Monday, January 28, 2008

Hello, charmed ones -

I hope this finds your life getting better and better, inside and out. I have some wonderful things going on (more below) and I've decided to package this year in the country as an extended retreat. Yesterday I went to a Vedanta Society retreat house in Stone Ridge, NY ( for a daylong meditation retreat. It taught me that I need to do more back strengthening exercises (I know that hatha yoga, the physical postures, was developed to help people sit for long periods of meditation; now I know why) and it reminded me how sweet such an intense meditation can be. While in meditation there, I got the insight that the successful seminar I've been doing for the Learning Annex in NYC, "How to Live a More Spiritual Life," needs to offered more places and as a teleclass as well as an in-person event. If you'd be interested in a teleclass like that, let Joya know (drop her a quick email at and if we get enough response, we'll plan a class for late February or early March.

It's still hard for me to be away from my beloved Manhattan. In order to write the new book, I drive to Kingston, a larger place, to write in a coffee shop. That more urban energy helps me a lot. However, I recently remember something someone told me a long time ago - I was twenty at the time. I was in a job that had become oppressive and she told me that as long as I hated it and desperately wanted to quit, I'd never be able to. I argued that I could just plain give notice and she told me, "You could, but you'd meet this job again, or everything you dislike about it, at another time with only the names and faces changed."

I'm using that wisdom again now. It is pretty obvious that I come alive in New York City and pretty much wilt out here in the mountains. In human terms, it may have been a gargantuan mistake to have embarked on this adventure at all. But I am convinced that the Higher Power is expert at making lemonade out of even the sourest lemons. My job is to be happy today and look for the good. Were you around for the 60s slogan, a sort of counter to the counter-culture, "America: love it or leave it"? For me today, it's "Woodstock (or whatever situation I'd like to be different): love it so you can leave it."

All good things, Victoria

A blog in the big time!...

Well, let's hope. My most exciting professional news of the moment is that will be running "The Charmed Life Blog" by me for one week beginning February 4 or 11 (I'll let you know which) as an "audition" for being a permanent blogger for their huge and wonderful site. I'll be posting more than once a day (that'll be new and different) and doing my best to help charm the day for all readers. If it gets lots and lots and lots of traffic, they'll keep me on, which would be a dream come true. If you'd like to help (and read a good blog in the process!), please visit frequently once the blog goes up and going to "The Charmed Life Blog."

There will be ways for you to comment, add your thoughts, and be a part of it. In fact, I would be thrilled if you would: the more participation, the more likely it will go permanent. (If I become an official BeliefNet blogger, that's where my blog will be, but it will not affect The Charmed Monday Minute one bit. This newsletter will show up in your mailbox every other Monday, or as close to every other Monday as Joya and I can get it out, just the way we have been doing it.)

Quotation of the week:

"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy." - Robert Louis Stevenso

Recipe of the week -

This quick, yummy dip comes from my favorite source of nutrition information, Nutrition Action, the excellent newsletter of Center for Science in the Public Interest (

Puree in food processor:
One 15-ounce canned Great Northern, navy, or other white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Free clicks to help animals...

Mary Max, the wife of noted artist Peter Max and a great force for a kinder world, sent this info about a free, easy way to help those who can't help themselves, and, if you like, you can offer this help daily, always without charge, by simply clicking on the following links: (every click provides a bowl of food-at no cost to you-to animals in need) - "Thanks to people who click on The Animal Rescue Site, we are able to buy food and medical care for the rescued animals at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. It's critical support in our work to shelter abused and abandoned animals," says Mike Markarain, Senior V.P. of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). (every click provides food for primates) (helps needy pets with free surgeries and other health care) (helps protect baby seals from the cruel and senseless hunt subsidized by the Canadian government)

Question of the week:

"Could you give me a sample of your food plan? I'm having a confusing time trying to decide what type of vegetarian food plan to chose. I'm already a vegetarian, so that's not the problem. The problem is I can't decide on whether or not to give up eggs and milk products. It makes like just a little more complicated, but if it's worth it, I'll certainly adjust. Do you do 3 meals a day with nothing in between, or do you allow snacks? It seems hard to keep it simple when you are vegan--there is a whole lot more cooking and preparation involved working with whole foods."
- Lana, Iowa

As I read your questions, I was noting some phrases I don't think in terms of anymore. I don't really feel that I have a "food plan" although I suppose I do, nor do I think in terms of "allowing" snacks or anything else, since that seems more authoritarian than I like being with myself. I also chuckled about "a whole lot more cooking and preparation." I don't think of myself as cooking very much at all, although I enjoy it when I do.

To answer you, then, as best I can, let me say this: I basically eat three meals a day. Occasionally (maybe once or twice in a week), I'll have something - a piece of fruit, a whole-grain cookie, half a Luna bar -- at tea time in the afternoon if I'm feeling especially droopy. (In Ayurvedic medicine, three meals a day are recommended, with the caveat that someone with a Vata constitution, my type, can do better sometimes with a little something in the mid-afternoon.) I know a lot of systems recommend snacking or mini-meals throughout the day, but for someone like me, that puts too much emphasis on food. I also find that my digestion works better when there is time in between meals with nothing extra to tax the apparatus.

For breakfast, if I'm home, I often have an oatmeal parfait or a soy yogurt parfait. That means I have the oatmeal or the yogurt and top it with fruits, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, a little flax oil, and some toasted wheat germ. I might substitute Van's frozen wheat-free waffles, again with some fruit and chopped nuts and little flax oil, plus a little agave nectar or real maple syrup. I always drink black tea in the morning, with some Rice Dream (an alternative to cow's milk and soy milk). In warm weather, I might make a smoothie instead: soy milk or Rice Dream, fruit, protein powder, flax oil, wheat germ. When I'm in writing mode and work all morning in a café, or if I'm in the city at a Starbucks I have a grande soy chai tea, no water, no foam. It is rich---definitely a meal and not a drink---and I find it quite a satisfying breakfast with nothing else. (It does contain sugar, which I know a lot of people avoid entirely.)

Lunch is often soup (lentil, split pea, tomato, carrot-ginger, and potato-corn chowder are among my favorites) with maybe a spelt English muffin and hummus, some raw veggies, and a piece of fruit, or I heat up leftovers from dinner. I never like to keep leftovers any longer than this, or there's no life force left in them. In summer, I'll have salad instead of soup, but it's a big salad and I'll add garbanzos or other beans, sunflower seeds, and some steamed or roasted veggies so it is a meal that will last until dinner. I use an olive oil & vinegar dressing like Paul Newman's.

In the best of possible worlds, the midday meal would be the main one, but for us working folk, that's difficult, so I do have a heavier dinner than is probably ideal, but I have scaled back on my dinner amounts somewhat and feel better because of it. In any case, I make sure to eat early, ideally 6:30, no later than 7. We'll have some kind of entrée - my husband's favorites are chili, veggie-burgers, and pasta (I usually choose a wheat-free pasta) with marinara sauce and vegetables - and a salad. Sometimes I make a "breakfast-dinner" and serve scrambled tofu, veggie-Canadian-bacon, toast or English muffins, and sliced tomatoes (when they're in season) or grilled onions. Once a week or so, I'll do something creative and actually use a cookbook, but this isn't the time of my life when cooking is where my creativity comes out. I keep it pretty simple.

I also eat out quite a bit. Vegetarian restaurants are my favorite since the food is whole and I have a lot of choices. The Garden Café here in Woodstock makes a very satisfying Vegan Cesar Salad with a yummy tofu-based dressing and blanched slivered almonds. They also do "garden bowls" - a small entrée, some side such as roasted potatoes, and always wonderful greens. (Eating greens makes me feel on top of the world.) William loves Italian food so we go to some Italian place once a week or so. That's when I know I'll be having white-flour pasta, and I try to keep that as the only time I eat white flour or, for that matter, wheat products which don't seem to sit very well with me. Otherwise, I like Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Ethiopian restaurants. They have lots of vegetarian entrees. When I eat out, I seem to have the same parameters as eating at home: one plate. At a place with huge portions, we might share or bring home leftovers for lunch.

Everyone comes to food choices from a different place. Because I suffered so much from binge-eating and related issues for the first three decades of my life, it is very important for me to have a close relationship with the Divine on everything related to food. I need for my life to revolve around God, my family, my work, and what I came to this planet to do. Food needs to be decidedly secondary. When I let the Higher Power take care of the food, I get to do the things I'm better at. It is apparently working and I am very grateful.

An amazing performer...
I saw this woman in a show in Kansas City ten years ago and was so impressed that I got in touch and we've stayed connected. She'll be in NYC in March (see below). If you're elsewhere in the country, you may want to at least visit the site and see if she'll be in your area at some point. She is really remarkable, and if you have children, this is a particularly terrific show.

Houston performing artist, Melissa Waddy Thibodeaux, will be opening in "The Woman They Called Moses," about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Harlem Thursday, March 6, 2008 and running through Sunday, March 9, 2008, with nightly shows at 7 pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3. For more information, please see or call 713-884-9655.

New Internet Radio Show:

You can listen to my internet radio show on from noon to 1pm EST every 4th Wednesday of the month. The last show was wonderful, featuring my action partner and opera-singer-extraordinaire, Sherry Boone. Check it out in the archives here.

(Trouble listening? Click here for the site's help page.)

Victoria, Virtual Life Coach!

Victoria is now the official Life Coach of the blog "Elastic Waist" and will be featured a few times a month in exclusive interviews! To view the first post, click here. The second is here. Enjoy!

Fat, Broke & Lonely No More was picked for m since Victoria was a guest on the Jean Chatzky Show on Oprah & Friends Radio. If you go to the page, you can write a reader review if you'd like.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Charmed Monday (this week: Fri.) Minute

Hi, everyone, and welcome to new readers -

I'm writing to you from Topeka, Kansas, en route to Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City where my mother-in-law lives. I'll be speaking this Sunday, January 13, at the Center for Spiritual Living at 39th & Terrace Sts., Kansas City, Missouri - two Sunday services, 8:30 and 11. You can get more info at Know I would love to see you there if you're in this part of the world.

A quick update from me (new subscribers: the first part of The Charmed Monday Minute is a letter updating people on my life; if you're not interested in this stuff, scroll down to the "newsy" parts that follow): We're moved in up in Woodstock and the apartment is adorable. It has snowed a lot and I love that. Christmas looked like a picture postcard, even though it was obviously bittersweet for us with James's death so recent. We had Christmas with my daughter Adair, her husband Nick, and the two dogs, Aspen and Oliver. I drove back to NYC with them and stayed over a day for an ear-prompter class with TV coach Larry Conroy to prepare for my Satellite Media Tour in Atlanta December 28, which went very well.

For New Year's Eve, we drove to Albany for the "burning bowl service" (you can read about burning bowl ceremonies in my book Younger by the Day) at the Unity Church and went to dinner afterward with the minister Jim Fuller and his lovely wife Kay whose yogic presence graces the current cover of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health magazine. Joining us was a friend of theirs who recently returned from the African country of Mali where he was with the Peace Corps for three years. This reminded me a beautiful photographic book called Material World. It takes a family with the median income for their country from many countries of the world and puts all their possessions out on the street. Mali was the poorest country chosen, but every possession the people there had was beautiful and serviceable. Once when I was complaining about money or not having something or other, my daughter, twelve at the time, said "Remember Mali." I said, "Who's Molly?" She said, "Not Molly: Mali." And I often do.

The next morning, January 1, I went to the Tibetan Buddhist monastery on Outlook Mountain in Woodstock for their First Light Peace Ceremony. It was lovely. While there, however, a blizzard blew up, and driving down the mountain my little hybrid didn't make one of the turns. I was heading straight for a tree and asked God if we could please just miss the tree. We did - by an inch. I learned later that I missed a ravine by about four feet. My neck is a little unhappy from the bump - I hit a bank of old, very hard snow - and the car will be in the shop for three weeks (our rental is a Jeep - let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...). I have to start my new year on February 7, Chinese New Year, year of the rat, most auspicious, they say.

I need to stop - I'm past check-out time in this motel - so I wish you a glorious year and, more important, a glorious moment.

Love and light, Victoria

Book of the Week:

An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love, by Richard Carlson, Ph.D., and Kristine Carlson, Hyperion, 2008.
Oh my goodness, what an exquisite little book! The first half of this tiny tome is a love letter my friend and mentor the late Richard Carlson of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff fame, gave to his wife Kristine on their 18th wedding anniversary. Three years later, thirteen months ago, he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 45. He wrote to her what he would do and say if he knew that he had but one hour to live. This is poignant, moving, and necessary reading for anyone who loves anyone on this earth. The second half of the book is Kris's response, written after Richard's death. It is such a testimony, not only to their love, but to love in general, and it was such a reminder to me to put first things first - and first things are always living things. Give this beautiful little book to yourself, and one to everybody to love.

Last call for the Learning Annex NYC!...

Please be a part of my fun, exciting, and inspiring class, "How to Lead a More Spiritual Life." Topics we'll cover include the perennial philosophy, discovering the divine in daily life, the Law of Attraction (all a whole bunch of other laws!), the physical body and the spiritual life, meditation in the real world, and tolerance on this planet of diverse beliefs and ways of being. It's this Tuesday evening, 6:30 to 9:45, in midtown Manhattan. To register, visit the Learning Annex website HERE.

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens...

Melinda in Cincinnati wrote to say that she'd like more coaching exercises in the Charmed Monday Minute every now and then. Just for you, Melinda, here's a seasonally appropriate exercise for more self-knowledge and self-appreciation. It's called "Playing Favorites." To do it, pretend that you're Sister Maria from The Sound of Music you ask yourself, "What is my favorite...?" and list everything you can think of in every area of life. Coming up with 100 is not excessive. Remember, these are not things you want but rather things you love. For example, you can write that your favorite city is Paris without wanting to move there (or feeling glum that you won't be moving there). This is not a wish list, but instead a getting-to-know-yourself list and coming to see how amazing and magnificent you are. Here's an example (the answers are mine and they're real):

What is my favorite?...

Color: Tiffany blue
Thing to do: Meet Adair at a Starbucks in NYC
Actor: Ed Harris
Actress: Diane Keaton
Season: Fall
Perfume: Trish McEvoy Vanilla Musk
Item of clothing: Dark blue corduroy DKNY dress
Poem: "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," Wordsworth
Restaurant: Sacred Chow, NYC
Broadway show: Phantom of the Opera
Movie: Auntie Mame (runners-up: Gone with the Wind, Moonstruck, The Birdcage, Forrest Gump, Gorillas in the Mist, Miracle of 34th St...)
Mode of travel: Train
Indulgence: The New Age Health Spa, Neversink, NY
Holiday: Christmas
Fiction book: The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Health book: Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra
Spirituality book: The Bible (runners-up: Alcoholics Anonymous, The Games of Life & How to Play It by Florence Scovil Shinn, The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, How to Know God, Christopher Isherwood translation, The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, A Most Surprising Song, by Louann Stahl)
Feng shui book: Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life
Dish that I cook: Vegetarian chili

Okay, here's the recipe: Vegetarian Chili

Note: These are approximate measures. It's never the same twice.

1 medium onion
½ pound firm tofu, drained
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans red or kidney beans
1 large can diced tomatoes
10 oz. frozen organic corn
Other veggies to taste: chopped green pepper, carrots, celery (optional)
Cumin, cayenne, chili powder, salt to taste

Sauté onion in olive oil. When softened, add garlic and continue sautéing till done. Remove onion and garlic from skillet with slotted spoon.

Cut the tofu in diced-sized squares and sauté in olive oil until cooked.

Mix the onion-garlic mixture and tofu in soup pot. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, other vegetables, and seasonings to taste. Simmer to mix flavors. Serve 4. Yummy - even better the next day.

I'm on BeliefNet!

I am honored and privileged to have some work of mine featured on, the premier site on the net for spirituality and religions. Here is the link to my latest piece, "10 Ways to Be Your Own Life Coach."

New Internet Radio Show:

You can listen to my internet radio show on from noon to 1pm EST every 4th Wednesday of the month. The last show was wonderful, featuring my action partner and opera-singer-extraordinaire, Sherry Boone. Check it out in the archives here.

(Trouble listening? Click here for the site's help page.)

Victoria, Virtual Life Coach!

Victoria is now the official Life Coach of the blog "Elastic Waist" and will be featured a few times a month in exclusive interviews! To view the first post, click here. The second is here. Enjoy!

Fat, Broke & Lonely No More was picked for m since Victoria was a guest on the Jean Chatzky Show on Oprah & Friends Radio. If you go to the page, you can write a reader review if you'd like.


KANSAS CITY, MO: January 13, Sunday, 9 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday services, "The God-Shaped Hole," book signing to follow; Center for Spiritual Living, 1306 W. 39th St., 816/931-2395,

NEW YORK CITY: January 15, Tuesday, The Learning Annex , workshop entitled "How to Have a More Spiritual Life"