"I was on the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine for 15 years, and I kept seeing my patients come in, so out of balance it made me sick,” says Mary LoVerde, the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Women’s Wellness Day, Saturday, November 14, at Educational Testing Service in Princeton, presented by the Hamilton Township-based non-profit Heart to Hearts. “And I was married with three kids, working full time. People were always trying to tell me how to balance my own life. I became fascinated with the subject and spent about eight years researching how people keep their lives in balance.”
The Colorado-based LoVerde is president of the Life Balance, Inc. website, where she has an online weekly video show (www.thewinonline.com), and travels the globe speaking to groups. She is the author of three books including “I Used to Have a Handle on Life But It Broke.” She has appeared on the television shows “Oprah,” ABC News, and “20/20.” The daylong Women’s Wellness Day event will also include seminars, health-related talks, healthy food, chair massages, Reiki and meditation instruction, and exhibits.
What LoVerde found was that many women are obsessed with control and organization because they think it will allow them to manage their complicated lives. She urges women to let go of that urge because it doesn’t work. “The opposite of control is not chaos, but contentment. And the key to that contentment is letting go, maintaining energy, and connecting,” she says. “I discovered that feeling good is what it’s all about. My passion today is coming up with creative ways to stay connected to what’s really important. And that will keep our lives in balance.”
LoVerde’s earlier titles are “Stop Screaming at the Microwave!” and “Touching Tomorrow.” “I Used to Have a Handle on Life But it Broke” is laced with humor. Here she describes her own struggles with procrastination in writing the book:
“I could see the stall tactics begin. I watered plants. I sorted mail. I felt a deep need to disinfect the kitchen counters. So I’d walk over to the computer and turn it on. After all, I would need a working computer. Then I’d think about calling my cousin, fixing my chipped nail, and thawing something for dinner. I’d become overwhelmed with an intense desire to finally finish my 15-year-old son’s baby album.”
Like the people she researches, LoVerde never felt she was doing enough. “One issue I’ve seen is that we don’t give ourselves credit for all the good we do, because our definition is ‘I have to have it all done.’ And that isn’t going to happen. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it.” Technology has made life simpler in some ways, more complicated in others. “It gives us too much to do,” LoVerde says. “Sometimes we wear this badge of honor: I am under a burden only a superwoman can handle. And that just doesn’t work.”
With worry about the economy creating more stress than usual, the annual Women’s Wellness Day is more relevant than ever, says Terry Tucker, who founded the conference 12 years ago with a group of menopausal women who were patients in the office where she worked as an ob-gyn nurse. Previous wellness days have focused on a particular disease such as diabetes or cancer, but this year’s topic is about finding contentment through letting go of the urge to control.
“A lot of people are depressed, and we need something that will lift our spirits,” says Tucker. “Mary LoVerde is a motivational speaker and she has been wonderful to work with. She’s coming from Colorado for this. She fits right in with what we do by talking about life as a balancing act.”
Tucker knows all about piling too much on the proverbial plate. She works full time as a nurse manager for Pennington Medical Group, runs Heart to Hearts, and takes care of her elderly mother. Breathing exercises and meditation have helped her maintain her own sense of balance. Tucker grew up in Mercer County; one of four children. Her father owned Lawrenceville Home Improvement, and her mother was a homemaker.
It was in her previous nursing job that Tucker began researching alternative medicine. Too many women were coming into the medical office complaining about symptoms of menopause, and the only option available to them was hormone replacement. Impressed with what her research turned up, Tucker decided to launch a support group to help her patients get educated about alternatives.
“It started with 10 ladies in the doctor’s office, and it really took off,” she says. “After the first year we had over 150 people involved. The need was there. I still wanted to have my full-time job, and I wondered, how could I do this? So I started to develop it not just into a menopause group, but a wellness organization. We became a non-profit in 1999 and started offering programs, called Circle of Health, all over New Jersey.”
Tucker developed a portfolio tailored to women for tracking their health. Today, the organization has about 450 on its mailing list, and reaches several thousand people a year with programs about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, nutrition, and other topics, she says. “It’s all word of mouth. We don’t have a lot of money to advertise. But people talk to each other. It’s more of a really personal approach that I have, not just listening to a lecture, but also I do follow up.”
Tucker’s Heart to Hearts work is strictly volunteer. The organization relies on fundraising activities, donations, class fees, and the $25-$35 annual membership fees to deliver its educational programs and classes. Most events are held at its Wellness Center in Hamilton Township; others are off-site. Programs on nutrition, fitness, and stress management are often taken to other locations.
Women tend to neglect their own health, Tucker has noticed over the years. “I would listen to them coming into our office, talking about taking care of their kids, their parents. But what did they do for themselves? There was no time,” she says. “We tend to put ourselves last. And when we do have a problem, it is usually major because we neglect the little signs. I try to talk to them about listening to their bodies, keeping up with their screenings. I keep really close tabs on them. I can’t even tell you how many women we picked up with early cancer and diabetes. You have to be able to take care of you before you can take care of anybody else.”
Though keynote speaker LoVerde has left her hospital and teaching positions to focus on writing, speaking, and running Life Balance Inc., she feels more connected to her cause than ever. “People ask me how long I’ve been out of nursing,” she says. “I tell them I’m not out of nursing. This is well-being at its finest point. You can take these principles and apply them to each and every part of your life.”
Women’s Wellness Day, ETS, Carter and Rosedale roads, Saturday, November 14, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Daylong wellness event with workshops, seminars, chair massages, Reiki demonstrations, and healthy food. Keynote speaker is Mary LoVerde, president of Life Balance Inc. Presented by Heart to Hearts. $45 members and seniors 60+; $55 for the general public. No drop-ins will be admitted. Register by phone no later than Friday, November 13, at noon. 609-689-3131 or www.heartttohearts.org.