Living Love Every Minute

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
– Albert Einstein

Growing up I had a second family. They are my parents’ best friends. Their sons are my brothers. We fought like it too. Having two moms who knew how to cook everything and two dads who seemed to know everything was an awesome way to grow up – except when it came time to get in trouble. That came in twos as well. However, having brothers that couldn’t routinely beat on the bathroom door was a pretty good bonus.

Thursday, Mike Kelly died at the age of 61 after a valiant stand with Alzheimer’s. 61, seriously.

The funeral was filled with tears and laughter. His wife and his children each wrote loving and funny letters about this wonderful man. I sat there thinking the miracle was he knew all this before he died. This family did not wait for death to understand love and they did not require a crisis to find closeness. I have watched them love – and have been loved by them – my entire life.

It occurred to me that so many of us live our lives as if this one thing today is a small thing. We fail to grasp the wondrousness of having the opportunity to experience the thing at all. I also considered how terrible it would be to mourn the death of a loved one with things left unsaid. Love left ungifted. How awful it would be to wonder if the one gone left knowing just how much they were cherished, loved, and respected.

It is a blessing to know this amazing man did not leave this world that way. It is a blessing that every word spoken for the family was a whole lot of love people already knew about. It is a miracle that still as an adult, after all this time, even in death, Mike Kelly is still teaching me things.

Today I encourage you to consider living a life full of gratitude for those you hold dear. Never resist the urge to pick up the phone, write the note, spend the time, send the message. Smile more. Hug a lot. Sure, for most of us we have a whole lot more time. But it isn’t guaranteed. Besides living one day or a million with that kind of love in your heart makes all the difference in the life.

Thanks for the coffee…

Happy New Year!

A happy New Year!
Grant that I May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.
~Edgar Guest

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ~Anaïs Nin

Happy New Year! I want to thank all of you for being so patient with me as I took the holidays off. It was an amazing time of getting settled with my new team at work, enjoying family festivities, filing away all the things of 2011 and really getting ready to rock 2012.

I love New Year’s. It is so conducive to reflection, evaluation, and hope. It has come to be a special time for me. I have joyfully succeeded in taking nearly all the stress out of the holiday.

I do not make “before the end of the year” checklists. Likewise, I do not make resolutions…

Aside – Now I understand that “not making resolutions” has become the hip and “enlightened” thing to do. So let me say, if you DO make them, good for you. There is some real merit in making conscience decisions to modify and change. You, better than a coolio guru, know how your brain works. Always go with that.

…Both of these activities generate large amounts of stress in my life. Who needs that? Moreover, in truth, I already do this nearly EVERYDAY. I have things that need to get done. Some of it has to get rescheduled because I still haven’t figured out how to function with no sleep or add more hours to my day. But there is never NOT anything to do.

And I am consistently looking for ways to move into my potential. There are always skills I am looking to hone, things I would like to learn, habits I am attempting to unlearn. This does not simply happen once a year. It is a daily desire to confess, learn, and try again.

Today I encourage you embrace joyfulness. Be glad in the ability to throw out an old calendar and put up a new one. Enjoy the cleanness a new year brings. Resist the urge to place more stress on yourself than you should. Appreciate the things you do on a daily basis and do not buy into the idea that you have under performed or failed to be all that you should. It is a new day, everyday. Welcome to it.

Thanks for the coffee,

2012 Manifesto – Because I Like the Word “Manifesto”

It has been an interesting year…looking back on 2011 as it comes to a close, it seems while one might say “business as usual” there are actually some fairly interesting movements.

Typically, I start each new year with an anthem of sorts…and honestly, I can’t remember what this year’s was. I suppose I could go back and look at some of the places I would have recorded it. But frankly, if I can’t remember, that says something about its importance.

Knocking on the door of 2012, I know there are things that have to change. They have to change because I have changed. I am known for a pretty thick skin. It has worn a bit thin. While I am more comfortable in it, I feel through it a bit differently. Situations that I could view or pass through unscathed now move me in ways that are distracting. My eyes well on a regular basis. My heart hurts. I feel sadness. It isn’t that I myself am sad, or my own circumstances cause pain, but the empathy for those around me.

I witnessed a great deal of pain, sickness, hurt, death, and despair this year. I also experienced great joy, love, creation, and happiness. I doubt there were more occurrences – I am simply more susceptible to its effects.

Things that used to seem interesting or even slightly important now seem pivotal and game changing…

Even as I write this, I realize I am not saying all the things I want to say. It is becoming clear that this movement will develop itself…continue to develop itself…as I grow and learn with it.

I know that I am not all that I could be. I also know that it is not because I fail – but because I have so much potential, I have great room for expansion! I know I make mistakes, I realize that I am not perfect. I understand that if I were to run for a public office, it would be interesting. But I also know that I am a fabulous person. I am not scarred by failure and missteps. I am enriched by experience and journeys.

This year I became a runner. It has had a marked effect on me as a person. It has strengthened nearly every aspect of my person, created some beautiful friendships, and has become a core characteristic of who I am. The combination of time alone, exercise to the body, and a great illustration of my personal fortitude have created a deeper understanding of all that I am capable of.

This year I have owned my profession. For the first time I refuse to accept second best in any aspect of my professional life. I have gone back to school. I have forged new relationships. I have clarified roles, positions, expectations. I accept full responsibility for things that are mine. I do not martyr myself for others who refuse to do the same. I appreciate that there will always be critics and people who have nothing better to do than to try to drag down others. They can do that by themselves – I am not playing that game anymore.

This year I have learned that meanness is a major contributor of all things ugly in the world. Its root is fear. Fear makes for dark places. I am learning to place more emphasis on compassion than right, grace than win, comfort than conversion. I have learned that people are defensive, not because they are created that way, but because they are conditioned to proverbial face slaps whenever a weakness or a fault shows through the façade. So we fake. And we puff out our chests and berate others over the one thing we have gotten right so that maybe no one will notice all the other things we have yet to figure out. Because we can’t be weak…we can’t be wrong…we can’t fail…yeah, I am calling bullshit on all of that. A little harsh in the language category? Maybe, but I am thinking I am going to get pretty darn militant about compassion, grace, and comfort.

This year my family is nearing the conclusion of the journey that will bring us fully into the Catholic faith. It has done more to strengthen our resolve as a family and increase our compassion to humanity in general than I can begin to explain to you. Is this an evangelical mission? Not unless you want it to be…otherwise, it is simply me sharing with you another moment in my year. Interesting that I even feel I have to qualify that…something I will need to chew on…at any rate, this journey is becoming more evident in nearly everything I do. I was nervous about that for a minute. I am not so much anymore.

I am excited about 2012. I am looking for wondrous happenings. I am as prepared as one can be for more heartbreak…because I am committed to loving and serving more fully. In that position, heartbreak just happens – I am working on no longer judging that as good or bad…it just is…and hurting for others is proof of the love for others. Compassion moves with people where they are…and sometimes those places are painful.

But I am committed to the rainbows and unicorns. I am committed to smiles and hugs. I am completely sold out to motivational posters and talking in bumper sticker…because, quite frankly, I am thinking that a happy dork is going to be more productive as a human than a hateful suave.

Photo credit to Planet Breathe

Hallelujah is Our Song

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people
and hallelujah is our song.

~Blessed Pope John Paul II

Thanksgiving is next week. I have been blessed to be around a bunch of folks who are taking this time of the year to intentionally reflect and name those things for which they are thankful. It is a glorious season.

Interestingly, this time of year also magnifies difficulties. Financial struggles become more pronounced. Estrangements and distance between family and friends becomes more noticeable. Fears about tomorrow and angst over yesterday occupy more of our minds.

There has been quite a bit of suffering, illness, tragedy, and death lately. I don’t know if it the hurts are increasing, if they are hitting closer to home, or I am just noticing them more.

I don’t have many words today (you are shocked I know). But even the chick who turns around Tuesdays finds some Tuesdays more heavy than others. In fact, I almost skipped today. If I myself have no words, then what is there to put out?

I can embody those things I always try to instill in others.

Today I encourage you remember the Easter, participate in the Thanksgiving, and be glad in the Advent, the new beginning that we are each afforded with every single breath. We cannot help others heal the ills that hurt our hearts if we wallow in our own. We cannot offer comfort to those afflicted if we constantly require comforting ourselves. We cannot carry on the mission of those who have gone before us if we are plagued by grief. We are human and we hurt. We are blessed and we sing the hallelujah song. Sometimes we just have to do them at the same time.

Thanks for the coffee,

There are Days When Spelling Simply Doesn’t Count

You can’t help respecting anybody
who can spell TUESDAY,
even if he doesn’t spell it right;
but spelling isn’t everything.
There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.
~A. A. Milne
The House at Pooh Corner

I will be honest. I get excited when folks let me know they enjoy my writing. It is a nice thing to hear. I am especially thrilled when they use words like “transparent” and phrases like “I can hear you saying it.”

I enjoy that most because it is what I strive to do. I want to be honest. I want to be open. I am not interested in rose colored. Fake is illusion. Real is progress.

But not everything is suitable for public knowledge. Not all laundry needs to be be out in the open. Every good Southern girl knows that the intimates are hung on the inside line between the linens – hidden, out of view.

Is this because we are ashamed or guilty? While those things may be true, that is typically not the reason. Some things remain private because there are certain situations that are nearly too much to process. The wires are already so tangled, the extra voices already so loud, the self conscious advice already so judgmental and so bad that it just would not do to open that platform to anybody else.

Do I mind that you know I am horrid speller? Nah. I am not even concerned that regular readers know some of my biggest challenges, deepest fears and awkward moments. In fact, these frank discussions have enriched my life in countless ways. Amazingly enough, I heard from many that there are others that have had the same experience and that is breath taking for me.

But there are still things about folks that we come into contact with everyday that we just have no idea.

Today I encourage you appreciate the idea that everyone is some where. While that sounds superfluous, it isn’t. We see where we think another person is coming from. We have information that we know and even more that we think we know. Trust me – there is still more. There are untold and unnumbered fears, hopes, dreams, challenges, living in each soul that crosses our path. I encourage each of us to be kind to ourselves and each other – even when it isn’t spelled just quite right. There are many days when spelling isn’t everything. When spelling just doesn’t count. Those are the moments when it is so important for us to remember to try to focus on the things that do.

Thanks for the coffee,

Creating Rich Places to Grow

In my skin, I am not a checklist.
I am a holistic being with more facets than I even know about.
And light from one may create a shadow on the other.
And just because our shadows are different doesn’t make us less than the other.
~ Me

Alrighty Jack. There you go. He has been looking for one of these to start with a quote from yours truly and he’s got it – although I am of the opinion the large majority of it is nothing but my quotes. But, hey, I can compromise.

I have been writing this column for a pretty long time. I was asked yesterday if I had written this week’s yet. Nope, I hardly ever write it until it is time. I was asked where the ideas come from. Honestly, who knows. It kinda depends on what is going on at the time. The topics range all over the place often led by whatever wind is blowing through my own hair.

Sometimes it gets preachy. Other times it is a bit snarky. Some days I feel like a cheerleader – others, a warden. There are days when I am afraid to hit send. Wildly, more often than not, positive responses often show up tagged with, “It was like you were talking to me.”

I appreciate all of that, even when we don’t agree, I am thankful. But I want you know, I never intend to condescend – I am almost always talking to me. I feel, at the core, that most people are wonderful people with a few less than stellar challenges. I most certainly consider myself a part of that group – yes, both wonderful and challenged.

In truth, we are fairly eclectic beings. We all have our histories, influences, biases, desires, disgusts, causes, beliefs, priorities, vices, challenges. As we change and grow, we each seek to know and be known. The vulnerability in that is astounding and can intimidate the thickest of skins. Let that vulnerability be met with harsh judgement or condescension once or twice and a problem bigger than differences will start to arise.

Today, I encourage you to applaud all the different aspects of you, even those things that could use some work. Appreciate your different facets. Enjoy the eclectic nature of your likes and dislikes. Once we begin to appreciate these things in ourselves, we will be better capable of appreciating them in others. That type of support and genuine affection for others and from others is a powerful tool. Grow it. Wield it. Protect the goodness it is created from. It’s easy to stand aside, puff your chest and point accusing fingers. It is something else entirely to watch the goodness of a person unfurl because you created a rich place to grow.
Featured Image Courtesy of Georgia Brooke North

Sin and Virtue of Pride

To know a man,
observe how he wins his object,
rather than how he loses it;
for when we fail,
our pride supports us –
when we succeed,
it betrays us.

~Charles Caleb Colton

I will admit to being a prideful person. I appreciate doing well and being well. I appreciate excellence and I expect to see it in myself. It is easier to perform for the sake of my own appreciation than attempting to please the masses.

I have, as I am sure others have, been kicked in the teeth a few times. That situation is painful. Failure is never fun. Falling short never feels good. There is nothing anyone can do for you when just don’t feel like getting over it and trying again. That has to come from inside. That has to manifest itself with in each of us.

Winning is easy – humility is hard. Success is easy – failure is hard. Pride, just like ice cream, cable television, and jalapeno cheetos, is a requirement with an intense need for moderation.

With it, our thoughts of ourselves may become more inflated than they ought. We may become complacent in our abilities and stop striving for excellence. Pride then becomes a cover for deficiency – a facade for ego.

Without it, it is hard to maintain an internal barometer of self-satisfaction. We are left with no judgement of our own ability and dance in the wind to the opinions of others. Our skinned knees become impossible to overcome as there is no internal motivator to be better and try again.

Today, I encourage you to appreciate your inner drive. Appreciate your strengths and honor your courage to confront your weaknesses. People will long insist on “pride” being both a virtue and a sin. However, as in many things, it is our ability to remain vigilant in the commitment to produce goodness in the world – for both ourselves and others – that prove the heart of the warrior has the final say. Listen to yours. The conversation is priceless.

Thanks for the coffee,


*Photo Credit to Brian

Judgement, Forgiveness and the Art of Getting Out of Your Own Head

 

I’m not judging people, I’m judging their actions.
It’s the same type of distinction that I try to apply to myself, to judge, but not be judgmental. 

~Jeff Melvoin

 

Hey y’all. Did you miss me? For those of you who noticed I was silent last week, my apologies for the unexpected hiatus. If you didn’t notice, that’s fine too. I have not yet achieved the position where I take myself so seriously.

To save space, I won’t get into the eleventy billion things going on in my little corner of the world. I will say that this column is written nearly real time. And by the time I realized it needed to be written, it was really too late. And honestly, it wasn’t something I really wanted to make time for. So I made the choice.

I felt a bit guilty about that. Moreover, I got a bit nervous about what folks would think. I don’t know about you, but I can recall in full living color almost every mistake, misstep, small fault, discrepancy, deficiency, perceived or otherwise, that I have ever had. I assume that every one else does too. Ridiculous as it sounds, any moment that I fall short creates a whirlwind of judgement calling up every past moment where I wasn’t quite enough. It’s a fun time. Really.

I have made a conscience decision to alter that natural response. It is not the easiest thing I have ever done and it takes a fair amount of effort and intention. However, a big bonus is the effect it has on my ability to deal with people. Because I have learned so much about being kinder to myself and the truth about perception and reality, it is far easier to extend the same latitude to others around me.

Today, I encourage you to tell the witch voice in your head to take a hike. This nag is useless. We are all imperfect people. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we are fortunate to do them in private. Sometimes the whole world is watching. Either way, we aren’t the first person to screw it up. And outside of ourselves and folks who are just looking for a reason to pull you down, no one really remembers all that other stuff anyway – they are too busy remembering their own. Understand the nag will return. That voice is kinda persistent that way. It is not another statement of failure, but another chance to exercise strength. These tough moments are not evidence of failed person, but of the humanity that makes us resilient.

Thanks for the coffee,

*Photo Credit to Tim Hyde

Nothing is Better Than Sisters – Even When We Are Different

 

Love is the ability and willingness
to allow those that you care for
to be what they choose for themselves
without any insistence that they satisfy you.

~Wayne Dyer

I am a bit under the weather and somewhat foggy in the head. So, I am taking the easy way out and focusing today on that one thing that makes me happy without having to think about it – my family.

We have a big family. We are scattered to three of the Earth’s four corners. Fortunately that doesn’t make us any less close-knit. My baby sister and family is in from Germany. I got to meet the child that was named after me. We also found out she is about to make our family another baby bigger. My middle sister shocked and awed with her surprise visit. Talk about delighting a house full of hearts.

While there are obvious similarities amongst the three sisters, there are obvious differences. We birth and parent our children different. We love our parents different. We enjoy down time different. Clothes, music, hobbies, food, weather – different.

Different – not bad, wrong or negative – just different. Does the different sometimes cause conflict? Sure, but between sisters, anything can cause conflict. Heck, we will make it up if it has been too long!

More often than not, different creates wondrous moments of discussion and invitation into the hearts of those that are closest to us. Different allows for beautiful moments of sharing and understanding. Theses differences move us to a place where we love each other more deeply for who the other is wholly instead of who they are positionally. I grow in love for them because I know them better as people – not simply out of sisterly obligation.

Today, I encourage you to embrace the different. Assess your initial gut reaction when you hear the word. Say it out loud – “different.” Is that exciting, positive, negative, scary, uncertain, apprehensive, neutral, something else entirely? Consider whether your disposition to the idea of different leaves you open to the possibilities or guarded against the unknown or misunderstood. Then reflect on whether or not your notion of different enriches or depletes. What a wonderful resource of growth and expansion can exist in those things which are outside of our normal.

Thanks for the coffee…

**Yep that’s us 🙂

Beauty in Solitude, Company, Diversity and Dynamic

There are days when solitude is
a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom,
others when it is a bitter tonic,
and still others when it is a poison
that makes you beat your head against the wall.

~Colette

Okay all you introverts, hang with me through this first idea and I will get back to you on the second.

I am an extrovert. I will continue when the loud haws of feigned disbelief subside. It’s just the truth of it – I love talking, interacting, sharing, watching, knowing, being around people. I am fairly certain it is deep-rooted inside of my DNA.

I was in my 30’s before I even began to consider the benefits of occasionally choosing solitude. And there are many. It hasn’t been until very recently that I have been able to participate in this foreign art and enjoy its fruits. In this age of constant connectivity and information availability, even the introvert can constantly surround himself with people with minimal effort.

There is a lost appreciation (or in my case an unknown one) for that time you spend with that one person you need to know best – yourself. Developing an understanding of another person takes intention and focus with little distraction. Keeping in touch with your inner compass is no different.

Alrighty introverts, idea two. Because our preferences change and adjust from time to time, does not make a statement on our devotion or character. It is painful to watch a dynamic person continually attempt to keep themselves in a static box because of expectations – either from themselves or others. I find it amazing when folks who adore and celebrate diversity and eclecticism everywhere else fail to see the beauty of it in themselves.

Like to be alone today, with a whole gaggle tomorrow and a few close friends the day after that? Great – all normal. There is nothing wrong with a varying desire for interaction. It does not make you a loner, attention starved, elitist, unable to be by yourself, uncomfortable in your own skin, wishy washy, recluse – or any other label others attempt to put on you so they can feel more comfortable with the dynamic.

Today, I encourage you to take inventory of your own inner dialogue. Do you talk with yourself enough? Do you listen? Do you allow for the time you need to check in with your inner compass to ensure you are still tracking? Yes? Great. Move forward into your next interaction at whatever level that might be. No? Great (there is no judgement here). Consider if this is the best course of action. If it works, beautiful. If not, take that time for yourself and go ahead and decide upfront that you are not going to let other people’s perception of this move throw you off your game.

Thanks for the coffee…

**Featured Photo from Jose Antonio
**Colette Photo found on I Am A Flippy Doodle. Interestingly enough, he had posted the same quote. I spent a bit of time on his blog…check it out.