Animal Care During Quarantine with Dr. Tom Mason

My college friend (we were on the same dorm floor at UC Davis a long time ago) joined us today to talk about animal care during our shelter in place. He talks about the status of veterinary care today and then what we need to watch for as we stay home with our fur babies.

My best story about Tom (that’ I’m allowed to talk about) is when he helped me and my roommate hide our kitty from our landlord (no pets allowed). The landlord knocked on his door (he lived upstairs) and Sophie, our cat, walked out right through his legs. “Not my cat,” is the way the story goes. He wasn’t lying!

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An experienced vet who’s working to bring positive change to the business.

Tom has more than 25 years of veterinary industry experience and leadership in two of San Francisco’s premier animal welfare organizations (The San Francisco SPCA and Pets Unlimited). Both operate The City’s two largest veterinary hospital and adoption programs. He brings a unique vision to veterinary practice management, practice leadership, and clinical operations, and how to utilize clinical advances and trends in technology to enrich client service and patient care.

Tom’s involved in an innovative new company working to support entrepreneurship in veterinary medicine at a time when large corporations are gobbling up our professionals. The company is called Curo Pet Care. If you’re a vet that’s interested, give them a call. He talks about this shift in the business at the beginning of the show.

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Moving Forward Financially with Jennifer Carole

I used to do a lot of writing for Financial Engines about saving, investing and retirement planning. I’ve always felt comfortable with money and I’m grateful, that for most of my life, I’ve done a good job earning it. When the virus hit, I knew I was screwed because I’ve been half-ass employed since May 2018 – yes, that aligns with when Joseph DeAngelo was caught (he’s the guy who killed my dad and stepmom).

Now here we are. Many of us unemployed or under-employed and for those with jobs, I’m sure you’re nervous about whether they’ll be here when we’re allowed back out of our homes. That’s a valid concern. With that in mind, let’s do a quick financial review so you can think things through before the panic really sets in (and if it does, be sure to listen to Heidi’s advice from last Friday).

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General Financial Health Check

Here are the top ten things you should think about right now based on the “Jen Carole School of Financial Management” which I’ve put together based on my experience and a little googling. I am NOT a financial adviser, lawyer or expert. There are lots of real experts out there providing advice so please do your homework before you make any big changes.

1. Take this money personality quiz. Yeah, I created this and it’s a good way to have a money discussion with your money partner. The point is, once you identify your money styles, you can have productive discussions about what matters most to you and your partner.

2. Focus on housing. You need this now and you’ll need it later. There are ways to get help if you’re struggling with your rent or mortgage. We also may need to consider renting rooms, sheltering the elderly, doing more to assist one another to get through these times. If you need income, this might be one of the kindest options out there.

3. Evaluate your debt. This matters, no matter what. Some debt you can let ride, other debt is very important because making those payments will ensure you have health insurance or a place to live (long term, right now rent waivers, where they exist, are not for very long). Where you can, negotiate lower payments. I believe making your mortgage payment is vital because this can tank your credit rating very fast. So can department store credit cards. But not paying off a medical bill typically doesn’t have the same impact on your credit score.

4. Do your taxes. Now. The CARES Act payments are based on your 2019 taxes. If they aren’t done yet, it reverts to 2018. If you want to get that money, you must get those taxes done. Tax deadlines have been extended, but remember, tax people get sick too, so expect delays.

5. Determine your approach to cash. In my humble opinion, you want to hang on the cash right now, so where you choose to spend it needs to be thoughtful and strategic. Some people might want to tap cash from their retirement savings (more on that below). If you choose to use that to pay off debt, really think about it.

6. Evaluate subscriptions, memberships. It’s so easy these days to sign-up for a low, monthly fee only to find we forget how many low, monthly fees we’ve signed up for. My credit card lets me look at recurring fees in a single view. You can also do it old school. Go through the list, trim what makes sense. Also, don’t be afraid to call your clubs, gyms, whatever, and see if you can suspend payments for the near term.

7. Continue to contribute to your retirement. This is especially important if your company matches. As long as they are giving you free money, take it. Take as much as you can. While the window for how much we can withdraw from our retirement is limited (see below), the value of free money can’t be ignored. Grab it.

8. Leave your investments alone. I am not an investment advisor, I’ve just been in the market forever and lost my shirt in 2008. But it came back. The advice from financial planners is if you can afford to, let it ride.

9. Watch the US economy. I spend a little time watching the economy and reading assessments of the future, and I have one here from Todd Tucker at the Roosevelt Institute. This is a liberal-leaning think tank – that’s why I find this interesting. I suspect we will see jobs rise in this sector and so we should focus on what will happen for both jobs and investments.

10. Buy with intention. Look at the supply chain (where did it come from, who is employed, does it require extensive shipping) and consider the need (is it plastic, is it just a long walk to the trashcan, is it necessary to sustain you or the ones you love). When choosing vendors, consider what you can buy locally so you keep your community thriving during these strange times.

Now about that 401(k)

The following content is based on a blog from a gentleman I used to work with at Financial Engines. Jeff Schulte is now CEO at ForUsAll, a company focused on making retirement plans cheaper, easier to run, and better at helping business owners and their employees retire comfortably. He wrote the piece for Plan Administrators (the people who run 401Ks). I’ve adapted it for consumers like you and me!

To help with the wide-ranging economic impacts of the Coronavirus, Congress has passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, commonly called the CARES Act. The Act has new rules that give us more flexibility to use our 401(k)s to help us deal with financial hardships.

Who is eligible for the new options?

There are two ways to qualify: those who have been diagnosed (or a spouse or dependent) with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OR those who’ve experienced adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off or having work hours reduced; those unable to work due to lack of child care; and the closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to the virus. And then, of course, other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

The way I read this, there’s a lot of wiggle room and if you’re prepared to fight, you might have a good chance of gettimg what you need.

What are the new options?

The CARES Act gives us two new ways we can use our 401(k) to deal with the impacts of the Coronavirus.

Distribution. Those eligible (see above) can take a distribution by the end of year of up to $100,000, or their full retirement plan balance, whichever is less. The usual 10% penalty is waived and taxes (on the money you’ve withdrawn) will be spread across three years. Remember, these were pre-tax dollars you put away while working, so taxes are due. The idea was based on the notion that when you’re older, your tax rate will be lower. Also, you can redeposit the funds back into the plan (or a related retirement account) over the next three years and in doing so avoid paying taxes or receive a tax refund for the taxes already paid.

Loan. The CARES Act doubles your current retirement plan loan limits to the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of your vested account balance in the plan. It defers payments for the first year and the loan must be taken within the next 180 days. If you already have a loan, if you’re eligible, you can delay those loan payments until January 2021 but interest will continue to accrue.

Required Minimum Distribution Holiday. If you are taking distributions but might be interesting in stopping them right now in an attempt to wait for the market to come back and reclaim your losses, you might be eligible to stop those disbursements for the rest of 2020.

In all cases, you need to work with your Plan Administrator (the people who manage your 401(k)) or your IRA manager (the CARES Act seems to include these as well) to get the explicit details.

Thanks Jeff for the summary. Access to this cash could be a lifesaver.

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Managing Anxiety in Strange Times with Heidi Koronkowski

Heidi Koronkowski completed her Behavioral Coach Training at Anxiety Treatment Services with Dr. Dufford, Clinical Psychologist and Mary Szeles, Behavioral Coach. She also draws on her personal experience in overcoming severe panic and agoraphobia. Her goal is to provide context-sensitive coaching aimed at helping people live symptom-free.

Heidi suffered with anxiety, panic and phobias for over 15 years. After finding limited success through talk therapy and medication, she had a severe relapse and realized she needed to find a different kind of help. Dr. Dufford’s Anxiety Treatment Services relies on cognitive-behavioral tools and techniques that change the thought processes that fuel the anxiety. As a result, she has truly found freedom from anxiety, panic and agoraphobia.

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Tips for reducing anxiety

Today, on the show, Heidi shared a list of what you can do to help lower your anxiety. Here are her tips:

Set limits on information.
Limit how much you watch or read about the virus. In fact, moderate your intake of news in general including politics, the economy and all the information being shared right now. Try to consume it no more than one or two times a day. By constantly feeding your brain information about these scary events that are generally not in our control, your reinforcing a fight or flight response. To stay mentally healthy, we need to normalize our lives as much as we can.

Engage in the here and now.
Meditation lowers anxiety – here’s a great app that has guided mediations at no cost. Going out into nature works like meditation. If you can’t leave the house open a window. Hear the sounds, smell the air. Use all five of your senses. Go barefoot and let your feet feel the ground. Smell the flowers. Touch the leaves.

Be grateful.
Hopefully you can shelter safely. Now appreciate that. In fact, consider how many times you’ve said you wish you had a day at home. Take time to do projects or nap or watch a movie. Spend time with family.

Get creative.
Knitting, crocheting, painting, writing, baking are all great for helping anxiety. The key is to do something that feels productive and is tactile – using your hands and your body to create something engages your brain in healthy ways.

Have sex.
Sex releases dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, which can boost your mood. There are six positions that are linked to relieving anxiety. Just remember, you have to decide if you want to end up with a baby in nine months – so be careful!

Tap your higher power.
Spirituality, however you define that, has been shown to reduce anxiety. It delivers hope, you’re taking positive action and you’re connecting to others energetically.

Finally, remember to connect with others. Check on your friends and family. Listen to them talk to make sure they’re doing okay.

Know that you are not alone. We are all in this together.

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Identifying Core Emotions with Melissa Santangelo

Today’s guest, Melissa Santangelo, The Groovy Goddess, is the founder of a full service affordable holistic fitness, wellness and skin care center, Spa Santangelo. Located in a serene spot among the redwoods of Felton, CA, with flowering gardens and her mosaic art, she created her dream by opening the first of its kind spa in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in 2003.

Certified in Yoga, Pilates, massage and energy work, Melissa is an expert in the field of tender loving care (TLC), detoxification, weight loss and stress reduction. She has led classes, workshops and written many articles on the subject of holistic care. She talked with us about how to identify our core emotions and using that awareness to shift from the blues to productive happiness.

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During the show, Melissa refers to a few interesting concepts on the show and I wanted to provide some images and links to help you understand more about the topics.

Follow her on Facebook. Her Chakra Dance information is here. And her website: SpaSantangelo.


She talked about moving from low vibration to higher vibration. You can learn more about that from the work of Dr. David Hawkins. These two images gives us two ways to conceptualize it.

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Wheel of Emotion

Then Melissa explained the Wheel of Emotion. This tool is amazing and could be a good way to draw out someone who is having a hard time expressing themselves. I found this article to share because I think looking at it through a writer’s eyes is interesting.

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The Chakras

And finally, we had an interesting discussion about the chakras and if you haven’t traveled this crunchy path (that’s what we call it out here in The Land of Fruits and Nuts), please take a look. It’s an interesting way to explore grounding and spirituality. This article does a great job of explaining.

Copyright Integrative Yoga Therapy
Oil Pulling

Finally, Melissa talked about a technique she uses, called oil pulling. If you’re looking at this sideways, here’s an article from WebMD talking about its value. Here’s her video with more information.

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The Mind Body Connection with Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson spent more than four years as a personal trainer in San Jose. He loves his career helping his clients become fit and confident. Ron believes our bodies are such an essential part of our well-being, our personas, and how we are seen in the world – he understands the mind body connection. He realized working on his own body, that real transformation was possible.

Ron believes to experience equanimity and well-being, it takes more than just changing one’s physical strength. It is also takes understanding of how we feel within ourselves. This awareness has led Ron to expand his life’s work and integrate life coaching with personal training. He is determined to help his clients live a more well-rounded life.

Update: If you look closely at Ron’s podcast, you’ll find an interesting one with me! I spoke with Ron and Gloria on Life’s a Shuffle about insecurity and confidence. It was an amazing discussion.

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Managing Negative Energy to Stay Healthy with Jennifer Carole

This is about you and how you can manage your energy. It sounds super woo-woo, but it’s not intended to. It’s intended to help you make conscious decisions about the way you feel and how you choose to take in information and manage it. As an energy coach, typically if I was coaching, I would be talking to you about what it is that you’re dealing with right now. It’s very different from therapy, coaching is more action oriented.

I coached someone this morning about when it might be a good time for them to go visit their parents in light of the virus. That’s something a lot of people are struggling with. What are the conditions that would be optimum for visiting your parents? That’s just an example – we would go through all the issues, roadblocks, feelings and you would decide on a plan that works best for you. That’s how coaching works.

But today, I want to talk to you about energy.

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The goal of energy awareness is increased consciousness.

Many of you have already said, oh, my gosh, there she goes. But the thing is, it’s really important. Consciousness just means you’re mindful and you are aware of the decisions you’re making at any point in time. If you have energy awareness as well, you’re able to then decide how you want to react: negatively or positively. You can manage how you feel about things.

I had a friend last week who made a mistake at work and when I talked to her, she was beating herself up over this mistake. Finally I said, “You just need to accept the mistake. It happened. The world isn’t going to end. You’re not a bad person. You didn’t intend to make that mistake. But beating yourself up is just dragging you down. There is no point to sit in that kind of muck right now.”

Embrace the mistake. Own it and move on.

That’s the idea of being mindful, know what’s going on in your head. Being aware of your energy allows you to shift it so that you will do better and feel better. Imagine the power of that kind of self-awareness. It will make a huge difference in the days to come. It also can make a huge difference on the people that you know and love.

The Butterfly Effect

This physics concept broadly says what happens in one place can affect something somewhere else. The real concept is more complicated. For our purposes, the notion is that what you take has an effect on others – case in point, social distancing. We stay home, we flatten the curve, more people survive. This works the same with energy.

When you make that phone call, face time, whatever it is to check on the people you love. That energy matters. That’s a connection. You can shift the energy of somebody who’s feeling lonely or down. You could shift their energy to being more positive and having a more positive outlook. It sounds trite and I don’t mean to sound trite. But what I’m saying is what you put out there can affect other people. That’s the most important part here.

If you are aware of your energy and you’re paying attention to it and being mindful, managing your energy can deliver a sense of well-being. This is so important in managing your body’s response to stress, your body’s response to sickness and being isolated.

Two kinds of energy – catabolic and anabolic.

Catabolic energy is typically unproductive and anabolic energy is typically productive. They work together in flux. They move through us throughout the day. And sometimes the unproductive energy really does have a productive purpose.

Imagine being at the bottom of a cave, at the bottom of a hole. All you can see is the light at the top and the walls surrounding you that are nearly impossible to scale. In fact, it feels impossible. You might feel helpless. You might feel like a victim; like there’s just no way out of this deep, deep hole. That is how catabolic energy feels. You can also experience it as anger or rage or the need to fight.

If you do feel the fight, it’s the bad kind of fight; a win lose kind of fight like you want to kill them or you want to get even. They’re going to pay. Those are the kind of thought you might have. These are the kind of thoughts you have if you’re exhibiting really catabolic energy. And it’s the kind of energy you’re much more likely to have in a stressful situation. Like if your sheltering from a virus that we don’t know when will end.

The idea of being cut off from the people we care about, being cut off from our patterns and behaviors; from shopping and eating the kind of foods that we love, that can really create some catabolic energy. You’re at the bottom of a deep, deep pit. The bad news is, if you’re at the bottom of the pit, it’s really hard to know what your options are because it feels like your choices are limited.

Now imagine you climbed out of that hole and you’re up on top.

Now you can see the possibilities. You can tell what the weather is going to be because you just don’t see sky but you see the horizon, in all directions. You can see where other people are that could help you if you lost. You would know where to get help. As you can see, you’ve gotten yourself out of that unproductive energy. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a really powerful one because not only does this help you, but this metaphor can help you empathize when you want to help others.

If you can imagine and have the empathy to understand somebody in a catabolic state; stuck in a pit. Imagine your ability to empathize and to provide productive support knowing that they can’t see the possibilities and you rattling them off is not helpful. By the way, just being there with them in that place of being stuck is ok for right now. What you’ll eventually want to do is move them to where they start to fight and then ideally move them to anabolic energy. But you can’t just command them to be there with you.

Anabolic energy is the productive kind of energy.

If you can imagine, there’s this crossover point where you go from wanting to fight someone to letting go of the fight and moving to a place of almost productive complacency. It’s a kind of anabolic energy that we use a lot to cope in life. It’s the energy that allows you to deal with going to the store and getting the kids to school or attending another meeting at work.

You don’t love it, but you don’t hate it. You get it. It’s important. It’s the thing you’re supposed to be doing. It’s a complacent level of energy that is still productive. You might get down a little and dip into catabolic energy, but typically, you can use it to bounce back up. This is the go-along-to-get-along kind of energy. In coaching, this is the first of four levels of anabolic energy.

As you move up the energy ladder, you move from calm to inspired.

The higher you go, the more you are able to detach from judgment, detach from the here and now and start thinking about what is possible. Now be warned, if you’re really high in your energy and you talk to somebody who’s really low and catabolic, they might hurt you. That’s not a good way to share your energy. Instead, calibrate your energy to meet other people where they are and then work together to lift out.

Think about your anabolic energy. Think about the things that happen when you’re in the flow, when you feel really good, when you feel helpful. Help being helpful is very anabolic. Being willing to brainstorm and think of new ideas is very anabolic. Being able to detach from the here and now and think about “what if”, is incredibly anabolic. These are the kind of things that will motivate you and inspire you.

Even if we’re stuck at home or our world is somewhat limited, ideally, with anabolic energy, the possibilities are endless. And that’s basically the highest level of anabolic energy. It means you’re able to come into the situation, whatever it might be. Let go of all the parameters or rules, judgments, all the things that typically constrain how we think about something.

Let go of those things and just think, what if.

This is a common coaching practice where we listen to our clients talk and they have all the rules about why something can happen. My partner is not interested. My kids don’t want to play or the car is not working. We don’t have the money. Those are all constraints that can limit your ideas. In coaching, we work with you to let go of those constraints.

And that’s what I’m suggesting here. Let go of all the constraints and all your limiting beliefs. Think about what might be the perfect situation or what you could have if you could have everything you wanted? What would that require? Some of these constraints that you’re currently saddling yourself with may fall away.

I coach the other person this morning was talking about safe ways to get out of the house with the kids. OK, now is not the time to get out of the house. And yet maybe there’s still a way – maybe a car trip. You’d have to pack your food, ok. That way you don’t have any contamination vectors. You’re going to tell the kids the rules are you’re not getting the car. But you could go see some things you haven’t seen before, especially with fewer people. The trick here is to let go of some of the constraints – like don’t leave your home, don’t spread the virus. Oh, and please don’t get in a car accident. But new ideas come when you let go of the rules so you can find a way to meet the need that you may not have thought of before.

That’s the idea of anabolic energy. And that’s why it delivers endless possibilities as long as you’re willing to let go of rules that are holding you back. Or more importantly, the beliefs that you have that are holding you back. This is a big win for me because I feel like the power of energy coaching is helping you have the skills to help others. And I’ve talked about this on my other podcast before. There’s a great example I us and I made a video about it! Here it is.

What’s your idea or tell me more works.

By asking and listening, you just shifted the energy. You didn’t go catabolic, which was maybe your gut reaction at first to resist. And you’ve uncovered more information that’s going to make you both happier.

The outcome to any struggle isn’t limited to one.

We tend to limit ourselves right up front. Instead, let your thoughts go. Catabolic energy can be very productive that way, much like that wave in an ocean that tumbles and tumbles. Sometimes you’re on top. Sometimes you’re down below. Sometimes you’re in the green room when you get to just surf your way to heaven. Just know that energy moves all the time. But the more you are mindful and can be aware of how you’re feeling or how someone else is feeling, the more effective you’ll be at having more life satisfaction – for you and those you care about.

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