Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taking Time Off

The holiday season is upon us. I find my days getting busier and busier as the time of gift giving and family visits approach at lightening speed!

I'm going to take a little time off from blogging to devote my time to the activities of the season.

I'll be back soon...

Happy Holidays to all!

Contagious Giving

I wanted to pass along this great article on how generosity can be contagious. This is what the holidays are all about... or should be anyway!

Mystery Pair at Diner Spark Cascade of Giving

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Comic Relief

I wanted to share this letter to Santa that I wrote when I was 8 years old. It proves that my opinionated and 'verbal' courage started very early in life. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009


I'm working on a project to scan a lot of old family photos and preserve them digitally. I'm having a ball reliving my childhood, exploring the youth of my mother and father, and connecting to the energy of all my ancestors. It's a great project to facilitate self discovery!

I came across a delightful picture of my grandmother, for whom I was named. Her name was Nola Joy. Mine is Nola Gay.

Check out these pictures! My grandma was photographed around 1905. My photo was taken over 60 years later.

What struck me most about the photos, is that we are sitting in the same position!

Nola Joy

Nola Gay

It's not the most lady-like of poses! It's still my favorite position to sit in to this day. It just feels 'right.'

To see her sitting that way, so long ago, showed me that many of my traits come from my lineage. I've had countless examples of it in the past... but this visual reminder was comforting. I'm certain I never saw my grandmother sit this way! As a girl growing up, I was corrected for sitting this way on more than one occasion. Yet... she did it... and I do it.

My family is full of independent, strong women. I'm proud to take my place in this long line of amazing women. Seeing my grandma's photo, and comparing it to my own, helps me claim it even more!

Celebrate the positive and unique traits that you have received from your ancestors and those who raised and influenced you!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What it Takes to Appreciate

Our weather in the Seattle area is very cold at present. I mean REALLY cold!

A couple weeks ago, I needed to drop my car off for service. It was a bright, sunny day, so I decided to walk about 2 miles to meet a friend for lunch. Although it was a gloriously beautiful day, it was cold and windy.

My walk proved to be rather uncomfortable, from a temperature related perspective! My ears and nose were extremely cold by the time I arrived at my destination.

I'll tell you what though - walking in to that warm restaurant felt wonderful! I go to that restaurant pretty frequently, but until that day, I never appreciated the warmth that greeted me when I walked through the door.

Nothing like being freezing cold to help you appreciate being in a warm place.

Sometimes I think that's why we have some of the extremes in life. We can't really appreciate being relaxed, unless we experience times of stress. We can't fully enjoy being loved if we haven't also spent some time feeling alone and lonely. The list could go on and on. For any pleasant experience in life, there is an equivalent negative. Without experiencing each side of the coin, we wouldn't know just how fortunate we are when the good experience appears.

I'm enjoying the cold weather, even though it's bringing me some strange problems, like a frozen water valve, delays in getting my gutters and windows cleaned, and the inevitably higher heating bills.

When I stand over my heat vent, or in front of my fireplace and bask in the warmth, I'm thankful that I have a warm place to be! Many don't have that privilege.

Next time you're experiencing an extreme... remember that nothing lasts forever. Everything is impermanent. Life is change. The heat wave of today will eventually yield to a cold spell. The snow storm of today will eventually yield to a mellow, spring day. It's all part of life.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Life Happens

I watched a great movie last night, "Mr. Holland's Opus." There are many great lessons in that movie.

In the movie, Mr. Holland, a high school band teacher, sings and signs a song to his deaf son during a concert. He sings John Lennon's song, "Beautiful Boy."

There is a line in the song that is worth reflection, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I think at age 45, I'm finally beginning to understand what that means.

There are some days, when I feel I should be doing something more important with my time, or when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my 'to do list' and I just stop myself and say (often out loud), "Nola! THIS is your life! THIS IS IT! This is where you are meant to be right now. This is what you are supposed to be doing."

It helps with that restlessness and discontent that sometimes is present more often than it should be.

It really is true. For the most part, life is not grandiose. Surely some grand things happen to us in life, but for the most part, our lives are comprised of an endless stream of ordinary moments. Moments that can be lost to us if we spend all our time thinking we should be elsewhere.

This stream of moments however, weaves together into what can be a beautiful tapestry. All that is required is that we notice each moment and appreciate what it has to offer.

The good. The bad.
The bitter. The sweet.
The joyous. The sad.
The comforting. The painful.
The exciting. The boring.
The hot. The cold.
The exhilarating. The frustrating.
The peaceful. The angry.
The calm. The stormy.

Each moment has it's meaning, no matter how insignificant it might seem. They all matter. Each and every moment matters.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Kindness that Heals

Last year, when my home was burglarized, it was a really tough time for me. Dealing with the insurance, and my security concerns was a bit overwhelming. One of the first days after the burglary I went to a restaurant for lunch. It is a restaurant that I frequent. The waiter knew me as a regular, as did the manager.

I was feeling very vulnerable and a bit 'beat up.' I mentioned to my waiter that my home had been burglarized. He looked concerned and said he was very sorry.

I ordered my lunch. While I ate my lunch I worked on the insurance claim. It was a tough moment in my life's history.

The time came when my bill should arrive at the table. It hadn't come. Eventually, my waiter came by and said, "The manager wants to buy your lunch today. He's really sorry for what happened to you... and so am I."

I almost burst into tears. I did, in fact, get teary eyed. It touched my heart that two people I barely knew wanted to do something nice for me, simply because I'd experienced a hardship in my life.

It was such a simple act, yet for me, in the midst of a dark time, it lifted me. It made a difference that is hard for me to put into words.

It doesn't take much to make a difference in another person's life.

What simple act could you do today to lift some one's spirits? Go for it!

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm Fascinated by What is Left

Last night, I was watching a movie called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants II. One of the young women, who's mother committed suicide, is participating an archaeological dig on her summer break. She is having a bit of a struggle, and is befriended by the woman who is leading the dig. During a conversation one day about how to relate to one's past, the older woman tells Bridgette that she too has lost people... as well as her home, to a bloody and horrible war... and that it has fueled her passion for archeology, because she is "just fascinated by what is left."

I was touched by this line. Having traveled in the middle east so much, I have met many people who have lost more than you or I could ever imagine losing. Yet, they too, often have a passion and enthusiasm for the simple pleasures offered us by life.

Our 'oh so complex' lives sometimes overwhelm us and pull us away from what is important. We forget to enjoy what we do have, as we focus on all that we don't have. We have a tendency to focus on what is lost, rather than on what is left.

What a shift in perspective that offers us! We can focus on what is left, rather than what is gone. We can focus on what we have, rather than what we don't have. We can focus on what we have in front of us, rather than on what is behind us. We can focus on who is still with us, rather than those who are gone.

It offers us a totally new way of relating to what is... right in front of us.

Next time you think about the failed relationship, the betrayal, the abandonment, the loss, the struggle, the pain, the fear... try shifting to what's left.

See how it changes everything!

Friday, December 04, 2009


The other day, I walked 2 miles through town to meet a friend for lunch. I had dropped off my car for service. It was a gorgeous day, and I decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity in Seattle winter to walk in the sunshine.

It was a cold day, and I walked fast to keep warm. I was walking through an area with a lot of strip malls and development. Not the most attractive area to be taking a winter stroll.

As I walked along, I noticed a little stream flowing off to my left. It turned into a larger and larger flow of water. I came to a little bridge that crossed the stream. There, in the water, was a heron! Right there in the middle of the city! This bird was standing in the water, 10 feet from a 5 lane road, hunting for food. The sound of the cars whizzing by was undeniable. Yet, here was this wild creature... surviving with what it had to work with. I was impressed.

His or her habitat has been taken over by humans, yet this creature perseveres. It has adjusted to the changes, and lives on. Is it ideal... probably not. Is it comfortable... most definitely not. Yet... the creatures lives on.

We could take a lesson from this Heron. We can't control what happens around us. We can curl up and die, or we can adapt. I say... we adapt!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Ugly Marks are Gone!

Last spring, I went to a charity car wash and let a bunch of kid's wash my car to raise money for their sports team. I was a little nervous, because the hoard of kids descended on my car with a lot of sticks with cleaning rags/mops on them. The 'clanking' sound didn't soothe me, as they moved quickly and beat on my car... I worried. There were adults supervising them, and they didn't seem to be concerned. I assumed it was OK.

I was trying to be nice and support the kids.

When I got home later that day, I noticed that I had a lot of black scuff marks all over my car! I was... UPSET!

Today, many, many months later, I went to the body shop to have a little problem fixed. As an after thought, I asked him about the scuffs on my car. I asked if it had damaged the paint, or if it was possible to get them off. The guy said, "No problem" and walked to his workbench, put some liquid on a cloth and proceeded to go all around my car and remove all the scuff marks! It took all of 5 minutes.

I have agonized about those marks, and what it might take to remove them. I feared being told that I'd need to repaint the car. My $10 car wash would have increased in price by a orders of magnitude! Instead... it was a 'free fix' that took very few minutes. WOW!

How often do we blow our problems out of proportion? How often do we 'write stories' about how big our problems really are, when the aren't that big, after all? Often, I suspect.

Got any scary looking black marks in your life? Fearing that it will cost you an arm and a leg to fix them? Maybe you should get another opinion!!!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

We All Have It

As I grow older, I'm becoming more and more aware that we all truly believe we're 'different' and the truth is we are all remarkably similar!

At some level...

We all have more going for us than we believe we do.

We all have inner challenges, stresses and darkness that we think no one else has.

We all think that other people have it together, and we aren't like them.

We all fear that if people really knew us in all our weirdness, they would probably think twice about loving us or caring about us.

We all think no one has the same defects that we have.

We all think we are so different that no one could ever REALLY understand us.

Sound familiar?

I'm truly coming to the understanding that there is nothing new under the sun, we all have stuff inside us that we wish wasn't there and we don't believe other people deal with. We're wrong!

Everyone has 'stuff' inside them that is dark, difficult and causes us discomfort. It's part of the human condition.

As I'm coming more fully into acceptance of this idea, a funny thing is happening. I'm lightening up on myself!

That doesn't mean I don't want to improve and deal with what is mine to deal with. It just means that I am not so dang critical of myself all the time.

When we compare ourselves to the 'ideal' version of other people that we create in our heads, we can never measure up. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws and everyone has their demons to wrestle with.

If we all were more willing to acknowledge that fact, we'd all be better off!

When we compare ourselves to unrealistic, impossible ideals we can't measure up. When we constantly feel 'less than' we can act out in strange ways.

You're normal! I'm normal! We're all normal! Let's just live our lives and relax about it all!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Checking the Warning Light

Cars these days have lots of 'indicator lights' to alert you to problem conditions.

The fancier the car, the more indicator lights you will find.

On just about all cars, there is the ever ominous 'check engine' light. That one always strikes a little fear in the unhappy eye of the beholder.

There are indicators for a door left ajar, a seat belt left undone and any host of other 'error conditions.'

For quite some time I have had an indicator light coming on to warn me of a problem with one of my tires. It used to come on every few months. Now, it is coming on every few times I drive the car.

I have had it checked out before, when it was extremely infrequent. No authentic problem was uncovered. Recently I became more concerned because of how often it has been occurring.

I decided to take the time to get it checked out... just in case. It wasn't convenient and it probably wasn't necessary. I just wanted to be sure.

Remember the old saying, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" I believe in that saying.

What if I ignored the warning light and just assumed it was a false alarm? I could be right, but I could be wrong. The 'wrong' in this case could be devastating. I wasn't willing to take that risk.

Sometimes 'warnings' in our life turn out to be nothing, but it still worth 'checking them out...' THOROUGHLY before overriding them.

A lot of times the warnings are real and we can save ourselves a heap of trouble by heeding the warning and taking corrective action. The times when we have a 'false alarm' might be inconvenient, but they are a small price to pay for developing sound practices that will serve us well in the long run.

Got any flashing warning lights vying for your attention? Pay attention and check them out. Take action if you need to. If it's a false alarm, brush off the minor inconvenience of checking it out... and move on!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Facing It

I am amazed at the lengths that we humans go to, in searching for a way to not face the things within ourselves that need to be faced.

We all do it. All of us.

I truly believe life is about growing and evolving spiritually and psychologically. To me, that's the entire point of existence. Everything we do in this life, is an opportunity to grow, evolve and participate in the evolution of our collective consciousness. As we expand, the universe expands.

When we refuse to participate, we miss out on a golden opportunity.

We're all so afraid of facing our demons. We will do almost anything to avoid having to deal with the parts of ourselves that are rigid and resistant. For some reason it scares us, makes us uncomfortable, and many of us are simply unwilling to 'go there.'

We might have to change something. We might have to speak up. We might have to give up something that we are addictively dependent upon.

Yet, I believe that those areas we most fear dealing with, are the areas where there is the most to be gained from boldy stepping in to an engagement.

I've heard that certain types of armor only protect the front of the body, not the back. I have to believe that this is because we were created to FACE things head on and not to run away.

When we avoid and resist, we are running away. Ultimately, that isn't how we are made. It doesn't feel 'good' or 'right' to act that way.

Facing fear... facing danger... is not easy. It is, however, entirely possible.

The dark corners in us need to be looked at, embraced, and dealt with.

Turn and face whatever it is. Do it now. You won't believe how much better you will feel once you have done it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Blind Side

I just saw a movie today that is destined to be one of my all time favorites! It is a true story that will uplift and inspire even the most down trodden spirit.

It is the story of a strong willed southern woman who decides to make a difference in a homeless young man's life. It is... simply SWEET!

I'm not going to say more, because I don't want to spoil the movie.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

See the movie, and let it inspire you to do something kind for someone... anyone.

The world needs more people like Leigh Anne & Sean Tuohy, their family and their community. Wow.

Check out the Blind Side Trailer:

The Blind Side Trailer

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Love in a Jar of Pickled Herring

When I open my fridge and see it there, I smile. Each and every time I reach for it, a warm, cozy feeling washes over me.

Who would think that a jar of pickled herring could have such an affect?

You see, my dad used to pretty much always have a jar of pickled herring in his fridge. He always left a single toothpick stuck in a piece of fish in the jar, to use to extract the pieces that were to be eaten.

We had a ritual to eat that herring together. He'd open the jar, pick out a piece of fish with a toothpick and let me take it off the toothpick to eat. Then he'd get himself a piece. Just one piece. On a rare occasion we might eat two!

Such a simple thing. Yet it is a powerful positive memory for me.

I go out of my way to buy jars of pickled herring. I do like to eat it, but it's far more important to me to feel that sweet connection with my dad.

Never underestimate the simple things you do with your kids that will live with them forever. It doesn't take much to create a life long memory.

What's your jar of pickled herring? How can you share special moments with your kids, loved ones or friends that they will remember forever?

Make a memory today!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Lesson in the Bump

I believe that we get messages from life all the time. God, the Universe, our higher selves... whatever we want to call it - there is something more happening around us than meets the eye. Higher intelligence and wisdom is ever present and is involved in the direction of our days.

The messages that remind us of this come in various forms of experience.

Many years ago, I was rear ended as I sat waiting at a stop light. It's always a shock when you have a car accident. The impact... the jolt... the sort of sick feeling in your stomach - it's not something we experience every day!

I've been hit by other drivers a few times in my life. This time it was pretty minor. I was sitting still, waiting for the light and the other car wasn't moving very fast. It was a bump from behind. It did minor damage to my car. All, in all it was no big deal.

Except, that the person who hit me was someone I knew! She and I were volunteer counselors together at a mental health center in another town. Literally the only time I ever saw this woman was during our weekly staff meetings at the mental health center! Here we were in another town, an area where she and I had never connected before, and she hits me with her car!

What are the odds of something like that happening? Let's recount the facts:

* I was hit while driving in my car
* The person who hit me was someone I knew
* The context within which I knew this person was quite limited
* We were 10 miles away from the only place that she and I ever saw each other
* Not only was she in the same geographic region as me that day...
* but she HIT MY CAR with HERS!

Amazing! No one can tell me that it was 'random.' How many people are alive on this planet? Millions and millions is the answer! How many people drive around the areas I drive each day. Thousands and thousands of people drive in my region! How many accidents are there each day? How many times do the people know each other.

This woman and I shared some sort of connection. What the exact nature of that connection is... I wouldn't presume to try to explain! Yet, we shared one sort of life experience, and that particular day, we shared another type of life experience.

I have often wondered about the people who witnessed our behavior that day. How many times have you seen two people who've just had an accident hugging each other and laughing? We were stunned when we realized what had happened. We hugged each other and laughed at the strangeness of it all. Other people must have been a bit confused... and maybe amused. Perhaps we set a different example that day of what it could be like when someone makes a mistake, and hurts someone else in the process. It doesn't need to be adversarial and ugly. It can be a little bump in the road. You handle it... and move on.

I like to use these sorts of situations as reminders that life is not, in fact, completely random. There is something interesting going on behind the obvious, physical reality that we inhabit. It's a mystery... and we live smack dab in the middle of it! Enjoy it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wisdom Flows

I'm on an animal kick this week! This sweet story, to me, is yet another reminder of a wisdom operating in this universe that we humans understand very little of.

There is something wise and wonderful that orchestrates this life.

Check out this story of a sick sea turtle who swam to the place where he could get help.


Sick Sea Turtle Swims Right to Hospital Doorstep

Let the wisdom flow through you...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ludovico Einaudi - WOW!

A friend just turned me on to Ludovico Einaudi. Powerful, soothing and stirring music.

Give this a listen and be uplifted!

Great music is such a gift. Take a moment and think about the that music has enriched and enhanced your life!

Mixed Emotions

Today, I found out that a good friend of mine passed away on November 7th. She would have been 95 this coming Christmas Eve.

My friend Ethel

I started visiting Ethel over 13 years ago. I signed up with a wonderful organization, Friend to Friend, that matches volunteer 'visitors' with people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

I made a one year commitment to visit Ethel, and another woman, Lilly May. Lilly May passed away several years ago.

Ethel was in the early stages of macular degeneration, and the volunteer coordinator at her retirement home thought she could use a friend to help her adjust to her new limitations. Although Ethel had a wonderful loving family, the volunteer coordinator believed it might help to have a 'new' friend to help her with things she'd always done independently.

Ethel and I hit it off right away, and my one year commitment came and went, but our friendship lived on. I did my best to visit once a week whenever I was in town. I helped Ethel with projects once in a while, and helped rig up things to accommodate her failing eye sight. Mostly, we drank tea and visited. She told me about her life and her activities, and I shared my busy life with her.

Over the past few years, Ethel's health was deteriorating at a more rapid pace. Her vision was almost gone, and she was having a lot of pain in one of her knees. Walking had become increasingly difficult, and she was getting sick more often.

I feel very sad at the loss of my friend. i spent many happy hours chatting with Ethel and sharing our lives together. As sad as I feel, however, part of me is relieved that she will not have to suffer further deterioration in her health. She had a great fear of being totally incapacitated. We spoke of her wonderings at why God was keeping her around, when there was so little she could do. She was a treasure to her family, but she was starting to suffer more often than not, and she wasn't really able to do the things she always loved doing. She had communicated to me that she felt like it was time for her to go.

Life, and death, are bitter sweet. It is hard to say goodbye and let go of my friend, and yet, I know that for her, she was ready, and had felt that her almost 95 years of life had been well spent and much enjoyed. She was at peace, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Goodbye dear Ethel. Journey well. Enjoy sweet peace.

In Ethel's honor and memory, I repost a poem that she shared with me some time ago. It embodies her spirit.


Beautiful are the youth
Whose rich emotions flash and burn,
Whose lithe bodies filled with energy and grace
Sway in their happy dance of life;

And beautiful likewise are the mature
Who have learned compassion and patience,
Charity and wisdom,
Though they be rarer far than beautiful youth.

But most beautiful and most rare is a gracious old age
Which has drawn from life
The skill to take its varied strands:
The harsh advance of age, the pang of grief,
The passing of dear friends, the loss of strength,
And with fresh insight
Weave them into a rich and gracious pattern
All its own.

This is the greatest skill of all,
To take the bitter with the sweet and make it beautiful,
To take the whole of life in all its moods,
Its strengths and weaknesses,
And of the whole make one great and celestial harmony.

Robert Terry Weston

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nubs - An Amazing Story

I wanted to share a story with you today that touched my heart!

You must read this story and watch this video.

This is the kind of love and loyalty that the world could use more of.

Article and video about Nubs the dog & His Marine Friend

Nubs and Maj. Brian Dennis

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cooking Barefoot in My Kitchen

Coming home to a comfortable, familiar place is such a wonderful feeling. I just returned from a trip, and there is simply nothing like sleeping in my own bed, or drinking coffee from my favorite mug. Home.

This was a short trip, but I've been on many, much longer trips. I'm always amazed at what I miss when I'm away.

When I'm on my long trips, one of the things I miss the most is cooking barefoot in my kitchen. The feeling of the clean hardwood under my feet is somehow soothing to me. When I'm camping or in a dusty environment, the image that pops into my mind most often when I think of home is of me whipping up something to eat in my bare feet.

I miss my bed, of course and driving my own car. Familiar things that make my home environment mine.

We also have an internal home. A home inside ourselves that is always with us. Acknowledging and connecting to that home is something well worth the effort.

When we get disconnected from our internal home, we feel lost and adrift. We miss ourselves!

Taking the time to connect with and feel 'at home' inside our own skin enhances our experience of life. When we have our internal home, we can go anywhere and go through anything - with a stability and sense of peace.

Today, celebrate your home... inside and out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Waiting for the Dried Crusty Stuff to Fall Off

I have a lot of big fuzzy sweatshirts. I practically live in them full time when I’m working at home. I like the temperature around me to be somewhat cool and I enjoy the process of bundling up. I sleep under heavy blankets, and I like warm, fuzzy clothes.

One day last spring, I was wearing one of my favorite dark blue sweatshirts as I worked on a project to clean out my garage. At some point, I somehow rubbed against a large sticky label, and it affixed itself to my sweatshirt. This thing was big – like 4 x 6 inches and bright yellow! It was sort of on my side, so I didn’t see it right away. In fact, I didn’t see it before I took the sweatshirt off. As I took the sweatshirt off, I turned it inside out in the process. I still hadn’t seen the label. The sweatshirt went into the washer and then the dryer, without me realizing this label was stuck to it!

Once I got the sweatshirt out of the dryer, I turned it right side out to fold it, and there it was - the giant bright yellow label.

I tried to pull the label off of my sweatshirt and it would not come off! It had baked onto the sweatshirt in the dryer! When I tried to pull it off, tiny pieces, and I mean TINY, would break off. It would have taken many, many hours to peel it off this way! I gave up fairly quickly. I didn’t have time for that!

It being one of my favorite sweatshirts and all, I have continued to wear it. Not publically, of course, but in the privacy of my own home. Each time I wash and dry it, a few more pieces of the label come off in the process.

I was noticing the other day that the pieces that are still stuck are coming off much easier. I can pick at it with my finger nails and the pieces of label, which have become hard and brittle now, break and fall off! I could probably sit down and remove all the remaining yellow bits in about an hour!

It’s taken 7 months to get to this point!

It reminded me of how some experiences in our life take time to get through and get over. We can’t rush the process. We might be able to make it happen a bit faster, but it would take drastic measures (like sitting down to pick off pieces of label for many, many hours). Instead, time can help us take care of a lot of things – if we just allow it to. My sweatshirt still isn’t ready for prime time, but it is getting there. Similarly, sometimes when we are going through something tough, we can’t conduct all our business as usual. Sometimes we need to make allowances for reduced productivity and lower our expectations a bit.

The dried, crusty bits of the past will eventually fall off – if we let them. Acceptance and allowing are the keys, with a healthy dose of patience thrown in!

Got any dried crusty bits clinging to you? Just keep living your life, and allow them to fall off in due season.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Relabeling the Past

I try to be conscious of the natural resources I consume. Taking care of our environment has been a passion for me since I was a little girl. I take ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ very seriously in my life.

One of my practices is to reuse manila file folders as often as I can. I’m very organized, and I have a file for just about everything. All my projects have a folder. Each trip I take has a folder. Every vendor I work with has their own folder. Each tax type and tax year has its own folder to call home.

Some folders live on in my files forever. Others have a temporary life span. For example, once a trip is past, I usually don’t need to maintain a file folder for it. There are exceptions, of course. If it’s a trip that I might want to refer back to for some reason, I’ll keep it for awhile. Usually, however, I can ‘retire’ that folder once the trip is behind me.

Every once in a while I go through my filing cabinets and purge old files. I did this last year and filled 4 file boxes with paper to shred! I had a lot of ancient paperwork – documents from the purchase of my first home, student loan documents for loans I paid off 20 years ago and a whole lot of other things I really didn’t need to hang on to anymore.

I emptied all these file folders with the intention of shredding the contents. Most of the file folders themselves were still in great shape. I made a big pile of these folders for reuse.

My general practice is to scribble out the label on the file tab and then flip the folder inside out so I can write on the blank side of the file tab. Once I’ve done this and used the folder a second time, I have to resort to applying white labels to both sides of the file tab. As long as the file folder stays in good shape physically, I can keep using it over and over again.

The other day I finally got around to preparing my giant pile of ‘old folders’ for reuse. I got out my box of white labels and sat down at my desk.

It was a little bit like walking through my past. I encounter vendors I no longer work with, past legal difficulties, documentation for my last traffic ticket, assets I no longer own, trips that are long past and projects that never got off the ground – unfulfilled dreams and goals.

Somehow it felt cleansing for me to apply clean white labels over the words that described past experiences. Many of these things weren’t exactly pleasant for me – especially the legal issues and traffic ticket! Somehow applying the labels over the top of the written expression of these experiences felt powerful to me. It felt like another layer of letting go! I had done some letting go when I shredded the contents of the folders. Now, as I prepared these folders to house something new, it felt deeper.

What a great analogy. I can take these containers that held an experience in my past, and clean it out, relabel it and prepare it to support me in something new!

If only it were this easy to do with actual past experiences. If only we could more easily realize that the experience is in the past, and that we can take what we learned from it and move forward into new, different experiences! Relabeling the container for the experience in our minds helps us release the trauma, drama or pain of whatever it was and move on.

Experiment with relabeling some file folders – and use it as an example to yourself of what is possible with your larger life!

Grab a box of labels and get busy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Default Is a Choice

As a software designer, I have designed a lot of input forms in my day.

There is a common practice of setting 'default' responses for fields where a particular response might be the most likely.

For example, if you are ordering something from a website, the software might set the 'quantity' of an item you select to "1." You can change it if you'd like, to order more than one, but it starts by assuming you want one as the default.

Another example might be setting the 'country' to USA if you are shopping on a US company's website. "USA" would be the default value for country. You can change it, of course.

I was thinking about this the other day. It is important to realize that by 'accepting the default' we are actually making a choice! Someone else (or the software in the examples I gave) is offering us a selection, but we have to accept it (and click OK or continue in the case of our software example).

I encountered someone in my counseling work years ago who was fond of saying that he wasn't making 'choices' but instead was just going with the 'default' He really saw himself as a passive player in his life. He just went along with whatever was happening to him. I spent a lot of time trying to help him see that he was, in fact, making choices, even when he was accepting someone else's default outcomes!

Taking the path of least resistance is one way of 'accepting the default' in our life. It's not necessarily what we want, but it's going to happen if we don't stop it, so was just go along for the ride. We are still making a choice.

Recognizing that we are making choices is empowering. Rather than feeling like a leaf blowing in the wind, we can become aware of the fact that we have a lot to say about the direction we take and the attitude that takes us there!

Take responsibility for the choices you make! It's a place of power to KNOW that you are choosing. When we realize that we are choosing, we can choose differently. Often, we want to choose differently when we come to the realization that we are, in fact, making a choice!

Happy choosing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Temporary Disorientation

My cell phone decided to die this past week. It was quite sudden. My phone just started randomly shutting down without warning. It also 'rebooted itself' a couple times as well. There was no hope. I needed a new phone.

I went to the phone store and purchased the 'next generation' of my current phone. Silly me, I assumed I wouldn't have much of a learning curve, since the phone was running the same version of Windows Mobile on it.

Last time I got a new phone, it took me about 30 minutes to get everything up and running. This time... well, let's just say it was a little different.

After about 3 hours of work I got myself to a manageable place with this phone. Many things have changed! I'm finding myself in a completely new environment!

My phone has a real keyboard on it, and the phone manufacturer even changed the location of several keys in the layout. Thanks guys! Very helpful for continuity of use!!

At any rate, the point is, my environment has changed, and I have no choice but to get used to it and roll with the punches. I'm trying to be patient with myself, but when I depend on something, I really need to be able to use it well. It's going to take some time for me to get there with this phone.

I can complain about it if I want to, but that won't help me learn it any faster.

Soon, the 'new' keyboard layout will be 'mine.' Before long, the new interface for things will become second nature to me. Time, practice and patience!

It's OK to feel temporarily disoriented when you are experiencing a change in your environment or routines. It's part of the adaptation process. Take a deep breath, relax, and allow the 'new' to present itself and introduce itself to you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Divine Appointments

Last weekend, I realized that my back and hip were starting to hurt me a little bit. I haven't been to physical therapy for a few weeks. I've been doing so much better lately that I'm tapering off a bit. I have learned from my time in physical therapy, that it is important for me to not let my pain get too far down the road before I take action. The pain I experience is mostly due to muscle cramps that are a reaction to the injury I have. The longer I let those muscles stay tight, the harder it is to get them to release.

Monday morning I called the physical therapist's office to make an appointment for sometime that week. They told me that my therapist had an opening for that very day. Someone had just cancelled their appointment. I jumped at the chance to get the appointment!

That afternoon, when I met with my therapist, she was chuckling as she told me that she had been thinking about me over the weekend, and was planning to call me this week to tell me she had another technique that she wanted to try on my injured area! She said she was stunned to find me on her schedule that day, since I wasn't supposed to be there. She went on to tell me that she had been to church the day before, and the message had been on "Divine Appointments" and how God will put us right where we need to be and will put the exact right people on our path. She was tickled to have such a real life example show up in her life so quickly! "I wanted to see you and try this out, and I didn't even have to call you," she said!

I had the impulse to see her and made the call. She was thinking about me at the same time, and wanting to share a new technique with me that she thought might be helpful to my body! The universe did the rest!

It was a good reminder for me also, that life is constantly arranging things for us - behind the scenes - to meet our needs.

Have you ever been thinking about someone and suddenly they called you? Or you got an email from them? Start paying attention to just how often we are matched up with who and what we need at any given time!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Impatience Magnified

I have a little bit of a challenge around being patient. It's probably one of my biggest struggles if the truth be told. I find it very difficult to be patient and I have to constantly monitor and wrestle with my impulses.

I don't like to do anything slow. I am fairly efficient at most things I do. I really, really like it when other people are efficient too! :) I also don't like to be inconvenienced by other people's lack of efficiency!

I think that life gives us a giant mirror to look in at times, to show us the characteristics that we need to face and deal with. The mirror often is one that magnifies the issue. If we see someone doing exactly what we do, at exactly the same level of intensity, it would look normal to us. I believe we are shown 'exaggerated' versions of ourselves in order to call our attention to problem areas.

While I was eating lunch in one of my favorite restaurants a while back, a man, his wife and their young son came in and were seated at the booth next to me. It was late in the afternoon, about 3pm, so the restaurant was pretty empty.

I was working away on my computer and wasn't paying too much attention to what was happening at their table. They had ordered drinks, which the waitress had delivered promptly. Evidently there was a problem with the water they had ordered. They wanted tap water, and this water had carbonation in it. They told the waitress. She seemed confused, and went off to check it out. She wasn't gone very long at all and the man at the table next to me started to get very agitated. He started complaining to his wife about how long it was taking her to get back with the water he and his son wanted.

She was trying to soothe him, but he kept getting more and more impatient. He got up several times and started walking towards the bar, but he kept turning around and coming back to their table. He said, "I'm going to go to the bar to get a stinkin' glass of water." His wife encouraged him to sit down. What touched me is that his little boy started looking very concerned. "Daddy, I don't want to get kicked out!"

They proceeded to have a little back and forth about daddy's behavior, and the fact that the little boy really wanted to stay and eat at this restaurant. I'm guessing this has happened before.

The man continued with his impatient behavior. He did go to the bar, and came back complaining that he couldn't find anyone to get him a glass of water. The waitress came back to the table, and he complained again. She said the manager was checking their 'line' and that it appeared the water and soda lines got crossed. They were fixing it. He grew more irritated.

Finally, the manager came over with two glasses of water. The man let the manager have it. He ranted about how unacceptable it was to not be able to get a glass of water in a restaurant.

This entire episode took no more than 3 or 4 minutes. The man was crazed because it took 3 or 4 minutes to get his water!

In watching this unfold, I realized the 'ugliness' of impatience. I don't do it at the level this guy was expressing it, but I certainly do it! It showed me what my own behavior would be if I ramped it up a bit. I obviously have no desire to look as foolish and unreasonable as the 'water man!!'

Looking at those around us as mirrors of ourselves is an interesting (and sometimes disturbing) message from the universe! Next time you are really annoyed (or amazed) at someone's behavior, or the next time you really admire someone's actions, look closely at yourself to see what might be reflecting back to you about yourself.

The guy at claim jumper who was so impatient for a glass of water... his son was afraid they were going to get kicked out.

Friday, November 06, 2009

When Letting Go is Beautiful

I am not a person who lets go of things easily. It's something I work on... constantly.

For example, until last spring, I had every cancelled check I'd ever written. Every single one since 1982! That's a whole lotta checks by the way. I simply could never get rid of them. When my realtor held an event for his clients that involved a large professional shredding truck, I decided the time had come to part with the majority of my checks. I ended up taking 4 filing boxes full of paper (and checks) to the event. I must admit, there was a feeling of freedom that came with shredding all those checks and old papers. I felt lighter.

Still, it was not an easy decision for me to make or action for me to take.

Just this morning, I found out that a paper I've been using in my business for quite some time, is no longer available. It is a beautiful white paper with silver sparkles embedded in it. I have had notepads made of this paper. It's been like a 'signature paper' for me since I started my company in 2000. Now, it's gone. I feel saddened by the news. In addition to it being emotional for me, it's also inconvenient. I needed some card stock in this design to finish up a project I'm working on. Now, I have to find an alternative. Another reminder that life is constant change, and yes... constant processes of 'letting go.'

Yesterday, I had an example of a different way of relating to the process of letting go. As I was driving in to town, I experienced one of my favorite happenings at this time of year. The highway I drive on is lined with trees on both sides for most of my drive to town. It was cloudy, but not raining. The wind was blowing fairly hard.

Four or five times along my path, I drove through showers of beautiful leaves of gold, yellow, orange and red that were falling from the trees. It was like driving through confetti!

You simply can't feel sad when you drive through showers of leaves coming down. It instantly lifted my spirits.

The trees are releasing their leaves as they move into the winter season... and it is beautiful. Sometimes letting go can, indeed, be beautiful. It is us humans who cling and struggle to hang on to things.

It can be something simple, like me with my checks, or my pretty paper, or it can be more complex, like trying to hang on to relationships that no longer serve us in a positive, constructive fashion, clinging to self destructive habits or addictions, trying to keep our children from growing up and away from us or any myriad of things.

I personally am challenging my need to cling and hold on. I want to be more like the trees who turn letting go into a beautiful, inspiring process. They prove it's possible. I want to embrace their example of letting go, moving on and growing in a natural, fluid process - free from struggle and resistance. I feel better just typing that!

Let go... beautifully.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Don't Throw it Away

I'm a big movie fan. I get so much out of the movies I love!

Seabiscuit is one of my all time favorites. A true story of a little horse that achieved what appeared to be impossible. It is also a story of three men, broken by life in different ways. The owner, trainer and jockey of Seabiscuit all lived through and overcame hard knocks in life. The four of them found salvation and redemption in each other, and in the success they found in racing.

One of my favorite lines in the movie, occurs on two different occasions.

"You don't throw a whole life away just because it's banged up a bit."

Once the trainer says it about an old horse that he's decided to save from being put down.

The second time Seabiscuit's owner says it to the trainer, when they discover that the jockey is blind in one eye, and has been lying to them all along.

In both cases, the 'banged up life' is spared and given another chance. What a beautiful message.

Many years ago I was a counselor in a mental health clinic. I was working with a man who was a recovering alcoholic. He had a bad problem with perfectionism and self criticism. If something wasn't perfect, it was worthless. He felt that way about himself too. He came in one day and told me he'd built a flower box for his wife. He recounted that when he finished it, he saw that it wasn't perfectly square on one of the corners, and he flew into a rage. He took a sledge hammer and completely destroyed the flower box he'd built. Even in telling me the story, he felt he was 'justified' because it wasn't perfect.

As we discussed what had happened, I eventually asked him if he could tell me one good thing about the flower box. He thought for about 15 seconds, and a little light bulb came on. He looked at me and said, "It would have held dirt and flowers!" Bingo.

This world is quick to criticize and judge people on imperfections in appearance and behavior. While I'm a big believer in facing our 'stuff,' striving to improve ourselves and addressing our issues, I also believe that we need to learn to cut ourselves and each other some slack.

No one is perfect. No one ever will be. Often times people make big mistakes. Sometimes people fail repeatedly. Other times people have trouble recovering from big setbacks.

Nothing is so horrible that we can't come back from it. Nothing.

If you need a bit of encouragement to believe that... watch Seabiscuit!

"You don't throw a whole life away just because it's banged up a bit."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tea, Soup and Sleep

Yesterday, I felt like I was coming down with something. My first clue was that one of my lymph nodes in my neck suddenly became swollen and painful. A little while later, I was feeling nauseous.

I decided to play it safe. Being that we are in the beginnings of the flu season, I wanted to be extra careful.

I started tanking up on vitamin C. I drank a cup of hot tea. I sipped lots of water. I rested. Later I had some hot soup. Then I went to bed and slept for about 15 hours.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt better. Still not 100%, but better. I continued my regimen through the day. Rest. Vitamin C. Water. Soup.

I'm almost as good as new after that!

Respecting our bodies and paying attention to warning signs can prove to be really beneficial to us! It can save us a lot of time.

I'm grateful to be feeling healthy again! I appreciate that my body and I could work together to be good to each other!

Listen to your body. Respect it. Heed its warnings and its calls for support and nurturing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Contrast Makes Things Clearer

Sometimes it takes a good contrast to help you really see something clearly.

I have often struggled with a problematic way of relating to a new, complex task. If I'm faced with a task that is overwhelming to me, and requires a lot of knowledge that I don't currently possess, I often have an 'immediate reaction' that causes me to panic. I actually have a knee jerk response that feels very much like the task facing me is impossible. It isn't based in reality. It isn't based on my past successes. If it were based in my proven ability to figure things out, I would have no doubt that I could figure it out. My track record in regards to figuring out complex tasks is quite solid.

So, why would I instantly feel that I won't be able to figure something out? Often I have that reaction before I even have all the data! It is kind of frustrating, but it FEELS VERY REAL!

Last night, I helped a very good friend out with a bunch of computer problems. I helped set up her new laptop over the weekend, and everything running fine when I left her on Friday night. Then Comcast set up her high speed internet, and her wireless router. The first time she turned her computer off and back on after that installation, many things went wrong. My friend panicked. She called me.

What struck me about the conversation was how entirely panicked she was. She kept predicting doom and kept proclaiming the problems were unsolvable. She had called her comcast installer, and he had basically told her he didn't know how to help. This confirmed, in her mind, that it was hopeless.

I saw, in her, a greatly magnified form of what I do. It was very interesting to watch!

I kept assuring her we would solve the problem. She kept saying she didn't know how. I kept telling her I would guide her through it.

There were several problems that we had to resolve, and we went at them one by one. She would frequently leap ahead to other problems, and I would ask her to stay with me in the current process. I promised her that we would get there.

What amazed me, is that even though I'm the knowledgeable person in this arena, she kept insisting that things were hopeless. For example, she had saved a document, and couldn't find it again. She kept saying, "The file is GONE! It's just GONE! I'm going to have to do it all over again!" I would respond that the file was not GONE, we just had to find it. In a short time... we found it, of course.

The fear of 'not getting the task done' was so strong in her, that she kept catasrophizing the situation.

At one point she told me that the Comcast guy had said he didn't know what was wrong, and that nothing he had done could be causing her problems. (The computer wasn't starting properly. It was sometimes hanging on boot, other times it was giving us error messages.)

I kept telling her that the computer was working perfectly when I left, and that the only thing that had happened to the computer since then, was the Comcast installation.

She told me again that the Comcast guy said it wasn't him. I got a little flabbergasted and said, "OK... are you going to believe the Comcast guy or are you going to believe me?"

That calmed her down a bit, and we methodically went through a troubleshooting process. We uninstalled several things that he had installed (that are totally unnecessary for her and are incompatible with Windows 7). I helped her locate her files, and learn to navigate a bit better.

She's all set and happily getting her work done now.

The contrast of seeing her do what I do in a greatly magnified form, showed me how seriously that 'energy' of panic and hopelessness was impairing her ability to be present to the solution process. She really couldn't think straight when she was freaking out. I had to tell her to take a deep breath a few times so she could answer my questions and we could continue to sort out the problems.

I do the same thing. Seeing this extreme example gave me a clue of how to work with myself more effectively when this happens.

Calm down.
Take deep breaths.
Know there IS a solution.
Know there IS SOMEONE who can figure it out, even if I can't.
Apply good reasoning.
Let the solution present itself!!

Next time I get the chance, I'm going to see if I can go through this sort of experience with a little more peace and confidence in myself!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Finding the Pause Button

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person. I don't get stumped by too many basic problems in life. So, this 'challenge' that I've been dealing with is a little bit embarrassing.

I bought a digital voice recorder about 2 years ago. It seems that my writing ideas come in spurts. I'll sometimes have 20 ideas in a row. Then, I might not have any ideas for a week or so. If I don't somehow 'capture' these ideas, they are often totally gone. Poof. They disappear and sometimes I never get them back!

My digital voice recorder is always in my purse. I can pull it out and record my ideas at any time. It relieves a lot of stress over my ability to remember things!

I read the user's manual when I got the recorder. I learned the basic functionality, or so I thought. I've used this recorder a lot over the past two years.

In the home burglary that I experienced last year, the user's manual was among the contents of a box that was stolen.

Each time I've used this recorder, I have been able to easily turn it on (or off), start a recording and stop a recording. It was obvious how to do those things.

The one thing I could never figure out was how to 'pause' a recording. There was no pause button. You know the standard pause button design - two vertical lines || right? There is no such button on my recorder.

It has been a little frustrating, because sometimes I have an idea every few minutes, especially when driving! I end up hitting 'record' and then 'stop' over and over again. This yields a lot of very short, individual files that I need to work with!

I would rather start a recording, say a few things... pause... restart and add to the existing recording. Yet, each time I examined the recorder, I couldn't find the PAUSE button!

I had just accepted that I had to record each idea or spurt of ideas into separate files. Annoying, but manageable.

This weekend I was on a long drive and I was using my digital recorder the way I usually do, coming up with writing and speaking topics. At one point I had started a recording, and when I was finished, I tried to hit the STOP button, but hit the 'RECORD' button by accident. To my amazement, the screen started flashing "PAUSE RECORD."

I had accidentally figured out how to PAUSE my digital recorder! It was so simple! It was so obvious! Yet, for 2 years (I'm blushing) I hadn't discovered this 'obvious secret!'

It is sort of amusing actually. Given my personality and my past patterns and issues, I have a lot of trouble 'pausing' when it comes to my level of activity! I'm always on the go! I've had to train myself to pause. It is really interesting that I wouldn't be able to FIND the PAUSE button on my recording device.

I'm choosing to take it as a reminder that I need to pause occasionally in my life and my activities. It is important to have 'down time.' It is important to pause sometimes before reacting to things.

I had come to believe that it was impossible to pause my digital recorder! My little digital recorder is reminding me that it is POSSIBLE to PAUSE.

Do you know where your pause button is? If you're having trouble finding it, just remember that it IS THERE somewhere!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saved by the Fax

Today, my power went out. It's the beginning of 'the season.' Lots of rain and wind. Many trees will fall down this autumn and winter - a lot of them will clobber power lines. A fact of life where I live.

I came home to find my power out. I had a big project I needed to do on the computer that was going to take many hours. I needed power!

I called the power company. They were aware of the outage and estimated 1 - 2 hours before the power would be restored. I didn't want to wait that long to start my project.

I decided that I would take my laptop and go to a place with wi-fi and get my work done. I packed everything up and 10 minutes later I headed out the door.

I got into my car, and decided (for some 'unknown' reason) to do a test and call my fax machine. That's generally how I 'test,' when I'm away from home, to see if the power is on or off at my house. If the fax machine answers, the power is on. If the fax machine doesn't answer, the power is off. I dialed my fax machine before I even started my car. It rang a few times and the fax machine answered!!!! I was stunned.

I pressed my garage door opener button (which of course, would only work if the power was on) and up went my garage door! The power had come on in the time that it took me to walk from my front door to my car!

I was just about to drive 20 minutes to a wi-fi cafe! That would have used up 40+ minutes of my productive time.

Something caused me to call that fax machine before I even started my car. It really didn't make any sense to do it. I had literally just walked out of the house! Where did that impulse come from? That impulse, and the result saved me a bunch of time and frustration!

Divine guidance. Intuition. It's a powerful gift! When we learn to follow those promptings and not talk ourselves out of them we can experience life at an entirely new level!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It Hurts to Say Goodbye

Loss is part of life. No one escapes without experiencing it. We all wish we could avoid it. No one enjoys the sensations of loss, because it hurts.

I was sent this picture today in my email. These chimps are mourning the loss of their beloved friend. They are watching as their companion is buried. You can actually see the anguish on their faces.

We all feel many strong and disquieting emotions when we lose something precious to us: a person, a pet companion, a job, a relationship, sometimes possessions - it could be anything.

At one level, it is important to understand that we, ourselves are not diminished by the loss of anything. No thing or person can diminish us in any way. Yet... loss hurts!

We need to be gentle with ourselves when we experience a loss. Grief is messy. It is unpredictable. It takes energy to process the feelings that come with a loss. We need to give ourselves time and space to feel everything and move through it. We might need more time alone. We might need more time being supported by those who love us. We might need more sleep.

The important thing is to really notice what we need and give that to ourselves.

If you are dealing with any sort of loss today, I wish for you patience and compassion for yourself. Acceptance is the way out of the pain... but it often takes time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Playing Catch Up Again

I just recently completed a couple really large projects. I'm feeling an immense amount of satisfaction about it! It really does feel good to finish something that you've been working on for a long time.

Devoting so much time to these projects, however, left me behind in many other areas of my life. I had to shift my energy, time and attention to the projects that had big deadlines. As a result, many routine chores and a few really important tasks got pushed to the side.

I even missed a day of writing (blogging) this week, and today... I'm late getting my article written!

This happens to all of us in life. We only have so much time and energy to spend each day. When we have to rise to a challenge that will take extra time and energy, we need to make allowances and cut ourselves some slack in other areas.

This is still hard for me. I like to stay on top of everything... all the time!

This week I'm playing catch up, and trying to just 'enjoy the process.' Many of the tasks I set aside in the past few weeks are things I actually enjoy doing. Rather than succumbing to the sensations of overwhelm that are knocking at the door, I'm going to relax into my 'catch up time' and let it be fun and satisfying!

Each time I start to feel an internal pressure or panic, I focus on whatever I'm doing at that moment and say, "This is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing RIGHT NOW. This is my job in this moment. I'm in the right place, doing what I'm supposed to be doing." It works wonders!

Do you set really high expectations for yourself about what you can get done in a day? Are they sometimes impossible?

Ease up on yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Enjoy whatever you are doing in each moment. You will eventually get finished with all that is essential!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feeling the Support

I had such a great weekend. I spoke at a church in Oregon this past weekend. I'll write more about that later this week.

It was a great experience over all, but there is one aspect of it that was particularly great. I had 15 friends and family come to support me and listen to me speak.

I actually felt pretty overwhelmed (in a good way) to have them all there.

One of my cousins mentioned that he's never forgotten that I came to his college graduation.

This is what family and friendship is all about. Being there for each other during all sorts of experiences. Supporting each other. Celebrating together. Enjoying each other's company.

It's a gift to have people around you who love and care about you. I think it's important to receive that love and support and return it as fully as possible!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Day Well Spent

At the end of a long day, where I've done my very best, it is a gift to lay my head down on the pillow and allow myself to rest.

I endeavor to make every day one that I can feel good about having lived. It's a great goal.

I honestly don't believe there is anything better than going to bed at night feeling I've done the best I could to make the most of the time I was given for that day.

How do you feel when you go to bed at night? If you are anything less than content and satisfied, it might be time to retool your approach to your days.

Try doing a day review at the end of each day to reflect on what you have done and accomplished. Think also of what you gave and received. Of course remember the moments you spent with friends and loved one, and the sweetness of those connections.

If your day reviews don't feel satisfying to you, then set about making some changes.

Life is short. The journey is sometimes difficult. One gift we can give to ourselves is the feeling of satisfaction in the living of each of our days.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let Go... NOW!

Something amazing happened over the past few days.

This past weekend, I was sitting here typing away looking out at the Katsura tree next to my back deck. It was covered with bright yellow leaves. Some of the leaves had turned brown around the edges. Not a single leaf had dropped from the tree yet.

Today I noticed something different about my working spot. There was noticeably more light. I glanced out the window and noticed that the tree outside had dropped ALL it's leaves. I mean, every single leaf!

In 3 days, the tree had dropped all it had. Now that's what I call letting go!

There is a cherry tree fairly near to this Katsura tree in my yard, and it has yet to drop a single leaf. In fact, the leaves haven't even turned colors yet. All the leaves on the tree are still deep, dark green.

I was astonished at the contrast. One tree, turned all it's leaves yellow, then slightly brown and dropped them instantly! The other tree is still all green. It's no where near ready to drop it's leaves.

I got to thinking about the ways that we let go... and the ways that we hold on. Sometimes, some people are able to recognize a moment where they need to let go and they just DO IT! Others need more time to let go. It's a slower, more deliberate process.

I envy the tree that just said, "OH... it's time. Let it GO!" and did so. I want to be more like that tree.

Sometimes it takes longer, and that too, is a lesson. We need to allow what it take to let go of the things in our life that need to be released.

It doesn't hurt to encourage ourselves to let go when necessary... but all trees are different. Some will let go fast and some will take their time.

Attempting to let go easily and quickly is a wonderful goal, but honoring the natural time line we each have is also important.

Letting go is the important thing. How and when isn't nearly as important!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Disorienting Fogs of Life

A funny thing happened to me on the way home from my Arabic class last night. It was very dark and seriously foggy. As I traveled this road, the same one I've driven a thousand times, I suddenly realized I had driven several miles past the turn off to my house. I couldn't believe it!

As I turned around and headed by towards the turn I had missed, I paid extra attention to what I was doing. The fog made it difficult to recognize normal cues and landmarks I use for navigation.

It made me remember the days following my father's death. The way I tried to describe that experience to people is to say that I felt as though I were moving through a dense fog. I was disoriented and a bit numb.

Some experiences in life leave us feeling this way. We feel knocked off balance, disoriented and unable to navigate our usual pathways with our usual efficiency.

When 'fog sets in' we need to give ourselves some extra support and take a little extra time to plan our next move and take the next step. We can't expect to drive as fast as we usually do. It's dangerous and we are likely to miss turns and get even more disoriented and lost.

Fog comes into every life. Fog happens. We must adapt and adjust to those times in life when we are knocked off our normal game by unexpected and difficult circumstances.

When fog hits, slow down, take a deep breath and allow yourself the extra time and support you need to get where you need to go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cleansing Rain Storm

This summer, I had some concrete resealing done around my house. I have a couple patios, and some walkways that had never been cleaned and resealed since they were put in 10 years ago.

My entry walkway is pressed concrete, that is made to look like dark gray slate. When it is sealed it is shiny and gorgeous!

After all the work was done, I was really enjoying the look of the freshly sealed pressed concrete in front of my house.

Something interesting happened right after this work was finished.

Every couple days, it seemed like I, or one of the people who works around my house, needed to do some activity that required walking all over that front walkway with muddy shoes!

I am not a super neat freak or anything, but I didn't want my newly sealed, shiny walkway covered with muddy footprints. So, each time it got dirty, I would bring out the hose and wash off the walkway.

It was amazing to me, however, how frequently they were getting dirty! I'd never had this experience before!

The last time the walkway got dirty was when my sprinkler service company came to winterize my sprinklers. They had to walk all over the yard and in doing so, they traversed my clean walkway several times. Of course they left dirty, grimy footprints all over it!


I was planning on hauling out the hose to clean it up... again, but the weather turned very cold. It had been raining some, but it didn't seem to be taking care of the muddy footprints. I just couldn't seem to get myself to go out in the cold weather and spray off this walkway.

Then it happened.

A rain storm, the likes of which I haven't seen in a long, long time descended on my area. I mean it was CRAZY rain. The rain fell hard and furious. It was actually a little scary at times.

But guess what?

The walkway in front of my house is completely clean! All the muddy footprints were completely washed way! The rain storm took care of it for me.

It was a great reminder to me that the storms of life are sometimes useful to us. Sometimes that pounding rain can cleanse something from our lives that has been a source of struggle or pain. Life storms can sometimes pull forth from us skills and inner strength we didn't even know we had. Other times, the storms in life can alter our course and send us off in a new direction.

This particular storm was 'cleansing.' It washed away some stuff I didn't want or need anymore. I've had 'life storms' that have done the same thing, although it isn't always obvious DURING the storm. We often can't see the benefit until after the storm has passed, the skies have cleared and the pavement has dried.

Look for the blessing and the gift in the storms of life. There usually is one lurking there, if we have the patience and the willingness to see it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Reduced Inflow

When something happens to us repeatedly in life, it's worth taking a look at what it might be trying to tell us.

I woke up the other day to about 1/2 the normal amount of water pressure throughout my house. It was a sudden and unmanageable change. This was an inadequate amount of water pressure to do the normal activities I need to do. You know, like take a SHOWER!

After a bit of investigation, the water company representative discovered that I have a failing "PRV" (Pressure Reducing Valve) between the pipe on the street, and the pipe that carries water to my house. It is severely restricting the flow and causing the water pressure to be far too low.

The really interesting thing is that I had this same problem at my previous house. In that situation, the water pressure was low from the day I moved in. I struggled to work around that problem. I bought a 'water pressure boosting' system for the house, and I installed many, many sprinkler zones in the irrigation system so that the low pressure was enough to power just a few heads in each zone.

I'm embarrassed to say that I limped along with that inadequate pressure for 10 years! It was only when I was selling the house, and had it inspected that I attempted to resolve the problem. The inspector noted it as a problem that needed to be fixed, and so I finally started looking into it.

I had no idea what a PRV was at that point in time. It was a long process of trying to figure out the problem, and finally when the utility company came out, identified the problem and replaced the PRV, a 10 year long struggle came to a close. When I ran my sprinkler system for the first time after the 'fix' I actually cried. I couldn't believe how much better everything worked with adequate water pressure.

This is the second time in my life where I've experienced this problem. Metaphorically, it is an interesting issue to contemplate.

The situations were both caused by a 'disruption' to the flow or supply of an essential resource. It was like I had a kink in the supply hose for something I really needed. The fix was easy in both cases, replace the PRV and 'unkink' the hose, but it wasn't so obvious at the onset.

It got me thinking, however, about the various ways that I might be experiencing a 'disruption' in the flow of other essential resources in my life. I started to ponder if I was taking good care of myself, and giving myself everything I need to live my life at 'full force?' Am I feeling depleted in any way? Am I expecting myself to deal with the demands on myself without giving myself proper rest, nutrition, play time or emotional support?

I realized that the 'message' could very well be that I needed to take a look at how hard I was pushing myself lately, and whether I was giving myself all that I needed to meet these increased demands on my time and energy level. There were definitely some areas that needed attention. Especially in the areas of down time/relaxation and emotional support. I have 'unkinked' the hose now, and I'm feeling and functioning much better!

While the 'onset' of this recent PRV problem was quite sudden, and made it impossible to ignore, I do feel a bit of satisfaction in the fact that I resolved it in a day. I didn't limp along with the problem, feeling confused and powerless, for an insane period of time... like 10 years!!

I'm also pleased that I immediately 'unkinked' not only the PRV, but my own supply of the self care activities that I need to keep my life flowing and feeling good!

Got any 'kinked' supply hoses in your life? Are you setting realistic expectations for yourself? Are you giving yourself all that you need to meet the demands of your life?

Look for those kinks, and open the supply!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy of Being Prepared

I'm currently taking an Arabic class. I've dabbled with learning Arabic before. It is not an easy language for an English speaker to learn!

I'm taking a community college class, so there are no grades and no real requirements to participate fully.

I've taken this class before. Always, in the past, I was really busy, over committed and traveling a lot. This time, when I signed up, I decided to take it really seriously and make it a priority.

This past week, I studied an hour every day. I did writing, speaking and listening drills. I felt like I did everything I could do to be prepared.

When I went to class this week, it was GREAT! I felt completely ready. I was well prepared. I could do all the exercises in class. I was so well grounded in the previous weeks' work that I was able to easily absorb the new material we went over. It felt good.

Not everyone in the class fared so well. I was one of the only people that responded to a lot of the teacher's questions and prompts.

I left feeling satisfied.

On my way out the door, I heard one student saying to another, "Mental note to self: DO NOT COME TO CLASS UNPREPARED... EVER AGAIN!"

In that moment, I felt empathy for her experience. I haven't been in that place often in my life, but I certainly have been there.

She was having the 'flip side' experience from what I was having. I had been well prepared and it felt great. She had been ill prepared and it felt overwhelming and unpleasant.

Putting in the energy and time required by an endeavor is a very satisfying experience. Trying to take short cuts really doesn't serve us well. It might bring short term gain, but we pay a heavy price for it in the end.

Here's to being prepared! Put in the time and energy you need to put in! You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Different Now

I just took what is likely to be the last hike of my hiking season. Our weather is changing.

Summer is most definitely behind us here in Seattle. That was made abundantly clear to me on this last hike.

That morning, when I set out, I knew that it was going to be cooler than my last several hikes. Summer is over. The change is coming!

I had a long sleeved t-shirt on, instead of my customary sleeveless shirt. I put on my ear covers and gloves. As I started up the hill, I was a little chilly, but soon I was warmed up by the climb and I was OK.

I did notice that my nose was really cold. That was the only difference until I got close to the top.

The wind was whipping! It was freezing cold at the summit! I simply couldn't stay up there. It was too darn cold!

On the way down, without the exertion of the climb to keep me warm, I got very chilled. Finally, I stopped and I put on my jacket. I was much better then. I still could have used a hat. It was still a chilly walk down the mountain.

The last time I did this hike, I was completely sweaty by the time I got to the top. There was no 'getting cold' involved in the experience.

The environment has changed. The experience is different. If I want to hike in this condition and be comfortable, I need different supplies than before. That is called CHANGE.

Sometimes our outer circumstances change. Sometimes it's expected. Other times it's not. Still, we have to deal with whatever comes.

If I had resisted the 'change' I encountered, the entire experience would have been extremely uncomfortable. By adding a different shirt, ear covers, gloves, and a jacket, I was able to meet the demands of the new environment, and still enjoy the hike.

Resist not. When change comes your way, you have two choices. Make it tough on yourself and resist or accept the new situation and adapt. The choice is always ours!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Being Taught Patience by "THEM"

I was on my way to hike a few mornings ago, when something happened to me that I always dread.

Soon after I pulled out on the highway, I came to a stop light. There, in front of me, was some sort of landscaping truck.

I sighed.

They would not be driving the speed I normally like to drive. I was virtually certain of it.

That, of course, proved true.

They accelerated slowly from every stop. They drove just under the speed limit. There were no opportunities to pass them.

At each 'logical' place where a landscape truck might need to travel, I kept hoping they would turn off. They didn't.

We went through a little town, they didn't turn off. We passed through a second town. Nope, they were still with me. By the time we went through the third little town, I was amazed. This 'route' from near my home to where we were at that moment didn't seem like a route that made sense for these guys to be traveling.

They were still in front of me as I neared the turn off to the road that would take me to the trail head for my hike. THEY PUT THEIR BLINKER ON!

I seriously couldn't believe it. They were turning down this little country road that leads to the trail I hike! What are the odds!

It gets better!

The truck pulled over right across the road from the trail head where I parked my car.

As I put on my hiking boots, I noticed that the truck turned around and drove back the way we had come! They didn't even need to be there!

I was stunned. Then I started laughing.

I have a real 'problem' with impatience. I am sort of addicted to efficiency. I like for things to run smoothly and quickly. I don't 'wait' well.

It was as though that truck was put on the road that morning... JUST FOR ME! Who knows where those guys were supposed to go? For that 30 minutes (which normally would have taken me 20), they were my 'pilot car' to slow me down and give me an opportunity to practice patience!

Sometimes life puts things in our path that are meant to teach us something about ourselves or give us a chance to 'deal with' something that causes us difficulty in our lives. It never ceases to amaze me how my 'lessons' show up and are presented to me!

This particular day, it was in the form of a slow moving truck of lost landscapers... in my way!

Whoever or whatever is "in your way" today, give it a second look. There is almost certainly a lesson or message in it for you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lessons in Vanity

Ever had a cold sore? Don't you just love those? They come on with lightening speed, and stay for what seems like an eternity. When they appear on your face near your lips they are pretty obvious to any one who looks at you. They can't be hidden. They hurt. They have a definite life cycle. Once one starts, there isn't a whole lot you can do but just go through the process.

Guess who's got a cold sore?

I hadn't had one for about a year and a half. I always get this one in the same spot. It's never any fun, and this time is no exception.

Each time I go through this, I am always a little disappointed in how self conscious I become. I don't like to go out as much. I don't like to get too close to people. I don't want anyone looking at my face.

Whenever I'm going through this, I suddenly am filled with admiration and respect for people who have visible problems with their bodies and yet live fully and without apology! It takes a strong sense of self to embrace and accept yourself even when something about your appearance might attract unwanted or uncomfortable attention.

To be 'affected' by something as small as a cold sore makes me stand in awe of people who have much larger challenges and who bravely and courageously embrace and live their life - no matter what.

In some ways, I'm grateful for this cold sore, because it helps me remember who and what I am... and am not. I am not my appearance. My body is one part of my expression, but it certainly isn't the entirety of me. I am still the same person - with or without the cold sore. I'm no less valuable. I'm no less me. It doesn't define me or change anything about my essential nature. If someone doesn't like me or want to be around me because of a cold sore, who has the problem?

Learning to walk confidently into the world - even with a visible 'affliction' is good practice for me. It helps me to practice detachment form my appearance as a measure of my worth. I can always use these sorts of lessons - even if I don't enjoy them.

Next time something comes into your life that you feel embarrassed to have others see, whether it's a breakup or divorce, losing a job, a financial problem, health challenge or whatever it is - use it as an opportunity to detach your identify from that part of your life expression. Who you are is much deeper and transcends all that outer 'stuff.' When something happens to our bodies or in our lives that causes us to feel 'less than' somehow, it is a perfect opportunity to practice knowing who we really are at our core. All the rest is surface stuff and doesn't mean anything about who we really are.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It Always Comes Back Around

I love it when I get clear, concrete examples of spiritual principle in action. It is so reassuring when that sort of confirmation breezes into my life.

I've been enjoying a 'scratch ticket' sweepstakes that has been going on at a restaurant I frequent. They give me a ticket every time I go in to eat, and every ticket is a winner. Some of the prizes are quite small, and others are really great!

I've received a free $18 entree coupon - Cashew Crusted Halibut... here I come! I've also won several free lunches, and a lot of cupcakes! It's really been fun.

A couple weeks ago I won a coupon good for "10% off your total bill." These coupons can't be combined with any other discounts, and I already get 15% off my total bill as a member of a particular club, so the 10% coupon isn't really a winner for me.

They have these restaurants in another state (where the 15% discount isn't available to me) and I recently ate at one of the restaurants in that state with some friends. I didn't realize they were doing the sweepstakes there, so I didn't use my 10% off coupon. I'd already paid the bill, with no discount, when I realized I could have used that coupon!

I love free things, so I was a little disappointed. My friends live close to this restaurant and said they would eat at this place again, so I gave them my 10% coupon. Since I get my 15% at home, I didn't need it. I was happy that they would make use of it. They were pleased. I was pleased. It was a win-win situation.

After I left the restaurant, I remembered that I would be coming back to this same restaurant in 3 weeks - with a big group of family members! I was really bummed when I realized that I could have used that 10% coupon after all. The savings would be substantial for a group that large! I'm embarrassed to say that I briefly thought about asking my friend for the coupon back. Thankfully, I stopped myself!! She had been excited to get it and it would have been really lame to have asked for it back!

A couple days later, at my 'regular' restaurant in my home state, I scratched another ticket and guess what I won? I bet you guessed! "10% off your total bill!" My coupon was restored to me! I didn't 'lose' anything by giving my friend that coupon!

It was a powerful reminder that when we give - we never lose anything! We always receive something when we give. It's a universal law. It's important to realize that, even when it feels like we're 'losing' something as we give it away. We are putting it into circulation. What we give always come back to us in some form or fashion. Often it isn't in the exact same form as what we gave - but we always receive something when we participate in the law of circulation.

The law of circulation is an absolute law of the universe. In fact, if you are in need of something - give something away and see what happens!

Happy giving!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sore Muscles

It doesn't take much to move us out of our comfort zone and into 'new territory.'

I'm sitting here this morning with a very sore back. I went to the physical therapist yesterday and we spent 30 minutes doing core activation exercises to strengthen my low back and abdominal muscles.

Thirty short minutes, and a lot of 'rest' periods built in, but still, today - I'm SUPER SORE in that whole region.

When we have an area of weakness, it doesn't take much activity to stretch us and make us uncomfortable.

It doesn't feel good, and yet it is a sign that these muscles are working in a way that they haven't for a long time. It's a good sign. A sign of progress and growth. Growth and improvement doesn't come for free. We usually have to experience some 'growing pains' and discomfort in order to reap the rewards of increased strength or proficiency!

As I sit with my 'sore muscles' today... I remember that it is serving an important 'higher goal.' Increased strength in this region will lead to greater stability in my spine. That means less pain and greater possibilities for the activities that I can perform and enjoy.

A little discomfort on the path is part of the journey to greater strength and increased functionality! I can handle that!

Have you got 'growing pains' in any areas of your life? Are you in a place of discomfort 'on your way' to something bigger and better? Just remember that it is a 'sign' of progress and keep on keeping on!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Internal Gratitude Revolution

I believe in the power of gratitude. I think most of us go through our days focusing on what's wrong rather than what's right. We complain about what we don't have instead of being grateful for what we DO have.

I think our lives could change radically if we just flipped this around.

What if we focused on what was right more than what was wrong?

What if we gave thanks for EVERYTHING that we appreciate (and often take for granted) throughout each day?

I challenge you to try to do this practice - even for an hour straight: Give thanks for EVERYTHING that you use, eat, drink, experience (and enjoy) during that time.

I tried it this morning and it was amazing how I felt as I did it. Here's what my first few minutes went like as I did the practice as I came home from a hike.

"I'm so grateful for my healthy body that allowed me to take and enjoy that 5 mile hike. Thank you (God/Universe) for the car that allowed me to get there and back. I appreciate that I could afford the gas to drive to and from that hike. I'm so grateful that my schedule allowed me to enjoy this fall day by hiking outside. Thank you for the hot water, shampoo and soap that I'm getting to use for my shower. I appreciate that I live in a place with clean water and enough of it to allow me to use it for showering. I am grateful for a clean dry towel to use to dry myself with. I appreciate that I have clothes to wear."

Get the idea???

As I made all these declarations of gratitude, I also thought about the fact that many people do not have access to all these things that I'm fortunate enough to have. Many people don't have clean water. Some don't have hot water or enough water to bath in. Not everyone enjoys good health. Some people don't have cars or can't afford gas.

After just a short time of this practice my mood improved a great deal. I was feeling really lucky! I also was pulled very much into the present moment - also a good thing!

Give this a try. You don't have to be grateful for anything that doesn't positively contribute to your life, but I think you'll be amazed at just how many things DO enhance your experience of life!!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Being "Normal"

To be perfectly honest, I have always considered myself an 'odd' person. There are many things about me that I don't think are 'normal.' I think differently than most people I know. I like very different things from most normal people. Many things that most people tend to like don't do a thing for me.

This used to really both me. I used to feel that I was some sort of 'mutant.' I still, at times, feel a bit like an alien!

I'm coming to understand, however, that each of us is unique in a variety of ways. It's not just me. The truth is... this is a GOOD, GOOD thing!

The world is far more interesting when it is filled with diversity. Life would be incredibly boring if all people looked, though, acted, and spoke the same way.

Still, sometimes I think that we all 'yearn' to be 'normal.' Sometimes it would feel good to be like every body else.

As teenagers, fitting in and being 'like' our peers is all important. It's a part of the growing up process. We yearn to belong AND we are so unsure of who we are that it is safer to 'go with the crowd' and be like everyone else.

As we mature, however, I think one of the gifts available to us it to come to see ourselves as unique and special, rather than finding our characteristics to be 'odd' or 'wierd' or 'strange' in some sort of undesirable, negative fashion.

I have, at times, beocme deetermined to 'be normal.' This usually ends in some sort of disaster. I try to be like people I like and admire - but when I'm in the 'normalcy seeking mode' that motivation is coming from an urge to fit in and be accepted by others. It isn't coming from a good place.

I have a button I was given a long time ago that says, "Normal is a setting on a washing machine!" I love this! Normal is overrated and isn't meant to apply to the incredibly diverse tapestry that is humankind!!

A minister I like, JOyce Meyer, tells a story of how she went through a phase where she didn't feel like a 'normal woman.' Because she spends so much time studying and preparing lessons and talks, she doesn't have a lot of time for more domestic types of activities. She doesn't really enjoy a lot of those activities either! Still, she started to feel very different from all her friends, and longed to just be 'like everybody else.' Her very funny story is about how she decided to plant and grow her own tomatoes one summer. She and her neighbor planted their tomatoes at the same time, on each side of the fence that separated their yards. They had the same soil, used the same seeds, watered the same way and fertilized with the same things at the same time. The other woman's tomatoes grew strong and gorgeous. She harvested a bountiful crop. Joyce's tomatoes on the other hand, did not do so well. They got some sort of disease. They had bugs all over them. In short... it was a disaster! She complained to God about this one day and heard a firm answer. "I did not ask you to grow tomatoes!"

the other woman grew tomatoes because she loved doing it. It was one of her tasks in life that she felt called to do and she did it well. Not everyone can grow tomatoes!

Joyce, on the other hand, is called to speak and teach. Not everyone can do that either. Joyce is called (and is annointed, as she puts it) to teach spiritual principles out of the Bible, and it is fun and easy for her!

We aren't all given the same gifts or the same purposes in our lives! We need to appreciate other people's talents and abilities, AND embrace our own as well.

There are many things about you that are unique and wonderful. There is no one else exactly like you! If you compare yourselves to others and try to squeeze yourself into their image - you will be miserable, and you will probably not get very far.

We are meant to be ourselves! There is NO NORMAL!

Go be the very best YOU that you can be and embrace those things about you that make you one of a kind!