Ritchie Ledges / Virginia Kendall Ledges in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio


How is it that massive sandstone boulders, such as this one photographed at Ritchie Ledges within the Cuyahoga National Park, can remain balanced with seemingly little to keep it from tumbling?

And yet, as is evident throughout these trails, this rock’s demise will eventually involve a plunge below among the hemlock needles and sand sediment.

Who are we to believe we are such skilled magicians able to juggle work, family, friends and all of life’s distractions without one of them falling?

We cannot.

We are like the rock….it’s just a matter of time.

This is an essential part of health and wellness that is often overlooked.

Balance. So many distractions that pull us away from what is truly important.

Of course we need to work. But we should not neglect the people we care about. They deserve our time and energies.

Learning to decompress during our down time will keep us from falling victim to health issues and other tensions.

I share many effective ways to bring cortisol levels down, raise the ‘bliss’ hormones (oxytocin), and raise energy levels.

Balance is so much more than just moderation. Life harmony contains as many layers as the sandstone rocks shown in this photograph.

Learning to address the whole and not just one portion is needful for stability in life. And not just stability; but a sense of true peace and contentment.


Photography by Terri Kern Pouliot



“Nothing can survive without food. Everything we consume acts either to heal us or to poison us. We tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. The conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food. Are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow?”

–Thich Nhat Hanh


Welcome Spring

Photography by Tracy Sheppard

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
― Anaïs Nin

Welcome Spring!

I’ve missed you so.

A season filled with renewal and beginnings. Beauty and bloom. Spread your arms wide and welcome new beginnings.

A season of growth, renewal, hope, and rebirth.

Photography by Tracy Sheppard


The Thoughtfully Designed Life © must carefully attend to all areas of living.

To focus primarily on the physical while ignoring the spiritual creates discord.  To feed the mind while disregarding the physical leaves us unhealthy

Tending to only one area of life creates uneven growth and a life without harmony. Balance is essential.

Spring is a wonderful time to intentionally clean up areas of life that have become stagnant and unyielding.  Purging those areas that are unproductive or unhealthy.  Getting rid of old thoughts, habits and activities that no longer serve us.

Photography by Tracy Sheppard

Student and Teacher

Photography by Tracy Sheppard


“One of my core beliefs is that every single person you meet is both your student and your teacher: that every single person has a gift or a lesson to offer you, if you look for it, and that you have a gift or a lesson for them, if you allow yourself.”

“I value momentary and passing connections and have many thoughts of being receptive to them, but right now I’m specifically thinking about how affected we are by the main people in our lives.
Our “main people” introduce us to the possibilities in the world, and the possibilities within ourselves. They expand our minds and our hearts and ultimately our lives.”

“f you want some advice on how to love yourself better, examine the people with whom you you spend time and energy. Choose to spend time with people who nourish you and expand you and elevate you and challenge you and adore you.”

I am a deeply convinced of this quote from Jessi Kneeland. I wholeheartedly believe that people cross our paths for reasons we may never understand, while we walk this earth. We should respect and treasure those dear people and pay attention to the lessons that may unfold.

This is what creates such a magical environment while traveling.  Not only do we experience new lands and cultures;  we are given the gift of seeing the world through new eyes and possibilities.  When we allow ourselves to be open to those serendipitous encounters;  all manner of magical beginnings can be explored.

Our travels can take us to far away lands or while exploring paths in our own neighborhood.  I am always amazed at how many places remain on my ‘adventure list’ right near my own town.

We are all woven together for a reason.  Like the proverbial tapestry, which may not appear particularly beautiful from beneath, with threads crossing every which way;  from above, spectacular artistry unfolds.

So, Thank You. If you are reading this today.  Thank you for being a part of my life, no matter the capacity. We are woven together for a reason.


You Are Allowed to Change



How often to we resist change?  We fight it, go out of our way to avoid it and just plain don’t like it.

One thing is certain.  Change is constant.  But that doesn’t mean change is easy.

We have to learn to adapt, and flow.

Or become stagnant.

We’ve all been around a stagnant pond.  Not only will a stagnant pond appear repulsive;  it doesn’t smell pleasant.  Once water stops flowing, it becomes a breeding ground for a plethora of dangerous and unhealthy environmental woes.  It turns dark and lifeless. The water that may have once teemed with plant life, birds, fish and other creatures;  now hosts nothing but parasites and bacteria.   In other words, it is contaminated.

photography by Tracy Sheppard

A pond becomes stagnant for one simple reason.  It lacks the exchange of living water that flows and continues to provide the necessary ingredients for balance of oxygen and nutrients to keep life vital.

photography by Tracy Sheppard


When we don’t allow the proper balance of fresh thinking, combined with movement;  it invites stagnation.

Thinking the same way day in and day out, without inviting our minds to explore new thoughts; can lead to lethargy.   Motionless and without life.

Change can be scary.  I get it!  It’s so easy to become a creature of habit.  Our comfort zone becomes a place void of stress. We are on autopilot. Coasting.  Call it what you will.  It becomes a place that prohibits growth.  And when we don’t grow….we become stagnant.

Keep the waters moving!  Stimulate the thought process with positive thinking.  Live with the intent to try something new each day.  Start the morning with gratitude for what is present, good or bad.  Keep the momentum.

photography by Tracy Sheppard

Our brains our hard wired to avoid anything unpleasant or challenging.  We have to intentionally step out of that safety net and explore the wondrous possibilities.

Not feeling motivated?

Motivation is often not enough.  We may NEVER feel ready.  We may not be able to WORK UP enough confidence.  Move anyway.  Go through the motions.  Forward is the only direction to go.

I don’t know about you…but I don’t want to become like that stagnant pond.


photography by Tracy Sheppard


Without Balance You Will Fall

Photography / Artwork by Tracy Sheppard
Photography / Artwork by Tracy Sheppard


Without BALANCE you will fall.

“Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body’s position comfortably—whether you are walking, climbing stairs, standing or even sitting still.”

Maintaining balance is crucial as we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly more than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older fall each year. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths. Can we train our bodies to maintain balance?

The answer is emphatically, YES! To get all of the benefits of physical activity, we should engage in all four types of exercise — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. My system utilizes all aspects of physical fitness so that, as we age, we can protect against muscle atrophy, provide energy and a spring in our step, create strength to perform daily tasks, and maintain balance.

What exercises can help with balance? There are many moves which, if done a minimum of twice weekly, can protect balance. Here are five:

These 5 exercises will help improve balance and lower body strength. They include:

-standing on one foot
-walking heel to toe
-balance walk
-back leg raises
-side leg raises

Having good balance is important to help us get around, stay independent, and carry out daily activities. Don’t take your balance for granted!

Photography / Artwork by Tracy Sheppard


NIH Senior Health