Monday, December 31, 2012

Ready for adventure? Fasten your seat belt.

What's ahead for you in the new year? We always have lots of unknowns and surprises, of course. We can make our plans as best we're able—and then fasten our seat belts and be ready for the ride, knowing there's much that isn't in our control. Sometimes life can be a roller-coaster ride, in fact. Ever experienced that?

Knowing that, it's good to at least enter a new year with an open stance. Even with a sense of adventure and curiosity, if you're able to pull that off!

Change is one of the few constants in life. And some of your best growth can come as you transition through change in an awake-and-aware stance. Transformation is possible on the other side of change, even on the far side of things that at the time seem devastating.

Have you signed up for my monthly e-newsletter? If not, you can do so on the upper right of this blog page or on any other page on my website. The next ezine, due out January 1, will give you ideas on an alternative to New Year's resolutions—ideas that can help you approach 2013 ready for whatever may come your way. Resolutions are too easy to make and break. There are other ways to make the best of those changes that inevitably will come your way in a new year.

Here's to a life savored and well-lived for you in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Be flexible. Improvise.

Most of us are reminded at holiday time of the gap that exists between expectation and reality. Many of us live at quite some distance from family members. We don't all get to be together with the people we love most. Perhaps we don't get to keep all the traditional parts of Christmas that we had so wanted to stay the same. We have to share. We have to be flexible about when we gather, where we gather, and even if we gather.

I learned the value of flexibility again this year. My youngest son, daughter-in-law and two youngest grandchildren live in the Phoenix area. They were unable to spend Christmas back in the Chicago area where I live. So we put our creative minds—and our technology—to work.

After my box of gifts arrived at their house, we set up a time to Skype. That way I got to watch them open their gifts. It wasn't quite like being together in the same room. But it was quite magical all the same. I loved seeing their faces when they opened each gift. For example, I really enjoyed seeing my 6-year-old granddaughter open up her artist's sketch pad and colors with a whoop of joy and a huge smile on her face. It was especially fun when she ripped off the cellophane and began drawing and coloring immediately. Something told me that gift was a hit!

Would we have loved to be in the same house and the same room sharing gifts? Of course. But it wasn't going to happen this year. Did we enjoy Skyping? You better believe we did. So being flexible and open to new ways of doing things worked. Change isn't all bad.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Be good to yourself. Now.

Christmas is over. The decorations may still be up, and some of the unwrapped gifts still sitting under the tree. But the parties are over and stores are offering huge sales to move merchandise at year-end.

And how are you doing? Do you feel a post-holiday slump? Do you love the hustle and bustle of December, the baking, the events with family and friends, the shopping and gift wrapping? And now you miss it?

Or are you just glad it's over? Now you can catch your breath and get back to your more regular routine. Whew! You survived.

Or is this a difficult season for you every year? Perhaps you dreaded it. But you've made it through another one.

For some this is not a happy time of year. Period. For others, it's fun but exhausting; and they're ready to get back to normal. And for still others of you, you miss the activities. Perhaps you especially miss those times with family and friends. It went too quickly. And you're bummed that it's already over.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum at this time of year, I hope you will take time to notice. Take your own emotional temperature. And then choose what you will do about it. Seek out a friend with whom you can spend time. Do something fun. Treat yourself to a nice meal, a bubble bath or curl up with a good book and cup of steaming hot tea. Exercise (that often gets the good juices moving).

The idea is to develop your awareness about how you feel—and to make choices that are good for you. Good self-care is always important. At this time of year, it's especially important.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The joy of giving

In a conversation last week with someone about holiday gift-buying, my friend said that next year she wanted her family to give up their gift-giving tradition. Instead she wanted them to spend a little of the money they would normally spend on gifts at holiday time to take a summer vacation together that would be a gift of time to each other. Then during the Christmas season she wanted her family to decide together on one charity, or perhaps two or three, where they could give some more substantial gift than usual. Perhaps it would be food for a family. Or a large donation to some local or global charity organization. Or it might be clothing or toys for several local families in need.

What a wonderful idea, I thought. Many of us have all we really need—and then some—and our children and grandchildren do, too. I love the idea of teaching the little ones in our lives how much joy can be found in giving—teaching them by involving them in doing it rather than just telling them!

When my older grandchildren were small, we took a collection when we all gathered for Christmas. Adults put in larger bills, and each child emptied out her or his piggy bank. The children looked through a Heifer International catalog of animals for people in different countries and they selected some as recipients of our money. They were so excited at the prospect of a family making a living if we sent them honey bees or a goat or whatever our money would buy!

Have you tried some new gift-giving traditions? What was the result? I'd love to hear about it. Joy comes in so many forms, but surely when we can share whatever bounty we have with others, our joy soars to new levels.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peace and joy to you

Today many of you are with family and friends (friends can be called "chosen family," you know!). If you are not, I hope you have some memories of times when you were. I hope for each one of you a deep and abiding sense of being loved and being imbued with good qualities—and I wish you peace and joy at this time of year and always.

For those of you who are feeling blue, I offer you something given to me years and years ago during a particularly tough time:

"In times of sorrow, JOY is a seed of hope. In times of loneliness, JOY is a single ray of light. In times of success, JOY is an avalanche of flowers, giggles, songs and hugs.... Its value is the same on the mountaintop or at the depths of the canyon."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Humility doesn't mean a bad self-image

No doubt all of us know someone who is extremely good at accepting blame and pointing out their flaws but who cannot accept praise or list any of their gifts or accomplishments. Maybe it's even you.

I certainly have experienced that in my life, too. When I was a younger woman, I recall being stymied when in workshops, I'd be asked to list 5 to 10 good things about myself. Are you kidding me? I would think. Ask me to list that same number of negatives, however, and I'd have that list done in record time.

Through the years, however, I've worked hard to recognize and appreciate the positive attributes I have—and the accomplishments. Many of us have to get past some of the early messages we received about being humble. "Pride goeth before a fall." If I heard that once, not just at home but in church and in the broader society, I heard it a thousand times. I began to see the way such messages set me up, and I set out to change my inner dialogue.

Having a good self-image isn't about undue pride. It's a healthy stance. If you do have a good self-image, that's wonderful. If you don't, however, and would like to work on that, please contact me. A healthy self-image is a good foundation for solid relationships and for career success. It's essential to a joy-filled life. Know that it is possible to change how you see yourself. Make 2013 the year you give yourself that gift, if you don't already feel good about who you are.

May contentment, joy and peace be among the gifts you receive this season. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Surprises in 2013

Many of my clients are working on career issues or some sort of transition through change. For that, a process of discernment is necessary.

Often when you and I experience dramatic changes in life, we attach some type of judgment to the change itself and/or to the outcomes. We attach judgment to the different paths we consider taking. And while it is useful in discernment to think about the pros and cons of the various paths we might take, it's extremely important to try keep an open mind.

If you are in the middle of change, transition and discernment, consider detaching from any judgments just so you can be as open as possible to new directions and outcomes. See if that doesn't open up more possibilities. Once you have laid out several possibilities, it is helpful to think about the positives and negatives of each. But it's important to not make judgments so early in the process that you limit yourself to the "same-old-same-old" options.

After all, who knows what's out there waiting for you?

When I lost my journalism job, I never imagined a career in life coaching. I was devastated. But as I opened my eyes, ears and heart to possibilities, coaching kept appearing in my sights. After lots of reflection and research, it just felt so right. And I remember that, when I signed up for my life coach training, my heart nearly burst with happiness. It just seemed as though so many parts of my life and so much of my experience came together into this just-right decision.

What will the new year bring for you? What surprises lie ahead? Try detaching from pre-judgments and stay open to the surprises!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas and carnage

As it should be, this week much of the media focus is on the terrible event in Newtown, Conn. We all grieve with and for the families of those killed, injured and in any way affected by the tragic carnage in that community.

This morning I read a comment from author Joan Chittister in which she said, "Maybe Christmas is really about learning to appreciate the basics of life for what they are: the arenas in which we learn to distinguish early what is really important in life from what are merely its frills."

I cannot tell you how many times this week I've heard someone say, "This week I'm holding my children [grandchildren, nieces, nephews or any beloved children in their lives] close and telling them often how much I love them." It's a natural reaction. And it's something we should do all the time.

Whom do you need to hold close this week? What do you need to appreciate that perhaps you've taken for granted? What basic in your life can you appreciate anew during this time?

And of what do you need to let go because it's really one of life's frills? Or even less than a frill?

All of these are good questions to ask ourselves anytime. But perhaps the juxtaposition of this season with the awful events in Connecticut makes this a good time in which to reflect on those questions and more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday distress

During this season of the year, I'm mindful that your emotions, thoughts, feelings and expectations can run the gamut from excited to depressed. Some of you absolutely love this season and enjoy all the holiday preparations and activities. And some of you positively dread this time of year. So much depends on expectations and past experiences, to say nothing of your current reality.

Because the pastors in my congregation know this, too, they lead a Blue Christmas worship service every year at this time. It will be held this Thursday evening. I'm glad they do this because I know what a difficult time of year this can be for many. We all need to be sensitive to that when we are in groups and talk about our anticipation and excitement. It doesn't mean we can't show our excitement. We just need to be aware that not everyone shares it.

If you are having trouble with this season, please talk with someone. Know you aren't alone. Know, too, that it doesn't mean something is wrong with you. You don't have to go through this alone.

If you experience the joy and anticipation of this season, that's wonderful. Perhaps you, like so many of us, are somewhere in the middle of those—and enjoy the season even though you might be disappointed that some of your expectations (and old traditions) aren't fulfilled.

No matter where on the continuum you fall, may you find a deep sense of peace in these days and weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In need of hope

I'm still heart-sick over last Friday's events in Connecticut. How does one even move on from such travesty and terror? My heart just aches for the families of those whose lives were so senselessly taken. And I think of all those whose job it is to deal with what happened—how they, too, must have nightmares for a very long time afterward.

What we all need right now is comfort, healing and some sense of hope. And because words seem so very inadequate, as they always do in the face of such events, I'm not going to write much today.

I'm just leaving some white space so you can fill in with your own thoughts, prayers, reflections and whatever brings you hope. Hold your children, grandchildren and any other children in your lives close. Tell them often that you love them. Better yet, show them. Do the same for the adults in your life ... because, in the end, that's what we all long for so desperately. To love and be loved. It's such a precious gift. Life is a precious gift. Live each day fully and lovingly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doing cocoon-time

Last week at a pre-Christmas women's event, I heard an inspirational speaker: a woman who became blind at age 15 and who now through books and presentations shares her story and her transition from self-pity to a life of joy. She speaks of the illness that caused her blindness as "a difficult gift."

Whether you call it a gift or not, are there things in your life that have been especially difficult challenges and which now mark a real turning point for you? Do you have a story (or two or three) of transformation in your life? I consider the divorce I went through years ago one of those moments. I have also had two huge job disappointments and been Reduced In Force. I don't necessarily want to experience any of those things again. But I see now that each of those experiences and the growth and transformation produced by them has contributed to who and what I am today. I am grateful for the lessons learned, difficult as they were.

I think of the lowly caterpillar crawling along on its belly every day, never imagining that some day it could soar as a beautiful butterfly. It can't do so, however, without doing some serious cocoon-time!

You and I have cocoon-times, too, when we need to go quiet and process what's just happened to us—so we are ready for the transformation that can come.

If you would like help making your way from here to there—transitioning through just such a difficult time, please contact me. We can begin with a complimentary, absolutely no-obligation strategy session.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Two wolves tale revisited

Some stories bear repeating. My May 4 blog was about a fight going on inside us. In another source today I read about that same Cherokee tale, and its point struck the mark once again. It never gets old for me.

This particular telling of the story had a few different twists to it, but the story is essentially the same as what I've read and heard in other places. The crux of it is a conversation between a Cherokee chief and his grandson. When the grandson relates a story about kids fighting at school, the chief tells him that we all have a battle of two wolves going on inside us.

"What?" said the grandson. "Yes," the grandfather said. "We each have two warring wolves inside. One wolf represents anger, envy, jealousy, greed, self-pity, resentment, false pride and ego. The other wolf represents joy, peace, love, hope, generosity, serenity, humility, kindness and faith."

The grandson's eyes grew big, and he asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

"The one you feed," his grandfather wisely responded.

Each time I hear this tale, it reminds me to reconsider which wolf I'm feeding lately. If I'm really honest with myself, when I'm rushing around and when I'm not getting enough sleep, it's easier for the bad wolf to make inroads in my life. So I need to tend to all those self-care practices, and I need to focus on the positive (knowing that whatever I focus on grows larger, too).

Do you need to shift your focus today?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Give yourself a break today

I'm going to pat myself on the back for this one! I actually am cutting myself some slack this season.

When my three sons were small, I used to make most of our Christmas gifts, do a ton of holiday baking, hand address all our Christmas cards with personal notes in each, play organ and direct the church choir (with all the music prep for multiple services that implies), and also host a few parties and open houses. After Christmas I was ready to fall apart. Whew!

This year I made a fairly belated decision to create some special photo and text memory book gifts for seven of my nine grandchildren (two are still young enough that theirs will get done when they're older). Each book takes a long time, and I know there's no way I will finish them all before Christmas. At first I pushed myself hard in an attempt to get them done in time. Then one day I realized that my grandchildren are old enough to understand the concept of a deferred gift! They will enjoy these special books just as much in early January as they would during their busy Christmas season. And I'll have more fun creating each one if I don't have to rush through it. They'll find something wrapped under the tree that announces the gift to come!

What a relief! This is a change for me, and I'm celebrating it. In what ways are you giving yourself a break during this busy holiday time? What changes have you made through the years so you can enjoy the days rather than racing through them with no joy or pleasure at all?

If you haven't given yourself some breaks or cut yourself some slack, it's still not too late. What can you do today? I invite you to choose even one or two things that can lighten your load and enhance your holiday experience. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Open to change

Some friends and I were discussing our plans for Christmas. Some of us are single and with or without children, some in blended families, some married with children, some with grandchildren.

One of the common threads I heard throughout our discussion was flexibility. I sensed a real struggle to hold onto some holiday traditions amid the changing times in which we live. But I heard a real desire to flex with those changes even if it meant creating some new traditions, a "new normal," to use an oft-used term today. We talked a lot about how our expectations can get in the way. We still have a Norman Rockwell vision in our minds, one that's reinforced by cards, songs and ads throughout the season. We want that perfect family experience.

Many of us grew up within miles of our extended family. And we did the same thing year after year for holidays. Perhaps we saw one side of the family on Christmas Eve and the other side on Christmas Day. Or we had Thanksgiving with one and Christmas with the other.

Now families are spread out across the country, sometimes across the globe. It isn't "through the woods and over the hill to grandmother's house we go" anymore. At least, for most of us it's not that way now. And we have to be open to change. Some families I know defer a family get-together until summer, when it's easier to travel and less hectic all around.

What have you done to flex with the times? Do you have any sage wisdom to give the rest of us? I'd love to hear it in the comment box below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December's crazy dance

How does your December calendar look? Is it completely marked up and filled in? Do you dance a frenzied tarantella when you'd rather do a slow waltz?

It may be too late for you this year if your calendar is already completely filled. But if you really don't like the chaos of holiday preparations, too many parties and gift-giving that's gotten out of hand (and beyond your budget), begin thinking now of changes you can make for next year.

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle, you don't need to change a thing—unless you want to do some tweaking. However, if you long for more calm and a better focus during the holiday season, try this:

First, think about what your holidays are like right now. Close your eyes and paint a picture (or write it out, if you prefer) of what the month of December is or will be like this year. Include sights, smells and other sensory information. Paint it with as much detail as possible. Then when that image is fixed firmly in your mind, let it go. Now paint a picture of how you would like your December to look. Again, fill it in with sensory detail and all "wants" you have.

Once you know where you are now and where you want to be, you'll have an easier time of building a bridge to get from one place to another. Want to spend less time and money in shopping malls—but still want to give unique and special ones to those you love? Get creative. Buy tickets for two (or more) to a concert or event you can enjoy together. Make something simple, whether baked or sewn, that will be so appreciated by the recipient because it was done with love. Are you afraid of gaining too much weight during December? Cut way back on the cookies and other goodies you bake. Decide which ones are special for you and those you love and eliminate all others. You'll save time, money and calories.

You get to decide what type of dance you'll do this month. Your choice: What will it be?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The autumn of life

I am really enchanted by older women who embrace their wisdom years, who wear the mantle of age with pride and acceptance. I have so much to learn from them about aging gratefully and gracefully—about the transformation from one season of our life to the next.

Some time ago I saw a quote from Taylor Caldwell's book Bright Flows the River in which she spoke of the autumn years of our lives:

"It is autumn, appearing dead ... but in reality this is the busiest time of year for nature, who is laying down seeds to protect them against the winter and to fertilize them.

"Perhaps that is also true of the autumn of our life: In the last years of our lives we are burying the seeds of the spring of our resurrections, the ripened seeds of our experiences and our knowledge."

I like that a lot. It reminds me of a late fall drive I once took from Chicago to Minneapolis. The route passes by several fabulous stands of trees, and they were no longer dressed in their bright early fall colors but now stood proudly with their muted rust tones and bronzed outfits. I was struck at how I used to disdain these more muted colors in favor of the joyful, bright oranges, reds and yellows earlier in the season. But somehow on this trip—perhaps thinking about my own aging process—I saw the beauty of the rust and bronze leaves. I saw the heartiness, too. These leaves were still hanging on despite strong fall winds which took many of their more colorful brother and sister leaves!

Let's celebrate our aging process and see the beauty and the wisdom that accompany it. Here's to muted rust-colored leaves still clinging to trees—even now as winter approaches!

Friday, December 7, 2012

6 Steps to boost self-esteem

Self-esteem issues can keep us from becoming all we were created to be. Our unconscious negative beliefs and assumptions block our self-worth. So many of us as women deal with these issues for so much of our lives. Men confront them, too. But it seems to be nearly epidemic for women.

I recall after my divorce trying so hard to weed out the negative messages and thoughts that were so debilitating. I put up a virtual stop sign in my head when I heard negative messages. I learned to replace those with most positive assumptions and beliefs. Did I reach perfection? No. Am I in a far better place than I was all those years ago? Definitely.

In the book Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry, I discovered six actions to elevate your self-esteem:

1) Search out negative self-beliefs.
2) Give the negative voices a name. (Whose voice is it?)
3) Stop self-deprecating remarks.
4) Ask others to "call you" on self-deprecating comments.
5) Refuse to accept put-downs.
6) Elicit praise. (It's OK to ask for it.)

Believe in yourself. Know you are that beautiful butterfly who's just ready to take flight! Do what it takes to let go of negative messages and take hold of the positive ones.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I haven't been accountable

Yesterday I talked about the idea of a "thimble list" and shared some things on mine. This past Monday I talked about accountability.

Today I need to combine those two because I haven't done so well in the accountability department. I created my thimble list several months ago and tucked it away, forgetting about it until I came across the electronic file on my computer recently. Clearly, I haven't put it out where it's visible (like the task chart I used to put on the refrigerator when my sons were small) so I can remember that these are the things I want to do regularly to savor life.

So ... I just printed out a copy on a beautiful piece of paper that is now posted on the wall next to my glider in my meditation space. Now I will be able to see what I've written and remember, if not daily, at least on a more regular basis to do those things that bring more joy into my life—and, therefore, into the lives of others around me as well. ... because isn't joy infectious and don't its ripples go way beyond the space we fill?

I no longer remember what product was being advertised but one TV ad I always liked (and I'm not a fan of TV ads) showed a person doing a kind deed for someone and that person in turn doing a random act of kindness for someone she or he came across ... and on and on the kindness went, each person passing it along.

When I savor and enjoy my life, I'm much more generous-hearted and open to all those who cross my path regularly. Isn't that worth it? I just needed to pay attention to what I encouraged you to do!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Buckets or thimbles?

Since the Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie, you all know what a "bucket list" is. Perhaps several of you have a list of those biggies you want to be sure to experience or accomplish while you're still alive.

But have you heard of a "thimble list"? A friend of mine told me that she has a list of smaller items that she wants to be sure to do regularly to savor life. I like that idea about as much as (maybe more than) a bucket list. After all, it's the daily experiences or the more regular ones that really define our lives—and bring joy to us and others.

After my friend told me about this idea, I made a thimble list. As that was several months ago, perhaps I need to update and tweak it a bit. I'll share a couple things from my original list in the hope that it might motivate you to think of your own thimble list. What would help you pay attention each day? Be more grateful? Savor life and suck out as much juice from it as you can? Give more juice and joy to others?

A sampling of my list:
• Slowly sip my morning (flavored!) coffee without thinking about all I have to do.
• Give at least one compliment each day to someone.
• Take a nap occasionally—without guilt.
• Do things that are totally play for me.
• Do spontaneous things with my female friends. And with my fiance.

What would you put on your list? I'd love to hear. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Daily soul-feeding

You and I require food and water on a daily basis. Typically, this isn't something we're likely to forget to do. Eating is a well-established habit.

I don't know about you, but I also require inspiration on a daily basis—soul feeding. My spirit is fed when I read inspirational readings and observe my quiet time each day. Sometimes those readings are from a book, and sometimes they come in the form of online blogs. Often I accompany that time with entries into one of my journals so I can process and reflect on what I've read. I've nourished this practice for many years and it's become habit.

I sometimes sign up for blogs or inspirational writings to be sent to my email inbox. Other times I need to bookmark a website that I want to visit regularly for my care and feeding. If I don't bookmark the website, it's easy to forget it's there.

If you like the blogs you read each weekday on my website, I encourage you to bookmark my blog page. I don't email these to you because I think your inbox might fill up rapidly enough without yet another blog. (I do email my once-a-month ezine, however, so if you want to receive that, please sign up from any page of my website. I don't sell my email list, and I send you nothing but my monthly e-newsletter.)

Because I don't push out my blogs to your inbox, I would be delighted if you take five minutes from your day to read them online. I would be especially happy if you leave a comment from time to time in the box below so we can enjoy the synergy of good women's conversation. Again, let me assure you that your email address won't show up, and it won't get used in any way. You may sign your name or sign in as "anonymous." Your voice is important, so please join the conversation. And don't forget to bookmark my blog page.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Accountability for adults

When my sons were young, they each had assigned duties appropriate to their age. I made a weekly chart that hung on our refrigerator listing the duties each son had, and I included a box for each duty each day so I could check off when they had performed the task. Peter, Joel and Aaron knew that the marks would show how accountable they had been for what they needed to do to earn their weekly allowance.

We adults aren't really so different. Being accountable to someone helps motivate us, too. It's one of the principles I learned in my life coach training program.

My coaching clients set their own agendas. When they come to me, they know what issue(s) they want to work on (or if they don't, they soon identify it in initial conversations). In early conversations, we learn where they are now—and where they want to be. The task then becomes establishing goals at each coaching session to get my client where she wants to be. The goals are hers to choose and hers to carry out. But each week I ask what happened on each goal she set the previous week. We celebrate goals reached—and we look at those that weren't reached to see why. Perhaps it wasn't a workable goal. Perhaps it needed to be broken down into smaller, more attainable goals. Or maybe it was a goal for later; the time just wasn't right.

Over and over, I've heard from my clients that the accountability piece is so important in our coaching sessions. That's true in my life, too. I may have outgrown many things from my childhood. You have, too. However, the value of accountability isn't one of them.

Please contact me if you want to explore coaching sessions. I'm happy to provide an absolutely no-obligation, complimentary strategy session before you even decide to proceed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

No tomorrow

Just last weekend one of my cousins lost a young adult grandson to a car accident. What an absolutely heart-breaking and gut-wrenching experience! My heart just goes out to all the family, to all those who loved Ryan.

Every time something like this happens, it's yet another reminder to me that all I really have is this very moment. I am reminded to tell my loved ones often that I love them. I want to show them how much they mean to me. And I want to live each day to the fullest. Are there things I think are important that I have been putting off, thinking I'm just too busy to do them now? Yes, there surely are. Can I take a look at my to-do lists and re-prioritize? Yes.

Does my life and its activities truly reflect my beliefs and values? Or might I make different choices if I knew for sure that I only had days or weeks to live? How about you? Is there something in your life (or on your "bucket list") that really should get moved way up on your priority list?

Let's not wait. Let's take another look today and see whether we need to do some re-prioritizing. Maybe the words of Selena Gomez's song "Live Like There's No Tomorrow" can be our guide: "If there never was a night or day and memories could fade away, then there'd be nothing left but the dreams we made. Take a leap of faith and hope you fly; feel what it's like to be alive. Give it all that we've got and lay it all on the line...."

Live as though there's no tomorrow. All we really have is right now. Make it count!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

'The pause that refreshes'

I recently read that emotions such as anger, jealousy and hate have been shown to promote impaired immune responses and increased levels of stress hormones.

Of course, the reverse is also true: Love, compassion and gratitude are shown to lower blood pressure and increase our bodies' immune responses.

Even if putting good energy out into the world isn't reason in itself to focus on positive emotions and decrease our negativity, the impact on our health of both negative and positive responses should convince us.

I've said it in these blogs before, and I've heard it for years: What we focus on gets larger. If we focus on anger and jealousy, we'll see more of that in the world. If we focus on gratitude and love, we'll notice that far more than the negative aspects of life.

Of course, knowing the truth of that in our head and heart isn't the same as acting on it. When someone jumps in front of us in the grocery checkout line or cuts us off in traffic, we don't always hit the pause button and take a moment before reacting. It's good to do that, though.

Remember the ads that talked about "the pause that refreshes"? Well, this pause when something negative happens to us definitely refreshes—it refreshes our spirits and even our health. Next time, take that moment so you can respond rather than react to what's just happened to you. You'll be healthier. And happier.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Small and local equals joy

Last Friday was Black Friday. I don't go near a store on that day, though I have friends who do and they love it. It works for them. However, I do enjoy the following day—the day we're encouraged to "shop local, shop small" and help out smaller businesses.

So last Saturday I did just that. And what fun I had. Not only did I find unique and fun Christmas gifts for family and friends, but I had great conversations with shopkeepers and staff in the stores. And as a bonus, they offered to beautifully gift wrap (tags and all) each present. I don't get that kind of time and attention at the big-box stores. Mind you, I am all for saving money and use the big-box stores for many of my other needs.

Somehow, however, I just enjoyed my day so much Saturday. I told the shop owners that I was shopping local, shopping small; and they said they had heard that from other customers throughout the day and really appreciated it. I came home with lovely gifts, beautifully wrapped, and with a spirit so jazzed by good conversation and a feeling of helping small business owners keep their doors open just a bit longer. That made me quite happy.

As with so much of life, it isn't either/or (big-box stores vs. small businesses) but it's both/and. Each experience has its own rewards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'Thank you' still sweet to the ears

With the memory of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie still fresh in our minds (and maybe some still in our refrigerators), let's talk a bit more about gratitude.

Have you said "Thank you" lately to those who serve you in any way? And have you said how much you appreciate what they do for you? I know I sometimes am busy rushing here and there—and don't always think about telling people how much I appreciate them and value their role in my life. I'm guessing you are nodding your head, too.

I really appreciate my massage therapist and my chiropractor because they keep my back and neck moving, flexible and pain-free. I appreciate my hair stylist, whose magic touch always makes my hair look far better when I walk out of his shop than at any other time during the month. I appreciate the friendly staff who check me out regularly at the local stores at which I shop. The list goes on and on.

So many people are part of our daily, weekly or monthly lineup of friendly helpers. And I wonder how often they hear "Thank you" from most of us?

Then there are those closest to us: our loved ones. Aren't those often the ones we really forget to thank? And how much it means to them when we say how truly important they are in our lives!

Starting today, I plan to make it a daily practice to express my thanks and appreciation to someone in my life. How about you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Living fully

Oscar Wilde wrote, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."

Sister Joan Chittister says of that comment, "It's a sad thought but perhaps a true one. In a culture dedicated to work, to money, and to things, we are often too busy to enjoy the world in which we exist."

What do you think? Is there truth in Wilde's statement? In Chittister's response to it? What does it mean during this holiday season to really live? To "enjoy the world in which we exist"? How might it change the way you move through these next few weeks if you want to move from existing to really living?

I have seen the faces of people who appear to be sleepwalking through their lives. And I've spent too much time myself on auto-pilot, moving through my days and getting done what needed to be done without being fully aware of the world around me. I don't want to live like that. I want to be awake and aware, enjoying all the moments that are given to me. Open up all your senses. Take in as much as you can. Enjoy. And be grateful.

Some years ago Ralph S. Marston in his online blog "The Daily Motivator" wrote: "There is enormous power in this moment. The more fully you experience what is here right now, the more that power is available to you. ... There is great and wonderful power in this very moment, in who you are, in where you are right now. See it, be it, and let yourself live it fully."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Reduce holiday stress

Now that Thanksgiving is past, many of you will really get serious about holiday preparations.

Do you find this a stressful time of year? Would you like to reduce that stress and enjoy the season more? If so, make a list of things you can either cut from your schedule because they just add to the seasonal chaos—or things you can add that will help you be more focused and serene. Here is just a tiny sample of ideas:

• Consider giving the gift of time to some of those you love rather than spending more time in a crowded mall buying expensive gifts. When our sons were younger, we often gave them gifts such as coupons for cookies or pies of their choice, an hour of playing their favorite game or working on a puzzle, or something similar. And they gave us coupons for doing dishes (even on the night that they weren't assigned that duty) or polishing our shoes, etc. My sons have their own families now.  A few years ago one promised his family a vacation trip they'd all been wanting. That was the family Christmas gift—something they all enjoyed and still treasure to this day.

• Some of my friends and I decided that, rather than shop for gifts for each other, we would pool the money we would have spent and give to a charity. It became a lovely way to share our blessings, and it reduced the shopping list!

• Even though holiday parties can be fun, perhaps you may want to just choose one or two that will be most meaningful and let the rest go.

• Enlist everyone's help with the decorating and keep it simple. Same with holiday meals.

• Send post-holiday cards. You may have more time in January than in December to prepare them, and you can also answer the notes you received!

• Cut out any activity or work that isn't necessary and give yourself the gift of time, too! How about a massage or a pedicure/manicure to treat yourself? And remember to get as much sleep and eat as well as you can. That will help your stress level, too.

Although some activities might be must-dos, you do have some choices. Make this holiday the one where you take control and manage your stress—before it gets out of hand. And let us know what tips you have for doing so. We'd all love to hear in the comment box below.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. My wishes to you for a very happy one.

Today is a good day to reflect on all we have. It's great that a day has been set aside to acknowledge our many blessings.

Still, I try to keep in mind that gratitude is a way of life. It can be front and center for us every day of our lives. Somehow when I start the day thinking of even a handful of things for which I'm grateful that day, it makes such a difference in how my day unfolds. I'm setting the tone for the entire day.

I wish I could say I do this every day. It's my intention to do so. But it doesn't always happen. I celebrate if I even remember to take the time for it most days of the week. And I do have a Gratitude Journal where I can actually record those things for which I'm grateful. Perhaps now, just having admitted to you that I sometimes slack off, I'll be even more intentional and faithful to this practice, one which has been so helpful for me.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your heart ever be grateful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Traditions: More than food and practices

With Thanksgiving close at hand and Christmas coming, are you thinking about holiday traditions, too? That can mean rituals, times you gather, ways you conduct your gatherings, the way you decorate, foods you prepare and so much more. This, too, is about legacy.

Today I'm making my mother's recipe for cranberry relish so I can bring to the dinner hosted by our friend Sandra tomorrow. The recipe card contains Mom's handwriting and some cranberry stains from days gone by when she made this for our family. The card is precious to me because of her writing and the stains. The recipe is a great one, and I always enjoy eating the relish. But I have to confess that the greatest share of pleasure really comes from the tradition of doing something Mom did (and her mother before her) as well as seeing her writing once again.

Earlier this week a couple friends and I gathered for a lefse-making afternoon, too. If you aren't Norwegian, you may not know what lefse is. My best description is that it's a Norwegian version of a soft tortilla that gets spread with butter and generously sprinkled with sugar before being rolled up and devoured! What fun we had making the lefse as a team, talking as we worked. It brought to mind the multiple times my mother and father carried on this tradition, working together so all our family (including my grandchildren) could enjoy what we called "the food of the gods." As we prepared the lefse this week, we talked, too, about the ways women used to gather to cook and serve. It was a social time for them, a time when they caught up on each other's lives, even as together, they prepared food for those they loved.

What tickled me so much was when I told my middle son what we were doing, he said he didn't want the tradition to die and wants me to teach their six children how to make lefse. I don't have to have my arm twisted on that one. Sounds like a lot of fun—and a lot of good eating!

So much goes into our traditions, doesn't it? What are you doing to carry on family traditions? What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life and death: process & possibility

Remember I said yesterday that a friend responded to my request for blog topic ideas saying she's thinking about death lately?

What that means for my friend is that she's really living in the NOW. She's using her time with family and friends to the fullest. Enjoying life. Saying what she needs to say. She says that she's so much more aware these days of life being a process—and of everything in life being a process. How true. I'm not sure that's something I realized when I was far younger either.

My friend spoke of equating death with birth: "Labor pains are tough, sometimes downright mind-bending. But the actual process of the baby appearing is not painful. Possibly death is the same way. The process leading up to it may be downright scummy, but the moment of death I expect to be peaceful."

She is absorbing lots of life lessons these days. My friend is extremely good at doing the inner work required to really engage life as a process—and as possibility. She inspires me to be better about living in the moment. I don't want to lose the time I have (all we know for sure is that we have this moment right now!) to living in the past or trying to anticipate what the future holds. I want to be here now

Consider what poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem "The Summer Day": "What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Monday, November 19, 2012

What's your legacy?

One friend responded to my request for help on blog topics saying she's thinking about death a lot these days. Not in a morbid sense but just in that realistic way that happens when you get to the stage of life where you're aware that you have far fewer years ahead of you than behind you.

Her idea brings to mind something on which I've been focused for the last few years. I've heard a lot about living legacies and have given lots of thought to the legacy I leave for my three sons and my nine grandchildren. I don't mean my estate, such as it is. I mean what I leave behind in terms of values and wisdom. What are they learning from me as I live my life now? What beliefs and attitudes am I sharing?

For my sister's birthday this year, I gave her one of those "For my grandchild" memory books that grandparents fill out and present to their grandchild. Cheryl has one grandchild, and she has been having the time of her life writing in that book about her own childhood and adulthood. While the book includes the facts of Cheryl's life, it asks open-ended questions that allow her to draw a picture of who she is and what's important to her. It's about the legacy Cheryl is passing on. She imagines what fun Savannah will have reading it when she's older (she's 3 now) and how this book will allow Savannah to know her grandmother in a deeper and more personal way. Cheryl also knows her son will likely enjoy reading the book, too.

While I've given thought to my living legacy and have deeply engaged in my grandchildren's lives, I still haven't written in the two grandmother books I was given, one when my first grandchild was born and another when my second arrived (they're 17 and 16 already!). Cheryl is inspiring me (though I think I'll do my own book rather than filling in nine separate books!) to act on the living legacy idea. And with her thoughts on death these days, my friend inspires me to be even more aware of how I'm living—for myself and for those I love and will someday leave behind.

What's your legacy?

Friday, November 16, 2012

I need your help

Two weeks ago I sent an email to several of my friends asking for blog topic ideas. More than anything, I want these daily blogs to be relevant for you. I write them to inspire. I write them to encourage and sometimes to prod you outside your comfort zone and into a new arena. I want to start a conversation. Several conversations!

I subscribe to the theory that I often hear clergy say to describe the purpose of their sermons: They are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I know I need both of those when I am coached. I need them from friends. I want comfort, healing, encouragement, support. And I also want to be pushed outside my comfort zone so I can stretch myself into new possibilities. A comforting hug—and sometimes, a kick in the pants to get moving!

I write these blogs on topics that I hear from clients, friends and women around me ... and on topics I need to hear about myself. But I'd love to hear what you want. What is on your mind these days? What are the burning questions you face? And what are you hearing from the women in your circles?

I invite you to share in the Comment Box below (I don't collect emails there, and your email doesn't show up. You can select "Anonymous" for your profile when prompted, and you can sign your name in the comment or not—your choice). Or you mail email me at: and give me your topic ideas. This is your chance to have a voice. I want to hear it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Words, words, delightful words

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter "E." (If you ever watched Sesame Street with your children or grandchildren, you'll remember that comment!) Today we're going to talk about some "E" words.

Last week I wrote a blog about enchantment. I had read something about bringing "pleasure and enchantment to each relationship, event, and task of everyday life." That word and the images it evoked drew me in. So when I put a comment on my Way2Grow Facebook page about my intention to experience more enchantment in my life, one of my friends and Facebook followers suggested: "Start listing all the 'E' words ... Energy, Enrichment, Entertaining, Enlightenment, Envision, Etc. ... That's a few to Encourage your quest ... Enjoy!"

I was just delighted with that response. Actually, I was enchanted with it! Becky's comment focused me on each of those "E" words. Aren't they wonderful words? There is enough in her suggestion and in each word to give me quiet time reflection topics for several days.

What I love as much as the "E" words my friend suggested is just the synergy we women get when we share ideas with each other. One woman says something, another expands on it, and yet another puts a whole different spin on it ... and soon we're all jazzed by new thoughts and ideas. That's what I am so hoping will develop on my website and here on the blogs. Please add your ideas in the Comment box below, and let's start a conversation. What words are on your mind these days? (They don't have to be "E" words!!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Life's lessons from loss

"It's what we lose that teaches us to suck all the juices out of every other moment in life," Joan Chittister wrote in her book Living Well.

As I look back on my own life, I can see the truth of that. It's in the losses that I've learned the most: losing my marriage, losing the opportunity to break another glass ceiling when I was highly qualified and expected by others to get the position, losing my job and losing friendships, to name a few.

Those experiences have taught me to make the most of what I do have, to cherish those who are in my life and to "suck all the juices" out of each day.

Do I remember that every minute of every day? Oh, how I wish! But as I often tell myself: It's not about perfection; it's about doing the best I can.

Think about your own life. What have you lost that has taught you to "suck all the juices" out of each moment?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude and grace

A grateful and a gracious attitude both are needed, we all agreed. Last weekend when my YaYa group gathered for food, wine and conversation, the subject of occasionally feeling sorry for ourselves came up. We admitted that we all do it at times.

It isn't too long ago that I wrote a blog about a Pity Party I was having that day. It's far too easy to look at someone else's life and envy it. Everything looks so perfect and smooth on the outside. And we know, from the inside, what our own life looks like. My wise friend Gayle often says, "Don't judge your insides by someone else's outsides." Yes, yes, yes. When all I know of someone's life is what I see on the outside, I really have no idea of what fears and anxieties that person carries on the inside. I have no idea of the relationship, career, financial or other problems she has.

So we YaYas agreed that it's far better for us to shift our focus from self-pity to gratitude. And it takes some real grace to do that. It takes a forbearing attitude—toward others and also toward ourselves. It takes forgiveness and an attitude of acceptance, compassion and care. It requires a stance of non-judgmentalism and detachment: not placing value judgments on everything and everyone we observe. We need to stay positive insofar as that is possible.

I really do want to experience as much serenity and inner joy as I can. Toward that end, I'm going to try focus even more on the two G's: gratitude and grace.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's your 'deep gladness'?

Are you searching for your passion? Perhaps you've lost your job and think it's time to retool and do something else, something you'll absolutely love? Or you might be early in your career and wondering where to put your energies? Maybe you've retired and are looking for an area of service or a part-time encore career?

I like what writer and theologian Frederick Buechner says about this: Your place of service is "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need." What is your "deep gladness"? What are your gifts? What makes you come alive? What is it that when you're doing that particular thing, you lose all track of time and become completely absorbed? And how might that meet the needs of the world around you?

Educator and writer Parker Palmer elaborates: "Buechner's definition starts with the self and moves toward the needs of the world; it begins, wisely, where vocation begins—not in what the world needs (which is everything), but in the nature of the human self, in what brings the self joy, the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created."

It can be challenging to discover your gifts and passions, whether you're at the beginning of your career or at the end of it. Being proficient at something doesn't necessarily mean we love doing it. Think about things you loved to do as a child, things that completely absorb you now and what things really make your heart sing. And if you want to discover tools to find your passion, please contact me for a complimentary strategy session.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratitude amid life's challenges

Yesterday I talked about enchantment and delight. The more I think about that, the more I realize I might capture more of those feelings if I notice little things more. I have gotten so caught up in the busyness trap that seems to snare us these days. In doing so, I miss lots of little things. I forget to live in the moment—even though I want to do more of that. I want to feel grateful for small things, too.

I like what one mature gentleman is quoted as saying in Linda Douty's book How Did I Get to Be 70 When I'm 35 Inside? He says, "If I'm going to delight in the details, I must feed that part of me that experiences those feelings, like seeing with the eyes of my heart. Every night I try to fall asleep with good thoughts, replaying the day to remember four or five instances of simple joy."

What a great recipe for delighting in details—and what a great way to fall asleep each night! It doesn't mean denying that which challenges or hurts me. But it means changing my perspective. Douty quotes yet another person, "Then I made the distinction between being thankful in all things rather than for all things. It was possible to feel the pain of whatever was going on, to affirm that 'it is as it is,' then grab a grateful thought—maybe a tiny silver thread of hope—and affirm that also, even if it's saying, 'I'm grateful I made it through this dismal day.'"

Gratitude is possible even amid challenges and pain. Enchantment and delight can't be far behind!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Enchantment: A word we've forgotten?

"Bring pleasure and enchantment to each relationship, event, and task of everyday life," I read this morning during my quiet time inspirational reading.

The word "enchantment" jumped off the page for me. I don't often use the word. Do you? I'm not sure I'm even enchanted very often anymore. How about you? So I ask myself, "Why not?"

I've been sorting through photos of my grandchildren the past several days. What a fun journey back in time. Some of them are teenagers now, so I have several years of photos. Others are very young and still have the wonder of childhood. My youngest ones are still delighted to watch a small bug crawl along the sidewalk or up a blade of grass.

One photo that comes to mind when I think of enchantment is one I took of two of my granddaughters, now teenagers, but then just young girls who loved American Girl dolls. I took them and their dolls to tea at the huge American Girl store in downtown Chicago. Even the dolls got their own chairs with tea cups and plates! My granddaughters were enchanted with the whole scene. Actually, I was too! Seeing and experiencing the day through their eyes was pure delight.

When do we lose that ability to be enchanted and delighted? Is it only when we're around young children that we can be called back to that possibility? It's an attitude, isn't it? We had it once. I think we can have it again. I for one would love to regain that sense of wonder. Delight. Enchantment.

Let's start a conversation about it. What do you think? Do you have ways of keeping delight alive in your life? I'd love to hear them below in the Comment box.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-election questions

Whew! We got through election day somehow. It seemed a particularly nasty primary earlier in the year and a particularly divisive campaign season. Yet over the weekend I heard historians discuss how alive and well incivility was when our Founding Fathers laid out plans for our country, too. So perhaps there's really nothing new under the sun after all. Angry, negative rhetoric and incivility have been around forever.

All of this leads me to ask myself: What am I doing to bring more light and goodness into the world? Am I taking more light out of the world than I'm bringing to it on any given day? In other words, am I being negative, angry or resentful—and spreading that to those around me? Or am I doing my part to stay positive and loving even when the world around me is filled with loud and angry (campaign) voices? What vibes am I sending out?

I don't tend to be a Pollyanna, and I typically am not a process-skipper (jumping right over the hard work when problems land on my plate and moving right to the live-happily-ever-after stage). However, I also have spent too many hours in my past complaining, acting like a victim, resenting the way things are, and not engaging in "radical acceptance" (see my November 1 blog)—not realizing that I do have a choice about how I respond to things in my life. I want to use the personal power I do have, and I want to make choices that are positive for me as well as for those around me. I want to tell "river stories" and not "rut stories" (see my February 10 blog) from now on.

What are your post-election questions of yourself? What will you do to make yourself and your world a better place?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Awake and aware

"What might change if you took a five-minute break sometime during the day to reflect on your food choices?" my Weight Watchers meeting leader asked last week. She urged each of us to find a time to stop and ask some questions about how and what we're doing—questions such as "Did I get at least 10 minutes of activity? How careful was I about portions and servings? How did my snacking choices work out?"

Some members said a morning break would help them plan better for eating choices the rest of the day. Others said afternoon was a better time because evening was when they made poorer selections. Still others said it would help at night to review the day so the following day would be better.

There wasn't a one-size-fits-all. Each one of us at that meeting has different food triggers and different times of the day that present more of a problem than another time. So our plans need to be different. Our leader knew that.

She also knew how important it can be to stop and reflect on the choices we make. It's all about awareness, isn't it? It's about being accountable—to ourselves and sometimes, to others. It's about making conscious choices.

And that's as true in the rest of life as it is for food choices. More and more, I want to live awake and aware. As always, it's not about perfection; it's about doing the best we can!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pain as competitive sport

During a phone call the other day, I learned sad news about a friend of the caller whose cancer prognosis had just worsened. We talked about how such news changes our perspective. Suddenly whatever problems we have seemed small.

However, we also talked about not dismissing our own pain and hurt. Years ago, a very wise woman told me, "Suffering isn't a competitive sport." This occurred as the two of us shared our life stories and discussed some of the painful things that had made us who we were. It was the perfect thing to say then. And it's still a good reminder.

I have never forgotten her wise words. Though a devastating event such as Hurricane Sandy has caused enormous pain and suffering for so many—and it's good to keep a broader perspective about our issues in the face of it—we should not dismiss our own hurts as insignificant. What happens to you, what happens to me, what happens to any one of us is important. And we need to take our problems seriously and make choices about how to face them.

It's a both/and kind of thing, isn't it? You can empathize with a cancer-ridden friend or with someone harmed by a hurricane and still feel the hurt of things in your own life that cause you pain. You can hold both those things at once and balance it out with a perspective that says, "It's not just one thing or another. It's both/and. And, after all, suffering isn't a competitive sport." It's all in our attitude.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Family: Upsides or down?

You've heard often about families and their dysfunction. Maybe you've experienced it either in your family of origin or nuclear family. Or in your partner's family.

But there are so many important sides to family relationships, too. I just read a health newsletter from the Mayo Clinic that made these points:

* "Kids who are close to their grandparents are less likely to feel depressed in their teen years and in early adulthood."

* "Playing with children helps older adults relax and feel less stressed."

* "Children who play with their adult family members are often more creative than those who don't."

* "For adults in their late 40s, 50s and 60s, relationships with family members of all ages become even more important."

* "Relationships with brothers and sisters help shape how you feel about yourself. They can also affect how you adjust to life as you get older."

What do you need to do today to insure your health and the health of those you love? See if there are ways you can improve family relationships if they're not what you want. And if they are, celebrate that and keep making time for family.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Radical acceptance

What's radical about acceptance, you might ask. I accept (and reject) things all the time. Nothing new about that.

Yesterday I talked about the two ways we can see ourselves. One is as a character or a role. So the plot changes (the situation changes in our lives) but we don't. We keep playing the same role. The other view is as a process, a work-in-progress. In that view, when things change—as they always do in life—we also have the possibility of change. We have choices about how to respond to the changes that come our way.

Radical acceptance is the term used when, in that second view, you are able to say: "It is what it is." Sometimes you might say that in a resigned way, as though you're surrendering to something; but, doggone it, you're not going to be happy about it. Radical acceptance means that you're not surrendering—you really have accepted the fact that the current situation is the new normal. So now your questions are: What will I choose to do about it? How will I change to live with these new changes in and around me?

The difference may sound slight in theory. But as you live it out in your daily life, it will make a huge difference. Radical acceptance puts you in a totally different frame of mind from the surrender. It means you are empowered to make the choices you think are right for you. It means you don't see yourself as the victim of change. You can roll with the punches and stay flexible. Tough to do sometimes, isn't it? But it leads to a more empowered and contented life. I'd love to hear your experiences with change and acceptance—and encourage you to leave a comment below. (Your email isn't seen and you don't even have to put your name on the comment if you don't wish.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You as a 'process'

There have been times in my life when I saw myself as a victim and felt helpless to really change the situation. I wish now I would have seen things differently for I might have had more choices than I imagined.

Recently I learned about two ways we can view ourselves. One is as a character in a narrative, a role. The other is seeing ourselves as a process (a work-in-progress, as it were). In the narrative, we are filling a role; and as a result, tend to see everything through the same filter. Perhaps it's as a victim. Or perhaps it's as a strong, I-can-take-on-anything person. Either way, we keep playing the same role no matter what happens to us. The situation changes. We don't.

In the other view, we allow for the possibility of change; and we have more choices. If I am free to fully let in the changes that occur regularly in my life—and to look at those changes as possibilities rather than obstacles—so much more choice is allowed. Can you see the difference?

In that second view, change can actually be welcome. Often we fear change, and yet it's a regular occurrence in all our lives.

I want to see myself as a process—a more dynamic view of myself in life. I don't want to play the same role over and over until I die. How about you? What are you going to choose?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pity-Party Days

Yesterday was one of those Pity-Party Days. Ever have one of those? I didn't sleep well, so that wasn't a good start. A series of things had occurred that, on their own, wouldn't have bothered me so much—but strung together, became the makings of my party! I hate when that happens. Sometimes I can stop the party before it begins. But yesterday I wasn't so successful.

Came my beloved sister to the rescue, however. She and I Skype frequently (it's one of our joys these days when we're not employed outside our homes!), and we did so yesterday. Cheryl is just plain good for my soul. She is not only sister but dear friend. We often refer to ourselves as "womb-mates" for even though we weren't twins, we did have the same source. Once I had talked with her about my mood and the Pity Party that was in progress, things shifted. I felt ever so much better by the time we hung up much later. She's a good listener—and encourager.

I knew that would happen. One of my favorite resources in the stress tool kit I use is "talking with a friend." When I'm really stressed—or just downcast about things piling up in my life, I think about what things help me most: a walk in nature, time on the treadmill or other exercise, journaling, talking with someone, meditation, going to a movie, to name just a few. Do you have a tool kit? What are your favorite stress relievers?

If you have signed up on my website for my free monthly ezine (and three free gifts), you should have received my November e-newsletter this morning. The topic is stress and resources to reduce that stress. If you haven't yet signed up, please do so on any page of my website where you see the "three free gifts" or "subscribe to our mailing list" signs. I don't send extra mailings, and I don't give your name and email to anyone else. And please tell me if there are ezine topics you'd like to see me discuss. I would love to hear your suggestions.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The long view on relationships

I love this quote from poet Rainer Maria Rilke: "A person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them—they're who they've been throughout your whole relationship."

Do you sometimes obsess over a recent conversation, whether it's one with your partner, friend or perhaps your child? You chew the words over and over, growing more upset with each chewing! Yes, I've done that more than I care to admit, too.

It's always good to keep Rilke's words in mind, though. The words and conversation need to be held in context with the whole of your relationship with that person. If those words really are symptomatic of the relationship, then perhaps it's time for you to decide what to do about that. Is this relationship one that's healthy for you? One you want to keep? Does it need some major work or minor tweaking?

If, however, the conversation seems to be a fluke (perhaps the other person was having a bad day or misspoke—or you might even have misunderstood), consider it in the full context of your relationship. When the words were hurtful—even if on the whole, your relationship is good—they still need to be discussed with the other. But the conversation might look entirely different when you think about other things that person says or does.

It's so easy to react rather than respond to words we don't like. Take your time. Consider your response based on your relationship and history. Then proceed carefully and thoughtfully.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Live in gratitude

We recently stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast where the hosts paid great attention to detail and offered special touches that made our stay even more wonderful than we had imagined it might be.

After we returned home, I found the bed and breakfast's Facebook page and wrote a thank you and a recommendation to others. In pure frustration, I had done just the opposite a few years ago when a restaurant gave us the most awful experience we've had: outrageous treatment by the maitre d' when we entered, terrible service, bad food and finally, not bringing our bill for 20 minutes after we asked for it. I expressed my dissatisfaction that night, wrote an email, left a comment on the website and put more comments on the restaurant Facebook page. All to no avail.

I, of course, had been hoping for some acknowledgement that they had failed me. And in the case of the B and B, we had received beyond our expectations. So why wouldn't I express my gratitude?

Living in gratitude is good for everyone. As Linda Douty says in her delightful book, How Did I Get to Be 70 When I'm 35 Inside?, "... grateful people live more fruitful and happy lives; thanksgiving unleashes positive hormones into our bodies; immune systems are boosted by optimistic emotions; relationships blossom when nurtured by appreciation. You name it—gratitude helps it." Not only is it good for those on the receiving end, obviously it's good for you and for me to express the gratitude.

Start looking today for those things you appreciate. Make a list each day. Tell those around you how much you appreciate them. You'll feel so much better!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What keeps you grounded?

So many people in my life have had difficult experiences recently and now find themselves in that place of wanting to regain equilibrium or groundedness. Some life situations really throw us off our stride and simply sap us. It's all we can do to just keep going and do what's needed each day.

What helps you get your groove back when such things occur? Do you need to get back into your routine and restore structure to your life? Are you the type who needs solitude and a calmer life style to regain your centeredness? Or are you best served when you can sit with your partner or best friend and debrief? Do you recover best in the company of others?

It's so important to know yourself and your style. It's equally important to be sure you get what you need. Good self-care is always important. But during times of high stress, self-care takes on even more importance. What often happens, of course, is that we're so stressed that we don't think about self-care. It's so often the first thing to go. Be attentive to that phenomenon, though. Find those things you really need to get your groove back. And take the time to do them.

Please contact me if you'd like to talk about a stressful situation and how you can get back on track again. It's not always easy to find that center-point of well-being again. But it is possible—even if your life now involves a "new normal."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Smell the roses

I like the word "savor." It's my word for 2012, the one I keep in front of me as often as possible so I can be intentional about it. Among its Merriam-Webster definitions are: "to taste or smell with pleasure" and "to delight in."

"With pleasure." "Delight." Ah, yes, that invokes joy inside me. I'm discovering many ways to savor this year. I savor time with those I love. I savor my connections with family and friends. I savor sunny and mild autumn days, replete with trees garbed in various hues of red, orange, yellow and gold—days such as we just enjoyed this past weekend (at least here in Illinois). I savor the tastes and textures of my food. I savor the scent of my new brown sugar and fig body wash. I savor time in my glider with my coffee most mornings; I didn't have much of that when I worked outside my home full-time.

So many things to enjoy, to savor. Do I take time to do this all the time? I wish I could say "Yes, I do." It wouldn't be true, though. Some days I rush through life, not much noticing what's around me. More and more, however, I want to "smell the roses." I want to savor what's around me. I want to live life awake and aware rather than sleepwalking through it.

We all have times in our life when all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Insofar as it's possible for you, however, I encourage you to slow down just enough so you can notice what's around you. Notice yourself, too: your body, your feelings, your thoughts. Be present for your life. And take the time to enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes, scents—and the beauty all around you.

Savor. It's a good word. I may just have to keep it as my word for 2013, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Contagion and choice

What a difference it made in my whole day! It's what we call the ripple effect.

I was in the grocery check-out line and in my usual hurry (I inherited my father's nature, and he operated at two speeds: run fast or rest!). However, the woman at the check-out counter, while efficient, wasn't about to opt just for speed. Clearly, she was also into relationships. I usually am, too—though I confess that sometimes in a business transaction, I'm more focused on getting in and getting out.

"I just love your earrings," said the cashier. I reached up to feel my earrings, forgetting which ones I had on that day. "Thank you," I said, adding, "I just love the color purple." (Since I had on purple jeans and a purple top, that might have been an unnecessary comment!)

"Oh, I love purple, too," said the cashier. "It's my absolute favorite color." And we had a brief one- or two-minute conversation as she finished up my transaction.

I left the store with a smile on my face. That little exchange made the difference in my day. I was jazzed by that brief connection we had made. I smiled because it's the kind of thing we women so often do. I've had men tell me, in fact, that they just don't understand how we women can walk up to complete strangers and comment on their clothing or how good they look in something. I don't know how we can. I just know it happens. Often. And I know I love that we can do that.

So I left the store in a good frame of mind, and I was more open and friendly to others I met as I ran the rest of my errands. In other words, I was putting good energy out into the world around me. It's contagious, isn't it? And it's a choice. We can be positive and be open to others, ready with a smile or a friendly comment. Or we can focus totally on the work at hand and ignore the people around us, looking unapproachable or perhaps even sullen. So what choice will you make today?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bye-bye, Superwoman

A few months ago I blogged about my Wonder Woman costume, wondering if it was time to bury it. I just read an entry in The Woman's Book of Courage by Sue Patton Thoele telling about a bright red card on her refrigerator saying, "Superwoman doesn't live here anymore." Thoele says it was a reminder to her that she didn't need to be everything to everybody.

"When we do too much, take on too much responsibility, or overcommit ourselves, we end up being resentful and exhausted," Thoele writes. That follows well with what we discussed in these blogs last week. You are really the only one who can take care of yourself and your needs. And being "overtired, angry, depressed, or feeling used" because you're caring for everyone else and not yourself isn't helpful, Thoele says. She's so right.

If you need reminders, the book author recommends these two mantras, "I take care of myself" and "Superwoman doesn't live here anymore." You might place those on post-it notes around your house.

We women can't "have it all" and we don't need to "be all things to everyone," either. Let go of those heavy expectations. Say goodbye to Superwoman!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Goals bring hope

Setting goals is a life-affirming activity, isn't it? No matter what your state, you can have goals. In fact, I remember a powerful presentation by a woman who suffered a bout of severe depression. She said it had been so disabling that she found it nearly impossible to get out of bed each morning. She felt enveloped in darkness day after day. She was immobilized.

At one point during this "dark night of the soul," her only goal was to get out of bed for a while each morning. And each day she did so, she gave herself credit for meeting her goal. It was huge to her. That success allowed her to create other goals, seemingly small to others but large to her.

Even as we approach life's end, we can set small and attainable goals. Perhaps we can promise ourselves to express our gratitude to those we love for what they've added to our life. Or we can vow to make those days the best they can be for ourselves and those around us.

No matter where we are in life, it's important to set goals and create dreams and visions. It affirms that we are still engaged with life and still have some hope—even if that hope is so slender and fragile as it was for the woman with severe depression.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

'Plant your own garden'

Yesterday I blogged about both looking after your own needs and meeting those of the people around you. It's a both/and proposition. As women, it's often meeting our own that perplexes us most.

A poem from Veronica A. Shoffstall comes to mind. Perhaps you've read it. In "After a While," she writes: "After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much so plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers."

I know I'll date myself by saying this—but what also comes to my mind is the idea I heard so much when I was a young woman: When you meet that special someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, you will complete one another. I don't hear that much anymore, so I hope the idea is dead. Frankly, I see each of us humans as being whole and complete. We were created whole, not as some puzzle part that needs the other puzzle piece to function properly. You certainly can "plant your own garden" and "decorate your own soul" rather than waiting for someone else to do that. You can identify your own needs and be responsible for seeing that they are met.

That doesn't mean, however, that your life partner won't bring out things in you and won't complement you and enrich your life. It just means you are responsible for your life.

Would you like coaching help in apprehending this concept? It's one on which we as women sometimes get hung up. And there's nothing wrong with admitting you need some help working it out. Please contact me if you want to discuss this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Balancing needs: Is it others' vs. yours?

I recently had a client who always put herself and her needs last. Everyone else in her life claimed priority. She was at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to time, attention and meeting needs. We worked on that, starting with her seeing herself as even deserving to have things she wanted.

I've been there myself. When I began living on my own again, after years of focusing on a husband and children, I was so unaccustomed to even thinking about what I needed and wanted that I felt guilty for even doing so. It took me quite a while to realize the degree to which that created deep resentments inside me. It was time to think about what I wanted—and to state my needs clearly.

If you say what you need, you don't always automatically get it. It's pretty much guaranteed, however, that you won't get what you need if you aren't even aware of it and never say it! And you'll most likely find yourself with a short fuse when you continue to give to others.

This is another one of those both/and situations. Life isn't about you getting what you want and need all the time at the expense of everyone around you. And it surely isn't about you giving everyone else what they want and putting yourself last either. Try to find the balance in your life. It's about both giving and receiving.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Openness in relationships

Do you face your problems head-on? Or do you do what I still do sometimes (even though I know better) and try to work around them? What's the result?

Yup. Whenever I try to take a circular and indirect approach to an issue I need to address (often out of some fear or another), it often doesn't really settle the situation. I miss the mark because I haven't gone straight for it. I've acted from my risk-averse side and not been willing to be direct. The results most often are unsatisfactory.

Years ago I had a smart, witty, compassionate, fun friend whose companionship I enjoyed. However, she wanted so much more of me and my time than I could give—or wanted to give—to any one friend. She seemed so needy. I didn't know how to have "the conversation" with her, though, so I just said "No" more and more often to invitations to do things with her. Eventually, our contact diminished and eventually was lost. I always have regretted that I didn't find some way to be more honest and direct about our friendship. I might have learned a lot in the process, and perhaps she would have, too. We might even have tweaked and maintained the friendship! The way I handled it felt pretty ragged and messy.

Having said that, I know there are some things that are terribly uncomfortable to say within the context of any relationship. But openness and honesty (with tact and love, of course) feel better to me these days. What's been your experience with relationships and openness? Have you had difficulty being assertive, too? How did you handle it? Some of my clients are trying to learn how to say what they need. And, as with so much in life, it's a work-in-progress in my life, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A time for sadness, a time for joy

Rose Kennedy reportedly said, "Birds sing after a storm" when a reporter asked how she could possibly keep going in the face of so much tragedy in her life.

There is a time for weeping and a time for joy. When your life events take you into sadness and even despair, it's important to know that you will not stay there forever. You will want to do the necessary grieving and processing, knowing that the time for joy will come.

Sometimes you get lost in the grieving process, however, and need help getting out. That's when you need the help of family and friends to gently pull you back into life's joy and hope again. It's OK to lean on others. It's taken me longer than most to learn that, no doubt because of my Enneagram 8 personality!

When I was knee-deep in my divorce process, I used most of my energy to be there for my three sons in whatever ways I could. I had little or no energy left for my friends—or really for my own healing. It was as though I went into a deep hole and pulled the cover over the top. I had some people in my life, thankfully, who didn't let me stay there. One couple kept calling, stopping by to visit and also sending notes of care to me. Even though they sometimes felt that I was either ignoring or rejecting them, they didn't give up on me. How grateful I am for that! My sister did the same through her phone calls.

One day I felt myself come alive again. I noticed the birds singing, just as Rose Kennedy said. And I knew that life would be good again—and that I couldn't do it all by myself.

Do you want some help from family and friends? Don't be afraid to ask. And please contact me if you could use some coaching, too. There is nothing that says you have to go it alone. And remember, birds really do sing after a storm!

Friday, October 12, 2012


My oldest grandson, a high school senior, was busy early this fall completing college applications. As part of that process, he wrote an essay on what he's learned from years of working in the family business.

Now I'm a proud grandma just as some of you are, and I think my grandkids are smart and amazing. But I admit that I was quite impressed at some of the things Spencer has already learned. One of those insights really jumped out at me because I saw several examples of the opposite during my years in various workplaces. Spencer wrote that "being a leader isn't about giving orders, but rather about earning the respect of those you're charged to lead and being willing to do anything you tell someone else to do." He wrote about respecting everyone who came to their family business for service, whether it be a company CEO or a taxi driver. Yes, oh, yes!

Spencer is right on. And Aretha Franklin was right when she sang her famous song about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, wasn't she? Respect is so essential in relationships, whether those are with workplace colleagues, customers, friends or family members. It begins with us respecting one another and respecting ourselves! It includes both earning the respect of others and also insisting on it. In other words, our self-image needs to be strong enough that we do not accept disrespect from other people. We do teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves—and by how we treat others, too. And we do need to be willing to do what we're asking others to do. Thanks, Spencer, for the good reminders!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Focus on possibilities

New beginnings, promise, possibilities. All those elements were so obviously a part of my lovely niece  Carmen's wedding last weekend. Weddings are so much fun, aren't they? Filled with all the hope of young love, the couple exude joy and happiness. They have no idea what's ahead for them. They just know that they love each other and enjoy being together. Life is great right now, and they are bursting with hope and the promise of good things to come.

Even if we have many years under our belts, we, too, can appropriate that same hope and promise. We do not know what's ahead for us, either. We may think we do. Or we may fear some things based on family history and other facts or ideas. But we really do not know.

So what if we decide to live in hope rather than fear? What if we focus on the good things we have right now in this moment rather than on any bad things we think could come our way? Might life be more joyful if we focus on the promise and possibilities? 

I'm going to let the contagious hope, joy and possibility of last weekend infuse me. Somehow I think it will bring me more serenity and happiness. Do you need an infusion of it for yourself, too?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Life's difficult lessons

A friend told me about a life-changing event that was devastating at the time. He admitted that, as awful as it was when he lived through it, he would never be who he is today without that having happened. He also would not be doing something he absolutely loves and which he feels is such a perfect fit had that event not occurred.

I have had at least two of those events in my life, too. Certainly my divorce qualifies—as does the time I was Reduced In Force from my job of 22 years. Now many years after my divorce and a few years after my job loss, I can see the difference both those things have made in who I am today and in what I am doing—not to mention how I do what I do! I learned a lot through them.

Do I wish to relive the years following either one of those tough times? No. But can I claim the growth that occurred because of them. I can also know that the scars from those and other difficult life experiences are part of who I am. And that's not a bad thing.

We don't need to embrace awful life circumstances and have a "bring it on" attitude. We also don't need to cower in the face of such situations nor deny or bury them once they're behind us. There is the middle ground of seeking the life lessons and change that can come from such events. That just might make all the difference in how we respond to life changes, both as they're happening and afterward.

What's been your experience? Are you willing to share it with us in the Comment box below?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall colors and aging

Last week as my fiance and I drove from Chicago to Minneapolis for my niece's wedding, we were treated to vibrant and beautiful fall colors along the way. I love fall and its colors, the lovely Indian summer days and the crisp, sunny days without mosquitoes!

As we drove, I recalled having made that same drive many years ago but later in the fall when the bright colors were gone and trees sported leaves that were more of a dull rust color. I had never enjoyed trees at that stage before, always having been drawn to the brighter colors of early fall. For some reason, on that trip, however, I saw the beauty in the less intense colors, too. It reminded me of the seasons of our lives: As we move through the fall of our lives and near the winter, perhaps we don't shine quite so brightly as we used to do. But we still have a particular and very special beauty.

I have often noticed older women who have a contented, serene demeanor—and thought that they are like the rust-colored trees and have a unique beauty that comes from being comfortable in their own bodies, knowing that they can survive all manner of hardships and life events, knowing who they are and not needing approval from others to carry their self-esteem. Isn't that beautiful?

Each season has its own beauty. Just so, each season of our lives has its own unique beauty. I want to remember that as I continue to move through my life seasons. I want a positive attitude about my aging process.

Are you feeling that? Or have you come up against an obstacle that prevents you from embracing the age you are now? That can easily happen. If you'd like to talk about it, please contact me for a complimentary and absolutely no-obligation strategy session. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Feel the joy!

I love celebrations. And I've just experienced so many of them: Last week I helped my fiance celebrate a significant birthday, and I celebrated my only niece's lovely wedding. On the day she was married, my youngest son turned 39 and his youngest child (the grandchild I saw being born a year ago!) turned one. I had been in Phoenix a couple weeks earlier to celebrate both those birthdays, knowing his family was unable to attend the wedding. The day after the wedding we had another family birthday: one of my wonderful daughters-in-law.

What fun all these family times are! These occasions are good times to focus on the gratitude I feel for the special people in my life. They are times to savor and enjoy each relationship and every occasion we get to spend together (even when they bunch up as they did last week!).  And they surely are times to tell those I love just how much they do mean to me.

It's all too easy to move through our all-too-busy lives without stopping to feel the gratitude, to savor the relationships and the times together, and to speak our love. Sometimes it's as though we are sleepwalking through life just trying to keep moving and get it all done. Maybe it's time to smell the roses, to live awake and aware.

Today: Take time to breathe deeply. Focus on the gratitude. Celebrate the big events—and the small ones. Feel the joy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

'I'm on your side'

Yesterday I blogged about women and the myth of perfectionism and "having it all." Today I want to focus on one of the pieces I mentioned: women supporting one another in our choices. Or more to the point, not supporting one another.

I saw way too much of it in the workplace—women sabotaging one another and vying for the attention and approval of some male figure with power. Women cutting one another down. Once when I was in the running for a position never before held by a woman, I was dismayed to discover that some of my greatest detractors were women—including some whom I thought were friends. And some of my most helpful supporters were men.

I've heard the lack of support and sabotage at work in the debates between work-outside-the-home moms and stay-at-home moms, too.

And I ask the Rodney King question: Can't we all just get along? Aren't we on the same side: the side of all humanity?

I've also seen the best of what we women do: We tend and befriend. We build each other up. We support each other. We are there when our sisters need us, whether it's a shoulder to cry on, a high-five when we celebrate an achievement, or lending a hand when a friend is in over her head. That's the part I really like. And it's the part in which I want to focus my energies and passion.

Just so you know, I'm on your side—no matter what choices you have made. How about you?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Women and perfection

I recently read a fascinating article in Newsweek magazine titled"American Women Have It Wrong." It attempts to move beyond the myth of women "having it all," a topic about which I wrote a blog in July.

The author of this article, Deborah Spar (president of Barnard College), says that men must help if the "women's problem" is ever to be solved. And by women's problem, she refers to women trying to work a 60-hour-week and also spend a 40-hour-week doing family care: housework, child care, and shopping. In other words, "having it all." She says, "If women want to have both families and jobs; if they want, even, to have fast-paced jobs without children or fast-paced children without jobs, something has to give." Her concern is that modern women are falling for the myth involved in the quest for perfection: trying to be perfect wives, moms, employees and perfect everythings!

Spar acknowledges that many husbands and fathers are stepping up to the plate more than ever before. Even so, she cites statistics that women devote 40 hours a week to family care while men spend 21. Men don't always know "how to make the right changes," she says, and women "are scared of raising the topic of gender with men, thinking it will brand them as radicals or troublemakers...."

She doesn't let us as women off the hook either: Women also need to work together, she says. "Rather than supporting other women, we tend to attack instead, arguing endlessly over who is raising better children and getting less sleep." We've all heard the debates between stay-at-home moms (who are working moms, by the way!) and moms who work outside the home. That's not helpful. We need to support one another in our choices.

Hmmmm, it's all good food for thought. I've raised my three sons already, though I try to be as active as possible in engaging with my grandchildren. But I do care deeply about how the world is for my daughters-in-law and how it will be for my granddaughters—as well as for millions or women around the globe. There must be a way that we can create a world that's better for all: women, men and children. What do you think?