Slow Cooking Frogs

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.
~ Bobbi LaBelle

Hanging above my desk on a bright red ribbon, is a large heavy square bronze medal. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Engraved on it are the words:

24th Columbus Marathon
 October 19th 2003

It was fun. It was one of the funnest days of my life. 

Note the date: 2003.

I ask myself, “Self? If that was one of the funnest days of your life, why exactly is it that the marathon medal is hanging up there all by itself without a gaggle of others to keep it company?”

Self answers, “Well, you see Wendi, Life keeps getting in the way. There was this thing and that thing and you already know about that major one thing and then after that…”

Uh huh…

So I still run…sorta…now and then…well…I can run…I mean I could…I mean…I’m gonna start again…probably tomorrow……..

My son has his Black belt in karate. For four years, four days a week, I took him to class and sat on a bench. I always joke that I have my black belt in karate sitting. One day I got tired of sitting there so I joined myself. By the time he graduated with his black belt, I was an orange belt. I loved Karate. It made me feel strong, invincible. It played to my strength of being singularly focused and in the zone. As a past attack victim, it made me feel empowered and It was a perfect sport for me. Yet, somehow, though I was motivated to take him every single day for four years, after he didn’t go anymore, life got in the way for me. I missed one class then two. Then the kids had to go somewhere so I took them to that. When it was time to sign up again in the summer I told myself I would come back in the fall, that summers were too busy. I have been an orange belt for six years. The belt hangs in the closet staring at me every day wondering what the heck I am waiting for. I tell it to shut up– I’m too busy.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you have to let it. Sometimes life moves on and what you wanted to be a priority has to go by the wayside for awhile. As much as we would like to have life be exactly what we want, exactly the moment that we want it, the timing isn’t right and we have to stop flailing our arms and legs in the water and just catch the drift. Sit back and see where it is we are SUPPOSED to be. Stop fighting the current.

Other times, it is exactly the OPPOSITE. We know exactly what our dreams and goals are, the timing IS perfect, serendipity is upon us and the only one we have to blame for not getting where we want to be is us. We start out all pumped up, excited full of the dream, eyes on the target, plan in hand and set out to go. Like a runner you start running toward the goal. It feels great. The next day too. The third day- a little sore. The fourth day, you press on… The fifth day your brain has several excuses and is arguing with you all the way out the door. A little voice sits on your shoulder, explaning the value of a rest day. You tell it to shut up and press on again. If you make it through days seven, eight and nine, you’ve warmed up the water nice and slow and you start to feel pretty good. You are in the groove and the habit starts to form. If you can make it to the thirtieth day, you are golden.

But one day, you just don’t do it. Maybe you get a cold. A week stretches out in front of you. The week after that is vacation. So that week is gone too. When you come home the week after, you promised to paint the siding all week long. You promise yourself you will get up first thing Monday morning…but when the time comes…you smack the snooze button. Maybe tomorrow…

Habits are like slow cooking frogs. They say that if you put a frog in pot of boiling water it will jump right out. But if you warm up the water slowly, it will just stay there until it dies. The frog won’t even notice that the water is heating up. It is almost painless. It happens just a little at a time, slowly but surely.

You can grow a habit the same way. It doesn’t happen in a day or the next. But day by day if you stick with it, a little at a time, you can slowly grow your habit almost painlessly. By the time you have reached 30 days, your subconscious mind will believe you have been doing it forever and propel you to continue. It will seem strange to you NOT to do your habit. The trick is to do just a little bit. Just a tiny little bit, slowly so you hardly notice, and build from there. Like cooking frogs.

The bad news is you can kill a habit the same way. So you have to be careful with your habits. You have to focus on them. You have to keep them in review and pay attention to them. You have to stay committed to them.

I didn’t stop running over night after my marathon. I loved running. It was a joy. I never stopped on purpose. I never even NOTICED that I wasn’t running any more.  Just like the frogs who didn’t notice their water warming up, I didn’t notice my water getting cold. But it did. Slowly over time, my frog water got cold because I stopped paying attention to it. It wasn’t boiling anymore. If I want to get back to being a marathon runner, I have to heat it up again. I have to focus on it. It needs to be a priority and I need to be willing to commit to it and put it at the top of the list. I have to be able to say, “Self, we are going to become a runner again. In order to do that, we have to heat up the water a little each day. Are you with me?”

And Self has to agree. If Self can’t make a commitment…there is no point in boiling up those frogs. There are too many other things on the list that have to get done.

This is an important point. You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.

The person that taught me that is my mother, Bobbi LaBelle, one of the smartest women I ever met. She raised three young kids as a single mother while working double shifts in a glass jar factory. She saved up enough money, and had enough guts to get out of there and open her own Beauty Shop. The place was tiny but so successful that people were waiting outside to get in. She bought a new place four times the size and has been there for 30 years. She is one of the most creative, resourceful, talented and amazing people I have ever met. But one of the first things she ever taught me was to focus. Be committed to what you are doing. Give it 110 percent of your energy and you will have an excellent chance of success. Keep at it and don’t give up.

So, somewhere along the line I lost my focus on both my running and my karate. The water got cold and I got no cooked frogs. I can honestly say that the timing still isn’t right for me to go back to karate. I know the focus that it would take for that and I am not willing to heat up that pot of water right now. I will someday, so that belt can just keep on hanging there to remind me.

As I examine my priorities, I see that I have several pots on the stove going at the same time.

The Mom Pot
The Wife Pot
The Writer Pot
The Wendi Pot
The Director Pot

I open the lid of the Wendi pot and I take a peek inside. Hmmm. It looks like the area of *maintain personal health and exercise* is cooling down a bit and those frogs are getting a bit jumpy. I ask Self if it’s with me and Self says YES.

It looks like running just got moved back up the priority list again.

What’s cooking in your frog pots?


Before the Play is Done

Attitude of Gratitude, leaving a legacy, self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life


MY soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes; every day
Speaks a new day; the last act crowns the play.

Frances Quarles


From the first moment that I met Margaret, I was blown away. It was my first day of watercolor class in college and I was anxious, frightened and fidgeting with all of my shiny new supplies while waiting for students and the teacher to arrive. One glance around the room had already told me that I was in over my head, that there was much more talent surrounding me than I had bargained for. The class was a combination class. Newbies like me jumped in at the beginning and tried to keep up as more accomplished artists painted around them. The theory was that by observing others, there would be more growth. Yeah right, I was going to look like a preschooler with finger-paint.

I began re-packing my things. With five minutes to spare, I figured I could withdraw from the class, no harm done and go sign up at the local park district, where I belonged, before anyone had even realized I was in the room.

Then she burst in.

She was tall, and rim-rod straight, with perfect posture that a soldier would pay good money for. She pulled behind her a cart with three large cases filled, presumably, with art supplies and canvases. “Good MORNING everybody,” she boomed in a huge strong voice. “IT is a BeaUTiful day.” she marched over to a table and bustling about in a flurry of energy, began unpacking everything from the cases.

I sat.

I tried to keep my mouth from hanging open.

Margaret’s hair was silver-gray, piled on to the very top of her head, wound in a long braided bun. Her face wore the road map of many years and many troubles, with lines upon lines intersecting with each other. My brain struggled to keep up with the information it was receiving. The hair, the wrinkles, the thin blue skin with whispers of veins running through it, all spoke of a woman at the end of her life. She had to be in her nineties. But the voice, the posture, the energy, the vibrancy which radiated out of her being screamed No way. This is youth, not age, she can’t be as old as she looks.

I was wrong. She was 93 years old.

The story of Margaret unfolded bit by bit that semester. I learned more about the illusion of age then I did about how to be a great painter in those 16 weeks. And I was grateful for the lesson.  Margaret was an amazing artist. What she could do with a little brush and pots of paint was astounding. Her paintings were hanging in galleries and selling for $4000.00 each for an original. She came to paint in class with us just for the fun of being around people. She had never even picked up a paintbrush until her late 70’s after her beloved husband had passed away. Then with her children grown and no one at home, she decided to go to college and get a degree. A random art class had led to painting and she never stopped.

I asked her what her secret to long life was.

“Never stop learning” she said. “Keep trying something new. You have to make mistakes and figure things out. Oh, and be stubborn. I’m very stubborn. Oh..and don’t forget to walk. I walk every day.” Margaret was big on walking. Every day, she hauled in twice as much stuff as the rest of us. She parked at the far end of the parking lot and walked briskly to the room. She had two big dogs at home that she claimed to walk every day after her morning meditations.

If you asked her if she wanted help with something, you could expect to get glared at. She may have been a sweet, old lady, but she was unwaveringly independent. She didn’t believe in being beholden to anyone, for anything. She was proud, strong and fiercely young at heart.

I lost contact with Margaret after that semester. I finished the class and moved on with my life. Margaret stayed in school for another 4 years, painting in that same room and making a decent living from selling her art. I was saddened to open the local newspaper one morning to see the headline begin with “Oldest College Student has Died…” with a picture of Margaret and one of my personal favorite paintings on the front page.  She had still been in school at 97 years old.

Next week, I will turn 48. As I begin the march up the “Over the Hill”, and the second act of my life’s “play,” I am starting to get very excited. The teasing about fifty looming in the near future has begun, but it means nothing to me. When I think of Margaret, I feel like a baby bird barely sprouting wings. There is a very long list written down on my “things I want to do while I’m still breathing” list and I’m adding new ones all the time. Before the final curtian comes down in my final act, there is much I want to do, much I want to see.

I feel like a kid at the Baskin and Robbins Ice cream store and I want to try all 31 flavors.  I don’t want to miss anything. I want to know that I have tasted every drop, inhaled every fragrance, and touched every soft and wooly item. Lord, let me experience all that Life has to offer and not miss it in my daily round. Don’t let me wander through life unaware.

Never Stop Learning… Margaret’s secret to a long life. Good advice, and I haven’t forgotten it. All the world is a beautiful school with classrooms in every corner, just waiting to teach anything we are willing to learn, as long as we are willing to listen, down to the last day. We can start over at any time, re-write our scripts, begin a new scene, maybe even come up with a surprise ending.

It’s never too late if you’re breathing. What do you want to know? What do you want to do?  How are you going to get there?

Haven House or Hazard House?

family, self improvement, The Inspired Life

“Like it or not, the personalities of our homes are accurate barometers that reflect, through our surroundings, where we have been, what’s going on in our lives, and who we are–today, this moment–though not necessarily where we are heading.

Sarah Ban Breathnach

In my kitchen, hanging on a twine, is a chalkboard. It faces the entrance so that anyone who enters can read it if they choose. It also hangs next to my coffeepot, so that the words written on it are the first words that I see every morning when I stumble into the kitchen to make my morning pot of inspiration. Written on the chalkboard are the words:

Our Home is a Haven of  Peace, Joy, Love,

Friendship, Family and Fun for All who Enter

Welcome Home

Over the years, these words have become known as the Haven House Mission Statement. Truthfully, its just a piece of my personal mission statement that has been evolving over the last several years.

It wasn’t created overnight. Inspired by reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephan Covey, I sat one night in the late-nineties to make the first attempt at my personal mission statement. One of the categories I created was for our home. I had made  business mission statements before, yet for no reason that I can justify, had never taken the time to do one for my personal life at home.

I jotted down one simple sentence. Our home is a haven for all who enter.

Then I took an honest look around. Our home was anything BUT a haven. It was a loud, messy, worn-down, cluttered, tension-filled shell of a place that I didn’t even want to be in, let alone have anyone else come into. The children were fighting, the honey-do list was longer than a month-long grocery list, and the laundry was a never-ending battle that could not be won. I hated my house. I hated my life. I was depressed.

 I followed Covey’s advice and wrote my new affirmation on paper where I could see it every day. For a while, the disconnect between the life I wanted and the life I was living, did nothing more then add fuel to the frustration. Still, I looked at the sentence every day. I began to think about it at odd times in the day, the sentence just popping into my mind. I started to add to it, as I began to see the goal more clearly. I wanted a happy home, filled with joy. A place where family and friends felt comfortable stopping by or coming for dinner.

I began to see visions of  what I wanted in my mind. Daydreams and little mind-movies would play out in my head of happy family scenes. I realized that in real life we weren’t having any fun. We just went through the day-to-day motions of life, getting through each day’s checklist, hurried and hassled, falling into bed exhausted and worn out.

What was the purpose? Any vision or dreams I may have once had were gone. I was overweight and tired, living in chaos and confusion.

Outwardly, away from home, my life during those years was a huge success. Yet nothing, no award, no dollar value could make me feel like a superstar when I walked through my front door. I felt like a failure living in Hazard House.

 I resolved that things had to change. At the time, I had no idea what it was, but I knew that things could not remain the same any longer.

I started asking myself the difficult questions. 

Why had I been willing to live like this if I was so unhappy?

When had I lost track of my life’s goals and purpose?

Why didn’t my family and friends feel comfortable in my home? Why had I shut them out? Had I? Had I let business come before family? Was I choosing not to be with them? If so why?

If there wasn’t any fun, peace and joy in my life, then why not? Where had it gone?

What did I need to do to get it back?

I had to dig deep to find the answers to these questions and others.  I  wrote the answers in my journals as they came to me, surprising myself with some of the answers.

The answers didn’t come overnight. Some of them took years. They were tough, very personal and painful.  When the answers finally came, change started to happen. Slowly at first, small changes, then big ones. I changed personal relationships. I started focusing on friendships with people who were positive, joyful, loving. The type of people I would want to invite over. I found support systems to help me organize the challenge of a messy home. helped to create a system to end the clutter and disorganization. I changed my job. Twice. I was no longer willing to settle for something that didn’t fit in to our vision of what our life needed to be. I lost weight. I learned to cook healthy, good food that people might actually want to come over and enjoy.

Now that the vision was clear of what I wanted in life, I was blessed to find a partner who shared that vision. I married my husband who shares in the same vision and goals for Haven House and our family.

I am not saying that the journey is complete. The Haven House Mission Statement hangs there every day as a constant reminder that the work is never done. I can say we have more haven then hazard these days and there are plenty of family and friends laughing and filling our home with joy.

 I think most of us have mind-movies playing in our heads about what the perfect family life could be like. That life would be different for each of us. Media and the busyness of modern day may have us convinced that those dreams can’t come true for us. Sports schedules and calendar management make family dinner time dangerously close to extinction in some families.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can take back our families. We just have to decide what we want. Visualize it. Write it down. Look at it.

What would your home mission statement be?

Meandering Toward the Goal

self improvement, The Inspired Life, Writing

Last night I dreamt about a good friend that I haven’t talked to in almost a year. In the dream, we were sitting on bar stools, catching up with each others lives, chatting about how things were going since the last time we had spoken.

I shared with her how I started this blog and how fun it is, the interesting people I have been meeting and all of the ideas I have for future posts.

We chatted on about the concept of the inspirational and motivational blog and she reminded me that we had spoken about the subject ten years ago. “Don’t you remember?” she asked.

I suddenly remembered a conversation that we had shared in real life over ten years ago, in which I had confided my dreams of being a motivational writer and a motivational speaker when I turned fifty.

“Well,” she said in the dream, “You are on your way to the first part, now let’s figure out how you are going to get from here to the second part.”

We then sat with pen and paper in the dream and plotted out the path step-by-step to make my goals happen in real life.

I sprang out of bed this morning, running for pen and paper to write them down before I forgot them all.

As I drank my morning coffee, sitting in the dark before the chaos of waking children began, I pondered the ability that our brains, or subconscious, has to keep track of our hopes and dreams, even when we aren’t actively doing so.

I hadn’t  consciously been thinking about motivational speaking. I am two years away from fifty yet. It hasn’t crossed my mind in the last several months. I will say that it has been something I have mentioned from time to time over the years. The-what would you do if money was no object and you knew you couldn’t fail-question is always answered with that response.

 I would be a full time writer and a motivational speaker.

I have been completly radar-focused on writing lately though and haven’t even given public speaking a second thought. Even my other passion, painting, has taken a back seat right in the middle of a half-completed watercolor of an eagle, which does haunt me a bit, but not enough to pull me away from writing to go finish it.

Yet here is my subconscious moving way ahead of me, long before I am even out of baby steps in the first phase of my new adventure, to give me a vision of how I can proceed to the next phase.

Napoleon Hill wrote in the book, Think and Grow Rich, the following statement:

“The human mind is constantly attracting vibrations which harmonize with that which dominates the mind. Any thought, idea, plan or purpose which one holds in one’s mind attracts a host of its relatives, adds these “relatives” to its own force, and grows until it becomes the dominating, motivating master of the individual in whose mind it has been housed.”

He goes on later to make it clear that the mind does not distinguish between constructive or negative thought impulses and warns about the dangers of  filling the mind with thoughts based on negativity, doubt or fear. He stresses repeatedly the importance for filling the mind with positive, purposeful thoughts and ideas.

My goals have been written down for decades. I have not wavered from my desires. Still, I can’t honestly say that I have marched stubbornly in a straight, solid line toward my destiny. I took many detours along the way. There have been times of deep emotional fog and confusion when I would have guessed I was very off course, that my life had taken a sharp detour, only to realize later that the skills or people that I had met along the way had brought me that much closer to the goal. I can look back at even the failures, perhaps especially the failures, and see how in hindsight they are valuable insights and tools to have in my life lessons bag.

Today I feel inspired by a dream and the path seems clear. There are very few days when the clouds part and the vision looks so surprisingly vivid and simple to follow.

Tomorrow, the vision may go the way of most dreams and reality may step in with its complications and sidetracking obligations to send me back down the meandering path toward my goal. But it is nice to have that reminder that underneath my day to day toil, there is another force at work, silently moving along, creating that chain of experiences to take me to my goal, even when I can’t see the links. All I have to do, is keep moving towards the light and keep the faith.

Waiting for the Busy Bus

self improvement, The Inspired Life, Uncategorized

When I worked at my mother’s beauty shop, I observed an interesting life lesson that has remained branded in my head and nags at me if I ever dare to forget.

The lesson is the Danger of Waiting for the Busy Bus. Everyone  has waited for the Busy Bus at one time or another in their lives. They might not have been aware of it, or perhaps have a different name for it. Or it’s just not something they think about very often, taking it for granted as part of their daily lives.

The Busy Bus is a phrase used in the beauty shop to stand for the imaginary bus that is going to someday drive right up to the front door filled to the brim with happy, smiling, loyal clients just waiting to spend their money.

Many of the young hairdressers fresh out of school – and some not so fresh – believed in the Busy Bus as a way to earn their living. They would stand by the front door, sighing, leaning on the broom, looking out on the horizon as if waiting for it to come by. They could stand there all day, just waiting and sighing, waiting and sighing, and at the end of the day go home, disappointed in how slow things were and wondering if tomorrow might be different.

Of course it never was, because the Busy Bus never came.

There are many Busy Buses in our lives that never come. Dreams, hopes, plans, which never live up to our expectations, that don’t show up the way we thought they would. Sometimes, like the hairdressers, we feel we’ve already done our part. They went to Beauty School, they took their test, they got their license. Now, where are those darn clients? Where the heck is that bus?

It doesn’t occur to them that there might be something more that they have to do. That it is an on-going process. That what they thought was the end of the hard work was really just the beginning.

Some dreams and plans die right there when we realize that the bus isn’t coming after all. The disappointment is too much. The rejection feels very personal. We head for a different bus stop and wait for a different bus.

But there is one way to increase the odds that the bus actually does show up. One way to stack the deck heavily in your favor that you will reach the goal that you desire.

You can be the Bus Driver.

You can go get that bus, get in the driver’s seat, find the right map and start following the directions for your dreams and goals. There are a few keys that will help you as you begin your drive down the road.

Break the large goal down into manageable chunks and look for the step-by-step processes that you will need to find to get you to the next level. Just take it one level at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking about driving cross-country when you need to get to the next state.

Don’t be afraid to ask directions. Even bus drivers can get lost. Find the experts who have the information that you need and follow their lead. No one gets where they need to go alone. Build a network of masters within your road-map and brainstorm your plans with them.  Watch how your creativity will soar.

Pick up passengers along the way. Helping others to get where they need to go builds good will and expands your circle of influence. Napoleon Hill said, “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” His book Think and Grow Rich is an excellent guideline for “bus driving” lessons.

It’s never to late to learn. Take an honest look at your job skills.  Are they up to date? Technology is changing faster than a speeding bullet. Are you keeping up? Even a year to six months out in some markets can put you in an obsolete position. Stay fresh. Make education part of your daily diet.

Take a look at the buses in your life. Are you waiting for the Busy Buses or are you driving the buses in your life?

Be the one that makes change happen. Be one that says, “This can be different starting now.” The one that’s going to make it happen is you. The one you are waiting for is you.

The Busy Bus isn’t coming unless you are driving it.

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