Ideas Are Meant to Be Shared, Not Hidden

DO NOT COVET YOUR IDEAS. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you. The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually you’ll become stale. ~ Paul Arden

About a month ago, I experienced a a strange case of mistaken identity at one of the local Paint & Sip shops. The encounter left me bewildered and disturbed; in a nut-shell, I was accused of signing up for the class with the purpose of “stealing ideas” for a competitor. Every once in a while, an unpleasant experience will stick with me for longer than I want it to, and this has been one of them.

The good news is that it fueled a creative growth spurt and challenged me to explore and try new ideas. It’s been an interesting process that started with hours of watching YouTube videos on a quest to learn how to add texture to acrylic paintings.

It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube. Tissue paper and Modge Podge are my new best friends!

There’s No Such Thing As a New Idea

Mark Twain says it best.

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

After watching dozens of videos and absorbing the various ways other artists use tissue paper and Modge Podge into their creations, I prepped a few canvases and gave it a whirl. I didn’t have any tissue paper on hand, but I did have an envelope full of handmade paper from one of my adventures in Pennsylvania.

Five years after attending my first paper-making workshop, I finally found a way to use some of the pieces I’d experimented on with ink pens. It took a bit to muster up the courage to rip, crinkle and paste the individual pieces of artwork onto a canvas, especially since I had no idea how or if it would turn out.

I’m happy to say that it turned out beautifully and it’s now part of my office decor.

colorful handmade paper collage

After the “incident” at the Paint & Sip class I randomly decided to go the Family Dollar store and see what kind of tissue paper they had on hand so I could continue experimenting with collaging.

Brightly colored balloons layered on top of a tissue paper sunset now also occupy a couple of walls in my office.

balloon collage 2

 

balloon collage background

Repainting a Canvas…

Until recently, the only artwork that I displayed in my office were paintings from the various Paint & Sip adventures. Now all of the walls but one contain my “own” creations, or in other words, pieces that were inspired by many difference sources but weren’t the result of a two hour guided class.

Replacing my Paint & Sip darlings accelerated the need to decide what to do with the completed paintings that were piling up behind the door. I couldn’t bear the thought of tossing them, but it also didn’t make sense to hang onto a bunch of paintings that would probably never hang on a wall again.

The answer came to me one night after hanging up a new mixed media piece in my bathroom. Coincidentally- or maybe not, I hung it next to the first painting I completed at the Corky Canvas.

It might sound strange, but in this one image, I saw my past, present and future as an artist. The realization of how far my work has progressed since last fall surprised me more than a little bit and it inspired me with an idea to recycle my Paint & Sip pieces into new works of visual art.

past and present

Just like with my handmade paper, it was scary to take the first step and potentially ruin something I had created and held dear. Without a particular plan in mind, I moved the painting from the bathroom wall to the easel and started the process.

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Step 1: Prepare the canvas with Gesso

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Step 2: Add texture with white tissue paper and Modge Podge,

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Step 3: Paint the background by mixing gold and white paint

gold and white paint

Steps 4 – 6: Paint some flowers, add some stems and apply a few finishing touches.

Oila! An original painting , completely inspired other artist’s work and ideas.

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The past month has flown by and my makeshift studio has been in constant use. It’s amazing how one three hour experience fueled a month’s worth of creative growth and exploration.

It’s too bad that some people are so worried that someone is going to steal or take credit for their ideas; they’re missing out on one of the best parts of life, sharing.

 

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The World is Askew

Today, the earth shifted off of its axis.

It’s been coming for a long time, we’ve seen it happening –

but we still wonder how things ended up this way.

It’s easy to blame it on the outcome of the most recent election day.

Truth is, we’re all accountable. We’ve all played a part.

But it’s not too late.

It’s not too late to reach out your hand to the left and to the right.

We’re all just people who want what’s best.

Hold tight to your neighbor, no matter who they are.

Lace fingers and feel what’s the same and not what’s different.

Hold tight, and fight.

Let’s make the world right.

Feel your heart beat in the same rhythm as the person “on the other side.”

Our hearts beat the same.

We cry the same tears.

Together we are one.

Home is Where the Heart is

You can only lose what you cling to.
— Buddha

The image of my beautiful three story colonial was blurred in the rear-view mirror, as we pulled out of the driveway while returning the farewell waves and neighborhood wishes of “Good luck in Pennsylvania, we’ll miss you!” with a chorus of “We’ll miss you too, stay in touch!”

colonial-house

Now I’m back in the city I left nine years ago. It’s full of memories and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I didn’t expect it, but the most difficult part of the move has been in letting go of my attachment to what, in my mind, has defined both home and personal success. I could write an entire book about the circumstances that led me to Pennsylvania and back to Nebraska, but for now let’s just say that things haven’t exactly turned out the way I imagined they would.

That beautiful colonial home now belongs to someone else, a family who bought it for a song, after my 401K was emptied and my savings account dipped below zero trying to keep from going into foreclosure.

The marriage I hoped would be salvaged by the move fell apart faster than anyone could have imagined, and the job opportunity that drew me there turned into lessons in how to survive when a company files Chapter Eleven. I learned the hard way that being a Freelancer isn’t as easy as the self-help books make it sound.

In an unexpected way, the path back to a career in Ecommerce and back to Omaha was paved, one experience at a time over the past nine years. Wheels set in motion; I began to search for the right next opportunity.

My heart was set on moving into a space that wouldn’t require anyone to sleep on an air mattress and would have plenty of room for an art studio. In other words, I wanted a four bedroom house. Economically it didn’t make sense, but I wanted it.

The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis. I was clinging to the notion of home and success being equivalent to house and more rooms than I need 361 days out of the year.

There was an air mattress involved in the holiday sleeping arrangements and I don’t have space dedicated to an art studio, but the attachments to old definitions of home and success are disappearing.

My youngest son put it into perspective when he said, “Mom, it doesn’t matter where you live or what you have. What matters is that we always feel welcomed and loved.”

After the holidays, the walls of my apartment reverberated with memories of laughter and love.

The silent air is filled with the sounds of playful bickering over the rules of a game, of philosophical conversations that are “to be continued” and of memories that extend way beyond the past two weeks.

Home is where you make it.

home

 

 

2017 – The Year of Feeling Grateful

It may be a bit early to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions, or is it?

For whatever reason, when one year draws to a close and a new year is about to begin, we reflect on what is “wrong” with our lives and make a promise to “do better.” We declare a commitment to spending more time with family, losing the weight and getting in shape, taking a cooking class or finally sitting down to write the book we’ve been talking about.

As I’ve been doing my own reflecting and making promises to myself, I couldn’t help but think about how different my life is from what I imagined it would be at this point in life. And it’s dawned on me, that the most important promise I can make to myself and the people in my life – is to focus on feeling grateful for where life has taken me and who I am because of it.

Life is never perfect, but there is always something to be grateful for.

2017 – The Year of Feeling Grateful

I’m

Grateful for my body

Grateful for my mind

Grateful for life’s challenges,

and for the discoveries they help me find.

Grateful for my family

and for my friends

Grateful for the Universe

full of love that never ends.

Grateful is a state of mind,

it overcomes self-pity and hate

it empowers us to be kind.

Grateful is a place of being

that gives us peace of mind.

Be grateful, be happy, be kind.


May 2017 bring you happiness, gratitude and peace.

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Thoughts from my Echo Chamber

Like many people in the U.S., I’m caught up in the aftermath of the 2016 election results. Normally, I write about my observations about life from an every day, non-controversial point of view. This is the first time in almost six years that I have felt compelled to share my thoughts about any topic surrounded by a polarizing minefield of thoughts and opinions – the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

I don’t know that there’s ever been an election in my country that has affected so many people on such a deeply personal level. As I’ve been trying to understand my own reaction to the outcome, it’s occurred to me, that in many ways it’s as much about business as it is about political agendas.

I could be wrong, but I believe that one of the reasons PET won the election was his ability to ignite the fear and promise hope within the hearts of working class Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. Although I don’t, and never have held a blue color job, my story has more than a few parallels than one might expect. Our political and business landscape has adversely affected more than the grass roots laborers of the country, and it’s been happening for a long time.

Thoughts from My Echo-Chamber

I know it’s dangerous to form opinions from within our own personal bubble, but we all do it to one degree or another. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my own personal experiences have had a very common thread; it’s upon this common thread that I base my opinions and share my thoughts.

I deeply care about our environment, education and human rights. I’m far more liberal than I am conservative – but at the end of the day, if I’m not able to put food on my table or provide for my family, the larger issues move into second place. That doesn’t make me selfish, uncaring or uninformed, it just makes me human.

The “American Dream”

Here’s the thing, the “American Dream” of providing a better life for future generations started dying on the vine a long time ago. As a point of reference,  I began my career during the Reagan administration and at that time, I was already part of the first generation who would never make more than their parents.

It wasn’t easy, but I eventually landed a good job with a small, family owned printing company in Omaha Nebraska. They paid me a fair and equitable salary, offered training opportunities that to this day are unparalleled in my experience, as well as the way they invested in their employees and advancing technology on a regular basis. That was until, they were acquired by a British holding holding company.

Raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Morale plummeted, growth slowed and the only people who were experiencing financial prosperity were the board members of the holding company.

History Repeats Itself

Eventually my loyalty to the original owner of the company ran out. After a couple of years without a raise, increasing demands to work longer hours and the  realization that I was missing out on my children’s lives, I moved on.

My next job was also with a local, family owned business. I found balance, an opportunity to learn and grow, my pay increased at a rapid pace and I found myself trapped in the land of “golden handcuffs.” Earning more than what my position was worth was a huge conundrum, and one that I knew would catch up with me eventually.

It did, we were acquired by a U.S. based holding company. After the announcement and the obligatory, “nothing will change,” comments, people were still nervous. They sought me out for counsel because I’d been through it before. I assured them, and I believed, that life would go on as normal.

“My last experience was with a British holding company, this is a U.S. one, so I’m sure it will be a much different, they really sounded like they care about employees and customers.”

Ha! And my apologies to my friends in the U.K.

Shortly after new “leadership” took over, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Sound familiar? In addition, we started to experience the loveliness of “right-sizing, “salary aligning” and “process transformation.”

Translation – people who had been there a long time were laid off, “salary aligned,” and outsourced. Holy buckets, when I think about all of the consulting fees that were paid out to make those changes happen….

The Writing was on the Wall

I’m no dummy, I saw it coming so I started looking for a new job long before the actual mass layoffs began. I was thrilled to land a position with a company in PA. There was some hesitation on my part, because they were owned by a private holding company, but took the risk because of assurances that they were financially stable. Two months after I started, they filed for Chapter 11. So once again, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

In spite of the Chapter 11, I put my house in Omaha on the market and moved my family to PA – in 2008, toward the end of the housing bubble. Long story short, I ended up losing both my house and all of my savings trying to avoid going into foreclosure.

As I do, I tried to make the best of things, but after four years of no raises, no bonuses and a less than ideal working environment, I took the route that many have tried before me; I started my own business.

It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds

To be honest, starting my own business wasn’t my first choice, it was my only choice. I didn’t want to uproot my youngest son and there were no jobs available in the area. There’s so much that I could share about this topic, but I’ll save that for another time.

In October of 2014 I thought the best of two worlds had collided and I accepted a full-time position with a company in California. I was able to work remotely and maintain my steady freelance work in order to make ends meet.

Health insurance and other benefits were among the multiple reasons the position was appealing. I’ll be honest, insurance through the marketplace isn’t exactly cheap if you are making a “decent” income as a self-employed individual.

Here’s where the common thread continues, the company was owned by a private holding firm. Based on my experience, I should have known better. Soon after I started, new “leadership” was brought in, and raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

On April 29th, 2016 I received Fed Ex delivery which contained a check for two weeks severance pay and the notification that my position had been eliminated in order to provide better customer service. Truth is, my position was outsourced – not overseas, but to an agency.

Health insurance you ask?

The company was very “generous” and extended me the opportunity to continue my health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). They had to. The cost to me was $950 a month.

Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

It’s not just Politics, it’s Life and Livelihood

I’ve been through more than a few ups and downs in my life, we all have.

My guess is that Donald Trump, nor any of the individuals that he’s nominated to lead key government agencies, have ever experienced the shame associated with the realization that your child is wearing shoes with holes in them  – simply because they don’t want to add to your financial burden, and “it’s not that cold out.”

I’d be surprised if any of their children witnessed their mother being served papers by a Sheriff because she had to proceed down the path of foreclosure on their beautiful home.

I also doubt that any of them have experienced the absolute humiliation of being interviewed for private insurance, only to be denied. Let me share a glimpse of what it’s like.

If you want private insurance, outside of the health care marketplace, you must meet certain criteria. So, a stranger from an insurance company calls and grills you about every aspect of your health history.

My experience went something like this:

An hour (yes an hour) into the interview, I was asked, “what was the last reason you went to the doctor?”

A reasonable question, to which I replied, “I had a couple of warts removed from my leg.”

“So, you have a history of genital warts?”

“No! The warts were on my leg, specifically my calf.”

This spun off into a line of questioning that was too invasive and humiliating to write about.

My denial of coverage letter included some nonsense about being predisposed to genital warts in addition to just the normal life/health conditions that come along with being a woman over the age of 45.

Thank goodness for the affordable health care act.

I Understand Why Trump Won the Election

He promised people he would “fix it.”

So, to that end, he’s assembling the richest administration in history and putting the future of the working class into the hands of people who have never come close to experiencing their pain?

I don’t get how anyone can think this is a good thing.

As I watch the deck stack in favor of the business models that led to the housing crisis and in my mind are behind the widening gap between the elite and the struggling, I’m disheartened beyond words.

I do believe we can join together as human beings to address many issues around the environment and human rights, in spite of PET – I’m not so sure we can have the same influence when it comes to business and our ability to earn a living and maintain affordable health care.

I hope we do, I’m just not sure how to go about influencing change in that arena.

We’re on the Same Side

Let’s not forget, that we’re all on the same side. We love our families and we want the best for them.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but as an eternal optimist, I look at this time in history as an opportunity for good outcomes in the end. As a realist, I can’t help but think it will be a painful journey.

Let’s all join together, in whatever way we can to move forward in a positive fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the shouting.

Thanks for listening, after getting this off my chest,  maybe now I can get back to regular programming.

An Air Mattress, a Blessing’s Basket and a Bottle of Wine

A week ago yesterday I maneuvered my way through the Newark airport with a cat in a carrier, two full size suitcases and boarded a one-way, non-stop flight to Omaha Nebraska.

Moving is never a small task, especially when you’re relocating half-way across the country and the place you call home is a two bedroom apartment, not a three bedroom house. The idea of moving into an apartment instead of a house wasn’t easy for me to accept at first.

The End of an Era

As I’d been interviewing for jobs and visualizing my next living space, my heart had been set on moving into a three or four bedroom space with plenty of room for my kids to have a place to sleep when they visit and an area for me to set up an art studio instead of using my dining-room table.dining-room-art-studio

At first economics began to shift my outlook. Why pay an extra $300 to $400 a month in rent in order to have a spare room that will be used a few times a year? Why pay a few hundred dollars a year for lawn care and snow removal or worse yet, continue to take care of a yard and the shoveling myself?

Moving into a two bedroom apartment made sense, but I had no explanation for the weepy water-works that turned on every time I Googled apartments and tried to picture myself living in one. The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis.

For the past 28 years, being a mom, home maker and provider for my family has been central to how I thought of my identity. Once I figured out that I was mourning the end of this phase of my life, my heart opened to the possibilities and unlimited potential waiting for me.

Getting Rid of the “Stuff”

The first major task associated with simplifying and moving to a smaller living space is sorting through all of your stuff and more importantly, how to get rid of it. Mia was less than impressed with the piles of material possessions blocking her favorite window sill.

mia-is-suspicious

Just when I thought I had things all figured out, there was a major curve ball thrown my way. I’d arranged to have 1800Junk come to pick up and take away the things I can’t or don’t want to move with me to Omaha. Some things were hard to say goodbye to, other things – not so much.

Long story short, I sorta freaked out when I got the quote – let’s just say that when I looked up pricing, and it was based on volume, I was thinking full size moving truck – not a haul away small capacity truck.

800gotjunk

I’d calculated about $400 – $600 – the quote came in at $1,600 (minus my patio furniture – which I had failed to mention).

I started scrambling, and quickly.

Outside of six years of gathering “stuff,” plus the boxes of things like check registers from the 1990’s and potting soil that somehow made the trip from Omaha to PA – the major portion of the expense was centered around removing the trampoline and the giant television stand in the basement.

Between putting my stuff on the street and listing it on Craigslist.com for free – I was able to shave $600 off my bill (more likely $900, with the patio set).

All excess furniture items were gone within 72 hours. My favorite pick up of the week was the woman who claimed the very popular night stand and tried to load it into her Ford Focus. Suffice it to say that she came back the next day with a larger vehicle.

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The Last Two Days in PA

A gal from the moving company arrived promptly at 8 am the morning of October 7 to begin packing up the remaining belongings. In spite of the fact that her coworker called out sick at the last minute, she had a very upbeat attitude and didn’t utter a word of complaint as she moved from room to room.

It took her half the amount of time it would have taken me to wrap up all the breakables and pack them safely into boxes. All I can say is that if you’re going to move a long distance, leave the packing to the professionals!

That night, instead of spending the evening surrounded by boxes, I was embraced by laughter and love. This lovely circle of people helped me grow and expanded my world in more ways than I can describe in a few words.

circle-of-friends

I had no idea just how much my life would be enriched by my move to Pennsylvania. It has not been without it’s bumps, hurdles and challenges – but, I not only worked my way through all of them, I am a better person because of the experiences I had and the people I came to know and love.

The moving truck arrived the next morning and by 3 o’clock, it was loaded and my belongings were on the way to Omaha.

moving-truck

 

My last night in PA couldn’t have been more special. It was a son’s and mom’s night at an amazing restaurant in Philly. My youngest son treated me to dinner and set the perfect stage for a long hug and no tears before heading to the train station.

last-night-in-philly

The Start of a New Era

There’s so much that has led up to the day I boarded the plane in Newark and landed in Omaha. Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed with numerous companies and visualized myself living everywhere from Omaha to Boca Raton. There was a big part of me that thought it would be a great adventure to move someplace brand new and find my way around.

Moving someplace completely new might have been a fun adventure, but I’d have to say that it was beyond wonderful to be greeted with hugs at the airport and to be the recipient of an incredibly thoughtful care package as well as more than one set of helping hands to help me get settled into my new apartment.

After two nights in pet friendly hotels,

hotel-basket

Mia and I, with the help of friends, began the process of settling into our new home.

I felt like I had just graduated from college as I set up my air mattress

air-mattress

and a make shift night stand (boxes can serve many purposes).

makeshift-night-stand

The gift of a blessing’s basket

blessings-basket

and a bottle of wine and some fruit made me feel loved and special.

troublemaker-wine

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my new chapter in life.

There’s so much more to share, but for now I need to keep unpacking and getting settled.

unpacking-the-kitchen

Sigh, after all I gave away, I still have too much “stuff.” 🙂

 

I Accept Guidance

Of all of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years, this one has been the most difficult. Not so much from a standpoint of turning to others for guidance, but more about accepting help from others and paying attention to the voice inside of me that knows which direction is right for me.

It can be hard to trust that we’re going in the right direction when things don’t seem like they’re not going “according to plan.” Maybe the problem is that we’re following the wrong voice.

Becoming comfortable with the phrase, “I need help,” has been a challenge for me, being honest it still is. I equated the need to ask for help with an admittance of failure; failure to be able to “rise to the occasion” or that I’d had a lapse in judgment and made a mistake. I readily owned up to and learned from mistakes in my work life, but rarely in my personal life.

As a woman who wanted both a professional career and to be a mom, I fell into a huge superwoman syndrome and spent the better part of my adult life trying to “prove” I could do it all. I thought everyone around me had certain expectations and perceptions about who I was and what they thought success looked like for me. As the primary and often-times sole income earner I felt tremendous pressure to perform. My home life was unhappy, so I used work as an excuse to cover up my sadness.

It was a mixed up time in my life and I now realize that during those years I spent my time believing I was living up to expectations that I thought other people had of me, but really I was hiding from life and ignoring reality. I made a lot of poor choices during that time, some of which still affect my life today.

Back then, the mere thought of confessing even half of what was going on and taking responsibility for the poor choices and decisions I made nearly crippled me with anxiety.  My fears spanned the gambit and included everything from being yelled at and perceived as stupid to being rejected by everyone who knew me.

I was only fooling myself

The reality is – the person I was the most dishonest with was me.  I thought I could and should make things right on my own.  I lied to myself and pretended that there was a way out of the mess I was in and that no one would ever have to know the ugly truth.

Little did I know that my pain and struggling was obvious and everyone around me was praying that I would wake up and ask for help. We’ve all been there, watching someone we love struggle and at a loss for how to let them know that they do not have to bear their burdens alone and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and of trust.

What I know now is that three things were missing from my life during that time. One is that I was afraid to ask for help and I was unwilling to be honest about what was going on in my life. Two is that I wasn’t listening to my inner voice. Three is that I spent every day doubting the future and without faith that I was truly supported by the universe and everything I need is always provided.

We are Always Supported

Asking for help does sometimes mean admitting you’ve made a mistake and need some help to right the ship. But it also means you have enough confidence in yourself to ask, accept, be grateful for, and do the same in return.

Listening to the voice inside you, the one who really knows what’s right for you might be even more difficult than learning how to ask for help. It gets crowded out by the voice of societal expectations and our perceptions of what we think others expect from us.

Listening to, and following that voice, sometimes requires that we say no to opportunities that don’t “feel” right, even if it will bring in some extra cash or look good on a resume.

Accepting guidance is something that comes from inside us, believing we are on the right path, rolling with and adapting to change, having faith and asking for help when we need it.

 

I Accept My Talents

I wrote the following as a part of my “All is Well in My World” art and journaling project on July 7, almost exactly two years ago from today.

The project was inspired by the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.

She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love. Based on personal and very real experiences, I believe there is a great deal of truth in what she teaches. I do believe that our “issues can get stuck in our tissues” and a lack of self love can hold us back by keeping us in a state of shame, fear and believing that we don’t deserve all of the abundance life has to offer.

I’ve recently come to realized that I have a recurring and ongoing fear of the future and money; it stems from a series of life events that began in my early 20’s and contributed to significant feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. I’ve processed, released, forgiven and moved on from many of these memories and as I do, my life becomes richer,I am more at peace and I have faith that the future holds wonderful outcomes for me.

The funny thing about letting go of doubt, anger, resentment, shame, fear and/or sadness that we associate with particular events in our lives, is that those same feelings can resurface when we least expect it. Sometimes they are intertwined with other past events that deepen the grove in our record that keeps us from moving forward, toward our greater good.

More than a few of those feelings emerged this morning, which prompted me to re-read and re-share the entry associated with this affirmation: “I stand tall and free. I love and approve of of me. My life gets better every day.” and “I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere, and I am secure and safe.” ~ Louise Hay

I Accept My Talents

07/7/2014

I embrace my talentsBooming thunder, flickering lights, and a brief power outage caught me off guard tonight. Just as I was settling in to write I could no longer see the keyboard.

Thankfully the power outage lasted only a short time, however the storm is raging on. In an odd way, the sudden squall provided the perfect inspiration for tonight’s thoughts.

Unlike many writers and artists, I wasn’t born with a passion to create, at least not that I was aware of.

When I was young, school systems and teachers considered reading, writing, and arithmetic to be important and subjects like art and creative writing were merely electives best suited to becoming a hobby. The focus of the education system, coupled with the fact that I moved 9 times before I turned 15, and the reality that there were no obvious clues that there was an artist hiding inside led my parents to guide me toward a practical path.

Truth to be told, I was better at math than I was at art and there were very few opportunities to explore writing that extended beyond my interpretations of novels by famous authors like Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, and Henry David Thoreau. I excelled at math, but literature courses were what I enjoyed most.

One of my favorite memories was a weekend field trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska – the home of Willa Cather. I don’t remember any specifics outside visiting her tiny home and afterwards sitting around a campfire talking with my classmates and our AP American Lit teacher. Who knows what we talked about or how much sense we made, I’m sure we thought we were profound.

To be honest, I don’t remember whether or not I actually loved “My Antonia” or pretended to because I wanted to impress my instructor. I do know there was a part of me that dreamed of being the woman, from the middle of nowhere, who wrote a book that both entertained and inspired people to think.

My journey to understanding and accepting my talents began about five years ago, during one of the most difficult times of my life.

In a late night and tear-filled conversation, my best friend challenged me to find a creative outlet as an alternative to escalating patterns of self-destruction.  The next day a flyer for ed2go.com arrived in the mail. The brochure promoted online learning opportunities and the featured area of study was creative writing, an event that I can attribute to nothing other than serendipity.  I registered for a class to learn about how to write romance novels. (who knows  it may still come in handy someday.)

I posted my assignments to the classroom forum using the pseudonym “Lady.” I used the penname for over a year in various 6 week courses before I gained enough confidence to sign my own name to what I wrote. Today I write with confidence both personally and professionally.

In 2012 I dusted off my desire to draw, bought a sketch book, and took the bold step of registering for the Intermediate/Advanced level drawing class through a local organization, The Artists of Yardley.

I was petrified the first day of class.  My one and only “real” class took place twenty-two years prior to that, and I was positive that my place was in the beginner’s class, which had sold out. After conquering my first fear, which was to enter the classroom; I perched in front of the easel stiff and nearly paralyzed, staring at the sunflower we were supposed to reproduce.

Petals, stems, and leaves seemed to fly from the fingers of the other students and they all finished their unique and amazing sunflowers by the end of the three hour class. My pencil drawing took me nearly three months to complete. During each lesson that followed, my instructor encouraged me and helped me see my artwork through her eyes and not through the eyes of a perfectionist (me). Over the past 2 ½ years my comfort has grown and my style has begun to emerge.

It may sound strange, but sometimes when I read something I wrote it makes me cry, other times it makes me laugh. When I look at things I’ve written or drawn as though the creator is unknown, I think things like – “wow, that inspires me.”

Today, I no longer introduce myself as a “want-to-be-writer” or an “aspiring artist.” I own who I am.

Today, I accept, embrace, and am thankful for the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and can share.

Believe in Possibilities

Sometimes it can be tough to believe in positive outcomes, especially if you’re going through a stretch of “bad luck.” Like many people, there have been times in my life that have really tested my faith and my ability to be optimistic.

I’ve always considered myself to be a “cup half full” kind of person, however I’ve come to the realization that there is more to having a positive outlook on life giving lip service to the belief that “everything will be alright,” but letting the chatter in your head control your actions.

One of the many blessings in my life are my parents, they have lived through many difficult situations and have always maintained a positive outlook on life. My dad is a big believer in the power of a PMA, aka – positive mental attitude, and he lives it every day of his life. That’s not to say that there aren’t days that his optimism wavers, he’s human after all.

PMA could also stand for, perseverance means achievement; my dad faces every obstacle head on and somehow finds now to make the word No mean Next Opportunity.

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The drawing is from an art journal that I created as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions and to help me remain focused on the positive as I’ve been working my way through a recent set of challenges.

Near the beginning of this most recent “Adventure,” my friend Marilyn, gave me a beautiful postcard with this very meaningful quote from Art Mitchell – “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

The message really reinforces the way my dad approaches life and never gives up.

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Father’s day seems like perfect time to share a personal story of perseverance and growth, with many thanks to my dad for his unwavering support and for being an amazing role model for all of us. I am deeply grateful for all he has done for me and I know he is a big part of the reason that I am the woman I am today.

A look into the past….

On a warm September day in 2008, I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck with mixed emotions and a few tears on my face. My thoughts ping-ponged back and forth between sadness and joyful hope. It was difficult to be leaving friends, family, a beautiful home and everything that was familiar and safe.But it was exciting to think about the possibilities that our future in Pennsylvania held.

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When I accepted the job in Pennsylvania, it seemed like nothing could go wrong and the future held nothing but rainbows and unicorns. Maybe I wasn’t quite that optimistic (or unrealistic), but I was really confident that it was the best thing that could have happened for my family and myself both personally and professionally.

We put our house on the market and my seven month commute between Omaha, Nebraska and Philadelphia began. It was a rather grueling trek back and forth, but it offered the opportunity for my daughter to finish out her senior year of high school without moving.

My youngest son was 12, and although I knew it would be difficult for him to move and adjust to a new school, new and very different living arrangements – I was confident that he would be able to adapt and in the long run it would help him grow and develop in positive ways.

Our move to Pennsylvania has been full of new beginnings and life changing events, but not at all in the way I would have imagined them to unfold.

I had landed my “dream job” with a financially sound company, or so I thought. The job was great, but the financial health of the company was not; two months after my start date, they declared Chapter 11. I was scared, but because I was the primary income earner, we had no choice but to move and hope for the best.

The real estate market in Omaha was depressed, just like everywhere else in the country. In spite of St Joseph statues and wonderful real estate agents, we were unable to sell before we moved, which meant that our new home was going to be in an apartment.

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It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but it was such a major change for all of us and it was not what I had hoped for. My unrealistic and unhealthy belief at the time was that we moved “because of me” so it was my responsibility to make everything perfect and as familiar as possible rather than asking for help and support.

After moving the challenges and obstacles seemed to gain momentum and magnitude.

In those days the voices in my head were working overtime.

I spent every minute of every day worrying. I hashed and rehashed the decision to move.  I beat myself up about the fact that the house back in Nebraska hadn’t sold and we were losing money every month. I speculated about the viability of the company I worked for and whether or not it would emerge from Chapter 11 and if I would be spared from any future layoffs.

I blamed myself for my husband’s unhappiness and deepening depression. I spent hours agonizing about my youngest son Christian and the fact that the ‘normal’ trials of being in eighth grade were amplified by a new school in a new state, being the only child left at home, and having to make new friends – something that is easier said than done when you’re the new kid from Nebraska and you started school almost three weeks late. I wondered if we’d be able to afford to fly my oldest kids, Jeff and Katie, out for occasional visits and I held myself accountable for it all, most of all, for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to fix any of it.

There was no escaping the voices and daily I slipped further and further into a self-imposed state of emotional isolation. At work I found myself going through the motions and while I interacted with my direct reports, a handful of co-workers, and of course my boss. For the most part, I kept to myself and limited my contact with people to office hours only. I quit calling or even sending email updates to friends, and I talked to my parents and kids only when I thought I could fake a positive attitude.

I had no choice but to drag myself into work every day and do my best to appear upbeat and confident.  As the primary and now sole income earner I couldn’t afford to lose my job and it was the only escape I had from the dreary apartment and my relentless anxiety.  The voices took a back seat for a while every day while I managed my way through the work day. They were always there but just not as loud. By this point in time I’d had years of practice in compartmentalizing my personal life and my work life.  Lessons learned early in my career taught me to keep people at arm’s length and keep my personal life to myself.

Back then I didn’t realize or understand one of the underlying messages my dad lives,believes and had tried to communicate to me – worry doesn’t change tomorrow, it just takes the joy out of today.

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There were so many things I didn’t understand during that time in my life; concepts and practices that would have helped me maneuver more easily through a divorce, the financial strain and embarrassment that accompanied nearly foreclosing on my house and the challenges and blessings of being a single mom in a city half-way across the country from my family and closest friends.

I’ve not only made it through the majority of the initial challenges that came after my move; life is much richer because of them. It sounds strange to say, but I’m actually grateful for them because I’ve learned:

Self Love is the first step…

Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back and embrace our future with confidence.

I could write an entire book about the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years; lessons about being present and not dwelling on the past, tools for facing difficulties with positivity instead of catastrophizing and letting the negative chatter in my head control my actions.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and the most important one is that we only destroy our selves and sabotage our happiness when we hang on to regrets from the past, refuse to forgive ourselves for being human and compare ourselves to others as a way to measure success.

I suspect my dad finds the whole ‘self love’ thing to be a bit ‘woo woo,’ but I think that’s because he has an innate understanding of the importance of it.

Being Present is the next step…

I have never met two people who are as good at making the most of every experience as my parents. We moved a lot while I was growing up, and each time we moved they approached it as though it was the last place they would ever live and quickly made friends and became a part of the community.

My parents don’t “vacation,” they take trips. Earlier this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Hawaii with them. The entire trip was amazing, but I think if I had to pick, I’d say Wednesday was my favorite day. The last thing I expected that morning was for my dad to announce that he wanted to go zip-lining. His exact words (or close to) were, “I’m going to be 80 this year, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to go zip-lining, so let’s do it.”

Talk about being present in the moment and making the most of things! I know for a fact that there were plenty of things on his mind that were “worry worthy,” but instead of focusing on things outside of his control, he chose to embrace the moment and experience something new.

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He may sometimes get lost in his own thoughts, but he definitely knows how to live life to it’s fullest and doesn’t let challenges or obstacles weigh him down.

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Believe in Possibilities….

Believing in possibilities is so much easier and rewarding than speculating about all of the possible negative outcomes that may (or most likely not) happen as a result of a current situation.

As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Many, many thanks to my dad for all he has taught me about the power of positive thinking and the importance of believing in possibilities.

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