Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Children are Broken, We are Broken

I am at a loss. It seems children being violent with other children is on the rise. My news feed last week was filled with awful stories: an 18-year-old college student was arrested for possession of bomb materials, a 19-year-old shot and killed a student at South Carolina State University, a 19-year-old was sentenced to life with possibility for parole for shooting into a vehicle with his former love interest and her boyfriend, a 23-year-old Purdue student shot and stabbed to death a 21-year-old fellow student, three teenage boys confessed to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl who later killed herself after photos of the incident were shared.

I'm left questioning where have we gone so wrong?

Have we neglected to teach our children how to deal with frustration and anger? Or maybe we forgot to teach them kindness? Or respect? Or how to disagree peacefully? Or how to talk things through? Or how to walk away?

Have schools become a place of strict procedures, but low guidance?

I don't know the answers to these questions, nor do I know if they are even the right questions to ask.

Many will return to the gun debate, but it isn't just guns that are hurting our children, is it? It's also knives and hands, pictures and words.

And I can't help thinking that something bigger is wrong. As humans, we are failing. We are missing something. I hope we figure out what that is soon.

I originally wrote these words in my journal last week. Since writing them, more tragic news stories have been added. A 15-year-old admitted to raping and killing his 24-year-old math teacher. An 18-year-old pleaded guilty to stabbing her former best friend when they were only 16.

And a 19-year-old shot and killed two mall employees, then himself. At the mall in my hometown. The mall I grew up going to. The mall where my first grade teacher worked a second job selling perfume in a department store. The mall where people I know still go.

We are failing. Our children are suffering. We need to course correct.

We are broken.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Flecks #14

As in flecks of reflection from the week: what I'm learning and celebrating.

Things I learned this week:

  • Sometimes I feel like I know what I want to do and I'm doing it. Other days I feel like I have no idea what my vision is or if what I do makes sense to me or anyone else. Lately, I'm realizing that the unclear times are getting shorter and swing back around to clear days.

  • I've heard that you aren't supposed to go to the grocery store on an empty stomach because you'll buy more than you intended (and need). I think that's true because this week I went to the grocery store on a full stomach and it was probably my smallest and cheapest grocery run ever. I bought just a few things to work into meals for the week and I didn't buy any junk food.

  • I feel like a good mom when: 1) I put total attention into playing with my toddler (no cell phone, no distractions); 2) I bake cookies; and 3) I prepare a good crockpot dinner.

Things I'm celebrating this week:

  • I am now copyeditor of a new online magazine called Simply Happy Me! The second issue went live yesterday.

  • My third article of the year went up on Grandmother Hen: a review of the movie Planes.

  • The above two things mean I am actually doing work that I have wanted to do since graduating college more than a decade ago. Woohoo!

  • My stepson's best friend got his driver's license. (In this case "celebrating" means "freaking out.")

  • Girls' night out last night. Or rather girls' night in. Comfy sweats, slippers, ice cream sundaes, twisted tea, the movie Pitch Perfect, and relaxed conversation with Laura and Nicole. Thank you, girls!

Things that are resonating with me this week:

I saw a line on Pinterest this morning that said something to the effect of this: "We have two hands. One for helping ourselves and the other for helping other people." I like this idea and I think it's important that it included helping ourselves because we have to help ourselves to be in a place to help others. And helping others is, in its own right, a way of helping ourselves.

What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I'll share a "Woohoo!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Interview: Ginny Lennox

Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Ginny and I recently became acquainted and I am thrilled about that! She has a kind and encouraging spirit which is evident not only in her voice but in her art. Enjoy this wonderstruck interview with certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach Ginny Lennox.

ginnylennoxWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I am always wonderstruck by people. I love getting to know them, learning about their lives, and their hopes and dreams. As I get to know and work with people all over the world, I am wonderstruck by how alike we all are.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I am grateful for every part of my day. Each hour brings something that I can enjoy and celebrate. Several years ago I began to really think about what I am most grateful for each week and began to share my thoughts on Friday with my readers. As I began to publicly share the things I am grateful for, I realized that I was often writing the same thing just in different words. It could be the sunrise in the morning, laughter with my grandsons in the afternoon, and quiet moments in the evening with my husband. Each day is different but every day brings something to be grateful for. The more we become aware of the things that we love, the more things we find to be grateful for.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

I am a morning person. I love to get up early when it is quiet outside and begin to work. The afternoon is the time when I slow down so I deliberately plan my day to do things that take less energy in the middle of the day. I often find that just closing my eyes for five or ten minutes in the afternoon seems to help a lot if I am really tired. Then I seem to pick up again in the evening.

What do you wish you are more conscious of?

I used to live a very rushed life. When I retired I kept saying this is the most beautiful fall that I have experienced in years. Then it dawned on me that it was actually the first fall that I had experienced in years. I would go to work in the dark and come home from work in the dark. My office did not have windows so I really did not get to see many of the beautiful fall colors for most of the week.

Now I am conscious of experiencing and enjoying as much of life as I possibly can. I love to look up at the sky, to feel the grass, to hear the sounds of the birds, and to be outside in nature. I love to drive my car with the top down and the music blasting or to meet a friend for a quiet lunch. Most of my coaching is done on the phone or on Skype so I am always building in time for me to go outside and walk or take pictures during the day. I am very conscious of how I use my time so that I can live a full and balanced life.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I love this question. I think it is so important to know who you are and what you love to do. When you are aware of what means the most to you it is easier to say yes to the things that you want to do and no to the things that do not fit into your life.

For the past several years I have had a word of the year. It is really interesting how this word has helped me to focus on my goals. This year my word is build. I want to continue to build on the foundations that I laid in three areas last year.

So when an opportunity arises I ask myself if this will help me build my coaching business, or a healthier lifestyle, or make new connections with people who share an interest in creativity, coaching, or the arts. If the answer is yes, then the decision is easy. If the answer is no, then I will have to think a little harder about whether this is something that will bring happiness into my life or the life of someone else. This process has really helped me to focus on what is important to me.

About Ginny Lennox:

Ginny Lennox is certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach. She believes that everyone is gifted and talented and loves to work with women to help them create the life they want to live. Ginny has worked with entrepreneurs, stay at home moms, artists, and writers. Using the Kaizen-Muse strategies she helps women overcome whatever may be blocking them from reaching their goals.

Ginny ends each blog post with the following words. “You don’t need diamonds to make your light shine brighter and brighter. It comes from knowing who you are, what you love to do, and sharing your dreams and yourself with the world. Then it is easy to sparkle.” (I love that!)

Read Ginny’s blog Special Moments In Time at www.ginnylennox.com and visit her on Facebook at facebook.com/ginnycoaching. You can also email her at ginny.lennox@comcast.net.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tipping the Balance Back to the Physical

My poor body. It is quite upset with me I think.

I've spent much of the past month in front of my computer editing a criminal law textbook. (Yep, you read that right.) 1,100-some pages on my computer screen.

You know that feeling you get when you stare at a screen too long and your eyes and your head start to feel weird and fuzzy? I'm much too familiar with that feeling right now.

This whole project reminded me about my desires in life. My day job consisted of working at a computer all day every day for 10 years. When I left work to stay at home with my son, I was determined to never return to that kind of life.

I love computers. I've been using them since I was young thanks to my dad who taught me way back on an Atari. Computers are valuable tools.

But that's all I want them to be. I want my computer to be a tool. Something I use in small doses to write, research, and connect. I don't want to be tied to my computer for hours each day.

It's not just my eyes that suffer for it. It's my whole body. Just in these few weeks I've lost flexibility. And motions that wouldn't normally bother me are painful.

I couldn't lift my arm over my head yesterday to take my sweater off. What?! That's not okay.

So now, my big project is finished. This week I intend to move my body often. In fact, this morning I've already gone grocery shopping, chopped up some food for the crockpot, and went out in the new falling snow to feed the ducks. Those small acts felt really good.

Maybe I'll try a little yoga or pilates. I'll probably turn up some music and dance. I'll definitely limit my screen time.

I need to restore the balance of activity in my daily life- move, stretch, bend, reach, and work with my hands. It's time to reconnect physically.

Do you have any suggestions for me? What are your favorite ways to move?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flecks #13


As in flecks of reflection from the week: what I'm learning and celebrating.

Things I learned this week:

  • My clothes really like to get caught on things. It's been happening for months and I'm really aware of it now. Yesterday my coat button got stuck on the grocery store cart three different times while I tried to load groceries in my car. Drawstrings on pants are also notorious for looping onto my son's dresser drawers, then pulling them open as I step away. I'm not sure what the lesson here is- stand further away?

  • Ask. Because the worst that can happen is someone can say no and even then, you're no worse off then you were before. Even better, they might say yes! (I received 2 yes answers out of 3 people asked. The third has not responded yet. Can't wait to share these wins with you!)

Things I'm celebrating this week:

  • Noticing my surroundings, like a beautiful chandelier in the Music Box Theatre in New York City (pictured above).

  • Another of my articles went live on Grandmother Hen. I wrote this one as the first in a year-long series about Doing Good in a Grand Way. I'll be focusing on a different cause each month and talking about some of the organizations working for it, as well as offering suggestions for how to get involved. I'm really excited about this series. It's so important.

  • The launch of my new site design which is very... wonderstruck! (Thank you, Laird Sapir of Memphis McKay!)

Things that are resonating with me this week:

Just Checking by Christine Kane about whether we are really accomplishing tasks or merely checking our various apps and accounts.

One Thing Real Friends Do by Meredith Kane (no relation to Christine that I know of) about the power of showing up.

What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I'll share a "Woohoo!"

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What Happens When You Tell a Designer to Give You a Light But Dark Website


Hello there. Remember all those hints I've dropped since... I don't know... November? Hints about stuff happening behind the scenes?

Welcome to part one of the rollout: a new look. (By the way, if you're reading this in your email or a reader, you should click through to see.)

It isn't just any new look, though. For the first time in all my blogging years, I actually hired a graphic designer.

I didn't piece this together on my (extremely limited) design skills. I brought in a real honest-to-God web designer: the lovely, amazing, talented Laird Sapir.

(HOORAY, LAIRD! *confetti and sparkles and cheers galore*)

Laird had quite the challenge. I wanted lots of white with pops of color, something light and happy, but also dark and mysterious. Something whimsical, but serious. Playful, but polished. I shared pictures of trees and birds and butterflies and stars and hand-drawn art and macabre photographs.

I gave her so many contrasting descriptions that she likely considered the viability of firing me as a client.

Then I said, "What do you think? ...and go!"

You know what Laird said? "I get it." She even claimed to be really excited to work on such a fun project (although that could have just been a good show for me, the schizophrenic client).

And then, she made magic.

She pondered all of those words and images and turned them into the beautiful site you see before you.

Because she is that good.

I could never have come up with this spectacular design. So I asked for help. And Laird delivered beyond my wildest expectations.

What else is new? I've updated the About page and I've started making some adjustments to the sidebar. You'll also see some new header graphics on Facebook and Twitter (also created by Laird to match this site).

But stay tuned because I have more tricks up my sleeve that I'll be revealing in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, if you like the new design, I'd love it if you would leave Laird a comment here.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Flecks #12

As in flecks of reflection from the week: what I'm learning and celebrating.

Things I learned this week:

  • If you open your weather app on your phone in the morning and it says "3," you should not sit there waiting for the page to finish loading. Apparently 3 is as many degrees as you get.

  • On days that start out at 3 degrees and forecast a high of 10, you should not let your ducks escape while feeding them.*

  • Running around in 10 degree weather for 20 minutes trying to round up ducks by yourself is futile. That's just you chasing ducks. Call for assistance and work as a pair to herd them back to their home.**

*It's possible that this lesson may not apply to everyone as most people probably do not have pet ducks.

Things I'm celebrating this week:

  • The response to my word of the year. (If you don't know that word is "Badass," you might want to go see what you missed.) Ginny Lennox offered some beautiful words on my Facebook page finishing with "love this post," and Liv Rancourt tweeted that it made her want to "go out and kick some butt!!" and tagged it #bestnewyearspostever. Thank you so much, ladies!

  • This year I've been called upon to write one article per week for Grandmother Hen. I am so excited about this project! My first article went up this week- a review of the children's television show Sarah & Duck.

Things that are resonating with me this week:

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person by David Wong

The word by Susannah Conway

This video from Jen Louden...


What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I'll share a "Woohoo!"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Word of the Year for 2014: Badass

Did I get your attention? Got mine, too.

For the past five years (five? wow!) I have chosen word of the year to focus on and learn about- something that will help me grow. It's an idea I first learned about from Christine Kane.

Let's start with what I learned from this year's word: Listen.

I chose this word because I was becoming increasingly aware of (and annoyed by) my poor listening skills. I often was unable to immediately recollect what I had just heard- frustrating to me and my husband, I'm sure.

What I noticed throughout the year is that I need to put myself in a place of presence. I need to be here and be ready to listen. If I'm doing something it benefits me and the other person to say, "Hold on one minute while I finish XYZ, then I'll be able to listen."

Then I finish whatever I was doing (or at least get to a natural pause point). I turn to face the person and say, "Ok." And I pay attention.

Because it's the attention part that needed some work. I won't say I'm always good at it now, but I think I've improved and I think my relationships are better for it.

As 2013 was drawing to a close, I began to ponder new words for 2014. I usually start this process around Thanksgiving, and by Christmas I've chosen my word.

That word this time around was "Create." I envisioned expanding my artistic side, learning to paint, writing a lot, and cooking new dinners.

It was a good word. It had possibility.

On Christmas day, however, another word came to me: Badass.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I became and the more it felt like a "hell, yeah!" And as I learned from Victoria Brouhard several years ago, if it's not a hell-yeah, it's a no. (Great article, by the way. Go read it: The No-Brainer Scenario.)

The thing is I've read a lot about things that interest me. I read a ton of life coaching and creative coaching articles, books, and blogs. (I kind of devour them.) I read a lot about writing. I read a lot about web usability and technology's impact on human behavior. I love all of this stuff.

But I'm not doing anything with it. Okay, okay, I blog and that certainly counts for some writing, but I haven't written much else.

It's time to start using this knowledge. If I don't somehow serve people with it, then it's worthless. I want to share what I know.

But I get scared. The usual fears I think many of us have: Do I really know enough? What will people think? And so on.

What's different lately is I finally feel ready to move past those fears. I may still have them, but I don't want them to own me. I don't want them to stop me from doing what I can do.

My friend posted an image on my Facebook page the other day that said, "Your time as a caterpillar has expired. Your wings are ready."

She's right. This is the year of do. (As in "do it, already!")

Now you might be wondering why the whole badass concept came to me on Christmas day, so let me explain.

For years I have talked about getting a second tattoo (my first having been sixteen years ago). I've put a lot of thought into what I might want and where and, so far, it's been a lot of talk.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a gift certificate for an incredible tattoo artist. In other words, he's encouraging me to walk my talk (with full permission to pass it on to someone else if I really don't want it).

As I stared at that certificate, I shook in nervous excitement. Oh, the possibilities! Oh my god, the pain! I realized I needed to toughen up a bit. Time to bring out my inner badass.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how many areas in my life I'm sitting back watching, or not taking next steps, or playing it safe.

Why? Because it's hard, or I don't know how, or it's easier not to try. Because I'm a procrastinator (and a damn good one).

But I have dreams and ideas and goals. I don't want to sit back and wait for an invitation that may never come.

All around I feel a little weaker than I like. I'm not as mentally strong as I would like. Or as spiritually strong. Or as physically strong.

I don't want to sit back quietly in a conversation about world events because I don't know anything about them. I want to be informed and have opinions- whether or not I share them is up to me, but I want to have them.

I want to do things. I want to be stronger in body, mind, and soul. I want to make progress on anything, everything.

I want to take risks with my writing, my work, my garden, photography, art, experiences, interactions, and cooking.

I want to stop worrying about whether or not people will like me because I believe in God or because I read oracle cards, or because I do both.

I want to curse in writing if it suits the mood and not worry about whether my dad will approve.

I want to prove that nice girls can be tough and vice versa.

And yes, I want a new tattoo. On my shoulder where people can see it. (Though I wish it could magically appear while I slept.)

So for 2014 my word is badass. Expect things to kick up a notch here on my blog.

What about you? Do you choose a word for the year? What is yours?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Returning from December

My, oh my! Welcome back to the post-holiday real world.

I don't think I've stopped running for two weeks straight and I don't know that I will for the next few weeks either. Things are crazy! But good crazy, you know?

As you probably saw, I joined Jamie Ridler and Shannon Ridler for the Kickin' It Old Skool Blogathon for the month of December- one prompt per day to bring the fun back to blogging.

And you know what? I almost made it. I wrote a response to each prompt, from Day 1 through Day 23. Then… well, Christmas happened. And visitors. And even some work.

I'm really proud of myself, though, for those 23 posts. That has to be a new monthly record for me and it felt really good to write every day, even if it was only a few sentences.

Even better, I "met" a bunch of new bloggers. Well, not necessarily new bloggers, but new to me. I learned about them and I even learned a little bit about myself. It was a lot of fun.

Now December is well over and January is underway. I've been working on some things behind the scenes here for the last few months (with the help of my cosmic crew whom I will introduce at some point) and I'll be sharing bits of that throughout the month.

Later this week I'll also share my word of the year. Oh, it's a good one.

But today I just wanted to pop on with a little hello. How are you surviving the post-holiday/back-to-real-life transition?