Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gone Fishing

You may have noticed that I've been absent from my blog for a couple weeks. I'd like to explain!

I'm in the process of helping my first nephew get ready to start college this fall. It has been a whirlwind of activity!!

That, on top of the house issues i've had this past month: a clogged sewer line, a botched plumbing job in my basement and an A/C failure, have kept me incredibly busy.

I'm taking time off to be fully present to the various tasks at hand.

I shall return, just as soon as I'm able!

Happy Summer!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Surviving the Avalanche

I had a tough week last week. I had two major problems in my household crop up. I found out that I have a plumbing leak under the concrete foundation of my house. I also had my air conditioning unit fail - during the hottest week we've experienced so far this summer in the Seattle area. Sigh.

The problems required troubleshooting and service appointments, yet nothing is resolved. Hopefully this coming week, all the repairs will be completed. Both issues, however, are pretty disruptive to normal schedules and life.

I also experienced some interpersonal challenges as well. Communication challenges in a couple of relationships and an ongoing, unresolved conflict with a couple friends.

In addition to all that, there were some really big projects that I am in the midst of.

As I said, it was a tough, taxing week. There was a point today, while I was on a long drive, when I had to wait for 30 minutes for an accident to be cleared off the road in front of me. Later I was stuck behind people driving 40 in a 55 MPH speed zone. There were several moments today on that drive where I literally thought I was going to scream. What should have been a 3.5 hour drive took 5.5 hours. The frustration I felt was incredibly intense.

Once I arrived home from that drive... I had to spend some time decompressing. I took a lot of deep breaths. I put on comfortable clothes. I did a little venting. I started to feel a little better.

I thought about what things might be like one week from now. These problems might be completely behind me by then. I went out to two weeks from now. I am fairly certain that these issues will be all handled in that amount of time. Then I projected out to 1 month from now. I'll be on to other issues by then - both positive and negative. After that I thought about my life one year from now. Will I even remember these problems by then? If I do, will they have the emotional 'charge' that they have now? I sincerely doubt it.

These are toady's problems, challenges and growth opportunities. My only responsibility is to take them as they come - one at a time and do the best I can to handle them well. So that is what I'm doing.

First, I'm going to have a good, long, restorative sleep! I'll face what comes... tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Deep Shift

This week started out really, really hard. Several unexpected problems cropped up and seemed intractable. I must admit, I was frustrated and a bit defeated.

Then... something happened.

I worked on keeping my attitude positive and focused. I was determined to do what I could do about the problems, and release the outcome. I stayed the course.

Within a short period of time, things began to shift.

One problem, was a mysterious water problem in the basement of my house. It took me 3 solid days of troubleshooting and testing to determine the basic cause of the problem. When I started this process, I wasn't sure I would be able to determine the cause. I did figure out the cause. Now I can call a plumber, and direct them to the immediate source of the problem. I saved myself a lot of money by doing the troubleshooting and testing myself. It was tense and frustrating, but now I'm on the path to a true and lasting solution.

There were a couple other major issues in my life that seemed really 'messed up' this week, and now, after careful attention and consideration, they seem to be straightening themselves out.

I can't emphasize this enough. Our attitude and our determination are THE most important determinant of our direction and success level. THE most important.

I could have just given up on these problems. I could have turned it over to other people to deal with. Instead, I focused, stayed positive and did all that I knew how to do to affect a positive outcome. It worked!

Get a hold of your attitude and your mind! It is the most powerful tool in your toolbox!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away

I spent a delightful weekend with my niece at a water park. In addition to spending quality time with my precious niece, I was challenging my fears about going down large, scary water slides.

I'd been given a lot of advice about going to the water park. By far the best advice I was given was to 'relax' and just enjoy the sliding!

Resistance is futile! Especially when you are being propelled down a slippery slope by gravity and a lot of rushing water!

On the water slide, there is no holding on to the sides to keep yourself from going down. Once you start there is no stopping... you are going down!

No matter what scary twists and turns appear you have to ride it out. No matter what perilous drops occur you go over them. It's a great metaphor for life. Go with the flow!

I found that the fears that I had quickly dissipated. It is often true that our fears seem much larger than they turn out to be when we face them squarely. This proved to be true in my water slide adventure.

If you've never been down a water slide, I highly recommend it! It's a great way to prove some universal truths to yourself, most importantly that going with the flow is the true path to joy and freedom!

If you can't go down a water slide, then you'll have to find another way to embrace that truth!

Go with the flow!!

Monday, August 09, 2010

We're Starting Over Aren't We!

Last Monday I went in to my bank to cash a check. After I handled my banking, I was leaving the bank and one of the employees passing by said, "Have a great day!" Then he stopped and said, "Actually, have a great week! We're starting over, aren't we!"

His comment stuck with me as I got into my car and drove away. "We're starting over, aren't we!" It was Monday. A new week stretched before us. I liked his enthusiastic acknowledgement that we had a chance to 'start over.'

What if we could live every day that way? Realizing that each year, month, week, day or moment is a chance to let go of what has come before and 'start over.' I love this idea!

We get so hung up on what has come before. We get stuck looking over our shoulder at what is behind us. This slows us down and prevents us from moving forward fully.

Letting go of what has passed behind us, even if it was just 5 minutes ago, and moving fully into our future is a powerful way to live.

Happy Monday! We're starting over... this moment!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Finding What You Need

I've been doing a major cleaning project in my home. I have been going through drawers, medicine cabinets and closets to weed out old bath/body products and medicines.

I'm amazed at the stuff I'm finding. Some of it's expired. Some of it is way past expired. Some of it is perfectly good, but no longer of use to me. Some things are spoiled and rancid! It's amazing how all these things have lurked in drawers and closets for so long.

I'm being ruthless in my purging. I'm getting rid of more than I'm keeping. Some I'm giving away. Some just has to be tossed in the trash.

I'm feeling lighter and more care free with every toss.

Something interesting has been happening simultaneously. As I've weeded out and purged this stuff, I've suddenly started to be successful in my search for various articles of clothing that I've been wanting to replace for quite some time. New exercise pants, swim suits, sweat suits and a few other things. I've been searching for these items for quite some time with no luck. Now, suddenly, the perfect items have been presenting themselves to me without much effort.

I really believe that my willingness to 'let go' of things that are no longer right for me has made 'space' for me to find what I really want. They aren't the same types of 'things' but being willing to let go in any way makes space for something new.

I love that I get reminders in my real life of how this principle works. When these principles are reinforced, it gets easier and easier to practice them in more corners of my experience.

I'm delighted to be cleaning out so many old, outdated items from my home and my mind. I'm equally pleased to be embracing new, wonderful things and thoughts into my experience!

Try it! Find something that you can weed out from your physical space and use it as a metaphor for your willingness to let go of anything (internal or external) that no longer fits you and the life you want to live! Make way for the new!!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Handle it Quick

I got a cable TV and Internet bill in the mail this week. I was shocked to see that it was more than double the amount of last month's bill!

It appeared that my 'promotional deal' had expired a month ago, and the new plans I was included in were much more expensive.

Normally, with something like that, I would set it aside for a couple days before calling to deal with it. The annoyance I would feel about something like this and the hassle I was sure it would be to resolve it, would normally cause me to procrastinate a bit before I handled it.

Today, however, I decided to just do it! I opened the bill and within a few minutes I called the cable company to get started. I explained that I needed to make some changes to my account.

Within 15 minutes, I had things arranged exactly as I wanted them. My bill will be about $20 a month higher than it was, which was entirely acceptable to me. I knew my promo deal wouldn't last forever. The phone support person was really helpful and it was quite painless to resolve.

I could have ruminated about it for a few days and then made the call. I would have wasted a lot of thought energy worrying about how hard it was going to be to get it all straightened out. In other words, I could have wasted a lot of precious life force on something that would never happen.

How often in life to do we put things off, thinking they will be awful for us to deal with, only to find that they aren't nearly as difficult as we thought they would be?

Got some things lurking on your to do list that you've been putting off? Tackle one today. Knock it out of the park! Do it NOW!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A New Route

A couple weeks ago I was driving home from my mother's house. It is usually a 4 hour drive. On this particular day the traffic was horrendous.

One portion of the drive that usually takes 30 minutes took me 1.5 hours! I'd heard on the radio that I would be facing similar traffic for my entire drive. I was really frustrated.

It was 4pm so I decided to take an upcoming exit and stop at one of my favorite places to eat. They have tremendous turkey burgers! I considered eating dinner and seeing a movie to let the traffic die down. I took my road map into the restaurant with me so I could see if there were any alternate routes available to me.

To my surprise the very exit I had taken yielded a perfect route through the countryside and would take me directly home. Under normal circumstances the freeway drive would have taken me 2.75 hours from that point. With traffic as it was, I'm guessing it would have taken me more than 5 hours to get home. My new route that I discovered took me 3 hours, but it was scenic, uncrowded and gorgeous!

This new route was perfect! My willingness to explore a different option and take it saved me an incredible amount of frustration and wasted time.

There was a time in my life where it wouldn't have even occurred to me to check out an alternative. I would have simply stuck with the route I knew and suffered through the traffic.

I'm grateful that I've cultivated the ability to change gears when I need to. I say 'cultivated the ability' because this is not something that I have always done or known how to do. I've had to practice the willingness to shift directions and try something new.

My spontaneous route discovery, in response to changing conditions, is my reward for all the work I've done to make this ability a part of the way I approach my life. It enhances and enriches my days in more ways than I can describe.

I know that my willingness to 'take a new route' in the outer circumstances of my life is also indicative of my willingness to take new routes inside myself. I can think in different ways. I can make new decisions. I can alter my outer course in greater ways than simply driving a new road on a trip I've taken 100s of times.

We can practice cultivating this ability to move in new ways by changing our routines. Drive a different route once in a while. Switch the order of your morning tasks. Change which pant leg you put on first. Find someway to shake up your ordinary routines and let it shift you through and through!

Explore new routes! Make your life a great adventure!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Very Wise 5-Year Old

Sometimes we look outside ourselves for something or someone to change our mood. We focus on the outer world and expect it to conform to our preferences and needs. We hook our moods to our outer circumstances. This is a recipe for a very unstable and unhappy life.

I saw something in my cousin's facebook post the other day that really made sense to me.

He was writing about his 5 year old daughter. She was taking a shower, and singing a little song to herself,

"If you want to laugh... just tickle yourself, tickle yourself."

Out of the mouths of babes. This little girl has the secret! We are totally capable of altering our own moods and changing our own state of mind.

We have the power within us to shift from the inside out. She didn't sing,

"Go find someone else to tickle you,"

now did she?

Have you tickled yourself lately? Have you found something that feeds your soul and makes your heart sing and done it... just for the heck of it?

We need to become inner directed. It will serve us well to stop looking to other people or outer circumstances to set our internal tone! We have the ultimate authority and responsibility for our state of mind and mood!

Tickle yourself!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Therapeutic Rebellion

Some of you have noticed that I have been 'away' for the past week or so. I didn't expect to take a break. Midweek last week I just hit sort of a wall. It was a type of mental block. I felt like I needed to take a bit of a rest from some of my daily tasks. That's what I did - and it felt great!

I had nothing urgent that I needed to attend to. I knew that the earth would not stop revolving if I stopped doing a few of my daily chores. Guess what? It didn't!

I did some special projects that I normally wouldn't have had time to tackle. I spent a lot more time than usual taking walks and hiking. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing. It felt good to just let my brain off the hook for a little while.

It was like a mini-vacation. I got a ton done, but it was different from my usual list of tasks.

It's important to give ourselves little 'time outs' once in a while. We need some 'down time' - whatever that means to us. If you're very cerebral like me, you might need more physical activity to balance it out. If your work is physically demanding, you might need to lie in a hammock once in a while!

Listen to what you need, and to the best of your ability - give it to yourself!

My little rebellion is over. I'm back!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grab that Shoe

I was watching Mr. Holland's Opus last night. It's one of my favorite movies!

You may recall that Mr. Holland is a high school band teacher.

There is a young man that the athletic coach asks Mr. Holland to teach an instrument to. This young man has no rhythm whatsoever.

Mr. Holland tries everything to teach this young many to play the bass drum.

I crack up every time I watch this scene in the movie. Mr. Holland resorts to grabbing the boys shoe and tapping it up and down to the beat of the music being played.

It takes a long while and Mr. Holland puts in a tremendous amount of time to help this boy find his rhythm and learn to play his instrument.

His dedication and commitment changed this young man's life.

Sometimes we don't get something right away. We just can't seem to get the hang of it. In many cases, we quit out of frustration and a sense of futility.

Persevering through that sort of floundering is part of many great success stories. It is something that most people simply won't do.

It's uncomfortable. Sometimes it's embarrassing. Sometimes it's extremely frustrating.

Yet, grabbing our own foot and tapping it to the beat of the music when all else fails, is the way to move past our failures into success.

Being willing to do whatever it takes is the key. No matter what that looks like or how long it takes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough

This past weekend I went on a hike that was billed as an 'unmaintained trail.' Hikers were warmed that they might have to do some bush whacking.

My friend and I hiked up the 'trail' for quite a while before we came to an area where we were facing a wall of brush. No matter which direction we looked, there were ferns, briers and small trees taller than we were. We had no choice. We started plowing our way through the brush.

Eventually, we emerged from the thick brush onto the trail once again. It was clear that there was a trail. We had just lost it.

Because of the warning we had received, we anticipated that we might encounter some tough terrain. So, on a couple occasions we got off the trail, plowed our way through difficult territory only to find ourselves eventually back onto a trail that was relatively easy to follow.

On our way back down the mountain, we were on the trail most of the time. When we suddenly found ourselves without a clear path to follow, we returned to the last known 'good state' on the trail and tried another direction. This proved to be a great strategy. Our descent was much, much easier because of our new approach.

We realized that sometimes, when the going gets super difficult, it is a sign that you are on the wrong track! If we had simply explored our options, we would have found an easier route.

The resistance that we encountered was a sign that we were 'off track.' There was an easier route available to us, very near at hand in fact, if only we had looked for it.

Persistence is a great thing. Sometimes, however, when every door appears closed to us on a particular avenue, we need to try another route.

Heading down any 'dead ends' lately? If so, back track a little bit and see if there might be another way to reach your destination!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Going Beyond Perceived Limitations

I had such a great experience yesterday. I went hiking with a new friend. She's a much more experienced hiker than I am. She chose a trail that made me a little nervous from it's description.

It was a bit longer than my normal hikes and it involved a pretty serious climb on a slightly difficult to follow trail.

I had some apprehension about the hike. What if I couldn't keep up? What if it was too hard for me?

I really like to 'know' things. I am most comfortable when I'm familiar with the activity that I'm doing. When I hike, I enjoy knowing the trail I'm hiking and having a clear understanding of where I am and how far I have left to go.

My friend had never hiked the 'climbing' part of this trail, so she couldn't tell me where we were or how far we had to go as we traveled along. She was totally comfortable with the process of getting off the trail and finding our way back on.

Finally, after 3 hours of hiking, we arrived at our destination. A pristine, glorious Alpine Lake. It was such a fantastic reward!

I'm so delighted that I pushed through my hesitation and went on this hike! It was yet another reminder that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for.

It is so easy to let our fears and comfort zones keep us from fully experiencing life.

Challenge your fears. Confront your apprehensions and discomfort. Stretch out beyond your comfort zones and perceived limitations. Your life will be far richer and more satisfying if you do!

My friend and I at Marten Lake ~ WA

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gradual Transformation

I've been going to the same resort on the Washington coast for almost 20 years. They have a long wooden staircase that goes from the resort, down through a wooded ravine/cliff to the ocean.

I have no idea how long the staircase has been there, but it is old and kind of beaten down.

The last time I was there, I noticed that they had replaced the top section of the staircase. Gone is the old gray, decaying wood. In it's place there was new, sturdy pressure treated wood. It looked really nice.

I was there this past week, and they had replaced the next section of the staircase. It is clear that their plan is to rebuild the entire, long staircase one section at a time.

In some ways, I am sad to see the old staircase go. It has a rustic, nostalgic appeal.

Yet, the old staircase, at times, has me wondering about it's safety. The new staircase is really sturdy and attractive. It looks like it will last for the long haul.

It's interesting the conflict I feel. Letting go of the old feels like some sort of a loss. Even though the old staircase is breaking down, it is familiar and has it's own charm.

Yet, the new staircase looks safer and more sturdy. It's very attractive and obviously built to last. It's going to be kind of fun to see the new staircase emerge over time.

Our own processes of change, transition and transformation can be similar. Even when the old structures are breaking down and failing, it is sometimes tough to let them go. Whether it's a relationship that has become unhealthy, a job that no longer meets our needs, or any other part of our lives that has become unworkable, it is amazing how we resist letting it go. Even when something new could not only replace but improve things, we hang on to the old.

I like the model of this staircase replacement. They are doing a section at a time. It is less of a shock that way. It is also a way of easing in to a radical transition. Those of us who are regulars have time to adjust to the new staircase and say goodbye to the old as it disappears.

Our own processes of change and transformation can be the same! If we plug away at changing things that require changing, we can ease into the transitions and transformations. We have time to respectfully let go of the old, broken down systems, and we can gradually embrace the new, improved structures.

Start letting go of things that need to go... bit by bit. As you do this, embrace the new, improved replacements that are available to you!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding the Way Home

I've been enjoying a few days of R&R on the Washington coast. It has been a particularly busy past month or so, and I decided to give myself a little break. I am working a bit while I'm here, but for the most part I'm enjoying long beach walks, amazingly tasty seafood and all my favorite guilty pleasures - "fluff" magazines, scratch lottery tickets, jigsaw puzzles and of course, a good book.

Yesterday morning I took a walk on the beach with my coffee in hand, as is my 'beach custom.' It was an interesting set of conditions when I went walking. The beach was completely socked in with a low hanging fog. It also was one of the lowest tides I've experienced in a very long time. -1.8 on the tide scale.

I couldn't see very far in front of me because of the fog. Everything, in every direction was pure white. I kept trying to find the water's edge, but the tide was so far out that I never did actually see the ocean! There were large pools of standing water that separated me from the stretch of beach where the waves were actually crashing on the sand. I could hear the ocean, but I couldn't see it. It was an eerie sensation in some ways.

I walked for 45 minutes in one direction, reached a river I couldn't cross, and turned to return to my room and an inviting, hot shower.

The tide was turning and beginning to come back in, so I could see the ocean, but as I walked along the water's edge, I could not see the bluff upon which my hotel resided. The shore beyond the beach was totally obscured in the fog. I walked for about 30 minutes, and began wondering how I was going to find my hotel. I truly couldn't see!

About that time I noticed that the footprints I had made earlier, traveling in the opposite direction, were still visible in the sand. I decided the the easiest way to get back to my hotel was to follow my own foot prints.

Normally, I would walk along the water's edge for as long as I could until I was parallel to my hotel, then I would walk directly to it. I love to be near the water for as long as possible.

Today, however, if I had tried that I would have overshot my hotel. There isn't a doubt in my mind that I would have missed it!

I followed my footprints. Every once in a while they would disappear, and I would have to scan the surrounding area to pick up the trail again.

Eventually, they led me to the bluff and to the staircase that climbs through a wooded ravine to the hotel. Success! I had found my way back!

As I was retracing my footsteps, I thought about the various times in my life when I have gotten 'lost' or 'off track' and had to find my way back to where I belonged. Sometimes we can take a new route, but the truth is, sometimes we just have to backtrack and go back the way we came!

Sometimes, if the process of getting off track has been difficult or painful for us - the last thing we want to do is to go 'back through' the same territory. Yet, that is what is sometimes required to get us back on track.

We need to take the steps we need to take to correct our course when we have gotten lost or off track. Do what needs to be done to address it - even if it isn't comfortable or pleasant. The sooner we get back on track the better off we'll be!

Pick up the trail and follow it home!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's in a Name

Today, I had such a wonderful experience. Someone who has worked for me for the past 10 years brought his infant daughter to meet me. He gave her the name, "Nola" because he liked my name. I was really touched when he told me that he was going to name his daughter Nola, but meeting her was really special.

She is such a beautiful and sweet little girl. She really 'took to me' and couldn't stop smiling at me. It was just a sweet and precious experience to meet her.

It is quite a compliment to have someone give their daughter your name. I'm not going to say he 'named her' after me, but obviously, if he thought I was a jerk, I doubt he'd have done it!

Sometimes we don't realize the impact we have on people. We don't realize that we can will always leave a favorable impression or a negative one on the people we meet and rub up against in life. We just never know the extent of the impact that we have.

In this particular case, I was truly blessed to be given a strong indicator that my 10 year working relationship with this young man has been a positive one in his mind. It's nice feedback for me!

I love the fact that there is a happy little baby named "Nola" out there. It is such an honor and a treat. I was named after my Grandmother who was a phenomenal woman. Now, there is another little Nola out there, who in some way has her name because of me... and my Grandmother. It's a wonderful continuity, and a testament to positive influence and what is possible if we treat each other with respect and kindness.

I wish for this new little Nola a life of happiness and contentment!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When You Look in the Mirror...

When you look in the mirror, ask yourself this question.

"What do you like the best about yourself?"

This is a line from one of m favorite movies - Mr. Holland's Opus.

Mr. Holland asks this of a student who is riddled with a lack of self confidence. He helps this young woman blossom into an extremely successful and confident person.

I truly believe that we need to start with what we LIKE about ourselves if we are to grow and evolve into all that we were created to be.

I have learned, first hand - the hard way - that self loathing and self criticism are NOT the way to improve yourself or your life.

Sustainable and authentic change cannot happen if we are at war with ourselves.

We can only truly change and improve from a place of self acceptance.

What do you like best about yourself? Start there. Praise that part of yourself. Appreciate it. Build from there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Reward at the End of It

I spent the last couple days doing a lot of heavy duty yard work. The weather has been really hot in Seattle. The tasks I undertook were a little more challenging due to the higher temperatures.

Still, it felt good to accomplish so much and see the transformation take place in my yard and around my house. It looks GREAT!

At the end of 3 long days of work, a friend offered to take me out for a little boat ride on Lake Washington. Now, boating is always fun. Especially on a beautiful summer day in Seattle.

Something about getting to do it at the end of a long haul of chores made it feel even better than usual!

The wind in my hair, the sun on the water and the feeling of freedom as we sped along felt simply marvelous.

I don't think it would have felt quite the same if it hadn't followed such an intensely busy and challenging few days.

Sometimes we appreciate things more when they come in sequence after something that is harder or more difficult in our lives.

I know that I appreciated this boat ride more than the last one I had. It somehow felt like a reward for all my hard work and effort.

Make sure you set high goals for yourself. Also make sure that you give yourself little rewards and treats along the way for a job well done. It enhances the quality of the entire journey!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Appreciating the Contrast

Finally. At long last, summer has arrived in Seattle. Temperatures in the 70s, 80s and 90s for the next many days. FINALLY!

We've had one of the wettest, coldest spring/early summers that I can remember.

Now, we have bright sunshine and glorious warmth.

I'm having more moments of deep appreciation about this weather than I normally would. I always love a sunny day, but with our long dark, wet, cold winters, and the late arrival of some sunny weather this year, I now find myself walking outside, spreading my arms out, reaching up towards the sky and saying, "Thank You!" with all my heart.

Nothing like a long spell of dreary weather to make you appreciate the beauty of a warm, summer day.

Life is the same. Sometimes we take things for granted if we don't experience the 'opposite' for a while. Having a good income or lots of money, is much more appreciated after a time of unemployment or financial struggle. Relationship harmony is amazing if you've experienced a lot of strife. Spending time alone can be a glorious gift if you've been through an intense period of being with people constantly. Likewise, companionship can be like a breath of fresh air if you spend a lot of time alone for awhile.

Contrasts teach us about life and about ourselves. We can really see where we may be taking things for granted, when the tide suddenly turns in a dramatic way. It's all good learning!

Live each moment that presents itself to you. Appreciate it for what it is. Try to stay out of 'longing' for something to be different than it is. Be where you are now, and find what is to be savored about this specific experience. There is always something.

Allow the contrasts in your life to enrich and grow you!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Closing Doors

I'm in a real season of 'finishing up' things right now. A big flurry of activity has just come to an end, so I find that I am in the mood for completion!

I've had a card sitting on my desk since Christmas time that needed to be answered. It crosses my mind every couple weeks, and I feel frustrated that I haven't handled it yet. I answered it today!

I had a very unpleasant customer service with a company, and have been wanting to write a letter to let management know about how my situation was handled. Finally, I took care of that today!

About a dozen other tasks that have been 'hanging over my head' were completed today. I'm now able to put away these files, and release some things from my mind.

It feels wonderful to close doors that have been slightly ajar for the past many months. I didn't neglect these things out of procrastination. I didn't avoid them intentionally. I've just been very busy and focused elsewhere.

Today, however, it just felt like a day to finish things up. So I did. Suddenly, I feel lighter and more 'available.' It feels like I have freed up energy that has been tied up in these 'in process' tasks.

I highly recommend 'completion days.' Just take a day, or a few hours here and there, and finish up all the things that are lurking around the corners of your life. Then, allow yourself to disconnect from those tasks and move on.

Closing doors allow us to move forward through newly opened doors with full energy and enthusiasm!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Simple Thrill

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, we can miss the ever present simple pleasures that surround us.

Every year at this time, a particular tree in my yard yields some small red berries. They only last about a week, because birds love them!

In particular, a bird called the cedar waxwing really digs these berries! I rarely see Cedar Waxwings, except during the week to ten days that this tree has it's fruit. The Waxwings come, usually in pairs and feast on the berries. This happens right outside one of my windows.

I completely enjoy seeing these adorable birds each year. I look forward to the fruit ripening on this tree, just so I can see these stunning feathered friends.

It's a great reminder to me that things change and are impermanent. Things come into our lives and they pass from our lives. Enjoying the present moment, and what is before us is is something that enhances and enriches our lives.

If we rush past the simple pleasures and the moments before us, we miss our lives!

Do you have any Waxwings that you could pay attention to today? I invite you to look for the Waxwings and really notice them!

The Cedar Waxwing

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Turning Tide

The tide always turns. Sometimes when we are in a 'low tide' season of our life, we may feel that it will never change. The truth is, that the tide will always change.

When we move into a 'high tide' season, after a long, dry, low tide it is an amazing experience to behold.

Personally, when I've received the 'bounty' after the 'famine' it is one of the most inspiring and energizing times in my life.

It always comes. Even when we don't believe that it will.

If we do what is ours to do, and keep plugging away, we do experience the turning of the tide.

Persistence. Dedication. Hope. Perseverance. It all pays off, eventually. Patience is the key.

"Never, never, never give up." Winston Churchill

Friday, July 02, 2010

Drops in the Bucket

Sometimes when we are working towards a goal or trying to change something in our lives, we can get discouraged by the slow pace at which things seem to change.

When I'm feeling frustrated at my seeming lack of progress in any endeavor, I remember that if I put an empty bucket out in the rain... it will eventually fill with water.

Each drop individually, doesn't make that large of a contribution. Collectively, over time, those apparently insignificant drops do the impossible and fill the bucket to overflowing!

If we get frustrated and cover the bucket, feeling that there is 'no use' in letting the drops fall in the bucket, of course, it can never fill.

We need to patiently let the drops fall in the bucket. It will eventually produce the desired result.

Whatever you aim to do, or set out to achieve, be patient with yourself and apply consistent, ongoing effort.

You WILL get there!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Enjoy it Anyway

This past couple weeks has been kind of crazy and busy. Deadlines, unexpected commitments to meet, flat tire... you name it.

As a result, I've gotten behind in my schedule for doing my yard work. I have a large yard and it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it up.

Looking at everything I needed to accomplish I realized that I had to let go of my expectations with regards to the yard, and ease up on my schedule.

At the same time, some of my work related activities allow me to be out in the garden as I accomplish them.

In the past, this would have been difficult for me. Walking through the yard, it has been difficult for me to see anything except for all the work that needs to be done.

One of the things I've been working on myself in the last few years is learning to enjoy whatever is happening in my life, no matter what is going on.

This week, I have been taking little walks around my yard to break up my work sessions. I've been doing some of my work, sitting out in the midst of all the pruning and weeding that needs to be done.

You know what? It is totally possible to enjoy the beauty of my garden, even with all the weeds, and gangly plants about!

Things don't have to be perfect to be enjoyed.

You don't have to wait until everything is just the way you want it to be before you enjoy it.

Enjoy what is. Exactly as it is right now. Tomorrow is another day, and things might be different. For this moment, revel in the current state of affairs. There is something special in this moment, just as it is unfolding!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stretching Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm really proud of myself! I did a couple of things over this past weekend that were big stretches for me. To some people, they may sound like 'no big deal,' but to me, with my specific constellation of personality traits and past 'issues' they were big accomplishments.

I wore a belt with an outfit that I wore. I haven't worn a belt ever in my adult life! I simply haven't been able to get myself to wear belts. They were not in my repertoire! A saleswoman convinced me that this belt 'made' the outfit I was putting together and I was pretty sure she was right. When I wore the outfit to a special event, I actually put the outfit on, with and without the belt and had my family members vote on what looked best. It was unanimous! I wore the belt!

I also had a new dress that I wore for the same time. It too was 'out of my comfort zone.' It was a style that I generally wouldn't buy for myself, but it was adorable! I thought it looked pretty good on me, and I had the perfect jewelry to wear with it. This dress 'challenged' some of my long held conceptions about what I 'can and cannot wear.'

I got lots of compliments on the new dress. I got lots of compliments on the other outfit too - including specific positive comments about the belt!

There would have been a time, not so long ago, when I would have been unable to purchase or wear either of these 'new' wardrobe additions. I simply would not have been 'willing' to take the chance.

I'm grateful that I've progressed to the point where I can edge myself out of my comfort zone into new territory! This has only happened because I've repeatedly done so over the course of many years.

We do so many things to ourselves to keep ourselves stuck in old ways of thinking and doing things. We alone have the key to free ourselves. We just need to put the key in the lock... and turn it. No one can do this for us!

Got any comfort zones that you need to be bustin' out of? Take a chance. Step out there. It won't feel 'comfortable' - hence the idea of leaving the 'comfort zone.' Eventually, however, if you hand in there and keep doing it, you will find that your comfort zone expands!

You can barely see the belt peeking out from behind my notebook. This is also not a color that I would normally wear.

Me in my 'out of my comfort zone' dress - with my brothers and cousins

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Restoration

I had a fantastic weekend! I performed a wedding and spent a lot of time with my extended family. It was tremendously fun, and it also left me feeling really exhausted!

Last night, when I finally got to go to sleep, I was really looking forward to it. I needed a good, long, night's rest.

That is exactly what I had!

When I woke up this morning, I had not even moved! I was so tired, I went 'out like a light' and slept deeply and soundly for the entire night.

I woke up feeling refreshed and renewed. I was ready to tackle the day with enthusiasm.

It is so important to allow ourselves the time to renew and rejuvenate when we have expended ourselves and our energy.

It is impossible to just keep going and going and going without letting ourselves reset and replenish ourselves.

I'm learning this more and more as I grow older. I am much more willing to take the time to rest and relax. I have learned the importance of balancing exertion and expending energy with rest and restoration.

Give yourself the time to relax and rejuvenate. It will enhance everything you do!

Monday, June 28, 2010

That Satisfied Feeling

I'm coming to the end of a long but wonderful weekend. I spent the weekend with my family celebrating the wedding of one of my cousins. I was actually quite honored to officiate the ceremony!

We had a family get together one night, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner the next night and the wedding on the following day. It was a marvelous opportunity to connect with my family and spend time together as a group.

The weather was beautiful! The wedding was outdoors in a lovely setting. We couldn't have asked for a better experience!

I enjoyed playing an important role in the process. It felt good to contribute!

Even driving to and from all of the events was fun. The weather, the beautiful countryside - everything worked together to make it enjoyable.

I did have one little unexpected problem. I got a flat tire the night before the wedding and had to deal with that. It was handled with relative ease, and it felt good to have been able to handle the crisis in the midst of so much fun without being totally incapacitated.

After a long drive, it feels good to be home again, reflecting on the joys and laughter we all shared these past few days.

I am also anticipating a richly deserved sleep. The excitement and events of the past few days has me a 'few pints low' on sleep! I didn't mind a bit, but I actually can't wait to 'hit the hay.' Nothing feels better than drifting off into a much needed, restful sleep!

It is such a gift to have moments like this! It's important to be able to look back over something that has just come to a conclusion, with satisfaction and pleasure, even when there were bumps along the way. It is also wonderful to be able to allow something to really conclude, carrying forward warm memories, but moving in to the next experience.

Being fully present to each experience, and moving easily and effortlessly from one to the next is a ticket to a rich and wonderful life!

My sequence of experiences is beckoning me into a much needed sleep at the moment!

What's next for you? Feel satisfied with what has come before - whatever it is. Let yourself learn your lessons, remember with joy, and move into the next 'new' moment.

For me... right now... it's "Sweet Dreams!"

Friday, June 25, 2010

700th blog

Today is a really big day for me. Today marks my 700th blog post! It is hard for me to believe that I have written 700 articles for this blog!

The achievement of writing this many articles is something that, when I started, would have seemed impossible to me.

The blog was undertaken as a writing discipline. I have loved to write for as long as I can remember. I wrote books as a child, and dreamed of becoming an author.

I still have, as one of my life goals, to write and publish one or more books. The blog was a device that would require me to write consistently, and practice the process of getting my thoughts on 'paper.'

I had no idea it would last this long, or affect me as it has. I've changed and grown in many ways as I've written this blog.

Perfectionism is something that I have struggled with a lot in my life. My attention to detail and my conscientiousness has taken me far in this life, but can also become a prison when it is taken too far. I most definitely had taken it too far in my early life, and have spent many years working to 'balance that out.'

Writing these articles quickly, and without tons of editing has been challenging for me. I usually want to polish everything I do before it is let out for 'public consumption.' One of my goals for myself with the blog was to just write, write, write and write some more, without worrying about it being grammatically perfect or professionally edited. It was more important that I just WRITE and get it out there. I've done that.

I love it when I accomplish things I never thought I could do, or go above and beyond my own expectations.

I simply took one day at a time and one moment at a time and kept taking the step that was in front of me to take.

My plan is to keep on writing, because I love to write. I hope that people find some inspiration or value in what I put out here, but even if no one does... I'm growing and expanding as a result of the 'practice' and the 'discipline' of turning it out!

Thanks for reading! I will continue to...

Blog On!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coming out of the Fog

I haven't had too many opportunities to hike this summer. Our weather has been really, well, cranky, this year! I'm a bit of a 'fair weather' hiker. I like to hike when it's sunny and clear outside. I'm not one for heading out into the rain to slip and slide along muddy trails.

Because our weather has been so wet and un-summerlike this year, I haven't always been able to get up and set out in bright sunshine for most of my hikes.

The last time I went hiking a couple weeks ago, it was completely foggy and cloudy when I got up. It didn't really inspire me to go hiking. I knew that the weather forecast called for sunny skies on this particular day, but it sure was far from that when I looked out the window. It would have been so easy to just crawl back in bed and sleep in.

Instead, I packed up my gear and headed for the mountain. It stayed cloudy and foggy for my entire drive.

I started up the mountain in the fog. Then something interesting began to happen.

As I climbed along, it became clearer and clearer. Soon, I could see bright blue sky and sunshine filtering through the trees.

I had hiked my way above the fog into the glorious sunshine. It was indeed a magnificent day!

I could have turned around and gone back to bed when I saw the uninspiring fog. It really seemed like a better idea at that moment. I knew, however, that I really wanted to hike and get out into the world. I needed to be inspired by the natural beauty that is all around me here in Seattle.

Once I did my part and started to move myself up the mountain, the fog disappeared and I could see clearly in the crystal clear skies that live above the fog.

What a great metaphor for life. We can be 'turned around' by the appearances of uninspiring surroundings, or we can choose to do what is ours to do, and move forward anyway. Often, when we do, the circumstances that we find objectionable change before our eyes! We either move our self above and beyond those circumstances, or they cease to have any control or impact over us.

Got a little fog in your life right now. Start climbing the mountain that is before you! You can hike your way out of that fog!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Too Much Too Soon

Sometimes when we set about to change something in our lives we attack our goal with such veracity that we quickly burn out and abandon our efforts.

It's a tale as old as time. When we first set our sights on a goal, we are filled with energy and enthusiasm and dive in with all of our might.

When the going gets a little tough, however, some of that energy and enthusiasm can fade, and we find that our resolve can waiver a bit.

I think of the many times that I started exercise programs in my life, only to over do it, hurt myself in some way, and then backing off or quitting altogether.

When we try to do too much too soon, it generally doesn't go well.

We've had a really cloudy and wet spring and early summer here in Seattle. We always have a lot of rain here, but this has been abnormal!

A couple weeks ago, we had a hot sunny day. By hot, I mean that it got into the low 70s! That should tell you how it's been around here!! I was excited to get a little sun. I put on a backless top and went out to pull weeds in my garden.

I was only out there for an hour. The sun felt glorious on my back.

When I showered, I noticed that my back looked a little tan.

"Cool," I thought to myself, "my first tan line of the season!"

Little did I realize in that moment, but I had totally fried my back. I had a really bad sunburn, which became painfully clear as the day and evening wore on.

Until that day, I had zero sun exposure on my back this year! I didn't realize just how "un-tan" I was and that an hour in the bright sun was way too much for my body to handle well.

I had good intentions to get some Vitamin D exposure, but I took it too fast. I did too much too soon, and I paid for it! The pain, the itching phase, and of course, not being able to expose my back to the sun again anytime soon were all consequences of my over zealousness!

When we set goals and take on new tasks, we need to start slow and build from there. It's better to do something slowly and consistently than it is to go all out for a time or two and then quit. We never make lasting progress that way.

Slow and steady wins the race. If you're taking on any new projects or goals, make sure you set a realistic, sustainable pace, and stick to it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Simple Acknowledgements

Two weeks ago, my nephew graduated from High School. It was an exciting time to witness the achievement of such a significant milestone in the life of a young person.

I've tried to help my nephew along the way. My goal is to be a source of encouragement and support to all the young people in my life. With my nephew it took the form of giving him some summer work to do to earn money, helping him get organized for college applications, financial aid forms and to take the SAT. I am sure that I annoyed him many times... keeping him on task, following up on deadlines, etc.

So, it was especially touching to me, that at his graduation, he took the opportunity to say thank you in a very sweet way.

Each of the kids was given 3 roses when they picked up their diploma. At a later point in the ceremony, they were free to go out into the audience and give the roses to people they wanted to thank for their support and encouragement.

I was truly delighted that I was one of the recipients of my nephew's roses.

It was a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me. To be acknowledged is a lovely thing.

I kept that rose near me for the entire length of it's life! It actually lasted about 10 days! I'd move it from place to place so that I could look at it no matter what I was doing.

Letting people know that we care about them, that they matter to us, and that we appreciate their contributions to our lives is a wonderful and powerful practice. It doesn't have to be anything fancy!

Sharing our appreciation with each other, and acknowledging the roles that people play in our lives is one of the things that truly makes life worth living.

Why not take a moment today, and send off an email, or a card, or even a small gift to someone who has made a difference in your life? It feels good to do it... and it sure feels good to be on the receiving end of such a blessing!

The rose my nephew presented to me
at his graduation

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day 2010

Here we are again at another Father's day! I'm sitting in a restaurant, witnessing a lot of families brining their 'dad' out to celebrate.

It is wonderful to pause once a year to reflect on the role that fathers play in the lives of their children and in this world.

The father role is an important one in our lives. Having a good father is a blessing. Having an absent or unskilled father leaves wounds and scars that we can spend a life time working out.

Even if we had a hard time with our own fathers, we can appreciate the 'fathering' that we've received along the way. We can receive loving father energy from anyone really.

I was blessed in my life to have a great dad. He taught me many wonderful things about how to live life and become the person that I am today. I always feel a little nostalgic around father's day, because we used to take a trip to Reno every year around this time to have a little father/daughter time and to gamble a little bit. :)

Dad passed away in 1997, and I still miss him.

On father's day, I like to not only give thanks for my own father, and all he gave me, but also to the other men in my life who have shown me love, support, tenderness and compassion. Those men have all contributed to my life in special and meaningful ways as well.

My Dad

Me with my Grandpa Drazdoff

Uncle David

Dr. Charles Bruni

Jack Boland

Happy Father's Day to all you men out there! Give yourselves credit for the fathering that you have done - with your own children and with others as well!

Friday, June 18, 2010

If You Let 'Em

My niece's 15th birthday was a couple weeks ago. I was in my mom's town preparing a little party for my niece. I had just picked up her birthday cake and was on my way to get a cup of coffee to take home for my mother. As I parked my car, I noticed a lady coming out of the neighboring "Dollar Store" with a bunch of helium balloons. I thought that seemed like a great idea! I had never given my niece balloons on her birthday before, so I decided to go in and get some.

I went into the store and purchased 3 balloons. As I was leaving the store, a woman appeared to me to be just arriving. She was behind me, pushing a cart. I assumed she was starting her shopping trip in the store. As I walked out the door, making sure that my balloons passed safely under the top of the door frame, I glanced back at the woman. She was pushing her cart past the door. I let go of the door, and it began to swing shut.

Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound as the door smacked the front of her cart! She was coming out behind me after all. I had dropped the door on her.

I quickly grabbed the door and apologized to her. "I'm so sorry, I didn't think you were coming out!"

This woman was obviously troubled. She was a bit disheveled looking, and her lipstick was smeared around her mouth. She sort of snapped at me as I grabbed the door and opened it for her. "If you let 'em... they'll just keep doin' it!"

I apologized again and held the door open for her.

Then she muttered, "Just leave me alone!"

I held the door until she was safely out of the store and I walked to my car. She was walking a little ahead of me, and kept turning to look over her shoulder at me. She obviously wanted to get away from me, but we happened to be going in the same direction!

She was muttering to herself, and every once in awhile I could hear what she said.

"I just want to be left alone."
"They always do that to you."
"Go away. Just go."

I felt very sorry for this woman. She was obviously a very sad and disturbed person.

She was perceiving persecution where there simply wasn't any. I wasn't trying to hurt her, but she believed I was. The first statement she had uttered really stuck with me, "If you let 'em, they'll just keep doing it."

Now, in this woman's case, it appears to me that she has a belief that people are out to get her and will continue to do so, if she doesn't stop them. The problem is that she seems to 'set herself up' to experience people 'getting her.' I swear to you, she was pushing her cart past the door I was leaving through. When I turned my back and let go of the door, she deliberately turned her cart and pushed it into the closing door. She slammed the door on herself, and then blamed me!

Someone in my life recently made some decisions about the path they are going to follow, declared that they believed most people in their life would reject them as a result, and has proceeded to reject a bunch of people in her life... and then say that they are rejecting her. It's what she believes to be true, so she's MAKING it happen so she can be right, but blaming other people all the while.

This is a common phenomenon for all of us, actually. The way the universe works, we 'get to be right' about our beliefs.

If we believe that people are out to get us, we will experience that as our reality.

If we believe that our luck is always bad, it will appear to us that it is so.

The lens through which we look at life is powerful. It literally changes what we see to match our expectations and beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Be very observant of your beliefs about yourself and the world. It is affecting your experience every single second!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Resting Messenger

The weather has finally started to improve in Seattle. Finally, we are getting some much anticipated and much appreciated sunshine!

With the arrival of the sun, I have relocated my work space to the great outdoors. Whenever I can, I work on my patio or my deck to enjoy the beauty of my woodland garden.

As you may know, the dragonfly is a very special symbol to me. I consider it to be a powerful symbol of transformation. The process of change that creates a dragonfly from a waterbug is miraculous to me! I feel that process is a metaphor for our own possible transformation... from something that slinks around in the muddy water to something that becomes beautiful and free - able to soar through life with grace and ease.

When I was sitting at the table on my patio working the other day, a dragonfly flew up to me, landed on the table right in front of my writing tablet and did something I'd never seen a dragonfly do before. He or she tucked it's wings up along it's back, bowed it's head and appeared to take a little nap! The dragonfly was resting!!

I was mesmerized by this little creature and the message that he might be delivering to me. I have long believed that dragonflies can be messengers from people who have made their transition and are no longer with us on the earth. Whenever dragonflies appear to me, I believe they bring some sort of message.

This message seemed to be about the important of resting. This little fly looked so relaxed and content. The whole world was his or hers. They could fly anywhere and see anything, and yet, at this moment the creature was taking a break and resting right there in front of me.

I took it as a reminder that in a balanced life, there is both work... and rest. A little while later, I chose to put away my work for awhile and take a walk in the sunshine. I gave my brain a much needed break from the work I was engaged in.

Thank you my little messenger friend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Suck it In for the Right Reasons

When I was growing up, one of the things I remember that all us girls focused on was trying to hold in our stomachs. We were told, and believed that we would look skinnier if we kept our stomachs sucked in at all times. It made us look better, in our minds, so we did it. It was a pretty common practice - with the reasoning being that it would improve our attractiveness.

When I got into recovery from my eating disorder and started to do a lot of body image repair work, I encountered a different line of thinking. In the quest to accept and appreciate the body, we were encouraged not to 'war' with our bodies and do things that were intended to excessively control them. Letting the stomach relax and deliberately NOT sucking it in was one of the exercises I remember reading about and embracing. My belly was beautiful and sacred, and if I loved myself totally, I wouldn't try to hide it by sucking it in. That was my new line of thinking.

Interestingly enough, after many many years of not sucking in my stomach, I ended up with some interesting lower back problems. Some of these problems are directly related to weak and atrophied abdominal muscles! Now, it didn't all come from that one practice I did to 'let it all hang out,' but that practice was most definitely involved.

Several years ago I started physical therapy, and have been learning about 'activating my core' which in some ways is very closely linked to 'sucking in my belly!' As I've learned to turn on those muscles, and pull in and lift my abdominal area, my lower back issues have improved. It's really quite amazing how much of a difference it makes.

In fact, I went hiking a week ago, and was disappointed that towards the end of the descent from the mountain I hiked up, my right knee began to hurt on the outer edge of the knee cap. I've had this problem before, but last summer, I hadn't experienced it at all! The fact that on my first hike of this season, I experienced the problem was a bit discouraging and frustrating.

When I told my physical therapist about it, she understood the problem immediately. She said that the muscles that connects to the inner part of the knee cap wasn't do it's job properly, and so the knee cap was pulling to the outside slightly, causing the inflammation and irritation that I experienced.

She had me lie on my back and tighten my right quadricep muscle. She poked a bit at the area on the inside of my left knee cap. It seemed normal to me. Then she asked me to 'activate my core' and contract my quadricep muscle again. She poked the same place and it was rock solid! When I didn't 'activate my core' that muscle wasn't able to contract and hold my knee in place. When I did activate my core, the muscle was 'on' and I could feel that it made a huge difference to the support that my knee had.

What's my point? The point is, that we can do things from different places inside ourselves. Back when I used to hold in my stomach because I was ashamed of it and wanted to look thinner, I was coming from a place of self rejection and control. It was better for my back, but I didn't know that then, and I probably wouldn't have cared if I had known! It was all about appearances and attractiveness back then.

Now, I'm learning to perform that action for a valid reason that is rooted in self love, acceptance and respect for my body. I want to take care of my body because I love it and want it to function at it's best.

What a different place to come from!

An outer action can look exactly the same. Activating your core is still basically sucking in your gut. One comes from a place of self criticism and judgement and one comes from a place of self respect and love for one's body. It makes all the difference in the world which place we're coming from!

Exercise can be an act of self love, or an act of imposing a tyranny of obsessive, anxiety ridden beliefs about ourselves and what we have to do to be acceptable to ourselves.

Keeping a clean house can be an expression of a calm, clear inner world, or it can be an expression of an obsessive, compulsive imprisoned personality. To an outsider the house might look the same in both cases, but the level of peace and contentment within the 'cleaner' would be radically different.

My goal in life is no longer to just do the right things. My goal has become to do the right things from the right place. The quality of the experience is so much greater when we do.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There's Always Something to Enjoy

I'm undergoing a radical transformation in the way I relate to my days and my life! The revelation that I've had is so simple that it may seem unbelievable that it is making such a difference. I will tell you, however, that although the concept is simple... it isn't necessarily easy to implement.

When I was growing up, there was an older lady, Lucy, who lived next door to my family. She was like a second grandmother to me. I spent many happy hours in her company as I was growing up. She had a tremendous influence on the person I have become.

A few years back, I was honored to be invited to her 100th birthday party. She had long since moved to California. My mom and I headed out to go pay tribute to this remarkable woman as she celebrated her 100th year of life on planet earth. Remarkable!

We spent a few hours with her the day before her party just visiting and catching up. I asked her a lot of questions in that conversation. Her attitude is better than anyone I know, and yet her life had not been a bed of roses! I wanted to understand the key to a great life like the one she had lived, and continues to live to this day!

She imparted much wisdom that day, but one of the gems that she told me is at the root of the transformation that I am currently experiencing.

She was telling me about all the different jobs she'd had in her life. There were many, and some of them didn't sound all that glamorous or interesting. Lucy, however, said something I will never forget. As she described her jobs, she never complained about the 'bad parts' of those jobs, but instead she told me what she liked about each job. She was careful to call out something that she learned or enjoyed in every single job she told me about. "There is always something to enjoy about everything you do," she said.

Wow. Just think about that for a moment.

It's as true about all our life experiences as it is about any job that we might have.

I have decided that no matter WHAT is happening in my life, I am going to find SOMETHING to enjoy about it... and focus on that aspect of it, rather than what I don't like or enjoy about it. Even things that are fairly unpleasant have something positive that I can focus on. It really is possible to find something to enjoy in every single experience, even difficult or painful ones.

Easy to say, a bit more difficult to do, but I'm astounded at how much more I'm enjoying my life as I implement this practice. Give it a try!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Celebrating Accomplishments

It was an exciting time for my family this week. My first nephew graduated from high school!

I'm known in the family for making a 'big deal' out of things. I tend to get pretty enthusiastic about things. I make no apologies for that! It's the only way I want to live my life.

I got him some balloons, and put a sign in his yard, and got him some gourmet cupcakes and put little graduation caps on them all. I gave him a card, and some money for school clothes for his first year of college that will start in the fall. It was a fun experience for him, I think, and definitely for me.

Completion is wonderful. Working towards a major goal, and seeing it come to fruition is worth celebrating. The closing of one door and the opening of a new world is a momentus occasion.

We should revel in those moments of life and recognize them for the magnificent transitions that they are.

As I forced my nephew to pose for picture after picture with various family members I hope that I sent the message that this was a big, big deal! He had really achieved something and he deserved to be the star for this moment in his life experience!

Celebrate your achievements and successes! Whether it is a major event like a graduation, or it's eating well for just one day, we should recognize and honor the steps forward that we take in life!

Me with my nephew at his graduation

Friday, June 11, 2010

Each Moment a Thrill

I was listening to a wonderful talk by Jack Boland yesterday called, "Formula for Success." Jack was talking about how we humans will fly or drive to far distant places like Disneyland and pay lots of money to ride rides and experience thrills... and joy! While there is nothing wrong with doing this, Jack was suggesting that the fact that we look for this sort of sensation is an indicator that we are meant to live interesting and exciting lives! He also suggested that we can do this every moment and every day... right where we are! I couldn't agree more!

Every single moment that we are alive offers some sort of powerful and intense experience, if we will but look for it, recognize it and allow it.

Even so called 'negative experiences' can be powerful teaching moments in our lives. We can learn to surrender. We can recognize that what we once thought important is really not important at all. We can come to see the value of the people closest to us.

Quiet moments can be exhilarating inner experiences of rejuvenation and renewal.

Moments of physical exertion can connect us to our bodies and the marvelous creations that they are!

Moments of mental exertion can stimulate and ignite our creativity and we can celebrate our ability to use our brains for a purpose that we can choose!

Everything... absolutely everything, can be exciting and interesting if we choose to look at it that way.

Treat each moment as the pure experience that it is. Give it your full attention. Let it have its moment in the sun... without distracting yourself with the past or future.

Start to look at every experience as magnificent... no matter what it is. See how this changes your feelings about your life!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Signs of Progress

I wrote in my June 2010 newsletter about a project I have taken on for the month of June to eat 5 - 13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I know I don't get enough fresh fruit and vegetables, and so I'm taking this project on to cultivate some new (and hopefully lasting) habits.

It's amazing. I'm only a little over a week into this process, and I already feel better. It's hard to explain, but I feel more energetic and happier. My mood is better and my body feels like it is better fueled!

I'll keep you posted, but to me, it is an indicator that we are built to function best when we eat a healthy diet! So much of what ails us could probably be resolved if we simply learned what the human body needs to be healthy, and did that on a regular basis.

Easier said than done, I realize, but well worth the effort to make improvements where we can.

Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Start where you are. One reader of my newsletter wrote me to say that she was setting a goal to eat one piece of fruit every day for the month of June, because she never ate any. She wrote it with a bit of an apologetic tone in her message. I wrote back an enthusiastic, "YES! Way to go!" message. It isn't about perfection, it's about progress. You start where you are, and make one change... and then another... and then another... and then another.

I believe in working on personal and spiritual growth from a place of radical self acceptance and compassion. We take responsibility for ourselves AND we know that we are doing the best we can at this very moment in time. Then, we make a change because we love ourselves enough to want something better.

One step at a time! That's how we change!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Waiting it Out

I wrote awhile back, in "Make Way for Beauty," about the inconvenient Foxglove plant that sprung up right next to my driveway. As I mentioned in that article, the location is right where people need to get out of their cars when they park on the cement pad in front of my driveway. Yet, I know how pretty these plants are, so I let it grow.

It takes 2 years/seasons of growing before these plants bloom. Until then, they are just a ubiquitous green plant. But when they finally bloom, in their second year, they are very, very pretty.

An impatient person, or one who does not understand the way this plant grows, might yank it out the first year. It's really not that interesting, and it's pretty large!

If, however, you understand the way it works, you wait... and you are ultimately rewarded for your patience.

Understanding the way that the universe works really helps us cultivate and nurture the aspects in our belief systems that yield the amazing and wondrous results that we seek. One of the great principles that we must learn to work with is how to plant seeds, nurture and take care of the plants, and wait patiently for the blossoming or the creation of the desired 'fruit.' If we give up too soon, we never get the rewards!

When we are working with our consciousness, planting seeds in thought, attitude and belief, it takes persistence and patience to see it through to fruition. Sometimes it doesn't look like much is happening on the outside, but a process is unfolding within. First within, then without is the universal order of things. If we try to take short cuts, or if we give up or back track, we miss the show!

And what a show it is!

Persevere... stay the course. Do all that you know you need to do, hold firm... and wait for the blossoming!

The foxglove is the tall plant right next to the driveway...
This is the spot it chose to seed itself and grow.
Not the most 'logical' or 'convenient' place.

And for 2 years, it has grown there.
Nothing but some fuzzy green leaves, until...

The patience paid off... and
the show began.

Unexpected and unplanned for beauty.
A reward for 'making room' and 'being patient.'

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Protect Your New Growth

As I was taking my walk along the ridge near my home this past week, I was stopped in my tracks by something I find irresistible... and compelling.

It was a small fir tree that is just at the edge of the gravel path I walk on.

At this time of year, the fir trees, and many other ever green trees and sporting their gorgeous new growth! The new growth is a different, brighter color than the old growth, and in some cases the needles are super soft - unlike the prickly hard needles of the older growth.

I just have to stop and touch these tender green shoots of new growth. Something about doing that just sends my spirit soaring!

For one thing, it is a gentle sweet reminder of the constant renewal of life and the growth process. All of life is constantly growing and developing.

Secondly, it is a great, tangible example of how tender and fragile 'new growth' is. These shoots are so soft and pliable. They have not yet matured into more 'solid' material yet.

Isn't that how we are when we are learning something new, or cultivating a new habit? Aren't those new areas of ourselves a bit fragile and flexible?

When you are just learning how to do something, you aren't very sure of yourself. You might be easily swayed by the opinions or advice of other people. Once you are an expert at something, and have mastered it, you can more easily weigh the input of other people to see if it is valid or not.

I remember when I was first in recovery from my eating disorder. I was desperate for help, and pretty much believed anything my counselor told me. I had to. I needed to. It was important for my survival. When people around me challenged those beliefs and ideas, it was painful. I became defensive. I couldn't tolerate anyone challenging the ideas that I felt were hopefully going to change my world for the better. I had to protect my tender new growth and let it grow stronger before I held it up to the scrutiny of others.

Now, when people challenge my belief system or ideas, I can reflect on what they are saying, make a determination if there is any value/redirection for me there, and either accept and incorporate their feedback, or let it go as their experience and truth without it influencing my perspective.

Protect your tender shoots of new belief or growth. Give them time to strengthen and come into their fullness before you show them to the world.

Just as you would not sign up to perform a piano concert in front of hundreds of people without taking lessons or practicing, don't roll out new aspects of yourself to those around you until you will not be knocked off balance by the opinions and advice of other people.

Protect your new growth!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Inspiration By Example

My mom is 75 years old, and she has been working out at a gym for a little over 5 years. That impresses the heck out of me!

Her workouts help her keep her arthritis pain at bay, and keep her bones as strong and healthy as they can be. It's a very good practice that she has adopted into her life.

The people who own the gym really love that she works out there every day. Not only do they support her fitness and health as part of their 'mission' in the services they provide to people, but they love the inspiration that she is to others at the gym.

They sell more training services when my mom is there working out regularly. People see her and they are motivated to do more themselves. "If she can do it... I can do it!"

People look forward to seeing her there. She's a constant. Constants are comforting in this world of eternal change.

Mom's commitment to her own fitness helps other people to be committed to theirs!

For each of us personally, we have the opportunity to experience both sides of this coin. We need to realize that other people are affected by our behaviors and choices. We can aspire to serve as a positive, uplifting example to those around us. We can take seriously the understanding that if we do things that aren't high quality choices, we might be unwittingly validating others in doing so. We impact each other - for better or worse.

On the other side of this is our ability to seek out role models to inspire us into higher and better expressions of our own potential. I like working out around people who are really into it, because it helps me to push myself a little harder than I might if I was watching people sit around and watch TV!

Likewise, in the arena of spiritual and personal growth, we need to seek out those who teach about and demonstrate principles that we would like to live more fully from. I love to read about people who's lives have changed the world through their persistence and dedication to doing all they could to make a difference. I want to be like that! I love to hear people tell stories of overcoming hardships and obstacles in their quest to live a fully awakened and dynamic life! I want that too! I love to be around kind, compassionate, patient people, because those too are qualities that I would like to cultivate and strengthen in myself. I love to be around people who are smart, successful AND balanced, because that is an area I still work on in my own life experience.

Be an example where you can... and seek out the presence or influence of others who demonstrate what you want in specific areas of your life. What you get around rubs off on you... so be selective about what you immerse yourself in!

Friday, June 04, 2010

It's REALLY Green

There is a new commercial that's been playing that I find really charming. It's the Lowe's Hardware commercial that depicts a very young couple who are 'setting up housekeeping' in their first new home.

These young people are overwhelmed and floundering around with various home repairs and crises. In each scenario presented, it shows the young lady, on her phone, most likely asking her father for advice, while the young man struggles to deal with what ever it going on.

The one vignette that I love the most, is when they are standing in a room they have just painted, and he has a wet paint roller in his hand and the entire room - walls and ceiling are bright, Kermit the frog green! The young lady is crying on the phone as she sort of sobs out the words, 'It's REALLY.... GREEN!'

It cracks me up, and yet... we've all been there! That dreadful moment when you realize that it didn't turn out like you planned and hoped for.

That green looked great on a little tiny swatch from the hardware store, but they didn't realize that when it was greatly magnified it would look much, much different.

Often in life, we make decisions based on a particular view of a situation, possibly too limited a view. People fall in love and get married after only a brief 'sampling' of who their partner really is. As soon as they are married and together for a while, suddenly, that 'color' that looked so lovely is really intense and not at all what was expected or desired.

Of course, all is not lost. the young couple can repaint their 'green room.' Many decisions can be reversed, or the trajectory can be corrected and altered.

I like to think, however, in terms of the principle that is demonstrated that when we only look at a small sample, or a small, isolated piece of something, we don't necessarily see all that we need to see.

I believe that life gives us glimpses sometimes, of problematic patterns that are at work within us, by showing it to us in other people, or the world around us in magnified form.

If someone in your life is really annoying and upsetting you, take a look at the patterns that most bother you, and see if you might have a little of that in you... even if it's in 'swatch' size portions. If the problematic pattern is being expressed around us at the same level that we do it, we wouldn't even notice it. it would seem 'normal' and 'acceptable' to us. That is why life sometimes uses the mirrors around us (other people and the world stage) to show us the magnified versions of that junk. We can't ignore it... and it usually really upsets and irritates us.

This isn't easy work. Admitting that we do something (either to others, or to ourselves) that we don't like in other people... isn't easy! It is, however, the only way to freedom. We can't repaint the room, until we realize that it's the wrong color. Life actually does a favor by showing us the intense and magnified color in those around us, in an attempt to get us to 'switch swatches' before we do our own painting (by allowing the pattern to grown and develop in us, until it becomes much more pervasive in our experience.)

If you find yourself exclaiming either in anger, sorrow, irritation or any other 'negative' evaluation, "It's REALLY GREEN" then take a look at your own swatch, and examine it carefully. You might need to switch swatches to make sure that the paint jobs you complete turn out the way you want them to be.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Source of the Current Pain

I was talking to a friend today who was very upset about a tree that lives outside her condominium. The grounds maintenance people came and seriously cut back the tree in a fairly disfiguring manner. It was very upsetting to my friend, because she had planted this tree many years ago.

She admitted that it shouldn't have been planted where it is, because it is a type of tree that will grow far too large for the space it has.

We ended up having an interesting discussion about it.

Ultimately, although she didn't know when she planted, she had 'set up' the current day situation. The tree can't rub up against the building because it will cause damage, yet the tree is getting quite large, and is simply growing in it's natural pattern. She planted the tree, without understanding exactly what type of tree she had, or what it would need to thrive and live a long life.

This is such a powerful metaphor for life! So often, we begin something without fully understanding what we are getting in to and then are surprised by the results down the road. Sometimes it happens through ignorance, sometimes through lack of due diligence. Other times, it is simply not possible to know all the requirements going in to something.

I'm most interested in the first two conditions: ignorance or lack of due diligence, because these are the two issues we can do something about.

If my friend had researched the type of tree she was purchasing, she might have either chosen a more appropriate tree for that location, or decided not to plant this particular tree in this particular location. It was a live Christmas tree, so she might have been able to give it to someone who had more space for such a tree to grow and thrive.

Now, she's experiencing a lot of pain, as the tree has to be continually cut back, and will eventually need to be cut down. That was certainly never her intention, when she tried to do an environmentally friendly thing by purchasing a live Christmas tree.

To me it illustrates a very basic, yet deep spiritual principle. Often times, the current pain we're experiencing, had it's genesis in our own actions or decisions.

We may have ignored red flags, and allowed ourself to get deeper and deeper into an unhealthy situation. We might have done things repeatedly against our own belief system or values. Perhaps we let the opinions of others pressure us into something we didn't really want to do in the first place. The list could go on and on and on. If we're really honest with ourselves, which isn't always the easiest course of actions, we find that we are at the genesis of much of current pain and struggle.

The great news is that we can use this for our learning and our own growth. We can change the way that we approach our decisions and realize that our actions always have consequences in the outer world. Always.

This isn't about blame or feeling 'guilty.' Far from it. This is about understanding the laws of the universe, and using that knowledge to our advantage! To facilitate our learning, growth and improving our lives in powerful and amazing ways!

Before you plant something in your life, consider it carefully!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Legacy

Memorial Day weekend is a special time in my family. We have several traditions surrounding the holiday. The most important is to visit cemeteries where relatives are buried. We clean and decorate the graves and remember those who have gone before us. We tell stories, remember and appreciate our ancestors and enjoy the company of those who are still with us to celebrate.

I always look forward to the holiday, because not only do I get together with the people closest to my heart in current time, but I get to pause and reflect on all those who have preceded me in life and who have, by their lifetimes, given me some sort of gift.

In one of the cemeteries I visit, there are 18 family members buried. In some ways, I feel some sadness when I realize how many people have passed. Of the 18, there are only 4 I did not personally know. Those 4 are my dad's grandparents. Everyone else played a role of some kind in my early life. First off, my father, is always tucked safely in my heart. My grandparents, who welcomed me each summer to work on their cherry and blackberry farm. My uncle Johnny, who built me many little wooden items in his wood shop and his wife. My great uncle Paul, who was very close to my dad. My uncle Jack, who was simply one of the nicest people on the entire planet, who died far too young. My great aunt Grace, and great uncle Leo. My dad's cousin Janet, who also died way too young. My great grand parents. It's a long history there in that graveyard. My uncle Jack's brother, who's 4th of July BBQ I attended every year and Jack's parents, who were like another set of grandparents for me when I was a kid. I have so many memories of all these people.

At another cemetery, it's my mom's parents, and one of my uncles that we remember.

I owe them all a debt of gratitude. They all enriched my life in special and important ways. Some of them made my life in it's current form possible - simply by their existence and their persistence in living this thing called life. Others simply made my life better by being in it, celebrating holidays with me, and giving me different perspectives of and approaches to life. They all contributed in important ways to the person I am today.

I love the opportunity to remember and to recognize the contributions that others have made to the life that I am fortunate to live today.

Happy Memorial Day. I hope you remember all those who have come before you, and all that they have made possible for you, in one way or another.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Confessions of a Perfectionist

I have been a recovering perfectionist for a long, long time. As far as I've come in this process, I'm still working on it - each and every day.

A couple weeks ago, I stopped at one of my favorite fast food places for a quick meal. I got my food, went to the condiment bar and got a few containers of hot sauce and headed to my table.

As I unwrapped a taco, I reached for one of my containers of hot sauce and picked it up with the intention of pouring it on my taco.

Instead of successfully pouring it on my taco, it slipped out of my hand, flipped over, and dumped all over my tray.

Now, this isn't a catastrophe, but the inner reaction I had shocked me! I felt pangs of embarrassment and actual shame because I had slipped and dropped my hot sauce.

I was really, really surprised at how 'not OK' it was for me to make this mistake. I really thought I'd come farther than that in my recovery!

Humans make mistakes. Humans do things wrong. Humans drop things. ALL OF US are human and have weaknesses and flaws. Even on our best days we screw up.

I'm determined to embrace my humanity and stop expecting perfection from myself. It's an ongoing process.

Be gentle with yourself and your humanity. You are not alone!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Let it Be a Dance

I am a big fan of the work of Gabrielle Roth. I have greatly benefited from her Ecstatic Dance practice. It has really helped me to embrace my physical being in a whole new way.

Gabrielle helps her students learn to accept themselves and their physical forms through the process of expressive dance. There is no 'right or wrong' in 'the dance.' There is only using one's body as a form of expressing what is happening inside. It's powerful!

I love the idea of looking at life as a dance. Gabrielle's approach to dance is also a great approach to life. Allow yourself to move through life in the way the feels best to your inner most soul and learn from it all.

Accepting myself in 'the dance' means not judging my moves by anyone else's standards. It means not comparing the way I move to the way that anyone else moves. My way is my way, and for the present moment, it is what it is.

The paradox about Gabrielle's method is that the more I've practiced Ecstatic Dance, the more comfortable I've become moving my body. The more comfortable I've become, the more I 'like' the way I move my body when I dance. I always try to suspend judgment, but I find that the more I practice, the easier that becomes. Partly because I'm more self accepting, and partly because I'm moving with more grace and ease.

Dancing is a great way to get in touch with your spirit. If you've never tried Gabrielle's method, you might want to investigate it!

Let life be a dance...