Sunday, July 27, 2008

Look Deep

Why don't we always reach the success we want? Sure, there are life events and circumstances that intervene. But, maybe sometimes we hold ourselves back.

Check out this inspirational article on Hallie Crawford's blog: it's about selling yourself short.

I know I have a lot of self-defeating mechanisms ... and once in a while they get in the way of my progress, although to a great extent, I have learned to turn them into strengths.

* I excel under pressure (since I like to work at the last minute)
* I'm open to change and fairly impervious to chaos (since my organizational methods are, shall we say, unorthodox)
* I multitask well and can manage simultaneous projects and conversations (since I'm distractible and social)

I know, though, that turning negatives into positives goes only so far. Recognizing self-defeating habits and working to eliminate counterproductive behaviors from one's repertoire is the key to success.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this topic ...

What are your struggles?
What are your strategies?
What resources have you come across to inspire you to greatness?

Until the next time ...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Going Apes . . . Going, Going, Gone?

According to Wired News, a recent study reports that the Orangutan populations of Borneo and Sumatra are "declining precipitously" -- dire news, indeed, for the animal kingdom and the world ecosystem at large. What are the implications for all of mankind of our distant cousin (according to evolutionary theory, at least) vanishes off the face of the earth? More importantly, what are the implications for the delicate balance of biology on the two islands where these creatures reside?

Sure, you sit back in your armchairs and think, "Well, no more fluffy orange misfits on Animal Planet, but the baboons can fill in just fine." One monkey/ape is the same as another, right? They all swing by their tails from the trees, pick nits off each other, and fling poo -- so what's one species more or less?

Ah, but dear reader, the orangutan is distinguished from other great apes for its great intelligence! It is no lesser ape/monkey swinging by its tail playfully in the garden of life. It is second only to humans in the area of intelligence (yes, smarter than chimps, folks!), using tools for varied purposes and even possessing the capacity to engage in symbolic activity when instructed to do so. These amazing creatures reside primarily in the wild of the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo -- and as most of us are aware, there is a rainforest deforestation problem. Away go the rainforests, and away go the habitats (homes) of many of the lifeforms sustained therein. Including the fabulous orangutans.

According to an article from World Observer in 2007, orangutans may be extinct by 2012 due to logging and palm oil plantations in the rainforests. Ironically enough, the article explains that the world's focus on saving the environment from carbon emissions (insofar as using palm oil as a substitute for more noxious substances) may cost the planet one of its greatest species. Life is certainly a balancing act -- and maintaining the balance requires careful attention to the needs of all species, not just humankind.

Now, I certainly care about our planet. It's my home, and I'd like the planet to sustain life as long as possible. I don't profess to have the answers, though, or to be a die-hard environmentalist. Or maybe I am. I believe that the earth around us is one of the most precious gifts we are given, and it is our privilege and responsibility to nurture and care for the other lifeforms on this planet -- animal, vegetable, and mineral. As humans and the highest intellectual-functioning creatures, we are endowed with great power -- and like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.

The riches of this planet are not ours to rip out and plunder for our gain. Rather, we need to seek ways to live in sync with lesser forms of life, to nurture and care for the gifts of our planet and give back to them -- so that they continue to give their gifts to us. Perhaps I'm a romantic, an idealist. I believe we can make great strides in environmental safekeeping if each person takes a few small steps at a time:

* educate yourself -- "It's never too late" -- check out Everyday Activist for small steps or visit one of the 100 Top Environment Sites

* get involved -- volunteer for one of the many "green" organizations in your local area and start helping to spread the word to friends and family about small steps they can take

Tackling big problems is about perspective: if you look at the problem in terms of how huge it is and how hard it is for one person to make an impact, yes, that's true. It's hard, but not impossible. If you don't try, though, it's impossible. One person chipping away in small but dedicated strokes will have an effect over time. One person who gets others involved in chipping away in many places will have a major impact rather quickly. We all need to take small steps and we'll be amazed at the difference we can make -- together. For the sake of our future!

Save the monkeys. Yes, I know they're apes. But I love monkeys. After all, monkeybusiness is my business!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunshine Sense

My cuz and I spent nearly a week in the hot desert sun of Arizona earlier this month and I learned a few things about sun/sunblock that I'll pass on for your edification.

* Sunblock expires -- read the label
* Lotion your ears; they're sensitive (I just read that it's important to do the feet, too!)
* If you sit under an umbrella and part of you is exposed, that part will get burned (and then it'll peel and make you look like you have a skin disease -- yes, I have personal experience with this; my shoulder missed the umbrella and I'm peeling.)

I have a wacky "group" on Facebook -- the genesis of a moment of creative synergy one cold night in winter when my friend Katie and I were particularly tired of the frigid temps and playing off each other's insanity. We are the original "topless polar bear picnic table dancers." Add to that mix my zany friend Kenn Wislander, a noteworthy graphic designer (check out his cartoon and his Zazzle gallery -- he actually drew a topless polar bear. I immediately bought the t-shirt, of course!

Now, it's a few degrees too hot for the polar bears to be on the move in mainland US (except in the a/c); polar bears don't tan very well. In that vein, it's a good time to think about how to have safe fun in the sun.

A Bud Light commercial from a few years ago shows the hazards of leaving home without your sunblock:

To learn more about why sunblock is so important, here's a "public service" announcement:

Enough jokes -- some real skin care info (the shot glass is a new one for me!):

Go out there and soak up some Vitamin D -- and dance on some picnic tables while you're at it. Unless you have a good amount of white fur or a pair of xy chromosomes, though, best to keep your top on. Send photos!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Monkeying Around

I'm in Indianapolis for my birthday weekend, celebrating with hubby and dear friends. I'm the princess in a crowd of men -- my favorite role to play! My female friend was supposed to join us but got sick at the last moment, so I've had to make do. As if that's a problem!

Hubby's celebrating #40 and I'm celebrating #35. And, of course, our dear adopted daughter, KellyJane, is celebrating #1. I should mention, KellyJane is not, in the traditional sense, a live person. She is a pig. Literally. And a stuffed one at that. But, she warms our hearts and we take her with us on trips. This is the extent to which we're able to commit to parenthood amidst our busy lifestyles -- and at least we recognize that! It's also the first step on an escalating scale of responsibility (followed by plants, live animals, then adopted children). Thus far, we seem to be destined to have a collection of stuffed animals at our house. The plant development isn't going so well. Who knew that a cutting would eventually need to be planted in soil?!

Back to the weekend . . . There's been cake (and s'mores) and veggies (vegetarian friendly party) and drinking for those who imbibe (not I!). Plenty of games, including my new Kingdom Hearts for PS2 (gimme a break, I'm a newbie). Good friends, lots of hugs, much laughter, and a little craziness (hubby and friend took an after-hours moonlight swim). My GPS did well in helping me navigate the city on my own. It's been a wonderful get-away.

Looking back on the past year -- and forward to the coming one -- I've decided that sometimes you have to monkey around a little. Had the water been a little warmer last night, I would have joined the moonlight swim, as daring and delightful as it was. I won't go out of my way to seek risk-taking opportunities, nor will I abandon common sense, but . . . . Hey, if I can take a jeep tour of Arizona this week, see the wonderful desert and mountains, I sure will! And next spring, for my friend D's 40th, I'd be up for trying skydiving :-) You only live once, and the point is to live with memories, not regrets.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bread Crumbs to Creative Bliss

My best friend's favorite expression about spontaneity is that "carefully planned spontaneity" is the best kind. This rather seems a contradiction to me. For a more creative view of spontaneity, view the LifeDev: Productivity for Creative People Blog -- post on spontaneity. Spontaneity is about carefully injecting creativity into life to nurture flexibility.

I was much more insistent on carefully laid plans when I was younger, to the point of driving my high school friends to distraction. Today, I've learned to be flexible and adapt to the unmarked roads and potholes along the way. It seems to me that the appropriate course of action seems to be to strike a balance between being planful and recognizing and seizing opportunities when they arise.

The originators (Mitchell, Krumboltz, and Levin) of the planned happenstance theory would agree. Life is about planning to take advantage of the opportunities that fall into one's path. More than making your own luck. More than sitting back and hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Rather, framing some plans and dreams, some overarching goals and then staying open and receptive to unexpected "happenings" that lead to life change.

My personal happenings . . .
* began a relationship with a man I met online in a teacher's interest forum -- and I married him (9 years of marriage in May '08)
* submitted a resume for a ministry position, and it landed in the hands of a church trustee who was impressed and rushed it to the search committee -- I not only worked there for 3 years, but the man who initially received my resume is one of my closest friends
* interviewed for a job in a field I never planned to enter -- and stayed for 5 years (so many opportunities to learn, so many successes -- wrote over $50,000 in federal grants, created and headed a new department, developed a new program for Spanish language speakers, to name a few)
* took up my husband's hobby of reading comic books -- and landed on a national committee to review graphic novels for teens (in turn, that has led me to organize a club for teens who love comics/graphic novels)
* worked as a Children's Librarian for about nine months at a local library and made numerous friends among the staff and patrons that have led me to a new church and new activities
* searched for social media information on Facebook -- and connected with a non-profit to assist with a community knowledge project (and who knows where that will lead given the skills I'm developing)
* took a class with an amazing professor my first year in my PhD program -- and now I've switched departments and courses of study to work directly with her on motivation and engagement

These are but a few of the example that illustrate the convergence of events, or flow, that represents synchronicity throughout my personal life journey. At many times in my life, I have felt an unseen force guiding events and attracting people to me serendipitously in the most amazing -- and unexpected -- of ways. Encounters, new friends, life-altering experiences -- all of these I can attribute to this idea of interconnected happenings. The trick is recognizing the doors when they open -- they seem like coincidences and could easily pass unnoticed, so it's important to be living in the moment and tuned into life's events.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Less than a week ago, I had my second foray into the world of tattooing. This time my artist was Lunchbox of New Life Tattoos. He created 3 exquisite butterflies on my shoulder, 2 black and white Asian style and 1 colored Asian style, each with an initial to stand for a something important to me. This second tattoo was more painful -- but I'm still going back for more at a future time! The pain helped me reflect, though, on the symbolism of the butterflies: transformation.

I chose butterflies for the numerous twists and turns and transformations my life has taken over the years -- from childhood into adolescence through college years, young adulthood, various jobs/careers, relationships, struggles, spiritual discoveries, family trials, and learning experiences. These last several months have been a transformational experience, indeed, so the marque seemed a perfect way of signifying the crossroads of my life and the transformational nature of the past year. Ironically, after years of working hard to transform my expectations of relationships and to change my ways of relating to other people, just when I've begun to interact in healthier, more natural ways -- I had an experience this week that puts me back, if not to square one, at least into an attitude of shattered trust. Sometimes transformations go in the opposite direction, too. Regression, it's often called -- which is a much less positive step.

Trust is such a fragile thread, to be guarded and nurtured. I've always held onto my thread so closely because of early life experiences. When I moved to Illinois, I began to let go just a little and my relationships started to deepen in ways I never dreamed was possible. I've had a few major setbacks, but generally I've continued to move forward and trust in healthy ways. This past week has been so devastating, though, that I begin to doubt if building new relationships is worth the risks. I will try to move forward, though, and continue reading What Happy Women Know by Dan Baker to find the secret of transformational living.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Heart & Skin Etchings

I have been immersing myself in artistic adventures the past few days, trying to reconnect my heart and soul and relight my spirit. It's been a dark winter for me.

On Thursday, I experienced my first tattoo. The artist was an incredible visionary, Ray Hughes. He brought to living form my desire for a tribal rose and captured my idea of a symbol of breaking through the barriers, pleasure overriding pain. I need to get a little more added in a few weeks -- and as people had told me, tattoos are addictive. Certainly, the rose was my first marque but definitely not my last.

Friday night brought strobing lights and pulsating beats from Martina McBride into my veins. The lights, the warmth of the crowd, the energy of the bands infused me with strength. Lady Antebellum opened followed by Jack Ingram, a new favorite for me. Then, with my husband at my side, Martina captivated me from her opening song ("Do It Anyway," my all-time favorite) to her ending refrain of "Independence Day." Thank you, Martina -- I will dream it, sing it, do it . . . anyway.

A short trek on Saturday took hubby and me to the doorstep of dear friends. Hugs and kisses and a day with loved ones soothed my soul aches. I spent the better part of the afternoon rambling through the Indianapolis Museum of Art with my dearest friend, holding his hand, drawing on his strength, reveling in the smorgasbord of colors and textures and creative designs that drew me in. Ahhhh . . . what a fantastic feast for my psyche! A black and white canvas in the contemporary gallery drew me the length of the room, with friend in tow -- negative and positive spaces so vibrantly alive. Popping off the wall, the lines were speaking to me in their mystical manner, telling me to reconnect, to find my inner strength, to discover my way from darkness to light. That moment is driving me forward, urging me into the light. In the past months of struggle, not once did I imagine that I needed to tap my visual artistic side to help reconnect with my musical self and repair my brokenness. A conversation with my best friend about artists' tendencies to dabble in a variety of media -- even across artistic domains -- flipped a light switch in my head. How blind I have been!

Later Saturday evening, I had the joy of seeing another friend perform live in Apartment 3A. Not quite comedy, not strictly drama, the play was both entertaining and thought-provoking -- and yet another way to connect with my artistic side. The take-away: you must waltz with the one you love. Sometimes, that needs to be yourself. Your spirit. Your inner child. Your creativity set free. And you can begin even without music . . . just count to three . . . and go.

The best part of the whole weekend was, of course, the arms of friends. The smiles of small children. The warmth of being pulled into an embrace of someone who has missed you, and cares, and hopes and dreams for you. I thank the heavens for my friends -- they're treasured gemstones, each cut differently but none less brilliant when set in the perfect setting designed to showcase their brilliance. They love me so much and teach me about myself. And when I can't shine, they shine for me.

I hope and pray, though, that after the etchings left on my skin and my heart over the past few days heal, that I might be able to shine again. My light went out several months ago and the dark has been so cold, so numbing. The prick of the tattoo needle brought me back to consciousness -- although I never felt its pain. Now, I hope to soon feel the burning flames of hopes and dreams again. I feel a spark of a dream whispering in my ear. I taste the sweet scent of a burning flame, slowly starting to grow inside me. I smell the wax of sadness slowly melting away from me. I hear songs slowly coming back to me, joining in choruses.