Archive for December, 2009

Don’t wait for cancer to ask for a miracle

December 30, 2009

I was the typical person complaining to everyone about all my struggles until I starting taking responsibility for them.

We all have struggles in our lives, whether physical, financial, spiritual or mental/emotional. Instead of lamenting about my struggles, I ask myself if I am willing work on them – or simply feeding them.

Because I read a lot of spiritual/positive books, I am certain that thoughts attract similar thoughts and events to our lives. I also know that thoughts make our reality. (Olympic athletes improved their races by visualizing wins. The brain didn’t know the difference.)

I have been trying to catch my “whoa is me attitude” before it spills out of my lips. I ask myself, “Are you willing to work on this?”

For example, I have gained weight since I was laid off, and was never thin before, so I don’t like way it feels. My old reaction was to stand in the closet and bawl, complain to others and resent skinny people. But today I ask myself “what are you willing to do to change?” I am willing to walk more and try to eat less. I am thinking seriously about hitting the weights, but I’m not ready yet. So, I focus on making small improvements and BANNING negative self talk. (I tell my reflection I’m looking thinner whether it’s true or not.)

Most people have genuine reasons to complain. I used try to solve their problems until a life coach suggested another approach – ask people what they could do for themselves.

Since I don’t always have immediate answers for my issues, you might not either. However, we must keep asking how we can change, improve or ease the struggle.

Now I am going to pick on us a little. Friends lament to me about their horrible jobs, bad relationships, financial strife and health issues. They don’t know how to fix these issues, won’t seek help and don’t make even the smallest changes in themselves.

This describes decades of my life. It seems we want to wallow in our self-pitying, whoa-is-me attitude. Every time we complain, we bring more of the same crap into our lives.

Irritated? When the mirror was in front of my face, I didn’t like it either. But, I didn’t want to be a crying, complaining, fearful victim of the world. So I started making changes; first in my thoughts, then in my reactions and now in not trying to solve others’ problems.

Want to really feel like a whiner? Listen to this. A friend has a successful business and beautiful family. He is caring and does much for others. You know what he got for Christmas? He got three tumors on his beautiful wife’s brain; cancer in the worse degree.

In their daily journal this couple talks about reasons to be positive, seeking knowledge and support everywhere possible and multiplying their faith exponentially.

This woman could be sobbing all day over her struggle, yet she seeks healing by praying for others.

I am not saying that because other people have bigger problems, ours are somehow easier or overshadowed. I am saying you don’t have to wait for cancer to ask God for a miracle.

Do you really want relief from this burden? What can do to ease the struggle a tiny bit? Ask the Universe for help and expect it.

Today I will concentrate on what I DO HAVE, what I LOVE and ways I am BLESSED. I expect a miracle.

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Stand back! Fuse is lit and I want to see clearly.

December 28, 2009

I just finished rewriting my resume on VisualCV.com for the 20th time, I swear. The resume gets remarkably better every time and I just figured out why.

Often, I am too close to the subject to see it clearly. In conversation, I answer clearly and tell engaging stories. On paper though, it seems like every detail should count. My seemed like the place to regurgitate every action taken in each job.

Regurgitate is right! I didn’t look at the resume at all for two months. Since I quit concentrating on the job functions I had in the past, the more irrelevant they seem. If it were a past relationship I wouldn’t be droning on about every date we had, every present I got and every meal we shared. So I’m not sure why I listed out every mundane detail of the work relationships.

I just started reading a book that might have saved me a month of lamenting (if I had read it last month). It’s called the Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk, author of a column by the same name.

In seven chapters, Penelope has channeled my whole life. This is good because it means I am not a total freak. Yet, it’s bad because I’ve obviously made many of the same mistakes as her example characters. (And I’m only on chapter 7.)

It was the last two chapters of the book that caused me to leap from the window seat and hammer out better highlights of work accomplishments. Thanks to the help of Career Coach Sean Harry I already have a list of accomplishments – my solutions to companies’ needs. I just needed to write the resume based on those accomplishments.

Sean also prompted me to read the book (a month ago) and I am grateful.

Yes, I am still starting my own business. I can tell that the gist of the book is that whether I seek a traditional workplace or contract jobs, I need streamlined answers to “what did you do there” when prospective clients ask about my past work. Either way, they will want to know about my secret sauce.

I suspect that ideas will be igniting like fire crackers in my head as I continue to read this book. Much like when I light big crackers literally, I plan to watch the fuse from a distance. Hopefully this will help me see more clearly and not smother the spark.

Christmas presence and a new breakfast spot

December 27, 2009

It just occurred to me that I got my presence for Christmas. I didn’t even realize I was living in the moment until I got out the pad and pen for tomorrow’s to-do list.

As it turns out, I’ve been going with the flow since Thursday.

It’s nice to have a stretch of time that is not choreographed or over-produced. I enjoy week-long backpacking trips because concerns and distractions are narrowed down to food, water, warmth and comfortable feet. Once you hit the trail, it doesn’t matter what you meant to pack – only what is in the pack.

It wasn’t that I planned some perfect holiday either. I didn’t send one card. I also forgot to fortify the fridge for Christmas breakfast. I quickly accepted that cards simply didn’t get done (rather than lament over it). And the search for Christmas morning grub unearthed a great breakfast spot we’ve been driving past for five years.

I see that being present, for me, means I must continue to work toward a balanced life. I have duties and obligations, goals to pursue and knowledge to attain. However, I need to stop thinking of the next item on the list. I need to be flexible for the unexpected. I need to allow dishes to sit in the sink while I enjoy company – or sun.

The Jumping Duck Media 30-day Blogging Challenge helped me realize that I shouldn’t fuel one passion to the point of extinguishing another. A few nights ago my husband and I were having wine by the Christmas tree and sharing stories of the busy day. I had already missed blogging days, so I really needed to write. But I decided the moment was too good. Instead of blogging, I refilled my wine.

I’ve mulled over the decision. Even if laziness was the reason I missed days of writing, I’m okay with that. Some days I am the task master of myself and go way overboard. Other days I struggle to get in the groove. I am hoping to have more days I accept for what they are – a moment I am meant to be in.

Enough maturity. It’s time to play.

December 23, 2009

An undefined absence has lingered in me lately. So I prayed for a miracle with earnest. I prayed for a miracle of joy and love in my heart so great that it must spill over to others. As I made a second lap around Gabriel Park I was drawn into the dog park.

A collie, a Bernese mountain dog and a greyhound mix bombarded me and my heart was immediately overflowing with joy. I knew what I have been missing – play.

I’ve been taking life a bit too seriously. I’ve been a bit too grown up for my own good. My focus on cleanliness is so overboard that I am often affronted by a dog’s muddy paws on my clean clothes.

Yet I grinned all the way home in the running tights and jacket I just washed, now covered in sand and muddy paw prints.

This childlike elation spilled into the evening as I joined a group of gals for a night out. I cannot remember the last time I really let Larque out to play, especially with girls. I’m accustomed to drama-free guys (for the most part) who watch sports and live simply. Truthfully, girls scare me a little – which is another blog entirely.

But thanks to some random dogs I was in a playful mood, eager to play. I was met by three tables of other playful girls who just want to enjoy life, share stories, sip over-priced concoctions and laugh loudly.

Again, I ventured out of my comfort zone and found what I’d been missing. I already yearn to know more about these gals. I crave further details of the wild tales that assemble their life stories. I want to laugh until my sides hurt. And I feel like I could dance ridiculously or sing horribly and they would join in, rather than judge.

My husband says I “collect people,” which is why people needing comfort seek me and tell me their stories. But what if I let down my guard and allow others to collect me? I can only anticipate continued joy and love from new friends. Every day is truly a gift.

“There are 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.

Thanks girls.

Solstice mirrors my life; from darkness I expect light

December 21, 2009

My body knows it is the winter solstice. Today is a day of passage into a new phase. Today I am meant to stand still and await the rebirth of the sun.

Since standing still and waiting are not innate in my brain, my body assists. Weeks of rain teamed with the short days have deterred me from hiking. Not good for Larque’s whirling brain.

While I drove home from a Small Business Development Center class, the sun broke through nearly blinding me. I hustled to get into walking gear and climb some hills before the sun set. I felt elated and refreshed by the glorious break in staging.

And now I am spent. I’ve been a bit sluggish all day. Mentally, I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities, choices, education and obligations on my plate. It is a good time to contemplate the winter solstice and how it mirrors my life.

From the darkness, I do expect light. My conviction that money and some semblance of order will return to my life is as strong as my belief that I will be playing outdoors at 9 p.m. in the near future. It will happen.

Like the Earth, I have felt tilted with this pull in a new direction. I know I can stand straight, but find myself leaning on pillars of support. I’m not just incubating an idea; I’m incubating my new self. One of these days I will decide to bust out completely and leave the old shell behind.

But today I am happy to stop spinning and relax. I could cuddle into bed with a cat on each side right now. Instead, I am going to read my book and sip tea. Homework, emails, research, business plan and bills can all wait. I will not anticipate tomorrow or resent yesterday.

I want to be present and happy for Bob, heat from the vents, a kitty who wants to play and at least five sunny days to come. Enjoy your solstice.

Tis the season to stomp ANTs (Auto Negative Thoughts)

December 19, 2009

Five days until Christmas and my focus is on the battle against ants. Not the little black sugar ants trying to find goodies in the kitchen, Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I’m listening to and reading Happy for No Reason. I heard this gal on the web, so I know this book discusses how most of us are not born happy, but raise our happy thermometer over time.

As I drove past two malls this morning, on a mission to the vet, I saw the usual hustle and bustle of people out buying happiness – or attempting to buy it. Simultaneously, the chapter about ANTs came on. Based on fight or flight, we are programmed to think cynically to survive. Since survival requirements have changed completely since our caveman days, we don’t really need to be so cynical.

Author Marci Shimoff says we only have to comprehend one thing to battle – and defeat – our ANTs. “What we think is not necessarily true.”

She says we have 60,000 thoughts a day and 45,000 of them are negative. Holy smokes Batman. Thoughts are like ants at a July picnic in the park. And if they are ANTs, then the picnic sucks, it’s too hot out, the watermelon is mushy and that potato salad is probably going bad.

I use many brain exercises, so this isn’t my first circuit at the mental gym. Still, I need to treat positive thinking like a workout habit. I can’t do it once a week and expect results. I figure this next week will provide plenty of opportunities to catch ANTs, put them under the magnifying glass and fry them. I expect a few of the ANTs to be nasty, flying carpenter ants (like Christmas will suck because we have no money), so this will be fun.

And I will replace the zapped ANTs with thrilling thoughts that may not be true, yet have potential. Wow, I think I just lost five pounds. My hair is perfect today. There are so many job offers awaiting me. The bills are covered for the month.

Plus, I will concentrate on the positive resounding truths. I have the best husband, a beautiful house, good health and enough wit to survive. My belly is full of yummy casserole, my energy is high and I hear the rain will stop for Christmas. (hike, hike, hike)

Last but not least, today’s blog is done! Woo-hoo.

Now get out there and stomp some ANTs.

Know-it-all aims to listen instead of solve

December 18, 2009

I have always been quick to answer a question. I am smart and bold in most situations and therefore tend to speak up. Lately, this fearlessness seems a blockade to wisdom.

A couple of weeks ago a life coach spoke about listening instead of solving. He was a guest speaker at Sandler President’s Club, a professional sales training group. My eyes – and my ears – were truly opened.

My habit of solving has helped people, I’m certain. People often come to me for help or answers and I enjoy the creative problem solving. But this coach pointed out that I could help people more by asking guiding questions. What? Not produce answers for everyone all the time?

Launcher (coach) James Warrick says people will act on their own answers and leadership 65-80% of the time. Meanwhile, they act on what we say 15-25% of the time. “Ask, don’t tell” keeps rolling around in my head.

In the weeks since his talk, I have caught myself just about to spit out a solution. And then I try to use questions instead. What would you like to do about this? What do you see happening in the situation? What could you do this week to make a difference? What would it look like from the other person’s point of view?

Little disclaimer here for those who know me well: I will always be a know-it-all. It’s in my DNA. As a “bighead” (according to the thesaurus) I want to know this too. How do I help people by asking good questions so they may take action and responsibility? The first step is the toughest; shut up and really listen.

When James repeated what I had said, a neon light flashed. I had the answers to my pondering, yet wasn’t listening to myself. So I set a few goals for using this technique with loved ones and in my job search.

1)      Ask myself and listen. Listen to my body, my heart and my words.

2)      Listen carefully to others and ask what they mean. Don’t assume I understand what they are saying, really strive to understand.

3)      Find out what a person – or company’s – needs are and ask how the needs could be filled INSTEAD offering solutions. There may be a point where I can suggest a book or discuss ways I fill the need. That point is when they ASK me.

In closing, I must mention that other people who heard this talk have helped me by asking “what do you hear yourself saying” or “it sounds like you know the answer to your question” instead of TELLING me.

I have no problem asking someone “what do you think I should do?” However, it’s my job to figure it out. So, I will try to banish “I think” and “I heard you say” from my lips.

Instead, as James would put it, “what will you walk away with from this conversation?”

How my friend’s suicide opened my heart

December 17, 2009

(This is a seriously hurtful blog. If you are from Montana and knew my friend, I urge you to read this only if you have time and energy to process some pain.)

I promised myself I would read the diary and my police statement about the day my friend killed himself. I promised I would do it by today, the day. I want healing to continue.

It’s been eight years. Although the pain is still fresh, I am mostly recovered. I no longer believe I failed him. I sleep at night without pills, booze or nightmares. I rarely start crying for no reason.

I’ll tell our story as briefly as possible. Brandy had been my friend since 8th grade. He knew me better than most girlfriends. We were reunited at our 10year high school reunion, after years apart. Best friends again, we went kayaking, camping and to concerts.

But my friend was suffering from depression and head trauma from falls at work and climbing. His hands shook and he drank to still them. The drinking got him in trouble. He was more frustrated with life every day.

I did not remember before reading the diary, but he often called in the middle of night seeking comfort, insight and someone to listen. I have been to the black place, so I understood. I told him medication and therapy could help him. I told him depression is like kayaking, sometimes you have to paddle against whitewater.

I had blocked much of our last conversation. I was on lunch, cramming down a baked potato when he called. He was scared; too scared to go outside or leave the couch. He said it was all over. I tried to talk him out of it. He told me the gun was cocked and put it in his mouth.

I had forgotten that I said “I love you no matter what.” I only recalled my last words, which were “If you’re going to talk to me like that, I’m going to hang up.” He hung up and pulled the trigger.

Why would I share such a horrible story? My heart wants me to share how my life changed.

Now I treat every day like my last. I quit waiting to say or do things. I reconnected with my biological father after 24 years. I evaluated my life and realized I wanted out of journalism and out of Wyoming. I set a timeline for leaving (and left!)

With my heart split in two, it was truly open. My relationships became more intimate. I learned to trust. I fell in love. I met angels, personally.

People in distress still befriend me and impart their suffering. I have lost two more friends to suicide since moving to Oregon. I realize God calls me to listen and love without attachment to the outcome. And to tell people that suicide may free you, but it lives in me – and your loved ones – forever.

(Please seek help if you think suicide is an answer. It is a thought you can defeat.)

Dream or nightmare, it’s still just one day

December 16, 2009

A woman in the Salem unemployment office just shared her amazing dream. She dreamt the president announced that we’d all had enough and everyone can now go back to work. In the dream she was inundated with calls from people who found work.

Then she woke up and cried. The dream is farfetched. Some days I feel like my dream of supporting my family again is also farfetched. I wake up and cry. Or I wake up and tell myself the day is a gift, go conquer. Either way, by the end of the day I’m often frustrated, confused and broke.

Yesterday I was so pissed I broke my 30-day blogging challenge rather than spread the negativity.

I found out I don’t qualify for the Self-Employment Assistance Program – a program that allows you to receive unemployment while you start a business. It’s only for people in the first six months of unemployment. Once you reach the extension phase, you don’t qualify.

I’m ticked mostly because I only learned of this program in the past two months. (I’ve been on extension two months.) I’m frustrated because full-time jobs with benefits are few while contract opportunities are seemingly everywhere.

The man at the employment agency was nice, yet condescending. I’m certain he didn’t mean to be crass. However, he suggested I get a job that pays an entry-level salary. Evidently he doesn’t know that employers hire people who won’t flee the minute a better job opens.

He was familiar with are the reasons I will lose unemployment and probably eligibility if the contract work ceases.

This conundrum is not going to destroy my positive attitude or resilience. I will not succumb to fear of “what ifs” just because government programs aren’t sensible. I will think it through and follow my gut. Possibly this chain of events intends to make me more tenacious.

But if you are in your first six months of unemployment and have a sound business idea, I suggest you act on it today. The Small Business Development Center through PCC has help and inexpensive classes for you. Plus, you can still qualify for the SEA Program.

As for the woman in the unemployment center, thank you for understanding. Thank you for having a warm heart and a dream that could come true.

Addiction brings laughing and dancing

December 14, 2009

I’m confessing an addiction I developed since being laid off. It’s not a new drug, just one I hadn’t discovered.

I’m addicted to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I don’t run to the TV at 3 p.m. every day, but I have to watch the show before bed. I was hiding this from my husband at first – watching the show and deleting the recording before he got home. Now, I update him Ellen updates.

I haven’t been hooked on a TV program for years. I have a love-hate relationship with TV and the media in general. I detest the barrage of bad news and reality TV that make humans despicable.

Four things about Ellen put me back in the Nielsen ratings. I aspire to all of them.

First, that sparkle in her eyes is astonishing. Did she create a makeup or video trick that makes eyes twinkle? Ellen’s love for her job shimmers on her face. I hope to have that gleam in my next work adventure.

Then there’s the dancing. Goofy maybe, but fun none-the-less and that’s the point. I used to dance around the house until something got broken. Now I find myself moving like a 12-year-old boy while at a nightspot with great music. You know, shifting weight from foot to foot and not dancing at all. Am I too grown up to dance? Puke. I don’t even believe in “growing up.” I admire a person who boogies through life.

Laughter is a given, because this is Ellen, yet I had forgotten that she’s a ham. (Sorry Ellen, faux ham.) I enjoy the humor ranging from a snicker behind a fake “O” cover to rolling on the floor hysterics after a guest scare. I laugh so loudly my cats jump. It’s thankfully uplifting during this tough time.

What I love about Ellen most is her generosity. I realize companies donate the money and products she gives. However, they do so because giving is Ellen’s brand. It’s how she makes life brighter for many.

Ellen is an inspiration to all. I aspire to have her exuberance for life and work, to laugh and dance everyday, and to give as often as possible.