’d like to learn—or relearn—before I leave this planet. I’d like to sing again, play tennis again, and I’ve always wanted to learn to draw. I have to learn about technology and digital publishing (but none of that is on my bucket list).

In fact, I’ll be fine if I accomplish any of these things or none of them, as long as I stay engaged in something.

A simple goal: Finding the meaning of life

So what is on my bucket list? What do I need in order to feel that my life has been worthwhile?

Well, it’s simple. I need to know—or believe, because we never really know anything, do we?—that my life has had meaning and that I’ve somehow made a positive difference. Isn’t that what most of us want.

Can I ever know for sure that my life means something? Maybe not. It may have to be enough to just believe. In many ways, I have yoga thank for knowing what’s enough. Yoga has taught me to be myself and to use my gifts without attachment to the outcome of my efforts.

It’s hard though. I won’t lie.

Making a difference

I suppose it’s obvious for some people that they’ve made a difference in the world, and it must feel good to know this. Respected doctors, best-selling authors, Noble Peace Prize winners and the like get some kind of tangible feedback and proof that their lives have meant something.

Do I need to be famous or remembered in history books? Of course not. Does it matter much that I may not be personally remembered by many once I’m gone? Not really, though it would be nice. But I do want to believe I made a small difference somehow. Because a small difference can have a huge impact. It can be part of a whole movement toward the development of good. I know in my heart that this is true, though I can’t point to any scientific evidence to support my hunch.

Your Career is Not What You Do, But Why and How You Do It

The other day in yoga class, my teacher, who always seems to know exactly what I need to hear, read a passage from Marianne Williamson’s bestseller, A Return to Love.  The book is a classic for good reason. It’s simple and brilliantly poetic. It’s about love.

The passage my yoga teacher read was about, of all things, careers. How did she know I’d been wondering about the direction of mine?

My friend who asked me the bucket list question is struggling with a similar problem. He’s at a career crossroad himself. The career thing is very different for him than it is for me in some ways. But in others it’s not. We both want to make a difference.

How to Make a Difference

How can we make a difference in such a complicated society? We have so many choices. On the other hand, as we explore each possibility, we often find our choices are, in reality, remarkably limited. They may lead us down dead end roads until we hit a wall.

And then what?

There is fierce competition for jobs, whether one is a corporate executive or a freelancer looking for her next gig. There is so much that seems irrelevant and pointless when it comes to using our gifts. Are we “qualified,” are we “certified,” do we have experience in a very specific field we know we can succeed in?

Simply using our gifts is not always enough—because of the competition, the bills, the tax laws, the stock market, and information overload. Every day my inbox is bombarded with the latest “secret” for finding clients and well-paying writing gigs. Most of them are regurgitations of the ones I received the week before. At this point in my career, few of them are useful.

But I shift through them all to find that needle in the haystack. Because there still needles to find.

My point (I do have one)

When I forget why I do what I do, I am tempted to give up. I need to remember to serve, and my way of serving is helping people communicate what they do (or know).

We all have gifts. If we use them well, we can craft a meaningful career, though it may not resemble what the textbooks say a career is supposed to look like. In other words, we don’t all choose a profession, get an entry level position in that field, and then slowly but steadily climb to the top until we are making a comfortable living, then retire and look back with satisfaction on how seamlessly our working years progressed. For many of us, this career thing is a mish-mash mess.

Enter the simply brilliant perspective of Marianne Williamson. As a writer, I’m in awe of her brilliant ability to cut through to the point and say it with beautiful simplicity. “Success,” says Williamson, “means going to sleep at night knowing our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.”

Williamson goes on to say that what we do is not as important as how (or why) we do it. We should do whatever we do kindly. The key to success is to realize how we are connected—that the purpose of our work lives is not different from the purpose of the rest of our lives. It’s all to spread love.

Does Your Work Spread Love?

For some, it’s a stretch to see one’s job as work that spreads love. And some work does not (in which case the doer may want to consider a change). But every job worth doing has the potential to be done with love. Even if your job is to sell used cars—or carpets—you can do it with love. I mention carpets because I once knew a salesman who was joyfully helping people pick out carpets well into his eighties. That kind of thing can be inspiring.

Whatever you do, you can be kind, honest, and friendly while you do it, and your goal can be both making a profit and helping someone else, whether that person is a customer, client, or coworker. If you are doing your work solely for the profit, you may miss a lot of opportunities spread love. That is, you may miss your purpose.

My goal as an editor and writer is to help people communicate. I enjoy writing about others and helping them polish their work as much as I enjoy crafting my own stories. For the most part, I work in a niche that is easily about love—well-being—but it’s not the only way I use my talents. I’m also a technical editor, and I spend a good amount of time pouring over copy about digital imaging products. How is that about love? Well, the team I work with is a great group of people; for most of us, the work is about supporting each other’s efforts. Our collective goal is to communicate an accurate message.

Before I launched myself as a freelance writer and editor, I was a teacher, an administrative assistant, a nutritionist at an upscale gym, a financial aid counselor, and a research editor. Yes, I’ve had many jobs. In Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says the same of her life.

Marianne also says she’s had many jobs but only one career. I say the same.

The reason I’ve had many jobs (and clients) is I’m continually tweaking my work life to align with purpose. I’m looking for the best way to use my gifts to do what I came here to do—what we all came her to do—spread love and make a difference, no matter how small that difference seems.

If I can do that, I don’t need a bucket list.

 

Improving Communication Starts with Listening Longer

balancing the fifth chakra

I was flipping through channels on TV and came across a psychologist doing an audience Q & A. Someone asked him for tips on how to communicate better with loved ones.

The psychologist’s answer was simple (but not easy). “Listen longer than you want to,” he said.

Improving Communication Starts with Listening

I’m often told I’m a good listener, but I’ll be honest. There are many times I just don’t want to listen anymore. Usually, this happens when I’ve heard the same thing before—sometimes many times before—from the same person. You’ve probably been here too. Your friend or spouse or sibling is going on about the same problem they’ve shared seemingly a thousand times.

And you’re just like, “OMG, get over it already!”

I don’t feel great about this. But I think we must be honest with ourselves. Even the most compassionate, skilled listeners have a point at which they don’t want to have the same conversation again.

But why not? It doesn’t take more time to hear the same thing than it does to hear something new.

I think the reason is listening to someone struggle with something you (and apparently, they) are unable to change, makes you feel inadequate. Why, after all, do they keep coming to you with this problem? If you haven’t helped them get past it the last fifteen thousand times you’ve listened to it, what will be different this time?

Okay, I’m exaggerating. It’s usually only a thousand times. But there’s a point at which no amount of listening will make a dent in improving communication.

Communication is Connection

One definition of communication is the exchange of information. It implies a connection between two or more parties to impart and receive information. When we speak of communicating with people close to us, we’re usually interested in more than information. In fact, information is easy to communicate.

When we talk about improving communication, we’re usually talking about connecting on an emotional level. We want to understand intentions, values, and things that are difficult to describe using words alone.

Yet, we use words because words are the best tools we have for communicating. When we’ve heard the words and nothing has changed, though—we neither understand more nor feel understood more than we did before—it may be time to think beyond the words.

Listening longer than we want to does not just mean hearing sounds. It doesn’t only mean being silent while words are spoken. It means being present and tuning in to those words and the message the speaker is trying to impart. This isn’t easy. To do it, we need to suspend our own egos and check impulses to be defensive or have answers. And often, we need to sit with impatience when we realize we can’t fix someone else. If we look closely, we may find it’s ourselves we’ve lost patience with.

And the truth is, if the other person isn’t a good communicator, there may be nothing more we can do to improve the connection.

Meditation for Improving Communication

Want to practice communicating better? Learn to meditate!

Meditation teaches us to be present, suspend, the ego, and tune in—the very things we need to do well if we want to be good communicators. It also teaches us to listen and to pay attention when we listen, not just to words, but to emotions and things beyond words.

And it helps us stay present, even when the connection isn’t happening the way we’d like it to.

So yes, if you want to be better at communicating, listen more than you want to. But empty your mind and be present while you do it.

 

Dream On, But Don’t Count on Your Dreams Coming True

Grand Canyon2I once heard it said that a dream is something that would make all the pain go away if it came true. And I got to thinking, what is it called if that doesn’t work? As one who has many dreams—most of which did not come true—I wonder if it really matters if dreams come true.

Maybe what matters more is that the pain goes away, no matter how that happens. Sometimes something unexpected comes along, and the pain goes away for a while. It may not even be something you ever dreamed of. Even the greatest dreams, if realized, doesn’t always take pain away. At least not forever. Pain, being part of life, inevitably comes back.

People who live privileged lives in the sense that they experience less pain than others have dreams. And those dreams probably keep these folks a step ahead of the kind of gut-wrenching pain that can make you wonder what the point of life even is.

What do you dream of?

There are things we’re all supposed to want: love, friendship, work we feel good about, and a sense of purpose are some examples. If we don’t find those things, we find ways to distract ourselves—sometimes very destructive ways like drinking or drugs or getting into other kinds of trouble. Sometimes better ways, like spirituality, yoga, meditation, the pursuit clean living.

It may be a stroke of luck that causes us to find our way to the “better” list. Maybe in some of those cases, it turns out that we’re lucky we didn’t find the love we sought or that our dream to become something didn’t come true.

So dream on, but don’t count on your dreams coming true. But don’t give up on dreams, either. They exist for a reason. But they also change.

The Greatest Dream of All

Maybe the best idea is to always have a dream but not hold on to any one dream so tightly that you don’t notice another more important one you can replace it with. For example, maybe letting go of the dream of finding true allows you to discover opportunities to become true love by serving others. Being love is, after all, the highest and most fulfilling pursuit.

Once you are united to your source—that is, once you know you are love —accomplishing or getting this thing or that thing may not become less important.

What is important is to keep trying to accomplish something, whatever it is. And keep trying to become something greater than what you are now.

That Locker Combination Dream: Listen and It Will Open

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I had that locker combination dream again recently. It was the one where you’re in school and you can’t get your locker open. You’ve probably had this dream in some form. I’ve had the locker combination dream dozens of times, always waking before I figure out how to open that door.

In the recent version of the dream, I was once again in school. It was the first day of class, but oddly, my fellow students and I were well into adulthood. In fact, some were former teachers and administrators in the schools of my youth who are well past retirement in real life.

My Locker Combination Dream

In the dream, I was at first in my room in the home I grew up in trying to decide what to wear. Would I be comfortable in short sleeves or would it be chilly in school? While I was making what seemed like an important decision, I also realized I was late. If I didn’t get going, I wouldn’t have to time to get a cup of coffee to bring to class (I guess a reference to my college and graduate school days when I wouldn’t think of trying to get through class without coffee)!

Looking for the Locker

I got to school and discovered that not only did I not know my locker combination, but I wasn’t even sure where my locker was. “Not this again,” I thought (in the dream). I had carefully noted the location and the combination. How could I not know where to go or how to open the locker this time?

I was about to give up. I sat cross-legged on the floor with my head in my hands and cried. I’d been in this here so many times, and I just didn’t have the energy or desire to try to figure it out anymore.

After a few minutes, though, I realized that couldn’t continue to sit there on the floor. I forced myself up and look around, though doubted I’d find what I was looking for. I was on the third floor of the building, searching frantically for the locker. Still no luck.

Then a calm voice in my head reminded me, “It’s upstairs.” It wasn’t dramatic. It was just a quiet voice within. I followed some of the older people up one flight of stairs. Sure enough, my locker was there there on the top floor of the building. “I think it’s near the science rooms,” the voice in my head suggested.

I found my locker (my name was on it). It was the first in its row, a few doors down from the science wing. I noted that this locker was bigger and nicer than the gray, steel lockers of earlier versions of the locker combination dream (and real life).

But there was still the problem of opening it; I still didn’t know the combination.

Listen for the Clicks

“Just listen for it,” the voice said. “These lockers are designed to be used by thousands of intelligent people. Just listen and you’ll be able to hear the combination.”

Trusting that voice, I slowly turned the knob clockwise until I heard a very subtle click; then I turned it counterclockwise, then clockwise again. It opened with the combination “19-3-12.” I began repeating the numbers to myself as I searched for a pen the combination down.

My inner voice spoke up again. “You won’t forget this. It’s 1932, except not 2 but 12.” I could remember that, I decided.

A man next to me had just opened his locker, and he was delirious with relief. We exchanged recollections of all the times we’d had to go to the office to ask for our combinations in the past in other schools. Who knew it was as easy as just listening for things to “click”?

The Locker Combination Dream is Resolved. Or is It?

Quickly, something else occurred to me. If all I had to do was listen for the clicks, then anyone else could come along and do the same. Anyone, if they listened closely, could open my locker and steal its contents. As I thought this, I noticed a woman over my left shoulder. She was clearly watching for me to write down my combination so she could copy it.

“It won’t work for her,” I heard. “The combination is for you alone.”

Confident, I smiled at the woman, and went about gathering the books and materials I would need for class. But now a few people were gathering around me asking me to help them open their lockers. I wasn’t sure how I could help them. They’d just have to do the same thing I did, I figured. I didn’t want to disappoint them, but I didn’t know how to explain this.

And that, this time, is when I woke up.

I do like to analyze dreams, but in this case, I’m not going to try to figure out that last part just yet.  The rest just makes me smile. At least now I can open my own locker.

Hiring a Professional Editor? Here’s What to Expect

writer

If you’re thinking about hiring a professional editor, the first step is to consider your goal. Are you self-publishing a book? Do you want to put your best foot (or word) forward when marketing your well-being service? Do want clickable content that search engines will find and people will read?

Of course, you can do a lot of this on your own. Before you think about paying for help, learn as much as you can about creating sound copy. (If you need some help, you can download my free resource here.)

But we all need help from time to time. Even editors hire editors. (I do!)

How Can an Editor Help You?

Think about what you want help with and set some realistic expectations about the time and cost involved. The most important piece of advice I can give you is find a professional editor who knows about your topic. Better still, find someone with a passion for it! Also be sure to find someone you connect with.

A carefully selected second pair of eyes can cut your workload by more than half, because neither you nor your editor will burn out if you both own the project. You’ll want to be able to work together efficiently. You should enjoy the process and feel supported as well as assisted.

How Quickly Can a Professional Editor Work?

Granted the term professional is not regulated, but there is a wide range of skill when it comes to editors. Keep in mind that fast is not better. (On the other hand, slow doesn’t necessarily mean detailed or thorough.)

Knowing a bit about how editors work can help you decide if you’ve found one worth hiring.

In her book, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, editor and teacher Amy Einsohn, a leader in the field of copyediting, gives the following estimates of a “typical pace for copyediting hard copy.” The estimates are based on two passes (the minimum necessary to do the job well).

Light copyedit: 4-9 pages per hour

Medium copyedit 2-7 pages per hour

Heavy copyedit 1-3 pages per hour

The “pages” Einsohn refers to are manuscript pages, which are typically only 250-325 words in length. (Manuscript pages are double-spaced for ease of editing.)

How Much Should Hiring a Professional Editor Cost?

I recently took a continuing education course in which the topic of fees was raised. According to instructor Jacqueline Landis, an editor with more than 15 years of experience, “The rock-bottom rate for an established editor is $20 per hour for light to medium copyediting. An average rate is $35 per hour, and the top rate ranges from $50 to $75 per hour.” The higher fees are usually for very heavy developmental editing.

If you have a 25,000-word manuscript (approximately 50 single-spaced pages in Times New Roman 12-point font), editing fees can range from $150 to more than $5000! For a typical light to medium edit, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a professional edit.

What do copyeditors do?

So what do you get for your investment in professional editing? The short answer to this question is, “probably more than you realize!” If you are hiring a professional editor, ask about his or her process. Look for clues that the person is a qualified, experienced editor. Here are some questions (and answers) that may help.

1. Does the editor use a style sheet? You shouldn’t have to ask this question, because all professional editors do. In case you’re not aware of this tool of the trade, a style sheet is a form of keeping notes, usually on a chart. The goal is to keep track of anything that may be inconsistent or need attention as the editor reads. Style sheets are crucial to accuracy, as you probably can imagine. For example, while editing a book that is hundreds of pages long, it would be easy to miss that a name is spelled one way on page 3 and another way on page 233 without a style sheet.

Editors also use style sheets to note stylistic preferences. For example, should there be a comma before the conjunction in the last item in a series? (If you were in school more than a few years ago, you may not realize this is now optional.)

2. How many “passes” will the editor do?  “Pass” is editor-speak for reading the manuscript once. As I mentioned before, two passes are the minimum for quality work. In some cases, due to budget or time constraints, an author may request only one, but be aware that it is not reasonable to expect perfection if you do this.

3. How does the editor ensure accuracy? Some tricks of the trade include reading the manuscript out loud, taking a break at least once every two hours, or spending no more than 6 hours editing on a given day (except in emergencies). Yes, we all want things done quickly, but as I said, quick does not mean good. Editing is tedious work. If an editor promises to complete a 300-page manuscript in 3 days, find another editor!

3. Does the editor work on hard copy with traditional proofreaders’ marks or on electronic copy using a feature like Microsoft Word’s Track Changes? If the editor doesn’t know much about either  of these methods, don’t expect professional results.

4. Which style guide does the editor use? There are different guides for different purposes. Some companies have their own house style as well. I use CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style) or AP (Associated Press) unless a client requests something else. Ask this question to ensure the editor you hire will not simply be working from memory of high school English class.

One quick tidbit before you get out there and find a great editor. There is no consensus on how “copyeditor” should be spelled. CMOS (and I) spell it as one word; AP (the style guide for journalists) spells it as two (copy editor). Go figure!

Not ready to hire an editor? Join my email list and receive access to my free guide that will help you start editing your own work today!

Bad Foods: Why Some Foods Probably Should Not Be Part of Your Diet

Many people follow diets that do not allow this or that kind of food. Some avoid gluten, while others forego meat. For others, refined carbohydrates are bad foods.

Conversely, many people who eat whatever they want. Many of these people use catchphrases like, “There are no bad foods.” You might also hear things like “all things in moderation” from those who do not believe there are bad foods. So, what’s the truth?

Are There Bad Foods?

chips and berries

After more than twenty years of studying nutrition, I understand the limitations of restrictive diets. I understand why some people say there are no bad foods. But my belief is there are most definitely bad foods. Or perhaps I can put it more accurately and say there are foods that are not good for you!

What I can’t do, though, is give you a list of such foods. Foods that are not good for you depend on your own uniqueness. We are not all the same physically, emotionally, or biochemically. So a food that does no harm to one person might have a terrible effect on another.

Worse, in the case of some allergies, eating a certain food could be deadly. For an obvious example, consider nuts. They are healthy for many people. For those with severe nut allergies, though, eating nuts can have catastrophic consequences.

A Better Definition of Good and Bad Food

In a sense, I agree there are no bad foods, but I agree with a caveat. My definition of food may be narrower than most. To me, food is a substance that is nourishing. To understand what I’m getting at, think beyond what you eat and consider a phrase like “food for the soul.”

The idea of nourishment is simple. A food is not nourishing because it tastes good or because it’s filling or because everyone else at the party is eating it. It’s nourishing because it is good for you. Something positive happens to your health when you eat it. Or at least, something negative does not happen.

If I have a nut allergy, a nut is not food to me. If I’m diabetic, perhaps I shouldn’t think of sugar as food. If my gut goes haywire when I eat wheat…you get the picture!

Food for Overall Well-being

I have not eaten red meat or poultry in decades. I wrote about why in another post. At this point, if I were to eat a single hamburger, I doubt that anything “bad” would happen to my body. But for me (just me), something negative would happen to my spirit.

Based on what I’ve learned about factory farming and its abuse of animals and the environment, eating meat from a grain-fed cow slaughtered in a factory would not be a nourishing experience to me. If I thought my body needed meat for physical health (I don’t), humanely raised grass-fed beef might be an option. This is one personal dietary choice. There are many others. I’m sure you have your own.

Everyone is Different

The truth about food as I see it is no one diet is appropriate for everyone. But to make choices about food, we must know how our bodies use it. We must also know how it is produced. I remember an excellent article in which a naturopathic physician took the idea of bad foods to task. In the article, she stated that she eats “anything she wants.” What she didn’t really get into, though, is that her passion for health and her education about food give her the incentive to make choices that are good for her. Not all people have this luxury.

There are certainly people who believe that feeding a child a hot dog on a white-bread bun and a soda for lunch every day is healthy. I’m fairly confident in my belief that it’s not.

The One Question to Ask About Food

If you’ve found a way of eating that works for you, chances are you had different beliefs before you found that diet. And you may change your ideas about food as time goes on. I’d need to spend a good amount of time with you before I could suggest what might be good or bad for you.

I think there’s only one question to ask about food. The answer to that question may not be so simple, though. The question is, “Does this make me healthier?” And when I talk about health I mean not only physical health, but other aspects of your well-being too.

Over time, if you have a good relationship with all aspects of yourself and with food in general, knowing what is good for you becomes intuitive. Only you know when a piece of chocolate cake will do your body no harm and when it will it will hurt you. You may need to expand your definition of food to make this decision well.

This idea works with almost every food you can think of. Sure there are some foods (organic berries come to mind) that are good for almost everyone. There are others (like blue cotton candy) that can be called food only by a great stretch of the imagination.

The point is the path to good health depends on a lot of things. Diet (in the good sense of the word) is only one of those things.

If you don’t have a good relationship with food, you will not be able to make better choices overnight. You might get on track more quickly by getting to know more about you instead of trying to decide if a food is good or bad.

Think about it.

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. She has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.

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