Life lies outside your comfort zone.

We talk blithely about getting out of our comfort zone.  And while we recognize that we need to be challenged to go somewhere extraordinary, we are reluctant to do so.

Why is that?  What attitudes keep us there?

    *    I’m too tired.                            *   It has to be perfect.

    *    I’m okay where I am.              *  There’s not enough time.

    *    It’s not that important.          *   What if I fail?

(Read my story farther down.  Wait ’til you see what held me back, and how I got past it.)

Steve Chandler, author, speaker and corporate trainer, says, “The comfort zone is a place to rest, not live.”  When you take up residence in the comfort zone, you may be living, but not growing and thriving.  It’s too easy to stay there.  After all, it’s… well, it’s comfortable.

Comfort Zone


Chandler observes that “the human system does not really want comfort, it wants challenge.  It wants adventure.”  You have only to look at teens and young adults to see that in action.  In spite of their need to fit in, so many are seeking ways to stand out from the crowd, to try new and daring things, to differentiate themselves from others, including in their college applications.  (We parents pray a lot that they find safe ways to do this!)

When you look back on your life, what stands out for you and makes your face light up?  Is it your collection of possessions?  the crazy hours you work?  Or is it the time you took a chance and accomplished something you didn’t believe you could do?  Or maybe when you tried, failed and picked yourself up?  Yes, it was probably one of the times you went outside your comfort zone and took a risk.  

TAKE NOTE:  This isn’t about your achievements.  It’s about who you are and how you show up in life.

Now to put my parent hat back on…

One thing I learned is that double standards are not allowed.  If I expect something of my children, I’d better be prepared to hold myself to the same standard.  There’s a big difference between knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it.  (Talk is very cheap, and I’m definitely a work in progress.)

If I’m my children’s most important teacher, then I must teach and inspire them by my actions.  It’s no wonder that at the Hyde School parenting is called “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have.”  Our children learn how to ‘do life’ from us.  What’s more important than that?

When I was a Hyde parent, I was asked to co-chair the regional parent group.  My first reactions?  “What if I can’t do this?  Who will listen to me?  I’m going to mess up.  I’m not a leader.  Too many people in leadership positions abuse their power and are unlikeable.  I can’t risk not being liked, so I won’t put myself in that position.”  I had a million reasons not to do it.

I had one great reason to do it.  My son was being asked to stretch and grow in ways he never thought possible.  How could I give in to my fears and live in the comfort zone?  I chose to be courageous, too (mentally kicking and screaming along the way).  Being the co-chair of a group of 60 parents challenged me greatly.  There were lots of moments of confusion and self-doubt.  Things didn’t always go smoothly, and we all lived through it.  I consider this to be a major success during those years.  And the icing on the cake was my children telling me how proud they were of me.

It’s true:  our children want us to inspire themThat happens outside the comfort zone.  In all honesty, though, I think it’s my kids who inspire me.  Either way, it’s a good place to be.

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Welcome to Holland

I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. Life doesn’t always go the way you planned.  Nowhere is that more true than in parenting.

For us the road twisted and turned in ways we could not have anticipated:  infertility, adoption, learning differences, health concerns, tumultuous teen years and more.  In addition to the love and joy, there was fear, sadness and disappointment.  There was family who loved us, but couldn’t fix it. There were friends who couldn’t really know what we were going through, and we distanced ourselves, saving our energy for what needed our attention most.

And yet… time has given me the gift of perspective, and the ability to learn and grow. While I wouldn’t have chosen those experiences, I am grateful for all I have learned, and for being a better, stronger version of the person I was back then.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, “Welcome to Holland” is a beautiful and poignant piece about when life doesn’t turn out the way you dreamed and planned, especially with regard to your children. If you are the parent of a child with special needs; the parent of a child who has taken some wrong turns; or if you are a person who has experienced disappointment, this is for you. In other words, this is for every single person.



by Emily Pearl Kingsley, 1987

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss. But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

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Do you live in the ‘conflict avoidance’ zone?

You know what needs to be said and done… but it is neither said nor done.  You are in the ‘conflict avoidance’ zone.

Nobody wants to fight with their kids or spouse.  A little peace and quiet seems like a good thing, a desirable state of affairs.  Who doesn’t want a hassle-free morning, an argument-free vacation, a quiet dinner, or a compliant child?  We all do; however, avoiding our inner wisdom and going for harmony often leads to bigger conflicts and problems later on.  Gratification in the short term can derail our long-term vision and results. Let’s get to the heart of the matter, so we can change it.


three monkeys

This phenomenon of avoiding conflict is definitely in my top five list of what not to do.  I see it as a volunteer, as a coach, in the business world, and in my own life.  I am no stranger to conflict avoidance.  As a child, I got the message not to  share my (differing) opinions and my feelings.  Of course, I took this message into adulthood, marriage and parenting.  It did not serve me well, and it takes a conscious effort to overcome it, and speak my mind in ways that can be heard.
We are master problem-solvers.  Like all good problem-solvers, though, we must first identify obstacles that hold us back. Why do more people than not avoid conflict?  Why do you do what has the potential to backfire on you, your children and your relationships?
As always, fear is the biggest motivator.  More specifically, it’s fear of speaking the truth as you see it.  What are the outcomes you’re trying to avoid?
* being rejected
* feeling unloved or unwanted
* making a mistake or being wrong (in other words, not being perfect)
* not getting your way
* others being angry at you
* your children saying they hate you and giving you the silent treatment
* jeopardizing a friendship
* having to act on that truth, and feeling unable to follow through
That’s just a sampling.  Hopefully, it will start you thinking about why you spend time in the ‘conflict avoidance zone.’  Once you figure it out, here are some tips for stepping out and living in a more honest way.

1) STOP.   You know when you’re going there.  You can feel it in your breathing or in the flutter or tightness that settles somewhere in your body.  When you become aware of it, stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re saying. Breathe.

 2) LISTEN to yourself, to the inner voice of wisdom that is bubbling up to be heard.

 3)  UNDERSTAND the real message.  It’s the voice of truth, not of avoidance and conciliation.  The truth may be difficult to say and to hear, but ultimately it does set you free.  It will clear the way for understanding, connection, and the next right step.
4)  SHARE your truth.  If you continue to run from it, it will smother you and your relationships.  The key is in how you express it.  There are ways to say what you mean with love and integrity, and without judgment and anger.



1)  What is an issue that you shy away from discussing, and what is the fear?
2)  How does avoiding this issue affect you and your family later on?
3)  What are your children learning about how to resolve differences when you react this way?
4)  Consider discussing the issue of ‘conflict avoidance’ with family members.
5)  Script out what you’d like to say so you can remain calm and stay on topic.

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Goldfish Crackers: Confessions of a Health-Conscious Mom

You have everything all set for success and, surprise! The unexpected happens. So it was for Holistic Health Coach, Erica Danziger, this month’s guest expert. On a typical trip to the supermarket, her seven-year old son used the facts this health-conscious mom taught him, and made a food choice that took her by surprise.

Read her article, How a Naturally-Minded Mom Chose to Buy Goldfish Crackers. Aside from the nutrition lesson, you’ll sweetly remember that young children have logic that will surprise you, and sometimes you just can’t argue with it.



How a Naturally-Minded Mom Chose to Buy Goldfish Crackers
by Erica Danziger, Holistic Health Coach


I can’t believe I did it. I teach this stuff. I live these lessons.
How could I have bought my kids Goldfish crackers today?


How it Came to Pass
There we were, in the market, and my almost seven-year old son asked if he could buy a certain (junky) cereal. After offering my standard reply like a drone, “We don’t eat those foods in this family” over and over again, I suddenly realized he needed to know more.

He needed to know WHY.  So I decided to coach my son like I would any client – and he loved it.

I taught him first how to find the Nutritional Facts on the side of the cereal box.mom_kid_shopping

Next, I taught him how to find the number of grams of sugar, as a part of the food’s total carbohydrates and, for correct comparison to other cereals, realize the serving size (9 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving is less than 9 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving).

Finally, I taught him how to identify where sugar was in the order of ingredients (closer to the “first in the order” means there’s “more of it” relative to the other ingredients).

Kids need easy-to-follow and logical directions.  He was happy and proud of his choices. I was happy and proud of his choices.

And then it happened. We came to the Goldfish cracker aisle.


Clearly, I was Stunned into Submission.
We were on a roll dismissing products that clearly had “bad ingredients” in them (namely, white sugar as one of the first three ingredients).

“Sure, go ahead. Let’s explore the Rainbow Goldfish”, I said confidently. I just knew they didn’t have a chance with my now fully enlightened child.

First three ingredients: enriched wheat, cheddar cheese and oils.  While they weren’t great, I couldn’t reject them outright.  Next came a bunch of ingredients we didn’t know too much about – two types of yeast and some leavening – nothing too alarming.

I thought, “Wait for it…. wait for it….” fully expecting the list to end with artificial food coloring – an ingredient that is not allowed in our house.

But there it was — watermelon juice, turmeric powder and beet juice. WHAT?!  Naturally colored Goldfish?!

All the wind went out of my sails and it was nearly impossible to say, “No” to his little inquiring face.  Those little fish made it through our family’s checklist:

  1. No artificial food coloring
  2. Refined sugar wasn’t one of the first three ingredients.
  3. Most foods were recognizable by name.

I secretly looked over my shoulder to be sure we weren’t on candid camera and then agreed to put them in our shopping cart. No alarm bells went off, no sirens sounded. So far, so good.


rainbowfishHow I Made it Work for Us
Realizing saying, “yes” to this purchase could lead to future expectations, I created a few easily understandable boundaries.

1.  I said “no” to the gigantic party-size box.
2.  I explained this was a “one-time” purchase.

I offered my kids tiny serving sizes portioned out into Dixie-sized cups that I “borrowed” from the coffee stand in the market. My kids – with huge smiles on their faces – chowed down on their brightly colored snack.

“Just like we have in school!”, my four-year old daughter exclaimed excitedly.

I smacked my forehead. What had I done?


What’s Really Wrong with Goldfish?
Here are four reasons Goldfish are not a healthy snack choice:

  1. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) – Ingredients like canola oil and soy are typically genetically modified ingredients in this country. GMO crops, while outlawed in many European countries, are allowed by our government – without labeling. There is a strong debate about the health risks to humans, environmental impact on the planet and ethical implications to small farmers of GMO crops. They are still relatively new and their long-term effects on human health is still unknown. What we do know is GMO foods — like corn, soy and canola — are present in nearly every conventionally packaged food, making “moderation” nearly impossible.
  2. Conventional dairy – The cheese in Goldfish crackers is real cheese…mostly. It’s mixed with some oils but its main source is the actual stuff that comes from cows. Cows, in this case, that are pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics and live in overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions. Another hotly debated issue, many naturally-minded consumers choose organic meat and dairy sources to feed their families because of concerns about early onset puberty, infertility and higher rates of cancer, not to mention conscious connection to another animal’s suffering in poor conditions.
  3. High sodium content – My son and I had been so busy avoiding sugar in the cereal aisle that I hadn’t bothered to explain to him the dangers of high sodium in packaged products. When it comes to typical packaged kids’ food, I find there is usually one of two culprits – sugar or sodium. In this case, it was the high sodium content that should make you gasp. High sodium in children’s diets has been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. 
  4. MSG (monosodium glutamate) – The ingredient, autolyzed yeast, is a form of glutamates. Whether they are naturally occurring and much lower than the infamous “MSG” is up for some debate. While “MSG is blamed by some groups for a range of serious neurological and physiological disorders. Some studies have identified both MSG … as excitotoxins, substances that overstimulate [neurons] to the point of cell damage.”1 (Think: Alzheimer’s) However, others say, “Autolyzed yeasts… are completely natural ingredients that happen to be have substantial amounts of glutamates, but nowhere near the concentration found in MSG.”2

But… are they okay in moderation?
This is a typical question I hear from my clients when I educate them about the potential dangers in our food.  Dangerous additives and ingredients are in so many foods that it can be completely overwhelming to a busy parent.

  • You have all the right intentions in mind.
  • You’re not trying to break your children with the food you feed to them.
  • But you also know you can’t be all the way perfect all of the time – it’s just not realistic for your lifestyle.

Is MSG, conventional dairy or GMOs okay sometimes and in moderation?
That’s a very personal question that you have to answer for yourself and your family.

Armed with balanced education and realistic strategies, I can help my clients achieve the health through food that they, busy parents like you, want so badly you can almost taste it.


Healthier Snack Choices
Of course, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are always healthier choices over pre-packaged snacks. But, sometimes, your kid really wants the same snack as the other children and you just want to make the best choice possible in the cracker aisle.

Here are a few of my kids’ favorite packaged salty snacks:

  • Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies
  • Suzie’s Organic Saltines
  • Beigel Beigel Whole Wheat Pretzels

The good news is, there are plenty of natural snacks on the market these days so making smart and healthy choices is super easy. With support and guidance, you’ll be unstoppable in the market!

* Caveat: I am not an investigative journalist and this information is not to be construed in any way as medical advice or scientific statements. This is simply the story of one Mom’s decision to buy a product — one time.


  1. 2008 Times article
  2. Whole Foods

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From Market to Table (March Interview)

If you’re like most people who do the family food shopping, you’d like fewer visits to the market, to be in and out more quickly, and to know that your family is eating healthy, nourishing foods. This month’s tip for families and interview is “From Market to Table:  Simple Supermarket Strategies to Improve Your Family’s Health.”

My guest expert is Erica Danziger, a Holistic Health Coach and owner of Nature Girl Wellness, LLC.  Erica is going to share quick and easy strategies to better understand nutrition labels, to have a plan before you step foot in the supermarket, and to find healthy food alternatives that even your kids will like.  Join us on Thursday, March 19 at 11:00am Eastern Time. Details and registration are in the flier and sign-up box below.

More about Erica…  Erica teaches families how to get excited in the kitchen and learn to use foods – not just to eat – but to improve their health, increase their energy and decrease their stress.  Parents receive creative solutions, realistic techniques and simple strategies that are grounded in the reality of what’s truly possible for busy families.  Nature Girl Wellness offers both private and group coaching to parents who care about their family’s health and are committed to breaking with their food patterns to create a healthier future for their children.


Family Food Choices-blog


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