Weeds

self improvement

Yesterday, I spent the entire day pulling weeds from the gardens. Great big piles of them. Some of those weeds had become larger than the flowers. I could feel them laughing at me as I tugged and pulled, as I muttered at myself, berating myself for letting things get so out of hand. Oh sure…we’ve been out playing, enjoying the summer sun, making every day count.

While we’ve been doing that, the weeds were raging a battle in the garden and doing a victory dance. Well not for long. The weeds are gone and today I pay the price as I gingerly walk about the house, muscles crying out for relief. “What were you thinking?” They would like to know. “Did you have to tackle every single weed on the same day?”

Well, um…once I got started….I wasn’t thinking about my aching muscles or the pain that would been be the price to pay. I was only thinking about weeds, the way you take your eye off of them for a moment and they take over. How you then have to fight back with a vengeance.

I think weeds are a cousin to laundry. Weeds and laundry and the mail. Insidious nasty things that look soooooo innocent. You skip doing the laundry just one day. The next thing you know you are out of underwear and there is a mountain of dirty clothes in your room and you carpet has disappeared. Drop the mail on your desk for just one day without sorting it and shebang…the top of your desk will disappear without a trace. Take you eyes off of your garden and wallah the weeds will gobble up your flowers faster than you can blink.

I am pretty good about laundry most of the time. Flylady sends me these wonderful little e-mails that say “Time to reboot the laundry” and it’s just enough of a reminder to click my brain into action to go throw in a load and go put away the last one. She doesn’t remind me to toss my junk mail but I have set up a system for that and frankly most of the time I will open the mail right in front of the recycle bin, so I give myself better than 50/50 on that one.

But I am going to have to admit to a miserable grade this year so far on weeds. Someone is going to come along and take away my gardening hobby status. You would never guess that I love to garden from the look of things. Its a case of having so many hobbies and things that I enjoy that I just can’t do them ALL well. The garden is suffering. So…that area gets a little more attention for awhile.

Awhile back I wrote a post about Balancing Balloons and keeping them all up in the air at once. Even within my Hobby balloon, I can’t keep all my hobbies up at once! Sometimes I have to make choices or juggle them back and forth for awhile. Time to put the garden back on the front burner so I can enjoy its beauty and not battle the weeds.

As I was pulling the giant weeds yesterday, I was reminded yet again, how much simpler it would have been if I had just taken a few minutes each day, to pull the tiny weeds from the garden instead of ignoring it altogether and having to spend a gorgeous Sunday pulling Monster weeds and paying the price on a Monday in pain. I know this. Yet… it’s a lesson that comes back to haunt me over and over and over. With weeds, and with life.

Don’t ignore the small things. Don’t procrastinate. Be diligent and daily maintain what needs upkeep. Weeds have an amazing ability to grow and they grow really deep roots if you let them. Catch them while they are little and yank them out by the roots.

I am going to do better. I promise my aching back. I really am.

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The Perils of Perfectionism

self improvement

 

On the blank canvas I saw a majestic, proud Eagle, wings outspread in magnificence glory. Perched on his chosen spot, his view spanned the countryside, searching high and low, king of the skies. In my mind he was perfect. He inspired awe to look at, and made me feel excited as I gathered my brushes and paint. I could see the colors that I would choose. Just the right blues, the cool toned and the warm toned browns, the Payne’s Gray for blending. I mixed and I worked, the large sweeping strokes, the tiny painstaking touches.

I worked for hours. I came back day after day. I put him aside. I worked on trouble spots that didn’t match the image in my mind.

I brought him to California on vacation hoping the ocean air would inspire the majesty I needed to flow through my fingers and out of the brush. I finished it sitting in the warm California sun.

I brought him home and sat him on my art desk. And left him there. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since.

He isn’t the Eagle of my mind. When I look at him, I see the flaws, the imperfections. The way the blues and the browns don’t flow together properly. The way the wings on one side are much sharper than the other. The list of flaws is long. You don’t need to hear them all. I abandoned him. Worse then that, I abandoned myself. The disappointment ran deep and I just lost the momentum to paint. I wasn’t in the mood. I ran out of time. Something else- writing- was giving me more positive feedback so I drifted over there. It was nicer there.

I hadn’t realized I had done it. Sometimes we do these things to ourselves and it isn’t a conscious gesture. We don’t have an outward temper tantrum and throw the painting down and say, “That’s it, I hate my Eagle, and I’m never painting again!”  We just drift. Just suffer a little disappointment in something and drift slowly, like a gentle current in the opposite direction. Then one day we look around and notice we are far away. Sometimes it’s a hobby. One day we are a painter or dancer or runner, and then it has been months or years since we picked up a brush, or danced or ran. Sometimes it’s a relationship or job. We just begin to move away. We don’t even remember why.

The other day a friend e-mailed me a picture of a cat. I needed it for a story line I was writing on Escaping Reality. The expression on the cat’s face caught my interest and I started drawing his face. Then a pen and Ink. Then the idea of doing a pen and ink watercolor popped into my mind and I suddenly realized I hadn’t picked up a paint brush in over a month. I couldn’t think of a single reason why not. I love to paint! I have plenty of time to paint. It’s summer! The perfect time to relax with brush in hand!  Only then did I think of the Eagle. Only then did I realize I had been a victim of the perfectionism drift.

I had high expectations of that Eagle. I had a perfect vision of how he was going to look in my mind. When my ability didn’t match up to that vision, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or just didn’t at that time, cut myself any slack. I decided on some level that I’m just not a very good painter anyway so what’s the point. I’m obviously not very good at painting Eagles.

All because my Eagle wasn’t perfect.

Well…you all can tell it’s an eagle right? It’s not like I’m expecting someone to buy it. I just paint for the fun of it, for relaxation, for a hobby, so why was I acting like I suddenly was UNWORTHY of a hobby if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY???

Hello, my name is Wendi and I am a recovering perfectionist.

This is an issue I have battled with over the years my entire life. Getting perfect grades in school, being the *perfect* friend, the *perfect* daughter, the *perfect* wife, then the pendulum would swing to the other side of “forget it; If I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not doing it AT ALL. I QUIT.” You would know that if you looked at my desk. It is either perfectly spotless or it is a mess. When it is spotless, I won’t let someone move even a PAPERCLIP on it. Because once it’s messy again, I just give up, until the next time I clean it. Then it starts all over again.

It doesn’t make me proud to tell you that. In my defense, I will share that I have come a long way up this hill. The journey has been paved with many scars and battle wounds. Many of you have heard me say that I am a two time high school drop out. What I might not have mentioned is that I was on the Honor Roll. Both times. YEP…I’ve had a long hard climb learning how NOT to quit, how not to have to live the perfect life. How there is no such thing. I’ll say this, making a million mistakes and failing a lot does help you to get over yourself. It’s one cure for being a perfectionist. Not the easiest way. But it is a cure!

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly
~Robert Kennedy

So when I catch myself still doing things like quitting on my painting for not having a perfect Eagle, or quit running because I’m getting discouraged for being so slow, or get frustrated because it’s summer and I can’t seem to keep the house as clean with all these kids around and my schedule isn’t working out quite the way I thought it would or the vision I had of how this summer was going to be the very best one ever or that there wasn’t going to be A SINGLE WEED IN THE GARDEN OVER MY DEAD BODY OR ELSE…

I just have to sit back and take a deep breath.

I’m not perfect and I can’t quit. I can’t let the pendulum swing to either side. I have to take each day as it comes and know that it’s good enough. The house isn’t perfect. The kids aren’t perfect. My art isn’t perfect and my life isn’t perfect. But it’s good enough. As long as I keep on going, one step at a time, being realistic and doing my best and never give up, I have a perfectly good chance of being very successful at whatever I do. Here is the secret it has taken me most of my life to learn. I am more than happy to share it with you here.

Persistence is better then Perfection.

It’s that simple…and that hard.

 

Taking Time for Time Out.

self improvement

Some days you just can’t ride the pony.

No matter how many goals, road-maps, or shots of sunshine you slide down your throat, you are just not getting on. Not today.

But….you should right? So…you make yourself move forward, you push through it, you put on your riding gear and you tell yourself you CAN, YOU WILL… and you…are…hating…every…stinking…rotten…minute…and dang…you also hate that entire group of friends that cheers you on.

Maybe you need to change you stinkin’ thinkin?  Maybe you need to try a little harder and put your mind to the grindstone? Maybe you aren’t believing hard enough? Maybe you haven’t drank enough sunshine cocktails and aren’t drunk enough on the good life dream?

The answer is probably none of those things. In fact, the answer is most likely farther away from all of them.

Sometimes what you need is a break. A change of pace. Now I know a few of you just thought “Yippee!” and were half way to the fridge for a beer with visions of late night TV stuck in your head, but it isn’t what I’m talking about here. I am speaking about re-filling the tank. You know you are going to pay for those beers come morning. I’m talking about choosing activities that will pay you instead.

The price of not taking time to re-fuel is very high. Constantly running our bodies on HIGH and being ON day in and day out, even if we are following a goal is costly and needs to be balanced out with healthy sleep, healthy food, and relaxing, rejuvinating mind time.

Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for a very insidious case of burn out. Nothing will derail your goals quicker then that. Knock your feet right out from under you leaving you on your backside looking up at the stars wondering what in the world went wrong. I actually know a few people who have made a pattern out of this. Get a goal, work on it hard and fast like a rocket for a few years, be a shining success, then the next thing you know, they aren’t doing that any more. Why? They ran out of steam. They couldn’t sustain it. They fell off the pony. Never got back up. They had to go find something else to do. They never seem to figure out what is tripping them up.

Burn out is a very serious condition that can land on you before you ever knew it was knocking on your door. If you catch it while it is still brewing, and is still technically just a bad case of stress, it can be easily treated with lifestyle changes. However, if left untreated, this nasty condition can destroy temperaments, friendships, relationships, and life paths that once you thought were your life’s dream. Late stage burn out symptoms include feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, detachmentment, reduced productivity, loss of motivation, feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands, resentful, physical illness and the most telling sign, that there is no hope that there will be any positive change. (Sounds a lot like depression and some sources will tell you that burn out is a type of clinical depression, that is controversial and not part of our discussion.) When it is still in the *Stress* category, there is still *hope*, when stress has swung all the way over to full-fledged burn out, the light has gone out, it seems hopeless and all you want to do is quit, give up, walk away and never look back.

Besides studying the effects of burn out, I speak from some very personal experience. I have the charred remains to back it up. I went from a very successful career to feeling overwhelmed, out of balance, not spending enough time with my family and physically unhealthy. Suddenly my dream job was a nightmare. I couldn’t understand how I ever liked it in the first place. It took a long time to see that burn out had reared its ugly head. I don’t ever want to do that again. A body isn’t meant to run on high speed non stop, taking on more and more for long periods of time with no breaks, being all things to all people. It Can’t. It Won’t, It Doesn’t Believe. It expects you to take care of it for the performance you are getting out of it. Spiritually, Mentally and Physically.

RENEW THE SPIRIT

It starts here. I won’t mince words or sugar coat this. What happens in the Spiritual realm for you will carry through in the rest of your life as well. I’m not telling you what Higher power to believe in, who to worship, or what to do. I’m just telling you that it does make a difference when you take the time to get quiet with yourself, focus and spend some time here. It can be reading spiritual books,  a walk in a park, time in your kayak, prayer, church, again, I won’t say how, but that quiet time of listening and focus and being one with yourself- and anyone else you will share that with- is very powerful. Keeping a written journal is also a powerful way to get some enlightenment on what is going on inside of you.

RENEW THE MIND

There are too many things we have to do. Surviving on handing out what we already know day in and day out makes us weary. Learning stuff for work that we only half care about is step one into bored and resentful. Make a list of fun for you things. Topics you would read and learn about just because it interests you. Go on a weekend excursion. To the museum or a lake or wherever your heart desires. Go to your calendar and PUT IN ON THERE. Make a date. The problem with chores & work stuff is that it will fill every nook and cranny of your life. So fill those nooks first. Your work can wait. You can’t. That’s the bottom line. You come first.

RENEW THE PHYSICAL

 Yes, we have to exercise. That almost goes without saying in this age of can’t turn around without a new exercise program being *The One* to make us a perfect 10. ( And no, we don’t NEED to be a perfect 10, thank goodness)  A combo of cardio, strength training and something to maintain our flexibility so we can still bend down, tie our own shoes and play with the grandkids is a nice balanced approach. There is something out there for everyone’s fitness level.

But that doesn’t finish the deal. The majority of adult Americans are sleep deprived. I can’t speak for our Canadian friends and the rest of the world, but I know that we Americans are either not getting enough or we aren’t getting quality sleep. Lack of enough or quality sleep leads to poor health, weight gain and stress. All significant precursors to burn out. Making good sleep a priority is an absolute must for anyone looking to reach-and keep their goals.

Good nutrition. You wouldn’t expect your car to run on bad fuel. You wouldn’t expect to grow your vegetables in poor soil. But you expect your body to run on sugar, alcohol fumes, simple carbs, greasy fats and low protein. And you expect it to produce high speed production!  We forget that we are machines and that we can only produce based on what we are given. Start thinking about food as nutrition and fuel instead of rewards and entertainment. See if that helps to make a difference in your approach to food.

 

Everyone has a down day now and then. Everyone has a day where physical health gets in the way. But if day after day something inside is rebelling and bucking you off the pony and you can’t figure out why, take a look at all three of these areas. Has one of them been neglected for way too long? More than one? Take a time out. Time for a retreat and a new plan of action. Regroup. Get back to basics.

You aren’t going to reach the stars if you can’t get off the ground first.

The Perfect Day

self improvement

 

Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change in attitude.
~Katherine Mansfield

Blue skies, sun shining, a few white clouds drifting through the sky for dramatic effect. The exercise routine that you promised yourself you would do was completed at the crack of dawn, leaving you showered, refreshed and dressed to meet whatever the day would bring.

Your home was organized and spotless because everything on your TO DO list had been completed, checked off and wiped away. A gourmet dinner has been prepared to everyones’ liking and does not interfere with anyone’s special eating needs, which, by the way, you followed TO THE LETTER, all day long AND oh by the way, when you woke up this morning your weight on the scale readjusted itself to your ideal weight.

With all of your work complete, you spent fun quality time with your family and friends and still had enough relaxing down time to fit in all of things that you wanted to enjoy especially for you. Your check book is in the black, your savings account has a big nest egg in it and there is still money left over for a vacation. As you drift off to sleep, in your comfortable bed you find yourself thinking….BY God, its been A PERFECT DAY!!!

UH HUH…When is that going to happen? Yep. I can hear you now. Come on, you know the answer…

When Pigs Fly…That’s when.

Yet we wait for it. Being the creatures of eternal hope and the internal children of our hearts, we measure each day against our own personal idealized dreams of THE PERFECT DAY.

We have conversations with each other that go something like this.

“Hi honey, how was your day?”

“Oh not too bad.” Shoulders sag, “It wasn’t perfect, it could of been better” And then what follows is a litany of everything that didn’t measure up against the imaginary PERFECT DAY.

If our partner or friend has a sunny disposition, they will help us to look on the bright side by picking out something on the list of the PERFECT DAY that did happen and say” Well cheer up, at least THAT happened, better luck tomorrow” which translated means “good luck tomorrow on getting your PERFECT DAY to happen.”

For most of us, this is an unconscious habitual matter not really taken out and examined. Yet the PERFECT DAY syndrome hovers under the surface, causing us heartache and negative feelings of low self esteem and unworthiness.

“I should have gotten more done than I did, I’m just no good..” “I should weigh less than I do, I’m just too lazy.”  “If my house were perfect I would have people over and then I would have friends” “If I had more time, then I would start exercising, there’s just no point” ‘I got four things done today, but I’m not happy with myself because I ate a bite of a donut. Never mind that I got a raise. That doesn’t count.”

The PERFECT DAY can infect us in a couple of different ways.

“The first one is the “I can’t do anything yet because I’m waiting for the perfectly right time and day to start.” Dieters are especially prone to this one. For some reason we think the perfect day is going to start on a Monday, but when Monday comes around, surprisingly, it is flawed. So we wait for the next one to come round the bend and that one has some issue too. The bad news is (and folks, on this I speak from very painful experience) Every day has a problem big enough to derail healthy eating or your new plan. NO PERFECT DAY IS COMING. Start now. Right now. You have to want it bad enough to eat healthy right or work your new dream right through Christmas and your very own birthday too. Or you just don’t want it bad enough yet. When you want it that bad…nothing in the world will stop you from being a success. I promise.

The second one is the camp of the  perfectionist syndrome. Maybe they didn’t do everything perfect on their list. There were things left over. So instead of celebrating and rejoicing for the things that went right, they are going to stew and bubble over what didn’t get done. Or the way that someone else interacted with them that wasn’t how they IMAGINED it would go. So they replay it in their head as if by doing so they can magically change the way the day went. Now, not only wasn’t it a perfect day, but they muck up the night as well. Better luck tomorrow. But it won’t be, because they will still be measuring it against that same elusive stick of the PERFECT DAY.

What can we do about it? Thankfully, there is a lot to do. We don’t have to be a victim to the PERFECT DAY.

That will be covered in part 2 so be here on Monday. Here is a hint to get you through the weekend. Recognizing you are doing it is the first big step. Give yourself some grace. Do the best you can and celebrate your victories. More on Monday. 🙂

Do you have a perfect day vision? Have you found it derailing you and actually causing to feel bad about yourself and getting discouraged? Have you found ways to improve?

In the Dirt

self improvement

  
I was a grubby little girl. Grimy and dirty and messy with stringy dishwater brown hair that turned blond from spending too much time playing make-believe outside with my brother and sister out in the country. My sister ate ants. Just to gross us out. She said “pretend they have chocolate on them and have a bite.” I drew the line at eating ants. But other then that, we were little country bumbkins frolicking through the acres of meadows and fields that was our playground.

There was always dirt under my fingernails. A lot of the time it was because I was digging a pathway to China, or digging for gold, or had determined that there was a lost city like Pompeii right underneath the garden that nobody had discovered yet.

My mother spent a lot of time saying “Comb your hair.” and I would say, “I just did.” It wouldn’t matter. It wasn’t meant to be combed looking. Still isn’t for that matter. I’ve just accepted it now. I have jumbly hair. It does what it wants. And it doesn’t want to looked combed.

My Father was the most dismayed. His expectation was that his daughters would look like proper princesses. And that at a moments notice we could be taken out and shown off as the little delights we were supposed to be. Except I wasn’t a delight. I was a disaster. He often lectured me on the state and condition of my legs and knees. Crawling around in the dirt didn’t do a lot for my lady-like calves. I was always sporting a multitude of scrapes, bruises, cuts and band-aids. When they would dress me up I looked like a battle victim from the knees down.

I don’t remember having a lot of store bought toys when the three of us were kids. I remember having books-lots and lots and mountains of books, and play-dough and markers and finger-paint and acres of land with gardens and trees and dirt.

“Pretend that we’ve just discovered a secret cave and we are the only ones who live here, and we have to find stones to make a campfire, and food to eat, and hunt and where will we sleep and how will we live..” and on and on went every adventure. My  brother, being much younger, may, if you ask him, tell you that his childhood memories center around “go fetch this and go fetch that and here-lug that over there and here- lug this big tree branch here to make a fort over there. My sister and I were the dreamers. The schemers that made imaginary worlds out of grass and trees and gardens and dirt.

Despite our parents attempts to keep us from looking unruly, I’ve never regretted a single scraped knee. Those years of fearless abandonment of rules and structure, hours of imaginary free play, shaped and formed who I am today.

I struggle against the conformity of over-scheduling that our kids ( even mine) are dealing with in society today. I struggle against the scheduling that we as adults face on a daily basis. Every minute booked up. I long to run free and play in the fields, letting my imagination run along beside me.

In my life I have found ways to gain those moments of unabashed freedom. My morning quiet time, journal writing, now adding back in fiction writing, the greatest “let’s pretend” of them all. My gardening lets me get literally down in the dirt, hands full of the rich brown loam, planting seeds, participating in the bringing forth of new green life, new flowers, fruit, vegetables. The anticipations of the first harvest of summer, the excitement almost…brings back that childlike thrill.

Remembering to take the time to play, letting go, letting the creative juices run wild and uninhibited returns us to a more natural state. A state of mind without fear. A child-like state of mind where creativity is as natural as a flowing current of water.

In a happy, playful child there is no fear of failure. No fear of success. No “what if they see me acting like a fool, what if I’m not the best. What if I AM the best?” There is no deadline to beat, no quota to match, No target to topple.

There is giggling, there is laughter. There is adventure, there is fun. There is the restoration of the spirit. There is growth. There is love.

When is the last time you got down and played? Went out and romped in the sun, went for a ramble with no destination, wandered about for a new place to discover? When was the last time you went digging in the dirt, not afraid to get dirty, not afraid to be caught being a mess, not afraid of what others thought?

When was the last time you were completly uninhibited, without a care in the world, skinned knees and all, flaws and all, exposed in all your authenticity?

Would you like to come and play in the dirt with me? It’s fun. After all. Seeds grow in the dirt. You never know what might happen there.

 

CAN and WILL…and BELIEVE

leaving a legacy, self improvement, The Inspired Life

As a very small child, whenever I would get discouraged, I would plop myself down on the floor like a doll made of rags and let out a hopeless wail. “I Can’t…..” would be my pitiful cry. “I don’t know how, it’s too hard, I’m too tired.”

My mother would turn on a dime, narrow her dark Italian eyes, laser beam them into me and say in a voice as commanding as any Military General ever born, ” You CAN and you WILL. HOW does not matter. THAT  we can figure out. Now GET UP!”

Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you, that  was the end of my temper tantrum.

Quitting has never been an option in our family of scrappy little fighters. Raised by my Mother, a woman who raised three children on her own after waking up one day to find her husband had made other plans for his life, she had learned to take surprises and situations and  wrestle them into the life that SHE wanted for us. SHE expected to rise to challenges and goals and she expected no less from us. There were no acceptable excuses. She had an answer for everything. Being tired? Everyone gets tired. So what, learn to rest, balance and push through. Being scared doesn’t cut it. Only fools are stupid enough to not be scared. Not having all the answers is not a reason not to start.  Only the truly stupid think they are wise, the wise know there is always more yet to learn. In my mother’s world, If you want something you have to go for it. If it is right for you and the people you love, then there is no excuse for not doing it. You CAN and you WILL. And she does.

Then why is it not that simple for the rest of us? Not so black and white? The simple determination to march into battle for your noble cause day after day…why does it again and again reduce us to whining, sniveling, crying children?

It took me a long time to learn the third part of my mother’s power.  She had had it all along. It was a mysterious strength that gave her indomitable spirit. That kept her strong and unflinching when she left her secure job, the only thing that put food on the table for her and her three small children and took her measly $3000 and invested every dime she had to start her own business. She could have FAILED. We could have lost everything. She had one thing in her back pocket that was so powerful that it propelled her forward and would not let her down. She had something that most people didn’t have.

She knew that the only way to get from a life that had a steady-but a measly paycheck where she had to work double shifts in a factory and leave her small children home alone was to take a chance. She knew that although the risk was great, that we wouldn’t have insurance at first, that we would have less money to begin with, that we would have no reliable income AT ALL to begin with, that she could make it on her own elbow grease. That something to look forward to with hope was better than a lifetime of looking at what she would have if she changed nothing.

I didn’t understand what that something was at such an early age. She was just my Mom. Maybe I thought that all moms were fierce warriors who went out each day to take on the world.

Later in life, I went into sales. Real Estate sales specifically, although I dabbled my way up to that in other types of sales jobs before that. Sales is HARD. Being rejected is hard. Initiating contacts, talking to strangers, making cold calls, learning contract negotiations, managing files, hand holding nervous and temperamental clients is all hard and very stressful. The overwhelming majority of Real Estate agents quit within 3-6 months of getting their license. They say anyone can become a Realtor. It takes a good one to stay one. I decided to stack my odds. I hired the industry’s best Real Estate coach in the business to coach me and teach me the tools I needed to succeed. All that I learned in the six years of being one of the top agents in our company is more than a blog could hold.  But one of the major things that I paid good money to learn had been right there at home all my life.

CAN & WILL.

Beverly Buffini is the wife of Brian Buffini, Brian being the head of Buffini & Company, the coaching company I was just referring to. Beverly Buffini worked with him and toured with him and spoke at the seminars because frankly she was so inspiring that everywhere she went the crowd went nuts. Beverly grew up to be an All-American volleyball player at the University of Tennessee where she was inducted into the Tennessee Hall of Fame in the first class of women ever to achieve that honor. She went on to become a member of the US National Volleyball Team that participated in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. She now uses her skills of discipline, determination, and focus to juggle raising six kids, and writing, and touring as a motivational speaker. Listening to her speak was one of my greatest inspired moments.

Beverly brought home for me the third part of the ingredients for success in her book, I CAN, I WILL, I BELIEVE. For each of the areas that she wrote about, and spoke about, Beverly outlined her viewpoints on the power behind each of those words. Summarizing, she wrote about:

CAN: to be able mentally or spiritually. She attributes the childhood story The Little Engine That Could with the basis for CAN. Perhaps not too coincidently, that story was one that my mom read to us almost every night. The basis of pushing away negative fears and focusing on the positive is the foundation for any dream to come true. In Beverly’s words, ” Particuarly in my athletic endeavors, I learned to be patient, that success only comes when and if the I CAN attitude endures over time. Giving up was not an option when things got tough. I had to persist if I wanted to make my hopes and dreams a reality. With that mindset, I could achieve my specific goals.”

WILL: is the reinforcement of purpose, drive and discipline necessary to spring CAN into life. WILL is the Action word that makes it happen. Webster’s defines WILL as a concious choice and a strong, fixed purpose. She spoke about the choices and priority shifting that it takes to keep the WILL going. She talks about sacrifice and risk. She states, “What was the principle lesson I learned from this? That in order to achieve and find fullfillment and enjoyment in achieving, I had to step beyond the familiar and accept personal risk. I learned that even condemnation or ridicule were possibilities if my choices did not coincide with someone else’s expectations.

BELIEVE: to take as true or real, to have confidence in something or someone; to have faith, especially religious faith (Webster). For some of us, myself included, Faith of a higher power would be moved up to the front of that defination, and for Beverly she says, “For me, I believe has a significance far beyond simply believing that I can and will do what I set out to do. I believe that we are inspired and helped by God and that we have a responsibilty to do our best to live up to that inspiration. I also get a sense of being assisted and directed by a Force beyond myself, and I desire that feeling.”

I Can, I Will, I Believe. I came out of that motivational seminar on fire. I bought the book. Heck. I bought the T-shirt. Honest, I really did. It’s royal blue with big bold white letters going right across my chest and anytime I need a little extra power pumped in to my self esteem I put it on and strut around.  All because she made my mother’s CAN & WILL tangible.

They say you can’t be a prophet in your own backyard. I guess I had to go far away and pay good money to hear what Mom had been saying all along.  I had to hear it from someone else to understand that the secret ingredient that made my mother stand so hard and fast is her faith. Belief in a higher power (God), Belief that she is doing what is right for her family, belief that if you believe in it, work hard for it, visualize it then you CAN make it happen.

By the way, that’s a far cry from stick it on a poster board, stare at it every day and sit back and wait for it to arrive. That would never be my mother’s style. While those that wait-are busy waiting, my mother and her clan are busy doing the WILL part and BELIEVING that with those two together…..why yes…yes you CAN.

Once Upon a Time

self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life, Writing

Once Upon a Time, when there was such a thing as extra time, (I used to call it Free Time, back when I believed that such a thing existed. Now I know that it just isn’t so. You have to pay for it one way or another.) I used to be a fiction writer.

It began innocently enough. Sitting and twirling my swing, I shared stories and adventures with my imaginary friend in the side yard of the old clapboard house of my youth. She listened with great interest and never interrupted. In time, illustrations followed and the stories grew in depth and character.

When we moved into a country farmhouse during my middle school years, I created paper doll people and paper doll cut-out villages to go with my stories and the world that my characters lived in. They took up residence in my bedroom closet. As my clothes were strewn about the floor, there was plenty of room there and every day after school I would join them on the closet floor, and create for them a brand new world. Their lives were full of adventures. They were sassy and talked back. I never did. They traveled the world and saw everything. I lived in a town where all the kids went to school on the same bus. They wore exotic clothes and were popular and had bright shiny hair and flashing, expressive eyes. My stringy dishwater brown hair hung in my dull brown eyes, shielding me to hide my shyness.

We moved again, (and again, and again) making the process of building lasting friendships a difficult one. I was friendly, yet uncommitted. My head was either buried in reading a book or writing a book. I lived inside the pages of fantasy. Inspiration came from reading every book I could get my hands on. When I did need to relate to someone, it was easy to pull out a character and try it on for whatever situation needed to be handled. The first inklings and seeds of the actress began to grow within.

By the time I arrived at high school, my first novel had been completed and sat buried in the bottom of my t-shirt drawer. Along with it was another complete series of shorter stories, all bound together, adventures of middle school girls trying to survive their way through the popular world of junior high, while being different. A book of poetry sat on top of my desk, never put away-because it was added to, almost daily.

One day, I peeked out from behind a page and saw a strange world standing before me. High School was a bustling, harsh place to be, especially for someone who had mastered zero social skills. A refuge for others like myself welcomed me in the theater department. There, for the first time, I met others who shared my traits. Actors, writers, dreamers, artists–people who believed that what you could see in your mind could be more real than what was standing before you. I had come home into a family of my own. I wasn’t different anymore.

The high school years of theater and writing classes and having teachers who molded my skills were a wonderful-if not way too short- time of my life. Actually, truthfully, I hated all of it except the part where I could get to the writing and the acting. Everything else was impatiently tolerated until I could dive back in to the deep well of creativity and be immersed again in the flow of talent that surrounded me.

Then life took an abrupt shift. Choices made became a direction turned and I moved forward into becoming a mother and learning the life lessons of living in the REAL WORLD. Not much room for fiction there…

I have kept the creativity in my life. I have had to. I stayed in my community theater, learned to paint. It has been hard to find that balance over the years, and there have been many lessons learned about what happens to my spirit when I let it die back. Hint: It isn’t a pretty thing. I need it like I need air.

But the fiction writing took a seat way in the back of the bus. After spending so much time NOT in reality, I had needed to find a way to become authentic. Figure out who the real Wendi was. NOT a fiction character chameleon that could shape-shift on a dime, but the real deal. What was important to me, where were MY boundaries, what were the consistencies and the threads that bound my spirit through the ages of my life. The unchangeables? The areas that I needed to grow and cultivate? The areas that I needed to prune and cut away?

A lot of those questions have been answered over the decade that has been my forties. Hurray for the 40’s for there is time to look in the mirror. At least there has been for me. And now that I can see myself standing there, myself, my true self, not the self that I shifted into for the sake of others, I can see that she is writing fiction again.

It started out innocently enough. First little stories I had been imagining in my head. Then just a few chapters of a story idea that I jotted down in a file on the computer. Then one day, a title of a children’s book, so I wrote that down too. With a few paragraphs to follow. Then a few days later, a few more pages for that. Gosh…a few more chapters of that first book were floating around up there. So I wrote them down too.

Now Men with Pens have an on-line Escape from Reality  fiction story writing group and I have a character there. (You can follow along if you like, but fair warning…its so darn good and fun, it’s addictive!) 

The ideas and the story lines and the characters are all coming back home, as if they have been gone for a very long holiday. I welcome them back with a bit of apprehension. I have real-life responsibilities now. I’m not that free-time little girl who can afford to live up in her head. I have a family to take care of and a blog to write and a REAL world to live in now. It would be very easy to slip away, fall down the rabbit-hole and become vaguely lost to the happenings around me. I don’t want to do that. I love my real-time life. My family and friends are an enormous part of my happiness and joy.

This will be the first time I will try to honestly face the world of fiction writing with balance and structure. I know its been done by others . I don’t know how to do it. Quieting the stories at inappropriate times when there is a story happening in your head and all you want to do is grab a pen and write it down? In the middle of making dinner or entertaining guests? Agh…I think I have shut it down for a long, long time out of fear for situations just as that. How do I be in two places at once?

It is going to be interesting.  (shaking my head) Help!!

I’m taking any and all thoughts and suggestions here…..comments? I’m quite sure my family would appreciate your help too!

A Spring Rain

Attitude of Gratitude, family, self improvement, The Inspired Life

It’s raining as I write. A dark, low, rumbling thunderous rain. Not frightening. The sort of rain that rolls in like a vacuum and cleans away the winter dust. It has been an ugly, long week of rain, tornado warnings and high winds, and yet, we soldier on here, not flinching in our schedules, not hesitating to make our plans for the day, for the week, for the future.

What if it rains? What if there is a tornado? What if there is a flood?

Then we’ll deal with it.

Somehow. We do. We just do. That’s spring in Chicago. It follows the blizzards and bitter, frigid temperatures of our winters, and will usher in the blistering, smoldering, humid heat of our summers. Midwesterners are tough, strong people. We have to be to deal with our weather. Some of us complain about it. I do. Loudly. Often. But it doesn’t stop us. It happens so often that it is part of the daily round. Something expected and planned for. We wear our weather like a badge of honor. It makes us rugged and brave. It shows our courage. The weak would move. The weak DO move. It isn’t easy to tolerate the barrage of ever changing attacks.

The weather here changes you if you let it. It molds you and shapes you the way water wears at the surface of stone. Over time, you build callouses to all the drama that the weather provides. You move on. You make better provisions. You learn to plan ahead. To strategize. You become unfazed to the trauma that would affect your To Do list. You simply move on to Plan B -because you have a plan B.

A recruiter once told me that in his opinion, people from the Midwest were the hardest working people in the States. They learned how to work around things. They learned how to pitch in and get things done. If you doubt it, watch and see how quickly the Midwest can mobilize and band together after a winter storm or tornado. Families and neighbors pull together and get the job done. It isn’t a question of IF. They just figure out HOW and they just DO it.

My youngest son graduated from 8th grade this weekend. We had a large family party in the backyard, complete with two Weber grills fired up with a selection of meats, salads and pasta on the buffet and choices of dessert. On the patio, my eldest son’s Karaoke company had set up the evening to be a entertaining night of Karaoke, singing and fun for all of the kids and kids at heart. Despite the fact that Severe Thunderstorm’s had rolled through in the morning, dousing everything with buckets of water and sweeping through with the fourth wind-storm of the weekend, we continued on undaunted. When it looked as if ten minutes after he set up his equipment the storms were going to return, we pulled out the giant tent from the garage, set it up in moments, and continued on with nary a break in the action. The party and the singing continued on around us.

As I looked around, singing, dancing, laughter, chatting, were the actions taking place around me. No one gave a fig about the weather, the grayness of the skies or the humidity in the air. We focused on what was good. We focused on what was fun. We were focused on family.

That’s the way it is here. The worse the weather gets, the more we pull in tighter. The more we cozy up to each other. The weather reminds us of what is important. Pitching in. Helping out. Team work. Family. The rain, the snow, the heat, they wash away the trivial and leave us with the important things to worry about.

We know how to figure it out. And we do it together.

At nine O’clock, we pulled down the tent and put the karaoke away. Just in time, as if waiting for permission, the winds picked up and the sky unleashed it’s next bucket of rain for the evening. We gathered inside, with the back door open listening to it fall. My husband and son stood in the doorway, watching as the energy lights flickered across the sky in the dark, the rumbling of thunder, rolling low and deep. Their hushed voices chatted as the rest of us listened to soft music, finishing our wine. The air was warm, washed clean from the spring rain, the mist reaching into the house, filling the air with the scent. All was peaceful, loving, content.

Yes, It changes you to live here. You become adaptable. Flexible. Strong. Appreciative of the good moments. The moments when the rain is soft and clean, bringing a man and son together in the night, a memory I will watch in my mind for a long time.

Appreciative of family, of being able to bend with the wind, still laughing, still playing….waiting hopefully… for the sun.

Focusing on First Things First

Attitude of Gratitude, self improvement, The Inspired Life, Writing

There is the saying: I got out of the wrong side of the bed today.

A rather silly saying, but used to mean, “I didn’t get the day started off properly” and once things started off in the wrong direction, well…down the hill it went, like Jack and Jill, and no one could quite get it back the rest of the day. Sometimes, a bad start to the day is a spill of milk or running out of coffee. ( That one will set me off FOR SURE) or the children will bicker.

Sometimes, though, the alarm goes off and you don’t get up. You roll over, skip the work out, talk yourself out of your morning routine and then it’s a rush to get into traffic, a rush to sit in it and a rush to get out. Life is no fun. We KNOW this isn’t good for us. We KNOW we feel better when we stick to our routines, do our work out, eat healthy, clean up a little and throw in that laundry before we are sniffing the undies in hope that they are clean, so WHY oh WHY do we let ourselves get into the muddle of last minute muck up?

It’s because we are living a reactive life rather than a proactive one. It’s a matter of making sure the garden is full of beautiful flowers that has no room for weeds to grow, or letting things slide so far that all you have now is a big weed garden and all you do is pull weeds and have no fun.

I want my home to be a pretty place with a cheery welcoming front door, with an organized life behind that door, pretty flowers and a peaceful, fun atmosphere. I want my body to be healthy and trim, exercised and well nourished, my family fed and in shape as well. I want to explore my creativity, challenge my comfort zones and expand my horizons as a person, while maintaining my identities as a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend.

I also want to be a full time writer- who actually begins to earn a living from her craft. I want to paint more. I am inspired by my friend Amy Palko to do more with my photography. ( see photo above, a picture I took on our honeymoon in Ireland). My creative playground is a place where I could hang out for hours, writing and painting, playing my guitar, my drums, hanging out in my garden, or….I could get lost in the world of reading books….and never come out to play at all….

Of course there is the wonderland rabbit hole of the bloggers Intenet. Read just one blog and leave a comment. Then notice an interesting title in Commentluv. Click on it. Follow down the rabbit-hole to somewhere interesting…read…leave a comment…notice one of your favorite bloggers put up a new post…click…follow..read..comment..repeat…funny-how-the-day-went way.

Any one of these things done first…and nothing else at all could get done.

No exercise, no laundry, no dinner for the family, no grocery shopping, no return phone calls to whoever was on the TO DO list. Then the next day piles up, and the next and life turns in to a big catch up game. The house isn’t clean. I don’t know what is for dinner. I feel more sluggish because the exercise didn’t happen. And oh, by the way, now the muse has left me, because the MUSE thinks I should go get my dang house work done too!

First things first.

In order for MY life to work right, things have to be done in a certain order. I need to get up in the morning and have my quiet time. The very first and MOST important first for me. The time of the day to get centered and focus on gratitude and love and priorities. Miss that one, and I HAVE gotten out on the wrong side of the bed. Then I have to check that list of things to do. Then the kitchen, the daily chores, and laundry. Then kids and husband all settled and then exercise. EVERY DAY. Then and only then can I turn on the Creative Juice. If I do it backwards and let the juices flow first, they spill all over and get things soggy.  Now, the added advantage is the Muse will most often come and visit while I am in the routine of the ordinary. When I am doing the little ordinary things where the brain can switch off, then my mind can wander off to play with the muse and go visiting off to *wonderland* that beautiful little world of “I wonder this and I wonder that”, which is a very creative place for a writer’s brain to be.

This isn’t to say that I always get this right. This is to say in fact…that I start to get it right..stumble…fall…get back up and start again. But I do know HOW to do it right. When I’m not distracted. When I FOCUS on putting first things first. When I start my day right side up. Sunny side up.

How about you? What is your routine? How do you manage being a creative person and keep it all together? Do you do the same things every day in the same way? Do you have a first things first? An order to your madness? Please share!

 

Gifts From Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude, self improvement, The Inspired Life

Have you ever noticed that when you are in the moment of really focusing on feeling grateful…really sucking up the life absorbing energy of being appreciative for the gifts that life has bestowed on you, that there are other emotions that you can NOT express at the SAME time?

You can’t feel truly angry and grateful at once.

You can’t be jealous of someone else’s good fortune while being bathed in the light of your own thankfulness.

You can’t focus on your own pain, suffering, fatigue, disillusionment, battle scars, insecurities and past failures while being grateful.

Thinking of those things can end your attitude of gratitude. Negativity and gratitude can’t share the same space in your brain at the same time. You have to choose.

And sometimes, the things we think are the misfortunes we should be complaining about, are the very things we should be grateful for, but the fog hasn’t cleared enough for us to know that yet.

The difficulties, hardships and trials of life, the obstacles…are positive blessings. They knit the muscles more firmly, and teach self-reliance.
~William Matthew

 

It’s the weekend again. and this weekend I am celebrating an attitude of being in the moment and feeling gratitude. Simple gratitude for the health of family, friends and loved ones everywhere. Won’t you join me in this simple quest of staying in the moment of gratitude? It isn’t as simple as you think.  🙂 but try to hang on to it AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

While you are at it, I have gotten a start at the Pebble People Page. Stop on over and take a look. It isn’t NEARLY even close to being finished so don’t skin me alive if you aren’t on there yet. PLEASE!!! Also, drop me an email at at wendik825ATaol.com if there is something else you would like to say or change for you.

Now for poetry time!

I am being a little self indulgent here this week with an original one. It is dedicated to all my little friends at cancer camp. With love.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 

 

 Fighting the Beast

 

I looked into your hopeful eyes
And briefly saw my soul,
Frightened, aching, wanting so
To somehow make you whole

What kind of monster eats at
Children, nibbling bits and parts,
Thrashing families, stealing
Sunshine, slinking in the dark

I, filled with anger, grit my teeth,
Tears welled up with rage
Helplessness against the beast,
I swelled with bitterness and pain

I looked again into your eyes
Surprised to see your smile,
Courage and beauty
throughout your being
Had been there all the while

Your tiny hand I took in mine,
And soon renewed was I,
Fortified and overflowed
With willingness to try

Gratitude and blessings,
Friendships, hopes and dreams,
Hanging on to laughter,
Remembering Simpler things

No guarantees are offered
In any life or day,
We make the most of what
We can and head along the way

The beast will battle where
He may, we will battle too,
With strength and courage
Standing firm, LOVE will
See us through

~ Wendi Kelly