Happiness Challenge – Learning – Day 2

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

What I've learned today - when a rental car company wants to hit you with a huge one way drop off fee, check out how much less expensive it is to do the same trip with a Uhaul.  Granted you'll have to drive a moving van to get to where you're going, but you could make some extra cash on the adventure by moving someone's stuff too.

What I’ve learned today – when a rental car company wants to hit you with a huge one way drop off fee, check out how much less expensive it is to do the same trip with a Uhaul. Granted you’ll have to drive a moving van to get to where you’re going, but you could make some extra cash on the adventure by moving someone’s stuff too.

Had to hit the ground running AFTER I did my yoga practice today.  And I swear, I checked the ferry schedule three times – once when I made my tickets, once a couple weeks ago when I was concerned and once when I got here – yup – all said the ferry left Haines at 7 AM on Tuesday Dec. 1, 2015.  Arriving in Juneau in plenty of time to make the 2:20 PM flight to Seattle.  So my friend calls and asks what I’m up to today – leisurely last day in Haines.  I said – “yeah I’m catching the ferry at 7 AM tomorrow to Juneau.”  He says, “You sure?  That is the standard time it leaves Juneau for Haines.”  I say, “Yup, I know, I checked it three times.”   Well he checks, nope, it’s going the opposite way.   The ferry is leaving at 6:30 PM tonight to get to Juneau.

What did I learn?  Well first off, thank god I woke up thinking I had a leisurely day ahead of me. It made my new morning yoga routine so luxurious and peaceful.   I also learned – there is something messed up with the Alaska Marine Lines website (or how I’m using their website).   And for things as important as what time is the ferry leaving – CALL THE FERRY TERMINAL.

I also learned that if you need to drive from Seattle to Portland and drop off the rental car, the cost Budget Rental car quotes on the phone to do this is $650. (Reserving it online on the Budget site yourself saves you a handy $500 – WOW).  And if you rent a Uhaul, besides having to drive a 10′ box truck, you only pay $167 for the same service – whether you call them on the phone or do it yourself online. The added benefit of the Uhaul –  when you arrive in Portland you get a whole day to use a 10′ Uhaul truck.  And the Uhaul dealer is only a mile from my house, whereas dropping a car off at the closest drop off location airport is an hour round trip ordeal with either tying up a friend’s time or figuring out how to take public transportation or a cab home.  Even though the Uhaul could stimulate all types of “Uhaul date” type jokes, I’m leaning that way.   I still have a day to see if anyone wants to pay me to move anything from Seattle to Portland so I could possibly even turn a profit on this new found insight……

The Happiness Challenge – Confidence – Day 1

Michelle – Focus – Enthusiastically Engaged

Here is my first hat. Since it had a Christmas theme, I gave it to Kate early.  I made it to match her puffy winter coat.  She was so gracious at my effort and genuinely seemed to appreciate it.

Here is my first hat. Since it had a Christmas theme, I gave it to Kate early. I made it to match her puffy winter coat. She was so gracious and genuinely seemed to appreciate it. (Kate is an advanced knitter and has won blue ribbons at the SE Alaska State Fair with her knitting projects).

As I was doing the Happiness Yoga Flow this AM, I contemplated how my confidence improves when I am enthusiastically engaged. Lately I’ve been knitting hats for friends and family.  This is something new for me.  I learned how to knit when I was a kid on our long family camping car trips around the country every summer (my parents were teachers so every summer we’d take off).  In college, I was into knitting sweaters with lots of little characters on them – at the time I was calling them Icelandic wool sweaters – but I’m not really sure the name of the style.  Beside the odd pair of mittens here and there and Christmas stockings for the girls when they were babies, I have not knitted much in the past thirty years.  But I wanted to get back into knitting and make the same patterns on hats (a lot less knitting then sweaters).

I'm developing more capability (and confidence) for designing and knitting hats - it's what I'm enthusiastically engaged with in the moment.

I’m developing more capability (and confidence) for designing and knitting hats – it’s what I’m enthusiastically engaged with in the moment.

About a week ago, I went to the yarn store in Haines to get started.  Teresa who runs the store told me to design the hats on a spread sheet.  She gave me a couple patterns to get me going with creating my own.  I made the first one and got into the swing of things.  I’m pretty absorbed into knitting these hats – this is what I refer to as being enthusiastically engaged.  What I’m noticing is how my confidence is increasing the more I do this.  So for me, just being enthusiastically engaged helps me increase my confidence in whatever it is I’m pursuing.

I’ve been wanting to learn how to use the program “In Design” by Adobe – but their graphic user interface is so foreign to me.  In the past, when I tried to figure it out, I got supremely frustrated.  I do not have much confidence at all in my abilities to learn this.  But as I reflect on what I’ve just learned with this renewed interest in knitting, and how captivated I am with my current knitting projeccts, I’m realizing, yes I can learn how to use In Design too.  So being enthusiastically engaged in one activity, increasing my confidence in that activity, does help me get more confidence to learn new skills in other areas as well.

The Happiness Challenge – Background

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Sorry Madison I did not put this in a tube. Well at least now we know it doesn't travel so well just rolled up.

Sorry Madison I did not put this in a tube. Well at least now we know it doesn’t travel so well just rolled up.

Background on the 66 day Happiness Challenge – Almost five years ago now,  I realized if I did gentle yoga on a daily basis it would help me age better.  I got the idea from a friend who was comforting me about my very athletic 77 year old mother having fallen and not being able to get up.  She told me it was common for people to be challenged getting up off the floor as they aged.  (We were to soon find out though that this was not my mother’s challenge – she was diagnosed a month later with inoperable brain cancer).  But the seed was planted – I wanted to stay flexible, limber and capable to get up off the floor as I got older.

I did not realize yoga was also going to be the way for me to transition to life without my mother. My mother was my best friend and helped me raise my daughters ( I became a single mother when my daughters were 3 and 5). So even in my 40’s, she was still the runway in my life.  When she was gone, I had lost my runway – it was a tough transition.  (I am not sure if anyone has an easy time with this transition). Yoga helped me create a home inside myself – it helped me create my own runway.  It also helped me find my way back to happiness.

I got the idea during my yoga teacher training to create a gentle yoga flow that could exercise every muscle and put weight on every joint.  I started teaching it and then created a yoga mat with all the poses.  After several iterations, we settled on calling the yoga flow – the Happiness Yoga Flow.  It only takes about a half hour to do – it includes a breathing meditation.   But it’s only one part of happiness.   So I created a couple of online modules about how to connect with yourself and the world around you in a way that increased happiness and combined this with a two day yoga retreat.   It then occurred to me to make it a stand alone online class – the whole program.  About the same time, I had started on my first 66 day challenge to learn how to love and accept myself unconditionally as I have been challenged for decades with a negative perception about myself because of what I weigh.  I figured for happiness, this was also a good thing to do – make a 66 day challenge to become happier. It had to include daily yoga, but also a daily contemplation related to a theme – grounded in what helps people be happy (it’s unique for each person).   As part of the 30 hour online Happiness Project Class, our students evaluate what is happening when they feel happy.  For me one of the things happening is I feel enthusiastically engaged in life.

My birthday twin and director of digital marketing, Madison, created a 66 day poster with the happiness yoga flow on the side of it.   I’ve enclosed a picture of mine (it got a bit crumbled on my trip to Alaska).  We used the Inspired Eagle cards to create the daily contemplation word.  We decided to start our Happiness Challenge today as it ends on our birthdays – February 2nd.  Several of our co-workers are doing the happiness challenge with us and we are all going to be sharing what we learn on the Cheetah Learning Blog – www.cheetahlearningblog.com.  I will be sharing my insights here (as well as a shorter version on the Cheetah Learning Blog).


Weight Weight Just Love Me – Graduation – Thanksgiving Day

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

All set for foodie game day - let the cooking begin.

All set for foodie game day – let the cooking begin.

I did not plan to complete the 66 day challenge the day before Thanksgiving.  My dietician says this is my graduation day so I feel compelled to write one more post.  I’m quite thankful I did this challenge.  My norm before this was to find fault with myself as the first go to when something happened – like the other night I slipped on the ice outside of the high school.  I rolled around a bit like a beached sea lion.  But it was exactly this rolling around like a beached sea lion why I did not get injured.  After landing on my knee, bouncing on my bum and rolling onto my shoulder, amazingly not a one thing hurts on me.  My new norm, is to find how amazing things are. Now I realize, I’m in great great great shape. Being round, I roll and roll well.  Having some padding with the great shape I’m in has me in the perfect shape for how I move through the world.

I bounced out of bed early to get my turkey going this AM – we are doing dinner at my daughter’s place – the dietician.  She says to load up on the veggies but all this other stuff, well it’s not all that special and we can have it any time.  I have to agree with her. This is kind of a foodie amateur day. It’s how people who enjoy the partying scene say New Year’s Eve is for amateurs.   This one is very easy – toss in a turkey, peel some potatoes, chunk up some good bread and toss in a couple onions, celery, some spices for the dressing.  Get some whole cranberries and with a little sugar make a lovely homemade cranberry sauce.   Enroll everyone else in making everything else – voila – Thanksgiving dinner.  The other night I made a halibut lasagna with homemade chia seed noodles from fresh milled durham weeds.  And I also made a sprouted rye loaf of bread with walnuts.  That meal, with it’s ten layered lasagna and homemade bread, that was a lot of work.  Today, I have a couple other projects going and hoo hummm – not much to it.

I’m so thankful for this wonderful life and all the great people who share in its moments with me.  Graduation day maybe needs to become gratitudation day.


Weight Weight Just Love Me – Attributes – Day 66

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

I'd like to add something on the left side - successful people love themselves more.

I’d like to add something on the left side – successful people love themselves more.

I made it to the last day of creating a habit to love myself more.  The largest challenge of this 66 day effort was finding something to write about on this topic of loving myself more every day.  When I started this, I thought I already did a pretty good job of loving myself.  What I learned along the way though was I needed to love myself more.  This required me to recognize what I thought of what other people thought of me were just in fact, my thoughts about myself.  How can we ever know what someone is really thinking or feeling – even if/when they tell us?  And how do we know the journey they took to feel that way – it’s truly not my issue how someone feels about me – even if they tell me they don’t like this or that about me – so what.  Its very easy to find scientifically valid research to show pretty much anything we want to show – such as being fatter is better than being thinner, eating butter is better than eating margarine,  enjoying sweets from time to time is actually good for you, etc etc etc.  Plus,  the attributes for me that create my awesome life are most certainly not the same attributes that will create an awesome life for someone else.

What I do know after doing this challenge is creating the habit to love myself more helps me love other people more.  I’m much more patient with others – allowing them to be whomever is right for them in the moment – regardless of how they may feel about me.  We are all on our own journey here and the world truly does need more love not less.  Starting on myself was a good way to increase the love everywhere else in my life.

The next challenge I’m doing is with my whole team at Cheetah Learning – it’s about becoming happier in life.   We are starting on Sunday November 29th (and finishing on my birthday Feb. 2nd).   We are each doing the Happiness Yoga Flow every day and focusing on the word of the day and how it relates to increasing happiness in our lives.  We’ll all be blogging about it together – a paragraph a day about what we are learning.


Kate’s comment: I am so excited to follow The Happiness Project blog posts. The Weight Weight Just Love Me blog series has been really uplifting. It’s fun to read from the beginning to the end and watch the progress and self-assuredness increase.

Weight Weight Just Love Me – Periphery – Day 65

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Determining the inner circle is a rather complicated math equation. My inner circle was far easier to determine.

Determining the inner circle is a rather complicated math equation. My inner circle was far easier to determine.

I’ve asked several folks in my inner circle if they notice a difference between when I started this 66 day challenge and now.  The consensus is I seem less defensive overall,  more patient and accepting in general.  Plus it seems I am more of an advocate for who I am.  So there you have it – undertaking an effort to create a habit to love myself more, did in fact benefit those closest to me in some tangible ways.

I now don’t have the knee jerk reaction of “here we go again with the lectures” about going to see my dietitian – it’s just an academic exchange about what I can do to be more mindful of how my dietary practices could be impacting me and what I could do about it if I wanted to experiment.  I don’t feel like I take as many things as personally as I did before.  So I interact with people more in the moment based on what the actual exchange is rather than throwing it through a filter that they may be judging me one way or another.

I read something a while ago that the cure for feeling jealous was to learn how to love yourself more. I now know the cure to feeling body shaming too is to learn how to love yourself more.  Maybe learning how to love yourself more could be the cure for lots of other things too – like you feel persecuted for how a sect of people treated your relatives centuries ago – love yourself more.  You’re still angry about how you were treated in grade school by some bully,  practice loving yourself more and it ceases to be an issue.   You don’t like how someone raced past you on the highway – love yourself more – whatever was going on for them is there issue.

It’s now my new chicken soup – anytime I’m feeling less then, or upset, or angry, or jealous, or jarred, or scared, or defensive, or frustrated, or melancholy, or nostalgic, or longing, or anxious, or impatient, or judgmental, – love myself more.  Ahhh – all is once again right with the world.  It is the love that radiates throughout me that creates my reality – and I am the one who controls the thermostat on that.


Kate’s comment: What an awesome transformation! It is also a good example of how transitions don’t happen immediately – they are a process and an investment that take time. You’ve demonstrated how useful that investment is and I hope others see the benefit in following suit!

Weight Weight Just Love Me – Advice – Day 64

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Sometimes the advice other people give just doesn't measure up today.

Sometimes the advice other people give just doesn’t measure up today.

Here is a great study about how food impacts each of us differently. This is from  recent research reported on in Science Daily:

“After seeing this data, I think about the possibility that maybe we’re really conceptually wrong in our thinking about the obesity and diabetes epidemic,” says Segal. “The intuition of people is that we know how to treat these conditions, and it’s just that people are not listening and are eating out of control–but maybe people are actually compliant but in many cases we were giving them wrong advice.”

This reminds me of how many women died in child birth because doctors did not know the importance of washing their hands.  At that time, their premise was that women were evil and had “evil” spirits that took their lives. When something happens with the patient the doctor did not intend, then of course there is something wrong with the patient, not the doctor.  How we have not evolved much past this is beyond me.

I’m almost at the end of this 66 day challenge – what is so telling is how some folks are still very much plagued with these standard ways of thinking.   One of my friends reported hearing from a mutual acquaintance who said – “I see Michelle is losing weight (after reading my blog).”  Seriously?   I have actually arrived at the place where I love myself just the way I am – however I am.  At this weight or any other weight.  My primary pursuit is how to love myself more so I can be even happier in life (the world really does need more happy people).  One useful piece of advice I got was to language that I have in fact lost weight –  meaning I lost the weight of the world on the issue of weight.  However anyone feels about me regarding what I weigh and how they feel I look is about them and their preferences – it’s not about me.  My very robust ex-husband used to say the people who have a weight problem are the one’s who do not accept themselves.  And that is a heavy weight to bear – very much in need of a weight loss effort.


Kate’s commentIf anyone is interested more about the hand-washing, childbirth, midwives, and the transition to male gynecologists, there is a great, short, non-fiction book called, “The Doctor’s Plague“. It chronicles Ignaz Semmelweis and his (poorly communicated) crusade to get OBGYNs washing their hands and saving their patients. A great book on medical history and an even better example of “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”.

Weight Weight Just Love Me – Processing – Day 63

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Canning tuna to get ready for the long Alaskan winter. Makes me appreciate my ample fat stores even more.

Canning tuna to get ready for the long Alaskan winter. Makes me appreciate my ample fat stores even more.

I know for the therapist types “processing” means something related to life with your mother.  But for me it means processing food.  And that is what I’m up to today. I scored two 25 pound whole tuna’s right before I left Alaska in September.   Since I was leaving, and they were already frozen, I tossed them in my freezer to process when I came back up here.  I’m also soaking rye berries and almonds.  I’m going to be making almond milk and sprouted grain breads too.  I was a little surprised that my post on being a “zealot” was the most read blog post of this series – maybe I’m striking a chord with all this “processing?”

I’m super excited to be making our own canned tuna. I made a lemon zest salt mixture and we’re packing them in pint jars.  I’m wondering just what does all of this have to do with loving myself more?   My dietitian introduced me to a fascinating idea several years ago I never thought much about – food insecurity. I guess this is a psychological issue in Alaska – enough so she got funded to study it on college students while at UAA.  So maybe my food processing could also be related to the therapist style of processing related to my mother.  My mother had this pantry closet filled to the gils with canned food – most of what my dietitian would call “safety” food – the type of food you would only eat if you were truly starving.   The benefit of storing safety food like this is you will in fact not consume it when you are not starving so you do have store of supplies if this ever did become the present day reality.   I’ve said for years, I enjoy my extra rolls of fat as I know I could survive an impending famine.  This would give me sufficient time to figure out how to secure food.   So, yeah I’m a lot better off just the way I am.

I’m hoping my canned tuna though comes out better than the canned safety food my mother had stored in her pantry.   If not, y’all know what you will be getting for Christmas.


Kate’s comment: I would be so happy to get some of your canned tuna for Christmas – it’s delicious! It wouldn’t serve as my safety food, either. It wouldn’t last long enough in my cupboard to only eat when I ran out of other food (that’s what that old Rice-a-Roni is for, not your amazing canned tuna).

Weight Weight Just Love Me – Support – Day 62

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Beautiful drive into town this AM to share the morning with a number of folks who are very supportive of my efforts to love myself more - thank you all for your kind words.

Beautiful drive into town this AM to share the morning with a number of folks who are very supportive of my efforts to love myself more – thank you all for your kind words.

It’s been so much fun being here in Alaska back with my daughter Kate, but also with the larger community.  I went into town today to visit the Christmas fair.  I ran into a number of people who follow this blog and many were so kind and supportive of my efforts to love myself more.  Oddly enough, even though I have not stepped on a scale in over two months, and have made no significant efforts to diet,  several people commented I do look “better.”  I feel better about myself overall with doing this challenge so it makes sense that would translate into looking better.  And I’m wearing a size smaller pants (they are a little tight – but they do fit).

One of my good friends was at the fair with these beautiful home made bagels.   I said to her – “I really can’t eat commercial wheat.”  She asked to me to write a blog post about the “fear and loathing of bagels.”  My sweetheart did get one of her bagels and shared a quarter with me – it was delicious.  I have an affinity for incredible bagels anyhow, so it was nice I got to indulge in part of one. But I will expand here on just why I have fear and loathing of bagels.  It is not so much the bagels themselves I fear and loathe,  but the commercial wheat used to make them.  Conventionally raised wheat is harvested before the wheat has a chance to germinate.  And then it’s milled and much of the fibrous, and most nutritious parts are stripped out of it so that bakers can create more consistent products with longer shelf lives.  Sometimes, I get a stomachache when I consume baked products made from conventionally raised wheat.  PLUS, refined flours are high glycemic which means my body experiences a rapid rise in blood sugar and this is not good for my heart, my liver, my pancreas, my eyes, my kidneys, my joints, or my brain.   I do love bagels, but I make mine from organic wheat berries I sprout, rinse, dry, then mill.  This removes all the toxins, while releasing enzymes that make it easier to digest.  Plus sprouting the grains makes a flour that has a lower glycemic index so I do not get a blood sugar spike.  I love myself enough to go to this level of effort – I am worth it and I can do it.


Kate’s comment: one of the other great bonuses about making bagels yourself is that it’s easier to control the size of the bagel. Bagels have supersized – and for no good reason. They can still be satisfying snacks at half the size.

Weight Weight Just Love Me – Tenure – Day 61

Winter beauty tenures my heart to the ever present love all around.

Winter beauty tenures my heart to the ever present love all around.

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

I feel as if I’ve attained tenure in some respects through this challenge to learn how to  love myself more.  By tenure I mean that my position is secure – who I am and how I move through the world as love and joy in action an irrefutable part of who I am.   I’m allowing myself to love all (including me) without conditions as the main person who benefits from this position is ME.   It matters not one iota how someone else feels about me – it is the love that is in my heart expressed out to the world however that happens to be in the moment that matters.  While most “tenured” positions are granted by other faculty and the institutions they serve, this one was granted by allowing my own inner divinity to take center stage in my life.

The other day I was watching the movie “Yogaanada” about how yoga was brought to the west in the 1920’s.   And the role of waking up the god inside through the spine by doing yoga.  The movie talked about being self realized and being god realized. Being “god realized” from my understanding is with recognizing how we are all one – part of the infinite love of the universe.  Part of my feeling of having “tenure” may be an awakening to the infinite love of the universe being ever present inside of me.

Yes it does help too that I’m in Alaska in early winter.  The cocoon of increasing darkness blanketed in snow activates my bliss and opens my heart.  It is the stark contrasts of winter in Alaska that enable me find the deep pleasure of cozy warmth while enjoying  the briskness of fresh fallen snow on a cold, blustery winter day.   An added bonus is my yoga practice makes me more capable of navigating the dangers of the slick ice and snow.  It’s just like the love myself more practice helps me navigate the challenge of others’ differing realities.


Kate’s comment: I love the early winter because it helps my cozy home feel even cozier. I love sitting by the window with a cup of hot tea and knitting – but I feel guilty about doing this when it’s warm out. This time of year is the best.