Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Alligator Feeds on Fish at a Florida Nature Park

I took a walk at Payne's Prairie to get close and personal with alligators. I was not disappointed! The alligators were sun bathing in large groups. Park-goers are warned to stay 20 feet away from the gators. No barriers exist, so they could have you for lunch, if they wanted. And 20 feet? The gators looked about 20 feet long. Dozens of them lounged along the river-beds. It's quite a heart-thumping site.

I happened to capture the smallest alligator, on my Flip Camera, as he stalked his lunch. I lucked out, and filmed the gator gulping down some kind of 3 foot long fish or maybe an eel. Yummy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weight Loss In Men Over 50: Case Study Part II

Unlike Richard, who has reached his goal, Chuck is about three-quarters of the way through his weight loss program and the goal to lose 20 more pounds.

If you have any questions for the guys, please post them in the comments!


Chuck lost over 40 pounds using the following protocol, which was a challenge due to his health history, as he explains:

1)     Chuck, please tell us your experience with the program. For example, who initiated the program and why did you become involved?

In order to answer this question I must first back up to July 2010.  I went to a Blind Rehab Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama for 8 weeks, because I was losing my sight. They offer an excellent rehab program there.  Upon arrival, during the intake process, the nurse practitioner was asking routine health questions. Based on my answers, she ordered blood tests for Type 2 Diabetes. My blood pressure was high as well.  Within a few days I began taking prescription drugs for blood pressure and diabetes.  I weighed over 300 pounds at that time. I was miserable and the prescription drugs seemed to make me feel terrible. 

By December 2011, I was feeling as though I was in very poor health, even though I had been working out 3-4 days per week.  My blood sugars were out of control.  I went to the doctor and insisted that I needed a different prescription and a plan to lose weight. The doctor changed my medication and suggested I look for a program that would push me physically and mentally and offer a diet plan.  

At that moment the Gainesville Health and Fitness Center had sent out an email detailing a workout study group. The email stated that they were looking for volunteers for their initial 6 week program.  I went to the first meeting and was selected as a participant. The program was with the new X-Force machines and a seasoned trainer that had a lifetime of experience to offer those who were willing to learn.  I felt that this was a great opportunity for me to have a regimented program that I would be able to follow and learn from. The X-Force machines offer a “Negative Force” resistance that greatly enhances the workout. 

Dr. Ellington Darden’s hypothesis was such that a person would gain muscle mass and lose weight by following his prescribed workout and his strict but varied diet. The diet was controlled calorie with a minimum of one gallon of ice cold water daily. The diet started with 1600 calories for men. Although the workout was extremely difficult and exhausting, the diet proved to be my greatest challenge. Because I was taking the blood pressure and diabetes medicines, I would run out of energy and get low blood sugars.  After discussing this with my doctor, he suggested that I lower or even skip the meds on the days that I worked out.  After 2 weeks on the plan, I took a bold move and stopped taking both meds. I found that my daily readings were good as long as I followed the plan completely. Soon, I realized that I did not need the meds as long as I continued the same diet and workout plan.  

2)     I understand there were several protocols with different goals. Describe briefly which program you chose.

The program I chose was focused on the principle that a person could lose weight and gain muscle using the X-Force 2 times per week and use a diet consisting of 1600 calories for men for the first 2 weeks, 1500 calories the second 2 weeks, and 1400 calories the final 2 weeks.  This cycle was repeated a second 6 weeks but the workout was reduced to 1 time per week. 
(I stayed on 1800 calories, which was modified for my diabetes.)

3) What was your routine?

The first 6 weeks the machine workouts were split in half so that you did half the machines on Monday and the other half on Thursday.  The second 6 weeks, all machines were done on Monday.  Each and every time you worked out, the weight was increased on every machine. By the end of the 12 weeks, I had increased my weights, in most cases, by as much as 3 times the amount that I started with. One of the most important parts of the program was doing the workouts in a group and with the support of experienced trainers. I felt this was invaluable to me as a workout member as it helped to keep me focused and motivated. Finally, there were bi-weekly meetings to discuss our progress, provide information and insight, ask questions and basically become a team.  
I also walked for 30 minutes after dinner.

3)     What are your limitations and how do you think they challenged your success?

I think one of my biggest challenges was, and continues to be, my lack of vision, mainly because I need assistance to complete the workouts.  Although it is a challenge, I am able to find assistance as needed.  Another challenge was my health issues but I am able to manage these by continuing to focus on the plan.

4)     Did you get the results you anticipated?

I think that I started the program in an effort to lose weight, which was truly my main focus. However, I feel that I got my life back.  I do not take the prescription drugs any longer, I have as much energy as I did as a young man and I have gained a lot of muscle.

5)     Do you continue to follow the protocol?

Absolutely, I have become a believer in the power of a solid workout routine and a diet that provides a balance of good healthy foods that encourage your body to perform at its maximum potential.

6)     Is it easy, grueling, fun, hard work?

I believe that doing any type of plan, whether it is a workout or diet requires a strong commitment to the outcomes that one desires. Honestly, if you do the X-Force machines properly, you will be sore each and every time.  In addition to the soreness, there is a certain exhaustion that accompanies a great workout.  As far as the diet, I no longer consider it a diet; rather, I see the food I consume as fuel for my body.  I choose to use high octane fuel for my body, instead of the alternative.  The better the fuel, the stronger performance.  But, make no mistake, it is always a challenge.

7)     What health benefits do you notice?

The best benefit is that I do not need the prescription drugs to control my blood pressure or blood sugar.  Other benefits; more energy, stamina, attitude and excitement in my life.  I am able to do all the activities that I thought were out of my abilities due to my health.

8)     How has the X-Force protocol differed from other strategies you have tried?

I think that this program worked for me because I wanted it to work for me.  By this I mean that I am able to understand it, employ it into my life and made a commitment to myself to improve my body, mind and soul.

9)     Closing remarks?

I believe that there are many good plans out there that will allow you to lose weight, but I have realized that the main portion of any plan MUST include a solid, healthy, and controlled diet.  This above all else will have the greatest impact on losing weight and getting healthy.

What did you eat on the program?

Breakfast: Kashi Go Lean cereal 1 cup
½ cup fat free milk
1 small lite yogurt
2 cups coffee

5 dried prunes
Or 15 almonds
Or 10 baby carrots
Or 3 inch apple

Ham sandwich 2 slices 100% whole wheat bread
Black forest lite ham
Fat free cheese

Strawberry Whey Protein shake

Green salad with dressing
1 cup Tomatoes
Lite dressing 2 ounces balsamic vinaigrette
4 ounces lean meat, chicken, pork, turkey or fish (salmon or tuna)

100 calorie popcorn
Small (3 inch) apple
Luna power bar allowed one a day.

Drink 1 gallon of ice water a day
Allowed 10 ounces of wine a day which I did occasionally.
No pain meds allowed. Use cold plunge and ice packs.

Multi vitamin for men “Ultra Man”
Fish Oil
Vitamin D3
Cinnamon pill for diabetes

The only before and after pictures Chuck could find are blurry, but show the progress:

Chuck's before picture
Chuck's after picture

Chuck doing his thing on X-Force machine

Chuck's after picture

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weight Loss in Men Over 50: Case Study Part I (of II)

I'm doing a case study on weight loss in 2 men over age 50, who utilized vastly different strategies.

Chuck joined a program offered through Gainesville Health and Fitness, using the X-Force exercise machines and a diet protocol designed by Dr. Ellington Darden and his team. (Here’s an article that discusses Dr. Darden’s work:

Richard followed his own weight loss program that he designed for himself.

I am presenting this case study in a Q &A format, because I am offering this weight loss study as a personal story of inspiration, rather than as a template for losing weight. These stories are as much about personal transformation in men over age 50, as they are about weight loss, muscle gain and overall health improvements.

How did they succeed? They made a decision, and from that decision, all the details and success flowed.

Today is Richard’s story. Here is how Richard answered my burning questions:

1)  Richard, you have shrunk since I met you, but in a good way. You look amazing, having reached and maintained your goal weight. How did you do it? What evil magic do you possess?

Ann, it is going to take a little time to answer all of your questions. Some of them I will have to think about to give you an accurate history, as my diet and routine has changed a number of times and is still changing. It is an on going process. No, I posses no evil or magic powers. (Well maybe a little evil) LOL.

I lost 70 lbs in less than 8 months. It mostly took a strong will and determination. I have been told I am stubborn, and I used that to my benefit.

2)  How did you get started?
I started my journey on the 1st of December 2011. I was going through a failed long term marriage. I was very over weight and depressed and drinking too much.

During that period, my 4 year old grandson told me I was fat. I was a heart attack waiting to happen. Had I stayed on the track I was on, I would be dead by now or be suffering with severe health issues.  

The first thing I had to do was stop the alcohol, knowing that it would help reduce the depression and also help me come to terms with the changes that were going on in my life. No alcohol consumption also cut calorie intake. Remember, alcohol is high in calories and is digested before food. It also takes longer to digest and immediately turns to sugar. It does help to do without, but that is to each person’s choice. 

I knew some exercise would help as well.

I began by eating better foods and evaluating the amount of calories I was taking in each day. I bookmarked a site that gave me a calorie chart. I didn't count calories exactly, I just took mental note of my daily calorie intake. I started eating good cereals and real oatmeal and fruits for breakfast. I would eat eggs only twice a week for breakfast. At lunch, I would have hard-boiled eggs yogurt, fruits, even an occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Dinners, I cut my portions and tried to eat before 6:00 pm. In the evenings I would limit ice cream to 1/2 cup before 7:00 pm. 
I cut out white foods completely, at first. No rice, potatoes or breads. Eventually, if I did have bread, it was whole grain (and only once or twice a week.)

I switched to black coffee. Now I can't drink coffee any other way as I find sweeteners make it taste bitter. I drink a lot of water and decaffeinated teas with honey. I switched from sugar as a sweetener to honey. Honey and cinnamon have many health benefits, and I use them on cereal, oatmeal, waffles French toast, etc.

 When I first started to do any exercise it was a type of sit-up: lie flat on your back then lift your lower and upper body off the ground about 6", with hands locked behind head and elbows out. Cross pull the left knee in and touch the right elbow. As the left leg straightens, bring the right knee in and touch with the left elbow. I started with 2 sets of 15 every morning. It took me nearly six weeks before I could get my elbows to touch my knees. Once that happened I knew I was getting somewhere. By that time, I had lost about 25 pounds. That was how I got started.

3)  How did you come up with your model for such success--over 70 pounds lost in less than a year, right?

My goal was to lose 60 lbs by my 60th birthday, which I did, and more. 

 I didn't really try to follow a certain model. I knew from a past weight loss experience I did a couple of years ago, that getting off the heavy breakfasts and trying to eat my evening dinners early was a good start. I also complied with the Dolly Parton idea of smaller portions. But, unlike the last time I got on the weight lose train, I changed the idea of eating dinner from before 4pm to before 6pm. That way I wasn't starting to get hungry at bedtime. The meal time frame also allowed for better digestion. Drinking water would help satisfy most hunger cravings—that’s when determination comes in. Really, after a week or two, the body adjusts and it becomes more routine. 

When I first started, my evening dinners were salads, but not just simple salads. I would use a variety of veggies  and always added a protein. I added hard boiled eggs, tuna, chicken, anchovies or finely sliced steak. Occasionally I grilled a small portion of BBQ ribs, served with a salad.  Go light on the dressing. I use very little salt. I also cooked fish in butter and lime juice. When I felt I needed a change, I bought a new steamer and started steaming my veggies, which I have always liked. Today I eat more steamed veggies than salads. They are so good.

Eating slowly and chewing your food well is also good. You will get full on less food. Stop when you are starting to feel full. Leftovers provided a snack the next day.

Again, as I mentioned in question # 1, I kept a mental note of the calories I was taking in. I wasn't going to try to document every calorie; I kept aware of the approximate amount of calories per serving. I knew I could eat 2200 calories a day and not gain weight. To lose weight, I would have to eat less than that. If I went out for meals or had more calories once in a while, I wouldn't worry about it. I’d make a small adjustment the next day.

One thing that really helped was living alone. It's harder to do a weight loss program if two people are living together and one wants to eat one way and the other doesn't. That is partially why my weight loss attempt failed in 2010. This time, on average, I was losing about 2 pounds a week. 

Even though I wasn't doing an exercise program the first few months, I was active. Home remodeling and maintenance burns calories. I take care of both the inside and outside of my home, despite my disabilities. Of course, I also now have about a 45 minute exercise routine.

I lost 70 pounds in eight months, and plan to stay at my goal weight of 170 lbs. Recently, I was sick and went down to 165. I was too thin and needed to put the 5 pounds back on. That took over a week. So, maintaining can be a challenge—not to gain any back, but also not to lose anymore.

I have had to re-evaluate my eating habits because of the exercise program and my other activities that burn more calories. 

I can't really say I followed any certain model. Common sense eating has a lot to do with my success. I have tried not to deny myself the treats I enjoy: ice cream, fine dark chocolates, cake and pastries. That is where moderation and discipline come in. 3 truffles are about 230 calories, so go from there. Know the calorie content and moderate. I know stopping at 3 truffles or 1 small slice of cake or 1/2 cup of ice cream can be hard to do, but that's where the will power has to kick in. Eat them slowly and enjoy them. You are not denying yourself, just limiting the amount. 

4)  What changes did you make along the way?

I have made many changes along the way. As you well know, I have been through a very lengthy and somewhat messy divorce. So many of the changes in my life were necessary for me to be able to be a functioning person. I knew I had to become the person inside of me that needed and wanted to be a healthy and fit man. I wanted change. I just kept my mind on the fact that losing weight, for me, meant better health.

It was a matter of giving up little things here and there. At times, I would get frustrated because I would want to lose more and my body was saying no. That is part of the process. Again, quitting alcohol was a major player. It has major calories and if you drink a little you are gonna say screw it, and eat until you are pigged out. It was just like when I quit smoking—if I had a drink, I’d say “screw it,” and continue to smoke.

My weight loss process wasn't a science; it was more of an understanding and included the WILL to do it. Yes, I have added exercise to it, but most of that was after I got under 180 lbs. I was getting too scrawny, and except for the sit-ups, I really didn't do much else (which was my plan.)

When I was still over 200 lbs, I remember you talking to me about doing some weight training. I would tell you that I would add weight training when I was ready. Even now I don't go over board on it. I feel that at my age, I want to be strong and toned for a man of my age. I am in it for my health, and not to compete with anyone. 

5)  What was your routine? What is it now?

You sure do ask a lot of questions LOL. You are making me think, that's not like me.
Before I decided to lose weight I didn't really have a routine. I just did what I wanted when I wanted and ate what I wanted.
When I decided I wanted to get healthy, I knew that calorie intake, portions, and early evening meal times had worked for me before. I have stayed with that routine. It has worked. My body has become very accustom to it. It was a challenge for a while, but is just everyday normal now.

The exercise routine I follow today:
I start with neck, shoulder, arm and hand/wrist stretches. Then I work my way down to some hip, hamstring, calf and foot stretches.
1st of 3 sets of floor exercises, which include 2 different types of sit-ups totaling 200.
I get on all 4's for back leg extensions. That is my 1st set of floor exercises.
Next to the dumbbells:
Triceps, 10lbs each arm, separately.
Bicep curls, alternating arms about 20 lbs.
Triceps 2 handed behind the neck,20 lbs.
Then I go outside and do the long bar, 60lbs: 10 behind the head presses, 10 curls, 10 over head front presses.
I repeat the process for 2 more sets. This takes me a little less than an hour. 

I have just started riding my bike again in the last 2 weeks. Biking is something I can do that doesn't kill my feet and leave me in more pain the rest of the day. I have worked my way up to about 10 miles. It’s so good to get out in nature with all the miles of paved and natural trails surrounding where I live. I would go nuts if I couldn't get out in the woods and enjoy nature. I saw 2 deer the other day. COOL! 
When I return home, I shower and meditate 20- 30 minutes. Meditation helps me spiritually. I try to meditate twice a day, however, I don't let it dictate my life.

I still have my disabilities and injuries to deal with, but I am 60 years old, and I played hard, so I pay for it. Life is still GOOD!

6)  Do you find it difficult to maintain?

No, it has become a way of life for me; I am very adaptable, so now it is just the way I live.

7)  Do you take supplements or medications?

I take daily, Centrum 50+
Vitamins B1, B complex, C, E and fish oil.

8) Why did it work for you this time? 
I believe my determination to succeed was key. I also found it easier to do, living by myself.  Diet is a misused word, it is Greek for "how you eat". So with that said, everybody is on a diet. When you change the way you eat, you change your lifestyle for the better.

Richard's before pictures:

Richard's after pictures:

If you have any questions for the guys, please post them in the comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Poetry excerpts from: I'm All Inside Out, Poetic Memoirs

My world famous poetry book, I'm All Inside Out, Poetic Memoirs, includes these two poems. The first reflects a childhood travel experience. the second, War You Know, is a remembrance of war stories told to me by a U.S. paratrooper regarding his Korean tour of duty.


I am retching repeatedly
an extended car-sick trip
from Madison to Miami

squiggles on a map
and odometer numbers—
my job to keep track

frequent stops
along strange and barren highways
to puke in gravel and grasses

sitting in the front seat
facing straight ahead as ordered

of no effect

the smell of the car’s interior
enough to renew the urge

so I stroll along the highway
the family car at heel
it creaks along
following me and my dog

seated by the airplane window
attempting sleep
“Look out the window at the fantastic view!”

as we fly over Cuba
(with special permission
on Lufsa Airlines)
an airsick bag refills

landing in the Caribbean
what a relief

thirsty, so thirsty, I run the tap
at the coastal cottage sink
“Oh, that’s rain water from the roof storage
container. It won’t ever get cold like back home!”

my father accompanies me
to a banished trailer
exhausted, I sleep

next morning
we free our lungs and tip-toe
around puddles on a dirt road

cloudbursts chase us under a tree
with enormous, frog-colored leaves

minutes later
the sun dazzles us
with unfamiliar steamy scents
of floral vegetation
volcanic soils
and living sea

a mystic island kiss of rainbows
double and triple rainbows

and best of all
my father’s smile


he was in the war, y’know
your defense

you who stayed home
smugly criticizing, complaining and whining

about your boring job and lofty politics

he was hit in the war, y'know
twice in his left chest

small metal rockets 
tore through his flack-jacket
and invaded his flesh

he had just stuck his head out of the tank
to look for his men

a Master Sergeant, soldiering on
he jumped out after them

tossing blown-up bodies onto his tank
choosing which ones
would have the chance to live on

leaving others too weak
or already dead

precious seconds
no long “good-bye, friend”

he was a war hero, y'know
his name and picture in the paper back home

while he lay in a foreign hospital
injected with morphine and cocaine
to ease the pain and suffering

which did not go away
when his rotation landed him back home

so you're surprised?
 that he searches to score?
to shake off the terrified screams
the burnt flesh and the zombies of his tour

just because the war's over for you
it's not for him

it's not for those men who still hear rifle fire
and whose adrenals are automatically wired

to hit the dirt!
every time you celebrate July 4

they were in the war y'know?
but it wasn't called a war, you say

what do you know about it anyway?
Fuck You!
that, however, they would never say

(In memory of George Incorvino who was a Tank Commander and Paratrooper in the Korean Conflict.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Launch and Free Promotion: I'm All Inside Out, Poetic Memoirs

Imagine a poetry book that can help you lose weight, gain muscle and ensure your success in finance and relationships! Yes! This may be the one!
(Results not typical. Results vary and may depend upon timing, luck, phases of the moon, mood, diet, beliefs, goals, values, marital status, sex, race, religion, political affiliations, age, hair length, eye color, body piercings, grooming habits, etc., etc., etc.)

I’m All Inside Out: Poetic Memoirs, by Ann Marie Struck, is out in both paperback and as a Kindle eBook. It’s available for sale at, and it’s affiliate publisher, CreatSpace. 


For a limited time, the Kindle version will be free for anyone to download on most any device, including your computer, IPad and some mobile devices.

FREE PROMOTION DATES:  July 27, 2012 to July 28, 2012 (2 days) and August 26, 2012 to August 28, 2012 (3 days.)  

Kindle sets the times from 12:00AM Pacific Standard Time on the date specified to 11:59 PM, PST, on the date specified. (Kindle caveat: depending on system latencies, it may take a few minutes to several hours for the free promotion to start and several minutes to several hours for the free promotion to end!)

I'm All Inside Out: Poetic Memoirs is an anthology of poems about the areas of life that most affect us:  relationships, environment, sexuality, spirituality.  Written with the intention of creating images that evoke an emotional connection, this is an easy book of poetry, as opposed to a literary masterpiece. Have fun with it!

Please leave a comment or review on! Thank you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chicken Breast Marinaded and Faux Grilled Under The Broiler!

 Marinaded (or marinated) and grilled chicken and meat tastes great, of course. But what if you do not have a grill? I found another way to mimic outdoor grilling in the oven, under the broiler.
I prepare boneless, skinless chicken breast this way weekly and use the leftovers for another meal. They are delectable cold. They travel well. They make a great "meat salad."  And the chicken breasts really do taste like grilled chicken: tender, juicy and flavorful!


4-6 Boneless skinless organic chicken breasts (cut each breast in half, unless they are really small.)

Marinade choice 1:
2-3 T. Tomato paste
¼ to ½ cup dry red wine
2-3 T. Dark sesame oil
1 T.  Soy Sauce
1 T. Chili Paste
1 T. curry powder
1T. cocoa powder (unsweetened)
¼ t. Black fresh ground pepper
¼ t. White pepper
¼ t. Ground cumin
4 Crushed fresh garlic cloves
1 inch fresh crushed ginger

Marinade choice #2:
1Tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cups dry red wine like Cabernet
3 Tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 Tablespoons almond butter
2 Tablespoon organic wheat-free tamari sauce
1 Tablespoons chili paste
5 garlic cloves
2 inches fresh ginger

Blend the marinade in blender or use an immersion blender.
Place chicken breasts in a bowl or zip lock and massage the marinade into the chicken, coating completely. Marinade for 2-5 hours in the refrigerator.

Grill pan set-up: commercial grade cooling rack atop a commercial grade baking sheet.

Prepare a grill pan:

Some cooling racks are also used as broiler grates.  Place cooling rack on a heavy-duty commercial-grade baking sheet lined with foil for easy clean-up. A cheaper baking sheet will buckle under the broiler, and that's annoying!
If you use another method, make sure that the meat is at least ½ inch off the surface of the pan so that air can circulate underneath the meat, as it would during traditional grilling.

Preheat the broiler on highest setting.

Adjust oven grates so that the meat will be about 4 inches from the broiler coils.

Spray the “grill” pan/cooling rack with non-stick spray.

Place the breasts on the “grill” pan without crowding.  You do not want the meat to steam.

Place the pan in the oven and do not fully close the door. Use some foil to prop the door open slightly (about ½ inch) otherwise, the boiler will not maintain even temperature and will bake, rather than “grill” the chicken breast.

Time for about 3-6 minutes, remove pan and turn the breast over to broil the other side. Baste the top of the chicken if some marinade is left over.
Broil for about 3-5 more minutes.

Remove from oven.

Place breast on a platter and cover with foil to rest and finish cooking. Let them sit 10 to 30 minutes. (I have left them sit for over an hour, and I'm still here.)

Slice breasts and serve in desired portions with veggies or rice or mashed potatoes.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menopausal Musings

Hey ladies (and those gentlemen who live with us), just say yes to menopause. Have you another choice, unless you are Suzanne Summers? Fear not, it’s not that bad. Really! Menopause brings forth a rediscovery of youthfulness and playfulness in unsuspecting ways.

Some women have nicknamed menopause "men-on-pause"—most of us still adore men, we're just no longer obsessed by what they think about us, or we them. I came up with another nickname I like even better: "Me-No-Pause!" My new improved nickname implies no more pausing, waiting for life to begin. Menopause frees women from both the monthly bondage of inconvenient blood-lettings, and from ourselves—that quintessential female role of people-pleasing and care-taking.

Menopause gives women back to themselves. Menopause reintroduces ourselves to ourselves and, like the children we once were,we can revel in creativity and adventure. We can feel better too, having banished anemia that hijacked our zestfulness.

Not knowing my heredity in this area, (mother had a hysterectomy at 39 and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) forever after) my apprehension soared as the evil time neared. Would I shrivel up and morph into a dude? Grow a mustache and beard? Lose my beautiful hair, or just as scary, go gray overnight? Shrink? Stink? Brittle bones? Wrinkles? Thinning, dried-up labia? Never sleep through the night again? Endless worries and nightmares. Maybe I should read up on the subject. Better yet, why don’t I watch an Oprah show about it?

What a relief. Oprah comes through once again. In particular Oprah’s guest, Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D., shared her stories and cutting-edge 411 for those of us approaching that women-of-a-certain-age. Northrup comprehensively codified her work in several of her books including, The Wisdom of Menopause (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change and Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing.

These books, on which Dr. Northrup also based her popular PBS Special, detail pretty much the entire slide from peri-menopause to the full ride of menopause. And it is a ride. It’s like riding Oahu’s North Shore 30 foot waves in winter that crush unsuspecting victims who had the arrogance to dive in without proper training, equipment and experience. But with education comes choices; and we who enter menopause these days have more choices now than ever. Women are not a disease, I learned from Dr. Northrup. Although, I harbored the notion I was a disease for decades, because it sure felt like it most times.

The point is: get to know your unique situation and health status. Now is the time to ramp up self-care.
Eat the best whole foods you can find and relish each meal.
Take up a sport, yoga, weights, supplements, sing, dance, get yourself out there!
Dump anything in your life that does not serve you, especially toxic relationships.
The more you give to yourself, the more you have to give away to others, i.e. contribute. Sound familiar? Yes, contribution gives life meaning and purpose by definition. It's up to each of us to define it on a daily basis. When we heed the call of menopause we regain the clarity and focus necessary to live on with integrity purpose and passion.
P.S. I did not morph into a dude (no HRT); I get daily compliments at the gym (physique and attitude) and have contributed more this year than I ever thought I could! Menopause rocks!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Internet Marketing for Your Small Business

Why should a small business use the Internet for marketing?  Well, for one thing, a small business has little clout these days and therefore must scramble for every piece of business it can get. In the old days business survival meant outdoing the competition. These days business survival has shifted to include the competition and even partner with them. For example, the same or similar businesses affiliate, yet maintain a healthy capitalist mindset necessary to motivate entrepreneurs to improve products, services and business practices. All this entrepreneurial activity takes places on a playing field recently leveled by the Internet. The Internet provides a platform for businesses large and small. Ironically, small businesses can benefit most from barrier-free entry into an international, online marketplace. However, the vastness of that marketplace poses both a unique challenge in its enormity and an opportunity in its ability to provide connections between a business and its customers.

Although large corporations may have an advantage in the capital department, allowing them to spend thousands of dollars on marketing, a small business has the advantage of being lean and keen. The small business owner can instantaneously make decisions and act on those decisions. Consequently, change takes place rapidly and that fact gives small business an edge over large corporations. For example, start-up companies have been able to topple large companies, often redesigning the turf:  Netflix made Blockbuster obsolete by quickly taking the lead in technology advances, providing its customers with unparalleled service. Blockbuster slowly tried to follow, but kept their “big business” decision-making methods, evolving much more slowly than nimble Netflix. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Where many small businesses fall short, however, is when they fail to form a marketing plan and create a budget for implementing that plan. All too often, small shopkeepers, although brilliant at what they do, treat marketing their business as an afterthought, “I’ll get around to it.” This thinking is especially dangerous when business is good. However, business is cyclical by nature, rising and falling with the tide. If a business cannot survive low tide, it dries up. Realizing this fact, in the wee hours of the morning, the enthusiastic business owner decides to get up to speed on the Internet thing. He or she single-handedly creates and launches a website, and thinks “I’m done!” A few months later, almost no one has visited that website.

The website failed to attract the attention of visitors because the website is neutral. The website needs an introduction. It needs to woo its visitors and then ask them for a date. This is where the Internet Marketer comes in. The Internet Marketer sets up the introduction and oversees the courtship. The courtship leads to marriage when a mutually beneficial relationship is forged, and both parties, the business owner and the customer, agree on the terms of the relationship.