January 20, 2015

 

Dear Maud:

 

As a grown man, I feel a little embarrassed to be writing in about this:  I just lost my “best friend” – my 15 year-old dog Jasper.  He had a terminal and debilitating illness and I recently had to have him put to sleep.  I know that he was “just a dog” but I feel devastated and am having trouble sleeping, getting up in the morning and getting myself to work.  Is this normal?

 

Are You A Master of Procrastination?

January 20, 2015

Daily, Life Solution Center clients tell me of their struggles with procrastination.  This is particularly true for entrepreneurs and those who work as independent agents within larger organizations. It’s also a huge issue for moms and dads on the home front, and teens struggling with getting those homework assignments completed.  Essentially, putting off the inevitable is an ongoing challenge for all of us!

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October 21, 2014

I just learned a lot I didn’t know about recently-retired baseball legend Derek Jeter, from a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Daniel Henninger.  One of the things I gleaned is that by today’s standards Jeter wasn’t typical.  He didn’t seek to get himself on the front pages of the tabloids with his latest personal drama.  He didn’t use his notoriety to peddle influence, or his fame to air his social or political views.  As unusual as this may be in today’s world...

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The Brave New World of Dating

October 8, 2014

 

Are you long on free time and short on romance this summer? While at a dinner party the other night we had a rousing conversation about dating in 2014. One of our friends said:  “Maud, why not write a column on the subject”?  So Jerry, this one’s for you!

How does one meet a potential – and terrific – romantic partner?  My office is a repository of never-ending information on the topic.  Based on many intimate chats, one reality comes to the fore:  If you stay holed-up in your abode watching old movies, Mr. or Ms. Wonderful is unlikely to show up on your doorstep. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to put some elbow grease into finding romance there are many possibilities.  

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October 1, 2014

Did you know that Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas”?  Were you aware that he went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland? History is replete with stories of famous folks who repeatedly failed before they began to achieve their dreams.

 

All-too-often we avoid new endeavors for fear that we won’t succeed.  We become paralyzed; terrified that we’ll disappoint ourselves and our loved ones, or embarrass ourselves in front of the rest of the world. 

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September 10, 2014

I was recently reminded how self-confidence shows up in the most unexpected places.  My husband and I watched the Documentary Maidenship, about then 14 year-old Laura Dekker, who sailed around the globe solo, in 2012.  Although her story sparked heated controversy, it also inspired folks around the world.  RichText.

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Peace of Mind in an Unsafe World

August 8, 2014

Do you follow world news with dread these days?  If so you aren’t alone.  Recently we’ve had yet another Malaysian Air crash and much of the world is unstable, from Ukraine to the Middle East and beyond... 

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Building Summer Bonds with your Kids

July 15, 2014

I think you’d agree that you practically have to make an appointment to spend “quality time” with your child during the school year.  Soccer practice, theatre rehearsal or volunteer activities make September through mid-June a mere blur.  

 

So why not make this summer an opportunity to reconnect with your kid?  I’m talking about spending real, uninterrupted, one-on-one time; time that your child ends up enjoying almost as much as you do.

 

 

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Manners Matter

June 9, 2014

If you were brought up in my household, decorum mattered.  It felt as though my siblings and I were constantly being coached about our manners; everything from using silverware correctly to writing the proper thank you note. My mother frequently referred to Emily Post and reminded us that while animals are “raised”, children should be “brought up”.  We kids were in full agreement about one thing: that my parents’ focus on manners mattered a bit too much.   Basically we thought the entire topic was pointless, old-fashioned and pretentious.

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May 15, 2014

In the words of Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson:  “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”.  And so does a woman’s.  Some things never change, and this phenomenon is as old as time.  Many factors contribute to making spring the season of romance: 

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Here's to New Beginnings!

April 29, 2014

Although our lives are radically different from those of our ancestors, virtually every culture, past and present, has acknowledged and celebrated the arrival of spring. It’s no surprise that in most cultures the egg - an obvious symbol of birth – has been used to herald in this season of rebirth and renewal.

 

While the Vernal Equinox formally announces spring’s arrival, the changes in nature seem to arrive at whim. Ancient trees randomly begin to sprout new leaves while daffodils from old bulbs miraculously pop their heads through the earth.

 

In the animal kingdom, we humans also perk up when spring arrives. 

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April 22, 2014

The Anderson’s recently paid me a visit. With tears running down his cheeks Riley Anderson told me that their dog, Bertie, has contracted what is probably a terminal illness. The couple has never had children so Bertie has been especially important to them. Sheepishly they told me they had just spent $5,000 on treatment for Bertie, even though odds are it won’t save her life. I assured Riley and Jen that pets are very important family members and that they were neither crazy nor frivolous for doing all they could to save her life.

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April 15, 2014

In the words of American author Mark Twain, “Never put off ‘til tomorrow what may be done after tomorrow just as well”.

 

Unwittingly, many of us live by this maxim. Have you noticed how those undesirable “to dos” always seem to fall to the bottom of your list? And how frequently you don’t attend to them until your back is up against the wall?

 

Complicating matters is the fact that there are many reasons we tend to procrastinate; here are a few:

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March 10, 2014

I was recently reminded of the power of creativity: I attended a conference where Artist, Communicator and Corporate Consultant Erik Wahl gave a key note address. After a successful corporate career Erik decided to return to his first love: art. He now works with corporations world-wide, helping them to discover creative solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

 

In simple terms creativity involves taking two or more old ideas and combining them in new ways. If your work requires a primarily left-brain approach (as is the case with computer technicians, pilots, engineers and many others) you may not, until now, have recognized the value of creativity.

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February 10, 2014

It’s almost February 14th, Valentine’s Day, when bouquets of roses and heart-shaped boxes of candy abound.  For many this is a much-anticipated holiday, chock full of romantic surprises.   For others, however, Valentine’s Day merely highlights feelings of loneliness, sadness and frustration about not being part of a romantic duo.

 

Daily, patients pour their hearts out about broken relationships and dashed dreams.  To complicate matters, the more folks become consumed with finding a romantic partner the more elusive this hoped-for love seems to be.

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February 6, 2014

The Anderson’s recently paid me a visit.  With tears running down his cheeks Riley Anderson told me that their dog, Bertie, has contracted what is probably a terminal illness. The couple has never had children so Bertie has been especially important to them.  Sheepishly they told me they had just spent $5,000 on treatment for Bertie, even though odds are it won’t save her life.  I assured Riley and Jen that pets are very important family members and that they were neither crazy nor frivolous for doing all they could to save her life.

 

 

Since time immemorial dogs have been considered to be man’s best friend.  In the words of... 

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January 20, 2014

Most of us don’t get to choose the folks with whom we work. People we might thoroughly enjoy in a social setting can suddenly become the enemy in the face of workplace expectations and deadlines. So how do you manage difficult characters at work without losing your sanity or your job? In my experience here’s a breakdown of the most commonly dreaded workplace personalities and a few tips on how to cope with them...

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December 20, 2013

In the privacy of my office patients frequently kvetch about their in-laws. With the holidays in full swing and families gathering, these problems take center stage.  Usually the conflagrations that occur are predictable, yet we tend to head into holiday celebrations doing the same old things while expecting different results.

 

Jackie came to see me last week, glum, angry and disappointed.  She, Ed and the kids had just spent Thanksgiving with Ed’s family.  Although Ed’s Dad is an alcoholic and his Mom is quite self-absorbed, Jackie was excited about the upcoming celebration, somehow believing that this year’s festivities would be different.

 

Not surprisingly things turned out as they always did.... 

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September 8, 2013

Daily, parents tell me that they want to help their kids develop self-confidence, a quest as old as time.  At the risk of raising some eyebrows let me posit that many (but not all) parents have lost track of how to get their kids’ confidence “from here to there”.  Prior to the mid-twentieth century parents seemed to understand that self-confidence developed only from standing on one’s own two feet and personally learning to cope with challenge and adversity.

 

Over the last half-century, however, the ways in which parents have attempted to engender self-confidence in their kids has gradually changed, and not necessarily for the better.

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July 17 2012

Anna desperately wanted to discuss her concerns with Kara, her younger sister. Kara had everything going for her; a great career, a good heart and beauty.  But for some reason Kara kept choosing men whom Anna thought were beneath her.  Finally, when Kara started dating a stable and successful young guy, Anna was thrilled…. until Kara broke up with him, claiming that they had nothing in common.

 

This was the final straw for Anna, who felt she owed it to her sister to weigh in on the matter.  She wanted to know how to present her “case” to her sister; here’s what I told her:  “The best approach to offering unsolicited advice is not to give it in the first place”.

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August 21, 2013

Generally we associate habits with things like biting our nails, smoking, or running late, but habits occur in many different forms and sometimes impact our lives in ways unbeknownst to us.

 

When you woke up today and started going through your morning routine—slippers on, coffee on, breakfast out – you were acting out of habit.  This might not seem significant, but what’s interesting is that recent studies reveal just how much control we actually have over habits, and therefore our day-to-day lives.

 

According to a researcher at Duke University, more than 40 percent of the actions we perform each day are habits rather than decisions. So what does that mean for you? 

 

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August 7, 2013


If you need a reminder about the power of faith and hope, you’ve come to the right place.  I’ve just finished reading New York Times BestsellerImpossible Odds:  The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six.  It’s the compelling story of Humanitarian Aid Worker Jessica Buchanan whom, along with a colleague, was ambushed and captured by Somali Pirates while working on a Land Mine Awareness program for children.  During her three months in captivity Jessica was held outside in unimaginable conditions, fell gravely ill, and almost starved to death.

 

Although Jessica lost hope at points during her ordeal, she believes that it was her enduring faith and hope, along with the undying efforts of her husband, family, church community and SEAL Team Six that led to her miraculous capture and ultimate survival.

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July 7, 2013

Are you getting ready to leave on a summer holiday?  If so you’re probably filled with anticipation about your upcoming break from the daily grind.  You may recall from holidays past that this important escape may afford you many benefits including:  adventure, relaxed and rewarding time spent with friends or loved ones, rekindling your romance, much-needed rest, fresh perspective on your day-to-day life or bursts of creativity.

 

I hate to rain on your parade but here’s the bad news (and I hear it repeatedly at summer’s end):  The euphoria we feel while on vacation usually turns to despair when we’re hit with the realities of our post-Labor Day lives. The wonderful holiday we’ve just experienced becomes but a distant memory and we find ourselves feeling more overwhelmed and stressed than we did prior to going away!

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May 5, 2013

On a weekly if not a daily basis people share with me one of their deepest, darkest secrets:  that they dislike their appearance or some aspect of it.

 

The old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is often true. In reality, however, we humans regularly, automatically and often subconsciously, make assumptions about others based upon appearance.  In fact, a discriminating eye is probably one of many human traits that helped us to survive and develop, eons ago.

 

Concerns about our physical appearance take center stage, especially with that job interview or first date. Often we become so focused on real or perceived physical flaws that our apparent lack of confidence costs us the job or a second date.

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May 7, 2013

Have you noticed a new “spring” in your step?  Now that the Vernal Equinox is behind us spring has indeed sprung; daffodils are starting to sprout and birds have begun to sing.  In addition to the force of Mother Nature, brain physiology may play a role in our renewed vigor.

 

In the winter our lack of exposure to sunlight causes the pineal gland in the brain to produce more melatonin, a chemical that is sleep-inducing.  This may slow us down during the winter months, not unlike the phenomenon of animals in hibernation.  As we move into spring, however, the days get longer and the sun’s rays become more direct.  In response, the pineal gland produces less melatonin, leaving us feeling energized and renewed.

 

Spring ushers in nature’s rebirth.  For thousands of years rites of spring, in a multitude of cultures, have acknowledged nature’s regeneration and bounty. Many of these celebrations involve discarding what’s old and ushering in what’s new.  An example of this is found in the Persian new year which falls right on the Vernal Equinox.  It’s called  Nowruz and is preceded by a period of intense spring cleaning called “Khouneh Tekouni”, or “shaking down the house”.

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April 12, 2013

Have you been feeling sad, anxious or hopeless lately?  If these feelings persist you may need to sit down with your physician and get to the bottom of them.  Sometimes, however, the best “medicine” is to become actively involved in a group or organization.

 

Eons ago living in a tribe was essential to our survival.  Over time and with the advent of the internet, surviving without community has become more and more doable.  Many folks who come in to see me, however, report that although they can survive in isolation they don’t thrive without regular human contact.  They’ve figured out that belonging to a group provides more benefits than mere survival and that without any communal involvement they tend to suffer, both physically and emotionally.

 

According to the Ontario Clearinghouse of Prevention, “Part of being healthy is belonging – to a family, a community, a society.  It makes us feel good.  It makes us healthy.  It makes us want to reach out to others...”. 

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February 5, 2013

Recently, former Google executive Marissa Mayer was hired as chief executive officer of Yahoo and charged with breathing new life into the once-successful Internet behemoth. Mayer is, in fact, the 20th female to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She’s also six months pregnant.

 

According to management consultant and Emory University professor Kevin Coyne, “If she succeeds, it will be a landmark case for women everywhere. … Women will talk about her for decades.” If your reaction to that headline is “No pressure, Marissa,” you aren’t alone.

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November, 22 2012

At holiday time most of us offer thanks to friends and loved ones, letting them know we’re happy that they are in our lives.  We do this by way of emails and texts; with holiday cards and gifts; or at celebrations of the season.  Many of us express our gratitude by reaching out to those in need through donations, by serving food at soup kitchens, or by spending some time with disadvantaged children. 

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October 10, 2012

Frequently my patients ask:  “How do I find inner peace”?  Truth be told most of us feel at peace only in those rare moments when all of the “stars align”, i.e. when things are working out according to plan – our plan.

 

There appear to be universal root-causes of inner distress. Art and literature depict these themes time and time again: Fear, impatience, envy, the belief that happiness can only be achieved at some future time and under certain conditions, and our seeming inability to notice the blessings that already exist.

 

Philosophers and religious leaders devote lifetimes to finding the secrets to inner peace and I certainly don’t claim to have the answers.  My experience tells me, however, that these are some things to consider while on the quest for greater internal calm:

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September 20, 2012

The question of how to build happy, healthy and successful kids is as old as time.  Unfortunately our children don’t come with instruction manuals.  We want to be great parents but don’t always find the right balance between structure and freedom; shielding our kids from life’s travails or having them face cold, hard, reality.  As we start a new academic year lets re-examine this age-old question.

 

In 2011 author Amy Chua re-energized the parenting debate in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.  Chua, an American mom of Chinese heritage, decided to bring up her daughters the Chinese way.  Further, she shared with the world the results of her “experiment” in parenting, warts and all.  Here are some of the hallmarks of her approach:

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September 20, 2012

Not long ago my husband was blessed with a last-minute business opportunity in France, and I gladly accompanied him. We stayed in a charming French city (some 32,000 residents) called La Ciotat, not far from Marseilles. Minus a few cars and high-tech yachts, it looked like a port city from the middle ages, with its narrow cobble-stone streets and Romanesque architecture.

 

During our trip three experiences caught my attention:  This was the first time we’d been to Europe since the term “Freedom Fries” was coined, and we weren’t sure what kind of reception we, as Americans, would receive. Much to our surprise, we were greeted warmly by everyone we encountered, even though our command of the French language was closer to non-existent than to rusty. The “La Ciotadians” made us feel comfortable and welcome.

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August 20, 2012

Patients, co-workers, friends and family were all glued to their TVs and techno devices, staying abreast of the latest Olympic events and medalists.  Even folks who aren’t otherwise rabid sports fans become transfixed by the Olympic Games. It is especially exciting when Olympic athletes hail from our own communities.  In Connecticut, for example, I’m proud to report that we boast eight Olympians at the 2012 London Summer Games.

 

Why do we find sporting events, in general, so fascinating?  There are a host of reasons why we are drawn to spectator sports and here are just a few.

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August 6, 2012

Anna desperately wanted to discuss her concerns with Kara, her younger sister. Kara had everything going for her; a great career, a good heart and beauty.  But for some reason Kara kept choosing men whom Anna thought were beneath her.  Finally, when Kara started dating a stable and successful young guy, Anna was thrilled…. until Kara broke up with him, claiming that they had nothing in common.

 

This was the final straw for Anna, who felt she owed it to her sister to weigh in on the matter.  She wanted to know how to present her “case” to her sister; here’s what I told her:  “The best approach to offering unsolicited advice is not to give it in the first place”.

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July 17 2012

Geoff came in to see me, feeling on edge.  He was troubled by an extended family situation that had gone on for years; one where, in his opinion, injustice had reigned.  The needs of certain family members had been repeatedly overlooked, while other relatives were singled out for special treatment.   A family wedding brought his old feelings about this situation to a head.  He was tired of observing the mistreatment and neglect of certain family members; ones who hadn’t the strength to advocate for themselves.

 

I could well understand Geoff’s dilemma:  He wanted to say or do something about the injustice of the situation but also knew that people don’t change.  Would speaking up be a waste of energy and have no impact?  If that were the case it seemed illogical to register his anger, hurt and disappointment.  On the other hand he knew he could no longer stomach the injustice and that he had to do something; thoughts and feelings about it consumed him.

 

If you’ve ever dealt with a similar situation you’re aware of the flood of memories and emotions that it evokes.  How do you honor your feelings while at the same time not do unnecessary harm to others?  Each situation is different but here are some general guidelines to consider...

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July 9, 2012

A couple of years ago Brendan came in to see me following the untimely death of his wife.  More recently he paid me a visit all aglow; he had met the “woman of his dreams”.  I was delighted for Brendan, who hadn’t believed he could find a new partner. Laura, also divorced, had two kids, 8 and 10 from her previous marriage.  Brendan hadn’t yet met Laura’s kids but was sure that his love for Laura would carry him through any trials and tribulations with her kids.

 

Brendan didn’t realize that no matter how much in love with Laura he was, step-parenting can throw cold water on even the best of romantic relationships.  As we talked it became clear that he, like most folks, bought into some false assumptions about life as a step-parent.  Here are some of the other step-parenting misconceptions I commonly encounter:

 

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May 10, 2012

Without anxiety the human race would be in big trouble. Since time immemorial we have had, as a survival mechanism, the ability to respond quickly and effectively to danger. Today few of us are being chased by wild animals or weapon-bearing cavemen.  For many of us, however, our “fight or flight” response has gone haywire when we react to even the smallest concerns as if they are true emergencies.

 

If you are a closet worrier you aren’t alone.  Worriers are often quite successful, highly organized, dependable, and great in a crisis.  They have the ability to appear cool, calm and collected; the model of stability and courage under fire. However it’s often day-to-day life that trips them up.

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April 9, 2012

I feel blessed to be a woman in our post 60’s culture, where femininity and female strength, independence and success are touted.  Unfortunately, however, our changed views of women seem to have occurred at the expense of how we perceive manhood.  In short I believe that we’ve lost a real appreciation for men being men.

 

We women want our men to be breadwinners and rescuers (help us when the car breaks down or the sink sprouts a leak).  We want our men to be strong, both emotionally and physically.

 

At the same time that we want our guys to be tough, we increasingly demand that they be romantic and have a “strongly developed feminine side”, e.g. remembering important dates with the right gifts, being both great communicators and listeners, and understanding our emotional needs (even when we don’t clearly convey them)!

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© 2015 Maud Purcell