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!

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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 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.

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!

Fountain of Beauty

The Inspired Life

“The fountain of beauty is the heart, and every generous thought illustrates the walls of your chamber”

Frances Quarles

 

Have you ever been stunned by the spectacular beauty of someone, found yourself admiring them, only to realize that their beauty faded as their spirit leaked through their skin?

Have you ever walked past a nameless face, their outward appearance causing nothing to flicker an impression, when suddenly a light from within them, lit up their entire being with an internal glow that blinded you with their brilliance?

Have you ever been taken aback by the quickness of how faceless strangers bond into tightly woven friendships and relationships of love within the safety of Internet communication? Have you experienced it yourself perhaps? Seen how the lack of physical barriers provided a look into seeing something deeper?

It isn’t superficial or shallow to be immediately attracted to beauty. It is a normal condition to seek what is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. But the eye’s attention to beauty can only see it at one level. The surface level. It is the movement within your spirit, the connection that you feel at the heart level when you connect with someone, or something that they have written, spoken, or created that speaks to true beauty within all of us. Beauty is subjective. But beauty is pure and generous and sharing and open and kind. It is a light and an energy and something that you can feel. You know it when you experience it, even if it is different for each of us.

Beauty glows on the road-lined face of a woman aged and weathered by eighty decades, but who’s heart has reached out and gathered the tired and the poor and the weary-worn and given them back spirits filled with love.

Beauty beams up at you in the tiny trusting lashes of of a freshly bathed infant, gazing upon you as if delight were his gift to hand out to the world.

Beauty radiates peace in times of purposeful acceptance. Serenity and power. Quiet calm. Read in the faces of only a few, who have learned the secrets of the hard battles. The gift of daily gratitude.The balance of knowing when it’s enough. They are the ones you stand closer to, sometimes without even understanding why. Hoping their peace will brush on to you. You bask in their beauty…and warmth.

Beauty shines out of the honest, the gullible, the innocent, the curious, the sunny bright hopeful ones who see the light wherever they go. The big smiles, the bright lights, the energetic, the ones who light up rooms with their glow.

Beauty pours out of the caretakers, the mother, in her many forms, rounded curves of child-filled belly, swaying hips that gently rock infants, crouched knees that forever bend to speak at an eye-level near the floor. Later still, looking up to children grown taller than her, she will always huddle them back, hold them close, hold them like babes in the beauty of her heart. The father, beauty in his eyes, the look, the beauty of the man who knows- it all comes back to him. He holds it in the weight of his shoulders, the crook of his neck, in the way he holds his lips, just a little tighter than he ever did before. He cares. He loves.

Beauty flows out of the small child, who would wish upon a star and believing in miracles, would give you everything, because they have not yet learned to be jaded, or unkind, or to hold back love in fear of running out of it, as if such a silly thing could ever happen at all…

Beauty glittering in miracles, in gardens, in tiny stones, in wishes and dreams, and life and love and every day moments and people

that are right there next to you all the time.

Beauty. An overused word. NOT nearly used enough. Not PAID ATTENTION to enough. Are you seeing the true beauty in your life?

Are you looking for it? Or does it catch you by surprise as you are hurrying on by? Are you looking in the wrong places? Or the right ones? Where are your favorite beautiful places? Favorite beautiful people? What makes you feel beautiful? Please share.

 

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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