December 2015

We recently lost a very beautiful woman, my grandmother, Florence Katz.  She lived a long, full life and recently passed away after 100 years of truly living life to the fullest.  She was the most loving, generous and kindest person I have ever met.  At her memorial service, my brother David beautifully summed up our thoughts about a truly incredible woman that I wanted to share below.  We were fortunate to be with her during her final days.  She truly embodied the meaning of being present, being kind, being optimistic even when facing great hardships, and living life to its fullest.  (After this was posted, a beautiful tribute to my grandmother was published in the Herald Tribune, see More Than 52 Million Minutes, and She Made Them All Count)

My Grandma.  How does one summarize the life and meaning of a person.  One does not.  I can only give you a feeling, a glimpse into the life of Florence Katz by telling you what she has meant to me and my family.  I have written several speeches throughout the years.  Some speeches were challenging, others were not so hard. With a subject as beautiful and colorful as Grandma Katz, this one pretty much writes itself.

The last few days of her life were heartbreaking. But as so much was in her life, there was beauty everywhere, every minute. She was so frail, so tiny.  She could hardly breath.  We saw her like this so many times before.  She always seemed to defy the odds and bounce back.  We could not help imagining her bouncing back again.  She seemed to realize that this was the end before we could.  Without her contacts or glasses, she recognized everyone around her. With every stroke of her hand, with every kiss on her cheek, she simply said “thank you”.  She told us how much she loved us and how proud she was of us.  She would be our glowing, proud grandmother with every last breath she had. She said her goodbyes, she told us to remember how wonderful her husband was.    When she was somewhere between life and death, she called out to him, to her son, Nathan, and to her mother.  It was somehow a relief to believe she would soon be with them.  She held our hands, seeming to comfort us as much as we were trying to comfort her.  She heard Karen’s piano playing from the other room and a smile formed on her face.  “Beautiful”, she said.  She was at peace, surrounded by family, listening to music just as she wanted and just as she deserved.

You all might know the famous line from Elton John’s song “Like A Candle in the Wind.”  Her flame seemed so delicate and easily blown out with a gentle breeze.   Well, anyone who knows Florence Katz knows she was more like a blow torch in a hurricane. Nothing was going to blow out her flame. And we all know that she came close too many times to count. I think that after she lost her sight and her ability to go out with friends and family, she was ready to leave, and, as usual, on her own terms.  She was going to leave this world from the peaceful quiet of her sunroom surrounded by family while listening to her granddaughter playing the piano from the other room. 

We were privileged to be able to laugh with grandma even as she was fading from us in her sun room at the Sarasota Bay Club.  We told her we loved her.  She told us to take her piano.  We told her how special she was.  She ask who is going to take the piano. We told her we would miss her.  She made us promise again that someone would take her piano. We laughed. Through our tears, we laughed and grandma smiled. She knew that in life, no matter how great the sorrow, there was always room for laughter.  

Look around and you will see the great joy and love she brought to the world.  She touched everyone she knew in deep and profound ways.  People look for the meaning of life as soon as they can ask the question. People climb to the peaks of mountains, meet with the Buddhist monks in the east.  We read, we pray, we fast.  If you have looked into the eyes of Florence Katz and spent any amount of time with her, you have learned the meaning of life: To live, to love, to laugh, to cry, to play music, to listen with your eyes closed, to conduct an entire orchestra.  Or, to teach your great grandchild to create art in your kitchen, one tiny shell at a time.  She taught us the meaning of life whether we knew it or not. 

As my sisters and I grew bigger, my dear grandma seemed to be shrinking.  No matter how small grandma got, she still seemed larger than life.  No matter how softly she spoke, her words were loud and clear.  How could someone so small carry so much weight. How could someone so tiny bear so much pain. How could someone so petite leave such big footprints.  We have learned and loved so much from you.  “Take care of each other.”  “Family comes first.”  “Always live each day as if it were your last.”

           – David Vigder, December 30, 2015

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Weekly Wisdom #50

by cheryl on December 31, 2015

in Weekly Wisdom

“Life does not come wrapped in a pretty bow, but it is a gift.”  – Florence W. Katz


Top 10 Tips for a Happy 2016

Top 10 Tips for a Happy 2016

by cheryl on December 27, 2015

in Healthy Living

(1) Be Present.    Be Exactly Where You Are.  We spend much of our time with our minds somewhere else.  Recognize when you are ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.  Anchor yourself in the now.  You can do this by simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes or on your body. You may start to realize that where you are is exactly where you should be, which is actually a very pleasant and peaceful place to be!


(2)  Accept the Uncertainty of Life.   Much of our stress and anxiety comes from trying to control our lives and our future.  However, we cannot change the often unpredictable path that our lives take.  The only thing we can do is accept it fully and recognize that no matter how hard we try to control it, life just happens.  Once we accept the uncertainty of life, we can start to get unstuck from the “if only ‘s” or the waiting game or the endless attempts to micromanage what we cannot control.   Instead of fighting against what is, or wishing things were different, or making our happiness dependent upon someone or something, we can lean into what is, learn from it, accept it, embrace it and venture onward.


(3)  Believe in Yourself.  The number one stumbling block we face is self-doubt and a lack of confidence in our own abilities.  Everyone has a wealth of inner strengths, but we must first recognize them in ourselves before we can share them with others. Take a little time at the start of this New Year and simply recognize that you already have all that you will ever need to succeed, you just have to believe it.


(4) Be Kind to Yourself.  You as much as anyone else, deserve your own kindness.  Embrace and love your perfectly imperfect self.


(5) Be Kind to Others.   We never really know what is going on in other people’s lives.  The best we can do is give others the benefit of the doubt and offer them kindness.  
We are all doing the best that we can.  One quote that I think of often is, “Be kind to unkind people. They need it the most.” Or, as the Dalai Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”


(6) Take Care of Yourself.   Your health and wellbeing is most important. Don’t put yourself at the end of a long list of people to take care of and of  things to do. If you don’t take care of yourself,  you cannot take care of others.  So, always put your own oxygen mask on first, and then you will be all set to help others with theirs.


(7) Breathe Deeply.   Nothing works better to relax your mind and your body, and ground you in the present moment, than a long, slow, deep breath.  Think about the fact that your body’s natural instinct when you are overwhelmed or stressed is to sigh. That happens for a reason. It helps you slow down your body and your mind so you can reset and move forward with a greater sense of calm and thoughtfulness. When feeling stressed or anxious, try taking a deep inhale through your nose for 5 counts, then sigh deeply and slowly, loudly exhaling for a count of 8.  Repeat this for three minutes and notice both your body and your mind slowing down and relaxing.


(8) Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously.   Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are doing, or in the decisions we are making, that we lose perspective of how unimportant what we are currently dealing with actually is in the broader scheme of life. We get so buried in the minutia of daily life, that it helps to take a giant step back and look at the bigger picture, evaluate what is really important and what our goals actually are.  Another favorite quote, “Don’t take yourself  too seriously.  No one else does.”


(9) Let Go.   Get rid of that excess baggage. Regret, anger, resentment, the “if only’s” of life, or the “I will be happy when. . .,“ these are heavy and exhausting to carry around.     Start your New Year out a lot lighter and let those go. Forgive yourself, forgive others, live in the now, accept what is, and you will greatly lighten your load in 2016.


(10) Laugh Often!   Nothing quite compares to getting caught in deep, uncontrollable laughter, the kind where you try to stop laughing but you just can’t, the kind that emanates from deep in your belly then takes over your entire body and finally seeps out through streams of tears gently moistening your face.  They say that laughter is the best medicine, and this is true in fact.  Researchers have proven that laughter can lower stress, improve blood flow and keep your heart healthy.  So, try to find more opportunities to laugh in 2016.  That’s a prescription for happiness in the year to come.


Teenagers today deal with many stresses and competing demands on their time and attention. They have less and less time to simply be kids, to learn and to grow at their own pace and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. This can be overwhelming and stressful. This course is designed to help your teen learn life-long tools to cope with the demands of a very busy life. This course, specifically adapted for teenagers, is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s highly successful Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program that has helped thousands of adults lower their levels of stress and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Teaching Teens Not Only To Cope, But To Thrive!

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that mindfulness training can be instrumental in reducing stress and its negative effects on the body. This workshop is a well-developed, research-based curriculum pulling from the latest in the fields of mindfulness, neuroscience and positive psychology. Each week we will explore practical tools, in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, that will help teens relax, navigate the stresses of school and social pressures, as well as cultivate a greater sense of happiness, inner resilience and optimism. Or goal is to help teens not only cope with the unavoidable stresses of life, but to thrive.

Classes will meet on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm for 5 weeks.


Class Dates: January 13, 20, 27, February 3, 10.
Investment: $495 (includes all class material)*

To register: Registration for this class is now closed.  Please contact to be put on a waitlist or for future class information.  


For more on the Benefits of Mindfulnessclick here.
About the Instructor:

Cheryl Vigder Brause is co-founder of 2bpresent, an organization dedicated to helping people live with greater awareness, less stress and more joy. Cheryl has extensive experience teaching mindfulness meditation to adults, teens and children in businesses, organizations and schools. She frequently speaks to groups about the practice of mindfulness meditation and it’s health benefits, teaching practical tools that can be used everyday to help people thrive. Cheryl has studied meditation and mindfulness under the guidance of many leaders in the field. She integrates the latest research in mindfulness, neuroscience and positive psychology in her teachings to underscore and explain the psychological, neurological and physiological benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices. She is certified in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teens, and the Stressed Teens (MBSR-T) Program. She has completed her Level I and Level II Meditation Teacher Training from Om Yoga. She is trained in many mindfulness-based curricula, including Learning to BREATHE – a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents and Mindful Schools. She has also trained in Google’s Search Inside Yourself – Mindfulness-Based Leadership program.

* 2bpresent is committed to providing services to everyone in our community. If you are interested in taking this course and need financial assistance, we would be happy to work with you. Please contact us at cheryl@ for more information.


Weekly Wisdom #49

by cheryl on December 22, 2015

in Uncategorized, Weekly Wisdom

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