Plans, Dreams, and Months that Fly Like Birds

The Inspired Artist, The Inspired Life

Image by Wendi Kelly

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.

~Oprah Winfrey

Such great plans I had for posting here  last year.

Obviously THAT rarely happened!  I had great dreams of doing the 365 project and posting the pictures here every day and on Flckr. You can see how well that turned out. The funny thing is I took the pictures. Hundreds of them. Far, far more than 365 of them. More like thousands of them, some horrible ones, some great ones ones, some that are as boring as a plain vanilla pudding.

I took so many that I couldn’t manage all of them. Some of them ended up on Flckr. Then, I opened an account on Picasa and many of them are there. Others are strewn about on various computers around the house that I happened to upload them to, because it was the closest one at the time. I admit it, I have been a photographer management disaster. Somehow, I kept telling myself that I would sit down and get it all organized but…huh…I looked up the other day and somehow, magically, it was 2011. Looks like I know what one of my resolutions should be. Find some way to organize mountains of digital photographs into one place.

The Inspired Artist (Ahem…that is supposed to be me…) picked up a paint brush a total of three times last year. She posted on this blog exactly ONE time.  Her garden was a collection of rambling roses, self-seeding annuals and hardy perennials who refused to give up on her and weeds that were faster then her once every couple of weeks attempts at yanking them out of the ground. The only time she took her guitar out of it’s case was to tune it once and put it back in.

SIGH….

I could beat myself up over those things. But I’m not going to. The thing is, that despite my best laid plans, dreams and aspirations at the beginning of last year,there was no way I was going to keep up with all of the lofty goals I had created on my New Year’s Dream List last year. But I got to a lot of them. And besides, I am practicing the art of imperfection. I find I get a lot more done and have a lot more fun doing it if I focus on what I do and not what I didn’t do.

Here is what I DID do in 2010.

Focused on a year of learning the basics of my new camera, taking thousands of pictures and documenting all of the events of our fun year.

Wrote a paranormal fantasy adventure romance novel, Loyalties, with my business partner, Deb Dorchak and published it through Blue Sun Studio, inc. It is currently available at Amazon.com and will be available in a growing number of places shortly.

Partnered with my husband to write an original drama, which we then performed, at Church for Reformation Sunday.

Directed the third annual performance  of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the first week of December.

Formed a new corporation and had a very successful first year of business at Blue Sun Studios, inc.

Won the War against Clutter and kicked out an entire dumpster of …excuse me…CRAP…out of our house this summer with the help of our family.

Also won the War against Rabbits this summer by building- (This one was mostly my husband) a fenced in Vegetable garden complete with cute little door that kept those buggers out and provided us with delectable veggies well into the third frost.

Went on a spectacular Michigan week long, beach-side family vacation in July with John and the kids and extended family.

Went on the best ever anniversary camping trip to Door County, Wisconsin with my wonderful husband John and spent the entire time trying out great recipes in this old, old, old Dutch Oven that I fell in love with and almost loved more than him…..

Went on a autumn retreat to Asheville, N. Carolina were I received great mentoring from my coach, Christine Kane, and came away with new knowledge, clarity and vision for the new year to come.

And those are only a few of the highlights. The day to day parties and family stuff, that’s always worth writing about.

I’m tempted to say, “My oh my…where did the months fly off to?” But when I look at my list, I can see clearly where they went.

The Inspired Artist has been writing and taking pictures. Oh- and cooking. I have hundreds of pictures of new recipes, some good- some, that are…well, we can call them experiments and just move on. I won’t tell you what my kids called them. I’d like to think of my cooking as art…just don’t ask my kidst, they would rather have McDonalds. But what do they know, they have yet to even begin to fully explore the vast ways that life can become artistic.

What lies ahead for the Inspired Artist in 2011

Our first book in the series, Bonds of Blood and Spirit, Loyalties, now available on Kindle, is coming out in hard copy any time now. In fact, I am spending my days waiting by the mailbox for my copy. Then we start the challenging process of marketing and selling. That may not sound artistic to some, but there is not much that takes more inspiration than the skills of marketing, advertising and promoting.  The world of sales writing and marketing is a creative beast at best! I know I will be spending plenty of time here this year. But not to worry, sales and marketing is where I got my start in business back when my family first started our own business and I’ve never shut up since. It will all be good.

Book two in the series, Uncivil Wars is being written as we speak. Deb and I carve out sacred time every week from January to May to write the novels. The rest of the year is spent in editing and formating and creating the fine details of the next story. This story has already written itself through part one and is so clear to both of us I’ll be surprised if we don’t beat our four month time line of the last book. This one is a movie playing in my head already. It just may pick up the pen and write itself if we don’t get to it!

Photography improvements– it’s time to go to stage two. I’ve spent a year clicking away and teaching myself everything I can on my own. Me and my camera have just celebrated our one year anniversary together and we are ready for something new in our relationship. I am looking forward to this being the year I really kick up the game. I want to master some key Photoshop skills, some editing tricks and learn some advance photo shooting tips. Oh- yeah, and then there is that storage problem. I need to find a good system for keeping all my photos in one reachable place.

Writing, writing, writing... There is so much more to my writing besides the novels. Amazingly, they take up only a small disciplined part of the week. the rest of the time is spent coaching clients on their writing projects, writing plays and smaller scripts and stories, writing articles and blog posts for various websites and editing and reviewing other content and writing.  Writing has began to take up a growing number of hours in my day. And I can asure you- I have NO complaints about that.

Directing- The theater group is growing. This year I expect it to grow even larger with more theater meetings, workshops, dramas and opportunities for participation in a lot of different ways for the members of the Beginnings Drama Team.  John and I have already put our heads together to start picking out dramas for the Sunday ones and are looking for a great script for Good Friday.

Art– In all of its glorious forms. I really want to pick up that paint brush this year. The question is what kind of paint do I want to put on it after I’ve picked it up? I’ve been focusing on watercolor while the kids were little, less mess, no smell…but now my heart is yearning for bolder strokes, brighter color, richer tones…and I am feeling the pull back to oils and acrylics. Maybe I’ll take a class and brush up. No pun intended there…  I’m also getting the feeling that I’d like to go back to practicing making jewelry again. Don’t hold your breath on this one. I might just go lie down til the feeling passes, but it’s there. For the moment anyhow.

Gardening. So help me lord, if I have one more year with a weed garden, I’ll spit. That’s all I’m going to say for now. But seriously. I have to spend more time in the garden this year. It’s embarrassing.

So, unless I get too busy living life instead of posting about it, I’ll use these pages as an Inspired Artist Journal to keep track of the artistic endeavors of the year.

Welcome to my artist’s playground.  Please, I’d love it if you leave your thoughts and comments and share what you plan to do in 2011. Hopefully together, we will both be around to play here this year!

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MOVING DAY!

The Inspired Life

Everything has been packed up tight and the moving truck has pulled out of the drive way. It’s time to say goodbye to our first little home at Life’s Little Inspirations and move in to our new big Community Center by the lake.

Harry and James from Men with Pens have been hard at work helping me…the technically challenged dim bulb… maneuver my way around in a world that might as well be blind to me. I could NOT have done this without them. Harry-forever more to be known as my blogging Knight in Shining Armour-is the most patient man I’ve ever met (with the possible exception of my husband) and has even managed to teach me how to do some of this stuff myself. That is a miracle!

James gets the credit for pushing me into this and holding me up with his uncanny knack for writing just what I always seem to need to hear at just the right time. His post on How to Exceed Expectations was the exact post that convinced me to quit thinking about moving and actually DO it. Then today, while I spent the entire day laboring over things I had no idea how to do and faltering with last minute jitters, there he was again, holding me up with his post on Learning to Fly Without Wings. It made me smile. Take about inspiration! There have been several times in between where both of them have been right there with just what I needed at just the right moment without me even knowing I was going to need it.  No doubt about it, the Pen Men live up to their reputation.

So now the champagne is uncorked, the glasses are filled and the party is ready to begin.  Won’t you raise your glass with me? I’d like to propose a toast.

To the Men With Pens, Harry and James, the Diamond Standard Bearers of Customer Service and Satisfaction. Thank you with all my heart. You are both wonderful.

Now, let’s go to http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ and meet up at the new place! See you all there!

NOTE: Life’s Little Inspirations has moved off of this blog to our new address at http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ There are new updated articles added there for your enjoyment. Please click on the link and come and join us there, we are waiting for you! If you are a subscriber here, please stay and enjoy this New Blog, The Inspired Artist! And please take a moment to re-subscribe at Life’s Little Inspirations at the new address so you don’t miss anything new posts there as well! Thank you for your support!

A Lighthouse in the Storm

The Inspired Life

My mother used to say that there are only two things in this world you can be sure of: DEATH and TAXES.

As I have gone along the path of life, I have discovered that there is a third unflinching item that can be added into this small select group. CHANGE.

Change will happen. Good change, bad change, the pleasant surprises along life’s little way, the minor irritations that set you off course. Yet, for a lot of us, the idea of change fills us with a sense of dread and fear that compares to very little. We fear the unknown. We fear what we can’t visualize and what we can’t control.

Even when we know that we have reached the end of a path. Even when we know that we can no longer stay on the same road because it isn’t good for our well-being, our relationships, or our health or our finances, we hesitate to jump to the next step. Change is one of the major life stresses. Even the good ones. Psychology tells us that events such as getting married, taking on a new job, or moving to a new home rank in the top five major life stresses right up there with death and divorce.

So is it any wonder that when standing on the crossroads of a decision, any decision, that many times the natural response feels like FREEZE- DON’T DO ANYTHING!!!

My experience with that response is that if you tread water long enough, you may likely find yourself blown about in a nasty storm. When we don’t react, the world reacts for us and often we pay the bitter price for not have taken the wheel of our own course.

So how do you know what’s right? What helps you to make the decisions of when to act, which road to go down, how to behave, who to trust, or why you need to make a change in the first place? Do you take each decision as it comes or do you turn to a beacon of light that is constant, unwavering and steady to set your path straight?

Ships tossed and torn in the dark stormy sea don’t have the luxury of taking their time to thoughtfully think through each carefully laid out plan. They must react, and react quickly or risk being sunk or crashed into bits of driftwood against the jagged rocky shoreline. They depend on the beam from the lighthouse to show them the way to safety and shore. They trust the wisdom of the guiding light, grateful for its perseverance and ability to stand the test of time.

Where is your lighthouse? What is your lighthouse? Do you know? Have you thought about it? What are your guiding principles, your unwavering values that keep you focused through the darkest hours, through the fears of change? How do you set your course day after day, year after year, time after time?

Change is coming to Life’s Little Inspirations. With it will come our Lighthouse. Not the one in the post today, but a brand new one that will be our guiding light for all the promises of the future here. I am very excited. I can be excited because the vision and the principles and values of what I want this community to be have become very clear over the last four months. A lot of that has to do with all of you and the part that you play in building this community, adding to the conversations, sharing your stories, lifting up each other and supporting each other.

Over the next week or so, I will be posting less than usual as I work behind the scenes and get ready for some of these changes. Then the first week of August I will take a planned week of unplugged rest and vacation with family to the beaches of Michigan.

When we return we will embrace the sands of change and head into the future with the light to guide our way. I am so excited that you will all be a part of it.

Onward…into the future.

NOTE: Life’s Little Inspirations has moved off of this blog to our new address at http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/ There are new updated articles added there for your enjoyment. Please click on the link and come and join us there, we are waiting for you! If you are a subscriber here, please take a moment to re-subscribe at the new address so you don’t miss anything! Thank you for your support!

Finding Friends

The Inspired Life

The very first friend I ever remember having was a charming girl named Melissa in first grade. She had bright blue eyes and yellow hair cut in a chin length bob that bounced and swung when she moved her  head. Her laugh was more of a giggle and she found everything to be the funniest thing she had ever heard. I followed her all through the first grade, her humor sweet ambrosia to my serious nature. I still remember the time that she got the Mumps and missed school for a few weeks. It was as if someone had turned out the lights, leaving the school dim and dull. Her sunny presence made everything a joy.

We moved after first grade, out to the country for several years and I lost track of her. For those years that I lived there I never found a new best friend, or even any true friends at all. I played with my siblings, hung out with my books and writings and spent my time playing in the fields. When we moved, yet again the summer before fifth grade, I never looked back, I had no one to leave behind.

By the time I reached 8th grade, I still hadn’t found a social group of kids or one best friend to call my own. I hovered on the sidelines, being friendly but had no social network, no one sharing sleep overs or long conversations. I was lonely and I wanted friends. I made a genuine decision to actively make some new friends. Unfortunately, the friends I found were not any mother’s dream for their daughter. Over the course of the next three years I got into a lot of trouble with my new friends and made some poor choices that had life-altering consequences. It was time to grow up. It was time to make changes. I couldn’t go in a new direction and keep the same friends. I didn’t want to go back to a life with no friends at all.

But I did. Sixteen years old and alone with a child, my *old* friends suddenly had nothing in common with me anymore. They wanted to party and play and have fun. I had jobs and money to earn and a child to take care of and an education to figure out. There was no place to meet in the middle. We went our seperate ways.

I met a few new people. One was a woman who needed a roommate because she was down on her luck. I thought we would be friends. She forged a check out of my checkbook. I asked her to move out. There were more after that…too many to mention…It would be a long post. What I began to learn was that while I thought I was picking friends that cared about me, they were picking me because they wanted something from me. Money, help, babysitting, favors, an hour or so of listening to their troubles, every day… It was tiring, exhausting. New baby, too much work and friends who were freeloaders and users.

I needed new friends. Again.

Why was I so bad at this? I gave and gave and gave my friends everything they wanted. I was there for them. I helped them. I listened. They were never there for me when I had troubles. They never listened to me if I had a problem, We never did things that interested me, it was always things that interested them. And these were ALWAYS the kind of friends I had.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

The definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It was time to look in the mirror. It was time to realize that the problem wasn’t the friends I was picking, the problem was me. Something I was doing, choices I was making, words said or not said. It was happening to me year after year with different people. No one is THAT unlucky. The problem was me.

I confessed my concern to a friend that seemed to be different than the rest. I had been going through a particularly rough time with a personal relationship and she asked me about it. I clammed up. She called me on it. “Listen, ” she said, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain that nobody listens to you if you aren’t willing to talk. If you always have to act like everything is fine. If you are never willing to admit that you have a problem or that you need something. You have to be willing to ask. Let a person know how you feel once in awhile.” I was shocked. She was exasperated with me.

I started journaling about it. As a life time journaler and writer I realized that I had been using my journal as a friend to tell my troubles to. I listened to my friends but my journal listened to me. There was no two-way street in any of my friendships. And it was my fault. I never spoke up. I never let out my true feelings. I wasn’t being honest or authentic, I just let everyone go about their merry way, and did whatever they wanted. They had no idea I wasn’t having fun, wasn’t happy, wasn’t feeling I was an equal…because I had never told them.

My friends weren’t mind readers. I wasn’t talking. We were at an impasse. But there was an even bigger problem. Before I could tell them what I wanted, what I needed, I had to figure it out. I had spent so long stuffing my thoughts and feelings down that I couldn’t just draw them up on command. It took practice. Hard work. Sometimes I would have to think of it ahead of time and practice saying it out loud. It sounds silly now, all these years later but it’s true. I had to learn how to be an authentic friend.

I have good friends now. Great ones. Married my best guy friend one year ago this coming up August and my best girl friend and I are going on ten years this August. Happy Anniverary to both of the JK’s in my life.

I have other friends too.  Off-line and On-line. I have lots of friends but at the same time I am pickier now then ever before. Pickier because I choose friends according to my values and interests, not by who’s around or who will give me the time of day or who seems to *need* something. Time is valuable and I have to make choices to spend my time with the people who are going to value the same things that I value. I choose to value hanging with *Like-minded* people that have things in common.

Sometimes friendships are for a time. People come into your lives and then they pass through. There was a purpose to it, a lesson, a message  or maybe just a little comfort to be shared at that point in the journey. There is no guilt in letting go of a friendship that has drifted out of its prime. But at the same time, there is nothing in the world more valuable than the honest to goodness love of true friendship and doing what it takes to keep it together.

What is a Warrior

The Inspired Life

Being a Warrior doesn’t mean winning or even succeeding. It means risking and failing and risking again, as long as you live…”
~Richard Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit

Are you a Warrior?  What comes to your mind when you think of that word? Is it the battle cry of noble men racing into battle for causes greater than their own lives? Is it mighty sacrifice, the greatest of all love laid on the line for the needs and lives of others? Is it the ability to overcome the odds, continue on in the face of defeat, never say die, never say quit?

When pushed to action, where is the warrior within you? What does it take to sound your battle cry? Does it have to be a last straw that gets you going or are you marching on every day, battling the villains that would keep you from victory?

What is the mindset of the Warrior? What makes him different from the pack? What sets him in front, when others would fall behind and lose ground?

 Is being a warrior different than being a leader? While there is just one leader, one commander heading the charge, there can still be an army of warriors battling together, banding arm and arm, teams of them linked by loyalty and commitment to a noble cause.

I think about this concept, this word and I don’t have all of the answers. But I can sense the idea of it. A strength. A tenacity. Indomindable Spirit. Honor. Formidable Bravery. Getting back up when others would have stayed down and quit fighting.

We all face battles in life. None of us are exempt. To wish for a charmed life without problems or battles to face is as silly as spitting in the wind. It will get you nothing but spit on your face and nothing learned, nothing gained. How  you face your battles in life, how  you choose to battle is the mark of a good man or woman. Not whether  you have them. How  you manage them.

So…do you face life’s battles like a warrior or do you run and hide, wishing them away?

I have heard five different stories about cancer this week. Three about women who are battling breast cancer and yet are spending their time being committed to reaching out to others to make their world a brighter better place. One about a very brave woman fighting back from cancer, her second time in remission from a type of cancer that she should have had a very low chance of surviving. She is one tough cookie. The fifth one passed away this week after a very brave and hard battle. She left behind family and friends who’s world is forever changed by her example of love and courage.

These women remind me that how  we face life’s battle is the true test of our honor, courage and love. Even the little day to day ones. The cloudy days, the headache days, the crabby days. People like this inspire me, sometimes shame me, always make me proud, always make me humble and remember my priorities. If they can fight the BEAST of Cancer, we can fight the beast of mundane life.

Like warriors. With honor, patience, love, commitment to each other. Never giving up. When we fall, getting back up quicker and doing it some more.

No one said it is easy, this thing called life. It’s easier  when we do it together. It’s easier still when we remember to stand tall, arm and arm and fight for the important things in life.

 Like Warriors

Searching for the Stars

The Inspired Life

Note: This is the second part of the Sneetches video from Monday’s post Wanting to Belong and this post follows up on the thoughts and comments from that post. If you missed that, you may want to start there and come back after. We will wait right here for you. 🙂

 

I have always loved the story of the Sneetches. As a child it was my very favorite story. Silly, silly Sneetches thinking that a star on or off of their belly would make them more popular or fit in with the crowd or get them invited to marshmallow roasts. When my mother would read the story to me at night as I lay all cuddled in bed, I would laugh and giggle and snicker at those foolish yellow goofs. I never in my wildest imagination believed that real life human beings would actually treat each other the way Sneetches did.

Then I went to this bizarre place called school. And met human Sneetches. The higher up the grades I went, the more Sneetches I found and the more puzzled I became. Instead of stars it was labels. In order to fit in there had to be the right person’s name scrawled across the butt of the jeans I wore or I was an OUT Sneetch. After awhile I couldn’t keep up with all the different rules of what was in and out and who was in or out and what was up or down or YIKES!! It was too exhausting and I felt like Mc Bean had a machine that the entire school world was running in and out of while I stood on the sidelines not even knowing how to play.

Not even wanting to.

In Junior High, I didn’t fit in so much that I used to take my lunch off the lunch line and go out of the lunch room, down the hall and go eat with the isolated ( back then) mentally and physically handicapped kids in the other wing of the building. They weren’t Sneetches. They had no social rules except be nice and get along. I knew how to do that so that’s where I ate my lunch. We would play Tic Tac Toe and checkers and I could just relax and have fun and not worry if I was *doing IT right or wrong* or being embarrassing or popular or anything at all.

By high school I started to get a little angry at the sneetches but I was lonely too. I did want to belong. I didn’t like being the lone ranger all the time. So for a short time I tried to play by their rules. I tried to walk the walk, talk the talk, dress the dress. I was miserable. I felt fake and foolish and like a fraud. Like any moment they were going to be able to look under the hood and see that I wasn’t really one of them and kick me out. I just didn’t have the stomach for it and I couldn’t stand the exclusion of others. I wanted the world to be a big place where everyone was welcome and we could all get along. I decided that hanging out with the popular gang wasn’t what I wanted after all. I went back to being the lone ranger.

I really believed that when I left school I would leave the world of Sneetches behind as well. That this was a school-age problem that I could dust off my feet and never deal with again.

No such luck. Life has a way of circling back all of your issues over and over again in different packaging until you figure it out. The lesson of Sneetches wasn’t going anywhere and would haunt me for years until I quit running from it and faced it down.

I struggled for a long time. Wanting to be liked, wanting approval. Bending myself backward, inside out and doing things I didn’t even really like just to be part of a social group, and at times a work group. I found myself striving for approval from a particular person who barely even noticed my achievements. I could have stood on a building with a flag and waved them at this person. They would have gone unnoticed but that only spurred me on to try harder, do more. To no avail. Why? After a long while, It dawned on my one day, I didn’t even really respect or care about this person so much after all this time. It had just become a senseless craving. As silly as on again off again stars. Who was I doing it all for?

I stopped.

It isn’t wrong to want to belong. It isn’t wrong to want to be part of something bigger than yourself and have the approval, communion and companionship of society and people. I don’t believe we as humans were intended to be here as isolated creatures. We are more like pack animals. We hang in groups. That’s OK.

Where I was running into trouble over and over in my life was in the choices I was making about WHO I was choosing to want to belong with. About WHO  and WHERE I allowed my self worth to come from. Because I hadn’t FIRST taken the time to examine my own wants, my own needs, my own priorities, my own beliefs, core values…then I was left no choice but to be a follower of other peoples choices and their belief system. I was blown around like a leaf in the wind. Or a Sneetch with on again off again stars so long I couldn’t even remember what I was doing it for.

When your map is clear the journey is easy. When your core values are set and you know your mission and purpose, the people and things that you need to have on that journey will be there with you. You WILL belong because you will BE in your own element. You will be home and comfortable in your own skin and space and others who also belong-will be belonging with you.

The need to fill up your life with material possessions and false promises from the Fix it Chappy Mc Beans of life will evaporate when you have the confidence and assurance of knowing your core values, path and goals are clear. The Mc Beans’ prey on a world adrift, lost and frightened looking for any safety net in the storm. You don’t have to be a part of that.

My kids gave me a stuffed animal for Christmas last year. A big, bright yellow Star-bellied Sneetch. He sits on my dresser now in my room greeting me each morning when I wake up. A reminder that core values keep my path straight and out of the way of Sneetch following.

My mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of everyone I know and meet. To help others and impact positive change. When that guides my steps I know I’m on the right path and with the right group of people.

That’s my bright star I search for when deciding what to do, who to be with or where to cut things out. How is it affecting positive change? Am I helping? Am I inspiring others to be their best? Am I making a difference? Is this valuable?

What about you? How do you decide? How do you determine when you should spend the energy (or money even) to belong or walk away?

Wanting to Belong

The Inspired Life

Popularity. Acceptance. Fitting in. Wanting to be liked and part of the gang. The IN crowd. We all want it in varying degrees. We want it from different people. For some, it begins with the popular kids on the playground and never ends. Or it’s the parent that didn’t have time, or never knew how to say the words, “I’m proud of you, I love you, you are so special to me.”

Acceptance and approval are strong motivators. The desire for approval and the nod of pride from someone you respect can keep you at work longer than a high paying check. Job satisfaction and company moral is much higher based on how a person feels about how they are doing and how they are being perceived more than how much they are getting paid.

In social situations as well, the need for belonging and feeling needed are strong enough motivators to inspire mediocre attitudes to rise to the occasion. Shine the light on them, make them feel included and part of the group and you will inspire loyalty, kindness and bonds of friendship. In our day and age of the E-world, people who can span the distance by virtue of the net are not spending quality time in the real world with friends, family and the people who are important to them. They crave companionship. They crave fun, social bonding. They want to play.

The world is in a financial stuggle. The cost of gasoline has us scrambling to find new ways to budget our cash yet we buy Iphones, video games, the latest “WE” -toys for grown ups. What ever one of “us” have, the rest must head out to purchase and the dominoes fall until the rest catch up.  Hey, the *Jones* of our parents day wouldn’t stand a chance trying to keep up with us now.

Bigger and better and funner and finer. Until we hit the wall. Then we yearn for simpler and easier and quieter and cheaper. But we still want to belong. We don’t want to be simple and quiet all alone.

What’s a Sneech to do?

We will chat more about this complex problem in part two.  In the mean time…

How do you find the balance? Do you find yourself more on the simplicity side or the keeping up with the crowd side? Do you experience the feeling of being left out in the cold, of wanting to belong but watching from the sidelines? Do you feel like you need to buy your way in? Or have you just walked away from it all?

The American Girl

The Inspired Life

I love fireworks. The brilliant colors shooting through the sky are dazzling visions of art to my wondrous eye. I have no sense of the science behind how little sticks of dynamite can be transformed into various shapes and patterns and swirls of glitter, sparkle and light. I don’t want to know either. I am a true believer in the magic of it all. I ooh and ah and clap my hands and pick my favorite ones right along side all of the other children spread out on the Fourth of July blanket. Because I’m one of them. At the Fourth of July Fireworks, I am transformed by the fairy of lights back to the magic and wonder of it all. It brings out the little girl in me.

The first fireworks I can remember were in my childhood town of Akron, Ohio. I must have been just out of kindergarten and recall being very excited that my mother was packing a wicker picnic basket for us to take to the big park up on the hill. In my mother’s world, and now my own, important occasions are celebrated with tasty morsels of food and I remember that particular fireworks all these years later as cold fried chicken, her very own potato salad recipe, baked beans and watermelon. Icy cold lemonade that she squeezed herself was poured out of a red jug into tiny paper cups that were empty too fast. I can recall even the blanket as being a worn-down yellow quilt, faded with age. Funny how even the scent of it lingers, the picnic blanket, smelling like a mixture of clover and cut grass.

We had a red racer wagon, a wagon I have no memories of ever riding in. I do remember that wagon being piled with the basket and the blanket and the red lemonade jug and being pulled up that hill to the fireworks display and the Fourth of July picnic. My mother pulled the wagon, my father way up ahead, my sister and I wanting to take our turns at pulling and being dismayed that it was too heavy. My brother, too little to be any help at all, was jumping in and out of the wagon alternating between walking and catching a ride.

I remember the blanket being spread out, the feast being set, the plates filled. I remember the excitement of anticipation, the food going down, and the darkness setting in.

The first whiz screaming though the dark and then a blast of color filling the night air. I was enchanted. Breathless. A love affair born.

A band began to play Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountains…

The words filled me up with my first taste of American pride as reds and golds, blues and orange continued to light up the evening sky. I held a tiny flag in my little girl hand and caught a glimpse of what the day was all about. I thought I would burst from the thrill of being an American Girl.

It’s never been quite the same. But I carry a piece of that first memory with me every time I watch fireworks splash across the sky. Every time I think of the Fourth of July.  It was my first truly inspired patriotic moment.  And it’s never worn off.

Spending as much time as I do in a blogging and writing community, I live now in an international world just as much as an American world. I am meeting and making friends in different countries, learning new customs, finding out about new holidays and ways of doing things that I had no idea about even a year ago. I am not always proud of our country’s policies, politicians or choices, but I’m proud of us. I’m proud of our people as a whole. I’m proud of our men and women in the service and it seems like a good day to say thank you to them, and to say Happy Fourth of July, America.

You are still beautiful.

Loving Laughter

The Inspired Life

Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained.
~John Powell

Being a shy girl growing up, I wasn’t known for my sense of humor. For that matter, I wasn’t raised in a family that sat around and told jokes. Stories yes. Jokes…not so much. We were hard working, not so much hard playing. Playing was playing cards and then we played hard to win.

So it always amazed me later on when I would sit around a group of friends who would tease each other, poke around and then burst into a fit of laughter. It was an alien concept. OR maybe I was the alien.

The good news is that I didn’t laugh at other people and their misfortune. The bad news is that I didn’t know how to laugh at mine either. Every mishap was a huge embarrassment and I was sure that everyone else was staring at me through a giant magnifying glass examining my mistake. It was the breeding ground for my future perfectionism complex.

I needed to lighten up. Enter my childhood friend that I shall call *Karen.* Karen was one of those people that took nothing in life seriously including herself. She could laugh off the most embarrassing disaster. I would sit in complete amazement as we would whisk out of a room after a pickle she had gotten us into, me beet red, her in a fit of giggles. I won’t tell you she was the best thing that ever happened to my childhood. She wasn’t. In fact the litany of trouble she got me into could fill a book. But I learned that nothing in life was that serious, or that worth beating myself up over. I learned to have a little fun. To let go. To laugh at myself for getting it wrong. To just laugh period. She was fun to be around. Most of the time.

Over the years, I’ve landed myself in more than my share of puddles. Without anyone to blame but myself. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and more importantly with myself as I have journeyed about, learning the lessons along the way. I am afraid to think about where I might have ended up, had I not learned to just shrug it off, let it go and move on to the next one. It has been a saving grace for me.

I am still not known for my sense of humor. I know I have one, but it’s discriminatory I guess. I don’t think the Simpsons are funny. I leave the room when it comes on. I think the Friar is hilarious. My kids are funny too. I have no idea how they got that way.  My husband is also funny. He has the same sense of humor as the Friar. I guess someone in the family has to be the straight man…um-woman… so that is my place in the family line-up, but I have learned to surround myself with funny people!

Laughing is good for the soul. Summer is here and it time to relax, kick back, take yourself less seriously, take life a little less seriously and find some ways to get some humor and laughter in your life.

I probably won’t ever be the one to tell you a joke. I’m not even sure I know any. But I hang out with a lot of folks who will. Because I know the value of laughter. With myself and with others.

How about you? Done or seen anything funny lately? Have a joke to tell? Feel free to share it here!

The Perfect Day Part Two

The Inspired Life

 

The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.
~Albert Schweitzer

Note: This is part two of a series that began on Friday. If you missed the beginning, you will want to go back and begin there and then come on back, we will wait for you. 🙂

 

 Today’s goal, is learning to deal with the illusion of the PERFECT DAY. Learning how to make it work FOR us and not AGAINST us. It is always going to be there, inkling way back in the recesses of our mind so instead of ignoring it and letting it have subconscious power over us, our emotions and our actions, we are going to bring it to the forefront, shine a bright light on it and let it know who’s in charge once and for all.

The very first thing is to take out a paper, pen, markers or big poster board (for those of us who enjoy making vision boards,) use whatever works for helping you to sit quietly and meditate on what would be your ideal perfect day. Have some fun with this. Spend some time daydreaming about what your own PERFECT DAY might be. The example I gave in the beginning of the post was a tad bit far-fetched but at the same time a bet a lot of it resonated with you. We all want a bank account in the black, with money in savings. Think about the things that are floating in your subconscious causing underlying stress. Things that you may be measuring yourselves up to and drawing yourself up short. Write them all down.

The second thing to do is take a very discerning look at the list you have written down. Examine each item on the list. How many of the items on the list truly belong to you and how many have you inherited from family and friends that you have been carrying around because you have been afraid to discard them? How many are *shoulds* that make you feel like running away? Be honest with yourself. If this isn’t 100% YOUR perfect day, there isn’t very much chance of you ever getting anywhere even remotely close to success and you are setting yourself up for failure. This part of the exercise can be very enlightening if you suddenly realize that you have been carrying around someone else’s PERFECT DAY all this time. Feel free to give it back or toss it out. Time to work on getting your own!

The third thing is to take the remaining items left on your PERFECT DAY board and transfer them to an ACTIVE Goals and action steps board or paper. . Dreams are a great thing to have. They give us direction and purpose. But specific action steps are better. When you have carefully laid out action steps written into your daily planning then you are 98% more likely to do it. A written down goal has a 98% chance of happening, a verbal goal only has a 3% chance of success. That’s a big difference. Put it somewhere where you can see it daily and write down a  specific time when that event will take place.

Now that you have your goals and plans written out in front of you in a more tangible format, you can create a road map for how you are going to get to that place in your life where your days look more like the life you want rather than the one you are currently having right now. Understand that you won’t reach perfection, but you have used the vision of it to get you closer to the life you want.

But here is the word of warning, don’t transfer that entire list on to your everyday plan! Each day gets a little piece, a babystep, if you will, as you walk, step by step toward your goal. Break it down into MANAGEABLE tasks that get gradually larger as time goes by. Give yourself encouragement and grace for the times that don’t go as well and celebrate the daily victories as they happen along the way. You may want to come up with a strategy for how to accomplish the items on the list. Do you need a work out buddy? A journal? A coach? Maybe there are too many items and you need to cut back. Focus on only a few at a time. Keep it simple and look for some way to hold yourself accountable. One step at a time.

BE A LOVING FRIEND.

We all want to be good friends to each other, encouraging and cheering them along their way to victory. We give our friends a big “WAY TO GO” and “TOMORROW WILL BE A BETTER DAY” and we are there for them when the chips are down. But whoa to us if the one struggling is ourselves. Where is our mercy then? Where is our measure of grace?  Promise yourself that you will be as kind and loving to yourself as you would any other friend. Your own personal self-talk and attitude wields a strong weapon and will be the difference between getting you to go the distance or staying stuck in a vicious circle of self abuse. Don’t make an enemy of yourself. The price is too high.

Finally, understand that ‘unto every day a little rain must fall.’ There just isn’t going to be a Perfect day and that’s OK. Learn flexibility. Let go a little. You can’t control what happens in life, you can only control your attitudes, your choices and your reactions. You can remain faithful to your plans. You can get up every day, look at your list and follow through. You can believe- with all your heart- and you are going to increase your chances by so very much. But sometimes things happen and it wasn’t on the list. We get blown around a bit. Just hang on. Learn to bend, keep the faith.

You won’t always know just where those good things are coming from. From storms come the rainbows and the lessons of life. Don’t be afraid of the stormy days, the trying ones, the challenging ones that feel like your overwhelmed and under equipted. This is when you are growing. This is when you are building muscles. Pay attention to the lessons. Instead of moaning over the loss of another PERFECT DAY, tune in, hone in on the experience and see if you can’t just find the meaning. Your almost perfect days will get that much closer to home.