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What’s Furry and has Four Legs? May 26, 2011

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What’s Furry and Has Four Legs?

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.”   Unknown
Sometimes the VIPs in our lives are the furry, four-legged variety – the ones we fondly call our Vitally Important Pets.  We love them like family and, according to Web M.D., research has shown that living with pets helps lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety, and boost immunity.
Walking a dog or just caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship. Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies.  Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than non-owners, researchers say.  “Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home,” says Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
I had the poignant experience of losing a beloved VIP this past week.  She was a beautiful 15-year-old Golden Retriever named Natasha.  I had the pleasure of her company for only five years of that 15, but she managed to wiggle her fuzzy self deeply into my heart.
I dedicate this week’s blog to her.  She had beauty without vanity, and strength without intolerance. She offered unconditional love and companionship; she was funny, smart, and was never afraid to ask for what she needed and wanted.
Natasha was a good role model for everyone who knew her!
So, dear readers, I invite you to share a story about one of your beloved VIPs this week.  Shoot me an email  or go to my Facebook page to post a comment.  I’d love to see your pictures too!
P.S.  Friend and fellow Coach Steve Coxsey and I are talking about the importance of close relationships all month on our internet radio show, TapaPalapa.   You can listen right now to all of our episodes by clicking here.

What Flavor Ice Cream Are You? May 18, 2011

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“What flavor of ice cream are you?”  That was the question Kathleen posed as we sat around Saturday night, fêting our friend Susan who’d just graduated Summa Cum Laude at the youthful age of 45.
In answer to her own question, Kathleen declared herself Mint Chocolate Chip.  Lesley, with some trepidation, announced she was Nutty Chocolate.  Marcey proudly claimed Chocolate with Rainbow Sprinkles!  Other friends,  Frankye and Marion, both glumly replied Vanilla, plain Vanilla – then thankfully agreed they could be Vanilla Bean.
 I shared that I am Neapolitan.
 “But, you don’t even like Neapolitan,” someone wisely observed.  Ah, true enough, but I do like experiencing lots of different flavors in my life – in the form of new experiences and interesting people.  And, when I do eat Neapolitan, I like to stir it all up, bring all the flavors together for something altogether different and still incredibly yummy.
At that point Kathleen proclaimed, “I feel a Weekly Companion coming on!”  And so here we are, discussing ice cream flavors and how they might possibly relate to the Vitally Important People in our lives.
 One of the things I took away from our little chat circle that evening was that I was, once again, surrounded by some of my wonderful VIPs.  And, that they arrived in every size, shape, color and flavor.  They were tall, short, round, thin, brown, black, white, young, old, salty, tart and sweet.  I realized, too, that I was partly
responsible for the wonderful mix of people that were present, having introduced several of the attendees to one another.  I was having an authentic, stirred up, Neapolitan experience.
So, what flavor of ice cream are you?  Do you feel plain Vanilla?  If so, do you want add more flavor, like some chocolate syrup, or better yet, a banana, some chopped nuts and whipped cream?
 And, what flavors are your VIPs? Do you surround yourself with flavors just like you, or do you like to mix it up, and have a few Nutty Chocolates and
Rainbow Sprinkles thrown in?
This week, take this ice cream quiz then shoot me a note (you can just hit “reply” to this email) and tell me about your own unique flavor.  My guess is it’s
really delicious.
Uh, oh.  Better sign off for now.  I hear the ice cream truck!  Can’t wait to see what new flavor I choose.
Your Neapolitan Coach,
Francie Cooper
P.S.  Steve Coxsey and I are talking about the importance of close relationships all month on our internet radio show, TapaPalapa.  While we won’t scream for ice cream until Thursday this week, you can listen right now to some of our past episodes by clicking here.

Help Paint My Kitchen?!? May 11, 2011

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Do you remember last week when I wrote about the importance of having Vitally Important People in our lives?  Well, this past weekend they showed up in spades at my front door. I experienced the embodiment of VIPs when I had the, ahem, opportunity, to learn how to strip wallpaper, putty, sand, prime and paint my kitchen.
This was not a project for the faint of heart or body, and, since I had never performed these tasks, I really had to rely on some of my VIPs for assistance. They pitched in with physical labor, mental encouragement and nutritional sustenance to help get the job done.  When I tallied the results, I realized it took more than 61 woman-hours to complete.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Kathy Schimmel for her know-how, incredible hard work, and patience; to Frankye Bruce for her amazing attention to detail and Subway sandwiches; to Sherry Grubbs for sharing her delicious Shari’s Berries and good cheer; to Robert Grubbs for his stable, really tall ladder; to Beth Kauffman for pizza, chocolate, and moral support; to Julie Moyers for “put-your-pants-on” chicken and fruit salads; and, of course, to Lesley Hunt for
all of the above, all of the time.
My life is richer, more enjoyable, extra productive, and filled with love because of these individuals and many others.  The VIPs in my life support me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually every day.
Now, for you dear readers, it is my sincerest hope and wish that you, too, have heroes and champions in your life.  Last week, I asked you to make a list of them.  This week, I invite you to choose at least one of those relationships to nurture in some way.  Write a note. Invite him or her over for coffee or wine.  Set up a lunch or dinner date.
Or, ask them to help paint your kitchen!
Your Still-Recovering Coach,
Francie Cooper
P.S.  Steve and I talk about the imortance of relationships in our pursuit of happiness on this week’s internet radio episode of TapaPalapa!  Click on the link to listen in.

Why is taking playtime so hard for some ? April 26, 2011

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”I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being.” Stuart Brown, M.D.

This is the last week for  “Play is Serious Work,” and I want to acknowledge that sometimes allowing ourselves to have fun is just plain hard.
For instance, I was talking with a client last week who clearly understood this dilemma.  I’ll call her RockStar.  Let me paraphrase what she told me:
“I have this crazy to-do list that just keeps growing. Last weekend, I really wanted to go to a motorcycle race that I’d been looking forward to for months.  But, Friday night, I started fighting with myself.  Part of me was saying, ‘Stay home and work.  Look at all the stuff on your to-do list.’  The other part of me said, ‘Go. Have fun. This race only happens once a year.’”
Her conscientious, hard-working self battled mightly against her fun-needing self.  “Work? Play?  Work?   Play?” The powers tussled. They tugged. They taunted.
Happily, I’m proud to report, play emerged victorious.  RockStar chose to go to the motorcycle race that weekend and reported she felt so much better, emotionally and physically, when she returned home.  She was energized and renewed and ready to once again take on her to-do list.
I know this scenario plays out in your life on a regular basis, too.  We are imbued with the Puritan work ethic and it is a daily fight to keep the toil mongers at bay and remember to also enjoy the pleasures life has to offer.
Since begging is never pretty, I will instead implore you (synonym for beg)  to take time during your precious days to play.  Nothing complicated. Nothing expensive. Just…play.
If you need more convincing, take a few minutes to read the first chapter of Dr. Stuart Brown’s book, Play.  How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  If that sparks your interest, you can also visit The National Institute for Play website to explore more ideas about the importance of play in personal health, relationships, education and companies.
Still stuck?  Give me a call or shoot me an
email.  With a little Coaching, you, like RockStar, can learn to give your hard-working, hard-driving self permission to play.
Your Life and Play Coach,
Francie Cooper,
P.S.  For more info on this topic, tune in to this week’s internet radio episode of TapaPalapa!  Steve and I are at the park planning our own Play Days!

Aahhhhhhh! Spaahhhhhhh! April 21, 2011

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“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.”  Roger von Oech
Play is serious work. That’s what we’re supposed to be focusing on this month and, I have to admit, I have not been holding up my end of the bargain.
First, allergies had me down and out for a while.  Then, I hurt my shoulder.  Then, this past weekend, I went to two end-of-life services and spent an entire day tidying up the yard.  Waah, waah, waah.  Where was the play?  Where were the laughs?  Not in my neck o’ the woods, that’s for sure.
So, this week my mission is to bring back the fun. In my last Weekly Companion, I discussed calm, outdoor fun, and this week I want to switch it up to exploring calm, indoor fun.
When I think of indoor fun, my mind immediately turns to the ever-tranquil, ever-pleasurable spa experience.  Ok, I confess I’m a bit of a spa snob.  For instance, I love a particular one just 45 minutes from my house because, a) it’s close, and b) you can hang out there all day.  
First, I schedule a massage, facial, mani or pedi.  Then I’m free to enjoy a dip in the indoor hot tub, the sauna, steam room and lunching by the pool. Next, I might be ready for a frosty adult beverage, reading myriad decorating or food magazines, followed by a lovely, warm, multi-head shower with an array of spa-provided, yummy-smelling shampoos, conditioners, gels and lotions.  Ahhhhhh.  Doesn’t it make you want to schedule your spa day right now?
It’s especially fun when you do this with a group of friends or your beloved.  In the facility I’m thinking of, they have both men’s and women’s sides, a couples’ massage room, and the roof-top pool and outdoor hot tub are co-ed, too.
The idea is to relax, be pampered and have fun all in one lovely spot.  While I haven’t had the pleasure of taking this particular outing in quite a while, I know it doesn’t have to be terribly expensive.  I’ve used a Groupon there for a half-price massage, and, with the exception of food and drink, the rest is gratis. 
Since I don’t have permission to mention the specific name of this little slice of heaven, shoot me an email and I’ll let you in on my secret.  I’m sure you’ll want to try it out for yourself soon.
Yours in aaahhhhhhhhhhh,
Francie Cooper,
Life Coach
P.S.  For more info on this topic, tune in to this week’s internet radio episode of TapaPalapa!  We’re talking about the amazing benefits you will get from taking care of yourself through bodywork and play!

Are You Having Fun Yet? April 7, 2011

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My friends, Sherry and Robert, declared that 2011 was going to be the “year of having more fun.”  So far, to manifest that goal, they’ve had a back yard bar-b-q complete with adults playing less-than-serious games of ping pong, eaten breakfast outside more often, played with friends frequently, and watched only comedy movies.

All of these activities sound like fun to me, and, at the same time make me want to understand, “Why do we need to have more fun, anyway?  Does it really matter?”
It seems it does.  According to “experts,” the daily grind (jobs, routine chores, kids, etc.) dulls our senses.  We lose our creativity, flexibility, passion and playfulness.
The antidote for this malaise can be simple, but sometimes not easy.  We have to give ourselves permission to PLAY.
By its nature, play is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.  It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a boost, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.  To me, these are all indications of personal health and wellbeing.
The bad news is, if we don’t play enough in our lives, health problems and personal fragility can set in.  Depression and stress-related disease can result.
So, my call to action this month is to HAVE MORE FUN!  It doesn’t have to be time-consuming nor expensive.  Fun, recreation and play can be as easy as going to the park for a picnic, a game of Frisbee, or dancing on the patio in the moonlight.
And, when you’re finished, shoot me an email about what you did!  I want to share as many ideas as I can for bringing more pleasure into your life.
Yours playfully,
Francie Cooper
P.S. On this week’s TapaPalapa internet radio show, Steve and I engage in some fun of our own at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.  Check it out by clicking here.

Living Philanthropic March 30, 2011

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Every week when I begin writing, I find astonishing, surprising and interesting facts, figures, people, places and things, but this week blew me away.
I started with the intention of writing about the rather mundane, overwrought topic of giving your treasure for the greater good and, in the process, ran into a story about this amazing guy named Carlo Garcia.
Last Spring, Garcia, who is from the south side of Chicago, came up with a huge idea.  He decided that every day for a year he would donate money to a different charity and document his journey on Facebook to inspire others to take on their own mission of giving. He has successfully done this every day for 340 days and you can read about his journey on his blog “Living Philanthropic.”
As Garcia told HuffPost Chicago, “I know how hard it is for charities to raise the needed funds for their programs, seeing first hand from my volunteer work. Back in April, [2010] this question popped in my head: How hard would it be to give to charity every day? The biggest obstacle for most people is money, so I thought: It doesn’t matter how much you give as long as you give on a consistent basis. So, I decided to challenge myself to see if I could actually complete this mission.”
Through his efforts, Garcia has donated over $3,950.81 of his own money and his blog has inspired other people to donate over $11,965!
I encourage you to visit his blog today, readers.  I guarantee you will be stirred, motivated and encouraged.
And, while I’m at it, I’d like to ask you a personal favor today.  My friends, Richard and Cindy, are in need your prayers, blessings, candle-lighting – whatever your spiritual practice might be – dedicated to Richard’s healing.
Two weeks ago, Richard went into the hospital for a hernia repair – a simple surgery that would require a one night hospital stay. Instead, last night, he had his fourth surgery and has been in ICU for two weeks. Complications upon complications have arisen and he and his wife need all the love and support we can muster.
To help you envision these dear people, let me tell you a little about them.  Richard is an attorney and a minister – an interesting combo, right?  He’s funny, smart, kind and generous, has a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a huge smile, and a big laugh. You might see him cruisin’on his motorcycle, serving on the board of a local non-profit, or proudly wearing his authentic kilt during Kirkin of the Tartans at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. Cindy is a dear friend as well as one of my book club/traveling buddies.  She loves the beach and her three dogs passionately, has a big heart, and a ready laugh.  Like her beloved Richard, Cindy is funny and smart, plus she gives her whole being working in a local non-profit, helping people who can no longer formulate or communicate decisions for themselves.
Will you please join me in sending them healing energy?  Thank you.
Francie Cooper

Everyone’s Got Talent! March 23, 2011

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 When you think of talent, what comes to mind?  Is it the kids with the amazing voices on American Idol?  Is it a favorite painter like Picasso or O’Keefe?   Maybe it’s a much-loved author like Mark Twain or Jodi Picoult.  While it’s true that all of these individuals have or had talent, what if I told you I believe Everyone’s Got Talent and, yes, that means you!
Talents are simply natural endowments.  We’re all given them and it’s our job in this life is to discover what they are.  It’s also our job to figure out how we’ll use them to make the world a better place. 
When I work with clients on discovering their own gifts and talents, I often find that what they enjoy doing gives them clues.  This week I’d like you to think about what you enjoy and, by extension, what your gifts and talents are and how you can use them to make the world a better place.  Here’s a chart* to get you started thinking.  Circle the talents that apply to you and add your own.
Taking care of animals
Doing math
Helping others
Listening to others
Riding a bicycle
Drawing pictures
Creating stories
Playing ball
Using imagination
Telling stories
Telling jokes
Making people laugh
Playing a musical instrument
Playing sports
Speaking more than one language
Finding four-leaf clovers
Putting puzzles together
Taking tests
Finding things that are hidden
Growing plants and flowers
Solving problems
Helping people understand each other
Recognizing stars and plants
Designing clothes
Building things
Sign language
Now, take it a step further.  How can you use just one of these talents this week for the greater good?  How can you use it for someone other than yourself?  If your talent is growing plants and flowers, for instance, could you help a neighbor plant a garden?  If you yodel, could you take 20 minutes to entertain a group at your nearest nursing home? 
Whatever your gift is, whatever you’re called to do in this world, just don’t waste it.   It is, after all, one of your jobs in this lifetime!

If you want more information on this topic, remember to tune in to this week’s podcast on TapaPalapa.com or itunes. 

Until next week,
*Chart developed by Charlene A. Costanzo

Today’s Greater Good March 16, 2011

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Last Friday, March 11, Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake/tsunami which has caused the loss of tens of thousands of lives and irreparable damage to topography and property.   This event, I believe, is yet another call to us to become involved in working for the greater good – a topic we’ve been discussing here all month.
As author Carolyn Myss expressed, “We learn from this event in Japan that we can be with the Japanese community of people through prayer, through email, through FB (Facebook) in an instant.  We are truly learning an enormous cosmic truth: We are one. And we are meant to use that truth: Pray together, heal our fellow human beings together, and heal our beloved Earth together. Put your soul to work.”
In addition to prayer, international disaster relief organizations have recommended that those of us who cannot directly supply physical assistance can best help by making monetary donations.  If you have a favorite, reputable organization to which you regularly donate, please considering doing so again.  
It has recently came to my attention that the Red Cross is accepting donations of $10 by text messaging.  You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to contribute.  It couldn’t be easier. Full details can be seen here: https://american.redcross.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=ntld_nolnav_text2help  
As Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist posted on Facebook recently, “An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.”

If you want more information on this topic, remember to tune in to this week’s podcast on TapaPalapa.com or itunes. 

“Slactivism” March 9, 2011

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 “Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else’s life forever.”  – Margaret Cho
 We all know that time is a precious commodity.  We have 24 hours in a day and that’s it.  Oh, we try to stretch it and bend it, but all those efforts are for not.  We’re still stuck with only 24 hours. 
So, why would we give any of it away?  Why would we choose to use our limited allotment of valuable hours for someone or something other than ourselves?  One reason is that it feels good.   Another is that we know in our souls that doing something for someone else is the right thing to do.
Maybe you already volunteer your time for a cause, like answering pledge calls for your local PBS affiliate, or painting closets for Habitat for Humanity.  Or, maybe you do something for a neighbor or friend – like mowing their lawn, or changing a light bulb when a neighbor can’t reach theirs.  None of these take any particular talent – but they do take our precious time.
For those of you who don’t have much time to give, but want to do something, let me introduce you to the concept of “slacktivism.”  It’s defined in Urban Dictionary as:  “The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society’s rescue without having had to actually get one’s hands dirty or open one’s wallet.”
To be a slacktivist you simply visit various “click to give” websites that allow individuals to donate by going online and clicking a button. The click leads you to a page with ads, and the advertiser gives money (based on the number of clicks) directly to a charity designated by the site.
One of the most notable “click to give” pages, according to Slate.com, is the Hunger Site.  It says that user clicks led to more than 235.7 tons of food donated last month (3,678,968 clicks). Their early success led to the creation of several other sites, including the Breast Cancer Site, where user clicks led to 103.3 free mammograms in February (5,163,968 clicks).
If you have more time to kill, try FreeRice, an educational game site run by the U.N. World Food Program that gives 10 grains of rice to the UNWFP for every question you answer correctly. They’ve donated more than 62 billion grains of rice in less than two years.
The question is: how will you use your precious time this week?  Will you choose to give of it generously to someone or something besides yourself?  Will you join the millions of slacktivists and donate by clicking or will you take a more hands-on approach?   Whatever it is, please let me know. I’d like to share your story to inspire others! 
If you want more information on this topic, remember to tune in to this week’s podcast on TapaPalapa.com or itunes.