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MONDAY CHALLENGE IN THE LAST TWO HOURS OF MONDAY!

At 10pm I received a Monday Challenge (reblogged below) to do something nice for myself.  Not one to turn down a dare, I felt ideas boiling immediately.  Truthfully, the thought of staring at Alex O’Laughlin for 2 hours made me blush like a crushing schoolgirl but I settled for celebrating the highlights of today, and defining one way to treat myself.

We're turning up the heat on Monday!

After spending Saturday and Sunday doing “Anything I Want,” I felt guilty dreaming of another day of self-indulgence! I, too, run constantly to make sure my kids get to sports, get homework done, play, read and get to bed on time before I crash and burn. Realizing that the change in perception matters most, today became a Monday like few others – holiday or not.

After ending the scramble to find childcare for my kids, I made peace with working today in order to stay home Good Friday – despite having my last day scheduled for the Monday before – good gracious! I celebrated that traffic rocked, hot coffee brewed at work saved me time and money, the executive brunch fed me without opening my wallet all day, I met a co-worker for lunch, that when I greeted with “Happy Monday!” I meant it.  I chuckled that other people barely growled coherently. Bottom line, I saw the benefits from allowing myself time to do anything besides what I should do!!

Besides blogging, reading remains my true rare indulgence. I’ve mentioned that I check out more books than I’d realistically read.  I especially love to read books about writers.

I love to wander and hop on their train of thought!

I’m not hoping to follow their money-winning plan word-for-word, just looking for the simple advice, for example E.B. White’s biography suggests to “write what you know” – a simple and common theme echoed by many. E.B. truly implemented the plan creating a masterpiece loved by generations.

Besides the gift of reading at least one chapter tonight, I will contemplate what “I know.” Notice I left off “better than anyone else.” It’s not important to prove to be the expert in the field, rather the expert of my connection to the subject, clearly communicating my observations and experiences. The luxury of the indulgence rewards me, but the magic happens with self-reflection.

Another great idea blooms!

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FCW: BE TACTFUL, DO NOT OVERLOOK YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES

Part of my growth involves remaining open enough while wandering to see the signs that the universe broadcasts. The message comes from people, whether friends, work-study students, or the Almighty O herself. Perhaps they come from social media status updates. Today’s wisdom presented itself in the oldest form of messaging with limited characters – fortune cookies! I don’t consider the fortune valid unless I’ve eaten half the cookie, otherwise, I am just cracking open cookies looking for fortunes to support my agenda.

Fortune Cookie Wisdom!

The cookie advised: “Be tactful, do not overlook your own opportunities” [in bed]. Do you still play that game?! Since the odds of those opportunities presenting themselves today seemed slim-to-none, I asked WWOD? while focusing on the message. The obvious place to locate opportunities was in my new, albeit temporary, job. After two weeks, I remain blissfully in the honeymoon stage not sensing any craziness. The only time I feel unsettled centers on contemplating this job’s fit into my career path. The exhilarating excitement of a new adventure mixed with the devil-may-care short-timer attitude creates bold creativity for facing challenges. To function well, even if short-term, one must know the processes, histories, and root oneself in the establishment.

First, I must be tactful: treat people well with respect and manners (Duh!) and don’t get sidelined by drama. Then, before I “don’t overlook my own opportunities,” I must identify them.  I know that I love brainstorming ideas and but don’t have the [insert one: patience/attention/balls] to carry them out before the next idea comes. Perhaps, it’s because I lack formal method training and not being young enough to allow a steeper learning curve with trial-and-error, I’m afraid to waste time guessing. I know that there are no guarantees. Miss O wisely points out that luck results from preparation intersecting opportunity.

So from my vantage point, I see experts who teach and mentor. Perhaps I’m backing myself into another position where I will, again, realize that I was meant to be here all along. This time, I’ll look over my shoulder to plot the journey some and enjoy the view. After backing myself up and positioning myself, I’ll launch forward in the direction meant for me.

Check all your mirrors to make sure you don't miss something spectacular!

IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW!

Walking through campus today reminded me of when I worked at the happiest amusement park on Earth. As part of the cast, my role contributed to the highlight of a lifetime for many, while not distracting from the moments. During their visits, guests shared their personal or collective biggest thrills, chills, challenges and happiest day in the sun. When their time ended, they left permanently touched, often changed, by the experience all the while, blind to what magical extremely complex operations happened behind the curtain.

Allow me to expand your mind suggesting that going back to school felt like not simply a full-circle moment, but what I think a circular moment in time feels like! With every great first and ongoing impression, every wise use of my time searching out great opportunities, and rubbing elbows with connected people I am not only benefiting my future ultimately, but also redoing my past at the same time.

Maybe the perm frazzled the well-laid plans I had at the time!

How many “If I knew then what I know now” moments do you look back on in college or life? I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back in the welcoming, familiar college environment. When I attended college, I went to classes, stayed up for a few all-nighters and hung out with my roommates. I truly did not go out of my way to find parties, mentors or career connections. Being fully submersed once again in the exuberant, hopeful and hungry energy of students, with the benefit of adult perspective, brought me full circle.

I greet my colleagues as we pass on campus, pausing occasionally to catch up – having been gone six weeks between assignments. Out of the corner of my eye I see the co-ed I was shadowing my behavior with other students or professors.  If asked, my shared wisdom to students is “It matters who you know.”  College presents the unique opportunity to not only increase the numbers of people you know face-to-face, but also the chance to expand your horizons and make the borders friendlier. While every student travels a similar path, individual’s life experiences and lessons learned along the way are invaluable. Also, never forget that “Lessons appear anywhere” and “It’s never too late to start.”

Anytime is a great time to start the rest of your life!

JANUARY’S GEMS IN BEING UNEMPLOYED

Determined to keep crazy in 2011, I resolved to live this experience as it reveals itself, focus on every gifted moment, feel each emotion and pay attention to lessons offered. After a leap of faith, a break-neck turn, we experienced a little turbulence but no sinkholes! Occasionally, I reality checked myself to make sure I didn’t drown in denial either. Here the gems January presented:

Stolen gem from my friend's Project Reconnect 2012!

1) Each trip to Red Bullseye does not cost $100! Truthfully I found it easier to resist it completely, but there were a few trips where we escaped with just what we came for. Turns out, I didn’t need every cute nail polish and the kids survived without recruiting more futuristic $1 soldiers.

Despite having no new recruits, the general was pleased with the month's outcome!

2) Food prepared by me ranks with that prepared by others! I used to sing the praises of anything prepared by other people. You could serve me anything (but liver and onions) made by someone else and I savored it as if gourmet. Turns out my simple recipes can taste amazing in a short amount of time!

3) Farmer’s Markets – Fresh Veggies and Fresh Perspective!– Want to get back to nature during the week? Hit a Farmer’s Market for veggies still warm from the sun wrapped in the flavor of rich soil! Plus they were usually cheaper and more likely to be organic (where I shop).

Juicy January Gems!

4) Opening your blinds feeling the sunshine warming your PJs is almost as great as a triple, venti, skinny hazelnut latte. It doesn’t have to be fancy to give me the kick and I don’t need the kick when my senses lure me into each day reminding me that I’m alive!

5) Escaping is not quitting – When looking for work, I hit a stride where every living moment was spent finding a resolution to my problem. Upon hitting a point where the job-search became a dead-end mosh pit, I found a trap door, leaped through it, found a space where I could breathe, reconnect with friends, remember who and what I love then return with a fresh perspective.

Cheers to great friends (here or running the Tinker Bell half!)!

The reward was 3 job opportunities in 1 day.

Crazy how that happens. Let’s see what February finds – hopefully not a Groundhog shadow.

WHAT THE HELL YOU BLOGGING FOR? GET A JOB!

One thing I missed from having roommates was the end-of-day debriefing. Oprah filled in for a bit, but once her show went dark, I yet again pondered – What Would Oprah Do? She Journals! this blog enabled me to unwind with some whine. I hoped to force creativity, practice writing and organize thoughts. Being Gen X, my hands cramp trying to write as fast as I think. Fortunately, my typing rocks. My plan included purging info from my head, organizing it and freeing up space to focus on important things – like find a job!

Fork in the road...

Part of me, more than I’ll usually admit, dreams of being a mommy-blogger! My work/life balance became effortless with this blog! [Cue: Booming nagging voice] “You’re writing an online diary! Get a real job!” At first, I ignored it, allowing time for myself. I knew if I didn’t indulge and write during this period, I’d wonder what might have been. I’ve been researching blogging and while it takes consistent effort, the possibility of reaching paid blogger status is a reasonable goal! Plus, it feels more tangible than job hunting where I’ve done what worked before, rewritten to work better, reinvented for technology and have nothing to show.

With blogging, I’ve measured site stats.

Great place to grow from!

Each experiment yields positive or negative measurable results. It’s restored my confidence knowing that the blog’s success depends wholly on me driving people to the site. I blogged yesterday about putting this hobby out there, stating how quickly I want to learn and getting great energy in return! Today, I reached a calm. I don’t know if it reflected inner peace or that I found an answer to appease the voice. I am doing something I love while learning new skills for my next step, and have show-and-tell for the job interview when they ask “What did you do during this down time?” If I only spent time sending resumes, I could say I’d been looking for work in a tough market, but I’d be drowned out by sobbing violins.

So, world, this is how I spent my break. Thanks for wandering with me! Can we keep the fact that I started this blog to whine between just us?

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME

I wonder as I wander...

My town’s 70,000 residents may not qualify us as the smallest. However, we hold the record as the densest town I’ve lived in. I’m not calling my neighbors names; close to 11,000 people live in each square mile. Why, then, am I surprised so many people here know my name?

Recently, after hardly seeing people besides where I met them, suddenly the degrees of separation between my acquaintances all but disappeared!  The number of overlapping circles of friends unsettled me at first. My usual habits formed a few life-long friendships, rather than large collections of great friends. I comfortably resided anonymously in any community.  After earning the honorable badge of “My Child’s Mom,” getting recognized by more people was unavoidable – even if they’re all kids.  I comforted myself upon realizing that my family established roots – something we missed.

I now appreciate seeing similar faces at various extra-curricular events around town.  I dig that while the kids enjoy their activities, sometimes the parents head to the local watering hole where everybody knows our names and how to serve one quick round and get us back in time for pick up. I’ve found the best networking happens spontaneously on the schoolyard or store parking lots.

Today, I experienced glowing examples of community support.  During coffee with a friend who shared her latest exciting business venture, she gifted me by offering her similar experiences and sentiments toward life experiences and as a bonus, when I told her about my latest passion she immediately introduced me to two more established women for guidance.  She also invited me to a support group for business moms for another strong network to back it up. Later, at another kids’ activity, I chatted with another parent and when mentioning my goals, he quickly told me of his friend who already exists at a level I am still researching.  He offered to ask my questions and gather information on upcoming conferences.

Reach out, reach out and help someone!

Bottom line, staying within the walls of our own lives happens so easily, especially when going through life transitions when you feel every moment should focus on “fixing” things. Make the effort to step outside your walls to see who calls your name.

DOES YOUR CHILDHOOD WHIMSY PREDICT YOUR FUTURE PATH?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a butterfly! I continuously search beyond the obvious symbolism in the complete transformation from the worm – [CUE: Heimlich’s voice] – into a beautiful butterfly! Once the Mariah Carey song “Butterfly” starts playing in my head, I lose focus.

If I follow the literal translation, I see auditions at theme park for a character role in my future! I don’t know many butterflies, but I know a ton of fairies with wings. When I worked at the park, I always wanted to play a character in the parade. Later I participated in a character experience while working at the studio. While my penguin wings hung useless, my spirits flew high! Maybe growing wings, during the transformation, was the ultimate goal.

To wander down that train of thought, I must dive deeper to see what other childhood hobbies offer career potential. I loved drawing Cinderella in fancy ball gowns, though not creating new gowns – so scratch fashion designer. I played whiffle ball with my dad but seeing how blindly I field the ball, any involvement with that sport is out. I loved my Pirate treasure chest fish tank, but seeing as how I killed almost all my fish – ever, coupled with my current fish phobias – oceanography, deep-sea commercial fishing careers – all out.

I loved my record player and still entertain the possibility of working with music again but am redefining how to do so. I want to emerge as a holiday one-hit-wonder to get stuck in your head for eternity. Write one hit then collect royalties – can’t be that hard?! Oh, and I have to learn how to write music too, not just lyrics.

A wonderful book in a great series!

I also remember how much I loved my books. One book “A Very Young Dancer” by Jill Krementz inspired me more than the rest – not to dance, but to write about dreams and goals. Finding this link today gives me goose bumps. For now, I’ll spread my wings in the sunshine, wait for air to carry me away and flutter after that train of thought to see where I land next. Where’ll your wings carry you?

THANKFUL THURSDAY – THE GRASS IS GREENER

I’ve driven through town, rushing through lunch hour, wondering about people running behind strollers or heading to yoga. I assumed they married, divorced, or invested well, lied to their bosses, had a trust fund or worked from home. I wished out loud to switch places. My wish came true – I have loads of free time! I never included unemployed job-hunters in this shiny, happy bunch.

This week, job hunting annoyed me for the time span it has consumed and the drive span I’m limited to. I enjoyed being off in December, but am ready for what’s next. When I went to buy a winning lottery ticket, I grabbed a newspaper that held a great horoscope written to me. It acknowledged my wrestling with challenges and foretold that my week would include veils lifted, planets aligning, and serendipitous timing to change everything!

Since Friday was approaching, and nothing crazy revealed itself yet, I guessed the universe wouldn’t find me holed up with my laptop. I left, in search of answers and to test if the grass IS greener. After chatting with friends at school drop-off, the sun pulled me towards the beach Farmer’s Market. To be fully present, I sent two texts first.

Fresh perspective with a side of veggies

The crashing waves invaded my thoughts, while the blend of blue sky, brown crystals and salty air recalibrated me. I stared at the horizon’s curve, amused that behind me Americans rushed through their day while ahead lay endless possibilities! The endless waves hypnotized me while sun on my cheeks added a joyous glow!

I ran into more people there, and later at toy testing – another luxury when not working. Nobody whispered mystic words of “I have the perfect job and it’s yours to take.” What I found on “the other side” was changed perspective. I get stuck in routines, in my house, because of should-do lists. I fill the day job-searching or completing projects trying to prove something by finishing the list. Today’s lesson pushed me outside to feel the world’s vibrations and survey the horizon. I realized the list will always exist, it doesn’t matter how someone gets free time, just that it is relished! What lesson are you thankful for?

BIRDBRAINED CREATIVITY

People say I’m creative but I’ve never quite known what to do with that. Does it mean I’m crazy in a potentially productive way? I don’t create original works, I don’t paint, draw, crochet, interior decorate, dress well, nothing. I do write, but it’s just me talking out loud on paper. I do spend too much time on Pinterest distracted by pretty things.

I know I want to work on the business side of a creative company – project management at an ad agency, or the creative side of a business – marketing. While still working at Disney, I realized that I unconsciously backed myself into the editorial side adapting scripts into book/tape products and felt like I was exactly where I should be! The universe directed me there without me knowing what would greet me there and it was everything I’d hoped for. Still, I craved the higher level of creativity and credit of an original work, not just adaptations.

Now, I find creativity in being an ideas person. I love brainstorming meetings and dreaming up companies to start or ways for people to market themselves. I have to admit that I’m waiting to find some hungry number-crunching MBA that says, “That’s genius! You daydream, I’ll make a plan and hire people to carry it out!”

As I forge yet another direction in life, I’m hoping to equilibrate the creative juices in my head by venturing into some of these creative hobbies – plus I could use some art at home that isn’t from grade school kids – let’s hope mine won’t look like it is too.

Where do I start for inspiration? Pinterest.com! I found the following online and loved the simplicity of it and the color scheme.

My inspiration from a pinterest.com post

Then, I decided to tweak it and as you see, while I was debriefed leaving Disney, some microchips are still in there. Here is my interpretation of that art piece that is from a grade school age movie, but with a grown-up twist.

My painting is For the Birds!

I wound up having so much fun that I got over myself and forgive myself for adapting and not just coming up with stuff on my own. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

STOP SQUIRMING! SIT STILL!

In this new year, I’m embracing the idea of reinvention and improvement. When it was apparent that my last job was running its course, I kicked into high gear with an emergency plan of running fully-caffeinated doing my job, being a single mom while finding/launching a second career. Utilizing every waking moment quickly out-lived its effectiveness. The plan that once energized me with its double-dog dare in my face now has me dog-tired.

So I ask myself – W.W.O.D.? – What would Oprah do? I’ve lived most of my adult life with O teaching me how to be grateful, to live authentically, and to find the true me. I enjoyed our daily chats from our couches but now that her show has ended, it is time to see if I’ve truly learned anything.

She, along with many, heralds the value of slowing down, being present, being STILL. In the past I scoffed at the idea saying I didn’t have the time, or if I halt inertia I’ll fall over – asleep. Some suggested to me that when you sit still allowing your mind to be open, demons enter. Scarier to me than them is the realization that my kids have just grown 2 years and though I transported both to their various stops trying to mold the best kids they can be, I haven’t been present enough to recall most landmarks or milestones.

So, as usual, today I am researching, exploring methodology and psyching myself up to calm down. Tomorrow I’ll dive in. I know I want to meditate, not be hypnotized. I don’t want a new religion, rather new peace of mind. I want to sit silently so that I might hear the answers that the universe provides but remain centered enough to act on them. I drew upon my single previous meditation experience, in a Buddhist temple no less, and then found an app for that – guided meditation through our chakras. I want a tour guide to provide noise to drown out my cats and hope that it will yell if I fall asleep.

For tonight, that’s exactly where I am going, amped to try meditation tomorrow! Have any favorite meditation practices or tips?

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