Monday, 17 November 2014

What I learned at the Texas Conference for Women

For the third year in a row (all three years I've been in Texas!), I was lucky enough to go to the Texas Conference for Women. I was busy again this year, handling the Instgram feed for the Conference, so I didn't get a lot of time to stay in one place and listen to as many speakers as I might like -- but that doesn't mean I don't get to learn a lot. A whole lot.

Here are some of my take-away's from this year's conference:

From Soledad O'Brien's story about her first job at a TV station after graduating from Harvard: No job is beneath you if it helps you follow your dreams. She started out removing staples from bulletin boards at the station!

From Diana Nyad: Too old is something other people tell you that you are. Ignore them and go for it! (She swam from Cuba to Key West, Florida last year at age 64.)

From John Gray, author and relationship speaker: Men and women really are different on a chemical level. And it controls what stresses us out, what makes us feel good and what works for us on the job and at home. We need to accept that equal doesn't mean "the same." (This is a big challenge to many who have fought for identical treatment for men and women at work.)

From Tamara Mellon, former CEO at Jimmy Choo and founder of her own brand: It's okay to ask for help. People want to help. We women have a hard time asking for help from colleagues, other professionals, our role models. But we need to start. (I have a BIG problem with this!)

From Debbie Sterling, founder of Goldieblox: The solution isn't in getting boys and girls to think the same way. It's in seeing how they think, and creating toys/games/lessons that match their engagement style. (The not the same, but still equal theme was running strong at this year's conference.)

From Anita Perry, Texas First Lady: One idea, like this conference, can change thousands of lives. Start where you are. She did exactly that, and fifteen years later, we're still going strong!

From Sunni Brown: All of my doodling during classes and meetings and phone conferences wasn't a waste of time!  It was a key to creativity!  (LOVED this message the most! My notebooks and note pads are FILLED with doodles!)

From one of the vendors: There are still Tupperware parties! And they still sell this shape sorter I think most of us had as kids! (I love stumbling on this kind of stuff!)


That's a lot of learning for one day, especially when I think of all the sessions I didn't get to see. I will be watching the videos on YouTube when they go up, to catch what I missed and add more to what I watched.

I don't remember how I found the conference that first year, but I am blessed that I did. And I have been blessed every year since, with new ideas and new inspiration. At the end of the long day, I am grateful to collapse on the train heading home -- but I am so glad I went, too.

Next year if we're still in Texas, I'll be there again. Instagramming. Tweeting. And above all, learning.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Simple serendipity...a short post about a little book

"I don't remember where I got this little book, or why I bought it. No, let me correct that. The lure of all those lovely pages with just the right kind of spacing...all encased in a pretty pink cover was probably all the 'why' I needed....

Have you ever come across something you bought or were given years ago, but never used, only to find that it's exactly what you need right now? 

I love this kind of serendipity. It's such a simple unexpected gift from my past that shows up right there at home. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Getting ready to move again...fantasy version

moving day 1800s
I can't believe we're moving again. Enough already!

But since there's no getting out of it, I think I'm going to take a few minutes to create my ideal, fantasy version of this move....

First, all of those already-full boxes and totes in the closets and on garage shelves would instantly resize themselves to fit inside of an oh-so-adorable Container Store box. You know, one of those brand new boxes made to look several decades old? And they would tumble into the box neatly, with nary a spill or a need to rearrange them. All I would have to do is close the box and set it aside for the movers (more about them later.)

All the contents of the kitchen cabinets would suddenly stack neatly, with no need to wrap each and every #$#@ glass and cup and plate lest they break on the one mile journey (yes, that is how far we are moving. Actually just under a mile.)

My home office/studio contents would fit in a tidy pile in one or two totes. Ditto for all the clothes, shoes, coats and other haute-couture fashions from the best stores (cough...TJ Maxx...cough), makeup and toiletries. A petite pile of totes in the front hall.

Upon removing the furniture, all carpets will be found to be perfectly clean, and all walls will have nary a scratch or chip.

The team of 10 clean, hard-working, skilled movers will be oh so careful, and will know exactly how to handle that fragile antique rocker and 19th century jelly cabinet without anyone biting nails or standing by trying NOT to scream. Or actually screaming.

Upon arriving at the new house, everything will be spotlessly clean and ready for our things. The movers will accurately read my carefully written labels and place everything in the correct rooms. Not even once will I find garden tools in the bathroom or a box labeled "Fragile!China and Crystal" under three boxes of books.

The landlord of our old rental will thank us for taking such amazing care of his home, and exclaim in wonder at the decade-old carpet stains we managed to remove during our brief stay. Then he will immediately hand us a check for the full amount of our deposit.

On the first night in our new home, we will have a wonderful candlelight "picnic" in the living room, where we will sit contentedly among the boxes and eat gourmet food while we picture how great the house will look tomorrow once ALL the boxes are unpacked.


Moving isn't so, wait! Oh, heck....

Monday, 7 April 2014

Reading backwards seven years

I've just spent the morning re-reading random posts from this blog. The first post was over 7 years old. The most recent, only days ago.

Seven years is a big deal in a lot of religions. Heck, just the number seven is important. Big spiritual mojo. So have these past seven years of scribbling my thoughts on a blog taught me anything?

At first, I didn't think so. So many mistakes made over and over. So many false starts and plans-that-didn't-work-out. But the more I read, the more I saw some things I have learned -- and probably need to remember.

1) Love is never wasted. Even when it didn't work out and a friend betrayed you or someone never said thank you for the big thing you did for them or a lover walked away, loving is never a waste of energy. You can never know if your love at that moment changed a life (yours or theirs or even someone else's) for the better. The impact might not show up for years...and you might never know. But it's still worth it.

2) We all have a place that screams "home" to us. It might be where you were born or grew up. Or it might be that town you stumbled on when your car broke down. But there is something in a a place that latches on to your soul and says "You belong."  Pay attention. It matters. (Over a lifetime, that "home" spot can change, as our lives change and our souls grow. Just keep listening. You'll know when you find it. And when it's time to find a new one.)

3) Being a mom is sonmething you do with every part of your being. When it's done with a loving heart, it's not a job, it's not a chore -- it's a form of existing that digs down deep into every cell of your body and changes each and every one for the better.)  Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me scream, and sometimes it makes me cry. But I love being a mom with every ounce of my being.

4) Sometimes, what doesn't kill you, doesn't make you stronger. It beats the living heck out of you and leaves you weak and broken and crying on the ground. And even when you do manage to get back on your feet, you're missing chunks of yourself that you would love to have back. But you can't, so you live with the scars and the limp and the nightmares because you have no other choice. Congratulate yourself for every step. It's hard work.

5) There is a heck of a lot more to life that any of us can ever see. It's more than the birth-to-death march (or crawl or sprint.) It's more than the houses and jobs and traffic jams and what-to-wear. There is a meaning and a purpose behind it all, and something that goes on before we appear on the scene and after we make our final curtain call. And not one of us really knows what it is, no matter what book we swear on. We're all just guessing.

6) Most people are pretty good, overall. Even when they act like jerks, most of them have someone they love, something selfless they've done, some wonderful dream they would like to see come true for someone, some great idea or some creative spark just waiting to burst forth. But because of fear or pain or desperate need or getting knocked down one time too many (see number 4 above), they protect their soft inner core by acting like cold-hearted idiots. Doesn't mean you have to trust them or let them hurt you. Just means you have to know that spark is there, inside of them. It makes a difference for both of you.

7) Food doesn't solve everything. But it helps a heck of a lot. Sitting down with someone over a meal or a cup of tea can make more connections, solve more problems and cement more friendships that anything else on the planet. Forget the meeting in the board room. If you really want to get things done, head out for some tacos or a big cheesey pizza together. It sounds weird, but it works.

So there, in a nutshell, are my seven lessons from seven years. Nothing earth-shattering. But maybe not too bad for seven years of on-again, off-again scribbles.

More lessons? Hindsight is better than 20/20. Here's my advice to my 21 year-old self. Sure wish I could hop on that time machine and share it!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Are we teaching kids rules...or values?

I've been hearing a lot of on the mommy blogging world about teaching kids to follow rules. The thinking, it seems, is that too many families have gotten away from enforcing rules. And that is the reason du jour for all our social ills, school problems and economic meltdowns.

And to that I say, phoey. Donkey-dust-and-chicken-feathers. No, no and heck no! If I was a swearing woman, I would swear about now. Because that simplistic approach misses the real problem.

There are PLENTY of rules out there. More than enough rules. And more being added every minute of every day, because we live in a culture in which the solution to almost every ill is to make another rule.

Right now, kids have to abide by rules about what you can wear to school and what subjects you have to take to graduate (regardless of your talents or interests.)

For adults, there are rules about IDs and names and even rules about over-the-counter cold medicines (never mind that the same ingredient can be cheaply bought in bulk online.)  We have size rules for our hand lotion and shampoo when we fly and rules about proving your right to do a really crudy, dirty manual labor job nobody else wants.

What we don't have enough of are values. Not beliefs. Those are personal and in all likelihood should be kept to yourself. (Yeah, I'm not big on people trying to convince other people about faith issues.)

I'm talking about the be-a-decent-person kind of basics. The ones we're doing a miserable job sharing with our kids.  Like....

Be kind to other people (Witness the ever-growing bullying problem and the mainstreaming of hate)

Take care of people who are hungry or cold or sick (Instead we have a war on the poor)

Take care of what you have (Nope. We're gutting environmental protections and alternative fuel research in the name of profit.)

Families matter more than wealth  (Heck with that, we're told. Hire a nanny (at minimum wage) and go for the corner office, no matter what the cost. Your career success comes first! You might even get a best seller out it!)

Learn as much as you can (Hint: that does NOT mean "teaching" kids how to work the standardized test maze. It means learning wherever and whenever you can, even if it's NEVER on the page of a test.)

Believe in something bigger and better and more merciful than yourself  (And no, the Internet doesn't count!)

There are more. The value of forgiveness. Of seeing the worth in every being. The value of honesty, even when it's hard. The value of own up to your mistakes. You get the idea. And I'm sure you could add more.

But if we're rules focused, we will miss the values we should be sharing, encouraging, living.

Sure, some rules are essential for kids. Of course. Trust me, I am not a fan of domestic anarchy. Those kinds of rules become a framework for something bigger.

But if our rules at home and at school are just for the sake of teaching kids to obey rules, rather than passing on cherished values, they're not the right answer to whatever social ill we're trying to over-simplify this time. They're just a box to lock them in.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

What do you do when you're too stressed to read a magazine?

This was the scene yesterday. All work in by deadline for the month of March. Check. Lawn mowed. Check. Did a long hike in the a.m. with my daughter that counted for both exercise and homeschool. Check.

Should be a good time to sit down with a favorite magazine, right? Especially with my fave drink, iced tea, at hand.

But no. There is so much hanging over my head that I cannot even get through a single article. Heck, I couldn't even focus on the pictures! After 5 minutes, I gave up.

Not a single aspect of my life is under control. My limited clients aren't enough to pay the bills, much less save anything. My kids are facing various health, school and other issues (not because of anything they did, either), and I can't solve most of it, as much as I try.

There are other deadlines looming, and I am struggling to deal with those.

And now it seems that we might have to move yet again, because our landlord wants to raise the rent yet again (on top of the $200 increase last year.) I am tired and overwhemed. I need something to work smoothly. SOMETHING.

There is a Chinese curse..."May you live in interesting times." I understand why it's a curse. And it's eating me alive. Bring on the simple and predictable, please. PLEASE!  A daily walk in the woods or on a beach. A good income. Friends around to meet for supper or a weekend event.  Things going pretty smoothly for my kids.  I want daily life to be, as I heard on a recent podcast,  fabulously ordinary. I can always get "interesting" on vacation instead.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fighting through the clutter to find meditation

Three days ago, I rebooted my meditation practise after years of neglect.

I knew how much it mattered. What a difference it makes. And yet, I let it slip until it was just a distant memory of what I "used to do."

Three days ago, that changed. For the first time in years, I sat down and rediscovered why I used to meditate. And it was wonderful. That day. And then the next.

But then today, reality hit -- hard. At first, nothing was different.  I sat down and closed my eyes. I crossed my legs into a lotus and linked my thumb and finger.

The usual stream of thoughts came by, and I acknowledged them and went back to counting breaths. That was when the baggage replaced the stream. Suddenly, my mind was a discordant cacophony of every bad decision I ever made. Every time I behaved badly or spoke without thinking. Every time I let someone down. It felt like I was getting slammed up against the proverbial wall by everything I had ever done wrong. I felt like the worst person on the planet.

I struggled to regain control of my meditation. I counted...or tried to. I  visualzed each number being written on a blackboard, a technique that has worked in the past to get me back on track.

And then, thank goodness, it finally stopped. Or at least that deep dive into the worst of my past stopped. Immediately,a new stream of negativity started. It was the to-do lists. The chores. The job hunt. The projects. The clients. All the should's and have-to's. All the things I OUGHT to be doing right at that moment instead of sitting and meditating. Again, awful!

But I stayed with it. I kept trying to count. I tried to acknowledge and let each thought go by. Nothing worked. Nothing!

Until... I started  to focus on the here and now...the feeling of the breeze. The sound of the cat walking past. The sensation of sitting.

And then it happened. All the negativity stoppped. Just as suddenly as the bombardment started, It stopped.

Whatever it was in me that needed to dredge up all of that ugly dirt and guilt gave up. The peace returned. Thoughts still came by, but they were gentle and random, and quickly moved past. I was not stuck in the past. I was not trying to manage the future. I just was. Finally.

And THAT, that moment of now-ness is the reason I have come back to meditation. The bad stuff can happen only any day. It can happen while you're driving down the road or drifting off to sleep or just watching TV.  It can happen when someone says the wrong thing, or brings up an old hurt.

But the good? Yeah, that's something only meditation can deliver. And I'm so glad to be back.