This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

One phrase to lose: "I'll try"

Consider the phrase: I'll try. Have you ever said it to someone? Has someone ever said it to you?

When someone asks you to do something, and all you can say is, "I'll try," how committed do you think you really are to doing that task? What do you really mean?

Do you mean: If I have time? If I care enough? If I want to, I'll do it?

Earlier this month, I was speaking with a friend who was telling me how she needed help on a project that she's in charge of. And she was thrilled when, finally, she'd found a partner to help her on the job. She was feeling extremely grateful, she said, because she'd been in need of additional help for quite some time.

But, the person was coming on board at one of the worst times for her; my friend had too many other projects going on (Boy, I can relate to that!). She was concerned she wouldn't have time to train the new person. But she told me that she called and left a message, anyway, thanking her new partner for joining her, asking her to call back so they could at least chat a little before the real work starts.

Sadly, she said, this person did not return her call. She finally did e-mail, however, with updated contact information. So my friend returned the e-mail, telling her that she, in fact, needed her help earlier than expected, that she had to leave town, and only needed a few hour's worth of her time. She asked for what she needed, briefly explained why, asked if it was possible.

The person's response: "I'll try."

"I'll try" is not a response, I was thinking.

And while we were chatting about this, my friend was interrupted and had to go on to do something else. But I kept thinking about her story. Would you have a problem with this person's response? Does it sound like she's a willing partner?

I no longer try to interpret these kinds of responses myself, because I know "I'll try" is not a real response. It's not a yes; it's not a no. It's not a commitment, either way. So had it been me, I would have been tempted to want to take care of the matter myself, because I wouldn't want to have to beg for commitment. You either can or you can't help.

And I certainly wouldn't want to guilt someone into doing something they didn't really want to do. But I don't want to have to decipher it for them. I've been there. I don't think it works very well in the long run.

Here's why I know it's more hurtful than helpful:

When I was a child growing up, my mother was famous for saying, "I guess." Every time you asked a question, she would never give you a straight answer. She'd say, "I guess." Not only that, but she'd say it in the most miserable tone. I was a kid. I wanted what I wanted. So I opened that bottle of Pepsi and took a sip (These were the day when drinking soda all day long, as kids do today, was not an option.), I ate the last cookie in the box, or went to play with my friends across the street, whatever it was that I wanted. But I felt guilty doing it. I never quite knew if I was really supposed to or not. Would I get in trouble for this later? I sometimes wondered. Her wishy-washy responses always left me wondering. And I learned to tiptoe my way around her.

As a parent myself, I was adament about being clear with my answers. Perhaps some people are afraid of letting others down. Maybe that's why they won't say no when they mean no, and yes when they mean yes. But it's worse to be left in the dark and wonder what the real answer is. So when my kids asked for something, it was either a yes or no. I wanted to communicate clearly. They got their answer. No questions. No confusion. No worries.

But there have been times in my life when I've slipped and used similar half-hearted responses I learned from my mother. There have been times when I've been unclear about what I would accept or not accept, about what I would allow or not allow, about what I wanted or did not want. The problem with that is this: it leaves you vulnerable and with an excuse for not taking care of yourself or being fully responsible. It's completely noncomittal.

This is what my friend experienced. I'm not sure how she resolved the situation. We've not yet continued that earlier conversation.

As for me, I make a concerted effort to remove this phrase ("I'll try") from my vocabulary. I know from experience it's annoying, it doesn't really say anything, and it's certainly not helpful--to anyone. And if it were me in my friend's situation, I'd simply ask: Is that a yes or a no?

What about you?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ouch! Lesson learned

Yesterday, I was asked to take down an earlier post. I did immediately as requested.

I was trying to help someone, but it wasn't my place. I got involved where it was none of my business. No matter how helpful you may want to be toward someone, that someone doesn't have to like it. In the future, I'll be more cautious about stepping on other people's toes.

I wasn't aware of how much that could hurt.

Now I am.

Lesson learned.

Can you relate? Have you ever done something to help another person, and it backfired? How did you resolve the situation?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Where do you find the good in you?

I've been thinking a lot about the Anthony family lately. You know who that is. It's the family in the midst of what must be one of the most trying experiences anyone could ever endure.

Daughter Casey Anthony is accused of murdering her only child, Caylee. Grandparents Cindy and George are fighting to hold on to whatever they have left. And brother Lee is somewhere in the middle of this tragedy. It's a horrendous story that has captured world-wide attention as we wait to see what happens in Casey's upcoming trial.

The bottom line is that a child died, an innocent little girl died for reasons we'll just probably never know nor be able to understand--even if the truth comes out.

And then George? He goes off by himself, wanting to die, wanting to find a way to rid himself of the pain. It's immense, beyond anything anyone can imagine--other than this family--and it takes me back to my own past pain...In times like these, one wonders, where and how do you find the good in you?

Haven't we all been there, to question this, during our own trials?

Is it even possible to move beyond circumstance and find something good in these times?

I can imagine the family feels guilt. What could they have done to have saved their little Caylee, they might be asking. Where did they go wrong? I can imagine their minds will not let them believe Casey could have committed such a crime. But, somewhere, deep down, in the recesses of their thoughts, they know what has not yet been proven. And that has to be the hardest thing to accept. Ever. They most likely see blame, shame and other negative emotions that do nothing to change the circumstance. But can they help it?

How do you look inside yourself and see good where it appears all bad?

Where is that Best self I speak of here?

I think George probably took the first step in finding it in himself when he wrote out so many of his thoughts in what is being called a five-or eight-page suicide note.

I think he has a long way to go, but I think he can get there. He may not like himself much right now. He may not see anything worthy at the moment, as his words imply. But his words on those pages, I think, also indicate a beginning to what I think will be a long fight to survive this tragedy. Maybe he's reached his turning point.

When that happens, I think you can see that as the beginning of change, the beginning of truth-finding, at least truth-finding from that individual's perspective. Others may see things differently, but no one can really argue with you about your truths.

I believe the only way to find your truths is to look within. A friend mentioned a conversation he'd had with two other friends the other day. They were discussing the Trinity and what is this thing called the Holy Ghost. I suggested to him that it was the Holy Spirit. It's the faith that resides in you, I said. You have God, you have his son Jesus, and you have the Holy Spirit--your faith. Without it, you are left with an empty soul. Maybe that's what George is finding out right now, that his soul is empty.

To refill it, he'll have to dig deep within himself to reconnect with his spiritual being. It's in him. I believe it's in all of us. I don't dare define what that is or what that means to anyone other than myself, but it's there in various forms because of the multiple cultures and world beliefs. Even if you call yourself an agnostic or a non-believer, there is something within you that helps you define right from wrong, good from evil, sane from insane. There is something within you that causes you to feel--even if that feeling is numb.

And, yet, the Holy Spirit, or whatever you wish to call it, is easily misplaced. We get caught up in our material world. We get caught up in our fears, our work, other distractions, the ego self. When we veer so far away from a higher power that we can no longer connect with our spiritual being, that's the moment when we feel lost. That's the moment when we feel we no longer matter. And I really believe it takes a turning point to create change.

There's no formula to reach the bottom. But once there, only you can decide where to go next. That means you have to know there's some good in you. You have to believe--even if just a little. You can then begin drawing from that belief--it's the inner strength you didn't know you had. Then, there will be light where there was only darkness. And you'll begin to take responsibility, no matter how difficult that might be or feel.

So, then, where do you find the good in you?

My belief is that you find it when you begin to look inside yourself.

But can you look deep enough?

That takes time, to which I say, take as much time as needed. And pray in whatever way works for you that your loved ones and the people you surround yourself with are willing to do the same.

Your thoughts?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Walk in beauty; live in harmony

They walk in beauty. It's the Navajo way. They live in what they call the Glittering World, divided by the four sacred mountains, the four directions. And they are the stewards of one of the most recognized--and most photographed--locations in the United States. Pictured above is that special place, Monument Valley.

How lucky can the people, the Dinéh, be?

But they also suffered the Long Walk, where hundreds of innocent Navajo men, women, and children were killed while, beginning in 1863, when the U.S. cavalry, led by fur trapper Kit Carson, forced the Navajo people out of the land they called home. Even the animals they cared for--the sheep, horses, and cattle--were slaughtered or stolen, and their farms and orchards destroyed to starve them into submission. It's hard to imagine such ugliness could occur in the beautiful and remote location that is today known as Canyon de Chelly.

I recently traveled to these two locations on a whirlwind tour I took through the Navajo Nation and Hopi Land.

It was an eye-opening trip.

I learned much about this large community in a short time. I wish I could have spent more time there, so I will return again later in the year.

I want to know more about this Navajo way of life. To walk in beauty is such a lovely phrase, but I didn't have time to do it myself. I was too busy working to be able to fully appreciate what I was witnessing first-hand. I snapped several dozen photos of the sunrise and sunset at Monument Valley. My photo above of the Mitten and Merrick buttes is one example. But what I'd rather do next time is just see it, just witness the color changes, the changing shapes and shadows. I would like to walk in the way of beauty, and I think that means something else has to stay behind. It's hard to focus on the view when you have to focus on getting a good shot, instead.

But that phrase has stayed with me on the drive home, and it's in my thoughts still today, now four days after my return. I like the thought of living in a glittering world. I'm not sure what it means, exactly, but it sounds lovely. I'd like to think that I can walk in beauty, too. I'd like to learn more about this concept and transfer it to where and how I live. I want to believe you don't have to reside on the reservation to be able to do this.

Just as other religions have a God or higher power to help lead them on the right path, the Navajo have Holy People that show them how to walk in harmony with the world, to maintain a balance. It's why they weave rugs, make pottery, dance. Their religion is their way of life. All that they do, they do for the sake of harmony. The ways of reaching it may be slightly different than mine, but I think it's a good idea to learn the workings of other religions. I think this kind of knowledge can provide a new way of looking at my own beliefs, maybe even strengthening them.
What about you? In your travels, have you ever been influenced by a religion or spiritual belief that was very different from your own? Did it change your perspective at all, and in what way?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Watch this: a video that says it all

This video of a man with no limbs has a message for everyone. It was forwarded to me. Do you dare forward it on to those you know? Don't worry, it's short:

All I can say is, "Wow!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Serendipity at work

When someone stops to talk with you about something that seems benign at first but then turns into something of substance, do you take note of that?

I'm referring to something that happened to me after a breakfast meeting this morning. After the meeting ended, I had planned to meeting with another member of this group, to chat with her about some possible work I might do for her. We were interrupted by another member who seemed anxious to talk. She wanted to ask about something she'd purchased. She wanted to know if it was a good purchase. She was second-guessing herself. It didn't seem like an important thing to interrupt a private conversation about, but it was important to her, so we agreed to take a look at her purchase.

She went out to her car and brought back a big department store bag, taking out another bag. Inside of that one was this huge, beautiful black bag. She'd purchased it at a significant bargain. It was shiny and huge and matched her outfit nicely. My colleague said it was definitely worth it. Even though I'm not much of a shopper, I agreed. If you can afford it, and it's something that you'll use, why not buy it? She seemed pleased.

Then the conversation quickly turned to a dance class she's been taking with another member of this group. She told us how it was changing her life in very spiritual ways, allowing her to give herself time that she needs to take care of herself. Her outlook on life, she told us, is much improved. Her story reminded me of the work I do with my BIKE. But I've not been able to take the time I need for myself lately. I've been so consumed with the work I'm doing on my book project. The deadline is getting closer and closer. As I listened, my mind turned to her testimonial. It affected me. I realized, right then, that I haven't been giving myself the time I need to take care of my body as I should. Her message came to me at just the right moment. I can write AND take care of myself, too. Otherwise, how can my work not suffer?!

That interruption turned out to include information that I actually needed, and, as it turned out, the other person as well. So it wasn't an interruption after all. Was it serendipity? I think so. This third party needed help but it turned out that she helped us as well--even though she didn't know she was doing that. Things happen for a reason, and they usually happen at the exact moment you need it to happen. But you have to be open to accept it into your life.

Have you ever experienced moments like these, where, what you think might be an interruption, instead, turns out to be exactly what you needed to know, to hear, to see, or to do...but weren't? For whatever reason.

Are you open to welcoming such interruptions, such serendipitous acts? If you stay tuned in to what your body needs, if you keep your eyes and ears open, if you acknowledge that others might have something worth sharing with you, you can be. You can teach yourself to pay attention, to tune in. Serendipity doesn't just happen; you have to be waiting for it, in a sense. You have to be willing and open to the opportunities.

Are you?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is that an obstacle, or an opportunity?

Today's economic climate can kill a good idea. It can hurt your bank account. It can even cost you your job. It can be one big obstacle that gets in the way of your success.

But that's only if you let it.

If you think you have no control over this deflated economy, you'd be wrong.

I nearly felt like that last week. I got caught up in the negative frenzy. What happened? I was really upset!

You'd probably be upset, too. It's not so unusual. You see, I was confronted with a payment problem I wasn't expecting. And instead of just being truthful about the whole situation, the publisher who owed me the money--along with my editor who works for him--were just feeding writers a bunch of lines. "Your check's in the mail tomorrow," they said, when they knew it wouldn't be. "We'll process your check in 10 days," whatever that means. Either way, the checks still have not arrived. I'm on a list, I was told, but I don't know how long, or what it matters.

What I do know is that the publisher is avoiding paying me and at least six other writers who I know have written articles for him. We've been told there is a cash-flow problem, and that we should be patient. But then I heard he actually put payments on hold--in December--yet is still soliciting new work for an upcoming issue!

They've been giving us all the run-around, some of us for several months. It's a painful and inconvenient process to have to keep calling, e-mailing, and doing whatever it takes to get that paycheck.

But you have to do something. You can't let someone not pay you for work you've done. In most businesses, this wouldn't even be possible. You have to pay your dentist, for example, on the day she cleans your teeth. You have to pay your utility bills, or they get shut off. And if you go to the post office to buy a stamp, well, they're not going to give it to you if you don't pay the 42 cents.

Unfortunately, writers generally get paid after the work is done and turned in, which leaves some wiggle room for publishers to delay or avoid payment if they want, this despite what the contract states. It's a payment process is industry-wide and won't be changed. It's been this way for as long as there have been independent writers, I think.

So what I've done is turn this ugly situation into an opportunity for me to get to know some of my fellow writers better, to make a personal connection that wasn't there before. I contacted my writers' groups to let them know this was happening. And, in return, I heard back from several writers who were experiencing much the same as me.

We forged a bond, and we'll keep each other informed. If one gets paid, we'll have hope another will, too. If one does something that works, another will try it as well. We may not wind up getting paid. We may wind up having to contact a lawyer to take care of this for us. But whatever happens, we know we're not alone. It's a lot easier to deal with challenges in life when you know you're not alone.

So this obstacle have given me the opportunity to open my world up just a wee bit more. And I took it.

Writing from home can be a lonely experience, but not when you reach out, not when you use your E--that Expressive voice that is meant to be your watchdog. It's there for good reason, but you have to use it to get full benefit.

So what obstacle have you turned into an opportunity lately? Could you use some advice on how to do that? I'll be teaching a class this spring that might help. Keep coming back to learn more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do you need validation?

After discovering where my name appeared on the Web this morning via two Google Alerts, I asked myself this question this morning: Do I need validation from outside of myself?

Here's what happened: I wrote a story about a fun tour in a small town for a big-time pub (to them). The local small town paper gets wind of the article and writes it up, as both an editorial and as an article. Two different writers quote my article like crazy, use my name, cite the publication, sing all the praises, but not once do I get a call for an interview. Not that I need one. I just thought it was funny.

This particular paper wrote two stories about my one little article. Two stories in the same paper! I'm famous there. It's the third article about my work in this paper. My BF says I could probably be in the town parade. They'd probably name me Homecoming Queen, he says. "There she is! There she is!" he says they'd say. Funny stuff. It made me smile. And, truthfully, it made me feel good--even without the one-on-one interview.

I think we all need to find validation like this outside of ourselves sometimes. We need to know we're appreciated. At the minimum, it's nice to know people notice. We may not do things in order to receive validation. We may just be doing them because the work pays the bills. But it sure is nice to get the recognition afterward.

So, my answer is yes, but it's also no. Feedback is good. It allows us to see where improvements can be made and to continue doing what works. But I don't think we want to rely on it. Because during those times when there is no feedback, when no one does notice you or your work, you could falter. You could succumb to the lack of recognition in some way, maybe even seep into some kind of "Nobody loves me" depression.

If you do that, it's not likely you'll be able to think about improvement, and you won't want to bother doing what you've been doing. You might think, "No one cared, anyway."

This is not a good place to wind up. There's no forward movement there.

So what's your opinion? Do you need validation?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Messages come from many places

Today, my message comes to you from someone else: Beth Terry.

She writes today in her blog about an artist she adores. I thought you might like to learn about the artist, too.

I was drawn by the picture--I love blues and greens and anything having to do with nature, almost--but I was taken by the way Beth found the metaphor in his work. A lovely thought. You'll have to read it to see what I mean.

After you visit her site, come back and post a comment here about how you see art as a metaphor in your life.

Enjoy the rest of the day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Making tough decisions

This week has been a trying one for me, filled with a few unexpected--and a few unwanted--challenges.

Only one of them was I able to resolve so far. I had to make a decision to stop blogging for, which hosts my travel blog The Phoenix Traveler . I love blogging about Phoenix travel and beyond. It's so much fun. And I'll continue doing that, but I'll have to begin from scratch a few months down the road--after I finish my travel book project. But on my current travel blog, well, I'll be posting my last post on or about January 23.

The thing is, timing is everything, and when a new contract with the company came my way a few days ago, wanting a decision on a new venture it wanted for itself, I had to decline. I wasn't sure I wanted it for myself. My old contract was cancelled in order for b5media to partner with a new company I didn't know anything about. And without enough time for me to investigate the company--I'm in the last days of finishing my book project, and that's where my concentration mostly needs to be--I felt the need to say no the new offer, and the new contract.

I'm a little bummed, because I didn't really want to stop blogging about travel at The Phoenix Traveler. Still, it seems that, in the face of that so-called loss, a new opportunity has come my way. In addition to beginning soon a new blog related to my very first book that comes out at the end of this year, I may be starting something of a joint venture with someone myself. Another writer has asked me to join her in a new project, blogging about budget travel in the Phoenix area. Both new enterprises should be fun. And even though I'm sorry to say goodbye to The Phoenix Traveler--I worked very hard to get it started and run it for the seven or eight months that I did--I'm excited about the possibilities of new ventures and new projects in 2009.

It was a tough decision. It took me some time to think about it and decide how I might proceed. When I realized I didn't have enough time to consider the matter more seriously, I went with my gut. My decision fell in line perfectly with my BIKE philosophy, particularly the K. Killer instinct. I went with my gut. What was my body telling me? As hard as it was, I listened. I paid attention. And because of that, I was able to make the decision that was right for me and move on.

There's been another discussion about using that gut instinct lately. Another writer I know, in fact, also at b5media, posted about this just this week, after we'd been discussing lack of payment issues at It's interesting to see just how important gut instinct is, but the gut doesn't work unless you make use of it. That's why, here, I use the bolder phrase. We all have instincts. We all have the ability to sense things. But, we don't always pay attention. We don't always trust that gut. When you're in tune with your body and know what it feels like in both normal and abnormal circumstances, then you can make appropriate and safe use of what I call your Killer instincts. They're "killer" because they're tuned in on the target. They're watching out for you. They're not only important for survival, but they're also important if you intend to thrive in a world that is always going to drop a challenge or two at your doorstep.

Do you have any decisions you need to make that you've been stalling on because you're unsure what to do? I urge you to trust what your body's trying to tell you. The answer is there if you just tune in.

All my best,

Friday, January 9, 2009

A new baby changes things

As I'm about to reminded when I become a grandmom for the first time at the end of this month (hard to believe still), friends of mine found out this week that a new baby changes things...for the better.

Instantaneously, you realize there are things in life you never thought you'd love so much--spit up, a good solid belch, sleep. And then the baby comes, and suddenly, those are the things you dream about.

That, and a face you know you couldn't live without! Just look below at this one of six-day-old baby Traver (spit up not included in all shots):
Did you see the size of those hands?! Those are Daddy's. And here he is below, bottle feeding. Doesn't he look comfortable in his new role?
But Traver's had enough, it seems. Again, you can compare sizes. Traver's arm below nearly matches the size of Daddy's thumb. Who's the big guy here, huh?

And don't forget Mommy. She gets a break from caretaking for now. But her time will soon come. Yes, a baby certainly does change things. You can just tell. Look at those faces!

Thanks to Eric and Linda Formichelli for sharing their special joy with me yesterday when they came to Phoenix to pick up their new family member. Newly adopted, Traver makes a handsome addition to the Formichelli family, don't you think? We had a wonderful evening getting to know each other better. And it was pretty amazing. Even the waiters at our restaurant wanted to meet Traver. Three of them--all men--came over to take a peek and stayed to chat for a while. You can see why. Traver's something to be admired. He's handsome, he's got great hair, and, well, you get the picture.
Welcome to the world, Traver.
You made my day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The importance of a day of rest

I've been working semi-non-stop for several months now. To stay motivated, I find that I need to take more frequent breaks during the day than I normally would with a regular work schedule. Otherwise, I get cabin fever. I take the dog for a walk, run up and down the steps, turn on the TV and jump on the trampoline (when it's not broken)...

Since I work from home, without a boss hovering over my desk making sure I'm being productive, I am in charge of managing my own time. This weekend, I wasn't feeling my best, so took a lot of down time. I had to let the manager in me let me go. But my mind wasn't resting. My inner entrepreneur was still at work.

I know that this will be the process I go through from now till the end of this month, until I finish this book project of mine. So I dream of what I will do when I really am able to take a day of rest, to experience down time. Maybe I'll even take a vacation, I think.

On your day of rest, whether it be on Sunday or any other day of the week, what's your favorite thing to do? Do you like to catch up on reading the magazines that have been stacking up, do you pull out your favorite novel or buy a new one you've been wanting to read, do you take time to cook a gourmet meal? What do you look forward to doing on the weekend, or your days off, that you don't have time to do during the work week?

I'm wondering if doing nothing for a while wouldn't be the best thing for me. I'd embrace that idea if it weren't for the fact that I have a few other big projects coming up the next few months after this one is turned in. And then there will be editing and more scheduling and more work. Thankfully, I enjoy the work I do. It's fuels me in so many ways.

And maybe that down time I crave isn't in the cards for me this first quarter.

I do know, however, that down time is important. It regenerates, refreshes and renews the spirit, mind and body. Without it, a person could go crazy. That means my goal for 2009 will be to work harder at scheduling in those days of rest. Little bits and pieces are enough for now, but not forever.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Success comes by the numbers

At least that's what I'm thinking today. I have a book that's due to the publisher February 1, and all I can think about is how many words I have left to write and edit before then.

With each 1,000 words I write, I count that as an achievement for the moment. It doesn't matter that I have to edit them before they can be considered complete.

But it will. As the days press on, I can tell I'm in need of lots more moments.

I suppose I could say success comes by the photo as well. In addition to the 50,000 words due, I also have to turn in about 100 photos. I'm missing some, so I'll be digging soon, or getting on the road to get them. Whatever it takes to get the job done on time.

So tell me, what's your definition of success today? Does it change by the project, by the day, by the hour? As you think about that, consider what keeps you on track to reach this success.

Lots to think about, I know, but as I mention frequently here, awareness is such an important factor in forward movement. And we're moving forward...word by word, photo by photo, day by day, minute by minute. Whatever it takes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Question of the day: Where do you find inspiration?

No long post today, just a simple question...and a little bit more: where do you find inspiration?

Do you look for it in other human beings? Do you find it in your surroundings? Do you stumble upon it accidentally? Do you actively search for inspiring moments to teach you something, or do you think inspiration is purely spontaneous?

I'd love to read your comments, thoughts and stories? Post them below. Let's start a dialogue. This is the time of year to get inspired--but how?