Waiting with Confidence and Humility

My life elevator has been stuck been floors of late and it is really frustrating. Really frustrating. No matter how hard I pound on the emergency button, scream at the top of my lungs to be rescued, or pace back and forth in the seemingly tiny little space I’ve been allocated, this darn cube isn’t moving. I’m here. Stuck. And I guess I better make the best of it.

I tell myself, in my more lucid moments, that it isn’t all that bad. So far, this life has been nothing short of fantastic! The ride has taken me very high! Through these glass elevator walls I can see — as I sit here stalled — not only how far I’ve come, but I can actually look up and see some pretty exciting floors waiting above me. How cool is that? It’s pretty exhilirating (and comforting!) to know the ride isn’t over and that this amazing journey continues! 

But for now, it seems, this is the spot I am supposed to be in. Stuck between floors, able to look up at the future, down at the past and wait. I’m not so good at waiting; that is the point of the process.

I’ve decided that this must be my time for waiting with confidence and humility. It isn’t about me anymore. It cannot be about what I’ve done, but who I am. I must to use this time to believe, deeply in my abilities and myself and, most importantly, in my worthiness to move to the next level. It isn’t about arrogance — I abhor arrogance. Arrogance is ego and the two — confidence and arrogance — could not be further apart. I must to take this time as I sit and ponder my view to really accept myself, my skills, my abilities and know, without a doubt, that I am worthy. No, I am not perfect, but I am perfectly lovable. I need to give myself that gift of confidence and it comes, by the grace of God, from within. No one else can give it to any of us!

The other piece I must master to get this life elevator moving again is humility; an equally tough nut to crack as I sit here and ponder my view. Reflecting on my life, my accomplishments and my choices, I know I have been blessed with an amazingly wonderful life. Mine is an outrageous life; and it continues to get better each day! That said, a life filled with promise and accomplishment does not come without criticism.  As I use this time purposefully, the feedback and constructive criticism that comes my way must be taken in.  I don’t have to blindly accept everything as gospel, but I do have to see if there is truth in the words of others.  Listen, make the necessary adjustments and enter the next level an even better version of myself.

My confidence gives me the strength to be humble enough to accept the truth.  My faith will keep me steady while I wait.  My passion will fuel me to keep my enthusiasm high and my eyes focused on the opportunities that await when the doors do open…and they will!

‘Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust.”  –Andrew Murray

Waiting with confidence and humility isn’t easy; but it is necessary.  These seasons of waiting come for us all.  They give us time to reflect on our accomplishments, refine our goals and objectives and renew our strength and soul for the next level.

If you are stuck in the elevator of life, don’t view it as a cage, view it as an opportunity to pause, reflect and renew.  We’re here for a purpose and I think the quicker we get the lesson, the faster we will feel the whirl of the upward movement!  I’m counting on it!

It’s All About The Choices We Make

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Choices bring consequences: make a good choice, good things typically happen; make a bad choice and the odds are that the results will bring less than positive results. For me, it is pretty simple math, yet so many people seem to struggle with it.

The best hope for all of us is that we have good  mentors and role models who pattern good decision-making, set healthy boundaries to allow us to test our skill at choosing wisely and support us when the outcomes bring disastrous results. At our house, we call that parenting and it was tested yesterday…big time!

My daughter has been struggling with focus. She likes to rush through the important stuff (homework, putting her plethora of “stuff” where it belongs, grooming, chores, etc.) so that she can get to the things she really wants to do. While probably not unusual for an elementary school child, these are the times that form the behaviors for tomorrow, so we tend to ride her pretty hard. Unfortunately, the tried and true methods have not been working so well of late.

The straw broke the camel’s back when she somehow decided that lounging on the chaise in the master bedroom, having an after-school snack of popcorn and oranges (“at least it was a healthy choice!” she pleaded in her own defense) to watch TV was more important than the chores she had been assigned by her babysitter. Clean laundry and things to put away were at her feet. Shoes still on, she lounged like Cleopatra on the chaise, tossing orange peels on my upholstery. To say I blew a “Mommy Gasket” is putting it mildly. Bad Choice…Bad Consequences ahead.

Dear daughter, now banned from the master bedroom, now no longer in possession of her beloved iPad for an indefinite period of time and completely schooled in the already existing rule about no food in bedrooms has had a refresher in the importance of making choices.

After lots of tears, she actually understood the situation: her actions resulted in an outcome she does not like. We talked at bedtime about her need to focus on the things that are important. She agreed it was a problem and, more importantly, that it was creating problems for her with school, at home and her friends.

She, of course, now wants to know when her iPad will be her’s again. The answer “when I no longer have to remind you of the things you need to already have done” is a tough one to grasp. But she does understand.

Having an outrageous life isn’t easy. It requires making good choices more often than we make bad ones. And on those occasions that we make bad ones, and less than thrilling outcomes happen, it takes brushing the dirt off of ourselves, finding the life lesson and moving forward.

The Power of Communication

Power of Communication

It frustrates me greatly that people find communication so challenging. In today’s world, where there are more tools than ever at our disposal, there is simply no excuse for individuals, businesses, even governments not using the resources at their disposal to ensure that the people within their sphere of influence have the information they need in a timely manner.

Take my daughter: a freshly minted ten-year-old, she’s begging for all the trappings of a pre-teen. She wants a Facebook account, a cell phone and carte blanche access to the internet. Newsflash: it isn’t happening. She does have a first generation iPad and this past weekend, I finally broke down and upgraded the operating system when most of the apps on it refused to play or update. It came, unbeknownst to me, with Apple’s version of messaging, iMessage.

You can imagine my shock a few hours later when my own cell phone pops up with a text from none other than my daughter with a “Maman de Yo” on the screen. My child is texting, in French, from one floor away. Out came the rules book: 1. We don’t text in this house, we talk. Face to Face. 2. “Yo Mama” is not how you talk to me. 3. Texting will not be used to communicate with anyone not approved by me… (litany of rules and contract to follow). I am not ready for this!

I am a consumer of communication and I love technology. I like that I can get on the internet and find most anything I need within minutes. I don’t want to make a phone call or “bother” someone if I can, independently, find it myself. I want my questions answered now and this information world of “immediate gratification” has served me well. But it does periodically break down…

My City decided the other night to take on a utility project on the street in front of my house. Because our street is an emergency route and sees heavy traffic during daytime hours, they decided to do the work at night. Unfortunately, no one bothered to inform the residents along the route of the work that they were about to endure ten straight hours of Hell.

You can imagine the shock of many when heavy equipment, high-powered work lights and utility vehicles started showing up at 9:00 p.m. Within a matter of minutes, the sounds of asphalt being ripped up, earth moved and (unceremoniously) dumped into waiting trucks filled the air. All night long we heard the sounds of front-end loaders, jack hammers, back-up warning sirens and workers hard at their job. No black-out curtains could kill the glow. It was not a good night.

Calls to the City’s Public Work’s “After Hours” number rang unanswered. Calls to the City’s Non-Emergency Police number repeatedly were dropped. There was no information about the project on the Public Utility Department’s website. A marquee at the entrance to our street warned the street would be closed one day earlier – it wasn’t – so clearly, this had been a planned project. Even calls to Council Members could not explain the nature of the work. In short…there was a major lapse in communication.

The after-action steps revealed many shortcomings: someone dropped the ball on putting door-hangers on resident’s doors to let them know of the work. No one can explain why the after-hours phone was unanswered. No one can explain why the City website doesn’t have a calendar of planned projects for residents to view. No one seems to be concerned about the fact that a non-emergency phone system is inoperable. And the marquee remains flashing at the top of the street, still with the wrong date. My City has not mastered effective communication.

Communication is a really simple process. So many take it for granted and let it make the most innocent of issues explode into challenges of seemingly epic proportion. Words get lost in translation … tone gets misunderstood … feelings are unintentionally hurt. The importance of what we say, how we say it and when, where and who we say it to can never be taken for granted.

Don’t assume others know what you need them to know. Tell them yourself. Face-to-face is always best, when you can. And, if you have a ten-year-old…no texting allowed!

Your Life. Your Story.

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We all are given the same 24 hours each day. With it, we write our own life story; no one else can step in and create it for us. There is no central casting. No Darryl Zanuck to come in and direct it; no F. Scott Fitzgerald to put it down on paper.  There is no one to do the set, the music, the make-up. It’s all your’s, baby.

Will it be a drama? An epic romance? A timeless classic told and retold for generations to come? Or will it be a hopeless tragedy, set in a dark, lonely period that brings sadness and sorrow?

You have the pen in hand. Your future is nothing but a set of blank pages awaiting your direction. Forget your past:  the hurts, the wrongs, the bad decisions you’ve made are all meaningless. For you get to write the next chapter, and the one after that, etc. Make it matter.

No one but you can decide what your life will be. The good and the bad are all life lessons that have brought you to this very point. Each and every experience have made you the person you are right now. Use it all for good and to make every second from this point forward be a reason for the rest of the your life to be the best of your life!

Yes, my life is based on a true story.  My story.  And one day, I hope someone will read it and say, “what an outrageously wonderful life she had!”  I pray they say that about your life, too!

Making Music Together

Music Keeps Me Going
Music Keeps Me Going (Photo credit: JFXie)

I had a rare night to myself last night. My husband was out-of-town and my daughter was at a sleep over. Late into the night, I found myself glued to an old movie from the 1940’s, an era I silently envy and wish I could have experienced firsthand.

The movie, Orchestra Wives, is one of the better swing era musicals and features the Glenn Miller orchestra. The plot itself isn’t Oscar-worthy:  girl meets boy, boy is beneath girls’ station in life, but marries her and whisks her away to a life of new experiences. Jealousies ensue, breakups occur and true characters are revealed to bring reunions. The music, of course, is amazing; how can you not love The Glenn Miller Orchestra and the great big band sound of the ’40s?

But it wasn’t the movie’s story or music that gave me pause. It was the world it depicted. Night after night, the band traveled from town to town to play clubs and venues where people got together to sing and dance. To enjoy each others’ company and make music. Back then, it was such an important part of everyday life. And unlike today, people had to go out…they had to be together…to make it.

Looking back in time, so much of our heritage is set to music. Worshipers sang in church as a community of believers, lifting their voices together in praise. Farm hands and slaves toiled away in the fields, orally recording their history and struggles for generations to come. Cowboys worked with wild west and settled their cattle in the field at night with gentle songs and lullabies that still stand the test of time.

Families went to the camps of the Adirondacks, the Catskills, Maine and like to reconnect and live the American Dream. Their children put on shows, sang cheesy songs around campfires and they put on major entertainment productions. If luck was on their side, they might even find their future mate!  But of course, they always made music together. Sometimes called The Borscht Belt, in homage to the Jewish-American families who frequented them, most of these beautiful resorts now stand in ruin.

Somewhere along the way, the post-war boom of economic success changed that. We stopped going out to find the music. Televisions were mass-produced and we could sit in our own homes and become receivers of the great shows. I can remember my own excitement as a child at watching the performances on The Sonny and Cher Show, The Glenn Campbell Hour and the likes of the greats of Carol Burnett, Ed Sullivan and even Lawrence Welk. My family all sat around the TV — together — and did not miss these great performances. We laughed, sang and made music together; but we did not have to go out to find or make it.

Today’s digital world continues to push us further and further into the abyss of isolation. We can explore new music, make music and even produce and share it without ever interacting, physically, with another human being. How sad.

As wonderful and magical as the experience of music is, we have lost the most important part of the pleasure it brings…making it together.

Winning the Battle Within

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Courage to fight the brave fight often comes from a place deep within us. It doesn’t always roar like a lion or cause buildings to shake and crumble. Many times, it whispers. It appears in the form of a tear rolling down an already damp cheek. It awakens you in the middle of the night, emboldened with an unshakable thought you cannot cast from your mind. Listen to that voice within. It is giving you the fuel to conquer the mountain ahead. The strength to take on the battles you must fight.

No one knows the struggles we wrestle with. Nor do we understand the battles being fought all around us. Compassion, love, understanding and friendship are in seemingly short supply for many these days. Don’t be so consumed in the quiet fight raging in your world that you forget to listen to the whispers of hope and encouragement being sent for just for you. Do not lock yourself away behind the doors you have built — whether they be for protection, out of fear or from ignorance — and miss the warriors waiting to help you win! And most importantly, do not forget to show love. For others are battling, too.

New Perspectives

types_of_flies3There’s a fly in my office this morning. I’m not sure where it came from in the middle of winter, but right now, he’s driving me insane with his fierce determination to fly through the window pane and reach freedom outside. I hate to break it to the little fellow that he’s probably going to beat himself senseless — or worse — in his efforts to achieve the impossible. The buzzing alone may cause me to cut his efforts short…

His valiant attempts remind me of a Price Pritchett story on change that I read decades ago about a similar fly. Trying desperately to fly through the screen of a cabin in the woods to reach the great outdoors, all while a mere 10 feet away, the front door stood wide open. All that was required of the fly was to stop, turn around and fly across the room to his desired reward. The whole world awaits, unobstructed, through that open cabin door. All the fly needed to do was see the world from a new perspective and his goal would be easily attained.

Sometimes, I think we’re all determined little flies. We know the goals we have in mind. After all, we can see them right there in front of us, right? We work so doggedly hard beating ourselves senseless, doing everything we know to break through the barriers that stand in our way! Yet, despite the tremendous energy we expend, we fall flat. I don’t know about you, but my head hurts sometimes from how hard I feel like I am banging it against the glass!

It’s time for a new perspective! It’s time to turn around and look for the open door. To find the new pathway to the goal. It isn’t that the goal is wrong; the way you and I are trying to reach it isn’t the optimal route. It might look like the best way, but if all we’re doing is banging, repeatedly, against the glass and going nowhere, I suggest it is time for a change.

And one last word of advice? All the buzzing and complaining about the glass being there in the first place isn’t doing you any favors.  No one wants to hear it and it won’t help you break through and reach your goal. In most cases, it will just result in someone bigger or more powerful than you just grabbing their nearest fly swatter to silence the problem. Sorry, Mister fly…you were just too darn annoying before my morning coffee.

Find your new perspective. Quit beating yourself senseless in frustration and expending all your energy going nowhere. Do the 360 degree turn necessary to find the right pathway that will take you to your goals and achieve that outrageously wonderful life!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award…Me? Wow!

VIBYou could have knocked me over with a feather this morning when I opened my email and saw that I had been nominated for a “2013 Very Inspiring Blogger” award. What humbling — yet extremely encouraging — validation that this journey I am on to share my vision for living life to its fullest has a true purpose!

The award is a peer award, nominated by other bloggers who are inspired by what you write. Brenda, who writes a fabulous blog, imconfident, has bestowed this honor my way. If you have a moment, visit her site. She is committed to building self-esteem and confidence in others…something this girl knows all too well how challenging it is to overcome a short supply of! Thanks, Brenda for the honor!

The award rules say you must share seven facts about yourself, so here goes:

I collect Carr China. I have over 5,000 pieces of the stuff.  Seriously!  My husband grew up in the small town of Grafton, WV where the pottery was located from 1916 until it closed in 1952. I fell in love with it on my first visit to his hometown when he took me to the ruins of the pottery and there, along the river bank of the Tygart River, I found thousands of pieces of pottery shards scattered like diamonds up and down the bank. Little fragments of restaurant logos, delicate patterns, whole mugs, etc., all abandoned for over 50 years were just begging for my attention.  I’ve spent thousands of hours researching pattern names, documenting the pottery history, locating family records and, of course, collecting pottery from all over the world. When I retire, I will open a museum in his hometown and pay homage to this beautiful story that so richly deserves to be told!

I hate rodents. Any kind of critter with beady eyes and a tail is akin to the devil incarnate.  My child will never have a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig or any other sort of creature. Pidgeons are rats with wings, so birds are pretty much out around here too. I’m not sure where my deep-seated fear came from, but suffice it to say that if you want to kill me, put a mouse in my pocket and I will expire within 30 seconds. Guaranteed.

I am passionate about travel. I was born with a wanderlust that I pray is never satisfied!  I’m thankful that I travel frequently for a living, have a husband and a child who welcome the “road less traveled” and am blessed with “just enough” discretionary income to plan the occasional decadent trip. I did not travel on an airplane myself until I was 18 and did not leave the country until I was in my mid-20s.  My daughter had her very first airplane ride at 6 weeks, her first stretch limo, first class plane ride and hotel suite – complete with her own nursery! – at age 12 weeks. She has the bug even worse than I and I a pray her journeys and life experiences take her places I can only fantasize about!

I love luxurious bedding.  Nothing – and I mean nothing – beats slipping in between crisp, cool linen sheets. The higher the thread count, the better. Thank god for places like Tuesday Morning, Gilt Groupe and, occasionally, Nordstrom Rack, where I can find obscenely decadent bedding in a price range that won’t cause me to miss a mortgage payment. But I do have rules – I refuse to buy any sheets that require dry cleaning…seriously!

I love to read. Give me a good book and I can devour it like a four-year-old can hit a plate of Oreos. A well-written book with a good plot and strong characters can cause me to put everything else on hold. And while I love my Kindle app on my iPad, some authors are reserved only for hardbacks. To me, nothing beats the feel of a weighty novel and the smell of paper and ink. For authors like W.E.B. Griffin, I will gladly carry the extra weight in my briefcase just for the joy of reading a new novel, uninterrupted, on a transcontinental flight.

I miss my Dad. In just a few days, he will be gone seven years. Cancer really stinks and it sure robbed me of one of most amazing men I’ll ever know.  I close my eyes and wish so hard that I could see his face in my mind’s eye. Even after all these years, it really ticks me off that I cannot will that image to my mind. I have tons of cherished pictures and a few videos that I can pull up on my computer, but I can never figure out why I cannot recall the clear image I want to see. Boy, what I wouldn’t give for just one more laugh, hug and conversation with him.

Most importantly, I am blessed. I have a wonderful husband, an amazing daughter, a loving and supportive extended family and an outrageously wonderful life that is so much more than I could have dreamed of. No, it isn’t perfect.  I struggle with job issues, friendship issues and have more stress in my personal and professional life than I would like. But I know I am saved, know I am loved and have a deep and abiding faith that carries me through the rough spots. What more can I ask for?

Back to the Award…Nominate Other Inspiring Blogs

The rules also say that you must nominate other blogs that you find inspiring and inform them about it. There are many that touch my heart, encourage me and help me find my way, but these are some of the ones that I find consistently keep me going. Please check them out!

Undead Dad:  Explorations of Mindful Fatherhood  A very real perspective on fatherhood from an excellent writer!

Goal Habits:  Daily Nourishment for Goal Achievement, Success and Life  An inspirational and motivational dose to start your day!

Truth Matters:  Know, Proclaim and Defend the Truth  Practical, biblical-based look at current events.

Sit Down at a Typewriter and Bleed  A young writer who is gifted beyond her years.  I found her when she was freshly pressed and continue to be awed!

Blabbermouth on Duty  Because every girl needs a little fashion inspiration, too!

Thanks again, Brenda, for the recognition! And thanks to all who read and encourage me! It keeps me going!

Being Relevant Matters

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My family and I snuck off to Walt Disney World for a few days last week. You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted much of late; life, work and general stress had sort of stepped into my pathway and taken over my discretionary time and more importantly, my creativity. I felt like I had little to offer in the way of encouragement, wisdom or advice, so I did the responsible thing and shut up. I needed to get away and recharge my batteries.

Our mini vacation came on the tails of a business conference for me and the two could not have been more perfectly paired. The conference was all about the confection industry: emerging trends in candy, retailer best practices and how to best reach and connect with consumers. The latter, of course, being my real hot button. Industry experts shared insights on technology trends, social media trends, buying/behaviors trends and more; all with a bend toward better understanding and reaching confectionery consumers of all ages.

Freshly charged with new insights on candy and consumerism, and diving head first into a world ripe with both is a head rush! The land of The Mouse is consumption at its best and I felt a giddy sense of excitement as we walked through the turnstiles. Not only was I ready to hit the Rock ‘N Roll roller coaster with my daughter, but I was anxious to check out what’s new in the world of, well, “the world.” Disney’s EPCOT is a great opportunity to experience the best of what each of the participating countries want to showcase from a retail perspective and walking through their various shops and displays is always very educational. New trends for fashion, food, toys, etc., await as you explore each individual country.

But what really blew my mind – literally – was my hour or so spent at Disney’s Imagination Pavilion. And not in a good way, I might add. Disney has always been the place for me to go and push my imagination and “see the future.” I’ve been inspired by Walt’s dream and vision in countless ways over the years, but it seems like they’ve really lost their way on many fronts — and no where is it more visible than in the “ImageWorks: The What-If Labs” attraction.

You enter the attraction after riding the “Journey Into Imagination with Figment” ride. Targeted to very young children, the attraction teaches about the five senses and challenges you to think differently about how to use sight, sounds, colors, etc., to explore the power of imagination. Unfortunately, when you marry the fact that most children of this age live in a completely digital, touch-screen world and the “lab” is a series of (mostly broken) keyboards, trackballs and monitors, what you get are a bunch of very confused preschool and elementary children fiercely pounding on monitors with no response. It was all pretty pathetic.

We saw several instances during our visit where it seemed like Disney was investing heavily in technology, but seemingly in the wrong places. New ticket readers at the entrances – which wouldn’t read the tickets we had just purchased in December – had been installed in most parks, resorts and shops. The process seemingly worked fine two months ago and left me thinking, “why wouldn’t you invest in improving the experience inside first” and leave the current technology at the gates in place. I would think it is more important to want to keep people coming back, than simply getting them inside in the first place. Despite the three-days left on our “never expiring tickets,” we’re not in any hurry to return; I think we’ll finally give Universal Studios a shot at our money.

Being relevant matters today more than ever. I’ve learned that if I cannot offer inspiration, stay silent. Walking Disney for a few days, I realized that the Imagineers, as Disney calls their creative folks, need some inspiration, too. Worn-out, dated attractions; scratched films (vs. digital) and twenty-year old ideas on global topics like energy, imagination and conservation aren’t worth the (ever-increasing) price of admission. This new generation of children can get more excitement and entertainment out of a $0.99 app on an iPad than some attractions can offer…and that’s a big problem.

No matter what you do, where you go or how you choose to build your own outrageous life, make sure you always stay relevant!