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, December 30, 2011

Day 19: Making promises

Meditation site in Hereford, Arizona

As a new year approaches, it is common to hear people begin to discuss New Year's Resolutions. They might talk about goal-setting and renewal. Change suddenly becomes important. But resolutions are often forgotten, goals go unmet, and renewal can happen any time. So I'm turning my attention, instead, to promises, vowing that I will accomplish certain things.

I have several that I've been meditating on during my walks. I give myself the entire year (not just the first few months of it) to work on these vows. In fact, I will work on them indefinitely.

They are as follows:

_I deserve to feel whole and complete, so I promise to be aware of and work to alleviate any sense of emptiness I might feel toward myself.

_I promise to continue to overcome my fears. When they show up, I will acknowledge them, address them, and attack them with courage.

_I am aware that I sometimes feel worry, guilt and regret. I promise to release those ineffective--and sometimes manipulative--feelings. They serve no purpose but to block progress.

_I will work to free myself of past pain. If I need to work through it, I promise to do that first.

_I promise to allow myself to feel lovable, loving and loved.

_I will accept others the way they are, especially when I find myself wanting them to be like me.

_I will see myself as an equal partner with others in my life. I promise I won't feel less than or more than anyone or anything.

_I will trust those who are trustworthy.

_I promise to work to maintain healthy and loving relationships, and I will become aware of relationships that are otherwise, in case I need to remove myself from them.

_I promise to rely only on me and my God for my sense of self-worth.

_I promise to believe in my capabilities and act accordingly.

_I promise to assess my values so that I am better able to access them for healthier decision-making.

_I promise to pray daily for the trust and guidance that comes from my God.

_I promise to continue working toward serenity, strength and spiritual growth.

In lieu of resolutions for 2012, what promises would you make to yourself? 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 18: Learning from others

Rock cairns on Peak's Island, Maine

A curated list of five stories/articles that teach a lesson. What you learn is up to you:

Winter Solstice Reminds a Hopi Artist of the Cycle of Life
Question for you: What would you do if this happened to you?

The Science of Sarcasm? Yeah, Right
Question for you: How often--and with whom--do you use sarcasm?

The Unemployed Elderly
Question for you: Did you think the essayist was going to offer George a job? 

What Wasn't Passed On
Question for you: How would you feel if you found out at your father's funeral that you'd been disinherited?

Balancing Rocks
Question for you: Have you ever asked too many questions, so many that it removed the mystery that led you to ask the questions in the first place?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 17: Feeling good

It's Day 17 of Quinn McDonald's writing/walking meditation project. We're well more than halfway through this exercise. If the holidays hadn't gotten in the way, I think I'd be feeling better. I must admit, though, that I indulged this holiday season. I mean I really indulged. This exercise came at a time when I was already in need of comfort, and I let myself indulge and indulge some more. If there was food to eat, goodies to grab, drinks to imbibe, I did it. I ate the whole bag of chocolate-covered popcorn. I made the Rice Krispie Treats and ate them, too. I drank the margaritas, the wine (both the red and white) and even tried the other cocktails. I ordered the meat AND the mashed potatoes. Chips? Eaten.

I took part in all the goodness. And I enjoyed all the company I got to be around as well.

But I'm starting to feel the effects of this indulgence, and that's not so good. My waistline, for one, which had been shrinking, has gotten a little bigger. I also feel more than a bit sluggish. So on my walk this morning, I knew what I had to do. I ran.

Walking alone just wasn't going to cut it. Instinctively, I knew I'd have to mix it up if I was going to relieve myself of the not-so-good feelings. When I stepped outside into the cool air this morning, a scarf around my neck, gloves on my hands, sweats everywhere else, I walked a few blocks, then ran a few blocks, walked a few, ran a few, walked, ran...until I had spent my entire hour outdoors with this back and forth activity.

And it felt good. I feel good...more energized...a bit lighter...ready to start the day. In order to reach a goal that I let slip this holiday season, I'll need to continue this walk-run pattern for a while. But I'm looking forward to having the endorphins kick in and giving me back my bounce. I know it will be worth the extra effort.

Does this resonate with you in any way? Can you remember a time that you recognized you needed to kick something up a notch in order to create the change you desired? What happened? Did it work?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 16: Striving for balance

I've been reading an interesting biography, Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, written by a friend of mine, Vera Marie Badertscher of Tucson, with her college buddy Charnell Havens of Ohio. For this book, which totals more than 12 years of research between the two of them, they had to discern how to work on the project from two different states. They both had to have or develop similar passion for the project--enough to keep it going till the book was sold and then published. They had to decide who would be responsible for what part of the project. In essence, they had to find balance, or what the Navajo refer to as hózhó. It's something I've been thinking a lot about since I began reading the book a few days ago.

I'm learning about an artist I'd never heard of before, a man with a fascinating life. But it doesn't last long. He dies an early death from alcoholism. It's a sad story, one filled with many losses before his death. Adopted by a relative as a toddler, the artist grows up searching for a place to belong. I think he has it all along in his art, but his search is not an uncommon one. To me, his story acts as a reminder that we can search all we want, but some things are just not in our control. We must learn to adapt and to accept things as they are. Not that it's easy...but that might be the closest you can get to finding or striving for balance. Acceptance might have to be enough.

So it makes me wonder if this thing called hózhó really exists? Can we get yin when we have too much yang, and vice versa? I have to believe that we can. But I also believe that it might actually exist when we stop looking for it. I think it might be right in front of us already.

When we're indulging too heavily, working too much, trying too hard, we can be sure we don't have it then. It's clear hózhó does not exist in those moments. We can feel the unsteadiness. We can feel the anxiety. We can feel the stress in our stomachs or head or wherever else we're hurting. But doesn't that mean that we should be able to step back and slow down? These are the things we can balance, that we have choices about, that we can take charge of. We cannot determine what other people will or will not do for us. We cannot determine how others will react toward us. We cannot take control of anything that is not ours to control. So it seems to me that the minute we realize that is the minute we get closer to finding balance, because it actually finds us.

We may not achieve it today, but it's something we can achieve.

Agree or disagree? Write your comments below.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 15: Slacking off

Oops! Probably noticed that I missed posting two days straight. Yep.. I took two days off before I even realized I'd done it. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day = No posts!

I wrote about this in my journal this morning, about how I don't even feel guilty about it. I wasn't rationalizing. It really is okay to slack off every now and then. Our minds need the time off. Our bodies need the break. And our spirit can stand a vacation from "work." So if you've been slacking off lately from whatever work you do, remember that it can stand to wait a few days--especially when we're talking about the holidays. They are called that for good reason.

Enjoy your time off. You deserve it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 13: Heading out

For those of you who are heading out today, or if you're already on the road or en route to your holiday gathering place, I wish you safe travels.

Bon voyage!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 12: Winding down...for the Holidays

If only this were scratch 'n sniff...

You'd smell chocolate covered kisses, mouth-watering peanut butter cups, minty flavors, and bubble gum--it's all there in baskets waiting to be taken to Christmas parties.

I can't wait!

Hope your Holiday plans are winding down and that you're ready to relax with your loved ones this weekend.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 11: Delighting in moments

Say, "Ah."

Now, extend the sound, "Ahhhhhhhhh."

That's how I'm feeling today, now that my computer's back up and running right--at home--that my phone is working again, that the wires in house have been re-wired. And, that I learned that even if they shorted out, there is not enough voltage in telephone wires to start a house fire. Thank goodness for that, because I had no idea the wires were in such bad shape.

So, today, I am feeling much relief. To celebrate, I went to Starbucks. Not because I had to this time, but because I wanted to this time. I'm thinking the company should put me on retainer as an avid promoter.

Seriously, it does feel good to make a choice rather than be forced into one, so I'm delighting in the moment right now.

Do you have a reason--other than the holiday season--to delight in the moment? Is there something that you are particularly grateful for today? If so, say, "Ahhhhhhhhh." Take it all in, and breathe. Relish the moment. Let it feel good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 10: OMG!

Found out my phone wiring needed redone. Not just in the office, but everywhere! Ack! That's why my phone/internet was behaving so sporadically these past few months finally failed this week. Spent all morning helping the phone company employees locate phone jacks and listening to the fix-it noises. Decided to sort papers in my office to pass the time and feel somewhat productive.

Did not get a walk in. Wrote exactly one page in my journal. There was no meditation.

BUT I did manage to get in an interview before the repairmen arrived. That was my day. OMG! Glad that's over. I am now going to dream about being anywhere but here...The Grand Canyon sounds good right about now...And this is the end of my post. I hope your day is GRAND!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 9: Finding focus

My internet is acting strange lately. Some days it's working. Some days not. I get it fixed, then it rains, and I'm back to the drawing board. It's frustrating beyond belief as I'm trying to figure out when and where I'll be able to get my work done. Trust me, you cannot conduct a good interview at Starbucks when they turn on the espresso machine. The loud hum is, well, loud. And cell phones seem to catch all that background noise and turn it into something worse than that "chalk on a blackboard" sound. You can't exactly yell across the room, while sitting in their chairs, using--for free--their internet, "Hey, could you wait a second? I'm on an important phone call over here!"

Because of computer issues, I've experienced moments this past month or more when I just wanted to cry, shut my business down, and be done with it. 

Yeah, well, that's not really an option. So I go back to Starbucks or look for other places where WiFi is available and try to get some work done there. It's not happening here at my house, at least I'm not sure for how long. Right now, it looks like I might get a blog post in before the system kicks off. I don't know. I've been watching my "Incoming Messages" try to come in for quite some time now. But the lights on my modem are all on. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. But who knows?

I do know I'm having a hard time finding focus under these circumstances.

Challenges will do that to you, won't they?

I thought about all of this on my walk today. And then I got the great idea to run downhill. I walked up the hill, then ran back down. I did that three or four times to work off some of this computer-induced stress. And it worked. My computer's not fixed, but I feel less stressed.

I'm getting ready to make the call to my provider again. This time, I have some inkling of what might be causing the problem so will ask about that.

I also ate a healthy and heart breakfast this morning. With my coffee, I had oatmeal. It feels good to be able to take care of myself in this way. And it'll help me find the focus--and the fortitude--necessary to make this call I've been avoiding. It's no wonder! Since I made the same call last week. I didn't expect to be right back to square one then.

So wish me luck.

And if you're ever having trouble finding focus, let me know what tricks you have up your sleeve to reclaim it. I might need a few more tips if this keeps up.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 8: Noticing nature

During my meditation walk this morning, I made it a point to pay attention. I did not want to think the thoughts in my head. I didn't want to focus on a deadline and how on earth I was going to make it. I didn't want to consider the clutter that I continue to ignore on my desk.

I just wanted to notice nature!

I wanted my walk to be peaceful this morning and knew it would be if I could shut everything else out. So that's what I did.

As I locked the front door to my house behind me, I made it my intention to walk through my neighborhood with purpose--to notice the sky, the mountains, the flowers, the Christmas decorations. I wanted to see it all. I wanted to live in the moment.

Best decision I've made in a long time!

Rather than thinking about what's bugging me, which is what we've been writing about in our journals during this creativity exercise, I wanted to enjoy my existence. Thinking about what's bugging me isn't enjoyable. It might be productive on one level, but it's definitely not enjoyable. And I've been struggling with the whole idea. I prefer to write about what fuels me, or inspires me, or what I'm thankful for at any given moment. Focusing on what's bugging me and the feelings attached to that seems to be keeping me in a buggish mood. I'm wondering if this could be more about my aging process than it is about the journal, but I'm feeling a lot of resistance. I'm paying attention to that as well, but that doesn't keep me from wanting a break from the negativity. It is the Christmas season, after all, and I've been having a terrible time tuning into the spirit of the holidays. I would go so far as to say my attitude has been a bit Scrooge-like. Ba-humbug, you know?

So I decided I needed a break and took it. I made it my intention to notice the beauty of the outdoors on my walk this morning, and that really cured what ailed me. That doesn't mean I'm now worry-free, but it did help me slip out of the negativity.

As I walked, I saw the sky and how its multi-color, early morning blend offered a layered view of blue, white and pink. Maybe there was some orange in there, too. Atop the surrounding mountains sat a hazy glow of white clouds. I would catch glimpses of that when I turned certain corners on my path.

I pushed myself up a hillside to get a closer look.

I noticed the various ways my neighbors landscape their yards and where they place their patio chairs behind their stuccoed walls. I know who uses the high top tables and who uses a chair as a plant stand. I also enjoyed seeing how the walkways were brick-lined and with what materials: red brick, flagstone, saltillo tile. 

Then there were the Christmas decorations. Unlit in the daylight, they still convey the color and character of the holidays. Christmas tree sculptures with pretend presents underneath, huge green door wreaths, strands of lights (big colored bulbs, dangling icicles, the tiny traditional kind) strung around bushes and trees or along the walls and home elevations. I also saw the trendy blow up Snow Man and Santa Clause, still filled with air.

It all put a lighter step in my walk.

By the time I arrived home, I had finally gained that holiday spirit and immediately set to work wrapping the first Christmas presents I'd bought for the year.

My walk was a good one today. I did it with purpose. And I'm pleased it shifted my attitude.

When you're noticing your attitude can use an adjustment, what kind of action do you take? Would a nature walk with intention to notice what's on your path work for you?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 7: Making choices

Have you ever arrived at the crossroad where you have multiple choices but don't know which to pick?

Here we are, Day 7 of Quinn McDonald's 30-day deep journal writing/walking meditation, and I feel like I'm at that crossroad. The one decision I've made for sure is to complete this 30-day creativity practice. It feels good to have made that decision. It's a start. And it was the most comfortable for me. But then there are the myriad other decisions to make, and I'm lost in the road map. I'm not sure if I should go left or right, head north or south. Stay where I am? The lines are blurry. The creases are too deep to tell which is which or what is what. And I'm feeling like I'm headed for a tunnel with no where else to turn.

Wach out. I'm going in!

If that sounds scary, rest assured, it is.

On my walk this morning, which was brisk and somewhat short at less than three miles, I did not come to any conclusions. In fact, my indecisiveness was only made more clear.

_I have an office to clean up but am unsure where to begin. So I stall.

_My internet connection keeps disconnecting, and I'm wondering if I need to change providers. But I'll call the current provider tomorrow and get the quick fix, leaving the real decision for another date and time. Odds are, I'll be back here (at Starbucks again) before the year ends.

_I am unclear as to which groups I need to renew memberships with and which I don't. But I definitely know I need to cut back.

I just don't know. And these are the easy challenges.

It's as if I'm operating on a high-speed chase of feelings after facts. Or is it the other way around? Regardless, it's confusing and loud in my head.

Remember last week's post about vulnerability. Well, here's some of mine. It's ugly. It's raw. But it's the truth, and this short list is only part of it--a small part of it. There is much more to decide.

I have called myself an expert at overcoming life's obstacles, and I still think that, but right now, I'm befuddled. I'm stuck. So my crossroad is really more like a roadblock. And what I know about roadblocks is that they take more than one person to repair. So that's why I'm posting this today. I need your help.

When you've reached this kind of turning point, how did you respond? What did you do that pushed you past your own indecisiveness. I know I don't have all the answers, and sometimes I don't have any of them. So your tips and advice will be greatly appreciated, and hopefully used. If so, I'll report back in a future post. Thank you! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 6: Believing in YOU

"I am enough."

It's a line I heard on a video my therapist suggested I listen to after I went to see her recently. I'd been feeling so down following the publication of my essay that ran in Ms. Magazine last month, and I couldn't shake it off. After we talked, she gave me some homework to do, and also the above link to listen to Brene Brown's talk on vulnerability. She wouldn't say anything more about the video than that I should listen to it, that it lightens her mood when she does. So I went home and listened to it.

That first time, the only thing I heard from it was this one line:

"I am enough."

And that was enough for me then. 

It was exactly the phrase I needed to hear at that time. "I am enough." I needed to relearn this line. I wasn't taught this as a young girl. I've had to teach it to myself, and sometimes I misplace my ability to believe in myself. It's not a good loss to experience. In fact, it's downright awful. And, unfortunately, some of that sadness that I took with me to my therapist's office is still holding on.

That led me to go over some of the other lies I've been telling myself that would suggest I'm anything but enough. (If you read the Ms. Magazine essay you'll know what I'm talking about when I refer to the lies we tell ourselves--they come from the past. I'm reading a book right now that promises to teach me how to recast those lies, or those memories.), and I realized it's time for affirmation.

I need to remind myself that, although I may be making mistakes in my life, I am not one big bag of mistakes myself. I can learn from where I've messed up. I can stop messing up. And I can move forward. But not without believing in myself first.

So I listened again to Brene Brown's TED talk. This time, I heard more of what I needed to hear, and I realized I'm actually doing okay. I am actually enough. I am worthy of love and connection. I already have it in my relationships with my children and my boyfriend. I do, indeed, have love and connection with others. Amen! If you've ever felt otherwise, even for a little bit, you'll know why that gets bold praise.

And in Brown's presentation about vulnerability, she gets to the heart of the matter. Literally. She says that the thought that you are not enough comes from shame. You fear that others will not like you if they really knew who you were. You fear to let others in. You fear to let others see your flaws. So you put on a show for them. You pretend you are something you are not because you hope they'll like you better that way.

Nuh-uh. Brown says that's not the way it works and goes on to say something I found quite interesting:
"The only people who cannot experience shame are those people who have no capacity for human empathy or connection." 
Brown's own research taught her that the people who exhibit a strong sense of love and belonging are the people who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. She calls these people, who she says exhibit a sense of courage, "wholehearted." They are the people who are willing to tell the story of who they are with their whole heart. They are okay with being imperfect. They are compassionate, first to themselves, so they can be kind to others. And they embrace their vulnerability, seeing it as a necessary part of life, making them able to be the first to say, "I love you," even when there is no return guarantee. They take the chance, because they believe they are worthy of it.

If you want to live from a place that says, "I am enough," if you want to become a kinder and gentler person to yourself and others, here is how Brown says you can do it:
  • Let yourself be seen. 
  • Be vulnerable. 
  • Love with your whole heart, even without guarantee. 
  • Practice gratitude and joy, even in moments of terror.
  • Believe that you are enough.
Of the five steps, which do you find the most difficult and why?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 5: Praying time

Light a candle.

Focus on a sunrise or the sunset.

Gather a few helping hands.

Direct your attention to that lone seagull in the sky.

And pray.

Ask for guidance, pray for peace, make requests for your friends and family who are hurting or in need. No matter what, take time today to say your prayers. Some days, it's the only thing you have, and it will be more than enough.

"Lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5) 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 4: Letting go

Sortie. It's French for "exit"--as in the exit sign on a door. It also makes me think of goodbyes or letting go of things. In my journal today, I wrote about the things I need to let go of. Seems fitting as the year comes to a close. I have a list:
  • Bad memories
  • Things that are not in my control
  • Relationships gone sour
  • Negative thoughts
  • 2011 earnings, which weren't that great
Let it go. All of it. Start over. I'm the queen of do-overs, after all. And every year, it seems I can start fresh so if yesterday didn't affect me at all.

And yet, I believe the past isn't necessarily meant to be let go of completely. We still have lessons to learn from the past. In fact, I'm reading about this very same thing in a book called The Power of Your Past: The Art of Recalling Reclaiming and Recasting by John P. Schuster, who writes, "When we recall our memories with curiosity, we can think in new ways about them, and can begin to dismantle our habituated views of who we are and aren't, resetting the specifications of our lives."

In fact, Schuster goes on to write that without intimate knowledge (and appreciation, I think) of our core selves, we cannot create our life's core work. This is exactly what I've come to learn from the B.I.K.E. I think I've found a kindred spirit in this leadership coach and will continue to look for that balance of what can take its place at the sortie and what I will continue to embrace for its value yet to be revealed.

What are your thoughts about letting go?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 3: Chasing laughter

I was thinking about what makes me laugh when I woke up this morning, and that's what appeared on my journal pages today. I know I'm supposed to be writing about what's bugging me and the accompanying feelings associated with what's bugging me for this 30-day exercise, but at the moment I sat down to write, I wasn't feeling bugged. I was thinking about laughter.

Chasing laughter. It's what I do. It's how I connect with other people more often than not. It's how I learned to deal with difficult moments.

The picture above is a great example of that, and of someone understanding this need of mine. The BF above and I were having breakfast. He was late. I was stressed about waiting. He hadn't warned me that he'd be later than usual, and I could have made other plans. So I was kind of upset when he called. We agreed to meet at a cafe somewhere in the middle of our separate destinations to save time. I wasn't 100 percent happy about it. It doesn't matter why. It's just what it was.

So we arrive at around the same time, get a table and order. As we're sitting there eating our breakfast meal, which, by this time, had turned into lunch, he did something that surprised me. He stuck his orange slice in his mouth and smiled. He sat there staring at me, waiting for me to notice. When I finally did, I couldn't help but laugh at his spontaneity.This is not a guy who would generally do this. He can surprise you. And this time, his out-of-character silliness broke an awkward silence and reminded me what a good guy he is, despite his sometime tardiness and inconvenient scheduling that does seem to revolve around his life more often than mine (I confess total bias here. I'm allowed. It's my story.).

In my desire to elongate the moment, I told him not to move so I could take a picture. Then I told him to do it again so I could be sure I got a good picture. Good guy that he is, he complied with my requests, and I got this photo above. I've been thinking about how to use this photo for a few weeks now, and here it is. I get to share it with you. I get to share the laughter. Like I said, it's how I like to connect with people. Laughter, as you know, is good medicine for what ails you. So I may have been bugged at the moment when this silliness occurred. But I'm not bugged now. And I'm glad to have the photo to prove it.

Can you recall a recent moment of unexpected silliness that occurred in your life? What happened? Did it break an awkward silence? Did you laugh out loud? Tell us about it here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 2: Making connections

I wrote about connection in my journal today. It's something I think I've had a difficult time cultivating in my life. It takes active pursuit to make connections with others. It takes time and purpose. It takes an openness and a willingness to be vulnerable. Sometimes, a connection doesn't occur. If you're lucky, it does.

Today. Nothing. My computer connection, that is. So I'm typing this from Starbucks. Ugh! Connections ARE complicated. Ha!

Seriously, on my walk this morning--in the semi-rain--I ran across only one person. He had a dog with him. I said hello. He said hello back. And that was it. I made a comment about his dog, and he mumbled something about hurrying back to get out of the rain. No connection there, either.

But I am honored any time I make a connection with the women who enter my life, as did Irene Levine, pictured with me above. We met by chance, but it took active pursuit for that chance encounter to gain any meaning. Prior to meeting in person, we'd been connecting via an online group we had both been participating in for years. Then one day she contacted me via email to let me know she'd be in my town for a conference with her husband Jerry. She asked if her and I could meet in person. I was thrilled to be asked, and we both made it happen. We were instant friends. Why? I'm not sure. There was just something that clicked. You can't force that. You certainly don't want to beg for it. You can't will it to be so. It sometimes just is, and that connection has been worth pursuing further. I'm all smiles (as you can see) whenever I get the opportunity to see her in person. The photo above was taken in Quebec City. And I admire Irene so much. She radiates an authenticity that I trust and believe in. She symbolizes the word "connection" for me.

When I think about an overall meaning, I can chart a list of words I find synonymous: 

_Someone to talk to
_Someone who you know thinks about you for specific reasons
_A place of trust
_No fear
_A hand to hold
_A body to hug
_Smiles and laughter
_Meaningful dialogue
_Safe haven
_Food to enjoy together
_Confidences to share

What words come to mind when you think of what it means to connect with another human being? Have you ever experienced a time when you lost that connection? What happened? How did you recover?

Day 1: Releasing energy

I'm not sure why I posted this picture for today's post, my Day 1 post for this 30-day "back to creativity" project. But there it is.

Most likely it's because the scene is all gray and gloomy looking, and part of the process here is to get in touch with feelings. On the day I rode my bike around this island on the coast of Maine, it was raining, just like it is here in Phoenix today. So I won't be doing the walking or riding meditative part of this process today. That makes me feel gloomy.

But I can still play a part in the process and do the best I can do, under the circumstances. So I did do the writing. I just wrote in my journal for 15 minutes. I wrote about the energy involved in recent feelings I had about a past conflict I needed to deal with. Dealing with that conflict led to a huge release of energy. And this photo above makes me think of a release of energy. I'm guessing it's the rock cairns that leads me to that thought.

I couldn't tell you why the people who stacked the cairns there like this did it. There were tons of them. I don't have the answer for how or why they got there, but I'm guessing the people who did this were also experiencing some kind of conflict. Perhaps there was some meditation involved, maybe some writing afterward, some contemplation. Whatever happened here involved a release of energy. So I think I came to this photo serendipitously this afternoon. Has that ever happened to you? You didn't know why something appears in front of you, but you accept it, use it, and move on? That's how I feel now. I feel a release of energy that I know will allow me to move on.

If you've had a similar experience recently, a release of energy, a serendipitous moment that led to it, share you story here with a comment. Otherwise, tell me what the photograph above says to you.
MORE DISCIPLINE: Speaking of "if I so choose," I dream of being more disciplined at certain things I do in life. I can choose that...

That's what I wrote in yesterday's post. I dream of having more discipline.

So, today, I embark on a new goal to achieve what showed up as #8 on my list of the 10 things I dream about regularly. I'm joining Quinn McDonald in her 30-Day adventure to practice creativity. A group of bloggers and others who read Quinn's blog plan to spend the next 30 days taking part in daily walks (I'm riding) followed by daily journal writing (on our own) to unleash the emotions that could be blocking creativity. 

She says both of those practices help nurture spirituality, work on karma debts, and hatch the beginning of creative ideas. Along the way, you get to "explore the rough ledges of forgiveness and healing."

Walking provides for her the time to meditate and focus on positive messaging. I prefer this movement come from my bike rides, so I'll be doing that instead, if the weather allows.

The "deep writing" she next prescribes must be done in long-hand (pick a journal specific for the process) for 15 minutes every day at the same time of day. I prefer morning. Get comfortable, she says, and start writing what's worrying you, bothering you, upsetting you, causing you discomfort or stress. Include both the facts and the feelings attached. Connect with all the senses. What does your stress or angst look like, smell like, feel like? Does it have a taste? According to the research she's Quinn has read, this process helps connect the right brain with the left brain and may lead to solutions for the challenges written on the page.

It sounds like an important process for me to take part in at the moment, so that's what my posts will focus on for the next 30 days. Join in if you like. And watch for my first post to appear here later in the day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

10 Things I Dream About Regularly

What's life if not injected with dreams? Dreams are the stuff that hope is made of. Dreams inspire us to work harder to achieve a goal. Dreams put smiles on our faces. If you listed out the first ten dreams that entered your mind, what would they be? How would they relate to your true self and how you are living it today? If there is a disconnect, what can you do about it?

Here is a list of my recurring dreams and how they relate to my current state of being:

1) BICYCLE RIDES: I'm a fan of the bike ride. I'll take a bike anywhere I can. I'll ride around islands. I'll ride solo--or with friends. I'll take a trail to some place I've never been. I'll ride fast. I'll slow down. There's just something about the ride that feeds my soul. In the photo above, I had ridden about a quarter of the way around Peaks Island off Portland, Maine and had stopped when I spotted a park bench beside the yacht club. I rode the bike up the road and watched the view in front of me for about a half hour before moving on. Talk about dream state! This was it for me. But I don't just dream about riding, I do ride as regularly as I can.

2) WATER SCENES: Perhaps because I'm a Pisces I love the ocean. But I confess, I'm not a fan of actually getting in the water ocean. I have a few unrealistic fears that surface when I try that. Still, I love to watch it, smell it and listen to it. I can sit for hours on the beach, daydreaming. I can do as I did above and sit on a park bench to watch a water scene unfold before me. I can listen to waves crashing against rocks on the sand all night long. In fact, I can remember one night on the Jersey Shore where I rented a penthouse suite just to have the perfect view of the ocean...The minute I stepped into the suite and spied the huge windows facing the ocean, I pushed open the windows all the way and closed my eyes just so I could do nothing more than listen to the sound. I listened to that surf all night long. I think it was probably the most peaceful sleep I've ever had in my life. Water calms me, and I dream of living on the coast of Maine frequently. I can even picture where my cottage would be. It's a dream I full expect to see come true some day.

3) PUBLIC SPEAKING: This may be the number one fear of most people, but it's not a fear of mine. All my life I've had a vivid image of me standing at the lectern speaking to large sold-out crowds. I don't know for sure what I'm saying, but I know it's well-received. This dream won't leave me, and I'm forever searching for the right words to say. I've been practicing, and I think my blog became an extension of that. When I find the right words, the exact message that only I can share, you'll hear about it.

4) BIG FAMILY GATHERINGS: I dream of spending more time with my children and their children. I don't get to see them all enough--together--and I dream of the days when I can help make that happen. 

5) BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS: I've written one book, contributed to a few others, and that has fueled my desire to author more. I have several book ideas in mind and expect to get a contract in 2012 for the next one. I like the idea of the long-form project. They allow me to get deeply involved. So I dream of that next book project a lot. I'm working on several outlines now in order to determine which would be the most promising to present to an agent or editor.

6) A HOUSE REDESIGN: I love my home, but I also like change, and this one's in need of it. I dream often of a remodel where I open up the living area of my home, add built-in table that can fold up. I dream of adding more color to my walls and buying more art--or painting it myself--to fill empty spaces on the walls. I dream of having time to arrange photographs on the stairwell walls, using the frames I already have. I dream of pulling out the carpet to add new flooring. I want all tile--saltillo, because I like the color, texture and Old Worlde feel of it. And I dream of having a garden with layers and layers of flowers and colors of all sizes and textures and scents.

7) TIME TO READ: I dream of having more time to read all the books I have on my shelves. For this, I may have to cut out my night time TV time. I generally watch TV to put myself to bed, but it's also generally unproductive TV. Not too long ago, I went for a year and a half without any kind of television programming at all--not even the news--and I found myself reading more. I dream of doing that again. But the only reason I did this before was because I'd accidentally pushed a button on my remote that shut down my TV. It only took figuring out which button that was to push again, but I didn't care enough to figure it out. My son-in-law did, and that was that. I had TV again. It was fun when it first came back on. But now I just see what a waste of time TV can be. Only, I'm not that disciplined to turn it off myself. It will take another accident to get me to break the habit. Either that, or maybe now that I've written this down, I will see for myself that I can stand to make that change, because I do dream of having more time to read. I don't need to dream that one, as I already have it, if I so choose.

8) MORE DISCIPLINE: Speaking of "if I so choose," I dream of being more disciplined at certain things I do in life. I can choose that. I really can.

9) SUCCESS: I dream of having more success than I do. Some of this may require more discipline, more reading, and more rides. Seriously. I also need to lighten up on myself sometimes. Don't we all? 

10) ENOUGH: I dream of feeling as if "I am enough," just as Brene Brown asks us to believe in her TED talk my therapist recommended I watch last week. Great stuff if you're interested.  

By writing these out, I can look and see what needs inner or outer attention. Are you brave enough to write out your list of dreams and be honest with why you are or are not working to achieve them? If you write out your list of ten, let us know what that did for you.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

INSPIRING WOMEN--Finding your connection

A few days ago, I mentioned food writer Monica Bhide's new ebook, In Conversation with Exceptional Women. In it, she interviews more than 50 women she has met or worked with in some fashion throughout her writing career. They talk about food, lifestyle choices and success--among other things. She even gets them to reveal a few secrets. It's fun and inspiring reading. As I read through each of the interviews, I realized each of the women mentioned something that spoke to me. So I started to record those thoughts on paper. In today's post, I'm sharing a bit of what this inspiration was and how it helped me achieve connection with people who might otherwise be strangers. It's this common bond, of course, that can help bring all people together for a single-minded purpose. In this case, to inspire:

I mentioned in my previous post that I favored Aartie Sequeira's comment on her definition of success, that at the end of her life on earth, she hopes God will appear to her and say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." When I read it, it stopped me. It gave me pause to consider my own life. It made me think of humility, responsibility, authenticity, and about giving up the ego in favor of living life for the larger good and the higher power. To me, it's a very calming statement, even a meditative one. Imagine spending a few moments at the end of every day asking yourself if you had served the day well. What would your answer be?

Corinne Trang, known as the "Julia Child of Asian Cuisine," inspired me with this thought:
"I’ve learned to deal with life’s ups and downs by taking full responsibility for my actions. In other words, I point the finger at myself. In that way I experience a higher form of happiness and freedom."
This is exactly what I learned while developing my B.I.K.E. philosophy. Taking personal responsibility for your own actions means you worry less about what others are doing or saying. It is definitely freeing. Your burdens are less and happiness naturally increases. Of course, this is a daily practice. It is not something that can be learned and set aside. It is a daily practice, a lifestyle choice.

Andrea King Collier, an essayist I admire, gets witty on us, describing how she deals with writer's block. She says an inner voice threatens, “If you don’t get your behind in that chair and start typing something, you are going to have to get a job swinging from a pole, and nobody wants to see that.”

Yes, an inspiring woman should make us laugh.

"What inspires you to cook?" Bhide asks Daisy Martinez, another Food Network star who specializes in Latin cuisine. Her answer takes me back to my bike rides. "Strangely, quite a number of things," she tells Bhide, "I can be ecstatically happy, or seriously sad."

And then she comes to the part that validated something in me: "The kitchen is my temple and the cutting board the altar." This is exactly how I felt on my rides when I was working my way through my divorce. My bike was where I prayed, where I laid out my life, got in touch with my vulnerabilities. And Martinez goes on to say, "Cooking those meals and kissing my children were the only things that saved my sanity during those darkest of days." Substitute "bike rides" here and leave in the "kissing my children," and you have what brought me to this blog to write about overcoming life obstacles and taking on new adventures. It's moments like these when I realize how truly connected we all really are. If we're clued in, we operate from the same set of feelings. I love that about human nature.

Something I'd like to debate...And this is probably going to sound out of character, since I'm generally a pretty happy, smiley-face kind of gal. But if I ever had the opportunity to meet in person Dana Cowin, the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine, whom Bhide interviews for her ebook as well, I'd have to ask her why she puts so much emphasis on everyday happiness as a measure of success (You'll have to read Bhide's ebook to see what I mean). I don't personally think it's possible. Life happens. Things get in the way. And I'm a firm believer that you must experience the yin in order to appreciate the yang, and vice versa. Somewhere recently I also read that we are born to struggle. If that's true, I wonder if this editor can ever actually achieve success according to her definition. As for me, personally, I expect and want to feel the full range of emotions as appropriate, and this is why I'd like to discuss this topic further with Cowin, just out of natural curiosity. There were several others whom Bhide interviewed that expressed a similar opinion, so it would be great fun to get us all in a circle and chat this one out. 

Elise Bauer's story, on the other hand, made me cry. "I learned that what makes a beautiful life is being surrounded by people who deeply love you, who you love dearly in return," she says of the lesson learned from having spent seven years as an adult with an illness living with her elderly parents. During that confining time, she developed her food writing passion. She also gained a greater appreciation for the value of life, which is understandable and something to be admired.

I could go on and on, but Bhide's book covers more than 50 women's interesting insights--each of them inspiring in their own way. See if anything I noted here reaches you in some way. If it does, post a comment below. Or tell us how you've been inspired by an interview you've read lately. What was it about this person's words or responses that spoke to you? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Your definition of success

In Monica Bhide's new ebook, In Conversation with Exceptional Women (You can buy it today in PDF format, as I did, or in a format for your ereaders), one of the questions this food writer and best-selling author (Spice of Life) asks her interviewees is: "What is your definition of success?"

My favorite response of all 55+ interviews (many of them food writers or cookbook authors as Bhide is, but also best-selling children's authors, mom writers and more) came from the very first one with Food Network star Aartie Sequeira, who simply responded in this way: Having God say to me at the end of my life on earth: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To know that you've done well, that you've been a good person and faithful to your God, I agree, would be most satisfying. I aspire to that but have never been able to put it so succinctly. To me, this is Post-it Note-worthy. Such a simple message to be reminded of, don't you think?

"Well done, good and faithful servant."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Presentation is everything

Whether it's the meal you're served, the clothes you're wearing, or the way you pitch a new client, presentation is everything, right?

I'm asking because I wonder how much it really matters that something looks good. I mean, how much do you have to prove your worth...and to whom?

I can tell you that I've made many a dish that certainly didn't come close to looking like the meal pictured above. I'm not sure I'd be able to prepare a meal like the one I ate pictured above. But I think I can make a delicious meal nonetheless. And I've sent a winning pitch or two to editors while wearing my pajamas. That didn't seem to matter. Of course, I wouldn't have shown up on their doorsteps that way. But you get the picture.

So I'm wondering if we place so much emphasis on how things look at the risk of failing to focus enough on the inside, too.

For the next week, humor me with noting how much attention you place on outside appearances. Do you really care if that woman's shoes are polished or her nails are painted, or his tie is the right shade of blue? Do you notice the restaurants that place chargers under the plates or the ones that use utensils that don't match? Does any of this disturb you to the point that you wouldn't do business with them?  

Is presentation everything? Think about it, and tell me what you think. I'm curious.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back to basics

When all else fails, go back to the basics.

Have you ever heard that phrase--back to basics? It works with most things. If you don't have the foundation set in stone, you're likely to build a wobbly home, or write a sentence that's missing something important, or somehow feel an imbalance.

Whenever I'm feeling that imbalance, no matter what it is, I go back to the basics. For me, that means I'm back on my bike again. It's the thing that gave me comfort as a child, and it still provides a sense of comfort today. When I'm riding, that's where I'm able to release stress, find some breathing space, and relax.

I've been riding at least five miles a day and expect to work back up to 10. Not every day, but on the days I ride (at least four of the seven), I prefer a solid 10, because it gives me an hour outside, alone with my thoughts initially, and then I'm lost in the ride. Less time doesn't allow for the meditative part. I'm getting that in yoga right now, so it's okay. But I really like getting whole process on the ride. I'm out of practice and a little bit out of shape, so I'm having to build up the stamina. I'll get there. It's an enjoyable process for me.

If you happen to be in this same place, if you're feeling somewhat stressed or unhinged, I urge you to do like me and find your ride. Just get out there. Take it one mile at a time. Soon, you'll notice what I discovered long ago. My bike provides that quiet place where no one else is present. It's the place where I can go to process my thoughts or let them go. It's a place where I can pray. It's just me, the bike and fresh air. Sometimes I hear the birds in the trees. Sometimes I listen to the traffic. Sometimes I find myself watching people walk by. Sometimes I don't notice a thing. Not even the silence.

If you don't have a place for this, I recommend finding one. Decide today that you'll start the search for your "bike," that you'll commit to taking time out just for yourself during some part of the day. It doesn't have actually to be on a bike. Walking works, or running, or some form of artistic activity. Even doing the dishes can do wonders when you're stressed or your mind is preoccupied on stressful things, as mine as been lately.

Go back to the basics. Find the thing that settles you, the place where you can recover some sense of balance. Go ahead, metaphorically speaking, just pick that bike up off the ground and ride. I think you'll like it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Coping Strategy: Raw Art Journaling

It feels like healing time to me, folks. And there's no better way to work on healing than through journaling. But not just any type of journaling. This time, let's try raw art journaling.

My friend and creativity coach Quinn McDonald wrote a book this year on the topic (the cover pictured above). It's a new concept to me. I've never tried it. But Quinn's book arrived at my doorstep today, and I decided to take a look. I mention it to you because making raw art seems like a great way to get lost in meditation without having to sit in a yoga pose one breath or minute too long. This looks like a fun way to meditate and I'm all for that!

Meditation, of course, is a great healing technique. I do it on my bike rides, and it always sounds like a good idea to me, no matter how it's done. I know people who mediate while running, others who meditate while painting, and still others who crochet. I like to journal for the purpose as well. So after flipping through the 127 or so pages of Raw Art Journaling, I see it will be great practice for me and others who enjoy exploring their creative side on or with paper and creative utensils.

The concept involves a combination of artistic endeavors--and none of them have to be done perfectly. They're all about expressing your creative self in ways that help you explore who you are. From doodling with pens or pencils, to making art with photographs, water colors or found poetry, to actually writing out your anger or sharing secrets you don't want anyone else but your journal to know about, this book looks like a winner to me as a coping mechanism.

I'll probably be playing around with it for the next month or so to see what kind of journal I can devise. What about you? Have you ever tried raw art journaling? Would you like to now? If interested, you can order Quinn's book directly off of her Web site. And if you visit her blog, you'll learn more about this interesting writing/art form and read about the review her book received in Pages magazine.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Abuse by the numbers

If you've been following my blog lately, you know I've been writing about a heavy topic. Childhood sexual abuse is not something people like to talk about. It's a topic that scares most people. It's definitely misunderstood. But I'm staying on it for now, as I'm determined to open minds.

Awareness is a beautiful thing if it helps people from turning the other cheek. Besides, we have children to save here. Even if the news is uncomfortable to read, it's important to realize that sexual abuse does not just happen on college campuses like Penn State or by the parish priest in your neighborhood Catholic Church. It happens everywhere. In fact, maybe you have been a victim yourself--or your children could be. To further understand the depth of this often ignored travesty, let's take a look at some of the cold, hard stats that have surfaced in the news since the Penn State scandal made the headlines:

_The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect reports the abuse of more than one half a million children in the United States.

_I've read this over and over again, and the numbers shock me: As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually abused before they turn 18.

_According to the advocacy group Stop It Now, in up to 93 percent of reported child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person who commits the crime.

_Enablers make the problem worse. More than 15 people at Penn State may have known about Jerry Sandusky's behavior with young boys. Yet, they didn't do enough to stop it.

_Experts say about 70 percent of abuse victims never tell anyone. Bottom line, that means children are not being protected, and we don't know the exact numbers of those being abused. 

Let's vow to do more to stop the violence. Here's an article that offers solid tips on how to abuse proof our children.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More survivors of abuse speak out

What is it about this Penn State sex abuse case that has touched a nerve with so many survivors? It's not the first such case ever to be reported. It's not the largest? Whatever it is, we are telling our stories. This case has opened a door to allow some kind of relief to be expressed, the tears to flow, and the truth to be revealed. These stories continue to show the world that childhood abuse is far more rampant and far more hidden than anyone wants to believe.

Here are more survivor stories. If you would, please pass them on:

_Goldie Taylor, an Atlanta-based writer, finds the courage to tell her story for CNN.

_In his own memoir, Transparent, Don Lemon, a weekend CNN anchor, tells of his own childhood rape, and for CNN, questions why the young boy in the Penn State locker room wasn't saved at that very moment the witness saw the rape occur. Would the witness have saved the child if he had been a girl? Lemon reminds us that gender doesn't matter. Rape is rape, and we need to open our eyes.

_Robin Quivers from "The Howard Stern Show" tells of her abuse story. The victimizer was her father. Not atypical, in case you were wondering...

_A champion gymnast, Jennifer Sey, retells the story about how her coach got away with sexual abuse (not aimed at her) and why winning trumps everything else when it comes to sports.

_QuinnCreative responds to my Ms. Magazine story with a story of her own. Hers was one of the first stories I read after mine was posted that reminded me words have a healing power we won't even know about until they are read or heard. Let the healing begin!

_Kelly Salasin, who found her way to my story also, was inspired to share something that happened to her one summer--after reading the next story linked below. What do you think, moms? Share this one with your high school daughters?

_Eve Ensler spews her anger over the mere idea of rape. She says she over it. But can we be? Really? Read her essay to see what she really means.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A curated list of Penn State essays, Part 2

The updates to this story just won't quit. And now it's been reported that one of the latest allegations of abuse by Jerry Sandusky may have come from a relative, a child. I'm not sure how State College, Penn., is ever going to get past the trauma they have only begun to suffer.

I'm posting new articles because I want you to know just how serious a challenge creating awareness is going to be. I feel like we have to create awareness in order to get a dialogue going that leads to policy change everywhere--and that doesn't mean it has to be legal enactments but policy change in your own household, on the job, around family. We need to observe more closely what's going on around us. To pay attention is to be part of the solution. Here are the latest reports that might be of interest (no longer just essays here, folks):

_This article, Sandusky's Legacy: Adults With Permanent Mental Health Disorders, describes the lasting effects of childhood abuse. If you read my essay, you can see the legacy article covers the highlights. But it doesn't delve into the nuts and bolts. Still, you get a sense of how deeply a person's soul is affected.

_Two lawyers on Huffington Post try to argue that Jerry Sandusky may be a victim as well. I'm not buying it. But I think it's worth the read so you can make your own mind up.

_Is there more of an uproar over the Penn State story than there was over the Catholic priest sexual abuse cases? A CBS Sports article says this seems to be the case. Interesting comparison. 

_On, Richard J Gelles, a dean at the University of Pennsylvania opines whether there is necessity for more laws to combat child abuse. He doesn't think so. In the end, he asks if no new laws or policy changes, what should we do? I sent him a copy of my Ms. Magazine essay.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A curated list of Penn State essays

After yesterday's post, I decided to compile a list of other essays and commentaries that have been written about the Penn State story. They are eye-opening and may help you to understand more fully the full effects of childhood abuse and why it can happen. The essays are listed in no particular order, but if any of them stir up any emotion or ideas of your own to write about, please pass on the links. It's time to say no to "Jerry":

_A young man and former Penn State graduate shares his thoughts about his loss of faith in the community where he grew up. Find out why he considers himself lucky.

_Charles P. Pierce writes about what really matters from this story, not that Penn State could lose football, God forbid, but that children were raped. It's the brutal truth.

_A commentary in which Mark Madden questions who knew what and when. Haven't we all? 

_David Brooks explains what research says about why we may not intervene when we see a crime, such as sexual abuse, occur, or why we look the other way.

_A trauma therapist speaks out on what you can do to help.

_A male sex abuse victim speaks out, telling us the abusers are not monsters. Calling them that, let's the rest of us off the hook. We're looking for monsters when abusers can be your family member or friend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is it "brave" to speak out?

People are telling me that it was brave of me to write the essay that appeared last night on Ms. Magazine's blog. I don't know if that's true. My intent was emotional release--and to save myself. In the process, though, maybe the words will save someone else. Ultimately, that's what a powerful story can do.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spiritual thought for the day

Remember the fruits of the Spirit:


If we live in the Spirit, may we keep in step with the Spirit. (from the Holy Bible, Galatians 5:22)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lucky number 11

On today's morning news shows, the anchors have been all over the fact that today is November 11, 2011. Eleven. Eleven. Eleven. 11/11/11. 11-11-11. How many different ways can you write that? If you're superstitious, you might think the number means something other than what it looks like on face value. You might think it's a lucky number. You might think it has some mystical power. Personally, I'm not prone to think any of these things. To me, it's just another date on the calendar.

Still, out of curiosity, I did happen to search on Google to find out what other people have to say about the number, and you might find this curated list worth investigating:

_This site includes various interpretations of what the number and/or date means. Some of it's beyond my understanding or interest. But scroll down and take the poll about what you think might happen today--Something interesting? Something bad? Nothing at all?

_If you think this date is somehow tied to the Mayan calendar, you might like to visit Live Science for an explanation.

_This Huffington Post article mentions that the Egyptian Pyramids will shut down on this rare binary day because they don't want people showing up to try perform mystical ceremonies on the property. Read the article to learn more about what a binary day is and how few there are in a century.

_For those of you who lean toward the supernatural, here's an article for you.

_I love the graphics on this site, and the information about the meaning behind this winter solstice day, as it relates to the number, is both fascinating and informative. If you go, you'll see this person is clearly connected on some kind of spiritual level to the number. 

If you'd like to post your thoughts about today's date and what it means--or doesn't--to you, I'd be interested in reading your take on it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's a reputation worth, Penn State?

I'm not a huge football fan, so I didn't pay much attention to the story unfolding in front of us at Penn State when it first aired last week. But someone on an online forum I belong to is infuriated by the student riots on campus--in favor of the now fired (and beloved?) head coach, Joe Paterno--and she started a thread about it. Someone else commented that it sounds just like the Catholic Church pedophile stories, She's right. It does. The abuses happen. There are witnesses. Someone tells a higher up. And the response is: hush-hush. We wouldn't want to ruin the reputation of the Catholic Church, now would we? It appears that the higher-ups at Penn State were of that same mind-set.

The school's reputation was more important than what was reported to have happened. It's been reported that boys as young as 10 were being molested right on campus grounds! Yet, those who could have stepped in to save the little boys from any further harm instead chose to take the least action to prevent it. In other words, they did what amounts to nothing about it. And now at least eight boys' lives have been forever changed, with more boys reportedly coming forward with their own horrific stories of sexual abuse, rape and demoralizing behavior by a man and former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, who should be in jail but has bonded out and says he's not guilty. Yet, he has admitted to showering with boys, so...

So just this morning, I heard on the news about the young graduate assistant who witnessed one of the reported rapes in 2002. Instead of stopping it right there in the shower room, he wigged out and called his dad who told him to tell Paterno. And then what? He's become an assistant coach, been there all this time, knowing what he saw, knowing this guy, Sandusky, was still on campus hanging around young boys, bringing them to games even, according to the Grand Jury report. I can imagine the coaches must have run into Sandusky after that. But they never wondered why this accused pedophile was still around--with little boys, no doubt? Was their only thought to save Penn State's reputation. Really? Maybe they thought if they refused to think about it, it would go away? Turn the other cheek, you know. Don't face it. Pretend? It's not really that uncommon a response to abuse. Not really. And that's exactly why they should have done something more. Because they failed to live up to their own school motto that promotes success and honor, their response backfired. How do you live honorably when you know there is more you can do? The hindsight Paterno mentioned he wish he'd had then can't be good enough now--because we're talking about young boys' lives. Ruined! To what extent, only they can know. But can football really be that important that it's worth the pretense that was most certainly going to cause harm to others, especially these young, impressionable and vulnerable boys? I don't get that.

I do get that it's possible they were so shell-shocked by what they were seeing and hearing that they didn't know how to react immediately. But after you have some time to consider the seriousness of it, you still don't act on it? You don't follow up? You don't do anything more? Yet, you know this guy is still around little boys? What's a reputation worth, Penn State?

I hope this school, now that it has fired the only people who could have stopped the accused predator in his tracks, is now reaching out to the professionals. This school needs to act now. It needs to set up a campus-wide program immediately that will train employees, staff and administrators (Janitors witnessed these egregious acts as well and did nothing out of fear of losing their jobs.) not the minimum that must be done but the best response to end the abuse (i.e.: CALL THE POLICE!). It can't do anything less than create a climate where it's not only necessary but imperative to report abuses like this immediately. Reputation be damned! Children are worth far more than that.

Too bad about that hindsight, though, because now Penn State can be prepared to lose all that they believed Paterno brought with him--the reputation, the money. More victims are coming forward, so surely the lawsuits will clean them out. Rightly so.

And to address my friend's comment from that thread that led to this opinion piece? I can't believe these riots are occurring, either. Those college kids are so hyped up about losing their coach that they aren't even digesting why. A local sports journalist reporting from the field on MSNBC explained it like this: The school lives in its own bubble. I agree. But this is not a time to hail the hero inside of it. There was just never one there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

COPING STRATEGY: Find your creature comforts

The dictionary on your desk may define "creature comforts" as material things or luxuries used to provide for one's bodily comfort. Or it may say they are things that make you feel comfortable or at ease. I define it more specifically than that. In my book, it's an old bath robe
I love that thing! 
I've had it for 15 years and counting. It was given to me by a friend who said it didn't fit her. It was too short. To her, it was nothing more than a castaway, not at all useful. To me, it was a bright yellow piece of luxury I didn't have to buy. I gladly accepted her gift, and it's become that one thing I use the most in my bathroom--and it has yet to be replaced.
Of course, after so many years, so many washings, and so much use, it's no longer that bright yellow it once was. It's now a dingy sort of cream, the edges are frayed, and its plushness has worn bare in some spots. But I can still get five good uses out of it before I have to toss it in the laundry hamper. After which, I note my regular towels never feel as nice. I can't sit around in them as comfortably if I want to sip a cup of hot coffee or tea on a cold morning after my shower. Regular towels slip off. They have to be tucked in, and they unravel. Not my old bath robe. It stays on, no problem. And because it's so worn, the threads feel so soft. I love the sensation on my skin. It just makes me feel so relaxed and warm--like being wrapped in a big bear hug.

I look forward to slipping it on and tying it up, as I feel an immediate sense of calm when I put that thing on. It's something I'm not yet ready to give up--not just yet. I have been scouting a replacement for when that time comes, though, but haven't seen exactly what I'd want. I do have other robes, but they aren't towel robes like this one. One is made of that cottony waffle-like material and is not nearly as soft. The other is a fuzzy material I think might be man-made. It's not as plush and itches my skin. It definitely wasn't meant for use directly after a bath or shower. Neither compares to the usefulness of my old bath robe. And nothing I've seen in stores looks as comfortable. So I'm not quite sure what I'll do if this one ever fully gives out on me. 
But for now, while I still have it, I use it. It's that one thing I can always count on providing exactly what I want when I'm in need of some self-love. If stressed from work, if tired after a long day in the office, no matter the cause, if I'm looking to be self-comforted, that old bath robe helps me do the trick. I realize it's a material possession, but it serves its purpose well. I know exactly where it is at all times so am able to reach out for it when the mood calls for it. Plus, it is harmless. When I reach for it, it's only purpose is to comfort me--not make me fat as comfort food might, not get me drunk as alcohol might, nor judge me as others might if they don't want to hear me rant. That old bath robe helps me rely on myself to feel better during difficult times. And it's especially useful when I just want to lounge around writing in my journal for that extra dose of self-care. 
So tell me, what are your creature comforts? What is the one thing (or the few things) you turn to that provides you with a source of comfort when you're feeling anxious or unsteady? Please post your comments here so we can share our ideas that work.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ARE YOU CRAZY? Signs you've underpriced yourself

I write a lot about trusting your gut here at BIKE WITH JACKIE. It's something I learned while riding my bike to move past a difficult time in my life. Like a do or die effort, it was learn that or go crazy making the same mistakes over and over again.

On the seat of my bike, I learned to pay closer attention to my instincts. I realized I hadn't been doing that much at all in my prior life. I was not well-practiced and certainly not clearly tuned in to what my inner thoughts might even mean. They mean to protect you (via sensory perception), to steer you back in the right direction, and to lead you away from trouble, whether it's on-coming traffic or mistaken business decisions. 

What I know now is that this takes constant practice. To train your mind to focus on a new and better habit, such as paying attention to warning signs, takes time and lots and lots of continued practice. You have to train your mind to be alert, and the key word is: CONTINUED. You have to keep at it. Otherwise, you slip and wind back up in the nuthouse.

This knock on my noggin came from a recent experience with a now-former client. I took on a job that, in the beginning, I suspected might not be a good fit for various reasons. But this person needed the kind of help I had to offer, and I let ego get in the way. I thought I could help this person achieve the desired result, but I knew it would take a lot of coaxing. And I knew it would take a lot of one-on-one time. I thought this client was prepared for that, and I wanted to be the hero. So I offered a cut-rate deal, thinking we'd get through it soon enough.

What I wasn't expecting was the resistance to the amount of work necessary. And even I didn't know the full scope of the work that would be needed until we got into it, but I was committed. I wanted to help with this project more than I wanted to earn anything from it. That was another mistake on my part. To court personal satisfaction about seeing the person achieve the desired result above courting the bigger paycheck is downplaying the consultant's role, and that's bad business. 

That attitude allowed me to ignored the signs that my deal might have been a good deal on the client's end but not such a good deal on mine. Here's why I know that now. The signs. They were there. I just chose to ignore them: 

_During a discussion of ours early in the process, I called myself a consultant, and the client literally said to me, "Yeah, whatever you want to call yourself..." It was a blatant show of disrespect toward my abilities, and I ignored it so we could get on with the task at hand. There was work to do. Was this insult representative of my low fee? I think it might have been. SOLUTION: If you are ever dissed during a business meeting, chances are the person who dissed you does not respect you. Choose right then and there to acknowledge the comment. Find out where it's coming from. Perhaps the business relationship should end on that note. Perhaps there's something else going on. Whatever it is, you need to know about it so you can move forward successfully. 

_Midpoint, I developed the nagging feeling that I wanted the project more than the client wanted it. There were telltale signs I noted: lack of focus, irritability, work avoidance, distractions, introducing new project ideas with more excitement than placed on the current one. SOLUTION: If this ever happens with a client of yours, call a spade a spade. Ask the pointed question: Do you want this project as much as I do, or not? If any hemming and hawing (another sign) ensues, it's time to cut 'er loose. 

_Finally, if meetings, consultations, get-togethers, or the communication between the two of you feels frequently strained, the only solution is to pay attention to that, notice it, and make sure you've included an exit strategy in your contract. It might be coming from either end. Regardless, it's not the way to do business.

If you continue to underprice yourself by offering discounts where they aren't necessary, taking on clients who can't afford you, or accepting work from those who don't fully appreciate your skills, talents and abilities, you're not doing yourself any favors. And you're only going to drive yourself crazy with second-guessing. This is not the way to grow a business.

SOLUTION: Set your fee and stick to it. As my sister told me: The only discounts worth giving out are the ones you give to long-standing clients. They've earned it.  

What are your thoughts about underpricing? Do you have a story to share that might illustrate another solution to this challenge? If so, post your comment here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Deep thoughts NOT by Jack Handy

I'm guessing you've seen the "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy" on Saturday Night Live. They were a hit back in the 90s. The funny part wasn't that they offered great wisdom. The funny part was that they were presented as if they offered great wisdom. Can't you hear the slow and steady sound of the intro now..."Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy"...followed by the scrolling of his words down the screen?

I'm not sure how deep my own thoughts are going to sound here, and they're not going to scroll or anything cool like that, but I wanted to address a few things that have come up in the news lately. I can't help but wonder why we should care about any of this...

For instance, did you know Kim Kardashian is getting divorced--after less than three months? It's been reported that she made $18 million from her wedding. I'm guessing in wedding photos, stories and access to the tabloid magazines. Do we really care about this? Do we even have to be bombarded with the idea of such nonsense, especially when we know there are families who are in actual need, and yet, this is what we spend our money on? It makes no sense to me.

And did you know that the bickering on "Real Housewives of New Jersey" has only strengthened the public profile of Teresa Guidice, the one person the other cast members seem to despise? Why should we care about that? Do any of you out there even know her? She comes off as arrogant and righteous on TV. Why would she want herself to be portrayed as such to the general public? None of this makes no sense to me, either.

Of course, there's always "news" about the Lohan clan. They can't seem to stay out of jail. It's absurd!

What is it with our obsession with Hollywood and all things artificial? The Real Housewives might be real housewives. But seriously, if you said some of the things these people say to each other and about each other on national TV to your friends, you would have no friends. This is not real, people. This is a show. Even if the ugly behavior is staged or scripted, why do we care? Do these kinds of shows make us feel better about our own lives?

And the Kardashians? They came out of obscurity, became popular because of goodness knows what, and now they make millions. It's ridiculous. But does it mean we care that much about looks? I mean, I think the girls are lovely-looking girls, but they don't represent reality. The rest of us cannot go out there and flaunt our Target-bought fashions to the highest bidder. We can't get a cameraman to follow us around and report on our every move, thank goodness. And no one's going to really care if we divorce the NBA player who may have just married us because of our money. We don't have any money! Some of us don't even have jobs.

As far as the Lohans go, I am hard-pressed to remember the first names right now...

What I want to know about is how are we going to get out of this financial crisis that continues to burden real families in real life, from coast to coast and border to border? I want to hear more stories like the one I watched on TV last night about the oil drilling that's bringing jobs, people and financial security to North Dakota. I want to know that our next presidential election is not going to turn into an embarrassing free-for-all. As far as I'm concerned, no one's qualified to be president of the U.S. These people who want our votes don't seem to care at all about what really matters. What they care about is getting elected and forcing one-sided policies onto everyone, regardless of what those policies mean to the future of this country and the people who live in it. Politics has gone Hollywood. It's glamour. It's pretentious. But it's not real.

So the more I think about it, the more I think I'd rather have Jack Handy's wisdom retake the airwaves. It, too, might have been absurd. But if we're going to be forced to live with fake, it might as well be funny.

What do you think?