How Can You Improve Your Parenting?

Practical advice for gifting the love of reading

There are dozens of things that we can do to improve our parenting skills. One thing that we can do is to help our children develop a love of learning and creative, independent thought.

When I reflect on my own experience as a young father helping my kids learn to read, I realize now that I made many mistakes. A lot of those mistakes were made out of shear ignorance. I tried to teach my children by applying pressure to perform well. And I am not a teacher by trade. I didn’t understand the necessary activities and building blocks needed to aid in developing cognitive ability and language skills. I made reading time a tense chore rather than an enjoyable discovery. I wish I had this conversation with New York Times children’s books editor Maria Russo when my kids were young. Sage advice from our conversation includes “Leave the teaching to teachers. Your job as a parent is to help your children discover the joy of reading.”

In their new book, How to Raise a Reader, Pamela Paul (editor of the New York Times Book Review) and Maria Russo (children’s books editor of the New York Times Book Review) divides the subject up into 4 stages of childhood – from babies to teens – and offer practical tips, strategies that work, and inspirational advice on how to help your kids develop a love of reading. Maria Russo was kind enough to chat with me on Life in HD. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

More information on How to Raise a Reader can be found here.

Music bed in this episode is Happy Ending by Scott Holmes under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License.

Don’t let me be the only bad parent out there. Please share your reading horror stories with me here.

30 Year Love Affair

Us – Baltimore Inner Harbor

Today is the day that we celebrate 30 years of marriage. It all started when I spotted Angela P. Brown on an MTA bus in Baltimore, MD. I had no idea that the young woman seated a few rows away shared my destination (both literally and figuratively). I wrote about that day in a previous post. As the story goes, she wore a tight skirt and paisley boots; a pensive look and shiny lip gloss. I was intrigued, smitten even. She showed zero interest in me but I had to make my move or forever wonder “what if”? The rest is a 30 year love affair full of laughs, tears, celebrations, and curses. Ours is NOT a perfect marriage, but the foundation rest solidly on love, respect, and mutual admiration. Our three decades together have been wonderful but not without challenges.

First 10

Newly married with fresh offspring

Imagine a marriage proposal that goes something like this, “So you wanna just get married?” I would 1,000% do it all over again if I could. But I can’t and I have to live with that failure for the rest of my life. This woman deserved a Hollywood styled surprise proposal and I came up short. And yet, she still said yes.

The wedding was a hot AF October Saturday. We played a passive role in its planning and it probably showed. But we were surrounded by friends and family and that was cool. Some I’m sure thought we would make it while others likely thought it to be a disaster in the making. We knew what we had and that’s all that mattered at the time.

The decade saw the birth of our first child Imani Khadija Lee; a frightening and exhilarating moment in what was, to that date, a two year marriage. Mix an infant baby with a toddler marriage and you have the kind of stress that could break a weak bond. We were lucky to survive but overjoyed to be parents of a beautiful baby girl. I had to be on air at WEAA FM by 5 AM and we only had one car. Finding a daycare situation to accommodate us was difficult and added to the stress. But our commitment to each other and our young family helped us push through.

As if a new marriage and newborn child wasn’t enough of a test, we tossed a relocation in the mix for the hell of it. Moving to a place over 300 miles from family and friends to a place where we knew no one was risky but we embraced the adventure and faced our future head on. Angela and I loaded up the black Nissan Sentra with what wouldn’t fit in the moving truck, strapped 1 year-old Imani in a car seat and headed to Syracuse, NY where the early struggle continued.

Second 10

A growing family. Pictured in front of our first home.

We were finally catching our groove in Syracuse. My Job was going pretty well and during this time Angela began her human resources career at Welch Allyn. The ten years invested in this union had already long outlasted that of my parents. In fact, there were very few examples of healthy relationships to learn from in my family. My brother, Roland, and I were determined to make marriage and commitment to family a central part of our identity. But we were making it up as we went along.

To ensure our success in Syracuse we needed to create extended family where none existed. Enter David and Melanie Littlejohn. Along with David’s sister Linda and her husband Langston, the Littlejohns represented the extended family network that we needed to survive in our new home. This was equally important to Imani’s development.

Make no bones about it, these were tough years on the marriage. We purchased our first home and were taking on more debt, living pay check to pay check. But we never fought over money. Disagreements, yes. Fights? No. In fact, fights are rare with us. We allow space for cooling off after heated disagreements and we never have and never will say things to each other that we can’t take back. And intimacy was a challenge during this time in our lives. Busy jobs, active weekends, and a child with a robust social calendar, we struggled to connect organically. For nearly the entire decade, I slept in the guest bedroom because of sleep apnea. Sex was a “by appointment” activity for sure. Sunday night was the night and is was as consistent as the sunrise. We considered it “marriage maintenance” and made sure to never lose physical touch.

So while we were working to keep our heads above water, the decade would take a turn for the worse. In two consecutive summers, Angela and I would lose two of the most important people in our lives. Angela lost her mother, Geraldine, and I lost my brother Roland. Poor Imani lost a grandmother and her uncle. There were bouts of disbelief and depression. For a while after, summers represented sadness. The music of those summers became the soundtrack of tragedy. But we had each other through it all. Never losing our center…the love we had for each other.

Needing to lift our spirits, we chose to counter the loss with an addition to the family and, on a June afternoon in the year 2000, introduced Hadiya Asha Lee to the world. The LA Lakers were on the verge of beating the Pacers for the NBA championship and we were watching in the hospital room. Angie’s water broke early and labor was induced. I nearly fainted when she arrived. I dropped my wife’s leg and tripped over the surgical light cord on my way to the rocking chair. I made the grave mistake of looking down there as Hadiya’s head crowned. Hit simultaneously with the urge to hurl and shit my pants, I once again failed my wife. Left her to fend for herself during the birth of our second child. Hadiya was the joy that we needed. Another beautiful baby girl with an amazing spirit. Our little unit had grown to four and we were determined to be good parents. Through it all, though, we were equally determined not to let parenthood totally consume US. Research has shown that adding children to a marriage can decrease marital satisfaction. We made sure that parental duties were equally divided so no one partner absorbed more than their fair share of stress.

Third 10

Empty nesters living our best life.

These were/are the good years. This what my wife refers to as “shit is gettin good” years. Debt was declining and income was rising. We purchased and moved into our second home and the girls flourished. But stressful careers and the demands of raising two kids put a strain on the relationship. We hit a rough patch and began to drift away from who we were as a couple. Losing our identity. Our center. Patience, communication, and love for one another is what helped us survive this tricky phase of marriage. A phase where things become almost business like as we divide responsibilities and work to manage those responsibilities. We were merely coexisting and that just wasn’t good enough for us. Increasing communication and being mindful of physical touch is how we began to change the narrative. And we began to clarify and put focus on our shared vision of the future.

Launching one child into the world and settling the other on campus translated into more alone time for Boogie and Bleezie. The much talked about empty nest. A period of stress and angst for many couples faced with detachment from their mom and dad identities. This was not our issue. The early investment in the relationship and our “us against the world” posture served us well. You see, Angela and I learned early on in our marriage that we were all we really had. There was no one investing in us but US. Best friends, lovers, partners cohesive and neatly packaged. So with a nest now empty, discovering life and growing together is how we forge our path. We enjoy and prefer each other’s company. Never losing what attracted us to each other during the early dating stages. We haven’t changed so significantly that we don’t know each other. Intimacy has never been better. We share both dreams and a vision of how to make those dreams come true. Truly living our best lives.

Harmonic Rhythm

I asked Angela why she thought things worked so well between us and she responded with “marital norms”; and respecting each others space – both physical and metaphorical. Ever the business professional, Angela equates marital norms with workplace norms. That is having a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities and how you relate to and operate within your physical space. I call it having harmonic rhythm. We flow together like a river curving around rocks and banks, moving in the same direction and never diverging. And we have never tried to change each other because we believe that our differences balance us out.

Never Losing Touch

On mornings when I am the last to get out of bed, I walk downstairs to find Angela peddling around in the kitchen. I’ll hug her from behind when she doesn’t expect it or she will immediately walk into my arms for a warm embrace. This can happen all day long if we are not working. Touches, kisses, hugs…it’s hard to imagine being in the same room with her and not having physical contact. My hand resting on her thigh when I am driving. Holding hands for the 15 seconds that either of us can stand PDA as we walk down a city street. It is behavior that we want our children to see. We want them to know what a healthy, loving relationship is supposed to look like. “Couples who don’t maintain an intimate connection through both sexual and non-sexual actions are destined to become virtual strangers.”

The Next 10 & Beyond

Who knows what the future will bring. We plan to retire early and enjoy as much of what life has to offer us as we can. See the world a bit and develop new passions. We are just beginning to write the script and this love story is…TO BE CONTINUED

Overcoming Trauma

“P1088270.00_01_28_15.Still002” by SIM East Africa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

When we think of trauma, we tend to contextualize it with major traumatic events like the death of a loved one or a violent event. But traumatic events can happen to us on a daily basis and we often fail to recognize when it is impacting us.

If you’ve experienced an extremely stressful or disturbing event that has left you feeling helpless and emotionally out of control, you may have been traumatized. Today’s show will offer ways to identify when we are experiencing trauma and how to effectively combat it. My guest, Franchesca Clemente, is a psychotherapist that shares how to identify when your body is reacting to trauma, and she offers some practical advice on how to work your way through it.

Some of the advice for dealing with stress and trauma discussed in this episode include:

  1. Breathing – breathing excercises can help calm yourself down by changing your focus and reducing your body’s physical reaction to stress.
  2. Exercise – avoid obsessively reliving the traumatic event. Partake in activities that keep your mind occupied like exercise. Take a walk or a run, read a book, or play with your kids.
  3. Practice self-care. Learn to self-sooth.

Music in this episode is “Sullen Faced” by Ketsa under creative commons non-commercial license.

Do These Things to Advance Your Career

Professional development, regardless of your position, should be the driving force behind your career aspirations. But in order to advance your career, you need to have a plan. Or you can leave it up to chance. But having a plan is more the more likely path to success.

This episode of the podcast provides some concrete tips on what you should focus on in a good career development plan. I am joined by veteran, award-winning human resource professional, Angela Lee. She is Vice President of Talent Development for a publicly traded mid-cap global manufacturing company. If the last name sounds familiar, she also happens to be my wife. She is one of the brightest people that I know.

In the show, Angela shares the following tips:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Define what success looks like to you
  3. Hoard skills and capabilities
  4. Seek mentors and sponsors
  5. Seek feedback
  6. Create networks and build social capital
  7. Focus on results
  8. Accept lateral moves if they help build skills and capabilities
  9. Know when it’s time to move on

It’s a great conversation and I hope you’ll get something out of it. If you’ve built a successful career and would like to share some tips with others, feel free to leave some comments. I thank you in advance.

Our theme music is Pumpkin Spice by Audiobinger under Creative Commons Attribution non-commercial license.

Be sure to follow the show on Spotify or subscribe for free with Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Search for Enlightenment

In 1968, after several platinum and gold albums, members of the iconic rock group the Beatles found themselves spiritually exhausted. They enjoyed the fame and the riches that came with it but often wondered…”what’s it all for?”

The group sought answers through the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement. They visited the Maharishi’s ashram in India in 1968. The experience had a profound impact on their music. I was super curious about what the search for enlightenment was like, not only for the Beatles, but for tens of thousands of people around the world.

To help me understand the experience, I turn to Susan Shumsky, author of Maharishi and Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles Guru. Susan was under the tutelage of the Maharishi for 22 years and served on his personal staff for 6. She talks to us about the enlightenment movement and how Transcendentalism is manifested in the Beatles music.

Childfree By Choice

Dr Amy Blackstone – photo by Jeff Kirlin

You’d think, in 2019, that the choice to not  have children would be acceptable in our society, but American culture can’t accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother.  Motherhood is sacred and revered.  Not wanting children goes against everything we’ve been taught to think about the concept of family.  Women and girls are portrayed in media and pop culture as individuals driven to get married and have children.  Yet in reality, there are plenty of women who would rather not have the stresses of parenting or the loss of individual identity.  And the pushback against the stigma of not wanting to be a parent has given birth to the childfree movement in America.  

Our conversation today centers on the childfree movement and our guest is Dr Amy Blackstone, author of Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family & Creating a New Age of Independence.  Dr Blackstone is a professor in Sociology  and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine where she studies childlessness and the childfree choice.  And she is no stranger to a wide range of negative responses when she informs people she doesn’t have – nor does she want – kids.

Music in this episode is Pumpkin Spice by Audiobinger under Creative Commons License and Ride Out by Audiobinger under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License.

Man Fast

Natasha Scripture – credit Maggie Marguerite Studio

Overcome by emotions at the loss of her father, pressures from a demanding job, and conflicted emotions over failed relationships, author and humanitarian worker Natasha Scripture embarked on a journey to answer the question at the center of her anxiety…What is my purpose? The answer is detailed in her new memoir, Man Fast.

Books, movies, and TV shows often sell the fantasy of finding “Mr Right”. That can be in direct conflict with finding yourself and discovering your purpose in life. Man Fast is a book about a personal journey to self-discovery and self-love. In a culture that prizes finding the right man, Natasha Scripture shares her personal story that demonstrates a better understanding of self and the world around us. It’s a story of her awakening…the art of paying attention…and recognizing the true source of love. And it all started with a fast from the dating game.

“I needed to design a life that was empowering and inspiring and authentic for me and not settle for a partner that didn’t feel right.”

Push play and enjoy the conversation.

Music in this episode is Lonely Satellite by Bio Unit under Creative Commons license.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

It is a heavily researched question and the consensus is…yes, it can.  One of the key benefits that money provides is safety and security.  Having enough money eliminates anxiety when shopping or making large purchases.  Money also affords you memorable life experiences that bring joy and happiness, allows you to help loved ones, and give back to your community.

But just how much money do you need to be happy?  To answer that question, we narrowed the focus of this conversation down to how much money and what kind of experiences do the happiest people in retirement have in common.

Helping me explore this question is Wes Moss, author of the book You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees.  Wes is also Chief Investment Strategist at Capital Investment Advisors and host of Money Matters, an investment and personal finance radio show.  The research conducted for his book quantifies the financial habits of happy people versus unhappy people.

Whether you call it happiness or peace of mind, money CAN provide a freedom that allows you to truly enjoy your life in retirement and, according to Wes’ research, you might not need as much as everyone is telling you that you need.  Remember, the happiest retirees

  • Have a median of $500,000 in liquid net assets (up to $850,000)
  • Once you get above that amount, you’ll experience “diminishing marginal happiness”
  • The happiest retirees average 3.5 core pursuits and have an average of 2.5 children. (Listen to find out exactly what that means)
  • And the happiest retirees live in the middle when it comes to shopping and dining out.  Not too cheap and not too expensive.

You’ll find the common traits among the happiest retirees to be very enlightening. I hope you’ll listen to discover more.

There Are No Happy Endings

Nora McInerny has become a reluctant expert in difficult conversations by bringing empathy and wit to difficult subjects.  She is host of the American Public Media podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking and founder of the on-line support group the Hot Young Widows Club.  I recently spoke with her about her new memoir No Happy Endings where she describes her exploration of the reality of being changed by loss without being completely defined by it.

Within the span of a few months, Nora lost her husband to brain cancer, miscarried her second child, and saw the passing of her father.  Not long after those tragic events, she found love again in Matthew, her new husband. Through it all, she describes the awkwardness of being a widow, the difficulties of becoming a single mom, and the guilt of finding love again.

With great humor and sensitivity, Nora reminds us that there will be no happy endings in life, but there will be new beginnings.

For more information on Nora, visit her site here.

Music in this episode is Love Me Forever by Audiobinger under Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution License.

National Sibling Day

It’s National Sibling Day and instead of thinking about the short life I spent with my brother Roland, I’ve given thought all day to his funeral. Perhaps is was because I was preparing for an interview with author Nora McInerny. Her book, No Happy Endings, is a memoir that chronicles the personal tragedy of losing her husband to brain cancer not long after they married. She writes, often with great humor, about the awkwardness of being a widow and how being around people became increasingly difficult. Which brings me back to my dead brother and the awkward day of his funeral.

My brother Roland died in 1999 at the promising age of 36 from complications resulting from the treatment he received as a kidney patient. After his body rejected the first kidney transplant, he had a 2nd operation that we thought was successful after living for 4 years with it. I’m not sure I was ever told what the official cause of death was.

A day or so before he passed, I received a call from my uncle Mike who said, “your brother isn’t doing well and I think you should come home.” I was dead asleep in the guest room of our house (because I snored like a growling bear) when the call came from my mother. My wife walked in the room and handed me the phone. My brother had passed before I could get there. I howled for quite some time as my childhood flashed before my eyes. Cried until there were no more tears to cry. Death had never come so close to me.

I learned a lot about my brother during his funeral. He was well respected by the faculty of the theology school he attended and by leaders from his church. Great moments of pride swelled my chest. The church was full of family, friends, church members and school mates. So many people that I could find a quiet place to think. I couldn’t breathe.

As grand a send off as it was, I hated the entire affair. I have always found funerals to be a morbid and unnecessary ritual. Looking at dead bodies is a creepy exercise and I was in no mood to socialize. My brother was a devout Christian and his funeral was as about as Christian as a funeral could be. Christians view funerals as a “home going” event, a reason to celebrate. Yet I was in no celebratory mood.

I had what could only be described as an out-of-body experience that day. Aside from my wife, who understood what I was going through, and my sister-in-law who was devastated upon losing her soulmate, everyone seemed to me to be attending a different event. The laughs and smiles, jokes and hugs all seemed foreign to me. There I was in my grief having just lost my only brother and people were engaging me as if we were attending a church picnic.

The thoughts that ran from the depths of my mind to the tip of my tongue were held back only out of respect for my mother. “What the fuck are you smiling at?” “You find this to be a fun event?” “Yes, I haven’t seen you in quite some time. Now get out of my damn face.” “Yes, upstate New York is beautiful country…now piss off.” I wanted to grieve. I needed to grieve. But these people did not understand the needs of the heathen black sheep of the family. The non-church attending son. The one yet to have his body snatched by space invaders. They didn’t understand the immense guilt that I carried knowing that the last conversation that I had with Roland was an argument about my not being saved.

I helped the other men carry my brother’s body to the dead person’s car. Weak in the knees, he nearly slipped from my grip. What a total dick I would have been if I dropped my dead brother to the ground. But I held on tight.

I still carry the guilt of not saying goodbye and the guilt of not donating a kidney and likely always will. It’s difficult separating that guilt from the memories. It’s a burden I’ll happily bear if it means that I can still remember the sound of his voice, his laugh, and his trying to save my lost soul.

Finding Happiness From Rock Bottom

David J Mauro climbs Mt Everest

Researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort, and that much of happiness is under our personal control.  Indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, achieving goals and maintaining close social bonds can all increase life satisfaction.

But what if your life has spun out of control?  When all seems lost, can you find your way to happiness from rock bottom?  Our next guest says, “yes”.  After a failed marriage was closely followed by the death of his only brother, David Mauro, who suffered from depression, found himself at rock bottom.  That is until he decided to climb a mountain.  David is the author of The Altitude Journals: A Seven-Year Journey From the Lowest Point in My Life to the Highest Point on Earth.  He tells us how he found his way back to happiness after his journey to rock bottom took him to the top of Mt Everest.

We can all relate to having low points. Some lower than others. What separates us is how we climb our way back to normal. Back to happier times.

In this conversation, David Mauro describes how his passion for mountain climbing forced discipline and focus in his life when he lacked it most. He explains how “rock bottom” can be the ultimate “gift.” And he tells us how conquering the challenges of mountain climbing allowed him to finally deal with his problems.

It’s a great conversation and there are good lessons to be learned. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Do you have a “rock bottom” to happiness story? Feel free to share it here if you’re comfortable doing so.

For more information on David and his adventures, visit his website here.

Music in this episode is Maree’ by Kai Engel under creative commons attribution license.

Own Your Happiness

As we explore happiness and what it means to be truly happy, we keep coming across a repetitive theme…that happiness isn’t something that happens to you.  Happiness is something that happens because of you.

Behavioral scientists have spent a lot of time studying happiness and we know that happiness can predict health and longevity.  So why wouldn’t we want more happy moments in our lives?  I think most of us do, but we can often be our own worst enemy.  We can sabotage our efforts and desires to live a happier life, often without even realizing it.

We must work at being happy and a part of that work includes removing obstacles that prevent us from experiencing joyous moments.

On this episode of Life in HD, we hear from Sheri D. Engler, author and illustrator of the book The Pearls of Wisdom: A Fairy Tale Guide to Life’s Magic Secrets for All Ages. Sheri helps us understand why we hold on to emotional clutter and how relieving yourself of it can help you lead a happier, more fulfilling life. Sheri is an experienced mentor, medium, and meta-physicist with a background in counseling and research. She received her BA in Clinical Psychology from San Francisco State University.

If we hold on to the clutter in our emotional storage space, we block our ability to think happier thoughts and conquer negative thinking. Thank you for giving this episode a listen. And please share your techniques or activities for clearing your mind with me in the comments section.

Our theme music is Pumpkin Spice by Audiobinger under creative commons attribution license.

Is It OK To Be Selfish?

From Acts 20:35 of the King James Bible we get the notion that “it’s better to give than receive.” A noble proposition for sure, but is it truly better?

Psychologist say many people don’t give enough to themselves. Studies show that those who practice self-care can reap benefits in their mental state, physical health, and relationships.

In this next series of Life in HD podcasts, we will explore the pursuit of happiness. What it is, how we define it, and why obtaining it is easier for some more than others.

In this episode, I examine how self-care can lead to happiness when you make yourself a priority. I speak with Christopher Felton, author of the book Re-Member Yourself: A Healing Journey Through Your Innerverse. In his book, Christopher attemps to provide some answers to the question: in living for others, have you forgotten to live for yourself? A Healing Journey is a self-help book and journal and it encourages us to be recipients of our own good acts. In this regard, selfishness can actually be a good thing. Push play on the audio player and take a listen.

For more information on Christopher Felton and his book, visit Remember Yourself.

Our theme song is Pumpkin Spice by Audiobinger under Creative Commons Attribution License.

You Don’t Have to be Miserable

Welcome to Life in HD – the podcast that puts a spotlight on how we live our lives.  [LANGUAGE ADVISORY]

You and I both know how difficult personal change can be.  We are creatures of habit and we operate in comfort zones where sticking to habits, whether good or bad, bring us the comfort of familiarity.  But what if what’s comfortable for you makes you not a likeable person?  Brings out traits that you don’t like in yourself?  What do you do then?  You know the kind of person that you want to be…you can see yourself in your mind’s eye…but how do you get there?

I talked with man who, faced with that very scenario, decided to go through a personal transformation and he shares his journey with us on this episode.

John Kim, known as The Angry Therapist, was forced to face his shortcomings as a man and a human being.  After a heart-wrenching divorce, he turned to blogging as a way to explore how to become a better person.  He shares his journey and his discoveries in a new book titled “I Used to be a Miserable Fuck: An Every Man’s Guide to a Meaningful Life”  He describes, that after some deep soul searching, that he was indeed a miserable man.  He considers his journey as something of a rebirth.

In a sense, John Kim is redefining what it means to be a man.  In his work, he finds that there are many fatherless young men out there without proper role models to emulate or provide a moral compass.

In “I Used to be a Miserable Fuck”, The Angry therapist draws on his own personal experiences as a therapist and a man to help readers, men and women, start some important internal dialogue and think about who you are…and who you want to be.  He says it requires work: reflection, pain, courage, and perhaps a rebirth.  And he offers this book as a guide. 

There are a number of do’s and don’ts in this book that will challenge you to examine yourself and your definitions of manhood. Like “Do live a through me life”, and “Don’t pee in the shower”.

You can get a copy of his book from any retail bookstore.  For more information on the book and John Kim, visit his website theangrytherapist.com.  The music in this episode is Pumpkin Spice by Audiobinger under creative commons attribution license. I Hope you will find his episode and discussion to be of some help on your journey to self-discovery and self-improvement.  Please push play on the player and enjoy the conversation.

West Palm or Bust

Top-down cruising in West Palm Beach

My wife and I purchased a condo in Palm Beach, FL in 2017. It started as a family vacation home but has quickly turned into our likely place for retirement.

While she hails from Virginia and I was born and raised in Maryland, we have lived and raised our family in the Syracuse, NY area for over 25 years. That equates to 25 mostly brutal winters. We have both had enough.

Yes, Florida is becoming passe as a retirement destination and the state has its fair share of challenges including oppressive summer heat and the occasional hurricane, but in the year and a half that we’ve been traveling there, we have fallen in love with the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach areas. And anytime you actually close on a property 1 day from hurricane landfall when everyone is evacuating and everything still turns out fine, you know that the strength of your dream is forged in fire.

Public art in downtown West Palm Beach, FL

One of the reasons we have fallen in love with the place is the ample public art and murals that bring the town alive and pop with visual stimulation. It forces you to stop in your tracks, gaze, and contemplate.

Angela blends her beauty with the beauty of urban art.

West Palm Beach and adjacent towns like Lake Worth offer a variety of urban art, murals and sculptures. Mix it with great restaurants, mild weather, gorgeous beaches, and a vibrant cultural scene and you have the makings of our version of a dream retirement destination.

Clematis Street – downtown West Palm Beach

Our most recent visit offered an opportunity for us to give the place an “empty nest” spin. With the eldest daughter out on her own and the youngest living on campus, we were able to give our future a dry run. It was an extended weekend of discovery. New places to dine, new beaches to visit and there is always art right around the corner.

Winter in the northeast can be such a life-less time of year, especially for a child of the south, and each subsequent winter drives me deeper into seasonal depression. South Florida’s mild temperatures, blooming vegetation, and swaying palm trees seem to be the perfect remedy for us.

Future Self

Photo by Lisa Mathews

Do me a favor. Close your eyes and think of your future self. Are your eyes closed? Good. Visualize yourself at 57, 62, 65 or even 70 years of age. What are you doing? Where are you living? Specifically, how do you spend your days? Walks on the beach? Enjoying hobbies? Are you living your best life? Are you retired or still working? Now think about whether or not you have the resources to live life comfortably.

A GoBankingRate.com survey on retirement savings revealed that 42% of survey respondents reported having less than $10,000 saved for retirement, including 13.7% who said they had $0 saved. If you count yourself among them, you have considerable ground to gain if you want to just take care of your basic needs in retirement. The changes that you make today can help you live more comfortably tomorrow.

In this episode of Life in HD podcast, I speak with Vicki R. Brackens, President and Financial Planner at Brackens Financial Solutions Network and registered representative of LPL Financial, member SIPC. Vicki helps us map out some strategies to reduce debt and start saving. We also tackle the common excuses people cite as reasons they can’t save. Take a listen. Your future self with thank you.

Target Audience: people who find themselves behind in saving for retirement.

Focus: establish what you’ll need – understanding the Social Security piece of the pie – reducing debt – eliminating excuses – vehicles that will help you grow your nest egg.

Music – “Pixels” by Drake Stafford under Creative Commons license.

More on Vicki Brackens

Part 2 – Change Your Diet, Save The World

Photo by Catherine Singleton

Americans consume, on average, over 222 pounds of meat per person per year. And that big juicy rib eye steak that we enjoy has an impact on our environment. From deforestation to polluted water to methane-producing livestock, the meat and dairy industry’s impact on the planet is massive and contributes roughly 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emission.

Can adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet or reducing the amount of meat that we consume reduce our impact on the planet? To help me make sense of the connection between the demand and consumption of meat and the increase in greenhouse gasses, I am joined by Robert M Wilson, Associate Professor of Geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Part one of this episode explored how reducing meat in our diets can produce better health outcomes for our bodies. This episode explores how the same can have better health outcomes for the planet. Thanks for listening.

Music in this episode is Ultraviolet by AA Aalto under creative commons license.

Change Your Diet, Save The World

By Unknown – This image was released by the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health, with the ID 2413

Are you a resister? The kind of person that is resistant to change but you actually want to change that behavior? Well you are in the right place. This season of the Life in HD podcast is devoted to change both big and small.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series on reducing meat consumption for a healthier lifestyle and healthier planet. That’s right, by simply reducing the demand for red meat, you can improve your health outcomes and limit the environmental impact that the meat industry has on our planet.

If you’ve ever considered moving to a more plant-based diet, now would be a good time to make that change. To help us think through it, I chat with Ruth Sullivan a registered dietitian at Syracuse University. She helps us understand the health benefits of a plant-based diet and guides us on the best way to get started if it’s the change we want to make. Then I check in with Karen DeVose, a busy higher education professional on her recent decision to live a meat-less lifestyle. It’s an informative discussion. Just push play on the audio player and absorb the info.

Music in this episode is Ultraviolet by A.A. Aalto under creative commons attribution license.

The Magic of Letting Go

Change is not always easy. We live our lives conditioned to do the same things over and over because we are creatures of habit. Familiarity brings comfort. And yet change, if we are open to it, can bring about some very positive consequences.

This season of Life in HD is devoted to change. Getting out of our comfort zones, shedding old habits, and striving for growth. We start things off with a conversation with Courtney Carver, author of the book Soulful Simplicity: How Living With Less Can Lead to so Much More. She also publishes the blog Be More With Less where she writes about living a simple, clutter-free life.

This isn’t a conversation about freeing up counter space or organizing closets. Instead, it’s about getting your mind and soul ready to let go of all of the physical and emotional baggage. She has an amazing story to tell and I hope you’ll give this episode a listen. Hear her describe the 3 myths of ownership and tell us about the wake up call that inspired Courtney to change her life.

Music in this episode is “Wireless” by Lee Rosevere under creative commons attribution non-commercial license.

Feel free to share the changes that you are planning for your life in 2019. Perhaps it will inspire a future episode.

Women & Personal Finance

Do Too Many Women Still Rely on a Man for Their Financial Plan?

Do too many women still rely on a man as their financial plan?  Kathy Longo, certified financial planner and author of Flourish Financially says, yes.  According to a CNN Money article, a report from USB found that 56% of married women leave investment and long-term financial planning to their husbands and 85% of women who defer to their husbands feel that their spouses are more educated on financial matters.

As a financial planner, Kathy Longo has seen first hand how major life events like divorce, job loss, or death of a spouse can reveal major surprises for women who were not active in their household financial planning.  Many are shocked by crippling debt, sparse savings accounts, and bad credit.  Situations that can keep them from living their best life.

What can you do to be more informed and active in your financial planning?  We chat about it on this episode of Life in HD.  Give a listen and learn what you and your spouse can do to plan your future together.

To learn more about Kathy Longo, visit: Flourish Financially or Flourish Wealth Management.

Music in this episode:  Love Me Forever by Audiobinger under Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons license.

Like the Life in HD Facebook page at: @LifeHDPodcast

Sculpting a Better You

George Kilpatrick on the leg press machine

George Kilpatrick, host of Inspiration For the Nation on Power 620 AM in the Syracuse, NY market, faced a few health related issues a few years back.  He responded by taking control of his life, changing his lifestyle, and getting fit.

In episode 2 of our series on health and wellness, we explore practical ways to address your fitness deficiencies.  No experts and no fitness gurus.  Just to average guys who have struggled with weight chatting about the lifestyle changes they made to reach their fitness goals.  You are never too old and never too fat to get started.  Take a listen to this before inking your 2019 New Year’s resolution.

For more information on the program hosted by George, visit Inspiration For the Nation.

Music in this episode is by Nicholas Mackin – The Beginning or the End under creative commons license.

Letting Go of Painful Memories

Health & Wellness Series

Things happen in our lives that leave emotional scars that are difficult to let go of.  Past experiences that occupy our thoughts and keep us from living a fulfilled life.  As we continue the health & wellness series, Dr Susan Nicholas helps us understand what we are going through and how we can recondition the mind through introspection to let go of the painful past so that we can live in the present.

For more information on Dr Susan Nicholas visit her site here.

Music featured in this episode is:  “Sullen Faced” by Ketsa under creative commons license.

Fighting the Silent Killer

Over the next few episodes of Life in HD, we will focus on improved health for a better life.  There’s no question that declining health (physical, mental, financial) poses a threat to your quality of life.  And if we want to experience a rich life full of special moments and meaningful connections, we must make sure that we are physically, emotionally, and financially able to do so.

Nearly half of American Adults have hypertension..including me.  And most of us treat it with prescribed medications.  Those can often come with side effects that impact the quality of life.  In this episode, I speak with alternative medicine specialist Dr Steven Helschien, founder of Level 1 Diagnostics, a comprehensive testing program to detect and prevent cardiovascular disease.  He talks about the bad habits that lead to high blood pressure, the side effects associated with prescription meds, and alternative ways to address the issue.

Information on the “hand grip therapy” mentioned in this episode can be found at Zona.  (Mention of this product does not equal an endorsement).

Information on Level 1 Diagnostics can be found in the link in paragraph 2.

General information on heart health and hypertension can be found here.

Music in this episode is composed and performed by:  “Butterfly Peace” by Rod Hamilton & Tiffany Seal under Creative Commons License.

The Diaper Bank

Cayla Clark (left) Michela Hugo (2nd from left)

We take basic necessities like diapers for granted.  However,  what you and I consider a necessity millions of people in this country find to be a daily struggle.  About 15 million children in America live in families that fall below the federal poverty rate.  That’s 21% of all children.  Many of these families work but earn low wages or have unstable employment; leaving basic necessities like diapers difficult to come by.  And this can have a cascading affect on the health and well being of bother mother and child.

Young Violet helps her mom Cayla collect and distribute diapers.

I sat with two women to get educated on the issue and to find out what kind of work that the CNY Diaper Bank was doing to make an impact in our community.  In this episode of Life in HD you’ll meet Michela Hugo, founder of the local non-profit Diaper Bank, and Cayla Clark, volunteer and former board member.  Their work is inspiring.

For more information and to learn how you can help mother’s in need, visit the CNY Diaper Bank.

Music in this episode is courtesy of:

“Summer’s Grace” by Ketsa under Creative Commons License

Rise Above Poverty

There are roughly 1.3 million homeless school aged children in America.  And research has shown that children who experience homelessness face a wide range of challenges related to their health, emotional well-being, and safety.  In this episode of Life in HD, you’ll meet Reggie Kelley who is the founder and director for the charitable organization Rise Above Poverty.  Reggie’s organization collects basic necessities for homeless school kids to help them worry less about their physical condition and appearance and concentrate more on learning.  This is his story.

To learn more about homeless school children in America, see this PBS article.

Music featured in this episode is provided by:

  1. Nicholas Mackin – The Beginning or the End – under Creative Commons License
  2. Yan Terrien – My Algo2  – under Creative Commons License – no changes were made to the song.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present.  To be fully present and aware of one’s self is actualized living.  That’s according to Kirk Abner, author of the book Flower Dog Man.  In this episode of Life in HD, I chat with Kirk about how living an actualized existence saved him from a life of depression and meaningless pursuits.  I’ll also share 5 simple tips to help you cultivate more focused behavior on your journey to be fully present and aware of what’s happening in the moment.

Notes

Music featured in this episode – Warm Morning by Ketsa under Creative Commons License

Flower Dog Man by Kirk Abner

More information on Mindfulness can be found HERE.

Tips for practicing mindfulness mentioned in the episode can be found HERE.