How My Dying Friend Taught Me How to Live


(If you double tap on each picture, it gives you a description.)

I recently had a coffee date with my dear friend, Rich. We were mistaken to think that after six months of not seeing one another that we could simply do coffee. Coffee turned to lunch because it didn’t take long after we got caught up on our lives that “She” came up. Rich told me how this birthday he would turn 62 years old. He pointed out that “She” would have turned 62 this past September. Funny that when someone passes they remain that age. “She” is always one day short of 57 to me.

“She” is Barb. Rich’s late wife, and my late dear bestie. Barb is the late sister to my best friend, Robert. (Barb told me she was gifting me Robert and to look after him. We’ve been close friends since. Robert is my partner on many of my work projects and business travels.)

It’s been five years.

At lunch Rich and I retold our Barb stories. They never get old, just funnier. I left our lunch date nostalgic and grateful for this beautiful woman that graced my life with wicked humor and loads of unsolicited, but welcomed, advice. Barb was her own brand of unique. She was classy with her own sense of style. She admitted, unapologetically, that she did not posses a filter between her thoughts and what came out of her mouth. She was the straightest shooter I’ve ever met. We once had a huge argument about whether a public figure was a sociopath, and she was really mad at me because I didn’t agree with her. I wanted her to support her argument with provable facts that this person was indeed a sociopath, and she thought it was obvious and that I was being naive. After extreme frustration on both our parts, we went and got a pedicure. So us.

I like to think I learned more about how to be a friend, a real friend, from Barb. She taught me how to service friendships, and she let me be her friend, just as I was then, when she needed one at the end of her life. Barb had a sweet place in her heart for my husband, Jon, and she adored my children. Barb’s oldest granddaughter is my son’s age, so Barb and I did fun things with the kids.

In the five years since we lost Barb, my life has transitioned into a life that though Barb, from her hospital bed, predicted and encouraged me to live, even she wouldn’t recognize me in. Not just physically but professionally, emotionally and spiritually.

Barb gave me the gift of living, even as she was dying. She allowed me to be in a very personal and private place with her–making her transition into her next world. I was the one the family asked to work out with Barb what “plan B” would be if her doctors couldn’t save her from the onset leukemia that resulted from the chemotherapy used  treating breast cancer. Barb had a resolute optimism that kept her from understanding the crushing devastation of her prognosis. It was left to me to begin to prepare her for what was to come because if any member of her family tried, she would shut them down. Somehow, I was close and distant enough to work with. She in turn nurtured and loved me like a big sister would. There, many late nights in her hospital room, we sat and planned each other’s next adventures. We told one another secrets and we made big promises.

Barb encouraged me to change many aspects of my life. She felt I was too disconnected from the world and from people outside a very tight circle of friends. She wanted me to connect in a bigger way, and felt I would live a more meaningful life that way–best advice ever. She wanted me to get healthy because, though she was the one with cancer, she felt that I should thrive after she passed. “Fuck cancer, Mari! Please be beautiful and healthy. I want you to wear my jeans when you get thin enough and you need to rock them! Promise me, Mari.” I promised. I promised that and so much more. She promised me she would be nice to her family in her final days. She was being difficult because she was scared out of her mind. She kept her promises, and her kids and husband each thanked me. Then Barb thanked me. It went something like this: “Thanks, Mari for (insert expletive) straightening me out.”

I think when someone allows you to correct them, or influence them for the better, they give you a gift too.

Sadly, I don’t have pics of Barb and me because I didn’t do pics of me then–a huge regret on my part, and one I’m no longer experiencing as I take pictures every chance I get with family and friends. Barb was a 5 foot 10 inch red headed ball of fire. A perfect match for this feisty Mexican girl from a tough barrio. Although, Barb thought I was too nice. She felt I needed to toughen up, and I needed to quit letting people walk all over me. That was Barb. No filter. Lots of unsolicited advice.

Barb transitioned peacefully, and I went on to thrive in my life. She helped me so much. I don’t think I would have had the confidence or felt brave enough to make the dedicated choices I made in my life, shortly after her death, without her encouragement.

Out of nowhere it seemed that brave and tough and strong I became.

As hard as it was, I took Barb’s advice and walked away from the circle of toxic friends I was slowly dying in, and I never looked back. She would be proud to know that no one walks all over me and I’m not so nice. I have this great need to have adventures and to connect with people in a meaningful way, and I do every chance I get. My life is currently rich with people, activities and love. And I’ve never been healthier.

Thanks, Barb.

A couple of years ago, at one of our lunch dates, I wore the jeans Barb left me, to meet Rich. Of course, I had to have the tailor cut three inches off of them to work with my 5 foot 7 inches. But wore them, I sure did. Because: fuck cancer, Barb! I modeled them for Rich, spinning around and all. We had our Barb moment. I know Barb would roll with laughter if I told her that her ($200.00) size 12 Paige jeans were too big for me now. {Rich, if you’re reading this, I’m sure Barb only paid $50.00 for the jeans ;), as a matter of fact, I’m certain of it.} Maybe she’d laugh her raspy laugh, and tell me, “Fuck cancer, Mari.” She would be so happy for me. In my heart I feel she is.

A few days after my recent lunch with Rich, I found the book I pictured above, When Breath Becomes Air. The author, Paul Kalanithi, spun gold when he wrote it. He, too, died of cancer. He was on the verge of a promising career. He left his wife and their baby behind. This brilliant book was released two months after the Paul’s death. Somehow Paul chronicled how he kept his humanity and his deep-seated compassion for people while becoming a neurosurgeon, dealing in many cases with death–even deciding whether someone should be kept from living in a vegetative state and allowed to die without his interference. Paul dealt with his own mortality, and he did it with gravitas.

Until I read this book, I never understood what Barb and I were all about in those last few months of her life–because it was almost magic what we did for one another, especially what she left me with–and why she was so influential in how I changed my life. I just knew I needed her as much as she needed me.

I took in every word of Paul’s book. He showed me through his brilliance, proved to me, how the dying are the ones on whom we sometimes depend to teach us how to live–how to go on, and how to thrive.

I loved this book, written by a man with a real understanding for the human spirit and how it interacts with science and life.

I recommend this book to anyone seeking meaningful answers to living, or even to dying.

Thank you, Barb. Thank you, Paul. And fuck cancer!


The You’re Supposed To’s and Being Shamed


If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you don’t appreciate being told why you MUST do something, such as going on a diet or fitness program, which can be so hard and painful. As an unapologetic non-conformist, I’ve never done well with “Mari needs to…!” With the exception of my late friend Barb, anyone that has ever given me unsolicited advice about my weight or any meaningful aspect of my life, has failed at epic levels. No one that has ever forced or shamed me into doing anything has ever remained my friend. Ever.

As someone who understands these feelings, I’m going to ask you to separate yourself from the “I’m expected to’s” and the “what YOU really need to do’s…” You see, with some of us strong-willed people, there’s combativeness with someone pushing us to do something we haven’t owned or aren’t able to own, and combat takes up energy–energy we need for ourselves.

I’m going to tell you what I did to set apart that battle, and how I decided the only reason for going on such a large difficult transformation.

I hope I can give you a deeper understanding that in this process I came to find myself, and to love and respect myself in the most caring way. I sincerely hope this encourages you, whether you need to lose weight, quit drinking, quit smoking, or quit some other destructive behavior–or any combination.

In truth, there as many reasons to get to a healthy weight as there are ways to get there. Maybe someone is putting pressure on you, or your mother tells you that you have such a pretty face, if only…Or maybe you’re being (or feeling) judged or shamed about your body.

I didn’t begin this journey because a friend told me I needed to lose weight, or because my mother reminded me a guzzillion times that I have “such pretty face”, or because I felt judged by other people. Or even that someone’s shaming got through to me–it didn’t, it was just mean, hurtful and not helpful. Nope. Not one of those reasons, nor all of them added up together, were reasons enough to get me off of my self-imposed situation.

Now, I’m not out to make our friends and family, that want us to get healthy, or quit a destructive habit, enemies. They aren’t. Anyone encouraging you to get well and thrive is not an enemy, they’re probably the best people in your life and they probably really love you. When my mother told me what a pretty face I had, she was looking into the beauty of her daughter, and she wanted to see me enjoy great health and potential beauty. Nothing wrong with that. My mother is extremely proud of my transformation.

I believe that sometimes when we’re not fighting the right fight, we begin to fight those around us–and, who better than those that are hitting nerves, and thereby bringing it on?! That’s why it’s important to own your fight, and know what your fighting, and why.

One day I realized I needed to do this for ME, and I needed to OWN it.

Simply for ME! And only for ME. And it needed to be done by me, under my command and my impetus.

How did I do it? I realized that I was disengaged. I was disconnected. I later realized how far disengaged and disconnected I’d become but that’s for another blog post. Fear and apathy are the enemies of engagement and connection. Fear and apathy are the reasons we fail to even try to meet our dreams. I chose to engage, and I chose to engage with whatever I had to do, or leave in order to master this journey. I connected in every possible way I could with making my goal come to fruition.

Instead of using my energy to fight others, I used my energy to move my mind and body out of the apathetic inertia I was firmly set in. Most people that knew me then would not have believed I was apathetic or in fear of anything because I have a big personality.

I was really really unhappy.

I did this transformation for me, and me alone. There are a hundred things I wanted from dropping the weight, and I got all of them, and even more.

I later came to realize that my disengagement, which became self-neglect, was numbing me to a real sense of who I was. It kept me in a disconnected state and prevented me from living a joyful life.

What I never expected, what I never saw coming, was how deeply glorious it is to have self-respect. It gave me a new confidence I’ve used successfully in life, and especially in business. When I started treating myself better, I demanded others treat me better.

I found it satisfying to know that I could set my mind to something so personal and hard, and push through it.

It feels empowering to have the strength to say no to myself, and to take control of my own behavior.

I wear size ten jeans that I call my big pants. And I wear size eight when I’m on plan. I don’t know where I stand with today’s vanity sizing but I still have more weight loss goals.

However, there isn’t a jean size for the best gift I got out for pursuing these goals: ME.

Me–engaged and connected, living in a state of joy. How cool is that?!

I find that even when I’m locking horns with someone, I’m still engaged, and connected. To me, that’s living.

I found out that I’m a strong brave girl. I found out I’m younger as I get older. I found out I’m a ball of energy and can run circles around thirty year olds–that has more to do with the physical conditioning I got from exercise. I found out so many things about myself that I never thought were in me.

So, if you’re dying a little each day. If you wake up unhappy with your condition. If you feel like you’re not respecting yourself. I challenge you to do what you know you need to do, to own it, for the only reason you should: YOU! Engage and connected you.

Beautiful amazing you. The strength and energy is in YOU. And you are so worth it.


Four Stents and One Happy Software Developer


Big luck, preparation, vigilance, and science met on December 7, 2015, when  my husband, Jon had stents put in each of his four coronary arteries, as they were each blocked. Two were 90% blocked, the other two 99% blocked. This life-saving procedure was done in less than two hours. And it was done through a artery in his arm while he was awake but medicated.


Freakin’ amazing high-tech science…and fantabulous on the ball doctors. Wow!


One of Jon’s cardiologist made it very clear to me, when she praised me for my vigilance, that getting Jon properly diagnosed and pushing for this exact procedure saved his life. Her exact words, “Without this procedure Jon would have had a heart attack. He was a walking-ticking-time bomb.”


After this dramatic statement, unbeknownst to me and everyone else, I went into shock.


It was weeks later that I was able to appreciate that Jon and our family came out of this victorious.


Victorious because instead of Jon having a massive heart attack, and who-knows-what, Zack and Daniella (our kids, 11 and 29, respectively) got to celebrate Christmas with their father.


Before I tell you our story, I need to tell you that my medical knowledge is limited to high school science, the education our cardiologist gave me in his office–I’m relieved there wasn’t a written exam–and articles I read on-line. That’s it. I am sharing our experience as I remember it. Hopefully, I’m not over-romanticizing it with revisionist history, you’ll have to be the judge of that. If giving up a little of our privacy, putting this story out there, increases awareness then it’s worth it to Jon and me.


Arriving to Jon’s diagnosis required that we recognize three red flags that recently showed up in the regular course of our lives, and some tests, that led us to the diagnosis. In retrospect the red flags are clear. I’m listing them here because they were much more subtle in the moment, and it scares me to think we could have missed them, as they were so easy to “explain” and minimize away. Hopefully by pointing them out to you, and how easily we could have missed them, it might one day cause question in someone’s life, and save it. Just like it did for Jon.


Other people’s symptoms vary. What I’m trying to point out is how subtle heart disease symptoms can be and how easily these nuances can be missed, and how important it is to get proper medical care and diagnosis.


The three red flags we noticed happened over the span of about a week. The first red flag was when Jon and I decided to make our exercise target five miles. I thought we could help make up for some added celebratory calories by adding two miles to our workout. We did five miles effortlessly. When we stopped we both agreed we could have done a few more miles. Only this time after we were done my face was red, and Jon’s wasn’t. He looked slightly ashen. We had plenty of (wrong) explanations. Change in diet, added exercise, perhaps? Then Jon seemed back to normal after his shower and some lunch.


The following day we noticed the next flag, after a hard Yoga/Pilates work out. We took a selfie before and after. Jon did not look good after. He called the Kaiser help line. It was determined he was ok. Maybe it was too hard of a class? Maybe not enough to eat before the class? But my antennae were up.


The third was days after, when Jon and our son, Zack, were helping me set up for Christmas. Jon felt awful, wiped out. Jon is not a couch potato. He exercises regularly and he does a lot of projects around the house. He also does a lot of stair work at the track. His feeling like this after going up and down the ladder a whole bunch was inconsistent. He contacted his primary care doctor and Jon got in immediately.


After a failed EKG and a bad stress test result, it was determined Jon would have a cardiac procedure to see if there was blockage to his arteries. Jon was reluctant, I pushed heavily for this procedure, and I came across as a very pushy dominating wife–what’s new–and I didn’t care what anyone was thinking of me. It was suggested we do more tets but I was worried we’d get a misdiagnosis. This angio-plasti needed to get done. Period.


I’d like to tell you that it was a total surprise to me that Jon would ever need this procedure. After all, his blood pressure and his LDL cholesterol levels are in COMPLETELY NORMAL ranges, and always have been. Although Jon indulges in a few treats from time to time (fruit pies, fruit pies, fruit pies…and he loves a great steak), Jon’s been a health food nut since he was born in Berkeley, California to a mom that only let him eat sugar once a year, on Halloween. He’s rarely eaten processed food. He was never one to eat from a drive thru. He eats green leafy salads and/or vegetables at every meal, including breakfast. He doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s never smoked. He exercises regularly. I could easily say Jon eats 90% amazing.


However, Jon’s family has a medical history of heart disease–so, I knew what to watch out for.


Four years ago we changed up our game. We made our diet a top priority and exercise became second to breathing. We walked away from toxic situations and crazy people; you know, the ones that like to involve people in social underhanded warfare. Toxic situations and crazy people create environments that introvert you and keep you from seeing the real world. They distort and create mis-estimations of situations, and they create stress.


As a result of the changes we made, we’ve never been happier and more distraction-free. I really believe, and I can’t emphasize this enough, that if we hadn’t made all the changes we had made, when we did, then we would have been too absorbed in others’ drama to see the tiny red flags we needed to clearly see in order to keep Jon from having a massive heart attack. Even having the history of exercising together, gave us a base to know how we react to exercise so that we were able to recognize when post-workout reactions were out of the ordinary.


Now, let me be clear when Jon and I changed up our diet, the levels of change were as different as we are. Jon and I are not made of the same food groups. I love sugar and flour (I love whiskey and Scotch). Jon doesn’t. The immense dietary changes I’ve had to make have been different than Jon’s. But his diet has been is much improved these past four years, because I’ve upgraded so many of the things we eat, and even when we do indulge it’s still with better choices and with better ingredients–and more limitations. As an example, salad dressings are often made with avocado oil. Some of our cookies are made with almond butter, coconut sugar, and no flour. This isn’t all the time, we eat regular cookies from to time and other prepared salad dressings but our diet is vastly different than it was four years ago. And even when we do indulge, it’s about 1/2 a portion of anything we did before.


The day of the stents installation, Jon spent the night at the hospital, though they were willing to send him home the same day. Jon got settled into his hospital room, and out came his laptop and he got on his cell phone and called the office since it was still a workday. And I freaked out! Yep.


I was instructed by the cardiologist to wait a few days but they wanted Jon back out at the track doing a couple miles. She expected Jon out there doing his previous level of exercise within a week! We complied. And we haven’t had any problems. His rosy color is slowly coming back, and the ashen color is fading.


Five days after the cardiac procedure, Jon attended a holiday party with me. Minutes after we arrived, Jon made a new friend and I heard all the software developer geek talk I’m familiar with. For the first time ever, it sounded kind of sweet to me and it made smile.


We recently had a follow up visit to the cardiologist. I asked all sorts of questions about Jon’s health and prognosis. The cardiologist told us that Jon is no longer a cardiac patient. He has no physical restrictions or limitations. I was instructed to have him dance all night New Year’s Eve.


There are a few dietary restrictions–his dear steaks and pies are going to be fewer and further in between, but he will still have them. They’ll just be more special now. He made his famous rib roast for Christmas, though this year we froze the left overs before it got out of hand.


Because Jon has great cholesterol and blood pressure, his doctor pointed out that Jon was doing his part all along to fight the good fight, and pointed out that Jon’s genetic make-up of heart disease is luckily something modern medicine could deal with in this situation.


Don’t be surprised if you see Jon lose a bit of weight in the next year. I’m currently figuring out our plan.


I’ve also noticed Jon has a bit more energy than he did some months back. At my birthday dinner in November he seemed tired and quiet. Then, post-stents, at Christmas he was energetic, cheery and involved. Jon didn’t want to miss one single Holiday celebration this year. He made it to all we could fit in our schedule and he had a great time at all of them.


The cardiologist recently praised us for the deliberate choices we’d made in our lifestyle, Jon’s lack of medical history for his entire fifty-nine years of life, his blood work, his blood pressure.


When we left the cardiologist’s office I realized that this was the first time since the December 7th cardiac procedure that I was no longer in a state of shock. And I began to finally appreciate that because of everything we had done years before, and weeks prior, and because of freakin’ amazing modern medicine, and fabulous doctors, we were for this one situation in our life, absolutely victorious.


Absolutely victorious!


I want to give a shout out to our tribe of family and friends. Having real intelligent friends, who give unconditional love and support has allowed us to have the environment to fight real fights, not fake ones. I think fighting and and overcoming heart disease is a real battle we can all agree needs to be fought well. And, when you have to go into these sorts of real battles your close circle of friends can’t be stupid, toxic or crazy.


I think we also have a new lease on life and our priorities are going to get an even greater upgrade. One thing we both want is more face time and fun activities with our friends and family.


We don’t normally travel for the New Year. But this year feels kind of gifted, so we’re off to be with some of the dearest, most loving people in our life to celebrate all that we have and all the wonderful that is to come. And doctor’s orders are that Jon dance all night long.


Happy New Year, dear friends! May you have love and health, and keep them both!.


How My Primary Care Physician Helped Me Lose Over 150 Pounds

Grateful for the Doctor that Helped Me Change My Life,
Dr. James Kastelman

(Note: In October of this year I wrote the following as part of my gratitude thread on Facebook. Through my story, I wanted to tell my friends and family how vital it is to have a medical doctor oversee a weight loss transformation, and some of the things a doctor could and should be doing to help us change our lives; and what’s sometimes needed by our medical support teams to wake us the heck up and pop us out of our denial for whatever medical conditions we need to deal with.

Dr. Kastelman just saw a family member and ordered some life saving tests–I am not exaggerating about this. I will write more about this in the next few days. In the meantime, if you didn’t read this on FB, here it is. If you or anyone you love are going to be working on a diet and exercise plan, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a competent primary care physician to examine you, do all the necessary blood work, tests, exams, to have all the necessary conversations, get all your questions asked and answered, and then for you to follow their instructions. Please note that I said ‘competent primary care physician’. You may have to do some extra research, like I did, in order to find one that fits that standard.)

Five years ago I selected my primary care physician after research through the Kaiser network. I needed more than a doctor to do maintenance doctor visits. I needed one that could supervise me into a healthy weight, as I needed to lose a dramatic amount of weight–without creating greater harm in the process.

For many reasons, I determined Dr. Kastelman was most qualified to help me. He had a strong interest in fitness and nutrition as part of the complete approach to overall health.

Unfortunately, at the time, Dr. Kastelman was filled to capacity with patients. I don’t know how I did it but I sweet talked him into taking a meeting me. I told Dr. K about my desire to get healthy, to lose a lot of weight and that I wanted to get fit through exercise.

With my great intentions and my winning personality, how could he not take me on as his patient? He accepted me. He seemed like one of the smartest, kindest, warmest doctors I’d ever met. Well, until I managed to piss him off.

That’s when Dr. Kastelman woke me up, and changed my life!

I had been Dr. Kastelman’s patient for about six months when I had to see him about a rash. My bestie had been in the hospital with cancer fighting for her life and I couldn’t be at the hospital with any type of contagious rash, or illness. I had been caring for her, cooking for her out of town visitors and taking care of her family. Every night, after leaving the hospital, I managed to unwind with friends and family with an alcoholic beverage (or two), a comforting meal and home made dessert.

By the time I saw Dr. Kastelman for this rash, I was up about ten pounds in weight from when he accepted me as his patient. He didn’t seem that interested in my rash–though he ruled it out as non-contagious–or my excuses. One look at him and I knew the excuses coming out of my mouth for my weight gain were futile. He told me the direction I was going in was destructive and not what he and I had agreed to. He made it perfectly clear he was not happy with me and exactly why.

For the first time in my adult life, I left my clinic visit jolted out of my denial and disconnected existence. Dr. Kastelman’s words and tone impinged upon me for days and weeks. I couldn’t shake them off. I was used to people getting mad at me for the lamest things. This was one of the few times in my life when someone was mad at me for all the right reasons, and I knew it. I didn’t realize then just how much I was affected by his attitude and his refusal to accept my “reasons”. This quick little visit to see Dr. K made such a difference in my life.

I knew I had the option to switch doctors if I wanted–I quick little email, and viola! I didn’t bother to entertain that idea, I knew it was a cop out.

I sucked it up and began to look at my life, my behaviors, and even the people I surrounded myself with.

My bestie died. With the loss of my friend, I probably could have gained another ten pounds but it was not an option for me, to see Dr. K with anything other than being with the program and showing some weight loss. I made sure the next time he saw me I weighed less than when he initially took me on as a patient. After that, I went on to lose and lose and lose.

Dr. Kastelman made sure we did all the blood work necessary to monitor my wellness and he ensured I stayed well. He guided me on staying with a nutritional diet and away from crazy fad diets. He got me to cut back on refined carbs and drastically cut down on sugar–probably the greatest impact on my weight loss. Most importantly, he kept me from becoming a diabetic. Other than the few pounds I oscillate in, I’ve managed to keep all my weight loss progress.

Since the beginning, Dr. Kastelman and I have discussed my exercise plans. He’s advised me on how to approach exercise, how to listen to my body, and what to look for. In the past five years I’ve walked, ran, rowed, done TRX, lifted weights, yoga classes, etc., and I’ve never had an injury. Not one.

I’ve fallen in love with exercise and I crave it.

In spite of being booked with patients, Dr. K has been quick to answer emails, return calls, and been very willing to take an appointment with me anytime I’ve needed it.

About a year ago in a visit, I reminded Dr. Kastelman of the time he got mad at me, and how much it meant to me. He looked up our conversation in his computer notes and smiled. He asked if he should apologize.

Um, no!

I’m in the best health of my entire adult life, and that has contributed to my overall happiness and sense of well-being. I think that speaks best to what Dr. Kastelman has meant to me.

I am eternally grateful for this smart, lovely, caring doctor that also knows when to call bull shit.

Forever grateful,
~Maricela Perry

Choose Your Hard



“Dieting and physical exercise are hard. Being fat and out-of-shape is hard. Choose your hard.”

My motto these past few years. Anytime I’ve wanted to give in, I would remind myself to choose my hard.

Which ‘hard’ is always a personal choice.

If I don’t feel ‘on plan’ about some aspect of my life, my mood when I go to bed is anywhere between slightly annoyed to majorly mad at myself, depending on the size of the self-imposed delays to my project. I don’t experience procrastination well–not that I don’t procrastinate–and I suck at making excuses for not following through. The Hubs will confirm that I’m not fun to live with when I’m disappointed, especially with myself. I’ve come to realize it takes more energy to NOT DO projects as I intend them, due to all the internal turmoil, than it takes to just do them and gain a feeling of personal satisfaction and pride.

When I’ve excused my way out of doing a workout, or gone ‘off-plan’ on my nutrition, I’ve experienced regret. It’s just how I am when I set goals and don’t live up to them. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Regret and owning up to things is how we process our actions so that we can appreciate better choices. I had to learn to experience regret and then let it go–a pivotal point for moving forward and creating improvement.

I find that once I get back ‘on plan’ that after a few days of eating well and doing my workouts, I go to bed happy with myself. Maybe all the yummy endorphins and nutrition make me feel satiated and at peace with myself. Or maybe it’s the personal respect of keeping my own promises.

There hasn’t been one single workout I’ve regretted. Not one.

There hasn’t been a time when I’ve made a nutritional meal choice that I’ve regretted.

I’ve just never had a nice piece of wild salmon with a great salad, and then thought to myself, “That sucked. Why did I eat that?” Or left the track and thought, “Why did I run three miles today? What a waste of my time?!”

Never happened. Not once.

There’s a saying in the fitness world, “The only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do.”


50 Philosophies and Life Lessons


50 Philosophies and Life Lessons,

By Maricela Perry

A friend once asked us what we would write in a letter to our younger selves. I came to realize that as valuable as my life lessons have been, I can’t ever go back and gift them to myself. My place is in the present, living and doing better and cooperating with the next generation.

I dedicate this article to my daughter, Daniella, and her friends, my nieces, my god~daughters, and maybe someday, my grand daughters; and I dedicate these lessons I’ve learned with my sisters, cousins and the beautiful women I call my girlfriends to them too.
(You may sneak a peak if you’re a boy and want to know what girls might be thinking. Warning: dangerous ground.)

For 50 years of life…

1. Never be with a guy that’s not totally into you. Don’t chase a guy, or try to convince him to like you. If a guy is not into you–it’s not personal if he isn’t–drop him and find an awe-worthy one that is. Trust me, he’s out there. If awe-worthy guy thinks you’re smart, sexy and he tells you he likes you best without make up and in jeans, keep him forever. Life is so much better with a guy that can’t keep his hands off of you, thinks you’re awe-worthy too, and makes it happen to be with you whenever he can. This will be glue that binds when times get tough.
2. A guy needs to be awe~worthy to you to be considered your guy. Never compromise on this point, even if you’re feeling lonely. Mutual awe~worthy makes it all worth it. Promise.
3. Make yourself awe-worthy to YOURSELF. If that means getting through school, doing charity work, mastering a job or an art, creating a more ideal body, running marathons, or whatever that is for you, then do it. Just remember to do it for yourself.
4. Awe-worthy does not equal perfect. There are no perfect people, and certainly, no perfect men.
5. Value people above all else. Growing up I often heard that we needed to learn the value of a dollar. I think I learned that too well and it skewed my values for too long. We need to teach the value of another human being, and how to deftly treat and regard one. Don’t let ideologies or fear drive wedges between you and your love for others. Don’t let anyone or anything close your heart to people.
6. What people think of you is none of your business. You can NOT control what people think–good or bad. Instead, spend your energy on your awe-worthy projects. Never ever concern yourself with what anyone “thinks.” When you find yourself concerned with how someone is judging you, or looking down on you, just know that some crazy people falsely build themselves up by tearing others down: always recognize that and keep your mind and your thoughts on your side of the street. Just follow your heart and do right by your innate goodness.
7. You’ll attract the most amazing people if you follow #6.
8. Laughter and friendship go hand in hand. If you have a friend, and that friend makes your stomach muscles sore and ache from laughing so much, know that person is your best friend for life. (You hear that, Marthina?!)
9. Don’t try to impress, instead try to connect. Shallow people require you impress them. Big hearted people just want a loving connection. Even something as simple as throwing a party: no one’s going to remember, especially years later, what you served dinner on. Sure, serve plenty of great food, put on a great playlist, light some candles but know that people will remember how you made them feel, if you considered their needs, if you made them feel special and welcome, if they had fun, maybe if you gave them an insight into your mind or your heart, and how you behaved–they’ll know if they felt connected to you. Think about someone’s home you’ve been in where you felt welcome and loved…and create that.
10. Master listening well to others. Hear them. Don’t sit there “pretending to listen” only so that you can now say what you want to say. Learn to hear what another person feels or thinks. Take it in. Let it sink in. Besides, saying a little less keeps you slightly mysterious.
11. Don’t participate in gossip. Ever. If someone gossips about others, be guaranteed they’ll gossip about you. And if you participated in gossip, or hurtful rumors, then don’t act hurt when it turns on you–because it will.
12. Build people up. Make that your own personal discipline. Exercise your “building people up” muscles. This includes your mate and your kids. Remind people of why you like them, what makes them your friends, what you most admire about them. Real things, nothing false. And never forget to tell them you love them.
13. Learn to live WELL BELOW your means. I learned this from Jon when we went to buy our home. Our banker told us what we qualified for, then Jon talked me into buying a home in 1/3 of that price point. It was a brilliant move. We were able to invest in other important areas to us, including making substantial donations to causes we believed in. Anytime we’ve moved away from this style of living we’ve regretted it immediately. It’s been a priceless lesson and has greatly reduced stress in our lives and kept us in a more humble state of mind. When times get tough–we’ve been through recessions, busts and a national mortgage banking situation that almost caused a depression–you’ll have room to maneuver. Besides, there’s something so sexy and confident about a person that has the wherewithal but doesn’t have to flaunt it, and doesn’t let possessions define them. A guy with an old paid-off truck in jeans is still sexier than one in debt for his red sports car.
14. Learn to say no to yourself. This is a tough one because we live in a plentiful first world country. Just because you can buy it doesn’t mean you should. Learn the art of delayed gratification. You don’t need everything now, and all at once. Some things in life are like great wines and taste better later, aged in time. Trust me on this one.
15. A broken friendship can break your heart as much as man can, or worse. Grieve the broken friendship the way you would a broken romance: ice cream, a pity party, break up music and then take your personal awesome to its next level. After any breakup, during the recovery time, always work on your personal awesome projects: charity work, gym time, schooling, art…whatever those investments of time and work are that make life worth living, do those. Learn from the broken relationship and become an even better friend.
16. Learn to take the high road. This road can only be travelled sans ego, but it takes you everywhere you dream about for yourself. Take it, take it often and don’t look back. There’s an Eastern saying about malice and hate, “It’s like drinking poison, and expecting your enemy to die.” Don’t drink or serve poison. Don’t engage in any combative behavior to make a point, to feel right, to fight. Don’t troll for allies in a battle with another person. It never works– even if other friends side with another person in the moment. Most people are smart and eventually they connect the dots. The respect they’ll have for you for taking a high road, for moving on and creating something better, will be immense. You will be trusted in ways you never imagined. Always, always, always take the high road.
17. You are not an expert in mental health. Never engage with toxic or crazy people. You will not have lunch, or many lunches, with a crazy or toxic person and “fix things”. Like, ever. I had a friend once that I wouldn’t accept had some serious jealous and narcissistic qualities. She told me many times that she was jealous of me and mutual friends. She told me she had issues with love or admiration going in the direction of my friends or me. A mutual friend of ours bought a lovely home, and all of us were excited for her. My crazy friend told me she couldn’t be happy for our mutual friend because of jealousy, and actually had a hard time being inside the new house. You’d have to know this woman to understand why I couldn’t accept what she told me because she is a beautiful woman, stylish, hip and bright. I was so enchanted by her and I loved her so much. But she created, and still creates, non-stop turmoil for my friends and I. I can’t count how many lunches I had to try to repair things, etc. Even after “resolving” our issues I would later find out she was still trying to destroy people’s reputations, or drive wedges between people, not limited to me–a highly manipulative person. One day I disengaged and it was the best thing I did in about 25 plus years! I learned you can’t “talk-out” with a crazy or toxic person the way you can a problem or a difficulty with a sane person.
18. If someone needs to have the last word, let them. Having the last word is over rated and actually a form of inner degradation. It’s a road in the opposite direction of the high road. If someone insists on having it then let them have it. They probably need it more than you do. Give them that gift. Then wish them the best.
19. People fall somewhere in the spectrum of ‘uniting and dividing’ relationships. Listen to your inner voice when they show you where they fall. There are those that love to bring people together, and those that drive wedges between people. You, yourself, practice the art of being a uniter. Get good at it.
20. If you ever own a business, don’t hire friends, family, and especially not children of friends–their “little precious” will ruin your friendship. Every. Single. Time.
21. Don’t be a snob. You’re not better than anyone. Period. I used to only have friends that I thought were like me, or were on a similar path to mine. One day I realized I was bored out of my mind, my friend life was monotone. I came to realize that my arrogance was getting in the way of my friending good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth people that could fill my life with joy. I now only surround myself with friends that bring real joy. If they bring you joy they’ll be interesting too. You’ll be surprised how incredibly interesting and intelligent joyful people are. My life is now filled with beautiful diverse people and it feels rich and interesting to me.
22. The other side of don’t be a snob is that you’re also not inferior to anyone else. Don’t get caught up in subtlety imposed mental or social caste systems. Recently, I had a lovely lady tell me she always wanted to be friends with me. She was wealthy and successful in ways I can’t even describe. We wasted twenty years not being friends because I thought she was way above me. The love and support, humor, and energy I had would have been welcomed and maybe even refreshing to her–maybe even joyful. I just always liked her for her, and the values she placed on family and children. But I was too busy making caste systems to enjoy all these years of friendship.
23. Don’t measure people by what they have or what they appear to own. Never be impressed by it. Nothing materialistic is at it appears. Measure someone’s worth to your life by what joy and life they bring to you and others. They might have signed a bigger real estate contract or spent more money on a car but this is never a reason to look up to someone, even if other friends do. It’s also not a reason to look down on them. Be happy for them if this is something they want. Just keep it in perspective.
24. Be graceful and considerate if your home or lifestyle appears better than someone else’s. Be tuned in to the feelings of others, and be sensitive to this. If you know your friend is having a hard time making ends meet, this may not be a good time to talk too much about your six week European vacation. Don’t hide it or be ashamed about the fruits of your labor but don’t rub it in people’s faces either.
25. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Being flopped on the couch does not make you uncomfortable but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Netflix marathons will never make your dreams come true. Anything you do that creates extreme joy and exhilaration will require you to push yourself, physically and mentally. Get comfortable with that discomfort. Even getting in physical shape requires massive amounts of discomfort, but it’s all worth it. I flopped on the couch a few years back in mourning of a great loss. Yes, I took some time to grieve, which was good but I didn’t really recover until I took that mourning to the gym. I pounded all that grief day in and day out. I healed better this way, and I lost a few pounds too.
26. Keep your promises. The big ones and the little ones. If you promise to help your friend with a project and then you regret offering your help, don’t back out of it. Even if you don’t feel well, suck it up. Do what you said you’d do. If you promised you’d see your friend through a bad relationship, then take your friend’s calls, all of them, until the sun comes out again for them.
27. Treat yourself right. I used to hear that you have to love yourself. I couldn’t grasp what that meant, until I started treating myself better. Watch what you say to yourself about yourself. Treat yourself like a cherished friend. For me, that’s what loving myself means: to treat myself well.
28. Be kind to everybody. Kindness is the most beautiful art. Immerse yourself in it. You will never regret being kind to anyone. Keep in mind that there are people that are more fragile than others and need to be treated like delicate glass, as if they might break, because they may feel inferior, or their lot in life is difficult. Be gentle and even kinder to them.
29. If your daughter doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars in rehab growing up, throw her a big beautiful wedding. When you get the bill for the catering just think about the wonderful nights of sleep she let you have all those years.
30. Your kids will introduce you to new worlds. Music, humor, art, food. You’ll never look at little goldfish or macaroni & cheese the same again. The colors orange, green and purple are deep reminders for me of my children. When I’m alone in the car, I often find myself listening to playlists I listened to with them, songs I would never have listened to that I now love. Currently I love a song Daniella played for me by Angels and Airwaves. And Zack likes to play Brown Eyed Girl for me when he’s the DJ in the car–now it’s kind of become our song.
31. Don’t confuse your children with yourself. Don’t compare your children to you. Not even in your head. Realize the amazing and flawed humans they are, celebrate their greatness and embrace their imperfections. The dreams and disappointments you’ve had are not necessarily theirs. Support their dreams and realize they will have different disappointments.
32. Just because you grew up without things you wanted doesn’t mean your kids need to have everything. Let them work for their most prized clothes, toys, games, and even their first car. When you later see entitled children in the work force, you’ll thank your lucky stars you taught your kids character by letting them work for things.
33. Embrace diversity. People come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their diversity is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, their diversity will enrich your life. Respect other people’s diversity and don’t engage in degrading jokes about other ethnics or lifestyles. It may seem funny in the moment but the pain it causes another human being is not worth the humor. People used to make Mexican jokes to me, and I always found them degrading and insulting, even when I didn’t have the courage to speak up. Usually people that make denigrating jokes don’t have the intelligence to make really funny banter or interesting conversation. Funny banter and humor require intelligence.
34. You will not be all things at the same time. There will be periods in life when one can be all-things-mom, and not so much stratospheric career, and art might take a back seat. Later, when your kids start ignoring you and embarrassed because you dared to talk to them at school, the career can move in high gear. If you can be all things at any point then great. But just don’t waste your time, like I did, beating yourself up about it if you’re not. Focus and dedication to an area of life gets beautiful results.
35. Your spiritual and philosophical–and especially your political beliefs–don’t make you a better person or a smarter person. Only your behavior does. Spiritual, philosophical and smart people are constantly evolving. Ignorance and arrogance are big time retardants to personal growth. No one cares about your opinion, only your example.
36. Even though you’re bigger than life and have a great personality, you’re not going to get invited to everything. Get over it.
37. Okay, and if you didn’t get invited to everything, and your friends post pictures on Facebook about the great time they had without you: click “like” then “hide” the post. 😉 I’ve done it, many times.
38. Wait, one more thing. Let’s say you do still want to get invited to everything, and you’re not heeding my advice, and you’re not getting over it: then learn to make a great jam or to take great party pics. Good hobby photographers get invited to everything. And here you thought it was my great personality, didn’t you?
39. Only cook when your heart’s in it. Food tastes better that way. Learn the art of arranging meals for when you’re not into cooking, or don’t have the time.
40. Your children are not better or more superior than other people’s children. And don’t act like they are. When there’s an issue with your children, get the information, address it and keep your critical thinking skills engaged–especially with your own children. Your sweet ‘little precious’ is human. You were given the job of parent to help guide and teach them. If they were so perfect and flawless they wouldn’t need parents. Raising children is a long learning journey for both parent and child. Anything learned at home with support of family is less painful. The earlier the better. You can’t teach your children if you’re blind to them.
41. Children, and grown ups, de-sensitize to too much upset and constantly getting into what’s wrong. Pick your battles well, so that when serious issues come up, you’ll be heard.
42. Make friends with your children’s friends. There’s a reason they’re friends. These friends will bring great joy to your life. And if they’re comfortable with you, they’ll tell you when your teen-age daughter isn’t wearing all the articles of clothing she left the house with. Right, Shae?
43. When your children have issues with their friends, stay out of it. Let them work it out and figure out how to navigate their own relationships. Don’t call the other mom. And just because your “little precious” is upset with their friend, doesn’t mean you have an upset with their friend or the other parent. Let your child own up to their part in any upset they are involved in.
44. Whom your family members decide to love and partner with is not about you. Stay out of their relationships. This goes for friends too. No one really wants your opinion about their mate, even if they say they do.
45. Learn to keep a poker face as people will do and say the darnedest things. If a subject is touchy say as little as possible in the moment, you can always say more later once you’ve had a chance to process and edit your thoughts and emotions.
46. Keep the cards close to the vest. Some people don’t know boundaries, so hold strong. People need to earn the opportunity to hear your truths, know your deep seated beliefs and your experiences.
47. A strong child is a good thing. You can teach a strong girl grace as she grows up, but that inner strength in character will see her through when she’s older and on her own. Don’t break that spirited child. I had to ignore the judgey parents that would look down on me because our daughter was so feisty. Feisty daughter had the strength in her teen-age years to always stay true to herself.
48. The laundry is never going to be done. And neither will dishes. Period. End of story.
49. It’s never to late to get your body in the best shape it can for its age. Rock the exercise and feed it like you want it to last forever. Something I’ve learned along the way is that I seem to like a certain style of dieting and exercise for about eighteen months, and then I need to change it up. One of my fitness friends recently told me the same thing about herself. If you think about it, improving your body requires you change it up. So keep an eye open for the need of change.
50. Celebrate birthdays. Birthday numbers are badges of honor. The higher the better. Every day is a privilege. Make a home made birthday cake, eat a great meal, tell all your old stories, relive all your inside jokes–and make new memories as often as possible. Friends and family die unexpectedly. Break open a bottle a wine, or have a cup of coffee, with them ANY chance you can. Celebrate the people in your life as often as possible, and let them celebrate you too. And while we’re at it, celebrate everyday that you’re alive and be grateful for your health.