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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Crazy is as crazy does"

Note: I had intended to post today a recap of all the May tips, given that this is the last day of the writers' group May Blogathon; however, in light of what day it is and something that happened in my neighborhood this week, I was moved to write about that instead...

What is it with mothers who kill themselves?

I know. It's a serious question, and I just put it out there, like, out of the blue. Why? Because in just one year, I have known two women--both mothers--who chose to take a gun and shoot themselves dead. Let me repeat that! I have known two women--in one year--who attempted and succeeded at killing themselves.

Just this week, my neighbor did this to herself. About a year ago in June, a good friend of mine, whom I hadn't seen in a while, did it. They obviously meant to die because they didn't use a soft approach, such as swallowing a whole bottle of sleeping pills. This wasn't a cry for help. They were beyond that. These were deliberate acts. They both chose a very brutal and final method of harming themselves--they used their own gun, pointed it at the head, and pulled the trigger.

It's a harsh reality that I think needs to be addressed, because if you read anything at all about suicide, you'll note the attention is mostly placed on men. Why? Because men have a higher rate of "success." Women may attempt suicide more often, but it's the men who succeed in their attempts, or their attempts are actual suicides and not cries for help.

Unfortunately, that's not the story I'm seeing play out. And as I've been thinking about these two beautiful women who both attempted and succeeded, I note several connections:

_Although they never knew each other (as far as I know), there were both born and raised in Phoenix.

_They were both mothers of only one child.

_They both had fibromyalgia and perhaps Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

_And they were both obsessively apt to shower you with praise or cheer you on, while at the same time unable to do the same for themselves.

Does any of this mean anything at all? I don't know. I think we get closer to the "reason" as we move down the list. They both felt a certain amount of physical pain (with no end), and they both suffered from a lack of self-esteem. These are the knowns. There were likely many unknowns that added to the weight of their decision to end their lives. There were probably several risk factors involved that I'm not aware of (I didn't know Ann that well, and Micki and I hadn't seen or talked to each other for at least a year before her death.)


When I was in regular contact with Micki, whenever I'd phone her--the one who died last year--she'd ask how things were going. I'd tell her. Sometimes it wouldn't be great news. And there she'd go, telling me how great I was. I wasn't calling her for compliments. I was calling her to stay in touch, to be real with my friend. But she'd go on and on, showering me with all these niceities. I'd have to change the subject to get her to stop. It often made me feel uncomfortable, because the compliments weren't warranted.

I often wondered during those moments if she was fishing for compliments from me. I never asked. It seemed rude. And I'm not the type of person to just compliment people for no good reason. It feels inauthentic to me.

But maybe I should have with Micki. I don't know. I'll never know. And it's not like she didn't talk about her own issues. She did. She had plenty. She even saw a therapist regularly; she was seeing one right up to that very week she died. But that didn't eliminate her pain, apparently. She had to kill herself to do that, leaving behind a beautiful young daughter who was just starting out her career far away from home. Micki left quite a mess for her daughter to clean up. After she died, I found out a lot about her from her daughter that I never knew. None of it really explained a good enough reason to off yourself. But we can't know the demons that lurk inside someone else's head. Micki found a way to excise them.


And then there's Ann. My neighbor Ann. I saw her every day. There is a group of women in my neighborhood, and we all have dogs, and we all run into each other while walking them. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes not. But we see each other every single day. We'll no longer get to see Ann and her dog. We'll never hear her tell the stories about what she does for that dog. She was in love with that creature, paid $50 a week to get him groomed (a van service that came to her door), and never let him be alone for a second. She wouldn't even leave him at the neighborhood pet sitter's house. She treated that dog better than she treated herself.

Now that's she's gone, no one's expecting her husband (now the widow) and her son (just 14) to continue living here. I don't think I could. And Ann made sure that things were ready for a sale before she died. She'd obviously planned well. The week of her death, she had a new roof put on the house. And she made sure not to kill herself inside the house. She laid a blanket down in the backyard.

It's hard to talk about Ann. She was a very private person. In the four or five years we've lived here--and we've all lived here about the same length of time--none of us even knew her last name. She was always asking about you. But she didn't talk much about herself. You could ask, but she'd turn the conversation back around. If you weren't feeling well, like Micki, she'd offer advice. And I often felt it was advice she knew she needed for herself. She'd say things that suggested she knew she worked to hard to help other people yet did very little for herself. It's like she knew this, but it never stopped.

A few months ago, she paid to have her next door neighbor's yard cleaned up. They were dealing with a foreclosure and couldn't afford it. So Ann took care of it for them. And she loved the fact that I rode a bike. She also rode. I remember seeing her on the canal bank. Though lately, she'd been feeling so sick, she couldn't do that anymore. In the past month, whenever I'd see her out walking, she didn't have the same level of energy. I thought it was her illness that she didn't want anyone to know about. So no one asked. She didn't feel well and didn't want you to ask her about it.

We let her have her way. Maybe we shouldn't have. We all knew she was hurting; her gait made her look as though she was dead already, barely going to make it. But none of us wanted to pry. There was one of us in the neighborhood that she started calling every day this last month, however. and vented. For whatever reason, that didn't help. And she wouldn't admit she was depressed. She called the depression her "moods," and I was told she would have never seen a therapist about it, anyway. Ann had also been upset that the doctors couldn't find a cure for whatever ailed her.

So she found it herself.


So why am I telling you this? I'm not sure we can stop suicide. I think people who make up their minds, like Micki and Ann, to "fix" their problems with suicide will probably do it eventually. But maybe not. Maybe there's something that can be done to alter their decision. I'd like to think this is not an obstacle that can't be overcome.

However, I'm not a big fan of what people tell the sufferers to do, either. Things like seeing a doctor, visit a therapist, talk to someone, and look for tips online are not going to fix this. I'm not saying don't do any of it. Of course you should, if you can. But people who just feel depressed and want to seek help have a hard enough time to finding the energy or mental stability to make these calls. Trust me. I've been there. Someone who is past that and moved on to the desperate/hopeless stage?! I find it hard to believe they can go this route themselves. They don't. That's why they die.

To me, that leaves it up to the doctors they do see, the friends they already are talking to, the family members who actually live with them. Those of us who fit these categories have to open our eyes. If someone is confiding in you, there is one thing you can do. Watch for changes in behavior. That's where you'll find the clues. But only if you recognize them. And that's not easy to do, not if someone doesn't want to be "seen."

"Crazy is as crazy does." Those were wise words Forest Gump's mother told him in the movie by the same name. It means you're only as crazy as you act. But see what I mean? It all rests in the behavior. If you're not there to witness it beforehand, you're not going to be able to do anything about it. If you're present, keep your eyes open. Before it's too late, there will be cries for help.

Let's pray or meditate on that.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Celebrate your connections

Just a quick post to make a few announcements to let you know what's ahead at BIKE WITH JACKIE:

  • RANDOM BIKE PHOTO I want to remind you about the new section I created this month. Called "Random Bike Photo," you'll see it on the right-hand side, above my bio/photo. I thought it would be fun to post bike photos on the blog--both for amusement and to help you associate the BIKE with positive mental imagery. At first, I thought I'd just post photos that I took myself, random bikes that I see during my travels, and such. But I had interest from some of my readers, and they've sent in their own photos (See Jennifer Fink's photo up now.). I have two more scheduled to run in June, and I have several more of my own to post. But if you come across a bike and want to take a picture of it for me, or have a photo already, let me know about it. Either post a comment in today's post or any post after today (I'll get it!), or follow me on Twitter (@bikelady), and we'll get that posted for you. The more unique the better. In other words, those bikes you see in unusual places, I like that. Well, using good judgment, of course.
  • BOOK REVIEWS I've announced this before, but I have a library full of books that either I have read or will be reading for inspiration and advancing my knowledge about the mind/body connection, which is really what my BIKE philosophy is all about. So I'll be posting book reviews or more Q/As with authors in the future. Watch for those.
  • READER PROFILES I also would like to incorporate a regular interview with my followers into the blog. For one, it helps me get to know you better. And secondly, it will allow readers to get to know you as well. You all have some kind of common thread that drives you here, so it'll be interesting to see what that might be. So I'll be contacting you periodically to see if you're interested in participating in that. The interview would allow me to find out what brought you here, what's working for you, and what we can do better in the future. Also, I'd include links to your books/blogs/Web sites, so you can gain a little advertising out of it as well. When your interview is posted, I hope you'll refer the site to friends, family and colleagues so you can fully enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts, or comments that you'd like to share now about other ways to celebrate connections, please post them below. As always, I love to hear what you have to say. I'm here to help you learn new ways to move your life forward, or to encourage you in any way possible.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Embrace your supporters

In this social media world of ours, we have every opportunity imaginable to build a stronger network. Through blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other similar sites (including forums on industry sites, such as one I frequent), our connectibility outnumbers even the imagination.

But how do you make the most of it? How can you ensure that you are embracing your supporters, or the people who could be your supporters when you need the help?

Here's a quick to-do list:

Do what Jen Singer did for me and a few other blogging friends today. She linked my blog to hers, with a very nice description I might add. So do the same. Add links whenever you can. Post them on your blogs, on your "tweets," on your Facebook page. Include them in your e-mails. Pass the word around about the people you meet in your online social network who are doing great things, inspiring others, or making people laugh. Spread the word. They'll spread it back. Your social media metwork should definitely be a Pay it Forward place to be. And you have a role in making it so.

Visit your friends' and colleagues' spaces online--and post comments. Engage in the dialogue, add to it, encourage others to comment after you.

Take part in Twitter's back and forth #followfriday exercise. Every Friday, if you're on Twitter, you have an opportunity to post the names/avatars of people you think make interesting "follows." These could be your friends, people who post funny thoughts, people who share inspiring messages, people who have interesting things to say. If they are worth it for you to follow them, then maybe others will think likewise. So share the names and help expand someone else's territory. And when someone recommends someone for you to follow, check 'em out. If they fit your interests, then follow them, too.

Offer a thank-you when someone does any of this for you. It's common courtesy. Besides, you don't want to take this stuff for granted. It takes a lot of time and effort to grow an online presence, let alone the network. So it behooves anyone involved to be thankful for the process.

If you have any suggestions to add, please post a comment. We can all learn from eachother.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Know your limits; it's not the sky

The sky is not the limit in every situation, no matter what the positive thinkers of the world might say. There are times when it's best to accept your limitations, to know when to back down, to know when you might even be...dare I say it...wrong.

I'm referring to several things that have happened to me this week. I've been working on the edits for my soon-to-be-published travel guide. I'm humbled to see in the line-by-line edits how many mistakes I made while writing that 250-page manuscript. Of course, I was expecting there would be more than there are, so, for that, I'm grateful. But it's good to be confronted with my mistakes. For me, it reminds me that I am a fallable human being, one who should expect to err, one who can see beyond the foibles, one who can hope for humility in her character.

However, I've also had to address some judgment issues I'm having right now. I've noticed a man in one of my e-mail networking groups who continually advertises his books about how to save our culture of marriage. He regularly posts links to his Web site where he's selling his book. On that same Web site, he posts what he calls critical reviews of other books within his topic--books that have sold millions. He's quick to point out where they go wrong. I have grown tired of his posts and have decided that I do not care for this man's work. I have grown as critical as he seems to be.

And then, there is another man who continually posts about his work. He's a book editor and ghost writer. He says he's written more than 30 books and can make yours "a masterpiece." I do not know how he substantiates this claim; it seems a bit of an overstatement to me. Whenever people post on the online groups he's a member of (the ones in which we share membership) about a book of their own, he adds his two cents about how he can do better with what they've already accomplished.

I've just become so annoyed by these kinds of posts that whenever I see these two guy's names now, I immediately delete the e-mail or skip over that post.

Today, I realized I must confront my lack of patience for those who are just trying to get work and sell their products in a free society. I am now left to wonder: what's wrong with me! Where is my humility when it comes to these two gentleman? Who do I think I am?!

I'm sure it's not my place to say anything to these men. Why would they care what I might think? To suggest to them that they not post so often, or not make such outrageous claims would be nothing more than picking a fight. But they continue to annoy me. And, yes, I can ignore their posts, as I've been doing. But they still appear on my screen. My only other step would be to remove myself from the lists they are on with me. But then I miss out on other conversations I might wish to take part in.

So my question for you is this: what do you do when you realize you ARE limited in what you can say and do? Do you think, in these kinds of situations that limitations are a good thing?

(Photo Credit: Jackie Dishner--taken from an open-air viewing car on the Verde Canyon Railroad, Clarkdale, Ariz.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Remember to breathe

It's not as obvious as it sounds.

When your life is going at what seems like 95 miles per have to put gas in the car, but forgot your wallet at home, now you're late for that meeting, there's a line at the convenience mart that stretches out the door, your sister called and wants you to take her to the airport at lunchtime ("Did you remember you promised?"), and on and can forget to breathe.

Or at least it might feel like it. Suddenly, you realize you need to slow down.

Parents didn't create those "time outs" for nothing.

Yoga doesn't exist for no reason.

Meditation isn't popular just because someone said it should be.

There's good reason to remember to slow down and take a few breaths.

I'm doing that today. How about you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why follow me, anyway?

As an expert in overcoming obstacles and teaching people how to move forward despite them, I'm regularly quoted in national magazines. It's fun to be interviewed. At the same time, it's fun to let others in on a few good stories, too! Just thought you might like to know...

In the June issue of Family Circle, I'm quoted by Lori Erickson, who interviewed me for an article she wrote, "Retreat Yourself":

"I get away by sitting in the lobby of a local hotel. I don't check in but instead just quietly people-watch or order a glass of wine at the bar. Friends will tell me they want to join me, but I prefer going solo. I always take a book or a stack of magazines to read, just in case I feel like it. I consider it my 'pretend vacation' that I can do on the spur of the moment."

In the June issue of The Writer, I'm quoted by Kelly James-Enger, who interviewed me for an article she wrote, "How to overcome BURNOUT":

"I always try to learn a new skill each year, or expand on a skill I already know...and network. That seems to help me maintain enthusiasm for running a business that doesn't always provide immediate payoff. That kind of strategic planning helps me to stay focused on what's ahead and what I need to do to get there, rather than think about what's not happening now. In this economy, as unpredictable as it is, I'd rather focus on what I can do to get ahead and what bold action I might need to take. It's about staying positive, building confidence, and remaining competitive in the long term."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Take time to reflect and remember

As today is Memorial Day, my message today is a simple one: Take time to reflect and remember the important people, the important moments, and the important events in your life.

No picnics, parties or parades necessary. Just take time to consider what you have or what you have become because of the outside influences in your life.

If you'd like to take a moment and post a memory, please do.

Here's mine:

My father, who died when I was 3, served in the Korean War. I remember very little about him. The one memory I do have of him, however, is a lovely one. At the time, we lived in a tiny town east of Chicago, on the Indiana side. It was a Standard Oil town, with corner markets and row houses. Imagine wooden railing porches on second floors, grassy yards, clothesline poles...and a pungent odor in the smoke-filled air.

If I think back really hard, I can see bits and pieces--not the full picture anymore--but I do recall a big paper sack. And in that sack was the penny candy my dad had bought for me at the corner market called, I think, the Sugar Bowl. I don't remember the type of candy anymore, but I do recall we were walking in the street. Maybe we'd just gotten back from the market. But this incomplete memory is all I have left of the father I never got a chance to know.

I'm glad it's about giving. He gave me that candy, and my guess is I probably got to pick out what I wanted. Although I don't recall that specifically, I can connect with the excitement of what that must have felt like. In my child mind, that sack was as large as a grocery bag, while my adult mind says it was was probably more like a lunch bag. Even so, it's my only memory of him. For as long as I can retain it, I'll be happy to have at least that. To me it's a reminder about the goodness of giving and the impression your gifts can leave behind...I guess that means we should choose wisely.

All my best,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

If it's working, keep doing it

I'm in the middle of a crossroad right now with my computer system. I have been a PC girl since I started using computers at home back in the early 90s. This year, I got a Mac for the first time. It's been an awkward switch for me, and I'm wondering if it was even necessary.

For now, I'm switching back and forth. When something goes wrong on one system, I move to the other. That's not the ideal situation, and eventually I know I'll figure out which way I'll go. But for now, it's the way it's going to be. I'm still able to operate my business and move forward.

My point is this: Even though we talk here a lot about forging new paths and being open to different experiences, and such, there's nothing wrong with sticking to a process if it's working for you.

If you're advancing in your life, your business, your relationships just as you are, you probably need to start sharing your tips. It's only when things slow down or come to a complete stop that it's time to assess the situation. If that's the case, you can begin to take charge of your own thoughts, words and deeds by asking yourself a few questions:

_What happened recently to change progress?
_Is there something I've been avoiding?
_What is missing in my life that I can begin to alter today (spiritually, physically, mentally)?

Otherwise, if the steps you're taking are moving you at a pace that you're comfortable with (even if you suspect others may not be), go with that. Pay attention to that comfort level. We don't always have to think outside the box, as they say, to grow. It's not always necessary to push beyond our limits. Trust that you will know when it's time to change things up.

Until then, if what you're doing is working for you, keep doing it.

Can you recall a time when you pushed yourself unnecessarily? What happened as the result of pushing too hard, trying too hard, or doing something because someone else thought it would be a good idea (even though you were fine the way it was)? Post your story here. Maybe we'll learn something from your experience.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Be willing to create your own path

Fate. Destiny. Luck. We use these words as though they really meant something. But do they?

If life is dictated by fate, destiny or luck, then doesn't that mean you have no choice, that whatever road you take or decision you make is irrelevant. If that's so, you might as well not do anything at all. What's supposed to happen will happen, right?

Wrong. Today, decide to take charge of your life. Yes, things will happen that you don't have control over. So we don't get to decide who our parents will be. They don't necessarily pick us, either. So life hasn't treated you as well as you would have liked: you lost your job; your spouse moved out; you were abandoned as a child. None of these situations is idea. None of them make us feel good as individuals. But each one of them has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You do have some say in how the story goes. You can take charge of how you respond.

Will you be bold during the tough times, or not?

Will you consider taking a different path than the one you've been down before, or will you just stick with the same?

Why not forge your own way. Maybe what works for them isn't working for you. Why not try something else? You always have options. And when even the options seem limited, you can adjust them a bit to suit your own needs.

Whether it's a primitive trail or a paved road, decide today that you are willing and able to create your own path.

If you're doing this already, tell us how it's working for you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Don't resist a much-needed rest

When the time arrives, you'll know it.

For me, it's come. I've braved 22 days straight of blogging with the team--not short, quick snippets, but lengthy passages. Today, I need to lighten the load. I'm opting for the short, quick snippet. Today, I'm taking a break.

If you're in need of one--and your body knows it--but your mind resists, listen to the body. Slow down for a second and just listen...

Deep sigh. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Relax.

Can you hear your heartbeat now? Is that actual breathing going on in your chest? You forgot what that sounds like, didn't you? You've been going and going and going.


When you're running so fast that you forget where you're going, or you've forgotten what you've just done, it's time to take a break.

Schedule one into your calendar if need be. But do take time for down time.

That's my advice to today. If you got any for me, post your comments.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Believe in yourself if you want others to do the same

Have you ever felt judged by someone because of what you do or who you are? How did you work through that? Here today to tell you her story is Katie Hinderer. As part of this year's Blogathon, we're hosting Guest Blogger Day. All participants (See the full list on the right-hand side of this page.) decided to switch things up a bit by partnering with another writer to post on their blogs. It's my first time ever to utilize the guest blogger concept, and I partnered with Katie Hinderer--a freelance journalist who covers business, hip hop, entertainment and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications. She's currently working on penning a young adult novel and usually blogs at Write Beyond the Cubicle (I'm there today!) with tips and tidbits for other writers. I'm sure you'll be able to relate to what she has to say about judgment...

Three years of making the same commute, sitting behind the same desk, in front of the same computer, listening to the same lame jokes and trying to ignore the same scary people in the office - and I was ready to scream. (Actually I held three different journalism jobs in those three years, but they were a lot of the same.)

In 2007, when an opportunity arose to move closer to family I jumped at it without a job lined up. I hopped on my BIKE and started pedaling toward self-discovery.

After job searching for months with nothing to show for it, I took a part-time job at a women’s clothing store. As much as I didn’t like folding the same t-shirt 12 times a day, I loved the job. The manager gave me a lot of freedom, let me take charge of the window displays, the wall designs, the organization of the stock room...It was great. I ended up working there 14 months.

Because of that, I realized I needed a chance to let my creative side out more and to be my own boss. I couldn’t sit behind a desk in a stuffy office again. I needed flexibility, creativity and a chance to keep up my involvement with words.

I started applying to dozens of freelance positions. Most of them were scams, make-money-quick schemes, and some were downright sketchy. But there were a few, that needle in the haystack, that were legit. I pitched those publications, followed up and for some of them got the job.

It took months to build up enough clients to quit the retail job and several more months to be able to begin paying off those lovely student loans hanging over my head. Now I’m totally viable, with more gigs coming in weekly and three steady jobs.

Trying to figure out if I was doing the right thing, if I could motivate myself enough, if I’d actually be able to make money this way was truly petrifying at times.

Still, the hardest part was being able to hold my head up high and tell people that I am a full-time freelancer. Most people think that is my clever way of saying I’m still unemployed. Some people ask what else I do. At first I beat around the bush when answering. But one day, as I was describing what I do to a close friend, I realized this job style fits me perfectly. I, therefore, don’t need to apologize for it.

The other day, for example, I ran into an acquaintance when I was out for a run. She asked how my retail job was going. Instantly, I got the familiar sinking feeling - I’m about to tell her I freelance, and she’ll judge that fact as bad. Instead, I told her, "I left that job. I'm focusing totally on my writing now."

As usually happens, her face contorted in horror as she said, “How sad! Do you think it will ever pay? Will you move back home to live with your parents?”

For a moment I felt stupid and upset. (Like when my brother-in-law told me I should blog for him, since I sit around all day doing nothing. He, of course, doesn’t have the time, because he’s too busy at work.) No, I don’t have a traditional job. But writing is what I do, and more importantly it's what I love doing. So I smiled back at her and said, "I enjoy the flexibility it gives me. And, no, I won’t be moving in with my parents. As a matter of fact, I make more money now than I did at my last two ‘real’ jobs."

She seemed surprised to hear that.

True, I don’t work well behind a desk. I don’t work well with a boss looking over my shoulder. I don’t like the constraints of a 9-5. I love working at nights and on the weekends. I love writing in coffee shops, parks, the library and my car. I want to be able to train for the Chicago Marathon at 2 in the afternoon if that’s best for me. I enjoy the fact that on a given day I may write a business article, interview a hip hop star and blog about teen movies. While this is all a little out of the ordinary, this doesn’t mean I’m financially irresponsible. I work hard. I put in a lot of hours.

While it was nearly a two-year journey to get to this place, I’m finally off the professional-discovery bike and hopping on the perfecting-my-craft bicycle.

What do you think about Katie's journey? Have you ever experienced judgment about what you do or who you are? How did you learn to believe in yourself, to accept that your decision was the right one for you? Was there a BIKE involved in any way? Post your comments below. We'd both love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep your eyes open for the unusual

Have you ever passed a street light and, only afterwards, realized it was in, "Wow, I just ran a red light!"?

Or maybe you've found yourself reading a book, realizing after you've turned 10 pages that you can't recall a single word. So you start all over again. It's like the subconscious is filled with so many thoughts that the mind has to numb itself in order to take a break. In those moments, life may seem like a blur.

If you're in such a cycle, where you're waking up every day only to wind up doing the same old thing, following the same old routine, and living the same old life...if you feel stuck in a rut like that...perhaps you just need to open your eyes a little wider and look for the unusual.

We need to do that once in a while. We need to stimulate our senses with something new, something different or unique.

In the photo above, you may notice that's a ceramic rooster stuck in the side of a building. It wouldn't normally be there, but the owner of the country inn in Arizona where it's at thought it would be fun. She likes whimsical, and she's a wise woman who knows we need whimsical in our lives sometimes.

What about you? When you need whimsy in yours, where do you go? What do you do? Think about it for a second, and post your comments below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Write it down

It's the first piece of advice I give everyone I know who is in some kind of mental turmoil.

"Write it down," I tell them. "Get yourself a journal, a notebook or a napkin, if that's all you can afford, and get that stuff out of your head."

Write it down.

It's what I've been doing since I was a little girl. I've kept a journal since long before junior high school. I think I developed the habit in 4th grade. That was the year my teacher had us write our own life story. It was, essentially, my very first book. Not like the real one I have coming out this year, but it was a compilation of my thoughts and dreams. I still have a copy of it.

In junior high, I kept journals to deal with some tough stuff going on at home. Later, when I married the first time, my then-husband made me throw them all out. I couldn't tell you why, other than he must have felt threatened by them. I had made mention of my first boyfriend in them; I was 12, for goodness sakes. But, since that was only four years earlier, I guess, in his mind, it was a threat. Out they went. I remember telling him in tears, "Fine! You can make me throw these out, but you can't erase my memories." I was heartbroken. The written word has always been important in my world.

For a while afterward, I stopped keeping journals. I wrote poetry, instead. It's sort of the same. My poems were just shortened versions of my thoughts and fears. Since I married young--I was still in high school--I could tell him that I was doing homework. It really helped to have a way and a place to express thoughts that made me feel too vulnerable to share with anyone out loud. When I was 21, we divorced, and I resumed my journal writing habit. I felt empowered by the process, and I needed the mental escape.

That's why I suggest it to anyone I think might find this writing process beneficial, no matter the stressor. Journal writing, or journaling, as it's sometimes called, offers the writer the opportunity to build on three things:
  • your creativity.
  • your spirituality.
  • your inner wisdom.

In my view, it's another way to find your BIKE. As you write down your thoughts, you begin to develop an awareness. The words on paper challenge you to seek solutions. All you have to do is keep writing regularly and trust in the process.

I have kept travel journals, food journals, journals where I did nothing more than doodle, and diaries where I wrote about all that was wrong in my world at the time. I especially relied on my journals after my second husband died; we'd only been married 7 weeks. And when my third husband left me for his secretary, I not only rode my bike but I wrote in my journal daily to deal. Nowadays, I especially like to keep a thankful journal. That's the one where nothing goes on the page except passages that describe what I'm thankful for--I do this especially when I'm NOT feeling very grateful. Then, it's just a matter of days before my attitude relaxes. Journaling is a very healthy way to squash mental anguish.

After suggesting this coping mechanism, I'll often hear, "But I don't know how to write like that." Even writers will say this. Well, the good news is you don't have to know. There's nothing to it. It's just like in a college composition class where you learned free writing. That's all it is. Just stream of consciousness writing. Put down whatever's on your mind. It doesn't have to make sense or be in compete sentences. There are no rules, though, Julia Cameron, one of the more famous advocates of journal writing (She calls it writing in your Morning Pages.), suggests doing the exercise first thing in the morning. Still, if you're really in turmoil, I wouldn't skip it just because it's already afternoon.

If you're at all resistant, look for a journal writing class. I've seen them listed in almost every city I've ever visited. I bet you can find one near you. Check with your local community center or college.

Before you know it, you'll see things more clearly, find the solutions to your problems, and become an advocate yourself.

What do you think? Do you journal? Tell us your story. We'd love to read it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome new people into your fold

When we're in recovery, in transition, or any kind of healing mode, we often retreat from other people. Either we don't feel like being around people, or we don't want to contaminate them with a foul mood.

But this time is the best time to welcome new people into your fold, or to connect with those who want to help you succeed. It's part of growing as a human being. It means you're able to connect with others on a personal level, to know when to ask for help, and to accept what's offered to you in the spirit in which it's given.

We'll do that here this week when Katie Hinderer (pictured above),whom I've only "met" because of the Blogathon, serves as my very first guest blogger. She'll pop in on Thursday, May 21 to share with us her thoughts about what it takes to overcome the judgement that often follows the freelancer who leaves the full time job to become self-employed. People don't often take you seriously. And if you've ever felt as though you weren't taken seriously about anything in life, you'll relate to Hinderer's thoughts.

If you'd like to know more about my guest blogger, who also happens to be in the midst of writing her first book--or so I hear--please visit her at Write Beyond the Cubicle. Be sure to visit us both on May 21, when the two of us switch blogs for a day. Hinderer will be here, and I'll be at hers, with a post about how you can use my special brand of BIKE to overcome rejection. Don't we all need a lesson in that?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Savor the serendipity

Beginning today, I'll be posting a random photo of bikes I see while on the road or in the community...just for fun.

Since I keep running into them everywhere, and the photo in yesterday's post inspired me to do something more with these opportunities that keep showing up, I decided that's what I'd do. It's a little serendipity I could not ignore.

You'll see the first of the random photos below my profile on the left. My friend, Beque Allen, took the photo last night at the end of the Arizona Press Club Awards Banquet where winners for the 2008 contest were announced. We were talking to the security guard on the way out of the Walter Cronkite J-school (where the banquet took place), and I saw the police bike just standing there all by itself in front of his desk. So I asked the officer if I could borrow it. Before he could say no, I stood behind it, and Beque snapped a few shots with the camera on her phone and e-mailed me this one right away.

She's taken a few others for me that I'll be posting from time to time. I'd love to be able to post new ones regularly. If you're out and about and see a random bike, especially if it's in an unsual location, I'd love it if you sent me a copy. You can e-mail it to me: jackiedishner AT msn dot com.

If you're willing to see them, random repeat moments like these make life a little more interesting. Interesting fuels the passion, and passion, of course, is something that keeps you moving forward.

Is there some kind of serendipity you've noticed going on in your life lately? If so, post your comments here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A mid-blogathon recap

If you missed the first posts to explain what's going on this month at BIKE WITH JACKIE, let me explain. I'm involved in a blogathon with several other bloggers--all writers, most of them I know from a site called Freelance Success. You can link to the entire group of participants just by clicking on any of the blog names on the right, under the heading "May 2009 Blogathon."

This one is my fourth blogathon since I started blogging in 2007. For this event, we've upped the participation a notch, are talking a lot about it on Twitter (You can search #MayBlog2 to find out who's posting what and where.), and we're incorporating a Guest Blogger Day. That takes place May 21. Be sure to come back and support my guest blogger on that day and post comments to get some dialogue going. We love visitors at BIKE WITH JACKIE!

In the mean time, I thought I'd use today's post to recap what's going on here, specifically. First off, I decided to use a theme for the Month: Fresh Start. For that, I've chosen the month of May to share with you what I do to steer my thoughts--and actions--in the direction of what I do to get unstuck and keep the momentum of forward movement going. Even when a ride is not possible on the road. For me, the ride is always possible inside my head. I know it can be the same for you. Here's how (If you've missed these posts, or want a refresher, click on the links to read more.):
  1. When you are in healing mode, look for the beautiful things in life to guide you, to set your mind at ease.

  2. Let the unconditional love of family fuel you in your endeavors.

  3. Use artistic expression to feed your soul, motivate your creative genius, and help you you reach your goals.

  4. Stretch yourself by doing what's outside your norm; take the road less traveled.

  5. Surround yourself in nature's beauty.

  6. Look to the lighter side of life for that sense of relief from what ails you.

  7. Food fuels you, of course, but too much of it can weigh you down. Eat light and healthy.

  8. Delays in your schedule can appear to be a set back, but not if you take charge of those delays by making the necessary calls and rearranging your mindset.

  9. Be mindful and willing to embrace new opportunities, especially if they are your "pipe dreams" that arrive serendipitously.

  10. When you get stuck, it helps to help others who are in greater need.

  11. Sometimes your mind needs its own "interior" design work. Recharge it with color, texture, sound and scent.

  12. Get help when you need it. Find a partner to work with you, share with you, laugh with you, and cry with you, if that's what it takes to keep moving forward.

  13. If life gets too tough, loosen up and go find a place to play.

  14. When stress blocks your progress, take a time-out.

For the rest of the month, I'll be posting more tips like these. But if you'd like to add to this list, please do. I welcome your comments.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Know when to take break or walk away

In my line of work, frustration can kick in for various reasons. Probably in your line of work, frustration kicks in, too, on occasion. For me, it might be because I:

_accept a deadline I shouldn't have.
_take on a project, underestimating the realistic time it will take.
_cannot reach my sources.
_forget to save the 10 or so perfect paragraphs when my computer crashes or shuts down.
_get behind in sending out invoices.
_have to work late into the night to meet a deadline.
_focus too much on what I earn.
_focus too little on what I earn.
_skip exercise when in the middle of a huge project.

The list can go on and on. Truth is, there are a lot of things that can lead to frustration. The trick is knowing when to take a break or walk away. You can learn to be in charge of it, and not let it be in charge of you. If you have too much on your plate, and you feel like you have too much on your plate, then you probably do, and it might be time to let something go. Maybe you need to farm out some of the work to a co-worker or colleague you know would be able to help. Maybe you need to say no to the next job that comes across your desk. Or maybe you need to literally get up from your desk and take a walk.

It's important to pay attention to what your body needs from you, especially when you're working or living in a high-stress environment.

Realize it's perfectly acceptable to say no, to back away from an argument, or do whatever it takes for you to find peace and calm again.

If you're used to living in chaos, then chaos is probably your comfort zone, and you may not even know what calm feels like. But it's never too late to learn.

The best thing I ever did for my life was to start riding my bike. On the seat of my bike, I gave myself the opportunity to learn what it felt like to feel at ease. The exercise worked off anxiety I was feeling, and the repetitive nature of pedaling pushed my mind into a meditative state. If I was thinking about something stressing me out when I first started riding, by the time I finished my ride, my mind had left that nonsense and had moved onward to the solution and new state of calm.

I liked that feeling much better.

The next time you find yourself in a heated moment with yourself or someone else, get up and walk away. You don't have to be a parent or child to get the time out. We all need time outs. And you don't have to do it abruptly. You can quietly and calmly announce that you need to leave the room, either to yourself (Yes, I'm serious.) or to someone else. Then do it. Take a break from whatever it is that ails you (especially if it's yourself) and walk away.

If you have a bike nearby, I encourage you to get on it and ride. Ride for as long as you can, and then ride back to where you were. I know you'll feel much better. Here's someone who agrees with me.

Question of the day: Why do you think a walk or a ride can help relieve frustration? Post your comments here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Get in touch with your playful side

On a press trip last year with other travel journalists visiting Arizona, we toured the part of Route 66 that passes downtown Winslow, Ariz. That's me in the photo above, "standin' on the corner." We had such a great time. There were about eight of us, and we all got along so well. It's how I wish all press trips panned out.

But they don't, not always.

I've heard lots of horror stories on every single one I've taken. I've been fortunate enough not to run into those myself too often. Of course, I don't take many press trips. I prefer to travel on my own. But some of the stories I've heard involve writers who get so used to getting lots of freebies that they develop a certain kind of expectation. If they don't get three free meals a day, for instance, they get upset and make it known. If we're not staying in the best of the best of hotels, they complain--out loud, or indirectly to one or more of their travel partners. And one time I did wind up with a guy on a trip who couldn't get enough. The PR folks at the upscale hotel where we stayed gave us a CD to take home as a parting gift. He actually wanted and asked for the CD player in the room, too!

So, anyway, on this Arizona road trip, we started discussing and, okay, gossiping, about writers we'd heard of or seen behave with this diva-like behavior. The international travel journalists told us that the auto journalists they run into in Europe are the worst. I don't know any, so I can't speak to this. But they waxed on and on about how these writers are so spoiled and won't have much to do with other writers on trips. It sounded so ridiculous to me, because I think it's an honor to get to do what we do, to see so much, to go to so many different places on someone else's dime, to be wined and dined by the very best, to meet the chefs in person. The things a travel writer gets to do is beyond belief sometimes. And most of it, we wouldn't be able to afford on our own. It behooves us to accept it graciously, as it's offered so generously. Of course, our hosts want us to write about them. They do have that expectation on their part. But most of what they do for us is completely unneccessary. For the most part, I know I'm just seeking food and shelter so I can go explore their part of the world. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it usually is. Who am I to complain when I know one shouldn't bite the hand that feeds?

As we shared our many stories--some of them so absurd--we wound up coming up with a great idea: We should pitch a reality show starring us--the travel journalists. We thought it would work well for several reasons, but mostly because the personalities that congregate on a press trip can be quite the mix with a ton of drama! You might have your very serious journalists, you will have a diva or two, and you're certainly going to have the ones who won't stop talking. You're going to have someone who gets sick and requires special attention. You're going to have the writers who are never on time, won't be waiting in the lobby when they're supposed to, putting the whole well-planned out schedule behind schedule, making the PR people upset and in need of loud venting. You're also going to have those who monopolize the hosts' time, so you don't get to ask your own questions...and on and on and on.

Can't you just see the eye-rolling and the writers talking into the camera, complaining behind each other's backs. It could very well make good ratings.

We went on and on about this for several hours while driving in the van to our next location. We had so much fun making up the premise of the show. Of course, it might only wind up interesting to other travel journalists, so it's not likely anything commercially viable. But we had a good time fantasizing.

I like that about my work. I like that about my personality, that I'm apt to live on the playful side of life. I don't take life too seriously. I don't always "behave" like an adult. I sometimes sing where I shouldn't, talk too loud in a restaurant, and laugh harder than others in my group. I think it's one of my many quirks. And I think we should embrace our quirks.

Life's too short to forget what it's like to play. To keep moving forward, I really believe it's important to connect with your inner child.

If that's not possible for you, if you're out of touch with the playful nature inside of you, try this:

_Sing the lyrics to your favorite song backwards.
_Go for a walk, only skip the sidewalk. Instead, try walking on the curb...without falling off.
_Borrow your daughter's hula hoop and give it whirl. Do it in secret if you must, it's still just as fun.

And next time you find yourself near a sculpture that's just standin' there, hug it. Be sure to get someone to take a picture of you for posterity's sake (See photo above!).

Can you think of a creative way to get in touch with your playful side, or some ways that you already do? If so, post your examples here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Partner with others

If you're having a difficult time moving forward in your career or personal life, no matter the challenge, sometimes it's helpful to partner with others.

Recently, I met with several women authors who are either getting ready to publish or have published new books. We all are looking for advice and direction on how to market our books. So we thought it would be helpful to get together and exchange ideas. Some of us are further along than others. Some of us are just getting started.

So we agreed to meet at a wine bar, and we spent that first evening learning a lot about each other's work. We each took turns sharing what our book projects are about, and it was truly an inspiring evening. One author's book helps her readers eat and live healthier, another author's book guides readers through techniques that lead you to become your authentic self, and mine (which isn't out yet) guides you through the Backroads & Byways of Arizona (Countryman Press, Fall 2009).

Just getting together like this made us each realize that together we can do good things, and the meeting led to a connection with someone I might not have spent time with otherwise.

But we've already run into our first snag--time. I've proposed a second meeting and hope it'll occur soon, but summer schedules are taking over, and I know that's going to be another challenge to overcome. I think what will happen is our group will become slightly smaller, but I do think we'll continue meeting.

I've already discovered that one of the authors is willing to drive around the state with me to promote our books together. So if nothing more comes out of this first meeting, that did. And that's something. It also solidifies my thoughts about creating partnerships wherever possible; it sure makes those daunting tasks ahead seem a lot easier to bear. Most importantly, you are reminded you're not alone.

So partner up! Find someone to help you through the challenges that crop up both normally and not so normally. Find a group of like-minded (or not) people who are working on something similar as yourself and could use outside input. The blogathon that's taking place this month here at BIKE WITH JACKIE is another good example of partnering benefits. I've seen my page hits go up. I'm attracting new readers. And, hopefully, I'm helping some of you out there handle your own headaches. Sometimes, it takes an aspirin. But other times, it just takes a little exercise--in positive action.

Now let's hear from you. Has there been a time when you've partnered up? What happened because of it? What lessons did you learn? If you'll share your stories here, your words might help someone else, and I always appreciate the input.

And thanks to Andrea Beaulieu for sending me the photo from our first authors' meeting. Can you tell we had a great time? And look at us proudly show off our work. Sweet!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bring "interior" design into your life

If I asked you what excites you about your life, would you have a ready answer? If not, maybe you need an "interior" overhaul, a new design on life, a little updating, so to speak.

You've heard the phrase on that commercial that says, "the mind is a terrible thing to waste." It's referring, of course, to drugs. Nevertheless, the phrase rings true on another level as well. Your mind IS a terrible thing to waste; it needs to be recharged every now and then because you deserve to have a mind that is refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.

If you're not changing things up a bit in there, the space becomes stale. It loses interest.

The good news is, you don't have to hire anyone to do this job for you. To spruce up the space and create a new "interior," all you need to do is put your senses to work and go from there. Here's what I mean:

COLOR--You're naturally drawn to certain colors. Do you pay attention to that? Are you bringing those colors into your life? You can do that in the design of your home, yes, but also in the car you drive, the flowers you pick up at the market on your way home from work, and in the clothes you buy. Take a look around you. If your wardrobe or furnishings or accessories ignore your true colors, think of how and where you can incorporate them. For instance, I love blue and green, and I like to wear blue jeans and solid print shirts with those colors on them. But I really craved the color red after my divorce. I was seeking something bolder, something that expressed my break from the sadness. So I bought a red leather couch. Whenever I look at it or sit on it, I am reminded of my Inner strength. (There's that I in the BIKE.)

TEXTURE--Have you ever noticed how plants, blankets, and the clothes you wear feel a certain way? Do you like certain textures and avoid others? In the desert, plantlife is often prickly yet softened by the tiny and billowy leaves of the mesquite tree or creosote bush. It balances out the view. Owls find protection in certain plants, as do ground squirrels and rabbits. They navigate toward the prickly bush or the tall palms, depending on their natural instinct to survive the heat or predators, such as the rattlesnake or coyote. Animals rely partly on texture to protect them. You can, too. Texture can protect you from the elements as well as from boredom. You may navigate toward sillky fabrics in order to feel sexy, or rough and woolen materials to stay warm. And if you need to change things up, you may seek out something with a mixture of both, or you may need to buy a flower with an unusual shape for your dinner centerpiece. Different textures exercise your mind, allowing it to adapt to change. So look around your personal space. Do you see varied texture? Is there someplace where you can add it. For example, I like to take a stack of books and arrange them so that they are at an angle. There's no rhyme or reason, I just like how it looks. When it comes to texture and what I might need at any given moment, I let my Killer instincts be my guide.

SOUND--There are times when I seek silence and there are times when I prefer sound. I might put a CD on the player. I might open the door and listen to the birds outside. I might turn on the water fountain, or go someplace where I can hear the sound of water falling into a pool or pond. Maybe I need a trip to the ocean. I can tell when I'm not feeling my best, because I'll go for days or weeks without listening to a single piece of music. I know then that it's time for a change. Just turning on the stereo in the car on the way to a meeting can cheer me right back up. It's no coincidence that we have ears. Of course, they are there for our personal protection. But they also exist to allow us to hear nature's beauty, to experience the world in decibles, and to enjoy conversations with others. Incorporating sound into your life can not only brighten a mood, but it can activate a dull mind. If you're in need of sound, if you've been neglecting the purpose of your ears, now is a good time to investigate what you might need to do to correct that. Sound works in conjunction with your Expressive voice when it comes to determining what you need to feel complete.

SCENT--I came home from a road trip this weekend to notice my gardenia bush in full bloom. I immediately bent down to smell the lovely scent. My boyfriend told me he loves it when you pluck the white flowers and place them into a fresh bowl of water. They give off their scent for days that way. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I will this weekend. They'd look nice on my kitchen table. Not too long ago, I was working on a project that left me tied up at the office for several months. I was working so much, I had no time to experience much, if any, of the outdoors. As soon as the project was complete, I visited a Farmer's Market. While there, I gravitated toward the booth where a woman was selling her handmade soaps. I smelled each and every one. I bought half a dozen to take home and wound up giving most of them away as gifts. But now I want more. I can tell when I need to incorporate scent in my life, because I'll go exactly where I need to go to find it. If you're noticing you could add a little scent into your life, maybe it's time to buy a new bottle of perfume or experiment with bath oils. Maybe a quick walk through a rose garden will do the trick. Accepting your need for things that smell good and make you go Ummmmm is a good indication that you're ready and willing to be your Best self--the you that embraces all the gifts that you and your life have to offer.

Just as we get bored with the way our rooms at home might look (and decide to add a splash of color here, or a new carpet there, perhaps purchase new furniture to replace the dilapidated couch we've had since college), we can get bored with ourselves as well. An "interior" redesign like what I've explained here can give us new perspective, offer us that new lease on life, and just plain feed our soul.

Feeding the soul keeps us motivated, keeps us interested, shows us where to look for more. It's yet another way to continue the forward movement.

If it's time for your "interior" design, share with us here where and how you can incorporate one into your life.

And if you like what you're reading here, consider signing up for the RSS feed (E-mail sign up is on the right-hand side of this page) or adding me as a Follow on your blog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Help others meet their goals

Lend a helping hand. Sometimes, that's all it takes to get your mind off your own troubles.

After all, there's no better way to distract yourself. And, truthfully, don't we all need a little distraction every once in a while?

Remember the days after the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, or the days after the Hurricane Katrina flooded the South, or even now, as fire bursts its flames through family homes in the hills of Santa Barbara? The victims of these kinds of devastation must have something to distract them from the reality, or they wouldn't survive. Losing family in a terrorist attack or flood, losing your home? These are not tragedies easily overcome. They take time. They take faith. They take love for mankind.

As I experienced first-hand after the death of my husband in 1989, I know our minds naturally shield us initially with its numbing powers. But eventually, that numbness clears, leaving us with choices to be made. It's a miracle to have help during this time of clean up. And even if you're one of the victims, it can be a healthy thing to focus on the needs of others, even while you're dealing with your own. When chaos occurs to a community, for instance, helping others who might appear to be worse off than you can be a natural transition.

It is during devastating moments like the examples above when we are warmed by the hearts of heroes. They always seem to appear exactly when needed. These are the folks who know the benefits behind the meaning of a helping hand.

Has there ever been a time when you reached out or needed someone to do this for you? How did you respond? Did you notice that by helping others, or by others helping you, life seemed less chaotic? Perhaps you felt a sense of hope.

Hope offers the miracle cure when progress seems unlikely. It can come from within or from without. In times of need, helping others meet their goals, especially if you're having trouble meeting your own, can put you both back on the path to success.

If you have a story to share about hope, help, or heroes, please post your comment here so the rest of us can know your joy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Don't let experiences get away from you

I am unable to count the number of times I let an experience escape my reach. That's because there are too many of them, including this weekend. I took the photo above just yesterday morning at a dude ranch in Greer, Ariz. I was in search of background material I need for a story I am writing about cabin retreats. I could have experienced a trail ride had I so wished, but I didn't wish, not this weekend. I had research on the brain. I needed specific information, and a trail ride really wasn't part of it.

So I left the ranch without a single ride on a horse or even on those mountain bikes they had lined up beside the woodworking barn. Can you believe it? Me, the BIKE lady, misses a ride! Oh, of course, I made sure to take a lot of pictures of the horses and the bicycles, but I didn't ride a single one. I'm slightly disappointed with myself, because I do try to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way. But sometimes, one slips out of my hands. I let the horses walk away, so to speak.

I encourage you to be more mindful of the opportunities that open up before you.

Another good example:

On another road trip just a few days ago with my neighbor to visit other cabin properties in Sedona, and to show her the city for her first time, I watched as my neighbor approached a Navajo woman who had asked me to take a photo of her and her daughter standing in front of Bell Rock. I gladly obliged and then asked where they were from.

"The Four Corners area," the woman said.

"Did they move your house like they moved the monument?" I asked her, kidding about the recent news that said the Four Corners Monument is actually a few miles or so off of its current location. They built it on the wrong site, apparently.

The woman laughed, but once my friend (the neighbor) heard this woman say she actually lived on the Navajo Reservation, my friend moved in. We chatted with the two Navajo women for a few moments and learned the mother was a weaver and the daughter a student at Northern Arizona University, where I graduated. Then my friend stated she'd like to visit her home some time and requested the mother's address. I was shocked my friend would be so bold at first, but my friend gave her a business card (She's a dog sitter.), and I gave her mine, which shows the cover of my book on it--a photograph of Monument Valley. The woman relaxed and actually did give my friend her address, a P.O. Box number, with the caveat, "Write to me a few times, and we'll see."

The Navajo woman was smart to be cautious, I thought.

Later, in the car, I told my friend that maybe she shouldn't have asked, nor expected, a stranger to give a stranger her home address. But my friend pooh-poohed my admonition.

"I've let too many opportunities get away from me," she responded.

I realized, she had a good point. And who knows if these two women will ever hook up again. That's not really what's important. My friend saw an opportunity and did what she could to see if something might happen because of it.

We'll see what happens?

I think my friend's probably already written her first letter.

What kinds of opportunities have you let get away from you in your life? Can you name one that you think you'll still do some day? Please post a comment--especially all you mom's out there--and tell us what it is. By writing these things down, we sometimes become more willing to make sure they happen.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Don't let delays in your schedule get you down

Ha! I've been on the road all day. Didn't get a chance to post until now, and now it's after 9 p.m., and I'm ready to call it a day.

That being said (or written), I'll use my tardiness to teach a good lesson. The headline says it all: don't let delays in your schedule get you down. Even though I've been traveling, I can still meet my goal to post once a day for 30 days. I may not say much, but I'm trying to incorporate in the words a good lesson. If you don't think you can get anything done worthwhile, dig just a tad bit deeper, and you'll find something worthwhile to do that will get you that much closer to your goal.

I doubt today's post here is going to change lives much, but it might be exactly the phrase or lesson at least one of you needed. At least, I hope so. If you've been letting lack of time, for example, get in the way of your progress, push yourself just a little bit and find something to do related to that project and do it.

Is there paperwork you've been putting off for later? Is there a phone call you need to make but haven't out of some untested fear? Is there a memo that needs written, a check that needs deposited, a room that needs reorganizing? If there's anything at all that's keeping you from moving forward, simply because you got behind and have been spending your time worrying about that tardiness, promise yourself right now, right this very moment, that you'll forgive yourself the tardiness if only you pick one thing to do that is related to that project. Just one. And do it.

The delay is only a delay if you continue to make it so. Unmake it.

It can be that simple.

Have a great evening!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Don't eat too much!

To keep moving forward, try not to overeat. Overeating weighs you down. I overate. I feel too heavy to walk back to my cabin.

I'll post something more substantial tomorrow. If you have anything inconsequential to add to this post, please do.

Till then, have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Get a sense of humor!

When you're in the midst of a tough time, when life just feels like too much, it's not funny. There's generally nothing funny about it; however, just as soon as you begin to see the lighter side of your situation, that's when you know you'll make it through. That's when you can start to relax.

A sense of humor is necessary to move forward and over those rough patches. It doesn't have to be a clown act or a comedy show, but just as soon as you are strong enough, look for the funny side of life. Laughter is a great coping mechanism. But you have to be open to it. You must want to see past the pain.

It's how I've gotten through most of my trials and tribulations. I've learned not to take life too seriously, because there's already too much serious going on. I've always needed to find the balance between the heavy and the humor. It helped me get through a rough childhood, teenage parenthood, a few bad marriages, widowhood, the rejection I get from editors, and so much more. It's what I learned to do as a child to protect myself, and it became a great tool to use as an adult. I don't know what I'd do without my sense of humor and ability to crack jokes at my own expense.

So look for the lighter side of life. If your significant other dumps you for another woman, let your attitude be: "She can have him."

You about to lose your house? Hey, thank goodness the AC works in your car, right?

If your life just isn't what you thought it was supposed to be, maybe you just took the wrong fork in the road. It might be a longer way to get there, but turn around and turn right this time. As long as you're not hurting anyone else, laugh at your mistakes. Find the funny in your foibles.

And if you trip while you're sipping that glass of merlot, do what I do. Don't be embarrassed. Just tell everyone: "Oops! That was the wine walking!"

If you need help in finding your sense of humor, here a few suggestions:

_Take an improv class.

_Try laughter yoga.

_Join a Laughter Club.

_Go see a comedy show.

_Read the funnies in the Sunday newspaper.

_Sign up for a joke-writing class.

_Buy a few gag gifts at the novelty store.

If you have any other ideas, post a comment here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Surround yourself in nature's beauty

If you're trapped indoors all the time, you're missing out on the most natural way to mend the mind--nature.

Plan outdoor walks, weekend excursions (even if it means a road trip to the nearest park), or some kind of last-minute getaway. Nature offers naturally what the mind and body needs to heal itself, especially if you're talking about stress, fear or anxiety--three things that can get in the way of a person's forward movement.

The above photo, of course, is an extreme example of what I mean by getting out in nature. I took it at sunrise from the balcony of my hotel at Monument Valley in January. It's one of the majestic rock formations called a mitten. At Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona, there is no such thing as a bad view. Have you ever seen anything so peaceful?

I bet you can find something equally (enough) as lovely where you live.

Imagine what it would be like to sit on that balcony where I sat and just stare at the rock formations like these that surround your space. Maybe you're sipping a cup of hot coffee or tea. As the sun rises, you witness the many layers and colors of the sky take shape behind the stone monuments, creating a palatte of pleasure for your mind you don't want to escape. Pretty soon, that's all your mind needs. There is nothing else. It's captured your attention and won't let go. Not a bad place to be "kidnapped."

I would say I was lucky to be able to visit this magnificent place this year as part of research for my travel guide. But sights like these are exactly why I focus my work around travel. It's something I've purposely chosen so that I can incorporate nature into my life's work. I learned on those bike rides of mine that got me through my roughest times: nature is man's best medicine. At a time when my therapist kept suggesting anti-anxiety pills, I kept saying, "No, thanks. I have a bike." That's what worked best for me. I'd like to think it would be more prevalent a prescription than pills.

Even if your job, career, or business doesn't involve the outdoors, you can make time for it on the weekends or evenings just by taking walks through your neighborhood. You don't have to plan a grand experience. That's not important. What's important is that you give yourself time to just be. Time without letting stress, fear or anxiety get in the way of your thoughts is a beautiful thing. It's a rare thing for some, but it's a necessary thing for all, I think.

Some of our nation's most notable men in history attest to the benefits of the outdoors as well. David Thoreau, for instance, the author of Walden, once said he could not preserve his health and spirits unless he spent at least four hours a day in the woods, hills, and fields where he lived. But it was Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher and "father of modern medicine," who first referred to walking as man's best medicine.

If you don't think you'll be going anywhere anytime soon, there's always your backyard, or a chair by a window. Just sit and watch. Soon, you'll see the birds flying around, or you'll hear them chirping and cooing back and forth. Maybe you'll see a squirrel scurry across the lawn. Maybe you'll view an ant carry his giant crumb across the sidewalk.

If nothing else, just sit and watch.

Pretty soon, you'll see what I mean.

Do you have a meditative or healing experience with the outdoors that you'd like to share with us? If so, post your comment below and let us know what you think about surrounding yourself in nature's beauty.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take the road less traveled

You've heard the phrase, "Think outside the box. Well, try living outside the box, too, and take the road less traveled.

Be brave enough to do the unexpected, the unplanned, the unknown. The first time teaches you trust. The second time, maybe you'll learn or develop a little more patience than you had before. And the times after that lead to pure joy. Why? Because doing the unknown and trusting in your ability to lead yourself somewhere new and exciting builds confidence.

If you can get through a project without a plan, no matter what it is or whether it's been thrust upon you without real choice, that says something about your tenacity and inner strength. Of course, I'm not saying you shouldn't plan. Of course, you should have an overall plan or goal and know what steps you need to take to get there. Or figure them out soon enough! But leave room for spontaneity. Leave room to explore other paths you may not have thought about, because as you move forward on the roads less traveled, opportunities will appear before you. Be willing to embrace them, at least those that attract you in some way.

When you take the road less traveled, you stretch your boundaries and comfort zone. You give yourself extra room to grow. You experience "beyond the norm." That's exactly why I wrote my Arizona backroads book this year (You'll see it soon eough; it'll be in bookstores this fall.). I wanted to give myself permission to see what I hadn't taken the time to see before, what I was slightly afraid of doing in my earlier life. Many of the roads I literally traveled (Photo above leads to Aravaipa Canyon, southeast of Phoenix.) took me to wilderness areas, completely unfamiliar to me at the time, and inhabited only by wild living things that knew how to navigate the land I was invading. I learned to appreciate my smallness on this big earth...and my vulnerabilities.

When you reach the end and turn back, you'll emerge a different person, someone you'll admire even more.

If you've come to that point in your life where you're willing to stretch yourself, tell us how you got there? Did you experience an a-ha! moment, or some kind of awakening? If so, share your thoughts here by posting a comment.

Until then, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Art in public spaces

Public art. It's a gift, really. To be enjoyed by anyone who walks by. At no cost.

You gotta love it.

Even if you don't take the time to visit your city's art museums, you can still view art most anywhere you go these days. In Phoenix, we have the Percent for Art programs which require developers to set aside 1 percent of the cost of the project for art projects or programs. This particular photo above (featuring The Thinker multiplied in bronze) was taken at a station of the new Phoenix Light Rail, the one at McDowell Road and Central Avenue. The Light Rail project includes some kind of art, mostly sculpture, at each of the rail line stations. I think it's a great idea.

When my friend and I visited this particular one on a recent ride on the Light Rail, the art only enhanced the experience for us. It gave us something to think about, literally, while en route. It fed our creative souls. And it encouraged us to want to return to see more of the art. That's a pretty good motivating force at work, don't you think?

Does your hometown offer places where you can admire public works of art? Do you ever visit these sites?

How can art fuel you as you work toward your personal and professional goals? Here are a few things to consider:

_The purpose of artistic creation is to generate discussion. You may not agree or even like what you see, read or hear, but the dialogue that you may have with others who experience it with you will help you come to know yourself better.

_Spending time in artistic environments encourages creative expression from within. If you're ever feeling less than productive, schedule some time with a favorite craft, go to a play or movie, or find some other creative pursuit to enjoy, and I bet you'll soon find yourself reconnecting to new ideas that seemed blocked before. It just makes sense that spending time around art or artful things will activate the left brain function--the creative side.

_Exploring different ways to experience everyday life naturally feeds your soul. It may not be a spiritual thing, or it may. But surely you'll find yourself looking for answers to questions you didn't have before. For instance, why did the artist multiply The Thinker? Was it just to fill the space? Have I ever done something just to fill the space? How did that make me feel?

In my work as a travel journalist, I am lucky to be able to surround myself with something new to explore on a regular basis. For me, it's knowing what to do with the down time that is the problem. I'll explore ways I've done down time successfully in a future post this month.

Meanwhile, share your thoughts. Do you see art as something that feeds your soul, motivates your creative genius, or otherwise helps you reach your goals? Can you describe how this has happened for you in the past? Post your comments here so we can start our own dialogue.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The family that stays together...

This is my family: my son on the left, his new baby in the middle (my first grandchild, born at the end of January), and my daughter (baby's auntie). My two children, pictured above, have fueled my energy since they were born.

Without them, I think my purpose in life might have gotten lost. With them, I have a clear purpose--If nothing else, I am modeling behavior that makes a difference to them. I never lose sight of the fact that they are watching. Even as adults, they continue to watch and learn from me. My son now gets to experience this miraculous motivation with his baby girl. Talk about a fresh start!

Do you remember the birth of your children? From that moment on, every new action offered a fresh start, a new something. Whether it was that first homecoming, the first time you noticed the color of your baby's eyes, the first tooth. Each of these milestones meant a new beginning, a new discovery, the promise of more to come.

My children and I have experienced so much together--not all of it involved happy times. Since I've been married three times but am no longer (divorced twice, widowed once), they've lost two dads in their lifetime and struggle with how to continue a relationship with the third. The three of us--my two kids and I--have stuck together through it all. We know who will be there when it really matters. We can bank on that. Every time one of us experiences our own fresh starts in life, difficult or not, we know who to call and share the news. We know who will be there on the other end of the line and what we can expect to receive--even if it'll be painful to hear.

That unconditional love can fuel you, move you forward, keep you focused.

It does me. What about you?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fresh start

Yesterday, I officially began participating in a blogathon. Should be a fun-filled month ahead, with lots of links and back and forth commenting. At least I hope it works out that way.

Today, I chose the above picture to post because I just returned from New York, where the tulips are blooming all over the city. I found these in Central Park. I took several shots, but this one was my favorite. Since I'm not feeling well (I returned home with a head cold. Not swine flu. No worries there.), I thought it would be nice to give myself--and you--some flowers and the promise of a fresh start. Don't know about you, but I feel better already. ;-)

At BIKE WITH JACKIE this month, during the blogathon, we'll focus on a theme--the fresh start.

I find when I am in healing mode (whether that's from a cold, a personal upset, or other unfortunate circumstance) I look for the beautiful things in life, tulips, for instance. What about you? When you're down or feeling lousy--no matter what the cause--are you able to look for, see, and focus on things that can set your mind at ease?

For the next 30 days or so, I'll share with you what I do to steer my thoughts in the direction of what I do to keep the momentum of forward movement going, even when a ride is not possible on the road. For me, the ride is always possible inside my head. It can be the same with you as well.

So, we'll start with tulips. Then, each day I'll post a new picture and comment on things that keep me going or things that help me stay focused on where I'm going. Maybe it'll help feed the creative juices inside of you, so that you can do the same for yourself for whatever your goals might be.

At BIKE WITH JACKIE, we focus on living life with purpose, making conscious choices, and moving toward that which feeds the soul. Flowers in a garden can feed the soul. We'll start there. Tomorrow, please come back to see what else.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Join us in the fun--It's Another May Blogathon!

The fun begins today!

Online friend and fellow freelancer Michelle Rafter has initiated the second annual Freelance Success Blogathon. (She calls it the WordCount Blogathon, as that's the name of her blog, and she's the founder. I refer to it after the site where all the writers congregate, and where it all began. At any rate, for the next month, those of us who belong to this professional writers' site we lovingly refer to as FLX will be blogging daily, or at least be making the attempt to do so. And since I've been in limbo for the past month, it's perfect timing for me to get back on track here at BIKE WITH JACKIE. I've been having way too much fun as @bikelady on Twitter.

According to Michelle's list, we have about 29 people participating (I think there are more.), including some non-FLX freelancers who signed up through WordCount. She says there's always room for more. If you care to join us, let me know, and I'll pass your name, your blog's name, and the URL along to the rest of the gang.

If there any typos, we'll try to correct them as we move forward. Michelle did her best to compile the list. And note: This is my first official post for the May Blogathon.

Here's how it works, as I recall. Each one of us on the list below posts the names and URL's of our blogs on each site. Then we attempt to blog every day during the month of May. During this time, we also attempt to visit each other's blogs, read the posts, and post comments. If you join us, you'll likely get pulled into the energy.

With bloggers who write about anything and everything (good/bad parenting, recipes with yummy pictures, writing about writing, books that travelers read, self-help and spiritually empowering topics, creativity and crafts, etc.), it should be a fun month. Be sure to check in, visit the other blogs below, and tell me what you think.

Here's who will be joining us:

Vera Marie Badertscher - Travelers Library - Books and movies that influence travel.
Heather Boerner - Serenity for the Self Employed - Advice for the self-employed among us.
Jane Boursaw - Film Gecko - May Movie Madness and other film-related stuff.
Danielle Buffardi - Horrible Sanity - Random thoughts of a mother and freelance writer.
Sona Charaipotra - Sona Charaipotra on Entertainment and Travel and Food.
Rosie Colombraro - Trust the Universe - There is always a Plan B.
Sue Dickman - Life Divided - Food, gardening, travel, books and more.
Jackie Dishner - BIKE WITH JACKIE - Improve life with BIKE, the spiritual navigation tool.
Kelly Estes - Big Government in Your Wallet - A political blog
Jennifer L.W. Fink - 'Bout Boys - With 4 boys between 11 and 3, this writer knows her subject.
Sydne George - I'll Have What She's Cooking - Good eats.
Debra Gordon- Wine on Tuesdays - About wine and the drinking thereof.
Nancy Hall - Floating Ink - How to fit making art into your every day life.
Heather Holliday - Zazou Marketing - Putting your best words forward.
Elizabeth Humphrey - The Write Elizabeth - Introducing creativity into daily life.
Leah Ingram - Suddenly Frugal - Tips for living well frugally.
JoAnn Jagroop - This Dame Cooks - Recipes from Alaska to the South Pacific.
Lisa Mann - Sonoma on the Cheap - One of a series of "On the Cheap" travel blogs.
Amy Rauch Neilson - Amy on Amy - She launches officially this month.
Jennifer Netherby - Jennifer's Writing Blog - Musings of a freelance writer.
Sarah E. Ludwig - Parenting by Trial and Error - A real parent's blog about parenting.
Kate Reilly - Polka Dot Suitcase - Finding fun in everyday life.
Melissa Sais - Digital Mom - Raising kids in a digital world.
Brette Sember - Martha and Me - One Martha Stewart makeover every day.
Jodi Torpey - Western Gardeners - Jodi's gardening blog.
Sarah Webb - Webb of Science - Where science meets life.
Kathy Summers - Eco Pregnancy and Baby and Health Writing Hints.
Joy Manning - What I Weigh Today - A weight loss success blog.
Michelle Rafter - WordCount - A really helpful writer's blog.

Till tomorrow, happy blogging, everyone!