Nov 202019
 

 

Inspiration. What does it mean to live an inspired life? It’s a phrase that can bring to mind images of artists, monastics, and martyrs. It also makes me think of sweeping the floor and tending my weeds.

I think the phrase got stuck in my head the other day when one of my friends referred to another as an inspiration. Word nerd that I am, I was intrigued: my friend the inspiration has a serious breathing disorder and one of the definitions of “inspire” is “to breathe in.” In fact, the word dates back to about 1300 when it meant “to breathe upon or into” or simply “to breathe.” Today I am thinking about the relationship between inspiration and breath in our day to day lives.

She’s an Inspiration

What does it mean to live an inspired life? Click To Tweet

purple coffee cup in woman's hands

Spending time with other writers and artists, I hear a lot of talk about “inspiration.” It can sound magical and mystical; it can appear impossible to achieve. Sometimes we sound like we’re sitting around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick.

Hit by the Inspiration Stick

I don’t think I’m alone when I say my ability to produce quality work ebbs and flows. I’m not always happy enough with what I’m writing to share it with you — even here. I think that has more to do with my personal standards than a lack of inspiration.

I don't want to sit around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick! Click To Tweet

The other day a colleague told me she considered my first book  What Kids Need to Succeed  “inspirational.”

Apparently I was silent for too long.  She went on to explain that, although she thought the book contains good and useful information, she believes that its greatest value is to provide support and inspiration to parents… especially when they doubt or question themselves.

I was only quiet because I was moved.  Deeply moved.  Frankly, it’s hard to imagine something better than throwing a virtual life preserver to a drowning parent and helping them to shore.  (Except maybe for those parents to not to feel like they’re drowning in the first place.) Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment.

Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment. Click To Tweet

Throwing a Virtual Life Preserver

Being a parent can bring us face-to-face with some of the most powerful versions of anything we feel:  love, pride, joy, fear, self doubt.   Many people are fortunate to have had great parents to show them the way.  Others have to work much harder to extract the value from some of their early lessons. Buttons get pushed.  People hurt.

But feelings aren’t facts.  They can be a valuable source of information. Sometimes we need help to translate our feelings to thoughts that can be more useful to us. By the way, a little reminder: one does not have to be a parent to feel overwhelmed in the face of a seemingly impossible task. It can happen to authors and artists, sales people, and those facing physical or medical challenges.

What if “I don’t feel like I can do this” means:

  • I need support
  • I don’t know how to ask for help
  • I’m taking on a big challenge
  • I’ve never done anything that matters more
  • I’m in pain
  • I need to improve my skills
  • I’m going to get more training
  • I’m looking for a mentor
  • I want to make sure I’m looking at (and compensating for) my “blind spots”

Sometimes We All Need Translation

But what if “I don’t think I can do this” means you’ve got the open-mindedness and willingness to be great? What if it means you have something inside of you that wants you to go beyond any of the pictures you currently have? What if you’re in the process of establishing a new normal?

What if “I don’t think I can do this” is a signal that there’s something inside, yearning for more? What if it has to do with being great? Click To Tweet

 

“Breathe in. Soften. Go a little deeper.” I’m new to yoga and fascinated by the various instructors’ descriptions of breath and the ways they coach us to be aware of it. Maybe that’s part of what has me thinking about inspired life.

the words namaste yall against a starry sky

My husband goes on silent meditation retreats. Silent meditation is another place where ‘breath’ takes center stage. I’m told that counting breath is a way to re-center, to come fully into the present, and to stop thinking.

Some of my friends paint. I write. And occasionally try my hand at other forms of art: redacted poetry, multi-media painting, landscape design. It all feels connected.

What’s Your Jam?

I also just finished reading Painting Life by my friend Carol Walsh. It’s a memoir about balancing her life as an artist with her life as a therapist. And about the endless process of reinventing the self. Her book made me wish I had known more about both self-care and reinvention when I was a young therapist and advocate. I burned the candle at both ends, pushing beyond comfortable limits both at work and at home. I rarely said “no.” It took time to see that I short-changed everyone — especially myself. Eventually, I learned to embrace both self-care and personal evolution. Maybe there is no “wrong.” Maybe there’s only “next.”

What if the fact we have breath means we are inspired? Click To Tweet

What if inspiration only meant “breath?” Does the fact that we have breath means we are already inspired? Could inspired living simply mean using our breath? Using our lives in the best way we know how? Is it really all that simple? How do we best use that precious gift?

 

 

 

Jul 012019
 

“Elvis has left the building.”

I was never a screaming fangirl who needed to hear those words over a PA system to know the party was over. The whole Elvis phenomenon was wasted on me for many years after his passing. Only then could I finally hear and appreciate his music without anyone trying to convince me of anything about it. But, despite his monumental talent, I’ll always remember Elvis in quite a different form.

There’s a favorite bit of family lore that focuses on a multi-generational fear of snakes. Back when Elvis was King and I was a small child, my Dad worked as a sales manager for a land company. A big project in North Carolina brought many fellow northerners to the salesforce and Dad spent a great deal of staff training time drilling about precisely what to do if they encountered a snake while showing land to prospective customers. Over and over. “No matter what, stay calm. Turn and walk in the other direction. Don’t even mention it,” he instructed.

What I didn't realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, it sure does run in the family. Click To Tweet

It seemed to be a sound policy. After all, there was no point in freaking people out unnecessarily, was there? It made loads of common sense until the day Dad was walking the land, heard the grass rustle, looked down, and shrieked, “SNAKE!” at the top of his lungs as his six-foot self hurried to the relative safety of the road.

My Dad tends to be a larger-than-life figure, so I’ve always enjoyed teasing him with this story: it brings him down to earth with the rest of us. What I didn’t realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, sure does run in the family. Fortunately, my interactions with the creepy crawlies have been limited by Favorite Husband who almost always runs interference for me. Almost always. Almost.

He's a southern gent; there's a lot about him that feels like a drawl. Click To Tweet

“Excitement” is not a word that should come to anyone’s mind about anything in Florida during the month of July. It’s just too damned hot. Everything unwinds slowly, with most voluntary activity taking place either very early in the morning or late at night. Life takes place in the dark and, generally speaking, it’s not a terrible time of year for my husband to travel to his annual retreat. Life gets very lazy here.

It’s odd that our dog, Alex, should work his way into this story — he doesn’t waste a lot of motion even when the weather is cool. A nearly-albino boxer, he’s deaf, an attribute that serves to enhance his extreme aptitude for lengthy naps. He’s a southern gent; there’s a lot about him that feels like a drawl. I love it.

Still, it was July. I didn’t think much of his frequent trips to the laundry room. The floor is usually a little cooler there.

As I walked in to start a load of wash, I heard a loud thump. Turning towards the sound, I was startled by a very odd motion. When I recognized the flipping creature as a snake, the scream I let out rivaled my Dad’s. It didn’t phase Alex a bit.

Alex’s deafness makes him a keen observer of his surroundings, and he is especially fascinated by snakes: this was not our first encounter. My best guess is that he frightened the thing enough that it sought refuge atop of my ironing board. My subsequent shriek scared it to safety behind the dryer. I grabbed the dog, shut the laundry room door, and started to pace. My hands were sweatier than the rest of me. Excitement. July. I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it.

I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it. Click To Tweet

When I took a break from hyperventilating, I remembered that one of my closest friends — the one who names every animal that has ever hopped, stepped, or slithered through her yard — was married to a former park ranger. I called. They came. I love my friends.

Of course, there was no sign of the snake. The pair went back home, and the full cycle repeated itself. This time, before leaving, my naturalist friend said, “Keep your phone in your hand. The next time you see the snake, keep your eyes on him while you call me.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the snake turned up again. I followed instructions. My stomach churned. Although they live within a couple of miles, I waited forever for rescue to arrive.

Armed with heavy gloves and a large, covered bucket, he cornered the thing. Sure enough, as he moved it into the bucket, the damned snake managed to bite him.

A bite from a black racer snake is far more annoying than dangerous. A little hot soapy water and a plastic bandage did the trick. With my sincere appreciation, the rescuer and his charge headed to another home in another neighborhood where his wife would gift it with a name. And, yes, as you have probably guessed: when my husband called home that evening, I was able to let him know what happened.

“Elvis has left the building.”

Apr 302019
 

With the ability to stream TV classics from almost any era, I’m not dating myself too much when I think about Ally McBeal’s quirky characters and their various adventures with theme songs. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a litigator who wasn’t ready for court until he heard bells… and someone who needed the attitude adjustment that came from channeling his inner Barry White. I did some work with Mark Victor Hansen, one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys and saw him come to the front of the room to either You’re Simply the Best or Soul Man.

So I recently asked a bunch of Facebook followers what sort of theme song they might recommend for a person who had a goal in mind but needed a little extra support in the “gigantic butterflies in the stomach” department. They’re some interesting folks and came up with some pretty good additions to a playlist. Or, maybe an entire playlist. You be the judge. And I’ve included a crazy number of links in this post; if you can stand all the YouTube ads, you can hear each of the songs.

What's YOUR theme song? Click To Tweet

Whenever I post about developing confidence or taking motivation to a higher level, I’m not surprised when Avon Superstar (also known as Captain Platinum) Lisa Wilber jumps in first. She gave us Reba’s  I’m Gonna Take That Mountain.

Some of the contributors offered deeply spiritual music: Thirty-one Gifts consultant Patricia Darley chose Made to Thrive.  Roslyn Evans — the co-owner and designer of exquisite jewelry at Earth and Moon Design — is inspired by This Little Light of Mine while another artist, Heather Maria, added Walk on Water.   Rachel Keiffer, the HealthNut Girl introduced some of us to a Hebrew song called the Song of Ascents.

Some of the women turned to their spiritual sides for musical inspiration. Click To Tweet

Intuitive healer and coach Robin Ann Reid offered This is Me.  and Suzie Cheel from down under tossed Happy, as well as Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s beautiful version of Over the Rainbow, into the mix.

And Lore Raymond from Florida’s gulf side led the charge for Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.  I don’t know about you, but “you can bend but never break me, ’cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal” rings true for so many of the important women in my life. And Vatsala Shukla reminded us of another “you’ve got this” anthem: such Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

You can bend but never break me... Click To Tweet

When it came time to pick up the tempo, Colleen added Sly and the Family Stone with You Can Make It If You Try while Michelle dished up a little Uptown Funk.   Author Beverly Golden joined Etta James to advise:  Trust Yourself.  And we can always count on Barb Parcells to bring us classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone.  I hope you like Josh Groban’s version as much as I do.

Many of these women have wonderful projects going; I’ve linked to their sites or Facebook pages so you can get to know them if you choose. In the meantime, I’m off to iTunes to buy a couple of these songs for one of my “you go, girl” lists!

 

Oct 172018
 

Finding myself with a persistent earworm, I’m surprised that it’s not a popular song or something from a musical or movie soundtrack. I’ve never before experienced one involving red birds although, when my son was very small there was a certain purple dinosaur and that famous group known as The Muppets. But that was some time ago. This was a very odd earworm, and, at the risk of passing it along, I’ll bet that it’s somewhere in the dark recesses of your memory, as well.

Yes, for most of yesterday, I was treated to a continuous loop of a song called “Playmate,” that super sweet little ditty many of us learned from grandmothers and great aunties. A quick online search tells me that it is now taught in pre-schools and daycare centers. Still — I hadn’t heard it for a decade or four. I’m familiar with the concept of the sense of smell evoking strong memories but still, I wonder what dredges such things from the depth of memory? This time I have some clues.

Finding myself with a persistent earworm, I'm surprised that it's not a popular song or something from a musical or movie soundtrack. Click To Tweet

As we’ve learned more and more about growing things in Florida, our backyard has become a haven for birds. Especially for cardinals. (You might remember my awe at the birds’ nest just outside the laundry room window? It belonged to a pair of cardinals.) Maybe it’s the citrus trees or perhaps my husband’s multiple feeders, but the red birds love it here, all year long. Yesterday was no exception.

We had acquired a sweet almond and noticed it was a little dry. So, after planting each of the small shrubs in a watery hole, I set up a sprinkler to add a bit more moisture. Our new plants may have appreciated their gentle shower but the cardinals seemed ecstatic, not only showering but appearing to play in the sprinkler’s misty stream. And each time I went outside to turn off the water, the birds were there: still hopping and perching and almost rolling around in the puddles. Their joy was contagious. While I marveled at their playfulness, that silly little song crept into my head. Over and over. “Playmate, come out and play with me…” Granted, they were “climbing” a lemon tree and “sliding” down a wheelbarrow rather than the apple tree and the rain barrel in the song. It still but it seemed to fit. And came into my head to dissuade me every time I went out to close the faucet.

The cardinals seemed ecstatic, not only showering but appearing to play in the sprinkler's misty stream. Click To Tweet

The cardinal garden-to-playground-takeover set me to reading a bit about my brilliant, colorful friends.

For the most part, cardinals are monogamous — always a plus in my book. (Don’t ask.) And while the female is responsible for nest-building and incubation, the male not only feeds her at the nest but joins her in feeding the hatchlings as well.

Then, in true internet fashion, I read that they signify good luck, helpfulness, passionate energy, family, good health, an excellent work-play balance. They also signal us that the best is yet to come. Wow. That’s a lot of important messaging for a little bird to carry around.

They signal us that the best is yet to come. Click To Tweet

But I repeatedly read that those beautiful red birds (and their spectacular chestnut brown females) represent loved ones who have passed. They are said to show up both in celebration and despair to remind us that those powerful spirits live with us still. My heart is full as I look back at sprinkler-jumping and clap-singing Playmate with my great aunt and, sometimes her sister, my grandma. The same grandma who instilled the love of language that is with me every day.

The almonds seem to have settled — healthy and happy — in their holes, needing little additional attention. But, even as I write this, the red birds have perched on a branch outside the nearest window.

Today is supposed to be another hot one. I’ll be turning on the sprinkler for them soon.

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