Hey friends, how are you feeling these days…with work, family or the holiday season upon us? If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, maybe it’s time to take a breather and add intentional steps to alleviate stress.

By now you probably know that meditation and other recommended stress reduction techniques previously considered “new age” really work. Many high performers incorporate various forms of meditation into their daily lives because it works (and are a heck of a lot better than drugs & those nasty side effects).  There are many forms meditation from walking in nature, guided meditations (especially good if you have an active monkey brain like me), breathing exercises (try inhaling completely for 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale completely for 8, repeat 9 more times), or simply enjoying the love & affection of a pet. Try them out and see what suits you best.

Why is it important to work on controlling/limiting or reducing stress? Because with chronic stress, the brain atrophies…which means it gets smaller and less effective. When you are stressed, you release cortisol. With elevated cortisol, your brain begins overload and …then begins to degenerate.  The parts most affected are the areas of the brain associated with dementia/long term memory. 

There are also vascular impacts of stress on our brains due to the flight or fight response. This response releases hormones that decrease blood flow to our brain. Chronic stress has long term effects on our brains. 

What else happens? Well, elevated cortisol can also decrease circulation. That’s why it makes sense then to engage in an activity that causes an increase in circulation. Exercise increases your heart rate and oxygen to the brain. On the opposite side of the spectrum, long term sedentary activity decreases blood circulation all over the body.  Then, if you add a stress response to being sedentary and possibly a thyroid issue, all these factors impact the health of our brains. 

Public service message: The more intense the exercise, the better the benefit because your heart has to pump harder. Try intervals  or short bursts of increased energy/effort for 10-30 seconds, 10-15 times.   

To recap, we have the impact of stress and a sedentary lifestyle impacting our brains.  Now, let’s talk diet.  “Type 3 diabetes” is now used to describe dementia because if we indulge in sugar or processed carbs, we get too much insulin. Seriously, our bodies were not made to consume the sugar we load into them daily. Chronic surges of insulin also cause damage to the brain. I’m saying this with a lot of love….so hear me when I say, “If you are tired after meals, it’s time to review what you are eating.”  A normal response after a meal should be your hunger is vanished – NOT an energy surge – or an energy drop.

Small changes in our diets can make a HUGE difference with our brain health (& overall health & weight)! 

When it comes to gluten…there is a high correlation between neurological symptoms and gluten antibodies – most specifically with wheat gluten.  So if you have an inflammatory diet, you are inflaming your brain. It WILL begin to degenerate.  As these various factors (stress, blood sugar instability and/or surges, sedentary lifestyles, lack of circulation, poor diet) add up, we will begin to feel foggy. That “fog” is brain degeneration. You have a thought but can’t get to it. 

What would a balanced brain focused diet consist of?  The key is to eat a diversity of vegetables/plant fibers along with healthy fats and LIMITED sugar/processed carbs. Proteins can also be inflammatory with most inflammatory proteins being milk protein, egg protein, and soy protein. Experts suggest a diet that is A.) gluten & dairy free, B.) one that includes flax seed & fish oils (healthy fats), and for sure, C.) a diet low in sugar and processed carbs to prevent sugar surges, and D.) a diet FULL of diverse vegetables.

The bottom line is that anything that causes inflammation to the body has an effect on the brain.

That would include stress, diet, sedentary lifestyle, arthritis, food allergies,  auto immunity diseases, etc.  What’s the best way to support our brains?Ultimately, what we should do for a healthy lifestyle and weight is what we should do for our brain: eat properly, exercise with intensity to increase our heart rates, and supplement with dietary flavonoids like turmeric, resveratrol, and polyphenols.   Last, try meditation or breathing techniques to lower stress. Laugh. Help others. Try inversion. Get a pet. And educate yourself because you are worth it.  Some of my favorite recent reads include:

The good news is EVERY little bit helps and most of what helps is in our control.  Isn’t it nice that the things we can do to remain healthy, fit and active will also serve our brains well?

I think today is a great day to take action.  A friend of mine likes to ask, “What have you got to lose?”  Well, my friends, taking no action WILL lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.  I think a better question is, “What have you got to gain?”

A long, beautiful, and healthy life.

Today IS some day.

Carpe Diem.

The last time we chatted, we talked about the pros/cons and influences of our environment and the people we hang out with. To help secure success, here are five things to do to make good things happen in your life.
 
1. ADMIT THAT ….” –IT” HAPPENS
Because we are faced with loads of data and information daily, we simply can’t evaluate each & every choice, therefore much that happens is automatic (efficient) behavior patterns and habits. When we are in uncertain environments we tend to “follow the herd”, so the key is to plan ahead, especially when traveling. Scope out the nearest gym or track and pack snacks.  BE the change and you may influence your companions to mimic your healthy behavior.
 
 2. KNOW YOUR TRADEOFFS/ LIMITS
Pay attention to your food intake and avoid mindless eating. Have a set of guidelines that you will follow in all situations so it eventually becomes a habit. (Like, veggies only during happy hour free for alls laden with fake cheese and fried options.) Maybe you have a rule that you will put your fork down between bites. Or, maybe you will only watch TV if doing so on the elliptical or doing exercises during commercials to avoid sitting and being sedentary. This is actually one of my favorite ways to slip in workouts. For normal TV viewers (yes, I am one of those), there’s at least 20 minutes during a 60 minute show. Do you know how many squats, jumping jacks, and crunches you can do? I like to do 30 second circuits repeating exercises until the next commercial, at which time I switch to another circuit of exercises (squats, dips, push-ups, knee outs).
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3. BUILD-A-BUDDY (WORKOUT GROUP, THAT IS)
One of the best ways to protect your fitness routine   is to invite the friends of your friends to work out and build a wall of influence that increases your chance of sticking to a workout program. Shhhhwwwwingggg! 
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4. IF YOU’R HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT
Avoid your Debbie downer friends. (Remember that SNL skit where the girl always put a negative spin on EVERYthing?) Yeah, stay away from those folks and hang with the happy ones. It’s contagious and it works both ways. And smile. It reinforces a positive mood. Practice daily gratitude daily by writing down 3 things you are thankful for, say thanks, and tell your loved ones how  much you appreciate them. Research shows regular gratitude practice creates new neural pathways that support a more positive outlook. WOW, that’s powerful, isn’t it? Even better is that others are more likely to “catch” your positive feelings over your negative ones. Be a P.O.P.V. or a “proliferator of positive vibes”.  It’s seriously catching.
                                                        Happy (Official YouTube Video by Pharrell Williams)
 
5. TAP INTO YOUR NEO-CORTEX
To help you choose the right (healthy) action, try being intentional using body scanning and labeling. Do a quick check-in with sensations and then label your emotional state by noting “this is just fear” or “this feeling is approval seeking” to kick your neo-cortex into action. This practice allows you to shift from being reactive and move to a calmer state of awareness. 
 
Doable, right?  Try my “five” to enhance “alive”.  And commit to fit.
 
What have you got to lose?
 
 

“Pay attention to your intuition. Listen to your heart. Speak your mind. Love yourself so that you can love others. Smile.” ~Nishan Panwar

In parts I & II of the blog series, “Be Your Best You”, we talked about nourishment of the mind with a little down time and last week we talimageked about nourishment of the body through exercise, nutrition, hydration, and sleep. Today’s blog, Part III, is about strengthening the soul through self-love, love of others, spirituality and laughter.

The first ingredient of soul care is self-love. It’s natural to take care of other people/things we love…but to trul y love others we have to love ourselves first. The Golden Rule tells us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Self-love isn’t being arrogant or getting our way, but it does require knowing our boundaries, being kind to ourselves (learning how to say no), and honoring our values. When we live from a place of self-love, the world mirrors compassion and love back to us.

Once we learn to love ourselves, we may offer a better self to those around us. Loving others is ingredient number two. It lowers risks of chronic diseases, stress, and brings emotional happiness. When we do acts of kindness through service, it connects us to those we serve and gives us a kind of satisfaction that self-interest cannot provide.
Ingredient number three is spirituality, or connecting to something bigger than ourselves. Mainstream science has proven that we are wired to believe. So, not only are we built to connect, the more we connect and develop our spiritual selves through meditation, prayer or other means, the healthier and happier we live.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ~Victor Borge

The last ingredient to nurturing the soul is laughter. Laughter releases tension and relaxes us. Physiologically, it benefits the body like a light workout by increasing blood flow, boosting energy, burning calories and aiding sleep. In other words, it’s time to get silly. When laughter is shared, it bonds people together increasing intimacy. Best of all, it’s fun and free.

Self-love, loving others, spirituality, and laughter are four key ingredients to strengthen your soul. What’s holding you back from loving yourself in a way that inspires and brings forth beauty? Be patient with the process and allow it to unfold. You will find you are ready to compete again, but stronger and better.

 

Carpe diem!

~Lisa

 

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A “Blue Mind” is defined as a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment….

We are so bombarded with sensory stimuli that our poor brains need a break…but unfortunately, we often don’t allow enough time from our hectic lives to recharge adequately.  This is where the great healing power of being around water comes in. It’s not that we shut down when we are near water, but we do get a break where less information comes in. We relax, and a sense of calm, unity, happiness and peace eases in. There’s a reason why rivers have often been considered sacred places and water often symbolizes a new beginning or salvation. We even have a universal attraction to the color blue (my personal favorite is the a blend between blue and green, the color of the ocean around the Florida Keys).

“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,” Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, published in last July. “We have a ‘blue mind’ — and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool.” I know that I can easily find perspective when I stand on the beach with the wind in my hair and watch the waves roll in. Regardless of what is going on in my life; while on the beach, I am at peace.

If you are one of the lucky ones who lives by water, working out next to water multiples the benefits exponentially. But don’t worry if you aren’t close to water. You can still listen to sounds of waves, close your eyes, and experience the benefits a “blue mind” provides. (Even the shower or a gurgling fountain works!)

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”. ~ Wyland

I’m ready to get “my toes in the water and my butt in the sand, not a worry in the world, and a cold beer (glass of wine) in my hand”…or is it the other way around?!

Won’t you join me?

Live fit, be happy. And smile.

 ~Lisa

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“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later
have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley

We know our best self requires a strong foundation of mind, body and soul. Sometimes life’s pace throws us off course and before we know it, we aren’t functioning optimally. When performance suffers in athletics, it is recommended to ease up on training, step back and focus on rebuilding and strengthening the core, the body’s foundation. After that, athletes return to the training program at hand, but stronger and better. Last week, we discussed nourishing the mind by slowing down and “taking 5” to reboot our brains. Continuing the dialogue of becoming your best you, today’s topic is nourishment of the physical body through exercise, nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Exercise: Sitting is the new smoking. What? Yeah, our lives of convenience are taking a toll on our health. The studies are in. Daily movement is tres importante. Activity trackers are great tools to remind us how long our butt’s been in a chair by monitoring steps, workouts, sleep, etc. Find your fit because one size does not fit all. Do what you enjoy most so you’ll keep doing it. Yes, it’s important to get resistance training in. But that can come in different forms, as does cardio and flexibility. The high intensity intervals we suggested in last week’s blog (go hard, take a breather, go hard, rest, etc.) works well with cardio and lifting weights. Try Tabata. Increase your strength, stamina and mind at the same time. So be like Nike and just do it (repeatedly)!

Nutrition: Eat real, whole, fresh foods. Hippocrates was right. Food IS thy medicine. What we eat provides much more than fuel. It affects our immune system, plays a role in hormone regulation, intestinal health, and impacts a myriad of diseases. The most important action item we can do in this arena is to take back control of cooking. You don’t have to be a chef or spend much time in the kitchen. There are many healthy recipe options to choose from. Focus on foods in season, eat local, and look up recipes on Pinterest. Involve the family and eat mindfully. Turn the TV off and don’t be swayed by the high cost of cheap food.

“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Hydration: Henry knew that water is integral to our health. In fact, more than half a person’s body is made up of water, so even mild dehydration can compromise the efficiency of most bodily functions, including boosting resting metabolism. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Drink up and reap the benefits of good hydration: lower blood pressure, flushing of toxins, reduction of allergy/asthma symptoms, speedier joint and tissue repair, boosts in mood and energy, and of course weight loss/weight maintenance.

Sleep: Surveys are increasingly noting that most Americans are getting less than 6 hours a night, while 7-9 are better numbers. Like water, sleep deficiency contributes to many health issues like weight gain, high blood pressure, decreased immune function, impaired memory, and higher levels of inflammation which are linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. On the performance side, improving our sleep quality and quantity will increase creativity, work and athletic performance. ‘Nuff said, sleep matters!

The great thing about nourishing our body through the areas above is that WE can reclaim control ourselves. That’s awesome. Optimal living at our fingertips.

Today is a great day to re-commit. Then compete. I’ll see you at the finish line (yawn) after I take a nap!

~Lisa

(blog posted by Compete Every Day)

7 day

“Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

Society seems to prize busyness. Being “on” at all times has become an expectation. Kudos to those who are focused, have a plan, and busy are working it. You possess the necessary ingredients for goal achievement! Being too busy, however, has a cost. Ironically, it negatively impacts the very success we are trying to achieve. If we go down the busy path too long taking care of the kids, the job, the home, relationships, etc., exhaustion creeps in. We wear down our nervous system and dampen our ability to be our most productive self. Racing from point A to point B, we produce and we provide. We are “on” at all the right times. However, the more externally we focus and the larger our “to-do” lists grow, the more inefficient (& unhealthy) we become. It is necessary then, to become our best self, we must slow down and nourish ourselves in mind, body and soul. To be our best self, we need to step back and rebuild our foundation. Today’s topic is nourishment of the mind through downtime. A little bit of nuttin’, honey.

You might think being idle is nuts, a waste of time. But, taking a few minutes of “nothing” can add up to a whole lot of something. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and that, my friends, brings a slew of healthy benefits.

See, when we’re too busy, nothing new can come to mind. Creativity is dampened. Science has proven, however, that if we carve a little “mind space” we reap some cool benefits. Unstructured time allows for a process of incubation which is where our best ideas and solutions can come from. Not convinced to take a time out yet? The Energy Project study found that associates who took “time outs” increased their creative capacity in a huge way and enjoyed a greater level of health and mental well-being. Overwork has the opposite effect; less engagement, feeling worn out, a significant decrease in creativity/problem resolution, making mistakes, and so on.

High intensity intervals (HIIT) isn’t just effective in workouts, it’s an effective work/life strategy. Intense periods of focus should be balanced by time (breaks) allowing for rest and renewal. Short breaks boost digestion, lower the heart rate, increase work capacity, and elevate moods. So, go ahead, take a break. Observe how “energy management” can aid time management. Close the door. Turn off the phone. Or, step outside. Be still for 5-10 minutes a couple times each day. It may take a little getting used to, but the more you do less, the better you will be.

By making ourselves our own wellness mission, we can do better in serving others AND achieving our goals. Nourishing the self is essential to health, happiness and well-being.

Take 5 to renew. Then compete, better. Every day.

Choose fit. Be still. Live strong.7 day

~Lisa Read More →

Last week you got the Cliff Notes to the “5 Keys to Continued Success” which provided the formula below:

Learn It. Lose it. Love it. Live it. And, laugh.

Today I am going to expound a bit (only a bit, because I know you appreciate Cliff Notes, as well!) on the second piece of the formula: Lose it. Bad habits, that is. By letting go of the them, you’ll free up energy, mental space and even money that could be better spent on a happier, healthier you. It’s not quite summer, so how about a little bad-habit spring cleaning?

Here are a couple bad habits you might consider “sweeping” away:

• A beer or glass of wine (every night)…while you might fall asleep relaxed initially, once your body starts metabolizing the alcohol there’s a rebound effect, HELLO 2 am wakeup and tired you the next day.

• 24/7 connectivity…ah, this one is a pet peeve of mine. I keep my phone on silent and look at it only certain times a day and leave it in my purse at night…much to the chagrin of my fiancé! Try to turn off all media (blue screens) at least an hour before bed because that blue light from your phone/tablet/TV reduces sleep and stimulates your brain to stay awake by suppressing melatonin, a hormone needed for drowsiness.

• Procrastination—doing it has negative impacts on your heart. A non-procrastinator feels more in control and therefore, less stressed. Like Nike, “Just do it!”

• Drinking diet sodas…OK, so I KNOW the fake sugars cause blood sugar swings and other neurological problems…and most of them are terribly acidic, but I DO enjoy a coke zero from Sonic on occasion. But, the reality is that folks who drink the diet stuff end up eating more sugar because these drinks cause blood sugar spikes and drops like the real stuff making you want more.

• Still pissed off at somebody for something? Try forgiveness, not for them, but for you. It’ll do wonders.

• Popping pills too often. Doesn’t matter if it’s OTC, pain relievers used frequently significantly increase the chance of liver damage.

• Not expecting good things. Expect good outcomes vs. bad, look for silver linings. This change in attitude comes with a slew of healthy benefits.

• Sleep walking through workouts…sorry Charley…you aren’t getting benefits or making change without getting your heart rate up. use your time effectively with interval training and get red in the face.

• Not getting enough sleep…this is a blog or two or three by itself! Study after study shows a host of benefits with more sleep and a lot of mental and physical problems when sleep is lacking.

Find your broom and sweep those ol’ habits away!

What have you got to gain?

Be fit, live strong, laugh often.

~Lisa

I’ve always been a fan of cliff notes and getting down to the net/net, so here are the cliff notes for today’s blog:

Learn It. Lose it. Love it. Live it. And, laugh.

That’s a pretty simple formula, right?

Here’s the deal: we’re all striving towards life goals, essentially trying to live “larger” in some form or fashion. While the formula above isn’t rocket science, we may need a gentle reminder about how to tap into our best self:

Learn it. One of the best ways to achieve goals is to observe the patterns of success demonstrated by men and women who have achieved greatness. There are reasons these folks rocked it. Keep reading, learning and sharpening the saw. Take notes and do what they do.

Lose it. Create some awesome habits. We’ve all heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit, right? Well, it turns out this is a bit anecdotal. The reality is that it may take longer– or less. What matters is that we keep trying and focus on developing our good habits. They WILL stick, eventually. At the same time, we should drop any habits that don’t serve our purpose. Now. Simply lose them.

Love it. Life, that is. Life provides both sunshine and rain. What’s important is how we embrace what comes our way—opportunities, challenges, or people. Why not consider everything a stepping stone to our future and just say YES with enthusiasm and excitement?!

Live it, like Nike. Just do it, take action. It doesn’t matter if we make a mistake, get off track, or (gasp) fail. Our plans don’t have to be perfect in order to get started. What matters is that we keep going with dogged determination and persistence. If Plan A doesn’t work, switch to Plan B or C, because as long as we keep moving, we WILL succeed.

Last of all, laugh. We take ourselves far too seriously. Tony Robbins suggests considering the big picture and how we will look back on a situation 10 years from now. The odds are it will be with considerably less worry and strife. So why wait? Find humor & laugh more—especially at ourselves. Don’t take life so seriously. It’s certainly more enjoyable on the lighter side.

There they are, the “5 L” cliff notes to success: Learn it, lose it, love it, live it, and laugh.
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Remember, life isn’t about avoiding the storms, but rather how to dance in the rain.

Happy dancing!

~Lisa

(Written for Compete Every Day)

Henry David Thoreau said that a loooong time ago and he was spot on. Today let’s talk about hydration and its importance to… well, to just about everything.

When do you drink water? Most of us drink when we are thirsty. Don’t! It takes a while for your body to fully hydrate. When you wait until thirsty, there is a high probability that you’re already dehydrated to some extent. That means whatever our body is doing or needs to do, it will not function effectively or optimally without proper hydration. A great way to get a jump start every day is to start your day with 2 cups of water. So, besides making everything work better, here are a few ways proper hydration helps you be more awesome:

Drinking water helps reduce high blood pressure. Your blood is approximately 92% water.

Drinking water helps reduce symptoms of allergies and/or asthma. See, when you are dehydrated, your body creates more histamines and if you have too many histamines circulating, you will feel congested and have other allergic reactions.
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Drinking water aids digestive disorders by eliminating or at least reducing ulcers, bloating, gas, gastritis, reflex and IBS. You also have less constipation since water is needed to move matter more quickly through the intestinal track.

Drinking water helps flush toxins. Back to the bullet above, a well hydrated bod purges toxins and metabolic wastes better. ‘Nuf said.

Drinking water helps speed up joint and cartilage repair. The padding in cartilage is mostly water and joint repair after workouts or injuries is quicker with adequate hydration.

Drinking water also flushes bacteria out of the bladder. Proper hydration is especially important to folks prone to kidney stones or bladder infections.

Drinking water gets your “glow” on. Seriously, with good hydration the skin can rid itself of toxins which cause irritation, inflammation, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, and aging.

Drinking water helps you stop gaining weight. The more you drink, the more satiated you feel and…yes, that helps you feel less hungry which results in eating less . Keeping hydrated prevents cells from sending hungry signals to the brain. Besides most “hunger” is actually shared studies where just 2 glasses of water each morning resulted in an 11 lb. weight loss in a year! That’s something to drink up to.

Last, proper hydration is a mood and energy booster.

Until next time, live fit, laugh often, and DRINK UP!

What have you got to gain?

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -W. Churchill

Isn’t it funny how we expect life’s journey to be a linear line…except we know it’s really full of detours, closed doors, or rain? S..tuff happens. It’s easy to fall off the wagon and get off course. It happens to the best of us. That’s life. And that’s okay. It’s not failure; not yet. The only real mistake we make is to stop trying. “If you fall down seven times, stand up eight.” In other words, you find out who you truly are and what you are capable of in cloudy weather. We build character through perseverance– which is, quite simply, the art of trying again…and again. Mister “C” summed it up nicely, didn’t he?

I’ve been sucker punched many a time in life. You too, right? Things happened that knocked me to my knees. Then, the obstacles seemed so…BIG. “We are moving (four states away at age 16).” “Your dad died this morning.” “6-7% of individuals with your type of AML are alive after 10 years.” Infidelity and divorce in the midst of chemo. Seeking energy, normalcy and laughter with 3 &5 year olds when chemo ravages your body. In the midst of those times, they seemed awful. Looking back, each of those challenges provided wonderful silver linings, laughter, and love. Would I want to repeat them? Um, no. Was I fearless? Heck no. I fell. I feared. I skinned my knees. Yet Winston would be proud—I became a master stumbler, repeatedly.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

If a door closes, expect an open window. Or consider, perhaps, another door. In other words, the key to opening a door is to keep on knocking– excitedly, expectantly. Sometimes a solution appears when we relax our idea of what life “should” be and view detours not as “bad” but as opportunities to knock on a different door. We might be surprised to discover that a setback is a wonderful opportunity–one we would have missed had we given up. The key is to keep moving and keep looking for ways to reach your goal. “A body at motion stays in motion” in physics and in life…for every step takes us somewhere.

Winston Churchill says to stumble from failure to failure. A lot. The next time life throws a curve ball, take a deep breath, dust off your skinned knees and get back up. But don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop going. Keep on knocking and trust your abilities. Try again.

Consider every day “race” day. And compete. For you. For your health. For your family. For your community.

Simply, compete. And remember, life isn’t about avoiding the storms, but learning how to dance (or stumble) in the rain.

(My blog initially posted by  Compete Every Day…a great online business providing inspirational athletic wear and fashion attire. Be sure to check them out and sign up for their emails!)

Be fit. Live Strong. Laugh often. And, smile.

Lisa