Snapshot: Learning from Life’s Storms

Storm clouds roll in above a DC city scene.

The clouds came in quickly. One minute the sky was bright and sunny. Then, suddenly, grayish black. With fat raindrops beginning to fall. ⁣

I didn’t have my umbrella. So I waited inside. And it passed. The storm, that is. It passed…like they always do. That’s the part to remember. ⁣

When we’re in the middle of difficult situations, it can be hard to see past the rain, and the distractions, and the stress. When it comes to writing, for instance, rejections are part of the game. Having to learn new skills and processes, and frustration with that learning curve, can be, too.

But we have to know that these things can’t last forever. That we’ll get better. And that we can withstand the hard times to get to the good ones. Nothing worth having comes without some struggle.

Adjusting our mindsets can help during turbulent times. And actually, speaking of mindset, we can notice beauty (like in this street shot I captured) even when the bleakest clouds come in.

Have you been surprised by a storm? Remember that it won’t last forever. Be calm in the moment. And realistically (all metaphors aside), carry an umbrella to be prepared. Mine is now securely back in my bag. ☺️

Please feel free to leave a comment here, or share with me on Instagram @lesliequander.

And if you want help with the storms that can accompany getting your writing or communications career going—whether it comes to pitching yourself or just having the confidence to start—please let me know. I have advice for that, too. ✨ ⁣

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Want Success? Freedom? Why It Starts in Your Mind

I’ve been feeling free. Light. Accomplished. And extra independent. Things I’ve been wanting and working toward are happening. It feels great to see things that I’ve imagined actually come to pass in real life.

And that is the key, in part. The thought. The willingness to believe that good things are coming and that I am–and we are–worthy of them.

Our thoughts matter and can affect our bodies, our lives, and our experiences. This concept shows up in science, in the law of attraction, and even in faith-based teachings.

So if you want to feel free–or more successful, content, or relaxed–a big way to shift is within your mind.

For example, taking time to think kind thoughts about yourself has psychological and physical benefits, suggests recent research from the University of Exeter. In the small study, participants who listened to an audio recording that encouraged them to be kind to themselves reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others. These participants also had a physical response consistent with relaxation and safety, including a drop in heart rate and a lower sweat response. Meanwhile, those who heard an audio inducing “a critical inner voice” had a higher heart rate and higher sweat response, consistent with feelings of distress.

More mind-power info? As you may know, the benefits of meditation, the practice of training and focusing your mind, are myriad and can include helping with stress reduction, pain control, and even improving sleep.

So this July, and beyond, remember: If you have a dream in your heart, think of it positively in your mind. Believe in yourself, put in the work, and have faith. Think of the thing as already yours. ⁣You might be surprised to see the good things that can follow.

⁣So do you believe in yourself? Want some encouragement? Maybe I can help–especially if you have questions about moving up in your career (including full-time or freelance work in writing, communications, or editing) or how to shift your general mindset. Drop me a comment or email me!

⁣P.S. In this photo, I somehow managed to channel the tropics—from the city. Come hang with me on Instagram @lesliequander to see my other adventures. ☺️🦋

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Writing Tip: Where to Find Inspiration

I’ve been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade. (Where did the time go?!) And I wrote for fun for many years before that.

One question that comes up when it comes to writing and creativity is this: Where do you get ideas? Whether we’re writing on deadline or writing just for fun, our ideas have to come from somewhere. And, in my experience, ideas for stories can come from all around us.

For instance, I wrote about the benefits of training for surgery for The Washington Post after I discovered a related study—and dug in for more research. And I wrote about five tips to protect your hearing for Men’s Health after noticing loud sounds in my own environment.

Recently I went to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to see a ballet. There, I ran into this exhibit of worldwide photos of hope and resilience (see above). It was another example of how surprises can pop up anywhere and at any time–and how we should be open to them. But it also reminded me that inspiration for writing, other creative pursuits, and even life plans can come from all around us. In fact, I think it’s really cool that we can soak up creativity even in our hometowns—without trying hard or traveling far.⁣⁣

(Side note: If you haven’t been to the Kennedy Center, do check it out when in DC—for everything from opera to ballet. This free exhibit via the National Geographic Photo Camp features photos from at-risk and refugee youth and runs through June 20, 2019.)

So here’s the takeaway: Story ideas and life inspiration can come from anywhere. And they can come by surprise. If you’re looking for ideas for your next piece of writing, look around you. Explore your hometown. Travel. Read something you typically wouldn’t. Start a new conversation.

You can find plenty of inspiration if you pay attention.

For more writing tips and daily snapshots, subscribe to this blog or follow me on Instagram!

Or feel free to comment or email me your thoughts or questions about writing and creativity.

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Are You Open to Surprises?

Life’s beauty can arrive by surprise. 🌸⁣

We can plan and try to predict things all we want (quick shout out to the Type As and planners out there), but things happen all the time that are completely out of our control. Sometimes these things are what we’d call good. Sometimes they’re not. At least not in the moment. But it’s good to be open to surprises in any case, I think.

For instance, I wasn’t expecting to wander upon these magnolia trees this spring. Cherry blossoms get lots of love here in DC—and the thousands of trees donated by Japan decades ago do deserve their own attention. (Trust me, I wrote about those beauties, too.) But these magnolia blooms in the Smithsonian Castle’s garden were gorgeous. I live here, and I had no idea how amazing this would be. I was just planning a quick pass-through, but ended up marveling at these for several long moments.

Need more encouragement? One older study from Emory University Health Sciences Center found that the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones. You’ll understand this yourself if you’ve ever gotten a surprise flower delivery (yes, I’m still talking about plants!) or if you’ve ever won an unexpected prize or other reward.

So, here’s to not planning everything. And to being open to the unexpected. You never know what you might find.

See more about this garden visit on Instagram–or follow me there @lesliequander so we can keep up!

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Positive Thinking: Our Words and Beliefs Matter

As I was walking in our nation’s capital this spring, taking in the beautiful cherry blossoms, I had some realizations. We’re surrounded by beauty—for me, I can see it every day—but we don’t always take time to notice. And we don’t always focus on the good things in our lives.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC, according to the festival’s website. And the views and programming over the event’s four weeks attract more than a million people each year.

This season, I looked out on the pretty scenes before me (including the Jefferson Memorial through the trees), and thought to myself. I settled on this (among other things): Our words and beliefs matter. It’s a message that I’ve been hearing lately from other sources, too. It relates to the law of attraction. And that saying: Whether you think you can or you can’t—either way you’re right. ⁣

So I’m making a special effort to think that I can. To say that I can. To KNOW that I can be at peace—even when things are crazy. (For instance, so many people were swarming around me when I took this photo. But I decided I would focus on the view and stay in peace—and I did!) 🌸 ⁣

Do you think positive thinking really works? I’ve seen it work in my life. Feel free to comment or check out my Instagram post to see what people told me. ✨


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Spotlight: “Will GoFundMe Become America’s Largest Private Insurer?”




Stories of healthcare issues abound, and I’m seeing headlines that continue to pop up. People are suffering, and their insurance—if they even have it—doesn’t always provide all needed financial support. Enter online crowdfunding campaigns, where people ask everyone from friends to strangers to help them pay for expenses, including those for health care.

I recently reported on this topic for Playboy, and medical crowdfunding campaigns continue to mount even into the early days of 2019. These campaigns are helping people who are fighting for their lives or dealing with health complications and bills. GoFundMe, for instance, is one of several crowdfunding platforms that helps people raise funds for personal causes. And with a giving community of more than 50 million people worldwide, it’s reportedly the largest social fundraising platform.

But what’s the future of these fundraising platforms? And who’s really vulnerable to having unexpected medical expenses?

Please click through to see what health care experts and GoFundMe users told me about this situation and its potential effects.


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Health Tip: Why Adults Should Go Out and Play




Why, yes, I will frolic in the snow. 😉

We’ve just had our first snow of 2019 in DC, so I had to go out and play around. It was incredibly nice to venture out into the fresh snow as it fell. I laughed a lot and was glad I didn’t stay inside.

So, when is the last time you acted like a kid and played in the snow, or sand, or grass? (Whatever is seasonal in your part of the world!) As grown-ups (ahem), sometimes we can get caught up in the monotonous, day-to-day tasks of life. But playing is actually good for us, even when we’re older.

For instance, if we regularly go out and get physical (think walking, or running, or jumping around in the snow like I did), it can improve our moods, help lower our blood pressure, and strengthen our muscles.

And if we really have a good time, and start laughing, the laughter itself can help reduce physical symptoms of stress and—over time—laughter can help relieve pain and even improve our immune systems.

Still going…definitely got to 30 minutes.

So adults of the world, go out. And play! A little free time may be just what you need.

Are you getting in enough happy time out and about? P.S. Come see more of my adventures on Instagram at @lesliequander. 


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3 Festive DC Destinations to Visit Year-Round




This month, I thought about booking a flight out of town. The travel bug almost bit me again. But then I thought about the fact that I live in the nation’s capital. And there are tons of things to do here—many of them free—and I can keep myself busy at home. Every. Single. Day. And save my money for another big trip abroad. (More on that later.)

The good thing about the destinations I visited this December? They’re also good bets year-round. Though, as you’d probably guess, the events and décor will vary.

CityCenterDC
For instance, in mid-December I dropped by an ice sculpture exhibit at CityCenterDC. This complex of 10 acres in downtown DC includes a plaza, luxe shopping, restaurants, pedestrian walkways, and a hotel, along with living spaces for those who want to make a home there.

Channeling Cruella de Vil at CityCenterDC’s visiting ice exhibit. (The coat, however, is faux!)

We had to wait in line to get into the event tent, but the reward was seeing sculptures that rose up to 12 feet tall and that were carved from 50,000 pounds of ice. The exhibit has since departed, but it’s an example of the cool events that sweep into this space. (Literally and figuratively cool, in this case.) Not seeking any event in particular? The shopping and dining options are worth a stop, too.

A pedestrian walkway by CityCenterDC shops. The archway look changes during the year.

The Warner Theatre
I also bought a ticket to The Nutcracker ballet at DC’s Warner Theatre, which first opened in 1924. The theater design is lovely and intricate, and the location is metro accessible. So convenient. If you want to visit at other times of year, check out the events calendar, which includes everything from comedy to concerts.

Look at this ceiling at the Warner Theatre. Gorgeous.

The stage before The Nutcracker started. No photos were allowed during the show, but I can tell you the scenes were whimsical.

The Willard InterContinental Hotel
As Christmas approached, I decided that I wanted to have a grand décor experience. So I ventured over to The Willard InterContinental hotel, which is just blocks from The White House and also accessible via metro. Since 1818, this hotel has welcomed U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities. But my focus was on the decorations—including the super tall, decked out tree in the lobby.

At The Willard, pretending like this tree belongs to me. 😉

This year’s décor also included a gingerbread display that weighed almost 400 pounds and contained more than 100 LED lights, 306 pieces of gingerbread, and 30 pounds of fondant for the runway. The hotel’s pastry team is serious. 

Construction on this gingerbread display honoring Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) began in November 2018. It took more than 350 hours to complete.

Planning a stop outside of the holidays? You can go to Café du Parc, the hotel’s restaurant, and dine on traditional French food (including pastries by those hardworking chefs) at any time of year. Or have tea or a cocktail on the lobby level.

On the way to Café du Parc.

The Take-Away, Plus More on Instagram
These are truly entertaining times in DC. I haven’t even mentioned the museums I’ve visited and all of my dining and social activities. (I heard live music, too, and I definitely followed my own tips for hearing protection.)

Want to see more of my adventures, including scenes from my last big trip to Taiwan, Japan, and Hawaii? Come follow me on Instagram: I’m @lesliequander.

And, no matter where you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed the holiday season and that you can look ahead to happy moments in the new year.


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5 Tips to Protect Your Hearing



So I love getting out to events and listening to live music. But these fun activities can have a down side. Sadly.

If you’re around loud sounds, you should know that you could be at risk for tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss, too. These sounds can show up anywhere, from your favorite sporting events to concerts and bars.

Because this topic is so important, and because it can affect so many people, I wrote about how to avoid hearing loss and damage earlier this year for Men’s Health. Even now, the topic keeps coming up in my everyday life. Maybe because I know so many other music lovers.

The facts: Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Those higher than 85 dB can permanently damage the hair cells in your inner ear with extended exposure, leading to hearing loss or actual damage. And it can be years before you start to notice the effects.

Please check out my story for five tips on how to protect your hearing. I do these things myself. Then tell me what you think!

Have you ever had a hearing scare, or noticed when sounds were too loud? Taking action now can help you later.


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Training for Surgery? Yes, You Can



These days, Americans train to get in shape for marathons, weddings and backpacking trips. So why not train for surgery? Tens of millions of surgeries are scheduled each year in the United States, and each can result in complications such as shock, infection or pulmonary issues: A 2012 study citing hospital data from the American College of Surgeons on 551,510 general surgery patients found a complication rate of almost 17 percent.

I recently wrote about training for surgery for The Washington Post, and interviewed several doctors to explain why it can be helpful. Posting about the topic here in the name of blog updates. (I promised I’d be back.)

Providers at several hospitals believe better preparation could help patients awaiting elective surgeries—those planned in advance, such as hip replacements or cosmetic procedures, rather than done in an emergency—avoid those problems. They designed programs to help ensure that patients enter surgery in the best condition possible, with preparation including physical and mental components.

If you’re planning a surgery, or know someone who is, please check out the story online. You’ll see the four training steps to consider and discuss with your surgeon, even if your facility doesn’t offer a formal program.



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