Jul 082020

Humans don’t fly, right? Sure they do. Who remembers learning how to ride a bike? Didn’t it feel like flying? All of a sudden, we were able to move at a formerly incomprehensible speed, leaving ordinarily life a dot disappearing in our wake. These days, biking is more like a cruise through nearby neighborhoods at a speed that lets me notice. And today’s ride was literally for the birds.

Moving the bike from the garage was halted by the presence of a hawk on the wire. And one on the small palm. And another from the side fence and one from the feeder. As one of the neighborhood squirrels soon discovered it was a hunting party. Fortunately for the squirrel, they’re young and not very good at it. I guess if you wanna soar, first you’ve gotta grow, then you need to get unstuck.

I remembered to be grateful. Let’s get back to the humans who want to fly. Click To Tweet

Not far into the ride I happened upon a large family (or two) of geese waddling along the hell-strip, feasting on grass and weeds. It’s the time of year they can’t fly: the new flight feathers are still maturing. So the walk. Or waddle. Sweet, soft little grunting noises and the sound of ripping grass stayed with me as I pedaled  slowly through a cool, shady neighborhood. I remembered to be grateful to the planners and developers who work around beautiful, mature trees. Another mile or so down the road a mature tree on the edge of a large pond looked like a well-decorated Christmas tree — only the dozens of “ornaments” were delicate white egrets.

Not Everyone Enjoys Using a Bike to Fly

Let’s get back to the humans who want to fly. Not everyone enjoys a bike. What does flying look like for you? How about soaring?

“Before I can fly, I’ve gotta _______.”

How are we going to fill in that blank for you??? And what’s up with the ugly little bird?

I took this picture at my home in New Hampshire where I’d been watching a mother bird feed her little ones. She decided it was time for them to fly.  Only this little baby wasn’t convinced.

I’ll never know whether he didn’t want to fly or he just wasn’t physically ready.  It probably doesn’t matter.  Somebody else set a goal for him and he didn’t achieve it. Well… actually….  That’s not 100% accurate.  He and his sibs “flew.” Straight to the ground.  The other little bird-os made it to the top of the garden fence.  And then higher up into a tree.  And on to the roof of the barn. Except for this one.  He was on the ground and going nowhere fast. And not at all happy about it.

I have made myself miserable by comparing my insides to others’ outsides — and by spending energy pursuing goals I didn’t set. Click To Tweet

I can relate.  I have (at least once in my life) managed to make myself miserable by comparing my insides to what I see others doing. It’s  just not good for my attitude or outlook on life. Even worse is when I expend energy trying to achieve goals I didn’t set.  I can’t think of a better way to stay grounded. Stuck. Unable to fly.

It’s a Combination of Science and Art

Whether writer, visual artist, direct seller, or parent… living up to our potential requires a combination of science (skills and information) and art (choosing the right combination and making them a part of what we do).  And as much as we’d sometimes like to pretend otherwise, there’s no magic bullet. When it comes to getting unstuck there is no ‘one size fits all.’

Some days my gratitude list includes that fact that my parents were busy and overwhelmed learning how to take care of me – otherwise, they might have had time to learn that teen parents are destined to poverty and failure.  Fortunately they didn’t know that. At the age of nineteen, they were married, full time university students and parents. Whatever their plans had been until then, they now had responsibilities to take care of.

Fortunately, their parents had taken the time to plant their feet on the ground and aim their eyes toward the sky.  It never occurred to them to do anything BUT to figure out how to create the best possible family they could.  They were blessed with the examples of hard work, goal setting and ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness.’  It took ‘early parenthood’ to bring these skills and attitudes into focus.

Circumstances – often unpleasant ones – help them catch fire, get to work and accomplish the things that matters to them. Click To Tweet

That’s the point.  Everyone starts somewhere.  People are born with unlimited amounts of potential, most of which never gets tapped.  Early in their lives, something or someone creates a spark.  Circumstances – often unpleasant ones – help them catch fire, get to work and accomplish the things that matters to them.

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Are the tough times in your life fanning a spark that will grow into a flame? So many ways to get unstuck! Tell us about some of your favorites in the comments. I know I’d love to hear them.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this something, at whatever cost, must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie

Jun 242020

boxer dog faceRoo. That’s what he was called. Roo as in Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend from the Hundred Acre Wood. It was a cute name but one that did not seem a good fit for such a strong, muscular young pup.

Choosing the right dog name is always a little daunting. One or two syllables, easily fitting with commands. Easy to yell when you’re recalling him. And there are other factors as well. A long time ago a breeder advised me to “never call a dog something you don’t want it to be.” That both makes sense and reminds me of a cartoon panel in which two dogs are introducing themselves. One says, “I’m Ginger.” The other, “My name is No, No, Bad Dog.”

In addition, Alex was born deaf and  I found myself doing more than my usual amount of overthinking. On one hand I could call him Herbie one day and Winston the next. After all, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” right? (Favorite Husband does that. But he does that with all of us.) On the other hand, this little dog needed a title to suit his stunning appearance and oversized attitude. Besides, I didn’t think it was fair to ask the veterinarian’s office to label his medical file with a name sign.

My name is “No, No, Bad Dog.” Click To Tweet

Like so many of my writer friends I have occasional moments of brilliance — at least with names and titles. Typically I really shine when I don’t need such a thing. (Yep, that’s right, random titles just show up. Especially when I’m not working on anything significant.) When I couldn’t come up with the right answer for this one, I turned to social media. I posted the boxer’s picture on my author page, asked for name suggestions, and got all kinds of good ideas. Then something weird happened.

In addition to my social media survey, I had posed the question to three animal-loving yet dogless kids in my life: a niece, a nephew, and my stepson in Germany. Each of the three kids gave me a list of 5 or 6 proposed names. And guess what? Each of the lists had the name Alex on it. So Alex it was. And his name sign is a peace sign. Because … just because. What old hippie doesn’t like to flash a peace sign every chance they get?

Whether we’re naming children, pets, streets, or boats, a name represents something. They become a stand-in for the person, place, or thing that carries it. A symbol. There are other considerations as well:

  • how popular is the name e.g. will there be 6 Debbies in every elementary school class?
  • do the initials spell out something strange?
  • does it remind you of someone or something you’re not crazy about?
  • is the name or symbolism somehow offensive or hurtful to others?

With the recent concerted effort to improve race relations in the US, ‘offensive or hurtful’ has certainly been brought to the forefront, especially with many in favor of renaming military installations currently named for Confederate military officers.

Naming makes a thing more real. Maybe friendlier. Click To Tweet

I recently had an opportunity to speak with a large group about The Inner Critic Advantage. They enjoyed the concept of renaming “the thing in their heads” so it felt less powerful and daunting. Friendlier. It’s a bit like when the littles are acquiring language — there’s a great relief that comes with being able to name something and to communicate about it. (And I can’t think of anything or anyone that’s friendlier than my Alex.) Over the years, Alex and I have developed our own system of sign language: some obedience signs, a few from ASL, and some routine gestures.  Naming makes a thing more real — maybe friendlier. I think that has something to do with our system of communication. Name it. Claim it. Tame it.

Do you like your name? Is it easy for others to pronounce? Does it have special meaning within your family? Do you have a story about names or naming to share? I’d love to see those in the comments. Thanks!



Jun 162020

If we’re connected on Instagram or Facebook, you know that I am dog-crazy; one of the things I get to do from time to time is dog training. A day of training is like a vacation. I’m able to stop obsessing about day-to-day details and learn how to learn a bit differently.  I have been fortunate to find wonderful teachers who is willing and able to meet us where we are, we’ve got homework and, unlike some parts of my academic career (sorry, Mr. Z),  I’ve actually been diligent about doing it. And, as the photos will attest, the dogs and I are having a blast.

Our most recent installment in the story involves an instructor who is enthusiastic, funny — and a real drill instructor. In this chapter, it seems that I have not learned “the right way” to interact with the dogs and my efforts with the new pup are a constant source of his amusement. Aloud. In front of the class.

At first I was uncomfortable. Embarrassed. But, as I looked around at my other classmates, something became clear: this was one of those rare teachers would nag and tease and cajole until a skill is mastered. When it comes to dog training, he’s “all in” — and has unending patience for students who make a similar commitment. It occurred to me that, in the past, I’ve not been pushed. My vision was limited and my goals were small. I probably was not a very interesting student.

At first I was uncomfortable. In MY Mind and MY story I was already pretty good at this thing called dog training. And while I love to learn and improve, I was struggling with my head. (The older I get, the more I realize that most challenges live there.) I couldn’t find the balance between having enough “beginner mind” to participate and an ego that won’t shut up. Mine.

Ego wants me to abandon everything to become “the best.” It (that pesky ego) usually also gives me a two or three-week deadline as well. Fortunately, I have Furry, four-legged partners in this venture and we are practicing for about 10 minutes, twice a day. In other words, I asked for help and am following the directions. It works.

And, while skills mastery is cool, I’m noticing some other things.

Alex thinking

Confidence is catchy. Click To Tweet

1. Confidence is catchy. Both of my dogs are rescues and came to us when they were almost a year old. Before that was some abuse and neglect. I had learned not to be one of those “oh-you-poor-baby-dog-moms” because I discovered it wasn’t good for them but I didn’t know how to increase their confidence. Turns out they’re a lot like humans: the larger the skill set the bigger the comfort zone.

She shep place

Overpayment is counterproductive. Click To Tweet

2. Overpayment is counterproductive. We’re in the process of reviewing basic skills while learning lots of new things.  This process requires yummy treats. Apparently, I was using treats that were a little too tasty:  my shepherd was getting so excited she was skipping steps in order to “get paid” more quickly. When we switched to reward that is a better match for the task at hand (dry cookies instead of something with meat) she was able to slow down, focus on her job and perfect her skills.

Alex heeling attention

To get attention we have to be interesting. Click To Tweet

3. To get attention we have to be interesting. My little deaf dog is a rock star. He has always impressed us with his willingness and ability to learn. He loves to perform his tricks for visitors. But I was having trouble teaching him to heel. Even when it did “work,” it felt forced and awkward. That’s because only one of us was on board with the idea. As soon as I learned to get his attention? It’s a whole different ballgame. He’s curious about what’s coming next so, guess what? He’s looking at me,  giving me his undivided attention. We’re communicating. Imagine that. Simple but not easy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me….  it’s 5:30, the sun is on the way, and the birds are letting me know it’s time to get the gear backed. We’re on the way to a full day of training. We’ve just started with this team, so I’m sure there are lots more great lessons to come.

If you like, please use the comments to share about something simple you’ve learned. The dogs and I would love to know.