Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Some mornings getting out of bed is a bad idea.  Today was one of those days.  Mere moments after I became coherent I came face to face with a coachwhip snake eating a baby bird just over my head.

To say I squealed and jumped around like a little girl is an understatement.  I gasped, I ran around in circles and I curled my toes under my feet and did what any sane woman would do.  I called for in got on the phone and called in the national guard.

Okay, maybe not the national guard, but as close as I could get.  Now in my defense, I had no idea what kind of snake it was...and I didn't had to go.  It the snake's defense, I was inside the house and he dropped down in my face on the outside of the glass.  I am fairly certain I lost multiple years off the end of my life after this little sneak snake appearance.

The end result of this snake "attack" was that my husband got a good chuckle, my sister (who had to be on the phone with me while I freaked out) got a really good chuckle, and my dad may have to have his ribs set after he finishes laughing on the floor.

Everyone kept saying things like, "I didn't know you were that afraid of snakes."  For the record, snakes on the ground are unpleasant.  Snakes in the air over your head and in your face are downright freaky scary.  That is my story and I'm sticking to it.

The deep and meaningful portion of this post is the following:  In life we sometimes have freaky/scary/unpleasant things drop in our faces with no warning.  We are faced with situations that frighten us, even if our friends and family think it is no big deal.  Keeping a cool head is important, but probably unlikely.  Running around and freaking out can be expected, but in the end, we have to do something to deal with it.

Just so you know how the story ends, he ate 2 birds before the snake removal guy showed up, and when he attempted to catch him, the snake flipped in the air, landed on my block wall, launched himself into a tree and swung from the branches like Tarzan and dropped into my neighbor's yard.  A very unsatisfying end to my snake hunt, if I do say so myself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Motivational Monday #9 - Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Crying over spilled milk always confused me.  As a child I could never figure out why anyone would cry over food.  As an adult I realize the saying may have a deeper meaning.

A few weeks ago, one of my kids spilled his water across the table, soaking the place mat, the pile of napkins, and his plate of food.  You name it, it was soaked.  His face crumpled and I thought, wow, he is going to cry over spilled milk! What is that all about??

It was then that I realized he was crying for a few reasons.  First, he was upset that he didn't have any more water, so he was mourning a loss.  Second, he was angry that he had made a huge mess he now needed to clean up, so he was mourning the extra work.  Lastly, he was expressing dismay at the abrupt change in his plans, so he was mourning his loss of control of the situation.

Wow!  Who knew so much could happen when a cup tipped over?

You may be wondering why I added this to a Motivational Monday post, as it seems more depressing than motivational, but here it is:  We all have things unexpectedly go wrong in our lives.  Cups tip, things get soaked and messes are made.  Sometimes it is our fault, but more often than not we are left to clean up after the spilled milk of others.  We all have a choice in this matter, and you can choose to be upset, or you can choose to move forward.

Spilled milk can be so many things, it can be a mess made, it can be the loss of something you wanted/needed.  Spilled milk can be a small thing or a huge thing, it is just something you can do nothing to reverse.

Today I choose to get over it...and go buy another gallon of milk.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Drama, Drama Everywhere and not a Friend in Sight

If you were forced to read the "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" in school you will recognize my title as reference to his "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink" statement.  I loved this line as it referred to sitting in a boat on the ocean, surrounded by water, but thirsty and unable to drink anything.

Sometimes I realize I am sitting in the midst of craziness.  I look around and as far as I can see there are crazy people, crazy ideas and crazy expectations.  I am surrounded.  At the same time I have a craving for companionship and personal interaction.  The irony is that I can't get any, well at least I can't get any that will satisfy me.  It is the same as with the ancient mariner, people everywhere but no one to be my friend.

Wow! I just reread that last line and I sound so pathetic.  I may be pathetic, but the sentiment is still true.  I think we may find ourselves surrounded many times in our lives.  Something close to what we want is everywhere, but it does not fill our needs.

I am sure all of my friends are reading this and scratching their heads.  Before you become worried, I am not worried that you are not my friend.  I am also not concerned that you are crazy.  I have just noticed lately that I meet a lot of people.  I interact with different organizations and diverse communities.  Most of this interaction gives me the opprotunity to develop new friends, new colleagues and new opportunities.  Every so often the politics and craziness of each organization strikes me anew.  I realize I am surrounded by people, but not friends.

So how often are you surrounded by something close to what you want, but not exactly it?  Do you compromise, or wait it out?  The poor ancient mariner spent a long time waiting for fresh water.  Do you have what it takes to wait for what you need, or do you settle for what you have?

For me, the jury is still out.  Until I decide I will take my place next to the ancient mariner and wait it out...thirsty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Memories Can Either Be Gifts or Burdens

Memories...we all have them, some recent, some distant.  Some memories are amazing...some are horrid.  Some memories make us smile, others make us shiver. Some memories make us blush, others make us blanche.

While memories give us perspective, help us establish relationships and form opinions, all memories are not created equal.

I am not sure it is possible to have a memory which does not reflect our perspective at the time.  We remember only what we see, so every memory is framed by what we were looking at.  What you focus on at five is different than twenty five.

So how do we use our memories in a positive way?  How do we choose to smile instead of cry when we look back into our lives? Is there a way to learn from our experiences without being pulled back to the emotions we felt at the time?

I propose there is a lesson in almost every memory.  For instance, I remember taking a sticker from my best friend's desk when I was young.  It was a joke to see how long it would take her to notice.  Unfortunately, she never did and I felt weird putting it back.  Eventually the school year ended and I still had the sticker.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I rode my bicycle to her house to return it.  Unbelievably, her family had moved.

I felt evil, downright evil.  When I think about it today I still wince.  What a dumb thing to do.  The lessons I took from it ware many.  The first lesson, don't steal, it is not worth it. The second lesson was, fess up fast when you screw up. The third lesson was don't be stupid with your friends.

While I am sure there are many lessons I could have learned, those are the ones which stuck with me the longest.  I try and be a little smarter, a lot more honest and lightning fast to confess when I screw up.

As I mentioned, this memory makes me wince.  I have the choice to see it as proof I am a screw up, or to take the lessons learned and be a better person.  Today I choose to be a better person.  Maybe tomorrow I will be stupid again, and I will have another awkward memory.  Hopefully I learn from that one too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Motivational Monday #8 - Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

How often do you look at yourself and think..."Gee, I am squarely stuck in my comfort zone and I should do something about that?"

Chances are, that almost never happens.  Chances are, that you only notice you were in a comfort zone when you get forced out of it.  Chances are you aren't happy about it for a while.

I am about to get rocket launched out of my comfort zone.  You may actually see sparks flying off my body as I am launched into the atmosphere.  I have to admit I am a little nervous.  I am down right freaked about some of it.

But I realize something. In a short period of time, this new thing will be my new comfort zone.  It will have expanded my experience base, broadened my knowledge, and created a more confident woman.

So take a look around.  Are you relaxing in your comfort zone or are you stretching yourself?  Do you see growth?  Do something about it.  One year from now you will be one year older.  Will your older self be exactly the same with a few more wrinkles, or will you be a better person with more experience?

You can do it...and you will be amazing.  I promise.

Friday, June 18, 2010

All is Well

Some days things go right, other days they do not.  Unfortunately we don't get a memo every morning with our Froot Loops to tell us what kind of day we are going to have.  It would be nice if we did, but we don't.

Some days it is easier to deal with things going wrong than it is on other days.  Some days it is easier to smile and chug along than others.  Whether we are happy and smiling or grumpy and frowning, the day will continue.  Mother Nature does not set the clock on our convenience.  (Just one more thing I think should be changed...)

Anyway, I was thinking about the phrase, "All is Well."  I noticed the phrase is not, "All is Perfect," or "All is Going According to My Fondest Desires."  All is aptly describes the state of being at peace with what is going on.

I hope today is kind to you, but even if it isn't, I hope you can look around and honestly say, "All is Well."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Man's Best Friend

You thought I was going to talk about dogs didn't you?  Well, I am...and I'm not.  While a loyal dog may be the typical best friend most people think about, I would suggest that peace and contentment are really a little higher on the list.

When I was young my family bought a dog.  She was the most amazing animal and will never be replaced in my life.  She was a beautiful Sheltie who loved to cuddle and was always happy to see me.  I can see why most people would think she was my best friend.  She brought me a significant amount of joy over many years.  She never hurt me or disappointed me. She never argued with me or stole my boyfriend.  She was happy to see me every time I walked in the door and she was sad to see me go when I left.  It is good to have a friend that loyal.

As important as she was to my life and as much as I will always miss her, I have to say learning to duplicate the feelings of peace and contentment I felt around her has been a much more important step in my life than learning to love her.  She was easy to love.  She gave constant feedback.  She wagged her tail and did the cute doggy smile whenever I pleased her.  I was rewarded quickly for my affection.

Being content and at peace is a much harder task to pull off.  Because the feelings are internal there is less of a chance for immediate feedback and reward.  Being content with oneself is hard to do.  We know every flaw and foible.  We know the real reasons behind our actions and we know our true capabilities. When we fall short we know it and we condemn it.

It is hard to be at peace when we are condemning ourselves.

Loving a dog is easy because the relationship is simple.  We treat them well, they treat us well, and love is showered back and forth.  Meeting their needs is a relatively simple project.  On the other hand, meeting our needs can be quite a challenge.

Imagine with me for a moment how different your life would be if you were at peace and content.  Now if your imagination just popped a sandy beach and a hammock into your mind, kick the hammock out.  I want you to imagine peace and contentment right where you are.  Are you having a hard time?

This is why I think peace and contentment should be our best friends.  If we could duplicate the easy love for an animal and relate it to ourselves then we would completely change the way we see the world around us.

There is no place for anxiety, stress, panic or fear when being peaceful and content.  If we could eliminate those four things, anxiety, stress, panic and fear, I think we would all like ourselves more.  We would be more productive, we would be calmer and we would be more forgiving.  We would probably even like ourselves more...and who doesn't wish for that?

I challenge you to find a little more peace and contentment in your life.  Treat yourself as you would your dog.  Be happy when you arrive each morning and be sad to see yourself go.  Reward yourself with smiles and affection every time you meet your needs.  Be unconditional in your love and unfailing in your support.

I believe if we can transfer that relationship to ourselves we will be happier, more content and more at peace.  And that my friends, sounds like a good thing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Motivational Monday #7 - Clean Your Bathroom

I don't know anyone who craves cleaning their bathroom, but it is one of those things that just has to happen.  Let me rephrase that, it doesn't have to happen but it should happen, and often.

Before you get worried about me, I am not the toilet militia.  I am just a boring housewife who noticed a strange phenomena.  When the bathroom looks and smells clean, when the fixtures sparkle in the mirror and the counters glisten, the whole house feels cleaner.

I am all about more bang for your buck cleaning, so there you go, clean the bathrooms and be impressed by how accomplished you feel.  The other fringe benefit to having clean bathrooms is you will never be anxious when someone drops by and you realize the bathroom might be a bit scary. (Not that I ever have that problem...ahum.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Glide

I am taking a swimming class.  This is not the basic swim class where you learn to make it from one end of the pool to the other, this is an endurance class.  When I started it freaked me out...oh yes it did.

I love this class.  It is amazing and helps me in so many ways.  I love the feel of water on my face, the glory of achievement when I have pushed myself a little farther than I thought I could, and the energy I produce as I pull myself through the water.  It is exhilerating.

That said, do you know what my favorite part is?  I love to glide.  Don't laugh.  I know that most people think swimming is about actually swimming.  And you would be right, to a point.

If you have ever watched Olympic swimmers you will notice they dive as far out as they can into the water and glide as long as they can without loosing power.  At the moment they sense themselves slowing, they begin to stroke.

Stroking is hard.  It is also a great way to increase drag and wear yourself out.  So much has to happen.  You are moving hands, arms, head, legs, and feet all at once.  It is loud, it is chaotic and it is intense.

When you glide you feel power, you feel confidence, and you feel anticipation.  You know the hard work is coming.  You know you will have to put a lot of energy into things or you will sink.

Life is so much like this.  We start out with a nice long glide.  For some of us, this glide is the time we live at home with our parents, for others it is the years of being single.  For all of us there comes a time when gliding just doesn't work anymore and we enter the "sink or swim" phase of our lives.  We have to paddle like mad to get to the other side of the pool.

Here is the exciting news...when we get to the wall at the end we can push off and glide again.  The strength we gained from swimming gives us a more powerful glide.  We have the chance to glide every time we hit that wall, and we have the chance to increase our strength each time as well.

Life can be hard.  We can lose our momentum at any point.  Obstacles are put in our path and we have the constant choice of how to deal with things.  While most people love to glide as much as I do, the reality is that gliding only lasts so long.  Swimming moves us towards our goals and teaches us the skills and strength to glide even further the next time.

So increase your strength, increase your stroke...and enjoy the glide while you can.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lessons Learned in a Hotel Dining Room

Last October I wrote a lengthy blog about a hotel I love.  Last week I had the chance to remember why.

As I reread my last blog about West Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, California, I realized I felt the same way after another stay.  I could tell you about their thoughtful behavior or their warm environment.  I could even mention that they celebrated my child's birthday with balloons and chocolate, but instead I want to tell you about two people who served breakfast.

Let me start by saying I have always wondered why hotels advertise their breakfast as a perk.  Most of the places I have stayed at have a corner where they throw a few muffins and bagels and call it good.  If they have a staff member overseeing the food, they appear harried, frustrated and eager for everyone to go away so they can clean up and go home.

Bertha was different.  During my stay she was a presence in the dining room.  I first noticed her as she moved from table to table asking people how the food was and if she could help in any way.  She cleared tables, picked up spills and kept the trays of food full with an infectious smile on her face.  She made a point of commenting on cute kids and creating conversation as she moved through the room.

While I am sure you are thinking, "Gee, isn't it her job to be nice?" I promise she was more than just doing her job.  Her attitude made the morning a little easier and as a person who does not like mornings, I have to say I looked forward to seeing her each time I ate.

While Bertha was keeping things moving along smoothly one morning, I noticed another man, Carl.  He had stopped at a guest's table and was telling them about local activities they might enjoy.  He spent a good deal of time answering questions, giving details and listening to their feedback.  He had an easy laugh and a contagious excitement for his topic.  I chuckled when I realized he was part of the staff of the hotel and not a paid spokesman for the tourism council.  It was obvious the information he was giving the guests would decide how they spent their day.

As in my last post on the subject, you might wonder why I am bringing this up.  The answer is the same.  As a business owner, I love to see good service.  I love to see employees who have the vision of the company and contribute to its success.  Not many people would consider the breakfast staff to be a vital part of the company image, but they are.  Bertha and Carl made me feel like guests in a home, not customers in a hotel.  Their manner was easy and their smile genuine.

It was obvious other guests were responding to the care in much the same way I was.  So here is my question, if good service, human touches and attention to detail create loyal customers and golden referrals, then why do we not see more companies investing in their employees and instilling this vision?

Thank you Bertha and Carl.  You have reminded me of some valuable lessons, and I thought I was just there to relax on the beach.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Motivational Monday #6 - Your Garage is NOT the Trash Can

Do you have a place in your home where you put items you never want to see again?  For us, it is the garage.  If I don't know what to do with an item, it goes in the garage.  If I am in a hurry, it goes in the garage.  If I am trying to "quick clean" the house, it goes in the garage.

Everyone has a place like this, it may be your garage, it may be your basement, or it might be a spare room.  This is the great abyss for which all "I have no idea what to do with this" stuff goes.

The funny part is that it doesn't disappear.  There is no magical fairy who empties this space and leaves it shiny and clean.  In fact the opposite is true.  The more stuff you have in there, the more stuff collects in there.

Here is you motivation for today.  STOP putting stuff in this area.  Deal with it, don't dump it.  When you get in the habit of dealing with your stuff you will collect less, you will store less and you will feel lighter.  (I wish I could tell you that this method would also make you look younger and be thinner, but clutter elimination can only do so much...)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Insurance - A Lesson In Patience

This last week was a horrible exercise in mistakes made by my insurance companies.  I ended up spending hours on the phone trying to get everything fixed...and by fixed I mean, get what we should have had in the first place.

After endless hours of begging, threatening and crying, I come home to a message on my answering machine.  Vague is an understatement.  It went something like this, "This message is for...ummm...the parents...or guardians of...ummm...Jim Bob.  This is your, company and we...ummm...need to talk to you.  Call us at..."  They gave me an exact phone number and extension, so I called them back.  Jim Bob (have you guessed that isn't his name?) had some medical stuff done recently and after a week of fighting the insurance company over his services I was a little leery of this new call.

When I called the number it was answered with a "hello" and not a company greeting.  Then they had no idea why I was calling because the person who might have called me, (they weren't sure) didn't work in that office, in fact they didn't even work in that state.  So I got transferred.

When I arrived at the new office in the new state, I was once again answered with "hello" and no company greeting.  Apparently I had called a back channel number and was transferred back channel as well. They couldn't even find me in their system on the first 2 attempts.  When they finally did they had no idea why I was calling them. There were no notes, no indication of a call and no reason for me to have been contacted.

So what did they do?  They transferred me to a person who would review my son's account and recent medical treatment.  Why in the world would I want them to do that?  I felt tricked into calling the insurance company to trigger a review of the services they were already paying for.  Were they crazy?

So what did I do?  I did what any other sane person would do.  I hung up during yet another phone transfer.  I figure if they really want to review the case they will call me back.  But if they are as professional the next time, they likely won't even know why they are calling me.

So here we are at the patience part.  I H-A-T-E being stuck at the mercy of others.  I was reminded of that again this week.  Who enjoys wondering what their fate will be?  Having some random person, who doesn't really care about you or your family hit a magical little button on a computer screen which can either pay or decline your medical coverage is horrible.  It is hard not to yell and scream in frustration when they confuse simple issues.

I have children, and I still think the insurance company teaches me more patience than they do.  My kids at least look me in the eyes and know when they have screwed up.

So here is my message to all the insurance companies out there.  AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!  Yes, that is all.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Circle of Life Rotates Once Again

Every year at about this time I am reminded of the circle of life.  Most people probably have these feelings around New Year's, but for me it is when the school year ends and we move our kids onto the next section of their lives.

If you look back you will realize the memories you have are divided into school years, not calendar years.  You associate haircuts with school pictures, you remembers friends with classroom teachers and you remember vacations as the void in between.

Right now my son is transitioning out of school and into the wild and crazy world of summer vacation.  He has 10 weeks of activities, trips, projects and fun to look forward to.  As a parent I have 10 weeks of activities, trips, projects and fun to plan. (Can anyone say summer school?)

As I pack up his mementos from last school year and preserve his art for embarrassing teenage moments, I am reminded that parents all over the world participate in this same ritual.  We watch our children grow, we watch them change, and we gently nudge them forward.  The circle of their lives continues...and the circle of mine is enriched.